Tuesday, January 31, 2012

working from home ...

a rare treat for me .. and probably a good thing as the dogs distract me totally

we tug a little

I work a little

We play games, and laugh, a lot!

We stare sadly at the loose bunny our neighbours seem to be making no effort to catch (I would really rather Sampson and Sally not be the ones to catch him)

We  test the theory that pictures taken from below give power

I do more work and so the cycle goes

We play a little more

I think about all the work I didn't do

Sunday, January 29, 2012

dream weaves .. and house league report ...

Good dogs sums it up well

Sally was a little high in the second class (and I was a little scattered - always a tough combo) but she pulled herself together to do a JUST BEAUTIFUL set of weaves while I was inside the gamble box (we were playing a non traditional jackpot course).

Brody ran like the superstar he is. Quick and thoughtful - he wasn't setting speed records but he put "smooth is fast" to work. Sally was great - one bar on a jump after a triple on a long line I thought might get her strung out  but otherwise a lovely jumpers run!
The first game was fun - snakes and ladders  - twist your way up and back until you run out of time. Brody wasn't happy weaving the first time- we did them ok but I had to work harder than usual. We played Jackpot in the second game - both dogs were great - I wish I had a better plan for Sally. Brody's worked perfectly! Jumpers was lovely smooth and open - the dogs both appreciated it!
Lucky to have such a neat venue to play in. Enjoyed my judging too!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Must have's ...

What can't you imagine living without in dogland?

I have things that I can't imagine doing without for each dog ... a few relate to agility but most are general must haves ...

the list varies by dog of course .... though some things are required for all ...

Crates ... I like all dogs to happy in a crate. At trials they are essential even if just for course walking, at home they are helpful for feeding  or when  work is being done at the house or when there is a new foster animal. We only have one crate set up in our bedroom and another in the living part of the house.

A good collar and leash ... my preference is for rolled leather - mostly because of shaggy dog hair (umm Brody) getting caught in it.  We use 6 foot leashes around here. 4 feet leashes drive me crazy! We use flexi)-leads for road walks in the county but never in the city. I have actually seen dogs that were hbc (hit by car) on a flexi-lead. Not nice.

Toys for interactive play. Tug toys, balls, empty water bottles - whatever works is fine!
Toys for self play. Brody loves rawhide and marrow bones. Sadly with Sally's allergies he is  deprived of his favourites. Sampson is addicted to kongs. Addicted might not be strong enough as a word to describe how he feels about kongs.

Coats and clothes .. not really our thing but Thea does require coats living in Ontario in the winter. Sally also  wears a coat when it's really cold.

Comfy spots to lie are essential to these pampered pooches too. Chairs, dog beds, our couches, whatever works goes around here.

Food dispensers are essential for Sally. Treat sticks, Kong wobbler, tug a jug, tornado- the more variety the better. Stainless steel bowls are required for everybody else. Easy to clean and no risk of black noses going brown due to contact with plastic!

A mixed variety of treats. Ultimately I think the mixed treats keep every dog interested and working hard for their pay. Zukes, leftovers of meat and cheese, kibble, Charlies, all kinds of different foods make it into the mix.

What couldn't you live without?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Someone like ....

I've been thinking about next dogs a lot lately.
No real reason but random thoughts keep popping into my brain.
Brody is coming up to 12, Thea will be 9, Sally 6 and Sampson will turn 3.
Sally and Sampson's palliative status has cleared but perhaps it weighs on my mind. 
Brody is happy happy happy and Thea is full of beans and life 
but too many of our canine friends have died too young.

Today would be my aunt Ash's birthday. 
I miss her, and her sister Joce (who died way back in '94), daily.

Maybe that's why I am thinking forward. 
I have no idea what breed would work for us. 
I'm thinking young female.. and small. 
A poodle mix would be fun but 
we don't see too many hot agility prospects of that mix in rescue land. 
Someone like Brody is obviously on my mind. 

Saw this clip and cracked up totally .. from Saturday Night Live
love the song too

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

work is play

and play is work ...

and always the two shall intersect, overlap and weave together if I have anything to do with it!

Had a hilarious breakfast with Sally the other day. She was tugging right over her breakfast bowl. She would rather have had breakfast (I think) but she was quite happy to grab onto 2 different tugs and play.

Took some time to revisit tug-release- tug -sit with Sampson, you can literally see his mental gears turning as he works out the rules of games.

Brody is being a cranky pants about having a couple of mats removed so I'm taking my time and convincing him that it is FUN to be touched with scissors. Seems we have to revisit this game often but it's worth it.. not sure about him but I sure feel better when he's mat free!

Thea is dying to play in the house. She finds it cold outside so is looking for things to do inside. We played a rousing game of zipping down the hall after me without any blind crosses. Probably should have started playing that game 8 years ago.

Real world life is busy this week but hopefully a few more work/play sessions with the dogs can be built in soon!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cattitude... and more...

We live in a multispecies house. There are always dogs, cats, parrots and rabbits around and the range of animals that has come through the door is staggering.. most birds (chickens, finches, budgies, doves, quail, large cockatoos etc) most small "pocket pets" (hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice), turtles, lizards, chinchillas, guinea pigs  and probably more I'm missing ...

It is not always peaceful in our wild kingdom but generally it's much more laid back then someone who was in a single or dual species home would suspect.

Introducing cats to dogs and dogs to cats is a fairly straightforward process.
Puppies or kittens make the job much easier as they have no preconceived notions that anything might be exciting about this. If you aren't sure of the history of either in the pairing go SLOWLY.

New dog in house ....
unless you can directly supervise them both keep them separate. Period. Possibly forever depending on the size of the dog and how things go. Here Sampson (the resource guarder) will likely never be out alone with the cats. Accidents can and do happen in a heartbeat. You being there may not be enough but odds are good you will see tension rise and be able to deal with it.  Sally will occasionally bounce at a cat but she never threatens them or makes contact. The cats here are very dog savvy and rub up on all of the crew here. We make the choice to have the small dogs and Sally loose in the house with the cats when we are out that could change at any time. Our house is set up so there is a dog free zone - I actually think that is a really big part of why the foster cats adapt so relatively quickly to the chaos!

When you first introduce cat and dog it is much easier to have two people, a relatively small space, something high for the cat to sit on and  some time and patience. The two people means that each person is assigned to keep one animal calm and happy. Cat is up on high spot, dog is brought in. If there is no reaction that's perfect. Both are praised and rewarded. Dog sniffs cat gently. Cat bristles but stays calm? Also perfect.  Praise, reward. Dog tries to leap at cat? Not terrible but back dog up til things are calm. Then reward. Don't bribe the dog or cat. Don't shove them together for ages if either are stressed. Many short positive meetings are the goal. There is no point in jerking, smacking or punishing anybody if the meeting isn't calm. A deflection, then a redirection and then a retry with a different plan in place is the way to go. The last thing you want is either the dog or cat believing that the other species causes stress or bad things to happen. The best things should happen when everybody is calm together!

If you do nothing else to get ready for the introduction read the story of Song and the Sheep. Patience is a key to long happy relationship building and ideally that's what you want, right?

Questions? Please ask - I have done this HUNDREDS of times - with many dogs and many cats, many puppies and many kittens including cat killing dogs and dog attacking cats. You can negotiate a peace. It may not look like the pictures on this post

but it can be done.

Friday, January 20, 2012

closing day

yup - 256 acres of amazement 
the promise
the gratitude 

Buy land, they're not making it anymore.

Mark Twain

Land really is the best art.
Andy Warhol

We did not inherit the land from our fathers.
We are borrowing it from our children.

-Amish Proverb 

This little patch of earth
and this little pile of stones
I can wash the dust from off my face and skin
But this earth is in my bones

-Ralph McTell 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

sometimes it's the small things ...

It's easy to lose sight of where you started from sometimes.

Me? Naughty? Never!

Last night Sampson and Sally played with a rope toy for an hour. They tugged with it. They each took turns waving it in one another's face. Sally lay on the big bed and Sampson dragged her (and Thea who was napping on the same bed) around the kitchen floor. Sam didn't snark, or lift a lip, or freeze up, or in any other way behave inappropriately. Resources have been a tough haul with him. I doubt he'll ever be as easy with them as our first two dogs were (the things you don't know to appreciate sometimes) but maybe one day a toy basket with many lower value toys will be able to be out again. (Don't worry about the abuse-all the dogs who want toys get daily supervised toy time!)

I'm a good girl - all I do is sleep! I'm never frustrating.

The little things sneak up on you -and you  don't realize how forwards you've moved sometimes. Puppy people getting frustrated? Take a deep breath and think about how much your puppy has learned. Is the house training better? Are sits better? Have you and puppy learned a new behaviour or trick? Are you playing a new game? I can promise you you've come further than you feel when  you are frustrated!

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, 
but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” 
Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday and the week looms large ....

day surgery, employer evaluation, bah phooey

much more fun to reflect on agility!!

Sally got all her contacts yesterday. That said I'm not sure a stopped contact is the way to go with her (I seem to have to manage them) I'd love to watch some big long striding dogs with running contacts particularly on the a frame. Her teeters are great. Her dog walk I can see improving even without much work. Maybe I just need to get 20 reps a day back in somehow. All the bars stayed up too -which was lovely as the striding is often pretty tight in that hall. She wasn't running flat out, nor was I, but it was much smoother and open than the last house league standard was.

Brody was FAST - his standard run was the 3rd fastest clear of 9 dogs ... and right up there across the board. He ran faster than Sally by close to 8 seconds. I suspect his lovely running contacts had something to do with that. He did 5 aframes in one snookers class. Probably my only bone dumb move of the day but he enjoyed a massage last night and will enjoy it again today! He is so much fun to run.

Enjoyed the judging too I seem to end up judging large dogs quite regularly in house league and I enjoy it. Keeps me focused on watching handlers and dogs. The only down side is Sally sits in a crate pretty much all day and runs without her full and usual warm up but I make up for that at the end of the day with her -and it's good for me to run her high.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

house league report ...

Great dogs - great fun!

It was crazy cold out so Thea stayed home (no wonder the poor dog is a play dog!)

Snookers was up first - our tunnel version

Sally earned 52 points the first run (we worked 3 sets of 5 point weaves and obviously something else too!)
Then 45 points as we worked the 6 point teeter 3 times then carried on to the closing - so it should be 48 points I think ... oh well math isn't my strong thing!

Her standard run was fault free too... what a good girl!

Brody ran well too. He was happy and FAST .... 51 and 59 points respectively and then a fault free standard run too.  Good fun day. The compilation video for today is Sally and her sister Sophie!

Still enjoying snookers, love the thinking piece!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Drawing the line ...

We hear it all the time:

"S/he crossed the line"
"I draw the line at giving friends money"
"I drew my line and dared them to cross it"
"It's time to draw the line"

It's a phrase used to take a stand, stake turf,  and it's always struck me as somewhat confrontational in nature.

That said it's important to draw your lines clearly when it comes to much of life, dogs included.

Positive is not permissive.
That means if you don't want your dog on the kitchen island -that's OK!
That means if your dog is losing it's furry,funny,much loved mind by having a butt tucking hairy fit over your couch and under the dining room table it's OK and even important to interrupt him or her.

It may mean you are driven to tears when you just can't think of a positive way to deal with a line your dog is crossing. I very clearly remember standing beside my car tearing up as I just couldn't get Rufus to willingly get in a car and so badly didn't want to force him. It was so frustrating I honestly did not know what to do. Standing in the park watching our Irish Setter dance just out of reach drove me to that point even longer ago. You know something? That's OK too. You are allowed to be frustrated. It's not OK to react to that frustration from a place of anger - but if you do - just like people who love you - it's pretty likely your dog will forgive you and trust you again. (Though what a pain regaining that trust can be).

Options for dealing with crossed lines around here include: slapping myself upside the head for not realizing there was a line; tethering pooch to me so the line won't be crossed; a short time out with young dogs (sometimes as simple as holding Sam's collar and sitting with him for a minute or two); redirection of energy -  playing either a dog or people game. In many ways I think the multi-dog house helps with this - when I'm fed up throwing a ball or two for the big dogs relieves that stress.

People ask me why I don't punish the dogs when they cross a line - sometimes they ask directly and sometimes they ask by their actions. (For example yelling No if Sam jumps up to check a counter). I really don't believe there is a point in punishing usually - all it does it suppress the habit when people are present.
Much better to not have anything of interest on the counter as my habit!  Or have something positive like a stay on a bed in place for when the counter is a mess. A crazy out of control young pooch is usually overtired or overwhelmed. Yelling and punishing aren't going to be constructive in that situation either. A down time is likely to get much better results. If the crazies happen predictably you can take preventative action.
Big T coming home makes every dog happy- CRAZY happy - leaping, barking, maniacal happy. It didn't take long at all to have Sampson hear Big T at the door and run for the back door -where I would toss a Kong out for him. Then I worked on Sally. She now flies to a bed and lies waiting. That means Big T can come in the door greet the small dogs, go get changed and then come down and love on Sam and Sally! Much easier for us all then having a screaming fit every time he comes home!

A routine that avoids issues is such a relief - figuring out that routine is an excellent use of time and energy. Picking your lines is FINE. Important even - remember positive is not permissive - but dealing with the line need not be punitive! 

As Elbert Hubbard so wisely stated “Punishment - The justice that the guilty deal out to those that are caught.” 

Friday, January 13, 2012

how can I be worthy?

What an awesome responsibility comes with the love of a dog. 
Wonderful and inspiring and just a little frightening at times. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Puppies Test Boundaries ....

Oh yes they do ... and I usually know my bad little puppies are settling in to their homes a little too well when I don't hear from adopters for a few days in a row!

Some puppies discover that they don't have to do what they are asked (for example they may pull on a lead, they may not come when called). They may decide that in their sweet new life they should be the ones controlling resources.

Theorique didn't get rawhides here (Sally is dreadfully allergic to beef so no beef of any sort even gets in the door for the dogs). At one of her puppy sitters recently she had a rawhide and got growly with it! I was SHOCKED when told she was "still" possessive  as she had never been possessive here but on reflection realized it's happened before and will again I'm sure. Smart good puppies test boundaries! So if you find yourself in this situation this may help...

This is a behaviour that can escalate to other toys, or even meals so it's something to address with your dog early on in a positive way. (Lots of traditional trainers have methods for dealing with this too -but they are force based and can both destroy your relationship with your dog and be dangerous!)

It's easiest to understand the basic method (in my opinion) as it applies to meal times. The best resource I have ever seen on this is Jean Donaldson's book Mine. If you are struggling with the issue or working with a tough case it would be a good investment! My short -prevent little problems becoming bigger version of her protocol is below -but I have actually worked with her book open step by step with at least two head cases! If you aren't experienced please do not work through true aggression around resources by yourself. Get a pro to help you!

If all your pooch does is stiffen  or eat faster when you are near this will help them too!

Give your pooch his or her kibble meal. (If you feed home prepared-give them the most boring part of the meal) Drop super tasty food (roast beef, chicken, yummy stinky treats from the store whatever your dog will love) into the bowl in small amounts. Use a big bowl so you don't have to aim too closely.  Repeat over at least 3 meals - more if you need to. Repeat several times through the meal.

Meal 4 (or more) start the same way but get closer to the bowl before dropping treat - pooch may decide to not eat kibble and wait for the good stuff. That just means things are going well and you can move on. Once your hand is actually in the bowl to drop in the treat (and I'll be honest here -with crazy Fitz I used kibble only and took 2 weeks to get to this point) pick up the bowl and put the goody in the bowl then return the bowl to the floor. If there are other people who can play this game so much the better -and don't forget to keep working on new things if you are doing this as a preventative thing - new bowls, new locations! This is not a bad game to play throughout a pooch's life. Brody thinks it's a great game to this day. I also play a variation of this game that starts with just one or two pieces of kibble then add kibble to the bowl. 

Toys are similar -some dogs value some toys very highly. We trade for better toys and delicious food regularly around here.  That is say Sampson has a Kong (his number ONE thing in the world). I offer him something tasty; swap it for the Kong then give the Kong back. Or say he has a rope toy - I might swap him the rope toy for a Kong as a special treat. He will now swap my back for the rope but that took quite a bit of work! A little backsliding happens with toys sometimes - perhaps there is a new toy or the dog discovers a new way to play -don't stress just repeat the game. Swap, return, swap, return, swap replace with something else. 

No Kong handy? Sampson can find great joy in any toy!

Yelling, using "NO", taking the toy by force or not following through on the trade (or treat) are all counter to this process. They increase stress and can convince pooch there is something SERIOUS worth guarding! It's a game... as you may know if you've read my posts before I enjoy my dogs no matter if we are training, walking or lounging -life with them is about playing and keeping it fun for us all -no matter what skill we are working on!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Relationship Building

"If there were a single snapshot moment that encapsulates a relationship, it might be simply this: how a person and a dog walk together." 
-- Suzanne Clothier--

No doubt at all our walks at the private park are relationship building for us all. 

Monday, January 09, 2012

Life is about timing ...

so says Carl Lewis (with 10 Olympic medals to his name who am I to argue?)

Dog training is surely about timing too. The impact of reward, punishment (if you use it) No Reward Markers (if you use them) and cues are all profoundly affected by timing.

Tom had the big dawgs out for a road walk yesterday and I wanted to play with shaping. I had nothing in mind but a happy Thea and Brody were staring at me.  I played some tug with Thea which she loved and then started shaping Brody to "go to bed". We had a friend over watching and she was fascinated by the process of shaping. She didn't understand why there was no cue. (I didn't understand how Brody has lived with us nearly 11 years and had never been taught this- it's a great great foundation behaviour).

Sally has "go to..." down to a fine art ..even when she doesn't quite fit!

I was very quickly able to get a down on the bed as Brody has done a fair bit of shaping and was very quick to understand what was paying. He had a couple of typical, for him at least, gap out moments where he stood and stared at me or sniffed the floor but I didn't fall for it. I held out for a down on the bed and sure enough I got it. Going backwards in marking behaviour (which I would have been doing if I had marked him looking at the bed after he was already getting on it) is so tempting but ultimately slows things way down. The Training Marketing Queen of Canada (TMQ?) , Susan Garret has an expression: "average or better".
I'd heard of her before but this book hooked me
The fact Sally was doing her thing as I read it probably helped
TMQ - thank you!

It's a great phrase and one that is influencing my day to day work with the dogs. Why reward something that is regressive in nature? If your timing is average or better - don't do it! Hold out and then pay well for excellence. I have always thought there was value in meritocracy, at least ideologically if not practically. Dog training is a great place to practice this principle. (So is my day job actually!)

It's pretty hard for any of us to ignore Thea

Sunday, January 08, 2012

it's the end of the holidays as we know it ... and we feel fine

Lovely lovely break - lots of  farm 'gility and walks at the private dog park.
A little training.
Visitors and visiting. 

Lots of family time. 

Having fun with the camera - even when the dogs weren't!

and rewarding awesome recalls

Thea ran, and ran and did her best to keep up with the big dawgs!

in case you are too young to get the title of the post ...

Friday, January 06, 2012

one percent ....

Some one I have a great deal of respect for pointed out on a FB thread that those of us doing what many of 'us' do are the "1%" of dog people.

By that I think she meant educated, committed, self aware, societally conscious, and with highly defined moral values when it comes to our animal friends.

She posits that simply knowing not to buy a dog from a mill does not put you in the one percent. I would hope that is true but I'm not sure. I bet it puts you in at least  the top 10 percent or so (at least if you expect any comprehension of why mills might be problematic!)

Understanding that a dog is a commitment for life puts somebody into a pretty elite echelon in my experience.
Thinking about vet care, diet puts a person up right up there. Using the thinking you've done to have informed discussions and chose a diet puts you even further up the scale. (Never vaccinating or feeding any diet because you heard it was the best but know nothing about the pros and cons of either slides you down the scale ~ at least  to my mind).Training, using positive methods, slides you right back up the scale again.
Making choices in your life to have dogs as companions and partners not just commodities, working to understand their needs (both emotionally and physically) and offering them enrichment and security  all combine to a pretty unusual attitude towards dogs.

Sad isn't it?