Saturday, March 31, 2012

Burnout Babies: Week One

It's been a week since the Burnout Babies came to stay with us, and tomorrow they'll head back out for an adoption event with Wags, so with any luck they'll find forever homes and our time with them will be at an end.

My early impressions of their personalities seem to have been more or less borne out by the intervening days. Razz is the smart, serious one, while Cerise is a cuddly little clownbaby and a bit of a drama queen.

I discovered that Razz is also a secret potty ninja. She doesn't like to potty inside the puppy pen, because that's where she eats and sleeps. Instead, she's learned to climb out of the puppy pen, potty on the floor outside, and then climb back in when her business is done.

It took me way too long to figure out what she was doing, but by the second or third mess on the living-room floor a belated lightbulb went off in my head and I started putting a weewee pad outside the pen to make both our lives easier.

Shortly after that, I caught her in action:

So that's where we are on the getting-to-know-each-other front. They're settling down and much less aggravating than they were at first, but they're still messy noisy puppies, and Pongu still does not like them one bit.

On the training end, we didn't do a ton of work over the past week, in part because the Burnout Babies continued to be distracted by mange and itching (although it's gotten considerably better over the past few days) and in part because I've mostly been working with my own mutts lately.

A couple of days ago I started platform training Pongu and Crookytail on a makeshift platform of two boardgame boxes taped together, with the end goal of teaching tuck sits and other improved position changes. So that's been occupying most of my time (it is really hard to find a good tutorial on tuck sits, btw; I've found plenty of demos on what the final product looks like, but not a lot on how you get it). I think I've floundered my way toward a workable training program, but it remains to be seen whether I'm actually on the right track.

So the Burnout Babies have definitely gotten the short end of the stick in training time, but we still managed to get a few things done.

Their Sits have progressed to an intermediate stage between empty-hand luring and a more formal hand signal:

(That's Cerise yowling in the background, loudly unhappy because it's not her turn to play the fun games and she has to sit in the puppy pen all alone. Her caterwauling is a constant in almost all my Razz clips and is why I haven't uploaded more of them.)

At the end of this clip, woeful Mr. Starfish makes an appearance and gets his legs chewed on. Cerise is only moderately food-motivated but loves playing biteytoy, so I'm trying to build that drive by letting her play tug with poor mangled Mr. Starfish during the training breaks. (Puppies have a pretty short attention span and need lots of play breaks between repetitions, but there's no reason you can't use those "breaks" to secretly train some more.)

We've also been doing a little socialization work. Here's a quick food bowl exercise:

The glass bowl contains a higher-value food than the puppies normally receive (it's the dog stew that Pongu and Crookytail eat, not the puppy kibble that the Burnout Babies get for their usual meals). While they're eating it, I gently pat their backs and talk to them so that they become accustomed to noise and contact while they eat and associate these things with extra-good food. The point of this exercise is to act as a low-level preventative against resource guarding and/or snappiness when disturbed at mealtimes. (The puppies don't seem to care at all about me doing it, so it's not much to look at, but this is exactly what you want: no reaction.)

And that's where we are at the end of Week One.

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