Samson Stories: Training

For anyone out there who has a Labrador, or any other high energy dog, listen up. We went through hell and back trying to get Samson trained and under control so if anyone can learn from our mistakes adventures, it will have been worth it. As one of our trainers told us, “All this work is great training for parenting so you guys should be the best parents in the world!”

These pics were taken on the day we met Samson. As soon as we saw that fuzzy little pup rolling around in the grass, we were hooked.

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1st meeting CJwith Samson

He was a cute little guy, huh? 

[Quick aside: we both thought from the day we met Samson that he had beautiful eyes. Almost like lion eyes. So we wanted to name him after a famous lion. But, nothing really seemed to fit him just right. Finally we settled on Samson, which is not a lion’s name but it works because he is so strong. However, when I went to register him with the AKC, I got an error that I could not register under that name because there were already too many Yellow Labradors named Samson. Uh, ok. So we tacked “Aslan” on to the front, after the lion in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. So his real, official name is Aslan Samson Trader.]

We started Samson out in a puppy class at our local veterinarian’s office. He was really little, maybe 5 or 6 months old.

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He looks so small there, doesn’t he? Compare that to him today…he’s pretty much doubled in size! Believe me, they don’t stay that little forever!

Samson did well in the first puppy class, so long as we kept him fed up with treats. He’s pretty food-oriented so having a generous supply of goodies in our pockets helped get through the hour. In that class he learned the basics like “sit”, “stay”, “down”, and “come.” But after graduation he was still a crazy, energy filled monster running around the house so we signed up for the next level of class at the Nebraska Humane Society.

We were in for a rude awakening.

See, Samson is very social. He loves people and other dogs. As soon as we walked in to that class, he started jumping and barking and pulling on his leash. He wanted to get to the other dogs and play dammit! Well, this was supposed to be a time of work, not play, so they had to put us at the far end of the room, away from the other dogs. We were the outcasts. Because Samson is so smart, and had already been through one class, he knew a lot of what they were teaching. He got bored really fast. No amount of treats kept his attention – we even brought popcorn which he L-O-V-E-S! He literally spent the whole first class barking, no matter what we did. At one point they even surrounded us with tall plastic movable walls so that he couldn’t see the other dogs. But he still knew they were there and kept up his shenanigans. By the end of that first class, I was in tears. The instructor had us stay after to chat. She recognized that Samson was ahead of the other dogs and a “special case.” She also recognized that I wasn’t being as assertive with him as I needed to be. She promised things would get better and encouraged us to come back.

The other problem we faced is that from the moment Samson entered our house, he saw CJ as the “alpha” and me as the weak one of the litter. Consequently, he wouldn’t obey me at all. CJ kept telling me that I was too gentle on him. Instead of pinning him to the ground when he was naughty, I’d say a weak “No Samson” and then cover him with kisses. I guess that wasn’t the most effective solution.

In the following weeks, we kept going to class and the teacher would have special tricks or commands ready for us to try. While the other dogs were working on “sit” and “stay”, we were teaching Samson to roll over, crawl and “sit pretty”.

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But it still wasn’t enough. He would learn the advanced tricks pretty quick and be right back to barking and pulling. We finished that class feeling no further ahead then when we had started. CJ was able to work with him pretty well but I got no where. Out of desperation, I made an appointment with a private trainer. We met her one-on-one, with no other dogs there as distractions. After 5 minutes of working with us she saw the problem: Samson was a smart, high energy dog who had no respect for me. We also weren’t consistant in how we were disciplining him so he was confused. She pulled me aside and asked a tough question: was Samson really the dog for us? She suggested that perhaps it wasn’t a good fit and we should consider giving him up. Even though I was frustrated, and again in tears, I refused to believe that we couldn’t make it work. Besides, I loved him and wouldn’t give up on him. With that decision made, she told us to do the following for one week –

We were to pretend that CJ was on vacation and he wasn’t allowed to do anything with Samson. He couldn’t feed him, play with him, pet him, let him outside – nothing. I had to do everything. The point of this was to get Samson to see me as his master and gain some respect. I even had to feed him by hand (which I ended up loving because his soft tongue and whiskers tickled my hand). We also were told to make him work for everything. If he wanted water, he had to sit first. Need to go outside? Shake first. Time for dinner? Sit, stay and not go eat until we released him. We even put his dog food in a toy dispenser that he had to bat around in order to get the food out. This was so that his brain would get used more and we could tap in to that hunting/work ethic of the Lab.

This sounds pretty extreme but we were at a point of desperation. And you know what? It worked! After just a couple days, he started naturally following me around the house, obeying my commands, and giving me the respect I deserved. Even after that week was over, and CJ’s “vacation” ended, Samson continued to behave better and better for both of us. Using these techniques, combined with visits to Doggie Day Camp twice a week, he really came around.

Today, Samson is the best dog. He is MUCH calmer and can even be trusted alone in the house when we are gone. We still make him work for things and have to find new ways to challenge his brain (and we still do DDC, but have cut it back to bi-weekly) but I couldn’t have asked for a better dog. People that knew him when he was young are amazed to see him now. My parents comment on it every time they come over. He still has his moments of craziness but hey, he is a dog after all. Best of all – he’s really good with Isabella, which was a worry at first. He is big and strong but is gentle with her (for the most part – he does knock her over on occassion when he gets excited) and I can see that he’s protective. He alerts us when she cries and gives her the occasional “kiss” and “nose poke”.

Samson went from being the dog from hell to my best pal because of some hard work, commitment and consistency on our part. I’m so glad I didn’t give up on him.

If you liked this, you might also like:

Samson Stories: Locked Out

Samson Stories: Two-Timing

Samson Stories: The Escape Artist

Samson Stories: Locked Out

[Samson Stories will appear when I am in a creative slump or don’t have anything exciting to write about. These are funny stories from our adventures of raising a Labrador puppy. Enjoy!]

It was mid-April  2006 and Spring was upon us. The days were longer, the sun was out and the mercury was slowly rising on the thermometer. Back then, CJ and I were both working and this was before Isabella. We had owned Samson for about 3 weeks at this point and were still getting used to his antics.

I arrived home at my usual time – around 5- and let Samson out of his kennel. The Tasmanian Devil that he is came careening out the door and tearing down the hallway. He did loops around the dining room and kitchen then raced back down the hall before turning and making a mad dash for the backdoor. Good thing I was already there with the door open or he would have run right through it, leaving a labrador shaped outline behind.

We had to stand outside and watch him while he was in the backyard because he couldn’t be trusted alone yet. So I stepped out and kept an eye on him. I tried to be discrete. After all, who likes to be watched while doing their business? As I milled about on the deck, I spotted the grill and thought it would be a perfect night for burgers. CJ would be home a bit late tonight as he had to run a few errands after work so I thought I’d get the grill fired up and the burgers going.

Samson and I headed inside and I started dinner. I emptied a can of green beans into a pan (I’m gourmet like that) and put ’em on the stove. I got out the hamburger and began making the patties, all the while keeping an eye on Samson because he can’t be trusted even when we’re home with him. I would have to stop occasionally to run frantically down the hall and see where he had snuck off to. It was usually to our bedroom where he’d take either my shoes or steal CJ’s pillow.

Once the hamburger patties were ready, it was time to fire up the grill. I took the meat outside with me and got the grill going. Samson stayed inside which was fine since I was coming right back in.

Or so I thought.

I attempted to go back in only to find the backdoor wouldn’t open. Puzzling. I tried again. Still wouldn’t budge. Then I looked down and saw that the dowel rod we use as extra security by placing it in the track of the door  was in fact jammed in place.

And this is what I saw right next to it:

Samson!!

Ok so let’s stop to assess the situation. I am outside on the deck with the grill and a plate full of hamburger patties at about 5:30 p.m. on a night that was rapidly becoming chilly. Samson was inside staring at me through the sliding glass door that was now blocked from being opened. CJ was at work and not due home for an hour or so. I had a pot full of green beans on the stove. And my cell phone was tucked safely inside my purse, which was on the kitchen counter.

And let us not forget that SAMSON CANNOT BE TRUSTED!

I tried to stay calm and contemplate my options. The front door and garage doors (along with all windows) were locked. At the time we didn’t have a key pad on the garage door (but we do now!) or a spare key hidden anywhere outside so there was no alternate way to get in. So I could…

  • Start screaming at the top of my lungs to see who would come help.
  • Try to break the door down.
  • Walk to CJ’s work (which was about 2 miles from our house) and get a key.
  • Ask a neighbor for help.
  • Sit and wait
  • Mow the lawn while I was out there
  • Pick up the treats Samson had just left me in the yard

I discarded all of those and decided to try reasoning with Samson. Makes the most sense right? I mean, if he can push the stick in to place, he can certainly pull it out. I started talking to him through the door.

“Hey Samson! See that stick there? Looks like a fun toy doesn’t it? Why don’t you play with it!”

Nothing.

“Guess what boy – that stick is made of meat! Bet you want to start gnawing on it now huh?”

Blank stare.

“Samson, don’t you dare touch that stick. If you touch it you’re going right to your kennel!”

Usually reverse psychology works on him but not this time. Drat.

Just then the next door neighbor came outside to do some yard work. I ran to the fence and asked to borrow their phone and called CJ. No answer. What, you thought the ending would be that easy? Tried again. No answer. I left a couple scathing messages about how important it is to answer one’s phone and then called my parents who have a spare key to the house. My dad said he’d come right over.

Now I just had to wait. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal. After all, I had food (fully cooked burgers by this time) and it was a decent enough night. But, I also had a 4 month old puppy who would give his right nut (and he did a few months later, along with the left one) to have free reign over the house. Now he did. And I had no way to stop him from ripping everything to shreds.

The only thing I could do was stand by the door and peer in from time to time (while simultaneously gnawing on a hamburger patty). If he was there, great. If not, I’d bang on the glass really loudly until he came running. He would look at me like, “Why are you outside? Can I come out? Why won’t you let me out?” Then he’d wander off and I’d have to bang on the door again.

My dad got there about 15 minutes later and opened the door. Samson came bounding over as if he hadn’t seen me in FOREVER! Then he promptly ran outside, jumped up and took a burger off the side shelf of the grill. *sigh*

 

If you liked this, you might also like:

Samson Stories: the Escape Artist

Samson Stories: Doggie Day Camp

Samson Stories: Two-Timing

Make it Stop!

Last night was a humdinger. I’ll preface this post by saying it involves the bathroom so if you’re grossed out by such conversation, leave now. Don’t worry, I won’t get too graphic. I know it’s kind of personal and not something people talk about, but hey, it happens to everyone so here goes.

The day started out with Samson puking. I was eating my breakfast and watching the TODAY show, not really paying attention to the world around me when I hear, “Oh Samson, really?” I turn around to see that Samson has proceeded to upchuck the entire contents of his stomach on the carpet which included all his breakfast plus the 2 treats I had given him. It was all undigested so I could easily make out each piece. We stopped him before he could eat it back up and got him outside. CJ gets squeamish around bodily fluids so I cleaned it up (though he did help me scoop it onto the dustpan and in to the garbage – yes I said scoop).

The rest of the day was fine. I worked from home because it was a holiday for my client but not for my company so it was either take PTO or work. I chose to work, but thankfully could do it from home. Anyway, I had a perfectly lovely day for the most part and was logged off by 4:00.

I was in the mood to bake so I got busy on some chocolate chip cookies, sampling the dough as I went. I mean, you can’t NOT do that. Heck, if it were up to me, I’d make a batch of cookie dough just to eat and never bake! But, I don’t do that (much). I finished up with my preparations and put the dough in the ‘fridge (baking tip: cookies have better form if you chill the dough before baking it. My dear friend Katie told me that trick and it works!). Then I set to work on dinner. We were going to have chicken parmesan. I made the breading, cut up the chicken, coated it and put it in the oven. As I was doing dishes I got a wave of cramps but it passed quickly so I didn’t think much of it. Just then Munchkin awoke from her nap so I went in to get her. As I was changing her diaper, I got another wave of cramps, a little more intense this time.

Uh oh. I know the drill. It’s just like contractions. The closer together and more intense they are, the sooner the “package” will arrive.

I finished up with Munchkin and took her in to the bedroom where CJ was folding laundry. I told him, she’s all yours man, I got a date with the bathroom. She cried when I went in the master bath and closed the door. I was all, “Honey, trust me, you do not want to be in here with what I think is coming.”

The cramps came and went. They got worse and worse. I started getting feverish. I started getting nauseous. I didn’t know which end things were going to come out of! I was having visions of fainting again and really did not want that to happen. This went on for 15 minutes! I seriously felt like I was in labor again. I tried doing La Maze breathing and it worked just as well as it did during actual labor (translation: not at all). I called out for an epidural but no one would bring it to me. So instead I squeezed the holy living bejeezus out of my hand. Maybe that’s why I was feeling light-headed…finally, the packaged deployed and things subsided.

Phew. It was over. I breathed a sign of relief and went back out to join my family.

Then the universe pointed a finger at me and laughed.

5 minutes later I was back in the bathroom. This time I brought the garbage can in with me in case I had to hurl. I was in there for another 20 minutes going through the same ordeal as before. I was calling out to Jesus, Buddha, Zeus, Thor and anyone else who could possibly help me. By the beard of Oden make this stop!!  This time, there were multiple packages being deployed and they kept coming. I didn’t think a person of my size could have so much in her!

By the time it ended I was spent. I curled up on the bed in the fetal position and waited to die. Surely I was on my death-bed after experiencing something so awful. I closed my eyes, thanked God for a good life and eeked out a whispered “I love you” to my family.

Then the world went black.

I woke up 5 minutes later and realized I hadn’t died but instead took a cat nap. I crawled out of bed and went to join my family, eating toast and drinking tea while they had chicken parmesan. But I didn’t care, so long as the ordeal was over. And this time it really was.

When I got up today I weighed myself out of curiosity and am down 3 pounds. Yep, that’s right, I “delivered” 3 pounds worth of, uh, “stuff” last night. Oi vey. When I told CJ that he said, “Guess it was time for some good poopin’.” Gee, thanks honey.

On the up side, one of my New Year’s resolutions is now met! Though, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do it this way. I would much rather exercise for 24 hours straight than go through that again.

I’m better today for the most part. Still watching what I eat but things seem to be operating normally. Not sure if I got a little stomach bug or if it was something I ate (raw cookie dough anyone?) but whatever it was, I hope it never happens again!

P.S. Samson is fine too. I think he just likes to puke sometimes – it’s a nice morning snack.

Wait

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Samson patiently waiting for my OK to eat the chocolate chip on the floor in front of him (hard to see the chip but it’s on the far right of the pic). I love how his forehead gets all wrinkled up in concentration. He looks like a Shar Pei or something. He waited for a full 2 minutes or so because I was taking this picture. What a good boy!

New Year’s Eve

Our New Year’s Eve was quiet but it certainly had some interesting moments. I also got a little glimpse in to what 2011 might have in store for us.

I spent the day cleaning and putting away Christmas decorations so by evening, I was tired. I had run to the store in the morning, grabbing a pizza and some sparkling juice to ring in the new year (neither one of us really like champagne. Last year’s bottle sat untouched in our refrigerator until September when I finally threw it out). There wasn’t enough room in the ‘fridge for either one so I stuck them outside on the deck, figuring it was cold enough out there to keep them chilled. I put the pizza on top of the grill and the bottle of juice on the deck railing, to keep them up and away from any animals, namely Samson.

Mid-afternoon, I let Samson out and then went about my business inside. All of a sudden I heard a “thump” outside and I looked up in  time to see Samson tearing in to the pizza box! He had jumped up and knocked it off the grill and was now trying to get at the contents in the box!! Fortunately, it was wrapped up in plastic and I got there before he could tear through that. However, as I was trying to wrestle him off of it, Isabella came wandering out on to the deck (in my hurry to get outside, I’d left the door open) with no shoes on, which was covered in snow. So here I am, wrestling a 90lb dog off our pizza and also trying to grab a squealing 15 month old who thinks this is a fun game. I finally managed to get everyone inside, and Samson in his kennel. *sigh*

Later that evening, I heated up a pizza for dinner and Isabella happily ate it up, shouting “pissa, pissa!” the whole time. I had bought some New Year’s Eve party hats and noisemakers so I let her play with those while we ate. When we were done, she started running around the house with them.

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Let me tell you, those $.99 party hats were not made to stand up to a 15 month old. It took all of 5 minutes for her to get part of the lining off the bottom and crunch up the top of the silver one. Good thing I had bought 3 of them!

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CJ left around 7 for a quick meet up with some old friends and Munchkin, Samson and I stayed home. We were playing and Munch started to get a little, uh, out of control. She was taking the cardboard noisemaker and hitting everything with it. Samson thought this was a game so he attempted to snatch it from her hand on the up swing. I told him “no” and made him sit on the couch to calm down. Isabella then ran over and started beating Samson on the nose with the noisemaker! I had a quick flash that told me “this is what the ‘Terrible Twos’ will be like so get used to it lady”. I took the toy away and scolded her. She then went and sat against the window, pretty much putting herself in time out.

Around 7:45 I put her to bed and started cleaning up the living room. It was then that I realized I still had the bottle of sparkling juice outside! I went outside only to find that the bottle and it’s contents were frozen solid. I mean, there was not one ounce of juice still in liquid form. Crap. At least it hadn’t exploded. I guess that was the upside. I brought it in and stuck it in the refrigerator, thinking it was best to thaw it out slowly.

CJ was still gone so I made up a quick breakfast casserole that would get heated in the morning, and then threw together some nachos. Hey, it’s NYE – I can chow down on a snack of nachos if I want! Smile I then stuck my “Friends” season 9 DVD in the player and tucked myself in the couch to watch until CJ got home. At one point, I kind of felt a loser for not having a party to go to and sitting by myself, eating greasy food with my “Friends”. But, I got over it and realized that it was actually a good night and I was very happy with my life.

CJ got home around 9:30 and we contemplated playing Wii or a board game or watching a movie. Instead, he joined me on the couch and we continued with my “Friends” marathon. We laughed a lot and what better way to ring in the new year than with humor?

By 11:30, the juice was thawing but still had a block of ice frozen in the center. We ran it under some water until that melted too. As midnight approached, we were ready to toast goodbye to 2010 and hello to 2011. We even let Samson have some sparkling juice. At midnight we toasted, kissed and rang in the new year just right.

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And of course we had to take a picture with Samson…

DSC00429(This picture should have a caption that reads “Help Me!” because he looks like he’s being held against his will.)

While it wasn’t a crazy, drunken, party all night kind of New Year’s Eve, it was still a good one full of everything that is important to me – CJ, Isabella, Samson, pizza, chocolate and “Friends”.

Today will be spent eating and watching football with the family. Tomorrow, I start my 2011 resolutions, which I will post about later.

Now, on to 2011!