Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rally Class and Monty

Today Bug and I had a lesson with Katrin. We are entered in a Show n Go on May 21st and Katrin is going to be away for the next two weeks, so we went over all of the more complicated Novice signs. Bug did an awesome job. Katrin gave me lots of helpful tips, like dropping my shoulder during the serpentine or my footwork during the down/sit walk around your dog. It is amazing what subtle tweaking does!

I have a lot of work to do on my body mechanics and muscle memory. For one, I seem to think my right foot is my left foot and often lead with it on heeling.

We were practicing Halt, 1 step, Halt, 2 steps, Halt, 3 steps when the neighbors' dogs started barking and then another neighbor and her dog came out and some sort of power tool started whirring. Guess what? Bug was more distracted but he never ever checked out. He totally worked through it! He's such a good boy.

We left Katrin's house with a special package - the Monty! Monty is staying with me for the next 2 - 3 weeks while Katrin is away. I am very excited. Monty is the reason I have a Cardigan. He stayed with me before I had Bug and John and I fell in love with him - as did everyone else. We saw my in-laws this afternoon and they said, "No offense to Bug, but Monty is just so cute." People just eat the Monty up. John reiterated he really wants a black corgi next time and it *has* to be a boy (I think a girl would be a much better fit in our house).

I took the two corgi boys to John's opening day softball game. They are now exhausted! It is tough to watch all those guys run around and balls being thrown so quickly without reacting in true corgi fashion. Needless to say they were excellent boys, but we did have to move from our initial seat, the bleachers by home plate, which were WAY too stimulating!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Classes and Easter at the Beach

First off, I am sick. It started last Wednesday with a sore throat and has been slowly building speed. So - even though both boys had awesome classes this week I am not going to post about them! Just not enough energy.

Yesterday John, the boyz, and I went up to my mum's for Easter. We then headed up to Plum Island for a wonderful beach jaunt followed by fried seafood at Woodman's (well known regional place to get classic NE fried seafood!). We did this one other Easter and it is by far my favorite way to spend the holiday. I think weather permitting this is how we should always spend Easter!

Our timing was impeccable. When we got to the beach the sun was shining, no jackets needed, and there were VERY few people about. The pups got to run around willy-nilly. I have barely any photos of Bug because he did not stop moving!! His favorite part was having the opportunity to run with 3 Border Collies. He is such a silly boy! We walked for about an hour and a half before we called it quits. The sun was starting to go behind some clouds and there were more people and dogs about.

I was really, really pleased with how good the dogs were.

I cannot believe the difference in Ike. I am 100% convinced it is because Wrentham is less stressful/stimulating than Canton. In Canton Ike left the house and was immediately assaulted by people, noises, dogs, children (Yes, I know children are people, too), etc. In Wrentham when we walk the majority of the time we see NO ONE!! As a result his threshold for creepy people has improved dramatically!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

GREAT Weekend!

This weekend my club put on its annual outdoor NADAC trial. I brought both boys both days. Saturday I was there all day volunteering and putting Ike through the practice equipment.

He was awesome. He was very happy to do the practice equipment, although he was having a bit of trouble with the 22” weave poles because he has been worked solely on 24” poles for the past year, and showed some real speed going through the hoop. I was surprised by the speed through the hoop as he has only seen hoops twice.

I was even more excited about how good he was about the people and other dogs. Usually the pressure of the dogs and people really stresses him out. I stood ringside with him and spoke to various people and while he was very alert and watchful, he was non-reactive. No terrier barks at scary people!

I did of course have a few people suggest I enter him that day because he was so happy and working so eagerly at the practice equipment. I cannot be any clearer and I feel like I have said it innumerable times at this point; Ike does not want to trial. We ONLY have the wonderful relationship that has blossomed in the past few years because I chose to LISTEN to my dog. Yes, trialing is a blast. Yes, I love the people and the socializing, but my dog HATES it (trialing not agility). I am only sad that it took me roughly 2 years to “hear” my dog.

I took the boys for a final walk around 4 o’clock and it quickly became obvious I had pushed Ike to his threshold. We ran into a nurse’s aide with a resident in a wheelchair who was intent on talking to us (the trial site is in a developmental center). Ike was intent on barking at them.

Sunday I arrived around 2pm in order to volunteer for the last few classes and help pack up. Ike was much more reactive to people Sunday, barking at just about anyone who tried to talk to me when I had him out. He even barked at Kathleen and he is very fond of her. So the stress appears to be cumulative, which makes perfect sense when you think about cortisol levels and the fact that it takes roughly seven days for them to go down after being elevated.

Sunday Ike had no issues with the 22” poles. He was bouncing to be released, which always makes me VERY happy, and I remembered to bring my cheese container so I could toss it and reward him from it.

After cleaning up Kathleen showed me a local trail and we took our dogs for a hike. It was lovely. Ike was off adventuring, running far ahead of me. This is unusual. Usually he is my shadow. It made my heart very happy to lose sight of him and have to holler for him to “come” and oh boy does he love-love-love recalls.

The only downside is we were all COVERED with ticks. I found 19 ticks on Ike, 4 on me and 4 on Bug – EWWWWW!! I think I will be switching the spray I use.

It was a great weekend. I can’t believe how far Ike has come. We would not be where we are if I hadn’t started listening to him. It’s not easy to give up what you think you want to do with your dog, but truthfully there are other things I enjoy just as much as trialing (training and hiking being the tops).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Agility Class and Outdoor Trial

Tuesday night Ike and I had agility class. Overall it was a good class with some nice moments from the P-man.

The A-frame was set up between two tunnels. On one side there was only 3’ between the tunnel and the a-frame. I kid you not!! The a-frame was also set at full height. Often times in class the a-frame is lower because people are working on their contact behavior.

Ike’s a-frames were very nice all night. Ike’s a-frame and dog walk are modified running contacts – meaning I manage them and we are trying to firm them up with a hoop. I have spent too much time getting Ike excited about agility and movement to ask him to stop on a contact. I don’t have access to contacts at home so I can’t train them the way they would truly need to be trained to be independent running contacts. Hence the “modified” running contact!

The last run of the night I forgot to put the hoop at the contact and we had our nicest a-frame all night. Kathleen commented on it and the fact that Ike came flying out of the tunnel at speed. He hates tunnels and they are on our list of remedial things to train once the weather stays nice.

He did repeatedly pop out of the weaves which is unusual. He was hitting his entrances, but around pole 9 or 10 he would skip a pole. He saw Cheryl last night and was very crooked – he had lost an adjustment/phase. Hopefully he will be back to tip top shape on Tuesday.

This weekend is Act-Up’s NADAC trial at the outdoor site (Yay!). I plan on bringing both boys and crating them in the car. I will volunteer in the morning and take them out intermittently. I really want to work on Ike being comfortable enough to work in new locations. I will also work with Bug on attention and down stays in the stimulating environment.

After the trial we might go for a hike with Kathleen depending on the weather and how beat she is. There are tons and tons of trails in Wrentham, but I don’t know any of them yet!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE when training suggestions work! Even though it makes sense that the suggestion should work it is so exciting the first time it works for you.

Katrin and Brenda suggested I try using the premise of the perch to encourage Bug's tuck sit. I should ask him for a sit while he has his front feet on the perch. A smaller perch, like an actual brick, would be best because then his front feet wouldn't have as much room to move around and adjust themselves. I actually have some loose bricks handy. In the summer I put a brick under my guinea pigs water bottle; the g-pigs lie on them because they stay cool and they have ineffecient cooling systems.

Last night after Ike's agility class (which I will post on later) I practiced Bug's perch work. He is REALLY getting the hang of moving his rear end and is really enjoying himself. After we practiced the perch work we moved onto the "tuck sit." The first time I asked him for a "sit" he did a lovely fold-back down with his feet still on the brick. Silly! The second time I asked him he moved his rear forward and sat without moving his front feet. Brilliant boy!! I didn't expect it to be that easy. I couldn't decide what to call this, since "sit" means sit and then move your front feet back. I slept on it and I think I will call it "tuck." The word is one syllable and it part of the name of the actual behavior I am teaching, which will hopefully make it easy to remember.

I told John how great Buggie is doing and he commented on how smart he is. It's true. He is totally different than Ike, and he learns differently, but he is quite brilliant. It's easy to forget because he is such a total goober and love bug!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Someplace to Start

Yesterday Bug and I had a half-hour private with Katrin. After we had gotten together to work on "pivots" a few weeks ago, Katrin and I discussed the possibility of privates. I just wasn't getting enough feedback from the Rally class I was in. Katrin has a background in competition obedience and I don't. She's a good teacher. I decided to go for it and I am really glad I did. We have half-hour privates set up for however long we decide to do this.

The first thing we discussed was Bug's sit. When he sits he puts his bum down and them moves his front legs back. Our first order of business is teaching Bug that he can sit without moving his front paws. At the moment he does not fully believe this! :) Katrin showed me two different ways to try and teach Bug he can do this. Method one was asking for a sit while Bug was nibbling on treats so his front stays more stationary. This almost worked a few times, but not quite.

Bug was stressed and tried to diffuse he tension by doing his shoulder grind and giving Katrin his belly. We didn't reward this behavior and he came back to work. It is such a huge difference from 3 years ago. He does have some tension diffusing behaviors (for him) that I don't reinforce, but he no longer quits on me. That in itself makes me really proud of him.

The second method involved having Bug nibble on treats and gently running your hand over his rear so he tucks his bum. That method seemed to get much better results, but it became painfully obvious that Bug's pelvis or sacrum is out and I have a hella lot of work to do in terms of desensitizing him to other people's pressure. He really isn't terrible with me, still sensitive, but when Katrin was trying to work with him he was excruciatingly sensitive to her pressure. He did improve significantly and I am 100% sure that part of it is because his rear doesn't feel good.

The next thing Katrin showed us is what she calls "home base." Heel position = Home Base. She showed me how to work this, but I am not going to work on it at home until Bug understands he can sit without moving his front feet. Basically you stand parallel to a wall and have your dog come into the space between you and the wall, in heel position, and sit. Then you release by moving forward with your left foot and tossing a treat.

Since Bug is so long Katrin had me feed him a bit to the left so he wouldn't swing his rear behind me. She also showed me how she teaches front currently. Against the wall you have your dog in heel position. Stay, using two steps you move in front of dog into the correct "Front" position. Feed your dog, stay, move back into heel position, release with a tossed treat. Once Bug gets his sit under control we will start this. Initially I will only be in "Front" position for a half second. I will build duration. Right now any longer and Bug gets nudge-y.

To end the lesson we worked on our brick work. I wish I could capture Bug's joy when he is doing this. He is so silly he is beaming. Since I am using a book at home and our lesson was outside I did not bring our "brick" Katrin uses a black round bowl that looks like what you'd pick up at a feed store to feed grain in. It is the perfect size when flipped over. I think I might need to pick one up!

Initially Bug wasn't sure what to do, but after I clicked him for sniffing it he hopped right on up. I am using my body pressure to have him move his rear versus shaping it. Very quickly he was moving away from my pressure (to the left). The surprise was he also began moving into the empty space, meaning moving to his right as I move away from him on his right. I was so excited and I think he was too!!

Next week is a trial, so we will not have a lesson. Given how much we have to work on that is a good thing!

For the first time since I found out Bug cannot return to agility (in January) I am excited about my alternative option (Rally and Obedience). I know there are other options like tracking and Nosework, but I thought Rally would be the best place to start, even though it doesn't really excite me very much. I am undecided about whether Bug will continue with herding. He is very sensitive about his rear and I am unsure how fair it would be to him structurally to have him continue to do it. My gut leans toward giving it up, but I don't want to. So, I am sitting on the fence for a while to see if time helps me figure out the correct choice. It helps that at the moment we have no money because of the new house (and our oil bill - holy crow!) so I really can't do more than one class per dog and even that makes things tight.

There is a Show n Go on May 21st that I plan on entering. Bug is not competition ready and probably won't be by then, but I really want to see what dog I have. Katrin said it makes sense given I come from the "Land of Ike" and I need some reassurance the dog I am working is going to be the dog that shows up. I am fairly certain Buggie will come ready to work - he doesn't stress about new locations and places like Ike does. However as I said, I need the reassurance. They are offering Rally and Obedience classes. I am going to enter Novice Rally and a second run is half the price. I like to have something to aim for and I think I will look into whether other local facilities offer any rally run-thrus I can attend for practice.

It's nice to be exciting about Rally/Obedience instead of just doing it for something to do. Bug is such a good boy, all he wants is to work with me! I am a lucky mama.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tuesday Night Class

Ike and I had agility class last night. Overall it went well. The course was more spacious and flowing then the courses have been recently. I think everyone enjoyed running it.

I made two handler gaffes. Once Ike was coming off the A-frame, turning over a jump to the left and then left again into the weave poles. I blind crossed him for NO reason other than ... I have no idea. To make it even weirder, it was the second time I ran the course and I didn't run it like that the first time! Ike was fine with it, but I was confused!

At another point I gave Ike poor info and he went to take the tire which was meant to be layered (although I wasn't handling it that way). We had a SUPER speedy run up until that point.... until I started to try and correct Ike when he went for the tire. I stopped myself and tossed a treat away from myself for him to chase, but I definitely stopped his momentum. He bounced back much quicker than he typically does but I wanted to hit myself over the head. Like I said, the only upside is I realized what I started to automatically do and threw some food. Ike does love to chase after food - it totally gets his prey drive going. When this happened the spacing was kind of tight and I was almost on top of Ike. I have been having him chase food through my legs and I wonder if it has increased his comfort level which enabled him to bounce back quicker.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Trial Visit

Today I took the boys to Addicted to Agility's indoor trial. I brought Ike in alone and he showed signs of stress immediately, moving much slower than normal. I reinforced him highly for staying engaged with me. I went over to the secretary's table and said hello to some people while keeping Ike engaged. There was a poodle there which made Ike happy. For some reason he really loves poodles and poodle mixes. He saw one of his new favorite people, Alison with the Vizslas, and took cheese from multiple "strange" people.

Ben came over to say "hi" to us and my goodness what a difference. Ben is typically wearing a hat. I remember years ago he tried to say "hi" to Ike and Ike could not stop barking at him regardless of how non-threatening Ben tried to make himself. Today Ben was wearing a hat, of course, and Ike didn't bark once. Ike allowed Ben to pet him, and took cheese from him. Hurrah!! That was pretty darn cool.

I decided to try the practice equipment. Ike was slow in the poles and missed the entrance going one direction. I am not sure if this is because there was a patch of sun or just stress. Going the opposite direction he had no problems with the poles. He wasn't nearly as fast as he is in class, but he was willing to do it and chase cheese afterward. He did slip on the turf once, which kind of spooked him.

I decided that was enough for Ike. He was very brave given he was stressed. I put him up in the car and got out the Bug. Bug met a couple of new girlfriends and said hello to everyone! That's about it. He was a good boy and I felt more comfortable catching up with people holding Bug's leash, who isn't stressed at all, than holding Ike's, who absolutely is.

I would say it was a successful visit. Act-Up has a trial in two weeks at the outdoor location and I think I will do the same thing. If nothing else it tuckers the boys out!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Brick Work

The past two nights I have been working on brick work with the boys. Katrin, Kathleen, and Lani all suggested the same way to teach a “get in” or pivot using positive reinforcement – brick work.

Here are two of the videos that were recommended to me and helped get me started (it is similar to the step-stool work I had done with Ike in the past):


Celeste Meade – Brick Work – Part 1

The boys and I are really enjoying this. What I am enjoying most is how differently they learn. And in Ike’s case, how free shaping literally seems to make him high. He becomes a whirling dervish of uncontainable happiness. It is HYSTERICAL! Heartwarming! A tremendous thing to see! Meanwhile Bug truly seems to need to sleep on things – I swear he processes over night – and makes a leap the next day.

The first night I think the book I used was too small. Both boys were eagerly touching it, but neither was standing on it with both paws. Last night I used a bigger book (The Gourmet Cookbook – yum) and both boys would place two paws on it and stay! Bug actually did a better job than Ike, but Ike got further along in that he began moving around the book. Let me say again, free shaping makes Ike MANIC!

With Ike I am also working on his spin (left) and turn (right). He loves spinning and will occasionally go right from a “spin” into a “turn” (in his EXUBERANCE!) thereby doing a speedy figure 8. I would LOVE to put this on cue, any thoughts on something east to call it? Maybe “Twist?”

With Bug I am trying to capture his heeling and put that on cue, working on “down, walk around your dog, return to heel position,” and the space game. The space game is something we did in Katrin’s Communications class where you have the dog move into your space and then you move into their space.

I am contemplating bringing Ike to the Addicted to Agility trial this weekend to run him through the practice weave poles and put him over a jump in that very stimulating and stressful environment. Maybe I will just bring him for a visit. It is the indoor trial venue and would be a whole new ball of wax for him. He is SO comfortable at Canine Mastery. I would love to see if I could build his confidence elsewhere so I could possibly bring him to seminars held someplace other than CM. NO TRIALING!