How Can I Give Up My Dog? part 2

Note: If you haven’t already, read part 1 of this post here.

Taking Seva to training classes at Helping Paws each week has been a big part of my life for over 2 years. Besides classes at the training center, we train in public several times a week. While it would be an exaggeration to say Seva has been my constant companion, I do work from home and take her places, so we see a lot of each other.

A few weeks ago, Seva spent the weekend with S., a woman in need of a successor dog who used to be a vet tech.

I spent the weekend convinced S. was falling in love with Seva. How could she not?

I’ve gone on vacation and left Seva with other Helping Paws families. It’s a nice break, like when the kids have a sleepover and you get to go out or stay in, grown-up style. This weekend was different.

I must have told myself 50 times that S. would say “yes” to Seva, and I would soon be saying “good bye” to her.

Waiting for life-changing news is never easy. (Sure, on the spectrum of life-changing news, learning whether or not I’ll get to keep a dog is relatively low, not like getting test results from a doctor. I do have perspective, but this is a blog about the Wonder Dog so bear with me.) The thing is, most news you wait for is one of two things: good or bad. Whichever way Seva’s weekend with S. went, I would be torn.

I want her. I’ll miss her. I would never stand in her way. I love her. I don’t need her. She should be with someone who needs her. S. will love her as much as I do. What if Seva misses me? I might never see her again.

And around and around I went.

When I picked up Seva from Helping Paws, I let her out of a crate and she leapt on me, all tongue and paws and uncontained joy. She’s a kisser. Always has been. The moment she was first placed in my arms, I looked down and she lifted her chin and licked my face. She was barely 8 weeks old.


  • A tired puppy.


Turns out, S. didn’t love her.

Seva had done well during the pre-matching, but didn’t want to retrieve for S. at her house. And she was a little bit naughty. Seva found some duct tape serving a purpose she couldn’t see, so she gnawed at it till she got a corner lifted and pulled it off.

She does have a naughty streak. Her new thing is to bound over while I’m working at my desk and stare me down. If I tell her to go away, she runs off and finds something to shred, like a piece of mail. My next move is to leash her to furniture. Hers is to whine. It’s a dreadful, high-pitched sound. My final move is to capitulate. We take a walk.

Besides not retrieving, some barking, and tearing of duct tape, S. reported that Seva’s allergies are bad.

Bad as in pull-her-from-the-program bad.

I heard this from one of the trainers when I picked up Seva, so it was almost official, but not quite. E. has the final say. I went to the following Big Dog class as though everything was normal, except it wasn’t.

We went to Centennial Lakes in Edina. As I walked Seva around the lake, I started thinking, this is it. Toward the end of class, I had Seva in a Drop-Stay on the sidewalk and E. came over to talk.

E. told me they couldn’t place Seva due to her allergies, and I almost cried. I admit, that’s kind of weird. I knew it was coming and had been thinking about it for 2 days. Still, when you hear it from E., it’s final. It felt like the closing of a door.

All those great reasons I had for getting into the program, all the effort put into training this dog, the classes and field trips and other training teams…done.

We agreed that I’d go on the next couple of field trips as though nothing had happened, giving E. time to make an announcement to the class. We also agreed the news could go public after the Foster Family Recognition Ice Cream Social.


The Big Dogs at Union Depot--our last class.

The Big Dogs at Union Depot–our last class.


Last night, Seva and I made our final visit to Helping Paws as a training team. I received a certificate for the work we’ve done, and E. announced that Seva is having a career change.

That’s what it’s called, a career change. I’ve heard that only about 60% of dogs graduate. Problems with the training, personality, health, even odd quirks like a phobia of stairs can prevent a dog from graduating. Seva actually had 3 strikes against her: her hip sockets are only “fair,” she’s an indiscriminate eater, and she has allergies. The hip sockets concern is minor compared to the others. She is getting better about eating everything in sight, and I don’t expect this to be a problem for long. It’s the allergies that determined her fate–and mine.


Recognizing Seva's Career Change

Recognizing Seva’s Career Change


Seva is now my dog.

What’s more, we’re going to be a demo team for Helping Paws. That means she keeps the blue pack and we will answer calls to show the world what a service dog can do for a person. In a year or two, when she’s mellowed even more, I’ll probably look into a therapy dog program as well.







How to make your dog an awesome dog!

Seva is an awesome dog.

But do you know that as a puppy, we called her Dingo? And Bitey-McBite-Bite? And she didn’t let me sleep through the night for like six months. And she had something called puppy strangles that covered her snout in something that looked like chicken pox. And she got ear infections. And she chewed on her feet and I had to wash them with special antibacterial stuff from the vet. And she had a bunch of UTIs and then had to go through a heat cycle before being spayed. And….

The point is, she was a difficult puppy. There was a lot going on with her for the first 18 months, from being a high-energy chewing-biting little thing, to having a plethora of health issues. She tried my patience. A lot. And I am a very patient, very gentle person.

So, how did Bitey-McBite-Bite grow into the awesomest dog around? This is what I want to tell you about. The secret is training. The magic is in how Helping Paws teaches us to teach the dogs.

Seva has a sweet disposition, but I don’t think she’d be as sweet, mellow, gentle, and generally awesome if she’d been trained differently. And if we’d bought her somewhere as a pet, we would have trained her differently.

Why? Because of ignorance. Seva is actually my first dog, and Scott has commented many times that he can’t believe how good she is. He’s had dogs, dogs he raised, and none of them turned out as good as Seva.

Are you with me here? I’m saying that left to our own devices, the Dingo would probably still be a dingo. A more mature, calmer, better dingo, but a dingo nonetheless.


You don't get the food by watching the food. Watch me!

You don’t get the food by watching the food. Watch me!

The secret is in the training.

• Her training began at eight weeks of age and continued week after week. In other words, start as early as possible and don’t get lazy about your training goals.

• Training is done only through a system of rewards. Puppies are not punished for being puppies. We use the clicker method. The first thing Seva learned was to associate a click with a reward. Then I had to click good behavior any time I saw it.

• Bad behavior is redirected, not punished. Replace the sock with a chew toy. Move the puppy outside and clean up the accident. When the puppy goes berserk, exercise her, don’t stifle her energy.

•Training develops a set of skills that need to be practiced, and practice is guided by a patient, rewarding mom/dad/trainer. You wouldn’t toss a sneaker at a five year old kid and expect him to tie it on his own, and puppies don’t learn to walk nicely on a leash just by putting them on a leash. When Seva was learning to walk on a leash, I took her in the backyard and rewarded her for walking with me and for looking up to see what I was doing. That is how she learned to walk in step with her human.

• Every good behavior is shaped with rewards. It’s not about tolerating or not tolerating a behavior. Every day, from day one, when Seva ate, I put my hand in her bowl and stirred her food. I picked it up and put it back and fed her off my hand. I touched her legs while she ate. As a baby, she didn’t question my doing this. As a two-year-old dog, she never resource guards. Not even her best, favorite antler. She absolutely trusts us to give, take, give, and there is no fear that she won’t have enough. And, yes, I do still put my hand in her food from time to time.

• Never say “no.” This is probably the first thing we learned at Helping Paws. We do not say “no” to these dogs. I brought that home and put it at the top of the list of rules Scott and the kids had to learn before the puppy came home. I think that we don’t say “no,” because “no” can be used so harshly. People shout “no” at each other. People snarl “no.” People hurl “no” across the room. When you’re raising a puppy with rewards and patience, “no” gets in the way.


We say, “Ah-ah.”

You don’t sound half as frustrated when you say “ah-ah” as when you say “no.” I’ve been known to say “ah-ah” to Scott and the kids. They don’t really like that. I guess they’d rather I say “no” to them. I don’t know. I think “ah-ah” is kind of nice.


Fluffy baby bear.

Running at 8 weeks.


Running at 1 year.

The other day we had Seva on a flooded golf course. We let her sprint, because she loves to run. She’s the Black Stallion dog. Seriously. You should see her run. After a bunch of sprinting, she decided to check out the water and grab a drink. This water is full of blue-green algae that can kill a dog in minutes. I shouted, “Ah-ah!” like I’ve never shouted it before. I was scared to death for that moment when her head was bowed to the water. She obeyed. She left the water and she’s fine. If I had shouted “no,” she wouldn’t have understood.



Lack of training kills dogs.

Do you know that most dogs are given up to shelters between 9 and 18 months? That’s when a dog is in adolescence. Dog adolescence is worse than human adolescence, though much much shorter. With dogs, it’s like the terrible twos and the teenage years get rolled into one dreadful phase. The Dingo was a rotten teenager. All that energy needing some kind of channel, and she was finally big enough to counter-surf and get stuff off the table. Nothing was safe and, as a result, she needed constant supervision.

According to Cesar Millan’s website, the #1 reason dogs end up in shelters is lack of training:

1. Lack of training: Many people get a dog without realizing how much training is involved. Dogs do not come trained. They need diligent leaders who are willing to put in the hours setting rules, boundaries, and limitations, and spending time teaching them commands. Puppies do not come housebroken and must be taught to go to the bathroom outside. People fail to take this into account when bringing home a dog and ignore problems, which often lead to behavioral issues. Shelters are filled with dogs that have potty training, socialization, and obedience issues, all of which could have been prevented through proper training.

Read more:


Adolescents can be hell.

During this phase, I remember telling sympathetic friends that, because I was with Seva all day and in charge of her training, I saw the little milestones Seva passed. I could be frustrated and tired, but those glimmers of “good dog” kept me going. And I felt all alone in this. The kids didn’t like her anymore and Scott…let’s just say he wasn’t a fan of hers during those months.


There’s biting, and then there’s biting.

Now, I want to point out that while Seva was also known as Bitey-McBite-Bite, she only bit us when she was playing. It hurt because those baby teeth are pointy as all get out. But she was never aggressive. And she never bit when she was caught off-guard by someone or something. It was not a reaction to us or her environment. It was teething and playing. And she has outgrown all that.

We trust her completely.




What’s a growl for?

Seva does not have an aggressive bone. She doesn’t even know what a growl is for. I have only ever heard her growl on occasions when there is a gate between us. She doesn’t like being separated from us. If her usual stare, whine, bark tactics don’t get me to come move the gate, she will say, “Grrrrrrruff!” It’s the most adorable growl I’ve ever heard.


Nature vs. Nurture.

Seva is an awesome dog, no doubt about it. I can’t tell you how much of her awesomeness is nature and how much is training. But I am positive that her training helped her develop her nature in the best way possible.

She’s not perfect. Don’t kid yourself. I could list a whole bunch of personality quirks and flaws, but at the end of the day, she’s still awesome!


To quote the Panda, "There is no charge for awesomness."

To quote the Panda, “There is no charge for awesomeness.”

Until Tuesday and Seva

I just read Luis Carlos Montalvan’s memoir, Until Tuesday. Luis is a veteran with chronic physical injuries and PTSD. Tuesday is his service dog. Some of you have probably met Luis and Tuesday, and more of you have probably read Until Tuesday. In 2012, Luis and Tuesday were the guests of honor at a Helping Paws fundraiser for their PTSD dogs pilot program (photos by Scott Stillman). And if you read the Helping Paws newsletters, you probably already know that Until Tuesday was an inspiration for the program (read story #4). I’m afraid I was unable to attend the fundraiser and have not met Luis or Tuesday, but I feel like I know Tuesday thanks to the memoir.


Until Tuesday and Seva

Luis and Tuesday with a Minnesota veteran.

Until Tuesday and Seva

Tuesday greeting some Helping Paws dogs.

Until Tuesday and Seva

Luis talking to a full house.

Until Tuesday is a quick, enjoyable read. I found myself thinking “just one more chapter before I get up and do blank.” That said, Luis writes about some pretty awful things, like the attempt on his life in Al-Waleed, and some serious things, like his insistence that the US military take responsibility for the people it sends to war. He is honest about his own troubling past, like self-medicating with alcohol, falling out with his parents, and coming to terms with the fact that he has a disability. There were times I put down the book so that I could absorb what I had just read about some troubling realities, from a young military couple facing medical restrictions mandated by their insurance company to water boarding detainees in Iraq.

Despite this being a memoir about struggle and disillusionment, it is enjoyable, because it is also a memoir about hope and love. Luis strikes a remarkable balance between light and dark, so that at no point did I feel the dark material was more than I could handle facing. Perhaps the secret here is that he opened with Tuesday as a puppy. And I knew going into the book, as any reader would, that the outcome would be uplifting. Open with puppy, close with uplifting image of best friends: hard to beat that combination.

Clearly, Luis is an activist. I engaged with his message and never felt he was preaching to me. I think that is because he was sharing a narrative of personal experience–a lot of raw, deeply moving personal experience. If he had told me a lot of statistics or distanced himself from his message, using abstractions, he would have lost me. But he didn’t, and I cared through the entire book.

Now, I titled this post Until Tuesday and Seva. How does Seva fit in here?


Until Tuesday and Seva

Seva and geese in Loring Park


Tuesday and Seva are a lot alike. I mean, peas in a pod.

Tuesday knew all the commands, but was described as immature. For example, in this retrieving exercise, “He didn’t have trouble identifying the right object, but after a few runs he couldn’t help taking a victory lap around…the room.”

Seva likes to prance and shake the object in her mouth on the way to delivering it, her version of the victory lap.

Tuesday used to bring Luis his socks. Tuesday “loved to wrestle with them on the way back from retrieving them, and half the time [Luis] delicately slid slobber-covered socks into [his] desert combat boots.”

Whenever Seva performs Tug to remove a sock, she first uses the tips of her teeth, lips pulled back, to nibble at the sock until she gets a grip without biting toes, then she leans back and pulls. Once the sock is off, she can’t just put it in my hand. She has to gobble it into her mouth and then prance it over to me and regurgitate it into my hand, making certain it is good and slobbery. I don’t know why socks are so irresistible, but I’m glad it’s not just Seva.

Luis describes how Tuesday walks slightly ahead of him, which was a negative during training, but is beneficial to Luis because Tuesday provides a buffer in crowds.

Guess who else likes to be out in front? I often ask Seva, “Hey, who’s driving this boat?”

“Tuesday does his happy dance, ducking his front half and raising his behind and sort of pounding his head and shoulders into the rug with a scrape and a wiggle, first one side and then the other…It is energetic, goofily joyful, and mesmerizing.”

Yep. Seva does that all day long.

One day, if Seva’s person wants to know what Seva’s life and training were like before graduation, he or she will only have to look here. I am grateful Luis documented his journey with Tuesday. I don’t know what Seva’s person will need from her, but it was meaningful to read about Luis’s experience bonding with Tuesday and how that dog changed his life. It is such a remarkable thing, what these dogs do.

I sometimes wonder if Seva will make it. She knows her skills, is super smart, enthusiastic, and loving. She’s also “immature.” Like any mom, I worry about sending her out into the world. Reading about Luis and Tuesday brought home the fact that it is really about the match between human and dog. When the time comes, I’m sure the right person will be there to match with Seva.

I’ll leave you with one more thought. I realized, while reading Until Tuesday, that Seva won’t fulfill her service dog potential with me. I don’t need her the way her person will. I don’t need her to monitor my anxiety. I don’t need her for balance. I don’t need her to pick up dropped keys. I pretend I need her for all sorts of things when we’re training, but it’s not the same. I believe that the dog, once matched with the person who truly needs her, will respond to that need. And that is when Seva will achieve her full potential.

They’re Still Dogs: Sleepovers

No matter how well trained, how wonderful, how loving, they’re still dogs.

Seva has had 3 Helping Paws dogs stay with her. Last fall, Percy spent a few days with us while his foster mom traveled. Stubbs spent a night with us in July. And this week, Cash is staying with us. Seva has also stayed with other Helping Paws foster families on occasion.

Just like with children and playdates, you can’t put two dogs in a room and assume fun antics will ensue. There is some interesting dog psychology at play. This is some of the stuff I’ve observed.


Seva & Percy

Seva & Percy


1: the guest dog is usually very well behaved. It’s not his territory, so he’s minding his manners while he settles in. That doesn’t mean he won’t have fun, but he’ll defer to the home dog and humans.

When Seva stayed with Jed, we warned Jed’s dad, John, that Seva steals fabric and paper and ate a sock while on her first overnight. She didn’t steal anything, even when the laundry basket was right there in front of her! Scott and I got excited, thinking maybe she’d turned a corner, maybe Jed had taught her that eating socks is bad. But no. We were home no more than 15 minutes and she’d stolen a sock off the bedroom floor. It turns out she was just on her best behavior for Jed and John.

When another dog is here, Seva is the instigator. It’s her territory and she doesn’t need to mind her manners. In fact, she might be out to prove something. If there is wrestling in the house, Seva started it. Just ask Cash.


Seva & Cash--oh, sure, they look cute when they're sleeping.

Seva & Cash–oh, sure, they look cute when they’re sleeping.


2: not all dogs are a good match for each other. Percy was a big lap dog. All he wanted to do was lay down next to me and Scott. Seva would rather play until she crashes. Every time Percy settled in, she started biting his ear. Read about that weekend here.

Stubbs and Cash are better-suited for Seva’s favorite pastimes: run & wrestle. Here is Stubbs taking charge!



3: as with children, they will teach each other things. Cash will take a Frisbee out of your hand—and you better watch your hand!—then take a bite out of the Frisbee, then refuse to give it back to you. Guess who can’t have her balls until after Cash goes home? That’s right. Our little bear has begun resource guarding her toys. Cash is a really sweet boy, but some dogs just love their Frisbees more than others.

Seva and Cash were wrestling on the deck yesterday and look what they did!


Seva & Cash broke my pot.

Seva & Cash broke my pot.


It’s not all bad. When Seva stayed with Chuda Lono, he showed her how to leave kibble on her paws until his mom, Wendy, said Release. He also showed her how to spin around. She came home with 2 new skills that we still practice.


Seva & Cash find some tree and make a mess.

Seva & Cash find some tree and make a mess.


4: puppies get jealous, too. As sweet as she is, Seva doesn’t always want to share. She doesn’t mind someone playing with her toys or eating her food, but if Scott and I are paying attention to the other dog, here comes Seva. Our very-much-not-a-lap-dog inserts herself just to make sure we remember whose dog is whose.

Like we could ever forget!


That's our puppy!

That’s our puppy!



Seva had a big day today. Vet appointment at 8:30 a.m. I was told to bring her in with a full bladder, and I did.

These things are bound to happen. It was just a matter of time. Really.

When we finished at the vet, I took Seva into some wood chips to “do her business.” She did. I’m sure it was a relief to pee after all that time. Then we headed over to Knollwood Mall to do some indoor training.

Knollwood has a nice hallway without any real stores off it where you find tables, the restrooms, and an exit to a back lot. This is where we went, down the hallway, past the tables, and to a bench. I showed her kibble and we worked on Watch.

In just moments, Seva was distracted beyond distracted. She wouldn’t take a kibble if it was right under her nose, which it was. She gets like this, and typically a change of scenery or trying a new skill will bring her back to me. Not today.

She looked antsy. Then those hind legs started to spread and the tail curved away from the body. “No no no no no no no no!” I jumped up off the bench and ran for the door, Seva in tow. We got outside and I scanned the parking lot–where can we go? Ah ha! A median covered in wood chips covered in snow. We ran across the lot to the median and she wasted no time in dropping a large turd.

I dutifully bagged it and put it in the outdoor can at the mall entrance–because I’m considerate that way–thinking Boy, that was close!

Inside again, I noticed a janitor walking toward a storage room, a frown creasing his face. I looked further down the hallway and saw another janitor standing off to the side holding a long pole, also looking unhappy. Then I saw a chair positioned over a turd. It was nicely formed and about 3″ long. When you bag poo every day–as any dog person will tell you–shape and consistency matter. I don’t think the janitors were fully appreciating this turd.

I took a new baggie out of Seva’s pack. She carries her own poop bags–because she’s considerate that way. And we carried the poop to the outdoor can, then came in to resume training.

With both a healthy pee and poop out of the way, she would surely be able to concentrate on her work. We went deeper into the mall, because really, why would we want to hang around where she’d just done her business? We joined the senior mall walkers, looked at a bright store display, growled at a kiosk that was still draped with a tarp, and all was fine until it wasn’t.

Seva started acting all twitchy again. Forget it, I thought, this is not any way to train. So we went back to the tables where I’d left my coat. I had barely lifted it off the chair when Seva went into a squat!

Out popped a turd–I saw this one–and we ran for the door AGAIN. This time we knew right where to go and she dropped another big pile.

I used my last baggie on this one, so I grabbed a bunch of paper towels from the ladies’ room on our way inside. I picked up the turd and collected my coat, Seva’s leash around my wrist.

As I turned to leave, one of the mall walkers, an older gentlemen, called out, “Wait! I just wanted to tell you that my niece has one of these dogs. One of these exact dogs.”

1. I’m a polite person. “Oh, that’s great.”

“She’s paralyzed from the waist down.”

2. When we’re training in public we are ambassadors for Helping Paws and service dogs the world over. “Oh.” Not so great. “Does she have a Helping Paws dog?”

“It’s just amazing what these dogs can do with some training.”

3. I’m holding a turd in some paper towels, and it’s starting to smell. I discretely move the offensive object behind my back. “Yes, it is amazing.” You have no idea, mister!

Escaping at last, we deposited yet another poop in the outdoor can. And I have never been so glad to end a training session!


Guilty as charged.

That’s my girl!

Yesterday, Seva performed her very first service demo. We went to Minnetonka West Middle School and joined three other Helping Paws teams to show a group of 8th and 9th graders what we do. There were at least 60 kids in the large band room.

You know, Seva is the most sociable, excitable puppy, so I went into this expecting her to do well, but knowing that at any moment she could go berserk. We did have a little scene when she saw Chuda in the vestibule outside the front office. Seva stayed with Chuda a couple weeks ago when we went out of town, so they’re buddies. Seva was airborn with excitement. Fortunately, Chuda is older and set a more respectable tone (thanks to his trainer, Wendy!).

I recorded the demo, which took about an hour, and have edited out some short clips. The stars of the day (closest to the camera to farthest): Seva, 7 mos old, and Alida; Jed, 2 1/2 yrs old, and John; Chuda, 9 mos old, and Wendy; Aida, 1 1/2 yrs old, and Katy.

The dogs each do something amazing and we went in order of youngest to oldest, so you get a sense of the progression of skills.

Watch this if…

Intro: …you want to hear Katy talk a bit about Helping Paws and meet the trainer/dog teams. 


Seva: …you want to see what a 7 month old puppy can do. Something funny happens when they clap for Seva.


Chuda: …you want to see what a 9 month old puppy can do.


Aida: …you want to see what a 1 1/2 year old dog can do.


Jed: …you want to see what a 2 1/2 year old dog can do.


Kids + Puppy: …you want to see Seva receive the kids’ love. I’m giving her kibble for keeping her paws on the floor. You see by her tail that she was excited to meet so many kids, but once again kibble saves the day!

Small Dog Big Voice

Just last week, Scott was telling people that our dog never barks. Never. Or almost never.

No, she found her voice recently and we think it’s adorable when she barks because this little girl puppy has a deep growly bark. She typically barks a few times and is done.

Today, she watched the garbage truck come by and has been carrying on for over ten minutes. This is new, and despite showing her that the garbage truck is long gone, she can’t seem to settle down. The vibrations from construction behind our house don’t help any.

Now the question is: how long can I put up with Barky McBark Bark?



Busting With Pride

Seva got her backpack! She has been getting accustomed to it at home. Service dogs even learn to dress themselves.

1. Seva has to show interest in the pack, e.g. by nosing it. I click and treat.

2. I hold up the pack and hold the kibble out in front of it.

3. To receive her reward, Seva has to walk through the pack so the chest strap is in its proper position.


Seva models her pack.


We’ve been working with the pack for a few weeks now, and Seva will walk into it before I click. It’s as though she got bored with the intermediate step of nosing it. I hold it, she puts it on. She keeps it simple and expedites her reward!

Eventually, she’ll be able to find her pack and bring it to me. The dogs do as much of the work as possible. To get them to that point the pack has to be a wonderful thing. The other day, I was going to remove her pack and gentle leader before putting the rest of her kibble in the bowl, but she got so excited when I took out a packet of Fortiflora (digestive enzymes for dogs) that I left her gear on. Never miss an opportunity to form a positive association.


All dressed up for dinner.


Now, if you see us out and about, Seva will be dressed in her Helping Paws pack. She carries her own business cards–please ask for one!


Gaze Deeply Into My Eyes

One of the first skills a service dog learns is to make eye contact. She needs to be watching her trainer all the time, ready for the next command. Even when there is a distraction. Even when there is food.

Last week in class, we learned a new game. I hold a piece of kibble and wait for her to look at me instead of the food. When she makes eye contact, I click and she gets the kibble. Seva did this beautifully in class.

At home, she had forgotten everything. I held out the kibble and she went for it. I moved it out of reach and she pawed at me, climbing after it. This went on for several minutes as I kept patiently waiting for her to look at me instead of the food. Then I made kissy noises and she looked at me. Ah ha! She got the food. I attracted her attention to me a few more times, and that was all it took. After that, I held out the food and she looked at me every time.

Now, understand, that kibble is pretty darn tasty and it is a real challenge for a pup to take her eyes off it. All she had to do at first was glance at me. But now, she has to look at me for several seconds before she gets the treat. It’s not a sustained gaze, more of a rapid eye movement between me and the kibble, but she is definitely watching me and she understands the expectation.

One thing puppies are not good at is generalization. This is why they need to be trained in lots of places. If you don’t ask them to sit everywhere, they think they only sit in the kitchen. So after lots and lots of good Watch With Distractions, I switched hands and held the kibble out to my right instead of my left.

Seva didn’t know what to do. She got up and went into her crate since it was near my hand. When I didn’t click, she sat. Then she came out. Walked in a circle…. Puppies will try everything they know to earn that kibble. At times like this, the trainer’s job is to wait for the desired behavior and click at the moment that captures it. Seva eventually figured it out.

If she couldn’t figure it out, I would have moved the kibble back to my left hand. I’ve had to back it up on occasion. I never stop the training with her failing. I back it up so she can succeed. We repeat the successes a lot so she always feels rewarded and not frustrated at the end of a session. As with people, frustrated puppy won’t want to work for you.

Here’s a great picture of Seva looking at me and not the kibble.

Watching with distractions.