Puppy Boot Camp – Loki’s Journal Day 1

Loki is a maybe-Doberman mix who was rescued from a high kill shelter in San Antonio, Texas and bused to the Grand Rapids area. He was adopted by some friends of mine, perhaps due to his ears. Well, that’s why *I* would have adopted him. He likely appeals to them because he resembles an old dog they just lost. Aiden was a senior citizen dog and he was well seasoned. My friends had not owned a puppy in a couple of decades. Loki is about 15 months, a fully-fledged adolescent with sharp white teeth that love to chew on personal possessions, and chomp down on skin.

loki wag

So Loki is my newest addition to Puppy Boot Camp. I plan to journal his progress, in order to (1) reassure his new parents that we are actually doing something and (2) just in case someone is trying to rehab a lively rescued pup with similar issues. Training geeks who actually want to read these are probably already privy to many of these notions. But, you never know.


Learn to walk on loose leash without pulling.

Stop jumping up.

Stop biting.

Come when called.

Stop chewing/destroying household items.

Stop chasing cats.

May 31, 2018 – Drop Off Day

Loki’s parents spent quite awhile here with him and it is evident how attached they already are. Thankfully, he is already crate trained, and pretty well on his way to being house trained.

I have two cats who like to hide when people come over. Loki had his paws full anyway due to there being four dogs here. The Chihuahuas seemed like fair game to him until he learned that either one would not hesitate to take him down — including little 8 lb Este. I was glad to see that a couple of snarling leaps at his face by both of them were enough to dissuade him from trying to make them a chew toy.

My border collie Til is more interested in playing fetch and herding cats than playing with a puppy. But Jasper the Labrador mix will show him a good time.

As soon as my friends left, I loaded up a couple of Kongs and placed them in the freezer. Like most adolescent dogs Loki has a strong need to chew so I will let him make the most of it in a safe way.

Loki has the nice habit of going to his crate to rest when there isn’t anything going on. He is just hanging out getting into the swing of things today. He got a loud correction for getting too rambunctious with the kitten. She hissed at him once and then he kept going back wanting to agitate her. I told him NO! and he shot like a rocket into his crate.

He takes me pretty seriously because my corrections are loud and sudden.

He has been outside a number of times and peed every time and then scouting the parameters of the yard. He hasn’t again investigated the height of the fence. He is never out there alone and there are always other dogs to distract him. He comes right back in with the others and they all line up for a cookie. I am giving him cookies inside my closed hand. I don’t open my hand until I can no longer feel his teeth. He is learning to be gentle.

The lining up for cookies is a ritual that can teach a lot to a dog. As each dog’s name is called, they get their cookie. The new dog learns the name of each corresponding dog. He learns that he does not always get to be first. He learns he has to wait his turn. Perhaps best of all, it puts even more meaning into the sound of his own name.

Loki has a typical habit of no body awareness, so I am bumping him and stepping on his feet. I like dogs to give people the right of way. No dog should ever be slamming into your legs or blocking you. It is a tripping hazard. So if he is lying down somewhere I pretend like I am walking there and I make him get up and move. By the time they get him back he should be conditioned to “yield the right-of-way.”

So far he has been very nice and snuggly but I haven’t provoked him to play or jump on me yet. I’m just letting him get used to things here.

He has been very good and appropriate with all the other dogs but Este isn’t taking any chances with him. She is putting him in his place and sticking really close to me. I think that is smart. She can only really see out of one eye, and she is aware that she is tiny. So far she is training him well!

Tomorrow I plan to take him out on a leash to the store or something and we will start working on coming when called. When he is a little more comfortable I expect he will start getting more wild so we will see how that goes.


June 1 – Attention Day

If I would stop training long enough to jot down my thoughts I might be able to organize a lot more information.

Loki had his first clicker training session this morning. The sound of the click scared him so I had to switch to my softer clicker. The dogs were all outside but of course hearing that clicker, the cats came circling around like sharks. That’s not a bad thing. (See 15 Rules for Clicker Training Your Cat.)

Traditionally, it is recommended to train one behavior at a time and focus on one subject (ie, don’t train the dog while you train the cats). But I find that many times with clicker training I can manage a bunch of things at once without disrupting the learning process.

In this case, I was trying to teach Loki to make eye contact. That’s really all I was asking. I call it attention training. I used a mix of his kibble, some soft dog treats, along with the junk food Party Mix Crunch that the cats like. I am glad that Loki is okay with all types of food and his food motivation is pretty good, even in the new environment. He is highly distractible by his environment. (Cats are like this, too.) Like most former street dogs, he is accustomed to things happening TO him, and around him, and doesn’t know he has control over some of his universe.

Therefore, I consider attention training the thing that will probably benefit him the most.

Making eye contact is hard work for him and he doesn’t yet understand that the connection is through the eyes. He looks up toward my face but if I move my face over an inch, he doesn’t track my eyes. He has that sort of glazed expression – no light bulb yet.

For some reason, once a dog learns to follow your eyes, the connection starts to get real after that and they begin to care more about what you think.

Since the cats were handy and eager to work, I made use of it by giving treats to all of them. I toss the treats for the cats sometimes and they chase after them. So Loki had to endure the sight of the cats running away from him. He did fine with this, while I said nothing. I even dropped a treat between him and Kitteh and they both looked at each other like the two chipmunks in that cartoon. “After you!” “No, after you!”

Obviously this takes all the mystery and fun out of chasing the cats and encourages everyone to get along.

Loki is a gentle soul and exhibited great self control. This is due in part to new and strange environment, part I-get-treats-as-long-as-I’m-good.

Once he had a pretty good idea of what the click meant, we worked on name recognition wherein I started walking around the house. He was pretty sure he knew where I was going so it gave him a good opportunity to charge ahead. Once he was looking away from me, I’d call his name. He ignored me the first couple of times and then it began to dawn on him that he would get clicked for responding to his name.

We graduated to outdoors with the other dogs around, and he ran down the steps into the fenced area. I called his name and he came back. I rewarded him with a huge “Good boy!” and a higher valued treat, a bit of white meat chicken.

We did three recalls like this but the third one he ignored. Ron was working on something in the garage and he became all involved in watching that. I quietly ushered all the dogs into the house. It took Loki a few minutes to figure out he was outside all by himself. When I finally opened the door, he came scooting in.

Lesson: Pay attention, or you miss out.

I want the dog to react instantly and with enthusiasm to his name, like, screeching halt when I call him. Stop whatever you are doing and come! We aren’t quite there yet. But he’s not had time to get hungry enough. He will soon learn that, here at boot camp, meals do not come out of the bowl. They are all in the frozen kong or following the clicker.

He is back in his crate now with the kong and resting in the AC while I get some work done.

So far so good!

2:55 pm

Loki is accustomed to a flexi lead so he has learned to pull very hard and go a distance away from the handler. I am graduating him to a traditional six foot leash.

We took Jasper and Loki to the farm store to buy horse feed, wormer and a salt block. Loki gets right in the car, no problem. He is a good traveler. We went through the bank drive through and the dogs got cookies.

Walking around the farm store he quickly figured out his job was to just stay on my left side. I change directions a lot and so he was forced to keep up. His mood was pretty subdued – he is not happy about having to give up the pulling, but he is learning very fast. During our store visit, I did a couple of extra trips around the building. I give him lots of praise and carry little treats in my pocket so I can offer encouragement. We stopped to look at the baby chickens, which he enjoyed. He also loves meeting new people. He is very social! Everyone wanted to pet him. He goes right up to other dogs too. I am not harping on him too much about anything, just letting him get used to the new leash walking routine.

When we got back, he hung out loose in the house for awhile, socializing with the other dogs and getting cookies. When I had to stop watching him, I put him back in his crate and gave him a bull trachea I had picked up at the store. He has a strong compulsion to chew, so every time I shut him in the crate I give him something that will help with that.

loki crate.jpg

For more info, check out my books:

25 Ways To Raise a Great Puppy

15 Rules for Clicker Training Your Dog

15 Rules for Clicker Training Your Cat

About Nancy J. Bailey

Artist, author, bad karaoke singer. Woodsy ragamuffin. Mom of a horse named Clifford who plays fetch and paints with watercolors. He visits libraries and schools with me, to promote literacy and making the world a better place. Yes, he is house trained, no, he doesn't live in my house! I have written three books about Clifford. But my newest book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, is co-written by my awesome sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome. Her unexpected one-liner wisecracks can always make me laugh. If you make me laugh, you've made my day!
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