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I recently got an email from a woman whose dog has SLO:

Hi! I was so happy to come upon your site!! …I have an English Springer…, [we are] sure she has SLO. …We are having a really hard time getting her to take her supplements- I’ve tried multiple ways to get her to take her Omega – disguised in food, on her food, I bought filtered to decrease the odor- so many things-she just turns her nose up. She will eat cooked Salmon but that is it… She has a jaw that is tight and will not let you open and I really hate to force down her. I have left her food down and walked away and it stays that way…uneaten. …I love reading all you have written and so feel like I finally have another person who understands.

I looked back at this post Training Unawares, and I realized that I hadn’t said anything about how I actually trained Cooper to jump up onto his grooming table and take his many medicines. Here is an edited version of my reply to the woman who wrote me:

I am so sorry this is happening to your dog. It is indeed painful to watch.

I’m trying to remember how I trained Cooper to take supplements. It didn’t take long he was jumping up onto our grooming table without being asked in order to get them.

I’m pretty sure that I started out with the best, most yummiest treat ever. For Cooper, that was Yummy Chummies or Red Barn Beef Roll. Cooked or dried liver chunks worked well, too. I would show him a treat, get him onto the grooming table somehow, and then gave him the treat. He could also see and smell the pile of treats on the counter from up there.

That first treat made his mouth water, so it was easier to slip a pill or capsule down his throat. I soon learned that I had to stuff it way back into the back of his throat, or else he’d spit it out.

The thing I don’t quite remember is how I got him to open his mouth for the big fish oil capsule in the first place. I think I must have had a capsule between my thumb and first finger, while holding a treat against my palm with my other fingers. He’d open his mouth because he’d just gotten his favorite treat ever, and could smell the 2nd treat. Then, as soon as I got the capsule into the back of his throat, I gave him many, many treats – maybe even up to 10, one at a time. (They were cut into small pieces.) He soon realized he’d get a major payout for letting me stuff a pill down.

And I probably did not start out trying to stuff everything I had to give him all in the same session. But as time went on, and he was more willing, I reduced the number of treats, and upped the number of pills per session. But I always started with a treat and I always gave him a treat after every pill or capsule.

If your dog is really reluctant, you could start by giving him a treat for just letting you open his mouth a little bit. Then when he’s happy letting you do that (and that may take several sessions to teach), a treat for letting you open it little wider. Then a treat for letting you open it all the way.

Then after a couple of sessions of that, you could go to giving a treat, stuffing one small pill down, then giving many treats. And after several sessions of that, then do treat-small pill-many treats-larger pill-many treats, and etc. Gradually build up the number and size of pills you give over several sessions.

And you have to use the dog’s very favorite, very best treat. And, while you’re teaching this, I think he should get it only for letting you open his mouth and then later, stuffing pills down. The dog may change his mind about what he thinks the best treat is, and if that happens, you’ll have to change treats until you find the next very favorite.

Here’s another idea. Cooper has passed away, but my current dogs will do anything for green tripe. I can get them to eat almost anything if I have it mixed in green tripe. I buy a brand called Tripett, and it comes in cans. You might buy a can and see how your dog likes it. Then, if he really likes it, try mixing your supplement into some tripe. Start out with a little supplement and then gradually work up to the full amount. I will warn you, green tripe smells disgusting, but it’s good for the dogs. (Cleaned tripe or the tripe you can buy in the grocery stores for people food isn’t nearly so interesting to my dogs.)

Hope this helps. If not, I suggest you find a dog trainer to help you. Find one who is good at teaching dogs to do tricks using positive reinforcement. The process of teaching a dog to take pills is the same as teaching a dog to do tricks. You break the learning down into small easy chunks and reward the dog with whatever the dog thinks is rewarding. (Pardon me if you know this already.)

My best wishes,

I truly do hope it helps. Dealing with SLO is never easy, but sometimes there can be learning that makes life better.

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Day 2: same club and same location as yesterday, but different judges. Saturday’s judges knew Carlin, as we often practice together at Scatter Creek, Washington. Having a personal relationship didn’t hurt his cause. But the judges on Day 2 were relative strangers. They were known to have sharp pencils and had lots of experience running and judging accomplished dogs. So we were not expecting to be given any slack.

On Sunday, it was a good 10° cooler and since we now running as the 4th dog of the day, we got a cool start. Carlin put up his first bird at mid-course, and then sat while the gunner dropped it down further down the course.

Carllin quarters at full speed through tall grass

Carlin quarters at full speed through tall grass

The judges tapped my shoulder for a release, and upon my release to Carlin, he zoomed straight out and straight back with the bird delivered to my hand. Text book awesome.

Carlin heads out to pick up a pheasant

Carlin heads out to pick up a pheasant

We continued up the course where Carlin caught the scent of a bird near the edge of huge cluster of Scotch broom and blackberry brambles. He circled the cluster and then dove in to root out a bird.

The brown spot in the center is Carlin forcing out a pheasant from heavy cover

The brown spot in the center with a pink tongue is Carlin forcing out a pheasant from heavy cover

It flushed, the gunners missed, and I had no idea where Carlin was because I was on the other side of the cover. So were the judges. Was he steady? Apparently so. I called him in back, and as soon as I pulled broken-off pieces of blackberry vine out of his topknot, we were done with the land series.

Carlin takes a break while the judges record their scores for his last flush

Carlin takes a break while the judges record their scores for his last flush

For Sunday’s hunt dead test, we were the second dog to run. Only 4 out of 9 dogs running masters qualified on the land series and made it this far. (We were dumb struck by our good fortune.) A cross breeze had come up, and so I lined Carlin up downwind for this 5 minute test and he nailed the bird in under a minute. On to the water . . . .

Same scenario as yesterday, but now Carlin knew that there was not a bird across the river next to the bird handlers. I got him to focus on the bank directly across from us and I sent him with a “Back” command. He immediately cut left and ran the near bank and refused to enter the water.

WTF? I pleaded with my whistle, hands, and because I was under the observation of 3 judges, I limited my verbal commands to skip the traditional 4 letter words. After about 3 minutes of running up and down bank ignoring my commands (a very bad thing), he jumped into the river, swam across, grabbed the bird, swam back, and handed it off like nothing unusual had taken place.

I leashed him up while the judges conferred, gesticulated, shrugged, etc. for several long moments. Finally, they said they would let me try for the water retrieve to see if he altered their opinion. No pressure. Carlin sat at my side, the bird went up, the shot report came across the river, the bird hit with a splash while Carlin calmly sat and watched. The judge tapped for a release, I sent Carlin, and off he went, straight out, straight back, bird to hand. More judges conferring, scribbling on their score sheets, gesturing. To be determined.

Well, once again, his stellar land work and marked water retrieve saved our asses and Carlin passed another Master test. Other than this water blind debacle, his scores were mostly 9s. We looked at the score sheets later, and noticed that the Trainability score for the water blind had been scribbled out and changed. Perhaps that change put his Trainability score just enough so we did not NQ.

To celebrate, three of us decided it was time to go swimming in the Luckiamute River. Both Tooey and Patrice were troopers in the heat and fully enjoyed Carlin’s Master passes from the cool of the water.

Back into the Luckiamute river for the love of water

Back into the Luckiamute river for the love of water

Patrice and Tooey washing away the tension of watching Carlin's first Master passes.

Patrice and Tooey washing away the tension of watching Carlin’s second Master pass

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Two Master ribbons

Life is good. And we do it all again in two weeks.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Carlin, his coming into our lives, about another choice I could have made, and what I might do next time (assuming I am blessed with a next time).

Cooper and Tooey were companions and friends. Together they were our two hunting dogs with different styles and different strengths (Cooper, the retriever; Tooey, the flushing spaniel).

Then we got Carlin. We weren’t really ready or looking for another dog. That’s a key point. We weren’t looking. We had two wonderful dogs who gave us what we wanted, and around whom we had constructed our lives. We didn’t need another.

But Carlin had a pedigree that I’d been hoping for — he came as close to being what a breeding between Cooper and Tooey would give us, I really like Harry (Carlin’s sire), and most of Carlin’s immediate ancestors have hunting test titles. So, even though we weren’t looking, we took Carlin on.

It was trouble from the start. Cooper hated Carlin, so we had to keep them separated. The whole situation was very stressful. And plus, having three large, active dogs was just a lot of work and coordination for two adults who still work full time and live in a tiny inner-city house.

And then Cooper died. “The mighty Coop,” as Russ calls him. We miss him every day, and remember how great he was. And that’s the second key point. As the days go by, we tend to forget how difficult he was in the beginning, how we wanted to trade him back into his breeder, how we sent him off for behavior training for six weeks to experienced trainers who also found him difficult, how it took YEARS to get him to do a nice heel, how we could never get him to be reliably steady to wing or shot, how impulsive he always was until the last weeks before his death. We remember what a great retriever he came to be, how he would bring Russ a matched pair of his shoes when it was time to go for a walk, how he was our hunting, performance, and photographic companion, and how he always brought back his birds no matter what.

Carlin has his own strengths. He’s very affectionate, he actually likes Obedience, and he’s willing to consider alternatives to his own plans. Before the age of 2, he completed both his junior and senior titles in Spaniel hunting tests, well before the age Cooper even started training, and almost a couple of years before Cooper entered those same tests. But he’s not Cooper or Tooey. Unlike Cooper, he’s not a dog who lives to retrieve. Unlike Tooey, he would prefer to just run around in the field rather than hunt (though once he gets his running-around jollies out, he does hunt pretty well). Unlike both, his delivery to hand has regressed, so now he’s dropping birds, and we haven’t figured out a solution.

So.

Now I am thinking we should have waited to get a dog until Cooper had passed and we had finished grieving. Three dogs just doesn’t fit our life. And I suspect that we should not have gotten another Irish Water Spaniel. Comparing one dog to another dog is inevitable, but by getting another IWS, we made it too easy to compare Carlin to Cooper, too easy to expect Carlin to be like Cooper, and that’s just not fair to Carlin. No dog can be a replacement for another dog, the hole Cooper left is just too big, and darkness in that hole still obscures the light of Carlin’s unique self.

A friend of mine had a wonderful Standard Poodle named Trip. Trip was a very impressive hunting Poodle. He had a talent for hunting and did very advanced work. Then Trip died, and my friend got another Standard Poodle from working lines. But that dog is not Trip. It’s taken him longer to get not as far as Trip did in hunting. No doubt the dog has other fine talents and qualities, but he’s not Trip, and my friend said it took her years to get past that and just accept the new dog for who he is.

So if we do have a next time, this is what I’m thinking now (assuming our situation hasn’t changed significantly): Wait for a while after Carlin or Tooey dies before getting another dog. Get a different breed, probably a Sporting/Gundog dog breed, but maybe a pointer or flushing spaniel. Maybe branch into some different activity, something that Cooper never did, but something that the new dog loves.

Of course, if we do that, I’ll have to change the tagline on the blog. But I think I can deal with that.

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Yes, Tooey, that Tolman hat does look really good on you.

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And yes, our newly finished Tolman boat is named Spáinnéar Uisce. And yes, that means Water Spaniel.

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So who better, you ask, to go boating on the Spáinnéar Uisce than a Water Spaniel, such as yourself?

I know. You’re right. There is no one better.

All we need is a non-rainy weekend day, when neither Russ nor I are working or training, and no other guests are joining us. That day, we’ll take you boating.

We promise.

But for now, I’ll just abbreviate the story. The one about the dog who loved water, one who would go boating with us. We looked for that dog, and we found him, our Cooper. He went boating once, with us and a friend on her boat. I know he would have loved to go boating on ours. But he left us too soon.

So now it is up to Tooey and Carlin to take up their posts, and go boating on the Spáinnéar Uisce.

Soon.

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Going through the archives of our photos of Cooper brings back many fond memories. But of course, what we remember when we see the photos is an animated, happy dog, full of joy. But for the readers of The Cooper Project who never met the boy, just seeing a static photo limits comprehending the energy of that amazing dog.

Back in 2012, I made a short video of Cooper and Trice practicing staying steady at the line while she shoots at mythical ducks. This video pretty much sums up all the excitement Cooper exuded in life. And so today, I snagged a few seconds of that video and looped it into this animated image. See if you can count the number of tail wags and notice his wagging is in sync with his tongue.

One happy camper . . . .

Cooper-and-Trice

And when he was finally released and left the line, heading for the duck, he wasn’t going let a video camera stand in his way… Click the animated image to open the source video and see what I mean.

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With my having taken the Realta Boy II up to the Academy, Russ was combing through the archives today looking at photos of Realta Boy I.

He noticed a pattern.

Cooper and Russ_2007-2013

Russ and Cooper: 2007 and 2013

Over the years, both man and dog prefer the same wardrobe. Sure, there’s a little more fur on both, but still — black shirt, blue jeans, orange collar. What else could the boys need?

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Holiday 2015

In the photo that June, that one dog,
The one on the right, is slightly out of focus.
He’s on the same focal plane as the rest of us,
But forward, a little ahead, toward the light.
His nose is blurred, but his eyes are sharp,
Intent on the lens, lively and bright,
Still loving the camera as he always has.

That was June. This is December.
We are choosing photos for Christmas cards
For those who are left and still love us.
That was June. This is the end
Of the year that one dog left us
That June, our beloved.

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