Posts Tagged ‘Go Rally’

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.

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!

More 2-minute training brochures

March 29, 2009

I’m starting on two new packages of 2-minute training brochures and am wondering if these should be sold as individual documents. If sold as a package, purchasing would be easier. If sold individually then filing would be easier, and finding the brochures in your computer files would be easier. An instructor, wanting to provide her student with a homework handout for motivated heeling, would simply go to that brochure instead of having to remember which package it was purchased in.

Hopefully some instructors are printing the packages and keeping hard copies on file for students. I imagine I need to transition to individual brochures at some point, allowing people to cherry-pick the more advanced stuff.

Group A — Shelter package, basic obedience and tips for shelter adopters (7 brochures, complete)

Group B — Foundation Sport package, start-up training for agility, rally, and obedience (8 brochures, complete)

Group C — Go Rally package, homework brochures for 32 key skills, instructor handouts to accompany the 8-week Go Rally Training Manual program.

Group D — Problem-solving package, positive reinforcement and clicker solutions for agility or obedience. (Breaking start line stay, knocking bars up, missing contacts, being un-motivated and slow, being out of control, leaving handler mid-sequence, leaving handler at end of sequence, being inattentive … by the way, I began by listing these using the positive description of the behavior but quickly realized that everyone else will be looking under the negative topic — ex: keeping bars up became knocking bars.  Maybe because it’s a problem-solving package, so the problems should be listed as negatives instead of positives?

Reading Dogs

February 27, 2009

My first article in DogSport Magazine is about to be published, and pictures of Nora with Dash and Blue went to the magazine this morning for the article coming in the May 1 publication. I hope the magazine’s readers enjoy consuming my articles as much as I enjoyed writing them.

The process of sorting through 60+ photographs to find the ones which illustrated my “7 Natural Laws of a Rally Dog in Motion” was fascinating. Nearly every picture illustrated either good movement or bad movement, either intuitively understood by the dog or not.

The pictures I chose had the clearest presentation of the rule I attached it to, and my plan was to show that Dash (a 9-year-old trained and titled rally dog) responded to handler movement quite naturally and that Blue (a 3-year-old untrained and inexperienced dog) responded to handler movement just the same.

What actually was  illustrated by the pictures, however, was a surprise. Since Blue has less hair and a nice long tail, her responses to handler movement were even more dramatic than Dash’s (he’s an aussie with lots of hair and no tail).

I sat at my desk, with my mother looking over my shoulder, commenting on the responses I saw in the pictures. It was obvious to me, by the set of Blue’s tail or the crossing of her front feet, that she has a really clear picture of how handlers move even though Nora was a young girl, a novice handler, and someone new to Blue.

My mother, on the other hand, seemed to glaze over a little with my technical discussions of Blue’s reaction time and how she seemed to get better with each picture, educating herself in handler movement at lightning speed.

I guess Mom was just thinking how pretty her grand-dogs looked in the pictures, or how several pics showed the old washing machine (we use it as a beverage dispenser) sitting on the porch of our log home. My parents built this house so Mom has a vested interest in how it looks. She thought the washer was tacky — I think it’s comical and lovely. <g>

The role of an instructor, by the way, is to be an educated and attentive EYE on your performance. To note where performance falls on the broad spectrum from “spectacular and perfect” to “absolute failure to communicate with the dog.”

I often worry that, with my obligations to old dogs, students, and family, that my trialing career in rally and agility have been put on hold. I also worry that Red, my 5-year-old, needs more training and trialing time. I need to pack her butt in my truck and travel to shows, just getting her out without putting undue pressure on her, but all of that is on hold for now.

Because I don’t trial much right now, I worry that my instructing skills will get rusty, or will be unappreciated. There’s not much I can do about that, so I’m going to stop worrying. It’s wasted energy.

In the meantime, I was really pleased to spend time with Nora and her mom, Lori, and practice my instructing skills. And I was really pleased to know my eye for performance and the dog’s reaction is as sharp as ever, even if I only get to show it to my mother who can’t stop thinking, “I sure wish they’d move that washer off the front porch!”

Asian Ladybug Blues

February 17, 2009

These asian ladybugs are so disgusting. And they’re all over my house. When we used to visit Mom and Dad in this house I’d see these horrible creatures crawling in windows, on lamp shades, everywhere. I’d think “Man, if I lived here those buggers would be GONE.” My Mom would say, “you can’t get rid of them.”  I’d think, “just watch me!”

When we actually moved here I had a cleaning frenzy, sucking hundreds of bugs into my sweeper. And Bud cleaned up piles of wood in the basement, uncovering ladybug nests and clearing them out. That fall (2007) we had the house pressure washed, all the cracks sealed, and new stain applied.

I thought, “Great! This should fix the problem.”  NOT

Here it is, February 2009, and — just like my Mom told me — I can’t get rid of these buggers. So today I decided to actually spend some money on the problem. Gardner’s Supply catalog has 2 products for cluster flies and asian ladybugs. They’re traps filled with finely-ground egg shells in which the bugs “drown.”

According to the sales pitch the traps last 2-4 years and capture 1,000 to 2,000 bugs each. For 4 traps (2 of each) we’re going to spend nearly $95 but, if I can go a few months without my skin crawling from ladybugs, without flies and ladybugs all over the big, arched windowsills, it will be worth it.

I don’t really believe the 2-4 year thing, but we’ll see. My calculations have them filling in less than a year, but perhaps I’m going to be impressed with how well something works.

If they work I wouldn’t mind replacing them once a year. Like most folks my age I’ve learned that a paragraph in a catalog can be written so that an item looks incredible. “Incredible” being the operative word there — unbelievable might work as well. The traps are due to arrive in the next 2-4 weeks, will be installed immediately, and I’ll be reporting on my blog as to their effectiveness.

In other news, I’m attempting to re-create my “Go Rally Training Manual” and “Go Rally Notebook” figures on my new computer. Every couple of years we have to get new computers, for whatever reason, and — regardless of what brand or what operating system — my work is almost always non-transferable.

This latest switch involved going to a Vista operating system and PageMaker (my favorite publication software) isn’t supported by Vista. So the Adobe folks sold us InDesign, the PageMaker look-alike which IS Vista-compatible. Bud had already transferred all my PageMaker documents to my new computer and — voila! — none of them will open, of course.

So now I’m left with a puzzle. I can recreate about 6 months of work, using new InDesign software, on my new system and publish “Go Rally Notebook 3,”  OR  I can set up my old PC and work on it. Since my office is right off the dining / kitchen area in our house, having 2 computers set up all the time is not feasible. So, to use my old PC I’d probably have to work in the basement.

I’ve decided to bite the bullet and just re-create my previous templates and figures. The task is so daunting I’m considering an entirely new approach to the “Go Rally Notebooks.”  In notebooks 1 and 2 I used APDT rally signs, though the training manual actually addresses skills rather than venues.

So the question before me now is this — how do I create future notebooks without using a particular venue’s signs? I’ve considered creating generic signs which allow instructors from numerous venues to place their sign where I’ve indicated with the generic sign. For example, my sign might just say “call front, finish left, halt” thus combining the AKC, APDT and C-Wags versions.

Okay, so that means I have to invent teeny, tiny versions of about 100 signs. Better get started …

Back to the home front, I’ve purchased black-out fabric with which to line all my curtains. When my parents chose the construction package for this house the salesman should have said, “this house should face south.” Our house faces east, which means NO ONE sleeps soundly past 7:00 a.m. as the sun is beating in on your face. In the winter it’s just overly light in the house. In the summer it’s boiling hot in the house by noon.

And the kitchen windows and doors face west so I have to crank the air conditioning up to keep campers from boiling away while they eat their dinner. The kitchen should have faced north while the living room windows should have faced south. I’m going to try to remedy some of this with black-out drapery liner. I figure that’s cheaper than having the house rotated.

If I can block some of the light, and get rid of the bugs, two major irritations will be out of my life. And isn’t that what progress is all about?  Minimizing irritation and maximizing comfort are my life goals right now.

Oh yeah, and making all those little signs and handler/dog figures for “Go Rally.” [sigh]