Monday, March 24, 2008

Going Well

Wow, it's been a week since my last Theo update? Well haven't I been a busy bee.

Theo made a lot of progress the last week. When I think about it, the only real issues we're having with him are the mouthing, and of course the house training is 100% yet. Everything else he's picking up. sometimes slowly, but always surely.

Let's start with the good. Theo hasn't had an accent in his crate since my last rant about it. Yay! He's had a few accidents in the house (pee only), but only because he had to go and there wasn't a pee pad available, so I can't fault him too much. Although one of those times I was in the process of unlocking the back door to let him outside...doh!

The crate training is going much better. Theo used to hate his crate. He would never go in it, even if I tempted him with the yummiest treat because he knew it meant being locked in his prison. I made sure to never punish him in it, but he still never took to it. Last week I started feeding him in his crate. I hold his food bowl while standing next to the crate and say "Theo, crate". Now that he knows that's where he's fed, he happily jumps in and doesn't even notice when I close the door. When he's done eating his cries a little to let me know he's ready to come out. So easy! And now he sleeps in it all the time. He still prefers his dog bed over the crate, but he sleeps in his crate when it's between it and the floor, which is better than before! Now when I put him to bed at night I get two treats, put one in his kong and keep one in my hand. I tell him "crate", and when he jumps in I give him the kong. Then I close the door while praising him profusely. When he's settled down (which is 99% of the time immediate), I give him the second treat. I praise him some more, but he usually ignores me since he's busy trying to get at the treat in his kong. Hehe. Then I get up and go get ready for bed. Sometimes he'll cry a little while I'm getting ready, but once I crawl into bed, he's usually ready to stretch out and go to sleep himself. Now if only I could get him to sleep in on the weekends!

His walks have been going very well also. He'll still stop at certain points, but the number of stops is much fewer, and it's much easier to get him to move again. I can walk him all the way around the neighborhood now, which is great because there's a great grassy lookout that's a nice place to stop and rest. He knows "heel" and 75% of the time walks like a dream. Sometimes when he's stopped at a particularly shady patch of grass when I say "heel", he'll walk forward about 2 steps and then just collapse back down. It's so cute!

Theo's learned "sit", "down", and "stand" from his puppy class very well. They comprise the "puppy push-ups", as my trainers calls them. "Down" took him a while, but after a few days of holding his butt, but had the idea. Now he'll pat his head and rub his tummy for the right treat...figuratively speaking, of course. He's also learned that he doesn't go through a door before me. Now when I go to the door to let him outside, he always backs up to leave room for me to go out first. What a good boy!

Speaking of puppy class, that went much better than last week too. Last week there were lots of retriever-type pups that were 3 times Theo's size. As soon as I set him down they all swarmed him and he was terrified. He was so scared that he either hugged the walls of the area or hid under people's ankles (hey, at least he's not afraid of people!). He was so scared that he wouldn't do any of the on-leash work because it involved moving towards the other dogs. It was awful and I felt like I wasn't able to show what progress we had really made. This week's class was much better. He walked great on the leash, did his push-ups like a pro, and even played a bit with the other puppies.

The only bad, like I said, is really the mouthing. He's always been a bit overzealous with the biting, but now that his jaw is stronger, he draws blood on a regular basis. My hand is his favorite chew toy. I've tried distracting him with a toy, he ignores it. I've tried shoving the toy in his mouth when he goes for my hand, he spits it out and goes for my hand again. I've tried saying "ouch!" and ignoring him for 10 seconds, it only seems to make him more excited to go after my hand. One time he even bit my arm while I was doing the ignore thing. I've tried holding his mouth closed (gently!) and telling him to "relax", he goes after my hand as soon as I let go. I've tried teaching him "gentle" and praising him when he mouths softly, and it only seems to encourage him to mouth harder. I'm told he'll grow out of it, but is there something I'm not trying here? I know I need to teach him to have a soft mouth, but it's just not working. I know if I could get this under control, he'd be such a dream!

Update: The trusty forums have saved me again. Someone over there really spelled out the mouthing thing in such a way that I just get it now. Imagine Theo is playing with a puppy and Theo nips. If the puppy yelps and then keeps playing, it's like saying "Ouch, that hurt a little, but I'm ok. Let's keep playing!" If the puppy yelps and then walks away, it's like saying "That hurt. You play too rough. I don't want to play with you anymore." I want to communicate the latter for sure! If I just keep up with the saying ouch and then walking away for a minute or so, hopefully that'll set him straight and he'll understand what I want. I'll keep you posted!


Ivy & Bryson said...

Good to hear that he's making so much progress! Good boy, Theo!

I'm glad that accident rate is going down. This weekend we got a taste of these "accidents"... we're watching a friend's corgi, who promptly dumped a #2 on our white shag rug right as soon as his parents left!

As for the mouthing, sorry I don't have too much wisdom to share. I remember my breeder told us she used to stomp her feet when the puppies are trying to nip at her ankle. That scares them and they learn not to nip anymore. Bryson doesn't nip at all so apparently it works. I hope others will have better ideas than these scare tactics!

JuLo said...

Hehe, yeah what is it with other dogs loving to go to the bathroom in other people's houses? When my friend brought his dogs over, they both peed everywhere. Ick.

Well he doesn't nip at ankles, thank goodness. He just bites my hands in play. Whenever I try and startle him, he just seems to get more excited. More excited means he bites even harder!

mary said...

Great to see a new update and hear about all the progress Theo has made. Sounds like you two are doing great!

For bite inhibition, if yelping and stuffing doesn't work, try the ignore routine - when you are playing or whatever, as soon as he bites you, get up and walk away, don't say or do anything, just walk away, preferably someplace he can't follow you to, and then ignore him for 5-10 minutes completely.

It sounds like he loves attention, this way you are taking away what he loves when he bites, he will eventually learn that if he wants you to stick around, he must not bite you.

Good luck!

JuLo said...

Thanks Mary. I tried the ignore method, but I did it a little differently. I didn't get up, but I took my hands away, stopped playing, and looked away for about 10 seconds. Your method may work out better.

I made some progress with him today using the "no-bite" method. I played with him very gently and said "no-bite" when he went for my hands. When he listened I praised him very very heavily. I was able to get in a rather nice play session for once! Though I still had to be careful of my hands. Hopefully between these two methods I can finally play with my dog without coming away bloody!

Jesica said...

I found this article VERY funny, but also very logical and helpful. You might want to try it with the biting... who knows if it'll work, but at least its something new to try!

JuLo said...

Interesting stuff. The full link didn't make it in (don't you hate how you can't link stuff in comments?!), but I checked out the site and found an article on the mouthing that I think pretty much just backs up with mary said...she's so smart. :) I'll post more on it later.

Jesica said...

Oh... darn it! It's the one called "You won the prize!" You can find it just by googling that it quotes too. It's worth a read :)

JuLo said...

Oh, what an interesting concept!!! I can hardly wrap my mind around it. You praise for wrong behavior, but reward with something they might not like or want at that time. Crazy. I'll have to try that with Theo's barking. The mouthing I'll still try the ignore tactic. See the post for an update to the conversation.