Days 53-54 – May 29-30, 2023: moving with dogs once again!

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.

Settling in

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.

Day 52 – May 28, 2023: waking up a juvenile dog, puppy play and sensory gating in Border Collies

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?

Podcast episode (E32) coming up on this topic on Setpember 19, 2023!

UNAM afternoons: puppy play and switching attention between different stimuli/sensory gating1

The UNAM area has great murals

… as well as spaces for art and/as political action.

UNAM’s iconic central library (known for the murals by Juan o’Gorman) and some of the many dogs who frequent Las Islas on the weekend.

Since we probably won’t be back here anytime soon, let me leave you with the English-language Wikipedia article about UNAM in case you want to learn more.

Switching focus and gating

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.

Puppy plaaaaaay!

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.”

Day 41 – May 17, 2023: Chapultepec, toy play, puppy socializing and big birds

We’re back to our usually (un)scheduled activities! No more diarrhea, Border Collie puppy energy up!

Mornig play with the first toy Chai dissected! Proud of you, puppy – that’s how things are done when you grow up with a Mal! (Thank you for the toys, Chris! Shark and octopus are still intact and well loved!)


I announced (“Claws!”) and clipped the nails on both front paws today – good puppy, no problem!


After some morning play at home, Scarlett, Game, Chai and I went to Chapultepec. It’s Chai’s first time and I wanted it to be during the week when there were not as many other dogs around as on the weekend. We ended up staying for several hours and had a lovely time.

Chai played with another puppy – Archie!

In the video above, you can sie Archie’s human call him twice: first at 02:17 (he comes all the way back) and then again at 03:09 (Archie doesn’t come all the way back). What are they doing well? What could they do differently to up their success rate? What advice would you give them if they were your client and showing you this recall baseline of a 5-months old puppy? Let me know in the comments!

… and Chai saw her first heron! She did not think much of it – I was way more enchanted by it than the dogs today. (And that includes Game who usually loves chasing birds!)

Toy and food play

Chai and I also played with food and toys outside. Look at the little superstar in her single-ball play session!

Back in CDMX: day 35 – May 11, 2023

+ Today, I upped the difficulty level of Chai’s formal recall (“Schnee”) in real life situations at UNAM – so I upped the reinforcer accordingly: hotdogs for the win! Chai loved them and had A LOT. (Up until now, she’s only worked for kibble.)

A check in and a relatively easy whistle recall – kibble for check-ins, hot dogs for our 2-dog whistle recall:

+ An UNAM student offered the back of their hand for Chai to sniff and then touched the back of her head – and she didn’t mind! Wow, puppy! You are being so brave with random strangers!

Below, Chrissi being overconfident in one of their recalls, the stranger reaching for Chai, meeting a dog and lots of exploring! Come join aus at Las Islas:

… after seeing me use “Schnee” in a situation that was clearly too hard (The Popcorn Incident), below is an appropriate recall level for formal recalls rewarded with hotdogs: Chai is running the other way when I call. Not suuuper easy and not too hard either.

Game comes back too because she loves hotdogs – but every dog only gets them on their own recall cue or the multi-dog cue (whistle). Sorry, Game!

+ Chai mastered going up and down the see-through stairs at UNAM!

UNAM fun with Game. I love the color of bougainvilleas!

+ Chai saw lots of umbrellas and rain gear because it started raining as we were there!

+ The wind picked up too, and Chai startled seeing the big flag blow in the wind, and then had a similar reaction to a poster being moved by the wind. She quickly got over the poster, and we walked up to the UNAM flag to see it wasn’t a monster. Chai was able to quickly shake off both startles! I love a puppy with a good bounce-back!

I happened to take a picture right at Chai’s poster startle moment. You can’t see the poster – it’s up and to the right. Imagine a straight line going up from Game’s butt to the edge of the wall. That’s where the poster is.

Going right up to the previously scary flag blowing in the wind! (Actually, the wind must have picked up before the rain started: I can see in the pictures that the ground is still dry.)

+ Game peed outside twice after Game pooped and once completely independently! Go puppy! Spending lots of time outside and in one area (that becomes boring/familiar over time) certainly helps remind Chai that maybe she’d like to pee! So does Game who is still the best role model for outside toiletry.

+ I picked Chai up and rode the scary elevator with her in my arms twice.

+ Husbandry: “Brush!”, and “Claws!” on the right back paw. (I thought I’d spread out her paw husbandry over the week now that we’re settling back into some sort of everyday life.)

May 8-May 10, 2023: Chai’s first road trip!

From May 8 to May 10, Chai got to go on her first road trip! Together with Game – a travel pro! – we went to visit our Guanajuato friends.

Left: they know something is up … they just don’t know what it is yet! Right: Chai in her car crate. It’s hot out and the AC hasn’t cooled down the car yet. Pant we must!

Guanajuato is about a 5 hour drive from Mexico City – not too long a road trip but definitely more time in a car than Chai is used to. It made for a good first adventure! She made it about 4.5 hours before (poor puppy!) throwing up in her crate. I hadn’t fed her breakfast, so it was mostly water.

A free-roamer at a rest stop along the way. I remember this dog from the last time I came through here about half a year ago!

Another rest stop. Priorities: first water the dogs, then bathroom the Chrissi!

Game was so excited to see our friend Vanessa that she jumped out the car window the moment she saw her. She’s always had a soft spot for Vanessa … only her late dog, Dutch Shepherd Nabuko, got the occasional correction when he once again forgot that Game didn’t want to play with him: “I’m not into you! Get the memo alreay!”

Vane has a yard with avocado trees. The dogs were very excited about it and eating all the avocados they could find.

Chai is a social learner. Realizing that Game was Vane’s friend, she immediately wanted to be her friend as well!

Game time: at night, I put Chai to bed while Game got loved on by her friends! Sometimes, we get a few hours of feeling like an only dog – spoiled and all (below):

Above: Taking breaks on a Guanajuato walk. It’s warmer here than in CDMX!

At the hardware store: I got annoyed at the pink long line and bought a slightly shorter rope instead!

We walked from los Álamos to Presa de la Olla – Game’s favorite swimming spot. An unsuspecting Border Collie puppy, following Game’s lead … found herself swimming!

Crazy wet puppy after her first semi-voluntary swim at Presa de la Olla!

Rawhide at the park, Rodrigo and Orisa.

Like the good old times: dog walks and Habibi talks with Rodrigo and Orisa.

Left: the girls are posing! Right: so is this free roaming trio.

We spent three lovely day in Guanajuato with Vane and her kids Dana and Fabi and my friend Rodrigo and his Jack Russel Terrier Orisa.

While Game was happy to see Orisa, Orisa was NOT impressed with the puppy. WHY did I have to bring the annoying little animal? Orisa made sure we knew she was pissed by sitting at a distance and looking the other way.

Another day of fun in Vane’s yard – this trip was the first time Game and Chai two got to play in a yard together (below)!

… and finally: let me and my girls take you on a Guanajuato adventure (below)!

Sleepy evening pups after a long adventure day!

Vane and Rodrigo, now that I write about you I miss you. I hope to go back and visit soon … and you’ll have to come visit CDMX! Vane and I have been planning for this trip even before I decided to move here.

Chaiary, day 21 – April 27, 2023

Have a snippet of good-morning play with patient Game on the floor! Now that Game knows Chai well, she lets her crawl all over her while rolling on her back.

Sidenote: is my dog “socializing” (dog trainer speak for “learning to get along with other members of a certain species”) when playing with other household dogs/humans?

No! Family, friends and strangers are 3 distinct categories:

+ (Almost) every dog – even the most fearful one – will learn to trust human and canine household members.

+ Many, but not all dogs will make friends (human and/or canine) if given the opportunity.

+ Not every dog will get along with strangers (human and/or canine).

Having a multi-dog household or lots of human housemates doesn’t mean you get to skip socialization outings. That is, assuming that you want to have the most socially confident and at-ease-in-the-human-world dog your puppy is capable of becoming! Having other canine and human household members doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t replace experiences with strangers.

That said, genetics are a HUGE factor in who a dog is capable of becoming. So is their in-utero environment and the first 8 to 12 weeks of their lives which most puppies won’t be spending at their future home but at the place they were born.

Doing everything right once you’ve got the puppy doesn’t guarantee you a socially easy dog because the sensitive socialization period is already closing. It just nudges the dog into the direction of social at-ease-ness. How far in that direction an individual dog can go is still largely out of your control. If you hope for that social dream dog, you’ll still want to stack the deck in your favor to nudge as much as you can: head out there and socialize your pup in the way that is right for the two of you!

… end of sidenote!

In the morning, we practiced walking next to heavy traffic together with Game. Apparently, Chai knows how to make this look as if she had been doing it all her life! I’m happy and impressed with her!

They have certainly become friends! Sleepy after their morning outing.

We visited a corner convenience store in the puppy backpack Scarlett lent us. It’s starting to come in really handy for all the indoors training I want to do in places that don’t allow dogs (but won’t mind them as long as their paws don’t touch the floor)!

Chai in her (that is to say Scarlett’s and Nazli’s!) backpack.

Chai and Game also had another Las Islas UNAM adventure to be around people and dogs, run and have fun! There were SO many students today – and walking between them was no problem at all! Chai was neither magentized nor the least bit concerned. She was mostly interested in finding food scraps between the groups of people. Surprise dogs coming up from behind, like the Schnauzer, didn’t faze her either.

During the week, the campus is teeming with students! There are less dogs than on the weekend, but Chai had a good time meeting a few anyways!

Chaiary – day 18 (April 24, 2023): Ciudad Universitaria and moving to Coyoacán

Home alone

I used the morning to head to my hair dresser in Narvarte with Game. Chai got to stay home alone in the patio of our AirBnB one last time. This has been the last AirBnB I stayed in before I thought I was leaving Mexico for good and the second one I came back to … it felt a little bit like coming home. Today would be the day we’d move out. Dana, the owner whose place I’ve now stayed with 4 (?) times, told me to let her know if I ever needed anything – including a friend. I’m going to miss Narvarte.

Me and my always-by-my-side dog Game at the hair salon.

An afternoon at Ciudad Universitaria

Then it was time to move to what feels like the other side of the city: Coyoacán (but not the center – a place within walking distance from Las Islas at Ciudad Universitaria. It’s a large green space filled with students, picknickers, street food and off-leash dogs.

We met what I was told was a Miniature Doberman (size between a fully grown Doberman and a Miniature Pinscher).

Sadly, poor Chai threw up in her car crate again. The hot drive to Ciudad Universitaria was a bit much for the poor girl. However, all was forgotten once we got out and had fun!

Socialization continued

Chai voluntarily approached and got fed by two people and made friends with two more – no food required!

Our new stomping grounds!

Walking, playing and 2-dog recalls

Since the new place was going to be very small and I was going to feel wiped out from moving, I wanted Chai to be tired for her first night there. The dogs and I spent a LONG time walking and just hanging out at Las Islas before heading to our new home! This video is towards the end of the walk, as both dogs were already hot and tired. A lovely whistle recall with Game pulling Chai back to me, just like yesterday, only in a new environment. The time having been outside and the heat cause both of them to trot rather than run.

I took the thumbnail picture of the video above at Las Islas as well. In the thumbnail, Chai is a few weeks older than in this video.

Tired dogs are good dogs!

The long hot outing did its job: Chai and Game were perfect studio apartment dogs for the rest of the afternoon and evening. And I was a perfect studio apartment tenant: all I wanted was a shower and fall asleep!

Chaiary, Day 8: more Narvarte adventures

Good morning play: increasingly patient Malinois make excellent chew toys!

The next day – Chai’s 8th day with me – was the first time I took both dogs out together. This still isn’t what I’ll usually do – puppies and adult dogs in my house each get their own walks unless I don’t have time to take them separately. Today, I didn’t have time, so they both went out together in the morning. Walking together means the puppy loses out on one of the most important skills I want them to practice: seeing me leave the house with another dog and being fine. No problem for everyone to go out together every once in a while, but until the puppy is about a year old, I want it to be the exception rather than the rule: FOMO is a thing, and the time to avoid creating it is now.

Left: waiting for quesadillas con flor y queso. Middle: hanging out at the park while I eat. Right: adventures are tiring!

We headed to our usual spot: Parque Las Américas. Chai imitated Game – every time Game peed outside, so would Chai. An excellent idol to teach her that the place to do your business is outdoors!

Together with Game, Chai’s confidence was also bigger. She wanted to go everywhere Game went and trusted that what Game did was safe. Due to Game’s presence, we also got some leash pressure work in: if Game (off leash) went further than Chai’s 5 meter leash allowed, she would reach the end. I’d stop and wait for her to reorient, click and treat.

This is not how I teach loose leash walking (this is the fastest way of creating the behavior chain of pull-in-order-to-get-a-treat!), but it’s a great way to teach a puppy to give in to leash pressure rather than show opposition reflex. We’ll need this skill once we’re introducing distractions for Chai’s formal recall cue, “Schnee” (German for “Snow”).

Parque Las Américas in Narvarte

Today, the only treats Chai got out and about were for reorienting after reaching the end of the leash and, on the way back … from a new friend! We met Hugo, a street vendor who told us they loved Border Collies and had one as well as a Beagle at home. In fact, they had been dreaming of getting a second Border Collie … We spent quite a while talking to Hugo in the street, and Hugo fed, lured and scratched Chai under her chin. We exchanged numbers and made plans to meet up sometime with Hugo and their BC to see how the two got along and for Hugo to get to know Chai better.

Chai has decided the funnest way to play with Game is to use her razor sharp puppy teeth:

Extinction, adult/puppy interaction, and the transition from community puppy to owned free-roamer

This is the full description to go with this week’s free-ranging dog video! If you’ve already read the first part on my Youtube video description, continue reading at the heading “Barkiness, extinction and correction.”

If you are only just starting to read here, start from the beginning, below the video!

Lots and lots of things to observe in this week’s video!

A little escape artist

In the beginning of the clip, right before I started filming, the white puppy squeezed through the iron rods of the fence/gate I’m pointing out at 00:22. It’s a little hard to see, but the square openings between the iron rods of this gate are JUST big enough for this puppy to squeeze out with a bit of effort. They won’t be able to keep doing this for long – soon, their head and shoulders will be too big to fit through, and they’ll stay confined unless the gate is open.

I know this puppy because I used to see them in the center of town, and they used to participate in Veronica’s community dog feedings. (See ). I’ve seen this puppy in the center less lately, and I’ve never seen them behind the gate on the outskirts that they just came out of. This leads me to suspect that the community puppy has become an owned village dog – the people who live behind that gate likely took this puppy out of the community dog population. However, since the puppy is familiar with the center, they are escaping when something tempting happens outside the fence – such as Game and I walking past!

The escaping will likely stop as soon as the puppy doesn’t fit through the gate anymore (unless this house tends to have its gate open; if so, the puppy may be roaming the center even though they get fed at their new home – or they may not, depending on how big of a homerange they end up choosing. They will get fed at home, so home range size will not be determined by food availability, but by their genetic propensity to roam). Some owned dogs are not confined by fences and won’t even leave their patio – they just don’t have the need for a larger home range. Others will wander quite far … just because they can, and they like to.

Behavioral changes likely caused by becoming an owned dog

The white puppy here is already displaying behaviors they didn’t use to display: they are being quite brave and behaving like a homed puppy: barking at Game (who they have met and ignored in the past), trying play-biting at me (for example at 03:11/12, when they grab a belt that’s dangling down from my treat bag). This puppy is behaving like a confident and playful Western household puppy when they meet a new person, not like a community puppy. Community puppies know to stay in their lane. Western household puppies know they can get away with a lot more towards the people in their lives! This puppy has (I suspect) been homed for a week or so, and had lots of interactions with people – interactions like the one they are trying on me right now. In the time they were still a community dog, they wouldn’t have had these interactions with people and therefore not displayed the behavior of jumping and grabbing at human clothes because these behaviors would have been punished. In a homed puppy, they are often reinforced: there may be toy play, or at the very least laughter and attention when the puppy tries something like this. Both of these are reinforcing.

Barkiness, extinction and correction

The barkiness is also new. The puppy barks to get Game’s attention – they want to play and interact. Game is not in the mood, and she is handling this really well: she basically pretends the puppy doesn’t exist. She doesn’t correct the puppy (she would correct an adult dog much sooner for barking her ear off).

There are two potential consequences:

  1. If barking is a learned attention-getting behavior for this puppy (it may be; I’ve never seen this puppy bark when they were still a community dog), the absence of reinforcement (attention by Game) will lead to extinction: the barking at Game will disappear, either in the course of the current interaction, or in the course of the next one. It is entirely possible that the puppy has learned that barking gets attention from other dogs and/or humans in the week that they have been homed, simply by their barking being followed by attention.
  2. If barking is intrinsically reinforcing to this puppy (that is to say barking itself releases feel-good hormones or neurotransmitters in the puppy’s brain, independent of external consequences), ignoring the barking will not make the barking go away because the barking is not maintained by external attention, but by internal states of feeling positive emotions. Shelties tend to be in this categorie: they’ll often LOVE to bark, and you can ignore them all you want – this is not going to change anything!

Only at the very end of the clip, at 10:22, does Game correct the puppy for barking at her. She’s patient with puppies, but her patience has limits. This is a very appropriate and soft correction – just right for this puppy who immediately understands her and backs off. Dogs who spent their sensitive socialization period as community dogs or owned free-roaming puppies tend to have excellent dog/dog social skills, and this is exactly what you see here: the puppy reads Game well. No need to escalate the reprimand.

Barrier frustration and the fascinating fence effect

Two interesting things happen (or, rather, one interesting thing happens, and another one interestingly doesn’t happen) earlier in the video. Between about 02:00 and 00:05:50, we are walking through a corridor of confined dogs: first two Mals, two Boxers and two Great Danes (only one of them seems to be outside today) on the left and a German Shepherd on the right, and then a small barky dog behind the hedge fence on the left.

All these dogs are barking and fence-running, but neither Game nor the puppy are giving them attention. Game doesn’t because I’ve taught her not to. The puppy doesn’t because they’ve grown up being a community dog, and community dogs generally learn fast to ignore the dogs who are yelling at them from behind fences: they learn that actual interaction is impossible, and they do not share the frustration of the respective dog behind the fence because they are free to do what they want.

The dogs behind the fences are not free to interact or do what they want. Fences (leashes can also have this effect) have a high potential of causing barrier frustration because they make it impossible for the dogs to interact like dogs normally would. Fence barking usually goes out of hand quickly because the dogs behind the fences are being reinforced for barking.

This is negative reinforcement: the dogs (or people) walking past outside the fence will eventually go away. The superstition a chronic fence-barker is likely to develop is that it is their barking that made them go away. If the initial barking was frustration-driven, the disappearance of the frustrating stimulus on the outside of the fence will be experienced as a relief. So they will continue barking. Even if the initial barking was attention seeking, attention seeking is highly likely to turn into frustration because they can’t go up to the other dog. If the initial barking is fear-driven (it is not in any of the dogs in the video), it will also be reinforced by having the fear-inducing stimulus on the outside of the fence eventually go away (simply because the stimulus outside the fence will move on with their life, and keep walking).

The puppy already knows that no real interaction is possible with fence barkers. So they don’t respond to the barky dogs, but keep pestering Game instead. Game is outside the fence. Interaction with Game is possible! Smart puppy!

Pet dogs (I am using “pet dog” to refer to a dog who is not free, and who is likely to be walked on leash) do not usually know this, and would join the fence-barking/fence-running if given an opportunity.

Game has learned that fence barkers are a cue for her to pay attention to me, because I will often pay for attention in these circumstances. You’ll hear me praise her (when I speak German, this is always praise for Game), and you’ll see me give her a treat at one point (02:49). Game also knows the meaning of fences. If a dog is yelling at her from behind a fence, she will ignore them. If these adult dogs were barking and coming at her without there being a fence, she would not ignore them. I’ve built this behavior by both preventing her from fence running with other dogs, being barked at from behind a fence being followed up with treat scatters, and marking and reinforcing attention when in the proximity of a fence barker/fence runner. At this point, Game would be able to walk past these dogs in a relaxed fashion even if I didn’t reinforce her. I still do though when I have treats on me (i.e. intermittently). Her off-leash relaxation in the face of fence-runners/barkers is important to me.

The adult black dog

At 08:46, an adult black dog comes into view on the little wall to the left of the sidewalk. You’ll see that this dog’s body is stiff – for example when you pause the video at 09:34. This dog and Game have run into each other several times, and the black one is always stiff. This wall is within the black dog’s home range and within Game’s core area. Game doesn’t care about the black dog, and the black dog … well, the black dog never really seems to trust or approve of Game. Maybe this will change if we stay for a few more months, or maybe the black one will always disapprove of Game. Some personalities simply don’t match, just like with people. As long as no one escalates a personality mismatch, there’s no issue: live and let live.

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The Norbert Experiment, part 13: what’s next?

I am happy to report that Game can now watch cats moving slowly or being stationary at baseline distance without getting up or getting excited. She is interested, but – just hanging out and looking, and then going back to snoozing. No matter whether the glass door is open or closed. This is a HUGE difference from baseline – here, as a reminder, that first video I took around 2 weeks ago:

Versus today!

I’m calling this a big win, and I love how fast it happened!

Just hanging out, watching a cat walk past at baseline distance!

We have walked past resting cats at about 1m distance from Game in the yard (Game on a leash and muzzled; better not to risk anything), and I can tell her to leave it and she will keep the leash loose and make a little curve to indicate that she is leaving the cat alone. I’ve walked towards a cat and recalled her from up close to resting cats (the ones who don’t mind dogs) and recalled her from them in the yard as well – again, without problem and without using chasing as a reinforcer, muzzled (just in case the cat is suicidal and tries jumping into Game’s mouth) with the leash staying loose the entire time! What a superstar!

Crazy cats and cats closer than baseline distance

While Game can’t chill in this situation yet, we can play tug when cats are close and running/hunting/playing crazy, or sitting right in front of the glass door staring in (some are really curious) – even if the glass door is open. Game and I have come up with a tug – LAT hybrid for this where she’ll look, I’ll cue tug, she’ll tug for a few seconds, I’ll cue an out and then a look, mark the look with my tug cue, tug for a few seconds again etc. Doing this a few times in a row will lead to Game not looking when I give the LAT cue, but keeping her eyes on me. This is how I know that she is ready to move on, and I can cue a (kibble) scatter.

Cat LAT tug hyprid:

If I were to stay longer …

… this is what I would build on: I would start with tug LAT and then add behaviors that are less arousing. Brief ones at first, and more as she keeps succeeding (here, success would be defined as staying engaged between “look” cues).

This is how I would get to a place of working in the presence of up-close tempting cat distractions. (Work meaning that Game has gotten her needs to look out of the way and is able to stay in the game – or the work – with me until we end.) I won’t be able to do this here because we’ll move in a few hours – but that’s what I would do if I lived here permanently. Check out Sara Brueske’s Bomb Proof Behaviors class at FDSA to learn more about where to go from a place like this! It’s a concept class that can be used for any behavior and any distraction.

Finally: more cat photos for your enjoyment as we are packing our bags to leave!

There are two more cats around here that I didn’t get a picture of – apart from these two, I believe you’ve now seen all of them in some post or other.


Things have been going well! No cats were harmed in the making of this project! When we see Norbert again, we’ll be better prepared for sharing a space – at least for a little while!