Chaiary – week 13 digest (June 26 – July 2, 2023)

Monday, June 26 2023 (day 81)

Activity level: low

Not a lot going on today. We started off with an attempt at playing tug reinforced by fetch with two balls on a rope at Fresa Parque. Shade had suggested we move to a place where Chai can really run and I can throw the ball further than on the roof. While our last session went well, today we had some pretty intense dog interruptions – but Chai was able to fetch despite being body-blocked by a Whippety dog! Go puppy!

After toy play, Chai got to run around a bit with the other dogs at the park and then had her morning walk with Game. The rest of the day was lazy.

Chai stayed home alone while Game and I walked errands for about an hour – good puppy! And then a not-so-great puppy when I took a shower: I closed the door to the bathroom and Chai had an accident on my bed. Note to self: always lock Chai into the bathroom with me when the door isn’t open!

It has finally started raining this week, so Game and I walked around the block during a rain break and Chai got to practice staying home alone again. When I got back, I found that she had even worse diarrhea than she had this morning. Pobrecita! I hope it passes soon and we’ll be able to go back to eating and training!

Tuesday, June 27 2023 (day 82)

Activity level: average

Good news of the day: no more diarrhea! Chai gets to train and eat again!

Morning walk

Chai started her day with the usual 2-dog morning walk.

Staying home alone x3

She stayed home alone 3 times during the course of the day: when Game and I went to drop off laundry, when we went to pick up our laundry again and for Game’s evening walk.

Toy play

We played two rounds – the first one rudely interrupted by an entire manada of dogs – at a park Chai hadn’t been to before. I like it for training: it tends to have less food on the ground than some of my other favorite parks. Chai did well tugging and getting reinforced with fetch!

We used my Magic Hands1 strategy on a circle of stones. Magic Hands worked fast AND I got video of it:

Magic Hands

Loose leash walking – Manners Context

Heading home from the park, we practiced loose leash walking in collar mode. Chai was a superstar! 5, 15 and then 20, 20, 20 … steps for the win! Two of her 20-step treats were replaced by a “good” treat for waiting at the curb and one by a”get it” to reinforce a “leave it.”

Fun at the park with Alan and Kiba

Chai spent two hours playing with Kiba, Loki and a new pup. We then walked to the market, went inside and practiced lying down and chilling at the pet supply stand and the chicken stand.

A different kind of doing nothing: waiting patiently in a down in the presence of delicious chicken smells!

At the market with Alan and Kiba.

After another round of running and playing at the park, we walked Alan home and then worked on our LLW on a collar some more! Played-out puppies are successful loose-leash walkers!

Manners-context loose-leash walking back home

Chai’s collar walking is really starting to look good! More and more, I am able to swap the twenty-step treat for naturally occurring reinforcers: a cued wait at a curb followed by “good” and a room service treat, or a “leave it” followed by a treat toss behind me. These treats (wich I would be giving Chai anyways; Game also still gets them for stopping/waiting and “leaving” things) are starting to replace LLW treats. I have faded most hand touch treats and soon, I’ll add environmental rewards to the game! The biggest success of the day: we curved out into a quiet street past two leashed dogs while keeping up the 20-step treat rate! Go Chai!

“Floor” protocol

You’ll notice the dark blue arrow in my image above. “Floor” is a marker cue that means I will place a treat at the heel of my foot on the dog’s side. Placing it on the ground is arousal-lowering because the dog can’t sniff for it/eat it and bounce up and down at the same time. It is similar to what I’m doing when passing the Pitbull in this post (May 31; first video in the post), with the only difference being that the marker cue is “Floor” and the treat is being placed at my heel. When I use one “Floor” treat after the other – every step or every other step – I call it the “floor protocol.” When walking past new dogs for the first or second time, I will often use this approach with Chai and then change to feeding from my hand once she knows the dogs are there.

Wednesday, June 28 2023 (day 83)

Activity level: high average

Adventures in house training

After Chai’s and Game’s usual morning walk, Chai sadly had a pee accident on the bed when taking a moment’s break from wrestling with Game. I had everything washed after the accident yesterday, but it is possible that something got into the mattress and it still smells like pee … I also wonder if Chai is like one of these puppy mill puppies who have spent a sensitive period of their puppyhood in a crate and need to poop and pee where they sleep, and if therefore, she will never be fully house trained. Puppies don’t usually pee where they sleep (and start showing this behavior at 3 weeks old already, according to a student’s breeder!). Chai sleeps on the bed during the day, so if she had read the manual, she should technically not pee on it. Good thing I love Chai too much to particularly care about the occasional accident.

At night, she had another pee accident – next to rather than on the mattress, woohoo! We are making progress here! (This is me being sarcastic in case you couldn’t tell.)

Eye contact

Chai got treats for making eye contact and I added a cue to the behavior for the first time: “Watch me!” We played while Zane was having breakfast and learned to offer me eye contact rather than beg for his danish.

Relax while people are eating

When I stopped the eye contact game, Chai offered lying down. I fed a treat between her front paws any time she was not looking at me. Zane was still eating and she stayed relaxed – that is precisely the behavior I want around people having food. I don’t want Chai to focus on me either, so I am waiting for looking away to feed.

Dog fun and recalls at Fresa Parque

After my morning work, we went to Fresa Parque. On the walk there, we passed someone working with an angle grinder. Chai was neither impressed by the noise nor by the flying sparks!

My plan was to work on distraction recalls at the park. Before we got started, Chai got to play with two dogs her size who enjoyed running games and confidently met her first Irish Wolfhound.

Then I set up my camera and the first distraction (see this post) and casually skipped 10 entire steps of my distraction tracking protocol without even noticing. The protocol I have taught others for years! THIS, my dear students, is why I want you to print out your distraction tracker and look at it before every session.

I completely forgot that I hadn’t done the barrier stage “in real life” yet and jumped from barrier recalls in locations 1 and 2 straight to off-leash recalls at the park. Chai passed distractions 1 and 2 in flying colors but failed distraction #3 (kibble). Only then did I realize how many steps I had skipped! Note to self: practice what you preach! Print out Chai’s distraction tracker (I tend to only look at stuff I print).

I was going to get us quesadillas for lunch and passed the dog park on the way there. Since the dogs in in it seemed calm and there was a Great Dane, I decided to let Chai inside briefly so she could meet another large dog. She did phenomenal just like she had with the Irish Wolf.

Adventures at Fresa Parque and a Great Dane in the dog park. Yep, she’s a dog park puppy!

We got water, looped the park again, did some personal play and then headed to the quesadilla stand. Chai did a fantastic job lying down when I stepped on her leash! It is becoming a pretty solid cue, and like in the morning, I am treating – without marking, thanks to Matthias‘ post in the Canine Paradigm discussion group the other day – when she looks away: shaping relaxation in the face of distractions.

Standing on the leash as a cue to lie down and shaping relaxation at the quesadilla stand.

We got back home after about an hour and 20 minutes, having trained up almost all of Chai’s daily kibble meal. Chai was a fantastic (aka sleepy) coworking pup for the next several hours.

Being a good coworking puppy.


We worked on positions in the kitchen when I took a work break. Messy but fun!

Squirrels, toys, magic hands and sits!

I took Chai and Game to the plaza around the corner that we discovered for toy play yesterday – I want to get our daily toy practice session in there!

The two girls got to run around and chase squirrels for a bit and Game got brushed, and then I put her on her mat and played – interruption-free! – a brief game of 2 balls on a rope tug reinforced by fetch with Chai. She did awesome! I’m keeping things short and fun to build her stamina and joy for both games. (No video.)

Game, meanwhile, also did amazing and held her stay on the mat even though Chai and I were tugging and tossing balls right next to her.

Chai has started imitating Game’s tree jumps after squirrels. She’s going to like critter-chasing quite a bit with this role model!

Example of a trademark Game tree jump/climb.

We ended the field trip by playing in the fountain. Next to it, there is a suspicious metal lid with holes covering the loudly whirring water pump. We did Magic Hands and I added Game’s Magic Sit on the metal cover, and after a few reps with “Get it” treats tossed away from the fountain, Chai put two paws on the concrete rim around the metal cover! Brave puppy!

Chai also found a piece of chocolate today. Here’s to hoping it won’t mess up her stomach for the second time in a week!


+ Brushing

Thursday, June 29, 2023 (day 84)

Activity level: average

The AM

We started the day with our usual morning walk. Chai confidently met three new dogs of different ages and morphologies. On the way back home, I got lots of check-ins on the retractable leash while Game was off leash. Chai needed and hardly any circles! She realized when she was nearing the 5-meter mark and stopped on her own! Good girl!

Plaza work and another stab at real-world distraction recalls

Chai and I walked to a nearby plaza on her harness. After looping the park and greeting a few dogs (and eating grain someone had put out for the birds), we started over with barrier recalls in the real world: time to take another stab at those distractions! Chai struggled with distraction #2 (paper bag that used to have food in it) the first time, but tested out of all 3 barrier distractions over the course of the AM. After each session, we took a break and another loop and occasionally met another dog. I am proud to report: barrier recalls in the real world: achievement unlocked! Our next step will – or should anyways! – be off leash in the house.

Real world informal “pup-pup-pup” recalls have also been working well: I had two or three opportunities to use them when Chai was trotting towards a leashed unfamiliar dog and she nailed it every time. It’s only her friend Kiba who is difficult to recall away from!

We then had a toy play session: 2 balls on ropes; tug reinforced by fetch. I added the “Tug” cue and Chai did great – even when a young husky showed up! She kept tugging!

After another off-leash park loop, we played magic hands with the pump at the fountain again:

We walked the entire way back home in mostly 20-step collar mode. Real-world reinforcers have started becoming “a thing”: stopping behind me to sniff something? Absolutely! I will wait for you to be done! “Leave it”? Bring it on; another non-leash-related reinforcer! This route is also convenient in that it has several crosswalks to practice “Wait” at the curb reinforced by “Good” (room service), replacing another LLW click. We even dismissed and then walked behind a group of 5 dogs for about 30 seconds before they veered off in another direction.

Once home, we went up on the leash and took a video for a new Out and About (FDSA) bonus lecture: walking towards a distraction on a loose leash! Now, Chai is passed out on the couch next to Zane, being a most excellent coworking puppy again.

Chai then stayed home (in the bathroom – her “crate”) – with Zane while Game and I went to the market at Fresa Parque to get lunch. Thrusday is market day here – and the market doesn’t feel fresa at all. It was great! My favorite day at that park so far!

More loose leash walking challenges!

In the afternoon, we were going to film invisible-line challenge #2 on the roof … but right as I was starting to set up, it started raining. We worked on it in the house instead. This is significantly harder in small spaces but Chai was being a superstar and soon understood! This time, we did not walk towards, but past the distraction (2 pieces of kibble on a plate). Not only did we practice the manners context – we also practiced our “Leave it!” cue in the same session. In the end, Chai got to eat the distraction, of course!

Housetraining gamified!

We have not had any accidents in the living room so far! Go Chai! And go me: I have successfully kept full puppies in the bathroom and only let empty puppies into the living space. And I’ve turned my mattress into a Murphy bed to give the puppy less inconvenient (for me) surfaces to pee on. But – let’s not count our ostriches before they hedge. It’s only 16:45 and there is still plenty of time for accidents.

Final accidents-in-the-living-room count for today, right before going to sleep: 0! Woohoo!

I’m starting a streak game and aiming for 4 weeks with zero living room accidents! After 7 days without a living room accident, I get a fancy brownie. After 4 weeks, I get a deep tissue massage. If there is an accident, it only resets the current week. Once a 7-day streak is completed, it is locked in and cannot be lost (i.e. at the very must, I will loose 6 days.)

Wrestling and intelligence

I have been interrupting Chai and Game wrestling on the bed when Game starts barking. I announce to Chai that I will pick her up – and inadvertantly, I’ve been saying, “Let’s take a break!” before doing so. Chai has now picked up on this and stops playing and lies down when I say a sentence with “break.” As a result, Game stops barking and I won’t pick up Chai to put her away for a few minutes. I love observing this puppy learn!

Evening fun with the rest of Chai’s daily meal

We used up the remaining kibble of the day with positions in two sessions: one was sit and stand and one was down and stand. I need to get clear about when I want to room-service mark (good) and when I want to click. Chai, for her part, did great and she is FAST!

Friday, June 30, 2023 (day 85)

Activity level: average

After our usual morning walk, we walked in manners context from my house to the Plaza and back. Chai practiced 20 steps between treats, sniff reinforcers, waiting at curbs, dismissing dogs and “leave it”s and was a very good puppy. It was a little harder today than yesterday because she hadn’t had much of a chance to get rid of all her puppy energy beforehand!2

After a work break (work: me, break: Chai), we walked to Fresa Parque on Chai’s back clip harness and Chai got to run around there off leash and meet and greet several dogs. We also repeated the teeter and stairs exercises in the dog park we had done last week. It was only a 30 minute outing because I didn’t want to be late for a lunch date with friends.

Home alone

Chai then stayed home with Zane for 2.5 while Game and I biked to Condesa to meet friends and give Game her much-deserved only-dog time.

Two 20-minute Ecobici rides and a coffee outing later, Chai was ready to attack-play with Game!


I cut the crazy short by doing a single longer session of sits, stands and downs. Stand and down are going really well! We’ll focus our next session on sit versus down.

2 dogs on short leashes

After resting, wrestling with Game, drinking A LOT and more resting while I worked, I took both dogs on a short loop around two blocks to get milk. This is the second time I’ve walked them both together on short (2 m) leashes; Chai on her back attachment harness.

Usually, Game is either off leash or one dog is on a long line or the retractable leash while the other one is on a short leash. Like the first time, they did well! Chai’s initial excitement wore off soon and after some circling, she was able to sniff the world and not rush to the end of her leash. The reason I brought both of them out was that I wanted Chai to pee … and I knew she’d follow Game’s example. She did, and now the empty puppy and the empty Game are passed out in the living room without the danger of furniture being peed on. Plus they got to practice waiting outside the mini market together while I went in for milk!


We practiced off-leash recalls away from unprotected distractions #1 (empty plate) and #2 (plastic bag that used to have food in it because I couldn’t find a paper bag) in the house and got a single rep success on each of them. Go Chai!

For distraction #3 – the kibble – I wanted to go back a step due to my faux pas the other day where I skipped a few steps and she got the kibble. My helper was still working and I don’t have a barrier in my house, so I went back to a long line. And indeed: she hit the end two (or was it three?) times before we could end on a success: recall on a loose long line, chicken from my hand and release to eat the kibble. (No video.)

Toy play a la Silvia Trkman

Since I’m currently watching Silvia’s Puppy Diary (10/10 would recommend to sports and especially agility folks), I decided to play with their approach to toy play: create some sibling rivalry by playing with more than one dog – and more than one toy – at once. Game and Chai and I had fun with three always-out toys on the bed (decent grip for playing partly on the slippery floor!)

Husbandry and a lazy evening

Chai stayed home with Zane while Game and I ran errands and Game got some well-deserved only-dog time again. Chai was still sleepy when I got home, so after dinner, she got Zane snuggles, got brushed and then fell asleep on the couch until I transfrred her over to her luxury crate aka the bathroom for the night.

I said her potty cue right before she peed on her pee pad in the shower cabin – this is the second or third time I’ve named the behavior.


0 accidents in the living space! Streak counter:

Saturday, July 1, 2023 (day 86)

Activity level: average

The AM …

We were going to go on a hike today, but my friends couldn’t make it and I woke up REALLY tired this morning … So I decided to take it easy instead. We started with a longer morning walk with Game. Chai got to play with lots of different dogs at Fresa Parque and I recalled her running towards different new playmates two or three times successfully, rewarding with chicken and sending her right back. She was being a superstar and had lots of fun, again meeting dogs of new sizes, ages and morphologies.

Meanwhile, Game practiced being calm and getting fed for holding sits and just watching the craziness around her unfold. (Game is neutral with others but can tip over into bullying mode if dogs she doesn’t know very well are running like crazy, so I won’t let her participate.)

Chai continues being much better (hitting the end less often) on a 5 meter leash even when Game is off leash ahead of her. I let them play when one of them is wearing a long line or retractable leash but enforce a no-play policy when both are on short (2 meter) leashes. So far so good! At the park, Chai is off leash and Game, depending on how much dog traffic there is, on leash or off leash. In the streets, Game is off leash and Chai on a long line/retractable leash or they are both on short leashes.

After getting home and some morning wrestling, they are both contently sleeping on the living room floor.

Formal recalls revisited!

Since I fucked up my distraction plan and Chai got to the kibble in the park (what with me skipping a few steps), we worked back up slowly. After yesterday’s long-line stage, Zane agreed to be my helper next to kibble in the house with Chai off leash. She nailed it on her first attempt! Single-rep success: check!

We headed up to the roof after a little break. Here, Chai kept going after “Schnee” (my formal recall cue) the first time and then recalled in the second break of this session.

Since my criterion for moving on is a single-rep success session, we took a little “just be a dog” and ping pong recalls break on the roof and then tried again. This time, she succeeded right away, got her chicken and a release to the kibble … good girl! Achievement unlocked! (No video.)

Now Chai is in the bathroom with a chew to relax and unload. I’ve learned my lesson: only empty puppies get to be in the living room. The strategy has given us two days sans accidents. We’ll see how things continue …

Skipping recall steps again – and Chai knows how to exploit my absent-mindedness!

For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to go from kibble protected by my helper to unprotected kibble at the park we already failed at. Click here to find out what happened …

Human barriers out and about

Chai, Zane and I returned to Fresa Parque in the afternoon – the park where Chai has failed distraction #3 in the past. I didn’t want to repeat the barrier stage for the easier distractions, but thought it would be a good idea to give them another try with kibble and my friend’s help. I was right: Chai went for the kibble on the first approach, and my helper picked up the plate. Keep reading here to see the plot thicken!

2-ball tug

Zane went to get pastries while Chai and I switched gears: our homework for Shade’s class is to get a good strike.

“When you are about to let her strike, make sure the ball is still.
So, good “misses” look like:
ball is still, dog locks on to target, ball is whisked away, repeat.
Try that in your misses, so we can start teaching her to have a good strike. When she gets a good successful strike, she’ll like it more!”

(Shade Whitesel)

Post-recall dog socializing

We then headed home, needing almost no circles at all: I believe I have never seen Chai this tired before! Part of it must have been the sheer amount of food she got at the park and part of it the warm day.

Another short outing with Game

Since Chai hadn’t peed at the park, I took her out on Game’s pee walk. At this point, we entered the sleep-deprived toddler stage, needed lots of circles and threw ourselves at Game on the way down the stairs. Game peed right around the corner and Chai – good girl! – followed suit. We headed right back home and Chai fell asleep right away. No accidents so far today – the third day in a row!


+ “Claws!” (This is how I announce nail clipping and then just do it.) I try to do all paws once a week. Chai was great today – 3ish hours after our outing, she was still zonked and didn’t mind me clipping nails.

+ The last thing we did today – after a break after “claws” – I spent some time cutting the fur between Chai’s toes. She likes this less than nail clipping. Today, I introduced the announcement “clippers.”

+ Brush.

Home alone

Chai stayed home alone for Game’s evening walk. That’s the first time in 3 days she has truly been alone: for the last three days, Zane and I co-worked from my house and there was always someone there when I left with Game. After visiting for a month, Zane went back to Chiapas in the afternoon today. It’s going to feel lonely here without his company! I’ve been in this apartment for only two more nights than he has!

Sunday, July 2 2023 (day 87)

Activity level: high

We started the da with a short morning walk, a wrestling session on the couch (the dogs) and coffee (me).

I’m planning on working partly from Chapultepec today, so after coffee #2 and two FDSA forum responses, I’ll change locations before the parking at Chapultepec fills up.

Chapultepec and Chai’s first real swim!

Chai recalled away from strange dogs she was moving towards … and then swam (retrieved balls from Lago Mayor) for the first time! Go Chai!

And then – unprompted! – she pooped outside! Praise and treats! We take house training success wherever we can get it!

Chai met a younger puppy who had a blast playing with her, and then discovered she is a Border Collie: here she is bordercollying and then forgets what she’s doing, which I use as a recall opportunity.

2 toy fetch and tug

We played tugging reinforced with fetch – and I had the idea to hold the ball as if it was a tug toy! This may be our ticket to good strikes!

I settled down under a tree to continue working after about half an hour of water-and-dogs fun. Chai, wet and zoomy, is playing with Game around me and about to start inviting a younger puppy to play. Can’t imagine where I’d rather work from!

Water fetch as a recall reinforcer!

We had another swim, and for the first time, I used “chase” as a recall reward for “Schnee” two or three times. Turns out this Border Collie loves the water – it makes a perfect reinforcer! There was a lot going on the second time we were there. It reminded me of Silvia Trkman’s “all the toys and all the dogs are out” philosophy that teaches their puppies to not let anyone steal their toy – better bring it all the way back to your person! I created a similar scenario even though I hadn’t planned on it.

The video below shows Chai meeting a bunch of new dogs, Sunday chaos at the swimming spot, water fetch fun and formal recalls for Chai (recalling away from dogs other than Kiba is easy):

We then walked around the lake, followed by another brief water fetch session (I want to keep them short for the puppy to be sure they stay special and fun! I bet swimming uses muscles she isn’t used to using yet.)

Below our walk around the lake. There’s lots of people, animals and things for a puppy to see: bikes, people of all ages, rollerblades, kid cars, strollers, all the dogs, fish, birds, runners, music, street vendors, toys, giant soap bubbles, boats …

We ended with another walk the other direction, through the sculpture gardens where I took a few recall videos away from dogs Chai was approaching because I want to show them to a student:

After 3 hours at the park, we all piled back into the hot, hot car and headed home. Both dogs are passed out and content, and so am I. Content, that is, not passed out … yet.

Loose leash walking on the collar

After Game’s solo evening walk, I remembered I wanted to go to the bank. It’s just around the corner, so this time, I took Chai while Game stayed home. We walked on her collar there and back, practiced waiting at several curbs and passed a leashed barking, lunging dog up close (with one click-and-treat right after the other). In the ATM cabin, Chai got to work on her foot-on-leash-means-lie-down cue. She did amazing on this evening outing!

An interesting observation: Chai’s hand touches are already getting sloppier now that I don’t feed them anymore. (I only feed the first one that gets her in position before I attach the leash to the collar.) Of course, in other contexts, I still feed all hand touches – but they get used most often during LLW. I’ve started feeding some of them again. Today, I fed two and enforced some other slow responses with Chai’s leash pressure cue. It’s a balancing act between creating a behavior chain of pull – touch – feed (I don’t want that) and pull – don’t touch, or take your time responding – no food (I don’t want that either). See my June 30 leash walking video in this post to get a glimpse at hand touches not being reinforced.

As always, every dog is different and not every dog will create a behavior chain at all. I know Chai will, so in her case, it is important to keep an eye on her hand touches and their reinforcement history. If I get more pulling and beautiful hand touches, I am clearly reinforcing too many. If I get slow responses to “touch” and lackadaisical touches, I haven’t been reinforcing enough. We’re still looking for that perfect balance – and it will likely keep shifting since Chai is a juvenile dog who grows and changes every day!

Take-away of the day: observe and train the puppy you have today and stay aware of the fact that tomorrow, things may look different! Whatever the training project – never stop observing your puppy!


+ Brushing


0 accidents in the house and an unprompted poop at Chapultepec! Peed twice on cue in the shower cabin and got rewarded with a treat and the opportunity to join Game and me in the living room! Go Chai!

  1. There’s a brief explanation of how Magic Hands works in this post, under the Magic Hands heading (June 13). ↩︎
  2. Wanna learn how to do what I do in the video below? I’ll teach a class on this in December; mail me to learn more or sign up! ↩︎

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