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....