Disturbing Behaviour

I have a confession to make.  Kona’s been driving me a little crazy over the last couple of weeks.  I don’t know if it’s the heat, or if she’s not getting enough exercise, or if she’s going through a growth spurt of some sort, but something is up and she is constantly restless. 

Our typical routine on weekday evenings involves P exercising Kona when he gets home from work.  They are usually out when I arrive home, so I get dinner started.  After dinner and dishes are taken care of, P goes upstairs to the office while I relax in the family room to watch some TV with Kona.  Normally, she settles.  Sometimes she needs to be encouraged to play with a chew toy. 

But these past few days?  She’s been… well I guess the polite way of putting it would be to say she’s “instigating”.  She’ll try and chew on our couch (which she knows is not allowed), or she’ll start chewing on her dog bed (also not allowed), and after that she chews on the concrete hearth in front of our fireplace.  In the past few days she also started chewing on the door mat at our back door. 

It’s driving me up the wall.  My “relaxing” evening ends up consisting of me disciplining her every 3 minutes or so.  And she knows what she’s doing is wrong.  The last time I caught her at the door mat and told her to “go to bed”, she walked straight to her crate and sat there looking at me. 

But as a fluke, I have discovered a distraction…

Thursday night I was watching the Top 20 perform on So You Think You Can Dance (yes, much to P’s dismay, I enjoy my fair share of reality TV).  When a jazz routine came on the screen, Kona was MESMERIZED.

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The moment the dance number ended, she went back to her annoying antics.  But as soon as the next routine, a Viennese Waltz, started, she was back to watching the TV.

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Sadly, her enjoyment of the dance program ended abruptly with the end of this routine.  The two numbers were so different that I can’t think of what it was that grabbed her attention.  I guess we’ll just have to see if she shows interest in any of the numbers in next week’s show!  Meanwhile I just may start taking her for a THIRD walk after dinner in hopes that it will help her settle.

Visitors Beware

If you ever visit our household or have a chance to meet Kona there is something you need to know…

If you put your face anywhere close to hers, be prepared for this:

Yeah, our dog is a very affectionate pup.  She won’t hesitate to give you a kiss on the face.  The other day at the dog park one of the owners learned this the hard way… Kona gave her a big kiss… on the lips… and the woman didn’t have her mouth closed.

Yep, that’s our girl 🙂

Easiest Training Ever

Kona, like every other dog, is a creature of habit.  Since she came to live with us we have given her stuffed kongs when she is crated.  First it was loose kibble with a bit of peanut butter to get her used to the crate and to like being in there.  As she got older we began soaking the kibble and then freezing it in the kong (a kongsicle) so that it would last longer. 

I’m not sure when we started, but for as far back as I can remember we give Kona a kongsicle while P and I are eating dinner.  It keeps her occupied, quiet and ensures there is no begging at the table. 

Normally, we tell her to “go to bed” when we want her in her crate, including at dinner when she gets her kongsicle.  A few weeks ago I noticed that when I was ready to serve dinner she would look at me, then walk to the crate on her own without anyone telling her to.  I’m still not sure what signal she is picking up on – removing a dish from the oven?  P joining us in the kitchen?  Grabbing plates from the cabinet?  But whatever it is we no longer tell her to go to bed at dinnertime because she goes there on her own. 

Then we noticed that we didn’t need to lock her in the crate.  In fact, the crate door can be left wide open and she will stay in there until the kong is empty.  Only once did she pick up the filled kong to bring it outside the crate but she promptly returned there when told to go to bed. 

A few nights ago we decided to try something different.  Instead of bringing the kong to her, P called her over to join him by the fridge.  She wasn’t sure what to do at first – anytime we do something slightly different from her routine she acts as if we are testing her.  But since he was holding the kong and telling her to “come” she eventually left the crate and joined him.  P put the kong on the floor and told Kona to “take it”, then to “go to bed”.  She didn’t get it at first, she kept looking at the kong then at P wondering what she was supposed to do.  It took some repeating, but eventually she picked up the kong and went to her crate. 

The second night the experience was repeated and this time she tried to chew the kong in the kitchen at first, before relenting and going into her crate. 

The third night she took the kong and went straight to her crate, without being told. 

We’re pretty impressed.  This is by far the easiest thing we have ever trained her to do, but then, it is based on months of routine!

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.

The Good and the Not So Good (aka a typical day with a puppy)

Since she was a puppy, we have given Kona a portion of her daily kibble quota by stuffing it in a Kong.  Sometimes it is soaked in water first and the Kong is frozen (this gives us more than enough time to enjoy an uninterrupted dinner of our own).  Regardless of how it is put together, she has to sit in her crate, and wait for the Kong and then eat the kibble in her crate.

I also feed her a biscuit right before I leave for work when she is crated for the day.  To “earn” the treat she has to go and sit in her crate and wait patiently.  It has become so habit forming that in the mornings she will head to her crate once I lock the back door (before I even have a biscuit in my hand).  It has also influenced her in that anytime she thinks she is about to receive a treat or another exciting goodie, she will head straight to the crate.

This morning I went to give her a new toy of hers that has become a favourite, the Bouncy Bone.  As expected she went into her crate to eagerly await the toy.  Since I like to mess with her head, I pointed towards her dog bed and started towards that end of the room.  She leapt to her feet, dashed over to the bed, pounced onto her bed and laid down.  The amount of excitement she displayed in the 10 seconds it took her to do this was incredibly entertaining and very cute.

And that’s what I love about having a puppy – the unlimited enthusiasm she shows for everything: a favourite toy, a yummy treat, a new person or dog crossing our path on a walk, the prospect of a ride in the car.  All little things, but to her they couldn’t be more exciting.

This of course makes up for the flip side… not 20 minutes later she abandoned her toy and started a silly run (aka running like an idiot at top speed in every direction).  This time the silly run began with a bee-line towards me, where I was settled on the couch enjoying my morning coffee.  In a split second, 50 lbs of chocolate lab sprang onto my lap, knocked over the mug of coffee in my hand, and onto the couch.  To her credit, she responded immediately to my yells of “off” and “bad puppy” and stopped in her tracks.  Thankfully the coffee was not piping hot at that point, and it’s an inexpensive Ikea couch with a slipcover that will be getting a good washing tonight.  Also learned this morning – somebody likes the taste of coffee…

My What Sharp Teeth You Have

So it seems that I wrote this post a while back (before Kona had her adult teeth) and then promptly forgot to post it.  After much delay, here’s a little Kona-ism that we discovered while working on Kona’s bite inhibition as a young pup. 

Until they’ve spent time around a puppy, most people (myself included) have no idea that all puppies nip. It is the way they interact with their littermates and it is an important part of play, because they teach one another when bites are too strong.

Once you bring your puppy home, away from its littermates, that nipping gets directed towards you and any other human that might be around. In fact, most greetings of new people involve some form of nipping. For people like me, who are not at ease with the concept of sharp teeth on your skin, it can be a bit intimidating. The key is to get over that fear. It is important that your puppy learn early on the strength behind his / her bite and the level of strength that is acceptable. Puppy teeth are razor-sharp, but at that early age they do not have the strength in their jaw. As they grow up and gain strength they lose their puppy teeth and replace them with monstrous adult teeth.

The key is to teach them bite inhibition before they gain that strength. Part of the reason behind this is to avoid a dangerous bite being directed towards a human in the event of a future incident where an adult dog is frightened or startled. This is accomplished by allowing the puppy to chew / nibble on you when they are not overly excited. If the bite is too hard, you let out a loud yelp, just like another puppy would. 

I had to force myself to let Kona nibble on me, as my natural instinct is to avoid it. Once I did though, I found I not only became a lot more comfortable around Kona but also around dogs in general.  I’m completely at ease with young nipping puppies now which makes playing with them a lot more fun!

There was a cute quirk we discovered in all of this nipping. Kona would often respond to our yelp with an apologetic lick. But that’s not the cutest part… Kona would stop her nipping, look at us, look at her paw and bite it, then look back at us. It seemed to us that she was testing out her bite to see how strong it really was and thinking, “Seriously? They think this is too hard?!?”

All of this nipping and chewing was well worth the effort on our parts. Kona has developed excellent soft mouth and it is rare that one of us has cause to yelp. In fact, we didn’t even notice the change until my family commented in July that Kona was no longer nipping. It’s something that just disappeared seemingly overnight.

Affectionately Ours

Greetings from Kona have always involved lots of kisses (licking), piggy grunts, and eager excitement.  While she is not necessarily interested in snuggling, she manages to show us signs of affection when we least expect it. 

One such moment occurred the other day, first with P and then with me.  P was playing with Kona and got down on the floor to wrestle with her.  In my case, I was on my hands and knees on the floor, reaching under the couch to retrieve one of her chew toys.  Both situations involved our heads at or below her level. 

In the past, she has responded to these moments by licking our faces and gently nibbling on our ears.  This time around, she added another affectionate gesture to the mix.  She patted us on the head.  Yes, as if we were the dogs and she was the human! 

It seems she has taken what we do to her, and she is turning the tables on us 🙂