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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm trying an experiment with the barking. For the last week or so, every time he barks at me for whatever reason, I jump up, grab a toy, and say "Speak!" Then when he barks a second time, I give him the toy and say "Good Dog!" Then there is a mad bout of "Speak!" and "Bark!" and "Good Dog!" and he gets a slightly confused look on his face. But he keeps barking and I make sure I say "speak" before each bark and then praise him for it. After a few minutes of this really loud silliness, I say "finish - good dog" and go into another room and do something. He usually only barks at me when it looks like (to him) that I'm not doing anything, like sitting at the computer or reading the paper.

This way, when he barks, he gets to be a good dog and when he doesn't bark, he's a good dog. And when he does bark, it seems to him like it might even be my idea and he gets a little play out of it and then it's over. Anyway, this morning, we did this again, and when I said "finish" and went into the kitchen, he lay down and hasn't got back up again to play (yet). It's kind of a lot of work on my part but the potential pay-off could be very rewarding.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

When I took Rockwell for his long morning walk yesterday, he deked off onto the grass to have a second poop of the morning, something he often (always) does. This time however, there was something IN the poop. It was lighter coloured than the poop and had a funny consistency. I picked it up and when I got home, after dumping it in the toilet, I kept the plastic bag on my hand and fished out the foreign object and swished it around in the water. I think it was a small cellulose sponge! It was in three pieces but the large triangular piece had the consistency of a sponge and kind of looked like one too.

I keep a small sponge on the edge of my tub so when we shower, the water doesn't leak out onto the floor. I ran upstairs and it was still there. So I can only think that he got it from the house where he spent the weekend. I'll try to remember to ask Sheila if they are missing a small sponge over there. A dog will be a dog wherever he is.

Monday, August 28, 2006

sleeping off the weekend
We humans had a lovely weekend - our first without Rockwell since we got him. We visited and played golf and had a family reunion. Unfortunately, Rockwell isn't talking about his weekend. We dropped him off at Guide Dogs on Friday morning. He pulled me all the way into the kennels, so excited was he to be there. Then when I handed the leash to Rob, Rockwell turned to pull away from him and it looked like he was saying "Mom! Don't go!" Not really but sort of. Anyway, he knows Rob and the kennels by now so I wasn't worried about him. And of course, is IS their dog and they look after him better than I do even, I suppose.

When we returned on Sunday afternoon to pick him up (we were earlier than agreed), he hadn't been returned yet by someone who had taken him into their home for the weekend. So I was glad that he didn't have to spend all the time in kennels. While we were waiting, the kennel-guy for-the-weekend had a 9 week old black Lab female under his arm and I got to pet her. When they are that age, they are such sweet babies, you could just eat 'em up. We went for coffee and when we got back, Rockwell was there. The kennel guy said that the people who had had him for the weekend enjoyed his company and liked him very much. Their only non-positive comment was that he was "a bit excitable." Since he was jumping up on us in greeting, we said we understood. However, later I wondered is perhaps he had peed in their house in his excitement and maybe that's what they meant. I may never know but I'll try asking Sheila when I see her on Friday. I hope he didn't but it's a possibility. Oh well, it's not my dog!

After we got him home, he seemed a bit subdued. That's the word I think fits it best. He was happy to go out for a walk and happy to be with us and he submitted nicely to my petting him all over. But he seemed a bit detached. Then he went into his kennel unasked and lay there for a while. I think he was tired from being in a new situation more than anything. When he barked at me this morning as I sat at the computer, I knew I had Rockwell and not some other dog! All in all, I think this was good for all of us, to have a little time apart before the final time. It makes us appreciate him more and gives him a sample of what is to come. I am so hoping he will pass and become a real working dog - I don't want the experience of being in kennels and hanging with different folks to put him off. And so far, I think he is doing well with his life experiences.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What I find frustrating about Rockwell is not him so much, as my own inability to figure him out. After all this time, he still stops in the middle of a walk to tug on the leash in what I used to describe as a "temper tantrum" but now believe is only play. Everything is "play" to this dog. If you scold him or raise your voice, it is interpreted as boisterous play! So he never gets told he is a bad dog because he wouldn't understand what that meant, plus he would jump up on you and bark happily because he thought you were playing. Which is what I mean about it being frustrating. He doesn't operate by regular human rules and he doesn't behave like my old dog or like other dogs I know. So I have to invent the wheel with him. Which I can do but I am telling you, it can get tiring.

I would be very interested in getting progress reports once he is in kennels for good, just to know that the professionals are making headway with him. I don't think they like to keep interacting with the puppywalkers once the job is done, however. And I understand that because they have a bigger job to do after all. And I know they don't want the puppywalker to visit the dog while it is in training either, because that is just a distraction. But I'll see if they will tolerate a phone call or two from me, every now and then.

Rockwell is going for his spa weekend this Friday and we'll pick him up Sunday after I've had a welcome few days apart too. It will be good for me to not have the responsibility of his care for a couple of days. Sometimes I think I take it all a little too seriously but it's in my make-up to do that.
in mid-bark
Here he is, in mid-bark. I am at the computer and he wants my attention and he is barking very loudly at me. Too bad there's no sound.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Getting ready to go out for our evening walk, while waiting for Peter, I bent down and pressed my forehead to Rockwell's and petted the sides of his head. He made that adorable noise down in his throat that I now think should be described as "snorgling", thanks to www.cuteoverload.com. Thanks to Peter's fast camera work, we have at least pictorial evidence of it. Look at how far back those ears are! And he never moved the whole time I was petting him. He may be a terror some times but the prominent note in his personality is "sweet".

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I was tagged first by Laura and I am going to follow her lead and write about five crazy habits the three of us have and leave it to you to guess which of us has which habit.

One of us likes not only to chase his tail but then he goes up the stairs in a circular fashion while holding the end of his tail.

One of us likes to try to grab the tags on his collar and then when he finally has them in his mouth, he will walk around like he is leading himself.

One of us loves to watch dog shows on television.

When one of us gets loose accidentally, he runs around in circles like a demented thing.

One of us likes to admire himself in the mirror.
with the kong
Okay, I guess it's not hard to figure out which habit belongs to which "person" (sorry Peter!).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

For the first time, I caught Rockwell with his paws up on the kitchen counter. I had made myself some toast with a cheese slice on it and had left the wrapper for the cheese slice on the counter. I had taken the plate into the dining room to eat while I read the paper and that's when I heard the suspicious noise from the kitchen. Rockwell was just sniffing the empty cheese wrapper but it was startling to see him up there, as he has never indicated he is willing to risk jumping up before. I said his name "ROCKwell!" with a certain tone of voice and he got right down. I thought he knew it's a Very Bad Thing, to stand up and put his paws on the counter but I'm not so sure any more.

We have had any number of good smelling real food items up on the kitchen counter and he has never jumped up. But in retrospect, I think someone has always been in the kitchen. This time I had left. I might have to "set him up" by leaving something up there and then having a pop can with a few stones in it ready and tossing it if he does jump up when he thinks I'm not looking. In the meantime, better not be leaving anything out!

Monday, August 14, 2006

after the walk
This is what he looks like now, after I walked him, shall we say "thoroughly".

I talked with Guide Dogs this morning about leaving Rockwell with them when Peter and I go on a little holiday-business trip at the end of September. I gave them the dates and was told that it was possible they might be doing intake of puppies then so I should be prepared to leave him there for good. Of course, it's still possible their schedule won't permit it - a lot depends on what dogs are graduating and what dogs are ready and how much room there is in the kennels. But it creeps up on you awfully fast - as Jenny knows.
Here is Rockwell barking at me, just this morning. I think he is bored - he had Peter at home all last week and we had guests on the weekend. And now it is just boring old me. I'd better take him for a walk to tire him out.
Here is what he looks like under the breakfast table when he has had lots of fun and people to play with him. That was NOT taken today.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Another pictorial essay. We all know that Rockwell is NOT allowed on the furniture. Right? And in fact, he doesn't help himself to it and never gets up by himself. But sometimes, when we are sitting on the couch, he cannot resist becoming a lap dog, even if he is 70 pounds worth. What I find fun and interesting is that he seems to apply the one foot on the floor rule from the old days of television censorship. As long as he has his hind feet on the floor, he is not really up on the couch. At least, that's what we humans tell ourselves.
Please can I climb up?
It looks like he is asking to climb into my lap here, being a little tentative.
Oh come on!
Now I have rebuffed him and he is protesting my lack of generosity.
Chowing down
I am demonstrating the fact that he has learned not to bite down on the hand that feeds him.
Okay, I can be just cute.
Finally, he settles for an over-all cute shot.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Things have been pretty quiet in a way lately. We had my parents over for the weekend, along with my sister and her husband -- and we didn't take a single photograph! I can't believe it. So for your amusement here are a few pix of Rockwell taken recently by Peter.
still chasing his tail
Even though Rockwell is over a year old, he still loves to chase his tail.
I've got it!
Here, he has started to spiral up the stairs while hanging onto the end of his tail.
ready to pounce
I like this action shot, as Rockwell is about to launch himself off that step and onto the photographer.
This is MY spot!
In this series, Rockwell and I were jockeying for position.
This is MY spot!
I'm listening to instructions from the photographer, as to where to place my feet. Rockwell is listening but not to instructions.
This is MY spot!
I've got him squashed in an ankle vise grip and he's twisting himself to get away. His skin is still loose and wrinkles up in nice big folds when you play like this. It also looks like he's missing a front leg but it's just behind my right leg.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I try to watch all the working dogs shows on television. There is a Canadian series called "Dogs with Jobs" and there are shows on PBS and elsewhere. I learned that for dogs who do search and rescue, an important thing for them to be able to learn is to place their feet deliberately. I have seen dogs being trained to do this by walking on horizontal ladders and not letting their feet (or themselves) fall through. Apparently, knowing where each of its four feet are is not a natural thing for dogs. I write this to conclude that Rockwell may never get to do search and rescue, should he be unable to work as a guide dog. Every time we are sitting down and he wants to get close to us - which is to say, all the time - Rockwell steps on our two feet with every one of his four feet. He seems to have no idea that he is stepping on my bare toes with his callused and rough toes and claws and no matter how much I complain about it, he doesn't understand that he should try NOT to walk on my feet. And then of course, he gives me one of his sweet looks and I forgive all.
it's comfy because it's on her foot
Speaking of working dogs, the Westminster Dog Show was replayed recently and even though Rockwell watched it when it first aired in February, he made sure to watch it again. It's too bad but a photograph simply does not show the intensity of how he watches other dogs on tv. We still think he thinks the tv is a magic window.
watching the show dogs

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hot dog, tongue on the floor
Today was a PW supervisor visit. It is SO hot out there ("how hot is it!?") that we went to Bayshore again where it is air conditioned. [It is just past 11am as I write this and the temperature is at 31C and the humidex at 44C. Phew.] Sheila thought we might see some other puppies there and sure enough we did. There was a yellow Lab in training, two black Labs and a black standard Poodle. We successfully avoided each other physically, although all the dogs did make eye contact at one point or another. Sheila was so proud of Rockwell - when she gave him the command to "leave" the other dog alone, Rockwell did and continued on in a straight line.

The most fun we had was when we walked into the Bay, near the make-up and perfume section. She had chosen that section of the store because the floor there is a highly polished dark glassy tile and some dogs balk at walking over it, like it was water or something. I predicted Rockwell would just glance down at it, at the transition and then continue nonchalantly - and he did! However we turned one corner and were walking down an aisle when he spotted three female mannequins wearing only underwear at the end of the aisle. He stopped and stared and then barked at them! We started laughing quietly and he barked again, with his hackles starting to go up. He obviously saw them as people - but NOT people.

Just as the MAC makeup guy came out to see what was going on and I was explaining to him (Sheila was over by the mannequins, explaining them to Rockwell), Rockwell sat down "plump" on the floor and stared up at the mannequins, inviting them to play. It was the most adorable thing we've seen in a while and the MAC guy loved it too.

Rockwell rode up and down in the glass elevator and was not bothered by any of it, not even the fact that the elevator "talks". He walked up and down the open stairs and everything else we asked of him, with professionalism. He still tried to snag Kleenexes if he saw them lying on the floor and his chase reflex is high when it comes to bits of plastic blowing across the floor, so we have to work on that. But we were proud of him. Sheila says he might even be called into training in as little as two months, depending on what other dogs are doing. My little puppy is growing up!