I got to visit the P litter down at Blackthorn Kennel again this weekend. This is the first time a puppy has ever just passed out in my hands.
Last night while waiting for the arrival of the Best Mother Ever, I got the bright idea to definitively measure dogs by pinning them up against the door frame between kitchen and living room and marking their heights with a pencil. This could have gone more smoothly. Zille came right to me, stood in place, and let herself be measured. So did Sid. So did Beowulf. Tink on the other hand first tried hunching her back to make herself taller, and then when I sighed and begged her to behave, she extended her front legs and made herself shorter. A few moments of wrestling my recalcitrant dog later, I had my pencil marks and got out the tape measure and recorded their heights on the wall.
I was so pleased with the result that I went over them with a Sharpie to immortalize them. Sid’s is the only one with a date, because Sid is still growing. I figure I’ll measure him once a month or so and keep track of his continued progress.
I hope so, anyway. My dogs have hilariously different approaches to being clicker-trained, which means that if I rapidly switch between dogs I have a tendency to get discombobulated.
Tink, for instance, throws behaviors at you in rapid-fire sequence. I once watched her teach a trainer with over a decade of experience to click her for sitting up and begging instead of doing a plain sit, just through sheer speed — the trainer could never manage to click Tink when she had both front feet on the floor. She is constantly in motion, so it’s hard to select just the response you want, since you have to have sharp eyes and fast reflexes to get a click in there.
Beowulf has a tendency to just freeze in place. I need to do “101 things to do with a box” with him, just to get him used to the notion that a click does not mean “stop right where you’re at”. On the other hand, the dog has a KILLER stay.
Sid is fun to train but I have to be careful free-shaping him. As I discovered tonight while working on teaching him to pick up my keys, if he doesn’t get a click when he thinks he should, he checks out and goes to lie down on his bed and sulk. I have to either very carefully and very slowly ratchet up my criteria for him, or adopt a variable-amount reward so that he gets, say, one kibble for hovering his nose over the keys, but four or five if he licks the keys.
My keys, incidentally, are kind of slobbery after the last training session. It’s a little gross.
In other news, the dogs’ new tags from Down 2 Earth Jewelry got here and are hanging from their collars. They are gorgeous little things and I must get pics. I informed Sid that now that he’s officially wearing his “co-pilot” tag, he must be a Good Boy all the time.
There are some good dogblogs over there on the right, you know. Recently I’ve added Training of a Search Dog, where you can read about Mr. Musket’s journey to his new career as a SAR dog! For those of you with short memories, Musket has been here twice before for short stays, and has finally found His Person who adores him for his high drive. I encourage you to keep up with him, cause it looks like it will be a fascinating read, especially if you’re interested in what goes into a Wilderness SAR dog!
Following on my post about whether or not dogs have an image of self, Marji of For the Pit Bulls makes a great post about the problems of the “mirror test” and makes an excellent point about what senses a species uses. The mirror test, she points out, is biased in favor of species like humans that use vision as their primary sense. Dogs use smell.
Her post called to mind the behavior my dogs exhibit when we take their collars off after they’ve been wearing them a while. Once a dog here is trained enough that we can get them in the house from outside, on and off the furniture on demand, and interrupt any behaviors (like chasing cats) that are less than desirable by voice command rather than gently taking a collar to redirect the dog to a more appropriate activity, and once they’ve been microchipped, they live collar-free most of the time. Collars go on to leave the house, and come back off when we return.
Anyway, any time I have removed collars, the dogs will preferentially show a deep fascination for sniffing their own collars over the collars worn by another dog. It’s the same kind of fascinated Big Sniff that I get after coming back from visiting other dogs: nose pressed tight against the material, audible snuffs and sniffs, a whole-body sniffing experience. They don’t do it with the collars that the other household dogs wear, only with their own. This definitely suggests to me that Marji is right on the money, and if there’s a “smell mirror” then we might in fact find that dogs recognize themselves in it. But the concept of a “smell mirror” is so alien to people that we’d have trouble even designing the experiments we have used on, say, chimps, where we change the animal’s appearance with a small dot of cosmetics to see if they notice and touch themselves at the altered point.
Something fascinating to think about, anyway.
A pic taken this weekend while visiting Blackthorn Kennel. I got to snorgle the little puppies, doing my weekend job as Official Blackthorn Hand Model and Puppy Wrangler (pics here, and check out Primus who I am pretty sure has a future as a Schutzhund star judging from his full-mouth grip on my finger), and Christine was nice enough to help me get a stacked shot of Sid. Well, it’s not precisely a show stack, but dang is he one handsome, nicely built Shedder. Not that I’m biased, observe for yourself!
So I mentioned in the footnote of yesterday’s post that I haven’t really taught Tink anything beyond the basics, and that I tend to just click and reward her for being adorable. She is often adorable, with a whole repertoire of head tilts, nudges ranging from gentle to “Elbow Flipping Nudge of Doom”, and coy looks, so it’s easy to give her cheese. She also does a killer “sit up and beg” maneuver that will melt your heart and cause you to shovel your lunch into her mouth.
I could have taught Tink a lot, to be honest, she’s a pretty bright dog and will work for food and applause. But one of the things I have always cherished about Tink is her stubbornness and independence. With a large enough investment of time (and cheese) I could have made her into a dog who will always get off the couch when you ask, who will reliably sit and down on demand, and even hold a stay. I could have taught her to walk sedately next to me on leash, instead of applying the 1-3 pounds of constant light leash pressure she applies.
But to do these things would have squelched some essentially Tinkish part of her nature. She is not a dog who was made to walk sedately next to her person on leash, put a leash on her and take her out in public and she prances, her wrists coming all the way up to the middle of her chest in a slow-motion fancy trot, her head up and eye bright. Let her find a scent and she buries her face in the underbrush, coming up periodically to ask why I’m so slow, often with her nose bleeding from pricker bushes. Ask her to stay and she tells you to go to hell, there is nothing you have that she wants so much as to explore the world on her own terms, or possibly just to lie on the futon amid a pile of pillows.
She is utterly herself, and who she is happens to be a dog who is intensely alive and vital, a dog whose being requires that she be out front, the center of attention, that she have all the bones, that she get so into whatever has captured her attention that the desires of human beings are an annoyance she prefers to flick off like a pesky fly. I could have trained that out of her.
I didn’t. It would have so fundamentally altered her Tinkishness that I never could bring myself to do it, so instead I taught her just enough to make her a dog that is fun to live with rather than a constant trial, just enough to keep her safe. She will even get off the futon (most of the time) and give her spot to me if I ask her with enough conviction, although if Daniel tries it she gives him a Look and stays put. She is not a dog to whom human approval means a great deal in and of itself, although she does like to be admired and a stranger who tells her how pretty she is will be sure to receive her gracious attention and an invitation to stroke her silky-soft head or perhaps scratch her significantly more bristly butt. A Princess in her youth, at six years old she is Queen Tinkerbelle, fast to madteeth a dog who does not respect her position, determined to collect all the bones in the most comfortable spot, kind to humans (generally speaking) and deeply desirous of human food, excited to wear clothing (only dogs go naked, after all, and getting her OUT of clothing is an adventure in wrestling), and gracious and poised with her admirers. She still won’t hold a stay worth a damn but that’s all right. To be Tink is to be in motion, unless you have all the pillows.
I think my choice to cherish her rather than try to turn her into a stolid, placid dog like Beowulf is one of the reasons she adores me, just as her “go to hell” nature is one reason I adore her.
When we took Sid in for his first vet appointment, he was a skinny thing with not much muscle tone and weighed in at 58.5 pounds, which is right at or below where Tink tends to ride in terms of weight these days. He went in Friday for his lepto and Lyme boosters, and weighed in at 63.5 pounds, officially making Tink the smallest dog in the house again in terms of weight.
“Smallest dog in the house” seems like an odd moniker to apply to a dog who is 28″ at the shoulder. Tink is very oversized for a Doberman bitch, much as Beowulf is way too tall for a Doberman dog. The contrast between builds with Dobes and Shedders is pretty interesting, too. Sid and Zille are about the same height, around 24″ at the shoulder, but Zille weighs in around 70lbs and she is pretty much nothing but muscle. This is, for the record, about the same thing Beowulf weighs, and he’s 7″ taller than Zillekins. Siddy’s 5 pound weight gain has been entirely muscle; I’m keeping him on the lean side of a healthy weight to minimize stress on his joints as he grows, but his shoulders, haunches, and back have filled out with healthy (and strong!) muscle that is giving him the start of looking like the adult dog he’s going to be.
Meanwhile, back at the Manor, I’ve established that a few pieces of cheese will not cause Roo to vomit uncontrollably, so I’m thinking of taking up clicker training with him. I’m kind of on a training kick. I’m working with Sid because, well, he’s got a lot of work to do before he can be my Mobile Cane and Hairy Crutch, I’m periodically working with Tink because she thinks it is deeply unfair that the puppy should get all the cheese, and I think it would be hilarious to have Roo doing things like jumping through hoops and otherwise performing for his food.
 MOSTLY I JUST FEED HER CHEESE FOR BEING CUTE, BECAUSE SHE’S TINK. THERE’S A WHOLE POST IN “WHY I HAVE NOT TRAINED TINKERBELLE BEYOND THE BASICS”.