We spent the past week in Moab, Utah, participating in a three day workshop led by Sharon Nelson followed by a Fun Raiser (trial). Its the second time I’ve had the good fortune to work with Sharon in person and learned a ton. What a great group of people and dogs. It was as much fun to watch other teams run as it was to run Jake and Lil. Over the coming days, I’ll be transcribing my notes to make sure I remember every single DIAMOND Sharon shared with the group.. and there were plenty.
I’ll be writing a separate post about Jake and Lil’s experiences in Moab including Jake’s highs and lows (there were plenty of both) and Lil’s fantastic runs both in the workshop and Fun Raiser, including a Bonus Box Q. But this post will be mostly about Takoda, who will be 12 weeks old tomorrow.
This was Takoda’s first long trip in the RV and he was a very good puppy. He traveled well and was perfectly quiet unless his antler fell out of his crate, which I later realized he was pushing out intentionally to engage me by putting it back in his crate. He started doing this the previous week at home but I didn’t put it together until I watched him methodically push the antler through a small opening on his crate door as soon as I had pushed it back in. HA HA. The joke was on me!
In terms of potty training, throughout the trip Takoda let us know when he needed to go potty and he didn’t have a single accident. I had set up an elaborate Expen area outside the RV to make pottying a breeze for all concerned. At one end was a 4 x 6 feet area with artificial grass which was the designated potty area (the grass had been previously “seasoned” at home). The adjacent area was 6 x 21 feet and covered with interlocking rubber matting to provide a non-slip area to play and work on. The only bummer was the weather was so bad most of the time, we barely used the matted area but Takoda certainly made good use of the potty area, which drained well and was rinsed off by rain so it remained neutral in terms of scent (for humans). It was so nice to be able to say GO POTTY and watch Takoda walk down the ramp and potty on his own without me having to go with him especially during the massive sand storm with wind gusts so powerful they moved the Expens, or during the day and night of pouring rain. He was a real trooper.
Given the rough weather, I felt very lucky we had the RV for playing games like “This one is getting away!” which involves me rolling a donut toy on the floor and while Takoda runs after that toy, I bang the other donut toy on the floor, which brings him back with the first toy so I can say “This one is getting away” and roll the second toy. An RV is so much nicer than say…. a bathroom for playing games in contained spaces to keep a puppy from running off with toys. We only played it a couple of times but by the time we got home, his understanding about bringing toys back had improved considerably in the kitchen.
We also played the game “Put the spoon in the bowl” in the RV, as well as outdoors on the matting when the weather permitted, and inside the arena. I was shocked Takoda was able to play this complex thinking game in such new and distracting environments. Smart puppy! We also did some short heeling sequences and Mark bucket work outdoors and in the arena. He did well as long as there were no dogs or people in the vicinity. However, when there was ANY activity within 50 feet, he became totally distracted and wanted to “Go Say Hi.” I saw some modest improvement by the end of the week but clearly his desire to “Go Say Hi” is the other side of the highly social puppy “coin.” So while its been fun watching Takoda joyfully interact with every person he sees, its time to move on to Phase 2, where we’ll take a break from interacting with everyone who wants to meet him and then only allow him to interact after he is able to sit calmly until released to “Go Say Hi.”
Agility people are great for this type of puppy training. They wait patiently, avoid eye contact, and act aloof until the puppy has met criteria and then quickly swoop down to interact before the puppy has a chance to jump up out of the sit. So for Phase 2, Takoda will only be meeting people who know how to greet a puppy in the manner described above, which is not going to be happening very often in the coming weeks. I think the timing is perfect to take a break from meeting a gazillion more people because as Sharon and Sue both pointed out, Takoda and his litter mates are very well socialized and do not need to meet more and more people and dogs at this point. I have Heather to thank for that. She did a great job raising and socializing this litter.
Takoda spent a fair amount of time in a crate during this trip and I decided to take advantage of his positive experiences in a crate by removing the Expen I had set up in our kitchen. Previously I had a crate inside an Expen, which was in our kitchen that had dog gates to keep Takoda from wandering around the house. The Expen took up way too much space for long term use but the triple containment system worked perfectly for the first couple of weeks because it allowed three different levels of freedom based on how much attention I was able to give him at any given time. He was only in the crate when I was totally preoccupied with something else or elsewhere. He was in the Expen when I was sort of watching him but busy doing something else in the vicinity of the kitchen where I could still see him. He had full run of the kitchen when he had my undivided attention. This kept undesirable behaviors to a minimum while also beginning to work on being quiet in a crate and Expen, which has been quite challenging so far.
Takoda also spent time in the arena crated next to Jake and Lil during the workshop and he did fairly well except when I worked Jake or Lil. He also tended to vocalize when he heard people praising their dogs or when the entire group WHOO-HOOed for dogs with higher pitched tones, similar to the tone I use when praising. I plan to experiment with shifting my praise tone to a lower-pitch because I think the higher pitch creates more arousal which is not a good thing for a puppy who is quite vocal to start. Time will tell if teaching Takoda learn to remain relatively calm and quiet around other dogs and people is going to be a huge challenge or a moderate one. I remember Lil going through a phase of vocalizing in agility environments. It was so annoying but I don’t think it lasted very long. I hope the same will be true with Takoda.