July 10, 2023 (Day 95)
Activity level: low average
I could tell the fact that we didn’t do much yesterday afternoon affected Chai: for the first time, she gave a single bark before I let her out of her luxury kennel (aka the bathroom). She was SO ready to move (and eat)!
The AM …
We had our usual morning walk. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot going on at the park – only a Golden to repeatedly steal a ball from. We ended up leaving earlier than planned and came across an empty small dog park under the highway. It was empty, so instead of one of the usual parks, the girls got to check out this space and all the dog smells in there. Then we headed home, and after Game had breakfast, there was a bit of morning wrestling. Now they’re both snoozing on the couch – perfect for me to start working before heading out again to play with toys or shape Chai!
We headed to our toy play plaza for a session – the first one we were going to add a cued behavior to! The only behavior that isn’t a recall and might be on a strong enough verbal cue to hold up under higher-arousal conditions is “touch,” so that’s what I went with. I’m getting positions (sit, down, stand) on verbals, but we are still working on these inside and I don’t trust them to hold out under toy play arousal.
Before we played, Chai got to loop through the park that had A LOT of dogs today. She met and greeted almost every one of them and then was able to fully focus on our toy game.
Walking there and back, we went with harness mode.
The PM …
Chai stayed home alone for Game’s noon walk and got to come on her pre-rain afternoon walk to empty out the puppy and ensure that it was safe to give her living room privileges.
We worked on ALL the single-paw targets for Silvia Trkman‘s class. I named the behavior, took the name off again some of the time … our sessions were a little messy and a lot of fun! Here’s a compilation of our best reps!
Informal toy play
I’d love to shape, shape, shape more stuff, but because I already used up a day’s worth of food, I am going to take it slow. I will train some more with food – I want to get started on Silvia’s “frog” behavior1 – but for now, we’ll do informal toy play fun as by Silvia’s second To Do List: other dogs around and using always-out toys! When it started thundering outside, Game stopped playing and Chai and I went from tugging three ways on the octopus Chris got us (thank you! It’s being well loved!) to taking turns fetching the dolphin, Game’s shark (again thank you, Chris!) and the octopus. We played for a while until Chai was tired, and then I snuggled her all over to desensitize her some more to being handled. When a puppy is riled up from playing is a perfect desensitization time.
“All the toys are mine!”
Getting started on luring the “Frog” behavior!
After playing and resting a little, Chai was in the right state of mind – a little tired and floppy and lazy – to be lured into the beginning of Silvia’s “Frog” behavior! I’ll be sending them a video to get their feedback since this is the first time teaching this behavior and I suspect there is a way of luring that eliminates some of the crawling I’m getting … maybe it’s as simple as not luring over the crack in the couch she uses to push with her paws … We’ll see!
Now – post frog and post play – Chai is passed out on the floor and Game (now that the thunder has stopped) is asleep on the couch. A peaceful afternoon!
Chai stayed home alone for Game’s evening walk. Good puppy!
Getting closer to that brownie!
July 11, 2023 (Day 96)
Activity level: low average
The AM …
We had a short morning walk pre-work – I am planning on taking both dogs out for a good long run before they have to stay home alone for a few hours this afternoon; so I kept our morning outing short. It is clearly harder for Chai to not pull on her harness on a short leash when Game is off leash and Chai hasn’t had a chance to run around freely yet!
Boxes, boxes and more boxes! “Four” shaping
I made sure I got the box behavior from all angles and then named it “Four!” Then, I added a slightly smaller box to the bigger box and named it again after Chai could do “4 in” the smaller box. I took box #2 out of box #3, and she could still do it. Go Chai! I put an even smaller box – box #3, a puzzle box – into box #2. Once Chai could give me 4 paws in box #3, I removed box #2 and we’re now working on getting 4 into just box #2. The reason this is harder for Chai is that the rim of box #3 is only about half as tall as the rim of boxes #1 and #2. Once we’ve mastered box #3 by itself and put the cue back on, I’ll switch to a large plastic bowl (which will, over time, get smaller and smaller in the same way the boxes did). No video today, but next time again!
Fun at the park!
Chai, Game and I went to Fresa Parque and got quite a bit done in 1.5 hours:
Recall fun: one of the items on Silvia’s first To-Do List is to do 10 fun and easy recalls a day. There are lots of fun recalls in Chai’s life anyways. Since I’m following my own recall protocol, I changed this task for Chai: over the next few weeks, I want to consciously do 10 fun and easy, well-rewarded formal (“Schnee!”) recalls that I wouldn’t do otherwise. Today, I crossed off the first two: one for coming back to have the leash taken off and park freedom, and one I snuck in when Chai was happy-zooming in my direction already, reinforced by a treat toss that kept her going along her projectory.
Chai and Game got to sniff and explore to their heart’s content. Chai also enjoyed socializing and playing with a few other dogs.
Dog park obstacles just for us and positions
The dog park was muddy and empty, so I used the opportunity to play with both dogs on the “agility” obstacles that Mexican dog parks often come with. Then I sat them both on a “throne” each and worked on sit-stand-sit-stand-sit-stands. This was harder for Chai, but I believe both seeing Game’s example and my hand signals or treat lures helped. She’ll be a pro at this in new environments soon!
Quesadilla stand and foot-on-leash training
I got quesadillas before I headed home, and as we were waiting, Chai got to practice her foot-on-leash-means-down cue. She immediately lied down this time! Superstar! Game got to practice holding a cued down next to Chai.
Foot-on-leash down (Chai) and obedience down (Game) at the quesadilla stand!
We’ve been walking in harness mode. I notice that this has recently gotten harder for Chai. One explanation is something Chris Cernac pointed out to me (thank you; this makes so much sense and I had not thought of it before): as puppies grow, their strides get longer. So they may be practicing the same movement that used to keep the leash loose – but all of a sudden, they are faster than you!
Home alone and the evening
Both dogs stayed home without me for 4 hours. Then I took them out in the pouring rain and thunderstorm to make sure the puppy would be “empty” before having her in the living room. It was an excellent experience: I’ve never been out with her during SUCH a downpour, and not only did she experience getting soaked through from above but also saw all kinds of people wearing different rain coats and holding umbrellas. She took it all in a stride AND did really well lying down on foot-on-leash cue as I waited for ice cream.
Unfortunately, Game was too worried about the thunder sounds to pee. So Chai (who was too stimulated by the new wet environment), having no one to imitate, didn’t either and had to go back into her luxury crate (aka the bathroom) when we got home.
When it had almost stopped raining, I took both dogs out again, and this time, Game peed and Chai followed suit, earning her the right to spend the rest of the evening free in the living room.
Because of these two unforeseen walks, I’ll bump Chai’s activity level up to “average” even though she stayed home alone (well, with Game) for almost 6 hours.
If Chai makes it one more day without accidents in the living space, I get a brownie!
July 12, 2023 (Day 97)
Activity level: average
The AM …
We started our walk with the usual stroll through a park in the area – Chai got to run around a bit and briefly play with another juvenile dog – and then walking home, Game off leash and Chai on the retractable leash (it is growing on me!)
Adding a leg tap to getting dressed
I have started adding a leg tap on the respective leg I am about to lift for Chai’s harness to go on before I lift it.2 She’s already weight-sifting away from the right leg when I tap it! I suspect that she’ll soon lift it for me (like a horse who has been trained to lift the leg you tap for cleaning the hoof)! The order of events is now: “Harness OOONNNN!” – leg tap – lift leg, put leg through respective opening in harness – tap other leg, put through respective opening in harness – clip the harness buckle on Chai’s back.
Just like “Harness OOONNN” and “Harness OOOFFF,” the leg tap is an announcement of what is going to happen – not a cue. However, it may turn into a cue over time: if and when she starts lifting her leg(s) herself when I tap them, it will have become a cue (by my definition of cues and announcements).
A box and a frog
In my first work break, it was time for more shaping! I set up the shaping environment, opened the bathroom door and used Chai’s formal recall to call her out. Her reinforcer: a get-it treat and shaping – her favorite game! 3/10 of Silvia’s adapted “fun recalls!”
We then continued working on shaping 4 in with the puzzle box – sans bigger boxes. This is hard for Chai! We kept the session a bit shorter than usual and will probably stay at this stage for a while.
When Chai was tired from trying to fit into the box, I gave her a break and then tried luring her into frog position again, keeping in mind Silvia’s advice to feed in position (and not keep moving my hand) as soon as she stretched her legs. I tried on the bed with two pillows, on the floor (slippery surface for sliding hind legs) and on the couch with a single pillow folded over. She did the best on the couch! This, I believe, is going to stay our frog training space.
Both dogs stayed home alone when I went to get streetfood. Chai stayed home alone for Game’s later walk as well!
Chai’s afternoon walk and the park
Chai and I walked a new route in harness mode. She did great and I used a 4-check-ins-treat approach with resets (starting the counter with 1) after circles. She mostly kept the leash perfectly and beautifully loose – this is clearly a lot easier for her when Game isn’t around! She did some lovely leave-it-s and a beautiful wait at the curb and even offered eye contact (for constant treats) when passing 2 dogs. She approached a third one on a loose leash and got to say hi. Go puppy!
She did great lying down on my foot-on-leash cue in a store.
On the way …
We were then going to walk to Fresa Parque in collar mode. We haven’t practiced in a while and it shows – we had to start over with 3 steps between treats (to be fair, the environment was busy and new to Chai) and had made it all the way up to 8 steps between treats by the time we reached the park. We did a few loops, found a pile of kibble (I hope Chai didn’t eat too much of it – tomorrow’s diarrhea or lack thereof will tell!) and greeted (but were too warm and tired to play with) a very cute 7-months-old ACD. Otherwise, there wasn’t a lot going on in terms of dogs. We stopped at the water bowl outside a nearby café for a drink and then walked with 8 steps between treats in collar mode to another little store. Chai did great waiting outside for me.
After the store break, we volleyed between 5 and 15 steps between treats in a familiar street in collar mode.
Note to self: keep working on collar mode!
People socializing …
A friend stopped by and Chai got some social time in the late afternoon.
Evening shaping: more puzzle box fun!
We did two puzzle box shaping sessions. Chai’s got it! She still tends to sit down rather than stand when first making it into the box, but she’s going right to 4 in from all angles! I’ll get rid of the sit and re-attach the cue (“Four!”) tomorrow – and then we’ll move from boxes to ever-shrinking bowls!
I have again fed more than Chai’s daily meal in training. This is why I LOVE dogs who will work for kibble! Otherwise, all my dogs would eat is hotdogs! With Chai, I’m not concerned about her eating “too much”: she inevitably has stomach issues after finding food in the street that will give her two days of diarrhea, so eating more than her share on most good stomach days is just fine for her – it probably balances out nicely.
Chai went on Game’s evening walk to make sure I’d have an empty puppy who could spend the evening with us in the living room. Game was off leash and Chai in harness mode. Yep, definitely still harder for her to keep the leash loose when Game is way ahead of her! Hopefully she’ll soon get to join the off-leash fun herself.
Woohooo! Tomorrow I’ll get my brownie!
July 13, 2023 (Day 98)
Activity level: average (low cognitive, high physical)
Early this morning, we had a very brief loop including a few minutes at the empty dog park under the highway because Game felt zoomy and I didn’t want her to zoom into the street.
Later in the morning, Chai went on a brief empty-out-the-puppy walk around the block with Game, waited outside a bakery and briefly stayed home alone while Game and I ran another errand.
In the afternoon, the lucky dogs spent 3 hours running around and swimming at Chapultepec with a friend and me, ate lots of treats and practiced informal recalls.
I also saw/heard her growl for the first time ever when she saw someone rope-jumping while we were taking a break from walking and sat on a park bench. We played LAT with the rope jumper for a while. In an ideal world, there would have been no need for LAT – but it is nice to pick up training opportunities when they present themselves!
We talked and had fun and I forgot that cellphones existed, so today’s only picture is the aftermath:
I feel as sleepy as they look!
A new harness (creating a third leash-walking context)
Today was the first time I used the second harness I’ve been keeping ready for whenever I cannot train: a front attachment harness. I will use it if I board Chai or if for whatever reason I walk her and am not able to train-train either harness mode (circles) or collar mode. The goal is to make the front-attachment harness the one I will actually not care about pulling. This happens rarely, but it does when I walk with someone who requires my full attention or when I’m in a hurry or need someone else to walk her for me … It’ll be good to have it. I am not planning on using it in everyday life, but today, I wanted to be able to focus on the conversation with Scarlett even in the short parts of the walk where we needed leashes – so Chai wore her front-attachment harness for the first time.
I may at some point introduce a third harness if I decide to do any pulling sports with Chai. For now, I will focus on circles with the back-attachment (everyday) harness and casual heeling (“With me”) on the collar. The front attachment harness is for special occasions only.
I had my brownie this morning! Time to start week 3/4 of the streak challenge!
July 14, 2022 (Day 99)
Activity level: low
I’m planning on a low-activity day today. As hard as it is for me to not train and train and train, I know there will be a time when I won’t be able to – and now is the developmental period that sets Chai’s needs and expectations for the future. One calm day a week – I can do this. I’ll allow myself just a liiiiiitle bit of shaping and not much else. No two days worth of food. No hours and hours of hiking and play. Calm days for Chai. Calm days for me! If I want to do more than that, Game will be ready!
Our usual morning walk included a brief stop to sniff-explore off leash at the highway dog park because our usual morning park had bread and other food for pigeons and squirrels all over the place, and I hadn’t brought anything that could trump that kind of distraction. Chai is a foody with a sensitive stomach. I don’t mind her scavenging a bit either way (it is a very dog thing to do and I don’t want to deny my dogs this pleasure), but the amounts of easily available food out today were just too to unclip Chai’s leash. So she and Game got to go into the highway park instead. While ugly to my human eyes, the dogs tend to enjoy sniffing that space. Some very interesting peers must be visiting it at other times of the day, leaving fascinating olfactory messages.
All other outings today will be only to empty out the puppy! I wrote it down – it’s going to happen!
What I learned from today’s shaping sessions
Today was a didactic session for me! I love what fantastic teachers my dogs are! Today, I learned two things:
- For the “4 in” behavior, I was raising criteria too fast: I was adding the cue before the behavior was ready.
In the first session, you’ll see me add the “Four” cue back into the box game but Chai sometimes sits and sometimes only has 3 paws in (I only notice after clicking or feeding because of my angle of view). Good training decision: I took the cue off again!
- The way I use the clicker is ambiguous. This is becoming even more obvious to me now that I’ve been using multiple marker systems for years. I practically only use a clicker in shaping sessions anymore. And unlike any other marker cue, its meaning changes: sometimes, it means “stay in position.” (Outside of a shaping session, this would be “Good.”) Sometimes, it means “chase the treat.” Outside of a shaping session, this would be “Get it.” Sometimes, it means come to my hand for a treat (outside a shaping session, this would be a tongue click). Sometimes, it is a terminal marker (it ends the behavior) and sometimes, it is not (I want the dog to keep performing the behavior after the click because I’m shaping duration). None of this ambiguity exists in my marker cue system. You’ll see me adapt the way I feed in the second 4-in session today to avoid this ambiguity and not have to withhold treats or lure after the click.
This brings up an interesting philosophical question for me: do I want to start shaping with multiple marker cues? It would certainly add clarity to the process AND increase understanding of the marker cues WHILE teaching a new behavior. On the other hand, it is really fun to use a clicker in shaping. I like seeing the dog figure out what I want in any given session. Maybe I even like a little ambiguity and that they have to always discover what the click means from scratch when we work on a new behavior. I like the flexibility it requires of my dog and the adaptability it requires of me.
The two shaping sessions above are all the Chai-training I’ll do today. Note to self: remember calm days! I wanted to get to the bowl AND to the naming phase, but it will have to wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’ll allow myself ALL the shaping fun again! I may also see Alan and Kiba – I’ll have to try and keep the pups’ playtime to an hour or so to avoid a “high” activity day which would require yet another “low activity” day this week! I don’t think I have another low activity day in me!
I also need to make sure not to stop working on life skills these days! I’m having so much fun with our tricks that our life skills are in danger of being put on the back burner.
Chilling in frog position
Some more of Chai’s meal was spent on luring her into and chilling in frong position. This feels like a very low-key behavior for a calm day, especially after Silvia pointed out to me that they eventually want the dog to be perfectly relaxed in this position (it’s a stretching exercise for active dogs). I added “good” as a (room service) marker this time.
I am proud to report that I haven’t yet used up all of Chai’s food AND am not planning on doing any more “formal” training today. The rest will just be eaten on empty-out-the-dog around-the-block walks or as a simple scatter.
Both dogs stayed home while I dropped off laundary, and Chai stayed home when Game and I went to the supermarket, the bakery and to brush her outside. And then again for Game’s longer-than-usual evening walk. Home alone training is something else that goes perfectly well with calm days! So is …
+ “Claws,” all four paws. Unfortunately, I cut into the quick on one of Chai’s back right nails on the second paw I worked on. She didn’t seem particularly fazed at the time, but was unhappy with me doing her front right paw two paws later. We got through it: claws announcement – procedure happens. She has been doing very well with this so far, so I expect her to bounce back next week. I may back up to one paw/day again though since the paw she struggled with today was the last one I worked on (two paws after the quick, so more likely related to duration of handling than fear of pain).
Game got her nails done as well (I did too). Chai was fascinated by Game’s Dremel and repeatedly tried to dremel her own nose by shoving it into my Dremel hand. Maybe the Dremel is Chai’s hot stove equivalent. (You know how some kids just HAVE TO touch the hot stove or iron to believe the adults? I was one of those kids.)
We had afternoon snuggles on the couch, chewed up an empty bottle, shredded cardboard rolls and the dogs slept (are sleeping now) while I worked (am working). Good puppy; good big girl Game!
Fun-and-easy recall #4/10
Chai got her fourth Silvia-inspired recall that combined a (potential) negative reinforcer with two positive ones: I recalled Chai out of the bathroom into the living room (potentially a negative reinforcer: the door between her and Game and me gets removed), clicked and gave her a piece of chicken (very special and usually reserved for difficult recalls or distraction recalls!) and then cued a scatter and fed the rest of her daily kibble. Yay for calm days – I’ve got a BIG reward left in the end of the day!
I don’t think Chai’d be doing this well if I hadn’t gamified this challenge for myself! Wanting my weekly brownie keeps me vigilant and on top of (otherwise boring) house training things!
July 15, 2023 (Day 100)
Activity level: average
3 times without Game, less than an hour each.
LLW (loose leash walking) in collar mode
5-35 steps between treats in the second half of our morning loop. You go Chai!
Easy fun recalls (“Schnee!”)
Twice, I did negative reinforcement (out of bathroom) combined with two kinds of positive reinforcement (“get it” kibble to the shaping station + shaping). We’re at 6/10 recalls!
Other social and training fun
+ 1 hour play at the park with Alan and Kiba (we still don’t have that informal recall pre-greeting, but we’ll keep at it!)
+ Shaping 4 in, several sessions.
+ Barrier recalls in the house with distractions #2 and #3.
Sidewalk freedom training
2 days ago, I stopped taking Chai on midnight walks. She’s got a lot of practice under her collar and I now want her to focus on sleeping through the night without peeing instead.
July 16, 2023 (Day 101)
Now that we’ve made it past Chai’s 100th day with me, I may scale back on my diary entries. I’ll keep them up at least a little longer though because blogging motivates my streak game … but we’ll probably take a break from documenting every single day in a few weeks. We’ll see!
Activity level: average
There were firecrackers at an intermediate distance this morning and Chai didn’t care! Yay! My tip: if you have a puppy who doesn’t seem to care – play when there are fireworks, or follow each loud noise up with a cookie. Preventative counterconditioning can go a long way since I’ve seen puppies be fine with firecrackers and develop fears as adults (example: Game). With Game, I didn’t do prophylactic counterconditioning because she didn’t seem to care as a puppy – but now she does. I’m hoping to set Chai up for more success by connecting loud noises with fun (play/food) rather than just keeping things neutral as I did with Game in puppyhood.
Chai also doesn’t mind the horribly loud (to me and Game) whistling sound of the camote vendor who was in our neighborhood tonight, clearly audible through the open windows! You go girl!
Home alone …
… with Game for 2:45 hrs, and by herself for Game’s brief evening walk.
+ Shaping 4 in with only bowl #2, and putting the “Four!” cue back on! I also finished the video compilation of our 4 in work and submitted it to Silvia.
+ Barrier recalls on the roof (distractions #2 and #3).
+ A short noon walk with both dogs on short leashes (harness mode for Chai).
+ “Earn it” (Zen bowl; don’t take the food) – 4 sessions.
+ Late afternoon with Game and Chai at Fresa Parque.
+ Barrier (plastic container) recalls in the real world: single-rep success in the second session. (First session had 2 reps; then we took a break looping around the busy park for a while.) In our next session – not today though – I’ll up the reinforcement value by quantity: instead of a single piece of chicken, I’ll use a handful to make sure it’s worth Chai’s while!
This evening, when I was in the bathroom, Chai came in to pee in the shower! Her designated spot! All by herself! Go Chai! I didn’t have food on me but a toy on the bathroom shelf, so that’s what we celebrated with!
I didn’t realize it was about time for her to go – otherwise, I would have put her in the bathroom – but she went herself, keeping my streak alive! Thank you, Chai!
A little later, she went back into the bathroom by herself to poop in her designated spot. This time, I was nowhere near the bathroom myself! Go Chai!!
We’re more than half way to this week’s brownie accomplishment! Just gotta keep it up!
- The “frog” is a stretching exercise for canine athletes rather than a trick as such. The idea is that the dog, lying on their belly, stretches their hind legs out completely and holds this position. Puppies have an easier time doing this than adult dogs. If you start with a young dog and do it regularly, they will maintain the skill which, according to Silvia, helps with mobility, agility and injury-prevention. ↩︎
- Future me popping in here to say: at the point I was writing this post, Chai was still wearing her puppy harness – a back-attachment one that could only be put on by lifting both front legs. She has since eaten that harness, which is why in the “announcements” video I link to above, you’ll see her current larger harnesses, non of which require legs to be lifted. Leg-taps were short-lived because harnesses are tasty. ↩︎