Friday, 30 December 2011

Snow play day

Today we packed up the dogs and drove the 1.5 hour trip to Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) for a cross country skiing adventure.  WOP designates approx ten kilometres of it's trails as dog-friendly as well some dog-friendly snowshoe trails.  We opted to ski with the dogs today.  This was Stella's first snow experience and she had a blast.  Riley has lots of experience with skiing and it ranks on the list of his favourite things.  I wasn't sure if Stella would be a fan of the cold snow but the temperature was sitting close to zero and she had a coat on and didn't mind the snow at all.  She even often ventured off the groomed trails to bounce through the deeper snow areas. 

Stella figured out pretty quickly how to stay out of the way of the skiers although she tried to "herd" me on some of the downhill sections until I convinced her that wasn't a very good idea.  I am not a fast skier so the pace is very suitable for the dogs to play and have lots of fun.  I occasionally get up some good speed on the downhill areas and the dogs seem to almost cheer as they escort me along with joyfull bounces and big grins. 

There were lots of other dogs out on the trail so Stella had fun playing with them.  I think Riley was grateful to have her attention diverted for a while although he occasionally joined in with the play.  He is generally happy to greet other dogs for a quick sniff and then moves on to his next item of interest.    Stella is still a puppy so likes to play with other dogs but is always watching us and is happy to leave them to stay with us.  She especially had a great time playing with a Burmese Mountain Dog who's owner was skiing around the same pace as me.   We all had a great afternoon and the dogs were asleep almost before we left the parking lot.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.   Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season. 

This celebrating stuff is exhausting 

Crazy glowing eyes to match the christmas lights 

Stella's first Christmas 

Is that Santa I hear?

Thursday, 22 December 2011


It was brought home to me this week at dog class that my shaping skills suck!  I am a lurer and a lumper and I need to improve.   Stella also showed that she has poor shaping skills and gets easily frustrated which makes sense because I obviously haven't taught her how to work through it.  I have found luring to be easier in my brain and then have just faded the lure as quickly as I could.  Unfortunately lots of times our bodies still unconciously lure even when we think we aren't "helping" anymore.   I'm not really against luring as that has actually been fairly successful for Lucy, Riley and Stella in the past but as I travel farther down the positive training path I understand where shaping is a valuable and necessary learning tool.  Shaping will help Stella learn to think things through herself and also how to work through frustration. 

When I walked into class on monday and saw that our tasks this week were a bunch of shaping challenges it was interesting that I had already been inspired by some recent webinars and had started this week to shape a "bring me" with Stella.  I guess sometimes all the stars align to bring a point home to us :o).  Stella's favourite game is playing keep away with Riley and I want to make sure that game doesn't carry over to playing keep away from me.  It is actually going quite well once we had gotten past a useless first session and I rethought things and broke it down into much easier steps and a less distracting environment.  That tends to be my problem as I struggle with how to start something without luring. 

Anyway it was a good session for us monday night as we worked on shaping three different things and did two of them quite well.  I think things became a lot more clearer for both of us and I plan to work on this quite a bit over the coming weeks.

This is a little video of her retrieving.  I am using a regular toy and a metal canning jar lid and we are gradually upping some distractions.  We started out in a tiny closed room and have now moved to the hallway and we even have a visiting Sam barking in the background.  I need to start videoing more training footage so I can see myself make some of those silly gestures and stop doing them!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Settling In

Stella has now been with us just over four months.  I have loved her from the moment she came into our family and that just continues to grow.  Riley is wonderful with her and I am very happy with how she settled into our home.  I thought things were great so I guess that's why I have been somewhat pleasantly surprised to notice some recent changes.  In the past few weeks Riley has really begun to play with her (see prior blog post play with me).   They had a minor moment this week where Riley disciplined her when she pounced on him while he was sound asleep but after a day of subdued behaviours they are back to where they were and she seems to have learned a little more respect for him.  Riley has really embraced his inner puppy in a lot of ways which totally cracks me up even when that naughtiness sometimes makes me crazy.  The increased play behaviour means I have had to work on a few more "ground rules" for when we just want some peace and quiet. 

Hubby is wonderful with all the animals but really we have them because it's what makes me happy.  He likes to quote "Happy wife, happy life :o)".  He loves them but is not nearly the animal crazy nut that I am.   When Stella was new to our home I think he was sometimes a bit overwhelmed but they have developed their own wonderful bond over the last months.   It makes me smile to hear him talking away to her telling her what a good puppy she is or walking by and seeing them snuggled together on the couch.

Fred has been pretty comfortable with Stella for the past few months but Desi has still regarded her with great suspicion.  Desi was a year old and terrified of dogs when we got her.  She has become much more comfortable with dogs but will never be like Fred who has been around dogs since he was a tiny baby.  The past few weeks have shown a big change in Desi's comfort level with Stella.  She is still cautious but has finally come back to hanging out with us on the couch in our family room.  She even is willing to snuggle when Stella is also on the couch  which is a huge step for her. 

My mom visits about once a month for up to a week or so and brings her dog Sam (Riley's littermate).  Sam really was not thrilled with having a puppy around but now has accepted Stella as a family member.  I worried that there would be some jealousy because both dogs want to hang out/play with Riley but the three dogs get along great.  Stella is delighted to have another dog to bound after through the bushes on our walks but knows that Sam isn't as tolerant as Riley and respects his boundaries.

Lastly we have had a few walks recently with a good friend that has a dog-reactive dog.  Her dog has come a long way in the last year and loves Riley.  He has been the only dog in years that she has trusted to be walking off leash with hers.  She was worried her dog would go after Stella and that would prevent us from enjoying our walks together.  I am happy to report that we have now enjoyed two successful walks together where we heavily reinforced her dog's good choices and Stella showed great body language for the situation.   We start each walk with some parallel walking and then her dog stays on leash for the first 2/3 of the trail portion while Riley and Stella are off.  Each time Stella came close or her dog sniffed Stella we rewarded and praised.  The last 1/3 of the trail walk the leash was dropped and all went great and her dog even made some play gestures to Stella. We finished with more parallel walking.  We will continue that pattern for a while until we have a strong history and gradually introduce more managed freedoms.

It's been interesting to see the family "pack" gel together.  I'm sure we have lots more bumps in the road ahead as we move on from puppyhood into the teenage phases but I look forward to many adventures together.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Play with me!

Stella is a typical puppy who loves to play.  These past few weeks there has been a noticable change in the playing level between her and Riley.  Previously Riley has been willing to tug with her (and self handicaps to keep the game fun for her) but they haven't really played hard.  That was mainly about them having two different play styles.  Riley is a body slamming play hard style typical of a lab and Stella is more about zoom, zoom chasing play.  Now they seem to have worked out a happy medium and do lots of mouth sparring, with some wrestling and lots more zooming around.  Their body language is wonderful with lots of play bows, pauses, look-aways etc.  When they are outside they play bow,  Stella zooms,  Riley chases and eventually blocks her, she freezes and sometimes a mini wrestle and then they start back to the beginning.  My yard is looking a little worse for wear but it is fabulous to see them having fun.

Last night was again another learning lesson for Stella.  When she came inside from a pee she proceeded to pounce on Riley while he was soundly sleeping.  He reacted by grabbing her muzzle. It was an appropriate response but she was scared and surpised. Not a mark on her but she avoided him for the rest of the evening and has been very subdued in her approaches to him today.  He has been super tolerant of her grabbing his jowls and bugging him endlessly but I did figure that eventually he might teach her this lesson.  She will work through it and they will be fine but perhaps this will teach her to let sleeping dogs lie and to respect his boundaries a bit more.

Stella also cracks me up by her antics trying to get Fred to play with her.  Fred (cat) has gotten pretty comfortable with having her around so now hangs out with us quite a bit more.  She play bows to him and does lots of other doggie play language but it obvious by the look of disdain on Fred's face that he isn't interested.

We have had some gorgeous sunny cold weather this past week and have enjoyed some wonderful walks.  Here are a few pics from yesterday.  Stella looks so serious in her pictures which is odd to me because that doesn't really reflect her personality.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Training Cooperation

The dogs survived our trip away very well and obviously were loved by the dog sitter.  When I came home I looked at Stella and I'm sure she grew while I was away.  She has also had a few days where she stretched a lot when she woke up so I'm thinking she is having a growth spurt.  She still only weighs in just over 33 pounds and her brother Bodi just weighed in close to 44 pounds so I'm beginning to think she will end up on the smaller side of things.  However Riley continued to grow until he was almost three so who knows what will happen!

One of the things we have been training recently is having one dog hold a quiet position while I work the other dog.  I do very short (1-2 minute) sessions before switching to the other dog and also treat the other dog in the holding spot when possible.  Riley stays on the dog bed and I have Stella sitting on a chair.  The chair gives much clearer boundaries then the dog bed so is easier criteria for her to maintain.   I hope to transfer that later to having her sit in a camping chair that I will use at trials or other adventures.  I have been pleased with how both dogs are doing with this. 

Today I took that one step further and took a tug toy on our walk.  Riley is totally nuts for tugging and when he starts tugging Stella tends to want in on the action.   I tugged some with Riley and then held his collar while we walked along and did a bit of tugging with Stella.  I then asked him to hold his sit stay and after one false start he held position beautifully so I was thrilled.  His reward was lots more turns at tugging.  We will obviously need to work up to higher levels of arousal and longer sessions but this shows very good progress.

Here are a few pics of the dogs from our frosty monday before mom & Sam headed home.  I love that the three dogs together have settled into a wonderful combination that gets along great.