Week 23 digest: September 3-9, 2023

September 3, 2023: a play date for Chai

Activity level: average

The AM

We only spent 15 minutes at the almost empty Fresa Parque: Game crashed into a park table/chair, whined and stopped putting weight on her left front paw. So we headed right back home, she got a dose of Rimadyl and is now sleeping on the couch. Pobrecita!

Home alone

Chai stayed home alone for Game’s shortish noon loop (trying to let her paw recover – luckily no limping for now, but I can’t tell if that’s the Rimadyl or her body recovering).

Noon and PM: Chai’s solo adventure

Once I finished work, it was time to head out and meet a colleague and their dogs for some dog geekery. Chai got to hang and play at Dead Poultry Park for 4 hours. She is passed out on the floor now! I had hoped to do some morning shaping (but work got in the way) or afternoon shaping, but I suspect we’ll just let sleeping dogs lie today! This was a lot of exercise and fun! Lucky Chai found a stinky water hole to get muddy in, played with my colleague’s dogs Hilo and Nemo, earned lots of treats for staying within a mostly approved-by-me radius, found a tasty bone and did really well hanging out next to a park bench while the humans had tlacoyos. Good puppy!

Dirty dogs are happy dogs!

September 4, 2023: a formal recall success, 3 parks and a little shaping

Activity level: average

The AM

The three of us had 25 minutes of fun at Fresa Parque. Chai got to play with a young Mal and then found something to eat somewhere behind some bushes where I couldn’t see her. (Of course, my informal pup-pup-pup recall didn’t work because found food is EVERYTHING to Chai and I am not using my formal recall in real life yet.)

Game was running around cheerfully again even though I haven’t given her a painkiller yet – looks like she’s all good! YAY! So glad! That “I am in so much pain” face and whining as she came back to me after crashing into the park chair/table really had me worried for a moment. She usually dismisses pain entirely if it happens while she’s having fun, so that was a strong reaction for her!

Home alone

Chai stayed home alone briefly while Game and I walked errands.

Solo adventure and formal recall success!

Chai and I spent 20 minutes at Toy Play Plaza. We started out by repeating last time’s recall on a long line … and succeeded! Go Chai!

Then there was a taco de birria for the bestest girl and looping around the park, briefly greeting two dogs and playing in the fountain (our personal public baby pool) twice before heading back home.


We worked on the sit up trick. Unfortunately, I believe I got what Silvia calls an “ugly sit” again but didn’t see it in real time: Chai’s back paws weren’t facing directly forwards but to the side. I’m going to have to experiment a bit more to learn how to see the perfect position in real time!

We also worked on one object in another on the roof. The smaller container I’m trying to use instead of the last one isn’t working either … I’ll have to find something else. It may be time to go shopping for more kitchenware and look for bolitos in all the sizes! (I’m very much not someone who gets excited about shopping … unless it’s for dog-related stuff! Or plants!)

I had planned on also working on 4 in as well, but work got in the way. Hopefully tomorrow!

Kiba’s park with Game

Game, Chai and I went to Kiba’s Park to run around dogs, screaming and running kids and large umbrellas for half an hour:

They also did a lovely job waiting for me outside a pharmacy.

September 5, 2023: park time, formal recall oops and a little training

Activity level: average

The AM

We started the morning with 40 minutes of park time for Game and Chai. Mornings tend to be enrichment-based (unless Chai is in a mood to play with other dogs): both dogs will scavenge all over the park, finding scraps of what folks left behind the previous night and pieces of bread and tortilla chips the bird-and-squirrel lovers sprinkle like perfect scatters in certain areas in the morning.

Scavengers in their element! Now that Chai’s stomach isn’t as sensitive anymore, she gets to have all the food-finding fun as well.

Home alone

Chai stayed home alone around noon when Game and I went out to get Chai’s recall taco.

Solo adventure

Today’s solo adventure was short – just long enough to get a formal recall oops in! But a solo outing is a solo outing, and we’ll take it!

Tricks and obediency stuff

We worked on 4 paws in, one object in another on the roof and down/good/get it in the afternoon at Fresa Parque (no video of the last one but Chai did very well!)

PM at the park

Before it started raining, both dogs got to go back to Fresa Parque for another 40 minutes. Together with Chai’s solo outing, we’re at our solid 1.5 hour outdoors average (not counting noon and evening pee loops).

Chai found a cup of consomé and opened it for Game and herself, and they shared it. It smelled delicious and from what I could see, it tasted just that way as well.

Chai then went on to do her afternoon job: steal the balls of all the dogs in the park she could steal from to bring to me and trade for treats. She’s a busy Border Collie with a lot of jobs!

September 6, 2023: a typical BC fun-and-training day

Activity level: average

The AM

We spent 40 minutes at Fresa Parque and Chai had a good time with her park friends. Game did great taking treats for just letting everyone be, and then both dogs wrapped up with a little sniff-and-scavage fun.

Home alone

Chai stayed home alone while Game and I ran errands for 20 minutes. She hasn’t been home alone for longer periods of time lately, but we’ve been doing a good job keeping up with multiple weekly 5-30 minute home-alone sessions (without Game). Normalize, normalize and normalize again!

Trick training

We worked on 4 paws in bowl #5, sit up and placing one object into another one.

Afternoon park adventures

Chai, Game and I went to Fresa Parque, waited outside a store and practiced foot-on-leash downs at a papelería for 1.5 hrs. The walk there took us quite a bit because Chai was in the mood to pull on her back-clip harness, resulting in many, many circles! I’m really happy Game is an off leash dog, allowing me to focus on Chai when I circle!

On the walk back from the park, Chai walked partly in collar mode. I reinforced every 5 steps today – that way, I needed hardly any nose bumps even though Game was off leash ahead of us us!

At the park, Chai played a bit with two new dogs, both her and Game scavenged and both worked on the tunnel cue since we had the dog park to ourselves. No solo adventure today, but a good day for dogs! Especially for Chai who got an easy formal taco recall (when she was already looking at me!) to super-charge “Schnee!”

Good dogs waiting patiently at the papelería while someone is trying to figure out how to print a page without margins for me.

September 7, 2023

Activity level: going for low today to catch up with work and make sure every week has its low energy day! Let’s see if we’ll succeed …

Note from the future: I succeeded! Low it is!

The AM

Game and Chai spent 30 minutes at Fresa Parque, scavenging and, in Chai’s case, playing a bit with her friend Sam the Doberman. Game got brushed at the park: she is blowing her coat and there’s Malinois fur everywhere.

Chai got bullied a bit by another dog and came back to me to be protected. I love that she trusts I will look out for her, reinforced and did my best to keep the bully at arm’s length.

Happy morning play with Chai’s friend Sam!

Training – just a little bit!

We allowed ourselves a single sit-up session. I forgot to hit record, so no video. In any case: a single sit-up session is totally okay for a quiet day! We’re still within the boundaries of calm-day-ness!

The briefest of solo adventures

We went out briefly to practice a formal recall on a back tie at our usual spot and marvelled at a squirrel together. (Tip: show your dog that you share their interests!)

Home alone

Chai stayed home alone briefly while Game and I ran an errand, and both dogs stayed home alone when I went inline skating at night.

Watching Chai on a calm day

Chai has been really good! She played a little with what’s left of the dolphin toy tonight, tossing it up in the air and pouncing on it. She has been really good about relaxing and isn’t being a pushy, demanding pup at all, but totally able to entertain herself. I’m very happy with how she’s developing!

September 8, 2023: lots of training and fun with friends

Activity level: average

The AM

We spent 30 minutes at Fresa Parque. Chai played a little with now 5-months-old little Doodle Pipa and the dogs enjoyed their urban enrichment jungle (aka finding food and sniffing stuff) for the rest of the time. I ran an experiment with soaked tortilla-chip pieces someone had left for birds and squirrels by sprinkling kibble on top. These two food items seem to be the same value.


We had a lovely 4-paws-in-a-bowl session and a great one-object-in-another session – the best one with our new object, the nail clippers, yet!

After I worked a bit, we did sit up on the floor and then I shaped a sit on a crate. I hope the crate is narrow enough to “force” Chai to keep her back legs facing forwards which, in turn, would allow me to work on the sit up trick ON that platform:

The video above ends right where I should have ended the session. Start to finish sit on a platform – perfect. Leave it at that; take the fact that a treat got stuck under my suitcase kitchen door as a good moment to end.

That’s not what happened in real life. See me continue for a few more minutes and Chai’s response below!

Solo adventure

Chai and I went to Kiba’s park to meet up with Alan. I got another successful recall away from Kiba before saying hi and we both worked our pups – Alan on leg weaves and downs and me on downs and stands, and both girls got to play single-toy fetch with Kiba’s ball.

We walked part of the way back in collar mode (5-20 steps between treats).

Chai also met Loki, a mix she enjoys playing with (see middle picture below), and found a dog food bag to climb into. Maybe she’s telling me to change our kibble brand!

September 9, 2023: out of the city with friends!

Activity level: high physical

Both dogs got their own morning loops today and then hung out at the house while I worked a little. Before it was time to leave on Chai’s solo adventure, Game got another brief pee loop by herself.

Solo adventure at Los Dinamos

Kristen, Kala, Luca, Chai and I went to Los Dinamos for the better part of the day. Chai and Kala played A LOT. Chai saw horses and mules – both grazing freely and with horseback riders – sheep, goats, got rushed by 4 of the shepherd’s dogs and recovered fast, saw various groups of suddenly appearing people and had no feelings about them, rolled in horse poop, played in the river and ate parts of an apparently delicious head- and partially legless rotten animal. It was mostly skeleton with little flakes of rotten meat stuck to it – probably either a small sheep or a mid-sized dog? I don’t know, but on the drive home, the entire car smelled deliciously corpse-like. Chai did not throw up on the drive there and back and did not get frustrated about Kala being squeezed in right next to her crate before getting to properly greet her. She was gentle with Luca and didn’t bother him at all, and interested in sticks and stones a kid tossed into the river for Kala and her. She also did an excellent C-runs-away easy taco recall – meaning the next one gets to be a distraction one again! The conversation with the shepherd was fascinating, and Kristen and I had a fun time. This may be the last time we’ll hang out because they’ll be moving abroad, but we sure made the most of it!

Left: Chai and Kala explore the river. Right: Luca is practicing being the cutest boy e-ver!

The last time Chai saw a horse, she got spooked. This time, she first contemplated this mule from a distance and then decided it was safe to go closer and sniff. (I didn’t worry here because Chai’s body language lets me know I’d be able to call her off and the mule doesn’t mind her presence.)

Chai and Kala came across a flock of sheep and goats!

The flock and two of the shepherd’s 10ish dogs. They are all related and puppies are raised with the flock, like lifestock guardian dogs traditionally are. Young dogs learn from older ones. They both guard and are able to keep the flock together. When nothing is going on, they doze in the shade. They are out with their human and the flock for ~6 hours a day. I learned so much from this shepherd, who was kind enough to hang out for a bit and answer all my questions about living with sheep and dogs as a small-scale subsistance farmer.

Left: right before Chai got rushed, she got just a little too close to the flock and the dogs made it clear to her. Right: watching the sheep from a distance after the shepherd has communicated to their dogs that we are friends. Chai’s herding instinct didn’t kick in – but it’s also possible she is still recovering from getting rushed and would have reacted differently to a flock without dogs. In any case, I’d venture it is safe to say that Chai is not magnetized to sheep. In the background story I have been told, her dad is a working sheepdog, but I am somewhat doutbful about the truth of this story.

I could have spent another hour talking to them, but didn’t want to keep them too long. While what I said above is what they told me, what follows are observations and parts I pieced together based on what I’ve read on this way of life in other parts of the world – it may or may not actually be the case for this particular shepherd and their flock.

The dogs and the life of subsistance farming (observations and thoughts):

The dogs are shepherdy-looking mixes about Game’s/Kala’s size; some with slightly more coat. From what this shepherd said, they are all related – so they have puppies and the puppies learn from their parents.

It is interesting to me that the dogs who are actually used for herding by people who do this for a living are not a particular breed of herding dog or even a landrace. I’d venture the most common breed in Mexico that is widely recognized as a herding breed is Australian Cattle Dogs (they are everywhere in the city, but usually not used to herd sheep), followed by Border Collies (used to herd sheep by people who do it for fun but not by people like this shepherd) and Old English Sheepdogs (who I don’t think are used for herding, but are a popular family dog breed around here). I’ve seen Australian Cattle Dogs throughout economic backgrounds while Border Collies and especiallyOld English Sheepdogs are fancier-neighborhood-dogs. I also have seen one ACD who was actually herding, but I was only passing by. I had the impression that this dog was an actual sheepdog, not a rich person’s hobby herding pal.

I found it extremely interesting that the dogs of the shepherd we met had a bubble around the sheep. There was clearly a boundary outside of which they allowed other dogs, but inside of which they would guard. Chai overstepped the boundary and their behavior changed immediately. Once they had chased Chai back of the bubble, they went back to chilling. I asked if the shepherd had taught the concept of the bubble to their dogs, and they said no – the dogs are doing this naturally.

It was also deeply fascinating to me that the dogs seemed to naturally surround the flock, protecting them from all sides. The flock did not seem bothered by the dogs at all and the dogs seemed very relaxed. The way they surrounded the flock kept the flock together and the invisible bubble kept intruders (like Chai) out.

I asked the shepherd if Chai and I might approach a little more so we could test how she’d react to the sheep when being closer (this is just something I’ve been meaning to test). The shepherd had control of their dogs – once they invited us into the bubble, the dogs stood back. (The shepherd had a stick and used body language to communicate with the dogs, but not in an aggressive way at all – they just communicated clearly that Chai was a friend to be welcomed into the bubble.)

I would love to spend a day with this shepherd, the flock and the dogs. I wonder what their everyday life looks like: how far from the green space do they live? How much do they walk? Are they always on the move or do they stick to one general area? How often is there a potential conflict? And is it always with visiting dogs or is there also wildlife or other pets to look out for? Maybe even humans? Is everyone on the same page about the shepherd using this (public) land for their sheep? What do the dogs eat (feeding 10 mid-sized to large dogs is a lot!) Do they have other sources of income or is it based on the sheep alone – on their meat? What does community or family structure look like? How much interaction is there with the wider capitalist society a subsistance farmer, whether they want to or not, is necessarily embedded in? If this shepherd had a kid, what opportunities will the kid have? Is it necessary for the kid to work as soon as they can walk in order to feed everyone or are they able to go to school, graduate, study; choose a totally different path in life?

I am curious about all of this, but it’s not my place to ask. I’ll probably never know. From the outside, to me, it’s easy to romantisize this life: it is calm. It has nature, animals, movement and little to no technology. It is physical and human-powered, not fossil-fuel-powered, and there is so much to observe about your animals, their interactions, the people you see, the changes of the plants, birds and insects around you through the seasons. I know there is a version of me who’d enjoy this life – its physicalness; the nailing of wooden planks to create a barn; the walking. Naming and observing your dogs. Keeping their puppies (the ones who survive); seeing them grow up. Observing local plants, birds, lizards; how their behavior changes with the times of day and year …

It is easy to romanticize because I wasn’t born into this life. If I were, I might feel completely different about it – after all, as it is, I did not keep the life I was actually born into and the same thing might have happened had I been born into a different life. And spinning that thought further: the life I was born into was a privileged one that allowed me to leave it behind. If I was born into the life of subsistance farming, leaving that life may not be an option. Or it may be just as much an option as it was for me and the live I actually got! I don’t know, but I can’t help but enjoy leisurly following these threads of thought as I’m clening up this pst at 2:30AM in the morning, a day before I’ll release kt.

Check the dog social post for today’s video of Kala, Chai and Luca!

Home alone

Chai stayed home alone for Game’s morning and pre and post solo-adventure walks.

Chaiary: dog/dog social fun!

I used to believe it was far more important for dogs to play with appropriate adult dogs than with dogs their own age (this is unsupported “common knowledge” floating around the R+ world). The just-so story is convincing enough: your dog is only going to be a puppy or juvenile animal for a fraction of their life; the conspecific interactions they will eventually have – if any – are mostly going to be with adult dogs. Plus what could a puppy possibly learn from other puppies? Adult dogs are the ones to look for in terms of socializing because adult dogs – other than puppies – actually have social skills.

Then I took Kristina Spaulding‘s excellent ethology class and learned that we do indeed know from actual studies (which I currently don’t have the bandwidth to dig out) that animals benefit from the opportunity to play with conspecifics of a similar age. This has changed my approach: I will now seek out more play opportunities for the puppies and juvenile dogs in my care – specifically with other young dogs.

Mexico and other places in Latin America I’ve been to have one big advantage when it comes to socialization: there’s ALWAYS dogs around. If you give your dog the chance to play every day, they’ll satiate (unless they are the rare dog who doesn’t satiate – these dogs do exist, just like there are dogs who never stop feeling hungry, but they are not the norm.) Given the opportunity to regularly satiate their social needs, they will be far easier to train, walk and work around other dogs. Win-win!

Below is a small selection of Chai’s play dates. These are just a few times I videoed over the course of the months and some I set to music (because it gives me joy) – but they are by far not the only ones. Chai has met other dogs of different ages every single day since she’s been with me. Some have become her friends; some stayed one-off play mates. You’ve seen some of these videos in Chai’s diaries already. In any case – here’s a chronological compilation with some context for each of them.

May 17, 2023 (day 41 with me): Chai plays with a new puppy

Chai played with (mejor dicho ignored in order to keep an eye on Game’s tennis ball) 5-months old puppy Archie at Chapultepec today!

May 28, 2023 (day 52): another new puppy playmate!

Chai made a new play-friend at Las Islas (UNAM), puppy Nenet! Enjoy the music and the play!

June 6, 2023 (day 61): playing with a new adult dog and practicing “pup-pup-pup” and whistle recalls … some of which are more successful than others!

Watch the video above to see my recalls – successful as well as unsuccessful! You won’t hear me use my formal recall cue in this video (“Schnee”). l’ll only use the formal cue in real life – outside of games and set-ups – when I am certain that Chai will respond. The informal recall and even my whistle recall? I don’t mind trying it sometimes and seeing it not work. These are data points that let me know where we are and what Chai’s ability to pay attention currently looks like.

After watching the video above with subtitles and voiceovers – think about the following questions and, if you’d like, leave your answers to any or all questions in the comments! I’ll be sure to read and respond to them!

  1. Can you tell why I chose the first two recall moments (these recalls are not successful – but why did I try them at the points in time that I did?)
  2. In one of the first two, can you spot an indication that Chai heard me even though she doesn’t come back?
  3. Why do you believe I used pup-pup-pup rather than whistled in recalls #2 and #3?
  4. Can you pinpoint (time-stamp) some of my favorite moments of the interaction between Chai and the other dog, Luna? What makes them stand out?

June 8, 2023: Chai (BC, 5.5 months) and Kiba (BC, 6.5 months)

We met our friends Alan and Kiba at the park and our girls had a blast playing together!

June 17, 2023 (day 72): adventures with Kiba at Chapultepec (and a sad, but beautiful song)

July 15, 2023 (day 100) – Chai and Kiba

Chai and I spent an hour with Alan and Kiba at the park today. As always, I started off with an informal recall away from Kiba (this is still HARD for Chai!) and then reinforced by releasing her to play. They also played with Kiba’s toy together!

Play-fighting and running together!

Good friends can share toys!

July 18, 2023: letting off steam after distraction recalls!

Today, we practiced really difficult distraction recalls! Chai needed to let off some steam after – and dog/dog play is perfect for this!

July 22, 2023 – all the Border Collies!

After shaping recalls away from Kiba, Chai got to hang out with her buddy and 4 other BC friends: Ivan’s dogs who were at the park with their dog sitters. Nicole, the child of the main dog sitter, tossed Kiba’s squeaky ball for Chai. I don’t mind informal toy play like this as long as it’s not with our formal training toys. It’s good for Chai to build a relationship with Nicole through playing! The last time, she got intimidated by Nicole who can be a little rough and wants to touch dogs from above or hug them (I suspect they’re between 8 and 12 years old, but I might be totally off – I’m bad at gauging the age of kids.)

August 8, 2023: new friends for Chai

My friend and colleague Kayla visited for a few days with her Border Collies Barley and Niffler and cat Norbert! This video is from the first evening Chai met all the new animals. (If you listened to our podcast chat, you may have already seen a shorter version of this video with a different song.) I like the fact that I’ve been able to introduce Chai to new dogs both in “her” apartment and in neutral spaces. She has also visited Nazli at Scarlett’s place and been to the apartment of friends who have cats.

August 20, 2023: fast friends!

Chai and Kala at Chapultepec! Kala is Zai and Kristen’s adult dog; this was the first time our dogs met!

September 10, 2023: Chai, Kala and Luca at Los Dinamos

We took a weekend trip to los Dinamos today! Time to not hear traffic noises and feel all naturey – even though this is still part of Mexico City! Luca, Zai and Kristen’s pug puppy, got to come as well!

October 15, 2023: Chai, Kiba and Elios

Today, Alan and Kiba introduced us to their friends Soto and Elios, Soto’s 11 months old Corgi!

October 22, 2023: Salazar with Daniel and Dina

Dina has become one of Chai’s best friends. Game and Dina are more acquaintances than friends, but they get along well enough. Today, Daniel (Dina’s human) and Dina showed us a hiking route outside Salazar. Game is wearing a muzzle because she’ll go into heat soon and tends to get easily over-aroused by other dogs running in the weeks before – it’s just a safety measure around Dina.

My bestest girl on the mountain. Mexico City in the distance to the left.

Snuggly girls on the car ride home. They were taking off each other’s burrs! (Poor Dina has a shaved paw because she needed to stay at the vet’s and get fluids for a nasty stomach infection the other week.)

At around 10 months – close to the time Chai went into heat the first time – she got significantly more socially selective. She still has her friends, but is less likely to initiate play with a new dog. She mostly just confidently ignores other dogs (or steals their balls). If given a choice, she’d rather work with me than play with other dogs.

This is a lovely development for a working breed. I see it in the other dogs her age as well: the young Dobi and a young Mal we used to run into at the park don’t play as much as they used to either, and Kiba and Chai, while still extremely close, treat each other more like family: “hey there, great to see you; I can basically read your mind just looking at you because we are the same; now let’s go do other stuff!” Their behavior is very similar; they grew up like siblings with Kiba being one month older. They even went into heat the same week. But there’s less playing from both of them: they seem to feel like grown up Border Collies around each other now. They will do stuff together, like sniff the same spots, greet the same dogs, lie down next to each other … But they rarely behave like puppies with each other (except for an exuberant greeting when they haven’t seen each other for longer than usual).

Dina, on the other hand, is still a favorite play mate of Chai’s. Dina’s play style is different – she’s a different type of dog. She’s built like a whippet and as fast as one, but wire-haired, incredibly gentle and giant-eared. I’m fond of her – and so is Chai. Dina is 3, but still loves to play chase games. If I were to anthropomorphize, I’d say that Chai looks up to Dina and thinks she’s “cool” – hence the continued playing! It’s unlikely that dogs find each other “cool,” but the thought makes me smile.

I suspect that over time, Chai will play a little less with Dina as well. They will stay close friends, but over the next few months, Chai’s behavior around Dina will probably start resembling her behavior around Kiba unless we are on a hike together (which doesn’t happen every day and tends to give the city dogs a boost of youth and bounciness!)

Chai and Kala would probably also keep playing a little longer into the future – or even on a permanent basis. They are extremely well-matched playmates. Kristen, Zai, Kala, Luca and their cats have moved abroad though. Chai says everyone, but especially Kala is always welcome on her couch if they ever miss Mexico City! (Chai is optimistic. I am realistic and would like to add: the cats would probably be safer staying elsewhere because of a certain Belgian Shepherd who lives on Chai’s couch as well and, while getting very good at not eating cats, can’t help the fact that they smell awfully tasty.)

Chai and Game, of course, will still play-wrestle as well. That’s typical for dogs sharing a house: anytime one of them needs to burn off energy, there’s a play partner right there! We just spent a few days at the beach and in this new environment, there was a lot of racing along the waves and chasing each other, too. I wish I had video!

Chaiary – week 14 digest: July 3-9, 2023

July 3, 2023 (day 88 with me)

Activity level: average (low physical, high cognitive)

The AM …

We started the morning with our usual walk. Today we took our time, looped the park twice and greeted and dismissed several dogs – good puppy!

2-toy tug reinforced by fetch at Fresa Parque

We dropped Game off at home and Chai and I walked to Fresa Parque in harness mode. There, we had a lovely session of 2-toy fetch and then enjoyed the park some more before heading back home in collar mode. Chai did really well!

Later, we started shaping two tricks from Silvia Trkman‘s first to-do list: “Earn it!” in the apartment and a 2-front-paw target on the roof. Chai is a dog who is happy to keep working and shaping for a long time. She reminds me of the first time I took Sue Ailsby‘s shaping class with Phoebe: we could work and work and work and she wouldn’t tire; I could have spent all day shaping. Chai, at her current age, is like that too – SO much fun!

Staying home alone

She then stayed home alone for Game’s early-afternoon walks and while Game accompanied me for a hair cut.

During Game’s evening walk, Chai got to practice staying home alone a second time.

More shaping!

After coming home, I continued Chai’s 2-paw target shaping. We ended with a relatively consistent 1-paw on the target and will progress to 2 paws tomorrow … I’ve already fed her almost twice her meal in today’s shaping sessions so it’s probably time to stop.

Prepositions for announcements

Today, I started adding prepositions to the announcements I’ve been using for Chai. Is she going to learn and understand them? I don’t know but I assume that with time and context, she will. And even if she doesn’t – striving for the greatest possible clarity when communicating with our dogs (or anyone else) is a worthwhile pursuit in any case.

House training adventures

I am proud to report that our streak continues! Week one of the game couldn’t be going any better! If I make it two more days, I’ll treat myself to a fancy browny – and then we start week 2! Sadly, Chai’s diarrhea is back as well. Here’s to making the shower her default pooping spot! She went there by herself, too.

July 4, 2023 (Day 89)

Activity level: low

The AM …

Chai greeted a few dogs on our 2-dog morning loop and then did well on the retractable leash while Game was off leash – hardly any circles or food reinforcers needed!

Almost home, we found a creepy bouquet of artificial flowers on the ground. Magic hands and Game walking right up to investigate it for the win! If I had already had coffee, I would have turned the bouquet into a toy – but sans caffeine, I really wanted to get home and fuel up.

2 trips and one toy play session at the plaza

After a bit of work, I took Chai to our neighborhood plaza for a quick 2-toy game according to Shade‘s instructions. I’m planning to make today our “calm” day – it’s a good one because I’m meeting a friend and can leave her home. Plus I want to resist the temptation to keep shaping until the diarrhea is gone: my home remedy for diarrhea is 12-24 hours of fasting.

Chai did great walking to the plaza and back with the leash attached to her harness. I replaced most food reinforcers with brief spouts of personal play or running together and needed hardly any circles. At the park, Chai saw someone move a giant water-spouting hose – a new and interesting experience, but not a scary one! Brave puppy!

Play went well even though Chai answered the question whether she could tug without misses first with a “not really – I like my misses.” It may also have been that she expected the first play move to be a chase and was taken aback when I cued a tug.

First time off leash on the sidewalk during the day

Chai will be an off-leash Mexico City dog. When I first got her, I worked on this by means of exclusively walking her on a long line to simulate an off-leash experience (while keeping her safely on the sidewalk next to a busy car street). We’ve also been working on being an off leash city dog for about a month by taking off-leash urban walks between 2AM and 4AM when there are almost no cars in the street. (Furture me chiming in here: the nightly walks are a tradition I stopped a few days after writing this Chiary entry. It led to very tired days for me and after a month, I needed a break!) Other off-leash city dog elements:

  • Working towards a solid formal recall.
  • Practicing “Leave it” (and its generalization to stepping off the sidewalk) and …
  • “Wait” at the curb.
  • Being off leash when there is a barrier of shrubbery or parked cars between a park and the street.

My plan is to have her drag a long line – no Game present, just Chai – during the day as soon as we make it all the way through our distraction tracker for the formal recall (formal recalls are emergency breaks).

Yesterday, I made an exception to the rule of not having Chai off leash in the street during the day just yet: a neighbor’s dog came bounding down the sidewalk as we were on our way back from the plaza. Since the playful dog was running directly towards us, I unhooked Chai’s leash so she could play. They did for about a minute on the sidewalk and then I walked the last 30 meters home off leash as well. Chai didn’t leave the sidewalk. Good girl! Back to the original plan though as long as there are no playful pups around!

Staying home alone

Game and I are about to head out and meet a friend – time for Chai to be a good stay-home-alone puppy and for Game to get a bike run in!

Game, being a hipster dog for a day. We are street food people, but sometimes – usually when friends want to go OR when I want to dog-train – we head to a place like this one. And yes, of course: “somos lo que somos.

Chai did great staying home alone for 3.5 hours, and Game enjoyed a 20 minute bike ride, 2.5 hours of hanging out at a café and chewing her rawhide bone and 30 minutes of biking home on a different route.

Chai got to stay home again a second time during Game’s evening walk. We’ll count today as the calm day of the week! Our second calm day (the one to make up for last Sunday’s high activity day) might be Friday.


The streak continues! Wheee, it is fun to see my arrows turn green! We’ve almost made it through a week!

July 5, 2023 (Day 90)

Activity level: average (low physical, high cognitive)

The AM …

We had an uneventful morning walk.

Home alone

After work, both dogs stayed home while I bought supplies for trick training, and then Chai stayed home alone again while Game and I headed out for a bit.

Shaping, shaping, shaping!

I shaped away one day’s worth of Chai’s kibble for paw target experiments (we both love this game).

2-toy tug and fetch and waiting at the ice cream store

… then we walked in harness mode to Fresa Parque and played a short 2-toy game before being rudly interrupted by a tall barky stranger Mal mix. As by Shade’s suggestion, I tried cueing “chase” while Chai was tugging rather then after she dropped and offered eye contact to reinforce the tugging rather than the drop.

Chai then waited patiently for me as I got ice cream:

Her right ear has been in a floppy mood!

… and more shaping!

Back home, I shaped a second day’s worth of kibble away in 6 short sessions and then took Game on her evening walk while Chai stayed home alone a third time.

(And yes, there was work too in between all of this, cooking and a post-icecream nap for me.)

House training: the streek continues!

As of today, we’ve made it through an entire week without peeing in the living room! I’ve earned myself a browny! The week 1 streak in all its glory:

July 6, 2023 (Day 91)

Activity level: high average

The AM …

Our morning walk was shorter than usual because I wanted to get home and finish work before meeting Alan and Kiba for our train-and-play date. Work went fast and I had time to clicker up Chai’s daily food ration again. Shaping this dog is FUN! My way of not going overboard is only having the daily food ratio available and stopping once I’m through it (if I can help it). It’s also not one continuous session, of course – one session is either what fits in my hand or what fits in my hand plus another handful of food from my pocket. Then there’s a short break; then we might do another session.

Knowing how much and how fast juvenile dogs change, it is difficult for me not to get carried away with shaping and tricks while I have such an avid learner: there is no way of knowing whether Chai’s stamina and enthusiasm for training will be the same a week from now or once she’s an adult. (My own training stamina and enthusiasm is off the charts these days but will probably wear off a bit in the future.)

Home alone

While Chai is on pee-standby in the bathroom, Game and I are about to head out. After practicing impulse control on her mat, it’s time to give her a little outdoors freedom before Chai gets all the action again!

I used the opportunity to get my week-long streak reinforcer:

Yumm! Game (nose at top left corner) thinks so too!

2-toy tug/fetch and dog/dog play time!

Alan had to cancel our training meeting because he got sick. Instead, I recorded Chai’s toys homework for Shade sans interruptions and then Chai got to play a little bit in the dog park. I decided to go in because there were only two dogs who looked calm. Chai got them to play, and we practiced two recalls out of play for chicken. I had planned on doing this with Kiba today, but since there was no Kiba, these two playmates would do! Chai was a star – however, I’m sure this was easier than Kiba would have been. Kiba is her best buddy and hard to disengage from while Chai has never met these two dogs before and generally recalls well from strange dogs. (Still: this is the very first time I recalled her in the middle of playing – and she came back right away! Go Chai! This may actually have been an excellent step before practicing with Kiba.)

The video below shows Chai’s dog park socializing and the two formal recalls we did – the second one out of full-on play.

More paw target shaping

Back home, we took a break and then shaped for (almost) an entire second day’s meal. We now have two mostly steady paws on 3 different targets: a plastic tupperware lid, a plant saucer and a porcellain plate!


+ “Brush” announcement and brushing!

Toy play Silvia Trkman style

It was thundering and rain-storming and Game was scared (of the thunder). I don’t want Chai to adopt Game’s fears, so we casually played with always-out toys on the couch. There’s also a TV show running in the background … distraction training AND play! I want her to chase and tug on any toy I offer and also learn more about her favorites and preferred play style in a casual context.

(The reason Chai and I can play in this video without Game joining in is that Game is too worried about the thunder to play.)

House training

… week 2 of 4! The streak continues! If Chai makes it another 7 days without accidents in the living room (only in the shower cabin or outdoors), I’ll get another browny. After a 4-week streak – which we may or may not get to on our first attempt – I’m going to treat myself to something bigger. In any case – if all I ever win in my streak game are brownies, that’ll work for me too!

July 7, 2023 (Day 92)

Activity level: low

The AM …

I let Game and Chai run around the park a little more than usual because I’m planning on a calm day today. Chai got to greet several dogs she knows and then we walked back home – Game off leash, Chai on the retractable leash.


After work, we started another project for Silvia’s class: 4 in a box!

A brief 2-short-leashes pee walk

later, I headed off to co-work with a friend at a favorite queer meet-up café while Game and Chai stayed home for about 4 hours.

More shaping!

We did one more 4-in session (Chai was a superstar!) and then called it a day.

I have succeeded in keeping today a light, calm day! AND I made up for all the kibble I fed over the last two days by feeding (i.e. training) less today! (Remember my rule: one day a week has to be calmer than average. If I do a high (rather than average) activity day, I will try to balance it out with a second calm day in that same week. Tomorrow will likely be high activity again – we’re planning on a trail hike. More keep-it-calm challenges for me to come! (Calm days are the hardest for me! Seeing friends helps because it takes up time I would otherwise spend training.)


Streak game week 2, day 2 – we earned another green check mark! Woohooo!

Empty puppies – and empty puppies only! – get to chill on the bed.

July 8, 2023 (Day 93)

Activity level: average

Los Dinamos – finalmente!

After the briefest of morning pee walks (the dogs) and coffee (me), we made our third attempt to head to Los Dinamos, a nature park in the south of Mexico City. And we did it! Finally, nothing got in the way of our plans.

This was Chai’s first “real” nature walk – not in a city park but jumping across fallen trees, scrambling up and down hills and rocks and exploring the slippery rocks and muddy ground of a shallow river. She had a blast – and so did Game. Game loves running in spaces like this and I can tell how much she’s missed it when we go again after a longer break.

I found out that Chai doesn’t yet know she has to keep an eye on me in this kind of environment in order not to accidentally lose me. So I played a lot of hide and seek (hiding behind a tree or rock when she wasn’t looking, letting her worry just a little bit and then waiting for her to find me and celebrating with social feedback:”Yay! Did you lose me? You found me! What a good puppy!”)

Here’s an excerpt of Game and Chai adventuring at Los Dinamos:

Chai also discovered she likes to eat horse poop and found several bone parts of deceased animals to nibble on. I could “Schnee” recall her away from horse poop and successfully traded all bones for chicken. Superpuppy!

In terms of structured sessions, after first getting there and peeing (Chai), I had a 2-toy session for Shade’s class. This space felt different to her than city parks – I could see it in her slightly lower-than-usual focus. Apart from that, she did really well!

We had fun in the shallow river and both dogs got to play with a (non-training) ball in the water.

Otherwise, I just let them be dogs and run around for an hour. We met a couple suddenly appearing people and dogs – very different from the constant buzz of the city! – but Chai, after looking at me questioningly the first time it happened, did well. Game knows the drill and just curves around strangers.

Before we left, we saw a horse – someone was cantering down the trail at full speed. Game barked and wanted to give chase (a “leave it” brought her right back to me – chicken for the big girl!) Chai, who has never met a horse, barked after Game did and scrambled back to me as if she had just seen the devil. I’m looking forward to an opportunity for her to meet more horses – quiet, steady ones who are not crashing down trails! – in the future to ensure she feels neutral about them.

We headed home after only about an hour. So there is still lots of kibble left for shaping in the afternoon, and since we weren’t out very long, I don’t have to worry about overdoing it!

Shaping 4 in!

I used up the remainder of Chai’s daily food ration in two medium-length shaping sessions in the afternoon. We ended with 4 in from all the angles! Good puppy!

Pee walk and bakery

In the late afternoon, Chai and Game got to join me on a mini pee walk to the bakery around the corner, wait outside and then help explain some dog training things to the good folks at the bakery who collected my phone number for a neighbor with two barky adolescent Xolos.

Game imitated Chai’s peeing, I got my “Potty” cue in and reinforced, and we went back upstairs: the empty puppy earned living room privileges again!


It is thundering again tonight. Not only is Chai not concerned – Game is feeling way better than last time as well!


Happy to report that my second brownie is getting closer …!

July 9, 2023 (Day 94)

Activity level: low average

The AM …

Given that the AM starts at midnight, I am sad to report that our AM started in a less than relaxing way: someone right around the corner must have been celebrating something (it was Saturday night), and as we came back from our night walk at around 1:45 AM, there were LOUD cohetes.

Fireworks are new for Chai: she looks at me and Game to figure out the appropriate response. So I spent the next hour counterconditioning: big boom – scatter. Big boom – scatter. Chai was happy about her scatters, ate a lot of kibble and then, before I could assess whether she was already happy about hearing big booms, the booms stopped … and we could all go back to sleep. The only one who didn’t get a lot of sleep, I’m afraid, is Game. She looks very tired this morning.

Toy skills!

We did two sessions of tugging reinforced by chase today. Chai now needs less misses in order to enjoy her tug! Good girl!

In the first session, she needed the visual of my outstretched arm with the second toy after my “Chase” cue to let go in the first chase-past-tug rep. In the second rep, she let go of her toy on a verbal “Chase” alone.

In the second session, Chai responded differently to the verbal “Tug” than to the verbal “Chase,” and she let go on the verbal “Chase” alone both times and showed prediction behaviors for chasing, with the other ball still out of sight! Woohooo! Go puppy!!!

Dog socializing

Chai also got to run around a bit and play with a bunch of dogs before we went to a café to work (me) and practice chilling on her mat (Chai). I wanted to make sure she got her need to move and greet dogs out of the way first to set her up for success.

I made sure not to tire her out during our break – I don’t want a dog who lies calmly on her mat because she is exhausted, but a dog who lies calmly on her mat because her social needs and needs to move have been met and she’s ready to watch the world go by for a bit.

Café training

We stayed for about 40 minutes, and there was a lot going on! Chai did VERY well!

Left: waiting outside while I order at the coffee shop – next to another unfamiliar dog who is also waiting for their person! Right: chilling on her mat at the café. This is a fancier place than I like going, but it’s at an wonderfully busy corner – it’s great for training.

Then we left for another round of park play and socializing before Chai got too wound up. 40 minutes of sitting relatively still at a busy corner restaurant is a lot for a young dog! We then returned to the café and I finished up my workload for the morning with Chai being a superstar again.

Here’s a post about the art of doing nothing with a video of our practice session at the café.

Home alone

Chai stayed home alone during Game’s noon and afternoon (pre-rain) walks and during her evening walk.


Chai peed at the park without needing inspiration or a role model to follow! You go girl!

We’re past the halfway mark for the week! Yay! And no accidents of any kind in the living room! I can smell you already, yummy brownie!

CLARITY: cues, announcements … and prepositions!

An addendum to Chai’s July 3 diary entry

Announcements versus cues

Announcements is a term I use to distinguish certain verbal expressions directed at dogs from the term cue: a cue is the opportunity for the dog to do a certain behavior in order to earn a reinforcer (or, if you are of a different philosophy, you could say a cue is telling the dog what they “have to” do – that is, it’s a “command”). Whatever philosphy you subscribe to, a cue is all about the dog’s actions. Sit, for example, is a cue for the dog to move their butt floorwards. Come is a cue for the dog to run towards you.

An announcement is information about what is going to happen “to” the dog. It is not telling the dog what to do. For example in radius training, I use an opportunity cost announcement if the dog oversteps their radius. It means “We are going the other way now!”

When I brush Chai, I’ll announce that I’m going to do so by saying “Brush.” I’m not asking. This is not cooperative care. (She doesn’t need it to be.) When I dremel Game’s nails or clip Chai’s nails, I’ll announce “Claws.” Again, I am not asking the dog to do anything – I am letting them know what is about to happen before I do it. An announcement is me informing my dog about what I am going to do next. It is not a question but information. Anytime I announce something, it is going to happen right after independently of the dog’s thoughts or feelings about it – just like the sun will rise every day whether I want it to or not.

Today (that is on July 3, 2023, when I drafted this post), after having used “collar,” “harness” and “leash” every time before taking one of the three objects off or putting them on Chai, I’ve started adding prepositions. “Collar onnnn!” means I’m about to put a collar on Chai. “Collar offff!” means I’ll take it off. I stress the preposition in my announcement because it is the part that is new for her. “Leash onnnn!” means the leash will be clipped to the harness and is, like a click, always followed by a treat (to avoid creating aversion to being leashed). “Leash offff!” means I will unclip the leash. It will either be followed by off-leash freedom or by “With me!” (leash clipped to collar; informal heeling). No treats when equipment comes off.

The fourth object I’m using our new prepositions for is Chai’s sweater. Remember how I was planning on taking her to Pride but then didn’t? I got her a Pride sweater anyways (yes, it has happened and there’s no denying it: I’m one of these people who dress up dogs now). It was 50% off and cute, and I want her to get used to wearing things such as service dog vests or “clothing” she might need to wear after surgery one day. So we also work on normalizing “Sweater onnnn!” and “Sweater offff!” Chai is doing perfectly fine with wearing it for short periods of time – the startle of the store person trying to stuff her into a sweater without asking permission had no repercussions. (I did not buy the sweater there, by the way.)

Here’s a brief compilation of onnn-s and offff-s I (that is future me on October 30, 2023) just recorded to illustrate this concept before I release this post I drafted in July:

In the video above, note how certain announcements – in this example only “harness onnn” – have the potential to turn into a cue (Chai can learn to push her head through the harness loop voluntarily). Others, like leash onnn or offf, can always only be announcements since Chai can’t put her leash on or take it off herself.

Below is another brief clip from today, showing an example of something that (A) will always be an announcement (“Brush” in the example: Chai can’t brush herself) and (B) won’t ever have a preposition because it wouldn’t make sense:

What is the point of announcing things? Why don’t you just DO them?

I want to maximize agency (where it matters for the dog in front of me) and clarity (where there can’t be agency or where agency is less important for the dog in front of me). When it comes to training, I want the dog to opt in. When it comes to grooming, I want opting in (cooperative care) if the dog doesn’t like being groomed – otherwise, I’ll just do an announcement. Why? Because teaching cooperative care is time consuming and it not a personal passion of mine. Therefore, as long as the dog in front of me doesn’t mind, I’ll announce rather than ask.

While announcements aren’t questions, they still give me valuable information

While the announcement isn’t a question (I’m not asking, “Would you like me to brush you?” but telling Chai, “I am going to brush you now!” in the video above), it still comes with valuable information: I tell Chai that I will brush her before I sit down next to her on the couch. (I always and only brush her on the couch.) This gives her time to leave. If she left, I would gain important information about how she feels about being brushed. As I am brushing her, I am not cutting off her exit route/cornering her. Unlike with “leash on” and “harness on,” there is NO treat after grooming behaviors. So Chai gains nothing by allowing me to groom her. She could walk away – but she doesn’t.

Here’s a COMPLETELY taken-out-of-context quote by M.E. O’Brien that, to my great amusement, fits very well: “If one cannot easily leave, one cannot choose to stay.” Dog training really is a metaphor for life. And that’s why I use announcements rather than “just do the thing.”

Chaiary – week 12 digest (June 19-25, 2023)

I’ll be doing weekly digests and specialty topics (toy play, recalls, tricks …) going forwards – this will give me a chance to catch up to the present day eventually! As you may have noticed, I video almost everything. I’m only putting an occasional video directly into the weekly digests. To see the others, click the links in my digest text and then scroll down to the respective day you’ve been reading about in the digest. (For example, when a digest post says we played with toys, there will be a link to my toy play post if there’s a video for the respective day.)

Monday, June 19, 2023 (day 74 with me)

Activity level: low (less than I do with a Border Collie on a typical day)

Today is Chai’s (fake) half-birthday! I added a date of birth to her carnet de vacunas which came without one. Based on what her previous human told me about her age, she must have been born around December 19, 2022.

What do puppies get when they are 6 months old? A rabies shot! Whee! After a brief walk at Fresa Parque, we went to a pet store/vet around the corner. Chai was mostly being very brave. Here she is waiting her turn in the pet supply part of the store and then after, waiting at the counter to pay:

Brave vet girl pre and post vaccine!

Chai was surprisingly wiped out after the vaccine, so we didn’t do a whole lot except for play a little for Shade’s class, hang out with our friend and take an evening walk with Game to Fresa Parque.

Hanging out with Zane.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023 (day 75): just a good old average day.

Activity level: average

Toy play

Today, Chai is back to normal! We started the day with a 2-ball game on the roof.

Adventuring and park-officing

Then I headed to my park office to work from there for two hours. Chai ran around, met a bunch of dogs and came back regularly to check in at my work station and collect a treat. Meanwhile, Game was dozing next to me at my feet. She really has grown up!

Right as I was done with work, Alan, who I’d been meaning to write, showed up with Kiba and our girls got to play for a while.

Staying home alone

We then headed back home – Chai stayed in the bathroom and Game in the sala while I went off for 6 hours of tatooing with Kuks. Chai has been really good about staying home alone – I’m proud of her!

Evening walk

As soon as I got back home, I took Game and Chai for a brief evening walk around the block.

Eye contact for food game

We rounded out the evening by practicing eye contact for food.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Activity level: low average

Morning walk

We kicked off the day with our usual short morning walk with Game.

Eye contact!

Next, Chai got to play with 2 balls on the roof and I added eye contact as a criterion for tossing the second ball. Chai said, no problem!

We then experimented with eye contact for food in my closed fist, which would open to present the treat to Chai after a click when she made eye contact. We haven’t played this game since April and needed to re-learn it! Some angles turned out to be more difficult than others.

Loose leash walking in Manners Context

We worked on our LLW skills on a collar in a new, relatively quiet street. After our acclimation walk on a harness, we walked the same 2 blocks up and down several times in 20-step treat mode. Go Chai! She was being a superstar!

A not-so-great experience

On the way back home, we passed a small grooming and pet supply shop I hadn’t noticed before. It had pride sweaters for dogs on display so I couldn’t help but go inside. I’ve been thinking about bringing Chai to Pride on Saturday, and if I do, a rainbowy outfit would be fun.1

Anyways, so I walked in, pointed at the largest one of the small sweaters and asked if it might fit Chai. The person working the store said, “Let’s measure,” I nodded (assuming they meant they were going to measure the sweater) – but before I knew it, they were stuffing the sweater over Chai’s head! The poor girl, of course, was not amused and tried backing away. I stopped the sweater-stuffer (which took a significant amount of verbal force!) as Chai bolted out the door, pulling into her leash, tail tucked under her belly. I fled together with her and walked down the road until she seemed relatively calm again.

Then I went back, stopped at the sidewalk in front of the store and asked the store person friendly-ly if they’d allow me to help Chai get over her fear. I explained that she was scared of people touching her and used to be scared of going indoors. Would they be so kind and allow me to walk into and out of the store a few times while just standing where they were? They said yes and from that moment on were a perfect helper. No more sweater-attacks on unsuspecting Border Collies!

I did what I also do in the magic hands context: I walked into the store one step, and Chai followed me up to the threshold and stopped. I cued “Get it,” tossed a treat away from the door out on the sidewalk and retreated together with Chai, who chased her treat.

After she had eaten, I approached the door a second time, again walking until Chai stopped. This time, she went just over the threshold and inside. I marked “Get it” when she stopped and tossed a treat outside. Little by little, we made our way into the small rectangular store and past our helper to the back wall (the store part that wasn’t grooming related was just about 3 by 6 meters). The further in we got, the more fun I made our exits and we ran together after each “Get it.” Once we had bravely made it all the way to the back wall, Chai could even do a hand touch. One last celebratory “Get it!”, thank you to our helper and we left – without a sweater and feeling much better.

Vet/pet store

Our next stop was the vet/pet store where Chai got her rabies vaccine the other day. I wanted to get a second black Kong ball. The store was crowded with dogs and customers and Chai did fantastic. And most importantly: we got our ball!

Chilling at the vet/pet supply store

Waiting outside a store

Chai then briefly waited outside a corner convenience store and then we headed home from our afternoon adventure.

More treats for eye contact!

We played another round of eye contact for treats in my fist: the mechanism to open my fist is to not touch it and make eye contact. Some angles, especially my left arm stretched to the side, were still harder than others.

Test-driving our new Kong ball

Once it had (finally!) cooled down a bit, we played with two Kong balls on the roof. I had used tennis balls and topmatic balls before, but they were too fun to chew on on the roof. At the park where I can throw further, bouncier and fun-er (without the danger of the balls bouncing off the roof), Chai doesn’t tend to lie down and chew … but there are a lot of dog distractions. Eye contact brought ball #2 to life on the roof.

Home alone

Chai stayed home alone during Game’s evening walk, and then …

Even more treats for eye contact

… we rounded off the day with two more rounds of eye contact for food:

Thursday, June 22, 2023 (day 77)

Morning walk

On today’s morning walk, we saw two Saint Bernards in a dog park. I couldn’t help but let Chai go in – I don’t think she has met dogs this big before!

Who is scared of big dogs? Not I, says Chai.

Home alone

Game and Chai stayed home alone, free in the apartment while I went to the bakery and again a little later when I ran another quick errand. I kept her in her luxury kennel (aka the bathroom) when Game and I ran a longer errand later.

Solo adventure at the park

Chai had a solo adventure (i.e. an adventure without Game): we went to one of the parks we like and worked on the 2-ball game with eye contact, obstacle recalls and positions (down and stand).

Below: an obstacle recall game!

Then we met up with Alan and Kiba and walked to the market and back together.

Beauty everywhere on a walk.

Kiba and Chai found a stick to share.

On our walk home, I switched Chai to manners context (leash on collar) and we toggled between 5 and 20 steps between treats. She was being a great leash walker!

More treats for eye contact

We repeated our eye-contact-for-treats game with what was left of Chai’s meal. Today, I asked for her to hold eye contact a little longer before the click.

Distraction recalls – round #1 (of many – foreshadowing by future C!)

After having played recall games for quite a bit (hide and seek recalls, ALL the obstacle recalls, running-away recalls, flying cookie recalls, ping-pong recalls, double-dog recalls, ditch-the-dog recalls …), we started our journey into distraction recall training today! Go Chai!

Friday, June 23, 2023 (day 78)

Activity level: high (I don’t have the time to do this much with my dogs every day)

Morning walk

We started the day out with our usual morning walk with Game. Chai practiced walking off-leash on a sidewalk without a barrier of shrubbery – just a barrier of parked cars in a quiet street along the park! Chai was a superstar and stayed on the sidewalk!

It’s a little like a CU set-up with ring gates: you start with covered (non-see through) ring gates. Our equivalent: shrubbery AND a row of parked cars along a park. Second, just a line of parked cars (see-through/uncovered ring gates). Third (and that’s what you see in the image below): empty spaces between the parked cars (openings in the ring gates)!

Chai and Game also got to run around the park for a few minutes and then we walked home where Zane was waiting for us with coffee!

The most exciting event of the morning: we waited to cross a street with 3 other dogs – a leashed Beagle and a small leashed dog with one person and an off-leash mix with another person. Just like Game, Chai did a fantastic job waiting at the curb, getting her occasional “good” room service treat and then crossing with all the other dogs when released. Only the Beagle got a brief greeting before the wait started. I’m not only proud of Chai’s ability to chill for brief times with other dogs around without engaging, but also with her increasing understanding of the “wait” cue I use at curbs. Just like with Game, I have not actively trained this behavior but simply named it by saying the cue and then stopping the dog with the leash. More and more often, Chai stops on the verbal alone! It’s not solid yet – but I can see her improving!

Toy play at Fresa Parque

After reading Shade’s response to our last toy class video, Chai and I headed out to Fresa Parque while it wasn’t unbearably hot yet. Shade encouraged us to play fetch in spaces other than the roof so I can make toys fly further and bounce without worrying about losing them (and potentially having my dog jump off a building). That’s a fair point, of course. The only disadvantage: the roof is the only low-distraction space available to me. At the park, there are always other off-leash dogs. But Chai did really well – until we got interrupted by one of them and I ended the game. I can’t yet expect a 6 months old puppy to keep playing with me when approached by a strange dog! I am, however, VERY happy with her ability to play in this environment!

Afghan Hounds and obstacles

We then went into the dog park since the only dog in there was a very fluffy and oldish looking Afghan Hound. They were calm, with a friendly wag, when Chai sniffed them through the fence, and I wanted to see if Chai had gotten over her Afghan Houndscares for good. And yes, she had! No sign of fear, just curiosity and confidence around the mellow fellow.

We then used the agility-ish obstacles in the dog park to work on two new ones: one a kind of staircase leading up to a metal platform and down the other side, and the very beginnings of the teeter. The teeter is made of metal and very slippery, but we had an excellent start with Chai getting 4 feet on the lowest part of the ramp. We’ve been here before and worked on two of the other obstacles: another longer, but less steep staircase with a longer platform in the middle and a short tunnel. We repeated the tunnel today and what had taken her a moment the last time (“Do I really want to go in there?”) was easy today!

Wait outside by herself

I picked up breakfast while Chai waited patiently leashed up outside on a busy street corner, and then again in front of a busy pet store where I got another leash and a bottle of Nature’s Miracle.

Left: fancy neighborhoods sell fancy chapulines (grasshoppers) for fancy prices! Right: Chai waiting outside the store.

Loose leash walking (manners context)

Now that Chai had gotten in her morning fun, I used the walk home for LLW practice. We were walking familiar streets, but without acclimating. Street 1 was easier than street 3 aka the third arrow from the top (street 3 has barky dogs Chai gets excited by). In the image below, you can see that Chai does really well when we first start the manners context (switch from harness aka sleddog context to collar; green arrow): several reps of 20 steps in a familar street without acclimation (we’ve never LLWed in this street before). The second green (collar) street is more difficult because Chai knows we are getting closer to the barking dogs she finds exciting! We then start the third green street with high-rate-of-reinforcement collar walking just to practice staying behind the invisible line while excited and, after about 30 meters, switch back to sleddog context for the most difficult stretch of the walk (harness; final blue arrow).

More fun at yet another park … including a dog park

We did 2-ball fetch reps and recall games at and played with a small dog and a Chai-sized dog in the dog park in the afternoon.

In the video below, you’ll see a few things:

+ Dog parks. Yes, professional dog trainers like to call them the source of all evils. Are they though? Not necessarily. It depends on your dog, your observation skills and the local dog culture. I only go into dog parks when they are eather empty or there is a small number of appropriate play partners for my dog inside. How can I tell? I observe from the outside. With Chai, I’ll mostly only go in if she asks to and the dogs inside seem appropriate.

+ I use the opportunity for a recall test: Chai is moving away from me and I call her. Will she come? She does! Yay! Treat and send off to play more! When you can – always send your dog back to the distraction you called them away from! I use my informal recall here because my formal one isn’t yet ready for use in the wild. With the informal one, I don’t mind if my success rate drops. This one is not the actual recall I will eventually use anyways.

+ I praise (the first one) and mark/treat all other voluntary check-ins in the clip below. While I do not want to call more than once in a single play session (I don’t want to nag my dog – recalls only get used when I need them), I make sure my dog knows I appreciate their decisions to check in with me! That’s how you shape a dog to keep an eye on you and not lose you.

More distraction recalls!

We took our level 1 (long line) distraction recalls to location #2!


Zane and I met for Pizza and apartmental strategizing at the corner of my favorite park in the next neighborhood over, and Chai stayed on her mat at my feet for about 20 minutes. Then she got to greet another dog who, unlike her, was off leash and went to sit down at their people’s table next to us. Chai gave a single frustration bark because she couldn’t go over and I aborted the session and put her in the car for the rest of dinner.

Being a good puppy under the pizza table … for 20 minutes anyways!

Further notes

In other good news: the looking out the window/thinking about barking behavior seems to have disappeared as fast as it appeared!

Saturday, June 24, 2023 (day 79)

Activity level: low (less than I do with a Border Collie on a typical day)

It would have been fun to take Chai to Pride … but I wouldn’t have been able to stay as long as I did, and in the end, a calm day will have served her better than the Pride experience would have. She can always dress up some other day!

All we did today, training and outing-wise, was take our level 1 distraction recall (Chai on a long line) to our third (most difficult) location: the park!

The rest of the day was a quiet one for the dogs while I met my friends. Here’s two of the many pride dogs I saw and our little crew taking a pizza break:

Sunday, June 25, 2023 (day 80)

Activity level: average

Chai started the day with our usual weekend morning walk around the block with Game.

Barrier recalls inside

Before I started work, Zane helped me with recall level 2 indoors: he was my human barrier (the helper who’d pick up the distraction if Chai did not respond). She nailed all 3 distractions on her first attempt!


  • Brushing

Stay home alone

… for about 45 minutes while Game and I went on a bike ride.

Busy-street walk, mercado and indoors mall

Once a week, I head to a pet friendly indoors mall to practice being in large, busy indoors spaces. On the way there, I used magic hands on a broken wild bird egg with a partially developed chick inside. When I picked up the egg and held it on my flat hand, Chai was ready to curiously sniff it. Magic hands for the win! The construction site we had encountered (and felt unsure about) last week was already gone. The bucket spilling over with poop bags still sat in its old spot. Chai sniffed it briefly while walking past unimpressed – a very different response from last week:

Overall, today I realized that the Week Of Insecurities seems to be over: no more window barking and less fear-inspiring objects for little Border Collies! Woohooo!

We haven’t walked to the mall on a Sunday before – so I hadn’t known that Sunday was also street market day in the area! Chai got to walk through a brief stretch of a new-to-both-of-us market. She did, of course, love the food section! On the way back from the mall, she experimented with lying down for treats while I waited for my pambazo (wheat bread sandwich fried in guajillo pepper sauce with a filling of your choice). When I wait for something or stand still somewhere for a while, I step on a relatively short leash. Dogs who stand, sit, pull or use their leash radius for walking are being ignored. Dogs who lie down receive a slow drip of low-value, low-rate of reinforcement. Chai is great at this at ATMs already. Surrounded by meat smells, it was more difficult – but she worked hard on figuring it out!

It was hard, but Chai managed to lie down while I waited for my pambazo!

For the first part of our walk towards the mall on Chai’s harness2, I reinforced check-ins in addition to circling when Chai pulled. It was the kind of day and environment where I reinforced every third check-in and reset (started counting check-ins with one) anytime I did a circle. Pretty good! The last stretch of the walk there, I only did the occasional (rare) circle. Inside the mall, we only circled 2 or 3 times!

Anytime we are at this mall, we ride the glass elevator up and down. Chai now confidently walks into the elevator as soon as it arrives and does not try and get out when the doors close. On the ride up, she even remained standing rather than lying down (ducking) like she has done in the past! On the ride down, she laid down but seemed otherwise confident.

Left: “Bring it on, elevator!” Right: being a good girl lying down at the ATM (cue: my foot on her leash).

Last week, this mall inspired me to carry Chai up and down an escalator – so I did it again this time, only that today, we went first down and then up again. This is subjective and may not be factual, but Chai felt more relaxed in my arms than last week (her first escalator ride).

Once outside, we walked parts of the busy street in manners context (green) and Chai took a break waiting outside a store (the X on the map):

Human-barrier recalls on the roof

After a nice sleepy break, we practiced our level-2 recalls with Zane’s help up on the roof. The two easier distractions were an immediate success. As for the third one … click the link above to find out!

Fresa Parque for 2-balls with eye contact and loose leash walking

After a lazy afternoon the dogs partially spent home alone, Chai and I went to Fresa Parque for our late-afternoon/evening outing to work on adding duration eye contact (for a count of 3) to our 2-ball game. I had Chai on her harness walking there. She was being a superstar; we only needed the occasional circle and no food reinforcers. She even stopped at a curb on my “wait” cue on a loose leash and then very clearly understood “okay” as my release to carry on! At the next curb, she offered stopping herself and looked back at me.

Once at the park, we saw that it was Canfest: lots of little booths with dog stuff for sale, a small adoption booth, music and a few random booths selling things unrelated to dogs. Chai did a great job walking through the corridor of dog-related booths off leash and playing a short round of 2-balls. I made sure to keep it to 5 or 6 throws in order for Chai to stay focused despite all the distractions. She then met Jakob, a Border Collie, and promptly stole his ball to proudly deliver to me and exchange for a scatter – twice. She has become a crafty ladrona!

We also ran into several little electrical cars kids can drive around Fresa Parque and Chai didn’t even give them a second look: “Whaaatever. Seen these, dismissed these, got the t-shirt collar!”

On the way back, I stopped at one booth to ask for a business card and take a picture of a skull bandana I was interested in getting for Chai3 – but I hadn’t brought money so wanted to know where they were located. As I was doing so, my crafty sidekick discovered a bowl full of kibble at the next stand over and managed to wolf down most of it before I realized what she was up to. Here’s to hoping it agrees with her stomach! She has been doing fine with my chicken reinforcers so far – but that bowl was a BIG dinner of unknown ingredients!

The skull bandana I was thinking of getting for Chai.

We manners-context walked back home from the park4, only needing to increase the rate of reinforcement when passing bread that had been put out for birds and two dogs. She was being a superstar! With a high rate of reinforcement (every 1 to 2 steps), she is already able to recognize, dismiss and casually pass strange dogs and tempting food on the ground!

Chai’s evening was spent taking turns sleeping on the bed, wrestling with Game and getting pets from Zane.

  1. Yes, I know. Would I have thought of rainbowy dog outfits if I didn’t consider Chai to be my dog already? Probably not. ↩︎
  2. See this post for a brief explanation about my leash walking contexts (harness and collar). ↩︎
  3. Who am I kidding! Let’s make it official already. This is my dog! I wouldn’t have bought a new leash the other day, tried getting Chai a pride outfit and want to spend money on fancy bandanas if she wasn’t. She is mine alright (and I seem to have turned into someone who likes dressing up their Border Collie). I can tell Chai is a dog I’ll have an extraordinary relationship with because she feels like an extraordinarily good fit for the human I am. She’s quite different from the other two Border Collies, Hadley and Mick, I’ve had in my life. And while she is nothing like Grit, I suspect we may end up having a relationship of similar depth. How lucky am I to potentially get not one, but two “once in a lifetime” dogs! ↩︎
  4. For more leash walking context and to teach your own dog, check out the leash walking lectures from Out and About in your FDSA library or look here for my December class and a micro e-book on LLW. The December class is probably going to entirely focus on loose leash walking and different R+ ways of getting there. ↩︎

Chai’s distraction recall training – round #1.1 (of many!) Today: level 1 in an easy environment!

Since the person writing this post is future C, I can tell you: this is the start of a very long strategy game between puppy Chai and me!

In this first round of distraction recalls, I planned on using my distraction protocol (the way I teach it in Calling All Dogs1 at FDSA). We’d work our way through it – should be a breeze! – and move on to more interesting training projects! (Future C laughs out loud. Oh, past C! You are too cute when you underestimate The Border Collie!)

3 distractions:

  1. Empty plate (easy)
  2. Crumpled-up bag that used to have food in it (intermediate)
  3. Kibble (difficult)

3 locations:

  1. Living room (easy)
  2. Roof (intermediate)
  3. Park (difficult)

3 levels of distraction protection:

  1. Long line
  2. Off leash, distraction behind barrier (helpers and fences)
  3. Off leash, no distraction

I have a distraction training tracker I ask my students to fill in because I know how easy it is to accidentally skip steps. I filled it in for Chai as well. This is what it looked like. The mistake I made was that I didn’t print it … so I soon stopped looking at it and eventually went rogue. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Like the good protocol-following dog trainer I am, I started with my empty plate in my living room and with my puppy on her long line:

June 22, 2023

After successful completion of the easy distraction, we moved on to intermediate:

Seeing how well this had gone, we took a break and then upped the ante: our most difficult distraction in location #1 on a long line!

What a superstar! We got to check off the first three boxes on the distraction tracker! (Or we would get to check them off, physically, if we had printed the tracker. Since I don’t own a printer, printing stuff involves exporting my Google doc to a PDF, transferring the PDF to a USB stick, walking to a print shop that may or may not be open … You get the picture. It’s easy to start out with good intentions and not follow through when printing is more than just clicking a button!) But hey – I shouldn’t be making excuses for myself. Truth be told, I thought I had taught and used this protocol SO many times that I knew it by heart anyways. Who needs a print-out! Not past C! (Future C cracks up. Oh, dear past C! You’re in for a surprise!)

  1. Which happens to be running this term in case you want to hop in! I’m giving away a free Bronze spot on Facebook – go grab it! ↩︎

Chaiary, day 71-73 – June 16-18, 2022: toy play, magic hands, adventures to Metropoli Patriotismo and Chapultepec, window shopping …

June 16, 2023: mall adventures!

Toy play

Before it got too, too hot, I experimented with Shade’s ideas of using either two targets or no target to encourage Chai to come back to me when tugging. The link above shows our two attempts. We’re not there yet and may have to keep experimenting – but we are having fun! What better morning exercise than a good game of tug?

Solo adventure

Friday is indoors mall adventure day! For the time being, every Friday, Chai and I walk there and then adventure our way through the mall.

Magic hands and R-

On the way there, we came across a scary construction site. Magic hands and negative reinforcement (distance) for the win!

Next stop: the elevator!

Chai did so well on the elevator today! A little bit insecure (maybe because we went on it soon after the construction corridor which had already used up some of her bravery – but once again, she entered voluntarily and stayed quiet throughout the ride (there are some signs of nervousness in her body language, but nothing big). If things are no harder than this, I will just go with repetition: once a week, we’ll ride this elevator until it’s a total walk in the park for Chai!

I also carried Chai up and down an escalator – her very first escalator experience!

On the way home, she waited patiently as I ordered and waited for tortas to go and then again outside a corner convenience store.

Left: waiting at an electronics store; right: foot-on-leash down cue as I’m ordering tortas.

On the way to the mall, I used the magic hands trick twice: once to walk across a manhole cover with holes in it and through a construction site, and once to walk past a trash can full of dog poop bags that were flapping in the wind a little. On the way back, she walked past the poop bags can without issues. The construction site had changed – there was no heavy machinery going – so we looped around it on the other side of the street. It was getting WAY too hot (over 30°C) to keep training.

I thought I’d use the heat to my advantage and work on the manners context in a new street, but Chai’s brain was as heat fried as my own and we went back to sleddog context after a futile attempt.

Tip: if something doesn’t work – don’t force it. Take a break and come back to it another time. (Especially if your city/country is experiencing a heat wave.)

Chai thinks Zane’s empty Corona can makes an excellent toy: yumm, metal!

June 17, 2023: Chapultepec fun and some hands-near-toy practice!

Alan, his girlfriend Vane and I took Kiba and Chai to Chapultepec today. They had a blast (and so did we, the humans!) Here’s a video, set to a song that is sad, but REALLY good – and it happened to be just the right length!

Left: spikey plants! Right: Alan is carrying a tired Kiba! I’m still working on this trick (Chai allowing me to pick her up this way). Thanks for the idea, Alan!

Chai at the busy swimming spot. May and June are the warmest – and June is really kicking our asses this year! Needless to say, the dog swimming spot is busy on the weekends!

Our beautiful girls: left – looking regal, right – being themselves!

We also took a two-ball video for Shade!

And here is Chai … trying to swim-fetch in the cutest way imaginable!

Because we are overachievers these days, we also played another round of the hands-near-toy game with a new element: let go of the toy upon food marker. (I already knew Chai could do that part, but I believe it was in Shade’s lectures.) Mostly, we went back to hands-near-toys.

June 18, 2023: be careful what you optimize for and a second bout of adolescence!

I’ve already told you that the other day, Chai started paying more attention to her environment – such as the goings-on outside the window. I’ve interrupted window-looking with scatters so far. However, I accidentally taught my dog to race to the window to look out in order to get more scatters (of course!) She’d keep putting her paws up on the window and then looking at me: “Treat me already!” Not the behavior chain I was going for!

So as of today, I’m implementing a more nuanced training plan.

Background details that will help you understand why I am choosing this particular plan for this particular dog:

+ I don’t mind window shopping. Unless a dog is clearly hyper-stressed by it (most dogs are not), that is the one advantage an apartment life has over a yard life: you get to see things going on outside anytime you get bored. The reason I’m adding this is that some trainers do not want their dogs to look out windows at all, assuming that window shopping by itself necessarily triggers stress.

However, I do not want to teach Chai to bark at everything she sees – quite the opposite. That’s again because I live in an apartment and I don’t want my neighbors to be disturbed by my barking dog.

The plan:
+ Randomize praise (and the occasional scatter) throughout the day when I’m home and Chai is NOT looking out the window but doing anything else I like – for example chill on the couch.
+ If I spot precursor behaviors to barking (e.g. lips or ears tensing up while looking out the window or staring at the door) – cue a scatter to prevent barking.
+ If I miss precursor behaviors and Chai barks, pick her up and give her a 2-minute time-out in her luxury kennel aka the bathroom.

I didn’t get to video any instances of barking, but in the first video below, you’ll see how fast window-lookingturned into a strong behavior because I had reinforced it with scatters. To soften the blow of extinction, I’ll still praise/pet/engage when she comes over after looking out the window – I just don’t treat. (Yes, Chai likes praise and attention – but I highly doubt that they are strong enough to maintain the looking-out-of-windows behavior).

What I accidentally optimized for was more looking-out-the-window rather than less barking. That’s the tricky part about gamifying or training anything: you don’t necessarily get exactly what you want by pushing a certain lever!

Stop on a regular basis, take a step back, look at the changes you’ve seen and ask yourself: if I was an observer and didn’t know the goal behavior – what would I believe was being optimized here? Sometimes, you’ll find that what you are optimizing for is exactly what you planned. Other times – not so much! That’s okay as long as you keep an eye on it. It doesn’t mean your training plan was “bad” if the results are unexpected: dogs are individuals, and sometimes, what we want to happen … doesn’t! Even if it might have worked with a different dog!

In the video below, you see the result of my original strategy (pre-emptive scatters during nightly window-shopping incidents): I have created a window-shopping addict who will look out the window and then ask to be paid all day long! This is in the morning. Chai went from only-at-night to all-the-time in 2 days. In the video, I talk to her now and then, but don’t give her more attention than that. If she came over, I’d pet her. No treats since in this video, Chai is not concerned about the environment – she simply wants scatters!

The video below shows when I DO feed: this is a compilation of moments I recognized precursor behaviors or precursor stimuli to barking. (Yes, I agree – Game looks extremely annoyed at the state of the world in this video! She can’t even be bothered to get up and collect her part of the scatters.)

… and our goal, of course: rest and relaxation inside while I work; occasionally wandering around or looking out the window without feeling barky or otherwise overly aroused!

Home alone practice: don’t let it slide!

Chai stayed home all by herself while Zane, Game and I all went out to Mexico City’s bike Sunday.

Hello again, adolescence!

I took Chai to Casa Bruna with me for some do-nothing practice. She was able to chill out beautifully for 45 minutes, but then a Border Collie she knows (tricolor puppy Juana) showed up at the next table over, and that was too much: Chai wanted to greet and started barking when I didn’t let her.

We are definitely having another bout of adolescence! Hanging out at Fresa Parque after Casa Bruna, Chai finally got to play with Juanita and an adolescent ACD. She was having a harder time responding to her informal pup-pup-pup recalls today than usual – another sign that both calm days and listening skills overall are getting more difficult in our second wave of adolescence!

Urban art clue #3: it is NOT in Condesa.

Day 66 & 67 – June 11-12, 2023: calm days, dog friends, leash walking, toy play, trick training, marker cues …

June 11, 2023: introducing the concept of weekly calm days

Activity level: low

Calm days

We had a physically calm day today. I have decided to keep Chai – and that means I’ll want a bit more structure in our weeks. Once a week, I’ll go for a below-average calm day. This is important because I live by myself and sometimes I get sick or busy and can’t provide the usual amount of entertainment or enrichment. My puppies learn from the very beginning that some days are calmer than others.

I haven’t always done that, so I’ve learned the hard way that we create expectations in our dogs’ first year of life or so. If every single day is filled with action, this is what your future athlete is going to expect as an adult as well. If you normalize downtime from the beginning, they will have a much easier time just chilling on the couch every now and then.

I’ll track calm, active and average days under “activity level” right under the respective date.

Morning walk and a tiny little bit of off-leash time!

Chai went on a morning walk with Game – and I briefly let her off leash in a very quiet area!

Toy play

We worked on tug on the roof, but Chai’ wasn’t as good at returning the toy as she has been in the last few days’s toy return behavior seemed to backslide. It may already have been too warm when we played this morning (it’s only shady up there in the late afternoon and very early in the morning).

The Game of Chai

Chai and Game spent a lot of time wrestling and playing on the bed. It is hot out – perfect for an indoors day! – but if you’re not an only dog, all that need to move has to go somewhere! That’s what big sisters are for!

Home alone

I took Game to the Paseo Dominical Muévete en Bici for the first time. That’s Mexico City’s Sunday street closure where a number of large streets are closed to motorized vehicles and taken over by cyclists, inline skaters, skateboarders, runners … It’s fun because you don’t need to worry about cars, and you can go quite far:

Random Mexico City fact

In addition to the Paseo Dominical, Mexico City happens to be a very bikeable city in general. In 2022, there were over 200 km of bike lanes (a lot of which are protected bike lanes wide enough for a human and a dog).

Green: bike lanes in Mexico City in 2022.

The goal is to have 400 km by 2024 (source). (I did not google extensively so I don’t know how likely it seems that Mexico City will be meeting this goal. But it’s a great one!)

Anyways, so while Game and I went on a bike ride, Chai stayed home by herself.

Later on, she stayed home with Zane while Game and I went on an evening walk – another important skill: I don’t want her to only be able to stay home alone-alone, but also with friends in my house!

Leash walking – manners mode (collar)

Afterwards, we practiced count-to-15 LLW1 in our street and Chai waited in front of a corner convenience store by herself. Staying next to me behind the invisible line was hard for Chai today – so we went back to feeding after 1 and then after 5 steps before building back up to 15. This is a good reminder to always train the dog in front of you today (who may not be the same dog you had in front of you yesterday or are going to have in front of you tomorrow!)


+ “Claws!” (clip back dew claws).
+ “Brush!”


We rounded out the day with a brief round of positions (sit/down/stand) practice with Chai’s remaining dinner!

Calm day of the week – check!

June 12, 2023: fun with toys, friends and training

Activity level: average

Toy play

Today, we went to tug on the roof first thing in the morning, right after getting up: no running, playing with Game or walking and no hot and sunny roof (yet)! From there, we went right back to the apartment and tried some more tugging on the bed. Video evidence here!

Morning walk with Game

Both dogs went on a morning walk – nothing exciting; just two good girls and their human vagando through the neighborhood(s).

Home alone – free in the apartment for the first time!

Chai got another chance to stay home alone by herself while Game and I went to pick up laundry. A little later, I left her home and free in the apartment (rather than in her indestructable luxury kennel, the bathroom) when Game and I went to the bakery, and then again at night – totally free in the apartment – during Game’s solo evening walk.

Today was the first time I gave Chai unsupervised apartment freedom. For now, she is doing well and not getting into stuff. I’ll keep an eye on her of course – she’s still a young dog, and if/when she starts getting up to mischief in my absence, she’ll go back into her luxury kennel when home alone.

Dog friends

We spent 45 minutes with Alan and Kiba at the park. Chai practiced a recall away from Kiba and then our pups got to play and socialize.


We also practiced “Paws up!” on a bench. Chai showed me that she wasn’t ready to start right with the cue and you see me chute back down and build up again. You may have to watch this video more than once to catch all the marker cues – I’m too far from the camera for decent audio – but it’s an excellent example of how different marker cues can be used to build duration and setting the dog up for the next rep.

“All done” is my “end of session” announcement.

Leash walking

We practiced going from 5 to 10 to 15 steps of LLW on Chai’s collar out in the street.(1)

(1) Once again, the usual spiel in a footnote: for more leash walking context, check out the leash walking lectures from Out and About in your FDSA library or look here for my December class and a micro e-book on LLW.

Days 63 & 64 – June 8 & 9, 2023

June 8, 2023: toy play, dog/dog play, loose leash walking, home alone and night walks

+ We played tug on the roof for Shade’s class.

+ We worked up to 3 steps between treats behind the invisible line (loose leash walking, LLW)1 #in the corridor of our apartment building. Go Chai!

+ We met our new friends Alan and his Border Collie Kiba, who is just a month older than Chai, at the park and the dogs played beautifully.

+ After having played for a bit, Chai was ready for another round of invisible-line loose leash walking outside! (Because my inside space is limited, it is easier for Chai and me to work on loose leash walking right outside in calm parts of “the real world” – especially since I have chosen not to stop while feeding.) If I worked inside or on the roof, there would be a lot of turns in addition to an increasing number of steps – and for Chai, that’s harder than beginning with a straight line. The park allows for straight lines with a single turn. What’s more, Chai was able to “Ilo it”2 and go right from 5 steps inside to 6 steps between treats outside! If your own dog needs you to back up a little and, say, start over with 3 steps when you change locations, that is perfectly fine as well.

Sidenote for professional dog trainers: the training approach funnel

This brings me to an important point for anyone who works with dogs and their humans professionally. There really is no one-size-fits-all solution. Tailer your approach to the human and the dog in front of you: where and how do they live? What training spaces are available to them? Who is their dog, who is the person and what are their temporal and financial resources? What is their best hope (thank you for teaching me about this concept and phrase, Chris!) for loose leash walking? What kind of training approaches do they feel most comfortable with? It may be one you actively teach or one you may want to refer to a colleague for. Vary your approach depending on all these factors! Some LLW approaches require more time than others. Some require a highly food motivated dog. Some require a patient owner, others are faster and no less valid. Some humans want to work on LLW in a specific way because of their own ethics. Others want to learn about a new LLW method or in order to become better trainers. Others yet may need the behavior for safety reasons: a tiny person who doesn’t feel like they are stable on their feet (maybe they are elderly, maybe they use crutches …) with a large, strong dog with the propensity to lunge and pull into traffic may need a fast solution! All of the above are perfectly fine.

Factors that go into your decision funnel as you pick an approach for the human and dog in front of you and the order I personally consider them in:

(Funnel image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay – thank you!)

… but back to Chai’s park adventures!

+ After the second LLW session, I tethered Chai to a park bench to help her relax while park-officing some more.

Home alone

Both dogs stayed home alone for 3 hours while Zane and I unsuccessfully tried to get haircuts and successfully ate at one of my favorite little places in Narvarte and then walked all the way back home.

Off-leash night walk

Both Chai and Game went on a brief off-leash walk around 2 am. The streets are almost empty at this time, which makes it perfect for introducing off-leash street freedom to Chai. (Only once I have worked through my recall protocol will I also let her off during the day.) She did great at night, and it doesn’t feel unsafe because there is hardly any traffic during the week after midnight.

June 9, 2023:

3 Solo adventures

Running errands

In the morning, Chai and I walked errands and Chai waited all by herself out of sight outside 3 different places. Go puppy!

Waiting outside a store (and blocking half the entrance – oops!)

The mall

In the afternoon, we walked to the dog friendly mall. Chai was perfectly confident walking among a crowd of people and dogs:

My subtitles in the video above mention that I don’t reinforce auto check-ins because I want Chai to “take in the environment.” What I mean by this is that (1) I don’t want her to focus on me nonstop, and (2) I don’t want food to mask her true feelings about the mall. Here’s why:

1. Insecure dogs who trust their handler may focus on them in order to not have to deal with the environment. If your dog’s eyes are glued to you, they do not learn to feel comfortable in the environment you’re exposing them to because they may be tuning it out. An analogy: think of a toddler who turns their head away from a stranger. They may feel safer because it is as if the stranger – or the toddler themselves – were not there at all.

2. Food-driven dogs will eat and may even look happy (due to the food) in environments that, without the food overriding the fear, might feel overwhelming. Just like some dogs focus on you, others focus on their treats. You may be able to walk a dog like this through a big environment like the mall above and not notice that they are actually afraid: eating and thinking about how to earn the next treat can cause them not to sense the environment. (Imagine you are on your smart phone and walk right into a lamp post: the post was there all along, but you simply didn’t see it because you were distracted.)

The glass elevator

Chai was slightly insecure and very brave, riding the glass elevator a few times (it’s more difficult alone than with Game!)

At the mall, Chai also practiced her down and chill on my “foot on the leash” cue while I got money out of an ATM.

She also had another mall-based new experience: we passed a screaming baby up close! I don’t think Chai has heard a baby cry before. She looked slightly bewildered but did perfectly well passing the new stimulus! Go puppy!

Toy play

We tugged on the roof for Shade’s toys class in the morning and a second time in the afternoon (trying to get her to bring the toy back!) In the evening, we gave it yet another try. It’s been challenging to convince Chai to bring me the toy!


+ Announcing “Clippers”: I cut Chai’s back paw fur.
+ “Brush!”

Home alone

Chai stayed home alone by herself during Game’s noon and afternoon loops around the block.

Night walks

I went on another another 2am walk with both dogs off leash. Chai is doing great – we’ll stick to this new routine for a few weeks!

(1) For more leash walking context, check out the leash walking lectures from Out and About in your FDSA library or look here for my December class and a micro e-book on LLW.

(2) Ilo is an amazing student dog. Her and her human will occasionally be able to simply jump ahead a few steps in a training protocol without skipping a beat! That’s where the phrase “Iloing it” (which all of us should be using all the time) comes from. Shout out to Sylvia and Ilo if you’re reading along!

Podcast: One Very Wild and Precious, E31

To go with today’s episode: a video so you can see a messy and comfy dog people studio apartment and meet everyone (except for Game who is in the car crate because we wanted to talk rather than teach her not to eat Norbert) and me because I’m holding the camera – but you can hear me talk a little). And good music because dog play requires good music!

These clips are all from the first day the animals met, not from the day we recorded the podcast. By then, everyone had gotten used to each other and calmed down, and Chai knew how to relax around Norbert and where his personal space bubble started. He set an excellent boundary with her on day #1 (early on in this video!)

When Norbert comes back up from the floor in the middle of the video, you’ll see Niffler do some excellent splitting (he is being a moving fence!) between Chai and Norbert.

Chai’s “I’m not quite sure what to make of you”-pacing resolved itself later that same evening when she drifted off to sleep and Norbert showed more interest in the rain outside the window than in her.

I also felt like the podcast (particularly our accidental conversation about dating and the less accidental part about independence) required some more thought-out thoughts from me. I don’t know who listens to my podcast or reads my blog and ended up writing a whole long personal story about many things I hadn’t said on air.

And then I decided against sharing it. I didn’t get it right, and language (thank you, Saint-Exupéry) is the source of misunderstandings. Just know that there’s a lot of personal stuff I’m not talking about in this episode. That I’ll share with friends like Kayla, but not necessarily on air (not yet anyways). Things that matter to me even if I don’t say them publicly. The podcast is just one of many slices of life.

I’ll leave it at that! And I wish everyone who could possibly read this or listen to my podcast well.