+ Chai and I started the day with a round of tugging on the bed and then had a tug-and-flirt-pole session on the roof. (See this post for a video.)
+ We had our first session explaining the imaginary line (LLW)1 to Chai!
+ I took Game and Chai to our favorite park and park-officed from there while the dogs enjoyed free time at the park. I love working outdoors and Mexico City’s free wifi is decent here!
Bougainvillea season. I love the color. Stop and take a moment to look up at a tree. Beauty lives in small moments like this.
For the first time e-ver, I used Chai’s informal pup-pup-pup recall cue to call her out of a social interaction with a new dog (at a moment she was about to take a break anyways), and sent her back to socialize some more as a reinforcer. She did GREAT! I’m so proud of her! I then tried her formal recall cue as well and she rocked that one too.
+ “Claws!” and + “Brush!”
Chai enjoyed Zane’s company in the evening. He is quickly turning into a human she is excited to see! I love seeing her circle of friends expand.
(1) If you’re not familiar with the invisible line concept – click here for info about my December class and a micro e-book on different LLW approaches.
Game, Chai and I spent a big chunk of the day with Zane (the friend who’s staying with us) at Chapultepec. First things first, of course: weekend madness at the swimming spot! I’ve not taken Chai here on the weekend before (only during the week). Today, she got to play with the big dogs! She fell into the water and swam twice (totally unfazed) and had fun playing with one of the other dogs. (The stuff you hear me say in this clip is directed at my friend or at Game.)
Once the dogs were tired, we hung out in the shade and recorded a semi-spontaneous podcast episode about being foreigners who used to live in Guatemala and then moved to Mexico, The Pandemic, Guanajuato, San Cristobal, social anxiety, the walk- and bikeability of Mexico City, worker co-ops and the search for community.
… and then we got food to recharge while lazing around in the shade some more!
In the late afternoon, both dogs stayed home alone while I went to a drag story hour with friends. They read My Shadow Is Pink by Scott Stewart. The book – at least in its Spanish translation – is lovely and so cute that I just ordered the German edition to an Austrian friend’s house so she can read it to her kids). It was great to see kids running around and having fun and their parents having a good time as well – especially thinking of the politization of drag story hours in the US (are you ever going to get your shit together, US?) What a contrast to see folks come together and have a good time!
We all went back to my place after – Chai got to see two of our human friends and got loved on quite a bit! – and then walked to my friends’ place with Game, leaving Chai to stay home alone. She was being a very good girl and had no complaints about sitting this one out. Game enjoyed her only-dog privilege for the duration of our meanderings.
A sign we passed on the walk to my friends’ place.
June 4, 2023: dog training and all the little things around the neighborhood
+ We worked on tug on the bed with the fleece tug and on the roof with the flirt pole.
+ I added a verbal cue to Chai’s hand touch (inside the house).
+ Game, Chai and I went to our favorite park in the next neighborhood over. Chai and I played recall games: obstacle recalls and flying cookie recalls! This park has a fun playground that is perfect for obstacle fun.
Obstacle recalls! Just the right level of challenge for a brave little Border Collie and her human:
+ Chai asked to go into the dog park again, so we did and after feeling overwhelmed for half a minute, she confidently played with a Whippet named Dalí.
+ I did some informal recalls in the fenced dog park and then we headed out again and Chai spent 10 minutes just hanging out around the kids at the open children’s playground, interspersed with more informal recalls and obstacle games.
Game is posing on a concrete hippo. In the right picture, you can see all the kids in the background!
+ We walked past a giant phallic yellow blow-up thing (some sort of ad) twice. By the second time, Chai thought it was probably alright rather than out to get her. Go puppy!
+ We worked on giving in to collar pressure for the first time (I haven’t put a collar on Chai at all so far, but will be working through the “invisible line” method for loose leash walking along with my Out and About students this term.) We had two sessions, and by the second one, she responded every time before I brought out a treat lure. That’s our cue to take things to a new environment! (Videos in the LLW leash pressure foundations post.)
Someone’s tired from all her leash pressure work! (Watch out, Chai! Is that a shark behind you?)
+ We social-played and practiced recalls at the park.
+ Chai spent some more time getting to know and snuggle-play with Zane.
+ Game realized she can stand on the window sill! I am going to have to tether her when I leave – I don’t want her to jump out one day. I trust her sense of balance but not her sense of self preservation. We’re on the 2nd floor and it’s JUST high enough that she might think she can make it and break a bunch of bones.
Nothing to see here! Just a Mal on a window sill!
+ Both dogs did a lovely job waiting for me outside the Santa Clara store while I got ice cream to go for dessert (or dinner. I can’t remember, but I think I shared with my friend rather than finishing it all myself! In any case, let’s pretend that’s what happened!)
Game is practicing her sit/stay; Chai is tethered.
In everybody pees news
When I was home and had the bathroom door open, Chai peed once in the shower and once in the living room. The bathroom-or-outdoors habit isn’t as strong as I’d like it to be yet … but we haven’t been here very long either.
Day 57, 2023 – June 2, 2023: Chai’s first mall adventure!
+ Chai went on a morning and evening walk together with Game and didn’t even need her big sister as a role-model to pee outside at night (all other pees happened in the shower today).
We went to a dog-friendly indoors mall where my adventure dogs walked among people and rode the glass elevator three times (Chai confidently rode the elevator with Game – her bad elevator feelings from the Coyoacán elevator have not generalized!) and joined me at the bank. Cha has not been to a mall before and was being a superstar! She is on the retractable leash (a long line would work just as well) to give her as much of a “freely exploring” experience as possible without getting kicked out by taking off the leash.
While leash walking is important, feeling confident and being able to show exploratory behavior in new kinds of spaces (large, busy, indoors) is even more important to me. It also gives me a better idea of who Chai is than a shorter leash would because it allows for more agency: does she need me as a crutch and can’t take her eyes off of me in order to not have to look at all the stimuli around us? Does she forget about my existance altogether and just try and go off on her own?
Left: beauty in strange places. Right: stopping for a snack on the way to the mall.
I need the hand touch as a foundation skill to later use to get Chai back into position (behind the invisible line)1 when she forges!
June 2, 2023 (day 57) – getting started on hand touches!
With a treat in the target hand …
… and then we fade the treat!
June 4, 2023 (day 59): no more luring and a cue!
Presenting an empty hand right away
Adding a verbal cue
Over the next few days, I’ll ask for the hand touch in low distraction outdoors environments … And if things look as good as they do indoors, we’re ready for the next step in our invisible line leash walking journey! (Aka explaining to Chai where the invisible line is located!)
(1) As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, if you’ve taken the class Out and About I used to teach at FDSA, you’ll know what I’m talking about in terms of the “invisible line.” If you’ve taken Out and About but not worked on leash walking, you can look up the broader context of this approach in the leash walking lectures in your FDSA library!
If you have NOT taken Out and About and want to know what the heck an invisible line is, you can find a micro e-book about this and other LLW approaches as well as info about the future home of “Out and About 2.0” here.
Giving in to leash pressure is a loose leash walking foundation skill that will cue Chai to reorient when reaching the end of her leash and keep her from pulling sideways once we are working on collar mode.1
June 1, 2023 (day 56) – Chai’s first two leash pressure sessions on a collar!
I haven’t put a collar on Chai before her first session today – she doesn’t even have a collar of her own yet, so the one you’ll see in this video is a bit big. It’s one of Game’s collars that I rarely use. I’ve only walked Chai on a harness so far. Note: it is MUCH easier to teach leash skills to a dog who doesn’t have a history of pulling yet. If your dog does, it is completely normal for them to take longer than Chai. It is easiest to teach leash walking to a puppy.
Collar leash pressure session 1:
In her second collar leash pressure session, Chai gives in every time before I bring out the treat – that’s our cue to take things into a new environment in the next session after!
June 2, 2023 (day 57) – leash pressure in a new environment
We repeated the leash pressure behavior up on our roof – a low-distraction outdoors environment (no video). Chai did just as well as she had done inside. Leash pressure on a collar: check! We’ll be moving on to the next foundation behavior for our invisible line LLW behavior: the hand touch!
(1) In this post, I am specifically referring to the invisible line approach to loose leash walking. If you’ve taken the class Out and About I used to teach at FDSA, you’ll know what I’m talking about in terms of the “invisible line.” If you’ve taken Out and About but not worked on leash walking, you can look up the broader context of this approach in the leash walking lectures in your FDSA library!
If you have NOT taken Out and About and want to know what the heck I am talking about, you can get a micro e-book on my loose leash walking approaches here. It comes with all the training steps, larger concepts that are not a part of this blog post (WHY do we need these baseline behaviors in the first place and WTF is an invisible line?), more unlisted example videos and other fun training materials.
If you need help with toy play or know how to teach toy play but are looking for fun, community and accountability, hop into that class! Here’s a link where you should be able to find whenever it runs next (as well as Shade’s other classes – 10/10 would recommend anything she teaches!)
So this post is about Chai’s tug toy journey with Shade. We took the class in June 2023 so I’d keep up my own motivation and have accountability.
Since Chai already knows fetch games, I decided to focus on tugging – something I haven’t done with her at all. I’ll share all of my class videos, but if you want to know more details about how they came to be, what lecture they are based on or why Shade recommended what, you’ll have to check out the class yourself!
How to make sense of this post:
When there is text to go with my videos, it’s part of my class posts from June and partly thoughts I’m adding now. I sometimes copy/pasted my class posts into my video description which I can now (now being September 11, several months after the class) go back to and copy/paste into this blog post! When I ask questions or use the word “you”1 in the text that goes with a particular video, I’m addressing Shade. When I use the name “Shade,” I either added this thought today or changed the “you” from the original post to “Shade” because the name sounded better to me in a particular sentence or context.
June 1, 2023: tug baseline
Note: I have never played tug with Chai before (it didn’t seem a priority behavior for a foster dog who might go to a companion home). In this video, I’m just seeing what she thinks about various tug toy options, most of which are new to her.
I’ll have to bring down my own arousal for her next time! I can tell that Chai is not used to my Malinois toy play state of mind! It is fun how different she is from Phoebe, Grit and Game who all latched on to anything they were presented with and didn’t let go from the start!
June 3, 2023: a flirt pole and a fleece tug for Chai!
I am writing this post 3 months after the fact, so I hope to get things right – I believe this was my second class video. I made a flirt pole to engage Chai with a fleece tug. Unfortunately, Game’s mat was harmed in the making of this fleece tug: I braided two identical onces and cut up Game’s fleece mat for it.
In any case, we’re getting some lovely chasing and tentative tugging on this toy! It’s soft (perfect for teething puppies), it runs away, and the distance between me and the fleece tug that is created by the flirt pole (a broom stick and a strong – I usually make my own flirt poles) reduces pressure from my side. I’m happy with this first flirt pole session!
June 5, 2023: playing with the fleece tug on my bed and with the flirt pole on the roof
Clips from 2 short sessions. My Observations:
+ Chai will occasionally target my hands rather than the toy (that only happened when playing on the bed). + It is very easy to (accidentally) pull the toy out of her mouth. Is that okay because it will teach her to clamp down more should I be more careful so it doesn’t happen?
I have my own answers to questions like this last one, but enjoy very much following an experienced trainer’s advice. I do not remember Shade’s response but I’m pretty sure what I ended up doing is starting gently so Chai is unlikely to constantly loose the toy, but making it run away immediately and harder to catch anytime she did let go or I accidentally pulled it out of her mouth: critters don’t sit around waiting to be eaten by predators but will use any opportunity to escape!
June 6, 2023: Chai’s second time playing with the flirt pole and tugging on the roof!
I aimed for gentle, steady pulling (not jerky). What should I do when I have let her win and she’s shaking it dead, like at 00:12-00:18 in the video below? I kept the flirt pole string loose and just admired her strength this time.
At 00:20 she was holding it and lying down on it, so I got the second identical fleece tug out to get her off the one on the flirt pole without conflict. Then I reactivated the flirt pole.
At 00:34/35 I was about to let her win after steady pressure for 2 seconds, and right then I accidentally pulled it out of her mouth again. Ooops! Sorry, Chai!
01:28 in the very end: “Treats” is my scatter cue and how I end the session and get the toys back.
June 7, 2023: playing with the fleece tugs on the bed (my non-slip indoors surface) for the second time
A compilation of this morning’s best bed tug moments. It’s fun to work with someone so different from the Mals and GSDs I’ve mostly played with over the last few years! (I’ve also played with a ferociously tugging Border Collie, Mick, whose personality is quite different from Chai’s, and a ferociously tugging pug!) There must have been plenty of others, but these are the ones I actively and personally worked with a lot and had the most fun with!
Even in personal play, Chai is being really gentle. I’m used to blood, bruises, torn clothes, dog-head-hooks to the chin and battle scars from social play! (I love roughhousing – it’s only partly the dogs. And yes, I exaggerate!) It is only toys and humans Chai is gentle with though. When she plays with Game or crunches down on a plastic bottle, she crushes those sharky teeth right in!
June 8, 2023: playing with fleece tugs on the roof without a flirt pole!
Chai is pulling back VERY gently (I am saying that from a crazy Phoebe-Poodle/Mal baseline) – I just make it look as if she was pulling strongly. In the second rep, she caught the tug too fast for me to get a chance to present a good striking target. Otherwise, we’re having a great time!
June 11, 2023: tug attempts on the roof as well as on the bed – a comparison
Our tug attempt on the roof did not go as well this morning. Chai lay down and never brought the toy back, so I ended quickly. (It’s warmer than usual and she has had play time with Game before – tomorrow morning, I’ll try roof play before any of this and play earlier in the day.)
Or did I overdo it this time and tugged too long rather than making it too easy? (Shade has suggested I make things a little more difficult for Chai.)
We took a second stab at tugging in the apartment. My floor is not an ideal tugging surface because it is slippery, but I know Chai gravitates to the bed – so I wanted to see what would happen if I tugged her off the bed and then ran away back TO the bed. She brought the toy back all the way every time. It’s about the bed I suspect, not me, because the bed is the best place to chew on something … Hrmmm …
June 12, 2023: another roof tug session
This session was right after getting up with a puppy full of energy and okay temperatures (it’s been really hot during the day but mornings are okay).
In this session, Chai brought the toy part of the way back once, about two thirds into the session.
What do you think about bringing out toy #2 when I can’t convince her to bring back toy #1 (like 00:20/21)? I can’t ask her, but I get the impression that she prefers tugging with me over chewing a toy on the floor – but she has not figured out that bringing back the tug is a part of that game …
What happens most of the time is that I try to encourage her after running away, and she then comes running but forgets the toy (see 00:41-00:43). I then ask her where her toy is, and she goes back to the toy and looks at me expectantly or lies down again to chew (00:47-00:49).
The last part of the clip (00:50-00:59) is the one time in this session she brought the toy partially with her when I encouraged her to come. I can’t tell if I did something differently in this rep than in the other ones or if it was a coincidence.
We’ve also had a session on the bed, and Chai continues predictably gravitating back to it when I’m on it. I’m flashing my hands in target-them-with-the-toy position. She does not target yet but runs towards me/my hands (because I’m on the bed).
Should I keep practicing in both locations or modify something?
June 13, 2023: a blanket target on the roof!
Shade had the great idea to use a blanket as a “target” to run towards on the roof – a stand-in for the bed. It worked like a charm every single time I ran to the blanket. (It’s clearly the blanket, not me. When I tried running somewhere else, she’d still go to the blanket.)
I have a second identical blanket – should I stick to one or try with two?
June 14, 2023: our second session with a blanket target on the roof.
“In order to transfer off the mat, we need to have physical signals (hands to target and frontal body position) that happen before she sees the mat.”
Good point, that makes a lot of sense! In today’s session, I only got the head thrashing movement once. In general, she is letting me lead her more with the toy now that I’m pulling more strongly – rather than pulling back, she’ll often walk with me with her mouth on the toy. I’ve been grabbing the toy to continue tugging as soon as she reaches the mat. I wonder if that’s not the best strategy. Should I only put my hands on the toy when she lets go of it – even if I’ve flashed my target hands at her before? The reason I wonder is that in the last rep of today’s session, she lay down off the mat (right next to it) with the toy rather than coming all the way back to me and the mat. I ended there with a scatter to get Shade’s opinion before I continue.
This was part 1 of our work in Shade’s class (our first 10 videos)! I’ll share the second part soon and link to it here when I do.
(1) In this particular post, “you” never refers to “you, the reader.”
To sort out some bureaucracy things at the old apartment, we went back to Plaza Copilco one more time.
I got there before the building administrator. Game stayed in the car crate and I practiced walking past the Pits and getting video of Chai doing so to kill the time. (The whining you can hear in the video below is the Pitbull, not Chai.)
Once the admin arrived, I tethered Chai to the car and she did a great job just hanging out and waiting (in a familiar, yet public) environment while I was in the office doing paperwork stuff for 15 minutes or so.
Game, Chai and I then went to Las Islas. It was at least the third time we went there thinking it would be the last time in a while – but hey, here we are yet again!
The dogs got to check out a student market at a part of the UNAM campus we hadn’t previously been to!
At Las Islas, Chai had SO much fun in the mud today!
It’s becoming a theme for us that when Chai moves into a new place, one of the first things that need to happen are a shower for the Border Collie!
SO much fun in the mud!I’m the kind of person who’ll have a good laugh and cheer them on, or get out their camera and take pictures rather than spoiling the good time the dogs are having. What type of person are you?
Back home, Chai and I took a shower (sorry, Border Collie).
Then both dogs went to the supermarket with me and did a great job waiting outside. With this being more of a fresa (posh) neighborhood, Chai saw her first Afghan Hound (and was weirded out, but bravely walked past them twice!) and her first two Basset Hounds (again, they seemed weird to her but she quickly got to a point of greeting them on leash).
On the way back to the apartment, we passed through a park and met a tricolor BC puppy Chai’s age: Juana. Juana’s human agreed to let her off leash and the two played themselves tired chasing each other through the park. Chai was faster – I suspect that’s becaise Juana (don’t tell them I said that!) is a little overweight which likely slows her down.
So much going on today and even more adventures await! Tired dogs are good dogs.
I like how neatly the dogs put their sea creatures on the blueish (ocean) cover of my bed. It’s like they purposefully wanted them to swim together, the hammer shark a little ahead of the dolphin.
Chai went on an evening walk by herself and then stayed home alone for Game’s evening walk. She is being a home-alone rockstar. I am glad I started getting her used to this right away!
Her ability to stay home alone and relax is partly me because I have and continue to put a lot of thought and practice into this, but there also is a genetic part. Some dogs have a STRONG genetic disposition to develop separation anxiety. Part of the reason we know there are hereditary factors is that it is substantially more prevalent in certain breeds (for example Weimaraners) than others. We also know that parents (of any breed) with separation anxiety are more likely to produce offspring with separation anxiety than parents without separation anxiety. Unsolicited advice: add this to your list of things to ask your breeder (if you are getting a puppy from a breeder or any other puppy with known parents!)
A new human friend for little Chais
Tonight, my friend Zane who’ll stay with me for a month made it from the airport to the apartment. Game was VERY excited to see him again and Chai, following Game’s lead, immediately wanted to be his friend as well.
Today’s pee tally
+ Shower: 1 + All other pees happened outdoors because we were hardly home at all.
I also managed to get TWO poops outdoors – that’s new record! Both happened after I did the belly massage my Dad had recommended to stimulate the digestive system. I’ll have to repeat this a few more times to see if making an indoor/outdoor poop difference really is THAT simple, but for now: thank you so much, Papa!
Day 53 – May 29, 2023: moving day and settling in!
We started with a morning walk & pee with Game at Las Islas. I then took care of moving stuff while Game and Chai stayed home alone at our old place in Coyoacán for about 2 hours.
We then made our way to our new and more central stomping grounds together. Most of my friends now live within walking distance, which is AWESOME!
The three of us explored the new neighborhood together.
Left:Game found the couch!Right: I love that I don’t own a lot of shit. Moving is easy when everything you own fits in a suitcase and a backpack!Well, I guess technically now I have a mattress and a couch as well. Sigh.I am NOT a fan of owning things that size.
All is well now that we’ve unpacked and made our new space comfy: Game has settled in on the bed and Chai on the couch!
A new environment; it’s dark outside … and Chai is unfazed by strangers climbing through the window!
The Internet-install-service people showed up at night – and wow, Chai was totally unfazed when they climbed in through the window! I love it!
Strangers climbing through windows? Shrug.
After there finally was Internet, I only had time to quickly grab some pastries from a fresa bakery nearby. Yummy but overpriced – that fact aside, they have a GREAT comic on their wall. Read it from right to left:
Read from right to left. This is the artist’s Instagram with more of their work!
Game, Chai and I went on a night walk together to wrap up the day and do some more neighborhood exploring. First impression: very walkable! I like!
In everybody pees news
I want to teach Chai (who is not housetrained yet) to only go in the shower in the new place as well. So far, we had one pee in the living room which I interrupted by picking her up and putting her down in the shower. She finished there. Which brings us to our first shower training tally:
Living room: 0.5 Shower: 0.5
All other pees happened outside, prompted by Game. For now, Chai will sleep in the bathroom AKA her luxury kennel and I won’t be counting her overnight pees in my tally.
Day 54 – May 30, 2023: our first full day at the new place!
Chai went on a morning walk with Game and then on an adventure to one of the parks in the next neighborhood over (less fresa aka posh; more our vibe). Chai wanted to go into the dog park, so we did – but we left quickly because it was a bit overwhelming for little Border Collies. However, we had two excellent encounters with off leash dogs and Chai on a retractable leash1 right after!
Doing well meeting nice off-leash dogs in the street!
We also went to two corner stores to pick up the basics (such as toilet paper). Chai and Game waited outside both of them without complaining!
Good dogs waiting for me out of sight outside a convenience store!
Chai and Game stayed home alone in the afternoon, and later got to play with a visiting dog friend. Chai also did great staying in the bathroom while I had visitors: countering FOMO since 2023! I’m proud of her for not always needing to be part of the action.
In everybody pees news
Today’s everybody-pees tally for when I was home with the bathroom door open:
+ Shower pees: 2 + Living room: 0
(Is it possible that she is learning THIS fast?!)
(1) Why is Chai wearing a retractable leash? Because I’m experimenting with it (it’s been a while since I last used one) and Chris gave me his to play around with – thank you! So far, I’d say it works quite well and I like it a lot better than the old Flexi leashes that had a string that could cut you rather than a leash-leash like this one.
Chai went to bed a puppy last night – and today, she woke up a juvenile dog! It’s like she made this big developmental leap overnight. She still looks the same, but she has 3 times the need to move her body, is pulling more than she has over the last weeks and her independence out and about (her radius around me) has grown – literally from one day to the next! Good morning, adolescence! Let’s see what you’ve got in store for us!
Counting from her fictional birthday, Chai is 5 months and 9 days old today – adolescence is right on time!
Morning walk and a first: waiting outside of stores!
Chai and Game both came on a little morning walk. For the first time, I had them both wait in front of a small supermarket. (Game is used to doing this but it was Chai’s first time.) I picked a quietish place I could watch her through the window and consciously decided that Game would be waiting with her to ease her into the concept of waiting outside stores with me out of sight. I also made sure the wait was very brief – maybe 3 minutes. Chai did great!
Sidenote: waiting outside stores – why do C’s dogs do this?
In the afternoon, Chai, Game and I went to Las Islas. It’ll be one of the last times Las Islas are our regular stomping grounds since we’re about to mo-ove! There was a lot going on today since it was a Sunday. A group of people practiced a dance. I encouraged Chai to come up and see their dresses swinging (see video below). Chai also found a mango (which she loved) and Game taught her to chase her first squirrels.
I love how well Chai is able to switch her attention between different stimuli (as shown in the video above). I know a fair number of Border Collies who have a really hard time doing this. Shepherds/sports trainers will often call this “stickiness.” The term alludes to the dog getting “stuck” in one part of the herding motor sequence – usually eye-stalk. This can happen in dogs working sheep (they crouch or lie down and stare – eye-stalk – intensely but the shepherd can’t get them to move) as well as in other contexts: dogs who get stuck BC-style stalking rather than fetching a ball or dogs who can’t stop herding other dogs (often other household dogs).
Stickiness tends to show itself in puppyhood or adolescence, and it doesn’t usually just go away. It is not a “behavior problem” – the dog who, for example, herds other household dogs may not be able to hear you call them out of the behavior. It’s not that the dog doesn’t “want” to follow your cues, but they literally cannot hear you. The only sensory input that gets through to them is the movement of the dog being herded. (This is my layperson’s understanding of it anyways.) As long as the dog is able to move rather than getting stuck in a down/crouch, they may make excellent independent herding dogs (working off the sheep rather than the handler), but not necessarily ideal sports dogs.
Similarly common is the opposite challenge in Border Collies: they cannot filter out one stimulus to focus on. They get overwhelmed easily because they are being blasted with all the sensory input all at once and all of the time. It is heartbreaking to see this in my student dogs who live in urban spaces: busy cities are not a good fit for dogs who cannot stop taking everything in all at once. The same dogs may, however, make excellent herding dogs in rural areas (while stationarily sticky dogs are not what working dog breeders select for).
Chai does not seem to struggle with either of the above challenges, which is great! That said, she is still growing up – things may change. In any case, right now, we’re good.
After lots of dog encunters, we run into a puppy Chai’s age: Nenet. The two started playing and had A LOT of fun! I was happy Chai had the opportunity to get out all that need to move and run, wrestle and roughhouse!
I’m showing you the video below because it’s cute and has (as necessitated by dog play) great background music! Yes, I just said there would be few or no videos in the daily reports unless they were very general (like the video above) … but since I haven’t published the “play” category yet, here is today’s video. Enjoy! And let me know if you’ve lost, found or are still looking for your inner puppy – that’s what the comments are for!
A cohete win
On the way home, we heard a firecracker! And for the very first time, rather than looking insecure, Chai immediately turned to me with her “Where’s my treat?” face! The last two days of following each firecracker up with food are paying off and I love it!
(1) I believe sensory gating is the correct term but I am not an expert and may well be wrong. If it isn’t the right term, please let me know and be kind as you do so! As by Wikipedia, accessed on September 7, 2023, “Sensory gating describes neural processes of filtering out redundant or irrelevant stimuli from all possible environmental stimuli reaching the brain. Also referred to as gating or filtering, sensory gating prevents an overload of information in the higher cortical centers of the brain.”
+ Both Chai and Game got to go to UNAM and run around the campus.
+ We had a single positions-practice session.
+ Husbandry: I clipped Chai’s nails on both front paws and she got brushed, and I cut a little around her front paw fur (another thing I’d like her to get used to in case she turns out to be a furry-paw Border Collie!)
+ Both dogs stayed home alone for a few hours.
Day 501 – May 26, 2023: Huayamilpas, kids, cohetes … a full day!
Today was a BIG day!
We started the morning with some more position work. I pulled out the fold-back down and we did two rounds of down with “good” (room service: stay in position; the treat is coming to you) versus “get it” (chase the treat marker) – one round for breakfast and one for lunch. In the video below, you’ll see me work with a hand signal to get the fold-back down some of the time and with a lure some other times.
The reason I help relatively quickly rather than waiting Chai out is that she would otherwise default to a sit (and then try a down from the sit if the sit didn’t work).
I specifically want a fold-back down rather than a down from a sit, and the way to teach this is from a stand.
The video below is an uninterrupted 10-minute session with a 5-months old puppy. As I said in an earlier post, this is not what I’d recommend most clients do (unless they have really worky puppies). I happen to have a worky puppy who loves training and so do I – so I get to do this on days I need something to obsess over or something that I can focus on without thinking about anything else in the world! Dog training is that thing for me, so here we go – both having fun!
Note that often, I will have heavy-training days followed by little or no other adventures or very low-key days like yesterday. I don’t want Chai to turn into a super-athlete who needs to either train or run nonstop. So heavy training days tend to be low-physical activity days (just not today) and heavy physical activity days tend to be little-to-no-training days.
+ We did some cutting of Chai’s front paw fur and I brushed her.
+ We went to ride the elevator.
+ We toured the busy Walmart corridor (people, shopping carts) and a bank with Chai in her backpack. (Thank you so much, Scarlett, for lending me the puppy backpack! It is GREAT!)
Tarps blowing in the wind
It’s a windy day today, and on our adventure loop we saw a tarp blowing in the wind and Chai got a little spooked. After watching it for a while, she was able to cautiously walk past it. This is the second time I have seen this reaction – that’s my cue that tarp feelings aren’t a one-off thing and we need to work on things blowing in the wind! When I got home, I set up the fan and pointed it at the curtains:
It never hurts to learn about the safety of objects and situations in set-ups you can control before encountering them in the real world (again)!
In the late afternoon, we spontaneously returned to Parque Ecológico Huayamilpas briefly before 6pm: when we were there a few days ago Chai barked at suddenly appearing strangers (and they all started to appear around 6 after we had had the place to ourselves all afternoon). I wanted to make sure to counter the experience by orchestrating positive interactions with suddenly appearing people at the same spot (I haven’t seen her bark at people before and I would love for it to stay that way).
Unfortunately, things didn’t start out as well as I had hoped they would: soon after we got there, someone elsewhere in the park, but clearly not far, set off a bunch of REALLY loud firecrackers (you can hear them in the video but they are muffled by the microphone – this doesn’t compare to the real-life volume). I don’t think Chai has heard firecrackers before – and definitely not at this volume. She got worried – not panicky, but worried enough to tuck her tail and seek my consolation.
Right after, the first person suddenly appeared. Not the best antecedent arrangement to set her up for success! Luckily, the person had a dog and Chai trusts dogs. After watching the two approach suspiciously, she greeted the dog and a little later, I had the person do a version of our food protocol (they had already reached for her so I just gave them treats to feed). All was well with Chai and she even jumped up on them for more. We hung out for a bit and talked dogs, and Chai and the other dog – Kipper – socialized and she did drive-byes with both of us humans.
We then followed the next pair of passers-by for a little – an adult and a kid. As we turned around to look back, a family with several kids had come to the concrete snake in the center of the park and we turned around to see them up close. Since Chai could see the family from a distance, this wasn’t a sudden environmental change (which I specifically wanted to work on). Still, she had positive interactions with people at the snake!
Because it went so well, I waited longer and Chai got to briefly greet an adult and a kid walking with two dogs. Then, we called it a day and made our way towards the exit.
Sadly, right as we were walking away from the snake, the nearby firecrackers started up again. Chai was – again – concerned. All I had was kibble, but she was able to eat and I fed one after each boom. Still, the insecurity lingered after the firecrackers stopped. Unease is not the emotion I want her to associate with the snake, the park or firecrackers. So I will probably be going back for another round of sudden environmental change – hopefully without the firecrackers.
The saving grace today was a Lab mix we met at the parking lot: Chai and the dog played for a minute or so, and then Chai, tail proud and high, eyes shining and body language loose left the park on a good note.
By the time we got back home, it was dark out. On the walk from the car to the apartment, Chai got spooked by people unloading stuff from a truck. We watched for a bit, curved around and then I encouraged her to watch some more, but she was ready to leave. Note to self: take more night walks around weird stuff and people carrying strange objects!
Growing up and changing
Today was quite the day! Our outings were not very long, but jam-packed with things going on. Puppies and adolescents change every day – and these days, Chai is highly sensitive in all directions: picking up behaviors from older dogs and having an easier startle response than she usually does. However, the good news is that her recovery is still amazing (playing with that Lab mix a minute after hearing firecrackers? Go Chai!) and that even in a state of firecracker insecurity, she was able to eat kibble.
It is also interesting to see a dog who learns really fast overall have sensitive days: they are impactful in a different way than in the last two puppies I raised (Puzzle and Game). It is like watching Chai have an experience and then assimilate it into this 10 000-piece puzzle that is the map of the world in her head. Nothing exists in isolation. Every experience Chai has gives her a puzzle piece, and she is quick to find the exact spot it belongs in the map of the world she is creating for herself. If we think back to the elevator experience: her baseline assumption about the world is an optimistic one, but she is fast to learn what to exempt from optimism (such as this particular elevator – I don’t know about others because this is the only one I have currently access to and the first one she’s ever been on).2
A slice of Mexico City’s subway web. Maps are necessarily an imperfect representation of the world. Subway stops are one of my favorite way to conceptualize big cities. Once I have a subway map in my head, I’ll generally find my way around. Subway stops are my favorite landmark.
As far as I can tell, Chai’s initial hesitancy around people was based on a lack of exposure and my two protocols (the one for strangers and the one for expanding her circle of friends) have helped her become a socially optimistic dog. She’s a Border Collie, not a Lab, so she is never going to have problems with hyper-sociability towards strangers. But she is now significantly more confident around them and open to making new friends.
In everybody poops news …
(Feel free to skip this paragraph if you’d rather not read about my puppy’s bowel movements!)
Chai peed AND pooped at the park without another dog to imitate! Our house training project is coming along! In fact, she has only had a single accident inside what I define as the living space of our Coyoacán apartment in the last month, since we’ve been here! (She will go to pee/poop on the outdoors patio. If I leave her by herself, I do so in the bathroom, and she will pee/poop in the shower when she has to go rather than waiting – as far away from where my bed as is possible to set up in this small space. All of this is great news for a dog who had no idea about defined toilet spaces when I got her. If I had a yard, she might be doing all her business there already (apart from the occasional accident even adolescents still have).
Sidenote: fear periods
People like talking about the elusive “puppy fear period” or “adolescent fear period.” Some trainers even define at what age exactly fear periods (sometimes called sensitive periods) are supposed to happen and how many of them there are.
To my knowledge (readers: please correct me and send me peer-reviewed sources if I’m wrong!), there is no scientific evidence that fear periods exist or that every dog has them. (Most of the puppies I have raised have not had anything I would label “a fear period.”) In the absence of scientific evidence for “fear periods,” I don’t generally use the term.
Instead, I just think of any young developing brain: there are changes and shifts in hormone levels and neurotransmitters and neural connections and all kinds of other things I do not know about because I have no medical degree. Young brains are brains under construction. When constructing, say, a house, there will be days electrical wires are exposed (and you hope it won’t rain). Similarly, there will be days that a growing brain (the wires) is more sensitive to external stimuli (the rain) than others. Other than with the wiring of your house, you don’t know when this will be because you are probably not cutting open your puppy’s brain. So you just hope that if and when your puppy is having a sensitive day, they happen to not encounter the kind of stuff that would trigger an electrical fire. But if it happens? Well, it happens. Nothing you can do about it. No one’s fault – sometimes life is a shitshow.
Observe your puppy and if you see the experience have a permanent impact (it won’t necessarily have a permanent impact at all, no worries!) or you just want to be on the safe side, give it a few days (to be sure the exposed wiring of your house has been covered) and then repeat the situation under different conditions, setting your puppy up for success. This is what would have happened today with the snake head had there not been firecrackers.
Apart from the fact that young brains are under construction, dogs of all ages – just like other animals of all ages – sometimes have a less-than-ideal day. Sometimes, you wake up with a headache and it just shaves a little bit off of your patience with your coworkers or your friend or your partner. Sometimes, your dog is in pain – it may be invisible pain – and this too can cause a slight shift in their response to otherwise uninteresting stimuli.
How sensitive a dog’s behavior is to pain differs greatly from one individual to the next, just like it does in people. Personally, I’ve observed myself having a shorter fuse under (very specific) pain conditions.
On the other hand, my grandfather has been livingwith a crumbling hip bone for a decade, refuses to take pain killers or go in for surgery and is still the kindest and most patient person you can imagine, just like he has always been. People are different. Dogs are different. And your puppy is a different person every day because they are still in the process of becoming themselves! (We could argue that we all are always either in the process of becoming ourselves or we are dead – but that’s a blog post for another day.)
(1) Day 50 (the 50th day Chai has been with me) – half way to 100! – is a good day to change my diary approach. Going forwards, I will mostly share general Chaiary videos and videos that don’t fit into one of my categories (play, foundations, obedience, socializing, the art of doing nothing, recalls, leash walking, tricks, being brave) in my daily reports. The categories themselves will each get their own posts that specifically talk about THAT category and feature our progress from start to finish (if/when there is such a thing as “finish”). I will link to these more specific posts in future Chaiaries instead of directly inserting the videos every day. You’ll re-encounter some sessions you have already seen under these specific headings.
(2)Update from the future: Chai did not generalize her elevator fears to other elevators! It was just the one. Fundamental optimism for the win!