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
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!
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
We kicked off the day with our usual short morning walk with Game.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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!
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!
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
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.
- Yes, I know. Would I have thought of rainbowy dog outfits if I didn’t consider Chai to be my dog already? Probably not. ↩︎
- See this post for a brief explanation about my leash walking contexts (harness and collar). ↩︎
- 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! ↩︎
- 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. ↩︎