Wednesday, May 28, 2014

This Is What Pure Joy Looks Like

Take a good look at that photo above. See all those little shreds of paper? Yeah, that used to be William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, a delightful piece of literature that I’ve never actually read from cover to cover. Guess I’m not going to be reading it any time soon. Doppler turned an 800-page novel into confetti in a few glorious moments of pure, unsupervised puppy joy.

I had left Doppler by himself, uncrated, in my apartment for just over an hour. I figured he would be just fine, since he has successfully stayed by himself three other times, all for about an hour. I had no reason to think this time would be any different.


I wish I had one of those pet monitors so I could see exactly how long it took him to demolish Thackeray’s novel. I’m guessing he sat at the door for a few minutes after I left. Once he realized I wasn’t coming right back in, he probably got up and maybe pounced on one of his bones. Chew, chew, chew. He looks up, realizes he’s still alone. Gets up, pads over to the bookshelf. Sniffs, rubs his side against the wood, sniffs the books again. Ooooo, this one smells good! He gently puts his mouth around it and tugs. Since he chose an 800-page novel, it flops to the floor as soon as it clears the shelf. Whoa! In his puppy brain, he thinks Vanity Fair wants to play. He pounces. He play growls. He grabs the pages and shakes. Pages rip. What a great game! Rip, shake the pages, run around my apartment, shred the pages into tiny bits.

Best game ever!  

Needless to say, in the foreseeable future, Doppler will be crated when I’m not home. I don’t want to come home to another carpet of shredded literature. He’s just lucky that Vanity Fair isn’t one of my favorite books.  

Dude. Shredding a book? So awesome!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Get in the Car!

One of the few photos I have of Doppler sitting

I made bacon-wrapped dates today. If you come to Susquehanna Service Dogs’ Graduation Ceremony tomorrow, you just might get to have one.

Speaking of food, Doppler now has a new location for his meals: the car. He’s absolutely convinced that he’s a small dog and refuses to jump in the car. He’s not a small dog. He has big paws and a solid, stocky body, and I can tell you from having to pick him up and get him in and out of the car that he’s getting heavy. And that’s precisely why he’s getting his meals in the car. I’m trying to get him to jump in and out of the car.

Amanda, Susquehanna Service Dogs’ training coordinator, suggested putting his food dish in the car so he has to hop in himself to eat. Brilliant idea! Labs love food, and Doppler pretty much loses his little mind at meal time. Sure, he sits calmly until I give him the okay, but in the time before he has to sit, he’s running around in pure, food-motivated joy.

So when I took Doppler and his full food dish out to the car this morning, I fully expected him to hop right into the car and chow down.


Oh, don’t misunderstand. Doppler went right up to the back seat and stared at his food with his little nose quivering. But then he plopped his butt back on the pavement and just stared at me. I tried using a super happy voice. I tried moving the food closer to the door on the seat. I even tried putting the dish on the car floor, thinking it would be easier for him to jump up to the floor rather than the seat.


Finally, since I had to get to work, I scooped him up and plopped him in front of his food dish. He chowed down happily.

Fast-forward to dinner time. Since I had nowhere to be, I decided to just wait him out. At some point, he was going to get up the gumption to get in the car to eat his dinner. I put the food in the car on the seat. He stepped toward it. I thought, Yes! He’s going to do it!


Another nope from Doppler when I moved the food to the car floor.

Then inspiration struck. I balanced the food dish on the edge of the car so he could reach it from the pavement and told him “okay.” I let him get a few bites in, then moved the food dish onto the floor of the car. Well, little Dop had already tasted the manna that is dog food, and he wanted more. He put one paw tentatively in the car, then another one. Then I saw him lift his back paws. Yes, yes, yes! He was in the car all on his own!

I’m pretty sure my neighbors thought I was nuts because I suddenly burst out with “Good boy! Good puppy! Oh, you’re such a good boy!”

Total party time.

I made little Dop get out of the car on his own, too. I threw a small handful of treats back in his food dish and put it on the pavement, then told him “okay.” He hopped out as if he’d been doing it all his life.

Here’s hoping that with a few more meals in the car, I won’t have to pick him up anymore.

I think he looks like a little puppy again here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Big Dog Puppy Class

Doppler hanging out at Celebrate Etown

I was all set to write about Doppler’s crazy busy day yesterday, but then I realized that today was Doppler’s first day in big dog puppy class. So instead of writing about how Doppler spent most of yesterday under my desk; went for a 1.5 mile run after work; aced his little puppy evaluation (with some things that still need improvement); and spent two hours at  the Celebrate Etown event at WITF where he took a tour of WITF, relaxed in a down while Vocaline sang, and generally wowed people with his cute face; I’m going to tell you about his first big dog puppy class.

I knew that Doppler is very interested in the smells on the ground and other dogs, I decided to get to puppy class early so he would already be inside and settled when the other dogs got there. In theory, he would then be calmer. Well, my plan worked partway. Doppler was the first puppy there for class. However, as soon as SSD Jana came in, he went into a barking frenzy. I managed to get his attention, and as the next dogs came in, I just shoved treats in his mouth. If his mouth is full, he can’t bark. Plus, all the treats helped keep his attention on me.

Doppler started learning two new behaviors in class. First, I started shaping him to put his nose through the loop in the leash. Why on earth would I do that? The loop is just a stand in for a comfort trainer. When the dogs enter advanced training and when they become working service dogs, they may wear a comfort trainer to give their handler more control. So Doppler is learning to stick his nose through a loop in the leash. It’s probably going to be a slow process. Doppler hasn’t yet figured out that he gets a click and treat for interacting with the leash loop.

He also started learning the cue “lap,” which is where the dog rests his two front legs in a person’s lap. Doppler actually did pretty well with this, once he figured out that he’s really not a little dog anymore. I had to use a treat to lure him up to my lap, but he put both legs up there.

We’re also going to be working on going up and down stairs in a controlled manner, although we didn’t start this in class.

But then, we played a game. Every semester, we play a game at the end of each puppy class. This semester, it’s Par for the Course, a type of golf game with dogs. There’s a square at either end of the room. You have to put your dog into a down-stay in one box, walk to the other box, and then call your dog to come to you. You get additional points if your dog does anything other than come to you, such as visiting the other dogs or heading to other distractions. Now, Doppler is very distracted by smells, and I knew that once all the other dogs put their butts in that square, there would be no way he would settle into a down. So I volunteered to go first. It still took a little while for Doppler to settle into a down. He was very interested in SSD Annabelle, who was sitting near the square. Luckily, her puppy raiser was really nice and moved Annabelle away. After that, Doppler laid down after a few more tries, although he wasn’t quite in the box. But, good enough!

I really wanted Doppler to be successful, so instead of going all the way to the other square, I just went partway and called him to come. He did great! He popped right up and bounded over to me. He looked so happy! So I put him into another down-stay, and this time I went all the way to the other box. Doppler got up before I called him, so I took him back, recued him, and then called him to come again. He came right to me! He didn’t even care that there were three other dogs in front of him! I was so proud of him.

So despite his crazy barking at the beginning of class, we had a very successful time. Next week, puppy class is at the Harrisburg Mall carnival. Definitely going to make sure I have lots of power treats for that. 

Sleepy after his busy day