Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Day(s) on the Beach

The Five Day Weekend 

We have had quite the week with Buster being exposed to a whole host of new experiences and environments.  And, we discovered traveling with a dog can be quite a chore.

Last Thursday we were invited to Ojai Valley Cowboy School to do a remote podcast for our show, The Whoa Podcast about Horses and Horsemanship.  We knew it would be a long day.  Our choices: leave Buster alone in the yard or locked in his crate.  There is just too much trouble he can get into if left alone to roam free for ten hours.  We opted to take him with us.

Buster is a wonderful traveler.  Once in the truck he curls up and goes to sleep.  The trip to Ojai is about two hours.  He slept the whole way.  The Cowboy School is a ranch and all ranches have dogs.  I let Buster out and he soon discovered he was not "Top" anything.  Ranae and I took this as a good thing.  The other dogs played and showed him a good time.  And, when he got too rambunctious, they put him in his place.  I did have to crate him for a time while I rode.  We couldn't have him chasing the horse around and that's just what he would have done.  I offered him the opportunity to be tied to the outside of the arena, but he chose to bark and left me no choice.

Once the riding events were over we let him out and he was a good dog.  I was worried about the food - there were hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill.  We kept a watchful eye on him because he would have definitely helped himself to some goodies.

He slept most of the way home and on Friday we headed off again for a weekend in San Diego. Wonderfully, the trip down was great. Buster slept for about three hours until we got to the town of Norco.  We found a place to eat with a patio, walked around a bit, and then finished the ninety minute trip to our hotel.  La Quinta Inns does not charge for pets.  I was a little concerned when they were only rated two stars on the website, but our room was clean, breakfast was good, and we were pleasantly surprised.  We had two crates with us, the travel crate and the sleeping crate.  We move the sleeping crate to the room and kept the travel crate to contain Buster when we went to a restaurant that didn't accommodate dogs.

We visited my brothers staying at an RV park.  Buster was well rested and eager to check things out.  People were excited to meet him and he fed off that excitement. We were recommended a few dog parks and told of a dog beach.  We could not wait to give it a try.  

Two dogs playing chase and roll.
Saturday morning we found Dusty Roads Dog Park.  I've never been to a dog park.  Buster had never been to a dog park.  It was time to let nature take its course and see what happened.  

All the years I've owned dogs I had never observed this type of behavior.  Plenty of times I had seen dogs interact on-lead or loose out in the open.  This was a self-contained dog play area.  The dogs who regularly come here, come specifically to play.  New dogs are greeted, it seemed to me, with a very stern eye that conveyed the notion, "You will have fun...or else".  

Buster was greeted with a couple of dogs in his face and was a little intimidated at first.  There were far too many good smells for him to comprehend.  He interacted with a few of the dogs and played a game or two of chase.  He discovered on his own that one does not just take any dog's ball without a good romp and a run.  He played with dogs bigger than he and some of the smaller ones too (although there was a separate penned area for the dogs under 20 lbs.)  He kept me in eyesight and if I wandered too far off, he would come over and check in with me.

Dog Beach San Diego
Once I knew he was good in the fenced area we set out to see what delights the dog beach held for us. We found we had parked about half a mile away.  Ranae and I enjoy walking and this was the fun part for us. 

This was an amazing place!  There were dogs everywhere! Some dogs wanted in the water, some did not.  Buster was not too sure what to think at first.  Again, the smells were overwhelming, but there were dogs, there were balls and Frisbees being thrown, and there were waves to dodge.

Buster did an excellent job of balancing having fun and keeping track of where we were.  It was hard to even take pictures of him because every time I squatted to get a "dog level" shot he would come running to me.

Finally, he went tearing through the waves with a new-found friend.  He got a real kick out of splashing water around.  He's too new to the game to come back to us before shaking the water off, but I'm sure if given time and opportunity, he would pick this up in a heartbeat.

It was wonderful seeing him run.  The boy does know how to have a good time.  We went to another dog park the following day.  I have to hand it to San Diego.  They know how to treat their dogs.  In all the time we spent around the loose dogs - around three hours I would guess - there was not one fight incident.  There were pit bulls and Rottweilers and some other intimidating breeds, but nothing ever escalated passed a bit of barking.

Surf's Up!
On Sunday while grocery shopping we ran across a pet store.  Knowing we could take Buster inside we decided to do a bit of window shopping.  As luck would have it, there was a scale inside.  Buster is up to 42 lbs.  Oh, and I should mention that he was off his feed on the trip.  He usually scarfs down about 5 cups of food a day.  Friday he had three, Saturday I don't think he ate 2 1/2 cups.  And, with his appetite off schedule, his poops were too.  He woke me up at five in the morning for a walkabout.  We had a talk.  I tried to convey that this was a vacation and the goal was to sleep in.  After a day at the dog beach I think he finally got the hang of it.  I'm not sure what was going on.  His appetite is back to normal now that he's home.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Working on the "HEEL"

I've been thinking about the "HEEL" lately.  It's got me confused so it's no surprise that Buster is confused.  A couple of things to set up this post.  Most importantly is the habit Buster had for his first four months.  He would be inside and we would take him outside as part of his housebreaking training.  At work, he would be inside for a couple of hours and I knew he needed a bathroom break. I would take him outside on the leash.  We would go to one of several designated spots and I would give the command "POTTY" and he would go.  I insisted he walk on the left, but I didn't give him the "HEEL" command.  We were working on housebreaking, not heeling.

Now he has much better bladder control.  After a couple of hours I'm sure he needs a comfort break, it's just not as urgent.  I've been somewhat ambivalent about giving him the "HEEL" command as we exit the building because I've been using it as a bathroom break.  I think I have to change that.  Buster needs a more clearly defined concept of the command.

Another mistake I noticed I was making was during the heel.  If Buster lagged behind, I would encourage him to catch up by saying "C'mon" instead of  reiterating the command.  If he is going to learn what the heel is supposed to be, it's only going to happen if I clearly define the command.

Today I took him out and allowed myself two words, "HEEL" and "POTTY".  I tried to use his name before "HEEL" because I remember reading that you should call his name before a command that requires movement.  If he stopped to smell, I gave the command "POTTY" a five count, if he did not go he got "Buster, HEEL" and we moved on.  I caught myself using "C'mon" a couple of times, but overall he did a much better job of keeping up.

Looking ahead, the next problem I'll need to solve is lunging forward.  If he sees someone or something ahead, he just throws himself at it.  Right now I'm giving him the "HEEL" command once again and we'll see how this works out.

Half way through the day today I loaded the Nike running app on my phone.  We recorded two miles.  Like I said that was about half.

Monday, January 12, 2015

There's No Place for Frustration in Puppy Training...

...But Shit Happens

This would not be a very valuable training puppy blog if it were all champagne bubbles and caviar dreams.  Today was just a roller coaster day as Buster did some things fantastically and then drove me absolutely batty with the inexplicable.

I had an early appointment with a guest on the East Coast.  I was up at 5 am, got everyone fed and even had time to play with everyone a little. Buster and I headed for the office. We arrived early enough for a walk and insure that Buster had the opportunity to take care of business.  He happily availed himself of the opportunity.  Back at the office he was a little noisy as we conducted a recorded interview, but five minutes in he was sound asleep in the corner of my office.

Afterward we went for a brief walk and I got another 90 minutes of work completed before he was up.  We had a walk planned for noon. It was 11:15.  Okay, let's just walk.  We walked for 45 minutes and met my wife for lunch.

Buster is interacting with most people in a much more positive way.  He met up with several people who see us walking and stop to say 'hi'.  I have not quite figured out what makes him leery of a person.  There were a couple of people we ran into that he just did not want to approach.  One group had five people in it with a women squealing to say hello.  Buster seem confused, but tolerant.  When the waiter quietly and calmly brought our food out to the patio, Buster barked at him.  There just doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to his reactions.

The afternoon was spent editing.  We got back at 1:30 and Buster slept until 3:45.  But, then he was up.  He paced from room to room, grabbing this toy then that.  He tried chewing on a the file cabinet, then the chair leg, then got tangled in an electrical cord.  I got the message.  My day was over.  I packed and we headed home.

The power was out when we got home but I had a few chores I needed to get done outside while Buster and Rusty burned off some energy.  I was getting my stuff done when I look in the direction of one of our mulberry trees.  There was Buster digging a hole in a spot I had caught him digging a few days ago.  I had filled the whole with dog poop thinking that might discourage him.  No such luck.

I grabbed his leash, lead him over to the hole.  I pounded the hole with my fist while yelling "NO, NO, NO".  I had done this same procedure the first time he dug here.  I let him loose and he looked remorseful for about 30 seconds then bounded off to play with Rusty.  I felt that I had caught him in the act and let him know I disapproved, so what he did afterward was out of my control. I refilled the hole with dirt and smoothed it over.

Twenty minutes later Buster is back at the same spot digging.  Well, this time I lost my cool.  I hooked the leash on him again and this time we hustled over to the hole.  I made him lower his head as I pounded the ground (I don't believe in striking the dog, just the object of his obsession).  After three good whacks of the ground, I scooped him up and put him in his kennel for a time out that lasted 20 minutes.

Somehow I think this digging thing is going to be a big problem for him.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Training Update

I have to keep reminding myself he is just a puppy.  Buster is not even 5 months old, but weighed in at 38.5 lbs yesterday.  By all appearances he is a dog.  Mentally, he is still a puppy.

When we work on training, we have to do it in very short sessions.  The biggest challenges we have is trying to calculate his "up" time and "down" so I can some things done. There is a life outside of caring for him, if you know what I mean. If I'm working outside, he's pretty good. If I have some office work to do, he can be a real pain in the ass if he feels we should be doing something else.

Walking and heeling are greatly improved in many aspects.  It is so cute to see him come to a sit when I stop for a light.  For the most part he walks on the left.

Many times when we meet up with Ranae for lunch he would be surprised and excited to see her.  Initially we would let him run up and greet her.  One of the things that's cute when he's a puppy.  Then, because he was wary of strangers, I would give people who wanted to pet him, a treat to pass along to him.  Now, if he sees someone on the street, he wants to run up to them and say "hi".  I have to figure out how to get him to the middle ground - somewhere between not wary of strangers and not wanting to check their pockets for Snausages.

He is good at "down".   His recall, with distraction is spotty, but when it works, it's great.  We are working on stay.  Feeding time is so much easier.  About a week ago I started placing him on a down-stay while I prepare the bowls.  Now he stays in the down while all the ever-tempting cat food bowls are filled.  It helped him learn the concept of "stay".  The cats are much more relaxed with this arrangement too.  He still gets his bowl outside and eats outside the presence of the cats.

We are using the clicker training method and it seems to be a useful way to capture his attention.

And, he is finally starting to retrieve a few objects.  There still is a lot of work to go here, but there are signs he is picking up the concept.  It will be nice to play retrieve with him to burn off some of his excess energy.