Monday, April 19, 2010

Onyx plays tic-tac-toe and more!

At puppy class, SSD Onyx and the other dogs played tic-tac-toe. We split into teams of black dogs and yellow dogs - the first team to get three dogs in a down or sit in a row, won! It wasn't as easy as it seemed, however. If a dog got up, they had to leave the board. Onyx did very well - she went down in one corner and stayed there, thanks to the power treats Carol gave her (cheese whiz!). However, it proved too difficult for the dogs to play by normal tic-tac-toe rules, so we changed them. Instead of one team winning by getting three in a row, we just wanted to get all the dogs on the board in a row of yellow and a row of black. We cleared the board and started over. Onyx was the last black dog on the board, but in order to complete the row of black, she had to sit next to Sienna - her favorite yellow lab playmate! It was difficult for Carol to keep her attention focused. It's a challenging game because the dogs need to pay attention even though there are other dogs in very close quarters.

Onyx is always thinking. She loves to put things in her mouth, and while she doesn't necessarily eat them, she has discovered that she'll get a treat if she gives it back. It has almost become a game for her - grab something she isn't supposed to have, run off with it, wait to be asked to give it back, and get a treat. Recently, her puppy raiser Mark was grilling outside, and he dropped the can of spray oil. Onyx grabbed it and ran inside. She stopped halfway up the stairs and looked back at her other puppy raiser, Carol, as if to say, "Aren't you going to stop me? Don't you want this back?" When Carol walked toward her and called for her to come, she came down the stairs and dropped the can at Carol's feet so she could get her treat for giving it back. Onyx is always keeping her puppy raisers on their toes.

In puppy class, we've been working on get dressed, which is the cue for the dog to put its head through its service dog harness. Carol and Mark have found that Onyx will only do get dressed if they have power treats such as chicken or hot dogs. When we're training the dogs to do a new cue, we sometimes have to "up the ante" in order for the dog to perform the task. That usually means using better treats rather than just the dog food they typically get.

Mark and Carol area also working on visit. Onyx visits very nicely for Mark and Carol, putting her head in their hand or lap. Now she needs to work on visit with other people. She won't always be with her puppy raisers, so she needs to learn to perform behaviors when other handlers give her cues. We'll keep you updated on her progress.

Onyx has actually turned visit into a way to beg for food. She has perfect manners when Mark and Carol are eating at a table. But when they're eating anywhere else, Onyx begs. For example, if Carol is eating in a chair on the porch, Onyx will put her head in her lap and stare at her. She never gets any food using this method, but she's still in the stage where she's trying. Eventually, she may realize this behavior doesn't get her any food and she'll stop.

We've been discussing the dogs' sensitive areas, such as their teeth. Many of the dogs don't really like to have their teeth brushed, but Onyx has no problem with it. What's the secret? Find out tomorrow!

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