Cuba, Mokie and I had lots of fun together on Day 25.
I was lucky enough to have the van in the afternoon, so I took Cuba and Mokie for a hike in the creek. I started Cuba out off leash, and he received LOTS of reinforcement for voluntary check ins, name response, targeting, and walking next to me. We also practiced whistle training the recall, he and Mokie responded fantastically well and made me very proud.
Then we ran across a guy on a four-wheeler cutting firewood with a chainsaw (not the first time we’ve seen this gentleman at the creek), so I decided for safety’s sake, I’d leash Cuba up and let him drag his leash behind him so that I could quickly grab onto him for safety if need be.
We hiked, swam, and trained together for about two hours. Cuba swam quite a lot, the most he’s swam so far. Initially, I carried him into the water and would give him treats as I held him in the water and he kicked his legs around. Then we progressed to feeding treats as he swam unsupported. Today was the first time he volunteered to go in and swim by himself. I couldn’t believe how far he swam, probably a total of about thirty or forty yards in a single shot. I’m a dork, and remembered a recent article in the local newspaper about a small (2’+) alligator being recently sighted in the Susquehanna River near where we were hiking, so decided not to go all the way down to the river and turned back for more creek hiking. I don’t know how much damage a two foot alligator can do, but decided to avoid the chance that I’d find out.
Cuba was obviously pretty tired after this adventure, and slept in his crate on the van ride home.
Later, we went down to the classroom. I had a reactive Great Dane and a Doberman in class, neither of whom were able to play with Cuba that night. (The Great Dane is certainly not ready to make friends with other dogs and the Doberman has a contagious skin ailment and has to work in the small classroom, separate from other dogs, until her treatment is complete.) Cuba was a fantastic demo dog, and we did some work on targeting, following a target, recall games, clicking for handling, and leaving food on the floor.
After class, we returned home to find that a softball tournament was happening at the park down the block. I figured this was a great opportunity to practice some night time socialization, so I brought Cuba inside while I leashed Mokie up and we went down to the park. Cuba got to meet about 40 people at the park and see about 150 people total. Lots of sounds of yelling, cheering, voices over the loudspeaker at the park, softballs cracking against bats, etc. He got to get treats and scratches from strangers approaching him in the dark. He also got to meet a very tiny toy poodle (less than five pounds) who was older, slightly matted, and blind as a bat. Par for the course with Cuba, he took to her immediately. I’m very pleased with how much he likes and is friendly with small animals, dogs and cats alike. Later on, we met a chocolate lab who was rather over the top (imagine that, so uncommon in an adolescent lab!). Cuba liked him, Mokie thought (rightly) that he was tremendously rude.
After our visit to the park, Cuba had to go in his crate while I ran down to the drug store. When I returned, it was dinner time.
As a raw feeder, I feel that there is a lot of dental value to feeding my dogs large (bigger than their heads) cuts of meat. This gives dogs a great dental workout and prevents choking. This also means that I have to be able to take large hunks of raw meat away from my dogs frequently.
Resource guarding is a natural dog behavior, and few resources are more valuable than a large chunk of delicious raw meat for a dog. Without substantial training, it would be reasonable for me to believe that at some point, Cuba may use his voice or teeth to protest when someone attempts to take such a prize away. Thankfully, it’s very easy to teach him that people taking your food away is NBD (No Big Deal).
So we practiced “trade ups” together. We’ve already done lots of practice where I click and treat Cuba as I touch him while he eats or as I touch his meal. I have also practiced adding yummies to mealtime by putting a bit of liverwurst or peanut butter on my finger and smearing it on his dinner so he knows that my hands near his food = VGT4D (very good things for dogs). Today we actually practiced having me take his meat away, dropping delicious treats, and immediately returning his meal. We practiced approximately 25 object exchanges during this one meal. Only the last one resulted in Cuba not getting his meal back, so he learned that approximately 95% of the time, if someone takes your food away, you get great things, it is NBD, and you get your food back.
In other news, he’s been making fantastic potty training progress. I think it’s been about ten days since our last accident in the house. After he peed in the yard, he went to follow me up the stairs. He paused for a moment on the first stair, looked back into the yard, hopped off the stair and went back into the yard to poop. Good boy! While I would not dare say he is “house trained” yet, I will say that it was encouraging to see him make a great decision and told him I was pleased through giving him a slice of hot dog.