Sunday, May 31, 2009

A valuable lesson learned

Today I showed my young Lab, Kayla, in an AKC Agility show. I learned a very valuable lesson. I let a nasty judge get in my head and frazzle me. It came back to bite me and I let my dog down. Agility is not supposed to be about who wins or who has what titles. Agility is about you, your dog and the course. You go in there and do the best that you can and win that course. I didn't do that and let Kay down. She got stressed sensing my distress and began to guess at what obstacle was next. I was able to regroup a bit and we finished the course together. The true test came with our next run. Would I pick my head up and do right by my dog? Yes! We came back and finished with a clean Standard run. We finished strong. I did right by Kay. In the future we will avoid that judge. She's not a nice person.

Lesson of the day: Do right by your dog. Agility is supposed to be fun, Q or not!

Friday, May 29, 2009

When bored, train

So I was a bit bored one rainy day over the winter and trained the rope behavior - pull on the rope and you are clicked and treated (C/T). I've fussed with it on the front door for a separate chain, but I decided to put it together with her crate behavior and this is what I got.

Anything is possible with time and a clicker!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Build toy drive through chase

Got a dog that will chase after a toy or you, but won't tug? Try this! Get a new plush toy and an old leash - the longer the better. At first show and tease the dog with the new toy, don't let him have it though! You play with it and then put it away. Do this for a few days so that he's very curious and wants that toy. When his curiosity is at its peak tie the toy to the leash, throw in on the ground and run dragging the toy behind you. Praise, praise, praise for the dog chasing the toy. Let him catch it every so often. Let him shake it and pull on it as you give a little resistance, then begin again. You may even let him fully win the toy and run off with his "kill".

*if your dog will destroy the toy or guard it be ready to trade up for the toy*

Keep playing this game slowly adding more resistance on the tug. When the tug behavior becomes more solid you can fade the chase part of the game. Once the dog is nuts for the toy and the game you two play with it you many begin to use it as a reinforcer for training. Make very sure that this special toy goes away up high where the dog cannot get it in between play sessions.

Go play!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Target Training

A fun trick for pups is target training. Familiar with the Easy button trick? That's target training in action. Ever want to teach your dog to go to his bed? Again, target training in action.

What you'll need:

A Tupperware lid or Easy button

Present the lid and click the dog for any interaction. Keep the lid low enough to the ground that you pup can paw at it if he so chooses. Toss the foodies to the side of the lid so that pup has to go get the food and then come back to interact with the lid. Your goal is to get the dog to put his paw on the lid. This may take one session or a few, we move at the dog's pace. Put the lid away after each session.

When you have the dog pawing the lid each time it is presented change the picture a bit by placing the lid on the ground, changing your location, or distance. Choose only one piece to change at a time and keep sessions short. After a couple of sessions you should be able to name the behavior.

You can take you lid anywhere and transfer the target behavior to just about anything. Laying under your chair at an outdoor cafe, dog bed or mat, turning off the lights, the possibilities are endless.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The big move

This weekend I decided that we were moving upstairs into empty bedroom/training room. Kayla is going backwards as far as her allergies go. Her chin infection is back and spread, three out of four paws are yeasty, and she's scratching/chewing her fur off. All progress has halted for the time being. My thoughts are that if we move out of the damp basement and upstairs that we can regain ground. We will have to see what happens. Kay and I go to the vet on Wed to take care of that chin infection.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The shape of things to come

Shaping behaviors is a great way to create a thinking dog. It's also a great way to get some pretty cool new tricks!! Shaping is most associated with clicker training and rewards successive approximations until the final behavior is achieved. There is no need for neutral markers or verbal encouragement as this gets in the way. You, as the handler, sit quietly and click for the dog offering behaviors. Most dogs new to shaping or crossover dogs (dogs coming from lure training or from physical manipulation training) will with the handler clicking for any movement. As soon as the dog begins to understand that he can make you click by moving you can move on to forming a behavior.

The best known shaping game is "101 Things to Do With a Box" and it's just that! Put a box on the floor and click for all interactions with it. Eventually you will have an end behavior in mind, but to start out just focus on interaction and your timing. Make sure to vary your location around the box and the distance you are from it. Don't be surprised if you are back to square one when you change where you are. It will all come back.

I really like shaping "go to place". It is an easy behavior chain to master and a great beginning. Toss a blanket of the floor and begin with clicking for interaction - sniffing, looking at, walking towards, touching. When the dog getting the hint that it's the blanket that's important move to the next level - walking on. From walking in you can move to staying on, to sitting, to down. Toss the food away from the blanket after each click so that the dog needs to reengage with the blanket. When you're done with your session fold up the blanket and put it away. You may put the behavior on cue when the dog is readily running to the blanket and lying down no matter where you are relative to it.

Shaping is endless in its possibilities. It's great for dogs that worry about different things in their environments because you break things into micro steps building confidence as you go. So now go try it!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


You are probably as guilty as I am off not whole heartedly playing with your dog. So often we half ass play. Absent mindedly tossing the ball or toy so that the dog is tired and we can sit in front of the computer or TV. When was the last time you got on the floor and wrestled? Really gave you dog a run for their money on tug? or Hunted for little bits of food you'd thrown around the floor. I've really been thinking about this as of late. I tend to not even look at my dog or pause in my conversation when playing fetch. How rude! I've begun to play like no one is watching me. Like there is no tomorrow. On all fours play bowing and chasing like a puppy. Play can be fundamental relationship builder and they know when you're not all there. So do your relationship a favor and really play with your dog. Chase that squirrel up that tree, lay in the grass, or tug as if you life depended on it. Your dog will thank you for it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Garden Beginnings

Trip has begun his garden. I, as usual, sat in a chair and watched it all. All the dogs were outside with us enjoying the sun. Toby is the most creative when it comes to finding shade. He, for whatever reason, will not lay in the shade of the tree, but will find other shady spots in which to lay. Kay, on the other hand, forgets that there is a large shade tree and lays in the sun panting. She lacks that little bit of common sense.

Back to the garden. Trip has all these big plans for a Blueberry tree - two raspberry trees and one blackberry tree died before this tree - and swears he will not kill it. He also has basil, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes. The bell peppers, spinach and some corn perished. I think that there is a little bit of corn left in the corner of the yard. He still doesn't believe that we need some fencing to keep the dogs out. He hasn't learned from the demise of the strawberry plant. Dude ripped it right out of the ground.

Bark in the Park 2009

Bark was yesterday and this year I helped Stacy with her agility demo and instruction. Anybody who wants to may come and play with the equipment. What a bunch of fun and what a diverse group of people!!!

There's Stacy at the half way point of the day. By now we're all tired of repeating ourselves so many times. I now know how tour guides feel at the end of the day. You get sick of hearing yourself talk.

The pups got to play for a bit in the morning, but had to hang out in their kennels for the rest of the day. Kayla was not very happy about it, but she lived. Dude surprised me and was very quiet. He only fussed when I went to get either Kay or Bailey out to play. He watched his siblings run in the morning without a peep. Very good for the little man!