Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cooper lives another day!

You are probably wondering if Cooper survived training today: he did!  In fact, I used him to demonstrate positions and he totally showed off!  The hard head of yesterday was not in evidence today.  What is nice about that is that it demonstrates that Cooper does not hold grudges or sulk. Yesterday was yesterday and he was all about doing what he needed to do to earn reward today.  And that is a wonderful temperament to work with !

Some basic differences between schutzhund and AKC obedience

When we have potential new members visit our schutzhund club, or when people come to me for private lessons, I often end up explaining some of the differences between AKC and schutzhund obedience.  The differences are important if you plan to compete in either one. Naturally, understanding the rules is critical, but here are a few of the differences:

  • in schutzhund you cannot use the dog's name to preface a command
There is only one place in schutzhund where you can use the dog's name to preface the command, and that is in protection work, in the blind search.  You can also use the dog's name as the recall command, but not as a preface to.
I frequently see the dog's name being applied like a nagging tap on the shoulder, as if to say "hey! hey!  prepare to pay attention to me!"  Used too often, it truly is that nagging tap and it will be ignored.  When you are working, your dog should already be paying attention and waiting for you to direct the next move with enthusiasm.  When you watch someone who always uses the dog's name first, pay particular attention to whether the dog was watching them to begin with ,or whether the name is the "hey, you!"

  • in schutzhund there is no "stay" command
What does "stay" mean?  It has no independent meaning.  It really means "keep doing what I already told you to do!"  In schutzhund the dog is expected to perform the command given until it is released or given a new command.  That makes perfect sense!  The "stay" command often becomes a threat, using the hand to block movement.  In schutzhund, the command itself has meaning and does not need additional layers of threat.

  • don't get stuck in the parlor trick front sit for attention!
This isn't really a difference in rules so much as it is something you find in some training classes.  The front sit for eye contact is taught and ends up being more of a parlor trick than an obedience exercise.  Pet owners are thrilled that their dog is giving them attention but several negative things are being taught.  The puppy learns that eye contact, not position, is what drives reward.  And, they tend to quickly get sucked into needing to find that front position, again because it has been rewarded.  Once you transfer to a heel position, the puppy struggles to get back in front of you where it has been rewarded.  This is not at all the fault of the dog, so handler's, swat yourself for doing this!  The other thing that occurs is the the dog, at heel position, will continue to try to make eye contact. What does this do? It takes the dog out of position and cause them to crab, moving slightly ahead and crooked so that, at its worst, it interferes with the handler's forward motion.

  • In AKC obedience classes, the dog is taught to sit first, and then lured into the down. In schutzhund the dog must know how to down from a standing position.
When the dogs are taught to lay down from a sitting position, they are lured forward and down with treats.  Later, when the start to balk, they are sometimes given a leash correction to pull them down. Or, in the worst form, the handler steps on the leash to pull the head down.  The result of this is a dog that is both slow and reluctant.  It has to sit and then slide forward into the down.

In schutzhund the dog is required to down from a stationary sitting position and also down from a walking position.  It cannot sit first and then slide down.  It must drop immediately upon command, or lose points. Some schutzhund trainers do teach their dog to make a sliding forward down, and these can be quite dynamic, but the dogs do not sit first, and are not taught that way.  We teach the fold-back down, or sphinx position.  After watching handler after handler have to re-set their dogs for the escape bite at the Nationals (and other events) and lose points as the dogs threw themselves forward and over the marked start position, my opinion of this has been reinforced. I prefer to teach the dog to bring the rear end underneath to sit, rather than rocking back and to move the hind legs back into the down position.  The front legs remain stationary, no matter whether the dog is moving into a sit, down or stand.

  • in schutzhund the long down is performed while another dog is performing the obedience routine, including retrieves and recalls.
In AKC, the dogs in the class perform the long sit and the long down as a group, without distraction.  In UKC, an "honoring down" is performed, with the dog in the ring as another dog performs the obedience heeling routine.  Frankly, I would rather have my dog be tempted by distraction with one dog than be left beside a group of dogs I do not know and trust they will not get up, or fight.  Both can be challenging and you will need to add more distractions if you practice in schutzhund, but have other dogs more nearby if working in AKC.

  • In schutzhund obedience the hands must move naturally at your sides.  In AKC obedience the left arm is commonly held stiffly across the body, as if in a horizontal sling.
I'm not saying one is better than the other, but that you need to know what is required in the sport you chose.  You will be penalized for doing the wrong thing in the opposite venues. 

If you have the opportunity, start training a puppy in the proper behaviors to your sport as soon as you can.  It is not fair to your dog to train it improperly and then six months down the road, change the rules on it and make corrections.  Sometimes it can't be helped because owners were unaware of the training opportunties, but sometimes they make a conscious decision to take a couple pet dog classes and "teach the dog obedience" before joining the schutzhund club.  It takes less time and effort to do something right the first time, than to change a behavior later. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quinn trains Little Wood

One exercise Quinn needs to learn for MR2 is something called "Little Wood."  Short pieces of wood dowel are used in the search and the dog must locate and retrieve the one with the handler's scent on it.  This is similar to the Utility obedience exercise.  At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to even work on the exercise until he had his MR1 since I also have the goal of earning our FH this summer.  In schutzhund tracking the dog must lay down to indicate articles with human scent on the track.  Quinn also does an area search for any article with human scent on it and will down at that article, as well. The purpose of this is so that he does not disturb articles of evidence by putting them in his mouth.  An example of this is a search for an expelled shell casing that we did several years ago at the scene of a hunting fatality.

I was worred that asking him to retrieve an article with scent might be confusing.  And would it be confusing for his retrieve?  The first thing I had to do was break down the exercises and requirements and determine where conflicts might be.

           Exercise                Command               Behavior
1)Area Search for articles                           veloren (lost)                 search for articles on ground with human   
                                                                                                    not specific to one scent.  air scenting.

2) Indication of article on track                    tracking= such              to down straight in direction of track with       article containing tracklayer's scent located between his front feet, without molesting the article Dog is following ground disturbance to locate the article.

3)  Area search for human                         search                              air scenting. bark and hold on still subject.
                                                               revier if sent to one location

4)  retrieve                                              bring                                   go out, pick and return with any thrown

So I had to first consider what the command would be.  I decided to keep it consistent to his training language and use Finden.  I have seen small pieces of how people train the exercise using a board on which the dowels are secured with flex ties except for the one with the handler's scent, so that no incorrect choices can be made.  Sometimes they will cover the board with grass or other material, and carry it into other environments but ultimately the board has to be phased out.

The funny part here, telling of how I am thinking of how I want to teach the exercise, is that my friend, Sam, is constantly coming up with new ideas for training and often I laugh at them as adding too many layers.  I am very much about keeping things simple and without unnecessary tools or tricks.  There is possibly someone reading this who thinks I am being crazy, and also possibly recognizes that I am setting myself up for a problem.  But since I have already decided I didn't want to do it the traditional way since he already knows how to search,  I will just see how it goes.

I used the rounded wooden dowel, similar to what they use in the MR exercise.  I held his mouth shut the same was how we do to pre-scent the dogs to find a particular scent, and held my palm in front of his nose with the dowel there. I said "good finden".  Then I left him on a sit and first put the dowel in a corner of the building, but in the open.  At the start of my introduction exercises, he is seeing the article being hidden, which is not true in MR.  He ran right to the dowel and I encouraged him to bring it back to me and to hold it until I marked and released. He did it super well! 

Next, I hid it behind some tubs against the wall.  Again he saw the set up, went directly to it and retrieved it. Good boy!  Time to up the ante.  I hid it in an area with chairs, tables,bookshelves,  and dog crates and he searched and quickly found it.  His change of behavior in scent is very obvious.  I watched a dog recently who struggled to work in to the source of the odor and I know from training police and detection dogs, how critical that is.  Quinn is quite good at it.

I then hid the dowel in the kitchen, where there are many interesting odors.  The dowel was hidden between an island and the garbage can and I watched him work up in the air in the area.  He was moving so quickly, by the time his brain recognized the odor he had passed out of the scent cone.  I did not speak and he did not quit. He kept working, and that perserverance in the hunt is something I love to see.  I hate a dog that quits and asks the handler to do his job.  Or even worse, the handler who is actually doing the job but not realizing it by cueing the dog with "show me, show me!" ugh! pet peeve!

This is where it got interesting.  My training partner asked why I didn't just tell him "such" to put his nose down.  Just like a good trainer should, I knew the answer to that one.  I couldn't tell him to such (pronounced zook) because that is his tracking command and tells him to put his nose down and find the track.  And if he would find the article, thinking "track" the proper behavior would be to lay down to indicate.  I told her that if he layed down I would have to correct him, and that would only serve to confuse him in TWO disciplines!  Even more importantly, I wanted Quinn to learn on his own how to work to the source of that odor.  And he did!

The last search we did was back in the crate/table/chair area.  This time additional articles were place in the area, placed by my training partner.  Being the good sport she is, she emptied her pockets for the sake of training, even though she said she hoped Quinn didn't munch her cell phone! I think we had keys, a cell phone, a knife and something else.  The keys were placed where the dowel had been previously and the dowel was placed in between a dog crate and a bookself on the exterior wall.  Remember in training placements, where your scent cone is going to be affected by other items around it or hot/cold walls or fans.  This time Quinn picked up the keys, but after several "uh-uh's" and repeating "finden" again, he went back to the search and located the dowel.  It was interesting that he did not bother at all with the other articles and retrieved the keys because they were in the same place the dowel had been previously.  In this, he is trying to define the perameters of the search.  Is it this thing, or is it the location of the thing?

So, my Quinnster did very well!  We did some whistle-backs to his place between my legs and he is really picking this up well, too  Next week I am registered to attend a 3 day seminar with Michael Ellis, and it is my goal not to be too far behind in our prep from those dogs who regularly and solely train in ringsports. Rock On, Quinnster!

Free to Good Home

Did I get your attention with this title?  I actually do not have any dogs offered "free to a good home" but if i did, today would be Cooper's day!!  Many a good dog is purchased after a competition when the owner is stung with disappointment over a performance. I understand that feeling entirely. Distance in time provides a better perspective.

Today Cooper decided that the "down" command (couche', in french) did not apply to him.  We actually had a good training session prior to this, and then things just fell apart.  The good part was his heeling and the fact that his stand is looking very good.  He is freezing in motion, and steady for exam.  This is tremendous progress from where we began.  He was solid and happy. Another exercise I like to use is having the dog heel, then move to a front position, then move backwards and either finish (right side) or return to heeling(left side).  To do this the dog must understand each piece and the last part for Cooper involved teaching him to back straight and remain centered no matter which direction I move.  I ended with a little side-pass work, with his butt to the wall at first.  That was abit stickier but he never stopped taking food for reward, even under stress.

We did a few toy tosses and all was well; I thought it was a good ending to a good session. And then things went to shit....

I decided to ask him to down at the door. We had practiced some downs, and that is his slowest position. I know i have to work to speed it up.  But I didn't think it was such a big deal to ask him to do it in order to exit, which is something he wanted to do.  How simple is that? His reward would be for me to open the door for him.  But noooooo..... he refused. Again, and again, and again.
If I made a physical correction he would lay down reluctantly.  If not, he just stood and started at me.  Not a malicious, "I dare you" stare.  Just staring. I am not going to do this.  I wanted him to self discover that the down was rewarding, so I left him. He remained standing at the door and did not move, but did not lay down, either.

My training partner and I vaccummed the building and locked the doors. Several times he did lay down and I marked it "yes" and rewarded him but when I would take him back to the door and ask for it, he would refuse yet again.  I can't tell you how angry this was making me.  I knew I could physically force him to do it, but all that proved was that I could physically force him to do it.  Bah.

Time was running out. At some point we were going to have to leave!!  I carried my gear bag out to the van and still he did not lay down.  I gave one last command and I could see the little wheels turning. He started to dip his head and I helped him out by encouraging him with "good boy".  He layed down. I said "yes" and opened the door.  Oh Lord, I couldn't leave well enough alone and this could have gone five ways to ugly, too, but at the van I got water for him and could tell he was very, very thirsty. So guess what? I let his tongue barely touch the water and then withheld it.  Once again, I asked him to lay down.  He danced on his front legs.  You could almost envision the thought bubble over his head "what to do? what to do?"  and yippee, he layed down!! Cooper got his water and I made sure not to make any more requests that I didn't have the time or patience to back up!

This is not an uncommon occurrence in dog training, particularly with pet dogs.  What happens? The owner lets the dog out before work and is in a hurry. Dog refuses to come, sit or whatever and owner does not have the time to deal with it, so dog learns a command has a finite time limit.  Ask what you have the time and tools to reinforce.

Stay tuned for the results of Cooper's "down" lesson for Saturday!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Live Like you are .... LIVING!!!

You know the Tim McGraw song that advises to "live like you are dying?" I want to change that perspective. My girl, Jinx, is not living like she is dying; she is living like there is no change of dying! 

We had one of our regular biocom treatments today and it showed no cancer response.  I don't dare believe the cancer is gone, although that is my ultimate dream.  I think this just means that it isn't the overwhelming response of her aura at this time. She was given a different Chinese herbal medication, one of the first types we were given, so her needs are changing.  She no longer gets Deramaxx, unless she appears to be in pain.  We had initially given her 1/2 Deramaxx per day for pain, then cut it down to 1/4 tablet and it did not seem to have an impact so unless she needs it, she will be D-free. Dr. Strickfaden pronounced that Jinx is doing excellently, and appears to be in great health. 

 If it wasn't for the atrophied front leg, you would not know Jinx is sick.  Her coat is shiny, her eyes bright. She insists on being part of Tom's daily kennel routine, running to the door when she sees him change into those clothes. Putting her paws on his legs and insisting he move faster when he dawdles!  She accompanies him to the kennel, running through the snow on her three good legs and once there, she gets to practice her protection routines. She returns to the house, tired and grinning.

I got to thinking that this is critical to her attitude and potential recovery. We don't treat her as if she is dying; we treat her as if she will continue to live.  She still has to obey commands, and follow the house rules.  She gets to bite and play, though I am protective of letting her get bumped around by other dogs. Dogs don't have good-byes to make, or wills to write.  I don't know if they have such a thing as a bucket list.  That might be difficult, since they have to rely on us to drive them places and would have to enlist help, but I think there are probably things that they desire to do, or to eat.  New butts to smell.  Sometimes we simply go for a car ride. I grab a cup of coffee and we take a drive around the countryside.  She loves to be included.  To leave her home would signal there is something different about her, or her value to us.

If a child was dying of cancer, wouldn't you engage him or her in the process of LIVING?  Jinx's eyes are bright because we have stopped waiting for her to die.  And that makes my eyes bright as well.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Your One Hundred Percent

Are you asking your dog to give more than his 100%?  Are you giving your 100%?

The first time I heard the concept in terms of what your dog has to give you, was at a seminar instructed by USA Judge Al Govednik.  It has been etched in my memory ever since.  He said that every dog has their 100% effort and that you need to recognize and respect that.  It is like students in a class.  One student works as hard as he can, studies hard and at his best effort, 100%, only gets a B.  But another student breezes through the work, barely cracking a book and scores an A by giving only a 70% effort.

Dogs are like that.  One dog might give you his 100% and only be capable of scoring 90 points on his best day.  Another might be a podium dog, capable of 100 points, who just doesn't exert himself and routinely scores a 92.  Which is the better dog? You cannot fault the dog that tries his best.  You should not be angry at that dog who works as hard as he can but yet does not achieve the perfect score.  When Al talked about treating such a dog as the champion he is, who gave it his best, it really struck home with me. 

Sometimes the dog is limited by their training and the opportunities were are able to present to them. Sometimes they are limited by physical issues.  I have a dog who is very upright in the rear and when he runs as fast as he can, it is not the same speed as the dog with more angulation who can stretch out.  For a period of time, we struggled with obtaining a fast, straight finish, which was a training issue; when we achieved that, even though he hadn't made V scores, I knew he gave it his all.  To me, he was a winner and it literally brought tears to my eyes.

I think sometimes when we are disappointed with our dog's performance, it is a displacement behavior.  The person we are really disappointed with is ourselves.  Why?  Because we expect 100% effort from our dogs that we are unwilling to give ourselves.  I have to admit I do not give my 100% consistently.  I'm back to the Olympics again, as you can tell, but watching those athletes and what they go through to puruse their dreams makes it so clear to me that I don't give my 100%.  And if I don't, how can I honestly expect that my dog can or should give his?

So in the future, I hope to have the wisdom to realize what my dog's 100% effort is, to reward it and take pride in it and to give him the same respect.

Monday, February 15, 2010

predisposition to grip low on the arm

I was talking to a friend last night and it was mentioned that the instructor at a seminar stated that a particular dog's choice of the first strike being low on the sleeve was genetic. This particular dog would then apparently switch to another grip, more centered.  I found this to be an interesting statement.  A dog may have a genetic weakness of nerve that causes it to prefer to bite as far away from the center mass (dangerous part) of the man as it can,  This can be evidenced in the dog who bites near the wrist, uses the front canines and tugs away, not into, the decoy. In a police dog-- god forbid that dog gets passed through the training!- it is the dog who bites low on the arm, tearing off layers of clothing but never inflicting significant damage..  Pretty soon you have a naked suspect, and a pile of rags that the dog is busily thrashing while the suspect runs away.  I'm only half joking on this. 

When I select a puppy, I look to the one that has a grip compatible with the type of sport I do.  For schutzhund, if my favorite demonstrates a desire to fill its mouth with the rag or toy, to push in and take more, and is calm,  I am that much farther ahead.  I will not have to spend so much time in the formative stages, teaching and reinforcing the type of grip I want.    But I cannot imagine a dog being genetically presdisposed to say, grip in the center of the sleeve.  A dog is taught that behavior. A dog is not born with a sleeve in its mouth.

Going back to the basics of behavior, behavior reinforced/rewarded is likely to be repeated.  If we do not allow the dog access to the wrong bite locations in training by using a back line, drag line, blocking or simply stopping the game the dog learns what grip and grip location on a sleeve will cause the game to continue and be rewarded.

If we repeatedly give the dog a bad grip initially, whether intentionally or not, and then cause it to move the grip and reward that the dog believes this is the behavior we desire. Bite badly, move,  and be rewarded.  It is no different than when we unintentionally teach a dog that the return to heel is a 2 step process. Instead of going immediately to heel position, it moves to a crooked position, then is asked to "fix" that, straightens out and is rewarded.  Very quickly we will have a dog who never finishes correctly on the first attempt.

It is possible that the instructor, who has vast experience in training and an impressive resume of accomplishments,  made a shortcut in explaining what he was seeing.  He has likely seen this so many times that going into a lengthy explanation bogs down the seminar.  The newcomer may be left without understanding how genetics do influence the grip and gripping style and how a bad grip can also be made, not born , improved upon but never eliminated if it has a genetic component BUT that genetics do not tell a dog where to bite a sleeve.  Once you understand that, you can make an educated decision as to your training course.  Is the issue nerves/genetics?  To what extent will you be able to put bandaids on that problem and how far is that likely to take you?  Is it a training issue?  Particularly if you see multiple dogs worked by the same helper exhibiting the same problem, you may wish to change helpers/trainers.  Are either of these things possible, given your resources?  Ultimately, you will find it frustrating to pound that square peg into the round hole unless you make an honest assessment and acknowledge when your dog is giving you HIS 100%.

More about that 100% in an upcoming post....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why I am not in the Olympics

...apart than the fact that I lack physical talent, that is!

I, like much of the rest of the world, have been glued to my television watching the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.  One of my favorites is Apolo Ohno.  I have seen video and interviews and noted his incredible dedication to his sport and his goals.  He endures workouts that would kill a lesser man.  He asks himself each day if he has done everything (excuse my paraphrase, which may be slightly off) he possibly could to improve, to reach his goal?

It gave me pause to consider whether I could be an Olympic athlete in my sport.  Given the sacrifices these athletes make, I have to admit I could not.  I would not be willing to go to the lengths many of them do to accomplish their dream.

A married couple who are skating in Pairs, representing China, are in their mid-thirties and returned to dorm life and cafeteria meals to train for another Olympic contest.

A woman from Japan gave up her citizenship to move to Russia where she could compete in Pairs Skating.

When severely injured, these Olympic competitors work with every fiber of their being to regain their health and strength... so that they can compete again.  And what about the para-olympics?  Do I dare complain about being stiff and sore, when they rise from this adversity?

Apolo Ohno endures 12 hour days of training, and often four 2-hour work outs.  Many competitors move to where the best coaches and training opportunities exist.

I know of dog sport competitors who have followed trainers across the country, and moved for better training and competitive opportunties.  Still others spend many hours conditioning and training their dogs. I have to ask myself what I am willing to do to achieve my goals?  I have already established what I am willing-- and UNwilling-- to do to my canine partner to stand on a podium.  "The podium at any cost" is not my mantra.

But at what am I willing to charge to myself?  I will not move to follow a trainer.  I am not willing to give up my home, my family and friends for the sake of a sport.  I am also not willing to mortgage my home  pay to attend seminars or bring trainers in.  This may be due to my age, but I realize that my dogs will pass away and I will still need a place to live.  My husband is my partner with dogs, and would never ask me to give them up but he is more important to me than competition.  If he needed me to be with him, or asked that I not attend an event, I would honor that.  Oh sure, I might throw a hissy fit, but in the end he is more important to me.

Then there are things that I could do, and would be willing to do, but do not.  I should spend more time conditioning both myself and my dogs.  We both need to be athletes at a level that keeps us injury free and able to compete.  I could spend more time studying; I could watch the videotapes of successful competitors, those I wish to emulate, and try to adopt some of those methods if they apply.  I could spend more consistent, structured time in training.  I tend to work in waves, where I concentrate on a goal and then completely withdraw after that competition, resting both mind and body. 

I will likely never be a millionaire as a result of my dog sport involvement, unless there is suddenly a tremendous market for "before" videos.  "Dancing with the Stars" will never invite me to participate after I win an Olympic gold medal, star in a blockbuster movie or invent a new computer app. I can, however, aspire to win.  I can make a promise this year to train more consistently, to study what I need to know, and to work to get both myself and my dogs in better condition so that we can do our best.  Can I say each day that I have done my best?

I can do better. 

Feb 13 training

We had a small group on Saturday, but then, we are a small group to begin with. In our schutzhund club we spend alot of individual time with the dogs and handlers.  This is important to the members who choose us.  I like to think it enhances the TEAM, because we all have an investment in the growth of the entire group.

We had a new puppy with us on Saturday.  Cute little bugger! He is only 7 weeks old, and I am not a fan of releasing pups at 6 weeks as his breeder did, but once the pup is home you need to get it started on the right track.  The first thing is to engage the puppy with the handler and while things were abit overwhelming initially for the little guy, when he returned for a second session things were clicking.

We all need to remember this: foundation, foundation, foundation.  Don't skip steps. Sometimes it will be very frustrating and possibly even boring for you to work on those tiny pieces, but without the holes in your training will be apparent later on, and much more difficult to fix.  Actually, it is very unfair to the dog to do this because after reinforcing and rewarding for an incorrect behavior for a period of time, it just isn't fair to then correct him for doing exactly as you taught.  If I taught you as a child that 2+2=5 and gave you good grades, or an allowance for doing so well and then the following insisted that 2+2=4 and rapped your knuckles with a ruler when you kept writing =5, would you enjoy learning? Would you be confused?  You would likely eventually respond with the correct answer, to avoid punishment and pain, but the process would be patently unfair.

There is a difference between the expectations of a pet in obedience, and a competitive dog sport.  In dog sports it is important that you understand what is expected of you so that you teach your dog properly.  For example, on Saturday I explained why it can be helpful to teach your dog the fold-back down so that he does not throw himself forward and over the line for the escape bite. How many times have we watched handlers have to re-set their dog in this position? Why throw away points needlessly?  And I demonstrated having the dog return to a sit by tucking his rear end underneath rather than pulling himself up by the front legs and sliding back (and out of position).

I don't write this in every post, but I am so proud of our TEAM members, our club members.  I am proud to be a part of a group that supports one another, that works together with similar training methods and who creates success with what we have.  We don't hire helpers, we don't have superstars, and we will take whatever amount of time is required to make sure the the handler and dog team have the instruction they need and deserve.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Managing the numbers

In the past few days we have entertained visitors looking at several dogs we have for sale. On Sunday the woman looked at Bartie and today a young man came out to check out the two male Small Munsterlanders we have for sale.  Next week Tom will take the group out to work over some birds with him, but he seems a very nice, responsible young man.  Although we have had many inquiries on our next munsterlander litter,  and the Arec x Easy litter turned out exceptionally nice, I have resisted doing another breeding while we still have pups left from the last one.  So, hopefully either Enno or Excel will be leaving for a good home.

Bart, the Dutch Shepherd,  is a sweet, wonderful dog, full of enthusiasm and joy but his heart is not in protection work.  I use him in my lessons to defuse aggressive dogs and encourage the shy ones, a job he does very well.  Bart does not make strong eye contact and would never incite a fight.  He is a lover!  Although I will miss him for this purpose, I don't work with him often enough to be fair and if the perfect forever home came along, I think it would be best for Bart to go to that home.  To have his own "people" who walk him every day and play with him, would be very special.

Chica, also a Dutch Shepherd, is for sale as a detection dog.  She is very small, only about 45 lbs and crazy athletic!  I got her OFA results back today and her hips are rated GOOD and elbows NORMAL.  I saw the films and was actually hoping for an "Excellent" after the vet pronounced them "better than good".  She tested well as a detection dog candidate.  A woman in California had expressed interest in purchasing her as a forensic detection dog and wanted Xrays taken.  Well, Xrays were taken and still no response from her, thank you very much.  Soooooooooooo.... anyone interested should contact me.  She is UKC registered and microchipped. She is too small for what I want in my breeding program and also a little small to control the man in the way required for competitive schutzhund.  She will be 3 years old on July 30th.  She is crate trained and also good in the house, but will use her paws to open lever handled doors.  Good with the other dogs and cats she has been around, very sociable.  She is very dark, with the brindle barely visible under her black fur.

I'm looking at managing the number of dogs we have.  I am actively working a hand full of them but that leaves only sporadic time for the others.  The old guys will stay and at their ages, we are likely to lose them in the next 3-4 years. I could never send Digit to another home, my sweet, grey boy.  At age 12, he is weak in the rear end but still has the attitude and drive to come out and take some bites, or work for food happily.  Ali, the token German Shepherd, with his allergies and special needs, can't go to a new home and risk relapse.  And Roya, who climbs, opens doors and puts teethmarks in metal crates that put lions to shame, could not responsibly be placed elsehwere.  The munsterlanders are Tom's domain.  Arec and Easy are his hunting dogs and have produced a nice litter together.  Ziggy (Engell Aryan) his the female he kept from the Confetti x Donar litter to become his next generation.  And Donar, whom we imported from Holland, will definately remain here for his days.

Time spent aside, it is expensive to keep so many dogs.  Multiply the annual heartworm tests and medications, rabies shots and the cost of purchasing the other vaccines that I administer myself, plus food and it puts a mighty dent in the budget. Jinx and her cancer treatments have been extremely expensive and are a priority. If keeping her alive was a matter of paying a fee every month, I would gladly do it.  So if I can trim the numbers by four, it means more money available for Jinx.  I love all my dogs and want them to have the best homes possible, where they are worked to their abilities and loved.  If you think you would be that home--- and that person--- please contact me.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Training Feb 7

Our schutzhund club training got a late start today, as we had changed times to accomodate helper and church schedules.  Before training began, a gal stopped out to meet Bart. We had met when we trained the drug dogs where she works, and after their home was burglarized while they slept, she decided it was time for another dog.  I was highly complimented that not only did she think of me, but when she called the police department to get my information they remembered me and gave her the contact info.  Yes, I know some people have unlisted numbers and guard their addresses, but my information is very public and if people want to come and train or buy dogs, they need to find me!  Many years ago, when we lived in Appleton, I received a phone call from a man, asking if my husband was home and when I said "no" telling me he was on his way over.  I replied, "good!  The coffee's on, the dogs are out and the guns are loaded; come on over!"  He quickly sputtered that he was my husband's former brother in law and that he was just joking.  Who got the last laugh on that one?  The punch line is actually that he does not know I was telling the truth....

When the lady inquired whether I had any dogs for sale and told me what she was looking for, I thought of Bart.  She met him today and fell in love.  If all goes well, Bart will have a new home at the end of the month.  He is the sweetest dog and deserves to have his very own people.  She-- Cindy--- stayed to watch a little of our training and meet some of the dogs.  We had a slim crew today due to SuperBowl and other commitments.

I have been thinking of taking Cooper to a UKC conformation show, so I worked on his stand for exam.  While he knows the stand, it is not entirely stablized yet and he gets "happy feet", stamping his front feet up and down in anticpation of whatever he thinks will come next.  Cute, but not what I need!  I thought to use a ladder, laying on the ground, to help him understand where his feet should be and that worked nicely because he could feel and be more aware of where those hind feet are.  We aren't to the point that I would trust him to remain in position as a judge examines him, so I might decide to wait a little longer on the show.  I did so want to get that over with, though....

One of the things I worked on with Cooper today was centering in the bark and hold.  I want him to understand that the bark and hold has a specific physical position attached to the behavior.  In working on this,  the helper would move between tables as Cooper was "barking him back"; the helper was seated in a chair with his legs apart so that Cooper had to center between his legs and bark OVER the bite pillow;  Cooper stood on an end table and did a bark and hold...   I was happy with his focus on the man, barking at him instead of the equipment.  We did a couple exercises for control, with Cooper in a down position while the helper moved around quickly and when Cooper held his position, I marked it with "Gooood" and the helper returned to deliver a bite. We ended with work on the transport.

Ridley only did protection work, with Sam using a arm/leg sleeve on a line.  She has such a nice, full and calm grip!  He would then swing her back into me and I would cradle her before he pulled her away again.   When we first did this, she would roll her eyes being taken away from me but now she doesn't care and is totally into the bite.  She has also learned to bring the toy back to continue the play.

Digit got to come out and assist with the training of one of the young dogs in the club.  He is 12 years old now and this is actually a role that I had turned over to Bart, but Digit loves to be included and Bart already has his turn at play today.  This young female GSD had reportedly thrown a hissy fit at the vet office, wanting to play with the other dogs and people there.  The owner had asked whether we needed to work on socialization and I pointed out that the dog has never acted aggressively toward people or dogs, but was simply acting out because she was unhappy being restrained from what she wanted to do.  One of the other issues at play was that it wasn't her handler who had accompanied her to the vet office so there was not the same relationship at play.  When the youngster came in to the building, she was indeed barking to engage play but I instructed the owner to have the dog sit or down and then reward with food for quiet and stable.  Another member handled a back line so that K. could keep her hands free for feeding and not worry that the dog would run off. 

With young puppies I like to teach them that other dogs are not rewarding---- only their handler is--- by giving them the freedom to go to the other dog (which MUST be a safe, neutral dog) who then sits and looks at his handler, ignoring badly behaving puppies even if they jump on his head (something Digit excels at) .  When the puppy discovers that the big dog is boring and turns away, the handler, who has moved to be visible to the pup but not calling it, then marks and rewards as the pup goes to the handler. 

This particular dog is around a year old and bigger than I like to have doing a free interaction, as she could actually jump on and hurt my old dude, so we kept her on a back line and made a different exercise.  In this one, the dog had to sit or down while the handler moved away from her and I moved around her with Digit.  To her credit, the youngster did very well.  She didn't bark at Digit and remained very focused on her handler.  Twice she threw a little rodeo act, throwing herself on the ground to avoid collar pressure on the sit, but once she discovered that wasn't going to get her out of it, she settled down.  So, the key to her behavior is to remain calm, give her a position you can reinforce; reward good behavior and give a consequence (in this case, simply marking "nope" and making collar pressure to replace her in the sit without repeating the command (which would then become a "do over").   If the owner desire to allow the dog to play with another dog, as she indicated she had done since the misbehavior, then her dog must earn this behavior by complying with obedience commands and restraining herself first.  Barking and throwing a fit will never give her permission to go play.

I had hoped to bring Quinn back to work on his Mondioring exercises with Dennis Bilik today but suddenly it was after 3 pm and I was out of time.  So instead, I practiced his contact-heeling, and on giving him a position between my legs on the whistle-back.  He moved a little closer to understanding, but it isn't there yet.  I have allowed and rewarded him to run through my legs and turn around so that he is back between my legs in his play recalls, but for some reason I decided to introduce the whistle back position by standing in front of him and having him move into that position, to be rewarded by the toy.  What I should have done-- and will try next--- is to show him the same picture he has seen before (duh!!) and will see in trial, and have him punch through, then turn around but on a whistle.  I practiced positions with him while on an end table and in a rocker/recliner, as well as on the ground. He is a happy, enthusiastic learner, which makes this all so much fun.  When Quinn comes out, his attitude is "what are we going to learn today?"  I can hardly wait for spring to arrive so I can start to do outside area searches with him again.  All the dogs love that exercise, using their noses to isolate the scent cone.

Training days are both long and tiring, and yet oddly quickly over.  Even with one dog, it helps if you go to training with an idea of what you intend to work on. Naturally, things can go off in another direction if you find you need more time on one subject than another, but it sure beats shrugging your shoulders when asked "what do you want to work on today?"  Be prepared by having your notes and all the tools needed such as toys, collars, long lines.  And then, when you are finished, make a note of what you worked on and what you intend to do next time.  You will find it not only streamlines your training process but serves as an excellent tool to review your progress. Happy Training! 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Quinn does MR today with Dennis Bilik

Quinn had a date today with Dennis Bilik to practice his Mondioring skills.  I have to admit I haven't done any work in that direction since the last time we saw Dennis, but Quinn seemed to not only remember what we had worked on previously but also processed it!  Today we worked on the Defense of Handler.  I remembered to cue Quinn by telling him "defense" and then asking for contact, and he did a good job of remembering what contact meant!  Some of the things I had to consider today were how to carry things, how to sit or move through/around obstacles and keep the dog in the best position for defense.  I was very happy that Quinn is outing and returning on the whistle.  Now I need to add his return to a particular position, such as between my legs and let him settle there instead of immediately rewarding with the bite pillow.  This is something I can train at home and apart from the decoy. 
Things to remember include:
  • cue the handler defense by beginning at a sit.  use verbal cue and then the physical by asking for "contact"
  • cue the exercises where Quinn will be sent for a bite by beginning in the down position
  • figure out how I will sit on something.  Quinn should move 3/4 but not move behind me
  • teach Quinn the position he should return to
I remain convinced that if I never practice beginning and ending exercises using the horn, I will never have to desensitize the dog to it.  I keep hearing of people having to practice random horn honks after the dog begins to anticipate releases/etc due to the horn honk, so why not avoid that whole issue? If a horn honk is never assigned a behavior, the dog won't anticipate.  Now, the handler is a different matter and I have to weigh whether I need to practice beginning and ending with honks.  I do think I can practice some of that by walking through exercises without the dog.  I guess the proof will be in the pudding... or competition.

Dennis said today that we are practicing work that is at the MR2 level.  I'm good with that!  Better to practice and be comfortable working at a level of expectation beyond what is required.  In that way, the actual competition will be easy, over and done before I know it because myself and the dog will be prepared for something more challenging.

The very next thing I need to do is to print off a copy of the rules so that I can break down the exercises and make sure I know what is expected of us.  Oh, and send in my Mondioring Association membership!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Working on the FInish with Cooper

Yesterday I worked on the "finish" with Cooper.  I have practiced shaping a straight return to heel or finish while standing still and luring Cooper with food behind me.  This is something that Greg Doud showed us on one of his last visits.  He noted that one problem in teaching the finish is that people teach it by stepping back or moving and then this needs to be phased out, as the dog looks to you to move to cue it.  Now when Greg teaches the finish, he stands still and lures the dog with food to his right side and then  brings the dog in straight to the middle of your butt.  Oh what the heck... to your butt crack!  Yes, that is correct.  What this teaches the dog is how to come into the straight position that you will want with the finished product.  With the food at your butt, you step sideways, keeping the dog in your hand with food.  Moving to the right is easiest for the dog initially.  The dog learns to keep his body straight.  The next step is to bring the dog all the way to your left side using the food lure and to step sideways, beginning to the right again.  The idea of shaping this without going through the step-back, etc, simplifies the event.

One thing I wanted to "test" with Cooper was whether he understood to move to the finish position without luring. For this, I used the tug toy and when Cooper would move to come around me after the command, I would mark it and then throw the toy forward and to my right. The reason for that was so that he wrapped tightly around me on the return.  A couple times my timing was off, and I released him before he had completed the return and he popped back out on the right side to grab the toy. My bad.  Initially, he would hang up there in front, running through his repertoire of positions, trying to figure out what exactly I wanted.  He sat, downed, barked, moved backwards.... it was enough to make me laugh at his anticipation!  When he would figure things out and move to the finish, I would mark it and throw the toy. Happy, happy!  Naturally, the next stage is the one where he figures out that this "finish" thing is what gets the reward so I might just as well get a head start on it, before the command!  Once he showed me that he was understanding this and anticipating the command, it was time to ask him to show a little restraint and wait for the command.  I would have him sit in front of me and instead of asking him to finish, would say "gooood" and then "yes" to release/reward so that he was also being rewarded for waiting.  Such a difficult thing for Cooper-man!

The learning process is fun like that.   Shaping the behavior, watching the light bulb come on.....  do remember to recognize the stage where the dog starts to anticipate and try to please you.  Don't be angry or frustrated; recognize it for what it is, part of the learning process.  Smile!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Just Right- Using Back Line Pressure

When it comes to back-line pressure, it is like the story of the three bears.  You have to find the amount that is "juuussst right."

Too much and the dog will spin or will learn to move forward slowly.  If the person handling the back line is too close, the dog may become worried about who is chasing them and become more concerned with that person and interacting with them, than moving forward.  Too little pressure and it defeats the purpose of using the line at all.

The equipment you use can play a role, as well.  Using a harness allows the dog to pull with its head lowered, while having back line pressure on a collar causes the head to be pulled up.  Therefore, depending on your target you may wish to adjust equipment.  A dog that is very collar aware and doesn't feel confident pulling against a collar or one with an especially slender neck may benefit from using a harness, at least until the behavior has been established.

Now that you have the correct amount of pressure and the correct equipment, you need to be aware of when to release the pressure. The key to back line pressure is to "pop!" the release so that the dog drives strongly forward to the grip at the last moment.  Release too late and the dog is likely to slam into the handler or decoy.  Release too soon, and you lose the purpose of the drag line.  Generally you will release the pressure about two feet from the intended target, when the dog is fully engaged in forward motion. 

If the dog starts to slow or is not committed, do not release the drag line.  Instead, let the handler or decoy escape, excite and perform the behavior again.  Only reward the behavior you desire.  There is nothing wrong with frustrating the dog and dragging him away to work another time without a bite at all.