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, February 28, 2006

When Peter came home from work yesterday, I was up sewing so he took a few pix of Rockwell and me. What a face that dog has.
O noble beast.
Perfect pose.  The dog, not me.

Monday, February 27, 2006

We’d been having a spirited game of tag when I turned around and saw this:
Evidence of running in the house
Then I caught him, in the act!
Caught in the act

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Rockwell decides to follow me around while I am doing chores this afternoon.
After I start to put the top sheet on the bed, he goes over and sits at the foot of it, leaning on the bed so I can’t straighten the sheet out.
bedmaking 101
I manage to get the blanket on next and since he is in the way, I drape it over his head.
bedmaking 102
I approach him to ask him to please move and he leans way back to evade my grasp, should I do anything as foolish as trying to grab him by the collar.
bedmaking 103
Finally, I have managed to tuck things in and get the bedspread on and he lies down majestically at the foot of the bed. I sit on the floor to get a nice angle on him and he gets up in a hurry to come over and jump on me because I am at his level.
bedmaking 104

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I decided to pick the chicken off the bones of a roast we had a few days ago. I was standing at the kitchen counter when Rockwell was lured in by his nose. Here he is, crushing my toes with his elbow.
crushing my toes
I call this one “startled out of a food reverie” by the flash of the camera.
startled out of a food reverie
Waiting, waiting.
He was in motion for this last shot, having circled around to see if he missed anything and thinking he spotted something on the floor.
what's that!
Although he gets no treats and no human food at all, he still knows what smells good. I am pretty careful not to drop food on the floor but he lies there nonetheless, licking the floor and getting some satisfaction at a molecular level. I was reminded then of the dogs in paintings of English noblemen, faithful beasts lying at their master’s feet and suddenly thought, they’re not faithful at all. Their masters were just sloppy eaters and the dogs were in it for the scraps.

We try to keep the house cool because it saves on the heating bill. But it’s chilly today and when I went upstairs to sew, Peter got out the small heater fan and put it in the doorway of my sewing room to give me a little extra heat until I warmed up with ironing. I guess Rockwell likes his comforts too because when I turned around, there he was, curled up in front of the fan. I still get some of the heat coming in but now it smells like dog feet.
chilly dog

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A little sequence of photos. I wanted to show how he was still fitting on the step but just barely. At 8 months, I think I thought he’d be bigger. I wonder how much bigger he will get? Right now he seems to be the perfect size - small and wiry - but I am not sure how much he weighs.
still fits on the step
He seems to have learned to close his eyes as the flash goes off!
interesting smell?
tasty carpet!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Rockwell is 8 months old today! I will be a little older than that, later in the week. So I got a lovely birthday card from me old Mum today and in it, she said she read my 'Blob' about Rockwell outside the guest room door. She said, “isn’t he lovely to miss the old people?” and I was chilled to the bone. First of all, I only posted the pee incident yesterday at 1:51pm and I got the card today!? And secondly, I don’t think peeing on the carpet is lovely at all! It is messy and smells bad.

Then I realized she was referring to my post of February 7.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

So I’m sitting at the computer, writing an email. Peter has gone out. Rockwell and I have recently come back from a nice long walk where he only jumped on one person we met. He had his big pee when we left the house and another smaller one along the route. I am thinking, it’s his 8 month birthday tomorrow! I hear him upstairs, doing whatever it is that he does. Suddenly, I hear a not-immediately-identifiable noise but I know it can’t be good so I jump up and call, “Rockwell!”. I run upstairs and he meets me at the top. He doesn’t have anything in his mouth and the noise has stopped so I am momentarily puzzled. Then I see the puddle of pee on the carpet, with the trail of pee leading away from it where I had interrupted him.

I am horrified and he has the grace to look abashed. He runs down to the landing and I grab a roll of paper towels and start soaking up the puddle. I ask him, “What was THAT all about?” but he doesn’t say. I put him in his crate and continue cleaning. I go and do a few other things. Finally, I let him out of the crate and we go straight outside where he has a very small pee.

So I still don’t know why he did this. Was it to exert some kind of control over the situation? To assert his dominance? I don’t think it can be “marking” behaviour, as the whole house belongs to him and he hasn’t started marking outside at all. And anyway, will knowing why help with preventing it in the future? Any suggestions are welcome!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A month ago, the sun wasn't coming into the house at this angle at this time of day. Now that it is 30 below outside, it's nice that Rockwell can enjoy a little sun in the afternoon.
Enjoying the sun

Contentment with Toys
Of course, Peter only spends significant time at the dining table in the morning on weekends so I didn’t really make a note of this until today. We’d had our breakfast and Peter was trying to read something at the dining table while Rockwell chewed on his bone with pure abandon. At one point (and of course, we missed the photo op), he was upside down with the bone in his mouth, both front paws on Peter’s leg and as happy as he could be. Just now, Peter saw him under the table with both Kongs and a bone, gnawing away and I remarked that he normally doesn’t behave this way. When it’s just me, Rockwell usually lies on the stair landing or comes over and chews on the zipper tab of my fleece vest as I sit at the computer. And then he barks at me and we go for a walk. This morning, Rockwell is the picture of contentment, chewing on his toys and that’s because the whole pack (small as it is) is together.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I really liked this comment I found in an interview of another blogger who I read regularly:

What do you want to tell other bloggers, if anything?

If you think your blog is insignificant, you’re wrong. Every time you write something there’s a chance you’ll make a difference to someone else, or to yourself.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I grabbed this photo of Rockwell yesterday, as he was lying, sort of sleeping, on the carpet. His eye looks a little bit open but he was sleeping. He didn’t move when I took one picture and only stirred to look at me after the second photo flashed at him. I’m sorry but it just doesn’t look remotely comfortable.
twisted up

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Another thing we talked abut yesterday was making connexions. Rockwell will learn one thing about obedience, like how to sit when asked. Then he will learn another thing, like how to lie down on command. He will learn how to leave things alone. As he learns each thing, they are separate entities in his mind but one day, he will make a connexion. He will be able to say to himself, "these things are related. Every time someone snaps up on the leash, it means I shouldn’t be doing something. Every time someone asks me to do something, when I do it, I get praise." He will connect the dots and understand that they all relate to self control. If he controls his impulses, he gets praise. And I don’t mean control as in stop doing something altogether. I mean control as in channel or work with. I already see the glimmerings of this connexion ability and am looking forward to the coming months when I will see it more and more.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine’s Day. Not significant for us - we prefer to celebrate our anniversary and birthdays. But today we had a visit with the PW supervisor and she got to see some of Rockwell’s bratty behaviour. Not unusual behaviour, especially given his age - coming up to 8 months. Sheila assured me that asserting my dominance over him was the right thing to do, even if it meant looking overly stern in public. She says that it’s all about the dogs and so you can’t worry about what people might think of you in public. If the dog needs a leash correction (a sharp snap) and you don’t give it, then he gets away with bad behaviour. And that’s worse than having some uninformed member of the public telling you that you are being mean to the dog. I watched as Sheila walked Rockwell around and around in the parking lot, stopping him if he wasn’t doing something right, praising him when he did something correctly. Then we went into the Home Depot and since it was new to him and there were many more interesting things in there, he was overwhelmed with distraction and consequently, behaved very well.

This was good for me too because I have been running into people who come up to me while I am trying to do a working walk with Rockwell (but he’s not wearing the jacket) and they pet him and let him jump on them. Then they go away and I am stuck with undoing all that nonsense for the next 10 minutes. Now I will be firmer with them and say, "please stay away because I am trying to teach this puppy some rules about walking and leaving people alone. I hope you don’t think I’m being rude but I really need to have the puppy’s undivided attention. Thanks." Or something along those lines. Jenny blogged about this recently too, where she wrote, and we had to politely deny many small children's requests to pet him (we even got an "Awww, MAN!" from one disappointed young lad) because Lomax was being very good, and I didn't want to break his streak. I've found that one small child petting a dog quickly becomes twelve small children petting a dog, and Lomax's attention span for obedience dissolves..., so I know it’s an issue out there generally.

So if you see me out there, jerking my dog around with a leash and standing in one spot for 10 minutes trying to get him to stop biting the leash, you‘ll know I am just working with the dog and not being mean!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Rockwell does what Uma used to do -- he finds a spot halfway between Peter and me and settles there so he can keep an ear (if not an eye) on both of us. In this case, I am upstairs sewing and Peter is in the living room.

We’ve been having some uneventful days. Walking properly has been a chore. Rockwell won’t walk at all well one day and the walk is full of corrections and hardly any walking. The next day will start well but then he will decide to grab his leash in his teeth and play tug of war - which, of course, he is NOT allowed to play as a future guide dog.

However, last night there was a new treat for us humans. We were watching a local show called Regional Contact, which showcases local businesses and artisans. The theme was the Year of the Dog and they interviewed people who made dog biscuits, collars, blankies and someone who runs a cafe where you can take your dog inside. Rockwell was quite interested in the parts that featured real dogs. As we have noted before, he looks like he is actually watching what is on television, as opposed to just being distracted by movement and noise.

At the end, the two hosts were standing outside with a mature yellow Lab. This suddenly caught Rockwell’s full attention (it came right after a boring commercial) and he ran over in front of the tv and stood up momentarily on his hind legs to get a better view. I think he thought better of actually putting his paws up on the front of the tv cabinet and so he sat down with a thump and stared intently at the television and the yellow Lab. Then the Lab ran off camera and disappeared to the right and Rockwell jumped up and ran to HIS right and looked out the patio door, to see where THAT Lab might have gone. It was a charming moment, I can tell you.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I thought it might be fun to try an extreme close-up and got this one of Rockwell’s nose as he lay sleeping on the stairs. I never have looked that closely up a dog’s nose before and notice an almost valve-like structure inside his left nostril. Cool.
Close up

Last night, Rockwell ventured upstairs while we were watching tv and after a while, it was just too quiet for me, so I followed to see what he might be up to. I found him sitting outside the closed bedroom door of the guest room. We keep the door closed when my parents are here to keep the dander out as Dad is allergic to dogs. We keep it shut when no one is here because then we don’t have to heat the room. I wondered if Rockwell was missing them and waiting outside their room for them to come out?

This afternoon, I caught him on camera, waiting outside the room again. Granted, he was basking in the afternoon sun too but I still think he was waiting for my parents to come out so he could play with them.

Monday, February 06, 2006

We had a really nice visit with my folks this weekend. I hardly took any pictures and we didn’t even take Rockwell out in his jacket and maybe that’s why I felt so relaxed. They arrived on Friday and we went out to lunch. We’d had a busy 12 hours preceding because of a leaky pipe in the basement and I just didn’t want the extra burden of taking Rockwell out to a restaurant so we left him at home (sorry boy!).

He just loves the parental units because they lavish attention on him, calling him smart and cute and sweet (which he is). Mum plays with him making him run around even though she stays in one spot. Dad just needs to make eye contact and Rockwell is wanting up on his lap. When we watched a movie (or anything for that matter) on tv in the evening, it was more fun to watch Rockwell watching the tv than to actually watch whatever was on.

On Saturday, Dad took Rockwell for a walk and when he got back, he complained at how much Rockwell pulled at the leash. I had coached Dad a little on how to compensate for and correct the pulling but unless you see it in action, it apparently isn’t much help. Sunday, Dad and I both took Rockwell for a long walk and I walked in front (the sidewalks are narrowed because of the ice and snow) with Rockwell. The whole way around the loop, I had Rockwell on a short leash and whenever he would try to head off to the side or or go for some bit of garbage, I would snap up on the leash, tugging up on his collar and usually say “leave”. Let’s just say there was a lot of snapping and leaving on my part. When we got home, Dad said he could see how it worked but he doubted he’d want to do that for 30 minutes on a walk. I said, "but see how it works out your arm muscles too!" Extra benefit! He wasn’t convinced.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

My parental units are here for the weekend. My Mum has always loved to play with dogs but she rarely gets the chance. Here she takes advantage of a captive audience. Rockwell had his large Kong and Mum crept slowly up the stairs toward him. He knew she wanted to play and so he agreed by making the “play bow” toward her.
Invitation to play
She continued to move slowly toward him and moved so slowly that he wasn’t sure what was eventually going to happen and stood up, so that he would be prepared for any eventuality.
Getting ready for action
Finally, he couldn’t stand the suspense any longer and bolted up the stairs. They repeated this action quite a few times before Mum got tired of it, long before Rockwell ever would.
Run away!  Run away!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

About leashes and collars:

CGDB prefers British made leather leashes and collars. When I had Uma in 1991, we were also given a check chain for use around the neck (what they used to call a choke chain or a chain-slip collar). It had large links and when you put it on correctly, it was loose all the time except if you were pulling up on it for a correction. Now, they don’t even use those. The theory is that you should be able to control your dog and teach it not to pull on the lead and once it is taught that, you don’t need a controlling collar.

Rockwell still pulls on the leash at times but I recognize that as something that needs more work on my part. I have to take the time to walk with him and every time he pulls, I correct him by saying "steady" (or "leave it" if he is heading for something like a stick). Sometimes I stop completely and wait for him to stop and then we proceed until he pulls and then we stop again. It requires a fair bit of patience, I agree. Sometimes, I pull up on the leash with a bit of a snap as a correction to the pulling. This is what I used to do with the check chain but now I just do it with the leather collar and it works the same, really.

It’s the same with controlling horses. How on earth can a small woman sit on a 1000 pound horse and make it do what she wants it to? The same way you do with much smaller dogs. With technique and training.

I still have not mastered the ability to make Rockwell stop greeting strangers who walk by but I am getting there. It really helps if the other person ignores Rockwell. I’m doomed if they rush over to pet him. But let’s not forget we should only take baby steps to the elevator and I am hopeful that by the summer, Rockwell will be well on his way to doing whatever I ask him to do.

As for the leash, CGDB likes the leather leash with adjustable rings on it so you can make it short or long. Uma chewed right through her first leather leash in the first week we had it so I got her a nylon one for times when we weren’t out in public with the jacket on. Now I am using that same old leash for those kind of walks with Rockwell and his leather leash is still in good shape. Over the years, I have overheard other puppywalkers at the CGDB centre lamenting how their puppy had chewed through the leash so it is a common occurrence. I am pleased that I managed to avoid it with Rockwell (at least so far!).
In the photos, you can see that the leash has two metal rings - one about 10 inches from the end and the other right at the other end. If you clip the snap to the ring at the 10 inch point, it will form a loop for your wrist and this will be the long leash. If you clip to the ring at the other end, it will make the leash half the length and you can then use it like a harness or a balanced lead.
leash demo