Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And they,

Since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

So so hard to do some days.

I first read the Robert Frost poem in grade nine English and it struck me then. Deeply, profoundly. This was an essential truth. Without turning back to life, even in grief, nothing would make sense. I attended an all girls school and I doubt many of my classmates had seen a chainsaw let alone used one. I had. The image of the boys rueful laugh as he turned is seared into my brain as if I was there. This single line has given me the strength to get up out of bed on days of great grief since I first read it.

Usually around here the animals are quick to turn to normal life. This time is a little different. Sally, and Yen, are mourning in a way I have only seen mother animals before. It's visceral and concrete, and oh so touching. They are looking for Wyn, longing for him even. They lost a great friend, an entertainment unit and a snuggle buddy. Brody is quite fine with the vanishing act, as are the cats.

Big T and I keep tearing up, looking for him, calling him by mistake, I can't bear to take down his leash and scenting harness.

He was a typical puppy in so many ways and something really special too (I hope you all feel that way about your puppies, and dogs). I'm still sad for us and so sad for him. Life was so much fun in his world.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

sit down ..

Wyn is gone.

Dead and gone.

Oh sorry. Should I have built up to it?

Everybody who  knows has had the same reaction. NO. It just isn't possible.

Vital happy Sir Wynston Churchill, heart thief extraordinaire is no more, in his physical form anyhow.

He was hit by a car whose driver believes she was going too fast and wasn't paying enough attention.to the road. She is devastated and will be much harder on herself than I can ever be.

He died instantly, in the middle of a great game of tag with Sally. I wish we could all die doing something we loved so much.

Ironies of ironies he never ever had left the property unless he was in a car or on a leash, in fact he was barely on the road- just doing a loopy zoom around to get Sally in his gangly puppy fashion.

Sometimes life is cruel, sometimes it is just incomprehensible.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

You All Know the Saying About Assumptions ...

and yet ...

We all make them
Even bright intelligent people I respect make them;  heck, I'm pretty sure I make them.
One assumption in particular gets my goat every single time I hear it.

"I'm a big dog person."


What the heck is a big dog person? A person who only likes big dogs I take it. Makes no sense to me. No sense at all. I'm not even a dog person really, I'm an all species kind of gal ... but I can at least understand saying dogs are the animal you can relate best to (or horses, cats, rabbits, parrots - whatever!).

One recent blog looked at the poor training of small dogs. Lots of great writing as usual but it got me thinking. I wonder where the assumption that small dogs are more poorly trained than large dogs comes from? Measured perception in 2010 is not fact. I know dogs of all sizes that are poorly trained. In my experience at least little dogs get to live in houses more often than not so get to learn the most basic of house manners. Many a large dog begs blatantly at tables, or counter surfs, things small dogs simply can't do.

I can actually more easily understand being a small dog person than a big dog person. Small dogs can hike miles and swim and play all kinds of sports but they can also be content to hang out at home on a windy gross day. Big dogs need exercise. Big dogs equal big poops to clean up in the yard.  Small dogs are nearly always welcomed in houses that are dog friendly - large dogs may not be. Small dogs cost less to feed, and spay and provide chews for.

I was a self proclaimed "big dog person" until the fall of 2000 when a very endearing little Pomeranian and a TINY chihuahua entered our lives as foster dogs. At that point I realized small dogs were neat in and of themselves. Just a few months later Brody joined our family and I kept thinking - oh Brody is so special, he's so smart, so active, so trainable , so much like a big dog. Then, after Joe, Petey (and his harem) Pompeii, Ibby, Fritz, Aldwin, and so many more small dogs (including Thea and Yen of course) I have really internalized and accepted that no, I was wrong, they are all wonderful dogs. End of story.

Except of course I fully expect we'll always have dogs of all sizes living with us!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I laughed, I learned ...

Yesterday morning I read a book. A non fiction book I blasted through quickly knowing I will return to it time and time again. Trials Without Tribulations, authored by Kathryn Harvey. Good read for everybody no matter where you are at on your competitive spectrum and no matter your dog sport. http://www.citizencanine.com/pages/twt.htm

I recognized myself, and many other dog sport people in the book. Not specifically necessarily, I have no way to know if the author had the same people in mind as I did but great handlers, word class handlers, right through to the person first stepping on a start line will find themselves here. It's an E book, which is relatively new to me, a print bibliophile if ever there was one. For this book and this topic the format worked just fine!
I wondered what I would get out of the book specifically as I am a pretty relaxed competitor with decent mental management strategies generally, and, let's be honest, I'm very happy at my level of competition without great aspirations for expansion.

What I loved most? The focus on team ... rather than putting all the work of running on the dog and the thinking on the handler and simply focusing on the handler Kathyrn has made sure that the dog's role in the game is lauded and recognized. "How many athletes routinely get to sleep with their teammates?"  A thought that I had never considered in terms of it's impact on us as a team. (Amazing as I look at 3 dogs in the chair with me, another at my feet, and another in the chair beside me!)

Do you know what the The Dunning-Kruger effect is? I didn't either. Worth a read for that alone.

She echos and reinforces some of the things I have long believed about the cost of competition on our dogs but she goes much further than that, offering specific strategies to build resilience in the whole team and improve performance. I cannot think of one person who won't get something of value from the book. I know I will read it again and again. Even if you are competing but work with sporting dogs in any way you may find  this book a good one for your virtual bookshelf (I know it will influence a couple of details in the way I structure class set ups).

My biggest concern? It ended! Looking forward to a sequel!

Do yourself and your dog(s) a favour - order your copy today!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

the sheer POWER of choice ...

Mr Poop A Lot  Wyn was wired last night.  6 month old puppy equals wild child on occasion.

I could have put him in his house (crate). I could have tethered him to me and let him get bored enough to settle. I could have taken him for a long run (in the dark and rain - NOT). I suppose I could have ignored him. None of those options worked for me in that moment of time.

We played trained right in the middle of the living room. We worked on go to mat (a skill I had forgotten he had), coming between my legs and sitting (a position I'm determined to start his sports dog activities from),  and flat work (what agility people call shadow handling). This boy? He nailed it all. The white dynamo known as Yen? She had a turn too - she nailed her activities too (a little shadow handling, hand touches and the beginnings of "table" behaviour)

Of course they were rewarded when they made good choices but the really profound thing for me about last night's session (and the final exam I set up for the play course which you can see if you click on the link) is the way they transitions through whatever  reward happily and without expectation of anything else. Toy? Awesome! Food? Delicious. Personal Play and Touch? Amp up to orbit!  A piece of liver or a scratch on the chest it did not matter at all.  The knowledge and confidence I can see in both of them as they look forward to the game that follows great choices is inspiring. The satisfaction is mutual.

It's taking my trail mix of treats just one brilliant step further. Sally and I have long used toys and food as rewards but it was rare that I mixed them up in one session. Brody has liked personal play and food - but again we rarely switched between them in the same session.

I feel so liberated! In training circles you hear references to tool boxes. This ability to absolutely wholly choose a  valuable reward from any of the three groups is much more than an item in a toolbox. The power of this choice is a gift. Pure, simple and one not to be forgotten.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

50 Ways to Play ...

The play's the thing ... Hamlet used the play to catch the King; we, as dog lovers trainers, can use play to capture the interest of our dogs. Play is natural with babies and puppies but we tend to fall into set patterns of play as our dogs mature.Even with the crew here it's easy to see how reinforcing playing the dogs favourite way can be. Sally would play fetch all  day. Sam would chose a variation of "Getcha". Brody loves tricks for food and so on.

That said,  handlers who are proficient in all types of play have a leg up on the rest of the dog world. They can make easy transitions within a sport, or sport to sport and they can work with a wide variety of dogs. It's  good for the dogs too. They can enjoy whatever, and learn to enjoy it wherever with glee.

Play helps with recalls, in fact a dog wanting a good game can be hard to lose. A game can distract a dog from something stressful.. In fact games were how Sally learned to deal with trailers bouncing by our country home. I'd hear a trailer coming and a great tug toy would be out before Sally realized what was happening. She'd tug right through the trailer; then we built the tug to be the reward for ignoring a loud trailer.Play is a great reward for a dog (and many handlers enjoy it too). Play builds relationships and it will come as no surprise to anybody that I believe relationship is the critical element to life with a dog. 

With many thanks to all who have shown me great games human and dog here is a list of 50 ways you might want to play with your dog and your dog with you!

Toy Play 1-18
Personal Play - 19-38
Food Play 36-50
  1. Fetch
  2. Catch
  3. Big Balls- try kicking them or having a multiple of balls out
  4. Basketball when I play basketball with the dogs my goal is to get a bouncing ball past them - their goal is to get (and in Sally's case puncture) said ball
  5. Frisbee - the fancy disc stuff alarms me with the leaps and twists but chasing a frisbee adds a dimension of fun for many dogs
  6. Tug   
  7. Chew -while not interactive so important for so many dogs - stress relief, pleasure, boredom prevention ...
  8. Get it/Out - Sally and Wyn both enjoy this game just for the games sake ... they take and spit out a toy just to interact with me
  9. Make a toy -what in the environment can be a toy? You may find your dog has more imagination than you thought - if Sally hears "go get/find a toy" she'll scan to see if there is a traditional toy at hand if not you  may find yourself presented with a wide range of things - leash, water can, if she can carry it you may get it!
  10. Hide a toy - start simply - let the dog see you hide it somewhere that's hardly hidden, you can build to very complex hides 
  11. Select a toy - from a scattered group your dog or you can chose a specific toy to play with 
  12. CRUSH it -best played with water bottles!
  13. Go Fish- Sam loves being a huge shark on the end of a flexi lead - we have great fun fights!
  14. Flirt pole fun!
  15. Water games with a hose, or in a lake or in a tub
  16. Three way fun ... if you have multiple dogs your dogs may enjoy both tugging with you in the middle or having two toys (or more) out for a fetch game
  17. Monkey in the Middle -some dogs love this game, some hate it -it's really important to make sure they have success frequently 
  18. Srsly it's a toy!! We use all kinds of crazy things as toys here - a spoon, a hairbrush whatever - this game is nearly a reverse of #9 ... human picks the "toy" both enjoy the play
  19. Tag- alternate who chases who; you may not want to let this one go too long the high dogs here get pretty amped up by it!
  20. Goose Goose Duck - Wyn enjoys this game - I goose one flank, then the other, then rub his ears
  21. Wiggly Waggly gonna get you! Yen loves wiggly fingers coming after her toes 
  22. Monster hands Sally loves hands that are clenching and unclenching come in to give her a really good scritch 
  23. Push and run put one hand on your dogs chest and either push gently back or hold steady then take off .. your dog will bound after you
  24. Getcha - will your dog chase you? I bet if you turn away and glance back then take off they will!
  25. wwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiittttttttttttt 
  26. Leap - was reminded of this goofy fun game for shy dogs yesterday - the dog simply bounces off you or beside you
  27. how high can you go? - high hand touches, ,actually all hand touches can make great games 
  28. many many tricks become highly reinforcing for both dog and human - Brody  loves his dance and offers it with great joy when he wants to interact with me
  29. TTOUCH - massage may not be traditionally seen as play but it sure does build relationship - and gives great pleasure to both parties -so here it is!
  30. Stretching - again not a traditional play (and for some dogs might fit into food play better) but we all enjoy stretches here.
  31. Silent walk - how careful is your dog to pay attention to you? The dogs here like this game as sometimes the first dog to get to me gets a treat... very motivating to pay attention to changes in direction
  32. Belly rubs and raspberries - just enjoy your dog physically in whatever way you both like (Brody likes being blown on but I'm sure enough that's unusual enough not to give it it's own number)
  33. Hide and Seek -big field? trees? hide and call your dog ...
  34. Where are we going? - get your dog following you - then go up, down, under, over and around whatever you can think of - stop and engage your dog occasionally to keep them motivated.
  35. Puppy Push Ups - not exactly traditional personal play but some dogs think this is the most amazing game.. it's just rapid fire sit, down, sit with lots of happiness 
  36. Zeke and Deke - if you zig and zag and move oddly your dog will be curious and want to engage you
  37. On/Off - what ever works for you to go up and down in energy with your dog .. Sally can flip between tug and table like nobody's business 
  38. Shell game - hide a treat under a cup and have a couple of empty cups out too - let your dog find the treat 
  39. Where'd it go?  hide treats (much like #10)  in varied places, under blanket, on a chair -wherever you think of 
  40. Track that - a trail of yummy treats is fun for your dog to track 
  41. Magic there might be no game more fun for some dogs than to be happily working away and suddenly have the world's best jackpot appear (like magic) - most effective if the dog really isn't expecting it!
  42. Dinner games - if your dog has issues with resource/food guarding please don't play some of these  without help but meal dispensers like treat sticks, Kong Wobblers, some Ottoman toys, multiple bowls whatever take meal time and make it even more fun! Dinner on a cookie sheet can help a dog connect noise and fun.
  43. Trade it - Dog has treat, you have treat. Trade treats! Great for manners and great for fun.
  44. Bowl the treat - Denise's term for the action of sending a treat rolling away from you .
  45. Rapid Fire - how many tiny treats can you deliver in 2 seconds? 4 seconds? 
  46. Ping Pong - similar to bowling but the treat could go in varied directions (personally I  face the way I  send the treat)
  47. Leave it/get it Can your dog ignore a treat then get it? I bet they can ...
  48. Under, Over send the treat under your legs or over your legs - randomly switch it up and the dogs get pretty happy to be engaged with food! Don't forget to get down on the floor with your pooch!
  49. Juga-giggle - my efforts to juggle treats have dogs engaged and well fed usually - a juggler I am not but it's pretty entertaining to try and the dog playing with me loves the fall out (literally)
  50. Bouncy Bounce - probably Mr Food Brody's favourite game. A piece of food in a closed fist in each hand. We face each other and I bounce from side to side on the balls of my feet then take off one way or the other. Brody chases me and gets the treat from whichever hand is on his side.

Have fun - create your own special games. Wyn and I have a hand nose bump that is our special thing. He enjoys it as much as I do! Not all dogs will find all games fun - that's fine. Your dog may be amused by activities like the one pictured above, maybe not though!  Balance is the goal but find fun games from each type to enjoy with your dog!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

How things change ...

When Brody and I started agility it never occurred to me that there could be any way to do 'real' agility at home. We did street agility when we saw something to jump or walk along but basically agility was a once a week activity. Brody weaved through the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper planted in weighted down glasses in my living room. 
We started trials and about 6 months later I got a teeter for my birthday. I used it occasionally and appreciate the way both Brody and Sally understand teeters. I am sure having our own to play with made a big difference.  I'm loving having it with Yen at the moment too.
Now I have more space than I know what to do with, a complete set of contact equipment, a few jumps and tunnels, and  I have never even had the dogs on the dogwalk. Crazy right? One day having the time, space and energy will all come together. This I know.

We do play at home though. In a funny shaped yard that has undulating ground. 
There are some other challenges to playing here at the moment too. 
A dog who isn't seeing well, a dog in her prime, a young dog and a puppy - and occasionally a rocket fueled Chihuahua and a goofy  golden - all have very different needs. Being ultimately lazy I hate resetting things multiple times. There are a couple of designs that allow me to work very very different skills with each dog. 

Here is my current favourite: 

The table is sometimes used just as a waiting pad for Sally and/or Wyn.

I've only numbered 2 variations but there are literally hundreds ... Sally is enjoying the distance work we play with  drectionals and leaving me are both lots of fun for us, Brody loves the tight wraps around the standards. Wyn has done a little bit of work through the standards only  turning and moving with me. Yen has begun to think about the principle of GO... racing ahead of me to a plate, she's also starting to understand that a straight line may not always be the desired path. Sam loves  blasting through straight lines and Thea just loves running!  

I believe that jumping is a skill that dogs need time to work on and develop - I don't jump daily, but I do use a box, a pinwheel and a fair bit of one jump work to make sure the dogs all understand how to jump (Wyn and Yen are both still on poles on the ground and will be until each is one-they are getting plenty of cross country jumping on our walks!).I also set up grids particularly for Sam and Sally who have long strides that they need to learn to adjust. I see much grid work in Wyn's future too! (He's a brick with legs, a little pin head,  at the moment!)

if I had to pick one thing to have (or fake) at home it would be a jump. Ideally 3 or 4 jumps, and a tunnel or two. Today's back yard training event will have lots of great ideas to try.  Maybe one will bump my number one setup out! The amazing organizer, Steve, has over 70 set ups listed! Check em all out and tell me your favourites!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Never be ashamed

of being "just" a pet dog person ...

My Mum has been attending a scenting class on Sunday with a pretty hot crowd of dog trainers and an RVT. She's a smart cookie with  an awesome little dog and she is staying right up there with all the folks who make their living from dogs. She asks great questions and watches everybody else very carefully and is, it seems to me anyhow, having a blast. Wilkie is having fun too.

I have commented here that I don't think of myself as a dog trainer, in fact I  posit that the dogs train me. I cheerfully admit I enjoying playing with the dogs and learning from them. The reality is my experience with training, behaviour, and health issues reaches a  little further than many people who live with dogs.  I belong to training lists; have organized seminars and workshops and attended many more; have shelves of books about training (and animals generally); and have been paid to train other people and dogs.  I have worked at shelters, on tv shows, a film set, a stage show, competed at National competitions (successfully) and spend a lot of brain time on the dogs both here and elsewhere.

That said, I delight in watching Big T enjoy his companion animals. He snuggles them, finds lumps and bumps and ticks,  and pulls burrs gently out of coats. He walks them on meanders down the road, and lets somebody take a turn riding shot gun if he zips into town for something. He thanks them when they are polite, well behaved, house dogs and occasionally yells (although not usually at them!) if they do something bone dumb.

When discussing class schedules and content the term "just pet people" comes up quite often. I cringe every time I hear it. Pet people deserve classes that provide a solid introduction to basic skills; that challenge thinking without over facing their dog; that follow sound pedagogical principles and build a foundation to move on if they get nipped by the sporting dog bug.

I am pet people, proud pet people. My dogs are family members first and through them my eyes have been opened to a world that has improved my life, and my human student's lives, immeasurably as well as enriched the dogs' lives. Not all dogs are lucky enough to be pet dogs. Some dogs are tools, some are decorations, many have lives that make my heart ache. Pet dogs, at least the ones I'm thinking of,  have a pretty good gig.  No apology needed. Ever.

* photo credits in order Shelia Gibbons, Len Sylvester of TTL Photos, and moi!

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Brain Might Just Explode

Just finished a great weekend of learning and have LOTS to share but this representation of something Sally taught me a long long time made so much sense to me I had start with this chart.

If you consider your dog and then consider you  you will see that you could add scores for a total. Our presenter this weekend suggested that we strive for 11 as our ideal score.

We were looking at this chart in reference to drive level but it would work in many different ways. Precision, obedience, activity level, even house training vigilance could benefit through consideration of the scale. Let me explain. Wyn is a 10 in house training, I can very happily sit at 1 and wait for him to ask me to go out. In a new place he will go to whatever door we came in to ask to go out. He understands house training and has demonstrated this in many different ways. Yen has moved up to being about a 3 now. She'd prefer to potty outside (usually) but if I don't watch for her to get active, think about how long since she's been out, think of how recently she ate or drank - so an 8 on the scale- she has no issue with sneaking away to find a spot to do her business. In a strange place she would likely revert to being a 1 and I would tether her to me (a 10).

Not sure if you should let your dog off leash? Look at the scale. How's your recall?

So many uses. So easy to understand.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Stolen from Facebook ... with a couple of minor adaptations


•Your vet thanks you for putting his kids through college. (In our case it's for the new cars but same principle!)

•Your vet's staff recognizes your voice on the phone and asks “How many are you bringing in today?”  (Oh yah - just saying "yes" when they ask if I can hold is enough usually)

•The entrance to every room of your house has a baby gate across it but you don't have toddlers. (yah)

•Crates are considered part of the furniture. (aren't they?)

•Your dogs are eating premium dog food and you're eating peanut butter sandwiches. (Kd in my case but yah)

•There is a collection of leashes at every exit of your house. And a couple of spares in the car. (again, normal right?)

•You look around the living room and think “I can fit three more crates in here if I get rid of the sofa.”

•You know every rest stop and restaurant within a hundred mile radius of your home. (and mapquest is on your favourites list)

•You've had more canine riders in your vehicle than Greyhound has had passengers. (HA and budgies, cats, hedgehogs, guinea pigs and rabbits too!)

•Friends call your cell phone and ask where you are and how many dogs you have with you.

•You have a book of baby names but don't have children. (the internet is sure I have children - sure name searching is why)

•You can temperament test a dog but have no idea why most of your family isn't speaking to you. (Sad but relevant)

•You have more animal food bowls than dinner plates in your kitchen. ( not normal?)

•People don't ask how you are; they ask how the dogs are. (HAHAHA - the dogs have more friends than I do so that makes sense)

•Any time somebody is giving something away free, you wonder if there's any way the rescue group can use it. (true)

•No matter how many times you clean it, your car still has the underlying aroma of dog. (again, not normal?)

•Your credit cards are maxed out and but you haven't bought yourself anything new in months. (thank heavens not me right now but so so understand this)

•Every time you bring home yet another foster, the resident animals look at you like, “Here we go again.” (poor poor long suffering Brody)

•You feed and walk dogs in shifts. (Big T is out with a pair right now!)

•You've been late for work because a new foster wouldn't cooperate. (and dragged said foster to work too!)

•You park your car in the driveway because you have an emergency foster in your garage. (since rescue land started I have NEVER parked in a garage!)

•People know you as that “dog person”. (Animal person but same principle)

•You have let a foster dog sleep on the bed to help him adjust to his first night in your home. (and last night too)

•You keep a supply of extra collars, in a variety of sizes, on hand. (two totes full and always grateful for donations)

•You know the location of every animal shelter in every county in the state. (...and several in other states) (province but yes)

•You have taken time off from work to pull or transport a dog. (errr...)

•You handle rescue-related issues even when you're on vacation or home sick. (got special package for just this when we were in Hawaii)

•You won't drive across town to pick up a pizza, but you've driven halfway across the province to help an animal. (good thing I don't mind driving)

•You drive an SUV or station wagon but don't have any kids. (Truck now but yes have had both)

•You spend your free weekends at adoption events. (many many years of doing this)

•Your whole life revolves around the dogs and you wouldn't have it any other way! (not quite true, I hope... more Animals are not my whole life but they make my life whole)

I wouldn't have it any other way tho!

Monday, November 19, 2012

quite the arrangement ....

If I bought into the alpha dog thing (which I don't) the boys in this house would be giving me a headache

Brody is the smallest  of the boys so he should be at the bottom of the pack,  right?
But Wyn is the youngest so he should be low dog on the totem pole, that only makes sense.
Sampson is a big young dog in his prime of life so he should certainly be the alpha dog by nearly all accounts.
Brody gets the place of honour closest to me usually, so he must be just one spot  "beneath" me.
Both Sam and Wyn let Brody get in the car first but he walks behind them (and me usually) at the farm.

You get this right? Yah, me neither. Whatever agreement they have it isn't linear that's for sure.

Sampson has the utmost respect of Wyn. The puppy drops, wags, offers his belly, won't carry a toy past Sam and in every way possible represents a respectful youngster when around Sam.

Sam does much the same thing around Brody. Brody has been known to posture and demand respect from Sam.

Brody is currently disturbed by Wyn. Wyn has puppy pounced on him a couple of times and Brody is HORRIFIED. He charged the puppy today in the field and Wyn showed due deference so I do hope Brody's sensibilities are appeased soon.

The arrows represent who is currently winning the game of top dog at the moment!

Alpha dog smalpha dog. Dogs will be dogs and humans will be confused!

Friday, November 16, 2012

A smelling we did go ...

From the scent workshop ... All of the dogs filmed (except Yen) are in Saving Dinah ... pretty sure nobody will recognize one wee doggy!

from a filming day 

from yesterday - channeling his border collie self ...
amazing what  4 months will do! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Seven Habits of Effective Time Limited Trainers ...

Big T and I live with too many dogs. Some days finding play training time for one dog is challenging.  Currently having 2 puppies under a year old  means eking out play time daily. Time management is easier on sabbatical, but I continue to need to maximize my use of time.

Steven Covey's Habits of Highly Effective People tie in very nicely to the way we make it work around here! Each of the following is a Covey's Habit; the comment is my application to time limited training (TLT) . 

1.Be Proactive
Stay? On a hay bale? In November? OK Crazy lady!

In TLT this equates to: Seize the Moment ... . Going out a door, coming in, chopping vegetables, a commercial, going upstairs, folding laundry - all offer great opportunities for  play training. It's only going to be 5 seconds? Awesome! Wyn has learned down in no more than 5 second chunks (many 5 seconds chunks and now we are taking the down show on the road so we may need 10 seconds once or twice). Agility play around here can be a single jump some days. 

2. Begin with the End in Mind
Planning is your friend in TLT. If you know where you want to get to the journey may not be as exciting but I find a map can save some time.  If time is tight some minutes set aside to determine short, medium and long term goals will ensure you make the most of your training minutes. My short term goal with Wyn is civilizing the hooligan, my medium term goal is getting some foundation for sports developed and my long term goal is a scent detection trial, perhaps next fall!

3. Put First Things First
Ties nicely to  planning too - knowing Wyn needs to be civil first the vast amount of TLT revolves around that at the moment. We practice sit, down, walking beside me, and are starting the fundamentals of leave it and down. When we have a little more time (around 5 minutes) we work go to mat, hand touches, and very early directionals. When we have lots of time (here that's defined as 6 minutes or more) I drag out the scent boxes 

4. Think Win-Win
Nothing like a little recall work worked into fun time!

Break it down - of course you aren't always going to WIN it all ... but why not set TLT up so you both feel successful? Really have to do whatever you want to get done on the way to the car? It might not be the best day to work perfect heel - maybe a change of side or a front cross would be a better win-win TLT move in this context. Failure and mistakes are important to learning, I would posit essential in fact, but plan when you have time to work through that particular process. TLT should be joyful!

5. Seek First to be Understand then to be Understood
If you don't understand  what you are training TLT will not be for you. Your dog needs you to understand the plan, how you are going to accomplish it and when you will stop. Without those details in hand TLT will frustrate you, and potentially harm your relationship with your dog.

6. Synergize
Working together is perhaps the most important habit for TLT.  Work with your dog, your coach, your friends and family to maximize TLT. When I was preparing Sally for agility in the great outdoors I asked Big T to let me know any time he was going to our local beer store. Our local beer store is a busy spot with a nice grassy bit beside it and a very active hotdog stand. Sally and I travel with him then jump out of the car, race to the grass and work. Start line stays, directionals, go (to a mat I brought), and moving together were some of things we worked on when we were there.  1 minute,  3 minutes. No matter. We made the most of the time we had. Working with hot dog smells, traffic, beer bottles being loaded and unloaded makes a trial pretty tame in comparison!

7. Sharpen the Saw
Running makes Sally happy, watching Sally run makes me happy. 
We try to sharpen our saw a little every day!

The least obviously connected to TLT,  the last of the habits is actually critical. Covey means take care of your well being. The saw (you) won't work right if it's not sharp. Physical, Mental, Social/Emotional and Spiritual Wellbeing all combine to create the sharpest you possible. Susan Garret has discussed this and shown this. She works out, eats carefully and just tonight posted a cute video of her playing air guitar. Sometimes when time is tight the best thing you can do for your dog is take the pressure off and play or go for a walk. Enjoy just being. What brings you joy is just as important to define as what brings your dog joy. Time should be invested in what makes you both happy. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The play's the thing ...

Boy play can be hard work.

There is an international organization (Right to Play) to give children world wide a chance to play. There is Laughter Yoga -  based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. Apparently one gets the same physiological and psychological benefits no matter if the laugh is real or forced. (Who knew? Not me! Laugh more!) Radio shows play clips from Comedy Festivals regularly. And we, as adults lose our capacity to play. 

I have always thought of the training I do as play. Some of you already knew that.  Our  world won't collapse if something goes wrong and I am fortunate enough to be able to play with my dogs for pleasure. Teaching a new trick, learning a new activity, going for a long quiet walk at the farm, doing agility are all things we do for pleasure. Learning around here is fun. 

That said,  Denise Fenzi's blog has always had a strong draw for me. She is in California, and understandably  not keen on traveling to Ontario but I have long admired the joy her dogs have in working with her. She balances work/joy in a way that I strive to. Other people have blogged about doing workshops with her and how they have learned from her to find joy in their dog. 

I have plenty of joy with the dogs around here but really wanted to learn more about the magic that I see when I watch Professor Fenzi at play. She is adamant that play is a mechanical skill that can be taught. Well my mechanical skills can always use fine tuning so imagine my excitment when Agility university offered a course called ...da da da dum...

Building Relationship through Play, with Denise Fenzi as the instructor. 

With 10  or 15 working spots I jumped fast! So fast I didn't think about the fact that all the auditors and observers would be able to watch my struggles with whoever I chose to work for the course. 

I agonized over who to play with in the course. Then I realized I can do all the work with all the dogs. Eventually I decided that feedback about Yen would have value as well as force me to do things with her. A month into her new life the poor thing finds herself being tortured with all kinds of play. What stresses her out? I didn't know.  What does she do when she is unsure? I didn't know. Does she prefer toy, food or personal play? Well that's why I picked her - let's find out!

We are a week in and already I have to say I'm thrilled both with the feedback and with the information I'm discovering for myself. I wish I could have taken multiple working spots. I am going to video Yen for each assignment but I am going to video a second dog every week as well. 

First up is Wyn, engaging in a little personal play. This location is new to him, and you can hear Yen hollering for MORE ATTENTION now. At the time I thought it was awful but watching it now I think for a young puppy working on play  he did pretty well. If you have specific feedback good or constructively critical I'd love to hear it!  When it looks like he's gripping my arm he's actually latching on and nursing for a second. The crook of my arm and pillows still get that reaction sometimes when he's tired or thinking deeply. 

So thrilled to be using my sabbatical for learning!! 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Well hullo Masters Jumpers...

Nice fun trial Friday. As a special treat as it was an  all advanced afternoon so it was just Sally and I. Home dogs spent about 4 hours alone which I have to admit I felt badly about until I realized 9 and even 10 hour days weren't unheard of just 4 months ago.

The venue was lovely - it was a dome arena on a nice hard packed dirt surface! I had a very strong feeling of deja vu when there and could picture cross country jumps on the property so asked around - seems quite possible I rode there with a Young Riders program a million years ago.

Our first class was Advanced Gambles. We had a sweet opening - up a line of two jumps (including the 4 point) to the mini - teeter to tunnel,  nailed it,   took a minute to get organized to repeat the mini but nailed it again ... across the dogwalk down the weaves, over the jump, over the jump, up the weaves, onto the dogwalk (whistle) Sally added the spread backwards and a chute on her way to set up for gamble but she wasted no time. I love running her in gambles as a warm up - can test her weaves and contacts and she so enjoys the free running.  She missed the contact on the aframe   then turned into the tunnel and nailed the jumps. Good girl Sally. My old mantra is back.  "I must train more aframes".

Then Advanced Standard classes were next. We ended up with a pause box rather than a table which was fine by me. People truly FREAKED about the change though. Including people not running in the class which I thought was RIDICULOUS! The club was great - offered a refund on the spot to anybody who didn't want to run. Smart!
Sally's first run was lovely, except my lousy steering had her jumping the back side of one jump- DOH. Just the tiniest bit of steering would have solved the problem as she she was listening really well.  Got her contacts  with confidence. Good job!
Second standard course, Oh Sally's Been Barking was right there. High as a KITE (which lasted the whole trial) she slid off the dog walk contact (after she got it) and wasted time at the pause box but smoked the course. Second effort at Advanced Standard resulted in a Q. Good girl!
Then two jumpers. First course was fun - some tricky lines that required concentration from me - and commitment. We clicked all the way around the course. Good Girl. Last Advanced Jumpers Q.
Second jumpers I challenged myself and Sally as we didn't "need' the Q. I had one DOH moment and Sally, being Sally not Brody, backjumped to see what the heck I was doing standing staring at her! Otherwise oot perfect.
Last class snookers. Nice opening then my steering went wonky again and Sally found the wrong end of a tunnel. Our first try at Advanced Snookers so I am well pleased with the 25 or so points I think we got. As usual I didn't check the score sheets very closely at all. Fun venue and always great to catch up with friends and see favourite dogs!

Some highlights - how absolutely happy Sally was to be playing her favourite game. Not one rail for any reason. Perfect weaves. Only one missed contact.
Stuff to work on - start line may be eroding, or was I just chicken? not sure - better figure it out! Aframes! More Aframes!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Country Puppy/City Puppy

It's hard work being a puppy anywhere. All that playing, sleeping, being catered to is exhausting. It's hard work raising a nice puppy too. I've come to realize the challenges can be quite different depending on a few things -breed tendencies, size, age and where you live! The difference between an apartment dog and a house dog can be quite amazing (often apartment dogs get a lot more exposure to the great big world!).  Being raised in a city versus in the country can be quite a monumental difference as well.

Our dogs spend lots of time both in rural and urban environments. We laugh when we return to the city after a break and they bark at a city sound ("Country Dog") but we also chuckle when city dogs come for a visit and can't cope with the quiet of our home reacting to any little sound ("City Dog"). At the moment our balance is seriously country dog which means I'm working hard to remember to bring the puppies into town occasionally.

Recently we had a big trip to a city with Yen and Wyn. I found a fairly quiet park that had a children's section so both puppies got to run across bouncing sway bridges and grating - they both thought that was hilarious! They both got to greet a stranger (to them-not me!) getting into the car. Yen got to come into Pet Valu with me. They both saw squirrels, seagulls, people on bikes and buses - Yen may have seen these things before yesterday but they were all firsts for Wyn! Wyn was stopped and patted by complete strangers. (Yen was a little shy about this although she was polite enough)

It was a good reminder for me that social skills aren't ticked off the list then put away like Hollowe'en decorations to be trotted out as needed. At least for many years the investment in time doing new, interesting and opposite things will pay back in spades. Brody and Thea at 12.5 and 9.5 are pretty bomb proof now but I forget so easily how much work that was.

I enjoy having the dogs with me, with multiple dogs it takes a little more planning, who is going to get the most from a trip? Who needs it? Who can cope best with the challenges? All things I consider now - back in 2 dogs days we just took both everywhere!

A short list for your perusal and consideration ... did I miss big important things?

Things County Puppies Learn Relatively Easily
climbing, leaping, rough surfaces, wild smells don't mean vanish forever, birds, tractors and fast cars, off leash walking, flashlights predicate fun in the dark, ponds are fun, you can never eat all the horse, cattle, deer, rabbit poop so just don't bother ...

Things City Puppies Learn Easily
elevators, polished floors, people of all types can be good things, wheelchairs are no big deal,  loose leash walking, road traffic is not exciting, beeps, brakes and horns, emergency vehicle sounds (pretty sure Wyn has never heard a siren), you can walk past dogs and not bother looking

Socializing is ongoing, fun and challenging  butit's important to find the things that aren't as easy to tick of the list and it's important to revisit the list! My full list of ideas (and there are many I missed)!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Sometimes ...

the best learning creates a whole freaking chain of questions for me. The sporting dog scenting workshops did that to me. Yes they did.

We all survived it. Mind you, the door of the truck suffered thanks to Yen who dug the cosmetic thing that makes it look pretty off. It was really interesting to start a sport with a better knowledge of dog and human behaviour under my belt. The facility worked well. The never ending stream of food and hot drinks were much appreciated. A good event overall. The clinician, Karin Apel, was very positive with people and dogs, very entertaining and did a great job balancing helping with letting dogs and handlers figure things out.

I could see the handlers timing and movement having a profound impact on the dogs work. This is not a game you want to interfere with. Get the dog working and let them do their job. It's very intrinsically motivating at first (dog finds toy or food alone to start) but I can all ready see that Sally thinks the scent itself  is rewarding ... yesterday when doing homework she was pushing the scent container around the box inhaling deeply.  Wyn prefers to find a more primary motivator with the scent still. I guess he doesn't see me as quite a good provider as Sally does!

Each round gave us three searches ... some searches were very very quick;some took longer- it made me think of a snookers class - you never really knew exactly when you'd be in the ring.
The first round of searches was very straight forward ... a row of boxes without lids with food/toy/reward in one. The second had lids ajar on the boxes and they were a little more random.  The third round varied a bit depending on the dog's readiness and progress. Some  had scent introduced, some had more complicated "finds", some did a repeat of round two. By the final round every dog had scent in their box, and was pretty engaged in finding the target!

Twelve searches a dog. Two hundred and four searches for the instructor. (Each day!)
Some dogs started shy and nervous,others kept checking with their handlers to get information about what they were supposed to be doing. Some jumped right in. Guess what Sally and Wyn did?

And how!

Sally settled to work very quickly - both dogs vocalized while instructor reset the searches but got amazingly focused as the rounds continued. Sally was always keen to get to work.

Brody kept checking in with me but he was fascinating to watch - he really used his nose.

We've been doing a bit of homework - so I have 147 searches under my belt. Astounding!

The questions I have are mostly around moving forward. And figuring out how to practise with each of them.
Must. Find. Discipline.

(thanks too all the variety of camera folk who got these great shots - and many more!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

a walk a day

keeps the crazies away!

We've been busy getting our city house on the market but I've been trying to get to the farm daily for at least an hour long walk. I walk 2km or so and the dogs run and run and run. They have a great time being very free to do their thing and smell the world.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


well the results are in

In her advanced gamble Sally got the second highest point score  (34)even taking out the 4 point jump... had she gotten it the twice in our plan she would have had the highest number of points. Snookers she and the other Qualifying dog earned the same number of points. (45). The tragedy of steeplechase - if the judge had felt she had only missed one contact she would have Qed. Had she caught both yellows she would have been second in the class. She's such a good dog!

Thea earned 25 points in her opening gamble. Good little speedster! In snookers we did a blazing 9 points but an evil back jump caught us both! Whoops! Little speedster! She ran clear in steeplechase but detouring around the tire and then sniffing the ground afterwards ate too much time. She was roughly 20 seconds OT. Her slow weaves wouldn't have helped that either ... I wish I knew how much time was actually eaten at the start line!

Monday, October 08, 2012

numbers mean so little...

Sally's first AAC Q was  a jumpers Q in mid July of 2010. Her last Starters Q was this weekend.
She has only had one trial that she hasn't earned a Q between the two dates...  this September's trial when she was feeling crappy (Lesson learned there maybe ~ although even feeling crappy she enjoyed it!)

We only trialed Saturday. Our first run was advanced gambles - we knocked the 4 point jump in the opening (our only rail) and even so got over the 20 required points. The gamble had a straight tunnel (on a blind entrance  to a spread - both set at the maximum distance - I stopped my motion too early and Sally peeled back to me instead of doing the spread. Good girl! Then must have been standard - Sally ran a nice course - although I had to put her back in the weaves as she came out one pole early. Her table was lovely! Snookers was hilarious ... as you can see for yourself! Sally nearly added a tunnel -but didn't, then a jump but didn't, then stopped DEAD in front of the double but leaped it from a standstill. A true Sally, character filled run!  Steeplechase should have been in the bag - she had a great run but forgot all about aframe contacts in the excitement of running flat out. Goof!

So in two years and two months we have done 8 AAC trials. She's had some train wrecks in there and she's had many five fault rounds. She's had 1 point snookers and 34 point snookers runs.   We've had fun in every single class at every single trial.

Brody's first Q was a jumpers Q at the end of March of 2007. His first day at a trial.
His ADC was early August 2007. 4 months later. He had quite a few trials where he was 1-3 OT in standard and no qs at the trial at all.  His SGDC followed at the end of November of that same year. 7 long months. Back when you had to have team as part of the title. (To be fair we earned both snookers and team the same trial).

16 months for my agility superstar; 7 months for my rockstar. If ever there was a better way to prove they are different dogs these numbers just may be it. (The fact a few years have passed made a difference too - Sally would still have earned her ADC this weekend but you needed fewer starters games Qs for that title so she would have had that in April of 2011.)

Thea was brilliant this weekend - she's hardly done any agility but when I realized she was coming with me I entered her in starters gamblers and snookers.  She was fast, furious and had a great time. Always a great reminder that Qs are not what the game is about!

Yen was pretty darn good at the trial. I'm so smitten it isn't funny.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

We that would be Thea, Sally,Yen and I, are over nighting away from Big T and the boys. Getting ready for a trial, participating in said trial and being the judges entertainment! Quite Amusing. Fun.

Yen-ifer zipped over an aframe yesterday and did a few dog walks as well. Including the plank as it was being moved. Memories of Sally leaping on a moving teeter. Self training model of agility dog? Quite amazing to work with. We actually trained on a mock wobble board for a few minutes. Thea was loving all the action too, and Sally really really wants to live at this trial venue no doubt of it. She is feeling much better than our last trial so today should be fun!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

One of A Kind

Long Haired Chihuahua


Toy American Eskimo

Our little alien

And I rest my case.

At 8 months old I could still be surprised as her adult coat comes in but if I were applying for an AAC or CPE card for her today I'd be listing Toy American Eskimo. We've lived with and loved all three breeds as adults and attitude wise she is more Eskie than either of the others although honestly she is her own unique and cheerful little self!