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Friday, January 30, 2009

Weaves 2x2 - outdoors

Today I took my 2x2 weave pole training outside with Ru. Since I'm moving from my confined & sterile living room to the spacious outdoor pasture, I wisely chose to start my weave work from the beginning.

Ru tends to get VERY excited when we go out to the pasture because that's our "play land". The agility equipment is out there, we throw balls/Frisbee's/bumpers and whatever other toy we have and encourage our dogs to stretch their legs and have fun.

Ru and I started tugging on our toy and when she just about ripped my arm off, I knew she was hyped (and I've never felt that much power from her before!). For the first 3 attempts, Ru passed by the weave entry with her eyes glazed over by enchantment for the rustling leaves, the coastal breeze and anything else that caught her attention. I have to laugh, I've never really seen her that hyped before!

The fourth time was a charm, she made the "entry" (going through the gate perpendicular) and off she went with her toy. It took a few minutes for her to burn a bit more energy off and bring the toy back. The next attempt, it was clear to me that she IS pausing at the entrance of the weaves (this is when I start to toss the toy). To get her to move her entire body through, I began tossing the toy only when her back legs were beyond the base. We did a few more reps (working both sides) and that seemed to do the trick.

Tomorrow we'll go back to the same place and do it again. My ultimate goal is to have Ru taking the "entry" from any side, any angle, driving through them and with any distractions.

I should probably note that Ru's training would more than likely move along much faster if I trained several times a day for about 3 minutes. I have to be honest, I'm not interested in moving it along that fast with her and prefer to work my 3 minute sessions on other base work. Burton, our other dog who is about 6 months older than Ru is a perfect candidate for the extended weave training.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Weave 2x2 - Chapter 2 on DVD

So my goals for today's mini weave pole session was

  1. to have faith in the toy that I throw, so I've changed over to a braided material that is light (i.e. can't break vases or a window), is long enough for Ru and I to tug on and I can confidently throw
  2. To observe how willing Ru is to go to and interact with the poles
  3. To observe the number of repetitions and count how many are successful/not
  4. Start with Perpendicular poles and move to the poles in the 8 & 2 o'clock position, keeping the success
  5. As always, have fun!
  6. Keep it short, to 1-2 minutes tops
I'm still in my living room and using 2 poles. I'm starting with the 2 poles perpendicular to me and we work only in 1 direction.

Just as I was pulling out the poles, I stepped away to move an unrelated object in the room and saw Ru dart between the poles. Yeah! That tells me she's recognizing them and knows the first action. We did the poles 3 more times (with me moving so the dog is on my right and on my left sides at different times). Ru was successful each time and without hesitation. I played with her after each rep as a reward and to get her nice and excited for the task at hand.

I then moved the poles to the 8 & 2 position. Ru easily continued the game and we did 5 more reps - all with success & play between reps.

In keeping with my goal of a short training session, we stopped there and continued our play. Ru is quite happy with the toy and gets very excited to be working.

Now that I'm confident with our living room training, tomorrow I'll move our session outdoors. Since I'll be in a new environment, I'll start our training from scratch (straight poles) and add a bit of distance. I want Ru to really drive to the poles - getting the correct "entry" of course!

25 Random Things About Me

I was recently 'tagged' and asked to provide a little information on me. I remembered a few things I'd almost forgotten, so I thought I'd share. If anyone wants to add their 25 Random things, feel free!


1. I was raised in the Midwest (just outside of Chicago, IL) and moved to Seattle, WA about 5 years ago.

2. I have a degree in Criminal Justice, - I was originally interested in Law Enforcement but quickly realized I was far too gullible for that career. Instead I went on to get a degree in Business Administration and actively used my law background in Human Resources. My last position in that field was with Boeing as an Investigator.

3. Whatever you want to call it, I believe in a higher plane/God, etc. I don't see it as religious, but rather spiritual.

4. When I was 14, I once hitchhiked on the advice of a friend who wasn't the best influence. Let's just say I'm a very lucky girl and never did that again.

6. Suduko is my favorite!

7. 20 years ago while helping me with Calculus homework, an Engineering friend informed me that I'd never use it again - so far, they've been right!

8. I have a concealed gun permit and a registered handgun. That also means I have a clear background check : )

9. I'm a wine drinker with Washington & Australian wines being some of my favorites. Don't worry, I don't mix drinking and shooting!

10. I have a dream that all dog trainers will treat the people around them the same way they treat their dogs. With a smile, a warm voice, openness, respect and sincerity. This seems to be a lost art....

11. Tivo is my friend! Chuck, Designed to Sell, Enterprise, The Mentalist....but usually not reality TV.

12. My grandmother was very talented and got me started in oil painting at the age of 4.

13. I create & sell custom high end jewelry using silver, gold and natural stone. I've been commissioned to create custom jewelry to match a bridal gown and have created custom pieces for my client's significant others.

14. Pinky was my first dog. I could never have imagined the world she opened me up to - Agility, Obedience, Judging. She brought me new friends (most of whom are now old friends, a husband & terrific family).

15. Yes, I am one of the few who met their husband while doing agility.

15. I'm from the Midwest where food equates to love, so, I enjoy cooking.

16. This city-girl once helped show sheep (the ones with big pointy horns!) at the WA State Fair. When we got into our place for the judge's review, I said "Kona, Stay!" The owner laughed and told me sheep didn't know commands. I responded "But, she's doing it!" The sheep didn't move the entire time and we still laugh at my dumb luck.

17. Since moving to WA, I rarely wear makeup and am very happy with that decision.

18. Seattle has the highest suicide rate of any other city in the U.S. and quite a few people here are unhappy and negative. I wonder if Happy Pills were invented with Seattle in mind...

19.I learned I was a fighter - When I was 24, I was diagnosed with a genetic disease that makes my immune system attack my own body. There are days I know that without my dogs, I'd never get out of bed. They make me fight to continue to move forward and to focus beyond myself.

20. My darkest time - I lost my first dog this year, he was young and to make things hard, I made & bare the decision of putting him to sleep. This event threw me into a tailspin and I felt caught in a feedback loop of emotion (the loss, the guilt in "killing" my dog, etc.) and the logic that we all try to put on the passing of a soul.

21. I'll often tell my Agility students "Run" and "One more time!" One day the sentences combined as they came out of my mouth and became "Run More Time!". We've kept it ever since.

22. Why is it that when dog's fart they don't even blink, but when you fart, they turn and smell their butts?

23. At the age of 36 I had cataract surgery (remember #19). The best thing that came out of it - no more contacts or glasses!

24. In the past, my idea of learning a lesson had been to see the situation, think "I'll bet that would be a bad idea...", decide to do it and then think "Yeap, I was right - bad idea!"

25. I've learned that ultimately, your outlook on a situation is sometimes the one and only thing you can control.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Weave Training - Kind of....

Well, I had planned to do some weave training with Ru this evening, but after feeling not so well today, watching a puppy, teaching a few classes - I'll admit, the thought of coming home and just cuddling up with the dogs won out over training.

I have however, dug up a soft tug toy that I'm comfortable throwing (i.e. won't break a window if I'm indoors) and yet I can still tug with my girl.

I also started my beginner dogs on the basic "going through the gate" on weave work and I have to admit, I'm jealous. Dan and Burton did GREAT and Burton is far more driven than Ru is...I'll need to figure out - is it me not quite working enough drive with Ru, or is is Burton outdoors just thrilled with going after treats?

Tomorrow I'll do a test on both, indoors, and let you know! Then I'll move the experiment outdoors and...let you know!

In the meantime, sleep well and I'm off to care for my stuffy nose.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Weaves 2x2 Chapter 1 & 2

Tonight was the second mini-lesson for Ru on the 2x2 weaves. I started training in my livingroom and of course it snowed last night so there was no moving our training outdoors. To top it off, I'm sick with a cold so we'll only have 1 mini session today.

I started with the 2 weave poles perpendicular to us so the "gate" was the simple "go through the poles". After a very brief moment, Ru went between them and I tossed the toy and played with her. After doing that a few times, I moved the 2 poles to the 8 & 2 o'clock position. Ru got it right away, but it began to deteriorate after that first success.

Part of the issue is that she appears to be stopping/pausing (even though I toss the toy and then she continues) at the entry. Part of this may be I'm slow at tossing the toy and I also think that a part of the issue is that all of the things I've been shaping and rewarding has a "stop" at the end (i.e. her 2 on 2 off contact behavior, her stay, her play bow, etc.). Of course I am training in the house and I'll admit a little fearful of tossing a toy toward a window!

I can't wait to get outside so I can encourage her to run more and have the room to stretch and play on a larger scale. In the meantime, I want to be sure I'm not reinforcing a stop/pause prior to going through the poles....

A wonderful thing is that Ru has a ton of drive and really likes to play. Her tail just wags and wags and wags while we're training!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Weaves 2x2 - Chapter 1

Today I started the basics of weave training. I've decided to use Susan Garrett's 2x2 method since I prefer shaping obstacles and I like the concept of working entries immediately. Besides, I've trained with every other method and want to continue developing my Agility Skills.

I've started this method with some of my students and really liked what it did for them, however those that didn't have poles at home were less likely to succeed while those who did work at home progressed very nicely.

Things I like about the video so far (Introduction, Chapter 1 & 2):
  • Susan talks about letting dogs figure things out on their own
  • Encourages very short (1 minute) training sessions
  • Promotes having fun and keeping it a game
  • Shows how to do things with an inexperienced dog
  • I like that the "line" or "path" the dog is to consistently take is reviewed and
  • Susan addresses how the dog should only go in 1 direction at all times
Things I wasn't as excited about:
  • The main thing that really caught my attention was the poor video quality. When paying almost $70 for a DVD, I was unpleasantly surprised by this. The picture is very grainy at times and I was constantly distracted by the squares on Susan's face (low pixel quality I assume) during "close-ups" while she is talking. Watching a distorted face was very distracting and might also explain the next bullet point.
  • There's a lot of talking. I'll admit, I got bored quickly as some of the information was very basic (a good thing to have in a how to video, but things I already knew) - regardless, Susan is sharing a lot of great information that is good to consistently hear.
Overall, no surprises on the video so far and so I began with Ru.

  • I first put all of the other dogs away as they have a way of barging in on the play!
  • I kept my session short (maybe 3 minutes, including lots of play).
  • I started w/ 2 poles in my livingroom, treats & a tug toy that Ru loves
  • I started out with treats, but quickly went to the tug toy as it was more exciting to her
  • Getting her to go between the poles progressed very fast. At first she offered up all kinds of actions (sit, down, play bow, putting her back feet on an object near me, etc.). I simply ignored those actions and when she looked at the poles, I tossed the toy so that she'd have to go through the poles to get the toy.
  • After that, she moved in to the poles (to go between them) quickly.
  • After I tossed the toy and she brought it back, we'd tug and play.
  • A quick session and then we were done for the moment.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Training the Teeter

With past dogs, I've trained the teeter various ways.

Pinky was taught to stop at the pivot, push and then walk down - that was 12 years ago and I won't be returning to that method!

Spot was terribly afraid of the teeter and I had to make a compromise with him - if I wanted to do Agility, I was going to have to adjust to what HE could offer me, not necessarily demand what I wanted. The compromise was that I taught him to down at the pivot point. Flattening himself made him feel secure and over the years the teeter has turned into what I would have hoped for, with no pressure from me, Spot began to like the teeter and now he goes into the yellow and rides it down.

Coal had the best teeter of all as he was taught to go to the end of the board and ride it down. He loved the movement and loved his teeter.

With Ru, I'd like the same teeter performance as Coal. Since Ru has had quite a bit of 2 on 2 off training, she tends to offer that behavior at the end of the teeter. I have to be consistent in my desire to have her run to the end and ride it down. She's comfortable with the movement and has been on moving things since she was 4 weeks old (the breeder was great about that).

At this time, she's just starting to offer consistency on going to the end of the board and riding it down - of course we're still at the point where I'm helping with the board until the consistency level hits at least 90%.

Basically, I need to be working this on a daily basis for at least 3 minutes a day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Agility "System"

The latest and hottest trend in Agility these days is to be a part of a "System".

For those that hadn't heard of a "System", it's a set of rules designed by a specific trainer that handlers (such as yourself) must follow while handling your dog on course. You see, there are several different trainers that have come up with different systems and most are making a pretty good buck selling DVD's, Books, Magazine Articles, Yahoo Group Memberships and more. There is quite a following of each trainers system and often times mini-arguments will ensue on course during a walk through when different fractions (and even amongst those of the same system) disagree on how a particular challenge should be handled.

Having come from a Training background with extensive experience in Adult Learning Theory, I firmly believe that People are individuals and our dog's don't all fit into a cookie cutter training plan as well. I also have to admit that on a personal level, I enjoy the challenge of tailoring my handling to each of my dog's strengths and weaknesses and love engaging my brain to solve the Agility Course puzzle presented to me vs. having a handling system dictate how I should run. I think most people feel that way since that's where the satisfaction begins and it allows me and you to take full responsibility (good or bad) for whatever the training outcome is.

As I mentioned before, Systems do have some great parts! I'd be lying if I didn't say there was an item or two, or three that I'd embraced from each of the Systems I've seen. I might like them for myself, or I might like them for one of my clients. However, a system is only as good as you train and you can train ANY system, so I really can't say one is better than the other or that's the way to go.

Do you need a system? Systems do have good information and they come up with some great terms for maneuvers most of us have already been doing for years. Heck, everyone likes a hard and fast rules in life - however, life isn't about hard and fast rules and I don't think Agility is either so I'll say "Maybe, but I'd venture to say the best System you could come up with is something that is intuitive for YOU and your dog and then incorporate consistency in your training."

The word INTUITIVE is important. If you can't remember a skill, don't understand why you're doing something, don't move like a finely-tuned athletic 25 year old or simply want Agility to be your hobby, then don't feel you're doing something wrong by not joining the "System Bandwagon".

Finally, I'm often asked what System I use. I have to say the System of Common Sense. Basically, I believe in strong team communication (generally done with body language, which is the dog's first choice in interaction), positive training which shapes correct behaviors (I like a thinking dog!) and I treat my clients the same as I treat their dogs - with respect, kindness and encouragement to try new and different styles to see what works best for them. Oh, and most importantly, I want my clients to succeed!

Young Dog Skills for Life, Obedience & Agility

My puppy, Ru (short for Rouge), turned 1 year old on Jan 5th. Although small and petite, she's still a growing girl and up until now, there wasn't too much I could directly do in Agility (and I'm fine with that). However, there have been training skills we've been working on.

She's been active in:
  • Conformation
  • Socializing with the world
  • Playing and getting to know all kinds of people and different dog breeds
  • Working on her basic obedience & home skills (sit, down, stand, stay, walking on a loose leash, ignoring distractions, going on car rides, hanging out at dog shows, etc.
  • working a 2 on 2 off position on a flat board in our living room
  • working on Agility Flat Work such as a rear cross on the ground, a front cross, following the lead hand, etc.
  • Trick training such as crawling in a suitcase, playing with cardboard boxes, balance boards, etc.
I think any positive interactions you can create with and for your puppy will add to their experiences and make them a more well-adjusted dog as well as a positive family member.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Burton's Break Thru - Why Obedience & a Strong Bond are important.

Burton, my husband's newest Chocolate Lab, has been with us for about 4 months now and is about 18 months old.

When we first got him, while well-loved and cared for, Burton was 20 lbs. over weight and typical of a young dog, was very energetic and in need of a lot of exercise to burn off some of his exuberance. As is typical when going to a new home, he didn't exactly listen to us at first (I'm sure he was thinking "Who the heck are YOU?!?!) and so with patience and love, we taught him the rules of our house.

While Burton did have previous training, it was important for us to build a rapport & review the skills with him. Some of the things we worked on:
  • Recalls - since it is our job to keep Burton safe, a solid recall is a must to keep him out of trouble. I love making this a fun thing for the dogs so they come running when they hear "Come!"
  • "Please - may I?" - before Burton could go out a door, have his leash put on, be fed and even petted, we required him to SIT first. In a sense, this was his way of asking "Please". This made him think about his actions and required him to control himself. A good lesson for him, but we reap the benefits as well. After all, he wasn't knocking us out of doorways, jumping on us, spilling food, etc.
  • Walking WITH us (i.e. next to us vs. pulling us down the road). Since we're the leaders of our dogs, things like walks should go at our pace. This prevents broken backs, longer arms and potential mishaps on walks, but also, it teaches Burton to look to us, to ignore distractions and he gets rewarded for all of these things!
  • Stay & Release Word - Stay is a great exercise to teach Burton to control his impulses and to listen & understand the one word that means he is done. We love to train this game and one of the ways is by playing hide & seek in the house.
After 4 months, Burton's really blossomed, bonded, gained confidence and it was very apparent this evening as we did some beginner Agility training.

Dan did some basic tunnel work, taught him the chute and began rear-crosses on these obstacles to get him (and Dan) used to the body language and handling that's envolved. Burton was loving it!

I had started shaping the beginnings of Burton's 2 on 2 off contacts using a board on the ground several weeks back. I love this ground work because it forces the dog to think about their back legs. It wasn't always easy - when I first started, he was still very young, overly excited, wiggly and a chomper when it came to taking treats. However, now that we have the basics on his obedience/house rules training, we've been far more successful on his Agility Training.

Tonight Burton was really offering up and becoming much more rear-leg aware - it was neat to watch! I tend to let the dog figure things out and reward the desired steps, while Dan wants to jump in and manage the actions himself, which is typical of most humans .

Either way, Burton is a champ at going with the flow and really enjoys himself when it comes to training time.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Potential Fargo (think the movie) WI

Well, the day started off like this - a very nice lady picks me up and says "I don't want you to get scared that we're leaving town and heading out to the middle of no where...I really am bringing you to the trial site..." My response was "Yeah, I saw the movie Fargo!" Luckily, no creepy adventures to report, no wood chippers in sight and everyone was friendly and nobody said said "egh?" (only those from WI & MN will probably understand that joke).

I do miss the Midwest! Not the cold mind you. Heck, the snot froze in my nose when I breathed in and I heard they did a test to see how long a cracked egg would take to freeze outdoors in a pan (BTW, it was 3 minutes). But the people really are the salt of the earth! It was so nice to hear people cheering for each other, sighing when a dog took an unexpected wrong course and just laughing when the handlers were lost on course. There was no talk of "How fast..." or who could beat who and the phrase "World Team" is never uttered. Heck, people didn't brag about "last week..." or say "I need..." instead they chatted about community things (did you know the local Farm & Fleet is having a big sale right now?), ate lunch together (someone brought homemade cookies) and everyone jumped in to help when needed. Just as I'd think I could use another bar setter, one would appear as if by magic.

There were no clicks of groups and nobody cared about who trained with who. As a matter of a fact, one of the BEST trainers I know of is here and she was the first person to step up to help, consistently sets a wonderful example as a person and choses not to travel because her family is her first priority. Anyone want to try to guess who that is?

Any way, coming back home to the Midwest has been wonderful and is something I hadn't realized how much I missed.

Frozen Tundra - 1st Morning

It's -17 here in the frozen tundra (commonly called Appleton, WI) and I'm thinking that if I hide under the covers, the club will never find me. I'm not ready for the Siberian Torture Experience!

The good news, I don't have to be ready until 10:30 their time so I slept in, walked in my PJs down to the lobby for breakfast, brought it back to the room and now sit with the covers wrapped around me. 

The hallway was warm. It was wonderful. I still can't figure out how to work the damn wall unit heater in my room. When I arrived last night the heat was off - yes, it was cold in there. Then the heater overtook the room and I could barely breath it was so hot. At some point in the night the "heater" turned itself to "cool" and by morning it was again cold! I wonder when I'll be overcome by heat again...probably just before I have to go out into that -17 weather. Did I mention they say it feels like -31 below with the windchill?

Reason #1 on why I left the Midwest is clear...although the fried cheese curds last night where really good! I'd forgotten how I missed them.

More later, if I survive the Siberian Torture Experience, Take 1.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ru's Bird "Gifts"

For months I've been telling Dan I think he should train our young Dalmatian, Ru, in bird hunting (after all, he trains his Labs). He's laughed, but I was so proud when the other day she noticed the local birds flying in the air and would chase them. Now I'm not so sure!

Yesterday and today, she's proven to be a bird dog. Each day she's brought me a bird as a gift. Unfortunately, they weren't fluttering by the time they got to me. I can't figure out if she's finding birds that have hit our window or if she's catching them herself. That will be the mystery I'm going to need to solve!