Thursday, March 29, 2012

still up to my eyeballs

in agility and thinking and running and having fun but the end is in sight - Sally will be devastated!

I'm trying to unpack a little of what I've been working on in order to make sure there is nothing that needs clarification before Webb Anderson leaves town again.

On Friday we worked on contacts and weaves. Interesting.  Found a hole in Sally's training (jump into an onside offset entry - I would have thought it was simple but it's the exact entry she had to repeat at Nationals now that I think about it). Brody is weaving like he wants to speed up and figure out footwork - he's had an epiphany it seems! Contacts are improving day by day with Sally and staying awesome with Brody.

Saturday was the handling day. Ran Thea in session one mainly - fun fun fun to have the pipsqueak out! The afternoon was a little more challenging so ran Sally mostly. (I think Brody had a turn but honestly can't recall!) Practiced smoothing out my handling .. more flow less sudden had a great afternoon but wasn't feeling great about my last run with Sally.

Sunday was building confidence. Thea had fun with nascar and drag racing. Then we ran the fun match courses. Lots of fun but lots of hard work too as many people showed up. Webb videoed for feedback but I haven't gotten feedback yet.

Tuesday was another lesson. We started seriously proofing Sally's contacts. She was a good girl! Her dog walk entry wobbled though - it's always something!! Played a few minutes with Brody's weaves again. Thinking fast foot work first - then distance - it's amazing to see him looking for the entries by himself!

Wednesday was course work. Webb set a course and everybody played on it. Sally had plenty of faults (shame about the handler stuff) and the young dogs ran beautifully. I lie ... handler was running for broke and having a blast. I figured what was the point of showing Webb a carefully executed and managed clean run? What feedback could I get from that?  Sally's contacts were pretty solid I have to admit. Brody and I ran for broke too - he is such fun to run!

Just Saturday left - starters handling in the am then a 3 person workshop in the afternoon. Not sure what we'll be doing. Know it will be fun.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

recovery ....

may take awhile

two tricoloured pooches ...

One Webb weekend done

Tollers, french bulldog, sheltie and corgi - all tan!

Lots of fun; awesome food

lots of lovely schnauzers 

Hundreds and hundreds of pictures and video to process

requisite border collie (one of my favourite dogs too!)

and a new found appreciation for folks who host these events ..

Sally's sister Sophie!

didn't quite catch every dog ... but tried ...

an everlasting, verified appreciation for the fabulous trio - Thea, Brody and Sally gave so much of themselves to helping me learn .... (was excellent fun to get to work Thea 2 days in a row - nearly unheard of!) Big T was a saint about holding down the home fort. Great weekend. More to follow!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

what's in your shopping cart?

SG has an interesting blog post today about NRM (no reward markers) and the concept of "cleaning up" baggage with dogs who have somehow learned things we hadn't intended them to learn. I had never thought of it that way before as I seem to be continually playing with skills I want sharpened but I don't get that much time to train or trial so maybe I just don't recognize how much baggage we carry!

I have long felt that attending many seminars and workshops with a wide range of trainers would just confuse me. Over the years I have had many opportunities to attend classes/seminars with lots of people  - including the Say Yes instructors  and somehow I have never made them a priority partly because I know my own learning style and that I am much better to focus on building a strong set of skills that works for me rather then fretting over something my training and handling are not at a level to handle yet. (The dogs can handle anything I can teach them; I have no fears there!)

When I started agility our instructor was pretty awesome at letting us figure things out. I was so fortunate to have Brody as my partner on this part of my journey. I remember clearly racing on the outside of him to push him around a corner (in a place any knowing person would have done a cross).We did it twice and the instructor said " hey, why don't you try getting to other aside before him?". She didn't stop and show us a front cross, she didn't nag if we didn't get there. Many people in the class probably were frustrated by that and needed to be shown every step of the dance but for me, with Brody, it was perfect! Brody could make no mistakes as it was so CLEAR to me that it was the way I was handling him that was creating the lines we got (some CRAZY lines!). I didn't feel like I was making mistakes either which let me truly enjoy agility. (Now I hate making mistakes and find workshops and seminars far more stressful than trials!) . As a forever strategy this probably wouldn't have worked but as a start it wonderful.

Next I was lucky enough to find a trainer with awesome timing and a great eye.  I still value her feedback very much when I can get it!The first time she said "Just do a front cross" I stared at her. She showed me the dance steps involved and I still didn't realize I was already pretty comfortable with the move. Then I did it and laughed out loud as I realized this was one way I was moving around the courses already!

(The big downside to an instructor who was so let it be for Brody and I was that no one explained to me the importance of two sided weaves. Brody has become frighteningly reliant on being delivered to the first pole with me on his right side. Even with a very thoughtful approach to rebuilding weaves I have failed!)

I am getting to the point where attending seminars with a variety of people might be helpful - and now it would be fun too but I don't feel that any great holes would instantly be filled. In fact I've been chatting to friends about auditing obedience workshops,maybe in part because the take-aways from that type of session wouldn't be as hard for my brain to process as I really don't do formal obedience.

Here are some of the toys that are ready for participants for the Webb workshops. Sally and Sampson are quite sure they are for them. Poor long suffering dogs!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

oh where oh where have my clippers gone ?

Brody is AWFULLY shaggy and Webb Anderson is coming up this weekend for a seminar  ... the crew and I will be working hard in the seminar I expect and it's getting downright HOT out. I had set aside time to start grooming wars tonight but now I can't find the clippers. Figures eh?

Also have pulled 4 ticks off Brody and 3 off Sampson. YUCK. There are down sides to this glorious weather even before one worries about how hot the summer might be!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunshine and Roses ...

I suspect if you read this blog you may think I have perfect dogs - probably because I think I do too! However the journey we are on is not always smooth; nor has it always been easy.

Let's step into a time machine and travel back to January 2001. Brody arrived on our doorstep with LOADS of baggage. Crated hours and hours on end, living with a family that was afraid of him he was a "bit of a mess". With all that baggage to unpack it was a good thing he was moving in for awhile. He was not house trained at all. He was not people oriented at all. He didn't play and he had no manners. (His saving grace? He was just as cute as he is now!) When people left our house they were at risk of having their ankles bitten. It took Big T a full year  - and maybe a little more - to appreciate Brody. Brody had incredibly selective hearing and a full set of teeth he wasn't afraid to use if, for example, his feet were touched. He still is a pain to groom and I wouldn't inflict him on anyone else. He threatens Sampson if they are going through a door together and he is cranky when awoken  but he is a perfect dog for us.

Sally is Sally. She's perfect for us but not a dog many people might chose to live with even now. An agility friend of mine pointed out at a Webb seminar that Sally was a Whole Lot of Dog and she was glad she didn't have to live with her! Sally is opinionated, loud, an incorrigible glutton who eats anything and everything she can find - on the road, in the fridge, in a garbage can, out of a bag of food ... if she thinks it can go into her stomach it does! She is insane when guests come over - she will fly into her kennel or onto a mat but she spins circles as she does so and screams her joy on the way there. She actually ripped my father in laws arm open with a nail leaping around him on the lawn. She is NOT well behaved when horses get ridden past our place nor are all of her chosen jobs easy to live with. If anything in life gives me gray hair it's Sally!

Thea, Thea is pretty easy. Always has been. Deserves to be the Princess she is. But even she can be shrill and bossy - and she has some odd fears (the dishwasher is a recent one!)

Sampson is proving to be a delightful mix of pleasure and learning. He learns, we learn. In another training realm, at another time, I would find him incredibly difficult. He had a difficult start before he came anywhere near us and rebuilding relationships is much harder than starting from scratch would have been (luckily genetically, or is it emotionally,  he seems to be a pretty sound dog). He had learned the keep away game, the leaping at people with mouth agape game, the  Don't Wanna Don't Hafta  (to borrow a term from SG) game and the I own every toy in sight game. Repurposing some of his "games" has not always been the most fun thing about living with him. He has come a long way and I know we will continue to grow together.

Many of the foster dogs over the years have come with SERIOUS issues. I don't know a lot of people who wear ski jackets in the house so bites don't draw blood; nor have I met too many dogs who break though windows to try to overcome separation anxiety. Pablo and Blondie, and many other fosters contributed to our household's understanding that a dog is not clearly good or bad but that behaviour can be changed, over time with a positive, thoughtful approach.

As humans I think we fall into the trap of seeing things in black or white sometimes. This dog is good.  This dog is bad.  This dog was SO bad.  This dog is better than that dog.  This dog is worse than that dog. And so on.

Perfection is a state of mind when it comes to dogs, maybe when it comes to life too. Helping your dog be "perfect" is a journey for you both - no matter how you define perfection. Can every dog work in every home? Sadly, no. But many, even most, dogs can fit in well to a house. Sometimes the trick is in redefining perfection, sometimes in finding the already present perfection. If you and your dog aren't working together to find the perfection - stop and assess who is working harder. Like all partnerships the play (or work) balance should be about equal. At various times one or the other of you will have to work harder but overall there should be equity. Make the commitment for your pooch, let them find pleasure in the work you ask them to do and I'm pretty sure you'll find yourself on the path to personal perfection!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Shading the line ...

It used to be I'd want to teach the dogs something - or reinforce what they already knew- and there would be a production around getting ready to work. I'd go to the treat cupboard and load up. I've never used a bait bag but if I had putting my bait bag on would have been part of the production. I'd find whatever tools I wanted for that session (a leash, a clicker, a bed - whatever) and carefully arrange them ~ just so! The dogs knew we were doing something and one could literally see a switch flip ON. They were ready to work and they wanted to work. They wanted to learn and enjoyed the process. We had fun working on training, don't misunderstand me. They weren't being punished or forced to do things they didn't want to do but it was a pretty regimented thing. It was highly contextualized and quite predictable.

It looks a little different now.

Sometimes we jump up from the couch and play train for a bit then run for a reward. Sometimes I get rewards organized ahead of time then go back to whatever I was doing, wait,  then start playing working with the dogs. Sometimes we still have an organizing production then play train.

It was easiest to train anytime anywhere with no planning with Sally (the dog who believes a piece of paper is a reward worth earning) but now all the dogs seem to enjoy the anticipation of wondering when playing training might kick in.

If we are walking, this is what is generally right beside me (both placement and focus) unless I send him away. Brody LOVES the concept that any second might turn into game time. That's not quite right. All the dogs enjoy the game of any time is training time. In this house I rarely get to move around the house without company so I take advantage of that. When I'm brushing my teeth and Thea pops in to say "hi" I might ask her to sit. She does, quickly, and shivers in anticipation of the reward to come. When I'm fixing the fire and Sally wanders by to poke me in the back (she takes issue with stick burning I suspect) we might practice right and left or anything else I think of.

I don't suddenly ask the dogs to go from a sound sleep into a behaviour but if they are awake, and I'm awake any time could turn into play time. We like it that way!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

1, 2, 3, 4 things to do with a jump

trying something new for videos - you'll have to tell me if it works for you ... 50 jumps, 2 dogs, under 2 minutes!

had fun with the big dogs today

Sampson did a series of jump work staying engaged and happy to work ... we did static one jump work and moving work

Sally was her brilliant self - worked one jump form work, figure eights, backside, front side jumping and sends ... so much fun!

What's your style?

Just selected three traits for fun on a breed selector (low shedding, intelligent and agile) and got NO SUCH BREED as the result! That amuses me given that we live with a dog who, after a little work , fits the profile perfectly.

We have lived with many breeds (and mixes) of dogs over the years which entitles me to nothing but anecdotal reporting but I won't let that stop me!

Before I begin some of the dogs in some of the groups are just ODD! And the classic Non Sporting  Group is just wild. Thinking an American Eskimo, Boston Terrier  and  Dalmatian should be in the same group is mighty creative. (But, to be fair, what else do you do with the "leftovers"?) OK  - let's dive into the groups (I'm ignoring Miscellaneous group  - as it changes often and is currently dogs I don't know.)

When I look at the terrier group we have spent many days, even months with an Airedale (and known many others) and a jrt (and known many others). Funny to me that Dad and Mum, separately, ended up with terriers! I have enjoyed a couple of Westies too, and lived in terror of the Kerry Blue terriers up the street when I was a child. This actually kind of sums up how I feel about terriers. I love 'em but am always glad when they go home! While I'd never say never say never, I would be a little surprised if a full terrier ended up in permanent residence here. (Though I do love Schnauzers of all sizes!) Wilkie and Ben certainly let me appreciate the group tho - sweet tenacity!

Hounds are tough for us to live with. We do long off leash walks and hounds are well known for great noses and traveling long distances. Have loved a few hounds tho: a couple of beagles, a basset, a hound and an amazing whippet (Divo, of course) who, had there been any room at the inn, would have stayed with us. My grandparent's dachshund  was the first dog in my life. He bit me regularly and I loved him anyhow, or maybe that's why I loved him. He was certainly nothing like the other hounds I've known - much more terrier in attitude!

My exposure in a long term sense to the Working group is a bit limited. Laurice was a phenomenal dog (identified as a rotti x golden) and I believe it was the Rottweiler that made her so wonderful. We've also fostered huskies. The most notorious of which was Bacchus - it's tricky living with a dog who has never been in a house before. Standing on the dining room table was second nature to him! He also was a confirmed cat killer which made life at our house challenging too.

A fair few dogs from the Non Working group have been around us. Boston terriers, French Bulldogs, Shih Tzu, American Eskimos and poodle (mixes) are the ones we have had the most varied contact with. Cute, amusing, talented dogs .. and Brody clearly laps into this Non-Working Group - tho at 11 pounds you'd think he'd fit the toy category too. I can see always having a dog that, at least partly, fits into this group.

After many years of calling myself a "big" dog person the Toy group has stolen a piece of my heart. A little biting Maltese, Pablo, lived with us and then in our extended family for many years. A character through and through he taught us the trick of ignoring unwanted behaviour. Pomeranians (Lola was the first, Pompeii the most recent) helped me see that a tiny dog can have mighty heart.

Chihuahuas have been an ongoing part of our life for more than 10 years, and while I can see while people who have only seen the hand bag version might look down on them I suspect there may always be a chihuahua in our life.

Tom has always loved German Shepherds (Hank's Mom was a German Shepherd). We've also had the pleasure of living with the world's most beautiful  Aussie (yay Asparagus!) and a darling little Sheltie (turned out to be our first foster dog though at the time I thought she was a co-owned pooch).

Herding dogs are intense. They are, in our experience, a true working dog. They are smart, maybe too smart, and they are wildly entertaining when doing what you want. Every one I have lived with has been easy to teach and wanted to learn. Even deeply disturbed herding dogs learn from every interaction with them. (Which, let's be fair, means I learn from every interaction with them!) While I may not be able to find consensus on what breed of dog Sally is (we were told collie x lab) I will unequivocally state that she is a Herding Dog!

My first dog was an Irish Setter, and my aunt had a lab x setter at the same time. A deep love of Sporting dogs was born through knowing Kelly and Jenny. The love has been  furthered with loving Rufus and Lucy (golden), Laurice and Samantha (half golden), Maddy (lab), Frannie and Jake (cockers) and Sampson as well as a few lab mix fosters, most notably Sadie. On further reflection I realize that the only dogs in old family pictures were sporting dogs too. My grandparents had an Irish Setter Ricky and an English Setter Lady who were in most pictures of them with my mum and her sisters. What do I love about sporting dogs?  I love their humour. I love watching them in the field. I love their grace and beauty.

I am so very lucky I don't get to choose a dog, and that we get to live with a variety of dogs. They teach us so much if we chose to listen to them.  Every dog has taught us so much. some because of the breed, some because of the individual and I'm so grateful for this journey of learning and love.

(For this discussion I've only included dogs in residence 3 months or more or dogs we take have taken regular care of as well as a couple of family dogs).

Monday, March 12, 2012

just a March Day in Paradise

Living, even part time, in Prince Edward County, has it's perks.

Today was another fine example of why that is true.

Monday of March break and our local beach was empty. Lots of space for a good run. Lots of fun for all of us. Positively restorative!

There were sticks

And in what will probably be the highlight of Sampson's holiday he found a BALL ... which lead to some very cute pictures. Including this series where he nearly lost his ball.

Doing a little tiny bit of agility here and there too - the lawn is too wet to work Sally on anything other than one obstacle work (tunnels) but I moved one jump to the driveway and had fun with rear crosses and one jump with Thea, Sally and Brody!

Fitness gets a good boost here too. Hills, and dales, long walks, loose footing, big rocks to jump and down. Everybody sleeps well at night!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lovely lake house ...

It's beautiful out today - warm and sunny and another lovely day

so we headed east to  Lake House


it was a little windy

we tried stump shots

Sam swam (too far out!)

There was much stick action