Archive for June, 2010

2-minute dog trainer, loss of Wizard

June 30, 2010

The loss of old dogs at our home continues with Wizard’s passing this morning.

The events of Wizard’s death are so fresh and raw that I’ve twice begun this blog with a detailed description of the events. Then I’ve deleted what I wrote. Twice.

I want to celebrate the marvelous dog Wizard was, rather than sharing the details of an old dog who woke us up struggling, paralyzed, and who died staring into my eyes, completely trusting my ability to make scary stuff go away.

When my first marriage was bearing down “on the rocks,” I immersed myself in dog activities. Dog rescue, dog training, dog obedience instructing, dog temperament testing at a local shelter, dog search and rescue, and dog shows took bigger chunks of my time.

The last few months of my first marriage included my first experience at euthanizing an old dog, sharing the experience with my then-husband, being so moved by the event that I wrote an essay about it, winning the opportunity to renew our vows and possibly a 4-day second honeymoon, having my husband refuse to partake, spending valentine’s day at the local shelter temperament testing adult dogs, and finding Wizard in the puppy room.

The moment I met Wizard I knew he was mine. I thought about nothing else for 2 days before I adopted him for good. I’ve occasionally referred to Wizard as “the straw that broke the camel’s back” but, in reality, my ex-husband’s girlfriend probably provided that straw. We just weren’t his thing.

Wizard always had a heightened sense of home security. Here’s one of my funny Wizard stories … he was a character.

The first day of my life post-marriage, I returned from a day at work and fixed myself a frozen dinner. I walked it from the kitchen to the dining table. Wizard started barking at the kitchen door, sounding like someone was right outside the door. I didn’t think anyone had managed to get to the door without my knowing it, but I went to check it out anyway. After a few seconds looking out the door and seeing nothing, I said “Wizard, I think you’re losing it, ’cause I don’t see anyone … Wizard? Wizard?”  He was gone … I went to the dining room and there he was, front feet on my seat, eating my dinner.

The second day I returned home from work, fixed my dinner, and walked it to the dining room. Wizard again exploded at the kitchen door. Remembering my error the day before I pushed my dinner to the middle of the table and went to check what was bothering Wizard. “You’re losing it again, Wiz — I don’t see anything — Wizard? Wizard?” I returned to the dining room and there he was, back feet on my chair, front feet on the table, again consuming my dinner.

The third day I returned home from work, fixed my dinner, and walked it to the dining room. Wizard again exploded at the kitchen door. Remembering my previous errors I picked my plate up and carried it, over my head, to the kitchen. On the way to the kitchen door I passed Wizard who was quickly heading to the dining room. As we passed he glanced up at me, spotted the plate over my head, did a double-take, looked sheepish and gave me a big doggie grin. I had passed his test, though it took me a few days to get it household security right.

We referred to Wizard as our head of security. He responded to all strangers with open loathing, hate, and aggression. He responded to all family and friends with adoration and cloying affection, affection best given while on your lap, on your chest, in your face.

We’ve asked ourselves many times in the last few months, “what are we going to do for a watchdog when Wizard’s gone?” Not one of our dogs takes it seriously when there’s a breach, not like Wizard did. When strangers asked, “will that dog bite?” I’d say, “it depends — sometimes yes, sometimes no.”  I figured anyone asking if my watchdog bites needs to know it’s a possibility.

Wizard is now with Tack, Banner, Bogie, and Birdie at the Rainbow Bridge.  Our home is quieter and less secure.

Thankfully, Kory began assuming the back-up security position, emitting a strange howl when he sees strangers in the driveway. As with any transition to a new security system, I’m sure there will be glitches.

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2-Minute Dog Trainer, Tempest week 7

June 28, 2010

I got Tempest at 8 weeks and 2 days of age. I’ve had him 7 weeks. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long — time truly DOES fly when you’re having fun.

I sometimes watch the video of my evaluation process with Tempest’s litter, and I was wearing a sweatshirt and winter pants. Yesterday our thermometer read 102-degrees though certainly some of that heat was bouncing off the deck surface. I broke out in a full-body-sweat just walking to the training building.

Tempest has changed from a little guy I could easily sweep up in my arms to a gangly boy. I now have to support multiple points on his body or they’ll flop and slither out of control.

With 2 meals a day we do contact training. My criteria continues to tighten and I’m working now to get Tempest to understand that the 2-on-2-off contact performance should be in a perfect line with the ramp, rather than off to whichever side I’m standing on. He’s starting to pick up on the fine points of my training.

I continue to insist on the following behaviors, and reward for them with praise, freedom, and the occasional handful of kibble:

1.  “T-come!” whether in the house or the yard, whether playing or training.  He must come when called, every time, and I have zero tolerance for ignoring my call. He can  a) come when he’s called and get an occasional reward and constant praise, or  b) NOT come when called, be hunted down (“like a dog”), picked up, carried back to the house, and placed gently in his pen.  Note I hunt him down, I don’t chase him.  I walk behind him, not looking directly at him, while he glances at me over his shoulder and walks away. Eventually he stops moving when he realizes the futility of trying to get away. There’s no punishment or shouting or berating happening.  “Resistance is futile.”

2. Going into his crate or ex-pen. There’s never any punishment associated with his crate, and he actually likes both his crate for sleeping at night, and his “play-pen” full of toys for resting during the day.  Last night he started out trying to sleep on the bed, got restless, hopped off the bed and circled his crate, finally lying down next to his crate, leaning on the wire. I got out of bed, opened the crate door, he entered, sighed, and went fast asleep immediately.

3. Walking on a loose leash. I introduced this by simply stopping forward movement whenever Tempest pulled forward, going to and from the training building, or into and out of the YMCA, etc. We battled a bit during weeks 3 and 4, when Tempest realized what fun awaited him when walking on leash. In week 5 I changed to a series of left spirals, stepping directly into Tempest’s path if he forged forward, making him turn 360-degrees to the left, then resuming our forward movement. The first trip to the building took about 5 minutes (for 100 feet <g>), so it was slow going at first but he’s getting a lot better with this whole concept. After years of teaching obedience classes, I sure won’t ever let him drag me forward.  No way, no how, under no circumstances.  I’m not going to pop and jerk him, but I’m going to be his strong leader.

4. Accepting grooming processes, including calmly allowing toenail trimming, standing still for a bath, being examined all over, etc.  I swore that if I ever had another puppy and the set-up for easily bathing him, my puppy would get regular baths to help him accept all sorts of grooming activity. Tempest has had 4 baths in 7 weeks and is actually quite calm for this procedure. Toenails require calm stroking and vocalizations, but are easily achieved by one person. Our vet trims toenails each visit as well, so Tempest is learning this is just part of life.

5. Being calm in the house, including the avoidance of “spoiled brat syndrome.”  When Tempest fusses in his pen or crate, I casually get up and remove myself from his sight. Fussing equals Mom leaving. When my sister was considering buying Tempest’s littermate, we spent an hour discussing crate training, house training, really basic stuff. I told her, “if he fusses in his crate you just leave the room — like a baby in his crib, you never pay attention to or give freedom to a puppy that’s barking or fussing.”  She grinned and said, “you’re not supposed to pick up babies when they fuss in their crib?” ….. “That explains a lot about your kids,” I said, laughing.

6. Sitting to ask permission to greet people, to ask permission to exit a crate or pen, to ask permission to go through a door, etc.  “Sit” means “Mother, may I?”  In the past couple of weeks I’ve added a couple seconds of steady eye contact along with the sit.  Tempest is getting really engaged in the game, offering all sorts of sits, downs, eye contact, etc., when he wants something.

In addition to these basic pet behaviors, Tempest has been introduced to heeling, to positions (sit/stand/down), and to agility equipment and concepts, including the wobble board, the training teeter, the full-size teeter, standard jumps, wing jumps (bars on the floor), 2 pause tables, several tunnels, training dog walk, and training a-frame, parallel movement, front crosses, and tandem turns. The only thing he hasn’t engaged yet is the tire and weavepoles, and I’m certain he’ll get to see some this Sunday in his beginner agility class. I’m excited when, instead of teaching, I get to actually take a class with my dog. Tempest and I get to attend our first agility class this Sunday and I intend to maximize my use of the 2 hours.

On July 13 Tempest will be 4 months old and, on September 20-ish, he’ll be entered in his first novice Rally trial. I’ve always thought it was weird that people put their puppies in obedience trials, actually putting CDs on 6-9-month old puppies. In my experience, these 9-month-old geniuses can turn into stressed underachievers.  My goal for Tempest is that he think the inside of a ring is exciting and fun, and that he be able to maintain focus for the 1-2 minutes necessary to get into and out of a novice rally course. No stress, all fun, just a little dance with Mom!

2-minute dog trainer, running Bud’s Kory

June 25, 2010

At last evening’s masters class we ran Bud’s game-of-the-week, “Golf.”  (See budhouston@wordpress.com for game details.)

With Bud in Colorado I was teaching, and I took Kory to the building with me to get a little running time.

I don’t train Kory.  I run him occasionally in order to learn what it will hopefully be like when Tempest is that age. They’re two completely different personalities, two different body types (Kory is tall, stringy, anorexic, while Tempest is a chunky monkey), but I’m thinking Tempest is going to be just as fast.

All our agility careers we’ve run dogs we could (or had to) get in front of and motivate forward.

Banner was a challenge to get in front of, but her best runs were those where I managed to lead instead of follow.

My long string of rescues were all pretty much the same — get in front and show the way.

But Bud’s been teaching Kory a whole new set of cues — absolute directionals, independent performance of obstacles, distance work, dead-away sends, “go on” and more — because it’s just not very possible to get in front of him without pushing him off the course.

Bud’s also been playing with the pre-cued front cross, and teaching Kory the up-close turns he’s going to need.

So I ran Kory last night on 3 out of 5 of the sequences in “Golf.”  We skipped hole #1 because the class wasn’t settled into the pace I needed to set (60 minutes, 5 sequences, each one can’t take 15 minutes!).

On hole #2 Kory was running beautifully until the mid-way point where I found myself so far out of position I was left with no alternative but to use left-and-right directionals. Still he was on course until, at a 180-degree wrap from the wing jump to the a-frame, I shouted “right-right!” instead of “left-left!” and, instead of wrapping to the left as he should have, he corrected himself, turned right, found nothing but a wall, and back-jumped the wing on his way to the a-frame.

I was stunned that he’d trusted my verbal and ignored my physical movement. It was spectacular, and convinced me he knew his left-and-right better than I do.  I’m going to have to work on that. <g>

He also ran hole #3 which turned into a train wreck because I was being conservative in my movement. I’m going to have to work on that. <g>   Instead of pushing him out to the tunnel I put him on the dogwalk. Yikes.

Our class format was:  1) run all dogs on the hole, 2) find a spot where we can improve our dog’s movement, 3) work all dogs through that spot, 4) walk the next hole while I move cones for the hole to follow.

He played some with the weave entry on hole #4 but didn’t run the whole course.  His pre-cued front crosses are becoming really solid as he begins to understand his role in the tight turn. Because Kory is young and gets up a head of steam in straight lines, he sometimes skids and swirls in tight turns. Bud’s working on that. <g>

Hole #5 was an interesting bit of weave-entry work. The dog has 4 sets of 6 weavepoles, all with fairly independent entries, some out of front crosses, some straight out of tunnels, all at top speed.

But what I found really amazing was that Kory let me lead out past the first jump and all the way to the end of the dogwalk, turn and face him with my pre-cued front cross lead hand.

He came roaring across the jump and the dogwalk, assumed his “bottom-lie-down,” crossed with me to the first set of weaves, roared into the tunnel 20 feet ahead, nailed the next weave entry at full speed, took another pre-cue to turn tightly into the #6 tunnel, nailed another weave entry at full speed, roared into another tunnel independent of me, allowing me to set up another front cross into the last set of weaves, turned to the box of jumps and took my “go on!” to mean “straight ahead boy-o.”

It was magical. After 12 years of running agility dogs I’m finally understanding why people seek out brilliant, high-drive dogs. He made me look brilliant as well.

I’ll have to work on that. <g>

Tempest is continuing to work on his contact trainer and his heeling, interspersed with tiny “stay” exercises.

At bedtime, Tempest has decided he’d prefer to sleep on our bed, or on a dog bed, instead of his crate. I let him stay on the bed for about an hour if I’m watching TV, and we do little “stays” while he’s in bed with me.

He’s lying down getting petted, he wants to come closer or shift position, I say “stay” and hold my hand with the palm facing him. He has to freeze just for a few seconds, then gets an okay to move. He’s developing really good eye contact during this game, and sees it as tons of fun.

At breakfast and dinner he waits patiently for all the other dogs’ bowls to go down (without sticking his nose in every one), then trots ahead of me to the contact trainer.

It took him about a week of 1-or-2 meals a day to figure out the position I wanted on the dogwalk contact. Now he approaches the down contact from the side, facing the correct direction, hops onto the dogwalk, and moves swiftly into his 2-on-2-off position, gets his “click,” and his meal.

I’m still picking him up once or twice during the meal, carrying him to the top of the ramp, and allowing him to drive to the bottom where his meal waits.

Tempest if 15 weeks old tomorrow, and already has nice skills.  Best of all he has the capacity to focus on me, focus on work, and thinks I’m “fascinating, fun, and delicious.”

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest’s contacts and heeling

June 21, 2010

Using my 2-minute dog training principals (no drilling the puppy, no positive punishment, no harsh corrections for incorrect performance, no lengthy training sessions) I’ve been cross-training Tempest, now 14 weeks old.

His legs are getting longer, his body is looking less like a sausage and more like a border collie, and this past weekend his ears pricked. So much for the reverse fold. <g>

Breakfast and supper find us at the contact trainer Bud assembled for us in the basement. Our dogs all eat together, loose if at all possible, and some of them finish their meal before Tempest is done with his training.

He has, on a couple of occasions, given the other dogs a growl or snap when they approach his meal. A bit of resource guarding isn’t a huge problem if it keeps him from getting his meal stolen, but I don’t want him to take it too far. So I ask him to continue working for his food and, if at all possible, ignore the circling wolves. And I continually lay claim to his food, helping him understand that it’s all mine.

I started Tempest’s contact training by laying down his food at the base of the trainer, taking him gradually higher and higher on the ramp, and allowing him to drive down the ramp to his bowl. It was placed about 3-4 inches from the ramp, encouraging him to place his front feet on either side of the bowl while his rear feet remained on the ramp. He’d do 2-3 of these descents per meal.

After about a week of this I decided to see what Tempest would do if I simply stood next to the contact trainer with his meal and a clicker.

He threw everything he had at me — and I was surprised to see just how many behaviors he knows will earn reward.

Sit.  Down.  Sit.  Down with his front feet on the board.  Climb up the ramp.  Turn around and sit on the ramp. Hop off and come front. Another down. FINALLY he climbed up the ramp, turned and sat at the bottom of the ramp, and stared at me.

When I did nothing, he carefully stepped off the end of the ramp with his front feet.  CLICK !!!   FOOD !!!

Within 2 days he was quickly assuming “the position where all good things happen.” All on his own, no verbal cue, no luring, no prompting, no physical steadying. Bingo.

We’ll continue feeding breakfast and dinner for this fine behavior, since this conditioning becomes so very important when our agility dogs get their “kowabunga” moment.

For lunch, and on occasion when I take him to the training building, we’re beginning to work on heeling.

My dear friend, Gwenn Clow, presented me with my very own copy of Dawn Jecs “Choose To Heel,” when she read my blog regarding my version of Dawn’s work.

With Tempest, I carry my clicker in my right hand, a few treats in my left hand, and take off walking with my focus down on the floor to the left of my left leg.

As soon as he attempts to move up for a treat I click the moment he arrives in heel and pop a treat in his mouth.

Yesterday, after practicing this skill on 2-3 occasions, he seemed focused and purposeful in his movement beside me. He was pacing himself, glancing at me periodically, and keeping up with whatever speed and direction I assumed.

Every 10-12 feet, however, he would purposely tuck in closer to my leg, earning “Click! – YES !! – treat.”

My goal for Tempest is to get him in the novice rally ring when he’s 6 months old.

I’ve had a number of dogs experience ring stress and I want to head that off with Tempest. I train in my own “backyard,” so to speak, and am not welcome to join classes at the nearby obedience training club because they’re concerned I’ll steal their students I suppose, so it’s going to be important that Tempest get ring time anytime and anywhere I can arrange it.

When he travels with me to trials where matches are offered, he’ll partake. When possible, we’ll practice on the trial grounds, or alongside ring gating when classes aren’t going on.

My poor Dash has few coping mechanisms when he finds himself in stressful situations, but Tempest is going to have as many advantages as I can give him.

And I figure he’ll have better tools for dealing with stress in agility if he starts with obedience (stress-central <g>).

Besides, he can’t show in agility until he’s 15-18 months old, but novice rally is available to him at 6 months, is all on lead, and is just a couple of minutes of choreographed dancing with my puppy.

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest’s brave and clever day

June 16, 2010

When I thought, a year or so ago, about the possibility of a new puppy, my thought was that BRAVE was all I really cared about.

It didn’t matter what sort of dog I got. Size didn’t matter. Color didn’t matter. Breed or type didn’t matter. Purebred, mixed breed, didn’t matter.  So long as my dog was brave.

I actually said to a friend, “I want self-destructive-brave, actually.” She nodded because she has that in her young sheltie — and it’s so much more fun to run a brave dog than it is to run a fearful dog.

In an earlier post I told of Tempest’s introduction to the baby teeter, of putting my wobbly footstool in his ex-pen, and of his bold return to the training teeter.

Today we were playing in the training building and I was walking past the big teeter, set about 18″ high.

Tempest, trotting beside me, walked up the teeter as if it was just another ramp, like the one we have from our deck to the yard. Without gasping or worrying, I held the up-end to keep it from crashing out of control to the floor.

Tempest got to the pivot point, felt the board give way, pushed down and braced himself, rode it down with me controlling the board, and wandered off as if to say, “no big deal, really.”

The bang of the teeter behind him didn’t even rate attention from him. If I don’t screw this up he’s going to be an awesome agility dog.

We had a housetraining breakthrough today as well — this is the clever part. <g>

I’ve taught Tempest that sitting is the best way to ask for things. Whether it’s coming out of a crate or ex-pen, going through a door, or getting attention, a sit goes a long way toward getting what he wants.

This afternoon we were sitting in the living room and I had the gate closed to the dining area and the back door, so he wasn’t able to wander out of sight and get into trouble.

Tempest was walking around, hunting dust bunnies and exploring his world. Suddenly he walked to the baby gate, sat right in front of it, and looked over his shoulder at me.

At first I ignored him. Then it occurred to me what I’d been telling a student this morning about the Sit being her dog’s way of asking permission for stuff.

I walked over to Tempest and opened the gate. He trotted to the back door, which I opened. He trotted down the ramp, hopped over to his regular pee spot, and peed-peed-peed … he really needed to go!

I’m amazed that he’s able, at 13 weeks, to know he needs to pee and know that he wants to go out the back door. I’m also amazed that he thought to go to the gate and sit, then make eye contact with me, in order to get what he wanted.

So this afternoon has been a brave and clever day. Of course, he’s not perfect — right now he’s wrestling with the dog bed next to my desk, dragging it madly about the room.

Afterall, he’s just a puppy …

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest week 5

June 14, 2010

During mealtimes Tempest and I are working on contact performance (see “Contacts” below) and stays (see “Stays” below).

Additionally, we continue to reinforce the following rules — no attention without a sit first, no exiting the crate or ex-pen without a sit first, no exiting the crate or ex-pen if puppy is barking or fussing or whining.

And I continue to reward and reinforce the following behaviors — entering the crate or ex-pen willingly, coming when called, respectful attitude at mealtimes (Tempest eats last and waits for HIS bowl to be put down).

I’m finding that my initial evaluation of “puppy-Rex” holds true with 13-week-old puppy-Tempest.  He’s level-headed, biddable, willing to trust me and take chances, bold, and brave.

The only thing that’s made him cry, so far, other than an occasional nip the first week from unfriendly old dogs, is the darned mulch that sticks to his butt when he lies down in some parts of the dog yard. When that happens he whimpers, tries to outrun it, and comes to Mom so she can “get that stick off my butt.” <g>

Tempest had his first dog show trip last weekend. He accompanied Dash and me to an obedience trial in Canton, Ohio.

I was proud of his patience, hanging out in his crate in my truck for a couple of hours at a time. He alo got to walk around the fairgrounds each day, as we continued on our quest for “100 new people in the first 100 days.”

I explained this plan to some folks Tempest wanted to meet and they said, “what numbers are we?”  I said, “I think you must be 45-46-47-and 48.” They laughed and fussed over the puppy. He’d been sitting, waiting to meet his new friends.

CONTACTS:  Bud built me a contact trainer using our old teeter base, an old cross-over ramp with large slats but no contact paint, and a board with no slats but a traction surface.

Tempest’s introduction to contacts included some prompted shaping, using his breakfast and dinner to draw him into the 2-on-2-off position.

On the third training session I placed his food bowl at the base of the cross-over ramp, placed Tempest about 12 inches up the ramp, settled him onto the ramp, and steadied him as he rushed down the ramp for his meal.

As he reached the bowl he naturally settled his front feet on either side of it, his rear feet on the ramp.  On 2 or 3 occasions as he was eating and I lifted him away, placed him on the ramp, and steadied him as he returned to his meal.

He’s a forgiving boy, so he never seems to resent my manipulating him during his meal. Boy, is he eager to return to the bowl, from 12″ up the ramp, from 18″ up the ramp, from 24″ up the ramp, and from 30″ up the ramp. He’s getting really intense and coordinated in his rush back to the bowl.

STAYS:  One of our favorite exercises for puppies is to set their food bowl on a chair or table, set the puppy up facing the food bowl, and have the puppy stay while you reach into the bowl and deliver the food to the pup.

If the puppy’s butt stays in a sit, the food keeps coming.  If I’m working on a down-stay and the puppy stays in a down, the food keeps coming.

If the puppy gets up and approaches the bowl I make a big deal of returning the food to the bowl, returning the pup to their stay position, and then getting the food flowing again.

Tempest had his first experience this morning with lying down during the sit-stay exercise. I made a huge deal of putting the food back and then putting Tempest back into his nice, tucked sit. After a few trips to the food bowl (which was just a few feet away), I requested a “down,” which Tempest performed on my verbal cue, and the food started flowing again.

Good thing this boy loves food !!

This past weekend my old boy, Dash, Q’d 4-out-of-4 at an obedience trial. Tempest says “I cute both days too!”

2-Minute Dog Trainer, T’s contacts

June 8, 2010

Tempest and I spent a few minutes this morning on the new contact trainer Bud made for us.

I had his breakfast in a bowl, my clicker, and a hungry, motivated 12-week-old puppy.

I sat on a short stool next to the down-ramp of the contact trainer. I blocked the other side of the ramp with a plastic storage crate.

Tempest’s first attempt to engage the ramp resulted in a rattling sound from the ramp. He acted concerned.

I tossed some food on the ramp, he re-engaged the ramp, the rattle occurred again but he was eating and was unconcerned. This was “prompted shaping,” versus “free shaping,” which involves waiting for the dog to do the behavior.

I continued to click for engagement with the ramp, increasing my criteria in tiny increments. After the initial prompted shaping I employed free shaping.

click 1 – nose on ramp

click 2 – front foot and nose on ramp

click 3 – front foot placed onto ramp

clicks 4 through 10 – front foot placed purposely on ramp

click 11 – waited for both front feet on ramp

clicks 12 through 15 – both front feet placed purposely on ramp

click 16 – waited for a rear foot to be added to the 2 front feet on the ramp

click 17 – waited for 4th foot to be added to the 3 feet on the ramp

clicks 18 through 25 – all four feet on the ramp

click 26 – tossed kibble away, Tempest chased and ate, returned to put all four feet on ramp

clicks 27 through 30 – tossing kibble away, Tempest ate and returned to put 4 feet on ramp

click 31 – with Tempest facing up the ramp, I laid his food bowl at the bottom of the down ramp, he turned and stepped off the ramp with his two front feet — CLICK !!!   Tempest ate out of his bowl. (Prompted shaping)

click 32 – Tempest climbs back up the ramp, I place his food bowl behind him on the floor (prompted shaping), he turns and steps off with his two front feet — CLICK !!!  Tempest finished his breakfast.

The whole training session took less than 8 minutes. I know I’m a 2-minute dog trainer, but I wanted to get him over his concern with the rattling noise, and didn’t want to stop while we were on such a roll.

Since Tempest is so young I’m in no hurry to get him to perform his 2-on-2-off contact performance on cue. I’ll continue shaping this but won’t name it yet.

In the meantime …

Two days ago I was teaching a competition-obedience workshop. Our topic of the day was heeling and I was working my 10-year-old aussie, Dash.

I teach my version of Dawn Jec’s “choose to heel” training. I call it my version because I’ve not trained with Dawn, I’ve only read a 14-or-15-year old article on “choose to heel.”

I’m certain that there are differences between what Dawn Jecs created and my understanding of it, so I don’t profess to be teaching Dawn’s method. But she inspired me to do this type of positive reinforcement training, and I admire the cleverness of “choose to heel,” so I attribute my method to Dawn Jecs every time.

I brought out Tempest who, at 12 weeks of age, has already been introduced to the idea of loose-leash walking — that is, we don’t move forward if I feel tension on the leash.

With a handful of string cheese bits, I started walking forward, enticing my puppy. He’d come into heel position and eat cheese. I kept walking if he fell behind, he’d catch up and eat his piece of cheese for landing in heel position.

It was all accidental on his part, but he found it so rewarding that, within a couple of minutes, he was following my movement in heel position. So fun … !!!

2-minute dog trainer, Tempest week 4

June 5, 2010

Tempest is 12 weeks old today. When do we stop counting weeks and start counting months?

There are some behaviors which are becoming standard for Tempest, including: 1) sitting in order to exit a crate or pen, 2) sitting for attention IF people will allow it (it’s harder to train people than it is to train puppies), 3) coming when called (I use “T-come!” for his formal recall practice, and “Let’s Go!” as a general yard recall), 4) being quiet in his crate.

I started putting Tempest on the baby teeter a week ago. He was a little fearful, though he enjoyed the string cheese.

When he showed concern about the heavy, wide teeter I introduced him to my footstool, leaving it in his ex-pen. He had no problems with the wobbly footstool, and quickly fell asleep with his head resting on it. (When you’re afraid of something, dominate it by sleeping on it.)

I left the footstool in Tempest’s ex-pen for a week, allowing him to interact with it freely. After a week I went into the pen with Tempest and the footstool, my clicker, and his lunch.

I lured him straight across the footstool, he hopped up and over willingly, got his click-and-food.

I repeated this a couple of times, never asking for more than bravery in his interaction with the footstool.

A couple of days ago I returned, with Tempest, to the training teeter in the agility building. All indications of concern had disappeared.

Tempest boldly walked across the teeter, chasing the cheese, bracing himself for the drop, riding it down, and chasing the cheese.  My click was timed to mark Tempest’s footstep which caused the drop.

Over and over, Tempest drove toward that footstep, pushed the board down, got his click and cheese.

After he was performing the behavior boldly and consistently, I started calling it “teeter!” He got very excited and sped up his performances, back and forth, back and forth.

His increased excitement puzzled me until I had a brainstorm — the word teeter sounds enough like T to make him think I’m saying his name. I’ve been conditioning an excited response to his name, so it makes sense that he’d transfer that excitement to the word “teeter!”

I’ve been considering using “T” as my dog’s cue for conditioned behaviors. For example, with Dash, as we’re running an agility course, I’ll often just indicate the obstacle and say “Dash!”  His response is to perform as he’s been conditioned to do, with his name indicating “pay attention to this obstacle.”

Hmmmmm …. food for thought.

In the meantime, Tempest has doubled in size. At his vet visit on June 1 he weighed 17 pounds. He’s going to be  more stocky than Kory, though they share their sire’s DNA. Kory is built like Keen, the sire. Tempest seems to have picked up more of his dam’s physical characteristics and will probably be shorter and stockier than Kory.

Both Tempest’s sire and dam have prick ears. Tempest’s ears are currently in a perfect half-fold. There’s a possibility he’s a throw-back to his grandsire, “The Fireman,” who was a black tri with really strong brown markings and folded ears.

I’m encouraging the folded ears by occasionally flipping his ears back, creating a crease in the cartilage. This is the method I used with Banner’s ears — she had a nice half-fold ear, and a rose ear — by folding the rose ear backwards the crease developed over time. By the time she was 9 months old she had two nicely folded ears.

But I’m not overly concerned about how Tempest’s ears turn out. I’m not going to be doing the chewing-gum or glue business to force the ear into a particular set. This should be interesting to watch …

In four weeks Tempest has had just one accident in the house. I paid too little attention, and left him loose in the house for 2 minutes too long. He walked to a dog-bed and started to squat. I caught him mid-stream and took him outside to finish.

Before that incident, and since that incident, no other accidents. I’m being pretty watchful, especially if the doors are shut and Tempest is trapped inside the house, but he appears to be choosing to potty outside. He’s also vocalizing to let me know he needs to go outside, or get a drink of water, or get a meal, etc.