Friday, February 4, 2011

January with Nubble

With all this snow, Nubble is having the time of his life! He loves to be outside playing in it. He went sledding with Lindsey and her cousins. At first, he climbed onto the sled and sat down. But once it started moving, he decided it would have much more fun running alongside the sled. He even helped pull the sled back up the hill! (Well, actually he grabbed it and ran off with it. But he did bring it back when Lindsey and her cousins called him.)

While Nubble was playing in the snow, Donna took the opportunity to practice recalls. It wasn't easy for him to stop playing with Lindsey and her cousins, but he did it! After Nubble came to her, Donna let him go back to playing so he would realize that recalls don't mean the fun has to end. Nice training technique!

Every January, the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex hosts the Farm Show. Thousands of people come to see the farm animals and equipment, agricultural displays, vendors, the famous butter sculpture, and of course, the Farm Show food. Donna took Nubble on a Sunday, one of the most crowded days at the Farm Show. There were so many people that it was difficult to walk, but Nubble did great with the crowds! People don't bother him at all.

Unfortunately, the crowds meant that Nubble didn't have as much exposure to the animals. He and Donna stayed on the fringes of the crowds near the exhibits. They could have gotten closer, but then the crowds would not have allowed Donna to remove Nubble from the other animals if he started barking or became worried. This is good thinking - when we take our dogs in training into environments that could be stressful for them, such as the Farm Show, we always make sure that we can quickly and easily remove the dog from the situation if it becomes too stressful for them or the other animals.

Despite the crowds, Nubble got to see a cow, although he barked at it. Then they went to the chicken area. Donna and Nubble stook just inside the door so Nubble could watch the chickens. Donna clicked and treated him for watching calmly. He did very well for a while. Then he caught sight of an odd-looking chicken and started barking at it. Donna quickly removed him from the area.

They visited the large arena, where the horse teams were demonstrating what they do. Nubble did great, laying nicely at Donna's feet.

To get upstairs, they had to take the stairs because the lines for the elevator were so long. If you've been reading about Nubble, you know that he's not a big fan of the stairs. However, Donna has been working very hard with him to get him to walk calmly up them. At the Farm Show, he did fairly well with the stairs, even though they were crowded. Donna blocked people so he wouldn't get squished while they were walking up. The top of the stairs was challenging for him, though, because everyone seemed to stop right at the top. They had to do the stairs a second time later on, and again, he did okay until they got close to the top. Later, Donna took him outside and they practiced on the stairs out there, where there were no crowds. He did very well, as long as he could walk up at a long angle, moving from the bottom left to the top right.

Although they didn't stay for a long time, it was enough for a young dog. It was a wonderful experience for him!

Donna and Nubble are now attending some of our puppy classes in Harrisburg so that Nubble can get used to interacting with dogs he's not familiar with. They have been to two of them so far, and although the first class was a little stressful, they have been making good progress. One of our trainers suggested clicking and treating him when he's looking calmly at another dog. Nubble made great progress that first class! Although Donna had to take him out of the room a few times, he settled down quickly and was able to return to class.

When dogs get too excited or worried during puppy class, their puppy raisers take them out into the hallway to give them a chance to calm down and focus again. When Donna goes to puppy classes in the Northeast, she takes Nubble all the way outside when he gets too worried. She has decided, though, that she's going to stop taking him all the way outside. Since outside is a fun and exciting place for Nubble, she's just going to take him out of the room to calm down.

Their second puppy class in Harrisburg was even better. He ignored the other dogs most of the time. Nice progress!

Donna has been working on "paw" with Nubble. He is learning to pick up his paw and put it in her hand. Although he usually learns new cues fairly quickly, this one is a little challenging for him. Right now, he doesn't want to put his paw in Donna's hand. When Donna holds out her hand, he will lift his paw, but won't put it in her hand. If he's laying down, he'll let her handle his paws, but he's not ready to offer his paw to her. Donna is confident that he'll get there eventually. They're continuing to work on it.

They have also been working with the target stick, which is a stick with a piece of duct tape on the end. The dogs target the duct tape with their nose. Nubble likes the target stick, although he always wants to chew on it at the beginning of their training sessions. He eventually settles and uses his nose, though. Donna has started using the target stick to teach him "under." "I've never taught 'under' that way, so it is nice to see different techniques," says Donna.

At one point at puppy class when Donna and Nubble were outside, Nubble saw a covered outlet on the wall. It must have looked like a piece of duct tape to him because he targeted it! He used his teeth the first time, but when Donna gave him a look, he targeted it nicely with his nose.

We have stairs in the building we use for puppy class (Keystone Children & Family Services), so our trainers got to see Nubble navigate the stairs. Donna plans on practicing the stairs every time she and Nubble come to the Harrisburg puppy class. Right now, Nubble has a tendency to turn around and go up backwards if Donna stops partway up the stairs. They're working on it.

Then we played puppy tic-tac-toe, where the dogs are the Xs and Os. The dogs on the board must be in a sit or a down in order to stay on the board, and just like the game, the teams tried to get three dogs in a row. Nubble sometimes gets worried around other dogs, but even though he was in a down very close to another dog, he wasn't bothered at all. His main distraction that class was SSD Dee, a small black female that was visiting from advanced training. Nubble was very aware of her anytime she was moving around.

Two more fun facts about Nubble: He loves his Jolly Ball toy, and he loves being vacuumed! The Jolly Ball is a tough rubber ball with a handle that Nubble loves to grab and toss around. He'll usually grab the ball and run around, but because it has been so cold, he has had to adapt and play with it by grabbing the handle.

Yes, you did read correctly when you read that Nubble loves to be vacuumed. Donna noticed that Nubble always follows her around when she vacuums. Since she knows that some horses love to be vacuumed, she wondered if Nubble might enjoy it. Using the upholstery attachment, which is gentle, she ran it over his back. He just stood there and looked at her, so she did it again, and this time, he leaned into it! She did both of his sides and he loved it!

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