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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Training Tuesday

Thanks for your very thoughtful comments yesterday. I had no idea how many people had experienced similar feelings about a parent's death as I have. You helped me see how many people never stop grieving a beloved parent and that many of you have experienced a feeling of disquiet when your age approached the age of your parent's death.

Today is training update day. Shyla has had a stupendous week of training. We had a few fabulous trips into town, visiting shopping areas and the spooky park where the skateboards scared her so much last time she was there. She handled everything in stride during socialization this week although she was not tested by skateboards. She was tested by a hand-truck in the vet's lobby, and she declined to go anywhere near it. That was fine because she bounced back from her initial fear so quickly that the hand-truck fear didn't affect anything else about our outing.
We visited a pet supply shop that was the first shop that Shyla was ever willing to enter last fall. This week, she and I wandered the shop, doing obedience practice in some aisles, meeting nice people and dogs, and browsing their treat department. When I went to the register to pay, the owner of the shop said that she'd been watching us, and, if she hadn't seen Shyla last fall, she would've thought that Shyla was a perfectly well adjusted dog with very few fears. In celebration, she gave us a bag of home-baked treats to take home! It was wonderful to get that external validation that we are making big progress!

At home, we kept working on old tricks and new tricks. On one evening walk, it was just me and Shyla (the boys were running), and she did a prolonged off-leash heel despite many distractions. I was very proud of her because I consider off-leash heeling to be a critical part of staying safe during our hikes and bike rides. I'm still working on teaching her to heel next to my bike - that's more of a challenge but we'll get it eventually!

We practiced her "relax" cue in all sorts of places.
She now needs rarely needs guiding with my hands to get into position. I can stand up straight and say "relax", and she lies on her side. She is so smart!
We started working on her rolling from one side to the other. So, she starts out in a "relax" on her right side, then rolls over into the "relax" position on her left side. She still needs a lot of guidance in the form of hand movements from me. I hope that we can strengthen that behavior in the coming week.

We have expanded her retrieve so that she'll pick up and return a variety of objects. A piece of PVC pipe...
A screwdriver...
She didn't always look happy about holding the screwdriver!
And, a brush...
She still is leery of holding metal objects with her mouth so that's on our "to do" list. I also want to practice fun retrieving games outdoors. Now, when she's calm, she retrieves beautifully. But, after a few repeats, she gets so excited that she forgets to return the object to me and instead zooms in circles around me. I think that if I move away from her excitedly after she picks up the object, I may be able to shape a fast and fun retrieve, even when she's excited.

Shyla has started creating her own tricks, which is one of the most fun parts of clicker training - dogs are not afraid to try out new behaviors. As you know, I've taught her to "take a bow".
Separately, I've taught her to rest her chin on the ground.
To my surprise, she decided to combine the two tricks, taking a bow with her chin on the ground! I gave her a jackpot of treats to teach her that creativity is encouraged!
An even funnier one, which I didn't capture in a photo, was that she decided to "wave" while lying on her side in the "relax" position. The next time she does that one, I'm going to click to tell her that it's good, and then try to get her to do it again. It was SO funny!

Our last thing for the coming week is that I want to continue to teach Shyla that nail-clipping is not a bad thing (we had quite a struggle over nail-clipping last week). I'm using a Youtube video as my guide. Basically, I started by taking her to the spot where I always clip nails and having her lie down. Then, I held her paw in my hand numerous times, rewarding her with a click/treat each time if she didn't pull away. Over a 10 minute session, I worked up to holding her paw while spreading out her toes and touching a nail with the nail clipper, without any signs of stress from her. I hope that I'll be able to clip a nail without any resistance within the next week.

I am finding that Shyla is perhaps the most trainable dog who I've ever worked with. She loves to learn, loves to get praise, and loves to puzzle out what I'm trying to entice her to do. I think that, in terms of training specific behaviors (e.g., tricks), the sky is the limit. In terms of socialization, I'm not sure where the limit is (e.g., skateboards may never be okay) but we'll keep working at it so that Shyla can eventually handle most things in the everyday world without a hitch.
I'm having such fun with this beautiful dog!


  1. It is just amazing how fast she learns! I think I told you that I do not like bikes. Well more specifically I do not like bikes that men are riding. I'm OK with MOM on her bike or any woman or child. But not men. MOM has tried and tried to get me over my fear and fur standing up on my back when I see a bike with a man on it. But she has had no success.
    And I think that first photo is frame worthy. WOW! Such a beauty and not just on the outside.

  2. She's such a great student! The holding objects is so cute.

    One of my favorite "side effects" of clicker training is how easily dogs try new behaviors. It makes it all so much quicker and easier.

    I love Tab289 on YouTube! I used that video to teach Nola not to mind the nail clippers. Kikopup is another one to check out; she has tons of tutorials and videos, and has a whole series devoted to shy dogs.

    Nola's Mom

  3. KB, I love reding about your training with Shyla! So cool to hear about the recognition from the woman in the pet shop.

    I ditched nail trimming this past year and taught Kona to file her nails my scratching her "scratch board" (a piece of wood with stair grip tape). Her nails aren't always pretty, but it gets the job done and has become a fun trick!

  4. KB, todays shots of Shyla were absolutely beautiful. I just love her face, her eyes, all of her. I can already see next years calander. Please put me down for 4 of them.
    I honestly can't tell you how much I admire your photography skills. Of course you have a great model and some incredible back drops too.
    Bert's My Vickie

  5. Your update has me smiling ear to ear! It's hard to see progress when you're working with something every day, but from where you started, she has orbited the planet! Sometimes that great brilliance does come with extra sensitivity, even in people. Also, I don't like things made of metal in my mouth, either, so I can't fault her there! lol

  6. Another day today and more stunning photos, I like the last one so much . Shyla is learning so fast, you have so much time,love and patience, it shows in her confidence. Cheers from Jean

  7. We enjoy hearing your training updates Shyla. The day we met you, we could see you had that training eagerness in your eye.
    Benny & Lily

  8. I love your training updates. I think the caption for the picture with the brush in her mouth should be, "Mom this thing is tickling my nose!"


  9. She just loves school! I love it that she doubles up too, using the wave when she is in "relax". Sky's the limit, Shyla!

    Stella, Zkhat and Mom

  10. You do such an amazing job and you can see that Shyla loves every bit of it. I love the double trick the best. She is so beautiful.

    Anne and Sasha

  11. I can tell by the enthusiasm in your "voice" how excited you are with Shyla. I know you had doubts in the beginning after K died what you would do and it seems that Shyla has been quite a gift of joy for you. I know you will always miss K and that she will always be a part of you, but it seems everything about Shyla is just want you needed to fill in that empty place. I'm so glad she is doing so well and that you are having such fun with her. Peace.

  12. You are really learning fast, Shyla! Your photos are just stunning, KB! We're off to check out the nail clip on YouTube. We hate to have our feets touched!

    Love ya lots
    Mitch and Molly

  13. Okays I am in total awe of da two of you training! Shyla is one amazin' dog and her really seems to pick up on things quick...of course I knows your consistency and persistance plays a part too.
    My mum wants to send me to you fur trainin'...hehehehe.


  14. I think it is great that you are sharing your journey to get such a wonderful dog. I think people need to know the time and energy can take for some dogs.

    We had to deal with the nail clipping too. Hailey was terrified of it and so terrified the vet couldn't take blood from her. So for 3 months we worked on getting her to allow us to cut her nails and luckily for us it generalized to the blood work (because I don't know how we could practice that at home!)

    Have a great day!

  15. We love it! Shyla is really coming out of her shell and is doing a fantastic job. We think it's so awesome that the pet store lady noticed the big difference. She has a zest for life!

    Way to go Shyla!

    Lily Belle & Muffin

  16. Hi KB......sorry I have been out of touch. These pics of Shyla make me smile! I love how she relaxes.....Indy loves to relax but doesnt do it on queue like Shyla does. I love this position as I can lay next to him and stroke him all over, which he loves too! Hope you are all doing well. I said a prayer for your mother yesterday. take care!

  17. I'm so impressed with all Shyla's talents, and her momma's love and patience getting her there!

  18. I think your abilities as a trainer are a big part of your success. You are obviously gifted.

    And speaking of skateboards....they drive my younger boy NUTS! No fear whatsoever, but it hits something in his herding instincts all wrong, and he wants to get that object. He has no interest in the person, but tries to bite the board itself. Of course, this is still a very bad thing as it can knock over the kid. And when it's a large teenager going fast, Jimmy can be injured as well. Bicycles fortunately do not have this effect, but in-line skates do! I am always on the look-out!

  19. The head down bow is fantastic! She is a smart one.

    Mommy and I have an agreement that no more than 3 toes will be trimmed at once, nails can only be trimmed once a day, but nail trimming can happen at any time.

    Two tricks I forgot to mention in my big showoff list were "Do a Trick" which means do any trick I've already learned and "Do Something Different" which means do something Mommy has not seen before or named as a trick, like Head Down Bow. Shyla seems to be a natural for Do Something Different.

  20. I just read your previous blog, and send you a heart's full for the passing of your dear mom, those 25 years ago. The feelings you have as you approach her age of death are shared by many (most) who have lost a parent young. Fear of the number, awkwardness or even guilt at surpassing her, grief anew for what you have lost as you can intimately relate to her at this age...all so normal.
    If she was anything like you she must have been a wonderful woman...whose life should be celebrated and cherished. And you live on! ~Jeanne

  21. Lucky for you to have are a great team.
    It must be fun to see how she learns more and more tricks.
    Great pcitures.

  22. You two are a perfect team leading and learning from each other. It makes us smile to see Shyla's amazing progress.

  23. You two are doing so great! Reading about how much Shyla has learned and how happy the two of you are has got me thinking about clicker training, especially for our blind pup Breeze, to help her be more confident.

    Time to bake some more treats and get clicking I'm thinking!

  24. Hi Y'all!

    I'm almost 7 and I'm still learning and my Human still carries a pocket or pouch of treats to reward my behaviors.

    Good girl Shyla!

    Y'all come back now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  25. Your beautiful dog is getting some magnificent and personality-filled portraits taken of her! And how cute that she's coming up with her own tricks!

  26. I so need to train my pups more!

    Stop on by for a visit


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