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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Puppy zoomies and training

Like me, my new puppy seems the happiest on the trails. She has had two days in a row of zooming in circles around me for almost our entire hike. Her joy and exuberance make me laugh out loud.
I call her out of her "zoomies", with "Shyla Come!", and she responds every time with incredible enthusiasm. The whoosh of the air pinned her ears to her head as she zoomed toward me.
Another classic ear position for Shyla during a recall is the Flying Nun.
Each time she arrives at my feet, she gets a jackpot of treats. And, I ask her to do a few "calm" things like sit, lie down, poke my hand with her nose, or make eye contact. Although I adore seeing her joyously playing, I need to make sure that I can still control her with my voice despite her excitement.

The coy look during one of our "calm" breaks...
The sincere look...
We are also working on her non-trail life experiences with our trainer's guidance. We are using a variation on an approach called "Behavioral Adjustment Therapy" which sounds a lot fancier than it is. Essentially, we expose Shyla to new things (e.g., cars going by on the road, bikes, people running, people gardening, people roller blading, our garbage disposal, our vacuum cleaner, etc.), making sure that the new thing is far enough away that she can handle it without too much stress. We reward calm reactions. The surprising part (to me) is that the reward for a calm reaction is that we let her lead us away from the "new thing" if that's what she wants. We don't let her flee in a panic but rather walk away calmly for a short break before returning to where we saw the new thing.

So far, I am astounded by how well it works. It puts the choice in the dog's paws - so she's in control of how close she gets to anything new. Shyla seems to be inherently curious about the huge new world around her so she wants to approach new things despite her anxiety about them. Due to her curiosity, she's a perfect candidate for this approach. Just an hour of walking around a quiet part of town while using this technique made a huge difference in Shyla's comfort level with town life.

As we navigate the world together, I'm learning to look at it from Shyla's perspective, trying to predict which things might cause stress so that I'm prepared. I make mistakes but Shyla recovers very well. For example, yesterday we saw a friendly couple leading a dog into the vet hospital where R was having his tests. Shyla wanted to meet the friendly dog and then wiggled her way over to meet the people (her own initiative). That was a great interaction, showing Shyla that new people can be nice.

A bit later, the same pair of people exited the vet hospital without their dog (he was having some tests). I, being a human, assumed that Shyla would still be comfortable with the pair of people. I was wrong. Without their dog, the situation felt completely different to Shyla - probably because the people were focused on her too much. It didn't turn into a big deal because I walked calmly away at the first sign of fear in Shyla. But, it was a learning moment for me, telling me to always look at things from Shyla's perspective while she's in this phase of experiencing a whole new world.
It will probably be a while before I have any photos of "training" Shyla in town. I have to focus all my attention on her reactions so I can't be fiddling with a camera. My trainer feels confident that, with steady training and exposure to the world, Shyla will be walking the sidewalks like a pro in the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, thank you for all the well-wishes for R. We still believe, in our hearts, that he's going to be fine and that we may never know what caused this "episode". But, in the meantime, we are still anxiously awaiting the results of the latest tests.


  1. Hi KB, I wonder what type of environment Shayla came from-was it more isolated so that she grew up uncertain of new experiences. I think she is pretty close to Hunter in age but I always think of labs as being so much friendlier than Bichons. You are giving me ways to help Hunter with his new experiences-so thank you. I also got some other tips today to start using prior to us starting the classes. Have a great evening and I'm waiting for good news about R too.
    Hugs, Noreen

  2. Shyla is so pretty! I just showed her to my husband, the first time he has seen her and his comment was "That a good looking dog!"


  3. This is such an interesting type of traing. It sounds more fun than traditional. Wish we could do that with our ears, BOL
    Benny & Lily

  4. Shyla seems the perfect fit for you.....the forest and mountains are your home, the city not so much. :) She is such a lucky girl to have such a passionate and patient mom...

  5. Shyla is an incredibly intuitive learner and quite smart. Your approach to her training is brilliant---challenging but reassuring.

  6. I love seeing her run free like that. Shyla doesn't yet know how AWESOME her life with you will be. I will enjoy watching her learn. Such a sweet girl.

  7. I think I'm learning a lot too just by reading about your experiences with Shyla. She has come a long way already.

  8. Hi Y'all,

    I raise my paw to the flying nun and the earless pup...ah the zoomies! I gave my Human my own zoomies display when she returned to me from the mailbox. They are such fun!

    Soon Shyla, you will be as spoiled as I am...going everywhere and loving to the adventures of new places and things! Yes!

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  9. I have no doubt whatsoever that Shyla will learn to love the adventures wherever they take you, to a beautiful mountain top at sunset, or a parking lot! :-)

  10. Shyla is going to be one smart cookie when she's done with all that training! We're gonna stay hot on your heels and try and learn a thing or two. Mommy always says we should be more diciplined. She takes one look into our eyes and we see her melt.... Works every time! Yup, puppy dog eyes!

    Hi R. Hope you're feeling better each day buddy.

    Lily Belle

  11. I love these pictures of Shyla -- she's a precious pup! And of course I'm thinking of R....

  12. I love reading how great the training is going for Shyla. I am going to try a few of those techniques with trouble areas we have with Sasha. I am keeping R in my prayers and hoping you get the wonderful news that you want to hear very soon. R is just fine!

    Anne and Sasha

  13. OH she is such a pretty girl and you can see in here eyes that she is totally in love with you and your mountains, R and Runner

    What a great fit. You were so right to go with Shyla and not a puppy. And even though you will miss out on the puppy breath and the puppy teeth, what a great time for all of you.

    Happy Days ahead.....

  14. I'm guessing that Shyla didn't get a lot of contact with the outside world before she came to you, which kind of surprises me given the background that I know about her. I think she's handling everything very well. A lightbulb went off in my head while you were talking about her reaction to the people at the vet clinic. We often tell new Greyhound adopters that while their new hound is experiencing a lot of good things in their transition to being a pet, it's still like being transported to Mars. The life they lead at the track is very structured and predictable, and moving into a home environment holds a lot of wonderful surprises, but it's still completely alien. It sounds to me like Shyla is feeling like a little alien right now, too, but that she is happy that she's come to Earth!

  15. I agree with Bert, she is telling you a story with her beautiful eyes. tAs for the zoomies...I think they do them to make us laugh. Enjoy every moment. Hugs to R...

  16. Shyla made us laugh- with her ear tricks! That Daughter of the Mountain puppy sure has a lot of energy!

  17. Ann...from...Outer Banks of NC..said...beautiful pictures always.....I love the flying nun ears of beyond cute...and that show with Sally Field I always watched too......loved know ...Since God sends miracles every day and prayers are good for the soul.... I have good vibes about R (sweet handsome boy)..Praying for all of friend..Rest and be restored in... body--mind--spirit--you're an amazing person...HUGS

  18. Training sounds like it is going well. She sure is a smart one. I do like her expressive face. Paws are still crossed for Mr. R, aka, Cracker Dog. I know I will be able to uncross soon.

  19. She looks so wonderful and full of lifes joy!

    After a while she will forget all about being afraid.

    I am so glad she is with you and your training skills.


  20. Onwards and upwards with Shyla. BOL the flying nun. Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

  21. She is very very Cute!
    Good to hear the training is working although I prefer spunk over a dominated controlled dog. You want their personality to shine through and some of these controls seem a bit extreme. Anyhoo! A happy dog and a happy owner is all that matters!

    Kodas Mom

  22. Shyla is so lucky to have you and she is so beautiful!

    Love ya lots,
    Mitch and Molly

  23. I have already fallen in love with Shyla's eyes - she is a beauty, so much like sweet K!

  24. When we adopted our yellow lab, Isaac, he was approx. 9 months old and completely unsocialized. He'd been running loose with some other dogs, so he had no idea how to interact with people. It took a long time and a lot of patience, but today he loves everybody and everything!

    So hang in there with Shyla, she'll turn the corner rather dramatically soon, I suspect, the more secure she feels with you. And in the meantime? You can enjoy her flirting! My goodness, she's a fabulous flirt, isn't she?

  25. I love reading about your sessions with Shyla. You are SO understanding of her feelings and needs.

  26. Lovely do a great job with Shyla...Hope R is getting better..
    Hugs from us!!

  27. KB, I continue to hope for the best for R. It's encouraging that he is feeling so much better. I did a little reading about acanthocytes and understand your worries.

    I'm so glad Shyla is responding well to your care and training. She is a beauty, and her enthusiasm is contagious. :-)

    I hope all is well (or at least stable) with your health issues, too!

    Susan T. in AZ

  28. Shyla is doing great. Remember, don't anticipate too much. Your emotions will travel straight down the leash. So, even if you think she might panic at something you have to keep saying to yourself, "This is so much fun! She's not going to react at all." as you give her the distance you think she needs.


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