Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Just a few notes...

Her one minute down while I put on my shoes went much faster than I thought...worked on it in two training sessions and then tested it cold yesterday morning - pass! In fact she flew through the rest of L2 Down last night...even a comeafter of  "down while I walk 20' behind her, stay for 1 minute, and return" she had her head twisted the whole time to watch me, but didn't shift her position!

The "retrieve" continues its usefulness as 2 year old David gave her a pack of gum he had found and she trotted right over and handed it to me with no cue.

I love Leslie McDevitt's new Pattern Games DVD and so does Reyna...it has added even more tools to pull from for dealing with her reactivity.

On a related note, I'm starting to see how reactivity might one day become a thing of the past, don't get me wrong we have a long way to go, but every time I put her into challenging situations she proves more and more that she is slowly turning from a reactive-anxious dog to a generally excitable dog.

Her food drive has improved beyond belief now that her stress levels are coming down. I used to have to do a full session of RP before each meal to get her settled enough to eat, she'd go days without eating otherwise. Now she works for kibble even in the face of triggers.

The online rally class is going well, before we started her left side heel was super sloppy and her right side was pretty sharp, now they've flip flopped. I do need to spend more time working on a perch to keep her inside pivots improving and she needs a lot of work on duration on both sides. I need to write out a plan, be more specific with my criteria, and do a 5 mark max on it for a little while.

Her excitability when people are playing in the yard definitely needs work....time for "kids playing with a soccer ball zen"

That's all for now!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Handing and new Heights

Busy weekend...the Reyna related highlights are...

It's hard to remember back when I thought Reyna service retrieving was a thing of dreams. We were cleaning the house today and I had the baby in the backpack, it's incredibly convenient, but it makes it very difficult to pick things up off the floor. Never fear...Reyna is here!!! Here a list of just some of the things she picked up and handed to me on cue...

-Dish cloth
-Burp cloth
-David's hat
-Penelope's rattle - she balked once because she didn't know it would make noise but quickly recovered and confidently handed it to me the second time
-Small flash light
-Piece of scrunched up foil
-Hair band
-Metal spoon
-Piece of junk mail
and my absolute favorite...
-A business card that was laying flat on the wood floor...delivered in perfect condition...no teeth marks!

Hard to believe two months ago I was just asking her to nose target a fork!!!

In other news this weekend...

I built two bar jumps! It took a couple trips to Lowes and a long afternoon cutting PVC, but well worth it! About 10 months ago, while we were taking an intro agility class I taught Reyna to go around jump uprights inspired by the work we were doing in class and Sylvia Trkman's Cik & Cap demo videos...didn't actually buy the dvd, but probably will...or not...haven't decided. Aaaanyway our "jump uprights" were a pair of logs stood on end and we worked on her wrapping tight and wrapping the cued direction.

So now nearly a year later I actually have a jump. Given that it has been so long and that actual jump uprights look nothing like logs I started from scratch to shape the behavior like a good trainer would...


I asked her for the full behavior running toward the jump and cueing the wrap from about three feet away...she targeted the correct pole, went around the correct way, and came flying out of her turn so fast she tore up grass!!! I'm spoiled rotten...one day I'm going to have a dog that doesn't generalize as well, and then where will I be?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Laddering through Level 2

Because of all the foundation work we have done over the last year and a half much of the levels work so far has just been filling in a few missing gaps, clarifying a few definitions for her (e.g. sit means butt on the floor chest off the floor...it does not mean move to a vertically lower position than you are currently in). Then we got to L2 Down where she has to stay down for 1 full minute.

I knew she required a lot of feedback but holy cow!!! She couldn't go over 15 seconds without deciding I must be looking for something else, at which point she would whine, flop over, get up, paw at stuff...silly puppy.

The funny part is I think much of this comes from primarily shaping her way through puppyhood. She has the unshakable belief that one of us should be doing something at all times. She will hold her stay almost forever if I am running around, waving my arms, making weird noises, throwing food or teasing her with a toy. But if I stand stock still she can only hold it for about 11 seconds. If I am NOT doing something that clearly tells her that she SHOULD be do something, now what could that be...maybe rolling over? maybe worrying your shoe? maybe picking up this bone while simultaneously backing up and whining? No!? Man you are a tough nut to crack!!!

Needless to say we have been doing A LOT of chuting back to 1 second downs and laddering our way up. Counting out 45 seconds over and over and over gets tiresome for sure, but Sue says it's worth it and she hasn't let me down yet so we are sticking with it. We finally tested and passed yesterday, but I have to admit I did move my head from time to time and shifted my weight back and forth, just to reaffirm for her that she should be doing nothing because I was doing something. We'll continue working on her faith in duration behaviors without feedback, but for the sake of the levels it was a pass with flying colors.

So now we are starting over again with our comeafter...1 minute down while I put my shoes on. 1 sec/Yes, 2 sec/Yes, 3 sec/Yes, 4 sec/BREAK....sigh....here we go again...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Longview Park

Last Sunday the dog group was not getting together so I decided to take Reyna out and about. I loaded up our shiny new ring gates and we headed to the local dog park. We have done some work with the box of gates in our yard just quick upbeat training sessions, but this was our first "road trip" with them. Clinton Reserve I just wanted to survive, now I had a plan.

We pulled up and instead of letting Reyna leap out of the car in scanning mode I actually took the time to scope out the field next to the actual dog park area, find a flat spot and set everything up. I LOVE these ring gates they set up in under a minute! So once I had my box of gates and all my other stuff laid out I went back for Reyna.

Hop out of the car - Reorient
Take a few steps - Reorient
Take several steps - Oops lost her to the wonderful smells of grassy deliciousness
Back to the car to start over, but this time we took it a little slower and she was focused the whole way. We went through the gates, reorient yes, go sniff...I got about 10 yes/treat/"go sniff"s in and then put the leash back on. We played tug, wandered around smelling things, meandered in close proximity to the the actual dog park, laid in the grass and contemplated life for a minute...then back in the ring gates for 15 or 20 moving yes/treats, I couldn't convince her to go go sniff stuff :) Then back out again for meandering and playing...lather rinse repeat.

She had one short reaction when a group of men showed up to empty trash cans...she keyed in so I went to put some distance between us but before I could get out of The Zone one stepped towards us, called and whistled for her a shook a large trash bag at her...reaction! But, I said "This Way" and she disengaged and turned to me AND accepted food as a reward!!! We did a few advance and retreat and marking glances, she was back with me and had no interest in the men who where still trying to mess with her...so...I couldn't help myself...I asked her to down stay and took off running in the other direction, about 30' out I yelled YES and kept running, she came, ears back, flat out sprint, I presented a tug at the last second, she nailed it! almost pulled me off my feet! tugged for a few seconds asked her to release and swing into heel, picked up her leash and we walked calmly back to our station...the guys didn't make a sound in our direction the rest of the time ; )

The best part of the day though was when we were walking towards a couple of dogs barking at the end of their flexi leads at everybody coming and going into the dog park. As we moved forward I looked down at Reyna and she was happy! Completely unconcerned by the other dogs and totally relaxed! Oh Reynaroo how far you have come!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Clinton Reserve

We have had a couple of wonderful days over the last weeks showing how far Reyna has come in her reactivity towards other dogs!

Sunday before last we headed out to Clinton Reserve to meet a dog trainers casual group. As we pulled up I had this moment of "what did we sign up for" as I pictured Reyna barking and lunging from 60' away. I took a deep breath and decided we were going to go through with this and I would not feel pressured to push her limits.

As the group walked up I shouted "just ignore the dog" and everybody did!!! What a wonderful group of people. We gradually circled our way into the group until we were standing just a few feet from everyone and while they worked sit and down stays I just treated Reyna for being calm and walked around as necessary.

During the rest of the afternoon Reyna was able function in the group like a "normal" albeit excitable dog, and even worked on off leash stays, circling games, eye contact, short heel spurts and a rousing game of tug, all in and around the group of dogs and never once reacting!!!

1) I LOVE this group
2) I am so SO proud of how far Reyna has come!

I'll write about this past weekends outing later, it's even better if you can believe that!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The littlest trainer :)

I've been working intermittently with our 2.5yr old son on the training levels. I wasn't really sure how well the lessons were sinking in until last night...

He finished most of his dinner and was wandering around with a piece of toast, Reyna walks up to investigate...

David: Tears off a small piece of toast, holds it in his fist and sticks it out to Reyna..."yeeb it"
Reyna: Turns her head
David: "okay" drops bread onto the floor
Reyna: eats it
David: tears off another small piece of bread puts it in his fist and holds it out to her again..."yeeb it"
Reyna: backs up
David "okay" drops bread on the floor
Reyna: eats it
David: Holds last piece of his toast and this time waves his hand at her..."back up" (both the correct hand signal and verbal cue for Reyna to back)
Reyna: hesitates for a second...then backs up
David: "okay" and tosses the last bit of bread to her
Me (who has been watching breathlessly from the doorway): WAHOO!!!! flings David in the air "you're the most amazing child I have EVER met!!!!!!!"

I am the proudest mama in all the world!!!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unintentional Consequences

Well I've pulled myself together and we're back on track with focused efficient lesson layouts. The problem was I was recording all the data from our Levels work and none from our Rally work...duh! No wonder I was getting confused.

In exciting news our Level 2 Trick is on cue!!! It's taken about a month to get from "touch fork with nose" to the end result which is on the cue "Can you clean up?". I am very excited, it was by far the most difficult thing I have ever taught in that it had to be split into SO many tiny little increments, but the lessons I have learned from going through this process are HUGE. Training this trick is what guided me through our new session structure, and helped me focus on little stress signs like an open mouth or frown lines instead of letting her get all the way to whining or flinging behaviors at me.

So at long last here it is...

Now something I didn't count on was that she would transfer picking up the fork to handing me things in general. I was in the kitchen one day, there was a towel on the floor, she looked at me, looked at the towel and out of the blue picked it up and handed it to me! Of course I rewarded her!!! I dropped it again, she picked it up again....she quickly decided that was a default behavior and now if she wants my attention she actively searches the house for things to bring. If I'm holding any kind of cloth she trots along behind me on the off chance I might drop it and she could then pick it back up for me. I started asking her "can you hand that to me please?" and behold a silly fork in the bucket trick has created something actually useful.

The efficient dog that she is she tries to pick up all three at once the first go 'round and the second is her default..."excuse me, I believe this belongs to you"

Monday, January 9, 2012

Level 2 and now I need a break

Reyna is doing great...we rocked right through Level 2 Zen, I need to try a few Comeafters and I am working on sippy cups being a default "leave it" so far we are up to I stick a sippy cup in her face and she backs away. It took her several short sessions to stop bopping the cup with her nose. I finally tried mark/treat as soon as she sees the sippy cup but before she makes a move for it and after three reps a light bulb went off "oh this is not touch cup then back away, it's don't touch cup, why didn't you say so in the first place?"

I also increased the difficulty on her standard "leave it" cue, I started with just tossing one treat onto the floor which she is great at and worked up to throwing a handful of treats at her as I said "leave it" and she just sat there pretending there weren't cheerios all over her feet YES!

We are on to Level 2 Focus, she breezed through steps one and two with no problem thanks to the work we had done before the books came in, and she can do the duration on step three but it calls for a cue, I had started to add the cue "watch" before, but I'd like to get something a little more unique....maybe "mira". It's really awesome to see a dog that couldn't hold eye contact for 2 seconds without whining and shifting around lock in for 6-8 seconds I say yes and toss a treat and she immediately snaps her head back to attention!!!

I've added the cue "clean up" to the fork in the bucket trick. Remembering how she went over threshold when I tried to add "watch" a while a ago and made sure to say it very soft and singsongy right as she was picking up the fork. She didn't miss a beat and repeated the trick 6 times, she missed the bucket 1 time but immediately picked up the fork and plopped it in. We'll do that for several more days before I'll say the cue before she heads for the fork :)

On a worse note I think I need a break or something, Reyna seems to be keeping the levels work and the Rally class work straight with no problem, but I am finding it hard to stick to 5-8 reps at one set criteria. Reyna hasn't suffered from my backsliding yet, but she will if I don't pull it together quickly...

Friday, January 6, 2012

We passed Level 1!!!

WAHOO we have officially passed Level 1 of Sue's new training levels! Most of the behaviors were ones that Reyna probably could have tested through right away, but I really wanted to start from scratch and work on reteaching all her behaviors in the new session structure we have worked out.

I am super excited with Reyna's progress, not just in her behaviors, but in her attention span, since we started the new session structure a month ago her ability to focus has gone through the roof. I can actually do 6-10 reps of something now. I still need to give her a short Go To Mat break before I up criteria and even if I'm just reloading my treat pocket or jotting down a quick note. She definitely needs structured breaks, if the kiddo walks in I have to have the courtesy to tell her we are taking a break and send her into a down stay before I address him. It makes sense....I don't want her checking out for a even a nano second on a whim, why should I?

In other exciting news I have joined an online Rally class. We are just auditing, but I do plan to post some of the videos here as we work on each weeks assignments, if I ever get around to video taping anything that is.

Oh I almost forgot, Reyna now carries the fork up to 3' to drop it in the bucket!! Apparently she didn't fully understand it was about the bucket though because I started switching places so that the fork was closer and she had to turn away from me to get to the bucket, she picked up the fork shoved it in my face, when I didn't take it or produce a bucket for her she slapped me with her paw and spat it at me! I burst out laughing, she picked the fork back up turned and dropped it in the bucket with a huff, we ended on that note with the rest of her dinner as a reward :) I LOVE this dog!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

We ARE a traveling circus

One of my favorite parts of our neighborhood is all the invisible fences, I know on any given walk I am going to have at least 2-6 houses were dogs run out at us but remain within the confines of their yard. It has provided many opportunities to work on Reyna's reactions to barking dogs and my timing and techniques, what works what doesn't etc.

Yesterday we had a whole new adventure that tested everything we have been working on and then some...

We were out for a walk and I noticed a little white dog in a driveway ahead of us. Reyna noticed, looked at me Yes, Treat. The dog starts barking Reyna's ears go up that's our cue to retreat and create a larger buffer before she gets anymore aroused. Oops, the dog is now following us, that's new and exciting, we turn around from our retreat and BAM little white dog starts barking at us now from about 10' away instead of 20, Reyna hits the end of the leash hard, (no growling, barking or raised hair though GOOD GIRL) we turn a quick 180 and retreat further back with the dog still following, we keep going until eventually the dog stops and we have the buffer I wanted in the first place...then we start advancing again, any arousal signs from Reyna and we retreat back a little ways. Okay now I'm in familiar territory...this we can handle...

The dog moves to one side of the road, thanks to how much space all of us have covered Reyna has had a chance to sniff some spots where this little dog has been, usually once she can do that the odds of her reacting go WAY down. Now we are ready to pass the dog, if we can just get past we should be fine....everybody hold your breath...and we're past Hurray we made it jackpot! man that was a challenge...

Suddenly Reyna turns and leaps to the end of the leash headed back toward the little dog....WHY?! oh maybe because the dog decided it was a good time to come running after us. So now we are only 6 feet from this little dog and the cycle goes...Reyna is calm, we move, dog jumps after us, Reyna leaps after the dog, dog retreats to outside The Zone, Reyna relaxes...cycle repeat...it was exhausting, but at least at this point neither dog was barking and Reyna was bounding to the end of the leash because she wanted to play and showed no signs that lunging and barking were even on her radar screen.

We finally made it past the house, it was challenging, it was crazy, I'm sure there were things I could have done better, but we made it through the whole ordeal without a single growl, bark, or even raised hair on Reyna. I count it a win....

...Oh did I mention I had two kids in a double stroller at the time?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Managing the Dog AND Guests

Oh the joys of the holidays...decorations, family gatherings, parties, a 65lb German Shepherd having a nervous breakdown...

Guests are a challenge in our house. If I were to pick two main issues that we deal with it is dog reactivity while on-leash and over-excitement with guests in the house. She goes out of her furbrained mind.

That being said, the most difficult part of the whole situation is actually not managing Reyna, it's being a good host WHILE managing Reyna. Nothing says "thank for coming over" quite like spending the whole visit with my back to the guest and feeding Reyna chicken every few seconds for calm behavior.

Over the months we have tried several tactics and rituals for improving Reyna's indoor behavior with guests all with some "in the moment" success but none really clicked with us. The good thing about Reyna though is that when we find the "right" method it works VERY quickly.

Now I know "set ups" where you enlist friends, family, neighbors to come over at set times and work with the dog is always going to be the best way to go. I just haven't made the time to coordinate that effort. Another difficult factor is that when Reyna is excited or stressed she needs to MOVE, asking her to stay on a mat, a method that works for a lot of dogs would be absolute torture.

Fortunately we have had alot of people at the house over the last two weeks and we have gone to other houses as well. We decided to start crating Reyna the whole time guests were here, we bought lots of tasty bones for her to chew, exercised beforehand and then just asked her to stay in the crate. We had family come stay with us for several days so that meant that Reyna would need to go out several times, and we would take her outside for exercise. I was pleasantly surprised, as I often am with how resilient Reyna is, she is almost never in a crate and had no issues switching to being an indoor crate dog for a few days.

So during the first day of confinement I noticed Reyna didn't have too much of a problem walking on lead from her crate to the outside door and then back again, a light bulb went off, why not apply the same advance and retreat tactics we use when approaching dogs, to the guests. So on went her lead, I made sure she was relaxed enough to accept kibble as a treat and we were off, first just stepping out of the crate and back in, then I started walking toward the rooms the guests were in, marking and rewarding any focus on me or conscious effort to orient to me, if she hit the end of the lead or gave any sign that she was approaching threshold we went all the way back to the crate for a few seconds.

In less than 2 minutes she was showing signs of calming and understanding. Now I would advance a few feet, pause, if she oriented mark and reward. I let her wander within sight of the guests, she locked in, I paused and had to help her reorient, but the next time through she saw the guests and immediately looked back at me "YES" Jackpot!!! We continued this until we walked on leash calmly through the room full of three toddlers and three adults. We had found our method!

The next day my brother and his two kids hung out in the kitchen with Reyna out on lead and I marked any calm forward movement toward them and any reorienting to me. She was able to remain calm less than 2' from my brother while he roughhoused with the kids. MAJOR SUCCESS. Like I said, when something works for Reyna, it works almost instantly. I was even able to put her on lead while I was cleaning the house so we were walking all over the house, crossing my sister-in-law in the hall, passing through doorways at the same time, no problems. If I needed to enter a tight corner or closet and somebody else was there I would put her on a down stay so that she wouldn't have to share the space with a "stranger" for any prolonged period of time, it was all just fly-bys.

Then we took it on the road to my in-laws house. They are wonderful dog people and always welcome Reyna despite her craziness. We employed the same "crate or on leash time" there with the same incredible results. It took a couple minutes of relaxation protocol before she was calm enough to accept kibble so we could start, but soon after we were calmly sitting in the kitchen while my father-in-law did dishes and then we walked through the living room where four adults and two kids were hanging out.

I LOVE this! Now instead of dreading when guests come over I can't wait...One great side effect is that Reyna is relaxing in the crate, so I can socialize with family or guests between short training sessions, and know that Reyna is still making forward progress!