Friday, 25 November 2016

Flashback Friday: To That Time Ava Met A Cat

No, really. Even Ava’s humans don’t know about this, because it happened when Ava stayed with me when she was 16-20 weeks old.

brown and white puppy head pokes out of cat tree hole
Nobody told me this was gonna happen either.

See, last night in class we were talking about my instructor’s favourite subject, puppy socialisation and environmental conditioning. We talked about all the things we should safely introduce puppies to in their critical phases of development (~3-16 weeks), when they are particularly sensitive to new experiences. Having calm, happy experiences hearing different sounds, touching different surfaces, and meeting different people and animals during this period helps a puppy to be happy and comfortable in the big wide world.

Introducing puppies to new things really is one of my favourite things to do. It’s fun, and particularly rewarding is the knowledge that your little friend will face the world with a sense of adventure rather than fear. And you get to spend time with puppy without doing repetitive obedience exercises!

So last April, when a friend heard what I was doing and mentioned that she has a cat...

Ava brown and white puppy looks out of crate door
What is that?

Oliver the fluffy white and grey cat with blue eyes looks across the table
It's Oliver, the ragdoll cat.

the cat looks across at the puppy looking back out of the crate

brown and white puppy leans in and grey and white cat leans back
Whoa whoa whoa.

puppy sniffs tail of grey cat

It went decently. The great thing about Ava being so small was that Oliver could simply stay on the couch, out of the puppy's reach, if he wished. Ava and her 'puppy manners' (or lack thereof) got too close at one point, which caused Oliver to hiss and run. That could have been a disaster (for both), but I got lucky.

Next time I do this, I’ll just let the puppy watch from a distance, unless the cat shows signs of wanting to cuddle.

puppy looks up at cat on top of cat tree
I'm thinking NOPE.

Never mind, Ava found ways to entertain herself.

puppy lies at cat tree base chewing mouse toy

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A Surprise: In Which Melon Is Faced With A Challenge, But Not the One She's Expecting

It feels like yesterday I was telling you that I’m starting a dog training course taught by expert dog trainers, yet I’m already most of the way through it. It’s definitely a crash course, chock full of info and as much hands-on practice as we can fit into such a short time.

I’d love the course to be a bit longer, to be honest, as the class could discuss more dog training specifics as we encounter different things outside the classroom. I’d also like to soak up more of the gems of wisdom available just by being around Steve and Vicki Austin, my excellent and highly experienced instructors.

But although class will be over soon, I still have plenty of written assignments to complete, and frankly I’m just glad I’ve made it through class so far. Depression doesn’t make life easy, folks, so all successes need to be celebrated.

I've also been really glad for the opportunity to work with the different dogs at the boarding kennel. After the beagle incident, I've encountered a retriever mix who chomped like a crocodile, a gorgeous American staffy, a chubby cattle dog, a skinny border collie, a very nervous shepherd and more. It's like a roulette, not knowing which dog I'll have next!

It’s taught me that I’ll need a LOT more hands-on experience to become competent and confident in dog handling. My instructor has hinted that shelter work and similar will provide a lot of practical experience, and it’s definitely on my to-do list once I have a driver’s licence.

Bazyl and his humans kindly helped me with 'training practice'.

Last week was my first major practical assessment -- I was asked to assess a dog selected for me at random from the boarding kennel and more importantly, demonstrate how I would instruct it in a number of obedience exercises. I was on tenterhooks all week, wondering what kind of dog I would be assigned and how similar the experience would be to my first and most memorable kennel dog encounter, the beagle...

I got lucky -- I ended up with a calm but responsive dachshund!

dachshund, aka sausage dog
image: Ghislane, on Flickr

He was smooth coated, which made my job identifying him as an entire (undesexed) male easy. (I hate that question -- it sounds simple, but strange fluffers aren't too happy when you try to cop a feel just to tick a box on a form!)

His anatomy did create other complications, though. Do you know how hard it is to tell if a dachshund is sitting or standing, from the front?

image: CC0 Public Domain

Honestly though, he was probably the easiest dog I've had from the kennel so far.

My biggest fear had been getting another big, strong dog who I couldn't even keep by my side. This guy being so little, I had no such issues, even if he had tried to take off like some dogs I know.

And I took the time beforehand to check out what his Sit and Drop look like, when they sent me to get him. It wasn't hard to encourage him, since he liked food treats.
I guess someone out there finally thought I deserved a break from the crazies -- and I'm thankful it was given to me when it counts!

Anyway, I passed! My only major obstacle was (and continues to be) my attempts to train loose-lead walking. Anyone have any LLW tips? I could do with all the help I can get!

That's one down, just a few more to go!