Crate/ExPen going well and I am starting to crate Zorro instead of the big ex pen with litter box for short trips out. The ex pen takes up a lot of floor space and I will not be sorry to see it go, but I don't want to rush anything. Zorro gets much of his food and all of his Treat and Train time in the ex pen so he definitely loves to be in there. I have started the beginnings of some "crate games" work with him. He sleeps really well in his crate at night next to my bed but it's time to put some work into true attraction for the crate. Zorro can be confined or crated quietly as long as he has a food project (stuffed Kong or treat and train) to occupy him, he no longer gets frenzied at all to see me walk away. Confining him without food is out of the question though at this point.
Hiking is going great. This past weekend we had two days of over an hour each of hiking. I did do some carrying of Zorro on each hike, mostly if we were moving through areas of intense sunlight. I did not want him overheating and I wanted to give him breaks. I am choosing to only hike places near lakes or easy water sources. I want to be able to let the adult dogs I have with me swim and give Zorro the opportunity to cool off, hydrate and swim if he chooses. He is doing some short swim outs but isn't loving it yet. No pressure!
Zorro's recalls are phenomenal. I trust him off leash. He checks in with me a lot and will leave exploring with Perri when I call him. He even called off of deer poop this past weekend. I always give him high value food for recalling. He has a lot of natural focus on me and tremendous food drive and that sets him up for success with off leash hiking and recalls!
On lead work is going well too. If we are walking somewhere with leash laws, I put Zorro on a harness rather than his collar only. He is starting to understand how to walk out ahead of me rather than boomeranging behind me and getting tangled in my feet. Perri is helping to teach him this. I could not care less about loose leash walking right now.
Grooming is going a lot better. We had a short bath two days ago with a brief escape attempt and then tolerance. Nail trim so much better, I had Vince hold him again but this time Zorro was so relaxed and expectant of peanut butter. He was not afraid, he knew what I was doing. He trusted it. And he knew I would reward him for it. I am not in a rush to do solo nail trims with him, we will see how his comfort level unfolds. The dremel is out of the question for now, to be revisited in the future.
We are also exploring another venture: Breathe Rite strips in Zorro's ears to help them stand into prick ears. Zorro's ears have been trying hard to stand on their own for the last few weeks and since I do love prick ears, I wanted to give them some help. I bought the strips and decided that if he was afraid of my handling his ears and applying the strips that would be the end of it. We are overcoming some intense handling issues and unless this purely aesthetic project would be zero bother to him, I was not willing to pursue it. I cleaned his ear leathers with rubbing alcohol and he did not mind that (of course, he was paid with food!) and then I applied the strips. More food. He couldn't care less! The strips fell off about 24 hours later and his ears are already standing really well without them. How exciting! I applied a fresh set with some (safe!) glue this time, once again with much food and cooperation from Zorro. This is dually beneficial because he doesn't seem to mind his ears being handled at all, he gets food for it, and I am hoping this trust can translate to nail trims somehow for him. Bonding time.
Training has been focused on encouraging Zorro's toy drive. Zorro has great tug and toy skills, both at home and in other places. On thinking about it, the issue is that his food drive is so intense and he is unable to switch from food to toy rewards. We are working on that! I have been doing short little stops at various parks or areas and gauging his interest in the toy. He latches onto it nearly straight away so long as food is not available!
I have been working on some value transfer with him at home, just a small little handful of food and click/treat any interest in the toy. The sessions are minimal and have been very successful. At first in the session he will just nose touch the toy but he is getting to the point where he will chase a dragging toy away from the food hand and has started doing some bites onto it. This is a big deal for him with food available!
We are also working on some two-toys games and some retrieving. He does not like returning the ball to me but he will go to a bed or "place" that I have set up near me with his ball so I am positioning the bed closer and closer to where I am sitting or standing when we play, and then throwing a different ball for him instead of taking the ball he has retrieved to throw again or tugging with him and the ball.
Not much trick training or new behaviors this week. Our focus is on the toy work and getting trail time for right now. Just where we are! Puppy nipping seems to be diminishing unless Zorro is tired and cranky. I am looking forwards to those puppy teeth falling out!