Saturday, April 8, 2017

Good Dog!

"Who's a good dog?"

When the puppies are chewing on the wooden legs of chairs, or peeing on the floor, or doing zoomies through the house, or fighting over a toy, I'd be hard-pressed to call either one of them GOOD. Average, perhaps, or normal, but no, I would not use the word good.

Since we've graduated Puppy Preschool, and begun Puppy Kindergarten, we're finding more and more opportunities to say, "Good dog!" or "YES!" The Puppy Professor, in our case, Amy or Maggie, is teaching us Karen Pryor's clicker method. Basically, we're always looking for ways to catch the puppies doing something right, and we click our clicker, and reward them with a treat.

Make eye contact? Click/treat. Walk beside me on the leash? Click/treat. Come when called? Click/treat. Sit on command? Click/treat. Poop OUTSIDE? Click/treat.
Look how little they were!

Bristol and Sam are 15 and 17 weeks old. They learned to sit, in tandem, a couple months ago. I was thrilled when that happened, let me tell you! When I feed them dinner, we are working on WAIT. After they SIT, I place their bowls of food on the floor, tell them to wait, and then I watch the clock. Right now, we're up to 20 seconds, and then I call them by name, one at a time, to go eat. It was so hard at first for one to wait to be called after the other, but they are doing it!

When I used to walk the puppies around our neighborhood, both at the same time, I was one frustrated puppy mama. Bristol basically just wanted to sit. If I could even get him to get off his butt, which was a rare treat, he was never excited about exercise. Sami, on the other hand, was all over the place, darting after leaves, investigating every single stick, and trying to chase every poor robin. My left arm was always being pulled back by Bristol, and my right arm felt like it was being pulled out of its socket by the Black Bullet. How in the world was I supposed to hold two leashes, a clicker, and reward them with a treat? It was simply unmanageable for me. I felt so uncoordinated.

At our last class, I was so relieved when Maggie told us we could give the puppies an enthusiastic verbal YES instead of clicking their good behavior. What a relief! One less thing to manage when I'm trying to work with two puppies.

Recall is something we continue to work on. It's the most important task of all, to me, and the most challenging. I yell, "Here! Here! Here!" in an excited, happy voice, and wave my hand in the air. When they DO come to me, I reward them handsomely with some liver paste or cut-up hotdogs. Usually, they are waaay too busy playing to be bothered with paying any attention to me, so I'm trying to time my requests better. I'm realizing if we do our training before they've eaten, they're more apt to come when I offer a treat. I also watch for a lull in their play, so I have a better chance of being heard.

Last night was a momentous one. I hadn't had any success teaching the puppies to lie down. At our puppy classes, Amy and Maggie had both worked with Sami, and managed to get her to lie down, but when we were at home, neither of the puppies were responding to me the way Sam had to our instructors. After we took the puppies on one of the best  and longest walks ever, and they had some play time together, they were both slightly worn out, and I took advantage of the moment to try the DOWN command again.

Bristol was under our desk. I asked him to sit. He sat. I held his treat in my fist, and put it on the floor in front of him, and he curiously stretched his nose out to follow my hand, and he ended up lying down! Eureka! We repeated the task several times, and then I invited Sami to try it. It only took a couple tries, and she did it, too! I know that's not the biggest deal in the world right now, but it was the biggest deal at our house last night!

Good girl, Sam!

When the puppies are sleeping, Sami stretched out to her full length, and Bristol, curled up in a ball, snoring away, that's when I get my reward. Watching them sleep is my click/treat every single time. I feel like all of the inconveniences of raising puppies are worth it. Before they fall asleep, the puppies are affectionate, and let me cuddle and hug them tight. Then they get into their favorite positions, and drift off to sleep.

Who's a good dog? Bristol is!

Who's a good dog? Sami is!

And I am so happy these good dogs are ours.


  1. So enjoying your window into the vicissitudes of life with the dogs. Love your humour.

    1. Thank you, Valerie! I am surprised at how well-received my Puppy Tales have been.


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