Thankful For Maizey

It was nice and warm when we got to our Trips and Travels destination so we took a little walk this evening. None of us even needed jackets!

The trip down was uneventful and nice. I’ve come to realize I’m at the point in my life where uneventful is actually what I want. I have enough events day to day, I’m ready for some boring.

The only excitement happened when we stopped for for a puppy potty break and a spot of lunch.

We met a bear! Maizey was sure to let us know there was something with four legs in the immediate vicinity. Even Magnus The Brave wasn’t so brave in the face of this ferocious beast.

"Look Crazymomlady this big, scary bear wants treats too!"

I am seeing some signs of the second fear imprint period in my brave boy. Nothing major and he recovers quickly with a few c/t’s for courage. Such was the case with both my 4legged friends today while they faced their fears and befriended yet another new 4legged animal.

4Legged Lesson
Remember Magnus’ puppy socialization list? By the time he was 16 weeks old he:

  • Met 60 new people plus two occasions of crowds of 20 or more
  • Had 27 unique experiences or locations
  • Played with 28 puppies or safe adult dogs
  • Experienced 17 different surfaces
  • Played with 22 different objects
  • Exposed to 9 different fast-moving objects
  • Exposed to 24 different noises
  • Ate out of 18 different containers
  • Ate at 7 different locations

It stands to reason Maizey’s socialization list would be similar in length and thoroughness. Unfortunately, it’s not.

Cleaning out my dog file today I found the “List of things Maizey needs to be socialized to.” It had 15 items on it. 15! I’m almost ashamed to admit that, but at the time I was almost the only person I knew that even had a socialization list.

Somewhat to her detriment Maizey was my guinea pig with puppy raising and clicker training. I wish I knew then what I know now, she may be a vastly different dog.

Today’s 4legged lesson: let your pups teach you all they can as fast as you can learn. You never know what they are preparing you for.

One good thing about Maizey, she has been a thorough teacher in two short years and the lessons she has helped me learn are helping me with Magnus now.

I see so many contrasts in them and fear imprint periods are too big of a subject for this post, but what I will say is what I didn’t know for her she has taught me for Magnus. For that I’m grateful.

I know now what to do when he is hesitant about things, I have so many more skills to help him through this critical period of his life. For that I’m grateful.

The other 4leged lesson of today: it’s okay to not be brave all the time and I’m thankful for my Princessface Maizey and all she has forced me to learn.


Train For This Moment

Yesterday was an interesting day.

Magnus and I went to an agility practice at a big arena where they have a lot of agility and obedience matches. We had friends practicing there so we got to watch and do some fun training of our own.

We worked a lot of the basics and he did fabulous!

But once again for me the 4legged lesson was not one of sits, downs, mat work or beautiful loose leash walking, although all of those things were great.

I know I’m silly. I know I was in a building filled with talented, well trained dogs. Dogs dreaming of and training for world-class competitions. Dogs that know more than my dogs may know in their whole lives.

I know Magnus was not achieving things anywhere near that level, but I was beaming. I wasn’t beaming because he nailed his contacts, or had the fastest weaves. No, I was beaming because while I filmed our friends run, while dogs, people, and even a stroller went past him, he laid peacefully on his mat next to the ring.

I was beaming when he learned the elevator wasn’t a scary place, but instead the little moving room where treats magically appear out of the floor. I was beaming when he ran up that big row of concrete steps that he bee-lined away from the first time he saw them.

And when he went in his crate and took a nap? Oh, glowing with pride is more like it!

I know! I know! I am absurd. I mean here I am surrounded by some of the most talented dogs and handlers in our area, with friends with titled dogs, spent hours and years training, and have dogs with skills mine may never achieve and what am I gushing about?

My dog can take a nap in a crowded place! Miraculous!

I’m rolling my own eyes at myself so go ahead and have a laugh on me.

But having a pup like my Maizey who spends so much time on guard and is so uncomfortable in so many places has taught me the little things really count to me.

Now that’s not to diminish the achievements of anyone else there. That’s not to say I don’t want my dogs to learn those things. But life is teaching me a lesson right now. It’s a lesson I have been long in learning, and am still fighting with in some ways.

The lesson is that this moment is all there is. There are no small victories. There are no small accomplishments. If it is pure and brings you joy in this second that’s all that matters.

Your heart already knows this lesson. The other day my friend told me your heart only, “beats this seconds blood, not one second ago or one second from now.” He was reminding me this second is all your body is living. This moment is all that matters and if you can let go of the past and the future and stay in this moment, we will have achieved what some of our dogs already know.

If you can lay down in a safe place and take a nap, or hang out on a rug and watch the champions, or soon to be champions, it doesn’t matter if you are one yet. If doesn’t matter if you were one once. All that matters is being in a pleasant moment with a friend, no matter how many legs they have.

So I have a new Maizey Promise: I will try to be happy in this moment with you, and I will try to infuse this moment of happiness to you.

I know this is a lot of philosophical mumbo jumbo for a dog blog, but it’s a lesson that is helping me. It’s helping me not get bogged down in the past mistakes. More than that, the lesson to live in this moment is helping me not get overwhelmed by expectations, plans, contrivances and projects, but to train whatever presents itself in that moments opportunity.

The lesson to live in this moment is helping me not get overwhelmed . . . but to train whatever presents itself in that moments opportunity.

Perhaps not a new lesson to most, but a profound one for me in many areas of life.

This is a good thing for me and for my dogs. As an relatively inexperienced trainer my anxiety about what to do and if I am doing it ‘right’ can discourage me from trying at all. Using each moment to teach and learn whatever presents itself is freeing me of that pressure. It just lets me have more fun.

Yesterdays 4legged lesson? Learning is in the moment you use to the full today, not the one you passed up yesterday, or the one you will love tomorrow.

So now we are off to walk in the moment. A cold moment since it’s only 15 degrees, but you all are doing so well in the walking challenge I have to get our there and catch up!


Puppy Socialization Extremes

This post is in response to Crystal’s thoughtful post on Reactive Champion, Ian Dunbar Seminar: Don’t Waste Puppyhood! It is a great post and stimulated a wealth of great comments.

Early Socialization: Maizey
Since learning from the opposite experiences of Maizey and Magnus I value socialization. I also value balance.

For the first seven weeks of life Maizey was raised with her mom and litter, but I suspect with minimal structured socialization. From seven to nine weeks she was at the home of her mom’s breeder. She was exposed to kids, adults, dogs of all sizes and another litter of puppies just older than her, among other experiences.

But this “socialization” was not done with an eye to fear issues. I suspect many of her experiences were not positive ones. I feel genetics are at play with her, and being removed from her litter too soon also contributed to her issue’s.

After she became my girl I did my best, but was too uneducated to know how to socialize her according to her needs. Herein is one issue I have with the strict socialization rules. Every dog is different. Every dog needs to focus more in some areas of behavior than others. Based on what I know now, she needed much less stimulation, much more protection and much, much more positive reinforcement than I gave her.

Sadly, her puppy class did not help her development. There were too many big dogs, she was the smallest and most fearful. The play time had no structure, the other handlers were given almost no instruction on how to interrupt and redirect unwanted play behavior. There was not enough supervision. And certainly not enough attention to addressing her fear.

That being said, I want to say her instructor tried to give me skills and resources to teach positive reinforcement and I learned a lot from her about clicker training. I appreciate her help, but the class was not a good experience for Maizey.

Still, Maizey’s early people socialization must have taught her humans are the source of good things since she loves people. But her dog socialization was lacking, and poorly handled by her breeder, myself and her puppy class.

Early Socialization: Magnus
Magnus early socialization is the opposite of hers. He spent the first eight weeks in a Missouri puppy mill. He was kept in a small crate with his litter for the majority if not all of that time.

At eight weeks he was rescued and went to live in a kennel area of the rescue with several other small adult dogs. He was there for about 10 days before he became my boy. Since I have covered his socialization journey over the last seven weeks, I won’t go into that here.

What I will say is that he obviously had little to no human socialization for the first 8 weeks of life. When he came to live with me he did not know humans were relevant to him at all. He was not afraid, just not interested. He didn’t make eye contact. I spent at least the first three weeks lying flat on the ground, so my face was on his face level, hand feeding kibble, sometimes straight from my lips.

For him dogs are a different story. He begs to play with every dog he meets, big or small. He has wonderful puppy language. He knows dogs. Dogs are wonderful, humans are slowly becoming wonderful. Although thankfully he loves us now and eagerly makes eye contact.

Hopefully Kathie R’s experience will prove true for him. She says, “I’ve seen puppies come out of puppy mills having had no early socialization be fantastic, well-adjusted pets.”

So is socialization important? Absolutely. But it’s not just a free for all of throwing your dogs into a puppy class or flooding them with stimuli. Each one should have their needs considered. And no matter what their needs are the experiences must be positive.

The Dreaded 16 week “Pumpkin” Theory
In her comment Eliz said of Ian Dunbar: “It was the sense of inevitability of it all that got me. That idea that once puppy hood is over the dog could be static perhaps forever stuck.”

The level of emphasis placed on 12 weeks and 16 weeks as socialization deadlines seems unbalanced to me also. Not that the developmental periods of puppy-hood are not correct, but learning goes on forever.

Any of us who have rescued an older dog knowing nothing of their puppy experiences, but still watched them grow and change in behavioral issues, know that puppies don’t turn into pumpkins at 16 weeks. We have seen the changes that can be made after those ages have passed. Of course it may be harder, but it’s not hopeless.

True, humans or dogs can sometimes only get fixed to the proportion they are broken, but everyone can make some changes in behavior. Reframing negative experiences with positive associations is a big part of this. To present socialization as something that can only be done as puppies is simply discouraging.

In our puppy class I brought this up to the instructors. One said, “Did [Ian Dunbar's] stuff scare you?” I had to laugh because at first it kind of did! It can seem pretty extreme. Especially to those of us that want to do everything perfectly!

My Conclusions
Most trainers have something to offer that we can learn from. But I look for balance and practical application. If anything is presented in too harsh of extremes it is hard apply in real life. That is not to say we shouldn’t all have lofty goals, but it is also nice to have goals that are achievable.

So is socialization important? Absolutely! As is balance and achievable goals. And in the end all we can do is our best, based on the knowledge we have at the time. And isn’t that the loftiest goal of all?


Puppy Socialization Deadlines

Magnus turned 16 weeks old today. So, according to some, the critical window for socialization is closed. I think of this as the “your puppy will turn into a pumpkin” school of thought.

Thankfully I didn’t wake up to a big round pumpkin this morning!

“I’m not a pumpkin! I’m just the color of pumpkin!”

Of course just because the critical window may be closing doesn’t mean his socialization stops. Instead it is even more vital that his new experiences stay positive. How to do this?

I asked our puppy class instructor and she suggested to up the value of treats. That got me thinking about other reinforcement skills. Along with treat value, reinforcement rate seems important. Also varying the type of reinforcement, for Magnus this mean lots of play time, tug, and toys. Who knows, I may have to take to carrying a stick in my pocket!

So we still have big plans ahead. But I did place the 16 weeks deadline on myself to see what we could accomplish according to the rule of twelves.

The results? You will have to check out his social puppy list to see everything we packed in, but in summary he:

  • Met 60 new people plus two occasions of crowds of 20 or more
  • Had 27 unique experiences or locations
  • Played with 28 puppies or safe adult dogs
  • Experienced 17 different surfaces
  • Played with 22 different objects
  • Exposed to 9 different fast-moving objects
  • Exposed to 24 different noises
  • Ate out of 18 different containers
  • Ate at 7 different locations

Overall I am very pleased with everything we accomplished in just seven weeks. The obvious areas of lack are the fast-moving objects and eating in different locations. Although if you count eating treats then he has eaten everywhere he has ever been!

Socialization is vital to our 4legged friends. Our puppy class instructor pointed out that everything else we want our dogs to learn can be learned after their socialization period ends. Obedience, manners, sports, and tricks are all things we spend a life time learning. Socialization also never ends, but the experiences our pups have in their formative weeks of life are an invaluable foundation for them to use for all those other skills.

This socialization has not only taught Magnus to be more confident and stable, it is teaching me a lot about Magnus. I get to see things he was scared of, things I thought he would be afraid of that he isn’t. I am learning about puppy language in play and how to protect Magnus from getting overwhelmed like Maizey did. He is teaching me so much!


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!


The Issue of Puppy Class

I know I have mentioned before that I feel puppy class was one cause of many of Maizey’s reactive issues. And since I think I can teach the basic puppy class skills at home I thought I could focus on socialization enough that I wasn’t going to take Magnus to a puppy class.

I really feel like dog classes should be about training humans to train dogs. So while I can think of masses of things that a class could teach me, I am not so sure puppy class is the one that I have the most to learn from.

Much of puppy class is about socialization and play time is part of that. But I am terrified of play time now, it did Maizey so much damage. So depending on what puppies were in the class there is a chance I would not even let him do the play time part. Plus I do feel I am giving him enough play time with other dogs that play time is not that critical.

Unfortunately as much as none of us wants it to be a consideration funds are an issue. I have only so many dollars to spend on the dogs and I want them to go to the best purpose possible.

So with all that in mind I thought my mind was made up. But then I read about Henry’s first puppy class and it got me thinking. Am I depriving Magnus of a valuable learning experience?

There is no doubt in my mind Henry is getting the possible education at home. Better than my pups get by a long ways! But the lessons Henry learned at his first puppy class are some that I am not sure I am providing Magnus.

There is such value in a dog learning HOW to learn in that busy environment. Is there ways I can provide this at home? Maybe. I can do more formal learning on our socialization outings. But is that enough?

And so the questions continue!

What about you? Did you do a puppy class? What benefits did you feel it provided for your 4legged puppy? What benefit did you find for yourself as handler? What would you recommend in looking for a new puppy class? Are you pro puppy class or do you feel you can provide similar lessons at home? If you do, how?

Please lend me the value of your experience so I can quit feeling indecisive! (Oh ya and if not for me then please do so for Magnus, he is already handlercapped as it is!)


In Other Non-Bodily Fluids, Farm Animal and Reactivity Related News

Socialization Continues:

Magnus first baby

Magnus first crazygrandmalady hug

Magnus first crazygrandmalady hug

Friendships Grow:

Snuggling in Maizey's crate (don't worry the dangerous electrical chords were immediately removed from the area!)

Snuggling or smothering? You be the judge!

Due to aforementioned bodily fluids Magnus gets really good at baths:

A 4legged friend visits for the weekend, and Maizey doesn’t have an “Holy Cow there’s a dog!!” meltdown:

"HEYA! I'm Kona, Magnus like me!"

And finally Maizey is still the Princessface as always:

"Some things never change!"