Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nine Months

It is hard to believe that Rundle will be turning 9 months old tomorrow.  He is now officially a teenage puppy - that sometimes awkward stage between young puppy and adult dog.  I occasionally get hints of adolescent attitude (which means that I need to work harder) but I also get a glimpse into the dog that he will become.  This is the transition age that is sometimes challenging, sometimes sad but mostly exciting.  It is sometimes challenging because sometimes young dogs "forget" things they knew just a few months earlier.  It is sometimes sad because those cute, fun puppy days are now behind us.  But it is also exciting because that wee little pup is now growing up and hopefully we will have many exciting adventures together.
Rundle - 9 Month Stack

Rundle and I are still working on lots of foundation obedience exercises.  Fronts, finishes, finding heel position, dumbbell holds, position changes and targeting.  This is all stuff we have been working on since Rundle was a little pup but now I am making it more challenging for him with distractions and other added difficulty in the criteria I expect.  We also still make sure we play everyday both during and outside of training.  Rundle loves playing with me, with or without a toy and I will really need that later in our training when I need to keep Rundle interested and excited to work with me when the training cookies go away.

Something new that we have been working on is scent article discrimination.  We have started our training with metal articles using canning lids and have been working on this for about a month or so.  Since Rundle is still learning a formal retrieve, he indicates the correct article (the one I have touched) to me with a nose touch (which he learned when he was a little guy).  Eventually, he will learn on wooden and leather articles as well as the metal.  Once he has a decent dumbbell retrieve, I will put it all together.  Here is a little video of Rundle working on his articles:

Another new thing that we will be doing is a photography project.  This will be my 4th year doing the Flickr "52 Weeks For Dogs" project.  So, I will need to plan, shoot and submit one photo a week to the project group.  I expect to be challenged with this in 2014 as Rundle does not pose for the camera so I guess I will be doing a lot more action shots next year :)

We should have a busy year coming up.  Between training, playing and photography, Rundle should be kept busy and hopefully out of mischief.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Seven Months - Obedience Work

I was hoping to make a video of some of the things we have been working on, but I just haven't got around to it.  Hopefully, I will get some time this week to put some effort into it, but until then I want to do an update of how Rundle is progressing in his obedience work.   We are still working hard to set a good foundation for the future, so that means lots of focus work and lots of control work.  It is also important for me to have a dog that is enthusiastic about training so I keep session fun and try not to make them to repetitious.

Some of the things that Rundle is getting really good at are food bowl control, focusing on me when there are minor distractions such as food on the floor, finding heel position (get in), pivoting, moving downs and he has a very cute jump stand.  His stays are getting good now and I can even leave him out of sight for a short time and he will hold a sit-stay.

For all the things that Rundle is getting good at, there are many more things that are still a work in progress.  That's the fun thing about obedience - one behaviour builds off of another so there are always things to be working on and improving on.  That is why the foundation stuff is so important - everything else Rundle will learn will be based on the stuff I am teaching him right now.  We are now working on dumbbell holds, finding front position, leave it and targeting.  I am also ready to start some scent discrimination games with him - I just need to go out and get the materials needed to get started.

What I haven't been doing as far as obedience work goes, is heeling.  Some people teach their very young puppies to heel but I do not.  I teach finding heel position and maybe we will do a step or two holding that position, but that is it for puppy heel work.  The main component of having a nice heeling dog is focus and attention.  Until I can get Rundle to have nearly 100% focus and attention on me in all sorts of environments, I am not going to start teaching a formal heel.  I do not want to create bad heeling habits by having Rundle distracted and looking around during heeling.  So strong focus work comes first.  I also do not think it is physically appropriate to ask a puppy to be in the heel position (straight body, head up).  It is a physically demanding position and I do not want to put undue strain on such a large breed puppy.  Heeling is hard work, both physically and mentally so I have no problems waiting to teach a formal heel to Rundle.  I have a picture of the perfect heeling dog in my mind and there are so many pieces to put together to get there - I just don't want to rush it.

As for everyday obedience (which is so much different that formal obedience), Rundle is getting very good at walking nice on a leash (unless there is a dog coming towards us),  he is getting much better at meeting strangers (ie not jumping on them) but he still enthusiastically jumps on people he knows (sigh), and his general manners around the house are starting to really come together (waiting at the door, go lay down when told, getting feet wiped, etc).

I have no fun pictures to post so I will post Rundle 7 month stack photo.  I like to do a stacked photo every month just to see how he is growing and changing.  There are so many things I am liking structurally about this puppy and  I am looking forward to see how he matures.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

First Snow

This past week Rundle experienced his first snowfall.  To say he was excited about it is an understatement.  All he wanted to do was stay outside and play and run.  He thought the snow was the best thing in the world.

Rundle had fun running.....

....And jumping...

....And Playing....

....And Chasing....

.... And The Occasional Actually Standing Still.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nosework Seminar

Yesterday, Rundle had the opportunity to get a working spot in a local Nosework seminar. Nosework has been in the U.S. for a few years now but it is a brand new sport to Canada, with the Sporting Detection Dogs Association ( just starting up this past year.  In a Nosework test, dogs must find the target odours (wintergreen, pine and thyme) that are hidden in various spots (in boxes and/or interior rooms and/or vehicles, depending on the level you are testing at).  It is much like how drug detection dogs learn to find various substances only our dogs learn to find substances (odours) that are not illegal. Dogs of all breeds (mixed or not), sizes and ages can learn this game.

We had a lot of fun at the seminar and Rundle had a blast searching the boxes and getting cookies for finding the box with the target scent (we used wintergreen). This is a sport that I am interested in continuing with. Once Rundle knows what he is supposed to be searching for, it will not take much room or time to practice, and it is perfect for those bad weather days when it is tough to get outside.  It is so great to see dogs using their noses - it is such a natural thing for them so I am sure it is very rewarding for them to get to be allowed to use their natural abilities.  

Here are a couple videos that my awesome friends took for me (I didn't know anyone was video taping). 

The first video is when we started using the boxes. There is the wintergreen scent in the box along with some food. When the dog finds the box with the scent, we put more food in the box to make it very rewarding. (Thanks Amanda for the video).


The next video is after we have done a few sessions with the boxes. There is no longer food in the boxes but we still reward heavily as soon as our dog's head goes into the box with the scent. We really want to make that connection with the smell and good things (food) happening. You can see Rundle is very excited to get to the boxes! (Thanks Jolene for the video).

Now I just need to find some good boxes to hide scent in and we can get started training at home. It is great timing too as suddenly our nice autumn weather has turned to cold and snow.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Downs Continued

We have had some progress in our downs at a distance. We have moved away from working on the stairs back to working on the flat.  I am now leaving Rundle in a stand stay, walking away and then asking for a down.  He is now downing on cue with little forward motion. Right now I am giving him a "learning phase" grace of a maximum of 2 steps forward. If he moves more than that, I reset and ask for the down again. Eventually I will want no forward movement at all after I give the cue, so I will shape our way towards that goal.
Since our goal in this exercise is for Rundle to be able to drop anywhere on cue, even if he is moving, I want him to learn how to drop out of motion. I am teaching this separate from the drop from a stand at a distance because he needs to understand the two concepts individually before I combine them. So, I am having Rundle drop while walking beside me to teach him that he can drop quickly on my cue while he is moving. I am posting a video that includes the first two sessions working on this. So far so good.  I will gradually keep moving when he drops and expect him to stay in the down position but I expect that will take several sessions of reinforcement to learn.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Teaching Downs

I started teaching Rundle to lay down on cue when he was about 10 weeks old.  Now, he will lay down quickly when I give the cue and he is even getting some good durations on his downs.

When teaching a puppy to lay down it is easiest to have them right next to you or in front of you so you can lure or capture the down and then reward right away. This starts the foundation for a solid down on cue.  Eventually, you will want your puppy to respond immediately to the down cue, no matter where they are.  This is where my problem has come in. Rundle has generalized the down position to mean lay down right in front of me, so no matter where he is when I give him the down cue, he will always come right up to my feet before laying down. I want him to be able to lay down no matter how far away from me he is when I give the cue.  I have been working on this with him for a couple weeks and have made a wee bit of progress but not much. So, I have started working this exercise with Rundle at the top of the stairs and with me a few steps down. When I give the down cue, Rundle must lay down without moving toward me (coming down the steps). This gives him the opportunity to think through the challenge as he has the choice to come down the stairs toward me or lay down at the top. I will gradually move further and further down the stairs until he is laying down quickly no matter how far away I am.  Once we have some distance that way I will go back to asking for down at a distance without being on the stairs.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

6 Months

It's hard to believe that Rundle is already six months old.  He is fun, cuddly, sweet and smart all rolled up into 55 pounds of playful and cute puppy-ness.
Rundle 6 months - Growing Up Nicely

For Rundle's 6 month birthday he got to take a trip to the mountains for the very first time.  We did a quick day trip to the BC Rockies to enjoy the mountain air and sights.  Rundle was very excited to go for a hike on the trails and to smell lots of new smells.  I think he enjoyed his day as he slept for the entire 2 hour drive home.

Freckly-Faced Cuteness

We are still working on our on-line performance puppy class, which is going well.  We are also still going to puppy agility classes.  Rundle loves puppy agility!  He gets to do fun things like run as fast as he can through the tunnels, play tug, chase me, and he is learning what a jump is.  He is not actually jumping, of course, but he is learning value for going through the standards and over a jump bump.  He is also doing some plank work, which he thinks is a blast.  He is the youngest puppy in the class, so we modify lots of the exercises for him, as he will not be jumping or doing any contact work for quite a while still.  Right now, the most important things he is learning from puppy agility, is that playing with me is fun and how to focus and work with lots of distractions going on around him.

I have also started doing some tracking with Rundle.  I don't know how far we will go with tracking as I only have a tiny bit of experience with it and it is something that takes a lot of time and dedication if you really want to be successful.  It is something that is good for young dogs to do, as it is low impact, uses the dog's natural abilities and is a good way to tire out a young, active pup without putting a lot of stress on their joints.  For now it is fun and Rundle thinks that following the "cookie trail" to find even more cookies is the best thing ever!

Although it seems like we are doing a lot of training, unless we are in class, we really only do a few minutes of formal training here and there throughout the day.  Most of our training is done as a part of our everyday activities - we play lots, go for walks or out to just socialize.  Here is a little video of Rundle and I playing tug in the back yard.  I am very happy that he still likes to play tug and that he will use playing and tug as a reward when we are training.

It is fun to see Rundle learn and change as he grows up, but it is also a bit sad that his baby puppy days are now behind us.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Little Things

Sometimes when we are training a new puppy, we get caught up in teaching sits, downs, stays and walking nice on a leash and we forget to celebrate the little things that make our puppies well behaved, easy-to-live-with companions.

This week, I am celebrating two "training" milestones, that for some may seem insignificant, but for me are big accomplishments.  The first one is that I can put an entire load of dishes into the dishwasher without Rundle diving in and trying to lick all the dishes.  He now sits nicely next to me and watches, but no more dishwasher diving!  The second milestone is that Rundle has learned what the snooze button means.  The alarm used to mean pounce on mom and lick her until she gets up.  Rundle now knows when I hit the snooze, I am not getting up and that he should go and lay on his bed for 9 more minutes.  Since I am almost always lacking in the sleep department, that is cause for huge celebration :)

It is always nice to be able to celebrate the "little things" that our puppies learn.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Free Shaping

I mentioned in my last post that I signed Rundle up for a Performance Puppy class with the Fenzi Acadamy of Dog Sports. Although I am not allowed to share specific class lessons I am allowed to share the videos that I made for the class. One thing that this class has really forced me to do is to work on free shaping. This is something that is a bit out of my element even though I have been clicker training for some time. I usually shape with a specific goal in mind to teach a specific behaviour, but I never really got into the "101 Things To Do With A Box" that is the trademark game of clicker trainers. I guess I never really saw the point of rewarding any random behaviour the dog offered and to be honest, I found it a bit boring. I do think it is a good game to play to teach good timing and to teach you how to be observant, especially if you are new to clicker training. After doing this class, I do see the benefit for the dog in free shaping. It gives the dog permission to try new things and to offer many types of behaviors. It really gets them thinking and doing - Rundle seems to enjoy the game, so that is a bonus.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Training and Shows and Fun, Oh My!

Rundle and I have been keeping very busy over the past few weeks.  Rundle started puppy kindergarden and a puppy agility class.  Puppy K is lots of fun - we get to practice all the basic behaviours he already knows, such as sit and down.  He gets more practice with loose leash walking with the distractions of other puppies.  We will also get to work on some manner like not jumping on people - Rundle loves to jump and is happy to greet new people, so this is something that we need to work lots on and it is something that we cannot work on at home.  Puppy agility class is fun too.  Rundle is much too young to start any real agility work but puppy class is geared towards setting up a good agility foundation.  We work on recalls, lots of body awareness and having our puppies read our body cues.  Although we have already been working on some of this at home, having a puppy that is used to working in an agility-type environment (dogs running and barking) is important.  This type of environment can be very stimulating for a dog so if a puppy grows up training and working in that type of environment it should be "normal" for them.

We have also started an online class through the Fenzi Academy of Dog Sports.  It is a Performance Puppy class taught by Deborah Jones.  I have lots of things that I know I need to fix in my training and I hope this class gives me the boost I need to change some of the things I have been doing.  It will also be fun to take a class from someone who is very well known in the world of +R training.  The purpose of the class is to build a solid foundation in which your puppy will learn to love to work.  I really want to develop the enthusiasm need to have a successful performance dog.  Teaching behaviours is the easy part - developing a dog that loves to work for the joy of working is much more difficult.  Puppies are born with such enthusiasm and joy for the littlest things and I want to foster that and mold it into a love of working.

Getting Rundle out and seeing the world is still a big part of his puppyhood.  We try to go somewhere everyday, even if it is just a walk to the park at the end of the street.  Yesterday Rundle had his biggest day yet in terms of being out and socializing.  We went to the dog show.  Dogs shows are busy places and a great place to meet people who love dogs.  I was helping out in our Breed Club information booth and Rundle got to hang out all day and meet and greet all the visitors to the booth.  He was amazing!  He walked in full of confidence - you would think he goes to dog shows every day.  He met lots of people and was friendly with everyone who stopped to say hi.  He especially loved the kids and would play bow and try to get them to chase him or would give them gentle kisses on the chin.  What a great little puppy he is.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Naughty Will Happen

If you watched Rundle's 14 week old video that I posted yesterday, you will have noticed that at the end of the video I left in a clip of Rundle being "naughty". I had left treats on the table and he jumped up to eat them. Bad me!  In situations like this, it is not fair to blame the puppy for doing something that is simply nothing more than puppy behaviour. That is why I put the clip in the video - to show that "oops" happen sometimes and how we deal with them is more important than what actually happened.  Rundle grabbed the treats and I gently moved him away so I could pick up the treats that were remaining. I did not punish, scold, hit or otherwise threaten a puppy that has not yet learned self control or that stealing food off the table is not allowed. It is my job to manage his environment so things like that do not happen and I failed.  It happened and I now need to be much more aware of where I leave treats and be more proactive in situations like this, such as asking Rundle for a sit when I notice him looking for treats on the table - a puppy can not sit and jump at the same time.

I am sure there are those who will be thinking "how will your puppy ever learn if you don't (insert punishment here) him"?  He will learn the same way that he has been learning the other self-control skills we have been working on - with time and practice and maturity. He already knows that he doesn't get his supper if he is jumping and twirling - supper only happens if your butt is sitting.  He will also learn that stealing food is not allowed if I am diligent about rewarding what I want. It will take time and patience but I will not use fear, punishment or intimidation to teach an innocent puppy basic manners (or anything for that matter).  We now have one more thing to add to Rundle's training list :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Growth, Getting Out and Learning

Rundle is now 14 weeks old and has been living with us for 6 full weeks.  He continues to be a fun, bright, inquisitive puppy.  He just squeaked past the 30 pound mark in weight and I imagine he is still the smallest of his littermates.  I weigh him every few days, not because I am worried about his weight, but because I like to monitor the rate he is growing at.  I like to see a slow, even growth of about 2-2.5 pounds a week (10 pounds per month) and being a raw fed puppy, calories are not as easily measured as if he was kibble fed.  So I weigh often and adjust food intake as needed.  Large breed puppies should be kept lean as a slower growth is much better for the development of their joints and soft tissues - when bone grows faster than the muscles and ligaments, this puts strain on joints and soft tissues.  As long as a puppy is provided with adequate nutrition, their final size is determined by genetics, not by how fast they grow. So, I aim for a lean puppy with a slow, even growth and as long as Rundle is healthy and active, I am not going to worry about how big he is compared to other puppies his age.

Now that Rundle is getting older, he is able to get out a lot more.  He now gets to come with me and his  big brother Bosley to Bosley's agility class.  It is a great place to meet other friendly dogs and people who love to help socialize puppies.  He is also going to start attending the agility foundation classes.  He is too young to participate, but he was invited out so he can learn to work with me in a distracting environment.  So we will go and work on puppy training at the agility field while the rest of the dogs are having class.  Rundle will also start Puppy Kindergarten in a couple weeks.  Again, another opportunity for him to learn that working for me is fun, even when there is the distraction of other puppies.  It will also be nice for him to play with other puppies his own age.  Puppies learn a lot from playing with other puppies.

This past weekend, Rundle had the big adventure of getting to hang out at an agility trial.  It was our local agility trial, so I brought Rundle out for a few hours each day.  He met lots of new people and a few new dogs.  He got exposed to the sights and sounds of a real agility trial (a variety of sizes and breeds of dogs, lots of barking, shouting, teeters banging) and he took it all in stride.  I don't think there was one thing that worried him and he was happy to meet all the new people.  One of the things that any performance dog must be comfortable with is being in a crate.  Much of the time for a dog at an agility/obedience/rally, etc trial is spent crated.  So Rundle got to play "get in your house" a lot when he was out this weekend and was rewarded  for staying quietly in his crate.

As for training,  I gradually add new behaviours and build on what Rundle already knows, in a way that I feel will be challenging for him but not overwhelming.  I have now combined the hand touches that Rundle has been doing since he was 8 weeks old with the recalls that he has also been doing since he came home.  We now practice him coming to the hand that I drop as I run away.  This is the very beginning of agility foundation work that will become the start of circle work and crosses (lead changes).  All complex behaviours that we teach our dogs (such as difficult agility moves or advanced obedience exercises) are all based in the basic foundations that we teach our puppies and young dogs.
Sometimes I teach Rundle things that I didn't really plan on teaching yet, just because it seemed to fit into what we were doing.  For example, Rundle learned a "get in" command (finding heel position).  I had not planned on teaching this for a while, but he was naturally moving into that position because of some of the other things we had been doing (leg weaves), so I decided to add the "get in" into our training.  So, I have a basic plan for training, but it is also a fluid plan that changes as required.

Here is another short video of what we have been working on:

Monday, July 1, 2013

13 Weeks

Rundle turned 13 weeks old on Saturday and over the past week I have noticed an increase in his energy level.  He is napping less and wanting to play more.  He is getting more and more enthusiastic about training and is getting more confident about offering behaviours.  I have also noted that he seems to have a high frustration level - meaning that he will keep trying without getting frustrated that he is not being rewarded.

This past week, I faded the clicker and hand lures on the behaviours that he knows well and have started random reinforcement on several behaviours.  I will still use the marker word "yes" or give him verbal praise when he does something correctly, but I am fading out the cookies on the things we have been working on for a while and that he is fairly solid on.  He has no problems working for several repetitions without a (food) reward (I always praise).

We continue to work on all the basic behaviours we have started - recalls, sit, down, stand, hand touches, etc., as these foundation behaviours will be needed in the more complex training we do later.  We also continue to do body awareness work (balance disc, peanut ball, pivots).  For fun this week, I decided to teach him to weave between my legs when walking - he thinks it is very fun but I might regret it later when he is much bigger than he is now :) We have also started adding duration to his sits and downs (the beginning of a stay) - I do this very slowly and right now I am adding a bit of lateral movement on my part, but not any distance yet.

Here is another little video of what we have been working on.  Rundle is a very bouncy puppy and you will see this a couple times in the video.  Bouncing is just ignored and it's not something I am really concerned about - puppies jump and bounce.  Rundle also seems to come from a family of enthusiastic bouncers - some may think it is it annoying but I find it fun and hopefully we can use his love for bouncing later in our training as I am considering putting that natural behaviour on cue once he is more mature.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Rundle is very enthusiastic about everything, including housework.  Today he was "helping" with the vacuuming.  I wish I thought housework was so entertaining.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rundle - 12 Weeks

Rundle turned 12 weeks old today and in a few days it will be 4 weeks since he joined our family.  It is hard to believe how much a little puppy can become a huge part of your family in just 4 short weeks.  Rundle goes right along with the household schedule, even though it can change from day to day.  He is very easy going that way -  it is nice that puppies are so adaptable.

Over the past two weeks I have really noticed a difference in Rundle's attention span and how much training we can do in a session.  I still keep training sessions short but now we are quitting before he is noticeably ready to stop.  He is really catching on to clicker training and to shaping exercises and comes running when he hears me get the clicker out.  Last week, I decided to try to teach Rundle to go to a mat and lay down.  I figured it would take several sessions over a few days to shape the entire behaviour.  I wish I would have video taped our first session because in about 10 minutes he was going to the mat and laying down.  This was with 100% pure shaping - I did not lure in any way - I just sat in a chair and clicked Rundle for getting closer to the behaviour I wanted.  I was very surprised that Rundle picked up on this so fast, because this was the first shaping exercise he did where several behaviours were combined to make one final behaviour.  I have attached a video and you will see him working this.  The mat I am using in quite small, so it forces him to really work to get on it.  It is also on the carpet, which is harder for him than when it is on a different feeling surface, such as the linoleum.  Right now, I am not too picky about how much of his body is on the mat, as long as he is working to do what I want.  I will reward if he starts out totally on the mat but ends up part off while he is laying down.  Gradually I will only reward when he is totally on the mat in a down position.  You will see in one spot in the video where he laid down beside the mat and he got no reward - I said and did nothing and let him think about what he needed to do to get the cookie.

I sometimes struggle with how much training I should be doing with such a young puppy.  They are such sponges at this age that I hate to waste it by not doing enough.  I also don't want to do too much and have a puppy that is bored or doesn't like training.  I try to keep everything we do fun - I want to set the tone that training and learning is always fun and that working with me always brings good things. We also do lots of playing, just to play.  Rundle also knows that down time is good too.  Everything with a puppy is such a balancing act.

Monday, June 10, 2013

10 Weeks

Rundle is now 10 weeks old and is a completely delightful puppy.  He is happy and fun and loves to play.  He can also settle easily when everyone else is having "down time".   He is learning lots and is happy to be rewarded with either toys or food, which is something I am very pleased to see.

Here is a short video of a few of the things that he is learning.  Sorry, the video quality is not the best.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Body Awareness

I have started Rundle on a bit of body awareness work.  This is to help him with learning balance and how to control his body as well as building core strength.  Body awareness is especially important in large breed dogs as they sometimes can have difficulty knowing what the rear half of their body is doing.  Puppies of any breed and large breed puppies especially, must be monitored in their physical activity so they do not put too much strain on fast growing joints and bones.  I am careful to only introduce exercises that put no stress impact on Rundle's joints and I never force the activity beyond what he is physically capable of doing.

Here is a short video of Rundle working on the balance disk.  The disk is not inflated too much so there is little rocking motion but there is enough that Rundle needs to work to balance on it.  I do not force him on the disc, rather I wait until he gets on and then I reward.  I want the interactions with the disk to be fun and totally initiated by Rundle.  Once he is more confident on the disk, I will start asking for specific behaviors (sit, down, stand) but for now all I want is for him to offer to get on the disk.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Out And About

Socialization is a balancing act with young, un-vaccinated puppies.  It is important that they get out to see new things and meet new people before that critical window of opportunity ends at about 16 weeks of age, but at the same time you don't want to expose them to potentially serious disease.

I want Rundle to be socialized and confident in new situations and with new people for several different reasons.  First, it is much easier to manage a dog that takes everything in stride.  Second, Berners can have a (undesired) tendency to shyness and this is something I would prefer to avoid.  Shyness has a large hereditary component and hopefully with the careful choosing of Rundle's breeder and pedigree that won't be an issue for us, but there can be other factors involved in shyness, so I will do my best to avoid it.  Berners can be aloof, and that is fine.  I don't need a dog who thinks everyone is his best friend but I really want a dog that is confident in any situation or with any new person. The third reason I want a well socialized, confident dog is that I hope Rundle will grow up to be a fun and willing performance dog.  It is much easier to do obedience, agility, carting, etc. with a dog that is comfortable and confident anywhere they go.

Right now Rundle cannot go anywhere that unknown dogs frequent.  This means no public parks, no playgrounds and no pet stores.  I do not want to risk disease and I do not want Rundle to meet dogs that I do not know.  At this age, meeting unknown dogs (and their owners) has the potential of becoming a very bad situation for a puppy that may be scared or hurt by a dog that may not have the best canine social skills.  So I avoid that situation all together by only letting Rundle meet dogs that I know and who are good with puppies.

So, if I don't let Rundle go to the park or meet other dogs, what do we do?  Rundle gets to go somewhere different nearly every day.  So far this week we have been for a walk to the mailbox at the end of the street (Rundle being carried) to see traffic, construction workers, and people on bikes.  We have been to the hardware store to meet all the staff and see lots of new people and things.  We have been to my work where there was lots of cuddling (for Rundle) and visiting (for both of us).  We have been to the vet clinic where Rundle was passed around to all the staff and introduced to the clinic cat.  Rundle also got to go visit a Tae Kwon-Do class where there was lots of noise and activity.

So far Rundle has taken everything in stride and doesn't seem phased by any of the new things he has seen or heard.  He is accepting in meeting and being held by people he doesn't know and is curious about new sights and sounds. We will continue this type of gentle socialization for several weeks - lots of new sights and sounds but nothing too overwhelming.  

A Bit Of Play

Rundle already has a love for toys and playing which I am happy for because not all Bernese seem to get the play gene. So I make sure to play with Rundle every day to encourage that love of toys, tugging, chasing and playing.

Playing tug is a great way to engage with any dog and a wonderful tool to have to use later in training as a high value reward. Right now I am just trying to build the value of tugging and have set no rules except bite the toy not my hand. As Rundle learns more about the game and is more enthusiastic I will start to set rules such as an automatic "drop it" when I ask and waiting to be released to the toy. I will need to teach these concepts seperate from the actual game and then make them a part of the rules. 

For now we have short and fun tug play sessions - I don't want to beg Rundle to play so we quit before he is bored (which can be quick with a 9 week old puppy). 

Here is a short video of a play/tug session.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Puppy Basics

 Rundle has been here for almost one week and we are still working mainly on basic puppy things. Housetraining, crate work, recalls and name recognition are at the top of the list of things we work on every day.

House training is going well, but it does take a lot of diligence on my part. A 9 week old puppy cannot be expected to hold his pee for hours at a time or to ask to go outside consistently. Rundle gets lots of bathroom breaks outside whenever he wakes from a nap, has had a play session or looks like he is wandering around sniffing. So far he has been doing very well. He knows where "outside" is and is going to the back door much more often on his own. Every time he happens to walk near the back door, I ask him if he needs out and we go outside, even if it has just been 2 minutes since he was out last. I'm sure some of the time it's a coincidence that he is near the back door, but I also know that sometimes he is actually making the choice to go there. I will not expect him to be really solid in the house training area for a couple months, but so far he is making good progress.

I think we have had a breakthrough in crate training. I was putting Rundle in the crate with a Kong and leaving for a short time but he was upset at being alone and would not eat the treats in his Kong. Yesterday I re-watched Susan Garrett's "Crate Games" DVD and we worked on the basic skills last night using Rundle's supper as a reward. He is now going in his crate on his own and is quiet and calm when I leave. When I got his Kong treat out today, he ran in the crate to wait for it.  I am happy with the quick turn around in Rundle's thoughts toward the crate, but we are not done yet and I will continue to reinforce this and continue with the basics of the Crate Games method.

Recalls and name recognition kind of go hand in hand. When I say Rundle's name I want him to look at me and respond enthusiastically. I call him to me lots during the day and I am now getting a good response when I say his name - mostly running to me. When I say his name and he responds he always, always gets some reward - a treat or a play with a toy or a happy "good dog" tustle.  We are still doing lots of "chase me" games in the yard to make coming to me fun and exciting. I want to build a solid recall foundation before we leave the safety of the yard.

"Here I Come"

Other than those basic things we have been working on "sit" and Rundle is getting good at that, especially when there is food coming his way.  He has started to learn "down" and a nose touch to my hand.  We have been doing body awareness work using the balance disk and the peanut ball. He thinks those are fun.  Rundle is still a baby puppy, so everything we do is based in fun and done in short sessions.  I want him to know that learning and experiencing new things is fun.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Puppy Fun

Today Rundle was the most playful he has been since he has arrived here.  There is nothing like a puppy to keep you laughing.  Rundle likes to run and was doing laps in the yard as fast as his little legs could take him.  He loves toys and is happy playing with me (he loves to chase and tug) and he is also happy playing by himself.  He chased a water bottle around for about 10 minutes tonight - batting it, pouncing on it and chomping it.  He is a very entertaining little guy.

Playing Tug With The Camera Strap
Besides all the fun, puppies are a lot of work.  You really can't take your eye off of them for a second - I don't want any potty accidents or any inappropriate chewing.  Rundle is getting pretty good at running to the back door to go outside to potty.  I still make sure I am taking him out lots and watching for signs that he might have to go - it will be a while before he is reliably letting me know he needs to go out, but he is catching on.

We continue to carry on with normal household activities and Rundle got to help with the housework.  He chased and barked at the vacuum and tried to catch the mop.  He thinks that anything that moves is a lot of fun.

We did some more socialization stuff too.  Nail trimming was on the agenda, which didn't phase him at all.  Rundle also got to run through the agility tunnel - he didn't hesitate to chase a toy though it and later ran though on his own.  He has been for several car rides to see new faces and things.  This weekend he should be meeting more new people as I asked everyone to let Rundle settle in a few days before he had a ton of visitors.

As for more formal training, we worked on 'sit', 'no mugging' and 'recalls'.  Recalls with a puppy are fun and generally Rundle just follows behind me anyway, so I am adding in his name as I run away and then we play when he catches me.  I am just trying to make coming to me as fun as I can.  We practice this every time we are out in the yard.

We also did some crate work.  Rundle is good in the crate at night and in the car but he needs to learn it is okay to be in the crate when he is alone.  So, I am working on making the crate a good, safe place where he can relax.  He gets put in his crate with a stuffed kong and I leave the room.  I am only leaving for a very short time then I go back to tell him what a good boy he is and let him out.

Rundle was introduced to the metal scent articles today.  I want him to be fine picking up metal articles so I brought one out for him to play with.  He picked it up, carried it and chewed on it without a second thought.  Metal objects can be difficult for some dogs to want to pick up, so if Rundle is fine with metal as a puppy, hopefully it won't be an issue as he gets older.
Playing With The Metal Dumbbell

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Introducing .... Rundle!

Rundle has officially been a part of our family for two full days now. I picked him up Tuesday from the breeder's house and we had a long trip home - 4 hours on the plane and 2.5 hours by car. He was a great little traveller and slept most of the entire trip. I suspect much of that had to do with the sudden stress of unfamiliar surrounding, but he doesn't seem to be affected by any of it.

Yesterday was Rundle's first full day home and we kept things a bit quiet. He is learning where the potty area is and the household schedule. We spent much of his first day outside on the deck. Rundle got to hear traffic noise, airplanes, thunder and the lawnmower. He doesn't seem to be sound sensitive at all as he was not startled by any of the noises.

Today has been much of the same - gentle introductions to what goes on in our house. Rundle also got brushed today - he didn't mind at all and thought the brush was a fun toy. I started conditioning the clicker today so that we can start some clicker training within the next few days. We also practiced "your butt must be on the ground if you want a cookie" - he did well with that and now we have much less bouncing and much more sitting.

After my first couple days with Rundle I am still getting to know him but I have formed a few first impressions. So far he likes toys - he likes to chase them and to play tug. He will bring a toy back if you encourage him. He carried my keys around yesterday, so he doesn't mind picking up metal.  He is so-so about food right now. He loves his meals but is not over the top crazy about treats. I have only tried a couple different treats and nothing I would consider high value.  So far it is looking like he will have a nice balance between food and toy drive. I want to foster both, that is why I am not using really yummy treats right, now as Berners tend to be much more food driven than toy driven and I don't want Rundle to decide that food is the more interesting of the two.  So far Rundle seems to be a medium energy kind of puppy. He likes to run and play but he can also settle nicely when he is held or petted. In a few weeks I'm sure I will have a better idea of what his energy level will be like.

So, for the next few days we will be concentrating on house training and basic puppy manners. He already has a healthy respect for adult dogs, so that is good. We will start some clicker work and continue to foster his play drive. Mostly we will be getting to know each other and developing a relationship and bond.