Company for Colds and Sicknesses

I had two days off in a row, which is some kind of record for the last few months so of course I came down with a miserable cold. I’m fighting to keep it from going into my chest, but I’m losing. I’m afraid I’m getting bronchitis. I’ve also been having a string of bad migraines so I’m feeling pretty lousy.
Company for Colds

My pups have been very good company. They are so patient when I’m sick. I really value having dogs that are happy to get up and go with me, but can also kick back and keep me company when I need to lay low.

When Magnus was a puppy I was really sick. I was in a severe depression and slept a lot. He as such a good boy to sleep with me even though he was a puppy. Looking back on the blog I don’t think that really comes through in my posts, but it was not the best time in my life. Being down today made me start thinking of this next boy puppy coming into my life. Actually nearly everything makes me think of the puppy.

It will be so different this time. With Maizey and Magnus I wasn’t a working mom. I had much more time than I do now. But being such an introvert I also had to work harder to get them the socialization they needed. We already know I didn’t do a good enough job with Maizey, but with Magnus I really did work hard to get him the socialization he needed. Socialization will be built into this next little guys life as he’ll be coming to work with me quite a lot. That means lots of people and dogs will be built into his life from the beginning.

Remember the battle I had about what do with Magnus and puppy class? Thank goodness I ended up taking him to Calling All Dogs as that was the beginning of my eventually working there. That’s another difference with this puppy. His first three classes are already scheduled out. He’ll start visiting classes as soon as he comes home, then start his own puppy class in the beginning of September. It will be really interesting to be a student in a class I teach now.

So many things are different with this guy. He comes from wonderful lines, Embee Cavaliers has already sent me health certifications on his parents, and grandparents. His first weeks of life have been totally different than my two monkeys. He has been getting early stimulation, good nutrition and wonderful love from day one. Those are all things Maizey certainly didn’t get with her rocky start and things there was no way Magnus had in a puppy mill.

All of this adds up to me being incredibly unworried about this little guy. I was such a worry wort with my last two. I had a list a mile long of things I wanted to accomplish with them. Some of which we’ve done and some we haven’t got to yet. With this guy my only expectation is to love him and have fun.

In general I’m just in a much more settled place, which is funny since many things in my Real Life are the same and some even worse, but the one thing that’s not the same is I’m not sick anymore. I’m stronger and happier and I guess that’s sort of the bottom line with this post. If you suffer from depression, don’t give up. Sometimes things don’t change, but take a lesson from my dogs and sleep when you need to sleep, get up and go when you can, sit in each moment for what it is and just let it be. I know it’s easy to say that and hard to do it, and harder still to remember it when you’re in the pit, but make a note today and let your dogs remind you when you need it.

On a final lighter note, my new little guy needs a name! I have two front runners in mind and think I want to stick with the ‘M’ theme so does anyone have any ideas? Leave me a comment with your favorite puppy name!

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Graduation was Great! What Did We Learn?

Saturday was graduation day for Magnus Puppy Prep class. It was a really fun day, and I was a very silly, very proud crazymomlady.

He got a certificate, a fluffy stuffed toy, and some treats. It was a great time. I am so glad you all talked me into going!

But typical me, my favorite part of the class wasn’t the graduation march, complete with music, or the clapping and cheering. Although that was fun!

No my favorite part was my brave little guy working hard for me and loving it.

This last class was a review of the things we covered in the class. We got a chance to show the progress we have made over the weeks and ask for tips on how to polish up out skills.

“Follow Me” Lessons
At class we learned a “follow me” to start out LLW. It is basically a lure so your dog learns to stay close while you are walking. This turned out to be one of those techniques I didn’t really get at first, but in the end I learned more than I expected.

I learned I can fade a lure much faster. When our instructor saw how well he was doing she said to wait to treat him, in fact she had us walk about 15 feet before treating him. After that I realized I was treating about ever three to five feet, and he could handle much more.

Another reminder was the importance of what we communicate with our body language, tone of voice, etc. Now I already knew this, but when you get to watch someone experienced demonstrate what you are trying to do, it is the smallest changes that make a difference.

For instance when training loose leash walking I realized I always treated for correct position from my right hand. Watching our instructor I saw her lure withthe treat in her left hand. Much more efficient that reaching across my body to treat from my right hand. That small change in my posture is making a difference in both my pups loose leash walk.

Leave It
The class environment really lets you see progress that you don’t notice in your most common training grounds.

It was so nice to have mehusbandy with us for our graduation class. After class he commented how he hadn’t realized what great focus Magnus was getting.

I saw this in Magnus too, when we tried a leave it with the treat on the floor. This is one of those things that had slipped through the cracks when training at home. We have worked tons of puppy Zen but not with the treat on the floor.

So when she told us to try it, I wasn’t sure how he would do. Of course it was no problem!

In fact he added his own twist by offering me a down, staying off the treat and when I cued “leave it” he started scootching backwards with his belly on the ground. I had to laugh. Not my final picture of leave it, but a pretty funny thing for him to figure out on the spur of the moment!

But it was his focus during leave it that I loved. He is learning to look at me and not at what ever he is leaving alone. This is the same puppy I spent the first month laying on the ground hand feeding just to get a glance out of. He has come a long way!

We both learned so much and are looking forward to our next class!

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Puppy Class #1: Lessons Learned

After covering the general scoop on puppy class I realized my favorite lessons were in the silences.

Silence in a puppy class? Well, not literal silence of course! You can’t put nine puppy’s in a room and expect quiet! But instruction ebbs and flows as the trainers give directions and then the class works on following them. It was in these times of less formal instruction that I really gleaned the benefit of puppy class.

Mat Work
Take for instance the simple act of sitting in a chair with about 3 feet between you and the next dog/handler team. We were next to the GSD, who thought we were about as interesting as sand. Magnus on the other hand was sure they should be best friends. He expressed that conviction by straining at the end of his leash and whining at her in his best, “I’m a nice boy com’on let’s play!” voice.

Due to our rousing mat work success the night before I thought, “if I had his mat he would settle right on it.” So I asked, “next week can I bring his mat?”

Of course that would be fine, but “would you like a mat now?”

Of course I would!

So one of the trainers brought me a little rug.

Plop!

Down he went into a park it. I was very proud, and relieved, now I could concentrate! Lesson learned. Mats go everywhere until he generalizes mat work to other objects.

Play Time
Playtime is structured so there is one instructor with the small dogs and one with the large dogs. Everyone takes their dogs on leash to the right area and then are directed to release them at the same time. This is to avoid any on leash aggression.

The puppy’s romp and play and then at random intervals they cue us to “gotcha” your pup. This means collar grab, treat, perhaps ask for a sit or down, then release with, “go play.”

It is amazing how much you can learn from such a simple task. Since Magnus is the best at playing the “keep away from mom” game, this was a great skill for us and one we have been practicing at home this week.

Here’s where it got dicey, for me, not him, of course. Because I wasn’t there when they started playing this I wasn’t prepared for them to cue us to “gotcha” someone elses puppy. So when she said that, I was a little nervous. But it was okay, they had done a good job of letting everyone know what to do when they approached a pup and the people acted appropriately.

Magnus response? “Oh you have a treat? Sweet! Do you have a stick? I like sticks!

Handling
At the end of the class they put on some relaxing music and had every one start handling their dogs. This was just too much for Magnus, who doesn’t love handled unless he wants it!

Most of the dogs in the class were done working at that point. I looked around and the Golden was literally upside down, cradled in his dad’s lap. Our little Shih Tzu buddy was laid out flat on the ground, ready for nap. Alvin the Chihuahua was curled up in his Mom’s arms, completely content. So I look down at my sweet, little, fluffy boy. . .

Who performs a perfect sit, and watches me with his best look of, “What next crazymomlady? Aren’t we going to work more?”

I had to laugh. . . and sigh all at once. So I got on his mat with him and started touch/treat, touch/treat. Magnus’ response?

“MOM! I don’t want to hold still! How ’bout a sit? No? How ’bout a down, or a nose touch, a paw touch? Awe, heck how ’bout I just wiggle, wiggle, wiggle!”

Not so much laughing at that point as sighing.

But again one of the trainers came to my rescue. She was able to get him cradled in her arms by marking signs of relaxing with a yes and treating him. He still looked wiggly to me, but I trusted her to mark the relaxing that could only be felt and not seen. Since then he has made good progress.

"Do I look like a boy that can't hold still?"

I was very proud of him, and of me. We had fun, learned a lot and are looking forward to next week. And I have all of your wonderful suggestions and encouragement to thank for it!

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Puppy Class #1: The General Scoop

Puppy class was a success! As usual all my worrying was for naught. Magnus was great! He had so much fun.

We arrived early so Magnus could take care of his outside business before class. Of course he wouldn’t. There were too many sniffs to be sniffed for him to bother with business.

So I extended him a bit more trust than I have before and hoped he would tell me if he had to go out before it was too late. Turns out he deserved that trust.

The class is in a large, bright room with windows along one side. It is airy and comfortable. Some of the dogs were already there since they have a puppy play time for a half hour before the actual class. It is open to any pups who are taking puppy classes there. I really want to take Magnus to it.

The first puppy we met was a fluffy little Shih Tzu boy. He was super playful and loved Magnus. The class also has a Chihuahua named Alvin, a long-haired Dochshund and a beautiful blenheim Cavalier girl named Royal.

As far as big dogs there is a sweet Golden Retriever, a chocolate Lab, the mildest German Shepherd girl you’d ever meet, and what I think is a hound of some sort. Magnus makes nine dogs. He is the exception to their rule of eight dogs and I really appreciate them sneaking him in.

For the rest of the class this was week three of six classes first they reviewed sit and down. Then for new skills they covered come when called and target. All things Magnus knows well.

That covers the background of his class but did we learn anything?

Well we learned so many things I decided to turn our lessons into their very own post. So check in tomorrow to see how much you can learn from the silences of puppy class!

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How To Prepare For Puppy Class

So after all of your wonderful encouragement I enrolled Magnus in Puppy Prep.

This class seems to meet all of my requirements for a puppy class.

The list was:

  • All positive based instruction preferably using the clicker.
  • Strictly supervised play time, with dogs that were similar size to him.
  • Small class size, not more than eight dogs.
  • An environment that I was comfortable and could learn in.
  • Instructors with experience in spotting fear issues (Both mine and his.)
  • Instructors that would not take issue with my training a skill using my method, not theirs.

How Puppy Prep Measures up
The Calling All Dog’s program claims to be “the first (and only) positive reinforcement dog training facility” in the area. Though the puppy class is not specifically a clicker class the instructor, Nicole, does not mind if I use the clicker. I felt her reasoning, that most people in our area are not familiar with positive methods and are intimidated by a clicker, was fairly accurate to what I too have observed.

The class is 8 dogs under 18 weeks. Four are small dogs and one is a Cavalier, which I admit, I am excited about. Each class has an instructor and an assistant.

At play time the small dogs are put in a sturdy x-pen with the bigger dogs separate. (The x-pen at Maizey’s class was so close to falling over that it was as much of a danger to her as the other dogs were.) However, at the class I observed there was a very mild, beautiful Husky they allowed in briefly to play with the small dogs. Each group of dogs has their own instructor during play time so it was closely supervised.

My Concerns
Of course being me I still have concerns. The main one being, ME. (Insert my own eyes rolling here.) I am such an introvert, I don’t like crowds and to me the 8-16 people that will be there is a crowd. One reason I joined the puppy class was for my “socialization”. I know that to help Maizey I need to be more relaxed myself, and I think the puppy class environment, where I already know much of the info, may give me that opportunity.

Another concern is the fact that they have already done two of the six classes offered. Based on knowing me and meeting Magnus last week, the instructor isnt’ worried about us knowing the info. And I have the option to make up the classes in November when the next class starts. She felt joining late was the better option since over 50% of the dogs in that class are much larger than Magnus and we would both would worry about him playing with them.

Preparations and Conclusions
Now I am left with the next couple days to prepare. Treats, and I am sure a new treat bag are absolutely critical to have! (Insert mehusbandy’s eyes rolling here.) Practice of the skills Magnus knows and his vaccination record is also on the to do list.

But once again I beg the benefit of your expertise! What do you do to be prepared for puppy’s first class? I read a lot of your agility blogs and you talk about calming ring nerves, well I think I need to calm my class nerves! Any suggestions for that?

I know you all have much experience to share and I look forward to hearing it!

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