Thursday, December 31, 2009

More Snow and 2010

Somehow I'm still writing 1997 on papers. Maybe I'll finally catch up on the year!

Today has been ridiculously foggy and wet. But wet and snowy is always preferable to mud. We're hoping everyone else is having fun in the snow and that it doesn't melt too fast.

I've come across a bunch of my old dog training notes and picture from when Blaze was a very young dog. That seems like such a long time ago. We were in a local training class and agility in Columbus, involved with 4-H, and always wanting to find more, new things to train and things to do. It's years later and I've had many more experiences, and much less time! There are so many more opportunities for dog owners now than there were ten years ago. More activities, more local competitions, more training schools, and many more opportunities for instructors to learn more and help students better. Today, if I was a novice pet owner with Blaze, we would receive very different help and start solving his anxieties much sooner. Now is a good time to be a dog owner!

Take this year to try something new with your dog, agility, rally, or even competition obedience. AKC's mix breed program is starting in April, allowing mix breed dogs to participate in agility, rally, and obedience events. This will bring more opportunity for dog owners in areas where other organizations are less available.

We'll be doing some new things.... I'm impatiently waiting to start obedience with Griffin, and to finally start trialing in agility with him.

And maybe this year, if we're lucky, I'll become more competent at this blogging thing and utilizing technology.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow and Training

Friday we had a great work day with our Ohio 4-H Teen Dog Experience crew. 3/4 of our staff met up for hours of work on the 2010 OTDE activities and to also train our dogs.

We spent the early afternoon at PosiDog training our dogs. I took everyone, but mostly worked Griffin. Mostly we did foundation work for obedience and agility (going around objects on cue, heeling with duration, stays with duration, staying on a mat) but we did get to some sequencing. For as little sequencing as we do, I'm always surprised at how well Griffin does!

Things that went well: Sequences! Attention! Wraps to the right.
Things to improve: Start line position, turns to the left, my speed, going ahead of me at speed.

The rest of the day we worked on "camp stuff", preping for the teen conference in February, working on workshops for the spring, and trying to figure out how to handle summer campS...with the possible grants available.

The rest of the weekend has been the regular commitments and enjoying the snow with the dogs.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Obedience Work

We've been alternating between patching up our agility training after a fabulous Silvia Trkman seminar and the super precise focus with our obedience. Though, as she would say, it should all be the same thing, running and fun and play.

Lots of heeling. Lots of running. Lots of tricks and turning. And the occasional stand for exam work in which he's improving with training (imagine that).

Classes at the farm are on hold for the winter, though I'm still doing privates in Licking County. We're teaching at PosiDog and Dogtalk, and soon will be doing some 4-H lessons a bit further away at the special request of a club I've gotten to know over the last six months.

At the moment I'm catching up on some reading (which somehow makes my reading list longer...I don't know how that works!) and I'm working on my plans for 2010. It will be busy with increased numbers of classes, Griffin starting to trial, lots of seminars and events to go to (horray for clickerexpo!) and of course our fabulous Ohio 4-H Teen Dog Experience activities. We applied for a few grants that might allow us to greatly expand the number of 4-H members impacted, and I hope that goes well.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rally Run Throughs

Griffin has been doing well. Current challenge is getting into the training building...quietly. He is thrilled to go to PosiDog and has a hard time containing his enthusiasm.

In other news, we're wrapping up classes at the farm for the winter. I will still be doing limited in-homes in Licking County.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Sled dog events are not really something that happen in Ohio. Most of the state lacks the required snow for any length of time. And it's difficult for one to have access to miles of trails for the regular exercise and training required.

But I'll admit I'm intrigued by it. I've resisted buying a scooter for years. Luna and I have biked on and off for the last year. I've resisted buying a fancy bike. I almost bought a sled off of craigslist. I've seriously considered trying to build one or buy one new.

There's a dryland (biking, scooters, running, wheeled rigs!) event up in Cleveland in November...unfortunately I'm taking two days off of my Sat. am classes the month before. (Westie walk presentation and TAG teach seminar) and would feel really bad asking for a third off. Plus... we do not bike fast enough and I've not been good about running as much as we should. year when Griffin is old enough to do more... we may attempt the two dog class.

Biking is one of the few things Luna seems to really enjoy. She also likes to pull kid sleds. Griffin has been taught to pull on his harness as a separate skill from 'pulling an actual bike'. It's a bit safer to teach "pull with consistant pressure...and in a straight line" with me standing behind him rather than on the bike.

Until then, I'll go back to reading my most recent purchases of mushing books....

Friday, September 25, 2009

Use of Cues

I'm not always a good trainer...I have a few cues that mean multiple behaviors. One of these is "Up". Having a word for four feet up and for front feet up would be the smart thing to do.

This has gotten me into a little trouble.

Situation A: Luna was at agility class a year ago and smelled something drifting over the 4' wall separating the ring from the rest of the barn. I was nice, and told her she could put her feet UP to smell better. She jumped over the wall.

Situation B: Griffin has been learning to put his front feet up on items. Unlike Blaze and Luna who will put their front feet up on vertical objects, Griffin attempts to put all four feet on a vertical surface. And then gives an expression of "THAT didn't work very well!"This has happened with both a tree and my car.

I'm not sure who is less for not creating a second cue for feet only, or Griffin for attempting four-feet-on-a-vertical-surface.

More on camping, agility, and fun new things soon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sticking to a Plan

I had a nice little training session planned out for Griffin. I get outside, and what do we do? Work on a completely different (but also important) behavior: returning with an item and sitting.

This is something we have worked on before, at most, two sessions. I cued the Sit, if he dropped the item, I would move away and re-cue the informal "Get it." After about 5 responses (4) correct, I did not give the Sit cue and he was automatically sitting with the item. After a few more responses, I started to wait for a longer Sit before clicking...and also choosing to only click for a 'still mouth'. Five repetitions later, the mouthing was gone. Horray Griffin! We still have a ways to go, but that nice little three minute session was very productive.

Now I need to learn to stick to my plans....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We're out again

With the temperature under 60, we were able to get out biking again!

Hopefully we have a few more cool mornings and can continue to work. We haven't been out since early June so we had to take it slowly but we'll see what happens.

Luna was very stressy when we there, but very quickly she was back to her happy trot.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

August Training

Despite my lack of posting, I've been training my dogs more than ever. Soon we'll also be back in the pattern of taking classes...not just teaching.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Record Keeping

There was a sample of my record keeping...I was wondering why my 'record keeping blog' was missing a page!

I've been fairly reliable about working with the dogs and keeping records. Horray for goal keeping and friends to keep you on track.

Last weekend I went to a fabulous one-day seminar. It was directed towards vets and about the use of medications for dogs with behavior problems. Wow. It was fabulous. There's a lot we know about dogs...and a lot more we don't know.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6

Griffin Stays:
Midnight: Patio, Liver, ~10 reps. From between 5 and 20 seconds. About five steps away.
Noon: Patio, Liver, ~10 reps. From between 5-30 steps. 5-10 steps away. Many good reps. After about five, he broke and ran to me, then off around the yard.
4PM: RDD, Cheese/canned food. ~10 reps. 3-5 steps away. 5-25 seconds. Very solid, with other dogs working.
8PM: RDD, Cheese/canned food/kibble. ~10 reps. 10 steps, 5-30 seconds. Broke or Down on some longer ones.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Helping Out and Setting Goals

I finally have an 'almost day off' with just volunteering at the shelter this evening.

Griffin and I tackled the huge task of trimming the low-hanging branches in the yard. As usual, he was adorable. A few times I couldn't cut all the way through, resulting in me pulling on the branch, pleading for it to break off. Griffin grabbed the leaves and started tugging too! He was quite happy when I found a tug toy I'd put up there for safe keeping.

Goal setting is an important part of every day life, and essential with training. Whether you're working on teaching your dog better manners or preparing your dog for competition sports, it's always important to know where you are going and how you intend to get there. I'm not a good one for goal setting and the record keeping to get there. My friend Karin commented she had similar we decided to do something about it and together have set goals and will keep each other on task.

What did I work on today? Griffin's stays and contact training. The other dogs will be involved more in these goals shortly (they had some big cuddly and grooming time!). Karin and I were using our 'good trainer' skills to make our criteria achievable.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Drop on Recall

This has been a common theme at camp and at many recent lessons.

Consider the many parts of the DOR exercise (In lessons and especially at camp, I have everyone list off as many as they can think of):

1) Getting into Heel Position x2
2) Remaining in Position
3) Release from Sit
4) Coming to Handler x2
5) Dropping (in motion, and at a distance)
6) Release from a Down
7) Sit at Front
8) Release

Most difficulties arise at number five. Rarely is it a "It's hard to Drop while moving" and rarely is a "It's hard to Drop away from you." Usually it's a "Down is not on cue" issue.

Repairing the situation:
1) Get Down on verbal cue only.
2) Get Down on visual cue only.

And from there our repairs will vary depending on the dog.

Interestingly, it's [supposedly] traditional to not start the DOR until after Novice is completed... otherwise dogs may start to drop on the Novice recall.

What do I say to that? Stimulus control! Your dog should only be dropping when you ask him to by that point in time!

Friday, June 26, 2009

2009 Ohio 4H Teen Dog Experience Camp

Blogger keeps freezing up every time I open the page. It's taken a few days to get this up.

Griffin and I had a fabulous time last weekend... four days in beautiful SE Ohio. We were at the Houstons new(ish) facility to host the Ohio 4-H Teen Dog Experience camp. To make the week even more exciting our friends Megan and (four legged) Bailey came to help teach.

We had four instructors, eleven campers, and our nurse. That resulted in sixteen dogs and sixteen people in the two cabins. It was an adventure! I love camp and it improves every year. The kids come from all over the state to learn more about dog training, dogs, and 4-H. We teach them about obedience, agility, tracking, and many other things. There are traditional camp activities...campfires, giving the other cabins a hard time, and crafts (making tug toys!).

Luna has gone with me the past two years, but Griffin came along this year. He was fabulous! This is a difficult environment for dogs, but we managed it with a few tricks:

1) The Manners Minder: I kept this in a corner and the kids were happy to assist in reinforcing him when he would remain in place. I used it at night to help him settle.
2) Rest: Rest is as important as activity! He only came along to a few activities in the training barn, but participated in activities at the Cabin.
3) Assistance: The kids (and instructors!) were fabulous. They fed and pet him for sitting. They did not feed or pet him if he jumped up. They reinforced other good behaviors. They followed my training rules for him.
4) A strong Leave It: Griffin has been taught to leave plates/bowls of food alone. This results in interest on tabled/plated/countered items...but he resists the temptation. He was able to pass through the many kids eating without taking a single chip. The sight of the plate is the cue for him to Leave the item.
5) Meal Time Behavior: I don't mind begging...and teach my dogs how to do it appropriately. This started when Luna was a puppy and spent a lot of time around small kids. She very quickly learned she was supposed to lie down in the presence of food...thus she was not taking food from the kids.
Griffin offers a chin target (rests his head on laps), which is a little more up-close, but I don't mind it and do prefer to know what he's up to when we're eating in public! The kids were happy to go along with my directions on feeding him for this and he was happy to offer it to everyone. Even with his nose near a plate, he does not touch the items on a plate.

We can't wait for next year!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Serious and Fun

Griffin is supposed to be heading towards a serious and successful career in obedience and agility. But, I'll admit I don't stick 100% to my perfect behaviors and cued responses.

Tonight, the young two-leggeds were interested in "racing" the dogs on a timed course. We set out some jumps and a tunnel (the kids run along it, not through it! They've found that takes too long.). Luna wasn't keen to play, I ran Blaze a couple times.... and Griffin thought it was brilliant.

We've only done a little bit of sequencing, and what we had tonight felt great! I was handling more cautiously than I do in training when we're working on handling, but, he was responding to cues and seemed to want to be working a little further away.

And the other part of our evening? The kids took turns running him too. With their less than ideal cueing and timing... but that's okay. I was able to watch and see what cues Griffin was responding to (and not) to figure out what unintentional cues I might be providing or where he is still needing work on cues. How did Griffin handle this? He was fairly responsive, more handler-focused than with me, kept trying to enguage them despite no food on hand, and did read sloppy rear cross cues.

Griffin is so much fun. We also played with (obedience) directed jumping. It has been a while since we've had a training session on that, but he remembered what we were going for. We need more distance between the jumps and from where we start/end.... but we're getting there and do have plenty of time. That silly stand for exam is what we need to work on!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Over, not Under!

When Griffin was a puppy we played lots of "go under the chair" and "go under the table" games. Now, Griffin likes to go under.

This week I decided it was time to learn that jumps are for going over. He has been taught that it's good to "Go between the jump standards" but we hadn't yet added the height aspect. Every few repetitions, I would raise the jump bar. He learned it was good to go over the bar.

I added handler motion, and as I should have predicted, his performance deteriorated to going under the bars. We lowered the bars and gradually raised him.

After a couple sessions he is now happy and reliable with going over the bars. We probably won't do much more jumping for a few months to give him some more time to physically grow up.

Now, back to contacts and obedience.

This is a picture from our camping trip...right before Griffin started rolling around like a silly dog.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

People and Animals

This week's reading has been Made for Each Other . It's not easy reading, but it's fabulous! The author explores the science about why people enjoy animals and the neurochemicals involved. What? There are all sorts of chemical reactions that can impact the types of interactions we have with our animals? Yes.

I haven't finished yet, but I'm getting there. Different people have different interactions with their animals and this book is making me think about why that may be. Our animals are very good for us, and possibly more than most people know.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book: One Nation Under Dog

I finished reading this last week. There are a lot of books that explore the ways people interact with dogs, but Schafer's book was primarily focused on the industries surrounding dog owners. High tech vet facilities, Bravo's processing, Kong history, and what I found most dog training.

Overall, I thought it was well done, not extremely biased one way or the other (...though not completely un-biased!), and an interesting/fast read. If you have some spare time, read a few chapters. I do find it easy to forget how big the pet industry is and that there are no ends to what people are doing for animals.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Great Weekend, Trialing and Camping!

On Sunday, I took the boys to a local APDT Rally trial. For once, things were on schedule and as usual I was behind schedule. We signed up for the afternoon Level 1 Classes.

I hadn't crated indoors with two dogs before, both Blaze and Luna do much better in the car. With an 80* day and high humidity that was not an option! Griffin learned how to behave in a crate, our good friend assisted in that when I was busy with Blaze. Blaze spent some time in the crate but in general, he's not doing so well right now making crating very. hard.

Blaze wasn't as responsive as he sometimes can be, but we completed the course, he didn't have a seizure in the ring, and we had some good moments. We (finally) got our second L2 leg and a third place! If I had handled things a little better (verbal AND visual cues instead of just one), we would have done even better.

Griffin thought the chicken sandwich on the stewards table looked delicious. We have good stationary exercises but (not a surprise) lack in duration on heeling. After about half the course I asked to leave and we headed out. I didn't want to continue with the (lack of) heeling we had.

We packed up very quickly to take Blaze home and repack the car. Griffin and I went with friends on an adventurous camping trip with missing items, getting lost (a lot) and way too much food. Griffin is fabulous and thinks camping is the lifestyle! He hung around our area and would try to solicit petting and snacks from everyone. In the tent he would alternate between cuddling up with me or curling in a corner. Occasionally he would try to use someone else as a pillow.

Pictures to come as well as some discussion on obedience training.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Water and Responsible Pet Ownership

We hear a lot about responsible pet ownership and welfare for our cats, dogs, and horses. We hear about welfare concerns for exotics and livestock. But other animals matter too.

Griffin and I were teaching a Rally class at the groom shop tonight and were interupted by someone coming in to ask about fish care. His place of work had betta fish needing homes. He had two out in his car and he needed help in knowing how to care for them. (And I have to wonder... he stopped at a grooming shop?)

We very quickly talked about care and where to get more information. The story came out, the fish were the leftover from a big event held yesterday. If homes weren't found, they would be "disposed of." The fish were from wedding centerpieces.

I'm sure the fish looked wonderful, and they could be an appropriate decoration. But to then leave them for the hotel to deal with ("dispose of" or go to homes that didn't really want them)? That's a bit scary.

Griffin enjoys being under water too. Here's a repeat of what he's done in the creek. Too silly!

Enjoying the Water

This is one of Griffin's favorite things to do. I'm not sure how he learned to hold his breath underwater....but he will stay under for 5+ seconds!

We've been focusing on duration of stays and heeling in preparation for this summers activities.

Training has been happening everywhere we go, visiting about 6 different places a week, half of them 'new locations'. I do need to get better about spreading these visits out over the week instead of doing 4+ on many days and none on others. And what do we do at all these places? For the most part, we work on the behaviors we focus on at home. Front, Left/Right Finishes, Heeling, Stays, Attention, Sits, and Down Mostly un-cued responses, working towards the fluency we get at home and the shop.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Finding Appropriate Professionals

With the health and behavior challenges we have faced with Blaze, we have received help from many different people; local and not-so-local training/behavior professionals, our local vet, not-so-local specialists, local specialists, and many friends.

Today we had a trip to visit the neurologist at MedVet and had a good time. This was my first time to MedVet, though I'd heard the many horror stories of high fees. We weren't visiting as an emergency so our bill was very reasonable! More importantly the vets we met were very professional and excellent about explaining things.

The trip didn't result in good news or bad news. The aspects of Blaze's seizures and less than normal behaviors make it very likely that there was some sort of permenant non-changing damage to his brain. This news does not really change much, and as we already knew he would never attain 'normalness'.

Where would we be if we had not met with the neurologist? With our many vets? With the behavior consultant that sent us to the veterinary behaviorist? What if I had stuck with the initial advice from a very well-meaning instructor that "He needs to know what he is doing wrong. You need to spend more time training him. This is a simple training issue." I can't begin to imagine what situations we would be in or my frustration levels.

Please do what is necessary to find appropriate professionals. Check out this article from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior about how to choose an animal professional. Get your network of professionals and get the help that your pet needs.

Happier things and my new training tool later!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Griffin Swims!

Griffin was swimming a little last fall, but it always was a sort of 'accidental while trying it to get to me' thing. Now he swims, retrieves, and loves it!

Swimming is great exercise and a very good activity for hot days.

Next week Griffin will be helping me with a Tuesday 'Rally/Comp. Obed.' class and I'm sure he's going to be thrilled for more class time. This will be a fun class with an experienced student/classmate. We will be working a lot on improving the precision and fluency of various behaviors. And with these fluent behaviors we'll be able to shift very easily to working on rally courses and the obedience sequences. As always, good training and good handling will be a focus.

Today we'll be playing with a new training tool. I've resisted the purchase for years, thinking "I really don't need it." More to come on that later.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Playing in the Sun

Luna did a great job on Wednesday night at class. We almost made it through the night without messing up (not that errors are bad! But it's nice for things to go so well!). The sticking point was handling a serpentine without a side change. I was surprised we had trouble, this is something we practice fairly often (simple set up with many handling options!).

The very interesting part was my 'incorret' handling resulted in the correct response from my dog, but our first attempt at the 'correct' handling had an incorrect response from Luna. I had been using the outside hand to cue the last jump and 'force' a turn. With the inside hand, I was further behind her (turning cue) and that apparently over-rode the 'do-not-change-side' cue of the inside hand. We repeated it again, inside hand but I moved faster and all was well.

We did this at home last night without a problem. Blaze struggled! It was hard for him to collect to take the second jump...he would skip ahead to the third or a very off course tunnel. He's not doing very well now that he's off his medication and we're waiting for another vet appointment before looking at our options again. The toy pile on the barn roof was very frustrating to him and he spent a long time making impossible attempts to access the toys. I had to take him inside so he could settle down.

Griffin is great as always. We're still focusing on duration to heeling and stays and then visiting new places. I've been good this week. We stopped in town to work on our way home from Luna's agility class and now that the rain has stopped for a few days, we can get out more.

On our camp website, check out the 'Resources' tab and the piece about how to make a tug toy. It's one of the 'craft' activities for camp and a topic that came up at the Ohio 4-H Teen Conference. Tug toys are great for training:

Friday, April 10, 2009


One of my favorite things about working at a groom shop is easy access to equipment. I can wash my dogs at home and I have a un-heated force dryer. But it's so much more convenient to wash them in the raised tubs, use a heated force dryer while my dog is on the grooming table and then use my fancy clippers and shears to tidy him up.

Griffin has been getting washed every few weeks in an attempt to decrease shedding. Blaze is washed every couple should be done more often but I try to keep stress low for him. With Luna, I go for every four weeks or so. They all look much better clean.

The current issue at hand is that it's spring. And spring means rain. And rain means mud. Generally I limit the use of my yard in the spring in an attempt to preserve the beautiful grass. Blaze is okay with walks. Luna's happy with walks and biking. And the well-mannered Griff... needs to run. Griffin sticks right with me for our off-leash adventures in the back pastures. He doesn't stay out of the creek, he runs through it, into mud, and splashes his whole lower half with mud.

In training news:
Griffin: Duration to stays and heeling. I don't like working on duration. Holding still is hard for me!
Luna: She did really well in class, we need to work more on 'obstacle focus' at home. Even though she is very easily distracted, that tends to be a result of poor communication on my part.
Blaze: In preparation for a new project I'm playing with the concept of targeting different piles of objects... 'more' and 'less'. The less pile is one bone, the more pile is 4-5 (...however many I find!). He was about 80% reliable after one session. I think that was more from luck and good training than his actual intelligence. My camera battery is charged so we'll see what happens tonight.

I can't wait for the sun to come out, the temperatures to stay warm, and summer classes.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Time to Play

What's been going on:
Agility class: I've done well with the points I had made... for the most part.
Biking: We've cut back for a while due to my schedule. My bike is still in the car.... just in case we get some extra time on the way from one place to another.

Play is important! Dogs allow us a great opportunity to play.

Here is an interesting video clip on the importance to play and why you shouldn't stop playing!

Last week we met with a friend and her dog to do some basic field training. Griff thought this was brilliant and after we worked the dogs in the on-and-off rain... there was time for play. The other dog wasn't very interested in silly Griffin but he had a great time trying to play with her. By the time we left, mud was dripping off of him. He had stuck his entire muzzle into a big mud puddle. We had an hour to drive into Columbus before rally training group... and luckily we teach in a groom shop so we would be able to do a much-needed bath.

How do our approaches and attitudes change when we approach training as play?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Video: A Great Training Tool

My camera frequently comes out when I'm working with my dogs and during advanced/competition classes. After training or going to a trial with an out-of-town friend and student we will spend weeks looking over the videos we take. But why?

Everything is on the screen! The timing, cues (intentional and unintentional), dog responses, handler responses, successes, and areas for improvement are all right there. The video can be played, re-played, watched slowly, and compared to another clip. After reviewing a clip, I can make notes on what we need to work on next time and areas of improvement. And the best part is that progress over time can be monitored.

Here's a video clip that we (The Ohio 4-H Teen Dog Experience) showed during an animal presentation at the Ohio 4-H Teen Conference in February.

Now, it's our goal to focus on the things that go right:
-Griffin completes each part
-Griffin is precise
-Griffin is straight on his Recall, Front, and when he sits at Heel
-Griffin is in the right locations
-I give clear cues
-I am sure he completes each part before cueing the next part
-Timing of cues

If we are working towards getting every little piece right, we also want to note where to make improvements and go from there. As I'm teaching, I make a quick mental note of the pieces we need to improve upon and then give clear instructions on what I am looking for (TAG points, though I do know I need to use that phrasing more often!). If this video clip was of students, I would think about these areas for improvement:
-Giving the verbal/visual Stay cues before stepping off
-Being sure the dog can respond to a visual or verbal cue
-Improving each behavior before asking for them together. The weak piece here was the recall
-Speed of the recall
-Latency of the recall
-Knowing how to respond to less-than-ideal responses *cough, that recall, cough*

After watching the clip with the student, or watching this happen in real-time, I will point out some of those fabulous great things that happened. It's important to note those, otherwise the student might not be aware of the great cueing, great timing, or correct performance from her dog. The next part of the lesson would be working through these 'areas for improvement.'

We will do some training to check that the dog could respond to just a verbal stay cue or just a visual stay cue. I will tell the student "Give the cue before you move your body at all," and we will go through a little training without the dog to be sure the student can cue before stepping forward. The next part of the lesson is spent on working through the recall to improve latency and speed (separately of course!). I will mention that we want to be sure each part is perfect before we put them together again, but if there is a poor performance we should stop the behavior in chain. In this situation, after the late recall response I probably should have turned and walked away with Griffin for more recall training.

Homework notes would have points about:
-Cueing in front of a camera and/or a mirror to be sure that the cue happens before motion.
-Exercises for improving speed of the recall
-Exercises for mproving latency, especially with the recall

I was tempted to break this post into two pieces but I can't find an appropriate place for that....this won't happen again! Pull out your digital camera and use it.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Luna's Bike Adventures

Our bike rides are getting longer and more exciting. Today we passed two groups of bikers, two people walking dogs, charging barking dogs behind an invisible fence, a cat, a goat, and a peacock. The peacock was the most exciting to her, but like with the other distractions I would get off the bike and walk until we were safely passed. I think she would have kept going past these distractions but I'm not about to find out yet.

The rest of our training? Not quite as great as the exercise.

I was debating entering Blaze in AKC Rally next month but a shelter training seminar has come up that weekend so it's time to debate about where to be and what to do. At the end of May is a local APDT trial and hopefully I'll be able to take everybody.

With group classes I haven't been doing an orientation, but soon I'll be offering one and go from there.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Progress from Last Week

Here's how things have (or haven't) improved:

1) Obstacle fluency: We've been attempting to go outside at least twice a day using meals as her reinforcer. I think we've got out for half of them. We can improve on this for next week! Most of the last week was with jumps, but we'll do more teeter, weaves, and tunnels this week.
At class tonight she stuck right by my side other than a few times where she wasn't sure where to go and guessed. I was extremely happy with her!

2) Trust my dog on stays: We did not work on lead outs this week (hey, I did with Griffin!).
At class I only asked once while I put the leash in my pocket. Next week I want to be using a lead out on half of the exercises and working on it while we wait our turn.

3) Wear warm socks on cool nights.
It was about 40 tonight. I should have taken gloves...

4) Run more.... after that short time running I was very out of breath!
Tonight's class didn't involve very much running so we had no problem there. We only went out once this week....if the bike didn't have a flat tire we would have gone more. Though I suppose biking while my dog pulls defeats the purpose of -me- exercising? We went out once this week....goal this week is more than that.

New set:
1)Run more. More than the once from last week.
2)Dress appropriately.
3) Continue on obstacle fluency, especially: Speed on Teeter, Weaves, and Tunnel Discriminations. Take Luna out for more than half her meals.
4) Work on Lead Outs. In class use them half the time and between turns.
5) Handler movement on contacts [in agility many people teach their dogs to stop at the bottom of the ramp obstacles. The base area of those pieces of equipment is called "the contact"] Luna should remain in position until released. She should get into position regardless of what I am doing. But in reality, like way too many dogs, she only stops if I stop. And that doesn't make me happy.

Overall tonight was great. We'll spend some more time doing weaves the way we were at class. Varied entries to two sets of poles slightly off center... I thought the exercise was that the dogs found the entry on their own but our instructor was using luring and body blocking to get entries. We'll see what happens. Wednesday night is one of the few times when Griffin stays home alone. Generally I'll give him a stuffed kong as I whisk the others out of the house. It's good for dogs to learn to be comfortable when they are alone and I should start doing this more than once a week.


One of the great things about a training class is the motivation it provides! If in seven days I have to be able to show my progress on behaviors A, B, C, and D, it can be much easier to fit the time to practice every day. Otherwise....I find it easy to let things slide and everything in the real world get in the way.

Griffin and I have a couple groups we train with and it's great to have so many people to keep us on track. Our homework right now is :
~Train in new location-S- every week, meaning, more than one new place!
~Fix Heel position. One of the troubles of training competition behaviors alone is that it can be hard to see what your dog is (or isn't) doing. Our Heel position was a little too far forward.
~Left hand feeding. I am right handed. I like to feed from my right hand, even when it is more strategic to feed from the left.

Enjoy spring!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Agility Class with Luna

Luna and I go to an agility class every week. She is really enjoying it even if she thinks the trials aren't so fun. Tonight we started with a novice course, which was quite a surprise as the last time Luna and I have done a course was at a trial in November. In class and at home we've been doing sequencing, handling and obstacle training. After our first time through the course, I was able to make quite a list of the things we need to work on. Most of these aren't new:
1) Obstacle fluency to decrease overall stress.
2) Trust my dog... if I leave her in a stay she really will stay. I just don't always believe it!
3) Wear warm socks on cool nights.
4) Run more.... after that short time running I was very out of breath!

And a new thought... she generally has trouble after the contact obstacles. My current theory now is that while she is stopped, I reinforce that, and then she is left wondering what to do next... I'm left unsure how to transition from that stop to movement again and so my handling is less than ideal.

This held true, on our second time through the course I only reinforced her one one of the contacts...on the others I would release her after I was happy with the duration of her stop. When I did reinforce her, after feeding her I asked for a stay, took a few steps away, and then continued. And it went much better. I can't wait to see how well this theory holds up next week. At home we'll work on stays and releases.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Camping with Dogs

This isn't the most seasonal topic possible. I'm impatient for spring and summer. Last year we went on a few camping trips and I'm ready for more adventures. The last camping trip was in August when I went to New York to pick up Griffin, and so he hasn't gone yet. I can't wait to share this with him.

My dog friend Karin and I had started a list of traveling rules. Here is my list of camping with dog rules.

1) Your dog will have more luggage than you. Food and water bowls, water from home, a bag of food, a crate and bedding, food dispensing toys, clean up bags, lots of treats, extra treats, a cooler for those treats (wedge in your water, and maybe some food), first aid supplies, health papers (especially if you are crossing state borders)... You will have your sleeping bag, a bag of food, a bag of clothes, and you will probably forget your toothbrush.
2) Those crates are great for many purposes. Mainly as a table or to hold down your tent when it gets really windy out.
3) In the early dog-human relationship, the functions of the dog was likely included cleaning up after people, keeping people warm, and alerting people to change. Camping allows for these to occur.
4) Camping results in cooking over fires. Cooking over fires results in burnt food. Dogs like burnt food.
5) Dogs can't read maps. But dogs do generally remember where the tent is and where the local wildlife ran off.
6) Keep an accurate phone number on your dog. Get a tag with your cell number on it. We haven't had to test this one out, but, just in case.

Take a look at the Griffin, Luna, and hidden Owen. We 'only' had our luggage, cooler, a tent, sleeping bags, and all the dog gear in there. Plus two people.

Can we go camping again?

Eight More...

And so where will things be in eight years, when Blaze is likely gone and Griff and Luna are getting grey? It's hard to imagine.... I never thought I would have three dogs.

But how can things be better eight years from now? I hope...
1) More people are training their dogs. Basic pet training but fun stuff too. All vets, breeders, and rescues are getting families to attend at least one class with their new puppy or dog. This could lead to fewer dogs switching homes and families having better relationships with their dogs.
2) Pet owners look at the experience and credentials of animal professionals. Including, those that breed/sell/adopt animals, those that provide health care, those that create the foods and products for the animals, those that groom, board, and exercise animals, and those that assist with training.
3) When pet owners have trouble, they know how to find appropriate professionals and resources.
4) More consideration is given to the needs of cats and small animals.
5) Schools are enthusiastic about dog bite prevention programs, resulting in a decrease from the semi-current very scary statistics.
6) Communities are more invested in the success and strength of local rescue groups, animal control, and humane societies.
7) Everything is better for people and the animals they live with.

I was going for eight...but those seven changes would keep me very content.

Monday, February 16, 2009


This month Griffin turns eight months old and Blaze is now eight years old. This also means that I have been 'in' dogs for eight years.

It is so much easier to be a dog owner in 2009.
  • There are more resources available. Easy to understand and professional books/videos for pet dog training and competition training. (Check out Dogwise and CleanRun).
  • The increase of resources means that more libraries have some of these materials, making them even more accessible for everyone.
  • Opportunities for training have increased. I can find piles of 'positive' dog training classes within a reasonable driving distance. This does not guarantee that I will be getting that type of instruction, but it's a change.
  • Quality of training has increased. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has released position statements about dominance in theory and the use of punishment in training. Scientific journals have had numerous articles about details in training and how methods may increase or decrease problems or success.
  • There are many more trials (somewhat) locally available for people to compete in, even with mix breed dogs.
  • More 'higher quality' food, treats, toys, and supplies are easily available. It was impossible to find some of the things that are now sold in every pet supply store now!
But where will things be when Griffin is eight years old? More on that next time!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Reading: Alex & Me

Alex and Me:

I finally got a chance to read this book...I had been hearing about it since it came out about two months ago. Irene Pepperberg had worked with Alex, a grey parrot, for years, I remember hearing about him a couple times a year. He was able to show that he understood different concepts, things that animals weren't supposed to be able to do.

If he could do it, can our dogs? How well do our dogs understand things? They won't be able to understand everything we say, but, maybe they deserve more credit than we give them!

I enjoyed this book and I appriciate that Irene Pepperberg took the time to share Alex with everyone.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Snow Pouncing

When Griffin would stop...bits of ice would continue forward down the hill...he would pounce! And more would fall. I wish I had gotten better quality video...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ice! And a Snow Day...

What do I do with an unexpected half day free?

We go out walking and then later I spent another session working with Griffin on a Moving Down (going into a Down while Heeling...and 'sticking' there until released!). He understands it well but I'm wondering if I'm giving any additional cues besides my verbal "Down!" The solution? Video! If we get extra time tomorrow, we'll get to get a video of that and then I can see exactly what I am doing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


My dogs like snow...they can roll in it, dig for hidden objects, and eat it. I like the part where we come home exhausted.

Of my three, Luna is probably the one who enjoys snow the most. With the expected 10" tonight, tomorrow will fun!

Here she is after a roll but before shaking off!

She's wearing her fabulous pulling harness. I bought it last year from Alpine Outfitters along with a tug line and skijor belt. The belt is about 5" wide and goes around my waist....allowing me to connect her to the belt via the tugline... and then we hike. That was one of my best purchases ever! While this isn't a good set up for walking in public, I highly recommend it for less busy trails.

At some point this year I want to get another type of harness to compare. This is the Urban Trail Harness...I see that they now have a fully adjustable Urban Trail Harness....I would definitely recommend paying for the extra adjustability!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

As You Can See...

I did something that worked.... but it's embarrassing that I've been working on this since early December!

What have I been doing? Here's just a start to the many current projects...

Camp: The Ohio 4-H Teen Dog Experience is in the planning stages for the 2009 year. We're getting our registration and instructor information together.

Conference: This has also led to the opportunity for us to speak at the Ohio 4-H Teen Conference in February. Karin and I (and Abigail?) will be doing two sessions, one on good teaching and one on good training. There will be handouts on the OTDE page closer to/after the conference.

Puppy: Griffin is so much fun! He's about six months old in this picture, taken early January. Current training has been to teach a contact ("stopping on the plank obstacles") behavior, increasing the time on stays, and to discriminate Left/Right Finish ("Return to Heel) cues.

Reading: The Columbus Library System has recently got quite a few great dog training resources that I had not read yet. I'm thrilled they are now so accessible for the public and immediately sent them a thank you note!


There was a memorable instance at a horse show quite a few years ago... The room where we kept our belongings had this impressive feature of the lights turning off after a period of time with no movement. It was a very short period of time. The three of us left the room and all that remained was one book-reading mom. We went a few steps and the lights went out. A friend commented "Technology always leaves someone in the dark."

And that's me at this moment. I tried to be 'right' and keep the blog on my site, but it got ridiculous to maintain and re-format it every time I needed to add a new page. And pictures were another story!

For now at least, I'll be using this fancy host and maybe my postings will be more frequent. Or at least when I figure out how to link from my site to this page.