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Midwest Veterinary Conference – Jane Killion/Puppy Culture


I knew of Jane from her older book on dog training When Pigs Fly: Training Success With Impossible Dogs (though I’ll say it’s mostly just dog training, appropriate for all kinds of dogs!)  I knew of her Puppy Culture DVD/program, but was not very familiar with it.I have an unscientific bias towards a puppy raising program developed by Griffin’s breeders.

Me and puppy Tonks, photo by M Nelson

The Puppy Culture DVD is extremely well produced/professionally done. By every standard I can think of, it’s the best done dog training related DVD that I have ever seen. The editing is great, the sound quality, music added, content, how the content is displayed, it’s all very, very professional. And the content is well done. I had to go and look up some of the studies she referenced and don’t know that they are very persuasive on their own, though I do agree with the points she was trying to make. 

The sessions confirmed something I have felt for a while – breeders and shelters with litters/puppies should be doing a lot more to get puppies prepared for life in an average home. Puppies should have training to pay attention to people, to not be worried about the environment, to problem solve without being frustrated, to be fine crated alone (with a delicious chew), to have a great start on house training, training to take food from a hand, and polite ways to ask for what they want (sit and watch vs bark//paw/panic). I hope to see more of this catch on, it will only help families be better able to help puppies in their care and for puppies to transfer to new homes with less frustration.

Her early effort on attention/eye contact was interesting. She referenced this as important for bonding, especially from the perspective of the human. Apparently one study found that attachment-forming-related-hormones increased during eye contact – for both people and dogs.  This didn’t happen with people and wolves. And it didn’t happen if the dog were cued/commanded/made to look at the person, only if that attention was willingly offered.

The talk made me really want to raise a litter of puppies. For a while I’ve been half-joking about breeding/raising puppies specifically to be awesome pets (laid back, calm, healthy, social with people and dogs but not frantic) – but I don’t know that those are the kinds of dogs I want to live with myself.

I took many pages of notes, it was fun to jump into a topic I don’t know very much about and I’m especially excited about some of the widespread data collection plans Jane has for the upcoming years.  There’s so much variation within breeds and individuals – her project will let us know what to better expect – and better help – puppies and families.

Tonks – 15 Weeks

I’ve not done well sharing about our training! There are many reasons for that – mostly that we have so much going on that I decide to spend the extra time on training than typing. We’ve taken some video for class and lesson materials.

DSC_0096Tonks is a very athletic puppy and high – energy puppy. She sleeps so much less now than even just a few weeks ago. Tonks tries to solve her own problems – resulting in her being able to climb all gates in the house and she has even started to scale the outside of crates to see what is on the outside – she hooks her paws on the top and then uses her back feet to scale up the side! She loves to play and tug and interact with me. She likes playing with others.


  • Play and food rewards. She is happy about different reward games. Sometimes she says she would rather have food – but I can always persuade her to play, even when hungry.
  • House training: She now will even cry or scratch at the door when she needs out!
  • People and dogs: She is very happy about people and dogs. She loves everyone!
  • Cuddling: She’s only very cuddly when tired – but this is adorable!  Many puppy owners want to pet puppies more than the puppy wants – us included.


  • Self control: We need to play more self control games in different contexts so she learns to look to me and to resist rather than helping herself to whatever she wants. This will help with climbing gates, crating, and with her response to people and dogs!
  • Crating: Just like when I was raising Viktor earlier this year, we’ve not done a lot of crating. I do think it’s important for dogs to learn to be crated even if it’s not used at home (vet emergencies, traveling, etc). Tonks is good while crated in the car for traveling and in the car at the training center. But her crating at home and inside the training building is… a disaster. It’s not something we’ve worked on much until last week. We have before videos and will hopefully soon share ‘after’ videos. A lot of it is probably frustration about confinement or distress about confinement – it’s not about separation, she’s sometimes upset even with me nearby.
  • Trained behaviors: There are a lot of online (and real!) class options where puppies learn many tasks/tricks. And while I love training and wanted to do some of that…somehow it hasn’t happened. She needs to learn more behaviors, cues, offering behaviors, and about shaping. We do have a few things (backing up, pivoting into heel, lying down) and some cues related to rewards (get treats, look to me for treats, get the toy)
  • A weakness for me: Not taking enough pictures!


Viktor’s Puppy Challenges – Keeping and Active Puppy Calm

by Newark Vet Hospital
by Newark Vet Hospital

When Viktor was 10 weeks old I noticed his front legs looked a little odd – his toes were rotated out and his wrists were almost touching. Our rehab vet recommended xrays and seeing an orthopedic surgeon – we had our regular vet take beautiful x-rays and then we did a consult the next week with the specialist.

We were told that while maybe this was a little abnormal but maybe within the realm of normal and could be fine. This matched what an experienced conformation (“show dog”) client told me – “rib spring” will even things out. We got a second opinion the next month. And in April we went 600 miles to see our favorite rehab vet. We went back in May. And in June. And we’ll be back in a few weeks.
end of March
end of March

What we know: Some parts are getting better, some things may be getting worse. This isn’t any specific health problem, like ‘hip dysplasia’ – but just abnormal growth in some bones and abnormalities in some of his ligaments. We don’t know the end result until he’s older as this isn’t a common enough or well documented problem. There are concerns about how compensating for these challenges may impact the rest of his body – especially his elbows.

One piece of our current treatment plan is minimal activity to reduce inflammation in the joints (noted at early xrays) and to hopefully reduce pain. We’re now at four months since he was last allowed to run free to play and hike. He is allowed to swim but didn’t show much interest until recently. The lack of exercise wasn’t initially as bad as I expected – the little field dog was happy enough with low-activity training, hanging out in public, and going for car rides. Over the last 2.5 weeks things did dramatically get pretty bad in the house- a huge increase in barking and resource guarding (with other dogs). While we were doing training to address that – his exercise needs had to be met – I went in the water and gently encouraged him – and now he’s more confident and did his longest swim of about 50 feet out! The adorable splashes into the water show me that he’s still lacking some confidence – but I love his level of independence and that he always brings the toy right back to me.
It’s been frustrating to get different advice ranging from no restriction to absolutely no walks/playing. We’ve been told he’s not in pain (“Now”) so don’t worry – and we’ve been told to worry about the impact later on. On one day a vet specialist said no pain was found and a few hours later another specialist identified several sore spots. Some xrays by a specialist were taken incorrectly (lying down/non weight bearing) making it inaccurate to compare to the normal amount of rotation listed in a textbook (weight bearing). The rehab vet was the first person to actually measure degrees of rotation/amount of laxity, etc – and those numbers were initially far outside of normal but have been getting closer to normal – maybe because of time/natural progression or maybe because of the specific activities and treatments.
June trip to MN
June trip to MN

Moving forward, I’m not sure what we’re going to do long term. It seems like we’re most likely going to be needing monthly re-checks until about a year old (November) – which is a bit of a problem when your vet is 600+ miles away. And depending on what we decide then – if he’s going to need ongoing care from her, I won’t be able to do that during the winter or even as often as needed due to the distance and time off of work. We’re really lucky and have pet insurance that covers most of the vet bills – but the time off of work and the time for driving adds up. I’ve considered finding him a home closer to his vet, and that’s something we will be looking into so that he can get the best care possible – but I also don’t want to be giving someone else a dog that will be very expensive to take care of for the next 15 years. We do know of a closer rehab vet with similar qualifications – which would be only a 12 hour round trip instead of 24+ hours of driving…. but that doesn’t really solve most of our problems.

DCIM297GOPROAt our last trip he had an injection in his wrist -and then I was told to not let him lick it for 24 hours. There was no way I could put him in the back of the car with a cone/elizabethan collar on and let him be comfortable – so he got to go in a seat belt and be a front seat dog. He did this on his very first ride home from Arkansas (on a pillow. on someone’s lap) -but hadn’t seen that view since January 1st! He would alternate between sleeping in various adorable positions and looking out the windows. Going through the tolls in Chicago he got lots of comments but rarely picked up his head!
So, for now, medications, adequan injections, exercises, and low impact training, and lots of swimming! He’s hilariously small at only 35 lbs at  8 months but now he is almost as tall as Griffin.  I feel horrible that I can’t just run and play with him, I don’t think he’s too sad or knows what he’s missing out on – but I would like to make him really tired! As he has such restricted activities he does not need as many calories as puppies his age which means he can’t have as much food during training (and we can’t do much with toy rewards for obvious reasons).  We’re looking forward to our next visit in a few weeks!

Viktor – 24 Weeks!

Sampling foliage.

Viktor has officially outgrown his puppy harness. We went from an extra small up to a medium. I’ll have to write about the harness separately – the Ruffwear Front Range Harness. The part around his neck never actually ended up fitting well – the strap around his body was too tight, but even at that point the neck was too loose.  I probably should get him his own collar soon.

Last week we went to a statewide 4-H event. This meant his first all-day car crating. We had to get out the shade cover but didn’t need the fans. He saw a lot of new people and dogs as well as exciting things like a very smooth floor and microphones making screeching noises. On the way home we stopped at a place of elementary school field trips – Roscoe Village – a small town somewhat set up as a living history type place. Viktor really liked all the shops and peeked through the doorway at each one. He also thought it was a type of trip where you taste/sample all the plant life – I had to keep him away from the ornamental gardens. We saw lots of people outdoors, interesting stairs to climb, and lots of signs about the UKC beagle hunting championship that was happening nearby that weekend.

Canal boat.

We’ve done some more puppy class and agility class. He’s learning to be a demo dog in class- sometimes he gets impatient in his crate and barks, but each class the amount of barking is decreasing.

He’s made many trips to the park, the pet store, and in town. We went to the obedience club when Griffin did a match. He had his first haircut to get rid of his fuzzy toes and we’ve had some great nail trims. He gets a lot of compliments/teasing about how silly his hair is. He will probably always have short hair on his body although he will probably have longer feathering than Griffin and maybe even Blaze. his short, tight coat is great and will be much more like Blaze’s than Griffins.

Informal Training: He’s just so great! We’re mostly just maintaining what we have.  Relax in your crate at home. Relax on your bed at home. Walk nicely out in public. Chew your items and not wood.

Formal Training:  Heeling. Retrieves. We got a…reminder… in class that his stays really need some training. He’s doing a tiny bit of agility work when he is a demo dog in some beginning level agility classes (2-3 times a week!). We are doing a lot of focus/play/interaction in different environments. He’s now old enough to be a little distracted by the environment. He alternates between wanting to stare at everything else and seeming oblivious to everything going on around him.

He still wants to sleep on my lap.
He still wants to sleep on my lap.

He’s almost done with puppy class (now aged out if you count in weeks – but by ‘months’ he won’t be 6 months until May 13th!). We don’t have a good option for sneaking into a manners class so we just really have to work on his crating and let him spend more time being a demo dog. I’ll be really happy when we can get to the point where I can alternate between Viktor and Griffin in a class. We can do that with simple training at home – and have started it at the facility – but I can’t add in “teaching a class” to that yet.

I’m teaching a lot of young puppies right now, in group class and private lessons – and I’m wishing I had taken more video and photos before – and I know I should be now! We replaced our camera this week after the last one went swimming in the mop bucket (thanks Blaze),  I just need to use it.

What’s next: More out of town traveling and stays (first time in a hotel), more car crating, meeting some new friends, and I’m not sure what else will happen on our adventure. We’ll be finishing our online class soon and needing to decide our next formal learning opportunities.


22 Weeks Old!

IMG_1842We’ve had a busy few weeks. We went on our second long trip together – all the dogs went to Minnesota with me.  Viktor was great.  It was not surprising, but so nice-  quiet in the car, happy to get out at each stop at any time of day or night, walking on a leash, going to the bathroom in new places, seeing more people. We did our first elevator ride and he saw a full flight of stairs for the first time (I’m not sure how we missed that in his socialization!).

He’s getting very tall but is only around 25lbs – goldens can range in size quite a bit, but unsurprisingly he does seem to be on the smaller side. He’s barely bigger than some golden puppies in class who are a month younger! Last Saturday he lost a tooth during puppy class – it fell out on the floor after a play demonstration. As long as he seems happy to tug with Griffin, I will continue playing tug games with him even though he is teething.

Informal Training: We’re spending a lot of time sitting in public and doing tricks, settling, walking, and anything else we can think of. He gets to meet a lot of people and really wants to lick faces (ew) as well as roll on his back. His rolling over looks really affiliative – there’s a lot of rolling/scent marking to it. I’m very careful to watch and make sure he’s not actually overwhelmed.  It seems like that’s part of his personality. As a vet wrote in some notes last week “Super, great puppy.”

He is still a little spooky about some things he doesn’t expect. We passed construction equipment yesterday – no problem. But a tipped over trashcan that was moving slightly in the wind – that’s scary! I will be interested to see how much of this changes with training and age vs it being a part of his personality. For now, if he is startled, we move away and have delicious treats. He’s not too bothered – he doesn’t try looking back over his shoulders and doesn’t appear to actually be distressed – it’s more like when a person is startled and jumps for a moment.

Formal Training: We go to puppy class when we can and sometimes drop into other classes. Last week he started in an agility class. I’m teaching a level 2 class and it had low enrollment – so he’s in there as a helper dog. It’s really fun to have a dog at the same level as the student dogs and give realistic demonstrations. It’s also good practice for Viktor to be crating in the room – he alternates between doing really well and some barking “Please let me out! hey! Don’t forget me!”

In our online class we’re doing fun things this week like heeling.  Here’s one of our early sessions. You can read a rough outline of the brilliant training plan here.

I’m very happy with how the heeling is progressing for how very little we’ve worked on this. It does feel weird to be at this stage of training, my other dogs have been heeling for so long, I forget what it’s like to handle a beginner dog!

What’s Next: We’re going to a 4-H event this weekend where we will be doing a lot of car crating, seeing many new people and dogs and going further East than he’s ever traveled! We’ll have a few more weeks of puppy class left.  The parks and public areas are getting more busy with the great weather we’ve had now that it’s actually spring. We’re working on our activities for online class and just learning more about the world and being focused and happy everywhere.

20 Weeks!

IMG_1511We’ve had a lot of woods walks and adventures. He’s still young enough to stick close most of the time, but we’re able to get in a lot of woods walks. We accidentally had swimming – he wasn’t sure that he liked that but he also didn’t dislike it too much. Next week it should be warm enough for real swimming and hopefully Griffin will be able to demonstrate!

Viktor visited the rally trial and an agility fun match.

He hasn’t asked to sleep on my lap for a few weeks but at night he does love to sleep curled up against me.

IMG_1711Informal Training: Lots of recalls during our walks. Many leash walks in town and other places. Riding in the car, demo dog in puppy class and he was a demo dog in a beginning agility class last night. He did mostly well in his crate in the middle of the room – he had a kong and was calmer with me near but sometimes was more noisy.

Formal Training: Some position changes, staying and this in class this week we’re doing go out/send out training.

We started doing some tracking training, he really likes using his nose so it should be a fairly easy game to teach him.

IMG_1702Good Things: He’s really easygoing in most ways. Walking in public has been quite easy and he will lie down at my feet and offer known behaviors. He’s very confident (which is sometimes a bad thing) – this week he tried to climb the full height agility a-frame while out playing – he didn’t get very far up it though.  He absolutely loves people, he’s very snuggly and seeks out the touch and interaction.

Dangerous chair climbing. Note 3 paws on the narrow arm rest.

Challenges: Even though he’s very hungry, sometimes he would rather explore than eat convenient treats. He tends towards resource guarding from other dogs – any valuable chews and meals are fed in his crate.  Sometimes he gets startled and barks in a way that isn’t as common in golden retrievers. He’s doing less of this over time and I’m usually prepared to help him.

Next: I had found a group class somewhere else and then just completely forgot to register. We’re taking puppy class 2x a week at the training center – we only have a few weeks left before he ages out (yet he’s a lot smaller than many of the younger puppies so we may sneak in longer)! We occasionally drop into manners classes at the facility and he is going to be a demo dog in a beginning level agility class.

This week we’re going on a trip to Minnesota again – more fun and excitement there and the second big trip of his life. I can’t wait to see how he handles it this time.

18 Weeks!

I am resting here. I did not use this chair to climb on the counter.
I am resting here. I did not use this chair to climb on the table.

This week we learned to use the ChuckIt. I had never used one before and my attempts were quite embarrassing. I was glad no one was around to watch.

Viktor helped as a demo dog in a few ‘big dog classes’ this week. It’s fun to alternate between him and Griffin, depending on who will be a better example for an activity. I know what Griffin will do and so he’s more of a ‘safe’ demonstration partner, but Viktor provides a  ore realistic beginning level training steps – when he goes along with the activity. Occasionally I have to stop and work on another piece or narrate a temporary deviation of the plan.

Viktor isn’t as bitey or mouthy as I expect for this age, I’m not sure how much of that is him or my careful attempts to not reward those behaviors. His counter jumping has drastically decreased, he hasn’t even made an attempt in the last 2-3 days – though earlier in the week he did use the office chair to reach the table.

IMG_1536Our chew/bone supply has been replenished – we haven’t had fresh bones for almost 6 weeks. Unsurprisingly, there was a resource guarding challenge this time. The first day all the dogs went their separate ways to chew on bones. The next days as they rtoated he did sometimes want to run over and guard all the bones. Blaze and Griffin are great – when Viktor gets snarly they just ignore him. His responses are decreasing – partly thanks to the older dog’s non response (rather than if they were righting back) and also because we do activities to practice sharing and care to not give Viktor chances to resource guard. He is getting more respectful – if the others have something he will not come over angry and expecting to take it away.  I am concerned about how this will progress as he gets bigger (and safety risks increase). I’m hoping with training and management we will continue to be able to let everyone loose with bones and chews.

Informal Training

We did more trips walking in pubic, participating in classes, and training on our own.  The long walks in public are great. We often can time walks in the neighborhood near the training center – there’s an elementary school next to a playground so we get a crowd of kids and kids playing behind the fence.

Formal Training

We got some great fetching and play sessions. I can usually get him to engage without too much effort. He doesn’t have the retrieve motor pattern that I desperately wanted but we will end up with a passable trained retrieve.

We are doing lots of fun things in classes and in our training. Here’s a video with a go around the cone – we have started it previously, look at the similarities (response to frustration) and differences (fluency, distance).

I  kind of want to get into a real life class, I think one of the ‘mistakes’ with Griffin was not taking him to more classes. On the other hand, this is a different dog and maybe it won’t be as important for Viktor long term. Unfortunately with my schedule it’s hard to find something else that will work.

IMG_1522I am experimenting with some new (to me) record keeping strategies. I haven’t posted about it for a long time (see here and here). Things have changed some since then – I was very detailed for about 22 months and since then I’ve only done a little bit of daily notes. But with working two dogs, maintaining a third, and then thinking about all the client dogs in classes and lessons now (about 20 classes per week right now!). I really just can’t keep everything in my head.

Next: More outdoor time in neighborhoods and other places. We need to do our homework for the class we’re  taking. I need to do more time with him crated in the room while I’m teaching – I have done a few sessions but only with a helper.

17 Weeks!

It’s a good thing that I bought the largest bed…

This was a great week! It was finally warm enough to get out and do things outdoors! He really likes to jump and climb – he’s so happy to know how to get on furniture. He loves to roll on people and get right up into their faces if he can. The higher he can get, the better.

Informal training: We went on many neighborhood walks. We saw dogs, kids, more kids, construction equipment, bikes, and joggers. He is really great at walking. I don’t know how much of that is training or who he is. I will be generous with his rewards for a long time still. We also had some trips to the pet stores and walking in town. He was scared of the bully stick displays at the pet store – maybe because he is afraid of cows? He happily chews on cow hooves at home though so I’m not sure why. I’m not going to be worried about it – if he doesn’t want expensive chew items, I’m fine with that!

In class he does very well settling and then doing activities. Sometimes he wants to watch the other dogs but then he goes back to work. He will play and eat in those environments. He’s started to get his adult teeth this week so we may have to take a break with some playing – but as long as I see him happily playing with Griffin, I will expect him to play with me! Last night in puppy class we sat next to a golden retriever that was just a little smaller – that puppy was only 11 weeks old!  Now I wonder if she is a really big puppy or if mine is very small!

IMG_1367Formal training: Staying still (standing, sitting, lying down). Settling for longer periods. Brushing (he is loosing his puppy hair!). Playing.  We did finally start to get some play retrieving! As always, I feel like I should probably be doing more.

We have done a lot of sessions with him crated near the area where I teach, but mostly when no one else is around. We had someone help last night and work with him in the crate while I was teaching. He came out and did demonstrations for a class of 8 dogs and then right back into the crate. Next step will be to do enough practice so that I can do the training by myself while teaching and to do crating in the same room as me.

Other: He’s a very easy puppy in most ways. We’re now almost always on leash unless we’re far from roads – he hasn’t done anything naughty and seems to have a pretty good recall, but I don’t want him to start testing it at an unfortunate time.  He’s great about chewing on his own items. He has started checking counters so I am keeping those clear and I expect this to go away within 2 weeks.


16 Weeks!

IMG_1327Last week we had another vet visit for his last round of puppy vaccinations. That went even better than last time in most ways. I also had him walk in on his own this time and we had great walking, even past the cat!  On Sunday morning we did additional vet things – we went to the local golden retriever club’s health clinic – all three dogs had cardiac and eye exams. Viktor did amazing in that environment – a lot of dogs were in the lobby and he was happy to hang out in my arms or offer settling at my feet. The eye exam was harder, we tried him on the table but when we just held him in the air he was much happier. He’s confident on the table, it gave him too much room to move around.

Classes this week were great, he continues to settle well at my feet . He’s old enough now that he’s quite excitable and can eagerly do so many things. We sit out of play time and on Wednesday he was so relaxed – he wanted to lay on his back in my arms and watch the other puppies playing. Dogs usually don’t like to lay like that but he does!

I feel bad for parents who wake up to small children crying to get their needs met. Viktor wakes me up by licking me, gently pawing my face, gently tugging my hair, rolling on me, or other adorable things I can’t quite remember because I was sleeping.

This week he has become much more athletic. He’s actually running and is faster than me. His movement is obviously more coordinated, he spends a lot more time awake and playing. He’s now showing interest in raised surfaces (tables and counters are clear).

I need photo editing programs to make these brighter.
I need photo editing programs to make these brighter.

Informal Training: We got in so many trips out in public with a few nicer days and vaccinations complete. We went and walked in town and to pet stores – his walking is going surprisingly well given his age and how little we’ve practiced. I don’t expect it to always be this great. He also did a great job of offering settle while we talked to someone outside of the library.  

Formal Training: Lots of training this week!  Playing has much improved, we’re working hard at standing (he came loving to Sit and loves his Down position because of training), and more holding still. His response to a release-and-focus cue has been great for many weeks – there’s this extra flourish of a leap that I probably should get rid of but it’s adorable. He suddenly has been able to do pivoting into heel position. One of the hardest lessons this week was “move/look away from the reward to get it.”  He likes the tunnels but didn’t want to go through and stop looking at the toy.