Nugget, CGC

Nugget and I arrived to take our CGC test on June 5th. I was very nervous, but excited to get it over with! It was more challenging than expected due to unforeseen obstacles. 

Right when we were about to start the test, a little child walked by squeezing a squeaky toy that sounded like a duck. Nugget had never heard that noise before and obviously became distracted and eager to find the toy. Luckily, this was before the test began so I was able to give him a moment to calm down and redirect him.  

Later in the test, we turned a corner and there was dog food spilled all over the floor! It was a major distraction, but the trainer quickly led us over the area into a clearing for us to continue our testing. 

Overall, Nugget did great, and he passed his test. Nugget now is officially “Nugget, CGC”. I am very proud of him and cannot wait to frame his certificate.


The Wonderful World of Dog Accessories 

One of the really fun parts about owning a small, cute dog is the accessories you can buy! Although I think a lot of the accessories are really cute, they also serve a purpose in bettering my dogs quality of life.  

1) Winter Coats. Thankfully, we had a very mild winter. However, when we had some days below twenty degrees, Nugget was not happy. After a brief walk outside, he would start whining and shivering. I invested in several warm coats for him that seem to help a lot! They have a fleecy lining inside and a waterproof exterior that is good for snowy and rainy weather. 

2) Winter Boots. When Nugget had to endure icy or snowy weather, he would not last long before he was jumping up for me to hold him. His little paws started to hurt on the freezing, wet ground. I invested in a pair of boots that only cost about $10. They are easy to slip on and Velcro into place, and they have little pads on the bottom to keep him from slipping. It was definitely a smart purchase for us and allowed Nugget to happily play in the snow.

3) Dog Hat. Okay, this one is more for my amusement, but I did purchase a little winter hat for Nugget. It slips on his head with elastic under his chin and even has openings for his ears to poke through. I usually do not keep it on him long because he tends to take it off himself, but it is very cute!

4) Doggles. Dog goggles. Nugget loves to stick his head out of the car window for the entire car ride. It’s adorable, and he is always so excited to be in the car. However, I always worry about his little bulging eyes getting injured from flying debris. I purchased a pair of dog goggles on Amazon! They easily fit on his head and protect him from any debris. They also provide UV protection. 

5) Bandana. This is an accessory that is solely for fashion purposes, but it has been fun to try out different bandanas. I have even created a couple of my own bandanas for Nugget to model! I plan on making more in the future. Let me know if you want to try one out!

6) Pajamas. Okay, this is definitely not Nugget’s favorite thing in the world, but the five minutes of fun we have together in pajamas are totally worth it. Local Baltimore store, Dogma, carries a lot of various dog outfits including all sorts of pajamas. It is so much fun to look through their selection!

7) Shirts/Sweaters. Shirts and sweaters are an easy way to make a fun statement with your dog. So many shirts have cute sayings or pictures on them! Additionally, my mother knitted a sweater for Nugget that buttons underneath him. It’s very easy to put on and it’s lighter than a winter coat.

These are some of the accessories that I have tried so far. Have you tried any of these with your dogs? Have you tried anything different that was helpful? 

A Chance Encounter

As we round the bend on the path, we come across a small, shaggy brown dog bounding toward us off his leash. Nugget braces himself with excitement, and suddenly I find myself struggling to hold him in place as he fights to free himself from the leash. “Sammy, come!”, the brown dog’s owner orders. Amazed, I watch as the dog immediately stops in his tracks and turns away from the temptation of playing with Nugget. As Sammy trots back toward his owner, Nugget settles into the grass by my side. Nugget and I both momentarily take a break from our walk to watch Sammy interact with his owner. I have never seen a dog so in tune with his owner, and I begin to feel frustrated with my training progress with Nugget as I watch the two play with each other. The owner throws the ball in the grass, and Sammy gleefully runs off leash to grab it and return to his owner’s side immediately. No matter how many dogs pass by and bark at Sammy, he consistently looks to his owner for his next cue. “This is the kind of relationship I want to have with my dog”, I thought. As the two pass by us, Nugget quietly watches his new friend fade off into the distance while I start brainstorming how to train my dog to be like Sammy. 

We continue our walk and are approached by a small, black dog. I decide to put Nugget in a down stay until they pass for him to practice being polite. Nugget and I watch as the little black dog begins to pull, jump, and bark at the sight of my puggle lying in the grass. The owner hurriedly pulls her dog past us and scolds him for his misbehavior. Nugget and I lock eyes, and in that moment I realize I should never compare our training journey with anyone else’s. I need to focus on how far we have come as a team and appreciate how much my dog loves me no matter what. We still have a lot of training to complete, but I am so proud of the dog Nugget has become so far. As I put Nugget back in the car to head home, he gives me a big lick on the face. “I love you too, Nugget”, I say. We could really learn a thing or two about unconditional love and acceptance from our pets. 

Spring in Baltimore

Now that the weather is beautiful, Nugget and I have been trying to find some good springtime activities to do together. I have been doing research about dog friendly activities in the Baltimore area. Some of these places I have visited, and the rest I plan on visiting this spring! Let me know if you have any other great ideas. 

1) Have a picnic on Federal Hill. Sit on top of Federal Hill for a great view of the city with your pup! I have been to Federal Hill many times for different activities including sledding and strolling. For a relaxing, cheap afternoon you can pack some food from home and take in the view with your best friend.

Our view from Federal Hill

2) Smell the flowers at Cylburn Arboretum. This is a beautiful city park with tons of walking trails and gardens to explore. It’s very dog friendly, and they even have dog posts with doggie poo bags provided. This is a great place to have a picnic, hike, or view some beautiful spring flowers.

Nugget smiling for the camera

3) Relax on the patio of Belvedere Square. Sip on some wine or eat some delicious food on the patio! This an indoor marketplace with a lot of different delicious options. You can have a sandwich, ramen, smoothie, or dessert in addition to so much more! If you’re looking for some drinks, there are plenty of options including wine, sake, and beer. With ample outdoor seating, this is an awesome place to chill with your dog on a warm spring evening. 

Enjoying a glass of wine at Belvedere Square

Patio at Belvedere Square

4) Bengie’s Drive-In Theatre. We have not done this one yet, but I definitely want to enjoy a drive-in movie with my pup. Make sure to follow the rules listed on the website to keep the experience enjoyable for everyone there.

5) Take a boat ride with Cruises on the Bay. Departing from both Baltimore and Annapolis, Cruises on the Bay allows friendly, leashed dogs for free! I cannot wait to try this one out!

6) Check out a local brewery that allows dogs. A lot of the breweries that do not serve food allow dogs to join you for a beer. I know there are several around, but one I have been wanting to check out is Diamonback Brewing Company in McHenry Row. 

I’m very excited that the weather is warm, and Nugget can join me on more activities. Do you have any cool ideas to add to the list? 

The Training Continues

Nugget’s training on both Sunday and Monday focused on his interactions with other dogs and people. Because he still has some puppy excitability, these tests are going to be the most difficult obstacles for him.

On Sunday mornings, Nugget attends a dog reactivity class. We currently have three other dogs in the class, and on this most recent Sunday we also had three training dogs in class. The training dogs so far have been calm and quiet, which Nugget has no reaction to. The trainer said he seemed very comfortable around the dogs because he would sit with his back to them and even lie in the grass with his eyes fixated on me. He is doing very well on this portion of the training. However, he has not had any interaction with other excited dogs yet, and that seems to be when he has trouble staying calm. We will be working up to that level, and I can’t wait to see Nugget’s progress!

We also have training together on Monday nights preparing for his Canine Good Citizen test. This week we really focused on his behavior when interacting with other people and dogs. The first test we worked on was accepting a friendly stranger. We practiced this with my trainer. Nugget is obviously familiar with his trainer, but it was good practice. Nugget did listen well to me. I walked Nugget around, and as the trainer approached me I told Nugget to sit. While I shook hands with my trainer and introduced myself, Nugget sat quietly by my side! I was very impressed that he was so polite because he gets very excited around his trainer. He is quickly maturing. 

Next we practiced having Nugget sit while a stranger pets him. We walked around and asked strangers who looked interested in my dog if they would like to help with our training. People are always so eager to help when it involves petting a cute dog! As we approached people, I again would tell Nugget to sit and ask the people not to pet him until he sat politely. Sometimes it took a few moments for him to realize what he needed to do, but he successfully sat for petting every time. 

Lastly, we practiced supervised separation. I would tell Nugget to wait and I would leave the training area for three minutes. He successfully stayed there without panicking for over three minutes with his trainer while I was gone. We practiced this several times, and he did well every time. Now I am just trying to teach him to be separated from me without anyone else around. He still has a lot of trouble being left home alone, and I am slowly teaching him to be in my room alone. It is a long process!

I am very proud of Nugget. We have been working so hard. Even though we have a lot more work to do, he is progressing quickly. 

The Ins And Outs of Therapy Dog Testing

Our dream is becoming reality! Nugget and I are signed up for therapy dog testing and basic training in July. I am very excited about this process, but I realize that this is only the beginning of a very long journey. Nugget has come very far in his training, but from now on I will have to eat, sleep, and breathe training to get him prepared for our testing. (We will have fun times too) 🐶😬

In addition to Nugget’s two training classes per week, I am working diligently on training him at home. I have integrated a “Nothing in life is free” approach in our house. This is a good way for us to constantly incorporate training into daily life. Basically, anything Nugget wants he has to earn. If he wants to go out the front door, he has to wait patiently until I signal to him that it’s okay for him to cross the threshold. When I return home from work, I wait until he calms down and sits before I pet him. This one is so hard because he is so happy to see me! But I do give him lots of loving once he calms himself. Additionally, we are working very hard on our loose leash walking. He generally does well loose leash walking with his harness. However, I am also working on training him just using a collar. It takes a lot of patience. Every time he runs forward and starts pulling, I have to stop in place until he turns around and comes back to a heel position. Currently, I am bribing him with some good treats when needed. Fortunately, Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog testing now allows the use of most harnesses.

Loose leash walking!

The therapy dog testing requires Nugget to perform tasks that are very similar to the Canine Good Citizen test. To be able to start visiting approved facilities, Nugget will have to at least pass the basic level of testing. This means he passes all of the requirements, but he may need some assistance. He can be given a command up to three times. To be able to visit facilities with children, Nugget will have to pass the Advanced level of testing. This requires him to carry out every behavior on the first command.

For the first part of the therapy dog assessment, Nugget will have to do the following:

1) Accept a friendly stranger

2) Accept a stranger staring at him without showing anxiety or aggression

3) Sit at my side for a stranger to pet him

3) Have his ears, eyes, breath, and feet checked and be brushed

4) Walk on a loose leash (straight, right turn, left turn, about face, and stop)

5) Sit, down, and stay as I walk 20 feet away and back

6) Come when called from 10 feet away

7) Approach another pet team without Nugget engaging with them. He must sit by my side, and I am allowed to command him to sit before I greet the other team.

8) Leave a treat on the ground that I drop in front of him

9) Gently accept a treat from a stranger

The second part of the therapy dog assessment will test Nugget’s reaction to people in a crowd. He will have to do the following:

1) Accept someone staggering toward him. I am allowed to reassure and pet him during this.

2) Accept a loud, angry person. I am allowed to reassure and pet him during this.

3) Accept someone touching him from behind. I am allowed to reassure and pet him during this.

4) React to loud metal noise without showing fear or stress (He can be startled)

5) I have to act as an advocate for my pet and work to encourage him throughout this part of the testing.

6) Nugget is allowed to be startled during any part of this, but he has to be able to recover.

Lastly, Nugget and I will have to perform a 3 minute practice visit. I will have to be friendly and knowledgeable about the organization. Nugget will have to accept petting from multiple people and awkward handling. Nugget should be comfortable and interested in the client. Additionally, I always need to be an advocate for Nugget including foreseeing potential problem areas (another dog in the room, a vacuum cleaner, etc.). I can help him through the difficulty or remove him from the room if needed.

We definitely have our work cut out for us, but I feel very passionately about helping Nugget succeed. We have three months to work toward our goal! Wish us luck 🙂