Monday, June 30, 2008

Miniature Newfoundland & The Big, Scary Vacuum Cleaner

From yesterday, a photo of the tiny Newfoundland with her nose buried in the grass. When she's not pulling Max around by the tail, or to trying to start something with big Katy, or faking me out by acting like she's going to kiss my nose and then snatching a chunk of my hair instead — she is rather charming.

She's plagiarized every play out of Katy's book except the chapter on being afraid of loud stuff.

I thought maybe we were going to have a problem with being afraid of loud noises when I got the vacuum out today. She reacted to it exactly like Katy does with all things large and novel. She skirted away, looking back at it with suspicion. To defeat that before it grows into a habit, I took immediate action and did a little 'counter conditioning' using systematic desensitization with her.

The point of systematic desensitization is to introduce gradually more scary things, waiting for signs of relaxation before adding more frightening stimuli. This is a recommended technique for treating phobias.

The systematic desensitization went like so:
I brought her over to the vacuum and sat down with her in my lap, giving her lots of pats and verbal praise. Then I held her paws out to it and made her bat at it, still making all kinds of high pitched googly moogly good puppy sounds. I held the cord out and moved it around to get her attention. I knew she'd think it was a toy, and although I don't want her to chase and chew cords, she has shown an interest in them so I temporarily used that to my advantage.

After she expressed a keen interest in the cord I banged it against the plastic on the vacuum and rubbed it against the corrugated part of the hose. She didn't like that, but I got her to come back using praise and moving the cord around so she could bat it around. The next time, I did the same thing, but quieter.

Then I stood up and moved the vacuum as if I was vacuuming but didn't turn it on. She didn't like that and backed away. So I moved the vacuum backward and away from her and every time she moved forward, I moved the vacuum away from her to make it seem like she was chasing it off. Then I turned it on and continued to do the same thing. She chased it and then got bored and laid down.

Within minutes I was vacuuming right next to her nose.

So, using tried and true principles of behavior modification and learning, in ten minutes I turned a frightened little puppy into a calm one.

I'd love to use this technique with Katy to get her acclimated to strangers, but the number of people who are willing to play guinea pig with a huge, barking dog are vanishingly small. If I could scrounge up some brave volunteers, this plan from the Animal Human Society describes more or less what I'd do. I might have to run some counter conditioning on the volunteers to prep them for their roles, seeing as how they would be frightened of the big black dog!

In any case, given little Yuki's quick learning it will be interesting to see how many trials it takes to get her to learn commands like shake, lie down, back away and give. Katy showed herself to be a star pupil, learning shake in just four trials and the others equally quickly.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Puppy's first swim.

This morning we took Little Miss Intrepid down to the Farmer's Market so she could continue to be exposed to people and loud sounds.

She's already showing signs that she's got a completely different temperament than our other newf. She fearlessly approaches loud and new sounds.

Our older newf cowers behind the fridge if so much as a pin drops. Okay that's an exaggeration, but not much of one!

So that Little Miss Intrepid stays that way, we've decided to drive her to a place with people and sounds everyday so she can get habituated to life in the city.

The Bold One was completely unfazed by the band blaring at the market and everyone who bent down to meet her found themselves walking away trailed by a little Newfoundland.

After about 8 minutes she got cranky - no doubt a combination of being hot, tired and overstimulated - so we drove home but not before stopping at the fountain on campus first — for her first swim.

The pics didn't turn out that well, but I did snap a terrific, melt-your-heart one of her and Mr. Field Notes afterwards.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Puppy's first day home!

Our incredibly tiny 8 week old Newfoundland arrived today at around 1 p.m. She was delivered right to our home, and I carried her in myself. Mr. Field Notes was getting in his usual swim at the lunch hour before heading back to work for a slew of afternoon meetings so he wasn't there for the excitement.

Puppy was perfectly well behaved, curious and followed me around the house everywhere I went. She licked me, gnawed on my pant leg and mewed a lot. She is definitely a squeaker.

Max took the arrival of the puppy remarkably well. Of course, I think it makes all the difference in the world that she is smaller than he is. He sniffed her and laid down by her. It was very sweet. Then, Katy came in. She got excited and very quickly went into bossy intimidation mode. Puppy hid underneath me, under the tables, in any spot she could find. And she was excited too — to play. But Katy didn't like that and put her paw down on the puppy's back who squealed. Eventually I got Katy to calm down, but she still produced copious amounts of drool. I mean - serious drowned in it pools of drool. I take it that was because she was anxious.

After a while I took the puppy outside so she could hopefully pee (which she had already done once inside on an easy to wash cloth). But all puppy wanted to do was wreck through the garden and lie underneath the lily leaves. She crashed through the largest of my snapdragon plants, tearing it in two so I brought the torn off stems with flowers inside and put them in a vase.

Puppy played in the sprinkler and got good and dirty so she got a good toweling off inside, accompanied by tick removal. She had a little tick lodged into her brow.

Then we drove downtown where she went inside a couple of businesses, met up with Mr. Field Notes and had our picture taken for the stores' bulletin boards. She also got her first collar.

All in all it was a pretty smooth introduction. She's asleep in the kitchen now.

We're thinking we are going to call her Yuki.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Name the Newf Contest

Welcome to the Name the Newf Contest!

I'm sponsoring this contest to generate names - and hopefully a winning one - for our new Newfoundland puppy. The person who suggest the name that sticks and becomes her name will win an item from my etsy store. You can choose anything under $20.

The contest ends when we've chosen our puppy's name.

** Participate as many times as you like, but please only once per day. A serious name that befits a large, dignified individual is most likely to stick. She may be small now, but in a few months, she'll be 100lb behemoth! Remember leave a way for me to contact you if you win.


Yesterday we got to meet our new baby!

At 12 pounds, she was just a ball of black fluff.

She is one of a litter of 9 Newfies that are almost all the black and white Landseer variety.

The newfie pups are from the same mom and dad our other newf is from. There were only 2 black girls born, so we had our pick of the two.

I chose the more sociable of the two who also happened to be the bigger one. She's got two white toes, just like her big sister!

We don't have a name yet so we're looking for suggestions! I am thinking of having a 'name the newf' contest if we can't come up with anything. It just has to sound good with Katy and be something that can be easily called and have good nicknames.

Really, we could have had the 'pick of the litter' who I think was this Landseer male with an all black head. He was super affectionate and stuck to my side practically the whole time. Whenever I felt someone licking my hand or nibbling at my ankles, it was him. But, we decided black *and* white hair would just be too much. He sure is a cute little man though! His expression reminded me so much of Max. His name would have been Sailor, I think. Or, Bruno.

Our little fluff ball will stay living at the farm she was born at for 3 more weeks, then we get to take her home sometime around the 4th of July. She'll have some vet visits and get vaccinated and de-wormed and all that good stuff.

While visiting Katy's canine family we discovered she is a lot taller than both her parents. She makes her 'old man' 12-year-old Bruin look small! Stilts. That's her new nickname. Or, little horse. The first thing Bruin wanted to do when he met Katy was clean her ears. She didn't want to have anything to do with that though. Her nose wrinkled up and she growled at him. Yep, she wanted to bite her old man for trying to clean her ears — something she does to Max nearly everyday. The biting part - and the ear cleaning. Her ears get a funk about them, so it certainly would be nice if she came around to the idea of letting her little sister lick her ears. Without a doubt she will be licking little sister's ears!

Katy had a grand time running around the farm and finding out what puppies are. She was very good around them, if not a little bored by them.

Meeting Little Sister

Our Baby Newfoundland... who needs a name!