Tag Archives: training a lab puppy

Who is Training Whom – Take 2

Amber was 6 months old September 7th. She weighs over 62 pounds and is still growing like a weed. We expect (hope) she’ll stop at 80 pounds.

Since she’s been having trouble with digestion, we’ve been trying different things (while going through courses of probiotics.) I’ve been researching, since she wasn’t doing well with the changeover from puppy food to the dry food we gave Molly and Bambi, either. I decided to try grain-free food, and so far, it seems to be the answer!  We’ve been able to stop the probiotics and stool firming meds. She really likes the taste, seems to be much more comfortable and happy. There are a BUNCH of grain-free dry dog foods, so we’re trying now to find one that is offered in large bags. (The 11 pound bags just aren’t good, as she eats over 4 cups of food per day now.)

Right now we’re feeding her Rachael Ray grain-free, but we got another brand we’ll start soon. It comes in a MUCH larger bag. If she weathers the brand change well, we’ll switch to that and then stock up before winter. We hope that we can change her over to the food we get from our vet eventually, but she’ll either mature enough to handle that or she won’t. Time will tell. We’re delighted that we seem to have found a good solution for now.

We also got a shock collar with remote control. I generally don’t like these, but I have to admit it’s the answer right now with Amber. She’s a very independent, stubborn thinker with really strong desires and a deaf ear when she chooses, which is often. With the shock collar, we are mostly to the point that we give the command, reward her if she does it, warn her with a tone if she doesn’t readily comply, or a shock (rarely now) if she continues the bad behavior. It’s as if a miracle occurred. She now realizes that we MEAN what we say. We’re not just playing. We don’t want to say the same thing over and over. Usually, she adapts her behavior now when we SAY it, or failing that, when we warn her. Amazing and wonderful!

Because she’s behaving better, she spends more and more time with us, whether we’re inside or out, something she really enjoys. It’s all working together to make a healthy, happy, better mannered dog, and relieved, happy two-leggers!

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New Approach

Amber at 6 months old is a sweet, doofus, loveable, hard-headed dog. She now knows much of what we want her to do, but many times CHOOSES not to do it.  We’re having good luck using treats to encourage her to respond to commands. The main problem area is getting her to stop doing things she shouldn’t.

We got a smart no-pull collar that works with our retractable leash that gives her a warning when she pulls too hard for too long, or decides to play, “Crazy Dog,” running back and forth to the end of the leash. If she continues, she receives a shock. Now, if she’s wearing the collar, she acts very nicely – EXCEPT when she is confronted with a whole vet office full of critters at one time, with ONE big dog acting hostile.

We have to say things over and over, such as “Down” when she’s right beside our dining table. It’s as if she’s on a trampoline. She obeys the command and then pops right up, over and over again. Or we say, “no.” She stops for a split second, and then starts in again. Over and over…

Lately we got a more regular shock collar. I don’t like these much, but certain dogs don’t seem to take you seriously until you really get their attention and show them that you are the lead dogs in the pack. Amber seems to be one of these. The squirt bottles of water and the fly swatters seem to invite her to PLAY many times, rather than disciplining her.

So, the collar is set up so that we can warn her with a sound she can hear, but we can’t. We warn her, and sometimes that’s enough. She stops whatever she’s doing. If she ignores the warning, we have the shock level carefully set so that it gets her attention, stopping whatever she’s doing, but it doesn’t hurt her so she yipes.

My husband started using it day before yesterday. The first day he had to hit the shock button 3 or 4 times during the day and evening. Yesterday it was only once. So far today, not at all. And when he hits the warning tone, she’s beginning to respond to that well.

At almost 62 lbs now – with possibly another 20 pounds to go, we need to be serious 24/7 before she hurts one of us. Her exuberance is pretty impressive, and she has a healthy streak of ‘stubborn,’ as well. Since we have heard that labs are ‘puppies’ for 2 years, we’ve set up for the long haul on serious training.  We’re making good progress. We want her to be a happy member of our animal and human family, plus act politely around other people and other animals. We just need to keep on keepin’ on…

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Treat Driven

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Our yellow labrador retriever “puppy” Amber is 6 months old as of yesterday and officially weighs 61.6 lbs. She will do almost anything if she knows a treat is involved.

This has made our efforts to train her more effective (thank goodness!) but it’s a problem if you go outside with her and find you are ‘unarmed’ without one treat in your pocket.  (See pic above)

I switched to goldfish because they’re small, fit in my pocket more easily, and a double handful will get us through the day pretty well. She doesn’t seem to mind the change. She loves EVERYTHING, but she goes through a LOT of them, so we’re trying to find cheaper alternatives and use the more expensive stuff sparingly.

Lately I’ve discovered that she will stay pretty much by my side outside without a leash if she is sure I have treats in my pocket. I simply show her one and then we take a nice walk. She is also improving on ‘sit,’ ‘down,’ ‘place,’ ‘get the ball,’ ‘come,’ ‘waiting for an ok before she eats,, not jumping up, and other things. Remaining a challenge are teaching her

  • ‘we’ are NOT chew toys,
  • not chewing on things not designated as toys (we’re hosing things down with bitter apple)
  • not dive-bombing our dignified elder dog, Molly, the cats, etc

Especially challenging is getting her to mind us when others are around. It’s as if she is suddenly blind and deaf, doesn’t know who we are, etc.

Lately, one of her favorite things is catching me on the stairs when I’m coming down in the morning. This morning is a typical example – I got halfway down the stairs. She heard me and came bounding up the stairs to greet me. I’ve learned to sit down on the stairs and give her a lot of love and petting before trying to continue down. Last night I left shoes and socks on the floor in front of my chair in the living room. I know better, but she has to reteach me from time to time.

I had to fight my way over to the chair with Amber trying her best to chew on my toes or trip me. I made it to the chair, but Amber had one of my shoes in her mouth. I retrieved the other shoe, plus the socks, and then had to try to ‘trade’ her something for my shoe. I finally got my shoe and then fought my way back to my chair. She tried to get both socks and shoes back as I squirted her with the water bottle and said, ‘place!’ firmly. She finally responded, though she really didn’t want to. I put on socks and shoes and vowed NOT to leave them again…

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Relief

Amber with bit of green plastic bone

I was helping my husband put a gigantic box that the TV came in up into the attic over the garage this morning. After we accomplished that, we swept out the half of the garage that was easy to get to with one of the cars out on the pad.

We went back into the house, but I couldn’t find Amber. I checked with my husband, and he glibly said, “I let her out when we went out to the garage. She’ll be fine.”

I ran out to the front yard and started calling her. I went all the way around the house, calling, but no Amber. I was in tears, still calling when Amber came running across the yard to me, smiling.

I gave her some treats, put her into the house, and then calming told my husband that his life was on the line if he did that again.

(We had agreed that HE could let her run first thing in the morning when breakfast followed. I have taken her out without the leash, walking from the house to the shop. I did it again yesterday, keeping a close eye on her and keeping the walk short. She is coming better now, but I don’t trust that she would come if she were distracted by a rabbit, squirrel, cat, or another dog. We even have COWS across the street that runs in front of our yard.)

My husband gave me the lecture about ‘mistreating the dog’ by not simply letting her out and letting her come home when she’s ready. I told him that we would build to that, but NOT YET!

And so continues the disagreement about when Amber truly knows where home is, when she’s coming on a reliable basis…..

 

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“Fetch?”

Can you see that Amber lets her tongue loll out to the side of her mouth and down? I think it’s hilarious.

She just doesn’t ‘get’ the idea of fetching and bringing the ball back yet. My husband has been out in the front yard with her a couple of days in a row now. He throws the ball. She runs to get it, picks it up, and then either drops it again, doesn’t want to bring it back, or – if she does bring it back – doesn’t want to give it back to my husband to throw again.

She did it right twice today – much better than yesterday. She got a treat when she brought the ball back and actually allowed him to have it. :0)

The best part about this whole thing is that she and my husband are having fun, both are getting good exercise, and Amber is much more calm in the house after a session. (She’s asleep on the floor beside me now).

PLAY BALL!!!!

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Desperate to Chew!

One of the many things we’re dealing with in training our labrador retriever puppy, Amber, is that labs love to chew on everything. We have tackled this problem in several ways –

  • spraying “Bitter Apple” on things we don’t want her to chew – with very mixed results
  • catching her in the act and either swatting her with the flyswatter or spraying her with the water bottle – with very mixed results
  • yelling ‘no,’ with mixed results
  • getting lots and lots of chew toys
  • providing chewy treats, such as Bully sticks, rawhide, something that looks like bacon, and more.

 

She’s teething now which exacerbates the problem. Today I’ve disciplined her for chewing on the back pull-on-thingies on the backs of my shoes (while my feet are in them – either walking in front of her or sitting in my chair), chewing on the basket in the office, chewing on the bottom corners of my desk shelves and a roll-around table, trying to get into my trash can, and more.

 

You can see her here chewing on a bully stick. She really loves these, but they’re expensive – particularly since it takes her about half an hour or less to ‘eat’ the whole thing.

I’ve also tried to distract her, taking her on three walks so far this morning (it’s 10:15). That has helped some.

There is never a dull moment with a lab puppy. The fact that she’s well over 52 pounds now and is quite headstrong adds to the flavor of our days. We’re really learning to plan ahead on more and more things, trying to make her as happy as possible while not risking life and limb.

She just looked at me – having finished the bully stick – whining a bit. She looks so innocent with her pretty face and big, brown eyes….

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Results Vary

Amber is one sweet, affectionate doggie. Some days we have wonderful companionship, eager interest, and even acceptance by our animal family members. Other days, not so much.

Today is a “not so much” day.

We’re trying to let Amber stay in the house with us as much as possible, since she’s a people dog and seems very happy to be where we are. Today she would NOT settle down. It’s like a baby with colic. You do everything you know, stretch to try desperate things, trying to get the ‘baby’ to calm down and be happy.  I remember one day when my son was a baby, my ‘everything’ just wasn’t enough. I finally ended up sitting on the living room floor with him – both of us crying.

Amber is again out on the back porch, now barking and whining from time to time. We’re waiting until she stops that to try her in with us again. And so it goes…

One new good thing is that with careful monitoring when she’s hungry, we can take her out without the leash. I don’t trust her enough yet to simply “let her out” as my husband thinks we should do, but in certain circumstances, I have seen that she happily walks with us to the shop without restraint. Also before breakfast she doesn’t stray. It’s also a good time for us to practice, “COME!” And, as long as she trusts us to have treats, she complies quite readily.

I’m trying to practice this at least once per day, gritting my teeth. I’m worried that she’ll see and chase one of the cats, see another dog (we’ve had two come up the driveway lately) or NOT respond to our command. I know it’s something we need to do, and I’m happy that we’re starting to see results now.

Ahhh. The barking and whining has stopped. I’ll go let her in again.

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Our Training Continues

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Amber is making progress in getting us to do what she wants, but she gets truly frustrated with how very slow we are to learn.

For example, she wants to play Tug of War with her toys.  She goes and gets a toy, brings it to her humans, and very clearly wants us to grab the other end – the other side – and fight with enthusiasm – in the end letting her win. She is letting us know lately how dumb we are. When she brings the toy, we won’t even TRY to take it out of her mouth. We ACT like we’re going to play, but the minute we meet resistance, we let go, over and over until she finally drops the toy into our laps in disgust. Just as she’s leaving, we throw the toy!  The game is on again until the humans refuse to take their end of the toy. AND her humans get mad when teeth run into skin, yelling and running into the kitchen to wash the wounds off and wrap them with band-aids. Hummmmppph!

Her humans HAVE learned to arm themselves each morning, making SURE they have a pocketful of treats. Amber has taught us to give her treats in all parts of the ‘taking-care-o-business’ process, when she sits, when she comes, when she lies down, when she goes to her place…. all day long – finishing up with going into her crate. This takes a LOT of treats. We routinely get somewhere out in public, one pocket bulging with dog treats.

Amber realizes that getting her people trained will take time, patience, and lots and lots of effort. She’s encouraged that we’re better than we were when she first came to live with us in May.

She’s looking at me, distinctly saying, “Really? You want me to get up?”

 

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“No Teeth!”

I told you recently that we’re making progress in a lot of areas in training our labrador retriever puppy, Amber. She’ll be 5 months old on Monday, and we’ve had her since she was 10 weeks old.

One thing we’re not making enough progress on is her habit of swinging her head with her mouth open. That doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but the reality is that when we are putting her leash on, for example, she turns her head, catches one arm or the other in her open mouth. I’m learning not to jerk my arm out because that results in more band-aids. I’m learning to say, “NO TEETH!” firmly and hold my arm still.

She’s not trying to ‘bite.’ She just moves quickly side to side with an open mouth, lots of enthusiasm, and sharp puppy teeth. Right now I have two punctures on my left hand, with a nice looking bruise on my left forearm, and two band-aids on my right forearm. Needless to say, I’m not a fast learner, and I’m supposed to be smarter than she is.

We’ll keep working on this, trying to get her NOT to open her mouth when arms and hands are near. It’s a good thing we have a good supply of band-aids…

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Making Progress

We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel in a lot of areas with our training. We’re still not completely sure who is training WHOM, but we’re having an easier time.

  • Pulling on the Leash – The training collar we use with the leash has made the biggest difference. We’re old and not as spry as we used to be. Amber may be close to 50 lbs now, and she’s very strong. When she gets excited, she can easily pull us down, even when we think we’re paying close attention. The small shock she gets from the collar when she pulls sufficiently gets her attention. In fact, she hasn’t been pulling at all the last few days. She’s also transferring this to being on the dog run. She spent a happy half an hour on the run yesterday while we were working in the yard.
  • Waiting to be Fed – she now sits automatically when we have bowl in hand, ready to feed her. We put the bowl down, hesitate a moment or two, and then say, “OKAY!” And this way we can feed her without her jumping up on us or dive-bombing us when we’re trying to put the bowl down.
  • Sit – she is getting pretty consistent about doing this when we ask – at least, in the house.
  • Place – she is good about staying on the dog bed in the living room even when a cat – or Molly – comes in. She is also transferring this to the bed in the office.
  • Come – She is definitely beginning to do this, although it’s not consistent yet.
  • “Hurry Up” – she knows that this means getting business taken care of, particularly since she knows treats are involved. This is particularly good when the weather is not pleasant and we don’t want to be standing around for a long time waiting for her to find the perfect spot.
  • Off – she still jumps up, putting her feet on the top of the pet gate, which we’re trying to discourage her from doing, but when she does and we say, “Off!” she gets down.

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We’re still working on a lot of things. She manages to catch me with an open-mouthed toss of her head and give me another reason for yet another band-aid. In fact, I’m trying to sell this as a new fashion statement, since people remark on my ‘decorations’ when we’re out. There is also still the initial run-and-jump-on-Molly problem. We’re discouraging this, and it’s over pretty quickly, but we really wish she would stop.

My favorite times of the day with her remain when she’s in her place and I go over to sit on the floor by the couch and her bed. She comes right over, nuzzling and licking me furiously. We hug and I stroke her. We laugh and smile at each other. We play with toys. We both enjoy it, and my husband smiles from across the room.

Inviting a lab puppy into your home is no small decision, but it’s one we’re finding very rewarding, band-aids and all.

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“Place” – 2

Teaching Amber “Place!” has been a lifesaver for us. Left to her own devices, Amber leaps around hounding poor Molly, making cats jump, hiss, and spit, and generally causing havoc. She is doing remarkably well now – after an initial “HOORAY! I’M HERE!” run around. Being in her place allows her to spend a lot more time inside, getting away from the heat, and being inside with the other animals and the people. She has several toys on the bed, and seems content to watch what’s happening around her. We all get a bit of quiet time – a very welcome thing.

I’m really amazed that, other than a few lapses, she stays on the bed, even though a cat may come in the room and meow to get up in my husband’s lap, or Molly goes in and out, etc. She knows this will be strictly enforced, but the being included in the family seems to outweigh leaping around limits.

I also make it a point to go to the corner of the bed, where I can get down on the floor beside her, with the aid of the couch. She knows that it’s then okay to come sit in my lap, bring a toy, love the mama. A happy time for us, to be sure. :0)

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“Place!”

We’re making some progress on teaching Amber to stay on the dog bed in the living room while we’re spending time together in the living room. She’s really antsy, but she’s getting the idea. It’s to all our benefits, because this allows her to spend much more time with us. Otherwise, she’s busily driving Molly nuts, dive-bombing her, licking her, trying to get her to play, putting a paw on her, or chasing her, if Molly won’t settle somewhere. There’s also the issue of one or more of the cats taking exception to her chasing them.

We say, “PLACE!” and lead her to the dog bed, making her lie down, and then saying, “Good Dog!” and giving her a treat. We might have to repeat this a couple of times, but she’s getting the idea!

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Trying to Meet the Challenges of a Lab Puppy

Yesterday Amber finally got us to admit that the nice metal gate that my husband made years ago to keep our pit bull, Bambi, and our cocker spaniel/schnauzer cross, Molly, in the office with us will not meet the challenge we have before us.

Amber is fine until one of us leaves the room, she sees Molly, she sees a cat, or her toy rolls under the gate, or…. She proved yesterday morning that, unless one of us sits at the gate, like a gatekeeper, flyswatter in hand, ready to jump up, yell, “NO!” and swipe her with the swatter, the gate will not keep her in. She can still slide under it, though she won’t be able to do that much longer at the rate she’s growing. She can easily leap over it, and that will get easier as she gets larger. The gate is a joke, only making it harder for the people to get in and out.

We ordered another Carlson Walk-Thru Pet Gate from Chewy.com yesterday. We just got confirmation that it has been shipped today and we should get it Monday or Tuesday.

It comes with a couple of extensions, and we still have the ones we didn’t need for the doorway to the porch, so we think we can make this work, though our doorway is 48 inches wide.

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Our efforts to allow Amber to come inside with us seem to be working, albeit slowly. This morning, for example, we had Molly sit beside my husband’s chair at the table while we were eating breakfast. We brought Amber in. She ran around like a mad thing for a few moments, and then zeroed in on Molly. My husband was ready with the flyswatter, and soon Amber got the message that if she dive-bombed Molly, she got swatted. She finally decided to lie down at my feet. This worked well until Molly decided to move. We went through the whole thing again, but a shorter amount of time.

Molly is learning that Amber is not trying to hurt her and that her people are aware of the problem and are trying to make the problem go away – eventually.

I’ve been told that Amber will be in ‘puppihood’ until she is 2 years old. Some have said 4 years. I remember my mother telling my brother and me from time to time, “I’ve read all about this stage and you’re going to skip it.” It didn’t work very well for my mom, but maybe it’ll work for us…

Meanwhile, Amber showers us with love (and slobber) every time we see her. Since we see her very often during the day and evening, we’re building a good relationship. One day at a time!

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Worth Its Weight in Gold

My good friend Cathy wrote, telling me that she was worried about my trying to climb over the gate between the living room and the porch where our new puppy Amber is. She told me about a new style of gate that has a ‘people door!’ I had never heard of that, and after she helped me appreciate what I was seeing, I showed it to my husband, the installer of all things.

He was a bit worried because our door frames are steel, but he said we should go ahead and order it. It arrived today and we installed it within 10 minutes or less. My husband said, “You should tell this company they’re making a well thought out, well designed product.”

The product is from Chewy.com, a wonderful place that ships the product almost immediately. It’s astonishing how quickly things arrive. This is our third order from them, and I couldn’t recommend them more highly.

 

Carlson Pet Products Extra Wide Walk-Thru Gate with Pet Door

Carlson Extra Wide Gate with People Door and Pet Door

We didn’t need to use the two extensions that come with this gate. It installed quickly and easily with no tools required. It’s very sturdy. There is no place for Amber to hook her feet to climb over it. She can’t get under it. If she gets so she can climb over this 30″ tall gate, we can relocate it up a bit higher.

The very best part is the people door. We’ve fixed it so it opens OUT into the porch, so that Amber can’t open it by accident. When we go out there, she has to back up, and she isn’t quick enough to go between us and the door closing again. I’m really delighted. I don’t have to concentrate on standing on one foot, lifting the other foot over the gate (which Amber immediately latches onto), trying not to step on her as I put my foot down, then grabbing the door with one hand and bracing my other hand on the brick to the side of the door as I bring the 2nd leg up and over. It’s REALLY been fun when I had something in my hand…

THANK YOU, Cathy, for

  • worrying about me and figuring out a good solution
  • letting me know about it
  • writing back to point out the people door I didn’t see and appreciate the first time
  • your patience and caring

I can’t tell you how happy we are with you and the new gate. NOW – if we could get Amber to quit barking and whining….

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Who’s Teaching Whom?

We’re spending a LOT of time with Amber every day, and we’re working on a lot of things, but I begin to wonder who is teaching whom? We’ve modified our own behavior, trying to give her enough love and attention, training sessions, walks, food, water, and just plain sitting on the floor and hugging her.

 

Amber is complying with a lot of our commands, but I have the hands to show that we’re only successful part of the time so far. She seems happy, but I think we’re learning as much or more than she is. Our lives are revolving on HER schedule.

 

So far today, we’ve had three walks, food, water, play time with the ball, sitting out on the porch, meeting and getting swiped by, Smoke, the cat, and some quiet time (Ahhhhhhh!)  I have a new bruise on TOP of the old one, and have added one more bandaid…

So, is Amber the teacher and we’re learning to meet her needs – albeit slowly – to HER point of view?

 

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