Monday, 29 February 2016

An Outing: In Which Ava Meets A Baby But She Wasn't The Only One Learning

Last Wednesday, when Ava was 10 weeks old, I took her down to the tiny park area at the edge of the nearby main road. It being near the end of the workday, there was lots of traffic going by but no one at the park. Nonetheless, Ava was starting to hang her mouth open so I sat down with her at the benches for a breather.

She was happy enough to stay on my lap, eat treats and nibble on her toy, so I was disappointed that there was no one going through the park as we sat there. It was a rather hot day so I was giving her some water out of the cap of my bottle when I looked up to see an older man had pushed a baby stroller right up to me. The park was empty so it was clear he had come right up to see the puppy. Or -- more accurately -- to show the child the puppy. The child was probably about a year old, able to toddle around but unsteady on her feet. He pointed at the dog and spoke to the child, and while I couldn't understand his language, he was obviously explaining 'dog, dog'.

It quickly became clear that we didn't have a common language (even the adult humans!), and yet by his interactions with the child and mine with Ava, we communicated that they would like to, and were welcome to, give Ava a pat.

The older gentleman went first, and like most who have met Ava recently, gently offered his fist for her to sniff. I was, as I have been each time, pleasantly surprised. (That's not how I've been told the general public usually greets dogs!) Encouraged, the child also reached over and after a few false starts also made contact with Ava. They were both incredibly gentle so the man and I spent a little time encouraging them to interact.

I handed the gentleman a piece of kibble and motioned for him to give it to Ava. He did and she took it easily. Then, the child, who had been clutching a rusk, offered her biscuit to Ava too. She couldn't reach far enough for Ava to eat it and while Ava leaned forward in interest she didn't try to take it. The man and I laughed in delight. "Good girl," we both said, he to child and I to canine.

When the child lost interest and they withdrew, I expected them to leave and I would continue to sit with Ava in the park. But the man spread a towel on the ground a metre or two away and attempted to sit the child on it, pointing out birds and passersby to her.

We all spent some time watching the world go by before gathering our respective protégé and left. I don't have photos of the man or child, but if you picture the same as the photos on this post, just one teacher a little older and one student a little less furry, you'll be able to picture it exactly.

Friday, 26 February 2016

A Day: Which Is Both Frustrating And Rewarding (That Is To Say, Normal)

We are now halfway through Ava's 9th week of life. Today was a tough day, but not without its rewards.

Toilet training is frustrating, not so much with accidents as the constant having to watch pup and analyse behaviour. (I believe giving such a task to someone who is already obsessive is known as "enabling"...) It's physically demanding too, being constantly on your feet to check what she is doing and whisk her outside at a moment's notice.

Her coordination is improving, which means more running after her than before and more curiosity about the world. Her world is expanding from sleeping and toys, so I have to expand my repertoire from nanny and toilet trainer to marathon runner, puppy-catcher and puppy entertainer!

Can you believe it?

Ava has learned to run up the stairs, too, which means the overdue task of blocking off the stairs needs to be done - stat. (Otherwise, I'll need a nap every time she does, just from all the puppy-catching!) Her learning the stairs meant I had to drag her pen out to the daytime room today, too, just so I could go up the stairs and out the front door... to get her leash from the porch!

On the other hand, Ava is still super good and super sweet in my bag going for outings. I think there's something about small animals that makes everyone squee, especially if said pocket-sized creature is in an actual pocket.

Who, me?

As you know, I have a heart of stone and am pretty immune to baby animal charm, but I do feel warm fuzzies every time we return back to the house and she goes potty nicely and then I put her down for a nap. I feel glad she's been so good, and I know a big part of it is because she trusts me.

So, not totally made of stone, I guess.

I provide evidence to the contrary!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Guest Post: How To Raise A Human

Hi! Ava here. Bet you didn't expect to hear from me so soon, eh?

I know it's early days, but if you want to train your human, it's best to start early. I heard that this was Melon's first week on the job, so I thought I should try to start on the right paw.

And I think I did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. Let me share what I did:

  • Show, don't tell: It's best to show your human from the beginning what puppies are like. Don't make the mistake of acting like an adult dog so that all the lazy human has to do is try to 'enforce some boundaries' and do some 'training' when she feels like it. Remember: you are a puppy, so show her what that means. This is how you do it:

  • Keep your human well exercised: Humans will get lazy and unfit if you don't keep them occupied. Go over to every corner you can reach, even if it looks boring. Trust me, the human will follow, not knowing there's nothing there. 

They will follow. They just can't resist.

Pick up random objects to pique her interest. She will like the objects so much she will put them away for collection. (Just between you and me, I think my humans are hoarders.) When she goes to put an artefact away, pee on the floor. Without a doubt, this will prompt her to take you outside. With all this exercise, the human won't have much time to get into mischief, or do silly things like sit down in front of the television or eat a whole meal in one go.

  • Don't forget mental exercise: If you are tired, go "flump" onto the fuzzy stairs and refuse to respond to anything. Eventually the human will realise you are sleepy and take you to your bed. Don't worry if it takes a few repetitions for the human to work it out - it is normal for humans to be kind of slow. The guessing is good for them. Remember: mental exercise is as important as physical exercise. Some dogs say that if you don't keep the human's brain working, it will stop.

This would be a good time to growl
  • Keep your human's interest: We all know that things that wave or move are unacceptable. When you chase and pounce on them, make sure you use your voice too, even if your growls and barks are indistinguishable from a squeaky toy. This seems to keep the humans entertained, and it is important to keep training fun, or the human won't pay attention. 

  • Lastly, chew on your human's socks. I know this seems pointless and kind of gross, but it teaches human an important lesson: that not everything that is cute is harmless. They need to learn that some things, or people, or jobs, that seem good may have downsides too. I know it's yet another thing to fit into your busy schedule, but it's for the human's benefit in the long term. 
There are hard parts of any job.

As you can see, humans are super high-maintenance! But I learned a lot this week, and I had fun too. It's important to take your responsibility seriously, but humans are kind of sweet, so it's usually worth it.

Good luck training your own humans!
I'm off to take a nap...
xo Ava

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A New Chapter: In Which We Get A Little Bit Official

Friends, I have great news. I now have my first official dog-sitting job!

I guess I've been thrown in the deep end doing 5-days-a-week house visits for Ava, the 8 week old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel pup... but I love it! Cute little ears and paws aside, I'm learning a lot... quickly!

Ava, my first official dog-sitting charge

Her people are friends of my boyfriend, and currently work full-time. When they're home though, they are doing everything textbook in terms of puppy-raising, so it's a test of my skills to keep it up as Ava's primary carer during the day! I am in charge of looking after, loving and training the 8 week old pup during the day. Whew!

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know which dogs I have cared for in the past. What you probably don't know is what kind of dog I go gaga over the most: large, male goofballs. (At least, that's how I imagine my future dog.) Which is... a little different from the dogs I have been asked to work with so far.

Does Ava fit that criteria? Not a bit! Do I care? Not a bit! I love doing this and am super grateful to her people for giving me this opportunity to learn about puppies, and have another sweet furry in my life. And who knows, maybe it's a sign... maybe I'll decide my future dog will be female, or a small dog! But for a time, the spotlight will be on this little one...

See? This is serious business now!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

If a Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words...

... I come bearing a video to remedy my recent absence!

Penne was only with me for a week, but you all know training is my favourite part of working with dogs. "Sit" is the only command she knew, so while she and I sheltered in the house from the sweltering temperature outside, I tried to teach her "Down". Not being very experienced with luring, I must have done something wrong because she kept raising her paws... so I went with it and it turned into this!

And yes, I am very pleased. It's turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser -- I showed it off to her family's kids when they returned, and now they are teaching her new tricks! That, to me, is the biggest success of all.