Puppy walking

An adventure in looking after a puppy until it is old enough to be properly trained as a guide dog for the blind.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I was despairing of something to blog about when a photo-op happened. I was on the phone with Peter and Rockwell was snoozing on the landing. I hadn’t noticed his position because, until I answered the phone, I was looking at the computer screen. I got one snapshot of the ear all bent up before he moved.
look at that ear
After he moved out of the first position, he moved into one that looked even more uncomfortable. I don’t think you couldn’t make him lie this way.
Then he decided to chew on his paws a little.
more paw chewing
In the last shot, he has most of one toe in his mouth. He stayed on the stairs because Peter did most of the talking - if I’d been talking, he would have come down to jump on me. It seems he has also learned to shut his eyes in the moment the flash goes off.
paw chewing

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Peter took some nice, available light (no flash) portraits of Rockwell this afternoon in the sun but since he used my camera, I loaded them onto my Flickr site. Here they are for your enjoyment.
Rockwell 1
Rockwell 2
And I really like his expression in the next one.
Rockwell 3

All we did (so far) is go for a walk today. Here is Rockwell, waiting on the stairs to go out.
Waiting on the stairs.
I have a stupid cold (again!) but it is currently 4C out there (going to 7C they say!) and sunny and fabulous so we just had to get out. The melt is making the snow all brown and there were puddles everywhere, so we were encouraging Rockwell to walk on the side of the road where there was still a little fresh snow. Here, he’s picked up a small stick and is chewing it with his eyes closed.
Dog chewing on stick.
It wasn’t a lesson kind of walk, just a get-out-in-the-gorgeous-weather kind of walk.
Here, he’s finished with his bit of stick and I’m making funny noises to get him to look at the camera.
Smile for the camera!
Home again, Peter rubbed him down with a towel and I occupied the toothy end to keep it away from the towel. When he was done however, Rockwell continued to just lie there, totally relaxed with me holding his paws. I wasn’t keeping him there and I’m exerting no pressure on his paws. He just seemed content to lie there for a while.
Finished with the rub down.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The other night, Rockwell was sitting between the couch and the coffee table, as is his wont. After a while, he put his paw up on my knee, probably to get my attention. I took his paw and shook it like a hand in greeting and then put it back on the floor. He lifted it up again but this time, I high-fived him as the paw was coming up. And I said “high five!” in a “yay we’re having fun” kind of voice. We sat there for a moment, the pads of our fingers touching, and then his paw slipped off my hand. Again, he lifted his paw up and I high-fived him, saying “high five!”. I swear, I could actually see the thought bubble grow out of the top of his head. We did this several more times and I could SEE him thinking. I imagined the thought bubble, like a cartoon above his head. As we worked on the trick however, that thought bubble stayed empty. It was the funniest thing but for all that he was think-think-thinking (as Pooh did) about what was going on, he didn’t make the connection.

I was just playing “fetch” in the upstairs hallway (the one with carpet) and started to ask him to sit before I would throw the little Kong. I remembered about the “high five” exercise and raised my hand into position as he was sitting there in front of me. I swear, I saw the thought bubble form again! But he still didn’t get it and didn’t raise his paw up in greeting. But I have a feeling that one day, something will go “click” - I may even hear the sound - and he will know how to high five me after that.
a portrait on the stairs

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I snapped this picture this morning, showing how Rockwell is getting bigger. Soon, he won’t be able to fit on the stair treads.
Getting bigger
Yesterday, I was sewing and he came to sit and watch me. I got the first picture of him looking suitably humble (or was it bored?).
What is this
However, I pointed the camera at him a little too long and he got all animated and barked, “play with me now!”
I've seen enough!  Play with me!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Rockwell got to ride the bus yesterday. The weather finally cooperated - more than that really, because it was beautiful. Sheila came by and we walked out of the house with Rockwell in his jacket. We had to wait a few minutes at the door because he wanted to bolt out and she wanted him to go quietly. Finally we made it and Sheila walked him on his balanced lead. He walked so well, you wouldn’t believe he was so young. While we waited for the bus, Sheila took him to watch the skaters on the reflecting pond by city hall - of course, I forgot the camera.

When the bus came, I got on first and then Rockwell led Sheila onto the bus. He is very good in cars so it wasn’t overwhelming for him to be on a conveyance. We took a seat near the front, on the side where he could tuck under our seat and not sit out in the aisle. Some of the seats are perched on solid supports and if we’d sat there, he would not have been able to tuck under the seat. A bunch of high school students got on at the next stop, all giggling and talking. Rockwell was SO interested in them and if Sheila had not kept her arm around him, he would have been happy to jump all over them, as they walked by him on the way to the back of the bus. That was/is his biggest problem - his enormous desire to greet every person he sees.

We stayed on the bus as it went through the big transit station and then got off where it turned around at Lincoln Fields. That was a good exercise too - getting off the bus and crossing the platform to catch one going back the other way. There were so many people milling about on the platform that Rockwell just stood quietly and observed in his inimitable way. Occasionally, someone would run by to catch a bus and Rockwell would be up and after them (not going very far on a short leash though!). Too exciting to resist. Then we got on the bus to go home again and he just continued to be the best boy. Sheila said that she had just gone on the bus with a 13 month old puppy and Rockwell did better on his first trip than the older dog.

The main drawback was the melted slush on the floor of the bus. It was dark brown and soaked the feathers on his tail as well as coating one side of his haunches where he sat. I had brought an old washcloth with me and when he stood up, I wiped his tail down, not before I got a swipe of the dirt on me of course. His tail has more feathers than a Lab because of his Golden genes and so it carries more water.

So now we can ride the bus! We’re going to do a few outings where the big excitement is the bus, not the destination. But by the Spring, when we want to go downtown and other places for a change, Rockwell will be ready to go with us.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Today we all three went to the grocery store. This time, my extra pair of hands belonged to Peter and he took the pictures and looked after the groceries. I think it was less stressful for Rockwell because after we left the store, he didn’t even need to have an “excitement” poo. Of course, he did have a pee but that isn’t out of the ordinary. I know I found it much more relaxing to only have to think about Rockwell as opposed to getting 5 items or less and getting out of there. The main issue of the day was the walk over and back. Plowing all the snow we got yesterday hasn’t been really finished and intersections are difficult and some sidewalks are dicey. Getting the snow plowed for cars is always a priority over getting it plowed for pedestrians.

First we walked out of the neighbourhood. I put his jacket on from the start because he’d just relieved himself in the yard and we were good to go.
Here he’s walking very well, leading more than pulling.
walking well
When we got to the store, I was able to take off my coat and put it in the cart. First stop - the deli counter.
the deli counter
Here we are in the cereal aisle. I look a little stunned but you can see how Rockwell’s leash is nice and slack.
grocery work
At the checkout, there were two people in front of us, so we had some time to sit and wait.
at the check out
Once we left the store and I took his jacket off, it was time for a pee.
time for a pee
On the way home, the sidewalk had been plowed but it wasn't scraped very well and was icy in spots.
way home
The intersections are a labyrinth of piles of snow, slush, puddles and chunks of ice.
All in all, we got a good workout and Rockwell had more fun with the two of us humans than he has when it’s just me stressing out.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

January 21 - in the yard

There was so much snow that Peter went out to shovel it and decided to get the garden spade out and take it down nearer to the grass level to straighten up the fence. I let Rockwell out when he was done and they had a little fun together. In this photo, Rockwell actually has his eyes shut, anticipating the snowball that had already hit the ground. He also has a mouthful of ice, which he likes to chew.
In this photo, the snowball is still in the air and Rockwell has his eye on it.

And it's still piling up out there.
Coming home through the snow

More snow!

We’re getting more snow than they forecast and Rockwell wants to go out and play. We’ll head for the park and romp.
Let's make a snow dog!

Rockwell is now seven months old!

So this blog entry is about assessing what has happened up until now. Based on a comment yesterday, I went back to look at my entry of October 17, the one about Rockwell being a mad dog. I re-read it and realized that I had genuinely been afraid of his “devil dog” behaviour. At the time, I talked about it at length with the Puppywalking Supervisor and she was almost nonchalant about it - she said all puppies do this. Well, I had not experienced it (that I remembered) with Uma so it was new to me. Her advice was to put him in the crate when he got like that and then he couldn’t hurt himself or me. My problem with that advice (at the time) was that sometimes I couldn’t even catch him to put him in the crate! Anyway.

In re-thinking this problem now, I realized that here it is, 3 months later and Rockwell doesn’t even do this any more! Oh, occasionally after a walk he tears around upstairs (where he can get a footing on the carpet) and when I ask him to please calm down, he sighs and gets his bone to chew on. Very interesting to look back on a problem and realize that it has disappeared on its own. I figure he has simply outgrown it, as the PW Supervisor suggested he would.

I have also been second-guessing my raising of Rockwell, based on the comment. But this morning, I decided not to worry. It was about 7:30 and I heard him wake up. He gives himself a thorough hind-leg scratch. Then he gets up and moves to a new spot and does some ablutions. Finally, he comes over to my side of the bed and puts one front paw up and then the second and lays his chest across my legs, rolling his head to one side and happy to be just looking at me. I pet him and we just lie there for a moment and then he gets off and goes over to wake Peter up the same way. He licks our arms when we take them out from under the covers to fend him off. He is a happy puppy.

I remember what the PW Supervisor said: Whatever we goof up in the training, they can retrain him. What he really needs in his first year from us is lots of loving. And he is getting that.
Keeping me company.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A follow-up on the command problem:

We did some work in the park today, on an expandable leash. I brought a pocket full of kibble with me and when Rockwell was at the end of the leash and not looking at me, I would call “come”, use the hand signal and he would run toward me and get a kibble. I think I did this about 20 times and each time when I first called his name, he would turn to look at me and then run toward me when I called “come”. It worked so well and I was so pleased. Until we walked out of the park that is. As soon as we were back in the parking area (I think it may have been because it was so familiar to him), I tried calling “come” and he looked at me and then completely ignored me! Argh. I hauled him toward me using the leash anyway and made him sit and gave him a kibble. But twice he ignored me. So it still needs a lot more work.

Rockwell dropped his bone suddenly and ran to the back door. He was sitting obviously watching something. Then I saw his hackles go up so I went to see for myself and it was a CAT! Imagine that.

So there he was at the back door and I decided to do a lesson of "come". It was just for reinforcement, not to put him in the crate or anything.  Well he wouldn't.  He obviously thought something not fun would happen so I sat on the floor for about 10 minutes, coaxing him over and having him keep away.  I finally convinced him by gradually touching him a little (not grabbing him) each time he got close and finally petting him more and more and then holding him around the chest.  He finally lay on his  back and submitted to my tender embrace. Sort of.
submissiveness, sort of
But I think we will go through this again and again until he learns "come" is not for stuffing him in the crate or clipping toenails or something.  It's amazing how they will fixate on some one thing and then forever after, "come here" means something negative.  I have my work cut out for me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More on the 18th.

We’re suffering a little from cabin fever.
What do you mean, what am I doing up here?
Play with me already!
Cabin fever!

Also on January 18, 2006:

Rockwell doesn’t understand he will end up looking like Bambi on the ice if he goes out for a “walk”. He is languishing on the stairs, wanting to go out.
Too icy to go out.
This is what it looks like outside:
Back yard - skating rink
And out the front:
Driveway iced up
Ick. We’re staying put.

Nothing to blog about, really. Monday the city guys came over to replace the water meter in the basement. I put Rockwell in his (new and bigger!) crate before they got here and he was so quiet, listening to them talking and working. I went into the basement to keep an eye on things and after I’d been there for a while, we all heard this mournful nose whine coming from upstairs and laughed. They said, “we’re not afraid of dogs!” so I went up and let him out. He is blocked from going down the slippery basement stairs but when they came up after they were done, he was very happy to greet them. I will be glad when he understands that he is NOT to jump up on people.

Yesterday, I had to go over to the college for what I thought would be a short while, so I put him in the crate. I blame it all on Bill Gates and Windows but I was there for over three hours, wasting my life away. Peter came home from work before I got back, even. So I went to the gym to work off my frustration with computers and came home for dinner. Rockwell is so sweet when he greets me at the door. I don’t get that much, as Peter is usually the one who comes home and gets greeted. The ears go back and practically turn inside out and then he sits in “his” corner and makes those grunting noises.

Today we were supposed to ride the bus for the first time. Instead, we had freezing rain all night long and the place is a skating rink. Peter told me he even fell on the ice on the way over to the bus and warned me not to go out. I’ll have to venture out to put down some sand on the front step but it’s raining steadily and nasty out there.

A couple of old pix I haven’t posted before.
Bone chewing 101
Bone chewing 102
Bone chewing 103

Sunday, January 15, 2006

We had to go for a walk and it sure looked nice out there - all sunny and bright. But it was minus 16C with a windchill that makes it feel like minus 26C so we humans bundled up. I wore the silly wind pants and had to cover my face. But Rockwell just went outside naked and didn’t mind it a bit.
Minus 20 C and no problem for the dog!
We used the non-regulation expandable leash and he flew along, energized by the cold.
Pup airborne!
He was alert too, stopping to wonder who that person walking toward him might be.
Who's that over there?
The wind we’d had the day before had blown down some new branches for toys and Rockwell seized his opportunity.
Loves the sticks.
I love this one - the end of his nose comes into focus as he scampers by with his trophy.
Stick in motion!
All photos credit Peter, who risked frostbite to take them. Don’t forget you can click on them to see the larger versions at Flickr if you want.

Friday, January 13, 2006

We had a successful (and by that I mean “uneventful”) trip to the Loblaws today. It is so mild out there that I wore my Spring coat and no hat and except for the wet pavement, it was great. Rockwell still pulls mightily at the leash while we are in the store, trying to smell everything so I make the in-store time as short as I can. I get my eight items or less and get out. With all the melting snow, Rockwell got filthy dirty and so I took a couple of photos of the damage when we got home. I had actually towelled him off before I took the photos. After the fur dries completely, I can brush him and the loose dirt will fall off and he should be clean then. But for now... yuck.
After a walk in January
Dirty dog in close up

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I let Rockwell out for a constitutional but he wasn’t ready. Instead, he found a rock (a large piece of gravel really) and played with it. Here, he “discovers” the rock. What a surprise to find it!
finding a rock
Next, he invites it to play.
play bow to rock
You can see the rock at the side of his mouth.
playing with rock
Finally, he tosses it around in his mouth, flipping his head and really having a great time.
having a good chew

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It looks kind of big and bare in his new crate so I was trying to think what I could sacrifice to make it comfy in there, when I hit myself up the side of the head. After Uma died, I washed all of her bedding and folded it away, perhaps to give to a shelter later. It was still sitting down in the laundry room. I brought up one of the pads she used to sleep on and zipped it into a cover and presto, Rockwell has a very comfy retreat now.
New door and new cushion
I had my whole head and shoulders in there, rolling the back end of the pad to make it fit, when Rockwell decided to get into the act too. The two of us were stuck in the doorway for a few seconds, until I pulled my way out and he forced his way in. Since no one was there as a witness, neither of us lost any dignity.

Speaking of dignity, I have mentioned before how Rockwell not only chases his tail but when he catches it, he walks around with it in his mouth. And he doesn’t walk in a straight line but instead, makes circles while he heads in a general direction. In the next photo, I caught him in the act, going up the stairs in this fashion. One paw is lifted as he heads to his right and up the next step.
Tail chasing again