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Sunday, July 31, 2016

An Extraordinary Sense?

Sometimes people ask me if my blind and deaf dogs' sense of smell is more highly developed than that of other dogs.  I'm not sure how to answer that question, because a dog's sense of smell is already so much more developed than yours and mine.  There is really no way for me to measure that sense of smell against my other dogs that can see and hear.  I don't notice that it's any more developed, just that they do rely on it more than the others seem to.  

I am always amazed, however, that my blind and deaf dog is sometimes the first dog to react when I come home.  Even though she's in a room behind a closed door.  How does she know that I'm home?  Even though I don't notice it, the floor boards creak in a certain way, and the door closing as I come into the house does create a vibration.  But sometimes I think it's something so much more than these things that she is noticing.  Is she reacting to my energy coming into the house?  Could she be noticing that energy before I am even close enough for her to smell me?  Or to feel the floor vibrating?  There is a lot of really cool research out there that goes into this more in depth - how we know instinctively what others are doing, feeling, etc. through a connection of energy.  I see it every day and I know it's true.

I don't know how many times I have felt sure that Treasure could see or hear something based on her reactions at the perfect time.  In the beginning of our time together, I would set up little trials to see if I could get her to react to the same noises or situations again.  But I was always disappointed.  Her reactions seem to be strictly coincidence in those circumstances - but are they?  There is no way for me to know exactly what my dogs sense or how.  

When I adopted Treasure, she was already almost 4 years old.  She had already learned to use the senses that she had to react to her world.  Her senses have always amazed me.  

Yet, it is interesting to me watching Vinny, from a very young puppy, learning to use and hone his senses. His first month here, he was very accident prone, as his balance was not developed.  I know that our sense of sight and our inner ear are important to developing our sense of balance, and I've been told by people who are hearing impaired that their balance is affected as well. Most puppies are a bit clumsy on their feet, but Vinny seemed to be exceptionally so.  Now he is growing into a more balanced puppy who is more sure-footed.  

As a seven week old puppy, he could not sniff out individual treats or toys and pinpoint where they were.  Now he is an expert at finding whatever it is that he wants to find!  And it's not just his sense of smell that is becoming more expert.  He has some of that extraordinary sense going on too.  

It's almost scary how good he's getting at perceiving things!  Sometimes he faces something in space and waits, almost as if he is watching it with his eyes, and then he pounces right on it - a toy, a dog bed, another dog, me, ... But when I test out his eyesight again, he doesn't seem to see or track anything.  Of course, other times, he does a totally adorable pounce into nothingness which always makes me smile. But more often than not, he hits his mark right on now, and I think he will continue to get better with practice.  

He knows things.  Like when I walk in the room and he is in his crate or pen across the room.  Yet he always knows.  He knows when I am there to open his crate even if I've been in the room near him already.  He's not hearing anything or feeling any vibration because I haven't done anything yet, I'm just right there ready.  I know he's probably smelling me, but he isn't visibly scenting.  I think there's more to it than that.  He is just learning how to know.  

On our walks, Vinny is becoming expert at knowing where my leg (or especially between my legs) is so he can touch me to touch base.  More often than not, he comes running and will squeeze right between my legs and stop to wait for a scratch.  Yet he will still run right into a tree or something else in his path.  He can track me on our walks and if he falls behind, he can catch up real quick!  He is always on a leash or a long line for safety reasons, but I like to give him the freedom of the whole line so he can run and explore where it is safe.  

His mapping skills continue to expand. He now can trot from the bedroom, down the hall, through the kitchen in the exact arc that will take him from the hall to the steps heading to the outdoors.  He will stop directly at the top of the steps within a couple inches, quickly find the steps, head down, and then knows the turns and how many steps to take where to get to the back door.  He searches out surfaces in the yard and once there knows exactly how many steps until he gets to the next surface or the door back to the house.  He knows the way home from our walks as we start to get close to the house and will take off out in front until he leads me home to the door.  

He has maps for work days when we go out the side door, to the grass to potty and then back across the parking lot to the car.  And maps for once we get to work, from the car, to the grass, to the building and to the office where his pen is.  From the pen to the front outside for potty breaks.  

Of interest to me is that I started teaching Vinny some tricks involving using his paw.  The very next day, I noticed him beginning to use his paws to gather information about more than just surfaces.  He will sit waiting to be let out of his crate and he will put his paw on the crate door so he can feel the door open and knows when he can come out.  He is not scratching at the door, just sitting calmly with his paw resting on the crate door.  He is using his paw now to feel for another dog now as they are playing so he knows where it is and can pounce more accurately.  

I am enjoying watching Vinny's senses develop and seeing how he chooses to use them.  Giving him so many new and varied experiences is allowing him to learn more confidence in his abilities and how to use his senses in many ways.  Allowing him the freedom to explore and learn as much as possible is important for his brain as it grows and develops.  And being aware of energy and how it connects us to each other has given me a unique perspective into his extraordinary senses.  Yet, even though I know what a blind and deaf dog is capable of, it still continues to amaze me in the most incredible ways.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Group Dynamics

Part of being a puppy is learning where and how you fit in with the humans and other animals in a household. And part of bringing home a new puppy is that the people and animals learn how this new being fits in. Sometimes, this can be a difficult lesson - such as when adorable puppy noses get snapped at by older dogs who are trying to teach some manners.  Vinny has had a couple of those during his time here.  

Treasure has her own way of communicating that she would like the dog bed now.
Vinny did take his bone and move out of the bed right after this was taken.  

It's normal for adult dogs to discipline puppies at times - this is how puppies learn.  But it's harder when that puppy is blind and deaf.  Harder for the puppy, and harder for the adult dog.  Dogs give a lot of signals before they snap - signals that say stop that or go away.  They may give a hard stare or lift a lip, or they may growl.  A blind and deaf puppy cannot read these signals accurately and so will usually keep doing the behavior that the adult dog doesn't like, which then results in a snap.  It can take some time for an adult dog to learn how to communicate differently with a blind and deaf dog too.  

Thankfully my dogs are well-versed in this already, but to them, it seems to be case-specific.  They treat the other blind and deaf dogs differently, but this did not carry over to Vinny.  Now they are beginning to learn that he too, requires special treatment.  By this, I mean, they are starting to realize that if they growl or lift a lip while chewing their favorite bone, he is not going to respond.  So, they now are picking up their bone and moving to where he can't get them with it.  This is the behavior they do with the other blind and deaf dogs.

Of course, I have tried to keep a close eye on them when they are together and want the adults to have some time away from worrying about a puppy, but still there are times when something needs to be said by the adult dogs.  

Adult dogs can play a bit rough for a puppy, and so there is learning about just how much is enough to keep the game going.  Too rough, and the puppy stops and leaves the game, or the human steps in to referee.  Just the right amount of tumbling without getting too rough allows the game to continue indefinitely.  Just this past week, my rougher players are figuring out the perfect balance with Vinny.  And my shy one is beginning to get in on the play also.  

Playing with puppies that can see is different for dogs than playing with dogs that can't see.  If they bounce or run away from a blind puppy, inviting a chase, the game just isn't as fun, since the blind puppy can't see which way they went.  But they learn to play close by, inviting contact by touching or poking to let the blind puppy know where they are - also a tactic to keep the game going. 

There is more learning to be done - learning that play with humans must be different than play with other dogs!  Vinny likes to pounce on me and bite my skin and clothes, and those puppy teeth hurt!  Sometimes I think he thinks I am one of the dogs and if I happen to be nearby he pounces and gets me instead.  But often he just gets excited playing and can't stop.  He is learning that human skin is for being gentle with.  I am careful to only play with him with toys, and it's important to use toys that are longer when playing with blind puppies - give them plenty of room to grab the toy without grabbing your hand, since they can't see where your hand stops and the toy begins.  I don't want him to think that my hands are play things.  My  hands always touch him gently and give him soft and calm touching so he can learn the difference.  

It is working.  I don't correct him for biting me in any way.  Using his mouth is one of the few senses he has to learn about his world.  I don't want him to stop using his mouth.  I want him to learn how to use it gently. If he learns to use it gently, then one day when he grabs my hand instead of the toy, he will immediately loosen his grip and be gentle.  Or, the day that he bites down too hard for a piece of food and gets my finger, he will immediately know the difference and will become gentle. This is an important lesson for any puppy to learn. By being consistent with  my examples to him when to play and when to be gentle, simply by how I interact with him, he is learning what is expected.  

He has progressed to the point that when he is getting too excited at playtime, I can scoop him up into my lap for a moment, and just by my hands touching him gently, he can calm himself for a moment. And then I can let him go play again.  

Vinny's Rule of Twelve

Have you heard of the Puppy's Rule of Twelve, by Margaret Hughes?  It is an adaptation of Pat Schaap's Rule of 7's.  It is a checklist of categories, and within each category, the idea is to expose your puppy to 12 different things in each category by the time he's 12 weeks old.

Vinny is 12 weeks old now.  Let's see how I did exposing him to the various categories so far.  Of course, this doesn't end once you complete the list.  Puppies need to be exposed to many different things for their entire puppyhood, and then on into adulthood.

Vinny's Rule of Twelve

12 different surfaces:  grass, gravel, dirt, carpet, tile, linoleum, wet grass, mud, puddles, uneven surfaces, rubber matting, wading pool, plastic tarp, foam cushion, dog bed, ball pit, metal grate, plastic, metal - 19

12 different objects:  cardboard, wood, balls, tug toys, rubber, feathers, plastic bottle, stuffed toys, metal bowls, squeaky toys, bones, wire crate, plastic crate - 13

12 different locations:  office, car rides, play yards, back yard, walks, front of office, gym of office, cat room, basement, steps, side yard, driveway, vet's office - 13

12 new people:  LOTS of people, children, men, women, at office, at home, in yard on walks - many more than 12!

12 different noises:  thunder, fireworks, vacuum, squawky bird, clapping, barking, phone ringing, washing machine, dishwasher, traffic, motorcycles, dryer - 12 even though he doesn't hear noises, he does respond to vibrations from some

12 fast moving objects:  dogs running, cats, cars and vehicles, hard to say - he can't see them moving.

12 different challenges:  obstacle courses, tunnel, ball pit, TTouch star, food puzzle toys - wobbler, food ball, food saucer, muffin tin, steps up and down, uneven surfaces, full flight of stairs - 12

12 handling experiences/week: on his back in my lap, on back in arms, on back on floor, carried under arm, carried with another puppy, grooming, ears, mouth, nail clipping, tail, check eyes, cuddle time, lifted up and down - 13

12 different eating containers:  metal bowl, food ball, muffin tin, kong, ball pit, scattered on floor, hand, kong wobbler, food saucer, ceramic bowl, plastic bowl, elevated bowl -12

12 different eating locations: yard, pen, office, crate, in the rain, different crates - 6

12 different dogs/puppies:  Brinks, Vegas, Owen, Nike, Treasure, Elsa, Daphne, Silva, and kittens! - 12

12 different times left alone/week: many in pen, crate, car even for short periods of time - many more than 12

12 collar and leash experiences new areas:  walks, yard, office, all over - many more than 12

Thanks Cameron for the great pics!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Puppy Update - 11 Weeks

It hardly seems possible that it's been a month already since I picked up Elsa and Vinny!  Things have settled into a routine for the most part and have gotten easier.  Pups know the daily routine, and I know their potty schedules.  They are sleeping through the night.

Sweet Elsa left for her forever home a couple days ago.  I am so thrilled for her and for her new family!  She is in an experienced double merle home that will help her have every opportunity to shine and develop her full potential.  Plus, I will get to see the updates and pictures of her growing up!

In preparation for her going to her new home, both puppies got their first bath.  Elsa was content while I got her wet and soapy, but then decided during the rinsing that she was not a happy camper.  She complained extensively and loudly!  But she was oh so very white and sparkly afterwards!  Vinny wasn't quite as vocal, but he was frustrated with the whole thing.  Vinny has had a harder time with containment and restraint since he came home with me.  He is learning more tolerance one situation at a time, but he did not like being contained to the tub and wanted to go exploring.  He was very wiggly to give a bath to!

Continued socialization this week included meeting and playing with new people, taking long lead walks in new areas for playtime and sniffing, nail cutting, new meal toys, new fenced areas to play in and explore, new adult dogs, and new obstacles and toys.  Both puppies take it all in stride.  Interestingly, Elsa, who is the more rough and tumble and active of the two, can be the one who stressed quicker.  This has been seen in her giving up easily with the food challenge toys.  Also on our long lead exploring walks, she is confident and happy for the first 10 minutes and then she starts to get a bit concerned about getting back to some place she knows and is comfortable with.  Because these experiences are meant to be positive ones for her, I allow her to go back to places she is more comfortable with when she decides she's had enough.  

Some interesting things happened this past week.  When exploring a new play area, Vinny discovered a plastic drain pipe spread along the ground.  He stepped over it in one direction, turned around and then stepped back over it in the other direction.  This continued as he went first one way and then the other, just as proud as could be stepping over the drain pipe.  Even when he seemed to tire of his new game and he went off to explore other things, he continued to come back to "his" drain pipe to step over it back and forth a few times.  I don't know why he found it so fascinating, but it was fun to watch him.

Vinny has gotten very confident on the few steps leading to the outside.  I had stopped holding his collar to help guide him and only used the tactile cue at the top of the steps to let him know there was a step down. He has gotten creative and will take the first step down, and then make a flying leap down the last two!  But to my surprise, he did not land in a heap at the bottom.  He lands perfectly on his feet and has judged the distance perfectly.  I tried to tell him he shouldn't be able to do that since he can't see anything, but Vinny was not impressed.  My daredevil Vinny.  So, I am back to holding his collar to remind him to take each step so he won't get hurt.  

I introduced Vinny (while holding that collar!) to the big flight of steps this week.  He confidently went down the entire flight on his first try!  He did stop after the first few and seemed a bit confused as to why there were more steps, since he had only done the few to the outside up until this point.  But he did stop 1/2 way up that staircase and decided that was far enough, so I carried him the rest of the way. 

I wanted to work on some sits with Vinny for his lunch yesterday and wasn't thinking.  We were near his crate and he smelled his food.  So he was frantic to get himself into his crate to eat, and had a hard time focusing on his sit cue even with the food right at his nose.  After letting him eat a handful of food from inside his crate, he did eventually come out and do some sit practice with me.  So smart - I guess he showed me! He knew what he was supposed to do!  

Vinny knows his way from the back door to his potty spot and back in.  He will lead me with little puppy bounces and happy circles around me as we go.  He knows his way from the side door to the grass to potty and then to the car to head to work in the morning.  His nose is getting more keen and he is more accurate with searching for dropped/hidden treats.  He can also scent his way back home from our short walks to new places.  While he is confident and happy on our way to a new area, on the way back he is leading with his nose in the air, trotting toward his yard.  

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Third Week - Puppy Update

Pups have turned 10 weeks old this past week!  They are settling into the routine and starting to sleep through the night.  They know their way by scent from the door to the potty area and to the door again when they are done.  They are doing the few steps up and down on their way in and out to the yard.  Our car trips to and from work are now quiet and calm with puppies in their individual crates.  Things are getting a bit easier.  I know what to expect, they know what to expect.

Lots more fun stuff happening this past week for the puppies!

Food bowl games are continuing - not at every meal, just now and then, petting while they eat, looking in an ear while they eat, sticking my hand in the bowl to hand feed a few pieces, moving the bowl slightly while they eat.  I am watching for any signs of stress - hunkering down lower over the bowl, tensing up, stopping eating, eating faster.  But I am doing these things infrequently and very briefly and their reaction is neutral.  I do believe a dog has the right to eat in peace and not be bothered, but I also know that things happen and what the puppies learn now will carry over for their lifetime.  So, I take some time to do food bowl games now while they are young.

Long lead walks to run and explore new areas,smells and surfaces.  Just letting puppies sniff and explore, pick up a stick or a feather they find, I take along a couple toys and encourage some play with me in new places.  I may stop and sit on the ground and just let them explore so they have me to come back to as their security.  Of course these are puppy safe places - watch out for hot surfaces in the summer, and places where lots of other dogs don't frequent.

Puppies are starting to ask to go outside and potty if they need to go at a time that is not on their usual schedule. This is VERY nice!

Puppies did muffin tin eating and food ball eating of their meals - put meals in an empty muffin tin for them to experiment with, and also in food ball toys.  Vinny is very confident in his techniques, picking up and tossing the muffin tin, pouncing on the ball; while Elsa can be more easily frustrated and will tend to give up and walk away.  I help her and make hers easier so she can be successful at this point to help her learn problem solving skills and confidence.  I have no concerns about her as she is normally the more active outgoing one. Just want to make sure she is having good experiences and learning to be successful.

Oh, the empty cardboard box I gave them at the office has been great fun this past week and a half.  It doubles as a toybox that they can pull the toys out of, and a chew toy, as well as a wrestle partner.  They toss it around and dig inside it and roll around with it.  Just the other day, I filled it with new toys.  They had kept the same toys in their office pen for the past two weeks, so I gave them all new toys and they had a blast pulling all the new toys out of the box over and over again.

The puppies' ears are trying to decide whether to stand or tip or flop this week.  Vinny spent most of this week with one ear tipped or straight up, and the other one still floppy.  Elsa's are pretty much both tipped all the time now, although sometimes one will go straight up.

More grooming!  I'm brushing them more thoroughly now - brushing the hair the wrong way to fluff them up, focusing on around the ears, ruff, and back legs where there will be LOTS of Collie hair soon.  And introduced other grooming tools that I used just for a few swipes on their body to help them get used to the different feel - the undercoat rake and the comb.  Worked toward nail clipping with lots of foot handling and managed to cut a nail or two.  Here's a hint:  try to cut puppy nails when they are sleeping!  But if you teach them to love their crates too well, like I did, it is hard to do because they will go find their crates to sleep in. And, it's hard to cut puppy nails while they are in their crate sleeping.  Also did mouth and gum handling to get them used to tooth brushing, looking in their ears, etc.

Elsa and Vinny learned that they enjoy popcorn!  And they learned how sitting like angelic puppies gets them more popcorn than leaping up to pull the whole bowl down.  They also learned about taking turns with the other dogs.

The puppies learned about wearing different types of clothes this week.  Jackets and skirts and shirts - oh my!  Dressing up puppies can be fun for special events and taking pictures - IF the puppy is not bothered and stressed by it.  Elsa and Vinny took it all in stride and were walking around and having fun in their outfits. Dressing puppies in clothes helps them get used to feeling new sensations on their body parts, having their bodies handled and manipulated, and can help them be more accepting of new equipment later on, like harnesses, vests, gentle leaders, etc.

We had a make-shift puppy class this past week.  The puppies got to have their own little class with Nike, a border collie/pitbull puppy of about the same age.  There was no group playtime, as Elsa was a bit worried when Nike tried to jump up on her, but we let them meet and gave them treats to hunt for side by side to let them see that they could be near another puppy and nothing bad would happen.  They each got to go through an obstacle course at the office - new place, new equipment.  Lots of fun!  It's important not to have an agenda when doing a puppy obstacle course.  Let the puppy explore and take the obstacles in the order they want to.  No forcing, just fun and however much they want to do.  It's the puppy's choice.

Two of my adult dogs are really just starting to play with the puppies in a nice way.  This is important for the puppies, as they learn the rules of being a dog, playing, bite inhibition, etc.  They have been learning already when it is ok or not ok to take a toy or a bone the other dogs are chewing on.  There have been a couple times when puppies yelped at being reprimanded by the adults.  I am always supervising them when they are together.  When adults need some quiet time away from puppies, it's important that I provide that.  When puppies get too far out of hand, as they do, I make sure I step in and keep the peace and create space.  It's nice to see them starting to have some real nice playtimes together now.

Elsa will be having a big week this next week, as she is leaving us for her new forever home!  I am so excited for her and her new family, but Vinny and I will miss her.  And I think the other dogs will miss her a bit too.

And, as usual ... a sleeping puppy, is a good puppy.  Vinny has the most unusual sleeping positions!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Second Week - Puppy Update

Elsa and Vinny are growing so much!  I can't believe how much bigger they are already than two weeks ago!

Being bigger means they can reach more stuff when on two legs and can get into all the things that I put up on top of tables to keep out of their reach too!  They are more sure of their bodies now, and are continuing to climb over and crawl under everything.

What fun did this past week hold?
More puppy pool wading - last time I helped them out after a minute of them experiencing the different surface under their feet, before they had time to get upset about it.  This week they paddled for a moment and then found their own way out.  So far, not huge fans of the pool, I guess.
Separate crates still at night and now in the car also.  Elsa will be leaving us in two weeks and I want both puppies to be comfortable on their own without the other.  It will be an adjustment for them both, but hopefully not a traumatic one.
More brushing
Lured and captured sits
Housetraining is progressing - Vinny now potties and puts his head in the air, expecting me to pet him.  If the petting doesn't come quick enough for him, he starts moving his head around in the air "looking" for me.
Both puppies mastered going down several steps in a row this week with my support.
Continued socialization meeting new people of all ages, and both genders in different places
Puppies are learning the walking route to the door to go outside.  We don't do this every time, because often they need to potty in a hurry, so carrying is still the safest way.  But they are getting bigger very quickly, so I want them to be comfortable walking the route.  I help steer them, as they will run into a lot if I don't.  That will continue to get better as they are more comfortable with the route.
Taking longer walks with me on leash, individually for each puppy, around the yard and at work
They are getting more skilled at finding food/treats when sniffing them out and from my hand.  Their nose - mouth coordination is getting better!
Food bowl games continue.  I am careful not to allow the puppies to butt in on each other when they are eating.  They don't care now, but I don't want to set up a feeling that they may need to defend their food at all.  Let's start good calm eating habits now.  At their age, it's easy to get them used to me petting and touching them while they eat, and hand feeding them goodies from their bowls.
Some things can't be planned for - such as fireworks.  Vinny is deaf but did startle a couple times. Hard to tell if he noticed the vibrations of the closer booms, or if he startled because Elsa did since they were near each other.  Elsa is able to hear and did startle at the louder booms while we were outside.  She didn't notice inside and didn't notice the softer ones at all.  We  minimized our time outside as much as possible, but she wasn't upset, just an initial startle and then we'd have a quick game to get her happy again.
Other things not planned for - both puppies learned to eat their meals in a light rain.  Good experience since they were both happy to be eating and barely noticed the rain.   They also learned to potty in the rain - took a bit longer as the rain was harder by then - with lots of extra special petting and praise!

Here's a picture of the puppy playground I set up this past week.  Many surfaces and new things for the puppies.  I sprinkled a few treats around to reinforce them for exploring and then mostly just let them have fun.

Surfaces included a foam pad, plastic striped mat with texture, a fitness step, a plastic tarp, a small pink fitness disc, and a purple snuffle mat with goodies inside.  It was interesting to watch the pups' different styles.  Vinny followed his nose right to the snuffle mat first thing and stayed until all the treats were found. Elsa covered the whole pen right away, sniffing out the scattered treats, until finding her way to the snuffle mat to help Vinny.

Here's a link to watch some of their fun:  Video Click Here

And, as always ... a sleeping puppy is a good puppy!