Sunday, April 7, 2013

ST Foundations: Assignment 1

Lu's serious face and posture when you say "Ready.... ready....!" with
a ball in hand... 

FYI Anybody who reads here- I think I'll jump over to wordpress... meet me there!

The new address is:

So Assignment 1 for Silvia Trkman's foundation class is up, and in a way I'm dreading it a bit because it's the thing we're really not that great at, which is sends to wraps.

I watch other people's videos and their dogs dive into the wrap, whip around it, and dive out of it, full speed. I'm lucky if I get a lolling canter into it and around, and usually a sprint out. I can get more speed if I send her from a tunnel but that's not what we're meant to do.
So I'm thinking maybe she's a dog that just does things, but doesn't put 110% effort in... I know she's not a BC, I'm not going to get those low to the ground sprints, but SOME kind of enthusiasm would be nice. Maybe that will come with maturity? I hope so, because I'm feeling very lacklustre right now.
And I shouldn't judge her on this morning- she'd already been zooming around with Mal, she crashed into a wooden fence and hurt herself earlier, and I took her to a new park where we'd never worked before (very sniffy), so of course she's not going to be her best, and I HAVE been getting some better drives into a wrap with a plastic bottle, or the hose or something, but only ever once or twice.

She just doesn't seem to get enthusiastic. Like... when I get Mal out, I say "ready... ready...." and he's dancing on his feet, tensed up, ready to do... whatever! If I say ready to Lu (and we've done plenty of practise with that cue!) she tenses and looks serious, but isn't ready to burst out of her skin to do whatever's about to happen. I wonder if that's experience- she doesn't 100% trust that she knows what to do next so she has to take it easy to figure it out. I know in new situations sometimes she'll stop, observe, walk.. stop, observe, walk... She's a thinker. I think all the thinking is slowing her down.

We're also going to be doing some more tunnel work- I've been curving it gradually over the past couple of tries and I'm thinking the speed is still pretty good (as with her, it could always be better I think - which doesn't bode well for running contacts, but that's another story entirely) so then when she's blasting through, I'll start doing call to hand and turns, and maybe some obstacle discrimination with all my tunnels (fun tunnel-land!).

I just think Lu is so quick and so smart that she should really excel in agility... but I'm just not seeing the best from her right now.
We'll try again tomorrow.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

fear and the pup.

I am skeptical of you and all you stand for.

Lumen is, through genetics, I suspect, naturally cautious of things.
I made a real point with her as a young pup to expose her to as much as I could- all people, lots of places, lots of things. I took her to an agility trial near the airport, an hour and some away from our house, so that she could experience the trial and the planes.

On Saturday we were in the same area and a plane flew overhead and she cowered, looked up, and started to do her run-away-run-away! dance.

I suspect she's in the middle of her next fear period, and I also suspect she will continue to be hard work in terms of getting her to be 'ok' of big monsters (trams, planes, trucks, trains)... 

That being said, my well-socialised, people-loving dog fights this massive internal battle with herself every time we come across a man while out on a walk. I see her thought-process very clearly:
OOO!! Person!!!

Wait.... scary....?!
But it's a person! I love people!!!
But he's tall and large, and has a deep voice.... BE AFRAID NOW!!!
But... but... Be my friend Mr. Person!?!?!

Which manifests itself in bouts of over-the-top tail and body wagging in her traditional wormy-bent-in-half kind of way, while at the same time, staying far enough away that the person can't touch her and she can't sniff them. Oh, puppy.

Similarly, the other day there was a stick stuck into a log on the ground.

We went up and investigated, and it was ok.

Safety tape to mark out where some construction had gone on?

Oh, it's just fluttering in the breeze. 

Music coming through the speakers unexpectedly or sounding weird? (and trust me, I socialised her to music, I'm sure!)

You get the idea.
I've written before about our treat-and-retreat game but then there comes a time like Saturday when a plane will fly overhead.
How the hell does one treat and retreat an aeroplane??

I've read so much about how if you feed your dog or 'help them' by soothing them when they're scared that it reinforces that they should be scared... Then I found this website and I loved what she said about helping your dog: It is ok to comfort your dog when it is afraid. You are not telling your dog it’s ok to be afraid. You are holding their hand and helping them jump off the high diving board. Your dog is afraid and doing what it has learned to do to protect itself. You are going to show your dog that it doesn’t need to worry... everything will be better than alright.

Right now, if there's a scary thing- like, a really scary thing, like a tram, Lumen will want to run far, far away. I need to turn that around- to look to me for reassurance. That when planes fly overhead, it's ok to be anxious but guess what- food is coming!! Planes=food. Scary things=games, food, praise. 
I don't think dogs have the capacity to be afraid in order to get more treats. I think if they're afraid, they need tools to help them work through that fear - if that's treating and retreating, great, but in situations when that can't or won't work (planes), she needs other ways to feel 'good' and 'ok', and if that's me shovelling food into her face when a plane flies overhead, that's what I'm going to do.
Plane=food, not fear=food. 

Now to ride out the rest of this fear period- at least, that's what I'm hoping it is...!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

what we're working on

This week, we don't have a lot of new stuff we're working on -

More collar restraints. She seems to be getting the hang of this now and she loves her pink squeaky ball, and so doesn't launch forward as much while I'm holding her, but certainly pulls back... She seems to also be understanding that she needs to launch forward into a run when I let go- I'm going to video this, but it doesn't seem like she needs to take a stride before beginning to run any more.

Cik/Caps- As always. Still working on driving forward. I'll keep shaping them inside for tightness, and outside I'm going to keep on working on her running into the wrap, but I might start adding a bit more distance now that she seems to be getting it.

Tunnel drive- Now I'm on holidays I want to start curving the tunnel while still getting full speed running. Husband said we can get a tunnel or two (a real, solid, heavy-duty one!!) so I might order that and then she'll be able to go full speed through a curved tunnel- right now, I reckon my tunnel is too flimsy to be able to do it properly.

Stays with distraction- I gave our stays a bit of a break while working on collar restraints but she's really quite good for a pup... of course, doing them at the park, with other dogs around, while playing with Mal, etc etc... all these are things we can work on together with her stays.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

3 fs

I'd say she's showing the 3-Fs here...

So I did a quick training session with Lu on Friday morning. I had looked out the window and seen her doing crazy- huge zoomies, digging up the garden like a hoon, diving in and out of her paddle pool despite it being a balmy 10C outside. I decided she was in a silly and drivey enough mood that she could channel some of that energy into playing with me.

I got out her brand new squeaky ball toy and she was instantly turned on. Focus.

I was going to start with some simple collar restraints but I thought I'd give a cik/cap a try - see how she was driving forward. And she did. Ok, my puppy isn't sprinting into the turns yet, she's sort of cantering in - I think part of that is due to still having a bouncy puppy-gait at times. But she's getting faster and faster.

Then we play. A game I thought of yesterday - 'poke and go' (where I poke Lumen and run away, turn, poke, run away) which ended up with her nipping my thighs. Ouch. However, I realised this morning with a mouth full of squeaky ball she could growl and bark at me all she wanted, but couldn't possibly nip. WIN! So we played. Fun.

Thinking about this training session- one that felt really great, with a really switched on happy dog, I thought of the things that made it feel so good, and found I could summarise in three words:

Focus, Fast, Fun.

Ok, I'm sure there's more words you could work in but I think this kind of exemplifies how I'd like to train. I'd like us to both be focused, and this includes being driven and motivated (Lumen) and being clear about what we're trying to do (Me, and very obviously my teaching background). Eventually this would include not being distracted in environments other than the back-yard, too (though sometimes that's distracting enough for her, too!).
I'd like her (and me) to be fast- to run and sprint and turn on a dime. Silvia Trkman stresses that a dog can't learn something slowly and then do it quickly, because the behaviour changes. That you should train running fast and then work on the finer points. That if your dog is doing something fast and makes a mistake, that it's your mistake (lack of training, poor signals, poor body language, etc) and not the dogs, and to not correct/go back/stop the mistake as this will make the dog more slow and more cautious as they're always trying to get things right. I have to be careful with this if I send Lu into a cik/cap and she goes the wrong way (eg. I say 'cap' and she goes 'cik') but does it fast- I say yay! but don't go crazy or play, or jackpot, and we try it again.
And Fun- I get so caught up in the competitive part of agility that it becomes very, very serious business for me. Ask anybody who knew that I was one pass off my Agility Championship with Mallei, how un-fun it became. Ask Husband, when I find some crack in Lu's training so far that might predict problems down the line, how obsessive I become at fixing it. I think if Lumen is having fun, and if I'm having fun, then the rest should be easy- if agility is just a game, Lumen is a great game-player.

So there's my 3Fs: Focus (including motivation, drive, obstacle and handler focus, and focus from me on the task at hand), Fast (speed, running and drive before precision), and Fun (playing, running, not getting caught up in the seriousness of it - for both of us!).

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?