Thursday, March 28, 2013

finding time

Things are so hectic we hardly even have time to
chew on sticks

I find that I'm having difficulty fitting in all the things I want to be doing right now. I'll be glad for school holidays that start on Friday and go for 2 weeks, but of course I'll be back to square 1 as soon as they finish.
At the moment we: Wake up at 6. Check emails, etc. Get up, shower, get dressed, breakfast, feed cats.
Then, if Lumen is coming to school with me, I usually squeeze in some trick training before heading off  early so she can have a run at the park, chase a ball, whatever.
If she's not, I squeeze in some trick training, then take both the dogs for a 20-30 minute walk with some running and playing packed into the middle.
At work till 4.30, get home at 5ish.

Then, I need to either:
Go for a run
Walk Mal & Lu
Train Lu in agility stuff at the park
Trick train Lu
Take Lu to the dog park

Or a combination of all of the above (eg tonight will hopefully be - go for a run, with Mal, do some trick training and get to the park for either some collar resistance/running or just playing with dogs.
And eat dinner, write blog posts, feed cats, etc... now that it's getting darker earlier and earlier I'm feeling more and more frantic to fit it in, and Lu has 'training windows' where she works best, and times where she's just useless and I might as well not bother, so I have to fit it all in around that, too.

I know it's a bit of a first-world problems post, and I'm sure things will (maybe?) get worse as we pick up more training clubs to go to, but for now my head feels like ARRRRR!!! SO MANY THINGS!!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

what we're working on

I like this section- it's sort of a nice reminder for me, anyway, of what we were training at a given time.

So, we're still trying to do lots of playing. I find it difficult with Lumen because sometimes she just isn't into playing. She enjoys fetch and chasing balls, which is good, so I can get some good collar restraints with a thrown ball. I've also found she's really into cooked sausages and this gross dog meat and gets quite alert when I have either of these, and so I've been trying to get her to drive into a cik/cap around the bollard or a stool or something by showing her the food, restraining her, letting her drive into the wrap, and throwing the food out of it.
I've actually experienced a bit more success with this than I have other times, and hopefully it'll just be a bridge into getting a drivey, fast, tight wrap to a thrown toy, and not having to rely on the food forever.
So we're just working on driving forward. Most people I've spoken to with Aussies suggest that this forward drive will come more with age and maturity, and Lumen did such an amazing job of wraps at foundation training the other night that I'm not -super- worried about it, I just now have to be careful not to overdo it.

I'm also aiming to do some more tunnel work this week, with a focus on adding a slight bend while maintaining fast forward drive. I want to play the 'two ball game' with the tunnel, as she's quite good at this now and I think it will increase her speed and 'gung-ho' into the tunnel.

In less agility-related things, I'm noticing she's starting to get a little teenager-y (nearly 7 months old now), eg. chasing swallows at the park the other day and giving me a huge proverbial middle finger when I told her to cut it out, so I'm just focusing a bit more on recalls from all situations and making a huge fuss when she comes (and usually, she's really great and comes running full speed, which is adorable)... I also want to take some sausages to that same park with me, make sure she knows I've got it, and see if she chases the swallows... and see if I can call her off. Oh boy is she going to have a puppy party if I can. ;) Of course, if she doesn't, I won't push it (and teach her to ignore me calling her!) but since she's good at most things (even chasing/playing with other dogs) I can't really 'work up to' this distraction level - we're already there.

She's also starting to find weird things scary, so plenty more socialisation to be done, and I can't forget about constantly exposing her to traffic (she's a bit anxious about traffic noise, especially loud trucks or motorbikes).. I've let that fall by the wayside a bit lately, so I'll have to add that to my to-do list! Good thing I'm on school holidays for 2 weeks from Thursday!! It'll be lovely to have 2 weeks to play and cuddle and fuss over them, and especially with Silvia Trkman's foundation class starting on the 8th of April, I want to be prepared, and then we get to start while I still have time off!

What are you up to with your dogs at the moment?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

noticing the positives

She's probably just eaten a dead thing or some horse-poo
or a worm or something. Seriously, she once ate a dried
up worm. Gross.

In all my reading and research when I got Lumen, I quickly latched on to one idea that really resonated with me, and it's something I try and stand by in my training, especially in day-to-day life with the dogs.
Noticing the positives.

I think sometimes it's really easy to latch on to what our dogs' faults are, what they do wrong (chase the cat, stand up on the counter, eat dead things off the ground, don't let us trim their nails) and we forget to latch on to the things they're doing right, all the time, particularly when we don't have to tell them to do/not do those things. And this is extremely hard when the behaviour is not doing something.

For example, Lumen is absolutely fascinated by Mia - our tortoiseshell cat. For whatever reason, Mia is much more interesting to her than Darcy (who is boring and doesn't play) and occasionally will roughhouse with Lu, and when the roughhousing gets too rough, Mia runs away. This is, as you can imagine, an even better game.
So I've done plenty of 'leave it!' work, and she's pretty good with this, but I noticed sometimes I was getting yelly  in my frustration - stop chasing the damn cat!!!
I decided to turn it around a bit. I've made a conscious effort to tell Lumen how good she is every time she ignores the cat - not when it's running (too hard at this point, though if she does ignore the cat while  it's running, bonanza!!!), just in passing.

This is showing Lumen that she doesn't need to rely on commands from me to make her own decisions - the right decisions, and get praise for it. I've begun to notice sometimes she'll wander nonchalantly into the kitchen where Mia is milling around, and think: "Ooo! Cat!!... Wait... .... ... what... cat...? I don't see any cat..." I turn on the praise.

And look, sometimes I'm still having to tell her 'leave it' because this puppy has one hell of a prey-drive, and so at 6 months old, with cats who don't fight back, I can't expect her to be perfect, but we certainly seem to have a puppy much less on edge about needing to chase the cats, and cats who are much less on edge about being chased...

Now, if only I can get her to stop barking when the cats are fighting each other in the middle of the night (yes, I know you need them to stop fighting but can you let me handle it?) we'll be onto a winner!

(And just as I finish writing this, Lumen chases Mia across the kitchen. Looks like we still have a ways to go!!!)

Do you remember to focus on the positives, even if you're not in 'training' mode? Do you praise your dog's decision to not sniff the dead thing while out on a walk when it's just expected that he or she won't sniff it? How often do we miss the decisions our dogs make just because they're expected to make those decisions?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

trick of the week: stand on my feet

Photo from that dog dancing guy
I've had a couple of people ask me about this trick.

If you are playing along at home, please let me know how you're going with your tricks, if you're having any problems (maybe I can help!?) if you're succeeding, if I'm giving you too many assignments too quickly.

This trick was one of the early ones I taught to Lumen- I think she had a natural tendency to barge between my legs though anyway so it was a pretty natural progression from there.

For this trick, I think it would be helpful if your dog it used to playing with its feet- eg, experimenting while shaping by using its feet to touch things, climb on things, etc. It's only front feet this time and most dogs seem to have a better understanding of their front feet over their rear feet.

So, here's what you do.

edited: in case you feel lazy, you can just watch a video instead!!!

Stand on my feet (and walk)

You'll need:
Clicker or marker word (eg. yes!)
Hungry dog
Maybe some toys for jackpots.

First, start by luring your dog with a bit of food to go around your leg (this can be a trick in itself) toward your back. You might want a bit of food in both hands to stop your dog turning to look back at the first hand to get the food.

With open legs, reward your dog through the legs. You'll want to work on this lure and reward bit so the dog gets used to being between your legs. I can imagine some dogs wouldn't like it so you have to make it a fairly valuable place to be with plenty of treats. You can make the circling around and coming through a trick in itself, or if you wanted to skip it you could just step over your dog, I guess, but it's more fun if they get into position themselves. 
So, say you want them to come around on your right side because you're right handed like me so that makes sense (or switch this around), you'd have a bit of food in your right and left hands. You'd lure them from in front of you, around the right side of your body, as far as you can before they are bending weird from trying to get the food in your right hand... then you need to get their attention with the food in your left hand, and feed them for coming through your legs. I think it's less complicated than it sounds, give it a try. 

Ok, that's part 1 to set your dog up.
Now that it's happy to be between your legs, you'll want to curl your toes up to make your feet nice and flat. I suggest also wearing shoes as socks and bare feet are very slippy and even Lu has trouble staying on. You'll also want to start being a little pigeon toed.. means your feet are closer without you having to crush your dog with your legs. 

Now comes the shaping. You can lure a little here too but not in great amounts- I find Lumen does some of her best thinking while gnawing on my hand that has food in it, and will naturally shuffle around and try different things with her feet while she's doing this- your dog may or may not, but you need to find a way to get those feet moving without necessarily encouraging the dog to leave the leg zone. 
If they lift a foot, click and reward- I think Lu crept forward a bit while learning this, so I'd push her back with food to the nose. Essentially, you start clicking front feet movement, jackpotting and going crazy if their foot even accidentally touches yours.
It's a bit of trial and error to get to the standing on your feet bit, but once they get it you'll be right...
Eventually your dog should get one foot one, and then it's a matter of getting them to put the other on... as most dogs are left or right-paw dominant, one will be easier than the other. I wouldn't necessarily worry about having two paws on at once at first if you need to work on the non-dominant paw... I'd probably want them to understand that either/or paw can go on, particularly the non-dominant paw, and from there start waiting it out once one paw is on your foot to see if they move the other one.

For the walking, you just start small, even just shifting your weight and clicking them for staying on your feet. Then a little step, click for staying on your feet. Keep doing this, step by step, until you can take a few steps in a row before rewarding.
I didn't name this trick, apart from the circling around and through my legs bit- she knows if she goes through, she should probably stand on my feet next. I suppose you could name it if you want.


My dog isn't moving its feet or doing anything.

So I'd probably recommend other tricks to get your dog thinking about its feet, eg. paw touches/targets, standing on shoes (not on your feet), climbing on a saucepan, etc. I also helped get Lumen's attention sometimes by wiggling my toes if I had my shoes off. The movement helped her focus on my feet and she figured she probably needed to do something with them. Like I said, you can use food a bit to help shift your dog's weight to encourage them to move their feet, too.

My dog hops off whenever I move forward.

Work on just staying still but shifting your weight like you're about to take a step but don't really take a step. Get the dog to understand that their job is to keep its feet on yours.

Let me know if you have any other problems and I'll post the questions up here, and happy training!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

friday thoughts

I was trying to think of a post to have for Friday... being the studious blogger I've become, I have posts scheduled to appear for the next couple of weeks, but nothing for today...

I was reading a friend's blog the other day, and he mentioned Oscar's Law, and how this is a campaign to say it's unacceptable to factory farm companion animals. I know his is a blog about dogs, as is mine, however it was the specification of companion animals that got me thinking. I also think that as people who love dogs, we must be aware of the fact that we are continuing to enforce the 'norm' that some species are more worthy of our protection than others. By giving blogs to dogs, or cats, we are saying again and again: 'these animals are a part of our family, we will not mention the others - they are the invisible ones'. 

So, to be clear, I'm all for Oscar's Law. Puppy farms are horrific, pet shops shouldn't sell animals unless they're from rescues or rehoming organisations. 

I've only mentioned it once on my blog so far, but I am a vegan. I've been a vegan for less than a year, but it's something that makes sense. And look, I'm not the best vegan in the world- my pets aren't vegan, and I think I'm going to have one hell of a time finding boots for winter that aren't leather, since finding boots pre-vegan was impossible enough (ask Husband about the 4-hour walk around NYC trying to find a pair of boots and still coming away empty handed). 
But what I wonder is, why is it unacceptable to factory farm companion animals, but acceptable to farm pigs and chickens? Why is it unacceptable to kick a kitten, but ok to kick a lamb, or a calf?
If I say "I love animals!" why does that only mean dogs and cats (and maybe horses - consider the latest horsemeat scandal. Is there something more horrific about eating the meat of a horse than eating the meat of a cow??). If I am ashamed and horrified by suffering inflicted on a dog, how could I not be horrified and ashamed by suffering inflicted on a broiler chicken just so I could eat it?

With more and more evidence coming to light that it is healthier to eat a plant-based diet, that cutting out meat helps the environment, and not to mention the moral and ethical benefits you gain (clean conscience, anyone?)... surely it can only make sense, if we call ourselves 'people who love animals', that we cannot eat them or cause them suffering (because I don't eat eggs or dairy either, even though this isn't directly consuming an animal, it certainly causes a bucketload of suffering along the way). 

I'm not trying to be preachy, it's the truth. If you eat a part of an animal, you are eating part of an animal that has been bred and killed for you to eat. Depending on the type of animal you are eating, the suffering it would have lived through in its short life would have been immense. 

If you're frightened by the v-word, don't be (I'm not a scary radical, I promise). Husband and I cut out red meat first, then went vegetarian, and after lots of consideration, went vegan. There's heaps of resources out there, recipes and support. And look, it is hard sometimes- we loved nothing more than eating all the free samples at Costco on a weekend, and most of them are off-limits now... but honestly? That's a small price to pay, knowing that I don't contribute to the suffering of animals anymore. (And probably better for my waistline, too!!)

Check out this website, for a 30 day vegan challenge, with recipes, info and more. And feel free to contact me or comment here for a lively debate. 

a compilation of sits...

Click it to see full size..! (This is what happens when the Husband is not home and I have some spare time on my hands... Does this count as 'relaxing'?... Probably not.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

finding the joy

After stressing a lot about Lumen's lack of drive, which I figured stemmed from her lack of 'crazy' and 'enthusiasm' about playing with toys, I'm giving training a break.
In a way.

Which is to say that 'formal' training sessions that I've worked so hard at over the last 4 months, are being put on the back-burner for a little while as we find the joy.

See, I watch Lumen playing, and she plays half-heartedly. It's like, the bit that you have to do before you can get back to learning more, which is great that she loves learning, and loves doing a job... but a happy, driven dog it does not make. Because although she does the job, and she does it well, she doesn't do it with the intensity I want. 

I was saying to a friend of mine that she puts about 90% effort into shaping, and 70% into playing. 

So I'm letting it go. I'm taking her to the park, throwing two toys and not expecting her to 'fetch' them. I've found she loves fetching sticks then running around holding it while you hold the other end. I'll drag the long bits of gumtree bark all over the ground and get her to chase it. I'll break little bits of sticks, get her attention and throw them in the air one by one- at the moment she wants to find them so she can finish the game (bring them back or chew them up) but that's not what we're doing - I don't give her a chance! I throw another one! I find sticks with leaves attached and drag them all around. Nic and I run around the big trees and disappear out of sight. I'll tug if that's what she wants, then take off running. 

I feel so unfit at the moment- little sprints are puffing me out, and part of that is my iron issues, so the more I start jogging, the more running I do, the more iron pills I take (ha), the easier this will all be.

And hey, if I end up having to train her initially with a ball or a stick (two favourites, I think), or a sock, well, at least they're cheap toys. 

So right now, it's all about playing, not trying to get a result. Sometimes I'll do a collar restraint, but that's just part of the 'chase a stick' game. 

I need to stop worrying and find our joy. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

knowing when to stop, and when to stop worrying.

Wild dog.

I am my own worst enemy, particularly when it comes to 'the unknown future' and when those 'unknown future' events happen to involve anything slightly competitive.

So can you guess what really stresses me out (and not always in a bad way, but sometimes in a bad way)...? 

Training a young dog to eventually compete in agility.

Here's how my head reads:

I need a good collar restraint.

If I don't have good collar restraint, I won't have good drive forward.
If I don't have good drive forward, I won't have good cik/cap or running contacts, or weaves, or whatever.
If I don't have good (insert thing), I won't do well in agility!!!


**spend every waking moment thinking about collar restraint and how she's not doing as well as I want**
**train madly, several times a day (luckily for her this is all about playing and racing me to food)**
**obsess about how to get her faster, stronger, better-- NEW TOYS!! BETTER FOOD!!! HOSE!!! MEAT!!!**
**realise I've only been properly training collar restraint for 2 days, and she's gone from just staring at her toy like; uh... are you gonna let me get it? to pulling forward - big improvement!**
**take breath, try and relax**

I don't know if anybody else lurking around here is as obsessive as me, and it's a bit sad because I know I should just let it go and have more fun but I can't, it's not who I am. I problem-solve and analyse, and over-think, and worry and I plan. And if I can't plan and lock-in an outcome, I worry. 

I suppose this is a note to myself:
Dude. Relax. Your dog gets better, just not straight away- it doesn't take long, but it takes longer than you think it will. She's a prep kid- they don't learn to count to 20 in one lesson. It takes them a LOT of lessons (so she's smarter and quicker than them, anyway). In fact, in that case, if you feel bad, compare her to the preps. 

Just not maybe some of the really smart ones. They put us all to shame.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

trick of the week: circle

Hello again.

2nd installment of trick of the week. 

Once again, this is a great foundation trick for a lot of things. It teaches hind-end awareness especially well, a bit of independence (Lumen found it hard to do the bit where she had to turn her back on me), a bit of balance, and as a base for a lot of other tricks. It's the trick I used to begin teaching Lumen the 'heel' position, and to do a backward figure-8. 
Again, this is a trick you can teach to even a young puppy. If you have an older dog (like Mallei) who doesn't have rear-end awareness, they might find this much more difficult than your young dog. Mal is hopeless at this. 

Circle on an object.

You will need:
Something like a saucepan, pot or similar.

How to do it:
Your dog needs a basic understanding of clicker training to begin with.
Assuming it has this, shape your dog to put its front feet only on the pot. Be careful of getting all 4 feet on because although that's a really cool trick, it'll 'muddy the waters' of this one for now. 
Ok. When it knows to get its front feet up there, start looking for rear-end movement. That can be a shift of weight from one foot to another, a lift of one foot, whatever. Click, treat. Keep doing this. When the dog is shifting around (Mallei does this and it's about as far as we get), stop clicking for a bit and hold out. If the dog takes a step in either direction, jackpot!!! Play, reward, have a party.
Keep going. Soon, one step isn't good enough. Look for two. Three... Four. 
I found with Lumen that she needed a little help to get around the part where she can no longer watch me (and the food) but had to have her back turned to me. In one direction I reached down and helped her turn her head to then swing her butt around... and in the other direction, I shaped a head drop. As soon as she was comfortable dropping her head (eg no longer looking up at me) she found it much easier to then swing around on her own. This is sort of a matter of practise and experimentation I think. 
Once they begin circling, make sure to reward in different places so they never expect to stop in one spot. 
Then... go the other way. Essentially, you'll start from scratch. You'll probably get a few frenzied circles as your dog tries to figure out why the circles aren't working, and then maybe you'll get a weight shift in the other direction. Hurrah!!! Usually it takes less time to shape the other way because they kind of already know the game.
Most dogs will have a preferred way, and that's where they'll default to. It's important to teach them both ways though. 
Once they're circling, you could add a cue - I have a hand flick for Lumen, which helps her know the direction I want, and when she's going to side, she has "flip" to get to my right side, and "side" to go to my left side. 
In the video, I begin to step into her way and I click when she bumps me. That 'bump' becomes the foundation of her heel and 'return to side' position. If she's bumping, she's close and in the right place. 


My dog won't go around, will only dance on the spot.
Ah yes, I know this problem well, thanks Mallei. I'd suggest doing other rear-end awareness tricks like 4-in, targetting back, etc. Luring could also be beneficial though I think this could make the training process take longer. Possibly you could try foot pods, or a book or something, so the dog has something solid and tangible to step onto, and can aim for that thing- you could keep moving the book further and further around until the dog is doing a full circle to get to the book with its hind legs, and then fade out the book. I might try that with Mallei and let you know how it goes.

Dog doesn't stay on the pot.
Might need to do some more shaping with that one to get them to understand that their job is to put their front feet on the pot and keep them there!

Good luck, and happy training!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

product review: JW hol-ee roller

I've always wanted to do a product review, and I'm guessing we've spent a couple of hundred dollars trying to source the perfect and most motivational toy for Miss Lu.
Everything from tug ropes including real fur or fleece (extremely against my ethical beliefs as a vegan, but I'm willing to try anything and the fur one is apparently sourced from op-shop fur coats, neato), different balls and plush, or not-plush toys... flying disks, flying rings, and a myriad of others..

I have 2 toys in circulation at the moment that seem to get 'the best' out of Lumen, and I'd like to write a review of the one I'm using the most.

Keep in mind, this post is not sponsored by anybody, I'm just writing this because I think it's a great toy, and anybody trying to get into dog sports needs a toy their dog is super enthusiastic about, and in this case, the toy is super versatile, too. Big plus!

I'd seen Silvia Trkman training with a version of this toy initially, so I thought I'd give it a go.
Hol-ee roller in action. Look at that stretch! Look at that tug!!

I bought the 'medium' size which would be better suited to a border collie I think, as Lumen's lower jaw often gets stuck in the holes already, and she's still meant to get bigger. That being said, she doesn't mind, and just pulls it off with her foot or manages to spit it out.

The best thing about this toy, as I said, is its versatility. You can throw it, tug on it, skitter it around on the ground, all without your fingers or hands being chomped on (Lu likes to tug and tries to play with a traditional tennis ball. Uh, no). This is the toy that Lumen has actually managed to learn to TUG with. She was an average tugger before, but she puts all her strength into tugging this one. I think she can get a great grip with her teeth (ropes she's always found a bit hard to grip- a bit slippery) and because it's rubber, it's sort of bouncy and stretchy, meaning no jarring when she tugs back.

Because it can be thrown, brought back and tugged, this opens up a great amount of possibility for games - if she lets go during the tug, I'll throw it, keeping her prey-drive high.. I can throw it as she comes out of a tunnel, or use it as a target to latch on to after a tight turn.
It seems very sturdy for my girl, though I wouldn't leave a serious chewer alone with it- she'd have no inclination to destroy it - and despite all the full-on tugging we've been doing, I haven't been concerned about it breaking from being over-stretched at all.

Price was pretty reasonable, I guess, given the price of most toys and tug-ropes. If you compare it to a tennis ball, sure, it's going to come out more expensive.

I bought mine from Game on Dogs, who have a huge selection of great toys for motivating your dog. I also got my 'lamb tug' from there too- our other favourite.  Check it out if you're looking for an affordable, versatile toy for motivating your dog!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

our homework for the week: practising all over the place!

What's over there?! Never mind!! Ignore the distractions, puppy!

So I was just thinking about how our foundation course with Silvia Trkman is going to start in a month, and how Lumen and my training sessions have become a little 'routineized' in that we go in, every morning and every afternoon (pretty much) to our spare room and we train.
We run through tricks based on what Lumen seems to want to do, and we'll go off on tangents for whatever's fun, unless we have a necessary focus like working on restraints with her collar, which is how we've been warming up...

But we're always in the same place.
For things like tunnels and cik/cap we're either in the backyard, down at the reserve or sometimes at the lake park where we cik/cap around trees.... But we rarely do tricks or trick training in those places.

So, I'm setting myself my own assignment for the next few weeks as it starts to cool down again - get out to different places and do those shaping tricks. Take a bowl for 4-in. Run through equiptmentless tricks we're working on like 'bang' and roll over. Get her used to not focusing ONLY when we're running around playing, but also the time before we get to run around and play, when we're doing hard thinking work.

I think for me, this will mean keeping the sessions short and sharp- asking for a little bit of shaping, or for a trick once or twice to get a good one, then having a really good exciting play. So trick-work and free-shaping has to be fun and focused even in unusual situations. Because if I can get that, agility focus will be simple, since it's more about play and running around, which she loves.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

running with wolves... or in this case, dogs.

On Sunday, Husband and I took Lumen to the beach. The beach is a good hours' drive from here but we've found a great off-leash dog one with high cliffs and lots of room to run, swim and play. The water gets a little deep too quickly for Lu who is swimming in a couple of bounds, but not deep enough for us to swim.

While we were there, I'd been romping around with her, as I do. I like to run, especially on the beach where we can charge into the water together, or kick up spray in the shallow bits. Some young women had seen us running, and asked in despair how to get their dog to run with them. Their dog was a young male border-collie, very interested in the ball they had, but completely disinterested in them. High herding instinct, it would circle them like mad... One of the women took off at a run, border flanked her, circled, and demanded the ball be thrown. To me, there didn't seem to be any connection between them and that dog- at least not at that time. The question struck me by surprise. I'd been running with Lu since I got her. I don't mean going for jogs, I mean quick sprints up and down the backyard, which eventually lead into sprints at the park. Didn't everybody run with the dog??

I like to run particularly with agility in mind- I throw in front crosses, get her to stay on the side my hand is out on, circle, rear-cross if she gets far enough ahead. I think that the majority of the 'stuff' you do in agility isn't contacts, or weaves, or even jumps, it's all that running inbetween. It's your dog, chasing you, being chased by you, turning and changing direction, and responding to certain cues. 

The aim of those early games was to teach being on one side. For Lumen, chasing is one of the best games. As a puppy, she'd get so caught up in trying to catch me and bite my ankles that a tough little growl would come out of her. Then she'd pull my pant-legs. Yeah, training her out of that was great fun. But because the game itself was so rewarding, the way for me to teach her to stay on the correct side, was to stop running if she made her own decision to cut behind me. Game over. Try again!
Sometimes, I'll run with her and have her target to a toy in my hand. This helped her learn that the side with the arm out is the fun side. Now I just have to remember that she's not experienced like Mallei and still needs that cue- he would just run along beside and take tunnels and jumps as I told him to. 
We also did a lot of nose to hand targeting when she was young, which comes in handy for about a hundred other things, but you can work it into your running by moving the target (your hand) once the dog is confident in targeting it while stationary in any position. Then you can move your hand and they should follow it to hit it with their nose- just make sure they can!!

Interestingly, I hadn't realised until I got Husband to film us running at the beach, that she's a sneaky little herding dog. Because she's not currently driving forward to the next jump or obstacle, and I can't possibly run as fast as her, she's looking up at me and coming around in front- meaning I either throw in a circle (she gets what she wants - herding dog!), stop (again, herding dog!), or trample her (not great either). So obviously we still have work to do.

There's even more benefits to running with your dogs than just all this though...
For one, I was puffed by the end- running in sand is hard!
Second, apart from a quick glance at the golden retriever running towards us, Lu is focused on me- despite all the other dogs and people around, smelly things in the sand, Nic somewhere else (filming), I am the centre of the game. This is invaluable for agility, where other dogs will be running in nearby rings, or playing tug, and I need her focus to be on me and where we're going.
Third, in the video you can see I throw the rope/ball forward- this is helping teach her a 'go on!' or 'go!' cue, very useful for home straights in agility, as well as diverting focus from you, to ahead (which in turn leads to obstacle drive and focus).

Do you run with your dog?? And if not, why not? It's one of the easiest ways to get some foundation skills in your agility dog, and all you need is a toy and your runners (or sneakers). 

Happy running!

picture of the week: profile

Monday, March 11, 2013

trick of the week: 4-in

Hello, welcome to trick of the week.

I've recently had a couple of people ask me to set them 'assignments' to help with training their dog, so hopefully it will make me more diligent about updating the blog, about filming our training, and about thinking of new tricks.
Feel free to share this around for anybody else who might enjoy it.

I think first and foremost, before trying any of this, your dog needs to have a pretty solid understanding of what the clicker is, and what a click means.... That being said, this was one of the very very first tricks that I was teaching Lumen as an 8 week old pup, so it's definitely do-able, even if it looks complicated!!

This is one of my favourite tricks for a number of reasons: it helps your dog's balance and strength, teaches then amazing rear-end awareness (absolutely necessary for agility training), looks freaking cool,  and really requires them to think about what their job is.


You'll need:
A LARGE bowl, box, or plastic tub - I used those see-through plastic storage tubs for puppy Lumen, made her job easier.
A smaller bowl, box or saucepan (see photo above, Lu at probably 12 weeks, so keep in mind that the saucepan is relative to her size (e.g.. still pretty big. You might want to use a large tupperware container or slightly smaller box than the first).
An even smaller bowl - I use a plastic tupperware bowl which you'll see on the video above. The edges are a bit sharper than I'd like so you can use whatever you have lying around, or get a small metal dog water bowl from the pet-store. I've been meaning to do this, but I've been slack.
The idea is to step it down gradually- if that takes 4 sizes, then it takes 4 sizes! Set your dog up to succeed, don't make it so impossible that they (and you) get frustrated. 

How to do it:
First, shape your dog to get in the largest box. This doesn't usually take long, though for some, getting their back legs in takes longer than their front. Click for one front leg, the other, then any movement of the back-legs - this will start them thinking about their rear-end, and eventually they'll lift them up and get them in the box. Jackpot for all 4 feet in the box.
Great. When you've done this step (and most dogs should find this relatively straightforward especially if the box is big enough to fit them), get your next smallest item. Repeat the process as above. This time they might struggle with the back-feet, so it'll take longer. Again, click and reward back-feet movement, especially movement that suggests they're trying to work their feet toward the bowl/box/saucepan. Don't be surprised if this step takes a while - sometimes it's worth jackpotting three legs in the bowl, just so they get the idea that their hind legs are really important and exciting. 
Last step, you guessed it, small bowl. Start all the way from the start, but because of your pre-work, it should be pretty easy. 
Then you want to start extending duration but keep in mind that to balance in this position is quite tricky for dogs- I haven't got much duration at all with Lumen (and I haven't really been working on it since she 'got' the trick). 
Cues? The bowl is the cue. I don't tell Lumen to 'get in' or do anything, she just sees the bowl and knows her job (after a little trial and error sometimes).


Dog doesn't put hind-feet in, ever. 
Ok, so you need to back up and train more tricks. A great one for rear end awareness is circling on top of the saucepan. I'll post this one next week. Once you have that, the dog should have more understanding of its hind-feet and give that a try.

My dog got in the big box with all legs, but won't get in the next smaller box.
I'd either alternate between the big box/bowl and the littler box/bowl and try and help them generalize between one and the other, or get a less small box as the 2nd one, to help them 'step down' in size. I know this is really frustrating because Mallei (my older boy) wouldn't get in the smaller one even though he understood getting in the bigger one. 

My dog only touches its 4th foot in for a second then gets out.
That's ok, I think your dog just doesn't have enough strength to hold the position for a while yet. Keep working on the trick and also do other tricks for strength and balance (watch this space) and conditioning your dog through hill walks, running through the forest, over roots, etc, tugging and playing. Possibly your smallest bowl is too small- I know Lumen finds it tricky to stay in position because her feet are standing on her feet... Possibly if I used a slightly bigger bowl she could build strength and balance, which she could transfer to the smaller bowl. 

Let me know how you get on! Post your videos in the comments, or ask me if you're having any other problems and I'll add it to the trouble-shooting section.

Good luck, happy training!

Next week's trick: circling an object keeping front paws still.

Friday, March 8, 2013

tunnel mad

Love those ears...

As part of our foundation training, I've gotten out my el-cheapo $37 tunnel, set it up straight, and have been working on drive and speed with Lu, then throwing in a little cik/cap at the ends.

She certainly runs through and considering this is the 2nd session we've done it, I can already see her driving to the tunnel more. The first session she'd do it once, wrap, and then run alongside the tunnel. I also did a couple of wrap & chase around the bollard but she wasn't really into those today. I don't yet have a lot of drive into a wrap from a standstill so I need to work on that I suppose. All questions I can pose once the Foundations course starts in April. In the meantime I'm getting extra practise in, which is great.

I think she's going to be a great little dog to run - she seems to really enjoy the game, mostly. It's been so hot here, and even this morning when we were filming the video it was already creeping up to 27 degrees, hot and humid. I make sure she has a couple of swims as this seems to renew her energy but she was still pretty lackluster compared to normal - bring back the cool weather and my fast, driven, energetic dog! At least if she'll run in this heat, she'll run in the cool.

I think I'll keep working with the straight tunnel for a while, and using it to really get her racing to, and looking for the cik/cap or the Go! at the end... then I might start curving it and see if I get the same drive forward into the tunnel as I've been getting.

I also want to work on, if you do a trick your reward is play/a toy, to really solidify that idea so she knows when we play out here, that that's the reward. Also going to keep working on collar resistance- ST said in a reply to a comment I left on her blog that she just needs to resist, not necessarily pull forward. Problem is sometimes she'll just stand there and look at the toy bouncing around, and if I pull back, she goes backwards. In the video you'll see she's much more interested, even getting lifted up. Hey, if that's what she wants to do, we can do that.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

restrain yourself

I began watching the Foundations Fun DVD last night from Silvia Trkman. She suggests the first thing you need is a really good restraint, to get the dog to drive forward, first to a toy being waved in the dog's face, then to a rolling ball, then to a stationary toy... Eventually this translates to driving forward through the tunnel, getting extra speed, etc. 

Well... I started working on this more with Lumen last night. I figured she already had a good 'ready' response, knowing something was about to happen, but hadn't done a lot of restraining her. 

For context- it's been about 30-degrees more or less for the last month or more, with one day dropping down to mid-twenties. So... it's hot. It's been hot for a long time. We're all sick of the heat. Our house is hot. Playing with her makes us both hot... so, it's probably fair enough that she isn't that into the game right now because we're all too hot...

But... Now, being the obsessive paranoid that I am, I'm worried that I've kind of trained her out of 'pulling' to get what she wants... and now I have to go against that training to try and get her to pull in order to get to a toy... And she's interested, and she wants it, but she just watches it... and she'll pounce on it when I let her go but she won't pull back and get crazy excited... In fact, I still don't know what the 'thing' is that makes her super excited... maybe there isn't a one thing, I don't know. 

So... I'll keep trying, and when it gets cooler maybe I'll have more luck. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

a touch of class

Just a nice picture of the pups for the header...nothing related to the post.

Husband and I have been toying with the idea of me starting my own training classes. I've learnt so much from doing Foundation with Lumen that I feel very confident in being able to pass on that knowledge. 

Agility specific clubs here in Melbourne are full- there's 12-18 month waiting lists to get in with a Foundation dog. Everybody in the agility community knows me and what I did with Mallei so I have a good reputation as a dog trainer already... 

I've recently been doing small-group classes with another trainer and I feel like there's parts missing that I would really benefit from, or, which would be better done as a pre-agility/puppy class, and then a bit more of an advanced foundation class...

So I have lists of what I'd teach, and I feel like it'd be a really successful program that could be tailored for different people, and because there'd be essentially pre-foundation and foundation, you could either do more equipment, motivation, speed and turns in one (which is what we'd like to be doing) and more shaping, tricks, stays, games and playing, etc in the pre-puppy. 

As I'm planning to take a few Silvia Trkman classes, I could also work in what I learn from those to my own sessions, and since nobody here has taken her classes as far as I'm aware, that would be totally new and different. 

I already know people who would be interested in coming, and have access to a large client base through friends and other dog people... I could charge people $20-25 a class, and after a few lots of classes should have paid off the equipment I would need to outlay for (some nice jumps and actual proper tunnels would be a good start, followed by a dog-walk (I'd want to encourage running and it'd be great to have my own DW to practise on before trailing!))... I need to find somewhere that I can hold the classes in the evening- so an oval with lights somewhere, organise insurance... I think it'd be fun...!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

tricky tricks

A prize-winning trick at the Lost Dog's Home Petfest.

I thought it might be fun if I made a list of all Lumen's tricks, because some of them are hilarious, and it would be good to know what we need to work on, and it would be fun to take photos of them and have like, a photo dictionary of tricks.
Of course, being only 6 months old, these aren't perfect, and wouldn't necessarily be performed in high-stress, high-tiredness situations, but I can usually get them to happen if I want.

The basics

Stand (not great at this one)
Stand for exam
Shake (both paws)
Wave/Right (wave is the left paw, right is.. the right paw)

A bit tricker
Roll over/Play dead
'Nose' (Paw on nose while on back)
'Beetle' (Legs straight up in the air while on back)
Sit pretty
Stand up
Stand on feet and walk forwards and backwards
Pray (front feet on arm, head down)
Back up
'Bang' (Roll over dramatically from a sit)
Scratch (Hind leg scratch behind ear)
Weave through legs
Go around legs
Cik/cap around an object
Nose touch
Paw targets
Stretch (lay on stomach and 'superman' front and back legs)
Frog (lay on stomach with back-legs out at sides like frog legs)
Close drawers
Push a skateboard

Handstand (against hand, wall or upright thing)
Lift one or other rear leg.
Flip to either side.
Heel stuck to side.
Reverse figure-8
Lift both legs (at the moment up on a cushion or whatever)
Lift leg on someone (hahaha)
Get in a suitcase
Take (object) and put in box.
4 legs in a bowl
4 legs standing on pods.
Feet in shoes (progress to shuffling forward)
Kiss (meant to be a lick on the chin but ends up being a punch on the chin with her nose)
Leave it

Working on...
Chase tail
'Itchy' (scratch tummy with back leg while standing)
...Um.. we'll call this, 'scratch and bite' (laying down, scratches ear with back leg while biting her tail)
Lick lips
Cross paws
Sneeze on command
Snorkle on command
Yawn on command
Dog cavaletties (walk in boxes without demolishing them)
"Fleas!" (Sit and scratch behind ear)
Don't chase cats.

Wrap up in blanket
Dive into blanket
Shame/hide (hide nose under paw)
Hold it (hold an object in mouth)
Put one bowl into another bowl.
Cross-paw walking
Sit pretty to stand up back to sit pretty
Hold on to paw/toy/pole with front legs.
Hold your front leg in mouth.
Speak (maybe... she just gets a little enthusiastic about this one and doesn't do anything else if I click it)
Maybe 'beg' with paws down instead of in the air.