Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 In Review ...

"The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things." Henry Ward Beecher

"Happiness is not having what you want. It is wanting what you have."

"Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."

2011 was a year of reflection, grieving, hope and planning for us. It was a good year in many many ways. Losses as always in this crazy fostering life (Lizzie, Kizmet, Mama) but fewer than in recent years.
The video runs 4 minutes - Enjoy! It's agility + 

Snow is here and so is the cold

Puppy people around the province are suddenly noticing that well house trained puppies don't know that snow is a good place to potty. Cold toes, unknown surfaces, new sounds, and anxious humans all contribute to the issues. Not to mention bodies physically react to cold. The need to potty can vanish in the cold. Then it returns right after warming up. In and out is often the name of the game as the puppy works through this.

Natural? Yes. Frustrating as all get out? Yes.

I'm sure there are lots of brilliant trainers out there who never have set backs. I have never professed to be a trainer though - and set backs seem to be part of the learning curve for house training around here.

Set backs I now expect:

Weather - pottying in rain, snow, extremes of heat all affect systems!
New surfaces - any change poses a question - grass is not mulch is not concrete is not stone etc
New places - my classic classic example of this was poor Rufus (our first golden).We were visiting my Dad's apartment and Rufus needed to go out. Rather than indicating in any way at all he quietly snuffled around until he found a tree (a tall indoor houseplant) and very happily watered it. It was his only house training error ever with us but it looms large in my mind and means that every where new I am I am diligent about  making sure all dogs know where the correct place is to potty -no matter how much I trust their cleanliness generally!
New diet - or change in activity level... both of these affect frequency - if you aren't aware you can put your dog in an uncomfortable position .. you will learn your own dog's habits ... I promise

and the grandfather of all them -complacency! Once a dog seems to "get" it it's very easy to let up on the vigilance and that's a prime time for mistakes to occur.

** and thanks to those I worried - yesterday's pictures are ones I managed to get over the holidays - just don't have some pictures of somethings I am very grateful for - cousins, mum, in law siblings, god sons,friends and other furred and feathered family - the core group of us is together ... see Wordless Wednesday is tough for me.. should have left title at Gratitude ...which is what it started as....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Patience, Persistence and Positive Training

Positive, force free, clicker, modern, whatever you want to call it, training is incredibly rewarding. 
It is, sadly, not always absolutely intuitive nor is it always quick. Trying to figure out how to solve issues without using force or compulsion can be frustrating for people who aren't used to breaking down behaviours into little bits and taking their time. When an issue is affecting other people it can become very tempting to go for the fast fix. 

(Barking and jumping are two types of behaviour that leap to my mind that can provoke a decided lack of positive good will - others may occur to you)
I got an email question today about an issue, a good question and there was no indication that the folks who posed it had considered any "traditional" ways to solve the problem of barking during meal prep but they had legitimate concerns about the neighbours. It was a  Great question and something I deal with regularly - having a minimum of four dog meals to prepare at each meal time (and some slightly "on" dogs)

For me, with multiple dogs, sending each dog to it's place and having him or her wait (depending on dog in a sit, down or self chosen position) seems to work best. Brody is, of course, allowed to stand optimistically at my feet. In nearly 11 years of living with us he has never barked for a meal. Thea,at the wise old age of 8, knows the deal - she waits patiently on the couch. Sampson wants to be good. He so desperately wants to be good. But he can get a little squirrely at meal prep time. He is sent to the porch at the school house. And he sits. And waits. When he breaks his sit I resend him to the porch. When I am in good trainer mode he rarely breaks his sit as I reward him quite frequently (usually with a little bit of kibble, sometimes with something high value, sometimes with a pat or verbal praise). Sally is sometimes sent to the bathroom and she stretches and stretches in an effort to see around the corner. When her feet fall off the ledge she quickly snatches them up in an effort to not get caught breaking her position. It is actually much easier for her when she gets sent to a mat or chair to wait. She simply sigh, lies down and waits. I suppose if I always did exactly the same thing she would be resigned about whatever we did. I, of course, being an educator by profession not just avocation, always have to push the limits!

I could spend meal time prep time yelling No or physically grabbing dog's faces but that doesn't sound like much fun to me nor would any of us learn from that. I LIKE sharing the responsibility for behaviour with the dogs. They make good choices they get a reward. They make poor choices nothing interesting happens. Sometimes when I'm in a rush I wish I simply managed the behaviour - shutting each dog in a crate would be one pretty easy way to manage it - and I have used that lots with foster dogs or back when Sampson was still all about the resources! Management is a very important step sometimes - it can buy you the patience and time you need to tackle a question from within a positive framework.

It isn't always easy being positive. Two dogs screaming for you to throw the stick requires some focus to ignore. One dog pitching a fit because she thinks it's dinner time and your neighbours are asleep is disconcerting.
Figuring out how to set yourselves up for success actually becomes fun. Capturing the behaviour you want is a challenge. Having your dogs quietly watch you as you prepare a meal, pick up a stick, or wait on a start line is so rewarding!

Monday, December 26, 2011

a photo essay of a lovely bit of Christmas Day

We went for a walk at our dog park (aka the farm)

The ground was frozen enough that we could cut right through the hay fields. In completely unshocking news Sally found sticks, STICKS and more sticks for us to throw.

Sampson got in on the action. Also completely unshocking. Big T throws way better than I do.

I could watch dogs run all day. (Wait a minute, I often do!)

The moment of release.



Optimism. Thea and Brody know where the cookies are!

A portrait of a beauty.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Jake and Frannie Visit ...

Our Christmas Eve includes my Dad and his wife Jean.
They stay overnight (bringing an awesome Christmas Estonian Feast with them)
We do a breakfast, stockings and a gift exchange Christmas morning.
It's become a lovely tradition at the school house

Rick and Jean live with two darling Cocker Spaniels now ... Frannie (above) and Jake.
They came in through rescue and while Jake has Cushings he is responding well to treatment.
They are delightful, happy, sweet dogs.
They give the breed such a good name big T would be happy to have one!

Hoping everyone has a wonderful, peaceful (or productive if that's your desire) Christmas, no matter what you celebrate! We are just back from a walk at the farm. Soon off to my Mum's for a low key dinner and another gift exchange. How spoiled can you be?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

tonight's gonna be a good night

Happy Christmas Eve to you all

1.27 minutes  of house league fun for your viewing pleasure

Friday, December 23, 2011

Naughty? Nice?

Trying so hard to be good!

Always good!

Feels absolutely no need to be anything  but Sally!

Knows he's naughty; knows  he's kingpin!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On building confidence

It's hard to balance confidence and common sense sometimes. As humans we face that dilemma on the start line, in class, when training and in life. Our dogs (especially when young) face the same challenges. Loud noises and sudden movement are biologically frightening. Allowing a puppy some distance to regroup just makes sense to me. Pairing loud predictable noises with yummy food creates a classical association that hopefully creates confidence around the noise. (In agility the bang game with the sound of the teeter is a classic example of this and this is an ultimate bang game video which goes further than I have seen before - actually not sure of the need for this extreme version - but the dog seems to be enjoying the work!)

Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” James Stephens
Theorique is a cautious puppy. She is not over the top fearful but it's obvious her time on the streets (yup, she was STRAY- people make me crazy) induced a sense of caution. She is however also very curious and we have been able to use that to benefit her.  Brody's food dispenser rattles as it spins around and quite alarmed Rique the first time she heard and saw it. It took one casual introduction in about 15 seconds (I dropped half of one meal into it|)  for her to recover quite completely and she now stands on top of it hoping somebody will spin it for her! I ignore a fearful response - as her fearful response is to boot it to under one of us and sit and watch whatever is scary. When her nose pokes out we tell her she's fabulous. It takes mere seconds for her to recover from a fright now. We treat Thea exactly the same way. Coddling only happens around here if there is a physical trauma - and the only reason that happens is I simply can't stop my mother hen reflex! If I could I would!

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.”   A.A. Milne

Dogs learn confidence from other dogs and the people around them. They learn more than confidence of course - they learn recalls (or not!) they learn things like "settle down" and house training but I really appreciate my bold dogs teaching the more cautious dogs that new things are INTERESTING and FUN and just may pay handsomely! Swimming is a good example of this. When dogs are obviously having a wonderful time in the water other dogs get interested and curious and perhaps paddle or even swim thanks to the evidence of a good time.

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”   Carlos Castaneda

I have found it important to give a cautious dog space to think on their own. Throwing them into a situation can actually escalate fear rapidly. In the picture above Sampson is giving himself plenty of space to watch Rique. He is actually braver and happier playing with her than we've ever seen him with a puppy. This is partly due to previous low pressure exposure, partly due to Rique's own laid back nature and partly because we don't pressure him to engage with something he's afraid of. When he chooses to engage the puppy appropriately we reward him or tell him he's a good boy. When he's stressed by puppy antics we deflect the puppy away from him onto something else fun for her and less pressure for Sampson.

The biological imperative of fear is life saving. It takes a brave human to let a dog work through natural fears without intereference but at the end of the process you end up with a more confident dog than any pressure could create.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday night and the living is good ...

House league was fun

too cold for Thea or Theorique to travel with us but Sally and Brody ran well and had fun ... Sally gave me a HUGE flyoff ... which is on tape so I may show you someday ... she was a  nut in the last class but the course was tight and nearly impossible for me to run .. the first class was fun (Helter Skelter - you looped in to a table then back out then back in again until the clock stopped) and the second was steeplechase - ran nicely too). I should have opted out of the last class but , as usual, hindsight is 20/20. We did some nice work despite the bumps - so I'll rack it up as learning and move on.
Brody ran well and seemed to be having fun!


not just pretty and seasonal but DELICIOUS

Great music Super people Good dogs

Sophie, Sally's sister showing off her CPE ribbons

The girls are playing so nicely at home it's really cute too

Saturday, December 17, 2011

the night before house league ...

And I'm writing up individual score cards ... some people thought last year was too competitive (when we posted results) and some people this year want to know how they are doing ...

I have known for many years you just can't make all people happy all the time - but some people insist on trying! To be fair, if it's possible I'm happier when folks are happy but I also have no trouble saying "sorry, just not possible!" Oh well, I'm quite certain someone will complain no matter what I do.

Theorique is still here ... and not going anywhere tomorrow ... loads of good leads suddenly popped up - will take awhile to sort them out.

We took the dogs, well Brody, Sally and Sampson for an hour long walk at the lake today. Was lovely. Sampson swam. What a boy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Night Musings ...

Still feeling pretty good about the intention demonstrated last weekend. Ran hard, ran fast and had fun.

A replicable feeling I know

screening homes for the baby and hating every minute of it
fully expect she'll be gone as early as Sunday

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quiz update....

Got a lovely email from Gracie's new people - they love her .. her spay went well and she's enormous ...

She pulls on leash and has lost her recall - which I find interesting, hilarious and somewhat frustrating. Hopefully it's an adolscent phase that they will work through. So aggravating to see such a solid solid foundation allowed to slip ... that said I'm delighted she's in a lovely loving home. She looks happy.

Man, fostering is hard on the heart ... Theorique is wiggling her way into our hearts awfully quickly too!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Long boring record keeping post ... CPE trial - Red Barn

Fullhouse - Level 1 - 25 points earned Q, 1st
Standard 1-Level 1-clean, Q, 1st
Colours 1- Level 1 - clean, Q, 1st
Wildcard - Level 1, clean, Q, 1st 
Jackpot - Level 1, 36 points, Q, 1st
Standard 2- Level 1, clean, Q, 1st
Colours 2- Level 1, clean, Q, 2nd
Snookers, Level 1, 20 points, NQ

can't find the ribbon with the sticker for Colours, Wildcard, Jumpers  right now - but she earned all the Qs ... Jumpers was level 2!

"mine, all mine!"

(love love love CPE stickers!)

Fullhouse - Level 3, 26 points earned Q, 1st
Standard 1-Level -missed dog walk contact  NQ
Colours 1- Level 3 - off course, NQ
Wildcard - Level 3, clean, Q, 1st
Snookers - Level 3, 51 points, Q, 1st
Jackpot - Level 2, 48 points, Q, 1st - finishing her title with this one
Standard 2- Level 1, Q, 2nd - finishing her title here too
Colours 2- Level 3, clean, Q, 1st
Wildcard - Level 3, clean, Q, 1st
Jumpers- Level 3, clean, Q, 1st (1st of all dogs at 3/4/5/C that ran clean .3 seconds behind 1dog)

"why does she get to touch it?"

Fullhouse - Level 4, 26 points earned Q, 1st
Standard 1-Level 4, clean, Q, 1st
Colours 1- Level 4 - clean, Q 1st
Wildcard - Level 4, clean, Q, 1st
Snookers - Level 4, 51 points, Q, 1st
Jackpot - Level 3, 44 points, Q, 1st - only one left to finish all level  titles
Standard 2- Level 4, clean, Q, 1st
Colours 2- Level 4, clean, Q, 1st
Wildcard - Level 4, clean, Q, 1st
Jumpers- Level 4, clean, Q, 1st

"maybe I can sneak a chew in"

in CPE the same courses get used for different levels sometimes .. so for example Brody and Sally ran the same Snookers course .. Fullhouse and Jackpot were designed for all levels which was fun Brody, Sally and Thea were not the only dogs in their classes but I didn't actually note how many dogs were in each class - I think Sally was one of about 6 for most of her classes. Thea had a few classes where she was alone but in a few classes she was 1 of 3 dogs.  There were between 2-4 dogs at Brody's level and height for his classes I believe.

"this looks so tasty!"

The judge makes the coolest little trophies for 51 snookers runs ... I thought Sally might get one, was thrilled with hers, figured why not try with Brody and he did it too! Amazing!

The many faces of adorable ...