Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Agility...a hot, hot night

Our Tuesday night agility class went fabulously, even though it was humid and in the nineties all day. A few months ago we had a really hot night and Ike was the only dog in class. We were doing a lot of jumping and Katrin recommended wetting Ike down, in particular his loin area. Thank gods Ike doesn't mind being wet; it works like a charm!

Even though it was terribly hot we had a terrific class. I feel like Ike and I are beginning to have a rhythm in our partnership. I am glad my knees don't bother me (at least yet) because I really need to book it with Ike!

Katrin pointed out to me on Tuesday that I wasn't rewarding Ike enough during runs. He was starting out super fast but since I didn't reward him until the end of the run he was losing speed. We choose three spots for me to treat him and even with giving the treats he maintained a much faster speed. This is something I will need to think about and incorporate in our lessons/practice so that when we are at a trial I can get the same speed while delaying the treating!

Right now it looks like we are giving up on rear crosses. Ike just is not at a point where he wants to move if I am not - he doesn't increase his speed when I am behind him - only when I am ahead of him. The great news is that he is beginning to rely slightly less on me. I know it sounds like a contradiction to say that when I talk about how I need to run, but for example: On Tuesday the final portion of our run involved coming off a pinwheel and taking two jumps in succession and then the tunnel. I can now run ahead of Ike and holler the commands; and he takes the obstacles (for the most part). Before I had to be right there with him.

So, that's very exciting. I am also excited that he visibly appears to be enjoying agility more. I think that the obedience class is helping with our agility; Is that possible? It could also be a case of things just coming together. We've been working hard and maybe we are seeing a little bit of the effects.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Competition Obedience, Class # 5

While Acadia was a blast, I was bummed to miss our classes. I was also a little bit nervous about my obedience class; were Ike and I going to be left in the dust? Gulp! We did find time to practice some heeling, fronts, recalls, and set up positions - although not nearly enough to make me feel like we had actually practiced.

On a side note - something I find difficult with obedience is that I have been trained to only train in small increments. This works well for Ike since he gets easily stressed out. However, with more complicated behaviors and multiple new behaviors it begins to get a bit overwhelming to me. I want to practice, practice, practice - but I can't do that to Ike. I guess it just means I will need to be more innovative in incorporating this stuff into my everyday life.

So, Monday's class started with a discussion about the Utility level of obedience and the many different ways you can train a dog to "get out." It was interesting to me since I have been exposed to a similar behavior in agility. Some of the more experienced students were giving Esther a bit of grief for going on about Utility exercises with us. However, she had a good point - she basically wants us to know that some of the ways she is trying to teach us to teach our dogs things pays off later - if there is a later for some of us!

We started the class by walking and halting. There are eight people in the class and we lined up beside each other and began walking in a straight line halting periodically and asking for the setup position without the contortions. Ike did really well the first half of our trip. On the return he was quite far away from me and I couldn't figure out why until Esther pointed out that Darwin, a 3 1/2 month old husky, was in front of Ike now. Ah, Ike and his love of puppies.

Esther then explained how the zen stay game pays off! Apparently during the long sit the dog must be comfortable with having the judge walk beside them and behind them while the handler is 6 feet away. If they are accustomed to a cookie playing airplane with them while they are in a stay, that is a good foundation for the long sit. Ahh....

The we discussed the "Stand for Examination" portion of an obedience test. "Stand for Examination" is one of the main reasons I did not consider obedience - I was afraid Ike would not be able to do this. I have since realized that with enough patience, cookies, and praise almost anything is possible (albeit amazing)!

In the "Stand for Examination" you must cue your dog to stand and the judge then inspects your dog, touching their body while walking about them. Esther kindly suggested that almost none of the dogs in our class would be capable of that at this point. In fact, she suggested that she would be surprised if they could do this in the sit position. One of our pieces of homework is to practice asking our dog for a sit-stay and then proceed to walk around them, feel their shoulders, walk away, come back, feel their lower back, etc. This will be a tough exercise I think and I look forward to practicing it with Ike.

Then Esther told us how she likes to see a "Stand for Examination" occur. She said ideally the dogs should push his back legs out without really moving his front paws. She instructed us to ask our dog for a sit, give a cookie, and then with another cookie move your hand/cookie under their chin. The dog wants to follow the cookie, and since it is at the chin level they tend to keep their head more stationary and push back with their legs.

Ike and I went to a far corner to try this out. Ike was like a worm, scooching his butt and going through contortions to try and get the cookie. When Esther came over to see how we were doing I explained to her that he was worming away. We tried it then with her and he did it perfectly, but I realized that I moved my hand less. During my previous attempts I had been moving my hand closer and closer to Ike - I think I was unconsciously trying to entice him to do what I wanted! Argh! We have since practiced this quite a few times at home and Ike is definitely getting it.

We also practiced our recalls again. Ike did well. I still have this inclination to bend toward him and I really have to work at stopping that. Since Ike more or less trots to me, Esther suggested I run the last couple of steps and yell to him. That actually produced a slight gallop from Ike. Yippee!

I am excited about the progress we are making - I am also a little bit overwhelmed by all the information and new things to keep track of! That's part of the reason it has taken me days to get this post up here...

More pictures of our boy the goat in Acadia...

This picture is heading up Pemetic Mountain - just about two thirds of the way - that's when we realized the boy was not gonna make it all the way up.

Cadillac Mountain Summit....

Laying low in the grass back at camp....

Sand Beach and Great Head Trail...

Ike after the hike, trying to hide in the four inches of shade beside the car....

This is on the western side of the island (I think?!) near the Seawall campsite.

Back at the campsite and realxing with a nice beef knuckle....

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Camping with Ike

I have just returned from 4 days of camping with Ike and my husband at Acadia National Park (I started this on Thursday). Sigh. Gorgeous. And to top it off, Ike is a natural camper. He slept through the nights without stirring at all; Behaved like a billy goat while hiking; and seemed to grin the entire time. Can't wait until we go again!

I will post more pics later.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tuesday Night Agility

So, Ike and I had our first agility class Tuesday night in 3 weeks. Yippee! (I take agilty classes with Katrin Andberg, Maplewood Animal Care & Training. We began classes with Katrin in October and Ike is a changed dog - the confidence boost in him is amazing.) We had a great time. Katrin worked front crosses into every run and Ike and I were able to successfully complete most of them.

One run I was so intent on psyching Ike up I went completely the wrong direction around the tunnel. Drrr.

Ike does not like to run unless I am running. I have got to keep working on getting him psyched about agility. Even when he is playing at home, he makes a gracefully, long leap....he's not quick and stealthy. I am very tempted to start Carmen in agility. I think she would rock at it. I do think that Ike enjoys it, I just don't think he has a ton of drive....

I am entering a CPE (Canine Performance Events) trial in August - we will see how he does. I hope he enjoys it. The event is in New Hampshire at All Dog's Gym and they have events throughout the winter. I will be very curious as to the size of the field/arena. He seems to like the flow of NADAC a lot but if we do NADAC trials eventually the distance issue is going to rear its ugly head. Of course, if we keep working on it we will hopefully eventually get it!!

The "distance issue" I am referring to is the "philosophy" difference between NADAC and other organizations (AKC, USDAA). NADAC courses are designed for the handler to work at a certain distance from their dogs. The distance is actually a requirement, even in the novice courses. Right now I have a velcro dog (my own fault, I know) who only seems to really move when I do. I have to confirm that there is no distance requirement in the other organizations - I am nearly certain.

The other exciting thing is that when I read Clean Run now I understand most of it, not just bits and pieces. Before when I would read it I felt like I was trying to teach myself a foreign language. One of the recent issues has a piece of speeding up slow dogs. The woman who wrote the article actually gives seminars on this. Holy cow - where do I sign up! Seriously though, I will need to check out where she is located and whether or not she ever hits New England.

Ike, John, and I are headed to Acadia National Park this weekend, so there will be no posts until the 18th or 19th. I am going to see how I can incorporate my obedience homework into my vacation!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Competition Obedience, Class # 3

Oye!! So, last night I discovered I was essentially combining the "zen" cookie game and "leave it." Remember how appalled I was last week when I discovered I wasn't supposed to be giving Ike the treat on his paw? Well, I didn't exactly understand. I can "give" Ike the treat, I just can't give him the okay to "take" the treat. Subtle difference. Yipes.

Last night we started class with a few repetitions of the "zen" cookie game and translated that into a "zen stay." Okay. does that work? Initially you start by standing close to your dog, asking them for a sit stay and then in the hand farthest away from your dog you have a treat. You slowly move the hand with the treat towards the dog. If he does not shift his weight, or pick up his paw, or break the stay he gets the cookie. Moving his head is okay. Slowly you move away from the dog and walk towards them with the cookie. Same criteria.

Poor Ike, since we have been working on "fronts" he had no idea what I was asking him to do at first - he kept trying to get closer to me. I have a tendency to give Ike essentially a verbal correction when he doesn't do exactly what I want. I say "oh well" and we go back to square one and try again. Esther wants me to stop doing that. She said, even though I am not yanking on my dog, giving them a physical correction, or yelling 'No" at them - it is still a correction. Yipes. I have come to realize that it is unnecessary with agility (thank you, Katrin) but apparently I have to learn to stop it with obedience too.

We worked on our recalls again. I did not bow to Ike this week, but I did bend when I motioned for Ike the first time. The second time I called Ike Esther asked me to use the verbal command - no bend! Ike has a very nice stay and is learning the "set-up" behavior quite nicely.

Then we worked on heeling. I am super curious how other people learn/train heeling. Esther has us fill both hands with treats. When you move your right foot forward the dog gets a treat from your right hand, when you move your left foot forward your dog gets a treat from your left hand. Key points to remember - take small steps, keep it short in the beginning, and if you have a small dog bend your knees don't bend towards them!

I was impressed with Ike - Esther asked if she could borrow him and he actually took treats from her and moved along with her. He was crooked but she said not to worry about his body position yet. It was a big step for him!

I also discovered that Ike likes pulled pork - big surprise, right?! Karen, who has two Keeshonds (at least that I know of), gave us the pulled pork and recommended trying whipped cream cheese instead of the peanut butter on Ike's target plate. She also recommended mixing milk into the peanut butter to make it have a slightly less sticky consistency. I will have to try both.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Competition Obedience, Class # 2

Last night Ike and I had our second class at Masterpeace Dog Training. We reviewed the attention games we played in our first class. Ike is such a good boy - I was able to put a treat on his paw and he left it there. But then I made a fatal mistake, and I should have known better, I let him eat it! Yipes. So, I did it a few more times and didn't let him eat that particular treat. Nonetheless, I am impressed - this is a new trick for him. I will work on it through out the week to reinforce what I want and that allowing him to eat the treat was an abnormality.

Then we worked on formal recalls. Well, our first try I peeked back at Ike as I walked away and then called him to me. Esther explained that a formal recall begins with the dog in the "setup" position (a sit very close on your left side - his front paws lined up with the toes of your shoes). There is no peeking as you walk away. Stand squarely and do not bow to the dog (I did) when you give him his release signal. It can be a hand movement or a verbal, but not both. My first time in class I bowed and did both a verbal and hand signal! I guess I do not have a lot of faith that Ike knows what I want, huh? Jeez - I need to start giving him more credit.

Esther then explained that when the dog comes to you, you want him to sit as close as possible to you - practically on your feet. Ike and the Kelpie Taz both sit out about 3 feet. Esther explained that this was due to the way we taught them to sit, using the lure method and then reinforced it for however long. In Ike's case that is 4 years. Esther tried to get Ike to sit close to her, but he is such a weirdo with people. She started to tell me not to worry about it, that some dogs can't be taught to do it if they have been sitting a certain way all their life. However, I tried it with Ike and he started to leap up on me and then sat nearly on my shoes! Esther said that if I can get him to not jump that sit would work. Once we master that we will work on him sitting straighter. I did notice that he seemed to sit straighter when I gave him the treat from my right hand versus my left hand.

Our second attempt at the recall I was able to get him in a quasi set-up, stay, and then give him the hand motion for come. At that point he still wasn't willing to sit too closely to me. I had boiled unsalted peanuts in my mouth to give him as a treat - he thought my salivia was odd apparently.... he was in no hurry to take his treat and he likes those peanuts!

We then practiced the set-up behavior which I think is fairly easy to train. Although I have never had an formal obedience training, when I saw Emma Parsons about Ike's increasingly reactive behavior a few years ago she taught me this behavior as a way to focus Ike. You plant your feet, and lead the dog behind you with a treat and then around to your left side, ending with a sit. Hmm....that is poorly explained. I will have to figure out a better way to explain it. As I said before, the desired outcome is for the dog to be seated on your left side with his paws even with the tips of your shoes.

So, Ike and I have been practicing fronts a little, and I will need to break out some time to work on the other items I've discussed. Fronts are easy because I just incorporate them into our walks when we see someone Ike wants to bark at! Of course I could easily use the "setup" behavior the same way.

Depending on how Ike does with agility this upcoming session, I might switch him over to only obedience (which he seems to like a lot) and start working with Carmen in agility. She has much more drive than Ike does. As a precursor to that I think I will enter her in Good Manners at the shelter. It would be good for her even if I decide not to pursue agility with her.

Monday, June 4, 2007

PRMSC Specialty Show

June 1st was the Paul Revere Miniature Schnauzer Specialty Show held at Masterpeace in Franklin, MA. John Constantine, the current president of the American Miniature Schnauzer Club and Tom LaSalle of Sterling Miniature Schnauzers were the judges.

At the last club meeting, the show secretary asked if I would play hostess to the judges. Turns out they didn't need a hostess really, so I just did whatever was needed.

I'll freely admit that the two highlights of the day for me were having the opportunity to meet BB (Anna Ericsson's new puppy) and the two litters of puppies that were hanging out waiting to be looked at by Santos Diaz. Santos is Tom LaSalle's partner and was the show steward. Since both Tom and Santos were working at the show, this meant that Anna had to handle BB in her classes (Tom and Santos usually handle her!).

Elizabeth Kenney had a litter of six puppies and Margie Rosenthal has a litter of 4 puppies at the show. The puppies were only 8 weeks old and so, so cute; all were salt and pepper. I can't wait until we are ready for our puppy. I do recognize that Ike and I have a lot of work to do yet!

Elizabeth and Margie had Tom LaSalle and Santos Diaz look at both their litters to help them figure out which pups they should keep. It's amazing that they can look at an 8 week old dog and guesstimate what their conformation will look like as an adult. Apparently 8 weeks is before the growth spurts and everything becomes a mess!

It was an interesting experience, and I am looking forward to the PRMSC Annual BBQ and next year!