September 5, 2023: today, bowl #5 is looking good!

Notes for the next session:

  • Repeat everything just like this one more time to build confidence and stamina.
  • Note to self: remember that the home position of my treat hand is behind my back! Chai can do it!

September 6, 2023: from a little insecurity and wobbliness to beautiful balance in bowl #5!

Session profile:

  • Home position: treat hand behind back
  • Marker cues: good, get it
  • Transition behavior: blink
  • Treat placement: room service 1-2 inches above floor marker
  • Mirror: yes

Chai did really well in the later reps. However, the first one where she offered a sit is a sign of her not being sure she can do it. She also struggled to balance the first few times I used my room service marker (good). So I’ll have one more session just like this one for good measure. Once I consistently get confidence and balance, I’ll re-attach the “Four” cue … and only THEN will we look into going down in bowl size again. Slow and steady wins the race!

Personal win for this session: I remembered my home position (behind back) throughout the video! Go me (I cheer on my students! So yes, of course I cheer on myself as well. Dog lover or dog trainer – I suggest you do the same for yourself!)

September 8, 2023: no more struggles to get started but still finding our balance

Today’s session was good! Chai knew she could do it from the first rep onwards, and I am happy with my timing and feeding mechanics in this session. However, Chai was still a little wobbly in some reps. I’ll stay at this stage for another session or two. Before moving on to re-attaching a cue, I want to get 8 treats – 4 “Good”s and 4 “Get it”s – without Chai losing her balance and stepping out between “Good” and “Get it.” Remember: clear, achievable criteria make our dog training lives a lot easier!

September 11, 2023: balance success!

No video, but 4 + 4 success! Yay! In the next session, I’ll re-attach the “Four!” cue and go for 4 “Good”s and 4 “Get it”s without getting out of the bowl in between again!

September 12, 2023: re-attaching the “Four” cue to bowl #5!

No video – but I repeated yesterday’s 4 + 4 success, remembered my transition behavior every single time AND re-attached the “Four” cue. Go Chai and go C!

Notes for the next session:

+ Take video!
+ No cue.
+ Two good-and-get-it-s with bowl #5
+ Two immediate get-it-s with bowl #6 in bowl #5.
+ End session!

September 13, 2023: success with bowl #6 in bowl #5!!

Wooohooooo! We did it! We’re back to (our new, higher-walled) bowl #6! We will proceed carefully from here on forwards, but I’m already VERY happy with how this is coming along! No hesitation at all about the new bowl in the old bowl! Go Chai!

Notes for the next session:

  • Re-watch this video and then decide how to best proceed to avoid the drop in confidence our last bowl #6 attempt created!

September 16, 2023: good and get-its in bowl #5 as well as bowl #6 in bowl #5!

The plan:

Two good-and-get-it-s in bowl #5 followed by two good-and-get-it-s in bowl #6 insinde of bowl #5. We’re inching our way closer to the goal …

This went really well!

Here’s the plan for our next session:

  1. One good-and-get-it rep with bowl #5
  2. One good-and-get-it rep with bowl #6 in bowl #5
  3. One good-and-get-it rep with bowl #5
  4. One immediate “get it!” rep with bowl #6 WITHOUT bowl #5!
  5. End!

Sneaky AF but I believe that is exactly what we need!

September 17, 2023: bowl #5 and bowl #6

I stuck to the plan I made yesterday! (Behind me, the sheet on the armario you can see in the video? That’s where I wrote down steps 1-4 from above!)

This went really well – I stuck to the plan. However, sometimes, you’ll see Chai step out of the bowl after the “good” treat. I did not expect her to step back in before the “Get it” as I usually would. So – plan for next session: repeat the same steps and insist on Chai staying in after “Good!” Maybe even do more than one “Good” in the larger bowl so Chai doesn’t expect the immediate “Get it” release. Yes – this is what I’ll do now that I think through it:

  1. Only bowl #5 – 2 “Good”s followed by 1 “Get it!”
  2. Bowl #6 in bowl #5 – one “good” and one “Get it” – if Chai steps out after the “Good,” wait for her to step back in before cueing “Get it!”
  3. Only bowl #5 – 2 “Good”s followed by 1 “Get it!”
  4. Only bowl #6 – immediate “Get it!”

I’ll definitely need a cheat sheet for that one!

September 26, 2023 – our first session after getting back from Austria and picking Chai up from the dog sitter’s!

After a break Game and I spent in Austria, I picked right up where we left off! I put a cheat sheet on the armario and did what I had set out to do in my “notes for the next session” above!

Wooohooooo! For the first time E-VER, Chai put all 4 paws in our new bowl #6 (last rep in this clip)! I love it!

Plan for the next session:

  1. Only bowl #5 – 2 “Good”s followed by 1 “Get it!”
  2. Only bowl #6 – “Get it!”
  3. Only bowl #5 – 2 “Good”s followed by 1 “Get it!”
  4. Only bowl #6 – “Get it!”

September 27, 2023 – today, I don’t look at the cheat sheet enough!

Today’s session didn’t go as planned. Not because of Chai but because after writing and attaching my cheat sheet to the armario – I simply forgot to look at it and apparently, my head wasn’t in the game today. It happens.

Note to self: make sure to be fully awake when training and potentially practice without Chai first!

Plan for tomorrow: just like yesterday’s plan, but follow through!

  1. Only bowl #5 – 2 “Good”s followed by 1 “Get it!”
  2. Only bowl #6 – “Get it!”
  3. Only bowl #5 – 2 “Good”s followed by 1 “Get it!”
  4. Only bowl #6 – “Get it!”

September 28, 2023: sticking to the training plan!

This time, I stuck to the plan! Woohoo! (I also practiced all steps without Chai first and labeled the bowls #5 and #6.) These extra steps are like writing cheat sheets for yourself to pass a test: it is the act of having written them that will help you remember the steps rather than the cheat sheet itself. I feel like practicing without a dog and labeling the bowls works the same way for me.

Tip: if you are struggling with timing, mechanics or sticking to a training plan – do a quick session without your dog were your full attention is on your own movements! Trust me – it makes a hell of a difference!

I’m happy with how I handled Chai’s hickups in the video above (getting out of bowl #5 after my “good” marker). The reason I moved my home position back behind my back was that I thought she could hold that duration in bowl #6 – just not in #5. However, seeing how hard this was for her, tomorrow’s session will look similar but different:

I’ll move home position for my treat hand on my thigh and repeat what we did today.

September 29, 2023: changing my home position (treat hand on thigh)

I followed the cheat sheet again today! The new home position helps Chai by cutting down the duration of holding her position between treats. However, she still steps out a few times. I will stay at this same stage until I get zero step-outs between the first “Good” and the “Get it” for bowl #5. This should also resolve Chai being mesmerized by my food hand being visible!

We’ve worked like this before – but she’s still a juvenile dog and juvenile brains are all over the place when it comes to desires and impulse control.

Week 21 digest: August 20-26, 2023

August 20, 2023: Chapultepec and lots of play

Activity level: average (high physical, low cognitive)

The AM

We went to Fresa Parque for 20 minutes and then headed back home – lots of work before today’s afternoon adventure!

Solo adventure: dog/dog play, swim fetch and barrier recalls

In the afternoon, we picked up friends and went to Chapultepec for fun at the lake and dog training and play time.

Kala got to ride in style … no, joking. Her paws get to be on the dashboard and I (the driver) am taking a picture because at this point, we’ve spent 15 minutes in standstill traffic waiting for parking and we’re all getting bored.

We were out for three hours. We humans had hung out before and became fast friends, but our dogs have not met. This was the first but probably not the last time for them – they too were fast friends! Kala and Chai played A LOT, and I did not one, but two recall set-ups … because Chai surprised me and botched the first one!

I wonder if this is a coincidence or a direct result of yesterday’s overconfidence: I used her formal recall to get her away from a brimful food container at Fancy Park I. I also started naming zooming (“Zoom, zoom, zoom,” inspired by one of my wonderful students who uses this cue with their Russel Terriers!)

Chai also had two water fetch sessions and did GREAT! I ended both when she still wanted to keep going. Kristen bought Kala a squeaky donut at the pet supply stand at the lake, so Chai – who really wanted it – got one too. Lucky girl! Kala’s is pink and Chai’s is blue (unless we mixed them up … let me see. Nope, took the blue one home! And accidentally stole Kala’s tennis ball as well … oops!)

The donut is popular! I’m turning into one of these people who buy dog toys only to have them destroyed. Dog toys aren’t cheap and as far as I was aware, I’ve stopped spending money on anything that isn’t a training toy or indistructable YEARS ago. Most non-training toys we’ve had over the last 5ish years have been gifts. Not anymore, apparently: I am now getting joy out of buying toys. I asked Chai, “Do you want one too?” when Kala got her donut and it felt good to spontaneously get my dog something overpericed that would make her happy. This is something I only used to do for people. You know, the little things? Apparently, I am now doing them for my dogs.

Wrestling with Kala! The two of them are a good play match!

Water fetch!

A snippet of water fetch! I built back up from only throwing the ball in a little ways so Chai had to get her feet wet until I had her swimming again. She seamlessly completed every rep! We played both 2-toy and 1-toy fetch, with and without treats in the 1-toy version:

Leash walking

Chai got to practice walking on her back-clip harness behind Kala right after getting out of the car. It was only about 50 meters or so and then she got to be off leash, but I am very proud of how well she did after the car ride: hardly any pulling!

After 2.5 hours, the dogs’ brains were fried, we entered sleep-deprived-toddler territory and I put Chai in her front clip harness and a long line. We walked back to the car that way too: pulling or no pulling – no need to think anymore, puppy. It was a long day in the sun!

Home alone

When we got back, Game and I went on an hour-long walk while Chai stayed home. Good girl! Game very much enjoyed HER solo adventure and Chai finally got another decently long home-alone practice session in.

House training

Cruising along our streak.

August 21, 2023

The AM

Activity level: somewhere between low and average

We started out with 30 minutes at Fresa Parque. Chai got to play with two morning park friends and gave me a fake pee on cue (squatting without peeing when I said the potty cue). She makes me laugh so much!

Solo adventure

Chai and I went on a brief solo adventure to the Toy Play Plaza. There was, of course, squirrel chasing! On the way back home, we stopped for groceries and she patiently waited for me outside the store for a few minutes. I was planning to do some collar walking later but the rain and work kept us cooped up inside for most of the rest of the day.

A little training

+ We did two frogs on the mattress! Still using the pillow under Chai’s belly, but not forgetting our stretches!

+ I also did one rep of “shoulders” (lifting her up and carrying her wrapped around my shoulders).

+ I finished with luring a sit-up behavior on the couch a few times, using the back rest of the couch as support for her back. In the next session, I’ll try it with her 2-paw target (plate).

House training

We did it again despite the fact that today was on the lazier side! Woohoo! It ended up being a tie, but the amended rule states that ties count too.

That said, today’s tie reminds me of the bigger picture. I haven’t graphed my graph yet, but I don’t think I’ll get the downwards trend I’ve been hoping for: I suspect I am not going to see progress over these 4 gamified house training weeks. That said, I’ll only make a graph on the last day of the game. I don’t want to discourage myself while the game is still ongoing. It’s not just my game, but I play together with a group of amazing students and colleagues (everyone is gamifying something relevant to them and/or their dogs).

August 22, 2023

Activity level: low average

The AM: marker cue experiments and Chai’s new favorite

I got up 15 minutes earlier to add to our morning park time: SO many appointments and things to do today, and I don’t want the dogs to get too bored! Chai kept being drawn back to a pile of swept-up stuff. There were for sure yummy pieces of something or other mixed up in the leaves and twigs! I could scatter her away from the pile but she’d race back twoards it after every scatter. I experimented with different marker cues and couldn’t “Get it!” her away from it, which means her favorite marker has changed from chasing treats to eating a scatter! Game’s favorite is still chasing a single treat. What’s your dog’s?

Solo adventure

We went on a mini solo adventure to the Toy Play Plaza and played fetch and a little tug with two balls on strings. I tried implementing “Bump” (the cue I changed Chai’s touch cue to to make it different from Game’s touch cue), but it was hard for her, so I only asked for it once (I needed to remove and re-present my hand 3 times before I got an open-mouthed semi-touch). I took that one and we continued playing.

Then, Chai stayed …

Home alone …

… with Game for about 3 hours.


Chai had 8 short sessions refreshing her 2-paw target on a plate and then working on the first steps of a sit-up (from Silvia Trkman‘s class). Now she’s conked out on the couch – and so is Game who did some great mat work around flying cookies!

House training

Celebrating that today wasn’t a tie – and, if all goes as planned, only one more check mark to the next brownie!

August 23, 2023

Activity level: average

The AM

We started the day with half an hour at Fresa Parque – then Chai went from play-with-her-friends mode into ball-stealing mode and we made our way home. Chai is turning into a most excellent toy thief! (Anytime she brings me another dog’s toy, I’ll trade for treats and then return the toy to its human or canine owner. Chai loves fetching and she loves treats, so I’ve been ending up with LOTS of toys lately. Unlike most other toy-thief owners at the park, I don’t have to chase my dog around to get back someone else’s toy – it will be delivered right to me. My ladrona gets praise rather than reprimands for stealing.)

Chai also got to join me on a solo collar mode walk (5-20 steps between treats) to a corner store and wait for me outside.

We worked on the sit up trick in 5 short sessions, and during one of our pee outings, Chai and Game saw the neighbor’s cat in the corridor. I love that Chai didn’t care much at all (while Game, of course, had tacos al gato spinning where her pupils used to be).

Home alone

Both dogs stayed home alone while I went to drop off laundry and ask the sastrero next door if they’d fix the holes Barley had put in the octopus toy (I’d do it myself but I have no sewing kit).

PM adventures

I walked to the Toy Play Plaza with both dogs and we looped around for a while, chasing squirrels (they) and eating tacos (me). Chai found lentils and something resembling grist and had a great time eating both snacks. I tried marker-cueing her out of it but could not while Game definitely found kibble better and only briefly tried the other two options. I am starting to suspect that for Chai, food found on the ground is inherently higher value than food coming from me. Game, on the other hand, assesses the options more objectively.

We were out for about an hour and now both dogs are sleeping peacefully on the couch as I am working again.

House training

We did it! Another brownie for me tomorrow!

August 23, 2023

Activity level: average

The AM

Game, Chai and I spent 30 minutes at Fresa Parque in the morning. Chai found some delicious popcorn (palomitas – little doves in Spanish!) I could “Get it”-marker her away – popcorn seems to be lower value than yesterday’s the snuffle leaf pile! However, unlike Game, who said, “Yes please, kibble is much better than popcorn,” Chai went back to the popcorn after each treat chas, strengthening my suspicion that found food is VERY high value in her book. Can’t blame her. I love street food as well.

I’ve been observing Chai’s interest in playing with other dogs go down. She satiates faster now than she used to even when her friends are around. She’s growing up and probably won’t be the kind of dog who’ll play with any dog for hours as an adult. Today, she’d observe, do her own thing sniffing and exploring holes while the play frenzy went on around her and did frequent drive-bys and check-ins. She participated in play, but only a bit here and there. The difference between a worky dog and a companion-y dog is starting to show!

Home alone

Chai and Game briefly stayed home alone twice today – once when I went to pick up my brownie!

Human motivation

It’s interesting for me to observe that I am less vigilant about running outside today than I would be closer to the end of a weekly streak: if I don’t earn a check mark today, we’ll just lose a single streak day rather than 4, 5 or 6 days. The opportunity cost is smaller, so I give myself a break. It is fun to observe my own motivation fluctuate along with the game and what streak day we’re on! Human behavior is just as interesting as the behavior of other animals.

Solo adventure

I finished my morning work load early and met up with Alan at Kiba’s Park. I finally got a recall away from Kiba on video and also successfully did location #3 of the barrier level liver recall.

Rocko and his person joined us a little later. I played with Rocko and his frisbee and Chai got to play with Kiba’s ball (doing beautiful single-ball fetches; voluntarily dropping the ball at my feet every time) for several minutes while Rocko’s human worked with both Rocko and Kiba on paw shakes for food. A perfect park outing!

Alan watering the Border Collie gang: Kiba (chocolate), Rocko (merle) and Chai (b/w).

Apart from Kiba, Chai also briefly played with a new dog we hand’t met before and who was bouncing all over the place – a joy to watch!

On the way home, we walked in collar mode between 5 and 35 steps. Chai, all played out, was brilliant.


+ “Brush!”

House training

Last week of the game, here we come!

August 25, 2023

Activity level: average

The AM

We started with 45 minutes at Fresa Parque and Chai enjoyed playing with Dina more than usual: we haven’t seen her in a few days and she has been missed!

Solo adventure

Chai and I walked to the Dead Poultry Park and started the next step of our distraction recall journey: low-value food (fish treats) on the ground, cream cheese as the reward! We did long line, line dragging and off leash in the same location and Chai did very well. Fish treats are booooring and cream cheese is the best thing since sliced bread! She also got to hunt squirrels (and an informal recall reinforced by “Birds” which she is starting to understand!).

We then kept walking to a new park we hadn’t yet explored, and Chai waited outside three stores. On the way back home, she got to run in both parks again, found something delicious to eat and walked part of the way in collar mode (5-20 steps between treats).

When we got back home, I did some …


+ cutting fur around both back paws.

… and then Chai fell asleep:

Almost made it up on the couch!

House training

Another check mark! Yay!

August 26, 2023

Activity level: low

I woke up feeling sick and exhausted today. So rather than adventuring with dog friends as planned, I kept it a low activity day.

All the dogs got to do was run around Fresa Parque for 30 or 45 minutes, including 2 distraction recall set-ups for Chai.

House training

The streak continues despite the low-activity day!


August 8, 2023

I was going to start out with a session of 4 in with bowl #6 in bowl #5 and then remove bowl #5 – but Chai let me know it was too difficult today by lying down. So we ditched bowl #6 and just had a few reps with #5. Look at the lovely conversation we’re having in the video below! Chai is teaching me which bowl needs to be used here.

Next session: start with just bowl #5, then add bowl #6. Slow and steady!

August 9, 2023

Session 1

I started our first session with 2 “Get it” treats and just bowl #5 (and the familiar “Four” cue). I wore bowl #6 like a hat to have it ready to put into #5 right as Chai was chasing her second treat. Then, we did two more “Get it”s with bowl #6 in bowl #5 and ended. She did great! Building back up slowly! No video of this session but will record the next one: I’m planning on starting out with two “Get it” treats with both bowls and then removing bowl #5 and only leaving the smallest bowl. We’ll see how it goes! I am not going to use a cue in the next session.

Session 2

Chai says, “This is too hard!”

I’ll have to think of an in-between step before we try this again … or just repeat today’s session-1-set-up a few more times … I’ll think about this some more to set Chai up for success next time!

August 11, 2023

I repeated the last successful session – and Chai did brilliantly again. Next time we work on this, I’ll do two sessions the same day. The first one will be just like this and the second one start with bowl #6 in bowl #5. We’ll see how it goes!

(The cuts in this video are when I tossed the “Get it” treat under the couch.)

August 12, 2023

Session 1:

For today’s first session, I repeated yesterday’s last session. Chai did great again. (No video.) After a break, we did …

Session 2:

I started out with bowl #6 in bowl #5 from the beginning of the session. Chai quickly realized that this was too hard, so I changed approaches on the fly and shaped things back up this time (rather than removing bowl #6 like I did yesterday). She did great! The cut in the video is when I tossed a treat under the mattress. Furniture! It’s always in the way!

August 15, 2023

Session 1:

I didn’t realize Chai would be thinking of the 1-object-in-another trick! When I realized, I eased up criteria (and briefly messed up my marker cue) and shaped back up to 4 in. Superpuppy!

Reviewing the video, I noticed: I need to focus on my transition behavior so my marker cue and hand movement don’t bleed into each other. When we want to train with clean mechanics, we’ve got many balls in the air!

Session 2:

The plan: start with 4 in – no shaping if she’s able to offer 4 in right away – and then start to shape with only bowl #6 in the same session. Keep it short and sweet – say 8 treats total, max! Remember my transition behavior (blinking). Let’s see how this goes and then take it from there!

This looked good! I forgot my transition behavior half the time, but otherwise, we’re golden! I’ll bring my clicker back out for the next round and repeat the shaping session, starting with bowl #6 (blue) right away. I haven’t been using a clicker when I had one bowl in another, but now that I’m only holding on to one, I can easily keep it steady AND click. So that’s what we’ll do next:

+ Bowl #6 (blue) only.
+ Clicker in bowl hand (practice holding it stable before adding a dog – check).
+ Set up mirror to watch back paws.
+ Remember transition behavior (blink).
+ Shape up from the beginning but do not go for more than 4 reps of all 4 paws in (if we get that far).

The video below is my practice session without a dog. I highly recommend doing this on a regular basis/anytime you switch something up in terms of reinforcement! It will only take you a few minutes (and that includes videoing yourself and quickly reviewing the clip on your phone) – but you’ll be a better trainer for it!

Below is the session WITH Chai I did right after my practice session! I love that very last rep where she tries for ALL FOUR PAWS!

Notes for next session

Repeat today’s last session; see if we get more confidence and then take it from there!

August 16, 2023

Session 1:

I love how this session went!

I’ll give Chai a break and then try starting with all 4 paws in right away for session 2. If she does it, 4 reps is all I’ll ask for in this session.

Session 2:

Chai rocked today’s second session! For the next one, I’ll ditch the clicker and go back to our “Good” and “Get it” routine to build a tiny bit of duration in position. I’ll use 6 to 8 treats total, depending on how things go, and then end.

Session 3:

This was the most difficult session of the day for Chai! I’ll rewatch the video and then repeat the same session tomorrow with home position on my right thigh (like I did here in the last rep) rather than behind my back. This will allow me to deliver the “Get it” treat faster after “Good.” This means I will still be asking for duration – but a little bit less of it!


July 26, 2023

Session #1:

Only bowl #4, different angles, no cue. Chai is being a superpuppy!

Session #2:

Only bowl #4, different angles, re-attach “Four!” cue.

I couldn’t be happier with this session! What a good puppy! Short and sweet for the win! (Plus a mirror, tape and a non-slip surface! Chai hasn’t been tempted to sit anymore either!)

Plan for the next two sessions:

+ Start with only bowl #4, no cue.
+ Add bowl #5 into bowl #4, no cue.

July 28, 2023

Since this looked so good, my plan for the next two sessions is:

+ Session 1: only bowl #5; different angles; no cue.
+ Session 2: if I’m happy with the previous session, re-attach the “Four!” cue.

We did the first session I had planned – but it was physically challenging for Chai! I won’t do another one today but repeat the plan for both tomorrow! Below the first session:

Notes for next time:

+ Repeat the last two sessions I planned.
+ Reposition the mirror for this bowl.
+ Make sure I know how to hold the bowl perfectly stable.

July 29, 2023

Bowl #5 was still physically difficult. We did 2 sessions with different treat-toss angles and no “Four” cue. I’ll stay at this stage until Chai has as easy a time with this bowl as she did with the previous one.

For now and the day(s) to come: two short sessions, one treat in position and one tossed at a different angle each time (to build a little duration for holding the position). I’ll always give her a break between the two sessions. Today, the break was playing with Game and a pee loop.

Next time, I might try switching the clicker for verbal markers so I get a better grip on the bowl.

August 2, 2023

Bowl #5. First session – holding the bowl with what is usually my clicker hand; having a better grip on it because I’m experimenting with holding the clicker between my lips! Session two (same video): re-attaching the “Four!” cue and using verbal markers.

This was difficult for Chai! I’ll make it easier by means of changing my home position for the next round: instead of behind my back, I’ll rest my treat fist on my right thigh. That way, I’ll be faster with the second treat (“Get it!”) after the room service marker (“Good”) and Chai will have to spend a little less time balancing in the bowl.

If this looks good, I will move my home position back behind my back in the next session after.

I also did the third session today (no video because I accidentally deleted it after reviewing). Chai did well but I want to work on my mechanics some more. I’ll repeat this and make sure I keep my home position consistent on my thigh and don’t mark “Good” too early. Then, I’ll move my home position back behind my back. However, this will have to wait for another day! Three sessions of “Four” in one day is more than enough!

August 3, 2023

3 sessions with home position on my right thigh! Here’s the third one:

(The cross-blur cut in the video is when I had to refill my treat hand, ended up pulling out a string of poop bags and making a mess.)

August 4, 2023

I was going to do one session with home position behind my back, good and get it, transition behavior blink and then take it from there. However, this turned out to be difficult for Chai today:

Because she struggled quite a bit after the first few reps (struggled with balance, that is – the behavior is clear to her but it is difficult to put four paws in the bowl), I’ll stay at this bowl size for another round. Next time, I will repeat what I just did but keep the session shorter (10 treats total, making for 5 reps). I will also pay special attention to my “Four” timing and make sure I cue when she is about to or has finished eating the previous “Get it” treat rather than earlier than that (as I accidentally did in the session above). For now though – Chai gets a well deserved break! No two physically difficult sessions in a row!

For our next session after a long break, I stuck to 5 reps. Chai did GREAT!

August 7, 2023

Except for the very last rep – cut off because it was preceded by a search for a piece of kibble under the mattress I needed to help with. It took a while and threw us off our game – this session went beautifully! Either 4 (rather than 5) reps are all I should ask at this bowl size OR the escaping treat threw her for a loop. In any case – I’m happy! We’re ready to go down one size!

Bowl #6 – the smallest one!

In the video below, I am working on bowl #6 – my very smallest bowl! – in bowl #5 for the first time. I’m not working on a perfect position and not asking for any duration – I just want Chai to be confident about this new set-up and her ability to squeeze in.

Notes for next time: since this went so well, our next session will be 50% bowl #6 in bowl #5, then ditch bowl #5 and try with #6 only! #6 is my smallest bowl! We’re almost there!

CHAIARY – TRICKS: 4 PAWS IN A BOWL (part 1 revisited)!

I already posted about the beginnings of the 4-paws-in-a-container trick here, but just discovered that I actually followed my progress in real time in THIS draft. It has more nerdy details that go with videos you may already have seen. If you’re the nerdy-details kind of trainer, it may be worth reading and watching again. If not, just skip this post and come back for the next one!

July 14, 2023 (day 99)

Session #1:

Session #2:

July 15, 2023 (day 100)

Experimenting with a marker cue system for shaping!

The philosophical conclusion I came to after watching my video back is to withhold food if the dog moves between a room service marker (“good” in my case). This is NOT what I do in the video above. That video is messy and experimental. What I would like to do, in retrospect, is wait Chai out when she takes her paw out of the box after I’ve said “Good.” What I actually do in this video (e.g. 01:16-01:29) is repeat the marker cue. This is not good practice – but hey, it’s a messy session. An experiment. No need to be perfect. To quote Silvia Trkman again: “confusion is just a step on the way to true understanding.”

Video compilation for Silvia

Here’s the edited 4-in (“Four!”) compilation I submitted to Silvia’s class on July 16. We’ll keep working on smaller and smaller bowls, of course!

In this video, you’ll see how I attach the cue anytime I am sure Chai will be going into the container with 4 feet, then take it off again when I change the angle or container, then put it on again once I’m sure she can do it again.

When should you name behaviors?

It’s okay to name behaviors that are still under construction. The trick is to only use that cue when you are absolutely sure the dog is about to do the behavior! When you go out in a new environment or change something about the equipment or your position relative to your dog – simply take off the cue again, then put it back one once your dog has shown that they can still do it! With a behavior like this, you’ll see me volley back and forth between using and not using verbal cues. (Not every trainer agrees with this approach and that’s totally fine! You do you – this is just the way I do it! Some folks only put verbal cues on a behavior once the dog has mastered it in all environments and from all angles and with all relevant objects. Neither approach here is better or worse – you just need to find the one that works for you and your dog. (One important thing excellent trainers of any approach of philosophy genderally do have in common is that they will only use the a verbal cue when they are sure the dog will perform the behavior.)

July 20, 2023

From bowl #2 to bowl #3 (there will be 6 bowls altogether)

We went from bowl #2 down to bowl #3! This is difficult and Chai is doing really well!

July 21, 2023

Today, I went in with a clear plan: I would not use the “Four” cue throughout the session and repeat yesterday’s se-up.

Next time, I’ll start with bowl #3 right away (and again: no cue in the next session. Maybe in the one after, depending on how the next one goes!)

July 22, 2023

Starting with bowl #3 right away! As planned, I am not using a cue in this session either. Turns out that not using a clicker is a good idea too, just like I’ve been doing with the single-paw target behavior: not using a clicker, I can withdraw my food hand when Chai steps out of the bowl with one paw without breaking the promise of food.

For the next two sessions, I am not planning on adding the “Four” cue either: one of these sessions will be me standing up and tossing treats after each click. The other one will be building a tiny bit of duration by means of using the marker cue “Good” and feeding one treat after each marker rather than feeding continuously. We’ll see how this goes tomorrow!

July 23, 2023

I changed my training plan mid session and added “Four” in after going once around all angles of the click-toss session. Chai was ready and I could see it!

In the “Good” session, I could see her work really hard … but the slippery surface of the bowl made it almost impossible for her to keep standing upright. Her back paws were just slipping forwards, placing her into a sit. She did really well though and showed lovely understanding of my “Good” cue!

I decided to try and experiment with bowl #4. Bowl #4 is, unfortunately, quite a bit smaller than bowl #3. There should be a size in between them but I couldn’t find it at the market. Going from #3 to #4 was clearly too hard. I ended the session with a cheerful scatter right after I started it. I need to find a bowl size in between before continuing!

July 24, 2023

I cut circles out of a roll of non-slip material that (I suspect) is meant to be put into kitchen drawers. In any case, it works great as a non-slip surface for my smaller and smaller bowls!

Speaking of smaller bowls: I’ve found bowls #4 and #5 that fit between what I originally had as bowl #3 and bowl #4. Bowl #4 is now bowl #6. #4 and #5 were sitting in my kitchen all along – I didn’t even have to go out and buy new ones!

Bowls #3 and #4 with their new non-slip surfaces!

With their new non-slip surfaces in place, I repeated yesterday’s sessions. Really happy with what a difference better traction makes and how Chai’s confidence has increased between yesterday’s and today’s sessions! Reviewing the video, I noticed that I missed a back paw coming out of bowl #4 a few times. I’ll set up a mirror tomorrow to have better vision of all paws at all times! Here’s a video of my favorite reps and a mistake (missed one paw) that I need a mirror to avoid: sometimes Chai’s body blocks my view of her back legs and I miss one of them coming out of the bowl.

Tomorrow, I’ll start with bowl #4 in bowl #3 and then ditch bowl #3. I’ll feed one treat in position and toss the next one out.

Magic tape

I’ll put a tape marker where I want to place my in-position treats to remember to feed low and close to the bowl (encouraging Chai to stand rather than sit because the treat placement will cause a weight shift forwards). Tape markers are simple and make it A LOT easier to be consistent – no matter what you’re working on! I usually use masking tape (easy to get on and off without pulling paint off if placed on a wall).

I’ll also lean a mirror against the wall on the other side of the bowl: that way, I’ll be able to see Chai’s back paws at all times even when her body is blocking my direct view. This should lower my rate of clicking 3 instead of 4 paws further. (I sometimes can’t help it because I make prediction errors – you need to start your clicker thumb motion as you predict what will happen next if you want to be on time. The mirror won’t eliminate prediction errors, but it’ll make sure I won’t make errors because I can’t see!)

July 25, 2023

Sessions #1 and #2:

Sessions #3 and #4:

The cue will have to wait for tomorrow! I’ll repeat today’s plan: first work all angles, no cue. If Chai does well with that, re-attach the “Four!” cue in the subsequent session.

CHAIARY – TRICKS: front paw targets for 1 and 2 paws

July 6, 2023: targeting 3 objects with 2 front paws

July 10, 2023: single-paw target on “Paw” cue!

A compilation:

July 21, 2023: working towards a precise single-paw target

We worked on single-paw targeting. I’ve found a good tall object. Chai still tried getting 2 paws on, but I got 1 more and more reliably towards the end of the session. I’m going to get confidence and duration on this target, then remove the glass from under the lid and then play with different targets – including flat ones and smaller ones. I want Chai to become really precise with her paw targeting. I was originally going to get an object I could shave down – but this will work too and I already have it!

I am not sure whether to put this behavior into the foundations or the tricks category. It is, after all, a foundation for SO many other things! I ended up going with tricks – but know it is a foundation as well! Paw targets are the foundation of pushing easy buttons, door bells, light switches, operating door handles, closing cabinets with a paw … and the list goes on and on!

July 22, 2023: … and the journey continues!

July 23, 2023: paw target nerdery!

Single-paw target

I started with a brief session just like yesteday: feeding continuously as long as the paw was on the lid.

Then I started using “Good,” retreating my treat hand to home position and blinking as a transition behavior between marker and food delivery. This was clearly harder for Chai (and me!): she started getting dancing feet (well, less of a stable right paw) and I had to really pay attention in order to not blink and feed simultaneously.

For our next session(s?), I’ll volley back and forth between continuously feeding in position without a marker and then go back to trying good again, placing the camera next to the wall (closet) this time so I have better view of my treat hand as well as Chai’s right paw.

See what I’m doing here? I’m writing my training plan for the next session right after reviewing the video, which I did right after taking it (training). When I do another session later today or tomorrow, I just have to read my notes here and remember exactly what I want to do.

July 25, 2023: 3 “Paw!” sessions

I’ll work on the single-paw target and always keep it on the ground for now – for all 3 sessions I’m thinking of. If any of them don’t go as planned, I’ll go back to the drawing board.

Session 1

Plan: I’ll use the paw target glass and add the cue from different angles.

Session 2

Plan: if session #1 goes well, I’ll use just the lid – no glass, no cue – in session #2.

Session 3

Plan: if session #2 goes well, I’ll re-attache the cue to the flat (lid only) target.


Chai made two mistakes in this session (only 3 of 4 toes on target). I shouldn’t have missed the first one because reviewing the video, I can see her paw is on my finger – and if I can feel it on my finger, it can’t be on the lid. The second one was an understandable miss on my part. I want to reduce the error rate – will go back to session #2 (no cue) next time and make sure I don’t click when I can feel part of Chai’s paw on my hand! This should reduce the error rate. I’m loving these nerdy details, Chai!

July 26, 2023: paw target with cut-out in puzzle mat

We’re repeating yesterday’s last two single paw target sessions!

Session 1

Plan: no cue – make sure not to click when I can feel toes on my hand.

Chai struggled with the first session – my hand was in the way a lot andwhen I took it away, she’d topple the lid. So I cut the session short, cut a lid-shaped opening into the puzzle mat and tried again:

Final count on the video above, after reviewing it:
Perfect: 7
Less than perfect: 9
Can’t tell from the video angle whether it’s perfect or less than: 1

This looks better but not quite as close to perfect as I’d like it to be. I’m not re-attaching the cue in the next session (which I’m “dying” to do) – I’m going to do a session with the lid on the glass tomorrow (easier target), followed by another lid-only session without my hand in the way … And depending on how that one looks, we’ll take it from there. If it looks great – I’ll attach the cue in the session after. If it doesn’t – we may toggle back and forth between lid only and lid on glass a few more times before attaching the cue to the lid. I may also find a way to make the surface of the lid more prominent so it’s easier for Chai to feel when she’s fully on it.

July 30, 2023: our final 2 single-paw sessions (for the moment – we’ll build on this trick later when I teach Chai to cross her paws!)

Session 1

I did our session as planned: glass under the lid, no cue. Chai is doing much better about not letting her toes hang off on the side of the glass, but it’s hard for her to keep her toenails from sticking out in front. And I am now going for killer precision and making her work hard! (I know this dog and that I can wait her out. I would NOT do this with a dog I didn’t know well or who was less gritty about getting it right in order to earn that click in order to get that single piece of kibble!)

Session 2

Because this is DIFFICULT, I repeated the same set-up (glass under the lid) for session 2. I taped some of my non-slip surface to the lid – it seems to help! In this session, I focus on finding rather than staying on target and I ease up on the toenail criterion.

The non-slip surface lid really seemed to help! Go puppy!

For the time being, I’m happy with Chai’s single-paw target behavior. We’ll pick back up further down the line when I’ll use it to teach her to cross her paws (a trick I think I’ll name “Cool!”)

In case I want to get nerdier with precision again after all – here are my notes for the next session:

+ Repeat what I did today.
+ No toenail criterion but keep all the others.
+ Only loose the glass once it looks perfect with the glass.

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

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

Activity level: low

Calm days

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

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

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

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

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

Toy play

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

The Game of Chai

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

Home alone

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

Random Mexico City fact

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

Green: bike lanes in Mexico City in 2022.

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

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

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

Leash walking – manners mode (collar)

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


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


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

Calm day of the week – check!

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

Activity level: average

Toy play

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

Morning walk with Game

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

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

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

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

Dog friends

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


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

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

Leash walking

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

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

Day 48 – May 24, 2023: fun with positions and marker cues!

We didn’t go on any adventures or exciting outings today – except for pee breaks, we all stayed in, and it was …


… time for obediency stuff! We worked on positions in two sessions: one for Chai’s breakfast and the other one for her lunch.

Breakfast session

You’re about to see a 10 minute long uninterrupted positions training session with a 5 months old puppy. Is this what I, C, Professional Dog Trainer, would recommend anyone do with their 5 months old puppy? No. I’d say keep sessions to 2 minutes or, if you have a really avid worker, 3 minutes max at this age to ensure your puppy learns that training is a privilege rather than a chore. So why am I not heeding my own advice? Because I’m me and some days I can’t help it. I am grateful for having dogs who just roll with it! Also note that this is a day where training is pretty much all Chai got to do (except for pee outings which at this point mostly only involve Game peeing).

Session profile:

Cues: sit (sitz), stand (steh) and down (platz)
Announcements: All done (I will not work or play with you anymore even if you pester me)
Marker cues: tongue click (treat from hand), Good (room service), treats (scatter cue; in the very end of this video)
Home position: hands behind my back
Transition behavior (what I do between (marker) cues and (treat or lure) hand movement: blink once

Lunch session

Session profile:

Same as above.

Look how far her understanding has come between the two sessions! Go Chai! This is looking fantastic!

In some of the reps, it looks as if Chai was guessing positions. That is entirely possible … and it doesn’t bother me. She can play a guessing game and get reinforced anytime she gets it right. Over time, this leads to learning. Notice that Chai is learning several new things at the same time in this session: the marker cue “Good” (room service) and all three positions. She does not need to understand every single word I say in order for us to have an enriching training conversation. It’s like learning a new language or reading in a foreign language: you don’t need to know every single word or grammar rule in order to follow the plot.

PS: when I say “Yes,” it’s just a commentary on Chai having done well. It is not a marker cue.

PPS: the reason Game is chilling on her mat behind us is that she has excellent mat skills. If there was no mat, she would very much be participating!


+ Chai got the claws on her left and right back paws clipped and did great.

The art of doing nothing

She was able to hang out in her luxury kennel – the bathrooom – with visitors and Game in the main room. Good puppy keeping the FOMO from raising its head! It is just as important to include your puppy in your general activities as it is to occasionally have them NOT participate. Both are important skills for your future life together!

Chaiary, day 31: May 7, 2023

Chai, Game and I had a full day in Mexico City before our road trip tomorrow! We did a bunch of stuff but kept it low key:

+ Chai joined me on a trip to the lavandería and a loop through the Walmart corridor in her backpack.

+ Husbandry: “Brush!” and “Claws!” (all four paws and doing well!)

+ We worked some more on her understanding of the different meaning of treats in my open hand versus closed fist.

+ We worked on distinguishing “dish” (take food from bowl) from a tongue click (come to my hand for food).

+ We walked to Calle Cuauhtémoc and back and Chai did REALLY well passing the two Pits both going out and coming back!

My neighbor has a car repair shop – and, true to the stereotype, two (lovely!) Pit Bull Terriers.

I’ll end with another paragraph that, like the footnote in Scarlett’s post, has taken me a while to phrase more or less the way I wanted. Future posts should be smooth sailing again, so you can expect your daily Chai update AND eventually (I promise; I’ve started doing weekly digests) we’ll catch up to the present day!

Thank you …

… for all our inspiring and nerdy dog training conversations, Chris Cernac, over the last few months. I’ve loved them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and questions, your knowledge and points of view. I’m sure you will (if you look) see traces of you in my future training. I’ll give you credit when I can. In case you read this one day: know that I appreciate this part of our paths crossing.

I realize that leaving Prince and Chris pictures and stories out of Chai’s May diaries is leaving out part of her experience, but I can’t write about Prince and you without also writing about personal things that I don’t want to share online at this point. It’s not about you – I wish you well. This is just me not wanting to share these particular personal stories with a wider audience today.

The Norbert Experiment, part 12: from cat watching right to kibble scatters

Ready to go from cat watching right to kibble scatters?

Video 1

First session – and Game is being a superstar! Go Game!!!


  • Door status: glass door closed.
  • Let’s repeat this with the door open!

Video 2 – door open


  • Door status: glass door open
  • I LOVE that Game looked at the cat and then at me (that’s what I mark)! There is a moment of looking back catwards before the last treat though. We’re going to repeat this again; I want to see her succeed without looking back at the cat before the treat magnet or last scatter treat.

Video 3:


  • Door status: glass door open!
  • Game status: SUCCESS! Wheee! Go Game!