Category Archives: Training

Moving Forward: Puppy Training Continues

Now that Scout’s one, it would be easy to think that the work is over. But in reality, being one only means Scout knows most of the rules and what to do. When she breaks those rules, she knows it (as evidenced by her sad face and the hanging of her head). Here are the thing we’re still working on now that Scout’s older:

1. Greeting people at the door. Now that we have a doorbell, there’s a loud pronouncement every time someone comes to the door, and Scout quickly put two and two together. And that calls for barking. When we first moved in, Scout would bark for minutes on end. She couldn’t calm down. Now that we’ve been working with her, it’s improving. We’re teaching her that she can bark two to three times (normally by then we’re at the door), and then she has to sit and wait while we see who’s there. The challenge: Staying seated until we say her release word, ‘okay.’ Every time she jumps up, we have to return her to sitting, and start over again. She’s getting it, but that puppy enthusiasm is hard to conquer. (After all, once we’ve opened the door and greeted the person, she sees the situation as “this person is okay to be here, and that means they should pet me!”.)

2. Digging. Scout has discovered that rain makes the grass soft and squishy, and underneath is mud, which is fun to rub her nose in. B and I think otherwise when we see the yard. I’m not talking huge holes, but holes nonetheless. The challenge: It’s hard to watch her 24/7 when she’s in the yard, and it doesn’t take long to dig a hole when your paws are talented at it. We don’t have an express game plan to conquer this one right now, other than disciplining when we catch her and not letting her out in the yard just after it’s rained if we can help it.

3. Eating poop of all shapes and sizes and genres. Sigh. It needs no more explanation. We’ve got a harem of cats living next door who love to use the grassless patch of land under our cherry blossom tree as their personal latrine. Until we can afford to build the patio we’re saving for (and relocate the unearthed grass to this bare patch under the tree), this is a problem we’re dealing with…reluctantly. Oh yes, and she also loves her own just as much. Eck. The challenge: I’ll admit it, this one seems unconquerable. We’ve tried sousing everything in hot sauce, but she licked it off like it was ketchup. We also tried Nutri-Vet’s Nasty Habit pills, which are supposed to stop the habit “or your money back.” I think we need our money back.

4. Counter surfing. Scout has discovered the joys of being taller. You can reach the countertop! There’s food up there! But there’s also things that could hurt her up there: sharp knifes, hot dishes, cleaning supplies and things that puppies don’t need to be carting off into the corner to devour before their parents come downstairs. The challenge: Scout’s learned that when we aren’t directly watching her, she can do things that she’s not supposed to. And we can’t watch her every minute. So, we’re trying to keep our counters free of food and dirty dishes and tempting objects, and when we catch her, we discipline her. Sharp tones and “bad” make her give us the saddest face ever created. But we stick with it. I’d like to try a technique from a friend’s training book where you hide behind a corner and throw an empty can or other noisy object in their general direction when they go to put their paws on the counter. They associate the sound and surprise as negative toward the action they were doing, without associating it with you.

5. The Stare Down Technique. I hate the Stare Down Technique. Yes, we’ve officially named it. And I hate it. We talked about it first here, back in July.

When Scout wants your attention and you are, for example, sitting on the couch watching the pilot episode of New Girl with Zoey Deschanel (loved it), the dog will not stop staring at you. Seriously. She doesn’t even blink. She would win any staring competition hands down. Always place your bets for Scout. And not only does she stare, but here’s where the ‘technique’ part comes in: she backs up. And up. And up again. She will back up, one step at a time, with these little pauses in between, just waiting for you to give in. I’ll video it one day. You’ll see, it’ll drive you crazy through YouTube.  The challenge: You can’t give in to her, or you’ll just feed the stare. You’ve got to stick to your guns and stare at the TV like the dog doesn’t exist. Tonight she pulled out the big guns. She laid her head in my lap, cuddled my hand, and gave me the, “Aw, Mommy, I really love you” eyes. So.Hard.Not.To.Look! She threw in a heavy sigh. But what she really wants is for me to sit on the ground and cuddle with her, and though I do that on occasion (because I feel like you’re probably going, “God, A, you’re such a jerk! Just love on your dog!”), like during basketball season when I get stressed out and practically camp out on the floor during the UNC games…

…there are other times when I don’t feel like sitting on the floor, and I shouldn’t have to sit on the floor every single night. I should be allowed to sit in a chair. There, I said it! I love you, Scout, but mommy needs to feel the cushions of the couch some nights. (And also, I should clarify, sometimes Scout doesn’t want to just kindly cuddle. She wants you to sit on the ground where she can lick your tonsils and then play a rousing game of tug-of-war with what’s left of the stuffed monkey she got for her birthday, effectively making sure you don’t see an ounce of that show you’ve been waiting all week for and are not, coincidentally, DVRing.

So there you have it. There’s probably more, but this is what’s coming to mind at the moment. Even with all of this, we still think that Scout is a well-behaved little girl. She’s walking well (except on the occasion that a crazy smell grabs her attention, and then it’s HOLY-COW-LET’S-VEER-THIS-WAY-AND-SMELL-THAT-RIGHT-NOW!), she’s getting the hang of the front door, she doesn’t go crazy when someone walks by the house with another dog, she leaves our neighbor’s harem of kitties alone, she and Zoey are getting along better (knock on wood), and she hasn’t destroyed anything particularly valuable, like a pair of my heels or artwork or drywall (knock on serious wood). We’ll see where thing go from here!


The Learning Continues

Just because you finish puppy class does not mean training is over. We are currently trying to teach Scout to stay out of the kitchen while we cook. This combines a few things: Out, Stay, and patience. Out and Stay for Scout, and patience for us. Scout walks back in after about two minutes (and that’s being generous), and we promptly tell her Out for the 354th…355th…356th…time. The payoff will be when she’s grown and actually listens to this, when all of our efforts now will result in a well-behaved dog in the future. Or so we’re hoping :)

On another training note, that training collar is still working really well. Walking Scout now is like walking a completely different dog!

Love Your Training Collars

Training collar, how I love thee.

After using the training collar for the first real time this weekend, I can honestly say that it’s A-mazing. Walking Scout on the collar versus walking her off of it is like night and day. She even listens to commands better when she has the training collar on.

Today we attempted to do something that would have never worked before (and didn’t when we tried): We took Scout on a walk with another couple and their dog. In this case, the dog was Scout’s uber dog-friend, Ranger, who we’ve talked about before. Scout would have never walked with Ranger before; instead she would have been set on making the whole thing into a big play date. But today we were able to walk the two dogs together, and it was actually enjoyable. Let me say, I have not used the words enjoyable in reference to walking Scout since she was maybe 10 weeks old.

Now, in full disclosure, the collar hasn’t made Scout heel. She still walked slightly ahead of me at times, but the leash was loose by my side, which is H.U.G.E. When other dogs or people passed, Scout didn’t make a mad Iditarod-style dash toward them; she stayed next to us, tail wagging furious, begging for the other party to come to her, instead.

You know what made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable? How happy Scout seemed. Granted, Ranger was with us, so Scout was bound to be ecstatic no matter what, but her tail was wagging and she was happy, and that was a great thing to see. So really, this training collar hasn’t just made us enjoy walks more, but it’s made Scout enjoy them, too.

Guess what happened to us! (I know, you have no context from that with which to actually guess. Poor segue on my part…) A few weeks ago, I threw my name in the hat to win some PureBite treats from According to Gus. It was one of those last minute, “oh sure why not?” kind of things that you never expect to win. But we did! And lo and behold, a package of yummy-looking freeze-dried treats came in the mail. How cool is that? We haven’t given Scout the treats yet (because we’ve had family visiting and haven’t had a chance), but we’ll update you once we do. She’s going to love them.

Happy Six-Month Birthday, Scout

Happy birthday, Scout! It’s hard to believe that today is Scout’s six-month birthday. It seems like yesterday she was just coming home with us, her pudgy puppy belly wider than the rest of her entire body.

Scout would “howl” when she wanted something, a sound I regret to this day we never recorded. It sounded, you might remember, exactly like a Star War’s wookie. She also let out enormous burbs after eating, and was just as food-obsessed as she is today. In fact, we would carry Scout to her crate for breakfast and dinner, and while in our arms, her little legs would run as fast as they could, as if this would help her reach her food faster! So, so cute.

It’s hard for me to believe that the dog we  have now started off like this. For all of the challenges of raising Scout, what has been most rewarding for us is seeing how good a dog she is, and knowing what this means for the future. There have been times I was overwhelmed, times I thought we’d gotten ourselves in over our heads, and times I was so frustrated I didn’t know what to do with myself, but throughout it all, Scout’s smiling face has made it worth it.

I wouldn’t say that raising Scout to this milestone has been easy, as those of you who have followed this blog can attest, but I would say that the folks who said raising a puppy was one of the hardest, but also most rewarding, things you’ll ever do, well, they were right.

When it’s all said and done, we wouldn’t trade her for the world. And maybe one day, Zoey will say the same thing :)

I almost forgot to share the news! Scout passed her puppy test yesterday. Hooray! We even got a snazzy certificate with her name on it and everything. She walked like a champ (of course), and even caught her treat in the air when we demonstrated Catch. Roll over is still her most hated trick, so we’ll be dropping that one from our arsenal, but we’ll keep Catch. She liked that one. Now we’re considering whether or not to try for CGC, an AKC-run training program that stands for Canine Good Citizen. It sounds like something Scout would really enjoy, since the dogs get to mingle with one another, and it teaches good manners, which is a plus!

Speaking of walking, we introduced Scout to the training collar last night. All of my nightmares were unfounded. Scout acted like we’d put a ribbon on her neck. No reaction at all! But she did walk to the car like a dream. Hopefully with some practice this will solve all our walking woes.

Last Day of Kindergarten

So tonight is Scout’s last day of puppy class. I have to say, I am both excited and dreading it. To start with, Scout hasn’t learned much that we didn’t teach her on our own. We can chalk that up to us being overly energetic when Scout was younger (we were following what our how-to-raise-a-puppy books said, which was to start training immediately, so we did as we were told), but it also rendered a big portion of the class inapplicable. The flip-side of this is that the real reason we went to the class, for socialization and help teaching Scout to walk, hasn’t paid off much, either.

On the socialization topic, I think it was a matter of more carefully researching what the class would be like. I didn’t realize that not all classes would offer “play time,” so it was a bit of a surprise during our first class when the dogs didn’t get to play at all. In the future, I would have made sure of each class’ details a bit more thoroughly before enrolling in one.

As for walking, well, you all know how that’s going. I find it immensely frustrating because one day Scout will do very well, and then the rest of the week she’ll be a terror. The good days give me false hope, while the bad ones make me feel like I’m losing a lopsided game of tug-of-war. The daily seesaw is exhausting. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, tonight we’ll introduce the training collar, which will hopefully help us make headway in this regard.

Other than walking on the leash, Scout is a pretty well-behaved dog most of the time. I say most of the time because she’s had two “accidents” in the house this week, and I say accidents in quotes because, well, they weren’t really accidents. The first happened Monday night. B was getting his coat on in the bedroom so that he could take Scout out to use the bathroom, and Scout crouched right next to the baby gate at the bedroom door, looked straight at him, and peed. You can imagine my reaction. The second instance was last night. I was standing at the bar reading mail, and I knew that Scout was sitting next to me, but I was concentrating on the mail. The next thing I knew, I glanced down at her, and she walked away, revealing that she wasn’t just sitting next to me kindly, but was peeing. Again.

Each of these instances were not full-fledged “I can’t hold it any longer” moments. They were just a little puddle, enough to infuriate me and prove Scout’s point. Whatever that might be. I just keep reminding myself what I’ve read before: She’s just asserting herself to see how much she can get away with. Grr.

Today, when she absolutely refused to walk well at lunch–another asserting herself kind of moment–I marched her back inside and put her in her crate without giving her the customary peanut butter-filled Kong. She looked at me like I’d gone off the deep end. The thing is, I’m determined we’re going to survive this stage with our authority in tact. Scout is determined to prove she’s the queen of the house. Who will win? Only time will tell, but please, please be me and B–

–Time for an impromptu Zoey’s Corner:

Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha! Oh, mother. You and Dad and the little mongrel are all wrong. It is I, Zoey the Cat, that is already the Queen of the House. Your efforts to thwart me are futile! You are not battling the dog for rule of the house, you are only battling for rule amongst you three. I already rule the house! I knew with enough patience I would overcome this dog obstacle, and you, dear readers, have finally seen it. Ah, being right feels so very good.

The First Day of School

As you know, our first puppy kindergarten class was last night. Scout did pretty well all in all. It’s kind of hard to put the dogs on a grading scale (“You’re at the top of the class, you’re a B student, etc.), because our “puppy” kindergarten kind of turned out to be more like a dog kindergarten. We had dogs of all ages in our class: a golden retriever who seemed perfectly behaved but apparently has issues walking (adult), a pitt bull mix who has trouble with dominance (adult), a lab-terrier mix with all kinds of crazy issues (adult), and then the puppies: a 14-week-old bull terrier mix who actually peed while he was sitting (seriously!), a boxer (who looked no more than 8-10 weeks old, waaayy too young in my opinion to be in a vet’s office, where sick dogs go, but anyway…), and Scout.

Because we’ve been teaching Scout since she was 7 weeks old, she knew most of what we covered in the first class: Sit, Stay, and Down were all pretty simple for her. What kind of tripped us up was the slightly different hand movements that this trainer wanted us to do, and the fact that he wanted us to use treats, which we’ve weaned Scout off of for the most part. Scout sometimes got distracted by the other dogs, and really wanted to meet everyone and play, so we had to practice being patient and keeping her attention on us.

But the real challenge of the night was when we had to teach the dog to do things in succession: Sit then Stay in the Sit position; Down then Stay in the Down position. This last one was tricky for Scout, who kept wanting to rise back to her feet when we’d give the Stay command. The trainer showed us how to lay a hand gently on her back so that she would understand that we wanted her to stay down, and it didn’t take long for Scout to do it on her own.

The real complicated one for Scout was the Stand command. We haven’t taught Scout this command (and admittedly, I’ve never heard of it), but it’s useful for when you need the dog to stand and stay in the stand position. (Um, maybe for grooming purposes? When would you need the dog to stay standing?) We used one hand to give the command, and then gently lifted Scout by putting a hand under her tummy until she was standing, then gave her a treat and lots of praise. By this point in the night, we’d been working for a long time, and Scout was obviously mentally tired and losing interest in learning, so I’m not sure how much of this stuck, but we’ve got a homework sheet of things to practice before next week (there’s the kindergarten part!), so she’ll have a chance to practice later tonight.

All in all, it was a really good experience. We spoke with the trainer about what we were really there for: help with our walks and jumping on people. These are Scout’s two main trouble areas right now. Scout used to walk so well, but in the last month she’s begun to pull pretty hard, and she is already much stronger than me. She can yank me all over the place, so we need to help teach her that this isn’t how to walk on the leash. Scout has great manners in the house for the most part, but on the leash she thinks she’s in charge. The trainer promised that we’d get to that in the third week, and that we could fix it. That’s the lesson I’m really looking forward to. My poor back is quite sore from trying to keep her under control when we’re outside.

The jumping up on people is a fairly common trouble area from what I’ve learned, and it’s just because Scout is so friendly and excitable. The trainer showed the class how to roll up a towel and secure it with rubber bands (a hand towel for puppies), and keep it with you. When the dog jumps up (or does anything that you don’t want them to do), throw the towel at them and at the precise moment that the towel hits them, make a loud, negative noise. “NO!” works, or “EHH!” or whatever you want, so long as it’s negative. Don’t throw it so hard you hurt the dog, but get their attention with it. Aim for the shoulder area, not the rear end. It’s best if you can do it when the dog isn’t paying attention to you, like if they’re jumping up on your guest or something.

He demonstrated the towel technique on the lab mix, which was in near hysterics next to us. The dog just simply didn’t want to be near anyone else, and it was barking up a storm because of it, completely stressed out. (I was silently thanking myself that my only issues at this point are leash walking and jumping up. Aggression/insecurity is a whole new can of worms.) Amazingly, this dog really responded when the trainer threw the towel at it. It whimpered and hid behind the chair, and then calmed completely down. The dog was calmer and no longer freaking out. Towel discipline: sold!

So for a first class, I would say it was a success. Scout was so mentally exhausted that she went right to bed when we got home. We did learn that we shouldn’t feed her before we go to class–Scout consumed almost another meal’s worth of calories in kibble during class time. By the end of it, she actually didn’t want any more. There’s a first time for everything!

We will miss next week’s class because of Scout’s surgery, but we’ll make it up once Scout has healed. In the meantime, we can practice up a storm and really master that pesky Stand command. You know, for whenever it is that you’re supposed to need your dog to stand. ;)