Day 54 – Clicker

January 2nd, 2021

My timing isn’t great (video is unforgiving), but they are getting the idea.

Yesterday was affirmation of why I have started sending them home at 10 weeks instead of 8 weeks. Yellow girl Charlie and red girl Alfa, who’ve both been happy and confident all along, were worried about the paper bag I gave them to play with. Fear period. Today they are almost back to normal, but pink girl Golf, who’s consistently been one of the bravest of them all (and who was a maniac with the paper bag just yesterday), is worried about things today. Fear period.

Fear periods are very normal and can come and go quite quickly, but the wrong thing at the wrong time during a fear period can be a problem sometimes. Much better not to upend their entire world when there’s a statistically higher risk of a fear period! You can see pink being quite cautious and subdued in her clicker video below, when she was perfectly happy and reckless as is her usual personality yesterday. Fear periods can happen throughout their first two years according to some behaviorists. We used to think you should work through them but now most think you should just ignore them and they should normally just go away (and the risk of what’s called “single event learning”, which is where one bad experience can cause a significant and lasting issue, is higher during a fear period).

The paper bag:

You will see in pink girl’s clicker video that she is quite subdued, this is NOT normal for her, as anyone who’s been to visit them will attest, she’s normally an absolute lunatic (and look at her in the paper bag video taken just yesterday). Purple girl and red girl are also a little quieter than normal.

Red girl:

Orange boy:

Yellow girl:

Green boy:

Blue boy:

Purple girl:

Pink girl:

Day 47 (Boxing Day) Barrier Challenge

December 26th, 2020

Excuse the horrifying carpet, puppies running around means accidents!

We repeated the barrier challenge today with the puppy having to leave the food to get around the barrier, you can really see some of them thinking hard and then the light bulb going on. This time it was stinky canned tripe, which they’d never had before, so they were pretty interested in it!

Alfa:

Bravo:

Charlie:

Delta:

Echo:

Foxtrot:

Golf:

Echo attacked Jim’s slippers:

So far the whole litter has really nice toy/tug drive:

We are also in the middle of a lake effect snowstorm so they went outside and played in the snow! It is quite cold but like true Vallhunds, they didn’t really care!

I am finalizing my planning for their evaluations next weekend, we will do temperament and structure. After that I will have a pretty good idea of who is likely going to fit best where. I can’t believe they’ll be seven weeks old on Monday already! The time flies by.

Barrier Challenge Day 41

December 20th, 2020

We videoed their barrier challenges today. This helps them with frustration and problem solving. The first video for each has the puppy and the food very close to the same end of the barrier (the puppy can see and smell through the barrier). The second video has the puppy farther away from the food. Later we will place both the puppy and the food far away from the way around the barrier.

Alfa barrier challenge 1:

Alfa barrier challenge 2:

Bravo barrier challenge 1:

Bravo barrier challenge 2:

Charlie barrier challenge 1:

Charlie barrier challenge 2:

Delta barrier challenge 1:

Delta barrier challenge 2:

Echo barrier challenge 1:

Echo barrier challenge 2:

Foxtrot barrier challenge 1:

Foxtrot barrier challenge 2:

Golf barrier challenge 1:

Golf barrier challenge 2:

40 Days Old

December 19th, 2020

What a busy week! Here’s what we did:

  • continued to have at least one new enrichment item every day (including an empty pop bottle, new toys, and an especially poignant toy – a present from Riley‘s family which was a new version of Riley’s favorite toy)
  • met new people including a very active toddler and a man with a huge beard
  • started working on a conditioned emotional response to nail grinding (feeding the puppies baby food, which they love, while they listen to and then feel the Dremel), they did spectacularly well at this! Nobody was too worried about it and everyone loved the baby food more than they cared about the Dremel
  • experienced SNOW!

34 Days Old!

December 13th, 2020

I haven’t been blogging as much as usual because work is insane (we added a new doctor, which is amazing, but we aren’t yet adequately staffed for it, which is not). I’ve been working overtime and then basically I come home and do puppy stuff until bedtime. So I’ve been blogging in spurts and uploading video and photo dumps so you can at least see what’s going on!

What’s going on:

  • a couple of the puppies have entered their first fear period, which is normal at about this age. According to Puppy Culture, you should assume that the entire litter is in a fear period when one is, so we have adjusted things accordingly. We aren’t doing startle recovery (what happens in the house happens, but we aren’t purposefully startling them), we are minimizing anything which might frighten them while still providing new experiences daily
  • they get a new object or toy in the box every day, and we take out the old toys (they will count as new toys again after a few days). So far they’ve experienced all kinds of toys and textures from soft to rubbery to crackly, and they are starting to assume that everything in the world is something to explore
  • they are walking on all kinds of surfaces from wood to towels to carpet
  • they ventured out onto the deck yesterday
  • they come out for a “bomble” in the house several times a day, and are getting braver and braver about exploring new areas (this is also a leak test for our puppyproofing as we discovered this morning)
  • I introduced the clicker yesterday. I don’t normally “charge” the clicker when I’m training adult dogs, but I do think it’s helpful with baby puppies. “Charging the clicker” is teaching the dog to associate the click with the reward without a behavior, I don’t bother with this with most dogs because they figure out very quickly what the click means and sometimes I think omitting the behavior actually confuses them. For those who don’t know: clicker training is based on the principle of operant conditioning. The click marks a behavior and tells the dog that whatever they were doing when they heard the click earned them a reward. I have found it to be an extremely powerful training tool. We used tiny bits of Pill Pockets (they have a perfect texture for this) and shredded cheese. I take the puppy into another room so that the other puppies can’t hear the click
  • One thing Jane Killion points out in the Puppy Culture movie is something I think we don’t always realize: learning to eat food from a person’s hand is a skill in and of itself! I have been hand feeding the puppies some things for a while so they are getting the idea but…
  • Socializing them during COVID is a challenge but we’re doing pretty well! Yesterday they met a family who owns Alice’s brother, we know they have been extremely cautious and they came with their baby so now the puppies have met a baby. The big dogs were thrilled! During these brief socialization visits we all wear masks, stay far apart, and we put a fan in the window to circulate air. It makes it a bit chilly but it may help. We also discuss our exposure risk carefully beforehand. My work family has also been visiting.
  • Our house is a disaster! Having to move half the living room out to make room for the puppy pen, and having so little spare time right now that it all gets spent on the puppies means some things are falling by the wayside but it is what it is! Jim is being incredible as he always is, picking up poop and doing laundry and playing with puppies.
  • They’re eating the Royal Canin starter kibble really well, they’re getting three meals a day and I am already starting to feed them before Alice does to start taking the load off her. The litter Alice was born in were terribly slow to start eating but I think these guys will be weaned before too long.
  • I can’t wait to evaluate them and see what we have! I am already starting to get an idea of which puppy might fit where, but they change so much I don’t make any decisions yet! We have already seen two puppies change significantly over the last couple of weeks!
  • They are learning to speak dog very well from their interactions with the big dogs. Tish especially has been amazing with them. You will see in some of the videos in today’s huge video dump of videos from yesterday that there’s a lot of really nice and appropriate interaction. Every time we think Tish is being too much for them, we realize that the way they are reacting tells us that it’s just fine
  • They are so cute and sweet and they run over, tails wagging, crawl into your lap, beg to be picked up…I am going to cry a lot when they leave for their new homes. I love them.

33 Days Old!

December 12th, 2020

So many things have happened! They have started eating kibble (Royal Canin Mini Starter Mother & Babydog). I like this kibble because the kibbles are tiny so they can actually eat them comfortably, and it’s designed for this stage of weaning. I have started feeding them before Alice goes in to nurse them, and the last two nights she’s only gone in to them once or twice overnight. They are eating like maniacs! I will start clicker training this weekend. Once they are a bit bigger they will start eating what Alice eats, but while they are really interested in her food when they’ve seen it, the pieces are big enough that it makes me nervous about them chewing it safely and they didn’t want it ground up.

I’ve given them little teething sticks for a new texture to chew on. And OMG are they ever bitey! They’ve had visitors this week and will have more this weekend. It’s tough socializing during COVID but we’re making it happen.

They are so sociable and interactive. They come out for a “bomble” around in the house several times a day. The older dogs are being excellent with them and grandma Zhora is playing with them a ton!

We’ve been playing different sounds while they eat, including agility trial videos. And they’re in the living room so they can see and hear the TV.

FOUR WEEKS OLD!

December 7th, 2020

This will be a bit of a photo/video dump but a lot has happened!

Their personalities are starting to emerge. They had more visitors and bombled over to see them enthusiastically.

They’ve been spending time loose (supervised) in the living room and they’re in the big pen all day now where they can see and hear TV (they are already starting to watch things moving on the screen).

They can escape from the whelping box so we have to put the panel into the door which means Alice wakes me up several times a night to go in with them to feed them. They are eating three meals of puppy mousse a day but only eating some of it at this point. They were very interested in Alice’s kibble so I will offer them some puppy kibble this week (Alice’s kibbles are too large for them right now and they didn’t like them ground up). They all have real teeth now and are chewing all kinds of different textures.

They have a big bed in the pen now so they can stretch out more.

I LOVE the fact that when one of them got a little scared of Nina being too excited to play, she bounced right back! Bounce back is one of the most important traits in a dog IMO!

They spend more and more time with the big dogs now, and are learning how to interact and “speak dog” well. They know how to invite and accept play, they bite and wrestle and play bitey face. They are ridiculously cute.

Look at how they react to the noise Caroline is making!

24 Days Old – TEETH

December 3rd, 2020

We thought we felt teeth yesterday….we were right. Poor Alice!

Video from Jim today. They ate three meals today, and we’ll gradually start increasing how much they get at each meal. Today they ate half a can of puppy mousse three times.

23 Days Old!

December 2nd, 2020

So they ate breakfast of solid food with gusto this morning! They will get a dinner tonight and then tomorrow (assuming all goes well) they will get three meals. They love the Royal Canin Puppy Starter Mousse, which is designed for exactly this period.

There was an escape this morning when I put them in the big pen to eat some breakfast and then left the door open to let Alice in to clean up:

They are taking turns coming out of the box and meeting the rest of their family, Alice doesn’t seem worried about it and maybe she’s even glad for the help with poop patrol!:

22 Days Old

December 1st, 2020

The puppies celebrated being three weeks and one day old with THREE exciting events!

They had their first visit in the Big House that Jim finished putting together today, it’s in our living room so right in the middle of everything. At 6×8 it’s a huge space for them right now.

Then they had their first visitors. Chris and Nichole have had two Alkemi puppies and have been social distancing carefully so we were excited to have them come and be the first not-us puppy visitors. Alice was happy to have a good back scritch while she stopped by to provide refreshments!

And third they tasted their first REAL FOOD! I was thrilled and relieved that they all took to eating like Vallhunds usually do. Alice and her siblings were indifferent to food for a while, which made clicker training etc. quite difficult to get started with. These guys ate with gusto, especially Yellow girl Charlie! They ate some Royal Canin Puppy Starter Mousse which is designed specifically to be a puppy’s first solid food. Even so, I will follow up with another dose of BeneBac Plus probiotic.