At Freedom Park summer 2010

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ringing the bell.....

So how do you go about house training a puppy when you have never had to do that before?  The first suggestion is to get your puppy with some friends who are already house trained and can show him the ropes, so to speak.  After about 2 weeks at my daughter's house with her two dogs to help - we had a pretty good start on things.  He went out when they went out and he did what they did and then they all sniffed each others jobs and barked to come back in.  Loves and atta-boys were given all around.  This wasn't going to be too tough.

Now my daughter has her pit trained to ring the bell hanging on the door when she needs out.  I don't think Starskey paid a whole lot of attention to that part of the training because he was just too busy running and playing and sniffing and napping.  He just followed the routine that Pokey and Pilot had and fit his own to that.  Therefore it became a bit of a challenge when we got back home and had to do it on our own.

I had a string of Christmas bells hanging on the doorknob of the back door.  That way I knew when someone came and went from the house if I was busy doing something.  One day I heard the bells while I was working on the computer and looked up to see no one at my door but the tom cat.  I thought maybe the sound had come from the TV so I just went back to work.  Then I heard the bell again only louder - and still no one around but Midnight.  I shook my head and went back to work.

The damn bell would not stop ringing and it finally got to be more then I could continue to ignore.  I got up and walked over to the door to make sure it was closed and the wind wasn't making it move enough to ring the bells.  It was shut tight.  Midnight looked up at me and meowed so I leaned over and scratched his head then went back to my desk to go back to work again.  The damn bell rang again!

Now I know I have a ringing in one ear from a bonk on the head I got several years ago - but this was a bell and it wasn't in my head.  I stood by that door looking at those bells and dared them to ring again.  A slim black paw reached up and batted the bells then batted my hand.  Could that be it?  Was the cat ringing the bells?  The bells rang again and Midnight meowed and pawed my hand.  I reached out and turned the door knob and his nose was in the crack before I could even get it open.  I opened it up and out he went.........Okay - that was a lucky guess!!!

The bell rang many more times after that and each time the ring was followed by a meow or Midnight was patting me with his paw to pay attention to him.  Smart cat to train himself to ring a bell to get let out when he wanted out.  What was even smarter was that he began to knock on the window when he wanted back in.  Apparently I don't hear "Meow" very well through a closed window so he figured out another way to get my attention.

So now we come to my half trained puppy that I can't let run around outside all by himself all day and who needed a way to let me know when he needed to go outside if I got too busy to notice "the signs" in time to get him outside before an accident occured.  Hey - I have bells on my door and he just spent a couple of weeks with Pokey so surely he knows what the bell is for.......well almost.  Good thing there is no rug by the door because - well, we were both still learning.......

I began to set a timer and every hour I would take him to the door and try to get him to ring the bell.  He would watch me, cock his head and lift one ear and think "how kool" and just sit there.  After a few minutes of bell education I would just open up the door and take him outside.  I'd sit in the porch swing while he sniffed and rolled and wiggled and all those fun puppy things until he finally went potty.  Then we went back in the house and I set the timer again.  He chewed on his toys, scratched his tummy on the carpet and took a little nap.  The timer would go off and we would start bell ringing class again.........with pretty much the same results each time.

After a few days of this I began to notice that he would go sit by the door from time to time.  I took this to mean progress - Yeah!  He would go to the door and I would go to him and try to get him to ring the bell.  Still got the same puzzled look from him over the bell but when I gave up and just opened the door he bolted out and wasted less time getting his job done.  We were making progress after all......I think anyway.

Well that day does come when I am working on the computer typing up meeting minutes or something and I see Starskey go to the door.  He sits facing the door and turns his head to look in my direction.  Yes, sir Mr. Starskey - I do see you.  Please ring the bell if you want out so I don't have to stop in the middle of a sentance.....instead I hear a whimper.  I spring in to action and I go to the door and ring the bell and then open it for him.

By this time he has figured out that the door does not open unless that bell rings first.  Now that is major......really!  I go outside later to sit in the swing while he plays with his football and drags the branches out of the weeds and finds out that the grass along the edge of the pond has things that jump in it.  He is so funny to watch.  When he is sufficiently tired we go back in for his nap.

Later I see he is sitting by the door again.  I am in the middle of a really good article but I get up and go over to the door.  I pick up his paw and I touch the bells with it.  He looks at them and at me and just sits there.  I pick his paw up and touch the bells again and again he just looks at me and sits there.  Now along comes Midnight (still bigger then Starskey) who looks at both of us just standing there and he reaches out his paw and rings the bells.  I nod and open the door and let him out and close the door again.  Starskey just looks at me, then at the door and then at me like he can't believe I just did that and didn't let him go out too.  And then I heard the bell ring as he stretched out his neck and just barely touched the bells with his I smiled and opened up the door and let him out too.

Just goes to show you what kind of a dog trainer I am.......It took the blasted cat just one demonstration to teach him what I had spent a couple of weeks trying to do.  And it only took that one time because from then on the bell rang when it was time to go out for either of them.  I am just glad that Starskey did learn to bark to come back in.  His paws were sort of big to be knocking on my window!


Starskey - Come Home

Well I was ready to start at the beginning this morning - with when Starskey picked me.....but last night we got a phone call.  Yeah, another hopeful sighting only this time the dog was in hand.  Jeff took the call so all I could do was look on with that huge question in my eyes and my heart beat on hold......Jeff sounded hopeful too when he hung up and told me that Jeromy would call back after he checked the dog's markings and the tags.  Yeah, this one still had tags on.

Okay, my heart can beat again but I am not sure that I could breathe until the next call came.  Close but no Starskey......the tags were from a vet office in a town 20 miles away.  How did he get clear up here?  At any rate the fellow was kept inside until a vet check today to try to connect him back up with his owners........I can't even cry sad tears!  I can cry mad ones because it wasn't Starskey but I can't cry the sad ones - something just won't let me give up.  Maybe his story will let you know why........

Starskey, his mom, aunt and a brother were all owned by a friend of my daughter.  We happened to go to that friends house one day because he was getting ready to move and was selling some things she thought I might be interested in.  Oh did he have interesting things....I picked up cast iron pots for camp cooking, a rocking chair, table covers for my booth displays at craft shows and stuff.  Also got a couple of folding wooden indoor clothes my Mom used to have.  There was more but I needed Jeff to come back to okay the rest.

We walked near the house and this little black furry thing came wiggling out of a hole in the fence and came bounding over to me.....yes - straight to me!  I picked the little fellow up and received abundant kisses while somebody plugged up the whole in the fence before anyone else found it.  We all continued to talk and after he settled down some I put Starskey down.  He sat on my foot.  We walked a few feet to look at some things behind the garage and he walked between my feet.....sat down beside me and stayed there. 

I put him back in the yard behind the fence when I had to leave and he just gave me that "look" and whimpered as I walked away.  I had not planned to get a puppy that day and no one had intentionally set me up for it either.....except maybe my daughter.  I returned the next day with Jeff and the other purchases were approved  as well as some shelving picked out for the garage.  There was one little puppy barking (if you could call that squeak a bark) at the fence.  Jeff asked if that was the pup I told him was so cute......well - yeah!

Jeff reached over the fence and picked him up, receiving a big welcome kiss and lots of love himself.  He looked at me and I looked at him and that was that.  Starskey would come home with us too, but not before we got a place for him to sleep that was more suited to his size.  Our doghouses were all quite large.  It just so happened that there was such a facility available as well.  It needed a little repair but would work fine to start out with.............The white 5 point star on Starskey's chest meant that the name his mom's owner had given him was going to stick and off we went with a loaded truck and new pack member.

We had never had such a little fellow before so we had some learning ahead of us!  It was April and the weather was warm enough for him to be outside days and inside at night.  He took to his new home right away.  His only problem was that black tom cat that was bigger then he was and it wouldn't play with him....just sat and looked at him from a perch too high for Starskey to get to anyway.  I am not sure that Starskey ever really figured out that the black cat wasn't bigger then him anymore...but the cat knew it and teased him anyway....staying just out of reach.

Starskey's early days were spent in an area that included the back deck, some yard and an over sized doghouse full of pillows to snuggle in.  He would lay on an insulated pad and sun himself between excursions through the day lilies, wood pile and yard.  His very favorite things to do was to ride on the porch swing and take walks.  He would lay on my lap on the swing but not for long periods of time....he had things to do.  He pulled the sticks from the wood pile, rolled in the day lily leaves, chewed on anything he could find and did just about anything else that suited his fancy.  In the evening he would sleep, exhausted, at our feet or in front of the fireplace (that might be going on a chilly night) until we put him to bed in his house kennel with his teddy and a treat.

Yes, you did read that right - his teddy.  His first night at our house he was exhausted.  The second night he realized he didn't have a brother, mother or aunt to snuggle and he cried.  I found a Care Bear teddy in the grand kids old toy box and put it in bed with him.  That was all it took.  Care Bear no longer has eyes or much of a nose but he is still the bed partner.  There is another teddy at the camper that is also still in pretty good shape.  Apparently bed partners are more sacred then other stuffed toys because the others got destroyed with great relish.

Like I said - we had never had a dog this little before so we were learning right along with him.  Having been raised on a farm Jeff had never had a dog that was allowed in the house.  I had been raised with dogs in and out, but mostly out - because we were in the country too.  The decision to let Starskey become a house dog was a big one for Jeff and limits were still set.   Our floors are covered in dog cushions and beds for him, since he was not allowed on upholstered furniture.  He did find that camp chairs and the deck chairs were comfortable and okay for him so he made use of all of them.

When he grew tall enough to get his paws up on the porch swing great fun began....well it was fun for us but I am sure that it was great frustration for him as the swing would move away from him before he could get his back half on it.  After a couple of attempts he would either resign himself to lay under it or he'd go find a deck chair that didn't move.  A morning swinging session was the rule for the two of us.  I would hold the swing steady as he learned how to get himself up on it and then we would sit and swing and cuddle for as long as he was able to keep from getting distracted by a squirrel or a frog or something that needed checked in to.

The bell story will be next.......