Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I know I've mentioned before how important practice is. And that we need a LOT of repetitions. Being able to do something is not the same as being very comfortable and confidant and responding almost without thinking.

A couple months ago, the "Front" behavior was a focus for us. We played with quite a few exercises recommended to us and worked on our own. Some things were successful and others were not. I've used several of these exercise sets for my students and this is as close to "cookbook" recipe as I get with training plans. But it's been working and I'm still amazed at how precise the behavior is with Griffin.

See for yourself (special thanks to photographer Megan!)

And did I say how much I miss camp? More on that tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nap Time

What was the activity our campers most wanted to add? Nap time.

5 days/3 nights of activity makes a young dog quite tired. Griffin is great. Luna got brave. And I had a fabulous time.

As always, our campers were amazing, responsive, smart, clever, and SO much fun. We had a great time with new activities and advancing the skills they already know.

Last night Megan and I got back, had half an hour to switch dogs and unpack, then headed to PosiDog for a few classes. Somehow we were home at midnight, ate dinner and fell asleep. This morning we had enough time for waffles before Megan left for home and I went to agility class. After getting home, we packed for a fun show (a first for our club to host) and then to the show. I got to judge showmanship and had a good time.

All the experiences have created new ideas for things for us to do and more work. But i wouldn't trade the camp experience for anything.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Packing with dogs

(Click on that to get a bigger picture! Baby Gryffindor! He was 9 weeks old. Awww!)

We'll be gone for about 5 days. Not too long, but we still have a lot of packing to do.

I distinctly remember one day in high school where the power went out while I was with a group in a supply closet ( windows). I pulled a flashlight out of my pocket....and was made fun of for being so prepared. There were numerous trips where I'd have, almost literally, everything. For a long time my main storage space was my pillowcase.

Having everything you need IS important and I have been striving to pack lighter without potentially getting myself into trouble.

I typically keep two boxes in my car, one for general supplies (poncho, duct tape, bungee cords, (ahem, fresh) water, first aid supplies. And the other with plates/cups/forks/etc. It's very handy. I've always been made fun for having everything....

The rest of the packing will be all my clothes and sleeping bag. And then I need to get the dog toys and leads and food and treats and dispensing toys and chews and (and and and and).

After we buy the rest of our stuff tonight, everything will be carefully packed into my car. Two crates and dogs in the back. Two dogs in the middle seat. And all the stuff piled around/under/in between. The crated dogs are going to have a very roomy ride.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Anxious Tunnel Behavior, revisited

I think I touched on this a few months ago.

Essentially... many dogs are scared of the tunnel. Dogs quickly learn it's okay.

The training plan typically involves one person restraining a dog on one side and the owner calling the dog from the other end of a (usually) scrunched up tunnel. The dog gets treats/play/praise/toys on exiting.

And...if he was worried at all... negative reinforcement was at play. Exiting the tunnel provided some level of relief.

For most dogs, this probably isn't a big deal. They learn to do the tunnel quickly and continue on their careers and that amount of anxiety probably isn't a big deal.

But some populations develop the condition often called "Tunnel sucking" and are magically attracted to tunnels. Sometimes they do the tunnels when not asked (even unintentionally). Sometimes they seek out tunnels. Soemtimes they just seem to have more distance than they've been trained for. Enthusiasm is greater than it should be, even with the high value reinforcers used in training.

Some dogs, either during a lesson or in play, will go through the tunnel a ridiculous number of times. So many that it's silly. They seem happy. But there's a not-so-happy element to it too.

Here's a clip of Luna repeatedly going through the tunnel. Again. And again. While playing with others, but she's also done this in class. In this clip, she had not been in class and I had not reinforced her for the tunnel behavior in over six months.

Is this a normal byproduct of agility training? How common is it? Should we be concerned? Should the anxiety be addressed?

Should we be training and introducing the tunnel a different way?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Training Plan : Teeter behavior

After our teeter adventure earlier in the week... I made a training plan.

Final behavior: Run across the plank, stop at the end with all feet on, nose touch to the end of the plank.

Training plan:
- Get a duration nose touch behavior.
- Put the target at the end of a plank that says "teeter." Release Griff from up close. Gradually build up distance.
- Increase the height of the teeter
- Work on a few different teeters
- Do 5-10 reps with target, remove it for one... use it for a few more. Repeat this on different days.
- Increase the number of target-less reps.
- Love our performance

Today we took a video clip of our current teeter performance. The camera battery died partway through but we got enough reps to demo what we have.

We've started duration on a target in hand, need to get it on the ground now.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Recall Training "Secrets"

A good recall really is fairly simple. It's the right combination of:

- High value reinforcer
- Many repetitions
- Gradually introduce distractions
- Lots more repetitions

We were given lots of pork sausage. This is a very high value reinforcer. We did some recalls in the yard for little tiny pieces.

Then I took Griffin and Luna to the back field and ....let them loose. Griffin is generally loose there. Luna never is. Griffin would "Go!" every time I told him to. He sat every time he was cued. Luna had a recall like a well trained dog. We did a ridiculous number of repetitions. And then some more.

I obviously was crazy, prancing around in waist-high grass and on gravel piles with my two very happy dogs following. The pajamas and pack of raw meat and fork are probably what would have drawn the most attention. But we had great recalls.

Tomorrow we'll head out and use a little more.

And the next day I'll need to find a way to carry it a long way in the fields in the 90* heat.

But for today at least, we had perfect recalls.

Broad Jump Training

Here is a clip from last month.

Griffin had previously had two agility broad jump training sessions, this was the first session in an obedience context.

We spent some time working on recalling over and sending over with reinforcement placed straight out. Griffin has a strong front behavior and a decent return to heel behavior.

The behavior was put together a few times. I was very happy with how the lesson went, how quickly he progressed and how cute he is!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Basic Skills

Almost all good training comes down to fluency of basic skills.

Today at training we worked on those basic skills. Stay in position while people do silly things. Continue to jump while people do silly things.

And the hardest part for Griffin? It was when people would pretend to put something on the floor. So we'll be setting up more of that.

But his heeling has been beautiful and he probably has stays!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We're back in class

Griffin has helped me with classes since he was a puppy. But he hasn't gotten much of a chance to take classes. We did puppy class and a basic training class, a few days at an agility camp last summer and a CGC class over the winter.... we've done lots of informal training with friends and a few privates. But not much in real classes due to our schedules.

This week, everything magically worked out and we got to go to agility class! I've been spoiled by the air conditioning at PosiDog... working in the heat sure was hard.

He did better than I expected, we worked almost the entire hour. I was good and took him outside 4-5 times. Keeping his water bowl outside of the building helped prompt me to get him out and give him a mental break. But otherwise he was inside and working. Either staying, working on moving stands or heeling.

As to actual activities... he was very interested in the other students (dogs and people) and had trouble sticking with me. He got 4/4 contacts (2 were jumps). His teeter behavior was not as strong as in the past and I'm on the fence about going to a 4on like I wanted...we could do running or a 2o2o but the board bouncing made him upset.

Weave poles went well. After our last private we worked very hard up to six straight poles so the 2x2 work ws a bit of a review and went very well even though we were feet from our classmates at the time.

Horray Griffin!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dog Play: Good and Not So Good

Here's a video clip of dogs playing. (Note, the golden retriever is the cutest one!).

Part 1: Griffin (2yo male golden) and Luna ( 6yo black and white mix) playing. They live in the same household and really like to play together. They play chase games and wrestling. Even though there is not a lot of role reversal in this clip, Griffin mostly biting, pulling on Luna, it is good play. They both continue to be engaged and continue to play. I like the changes of direction. Both dogs are loose and happy. This is great play.

Part 2: Same clip, Rocket (6mo golden) comes over and wants to play. He is not very good at playing. He is showing no signs of role reversal and the play attempts are mostly of Rocket bouncing on top of Luna and pouncing at her. Occasionally he tries to mount and Luna turns to try and engage him in play. When you see profile views of Rocket, you can see his mouth open wide, the edge forms a "c" shape, this is a VERY good thing and sign of play. He's having a great time and trying to be friendly. Luna also perceives this as play, and is trying to get him to keep playing. This is great play from Luna, and the best play I had seen from Rocket, but still far from ideal. Rocket is not a puppy I would put with dogs other than those with great play skills. He could get away with poor play skills or learn inappropriate play if he was with other poor-players.

Note all of the spins and sneezes Luna puts in while playing.

Griffin gets upset and is barking at the pair, he wants to play with Luna but won't push Rocket out of the way. The others ignore his frustration and Luna chooses to keep playing with Rocket.

Part 3: Griffin again and a 2yo sporting breed dog. This is not good play (and not a good video clip...there was very interesting behaviors before I turned on the camera). No role reversals at all. Griffin is looking at the other dog, even when the third dog is around. He continues to move at an anxious trot and the black and white dog does not give any indications of wanting to play or interact. Again, Griffin gives frustrated barks.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Non Compliance

I'm a TagTeach enthusiast. One of my favorite things I picked up from the first seminar I went to 2 years ago was about non compliance.

There are three reasons for non compliance. I've tried to think of more and really couldn't

-The learner is not physically or mentally capable of the task
-The learner does not understand
-The learner is insufficiently motivated

The learner is not physically or mentally capable of the task

This one is fairly straight forward. My dogs can't do advanced math no matter how much I train them. They won't speak English. They just aren't mentally capable of it. My dogs can't jump onto a surface six feet high, even though some other dogs can. They aren't physically capable of it.

The learner does not understand

This is where we either haven't trained sufficiently or are giving poor cues. My dog can do a 5' go out but not a 30' go out. He can retrieve a bowl and a bone and a dumbell and a sock and a clicker, but not a large bucket. He gives me a look of " I can't find something to retrieve."

The learner is not sufficiently motivated

And this is where many people fall into using punishment. Sometimes my dogs give a look that indicates they understand but would rather not. I know I need to step back with my training, build a stronger reinforcement history and address any other variables (distractions, distance, etc) that were a challenge. This is one of the harder categories to deal with, we often tend to not build a high enough history of reinforcement to maintain behaviors.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Washing Dogs

I worked in a grooming shop for several years. I became really good at washing dogs. I really liked clean dogs. But I also never wanted to wash my dogs at home without the convenience of a tub and a warm force dryer (goes faster than my cold one!).

Yesterday Blaze and Luna got washed, Griffin lucked out due to poor weather. At one point it was sprinkling and I kept drying dogs thinking "I'm taking off more water than is going on them." When I next turned around, Luna who was NOT under a tree was DRENCHED .... "torrential downpour" would be the right wording.

Tips for bathing:
* Mix your shampoo with some water in a water bottle. This makes it way easier to dispense and you waste less.
* After scrubbing your dog once and rinsing....scrub and rinse again. The second wash makes a HUGE difference.
* Have the right tools for the job. The right combs/brushes will let you groom faster and more efficiently.
* Brush until no more hair comes out. Literally. This seems like an impossible task at times, but if you're getting your dog clean, you might as well do it right.
* Teach your dog to enjoy the process. This saves you so much time in the long run. A dog who likes grooming is going to get brushed more often and stay cleaner/healthier. I don't follow this advice well. I avoid brushing Griffin. But I found out he's really great about standing for combing and brushing and feet trimming. I forgot that I'd trained him.
* Know where your dog is likely to have problems and do regular grooming in that area. My dogs get super hairy feet. We're on a weekly feet trimming schedule to keep things neat. My dogs (goldens!) get mats behind ears very easily, so, we comb out a few times a week.

Horray for clean dogs! If I can find my camera I want pictures, though clean and dirty dogs aren't too different in photos...they sure feel different and look different!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Quiet House

We have no more puppies. They are both in Canada, one is in her home the other will soon be at his home.

It's very empty without them!

At ClickerExpo someone told a story about how her family did NOT want another dog. She took care of (I think?) 5 dogs belonging to someone else. After they went home...the family was very okay with one more! It sure feels like that.

I got to spend the morning with some genetically really nice golden retrievers. I wish I could spend more time with golden retriever people.

Griffin got to stay at home and there was some sadness....

The rabies papers also stayed at home and I was very sad having to drive back to get them when I was over an hour away. Lesson learned.

Normal life resumes.... and hopefully more training for my silly dogs.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dog Books

I somehow have gone to having three dog books 9 years ago (a golden one and a super tiny general "all about dogs") to having WAY too many. At the moment I'm trying really really hard to not buy a few new ones.

About once a year I'll make a big order from Dogwise. Occasionally I'll order something elsewhere... this year I got a copy of this field training book per breeder recommendation AND free shipping. I've read through a lot of it. I've done 0 exercises from it. I've intended to do more. Maybe tomorrow we'll pull out bumpers.... I got many ideas of obedience (and agility training) from it too. But that's another separate project.

My other book source is a used book chain. I regularly go past three I try to make a point of stopping in now and then. When I worked at a pet supply store a few years ago, it was almost next door to one of these, and I must have spent hundreds on dog books! Sometimes there's stuff that I genuinely want to read. Sometimes there's stuff that's old and interesting. I got a few golden retriever books (in depth...not the "all about your pet golden retriever"). I got some 'classic' training books. Now I just pick up things that are super interesting... a textbook on human-animal bond last week (sheesh.... only one of the four volumes, I want to know where the other three are... but wow that's expensive...I paid less than $8!). Last year I picked up a scent book, originally published in Europe.

I'll admit I haven't finished reading _Agility Right From the Start_ yet, or at least cover to cover. I've read most of it in parts.

i sure wish I still read as much as I used to!

Intentional Stance

This was one of the things discussed that I haven't heard before.

Daniel C. Dennet PhD wrote about intentional stances . It's about having beliefs and desires and understanding about beliefs, desires, and intentions of others. The book will be on my summer reading list...I don't know what I'll get all the way through it... but we'll see.

And this is relevant to dogs how? Because dogs don't have a very high level of intentional stance. Many pet owners and even some professionals credit dogs to having thoughts/desires/intentions that require a higher level of intentional stance than we know dogs can have. So, this means that either the intentional stance theories are wrong OR we don't have a good understanding of what dogs are capable of OR dogs aren't really out to get us/do things because they're mad at us/desire to be a pack leader.

And this was presented in a way that easily made point 3 the most likely. I don't have enough of an understanding to argue this as well as Ken McCort could.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


We had Ken McCort at Posidog to speak today. It was really quite fabulous. People came from several different states and lots of locals, including a few students.

He's very into ethology and behavior patterns and wild canids and all of that I love. I have lots of notes I need to go over and re-think and interpret. I'm in a panic mode for some exams tomorrow... so here's tempting tid-bits:

-We exercise our dogs too much. 2 miles is really too much. [I said "WHAT!"]
-Motor patterns are more important than we give them credit for.
-Dogs are really really really dumb. At least compared to wolves.

In other news...I had a really really really (really) great education opportunity I had to turn down due to a very bad-sad-not-good family emergency. Me leaving for a week would cause many problems, the most selfish of which is that no real adult would be available to care for my dogs. I'm literally feeling sick about not being able to go... and so of course my studying is not very productive.

And the puppyness leaves on Tuesday. He'll only be with me for 48 more hours! I miss him already.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

SAR, strawberries, seminar

We've had a lot of excitement this week.

Thursday my visiting puppy went for a SAR evaluation...his prospective home would be doing said work,but before sending him halfway across the country it would be good to see how suited he actually would be for the work. The 'tester' was impressed with the puppy's "drive" and searching... said he lacked focus and was a bit spooky. I saw a very 'normal' drive/searching golden puppy, but for someone used to herding dogs, I'm sure he's used to a different type of working dog!

The home is very interested and so the puppy will be leaving on Tuesday. I'll miss him!

Yesterday we went to training...worked on Dreaded Front Crosses. I think our problem there is not just me being too afraid of being in Griffin's way, but he needs more distance and more obstacle focus. So that'll be our focus for a couple of weeks and we'll see what happens. The biggest "YAY" is that Griff was pretty great crated INSIDE for once. Yes, he was in a separate closed room, but quiet almost the whole time and very happy to go back into the crate.

Today is set up for a dog behavior seminar tomorrow.... might also pick strawberries today if it stops storming.

And tomorrow is the seminar all day. I'm very looking forward to it!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

CLICK Workshops: summary

We've run a 4-H kid-dog-super-cool-camp for a few years now. This year we added in one day workshops/minicamps with the fabulous name of "CLICK workshops". Connected Learning in Canines and Kids.

This year we ran 3 workshops, each about 6 hours long. We had approx. 25-30 kids attend, as well as a parent for each child and several advisors/extension faculty.

It was a really different experience from camp. Unlike our 3-4 day camp, we didn't have enough time to get to know all of the kids and dogs well. We also had a ton of beginners (which I like just as much as advanced kids!), with only about 5 kids who are at Novice or above.

Almost none of the kids had clicker training experience before. Everyone got to learn more. Some kids are from serious compulsion clubs, the parents and kids had a hard time adjusting to our slightly different activities. Most of the kids are used to compulsion training but aren't as dedicated towards it.

We set up all of our activities to focus on developing fluent skills/behaviors and to specifically NOT challenge anything the kids might already know/be proficient at. We weren't there to say compulsion training is bad, a poor choice, or won't work. It definitely can work and is how many clubs have been run for decades, but we wanted to present what we know and do well with.

If we're lucky, we'll get to run these again next year, and do things even better.