Ahem. Actually they are now six months and one week old. Where does the time go? Certainly this summer has flown by. I can’t believe it’s already September first, and I have yet to do half the things I had planned! The extreme heat and record breaking drought put a damper on a lot of my intentions, but puppies grow and learn and change regardless. So now they are half way to being a year old and look more like dogs than puppies!
Today I will give an update on the two living with me: Raven and Griffon. For the most part I find them to be extremely easy going puppies, calm, relaxed, and no trouble to live with. We’ve made it through teething (for the most part…. there’s still a fair bit of furniture gnawing going on when I don’t have enough chew toys strewn about, so mouths aren’t totally healed yet), and are finally fully potty trained (Raven still occasionally leaves little puddles in a corner). Both pups are nicely started on sheep and learning agility foundations and the (very) basics of nose work.
Hmmm…. I guess I know where my time has been going!
To keep with the format of Part I of this post, I’ll answer my own questions for each pup. Some answers today, at 6 months, are actually different from what I would have written just a few weeks ago, which shows that they are still developing and changing at a rapid pace. I’ll also continue in reverse birth order:
4) Kynic Raven
Nickname: Rave, Ravey, Ravey-roo, Groovey
Q: What do you love most about your puppy? I love this puppy’s enthusiasm and joyfulness. She is a happy, happy girl, rather comical, and full of herself in a good way. She’s also super smart. I love how quickly she learns and retains what she learns. She throws herself into whatever task is at hand (literally – I often have to be prepared to catch her) with great glee and total conviction that she knows exactly what she is doing. Even if its the first time.
Q: What has been your most proud moment? Meeting Susan Garrett riding on a bicycle at an agility trial. This was the first time Raven had seen a bicycle, let alone someone riding one. It was her first agility trial, too, and a big one at that (the Ontario Regionals). Rave sat perfectly and calmly, focused on me, and ate her cookies as Susan rode by. When Susan commented on how cute my puppy was, I just about burst my buttons.
Q: What does she do that makes you laugh? That makes you cry? Laugh: Just about everything! When she throws herself into a sit three feet from the front door, sliding perfectly into position with shoulder *just* touching the door. When she gets up on everything and anything, possibly making up for her diminutive physique by elevation. When she sticks her front feet and head into a bucket of water to cool off.
Cry: When she steals something dead and rotting from her brother, and then plays keep away from both of us while she madly tries to swallow said dead thing whole at a dead run. When she poops in the house. And then cleans up after herself.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge with him? Are you making progress? How? I honestly don’t feel like I have a big challenge with this puppy. She has taken her time with potty training, but that is improving weekly and she’s almost 100% reliable now. At least in the common areas of the house.
She has one habit that I look forward to eliminating, and that is barking at my livestock guardian dogs. Every time she goes out the door of the house she immediately starts alarm barking in anticipation of seeing the ‘polar bears’ patrolling in with the sheep. Fortunately she forgets all about them if something else is going on, so I am working on this by keeping her distracted (with a toy, other dogs, or a job to do like heeling) as we leave the house.
Oh! Keeping her OFF my desk. And kitchen table. And bathroom sink. And patio table. And windowsills. And…
Q: What is she naturally really good at? She’s very confident climbing up and onto anything and everything. And have I mentioned how smart she is? She’s brilliant at shaping, offering behaviors and figuring out puzzles and retaining what she learns. It’s what drew me to this puppy at just a few weeks of age and what keeps amazing me every time we train. Baby Einstein, this one.
Q: What’s her favorite thing to do? eat? To do: Given her druthers: herd chicken, ducks, and sheep (in that order). With me: play tug, shaping games, herding sheep.
Eat: Meat. Any kind will do. Cheese is good too. And bacon. Mmmm…. bacon. Oh, and dead things. Three day old sun-ripened squirrel is the best. With a side of sheep poo.
Q: What are you working on right now in training? We’ve started our stock training and Raven is showing really nice balance and natural feel for her sheep, good work ethic, confidence and determination. She’s keeping me in the picture now, and recalling to me without much trouble when it’s time to quit. In short, everything I could hope for at this age!
We’re also doing some introductory nose work and playing shaping games to lay the foundation for agility.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add? I am really thrilled with this puppy and excited about her potential and our life together. She is clearly very bonded to me and is extremely expressive with her affection. She actually doesn’t remind me of either parent, and is someone quite new in that respect. Very much her own little person, which I love and respect. I’m excited about our future together!
5) Kynic Griffon
Nickname: Griff, Griffey, the Griffonator, Monster Boy.
Q: What do you love most about your puppy? Gosh, what’s NOT to love about this puppy? He’s just so lovely. But what I think I love most about him is his incredibly sweet and gentle nature. His bombproof confidence and ease in his own skin.
Q: What has been your most proud moment? I have had many proud moments with Griff, but they’re more like the same moment repeated: bringing him into a new situation, be it a party at a friend’s cottage with kids, dogs and motor boats, the Ontario Agility Regionals, the National Sheepdog Finals, or a flyball tournament, and watching him be totally confident and calm, making friends with everyone and behaving himself like an angel.
And every time I work him on sheep. Oh my. Dreamy.
Q: What does he do that makes you laugh? That makes you cry? Laugh: When he finds a dead snake (which happens disturbingly often) and runs around like it is the best prize in the world. When he figured out what baby gates are really for…
Cry: See above.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge with him? Are you making progress? How? I have a few minor challenges with Griffon. First, he is very happy to entertain himself so we are working hard at building value for da mamma (i.e. me). He’s super into me in the house but outside… well, outside there are sheep and chickens and smells and horses, and well grass!! And bugs. And dead things. And, and, and!! And so many more interesting things than da mamma and her silly tug toy.
Second, he throws the most impressive and prolonged temper tantrums in his crate. Ever. Single. Morning. It used to be that he’d start barking the second he knew I was awake, and would keep at it until I was dressed and ready to take him out. I did my best to do the traditional approach of ignoring him until he was quiet, but he could keep up the barking for what seemed like hours. I am sure some mornings it went on for a good 45-60 minutes nonstop.
I worked harder at making the association clear that quiet = getting to come out (by letting him out when he was quiet instead of basking the lovely glow of long forgotten silence), and also just letting him out regardless of his barking. Surprisingly, these two changes seemed to have made a big difference because he has improved dramatically in just a week. Thank goodness.
Our other challenge is that he slips through the fence and lets himself in with the sheep, then won’t let me catch him. Solution is simple: manage the environment to prevent the problem while training the behavior I want. Specifically, leash when outside, lock front and back doors (Holly taught him how to open them), keep the power on the electrified section of the fence, and work hard at building value for coming to me when working stock. This problem now seems close to being behind us (hopefully I haven’t jinxed myself!). Also, growing has helped put an end to slipping through the page wire part of the fence. He no longer fits!
Q: What is he naturally really good at? Herding. Jaw-droppingly natural. While this doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be a good working dog as an adult, it certainly is an exciting way to start his training!
Q: What’s her favorite thing to do? eat? To do: Herd sheep. Play with his sister. Chew stuff: furniture, cardboard, yoga mats, bones, toys, windowsills, furniture, shoes, cushions (especially when mamma is sitting on them), furniture. Did I mention furniture?
Eat: Meat. Dead things. Bits of chewed up yoga mat. Sheep poo.
Q: What are you working on right now in training? See above notes under challenges! In addition to that and working sheep, we’re working on basic manners and shaping games. And introductory nose work. Griff shows great talent with his nose and I’m hoping this might be a good second sport for him (after stock work).
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add? Raising two puppies has definitely been a challenge, although I think I am doing a much better job of it this time around. There’s never enough time to do all that I would like to do, although I expect that is true even with just one!
Specifically with Griffon, I feel so lucky every day to have this pup. Part of me would still like to find him a good home because I am definitely over dogged, but the rest of me is grateful to have the opportunity to share my life with him. While he has not at all become the high energy terror I thought he might when he was a wee pup, he definitely offers some challenges (mostly his propensity to self-reinforce) that do require some knowledge and skill to manage. In short, his easy going nature is somewhat deceptive in terms of his ease of training. However, he’s helping me to grow and develop as a trainer and for that I am very grateful!
While Griff is almost the spitting image of his mother (but with his sire’s ears and eyes), his temperament is all Scout. Furthermore, he moves and stands like his grandsire, Killiebrae Laddie. I love seeing the different family resemblance come together in this pup.
Q: What would you like to know about the other puppies? I always love to hear updates on how they are doing, be it about their personality, adventures they had, things they are learning, or challenges they are facing. Pictures are always appreciated and videos too!