Day 60 – June 5, 2023: recalls, park time and leash walking foundations

+ Chai and I started the day with a round of tugging on the bed and then had a tug-and-flirt-pole session on the roof. (See this post for a video.)

+ We had our first session explaining the imaginary line (LLW)1 to Chai!

+ I took Game and Chai to our favorite park and park-officed from there while the dogs enjoyed free time at the park. I love working outdoors and Mexico City’s free wifi is decent here!

Bougainvillea season. I love the color. Stop and take a moment to look up at a tree. Beauty lives in small moments like this.

For the first time e-ver, I used Chai’s informal pup-pup-pup recall cue to call her out of a social interaction with a new dog (at a moment she was about to take a break anyways), and sent her back to socialize some more as a reinforcer. She did GREAT! I’m so proud of her! I then tried her formal recall cue as well and she rocked that one too.

Husbandry

+ “Claws!” and
+ “Brush!”

Social time

Chai enjoyed Zane’s company in the evening. He is quickly turning into a human she is excited to see! I love seeing her circle of friends expand.


(1) If you’re not familiar with the invisible line concept – click here for info about my December class and a micro e-book on different LLW approaches.

Days 58 & 59 – June 3-4, 2023

June 3, 2023: Chapultepec fun!

Game, Chai and I spent a big chunk of the day with Zane (the friend who’s staying with us) at Chapultepec. First things first, of course: weekend madness at the swimming spot! I’ve not taken Chai here on the weekend before (only during the week). Today, she got to play with the big dogs! She fell into the water and swam twice (totally unfazed) and had fun playing with one of the other dogs. (The stuff you hear me say in this clip is directed at my friend or at Game.)

Once the dogs were tired, we hung out in the shade and recorded a semi-spontaneous podcast episode about being foreigners who used to live in Guatemala and then moved to Mexico, The Pandemic, Guanajuato, San Cristobal, social anxiety, the walk- and bikeability of Mexico City, worker co-ops and the search for community.

… and then we got food to recharge while lazing around in the shade some more!

My dogs look good on you, Zane!

Back home, I let the girls sleep and then worked on toy play for Shade’s class.

In the late afternoon, both dogs stayed home alone while I went to a drag story hour with friends. They read My Shadow Is Pink by Scott Stewart. The book – at least in its Spanish translation – is lovely and so cute that I just ordered the German edition to an Austrian friend’s house so she can read it to her kids). It was great to see kids running around and having fun and their parents having a good time as well – especially thinking of the politization of drag story hours in the US (are you ever going to get your shit together, US?) What a contrast to see folks come together and have a good time!

We all went back to my place after – Chai got to see two of our human friends and got loved on quite a bit! – and then walked to my friends’ place with Game, leaving Chai to stay home alone. She was being a very good girl and had no complaints about sitting this one out. Game enjoyed her only-dog privilege for the duration of our meanderings.

A sign we passed on the walk to my friends’ place.

June 4, 2023: dog training and all the little things around the neighborhood

+ We worked on tug on the bed with the fleece tug and on the roof with the flirt pole.

+ I added a verbal cue to Chai’s hand touch (inside the house).

+ Game, Chai and I went to our favorite park in the next neighborhood over. Chai and I played recall games: obstacle recalls and flying cookie recalls! This park has a fun playground that is perfect for obstacle fun.

Obstacle recalls! Just the right level of challenge for a brave little Border Collie and her human:

+ Chai asked to go into the dog park again, so we did and after feeling overwhelmed for half a minute, she confidently played with a Whippet named Dalí.

+ I did some informal recalls in the fenced dog park and then we headed out again and Chai spent 10 minutes just hanging out around the kids at the open children’s playground, interspersed with more informal recalls and obstacle games.

Game is posing on a concrete hippo. In the right picture, you can see all the kids in the background!

+ We walked past a giant phallic yellow blow-up thing (some sort of ad) twice. By the second time, Chai thought it was probably alright rather than out to get her. Go puppy!

Chaiary: foundation behaviors for the invisible-line approach to loose leash walking – hand touch

I need the hand touch as a foundation skill to later use to get Chai back into position (behind the invisible line)1 when she forges!

June 2, 2023 (day 57) – getting started on hand touches!

With a treat in the target hand …

… and then we fade the treat!

June 4, 2023 (day 59): no more luring and a cue!

Presenting an empty hand right away

Adding a verbal cue

Over the next few days, I’ll ask for the hand touch in low distraction outdoors environments … And if things look as good as they do indoors, we’re ready for the next step in our invisible line leash walking journey! (Aka explaining to Chai where the invisible line is located!)


(1) As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, if you’ve taken the class Out and About I used to teach at FDSA, you’ll know what I’m talking about in terms of the “invisible line.” If you’ve taken Out and About but not worked on leash walking, you can look up the broader context of this approach in the leash walking lectures in your FDSA library!

If you have NOT taken Out and About and want to know what the heck an invisible line is, you can find a micro e-book about this and other LLW approaches as well as info about the future home of “Out and About 2.0” here.

Taking Shade’s Toy Class with Chai – part 1


This is the first of several special-topics posts I am going to link to in future Chaiary posts rather than inserting all video links directly into Chai’s diary!


Shade Whitesel runs a fantastic toy play class over at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. I’ve taken it twice at Gold now simply because it’s SO good and highly motivating for me, too.

If you need help with toy play or know how to teach toy play but are looking for fun, community and accountability, hop into that class! Here’s a link where you should be able to find whenever it runs next (as well as Shade’s other classes – 10/10 would recommend anything she teaches!)


So this post is about Chai’s tug toy journey with Shade. We took the class in June 2023 so I’d keep up my own motivation and have accountability.

Since Chai already knows fetch games, I decided to focus on tugging – something I haven’t done with her at all. I’ll share all of my class videos, but if you want to know more details about how they came to be, what lecture they are based on or why Shade recommended what, you’ll have to check out the class yourself!

How to make sense of this post:

When there is text to go with my videos, it’s part of my class posts from June and partly thoughts I’m adding now. I sometimes copy/pasted my class posts into my video description which I can now (now being September 11, several months after the class) go back to and copy/paste into this blog post! When I ask questions or use the word “you”1 in the text that goes with a particular video, I’m addressing Shade. When I use the name “Shade,” I either added this thought today or changed the “you” from the original post to “Shade” because the name sounded better to me in a particular sentence or context.

June 1, 2023: tug baseline

Note: I have never played tug with Chai before (it didn’t seem a priority behavior for a foster dog who might go to a companion home). In this video, I’m just seeing what she thinks about various tug toy options, most of which are new to her.

I’ll have to bring down my own arousal for her next time! I can tell that Chai is not used to my Malinois toy play state of mind! It is fun how different she is from Phoebe, Grit and Game who all latched on to anything they were presented with and didn’t let go from the start!

June 3, 2023: a flirt pole and a fleece tug for Chai!

I am writing this post 3 months after the fact, so I hope to get things right – I believe this was my second class video. I made a flirt pole to engage Chai with a fleece tug. Unfortunately, Game’s mat was harmed in the making of this fleece tug: I braided two identical onces and cut up Game’s fleece mat for it.

In any case, we’re getting some lovely chasing and tentative tugging on this toy! It’s soft (perfect for teething puppies), it runs away, and the distance between me and the fleece tug that is created by the flirt pole (a broom stick and a strong – I usually make my own flirt poles) reduces pressure from my side. I’m happy with this first flirt pole session!

June 5, 2023: playing with the fleece tug on my bed and with the flirt pole on the roof

Clips from 2 short sessions. My Observations:

+ Chai will occasionally target my hands rather than the toy (that only happened when playing on the bed).
+ It is very easy to (accidentally) pull the toy out of her mouth. Is that okay because it will teach her to clamp down more should I be more careful so it doesn’t happen?

I have my own answers to questions like this last one, but enjoy very much following an experienced trainer’s advice. I do not remember Shade’s response but I’m pretty sure what I ended up doing is starting gently so Chai is unlikely to constantly loose the toy, but making it run away immediately and harder to catch anytime she did let go or I accidentally pulled it out of her mouth: critters don’t sit around waiting to be eaten by predators but will use any opportunity to escape!

June 6, 2023: Chai’s second time playing with the flirt pole and tugging on the roof!

I aimed for gentle, steady pulling (not jerky). What should I do when I have let her win and she’s shaking it dead, like at 00:12-00:18 in the video below? I kept the flirt pole string loose and just admired her strength this time.

At 00:20 she was holding it and lying down on it, so I got the second identical fleece tug out to get her off the one on the flirt pole without conflict. Then I reactivated the flirt pole.

At 00:34/35 I was about to let her win after steady pressure for 2 seconds, and right then I accidentally pulled it out of her mouth again. Ooops! Sorry, Chai!

01:28 in the very end: “Treats” is my scatter cue and how I end the session and get the toys back.

June 7, 2023: playing with the fleece tugs on the bed (my non-slip indoors surface) for the second time

A compilation of this morning’s best bed tug moments. It’s fun to work with someone so different from the Mals and GSDs I’ve mostly played with over the last few years! (I’ve also played with a ferociously tugging Border Collie, Mick, whose personality is quite different from Chai’s, and a ferociously tugging pug!) There must have been plenty of others, but these are the ones I actively and personally worked with a lot and had the most fun with!

Even in personal play, Chai is being really gentle. I’m used to blood, bruises, torn clothes, dog-head-hooks to the chin and battle scars from social play! (I love roughhousing – it’s only partly the dogs. And yes, I exaggerate!) It is only toys and humans Chai is gentle with though. When she plays with Game or crunches down on a plastic bottle, she crushes those sharky teeth right in!

June 8, 2023: playing with fleece tugs on the roof without a flirt pole!

Chai is pulling back VERY gently (I am saying that from a crazy Phoebe-Poodle/Mal baseline) – I just make it look as if she was pulling strongly. In the second rep, she caught the tug too fast for me to get a chance to present a good striking target. Otherwise, we’re having a great time!

June 11, 2023: tug attempts on the roof as well as on the bed – a comparison

Roof play:

Our tug attempt on the roof did not go as well this morning. Chai lay down and never brought the toy back, so I ended quickly. (It’s warmer than usual and she has had play time with Game before – tomorrow morning, I’ll try roof play before any of this and play earlier in the day.)

Or did I overdo it this time and tugged too long rather than making it too easy? (Shade has suggested I make things a little more difficult for Chai.)

Indoors play:

We took a second stab at tugging in the apartment. My floor is not an ideal tugging surface because it is slippery, but I know Chai gravitates to the bed – so I wanted to see what would happen if I tugged her off the bed and then ran away back TO the bed. She brought the toy back all the way every time. It’s about the bed I suspect, not me, because the bed is the best place to chew on something … Hrmmm …

June 12, 2023: another roof tug session

This session was right after getting up with a puppy full of energy and okay temperatures (it’s been really hot during the day but mornings are okay).

In this session, Chai brought the toy part of the way back once, about two thirds into the session.

What do you think about bringing out toy #2 when I can’t convince her to bring back toy #1 (like 00:20/21)? I can’t ask her, but I get the impression that she prefers tugging with me over chewing a toy on the floor – but she has not figured out that bringing back the tug is a part of that game …

What happens most of the time is that I try to encourage her after running away, and she then comes running but forgets the toy (see 00:41-00:43). I then ask her where her toy is, and she goes back to the toy and looks at me expectantly or lies down again to chew (00:47-00:49).

The last part of the clip (00:50-00:59) is the one time in this session she brought the toy partially with her when I encouraged her to come. I can’t tell if I did something differently in this rep than in the other ones or if it was a coincidence.

We’ve also had a session on the bed, and Chai continues predictably gravitating back to it when I’m on it. I’m flashing my hands in target-them-with-the-toy position. She does not target yet but runs towards me/my hands (because I’m on the bed).

Should I keep practicing in both locations or modify something?

June 13, 2023: a blanket target on the roof!

Shade had the great idea to use a blanket as a “target” to run towards on the roof – a stand-in for the bed. It worked like a charm every single time I ran to the blanket. (It’s clearly the blanket, not me. When I tried running somewhere else, she’d still go to the blanket.)

I have a second identical blanket – should I stick to one or try with two?

June 14, 2023: our second session with a blanket target on the roof.

Shade’s input:

“In order to transfer off the mat, we need to have physical signals (hands to target and frontal body position) that happen before she sees the mat.”

My response:

Good point, that makes a lot of sense! In today’s session, I only got the head thrashing movement once. In general, she is letting me lead her more with the toy now that I’m pulling more strongly – rather than pulling back, she’ll often walk with me with her mouth on the toy. I’ve been grabbing the toy to continue tugging as soon as she reaches the mat. I wonder if that’s not the best strategy. Should I only put my hands on the toy when she lets go of it – even if I’ve flashed my target hands at her before? The reason I wonder is that in the last rep of today’s session, she lay down off the mat (right next to it) with the toy rather than coming all the way back to me and the mat. I ended there with a scatter to get Shade’s opinion before I continue.


This was part 1 of our work in Shade’s class (our first 10 videos)! I’ll share the second part soon and link to it here when I do.


(1) In this particular post, “you” never refers to “you, the reader.”

Day 55 – May 31, 2023: a busy day! Dropping by the old neighborhood and a new human friend for little Chais.

To sort out some bureaucracy things at the old apartment, we went back to Plaza Copilco one more time.

I got there before the building administrator. Game stayed in the car crate and I practiced walking past the Pits and getting video of Chai doing so to kill the time. (The whining you can hear in the video below is the Pitbull, not Chai.)

Once the admin arrived, I tethered Chai to the car and she did a great job just hanging out and waiting (in a familiar, yet public) environment while I was in the office doing paperwork stuff for 15 minutes or so.

Game, Chai and I then went to Las Islas. It was at least the third time we went there thinking it would be the last time in a while – but hey, here we are yet again!

The dogs got to check out a student market at a part of the UNAM campus we hadn’t previously been to!

At Las Islas, Chai had SO much fun in the mud today!

It’s becoming a theme for us that when Chai moves into a new place, one of the first things that need to happen are a shower for the Border Collie!

SO much fun in the mud! I’m the kind of person who’ll have a good laugh and cheer them on, or get out their camera and take pictures rather than spoiling the good time the dogs are having. What type of person are you?

Back home, Chai and I took a shower (sorry, Border Collie).

Then both dogs went to the supermarket with me and did a great job waiting outside. With this being more of a fresa (posh) neighborhood, Chai saw her first Afghan Hound (and was weirded out, but bravely walked past them twice!) and her first two Basset Hounds (again, they seemed weird to her but she quickly got to a point of greeting them on leash).

On the way back to the apartment, we passed through a park and met a tricolor BC puppy Chai’s age: Juana. Juana’s human agreed to let her off leash and the two played themselves tired chasing each other through the park. Chai was faster – I suspect that’s becaise Juana (don’t tell them I said that!) is a little overweight which likely slows her down.

So much going on today and even more adventures await! Tired dogs are good dogs.

I like how neatly the dogs put their sea creatures on the blueish (ocean) cover of my bed. It’s like they purposefully wanted them to swim together, the hammer shark a little ahead of the dolphin.

Chai went on an evening walk by herself and then stayed home alone for Game’s evening walk. She is being a home-alone rockstar. I am glad I started getting her used to this right away!

Her ability to stay home alone and relax is partly me because I have and continue to put a lot of thought and practice into this, but there also is a genetic part. Some dogs have a STRONG genetic disposition to develop separation anxiety. Part of the reason we know there are hereditary factors is that it is substantially more prevalent in certain breeds (for example Weimaraners) than others. We also know that parents (of any breed) with separation anxiety are more likely to produce offspring with separation anxiety than parents without separation anxiety. Unsolicited advice: add this to your list of things to ask your breeder (if you are getting a puppy from a breeder or any other puppy with known parents!)

A new human friend for little Chais

Tonight, my friend Zane who’ll stay with me for a month made it from the airport to the apartment. Game was VERY excited to see him again and Chai, following Game’s lead, immediately wanted to be his friend as well.

Today’s pee tally

+ Shower: 1
+ All other pees happened outdoors because we were hardly home at all.

I also managed to get TWO poops outdoors – that’s new record! Both happened after I did the belly massage my Dad had recommended to stimulate the digestive system. I’ll have to repeat this a few more times to see if making an indoor/outdoor poop difference really is THAT simple, but for now: thank you so much, Papa!

Day 51 – May 27, 2023: braving the snake head AGAIN (and then some)!

We went back to Parque Ecológico Huayamilpas because yesterday didn’t go quite as perfectly as I had hoped – the cohetes spoiled the fun. Since I’m about to move, I wanted to use the opportunity – one of the last days I would be nearby! – to return to the park for a positive experience at the snake head once again. I am stubborn that way; Chai will end up loving all snake head people dogdammit!

Today, I brought Game along as well. The three of us hung out at the snake head for quite a while … but no one showed up. Finally, two people walked past, but Chai didn’t even notice them. Apparently, Pentecost isn’t the kind of weekend people spend at giant snake statues. Learn something new every day!

Marching bands

I finally got bored of waiting and we headed back towards the parking lot … and ran right into a marching band practicing! The first time (the first clip in this video), Chai was a little weirded out so we walked back and forth past the band several times. By the fifth time, Chai didn’t care about them anymore at all and we moved on. Brave puppy!

I mentioned in my last post that going forwards, I’d mostly share general Chaiaries in my daily reports … but this one is just too good not to share here as well! Bravery for the win! Plus I haven’t published a bravery post yet that I could link to, so there is that!

Fire crackers

We also heard a single loud cohete (fire cracker). Chai looked slightly concerned. When she isn’t sure what to make of a situation, she looks at me as well as other dogs to learn what the appropriate reaction to a situation is. And that looks she gave me today? She already looked less concerned than yesterday! Of course it rained kibble right after the cohete which will hopefully make the next one an even smaller deal!

Husbandry

+ I announced and then cut some front and back paw fur.

Night walk

Since Chai seemed a little concerned last night, I took her on a brief night walk (and outdoors pee!) with Game. NOTHING weirded her out today! Go puppy go!

May 12-16, 2023: puppy diarrhea isn’t fun

Chai got diarrhea, meaning I put her on a diet. She was tired and so was I – neither one of us was up for a lot of training for a few days. Apart from sleeping, going out (and actually pooping because of the diarrhea!) a few times a day and wrestling a little with Game, not a whole lot happened. Here’s the bullet point version!

May 12, 2023

+ I took Chai to the lavandería in her backpack and we rode the elevator twice. This time, I put her on the floor in between the doors opening. She did okay. Slow and steady wins the race! One day, she’s going to stroll in and out of that elevator with her head held high!

+ We walked past the Pitties twice and Chai was being a superstar!

+ Chai and Game got to go to UNAM together so Chai could get some outdoors pooping done. We didn’t much else because her stool was pretty liquid.

May 13, 2023

Chai seemed tired and her diarrhea had a little blood in it. I took her to the vet in the late afternoon to make sure it was nothing serious. She did amazing! You go, fearless puppy!

Loose leash walking on her back-clip harness on the way to the vet’s:

Chai got some mysterious stomach medication which turned out to solve the problem over the next few days. The vet also suggested that in case she had a sensitive stomach, I do not use hotdogs in training again. Apparently hotdogs are the worst possible reward for a dog with a sensitive stomach because we have no idea what is actually in a hotdog. They probably have a point. Chai got A LOT of hotdogs the other day. If THAT kind of diarrhea is what they are capable of causing, there will be no more hotdogs in her future. I’m sorry, puppy. I know you like them a lot.

Yes I’ll take those post-cat-watching snuggles!

Galleta, the wild child, was more scared of Chai than vice versa: Chai approached her as if she was another puppy. Galleta said NO and fled to her vantage point up on the stairs!

After the vet, I met up with friends – first at their place where Chai got to watch cats and then get loved on, and then I put her in her car crate to rest while we went out for dinner.

Yummm!

May 14, 2023

We had a stay-home, sleep and watch Netflix day. Chai was a tired and sad puppy!

The Border Collie life is hard.

May 15, 2023

Lazing in the morning sun: one of them has got to keep their eyes open at all times while the other one rests!

Her poop looked almost normal again this morning and she was more active! Yay!!

+ We went to la Michoacana (where a lovely Michoacana ice cream vendor always stops to chat) and through the Walmart corridor in her backpack.

+ I lured and named all three positions: sit, down and stand.

+ We rode the scary elevator and Chai was more confident than last time! She got to stand during the ride while the doors were closed and I carried her in and out.

+ She did REALLY well walking on Game’s shorter leash and her harness and hardly pulled at all. Good girl!

+ Chai was also ready to play a bunch with Game in the apartment. Definitely feeling better!

Tonight, Chai’s poop was finally completely normal again – and so was her level of activity (and mine too). We’re ready to adventure again with Scarlett tomorrow!

May 16, 2023

Chai’s poop looks fully normal! Woohooo! Hopefully, there will be no more puppy popop talk for a few days!

+ We went to Petco Oasis. Chai showed no fear of its sliding doors and did great walking around in the pet store!

+ We went to a park Chai hadn’t been to before.

+ Husbandry: I clippered Chai’s nails on the right front paw. No problem!


More well documented training and adventuring starting up again tomorrow!

Chaiary: 6 days with Scarlett

I dropped Chai off with my dogsitter-turned-friend for 6 days: April 30-May 6.1

Scarlett has become one of Game’s favorite people. If anyone needs a dog sitter in Mexico City – reach out to me and I’ll pass on the information!

Scarlett sent me videos and pictures of Chai throughout the week. She also started training her to go on a potty pad in the corridor of her apartment: she was looking after a German Shepherd puppy as well. That dog’s owners had asked Scarlett to potty-pad train their puppy, so Chai just got the same approach. I am proud to report that according to Scarlett, Chai simply picked up that skill (“Oh, is this where you want us pups to go? Sure; will do!”).

Scarlett’s teaching approach was praise and feeding Chai (a single time!) when she went on the pad and gently scolding her (a single time!) when she went somewhere else in the apartment. From then on, according to Scarlett, Chai knew where to go! Smart girl!

Some pictures I got over the course of the week:

I can’t believe how tiny Chai used to be! (It’s July 24 as I’m intending to publish this post and Chai is a lot bigger today than she was in this picture!)

… and the videos! Scarlett looked after several other dogs and Chai got to play with them all. Below are 6 short clips I edited together:

Apart from conviviendo with all these dogs, Chai made friends with Scarlett’s housemate (her primo) and another primo of hers who was visiting the days Chai stayed with Scarlett. She also taught Chai a rock-back sit to ask for food and took her out 3 times every day – sometimes by herself, sometimes together with another dog.

Chai slept by herself in the corridor without complaining and went on pee pads for the first time. Lots of great new life experiences in a new neighborhood (Polanco) for a little Border Collie!

Chai is getting to know different parts of Mexico City – and her third apartment since being with me!

Avoid routines?

Some dogs – among them Border Collies – thrive on routine. They are the high-strung, highly sensitive individuals of the dog world: intense and sensitive, intelligent and maybe just a little neurotic (in the best colloquial sense of the word). Of course not every Border Collie is that way, but I venture (based on my own breed stereotypes as well as personal and anecdotal observations) that compared to other breeds, many individual Border Collies score high on one or more of the above traits. Both Hadley and Mick did – in very different yet similarly intense ways. So did client’s and colleagues’ Border Collies. Then again, my clients are often my clients because their dogs are difficult, and my colleagues are crazy dog people like me. My sample may not be representative of the Border Collie population as a whole. But I digress!

I remember reading – it must have been years ago and I may be misremembering the source, but I believe it was on Sara Carson‘s FB page – that they purposefully avoided creating a routine for their dogs, starting in puppyhood, in order to guard against routine dependency. I don’t think this has been studied in dogs, but it’s an interesting thought.

I suspect – just watching different dogs and humans grow up, hearing friends reminisce about (or shudder thinking back at) their own childhood and parents talking about their kids – that there is only so much influence we have on our animal’s (or our own or our kid’s) dependence on structure and routine versus go-with-the-flow-ness. Just like raising your kid to be an extroverted person doesn’t seem to make them so if that’s not who they already are. I suspect – and again, I have zero citations for this so it’s really an opinion – that routine-dependency is a relatively stable personality trait for most (not all – nothing is true for everyone) animals and robust to change.

Take, for example, dogs who perform in front of large audiences (like The Supercollies) and travel a lot. Yes, Sara may not give them a routine when they grow up (for example they don’t get breakfast or dinner at a certain time every day). But of course Sara also selects for dogs who are already likely to succeed living their kind of lifestyle by choosing as wisely as they can. Being an excellent trainer with lots of connections in the dog world, Sara knows how to choose wisely and has access to the kind of dogs they want – dogs the average person may not have access to or know to select.

So are we seeing the result of genetics OR of having grown up with a carefully instrumented lack of routine when we see a resilient Border Collie who does well with change? I don’t think we can tease the two apart (without doing experiments over several generations of dogs).

My dogs have traditionally not had strict routines, and ever since reading Sara’s post years ago, I think that it can’t hurt to keep things that way – even though I’m suspicious of the idea that we humans could possibly have this much influence on a dog’s personality. It’s a scary thought that we can mold another being to that extent (I mean not teach them skills or develop a relationship, but sculpt their personality). Which is a good reminder: I should probably be equally suspicious of my home-alone and dogsitting theories as I am of Sara’s lack-of-routine theory!

Be that as it may: Chai is growing up without a strict routine. For example, there are no fixed meal times because most days, I use all her food in training. There are no fixed training times either: I train when I have time and that’s different every day.

So far, Chai seems to do well with that just like my other puppies have. (I do think that’s just who she is though, and the same goes for Game. Both these dogs are VERY easy-going examples of their respective breeds. Not of the dog population as a whole – but of their respective breeds for sure. Game, like Sara’s dogs, was carefully selected to do well with my lifestyle. She’s not from a random breeder around the corner – I flew to Amsterdam to pick up a puppy from a particular breeder and a particular litter after doing my research. Chai on the other hand? Pure luck!)

Grit was raised the same way as my other puppies but never turned into an easy-going dog. That’s just not who she was (neither were her parents), and my training and socialization didn’t change her personality. (They did, I believe, make her the most reliable and socially neutral she had it in her to be. But there is a genetic and in-utero/early-life-experience ceiling that we cannot break, try as hard as we may. That, too, is my opinion based on personal experiences with my dogs and client dogs.)

And just think about yourself: were you born the way you are? The answer is probably yes and no. You both already were and you have become: every day, we get incrementally closer to who we are going to be and at the same time, the person inside of us is still the one who was born however many years ago and will always be. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.


(1) If I had publishing this post right after getting Chai back from Scarlett, it would have been a personal story about what Game and I were up to in the meantime. But time has passed and things have changed. So today’s post is about Chai’s adventures with Scarlett, and the upcoming May posts will be about Chai, Game and dog geekery. I’ll leave out my most personal stories, pictures and videos. In case someone in these stories reads my posts: I’m NOT leaving out the personal parts because they were not important and meaningful – quite the opposite. They were SO important and meaningful that I don’t want to share them with strangers on the Internet. I’m leaving out the personal parts because I hurt. They are still very much with me and close to my heart. That said, they don’t take away from Chai’s May adventures – so those are what I’ll be talking about on this blog!

Chaiary, day 21 – April 27, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… end of sidenote!


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

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

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

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


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

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

Chaiary, day 19 – April 25, 2023

The new home is feeling homey already!

Husbandry

  • “Brush”: after my “Brush” announcement, Chai got brushed. Her puppy fur is starting to come out!

Exploring the area

Here’s a brief clip from our morning walk in the new – loud! – neighborhood:

We also mastered weird metal stairs after first having mixed feelings about them! Go Chai!

Chai’s first two Uber rides

Chai and I took an Uber to Scarlett’s – my dogsitter-turned-friend’s – house. We were going to meet Nazli (one of Scarlett’s regulars) and Chai was going to get used to her new friend Scarlett who I was planning to board her with for a few days. I don’t like dropping dogs off at a new place or with a new person for the first time when I am going to leave them there – it is important to me that they get to know the space and their caretaker first so it feels a bit like going back to a familiar place when I do drop them off. And just as important: I want any potential dog sitter to get to know my dog before committing! Chai did great during the Uber rides even though they took quite a bit!

Meeting Scarlett and Nazli

Meeting Scarlett and Nazli went well. Apart from peeing on Scarlett’s living room floor, Chai had fun with all the toys she found scattered around the apartment and was curious about engaging with Nazli (who wasn’t quite sure yet what to make of Chai, but has made SO much progress since the last time I saw her! Scarlett, you’ve been doing a fantastic job with your part-time dog!)

In the thumbnail below, Chai is older than in the video that goes with it – that’s because it has taken me months to edit and upload old stuff so there’s a bit of a temporal discrepancy.

Chai found a fun toy at Scarlett’s house and made fast friends with Scarlett and Nazli (right).

Staying home alone

From the first or second day I move to or visit a new place, I make sure every dog living with me gets to stay home alone – without me and without any other dogs or people – for at least a few minutes. (That is given the dog doesn’t have separation anxiety.) By means of establishing that being alone in a new place is a perfectly normal thing and everyone always comes back, I guard against the development of separation anxiety.

Does this work with every dog? Of course not. Nothing works for every dog. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to develop separation anxiety (for example the Weimaraner breed and the offspring of parents of any breed or mix who suffer from separation anxiety).

However, if your dog is not or only mildly predisposed, the few-minutes-right-away approach is a great way of guarding against it!

Even dogs without a predisposition can easily develop separation anxiety if after months and months of never spending a minute alone, they are suddenly left behind for a long period of time. Rumor has it (I have not seen any actual numbers or studies on this) that “pandemic puppies” suffer from separation anxiety more than pre-pandemic dogs because suddenly, all the owners were working from home. I don’t know if that’s true, but I sure know that it is REALLY hard to live with a dog who can’t stay home alone – and as someone who loves to travel, I want to set my dogs up for success if I can. (I may still fail – not with Chai, she is doing great – but with a future dog. Genetics is a bitch, and while I’m furthering Chai’s relaxation when home alone, I also got lucky: I don’t know her parents, but she does not seem to be predisposed to separation anxiety.) It is also a work in progress that NEVER stops. Game gets a few minutes by herself in every new place we move or visit. Every single time, right away – and that’s even though she’s almost 6 years old. It’s a behavior you need to actively maintain (at least if you have my kind of lifestyle and my kind of breed-related (very close) relationship to your dogs).

How do you get the stay-home-alone training in? Easy enough if you live by yourself! Just take your other dog(s) for a walk around the block and leave one at a time behind. It doesn’t have to be long once your dog understands the principle: if you leave them in a particular space, you’ll always come back for them.