The Week in Tweets (30th November)

Approximately every week, I make a post detailing the links I shared on my Twitter.  I also use the Tweet of the Week to highlight my favourite link.  This is the post where you get a cup of tea before you start and prepare yourself to waste an hour.


Tweet of the Week

Sorry for, two weeks in a row, picking a non-doggy link to share with you. But this is really cool!  You’ll be hooked from the first line: “In 1964, a geologist in the Nevada wilderness discovered the oldest living thing on earth, after he killed it.” The story of how a 5,000 year old tree was cut down, and then a description of other awesome old trees. A fascinating article that makes you feel young!  From the Collectors Weekly: Read My Rings: The Oldest Living Tree Tells All.

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Puppies 2012 – The First Week

Puppies are born with their eyes and ears closed, and are almost ‘blobs’ and personality-less. However, they can feel hot and cold, and they can smell, and that’s enough for us to begin to habituate puppies to touch and begin socialisation.

Clover and 3-day-old puppies.



Early Neurological Sitmulation

We always commence early neurological stimulation on our puppies. This is a program that runs from day 3 until day 16.  However, the program very much advises that puppies are not overly stressed by this program being modified in any way – i.e. extending the times or the frequency of any of the stimulation. Because of this, I do not perform these stimulation exercises on days where we are expecting ‘puppy visitors’.  These puppy visitors often handle the puppies in a way that tick many of the exercises, anyway. Because of our attempts at bottle feeding, puppies also did not undergo neurological stimulation on these days, as this process was deemed to be stressful enough for the pups. (Watch a video about early neurological stimulation.)

Some include an extra component of early neurological stimulation which includes introducing puppies to new smells. I don’t actively attempt to do this with my puppies, but they do receive exposure to new smells as mum is fed different foods in the whelping box, from different people handling the puppies, and also different products on these peoples (e.g. fabric conditioners, hand moisturisers, etc).


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General Training Bits (Dunbar)

This post is part of the series in response to Dunbar’s 2012 Australian seminars. See index.

There are a lot of little training bits that Dunbar mentioned that don’t really go in any other post… Here they are for you:

  • In the ‘big wide world’, dog owners should always carry treats for classical conditioning. Always. For the life of the dog. You can perhaps relax a bit after the dog is 3 years old, but it certainly should go beyond 3-4 months of ‘puppyhood’.
  • We should aim to remove food lures (but this is not the same as classical conditioning, where we need food all the time).
  • A dog that will play fetch or tug are more reliable off lead, as they often seek people to engage in play.
  • Dunbar stated that he did not support using behaviour-ancedecent-consequence (that is, BAC) in training as he finds it ineffective.  That is, as a dog sits, you say “sit”, and hope they associate the word with the behaviour.  (In my personal experience, I have captured behaviours using this method and put them on cue in very few repetitions… I find it quite effective.)
  • Sit and lie down are great solutions to almost any problem – as long as you’re still there.
  • Fixes for humping:
    • Tell the dog to do something else (e.g. sit, drop, fetch).
    • Cue the dog to “off” and withdraw from the environment if the dog continues to hump.
    • Along with ‘put your problem on cue’, put humping on cue! (Jean Donaldson did just that.)
    • If your dog really likes humping, give your dog a ‘humpy cushion’ to reward them for good behaviour.
  • For teaching a dog to ‘take stuff’, then associate the cue with them taking good treats from your hand. The dog will form a habit, and will automatically take less-good-stuff when presented.
  • Tugging can be vamped as a secondary reinforcer.
  • Punishment is insufficient.  Punishes inhibits behaviour only.  Training is not just stopping undesirable behaviours, but also quickly getting back on track into more appropriate behaviours.
  • “Sorry behaviour” exists. Dunbar used the example of young horses who, when kicked out from a herd for a short time, return in an apologetic way.  This can be a way to strengthen relationships.
  • Dunbar described ‘back chaining’ as “moving to a position of strength”, and used (people) learning poems as an example. That is, if a person was to learn the last bit of a poem first, and work their way back, they’re likely to learn it quicker.
  • Dunbar advocated teaching dogs that a gruff or loud tone of voice means “better treats”, which helps to protect against dogs running away or acting unfavourably in situations when their owner’s voice becomes tense.
  • Suggested putting running fast on cue, and using it in recalls and dog sports (like flyball).
  • As a safety behaviour, teaching dogs “not my daddy” when people go to open their crate: anti-theft training.
  • Training is:
    • Changing the frequency of behaviours, and
    • Putting behaviours or absence of behaviours on cue.


  • Dunbar advocated using a stern voice (as a punisher) to teach dog boundaries – particularly, not to go out the front door and not to go out the front gate.
  • Dunbar suggested that we are ‘hung up’ on etiology (work out why the dog is doing what it’s doing) instead of actually working to fix the program.  In Dunbar’s words, “Just get on with it and train the dog!”
  • Mental exercise tires a dog quicker than physical exercise.  Nosework is the ultimate in mental exercise.
  • For dogs that greet people in a problematic way, they should be taught ‘shush’ and ‘sit’, and people coming into the house should be schooled to cue these behaviours.
    • Furthermore, these dogs can be taught that people arriving is a cue for quiet.
    • In Dunbar’s opinion, ignoring and back turning doesn’t stop jumping up – but saying “sit” often does.
  • Dunbar’s summary (para-phrased) of dog training ‘these days’:  There is a lot more food, and a lot more classical conditioning.  Dogs are getting friendly and safer around people.  But, dog-dog aggression is increasing because of lack of off leash training.  Lots of people who begin clicker and luring training keep these tools forever.
  • Though lure-reward training or clicker training is a good place to start training behaviours, these behaviours need to be phased out.
  • He said, “If we phased out our reward tools, we’d blow punishment out of the water.”
  • As you move away from a dog, their comprehension of the cue decreases.
  • Flooding is only okay when the rewards are justifiable. Puppies can be flooded.  Dogs that are human aggressive should not be flooded.
  • Rewards drive behaviour!
  • He likes the simplistic law of effect from Thorndike’s: Rewards increase frequency of behaviour, punishments decrease frequency.  Really, Dunbar argues, this is all there is to training.

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Not Enough Milk

On day 4 of our puppies, I was woken by a crying puppy.  This is not unusual. Puppies cry to voice their unhappiness at various times, and puppies often cry when they’re not touching mum or a sibling. However, the crying puppy on day 4 was different because this puppy was drinking and crying.  To me, this was a frustrated cry because there was not enough milk available.

This is "Boomer", the worse offender of the crying!

The puppies have been gaining weight, but not as they should.  It may be an ‘old wives tale’, but I was always told puppies should double their weight in the first week. These puppies haven’t come close.

This, along with the frustrated milk-sucking, made me conclude that Clover didn’t have enough milk for her big brood.

Immediately, I started feeding Clover fenugreek, which is supposed to increase milk production. It’s a herb/spice, and couldn’t hurt the situation.

I went and purchased Wombaroo (a dog milk substitute), baby bottles, and set on getting some milk formula into the puppies. Gee, that sounds a lot easier than the reality. There was no way I could get any puppy sucking the bottle.

A friend suggested a more time consuming method, of using a dropper to drop milk into the puppies’ mouths.  The puppies were far more receptive to this method – but, of course, the two smallest puppies weren’t having a bar of it.

However, the good news is, these puppies are not on death’s door by any means. Except for their frustrated crying, they’re doing everything puppies should do. They look plump, they move around the whelping box easily, they cry when they’re unhappy, they twitch in their sleep. The good part of this story is that they’re not fat puppies, either.  Border terrier babies have a habit of getting too fat to walk, so the fact that these puppies are slightly leaner is a good sign.

So, things are not ‘smooth sailing’, but things aren’t dire.  We are managing.


The Week in Tweets (19th November)

Each week, I summarise postings from my Twitter account, and pick the best as the ‘Tweet of the Week’.  Some colossal reading for those with a couple of hours on their hands.


Tweet of the Week

For something different, it’s not a doggy tweet of the week this week.  Instead, it’s about a little bird called the fairy wren who has developed an incredible mechanism to avoid raising cuckoos.  Fairy wrens sing a particular song to their eggs, and when their eggs hatch, their babies in turn sing this song.  This reassures the parents that they are raising the right chicks.  However, if a cuckoo was to lay its egg in the nest, they generally don’t spend enough time to learn the song.  This means that, when a cuckoo hatches, it neglects to sign the ‘special song’, and the fairy wrens will abandon their nest, thereby not raising the introducer offspring. Pretty cool!  Read more here: Fairy wrens teach secret passwords to their unborn chicks to tell them apart from cuckoo imposters.

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