Monday, August 30, 2010

Aggression Seminar

Yesterday at PosiDog we had an "Understanding Canine Aggression" seminary by Ken McCort.

The focus on behavior patterns in dogs and vocabulary was fabulous! And I really loved the focus on "There are a LOT of ways to change behavior!" I know that any time we need behavior change, it's easy to get stuck in "we have to do x or y or z." But there are always so many options for behavior change, let alone when we start to combine and select available options.

A few key notes:
- Ken pointed out that aggression is not a disease. We can't say we will treat it... we CAN change behavior. But it's not something we treat and are done with.
- Motor patterns are super cool! Coppingers book is a must read. Aggression is a type of motor pattern associated with foraging, reproduction or hazard avoidance. It's not a different/special/obscure thing.
- Dogs send and receive signals. Most signals sent are not intentionally thought out, but unconscious motor-pattern type response to a threat/the environment. Some dogs have trouble properly reading given signals.
- Terminology needs to be more consistent and standardized.
- Predatory aggression is very mis-named. Predatory motor patterns are normal things predators do.
- Most of aggression is about fear of loosing space or resources.
- Many in the group were intrigued to learn about LRS (Least Reinforcing Scenario). I didn't realize it was a less-taught piece of trainer skill.
- Many people underestimate or don't sufficiently understand the natural history of dogs.

Off to change clothes and get ready for evening classes!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


There are many things I hear about dogs and that I just can't believe.

Until last week, one was "My other dog makes my shy dog feel safer. He's way better when they are together!" I did believe that a shy dog would be a bit better in a group, especially if he's not as bonded to the family. But a drastic difference? People were probably just imagining things as silly humans tend to.

Last week between our many lessons, I would let Griffin and Luna play together in the big open space (I am SOOOO lucky!). It's way bigger than their fenced yard and Luna is not allowed off leash in open areas. Her previous 2-3 trips to the facility resulted in a very shy and scared dog. Tail tucked. Crouched down. Sometimes refusing food. Ready to bolt for the door. Scared of everyone she doesn't know. One of the agility training days she was a bit better, it was people she knew well.

But, with Griffin, she was running, playing, wrestling, chasing toys. And approaching people she had been terrified of previously. If they had tried to pet her, Luna would likely have run off. But she came up to sniff and then carefully walked away. Sometimes she tried to solicit food with Sits, just like Griffin next to her was attempting.

She also performed the teeter. She had not yet met that teeter. She went over it, full height, great contact behavior. Multiple times. She weaved 12 poles.

Later on, I left Griffin crated and brought out Luna. Every tiny noise made her jump. She would only put two feet on the teeter. She was tail tucked and ready to run away. When I did let her loose, she wouldn't come near me.

And Griffin came out that session. She was much happier and running. Not as brave as before, but not worried about noises or me. Happy body language.

Griffin and Luna have always been attached and I have severely underestimated their relationship and how beneficial he is for her at times. I do now have to say....dogs can reduce stress for others!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book 1: Dancing with Dogs

I have numerous notebooks and computer files with this sort of thing. Sharing these notes might motivate me to do more reading, keep better notes, and provide some sort of resource on what may be useful for others.

Dancing with Dogs by Mary Ray I bought this book a few days ago.

I've known of Mary Ray for many years. It seems like she's been doing freestyle forever, especially year performances at Crufts.

Some of the information presented seems like poor use of space, such as the table on page 14 that lists "just some of the breeds that have competed successfully in HTM classes." With stock photos of those breeds.

The training section is one of the largest parts of the book. It goes through basic training and then a lot on the trick type behaviors that are often utilized, jumping, leg weaving, crawling. I'm not sure if the training instructions are so simple that a novice would be overwhelmed, or if the simplicity is perfect. I would love to have more detailed information on the training process than the 3-5 steps listed. There weren't any big surprises in the training section. Or even little surprises. A lot of luring is used, I don't know if that's for the audience of the book or if that's actually what Mary Ray uses. I'd love to know!

My favorite section was the end, where routines are put into print. I didn't think freestyle routines could be described on paper, but she did a fabulous job! Music and trick notes are listed, as well as a few photos on every page along with a description of what is happening and how the handler transitions to the next move/s. And about 10 of these routines are listed!

Is this one of my very favorites? No, not really.
I would pass this on to what types of people...? 4-H'ers. I want to go get another copy or two or three to use as fun show prizes next year or raffle prizes. It was a great purchase! I would also recommend this to a dog owner interested in freestyle but new to training. Or kids casually interested in dog training. It's definitely a book I feel comfortable sharing with others!
Will I re-read this? Probably not anytime soon. It will probably be one I pull out before teaching a tricks or freestyle workshop.

Tomorrow is another Ken McCort seminar, this time on aggression. We have 60 people attending, some from very, very far away. I'm sure I'll have lots of great notes! this is especially relevant as I've just started leading the leash reactivity class and we have another starting soon.

Photo by Terri Tepper

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tracking article training

Blaze has been learning about tracking. And not about articles. He's still lacking the training needed to let me know if he finds dropped items on the track.

I've done one session. Hold out item. He touches. I cue Sit. Click. Treat. Repeat. He soon was not so keen on touching it and very keen on being attentive to me. too much criteria too fast. But it didn't make sense for a dog with his experience and working style.

Today at training, someone else was handling him. Shaping a down on an article. And there were some correct responses. A lot of swipes. A lot of handler focus. ANd progress was slow.

I was surprised that he gave the same type of performance despite different training plans...

Our current plan is a giant article circle, food in between to reinforce easy tracking. And when he gets to the article, a lure down and a bunch of food. The hope is we'll create a strong and nonvariable behavior. And quickly. And while maintaining a presentation similar to what he will see when working.

The plan is to give it a week and see what happens.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Dog Books

I think I should start doing some sorta book review, given my love of dog books. Yet again I went to the used book store and come home with stuff...

A Mary Ray freestyle book...I wouldn't normally buy this...but it was $5! And I very much respect her as a dog trainer. I hope I get some good training ideas for classes or the tricks workshop, even with it being a very condensed version of her training.

The Alexandra Horowitz book that I admit I haven't read yet, Inside of a Dog. It was $6!

I've enjoyed parts of Brenda Aloff's other books. She uses more pressure and punishment than I care to... but.. Get Connected with Your Dog, $10! Perfect condition. With the DVD. How could I NOT buy it?

And then... I also have a love for Old Dog Books.

The Complete Dog Training Manual by Bruce Sessions (1978) (...which I guess isn't THAT old... but... compared to where dog training is today!)

Training Your Retriever by James Free...seventh edition 1977 (the first was 1949!). I can't wait to read about what's the same as today and how the sport has changed since the addition of fancy ecollars and changes to tests and to the types of dogs.

And the Pearsall Guide to successful dog training (1980).

All in very good condition. I think there was a problem with my payment. And there's a sale next week... I think I'll have to go back...there were a few things I resisted purchasing...

Horray for reading!

Drop on Recall Part II

Much of our eventual obedience training will have beautiful behavior chains and careful use of anticipation.

But first we need all the parts. For our DOR we have these parts:
1) Move to the location
2) Dog at heel
3) Dog staying
4) Dog called
5) Drop in motion
6) Dog called
7) Dog sit at front
8) Dog move to heel
9) Dog released
10) Dog moved to next exercise

Currently, at part 5, my dog is taking a few steps before dropping. And it feels like a few too many steps. Ultimately I had planned to use a different cue for call front and call-drop. So that my dog knew he would be dropping.

But... we can't do that part until my dog does the drop well. We did some problem solving at class tonight and came up with a training plan:
- Griffin is close to me. Call him, and drop right away. Click the drop, feed in position.
- Repeat. A lot.
- Have a few more steps before the drop.

But...the instructor then realized that my dog would likely drop on the "Come!" cue. And most dogs probably would, it's a typical change-cue process.. New Cue, Old Cue. "Come, Down!".

However... I said I didn't think Griffin would do that.

Today Griffin and I were walking, he got distracted... I prompted him to follow me... halfheartedly gave him some words that don't mean anything. And said Come. HE DROPPED! Should I repeat that? He turned away from the scent and dropped...without thinking! I reinforced. We moved away and repeated once more. And then added in a bit of motion (prompted) before the drop. It was BEAUTIFUL.

I'm feeling much better about our DOR chain.

And I'm also amazed that after 15-20 repetitions and 22 hours Griffin had such a strong response!

Long days, great training

I've had a really cool past few days. I did several hours of privates every day with a family who lives several hours away and was very much wanting to learn clicker training. One of the unique aspects to this situation was that they had read several books and watched some great DVD's but had not yet applied the knowledge.

We spent some time every day working on basic manners skills, CGC prep, and on "good trainer" skills. The dogs made measurable progress, as did the humans!

The very interesting part to me is that the family had a history of using choke chains in previous classes. Years and years of practice popping the dog for all sorts of behaviors. But I could not tell! Those habits had been replaced with "click, then reach and pull out the treat." and "Stand still and wait." and "Feed with the closest hand." The "Training skills" were -fabulous-! And my favorite? They didn't run out of treats!

I need to find ways to encourage and inspire more students to be this dedicated! I also wish I was teaching this type of lesson every day.

In between the lessons I had a bit of time to work my dogs or I was teaching classes. Exciting moments: Griffin learned about playing with the flyball box. He did a training demo for our visitors and was very responsive. Luna was happy and did a perfect teeter performance*. My dogs weaved 12 poles. Griffin tugged VERY well. He was quiet in his crate!

Monday, August 23, 2010

"He would be a great agility dog."

I this phone call, email, and note at the shelter way too often.

Why do many people think this dog needing a home would be good at agility?
- The dog can jump. Over the couch. Over horse jumps. Over the fence. On people. Over logs.
- The dog can run "fast."
- The dog is "very smart." But has no actual behaviors trained.
- The dog is a border collie/sheltie/etc...

What actually might make agility dog? (May include but is not limited to...)
- A dog that has many high value reinforcers.
- A dog that has a strong interest in interacting with people
- A dog with good body awareness.
- Behaviors on cue.
- A healthy, sound dog.
- A dog readily working/attentive in new environments.

But really, (and unfortunately) there are not many people looking to adopt a dog specifically for agility. And many of those dogs labeled as agility prospects...really aren't all that ideal for agility. Sometimes those petfinder labels come from that first listing instead of features on the second list.....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

More on the DOR and Training Group II

I took drop videos yesterday with a borrowed camera. And then found all the clips jumpy. I had used time lapse video!

Watching youtube obedience videos of high level competitors has shown me that there are a variety of acceptable performances and I've yet to see any common themes.

Today we met with our second training group. I took all the dogs and was able to get a bit done.

What went well:
- Blaze will follow a track laid by other people.
- Luna was able to give good attention for a prolonged period of time.
- Griffin tugged in public (and growled!), very enthusiastic. He had duration of heeling.

What did not go well:
- Blaze tracking across pavement
- Luna immediately responding to name when cued
- Griffin did not like the tug as a reinforcer.
- Griffin heeling on outside turns was very very poor.

We'll work on those parts and wee what happens next time we're out for training. I didn't want to repeat lacking elements too many times, it's stuff we can work on at home and not need the extra hands.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Drop on Recall

At training group today Griffin was WILD. He's normally a bit more bouncy than the average dog. But over the last few months he'd grown up. He would be wild when it was time to work. But then he'd calm down, rest on his side. He could stay very well, calmly exit the crate He was growing up, he's turned two. And we've focused on self control recently.

But apparently I was under a delusion. It was the pain/discomfort from the Lyme... not training! In some ways I miss that dog I had...but I'm very glad he's back to "normal."

One of our activities today was the drop on recall. We've followed the sorta training plan I got from the 3 hour presentation at expo a few years ago. And we can get a lot of offered downs, right after the other. He will offer downs while we move, even at higher speeds. If I put him in an informal stand stay and walk to a distance, he will offer a down at a distance. So he can do all the parts, just not together.

Right now, I cue down and he will lower his head and gradually work into a down, all the while, moving forward. His latency is good. His speed is a bit lacking. And he doesn't stick. We played with a few exercises and experimented with another (much more experienced) dog.

In our little experience...

What went well:
-Drop on mat for a dog with a strong mat behavior.
-Marking offered downs and tossing the treat behind the dog. Very quickly the dog was offering downs further away.

What wasn't effective:
-Having a treat/toy/food person behind the dog. Marking for the drop and sending the dog back to the food person. Some snappy downs, a lot of stress. Sloppy downs too.
-Tethering the dog, leaving, cueing a down and reinforcing.

From our small assortment of dogs, we looked at the two that had less than stellar DOR and the one that could drop on a dime.

The first two would down in position. If you were viewing the dog from the side, their bodies went straight to the ground, front feet scooting out to accommodate.

On the other hand, Luna will keep her feet in the same spot and flop back. She has a really nice DOR. Is this more effective by shifting her weight to her rear?

So... the questions are..
1) Is Luna better because of her down or is it different training or is it just because it's her? How important are all those things?
2) If it's about the type of down she has... do I need to retrain Griffin's down?
2a) By luring a million of the proper fold back downs?
2b) By teaching him weight-shift exercises?

Expect some videos when I have daylight!

On Leash Agility

Interestingly, we've had a request for an on-leash agility class at PosiDog. When I was asked if I could teach it, I said "YES!"

This was really exciting for quite a few reasons:

• Since bringing this up, we’ve had several “YES!”es from others wanting to be in the class.
• Because the class is specifically for dogs who need to be on leash, no one will be at risk (the ‘friendly’ dogs in the class who may approach) and the owners of the on-leash dogs will not have to be given different/modified exercises or feel any need to compare to the off leash dogs.
• Many agility foundation skills can be taught with dogs on leash.
• Although most of these dogs will likely never be in a ‘regular’ agility class, we’ll still be as particular about the handling and precision and performance.
• Many of these dogs have been in classes forever and are competent with basic skills. The new challenges will be good for the dogs and owners.
• Agility is very reinforcing for the owners. And these owners probably need more reinforcement in their lives!
• Surprisingly little of the activities will be different than in our normal foundation class.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Aggressive Dog

In the mail today I got two interesting things. One was a postcard from our new vet, a "thank you" sort of thing, on which they had handwritten a comment.

The other was a (as requested) CD showing the xrays taken by the orthopedic vet. They also sent along the medical history paper.

In the comments section there is a piece about his behavior. "The dog does not have good behavior either. He is extremely aggressive once the physical examination starts. This does not help the location of the problem."

The vets and techs were seriously afraid of Griffin. One should be cautious around a growling dog, especially if you don't know the dog. But on the other hand, what kind of behavior do you expect if you're saying "Does this hurt?"

I've found it interesting that the specialist was afraid of him ("He's nice if you pet his head.") but that our new vet was okay with the large amount of growling and not personally bothered by it.

Unfortunately I think the techs may have been too rough with him at the specialty clinic... I wont' make that mistake again!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ClickerExpo 2011

When the eastern location was mentioned a couple weeks ago, friends were all set to go. I was not. Chicago is kind of far from Ohio. I went there for a TagTeach seminar. It's a very expensive place to travel to. The driving part was not fun. Training friends convinced me it could be do-able. But after going 3 times already, I don't know that I gain enough knowledge for the money spent...

But today the schedule became available. And as usual there are time slots where I REALLY REALLY want to be two places at once.

And. I'm probably going. And probably taking a dog. Cecilie Koste is amazing. Due to a presentation she gave a few years ago I very much wanted to do obedience. And I took the advice given (they warned it wasn't the most appropriate to give..but needed saying) and got a dog specifically for obedience as I really wanted to do very well. And now I have Griffin. And using those three hours of presentation has been a bit of challenge. But it's a giant part of how I do a lot of my training and especially competition obedience

Pretty silly, but it was really one of the best training moments since I started to understand clicker training.

Mark off your calendars... and start saving your dollars.

Griffin on the way home from KY ClickerExpo 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One Problem Solved

For months, we've been dealing with what was initially thought to be a bee sting.... and then just unidentifiable lameness.

After calling 20 clinics, I found someplace that does not the 3dx, but the 4dx snap test. And on one hand, that wasn't ultimately necessary, Griffin has Lyme disease, which both test for.

Interestingly, friends and his breeder and family... who all live in very different areas... initially thought of this. And if our vets here had been on top of it, he could have been treated months earlier.

We had a really great vet experience. My only complaint is that I wanted Griffin muzzled and they didn't want to. With Blaze I would have insisted, but with Griffin it would take a lot for him to bite. Griffin really is not happy about restraint after all of his recent experiences. In his April appt, he was great, but too much has happened since then. The vets realized the restrained resulted in an adorable bucking they tied him to the wall and just pet his head. And it all went much better. I wasn't surprised at Griffin's response. But I was very surprised with their ability to problem solve and the willingness to do a blood draw in a not so restrained dog!

Months later and hundreds of dollars later, and a lot of concern later..... all should be well! Moral of the story? Vets (and dog owners!) here underestimate the prevalence and symptoms of tick diseases.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tracking Fun

Our friend Megan is very enthusiastic about tracking. And she teaches tracking at 4H Camp. I'm supervising and feeding and don't get to learn about tracking. But I've picked up a little from the campers and reading online. She gave me a lesson after camp last year and mailed me a book to borrow.

Every few months I halfheartedly try with Griffin. And it doesn't go well.

But this week something changed. For the first time ever, he sniffed the ground as he went. I could tell he was working! And the next day it went better than usual but not quite as great. Third day? Wow! He was pulling and head down as soon as we left the house (10 steps from the track start. I'm lazy!). And he skipped the first few food drops, going right over the line. Very soon he got to his first corner. And followed it. And his second. I was so proud!

So the question is... what's the difference from this week and last month? I think it's all of our retrieve work. In an effort to be silly with our retrieve, I've been hiding the retrieve items around the house....and ask for him to find it. He sniffs it out, mouth closed, focused. It's quite adorable!

Senior Dogs

Every February I go to a vet conference that is in my area. It's one of the bigger events, and so we're lucky to have 1-2 behavior tracks every day. There's occasionally great behavior speakers in the shelter track or the vet tech track too.

Much of the focus is on behavior problem treatment and puppy/kitten training/prevention of problems. Sometimes there are talks about nutrition and behavior or working with trainers and enrichment.

Last year, there were more than one talks emphasizing an overlooked aspect of companion animal behavior: the treatment and prevention of senior cognitive dysfunction/decline.

There was a lot of vet-pertinent information given (nutrition, diagnosing cognitive dysfunction, medication options) and a lot that's appropriate for me to pass on to students either directly or to comment on even for those in class with puppies (food toys are great ---forever!).

A few of those points:
- Appropriate exercise.
- Learning new behaviors is good, and important, even for senior well behaved pets.
- Enrichment activities (food toys, new scents, walks in other locations).
- New experiences (places, learning things, different toys and chews...)

I'm trying to be good about adding and keeping these things as part of Blaze's life, even though he's far from a normal senior dog to start with!

Off to the tug workshop and to get Blaze's new meds.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Workshop Preparations

We're running quite a few workshops at PosiDog this summer/fall. This month we had Flyball and Tug. Next month we have Tug, Tricks, and Advanced Obedience Skills.

In an effort to not do cleaning today, I started the outlines for my sessions (Tricks and Adv. Obed). I did the tricks last fall and will do some of the same things and have some modifications.

I'm considering adding video due to poor Griffin not yet being fully trained in the skill of "Demo dog." I'll need to either get a new camera, find mine, or borrow one. We'll give one last car-cleaning tomorrow and then I'll give up hope on finding it.

The obedience one will be especially fun, we ran some of the activities during 4-H camp in June. But it's also the workshop that is less likely to fill, given our client base and their interests. Obedience is FUN!

Tricks workshop will be about different types of tricks (motion, position, props, nose and foot) and the other factors to consider (props, cues, discrimination). Fairly straightforward. It's a balance of providing new and fun and challenging things for those signing up, but also a lot of successes early on without compromising good training skills.

Here's one of Luna's many tricks!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Responsible dog owners

We all know the things that Responsible Dog Owners should do. We need to clean up after our dogs, be sure of good manners in public, keep our dogs quiet and under control, have our dogs healthy....

But a much-overlooked part of responsible dog ownership is "Education."

When someone asks to pet your dog,and especially if it's kids, get them to pat your dog on the shoulder, not the top of the head.

When people make incorrect or inappropriate remarks about your dog, politely, quickly comment. "Yes he's a xyz. Yes they can be great dogs. Many people don't realize this."

And if someone doesn't clean up after his or her dog...offer a bag.

My family just got back from a vacation. Their first comments had to do with how "dumb" dog people are. While at the beach "a million" dogs were running around off leash. To which I thought "Yes...that's what dogs do!" But the problem was more that dogs were eliminating everywhere. And owners were not cleaning up. And dogs were peeing on the beach-goers picnic supplies and towels. And I have no excuses for that.

I'm really glad to know there are beaches were dogs are allowed off leash. I'm just sad it might not be that way much longer!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Preparing for Class: Feeding and exercise

It's always a challenge to learn how to best help individual dogs be prepared for class.

Some dogs need to be fed, some should not be, some should be fed part of a meal. Some dogs need exercise, some don't, some need just a little but not certain types.

With my own dogs I haven't yet found the perfect balance.

Blaze: Feeding before or after does not make a big impact. Possibly feeding before will decrease harder treat grabs. Exercise used to not make a difference (he was wild with or without it!). But due to his 9.5 year old body, exercise before hand can physically tire him out and lead to a session harder on his body, he will keep working as long as I ask.

Luna: She's not always the best eater, I typically do not feed her before class, and sometimes only half at the meal before that. Ultimately, dealing with her stress appropriately will be a better plan than just trying to increase the value of the reinforcer. If she gets a walk at the class location she is sometimes able to perform better. Luna doesn't have the best endurance and a long exercise period can wear her out.

Griffin: Again, not the best eater. If we've done a lot of exercise that day I will feed him part of a meal so he is not starving, but typically we'll feed after class. Exercise, I'm just not sure about! He is a dog that performs better when he's tired, much more steady and reliable and accurate. But his speed and bouncy enthusiasm can be a bit less. I'm not sure what's better at this point, but I suppose our obed. performance really doesn't need to be super bouncy!

His best work has always been the week after 4-H camp. Very reliable and precise and good work. I wish I could provide him that sort of enrichment on a more regular basis.

Griffin had his first group class in 5 weeks (and only has had about 6 formal group lessons this year!) tonight and was very good. We had an early morning walk, he was crated while I taught an hour. We went to a park for a short walk and training session and then sat while I worked for a few hours. And then had class. Now he's very asleep.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Breaking all the rules

We're not big on following general rules of "dog households."

My youngest dog doesn't have a formally trained verbal recall. I very rarely insist on nice walking. We don't always insist on behaviors before feeding.... I feed my dogs while I'm at the table/counter/desk... I pet for pushy behaviors by Griffin and Luna (as I referenced earlier today!).

At a Silvia Trkman seminar earlier this year, she discussed an article she saw along the lines of 10 ways to a well trained dog. And all the tips were about suppressing behavior, not about encouraging and reinforcing behaviors.

Since then, with my own dogs, I've been careful that while we do have stationary behaviors (and great ones!), our daily interactions are more about active behaviors and interactions.

Griffin just brought me a sock. And we tugged. Our not-yet-amazing tugging behavior was reinforced. Picking up an object was reinforced. Spending time with me was reinforced. Bringing me objects was reinforced (rather than running off and chewing...not that HE does that but the others do!). We tugged a little. Outed. I saw it was a sock-with-a-hole. So we tugged and tugged and tugged. And outed. And played.

Will he bring me lots of socks and clothing? Maybe. Do I care? Yes...for him, I like it! Will I be taking socks to class? Probably.

Would I recommend this in a pet home? Probably not... but...I'm not sure why we have so much...distaste for "touching human objects." It would be so easy for him to be in a typical pet home with these behaviors. Bring a sock. out on cue. Occasionally tug a bit with appropriate items.

Go break a few of the silly "dog rules" that exist and create your own, better, rules!

Petting as a Reinforcer

Over the last day we've been running an experiment of sorts. Any sticky targets or head-on-ground (when within my arm reach!) will get some petting/scratching. Sometimes I will pet for a long time, usually just a quick scratch, pause, and re-scratch if head is still in position.

And what has happened? Sticky targets have increased. By a lot! Griffin is coming over and his first interaction is to sticky target my arm or lap. It's especially adorable if he's standing and does not sit/down first.

Petting is more reinforcing than I expected. Griffin is learning how to solicit attention. And he is asking for it more often.

I don't expect this to be effective at the park or out in public and probably not even outside. But it's adding to what we have available, increasing our interactions, and adding to the reinforcement history for sticky targets. And it's just cute.

End of the 4-H year

In many ways I want to say "finally!" but on the other hand I'm going to really miss working with the kids every week!

I'm absolutely amazed at how well the dogs were. They've been working since February/March, mostly in the elem. school "multipurpose room" or in the back parking lot and at home. We had one fun show at a local quiet part. Most of the dogs had never been in an environment with so many people and so many dogs. And they did SO well with it. I just don't get how these kids are getting the dogs so focused and responsive in that environment without all the training (and excuses) the rest of us have! (not to say everything was perfect or all teams do well...but very few dogs seem distressed by the environment!).

Fair yesterday went pretty well. Everyone was in the right class. Everyone was able to get through the ring experiences without any real disasters. I learned some things to better prepare for next year.

We had five 'first year' members this year, which is not typical at all (well, we started with seven, now are down to 5). ALL are super enthusiastic and ALL have super enthusiastic and helpful parents!

And now for the results.... 2/3 of the entries were placements! And we had three firsts! But ahem, those aren't the most important parts... the kids learned a ton and I hope to get most of them ready to do obedience next year, not just the showmanship and "dog care."

The other cool news is next year we'll have Rally at our fair and possibly agility! It's about time! Many counties (and with MUCH smaller entry numbers!) are offering those at the county level.

Camera is still missing... I have hope it will turn up... but that's decreasing...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Training Group: Retrieve and Duration Heeling

Long stays and duration to heeling are the things I'm most concerned about for obedience. The training plans for all the other behaviors, including the stand for exam, seem so much easier for my wiggly dog.

Today at training group we worked on retrieve and duration heeling:

Set 1: Training buddies held Griffin, with the dumbbell held in front. I called. He grabbed the dumbbell and ran to me. I clicked for the "running to me". We repeated this, extending how far away the dumbbell was and started keeping it closer to the ground.

Set 2: We started with me asking for fronts with the dumbbell (dog close) to get Griffin thinking and responding. We then did reps of "dumbbell between us, grab and come". And then set the dumbbell behind him. Griffin had to get the dumbbell and then come. Initially he gave wide loops, and considered bringing the dumbbell to whoever was closest to him. After the first few he was still either very wide or very tight. We did a few reps with me riling him up and then sending, with me running off. Definitely more speed and super tight turns.

We discussed what I had worked on, what we needed and the limitations at home (no place to go 100 steps in a pristine environment). Heeling was beautiful. We did a full pattern. He was lost for half a step after a right turn and generally after eating. But he matched pace, was attentive and didn't falter from his position. Modifications were made and I started stopping to feed (still clicking in motion). Not only did this solve the "getting lost after feeding" but his heel position was a little more behind me. I don't have a real explanation for that at this time.

What I'll be working on after these sessions:
- More dumbbell to front.
- Tight turn after grabbing. Maybe with objects other than the dumbbell for now.
- Increase duration at home as well as in new places. But don't push it.

My camera is missing... It was passed around at the fun show last week and hasn't turned up. Today Griffin and I went to check there (...yeah..10 days later...) and found nothing. If it doesn't turn up in the next few days, I'll be on the search for another camera....

Thursday, August 5, 2010

State Fair Part II: A.B. Graham

A. B. Graham was the founder of 4-H, the first part of the program started just over 100 years ago.

Today, I took Griffin to the Ohio State Fair Jr. Dog Show. We did a bit of a training demo and helped teams with their training. I also just had a really great time with my dog. He was relaxed. He barked only a little. He would lie on his side. He performed well in the 90* temperatures. With the ~80-100ish kids and dogs and parents around. I was very happy. We definitely have room for improvement, but the amount of eye contact and "what now" made me very happy.

At one point, an older man came over while I was chatting with a camper. She talked to him a bit and offered him a cookie I made. Griffin pretty much jumped on him. The guy pet Griffin. I realized the cookies weren't all that good. He walked away. And then I found out he's the grandson of AB Graham and was there to pass out some awards. How embarrassing. Not only did my dog jump on him, but he experienced my cooking.

I really had a great time with campers. My favorite parts:
- Campers helping with CGC tests
- The participation from past campers. We had at least 12 campers participating in activities...and in just about everything: poster, assistance dogs, rally, agility, obedience, showmanship, skillathon, petpals and would have had freestyle if the weather cooperated! AND we had some great placements too!
- Getting emails afterwards about campers wanting more training and competition info...for obedience!
- Watching some "good training". One of our campers was working with Griffin today. She was training him to "shake" his foot. I helped her a little. Very quickly she was asking me to do the treats while she did the clicks, cueing, and hand part. I was SO proud!
- Amazing sportsmanship. Two campers were present for all/part the week to help. Everyone else did some helping out too... so proud. And great behavior when things went well and didn't go well. Encouraging other kids. Talkign about how great camp is and how much fun they have. I was really proud.
- And of course the campers loving my dog. The one we spent a lot of time with today is in love with him too... "His face is so cute!"

And because of what AB Graham did...the 4-H program grew to what it is today. And I get to know these really fabulous kids and spend time with them!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

State Fair Week

As part of the Ohio 4-H Dog Committee, I've been helping out at the State 4-H dog show every day.

Day 1: Showmanship, "Dog care" [discussion/knowledge/care of dog evaluation), rally, skillathon [knowledge of breeds/parasites/body parts].
Day 2: SubNovice and Novice obed, skillathon, rally, dog care, service dogs, team obed.
Day 3: All higher levels of obed, advanced team, brace, rally, freestyle.
Day 4: Drill team, ? ? ? ? Agility fun

The first day I stewarded for a few hours, getting kids in the right order to go in the ring for the group/gaiting parts. It was fun to talk to the kids while they were waiting. Then I got rushed off to run CGC tests. I grabbed one of our campers and wrangled her into helping. We did about 20 tests in 3 hours with a few slow periods. We had a system down! She would help people fill out the papers and then get them to a clipboard, I"d run the test, call her over with her helper dog for the "friendly dog" portion. And then my crowd (two parents, assigned to help us!) would do their thing and then they would hold the dog while we got set up for the next kid. Pass rate was only about 50%. More on that later.

Second day, I stewarded for the Novice B ring. Great view of my kids when they were in the Novice A ring nearby! In the afternoon I got a different set of campers to help. We only did five tests in two hours... no one came over. But it was great to spend time with the campers!

Today: I helped move ring gating and set up between classes. I ran a "training ring" for kids to come over and get training help... but with the 100* temps and high humidity and low turnout (not a lot of kids in advanced levels!)...there was a super low turnout.

Tomorrow I'll probably take a dog to demo with. At times like this I really wish I was more caught up on training everyone even if I don't intend to compete! Maybe this will motivate me to do more.

Things I've thought about:
- I SO wish I did more when I was in 4-H. I'm very jealous of all the kids!
- Our campers are the best. SO helpful and encouraging and helping others. I love them!
- I want to better help 4-H'ers!
- I need to find ways to help our club members enjoy obedience more and work harder and be more successful.
- The program overall is good, but we can improve it ("make the best better").
- CGC failures were almost all due to dogs not being able to sit without a collar pop. Why were kids trying to take the test if they knew their dogs couldnt sit without that?!