Monday, May 31, 2010

$160 Bee?

Well... Griffin is almost all better...making it highly likely that his 3 legged walking and soreness was due to a bee sting.

In other news, one of our board and train puppies will be going to her new home. Tonight I take her to the person who has arranged for the flight, and then the puppy is literally going all the way across the country to Washington, and her owners will pick her up and drive the several hours back to their home.

I'm definitely going to miss her, it's been so much fun having a huge pack of golden retrievers. But it's going to be very good for her to get all the attention from her new family.

We're off for a last woods walk, a bath, and then the couple hour drive.

Though I suppose first I'll eat more strawberry shortcake....we picked 20lbs yesterday....yum.... the dogs very much enjoyed it too.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A not-broken toe

Our vet didn't find a broken toe. So we're not sure what's going on. Antibiotics and pain meds and "call on Tuesday". The swelling is way down, but it's still very sore. Griffin is feeling much better and had to do a little lying-down wrestling last night before he would settle and sleep.

Luna went to training yesterday since Griffin obviously couldn't. She was fairly responsive, eating from a few people, and tried. Her movement was lacking in speed and precision, which really isn't surprising.

Griffin needs to get better before camp!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Limping Dog

So, of course after I get really super serious about training. Something has to happen. I could say that Griff got hurt while going through brush to get a bird. Or that he mis-stepped before a jump. Or that he was trying to save the cat. But no. I took the dogs out (on leash) to pee. And when we came in, he was limping.

We camped out last night and he was cuddling with me all night... other than the time he got up for water and "came back really snuggly." And then I saw him whinning to go out. Luna had taken his spot and no wonder he was all curled up rather than stretched! Very different sleeping styles. Blaze had to be problematic too. He spent most of the night chewing his bone, but at one point I checked on him. I poked him. He didn't move. I picked up his head a few inches, and he crashed back to the ground, just like a dead dog would. "HEY! WAKE UP?" "I"M AWAKE!". He had a hard night. The bulls were moved to the pasture behind the shed and a few times he had to go bark out the window to protect us.

An hour until our vet appt. Impatiently waiting.... and... I have to admit I'm annoyed this didn't happen 4 weeks later... if we have to xray him it would have been VERY convenient to get his OFA xrays done at the same time as foot/leg/knee looking... But no.... I don't get that lucky.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Making Time

We've been on a quest to make more time for training. Or for the most part, I have been. Other than a few other hobbies (swimming...woods walks...eating...), the dogs are always available for training and are happy to do so.

On our goal list for the week we've made a few accomplishments:
1) Contact XX regarding competition obedience lessons: Only one group class is currently run, and on a night I cannot currently attend.
2) Solve our lack-of-group class problem. We might be getting together with a few others for a fake group class where we are all doing our own thing. I hope this works out.
3) Cont. with almost-official training group training (one dog worked at a time, so not a substitute for a group class). We'll be meeting on Friday. I am going with a plan on what to work on and how we'll be doing it.
4) Decrease computer time. I really tried to persuade myself that cutting out the lesson planning time would be best, but finally got myself to just cut out excessive email checking.
5) More short sessions: The dogs have labeled containers for their kibble. We're keeping more accurate numbers on the amount of training this way. Everyone gets their amount, and then some, but this way I can better evaluate ROR for various sessions.
6) Work on competition behaviors: We did broad jump and dumbbells on Monday night. The video makes me quite happy!

Other news for the day... Silly products... I always wanted one of those wobbly target sticks. For whatever reason I though it would solve a lot of problems and be very convenient and very useful and just COOL. I got one with my manners minder last spring and really haven't used it much. We pulled it out tonight...and WOW. Griff would push hard and it would wobble, and by the time he went out again, it would still be wobbling. He was having a hard time actually touching it...and I had to be ready to click when he did but not when he missed it. And then he knocked it over accidentaly and accidently reset it and had way too many reps of backing up to get back to it. Very silly session. Why did I think this prop would help me so much?!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Car Troubles and Cute Dogs

Our 4-H dog camp group did two workshops this weekend.... 6 hours of dog training and activities and handling and excitement. Yesterday was great, we were at PosiDog, so I knew where everything was and we had air conditioning and lots of space. Today we were in a fairgrounds building. It was big and shaded but NOT air conditioned and 80* out. Griff did not appreciate being crated out of the car though he was great with that yesterday.

My back van door has decided to not open. It can be locked and unlocked, but when the latch is pulled, nothing happens. For someone transporting lots of dogs...that back door is REALLY valuable. I'm VERY thankful that I did= not have dogs in there when this happened or I would have had to call AAA and get them to open it ASAP.

Tonight we got news that one of Griffin's siblings finished his UD with LOTS of accomplishments. Just WOW. I am SO proud of the team and in a bit of panic...we're quite far from being there! But I realized I have the same amount of time in the day and just need to work on our skills and get it done.

On Friday training we worked on Go Outs using a target and race to reward. We had MUCH straighter responses than without the RtR, but like before with a GoClickChallenge, our progress with distance was NOT as fast as I had expected and I really don't have a good explanation for that yet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I love my students.

My students are all really great people

Two favorite parts of class tonight were words being added to my vocabulary.

Sometimes I suggest a dog/puppy get a break halfway through class. The dog can go outside, pee in the grass or just settle out of the environment, and come back in 3-5 minutes. At the end of class, one couple thought the "intermission" helped their dog quite a bit!

One person justified her flexi-leash walks as "I trained him for exploration walking" She was half joking, she didn't really have to train her terrier x to pull and explore and smell.

But exploration walking and intermissions are now part of my training vocabulary.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Good and Bad Day

Tonight Griffin was...lacking. One of our training buddies offered to assist, so I quickly instructed him on how to click for our contact criteria ("In the yellow, feet like THIS *I pose*, CLICK. If feet are like this *pose* NO click."). Griffin and I usually do 15-20 dogwalks. We do less than five. He refuses it most times. In a really cute way, he pretends to not see it and follows me. We got 3 clicks out of the 5 we did. And then I give up. He refused jumps and tunnels. He weaved. REALLY well. He weaved six poles, at speed, from various angles, correct every single time. I was really impressed.

And I was also impressed that while he wasn't doing other things, his weave behavior didn't deteriorate.

Of course I have to try and figure out what was going on. Based on what he was doing and not doing and his poor responses last night too, I'm leaning towards some soreness/pain. We did a lot of swimming Sunday night and running over the weekend. Maybe he is sore. But he wasn't as attentive as last week. Due to soreness or general distractability? I'm not sure.

But...despite those circumstances, his weaving behavior held up! Very exciting and interesting.

And in puppy news, 3 weeks later, Rocket is offering LOTS of behaviors. He's offering all the behaviors I've lured/tried to shape before. Spins both ways. Sits. Downs. Right finishes, Left finishes. Crate. Sometimes he tries to offer several at once. It's so nice to finally be able to communicate with him and for him to know how to 'talk' to me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The "Real" Dead Squirrel Game

My cat provided me with a chimpmunk and I utilized it in the 'dead squirrel game'. (Bad cat owner...I know...).

Griffin was adorable. I had a spiffy little video clip. And one of me preparing to train. The real clip is the one I deleted. I'm quite sad! But he was impressive.

Imagine Griffin heeling, and within 5 passes we were going directly over the chimpmunk. He would sometimes half jump it or not put a foot down, trying to avoid stepping on it. Sometimes he'd crowd me an attempt to not step on it. But he did 0 pulls toward it, immediately recognized the framework of our game and he was so adorable!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


The GCC this week is barking on cue.

This is scary. Megan is mean.

Blaze...we never got it on stimulus control. Granted, he has brain damage and is very abnormal and barks a lot as part of his problem. But my fear of not getting barking on stimulus control is a bit unreasonable.

Luna has it on cue but not stimulus control, but in a good way. She won't always bark on cue. Her barks in the morning are the most cute. They're silly dog noises. good at barking. He has a very loud, deep WOOF! And he knows how to use it. Easter weekend, I was taking my brothers (and dogs) to a park for play/training. Griffin happened to bark. I had extra humans available. One clicked. One treated. He barked. A lot.

Now, this is both good and bad. It's incredibly annoying. It's close to my ear. It could be causing permanent hearing loss. It's made him more barking in the car overall. But, I'm hoping, until it's on stimulus control, we bark in the CAR and do NOT offer the behavior elsewhere. I am not reinforcing it anywhere else. Only in the car. And we'll see what happens.

I started adding the cue last night. But I need to wait for a pause. Initially we had a very poor ROR, 1 or 2 reps per minute, but we got up to 5 or 6. Still poor, but it's improvement. If I cued it right after I fed him, he would bark, but it was more of a patterned behavior than a cued behavior.

Tomorrow we have our first training day for a new-not-quite-yet-official club! I'm so excited! I get to train my dog, what a concept!

The Dead Squirrel Game

It has been a recent goal to stop saying "game" at the end of every activity name. Seriously. Games need to have an objective, and rules, and I'm not sure what else. But everything can't really be a game.

But somehow this one is still a game.

Objective: Your dog will walk past a distraction in a controlled setting. We systematically train him to make the choice of moving with you and ignoring the dead squirrel.

Have a line you are walking on, 20-25 feet is good. You can use more or less.

Walk back and forth. Feeding for great walking. When your dog is attentive, it's time to add the squirrel.

I do not recommend a real dead squirrel. Pull a silly item out of your garage. Set out something your dog is not supposed to have. The point is, you want to pretend it is a dead squirrel. Do not take risks. Do not move closer to it unless you are sure your dog will stick with you.

The squirrel is placed 15ish feet from your path. You are going to keep walking past it. Feed your dog for good walking. If your dog goes towards it, you will stand and wait for him to come back (...leash is short enough for him not to consume it, remember, dead squirrel! Gross!). Feed. Next rep, move further away.

Do not take risks! Progress slowly! Soon you will go right past it, or over it.

And then you can repeat the activity with new item. And then another. And you can use this on walks as long as the distraction is not a live person or animal. Those things move, making it harder to adjust your path.

Once you've done this lots and lots of times, it won't take a lot for your dog to say "HAH! It's that silly thing again. I won't look! See? I'm not looking at that dead squirrel that is RIGHT there!".

The nice things about this are:
-We are not prompting the dog to return
-The behavior of walking with us is offered
-We are systematically training the dog to walk past distractions
-This is something that can be applied in real life
- It's fairly simple. Most students can self-progress after a minute or two of instruction.
-- Within 2-3 weeks, most dogs in my classes are walking right past food, toys, etc. Not all, but most. In the cases where it does not happen, it's more related to handler skill.

(My photography tactic is to press the buttons a lot of times and hope something happens. Look at this jump!)
- The distraction is the cue for the dog to walk. No "leave it" or name call needed.

But I really like that the students figure out how to progress and what to do and how to modify as needed. It's hard to learn to set criteria! But this is a fairly simple exercise to implement and they tend to be very successful.

It's a staple walking, self control, and criteria setting activity in my classes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Training Buddies

It's so helpful to train with someone else!

For the most part, I have to do all of my training alone. Most of my dog friends are far away and so much of my training has been modified for working alone. The good part about this is that I'm able to help students who train alone.

On Saturday we did a training afternoon with a dog friend. Between the two of us we had seven dogs! She worked her two, I worked my three and my board and train puppies were along for the ride. We did a lot in two and a half hours, I only wish she was closer so we could do this way more often.

Blaze: I've been doing more agility with him at home. We were given the okay a few months ago to use toys in play and that brought back the option of playing agility. His meds are doing something...he was able to focus. He's a lot of fun even though I need the toy-lure out to get him to follow. I really wish I've spent as much time training my other dogs as I did with him early on!

Luna: If I'm trialing with Griffin, I might as well take her. She has the skill training for agility, but just needs everything else. We did a lot of "Race to Reward" (from our very favorite agility book), without obstacles, with jumps, and to do some "weave pole re-training". She left me 0 times. We were careful to not give her that opportunity. I set up a small fully-contained box using the ring gating and we did one jump in there with her off leash. She was attentive and responsive and offering behaviors. She hasn't been in a real class since last spring, and hasn't trialed since Thanksgiving before that. Poor Luna! I really wanted to run sequences with her, but I wasn't confident she'd stick with I was a good trainer and we didn't do any sequences.

Griffin: Is the best dog. He was watching me, asking to go do agility (to then get the food... but still!). Before we went towards the equipment he would spin and crouch down and really was trying to solicit attention from me. It's great to have such an enthusiastic dog! He had a pretty good day...I'm wondering if some of his jump training is deteriorating...we'll have to do more of that on a regular basis. We did some 'Race to Reward' with weaving and his weaving in general wasn't too bad...he was right about half the time in the first session, usually missing the third pole. Next session he did better, and then we added in more handler motion. I think he'll be all set soon. We had only done two short lessons since August, and then, we only did a week of weaving. I'm impressed with his retention. The hardest thing with him was front crosses... I tended to either just flail and do nothing, resort to rear crosses, or do blind crosses in a panic. For whatever reason I don't usually feel like I'm in the right place at the right time to safely cross and I'm much more concerned about impeding his forward motion than I am with Blaze or Luna. The two in that clip are both really late resulting in wide turns...but I am out of his way!

A short clip with Blaze and Griff on the same sequence and then one that has Griff weaving in a sequence.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Resource Guarding

Megan asked for resource guarding here's one with a story about a very cute puppy.

I have two board and train puppies. One has exhibited fairly serious resource guarding to another dog over a new 'high value' toy. He made a competent adult dog run away with tail tucked. His future family specified they were concerned this may be an issue and they wanted it addressed. For a few days, we did not use the high value toy if other dogs were around. I monitored other toys carefully. He was fine and happy to tug and play well with others. We started using the tennis ball to fetch on the other side of the fenced yard. My dogs in the yard, watching, puppy fetching parallel and at a distance. Gradually I moved closer to the fence, but continued to throw the ball angled away. I did not want him having to race and grab it before the others did. As my crew lost interest in the activities, we went back to parallel throws along the fence, no problem. Then in the yard, we started 'double fetching. My dog fetching and puppy fetching, each had their own toy, I threw toys in opposite directions and at appropriate distances so they would not arrive to me at the same time. I could move my position if my timing was off. All went well, and we're back to fetching while the others run. If puppy gets a little tense, I'll trade him for a treat and remove the toy from the area for a while and then we'll resume the game.

Is this the end of his resource guarding? No. He might try this again, especially if he's giving "go away!" signals and other dogs are not responding. As he already has poor social skills...he is at higher risk for future difficulties. He will be learning about really high value items in the future...birds. Bumpers will become more valuable. There might be other favorite toys in his world and less well managed settings. We will keep working on this until he goes home and he'll be leaving with specific recommendations for future work.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tunnel Zooming

Luna really likes to go through tunnels. Sometimes she gets 'stuck' and will repeatedly want to go through it. Even if we turn it around so the openings are far away. In play, she loves to run through the tunnel. "Tunnel sucking" comes up on agility lists and in agility class. People laugh. It is cute.

But really, what is going on? Are the dogs enjoying it? Is it just me or do some of these dogs seem really frantic about what they're doing? Luna sure is.

How are tunnels often taught? We crunch up the tunnel. Someone holds the puppy at one end. The owner goes to the other and calls him through. The puppy is given no option but going through. Some puppies don't mind. Some are hesitant, some take a lot of effort. With many....there's some level of anxiety ("I want to be my person!" "This thing is closed in!" "I have to walk on this wobbly surface!" "It smells weird in here"). And they go through, get the treats or toy and the relief of being out. And all of those are reinforcers.

What if, for some percentage of dogs, that relief is huge part of the reinforcer? What if they're still getting some of that when they go through weeks, months, years later? Sure...they're liking it... but how is that changing the emotions and performance of the behavior? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

After class last week we talked about this. And an experienced dog person who does not do agility was able to come up with other examples of dogs somewhat frantically doing behaviors that originally may have or did have some relief-of-anxiety associated with the behavior. The dog really wants to perform. But is there some negative reinforcement associated with these, unintentionally created by us?

Do we need to re-think how we're teaching the tunnel and some of these other behaviors? _Agility Right From the Start_ has many additional activities to prepare dogs for tunnels, and then dogs are shaped through. We'll have to see how that goes with student dogs....

With Griffin, a friend's dog, and the puppies I'm working with... the tunnel is left up in the yard. They go through while chasing Luna. The puppy could go around or through. They choose to go through. They could back out. They could go around. But they choose to go through. Does this create a different behavior long term? Is the anxiety always present or not? What if the owner is great about stimulus control, how else might we know what's going on? (and again, is it bad? Hmmmm...)

And those are my disorganized thoughts of the day.

I would insert a cute tunnel picture if I had one.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Puppies are hard!

It's a lot of pressure to raise a puppy. I'm very glad I won't have a puppy of my own for a very long time.

This puppy is with me for training. He is learning about house training, walking in the woods, in town, and meeting people. He's learning about dogs, and plants and animals, the things that are foods and what isn't. He's learning how to use food toys and solve problems and get attention. He's learning self control and enthusiasm. He is learning to run really fast and ride in a car and be quiet in a crate. He's learning to offer behaviors and what cues are. He's learning to fetch and play and tug.

Sit, Down, Stay, etc are what people really want for their puppies. Those things can be important, but all of these other things are so very important.

Meanwhile, Griffin seems so grown up. I was intending to take him to agility lessons every other week but I just can't do it right now, tomorrow is two weeks from our last lesson and I haven't practiced enough for it to feel worthwhile. This week we did work on contacts and weaves, he only had 1 weaving error (not collecting to get the third pole) and had too many jumps on the dogwalk after being so perfect last week. He was running slower this week, and had better hits on his faster/less stride times across. Data tables are fun. I've been using them for about six months to look at speed over time. We made one looking at his time across, number of strides, and a column to note jumps or trotting. His best time was about 2.13 seconds using a video editing progam and playing in slow motion... he went five strides and may have jumped at the end, or was very close. His jumps looked like his "I don't want the teeter to hit me" jump. Working on our 4 on teeter behavior theoretically will help.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Leash Handling

We've determined good walking is hard to train dogs, and so have introduced a Polite Walking class at PosiDog.

But the part I've struggled with teaching, and still am, is the "leash handling" aspect.

I think part of the reason why I can make walking look so easy is that I'm fairly competent at leash handling. I rode horses for 10 years. I've spend hours and hours walking a difficult dog. I had no fenced yard for years. But I think the key in there is the horse experience.

It's difficult to cease forward motion when the dog is 'pulling' without coming to an abrupt halt. The tension needs to be released as soon as the dog is still. Not that this would function as R- for 98%+ of dogs, but the moving forward is R+ for most dogs and we want the dog to spend as little time on a tight leash as we can.

We want to be aware of our dog so we can continue to reinforce for meeting criteria. We want to know where he's going and what he's doing. But we also have to be aware of our environment. In class, we need to keep a safe distance from the other dogs and people and chairs. In the real world we need to avoid those things, raised sidewalk ledges, cars, squirrels, and other challenges.

We have to know what direction we're going in. A change of direction can be very helpful to maintain a light leash. But we don't want to do those abrupt 180's that have been popular forever. A curved change of direction can help carry a dog's motion to follow, but also prevent the tension and prevent reinforcing for tension.

Managing all our props is another skill. We have the leash. We have a treat pouch. We have to deliver treats. We might have a clicker. Or a flash light. Or a few more leashes too. We need to be able to do all of this while holding still, let alone with all the above challenges.

Specifically how we hold the leash can impact success. Do we put our hand through the loop? Do we grasp the leash? Have a loop over our thumb? Wrap it around our hand multiple times? What about all the extra leash! Being organized and having a good grip can help. And it's essential when you're walking with multiple dogs.

And I'm not even sure what else I'm doing and not doing...making teaching the skill hard. I've done videos of me walking. I've watched them. And I keep getting stuck. But it's just not transferring to students yet.

The biggest success has been "two fingers" when we talk about leash handling with head collars. That's how light and careful we are when a dog has tension on a head collar...we only use two fingers to change direction. That has stopped students from yanking heads around without realizing it. But it's not an aspect that has transfered well to buckle collars or front clip, due to the fact if the dog starts to /really/ pull, two fingers aren't enough to maintain position.