Posts Tagged ‘old dogs’

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.

2-minute dog trainer – validation from Tempest

November 15, 2010

I created the 2-minute-dog-training protocols many years ago when Bud and I owned Dogwood Training Center.

In addition to their 2-minute protocols my dogs had access (generally) to an hour class every week. We didn’t always get to work in the class as I was sometimes teaching, but most weeks I was able to slip into class for 30-60 minutes.

And we did league play every week for many years, so my dogs had access to a weekly fun run.

Tempest, at 8 months of age, has worked in 2-3 beginner workshops, for about 30 minutes each time. He has spent countless hours in his ex-pen watching advanced classes.

However, 95% of his training has been in 1-2-minute sessions at mealtime.

Yesterday afternoon Tempest attended his first full class, starting at 4:00 p.m. with introduction to spread hurdles, and ending at 6:00 p.m. with an introduction to wired weaves.

Without any drilling, armed with just the 2-minute work we’ve done and the little bit of beginner sequencing he’s had this past summer and fall, Tempest was actually doing agility.

My practice of walking away from him when he throws away his training in response to over-stimulation had a profound effect on him, by the way.  He works harder and harder to focus and stay in working mode.

I know there will come a time when we need to work on more complex handling skills, and that training sessions may stretch to 10-15 minutes to get things working right.

But I hope I remember this important lesson (my validation in the concept of the 2-minute-dog-trainer) — that tiny lessons, repeated often, worked at mealtime, can train a dog to be both driven and biddable.

At 8 months Tempest was the star of his agility class yesterday. As he should be with all the advantages he’s had.

His behavior demonstrated 6 months of laying a solid foundation of relationship — and focus — and desired behavior being rewarded.

Frankly, I was as proud of myself as I was of my puppy.  And I was actually pleased that my gruesome job with its annoying hours away from home has kept me from obsessing over drilling Tempest.

In the next four months I want to get Tempest fluent in front crosses, pre-cued front crosses, and tandem turns with EITHER body language or absolute directionals (left and right verbals).

In March 2011 we’ll begin weave training, though he’s already being rewarded for entering a set of 2 weaves correctly for his toy or for cheese.

By this time next year, hopefully, I’ll have attended a couple of novice trials and will start filling in any training gaps made obvious by that experience.

You can’t imagine how exciting it is for me to AGAIN have an agility dog who runs with me from the start line, eager and willing to play the game.  SO much fun !!!

I had forgotten how intoxicating dog agility can be with a bold, brave, willing partner.

2 minute dog trainer – holes in my training

October 16, 2010

Tempest is now 7 months old. I’ve had him for 5 months.

He’s 95-100% consistent on the following behaviors:

1) 2-on-2-off contact performance on dogwalk, a-frame, and teeter

2) automatic down on the pause table

3) coming when called

4) letting go of his toy when I say “okay”

5) releasing off the start line when I say “T!”

He’s 75-80% consistent on the following behaviors:

1) heeling off my left leg, looking up at me (he tends to forge to “head” me off)

2) taking his nose away from an item of interest when I say “leave it!”

3) walking on a loose leash (he walked with my Mom the other day and she said he walked beautifully for her, but he tends to forge with me)

4) sitting at the start line (he anticipates the run and can’t be bothered with sitting)

5) tunnels (he has started “heading” me by running to the entrance of the tunnel, whirling around to face me and stare, heading me as he would sheep or cattle)

6) jumps (he has had little or no jump training because of his age, so he takes the jump if I’m really specific and goes around it if I’m not)

7) tire (again, little jump training so good response if I’m really specific but no desire to do the jumps or tire if I’m vague)

Thursday night class:

Much to my delight, my work schedule allowed Tempest and I to attend this past Thursday night’s agility class. It’s an advanced class, so I did mini-sequences with Tempest and kept them brief so we didn’t interrupt the training going on with the more advanced dogs.

Here are the holes in our sequencing and obstacle training and my resolutions for filling in those holes.

A)  turning … Tempest loves to get a head of steam over 1-2 jumps and would, I suppose, just like to keep running until he hits the state of Virginia.  To fill in this hole in his training I resolve to teach him to target my hand, come to hand, and recognize the word “close” as his cue to come into handler focus. Because I don’t want him to constantly be in handler focus I want to be very specific about when and where handler focus will occur.

B) working away … just this week Tempest decided to run ahead, turn and face me, and head me off as he would livestock (or his brother Kory).  To fill in this hole in his training I resolve to return to return to work at sending him ahead to do work. When I point to a tunnel and say tunnel I want him to stay focused on the tunnel until he’s completed the task. If he turns to face me I’ll break off my attention, turn my back on him and walk away. The training will continue when he discontinues heading and follows me. This training won’t take place in a class setting as it involves too much time and patience. When others are waiting I’ll be impatient and won’t allow Tempest to think through his error, so I won’t make the mistake of trying to work on this problem during classes and workshops.

C) jumping and tire training … an intentional hole in Tempest’s training, left until last because of his age. I resolve to get our hoops out and teach Tempest some obstacle focus when I’m moving. He needs to begin operating like an agility dog in motion (following the line I’m creating) instead of a herding dog (controlling my movement by heading me off).

This is a really exciting phase in training for Tempest and I. We’re getting to run, we’re building a partnership, and we’re going to become a team.

A few things I’m pleased with include:  my weight loss (due to my job I’m working off about half a pound a week), Bud’s and my resolution to eat better and live healthier, the general health of our pack of dogs.

Creaping slowly toward winter I’m reminded of the old dogs we lost this year. I dreamed of them last night and miss all the effort we used to spend making sure they were steady on their feet, warm, and dry. I see the rubber attached to the ramp into the yard and am reminded of Banner’s difficulty with the slippery ramp last winter.

My heart aches every time I pass the graves of my dearly departed. No dog will ever replace any one of them. Each of them held a special place in my heart.

In the words of Eric Clapton, “will you know my name, if I saw you in heaven?”

2-minute dog trainer, advanced puppy work

August 5, 2010

I’m so lucky to have a pup who loves to go out to the building to train, who loves both toys and food, who is always interested in interaction with me.

I’m also lucky to have a pup with an “off switch.”  When he’s in the house, Tempest is relatively calm and quiet. He takes wicked-deep naps, has what I can only assume are awesome dreams of barking and chasing, and is very nearly house-trained now.

He still has accidents on occasion, but he seems more capable of holding it until he gets outside.

This week I’ve started advanced puppy work, including:

1) heeling … I pour Tempest’s food into his bowl, set it up on a table, and walk about 10 feet away with my clicker and my puppy … we turn and face the food bowl … I put Tempest in heel position in a sit … I position my hand as it would be for heeling (at my waist) … we heel forward about 2 feet and halt (with a click and sit) … another 2 feet and halt … I ask for 2 or 3 tiny heeling events … then make a big deal about putting his food bowl down.  YAY !!

In the past I’ve experienced dogs who had issues with delayed reward.  I want Tempest to realize from day one that there are going to be times when he’ll be expected to behave in a particular way even without food immediately available.  Perhaps this is the “working dog” benefit, but it seems to be working for us.

So he doesn’t get food with every heeling movement, with every sit. It’s more of a jackpot for being biddable for that entire 30-second period of time.

2)  contacts … we go out to the big-boy dogwalk a couple times a day … with our tug toy in my off-side hand … ask for a “walk it — lie down” and play tug for a completed 2-0-2-o contact performance … I try to not insert physical cues, to not handle Tempest, to let him choose to get into position … then lots of tugging and play!

The “lie down” cue is sort of a universal “look-at-me-and-freeze” command.  Since Bud will be running Tempest some, and I’ll be running Kory some, we’ve chosen to establish the same criteria, teach the same skills, and have the same verbal cues.

3) bang-it! … Bud’s teeter cue used to be “walk it!” and mine was “teeter!” … Kory demonstrated some confusion over the teeter last weekend so we decided “bang it!” might be a good meeting place for both our dogs … Tempest and I go to the baby teeter and he runs from end to end … “Bang it!” has him running to the end, riding the teeter down, and assuming his 2-o-2-o position … he really stretches forward with his front feet, waiting for …. the tug toy!

4) self-control … with a line of jumps in front of him, Tempest is able to sit and stay while I walk around the first jump … he gets his tug toy for staying … then back to his sit stay and gets to take a jump … he gets his tug toy for staying … I don’t want to always release him to the jump … sometimes I’ll release him in another direction.

Tempest shows amazing self-control, but it’s not surprising — he’s been taught self-control since he was 8 weeks old. I believe I’m seeing the benefit of all my “sit for attention, sit to exit your pen, sit to exit your crate, sit to exit the house, sit to make the babygate open,” etc.

I’m using toys and tugging for Tempest’s agility training, and food and clicker for Tempest’s obedience training. Lucky for me he LOVES BOTH !!

Bud leaves for a 4-day trial and seminar trip tomorrow, so Tempest and I will have plenty of time to ourselves.  We’ll continue our advanced puppy work with jump work and some beginner weave-work (2 poles, no twisting).

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.

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 blog is back

February 6, 2010

I’ve been away from blogging for awhile. It’s a huge task, frankly, to write every day.

I’m actually working on a couple of other projects. Therefore, I’ve been disconnected from the daily blog.

Last Friday the temperature dipped to 8 degrees overnight and, due to inattention, our propane tank went empty at the same time. It’s Murphy’s Law at its finest, frankly.

We were looking for an opportunity to change propane companies and, with a frigid weekend and an empty tank, we had lots of time to think about what we wanted to do.

On Monday Bud made some calls and arranged for a new company to deliver their tank and some propane on Wednesday. That meant we were without heat from Friday night to Wednesday noon.

Thank goodness we had the woodburner. I hate the woodburner because it’s messy, makes my sinuses and eyes dry and scratchy, gives me nosebleeds from drying the air overmuch, andmaintenance is basically a part-time job.

I got the fire going  by 4:30 a.m. Saturday.  By noon the temperature in the house had climbed from 49 degrees to 54 degrees. With a little help from mother nature bringing the outdoor temps up into the 20s, I managed to get the temperature in the house up to 62 degrees by Sunday noon.

I called it “feeding the baby,” and this baby had to be fed every 45-60 minutes.  All day, all night, all day, all night, etc., for over 4 days. I slept on the couch so I could monitor the stove all night.

Twice a day Bud brought a new load of firewood. Once a day I ran the sweeper to keep the debris off the hardwood floors. It was exhausting.

There are a couple of benefits to the new propane tank — 1) now all 3 propane tanks on the property are from the same provider so, when we need propane at the house, we can have all the cottage tanks checked as well,  and  2) they offer a monthly budget payment rather than a $1200 fill bill, all due at once.

Last night a bit of a winter storm hit our area, dumping 6-8 inches of snow on us, and creating difficulties for the old dogs in their efforts to leave the house and potty.

Banner, Bogie, and Birdie are all 14 years old in 2010. They have arthritis pain, vision problems, and are going deaf.  We watch constantly for signs of the end. Frankly, it’s depressing as hell.

Every lump and bump, every irregular bowel movement, every moment of disinterest in food makes the bell toll. Bad weather just makes their fragile lives more difficult and I hate that they have to struggle in snow drifts at this age.

My current project is to create an all-inclusive instructor’s manual for basic obedience.

Fifteen years ago I instructed for an obedience club, and their lessons involved heeling, automatic sits, down stays, recalls, and choke chains.

Ten years ago I created my own 8-week obedience lesson plan involving attention to name and recall, walking on a loose leash, stays, greeting strangers, etc.

Three years ago I created my own 4-week obedience lesson plan involving four simple lessons presented in 2-hour lessons. Attention to name and recall, greeting a friendly stranger, walking on a loose leash, calming behaviors at home / self-control training.

My goal now is to combine my two plans (the 8-week and the 4-week) into one instructor manual which includes my obedience protocols, detailed explanations of my methods, a description of class timing, homework handouts for 4-week or 8-week programs, and a troubleshooting section featuring frequently asked questions.

Since my obedience classes are homework driven an instructor need only familiarize herself with last week’s homework and this week’s homework to have her lesson plan established. She may teach from her own experience, use my exercise descriptions, or use a combination of the two.

As I read my old stuff I’m constantly changing language and editing. There aren’t many differences in my training philosophy but I sometimes change phrasing that seemed fine before but seems awkward now.

In other news, I was pleased to see that Bark magazine has added Victoria Stilwell (Of Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or The Dog”) to their staff of writers. They’ve already got Patricia McConnell, PhD, and both of them are heroes of mine, so I’m looking forward to lots of new, terrific information.

Christmas eve 2009, 2-min. dog training tasks

December 24, 2009

It’s the morning of Christmas Eve and “all through the house, not a creature is sturring, not even a mouse …”

Are you kidding?  I live with 8 dogs, one of which is a 10-month old BC pup!  Right now, as I prepare for the day, he’s enlisted his cronies in a game of wrestling.

Our 10-year-old Dash and 12-year-old Ringer are Kory’s favorite wrestling buddies. I think this says something for the mental maturity of the modern canine, and their capacity to remain puppies forever.

I set up a large, soft, crate near my desk, with plastic on the floor underneath and a heavy plastic sheet inside. I layered a soft quilt and 2 dog beds, hoping to make a great environment for Banner to be comfortable in for these long winter days.

She leaks a good bit and no amount of medicine keeps that from happening if she gets into her water-drinking mode. So I gave in, stopped the meds, and made an old dog playpen for her. She hates it.

On the other hand, the rowdy boys find it’s perfect for a doggy cage match. Two dogs go in, they wrestle, and wrestle, and wrestle, and one comes out (the other one is probably dozing off by now).

So, the dog for whom the environment was designed has to be forced in, and everyone else loves to go in for a quick nap or a long, lazy snooze with a best buddy. There’s plenty of room for 2-3 dogs.

This afternoon we head into town for a Christmas Eve party with my sisters’s family and my Mom. I’m taking the left-over pepperoni rolls from last night’s agility classes, and my blackbean stoup (thanks, Rachel Ray!) which we eat as a dip for corn chips.

Janice, my sister, isn’t planning a big meal, just tons of food strategically placed where folks can get to it. Shooting pool, a couple of beers, some food, and home before dark probably.

Having dogs means never having to say ….. “sure, I can stay as long as you like!”  Potty and feeding schedules keep us from wandering too far afield unless we’ve arranged for a dog-sitter.

One of these days, though, these wonderful old dogs will be gone. We’ll be able to pack up the remaining dogs and be more footloose. In the meantime, heading into 2010, we have three 14-year-old dogs, two 12-year-old dogs, one 10-year-old dog, and two relative youngsters.

The approaching new year has me thinking about goals for 2010. So far I’ve come up with:

1) Get Dash back into Rally training and finish his excellent AKC title.

2) Get Hazard into Rally training at mealtimes and get her entered in her first novice AKC trial.

3) Prepare Hazard for the January 23-24 TDAA trial in Columbus, Ohio.  She needs 13 Superior Standard Qs (4 of which must be first-places) and ONE Games 3 first-place for her TACh3. In the past the first-places have been difficult because we weren’t a solid team yet and Hazard was a bit shut-down on course. She’s coming back to her old self, however, and things are going to get exciting for us, I hope. Vicki and Jackie want to practice Futbol … should be fun!

4) Prepare Hazard and Dash for the February 13-14 NADAC trial in Zanesville, Ohio.  I haven’t done NADAC since Fall 2002, when Dash earned 3 novice titles at 20+ inches. He’s now entered as a Veteran (running 16″) and Hazard debuts in the 8″ novice classes. Bud’s created the hoops and our early training indicated neither dog has a problem understanding their performance of the hoops.

5) Continue working with Kory on little, helpful behaviors that won’t interfere with Bud’s agility training protocols. Last night we worked on “lie down” and “relax,” with Kory quickly figuring out I wanted him to roll onto one hip. We also played the box game and he quickly got his two front feet inside for the click/treat. He’s not quite coordinated enough (and is too large for the box, perhaps) to fit his whole body into the box. Of course, we were playing with the box while agility was going on behind us, so a bit of distraction training as well. For a pup, Kory’s capable of an amazing amount of focus. He’s also capable of figgeting and whirling continuously for what seems a tremendous amount of time.

6) Keep up with my dog-washing schedule. I’ve been quite disappointed with the performance of Frontline Plus this year. I’ve heard it said that our local fleas have built up a tolerance to it.  We had a series of regular rain storms in the spring and summer, so the ground stayed moist. I’ve noticed that it’s not as oily as before so perhaps they’ve altered a good delivery system so that dogs don’t have that oily spot on their shoulders. And we’ve been beseiged with flea-ridden rabbits in the dog yard this year. All in all, a horrible year for fleas and (YUCK!) tapeworms. So I’ve gone old-school — washing dogs, washing bedding, putting down flea powder, vacuuming often, dumping out (or burning) the sweeper bag often, washing more dogs, giving tapeworm meds, applying flea powder, etc.

Time to feed dogs and prepare for my day.  Today I’m going to do some straightening, burning cardboard, picking up recycling that’s blown amuck, cleaning some in the training building for Sunday’s workshop, and bathing Hazard.

The 2-Minute dog trainer, retrieves

November 8, 2009

Bud and I spent 4 hours yesterday morning in the parking lot of a local Tractor Supply store, talking to people about dog training and handing out our brochures.

Things started out slowly. Then, in an effort to get Hazard into the warm sun, I set her sherpa bag on the table and let Hazard curl up with her face to the crowd.

From that moment on we were mobbed by people and kids. Note to self — if you want to draw attention put a dog in a box where people can see her. <g>

We took 3 dogs and all of them had a great time.  Hazard got all sorts of petting and attention. She came out of her sherpa bag for kids and, as soon as they were done with her, whirled around and darted back into her safe zone.

Dash, my 9-year-old aussie, slept for the first hour on the back seat of the Tahoe. Then, when he heard a pack of kids, he hopped out and made the rounds. His next few hours were filled with schmoozing and butt scratches, occasionally returning to the comfy interior of the truck. Dash had some bad experiences with kids in the past, so I’m pleased to see that he’s finally feeling more confident around them. Perhaps it was the knowledge that he could always retreat to the truck that enabled him to be so brave and outgoing.

Kory, Bud’s BC youngster, spent much of his time lying quietly in a crate in the back of the truck. Bud got him out often for some walks and retrieval work, and Kory got his share of attention from the kids.

When we’re working with a young dog I always keep a mental post-it-note of “what is most important for him to learn today.” This is part of the 2-minute dog trainer philosophy, by the way, that each interaction with a dog is a learning experience for that dog as well as for us.

Kory’s most important lesson yesterday, and his biggest success, was to stay in the crate with us nearby and to refrain from tearing up his bedding.

He also got to work on retrieving with Bud though I must say, proudly, that Dash is the retrieving king in our house.

When my first competition dog, Banner (now nearly 14 years old) was beginning her obedience career I was learning about positive reinforcement training methods. She learned to heel using Dawn Jecs “choose to heel” methods, eating treats and working without a choke or prong collar.

My training path separated from the AKC obedience club with which I was training and Banner earned her CD without much assistance or support from our instructors. I was determined to find another way than the one I’d seen at our weekly training sessions.

I taught my old girl, Banner, to retrieve 13 years ago using Sue Sternberg’s Inducive Retrieve method. A friend gave me a little brochure containing Sue’s typed instructions and her hand-drawn illustrations. Sue has since created a new brochure which is much fancier than the original photocopied version, with pictures instead of drawings, available at http://www.greatdogproductions.com/ppp/images/InduciveRetrieve.jpg

During the time I was training Banner to retrieve my club’s training followed one of two paths — the ear pinch or the collar twist. In our open class our instructor began dumbell work with “hold, hold, hold,” fingers clamped over the dog’s mouth.

Having taken ownership of my dog’s training in novice class I felt comfortable taking a separate path in open as well. I read Sue’s brochure and began training in little 5-minute increments at home.

In class, while everyone else was learning how to force the dumbell into their dog’s mouth, Banner and I went into a corner where we worked on the inducive retrieve.

At the end of 8 weeks my classmates were able to have their dog sitting in heel position holding the dumbell, mostly. Banner, on the other hand, could fetch the dumbell and return to front, holding the dumbell, giving it to me.

It was shocking to my instructors. Their response was the same tired response we hear today when we train with rewards instead of punishment, “what do you do if she refuses to pick up the dumbell?”

My response was, “she’s never refused to pick it up!   Why would she?  She is constantly rewarded for returning the dumbell to me, so the toughest part of the exercise is staying by me while the dumbell is tossed.”

At a monthly meeting the club asked for a demonstration of the method and I decided to make it a real test of inducive over forced retrieve. If their real question had to do with my response to a refusal, I needed to demonstrate that a refusal wasn’t likely, and that a refusal was a result of confusion, not willful disobedience, and should be met with encouragement, not force.

At the outdoor picnic meeting I turned a very excited Banner (I was, afterall, holding her dumbell!) away from the group and had a friend hide her dumbell near a member’s feet, under a table. I turned Banner back toward the crowd and told her “take it!”

Banner ran away from me and searched for the dumbell. She didn’t stop for petting, attention, or food. She searched and searched, occasionally looking back to make sure I was still waiting for her. I kept smiling and encouraging her.

After about 90 seconds of searching she dived onto her dumbell and ran as fast as she could back to me. It was the first time I got that thrill of having a demo dog do exactly what was expected. <g>  My first “I told you so” moment.

Jaws dropped. I hadn’t repeated the command, hadn’t restarted my dog, had just given her encouragement and continued smiling at her. Her drive to find the dumbell was created by the rewards I’d been giving her for bringing it back to me.

Bud and Kory have been working on a play retrieve so yesterday, in the tractor supply parking lot, I encouraged Bud to go to the inducive foundation work.

Within 30 minutes Kory was not only chasing the dumbell, but picking it up and returning to Bud with it. I doubt if Bud will ever want an obedience retrieve, he just wants a fetch for agility training, so there was no real need for the front-and-give dumbell work.

But I’m thinking that, with the foundation training being put in place, an obedience retrieve isn’t far off for this youngster, if either of us are so inclined.

Dash, and last night’s fun run

September 18, 2009

When Bud leaves me in charge of setting a course for our fun run night I generally have little training sets that are my favorites, and I incorporate them into sequences.

Last night I set a 20-obstacle course which included Bud’s opening line (see his blog from Tuesday) which was a bit of a dog-legged straight line.

From that opening line I had them go into the front cross minuet exercise. From the minuet we skipped and layered a jump on our way to the pause table. The layering was so obvious, and NOT layering so difficult, that everyone chose to layer the jump — successfully or not.

These skill sets were all nested in the course and were followed by a back-cross to the dogwalk exercise, a pre-cue-to-a-flip exercise, an a-frame contact with a tunnel between dog and handler exercise, and a run for the finish.

Students struggled a little bit with the front cross minuet, mostly because of poor handler movement or the use of advanced handling on less-than-advanced puppies.

There were two youngsters who disallowed the layering of the jump choosing, instead, to do all the work before them just in case it was right.

All in all I was pleased with everyone’s ability to walk and assess the challenges of the course.  Our new student, having trained elsewhere (and mostly on her own in her backyard), is missing some of the strategy we introduce in our intermediate class.

I decided to run my Dash on the course. Dash is my 9-1/2-year-old aussie, and the dog for whom the 2-Minute Training protocols were developed. He’s a non-confident, food-driven, low-motivation dog.

More importantly, Dash is OCD. He will repeat a skill in the manner to which he was first introduced to it — forever. Once he learns something he does it the same way every time. If I suddenly alter the way something is cued or presented he freezes, licking his lips, filled with self-doubt and anxiety — or jumps around barking.

By working through the 2-Minute Dog Training protocols with him I was forced to vary the presentation of obstacles, adding to his skill set. Do not, however, think for a moment that he is thinking outside the box and developing solutions on his own.

He’s simply digging into his reference library and asking himself, “what is Mom asking me to do this time? Oh yeah, that’s an optional presentation of a jump.”

He’s a fascinating, bright boy. I probably spent more time on foundation training with Dash than I have with any other dog I’ve trained.

His fear of new things is partly his nature but he lived with an idiot and her 2 young daughters from 8 weeks to 5 months, so Dash’s natural fear of new things was magnified 100 times by the time I rescued him.

Last night, when everyone was finished walking the course, I said, “I’m going to run Dash on this course. I haven’t practiced this course with him, and haven’t worked him much in the last couple of years. If we nail it I’ll expect all of you to nail it too.”   HAHAHA

Running a course with a trained, willing partner is poetry. It is the spiritual connection with a dog that brings us back to this sport again and again. When I thought I’d not be able to do agility again it was the loss of this magic that depressed me the most.

I ran Dash mostly silently. When I signaled, he followed. I didn’t have to tell him anything, just showed him the way and turned him loose. True, honest movement received his response of true, honest work. It was so sweet. He nailed all his contacts, never missed a beat in the minuet, was attentive and respectful on the pause table, and was the ultimate canine agility partner.

Trialing with Dash has been depressing in the past few years because the pace I’m able to set is overtime in AKC’s Excellent-level courses. Overtime by fractions of a second. Really depressing, over the course of a weekend, to have beautiful run after beautiful run busted by the time-keeper.

Watching Dash last evening sealed the deal for me — he’s moving to Preferred, jumping 16″, and continuing to enjoy the game wherever we can play it. He’s just too marvelous a partner to be left at home.

In other news — today I’m going to fire out a bunch of e-mails and see if I can’t build some interest in our fall 2009 agility camps.

September 29-October 2, 2009 — four-day teacup agility camp, followed by 2 days of agility trial, followed by our departure for the Petit Prix in Wisconsin.  We’ve got 4 spots filled in this camp (one by my Hazard) and, if I can’t add more dogs, we’re going to be exhausted at the end of 4 days. I’ve got a guestroom in the house and a whole cottage available to accommodate someone wanting a great little vacation for themselves and their teacup dog.

November 15-18, 2009 — four-day standard agility camp, these dates were moved forward a bit to accommodate Bud’s acceptance of a last-minute judging assignment. Campers will arrive on Saturday, November 14, and camp will run Sunday through Wednesday. Group meals will be provided all 4 days, and you have 6 hours a day of instruction. Campers may work on equipment before camp starts, during our mid-day break, and after dinner. I have 2 guestrooms in the house and a whole cottage available for someone wanting a cool-weather training experience. This is our last camp of the year and we’re always blessed with beautiful weather in mid-November.