Angus is now 15 weeks old and since the socialisation period ends roughly between 12-16 weeks we have been super busy making sure he gets plenty of positive socialisation experiences with plenty of time to rest in between.
He is doing really well and I’m so pleased that he has such a happy, confident and cheeky character. He does have the odd shy or unsure moment but I feel that for such a sensitive breed he is doing super!
I thought I would include some of the socialisation work we’ve been doing to give ideas for any other puppy owners out there. And if you don’t need any ideas then I hope you enjoy the photos and videos of a pretty cute pup (even if I do say so myself!).
We brought Angus home on Wednesday 8th March so I’m a bit late getting around to this! But between getting him settled, getting into a new routine (3 feeds a day, so many toilet trips and late nights/early mornings) and recovering from my daytrip to crufts (up at 4.30am after 3 hours sleep and back home at 8.30pm – was excellent but I was wrecked!) I finally feel able to write about him!
So far Angus has just slotted straight into our family without much hassle and stolen the hearts of all of us even including Bonnie! She loves to play bitey face with her little bro and she is doing really well with him. We are very proud of her as she is learning to share her space with him and this is the nervous, under socialised, resource guarder who is teaching him bite inhibition, body language and play. Don’t get me wrong she still has the odd moment of resource guarding that is a bit OTT, we manage all feeding, and she sometimes gets overstimulated but she is doing well and is easy to redirect – we are not scolding her in anyway as we do not want to potentially create negative associations with Angus.
Angus’ training and socialisation is going really well. He is very steady and copes well with most situations so far, the things we most need to work on in terms of socialisation is passing cars, baths and sudden noises away from home. He is a smart pup that is doing really well with positive reinforcement training and is currently in the process of learning auto-attention (look into my eyes for attention/food etc), sit, down, stand, touch, rollover, recall, loose lead walking, pee on cue (piddle), go into his pen, go into house from garden and a basic fetch for fun. His house training is going well enough I think – he has only had one poop accident the first evening, 2 have been on the grass potty tray and others have been outside. The pee on the other hand is going slightly worse with more accidents but is improving as we know his routine better, I would say we have a success rate of about 80% with the pee which isn’t the worst I guess.
He is such a lovely pup with a lovely character and personality. I am honestly so pleased we brought him home. It has been a huge adjustment and change of routine for us but he has slotted right in like he has always been part of the family and I love him so much already. He is growing like a weed and is noticeably bigger than since we got him so although I look forward to when his bladder is bigger I’m going to appreciate how cute and dinky he is for now!
We finally booked a session at Smithvale Dog Centre for today and it was amazing! I’ve been here before to help with classes and behavioural sessions but this was the first time me and my partner had been here with Bonnie and it was so much fun! She really enjoyed having the enclosed area to run about freely and was super at the obstacles, even the ones she hadn’t tried before!
I was so proud of her as not only was she great at learning how to do the obstacles but I was also able to use a tennis ball and her tug as both a lure and reward for her. This is a huge deal for us as she came to us not knowing how to play tug and was wary of taking anything from our hands so for her to enjoy it so much is amazing. I always hoped for a tug obsessed dog and she’s slowly getting there – dragging her around with her firmly clamped down on the tug is the funnest thing ever especially considering how gingerly she used to be with her mouth!
As many other dog owners can probably relate Bonnie hates getting bathed but she loves to have a little swim in rivers and streams. She also doesn’t care at all about rain no matter how heavy it is!
But one thing Bonnie has always had an issue with is the sea. The sight and sound of waves (especially noisy crashing waves on a windy day) would absolutely drive her mad. She would lunge, whine, bark and we couldn’t get her attention whatsoever! I had always envisioned taking my dog to the beach way back before we adopted Bonnie so I was quite disheartened.
We went to the beach maybe 3 times in the first year with her before we had all but given up hope. Instead we concentrated on getting her confident and focused in other scenarios and in the past several months it has really started to pay dividends especially as my own learning has progressed and skills improved.
Back in September on our trip to Portrush it was the first time she had been to a beach in ages, and if you have read that post you’ll remember how she embarrassed me on that beach! But hey at least I was able to get her back, I don’t think there would’ve been a chance earlier on in our training.
Since then though we have been going from strength to strength and have had 2 really successful beach trips – one in November and one at the start of this month. I uploaded the video below to our Facebook page showing the before (October 2015 and before we really hit our groove with training) and the after (November 16)
Our recent beach trip was the best yet and I was so so proud of her. She was able to be off lead without chasing the waves, chasing the other dogs and their balls or running away. She was able to focus, play with her ball and even stopped when I called her name as she was thinking of chasing the other dog. Also just before the video starts she was enthusiastically chewing on a bit of seaweed which I was able to get her to drop without any force and also could pick up her ball while she was playing with it to continue our play – these successes mean a lot to us as she used to resource guard food and toys, so lots of wins for us!
I really am so pleased with how well Bonnie is doing these days and I’m glad our hard work is paying off!
This covered motivation methods of training dogs, looking at the different motivations of dogs including physical, behavioural, play etc. We also looked at different breeds and dog groups – what they were breed for, what motivates them, common issues and things to be aware of or look out for.
This covered what is dog training, why do we do it or need to do it, what are the benefits, what are the most important behaviours to train.
First assignment was handed in on time woo hoo!
The third assignment is due in on 31st October – yes we still have class on Halloween night! I’ve got about half of it done so will be finished in time for Monday!
The second assignment is due in on 7th November and that will be started once I finish the third assignment.
Reading list progress
Dogs That Bite and Fight – still in progress!
Outside of class learning
As it’s that time of the year where there can be a lot of fireworks you will see a lot of advice trying to be helpful where it states to ignore the dog when it is afraid in case it reinforces and validates the dog fear. Well no need to worry about feeling mean while ignoring your dog during fireworks or thunder – you cannot reinforce fear! Only behaviours can be reinforced, in fact positive interaction and conditioning can change a fearful response to a happier emotion! Check out the useful links below which will explain it much better than I can.
This covered all the scientific theory behind learning and methods of training such as classical and operant conditioning, desensitisation, reinforcement schedules, extinction etc. Some people might find it a bit dry but I am utterly fascinated by it!
This covered training specific to puppies such as nipping, mouthing, house training etc. I personally found this very useful as obviously we adopted Bonnie as an adult so we have no experience with puppies. I’d love to get a puppy in future either from a rescue or from a proper reputable breeder (not a puppy farm or backyard breeder) so that we can have that experience of socialising and raising a puppy.
First assignment is nearly done so that will be finished in time for hand in this Monday.
The second assignment is due in on 7th November and that will be started once I finish the first assignment.
The third assignment has been given out this week for hand in on 14th November. This assignment isn’t another 1000 word easy thank god! Instead we have to define different examples of the four types of operant conditioning.
Reading list progress
Dogs That Bite and Fight – in progress, really insightful book around aggression that isn’t really covered in detail in other books
Outside of class learning
I am only including one link in this section for this week because this really and truly spoke to me and I think every dog owner should read it, especially for any owners of nervous dogs. Remember “Pavlov is always on your shoulder!”
I was gutted to miss out on our week in review post this week as we had a little streak going but things have been hectic around here. I’m not letting any more posts slip behind schedule though so here is my update on the dog behaviour course!
I’m going to format these posts a bit better so it’s easier for me to track progress etc so here we go.
Again we covered two topics in this class;
Canine Life Stages and Learning
This covered the importance of socialisation (defined as learning how to recognise and interact with the species with which it cohabits – kids, adults, other dogs, cats, livestock etc) and habituation (defined as becoming accustomed to environment stimuli – household noises, traffic, fireworks, surfaces etc). It also defined the different development and life stages for a dog including the importance and effects of socialisation, habituation and potential problems at each stage.
Learn to Earn training program
This covered the training protocols for the learn to earn program. This program is recommended for dogs with poor impulse control that may excessively bark, jump, mouth or dogs that are quite “pushy” for attention or are a bit over the top in general. It is a program where the dog must earn all its rewards so that it can develop impulse control and realise that patience and behaving calm is what gains access to things it likes such as food, throwing a ball, releasing through a door, getting to greet and play with other dogs, getting stroked etc.
I still haven’t completed the first assignment. I have done most of my research and background reading and will be hopefully get it finished this week. It is taking me longer than expected due to being quite busy with work and also due to making sure I put enough time and care into research and compiling the references for the essay.
A second assignment has also been handed out which is due on 7th November. This is another 1000 word essay based on the importance of socialisation and whether socialisation is necessary only at the “critical socialisation window”. I’ll need to pick up the pace to make sure I’m not too pressed for time!
Reading list progress
In Defence of Dogs – done, fantastic in-depth read, actually re-reading for assignment 1
How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves – in progress, great practical easy to read book
Dogs That Bite and Fight – in progress, really insightful book around aggression that isn’t really covered in detail in other books
The Other End of The Leash – done and really enjoyed it but could do with re-reading as it was a long time ago!
Outside of class learning
I follow quite a lot of facebook pages, groups and subscribe to channels on youtube pertaining to dogs so I usually come across a few interesting videos or resources so I thought having these grouped here would be great for future use or if anyone else finds them interesting or informative!
I finished watching the following 2 part series this week and I really like how it shows that even inexperienced trainers can train their own dog to do something quite impressive through the power of positive reinforcement! I also like how they cover dog body language and signals which is important in respecting our dog’s emotional state.
This short video from Chirag Patel is a great reminder to be aware of our dog’s true feelings about being petted and stroked, and to ensure our dog is enjoying it or help them form positive associations to truly enjoy it rather than just tolerate it for our sake.
I love this quote and feel like it’s something we should all strive towards with our dogs. There are always going to be difficult situations we get into with our dogs where we have to ask them to “trust us” whether it’s navigating a particularly stressful situation out of necessity or emergency, performing first aid procedures on our dog that could be stressed and could lash out in pain, asking them to leave a really tasty looking scrap of food that is dangerous to them and so on. If we have continually built up our relationship and trust with our dogs through positive means these “deposits” add up then when we have to take out “withdrawals” in situations like I mentioned then our balance stays in the positive.
Finally some interesting research was done around children and dogs’ abilities to follow advice from adult humans. Those of you that have both young children and dogs what do you think of the research? Maybe it would be a fun experiment to try at home!
We have done a lot of training with Bonnie so that she can keep her calm while out on walks as she used to be hyper vigilant, very easily over aroused and she loves to greet people. We have put in a lot of work on loose lead walking, staying calm and not having to stay on high alert outside and now in most situations she can calmly walk past people and keep her focus on me. Obviously she is still not perfect and this is ongoing training but we have encountered so many setbacks from people who just have to get involved in one way or another.
We have had people bark at us, do that tongue click thing to get Bonnie’s attention, calling to get her attention, kids at a age that really should know better and kids too young to know better bum rushing her and parents standing back and not caring to intervene. We have had people literally follow us with their off lead dogs after we have made it clear that we do not want to interact with them or their dogs. We have people who will come right up to greet her and before we have a chance to get away Bonnie is now greeting them in her usual omg new person I must jump up and hug and kiss style – and they reinforce it by petting and loving on her! Of course I don’t have a chance of discouraging her or her even listening to me saying “Off ” once they are reinforcing her and I don’t want to use force to stop her in case she finds it aversive and associates strange people with bad things or even worse thinks that strangers are nicer than her apparently angry and mean mum!
But enough complaining about it this is our action plan going forward! We have got the two items below to help discourage people from getting too involved while out on our training walks (we probably won’t use them for off lead walks up the glen etc because I don’t think much will really stop owners and their off lead dogs unfortunately).
We bought the lead slip from Saint Roch. I really loved the selection from this site as it had lots of different phrases to pick from which covers all types of scenarios. They also have a good range of colours to pick from but we choose the bright yellow as that stands out well and people usually associate that with a warning sign anyway and something to take note of. It has a little handle with a popper so that you can attach it to any lead that has a handle or in our case we attached it to one of the multi length attachment loop things on our training lead (review here – we love this lead!).
We bought the vest from Ebay . The vest can be customised with 6 different colours, any colour font, 7 different font types and with any wording that you want on it. It also comes in three sizes. We choose size M, colour yellow with grey writing in font 3.Stadium Font with the text “DO NOT DISTURB”. It’s quite a light material so would be perfect even in warmer weather and the reflective bands on the back, chest and edge of the vest is really appreciated in the darker months. I really like that it has the writing on both sides at the back as well as on the top as it means it can be seen all around and although harnesses will cover the top message the sides can still be read clearly so is still effective.
We had our first outing just earlier today with her kitted out (when we took the photos above) but we didn’t get a proper chance to test it as it was pretty quiet out. I did get quite a few stares from cars as we were waiting to cross roads etc but to be honest I don’t mind because if it makes even one person stop and think that maybe not all dogs like to be disturbed on walks then that makes it all worthwhile, it’s all baby steps!
We did pass one man who had to walk across our path so I told Bonnie to stop and sit, body blocked just a bit in case she tried to greet him and fed her treats. The man said gooood very softly when she listened to me so I guess he was being supportive of us trying to train but it was a bit random haha I didn’t know what to think. We shall see how our future walks go with it and update later to see if it really helps or not. I have also been considering buying a Julius K9 IDC harness because of the adjustable labels (and because I’m totally obsessed with dog accessories xD). I am also going to be more assertive and let people know in no condition to disturb us and if they do I will simply turn and walk away rather than try to explain myself as that never really works out.
Do you ever get strangers trying to call or distract your dog, or have problems with kids running up without permission? And do you have any strategies on how to deal in those scenarios? I’d love to hear what other people’s experiences are!
Monday was the first class of the dog behaviour course I mentioned back in my Exciting News! post. Although it was a long day as I left the house at 8am and didn’t return until 10pm it was totally worth it! I was super excited and had all my supplies and bag packed up ready to go the night before. After work I went to a coworkers house to relax for a bit and have some dinner then arrived at the class for it starting at 7.30pm.
First up in the class we received our course handbook which had all the info on the course including what topics would be covered each week and also our assignment schedule. We also received our first assignment which is due in on week 4 (24th October). The classes were also rescheduled to start at 7pm from next week on so it means we get away a bit earlier woo hoo!
In this class we covered two topics;
Are dogs wolves? – This covered domestication of dogs and how previous studies done on captive wolves’ behaviour are not relevant in dog training
Reading dog’s body language and signs of stress – This covered how to read dog’s body language through ears, eyes, head, body and tail, as well as stress signals. We also had a class discussion analysing photo examples of body language and talking about why dogs might have difficulty reading other dogs signals or why dogs may not give adequate signals.
Both topics I have already read about myself but it was great to hear about the topics from professionals themselves and also to have the discussions with the rest of the class. The first assignment is also related to the first topic of domestication of dogs and has a 1000 word limit so I’m looking forward to the weekend to get that all hammered out.
I’m so glad I went ahead with doing the course and I’m super excited to see how much I progress and learn over the next 10 weeks!
Just as a note this is not the DIY project that I keep hinting at – that has been slightly postponed! Never the less here is a quick DIY for any one who needs extra help with toilet training their puppy or dog. If you just want the steps pass my little background info below.
Bonnie is house trained in that she will not use the bathroom inside the house under normal circumstances and will hold it until she is let outside. We have always let her out regularly and on a routine so she wasn’t too hard to house train but the big issue is because she is used to being let out regularly she doesn’t let us know if she needs out at other times! This doesn’t happen too often but when she has an upset stomach it turns into a game of us taking her out very often and it’s always a gamble overnight if she will have an accident or not.
She doesn’t bark, whine, sit at the door, scratch at the door, paw at us, stare at us or give any foolproof sign that she needs the bathroom. She sometimes paces but that can also mean she is just bothered by other dogs in the neighbourhood barking so isn’t always a true sign. Since she had an upset stomach at the end of last week we decided it was finally time to try out some potty bells and see if we can crack the house training 100% even when she is ill and off her usual routine.
DIY Potty Bells Instructions
What you will need
Split rings (keyrings)
Needle and thread or a sewing machine
At one end of the ribbon create a loop and sew the top and bottom edges of the loop so that only the sides of the ribbon are open
At equal lengths along the ribbon create 2 loops by folding the ribbon back on itself and again sewing the top and bottom of the folds so that it won’t unravel
Thread the bells onto the ribbon by inserting the split rings into the holes you created by looping the ribbon
Take the nearly finished piece to the door you want to use it on and make sure you leave enough length that your dog can reach them with their nose and paws
Create a handle – create a loop by folding the ribbon over and sewing that firmly before cutting off any excess ribbon
And there you have it, your very own potty bells for a fraction of the price of store bought potty bells. Another nice thing about it being homemade is that you can choose a ribbon colour or pattern and customise to your liking!
We are still training her to paw or nose them – she is now getting the fact that interacting with the bells means the door opens but she still is struggling to generalise that she can touch the bells while they are on the door as I still need to hold them for her to interact with them. Also because she is still getting out on her usual routine she hasn’t volunteered to go out by using them by herself yet. But we will get there in time as she already has nearly 2 years of routine behind her so it may take her a while to get used to the new way of things.
In other news we also purchased a pen for her which arrived this morning. Bonnie is crate trained and is very calm and happy to spend extended time in her crate but we have been wanting to let her “free roam” for a while now and have practised leaving her home alone outside of her crate. As we rent a house we are of course worried that we may damage someone else’s property so as a stop gap measure we are hoping to give Bonnie more freedom slowly over time so that she get’s used to being relaxed with more space while we are out.
The pen is big and gives her plenty of space to have a stretch while we are out and it’s great as it can be made smaller or even bigger if you buy more panels, can be arranged into different shapes depending on the space you have and also can be used as a barrier for example to stop counter surfing.
Many people might wonder why it has taken us this long to start allowing Bonnie to have more freedom when we are out and some might think it’s cruel but when Bonnie first came to us she was not at all used to a house environment. To be honest we had wondered what we had got ourselves into as when we brought her home she commando crawled in through the front door totally wary and when we let her off the lead in the living room (silly mistake – knowing what I know now I would’ve tethered her to me) she immediately crawled under the coffee table and barged in through the shelves of the TV unit to stand behind it then ventured out to the kitchen and found the degu’s cage and begin to try to climb the cage until we pulled her away.
Honestly she was a little bit like a feral dog as it seemed like she had no previous experience with a house. She was not house trained, she paced and paced and didn’t know how to settle, she chewed through a laptop charger and a mouse both while plugged in and got zapped (thankfully nothing came of it!), tried to hide high value items like antlers from us, scratched and scrabbled and bit at the furniture if her ball or food went under it and she didn’t know how to play with toys and ingested everything whether it was edible or not. Also did we mention she had a infection from her spay incision and a dodgy stomach from the antibiotics, needless to say our first dog owning moments were a bit rough!
She was crate trained as a matter of safety to herself as I couldn’t bear to think of coming home to her seriously injured out of her own curiosity or the house totally wrecked as there is only so much clearing away you can do unless you have an empty room to spare. The crate training has been a great help in that it helped her learn how to settle and relax instead of pacing all the time (the pacing happened no matter how much we exercised her physically and mentally), she has a safe space where she can go if she feels scared, doesn’t want to be bothered or just wants to enjoy a treat by herself and also it means if she ever needs crate rest after a surgery or illness it won’t be foreign or scary to her.
With your own dogs how did you know it was time for them to be able to be safe and not cause damage when you were out? Have you had a dog that never “graduated” to total free roaming due to safety or other reasons?