Sunday, December 28, 2014

He's the EveryReady Bunny

Christmas week can be hard on a puppy who can not be trusted to be alone.  Visiting with family and friends on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meant the Buster had some extended time in his crate.  Early last week I moved him to a larger crate and he does have considerably more room.  I think he is much more comfortable.

To counter solitary confinement, Buster has had a week of long walk/trots.  On Christmas Eve there was a charity fun walk/run and Buster got to experience it...all of it.  From waking up at 5 am to be in line by 6, to having other dogs and people in line while we stood there for an hour.  Then, the walk with people big and small, walking and running, and even skating and cycling.  We also had Rusty with us and she acted as the perfect example.  Afterwards there was the hour in the crate in the truck as we enjoyed breakfast with the family.

On Saturday we wanted to ride the similar route we took a few weeks ago when Buster rode on the back of my horse.  This time he would be required to stay on the ground the whole way.  Puppies are incredibly resilient and Buster is no exception.  He followed along with the horses for the 2.75 miles to Ethel's Old Corral restaurant.  When we got to a traffic area, I placed Buster on a twelve foot lead and he heeled pretty darn good.

We bought him a burger patty at Ethel's and he thought that was quite yummy.  They put onions on our chicken sandwich and I set them on Buster's plate.  Yep, you guessed it, he ate them.  Raw onions.  The guy is a machine.

The trip back was a little slower, but he followed along perfectly and when we made it back to the stables I put him on the lead once again.  They were having an event in the main arena and there were horses, people and dogs everywhere.  Buster, Ranae and I walked around calmly through the whole thing.  Oh, and my horse was a champ too.  She didn't seem to mind having a thirty pound puppy around her feet.

Then, this morning I broke the mountain bike out again and headed for Hart Park.  It was cold at 8 am and I wasn't sure how many people/bikes would be out there.  I chose a little harder hill to climb.  We took off and Buster was on the long leash as we had a couple of streets to cross.  I think he is a right-handed dog.  He really prefers to be on the right.  Heeling protocol says he has to stay on the left, so that's where I put him.  He figured it out and we made our way to the first climb.  I took off the long line and away we went.

We did a total of about five miles over the span of an hour.  He just keeps going and going.  We encountered a couple of bikes and a few hikers.  Each time Buster would run up to them barking.  I would announce he was a puppy and the people were fine.  With each passing encounter the barks dwindled in number and intensity.  I'm not sure if this was because he was getting used to them or just to tired to care.

Monday we get back into our regular work routine.  He'll get some rest before the New Year and who knows what kind of adventures await him.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Out in the Wild

There's no guarantee that once off the leash a dog is going to stick around...for most breeds.  Buster seems to have a keen sense of both Ranae and I and, at least at four months of age, I am fairly confident he won't run off by himself.  Still, we have a lot invested in the little guy and he is a dog.

I've been wanting to get out my mountain bike after several years of letting it collect dust.  We have a very nice area to ride and it is being encroached upon.  I wanted to get in a few more rides before it got swallowed up.

It was a bit cold and gray clouds posed a mild threat of rain as we headed off.  The area we were going was at the higher end of town and I thought things would clear up.  Just the opposite was true.  Fog had socked in the foothills and visibility was about a quarter of a mile. It had been so long since I had been out here, and so much had changed, I was having a tough time finding a place to park.

Finally we found a spot.  I pulled my bike out and let Buster run around the truck for a bit.  I offered him some water before climbing in the pedals.  I started the odometer on the bike.

We were off.  My plan was to jog Buster for a mile or so looping back to the truck.  Then I would put him back in his crate and head off to explore some of my old haunts.  Buster was right by my side at first.  He was jogging along at a nice easy pace.  It felt good to be out there again getting some exercise.

The fog slowly burned off as Buster went from one side of the bike to another. I swear sometimes he has this look on his face that says, "What the hell is wrong with you?  Do you know how many interesting smells we just passed up?"  Occasionally he would try to bite at my pant leg to try and slow me down.  He is a herding dog after all.

We did our mile plus loop.  Once back at the truck he got some water and wandered around before in the crate he went.

My ride went on for another 45 minutes or so and when I got back we did some hiking near the truck to get some photos.  Buster has a healthy curiosity.  Thankfully he has a good recall.

We even worked on some retrievals.  I smeared one of the training treats on a stick and threw it about twenty feet.  It was real easy for him to find.  He doesn't always bring it all the way back to me.  I'm going to have to work with him on that.  After a couple of times though, he was off to catch up on some of those incredible smells he missed while running beside the bike.

We thought he might be a little more tired after exerting himself, but I think he has a high gear for sleeping too.  By the end of the night, Buster was the least tired of us all.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

This Boy Can Eat

The other day after breakfast Buster looked hungry.  I had given him the usual cup and a 1/4  or so.  I thought I would dump another cup of food in his bowl and whatever he did not clean up, I would put back in his food bin.  He is a magician.  Presto Change-O the bowl was as clean as the day I bought it!  This week Buster weighed in at 32.5 lbs.  He has tripled his weight in the 60 days I've had him!

He is now getting 2 cups in the morning, a cup and a half for lunch, and a cup and a half for dinner.  He is sleeping through the night and wakes up when we do around 6 am.  We will go out and feed the horses and then he gets to eat.  He's got about half an hour of wrestling with Rusty before he needs a nap.  That allows me to shower and shave without worrying what he might get into.  Then it's off to work.

Yesterday I put him in the back seat of the truck.  I think he prefers me being the chauffeur.  He generally sits up and looks out the window for awhile before curling up on his towel.  This morning he asked that I pull his truck around and take him to Petsmart to refill our quickly dwindling food supplies.  We met up with Belle, a pit/shepard mix, shopping in the same aisle.  After a few pleasantries they both thought they should be able to play.  I must teach Buster the importance of his "inside voice" because I got a boisterous rebellion after informing him the store aisles were no place to romp around. He let me know that he had never been talked to in this manner from a chauffeur and that if I continued I would be forced to seek employment elsewhere.

He headed over the the cat food aisle to look for dropped morsels of kibble while I picked out some delicious flavors for the fellas at home.  When he was ready, I once again pulled his truck around and gently lifted him to throne in the rear.  (Now I understand why people get Pomeranians)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Clicker Training

Using the Clicker

Buster can wear me sometimes. I find it happening most on the weekends when we are at home. There is so much more to get into, Rusty to wrestle with, cats to chase, and horse poop to eat.  I catch myself saying only negative things to him: "NO", "STOP IT!", "OFF", "QUIT".  It's not very enjoyable and it's not good for one's psykie (sp).

At the office things are different because if he gets up, I take him for a walk and we are moving. While as we were headed for one of our walks out of the building I ran into a guy and we started talking. He used clicker training. I had tried the clicker with Max, but never quite got the hang of it. When I got home I checked out a few videos on YouTube (

I think it is called operant training.  You use the clicker to quickly acknowledge the positive behavior and then follow it up with a reward.  Dogs can do things so quickly that the more immediate you can give them a response, the more quickly the dog will learn.  Some people have used the analogy that when you "Click" the clicker think of it like the shutter of a camera and you are taking a picture of the behavior you want to reinforce.

It seems you have to learn a few things before moving forward, but I thought I had a clicker around the house somewhere.  After digging around in the den, I finally found it and it still worked.  I started by "loading" it, which is just clicking and giving a treat.  Teaching Buster that the clicker sound means a treat is coming soon.

We've just been working on it for a short time, but I can tell you that it has given some relief to all the negative commands.  I get to run the clicker and reward it with some food.  I've still got to learn more about it, but I think we'll give it a go for the next couple of weeks and see what we can accomplish.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Crate Escape

Crate Training

Sometimes it is too much.  Sometimes he is crazy.  It's as simple as that.  He is a dog after all.  And, while realizing that he can't help it, sometimes I'm just not in the mood to put up with it.  The safety net:  The Crate Escape.

Today was rainy.  I had some audio editing to finish up.  I like editing, but it's tedious.  Buster is a good distraction requiring a break every 90 minutes or so...Unless I just need another twenty minutes to be done and HE can't wait.  

That's what happened to day.  I took a break and gave him a walk.  It was wet and we could not go far.  I brought him back to the office and played ball with him.  Then played rope.  Then did a little training.  He was still antsy as, what's the saying, "a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs".

I managed to get the last few minutes of work done - barely - between him pulling down my coat, nibbling on the cabinet, chair and three-hole punch.  I kept him occupied while I shut the computers down, packed up my stuff for the weekend and got ready to leave.

Maybe it's the weather that makes him crazy, maybe it's just the time of day.  He has been heeling decently most of the week, but with my arms full of camera and briefcase, trying to negotiate the puddles he was all over the place.  Heaven forbid a stick or leaf go un-sniffed.  Once in the truck - boom - out like a light. 

At home he is in the able paws of Rusty.  She is ready to play.  She doesn't like it when he grabs hold of her tail, but other than that they wear each other out.  You can see his tenacity when they are playing.

Then there is the crate.  Generally we just use it at night, but during  pleas of temporary insanity, we use it for time outs.  Sometimes he barks for awhile when we put him in there, but the result so far has been the same - Ranae, Rusty, the cats, and I feel this wonderful sense of calm.  When he gets too crazy it's Cool Hand Luke time.  I think it was Dub Taylor in the movie who I mimic by saying, "We're gonna get your mind right.  You bark once and it's 15 minutes in the hole.  You chase a cat and it's an hour."  He never says in there as long as the warden orders. He always gets out for good behavior.  Buster has never seen the movie.  We'll have to rent it for him one day.  Maybe it will help my impersonation.  Maybe it'll just help him get his mind right,

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Twenty Nine Forever

We know it's impossible for him to stay twenty nine forever in either age or weight.  Buster is tipping the scales at 29 lbs as he continues to grow.  He can be the most regal looking dog at times and then two seconds later he is a complete goofball.  He can go from sleeping peacefully - as he is doing now - to holy terror, teasing Rusty and chasing cats.

We are walking, walking a lot.  He is not too bad at the heel except he has the puppy mentality. We'll be walking down the sidewalk and he telegraphs through the leash, "WAIT!!  Wait! Look at this.  WE gotta check this out." at every leaf, piece of trash, cigarette butt and even dark spot in the path.  But he does it with such enthusiasm, that hey, quite often I DO have to check it out.

His sense of smell is incredible.  I tried some training the other night with a few training treats in my sweatshirt pouch.  We were working on retrieval.  I had one of his rope toys and I was trying to get him to "Take It".  He grabbed at it on command, I rewarded him the first time with praise.  The second time I rewarded him with the training treat.  "Whaaaat?!  Where did that come from?  Here? Here? Oh, right here.  There are more right there.  I want those.  Gimmee one.  C'mon.  I know they are there.  Wanna play hide-and-seek?  Good I'm in!"

I tried to continue and we were able to get one or two more retrievals, but that was it.  His focus was gone.

I've noticed he is getting more social with strangers. Some people just don't know how to approach a dog, especially a weary one.  Actually, I'm not sure how much I would have taken it into consideration before owning a dog like Buster.  Some people will bark at him or whistle.  I'm sure he would not mind those noises, I just think he has to get to know you first.

One thing I have noticed about people that approach him that I find fascinating: some people don't even acknowledge me.  It is almost as if they are approaching a stray dog on the streets.  I'll even offer up a "Good Morning" and they will talk to Buster, but I'm invisible.  There are not a lot of those people and I like having fun with them by trying to see if I can say anything that will make them realize I'm there.  

"Buster is training for Afghanistan.  Before he smells you I need to know 'What nationality are you?'"

"Have you ever seen a reverse albino Chocolate Lab?"

He definitely remembers places.  We walk by the Sequoia Sandwich shop where Melissa works.  Melissa knew Max and she was one of the first people Buster met.  He was leery, she was patient.  On the third visit, I gave Melissa a Milkbone to give to Buster.  Later, we sat outside and had lunch.  Buster got to sit under the table and find the multitude of fallen morsels left by unsuspecting patrons.

This morning we were about a quarter block away when Buster's tail started whirling like a helicopter rotor.  "What is it Buster?"  He was staring straight at the sandwich shop and started pulling me along.  He knew there was some good petting, great smells, and maybe, just maybe, something good to eat right there on the corner.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

He Is Growing, Not Grown

Judging His Juice

Buster has an amazing amount of energy at times.  It's difficult to tell at times just how much he has left in the tank.  Sometimes it takes a little reminder that he still is not even 6 months old yet.  So, when we take him out with the horses and he is full of piss and vinegar, we think he can go forever.  When we started the trail ride he was doing great.  About 20 minutes in, we realized we were going to wear him completely out.  We were meeting up with friends at a lunch spot, so Ranae helped me get him in the saddle and Jessie and I carried him for about 15 minutes.  

After the break, he went for another 15-20 minutes on the ground before we hit a high traffic area.  He was happy to get back in the saddle and we met up with our friends.  They were kind enough to drive him back to the trailer and we rode the horses back.  

He was glad to see us and he slept well that night.

I found the above video in one of my folders.  I seem to have them everywhere.  This one cracks me up because he is looking around for a cat to chase.