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.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Writing training cards & having fun with my dog!

    Building on what I did yesterday, I bought about 300 more business-sized cards today to write down all the new Levels’ Behaviours & their Steps. I also got highlighters to give each Level its own color.

        Steps to Success Level One = Yellow.
        Steps to Success Level Two = Green.
        Steps to Success Level Three = Pink.
        Steps to Success Level Four = Orange.

    At this moment, I have 14 sets of cards, one of which contains ways to test Stimulus Control (also works for Cue Discrimination), three sets of cards for L1 Zen, Come & Sit, four sets of cards for L2 Zen, Focus, Come & Sit, four sets of cards for L3 Zen, Focus, Come & Sit and two sets of cards for L4 Zen & Focus. The individual sets of cards are held together with paperclips. Me likes!

    I’ve folded the cards in half, written the name of the contents & the Level it belongs to on the front, and the requirements for the behaviour on the inside at the top. This way I can take a set of cards, which is one Level of Steps for one Behaviour, and simply flip through them to see what we’re working on to accomplish.

    My first set of Zen cards that I made yesterday ended up in the trash, because I realized while using them that I hadn’t written things in the right places. I had written the requirements on the inside bottom half of the card, which meant that the TOP of the set of cards corresponded with the BOTTOM of the set of cards. Um, OK, that doesn’t work smoothly in a training session.

    I’m definitely thrilled with my latest version though! Yay me!

    To use up Luna’s dinner, we did another training session like yesterday. I still think her Cue Discrimination is pretty good, but until I commit to actually doing things in a way I can keep records, I won’t guess her Success Rate.

    Also, she did absolutely BEAUTIFUL Leave Its tonight; no throwing out other behaviours other than Stand & Stare or Sit & Stare, both of which I like. And no diving for treats I tossed between her feet. She nailed one 20s open-handful-of-food-in-your-face Leave It fabulously. What a GREAT girl!

    Let’s see if I can find another nice picture... yup, Luna at three years old in the back yard, ignoring me while I’m trying to take nice portrait pictures of her. ;-)

    Another take on Stimulus Control.

    Here’s a blog post from Lynn, the owner of Weimaraners Lily & Shayla, giving me another lightbulb moment about Stimulus Control.

    Stimulus Control (click to go to original post with videos)

    Here is the definition of stimulus control from Wikipedia:

    1. The behavior occurs immediately when the cue is given.
    2. The behavior never occurs in the absence of the cue.
    3. The behavior never occurs in response to some other cue.
    4. No other behavior occurs in response to this cue.

    Have I mentioned that Lily is a clever girl?

    In our home, Lily has a singularly important job. It is up to her to activate the Emergency Call Box if needed. Once activated, the Emergency Call Box dials 911. It is, therefore, EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that this behavior is on stimulus control.

    Lately, however, when I am seated in the room where the call box is located, reading, perhaps, or watching TV and Lily would prefer that I attend to her ... she has begun to activate the call box to tell me, "Let's play!" or "Let's train!" or "Pay attention to me!" (During the training period, the call box is not connected to the phone line).


    When training her Close the (front) Door behavior, if, in the process, she must pass the call box to get to the front door, she makes a quick detour and activates the call box "just in case".

    A classic example of the need for getting this behavior back on stimulus control if there ever was one.

    Early in the Levels when we begin teaching our dogs Duration, we teach Two-fers and wait for her to offer the behavior a second time, as if to say, "Hey, stupid! Didn't you just see me DO that?"

    Lily offers the ultimate "Hey, stupid!" in this video clip.

    (She pushes the box for a couple of seconds, creating a very long buzz)

    When I initially began teaching the Emergency Call Box chain of behaviors, I first used the verbal cue, "Call" for the activation behavior. Then, changed the cue because in "real life" the cue to activate the call box would be NO cue - or no verbal cue. My inert, silent body becomes the cue. So I must be careful in the process of re-teaching stimulus control to not lose the final desired behavior.

    Now I am about to begin teaching a variation of this behavior outside in public. Should I be on the ground and unconscious while we are out somewhere, it will be Lily's job to Down beside me and to remain there until someone picks up her leash and moves her, in order to assist me.

    Just think about this for a minute.

    More likely than not, in a public situation, she will be wearing her vest and she will be on leash. Then, suddenly, will find herself with a free leash, responsible to remain beside me no matter what the distractions and for an indefinite period of time.

    I cannot train this behavior in the house, because my body position is the cue to activate the call box IN THE HOUSE. As always, I will need to control my environment to absolute minimal distraction when introducing the "new" behavior. And, ideally, I will have another trainer or person near by to keep concerned passers by from thinking I am in need of help.

    I have been slow to begin training this behavior because I wanted to think through as many contingencies as possible. With Shayla, I taught her to leave me and to Get Help. With Lily, I have reconsidered and want her to remain.

    A new and different training challenge for me.

    Stimulus control is an important part of that challenge. Who would have thought it could be SO important?

    The picture is from December 2007. Ain’t that pretty?!

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    An evening of spontaneous training.

    À la plan once, train twice, except this time it was plan none, train once. Either way, it was fun!

    It all happened because I suddenly had an idea, which was to write the Steps to Success onto business-sized cards. And then I had L1, L2 & L3 Zen to work on, right there in my pocket!

    So, after the humans had dinner, off we went.
    TL1 Zen: Step 1 - Dog moves away from a treat in seated partner’s hand. Pass.
    TL1 Zen: Step 2 - Oops, I overlooked this one.
    TL1 Zen: Step 3 - Dog stays away from a treat in partner’s open hand for 5s. Pass.
    TL1 Zen: Step 4: - Dog stays away from treat in dog dish in hand. Pass.
    All of these without reaching for the treat first!

    Then, on to Level 2 Zen.
    TL2 Zen: Step 1 - Dog moves away from uncovered treat on floor. Pass.
    TL2 Zen: Step 2 - Dog stays off a treat on the floor for 10s. Pass.
    TL2 Zen: Step 3 - Dog stays off a treat on the floor for 30s. Fail. She began offering, Sit, then Down, then Chill & then she decided she could have the cookie. Haha!

    Then, as I was fumbling with my cards, Luna looked at me, went over to her dog dish, PICKED IT UP and brought it to me! Hahahahahaha! That was hilarious! So, from there, I decided we’d just work on some Cue Discrimination, as that’s pretty poor as well. No to mention that we have no Stimulus Control whatsoever, demonstrated by all the behaviours she’s offered up to this point.

    But, Cue Discrimination. She is DEFINITELY getting better at this! Dare I say she was 90% correct? I think she was. Let’s say 80%, for the sake of being truthful and not overestimating her ability. I asked for Sits (Park It), Downs, Stands (Sta), Touch, Chill, some Chin (Kin) and Nose (Snuit) once.

    Then we did some more playing with retrieving the food bowl into my hand, & I added some Zen because as soon as she’d eaten the treats she’d pick the dish right up again. So I started asking for Leave It before asking her to Give it to me again. She did this very nicely! Once she got it, after 2 reps, she Sat & Stared when I said Leave It. Good girl!

    Last but not least, I decided to try some more Zen-type stuff. I’d say Leave It as I dropped about 5-8 treats on the floor, she’d do that EVERY TIME and then I would ask for another behaviour (Touch, Park It, Down, Chill) before clicking & releasing her to eat the treats on the floor. When I asked for the Chill, she said ‘but there’s treats on the floor!’ So I asked for something else. The next time I dropped the treats to one side of her so she had enough room to do Chill without lying down amidst the kibble. She did it!

    Then, I had er put her dog dish back where it belongs, cued another Leave It, dropped her remaining kibble in her bowl, waited for her to commit to Leaving It, and then I let her finish her meal.

    This was definitely a VERY cool, VERY fun session!

    The picture is Luna at 14 months, all curled up in Cedric’s (a West Highland White Terrier mix) dog bed! Isn’t she CUTE?!

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Finishing up training inspiration ideas & no more pills for the lady!

     Wow, time flies when you’re having fun!

    For the past two and a half days I’ve been working hard on modifying BZ Training’s plans to my situation, adding and removing things as I went. I think I’m about done now.

    This morning was Luna’s last 1 & 1/4 anti-inflammation/painkiller pill. Nice, because they were pretty sticky! And one less thing to forget. ;-)

    Again, since the first pill, she has not limped once. From today until next Thursday we’ll have another week of no activity other than calm, straight line walking, and then we can finally start doing FUN- um, ACTIVE FUN things again!

    My agenda says that we’ll start Levels training on Friday the 15th, so far I think I will stick to that plan... ahum... give myself some time to get off my butt....

    We ARE still going for a longer walk whenever we can, though yesterday was a no-go due to dreary, wet weather & a little, old white dog depending on me for his potty breaks. This morning however, we- I, gathered all my stuff (whistle around my neck, 3 slices of cooked sausage in the treat bag along with 100g of kibbles, phone, Kleenex, house keys-) and off we went!

    A nice walk, sunny and dry, nice temperature. I planned to do three ‘practice’ RRR’s (Really Reliable Recall), meaning ‘there’s no emergency but we’re just practicing’ and I got to do only ONE where I felt I was actually calling her away from something. Both other times she seemed to just be a little ways away ‘because I said to ‘mind your own business’’, but mentally she was still with me. Either way she did nice recalls and couldn’t get the sausage out of my hands quick enough! :-)

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    A longer walk, great training inspiration & white socks!

    Another great day with a longer walk!

    I decided this time, because I’m not sure the harness is really comfortable & because I find it hard to walk with a dog on a tight leash, to allow Luna to be off-leash. As soon as I saw another dog though, I’d put her on leash and have her walk by my side or Sit. Why? Because I realized that the problem isn’t that Luna is rowdy when she’s off leash. The problem is playing with other dogs and me throwing stuff for her. If those things don’t happen, she’s a perfectly behaved, calmly trotting dog. Nothing gained there by putting her on leash. I was very glad I made that choice, and as such it was a much more comfortable walk!

    Also, I found absolutely GREAT training stuff, ideas & inspiration on the training blog of a Training Levels follower. She’s ‘green_gargoyle’ on the TL List and she has 2 Golden Retriever boys, Zachary & baby Henry. I’m making my own plans modeled off of hers now! Yay! Thanks, Kathleen!

    I went shopping today to get my new agenda for 2011 (fuchsia), and I also got 50 business cards, 100 index cards, a fuchsia 2-ring binder (all of which I plan to use for dog training), a really cute 2011 dog calendar AND I remembered, standing at the check-out desk and happening to see them, to buy WHITE SOCKS to put the dummy’s in for our Gundog training! Whoohoo!

    About the picture: That's Luna last spring, having a HUGE blast digging for her ball in a big pile of sand. Two police officers on bikes came by, and one of them said, when he saw Luna digging around, "Easter's over, you know! No more digging for eggs!" Haha!

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Another longer walk & ideas for Gundog Training.

     Whooo, 71 degrees again! Today we took the longer walk at 1.30 PM, as I also have our old dog Cedric to walk today. So this morning I took them out together for a 15-minute trip.

    Her harness is still too small, I think. The belly band is right behind her elbows and ideally, I should be able to fit my flat hand between her elbow and the belly band. Hmm. Not sure what I’m gonna do about that yet. I could buy a new harness, one size up for the neck-part and then the same size as the belly band is now, or a different one altogether. Anyways...

    I also had an aha! moment while drying the dishes; I don’t need to teach Luna about difficult retrieves, I need to teach her that she can TRUST me that when I say, there’s a bumper out there, it’s really there. I can do that by making sure she can ALWAYS SEE the bumper from where I send her to go get it. So I either work on totally flat land/concrete, or I put a white sock around the bumper.

    This way, I CAN add distance, but I most importantly make sure that Luna learns she can really go out when I tell her to. She needs to BELIEVE that when I say Go, she’ll find a bumper.

    Success criteria will be; as long as she finds the bumper without needing my help, that’s a pass. The faster the better, but if she doesn’t need me, that’s a pass. IF she AT ANY POINT FAILS to get the bumper ON THE FIRST SEND, that means she needs MORE practice with bumpers she CAN find immediately.

    There. Yay me!

    The picture is of last winter, during a Gundog Training Week on one of the Dutch islands, Ameland. It was freezing cold, but SO much fun! This was the first time Luna happily retrieved anything other than a ball. Look how proud she is! By the way, we're going again next January, only this time we'll be prepared!

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    A longer walk!

    Last night was a no-go, it was raining quite heavily. This morning was beautiful though; clear blue skies and temperatures in the high fifty’s, low sixties. This afternoon around 3 PM it was 71 degrees!

    So I took her flexi-lead and harness and off we went! She took about 10 minutes to get used to the harness & the weight of the flexi, but then she had it figured and used the 26 feet of line nicely. She stayed mostly within 20 feet.

    Still makes me smile, to see her trying to keep the leash loose even on her harness. I encourage her to go by saying ‘go ahead, go pee’. Don’t think that makes much difference until she is comfortable with the setup.

    All in all it was a nice, hot, somewhat muddy walk with a beautifully responsive dog!

    The picture is Luna at 11 months, in season. That leash was  6,5 feet long and I threw it away! Not a very smart idea, but I’ve recently made a new one out of a 16 foot long line. I’m very happy with the new one!

    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    More plans for a lasting recovery.

     I just thought of another Levels behaviour we can work on while Luna is recovering from her knee injury. Scenting!

    So now, we have the following items to work on while Luna has to take it easy; Zen, Down & Down Stay, Sit & Sit Stay, Handling, Watch, & Scenting.

    Also, I will be taking Luna for longer walks on her flexi-lead and harness as of - weather permitting - tonight. We’ll then be doing 45 minutes, which is about 2,4 miles. Hopefully this will help keep her muscles in good condition and rush along her weight loss a little faster than it is going right now.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    I said...

     NO playing with other dogs...

    Well, I let her anyway, this morning, with Senna the Bernese Mountain Dog whom I actually suspect of having CAUSED Luna’s injury in the first place! AND I let them play on leash. *Sigh*

    Well, that’s not going to happen anymore.

    There IS however, good news! I have not seen Luna limp since yesterday. Yay!

    AND, according to the client desk, a DVD (Susan Garrett’s Crate Games) I’d ordered about a month ago is finally on its way here! Yay, again!

    I took this picture on September 18, when all was well with her legs.