Saturday, April 19, 2008

How the Biggie got his 'tude.

Recent voice mail: "Hi Biggie's mom. This is Biscuits & Bath. Biggie is fine, we just wanted to let you know that after a few minutes he decided to go out onto the track with the other dogs. When I said he gets moody, I didn't mean that he gets in a bad mood or gets depressed when he is here. Rather, it's just that he likes to do things on his own terms and he lets us know if he doesn't want to do something. Then we just leave him be and usually he comes out of it after a few minutes and lets us know what he wants."

Biggie and his litter were evaluated at 7 weeks not only for conformation (show potential) but also for temperament. It's a variation of the Volhard aptitude test, which is supposed to give you clues to the pup's adult temperament. So far, 11 months into the craziness, Biggie is pretty true to form. The pups were tested in their birth order by a tester who had not met the pups before. After each pup is tested it is brought into a different area from where it started. Here are the various tests, what they are supposed to signify, and the results from Biggie's litter.  

Social Attraction
Gently place puppy in test area with no talking or stroking. Tell the evaluator nothing about the puppy. The pup's reaction is supposed to indicate its degree of social attraction, confidence or dependence.

1. PURPLE: Goes right to tester, and is kissy, kissy.
2. AQUA: Goes to tester soon; then off, more into surroundings than person. Checks them out, then back to person.
3. PINK (the only girl): Funny – when Mom put her in room, she started looking for another human; then became interested in pup in mirror.
4. GOLD: Came in, Stopped when saw tester, and tried to go back out; Doesn't follow or come, backs away, introduced slowly.
5. GREEN: Cries when put in room; then goes to tester slowly, sniffs, no problem with being petted. Kept tail down to explore room and pup in mirror. (When he was a tiny puppy he would play in the mirror all the time, including running into the mirror (bonk!) to mouth wrestle with the puppy he saw there.)

Prey Drive

Trail rag back and forth, just in front of puppy: what does he do? If nothing, try with rag and string. If nothing, go on to next exercise. If puppy engages, let puppy play with it. Then take one end of rag and pull it: if puppy fights calmly and pulls, let him win it. If he shakes it and growls, take note – a lot of fight drive. Then let puppy have rag again, and pull side to side while distracting it with other hand: tap floor, pet puppy: if still focused on the rag, exciting training prospect. If loses his hold, tease him with it, and let him get it again for a few minutes. Puppy's reaction indicates confidence to overcome new situations; desire to play and ultimately to train; object obsession

PURPLE: Good puppy; knows what to do with prey!
AQUA: Strong, very strong prey drive.
SPIRIT: Stalking prey, purposefully stalking and knows what to do.
GOLD: Watches rope (prey), uncomfy with being there, cries.
GREEN: Good, very good prey drive. (Chases falling leaves, plastic bags, birds, paper bags, newspapers blowing down the street... Catches a ball in midair only about 50% of the time, but regularly snatches random debris as it blows by his face. Then "kills" it by shaking it to death. BAD paper bag, BAD!!!)

Crouch down and attract puppy’s attention with a rolled up paper ball. When he shows interest and is watching, toss the ball in front of him.. What does he do. Give puppy chance to have a successful retrieve: if he doesn’t see it, do it again. If he doesn’t want to go after it, try other toys. See what puppy is trying to show us. If he does retireve, try different directions, different toys, etc. Indicates degree of willingness to work with a human. High correlation between ability to retrieve and successful guide dogs, obedience dogs, field trial dogs, pets. This is the most complex behavior chain tested and includes three components: chasing, object obsession and cooperation.

PURPLE: Ran right after retrieve; brought it back. Good Retrieve.
AQUA: Good retrieve – brought back and gave easily.
SPIRIT: Excellent retrieve; went, got, brought.
GOLD: Went for it, but back to door where Mom left him.
GREEN: Excellent retrieve, went after it, sniffed and brought back – 2 times with tail in the air. (Luckily they did not try this more. He gets bored after 2 times which is just enough for him to show you he knows what the game is, but doesn't find it particularly challenging.)

Relax time
Let puppy explore for a few minutes and record his behavior. Is he confident? How much recovery time does he need? Then call puppy and watch his reaction.  How does puppy recover from test stresses? How much time does he take?  

PURPLE: Friendly pup, comes right back and wants to keep playing with no rest up.
AQUA: Very quick .. very easy.
SPIRIT: Quick.
GOLD: Slow to take up with Joyce; still crying; won't come; not curious.
GREEN: Good, but has other interests. (Again, generally a nice boy, but likes to do things on his own terms...)

Slowly walk around and see if pup follows. If he doesn’t, try to get his attention (like slapping thigh, etc.). Record what he does.

PURPLE: Follows like they have always known each other; nips at feet.
AQUA: Follows easily, nice follow.
SPIRIT: Follows quickly, good follow.
GOLD: Won't follow.
GREEN: Won't at first, and starts, does well, but slow to do so. (... on his own terms, at his own speed. Like all the tricks he knows and executes - at his own (slow) speed.)

Sit down and renew relationship by petting and talking. If puppy is worried, let him crawl over you.

PURPLE: Same, friendly.
AQUA: Quickly recovered and was friendly.
GOLD: Nope.
GREEN: Made friends, good pup.

Repeat prey drive exercise and note differences. If less response, is puppy bored? Can you get more interest by changing the object, etc.?

PURPLE: No different, maybe stronger.
AQUA: Good again.
SPIRIT: An extra good stalker; good pup.
GOLD: Stalks until it moves too fast. Needs more confidence, weak prey drive. Finally followed Joyce, looked at Pup in mirror.
GREEN: Loved game – VERY good prey drive. (Anything small and fast-moving is worth chasing.)

Repeat Retrieving exercise with different objects and toys if didn’t do it before, with different directions, etc. for those that did retrieve before. Any puppy who does better than before can overcome most stresses and learn.

PURPLE: Chased ball; distracted by paper towels; lost interest in retrieve.
AQUA: WOW, great start, but lost interest quickly.
SPIRIT: Went out but didn't pick up ball and bring.
GOLD: Not interested.
GREEN: First one to go after ball eagerly. (He *is* a fast learner. Most tricks and commands take less than 5 minutes to learn, and a few repetitions a week to reinforce. The biggest danger is boredom.)

Elevate puppy. Suspend 6 to 8 inches off of floor by cradling pup under its belly with fingers interlaced, palms up. Hold it there for 30 seconds. Shows degree of accepting dominance while in position of no control. 

PURPLE: No problem through full count.
AQUA: Doesn't mind it at all.
SPIRIT: Absolutely no concern about this.
GOLD: No problems at all.
GREEN: Absolutely no problem with this. (Thank goodness - it makes tub time a pleasure, other than the sheer volume of dog that must be washed.  He lets me pour water on his face and soap it up.)

Recover time
Sit on floor and see how quickly he recovers and reestablishes relationship. Use petting and puppy talk. Lack of forgiveness or too much independence may indicate a puppy that will not bond easily.  

PURPLE: Instant recovery; people dog. High energy, needs lots to do.
AQUA: Okay, but hears Purple barking in other room and is distracted by it. High energy, more reserved than Purple.
SPIRIT: Quick again.
GOLD: Warming up finally. Very quiet, easy lover.
GREEN: Play again, friends – very curious about other things in room. Very sweet. (Again, a degree of independence that makes him comfortable with being alone in the apartment every day for long periods, so long as he has some things to do to keep his mind occupied.)

Touch sensitivity
With puppy on floor beside you, pick up one foot until he relaxes. Squeeze between two toes, increasing pressure and count to 10. Note number when pup reacts.
Total body insensitivity = a challenge to train.
Extreme sensitivity: might have a hard time in a home with children.

PURPLE: Count to 6, average sensitivity.
AQUA: Count to 10 – not sensitive.
SPIRIT: High sensitivity; Count to 3; shouldn't be with children.
GOLD: Count to 6, average sensitivity.
GREEN: Count to 10 – NO sensitivity. (This is a real drag when he wants to guard, because if he perceives a threat, yanking on the leash doesn't really stop the behavior. This puppy would lay down his life for me. On the other hand, this worked really when when he was on a sit-stay the other day on a busy street corner and some doofus rolled a luggage cart over his tail.) 

Recovery time
Again, how quickly does he forgive?

PURPLE: Forgives instantly.
AQUA: Recovers fast.
SPIRIT: More into looking around, very curious.
GOLD: Recovers better, now friendlier.
GREEN: Still friendly, sweet.

Sound Sensitivity
Stand up. Take feed bowl and spoon. When pup’s back is to you, bang the bowl loudly with the spoon. If puppy turns to look, drop food dish and drop food into it. If pup does not run over to see what is in it, tease him to come over by luring with the food to teach him how to overcome being startled. All should startle. Extreme sensitivity: pup will freeze and recover slowly or tuck its tail and slink away. Most will startle and turn to look.

PURPLE: Perfectly normal; stop, looked for sound, recovered.
AQUA: Looks for sound, tries to find, not running; good.
SPIRIT: Looked for noise, stood ground, no fear, very solid.
GOLD: Looked around, and continued with what he was investigating.
GREEN: Turned and stared; no flinching or running .. not gonna run from this! (Nope - not scared of most anything.)

Food Drive
Offer pieces of food in open hand. Once pup gets interested, close hand over food; as pup tries to get it, close hand tighter – want to see pup really work to get the food. Then put some food on the floor and turn food pan upside down on top of it to see how hard pup will work for food. If loses focus, lift pan and let pup be successful even if you have to help him.

PURPLE: Not strong; not food motivated, just licked hand, but loves pup in mirror.
AQUA: Licked it out of hand, got it, not crazy about liver treat but ate it all .. food motivated.
SPIRIT: Worked a little for good, and then appeared to swallow it whole, but had it tucked away; now chewing; then looking for more.
GOLD: Not eager, but did get food, eats it, dainty eater, cleaning up all crumbs; looks now for more; good food motivation.
GREEN: Got it from hand; sniffed and licked; finally took it and takes food to corner to eat. (Thank GOODNESS - given his minimal touch sensitivity, he is still easily trained by the simplest of treats. Will work for anything edible.)

Crouch down and gently roll the pup on his back and hold it with one hand for a full 30 seconds. How does he react? Shows degree of dominant or submissive tendency. How it accepts stress, when socially/physically dominated.

PURPLE: Doesn't fight overly hard, just wiggles a lot.
AQUA: Doesn't like the start, but then lies quietly and recovers quickly.
SPIRIT: Doesn't like being held on back; up and sniffs everything.
GOLD: Rolls over easily, not fighting hold on back, but not comfy with it either.
GREEN: Wiggled to about 8 count; then relaxed and no fighting. (Biggie accepts the hierarchy pretty well, but then again given his nickname of the "Prom King" at the dog run, it's easy to accept a hierarchy when you're top - or near top - dog. The only dog that still dominates him is an aggressive cane corso named Truman. With people, Mommy and P-Daddy can do anything, but not so much for others, who get tested and obeyed only when it suits him.  See, e.g., Biggie does things "on his own terms" at doggie day care.) 

(OPTIONAL) -- For puppies that have shown no fear at all and that have recovered quickly in all prior exercises: Unusual toys that add a new dimension

PURPLE: made friends fast with Big Duck.
AQUA: no trouble with Big Duck.
SPIRIT: Came to Duck immediately.
GOLD: not done.
GREEN: Duck gets fully explored. (Explains why he loves his giant chicken...)

Problem Solving
Open barrier 3 or 4 inches. Have breeder out of sight in other room call the puppy. See how each puppy figures it out and how long it takes him to get through the barrier.

PURPLE: Mom, out of sight, calls, and he finds sound and has no trouble – easy for him.
AQUA: Slow to look for Mom calling and to find it.
SPIRIT: Best so far, immediate.
GOLD: Slow to respond, but finally found Mom's voice and came fast.
GREEN: Found sound and came fast. (He is a problem solver extraordinaire. P-Daddy, for reasons unknown, wanted to teach him how to unlock his crate. Luckily I put a stop to that early enough: He hasn't yet learned to lift, hold and twist the handle while pulling the door open. Instead, he pulls at the handle to open the door if it's closed, but he's still stumped if it's locked.)


Mango said...

Biggie -
What's up with the race track? Are you training for the olympics?


Anonymous said...

6 weeks until we pick up our Kuvasz puppy! I am truly fascinated by your blog, I read it daily just to see what to expect when we bring ours home! Thanks for all the great posts! Leslie

Biggie-Z said...

Leslie, where are you getting your kuvasz puppy from? Have you had a kuvasz before? I am working on a post about why NOT to get a kuv right now... cuz we love The Big One but he definitely has a 'tude.

Anonymous said...

I am from Ontario and there are a few awesome breeders here. We are getting ours from one in Bayfield (ON). No, haven't had a Kuvasz before, we were looking for a large dog that is great/protective of kids. We have a 4 year old so that was a priority! We did a lot of research on the breed, and your posts are eye opening for things to come. - Leslie

Biggie-Z said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Biggie-Z said...

Leslie, feel free to email me if you ever want to chat about any of this! Kuvasz are very rewarding but they are a handful. I've had the help of Biggie's breeder and another friend who is a kuvasz breeder, to deal with all his attitude. And he's the "sweet/mellow" one from his litter!