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

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!

Weekend Wrap-Up

It still feels like it’s the weekend since I worked from home today. Even though I actually did work, since I’m wearing comfie clothes and sitting in the basement, it doesn’t feel like work. Here’s what went down with the Traders this weekend.

Saturday was fun because CJ and I went to a movie! Yeah, like an actual date! We were giddy with excitement. First we took Munchkin over to play with her boyfriend Owen. They were born 5 days apart (though they shared a due date) and naturally will grow up as best friends and eventually marry. What?

Since I’m trying to be all frugal and stuff, we went to an early movie because those are much cheaper. Or at least, that was the plan. I thought the movie was at 11:10 am but when we got there, the only 11 am movie was the 3D one, which was expensive even for an early show. So we got tickets for the noon show, which was regular matinée price. We were slightly bummed but what do you do? We headed in and upon seeing the concessions I was immediately starved. One of everything thank you very much! But, that would have cost us 1 gazillion dollars. Instead, we headed back out to McDonald’s since we had about 40 minutes before the movie started and got lunch for both of us for the same cost as one order of hot dogs would have cost in the theatre. Take that AMC!

We did buy some popcorn and a pop (which we shared) and then headed in to get our seats. We saw Tron: Legacy and it was really good. Here we are at the theatre. Yes, we’re geeks. No, we don’t have matching glasses.

We headed back to pick up Munchkin and found that she had learned to play the piano!

Well, sort of. Anyway, she had a great time and we headed home to settle in for the night. That was about it for Saturday.

Sunday the snow started. And it pretty much hasn’t stopped. Because of the weather, we decided to hunker down and spend the day at home. CJ slept in (I wish I knew what that was like) so Munchkin, Samson and I ate breakfast and then started playing.

At one point I had to, ehem, use the bathroom. I made sure all the rooms were closed off so that Munchkin couldn’t wander away and then went in to the bathroom, leaving the door open so I could see and hear stuff (all I could see was the hallway right outside the door). Right after I sat down, I see Samson walk by the door toward the end of the hallway and I hear him lay down (he usally does that with a big sigh or grunt).  Pretty soon Isabella goes streaking by, headed in the same direction as the dog. I hear some noises including evil laughter and shrieks, then I see a lone woobie go rolling by the door. Reminded me of a western or something when you hear a scuffle off camera and then all you see is a cowboy hat rolling in front of the screen. Then, here comes Samson running back the other way, followed by Isabella chasing after him. I hear more scuffles in the living room and then Samson comes to the door carrying a deflated volleyball. I was hoping I wouldn’t find my child in an equally deflated state in the living room and alas, everything was fine but it was touch and go there for a minute.

Munchkin was pretty crabby all day. I think she was teething. She was also very clingy. I couldn’t go anywhere without her running after me and grabbing onto my leg, wanting to be picked up. I’m sometimes torn because I don’t want her to need holding all the time, but I also believe you can’t give them too much love. So, I did just that.

We played in the basement for a while (where CJ was working on volleyball stuff most of the day), and she had fun running around.

I love that she only has one Elmo slipper on. She’s gangsta like that, yo. That’s how this toddler rolls!

Samson was less than thrilled.

After spending the whole day inside with a crabby, clingy toddler, I needed a break so CJ was gracious enough to let me shovel the driveway and sidewalks. He’s sweet isn’t he? Actually, I asked to do it. I wanted something a little physical and get outside for a bit. It was very peaceful and quiet.

Here is what it looked like when I went out to shovel, around 4pm.

I felt better when I came in and made some dinner. Then Isabella and I played with some hats, as well as a game of pick-a-boo.

By the time she went to bed, I was pooped. Normally when I’ve been home with her all day by myself it’s been great. This was my first taste of a less than stellar day and now I can be more sympathetic when CJ has those days. I used to think he was just being whiny. Now I get it. It was nice to snuggle up on the couch, under my Steelers blanket, and hang with my friends on Wisteria Lane.

Like I said earlier, today was a snow day. Here is how it looked around 7:30am:

It has been nonstop all day so the accumulation right now is about double what you see in these pictures. Crazy, yet cozy. We’re planning to take Isabella out in her snow suit for playtime. I’ll definitely be taking pictures if we do!!

Stay warm and safe!

If you liked this, you might also like:

The Perfect Day

I Hate the Grocery Store

I Could Get Used to This

Random Thought Wednesday, 2

Happy Hump Day!

Not much going on today so I thought I’d give updates on a few things and share other random thoughts I have.

For those of you who were wondering (all 2 of you), Samson and Willow are back together. He was at Doggie Day Camp yesterday and the report is that he and Willow played together all day. I guess he forgave her for two-timing him. That or it was a nasty rumor started by Karen just so she could get her poop-eating paws on him. Either way, all seems to be right in the dog world again.

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If anyone has been dying to know how I fared in Fantasy Football, I finished in 3rd place. [gulp] It pained me to lose in the semi’s, but I did. Ironically enough, the first and second place teams going in to the playoffs finished 4th and 3rd, respectively, and the 3rd and 4th place teams finished 1st and 2nd! I’m kind of glad it’s over. It was getting to be too stressful for me. And hey, all that matters is that the Steelers won their division and are headed into the real playoffs.

——

On, a more somber note, there was a shooting at Millard South High School today. Apparently the shooter was a student who had been suspended. He shot the principal and assistant principal. Scary stuff. Millard South is where I’d have gone to high school had I not chosen to go the private route and head to an all girl’s catholic school (that’s a whole other post). But all my junior high and grade school friends went there. My parents still live in the neighborhood. 

3 years ago, there was another shooting in Omaha, at the Westroads Mall. That was the first really major incident like that we’d had here and I was in Pittsburgh working at Del Monte. One of my friends sent me an instant message telling me about it. It was very surreal to be in another city and see your local mall on the National news.

Makes me so sad that violence seems to be the first thought these days when one is angry or upset or lonely or whatever. Columbine…Westroads…school board meeting in FloridaVirginia Tech. Can’t people talk things out anymore? It seems cliché to say it but, can’t we all just get along? I mean, I’ve been angry at bosses or co-workers but I would never think to get a gun and start shooting! Makes me sad at the world that I’m raising my daughter in. Prayers go out to both victims and all the families.

Ended the day having drinks out with some girls from work. It was what I needed – a good old-fashioned bitch session fueled by Mexican food and alcohol. Can’t beat that! Seriously though, I enjoy socializing with co-workers, whether it be a lunch, happy hour or whatever. We spend more time with them than with our families it seems so why not get to know them better? I hope for more of those outings soon!

Came home to spend some time, though not enough, with Isabella before she was off to bed. She started to fuss and I had flashbacks to Sunday night. Fortunately, she calmed herself down after a few minutes so it was all good. Going to sit down and pay bills now, then head to bed, and dream of spreadsheets and budgets.

Happy Hump Day!

If you like this, you might also like:

Random Thought Wednesday

Samson Stories: Doggie Day Camp

Fantasy vs. Nightmare