• Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
    Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
    by David Allen
  • Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction
    Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction
    by Robert F. Mager
  • The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior
    The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior
    by Benjamin L. Hart, Lynette A. Hart

    This book includes super helpful graphs describing 56 common dog breeds in terms of 13 traits, including playfulness.

  • Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog
    Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog
    by Carol Lea Benjamin

    My favorite book on dog training.

Thoughts on instructional design, my dog, and life


Picking Charley’s Toy

Charley and His Special ToyI’m amazed at how dogs can have such a strong preference for one toy or another.

Today I took Charley to our favorite pet store, Pet Pals, to pick out a toy. Of course, like most dog homes, we have a bazillion dog toys already and probably don’t need another one, but we have a tradition of getting a huge stuffed animal for each new pup.

The tradition started with Osa. She was a white girl we went up to Canada to get. When we put her in her Vari Kennel, she looked so bitty compared to the space. We found a huge stuffed rabbit for her to cuddle with on the flight home.

That was the beginning. Since then we’ve gotten each of our new pups the biggest stuffed toy we can find. No other dog can play with one dog’s special toy, and no roughhousing with it. This came about naturally. Osa was gentle with her rabbit from the beginning, never tearing or inviting the other pooches to play with it. She’d sleep with one of the rabbit’s paws held gently in her mouth.

With Charley, I thought I’d add a refinement to our tradition: letting him pick his own big toy. I thought of this because at one of the dog shows I competed in with Cientos, I learned about dogs being picky about toys.

We must’ve been at a specialty, because every participant got to pick a toy from this huge Roughneck tub. I thought it would be fun and cute to let Cientos nose around and “pick” his own toy. I thought I would have to really observe to distinguish a preference. Not. Cientos took long minutes, used his truffle-smelling muzzle, routed thoroughly, and finally decided on a latex purple dinosaur squeaky. A toy I never would’ve picked. Cientos's ToyI was amazed. (The feeling is very much like going clothes shopping with my teenage daughter. Her taste is delightful, cute, definite, and very different than mine.) Still, I tamped down my shock, shook my head, and let Cientos keep his chosen toy.

At Pet Pals, I scoured the store for the largest toys I could find, and presented them to Charley to pick from. He barely even sniffed them. So patently not interested. Now what? Pet Pals has a huge assortment of toys, how do I narrow the choice? I squeaked, jiggled, touched, and offered Charley a medley of sounds, textures, and sizes. Finally, he showed a definite interest in a purple and white half monkey half worm. Not a toy I would’ve picked. Still, the fabric is sort of cool, the toy is sturdy, and the squeaker works by jerking the tail (in addition to by squeezing). Charley has picked his toy.Charley's Toy


Charley Wags

Charley seems to wag his tail a lot more than Lina. What does that mean, in dog speak? There are lots of different tail wags, actually. There’s a flag. Lina will sort of flag her tail when she wants to get a male dog’s attention. She also has a slow wave when she’s taunting one of our other dogs. Charley has a wag that’s somehow different. It reminds me of the wags of other breeds, like maybe a lab. It seems out of character for the Poodle breed to wag so much. Maybe Charley’s still getting settled in and is so happy to see the same faces come back after we’ve been away. It could be the adult version of what we see puppies do when they wag so hard their entire back ends move. The other possibility is that Charley is again different than any of our other dogs. It seems incredible that we could have five Standard Poodles in our life so far and each of them is completely different than each of the others in their temperament and behavior. I expect such uniqueness in humans, but for some reason it surprises me in dogs.

My breeder mentioned a new book, The Genius of Dogs. I think I’ll look into it. My knowledge of dog behavior comes mostly from my archaeologist dad, and I’m sure it predates at least some of the science in this latest book.


Charley Gets Chipped

Charley and his new familyI’m not sure when we started getting our dogs chipped. It could’ve been when we got Cientos, our first dog directly from Blue Skies. I can imagine our breeder suggesting it.

When we were “growing coat” on Cientos, to show him in the conformation ring, we had to keep collars to a minimum. Knowing there was another way to identify him if he got lost gave me a good feeling, even back then when one reader couldn’t read another manufacturers’s chip. The pet tracking industry has come a long way since then.

So, once our two week trial period was over, I had our vet come over, check Charley out, add him to his records, and chip him. I also got him a handsome collar with human-readable identification that doesn’t clink.

We have officially welcomed Charley to the family.


Playing on All Fours

Charley in a play bow (image courtesy Michael J. Gerald-Yamasaki)

I like to get on all fours and play with Charley. I grab at his paws, or hoard one of his toys, keeping it between my hands and turning my rear to him. Having a dog breed that plays, I’ve discovered, is important to me.

I tried tickling my trainer’s dog’s toes once, a beautiful black German Shepherd girl. She had just the lightest dusting of gold fur between her toes. She didn’t pull her paws back, play snap at me, or anything. She didn’t react at all, except to look at me like I was an imbecile.

My uncle has a gorgeous yellow Lab, a sweet, loving dog, but he won’t play with me either.

I love having dogs that play, and the Poodle breed is particularly noted for that.




Fireworks over Clock Tower (courtesy roberttphoto.com)Charley seems oblivious to fireworks. We brought Charley home in mid-December. When New Year’s came around, I was careful to watch him, in case he reacted poorly to fireworks.

Cientos did not like fireworks. He would tremble all over, lean up against me, pace. I knew he would be more comfortable in his crate, but if I didn’t crate him before the first firework, I couldn’t get him in the crate. Sometimes he heard a firework before I did, then we were in for an uncomfortable few hours.

So, I watched Charley. He didn’t react at all. Completely calm. I assume he noticed the noise, but I could detect no reaction at all. The cool part is that Lina, taking her cue from him, was pretty calm too. In the past, she would get anxious, not so much for herself, but because Cientos was anxious. Of course, we still kept the pooches inside. I don’t want them to get hit by a stray rocket.

So, pretty easy this New Year’s. Sometimes, there’s no problem to solve.