Friday, February 29, 2008
The first exercise we worked on involved sending our dog to the table from a distance of maybe 4’ – we then added a jump and the tunnel. Katrin, as is her wont, had drawn a line in the sand – as I was running along with Carmen when I got to the line I stopped dead. Katrin asked, “what did we just discuss on Tuesday?” I started listing things: support your dog, reward right choices, etc. Katrin said, “What did you write a WHOLE blog post on? TRANSITIONS!!! What are you doing?” Ummm, running and then stopping dead at the invisible wall?
It should come as no surprise to me that re-training myself is going to take more than one magical night. After all, I have been working with Ike and agility for 4 years and I just figured out what I need to change. That’s 4 years of handler muscle memory, habit, etc. It is very frustrating. However, knowing what the issue is has got to help.
I think the fact that I am working with Carmen as well as Ike will help ease the transition (ha, ha). Since Carmen has had no training I am conscious that I do not want to “ruin” her with my thoughtless (bad) handling!! Ike and I are both remedial cases, with Carmen this is her foundation.
I was really pleased with the Onion last night - she figured out the go to table very quickly. Carmen is much more willing to try things without me on top of her. It makes sense, Ike and I have a history of me babysitting him. She actually wagged at me when I was trying to get her a bit riled up before going into the tunnel. She rarely wags! This makes me happy – I think she is REALLY enjoying class and working.
We also tried the teeter last night. First attempt Katrin held onto her harness and Carmen turned into Ike – she froze. I picked her up and took her off the teeter and tried again with no Katrin. Carmen went up and waited beautifully. The next few times she actually drove down the teeter after I released her – I mean really showed some speed. Yeah!! We will definitely have to work on driving up the teeter – she is kind of creepy on the way up.
I think Carmen and I need to be VERY sure to continue to work on eye contact and the space game. She and I aren’t as tuned into each other as I would like, so I need to continue to build on the little rapport we’ve developed.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I felt like it was an excellent class for a couple of reasons. But first the bad stuff. I pushed Ike to play with his toys in public. He was totally fine when it was just Katrin and Niche, but once our classmates (Callie, Matt, and Julie) arrived he wasn’t really interested. But Dumb-mum kept pushing. ARGH!! What does it take for me to be respectful of my dog? My whole plan was to try and have him play BEFORE class started, just to get him used to the idea of playing in the barn. Since he was willing to play, I pushed it when he DID NOT WANT TO PLAY ANYMORE. Bad, bad mum. I need to make a SERIOUS effort to be less annoying and more respectful to my dog in the future. Just because I wish something so is not going to make it happen overnight! (You really think I would have learned this lesson already.)
Now on to the good news. Ike handled last night’s course really well; it included a serpentine and a front cross which we do a lot of and therefore like! BUT the real breakthrough is that after our first run Katrin made an observation that has staying power. You know how those “lighbulb” moments? Well, last night I had one!
Ike is what Katrin refers to as a Variable Speed Dog (you never know if you are getting Slow-Ike or somewhat-faster-Ike), and I therefore become a Variable Speed Human. I tear out there on the course full speed and then have to stop if Ike is in Slow-Ike Mode. Katrin hypothesized that the disjointed handler performance slows Ike down even more and that I need to try and give Ike the appearance of more seamless transitions. More consistent handler movement might help to support his continued consistent movement.
Well, hit me over the head with a frying pan! I have no clue if Katrin has told me this before and I just didn’t get what she meant; if this is a new tactic on her part to impart the same message in a different way – whatever – I GOT it (the message). As luck would have it, this happened at the beginning of class which enabled me to then try and incorporate smoother movement on my part into our remaining runs/exercises.
This observation is something that will help me with Ike, and long-term with future dogs. It definitely will take PRACTICE and THOUGHT on my part. However, the pay-off is nearly immediate. For example, we finished up class running the serpentine. During the initial run of the entire course, Ike slowed down between the last two jumps of the serpentine sequence because I almost stopped. After attempting to incorporate smoother movement on my part Ike barely slowed down at all!
I think the reason this finally made sense to me is the way that Katrin ended up explaining it. She essentially said to think about it as tricking Ike into thinking I am not slowing down to wait for him. I can’t explain WHY this makes so much sense to me, but it does and I definitely see it as a task to work on which will improve and help our agility relationship.
I was also talking a lot last night on course – not sure why as it was really a pretty straightforward course and I practically didn’t have to say a peep. Katrin had a good point about dogs that hear constant praise tuning it out. Since I already know Ike tunes out when I yammer at him, and in fact I think SLOWS down, why was I talking so much?! I will blame it on Katrin blowing my mind with the appearance of transitions talk.
For some reason Ike was very table oriented last night, I kept having to intercept him in order for him to get the tunnel. Katrin made a great point, if I hadn’t been yammering so much when I yelled “Out, Tunnel” it would have meant more to Ike (instead of more pointless chatter!). I also neglected to reward Ike after he MADE the correct decision taking the tunnel over the table. Instead I pushed him on to the jump. Stupid!! When your dog makes the right decision reward him so he finds it as rewarding as making the wrong decision (which often times equals more attention/interaction).
So all in all, a great class. I am still cringing internally about the toy but hopefully I have learned my lesson!
Monday, February 25, 2008
I mentioned I picked up all sorts of new toys at Clean Run a few weekends ago super cheap. The jackpot toys were more or less busts; Ike isn’t a huge squeaky guy. And in Ike’s mind, if there is food involved then it is about the food not the playing. However he ADORES, and all-caps is understating it, his new raccoon tail and monkey!
I am not sure I have mentioned the monkey yet. It is very small and soft and has a battery activated voice box inside it that screeches like a monkey if thrown or pounced on. Ike goes crazier for the monkey than his pink kitty, which is hard to believe! He has already ripped a hole in the monkey and Ike doesn’t typically destroy toys.
I am going up to Clean Run in a couple of weeks and I will be investing in quite a few of these little monkeys and another raccoon tail. Ike has NEVER been willing to tug, not with me and not with another dog. Well, guess what? With both the raccoon tail and the monkey – he is willing to tug over it! Be still my beating heart.
Moment of honesty (big cringe) – although I have a low-toy drive dog I have never been that diligent about trying to build toy drive in Ike. I have read Susan Garrett’s article about building a motivating toy, and other articles on the same topic. I just never quite bought into the idea that you can turn a specific toy into something that gets your low-drive dog uber-excited. I think part of my reserve was that Ike had one favorite toy (the pink kitty) and most of these “build-a-motivating-toy” plans involve restricting access to the favorite toy. Goofball that I am, I didn’t want to restrict access to Ike’s favorite toy. Then all the toys I tried to create motivation about weren’t as exciting as the pink kitty to Ike, or in the case of jackpot toys the food trumped the play factor.
Enter the Raccoon Tail and the Monkey. Ike is so excited by these two toys! Since I bought these toys with the sole purpose of creating a motivating toy I have no hesitation about restricting access to them. Well, damn if these are not these most exciting toys Ike has ever seen. He goes CRAZY for them – when he sees them in my hand he starts walking on his hind legs (not something Ike does typically); when thrown Ike tears after them faster than I have EVER seen him move.
Morale of the story: Keep searching for something your dog gets excited about. Keep trying different things, and when you find IT …. The rumors are true, you really can turn your low toy drive dog crazy.
I am being VERY careful about stopping the play when Ike is still desperate to keep playing and of course, access is restricted to the Monkey and the Tail. I have to take these toys out for Ike to be able to play with them.
I have not tried to get Ike to play outside of the house yet, but I have spent a few weeks building excitement about the toys and I am planning on bringing them to class on Tuesday. I will NOT use them for agility yet. My plan is to just try and get Ike to play with me in the barn and we will take it from there!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Maplewood starts its Mini-Clicker session today and I included a link to the virtual chicken on the student hand-out. I find it to be very fun. Every time the chicken pecks the button you click the food depository. You might need to download Adobe Shockwave (the web site will prompt you if you do not have it installed).
Friday, February 22, 2008
We got to the barn a bit early so that Katrin could work with Monty and I could try to get Carmen to play in the very exciting barn environment. Monty will be getting his own raccoon tail, I think. He thought the tail on a lunge whip was a WONDERFUL invention! From the human perspective, the only bad thing about it is how dizzy you can get if you have a fast dog (Monty!).
Once Katrin started working Mont, I took Carmen to the opposite side of the barn and was able to get her very involved in tugging and chasing that tail. As soon as our classmates showed up she wasn’t comfortable doing anymore tugging or chasing. BUT, my plan is to take it slow and keep reinforcing her for playing at the barn and home. I think playing in the barn with Katrin and Monty there was a HUGE thing for her. Ike has never been comfortable enough to do so. And bear in mind, Carmen has no history of reinforcement for playing.
The first thing we worked on was a go to touch, with jumps, and handler movement. We missed the lead-up to this last week and since I was obsessing over Ike we didn’t practice nearly enough. I need to work on her driving to her target plate. While she is showing more speed at home, I am still not 100% clear she understands the point of the “game.” She totally did not seem to be aware that there was a plate after the jumps!
Carmen is a very different dog than Ike, and while that is a fun learning challenge for me, I find myself forgetting that she ISN’T Ike! She is a stress sniffer – when she is confused or unsure – sniff, sniff, sniff. Meanwhile Ike when he is stressed says, “If I don’t move she’ll forget I am here!!” I find stress sniffing to be a somewhat subtler signal – but I am sure it is just because I am so used to the frozen dog!
While Makin the Vizla and Iris the Aussie were working on Go+Jumps, Carmen tried the table. Poor Carmie – she really doesn’t know how to do a down without a lure. I will be adding that to my list of Things to Teach the Onion. She was very hesitant about hopping up on the table, but once she did and nothing terrible happened, she was hopping up on it willy-nilly!
The next thing we worked on was a plank angled on a step stool. Carmie was flying down it and was pretty receptive to the “wait” command.
Last but certainly not least we worked on the u-shaped tunnel. Carmen was on lead with Katrin restraining her movement. Unlike Ike who froze whenever Katrin tried this (Are you near me? Are you touching my leash? Why are you looking at me?), Carmen handled it with aplomb and it worked quite well. The first time I ran away from the tunnel she did freeze, which was quite comical! But she bounced back and the next run she tore after me. Yay, Carmen. Maybe I should reserve the word ”tore” – hopefully at some point she really will tear after me, I think she has the potential.
I have noticed while walking her and when she and Ike play, how differently she moves from Ike. I do not know if it is her construction or what, but she is a much more powerful and economical mover than Ike is.
There is lots to work on. Top of the list – have the in-laws put Carmen on a diet, build Carmen’s confidence, work on downs without a lure, and go ons.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
After the grooming was finished I worked with Carmen and her target plate for about 15 minutes. I am getting more speed from her, so that is good. She is a much more flexible learner than Ike is, which is a huge relief. She lacks confidence and I spoke to Katrin about how I can work on teaching her to be "wrong." MannyMuddyPaws recently wrote a post on teaching her PyrShep Boone it is okay to be wrong, and while it is not something that works for Ike due to his rigidity, I think it is something to explore with Carmen. I think Carmen has a lot of potential for agility and I want to set us both up for a successful relationship!
Next we worked on creating that motivating toy. At first Carmie looked at me like, "You want to play...with just me?" Then she got into it!! Hooray. She is a FAST little bugger when she is tearing after something. I used the chipmunk jackpot toy and the raccoon tail. She gladly tugged with me and let me pull her half-way across the room! I let her "win" quite a few times to keep her interested in the game and then offered to trade cookies for tail. She was completely happy with that arrangement.
I am going to bring the tail to class tonight. I want to try and get her to play at the barn without having any work involved; just play for the sake of playing. I think I skipped a step a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to use a toy working on outs. Carmen didn't realize she could play with me!
By the time Carmen and I were playing, Ike had figured out it wasn't all torture downstairs and was whining like a mad dog at the door. "You haven't worked with me in weeks; I only get boiled meat; wah, wah, wah!" Very funny.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
First thing that became apparent – if I am inconsistent with my flailing limbs, not only is Niche going to look at me like “huh?” - he’s also going to leap to “touch” my hand. After all, a random hand flailing about? You must want to play “Touch!” It makes perfect sense; painfully obvious, wonderful sense in fact.
Second thing, I am so used to waiting with Ike that I wasn’t giving Niche nearly enough information in a timely fashion. He must have felt like he was in slow motion underwater.
Third thing, I yell my cues. Now with Niche, if my body were moving correctly, I probably wouldn’t even have to say the darn cues! The yelling cues is odd. I think it is, as I get excited, the cues come out louder, I do this with Ike too. It’s a good thing to be aware of and try to work on.
When Niche runs with Katrin, he is fast and relaxed. Running with me, Katrin said he looked out of control. I totally do not know how to “drive” (using the car analogy) a dog that has distance and speed. For me, I was trying to keep up with Niche which just pushed him further out or confused him more. I could just see him shaking his head, “Stupid human, you’re okay for treats but I don’t know about you, me, and this agility thing.”
I found the course very challenging for me, as a handler, and the work we did will definitely pay off with Ike.
I had a lot of trouble with the sequence of obstacles 8 (curved tunnel), 9 (winged jump), 10 (double jump), 11 (jump). After the double, if the handler isn’t paying attention your dog could very easily take the dog walk, since that could be considered the next obvious obstacle to the dog. I messed poor Niche up quite a few times. Katrin had us look at the course from our dog’s perspective (which we should be doing all the time, I know!) – coming out of the tunnel, the dog is headed between the wing jump and the double. You need to push your dog out for them to take the wing jump and then pull them back after the double.
The obstacle sequence 13 (teeter), 14 (tunnel), 15 (jump), 16 (jump) was similar in some ways. Your dog comes out of the tunnel and his forward propulsion is taking him between jumps 5 and 15 – if you aren’t giving your dog information they are going to miss both jumps or take the wrong jump.
The other place I had trouble with was after the dogwalk, obstacles 3 (jump), 4 (jump), 5 (jump), and 6 (tunnel). You need to send your dog over two jumps and then pull them back in to take a jump and send them into the tunnel. I stayed inside the radius of the jumps multiple times and it was awful, just super clunky. Katrin had me do a front cross on the landing side of jump 5 and it went SO much smoother.
Like, I said earlier in the post, I learned a lot running Niche. It amazing what a dog that knows his job can teach you! I have lots to think about – I particularly like the front cross on the landing side of jump #5. Thanks, Katrin. Now poor Niche has the stomach bug. Hopefully he will bounce back quickly.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
So, I have been doing a lot of thinking, which can be dangerous. None-the-less, I have decided that there are some words I would like to drop from my vocabulary and internal voice. Typically these are words that I use as a catchall, because it is easier to say X then put the thought into what I am trying to say. I think these words limit my relationship with the boy and our training.
The words that I am looking to drop:
I use this word with Ike a lot. What do I typically mean when I use it? That Ike is so over stimulated that he has withdrawn, his ears are flat, tail tucked, and paws behave as though they are stuck in molasses. After all, in Ike’s world slow is safe!
Is this an accurate word for Ike? Shut Down means closed for business in my mind. Ike bounces back 80% of the time. And frequently he tries even if he is overwhelmed.
Would it be better to say over-whelmed or over-stimulated? I will take it on a case-by-case basis, but I am going to try and limit my use of the phrase Shut Down. I don’t think it gives enough info and can be misleading as to Sir Ike’s actual condition/behavior.
I work with two reactive dogs. Ike’s reactivity is directed at creepy people primarily, and has lessened dramatically with counter-conditioning and his new thyroid supplement. Carmen’s reactivity is directed at dogs and in general isn’t as bad as I always thought it was. With additional exposure and training I think Carmen won’t be bad at all.
The reason I want to drop this word? I think many lay-people do not understand the nuances of it. Truthfully it means a dog is over stimulated by something and doesn’t have appropriate coping mechanisms for what they are feeling. What do people think of? Gnashing teeth, dangerous dogs, etc.
I think criteria is another term that is just plain vague. For example, I want to train myself to list what my actual criteria is for the teeter rather than just saying, “I like my criteria for Ike’s teeter.” Unless you are inside my head that sentence doesn’t mean squat!
Blowing Me Off.
As in that lovely colloquial phrase, “My dog blew me off.” One hears it all the time, and what does it mean? That someone is ignoring you or choosing not to interact with you. When it comes to dogs, I don’t think they think like that. I think they are rather zen and you, the handler, lost your connection with your dog in that moment.
Saying, “[insert dog’s name] blew me off” doesn’t really explain what happened. Assuming it is because you weren’t paying enough attention and you lost the connection with your dog, wouldn’t you get more out of trying to figure out where you lost the connection and taking some responsibility for the relationship rather than placing it all on your four-legged friend?
I don’t use this phrase that often and Katrin has made me swear it off forever as it is such an inaccurate phrase, but man alive you hear it a lot.
What do all of these words have in common? They are not specific enough. Sometimes I use words and I don’t really *think* about what I mean or what I am saying or how I am going to try and remedy the issue I am talking about.
So, I am going to attempt to be more specific about what our issues, dog and handler alike, are and what I plan on doing about them.
I am also going to try very hard to continue to think about Ike’s perspective in all of our training together. I like agility a lot, and I like the challenge of motivating Ike. However, I need to be eternally cognizant that Ike isn’t over the moon about agility. He likes agility because we do it together.
I am focusing on earning Ike’s C-ATCH because I think that is a good goal for us. CPE is a venue that is more relaxed, which suits Ike’s personality. However, I catch myself PUSHING things. There are two NADAC trials coming up in Wrentham. I had to stop myself from entering both days of both trials. I would love to compete on both days, but Ike would HATE that. Ike might not really want to compete on one day. NADAC is pushing it a bit as far as Ike’s comfort level goes (course times are faster, for one).
I have to do my part in making us a successful team and that means respecting what Ike’s comfort level is. I need to keep things in perspective. If Ike isn’t having fun, I need to re-evaluate.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Ike is back to his food hound ways! I STILL think he could lose a few ounces, but DH and the in-laws think he is skin and bones. (ha!)
I am about to try and get him UP (he likes to sleep in) and get him OUT into this rainstorm, which should prove hysterical. Ike does NOT like to get wet.
Then it is off to work with Carmen - I will post on that later.
I had the raccoon tail out yesterday. Both dogs go ballistic for it. They tug over it, which has never happened with any other toy. Major score! Of course, I am keeping the raccoon tail mostly about playing with me, but sometimes it is hard to resist group tugging and the hilarity that ensues. I might have to buy a rabbit pelt for that.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
He had a normal bowel movement this morning and has now kept three meals down.
Today I am going to SmartPak with Katrin. I am going to pick up a lunge whip to tie Ike's raccoon tail on. I have been obsessing about picking up the lunge whip since I got the raccoon tail! The lunge whip will give me a nice radius to drag the tail about and hopefully get Ike really wired. I plan on using it with the Onion, too.
Just to clarify, I often call Carmen the carmelized onion or the onion, also Carmelita. I am big on pet names for my dogs and even though Carmen isn't officially mine I do her training - therefore I can call her whatever I want!
Since Ike's treats are limited to rice this weekend I plan on working Ms. Carmen. Based on Neil's post about the ABC class I think I should break out my jump and tunnel and practice some targeting. Neil, his wife Lael, and their Vizla Makin are in Carmen's class (along with human friends Cat [Strata] and Shaya [Tom]). I like the Thursday night class - I think we all work independently fairly well. There are also a couple of reactive dogs in it (uh-hmmm Carmen) which raises the challenge and is a good experience in terms of the variety of dogs and handlers you encounter at an agility trial.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
My day started with a call that Ike had puked again - after the Cerenia and before breakfast. I called the vet and tentatively scheduled an x-ray; depending upon what the blood results said.
Dr. Kirk called shortly before noon and said that all of Ike's levels are normal except for his GGT liver level - that is a little bit low. Dr. Kirk said that might just be the normal state for Ike - no way to tell at this point. Ike's white blood count is also a little bit high, but since he is probably fighting an infection and under a significant amount of stress that is normal.
I kept my tentative x-ray appointment in the afternoon and thank dog gods there is no obstruction. Ike's stomach looked "thick" according to Dr. Kirk . He proceeded to tell me all the ways that could be interpreted (crazy Julie said - oh gods, I've given my dog an ulcer), but essentially his stomach is in tough shape because he has been puking for the past couple of days. He has a slightly under-sized liver, his spleen was enlarged (again probably due to infection), and his hips look good. Dr. Kirk tried to include his hips in the x-ray because he knows we do agility. I thought that was an interesting/nice gesture.
Dr. Kirk gave Ike more subcutaneous fluids as he was surprisingly dehydrated and prescribed an additional medicine called sucralfate which I am to mix with water and give to Ike. Apparently it coats the stomach, acting like a Pepcid or Mylanta would.
The low down is that we don't know what is going on with Ike. His blood work was non-conclusive. There is no hard-and-fast test for panceatitis.
Ike is to stay on meds and a bland diet until he is normal for AT LEAST 24 hours. Long term Dr. Kirk said I could give Ike Milk thistle for the low GGT level. Apparently GGT works to clean out the bile sludge or some such gunk.
Yesterday I was very down on Dr. Kirk. Today I am not sure what I think. I was much more impressed with him today, but that might just be my state of mind. Once I found out Ike hadn't snuck off to do the unthinkable and eat a random object my stress level went down a bit.
I will have to post on my schnauzer list. I am curious if anyone else's dog has been ill or if this is something related to Ike's physiology.
Ike just had his tablespoon of white rice and about a quarter of an all fruit Popsicle - he is now snoozing. Thank you all for your positive thoughts. I am still a wreck, but I feel a little bit better and I KNOW Ike feels significantly better.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
They gave him subcutaneous fluids and something called Cerenia to calm his stomach. No food tonight and more Cerenia tomorrow plus some bland food stuffs. Depending upon what the bloodwork shows, they might put him on an antibiotic.
Then I came in from shoveling and found that Ike had thrown up and was curled into a sick little ball. Hmmm....I thought it was odd he wanted to go out at 4:45 a.m. I sent Ike to his daycare (aka my in-law's) with instructions and some Pepto just in case. Well, after more vomit, explosive diarrhea, and still more vomit I received a call at work.
It's a little odd, typically if Ike pukes it is only once and he recovers fairly quickly. I think he must have picked a bug up in South Hadley. I called my vet to ask their opinion about whether the Pepto was adequate and found out to my horror that my beloved Dr. Warner is NO LONGER with the practice.
I am as upset by this development as I am by Ike being sick. I went ahead and scheduled an appointment for 1 pm - so I am home at the moment. Yes, I know I might be over reacting but this is a bit unusual for Ike and where he was just traveling it seems to me that this would be about the right amount of time for a bug to incubate.
He isn't drinking H20 - just expelling bodily fluids.
I will post an update but I do suspect Dr. Kirk will tell me to feed him rice for the next few days and keep an eye on him. Then I'll have to begin the new vet search, which SUCKS. The only upside to this is that if I am being forced to make this change I might as well seek out a holistic vet more in tune with my beliefs. Not that I didn't enjoy discussing the pros and cons with Dr. Warner of typically recommended treatments.
Wish Ike a more peaceful belly.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Guess what? Finally, after years (literally) of frustration, Ike is doing a nose touch to my hand. I can't believe it!! I am SO excited and happy. Since his foot target is "touch" we are doing "nosey." I was tempted to steal Cat's "poke" as that's a really nice cue but opted to go with something clunkier instead!
I am so completely surprised but HAPPY!
NOTE: As recently as May '07 I spent a significant amount of time trying to teach Ike to do a hand touch with his nose. See this post. Amazing how things change.
|I Would Be a Pet Rabbit|
Playful and hyper, you enjoy being around other people... as long as everyone's having fun.
You are easily bored, and you almost always need some sort of entertainment.
If you're not keeping busy, then you're apt to get in some sort of trouble!
Why you would make a great pet: You're very entertaining, even when you're not trying to be
Why you would make a bad pet: Well, personal hygiene isn't exactly your thing... you kind of smell sometimes
What you would love about being a rabbit: Playtime... and eating flowers
What you would hate about being a rabbit: Being held like a toy
The funny thing is that Rabbit is my Chinese birth year. woooo....spooky! ;-)
Monday, February 11, 2008
It was excellent to have a chance to meet some people I know from the Performance Schnauzer e-list and be able to put some faces with online names.
Webb Anderson currently has 5 Miniature Schnauzers, so you could say he has a lot of experience with the breed. However, even he was a bit stumped when Ike shut down during the first exercise.
The seminar format was "All Request" which meant that we e-mailed the coordinator what we wanted to work on a week or two before the seminar and then Webb tried to address some of our issues. Our issues were motivation and confidence, without a doubt!
We talked a lot before we ever did any agility about how important it is to have a training plan. I agree with that, I think it makes you and your dog a better team.
The first exercise we worked on was Doggie NASCAR – a speed circle with jumps and tunnels. Webb immediately picked up on the fact that Ike slows down in tunnels because he can't see me and switched Ike and a Bouvier, who also didn't like tunnels, to six jumps in a circle. While Ike was better with all jumps, the entire exercise was more or less a disaster in the sense that Ike shut-down or freaked out. However you want to phrase it there was no doubt - Ike acted like his feet were stuck in molasses and his wee little ears were flat.
It was a combination of the facility, a big warehouse, some echoing, and the fact that all the other seminar attendees were in the room and only one dog and handler at a time. It was really discouraging. Webb and the other attendees were really supportive and tried to help me problem solve. I brought Ike's new sock which he flipped for at home and he wouldn't even look at it. I tried to roughhouse with him a bit like I do at home and he gave his high pitched bark that he typically gives obnoxious young male dogs. Loud and clear it says BACK OFF, I am not comfortable.
Webb suggested I might want to try live prey with him, but considering how he is about the g-pigs (he tolerates them running loose) I am not sure that will work.
After the doggie NASCAR debacle I was very much in the dumps. I need to leave my discouragement at the door and figure out what exactly precipitates these shut-down spells. I say that, because this is the second time recently that he has shut down that *I* have gotten depressed about it. IT'S NOT ABOUT ME!!! It doesn't do Ike any good for me to get depressed about his being freaked out. I need to be there to help him or stop putting him in that sort of situation! Ugh.
I went shopping at the Clean Run store and I bought a real raccoon tail pelt. I also picked up some mini-jackpot toys (a squirrel and a chipmunk). I am hoping I will be able to continue to release the terrier in him.
One of the high points for me was getting Ike to "bounce" back. I took him outside with the racoon tail, some Evanger 100% Rabbit and clicked and treated for speeding after the racoon tail. We ran a bit and in general were very goofy. When we got back to the crating area he was able to play with Webb there. Gasp. He was more excited about the raccoon tail than I have ever seen him about a toy (in a public place with creepy people no less).
The next exercise we worked on front crosses and Ike really wanted to play! Webb videoed our runs and showed us how Dartfish software works. Wow, talk about instant gratification and analysis - what a cool program. The Dartfish software allows Webb to video our runs and then immediately play it back and do all kinds of very nifty stuff including voice over analysis, etc. It was helpful to be able to watch to runs play simultaneously and see what you did differently that sped your dog's performance up.
The final exercise was a basic course to evaluate our skills. Ike blew the dog walk off, but nailed 12 weaves and the teeter, so I was okay with it. ESPECIALLY considering how he had bounced back. His A-Frame was continuous too - no perching!
One of the things that I think is pretty unique about this seminar is Webb had us write down one thing we want to work on with our dog and told us to give it to our trainer. I told Katrin yesterday that I need to establish what I want Ike to do for contact behavior on the dog walk and A-Frame. I also need to continue to build toy drive.
I decided that I am sticking to one day for trials except for the Seekonk CPE trial. With Ike's personality CPE is the best venue for him. I do NOT think it would be fair to Ike to do both days of the two NADAC trials that will be in Wrentham in April. I think that is what *I* want. I am also not entering him in tunnelers. I might never enter him in a tunnelers class again - not unless I can make him feel okay about it. After this seminar, when I think about Ike on a tunnelers course, I think it must be his own personal hell. That makes me feel terrible!!
I am hoping by developing more thorough and consistent behavior in general I can make Ike feel more confident. This is the last seminar that Ike and I are doing for a while. I am auditing a behavior seminar in March, but no more agility seminars for a bit. I think that is good news - I have a lot to process and work on from the last few seminars that I attended. We have a CPE trial on March 1st, but other than that the rest of February should be spent trying to incorporate what we've learned and working on ourselves!
Friday, February 8, 2008
Foot targeting comes up because last night in ABC class we worked on target plates. And d*mn if Carmen didn't pick it up in a snap. Who is this dog? : )
It's very, very exciting.
After last week's seminar and last night's ABC class I am determined to try and shape a nose touch with Ike. I think he has become confident enough and operant enough that it might be possible.
Last night we also worked on Outs. I think it is official - I am not coordinated enough to use toys while training my dogs! Carmen did really well with the outs and absolutely excelled with the targeting. By the end of the class I was at least 10' - 15' away from the target plate and she was hopping over jump poles to "Go, touch."
Negative: She was in Nervous Nellie mode and much more vocal last night.
Positives: We were working off lead and she was really tuned into me (for Carmen). The targeting! Swoon!
The morning seminar was on Focus, Motivation, and Impulse Control and the afternoon seminar was on Weaves and Contact performance. I enjoyed both seminars quite a bit. Tracy is a very dynamic presenter who definitely personalizes her presentations for the dogs and handlers attending.
In the morning we learned the game, It’s YerChoice (article by Tracy Sklenor can be found on pages 36 – 40 of the Clean Run Special Focus Issue: Motivation, Drive, and Self-Control). In It’s YerChoice, the handler begins with a handful of treats held at nose level, open palm. If your dog attempts to get the treats you close your hand. No verbal corrections – you let your actions speak to the dog and the dog’s brain work. When your dog is capable of allowing a handful of treats to be in front of them without mauling your hand, you may give them a treat from your hand. If they try to grab the treat or move for your hand, oops bad choice, close your hand.
Tracy showed us how the criteria in this game can be continually raised and made “sexier.” For example, Ike already knows a version of the It's YerChoice game called Doggie Zen. Because Ike understands the rules of this game, I was very quickly able to raise my criteria and toss a handful of salmon treats on the ground without Ike moving to grab them. Yay Ike. As we all know, Ike has decent impulse control, we just have to work on motivation.
Tracy suggested a couple of things, one that I had reinforced Ike for being slow. Agility-for-Fun anyone? Four years of shelter agility definitely reinforced Ike’s slowness – after all, in the beginning I didn’t even know I should have criteria for obstacles! If I didn’t know that, I can only imagine how unsure Ike was about what the heck he was supposed to be doing. No wonder he is so precise.
What this made me start thinking about is criteria – I currently STILL have lax dog walk and A-Frame criteria because of Ike’s speed. I have never had to ask for a specific behavior because of his speed - you can't miss contacts if you're moving slow. However, the question this seminar raised for me is, does my lax criteria contribute to Ike’s precision? When Ike understands something he is confident, when he doesn’t he isn’t. Sounds like most of us, right? If Ike isn’t 100% sure what his job on these obstacles are he is going to perform them CAREFULLY. D’oh! I am pretty confident my lax criteria on these two obstacles has slowed Ike down.
I need to develop strict criteria for the dogwalk and A-frame and enforce it. I also need to make time to make sure I reinforce Ike when he breaks out of a trot!
The afternoon seminar reinforced the need for criteria for me. Ike stopped on the a-frame, as he is wont to do lately. Tracy called him a perch-aholic. I’ll have to add that to my list of labels/descriptions for this behavior – star-gazing, sight-seeing, etc. To me it is a sign of stress, I have always made the assumption that it was related to a trial atmosphere, but hmmmm….what if it is because he isn’t sure how I want him to perform this obstacle? Oye!! I need lots of A-frame practice. Kay-trin…..can I rent the A-frame at your house?! ; )
Tracy introduced me to a bunch of teeter games which I would consider playing with Carmen or a future puppy. One is the Bang It game. You put a jump stanchion under the weighted end of the teeter so that the unweighted end is almost on the ground. You reinforce your dog for hopping onto it and making it bang. Once they are comfortable with that you start teaching them how you’d like them to be positioned on the teeter when it hits the ground and lower the weighted end (switching the stanchion for a chair, etc) so they have to hop higher onto the unweighted end. Personally I feel like it is much better for the dog structurally to be closer to the tipping point of the teeter and I would never use the Bang It game for anything other than becoming accustomed to the noise and movement of the teeter.
We also learned the Elevator game – you have your dog hop on the unweighted end of the teeter, you raise it up and let it bang. Eh, I can see the benefits of it if you are teaching a 2 on/2 off behavior but in general not so much.
Rebound game - you have your dog hop on the unweighted end of the teeter and once it bangs you then slip your foot under the end of the teeter and force it to rebound up. This is to counter-condition a dog that is doing a 2 o/2 o and might have the board bounce up under them at some point. With the structural issues the rebound surely creates I do not see this anywhere in my future!
Last but not least was placing the teeter between two tables and have the dog run across it. We did this with a blanket under the unweighted end of the teeter and I can see how this could benefit a scaredy dog. The unweighted end’s table was slightly lower, so there was still some tipping and bang associated with the game.
We went over the importance of a nose target and I am going to attempt (once more) to teach Ike to nose target. He has gotten SO much more confident, I *think* it is a possibility.
We finished with 2 x 2 weave method which I am tempted to try with Carmen. Why not?
You teach the poles by teaching your dog to enter one set of two poles, you always throw your treat or toy in the direction in which the dog would be weaving. Ike actually really dug this. It was at the end of the day (5 o’clock and we had been there since 7:45am) and he was tearing after his tossed treats and through the poles.
Then you set up the second set of two some distance away slightly angled, but “in line” with the first set. Then you add the third set. As the dog begins to understand the game you slowly bring the weaves in tighter to the format your dog will see competitively. I can visualize how the training wnet and should progress, but sometimes I have serious difficulty explaining! I apologize. I can see how this could be a very fun game to play with your dog. It might be good for the onion (aka Carmen) as so far she thinks poles are a wee bit scary.
This isn’t a blow-by-blow of the seminar, which I sometimes do. I got more of a “big-picture” message from these two seminars – even though the two seminars were different topics, there was one message for me.
A dog that is given clear criteria is more confident. A more confident dog has more fun. A dog having more fun is faster; at least Ike typically is!!
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
I know (via online communities) many people who use rat urine soaked sawdust to get their terriers amped up.
I got to thinking about Ike's fledgling toy drive AND how much he loves the g-pigs. I took an old sock of John's and put loads of g-pig pellets (Ike's favorite all natural, organic treat) and some soaked sawdust into it. Holy dog gods!! Ike tugged with me!
I played with it with him, intermittentally clicking and treating. He didn't even CARE about the click-n-treats. YES! I have put the sock away and will continue to build up sock-excitement.
I am VERY excited about this toy break through.
Friday, February 1, 2008
This week in class we worked quite a bit on space, backing up, moving stays, and of course eye contact. Class runs between an hour and an hour and a half; last night both of our brains were toast by 8 pm (class started at 7pm).
Some explanations for those who read this and have never taken the ABC class.
What is the space game? The space game is understanding that space is a 50/50 proposition. Essentially our dogs have only ever been rewarded for coming INTO our space. Typically the only reward that we give them for moving out of our space is they don’t get stomped on or yelled at. So, in my mind I see the space game as a dance between handler and dog. It increases both creatures’ understanding of where their bodies are and what it means when they are in a certain positions, OR the message the body position might give. So, you reward the dog for coming into your space with a treat. You walk into *their* space and they move out – reward. As the dog gets the hang of the game, you change the criteria – now they need to back up in a straight line, etc.
The Space Game is great. It has multiple applications – agility, of course, but also loose leash walking, reactivity, dealing with distractions, pretty much any way you want to use it, it can be used. It is a basic skill that has LOTS of creative uses.
We also work a lot on backing up in the ABC class to increase a dog’s rear-end awareness. Often a dog doesn’t even consciously know they can use their rear. This knowledge is helpful with jumping. I remember when I took this class with Ike – all of a sudden he was easily hopping up on my bed, which is at least 2.5’ off the ground if not higher!
Moving Stays, ah….always something to confuse the students. It is a variation of the space game. You are going along with your dog beside you and you turn into your dog asking them for a moving stay, my cue is Wait. By turning into your dog you have closed the space – blocking their forward path with your body language. Katrin is going to post a YouTube video about this. When she does maybe I can link to it.
Considering Carmen has only had two days of practice between classes (that's all I could balance with Jazz here) she is doing smashingly! I can't express how different she is from Ike. Wild.
Last night when we were practicing moving stays under the watchful eye of Katrin, once Carmen *really* understood what I was asking for she was so obviously HAPPY! Eh, she’s a cool dog - a bit crazy, but cool!
I have also been bringing my car crate into the barn, so she is crated while we are setting up and breaking down equipment. I want Carmen to get used to being in a crate with things going on around her. I will probably bring her to a couple of the local trials in April to up the ante. My plan, at the moment, is to have her come with me in the morning and leave with John around noon (JPP schedule permitting). Last season, at the local trials John was kind enough to come and help me set up. He would stay and volunteer a little as ring crew in the a.m. and then leave around lunch. That could be the perfect amount of time to NOT cause Carmen to melt down!
At the end of class we went over creating a motivating toy. I have a jackpot toy of Ike’s and I have a rabbit fur jackpot tug. (A jackpot toy is a toy you can put treats into.) Unlike Ike, Carmen likes to tug! I am going to see if I can turn her into a toy motivated dog this week, well at least start to turn her into one!
Our homework is to continue working on eye contact, the space game, backing up, moving stays, and creating a motivating toy. That’s a lot of homework. The good thing is I do it with Ike as well! It has been a great refresher for him and he enjoys the one-on-one “play” after his Jazz-filled month.