The Arlo Chronicles

Presenting Arlo the Border Collie. Stay tuned for adventures in raising Arlo.

Arlo Training update- “Lie Down” and “Reach Back ”

another trek in the kettle moraine

another trek in the kettle moraine

Today is another miserable stormy day in the midwest. Here is a long overdue post.  Arlo is eight months old and most of the time he is an absolute joy.  He has his moments of naughtiness, but that is usually when we have failed to manage him properly, or a day when we have failed to exercise his body or mind.  He went through a pretty significant fear period around six months old and I doubt that will be the only one. His response was to “tail tuck and run” and I really had to work on that with him.  I’ll write about that in a future post.  Today, I want to share some fun training videos. I am teaching Arlo a lot of body awareness skills.  On a gloomy day like today, training Arlo is a real bright spot.

Here are links to two videos.  In one, I am working with Arlo on the “lie down” cue.  In another, I am teaching him to “reach back” with his hind legs and put them on a step .

Lie Down video link:

Reach Back video link:


Flags, Shadows and Flies OH MY !

Kettle Morraine Landscape

Kettle Moraine Landscape

Arlo is just over 15 weeks now.  He’s definitely a “tween”.  Two weeks ago I started to see the tell-tale signs of a fear stage.  What I learned from Chris Bach ( The Third Way of dog training TTW) is that you want to help your dog through this stage, and prevent some of the fear responses from becoming ingrained personality traits.

When Arlo showed some signs of being spooked by the big flags you see around shopping centers, I supported him by helping him “check them out” and he did just fine.  The first time that he actually did a tail tuck and run, was two weeks ago at puppy class.  Normally, Arlo is super foody and is good about investigating things that scare him.  However, this time a fly was buzzing around his tail and he got totally out of body and wanted to run out of the building.  He wouldn’t take food, and I couldn’t get him to respond to any cues.  I took him outside to see if he could recover and start working again. He did and I brought him back in the building.  Again, the fly buzzed him and he did the same thing.  I realized I had no tools at the time to help him, and we left class early.

Of course this was upsetting to me.  I talked it over with Jennifer ( Call of the Wild School Jennifer) and she suggested I really get his sit/stay improved.  It’s so important to help a dog stay in their body when they get frightened.  During the next week, I proofed the sit/stay in all sorts of settings. We worked out on the hiking trails as hikers and cyclists went by.  I had Keith try to distract Arlo with Cowboy as well.  Jenn said to really put Arlo in conflict with his sit/stay.  When I went back to school this week we had another opportunity to work on keeping him calm, even in the presence of something bothersome.  Again, a fly buzzed around him and this time I had a tool.  I immediately called Arlo into front position and work his sit/stay.  He was still bothered, but he didn’t get so emotional and the work helped him stay calm and in his body.  Working on the sit/stay the week before helped me help Arlo.  As Jenn so thoughtfully said, “We want the dog to know that certain emotional states are not available to them.”  Meaning, even when you might want to freak out, there are ways to stay in control.  The sit/stay is such a beautiful skill for self-control and a great safety measure.

I also noticed that Arlo was afraid of my shadow that was created by the flood lights outside.  He was “woof woofing” at my shadow.  It wasn’t such a big spook that he couldn’t engage in play.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is if you can engage a dog’s drives during a fearful episode, you can really help them through it.  It’s the dogs whose drives become so suppressed that are the most challenging.

Lots of skills are coming together.  Leash walking is a real pleasure now.  Alro is learning that when he is on leash, Cowboy is not available to him.  His collar response is great.  When he feels pressure on the collar he softens and doesn’t pull.  Now when a cyclist or runner passes by, he turns around to look at me and sits.  The sight of the distracting now means “turn away and look at Judy”.  I’m really happy about that.  He still has a little trouble when he sees other dogs, but we continue to proof.  Anytime something is a challenge, it becomes an opportunity to proof the skill.  Arlo’s recall is quite impressive. Today while hiking, we practiced a lot.  He turns swiftly and runs quickly back to me.  I expect some of these skills to deteriorate during adolescence which is right around the corner.  However, I’m prepared and happy to have a pretty good foundation going.  This puppy loves to train and it’s really my challenge to keep giving him enough challenges.

Physically he is really changing.  He’s lost a couple of incisors and he’s looking more doggy than puppy now. Keith is in love with him as well and Cowboy still enjoys playing with him. I make sure that Cowboy and Arlo both have individual time with Keith and me.  Arlo has been real friendly with other dogs and I’ve been very selective so that he hasn’t had any negative experiences with other dogs.  Here are some videos of our recent training sessions.  I’ve included leash walking work, recall, collar response and a panorama of where we hike in the kettle moraine of SE Wisconsin.

The demonstration of collar response is included.  You’ll see that as soon as he softens to the collar when it becomes taught, I indicate with a “Yes” and reinforce with food.  The other videos are of loose leash walking and a recall. None of the skills are precise yet, but the foundation is being set.  You can watch other videos on the youtube channel where these are posted.  It’s called sentientdog.  I used to have one called Thinking Dog which was the name of my training school, but I lost the channel somehow.  Anyway, that’s the latest with raising Arlo.

Family Reunion and Training update

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve journaled and in dog training time a lot has happened.  Arlo has really settled into the routine of our life.  Although he’s been with us just about two months now, it’s hard to imagine life without him.  He has brought so much life into our home.  Keith and I find ourselves laughing at all of his antics, and he and Cowboy continue to be good buddies.  As we well know, that can change as the teen months approach, but so far, so good.

I’m working on Arlo’s leash walking skills.  He’s pretty soft on the buckle collar, but the challenge happens when we come across other people, cyclists and other dogs.  He tends to get a little “out of body”, all wriggly, and he dances on his hind legs.  I’m working on his greeting behavior which means he has to have all four paws on the ground to interact with people.  I step on the leash and reinforce “four feet on the floor”.  I stop kids in town to help proof this skill.  In addition, I’ve now added the element that not everything is at his disposal when on leash. I don’t want him and Cowboy to interact while on leash, and we are working on ignoring bikes and skateboards, and other things that whiz by him while on leash. That is why responding to pressure on the collar is so important.  When he softens to the pressure on the collar and turns to look at me instead of the distraction, he gets reinforced.  It’s going pretty well, but my timing needs to be right on, and I have some physical limitations that interfere with my technique but all is going pretty well.

I’m learning more about his drives and sensitivities.  Arlo loves food.  He loves people.  He loves toys.  So far, he is friendly and deferential to other dogs. He plays like a jerk at times with Cowboy, but Cowboy disciplines him effectively and I interfere.  Arlo is doing great with his confinement in the crate.  He’s starting to ask to go out to potty.  As far as sensitivities, he is not real pushy with me and while not overly socially sensitive, he responds nicely when I stop him with my voice or interfere.  I’ve noticed some startle responses to sounds but his recovery is real quick. He tail tucks and runs back to the door at night when he hears other dogs barking and coyote howls freak him out a bit.  Smart dog.  Very typical, normal border collie stuff.  We are really working on body handling.  He’s not the most comfortable with being touched and pretty darn squirmy.

Cute things that he does:  He likes to lay under the freezer where it is cool.  He’s figured out too that I will lure him away with a treat.  A dog after my own heart, he likes whipped cream out of the can.  Favorite treats:  string cheese, meat, especially bacon.  Bully sticks and raw bones for chewing time.

Arlo is becoming more interested in retrieving  toys.  He loves to play puppy heeling games or what Jennifer my training mentor calls “Let’s Go Walking.”  He’s got everything possible in his mouth, and does a nice “trade ya”.  I’ll update soon with some videos.  I have to post them on youtube because the media library on wordpress continues to fail.

This morning he heard Paul Robeson sing “Old Man River” on NPR.  He kept cocking his head, and looking at the speakers.

When we walk by benches I cue him to do a “paws up” and he puts two feet up on the bench.

Right now I’m mostly working on the basics:  Sit/ Maintain, leash walking, leave it/walk away and a few tricks.  Oh, he is way less mouthy.  Yeah for that!

I went away over labor day and Keith babysat for Cowboy and Arlo.  It was a great bonding time for the boys.  Made my heart sing to see Keith so happy.

Two years ago, Keith had just finished his first round of chemo for his Esophageal Cancer.  More on that when I write about dogs being “blind-sided”.  Keith and I have an intimate understanding of that concept now.

Yesterday we had a puppy family reunion at the Jefferson County Sheep and Wool Festival.  Here’s a picture of the pups and their mom Peach.

Peach and 4 of her pups.  Pat, Jo, Donner and Arlo

Peach and 4 of her pups. Pat, Jo, Donner and Arlo

Dogs just want to have fun

Here are some videos of Cowboy and Arlo playing when they first met.  As they get more familiar with each other, the play gets a little more rowdy.  They love to face fight.  I am always amazed to see all the snarling, retracted lips, baring of teeth, knocking heads and it’s all in fun.  If Arlo gets too rough, Cowboy lets him know with a growl or a snap and Arlo splits for a time-out. He shakes it off and they are back to it.  Watching them have fun brings me joy, and I learn so much from observing play.  I learn that dogs have very good bite inhibition, and it’s the rare bite that happens due to an accident.  When a dog wants to bite, they bite and make the connection with intention.

Another video is a close-up of face fighting. Lots of sneezing, breaks, and very quiet low key play that looks scary.

I’ve included a tug of war video too.  This example shows that dogs can stay in their body while playing tug.  They don’t need to get all aroused and they hold on to the object with ownership, and the play stays grounded and fun.  It’s a great game to wear the puppy out.

Dr. Patricia McConnell has written a book specifically on dogs and play “Play Together-Stay Together. Happy and Healthy Play Between People and Dogs. Dr. McConnell has published several books all dedicated to understanding dogs and the bond we share with them. Sue Sterberg writes extensively about shelter dog assessment. She observes play in dogs and studies what it means.  If you have interest to learn more, give her a google or check her FB page.  Sue has speaking engagements and documentaries discussing what is appropriate play, versus predatory behavior. She is a national leader in shelter dog assessment and she has designed protocols and tools for assessing shelter dogs.

Anyway, enjoy the play videos.

I listened to a radio show the other day about successful relationships. The author who was from Deerfield Illinois, identified 200 characteristics of successful families, but play made it to the top three.  He said it is vitally important that families make time for play.

Good Thing “He’s Cute”

Kennel Up!

One of the skills I am working on with Arlo is going to his crate on cue.  A crates is a versatile management tool. I use the cue phrase “Kennel up”.  He is learning that when he sits and gives eye contact, the crate door will open, and his food dish will be placed.  He learns to remain calm and in his body to get released from the crate.  I’ll use this same strategy for doors to open and other life rewards that are valuable to him.  Not only is it desirable because he stays calm and quiet rather than barking and biting at the crate to get released; but it is also a safety measure.  I don’t want my dog to think that he can bolt out of his crate from the car which is dangerous.  I want calm behavior to become a habit so we start practicing this in all sorts of settings.  The crate is a great place to start.

Arlo sleeps in his crate and eats in his crate.  When I am not supervising him while he is loose, he is confined in his crate.  It’s becoming his secure place to hang out.  Here is a video of us working on crate behavior.  Susan Garrett has a video series called “Crate Games” if you are interested in pursuing some creative ways to train your dog to tolerate and enjoy crate confinement.

Beginner’s Mind

Arlo is learning about routine.  He and Cowboy travel side by side for our morning hike.  Now, Arlo can’t wait to get in the car to see what new adventure awaits. His “beginner’s mind” inspires me.