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!