Tag Archives: dog training

Chloë Takes a Puppy to School

Mr. Fuzz

I was excited to to return to my mountain getaway in east King County last week. As soon as we exited I-90 and climbed into to the foothills, I knew where we were going, back to the palace of wall-to-wall carpet and lawns galore. It’s my absolutely favorite place to play fetch, 50 or more throws at each session. And I love being the undisputed leader of the pack with Pumpkin, the little dog who lives there, and the mysterious Mr. Fuzz, the bushy cat who mostly stays upstairs when I’m around. They know their place.

Smokey

Unfortunately, sometime after our last visit, Smokey showed up. About 8 months old when we arrived, Smokey is the successor to Tara, the brilliant Aussie who showed me the ropes out here when I was a but a wee pup. Supposedly it was my turn to pass some wisdom on to Smokey, except for one thing: Smokey just didn’t want to listen. Every single time he could, he just wanted to bite me on the ears or stick his nose up my butt, like I was going to smell different every time. Heather yelled, “Leave!” and “No” more than I’ve ever heard them yelled before, even in my own frolicking puppyhood. Heather was worn out after a week of grappling on the other end of a leash with Smokey, a strong and growing boy.

Chloe and Smokey rest on the trail.

Heather said Smokey hadn’t been out much beyond the grounds of his home property. He didn’t know anything about taking a walk, so we taught him how to do it, and we walked on the Preston-Snoqualmie and the Snoqualmie Valley trails. By the end of our time there, he was getting better at following the pack, although he kept trying to pick up large sticks at the end instead of in the middle, and he turned out to be a serial pooper, meaning he took several long strides between each deposit, so it was hard to know when he was done and harder to find those nuggets when he was. Heather needed a lot of bags. And she also had to teach Smokey about how to ride in the back of the car, although it took a lot of pushing and shoving from Heather and Mike in the front seat to keep him there. On the plus side, since Smokey had to be by himself in the back seat tied to my harness, I finally regained my rightful place in the front seat in Mike’s lap. Good timing, too; in this comfortable spot I could lay my head down, close my eyes, and not think about the twisty roads we were driving on, which make me queasy.

Chloë smugly watches Smokey suffer in Heather’s Boot Camp.

Heather tried valiantly to teach Smokey better manners, but even a week in Heather’s infamous Boot Camp could not make much difference. Hopefully Smokey will grow out of his rambunctiousness and be a nice guy to be around, but at this time he’s still a work in progress. While we were in the house, he mostly had to stay in his exercise pen in the living room, just to keep him out of everyone’s face and give Pumpkin and I some respite from his constant advances. We all felt sorry for Pumpkin, because when no one is around to tell Smokey “no,” he will hound her constantly and drive her into her crate or onto seats of chairs that are pushed in under the dining room table, where she crawls up in her little lair and hopes he doesn’t find her.

Status reclaimed.

Anyway, I missed out on the other Big Excitement of our week at the getaway. I was inside the house with Mike in the middle of the afternoon when Heather took Pumpkin and Smokey outside for some exercise. She threw the ball for Smokey (and he was making some progress on bringing it back!) while Pumpkin ran unleashed in in the horse ring until Heather saw a cougar standing at the edge of the property, on a trail that goes into the state forest land out back. She yanked on Smokey’s leash, called Pumpkin to come and hightailed it with them to the house, while the cougar hightailed it in the opposite direction.

It was a good thing that I didn’t happen to be out there fetching my ball on the back lawn when that big cat appeared. Everyone knows how much I love to chase cats. It could have been good practice for the Bartons’ cats down the street., and no one doubts I would have been deterred by its size.

Chloe on Preston-Snoqualmie Trail

Although I missed that opportunity, and sometimes Smokey got to be a bit intimidating, it was a worthwhile time out there. It made Heather appreciate much more just what a good dog I am. And as I always like to say, better him than me.

 

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Chloë Mentors Merrie

Merrie

I know it’s hard to envision me as a role model for anyone. I see myself more as a Charles Barkley, don’t-call-me-a-role-model type. But Merrie, the Basset hound who lives down my street, really needs my help if she is ever going to mature into a well-behaved, well-rounded dog. When they put it that way, I just couldn’t say no. So Heather and I and Merrie and her owner Jane all went to the park one morning for our first lesson. We ran around, and they did a lot of talking. I thought it went well, but I could see there’s a lot of work left to do.

Learning a thing or two.

Merrie wants to romp around and play with other dogs, but she doesn’t understand how to do it. When she was young, she never got socialized with other pups like I did in my puppy kindergarten.  Now, as an adult, Merrie is big, but she doesn’t know her own strength. Dealing with her girth is fine when she and I are just running around on the parade ground, but when she wants to pounce and sit on me, that’s not OK, and I had to let her know it.. I could have nipped at her and bared my teeth, but I figured if I just rolled over on my back and showed her my belly, she would get that same message in a gentler way. It worked, too.

Ready for action

Moving forward, if I can just get Merrie to reign in her enthusiasm a little, we’ll be good together as frolickers for years to come. Heather and I plan to resume her lessons as soon as we return from summer vacation. We all have too many things to do before we leave to make any real progress at this point. Baby steps.

Chloë Goes Back to School

Who’s the Boss?

Back when Mike was in college (shortly after the Civil War, I assume), he was NEVER considered a BMOC (Big Man On Campus).  I, on the other hand, have been a BDOC (Big Dachshund on Campus) since my youth. Not only was I the top dog in my puppy classes at the Ahimsa Academy, but all of the other dogs in my classes, all of their owners, and, most importantly, all of the dog trainers and all of the dog trainers’ assistants knew me by name. And that’s an important element in securing the kind of first-rate service I require.

Ahimsa entrance: They train champions.

My recent Introduction to Nose Work class was no exception: Once again, by the time my six sessions ended, it was again clear that I was the best student there. Nose work is in my genes.

In nose work, dogs find a target  by following a scent.  This course  introduces dogs and their owners to the foundation skills needed to excel at finding things on cue using their nose. “The cool part about nose work is that you and your dog can do it anywhere – on walks, in the yard, in the house,” the Ahimsa website says. “There’s not a lot of gear, as there is with agility, and it doesn’t take a lot of space, like tracking does. It’s great for older dogs, puppies that have finished kindergarten, dogs with joint problems that can no longer run agility and even reactive dogs. It’s not just for particular breeds, either. No matter how big or small or smush-faced, your dog can do nose work.”

Poised to find it.

I had an advantage, however. As a hound, that’s what I’ve been bred for, and, as my many forays into many thickets will attest, I exhibit this trait in earnest. My nose is my calling card. I’m a dachshund Paladin: Have Nose, Will Travel…Wire Chloë Seattle.

Strategy session.

My nose class met in the Ahimsa annex, across the street from my earlier Ahimsa classrooms. On the outside, the annex looked like any one of the many auto body shops and metal fabricators in the neighborhood. But inside, it’s a great space: large and open like a gym, with a cushy floor. It would be big enough for the Seattle Sonics to shoot baskets there, if there were Sonics.

In this class I didn’t get to interact as much with other dogs. All of our exercises had to be done one at a time, and when it wasn’t my turn I was either practicing off in a corner or in a strict down/ stay. Which pretty much meant that whether I was working or whether I was resting, I was getting lots of treats for doing the right thing. And getting treats is what really counts.

Chloe gets a treat after she finds it.

First I leaned to follow a scent…using treats, of course. First the treat went into a small box, and when I stuck my nose in the box I could eat the treat. Then it got harder; two or three boxes, turned over boxes, boxes on chairs. Then they put the treats into small containers with holes in the top, like a large pepper shaker. Then they closed the top of the containers, and then increased the number of boxes. No problem. Every time Mike told me to “Find It,” I did, and I got  several pieces of cheese every time.

Between classes, we practiced.  Mike hid containers in the house, in the yard and in the park. I found them and got the cheese inside. Then I learned how to find a specific scent (birch) instead of merely following food smells. I caught on quickly; I still got cheese at the end even it if wasn’t inside the container. After a lot of repetition and cajoling, I even figured out that I had to put my paw on the container  instead of just touching it with my nose. First I thought this was superfluous, but eventually I learned to do it emphatically, my version of spiking the football after a touchdown. Yeah, baby, I found it! Where’s the treat?

Chloë checks out the agility riser during recess.

I also wanted to give an official blog shout out here for instructors Adriane and Tamara for successfully training Mike and Heather to keep up their part of this new game. I could tell that it was touch and go at first for Mike, but now he’s getting better at it. I’ll make him stick with it, too.

Next up in the curriculum is Nose Work 2: Intro to Odor (love that name!), in which dogs learn to search for particular scents, starting with the birch essential oil that I’ve already been working with and moving on to others (might I suggest eau de rabbit, my favorite scent?). The class is also supposed to develop my drive to search (as if mine needs to be developed any further) and build teamwork with my masters. No doubt Mike and Heather can benefit from that.  After all, as they learned long ago, “Suous cultores scientia coronat – knowledge crowns those who seek her.”¹.

¹Motto of Syracuse University