Fun Trial and Nice Heeling by Takoda who is now 18 weeks old

Black Forest Regional Park

Black Forest Regional Park

What a fun weekend we all had at a NADAC trial.  Nice site, nice weather, nice competitors, miles of nice hiking trails, and nicely behaved dogs. Nice. Nice. Nice.

(above) Our only Bonus Box attempt this weekend. I knew we’d likely have trouble with that turn AWAY, since its a skill I have not trained out of tunnels (yet) but Lil did a great job running this course… and this was her 6th run on Day 2. Yey Lil!

The reason I only attempted one Bonus Box last weekend, was because I’m currently focusing my attention on running with Lil at moderate distances to freshen up my handling skills. While Bonus runs are difficult to GET, they are actually easier in terms of handling because you can see the whole course, your dog, and your dog’s path perfectly due to being on the outside looking in. Yesterday, I signed up for Amanda Nelson’s Exercise of the Month to help me get back in the swing of things re: running with Lil.. not that I’ll be running right along side of her.

Bruce brought Jake to the trial on Sunday.  I'm sure Jake appreciated spending Friday and Saturday relaxing at home.

Bruce brought Jake to the trial on Sunday. I’m sure Jake appreciated spending Friday and Saturday relaxing at home.

Takoda was super well-behaved at the trial, and very quiet while hanging out ringside.  He was also able to maintain his compusure 🙂 around his litter mates who were in the tent next door.  Lots of great heeling and Mark work in the midst of trial distractions too.  I didn’t get any video of Takoda at the trial site but I finally got some footage of him heeling in the backyard the previous week.

(above) Takoda heeling at 17 weeks in the backyard

(above) More heeling in that same session.

I’m so impressed with how well Takoda is responding to my body language and how straight he is walking, trotting, and sitting in heel position.  He has always been better on my right (likely due to him having a left lead preference).  Because of that we spend more time practicing with him on my left and at this point I think he is almost as good on my left as on my right.

He is such a good puppy!

Takoda GETS barrels, May 20, 2015

Takoda will be 16 weeks old tomorrow and continues to make great progress in many different ways.  I’d say the most significant progress has been out on walks in the “real world.”  Today he offered heeling about 80% of the time. The other 20% he walked on a loose leash and checked in with me often.  Given where he started off a few weeks ago, which was a happy, enthusiastic, energetic, curious puppy who wanted to meet everyone, I thought it would take MONTHS vs WEEKS to get to this point.

I have to say the drizzly weather is contributing to our success this week because there are far fewer people out running and biking but we did encounter that same group of 30 or so runners with the whistle commander. Takoda did great and kept all four feet on the ground when one of the runners “just had to meet the super cute puppy.” As soon as she disengaged, Takoda reoriented to me instantaneously and completely on his own. He didn’t even watch her running to catch up with the group!  BIG YEY!

The rain has been fantastic for being able to change up our walking route. We’ve even been able to walk along one section of the ever-so-popular Boulder Creek Trail as a result of the uncharacteristically Scotland-style weather which apparently most Boulderites are not willing to venture out into. Having spent 20+ years on the East Coast, I guess I’m used to rain.

Since I don’t have videos of our walks, I uploaded a couple of videos shot today in the yard.

(above) Takoda ran around the barrel so well in both directions today, I decided to add some distance.

(above) Lil running around a table and doing some flatwork at 5 months old.

I thought it would be fun to compare what Lil and Takoda were learning as puppies.  This is the first video I uploaded of Lil in 2009.  She was 5 months old at the time (Takoda is now 4 months old) but we didn’t get Lil until she was 13 weeks old so that gave Takoda a 5 week head start on learning various skills so I thought this was a reasonably fair comparison.

I can still remember what a fast and fun learner Lil was as a puppy.. and still is as an adult.  In terms of running around an object, I think Lil figured it out quicker (she is super smart) but I had to gradually increase the distance with her.  Takoda took longer to figure it out initially, but once he did, the distance came “for free.”   The video of Takoda was the first time I tried adding distance. After I stopped recording because we’d be out of the frame anyway, we did a few more reps from 30+ feet away and Takoda confidently and consistently drove towards and around the barrel in both directions.. like he was born to do that. Hey wait a minute.. HE WAS BORN TO DO THAT! 🙂

I’ll have to get some video of Takoda doing the same type of flatwork like Lil is doing in the video. He is following my body cues brilliantly and enthusiastically.. just like Lil.

The next two videos are a follow-up on my post about tugging styles.

(above) This short video is an example of one of Takoda’s many styles of tugging. I refer to this style as moderate arousal level.

(above) A short video showing how Jake and Lil play tug. I think Jake’s tugging style and vocalizations are hilariously cute. Lil rarely vocalizes and is less-intense than Jake for sure. But then again, she is less intense than Jake is across the board.

I’m loving experiencing how ATs and BCs are inherently different and how they are the same which I suppose is largely due to them all having the same trainer.

Takoda’s first exposure to pinwheels, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Beginning Set up, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Beginning Set up, May 18, 2015

Everyday I try to come up with something new to do with Takoda.  Today I decided to expose him to a pinwheel of hoops with props to help him be successful without me needing to babysit.

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

Over the course of one day, I gradually moved the Expens away from the left and right hoops but left them close to the OUT hoop.

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

(above) This video is of a couple of reps with Expens helping Takoda seek out all three hoops.  I used toys for some reps and mark buckets and food for other reps. 

(above) Over the course of one day, I gradually moved the Expens away from the left and right hoops but left them close to the OUT hoop.  By the last set of reps, there was just a sliver of an Expen near the OUT hoop.  I was very pleased with how well he drove through the hoops.  I also varied my position.  In this video I tested rear crosses, which he read very well.

The forecast is for RAIN, RAIN, RAIN, so it will be a while before Takoda sees any more hoops or pinwheels.  It will be interesting to see how much sunk in today but I am guessing he will remember what he experienced today because it looked like he was having fun and feeling really good about his success.

50 Shades of…. Play (HA HA)

Since attending Sharon Nelson’s workshop last summer, I’ve been keenly aware of my dogs’ energy/ arousal levels.  Since Takoda enjoys tugging at a wide range of energy levels, I’ve been using the game of tug to explore Energy Matching with him.   Energy Matching while tugging would not work with Jake, who IMO tugs like a typical terrier… “all or nothing.”   He looks and sounds like he is trying to kill the toy, growling and intensely tugging with me.  Its fun to tug with Jake like this but if I bring my energy down a notch, Jake will immediately drop the toy.  Over the years I’ve had a number of people ask me what cue I’m giving my terriers to get them to release the toy since they both go from “all to nothing” in a heartbeat.  My only cue is that I lower my energy level, which they read as disengagement and they both immediately drop the toy in response.

In contrast, Takoda appears to enjoy tugging at a variety of energy levels that range from “a polite conversation between friends” to “YAHOOEEE!” but it never feels like he is trying to kill the toy.   When tugging like “a polite conversation between friends” we are both very low-key and the style of engagement is soft, like two little girls playing with dolls or Breyer horse models (my favorite kind of “doll” when I was a kid).  Takoda and I each hold one end of a tug toy and move it gently this way and that way while maintaining eye contact for the most part.  Takoda can tug this way forever and its a nice relaxing way for us to interact when I don’t feel like doing anything.  Its a perfect evening activity while I sit on the sofa with Takoda at my feet or in the morning when I am drinking coffee and not quite ready to start my day.

Takoda also seems to enjoy tugging at a medium arousal level which works well for loose leash walking around distractions (people, bicyclists, traffic…).   When we engage in this type of tugging, he is holding one end of the tug toy lightly in his mouth and I am holding the other end lightly with my hand (we use a long tug toy so I can remain totally upright).  There is just a slight amount of pressure on the tug toy and his leash is entirely loose.   In this situation, I think the tug toy pretty much functions like a head halter in that I can redirect Takoda by moving the tug toy but he generally does not need to be redirected when we use a toy in this manner.   He seems perfectly content to walk a little ahead of me, beside me, or a little behind me while holding one end of the toy in his mouth.  When the distraction is too great, he might drop his end of the toy but quickly reorients and grabs the toy again.  When this happens, which is not very often, I tend to increase our energy levels a little more for a few seconds of active playing/ tugging before continuing to move forward.

The thing I like about using a tug toy with Takoda when out on walks is that tugging is a duration activity and it is easy to match his energy level and then increase or decrease it based on what is happening and what I want to have happen. Treats worked really well for Lil, even when she was a puppy, but she has always been highly food motivated.  Takoda will take food when out on walks but that is because its the first thing I trained him to do…. take food when offered.. sort of like how my ATs were trained to always tug when a toy is offered… due to training vs. natural inclination.

So far, Takoda does not love food enough for it to be a jackpot when confronted with the range of distractions we encounter in the 2 block radius around our house.  You name it, we have it…. runners, bicyclists, kids, dogs, loud trucks, buses, cars, etc.  But when I have a tug toy, which BTW is tucked under my arm when not in use, 99% of the time Takoda quickly reorients to me (and the toy) and then I am able to match his energy level until the distraction is far enough away that it is no longer a distraction.   Its actually very fun to go for walks like this and it generates a lot of smiles from passers by because who doesn’t like to watch a puppy having fun and an adult acting like a child.  HA HA

The past few walks we’ve started going back and forth between a minute or two of obedience style heeling (with frequent kibble rewards) and a moving game of tug played at a moderate energy level (as described above).   I love the way this combination feels because its all about teamwork.  Takoda is focusing his attention on me when heeling and then he gets rewarded for all that great impulse control (not being distracted by what passes by) by playing tug.. with ME.  But just so no one thinks walks are 100%  all about ME (HA HA), I let Takoda do his own thing for short periods of time, which for him means trotting along at an easy clip with his nose lowered to take in all the interesting ground scents.

Since I don’t have any video of the above, I thought I’d share a few short videos from last week.

(above) Group Mark Session.  The reason I set up this “test” was to see if Takoda would be able to stay on his Mark while  Jake and Lil moved from Mark to Mark.  He did pretty well but it was interesting to see how much greater a challenge Jake’s motion was compared to Lil’s in this session and others as well.  I plan to practice this now and then as I believe it will help Takoda learn that he doesn’t NEED to bound towards Jake and Lil whenever they are in his sight.

(above) Takoda running between 2 Marks with a hoop in between.  We have only played around with hoops once before but since the hoops  were still out in the yard after Jake and Lil’s session, I figured it would be fun to see what Takoda would do.

(above) I was so pleased with his performance with one hoop, I moved the Mark further away so there were 2 hoops between the Marks. I also added more handler motion and ran a little beyond the Mark to see if he would stop…. which he did!

(above) another rep with more distance and me driving slightly beyond the Mark.

Takoda is different than Jake and Lil in many ways but they are all so much fun to work and play with due to their differences.. and similarities.. the biggest similarity is they all seem to really enjoy working!

Takoda at 13 weeks

Takoda turned  13 weeks old today.  I can’t believe how much learning has taken place over the past 5 weeks.    He continues to astonish me with how adaptable his is and how quickly he learns.  Every day is an entirely new day in terms of what he wakes up capable of doing.

Here are a few very short videos shot yesterday that show his progression with Silvia Trkman’s super fun game “Put the Spool in the Bowl.”   It was the first time I asked him to put the spoon in my hand vs. in a bowl and he had no trouble transitioning, likely because he really seems to enjoy doing nose touches to my palm.  The other possible factor was the retrieving breakthrough we had with his favorite fuzzy yellow chicken toy, which I wrote about a couple of days ago.  He pushed the toy into me when giving it in a very intentional way.

I’ve played the spoon in the bowl game outdoors without being in the Ex-pen.   I’m not sure why I did this session inside it but I’m glad I did because this morning we returned to the Ex-pen to see if he was able to place other things in my hand… and his answer was a resounding YES with three different objects.   I attribute part of his success to having worked in the exact same environment the day before.

(above) putting the spoon in my left hand

(above) transitioning to the other hand by using both hands.  I really should bend the spoon a little (and not with my mind HA HA).  It’s really hard for him to pick up when it’s facing down but he sticks with it and gets the job done.  Good boy!

(above) putting the spoon in my right hand

(above) putting the spoon in my hand while I am standing. One thing I love seeing is Takoda offering variations of heel position vs. choosing to stand in front and facing me.   The reason he does this is because I have pretty much only rewarded him in heel position from Day One because of his strong, natural inclination to “herd from the front” like his daddy.   While that works really well with cows and sheep, it does not work well with people or other dogs.   I’m sure Jake and Lil agree entirely!

(above)  Prior to working with the spoon, we did a few mark buckets.  4pm is not the best time for “active” work because it’s usually Takoda’s nap time.   But whenever my videographer is available, I try to take advantage of it.

(above) I also like to mix in different types of recall games.  Today I led out, released him, and had him catch up to me.  But most of the time we practice recalls,  I am not moving when I release him or when he is running towards me.  Takoda came out-of-the-box with great natural chasing instincts so I don’t feel he needs to improve or even practice that skill.  I also think too much chasing with a dog who naturally LOVES to chase might be counter-productive in terms of my long-term goal of having a confident dog who understands that when I take a big step or two big steps while indicating the path with my body language that he should RUN AHEAD of me in the direction I am indicating.   I don’t want him to think his motion is tied to my motion as is the case when a dog is chasing the handler.  Being able to GO ON without handler motion is a necessary skill for dogs to do big distances in NADAC which I hope Takoda will eventually be able to do… following in the footsteps of his big (little) sister  Lil.  🙂

On a side note, I also use toys for practicing recalls but since Takoda’s toy drive is naturally stronger than his food drive, I like to use food as much as possible.


An Epiphany about Retrieving

A couple of days ago, I had an epiphany about retrieving.  It was based on something experienced handlers do when running agility.  They look in the direction they want their dogs to go vs. looking at their dogs.  I thought if that works so well for agility, why not try it for retrieving.

Takoda munching on his favorite fuzzy chicken toy, April 29, 2015

Takoda munching on his favorite fuzzy chicken toy, April 29, 2015

So I did a little test with Takoda and his absolute favorite fuzzy yellow chicken toy.  I knelt on the floor, sat back on my heels, and tossed the toy about 3 feet away and said GET IT! which of course he did.  As soon as he reached the toy I said TAKODA COME!  He continued running in the direction he was heading, hopped into his bed, and proceeded to munch on the toy.  This was pretty much what I expected him to do since this is what he’d been doing from Day 1.  I had intentionally left the dog bed in place and set up the game so he’d be facing his bed when running towards the toy for my little test.   In hindsight maybe I should not have said COME, since I knew he wouldn’t come… but one OOPSIE on my part didn’t mess up his recall, which has been pretty good lately.

Anyway, there he was in his bed happily munching on his favorite toy watching me like he always does when I dropped my head down to my knees into “Child’s” pose (yoga) and waited.. not saying a word.  I didn’t have to wait long (3 seconds or less) before Takoda came running over to mob me.  He didn’t bring the toy but I didn’t really expect him to.  However the next rep, he did bring the toy and by the time he reached me, I up-righted myself and he pushed the toy into my diaphragm.   He received massive praise and playful engagement in return for that stellar performance!

The third rep, I didn’t start off in Child’s pose.  Instead I put my hands on my thighs, palms open and looked down on my hands.  I tilted my head forward so he could not make eye contact with me.  When he reached the toy, I said TAKODA COME and BINGO! he didn’t take the toy to his bed.  Instead, he mouthed the toy where he picked it up and then ran back to me and pushed the toy into my chest again.  Another massive praise and play session followed.   I think having open palms and looking down at my hands vs. making eye contact created the motivation for him to come back to me with the toy due to his natural desire to reconnect with me.

The next rep, he came back immediately and pushed the toy into me again. During the next couple of reps he either mouthed the toy for a moment before bringing it back or bought it back immediately and always pushed the toy into me like he was trying to give me the toy.  At least that is what it looked and felt like from my perspective. 🙂

The final two reps I hid a small piece of cheese in my mouth and when he pushed the toy into me I gave him the cheese and then immediately gave him the toy back.  He looked astounded by the emergence of cheese from my mouth. It was so darned cute!  The last two reps were picture perfect.

The main reason I think this little test worked so well with Takoda is because he has a strong innate desire to be connected to humans.  He constantly seeks out eye contact in day-to-day life, even when munching on a toy in his bed.  Its nearly impossible to sneak away from him when he is out in the yard.   He always has one eye….or ear on me.   YEY for that and everything else too!   🙂



Takoda’s first RV Trip to Moab Utah


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.

Evoking a Thinking Relationship with Toys

Two weeks ago when I tossed a toy Takoda brought it back to me.  But it didn’t take long for him to decide that toys were more fun to hang onto rather than bring back.  Jake and Lil, being the terriers that they are, enjoy chasing more than tugging or mouthing toys so they learned quickly that bringing back a toy = another opportunity to chase.  But with Takoda, it appears the value of the toy is mostly about having it in his mouth.  This is great for tugging, but eventually I want to have the option to place or toss a toy at a distance, and I won’t be able to do that if he runs off with the toy.  🙂

Takoda running off with toys is not something I’m freaking out about.  After all he is just 10 weeks old.  But I also don’t want him practicing behaviors I’d rather not see when he grows up so I am paying attention to everything he does so I can encourage the things I like and discourage the things I don’t like quite as much.

Still life of toys used for various "thinking" games we've played these past few days

Still life of toys used for various “thinking” games we’ve played these past few days

Silvia Trkman has a fun way of training dogs to to bring back toys.  She starts by training the dog to pick up a metal spool and drop it in a bowl. Eventually the dog learns to drop the spoon in her hand vs. in the bowl.  Over time she switches from the metal spoon to other low value objects and eventually switches to low-value toys and gradually moves up the “toy chain” to higher and higher value toys.  I thought this would be fun to do with Takoda plus I really like that it is a “thinking” game.  Plus my gut feeling is if Takoda learns to associate toys with “thinking fun” vs. “instinct fun” that he will maintain his ability to think when toys are used in training.

On April 8,  we did three sessions with a metal spoon, and by the third session Takoda dropped the spoon into the bowl a few times and earned huge jackpots.   One reason he progressed so quickly is because he likes holding the metal spoon in his mouth… so much so that he actually ran off with it outdoors before we moved the game indoors.   Another reason is because his attention span is very long, especially for such a young puppy, so we were able to do a bunch of reps with no loss of motivation.  I suspect his long attention span is a typical Border Collie trait.

On April 9, we played the game again in various places and he did not try to run off with the spoon, although he thought about it a few times.  Each session he started off mouthing the spoon and only dropped it when I clicked and tossed a piece of kibble into the metal bowl.  The CLANG of the kibble hitting the bowl was an added incentive (like another CLICK) that inspired him to drop the spoon to get the kibble.

With each session, he tends to gradually build back up to dropping the spoon in the bowl vs. starting right off doing it.  I suspect this is due to how much he loves having the spoon in his mouth which makes this a great game for learning there is something to be gained by dropping the spoon (kibble) and nothing to be lost since he gets to pick up the spoon again.

I like solving training puzzles by approaching them from different angles so I asked my two “go to” friends how they trained their dogs to bring toys back because they are both experienced and great dog trainers and one happens to have a dog that used to run around holding a toy in her mouth but now mostly brings back toys.  I must have slept on all the different methods because in the morning I woke up thinking about a few of them, including using two identical toys.

On April 1o, I started with two identical donut plush toys I happened to have, which are of medium value to him, and while Takoda chewed the label on one (his favorite part of these toys), I rolled the other donut toy a foot or so beyond where he was lying.  At first he only eyed the second toy while continuing to munch on the first toy.  But after a few seconds, he grabbed the second toy and brought it back to his original position and proceeded to munch on that toy.  I then rolled the first toy by him.. and so on.  I felt this game would be good for teaching Takoda a game I play with Lil which I call “This One is Getting Away!” which is a fun way to teach dogs nothing is lost when they give up a toy.

However, with Takoda munching on the toys, the game stagnated after five or six reps so I decided to drop a little star treat inside the hole of one toy.  He had to move the toy to get the treat which stopped him from munching on the labels and increased his energy level because he was now “thinking” and problem solving.  While he extracted the first treat,  I put a treat in the hole of the other donut toy and we continued going back and forth between the two toys.  He loved this “Two Card Monty” game and it was great fun to watch him go from pawing the same toy looking for more treats to quickly leaving one toy for the other toy.  After that, I started pointing to the “loaded” toy, thinking it couldn’t hurt for him to learn when a human points, its a hint 🙂  and he picked up on that quickly.  After a handful of reps with pointing, I put the donut toys away feeling really good about the session.

Takoda was ready for more fun and the only other toy I had in the kitchen was a medium- sized holy roller ball with a mini Kong ball inside.   My goal was simple…for Takoda to interact with the ball and me at the same time.  I put the ball on the floor and dropped a star treat under it. Takoda nudged the ball with his nose, and got a CLICK and the treat.  He continued to roll the ball around the kitchen for about 15 reps and then I rolled the ball towards him and he picked it up and brought it closer to me.  I praised and petted him like crazy, and then I rolled the ball a few feet away.  He got the ball and brought it closer to me again…  more praise and petting.  End of session.  He was not intentionally bringing the ball TO me but he was not taking it AWAY from me either so I consider this short session very successful.

(above) Later that day, my friend Sharon stopped by to meet our puppy and got to witness Lil and Takoda playing tug for the first time.   Not sure how often they will play tug once Takoda grows bigger. Right now he weighs 13 lbs and Lil weighs 14 lbs so they are pretty evenly matched.

On April 11, we played an advanced version of the “Two Card Monty” game because I also happened to have 2 rubber donut toys that are harder to extract treats from.  By the way, I don’t know how I ended up with so many donut toys because I don’t even like real donuts but I sure am glad I have those toys. HA HA

Later on, came big surprise during Takoda’s witching hour, which unfortunately happens every day around 6pm, right when I want to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine (SIGH).   Anyway, Takoda was hanging out with me in the kitchen when suddenly he grabbed his favorite plush toy (the yellow fuzzy chicken) and took off running around the backyard with it in his mouth.  Its the first time he ran around on his own (vs. chasing Lil a little here and there)  so I spontaneously said GO GO GO as he zoomed around.  Then much to my surprise, he came running towards me and I sent him to GO run some more.  After a short loop he came back and he put the toy in my hand and we played a short game of tug.  I sent him away again and after a small loop, he came back for more tugging.

This was extraordinary.  It indicated to me that my thinking is correct and he doesn’t have an “issue” stealing toys.  He just lacks experience in terms of all the fun he and I can have together with toys.  I am in no hurry to have him to fetch on cue but I’m certainly looking forward to playing a bunch of different “thinking” games with toys which I’ll bet will end with Takoda bringing toys to me when I throw them without me needing to get all serious about training “fetch.”

Dog training is way too much fun to get serious about anything.   🙂

Week One with Takoda

What a busy week it has been since Takoda joined our family one week ago.   It has been so interesting to see him change so much from day to day, both physically and mentally.

I don’t have a rigid training plan in mind but I do know what is most important to me… and that is peace and harmony in our home.   I was so happy to see how well Jake and Lil did from the first time they met Takoda.

(above) Jake and Lil meet Takoda for the first time, when he stopped by for a visit on March 23, 2015

(above) A couple days later, he came back for another visit and I decided to introduce a little movement by  walking around the yard.   More movement equals more arousal so I didn’t get too crazy moving around.

(above) First group feeding session on Takoda’s first day living with us full time, one week ago.

I didn’t plan to feed them all together on Day 1 but Bruce took forever to come outside with the video camera, so I needed to do something since they were all three milling around.  I was blown away that Jake and Lil allowed me to feed another dog.  I was equally impressed with Takoda’s calm and thoughtful attitude… and this was after he had just learned to take food when offered in a few short sessions on his own.

One very funny thing was the more I praised Takoda for taking a piece of kibble, the more enthusiastic he became about eating the next piece.  I had to wonder what alternate universe  he was from?  HA HA but seriously, my terriers never needed any encouragement or praise to take food with a nice level of enthusiasm.  This is one of many differences I’m noticing about Takoda. Very fun!

(above)  First time working with Mark buckets, March 30.  I had already introduced Takoda to Mark buckets on his own but he had just done a handful of reps before this session.

In day to day life, one thing was immediately clear and impossible to ignore… Takoda liked to scream when I left him alone and he screamed even louder when I tried to work with Jake or Lil.   I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about this but I knew I had to do something and what better day than April Fools Day to try to stop his terrible screaming.

I started by putting Takoda in an Expen next to 12 weave poles with mark buckets beyond so Jake and Lil would have something to drive towards and wait on to give me a chance to reward Takoda for being calm and quiet before rewarding Jake and Lil.   I didn’t have a lot of confidence this would work but it worked brilliantly!

I started off tossing a dozen or so pieces of kibble in the Expen and while Takoda scavenged around, I ran Jake and Lil through the weave poles.  When Takoda looked up and noticed the action, I tossed in a few more pieces before he had a chance to start screaming.    After that, all it took to keep him quiet was praise and walking over to the Expen to give him a piece of kibble each time Jake or Lil ran by in the poles.

April 1 set up in yard to promote quiet and calm behavior when other dogs are workingSince that went so well, I continued by sending Jake and Lil through four hoops in various patterns. Between each rep, I praised and rewarded Takoda for being a good quiet boy.  Jake and Lil had a blast working at a distance…. and it was also fun for me to be able to practice handling BACKs.IMG_3186I didn’t assume this strategy would work the next day, but figured there was no harm in trying so this morning I set up 3 Mark buckets, put Takoda in his Expen, and followed the same protocol as the day before. On a side note, I was amazing by how much variety there is running 2 dogs between 3 buckets.  It was like we were playing Three Card Monty!  🙂  Today’s session went as well as yesterday’s session.  I am very happy to have been such a fool thinking it wouldn’t work.  🙂

(above) Takoda’s first time working on multiple Marks.. the third Mark is not visible, April 2.

After being such a good boy watching Jake and Lil work,  it was now Takoda’s turn to do something fun. I spontaneously decided to use the 3 Mark buckets out in the yard to see what he would do.  Prior he had only worked close to a single bucket.  I added the low platform in the middle of the Marks to add variety and a different performance (4 feet on).

My intention was mostly to see if he understood that he should move in the direction I am moving and face the direction I am facing.  This was a priority for me because his out-of-the-box behavior was to “herd from the front” like his amazing father.  While that works very well herding cattle and sheep, it was insanely dangerous to have him running in front and under my feet every time I moved.  So all week long, I had been careful to only reward him in heel position or when he was behind me facing the direction I was facing… and POOF…. he stopped tripping me up and started offering heel position when following me around the house and yard.   He even started staying in heel position when playing with toys… with my encouragement.  I cannot believe how quickly a puppy’s behaviors can change.  I assume this is because all behaviors are not well rehearsed with little puppies.

I feel fortunate to have been able to start interacting with Takoda so early in his life.  I met him for the first time at 5 weeks old.. and continued to visit with him a couple times a week until he came to live with us full time at 8 weeks old.  He is the perfect puppy for me.  We are already fully in love.  Gush Gush Gush. 🙂

(above) Just in case you think its all work and no play, Takoda spends a vast majority of every day being a very happy and cute puppy.  This short video is of him reenacting a scene from the move “Alien.”  HA HA

Please excuse typos and bad grammar.  I’m BUSY.  HA HA