Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Unicorns and Giggles and Real Life

Spring is in the air - the dogs and I are playing more, walking more and just generally enjoying life. One thing I am finding very peculiar about life now  is that even as I have more time potentially available to teach (and learn) the hard stuff with the dogs the ratio of play, training and walks stays about the same. 

Apparently all my posts about short intense play work were not me trying to feel better about the work I could fit in but actually really true. For me anyhow, short intense, planned training is the way to go. It is true we've added more dogs and Big T now works from home which limits the crazies a bit. It's 7 am and I'd DO SOMETHING but he's still asleep. 

Sally did a jump grid tunnel the other day and LOVED it. She, of all dogs, gets the happiest when training is on the horizon, 

The little dogs have been coming to the barn with me and getting a couple of chances a day to run like squirrels .. been playing with teaching Yen heel as I do this - pretty outrageous and chaotic but still lots of fun. I won't bore you with video - but it's silliness. Pure unadulterated silly. Sweet Arnold is now at the barn acclimating to piggy life - the dogs always go to visit with him. Pretty sweet stuff. 

Just pulled the first tick of the season off Yen. YUCK. Was so hoping the cold brutal winter would have killed them. Brody is matted and burred and in his vague senility even worse to groom than usual. Lucky us. 

All good. All normal. Getting ready to move - again. I hate moving but this is a pretty exciting move into a house built with the dogs and us  in mind.  A counter is going over the washer dryer located beside the dog wash  - should make grooming a whole lot easier I expect!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Who's fault is it anyhow?

You've all heard it before.

My dog blew me off.
My dog doesn't like the scent my instructor uses.
My dog is so stubborn.
My dog missed the contact again.
My dog .... fill in the blank

How about getting to we and sharing responsibility?

We weren't communicating quite well enough
We didn't practise the right stuff
We don't have the pre show routine worked out yet

Or even better accept the human role in the mistakes:

I need to plan my training
I need to work on fitness
I should work with more distractions
My reward placement should improve
The rate of reinforcement needs to be better

How about it isn't a fault thing? It's a learning opportunity?

What a concept.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Please, for the love of your dog, PUT AWAY THE POM POMS ...

Cheer leading is a great sport I hear.
It's entertaining.
It's athletic.
It builds team comradeship and is apparently both fun and challenging.

BUT it's its own sport.

There is NO NEED for cheer leading in dog sports, or horse sports. Easy to say isn't it? Yah I do it too!


Begging for engagement, clapping your hands, pointy fingers, scooping over, repeating the dogs name a million times, all this and more can easily turn into cheer leading. Cheer leading is not rewarding ... it is noise for the sake of noise, self rewarding  (look at me super handler being all positive and shit) and it is a a feel good behaviour.

It is not constructive, helpful, educational nor useful.

Bending over your dog,  asking for hand touches that the dog never gets to follow through on, repeating a phrase or name again and again or any other similar behaviour simply poisons that cue. The dog will become inured to it's effect, and it will lose all impact. Not might. WILL.

Reward your dog (and yourself) thoughtfully with a plan. Have a plan in place for when your dog loses focus, or works more slowly than you want or whatever but please avoid the cheer leading! If I find myself cheer leading  I quit. Right there and then. Done for the day - dog doesn't want to play anyhow and making the dog play is no fun for any of us. I obviously need to spend the time planning not training if faking being happy is the norm.

Don't get me wrong - I talk to my dogs and horses a LOT especially in early training. "Yesssssssssssss, good dawg, lovely, ohh soooooo good", even just talking to myself in a happy voice "ohh pointy finger go away we don't need you here" or talking about what I want to see "focus forward a little more zoom" whatever keeps me on track works. I am not advocating silent training.

I am encouraging you to use rewards (of all sort) effectively and thoughtfully. I am suggesting you can nag a dog through cheer leading. Timing and reward placement are critical concepts no matter the sport ... use them well.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

"Bad" judges are the "best" judges

I suppose there are lots of ways judges can be bad - which is why I use the quotations. If a judge is gratuitously mean; or disengaged (reading their phone would be one good example) or otherwise just not behaving nicely then they aren't the best judges. But if they hold high standards, explain what they are looking for and judge fairly across competitors then they are the best judges. I find it stressful when a judge who knows most of the people running picks and chooses who to watch contacts very closely on for example. (Well I find it stressful with Sally, Brody has never missed a contact so judges who were uneven in how closely they watched people never bothered watching him too carefully). Are you going to "get away" with it or not? I'd much rather have a best "bad" judge and know we have to hit the contact hard enough to leave no doubt at all.

I judged a little schooling show for horses yesterday. It is hard to be fair sitting on the other side of the run. I wanted to reward the cute, the sad, the hard trier. I didn't really want to use the rider I overheard making nasty comments about her competition. Judging the classes I was judging yesterday is a lot more subjective than agility - more like rally maybe - and sometimes more like figuring skating. But even so I made every effort to put everything out of my mind except what I could actually see in front of me. The subjective bit popped up when I had two equal performances and had to split them somehow. Then I made every effort to share the love around ;)

Fair standards, clarity and consistency that's what the best judges embrace and uphold  that means a "bad" judge might just be the best of judges. Embrace them. Learn from them.  And use what they teach you the next time you compete!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Countering all the Sads .. with total random cute

so much sad ... people, dogs - death and sadness everywhere ..

so sad I have to post some antidote photos .. Arnold the piglet is absolutely hilarious - Cotton Cat and Thea are very very entertaining in Arnold world

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

S/He's just a baby - what a pig is teaching me about puppies

Today's a BLOG DAY! YAY! No thinking of topics - just trying to figure out a take on the topic that embraces my own perspective and isn't a repeat of all the other things I've said on the subject.

PUPPIES and starting puppies is the focus of today. For more great articles click on Blog Day either here or in the first sentence.

Puppies we do a plenty. We have fostered high risk animals for many years and orphan puppies, or underage puppies certainly are high risk. In fact we foster infants of many species (wildlife has been under the control of a certified wild life center - that is - legal). Kittens, puppies, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds (most notably a blue jay), a raccoon and now a piglet.

Somehow I am sure there will be lots of plans for success today. Puppy Peaks people will astound you with their puppy's preciousness. People will be so proud of what their dogs could do by X age. Body awareness, preparation for life as an agility dog, things to do. I can`t wait to read them all. I am so proud of all the puppies I know who amaze and astound their humans with their brilliance and excellent teaching.


my plan is much simpler. (Although I do love the learning from all the babies!)

Thanks to literally hundreds of orphans for the lessons .. and little Arnold for the current reminders. (Yes raising a pig is much like a puppy it turns out - just on a faster timeline - already I think Arnold is smarter than me - and he isn't two weeks old yet!)

Provide the essentials: Food, Water, Shelter and Love. Unconditionally and always. If infants are secure in the knowledge of these things all the rest really will come in the fullness of time.

Make sure rewards are rewarding for the puppy not for you. Just one example: lots of people swear by tugging but  if that isn't rewarding to the puppy there is NO POINT in using it as a reward. Play with it, sure, see if it becomes more enjoyable (and every non tugging low drive puppy we'e had here has developed a love for tugging). I love a mix of rewards - personal play, toy play and mixed bag of food - but each animal I play with has their own preference too - so I respect that and give em what THEY want. Not what I want them to want. They are the one who earned it after all.

Give them time to be a puppy (or pig). They have attention spans typical of any small infant ... do one or two  repetitions of something for you - then take a break. For example - recalls. Lots of great games to play to make recalls FABULOUS - but if you overdo them  you risk poisoning your cue as they will eventually get distracted. Let them explore new things at their pace. Try not to rush them, avoid "see see this ball, THIS BALL THIS BALL is what I want you to see", even if a cat has come to check them out and they want to reciprocate.

Avoid poisoning any cue. I really don't rush to put formal cues in place. The longer you can make sure the behaviour is solid the more responsive to the cue the dog will be. All the puppies we have had, as adults in their permanent homes, run to pup pup pup with great reliability. "Here" comes much much later in this neck of the woods.

Address stuff or ignore it - depending on what it is. Fear is a good one to consider in this context. I keep reading about fear periods in puppies. I have seen the odd moment of concern flit across some of the puppies we have had long enough to go through at least one classical phase of it but many of the puppies sort it out themselves. I carry on. Life is normal. If I notice something causing a little more concern than I think it normal I ignore it at the time then do a gradual set up to help them deal with it. Yen was very afraid of banging pots and pans ... rather than making a huge deal of it if a pot banged I would get cookies for the dogs who wanted to be in the kitchen afterwards. She would sit on the couch and shake and stare at us at first. Now if a pot bangs (and I store cookie sheets in a stupid place here so the clatter often) she runs to see what the hand out will be. If there is a backdoor, lazy way to help my dogs you know I'm all over it!

Your baby is a baby. Seriously. They don't need to jump, do a teeter, weave have any stress on their body that is forced. Playing rock around the house, or learning to scramble up over and through things is plenty of body stress. They need long periods of down time to grow up. Resting or sleeping is so important for healthy development across species. They need time to play - not play training games but play for sheer joy and learning  inherent in a good game of whatever. Play laid down here will result in happy play forever.

Stop comparing. Love the one you live with.  Swagger was an incredible puppy - and is an incredible dog. But I'm not Susan Garrett and Wyn wasn't bred out of champion stock. Dora sure isn't a Wyn. Other people's experiences can be guide posts but don't  let them be your measuring stick. Your experience is your own. Your relationship with your puppy is unique, special and precious. Do not be disappointed if your puppy is a little slower at some stuff than another puppy. Celebrate it!

Have Fun! Your dog is only a puppy once. If going to puppy camp and spending lots of money learning stuff together makes you happy that's awesome - do it. If instead it causes you grave stress (either financial or emotional) do a simple local puppy class (if possible) and don't sweat it. Do your socialization thing but do the bits that make you happy and are doable. You do not need to accomplish entire lists unless you want to.  Brody started agility trials at 7 years old. I have had just as much fun with him as I have with Sally who started doing agility prep before I knew she'd survive. Agility prep work would not have been fun for Brody as a five month old - it would have caused us both stress. I am very glad I got hooked when he was a adult. Celebrate the zoomie fits, and occasional mistake. Plan some time to just enjoy your new friend. Build your memory bank for that day - far off we all hope- that memories are so precious to us.

Enjoy this Blog Day - let me know what you think (I love comments!)  - and if you want more of my thoughts on puppy raising just enter puppy in the search box above ...  there's been lots of puppy since this blog started

Saturday, March 01, 2014

In celebration!

Today is National Pig Day.

To mark this day I offer you the following photos:

Arnold is a ten day old foster piglet. The dogs are enchanted by him. Dora and Wilkie (Mum's dog) adore his milky face. And he adores me. So it's pretty amusing around here at the moment. Even tiny infant piglets wag their tails when excited/happy. Piglets are way cleaner than kittens or puppies of the same age.

He is named after the pig on Green Acres. I now want to watch Green Acres as all I really know from the show is the theme song.

And now you've met our newest fosterling.