Sunday, March 25, 2012


Had a fun time hanging with my buds at the AKC trial on Saturday.  Super duper lunch!  We all brought stuff and oh my, we are getting mighty good at this hot lunch on a cold day. 

Only one day for me made for a 2 hour drive in the morning (starting at 5am) and a 3 hours drive in the evening (home at 6:30pm).  I was very tired after a hot shower and sat in Kel's barkalounger with Tazz lounging on top of me.  Too tired to play words with friends but not too tired to watch endless loops of storage wars on AMC...or rather...snooze while storage wars played in the background.

My first run was jumpers.  Soooo much fun.  Fast and furriest.  Can you guess where it went wrong?  I know, I cover it well.  Too bad the judge was paying attention.  One little wrong end of the tunnel.  That judge.  She is not into creativity at all.

Second run was standard.  The theme for the weekend, "I LOVE tunnels!"  Can't help but laugh.  Perhaps I needed that threadle after all!

Good news.  Jumping like a superstar.  Taking those triples like she never was scared of them. 

I love my little fish fry.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Retrieve update


I started getting duration TODAY!  Not much, but I was able to mark it.

Hopefully I will be able to let the duration grow...grow...grow...

I know that it is my timing that is making it difficult.  Working on that.

No video.  I actually shot footage, but must have hit the camera because nothing useful is actually in the frame.  A nice long shot of my sliding glass door, the back of the chair and you hear Fin "grrrrring" and me clicking.  That's about it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Working on retrieve

I never seem to be able to get past this first step.  Hold item in my hand for a duration.  I get a ton of mouth action, even some pushing and pulling.  Loads of growling and tail wagging.  But duration is not happening yet.

Fin with Spoon

Tazz with Spoon

Fin with Ball

Today we will have three sessions total.  These videos are from the first of the three.  Hoping for duration by third time.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rainy Day Tricks and confessions

I have a confession.  Not one of my dogs has a really good retrieve.  Sure, when they are excited, they'll grab the ball and run back to me tossing it at me or in my general direction, but, not one of my dogs will go get something when I ask them too.

My best buddy sent me a link to a clicker video years ago trying to persuade me to actually train my dog.  Oh I watched it, but when I started to work on clicker training the retrieve, my dogs would all do something silly and I'd start shaping that.
I have watched the video. Many times. And still, after years, no solid retrieve.  It is me that isn't focused. Not the dogs.

People say to me, oh you have shelties, they don't retrieve and I am the first to say, "yes they can!"  However, mine don't.  I know it can be done.  Just haven't done it myself.

So I'm giving myself the challenge during these rainy days.  Let's work on this.  It is just like my weight challenges.  Write it down and it becomes something that I do.

I will work on this daily and post my progress.
Step one:  Hold object while it is in the hand.  My goal is to have the dogs actually hold the object for 3 seconds or more.

My first attempts today haven't gone as I had hoped with Tazz, but we are figuring it out with Fin.

I first tried a ball.

I felt that we were getting some good mouth on action, but she was not really holding.  Attempts with Tazz and the ball were unsuccessful due to the fact that I need a smaller ball.

So I tried a toy that was more floppy.  That actually worked with Tazz, although I got alot of pushing rather than holding (his default behavior when I've tried this before). 

My next try I'm going back to the old wooden spoon.  We've done this many times before and I think I can get the hold pretty quickly.  Once I'm getting the behavior with the spoon I can put that behavior on to other things, like a ball.

But of course, it is not the item that is the problem.  It is me consistently working on the "trick". 

Watch for more video updates.  They will be forthcoming.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If I only knew then, what I know now.

The agility blogosphere is taking on a topic challenge. The , "If I knew then..." question.

I'm going to focus on foundation impulse control. I think it is the one thing that newbies just don't understand (I sure didn't) and do not spend enough time with this basic skill.

The idea is to ensure that your dog understands that it is their choice.  That if they choose wisely the rewards will fall from the heavens and they will be happy.  Making the incorrect choice (lack of impulse control) the consequence is lack of reward and possibly a time out. I never understood how important this was, I just wanted to do obstacles.

Many people today equate impulse control with "crate games."  Susan Garrett started the crate games craze, but often once the dog reaches a certain age, I see handlers stopping their impulse control games and the dog no longer is rewarded for the basic rules we gave them as puppies.

Example A:
  • You open sliding glass door and dog darts out, runs around the back yard, tongue out, tail wagging. Totally rewarded for darting out.
  • You ask the dog to sit and put your hand on the door, dog acts like they are going to dart, remove hand. Hand back on, door opens, dog goes to dart out, door closes. Reward is removed. Dog sits, door opens, you treat the dog with food reward and then release the dog to go out, dog runs around the back yard, tongue out, tail wagging. Just rewarded for impulse control.
Example B:
  • Julie walks in the ring, walks to the line with her dog, barely gets the leash off, and the dog darts out and has completed 5 obstacles while Julie is yelling the dogs name. Dog totally got rewarded for running and playing without the handler.
  • Julie walks in the ring, walks to the line with her dog, dog starts to act like he is going to take off, Julie walks back out of the ring. Repeat until dog can sit. Dog gets rewarded for sitting.

Four dogs barking at the gate when I open the door or four dogs laying down nicely at the gate when I open the door.  I know which one I'd like to have, well for most guests. 

Impulse control bleeds into all aspects of agility. Startline stays, tight turns, coming to you at the end of a run, walking to the line, exiting the ring, etc. If your dog understands that making the incorrect choice has a consequence of reward being removed, they will learn to acknowledge your participation and leadership in the game of agility.

The hardest aspect of this is controlling the environment so the dog is not rewarded by things you had not anticipated.

Working on the idea that "It is your choice" you can play all kinds of games teaching the dogs behaviors of control as you go. 
  • Using food in the hand, dog gets food reward when he ignores food.
  • All crate games are ways to reward good behavior.
  • Playing with a toy, taking the toy out of the dogs mouth, waiting for a down, reward for more play.
  • Start line stays, go back and reward with food or toy. 
Reward, reward, reward.  Dogs must have value for controlling their behavior.  Adult dogs as well as young dogs.  I believe the It's your choice rules should be in effect the entire life of the dog.

Check out all the other agility bloggers here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Maybe, Possibily, Someday....

I might want to take Fin on an airplane ride.  Maybe even to visit a friend that happens to live across the country.  Possibly to visit Fin's brother.  Could be we'd want to fly to an agility competition...hey, it could happen.

No, I am not teaching Fin to get in the bag so I can take her on vacation with my husband next fall.  I wouldn't even THINK of taking a dog on that vacation.  No, didn't even cross my mind...well, don't tell him...OK?

So we are practicing.  Got the biggest bag possible for in-cabin flying and we are working on Fin learning that it is the best thing ever!  Not only is she enjoying her "bag," but she is having fun learning and figuring it out.