Saturday, June 26, 2010

BAckyard fun ( peace and quiet)

It's been a couple weeks since I've been working on restoring peace and quiet....back into our yard...

I thought I'd share a couple of things that have made a huge difference in turning their triggers, into "white noise".  All the people, baby, toddler, crazy adolescent screaming teenagers and dog noise that we hear ....I'm happy to report that we're less than 5% of that !

What's helped a TON...
1- first taught George that one all I need to hear...which was easy as I just rewarded one bark and associated the cue "thank you" with coming running for treats, throwing treats out the window, or his favourite ball, or playing with 1 bark and he'll actually look back from a distance when I yell 'thank you"  or "quiet" from inside the home :P   We make eye contact so that's my chance to do something his barking has cut down dramatically from the machine gun bark!  Every now and then he'll do it but it's easy to call him away now with "thank you!".

Here's a clip where George barks twice and I say 'quiet" and he is ;)   It really does work.  There are steps involved, but if George can learn to curb his "enthusiasm" then I have high hope for other dogs!  He LOVES the sound of his own voice.

2- they do their business on the perimeter of the yard which I pick up as soon as it happens (seeing as though I race around doing agility with them...don't want to step in anything)

3-after business, I make Kongs for them.  Their breakfast peanut butter, toast n banana kongs are served outside.
Daizy and Keegan pick up the kongs and return them to me so they're not littering the yard.  Buys me about 20mins...of them concentrating on their kongs while the morning dogs, kids et al...goes unnoticed :)  I normally read outside, or am on my laptop.

4-then we'll play reorient games and their reward is a kibble treasure hunt.....buys me another 20 or so mins...background noise goes unnoticed

5- I go inside and they'll just start to play or relax (full bellies)...then every so often, I'll open a window and tell them they're superstars then recall them inside just so I can send them outside :)for another game but this time with toys!

Sometimes I  give George his favourite ball and he just chews it before we play the game...He's the one who normally starts the if I keep him busy...then all remains peaceful :) 

Or I'll do some passive attention work between yoga stretches.....

6-then I'll go out and play ball with them for a bit, then inside and I get ready for work, they hang out inside

7-after that it's time for their morning walk around the neighborhood to check their peemail, then I'm off to work.

Evenings are a bit different because after they do their business, then we go out on a hike.  Then back to race around the yard and do some agility or something then inside to eat , clean up and chill out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

ZOOM! PUPS! POP! BONK! I love using fun words for ACTION cues!

I love choosing words for ACTION cues that make me smile. Saying them gives me an immediate HAPPY fix...lightens the mood and gives me a boost of energy, when I'm cheering my superstars along!

I have been on a roll recently choosing words like;

1- POP!, BONK!, ZOOM!, PUPS! (I also use words that sound slow, quiet and calm which are for stationary cues...that's another blog post! )

2-have been creative with my verbal praise to let my dogs know I LIKE that!..WOW!, AWESOME!, THANK YOU!, CHA CHING!, WHOOHOOO!

3-Yes! is the word I use as a marker ...learned that 9yrs ago at Dogsmart and I've lost count how many tricks, cues, I've taught my guys because of that one word let them know I LIKE WHAT they just did. It's a special word used particularly when I'm teaching them a new behaviour or chaining babysteps together.

I think in the learning stage it helps to be consistent with your marker word, same word, sort of like a click from a clicker.

So they understand:

"Yes ! " or click & immediate treat, life reward, toys, praise = please do that one thing more often..I like it!  Mind you I'll often say "yes!" before their praise word as well. I think just out of habit.

Recalls...I have a few different cues depending on the urgency and where I am
1-NAME alone = if I'm in the woods, my emergency recall, said in the panicked tone of voice, if  I just have a split second to get one to run to me...I chose to say their name as a recall just because it's the first thing that came to mind when I was stressed and just had a slit second to react (bear involved) = go with what you think will come out of your mouth and never poison that cue with any activity that the dog will think is the end to the fun so chances are when they hear that word...they'll come running no questions asked!
2-PUPS! just an everyday check in group recall
3-Dog's name and Zoom is my everyday recall = they just need to come running placement is not required



Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hah! Those rude, off leash dogs...

Well we're in the fist stage of learning how to do a drive by to another dog without interacting with it.   My guys already know "sniff" , "touch", ( classes) "cuddle in", "around", "way to me" but that doesn't seem to help out in situations where we encounter off leash or on leash dogs who you can tell by their body posture are going to be trouble but owner doesn't seem to "get it"  or do anything about it ...I wish people would respect that my dogs don't want to be rushed, or sometimes rather not say hello.
I have called this new cue "say hello" but really it's a drive by without interaction and return to me.  My dog ends up with back to other dog and focused back on me, sort of morphing the re-orienting/ look at that/ leave it,..Control Unleash games... kinda...I don't know how else to describe it.

My hope is that it will diffuse the situation..

I'm happy to let my guys meet other dogs if I see a few of these signals: soft eyes, avoiding prolonged eye contact, loosey, wiggly body, slow to approach, licking lips, play bow, arc around my they  WAIT to see my dog's reaction to their invitation to interact... 

Turid Regass dvd rocks and Dogsmart "Train and Play' class is awesome for teaching dog body language 101.  

You can tell I'm still irked by this whole issue...

Friday, June 18, 2010

my how clouds change ...

Our evening hike went from sunny to cloudy to down pour in a matter of 1 1/2 hrs...

clouds starting to roll in

Silently moving across the sky

Along came the rain clouds...

The Chief looks so majestic with the moody backdrop and front face lit by the sun

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reality check- some things will never change

As much as things have been progressing having time to work on issues with my crew as they come up...I've come to realize that some issues are going to be hardwired for George.   Especially after listening to (Karen Overall's seminar) and reading up about how if the "fear" center of your brain is firing like the 4 of July... when you or an animal has to deal with a the end...whether or not you can ever fully recover is individual.

Daisy has come through all her fear issues and recouped after being attacked by other dogs and bulldozed, and she's fine with them now. Is happy to say hello and is a great first neutral dog to meet and greet fosters. She totally takes them under her wing.

George on the other hand will always need time to make sure another dog is 'safe" and will not bulldoze him or attack him. Tonight I realized that his anxiety is so much bigger a dragon that I can ever slay for him and make everything as it used to be.

He started out a very optimistic pup, but through out the years, we've been on a roller coaster where just as we think it's safe....and he starts to trust interactions...another attack happens and we're back to square one.

It sucks that sometimes life keeps knocking you down, rather than lightening up a bit.

I have no control over other off leash dogs. Even if I pick him up...they still try to get at him. I feel like I live in a war zone.

It really really really sucks that people don't give a hoot, when another dog goes after yours.

Tonight George started barking at another dog from a distance again...obviously generalizing the behaviour once again....I'll always be known as the crazy lady with the barking dog. It sucks. Did I mention how much it sucks? Well it does.

We'll still work on up to "Car crash" scenarios while George's job is to "ignore" the background noise...or other dogs...and focus on playing the game...but the progress will be slower because as much as I try to manage his environment...I can't when an off leash dog comes barrelling from a football field away to charge my guys. 

We've even run the other way as a game and still because the off leash dog has NO RECALL ...have ended up with an extra dog, trying to manage the situation until the owner retrieves him.

Anonther fun addition to "Re-orienting work"

I love the look and enthusiasm they have...even George who is usually into his own thing...makes me feel like a rockstar!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Around and Way to me cues

Teaching dogs how to go around other dogs or bikes or skateboards or...insert whatever they are likely to chase...and come back to you for ANOTHER round of celebration & rewards!

So you have something beside your recall (which if unreliable...) that the dog will understand what TO DO with that herding or chase instinct that got the best of them.

Here's a quick and dirty video of what I took 5 mins to teach them, well less than that...we've got some refining to do,  but for now I thought it added some humour to the serious subject.

There are traditional herding cues to use:

"Way to me" is for counter clockwise going around the flock"
"Come bye' or "Go bye" are for clockwise.

I use "go" meaning to move away infront of me and "come" well...that's a recall.... so I thought it would be confusing. For clockwise, I already use "around" for going around poles when on leash so I kept that cue for the clockwise movement.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Progress with Daisy and passive attention body work!

I should NEVER underestimate the power of going back to the drawing board, and  NOT GIVING UP.  I found the right mix to negotiate (thank you Cynthia for that word!) a compromise and teach Daisy that being still isn't half bad afterall :P  

I just conditioned pairing LAYING DOWN w/ HEAD ON THE GROUND and SHORT increments of bodywork with a "thank you" in between each for being patient.  I LIKE what happened.... 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Adding Yoga into the mix!

This spring/summer has unleashed sound triggers; babies, toddlers screeching, teenagers racing back and forth on bikes and skateboards on our street, giggling girls and young adolescent boys...cats ..back neighbor renters in their early twenties...who did have a reactive pit/mix .... I've just been pretty much treading water with my guys trying to get used to all this new stuff going on.  I don't have those genetically calm first I worked on 1 bark then 'thank you" loads of treats to "find" for alerting me to something rather than a machine gun bark....then...

..for the past week, rain or shine I've been taking their breakfast and dinner outdoors, fruit, veggies, and kibble or chicken or beef or cheese and we'll sit either on our front lawn ( one at a time) or the back yard (all together) working on a medley of 3 things ....

The outcome has been dramatic what has transpired over the course of 1wk.

 Video attached for an example of this morning's work...they were so relaxed by the end. If I can continue this...I may have calm chilled dogs after all!

I contribute all this to:

1-Leslie McDevitt's (Control Unleashed, dvd & book) passive attention...(Rita @ Dogsmart was the first to introduce me to Control Unleash methods in her classes) then active attention games ie. "leave it", "look at that" from a default down cuing down other than I am still... is the most rewarded position when outside in the back or front yard until I release them to do as they please. So I guess it's a fusion of sorts...but essentially low key and in default down/stay..I don't ask for the stay, they're just getting used to staying on their own until they hear a release cue.  I'm in no rush to ramp things up...they've got that covered already :)

If they don't have the attention span to switch into that calm quiet state, like Daizy.... you use the Premack principle  and end up slowly conditioning them to calm then reward for calm is getting to do something then return to calm... sort of like Jazz up and Settle game that Ian Dunbar plays or I call it 'coze coze" as my guys need to come in for a standing quiet time before I give them the cue to jazz up.  calls it "Silly sit". Slowly building up duration of calm and up to massage, or quiet talk or scratches in their favourite spot...the great thing about Leslie's work is it's individual to the dog but the DVD goes into more detail and gives more examples of what you can try with your dog.

I have the book and it has been a bible, but together with the dvd, she goes into more detail about all the exercises and why they work so well together. It's soooo worth every penny.

Here's  a passive attention example for my guys;

2-Karen Overall's relaxation protocol...which I tweaked to gear it more for sound distractions.  Only one thing I do not ever do with my dogs is give them a verbal correction.  I don't say "no', "bah", whatever... my silence, sleepy eyes, deep breath, tilt head to the side or a yawn is the only clue to them to try something else or default down and they'll be rewarded.

3-Yoga!  I have brought my mat outside.  I've got to do more research on the connection but I have seen a leap in their calm and ignoring the "background noise" since adding this half way into the week.  Really....I'm sure it's because of the breathing and Hatha exercises that I do while in between working with my dogs.

I work on the exercises anywhere from 10 sec - 10 min or so (ping- pong the time so it's not predictable), then a yoga break, or go inside, then back outside in total we're outdoors for anywhere between 1 - 2 hours in and around our home depending on the weather. When working it's either Leslie McDevitt or Karen Overall exercises then I release them to do whatever they want, or play ball or tug for a few minutes or I go over to my yoga mat and yoga out :P

End result is that they play in short increments, then will come over to where I am and chill next to or on the mat with me while I meditate or am in a yoga pose :)

Next step is taking this on the dog at a time, and then in a group.

So much for the agility circuit this year, we've got more important "background noise and trigger" work to do!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dr. Karen Overall - From Leashes to Neurons ....and jungle gyms

Speechless. What an amazing and myth busting seminar.

If only those who use terms such as "dominant", 'you must dominate", "alpha", "submissive"... could listen to her seminar.

If anyone is interested, I ordered the DVD from

Here's a clip:

The science and history behind what is really taking place in a dog's brain; how on a molecular level learning really takes place is crazy!  Truly we are incredible beings, animals and humans!  It puts our shared biology into perspective.

How important your choice of teaching style is when you communicate; whether it be with another human or animal...

How what you say and do affects what people/dogs learn about their environment and human race, and the long term sociological effect it has is thought provoking.  What footprint are you leaving....

Below are a few more invaluable topics that she spoke in further detail:

1/ the truth behind dogs differential displays meant to open communication with us.... in trusting ways...... which are misconstrued...just brought tears to my eyes.

2/ how they go about seeking information from the world around them, and how important it is to understand their vocal and visual cues.

3/ biological evolution and how "social orders are not created or maintained by social force...imposed force situations always, always fail.... as there is no evolutionary basis for them"

4/ how best to communicate with dogs...simple steps.

5/ biology behind psychopharmacology, it's place in behaviour modification and how it helps dogs work through their anxieties whether genetic in nature,  created by humans (abuse in the name of training)  or their environments.

6/ how much of the damage can be "undone", from a biological point of view once something is learned by stimulating the fear region of the brain.

To off set this serious subject...

a video of me using this site as a jungle gym to practice recalls, cues and maintain my status of "Explorer of unusual but FUN stuff" the more they explore the less they'll be afraid of!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Zen n fun

The weather was so beautiful yesterday we spent the day outdoors!  I packed my yoga mat with me along with treats for me and the dogs to go hiking and find places to hang out.  Here are some of the highlights:

Early afternoon:  Tall grass fun and "Zen"n out

What a treat, Daizy found this rock and it was the perfect "Zen" lookout, after finding this open space off of the wooded trail.

My Zen - out spot

Video to remind me of the dancing grass:

Later we went to hike the Malamute and goofed around there too:

1 - 3

2- of 3

3 of 3

3 Musketeers

Pretty flower (Avalanche Lily) has an amazing view

Crazy Daisy my adventurer

Balancing just before the leap

So many scents to take in and adventures to enjoy...that was our day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Time off = 2 x 2's

FINALLY....official time off to hang out and work on things around the home, relax, hike, work on our workshop idea (Maren and I are going for it!).

I love these types of holidays...decompress from all the workstress and do some spring cleaning for the soul!

I've been to a workshop that touched on 2 x 2's and I bought Susan Garrett's dvd...

That was a year ago!  I didn't want to start until I figured some other things out like; shadow handling, building tug & toy value,  making time to go through my notes and the DVD. Today was the day we official began the training! 

It's really fun!  I have to amend it a bit to make up for my guys lack of tug toy insanity...but so far so good!  I'll transfer the value for their favourite air kong ball after this first stage, I'll start mixing in toy and food.  I've got to say that you really have to know what comes next, as the learning curve for the dogs is fast.  Your timing is everything!  AND proofing the entry angles first is so valuable!  Being able to add a couple poles means that they're less likely to pop out of one as their body will be soooo used to the movement and speed.  I just need to be pretty much bang on so I don't mess up my guys learning curve.  Lining the sets of poles up is easier if you draw an imaginary line and try think of you could serpentine through them yourself!

Rant about bullies and their owners

My dogs are far from perfect...but really...I tell people from a distance to "call your dog" or "leash your dog", because I don't want to play twister when I'm responsible and have mine on a lead...and theirs is off....even though we ARE in an ON LEASH technically.....their dogs should be ON LEASH!!!!!

I had Keegan with me, and after visiting Maren, I thought a nice treat would be for he and I to go for a walk on an "ON LEASH" trail.

A biker and his off leash dog came down the trail, so we've moved off to the side so they can pass.

The dog came over to Keegan...then was a complete jerk to Keegan.  Keegan who did a beautiful, curve, and sniff, then the dog postured over top of Keegan,  stiff, the Husky's expression TOTALLY CHANGED, not moving, trapping Keegan.

Keegan barked at him to back happened quickly and as soon as I saw the Husky freeze I called Keegan, but he had already barked.

THEN... the owner tells me, he's PROUD of his dog...that HIS DOG is normally the one who picks the fights and isn't that "nice" to other dogs.......WHY DOES THIS PERSON NOT HAVE A LEASH ON HIS DOG????????

Keegan WASN'T picking a fight!!!! He was telling the dog to BACK OFF and let him leave!!!! Keegan barked at the dog,  that's it.

I said that ..."standing on over another dog ACTUALLY isn't nice or appropriate and that's why my dog barked."   I also said..." it would have been nice to know in advance that your dog wasn't always friendly with other dogs. I would not have let mine meet yours."  

Man that bugs me.....can't leave on a sour note...SO.....Vid of Keegan and George  :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

George the fish!

Well, I hope he's enjoying water more!  We spent the afternoon at the beach. This was the first time George has actually swam back and forth!  Water was only knee deep, the perfect height so George wouldn't panic.

After hanging out at the sand bar, we headed back to the shore and tall grass...They LOVE IT!!!

Dirty button nose

Sweet beagle happy ears.

Time to head home...My sweet sweet pups are all tuckered out :)

Friday, June 4, 2010

TAKE leash and give

Daisy loves having a job to do, and retrieving a leash is not new but retrieving it when another dog is at the other end of it is :)

I'm going to have to come up with a cue for George to let him know he's supposed to follow along...and "thank him" with a handful of treats for being such a good sport!

 more wild flowers! 

Crazy ink blot in the sky....beside the rainbow
We had the pleasure of the sun coming out during our walk....we started our walk with rain...then rainbow..then sun by the end of it ....keeps things interesting!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

WHAT a day!!!!

My 2nd tunnel arrived and ready jumps! And thankfully....although rain was in the was nothin' but blue and marshmellow white clouds in the sky today! We pretty much spent the day outside.

Here are highlights from our hike tonight :)

Keegan, my sweet sweet clown whom I adore.  I am so lucky.  Of all the puppies I saw (there were many) he was the one for me.


I just LOVE beagle tails!  No matter where they are, I can always see them!  I just adore beagles period.  They're the perfect buddy for me.  They're foodies like me, love the outdoors, or indoors, or whatever I'm up to for that matter.  They're bite size and fit on your lap, as smart as Border Collies and they keep me humble. 

More flowers popping up everywhere!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

NEW tug game twist

Watching Leslie McDevitt's Games Demo dvd, there are a ton of really interesting tidbits she goes over that aren't covered in the book.

We worked on stays adding distractions of the furry kind and Leslie's tug game twist tonight after our hike. Having a multi-dog household and working with one dog at a time, is the perfect opportunity to teach patient and polite = your turn may be NEXT :P

The NEAT-O twist when playing tug with your dog in the Games Demonstration DVD was when Leslie was tugging with her dog Easy they naturally came up with this twist to "drop" the tug toy and then wait to start the game again.  She uses her body to cue the tug game is over, and the only way to start it back up again is for the dog to perform a default behaviour. That's pretty standard body language 101. You use it when walking (stop when dog starts to move ahead), or to calm a dog down, just by standing still, not doing anything and it's natural that they'll follow suit.

Leslie's twist....

Either eye contact in a sit, or eye contact in a down starts the game.  To cue which one she'd prefer, all she did was stop the game by holding the tug toy close to her body either at her waist or below her knees, and was quiet and waited Easy out.

By the placement of her hands either;

1-at her waist = Easy stopped tugging and performed a sit/stay and looked at Leslie...the default behaviour.... in hopes that the tug game would start up again.
2-lower down near her knees = Easy would release the tug toy and automatically down and look at Leslie in hopes the tug games would start back up again.

I love it when together you and your dog make up a game/cue by being open in your communication.  Not just you looking for a behaviour, once you've given a cue, then waiting for the "right' or "wrong" response.

Shaping games are great for that.  It's a fun way to exercise your and your dog's creative side :) 

I love this! Adds yet another fun game when playing tug AND is GREAT for dogs who are easily over aroused...who need these games to teach them that keeping their enthusiasm in check means you get to PLAY the game!