Thursday, April 29, 2010

George...anxiety returns full blown...

Step one ...Identifying the trigger...
George is always one to let out a "We're over here bark" which just stops at that. I don't think it's a bad thing either, I'd prefer to let someone or animal know we're over here too. It's also my cue to have the dogs recall to me so the person/s or dogs are not bombarded by my crew.
We normally just wait to the side of a path while they walk by or stop to "say hello". I have that on cue.  If the person initiates interaction, "say hello" means you're released to interact just remember...four on the floor.
If the person doesn't stop I'll either dole out treats, have them do tricks, or just reward the stays while we wait until they pass and their reward is to play ball or just go back to what they're doing. All depends on how excited they are. I'll do whatever they need in order for them to be successful.

Some people aren't dog people so I think it's also polite.

Here's where shortly after I shot this video, you'll see the path where George barked AT someone AS they're walking by to say hello...something he hasn't done since his fear periods as a puppy.

I've come to learn that there will always be something that is too much stress for George's little body to handle. We'll just tackle one thing at a time.

Plan of action group hikes...George and I need one on one time

We'll actually park ourselves (stationary first...adding movement once George understands which behaviour needs to be addressed and what I'd like to see happen instead)  ...can you tell we've been through this before :P Start off in a low traffic spot, as in barely any people or dog traffic and then let life happen around us while we work together

1-Jean Donalson is blunt but I love her breakdown of D & C, CAT & BAT and for those who aren't familiar.

2-Dr. Patricia McConnell, Feisty Fido I love all her work!

3-Leslie McDevitt 'Control Unleashed" is also a wicked resource and has a few games & exercises that are really helpful working when you're out and about with them. They're where I got the relaxation exercises from.  You actually start them in home, then take the show on the road. They work wonders on front doorbell work too!

4-I'll even use TTouch, or slow massage. Important also is biofeedback like; heavy sleepy eyes, deep relaxing breaths to help them remain subthreshold. All based on Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt, Calming Signals by Regis Turrid, and  Clinical Behaviour of Small Animals, Relaxation Protocol,  exercises by Karen Overall.

Alice at Dogsmart is my guru it comes to reactivity.   I love learning and keeping current, plus having someone with an eagle eye critique my handling only speeds up the success! As a species we're always evolving...hopefully for the better.

I'll also have to track down some DAP spray and put it on a bandana around his neck to see if that helps keep him calmer while we work through this.

This is George...normally happy and funny and so very sweet!  I'd love to see more of this body language when interacting w/people and dogs!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tunnel arrived today!


I have it set up inside while I work and take breaks to create some excitement around the tunnel...yes! Building value is the first step!

What's interesting is Keegan who loves tunnels is apprehensive about this one...just goes to show you that new situations affects each dog differently.

This tunnel smells new, it's in our home rather than outside or in the agility barn and to top it off....I don't have sand bags holding it in place, only a chair. I think that's what is concerning rolls a bit, so we'll start from scratch building value until he's comfortable with it!

I'll actually condense the tunnel as well so that he gets used to the movement of the tunnel. Then I'll extend it slowly after that. Babysteps! I don't want him standing in the tunnel, so condensing it ensures that he will run through rather than stand inside then he'll be rewarded with treats, play, rewards!

There are games I will play using that tunnel as a secondary reinforcer which will end up being their primary's really easy but does require you to do a bit of homework...basically just listing the things they love in life.

I took some workshops which taught me how to transfer the value and motivate my dog to see the obstacle or behaviour as trumping what I was using at the very beginning to reward them with.

After that comes creating balance.... I don't want to give away all the good stuff just yet.

It's so much fun and helps a ton with fading treats so you don't feel like a PEZ dispenser!

Taiki, Daizy n George had different reactions to this new addition to our living room :) Daizy n Taiki are crazy for tunnels, George thinks it fun, but doesn"t rev up like the rest...they are unique and always entertaining.

Update on generalizing cues...taking the show on the road

Really it doesn't matter which cues they're learning...they ALL need to start from scratch when you go to a new place or meet new people, or situations...until they have confidence in what needs to happen. When they get that blank look on their faces...I'll always be there to help them out.

ie..In our Obedience class mock trial test, we had practiced everything in little bits and pieces. We even practiced the cues at the beach, on our walks, in the yard, in the many places I could think of...but STILL we had never strung the complete trial outline this was NEW in my books.

In the real deal, I wouldn't be allowed to double cue. Either verbal or quick handsignal is allowed for a couple cues, otherwise your body movement is cue for the dog.

Even I needed some guidance from Rita and Jeurgen who explained what was coming up....and even when they did...I made mistakes!

Here's us working on verbal cues, mixing in "obedience" cues among the fun stuff not relying on as heavily on double cuing (verbal and or handsignal).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Oh yeah....our Mock Novice Obedience test

What a great class!  Keegan did an outstanding job.  We certainly got our groove on.  This will be a great reminder of where we started...and it will be interesting to see a progress report come fall. 

I don't know of many intermediate classes where you get to practice off leash walking / stay skills with other dogs/ people around.  Rita tortured us with toy/ running distractions during stays to prep for the test too.  She keeps you on your toes!
Bonus was the way the course was outlined, we used a lot of play, toys, treats and massage to keep our furry pals engaged.

Highlights for me were;

1-Being able to walk around people on/off leash without Keegan the kangaroo jumping on them....focusing on moi :)  He would normally lunge to try to say hello to people (which has them running the opposite direction) so this is an AWESOME accomplishment.

2- Our stays are coming along!  Now I can slowly add distance, duration and distractions.   I don't rush a stay.  Secret is to keep the dogs internal state in mind and train when he's calm, release before you see body language that they're not really engaged,  so you build a strong foundation.

3-Keegan LOVES to socialize and he chose to be with me instead of running to the gate where the rest of the class (dogs included) were hanging out.  He's always got to be in the middle of the trouble, so this was HUGE.

4-Pat on the head...Keegan really doesn't see the point of them.  He loves to sniff hands and does not enjoy head pats. He will duck away, or squint eyes getting ready for impact...and I'm so proud that he was comfortable to stand still while they performed the stand/stay & pat head/shoulders/bum while paying attention to me and not moving.  All thanks to putting "bonk" on cue to help associate an approach & pat on the head with something rewarding...also helps warn him what's coming up so it alleviates stress.

5- I used TTouch type massage along Keegan's back, played tricks between exercises, deep slow breathing just before we started, and during his stay I also did slow sleepy eye blinks and used my calm cue to keep Keegan relaxed and engaged.  He's easily excitable and these are our management worked! 

6-We played a ton of emotional self control games on a daily basis...which also helped!

Happy Happy Happy we are!  Hmmmm what's next.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Last minute attempt .... desensitizing and naming a cue to warn the dog

Teaching a cue to "warn" the dog that something inappropriate is going to happen is handy.  Sort of a private head's up....if they can hold out and endure...they'll be rewarded for their efforts at the very least...and some dogs end up being conditioned to enjoy .....

All the dogs in our  Obedience trial prep class were struggling with this.  You could see them trying to sniff the hand coming at them, or duck to the side or almost lie down, squinting....when a stranger or even their humans did it. Not one happy, open mouth, lean into the pat on top of the head!

I got ticketed (kinda like a gold star) for working with Keegan on the sideline putting my hand over top of his head and giving him a treat at the same time.  Then in the next class Miles (cutie putie beagle) was struggling as well so Rita (trainer) asked Juergen, his human to pick a word and do the same.

1-name it.... I called it "bonk", Juergen called it "top"....whatever works for you
2-put your hand above head and treat at the same time, then take your hand away....repeat until dog no longer shows signs of stress  ( short 10sec sessions then play or do something else,repeat a couple tmes a day.  Think about how annoying it would be if you had to endure this!)
3-then say cue as you put your hand on head (gently)and treat at the same time, then take your hand away, repeat a couple times a day and in no've put the pat on the head on cue!
4- fade use of treat when you notice your dog looks forward to the pat on the head.  Then use the occasional treat and mix in life "bonk" then we play ball.  Then have family and friends do the same....
5- you'll see in the video that Keegan starts to anticipate the hand on head and doesn't move any longer as he knows he'll be rewarded for my rude behaviour :)
6- if you name and desensitize, counter condition,  then you take the guess work out for the dog of what's about to happen and can warn the dog in advance of what"s  coming. Plus...I   can empathize... as a kid I had an uncle who pinched my cheeks when saying hello...but then gave me a chocolate.  I learned to tolerate it.  The chocolate sure helped!

As you can see plain as day...Keegan's ears go flat, squints eye, dips head waiting for impact...he doesn't have a happy, open smiley mouth, nor does he lean into the not enjoying it at first but then sees the point of the exercise.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Generalizing 'touch" and "target"

They already understand a "touch" means to nose someone's hand, now I'm generalizing it to objects. "Target" is another cue I find fun and helpful, which is laying a part of your body on something and stay there. It makes playing with toys and or in real life situations more interesting as's not always a no brainer retrieve, a good way to keep them in an engaged state rather than them being out of their mind ball crazy....I love mixing it up!

For both cases, I will use the name of object but if I haven't taught the cue for the object, I point to it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

mmmm...pumpkin spice dog cookies....

Perfect to test their will power of holding out, stays, and I love that I have "sniff" on cue...I think it does help relieve some pressure of just waiting to hear that magic word..."take it". This way they know they can enjoy the heavenly aroma as long as they are calm; sit, down, stand, it doesn't matter to me. I have no problem letting them decide which default behaviour they can perform without it ending in a feeding frenzy. I like giving them choices, to see what position they feel most comfortable in. It's not all about me....

I'll only remind them of what to do, if I notice they're having trouble holding things together. We help eachother out. That's what it's all about.  * Thank you Dr. Patricia McConnell for "Feeling outnumbered". An awesome book.

ps... they did enjoy tiny pieces as a reward for holding out.
I use 1/2 can pumpkin, molasses, olive oil, whole wheat flour and ground spices for the dog cookies, then the rest adding milk, egg, baking powder/soda/salt, two teaspoons brown sugar and spices for muffins for myself!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's that time again......

I just got a reminder email about upcoming agility workshops :)

Sooooooooo excited.... I signed up for a Foundation Handling Skills in June w/ Susan Garrett...and just about to put in an order from Clean run.

I've taken a few agility classes before where you pretty much treat/reward the dog after each obstacle at first.  Perfect intro to someone who didn't know anything about agility. It made things easy and you got to do the sexy stuff...all the equipment. Here's a video of me n George in our second class at Dogsmart where we're just learning the equipment. I love his wagging tail and dancing front paws. We absolutely had a ball! We've even enjoy Fun Runs and sure entertained everyone!

Then we moved to Squamish...and I found an agility class out here! Maren introduced me to Christine (she teaches it), Marika and Sherry (teaches too). I'm so not anywhere in their caliber but man ...I had fun. They use target plates, toys and food prompts, working on one obstacle at a time. They also compete.

Last year I found Sylvia Trkman & Susan Garrett's work (Maren introduced me to Susan Garrett & Pawsitive Steps Outreach) and have been hooked ever since. They use more shaping, games and toy work going into foundation handling skills before you zip around on a course. It actually has made a big difference in the away work. We're still newbies.

Last year Darrell helped to build home made equipment so I could have fun in the yard with the dogs, and practice our foundation skills. Life keeps gettting in the way, so this is a way that I can slowly work on it when I can carve out time.

Plus this way I don't have to go to a class where my guys have to wait their turn in a class. The downside of having multiple much as I'd love to...I can't work with them all at once...unless I'm using the others as distractions (which is one of the things you need to do ... after they've learned the cue).

Both of their methods are awesome. I find Susan Garrett's very easy to build from one exercise on to the next. Both have clicker backgrounds, Susan is just more accessible to me, living in Canada & also having dvd's and books out.

One of the things I love most is that there are no corrections, not even a huff, or evil eye is acceptable behaviour from YOU. A harsh word can get you kicked out of Susan's workshop :) I love it!

It's amazing how many games they've come up with that teach the dog how to read your body language on the fly which translates to the dog looking as if they're reading your mind.


Last year my friend Maren ordered tunnel and jump equipment from Clean run and we met in fields to practice. Light weight equipment made setting up quick and simple.

I'm leaning more towards getting a tunnel from Schaunenberg Industries, something I'll be able to take on the road, or use in the yard in wet weather, it'll be heavier and more durable. Plus now with Keegan, the diameter of Ikea tunnels are too small :(

I just checked shipping costs and I'd be saving $ shipping alone. So I think I"m going to shop Canadian :)

Done. 7 days....can't wait! My guys LOVE tunnels!

I love the fact that I'll be able to take this equipment (well my jumps, tunnel and plank( working on short one w/foundation skills) on the road to different parks & fields...GLOBALizing your cues in different locations is key...even in agility!

I just need 4 more jumps to do some double box work, and I'm set.

I started with 2 on 2 off method for contacts but I'm switching to Sylvia Trkman's running contacts. So far my guys have been hitting the ends and it feels natural, so we're going to see how far we get. I'm not a fan of the nose touches until I release them, but definitely do understand the importance of the dog's head needs to be down when running off contacts to ensure they don't end up with neck injuries. Both Daizy and Keegan run the contact with head down so I think I'm safe for now. Daizy and Keegan both have the potential to let their adrenalin get the best of them and if I ask for a repetitive motion, I've noticed that it just ramps them up = they are no longer in their calm concentrated state of being.

Daizy learned weaves using the channel method as in George's video where eventually those two rows of weavepoles will move closer and closer together.

I started on 2 x 2 weaves w/Keegan but haven't practiced since our workshop last year. I didn't want to screw up. He's so quick to catch on that I need to know what I'm doing and have my timing down before we start. We had so much foundation work to concentrate on first anyways so this year we're finally in a good place to start.

Some women have a weakness for clothes, shoes or handbags ...mine is dog stuff :P

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Home made agility equipment makes teaching cues fun! is loaded with super sweet equipment.

My favourite agility trainers are;

Susan Garrett, all around training
Greg Darrett, shadow handling
Susan Salo, for jumping grids,
and of course
Sylvia Trkman (my all time hero! she's so relaxed and chill, I love her!)

We made our jumps w/pvc from Home Depot for approx $10 per jump....and it took Darrell about 5 mins per jump to cut and glue.

If anyone wants to know how, I can email the details! We have left over temp fencing we use for a "tunnel" for now. Use your's fun!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I love teaching cues like "find it', "take it", and "give"

Using cues like "Find -it", 'Take it" and 'Give" to shape value for an unknown object make the process a whole lot faster.

There's no way I'm going to be able to teach them the name of every single object ...there's just not enough time in the day. What I've come up with and it's just through repetition that it's become a game to play is if I don't name something they know like ball, leash, keys, treats... my guys have learned to scan the area for something that isn't normally there, then "target" it (stand over, nose touch or lie down on it).

1-Find it = start moving... if it's an unknown object, it becomes a shaping game, once one of them has targeted the unusual object, I'll say "yes" so they know to stop and wait for what comes next.

2-Take it = pick it up in your mouth

3-Give = bring it to me and normally... put it in my hand.

You'll be surprised when it comes in handy :)

I said hammer in this video, but really, they would not be able to pick out a hammer among other objects, we're still in the shaping for value mode. It's really for my own benefit that I said the word. If I were to repeat this sequence and continue to use the same word "hammer" they will eventually put two and two together.

Off leash games- when in the woods

After dog classes in the city,  we came back in the afternoon in time to go adventuring...we found a couple new spots along the estuary :)

I play a few games with them to keep me in the picture of being interesting. That and we took a really cool recall class at Dogsmart where we had to recall past distractions like other dogs, hotdogs, squirrels and ducks for our final exam...which we did with flying colours.

I walk them on and off leash in the woods to ensure I have both options with them.  Some hikes in provincial parks are on leash only so I want to make sure we can hike on lead as well.

Games we play while out in nature:

1-hide n seek games, hide behind something or

2-if I'm walking with a friend I'll get them to hide then scare them, or I will jump out and scare them (then treats and laughs...) so in my mind they don't totally freak out if another hiker is in the woods.  Keegan did last year.  A hiker with a big landing pad on his back, sunglasses and a hat.  He had never seen that sort of get up on someone it's only natural that he barked.  We found more of those and did some counterconditioning so it's all good now.

Good news is that they have learned to keep their eyes on me, and check in every couple minutes.  It also helps that Daizy n George stick close by.  They were on long lines for the first 2yrs, working near dogparks...then a reward would be walking through a dog park, then more fun stuff with me.  Keegan being a herding dog, his natural instinct is to keep everyone together, so far I've been lucky with him and we only did a few months of long line dragging.

2-When they're doing their own stuff.....I'll also start acting really excited and moving the grass around as if I've found something really stinky.... and I'll put a kongs around the area or disperse a handful of treats (dried fish, chicken...cheese) for them to come racing over to see what all the fuss is about

3-playing ball or tug helps tons too. Plus teaching them to "dig" on cue is fun too...if I spot a hole, or mound of loose dirt, I'll act excited, then they'll come running and I'll say "dig"...just something fun. Sometimes putting a cookie under the dirt is fun too, they'll dig and then sniff out a treat :)

4- or racing around in the opposite direction or right past them and climbing up a tree or on a log...something interesting...or walking in the water

So far I haven't had to look for my guys.  I think being a part of their adventure really does help with them WANTING to keep an eye on me.

The only time of year I have a challenge is during Salmon run...where all the carcasses are littered along the shore. 

I've been letting a long kitty leash I think it's about 10ft ( $7.99) from the supermarket drag behind George, and I think I'll grab one for Daizy too.  They have bells on their harnesses just incase they run into trouble, or the idea is while they're racing around hopefully it'll make enough noise to move the local wildlife out of their way.

The drag line is thin, and doesn't seem to get caught and is there for my peace of mind incase a coyote tries to lure them away...the thought is that if it's dragging I'll be able to drag them away from danger. It's all in my mind I know.

I don't worry about Keegan as much as they seem to pick on the small dogs around here.

I've given up with trying to control an off leash dog situation.  With this last train and play, I have no idea why...but dogs are magnetically attracted to George...even if he doesn't want to have anything to do with him.

On our adventure yesterday, out of no where a Min Pin came charging at George, no owner in tow...and I just let him handle it. Thankfully the Min Pin backed down, raised a paw and they both had a sniff, the on their separate ways. The people apologized, and walked by without putting a lead on their dog...

Even in yesterday's morning Train and Play class we did leash work and a couple dogs were let off leash to do as they please...just as in real life.  They just swarmed George, ignored all other dogs in the class... and he did give the ones who were pushing their limits an ear full.  Those who didn't George was happy to just walk away.  So I learned something very important...

He does have a good doggy language repertoire, and sometimes it involves telling another dog to back off they're smothering him.

I have just got to learn to pray that the other dog has good bite inhibition, that or pick George up if I'm in range.

I'm going to try using DAP spray on a bandana around his neck to see if it takes the edge off George and or changes the way he smells to other dogs so maybe it will change their meet n greet style...who knows...

 I can't shelter or protect George all the time, I've got to trust that all the work we've done and steps we've taken will carry him into old age.

People aren't going to change, their dogs who like physical meet n greets aren't going to change...and most importantly, I can't worry about things I have no control over.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

So proud...We did a tv commercial & they asked us to make a guest appearance

Waiting for their cue to enter.

Daizy n George were in a tv commercial for the BC Lions Society..and they asked us to make a guest appearance at the gala tonight. It was so sweet....Daizy stole the show by sitting pretty and two beagles who went through really tough fear periods and would run away from a person's out stretched arms , tuck their tails, George who growled,  barked ...stay away bark...and has lunged too... were ON as soon as we entered the Conference centre...they definitely thought the gala was in their honour...We've come a long way!