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Feb 1 This is a key moment in northern Illinois (one more month to better weather). For some reason "only 28 days" is tolerable. The banner of this month's journal describes the very beginning of training a puppy (work with me). Being responsive is the key to success.....for both of us. The van is finally free from the snow and cold. Picked up two more bales of cedar shavings for the pen.
This afternoon, two YouTube videos were made with Gigi. The first was playing with her doing the early "engagement" routine. This was greatly aided by "modifying advice from a skilled mentor". "Flying by he seat of your pants" is often not very productive. At least with some clear guidelines, it is possible to strike a balance. It is not unlike bowling with "gutter guards".
The first session/video was to enhance and modify excitement, chasing, fetching and returns with very close, intimate interactions. If the pup is out of arm's length, a reliable, high level engagement is simply more difficult to establish. Distance erodes responsiveness reducing the "us" factor.
The second video "just happened" and decided it might be interesting to reveal just how difficult it is to teach a young retriever how to go into a hide.
Feb 6 After a "nasty" ice storm, the airing yard that slopes was impossible to walk anywhere. It was necessary to install the "YakTrax" on my "yard" boots. When walking in the yard, the common "pant leg" issue surfaced immediately which means knee high boots (for awhile). After doing the icy, airing supervision, Gigi was put on a lead and went up the first flight of stairs (tri-level) to the living room. Today was her first "tether session". (following link below from the original KwickLabs WEB).
note: The living room tether technique is much easier (more seamless) when done "early".
note: Most issues that are common with pups can simply be avoided if training is proactive.
The mind set of a balanced and well trained pup is "This is what I do....because it is
the only thing I know how to do."
note:Gigi's day is approaching a predictable pattern (structure). It is good to be retired.
note: She did another living room tether session this evening.
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Feb 2 weather improving - ice and snow remain an issue, but temps in forties & melting "a lot"
note: Gigi is now completely converted to Eagle Pack large breed puppy food (red bag).
She is being fed three times per day with plenty of water (8 am, 1 pm & 6 pm)
note: Gigi (two months old today) & Pounce were given their worm "meds..HeartGard Plus.
In addition, there were two intervals of going for "deck walks" plus "lap snuggles".
Two "placeboards" were made for Gigi and treat "conditioning" to being on them began. Hillmann uses half-crates (when older) for casting to and running from with early singles (similar concept).
Feb 3 Gigi went for a few walks around the pool deck and did more "placeboard", treat fun
Feb 4 Monday forecast high of 47°F with rain/fog.....Tuesday-Thursday snow & rain....then colder
note: Around noon, Gigi ran around outside in the enclosed airing yard for a short time.
Feb 5 cooler this morning 24°F and cloudy....After feeding Gigi, she was moved right into the airing yard and began using it immediately. The patio door to the airing yard is only a couple of feet from the puppy pen. Therefore, doing some freshening of the inside pen is ideal in that I can keep a close eye on Gigi. She was in no hurry to get back inside. The next thing up was a short session of "in the corner" target fetching. I was quickly reminded that holding the small, exciting retrieving object (the "target") places my hand and fingers in a precarious position. Puppy teeth are sharp. This time 'twas more than a scratch. The morning was "almost" perfect. A tired puppy.....Is a good puppy.
note: Gigi is 2 months old and weighs 15 pounds
note: Late this afternoon, the timing of "Let's GO outside" was perfect. She is running all
over the grass airing yard, having fun and doing what she is supposed to do.
Fortunately, the severe, bitter winter weather has left (for awhile).
Feb 7 another ice storm moved through - school cancelled again for Lylah......Gigi does not mind being out in the airing yard because it is not for long. Yesterday and today seemed to validate that
Gigi understands why she is out there....an important "milestone". A stool sample was taken to the "vet" this afternoon and "nothing showed".
note: Gigi did three short sessions (on a lead) - the 1st was eye contact treats sitting
on a "placeboard", 2nd was a brief repeat of the corner "excite, chase, fetch"
and the last was a late night, living room "tether" session (just "buds" hanging out).
Feb 8 11 am It is 5°F with a wind chill of -13°F. Gigi has been going out into the airing yard regularly (10-15 minutes) and is romping, running and excitedly playing. Her sharp, little claws make running on the icy areas no big deal. They do need trimming. When she comes in to the puppy pen area, she picks a spot nearer to the overhead heat lamp and soon "zonks" out.
note: The plan for today is to repeat yesterday's "three short sessions".
note: GiGi's puppy pen bedding was completely removed. The area was cleaned with a
strong bleach spray and all fresh cedar bedding was laid down. This is a regular
"thing" as she gradually becomes crate trained.
Feb 9 Saturday.....15°F and sunny, airing yard has 2-3 inches of ice over most of it. The area above the septic tank is ice free with short, green grass. However, Gigi is running all over this small, safe
fence enclosed area (visible from the sliding, full length window patio door).
note: Gigi did the two "placeboards" drill first. Wearing a short rope, she moves from one to the other "kind of" heeling, gets up on the boards, sits and looks up at me making eye contact and receives a verbal "good" plus "treat" reward. In addition, her sit is re-enforced with a tiny tug on the rope collar. Then it is "Rinse and Repeat" for practice (reps) focusing on "fun" mostly. The sequence was much "smoother" today (and brief). The overall rationale is to enhance engagement.
note: The stairs are no longer an issue (scoots up and down with ease on lead).
note: spent a few hours chipping 2-3" think ice off half the driveway (worst ever)
note: This evening, Gigi did a short session of "Target Fetch", walked around deck several
times (on a loose lead, "kind of" heeling mode) and a late evening "tether" session
Feb 10 high of 32°F with 5-6 inches of wet, slushy snow which jammed up in my old snow blower. This is the first time this has ever happened....."aarrgghh"....had to shovel the entire driveway. My son was able to help. Even so, It's been a challenging winter. Pounce romped around in the deep snow....no big deal. A definite spring sale purchase will be a new, two stage snowblower.
note: reviewed Pounce's early training journals with a focus on the Hillmann approach
......"what we did well plus that which needs to be done better".
note: The primary focus will always be maintaining "balance". Progress must be a
seamless, steady flow.....avoiding any adventures towards the "Bridge Too Far".
Feb 11This was a much needed day off for the trainer (and everyone else).
Feb 12 late afternoon, Gigi was aired and then did a session of "The Game" (Hillmann). We were engaged with a small canvass bumper. She then went for a "deck walk" (twice around) before beginning anew. Last was alternating "placeboards", sit on with eye contact, treat exercise.
note: rationales = move with trainer, intro of "place" command, working at rewarding eye contact and introducing the slight tug on the collar/lead to re-enforce the sit
that she is already in note: Hillman's Blog 2012
note: This initial treat "intro" will be phased out rather quickly as "The Game" develops.
Going to a "placeboard" will soon become mean retrieving "fun".
after Gigi's late afternoon training session, she was "aired" in the yard (did both ways) and began crate training (a three hour session)......later tonight, Gigi did her regular "tether" session.
Feb 13 today's routine......feed, water and air (did "both") at 8 pm....brought in and did morning fun session.....casting to and from two "placeboards" wearing seven foot lead working on eye contact sits, with tiny re-enforcing tugs and a treat (did that super well). Then she heeled around the deck twice on a loose head (twice). The next step was to repeat the "placeboard" and "deck walk" routine (shorter session). The finish was a "stand up", brief version of the corner Hillmann "target game". She then was "out the door" into the snow covered airing yard to a quick "go". Gigi's next four hours were spent in her small crate working on a nap and crate training. Next was "wake up", water and airing in the snow......followed by a run up the seven stairs to the living room for a brief "tether session". Then it was into the puppy pen for a cedar bedding nap.......good puppy! At 2 pm, it was her second feeding time followed by "airing" and crate time until the evening feeding. At 7 pm she was aired, then fed and then aired again. There was a late night airing with the rest of her night
crate training in the house. Up very early, aired and back into the "puppy pen". The transition to "no puppy pen" will be gradual.
Feb 14 GiGi was up earlier than normal watered and aired....then back into the puppy pen. Fed at about 8 PM, aired and watered (again). Next up was the mid-morning fun training session....."place boards" continued to be imprinted, did a session of Hillmann's excite, chase and fetch followed by walks around the deck on a loose heeling lead (maybe a total of ten minutes....total). Still a lot of snow in the airing yard where she has a free run. There is a green, tight wire garden type wire fenced area which is in full view from behind a full length,l glass sliding door. It is warm for me and "cool" for her. In the center there is a small, fenced in "asparagus patch" which makes the airing yard seem larger as dogs tend to run around it.....circles never end. (photo Feb. 6th)
Feb 15 Until March arrives, the weather suggests much of the same for the next two/three weeks.
note: The two fold focus revolves around crate training and Hillmann "engagement".
note: March 1st she will be three months old.
Gigi was up early for feeding/airing....then did three hours of crate training in the living room (right next to Pounce). At first, she was noisy, but my hearing is not very good (perfect combination). The early afternoon she spent in the puppy pen. The next feeding was at 3 pm (a little later than normal). Pounce has not responded to putting pumpkin in her diet. The cottage cheese arrived around 2:30 pm and she will be on a cottage cheese and rice diet. Her vet appointment (2nd round of puppy shots) is next week. Hopefully, in a few few days this issue will be resolved. Either way, her vet appointment is in place.
note: She received more crate time beginning at 3:30 pm (with Pounce right next to her).
note: Gigi's "puppy pen" (on a deck which over-looks the swimming pool) has a tight
railing shaped around to the steps leading down to the pool level. The pool is full
of water and covered for the winter. This addition to the house is heated. To guard
against any success Gigi may have at getting up and over the puppy pen wall, a
secure gate has been installed at the top of the stairs. The plan is to phase out the
pen in two or three weeks.
Feb 16 Saturday....warmer.....Gigi was "aired", watered and fed at 8 am. We did a brief training session (indoor heated area) doing a "four pronged" approach. "First up" was simply walking around the pool deck on a loose lead, heeling (approximately) on both sides. Secondly, we did the
two "placeboard" game with treats focusing on imprinting eye contact by looking "away from" the treat. A secondary aspect of the eye contact segment is Gigi getting up on the "placeboard", sitting and having the sit re-inforced with slight tugs on the collar...before doing the eye contact segment.
The forth and last segment is a bit longer version of "target fetch".
note: This multi-lesson lasts less than ten minutes. The first three segments begin with
the Hillmann game (excitement is generated first). The third segment ends with
another extended session of "target fetch". Walking at heel "in between" each
segment provides a significant "change of pace".
note: "Gigi" was aired at 10 pm and repeated the above session before "pen time"
Feb 17 Sunday snow - 3-5 inches....up and fed at 8 am....Gigi and Pounce were aired first......Gigi
then did the same fast paced routine we did yesterday. First, she heeled on lead "kind of" around the pool deck. Secondly, she did the "eye contact, treat drill" rotating to three different "placeboards" (one is elevated). Then another walk around the deck. The "finish" was a slightly more exciting, challenging "target fetch" than yesterday. This was followed by three "reps" that were "sit on elevated placeboard", eye contact/"good" with slight tug on collar reinforcing "sit", toss 2" bumper three yards away, sit with reinforcing/"engaged" tugs followed by "Gigi fetch". They were three very consistent "reps" and she did not "dive" until released. Very Cool puppy!!! Then we went for a quick, fun walk around the pool deck and up into the living room for three hours of crate and "quiet time" (right next to Pounce). However, she was "yappy" (at first).
note: The "walk" between "engagements" is a very specific strategy. (see link below)
Feb 18 Gigi was "aired", fed and "aired" again at 8 am (very active running through deep snow). Then it was in through the lower level "rec" room, up a flight of stairs into the living room where she spent the next four hours "doing" crate time right next to Pounce. With no one in the house except me, Gigi was quiet and slept until 12:30 pm. Then it was airing time again. After her "required" romp in the snow there was a repeat of yesterday's 10 minute, fun training session. Then at about 1 pm feeding and airing again.....followed by a quiet afternoon nap time back in the puppy pen.
observations: #1 Gigi is 12 weeks old and definitely a fast, smart puppy.
#2 She has done well on those things that have been taught (wearing a
leash, sit, making eye contact, working with "placeboards", "kind of"
heeling, going in/out of a crate and going up/down stairs)
#3 Engagement has mostly focused on doing what she does easily.
. #4 Her prey drive is very strong, but sharing is not a strong point.
Bringing back a bumper to do it again....is just not there.....yet.
Focus more on timing and positioning during "The Game". The
main issue stems from her being fast and me being old/slow.
Feb 19 Gigi's daily routine has improved. Feeding, airing has gone well and crate training has moved up another notch. She is letting me know when it is time to go outside to air and I am getting better at listening. "Hurrah" for my side!!! In addition, the teaching sessions are moving along quite well with advanced planning including a rationale. The "framework" is incremental practice and fun.
note: Today I began phasing out the temporary rice and cottage cheese diet with Gigi.
There is nothing that can top the "glee" of saying, "Her stool looks really good."
note: timing - Gigi has been "home" three weeks and is a winter puppy. Things are going
well (having never been there before) and I can hardly wait until "mud season".
note: Today was totally focused on crate training. She has gradually been challlenged
to reach an understanding. Gigi spent the entire day in the living room right next
to Pounce. Each time she "vocally" indicated a need to go outside proved to be
correct. She understands and this was a very significant day. There is more to
training a pup than retrieving "stuff".
Feb 20 more snow...with thick slabs of ice caused by deep snow then heavy rain finishing with very low temperatures...mail box blocked and van (not garaged) impossible to move...no thaw in forecast
note: Gigi did one session of puppy fun, retriever training.....and some crate training
Also, we did a late night "tether session" (sitting the floor doing nothing together) .
Feb 21 Gigi did two sessions of crate training and one session working on her Hillmann's game. There has been absolutely no issues with getting her excited. I might need to work on keeping it a notch below "wild & crazy" to retrieve...I am not quick enough and more hand/finger punctures. There is not much "us" after her "wild fetches".......yet. The concept of "a full retrieve" (bringing it over to me) has not been seen...then again she is not even three months old. Her prey drive is "off the chart"......need to balance & cap this via the sit/focus "engagement"....soon.
Feb 22 Gigi had her 2nd Distemper shot and nails trimmed (late afternoon). She pent most of the
day doing crate training. Changes in the routine (like a trip to the Vet) had her in a shy, cautious mode. We need to "get out" more. This winter has not helped much.
note: 12 weeks old and 20 pounds (lean, lanky and fast).
Feb 23 Gigi was more than willing to just sleep today and it was raining....perfect for crate training.
Late afternoon, she was taken to explore the decoy/hunting gear storage area. It is a bit cluttered
and observed much of what was seen at the vet office yesterday...she is cautious. By not pushing much at all (just sitting in chair watching), she began to explore. After about ten minutes, this area was no longer "scary". A couple of hours later we went back. She was animated, comfortable and did some searching on her own. It will be interesting to see how "new stuff" is treated in the future.
note: rain, lightening and thunder this evening
Feb 24 Today will be more rain with some snow. Based on the advanced weather forecast for March, Pounce's training will resume March 15th...Gigi did a review of what she has done to date.
Feb 25 At 2 pm it is 13°F wind chill 2°F
note: The night crate time is very good and the "puppy pen" is being gradually phase out.
note: Found a chew product that is ideal for a young pup.....and she evidently approves.
"Gigi" walking the pool deck in January
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Feb 26 The high will be 23°F with afternoon snow showers. The first two weeks in March do not look much better. Gigi is four days short of being three months old and making great progress.
The puppy skills "So Far" List...
1) riding in the van (no issues), 2) visits to the Vet (two times), 3) well crate trained
right next to Pounce (living & bedrooms), 4) uses the airing yard (regularly with no
"accidents"), 5) tri-level stairs (no issues), 6) brief chew toy session with "casual
supervision", 7) correct feeding schedule in place (finally), 8) her puppy pen is almost
phased out, 9) "yappy" noise issues much improved, 10) biting was eliminated quickly,
11) will generally respond correctly to the "kennel" command (when excited...not so much)
The Hillmann puppy retriever training skills "So Far" List (not outside)
1) excited, aggressive chase (very animated), 2) sit (does so on verbal command),
3) walks on lead ("kind of" at very loose heel), 4) makes eye contact (when motivated)
Areas of "interest" - 1) initially very cautious of anything physically new
2) a desire to bring anything back..has not been demonstrated
(points to recognize) a) very young, b) bringing something
back is not exactly genetically linked with very high drive
note to self: When the time seems appropriate, set up training sessions where
Gigi will trade objects while on a sit (reducing possessiveness).
In addition, teach remote drop.
Feb 27 at 10 am 21°F wind chill 4°....airing yard is three inches of ice covered with one inch of show. Gigi had another very good "house" day yesterday and last night. This morning the routine went smoothly. Went to the airing yard at about 4 am after she "asked"....(good puppy!!!). She was fed and aired again at 8 am......then took a brief nap.
At ten am, Gigi did a Hillmann "excite, chase, retrieve and sit session" (up close, right in front of me). The focus on the "brief" session was developing her "bringing it back" approach (increasing our engagement). A new object was used this morning and it was better than everything we had worked with before (made the action smoother and easier). Then again, she/we may be simply improving. However, the "target" is more consistent in positioning because there is an obviously better "choice" in where to hold. Basically, "where to grab" it is very clearly identifiable and promotes the "habit" of picking something up in the middle. In addition, my "getting it back" is greatly simplified by the shape.
note: Her three month old "puppy mouth" is a perfect fit.
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At the very beginning of Gigi's "intro" to the "excite and chase" phase of Hillmann program it was rather obvious that her behavior is much more aggressive than Pounce's. Therefore, an Internet search was done to find an explanation. The search was easier than expected and the explanation is definitive. It is related to hunting instinct genetics.
Chasing and tugging at toys is instinctual behavior for most dogs, but so is shaking them. This is not a gentle maraca-type shake, but a powerful whipping action that gets your dog's entire upper body involved. The history of this behavior is traced back to your pup's ancestors who had to hunt to survive. When your retriever shakes his toy, it mimics the action wolves and other wild canines use to kill small prey. The shaking action is designed to instantly snap the prey's back or neck. Your pup might be a sweet, cuddly ball of fur, but she still retains those basic instincts and the need to "attack" her toys on occasion. Get her toys that match the size of her likely prey. For example, a small dog might need a mouse-sized shakeable toy, while a large breed might need something more duck-sized.
note: About twenty-five years ago I had a young Lab grab a possum and snap its neck. It was
no longer "playing possum". Reality can be swift and graphic. Something bigger for
Gigi...soon...may be the solution (or not).
note: Comparing and contrasting Pounce and Gigi should be a regular practice. Comparing is
how they are similar and contrasting is how they are different. This means adjust
Feb 28 cloudy with high of 27°F and snow cover on top of 2-3 inches of ice ......At 9 am....Gigi did an indoor session of Hillmann excitement chases, retrieves and sits (close, engaged, off lead in the living room). The focus was on fun with specific "reps" that lasted all of five minutes. At 10 pm (right after the late evening "airing") a similar session was done out on the "pool room" deck. The only difference was each "rep" involved working off of a "placeboard".
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