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Short winter days and lack of focus

As much as I would like to keep an accurate journal of our training, it is nigh impossible. We are now back at the classes twice a week, plus spending weekends at the IPO club. We have also reached the teenager stage with all its challenges. Compared to Yarpen Falka is actually quite easy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t struggle sometimes! Pretty much everything we have done to date took a hit. Her recalls are worse, though still at over 90% success. She started realising that she is big enough to explore the world on her own. Her playing with me… well, it’s dismal. As Yarpen’s health improved, they spend more and more time playing together and my attractiveness suddenly plunged. She does not tug with me, but recently I noticed she tugged with my husband! We are at a stage where some of her behaviours should be already put on cue and generalised, but due to various factors we are a little behind with it.. The current state of affaris is in equal parts caused by her age, and by my lack of focus in training. We have had several sessions where I really did not think of what I was doing, started using the hand signal previously used for one behaviour to another and it all just became a total mess, with her switching off. I really need to get more organised again and be smarter about the time we spend together.

The thing I will be concentrating on now is going back to socialisation. I have to admit that over the last weeks she has not had much contact with anyone other than our Club people. We need to work on a couple of things. First, thresholds. Not surprisingly considering her breed, she doesn’t like it when a new person enters a room where she has been for some time. I will work on this by taking her to a shop, sitting a little off the entrance and clicking/treating every time someone comes through the door. Secondly, she is still happy to say a gentle hello to people, but if they touch her for too long, or stare at her directly, or make any sort of playful movements, she reacts. Overall, the first few seconds of greeting are fine, then the problems start. My plan was to use a clicker to mark before the end of the good phase and before she gets the idea of reacting. This way I am rewarding her for the nice part of greeting, but also by pulling her away from the stranger, I am restoring her personal space and giving her a “breathe out”. I have tried that a couple of times, but it appears that we have lost the value of the clicker (over the last weeks we were working mainly with verbal markers)! So, back to charging the clicker with super valuable treats first, then using it in the highly demanding situations.

Falka – IPO starts

On the day of Falka’s 0.5 birthday we have officially joined one of the best IPO Clubs in the UK. Of course, we will not be doing any serious work for a veery long time, but I am very keen on Falka learning that the Club is the place of greatest fun.

We have had 4 sessions now and what a ride it has already been! I am extremely grateful to our trainers, there is nothing better than experienced guidance!

Session 1: A complete and utter disaster L Despite all the time put in the play at home, and all the great attitude to play that Falka has had in other situations, when placed on the new turf she was not interested in the play at all. Of course, the fault was entirely on my part, as I did not fit in her comfort zone on that day. First of all, this was the first time she was asked to play with a strange man. Second – the toy was a puppy bite pad on a lunge line, which she has never seen before. To that date we only played with “fluffy” toys. Third – new place, though we have played in variety of other locations so here I think it was more stacking of issues than the location alone.

Session 2: A complete and utter success J We have changed pretty much everything. I took her out to the field and I was holding the flirt pole. We changed the toy to a rabbit skin, still stinking the “original” smell. The results were amazing.

Session 3: Progressing further. The decoy is slowly taking over the flirt pole. She is now starting to positively react to his verbal praise, even when she hears it from outside of the ring, directed at other dog. A little slower, but still devoted.

Session 4: Not a particularly great session in terms of the play, but still made me happy. She was pretty distracted with the spectators and a few times disengaged from us to have a good run around, saying hello to the crowds. After winning she also took the toy to show off in front of the fans rather than come back to me. But, as she is now going through a fear period, with some worries about other people, I was very happy to see her just having fun and being open and cheerful about the crowds. Still, it was not all lost on the play part, as she is now consciously playing with the helper and even tugging a little bit.

A cautionary note. Playing with flirt poles can be dangerous for growing joints. It is a heave form of exercise, so should always be done with care and responsibility. We do not play too much. A few minutes 2-3 times a week is plenty. I also run with her on a straight line, rather than stand still waving the flirt around, making her do tight turns. I am still working on my mechanics, but I feel that the length and intensity of our game does not exceed the levels she chooses for herself when running free.

Cardboard solution

Watching Falka develop is absolutely amazing, but can be also frustrating at times… Unfortunately the changes she goes through are not always in the direction I would want! Tugging is a great example of this. As a baby pup (i.e. pre-teeth change) Falka was playing great, with vigorous and engaged tug. I chose to stop tugging, or at least limit it significantly, during the teeth change. And it appears that during these 2 months something switched off in her head. She is still very happy to play with me, both directly and with toys, with no signs of stress or conflict with me. In fact the problem lies in her pushing into (or under) me, rather than tugging on the toys. At the moment it feels to me that she doesn’t want to “fight against me”, even if it is just for fun.

As I noticed this drop in her attitude, I went first with the popular method of increasing her confidence by rewarding even very small steps toward tugging, e.g. pawing at the moving toy, grabbing it, putting even tiniest amount of resistance… I know that this is a great method and works well, but… I am a little impatient 😉 I also feel that as she enjoyed tug before (not like Yarpen to whom tugging had always seemed like a futile exercise) the proble lies more with her attitude, so there has to be a trick which would explain to her that even when tugging we can be one team…. I feel that in her head tugging is somewhat of a fight where we both try to win the toy. I would like her to think of it more as us ripping a prey into parts together (not necessarily the same thing as we will need for decoy work in the future, but at this stage I want her to actually enjoy tugging first).

A breakthrough in our tugging came about quite unexpectedly a couple of days ago while playing… with junk mail. A little backstory: both my dogs enjoy ripping cardboard into pieces, something pretty common to many dogs. I hold a piece of cardboard, they grab it, rip a piece off, spit it out and immediately come back to rip more off, until I have the tiniest of pieces in my hand, which of course they win. They don’t really play with the pieces on the floor, the game is in ripping it apart with me.

A few nights ago, I was cleaning up junk mail off the floor (in one piece, as it flew down the letter hole – another proof that cardboard and paper are only cool in my hands!) and just by chance, I rolled the ads into a baton of sorts and invited Falka to rip it apart. The paper was quite strong, so it gave her quite a bit of resistance. And…. She pulled! She tugged!! Admittedly, after winning she did lie down with the intention of disintegrating it, but luckily, Yarpen was at hand. I immediately rolled another one and invited Yarpen for the same game. I didn’t have to ask twice, and of course, us having fun acted like magnet on Falka. I let her win quite easily and was praising her with a lot of genuine happiness in my voice. I am now thinking of going back to cardboard first, which gives me the confidence she will succeed in my expectations, and giving it a cue, most likely “get it”. When I see she starts to recognize it, I will start cueing her to tug on stronger paper and gradually move to toys of various types. Hopefully it will work as planned!

Beginnings of physiotherapy past stem cell implantation

It has now been 2 weeks since Yarpen had the stem cells injected. We have finished the initial after-care period, and he is now allowed a little more movement. We have had 5 (of 6) laser sessions, with one left for next week. I am now starting to really accept the improvement I’m seeing. His energy levels are through the roof compared to before. I guess only now that he has improved I am fully appreciating the state he was in before… It was easy to miss it, as the deterioration was so gradual. He is more active, happier, wants to play both with the puppy and me, picks up toys and enjoys his life again. I would say that the stem cell therapy turned us to the point we were about 2-3 years ago.

At the moment the cells are still multiplying and implanting, so even though it’s incredibly tempting to just start on muscle building exercises, we need to be very careful. The main muscle building will be achieved during under-water treadmill sessions, but I am not entirely sure when we will be starting this, we will follow our vet’s advice on this. We have however seen our physiotherapist.

DISCLAIMER

Please, do not attempt any of the exercises I am writing about in this and other posts without consulting a professional first. Physiotherapy is a great, great tool, but it’s not just about teaching a dog new tricks/movements. The main point are for the dog to be asked only what he can achieve at his current level and making sure that the movement is carried out by proper muscles, at appropriate speed. Pushing things not only won’t achieve any results, but can in fact make the dog worse.

As we are still letting the joint settle, we are not doing anything which would put too much strain on it. The first exercise we did during our session was a “simple” posture correction, with the use of platforms/steps. As Yarpen’s right hip is worse, he tends to stand with his right foot closer under the body. This makes his body asymmetrical, with muscles being inappropriately activated even when he is just standing. Further, we are working on slow and mindful movement. For example I am going to try and slow down his backing away (only a few steps at a time), so he is very aware how far each foot is moving. We are also working on his front paw targeting by using pods. I am now starting to teach him the basics of lateral movement as well. He’s never done that before, but is catching on very well. The final exercise we have started before the procedure is nose target to hip and toes. It activates his core muscles. Before the procedure he was able to reach the target on a lure. As we have now taken a few steps back in difficulty of exercises, I have decided to work a little on replacing the lure with a hand target. It’s not easy, as even though Yarpen has a pretty good maintained target (his nose touching my hand), by chance we have never worked on a moving target. This means that I am asking for far less movement, e.g. instead of asking him to target his hip with his nose, I only “pull” his head on a hand target to about 90 degrees each side. At the same time, as I take the lure out he is far more level headed (rather than just trying to get to the lure).

Falka’s progress

Since the last blog about Falka, she has completed her second puppy course, passing a KC Puppy Foundation course. She is progressing really well, although true to her breed, she started to show some challenging characteristics. She is much sharper and has lower threshold for reactivity than Yarpen. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it means that in the society that we live in, we need to be extra careful in managing this.

Firstly, the resource guarding from other dogs. She has made great progress with it and now does not react even when a strange dog is close by when she is fed treats. I have been doing a lot of training with Yarpen as a stooge, where they both get treats while sitting next to each other, each gets a treat separately after I say his/her name. She has never reacted to him in a way which would be obvious to us, humans, but if watched carefully enough she can be seen sending some very subtle signals that clearly show she wants to guard whatever she values. I don’t scold her, but if she “gives him an eye” (a quick glance toward him, with a bit of a whale eye), or blocks his access by moving into his space, she doesn’t get the treat. If she escalates in any way, the treats and my attention are removed altogether. I really am blessed that Yarpen is such a patient and non-possessive dog (having said that, if he’s got something and she comes over and tries to take it, he will growl at her. But it is a polite and low-intensity growl, as opposed to hers “give it all now, as I want it, I’ll bite you if you don’t!!” so I allow this). We still have to work a little on her jealousy over me, but hopefully that will come in time.

With other dogs, I try to reward her every time a dog comes close to us (mostly me, as she is guarding me and food), so that she associates their approach with good things and doesn’t feel that she will lose anything. I NEVER feed or give attention to a strange dog in front of her, unless it’s a carefully managed, set up situation.

To further improve her relationship with other dogs I have let her play with a young husky pup we’ve met in a park. I could observe the pup in a group of other dogs and was quite pleased with her body language. Normally I wouldn’t want her to engage with strange dogs, but I felt she needed some positive experience with some new dogs so I allowed it this once. She really did have a ball and this one play-date helped her enormously. Now when we meet dogs I do allow her to shortly greet them, for which she is rewarded, but then I recall her and engage with me. In total, I would say that she was allowed to play (and I mean a proper play time) with less than 10 dogs in her life. The number of dogs she has met in a “greet and recall” situations would be closer to a hundred.

 

Secondly, we have now entered the stage where her guarding instincts are kicking in. Possibly related to a fear period. She is still friendly with strangers, but only on her terms. She will be happy to greet (sniff, gentle stroke), but any sort of rough play from the stranger is met with defensive reaction from her. This is actually a step up from Yarpen, who did not like strangers at all at her age, so I am not overly worried by this. Of course, we are addressing this, but the main lesson here is for me to be her advocate and not put her in a position where the stranger’s action come first before her wellbeing. For the time being, she is now off limits to most strangers on the street, but spends some time with my dog-savvy friends (most of whom are either professionals or advanced and experienced handlers), where she learns to trust them and is not pushed over her current limits.

 

Thirdly, her walks are now separate from those of Yarpen. When I first started taking her for walks, I used to walk them together quite a lot. Partly because his presence was giving her a lot of confidence, partly because I wanted them to bond. Common walks are a typical method of creating a bond between previously strange dogs. However, over time I noticed this wasn’t bringing desired effects. Yarpen was too sore to engage in play with her, which was frustrating both him (as, if I would allow it, she would still try to tease him to play with her by pulling his ears or biting his ankles) and her (as she just wasn’t getting the attention she needed). Also, it started affecting her relationship with me; where previously she would put play with me over that with Yarpen, now she would leave my side to investigate what he was doing.

 

Fourthly (is that even a word?), we are continuously working on her body awareness, agility and body coordination. This is something I believe is not necessarily innate to our breed (or many other giant breeds), and at the same time is very important for injury free life and success in competition. A simple example: when I first started training Yarpen competitively, I was trying to use food games as a way to increase his motivation and speed (as at the time I did not know how to engage him in play). “Trying” being the operative word here. Games like food chases, or catching food in air don’t really do much, if the dog is more likely to get the food stuck between his eyes without even opening his mouth… So we do a lot of food chases and we started on food catching gamers (throwing treats so she catches them in the air). I also introduced a sound which I make when I toss a treat on the floor (“weeee”) so that it’s easier for her to switch to a food chase mode. I am also using interactive toys, such as treat balls which require her to work out how to get to the food. These things are not something that can be learnt in single sessions, it’s more of a long-term development of skills so I expect this to carry on throughout her life.

 

The journey we are going through now is extremely enjoyable. She is changing extremely fast, both in terms of physical and mental development. This calls for great flexibility on my part, but also makes it very entertaining and engaging. I am trying to use the time we are actively spending together to the limits. Every moment is a chance for training/learning about world. I am definitely seeing the fruits of our work, but at the same time, this work carries with itself a lot of time commitment. We have now joined the IPO club, as well as continue our previous classes. This means that we have structured training 4 times a week, plus obviously, several short training sessions per day (when I say sessions, I mean moments when my attention is entirely devoted to her, usually with some goal in mind, but not necessarily strictly training related. For example a session would be a play session, where I am aware of the duration, her engagement levels and for example the type of toy we play with). Putting this together with Yarpen’s treatment plan which requires 3h commute twice a week, I do feel like a dog-taxi most of the time! And yet I’ve never been happier with the way my passion for my dogs is progressing.

 

Confidence issues

Over the last weeks I found it really difficult to write down our progress. This was in part caused by a lack of time with training, work and Yarpen’s treatment sessions taking over. Yarpen’s health problems were quite depressing, which didn’t make me feel like writing anything at all. But there was also a bit of a serious issue on my part, which I think (hope…) I am over now. It was a lack of confidence. I am writing this as I had a similar phase when I first took on Yarpen. I hope that by writing this down I will help my future-self to get over it quicker.

Over the last years I have met many great trainers, whom I admire greatly. Some of the things I wrote on the previous blog posts were met with some (constructive) criticism from some of them. This is of course good, as it helps me be a better trainer, but at the same time the number of issues highlighted was quite unnerving. This made me doubt in the value of this blog being public, in me as a trainer, or even in my ability to deal with my breed! But, at some point I realised that while some of the advice I received was universal, other was subjective, reflecting the preferred methods or a viewpoint of a given trainer. Sometimes the tips from different trainers were completely contradictory! For a while I was then lost, not really sure which advice to follow. Aside from making me feel bad, it also made our training worse, as I got quite petrified of failing.

Finally I decided to just go with my instincts. I am feeling fairly confident as a pet dog trainer, so all I am risking is our sports career. It is of course one of our main goals, but I would rather have fun training and make mistakes, than be rigid and afraid of doing something wrong.

So, future-me, remember how Yarpen turned out, and just have fun!!

Stem cell therapy – progress

When I wrote the first entry on stem cell therapy for Yarpen’s HD, the plan was that we would probably wait with injection till after Christmas. Luckily, his cells were growing extremely well (which was a nice surprise considering his history of weird ailments!), and we managed to have the procedure done on 23rd Dec. He had the cells injected directly into his hips joints, as well as into the spine around the affected area. This was followed straight away by the first (of 6) laser treatments, with a grade 4 laser

The standard expectation for the improvement is that the dog will show an immediate improvement, followed by a slight dip (still way over the initial status), and a stabilisation which will last for several months to couple of years, depending on various factors.

We are now a week in, with 2 more laser treatments. At the moment Yarpen’s walks are limited to 10min on lead, 3x a day. As such, I can’t really say just yet how much better he is, but I can definitely see a change in his behaviour at home. He is actually naughty… he’s eaten a gingerbread ornament from Christmas tree, something that even Falka didn’t attempt! He’s also now fully expecting that sofa is his dominion (after all, there is the pesky puppy on the floor…) and in general, he’s back to his cheeky old self.

I am very, very happy with the result, as even though it might wear off in time, it gives us the chance to build some of his muscles back with hydro- and physiotherapy. This is such a change compared to the previous status, where due to chronic pain, we couldn’t even attempt the exercises… I am very keen to start him on the new regime when we get an all clear from the vet, especially that his boredom is turning him into a slightly annoying monkey!

Yarpen and his hip dysplasia

While this blog has been mostly about Falka, this post will be all about Yarpen. Though it won’t be as fun as the other posts… As I write it, Yarpen is curled up, spaced out on Tramadol, with an incision in his belly and bald patches on his hips. But let’s start from the beginning….

Yarpen was bought as a pet foremost, but also I had hopes he would become a stud dog. When he was 3 years old, I had his hips and elbows Xrayed to see where we stood. I expected good results, as other than not being particularly jumpy, he didn’t have any problems that I could see. Well, a HD D score was a very brutal wakeup call… Unfortunately, I don’t have copies of his original Xrays, but I do know that his right hip was worse than left. We followed the specialists advice and modified the exercise a little, but other than that, made sure that he had enough of it to build up muscle mass to hold up the joints. Of course, breeding was out of question.

Fast forward 3 years, I started noticing first signs of the dreaded disease. It started very gently, with a shorter gait on the back right leg. Then it moved on to reluctance to pee while standing on right leg. So, we started physiotherapy. It was absolutely amazing and I could see progress pretty much straight away. However, due to progressing osteo-arthritis (OA) we had to limit Yarpen’s exercise further. And this becomes a very slippery slope…  The more pain the dog experiences, the less they want to move. But, with a severely deformed joint, it is the muscles that need to hold the joint up. With no exercise, the muscles start to shrink, other body parts are taking more load than they should and the consequences spread from the affected joint to the whole muscular-skeletal system.

Yarpen is now over 8 years old. According to our physiotherapist, I managed to keep him in optimum condition, with him still being able to jump on a grooming table or in the bath. But, he is extremely fragile to contusions… Over the last 3 months he has had several strains on both hips, requiring heavy medication and rest. Of course, the rest = no exercise, which leads to further muscle loss… His last strain was probably the worst, as I couldn’t even pinpoint what cause it. He didn’t slip, Falka didn’t jump on him, he didn’t get hit by anything… and yet one day he woke up with trouble to get up and refused to put weight on the right leg. At this point I realised that we need to do SOMETHING, or this will be the beginning of the end.

Our options were:

  1. Continue with medication, strict rest to heal up and then physiotherapy.
  2. Surgical procedure
  3. Stem cell therapy

Option 1 was what we did up until now, and it seemed to stop working. The outcomes of option 2 are not really well guaranteed, and considering the recovery time is about 6 months per one hip, it would mean that for the rest of his life he would be in pain. Plus, as he weighs just a little less than me, this would not be practically possible, as my husband works a lot, and I wouldn’t be physically capable to carry him in and out for toilet. So, we have decided to go for the stem cell therapy. The one major drawback to it is that this is the only treatment not covered by our insurance, which means Christmas (and whole next year by the looks of it!) will be tight, but hey, it’s just money….

We have had the first stage of the process done yesterday. Yarpen was measured and examined in any way possible. Of course, he had an Xray done. Not only on his hips, but also his back, as he started showing symptoms of back problems too.

His hips look like this:

yarpen-hips-dec-16

You will notice the horrible socket of the right hip, with severe OA. Note also the shape of the femoral head, it should be like a ball. Yarpen’s resemble more a pyramid than a ball… The neck of the bone is also malformed, instead of clear narrowing under the head, the bone just started building up. If you look close enough, you will also see a difference in the thickness of muscle on both sides.

His back Xray showed that he started to have changes in his spine. Because of abnormal movement, his disk started to calcify, with some changes on the walls of vertebrae. This will need addressing too.

spine

A thermal-image camera showed clear signs of inflammation in his pelvis, radiating through his lumbar region (white – hot, going through yellow, orange, red to green and blue being cold). There is also some muscle inflammation in the thoracic region, as shown in the thermal signal and in physical examination, but this appears to be only muscular. The lack of heat signal on his glutes shows a muscle mass loss.

heat-back

A weight-spread analysis showed that he is now walking evenly, with one back leg carrying only 12% of the body mass. This is of course compensated by the front legs, which carry more than they should.

The hip joint fluid, instead of being clear and viscous, is watery, filled with blood and leukocytes, showing clear signs of inflammation. In both joints….

The diagnostics left us in no doubt – Yarpen is in pain.

What we are going to do about this now. First, he had a blood sample collected, from which a platelet rich plasma was extracted. This was then injected into his hip joints, which will hopefully stimulate the “clean-up” process of the inflammation. We hope to see no blood in the fluid next time we sample it. We also collected a sample of his adipose tissue (fatty cells) from his belly. This required a general anaesthetic and a small incision. These cells will be sent out to a lab and grown for a couple of weeks. After Christmas, these cells will be injected in his hips and spinal column to regenerate the deteriorating cartilage. All this will be followed by a series of laser treatments and physiotherapy. We are hoping to do this soon after Christmas. And it should give us in excess of 18 months of vastly improved life… We’ll see what will happen when we get there!

Writing what I think about breeding against HD would take a whole book, so I will state it only very concisely. Hip dysplasia IS genetic. Whether it causes problems or not is affected by environment to a certain degree. But there MUST be an underlying genetic predisposition for this to happen. Selecting against HD is not easy, but it is absolutely doable. I am a quantitative geneticist, working on traits exactly like HD in my day job, and it just boggles my mind how many breeders prefer to hide behind the “you can get a good pup after dysplastic parents, and a dysplastic pup after good parents”. Yes, the same goes for conformation champions, and somehow this doesn’t negate the drive you have for breeding for the next rosette! Some dogs may be more affected than others, some will have horrendous Xrays and seemingly no issues, other will go limp with slight strain. But, there is nothing worse than seeing your dog wanting to walk, wanting to work with you, and not being able too. So I implore you, please, test your breeding dogs, and for puppy buyers, PLEASE make sure you don’t make the same mistake as me, don’t buy pup after untested parents! The fact that the pups parents appear to be fine at the age of 3-5 does NOT mean that they are free of dysplasia.

Yarpen’s score is HD D. This table shows the translation of the score to the systems in other countrieshd-scores

The median score for the Russian Black Terriers in the UK up to 2014 was 25. According to this, an average RBT in the UK has hips similar to Yarpen. I feel absolutely sick to my stomach to think that so many of our dogs will suffer from this horrible disease…

Puppy Classes

We have now completed one of our puppy classes, with the other due to finish next week. Falka has been a star pupil, with most of the exercises almost being reliable on cue. These behaviours are mostly pet dog behaviours – but for now this is what makes our life together easier. We have covered:

  • Changes of position – sit and down are now on cue, although we need to work a bit more on generalisation. Stand is almost there… It works well from down, but sit/stands are still a bit iffy. Definitely not cue-worthy yet!
  • Leave! – this is one of our favourite exercises. We have used the It’s Your Choice Game for this, which we have practiced from very early on, and the results are great. She actually turns her head away when presented with kibble and told to leave it… We have built it up so that she can leave a treat gently tossed on the floor in front of her.
  • Loose leash walking – as Yarpen, she is generally very good at that. I am pretty consistent at not letting them move forward if they pull and that seems to work well, so this exercise didn’t cause bigger problems.
  • Touch – We have started this early on, so the beginnings were quite easy… until we started moving! I was a little stuck, as Touch is one of those tricks/commands which usually comes really easy and dogs tend to enjoy it. And yet, when I would start to move, Falka would lag behind and show no great desire to actually make contact with my hand. Initially I thought that I need to go back a step and increase the reinforcement frequency and/or value for stationary touches. But, while I did that, I also raised the criteria for the actual touch. When before I would be satisfied with a gentle contact between her nose and my hand, now I was asking for a push. Then for some duration. And… voila! It seems to have sorted the issue with movement too. Now her devotion to the touch is very good and I can both lead her on a hand target (without a treat in hand), or ask for a couple seconds of a strong sustained touch.
  • Stay – we have two different methods for down stay and sit stay. With down stay we are now well over a 1min without reinforcement, after which I took her to 2mins with a few treats in between. She could probably stay for a bit longer, but I didn’t want to push it too far. We haven’t done any distance work on down stay yet. With sit stays we don’t have much in terms of duration, but we have practiced adding some distance (about 2m) and some very mild distractions.
  • Weave between my legs – a trick which we prepared as a homework, but I never put it on cue and will probably leave it here, as soon she will be too tall and long to be fluent with this.
  • Switch sides behind my back – very useful trick which I have never really trained with Yarpen, but might just give it a go with Falka!

Socialisation – continued

One of the most amazing, and at the same time annoying, things about dog training is that everything is fluent and changes over time. Most so with puppies!

In one of my first posts I wrote about the changes I am introducing to my socialisation for Falka, as compared to what I did with Yarpen. And it appeared to work beautifully… for a while. My continued effort to reward her for redirecting to me made her into a polite, mildly interested in other humans puppy which is very happy and confident to say hello.. and nothing more. This would be perfectly sufficient if I wanted her as my pet and companion, but is not good enough for an IPO prospect! The first time she was play-bowed by humans, she didn’t like it. At all…. She was sending very mixed signals: play bowing, barking with head close to her paws, both indicating playful indication, but her bark was too low (more defensive than playful) and she had an “offensive pucker” (I love this expression, it comes from a book by Jean Donaldson For the Love of a Dog, and relates to the muscles in the corner of dog’s mouth). After discussing this with our trainer, it appears that her attachment to me became a little too strong. She doesn’t understand that other people can be “fun” too. So, we have started a new chapter which sees me sitting in back seat and her having a ball with my friends. Not easy for a control freak! At the moment we are at a stage where she is quite happy to play with a new friend with a toy, but physical contact during play is still off limits.