Archive for May, 2010

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest week 3

May 31, 2010

With patience and consistency Tempest is starting to dedicate himself to me. He finds me fascinating.

This week we continued to wait for Tempest to SIT before letting him out of a crate or ex-pen or door. He’s caught on to this game quickly and, within a 5-second period of time, will offer a sit / down / sit / fidget / down / sit / fidget / rearrange the sit / stare at my face / look at my hand / down / sit / fidget / etc.

You get the picture. I want him to settle a bit, so I’m looking for a 1-2 second pause in the action, in a nice tucked sit, before opening the gate.

An important note to anyone practicing this type of training — unhook all the crate / pen latches while holding the door shut with your hand. Get the behavior and immediately open the door. That’s the only way the door can open quickly enough when puppy has achieved his performance objectives.

If you have to unlatch the door after he achieves his 1-2-second sit, you make him wait and the reward comes too late.

I’m also continuing with the “meet 100 people in 100 days.” He’s met men and women of all ages and sizes, as well as children and teens. He’s been very eager and appropriate with everyone, though he tends to sit for strangers rolled onto one hip with his belly exposed — a bit of grovelling mixed in with his greeting.

Here at home we don’t encourage grovelling, either for people or other dogs. Kory grovelled for all our dogs and we limited his access to them due to this behavior. Tempest doesn’t grovel for dogs at all, normally. Just people.

We’re continuing with the loose-leash walking as well, and Tempest got to visit 4 cemetaries with us yesterday. In and out of the car, walking around the cemetary, experiencing new stuff, all great for a puppy.

Today Tempest had his first bath. He fidgetted a bit at first but, when rewarded with a bit of food from his bowl, he calmed down and stood patiently.

2-min. dog trainer, a Tempest brag

May 28, 2010

I’ve lived with aussies and shelties for 14+ years.

Banner, my first aussie, hated children. If she heard them she wanted to run them off.

Other aussies have been either good with hoards of children, great with kids one-on-one, or terrified of hoards of children.

I was interested to know what sort of bravery and confidence my pup would show with groups of kids. I often do outreach programs and my dogs occasionally are asked to meet groups of well-behaved children. This is going to be one of Tempest’s jobs in his life with me.

My pup is 11 weeks old tomorrow. Today he visited my sister’s grade school at their lunch recess.

As we approached the school the kids were walking laps and shouting, screaming, singing, etc. (Just ask your teacher friends what a hellish situation they face in the last 14 days of school. Were we that bad? <g>)

I was carrying Tempest because the pavement was hot and I didn’t want to frighten him. When he heard the kids he tried to claw his way out of my arms and get back to the truck.

I just kept encouraging him, stopped forward movement occasionally, and letting him calm himself.

As I approached the gate to the play yard my sister, Tempest’s favorite aunt, stepped forward.

Tempest was so happy to see a friendly face, and greeted Janice happily.

One by one the kids started coming up to pet the puppy. Tempest sat patiently, a big grin on his face, as the kids made a fuss over him.

Within minutes he was surrounded by 8-10 kids. He kept his butt on the floor, rotating his front feet to greet one kid after another.

I was so proud of him. When we were done greeting kids I called out, “T Come!” and he hopped up and followed me boldly out of the crowd of kids.

2-Minute dog trainer, Tempest week 2

May 27, 2010

For the past week we’ve been continuing a few protocols from week 1, specifically:

A. Tempest automatically sits to exit his pen or crate. I’m now asking for eye contact for a second before opening the gate. If I wait longer than a second he offers a down, thinking perhaps he’s misunderstood the exercise.

B. Pottying every time he exits the house. As a friend wrote about her new puppy, “they sure PEE a lot!”  So far, no accidents in the house and he gets anxious when he needs to pee, so I’m learning to recognize the urgency in his voice.

C. Once a day we get his meal, my clicker, and work on attention and name. I’ve added the recall to this exercise by taking a single piece of kibble, tossing it away saying “find it!”, then calling “T, come!”, clicking and feeding for a nice recall.

D. Going to the agility building once a day for experience on the big-dog toys. I’ve been encouraging Tempest to get onto the pause table but, at 12″, it’s a tough climb for him. The string cheese won out, though, and yesterday he discovered his rear legs were capable of propelling him onto the surface of the table. Now he approaches the table and hops on.

I’ve discovered that my advice to others holds true for my puppy as well — if you want to wear out the puppy, exercise his brain. The training sessions are kept brief, just 2-3 minutes, and there are no repetitive motion elements. He is, afterall, just a baby at 10-1/2 weeks.

We had a breakthrough today on the recall.

First, let me confess to being a control freak with the dogs.  I establish and stick to routines, they don’t have to wonder what is expected of them, and they’re not free to just do “whatever” unless that is safe play.

The first two weeks Tempest was with us he progressed from being a clingy baby to being more independent. Now he likes to be out in the yard playing with Kory. He doesn’t care for coming in at this time.

I started calling him in a playful tone, and that worked at first. I continued the once-a-day training with attention and name, adding the recall to the exercise.

Still, his desire to be free outside trumped his desire to respond to my recall. On a few occasions I called, he turned away and ran from me, I followed until he gave up on his escape plan. It was comical but I’ve learned not to laugh out loud at such antics. But that cute butt trotting away from me, those big ole ears glued to the side of his head, listening as he tried to escape, all was just too funny for words.

I put a bowl of puppy chow at the door and rattled it while calling. The lure of food drew him into the house.

I knew I needed to switch from lure to reward. But the recall had to happen before I could reward it.

Tonight we had a breakthrough. Without holding and shaking the food bowl, and with Tempest standing on the deck and looking toward the yard longingly, I said, “T come!”

I could see the wheels turning. He looked at me, looked at the yard, looked back at me. He shifted his weight my direction and I said “Yes! What a good boy!” And he trotted into the house.

I was so proud of him.

The end of an era, goodbye to good boys

May 22, 2010

Today Bud and I experienced yet another heartbreak.

After several months of rapidly failing health, Bogie and Birdie were allowed to pass this afternoon.

Both were very good boys.  Bogie was a brilliant, soft, and sweet sheltie. Birdie was a less-than-brilliant, intuitive, hard sheltie.

Both would do agility with anybody holding the string cheese. Both were consumate agility instructors, pointing out errors in movement to anyone bold enough to step to the start line with them.

I got to run Bogie for several years in TDAA, winning the annual Petit Prix with him on one occasion. Running Bogie was effortless, never having to worry about a dropped bar or a missed weave entry.

Both shelties always came out of their crates ready to play the game, regardless of heat or cold or rain or snow.

They were priceless, unforgettable, and I’ll miss our sheltie boys.

Bogie, “TACh MACh ADCH Trinity’s Jusdandy Bogart MX MXJ,” April 1996-May 2010 … winner of the 16″ division at the Sheltie Nationals and TDAA Petit Prix more times than we can count.

Birdie, “TACh ADCH Trinity’s One Stroke Under Par MX MXJ,” June 1996-May 2010 … second only to Bogie in wins at the Sheltie Nationals and TDAA Petit Prix.

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest week 1

May 19, 2010

My puppy has arrived. I realize puppies are a crap-shoot, but it’s great to be dealing with a blank slate instead of issues and problems created by a previous owner.  I’ve done a lot of dog rescue …

It’s great to have the deck stacked in my favor. I got pick of the litter, a completely new experience for me. My last puppy (Banner, born March 1996, died April 2010) was an unclaimed pup, the left-over pup in a litter, with iris coloboma, an eye birth defect often associated with merle-to-merle breeding.

My journey with “T” — JiJin’s Tempest — has already lasted 9+ weeks. My first contact with the breeder was 2 days before Tempest was born and I was offered pick of the litter when the pups were just 2-3 days old.

Choosing Tempest was exciting and agonizing. I made countless mental lists about the aspects of my other dogs I hoped to avoid with a new puppy (shyness, aggression, birth defects, structural issues, lack of confidence, etc.).

Pictures of the newborn puppies arrived within days of birth. There were 4 females (3 b/w, 1 tri) and 3 males (3 tri). My admiration of Bud’s Kory (a Keen pup, male, b/w) had me initially interested in the black/white pups — all female.

As the weeks progressed I saw only still pictures and, living 8 hours from the litter, I was limited to minimal visual information. When the puppies turned 4 weeks old I got to watch a 5-minute video.

I watched the video a dozen times the first few days. I listed the pros and cons of each puppy, watching each puppy for the length of the video, trying to get a sense of his or her personality.

I watched for toy drive and relationship with other dogs. I was especially interested in a pup that was not overly dominant (no bullies, please) and not overly submissive (no chickens, please).

I wanted a pup who could be playing with a toy, be challenged by a more dominant pup, withstand the challenge and keep the toy OR relinquish the toy and seek out other toys without being anxious.

It’s amazing what you can glean from 5 minutes of puppy video. Within a few days I’d come to admire a black tri female (FLY) and a black tri male (REX).

For the next 4 weeks I shared my opinions with the breeder and requested her evaluation. She agreed with my evaluations, as well as with my opinion that a “middle puppy” was a good obedience, rally, and agility prospect.

Bully puppies make great herding prospects but I don’t do herding, so I don’t need an “in your face” puppy who knows what he wants and takes it.

The death of Banner made me think more about the female, Fly. I reserved my final choice for the 8-week mark when Bud and I made the trip to Richmond and saw the puppies in person.

I walked up to the puppy play pen. All the pups were playing with toys and each other. Rex, my male pick, split away from the litter to come climb the pen wall nearest me. I asked Rex, “do you want to be a Houston dog?” He said, “heck yes!”

We brought Rex out of the pen and he was very interested in Bud and I. He let me pick him up, accepted being rolled on his back, and hung out with us.

We put Rex away and brought out Fly. She was skittish about my approach, had no interest in Bud, and had a bitch-fit when Kory walked up. She barked at him and darted towards him when he turned away. She barked and fled when he turned toward her.

We put Fly up and brought out Rex. I left the pup to go to my pile of evaluation junk (a metal scent article, a clicker, a whistle) and, when I picked up my stuff, he appeared between my feet looking at me as if to say, “hey, I thought I was your boy? You don’t plan to leave me again, do you?” <g>

I dragged my toys on the ground and Rex grabbed the aluminum dumbell on the cross bar and hung on.  I clicked the clicker and he looked up like “what was that?” and kept playing. I blew the whistle and got the same reaction.

I looked at Bud and said, “SOLD.  I think I have my puppy here.” I didn’t think twice about any of the other puppies. None of them had any interest in me, and the feeling was mutual.

So my blank slate puppy, formerly Rex, became JiJin’s Tempest (aka “T“) on May 10, 2010.

The deck is stacked in my favor with:  1) a puppy who is drawn to me,  2) a puppy who is clever and makes eye contact with me,  3) a training plan designed to develop a rewarding partnership,  4) the opportunity to be his first intense human experience,  5) the motivation on both our parts to work and succeed.

The first week of Tempest’s life I focused on establishing a routine for pottying, eating, sleeping, and playing.

It’s my belief that many behavior problems stem from a lack of routine in the puppy’s life. We get a puppy hoping our lives will be improved, then we just hope our lives won’t be changed over-much.

If we establish routines and get the puppy accustomed to them from the very first we make our lives easier and make the arrival of the puppy a mere speed bump in normal life.

Tempest has three confinement areas and he’s become comfortable napping in each of them. They’re located near where I sleep, near my desk, and in my truck. He’s surrounded by toys which are both chewable and safe.

He sleeps through the night, loves his 4 meals a day (I split his supper between 6 and 9 pm feedings), and has begun 2-min. training sessions with me at least once a day.

I’m learning to meet his exercise needs. I want to hit an optimal level of exercise and play that allows him to fall fast asleep for his afternoon nap, and again at bedtime. On the other hand I don’t want to overstimulate him, or exercise him when he really needs to rest, creating a puppy addicted to activity.

Three routines in particular are becoming part of our daily life:  1) I only open the crate or pen door when Tempest is sitting,  2) we do one meal a day hand-feeding, using the 2-min. protocol for attention and recall — “T!” eye contact, “click,” food,  3) we visit the agility building in the late evening to burn off all remaining energy.