Sunday, 25 August 2013

Out into the world - or not - and did you know dishes bite?

A whole new world
Dido has discovered that she can climb the stairs, all alone and unaided but she kinda gives herself away once she's reached the top by thundering around at top speed doing a lovely impression of a small herd of elephants on the rampage.  Until Monday she couldn't get back down again.  but she can go both ways we never know where she might be.   Consequently The Board is now doubling up as an office door barricade during week days and a stair 'gate' during evenings and over the weekends.  Hester sits at the bottom and looks imploringly, "I'm only little, pick me up, carry me and give me lots of cuddles on the way"  or at least until Monday morning when Dido set off at high speed and there was no one around to assist her progress so off she took.

The big wide world.
Tuesday rolls around at last and we can set paw outside the gate. For weeks the road has been sheep free - until Monday night when a flock wandered down leaving a lovely trail of what Dido assures me are very tasty little raisins!   Dido is fascinated by everything that's going on and is paying me little or no attention, Hester meanwhile is constantly checking with me that everything is fine.  Gradually we've increased the distance and by the end of the week were getting out onto the main road with all the clamour of traffic and people.

On Sunday I noticed a small gap in Dido's upper front teeth (as she was lying her back laughing up at me - trying to grab my fingers), the puppy needle teeth are on their way out and consequently they are more chewy than ever, I'm clearing soggy cardboard confetti from the various floors at least twice a day.  They're also partial to empty plastic bottles, the square ones are particularly good as the corner will crush and then can be chewed with satisfying crunchy noises

Tasty, tasty
For some reason the cracks in the yard are delightful, even better than pebbles.  We’re not too happy about yard licking despite the very clean patches so the cracks have been liberally doused in washing up liquid, only one lick each and they’ve both back off.  However one evening Hester was sitting on the step with green slime around her mouth (lovely!), she’s been yard licking again I thought and went to get kitchen roll to clean her up.  The green slime was particularly difficult to remove and full of gritty bits, as I was swiping it off her nose she opened her mouth to reveal a slightly chewed slug (urgh).  She dropped it on the step and it struggled to move away as it was now totally deslimed. Oh, puppies are such lovely creatures.  So far no more slug eating adventures, phew.  Although the verandah has another piece missing, bits of brick have turned up in the water bucket and there are a couple of chairs with suspicious marks which look remarkably like puppy teeth!

Despite their choice of snacks meal times are not so plain sailing.
The pups had been fed with food loose on the ground, not out of dishes meaning their dishes were a novelty, a slightly scary one, and without the competition of eating as much as you can as quickly as you can from their litter-mates they feel no compunction to dive straight in.  I made a mistake with their dishes, I got metal ones with deep sides - thinking about the quantity they would have to eat.  The first problem was when Dido put a foot in hers, it flew up and cracked her on the head! After that she wouldn’t go near it and would only eat directly from the floor again.  I eventually coaxed her to eat from a small, shallow, glass dish, however, two distinctly different dishes wasn’t working because if Hester ate Dido’s food Dido wouldn’t finish off Hester’s, *sigh*.  Two small glass dishes it was - which was OK but they didn’t hold much so we tried going back to the big metal dishes but because they were so deep the metal D-ring on their collars would clink against the side.  Not good.  So I chalked it up to experience and invested in new dishes, shallow, un-tip-up-able style, still metal but with a rubber ring on the foot, smaller versions of the water dish in the cage.  Initially they weren’t sure about the noise of the kibble in the dish so we broke all the rules and played with our dishes and our food, leaving the dishes (empty) down all day until Dido started picking them up by the foot and running off with them. Problem solved.  However, even now when they eat tea alongside Hebe and Maia, they are easily distracted and have to be pointed back to food.  They are getting the idea and anything not finished within 15 minutes is removed or if there’s only a little left Hebe gets to clear their plates - which is helping in concentrating their minds, Hester’s more than Dido’s. Despite this they’re growing well and seem to be thriving; we’ve dropped lunch and they’re on three meals, big breakfast and tea and smaller supper.

Stairs again
Dido can now hurtle both up and down the stairs.  Hester can go up but needs lots of encouragement to come back down and if either of them need to go out it’s still better to carry them - Hester simply takes too long and can’t really hold on long enough to get down the yard, although verandah step is good enough; Dido gets distracted by everything and thus also can’t get down the yard in time.

The big wide world is a wonderful / scary place.
It’s wonderful: Dido is enjoying going out and will nudge the leads asking to go, she’s been up to the shops, in the post office, round the block, buses and coaches are surprising large, met Sue and Ali and their dogs Kim and Minty, been down to the crossroads, been terrified by a motorbike and then worried by cars but we’re over that now, up the incline, the hand driers in the public loos are very noisy and scary, met Linda and Moss (Moss is wonderful and he thinks Dido’s pretty great too), today we met Denis and Ollie (who doesn’t like black labs but didn’t recognise Dido as a lab, she’s not big enough yet!), talked with lots of visitors, learnt that it’s ok to puddle and dump outside, sheep are worrisome but their deposits are very tasty (no they’re not Dido, grr, ah-ah, leave) but apparently not on the menu.
It’s scary: Hester on the other hand is having problems but then she’s not had a smooth ride.  To begin with Hester was much better being focused on me and not what else was going on however I’ve found out that she’s frightened of dogs especially small ones and barking terriers turn her into a quivering wreck; some people are scary too. She was the first to venture off our road and into the village, unfortunately two runners came thundering past from behind us, they made me jump so poor Hester was very wide eyed but a little sit and she was OK and on we would go, not 5 metres on and a pair of badly behaved Charlies on a double lead pulled their owner across the road snarling at us.  It’s a good job her collar was tight otherwise she’d have slipped it and been away, no option but to pick up and walk back towards home; back onto the Mill Green and I put her down again, she tugged most of the way back and panted for quite a while.  Next day we’d go early before the visitors arrived, she set off very well but only half way down the road we met Marian and Jill (soft as washing old Border), Hester hid behind me before trying to bolt for home again.  We walked on a little way to let Marian get out of sight before finally coming back.  We will not be defeated so that evening we would try again, this time she was keen until we got to the gate and then she didn’t want to go out.  Oh-oh I’ve got a little agoraphobe!  Poor little pup what a series of frightening experiences.  A day off from leads completely and then back to garden walks to get over that one. Next up was to go in the car to somewhere new - top of the village to walk across the green and around the church, which was fine but talking to a tourist who wanted directions was enough make her quake again, so we called in at the Post Office on the way home, she walked across the road very well but started backing off when we saw people; I decided to carry her, that way she has the security of being in contact with me, at head height (not foot), she can’t escape what’s going on but I don’t need to reassure her (which would ‘reward’ her behaviour) leaving her to deal on her own.  It’s working, she’s been to the garden centre, the craft fair in the hall and back to the shops, carried for all and although some people still make her shake she gets over it much faster - funnily enough children, even tiny ones, don’t bother her at all. Yesterday we went back up to the church end and this time Hebe came too!  As an exercise in walking to heal it would have been a disaster but in confidence building it was a triumph - there were lots of things that made her start and had she been on own would have bolted but she looked at Hebe who simply carried on and thus so did Hester. The plan now is confidence building outside, heal work in the garden and in a couple of places which should be worry free.

Their development is different that if I didn’t know I’d think they were from different litters, different ages.  Hester is still a puppy whilst Dido is a little dog, there’s about 2-3 weeks difference in the physical and mental development.  Dido has been hopping in and out of their cage for 3 weeks, Hester has only started doing it on her own this weekend, Hester still bunny hops up the stairs, Dido walks.  Watching them grow is fascinating - apparently we should ‘write a paper on it’!  (I’m sure there are lots already....)

Why so much in one chunk? Well see the office blog for reasons....
Photos have got as far as the server but not online yet.


When you have a series of dogs over the years you accumulate various pieces of paraphernalia.
Maia has Bramble's dish, you know which one was hers because she carried it around and one day dropped it at the top of the steps, it bounced on the concrete yard with a resounding clang and ever since has a 'ding' in the side. Hebe got Bracken's, the matching pair to Bramble's but without the ding. Juno was the third dog of the tribe (with Bracken and Bram) and consequently needed a new dish, hers has a different rim on it and will be Dido's or Hester's in the fullness of time.  Leads are not quite as long lasting as metal dishes but they too have been passed down. Dido is already using Juno's slip lead and Hebe's long puppy fixed lead, Hebe has a smart new fixed lead to go with her posh town frock (a leather collar with an engraved ID plate). As we usually have only one puppy at a time Hester has her own all new fixed lead.  Bramble never had a slip lead so Maia had her own but it's too heavy for the pups so Hester has a new one waiting on the hook, because of her huffing (and general naughtiness) Maia no longer uses her slip lead and only goes out with a leather collar and short fixed lead.  Until I dug out Juno's lead Dido was using Hebe's which was actually Bracken's originally - it no longer has a stopper on it but that doesn't bother Hebe.
Hester with Juno's lead, a little big yet!
Toys are generally short lived however we have a few which have been around for a long time, we have Cara's giant Wolfie-sized kong, Hebe's 'flying saucer' also made by Kong, Maia's green nobbly, previously squeaky, ball  but the oldest is a Ty rainbow snake called Wormie and he was Juno's we have a photo of him being washed before Maia arrived in 2000, apart from having his 'black feelies' (don't ask) chewed he's still in fine shape.  Until last week we had Juno's 'very, pleasant, Christmas present, pheasant' (again best not to ask), it was a little worn around the edges but a puppy tug of war allowed its stuffing to see the light of day and he has finally left the toybox. 
I wonder what Hester and Dido will pass on.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Whisper it, but it's still going well

Gosh, three weeks already, sometimes it feels as if they've been here forever, and my how they've grown. They can now walk up the steps onto the yard and when they arrived they couldn't even bounce up and down them.

They're both confident little bodies not bothered by thunder, low flying aircraft, big wagons on the back road, steam trains hooting, wind, weather, car alarms however on Monday evening something terrified the life out of Hester.  They puddled, came in and ate their tea whilst I prepared some potatoes, once they'd come to the boil I realised the timer was in the sitting room and by the time I returned Hester was all of a quiver looking like a beaten puppy.  I hadn't heard anything and although she initially seemed fine Dido was a bit jumpy too. No amount of cuddles or distractions perked her up and my happy, waggy Hester was a shaky, frighted pup so I let them put themselves to bed in the cage, Dido draped herself over a still big eyed Hester; Hebe kept going out to check on them and coming back looking worried.  They did cheer up later on in the evening and ate their supper as usual; by morning they seemed back to normal.  I've kept an eye on them and they are definitely worried by certain barking dogs especially terrier type barks fortunately Hebe and Maia barking at the door has no effect on them neither does that bark that is supposed to tell them to stop behaving like lunatics.  They've greeted all their visitors with a smile and a wag, except on Wednesday Yvonne called in and Hester immediately backed off, ears down, a few treats and lots of cuddles and she was prepared to make contact but not like Dido to demand attention.  I can see that Hester is going to need more socialisation than Dido and to meet many more people in lots of different places.

Tuesday was their trip to Pickering for their second jabs and they were brilliant, travelling all the way in the back of the car with Hebe and Maia on the back seat. They were weighed again and they've both put on around 2kg, no wonder they're large puppy-lumps!
They are small monsters of destruction, having dug out one side of the verandah and caused a small sink hole to appear they've now started on the other side and my sitting room floor is a morass of cardboard confetti, but better cardboard than furniture.   They're also label hounds - no not dedicated followers of fashion (although Hester very might be given half a chance!, oh and human) they have an avowed intent to remove labels from everything.  It started with the label on a toy, then another toy, next a dog bag, then off empty plastic bottles, and from more toys, then the dog towels and now it's simply anything with a label.

Their training progresses steadily.  Hester still trots along beside me on her lead with a piece in her mouth, she is slightly more easily distracted now that she's gained some more confidence but comes back to heel quite readily.  Dido is another matter, the fixed collar and lead is providing no negative feedback and it's far more interesting to sniff the flowers or eat the grass than it is to walk along beside me.  So we've progressed to a slip lead and the change is remarkable, just that slight tightening is enough to stop her in in tracks and with verbal encouragement back to my heel before we set off again.  Although we'll all be ready for pastures new come Tuesday when we're finally allowed outside, there are only so many times you can walk around the garden before everyone is bored and want to lie down (yes, that includes me too!).  Recall is still good, they'll come in from the yard through the dog house and into the kitchen handbrake turning every corner and all from out of sight.  They're doing so well that we now have two levels of treats, kibble for standard returns but little puppy training treats or tiny pieces of schmako for recall from really tempting things like breaking off mid-play, leaving a really interesting sniff etc.  Our play in the back garden has been curtailed by the activities of a sparrowhawk which has left three piles of feathers, one blackbird, one blue tit (I think) and something else small (maybe a house martin) and heaps of feathers are one distraction too many so as soon as the gate is opened they head straight for the feathers, dive in and refuse to leave; I'm not going to let them fail or struggle to get them to return so for now we'll simply avoid the feathers until they've gone / lost their smell but they are quite useful for ensuring focus is on me for lead work, we can walk through the blue tit and almost past the blackbird without any sideways tugs.

Dido has turned into a bit of a Grunting Gertie, there's the I'm tired but don't want to go to sleep squeaky-grunt, the let me out I need to go down the yard deep grunt and the wingey grunt meaning i want to play but everyone is ignoring me.  Hester doesn't grunt (and doesn't seem able to ask to go out, she waits for Dido) but does squeak when she's tired and barks at Dido to get her to play and they both growl at each other, and at Hebe, when they're playing big teeth.

Small problem with the photos - my computer is not recognising the card reader but all is not lost because the laptop is, so another slight delay.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Dymanic Duo, week two

The importance of the right 'bribe'.
Although the pups were responding well  to commands and beginning to follow and come back when called they weren't in the least bit bothered about the little pieces of kibble I offered them and to be honest big fusses and cuddles were just not doing it - they get those pretty much all day, not quite on demand but almost so that's not a suitable reward / bribe for good behaviour. All of which meant slower progress than I would have liked. Dido and Hester were on Alpha sporting puppy food when they arrived and we kept them on it, it seemed fine.  We also got vouchers for free Eukanauba puppy, my lot have always been Eukanunba girls so of course I filled in the coupons and sent off for two lots of free food. Two big boxes arrived on Monday with measuring cups, storage bins (for 3kg) and bags of food.  That evening they tasted euk for the first time and boy did they like it! Fifteen minutes of come hereing with a piece of kibble for each successful recall and what a turn around.  By Wednesday I was tripping over them and now they follow me everywhere and will even break off from the middle of rough and tumble to come for their tiny piece of euk.  One 15kg sack promptly ordered, Alpha is £20 (no VAT) for 15kg, Euk is £55 (£43 by ordering online) - you get what you pay for and we've started changing them from alpha to euk.

Personalities coming through.
During our individual play time and training sessions I can seem them even more clearly than when they're together. Dido is definitely the more independent and curious as well as the larger puppy - latest nickname: Chunky Monkey.  Hester is softer and more affectionate and thus she's Happy Hester.  For Hester I'm the main thing in her life, which is wonderful, Dido has fixed on Hebe, which is fine as I'm the main Bean in Hebe's life, Dido will take her cue from Hebe and I'm really pleased that they're bonding with the rest of the pack rather than fixating on each other.  Hester likes to cuddle and needs something or someone to lean on to go to sleep. Dido is quite happy to flop out in the middle of the floor and is the first to come and find out what you're doing and to offer her assistance. Hester likes big hugs and smothering cuddles, Dido prefers to sit on your lap and be ruffled and has learnt that stooping down probably means she’s about to carried somewhere and if she’s not up for a hug will scamper away, whilst Hester sits on your feet and asks to be picked up / cuddled.
They're both bundles of mischief, well they're puppies I wouldn't expect anything different.

Training progresses well, Hester is walking along really well on her lead and I thought she was going to be trouble cavorting about like a pony; however, she likes to carry a piece of the lead (as did Bracken and Juno) and as long as she's got her lead in her mouth she trots along like a good'un.  Dido is more interested in the rest of the world and as long as she's not distracted will trot along happily but as soon as something catches her eye (or nose) she just has to go and investigate so we were spending a lot of time standing still, Dido with a muleish expression on her face, mine one of resigned patience until she settles and off we go again.  However, with lots of short sessions she's getting better and is beginning to show some inclination to lead carry too.  Hester is now on circles and the first figures of eight at varying speeds, Dido can circle and will change pace but on the fast walk pace tends to start gallumphing so "ah-ah" and we slow down again.  We're using two different training grounds and practising going in and out of different doors and gates (they're not quite sure about which way they open yet and are often between door and wall) both on and off leads.
We've not been out in the car as much as I would have liked, it's too hot; however this morning it was cool and we’ve been as far as the Fox and Rabbit and back with pups in the back and Hebe on the back seat.  A little squeaking but I think that was because they were tired more than anything else but they soon settled down so our trip to Pickering on Tuesday will be fine.
During play they both chase and retrieve but Hester seems to be the one (so far) who's more interested in fetching things back for me to play with or to throw again, I think Dido's independence means that she's quite happy to play on her own and doesn't need me so we're having to be a bit more determined and using more slightly more structured play with her which is showing results, she's carrying things back in my general direction - I mug her on the way past!
Going to work.
Puppies visited the office to meet everyone and get a sniff during their first week here, however this last week they have been coming to work every afternoon.  Mornings they spend helping the Mother Bean with household chores and mostly sleeping in the kitchen.  They were introduced to the CJS readership last Friday on the office blog.

Time for bed
It’s been so hot I’ve been leaving them in the kitchen / pantry / dog house during the day, I usually find them under the duckboard on the cool concrete.  Although after supper they’ve taken to putting themselves to bed.  They’re learning ‘in your bed’ and Hester will hop in (not always but mostly), Dido looks at me and usually has to be lifted in, the door goes down and they sit waiting for their kibble.  Every morning they go back to bed with Maia so Hebe and I can go for a walk and collect the paper. 

Au pair Hebe
Hebe has accepted that they’re here to stay and is now stepping in stop their play fights / rough and tumble when she feels they’re getting out of paw and it’s usually just as I’m thinking it’s time to call Time Out (they’re learning that too).  Sometimes after bed I hear Hebe having a grumble at them, just a gentle rumble or a quick sharp bark and then nothing from any of them until morning.  She is feeling a little left out though and I’m trying to find time (I could do with a time-turner) to spend with her on her own, it’s mostly while we’re busy doing other things such as clearing bits of the garden, our morning walk and at least once in the evening a 10 minute hug and snuggle session.

The troublesome twosome strike fear into the fabric of the building.
They're doing a very good job of investigating every nook, cranny and crack - of which we do have rather a lot.  The cracked floor tiles in the kitchen have been nosed, licked and thoroughly checked out.  However, it's the verandah that's bearing the brunt of their archaeology.   First it was the slightly rotten part of one of the upright posts which was chewed and then its foundations were removed piece by piece, it's now a stalactite.  But on Friday morning they excelled themselves.  There's a crack where the original floor has shifted a bit over time, somehow one of them managed to remove a small pebble from the crack destabilizing the lot and an area the size of a dinner plate collapsed inward like a sink hole, three largish pieces broke away, one of which was removed - no doubt for chewing later, and then noses, teeth and feet have excavated quite a large proportion of the substrate. There's now a large rock covering the hole until I can get some aggregate and cement to patch it up.

Brave little dogs.
We had a thunderstorm yesterday and they didn’t ruffle a hair at the thunder claps or the bright lightning flashes.We’ve had jets practising over head and a heavy helicopter following the railway line and again they’re not bothered in the slightest.  The only thing that gets them running to me (and it’s nice to know they come to me for succour) is a barking dog and even then only certain dogs or tones. 

Dido definitely knows her name, today Hester was already elsewhere so when I went to collect Dido I called Hester’s name first, no response but when I called out “Dido” she came running from the dog house before I even got to the “come here”.   I’ve not had an opportunity to run the same test on Hester yet.

Considering they’ve only been here two weeks it’s amazing how much they’ve learnt, how well they’ve settled. And how they’re growing,they must be at least half as big again as when they arrived.
Photos will follow next week sometime when I upload them, however, there are not as many because I’m busy doing rather than observing and photographing.