February 28, 2010

Babyroo, Biggeroo



At least it feels like only yesterday! Ruby's now nearly 10 months old and she's really beginning to come into her own, beautiful inside and out. We've been practicing some challenging stuff lately with lots of distractions and she's been responding so well. While she's definitely still a zooming, hilarious ball of puppy energy (exactly as she should be!), she's also demonstrating some really appropriate restraint and making some great choices. Bravo, my girl, you are making me very proud.

February 23, 2010

Through The Looking Glass

As you know, Ruby has a thing for the critters. So we've been working on getting her accustomed to seeing other animals and learning how to control herself when she's around them.

We stopped into PetSmart expecting to encounter a dog or two walking around, but a different kind of training opportunity presented itself – a doggie daycare was in session. It was a huge group and I saw them a split second before Ruby did.

Immediately she scrambled,

then, yep. She lunged.

But I was able to get her attention and put her in a sit fairly quickly.

When I was pretty confident that she was relaxed, I walked her to the other side of the bench where all the action was. She was excellent. She just sat and watched. Calm, cool, collected.

Hey, doesn't that look kind of like the Puppy Bowl in there? Oh! that reminds me...did you notice there was a Kiva in the Puppy Bowl? A cute little Alaskan Malamute! That's the first other Kiva we've ever come across!

So...dogs behind glass, check. But how about birds? I got the sinking feeling it would be like taking her to the Automat.

Wrong! She was interested but very calm. Cats?

It was a pretty intense staring contest. Ruby lost. Fish?

We couldn't even get her to notice them. She was far too busy flirting with her daddy. So cute. And Ruby is too.

Good outing all around! Although, it did end on a bittersweet note. We thought we spied an old friend down the aisle, but alas, no cheap hussy duck could ever capture the elegance of you-know-who.

Edit: Sierra Rose asked a great question in the comments. How did I draw Ruby's attention at the doggie care area?

In this case, despite the distraction, Ruby responded to my voice when I asked her to sit, then I treated her. We were both surprised by the dogs, so she had a couple seconds to react, but I'm calm and I don't repeat SIT! SIT! SIT! When I did ask her to sit, she sat right where she was and turned her head to look me in the eye. This is big progress for her, she can be like a bucking bronco around other dogs. My goal is a calm initial reaction; we're not quite there yet but we're working on it. :)

If she hadn't responded to me, I would have turned around and walked her away a few steps so she could compose herself. We don't proceed toward the thing she wants until she is calm and collected. If she makes a run for it again, we walk away again. If it takes a few tries, that's ok. Eventually she learns that pulling gets her farther from the thing she wants, not closer.

As far as the eye contact, I always want it. We practiced that quite a bit when she was tiny (and still do), so it's very natural now for her to check in with me frequently as we're walking or after I give a command.

February 22, 2010

The World Is Your Sno-Cone*

*Or, as Khyra calls them, Sno-Khones! Khyra is a beautiful girl who loves her snow!

February 21, 2010

February 19, 2010

Colorful Colorado

Even in winter, nature brightens up our canvas with a few dabs of ruby red. Expecting some snow this weekend...maybe we'll finally catch up with the East Coast? Have a good one!

February 17, 2010

Home, Where The Buffalo Roam

The other night, I was flipping around the channels and I stopped on a nature program. Kiva and Ruby love to watch how the other half lives.

There were lots of clips of all different kinds of birds and animals, and my dogs were enjoying the show with their Milk Duds and popcorn (KIDDING, I know that's bad for them, they were really just having a couple of beers), when a buffalo herd came on. Out of nowhere, Ruby rushes the screen and starts growling and barking at them. When a different group of animals came on screen, she stopped and watched calmly, just as she had before.

I had no idea that the buffalo was Ruby's arch nemesis. Like Sauron and Frodo! The Joker and Batman! Salt and a Slug! But I can't be sending this service puppy off to higher education with the caveat that she's great in public except if someone brings a bison.

What's a puppy raiser to do? Why, introduce her to a buffalo herd of course! So the next day, I popped the Roo in the car and off we went. Ah, Colorado.

Turned out, they didn't irk her nearly as much in person...er, in buffalo. I took some video so I could play it at home and see if she still got agitated. She saw it on my computer and was interested, but not at all growly. I'll have to try it on the big screen.

We also got a chance to build on last week's horse lessons, up close and personal. Warning for the easily nauseated: parts of this video look like I was bouncing down the range on a pogo stick. I am far more adept at juggling dogs, livestock, and a DSLR than I am yet at dogs, livestock, and a video camera.

BTW, those little peeps and yeeps you'll hear in the background? Prairie dogs.

February 16, 2010

Fat Tuesday Flashback

That belly! The poor little cape strap could hardly get around it.

February 12, 2010

I'm Totally Impressed By This "Leave It"

Gotta tell ya, if it were a bucket of Smashburger fries, no way would I have left it.

February 10, 2010

Rest In Peace, Captain Phil

It is with tremendous sadness that we have just read of the passing of Captain Phil Harris, the skipper of the Cornelia Marie. We send our thoughts and deepest condolences to his family, friends, and particularly his sons.

As I wrote in an earlier post, we had the great pleasure of meeting Captain Phil this past summer. Physically, he was identical to the image he projects on TV, and it took only the brief time we spent together to know that he was an extremely kind and patient man. He spent a few minutes talking with me about service dogs and how they can help people with disabilities, then took the time to sign a postcard "To Ruby" as a souvenir for the person with whom she will someday be paired.

What I found most touching was that he started, then ripped up, two cards before he was finally happy with the third version; he wanted it to be just right.

Rest, Captain Phil. You will be missed.

February 9, 2010

Circus Puppy

Ha – long post today but if you make it through, I'll explain the title at the end!

I've mentioned that Ruby is really well-behaved in public places around humans but that we're working on being calm around other animals. So if you're looking for four-legged traffic in Colorado, just hit a muddy trail!

Sure enough, we were only a few minutes out before we spied some horses in the distance.

We stood on the side of the trail and watched them approach.

Ruby was pretty calm as the first one passed by,

but she wanted to take off after the second one!

She recovered pretty quickly,

but no sooner had that excitement blown by, when along came the second act.

Good girl! She's not typically super-excited over the humans, but we still thought she might want to chase.

Next up was a runner with a dog. Again, she let the runner pass, but then she behaved exactly as we expected.

I didn't have to wait long for another runner and dog to come down the trail. This time, I put Ruby in a sit and had her focus on me before the other dog passed by.

Awesome job, Ruby! Possessing her focus and attention, even as she noticed the other dog, made all the difference.

We tried it again. (Kiva's on the left, the two dogs look similar.)

What a great job she did! So proud of her. This is a challenging lesson because even though I have the treats, Ruby can definitely see a benefit to chasing the other dog as he will usually respond and play.

Ruby not only held that sit while the dog passed by, but also afterward when we were chatting with the owner. Curiosity is healthy and I want her to feel comfortable around other dogs, so I rewarded her patience and gave her the "release" command so she could explore.

Learning how to control herself when she comes into contact with other animals is not going to happen overnight, it's going to take a lot of practice. But I was very happy with the progress she showed on this outing.

Here's Ruby later on, nice and calm as she watches the horses go by.

And in case you think her only challenges of the day were of the two-legged and four-legged variety, how 'bout we also throw in a set of wheels, just for fun?


Hey, you made it through this long post! So about the title...

We noticed a woman watching us train Ruby near the horses, then she asked what we were doing. I mentioned that Ruby was a service puppy in training and demonstrated some of the commands Ruby knows.

The woman watched quietly. As she was walking off with her friend, we heard her say, "Wow. A Circus Puppy in training, I never saw that before, how cool!"

February 5, 2010

RuBee, The exTerminator

To put it mildly, the bee had a rough week.


But he went out grinning.