Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Whoo-hoo! We have a Whistle Sit!

Today on our morning walk, I asked for a lot of whistle Sits. They would go like this; Whistle Sit cue, Luna'd turn and start towards me (intending to Sit in Front), I'd immediately follow with the Hand Signal Sit, and she'd stop and Sit where she was. I consistently repeated this when she was a good way out in front of me.

At about 3/4 of our walk, I saw that she was beginning to anticipate the Hand Signal after the Whistle. So, I took a chance; 'Can you Sit where you are on the Whistle alone?' YES, she could! Whoo-hoo! Big party!

I repeated that two more times, for a total of 3 Sits in place on the Whistle cue alone, and each one got better and faster! C/T for me remembering to stop after the 3rd successful trial. ;-)

Obviously we'll be practicing this a lot more, and when she's nice and solid on the Whistle Sit, I'll start mixing it up with the Whistle Recall, so that she learns to really listen and discriminate between the two sounds. I'm confident she'll nail it, and then we're all set for the Gundog training week in January!

I use the same whistle, an Acme 211,5 for both cues; Sit is 'Piew!' and Come is 'Fuuut-Fuuut!'

Luna, you rock!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Training Log for Dec 18

Been a while! But we’re back now. I realized yesterday that it is only three weeks before our trip to Ameland, and there were some things I wanted to practice with Luna before that time. Today, we got started.

First I explained to her the ‘Sit’ whistle, or rather a ‘Place’ whistle because I’ll accept a Down too. So long as at least her butt’s on the ground, that’s good. And I know, if she’s really into it, she’ll Down. So, fine! Installing the whistle up close was a breeze, now we’re just working on getting her to respond immediately at a distance without coming toward me or needing a hand signal as a back-up. Besides that though, she did a good job!

Next, we moved on to retrieves. I decided to try some double retrieves, with two dummies relatively close to each other so that she would have to go back to the same spot to get the 2nd dummy. This was hard. She needed me to walk with her toward the general location, and I had to toss the 2nd dummy again twice. I don’t think her motivation was the issue though, which is a good sign, but rather the fact that the dummies got swallowed by 7 inches of snow. And sniffing them out seems to be quite a task. So, although we LOVE the snow, I do hope it’ll melt before our due date, or we won’t be able to practice retrieves! Oh well... At least by then we will have a Come- and a Sit whistle! Yay!

Other than that, we had a blast running through the snow, playing with a ball - see above image - and enjoying the outdoors.

On the food front; she’s been on the pre-ground raw mix now for two weeks and she’s doing great on it! Also, I bought a little less than 2 pounds of cheese as treats, and the thing isn’t even half used yet, so that means it actually lasts way longer than I thought it would. Nice!

I haven’t weighed her since, but I will do that in the next few days.

What else? Um.... well, we’ve been playing ball on the days I don’t have to walk our old Westie as well, and she’s very happy about that. I no longer have her Stay until the ball lays still, but I will not throw the ball until she stops and looks at me to see where it will go. This way, she doesn’t make weird moves trying to catch the ball in mid-flight, she slows down nicely before picking it up off the ground. Good girl!

I’ve also been letting her carry the ball when we encounter other dogs, as this has, in the past, helped very well in keeping her calm rather than throwing a fit at the other dog. When holding the ball, she’ll just high-step trot right past the dog and stop on the other side; ‘Will you kick my ball mom?’ I’ve noticed that I do have to insist she hold on to it, because if she lays down and releases the ball, the next step is that she’ll run up to the other dog, screams in its face and then runs back to get her ball and move on. It’s funny, in a way, but not good.

And I’ve decided to do some Bar Open - Bar Closed with other dogs as well; continuous feeding when we see another approaching dog, and then the feeding stops when the other dog is far enough away. That’s gonna cost me more cheese, but all the better if that means eventually she can Sit and be calm as a default, when other dogs show up. I’d like to get her to the point where she doesn’t need a ball in her mouth - which is really just management - but just go; ‘oh, a dog, look ma, I’m Sitting and looking at you!’ That would be nice.

Anyone has other ideas?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Training Log for Dec 3

Last night, on our last walk of the day, we had a fun training session. We worked on Heeling, Fronts, Finishes, and Down, Sit and Stand in motion, in that order. Her heeling - short stretches, 20-30 paces, some right about turns - was beautiful; tail wagging, looking up at me, her shoulder nicely lined up with my leg, and smiling happily. What a wonderful little lady.

Her Finishes often included a jump into position and a ‘Look at me go!’ face.

We did a Down in motion twice, then a Sit in motion twice - the first with an extra hand signal to remind her that Sit goes up, not down, she Downed anyway, I stopped and waited. ‘Oh, Sit!’ C/T! - and then I decided to see what she would do if I asked for a Stand in motion. Heeling, heeling, ‘Stand!’ and she Downed. I stopped a couple of paces away from her, intending to let her figure it out. Down didn’t get her the click. Sit didn’t get her the click. Down with her chin on the ground did not get her the click. Down on her side did not get her the click. Then, she said, ‘I don’t know!’ and she came to me and Sat. OK, let me help you! Heeling, heeling, heeling, ‘Stand!’ and my index finger lightly under her belly. She stood and remained standing as I walked on, Click & chase the ball! Repeated that another time, and then without reminding her of her back end. Heeling, heeling, ‘Stand!’ and I kept walking. She took 5 more steps & there was the Stand. YAY! Good girly! Get your ball!

Again. Heeling, heeling, heeling, ‘Stand!’ and I kept walking. She took 3 more steps and Stood. Whoohoo!

Again. Heeling, heeling, ‘Stand!’ and I kept walking. She took 1, maybe 2 more steps before standing. Eeh haw! Luna is the best dog in the world!

Wow. I was amazed. And SO proud. She was smiling and happy the whole time, even when I let her figure out the Stand on her own that first time. Such a difference from the sulking, hunched, insecure dog she was four years ago, in our traditional obedience classes. We ended the session with a little more ball play, and then I let her keep the ball as we continued on home.

I am super duper happy right now. What a fantastically smart dog!

Oh, by the way, the picture shows Luna at 4 years old, with the same happy face she had going all through last night’s session. I call it her ‘Wheehee!’ face. ;-)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Training Log for Nov 27

This morning we worked on Sit, Stand, Down at a distance, and Front on the street in front of the house.

This afternoon we took the dummybag to the driest field we have close by, as mud and consequently a very hard to clean black dog is not my idea of fun. We live on clay here, and wet clay sucks. ;-)

On the way to the field, about a 15-minute walk, we worked on Sits and Downs at a distance while Luna was trotting and running ahead of me. She did great! And the coolest thing I’ve discovered is that I can now say ‘Sit’ and she’ll sit without any sign of avoidance or discomfort. ‘Sit’ is our traditionally trained word for the Sit, and before, when I would use it, she’d sink into a sit, yawn and look away. Or worse, she’d lay down. Now, she gets the ‘yay, she asks me to do something!’-face and she does a perky Sit with no more yawning or looking away. Whoohoo! Took about a year to get to this point, but now I can clearly see that Sit=Fun hugely outweighs the Sit=Bad association. Classical Conditioning at its best!

Now, she will occasionaly still lay down instead of Sit, but that’s clearly an ‘I’m SURE you want me to Down’ rather than a sign of avoidance or feeling intimidated. In other words, it’s because she’s not listening to the cue.

On the field, we first did dummy retrieves. The first was simply the dog sitting at heel, tossing a dummy out ahead of us, and asking her to retrieve it. Repeated that another time. Then, I asked her to Sit, walked about 15 feet away, then tossed a dummy to the right. Asked her to come to me, turned to face the dummy and sent her to retrieve it from a Sit at heel. Repeated the same exercise with a dummy thrown to the left.

Then, I again placed her in a Sit, walked 15 feet away, tossed a dummy to the left and one to the right. Called her to me, lined her up and sent her to retrieve the 1st thrown dummy. She remembered it and went out in a nice straight line at good speed. Once she brought in the first dummy, I lined her up with the 2nd dummy and asked her to get that one. Again, success!

The last exercise I put her in a Sit, walked 15 feet away, tossed one dummy behind me and one to the right. First, I asked her to retrieve the one on the right, and then I turned with her toward the dummy behind me, and asked her to get it. She did it! Whoohoo! And, another thing worth mentioning, she delivered every retrieve right into my hand. Good girly!

With that, we quit the dummy retrieves and I tossed her ball a few times. Then, we spent some time playing with the ball, doing Leave It’s as I tossed it, throwing it as a reward for Sits, Downs and Stands, and I tried to get her to ‘speak’ by feigning to kick the ball a few times and saying ‘Whatdaya say?’ This gets her all revved up and every time she barked once, I kicked the ball. Great fun!

Then, I put the ball about 30 feet away and laid a track of kibble every two feet toward the ball while Luna held a Down Stay. Then I asked her to come and use her nose. She wanted to go straight for the ball, but then she caught scent of the kibble and put her nose to the grass. Yay! By the time she got to the ball she was so engrossed in finding the kibble that I had to tell her to get the ball, haha!

To finish, I laid a second track on pavement while Luna held a Sit Stay, about 40 feet with kibble every two feet. She did this one nicely again, overshot some of the kibble but then went back to collect it. She was a bit scattered throughout, so next time I’ll lay the track as Steve White does, which in the beginning is just a line of non-stop treats. He also uses water, which we might do too.

Then, on the way back home, we ran into a friend with a German Shepherd and we ended up going along on her walk, so all in all we had two hours of activity! Nice!

The picture shows Luna on her 2nd birthday, my little wolf! ;-)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Still overfeeding.

Oh! Aha!

I just weighed Luna again, and once again the scale said 70,5 pounds. Huh?!

So, today I did another calculation of how much food she's supposed to get, and I come up with 246 grams. In other words, she's still getting too much food (I was giving her 300 grams). Also, I'm thinking maybe this food is too rich for her. I don't want to feed her a tiny bit of food just so she won't gain weight.

Also, to give myself more room for treats other than her 'boring' - for which she works way too well - kibble, I think that when this bag of food runs out (I'm guessing another week or so) I'll put her back on the pre-ground raw meat mix I had her on before the kibble. Then I can use cheese, ground beef and chicken as treats (the raw mix is way too gross and stinky to use as treats, takes all day to get the stench off my hands!). AND she can eat a larger volume of food. AND she did fine on the pre-ground mix (that's what she was on in April).

Why did I change to kibble? Because I couldn't figure out how to have handy treats AND feed her the raw mix, without overfeeding. Now I've figured it out! So, in about two weeks she'll be back on the 'good-old' raw mix, and I'm really curious to see how she'll do!

Thanks for reading my food rambles. ;-)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wordless Thursday

For comparison with the picture in my previous post which shows Luna at her ideal weight (61 pounds);

This is Luna last July, at 70,5 pounds. I'll put her on the scale again tomorrow, but she already looks better now than she did in this shot!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Training Log for Nov 23

Worked on Heel, Sit, Stand, Down, Front, Finish. Used a Fantastic Foam ball as a reward. Dropped the ball from under my arm for a good Heel, Finish or Stand at my side, dropped it from the middle of my chest for a good Front, tossed it to her for positions at a distance.

Stand at a distance & Stand by my side were things we haven’t done before. She got the Stand at a distance in 2 trials, and the Stand by my side with use of a nose touch in about 4 trials. By then, she’d stand, touch my hand and then look at me; ‘I KNOW it is the Stand you want, NOT the nose touch!’ From there I began sticking my hand out as a reminder, and she wouldn’t even bother with touching anymore; ‘ah, look, I get it!’ So next time we’ll see if she can do it without a hint!

We worked on the street in front of our house, and her favorite neighborhood cat was also sitting outside in full view. Cars came by, but those never bother her at all. So, the distraction was definitely the cat, and I think she did great! I heeled her past the cat once, got great eye contact throughout, dropped the ball for her and she came right with me instead of saying hi to the cat. Another time before that, I had put the ball on the sidewalk, parallel to the cat on the other side of the street. We heeled away from the ball, turned back toward the ball, Finish, and I sent her off to go get the ball. She looked at the cat as she took off, but then went straight to her ball and brought it back to me. Yay!

We had fun!

The picture shows Luna last April, with a Zogoflex Huck ball, at her ideal weight of ± 61 pounds. Tomorrow I’ll know how close she is to reaching that weight!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just a thought.

Hmmm, I thought this morning that it was actually a good thing, Luna being used as a boxing ball by the black dog last Sunday. I have seen NOTHING indicating that her knee was affected by the event, and that means her knee has healed really well! Yay!

Also, Luna's weight is 69 pounds today. Cool! She's beginning to look like the sleek racing machine she was up to last spring.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Training Log for Nov 16

Another one of Luna at 4 months. All legs and ears!
Zen: 40 treats, in the kitchen on tile floor. C/T for staying away from open hand with treat for up to 10s, ignoring treats tossed toward her in a stand and down. For the latter I wait until she looks at me before I click and pick up the treat to give to her. Once, while she was laying down, I tossed a treat right under her nose, she went to take it, I cued 'Leave It' and she did! Mind you, by the time I could give her the cue she was already touching the treat. Wow! I practiced not giving the cue until AFTER the treat started to drop, which, in practice, meant that the treat was usually on the floor before I said anything. Good girl! 100% Success!

Down: 40 treats, in the living room on hardwood floor. I asked her to Down while I was standing, sitting, lying down, sticking my arms and legs in all kinds of directions, standing with my face against a wall, etc. On 5 trials she had no clue what I wanted, too strange a position. That still gives her a Success Rate of 87,5%! She's doing SO good!

Tuck Sit: 40 treats, on the long rug in the hallway to prevent her from slipping. I remembered to not have treats in my lure hand! She is doing quite good, although I am not sure if she really understands what I want from her. She performs the Tuck Sit about 90-95 percent of trials with the lure of my empty hand, but still... I would really like a way to explain this to her without needing that hand... See if I can come up with other explanations for her.

Around 2.30 PM we went cycling to the park, all in all it was about 11-12 miles. Luna was having a blast! Just before we went, a package was delivered with 3 Fantastic Foam balls in it, which I'd ordered a couple of days ago. We took one of those balls and a ball launcher, and both Luna and I thought they were great! VERY light, which was something I have to get used to, as before I used Hucks, and those are very HEAVY. Luna also loves their lightness, they bounce and escape when you pounce on them, what fun! Luna also had a swim going after the ball, and she had a great time playing with a White Swiss Shepherd friend of hers, a GIANT male. Together, they tore the male's frisbee apart, and Luna was making super cute shepherd-talk noises all the time; 'I'm a little lady, and I want to play, but you're so BIG! And I want your frisbee, but it's a little scary stealing it from you!' And barking, now and then, 'GIMME DA DAMN FRISBEE!' *Grin* We got home around 4.30 PM. Whew, a day just like 'the old days' before the knee injury, boy have we both missed those!

Total training time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Training Log for Nov 15

Luna at 4 months old. Those are some big ears!
This morning we worked on Zen, Down and getting a tuck Sit.

She was beautiful on the Zen exercises. I'd put my open hand with a treat on it in her face, told her to 'Leave It' and could easily count to 10 before clicking and dropping the treat to the floor. And WOW, she had solid eye contact the entire time! Great! When we're working on Watch she can't look at me without whining or moving or thinking she needs to do something else, and then I say 'Leave It' and she can do 10 seconds of solid eye contact. That's mean. And cool. I also tossed one treat at the time at her while cueing 'Leave It', and she nailed those, too! So, that's a 100% success rate!

Then, we had a little break playing tug, and moved on to the Down. She nailed it 100% of the first 10 treats, so I started moving myself around, sticking my arms and legs out and even lying down on the ground. Again, she nailed all of them but 2, where she really thought she should target my hand. Interesting. Even so, I'm really proud of her! 40 treats - 2 = 38 treats = 95% success! Whoo hoo!

In there, I dropped a treat by accident, Luna went after it, I cued 'Leave It' and she did!

Another game of tug, and then I decided to tackle the tuck Sit, where I want her to keep her front legs in place and scoot her back legs under herself. Found some tips in Kay Laurence's 'Learning Games' book, she said to hold one hand against the back of the dog's head so she couldn't slide backwards. I tried that a few times, which worked, but then I also learned that if I moved the treat to her nose and a little forward, she would also tuck her back legs under. Nice! So we have a tuck sit! No cue, and I am still luring her nose forward to prevent a back sit, but this is a promising start. Next session I will not put the treat in my lure hand, forgot to get rid of that this session. But again, I am proud of my little lady! Yay!

If anyone has more tips on how to explain the tuck sit to my girl, I'd love to hear them!

Later today we will be doing the Come Game, Name Game and Target. Don't know if I'll be able to post that stuff today as my brother usually steals the internet in the afternoon, but if I can post about that today, I will update this entry.

UPDATE: Training done last night included the Name Game, Target & Come Game. We also did some impromptu loose-leash work on the street in front of our house before dinner. That was fun!

Loose Leash: 40 treats on the street in front of our house. I started this because she is always searching for her 'best friend' the Maine Coon, a very bold cat that will come and greet her from time to time. I didn't see him myself, but I thought it was a nice opportunity to do some LL work. I would stand facing her, then turn and walk straight backwards past Luna, clicking when she released tension on the leash and actively followed. By the end of the 40 treats she more often than not kept the leash from moving at all. She'd come with me as soon as I got past her shoulder. Whoo hoo!

Name Game: 40 treats, paid for making eye-contact upon hearing her name. She was standing the whole time, so I will make sure that for the next session, she's in a different position. She locked on every time I said her name.

Target: 40 treats, paid for touching my target hand wherever it was. Jump up to touch it, reach down low to touch it, left, right, chase it to touch etc. She missed 4, every time I put my target hand down below my knees. Interesting... will explain that to her in smaller increments next session. Success rate: 90%!

Come Game: we played this on our last walk of the day, on the street in front of our house. She's not yet turning away from me automatically to get the next treat. I click when she turns toward me after collecting the treat I tossed away, then drop another treat between my feet. No cues yet, 40 treats makes for 20 complete away-and-back-to-me's.

Total training time so far, starting today; 1 hour.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Training Plan for Nov 15 to Nov 21

Luna, 8 months old on a gloomy autumn morning.
NAME GAME - 1 session a day, 40 treats. Intent is to get Luna to make eye contact when I say 'Wijffie'.

COME GAME - 1 session a day, 40 treats. Intent is to get Luna to come when called with the word 'puppy!'

SIT - 1 session a day, 40 treats. Intent is for Luna to perform a tuck sit, no cue yet.

DOWN - 1 session a day, 40 treats. Intent is for Luna to down with one hip over on the cue 'Down'.

TARGET - 1 session a day, 40 treats. Intent is for Luna to touch my target-hand (hand in fist, index and middle finger extended) with her nose on the cue 'Touch'.

ZEN - 1 session a day, 40 treats. Intent is for Luna to ignore my offered hand with a treat in it for 5 seconds on the cue 'Zen'.

In other news, I've been sloppy keeping this blog up to date!

On the exercise/health front Luna is doing great. We go cycling 5 miles every other day (yesterday we did 6 miles), and on the off-day we do ball retrieves 20-30 times. This means Luna stays until the ball I've tossed stops rolling, then she looks at me and I release her to go get the ball. She loves this game!

Yesterday at the park on our cycling trip, we met a very rude, typical 'I just wanna say hi!' dog. Black, about Luna's size, and he played like a battering ram. Luna's back legs slipped out from under her six times while they were 'playing' (ie. Luna was trying to escape while the dog kept bodyslamming her with an 'I'm having so much fun!' face) and the owners just said 'oh look, they're good playmates!' Uhm, no, they're not. This is the part where I really have to just get mad and not care about other people's feelings I guess, but I didn't want to make them feel bad so I said nothing. I hate when I do that. Luna actually fell once, and the dog knocked her full-speed into my bike twice. Gaaah!

Luna is way too soft when these things happen. It took the second slam into my bike before she made a half-hearted attempt to tell the black dog to knock it off. 

Finally, my brain kicked in somewhat and I grabbed the other dog by his harness when he came within reach. The owners leashed him and Luna and I continued on our trip. 

Thankfully, Luna's legs are still in good working order, she just has a little chafe on one of her hind legs.

I hope I won't let this go on next time it happens. It's simple, really... 'Could you please leash your dog, mine really doesn't think this is fun!'


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Training Plan for Nov 4 to Nov 7

Modified from a sample by Robin Sallie on her blog 'Raising K9'. Robin, if you mind me using your setup, please let me know!

Not nearly as good-looking as BZ Training's Weekly Training Plan, but much easier for me to follow, define what needs work, and also, how to keep track! Yay!

Find-the-Hand Game - 40 times per day in 2 sessions (20 treats each). Objective is for Luna to find my hand wherever it is and place the dumbbell in my hand.

Name Game - 40 times per day in 2 sessions (20 treats each). Objective is to get Luna to look at me, NOT walk toward me, upon hearing her 'name'. As the name Luna is something I reflexively use for all kinds of things not necessarily good, I'll use the word 'Wijffie' instead. So, hearing 'Wijffie!' means to Look at Mom.

Come Game - 60 times per day in 3 sessions (30 treats each). Objective is for Luna to run toward a treat I toss away from me, then turn and run back to me without any prompting on my part. When she is on her way to me, I will drop another treat between my feet for her to eat. She'll be clicked for arriving at my feet.

Leash - 40 times per day in 2 sessions (20 treats each). Objective is for Luna to move into leash pressure on her neck, thus creating a Loose Leash. Also, put a signal of some kind on your leash, 30cm from the handle. This part of the leash must NEVER be touched by the dog - ie. remain loose at all times. When I cannot be consistent about a loose leash, I will walk her on a harness!

Handling/Grooming - 3 sessions per week (15 treats per session). Objective is for Luna to be comfortable and welcoming of a toothbrush moving in her mouth.

Grab Game - 3 sessions per week (15 treats per session). Objective is for Luna to be comfortable with being grabbed all over her body.

For record-keeping I will use the following style (note that this is an example):

'Name of Behaviour'   dd mmm yy
Session 1 (1)_________________
1.                          11.
2.                          12.
3.                          13.
4.                          14.
5.                          15.
6.                          16.
7.                          17.
8.                          18.
9.                          19.
10.                        20.

Between quotes ‘’ is the name of what we are working on.

dd mmm yy is the date, eg. 4 Nov ’10.

I will mark each successful (meets the criteria outlined in the Training Plan) trial with a / and each unsuccessful trial with an X.

The number between brackets (1) is where the total number of training sessions for this behaviour is recorded. So, for example, this could be Session 1 of the day and Session (5) in total.

At the start of each day I will write out these record sheets for all sessions of daily behaviours, and add all sessions of weekly behaviours when necessary. Goal is to become reliable MYSELF in passing all these sessions day after day, week after week.

Each Monday, I will write out a new Training Plan for the following week. In it, I will define my criteria of success for that week. This means that for that week, I will be measuring success by how often Luna is able to match the criteria I’ve set for that week. If she doesn’t reach above 70% successful within that week, I will lower the criteria for the next week. I will not set higher criteria until Luna is at least 90% successful on all sessions for a behaviour on the 7th day.

As I have started this first Training Plan on Thursday, we will be doing the 3x week sessions on Friday, Saturday & Sunday.

A little work on the retrieve.

January 2010, our first Gun Dog training week. Luna is about to put that dummy into my hands. Yes, it was COLD!

Yesterday Luna and I worked on delivering a dumbbell to hand and finding the hand in lots of different places.

We will be going to a Gun Dog training week in January and I want to make sure that this time, we come prepared!
Last year we took the course with nothing but knowing how to deliver a dumbbell/dummy/other object to my hand, and although Luna did fantastically well (out of the 20 retrieves that week, she missed about 5 of them and got the other ones all by herself or with a little help from me), I want to make sure that SHE is more secure in knowing that when I send her, there WILL be a dummy for her to find. Not so much so that she'll do even better at the course, but simply to expand her knowledge of the game. I'm using the book Positive Gun Dogs as my guideline, and when January comes around I will likely just use my old, not-specifically-trained cues to tell her what to do if I am not sure that she'll be able to use her properly-trained knowledge by then. Object of the course is a week of fun quality time, not perfect performance.

Anyway, about last night; I started with just clicking for holding the dumbbell on her own, then moved on to putting it on the floor and clicking for returning the dumbbell to my hand. Once she was good at that, I began moving my hand around; up, down, tossing the dumbbell to my left and hiding my hand behind my right leg, and vice versa. She did very well, I'd say about 80% success in finding my hand an placing the dumbbell. Fun times!

I have to make sure I set up a video camera next time, so that I'll be able to make notes of what exactly happened and keep a training progress log.

Also, her knee is still going strong, and yesterday was our first off-leash cycling trip since the injury. We went for 3 miles, and I could tell she enjoyed being off-leash after such a long time! She received lots of treats for staying next to my right leg and for running back into position after stopping to sniff or pee.

Forgot to weigh her yesterday, but today her weight is... um... *goes to get scale, weighs herself and then herself WITH the dog* Um, OK, 70.5 pounds. This keeps happening! The scale goes down a little bit, then when I'm thinking 'yay, she's loosing weight!' the scale goes UP again!

Not that this means I'll feed her less or exercise her more. She LOOKS better, maybe I should just use my eyes and my hands to see how she's doing. Saves me a bunch of useless bewilderment. Oh, well...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reactivity success and failure on the same day.

Luna, 12 months old, showing her 'eek! a dog!' pose. This was before I woke up and realized I should help her cope with these things. These days, she rarely looks like this.
Investigating the scary dog with 10-year-old 'brother' Cedric. She looks like she's about to bolt if that dog makes a sudden move.
Yesterday started out well; on our morning walk, which included taking 15-year-old Westie Cedric with us, we met a lady with a blonde and a black Lab. Both are females, and Luna has met them before. Still, I know she is weary of the black one, so I took a moment to think about what best to do before lady and dogs reached us.

If we hadn't had Cedric with us, I might have just let Luna Sit and play 'Look At That', but I knew that wouldn't feel safe enough for her in this situation. So, I crouched down with her, put my arm around her and we watched together as the lady and her dogs approached. I talked nicely to Luna, and she appeared quite soft; ears down, a slightly smiley face, and she was wagging her tail in a happy fashion. The dogs reached us and I made sure to keep on touching and talking to Luna as both dogs came to say 'hi'. She continued to be soft and wiggly, frequently turning back to me to say 'thanks for helping me'. At some point she got a little bit far away from me to investigate the black Lab and she had a moment of snarky face ('I think you're scary and I might bark in your face'), but she made no sound and came back to me quickly when I called her name. Yay, Luna!

The lady said I should also cuddle 'the little one' (Cedric), and I said; 'yeah, but he doesn't think this is scary' (not to mention that he hardly noticed the dogs due to blindness and deafness). The lady asked me what made Luna think this was scary, and I said, 'the black dog'. Then, the lady said 'ah, a preference'. I didn't respond to that, as this was the moment where Luna had a snarky face, and after solving that I got up and we said goodbye.

So, why DOES Luna think black dogs are scary? I think she has good reason to; almost all dogs that have been rude or unfriendly to her were black, and a Giant Schnauzer chased after her once and collided with her back end, which ended in a bruised backside for my girl. She'd alternately limp on one of her hind legs, and she kept her tail very stiffly when I tried to manipulate it. Thankfully she recovered from this very well (never got to speak to the owner about this, sadly) and it hasn't bothered her since. Like I said though, black dogs to her mean 'rude, nasty and pain'.

Then, yesterday on our walk before dinner, again with Cedric, we met two off-leash, boisterous, rude black Labs and two (one of which off-leash) Parson Russel sized mixes. We've met all four of these dogs before, and Luna doesn't feel comfortable with any of them. We couldn't evade them (well, I realize now we could have gone back the way we came, although with a slow 15-year-old in tow they probably would've caught up with us) and for some reason I did not feel like having Luna Sit and do 'Look At That'. So, I just kind of marched through these dogs as quickly as we could, which resulted in Luna lunging at one of the Labs, barking at one of the mixes and coming out the other end with her hackles raised as high as they could go and her tail up. Oops. I'm sorry, little girl...

Ghaaa! I hate when I do things like that. I KNOW she can't cope with that and yet I put her through it anyway.

Also, I'm thinking of buying a front-clip harness for these walks with Cedric. That way I won't be pulling on her neck when I decide to be a bad mommy and let her 'fix' things on her own.

Again, sorry pup...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Weight update: 70,1 pounds.

Just a quickie for now, to keep records; yesterday Luna weighed in at 70,1 pounds. Last week she was 70,3 pounds, which means that the scale is finally moving down! In any case, Luna already looks much better now than she did 4 weeks ago. Her ideal weight is 61,7 pounds, so I’m hoping that’s where she’ll end. If not, I want to keep her at a maximum of 66 pounds.

Also, from now on I’ll weigh her at least once every two weeks, just to make sure she doesn’t end up getting to the point where I’m like; ‘Huh, she’s fat! How did that happen?’

The picture shows Luna at 23 months, about to start on 2 pounds of cow tripe. Sadly, she can’t eat that anymore these days. She’ll be all gassy and burpy and uncomfortable the next day, often accompanied by diarrhea. Poor girl. I’m still puzzled as to what went wrong, she ate tripe regularly for months and months before all of a sudden it bothered her.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We came back from our trip to a friend last Sunday, and we had a blast!

Firstly, Luna’s knee behaved beautifully all four days, never once did she limp or make any other move indicating a protesting knee. That’s SO nice I could scream! YAY!

She played with my friend’s dog, a three year old, male black Lab every day. Biting each others necks, legs, tackling each other, playing ‘who has the biggest mouth’ and basically just having a grand old time. Whenever they began playing in such a way that Luna started spinning on her hind end, we redirected them to different kinds of play. This included not letting Luna have toys in her mouth, because she would immediately instigate a game of ‘catch me if you can’ which put a lot of stress on her hind legs.

When going for walks, I mostly kept Luna on leash. Sunday she was reliable (in such a way that she wouldn’t play tight turn games) enough to allow her off leash playtime and she handled that very well.

On Friday morning, Luna and I joined my friend’s gundog class, where it became apparent that Luna and I have a) not done any retrieving for a while and b) have mostly been doing easily visible marked retrieves and c) she’d last been in this location March of last year. All in all, she did well! There were some things we didn’t do, such as stopping her on a whistle cue to direct her toward a dummy and some other things I don’t remember. We did a marked retrieve across water, which she did really well considering the circumstances. She was basically as good as the other dogs; they all stopped at the bank, wondering how on earth to get to the dummy on the other side, then figuring it out and going through the little stream to fetch the dummy.

We did a couple of straightforward marked retrieves on land where the helper tossed the dummy and stood near where it fell. Luna went out to get these nice and fast, dropped the dummy once as she almost got back to me, then, on my ‘hey, you forgot something’, went back and delivered the dummy to hand. This is something she does right 90% of the time we do retrieves ‘at home’, so this didn’t bother me at all. I knew this was just because of the new circumstances, and the most important thing for me, was that Luna enjoyed herself. Which she did!

Then, we had to ‘park’ our dogs, walk back about 40’ and call our dogs to us while the helper tossed a dummy toward the dog as it ran towards the handler. Luna looked at the dummy being thrown and kept on going, coming in nicely and at good speed. Yay!

Another thing we did, I think it was the first exercise; the helper placed dummies to the left and right of a central point, about 60’ away. The dogs saw this. Then, we had to put our dog in the middle and send her to get first one dummy, and then the other. Whilst the dog returned with the second dummy, the helper tossed a third dummy to the right side of the handler, which the dog had to ignore until being asked to go get it. Luna made a mess of this one. She had NO clue, but she DID remember the landing spot of the last dummy, so she went to check that out first. With a little guidance from the helper ‘look, here it is!’ she managed to retrieve all three of them. Not pretty, but she did it happily and confidently once she remembered the dummies.

Lastly, the helper had hidden a bunch of dummies in a wooded area. All dogs had to retrieve one. As they had not seen the dummies being placed, this was a blind retrieve, which means that the handler knows there’s a dummy, but the dog doesn’t. Luna went out into the wooded area nice and quick, searched for a little bit and then said ‘mommy, I can’t go without you!’ and so the helper walked with her into the wooded area, and from there on she took off and found a dummy. Yay! Good girl!

Obviously all this was too much to ask of Luna, I’m aware of that. I am really glad I’ve discovered clickertraining and really understand it now, because whenever Luna doesn’t do something, I just laugh and give her some hints. OK, laughing is a reinforcer, but I’d rather do that and have a happy dog than not laugh at all and have a dog that feels wrong. Also, this helper -a traditional trainer- was really nice about helping Luna when she didn’t know what to do. He just walked along with her, made some funny noises, tossed the dummy a second time if she didn’t remember it, and I think that’s really nice of him! I have seen him with his own dog and he’ll use coercion when his dog doesn’t do what he wants. Also, he uses intimidation with the other dogs in class, and says things like ‘keep the dog closer so you can put more pressure on her’. Hence my being pleased with how he helped my dog! The most important thing is that Luna had fun and learned that yes, she CAN do it even in a strange place with strange people and strange dogs.

Saturday we went to a gundog competition, and on Sunday we took a long walk before my friend brought us home. A nice weekend with much better weather than expected!

Our train trip on Thursday was less smooth than I hoped, but nonetheless Luna handled it nicely. Normally, we find a spot in the row of seats with the other travelers, but this time the train was so full that I decided we'd be better off just staying in the hall where the doors are. This meant Luna had to settle in a corner of the train, right next to the doors and with people passing us by at each station. I was a bit worried this would be too busy for her to relax, but no. I'd made a little corridor for her with me and my bags on one side of her, and the wall on the other side of her. This way she could lie down comfortably without worrying about other people stepping on her. And she did, all by herself, lie down about 5 minutes into the trip. At each station she sat up to check things out, but otherwise she remained calm. And I am proud of how well she managed to curl up in the small space she had, as this is not something we've ever trained! I had to stand for most of the trip, another thing that is different from our normal train-travel mode, but this too did not bother her. How I LOVE that dog!

The picture shows Luna at 7 months in a natural stand. Nice puppy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More pilling videos and a break from blogging

Today I have two more videos for you, on how I feed my dog her pills in case she needs them.

Here is video number one, my second attempt to feed her the nighttime pill before she can eat dinner, which was a real mess the first time I filmed it. This time she did it so quickly that she even caught me by surprise!

And here is a video of me feeding her the same kind of pill during the day, where she has to take the pill before she gets the treats. This was the first time I did the whole thing with one hand, so it might not be so easy to see, but she keeps the pill in her mouth the second time around and eats the treats out of my hand. She loves to lick my hand clean once all the treats are gone. Isn't she a great girl!

Luna and I will be leaving in half an hour to visit a friend, where we will be staying until Sunday or possibly Monday morning. There will be no blogging until we get back. We're taking the train to get there, a very comfortable experience with Luna as she will settle immediately once we're seated and then proceed to sleep through the entire trip. She's awesome!

Monday, October 18, 2010

OK. A pilling fiasco. Yes, you may laugh!

Haha! I thought I’d film how I give Luna her last pill of the day (she gets 3 total as a maintenance dose) and OF COURSE everything was a mess! Yesterday we did the exact same thing for the first time, she took the pill, held it in her mouth and I could give her the OK to go eat. Which meant that she’d eat the pill as well.

Today though, she decided to do some testing of my criteria. ‘Does it count if I just ignore the pill and do Food Zen?’ No. ‘Does it count if I take and then drop the pill?’ No. ‘Does it count if I take it, pretend to chew it and drop it again?’ No. ‘Hmmm. Let me try that one again. Are you SURE it does not count when I take it, chew it and spit it back out?’ YES, I’m SURE that does NOT count!

And then, finally, I got smart, gave Luna the pill again, and while she was still pretend-chewing I said OK, and she dove into her food AND ate the pill. Haha, gotcha! ;-)

Then my dad came into the kitchen and asked about the ‘strange smell’ in the kitchen (Cedric’s raw meat dinner, which he’d just finished). So if you hear a man’s voice and mine talking in some strange language, the above was happening. This is after Luna starts eating her food. The language is Dutch.

Oh, also, Luna has a complete brainfart and has NO clue what ‘Park It’ (my cue for Sit) means.

The two pills she gets during the day, one for ‘breakfast’ and one for ‘lunch’, I do differently because she only gets one meal a day; I take the pill and about 10 treats (kibble from her daily ration - yes, she LOVES food). Then, I present the pill, wait for a few seconds until she realizes she won’t get the treats if she doesn’t take the pill first, she takes the pill, and I IMMEDIATELY Rapid-Fire those 10 treats. This ensures she swallows the pill AND makes it a fun game for both of us.

I will try to film our daytime pilling as well, and give the nighttime pill another shot. We still have 3 days before Thursday’s last pill!

She's doing well!

Luna has been moving very well for the last few days. She LOVES our daily trip with the bike and she’s Sad that she has to be on leash for now, but she behaves beautifully nonetheless. I stop and tell her to ‘go pee’ about 6 times on our trip, and she does so almost immediately, every time. How nice!

Only thing she has to get used to is that she cannot stick to the side of the road when we have to pass other people and cyclists, I really have to say ‘This way!’ or we catch an unsuspecting passerby in the leash. ;-) I DO kind of like this though, it shows how well she knows where she’s normally supposed to be when we’re cycling off leash; as close to the side of the road as possible, regardless of other traffic and unless I tell her to do otherwise. Now I get to see that it has truly become habit for her. Good girl!

And just to show how persistent a habit can be; I’ve moved the trash can in my room to a different place for about a week now. EVERY TIME I go to throw something away, I first turn to where the bin USED to be and then go; ‘oh, right, I moved it!’ I wonder how long that will last, and hopefully Luna will catch on quicker!

Above is a video of us cycling in better days, on our way to the park. Almost at the end I have to ask Luna to slow down, or she’ll overtake the cyclist in front of us! At the end she licks her lips, in anticipation of the treat that always comes when we stop!

FYI; yes, she’s off leash, but I do leash her as soon as I see another dog, or even if I feel that Luna isn’t really connected to me. Being able to cycle with her pretty much everywhere off leash is something that has developed over the years (she’s 5,5 now), and I feel perfectly safe and comfortable with this setup. If I don’t, for whatever reason, I immediately put her on leash. I don’t think I’d be doing this so easily with a bird dog!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A nice cycling trip and new toys.

This morning Luna and I took our, by now standard, 3 mile walk. Then around 2.30 PM we finally went and got my bike out to go cycling! I put her in her harness which has a ring on the left side, clipped her leash on and off we went. A nice, steady trot, the harness and leash setup worked well, all in all it was a great first ride! The trip was about 2 miles long, we walked the last 5 minutes as some sort of cooling-down.

Then, just now, the mailman came by and delivered a package filled with fleecy toys for us to play games of tug! A real treat, because strong, durable and yet comfortable tug-toys are hard to find here in Holland if you want anything other than Schutzhund jute tugs.

The photo shows the pile of new toys with Luna investigating.

It contains the following;
1 fleece ring (green & blue, top left of the pile)
1 fleece stick (blue and pink, bottom left of the pile)
1 long tug rope (green, pink, white and blue, closest to Luna)
1 fleece ‘spider’ with three legs
1 longer stick type tug (blue & green, bottom right, next to the blue & pink fleece stick)

I LOVE the colors and I can’t wait to play with them! But I’ll have to for another week or so, depending on what Luna’s knee thinks. ;-)

I went in search of these toys because about two months ago Luna finally started to REALLY enjoy playing tug with me. She could go on for hours, it seemed! I'm not about to test that, but now we do have something great, besides food and life rewards, to use as a 'job well done'!

Friday, October 15, 2010

YAY! A day of all four legs working nicely!

Whoohoo! I am HAPPY!

I’ve had Luna on a homeopathic anti-inflammatory treatment since last night that I thought would help her knee, and by golly, it did! I have not seen ONE wrong move from her today. That’s GREAT!

I’ll continue to give her this stuff for 7 days total, while sticking with the straight line exercise. Whew, I'm glad it’s helping, I feared we were back to square one! If she continues to do this well, I don’t think we’ll need to see the vet again. If she is again - or still - limping by Monday, I will call the vet and ask her advice.

The picture is Luna at 15 months at the beach, playing with our, in this shot, 11 year old West Highland White Terrier. They run, bark loudly, the little guy tries to bodyslam Luna, it’s massive fun. Sometimes Luna has to jump over Cedric - the Westie - to prevent collisions or landing on him. He looks like a real monster in this shot! ;-)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

DAMN! The knee again.

Today was supposed to be the last day of no activity for Luna because of her knee injury. So this morning when she encountered a playmate (a ±90 pound male Rottweiler) I allowed her to play with him, although Luna is, compared to this guy, ‘only’ 68 pounds. And I KNOW they’ll play chase and I KNOW he’ll collide with her back end. Not on purpose, but just because he isn’t as agile and quick as Luna is.

Well, that’s exactly what happened. Luna yelped once but continued to play. Normally, yelping doesn’t bother me, it’s just something that can happen in play between dogs. Now, when I heard it, I thought, ‘damn, I hope her knee will be OK’. She was moving fine though, and she’s a DOG, and she’d already been confined for three weeks, so I let her play.

Sure enough though, when we got home and I towelled her off, I thought she held her tail a bit stiffly. And later when she came out of a dog bed, I thought I saw her limp. But then when I wanted to look closer, Luna was already walking fine again. Then, at lunch, mom said ‘she’s limping’, again upon exiting a dog bed. Again just one to three steps, but still. Then tonight, as she got off the little sofa in my room that’s kind of hers now, she stood on three legs for a second, somewhat limped two steps and then it was again as if nothing had happened.

But, obviously, her knee did not like the activity today. So, as of right now, I’ve decided to limit her activity to straight line exercise (going for walks and cycling on leash) and just tell everyone with a dog that Luna normally likes to play with, that Luna will NOT be playing with dogs for, say, two months. Let’s just see if we can get her weight down, get her well muscled again and then, when I’m sure it will be OK, she can play with other dogs again.

Since the limping only happens for a few steps after not moving for a while, I decided to stick with my strength- and endurance building schedule (in the shape of daily walks and cycling). That knee needs muscle support, and she can’t get that with an hour total of slow walking a day. All the vet can do is give her another round of anti-inflammatory pills, and, well, I just don’t think that’s really necessary.

I HAVE put her on a homeopathic treatment for bruising, sprains and such, and I will continue to do that until she stops limping. If the limping gets worse, I will go see the vet. Also, I’ll be giving her Reiki treatments and massages.

If anyone has any input as to what else I can do to help heal that knee, I’d love to hear about it! Swimming would probably be really good, right? We can do that, too.

And I keep thinking, if only I HADN’T thrown that ball last June, the one who’s catch created this injury in the first place, then she would still be fine now and not have this annoying weak spot. I’d almost wish it was HD, at least then she could keep on living a happy, active life. With this knee thing we have to be very careful, because if her knee tendons/ligaments(?) tear apart we have a real problem with an even longer rehab process!

Anyway, thanks for reading this lengthy rant.

Oh, almost forgot; the picture is Luna at 20 months, the skinniest - too skinny - she’s ever been, out for an early morning autumn walk in the park. What a lovely day that was! Don’t you just love a happy, dirty dog?!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More reactivity success!

Yay! Last night on our last walk of the day, we again met the dog we saw yesterday during our first Kaboom! session. I put Luna on leash and she behaved beautifully towards this dog. Inquisitive, a softly wagging tail and no stress (‘oh, it’s just a dog, not a monster’). I used verbal praise and petting to let her know what a good girl she was, and the owner of the other dog did the same. That was very nice!

Then two more dogs came our way, a blonde and a black Lab. Luna has been reactive to the black Lab before, so I decided to sit on my haunches with Luna sitting between my legs, and my arms around her stroking her chest. She felt very comfortable this way and was able to remain soft and inquisitive towards the two Labs, who were also very friendly and non-invasive. Again more verbal praise from me and the owner of the first dog (isn’t that nice?!), and I continued to hold Luna so that she was constantly physically connected to me. She actually did a little happy talking and tail wagging and, well, she just LOOKED happy! I am SO proud of her!

To top it all off, the owner of the two Labs had cookies, and when Luna located those she asked if Luna could have one. Of course! Anything that’ll help Luna believe that other dogs are good news!

All in all it was a GREAT experience for both of us. Fun, safe, relaxed. And yet another technique I can use to help my little girl. I decided on this one because I felt three dogs was a little too crowded to use a lot of treats, and because Luna was responding so well to verbal praise and being connected to me. It was very nice.

On the weight-loss front; she was 68 pounds today. In other words, no progress. And I have NO idea why! It may be muscle gain though, because she does LOOK thinner than three weeks ago. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing now. As of this Friday she’s off hiatus (knee injury) and we can start introducing cycling again, and from there we should be back to regular activity in a couple of months. If her weight hasn’t improved by then, I’ll have her checked by the vet.

The picture shows a gorgeous head shot of Luna at 8 months. All these little gems I find now that I use a picture for each blog! I remember seeing a White Swiss Shepherd for the first time in real life, and thinking, ‘wow, they even have white eyelashes!’

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yay! Finished writing all Steps to Success Levels Cards!

Whoohoo! I did it! Quite a job, I have to say. I’m glad it’s done, but it was well worth the effort.

As you can see in the picture above, I now have all Steps to Success Levels, divided into 5 cards per behaviour per Level.

    Level One: 5 Behaviours (excluding Homework)
    Level Two: 14 Behaviours (excluding Trick & Homework)
    Level Three: 15 Behaviours (excluding Homework)
    Level Four: 11 Behaviours (excluding Homework)
    Stimulus Control: 5 Tests

I have also made cards for Stimulus Control, as that is something very important I keep forgetting, and when I want to do it I’m not sure how. So, I found some ideas from Sue Ailsby - I think I found them on the TL List - which made it all very clear for me. This is what’s on the Stimulus Control cards:
  • TEST 1: Give the cue several times in a row and then give a different cue. If the dog Downs even though you said Sit, that’s a mistake.
  • TEST 2: Give a different cue several times in a row and then give the cue you’re working on. If the dog Sits instead of Downing on that last cue, that’s a mistake.
  • TEST 3: Give the cue, and if it is a position, re-give it. If the dog changes position, that’s a mistake.
  • TEST 4: Toggle back and forth between the cue you’re working on and another cue several times. Then give a third cue. If the dog toggles to one of the first two cues, that’s a mistake.
  • TEST 5: Toggle back and forth between the cue you’re working on and another cue several times. Then say a word that is not a cue. If the dog does anything resembling a known cued behaviour, that’s a mistake.
Thanks Sue!

This is the first time I have something that I can refer to while I’m training, that I can take everywhere I go. I’m so excited to start using these! It will definitely make for much more structured training. Less - unintended, but still - lumping!

Funny pictures & success!

This morning I took my smaller camera to take pictures of Luna on our morning walk. Turned out the battery was almost dead, so I took only a few shots. The above is one of them. Here’s two more I found hilarious;

Haha! Silly happy dog!
Later today my mom came to my room for a few minutes, this is what happened;

I just caught a little tail action in the first shot, she was drumming the trash can like a pro! Apparently it’s very funny to be laughed at. You’re welcome, miss sleepy head!

You can just see the black nose and paw of a giant stuffed polar bear. It’s supposed to sit on the couch’s backrest, but Luna keeps knocking it off.

Our longer morning walk went well, I played my version of the ‘Kaboom Game’ (grab a handful of treats, run off yelling ‘Kaboom!’, then dropping the treats on the ground) about 3-4 times and each time Luna was like, 'what?! Cookiefest! Yay!'

I did it once (first time) last night, and as I ran and dropped the treats, I spotted an approaching dog (in the same place as the black Lab from before). That would be interesting! Dog (on leash) & owner reached us while Luna was eating, dog had NO eye (or nose) for the treats all over the ground whatsoever, he just wanted to sniff Luna’s butt. Luna sniffed him for like, one second, and went back to hunting for treats. NO tension in her body, no tension in her eyes, she was just completely unconcerned with this dog. Nice! We did know this dog, she’s seen him quite often and seems to think he’s a nice little guy. That said, when we normally meet them I do have to guide Luna through the interaction until they are nose-to-nose, or she’ll show tension with this dog, as well. So I guess I can say last night was an absolute success! Bravo Luna!

Today I’ve also published this blog online here. So if you’ve just reached us, hi and welcome!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Beginning to catch the Agility Bug?

I am getting more and more enthusiastic about DOING Agility versus just LOOKING at in on Youtube and such.

I would want my own training set. A jump, an A-frame, a Seesaw, a Tunnel, a Chute, a Tire, a Broad Jump, a Catwalk(?) and... Which would require a backyard big enough to house the training set in such a way that I can run courses.

I would get my dog really good on all the fundamentals using Susan Garrett’s 2X2 Weave Pole DVD, Susan Salo’s Success With One Jump DVD, and also Greg Derrett’s DVD’s on handling.

Then, when I felt we were ready to at least do a fast, largely faultless course, I might sign up for an actual Agility competition and see how my dog fares - and me, of course.


This is another picture I took this morning of my Fat Dog. It’ll be interesting to see if she’s actually lost any weight next Wednesday, when I will be weighing her. Fingers crossed! At least now I am sure she looks WAY better when she’s on the skinny side!

AND I’ve learned that for this walk, it’s better to take my smaller camera. Easier to carry and gives me, under the circumstances, more opportunities to take photos.

Oops. Problem solving for Reactivity.

Last night, on our last walk before going to bed, we met a black Lab and her running owner. Luna was outside of her ‘safe’ circle, I wasn’t paying attention & reacted with way too little energy and bad timing. The result; Luna charged at the dog with a - for Luna rather modest - bark-growl thrown in the mix. Oops.

Then she sniffed the friendly Lab tentatively and luckily I could call her off quite quickly with a ‘Luna, COME.’ I think her touching the other dog lasted maybe 5 seconds.

Why did this happen?
  • Luna was outside of the circle around me in which she feels safe, in which she feels I’ll take care of her and thus she needn’t do anything with whatever we encounter.
  • Outside of that safe dinstance, Luna feels she is on her own and HAS to DO SOMETHING with - usually - this strange, unwanted invading dog. 
  • I was not paying attention and way slow in my reaction speed, so I could not prevent Luna from ‘doing something’ about the situation.
  • Why was I not paying attention? Because I underestimated Luna’s interest in this dog. They did not just come walking toward us, they came running toward us. That’s different and more threatening to Luna. AND it was a black dog, which is already more exciting to Luna. I responded with something that may have been appropriate in a less exciting situation, but certainly not in this one.

What could I do to prevent these ‘surprises’ & thus having a reactive dog?
  • CLICK as soon as we see an unexpected dog, cheer Luna on as she comes to me, feed her a good handful of treats & then possibly have her Sit and play ‘Look At That’ with the strange dog. Then, if it is a friendly off-leash dog that wants to say hi!, I could let her do that while keeping physical contact with her & CLICKING for soft, relaxed, confident behaviour.
  • Enthusiastically say KABOOM! (modified idea from Helix Fairweather) as soon as we see an unexpected dog, run a few steps away from Luna & drop a good handful of treats on the ground, preferably in grass or something, so she really has to use her nose to find the treats. This is an approach I can only use with dogs that are on leash, so they do not come in and steal Luna’s treats.
  • Make sure I have a Really Reliable Recall & REMEMBER to use it when we encounter something unexpected!
  • Overall, in her interactions with other dogs, CLICK & FEED for good behaviour; soft, relaxed & confident. Do make sure the other dog cannot get the treats as I feed them to Luna, to prevent resource guarding.

The picture shows Luna investigating interesting smells on our morning walk today.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Finished writing Steps to Success L2 Cards.

So that means I’ve got TWO Levels of Passable requirements complete! There IS a trick in L2 and also Homework in L1 & L2, but as the description for the trick just says ‘dog performs a new trick’ I did not think it needed a card. Homework is something I won’t do On The Road, so no cards neccessary for those either. Yay!

An especially interesting one is L2 Step 5 for Relax; the dog settles in a car. Hmmm... that’s one worth passing, but at the moment I’m not really sure how I’ll achieve that. I could start with just having her settle in the car just sitting in the driveway, then settle in the car just sitting in the driveway with the engine on, then settle when we go for a short, fun trip (I think the Haarlemmermeerse park is closest), and if all goes well up to that point, go for longer trips etc. Well, at least I’ve got SOME idea of how to get there from here!

We had an absolutely lovely day today, and since yesterday I’ve upped our daily longer walk to 3 miles, about one hour. She’s doing very well and I’m really enjoying our ‘proper’ walks!

About the picture: That’s Luna at 15 months, she was a bit too skinny there after her first season, being spayed and the heat of that summer, but still... I think she looks gorgeous! This is the best Stand shot I’ve ever taken of her.

Conditioning your performance dog.

Something I'm interested in, now that Luna has a 'weak' spot in the shape of her right hind knee. I'm just posting this here for future reference.

Conditioning your performance dog

There seems to be a lot of talk, methods and even confusion about how to condition your dog for performance events - especially agility. One popular method is running your dog, including on tread mills or even beside a bicycle for miles on end.

It seems to me that running a dog in a straight line is not the best 'agility' conditioning.  If you are trying to get an out of shape dog to lose weight and get fit, then this is probably a good start. However, if you are trying to get a dog in shape for running an agility course, you will probably need to do other exercises.

The reason I say this is because running slow and steady in a straight line uses different muscles than running an agility course. So your dog might look 'fit', however his 'agility' muscles may not be. Steady running in a straight line uses slow twitch muscles. It also does not build up the stablizing muscles/tendons/ligaments that will be needed to support the joint laterally during exercises like agility.

Weight lifters use free weights for several reasons versus the nautilus type of equipment. The nautilus equipment was developed to isolate a specific group of muscles and work them (specifically in exercise rehabilitation. They got popular in gyms though.) Free weights (when used correctly) work the main target muscle, however they also work the lateral muscles around a joint. The lateral muscles get worked because they are used to stablize the weight and support the joint (ie. not let the weight move side to side, but up and down.)

If your dog is in generally good doggie health (and you should probably consult with your vet before starting a conditioning program), then your dog could benefit from some fine tuning conditioning. Such as:

Ball throwing - Stand on porch, or even sit on your couch if your living room is big enough. Throw ball. Dog goes from stop to full speed very fast. This uses the dog's fast twitch muscle (and therefore will develop and condition them). This is good for fast starts at start line, or for regaining a fast pace after a call off or tight turn. Slow twitch muscles don't help here. Slow twitch muscles are endurance muscles. Fast twitch muscles are used for sudden bursts of speed (much like an agility course). So long distance running wouldn't benefit. (Note by me; I would only do this with the dog waiting until the ball stops moving before sending her to go get it. Sudden stops are no good.)

Dancing - Or actually standing on hind end. This helps strengthen the dog's hind end because all his weight is on it. I've heard of some people getting the dog to jump up and down on his hind end. I would work up to this slowly. This will help build the power (muscle bulk) needed to jump and push the dog up the A-frame. Also if you let the dog do this on his own, he will develop the lateral muscles needed to hold his balance on his own eventually.

Playing tug - Same effect as above. The dog is using his hind end to pull away from you. Less impact than jumping on hind end. However, tug with a big dog can have undesirable chiropractic effects on your back:)

Pulling (or taking owner for a walk) - I would recommend a harness (the kind that is like a V across his chest, not a straight strap). As the dog pulls against you, it helps build strength and power in the front end as well as hind. This will help a dog to climb the A-frame at less than full speed.

Begging - while sitting on haunches. This helps develop the muscles along the dog's back. It's not easy for a lot of dogs to sit like this at first. But it can help develop lateral muscles supporting his spine. I can't help but to wonder what all this weaving is doing to a dog's spine. However, if the spine is well muscled on either side, it will protect the spine more than if it is boney.

Playing with other dogs - This is really good exercise. My dogs run pretty darn fast for a while and then end up wrestling. They condition themselves (it helps to have aussies). But if you watch the way they run, they are making a lot of turns and cutting back and forth. This helps strengthen the lateral muscles around their joints (hopefully strong enough to ward off any ligament blow outs). It also gets them to blow off a lot of steam before I work with them.

The bottom line is that to avoid injuries and extend your dog's performance life, you need muscles that are strong enough to cushion and protect the various joints. If you are campaigning your dog for long distance running, then bike riding or a tread mill, would be appropriate. But for fast bursts of speed, sharp turns, climbing and jumping, you need to have a different conditioning program.

As always, go slow when starting and go at the dog's own pace. For some stoic or really driven dogs, you might have to tell them when it's time to quit because they won't until they are really hurt.

Don't forget to give your dog enough rest time and a massage to help them rebuild after a training session. You want your dog to be stronger in the end. Use your common sense. Constant pounding, jumping everyday, training over and over again, isn't good for your dog.

If you are still unsure about an appropriate pace, my recommendation is to do the same exercises as your dog is doing. If you wake up the next morning and you can't get out of bed, maybe you have over done it. If you condition your dog at a pace that your body is comfortable with, chances are, it won't be too fast for the dog.

About the picture; Luna at 13 months playing fetch by herself (ie. she whacks the ball with her paw and then goes after it to ‘stop’ it from running off) after swimming in the lake. Isn’t she gorgeous?! What a great use of all those photos I have of the lady!

Progressive Reinforcement Training - the new term for R+ & P-.

I found a great article by Emily Larlham, one of my favourite Dog Trainers. I think it's a great idea, although somewhat of a scientific term. But maybe that's a good thing. Go to Emily's website with the original post here: Dogmantics - Progressive Reinforcement Manifesto

Progressive Reinforcement Training Manifesto
By Emily Larlham

The Need for a New Term:

A type of animal training exists that involves no forms of intimidation, confrontation, violence, reprimands, or domination.

This non-violent type of training has gone under many names: “Clicker Training,” “Positive Training,” “Positive Reinforcement Training,” and “Reward Training,” among others. However there is a need for a more specific, more accurate, more inspirational term. This is because the above terms have been used so loosely in recent years that they may soon lose their original meanings altogether. How has this happened?Trainers who use compulsion methods may incorporate a clicker (a noise maker to mark desirable behavior) and refer to themselves as a “Clicker Trainers.” Trainers who use painful or intimidating methods may include food or toy rewards in their training and refer to themselves as “Reward Trainers” or “Positive Reinforcement Trainers.” It is already possible that a member of the public may seek the guidance of a trainer who claims to be “Positive,” only to find out that this trainer routinely uses physical violence towards animals.

I propose a new term that trainers and members of the general public can use to refer to this type of modern training – a training system that is not only humane, compassionate, and reliable, but is also based on the latest scientific studies. Because this form of training constantly incorporates the latest and most reliable scientific findings, and because it furthers an evolutionary movement toward a more harmonious relationship between humans and the animals who live with them, it shall be referred to as Progressive Reinforcement Training.

Progressive Reinforcement Training means:

1) Using only 2 of the 4 possible types of Operant Conditioning: Positive Reinforcement and, to a much lesser extent, Negative Punishment.

In essence, Operant Conditioning is a process by which animals learn according to the consequences of their actions. A consequence is called “reinforcement” if it increases the behavior or a “punishment” if it decreases the behavior. There are four categories (or “quadrants”) within Operant Conditioning: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Punishment, Positive Punishment, and Negative Reinforcement. Progressive Trainers use only 2 of the 4 quadrants: Positive Reinforcement and, to a much lesser extent, Negative Punishment. The two categories Progressive Reinforcement Trainers do not use intentionally are Positive Punishment and Negative Reinforcement.

Positive Reinforcement means simply that you can reinforce an animal’s behavior by giving him access to something reinforcing – that is, something that will make him more likely to repeat the behavior in the future (this could mean food, a toy, or access to a certain environment, for example). 

An example: If your dog comes to you when called, you feed the dog a treat, throw a ball, or let the dog go to play with other dogs.
Another example:  You allow the dog to say hello to a person - if he walks all the way to the person on a loose leash, without tugging.

Negative Punishment
means removing access to something the animal finds reinforcing in order to decrease the likelihood of the behavior occurring again. Negative Punishment is used mainly when you make a mistake in training. 

An example: If you are training a dog not to jump up on people, you first reinforce the dog for not jumping in exciting situations, and then when the dog does jump up, you remove your attention briefly (by turning away from the dog). By removing your attention you are using Negative Punishment. However, if you simply tried to train a dog not to jump up by using Negative Reinforcement only – for example, by turning away from the dog repeatedly without rewarding him – the dog could become frustrated. It is true that if the dog figures out that the jumping is not getting attention, the dog will try an alternate behavior - however, a dog will more likely try jumping higher, barking, whining, and nipping over standing still or sitting for attention. By rewarding the dog for what you want him to do first, you give the dog a default behavior to try when what he is doing is not working.

2) Reinforcing desirable behaviors, interrupting undesirable behaviors with a positively reinforced recall or attention noise, reinforcing behaviors incompatible with undesired behaviors, and using management of the animals’ environment to prevent undesirable behaviors from being reinforced.

An example: If you want to train a dog not to lie on your couch, you train the dog to do what you want him to do first. That is, you train him to go and lie on his dog-bed. Then when he does try to go on the couch, you interrupt him and redirect him to the appropriate location so that climbing onto the couch remains unreinforced. During the training process, you also use management and prevention: while you are away from the house, you block the dog’s access to the couch, as he would likely choose to lie on the couch – and be reinforced for it – in your absence. 

Conditioning your dog to respond to a positively reinforced attention noise or recall is easy. You can then use your noise to interrupt behaviors that you find undesirable so that the dog doesn’t get reinforced for doing them and will be less likely to do them in the future. 

3) Employing humane, effective, respectful training based on the latest scientific evidence.

4) Taking an animal’s emotional state and stress levels into account.

Trainers practicing Progressive Reinforcement read an animal’s body language to the best of their ability for signs of stress or arousal and adjust their training approach accordingly. 

5) Using a marker to train, whether it be a clicker, some other noise-maker, your voice or touch, or a visual marker. Or, on the other hand, not using a marker, and instead reinforcing an animal by feeding a treat directly to his mouth.

A marker can be used to pinpoint behavior. It tells an animal that what he is doing at that exact moment in time will win him reinforcement. 

For example: If a dog sits, the trainer can click as the dog is sitting, and then feed the dog a treat. Or the trainer can say “Yes!” in a positive tone as the dog is sitting and then feed the dog a treat or release the dog to get a toy or go out the door. 

Reinforcing behavior is also possible without using a marker. For example, you can feed a dog a treat for looking at another dog to change his emotional response to the other dog (Classical Conditioning). You can also reinforce your dog for calmly lying around the house or outside by tossing him a treat between his paws while he is not looking and he will be more likely to repeat the behavior in the future.

A commitment to Progressive Reinforcement Training means strictly following all of the above principles - not just in training sessions, but during 100% of the time spent with an animal.

Progressive Reinforcement Training does not mean:

1) Using Positive Punishment or Negative Reinforcement intentionally, whether alone or in conjunction with the other categories of Operant Conditioning.

Positive Punishment means intentionally doing something to an animal or adding something punishing to his environment in order to decrease the likelihood of the behavior happening again.

Examples: Spraying a dog in the face with water when he barks. Yelling at a dog when he gets up from a down stay without permission.

Negative Reinforcement means removing a punishment to reinforce an animal’s behavior.

Examples: Shocking a dog with an electric current until he comes to you and stopping when he does. Poking a dog until he lies down and stopping poking when he does.

2) Using your voice, touch or body language to intimidate an animal.

Examples: staring at an animal; intentionally leaning over him; poking, jerking, or using your voice in an intimidating way to suppress behavior.

3) Intentionally disregarding an animal’s stress levels or signals.

4) Holding selfish or uncompassionate goals for your training.

A commitment to Progressive Reinforcement means never intentionally using the intimidatory tactics above  – never in training sessions, and never during any other time spent with an animal.

Why refrain from using Positive Punishment and Negative Reinforcement? 

For scientific, moral, and ethical reasons. Using these forms of conditioning can produce unwanted side effects in addition to the basic trauma they do to an animal. 

The many problems with using Positive Punishment and Negative Reinforcement:
  1. Without perfect timing, intensity, and consistency, the “training” amounts to nothing more than abuse.
  2. The animal learns to avoid the punisher in order to indulge in undesirable behavior.
  3. These techniques can cause irreversible emotional damage to the animal.
  4. Positive Punishment can increase stress hormones, arousal, and aggression.
  5. Animals can habituate to Positive Punishment – meaning that the intensity of the punishment must keep increasing to have any effect as the animal learns to endure it. 
  6. You cannot change an animal’s basic emotional response to find children, adults, or other animals (or anything for that matter) reinforcing by using Positive Punishment; you can only suppress the dog’s punished behaviors.
  7. Positive Punishment can cause dogs to hide their warning signs before attempting to bite.
  8. Dogs trained with punishment can feel trapped by their handlers, since the decision to leave a ‘stay’ or to leave the handler’s side (to escape from a bothersome child, for example) can cause punishment. Animals who feel they have no escape tend to bite rather than move away.
  9. Intended punishment can actually increase the behavior you wish to extinguish, as punishment involves giving a form of attention to an animal.
  10. The presence of the punisher becomes less reinforcing for the animal. If you use punishment with your dog, it is harder to compete with the reinforcement value of other things in the environment. Your dog will find other stimuli in the environment more reinforcing than you as the dog increasingly associates you with punishment rather than reward. 
  11. Dogs who have been trained with Positive Punishment do not offer behaviors on their own as readily when asked, making complex behaviors difficult to train.
  12. Handlers who use Positive Punishment will punish their animals more readily in the future as punishment becomes Positively Reinforcing to the handlers themselves. In other words, using Positive Punishment causes one’s own behavior patterns to change.
  13. In order to use Negative Reinforcement, Positive Punishment must always be used first.