Week 5 Update: Exploration

This past week has been all about getting the puppies out of the house. Not that we want them to hurry up and leave, just that it’s time for them to see there is more to the world than just fifty square feet of penned in area.

We started with taking them out to the deck, which they can go out to from the sun room we gave them supervised access to last week. The deck gives them a new surface (wood), new obstacles (chairs, tables, barbecue, lounge chairs), a couple different levels (one step up to a slightly higher level), and a covered, decrepit hot tub that hasn’t worked in years where Umma loves to sun herself. That gave the pups more room to run and they took full advantage, throwing themselves in every direction.

On the deck we also introduced them a cat tunnel (they love it!), a teeter totter (doesn’t bother them), a wobble board (a couple have wobbled), and balls to play with (amazing!).

This past week we also tried to reinforce the concept of manding, where we don’t reward them with attention until their butts hit the floor and they are calm. Until now that only reward had been pets, but as they’ve progressed in eating real food we can now give them little treats. Ayako makes some fluffy ones in the microwave for Umma, so we cut those a little smaller and offered them up to the pups. Now neither of us can go near the pups without all five butts hitting the floor!

Manding like champs!

Look at those polite little Hokkaido puppies!

Giving treats was an interesting proposition. I never thought dogs needed to be taught how to eat treats – the only real puppy we had was our Akita, who was almost five months when we got her way back in 2003 – but just like anything else pertaining to human interaction, it does need to be taught. Sure, it’s not a huge thing, but the concept of humans suddenly offering up something in our hands for them to eat was completely foreign to the pups. Some picked it up faster than others, but for the most part they all now know if the humans offer them an open-faced hand they should check it for tasty treats.

At this point we aren’t teaching commands, just conditioned responses. They mand for us, we give them treats. Over the next week we want to introduce them to the clicker and start rewarding them for other types of behaviors.

We did the weekly photo shoot out by one of our bamboo plants (about the only plant we can grow somewhat well). Here’s the pretty pups.

We started out with two pups in the yard while the others watched, but quickly the other pups were ready to join them. We let them explore all parts of the yard they could on their own (without Umma), just so it would be a little calmer. The next day we let Umma join in and everyone seemed to really have a good time. Up until that point, in smaller spaces, Umma has seemed unsure about how to proceed with the tiny puppies. She wants to play with them, but since she’s only played with adults sometimes her touch with her paw or with her mouth is a tad heavy. We keep a close eye on it, just to make sure everyone is still having a positive experience.

I think Umma’s new favorite thing in the world is running through puppies (not stepping on any) at full speed and getting them to chase her. Her strides are far longer than theirs, but that doesn’t stop them trying to keep up.

We also have a patch of periwinkle in our yard that has become Umma’s go-to bathroom spot. Neither of us told the puppies what that patch was for, but almost immediately all of them gravitated to that area to do their business based on smell alone.

Watching these pups run and play in the yard is a source of neverending entertainment. At some point we’d like to get some good play video, just not quite yet. Their go-to moves seem to be running into each other at full speed, body checking, and barrel rolls. These are all accompanied by growls, barks and a variety of other sounds. Our neighbors probably wonder why we’re raising wolverines.

Here’s another fun story: Umma taught her puppies to howl. In the middle of the night.

After we moved the puppies to the larger weaning pen (although since Umma closed the milk bar calling it a weaning pen isn’t technically accurate), we finally were able to stop sleeping on the couch and Umma joined us in bed each night. Initially we closed the bedroom door, but that first night she wanted to check on her puppies fairly often so we left the door open.

The second night, at 3am, we woke when she hopped down to the floor and padded out to the dining room. Then she started talking to the puppies, waking them up. Then she started howling. After each howl she would pause, a second would pass, then the pups would start answering. She did this 8-10 times and by the end of the session the pups were mimicking her perfectly.

Satisfied, she returned to bed and went back to sleep. The humans didn’t fall back asleep nearly as fast.

The next night she did the same thing, though she managed to wait until 5am. Same thing: 8-10 howls, and each time there would be a pause and a chorus of five voices in response. Satisfied, she returned to bed. The pups must have learned their voice lesson adequately because she hasn’t done it since, though she will occasionally still go out there and talk to them in the middle of the night.

Umma, let the pups sleep! And the humans.

Over the next week we want to start clicker conditioning as I mentioned earlier, as well as start playing various kinds of music (they have only heard classical so far), introducing them to brushing, and a few other things.

Each day is a new one for the pups, that’s for sure. And for us, although they all seem to be full of tons of laundry, dish washing, feeding, face/paws/body wiping after meals, and various cleaning up after puppies.


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