Archive for June, 2009

projects for a week off

June 30, 2009

Time flies when you’re having fun.

My sister and I wandered about downtown Marietta a couple of weeks ago. Marietta merchants are committed to maintaining a dynamic downtown business district so, every month or so, they sponsor a “merchants walk” with sidewalk sales and refreshments.

Janice and I were intrigued by some antique, unmatched, painted dining room chairs in one store. We determined we’d try that project.

Last night I got a call from my sister, telling me that someone was throwing away some ladder-back chairs. Probably not old, but a suitable blank slate for our first attempt at furniture painting.

She picked up the chairs and we purchased our painting supplies today. For about $15 in paint and supplies I’m going to have a couple of dining room chairs — or maybe cottage chairs if they turn out badly. LOL

Another project Bud and I have tackled this week is replacing the insulation around the oven in the lower (red) cottage. Mice had created a little mouse condo in the fluffy, white insulation. Campers kept saying they smelled something when they used the oven. It came to a head when Bud’s brother and sister-in-law visited and tried to use the broiler.

The heat from the broiler smoked up the mouse turds and empty nut shells pretty badly. We went down the next day to unscrew the plate from the range top and pull out the soiled insulation.

Now we have to replace that insulation and it’s harder to find than one would initially suspect. Regular insulation isn’t designed for the temperatures reached by a kitchen oven. We’re ordering the insulation from an appliance parts company and hope to get it in and replaced before Katie and Dave arrive to stay in the cottage.

Along with new repairs and renovations, on-going mowing and string-trimming is at it’s peak right now. We’ve had so much rain, at such regular intervals, that mowing has become a timing issue.

I don’t like to mow or trim while campers are on the property — lots of dogs are frightened or annoyed by power equipment so I save those jobs for days when we’re here alone. And then it rains.

So the huge trimming job Vicki Davis performed a month ago is just a dim memory. The weeds are, again, 3 feet tall.

I’ve held my ground in the lawns around the house and am capable of maintaining the campfire area and flower beds, but anything beyond that is on it’s way to reverting to nature.

Actually, we’re battling nature on several fronts here. The mice in the cottages are overwhelming this spring, perhaps because of the mild temps and rain. Between mice and weeds and vines and poison ivy — one or all will take over if we show a moment’s weakness.

I have this visual of our house separated from the overgrown woods by a small mown yard, like a moat. And the mice barely held at bay, chewing their way through the log walls as we sleep.

Oh yeah, and bats have decided that the little gaps between the logs and the trim at the top gables are great bedrooms. We actually love bats, since they eat lots of insects, but the sound of bats waking up and getting to work in the evening is a little disconcerting, especially when it is right over your head.

In the meantime my father has decided to give one of the old woodburning stoves stored on the property to a drinkin’ buddy. Said drinkin’ buddy wants to come get said woodburner but is having trouble scheduling the small army of muscle it’s going to take to shift it. Another project, one from the annoying list.

My sister and I tried a new water exercise class today — water Pilates. I swam for 25 minutes beforehand, fortunately, as this form of pilates is not aerobic. But it was fun, a good stretch, and we were able to chat throughout the workout, so that’s something.

State Route 676 continues to be closed 4 miles east of us, causing us to take a detour through “god’s country” every time we go to Marietta. I’m becoming increasingly disturbed by one farmer’s animals. They seem poorly kept to me, though our county can barely afford a dog warden and I’m certain donkeys and cows won’t rate much attention.

We got our monthly magazine from our electric cooperative yesterday, with a right-wing article about how HSUS’s involvement in farm animal care in Ohio is going to lead to $6/dozen eggs and meat you can’t afford to buy.

Right — like animals have to be kept skinny and dirty to produce well. I felt like writing to the magazine’s editorial staff and suggesting that this author call his articles “editorials” if he wants a soapbox on which to preach right-wing scare tactics. Then I saw the name of the “director of communications” for the magazine — same as the author. Guess they’ve chosen sides.

This magazine also is trying to frighten people about how exploring alternative energy sources (other than coal-to-electricity, their product) is going to put energy costs through the roof. I guess they want us to think the Obama administration is going to lead us down a path to unaffordable utilities and food.

It’s hard to figure what’s more annoying — right-wing reactionaries or mice or bats.

my shelter 2-min training

June 23, 2009

I’ve been shirking my commitment to the shelter duties I took on.

I made the decision to work at the shelter on a weekly basis back in November ’08, at the beginning of our quiet time. I had met and befriended folks at the Parkersburg (WV) shelter and we hosted a presentation by Sue Sternberg, who was here for an agility camp.

My goal was to provide the Marietta shelter (which I perceived as more needy than the Parkersburg shelter) with a volunteer station and materials to teach potential dog adopters basic obedience exercises.

I met and befriended the volunteer coordinator at the Marietta shelter and, when she was nominated and voted the shelter board’s new president, I agreed to assume her former duties and a small mountain of volunteer application forms.

As volunteer coordinator, I:

1) donated a volunteer station cabinet ($60) and framed instructions for dog-walkers ($40). On this station, I provided a sign-in notebook, SMART (Shelter Matchmaker And Rehab Training) team guidelines, several leashes from our vast collection, two canisters of disinfectant, and several containers of hand cleanser.

2) created a display board for “Training Tips by Marsha Houston” which included a large supply of my seven 2-Minute Dog Trainer brochures for choosing the right shelter dog and basic obedience training.

3) sorted through the mountain of volunteer forms and harvested e-mail addresses, assembling a team of 3-4 SMART team members.

4) Spent 2-3 hours every Friday and Saturday at the shelter January through April ’09, training dogs, talking with potential adopters, working with dog-walkers, and replenishing supplies at the volunteer station.

5) Coordinated volunteer events and projects for Marietta College students, fascilitating a wonderful PR notebook which is available to the shelter at no charge, and assisting 20 students’ efforts to clean and freshen the shelter facility — donated painting supplies and a 5-gallon bucket of primer ($75).

6) Walked dogs at the shelter, at We Luv Pets, and at adoptathons.

7) Assembed teams of dog wranglers for various transport efforts, preparing dogs for transport to other shelters and rescue groups.

8) Attended several board meetings, was tentatively asked about my interest in becoming a board member.

9) Created a new volunteer application, taking the existing TWO applications (2 and 3 pages each), and putting all necessary information on one page, plus adding the “do you wish to foster” questions.

10) Sorted through the mountain of volunteer forms and discovered that shelter staff were having absolutely everyone complete an application, including visiting classes of grade school students, college students, and children accompanied by an adult.

11) created call lists for 10-12 jobs at the shelter, including only pertinent information on contacting those folks, and gave the call lists to board president Snell.

At the last board meeting I arrived 45 minutes late due to a misunderstanding regarding the meeting time and the worst storm this area has seen in 10 years. I was informed that someone else wanted the volunteer coordinator job, someone who is a bit of a flake and who is disliked by the staff of the shelter.

Because we have a puppy at home I’ve curtailed my visits to the shelter which, regardless of disinfectants and meds used, is rife with kennel cough, worms, and parvovirus.

However, now that Kory has had his second set of booster shots, I can probably resume my shelter visits. With summer in full swing I really need to replenish the training information and sign-up sheets for volunteers and potential adopters.

So I’m going to plan a visit the shelter to  a) work with dogs,  b) fill the training display with brochures,  c) turn in the box of volunteer forms and,  d) resign as volunteer coordinator.

Additionally, I’ve decided to remain as a dog training at the shelter and as provider of dog-training information to anyone interested, but to NOT accept a board position for one particular reason.

I’m getting phone calls from adopters of dogs, from dog-owners who visit local veterinarians who refer them to me, and from residents of the city and county, asking for dog-training advice and am offering basic obedience training on a pay-as-they-play basis.

This income from dog-training will keep me from serving as a board member for the shelter. I can’t be a board member and have real or potential income from dog adopters.

Dodged a bullet there, didn’t I? <g>

Today’s task is to print more volunteer applications and dog-training brochures. Tomorrow I’ll deliver them to the shelter.

In other news, we have a nice, long break from the hampster wheel we’ve been on. I hope to use this time to work on cottages, plant more ground cover, tame the weedy areas around the training building, and complete my work on the 2-minute dog training handouts for Go Rally Training Manual.

Additionally, we have 4 major events happening in a few months:  a) August 1-4, Games Camp,  b) August 11-16, teacup camp and TDAA trial/seminar,  c) Sept. 29-Oct.4, teacup camp and TDAA trial,  d) October 7-11, TDAA warm-up workshop and Petit Prix in Wisconsin.

We have 5 weeks to prepare for the first and about 14 weeks to prepare for the last. All that while trying to continue swimming and getting more fit. That’s a busy summer, probably.

Ohio 4H Teen Dog Experience, TDAA Petit Prix prep

June 21, 2009

Kids began arriving yesterday in the midst of my cottage cleaning and, because of the rains and moist ground, we decided mopping was unnessary.

What a great bunch of kids! The young women who run this show are organized and think of everything. All the participants arrived without a single knock on our front door, without anyone asking us where they’re supposed to be, without anyone needing our direction. It was bliss.

Last evening, because I read my e-mail message wrong, Bud and I showed up for their group meal (e-mail said Sunday, I read Saturday, you know how that goes …). Even though they were unprepared for guests at dinner they were gracious and welcoming.

Of course, when we realized my error we begged off and promised to return for the next day’s meal. Before leaving Bud made a campfire for them, I found newspapers and put them in a plastic storage container under the cottage deck, and Bud went to the house for our hotdog roasting sticks.

Bud tells me they were at the building at 6:30 a.m. today. That’s an early start for a bunch of teenagers!

In other news, Wayne Van Deusen has arranged for a training facility to allow a 2-day seminar / warm-up workshop for Wednesday and Thursday (October 7-8) before the TDAA Petit Prix (October 9-10-11).

It will be up to Bud and I to market, sell, and fill this seminar. That’s always a fun project for me.

Additionally, for teacup, we have our August 11-12-13-14 teacup camp followed by our August 15-16 TDAA trial/seminar. One cottage is reserved and both guestrooms are reserved. Seven of the 10 slots are sold for the camp, with campers getting to run their dogs in the trial/seminar for the recording fees. So 10 of the 20 slots for the weekend are filled already as well.

Then, in late September, for teacup, we have our September 29-30-October 1-2 teacup camp followed by our October 3-4 TDAA trial. Our judge is Margaret Hendershot. One cottage is reserved and one guestroom is reserved. Three of the 10 slots are sold for the camp. We’ll have nearly unlimited trial openings that weekend.

When the trial is finishing up Bud and I will be packing to head to Wisconsin for the Petit Prix, so this camp / trial week is going to be an important warm-up on my handling with Blue.

I’ve been doing very limited agility this year and am looking at my teacup training with Blue as a “just in time” proposition. Too early and I risk further injury to my knee, too late and I won’t have a solid partnership with Blue.

I’m planning 2-a-day training protocols with Blue beginning September 1, and 2-min training on weave entries and contacts beginning mid-August.

My wish is to shed a few more pounds before then, thus making it more likely my knee will hold up through the Petit Prix. That’s my plan, anyway. Thankfully there are no more traumatic emergency catastrophes on my calendar for the upcoming months to get me off track. <g>

the status of my resolutions

June 18, 2009

I’m 54 years old and some of my best resolutions have been made (and kept) in the last 5 years. Maybe it took me that long to settle down, but I think I’m making better choices now and sticking with things better.

FIRST, several years ago I began with the resolution to start voting, and with that came an interest in political issues and candidates who speak to my issues. Even when my candidate loses I feel I’ve achieved a personal goal when I vote. It was easy for a few years to become self-absorbed and oblivious to the politics that shape our world. Voting has expanded my interest in world news and in local politics. And I listen to public radio now and will be donating to public radio, so everyone wins. <g>

SECOND, two years ago my resolution was to start giving blood at Marietta Memorial Hospital. My first donation was at a blood mobile MMH parked in nearby Beverly, Ohio. After dozens of questions regarding my lifestyle and medical history (including places I’ve traveled in the last 10 years, my use of needles, my sexual partners) I was put on the bus for a brief health check. Blood pressure and pulse were checked and recorded, as well as my hemoglobin level (this is the red blood cell count in a drop of blood) — all were excellent and I was ready to donate! 

It took 5-10 minutes for the nurse to position me on the recliner, to position the collection bag and tubing, to sterilize the exterior surface of my arm, to tape everything in place, but we chatted and he set my mind at ease by describing everything that was going on. A blood pressure cuff was put on my arm and pumped up slightly to raise the vein. I have a slight aversion to needles IF I actually see them — don’t seem to mind them if I don’t look — so I kept my eyes averted as the needle was gently inserted (blood mobile and blood bank nurses are the absolute BEST at drawing blood, by the way!).

I feel a little prick then, as the blood begins to flow, they withdraw the needle a touch to get it right in the middle of the vein, tape the whole thing down and have me roll a ball around in my hand to keep everything flowing. For about 5 minutes I just sit there and roll that ball while a pint of precious fluid flows into a sterile bag.

When the bag is full they clip off my end of the tubing so that no blood flows back into my needle, withdraw the needle, bandage my arm, squeeze all the blood from the tube into the bag, and start offering me the tangible rewards of giving blood — juice, cookies, and free movie  tickets from a local theatre.

Sometimes it’s T-shirts and free chances on a trip to an amusement park, whatever the hospital has purchased as an incentive for blood donations. Of course, you usually don’t find out about these incentives until after you’ve given blood — it’s not like they stand on the corner shouting, “free movie tickets! Give blood and win free movie tickets!”

According to the Red Cross site, only 3 out of every 100 Americans donates blood. To qualify you must weigh over 110 pounds (no problem there for me <g>), be in relatively good health, have a hemoglobin count over a certain number (they’ll tell you if your hemoglobin is too low and recommend you eat more of the foods which boost the hemoglobin level), and have a relatively healthy lifestyle.

Donating blood saves lives!  Learn about your blood type (mine is the universal donor, that is, anyone who needs blood can use mine without having a negative reaction) and contact your local hospital’s blood bank or blood mobile to do this — you’ll feel good about yourself and you’ll be doing something marvelous for someone else.

THIRD, getting my knee back into shape for the 2009 TDAA Nationals with Blue. My knee injury took place March 9, 2008, the day before my 53rd birthday. It was caused by running agility while unfit. Too much weight, no strengthening exercise, no stretching, no braces — duh, no wonder. For several months I was in a real funk, thinking my agility career was ended. I had to take stairs one step at a time. I felt old and crippled. It was a bad time, frankly.

I started with water aerobics 3 times a week. At first I couldn’t put any weight at all on my knee and had no capacity to flex my knee. After several months of aerobics I added swimming, and it was painful at first. I was taking Aleve once a day and added a chondroitin/glucosamine supplement.

Last month I was swimming 75 minutes followed by my 60-minute aerobics class. Due to swimming lessons they’ve shifted the class time back to a point where it’s not always convenient, so I’m hopping out of bed really early and getting to the pool by 7:00 a.m. for my swim. When possible I swim 90 minutes (about 2 miles at my rate of speed).

Last week I was upstairs cleaning a guestroom when the phone rang. Without thinking I ran downstairs. RAN downstairs. I missed the phone call but didn’t miss the fact that I had, without stopping to consider my crippled knee, jogged down a full flight of stairs without pain, without any range-of-motion issues, and without any negative consequences.

All due to swimming. During the 90 minutes I swim I can think about chores or shopping lists, determine how my day will proceed (afterall, I’m done and home by 9:00 a.m. usually), and can watch other swimmers come and go. There’s a group of seniors who play “volleyball” by hitting a beachball over the pool flag wire and that’s always entertaining.

I’ve noticed that the first 15 minutes are energetic swimming, really getting every muscle warmed up. The next half hour is when I get a lot of my thinking done as it can be a little boring and repetitive. I hit a little wall at 45 minutes and it’s nice to know I’m over half-way there. For about 15 minutes I struggle with “continue or not” emotions but, generally, can take my mind off it by thinking about an upcoming camp, preparation for TDAA trials or the nationals, some chore at home that I’ve been putting off, etc.

The last 15 minutes are bliss. Down the home stretch for sure, but also a feeling of accomplishment and wellness.

The sum of all these parts is that I’m pleased with my resolution choices and outcomes. I want to encourage anyone reading to find something that makes you feel better about yourself and find a way to do it.

the dog leash, part 2

June 15, 2009

Some random observations which may later be compiled into a handout or paper for students.

I believe the leash is the most over-used and miss-used piece of equipment in the dog-training universe. It has at least three working parts:  1) the handle, designed to fit over or into the human hand,  2) the length of material, designed to determine the distance from the owner the dog can comfortably travel,  and  3) the collar around the dog’s neck, or the attachment to an existing collar around the dog’s neck, designed to control the part of the dog nearest the brain.

First, the handle for the human hand should be defined and assigned limitations. 

The leash handle is not supposed to hurt your hand, so those decorative leashes with such a tight weave that the edges cut into your fingers should be left on the rack at the discount store. Same for the leashes with leather handles and chain instead of fabric. About 10% of my basic obedience students show up with horribly painful (for the handler) leashes.

For my own dogs I prefer a heavy leash easily grasped by my fingers, soft cotton or leather. I’ve used rubber leash-handle inserts which keep fingers from being crushed and those are great for those wild-assed-shelter-dog walking episodes.

The leash in the human hand, more importantly, is not meant to harm the dog. Some of the behavior associated with the human hand and the leash handle includes:  1) the cheap shot, where the dog is standing next to their human, looking at activity in their environment, and receives a jerk to the neck as their first or only cue to pay attention to the human,  2) constant pressure, where the dog never gets to make the right choice of walking nicely beside the human because the leash is forever taut and controlling,  3) too many choices, where the dog is permitted to make all the decisions as to where the team will go, how fast, and whose space they’ll invade,  4) too rarely used, where the dog meanders off lead while the leash hangs from the human hand or sits on the kitchen counter, allowing the dog to poop in the neighbor’s yard, hike its leg on our rally obedience signs, or generally wreak havoc with the property of others,  5) walking calmly as a team, with the dog enjoying interaction with the environment but attentive to the movement of the human.

Second, the length of material between the leash handle and the dog’s neck should be defined and assigned limitations.

The length of material is meant to limit the area occupied by the dog, so an invasion of the personal space of other people or other dogs is controlled and calculated by the human part of the team. A flexi-lead, made of 10-15-feet of cord, allows the dog to invade more space than is prudent or safe. Also, that 10-15-feet of cord is incredibly dangerous and painful if it manages to wrap around your leg, ankle, or fingers while you attempt to extract yourself. Flexi’s should be outlawed at trials and are, generally, not permitted in our building. I actually own one, specifically for walking young dogs around motel parking lots, but most folks use them as a method for allowing their dog to poop in a spot where they can’t find it to pick it up. <g>

Additionally, that length of material shouldn’t be so short that the dog’s front feet are pulled off the ground. I watch conformation dogs gait down and back the ring and notice how “light on their feet” the dogs appear to be.  Seriously, those handlers are holding that line so taut and high that the dog’s front feet are barely touching the floor. Being judged on movement? Well just pull the leash up so hard that the dog’s feet aren’t weight-bearing and you show true movement, right?

With my dogs I prefer a 6-foot lead so they can walk as a group without getting under my feet.

The length of material, more importantly, is not meant to harm the dog or human. Some of the behavior associated with the length of material includes:  1)  humans wrapping the leash around and around and around their hands so that the dog, originally on a 6-foot leash and having 6-feet worth of choices, now has no choice but to be dragged about,  2) humans injuring their hands by wrapping the leash around their fingers so that every pull by the dog results in a crushed finger,  3) dogs circle the human legs creating a trip hazard, or 4) dogs put their front and/or rear legs through the leash loop, making the walk stop and making their human reach down to fix the tangled leash.

Third, the slip collar or attachment to the dog’s neck should be defined and assigned limitations.

It should not kill or maim the dog. It should not cause the dog to get caught on agility equipment, fencing, or any other element of their environment. It should include some sort of identification if the dog is visiting a strange place and if there’s a chance the dog might get lost. The slip collar or attachment shouldn’t be buried so deep in the dog’s coat that it takes longer to detach the leash than it does to run an agility course. A slip lead or infinite slip collar should not ever be left on the dog when unsupervised, or when the dog is not in training with a human. The possibility for injury or death always exists with an unlimited slip collar.

With my dogs I prefer a 6-foot lead attached to a martingale (limited slip) collar which is removed when the dog runs agility. Kory has a really neat collar made by Canine Buddy (“A professional lead for everyone”) which has a woven martingale neck-piece, attached to a rubberized “shock absorber” collar tightener, both of which get attached to a regular clip leash. (

The collar around the dog’s neck, more importantly, is not meant to harm or kill the dog. Some of the behavior associated with the dog’s collar includes:  1) use of a choke chain or prong collar (aka “pinch” collar) and jerking the dog’s head, regardless of prudent training methodologies recommended by the manufacturer’s of these devices,  2) leaving fixed collars too tight or too loose, allowing the dog to slowly strangle or allowing the dog to slip out and disappear,  3) putting slip chains on puppies or adult dogs as their full-time apparel, leading to countless deaths by strangulation every year. (I once witnessed a treasured black lab puppy put in a vehicle for a nap and found, an hour later, strangled with his own choke chain. So very, very sad.)

In other news — Erica is right — the 2-Minute Dog Training homework handouts for Go Rally Training Manual should be single sheets, front and back, with 3-hole punch potential, rather than landscape-style brochures.

The dog leash

June 12, 2009

I delight in watching people with their dogs. I’ve been a student of the human/canine relationship for many years but, as I sag into middle age certain elements of that relationship pique my interest. I’ve begun to study dog owners’ and trainers’ use of dog leashes. Following are some of my observations.

First, dogs have different reactions to leashes. For some a leash is the early signal that great fun is about to occur. For others the leash is a dreaded control device to be avoided at all costs. I don’t know any dogs who neither love nor hate their leash. Ambivalence isn’t a canine character trait, perhaps.

Second, people have different associations with leashes. For some it represses their dogs’ enjoyment of life. For others the leash is the ultimate safety device. Leashes can be used as a replacement for a relationship with a dog.  Leashes can, as surely as a printed T-shirt, tell on-lookers all about you and your dog.

Third, leashes can be decorative, utilitarian, gentle, harsh, safe, and dangerous.

Some thoughts on leashes, in no particular order (just getting words onto the page at this point) — a training paper will probably follow when I’ve sorted out this puzzle.

BANNER — doesn’t need no stinkin’ leashes, but is submissive to my wishes when wearing one. She’s 13 years old and has always had a mind of her own, thank you. When Banner was a youngster I took her to herding camp in Vermont. For 2 weeks before the trip I spent time teaching her to potty on command and on lead. When we got to Vermont we spent a few hours in Honey Loring’s back yard with a dozen dogs ripping and tearing about and all the herding camp people sitting on the deck. Breaking away from the play pack, Banner ran to me, put her front feet in my lap, and barked. “What do you want?” I asked. “Timmy’s in the well!” Banner responded.  “Is Timmy in the well?” I asked.  “Yes! Come quickly!” Banner barked. I got up to follow her and she loudly led me to an area designated as the potty zone by a plastic fire hydrant. As I followed her Banner led me to the potty yard, peed, and resumed her play with the other dogs. She had been taught that peeing takes place within the length of a leash from Mom and, rather than coming to me and peeing near me, brought me to the peeing place. It was our relationship that made me follow her but she was using it as deftly as any handler might use a leash.

WIZARD — loves leashes, just loves ’em. Never gets to go anywhere but the vet’s office and an occasional trip to Watertown, but the leash signals the ultimate luxury — going bye-bye with Mom. When a leash is dangled in front of him Wizard puts as much of his body as possible through the loop, jostling with the other dogs to be the lucky dog who gets to go.

RINGER — a dog who would really like to visit the neighbors and do a walk-about, Ringer has to be walked on leash from our training building to the dog yard. All the other dogs run around, smelling where the rabbits slept overnight, then come when called to the yard or building. When Ringer sees the leash he runs full force at me, jumping up in an attempt to put his head through the leash, then pulls continually and makes a bee line from the yard to the building, from the building to the yard. However, if released from the leash even one foot from the door of the building or the gate to the yard, he veers away and takes off — Freedom!  His relationship with the leash might be described as love-hate.

BOGIE and BIRDIE and DASH — when the leash is on we have full compliance and connection, when the leash is off we have exploring and selective deafness. When any of these sweet boys are loaned to students, the leash becomes secondary to the string cheese or weiners in the students’ hand. I have to giggle as students fumble with the leash and treats. “Just take the leash off,” I tell them, “You’ve got treats and he’s not going anywhere but with you.”  Seeing Dash walk to the start of a sequence with a student, in heel and perfectly attentive, the leash tight and controlling, is an abomination. A snug leash on this dog? Are you kidding? Perhaps people are concerned that, if he’s off-lead, he’ll take off for parts unknown. Or perhaps they’ve adopted a relationship with their own dog defined by a controlling, tight leash. Regardless of the leash dependence of the handler, all these sweet boys are biddable and forgiving.  They seem to accept that, for some people, the tight leash is required to feel connected to a dog.

RED — as with most of our dogs, Red sees the leash as the first step in a journey. I get the leash off the rack to help Banner get up and get outside, and Red’s head, neck, body, have to be extracted from it twice in 10 seconds. She loves the leash. Loves it, and sees it as a barrier to communication with dogs. On lead Red demonstrates inappropriate greeting behaviors with dogs. She barks and snarls and lunges. Unlike real aggression, Red’s behavior is largely ignored by other dogs. “She’s just being a butt,” they seem to indicate. If she’s being inappropriate I drop the leash and the behavior turns off like it was on a switch. Red becomes a wiggling dog-lover and appropriately greets others. Leash tight = bad behavior.  Leash loose or off = good dog. She had this behavior when I got her at 11 months from her breeder. She had been returned by her first owner and got to spend a good bit of time fence-fighting with visiting dogs. My theory is that the leash behavior is an extension of fence-fighting.

HAZARD — doesn’t need no stinkin’ leashes. In fact, when we pick up Hazard’s leash she starts circling away and avoiding us, as if the leash has negative associations for her. Hazard experienced some intimidation by big dogs while on a leash and, in my opinion, associates the leash with an inability to escape danger if she feels escape is necessary. I’m starting some obedience (rally) training with Hazard and have established a new leash set specifically for this activity. I’m not going to use any of our English slip leads for obedience training as she avoids all of them. Instead I’m using a lightweight martingale, rewarding Hazard every time she allows me to put it on.

BLUE — loves leashes but doesn’t really need ’em.

KORY — tugs on his leash beyond the point where he’s told to stop. The leash means Go!, means fun, means treats, means training, and is just part of the relationship he has with Bud. Watching this pup follow Bud around, on-or-off-lead, is a real pleasure. They’re pals and I’m certain the leash, for Kory, is going to become a bit of unnecessary material between his neck and Bud’s hand at agility trials. A traveling tug toy, Kory’s leash will probably take a beating for the next few years.

More observations on leashes later ….

Go Rally Training Manual and the 2-minute trainer brochures

June 9, 2009

In the upcoming weeks I’m going to start creating the homework brochures, in 2-minute trainer format, for Go Rally Training Manual.

I gave a great deal of thought to what direction my rally training manual would take when it came to dealing with different organizations, venues, and signs. Ruthann McCaulley chose AKC and wrote her book covering skills needed sign-by-sign. One year after publication she added 200+ pages to cover new signs.

I was pretty sure I didn’t want to try to get a new edition published each time a venue changes its rules or adds new signs. When I started rally there were 2 venues (APDT and AKC) and now I believe there may be 4-5 venues (C-Wags, UKC, ASCA being new additions) offering rally. So linking my book to a venue and writing just to that venue is problematic.

I considered how we deal with this in agility and chose that as my method for Go Rally Training Manual.  Essentially, we don’t talk much about venue in agility training. We don’t start a class with “now we’re going to teach CPE weavepoles.”  We just teach weavepoles and students apply their skills to whatever venue they choose for trialing.

So Go Rally Training Manual has 8 chapters (designed for an 8-week class or, as I did last year, a 4-day camp) covering 30+ skills.

My goal is to create 2-minute training brochures to be used as companion documents for the training manual. Instructors using my training manual will have brochures to hand out as homework assignments, as follows:

chapter 1:  brochures on intro to heeling, left turns, right turns, jumping up cloase, jumping at a distance

chapter 2:  brochures on heeling off lead versus on lead, stay for walk away, stay for walk around jump, jumping front

chapter 3:  brochures on lateral shifting sit to the right, lateral shifting front

chapter 4:  brochures on paces and pace changes, positions and position changes, lateral shifting sit to the left

chapter 5:  brochures on automatic sit, moving down, moving stand, stay for walk around dog

chapter 6:  brochures on finish right and forward right, finish left and forward left

chapter 7:  brochures on around, front, and retrieving

chapter 8:  brochures on right pivot, left pivot, back-up 3 steps with dog in heel

That’s a lot of brochures but I believe instructors will file these with the lesson plan for that week and will, when a student needs a specific homework assignment, hand them a brochure addressing that training issue in a 2-minute training format.

I’ve had a lot of years’ experience giving out homework assignments. I’ve seen those eyes glaze over as you describe the homework.  I know two things — homework is more likely to get done if it is simple and short, and homework is more likely to get done if it’s on a handout.

Go Rally!

a brief respite, a mountain of laundry

June 6, 2009

Six lovely dog trainers from Cincinnati left yesterday afternoon after a 4-day, 4-night training retreat.  They checked into cottages on Monday, trained 4 hours a day with Bud, fixed group lunches in the cottages, came to our house for group meals late afternoon, and had evening training sessions in rally and obedience with their own instructors.

They were supportive and kind to each other and to their dogs. It was absolutely delightful having them here. MaryAnn Chappalear was the organizer of the group and managed their registration very efficiently.

Our training retreats and resort visits can present complex pricing schedules, and MaryAnn and I waded through several options before arriving at the one that suited her group the best.

Once folks step away from the public or private camp format, the options are endless. You may choose the days of the week and the number of days/nights you wish to stay, the number of hours each day you wish to have instruction, and the time of day you wish to have instruction. The building, with agility and rally equipment, are available to you all day. You may prepare your own dinners or purchase group meals from me. You may choose one or two cottages, and  you may put your overflow people (or married couples, or that lone guy in your group) in a guestroom in our house.

All of these components are purchased separately. They provide your group with a custom vacation with everyone’s needs being met, and everyone getting the most training possible.

But enough with the advertisement. <g>

Today is my brief respite from cottages and guestrooms filled with dogs and people. Bud is in Columbus at a USDAA trial, for just one day, showing Hazard and Blue.  I’m crossing my fingers that the girls have a good day. Hazard is coming out of a period where she’s been shy around big dogs. I think she felt threatened by a couple of big galloots we had here in the building over a year ago, and now she’s afraid of all big dogs.  Blue, on the other hand, associates the sounds of electronic timing systems with the sound made by her former owner’s underground fence collar. I’d like to dig a hole and bury all electronic collars.

Both girls are challenging to show and will, hopefully, outgrow some of their issues. Bud also took Kory as a travel-mate. Thank goodness. That pup is doing really well with his training exercises but sometimes his 24/7 energy is overwhelming. It boggles the mind. I try to keep hands off, to ask if advice is welcome before giving it, so Kory and I don’t really do much training.

Our relationship is becoming defined with belly rubs, “settle,” calming touches, and mopping up of puddles. I also do a bit of ring-side and ex-pen training while Bud is teaching. Kory no longer barks while other dogs are running, so long as daddy isn’t doing the handling.  If Bud’s working another dog Kory is a crazed canine. We’re working through that with distractions and rewards for calmer behaviors.

While Bud’s away I’m working through a mountain of laundry and cleaning 2 cottages and a guestroom for our next guests — Katie and Dave arrive this afternoon to stay in the red cottage and attend tomorrow’s workshops, then our June 8-11 campers arrive Sunday evening and will be staying in both cottages and 1 guestroom.

Because this was a week of nearly constant rain and cold, my mountain of laundry includes 6 dirty rugs, countless blankets, 2 dozen towels, and 5 beds worth of sheets. I started the laundry yesterday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and worked on it until midnight. I was up this morning at 5:30 unloading the dryer and reloading with more towels.

My Mom and sister plan to arrive this morning to assist with cabin cleaning, so all the linens have to be washed, dried, sorted and folded before we can start.

I’m off to unload the dryer!

Kory and my version of “choose to heel”

June 4, 2009

Years ago, when faced with the choice of pop-n-jerk heeling training and finding another way, I was given a very detailed article on Dawn Jecs “choose to heel” training methodology.

Over the last 13 years I’ve made several attempts to find a way to actually get to train with Dawn but none have panned out. Dawn lives in the great northwest, travels exclusively by RV, and limits herself to areas west of the Rockies.

I live in Ohio and have run training centers for 10 years, so my opportunities to leave for 7-10 days for a training camp have been non-existant.

I’m an uneducated believer in Dawn’s method, with just a rudamentary understanding of her training philosophy. However, with this limited information, I’ve taught countless students and my own dogs some pretty sharp heeling, without becoming leash dependent.

Leash dependence is created when the handler is convinced that the dog is with her only because of the leash, and the dog is convinced she only has to obey when the leash is on. It’s a very common fallacy, and one I rant about every time I see a dog “popped” for inattention.

If we focus on showing the dog what we approve of and pay for (walking in heel position with full, heads-up, attention) and refuse to acknowledge any other behavior the dog will nearly always choose the behavior that gets the attention and reward.

I’ve translated this method into a 2-minute dog training brochure for sport foundation heeling and — much to my surprise — Bud’s teaching Kory to heel as part of his puppy training!

I believe Bud’s decision to teach heeling came from Kory’s natural behavior to swerve left and right, to circle behind, and to generally get under-foot while walking on leash. Bud’s goal is to have a dog that walks at his left side without tangling the leash, without tripping Bud, and without yanking and pulling.

So you can imagine my surprise when, yesterday, Bud announced that he thinks he’ll show Kory in obedience. I laughed out loud as I pictured Bud at an obedience trial. Mr. Irreverant in the temple of the reserved and repressed.

However, if we ever get C-Wags trials going here, he’ll have ample opportunity to demonstrate his skills with both traditional and rally obedience behaviors. That’s a little more our style, probably.

In other news …. Bonnie Cippolone from Cincinnati has agreed to be our C-Wags trial coordinator and has given me a list of things she can provide for our trials. Now if I can figure out all the things that are NOT on her list, and get volunteers to help do those things, we’ll be cookin’ with gas. It may end up being Bonnie, Bud, Tracy Waite, our exhibitors, and me …

In other news …. I received e-mail yesterday from Erica Behnke that Diane Carr, who is attending a training retreat here this week with her friends, had been elected Queen City Dog Training Club’s 2009 AKC sportsmanship award at their Tuesday night meeting.  I created a little certificate so that Bud and I, as well as all her friends attending the retreat, could express our congratulations. That was fun!

In other news …. Tuesday’s temps reached into the 90s, everyone was hot and tired, and then the huge storm (aka “the wrath of God”) rolled through. Wednesday’s temps only reached into the 60s and quickly dropped into the 50s by dinner time. We went from air conditioning to “how do we turn on the heat in the cottage?” in 24 hours. Weird weather for June.

I was pleased to see that the storm did no damage to my plants though the sun shade on the back porch took a beating and had to be replaced.  I left it hanging down when I drove to my meeting and the wind and hail beat the crap out of it. Bud and I hung a new shade yesterday. Probably needed done anyway as the old shade was brittle and falling apart from 12 months of sun, wind, rain, snow, ice, more sun, more wind, etc.

This training retreat ends Friday at 1:00, they’re hanging out until 3 or 4:00, Bud’s leaving for a day of USDAA trialing in Columbus about that same time, Bud returns Saturday evening and has a private lesson with Katie and Dave (who are staying overnight for the Sunday workshop), then noon-to-4:00 workshops on Sunday, and a new bunch of campers arrive for a 4-day public camp Monday through Thursday.

We’re in the midst of our busy season and, much to my surprise, are staying fairly focused and positive. We sometimes lose perspective when faced with consecutive camp weeks, so this is a good thing.

In other news …. I started heeling training with tiny Hazard a few days ago. She prefers to run circles around me, barking madly for the string cheese, but will pick up on this quickly I’m sure. We discussed the possibility of attending the Sheltie Nationals together next year — Bud showing Hazard in agility, my showing Hazard in obedience and rally. I’m assuming they offer obedience and rally at the Sheltie Nationals.

The Sheltie people offer a whole day of agility at their nationals which, considering that Shelties are the premier mini-to-midi dog in agility competition, seems underwhelming. I don’t know of any breed besides Border Collies with better representation in agility.

the wrath of God

June 3, 2009

I’ve made the decision to relinquish the volunteer coordinator job at HSOV (Marietta’s local shelter) but continue providing training materials, and to continue training dogs and helping with adoptions.

The volunteer coordinator job has requirements I cannot fill — the coordinator :   1) needs to be at the shelter when the volunteers come,  2) needs to have some power to require orientations of all volunteers,  and 3) needs to lead volunteers to committed relationships with the shelter.

With the introduction of Hickory into our home I’ve not been able to go to the shelter for a few weeks, and I believe I need to give up that job and just continue as a volunteer when I’m able to resume visits to the shelter.

So 3 days ago I’d decided to announce this at last night’s board meeting and hand over all the applications which have been cluttering my desk for 6 months. Two days ago I was informed that another woman wanted the job. She’s a bit of a nut-job and no one on the staff can stand her. She’s very pushy, knows everything, brings a slew of out-of-control kids every time she visits, and generally wreaks havoc. I was asked to stay on just to thwart her efforts.

Since she has become a thorn in my side as volunteer coordinator (she refuses to be coordinated or follow anybody’s rules) I decided to stand with the staff, and against her.

First, since we’re hosting a training retreat and they asked for group dinners, I was responsible for feeding 8 people last evening, so timing became an issue. I figured if I left here at 6:15 I’d have no trouble making a 6:30 meeting.

Second, a huge storm loomed west of us as I drove to Marietta. I figured I’d beat the storm to town and be fine.

Third, I made a list of the things I’ve done as volunteer coordinator. I don’t mind quitting the job but I refuse to be fired from a volunteer position. <g>

Well, I figured wrong.   First, the meeting started at 6:00 p.m. so I was 15 minutes late before I ever left home. Second, the storm was all around us so it beat me to Marietta and I sat in my truck for 10 minutes while marble-sized hail beat down and sheets of rain struck (it looked like hurricane coverage by the Weather Channel). Third, no one tried to fire me and, since I arrived 45 minutes late for a 1-hour meeting, my information was anti-climactic to say the least.

So then I tried to get home. The storm was loaded with rain, so every street coming off Harmar Hill was closed due to water pouring down. All the street lights were out and 90% of the businesses were closed prematurely.

After attempting 3 ascents of Harmar Hill (Gilman Ave., Lancaster Street, Pearl Street) and being turned back by high, moving water, I headed south on Rt. 7 towards Belpre.

Instead of 20 minutes my drive home took slightly over an hour. Parts of Rt. 339 coming north out of Belpre were very wet though I experienced no flooding.  I couldn’t take my mind off the little section of Rt. 676 from Watertown to our place, just 2 miles, but 1.5 miles of that cruises alongside a little stream.  If that stream was flooded I’d be walking the last mile.

Thankfully it wasn’t and, as the last light was lost, I pulled thankfully into the driveway.

I’m not overly religious, in terms of organizations and the community of religious folks, but I AM superstitious, I guess.  I felt I’d dodged the wrath of God somehow.

But, if that storm was the wrath of God, what had everyone ELSE done to piss him off?