Good Boy, Freeway!
Bushnell, FL - Events of Saturday, Feb. 4 to Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012
Now that we have finished the refrigerator project and have some time to relax, we figured it was time for an update on Freeway, our new Cavachon puppy. A Cavachon is a hybrid between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Bichon Frise.
We picked Freeway up on January 7th from Royal Puppy Palace in Odessa, FL when he was 8 weeks old. When we first got Freeway, he weighed just about 3¼ pounds. He is now 3 months old, and he has more than doubled his weight. His final weight will probably be 12 to 15 pounds, so he still has more growing to do.
We enrolled Freeway in a puppy class at PetSmart near The Villages. We still remembered some of the training we had done with Molly, our previous dog, although some of that trainer's ideas were a bit strange to say the least...don't motivate with food and a once-a-year bath is adequate...but we happened to meet one of the trainers when we had Freeway at the vet (Banfield, which is located inside PetSmart). The trainer, whose name is Terry, seemed to be very caring and very knowledgeable, so we decided a refresher course with Terry would be a good idea.
Dog training classes are really somewhat of a misnomer. Unless you pay big bucks for specialized, personalized dog training, most group classes are really intended to train the owners. Since the owners spend 24/7 with their pets, they are really the best ones to do the training in the first place; but knowledge is required to do that successfully.
Freeway's class is small. There is a total of only three puppies which makes for lots of individual attention and lots of opportunities to ask questions. The first class was mostly a "get acquainted" session where Terry outlined the basics of the training that would take place. We started working on getting the puppies to sit. Terry also allowed the pups to play together to get to know each other. That's Trixie on the left. she is a toy Fox Terrier. Abbie is on the lap of her owner in the red shirt. We're not sure of her breed, but we think she is a Shih Tzu.
Our homework consisted of continuing to work on the sit command. Even though sit is one of the most basic commands, it is not as easy as you might think to teach it to an active puppy who wants to explore everything in sight. Terry said for puppies this young, sitting for 5 seconds at a time is considered to be a success.
Freeway's potty training is coming right along. He can easily go all night, and he can frequently go several hours at a time. He even sometimes asks to go out; but not always, and he hasn't gotten the hang of ringing the bell to ask to go out either. Therefore, we need to be diligent and watch for the signs he needs to go. His successes always result in enthusiastic praise of "good boy, Freeway!"
We also sometimes watch Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, and we have a couple of his books. One of the things he emphasises is the importance of exercise for dogs. He usually begins his training sessions with walking the dog to burn off excess energy making the dog more receptive to the training. The benefits of exercise were really brought into focus following our first puppy class. During the class, the pups romped and played with each other for about 45 minutes. Freeway was so tuckered out after class, he had little energy left over to look for ways to get into trouble. He usually gets a little hyperactive after dinner, but the evening after the first class, all he wanted to do was nap.
According to Cesar Millan, walking is not only is good exercise for the dog and the humans, it is a natural pack activity. Wild dogs and wolves travel together under the alpha dog's leadership to look for food, and walking helps solidify the humans' role as pack leaders.
Because of the importance of exercise for dogs, we were happy the primary lesson for the second class was walking on a leash. We had been working with Freeway to try to get him used to a collar and leash, so he did fairly well in class. The dog's natural tendency is to pull back and resist the leash, so the important thing we learned was how to encourage him to keep walking by praising him and by stooping down to encourage him when he lagged behind. The instructor also said a little peanut butter on the end of a spoon also would help, but Freeway seems to be doing well without the peanut butter.
After walking the dogs around the PetSmart store, we had a little time for the puppies to play. Terry is great, and you can tell she really loves dogs. She gets right down on the floor with them to join in the play.
We are looking forward to the third class. It will cover the "leave it" command. We have been using that for several weeks already, but we have had only limited success.
Earlier, we mentioned how much Freeway has grown. His weight has more than doubled, and his size has also increased correspondingly. Since we see him every day, we don't notice his size increasing that much, but it was really demonstrated to us the other day when the temperatures took a dive into the low 30s and mid 20s for a couple of nights, and we got out the coat we bought Freeway about a month ago. It had been fairly warm, so we haven't had to use the coat we bought him for the past few weeks. The photo below shows how the coat fit when we tried it on in the store...
...and the next photo shows how it fits now. The coat only goes about half way down Freeway's back, and it looks more like a vest. The Velcro strap under his chest is barely long enough to get fastened.
As another comparison, look at the next photo of Freeway and his size compared to that of his toy the day we picked him up at 8 weeks of age...
...and contrast that to his size now at 3 months of age compared to the same toy.
Another example of his growth is this photo at 8 weeks on the steps of the motor home. We were thrilled he could make it up the first step.
The next photo of Freeway on the steps is at 3 months of age. He can now bound up and down all the steps. We had to work really hard to get him to sit still long enough for a photo.
We'll end this post with Valentine's Day. Since our daughter Lora was a young girl, Paul has given her a pink rose each Valentine's Day. It is a tradition he has continued even though she is now an adult and is married. Sending her flowers now that we are on the road has been a challenge because there aren't any florists near their home, and Paul had a lot of difficulty getting anyone to make the delivery. This year, J. Michael graciously offered to pick up Lora's rose for Paul at a florist near where he works. J. Michael dropped it off in Lora's car after lunch so she would find it after she was done teaching that day.
Margery has always been fond of cut flowers. Paul didn't send her flowers often, but when he did (usually on Valentine's Day), she was always thrilled. One solution to sending flowers while we are on the road is Pro Flowers. They are an online florist that sends flowers by UPS. In the early afternoon, Paul made up an excuse to go out so he could stop by the campground mail room on his way back to see if the flowers had arrived. Sure enough, they were there. Pro Flowers does a nice job of packaging the flowers. They are carefully wrapped to prevent damage, and the stems are in wet Oasis floral foam. Margery was delighted.
We didn't go out to dinner for Valentine's Day. We had plans for the following day to do some sightseeing that included eating out, and we didn't want to cheat on our diet two days in a row. Speaking of our diet, we are going well. Paul is nearing his goal with a weight loss of over 25 pounds, and Margery has lost about 14 pounds.
We did have a special dessert on Valentine's day. We picked up some delicious, no-sugar, double strawberry ice cream at Walmart. We're happy to report the freezer of the new Samsung kept the ice cream hard as a rock. Paul had difficulty scooping it out with a regular spoon, so we'll be looking for a sturdy ice cream scoop in the near future.
As we mentioned, we have plans to do some sightseeing. Stay tuned.