Sunday, August 14, 2011

Puppy Graduates, Nature's Select & Versatile Tiedowns

After our journey through BayWalk, we ended the meeting with a few announcements.

First, two puppies raised in our area were matched in the current class: Isabella, raised by Darlene, and Isabella's sister Maggie, raised by Kim. Congratulations to both raisers and pups!

Second, everyone using Nature's Select food needs to know which one of their many types of food has been approved for feeding to our puppies. It's called "Chicken & Rice High Protein" and comes in a green-and-yellow bag. If you are feeding your puppy Nature's Select food, please make sure you are ordering this type, as only this Nature's Select food is approved for SEGD puppies.

Finally, a word about versatile tiedowns. If you use a small nylon buckle collar (perhaps an old one or one your puppy has outgrown) to help anchor your tiedown, you can create a tiedown virtually anywhere. You'll also need a chain training collar (20 or 22 inches, medium weight), your pup's own nylon buckle collar (which she will wear when tied down), and fasteners to connect each nylon collar to the chain collar. The fasteners pictured below are double-end bolt-snap hooks from Home Depot, but you can also use carabiners or something similar.

Just wrap the small buckle collar around anything sturdy – a heavy furniture leg, a fence post, or (as in my Camry) the metal bar under the passenger seat – and you've got a tiedown for wherever you might need it.

If you need to shorten up the tiedown, you can remove the chain and just hook the fasteners together (or use only one fastener, or three). This is handy in restaurants, especially with young pups, where you can wrap the "anchor" collar around your ankle and keep your pup close by without constant monitoring.

Be aware that a bored puppy could chew through the nylon collar that's tying him down, but with proper supervision and an awareness of your pup's behavior, you'll find you've got a handy solution for a lot of situations.

In a pinch, you can also use a standard leash to wrap around something to create a temporary tiedown, but since this is much more likely to be chewed through by a bored puppy, use with care. In an emergency, such as if your dog breaks its collar, you can also use a leash this way to make a temporary collar-leash combo out of the handle end of the leash.

And if, for whatever reason, you do find yourself with a leash that your puppy has gotten hold of and chewed through, take that lemon and make lemonade! You can use the fastener end of the broken leash to create a "house leash" that you attach to your puppy in the house so that if he engages in undesirable behaviors such as counter-surfing or food-stealing, you are able to grab the leash and give him a proper leash correction.

Up and Down at BayWalk August 13th

Saturday's meeting at BayWalk in downtown St. Petersburg was an up-and-down affair providing plenty of practice for various commands.

We started at the garage with everyone parading in a "forward" line through the tunnel on the first floor, with different dogs getting turns to be the leader in the line and stopping (literally) to practice the "right" command when we got to the end of the tunnel and needed to take a couple of turns to come back. Just to review, when you stop with your puppy, you want to take three paces to slow down to a stop (1-2-3-stop). There's no command given to stop; your puppy is learning that when you slow down, he slows down. Do not have your puppy sit when you stop. Once you are stopped, use "left" or "right" to change direction. ("Left" and "right" are used when you are not moving; "left left" and "right right" are used when you are in motion and want to take the next available turn, as when you are approaching the end of a grocery aisle.)

After burning off a little of the pups' excited energy, it was time to "find the elevator" for a ride. As with all the "find" commands, you want to start using the command when you're about 10 feet away from the object being found. You can repeat the command until you arrive. For an elevator, your target is the buttons. Once you get to the buttons, tap that area with your hand to focus your pup on what she has found, and praise her! Then have the puppy sit. Enter the elevator with "forward in," walk to the back, do a "right about," and have your puppy sit again. When you're ready to exit, say "forward out" and go on your way. Do not have your pup stop and sit after you exit the elevator.

We rode up to the top floor in the garage's glass elevators, where a beautiful view of the bay awaited. (Sorry, no picture.) We then walked to a stairwell to practice "find the steps." Again, this command is used when the target is about 10 feet away and repeated until you get to the handrail. Tap the handrail when you arrive, and praise your pup! Then have your puppy sit at the top of the stairs, with the handrail on your right. When you go down the stairs, say "forward down" (or "forward up" for up). You should also shorten up on the leash, so the puppy is beside you, and slow down your pace. The puppy should walk down (or up) one step at a time and not hop to the bottom at the end. Once you reach the bottom (or top), have your puppy sit. Then use "forward" to go on your way. Here are Karenna and Dawson navigating the BayWalk garage stairs.

Tip: If you have a puppy who always wants to go up or down stairs as fast as possible, that puppy is nervous about being on the stairs, and a leash correction (which will feel like it's pulling the pup away from solid ground) will only add to his anxiety. You can help your pup get comfortable on stairs by standing in the middle of the stairway and letting him freely move up and down as he likes, so he gets a better idea of what stairs are and learns to feel comfortable walking up and down stairs with you at the appropriate pace. Keep in mind that, as with most puppy anxieties, you may need to practice this several times to resolve the issue. And don't forget your happy voice!

We continued our journey across the garage to practice "find the elevator" on the other side, rode down to the ground floor, and made our way over to BayWalk. Once there, we found another tunnel where all of us without puppies gave those with puppies a big round of applause. Not only did the raisers deserve it, but it gave them a chance to see how their puppies would react! Then we had one more elevator to practice with, this time without a glass wall. Here I managed to catch Jillian and Bob going up.

The second floor of BayWalk has open railings everywhere overlooking the street and courtyard, so we took the opportunity to have our pups walk along them. David's got his eye on Bruce (not pictured), while Diane walks Berniece, Heather has Mitch, Jennie handles Georgie, and Karenna follows with Dawson.

We had a different type of staircase to practice on in the main courtyard of BayWalk, with quite a few pups and some prospective new raisers coming down together. (That's Betty Jo leading the way with Gabby.)

Then it was off to the movies as we headed into the welcome air conditioning of the Muvico theater. I know everyone was thrilled when I pointed out another flight of stairs to practice on, this one carpeted! There were also arcade games and popcorn smells as we wandered around the concession area, but it was admittedly pretty quiet and clean at 11 in the morning. A couple of puppy accidents also helped remind everyone of the importance of always having busy supplies on hand. We headed into one of the theaters to let our puppies have the movie experience by watching a few previews. (Thanks, Muvico BayWalk!) Here's glow-in-the-dark Bob in eager anticipation for the show to start.

All of the pups did well; none showed an urge to bark at Alvin and the Chipmunks, chew a Muppet, or chase Puss in Boots. We met outside for a few closing announcements, which I'll put in a followup post.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lassing Park July 26th

We were in the Old Southeast neighborhood for our Tuesday meeting at Lassing Park, which featured several different experiences, including a walk along the mucky beach (here modeled by Gabby and guest handler Elizabeth, Georgie's tail and guest handler Stephanie, and Mitch with Heather and Danielle)

and back (with Trudy and John handling Legion, and David handling Bruce),

a trip to the torture cham– uh, I mean pedicurist Marcy (here doing her best to make Berniece look her best while handler Diane looks on),

and quirky distractions like musical chickens, balls, and bubbles (which Tammy and handler Darlene find hard to ignore).

Then it was time to "find the chair" (aka a park bench) and have Bruce practice his best down-under while David relaxes with Trudy and prospective raiser Bill.

I also discussed the importance of giving a good "pop" when doing a leash correction and offered my wrist to each raiser to practice on and to prove it didn't hurt. (Honest, it didn't. Just because it took me 12 days before I could type this meeting recap...)

A couple of other points made during the meeting and worth repeating:

- In the past, we have let our dogs loose at this very same park to romp in the bay, but SEGD policy is to NEVER allow our dogs off leash in an unfenced area, and that includes the beach. So if you take your dog to the beach, it should either be in coat and act like a working dog (as we did today) or out of coat but on leash to play in the water (though not with other dogs).

- The plastic Good Dog Collars that some of us have used are no longer permitted. SEGD experimented with these collars but found that they were prone to break and ineffective in the long run, so these collars are no longer approved for use on SEGD puppies.

- For our own safety, it is important for us to try to be on guard at all times with our puppies, as we never know when something might catch their eye and they will lunge. One way to do this is by keeping our eyes on our puppies when someone is speaking rather than looking at the speaker. Yes, this may seem counterintuitive to good manners, but it's better than getting hurt. Stepping on the leash near the collar can also help maintain control of a dog in a down-stay.

After the meeting, some of us headed over to Diane's house nearby for the pups (and people) to swim and have fun together. A wet time was had by all.

"In" and "Out"

One final bit of recapping to do from our last Saturday meeting (yes, I'm a bit behind here), and that's the use of the commands "in" and "out."

Whenever we go in a door, the command is "in," and when we go out, it is "out." (Crazy, I know.) The puppy should sit at the door and not go in or out until given the command to do so. This is something that should be practiced at home as well as out on exposures. Not only do we not want our puppies darting out of ANY doors on leash, this also teaches them not to dart out of a door even when off leash. In fact, it's a good idea to have your pup sit and wait for you to tell it "out" even when you are just letting it out into your fenced-in backyard – and have it sit again before it comes back "in."

The same basic philosophy applies when your pup gets in or out of a car. Have your puppy sit and wait until you say "in" to go in the car, and then have it sit once inside. (Before you start moving, you will also want to tell it "down-stay.") When you're ready to get out of the car, have the puppy sit when the door is opened and wait until you say "out" before exiting, then sit again.

If you consistently apply this sequence of "sit-in-sit" and "sit-out-sit" at home, in the car, and on exposures, you will soon have not only a safe, happy, and well-mannered puppy but a safe, happy, and well-mannered puppy raiser, too!