A bone to pick

I am trying to make time to write this morning, but Scoop is torturing me. The morning started great. Coffee followed by playtime and training. And then we had big exercise in the yard, and long retrieves using two toys to get him really driving on the return.  We came to the office, he got into his crate on cue and stayed there with the door open and random kibble tossed in. It was great, I got all my mail answered!

So why is he now racing around my office, tearing up his toys, getting in the catalogs, and generally trying to wreak havoc. About another minute of this and I will tear my hair out, put him in a cage, or give up, stop writing and take him for more exercise.

This week he learned to go around my office garbage can, so this mornings training  we practiced that off both sides. I just say go right now.  He leaves my side and runs around the can which is about 5 feet away. Very cute. Then I started working on shaping his retrieve. I really believe all dogs should have a shaped retrieve to hand. Too many handlers these days still relying on treats alone to reinforce agility skills. If you can train using OC then you can teach your dog to retrieve.

Today we started with me holding a short hard piece of rope. I marked for looking, touching, then opening mouth on toy, then closing jaws on toy. That is where we ended after 3 or 4 short sessions that lasted each just a minute or two.

About bones & leave it

Scoop was raised on raw food as pup and has had raw meaty bones almost daily since he was 8 weeks old. A couple days ago while he was in his cage next to my desk, chewing on an especially tasty one, Jack my 5 year old, 8 pound sheltie wandered up close to the cage. Scoop growled, the first real one I have ever heard from him. He is vocal but he doesn’t growl, at least not at me or the other dogs in any kind of vocal display. I think I screamed, out of shock, and luckily I was only a one second reach away from the cage door and grabbing the bone from him. Oh I don’t think so Mister, is what I intended to say.

Jack left the scene, but obliged when I asked him to come back and lie down close to the cage. I put the bone back in with Scoop, but kept my hand on the cage door. He didn’t growl but stiffened up and I took the bone away again. I tried again a couple times and he decided he would rather chew on the bone nicely than growl so he got to keep it for a few minutes, with me sitting near, and Jack getting fed cookies for helping out. Scoop always relinquishes bones to me, maybe because I have traded  him often for treats when I take the bone away, and he has never wanted to possess one in this way before. I got lucky when I reached in and grabbed it. He could have had a tug with me over possession, or growled more or tried to bite me. I guess my really quick bone/mouth extraction shocked him too.

I decided Scoop, aka too big for your britches, and I needed to have some training sessions on manners around bones and other dogs. I don’t want to make matters worse by making him defensive and stealing things from him. Like most pups he loves to pick up great things like underwear, my favorite shoes, or a dropped kleenex. I never chase or grab, I just call him and trade for the treat I have in my pocket. When he was tiny I traded him for his bones, and eventually I just removed the bone and then gave it back to him when he let me have it without resistance.

Time for an official leave it cue, as well as some training with the other dogs so that he did not feel he had to protect his bone from anyone when he is in his cage. We started with Scoop and I and a medium level tasty bone inside his X-pen. I just sat on the floor with him. I like to hold bones for my dogs to chew on and do this a lot when they are sitting on my lap. Without something for Scoop to chew on, he might decide instead to nibble on my fingers. So that is where we started. Me holding the bone, him chewing.

I showed him a really tasty piece of cooked chicken, and as he was coming off the bone to have the treat, I said leave it, and let him have the treat. I repeated it quite a few times, then started saying leave it without presenting the cookie, and while he was still chewing, and he started to catch on. Now I could mark him coming off the bone with yes, and present the tasty reward. I made sure the reward was high value (cooked chicken) and the bone wasn’t the highest (slightly chewed). Sometimes I would let him chew for a good couple minutes, and then ask him to leave it, other times he chewed just until he was really into it, then I asked. After a couple different sessions of this I felt reasonably confident that he would trade me on a leave it for a bone, and was starting to understand the command. All in context though. It was pretty good in his pen, without too much arousal on his part, and no dogs present.

I decided to try with a dog present, but on the other side of the pen. I called Riot, my still active almost 14 year old border collie over and had her lie down by the pen. I rewarded her a few times for being very close. I offerered the bone to Scoop and went through the process again. He stiffened up and thought about not giving up the bone once when I held his bone closer to Riot, but we had no growling and he always gave up the bone to me. Then I did some close quarter, nose to nose feeding of both of them with me holding the bone, but him not having access and that went ok too.

I know this successful start may not mean that I am done training on this subject, but I am happy with the start.

Leave it during play

I have started to use the leave it when Scoop is really ripping on his tug toy. I don’t like to use the leave it cue too much on toy play until I have a good tug and retrieve. Why do I need it for a toy release if the dog is not really into the toy? Yes the leave it could be used for lots of things, but primarily I use it in toy play.

Scoop IS a good enthusiastic tugger, and a pretty good retriever. And now he is happily dropping the tug toy on command. I use lower value cookies for this as he LOVES food and I don’t want to overdistract him from the toy play. I don’t ask him to drop it very often, and he is always rewarded for doing so.

Scoop will spend his first days away from me starting tomorrow. I am going to Wisconsin to Ann Braue’s facility for our first 2009 AKC World Team practice. Jim will be taking care of him and I will be the nervous mother calling home to check on the kid.

If I don’t post again till I return then I hope that you have a great week with your puppy, I hope Jim has fun with mine!



2 responses

  1. Celeste,

    Congratulations on getting a HobNob pup. What fun both you and ChannAn have littermates. Hope that the blog gives you some training ideas. I remember Keeper of course and your lessons.
    Thanks for writing,


  2. Hi, Nancy
    I just read your blog about Scoop. Beautiful pup! Great blog! My puppy is named Riff, he is a full brother to Channan’s Rampage. My older rescue BC Keeper and I once had a couple of lessons with you (shared with L Plummer). We also went to one of Jim’s seminars in Penngrove. Great lessons!
    Riff and I are bumbling along. Your blog is helpful – Thank you! I look forward to seeing you and Scoop at the shows, and would love to get out to your place again sometime…
    Celeste Thomas

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