Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beyond Basics #3

I haven’t been feeling 100% this week and as a result have been slow on the blogging front. Tuesday night Bug had his 3rd Beyond Basics class.

We worked on stays with distractions, loose leash walking with distractions, recalls with distractions, and leave it.

Joyce combined the stay with distraction and loose leash walking in an interesting way. She picked three handlers and their dogs and asked them to stand evenly spaced (not too close together) in the center of the room. She asked the handlers to put their dogs in a stay of their choice (down or sit). Then she had one handle/dog team at time come up and walk in between the handler and dog teams who were practicing stays.

Bug and I were in the first set of three and I was really pleased with how Bug did. He was definitely distracted and broke his stay twice. However, I felt good that I was able to see when he was going to break his stay most of the time and was able to help him out.

Bug did better than I expected with the loose leash walking. He actually stayed right with me and I rewarded intermittently. Given one of the dogs that he had to walk around is a cute Lab puppy he likes I was very impressed! On walks, if I say “Good boy” to Ike, Bug immediately drops into heel position and starts making eye contact. Ike’s “good boys” are frequently followed by a piece of cheese and Bug has obviously learned this well! I really need to put a different word (an actual cue) on it for Bug and use it – it is a lovely behavior he is offering.

In the next exercise Joyce put some delectable treats in a stainless steel bowl. Bug and a couple of the other dogs could NOT take their eyes off Joyce and the bowl. Joyce put the bowl in the center of the room and then told us we would be doing a restrained recall with the bowl of treats out there as a distraction. Gulp! Given that Bug is very food motivated to begin with, followed by the fact that he is on a diet, I didn’t have high hopes.

Joyce asked us to think carefully of how we would like to manage this exercise in order to set our dogs up for success. She said the only rules were that we could not stand on top of the bowl, we could not body slam our dog, and we could not yank on their leash to prevent them from reaching the bowl.

Beth restrained Bug and I choose to stand about 5’ away from the bowl – more or less in line with it, perhaps a little bit after it. I called Bug and he came flying to me. Surprise, surprise!!

Most of the dogs were not successful with this exercise – the bowl of treats was much too tempting. Joyce said if we were practicing at home she would recommend standing slightly in front of the bowl to begin with. I will have to ask John to restrain Bug and practice this at home. Recalls are something I worry about because we don’t have an opportunity to practice them a lot; or we do not make time to practice them!

The final exercise of the night consisted of loose leash walking while Joyce tossed a packet of treats on the ground. You used your “leave it” cue to hopefully continue on. I was really nervous about this exercise because I haven’t really worked on “leave it” with Bug and he needs a “leave it” cue badly!

The first time the packet was to tossed our side and Bug literally pretended he did not see any stinkin’ packet. On the way back he was more interested, I told him “leave it” and we had a moment of tight leash but not too bad. The second go round Joyce tossed the packet practically right in front of us. Bug was much more interested, but did “leave it” when asked.

We have a former puppy mill dog in our class and for that dog Joyce just left the packet on the ground. She wisely did not want to risk tossing something at a dog who isn’t 100% about people. I like and appreciate how aware she is of each dog’s history and personality.

I then brought a very tired and happy corgi home. He is really enjoying this class!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Last night was the final Rally-O class of this session. We will be signing up again - Ike is having a blast.

Last night's course consisted of:

1. Spiral Left Dog Inside
2. Serpentine Weave Once
3. Left Turn
5. Call to Front, Finish Left Forward
6. 270 Right
7. Stop and Down
8. Send Over Jump, Handler Runs By
9. Left Turn
10 Slow Pace
11. Normal Pace
12. About "U" Turn
13. Halt, Turn Right One Step, Call to Heel, Halt
14. Halt, 1 step Halt, 2 Steps Halt, 3 Steps Halt

Ike thinks Spiral Left Dog Inside is stupid - or at least that is what Jennie offered. I think that sign falls into that category of Tunnelers for Ike - not challenging and foolish. Alas, you must do the unchallenging signs too, Ike!

We continue to have nicer Fronts. I am not sure why, but I sure am happy about it! I wonder if IS related to his chiropractic adjustments. However, in the past they have sucked regardless of whether he was in alignment or not. maybe our practice is finally clicking.

Ike was a bit tense last night. It was a very full class. Jennie asked if I bring him places where there are lots of distractions and strange people. Oh yes. I travel with bait bag and clicker on each and every walk. I have to. I live close to the down town area and we encounter joggers, walkers, strollers, bikers, etc - all on a regular basis and Ike thinks each and every one of those things MIGHT be a terrorist! And therefore bouncing and barking is certainly called for!

Ike is MUCH better than he was, but we still have moments. You must constantly be prepared for creepy people because Ike CERTAINLY is!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fish Heads

Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Roly Poly Fish Heads!


We have finally found something raw (in terms of bone/whole animal) that Bug LOVES and doesn't look at me like, "Are you serious?" - whole sardines.

He actually finished TWO before Ike finished one!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chiro and Beyond Basics #2

Last night Bug had his second Beyond Basics class. We got there early because Ike was out of alignment and needed to see Cheryl. Lately Ike has been having a very hard time holding his alignments - last week he saw Cheryl and he wasn't even in the house before he knocked his pelvis out again. He has been pretty reactive on his walks so I know he doesn't feel great. Cheryl adjusted Bug at the trial this weekend (and it was only a minor tune-up even after herding!), but I didn't feel like it was a good idea to bring Ike. Ike finds the trial atmosphere so stressful - even if he isn't trialing - I was afraid he would get sick.

Last night we put him on the table and the poor dog COULD NOT stand straight. He was curved in a "C" - I kid you not. Cheryl and I had discussed over the weekend that the best thing to do might be something called Step 13. It is meant to balance the ilium with the temporal bone. Basically it helps a pelvis adjustment "stick." I wish we had videotaped this session - we literally saw Ike's body unwind and straighten out. It is one of the coolest/most amazing things I have ever seen! Note: Ike was very responsive to the clicker and non-reactive on our walk this morning - he definitely feels better!

After Ike's adjustment I put him in Bug's crate - which is larger - with a piece of beef tendon and Bug and I went to class.

Bug and I are REALLY enjoying this class. The first thing we worked on is a game to help your dog pull less and start thinking. I think Joyce might have called it Red Light, Green Light. Joyce came over with a stainless steel bowl and asked us to put some of our treats in it. She let the dog see that his treats were in the bowl and then placed it in the center of the room - making sure the dog was watching. Then we had to walk up to the bowl with no pulling. If your dog pulled you stopped and waited for them to check in with you. If they didn't check in with you you could take a step back or make a small noise at them. Once you were connected again you could move forward. Any pulling resulted in the same stopping behavior. Once they reached the bowl they could reward themselves with the treats.

I think this will be a great game to work on at home with Bug. He had a hard time not pulling to the bowl. However you could see the wheels turning in his brain and every time I stopped he returned to me to ask what was going on. At one point when we were very close to the bowl he offered his default behavior - a down. This means, "I have no idea what you want but perhaps downing will get me those cookies."

Next we worked on our "Stays" and Bug got to be the demo dog. Joyce commented that one reason people have such a hard time teaching stays is because they are often working alone and will put their dog in a stay and then release them with a come. So your dog is ALWAYS being treated for coming to you - not for staying.

In the exercise last night I put Bug in a Sit-Stay (he MUCH prefers a down-stay) and then had to pick a tennis ball up off a chair and place it on the floor. If Bug stayed while I did that he got a cookie. Then I picked the ball up and returned the tennis ball to the chair. If Bug stayed during that he got another cookie. You can vary the distance of the item and the value of the item. Bug only got up once before he understood the rules of the game and sat tight. I cannot wait to play with this some more at home. I think this will come in very handy for herding!

After the demo we worked on this privately in class while Joyce and her assistant Beth walked around helping anyone that needed help.

We ended class by gathering our stuff up and heading for the door while Joyce held our dog for a restrained recall. Joyce was holding Bug right near two young female dogs that Bug was VERY interested in. Bug was not paying the best attention to me (and can I blame him?), so as I walked away I said, "bugbugbugbugbug" in a very high pitched voice. I could see his radar ears working and knew he was at least aware of me. Once I got near the door I turned and said, "Bug - Come" and he came flying!! I was really happy as the young pups where very exciting for him.

I am looking forward to practicing the games we learned this week and seeing what we work on next week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ike Rocks Rally-O

I had stellar-happy Ike in class last night. He actually very nearly greeted Jennie (unusual for an Ike!), he worked for Jennie (!), he grinned, and he wagged after one of our runs. In short, he was excellent AND he had a good time!

Again! Can you tell I am wishing I never promised him we would not trial?! :-P Of course, if Ike thought trialing was still an option there would be WAY more stress and less fun in his mind - without a doubt.

His fronts were QUITE straight for an Ike. Left About Turn was right near the entrance to the ring - there were people collected there. While he gave them the hairy eyeball he did the sign very smoothly! He worked really nicely for me. We need to work on Fast Pace. Jennie didn't feel like there was a discernible difference in our pace. She showed me what she would like with Mick and we will work on that this week at home.

Course consisted of:

1. Halt - Turn Right - 1 Step - Call to Heel - Halt
2. About "U" Turn
3. Left Turn
4. Halt, Walk Around Dog (Ike has been doing super with this lately!)
5. Halt, 1 Step, Halt, 2 Steps, Halt, 3 Steps
6. Right Turn
7. Fast Pace
8. Normal Pace
9. Left About Turn (We're slowly getting this!)
10. 270 Right Turn
11. Call Front, Finish Right, Forward

On the way home I spoke with my friend Michele and she asked if I would ever consider doing Rally-O with Carmen. It is a thought. She is less operant than Ike, so in some ways I could see it being easier to train her and obviously her vision wouldn't be an issue on a rally course. She likes to compete so I could get my competition fix. Of course, I would really like Bug to be doing Rally-O, too. No way I can work all three of them (in a class) and I canNOT take Rally-O away from Ike. Food for thought....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Addicted Trial

Saturday we spent herding, Sunday we spent at the Addicted to Agility NADAC trial in Wrentham.

Since Bug was herding on Saturday I did not enter him in anything Sunday. Herding is a very physical sport and I am trying to be cautious and not over do it with his long back, etc. I entered Carmen in two Regular classes (now that she has weaves - hooray!), Tunnelers, and Jumpers.

We arrived a bit later in the day because I did not enter Carmen in Chances or Weavers. I have decided to stop entering Carmen in Chances. As her eyesight degrades I feel like she has less confidence working away from me. My goal is to continue doing agility with her as long as she is having fun. Chances seems to be the antithesis of what I want since it requires her to work away from me where she is less confident, which at times equals unhappy.

Regular 1 was a bit of a disaster. It was very bright out and Carmen definitely could not see well.

The course started with a hoop, six-set of weaves, jump, heading to your left. I intended to be on the inside of this arc, but Carmen bobbled the weaves the first time and I switched sides to try and block the sun for her (which did work), this left me needing to do a rear cross at the jump and Carmen stopped and looked at me like I was crazy. I executed it very poorly.

We picked up speed again until we got to a series of two hoops heading into the sun. Carmen did not see them AT ALL. I was speaking with someone after the run and they thought that the sun plus the fact that the bases are completely white contributed to Carmen's difficulty with them. Since Carmen understands hoops, I do feel like this was a vision issue.

We had a moment of hesitation with the dog walk and finished fairly upbeat. In sum, it was a painful run. Carmen was a trooper - no course faults, but we were a whopping 12.28 seconds over course time. Yikes.

I did not feel like Carmen enjoyed the run, so I scratched her from Regular 2. Regular 1 and Regular 2 ran back to back - there was no course change and the sun was still in the same position.

By the time Novice Tunnelers was ready to run I felt like trying Carmen again. We Q/1 with .05 of a second to spare. Carmen wasn't running her fastest due to the sun. In addition, I forgot where we were on course between 8 and 9 and almost crunched my dog. I meant to do a front or rear cross before the #8 tunnel since we would be heading to the right. Well, I plumb forgot and we nearly had a collision! Fortunately we did not!

Jumpers went very smoothly and the sun had apparently changed enough that Carmen did not have a single issue or moment of confusion in that run. Q/1. Jumpers is frequently late morning when the sun is very bright and we haven't had a nice jumpers run without the sun affecting us in some time.

These Tunneler and Jumper Qs means Carmie needs one more Q in each to earn her Superior Novice titles. I think Tunneler Qs in Open will be few and far between for us, but I hope to be able to get Carmie's Open Jumpers title. When the sun isn't bothering her she is a very consistent dog and she is typically well under course time for jumpers.

It was a good day. My thinking about fall light being easier for Carmen is looking like it's faulty. There are a couple of trials in October at the same location and I will probably try at least one of them. After that it will be indoor trials for us, both due to the change of seasons and Carmie's eye sight.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Herding Seminar

Saturday Bug and I attended the Amy Hill herding seminar put on by the Mayflower Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club. Amy was up last year for a weekend (1 day seminar, 1 day instinct testing), which I audited. This year the Club had her up for three days of herding and one day of instinct testing. Unfortunately I was only able to attend one day of the seminar.

We started the day watching Amy's CWC Abby do a lovely outrun with the sheep in the big field. It was simply beautiful to watch.

All of the dogs had two working sessions. Amy does not use a rake, which was a change for me. I borrowed a stock stick and used that. Amy’s reasoning is ultimately you will not be allowed to use a rake – you will be allowed to use a stock stick. Why not start where you want to end up?

During our working session Amy reminded me to use a very calm quiet voice when asking Bug to “Lie Down.” I have mentioned before that I unintentionally use my body to intimidate Bug. Well, I think I have been using my voice too. It will take some re-training on my part but I certainly know what my goal is now – quiet, calm voice!

It was amazing to hear just how quietly Amy works her own dog Abby – barely above a whisper. There were a couple of occasions where her “Lie…down” was louder and more carefully enunciated, but never yelling or LOUD.

*Sally working for someone other than mum

We did a fair amount of stick handling for me. Amy feels that Bug isn’t necessarily a soft dog, just VERY pressure sensitive which means I need to use my rake/stock stick appropriately. She said Bug has a lot of POWER, which I am starting to get. I have had a really hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the dog I started herding with is not the dog I am now herding with!

I found Amy to offer a lot of insight into how Bug works that will certainly help me in the future. Since Bug REALLY wanted to tear after the sheep we did a lot of stops; walking around the outside edge of the pen asking for a lie down. Amy got on me about having a tight line, which Diane has gotten onto me about as well. As often happens when you train with another trainer, something your trainer always says suddenly clicks with slightly different wording. Amy said, the goal is to not always have the line. Use a loose line NOW – your dog respects the stock stick – use it to stop him if he is pulling and not listening to you. Well, duh…how obvious is that?

After the first session we did a duck handling exercise. You and a partner move the ducks along the fence-line, beneath a rake leaning against the fence, between two cones, over a bridge, and stop them on a piece of lattice work gating that is lying down. Apparently my partner Lindsay (another CWC owner) and I won and Carol awarded us some very cute shirts. I think because we got all five ducks over the bridge and onto the gating.

*Carol said I could pretend it was a Cardigan!

We then did the same exercise with Amy acting as our dog. She made me use the stock stick with her because I have such a pressure sensitive dog and need to work on my stick/rake skills. I was nervous about this but it worked out very well.

Stock handling exercises give you a much clearer idea of what you and your dog are actually doing when you are out there. I wish I had done duck handling exercises before I ever went in the pen with Bug. I think it would have made things click much faster for me.

Our second session we worked on a lot of the same things. Bug was a bit pissed because Amy had called his bluff about a few things. We ended with some driving and very nice “Lie Downs.”

After the seminar was over and before the instinct testing (Amy had about 10 individuals coming for instinct testing) Bug had an opportunity to play with Amy’s dogs (Abby, Sally, and pup Rosy). Bug adored Rosy, as did I! What a doll.

* Rosy and one of her sisters in the background.

I then stuck around to watch the instinct testing. I find it really interesting to see how different dogs react the first time they are introduced to stock. Of the 10 – only two did not really “turn on.” And of the two, with a little work, they would EASILY turn on. Typically in an instinct test the owner does not go into the pen. Amy handled it a bit differently having the owner come in with her. I think this is a good idea and really increases the possibility that a dog will “turn on.” Think about how overwhelming it could be to leave your owner and get into a pen with huge animals and a person you have never met before.

I received some nice compliments about Bug and I have every intention of pursuing herding with him as intensely as my checkbook will allow. He seems to like both agility and herding a lot, but I feel like he does prefer the herding more. So more herding we will do!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


*Note the bird feathers (someone is molting)


From today's NY Times, "Really?" columnist Anahad O'Connor begins a weekly series exploring the claims and science behind alternative remedies. This week is arnica - The Alternative Medicine Cabinet: Arnica for Pain Relief. I am not sure if they will stick with homeopathy or explore other topics, but I thought it might be of interest.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beyond Basics for Bug, #1

Last night was Bug's first Beyond Basics class. The class is very full with two reactive dogs. I suspect the instructor didn't know they were reactive or they would be in the Fiesty Fido class (which she also teaches).

Joyce immediately put one of the reactive dogs behind a barrier (a young Bulldog). The other reactive dog is a 14 month old intact Chocolate Lab who was pulling, being sharky with his mum, and doing a lot of intense staring at the other dogs. D'oh. My blood pressure definitely rose when I realized he is intact and in our class. Not solely because he is intact (although two intact dogs can certainly lead to posturing) but because he seems a bit out of control.

First we went around and introduced ourselves and our dogs. Most of the dogs are rescues (probably 75%) and young (Bug is one of the older dogs at not even 3.5). Given it is a large class (10 people and their dogs) it took a while to make it around. I rewarded Bug for staying in a down and being quiet, as well as asking him to "hit it" (nose touch). He was remarkably controlled given the proximity of other dogs, the barking, etc. I was very pleased.

Then we worked on sit and down, sans treats while Joyce and her assistant Beth walked around and checked in on us to see where our respective skill levels fell.

Bug was pretty stressed out about the dogs and new location. He was VERY slow to down, listening to me with one ear while he looked around. Joyce commented that he was stressed and over-stimulated and suggested I mix up his treats. I had brought cheese, Plato Salmon strips, and Stella & Chewy's dehydrated bison. This helped a bit, but I think exposure to new and stimulating environments is going to be necessary to really get past this.

Next we worked on restrained recall. I was nervous about this because the dogs were being held right near the chocolate lab and Bug does like to visit and there are lots of friendly cute dogs in class. I warned Beth that he isn't crazy about being held by his collar (even with all the counter conditioning I have done!) and she just held his leash. He FLEW to me. I think he was too nervous I was going to leave him with a pack of strange humans and their dogs to even think about going to visit anyone. To be fair we have been practicing this because he previously didn't know what it meant. We can now call Bug off the hunt for a critter about 50% of the time, which is WAY higher than 0%.

I am looking forward to next week's class. I think we are going to get exactly what I hoped for - practice of the basics in a new and stimulating environment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back to School for Ike

Last night Ike and I attended Rally Obedience class for the first time since early April.

I gave myself extra time to get there because the Patriots had a 7 p.m. game and I knew traffic would be terrible. I got there a bit early, walked Ike, put him up, set up my crate, and chatted a bit with some friends from earlier Rally classes.

I was nervous when I got Ike out of the car that he would be stressed, but he didn't seem to be at all. He settled in his crate very nicely - especially given there was a young dog raising holy hell in his crate about 20' from him.

The course consisted of:

1. 360 right
2. Straight Figure 8 Weave twice
3. Call Front, Finish Left, Forward
4. Right Turn
5. Left About Turn
6. 270 right
7. Offset Figure 8 with distractions
8. Left Turn
9. Down and forward
10. About Right Turn
11. Left Turn
12. Halt, Walk Around Dog
13. Moving Side Step Right

Ike was SO engaged, bright eyed, and perky. He was ecstatic to be working!!

We continue to need major work on our Fronts. Ike is very crooked. I do know his pelvis is out of alignment at the moment, so that accounts for some of it. However this is something that has plagued us since we began working obedience. I think a private lesson might be in order to try and sort this out.

He did a super Down and Forward. Moving downs and downs in heel position were something we were working on a lot before out hiatus and I am happy he has maintained his improved down even though I neglected him all summer.

Ike also had a very nice Halt, Walk Around Dog. Given that we haven't been in class or practicing and there are new people in the class I was VERY impressed at how well Ike did this.

About Left Turn needs LOTS of practice. I need to work on giving Ike an actual cue, like 'around' for this behavior.

Fortunately I have already begun to work on my practice area. This weekend I cleaned my mud room up and plan on buying some shelving to make it even more organized. I'll have to measure this room, but it is huge, and provides the perfect location to practice with the dogs individually. This room is on the first floor and our apartment is on the second with two doors between dogs. Given how jealous they are when one is training, this is a good thing.

I can't wait to get practicing with my boy. Class is great because it helps me define concrete things I need to improve on. Tonight is Bug's first Beyond Basics class, so he won't be neglected.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Better Luck Next Year

Today Bug went RWD to a major. He showed great!! The weather wasn't terrific - a little soggy, but the boy didn't care. Kerry's Frenchie puppy Zepp took his first major (at 6 months, 2 weeks) right before Bug's class. Wow!

When I first got there I didn't say hello to him immediately - I wasn't sure if Kerry wanted me to given how well he showed yesterday with just her. Well he saw me - even thought I was trying to hide - and started WHINING. When I went over to say hello he jumped up and down on his hind legs! I do not think I have ever seen him so happy to see me.

This is the last outdoor show of the season for us. Bug will go on a diet and play at fun things. In the spring I will fatten him up again and we will hopefully find our one single point.

Friday, September 11, 2009


HOORAY Bug-A-Boo!! I just got a text message from Kerry and Bug went WD for 1 point today in Falmouth at the Cranberry Cluster. I guess he showed well for her. :-) This means Bug needs 1 single now.

I am so happy. Yesterday when I dropped him off he was SO mad at me for leaving him. Kerry put him in a palatial sized crate and he turned his back and would not look at either of us!! It's a huge relief that he showed well for her even though I wasn't there. I am doing a happy-dance!!

Paws crossed for tomorrow. There are a lot of dogs entered!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Tonight and tomorrow night Bug will be staying with the handler, Kerry. He will be showing in Falmouth Friday and Saturday (and I couldn't get Friday off).

I HATE having him stay anywhere but with me. I worry about him like a nudge! I told him he would only be with her for three meals. Hopefully he understands! ;-)

This will be our last show for the outdoor season. Hopefully something magic will happen!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beyond Basics

Yesterday was the intro to Bug's new Basic Manners class and it was dog-less. I got a really good vibe from the instructor, Joyce. She is a GSD person and has had quite a few rescues both with and without behavioral problems. I REALLY liked how she didn't dumb down the science of training to the class - even though a lot of the students were there with the entire family in tow.

We went around and introduced ourselves. She suggested that Beyond Basics would probably be a better fit for Bug and that I should switch classes. She allowed me to stay for the rest of the intro to positive training and I left feeling like I will be working with a very competent trainer whose methods I agree with. Class starts next Tuesday at 7 pm.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Yesterday John and took the dogs for a hike at Borderland. It was a beautiful day and the dogs had a blast. Bug likes Borderland because he can go wading and cool off after his hike!

We hiked for a little over an hour and Bug was trucking along. It is funny, Ike usually walks beside me or behind me while Bug prefers to lead. The other funny thing to notice was the different hiking styles the two boys have. Ike is a billy goat and will hop off rocks. Bug is very good at finding the smoothest path - the path with the least resistance. John thinks this is because Bug is so close to the ground he can see the path more clearly.

I think this hike convinced John that Bug is a good hiker and we are thinking about taking a hiking vacation next year (YAY!!). Perhaps going to the White Mountains, the Adirondacks, or Shenandoah with both boys.

After our hike yesterday we stopped at Crescent Ridge and I got an ice cream I could share with the boys. Coconut! I had never tried it before and it was delicious.

Herding Seminar

Friday Bug and I attended an Intro to Herding seminar with Jan Wesen (out of Washington State). It was excellent.

Jan has a very concrete way in which she thinks about herding and trains people to herd with their dogs.

The beginning of the day was spent on board work and dry work - lecture and then some rake practice with humans, and work on "go by" with your dog using a toy.

Jan believes you can REALLY teach the words of herding to a dog without sheep. Her belief is you need to get the words as simple as possible. This was really helpful for me because most of the time when I am hearing the words used in herding I am in the pen with my dog and the stock. I'm not processing everything.

The Fundamentals are:

1. Interest to play the game and wanting to work with you.
2. Stop/Down (suggested working on down with distractions - toys being tossed, etc.)
3. Out/Back ( turning out/away and backing away - two different ways a dog can release off stock)
4. Direction/Flank (These directionals are about the dog's movement around the stock)
- Clockwise or "As time GOes BY" = Go by (I thought this was SO cool!! It will now forever stick with me).
- Counter Clockwise "Away to me"
5. Walk - speed command - go straight to livestock.
- walk - slow command
- walk-walk-walk - speed up
6. Recall

My big concern about practicing without stock at home is that I do not have anyone to tell me what I am doing isn't correct. I worry that I will create bad habits that I can't fix (or that will be difficult to fix). Jan gave us two exercises I feel confident working on at home (i.e. I can't screw them up!).

The first exercise teaching "go by" or "away from me." Jan suggests having a chair out. If your dog is on your left, you drop your toy on the right. You tell the dog "go by" and they need to move clockwise around the chair to get to their toy. Play with your pup and the toy. Reverse this exercise to work on "Away to me."

In addition she stresses "Back." This is something I can EASILY work on at home with Bug.

It is interesting, Jan talked a lot about pressure - your pressure on your dog and both your pressure on the stock. When I attended the Amy Hill seminar last year I made the connection that Katrin's space game was really useful for herding. However I didn't "get" how integral a part of herding it is. (The space game [super-simplified] is moving into your dog - your dog moves away. You move away from your dog and your dog moves in.) Backing up and building hind end awareness is a core part of Katrin's Communications class. It is funny how much of that class is applicable to herding.

We then moved on to the working part of the seminar. Jan believes in keeping it short and sweet. We had an opportunity to work our dogs about 7 times each. Wow!

First we each took a turn walking our dog around the pen. Next exercise, I believe, was working on balance. We did this three times during the day and the first time for us was a mess. Bug was very excited and I got stuck in my sheep. What Jan wanted to happen was have the dog complete one circle around the sheep. Then stop them and reverse directions. Like I said, the first time was a disaster. The next two times I couldn't believe what a good job Bug did.

We also worked on an exercise Jan calls the Clock. With the Clock you are able to have your dog work on every skill he needs. First you work on get around - walking around the pen. Stop, there (turn and face the stock), walk (walk toward the stock), Out (turn away from the stock), get around, there walk, back. Eventually you are to stand in the center of the pen and your dog can complete these tasks on verbal cues. This is really something to aspire to.

Next we worked on packed pen with light sheep. Diane has been telling me she wanted to do this with Bug for some time and I had NO idea what "packed pen" meant. Packed pen is a small square pen - one panel each side. The panels around possibly ten feet each? That might be too large an estimate. The dog enters and must walk calmly around the perimeter. I was REALLY surprised by how mellow Bug was in the packed pen. Diane said it was because he was intimidated. Either way I was pleased he didn't act like a nut.

At the beginning and the end of the day we also worked on duck handling. You teamed up with another human and moved the ducks however Jan wanted you to. The first time I did it my partner and I had to move the ducks in a serpentine pattern through three chairs and stop them on a rock. It was an EXCELLENT way to understand pressure because you couldn't get very close to the ducks and not a lot of movement was required. At the end of the day when we did this I think I was too tired - I was moving WAY to fast and it was NOT to my advantage. We were supposed to move the ducks in a clover leaf pattern through the chairs and it took us forever.

It was an excellent day. I would have LOVED to do a second day but my checkbook didn't think it was a great idea. I cannot wait for our next herding lesson. If anything I like herding MORE than before. I am definitely becoming more comfortable with the rake and the concepts in general, which is VERY exciting to me. Things are starting to feel a bit more natural.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Thanks, Ike. Message received loud and clear. :-)

Last night I took Carmie and Ike to see Cheryl for a chiropractic adjustment. Both dogs had recently lost their pelvises and getting back in alignment is a multi-session situation.

Cheryl has taken some Animal Communication classes and has been able to communicate fairly easily with both Carmen and Ike in the past. She has connected strongly with Carmie. One bright day at a trial Cheryl was attempting to connect to Carmen to ask her about whether she could see and wanted to run. Her eyes started watering because Carmie was having trouble with the sun.

I mentioned to Cheryl that Ike really wanted a job and I signed him back up for Rally-O. She immediately said, "He wants to be sure this doesn't mean trialing." Okay. No trialing - I swear!! Then she said he would like to do a trick class and you would have knocked me over with a feather to see Ike's expression. He really did say that - he lit up when Cheryl mentioned it. how weird/amazing is that?

I have never been a big trick trainer. I know both Shaya and Cat love training tricks. It's just not something I ever got into, however it looks like that will be changing. I am now on the look-out for a trick class and I am firmly committed to NOT trialing Ike - ever.

If anyone knows of a trick class south of Boston, please let me know. I know I can train at home (and I surely will), but I get a lot out of having an hour a week committed to one-on-one time with my dog.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

BEGGING for a Job

The boys and I have had a pretty lazy summer. My grandmother died in April and I pretty much petered out of classes after that (except for agility - and even that I cut down on).

Well, this lovely fall weather has me in mind of going back to school and apparently the dogs feel the same way! They have been complete nudges - BEGGING for work. So work they shall get!

I e-mailed Ike's Rally-O instructor to see if she has room in her class. Class started last night but I can join next week. Ike will be so happy.

The Buglet is going to take a basic manners class. I do not feel comfortable doing agility with him until he has lost some of the weight. And the truth is, I need to be in class in order to keep myself honest and practice on the basics. The thing I am looking forward to most is practicing our recall (which is currently sub-par) and seeing how the class is run. I have never taken a Basic Manners class at this facility so it will be interesting to see what's the same and what is different.

So the boys and I will be back in school next week with all the kiddies. Now I just need to sort out Ms. Carmie's situation and we'll be golden.