Archive for April, 2011

2-minute-dog-trainer, Tempest at class

April 29, 2011

My youngster has been attending group classes for a couple of months. Each week our training gaps are made apparent and our homework is filling in those gaps in my training.

On Wednesday nights we attend an “intermediate” class at another club’s facility. It’s been marvelous getting T on new equipment and he’s shown himself to be a brave, bold partner.

This week was his first experience with their full-sized, rubberized teeter. He had no issues with the equipment, running to the end, riding it down, and sticking his 2-O-2-O position.  I’m really pleased with his contacts and he continues to eat one meal a day on his contact trainer.

In the last 8 weeks he’s also learned to weave, but I’ve been focusing so much on jumping in the last 2 weeks that he’s missing most of his entries now (loss of focus as we run at the weaves).  Back to weave training, interspersed with jump training.

On Thursday nights we attend Bud’s advanced-to-masters class here at home. Our course last night was 17 obstacles with all contacts, 2 sets of 6 weaves.

For the first time I ran Tempest at 20″ in the entertainment round. We do most of our practicing at 16″, and he’s been known to run with the 12″ dogs part of the time, but I wanted to see if 20″ made him more thoughtful and careful.

He dropped one bar due to my pulling away as he was jumping, and he missed both of his weave entries.

In general he was awesome and fun. If I can iron out the kinks in the next 6 weeks he’s got a chance to have a solid performance at his debut.

With regards to his general demeanor, I’m still really pleased with my choice of a middle-of-the-pack puppy.  He’s not a bully, and he’s not a chicken.

Where he once became frantic watching other dogs run agility, he now observes keenly but quietly.

He’s a wonderful little house dog, choosing to lie quietly at my feet as I work. But he’s ready for any activity, any time of day or night.

He sleeps in bed and, generally, through the night without needing to go out for a potty break. The exception to this is on training nights he’s usually had a lot of treats and water, so he’ll often need to lay his head on my arm and let me know he needs to go outside.

He travels well, accepting hours in a crate, though he objected to being left in the back of Vicki’s truck while we ate dinner in Medina.  He’d have been quiet in his crate, but was barking because he was loose.

I’m delighted that I took the time and put the effort into   1) choosing the right puppy,  2) teaching him good manners,  and  3) training contacts-contacts-contacts.

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2-minute-dog-trainer, countdown to T’s debut

April 25, 2011

I know I’m going to walk to the start line for Tempest’s debut trial run feeling unprepared and unsure of the outcome. But that’s how it’s supposed to feel, right?

My target is mid-June through early August as T’s debut.  An AKC trial since they’re accessible.

Tempest is 13-1/2 months old and I have less than 2 months to work through a few issues we have (though I must say I refuse to feel pressure to rush him through these foundation lessons …. wouldn’t be prudent):

First, jumps and jumping … though this is job one in agility I’ve held back from a lot of jumping exercises because of T’s age. Last week he approached an off course jump set at 26″ and cleared it with lovely style – thoughtful and careful.

But, in general, T approaches jumping as he approaches baby gates — blasting through is as good as going over.

I don’t want to use any sort of correction for the careless jumping, but I find myself getting irritated with his disregard for jumping when people are watching, so that’s an issue I have to work on in myself.

In the meantime, our jump training needs to take place outside of class where I can bring him along as I wish, without people watching.

I want him to love jumps, so basic jump conditioning is the first step.  Around the clock with the jumps set at 16″, around the clock with the jumps set at 20″, and around the clock with jumps set at 24″ or 26″.

Sidebar: A few days ago Hazard, 11″ tall, jumped onto a 20″ tall ottoman …. that’s the equivalent of my 21″ boy jumping onto a 40″ table … yesterday I had him jump onto a 35″ table for grooming and he managed that with ease … I’m thinking 26″ jumps will be no problem for him.

When he gets over his “blast through or ignore” jumping issue, and becomes a thoughtful jumper, he’ll work most of the time at 20″.

At the same time I’ll work on pinwheels, asking Tempest to own the work ahead of him and to love jumps. Starting at 16″, working up to 26″, and settling back to 20″ or even 16″ for longterm.

The dead-away send (as in closing line on a course) as a “go on” will be trained as an extension of the pinwheel.  As he starts understanding the pinwheel I’ll shift jumps to straighten the line bit by bit. (Right now Tempest often misses the last jump in a line, opting instead to stare at me and draw in — typical novice mistake.)

When he’s loving jumps, owning the pinwheel, and managing dead-away sends I’ll introduce a couple of turns he hasn’t learned yet.

Tandem Turns and Back Crosses — Tempest hasn’t had more than 2 training sessions on the tandem turn, and I must admit to being a little confusing when it comes to turns away from me, or ahead of me.

Tempest has about a 65% success rate with absolute directionals, and Bud’s wanting him to know “jump-right” and “jump-left” with the same accuracy as Kory, but it isn’t my strongest training skill and I often forget to use those skills when faced with a turn after a jump.

So T’s confusion is a direct result of my own confusion, and that’s something I have to think about in my training.

I want to set up jump sequences to practice distance handling skills including absolute directionals.

For example … three jumps in a row to a 180-degree turn back to a tunnel or chute or weaves. Practice first with me on the inside of the turn, then with me on the outside of the turn, and finally with me behind and on the outside of the turn.

This training will be done at 16″ at first, and finally at 26″, in preparation for his trialing debut.

I may regret having held back on jumping, but I really don’t want Tempest experiencing a lot of dropped bars or strained shoulders, so — if I’m wrong — I just have to fix it with my next dog. <g>

Bud wants to publish a “Bud Houston Jump Training” document.  We have our own theories and might as well get them in print.

Second, start-line stays and returning to me when the course is finished … sounds easy enough for an obedience instructor, right?

But I have a tendency to “over-tame” my dogs and don’t want to squelch Tempest’s enthusiasm or develop a submissive posture from him with either of these skills.

So each will become a mealtime training event, lots of reward and reinforcement.

Starting this evening, Tempest’s supper will be fed in the training building for jumping.  He’ll continue to eat breakfast in the basement on his contact trainer (I absolutely love his contacts).

Sounds like a plan …. I’ve got it on paper (here) as well as on my clipboard on my desk, so there’s no excuse for not following it.

Well, actually there are lots of excuses, but I’m not going to let lawn mowing, string trimming, flower planting, swimming, cabin prep, camp meals, and TDAA office work spoil my plan. <g>

2-minute dog trainer, Goodbye to a good old dog

April 19, 2011

In 2000, Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline (ARPH) assisted in raiding a Spencer, Ohio, puppy mill where dozens of aussies, shelties, and beagles were being bred irresponsibly.

The dogs had been existing in stacked crates with the steel trays removed to make clean-up easier for the owner. This meant that the dogs in the bottom crates were constantly getting peed and pooped on.

Over 140 dogs were brought out, including many undersized dilute merle aussies due to the puppy-miller’s breeding of merle-to-merle, small-to-small, etc.

ARPH needed foster homes for these poor creatures. Bud and I agreed to provide a foster home for as long as needed, for one of the released dogs.

We met the ARPH representatives near Wadsworth, Ohio, at a lovely farm where temporary pens had been erected to provide homes for dogs being picked up by their foster families.

A dozen or so people showed up to transport dogs to foster homes around Ohio.  Bud and I were the only individuals actually taking a dog into our home, so we got first pick of the available pups.

We walked past pen after pen of dilute merles huddling at the backs of their pens. It was impossible to tell if dogs were deaf or blind as most of them refused to approach people, or even look in our eyes.

However, at the front of one pen, a black tri aussie trotted back and forth, engaging us and begging for attention.

We got him out of his pen and Bud started walking him around the barns to see what his temperament might be. This dog had been in a bottom cage, so — even after 2 baths — reeked of urine and feces.

We had decided to call him “Ringer,” and provided ARPH with all our contact information in case they found Ringer a home.

Back at Dogwood, Ringer immediately made friends with the pack of aussies and shelties, and then began resource guarding the water bowl.

Water bowls became a challenge for this dog who never had unlimited access to fresh water. We made sure everyone had plenty to drink, but the water bowls were spread out so that Ringer didn’t feel he had to hoard all of them.

He had never lived in a house, had never run through grass, or down a hill, so all these had to be learned.

We soon decided to adopt this funny boy, and registered him as Dogwood’s Independent Blue, keeping “Ringer” as his call name.  His nickname, unfortunately, was “Mr. Inappropriate,” as he never really learned how interactions with dogs and people should proceed.

We ILP’d him with AKC and registered him with ASCA, and started training him to do agility.

He was a willing learner of agility, but never managed to be in agility trials due to his overwhelming carsickness and his unwillingness to come when called.  We didn’t think we could keep him safe at outdoor trials, and indoor trials required lots of car travel.

Fortunately for Ringer, he had moved into a dog training center on 10 acres, with an active agility league. He got plenty of play, training, and competition, without ever leaving his back yard.

He discovered the joys of windfall pears and became our fruit-eating dog. If you were eating or cutting up fruit, Ringer would insist on sharing.

We guestimated Ringer as a 1997 pup, though he could possibly have been considerably older or younger.

For the next 10 years Ringer continued to be “Mr. Inappropriate,” continued to stare longingly through the dog yard fence, and continued to love his freedom.  Ringer, unlike most dogs, LOVED getting hugged (the tighter the hug, the better he liked it).  He routinely would finish his meal and come to Bud or me to give us a little thank-you “kiss” on the hand.

His favorite activity was to participate in “family walks” in the 2-acre fenced area near our agility building. He’d strike out alone, walking the fenceline as long as we’d let him stay out there. While the other dogs hung with us or chased each other, Ringer did his solitary march around the property.

This morning we said goodbye to Ringer. He was approaching age 14, probably, and was suffering from arthritis, hip displacia, rotten teeth, and probably a mini stroke or two.

In recent weeks he began having episodes where he would cry in pain. While in pain his bladder and bowels would void. After the initial pain he would carefully lie down and moan for several minutes.

Ringer’s struggle came to an end this morning. He’s buried outside the dog yard, where he always dreamed of being.

When spring arrives we’ll plant a pear tree near his grave. Ringer would have liked that, I think.