Saturday, December 29, 2007

2008 Hopes

I have a jam-packed winter coming up, loads of classes and seminars.

Carmen will be taking Katrin's ABC class in January. I can't wait to see how that goes - she is much faster than Ike but with none of the precision. It will be interesting to see if and how she'll work with me.

My goal for Carmen in 2008 is to develop a nice working relationship and help build her confidence. My pie in the sky goal for her is to get her to a point where I would be comfortable entering her in a CPE trial. Level 1 CPE is so easy going, if our relationship develops, it might be do-able. To that end I will need to start bringing her to more places with me and getting her used to being crated.

I haven't decided if the two dogs in one crate is a good idea. Where they can both be nervous nellies I am afraid they will feed each others anxiety. I think a large crate in the car could work but would be a big no-no at a trial.

My goals for Ike in '08? More trials in general (NADAC & CPE). Better conditioning (more hikes!). I really want to work on distance with him. This is a huge challenge for us because of both of our personalities and our relationship's history - I was such a babysitter for so long. What I have learned with Ike is if I am patient and practice he's willing to do anything I ask. So, I need to develop a more concrete plan for working on distance with Ike. I also want to explore tracking with Ike - so find a class or seminar!

Personal 2008 goals, find the right Giant Schnauzer puppy for me!

Continue to work towards sitting for the CCPDT exam, to that end make a decision about the right program - get off the pot, Julie! (I am strongly leaning towards Susan Smith, Raising Canine course.)

Take as many seminars and classes as funds and time will allow.

Work on patience with people! Quicker reflexes!

My more immediate goals are to finish my table so I can keep practicing that behavior with both dogs. Get a second set of weaves so I can work 12 poles with Ike and in general firm up his weave performance and get a weave performance out of Carmen! Finish my Christmas books, Smart Trainers, Brilliant Dogs by Janet R. Lewis and Help for Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde.

I am sure these goals will continue to evolve (I sure hope so!), but they are a good starting point and I don't think they are unrealistic.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Oh Carmelita.....

Well, with the rain, I figured I would bring up my poles and set them up in my in-law's porch. Why not. So off to work with the pooches.

Carmen is such a scaredy dog!! She thinks the cages are going to eat her (note: I opted to go with cage method first then use channel method later for speed if needed). I set up a fiesta trail of treats (LOTS and LOTS) through the cages and she wouldn't venture in. After about 30 minutes her belly got the better of her and she ventured a paw forth. I was proud of myself for being patient. Hysterical, one paw forward while prepared to back up quickly. We played this for quite some time, until she was able to go through without issue. Still not confident, but I didn't want to push it. I'll bring the poles out again tomorrow and work on it some more.

I ran Ike through the poles a few times from various positions. He is getting much better about directionals (not verbals) - If I am being smart about which hand I use, he makes the correct decision about 80% of the time. Since I haven't consciously worked on this, I am pleased. And it reminds me that since it is obviously incorporated in our training I should work on it some more. He has the gist, of course, it is more the handler I am concerned about!

No class for Carmen - Again!

She's jinxed, I swear to the good dog gods!! Denise has food poisoning and there is another snow storm coming in. I am going to set my poles up in the mud room and start teaching her the channel method. That will use her little brain. I'll practice with Sir Ike too - he is going through work withdrawal.

I will update later with how the pups do. The All Dogs trial in January will be Ike's first Level 2 CPE trial - so weaves! I think he should be fine as he really has got six down pat. I need to buy a second set desperately though!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Conversations

I have had two more GS conversations this week with very knowledgeable people. The conversations were practically revelations, just so much information.

I am a 100% + convinced that GS is the right dog for me. I am really hopeful that there will be a puppy in 2008 that is the right dog for me.

One of the woman I spoke with used to live in Massachusetts and she gave me a tracking resource to check out! Very cool. I can't wait to get Ike's sniffer working, and maybe Carmen's. I think they will both enjoy it and it would help me get a grasp on the sport for the future-GS puppy.

And, the two people I spoke with this week do not crop ears and either won't be docking the tail this upcoming breeding or don't plan to in future breedings. This is a big deal when I think back to the FCI Agility World Championship; none of the U.S. MS could compete because of their docked tails and cropped ears. The AKC breed standard for MS requires a docked tail, but the GS standard doesn't!

I am finding this research and networking to be a completely different experience than when I started looking last year and was still thinking about going with another MS. There were some MS people who were open to speaking with me, but most suggested I visit the AMSC web page. Uh, hello....

Anyway, today begins the holiday festivities. Ike, John, and I will spend the eve with the in-laws and niece & nephew and then drive up to Reading to wake up at my mum's with my bro and Nellie-dog.

Happy Holidays to everyone!! And a happy holidays from all my critters, woof, tweet, and wheek!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No class for Carmen

Due to the funky weather Carmen did not have class for a second week. Eeek! So, I practiced attention and sitting on the left with her, and a bit of informal heeling, or LLW. She is a very quick study. So completely different than Ike. I am still trying to figure out how she is so different.

Ike is now at a point where he eagerly tries to figure out what I want, but Carmen after being neglected (training-wise) for 5 years is there in a couple of weeks of playing (training). She picked up sitting when I stop in about 2 seconds, literally.

The funniest part about these little practice sessions is that I am doing them in my in-law's finished porch (due to the weather, of course) which spans the back of their house. There are french glass doors from the main part of the house onto the porch. I lock myself out on the porch and practice while the other dogs are inside. Initially Ike screamed bloody murder, now he watches through the french doors with his little tail wagging. I practiced a bit with Ike after Carmen and she did the same thing, with a bit of woo-wooing added in.

Just realized the obvious reason Carmen is picking things up so much faster than Ike did. *I* have had more practice training. I have obviously honed my technique is some manner that makes things clearer - that and she is a different dog, of course.

Fun stuff. I am enjoying having to think with her. I am seriously thinking about doing a private with Katrin on heeling. I find the whole act somewhat mystifying, having never properly trained it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Carmie sees the Chiropractor

Carmen saw Dr. Anne (our doggie chiropractor) yesterday. She was a nervous wreck on the car ride down. I put Ike in his crate, because that is where he goes in the car, and she was loose. I don't know if she didn't realize Ike was there because he was in the crate, or what. She whined/sang to me the entire ride and hyper ventilated a little bit. Wow. I guess I don't realize what a good traveller Ike is!

We got to the Road To Health and had to wait about 15 minutes - everyone was running late because of traffic, etc. Ike just laid down in the waiting room and chilled - Carmen stood up on her hind legs and put her paws on my knee and worry-whined. Finally Robin, the receptionist suggested we go back to the big room so Carmen could worry in there instead!

Dr. Anne came in and we put Carmen up on the table. Her neck is a little out of whack and her there was/is a quarter-inch difference in her pelvis. The left side was a quarter-inch lower. Dr. Anne adjusted her, we already had a second appointment set up, and we were on our way. Short and sweet.

For the ride home I decided to leave Ike loose with Carmen and see if him being in the crate was part of the problem. They both laid down and napped, so I guess it helped to have Ike loose and not crated.

Which brings me to an interesting question - if I plan on trialing with Carmen (eventually, why not?!) would I be better off buying a large crate that the two of them can be in or a large crate for the car at least? Or just work on her adjusting? Not sure yet....

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fun with Jumps!

Hooray, as I say every week after agility. Tonight we had class with Katrin and the focus was on jumps (and easy one jump practice exercises). Katrin wants us to understand that teaching our dog correct jumping form, and that there is actually a variety of forms their body can be in while jumping, is important.

First exercise, which she illustrated with happy-boy Niche, is to have you dog take the jump from a sit quite close to the jump. The dog literally has to hop over the jump and lift their front legs higher than they would typically. Okay.

Step two of the exercise is to put your dog in a stay a bit a way and then release them to jump (with you right beside the jump). Be prepared to treat them immediately following the jump, so that they get used to landing close to a jump. I found it really interesting to watch Ike do this - he would land on his front to paws, only a few inches after the jump, and then bring his hind quarters into that same small space. Of course, he is a small dog. But really Niche wasn't doing it that differently.

Second exercise was to have your dog do figure eights, or weave, over one jump. This is to help practice splicing jumps. A couple of things. First, I couldn't figure out where the heck to put my body, so I was moving around a lot *helping* Ike know where to be and getting out of his way. Katrin pointed out I don't really need to do that for him anymore (and hullo, it is part of the problem in the first place - BABYSITTER!) and that he should be comfortable taking a jump and nearly landing on me.

So, take two of this exercise, I stood less than a foot away from the jump in the middle of the jump stanchions (? what is the right word ?) and had Ike jump figure eights around me.

I nearly forgot to mention something important! Katrin suggested moving the jumps up to 16" for the boy; we currently jump 12". As I have mentioned in other posts, when Ike and I first started working with Katrin he REALLY did not like jumping, in fact I don't think he liked agility much at all. He just liked me a lot so he tried. Now he hops over anything in his path with abandon and easily clears 16".

So, Katrin suggested there might come a time when I want him to jump 16" and it is worth practicing (ASCA, anyone?). She pointed out the one thing we need to be aware of is if he starts tacking another 4" inches onto his jumping form in order to jump the 16" jumps (thereby jumping 20"). With 12" jumps, that is essentially what he does and who knows if it is because he can or that is how he thinks he is supposed to take jumps. Katrin said if we run into that issue we can do lots of tires, which would limit his jump height and use the top of her tire over a jump (she has a displaceable tire) which would do the same thing but over a jump.

Back to the exercise....jumping 16" I was much more clearly able to see Ike collecting himself - it is definitely more of a physical challenge for him. I also noticed that he seemed hesitant to splice the jump heading towards me on his left. Hmmm...don't know if that means anything?

Then we moved onto a little distance work. Ike can confidently take obstacles that are up to 5 feet away from me, but obstacles between 5' and 12' he doesn't seem to see them and thinks he needs to return to me. This brought up an interesting distinction, the difference between a "go on" and a "get out." Katrin asked us the difference. Lets see if I get this right, I said a "go on" is when you want your dog to continue on to the next immediate obstacle until you call him off. A "get out" is when your dog is veering towards you/returning to you and you want to send them back out to the obstacle, but I don't think that is exactly right because you also use it when you want to send your dog further away from you.

The portion of the course we were working on went, jump, jump, curved tunnel, jump, wing jump. The tape started when the dog came out of the tunnel, so by the first jump you were 5 feet away, by the wing jump you are 12 feet away from your dog. I did remember to bring Ike's ball, but Katrin said NOT to use it as a lure (i.e. throwing it over the jump for him to chase, which by the way didn't work!). I moved too far ahead between the jump and wing jump and Ike was going around the wing jump to the ball I had thrown as an ineffective lure, but he *was* thinking. Katrin suggested instead of moving forward I should be moving vertically. If Ike was going to continue to reorient to me, by moving vertically it was more likely he would realize I wanted him to take the jump that was now more directly in front of me.

When we reversed the tape so that the distance challenge was on the opposite two jumps, I had gotten control of my body and was able to stop halfway between the two jumps and move vertically towards the jump in order to help Ike see where I wanted him to go (versus continuing to move forward which was causing him to go past the jump and look for what on earth I wanted him to get out to). We did this three times and by the second time I was able to get Ike to take the second jump by *helping* him out with the vertical movement. Good boy!

So, this is something we need to practice, The tough thing is the weather. The minimal distance we have (I think) is in part because after I got my jumps I practiced it a lot (that and Ike's increased confidence). This says, practice pays off, but my house isn't big enough to practice 12' distances! Suggestions? : )

Monday, December 17, 2007

Darnnit Katrin: Before There Was Atticus; The Story Of Maxwell Garrison Gillis

Oye, I am sitting at work CRYING after reading this incredibly moving post about Tom's first rescue Schnauzer, Maxwell Garrison Gillis.

Tom & Atticus Hike The Winter Whites For MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center: Before There Was Atticus; The Story Of Maxwell Garrison Gillis

I must be going to have an emotional day. I am wondering about my dog priorites and whether I don't really want another MS, whether I don't want to keep working with the breed, and .... ARGH! I am crazy.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The puppy decision

As many of you know, I have been planning for the past year+ to add another dog to my household. When I started looking (late-Fall 2006) I gave myself two years as I want it to happen before Ike gets too much more grumpy! Alas, it appears I am right on schedule. The estimated addition to the family will take place at the end of 2008. Drat! I was hoping for much earlier.

Originally I planned on getting another Miniature Schnauzer. For all of Ike's quirks I adore him and I thought it would be nice to continue working with the breed and represent "good" Miniature Schnauzers; they get kind of a bad rap.

As I did my research, it became apparent that there are only two breeders that breed for performance dogs.That doesn't seem like a lot. I became concerned that that is really too limited a gene pool and decided maybe I would think about another breed.

John has always had Miniature Schnauzers and I have predominantly had German Shepherds or Lab/Shepherd mutts (except for the 1st dog, a 13" Beagle named Angus and the last dog a BC/lab/Wolfhound mix named Cinder) I knew that with my future dog I would like to continue hiking with them, play agility, try herding, and possibly tracking. I need a dog that has as much "go" as I do. I asked Katrin what she would recommend for me if I wasn't going to get a MS. I really like Monty and would absolutely love a Welsh Cardigan Corgi, but DH wasn't too keen on that idea. A BIG concern is the fact that I have two cockatiels and they live between 15 and 20 years. I have at least another 15 years with them, so my next dog needs to have a controllable prey drive.

Katrin recommended a Border Collie and a wonderful rescue (Glen Highland Farm), because if I was getting a BC it would have to be older so as not to expose a BC puppy to Ike! After much discussion, John shot that down. He was somewhat interested in an Aussie, but really would like another MS. I really do NOT want another MS. Dilemma.

Thus began the research into other herding dogs. Katrin threw out Giant Schnauzer and I thought, hmmm.... I started to research and decided that if I got a Giant Schnauzer I would like to get a puppy, the breed standard says they are protective and I want my next dog to be socialized up the wazoo. I don't particularly want a Lab or Golden response to people (Oh my gods, people....I love people! Let me turn myself inside out for you!), but I don't ever want to go through what I went through and continue to go through with Ike's fear of people, again. In that sense, a GS could be perfect. They like people, but their people are the most important (from what I have read and heard from first hand experiences).

I posted on the Performance Schnauzer list that I was researching GSs and got a ton of responses from owners and breeders. Through Giant Schnauzer Club of America web site I discovered a breeder that sounded worth contacting, Skyline Giant Schnauzers.

After a little prep e-mail, I sent the following "What I am Looking for in a Puppy" list to my Performance Schnauzer list, Skyline Giant Schnauzers, Wildwood Giant Schnauzers, and Riesenrad Schnauzers. Uniformally, everyone thought a Giant Schnauzer could be a good fit for me.

I currently have a 5 year old Miniature Schnauzer named Ike. He has been an incredible learning experience as he had MANY fear issues. He is currently CGC and TDI certified, so needless to say we have worked hard at conquering our fear related issues!

Ike competes in agility but is much more of a couch potato than I am - he does agility for me but isn't very passionate about it. In my next dog I am looking for a dog that matches me better in terms of energy and desire to work.

I love agility and we currently compete in NADAC and CPE, the two more low-key venues which are a good match for Ike's personality. With my next dog I would like to continue to do agility, explore obedience, and herding. I am also willing to show conformation and interested in tracking. Ideally I will have a dog that likes to work and we can build a relationship together that helps us figure out where we should focus our talents/interests.

What am I looking for in a puppy:

Boldness/Inquisitive nature: Ike errs on the side of safety always - many of his decisions are based on his fears. I don't want a dog that always leaps before they think but I would like a dog that is more willing to take chances/try new things.

People-friendly: I do not want a dog that leaves me to great every single person. However, having had a dog with people related fear issues I would like a dog that thinks people are okay.

Wants to play/work, i.e. biddability!: Ike likes to play/work but some things I really have to "jolly" him along about. I know that with any dog there will be issues at some point when we have differing ideas about what to do, but in general I would like a dog that likes to work/play.

Energy: I would like a dog that has more energy than Ike. He is very low-key and laid back, never in a rush. GREAT for a companion dog, not so great for agility! My intent with my future dog is to continue playing agility and any other sports they are interested in or are appropriate for their breed. I would still like them to be capable of down time.

Prey Drive: I have small animals so I am concerned about prey drive. It would have to be a dog I can train to "leave it," i.e. their senses don't desert them when they see a small animal. Probably rules out all "real" terriers and spaniels.

Grooming: I groom Ike myself, so am aware of the commitment a GS presents.

Feeding: I currently feed Ike a raw diet and would like to continue to do so with my future dogs. I have read both Billinghurst and Lonsdale and continue to try and educate myself about emerging trends in food, vaccination, and supplementing.

I currently teach pet obedience at a local shelter (MSPCA) and with a private trainer (Katrin Andberg, Maplewood Animal Care & Training
www.maplewooddog.com). I am a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and am actively working towards sitting for the Council of Certified Pet Dog Trainers exam.

Thank you for taking the time to answer this. I am genuinely interested in your breed and hope to discover whether or not they would work with my lifestyle.

Sincerely,

Julie Garland-Powers

Ike - Silvermist Icebreaker CGC TDI NAC, CL1-H, CL1-R
www.slowasmolasses.blogspot.com

One of the people I am speaking with has a litter of GS puppies on the ground. She feels they will have a wonderful working temperament. Unfortunately right now is not the right time for us. HOWEVER, she will have another litter at the end of 2008, which might be perfect for us. This breeder feeds prey model and does minimum vaccinations! Most of her dogs are from Europe. I need to continue to research, but tentatively I am very excited. I am planning to go visit her and her current litter in January!! I have also stumbled across a really nice blog called K9-Crazy (Cat, you in particular might want to check this out!).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chiro, Carmen, Webb Anderson seminar

I took Ike to the chiropractor last night. He is looking good. I swear he has lost that half pound that I was obsessing over. Dr. Anne tested him and opted to leave him on the thyroid supplement and scheduled a follow-up (3 weeks). But physically he looked good.

It is interesting, Katrin thinks she has notices a difference in his way of being. I can't say for sure. On Tuesday he DID do a play bow pounce when I asked him if he was ready to run the closing. That playbow/pounce is what he does to me at home when we are playing agility. His comfort level is increasing for sure.

I practiced eye contact with Carmen last night (and class was canceled tonight due to the snow). She is doing well. Her tail wags constantly - she is so happy to be working for someone. I have an appointment with Dr. Anne for Carmen next week. We went ahead and scheduled her for a second appointment the same night Ike is having his follow-up. We decided to do this after I mentioned she hurt herself jumping on the couch last year so severely we had to make an ER vet visit (she wouldn't move - period - the vet said nothing was wrong) and she wouldn't jump for MONTHS. I am sure something is out of whack there, so I can't wait to hear what!

Finally, a member of the performance schnauzer list I belong to is the President of a local agility club that is hosting a seminar by Webb Anderson in February. Eeek! When I was determined to get another MS (last spring) I contacted him regarding breeders he would recommend (there are only two!). He is friends with Anna and a frequent World Team and National Team member. He has something silly like 5 MSs. His current dog Nigel (MACH4 Gala First Class Event, PD3 ) set the new World Record for the fastest Miniature Schnauzer in the Ultimate Weave Poll Challenge. Nigel completed 60 weave poles in 14.64 seconds. I CAN NOT even imagine.

ANYWAY, there were only 10 Novice working spaces available and I figured they would go to club members, but the gal on my list said - "No, e-mail the woman organizing it. I think you would get a lot out of a seminar with Webb." I did and I got a spot. Then I decided that even though I REALLY wanted the opportunity to train with someone who works with lots of schnauzers I really can not afford it. Ta-da the fairy dog mother visited! My MIL is giving me the seminar as a Christmas gift from her and the dogs! Hooray! I am a little afraid, but hooray!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The boy and his goat


Ike (the boy) tries to figure out how to eat a chunk of goat meat.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gamblers

Last night Katrin's class focused on the game Gamblers (or Jackpot as it is known in CPE). Fun, fun, fun!

Because I am lazy, you can either visit Katrin's post for a description of the game Gamblers or scroll back and read this post about the trial at All Dogs Gym which explains Jackpot! Essentially, obstacles are worth a certain amount of points. Each level has to accrue a certain amount of points in the "opening." Novice must accrue 15 points in ASCA (NADAC no longer has Gamblers). Then the handler/dog team must complete the "closing" (a series of obstacles) with a distance challenge.

We started class by practicing the Closing sequence.

Yay for Ike and his MUCH more confident teeter performance. Woo-hoo. Our practicing this summer really paid off. He does not hesitate to take the teeter at a 4+ foot distance and in general he is doing the teeter a lot quicker. No more creeping up to the tip point. Yay!

The closing last night was jump, tunnel, teeter, jump. The distance challenge increased with each obstacle so that the final jump was at least 5 feet away (if not more?). Ike has a very funny thing he does - he thinks the tape is what he is jumping! He did this last year when we started practicing Chances. So strange! So I kept moving too far forward and then trying to get him to take the jump. To which Sir Ike would then repeatedly cross the tape. "Mum, I'm doing it. Isn't this what you want?"

Thinking about it last night at home what I should have done was gone and got his ball. If I was able to stop myself from moving and stayed near the base/end of the teeter I could have sent him to the jump after the ball, reinforcing what I want. Argh! Next time.

Then I ran the closing with Mr. Niche. Hah! I have a lot to get used to with a long strided dog. He took the dogwalk on me three times because that was the direction MY BODY was facing and I let him blow his contacts at least twice. Now I know why Katrin enforces a strict WAIT - otherwise you might just miss the entire contact area. Finally Katrin commented on my body position, I corrected it, and Niche gladly did jump, tunnel, teeter, jump. Fun stuff.

Then we did the Opening sequence. I completely forget what I had Ike do. Needless to say, I didn't REALLY have a plan. With NADAC because of the wide distances in the course, it is tough on a slow dog. I have learned in new situations to avoid the dog walk depending on Ike's mental state because he can be SLOW AS MOLASSES on it and eat up our precious seconds. I wanted to have him do the dog walk regardless for the practice regardless of the effect on our time.

Last night Ike accrued 26 points and I was super well positioned if we were actually going to complete the closing. I was right at the first jump. One thing that didn't come up last night is if you end the opening with the first obstacle of the closing in CPE you need to do that obstacle again. I assume it is the same with Gamblers?

Nancy (Remy's mum) had arrived and I asked her to hold Ike so I could run Niche. Very fun. He is so responsive. I was out of breath when I finished though. I am going to have to take up running for my next dog!

When I came back to get Ike he was sitting under the bench SHAKING. I am not clear why. I don't know if he was nervous about Nancy or about me running Niche. He was fine when I did the Closing sequence with Niche, I think. Katrin? I pretty much forced Ike to do the opening again just so he could shake the scaredy dog out of his system.

It is interesting, when Ike is scared he will still work for me, but is much slower. It makes sense. Of course, some dogs that were scared would start zooming or sniff and not work at all. So once more, yay Ike!

Carmie - 1st practice session

Today I worked on attention, sits, and shaping the down with Ms. Carmen. She picked up on the eye contact pretty quickly, which made me happy. Initially she was standing on her hind legs trying to figure out how to get those treats! Then she started consistently offering eye contact. Good girlie!!

She has a solid sit, but asking for it on my left side was throwing her for an absolute loop. She would pivot around me and sit in front of me. I was able to convince her she could sit on my left after a couple of tries. It will take a bit of work to make this automatic with her; she has spent 5.5 years sitting three feet in front of people and been rewarding like mad for it.

She is familiar with the lure for "down" so I have to be really careful not to just lure her and allow it to be shaped.

Carmen is so excited that someone wants to work with her; talk about bright eyes.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ike was doing a bizarre high-pitched bark of jealousy. Interesting. Perhaps Katrin is right about competition being good for him.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pics of my new trainee

Here are some pics of Ike & Carmen. I am trying desperately to download some funny pictures of Ike trying to figure out how to eat a chunk of goat. My camera is not cooperating. And hey, I might be the only one who thinks it is funny that he's a lazy (or confused) eater!!


Saturday, December 8, 2007

A nice winter hike

Today I stole Carmen and asked John to come for a hike with us. I'll admit, I had an ulterior motive - Carmen and Ike together on a hike alone at this point can be pretty difficult. So I was hoping John would want to go. : ) That way we could bring both dogs and I could start conditioning Ms. Carmen.

Carmen is ideal prep for my puppy-to-be. She has minimal manners and has no idea that there is any reason she should be paying attention to a human on a walk. Hee, so real training in store! There is certainly a good dog waiting to get out in there.

We spent about 2 hours at Borderland and Carmen got progressively more attentive to me during the hike. Compared to Ike she is in AWFUL shape, so I will have to work on them both. At one point we were in a very large field and no one was near, John went about 25 yards away and called them to him, then sent them back to me. The last time they went back to John Ike took off to the right with Carmen tearing after him. She couldn't catch him. That has NEVER happened before - she is so much faster than him, but he's in better shape! Hooray!

Currently they are both sound asleep on the couch. Nothing like an exhausted dog. And I think Carmen might be even a better candidate than Ike for tracking - her nose rarely left the ground! Exciting! So even though DH has laid down the law and said no puppy until the end of 2008, I have a dog to work with and prepare me for my puppy. And as an added bonus Carmen reminds me of how far Ike has come and what a good boy he is.

On Course for Kids

Yesterday I ran my agility friends Mike & Michelle's dog Zeus in On Course for Kids. On Course for Kids is a team agility event for the purpose of creating a fun night for patients and their families while raising money for the Floating Hospital's Children’s Cancer Center Childlife program (Cycle for Life Fund) in Boston, MA.

Zeus is a 6.5 year old black lab. He has been a bit broken so hasn't been playing agility lately and jumped 8" last night. I admit to being unsure I should support running a broken dog!

It was a hoot to run him, he's fast and he jumps like a gazelle. Mike and Michelle have another lab named Stryder who is 2.5 years old. I love him! He is a big mush. The funny thing is that Michelle always refers to Stryder as the "bad" dog, but last night Zeus was being incorrigible all night long. Every time he saw a door he made a beeline for it, practically pulling me off my feet! For whatever reason, he did not want to be there last night. I am sure it is tough to run for someone you don't know!

Running Zeus makes me think about my future dog and how different they are sure to be from Ike. Occasionally when I think about the possibilities I get a knot in my stomach. It is so exciting to think about having a puppy I can work with from the ground up to be an agility dog. With Ike I didn't even know there were real people as into dog training as I currently am! So Ike had a *tough* puppyhood. Lots of love, no real expectations, and not allowed to think much for himself. Boo hiss, none of that in my next dog's future!

Thanks to Michele and Marlene for their donations to OCFK! Our team (Tahitian Mystery Black Dogs) came in second for points in the relay! Not sure how - apparently the purple toys were worth more points and we must have grabbed mostly purple!

OCFK raised a whopping 27,000. Hopefully we'll be able to do this again next year. Of course, someone will have to donate a child friendly dog to me!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Intro to Basic Manners

Last night I attended the "dry-run" intro class to the NEW Basic Manners at the shelter. Before the opportunity to assist Katrin with the ABC Foundation class on Thursday nights arose, I intended to try and stick it out at the shelter with Denise. Denise has been a terrific mentor to me.

The Foundation class opportunity was much too good to pass up, and I gave the shelter my notice. However, I told Denise I would be happy to be a test subject (with Carmen) until the ABC Foundation class begins, as she attempts to work out the kinks of teaching the new program. It is an 8 week class, I think Carmen and I will be available for 4 additional weeks.

For those of you who don't know Carmen, she is my in-law's 5 1/2 yo Miniature Schnauzer. She is Salt and Pepper with striking dark markings on her face. The breeder had kept her with the intention of showing her, but she grew a half-inch too tall and lacked the appropriate personality. Carmen is a little nastier than Ike and also somewhat fearful. She is the opposite of Ike in that she is more dog reactive than people reactive, in general. She's also SO much faster than Ike. She likes to run, just to run.

I thought using Carmen as a test subject at the shelter would be a great opportunity to brush up on her minimal obedience skills in prep for the ABC Foundation class (previously, she did basic manners at the Dedham-ARL and Agility-for-Fun at the Metro South MSPCA).

So, last night Denise did a rough run through what will be her introduction. The skills Carmen and I will work on this week for homework are: Attention, Sit, Shaping the down, and Come.

Denise demo'd how we are to train these behaviors and gave plenty of time to ask questions. We were sent home with two double-sided sheets. Gulp. I think if I were not an experienced dog person I would be incredibly overwhelmed.

Attention: Similar to how Katrin trains it, or as I call it, the "Be a Tree" method. Two treats in either hand making a "T" with your body. The second the dog stops paying attention to the treats and makes eye contact - click and treat. The shelter wants you to shape it, initially for any head movement towards you. We will see how tough Carmen thinks this is and take it from there.

Sit: Lure the sit - typical method. Do not use the cue until the dog is in the act of sitting. The shelter wants the dog to associate the "act of sitting" with the actual cue. Okay. The only difference is 3 out of every 4 sits you do with your dog should be on the left side in the "Finish" or "Place" position. This will be new for Carmen. It only took me a few days to teach Ike to sit on my left after years of sitting in front of me, I expect it will be the same for Ms. Carmen.

Down: Baby steps. Take the treat (when the dog is in the sit) and lower it beneath the dog's chin. Click and treat for dog looking down. Take the treat below their chin again and raise the criteria slightly and click and treat for down movement, etc. Okay. Carmen doesn't have a solid down so this will be more fun for us. I can really see how she takes to the concept of shaping. Her brain is definitely wired differently than Ike. I think she will offer more behaviors than he did when I first started asking him to think for himself.

Come: The shelter's new program is big on the "lifeline" as they call it - a 30-foot lead. Take your dog out in your backyard and let them have the length of the lead. Once they are involved in sniffing, etc., call their name and start running backward. As soon as the dog commits to running to you yell "come." Treat when they reach you. The new program's criteria for a "come" is a straight line to you, the handler, as fast as possible.

I think this will be a great experience for me and Carmen. However, considering that most of the shelter's students are only there because they are required to take a positive manners class by their adoption, I highly doubt it will be a positive experience for them! If I were not so dog savvy and into dogs, I think I would find this class overwhelming. I think it puts too much of pressure on the inexperienced owners and I don't think they are going to pick up the responsibility and run with it. Hopefully I will be wrong though!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My 1st Face-plant....swoon

Last night Ike and I had class with Katrin. Yippeee! It was freezing, and as I mentioned last post, Ike LOVES the cold. Silly dog. I love the heat!

Anyway, last week we worked on our perspective (the handlers) in dealing with courses, this week we worked on some foundation sequences for dogs. These common and important sequences are:
  1. A "jump chute," i.e. 5 jumps (in this instance) in a straight line at 20 foot spacing - a 120 foot run. The reason it is important to practice this is because it isn't exactly natural for a dog to run in a straight line; I have noticed this when dogs play. Katrin pointed out that in a lot of novice courses the course will end with a straight shot and a tunnel off to the side, for example, and people don't understand why their dog takes an off course. Well, it's because they haven't been taught to run in a straight line! Katrin set up ring barriers to create an actual chute.

    Ike was not freaked out by the jump chute at all. He ran his little tush off, until the third time we ran it, when I did a complete face plant into the sawdust. To illustrate how incredibly far Ike has come, he was not freaked out by me falling flat on my face AT ALL, he stuck his nose through the ring gate to make sure I was okay. Gods, that makes me laugh. Katrin was amazed that I made it this far without ever falling like that before. I was talking to John about it last night and, duh, the reason I never took a fall like that before is because Ike used to be SLOW AS MOLASSES! I have a very nice sawdust/clothing burn on my hip. Wah! But nothing broken, or ripped, and no freaked out dog. Thumbs up!

  2. The closed tunnel, commonly known as the chute. Ha-ha, one of Ike's FAVORITE obstacles! Apparently, for dogs that actually do the chute quickly, it is not uncommon for them to come out of the chute at an angle towards the handler (they can hear the voice but can't see anything). The dog coming out of the chute at an angle and the handler continuing to move in a straight line can cause a major collision. Katrin set up a tunnel immediately following the chute to try and teach the dog to continue to move in a straight line after the chute.

    The first attempt through the chute Ike said, uh - this isn't a tunnel. After that he was fine. Poor Ike, Katrin pointed out that I stomp my feet while he is in the chute and I don't do this at any other time. Hmm...I ran it again consciously trying to run nimbly with no stomping and Katrin said he was quicker. I think I must stomp my feet because I want Ike to know where I am....maybe? Stomping my feet, or attempting to sound like a herd of elephants was an unconscious action and I will try very hard NOT to do it in the future - especially if it makes/allows Ike move faster.

  3. Splicing jumps! Let's see if I get this correct. The jumps are angled, but the dog takes the most direct, straight route by jumping a straight line over the angled jumps. There must be a better way to describe this!

    Ike did this beautifully! I am so proud of him that he remembers this from the one time he has done it in the past - very cool! Also, I have been asking him for some "start-line stays" and he has no issue complying. Yay, Ike!

  4. Jump at a 90 degree angle to the teeter. Dog has forward momentum going but must make a sharp left or right turn in order to take the teeter.

    Again, hooray Ike - all our teeter work is paying off. Last night this was set up with the dog taking the tunnel, jump 90 degrees to the right, and teeter 90 degrees to the right. Ike handled this sequence really well. The final time we did this Katrin had me move out from the teeter a bit and not go past the mid-point. Ike was actually faster than usual. hmm!

A fun class. To check out the course drawing, visit Katrin's blog.

I REALLY feel like staying in Continuing On was the best thing I have ever done for Ike and ME. I agreed with Katrin that staying in Continuing On was the best decision for Ike, but I think it is better for me, too. I feel like I am learning so much - that everything is sticking much better than last year. Maybe it is because I understand the act of running a course with my dog better, so by focusing on these foundation pieces we have a really concrete understanding of them?

Last year I was going from Agility-for-Fun to training for competition and I guess I was more overwhelmed than I realized. Of course, thinking back I do recall being somewhat depressed after classes when it felt like maybe agility wasn't for us. Ah, my refrain for 2007 is, I can't believe how far we've come. And, I am such a dork, the exciting thing is we can keep growing.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Saturday Lesson with Erin.....BRRR!

Ike and I had a lesson with Erin S. yesterday morning. Brr!! Boy was it cold, and boy did Ike move. Guess it's "Calgary, here we come." Forget about my SAD if Ike moves faster! ; P

It was a VERY interesting lesson. Last lesson we had with Erin was the 2nd or third week of September, so about two months ago. Erin couldn't believe how much Ike has progressed in that time period. Yay for us! We started the lesson by walking the course she had set up and then running it.

Oh my gods, what a headache. AKC courses are SO non-intuitive to me. Last Saturday when Marlene and I were out in Springfield and I saw Harry run, I couldn't believe the way the course ended. Harry doing a wrap around a jump and going over another jump at maybe a 270 degree angle. UGH. Well, weren't there similar gross jumps combos set up in Erin's yard. So, it was a great lesson for me because it made me think outside of my current comfort zone.

One of the cool things about Erin is that she very firmly believes there is no right way to do things. For instance, there were three jump combinations in the course she had set up. A 180, a pinwheel, and an instance when you had to wrap a jump in order to take the next jump. For me, when I think about a pinwheel I think, have the dog move around you. Erin had me do a front cross after the second jump in the pinwheel. Because Ike has "motivation" issues, i.e. thinks slow is fun, Erin tries to make me think proactively about how I can make Ike move faster. Obviously this would be useful for anyone, but I think she stresses it with us because it is our main issue.

Erin had roofers working on her house, so I was double-y impressed with how well Ike performed/behaved. The course involved 12 weave poles, and Ike popped out at pole number 8 every time, in one direction. In the opposite direction he had no issue at all. Bizarre. I was joking around that he obviously needs glasses. I really need to get a second set of channel poles!

In general, this was a good lesson. Ike was really moving for me and it was obvious to Erin that he is enjoying agility more.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bizarro - hee, hee


I love DawnWatch (an animal advocacy e-mail)!! If you are interested, you can sign up for your own e-mail media alerts here.

Visit with Dr. Anne

I took Ike in to see Dr. Anne today for a tune-up and to pick her brain a bit about Ike's steady weight (while there is a dearth of calories), chicken wings, and tick repellents.

First, and most importantly, Dr. Anne said Ike's pelvis has held up very well. Even with the indoor trials his body was in good shape. Hooray!

I mentioned to her that I was trying to have Ike lose a half pound, maybe a pound, and that it just wasn't happening. For those of you who haven't been to see Dr. Anne, not only is she a chiropractor and a homeopath, but she also practices kinesiology.

From the Applied Kinesiology web site (you all know how terrible I am at explaining things!):
Applied kinesiology (AK) is a form of diagnosis using muscle testing as a primary feedback mechanism to examine how a person’s body is functioning. When properly applied, the outcome of an AK diagnosis will determine the best form of therapy for the patient. Since AK draws together the core elements of many complementary therapies, it provides an interdisciplinary approach to health care.

Wendy Volhard has a very readable chapter on it in her book The Holistic Guide for the Healthy Dog (a good resource, and one I need to add to my dog-book library).

Anyway, Dr. Anne asked Ike if he had low thyroid. The answer was yes. She selected a bottle of powder and then asked what amount of supplement for Canine Thyroid he should be given (1/4 teaspoon 2x day). Interesting. I mentioned to her that his test results has just come back as completely normal and she suggested it could be that his thyroid is sub-clinically lower than normal. So, I am going to give it a go.

I told her that I am now feeding Ike a completely raw diet but not as many whole bones as I would like. Ike really does not seem to like chicken wings no matter what I do to them (smash 'em, cut them up, etc). Anne suggested if I wasn't using organic chicken wings (I'm not) that I try organic. She said her Kelpie will not eat non-organic chicken wings! In fact he has gone so far as to urinate on them.

So I am going to pick up some organic chicken wings and see if it makes a difference. I am also considering ordering some quail from Hare Today an on-line raw food supplier. Anne also suggested that lamb's neck would be appropriate - I mentioned the high incidence of pancreatitis in Schnauzers and she didn't feel like the occasional lamb's neck would send Ike into pancreatic shock when he eats well over all.

Finally I asked her what should would recommend for ticks. I currently add BugOff Garlic to Ike's meals and while that works well for fleas, lately I have been finding a fair amount of ticks on him. I had just read (oh, the danger of the web) that black walnut hull can be given with your dog's food twice a day to repel ticks. When I told Anne that, she told me it was a poison and recommended a spray instead! If anyone is interested, let me know and I will share. It is simple and not as strong as some other natural oil sprays.

We have a follow-up appointment in two weeks for a final all over tune-up.

Updated Course Set-Up

Thank you, Katrin!

As Katrin mentioned in her comment in the previous post, the entire lesson was about attempting to view the course from your dog's perspective and how that perspective should inform your handling decisions. This is why the theory of arcs works for a dog - if you are in a stay behind the left wing of the first jump, and your handler is out by the 3rd jump, well duh why would you even consider the tunnel? Dog-sense.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Handler Exercises

Otherwise known as exercises in futility! Just kidding.

Below is a rough approximation of our course last night. Rough because I made it in PowerPoint and because if we didn't actually do an obstacle during class I can't recall it. And it obviously doesn't count if Ike just *chose* to do it - JUST KIDDING. I have limited memory power; need to start eating some Ginko or something!


We started off class doing the two wing jumps (those are the ones with the cute little blue boxes) and the single jump, then a switch and single jump into the tunnel. Katrin asked us to do a back cross/switch after the first single jump. With Ike, in my heart-of-obvious-hearts, I wanted to do a front cross after the first single jump. However I did the requested back cross, and this is a great thing because I need practice on how the heck to do those. Someday I will have a dog that is not Ike.

Katrin suggested setting our dogs up to the left of the first wing jump (right behind the wing) and putting them in a stay so they need to hop the first jump. Start-line stays are kind of new to me. I typically do not do lead outs with Ike because in the beginning (of our competitive agility training) I was so concerned about demotivating him. Now that he enjoys agility it is kind of a moot point and in fact might actually help us out, so start-line stays and lead-outs here we come.

Anyway, Katrin introduced us to her theory of arcs, essentially, a dog will be inclined to act somewhat like a boomerang and arc back in the direction from which they started with momentum. In this case, that meant choosing the single jump over the tunnel and it worked beautifully. My uneducated inclination was to do the exact opposite, start the dog on an angle behind the right wing. I was thinking he would move in a straight line. Eh....the things you learn.

Ike handled this really well. I was surprised and thought he would go for the tunnel. Yay for the theory of arcs! Of course, considering he still doesn't really know switch that well, as I prefer practicing the table, I almost stomped on him when I did the back cross. We both recovered much more quickly than we would have a year ago! I suspect with more practicing of switch at home and some more back cross practice this will stop being an issue for us. Hooray. At one point with Ike I just assumed we would never be able to do a back cross! I still have a preference for front-crosses considering the speed Ike typically moves at, though!

Next we did two wing jumps, tunnel, double jump, weave poles, dog does a 180 into the second set of weave poles. Ike had a heck of a time chosing the tunnel over the single jump. First it was my fault, I kept moving and he was just watching my forward movement, then I dropped my hand too soon and it looked like I was cuing him to do the single jump even though verbally I was yelling tunnel. Then he was somewhat pattern trained. However Ike responds super well to a verbal uh-uh (which I do try to avoid nowadays) and I was finally able to get him to do the tunnel.

HOWEVER, again with the bad handler, I wanted to reward him after the double jump and I bent down and was kind of facing him which caused him to drop the bar (should have just done it before the double - screw momentum - this is practice). ARGH!! Poor Ike. Thank gods he is a forgiving pooch. Onto the weaves in a 180 formation. I ended up handling this as Katrin suggested, by staying between the two sets of weaves, even though I wanted to babysit Ike and do a front cross so I could be on the entrance side of the second set of weaves.

It was a challenging class for me. Ike is at a wonderful point where he just enjoys agility, so I think he had fun too. And even though both dogs in our class are young and playful Ike does not get overly upset about this. In fact, he appears to like them. Yay, Ike!!

Table, Part II

We worked on shaping the table some more last night. Ike isn't quite sure where I am going with this. He is laying down beside the table with one paw on it. Occasionally he is laying down on the table. Hooray! He doesn't seem to get that I want him to lay down on the table. That might be because right now the table is a very similar color to my rug. Hmmm....not exactly what one calls setting their dog up for success. I will have to move downstairs into my mud room which has a lovely 70's era orange rug, a nice contrast to my yet unpainted plywood.

He understands I want a down - he just isn't able to discriminate where yet. It would make the most sense if I just finished making the table and then worked on it. Otherwise, hmmm, I might just have to start over anyway. Ah well, it is an excellent training exercise for both of us. My patience grows daily! ; P

I heard from Dr. Warner yesterday. All of Ike's bloodwork is completely normal! Apparently he just has a slow metabolism!! I am going to call her back - I was half asleep when I spoke with her so am afraid I didn't ask all the questions I wanted to. Like, does this mean he is just the size he is supposed to be!? : P

I was running late again this morning so Ike got to deal with a gaggle of teenagers; and he was such a good boy. He continues to amaze me!! per the recommendation of my rawfed list (they can be a bit nazi-like about food) I have stopped giving Ike any treats that aren't just meat. I am mixing in some evo cat food and dog food with his regular jerky type treats. Theories abound that dogs store the food their bodies reject as fat, etc. I am not sure I totally buy in to the theory but it certainly can not hurt to try cutting out Charlie Bears, etc.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The truth about adding a dog to my family....

Well, the truth is out. John is apparentally a fan of the "devil you know" saying.

Saturday night, Marlene and I came home from the Thanksgiving Cluster having seen MANY gorgeous dogs, including Harry (Anna Ericsson's super-fast Schnauzer). We were teasing John that we had a Cardigan out in her truck for him, when John said he would be fine with another Schnauzer, that-that is what he wants. He quickly followed that statement up by saying we need to own a house, etc. But, I think the crux of the dog issue is that he wants another Schnauzer!

The new issue of Clean Run arrived today and the On Course article is with Webb and Leslie Anderson. Argh!! Schnauzers everywhere!!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shaping the Table ...

...is funny work!

Ike has come so far - while the gears in his mind turn - his little stub wags like mad. He thinks learning is so fun!

It took a while for Ike to do more than paw at the table and walk around it tonight! I haven't completely built my table yet - right now it is just a 2 x 2 piece of plywood. I brought the plywood upstairs and put it on the living room floor. I clicked and treated Ike for sniffing the table, pawing at it, and then we waited; then Ike put two paws on the table. Yay!!

I moved and he walked across the board. Yay! I clicked and treated when all four paws were on the board and "jackpot'd" him on the board. Pretty soon he figured out that this table business seemed to happen when all four feet are on the board. Three times he chose to lay down. Jackpots!! I ended on a high note. He wasn't consistently laying down and I figured if I didn't stop after the last time he laid down it might be pushing him too far for one night. We'll work on it again tomorrow night.

Great and exhausting fun for the boy - he has gone to bed!

Hooray!

Today I taught the Maplewood classes with no Katrin, and I feel like I did a good job. Hooray!!!!The students help a LOT; they want to learn which is wonderful!!

Puppy K was a small puppy class because Cat and Strata were not there and Li and Ryan were at the Thanksgiving Cluster in support of Ryan's breeder and Vizlas. The Tibetan Terrier in the class worked hard! Basic Manners class is a blast. Yay, yay, yay.

Thanks, Katrin, for giving me the chance to teach alone. : )

I just spent some quality play time with Ike and after dinner we are going to work on Table. yay!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Ike and Nellie's Thanksgiving Treat - marrow bones! Yum!!


My mum still has denial issues with my vegetarianism, hence I bring my own veggie entree~ And I bring some for all!! Yum! Acorn Squash stuffed with whole wheat bread, wild rice, red onion and garlic.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy turkey day!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Switch" and "Table"

We had agility last night. Hooray!!

We started class off working on the table. Internally, initially, I was a bit resistant! CPE does utilize the table, but they have no criteria for it. In CPE, a dog may do anything on the table - even touch it with a paw. Thinking about it, I am sure the reason I was initially resistant is because, haha, we might not succeed immediately. Goofball!! I can be so intolerant of the learning curve.

So, we did jump-tunnel-table. I had a tough time getting the word "table" out before Ike was there, so Katrin had me say "Go, Table" as we were headed into the tunnel. As she said, Ike was already committed to the tunnel. Ike is much less stressed by agility class than he used to be. In general he thinks it is great fun - the third time we did jump-tunnel-table, after I had FINALLY gotten my timing (heh-hum), I SENT Ike to the table and I could tell by the way he wiggled he was having a blast. Of course, I didn't trust him to do a down on it from the distance. Bad, Julie, trust your dog! and WHO cares if he doesn't do it the first time?!

Ike and I have actually been working on distance downs so I should have given it a go. I will practice this at home. I am going to use a variation on the technique Leslie McDevitt uses in Control Unleashed to teach Go to Mat to teach it; shaping it. My criteria will be a down-stay.....until released. We'll see how this goes, but it is more fun than working on "switch," although less useful, unless I break down and try USDAA.

Next we worked on actually using "switch." Two jumps leading into a 180 followed by a lead switch/jump and tunnel. Ike was awesome, even though my positioning was all off because I was gulping dramatically and thinking 'oh how nice a front-cross would be,' he committed to taking the jump! Yes, Ike! Who is this big, brave dog? We did this three times and I think my positioning got slightly better each time. I am SO impressed Ike was willing to commit to the jump each time even though I couldn't believe he was and stood there jaw agape! Good Ike. Julie, trust the damn dog!!

I was also very impressed by Ike's demeanor when cute little Callie decided she was going to try and play with James (Katrin' black FCR) who was tied nearby. James was not happy and was vocal about that. Ike didn't get involved! Or feel the need to bark his disapproval! It helped that we were practicing "spin" and giving/getting a massage intermittently. None-the-less....yay, Ike!!

So, lots to work on....buy a piece of board and work on downs on the table, practice "switch," and bring my weave poles back inside to keep working on them! Since the majority of our CPE classes will now be level 2, we'll be seeing at least six weave poles in our classes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What a good boy!

Every morning when Ike and I walk we see a variety of people. If we are running late we see LOTS of teenagers either walking to the high school or walking to their bus stop, if we are on time we see industrious-sorts speed walking for exercise or walking to the commuter rail. We occasionally see a woman who obviously fosters dogs as she is always doing very decent walks and her dogs change every 3 or 4 months! And occasionally we see a couple who own a cairn terrier named Duncan who thinks he is tough.

This morning we were running a bit late and therefore saw lots of teenage boys. Yikes....Ike's LEAST favorite sub-species. I handle the teenagers one of two ways. If we are on the opposite side of the street I halt, ask Ike for set-up position, reward, walk, halt, ask Ike for set-up position, repeat as necessary. If the teenagers are on the same side of the street, I remove myself about 5 feet onto the lawn, ask Ike for the Front position, and then Finish position. Then I click and treat as necessary.

On our way back to the house, after I thought we had seen all the teenagers on our side of the street, a door suddenly opened and out popped a hooded teenager. As I went to grab a handful of treats, I dropped the leash! Gulp. I figured if I lunged for the dropped leash I would lose Ike's attention and set him up to reinforce his barking, "Mum, I see a teenager!! He's gonna get me!!" Instead I just stopped, asked Ike to set-up, treated, walked, halted, asked Ike to set-up, and treated. We were successful even though the teenager came directly at us and we shared the sidewalk!

Hooray for Ike!!!

=============

Side Note: I called Dr. Warner yesterday about Ike's blood work. It hasn't come back yet. I am impatient!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A quiet weekend for the boy....

Yesterday Ike and I went over to Marlene's for a playgroup with Agility-for-Fun friends. Maria brought her small dog Coco and I was HOPING Ike would really like her. Instead it was a very low-key playgroup, with not that much playing. Even though Ike's favorite red dog Jazmine was there he wasn't doing much playing until the VERY end. He seriously thought about playing with Kody. Hooray!! Awesome!!! Did the planet fall off its axis? ;P

By the by, Kody is featured in a new Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue children's book created while he was a resident of the shelter!!! The book is called It's as Easy as ABC and a dog is featured for each letter (Kody = K). Check it out.... if you know any young'ns that need a holiday gift you might want to pick one up!

I almost forgot to mention that I met Cat's new Sheltie puppy, Strata. HE IS A DOLL. And Tessie seems to almost like him!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Our Quote....

So, as Katrin noticed, I not only changed the title of the blog I also added a quote:

There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going

I have been thinking a lot about all of the changes that have occurred with Ike in the past year and thinking about how I never remotely thought any of them would be possible. What Ike and I have now, this relationship, has taken 5 years to build and has been incredibly hard work; I wouldn't trade a second of it.

In retrospect I am amazed that I kept at it. Ike is the reason I want to train dogs and train their humans. He infected me with the bug!

When I got Ike, I had dreams of him being a therapy dog. Therapy dog certification was my goal for my new dog. Pretty quickly I discovered that Ike had a lot of fear issues, and it started to seem less and less likely that he would be a therapy dog. It took me two years of trying and discarding different "training" techniques to stumble upon one that was helpful. I put training in parentheses because, sorry, I don't consider shaking a can full of marbles at a dog training.

In general I don't consider using an aversive training. I think of training as working together toward a common goal. The operative words would be working together and common goal.

For the life of me, I can not recall how I stumbled across Emma Parson's book Click to Calm. The book had just been released and she was giving a two-day seminar at Masterpeace. I signed up, hoping that maybe it would help. Ike had just turned two and was starting to lunge at strangers on walks. I knew my dog was moving from fearful to reactive and aggressive because I did not have the tools to help him. I knew he could be helped, I just didn't know how.

The seminar was earthshaking for me. Emma laid out the science behind dog training and I had an "ah-ha" moment. I started to work with Ike from that day forward using the Click to Calm methodology. I also did a couple of privates with Emma to get some more insight into what the heck I was doing. I was already using a Gentle Leader at that point, which Emma was a big fan of.

In the beginning I would click-n-treat Ike the second I saw him inhale deeply (think of old-fashioned bellows); that was the first cue that Ike was gearing up to explode. I would click-n-treat, click-n-treat, click-n-treat, trying to build a positive association between the scary man, biker, etc. I learned to be MUCH more observant. I would scan for people or situations that might set Ike off and then MANAGE those situations. Sometimes I managed the situation by choosing an alternate route more often it was removing myself a good five feet off the sidewalk onto someone's lawn where I could click-n-treat in peace, obviously training.

There were still explosions and in the beginning the bad days FAR outweighed the good days. Considering where I live, in Canton, with lots and lots of sidewalks and lots of sidewalk traffic I really didn't have any alternative but to keep trying/working. As my husband John can attest, there were many days I cried. I bought stickers and placed a different sticker on each day depending upon how terrible or good it was. Initially I never broke more than one "good" day a week, but the stickers reminded me that there were good days.

The biggest change occurred when John, my husband, got on board with the clicker and bait bag. Things started to move more quickly then, but still it was very much a work in progress. We had gotten to the point that Ike would actively scan for people to be able to look at me and say, "see..." and get clicked and treated.

We had been working the Click-to-Calm methodology for two years when I started working with Katrin. I had just taken Ike off of the Gentle Leader after three years. Ike and I had gotten to the point where I recognized that Ike was NEVER going to be the dog I thought I *wanted* when we brought him home. I recognized my responsibility in making our relationship work.

When I started to work with Katrin I realized how little I had let Ike think. That was a sad thing to realize; to realize that there was this magnificent spark I had never let the wind catch. Thank the dog-gods Schnauzers tend to live a long time.

Shortly after I started working with Katrin (10/06), Ike and I took a two-day seminar to prep and take the Therapy Dogs International test. Well, we passed. I couldn't believe it. In general, things have continued to accelerate since that moment.

The biggest change came this summer when I finally realized that Ike was not enjoying the therapy dog visits, that he was only doing it for me. Well, that's no good. Around the same time a bunch of things happened all at once: Katrin asked me what my goals - true goals - for Ike are, I started feeding him a completely raw diet, I decided to focus on just agility instead of multi-tasking before I had even gotten that far....a perfect storm for me and Ike.

So, this quote strikes me so deeply in the heart.

There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going

I never suspected that the depth of relationship I have with Ike was even possible. Thankfully the dog-gods thought I was up to a challenge and set me up with Ike. Without Ike, so many amazing things would never have happened, including me finding out that training dogs and dog-people is something that makes me feel incredibly alive. Ike has changed the way I view the world, and I have obviously changed the way that Ike views the world. He still tends to think that people in general are out to get him, but he is becoming more and more confident. He trusts me. We have a true friendship, and typically we work REALLY well together.

So while it was much more work (and still is) than I ever expected, I could not be happier that a fluffy black schnauzer decided to sit on my mother-in-law's head. Yeah, that was the deciding factor. It does explain a lot, doesn't it?

And, hey, it's only taken me two days to write this!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's Official....

It's a few hours early, but the new official name of the blog (by one vote!) is Molasses Ain't Got NOTHIN' On Us. I took the liberty of changing it from Molasses Ain't Got NOTHIN' On Me to Us. After all, Ike and I do have a partnership! So, I owe someone dog cookies!!

Let's hope we can live up to our new blog name! ; P

A Vet's Perspective on Feeding Raw

I have become a fan of the Dolittler blog written by Dr. Patty Khuly, a Miami vet. She recently wrote a good post on feeding raw that I think is worth checking out. As a concerned pet owner, it is very interesting to read a well-written blog by a concerned vet.

The post to read is called, To BARF or Not to BARF: One vet's answer to the question of feeding raw.....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

All Dogs Gym "Thanksgiving" CPE Trial

Ike and I had a great day on Saturday at the All Dogs Gym Thanksgiving CPE Trial, but it certainly did not start out that way.

For those of you who have never been to All Dogs Gym, they have a REALLY nice facility. However, it is quite loud, the crating is in a separate room, and the seating in the ring area is crowded. After setting up Ike's crate I brought him into the main area to try and acclimate him to the environment. He went into shut-down mode, which means he didn't want to move and wouldn't take treats. He was wearing his most pathetic face with one paw lifted at all times.

Well, CRAP. When Ike is so obviously shutting down I have to admit I start to feel like I am going to vomit. I put him in his crate, covered it and went to watch the higher level classes do the Jackpot course while internally debating if I was going to end up leaving early and what would be fair to Ike.

CPE has Traditional Jackpot and Non-Traditional Jackpot.

In TRADITIONAL Jackpot, you collect required points in the opening until the whistle blows, then do the gamble, which has 4 obstacles, worth 2, 4, 6, and 8 points (total of 20 points). There is a line in the gamble that you must NOT step on or cross (dog can cross line and then go back). You MUST successfully complete the gamble to qualify. The last obstacle in the gamble stops the clock and can be a bar jump, tunnel, or table.

In a NON-TRADITIONAL Jackpot, the gamble is placed anywhere on the course and can be done at any time. There may be several gambles with different point values so all level dogs can run the same course. Each judge decides how to do this, so rules are up to the judge.

Saturday the judge, Jean MacKenzie informed us that it was a Non-Traditional Jackpot and we could do the gamble at any point during the run. The gamble was jump, tire (VERY scary tire in a wooden frame that I saw a dog hang himself on at the end of the day. GULP!), tunnel, jump at a 5 foot distance. Level one must accrue 12 points plus the gamble.

There were not that many Level 1/2 dogs, so I went to get Ike when the Level 1/2 dogs began and he was still not accepting treats and being distant, scared dog. I hoped when I put him in the ring he would feel safer because he would have some space. Well, hooray! I put him in the ring and he was willing to work. He was doing slow-Ike, but hey I was proud he could bring himself to play.

Silly handler made Ike gather too many points before starting the Gamble. My practicing distance has paid off! He didn't think TWICE about taking the gamble, he just went right ahead and took all the obstacles. Unfortunately when Ike came out of the tunnel he realized there were still other people in the room and he froze stock-still, deer-in-the-headlights and wouldn't move! The whistle blew. Oh well, not bad for our first Jackpot run. I was terrified he wasn't going to be able to function let alone actually take the gamble. I am SO proud of him.

I worked as Scribe in the higher level Standard classes and Wildcard & Colors classes. I am now very familiar with the intricacies of CPE which will pay off for Act-Up in May.

Our next class was Standard and I was a wreck because....the judge included the chute! EEEK! Ike's least favorite obstacle. The only positive is that it was the final obstacle after two jumps, my hope was Ike would have enough speed going into it that he wouldn't over think it. In addition, it was a very long chute and dark colors. Gah, talk about setting Ike up NOT to succeed.

Fortunately Jackpot got all of the Scaredy-Ike out of his system and he was back to his new normal self, wanting to play. He handled the Standard run beautifully, chute and all! In fact he Q'd and placed first! Hooray! This means he got his Level One Standard Title (CL1-R).

Ike also Q'd and placed first in Wildcard and Colors. Our next trial we will be doing Standard, Wildcard, and Colors at the Level 2 level. The only major difference is that Level 2 includes weaves.

We also met a gorgeous chocolate Cocker Spaniel named Minnie who got her C-ATCH last weekend in Springfield. Ike attempted to engage Minnie in play like I have never seen him behave before. It was AWESOME!

So, a very long and successful day. I am so glad Ike was able to gather himself after his initial fright. I really think allowing him the down time in his crate before Jackpot helped; and the fact that at this point he really enjoys agility and knows how to play it with me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Good Manners Class # 4

So, I am a bit discouraged after tonight's class. I know this is the learning curve and it happens with most things. I just felt flustered tonight. The class is full of stereotypes - the attention-getter, the quiet couple, the clueless couple. Everyone is actually doing pretty well, it is just tough finding a balance between giving everyone enough attention and keeping the class moving. Denise swears that it gets easier with practice and as I am aware not every class is terrible or awesome, etc.

Ike Update

I posted about Ike's weight issue on my rawfed e-list. One suggestion, from Judy, is to try and switch him to a single feeding daily. She said she had one dog who absolutely thrived on that routine. So...it's a thought.

I have my appointment on Monday and plan on doing a wellness blood check, a full thyroid panel, and the C6 Lyme test. I also scheduled an appointment with Anne Crawshaw - the first available was for 11/28. I am going to have her test Ike to see if he might be allergic to the quail, or anything else I am feeding him, and also do a tune up. My feet were so sore after the trial, I can't imagine that Ike's little body isn't feeling it too.

It makes me think hard about indoor trials, but CPE is a really great venue for Ike. He can jump his preferred height, the course times are generous enough for him, the games compliment our relationship....and there are a lot of these trials through the winter. I think I will just have to see Dr. Anne more frequently and, of course, ask her if there is anything I can do to help lower the general impact on his body.

Long Term Goals

I think I feel confident enough in my relationship with Ike to say I would like to try and get our C-ATCH (CPE Championship) someday. Who knows if it will happen, but I think it is within the realm of possibility, and something worth shooting for and training for. It's scary to me to admit I have such a lofty goal, but there it is.

I am also thinking more seriously about exploring Rally-O. I need to look up the rules, or ask Marlene or Katrin, if there is "Stand for Examination" in it. That is the toughest thing in Obedience for Ike. If there is no "Stand for Examination," I could maybe explore Rally as a gateway to general Obedience. Just a thought....or rather just thinking in type.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ike's Weight

I have an appointment with my vet on Monday at 5:15. Ike's weight has gone up a pound since the last time he was at the vet (about a year ago this month). He is currently 22.6#, which makes NO sense. He currently gets 3 oz. of meat which is less than half of what he *should* be getting based on the barfproducts.com model (2% of current weight [22.6#] = 0.45 pounds or 7.23 ounces). 2% of his ideal weight (say 19#) = .38 pounds or 6.08 ounces.

I have been supplementing the 3 oz. with green beans and he gets a fair amount of treats because we do a lot of training. Either I have cut his intake so severely that his body is reserving its fat, in which case he shouldn't even be able to do agility, etc. OR something else is going on. ARGH!!! Any thoughts?

He gets quite a bit of exercise. The only other thing I have noticed lately is that he has had more Schnauzer bumps than is typical, but I attributed that to allergies. I know he is allergic to grass and my own allergies have been brutal lately.

A few people whose opinions I trust have suggested he lose a little weight (like a pound or two, a lot for a small dog!). I think my vet would say he is okay for a "pet" dog. He is a miniature schnauzer, nearly 16 inches at the withers. Right now my plan is to have a CBC, thyroid test and Lyme's test on Monday. Thanks for any thoughts on this.

I'm in a bit of a tizzy about this. Funny how all of a sudden something will hit you and really bother you. It just makes ZERO sense to me. He should be a Schnauzer-skeleton with the amount of food he gets!

Switch!

Last night Ike and I had our first group agility class in a while. We have had a few privates over the summer with Erin Schaefer, but limited group classes. After some discussion with Katrin, she and I agreed that "Continuing On" was the better class for Mister Ike to be in.

Less dogs = less people = less stress for Ike. Hooray!

Click-n-Treat to me for getting that without Katrin having to beat me over the head with a bumper. It's not all about me, it's all about what allows my dog work at his optimum.

When the "Competition" class arrived I was VERY glad with this decision as it is full!

Class started with running a series of jumps in a circle, perhaps you'd call it a pinwheel? It was quite spread out so I am not sure. Anyway, Katrin called me out on a couple of things.

1. I ONLY cued Ike, I did not verbally reward him or encourage him while running.

This is a result of a combination of things, previously I have heard people told not to talk so much to their dogs while running, and most recently Erin told me to try and run more quietly as she thinks Ike tunes out in the trial atmosphere and it is just more for him to listen to/be overwhelmed by. What Katrin said last night is essentially, like all things, there is a BALANCE. Ha! She said one hopes ultimately to be able to send your dog with your body language and not actually have to say, "jump" for every jump. This leaves you time to say "yes" or whatever your reward marker is when your dog does something particularly brilliant.

Ike has had a complete about-face about jumping (he actually appears to like it!), so I see the potential for this. In fact I tried to utilize it later in class with the Serpentine.

2. I was LEADING Ike - i.e. my body was essentially in front of the jumps as Ike went to take them.

I think this is a bit of mal-adaption from something Erin said. Where Ike is definitely so motivated by my movement, Erin had recommended that I continue to move after sending Ike into an obstacle. Well, yes, that makes sense, but what I turned around and did was make that into follow the line of the obstacle as tightly as possible until he has committed to the obstacle. Hmmm....to some degree Erin might have actually meant that, however, I would like to not have to do that as I'd like a Q in Chances some day! And again, it is the BALANCE issue. Sometimes, yes, that might be necessary or be helpful, but should you be spoon feeding ALL of the time?

3. Serpentines! I love them!! I remember less than a year ago when Ike did not know how to splice a jump (take an angled jump moving forward in a straight line).

Ike handled this very well purely on my body cues - of course I did forget to verbally reward him and the first time I tossed his ball for him I threw it BACKWARDS!! Oye.

4. His Ball. Ike JOYFULLY pounced after his ball with PEOPLE around. Yippee-yahoo. This has come around because I FINALLY realized that if Ike ran quickly after his toy and pounced, that was enough! He isn't a Border Collie, or any sort of dog with a super high toy drive. I need to be excited for him on his terms.

5. Switch. One of the benefits of staying in the "Continuing On" class is I have already been through some of these lessons and revisiting them makes them much clearer. Also, Ike is actually in a position now for me to start trying to really work on "Switch." Last year there was so much that was new it was overwhelming at times.

So, for homework/practice I am going to set up one of Ike's jumps and practice having him switch leads over it. He is already starting to spin back at me immediately after crossing the jump, so I asked Katrin if I should have him target a plate to continue the forward motion. She said no, because then he would be focusing on targeting not what he's doing. With a toy, he'll focus on doing what gets him the toy.

AND, there is a cute All-American named Callie/Kali in class that Ike likes to throw his bum at. She was DESPERATE to play with him. She is a really nice, fast dog.

So, not only did Ike play with his ball with strange people around, but he tried to engage in play with another dog with people (including a man!) around. A successful evening.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Control Unleashed Seminar

Yippee-yahoo!! I got an audit spot for the Control Unleashed seminar in March. I am so impatient I e-mailed Clean Run today to find out whether or not I got in. They are not sending out confirmations for a few weeks because they want to allow time for Leslie to pick which dogs will be working.

I am so excited. For those of you who are curious, Control Unleashed is a book written by Leslie McDevitt. From Dogwise description:

Learn how to turn stress to confidence and distraction to focus using methods that are 110% positive. Leslie McDevitt's versatile Control Unleashed program is designed to help "dogs with issues" learn how to relax, focus, and work off-leash reliably in either stimulating or stressful situations. Whether you're training a challenging dog on your own, an instructor trying to figure out how to help dogs in your classes, or an instructor who wants to design a special program just for stressed out dogs, this book is for you.

While I do not have a control or focus issue with Ike I certainly have a confidence issue with him. From my perspective there are a lot of similarities in the aforementioned behaviors, just dogs expressing the underlying issues differently. For those of you who haven't bought the book yet, and you know who you are, do it!! I am super excited! Hooray!