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  • Writer's pictureScott Hansen

Asta | Australian Shepherd | Chino Hills, CA | In-Training

Meet Asta! Asta is a 5-month-old Australian Shepherd from Chino Hills, CA who has joined us for our 2-Week Board and Train Program. Asta displays a lot of puppy energy by running and jumping on people. Asta bites the leash, barks at other dogs, cries in his crate, and jumps on and nips at his owners for attention. Asta does know some commands but is inconsistent. Asta is a friendly pup who needs structure and obedience. Stay tuned for Asta's 14-day transformation!


Welcome to my pack Asta! Asta got to meet my family. He was very excited and demonstrated how he can jump on people and children when excited. Asta got to meet Toji, my German Shorthaired Pointer. Toji gets along great with other pups. Asta was a little shy having a slightly bigger pup come up to him and say hi but they will learn how to play and they will get to spend time together over the next few weeks. I took Asta for a walk around my neighborhood to familiarize him with the sights and sounds. I put the ecollar on him for the walk but I did not use it yet. I will introduce the ecollar and start introducing commands tomorrow. The change in environment is a lot and I like to give him today to get comfortable so that he can learn.

I tried working on his "sit" for his profile photo, this was a challenge! We did practice his food manners at dinner time. He definitely knows how to "sit" for food! This definitely needs some work but Asta seems bright and ready to go!


Pupdate 1/9/23

Today Asta and I loaded up and headed over to Whittier Narrows in El Monte, CA. We met up with our fellow Off-Leash trainers and fellow board and train pups. Asta did great socializing with all the other pups. No barking at any of the other pups. He was more interested in trying to sniff them and say hi. I think he likes female dogs as he has taken a big interest in Toji and follows her around everywhere.

Today was the first day working with him on the ecollar although he was introduced to it yesterday. The great news is that he is responsive to the stimulation with low levels between 5-20. The collar goes up to 100 so these are really good numbers to be working with. I used the stimulation and some treat training to get him focused. I focused on the "heel" while we went on a nice long walk. Then I put him up on some tables to work on his agility. Eventually, he went up on his own. Hopefully, these exercises will work on his ability to jump up into the vehicle. He can and will jump out of the vehicle so I fully believe he has the ability but he is lacking the confidence. I then went and worked on introducing the come to "sit". Asta did great with this also. Lastly, we stopped by the playground where the other pups were and Asta stayed calm in the "sit" while other dogs walked around. He even gave me a few "down" which I rewarded with treats. He wouldn't do the "down" when I asked him to but I'll introduce that tomorrow. After today, all he really will need is the introduction to "down" and we'll be off to the races with repetitions of the commands.

Asta does love his food and even tried to eat Toji's food. I am giving him 1 cup in the AM and half a cup in the evening. The 1 cup in AM is to fuel him through the training and activity throughout the day and a half cup is for the evening when there is not as much activity. My littlest one has started calling him "pasta" but he is very responsive to his Asta name. He has done well around the kids. Good job, Asta!


Pupdate 1/10/23

Today Asta and I loaded up and headed over to Rhynerson Park in Lakewood, CA. We made it out once the rain chilled out. Although the park was muddy in a few spots there are nice covered areas to practice in without very many distractions. I practiced the "place" with Asta. I use the "place" to transition to the "down". The raised platforms used for "place" lend themselves to teaching "down" with less resistance. Asta is really intelligent and picked up on the "place" fast from yesterday to today. Asta did well with the "down" on his own. I used treats to reinforce good behavior. Sometimes I overuse the "down" only with "place" so I had Asta "down" on the concrete a few times to make sure he understood the command. I introduced hand commands with "sit", "down" and "come".

I also used the pinch collar to work on the "heel" and the come to "sit". Asta was quite vocal about not enjoying the pressure applied by the pinch collar but his "sit" was fast and pretty as well as his "heel" was a lot better next to me. I tried using the pinch while doing the come to "sit" but he wasn't having it. I switched to the flat collar and guided him into position with a little verbal coaxing. He was much more responsive to doing the come to "sit" without the pinch. A pinch collar is only a temporary tool used to shape behavior. Asta won't need it but for a few more days and then we'll be on a flat collar and then off-leash! I'm really happy with his progress after two days and expect him to do exceptionally well!


Pupdate 1/11/23

Today Asta and I practiced in my backyard. Now that Asta has been introduced and taught the commands, it is just going to be more and more repetitions until he shows a pretty good mastery then we can start the off-leash work. He does ok in the heel however, the stimulus of the ecollar and the pinch have left their mark on him, and sometimes he demonstrates avoidance behavior. This means that he is anticipating a stimulus or pull on the prong collar and is looking to go lay down or will move away from me because he thinks I am the cause of the uncomfortableness. Actually, the ecollar only stimulates, as I explained when I picked up Asta, and the pinch collar simply applies uniform pressure and there is a flat part where the trachea is so that it does not put any pain on him. It merely is uncomfortable for not doing what I am asking. We will spend a lot more time without the pinch collar which will counter condition this behavior. The point was for the pinch's pressure to transfer to a flat collar. So now when he feels pressure, even from a simple flat collar, he will understand and respect the pressure to carry out the commands. With that being said, it has done its job and I probably won't need it anymore. Now we replace pinch with flat and then eventually flat is replaced by stimulus from the ecollar. Asta is right on track and is such a blast to have around the house.


Pupdate 1/12/23

Last night Asta and I headed over to Discovery Park in Downey, CA. There is a lot of cool NASA-themed stuff in the area. I had Asta take a picture in front of one of the boilerplates from a NASA mission. We walked around the park while kids were playing soccer and people were walking and running with their dogs. Asta did great! I had him "place "on several benches and he did well. Still working on the "down" after but he understands "place". The "down" on some of the surfaces is more of them finding a comfortable place. He goes to the end of the bench instead of the middle and now he has no room to "down". We will keep working on that. He was a little vocal about being uncomfortable as I had the pinch on just as a reminder but was not using it. Near the end of our walk around the park, I introduced the leash-dragging "heel". With the leash I had brought, when I drop it, it feels like no leash is attached to the collar. He did great! He didn't like the giant golf cart that came charging at us but other than that he ignored most people and stuck to the task.

Today we focused on house manners. Now that he knows "place" and "down", I have him "down" on his dog cot while I eat or even while I'm writing this update. This helps with his extended "down". He did show a little bit of anxiousness when I left his vision. I used my voice to remind him to "down" as I walked out of sight. His favorite thing to do is hang out with Toji. Overall, Asta is doing great!


Pupdate 1/13/23

Today Asta and I headed over to La Mirada Regional Park in La Mirada, CA. We met up with our fellow Off Leash trainers and their pups in training. Asta is doing really well around all the other dogs. Asta has not shown any barking behavior towards the other dogs but rather is showing interest in playing with them.

Although we review all the commands every training, the main focus today was the extended "down" and "sit". As you can see in the video today, I started close to Asta as I circled him. Sometimes he wants to get up if he can't see me but he figured out that I just wanted him to hang out there. I kept saying "down" or "sit" as I started to move behind him or out of sight. This reinforces the command and ensures that he knows what I am asking him to do. I also start to spiral outwards, farther away from him. Using the gazebo we were at, I would estimate that I was about 20' or more away from him and he had no problem hanging out while I moved further away and would disappear behind the pillars. His leash-dragging skills were pretty good and I will introduce the off-leash work this weekend.

Lastly, I noticed a scab-like object on his neck. The pictures are above. I am going to brush him and try to resolve it the best I can. I will keep you informed if it gets worse or has any other issues. It doesn't seem to be bothering him or showing any signs of infection.


Pupdate 1/14/23

Unfortunately a rainy day in California. No worries, we train in the rain! I knew the rain was coming so I had set aside today to work on Asta's house manners. Asta definitely shows puppy behavior by looking to pick food up off the floor. He definitely will find anything that my little ones left behind. These are all learning opportunities and reinforcement of "off".

As you can see in the video, Asta is doing well on his dog cot and staying there when put in the place. He is comfortable hanging out there while I step outside and check the mail or need to get something out of the vehicle. I worked on some of the other commands but as you can see, sometimes he is a little confused. The trick is to be persistent with the stimulation and the command. Asta knows what the "come" to sit is. He is just thinking about doing something else. The collar interrupts his desire to do what he wants to do and for him to carry out what I am asking him to do. With enough stimulation and consistency, he will come to carry out the command. When he does the command, he is rewarded for it. I also added his food manners.

I did some grooming with Asta and inspected his neck today. I sprayed some anti-septic on it just to make sure. Everything looks the same as yesterday and doesn't seem to be bothering him.


Pupdate 1/15/23

Today Asta and I headed over to Rhynerson Park in Lakewood, CA to test Asta's off-leash capabilities. Asta did amazing! From his "load up" before we left the house to doing it again after without any issues to carrying out an extended "heel" as I walked around the entire park.

One thing that presented itself today that I would like to remind you of is the "off". A few dogs tried to come up to Asta and say hi. Asta was fine with this and wasn't barking or anything but we were walking and working on his "heel". The proper sequence for this is stimulation + "off" and immediately followed up with whatever obedience task they were doing before. So the sequence would be stimulation +"off" then "heel" and a "good boy" or a treat. It's important to give them something to do after an "off". This way they know don't do that, but you can do this.

Lastly, I brushed him again and the same scab on his neck was present and in the same condition as the last few days. I can't tell if it's a scar or something as his hair seems to be growing out of it which indicates it could be a skin tag or something that's been there. I'll keep an eye on it until you get him back but it doesn't appear to be anything serious.


Pupdate 1/17/23

Today Asta and I headed over to Home Depot and met up with our fellow Off-Leash trainers and pups. Overall, Asta did a great job as you can see in the pictures. Asta didn't really mind the noises of the saw and all the people. He let someone say hi and was well-behaved without jumping on him. Asta is a puppy so everything is new to him and he likes to investigate and explore. He is showing a few signs of avoidance behavior. Asta is sensitive to the stimulation of the ecollar when there are no other distractions around. When there are distractions around, he can tolerate up to about 10-15. Anything above that, he starts to shut down and we don't want that. If we are too high when he is focused and quiet like at home, he will also look for a safe space or somewhere to avoid the stimulation. I would recommend looking into the comfort pads for Asta as he is responsive to the vibration feature of the collar.

He doesn't seem to be interested in the treats that I have so we stopped by Petco to pick out some different ones. Hopefully, he'll like the ones we picked out.

Below is a better picture of the scab I referenced previously. It still doesn't seem to be bothering him. I'll be sure to show you where it is when you get him back. It appears to be a skin tag but it's really difficult to see with his long hair.


Pupdate 1/17/23

Today Asta and I headed up to Signal Hill Park in Long Beach, CA. The views are amazing up there! Asta's attitude was not as spectacular as the views. It was quite windy so maybe he wasn't comfortable out there. As you can see, my camera fell over several times but Asta was comfortable hanging out while I fixed it. He even posed for a mini photo shoot.

As I mentioned yesterday, he is showing sensitivity to the collar and is seeking out comfort rather than following commands. Also, it was really windy and I think Asta was uncomfortable. There were people walking around and some other pups but he wasn't paying attention to them. It was more avoidance behavior when overwhelmed. You saw in Sunday's video that he can do all the commands and knows them. The tricky part is going to balance his sensitivity to the collar, managing distractions, and rewarding him for good behavior. Asta is a puppy so he does display that puppy behavior. He will resist the commands like a toddler not wanting to take a bath. That's where we become creative and find a way to incentivize the pup to do the task in a positive way as much as possible. I bought new treats for him yesterday but he still doesn't really like them. I'll try just using his kibble bits as rewards for good behavior.

Asta is doing well with potty training. He is using the restroom regularly and without issue. He has had no accidents in the house. I manage this with a couple of tactics. One, I usually keep an eye on and manage their water. Asta has access to water all day and I monitor how much he is drinking. He doesn't consume a lot of water. So when I notice he has consumed a decent amount of water, I know that he will need to use the restroom within an hour or less to avoid accidents. As far as eating, he currently eats at 7am and around 5pm. I try to let him out for a quick break before breakfast and then again around 8am-9am. He's pretty good about going in that hour window after eating. This is for after dinner as well. He heads back out around 6-7pm and gets to hang out for an hour or so before heading in for the night.

Lastly, Asta has developed some irritation on his brown eye side. The other mark mentioned previously is on the blue eye side. Below is a picture. I treated it with Neosporin and limited both flat collar and ecollar use. I switched his ecollar to the hypoallergenic contact points which you will get. Luckily he has learned all his commands and is in repetition mode right now so we can afford to limit the use of the collars and still give you a well-trained Asta!


Pupdate 1/18/23

Today Asta and I practiced at home. Due to Asta's newfound skin irritation, we decided to not use the ecollar today and try to let the irritation heal up. I have added pictures below. I put Neosporin on it and wrapped it loosely in a bandage with the flat collar holding it in place. The bandage sticks to itself and not to the fur. This should minimize further irritation and it also minimizes Asta trying to scratch or pull it off. I will keep checking on it and making sure it's not getting infected. I will change out the bandages regularly and ensure that it is well taken care of. I picked up some hot spot spray today and will start applying that instead of the Neosporin.

As you can see in the video, Asta loves his kibble as reward! That's great because you don't have to buy extra treats to incentivize him. We started with the leash just so he knew what we were doing since I wasn't using the ecollar as a reinforcement tool. Once he was carrying out the tasks, I cut him off the leash. We can do this in my backyard since he can't break off anywhere and I don't have the ecollar as a tool to recall him. He was obedient and carried out his tasks well! A reminder that this is in my backyard where there are few distractions other than my little one and Toji on the other side. The collar is still needed when in public places. The purpose of today's video was to demonstrate that Asta knows the commands and will carry them out. Usually, if Asta doesn't carry out the command on the first try, I would use the ecollar and the obedience word i.e. "sit" or "place" and he will respond quickly. Without a leash or an ecollar to apply pressure or stimulation, the only consequence is the withholding of the reward. This works when the dog is aware the reward is present and available and knows the task. If he doesn't do the known task, then we don't give the treat/reward. We only give the treat or reward, when he actually does it. In the operant conditioning model, this is Reward (-) when we withhold the reward/treat. Reward (+) encourages more of the wanted behavior i.e. carrying out the task and then we give them the treat/reward. We also refer to this as stimulus (me saying "sit") + response (him sitting) = reward (his treat/physical attention/verbal praise). We do this even when the pup is performing unwanted behavior. We give an "off"+ecollar stimulation (stimulus) + Asta leaving the object or ignoring something like food on the floor (response) = reward/verbal praise/physical praise.

Stimulus + Response = Reward

As far as his neck and skin irritations are going, he is not showing any adversity to them. I have also included a picture of the hypoallergenic contact points versus the standard contact points so you can see the difference. Hopefully, this minimizes further irritation. I will keep using the bandage as a barrier between the flat collar and his neck.

He is still going to the restroom fine and has his spot outside. I just say "go potty" and "good potty" whenever he does it. We just keep saying it over and over again so that it gets in his mind what he's supposed to do.


Pupdate 1/19/23

Today Asta and I worked on his house manners, car manners, and food manners. This was the first time his ecollar was on in a few days to let his hot spots heal. I have included a picture. Everything looks like it's healed up and is starting to get better. I'll continue to put on antiseptic spray as I couldn't really find a hot spot spray that offered anything more beneficial. I'm keeping it dry and ensuring that he only has his flat collar with a bandage on when he goes outside. As you saw in yesterday's video, Asta will do the commands without the ecollar and usually even better for a little bit of his kibble.

In today's video, you can see how good he is at waiting at the door. I didn't get to catch it on video, but he even waited patiently when other family members arrived home. Also, when I went out the door the first time, the postman was walking up and Asta just observed. We worked on his car manners to include "load up". Your car isn't as high as mine but even though he is little, Asta is athletic and willing to jump up into my vehicle. Lastly, we did his food manners which were AMAZING. Asta really loves his food and finds it a high-value reward. He can do amazing things using food as motivation.

Lastly, I didn't notice anything different with him today when I put the ecollar on. He wasn't excessively scratching or even bothered by it. I only had it on for a short time for reinforcement. The rain started falling so we went back inside to keep him nice and dry.


Pupdate 1/20/23

Today Asta and I headed over to Los Cerritos Center in Cerritos, CA to work on his distractors and off-leash work in crowded areas. Asta did AMAZING! Not only did he do amazing, but he was also the center of attention everywhere we went. He is doing so well. He is responsive to commands and eager to please. I am really proud of how far Asta has come. He is really intelligent and playful. I think we will go back tomorrow to practice some more. He had a good time and likes being around people, sometimes a little too friendly, as in he wants to go check everyone out and have everyone give him attention. Asta is ready to show you what he has learned!


Pupdate 1/21/23

Today Asta and I headed back to Los Cerritos Center in Cerritos, CA. Once again, Asta was wonderful! So many people love him and he loves being the center of attention. He needs very little stimulation but we keep it on hand just in case. I also keep a handful of kibble with me to reward his great behavior. Whenever he does something good such as ignoring other pups or sticking to the heel in crowds I make sure to give him a "good boy" and when we stop I'll give him one or two kibbles. He has made really great progress. He doesn't jump on people. He still uses his paw as a "shake" because who wouldn't want to love a pup who can do tricks? He knows this which is why he does it. Remember stimulus + response = reward. He's skipping the stimulus part and just doing the pawing and then when we reward him by petting him we are letting him know that we like when he does that. Just remember that dogs are clever. Only two more days until we can show what he's learned!

You can see that Asta's skin irritation has scabbed up and is healing up. I've kept both of his collars off unless we are training. He is still obedient to the commands and mostly listens. He is a puppy after all and is interested in everything.


Pupdate 1/22/23

Today Asta and I reviewed his commands as you can see in the video. Asta is the main star of this video as it appears that I did not capture all of me but the more important points and hand gestures were captured for your future reference. Check it out in anticipation of his turnover tomorrow. I reviewed the commands with how I taught them to Asta and how you can practice them. Toji will definitely miss having Asta around as they have become great buds. They both sit patiently at the door to go outside and go potty and go play.

Another note before you get him back, remember that Asta is a puppy. We have to give him time to be a puppy. However, puppies don't know much about the world yet. Also, they use their mouth to explore things. This can lead to destructive behavior. Be on the lookout as I have caught him attempting to chew on random things while he has stayed with me. You will need to re-establish those boundaries and stay consistent with them. As you can see in today's video, you can practice all these commands in your residence.

As far as potty training goes, he gets let out for a potty break around 0645/0700 every day. This only takes a few minutes and then he is given breakfast. By 0800 he is ready to head back out for his next potty break. The rest of the day, I just monitor his water intake to determine when he will need to use the restroom again. At least one more time during the day he will get to go outside and go potty. He eats dinner around 1630. Once again, about an hour or so after eating dinner, he is ready to head back outside for another potty break. He comes in around 1800 after playing with Toji for a while. I will give him one last potty break around 2100 and then that's it for the night. Then we repeat again the next day.



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