Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy Mother's Day from Hana


Happy Mother's Day from Boss

New Families, New Chapters

This week has been momentous.  I struggled against saying good-bye to dogs that I have owned but am not working for one reason or another but the time came this week to let them go.  It's a tough decision. There are folks who believe you should keep any dog you obtain forever. Just because.  Because I work my dogs and compete with them, if they are unable or unwilling (by nature) to do that, it is unfair to simply let them exist, to leave them behind as I go out with other dogs each day.  To do otherwise is to become a collector of left-behind dogs.  I am very happy with the new families of each of my dogs, who will cherish them and make them important in a way I could not, as the Most Loved.

Marco left on Sunday.  His new owners, Aimee and Jeff, had heard about him from a friend of mine who lives nearby to them.  They had lost their German Shepherd and heard that Marco was available.  Many of you remember Marco's story, and how he came to me.  I told Sherri's daughter, Dawn, about the situation because it was so important that this was okay.  I had such high hopes for Marco, echoing Sherri's own intentions for his future, but his hip Xrays showed a problem and so his future changed course. I was preparing for his BH at our trial in June and thought I would track him.  However, after taking him with me to training I noticed that he was coming out of the crate already limping and I knew I had a decision to make.   Aimee and Jeff came to visit and fell in love with him (of course!).

and this is how great they are--- by the time they got home they had a new crate for Marco and were inquiring where to get the schutzhund type training equipment I used!  Doesn't Marco look snug?

In the meantime, another family asked about Marco but he was too big and exuberant and not meant to be a fit for them, so I mentioned that I did have a female Dutch Shepherd, Ridley, who would be available.  I hadn't posted her or mentioned that at all.  Lord knows, I dragged my feet on making a decision about Marco!  But in that instant, I knew that if they liked Ridley, she should have her own home, too.  Ridley is a sweet, gentle girl who  I purchased as a puppy with the intention of breeding (her dam had the best PennHip score of all Dutch Shepherds) but unfortunately, her sire's genetics prevailed and hers were not as good as I wanted.  Definitely good, but not as tight as I was hoping.  Still not a deal-breaker but Ridley also did not have interest in protection work.  She was just a quiet, gentle girl.  Along came this wonderful family, and they fell in love with her. Jeannie even cooks eggs for her dogs and I know she will have lots of hugs and petting, and love every minute of it.

That was Sunday.  Today I got a phone call from a gentleman I had corresponded with regarding a Small Munsterlander, Excel.  He wanted to meet Excel on his way to his home in the Yukon Territory.  His previous SM had been a cast off from a professional trainer who had gotten angry at the dog and left her in the woods! Can you imagine?  He rescued the dog and contacted the trainer/owner who said she didn't hunt and he didn't want her.  Jim and the dog became best buddies and he learned to love birds and hunting as a result of all the exposure he was able to give her, in a gentle, accepting way.  He thought he might be able to do the same with Excel, who comes from a great hunting family but just never turned on to hunting.  However, as we walked around the property, Excel did the most perfect quartering, regularly returning to check in or flip to heel position.  He was using his nose and enjoying the scents.  I think they are a wonderful pair and look forward to hearing about their adventures!

It's a little strange to look at the past three days as a before-and-after and consider that so much has changed in such a short period of time.  I have no doubts that the decisions were good and all of the pups will be happy in their new homes.  Happier than watching everyone else go out to work and play and being left behind, which is why it was important to cut those strings and let them go.

The only dog left in the kennel who is not either retired or actively being trained is Chica, who was returned by her previous owner because of anxiety behaviors.  I use her for demos on clicker training and she is super clever.  She has been fine here in the kennel and although the previous owner had her medicated, I do not.  She is spayed.  She knows directionals.....

can jump through hoops for your love!

and bring you a chair.  She is that smart.

Imprinting vs exposure

Definition of imprint (n)

Bing Dictionary
  1. pressed-in shape: a pattern, design, or mark that is made by pressing something down on or into something else
  2. lasting effect: an effect that remains and is recognizable for a long time
  3. special mark: a printed or stamped sign on an object, e.g. to indicate its origin
I am posting this because a friend recently wrote that she had imprinted her pup on cadaver source.  This is something that I have heard before from SAR folk, and have always taken issue with it. I want to take this opportunity to explain why I feel strongly this is both a waste of time, and not advisable

 Some like to place source (Human Remains) and see how a pup responds and call this "imprinting".  Now tell me, if you put something dead and stinky out, what do you think a dog will do?  I venture to say that if a dog shows avoidance it is likely not because they aren't a candidate for HRD work but that they are a dog who lacks the innate curiosity and boldness that is desirable.  I keep chickens.  When the pups investigate the chickens and the inevitable tasty treats left behind, they wiggle with excitement, tails wagging.  Does this mean I am "imprinting" them on chicken shit? Not a chance.  They are exposed to the critters, and to many other new adventures and situations.  But it would be incorrect to define this as "imprinting".

Note that #2 of the definitions above is: an effect that lasts and is recognizable for a long time.  The simple placing of stinky dead stuff and exposing a pup to it once would not be considered "imprinting"  It is only exposure.  However, if a reward system was paired with the odor you would be building that long lasting impression.  This is what we do when we train detection dogs.  We teach them that a particular odor is rewarding by pairing the association with food or toy. I find this smell and I get my reward? wow!  After this, the final response is introduced and it becomes: find odor, give final response and get reward.  The results last and are recognizable.

When we select young adults for police service work, we test their prey and hunt drives in a variety of exercises.  I doubt that any of them were ever imprinted with the odors as puppies.  If they have the correct drives to pass the selection test, they can be trained to detect whatever it is you desire: narcotics, explosives, HRD, and etc. If it doesn't make a difference in the final selection for detection work, why is it important to imprint?  Answer: it is not. 

If not, then why bother to expose the dog to source?  As near as I can figure, it is because someone a hundred years ago carried down a stone tablet to the waiting SAR trainers which said "thou shalt imprint" and this attracts them to potential puppies to purchase.  If someone can explain to me why this makes sense to do with a pup instead of simply enhancing prey and hunt drives through training, I am interested to hear it.  Perhaps because you cannot give a dog drive it isn't born with , but you can expose it to dead things.  While this may, indeed, be a selling point for some, in the case of the pup in question, the exposure is not necessary at all.  I happen to own a littermate and they are incredibly confident and drivey dogs.

True imprinting can actually narrow your potential buyers and create problems.  For example, if you don't know what you are doing and you create a pairing of "I put this in my mouth and get reward" it is going to be a problem for many forms of detection and will leave the new buyer having to fix those early mistakes. For those of us who will not use pseudo source material for law enforcement detection dogs, if you have imprinted pups using pseudo, you have lost us as buyers. So why bother? If it does nothing to improve the pup and can actually pose a problem, don't do it.  Spend your time exposing the pup to things that matter such as new experiences, surfaces, climbing and crawling.  That is what I'll be doing.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hana shows off

Oh, Hana-Banana (Questa vom Gildaf) is so awesome!  If her owner ever decides not to keep her, she has a home here!  Little Missy was my demo dog... errr.. puppy today.  A new client visited with his puppy and the easiest thing to do was to use Hana to show him what I meant in the various behaviors.  I had done multiple series of scent circles previously and it was time to move forward, so I put in two scent circles and a third, from which her first track continued.  My visitor intends to do Search and Rescue with his puppy, but since the pup wasn't terribly interested in working for food today we couldn't track with it, so I showed him using Hana.  She happily cooperated with searching out her kibble in each footstep of the track.

Part of the problem with visitor-puppy was that the owner was luring it with the food and the puppy did not desire the food enough to push into his hand and work for it. Work ethic isn't something a puppy is born with; it is created.  Being a dog, a puppy would be perfectly happy to be cajoled and begged to try different treats and not work too hard, letting the silly human do all the work! So Hana got to demonstrate how driving for food looks, showing off her spins and heel position, moving off the hand and backing. We had worked with a board last night, tossing food and having her pause on the board.  Today I introduced the perch.  I had concerns about tossing food on the field and whether it would result in hunting for food instead of the pursuit thereof, but by using highly visible treats for that (string cheese/spam) none of that occurred.  I was able to toss the treats, have her run to them and run right back to me.

Lucky girl! She even took a turn showing what prey drive for the chamois looks like, and how to work the grip. Tug toys only come out as interaction with me.  Back at home, she only has "boring" chew toys.  The most fun stuff is held by me, the Goddess of All Good Things. 

Hana came out for 4 or 5 short sessions during the day.  Part of her education is simply the act of being crated and riding along for the day, in and out to potty and train.  I bag up her meal at the beginning of the day, and what hasn't been finished in training (she gets her own kibble on the track and in some obedience exercises), is finished with a send away.

And that was a day in the life of Hana.  She slept very soundly.... for about 3 hours.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Think outside the Catalog! Cheap-o training tools that do more

I took a photo of these training tools--  a rubber feed pan, a traffic cone and a bath mat--- to demonstrate that you do not need to break the bank on gimmicky training aids to get the job done.  It seems at each seminar, an instructor hawks items that you must have if you ever hope to reach the pinnacle of success he/she has achieved.  Or they have a crew building stanchions and boards and all manner of wood work. 

So what can you really accomplish with this random trip to Fleet Farm? Lets begin our cheap-o tour of tools with the rubber feed dish.  They come in varying sizes, depending on how big your dog is.  It needs to be large enough that the dog can comfortably place his/her front feet on the dish (notwithstanding that I did start to teach Chica to place her rear feet on perch as well).  Some people call this a "perch".  The dog learns hind-end awareness and movement on the perch. You can teach movement to heel position, and centering to front.  Placed on either side of the jump, it can be used to create muscle memory in the distance and work on the technical skill of jumping before adding the retrieve.  It can be used as a target on the send-away.  The dog can be taught to "hit the mark" as you toss food behind it and it returns to the perch and stabilizes.

The bath mat is just a simple thing to teach a dog to go to a "place."  I use it often with pet dog training.  Giving the dog a place to be instead of mugging the door, or dinner table, is helpful. When I flew with my Search and Rescue dog, I would always carry a rolled up mat or bed with my pack.  While waiting at airports, I would unroll the bed and Jinx knew that was her place to rest.  On the plane, I placed it at my feet.  The mat can help make boundaries clear for the dog.  Visually, if they stray from that place it is very clear, and different from the grass or floor.  If I need to make it more clear by elevating, I can place the mat on a board or even a folded crate. In practicing a long down it can be helpful to make it clear to the dog that no creeping is allowed.

And the cone?  Some years ago I noticed that a well known competitor carried with him a small, collapsible traffic cone.  He used it as a send-away target in practice and said it was something he could carry with him to any new field. That is a good idea, having something that the dog is familiar with from place to place.  I recently saw the traffic cone (a taller one) used to teach the dog to run blinds.  It started as the dog being rewarded to touch the cone, and then to move around it, teaching a tight search.  I have used the cones to mark a lane between the blind and the distance I will allow the dog from it, to teach them to run tightly, and idea that was adopted by another trainer.  None of these ideas are secrets.

Actually, you will find that Fleet Farm is an incredible resource. Need a tab? Spend $5 on a thin, puppy leash and cut it to the length you need.  Yes, they come in pink! Although they don't sell fur-saver collars, you will find other training collars about 1/3- 1/2 price in comparison.  Puppy carriers... only $25.  If are a 1970's holdover and still know how to macramé, buy para-cord there and make your own leashes and collars. Need a flirt pole to attach a piece of leather, for working puppies?  Try a lunge whip in the equestrian department.

 I know there are people who prefer to talk about how much money they spent building or buying the latest gadget-- and Lord knows, I own many of them myself!-- but there are enough things to spend money on in this sport, so if you can save a little here and there and use these common items to make good training, it might be worth trying.  Think outside the catalog box.

Monday, March 18, 2013

the Boss is Back!

Boss is back!  He has been with me for several weeks now and had to enlist in the Fat Farm program.  When he sat down he had rolls over his butt.  He had rolls over his withers.  He was just a chunky monkey, and that is simply no good for creating food motivation nor for a dog with a dysplastic hip.  Yes, sadly, the owner Xrayed him and discovered he is dysplastic.  I require Xrays prior to preparing a dog for schutzhund titles, to be fair to the dog.  I don't want to demand a dog jump who physically isn't able.  This does not mean that a dysplastic dog cannot jump or that they cannot compete; my former dog, Digit, is living proof of that!
However, it is critical that you are careful about their weight.  Too much weight on the joints will shorten the life of the dog.  You cannot judge the value of the dog on how much he weighs.  It took me several weeks to get him back in reasonable working weight, where he cared about working for his meals. Since he is registered to attend a seminar with Debbie Zappia next weekend, this was important!
Here is Boss, looking significantly more svelte, and practicing his "perch".  The perch is nothing more than a rubber feed pan purchased at Fleet Farm.  They come in a variety of sizes, from Boss-size to puppy suitable.  The dog can learn to go to the perch as a placement exercise.  The perch can then be used to teach the dog to relay back and forth, used as a send-away target or placed on each side of the jump to reinforce distance.  It can be used to teach the dog rear-end awareness, moving in heel position and pivoting with the front feet. It can also be used to teach the front position, as you see here.  How you hold your hand to deliver food determines which way the head, and therefore the rear, will move.
 Sometimes a dog needs a little help in understanding how to move their rear, especially if their rear is a long distance from me!  Here I am employing a hula hoop to guide his movements.  There is nothing magical about the hula hoop, it is simply a tool I had available.  Using the perch, Boss can practice centering himself to me, wherever I turn.  By the way, someone who saw these photos asked if Boss was a color termed "Isabella."  He is not.  He is a dark red/rust but due to the lighting and the dust, the color is not true in these photos.

Boss loves to jump up on me when he is happy.  I like it, too; just not all the time. So I put it on the command "bump" which gives him permission.  You can imagine how hard on the body that is at full tilt!  I am 5'9", to give you some size comparison.
 Here we are practicing the sit with attention.  I am using my hand as a target, marking and lowering the hand if we are continuing or allowing him to jump up if I terminate.  We also practice the tuck-sit (for fluency) and make sure that he is tucking his rear underneath him, leaving the front legs in place.

..and working the "back" command.  "Back" means to back up, independent on my movement.  This is not the same as following my left leg whether I move forward or back, but in understanding he can physically move backwards as I stand still.
Heeling.  Shaping his head position and shoulder to my left knee.  To look at this photo makes me laugh when I remember what it was like to work Boss on heeling when I first started.  He was all about the paws, and getting his front feet over my hand. Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy!
What I have to work on is keeping his butt straight, though.  I've tried several things; heeling in big circles, then figure 8's, adjusting my feeding position and even the hand I use, and moving off leash pressure.  I feel I am making progress but have not found the perfect solution yet.  As you can see, he tends to crab. I had introduced moving off leash pressure when I had him last summer, but since his return he has been very resistant to that.  Sometimes he will just sit down and not budge at all.  So, we went back to baby steps with that and he is improving.  I have been practicing having him move from a front position, moving off leash pressure to swing left and to my side and then back.
 And here is the Boss, practicing his down.  I usually end our sessions with a send-away to his meal (if he has given me effort in the rest of the lesson).  I place him on a down and he remains there until I return and send him.
We've made progress in the past several weeks and I'm looking forward to the Zappia seminar.   I think Boss has the ability to look very dynamic in his obedience, and his BH is on the agenda for spring.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hana's first visit to the schutzhund club

Well, the club is only a hundred feet from my door, technically, but for a puppy it is still quite an adventure!  It means loading up in her crate and riding up to the training building.  It means entering a new building where there are new sights and the sound of scary dogs barking on the other side of the wall, and oh, so many things to pay attention to!  I had taken Hana to the building yesterday when Eric was here for his lesson.  She was highly distracted and not at all interested in taking food. I walked her around inside for a moment to let her see it was okay, and the we went right back out since she wasn't "into me".
This morning I brought her inside again, and again she was distracted.  I explained to the club members there that I did not want to leave her hanging on her own, and ignore her nor cause her to run to me for protection.  I am her leader and her safety but I have to use that wisely.  I picked her up and carried her back outside.  Yes, baby, I'm here for you.  But no stroking or "it's okay" signals.  Just a very matter of fact, nothing-to-see-here,folks attitude.  After working a few dogs, it was Hana's turn again. 
This time she was ready.  She knew I was on her team, and that there was nothing to worry about inside, and I was able to work with her with food.  Today's tasty treat (and a new one for her) were slices of chicken hotdogs.  Yum! As I always recommend in a new situation, we reviewed what she already knows and rewarded her for her attention in that novel situation.  We worked on forward and back motions, learning that she has a rear end and that it can move in different directions.

  Once she is moving easily backwards I can teach a stand.  Until then, I shape movements without naming them.  Baby spins in both directions, following the food.  Learn how to bend by following the food and weaving tightly between my legs.
 Move backwards and into the fold-back down if the food is held low. Lifting the food into the head position I will want for heeling.  Hana has no idea that this stuff is work.  To her, it is great fun!  Debbie is happy and I get to eat! We ended with a puppy recall and she ran as fast as her little legs would carry her.
It was a great day for Hana.

Good Enough

Welcome, Saturday morning!  Coffee in hand, I prepared to greet the day.  One puppy out, pottied and fed and now snoozing.  Hana accompanied Cooper and I to feed the chickens and let them out.  Cooper thought she was slightly more interesting today and tried to engage her briefly in play before running away.  Hana chased after him, barking in protest!  Boss has been out, as well, and will soon be loaded up for training.  Saturday morning means schutzhund club.  I am fortunate that I have only to walk a number of feet to accomplish that!  The rule for the house dogs is that they must ride in the van, being loaded in crates, to go to training, whether it is 50 feet or 50 miles.  Otherwise everyone would just run to the building or training field on their own.  Tom is still sleeping,and rightfully so, as I heard him get up twice to let Hana out during the night.  I made a nice, healthy egg-white omelet with green peppers for myself after taking care of dog duties and find myself with a couple minutes for contemplation.

Yesterday I received a surprise in the mail.  A book arrived from and I couldn't remember ordering one, but since I love books, I was happy to open it up and see what I had forgotten.  As it turns out, it was not a gift to myself, it was a gift from an old and dear friend, Doug Moore.  Many years ago I helped him to train his detection dog.  He has since moved, but both of us find ourselves as renewed Christians and Doug sent me a book with a note readig "Hope this book brings you inspiration in your faith! God Bless, Douglas Moore."  It is a Joyce Meyer book called "The Confident Woman Devotional".  It couldn't have come at a better time, as I struggle with trying to set an example to a young woman who has not been raised to Believe. In this world of Facebook and other media, we are also sometimes chastisted or cautioned not to put our Christian faith out there for fear we might "bother" someone who doesn't agree.  This is who I am; if talking about my Christian faith means that you choose not to do business with me or be friends with me, I am very sorry. I am thankful that God gave me the gifts that I have, the talents and abilities, and that I can share them with you.

You probably wonder what in the world all that has to do with a dog training blog?  Well, back to the Devotional, which I opened up to today's page and read "But let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test his own conduct and his own work.  He can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable (in itself alone) without (resorting to) boastful comparison with his neighbor." ---Galatians 6:4

Wow! Talk about timely!  Myself and some of my club members are preparing to attend a training seminar with Debbie Zappia next weekend.  My "show off" dog, Cooper, is injured and can't attend.  I am already entered with Boss, the dobe, and am left to consider who else I might bring.  Boss's owner might attend, and I worry that Debbie will be critical of where we are at in training, and have the owners think badly of my work.  I have been weighing who I will learn the most from as opposed to which one won't totally embarrass me!!  Hey, I'm the trainer, right?  Do I want to look stupid in front of the people who look to me for advice? No! So my mind starts to wander to the fact that my work will look better than someone else's.  Instead of taking joy in their progress and accomplishment, I begin to compare. If only I had a fully outfitted training center building, THEN I could accomplish more. If I was married to a world-class helper, or had a top-notch dog that all the helpers wanted to work, they would flock to me.  I have found that little seed of jealousy in comparing equipment, or a super nice dog, or even training buildings and have to get a grip on that and appreciate what I DO have, not comparing with anyone else.

So the words in the daily Devotional were particularly meaningful this morning.  Let it go, kiddo.  Look to my own work and take satisfaction in that.  I am indeed very pleased with the progress of the dogs I am working. I  know where we need to go with our training, and how important the milestones are on the way, even if someone else if farther along.  We can apply these words to many aspects of our life, I'm sure.  There will always be someone else who has more, does more, wins more.  It doesn't mean they do not have their own struggles and to lift them up with praise might be the most important thing you can do. Learn without feeling bad for things you don't know. Praise genuinely, both people and your dogs.   Test your own conduct first, and take joy in doing something commendable. Because God said so.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hana, March 15

Friday of the first week of theHanaProject.  Here is Hana, enjoying a romp in the snow during a potty break.  She "assisted" me in letting out the chickens this morning.  She followed me as I climbed over the raised garden beds to check for eggs and loves exploring.

She is becoming better and better at understanding the whole concept of potty training.  Yes, we have had a couple accidents but part of that is getting a handle on the input-output schedule.  One thing that I have learned is not to rush your dog to potty and then toss it in the crate or kennel as soon as the deed is done.  This will only teach the dog that as soon as it potties, the fun is over.  You will become frustrated and the dog will hold their urine and pee in the crate instead.  Soooo.... have patience and instead show the puppy that the fun times BEGIN when they potty!  That means you continue on a walk or exploration or come in and play, but you do not immediately confine it. Some reward that is, eh?

I take her outside immediately after finishing a meal.  There seems to be a direct line to "in with the new, out with the old"...  and the poop is quite predictable.  Writing about puppy bowel movements may seem trite and boring but there are probably people doing the same thing right now, and wondering why they are struggling.  Plus, since Hana's owners aren't able to participate in this lovely part of her training, I am able to give them something to be thankful for! She is working for her living already and the food is delivered for following my hand.  No free lunch (bowls)!  I soak it a few minutes first, so she can eat it easily, and then pair her movements with the clicker.  Forward, then back, learning how her body moves.  Seated on the floor, I will lead her with the food over my legs as obstacles.  Spin, back, forward....down.  Nothing has a name yet, it is purely shaping the movements.  She enjoys her food and I don't over-feed her, so she is motivated to work for her meals.  If one day we reach a point where she decides it would be more fun to go play with toys instead of staying engaged with me, I will end the lesson and put her in the crate without the remainder of her lunch.  But for today, she is still all about the chow!

Here Hana is tracking BigFoot.  It appears she is curious as to what giant must be out there to have left such gigantic prints!

Hana has met Cooper, who thinks she is just a stupid, boring puppy.  He runs away from her to do his own thing, and she pursues him, barking!!  Here is discovers that there are Big Dogs in the house....

And here she is, resting after her adventure and playing with toys.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Questa vom Gildaf, the HanaProject

An adorable fuzz ball of a puppy entered our house in a whirlwind yesterday.  She has the regal registered name of Questa vom Gildaf, but is called Hana.  She is a daughter of my good buddy, Buzz vom Gildaf, whom I trained and titled last year for Melinda.  Hana is not mine, however.  She belongs to Al King, and I will be keeping her here for a month or so to teach her house-breaking and basic clicker foundation.  Considering that I hope to have warmer weather by April, it is likely she will also begin her tracking work.  In that way, when she goes home to her real family she will already have an understanding of how to work for her meals and that behavior=reward.

I met Melinda in Lomira yesterday and picked up Hana.  I picked up a new puppy crate, fleece pad, pink collar with some blind and a matching pink leash at the pet store.  Plus puppy food and more toys.  Because clearly, a puppy can never have too many toys!  Doesn't that just look like a Buzz face, though?  The munchkin wasn't shy to meet me, and pottied before loading up.  No screeching in the crate, either.

Back at home, she met the #1 Puppy Fan, Thomas.

I am very lucky to have a husband who adores puppies as he does! In fact, little Hana was upset when she saw her pack leaving (crate is in the living room currently) and she began to shriek.  So Tom slept on the couch and she was comforted by that,  and he was able to get up and take her outside when he heard her stir.  In this first day, she is already very good at letting us know when she needs to go outside to potty.  With pups, as a rule, you take them outside just as soon as they wake up, before you put them in the crate, and after they eat.

Hana has met the cat.  She wasn't terribly interested and the cat wasn't impressed by her, either.  She met Cooper (in Tom's arms) and he sniffed and then ignored her, as well.  Humans are her best friends.  She follows me out to the chickens, falling into the deep footprints in the snow and walked with Tom down the driveway to get the newspaper.  The nice thing about being out on 40 acres is that we have the freedom to let her run around with us without worries she will run into the road.  Running away from us is the farthest thing from her mind at this age.  Hana only wants to be whereever we are.  She is a confident and outgoing little girl and "owns" the space she is in.  I have not yet seen anything where she is worried or hesitant, even running around in the dark.  I put a girlie bow in her hair today to take a sweet photo for her owner, but she was not impressed with that!  Her expression says it all!

Hana has pretty good mouth- eye coordination already.  She can follow the movement of her little tug toy and chase it if it isn't thrown too far.  And she already enjoys the tug game. She has access to toys to chew on, but the most fun toys are always reserved for human interaction. 

Today Hana started working for a living. That means, her food comes from my hand and I click and treat, so she will begin to associate the click with forthcoming reward. At first it didn't make sense to her but then she discovered that the hand holds food! yum!!  Now she follows my hand for the food and I can move her backwards, or in half circles and even into a down position.  Right now all I am doing is getting her familiar with the system of markers and following the food in my hand.  The first thing she will learn is to back.  Then stand, down and finally sit.  I need her to be free to move backwards without stopping first, so instead of doing the pet-dog owner trick of teaching sit or even rewarding sit right away, that will come AFTER those other commands.  And then I will be careful to teach it as a tuck position, never rocking backwards into the sit.  Ah, but I get ahead of myself with my plans....

This will be her second night.  I withheld water after 8 pm, so we will see how long she sleeps tonight before having to go outside.  Much like training a child, you pay attention to how late they can take water in without having it come out prematurely and then back it up if necessary. I'm watching her sleep as I write this, and she will get up and stir and make sure I'm still here, then settle back to sleep.  When she has to potty, it is very clear.

Good night all!  Reporting from the HanaProject Day2....

Monday, March 11, 2013

Back in the groove

Our Police K9 narcotics detection class wrapped up on Friday, and now it's time to get back to work with the client dogs. I find it relaxing to go up to the kennel, turn on the radio and spend a couple hours working my way through the dogs.  I have to be able to change gears based on the level of training each dog is at, and what they give me in the session.  I will be sharing our training progress here and introducing some of the dogs. 
This evening a male German Shepherd Dog gave me some very nice heeling, and was an improvement from last night.  The dobe is so big and so used to pulling everywhere that he is oblivious to leash pressure and resistance to moving off leash pressure, so that is where we had to start tonight.  No sense in continue with any heeling work until I can get him to move off the leash pressure.  Chica, a Dutch Shepherd and sister of Cooper, is a super-star.  I like to throw her in the mix in between dogs that require more attention because she frees my mind.  She comes out asking "what are we going to do today?" and I is so easy to shape behaviors with.  Push this wheel stool? you bet.  Lay on your side? sure.  My latest work in progress with her is to get her to move her rear feet onto a perch and eventually rotate around using her front feet.  We had a nice break-through tonight.  A young German Shepherd female is working on basic manners such as sitting to come out of her kennel, not mugging food off tables and not biting.  She is not malicious, but gets very chewy when you pet her or when she is stimulated, so we are working on impulse control. I started to teach her to go to a "place", which in her case is a rug, and she took to that very easily and enthusiastically.  Another female Dutch Shepherd practiced heeling, as well, along with her positions, backing and turns.  Everyone had a real nice session.
Then there was Excel, a Small Munsterlander male.  He was never sold as a working dog because he is very soft. His littermates showed great ability, and one is part of Tom's regular South Dakota hunting party.  Excel is like the boy in the family of NFL players who prefers ballet.  We thought he was going to move to Holland last year with a friend, but her trip here did not materialize and so he remained.  I decided to use the clicker with him in our session tonight.  I placed a box on the floor to see if he would interact with it, but he thought that must be a trick! I clicked and fed a few times as he acknowledged it, but then decided that I would capture a behavior HE wanted to perform and go from there.  I held the food in my hand and he hesitantly began to raise one front leg. Click!! From there, it was paw to knee.  Hey, I'm digging this!  We isolated right paw to knee.  Added the word "right". A couple times he started to raise the left one, but I said a gentle "nope" and he then raised the right instead. Yippee!! We had a very positive session because I didn't insist on our path of discovery, and Excel was empowered by it.
It takes me a couple hours to make one session with all the dogs.  This is where they earn their dinner, as well.  In another week I will be adding a wee little German Shepherd female to the crew and sharing her lessons, too. I've been able to hone my puppy skills in training Eric & Dahlia, so no excuses!
I'm back in the groove..............

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Patience, grasshopper!

A number of times in the course of recent training sessions, I have heard comments about my patience.  Believe me, it isn't always in place in my life!  However, I can somehow find patience in my dog training.  There have been times over the years when I have become frustrated and lost my patience and the results are never good. It sets me back, damages the relationship and leaves me unhappy at myself more than anything. I have learned that there are days when you just need to walk away.  We teach our handlers that 90% of doing dog training is knowing when not to do it!  If you are over-tired, have had a bad day and just seem to be itchy for someone to confront, it is not the time to train your dog.  And your dog can have off days, as well, when their head just isn't wrapping around the tasks at hand. This is different from a dog who understands a behavior and is willfully disobedient. You'll know it when it happens.  Things just aren't clicking.  Time to just call it a day and put the dog away. If you are me, the last scenario means the dog will not have earned its meal and that is punishment enough. No need to yell at the dog and be angry.  Just "too bad for you, dude".

Look for those small successes in your training and opportunity to reward the dog, and you will find that your own patience is rewarded, as well.  If your measurement for success is the finished product, of course you will be frustrated when that goal isn't quickly reached. Break it down into manageable portions and you will see and appreciate movement toward the goal.  Stop on a positive note.  This does not mean that you will not challenge the dog, or that it will not struggle at times. You should end where you can reward the dog for effort.

Lose your patience and make inappropriate physical corrections and your dog will stop trying.  It will wait for you to physically place it where you want, because thinking independently results in pain.  Is that the relationship you want? I don't think so.  Be fair, be consistent and above all, be patient....

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

a box, a clicker and a Dutch Shepherd

A new narcotics detection class started on Monday.  I may be the only police dog trainer who includes lectures on Operant Conditioning, use of rewards and verbal markers and Learning Theory in a police dog class, but I consider it critical to understanding why the dog does what he does.  The training is more than simply having a handler who yanks the dog around or does what the trainer instructs without understanding  how the pieces fit together.  That type of handler will never be able to problem solve in later training because he can only mimic what he was taught.  Thinking outside the box needs to be built and encouraged with the humans, just as with the canines.

Today we discussed the importance of self-discovery and how lessons will have a greater impact on the dog when he makes his own discover of the behavior connections than if he is made to perform a function using compulsion.   From there, the conversation moved to behavior shaping.  Enter Chica!

In training we had already discussed the importance of timing, markers and rewards.  The clicker was a new addition and I explained how it is used, and the limitations.  I like to use a clicker with puppies, when I am teaching a new behavior and with dogs who have negative association with commands and voice inflection.  Chica has been exposed to the clicker before.  I "charged it" using click, then treat, click, then treat. 

Chica is a Dutch Shepherd and she understands markers, knows how to go to a place/perch and move around it and loves to play learning games, but she had never done what I asked of her. I placed a cardboard box on the floor. The box was deep, but not very tall so that she could not enter without crouching. The criteria was going to be that she put her head in the box, using shaping. It wasn't truly free shaping because I restricted her on a flexi-leash from going entirely away from me since we were in a large building and we weren't going to wait for hours.

Because I had introduced something novel to the environment, Chica immediately began to interact with it.  She looked at it and I clicked and treated.  She touched her nose to the top edge and I clicked and treated.  She touched it with her nose again and looked at me.  Is this what you want? I withheld the reward because I knew if I reinforced that single behavior too many times she would get stuck there and not try other options. She laid down. How about this?   She sat. Her tail was wagging and she was trying to figure out what in the heck this box had to do with her. Back to the nose touch and then she lowered her head to the opening.  Click/treat.  It took all of a couple minutes to accomplish that.  She would place her head in the opening, and I would click and bring the reward to the source of the behavior, just was we do with the detection dogs.  Being able to watch the exercise helped to bring clarity to the lectures. 

Then the criteria went up.  Now I wanted her to not only put her head in, but to enter the box. She wasn't too sure about that because she couldn't just walk in.  Tiny steps.  Head in. Click.  Head in again. Click. Waited for more but she backed out and threw behaviors outside the box. Sit, down, stand... how about this?  So back to short rewards for attention to the box again. It took a little longer for her to actually enter the box, but ultimately she did. 

Karen Pryor, well known for her clicker training, writes about the "101 things to do with a box" games on her web site:

Chica was not fond of the close quarters of the box, but she was willing to try and she was rewarded for her efforts.  I then took out a smaller box, open at the top and just shaped having her stick her head in the box.  Easy, quick and successful!  I use an adaptation of this when teaching the article indication and the head down position on command, as opposed to the method I was first exposed to  where the dog is smacked on the head and commanded "such platz!!"

But the biggest success is exposing a new handler to a different way of thinking.  Thinking outside the box took us inside the box.



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Flexi Flubs

You are familiar with flexi-leads, those expandable leashes on a plastic hand grip that conceals the coils and stops them..... or not?  When I lived in the city, these were the gadgets that allowed people to visit my bushes, trees and lawn and claim they were "leashed".  Encountering one on the sidewalk was a risky act because suddenly you and your own dog, walking nicely in heel position at your side, would find yourself in the path of a dog expanding territory rapidly at the end of such a leash.  It seems having an extra 10 feet causes people to think that their dog has the right to every one of those, even if it is no longer in a public place or is encroaching on someone else's space.  No doubt one of them has even uttered the words "it's my right."  They would be wrong.

Your dog does not have right to come in contact with me or my dog simply because you can.  And of course, if a fight occurs you will hear "he never did that before" and depending on the breed, it may be labeled your fault.  He does not have the right to walk in my yard and water my bushes. 

At this point, you may have the opinion that I dislike flexi-leads.  I do not.  I dislike some of the idiots they are attached to, but the tool itself is not at fault.  I use them myself in certain training exercises.  I use them when I am working with a new dog and want to build a recall/attention but cannot do it safely off leash.  I use it for building speed in retrieves.  The tape type device is what is commonly sold now, but some people may still have the string version.  The string version isn't sold now because dogs were injured by having the string wrap around their legs, so do be careful.
Flexi leashes are wonderful tools when used correctly.

I had an appointment at the vet today.  Cooper, my IPO3, Type 1/CE USAR dog was there to have his elbows Xrayed to pave the way for a potential romantic tryst with another pretty little brindle Dutch Shepherd.  He sat next to me and waited our turn to check in.  The woman to our left who was in the act of checking in, had two small terriers on flexi leashes.  One of the dogs decided to approach Cooper and had the line pulled out approximately 8 feet when I coughed and said, "hey, your little doggie is over here."  She didn't say anything.  No apology, no commands.  She retracted the leash as the other dog wrapped it around her legs a few times.  She dragged the two beasties away (as people seem to do when they own small dogs and can physically move them instead of simply training them) and went about her visit.

This isn't the first time I have encountered behavior like this in a veterinarian office.  People view it as a dog park and want to sit next to you, critical if you ask them to stay farther away.  In case you are one of those, allow me to point out a few reasons why you may wish to reconsider.

  1. Not all dogs love other dogs and vet offices not only are a more confined space, but your dog may be overwhelmed with the odors of other fearful dogs.  Do not create a fight or bite that does not need to occur.
  2. Understand that when your dog pulls toward another dog, and you pull him back you are actually creating more drive toward the thing he was deprived of.  If he has already gotten too close to the other dog, the result may be a snap.
  3. The dog you are allowing your dog to go visit may be sick.  It may be contagious or infected.  After all, this is a vet office.  Some may be there for routine check ups but many are there because there is something wrong.  Many dog illnesses are transmitted through a lick.  Let your dog give a doggy kiss to the sick dog, and you just brought home something to your other dogs.  I have been in a vet office when a puppy was diagnosed with parvo.  Believe me, your heart skips a beat.  Now imagine if you had signed the death warrant for your own dog by allowing it to come in contact with that puppy.
  4. That nice dog your dog is about to jump on may be friendly in other circumstances but today he is suffering from cancer, or arthritis, or recovering from surgery.  And you are about to cause him pain.  Don't do it.
For the sake of the safety of your dog and those around you, consider using a regular leash with a strong clasp and sturdy handle and not allowing your dog to make bad decisions. Be a good citizen and a good customer at the office of your vet. And please, leave the flexi leash at home.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Puppy Lessons

In the past several weeks, I've started lessons with two new puppies and a 9 month old. Every one of them starts at the same place; learning to work for food.   The first session that female GSD, Dahlia, arrived for was very short. She had eaten a meal earlier, was being fed more than she needed, and saw no reason to pay attention to her owner.  Her world changed radically, and one week later I saw a very different puppy before me!  This one was driving strongly into the owner's hand, eager to work with him.  Her positions are being shaped with the food at this point; moving backwards, sit, down, spins. Even the beginning of moving from a front position to heel by a flip to backing. Of course, she doesn't know this is all foundation for her schutzhund career, she just knows she is having fun and earning food.  Her owner is diligent in his homework, too, and in just several sessions she is doing all that in addition to learning to go to a perch/place and begin rear end awareness and in the last session we introduced her to a revier.  By the time club training resumes in February what this 4 month old pup knows will rival some young adults.

The difference is in building the desire to work through a relationship with food.  Another puppy that had a first lesson this week is meant to be a well-mannered pet, not a competition dog. Tucker is a nice looking 4 month old male German Shepherd, who entered the training building not caring about the other end of the leash.  Despite calls of "Tucker, Tucker, Tucker".... he went where he wanted and was contained only because he was on leash.  He didn't respond to his name.  Fortunately, the owners listened to my instructions and Tucker was hungry. I guarantee that between that lesson and the next, Tucker is now earning his meals by recalls, hide and seek and with sit and down.  In his first session, there was an immediate change from the pup who first entered the building to the one who left.  The best part is watching the owners see that change.

The third dog is one I have in to evaluate for training and titling. Bella is a 9 month old female German Shepherd.  If a dog does not have the same foundation, it can take a few days until they come to understand that there is no free lunch. Food is offered in my hand (her kibble, or sometimes a treat) and if she elects to go elsewhere, the session is over and too bad for her!  The choice is hers, whether she eats or not.  Sometimes this occurs when a dog has not had to work in hand, and is used to being fed in a dish that is put down with no rules, sometimes when they learn they can cruise the ground and pick up food for free instead, if a handler is not good with the food delivery.  For the past few days, the attention has been hit and miss but tonight things clicked!  She drove nicely-- even a little strongly!!-- into my hand and would follow the food for spins, sit and down and here.  She did not fall out of attention for the entire session.  I have introduced her to the between the legs position of training heel, ala Knut Fuchs, and she is not yet comfortable with that so for now I am leading her slightly forward in that position until she is good with the leg pressure and I can adjust her head position.  We ended the session with the beginning of her vorhaus, or send-away, by sending her to the remainder of the food in her dish after the session.  Next session will begin to introduce the perch/place.  The break-through occurred on the fourth day since I got her.  So, it takes some amount of patience and willingness to offer the food and let the dog make the decision instead of breaking out the correction collar and forcing it.  In the end, you will have a much better working relationship.  If the only reason your dog stays with you is because it is attached to a leash (leather OR electronic)  you need to examine your methods.  Also, from the first moment you start training, have a vision of what you want to accomplish and make sure the small steps along the way are building blocks toward that, and not in conflict.

Until next time, good training!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Time Flies

I can't believe how much time has passed since I last wrote. So many things have happened, both happy and sad and it seems the year ran away with me. My mother was in poor health, in and out of the hospital, and I made many trips to their home in Northern Wisconsin. When I last wrote, I was preparing for trial in June with Buzz and Cooper. A glitch in the flight arrangements for the judge and poor entries for the conformation show resulted in a cancellation of the event; as it turns out, that was fortuitous as I was needed back home. 

In the meantime, our club struggled with replacing helpers who had moved or moved on.  Much of my technical work was done using a jolly ball.  Necessity is indeed the mother of invention!  Transport, escape, call backs... all trained with the jolly ball.  This may be something for a future post.

Ray A. JohnsonMom fell during during dialysis and entered a rehab facility. More trips up north. Uncle Ray Johnson passed away on July 17th at age 84.

On July 28, my Aunt Elsie wood, my Dad's older sister, passed away at age 92.  On my way home from her funeral, I stopped to visit with my Mom.  We had a really great visit with lots of laughter and love, and I kissed her and said "Love you, Mumser".  It was to be the last time I would do that in this life.  She passed away on August 10, 2012 at age 79.

Our trial had been rescheduled to August.  The day before I had to pick up Judge Mike Caputo, my dear Mother passed away. She had always been supportive of my dog endeavors and asked about them. Mike was so wonderful and caring, and I opted to soldier through the trial for the sake of the people who were counting on me, knowing I had an angel on my shoulder. Buzz and Cooper both earned their IPO1 titles, and Cooper was High in Trial.  The most difficult moment was when I walked off the field, and the first thing I thought was " I need to call Mom and tell her..." only to realize, I couldn't do that any longer.  We packed up and left to join the family.

Then it was back to work.  On August 26th I trialed Buzz and Cooper for their IPO2 titles at O.G. Inselstadt under UScA Judge Al Govednik, but on that day, Buzz just was off on his tracking and did not pass.  He is an excellent tracker and so it was a puzzle as to what was going on with him. Cooper earned his IPO2, and was High IPO2.  Cooper made another appearance at that level at the North Central Region Championship, under UScA Judge Johannes Grewe and again passed and was the Regional IPO2 Champion.

 I had entered Buzz in a trial in MN for his IPO2, and drove 5 hours over to the site, practiced, checked in the hotel and was there 2 hours when I received a call advising the trial was canceled as there was bad weather and the judge could not fly out!  So, I turned around and drove 5 hours back home again that night and Buzz went back to his owner, who finished the IPO2 with him herself.  Go, Team Buzz!!! Buzz was such a pleasure to work with.  Tom loved having him here, too, and jokingly threatened to steal him he was such a love!  Buzz will earn his IPO3 in the 2013 trial season.

We lost our sweet house dog, and Cooper's dam, Roya vom Foxtal, on September 27th to bone cancer.  There is an empty spot on the bed. All in all, it was a pretty rough year for losses.

The one thing that keeps me putting one foot in front of the other on many days, is my dogs.  The dogs still need time, attention, training and love no matter what else is going on.  Being with them is a comfort, and training takes my mind off other things.  For some people, training is a means to and end; something to get through.  For me, the process is what I find rewarding and energizing.  A new client dog joined the household.  This time, a new one for me-- a dobe!!  I am fortunate that I do not have to take on clients to support myself, but do it because I enjoy it so I can be selective.  This young guy came to me at 7 months and by the time he left at 9 months, weighed over 90 lbs.  Boss is a BIG boy, and very social and enthusiastic.  He went home for the holidays and will be back in the spring to continue training for his IPO titles.

The last trial of our season was at Greater Chicago under UScA Judge Al Govednik, where Cooper earned his IPO3 and High in Trial. Somewhere along the line, possibly in practice the day before, Cooper pulled a muscle in his rear leg which showed itself in his reluctance/refusal to sit during the trial but he continued to work.  Since then we have been visiting Dr. Strickfaden for bicom treatments and doing our off-season rehab. This week we were invited to join IL-TF1, an US&R team.  Cooper and I will be visiting them later this month and are excited to become a part of that team. I am also keeping an eye on the IRO trial scheduled for August in New Hampshire.

I traveled--- dog-less--- to Nashville, TN in November to attend the UScA German Shepherd Dog Championship, as a delegate for our schutzhund club.  I  was proudly elected to a position as Director at Large.  It is always exciting to see old friends in the sport, and to see how improvements in training perform in the stadium.

As the year closed, and the daylight ours shortened I hit a bit of a slump. Perhaps because I finally had time to sit down and actually consider all that had happened, and facing a first Christmas without my Mom.  Not to be on a soapbox here, but what keeps the light in front of me is knowing that I will see my loved ones in Heaven, and that this life is not all there is.  There were some low points, and many challenges, but I have a wonderful husband, friends, family and the dogs I adore.  We make of life what we choose, and I choose to be excited about tomorrow!

So now I am out the other side.  Fox Valley Police & Schutzhund Club held their annual meeting today, and despite my pleading, I am still President! :) I'm excited about 2013.  We have new club dogs, including a nice little black female GS and everyone is excited to get back to work. I took Marco out the other day to demonstrate how to "drive" and shape positions and he was spot on-- made me very excited to title him this year, too!  Boss will be coming back, and will be joined by a young GSD female for IPO training. My pack will be joined by another (yes, ANOTHER) German Shepherd puppy this spring, if all goes well, a half sister to Buzz. Big plans for her! And I hope to have breaking news soon regarding a litter sired by Cooper vom FoxTal, CGC, RH-1,IPO3, Type1/CE!!

I'm back.  I hope you are, too!