Bear watches Dec prepare his kong.

Without guidance from the expert, banished from her property because of the dreaded parvo, we have made progress.  Training sessions have become less frequent, though the routine remains pretty similar.  Skills that remain since the beginning of time, from Bear’s perspective, are sit, down, stand, and circle.  Skills from nearly the beginning of time are scent signals (pawing, doorbell, and the dongle), leave-it, nice-walking, and watch me.  Skills introduced in the last two sessions pre-parvo include army crawl (Dec’s favorite), rollover, stay (Bear is nailing this one), nice-walking without leash, and go to bed.

Upward Trending

Walks have been enjoyable for the most part.  Aside from the occasional distraction of the dog across the street or the leaf in the middle of the sidewalk, Bear gets the mullet walk.  If the leash is in the left hand, then it is all business.  He walks at our hip, matching our speed, and sitting down when we stop.  Impressive, I know, but keep in mind that he is getting clicks and treats along the way.  When the leash transfers to the right hand then it is time to sniff and roam around a bit.  To be honest, I was a bit skeptical of this set up, but I see Bear looking back to check and see what hand the leash is in, and going to business or party mode depending on left or right hand.

During the walks we’ll stop two or three times and do some drills.  This lets Bear know that reacting to commands is not done solely in the living room or our home.

The sidewalk repertoire includes sit, down, circle, stand, and stay/come.  Of all these, “down” is the most difficult for Bear.  Unless he sees or smells the treat in hand, he glances at me while I give the voice and hand command, and looks away in disinterest.  If he senses the treat, then he will cock his head to the side, as if asking me what is this “down” word you say.  I’ll repeat the command, lowering my hand nearly to the ground.  This is when he usually makes it to down, putting a paw on my hand as he goes.  Bear is best at the stay command.  At home or on the sidewalk he’ll watch me from 20 feet, waiting for the okay to be released.

Not the best picture, but Declan is getting Bear’s Kong ready, putting peanut butter on the inside of it, before taking it to bed.

At the opposite side of the activity level from walking, Bear is spending more time in Declan’s bedroom at night.  Dec goes to bed earlier than everyone else, and Bear will follow us down to his room, settling into his den under Dec’s bed.  Dec tells us he moves between the den (under Dec’s mattress), the trundle bed, and Dec’s bed throughout the night.  Bear will wake Dec up around five most mornings.  Dec was low one of these times, but I think Bear is getting into the habit of moving around at five, and Dec is accommodating Bear, bringing him upstairs at that time, whether he is low or not.

Holding Steady

Walking without a leash with the pointer clicker, and go-to-bed have not progressed.  I’m afraid that we have missed the next step of these skills and he is learning something entirely different.  For instance, the go-to-bed command is meant to get him onto the “bed”, which is a blue-foamy mat with paw prints on it, that feels like a yoga mat for animals.  To condition Bear to go to bed, we lay the mat out and stand so the mat is between us.  As soon as he touches the mat I click and give him a treat.  At this point he goes into a sit before getting the treat.  To release him from the mat, I throw some treats on the floor and say “okay.”

We have done this drill a lot.  And now we say “Go to bed” as he approaches the mat.  However, I think Bear may be conditioned to go to the mat only if it is between us.  If I release him with treats on the same side as me, then he’ll saunter around, checking out what Ashley is doing, or look out the window.  It was my understanding that if the mat was on the floor then he would automatically go to it, yearning a click and the treat that follows.

“Go to bed” is a crucial command for Bear.  In school, at a restaurant, in a theater, or in a plane, the mat will be put down on the ground with the command, and Bear will plop down on it, staying there quietly until released.

Downward Trend

Unfortunately, the pairing of a low scent and signalling for the scent has digressed.  Pre-parvo Bear was a star at seeking the scent hidden in a pocket, tucked under a sleeve, or stuffed in a sock, and then signalling with either a paw or grabbing the dongle.  Now Bear finds the scent most of the time, but he will mouth it, trying to grab it.  We have had to go back to holding the scent sample in our hand, presenting it to him, and getting him to paw after.  The dongle and door-bell signals have gone to the way side in the pairing.

Bear is very lackadaisical with this work, often times plopping to the ground or looking at his favorite couch while I try to engage him to pair.  Heather and I have to remind ourselves and each other to keep it fun for Bear.  It is very frustrating when he puts his head down.  It feels like a personal affront.  What we’ve found is that simply moving him to another room and giving him energetic pets and tussles puts him in a more receptive state.

Falling off the Cliff

Not sure why, but Bear has taken to making a couple of deposits in the basement each week.  I am unwilling to accept that he is finding the basement a better place to poop than outside.  He sleeps in the basement with Dec most nights.  I cling to the hope that Bear is finding a second best place to poop.

Two nights ago Bear left a pile in the laundry room and one in the common room (both in the basement).  After cleaning it up, Heather found a small piece by the back door.  That small piece gives me hope that he was trying to get outside to the preferred spot.  Unable to get outside, Bear found the laundry room, which probably feels like a good place to make a deposit to him.  The laundry room has a concrete floor.  In the middle of the floor is a drain.  When the pump decides not to pump, then water spews from the floor drain.  Though we can’t smell it, Bear might pick up some septic smells from times when the pump quit working.  I am holding on to that logic.  I do not want a dog that feels comfortable pooping inside.

Bear and I go to a lesson this afternoon.  We are not meeting at Kristin’s place, but we found a park in between that we can meet at.  I have a lot of questions about how we have been doing and what direction to go.


Scent training begins

All the obedience training continues: sit, down, stand, and circle.  The house training also continues.  House training is great if you can always have an eye or ear on Bear.  If you are at all distracted and Bear is trying to let you know that something is about to happen, then you will likely miss the narrow window to get him outside.  For instance, Bear will whine at the side door, or jump with a yelp by the side door to let you know that he is about to poop.  If you miss the call, he will fast walk over to some corner and start crouching.  What I have learned this week is that once he gets into final position he needs a few grunts to really get things moving, which is enough time for me to swoop him up and place outside.  Once outside Bear does a few lengths of the lawn before getting back into position.

Crate: After about ten days Bear is going into the crate on his own, sometimes even sleeping in there.  Several times a day I will pack the Kong with treats, packed to the point that nothing comes out, and place it in the back of the crate.  Bear will then occasionally saunter into the crate looking for the toy that spews treats.  He has learned to carry the stuffed Kong to the floor and drop it so the treats quickly fall out.  Bear is not, however, to the point of being comfortable sitting in the crate with the door closed.  This will hopefully come soon, as he will no longer fit inside much longer.

 Scent Training:  Bear and his litter mates have the advantage of being introduced to the low-blood sugar smells at three days old.  What this means is that they recognize and acknowledge the smell quickly.  Holding the clicker and the scent sample in one hand, and treats in the other hand, we show Bear the plastic tube with the scent.  As soon as he takes a whiff, we click and give him a treat.  We are going on one week of this training.  In addition to simply showing him the scent, we also “hide” it under our knee or our calf or our ankle, and then wait for Bear to find it and take a sniff. Then we click and treat.  This seek and sniff training has been upgraded to “high value” treats.  When Bear finds and takes a nice whiff of the scent he is given a freeze-dried liver.  When he paws and plays with the tube after finding it, then he gets a little piece of kibble.

We had no leash, so I fashioned one out of a key chain, string, rope from an old swing, and a piece of Scotch tape.

 Walking:  Never have I had to teach a dog to be on leash.  A large chunk of the last training session was spent walking Bear.  He refused to move with the collar and leash.  This was the first time that Bear even had on a collar, so putting the collar on and then yanking him around the block was quite nerve-wracking for him.  Kristin did prevail.  The new homework is simply to take him for a walk around the block.  Bear will eventually know that when he is on our left side he will heal, and when on the right he is free to roam about within the length of the leash.

Do your kids want a puppy?  They are so cute, cuddly, and soft.  And they are fun to play with, right?  Well, if your kids are begging for a puppy, then bring them over to a friend’s house that is in the midst of training one.  Better yet, let your kids spend the night at their house with the puppy in their room.  We had friends in town the last few days.  Their two daughters were so excited to stay with Bear, and so wanted a puppy of their own…until they spent two days with him.  They slept in Maggie and Declan’s rooms, which meant every other night Bear slept in the room with them (Bear alternates between Dec and Maggie’s room).  Bear makes it through the night unless you have to get up and do some business.  In that case, he is up and ready to go.  Also, the night ends at about 5 AM for Bear, which is fine for my Farmer friend Mike, but is an unknown hour by most humans.

What they don’t tell you…

The training continues.  As it continues there are a couple of things that people never talk about.  Little things, but worth mentioning.  So for the last few days we’ve been pretty good about all the work that Kristin gave us:

Bear finds a comfy spot under the chair.

Clicker charge, obedience, handling, and tug-o-war. All this work can be tiring for a young pup. We’ve also been decent at making sure that Bear is in a situation to succeed in terms of chewing things that are for him and for relieving himself outside.  He has had a couple of accidents.  However, today he was jumping at the side door, letting us know that he was about to poop the floor.  Luckily, we got the message in time.

What is expected: It takes a lot of energy.  Similar to raising a baby, if the puppy is awake, you keep your eyes on him/her, and you are ever vigilant.  You sense when something is wrong, or pickup on little body language (like jumping at the side-door) that signals something needs to happen or something bad will happen.  Also, much like a baby, the puppy spends a lot of time sleeping.  Bear is either up and going, or he is cashed out asleep.

Unexpected:Like the toddler that enjoys going through the pots and pans more than playing with the toy kitchen set, Bear is enjoying the duster attachment more than the toys we bought for him.  He carries it around the house and yard.  Bear does enjoy the store bought toys, especially the ones that can be (and are) stuffed with food, like the Kong and the Weeble-Wobble type thing that Kristin lent us.

The baby gates are put up to keep Bear in a smaller area (limit access and accidents to one area).  Well, the gates are limiting our access as well.  The high step needed to get over the gate is enough of a deterrent.  I find myself questioning the need for another glass of water when it involves stepping over the gate.  I experienced this before when we lived in Arlington, VA, and crossing a bridge to get into DC was an added barrier that often kept me from venturing there.

Day one

We picked Bear up around 2pm yesterday.  All went well.  The drive home was uneventful until we were pulling up to the house and he barfed on Maggie’s brand new raincoat.  Of all the places the barf could have landed, I was grateful for it landing on a raincoat: easy to transport out of the car, and easy to clean.  However, Maggie was appalled.

Bear quickly got comfortable in the house, meeting our cat Jelly, having one accident in the house, and

sniffing everything.  Our other cat, Ashley, chose to stay outside.

Ashley has since trained Bear quite well.  With one swipe and fierce growling at their first meeting, now Bear lies down as

soon as Ashley even looks at him.

TRAINING: The only training occurring now is getting Bear to do his business outside.  As soon as he wakes up from a nap we carry him outside to the designated spot and wait from him to start doing his business.  As soon as he starts we say, “Cha-ching” (some people choose to say something like “do your business”, “go potty”, or such).  As soon as he is done we give him a treat and a lot of positive attention.  So far he has had five successful trips outside, and one mistake inside.

His socialization with friends has also begun.  He met six neighbors.