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.