Checking In

Last week Kona went for her annual check up and I thought this would be a good time to write an update on how things are going with our now-15 month old lab.  

She did very well at the vet (she loves going there because she sees people and other dogs).  A bit reluctant when it came time to the vaccinations (who isn’t?) but otherwise fine.  The vet told us she was a bit underweight and could stand to gain a few more pounds with her ideal weight likely being around 52 lbs. 

In terms of training and obedience, things are going fairly well.  I’ve been working on her on-leash manners during our walks, and occasionally in the mornings I can rely on her regular collar instead of the gentle leader. 

She’s loving, and obedient (well as much you can expect from a young lab).  Thanks to her crate training she hasn’t destroyed anything in our house.  But we do have one “problem”…

Our dog is too friendly.  Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous.  But it is the one area that we really need to work with her on.  The “problem” really only becomes an issue when she is off leash.  As soon as she sees another dog, person (adult or child), or other moving animal/bird she is off, racing towards them to say hello. On leash she is pretty good, but if one of her top draws comes into view she will start to pull on the leash, even if she has the gentle leader on. 

And of course, if our doorbell rings, she goes crazy with excitement.  In fact, the doorbell doesn’t have to ring – a few weeks ago my parents knocked softly on our door then walked into our foyer.  As soon as Kona heard their voices it was like the doorbell had rung.  Barking, jumping – it’s a good thing there is a gate to prevent her from reaching the door! 

So what gets her really excited?  Well there is an order of “preference” when it comes to her interest (#1 being the most excitement-inducing)… 

  1. Pippa (Kona’s BFF)
  2. Other labrador retrievers, or golden retrievers. 
  3. Strollers (this is relatively new).  Yes, Kona has figured out that strollers contain little people, which are almost as exciting as labs!
  4. Any other dog breed.  Small, large, friendly or not. 
  5. People.
  6. Cats.
  7. Birds. 

On the plus side, because of her small stature, strangers think she is still a puppy and assume that’s the cause of her bad manners (I’m too embarrassed to correct their mistake).  Also, in all other areas her obedience is very good.  In fact, when we find she’s weak in an area, it only takes a week or so of constant attention and the issue quickly gets resolved. 

We’re working hard to get the doorbell situation under control.  After only one session of watching Peter ring the doorbell, she stopped barking (and running frantically around the house looking for the guests) when she saw him ring it.  Hopefully we can transition to her not barking when the door is closed (and an unknown person rings it).  After that will be working on her reaction when a new voice enters the house.  Baby steps…

We’ve also signed up for an obedience course which will start the second week of June.  Instead of being in a training facility, the classes are held in parks throughout our neighbourhood.  The course description was perfectly suited to all the areas we’d like Kona to improve on:

“Each week, we’ll work on street and leash manners at different locations around the neighbourhood.  We will be working on our motivation skills, keeping our dog’s attention and the application of previously acquired skills such as heel, watch-me, stay and other commands.  

  • Teach your dog to walk politely beside a stroller, work on heeling AND paying attention to you while walking along a busy street with pedestrians, playing children and busy stores and restaurants.
  • Condition your Retriever’s innate desire to flush out the ducks as you walk around a park.
  • Wait patiently while you greet a friend you meet while on your walk AND ignore their dog.”

If we can succeed with that last item, I will be thoroughly impressed!

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Birthday Girl

Happy Birthday Kona!!!

Ten months ago we brought home an 8 week old puppy who looked like this:

First day at home.

Since then, we’ve gone through the ups and downs of a life with a puppy.  At times frustrating, at times entertaining, but mostly fun.  We went through a medical scare in the summer, and then experienced the “joys” of a dog in heat.  And now we have a 1 year old lab.

She’s definitely on the small side of the labrador retriever scale – just 50 lbs, and an inch or so shorter than most other female labs.  But she’s by far the friendliest, happiest, most loving dog I’ve ever known (no bias here of course).  If there’s another living creature that comes into her view, she wants to meet, greet and play with that creature – doesn’t matter what it is!

We can’t imagine life without her.

Learning to Run (again)

I have a love / hate relationship with running.  On a beautiful spring or fall day, or when I accomplish a distance goal by participating in a race – those days I love it.  On the rest of the days, not so much. 

It took many attempts for me to actually get into running.  I tried off and on at university, and again when I was a recent graduate living in Toronto.  But my attempts never lasted beyond a month or so. 

Then, the summer after I met P a few things happened that led to my first successful 5 K.  First, P is a very active individual and he was (and still is) very encouraging when it comes to me being active.  Second, my friend J (who is also a personal trainer) took me up on a statement I made that I wanted to run a 5K one day.  That July she committed to running in the Run for the Cure the following October.  There was plenty of time to work up to a 5K distance so I had no excuse.  I found the Couch Potato to 5K training program online and followed it.  The day of the 5K, J ran beside or behind me the entire race, shouting out encouragement along the way and P was at the finish line to congratulate me.  I was extremely proud of myself and celebrated by proceeding to not run for another couple of years. 

Fast forward to 2 years ago when I joined a Learn to Run clinic at our local Running Room.  I completed two 5K races and decided I really wanted to try a 10K.  Unfortunately, I got injured and could not compete in the first 10K I signed up for.  After recovering from the injury I returned to running and finally completed a 10K at the annual Zoo Run.  This time, J was again by my side.  We even dressed up in costumes (a popular practice at the Zoo Run) as the tortoise (moi) and the hare (J).  She even let me win! 

It’s been just over a year since I completed the 10K and since then I’ve run off and on.  I found it challenging to keep up with the running once Kona arrived at our house as running had to be done separately from her daily walks.  Unfortunately, running isn’t recommended for dogs in their first year.  The reason for this is that the puppy’s joints are still developing and exposing them to distance running at that age will greatly increase the likelihood that they will develop hip dysplasia

Now that we are nearing Kona’s first birthday we’ve decided it is time to slowly ease her into a running regimen.  I’m going back to basics and I’ll be applying the Couch Potato to 5K program with her by my side.  Only this time, I’ve found an app (Ease into 5K) to guide us on each run – it will even track our distance and pace.  Tonight will be Week 1, Day 1 of the program – fingers crossed it all goes well (I have a feeling she’ll do better with it than I will)!

Kona’s Bag of Tricks – 10 months

I can’t believe our girl is 10 months already. Her vocabulary list has not really changed since her 9 month post so I won’t be repeating it here.

Kona, 10 months

Her weight is remaining the same at 52 lbs. This month I measured her height (at the shoulders) and she’s 21 inches tall. This is the low end of the adult female lab size. No idea how much taller she will grow, although we do know that she will continue to fill out in girth over the next year. Speaking of girth, she is 26 inches diameter just behind her shoulders and her neck is 19 inches.

The only real change we’ve noticed this month is that she has gotten back into the habit of jumping up. We are not pleased about it and are working hard to discourage it. It’s especially annoying as she will jump up on you from behind.

We’re also working on her manners when it comes to the basement. She’s finally large enough that she can’t fit in the custom cat door that P made for Keegan.

Her curiosity for that space has not diminished. If she’s in the kitchen when one of us needs to go down there we make her sit and wait at the top of the stairs. It takes constant reminding to get her to stay put. Once we are safely at the bottom, she’s given the okay and she just barrels down the steps. She’s only down there for a minute or two but you have to watch her like a hawk to make sure she stays away from the litter box.

We’ve also discovered that if she sees us hugging she will want in on the action – she’ll come right over and sit next to us and if we don’t acknowledge her right away she will either jump up on me or start sniffing me. Another habit to work on!

All that being said our “struggles” with Kona are all very minor. She’s still a puppy and any challenges we face are typical puppy-related antics. P and I often remind each other what a good dog we have – we’re very lucky.

Kona’s Bag of Tricks – 9 months

Feels like I was just writing her 8 month post yesterday and here we are at her 9 month birthday already!  I don’t have a proper 9 month photo, but I will try to take one so that I can share it soon.

It’s been an interesting month.  P and I were home for a week and a half at the end of October / beginning of November.  Kona ended up at the dog park pretty much every day, sometimes twice, and P continued to bring her after work on weekdays.  We since discovered she has picked up a couple of bad habits that a few of her dog park buddies have shown her.  Specifically, she is not responding to recalls when she is off leash.  She’s also beginning to play “keep away” and is jumping up when she wants something (a toy, or treat).  As a result, we’ve cut back on the dog park visits and we are focusing our training energy on getting her to respond when called.

We’ve also decided to apply a similar philosophy to jumping up as the one behind speak / quiet.  You can’t teach a dog to be quiet until they have learned how to speak (otherwise, they don’t know what quiet means).  We are continuing to tell her “off” when she jumps up uninvited, but we are starting to use the command “hugs” for when she is allowed to jump up and give us a hug.  We’ll see how that goes!

Also this month, we started a reno project in our master bedroom and were pleasantly surprised to discover that she will settle quietly in her crate while hammering / banging is going on directly above of her head.  So that’s great news!

Commands she knows well:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Stay (up to 1 min, with rewards every 20-25 seconds)
  • Wait
  • Leave it
  • Drop it
  • Take it
  • Heel
  • Go to bed
  • Okay (permission to move / eat)
  • Go sniff (to release her from heel)
  • Shake (shakes her right paw)
  • Paw (shakes her left paw)
  • High-Five
  • Circle (turning clockwise)
  • Around (turning counter-clockwise)
  • Touch (a game where she move around the room and she touches our right hand with her nose each time we say ‘touch’.  So much fun!!!)
  • Waiting at open doors / gates
  • Speak
  • Quiet
  • Sitting when on a walk and the leash leader stops walking.
  • Noses

Commands she is good, but not great at:

  • Watch (a focus command where she cannot look away from us) – she’s getting better at this one
  • Beg
  • Come – still needs work when distractions or temptations are present.
  • Inside (used instead of ‘come’ when we want her to come into the house instead of continuing to play)
  • Stand
  • Roll-over
  • Cuddles
  • Hugs
  • Park it

Commands that are new and/or need work:

  • Play Dead / Bang

Her weight hasn’t really changed.  In fact, we took her into the vet a couple of weeks ago and were told she was developing a bit of fat mass around her ribcage.  We’ve reduced her diet accordingly, and will be transitioning from puppy to adult food as our current bag runs out.  Only 2 weeks on the reduced portion and we can already feel a difference on her rib cage.

Kona’s Bag of Tricks – 8 months

As the weather cools and autumn makes its presence known, Kona has really come into her element.  This is the weather she was bred for and she is loving it.  While P or I might be chilled by the cooler temperatures and / or damp rainy days, Kona is a happy pup any time she gets to go outside.  And we can’t keep her out of water (puddles, pools, you name it).

Mornings at the dog park are invaluable.  She has a blast and we have a rather sedate puppy at the end of the day.

Commands she knows well:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Stay (up to 1 min, with rewards every 20-25 seconds)
  • Wait
  • Leave it
  • Drop it
  • Take it
  • Heel
  • Go to bed
  • Okay (permission to move / eat)
  • Go sniff (to release her from heel)
  • Shake (shakes her right paw)
  • Paw (shakes her left paw)
  • High-Five
  • Circle (turning clockwise)
  • Around (turning counter-clockwise)
  • Touch (a game where she move around the room and she touches our right hand with her nose each time we say ‘touch’.  So much fun!!!)
  • Waiting at open doors / gates
  • Speak
  • Quiet

Commands she is good, but not great at:

  • Watch (a focus command where she cannot look away from us) – she’s getting better at this one
  • Beg
  • Sitting when on a walk and the leash leader stops walking.
  • Come – still needs work when distractions or temptations are present.
  • Inside (used instead of ‘come’ when we want her to come into the house instead of continuing to play)
  • Stand
  • Roll-over
  • Cuddles
  • Noses

Commands that are new and/or need work:

  • Play Dead / Bang
  • Park it (lying down on her dog bed)

On Sunday Kona weighed in at 53 lbs, so only a gain of 3 lbs in the past month.

A Day of Firsts

I just looked at the date and realized that Kona is 8 months old today.  She’s growing up fast!

Yesterday we marked two milestones in Kona’s puppyhood.  The first involved her very first bath in our bathtub.  Labs typically only need baths twice a year.  In the spring, Kona was tiny enough to be washed in our laundry room sink.

We weren’t intending to give her a bath yesterday, but during the morning play session at the park her friend Ivy led her into a swampy area and Kona arrived home one big stinky mess.  Kona’s never been upstairs in our house, and certainly never in a bathtub.  Luckily, she is well acquainted with getting hosed down in the backyard, so the handheld shower in our tub was no different.

What is this place and what are you planning?

Since it was a new experience, I think she was a little uneasy.  But she stayed calm, and let P shampoo her coat and rinse it off.  Thanks to some advice from the staff at Global Pets, we were prepared for the “shake off” and grabbed the shower curtain before our entire bathroom was coated in sudsy water.

What is that stuff?

Getting scrubbed

Afterwards she got a good brushing – it is unbelievable the amount of fur that releases after a bath.  We discovered that Keegan’s slicker brush does a much better job than our zoom groom, so we will have to pick up a larger one for Kona.

All clean!

And our other first?  Last night at the end of the evening, P and I were both sitting on the floor.  Kona walked over, and put her head and front paws on my lap and began to doze.  She’s becoming more affectionate every week but this was the first time she initiated a snuggle.  I was thrilled!  P was a little jealous 😉