Friday, November 19, 2010

Nubble Keeps Learning

Nubble's puppy raiser has so much fun with him. Donna loves the cue "visit"where Nubble puts his head in her hand or lap. He just looks so sweet when he does it. Two weeks ago, Nubble was sitting next to Donna on the couch, and Donna asked him to "visit." He rested his nose on her shoulder and looked at her. "My heart was warmed straight through," said Donna.

Donna has also been working on the cue "lap" with Nubble. "Lap" means that the dog puts its front legs on the person's lap from the side. This has been a challenging behavior for Nubble, but the light bulb seemed to go off in puppy class last week. Donna sat in a chair so her knees were touching the wall, so that Nubble would have no choice but to approach her from the side. The first time Donna asked Nubble for "lap" by patting her knees, Nubble tried to "visit." When he didn't get clicked for that, he started trying many different behaviors - he tried going around behind Donna, he put his paws on the heater that was against the wall, and he even jumped right over Donna's lap! Finally, he put his paws on Donna's lap. Now she just needs to work on getting him to put his legs flat on her lap. But he seems to be getting the idea! Great job!

When the puppies are young, they sleep in their crate at night. As the dogs get older, they may not need to sleep in the crate anymore. Donna has been letting Nubble sleep outside of his crate, and there have been a few nights when he made it all the way through the night without having to be put in his crate. When he sleeps outside of the crate, he usually curls up on the couch or on the floor at Donna's feet. Sometimes he'll go into Gizzy's crate and start snoring. He seems to limit himself to a few locations for sleeping, and he's very well behaved.

Although he's generally very well behaved, he does have his moments. Donna works very hard to manage Nubble's environment so there aren't too many temptations and opportunities for him to get into mischief. She sets him up to be successful. Sometimes, though, dogs still manage to get into mischief. The other day, Nubble swiped an entire loaf of bread off the kitchen table! It was a specialty loaf, so it was too long to fit where Donna keeps the regular bread. She put it in the middle of the kitchen table so Nubble wouldn't be able to grab it. She had just left the room for a short time when she heard an odd noise. She had a feeling Nubble was up to something, and sure enough, he had grabbed the bread off the table! As soon as he saw her, he picked up the half loaf that he hadn't scarfed down yet and hid behind the couch.

He also chewed a book. Donna had left the book on the couch and although was in the same room with him at the time, but she thought he was chewing on one of his toys. The book survived with only a few teeth marks in the corners. Luckily it wasn't a library book! "I am considering this a 'lesson learned' for me," said Donna. "I still need to be diligent about his surroundings so he isn't tempted to get into mischief."

Nubble is making progress in his training. Donna is working with him to help him realize that he has back feet. (Dogs don't often realize they have back feet that they can move and control.) To teach him, Donna has been shaping him to put all four feet in a box. The box is big enough for him to fit in, but he has to lift his legs to do it. First, Nubble touched his nose to the box. Then he tried to bite it. Eventually, he started putting his front feet inside it. Because the back feet were more challenging, Donna watched carefully and clicked for any movement by his back feet. At first, she didn't realize that he was picking up his front feet at the same time his back feet were moving, so they had to backtrack a little bit so Nubble would understand that he only needed to move his back feet. Now, he puts all four feet in the box! Each time Donna and Nubble practice this exercise, they have to backtrack a little bit, but Nubble soon gets it again. (A funny thing happened the first few times they were working on the box. Gizzy, the family pet, was watching Nubble try to figure out what he was supposed to do. She walked over to the box, hopped right in, and looked back and forth between Nubble and Donna as if to say, "What was so hard about that?")

Donna has also continued to work on stairs. Nubble is now walking down the stairs quite nicely. He still wants to rush up the stairs, but it's nothing like it used to be. This past week, Donna tried something new. She had Nubble stay at the bottom of the stairs while she walked halfway up. Then she called him. With her waiting in the middle of the stairs, Nubble couldn't rush all the way to the top. He had to stop. Then Donna would have him stay while she went the rest of the way up. She would call him again. Her goal with this exercise was to help Nubble understand that he can stop and start again while he's still on the stairs. At first, she had tried this exercise with Nubble on leash walking next to her. However, when they stopped halfway up, Nubble would turn around to look at her, and then when they started moving again, he would walk up the stairs backwards! Looking back, Donna remembers that there was a time when he wouldn't even go up or down the stairs. He is definitely making progress!

On Saturday, Donna had a birthday party for Lindsey, who turned sixteen this week. Happy birthday, Lindsey! Donna has a large family, and this was the first time she had everyone over while she has Nubble. Because he doesn't have a good sense of personal space, she was worried that he might continually bump into people, especially Lindsey's grandmother. When her grandmother arrived, Nubble was on leash and he stayed very calm while she greeted him. Donna let him off leash as more family arrived, and he did very well greeting everyone. While they ate, Donna asked him to go to his crate, and he stayed there nicely with the door open. Since it was a gorgeous day, everyone went outside. Nubble ran around the yard for a little while with Donna's nieces and nephews. Before they all started playing together, Donna explained to her nieces and nephews what she expected of Nubble and how they could help her keep Nubble from getting too rambunctious. It was a great experience for Nubble. At one point, he ran over to Lindsey's grandmother, who was sitting in a chair outside, but he stopped short of crashing into her and just stood there and wagged his tail. Good boy!

Some of the family started a football game, and Donna realized this would be a great training experience for Nubble. No, he didn't play football. He stayed on the sidelines and watched. Donna used the comfort trainer, and although Nubble lunged the first few times the football was thrown, he soon realized that he wasn't allowed to play in the game and sat calmly at Donna's side. "It was great seeing him choose to look at me instead of the game," said Donna. "At one point, Gizzy ran into the game, and Nubble thought he could join in, but then he changed him mind."

Nubble did great during the entire party. While Lindsey opened her presents, he went over and rested his head in her lap. All in all, it was a wonderful day of learning for him!

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