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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

One new thing that we’ve been experimenting with and about which I have not blogged, is leaving him loose in the house. Rockwell doesn’t get left alone much but there is one afternoon where I have to be out and I still don’t think he’s mature enough to take with me. So every Thursday afternoon, I have to outwit him and try to get him into his crate without him defying me by collapsing like that sack of wet noodles. The last time I tried to put him in the crate, it was an epic battle between the irresistible force (that’s me) and the immovable object (that would be him). I won that time but it wore me out.

So on the following weekend, Peter and I left the house for about an hour and left Rockwell sitting at the front door. We said, “we’ll be right back!” and shut the door. I do that when I go get the mail if it’s raining or something and I don’t want to take him out for all of 2 minutes and get him wet. So this time, we came home and there he was, sitting by the front door! We looked everywhere and there was no sign of what we like to call “death and destruction”. Nothing chewed, no sign that he had sat on the couches.

Since then, we’ve left him alone on maybe three difference occasions and it seems as though he just waits by the door. The last time, Peter said he opened the front door and Rockwell looked like he had just been awakened out of a good snooze. So while we will, of course, continue to take him as many public places as we can, it looks promising that he can be trusted to be alone in the house without doing any damage.
yoga dog, perhaps? but he's asleep.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nose comparisons:

September 30, 2005
Sept. 30, 2005
December 30, 2005
chewing the tag
April 25, 2006
April 25, 2006

It started dark, then it went practically pink and now it's getting darker again.

After several months hiatus, I find myself blogging about poop again. You may recall we had a difficult time regularizing his poop schedule. He never did poop like a puppy - directly after eating - but he ended up going three times a day - once in the morning first thing after being let out after breakfast, a second time in the morning on our long walk and once, right before bedtime.

When he got back from the overnighter at the kennels, we started switching him to adult food (it’s been a week and will be another week or more before we finish that). A couple of days after we started the switch, I noticed that he wouldn’t even poop first thing in the morning. Of course, by then my parents were here for the weekend, so I wondered if it was the upset schedule. This morning, he didn’t poop either. Of course, it was raining pretty hard and I wanted him to poop and get it done, so maybe that was why he didn’t go. You just can’t ask dogs!

Another thing I only noticed on Sunday was that he’d been chewed up by the other dog in the kennels. When Shona brought him home on Wednesday afternoon, she mentioned that when she picked him up at the kennels on Wednesday morning, he was all wet around the face from where the other dog had been playing with him. I noticed that some of his fur was stiff with spit (or so I thought) but it wasn’t until Sunday that I was really giving him a good go-over that I saw that the stiff fur was due to some scabbing. Or at least, it looks like scabbing. I didn’t want to pull at the fur too much, for then he would have bald patches on his face and how unattractive would that be? He also seems to be scratching somewhat more than usual.

Now I feel like a worried mother. But mostly, I just want him to poop twice a day like a regular dog.
whose foot is that?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Earth Day!
My parental units are in town and Rockwell is delighted. The more the merrier as far as he is concerned. Yesterday was sunny and warm so we sat on the patio. We’ve taken down the fence because it wasn’t sturdy anyway, plus the lawn was damaged over the winter where he peed all the time. So we have to keep him on a leash while we sit outside. Here Mum has him on the expandable leash but it looks like she was fishing and caught something.
fishing for dogs?
Dad had Rockwell on the line at one point, when Rockwell decided to take off after a bird and Dad almost got jerked over sideways onto the lawn. But he hung on.

This morning, Rockwell was so happy to have more people in his pack and he followed my mother around like.. a puppy! Here he is, wrapping himself around her ankles.
getting too close to Grandmom
Then he noticed me taking pictures and rolled over to display himself in all his glory.
lounging in the living room
While trying to have breakfast, he crawled under the table and lay on each of our feet in turn. Here he is getting up close and personal with Peter’s feet.
under the breakfast table II
Ah the bliss of more people in the pack!
under the breakfast table I

Thursday, April 20, 2006

This morning, we started switching Rockwell over to adult dog food. He was weighed while he was away and he now tips the scales at 70 pounds! They say that’s probably going to be his ideal adult weight so we will try to maintain that. Since we only feed him dog food and since we measure it, weight gain should not be a problem.

The switching schedule lasts two weeks! Who’d have thought? This morning I gave him half a cup of the adult food and one and a half cups of the puppy chow. I didn’t think he’d notice but he ate it a bit slower than usual. He didn’t pause or sniff at it or look at it but he was slower. Now he has crashed out again in the hallway so I think I’ll make our morning walk a little shorter than usual.

This photo is from last night, when I discovered him twisted up like a pretzel, sleeping in the hall.
twisted like a pretzel

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rockwell’s home! And pooped.
pooped pooch
Apparently, while it is good that he has a keen desire to please, he tries to do everything in a hurry and if he keeps this up, he may burn out. So our task for the summer is to show him that he can take life slower, take it easy. Don’t worry - be happy. We’ll chill and be low key and hopefully, he will follow suit. I think this should be manageable, especially as the summer heats up and we all start to move at a slower pace.

One thing I will start to do more than I have and that is to go out with him wearing the jacket and then just sit and watch people go by. Shona said that she did that today at a mall and after a while, he just lay on his side and snoozed. For the first bit however, he wanted to greet and jump on every soul that went by. Before anything else though, he is going to sleep all day tomorrow to recover from his night in a kennel with another dog!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rockwell got picked up this morning by the G.D. supervisor. He is going for his 36 hour assessment. He will be in kennels tonight with a pup of similar age and then back tomorrow afternoon. When Shona came to pick him up, he sat in his corner at the front door while we talked. When it was time to go, he didn’t even look back but bolted out the door for the car. She opened the back hatch for him to jump into the wire cage at the back of the station wagon and he got his front paws up but looked around for a boost to the back end. He’s not used to getting into the backs of cars.

I was saying to Peter, “what shall we do without the dog around?” and we couldn’t think of anything to do. I plan to vacuum the heck out of the place today, especially because my parents are coming for the weekend and Dad is allergic (way more than I am). But as I waved goodbye and Rockwell didn’t wave back, I thought, I am going to miss that little guy.

Friday, April 14, 2006

I think I have figured out why I keep getting viruses and it is so obvious that I’m almost embarrassed to say. I went to teach yesterday even though I have this cold (I only teach once a week and there was a strike a few weeks back that put everyone behind so I felt I really had to go). I was talking at the break with some students about this cold and how I have had three since January. I said I knew that it was somehow connected to having Rockwell because I have had about 6 or 7 viruses since last September, when he came into our lives. I even said that I was slightly allergic to dogs and that was when one of the students said that her son starts getting colds at the start of allergy season.

Kajing! A bell went off in my head so loud I wondered if they could hear it too. I am allergic to dogs - that was tested about 10 years ago. I had Uma for 14 years but I believe I got used to her dander. Rockwell is a different dog and has his own set of allergens. When he came to live with us, my body started reacting to his dander. Since my immune system was busy fighting this imaginary enemy, it was too busy to fight a real enemy - cold viruses. I would succumb to a cold virus and it would live its (thankfully short) life span and then go away. I know when you have a cold, your body develops antibodies specific to that virus and so you have immunity for about a month afterwards. And then sure enough, about a month later, I would get another cold. This has gone on like clockwork since he got here.

So now what? I think I’ll talk to my doctor about allergy shots or do a little research into the efficacy of them anyway. Now that I know this and I am not giving the dog back (until he is ready to go in the Fall some time), what can I do to avoid succumbing to viruses? My immune system is already over-reacting to the dander - do I want to boost it? I’m thinking that’s the way to go, even though it may seem a little counter-intuitive. The more white cells, the merrier. Anyway, I’m glad to finally make the connexion.

And now for your viewing pleasure, some photos taken by Peter this morning at breakfast ... “Rockwell and his Bones!”
A surfeit of bones.
Two bones!
Them bones.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

No blogging lately as I am in the grip of a stupid cold and the constant use of kleenex keeps my hands too busy to type.
Here are a couple of pix I took last week, showing Rockwell with his kongs. Enjoy.
collecting kongs
two's more fun than one!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

After seeing my life flash before my eyes in the last post, I am again overly cautious and now I have fashioned a real Rube Goldberg leash arrangement. Well, not really - now it looks and feels like I am driving a small team of very small horses. I have Rockwell’s leather collar on and to it, I attach the leather leash in the balanced lead configuration. THEN I have put Uma’s old choke chain on him and to it, I have attached the blue nylon leash.

As we walk, I have the leather leash in my left hand and he tows me along as usual. I loop the end of the blue leash around my left wrist and think of it as the “safety ski bindings” of yore - if something happens with the leather collar or leash, the blue one and the chain kick in. Since the blue leash is longer than the leather leash in balanced lead configuration, I hold the middle of it in my RIGHT hand. Now I have total control of the dog. If he wants to lag behind, I can pull him with the blue leash and chain. If he needs a leash correction, I can also use the chain by giving it a snap with my right hand.

I suppose it looks like total overkill - two leashes and two collars on one little dog - but I am telling you, I feel much better about his ultimate safety. Of course, it takes a lot of my concentration to make this work smoothly. If not like driving a horse, it’s like riding a motorcycle, in that each hand has a different task, plus you are walking and moving in a direction the whole time. And as I have found before with Rockwell, if I allow my attention to be taken up with anything else, even saying hello to a passerby, he knows it instantly and misbehaves in consequence. However, with all this, I still can see him improving, little by little and day by day. Even today on our long walk, I could tell he finally started to listen to me more than he normally does. And once he is able to give me his (almost) undivided attention, I am sure I will be able to give up the double leash thing.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

And yet more about those walks. This time however, I think I lost about 5 years off my life. Rockwell wears a regular leather collar. When he’s hanging around the house, I usually buckle it on the second to last hole because it seems to be a good fit. Lately, I have been thinking about moving it to the last hole, as it is getting a little snug. However, what I hadn’t been noticing is that it is also stretching. Although I could see a part on the collar where the leather was stretched out, it didn’t appear that it was making the collar bigger. Anyway, I think you know what’s coming.

So there we were, walking around the big loop on the fairly busy street. Actually, this street is really good for walking Rockwell because the cars go by regularly so he notices each one but not in a continuous stream so he would be overwhelmed by them. Occasionally, a bus goes by too so he gets nice practice at not worrying about traffic. We had been walking using the balanced lead but that only works while he pulls ahead. If he stops, I can’t pull him along unless I use the leash like a regular leash. He had been stopping a lot so I had switched to just hanging onto the leash normally. As well, I had gained much confidence with the double leash arrangement and had stopped using it (although that didn’t make any difference in the end).

At one point, he stopped dead and decided he MUST go investigate smells on the grass. I turned around because by now he was behind me and I pulled on the leash. He must have turned his head a little in JUST the right way because suddenly, there I was, standing holding a leash with an empty collar on the end of it. I was looking at a naked dog who had thankfully become totally absorbed in the wonderful smells on the grass (on the side away from traffic).

I was horrified and I could feel my heart rate go through the roof. At the same instant, I knew I had better not make any sudden or panicked moves otherwise he’d be off like a shot. I leaped (quietly) at him and wrapped my arms around his body, standing over him. He didn’t try to get away I think because he was absorbed in his task of smelling. I wished again at that point that I had three arms. I got the collar in one hand, all the while trying to keep that elbow pinned against the dog and then I worked the still buckled collar over his head as fast as I could.

Once he was again collared, I stood up and tried to calm down. My knees were shaking. He seemed totally unfazed by the experience. That was when I realized I couldn’t pull him by the collar for fear it would slip off again. I didn’t trust myself to unbuckle it and buckle it tighter in the mental state I was in so the rest of our walk was a very slow, odd little dance as he got to go smell all the grass between there and home and I could only keep up. Now I have to decide if I have gone all paranoid again like I did with the two leashes and put two collars on him.

The stretched-out collar.
the stretched collar
In the next sequence, I was just trying to show how the collar looked on him. He gets all suspicious that I’m going to DO something to him...
Ack! What do you want?
attempting to pose the dog
Finally, I just ask him to pose, please, and he does. That collar doesn’t look loose at all.
collar on the dog

Thursday, April 06, 2006

We’re on our walk again this morning and for the first half, we’re discussing who’s the boss. I work up a good sweat even though it’s only 3C out there. I’m thinking about training and how I dislike jerking on the leash to make corrections all the time. I’m reminded of dressage, when my coaches used to tell me that I was supposed to make guiding the horse look effortless. However, that takes a well trained horse AND a well trained rider and Rockwell is just starting to learn about training so I guess I’ll just have to be patient and wait until he learns more.

Thinking about training made me also watch him as he was so easily distracted by everything around him and I thought about how “real training”, when he’s old enough and back at the Guide Dog centre, will really be good for him. Real training will give him something to focus on - pausing at curbs, guiding around obstacles, waiting for commands - and I think he will find that more enjoyable than running off after birds. Really.

So we’re in the home stretch of our walk and he’s tired and walking really nicely. Way up ahead, I spot Skye with her two chocolate Labs and we wave and she takes them down a side street so as not to distract poor Rockwell. (Thanks Skye!) A few days ago, we had met up in the street and Rockwell was all over those two dogs. I remembered the first time they’d met and he was so overwhelmed that he piddled as he cringed. This time, he was bigger than the smaller, younger female Daphne AND he had grown testicles and discovered he was male! So I was relieved that Rockwell had not seen them and we could continue walking normally. Suddenly, after they had long been out of sight but we had got closer to the corner where they had turned, Rockwell stopped dead in his tracks and sniffed the wind. He lunged at the end of his leash, wanting to head out to where he smelled Daphne and Sasha. And I could tell he recognized their scent - he wasn’t just reacting to any old dog. It took a few minutes to get him to remember who was boss (that would be me) and walk calmly again. Very interesting.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The walking. Oh, the walking. My goal, as I am sure is the same with many other dog owners, is to be able to walk at a pace of my choosing, for as long as I choose, where I choose, and have the dog accompany me without molesting anyone else. Simple? Not really.

First of all we have to deal with the pulling. The balanced lead harness arrangement works wonders but there is still pulling. He pulls forward, I jerk back. I get a few steps of slack lead and then the pulling starts again. Pull, jerk, slack. Over and over. Until he gets tired near the end of the 45 minute walk. I of course, got tired at about the ten minute mark.

Then we have to deal with distractions. Anything that moves, really. Other dogs are at the top of the list for not being able to listen to me, followed by people, birds, squirrels, cats, and blowing bits of garbage. A new distraction is the need to mark with urine. I have been told this will stop when he is neutered but in the meantime, we make an increasing number of piddle stops on the route.

Occasionally, he will stop in his tracks for no apparent reason. When he was much younger, he would stop and sit to think and study something new to him. Now he just stops and doesn’t appear absorbed by anything in particular. He’ll come along when you ask so at least there isn’t any stubborn hanging back. But it is sort of odd.

Thankfully, all of this not-so-great behaviour only occupies maybe ten percent of the entire walk so I really shouldn’t complain. It is true of human nature however, that we do tend to focus on the 10% that is not good and forget about the 90% that is good. For the record, Rockwell is good most of the time and when he isn’t “good”, he’s just distracted.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

All winter, Rockwell has been taking stones out from under the house overhang and then chewing them in the little yard space. Each day, he gets another one and sometimes, I take them from him before him comes back in but sometimes, he leaves them out there and plays with them the next day. Today, I took a picture of him and his “rock collection”.
rock collection too
“Rock?” Well!”
rock collection

On Friday we had a record 22C. Yesterday, it rained all day. Today, it will be cool but it is sunny. However, here is the contrast between the Hill cam last week and what it looks like this morning. No snow!