Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nosework - Preparing for NW2

We haven't been totally idle even though the blog would suggest that. My actual job has been very demanding lately leaving little room for training and even less for recording that training.

Reyna's competitive obedience skills are coming along nicely thanks to remote training with Hannah Branigan and Denise Fenzi. We are only auditing classes but they do such a good job it feels like taking an in person class. If you haven't seen the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy you should really check it out...good stuff!

We are also working towards our NW2 title for K9 Nosework. We are entered in the Florida trial in two months and have a lot of work to do between now and then to ensure we are ready. So last week I dusted off the odor tins and put the obedience stuff away for now. Having only a couple minutes each day to train I have to prioritize.

We started with easy stuff but Reyna quickly let me know that she hadn't forgotten a thing. In the last week we have worked several fast and easy interiors including one I thought would be a challenge...I put a q-tip in the remote and then put the remote back on the table...she nailed it in 30 seconds!!

Another cool one we did was to combine water and aged hide. It was pouring down rain one evening so I took a tin with holes in the top and threw it blindly into the front yard. Then the next morning, about 12 hours later, I took Reyna out, she took off before I even gave her the cue to find and nabbed it right away with no problems! She got a jackpot for that one and I had to retire those q-tips to the trash and dump water out of the tin. Sitting out in the rain all night clearly doesn't affect the hides for Reyna.

Today I pulled out the phone and got the video below of two searches from today. The first is an interior with one almost inaccessible hide. Honestly given how much she hates things that shift I thought it was going to be inaccessible from that side, there was an easy way in to the left but she proved me wrong and pushed her way through on the tough side.

Next was a set of two blind hides in the front yard. I love how she didn't have a lock on the odor right away and started wide sweeps. I was curious about her stopping at the stump during the search, but when she flushes a CAT halfway through it makes more sense. I swear when it happened it felt like Reyna deliberated for several seconds before deciding to resume the search, but as I watched the video it was only a split second before she decides to chase odor instead of the cat....GOOD DOG! That was a very long split second for me, and she made me proud. Don't mind the little gnome running around the search sector, Penelope's role in Reyna's life right now is to serve as a distraction in pretty much every training session.

Things we still need to work a lot on are containers in general and distractions in containers, she is great with distractions in interiors and proved today that even the neighbors cat isn't as valuable to her as Anise/Birch!

I'll try to keep more videos up, no promises though...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Reactive Reyna Runs a 5k!

When we were deciding what kind of dog we wanted on of my biggest "must haves" was a running buddy. A dog that would always be up for fun and ready to romp. We went with the high energy German Shepherd for their activity level, trainability and naturally protective nature.

When Reyna's excitability matured into full blown reactivity visions of group runs faded into the distance. We spent the next two years just trying to help Reyna cope with a world that was too stimulating for her. I remember how excited I was when we were able to go to our first doggy dash 5k in February 2012. We didn't participate, that would have been way too much. But we hung out on the outskirts and ate lots of treats for looking at the dogs in the distance.

We worked our way up to being able to go for walks and pass dogs without an explosion, and then retired the head collar as an unnecessary tool when we graduated to a flat collar.

Now we run, in a harness, with Reyna out in front Canicross style and I steer her through crowds with voice directional cues. I haven't taken treats with me in months. 

When we found out about a local dog friendly 5k I decided I thought we were ready to come in from the outskirts and really give our training a test. My husband came so that if the environment was too much with the crowds and dogs we could leave her relaxing in the car and I would run alone.

Reyna did fantastic!!!!! She had a blast and shot off the start line so hard I was afraid she would pull me off my feet. The start line wait was the hardest, all crowded together with tension everywhere and loudspeakers blaring, but we practiced deep breaths, she held her composure (except for some impatient whines to get GOING) and once we got moving she didn't give the other dogs or people a second thought, it was the two of us in the zone and working!

We blasted through the crowd and Reyna didn't slow to a trot until the 1 mile mark. The next two miles she held a steady working trot/run. She followed all the cues to navigate through the other runners and just did phenomenal.

We finished in a personal best 23:57 taking first place female finisher and being the first dog team across the finish line.. (it was sort of like cheating though since I basically ran with a turbo gear going the whole time!) All of our physical training paid off and all our behavioral work really showed as we mingled in the crowd, met with people and animals.

I am so proud of Reyna she is the dog I knew she could be. Somebody came up after the race and asked who trained her, I told her I did. She asked if I ever trained for other people because she said, "I have a lab mix that we can't take anywhere...he lunges growls, all his hair goes up and he barks at everything, he's not aggressive...he's just....nervous, crazy, I don't know how to describe it" I smiled "it's called reactivity, let me tell you Reyna's story..."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Back from the summer!

Well once again our training over the summer was pretty much nonexistent due to my work schedule. We continued the heeling class, below is a couple videos from later in the class...

We had a great time with the class and definitely learned a lot. We are now finishing up Hannah Branigan's obedience fundamentals course. Unfortunately with my schedule as the class is ending we are just now able to work on the lessons. That is one of the things I am really enjoying about the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is that I will continue to have access to the materials and since I'm auditing nobody is giving feedback anyway so I can work when I can and not worry about class being over and not having mastered everything yet!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Patience to speed learning

Reyna and I went to vets office today to work on calm and focus in the face of distractions. Let me tell you it's easy to see why Reyna loves Nosework...all she wants to do is sniff stuff.

Initially when she hopped out of the car she gave me the standard sit and eye contact, good start. But moving any distance from the car and her nose was glued to the ground, or the bush, or whatever. I thought about telling her leave it, or putting her back in the car, but I needed to look at me goal for the day. Was I planning on working obedience? No. Heeling? No. Eye contact? Not specifically. What I wanted was calm behavior and paying attention to me. Ultimately I wanted her to feel comfortable and have a good experience too.

So instead of putting her away which would have been a punishment for not giving me focus that I hadn't asked for in the first place, I decided to go a more Leslie McDevitt route. I sat on the bed of the pickup and just waited patiently while she smelled everything within the radius of her 4' leash. When she looked at me I clicked and treated and told her to "go sniff". She quickly started giving me more focus with less sniffing until she wouldn't go sniff. So we walked a few feet closer to the entrance rewarding every step where she had her nose off the ground.

We actually got all the way to the front sidewalk before her nose hit the ground. I just sat and waited while she took everything in. It took much less time this time. Then we walked back to the truck and started over. We made it all the way to the front door almost.

By the time we got inside she was clear headed and calm. We worked on walking past people in the waiting room, sitting on the scale, sitting quietly in the waiting room, all with short bursts of running out the door to play tug and then coming back in to work. We got all the way up to starting to walk down the hall and then it looked like it was going to get busy so we headed out.

You want to know the coolest part...the front yard area was filled with dog mess and pee spots, but not only did Reyna tug enthusiastically in the face of the smells and the distraction of people coming and going....she was so focused we did a couple short heel bursts during the play breaks.

So in the end I did get full focus and obedience work in the face of distractions, all by giving Reyna the time she needed to process the environment without pressure or punishment.

P.s. I was only there 17 minutes!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Release to movement - Heeling

Okay first part of our heeling work...

Reyna already had a strong "go round" so I just worked it into heeling. It's definitely a lot of fun. We lack precision for sure so I need to work more on that, but her attitude is good.

I also need to turn right instead of left when she comes in to avoid killing the momentum.

0:00-0:28 - reinforcing the awesomeness of going around an object

0:29 - naughty puppy

0:42-1:05 - demonstrating how much more fun it is to play with me than to tear up a toy on her own

1:28 - still not stellar but much improved front the first time

1:51 - first ever "heel to fly"

2:10 - that took some brain power :)

2:52 - okay...I loved that!!!

3:17 - now she's getting it!

We are having a blast!

There is so much material in this class it's amazing! I recommend you check it out...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Heeling Games

We have signed up for Denise Fenzi's Heeling Games class at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. We received a bronze level scholarship and WOW what a class!!!

Here is our baseline video before our first lesson:

Around :53 I want her to ignore the toy and stay engaged with me - Fail

At 1:15 on the third failure even with increased pressure I gave it up and decided to doodle our way back. Lesson learned from watching this video is that immediately outing and retrying when she brings back the toy does nothing to discourage her enthusiasm to chase the toy, but it definitely teaches her not to bring it right back.

1:40 - lots of forging and crabbing, I didn't realize until watching the video that it was because of the toy swinging in my right hand

2:06 - trying to correct forging and crabbing with left hand turns

2:10 - Finally get one smooth step in the pivot

2:58 - Ready to start working our way back to the goal from :53

3:12 - Stepped on the tug to remind her they were not available

3:20 - Good committed movement away from the toys - Race back

3:38-  added in a short low energy toss

5:08 - Original exercise - Success!!!!

Next up, horizontal movement games...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Exercising Self Control and Winning

No we have not sudden conquered all of our self control behaviors...but I have stared in the face of my own temptation and came out successful on the other end.

I am teaching nervous, crazy Reyna to walk on a treadmill. Back in the day I would have just slapped a leash on her and expected her to get over it. But that was three years and a lot of learning ago. So knowing my tendency to want to "help" the learning along I have done all her training sessions without even a collar on to prevent me being able to make her get or stay on the is our timeline, some of these days were up to a week apart...

Day 1 - Clicking and rewarding any interaction with the stationary treadmill. Including frequent breaks away from the treadmill. Reyna was unimpressed.

Day 2 - Take two kinds of treats down and work the treadmill with Susan Garrets crate games in mind...interaction with treadmill equals chicken, take a break and do other stuff earn kibble, back to treadmill, earn chicken. This time she quickly shaped to running and jumping onto the stationary treadmill

Day 3 - Reiterate the awesomeness of the treadmill. This time she is standing on it and I turn it on 1/2mph...she wigs out...bad move. Back to stationary to rebuild confidence. Turn it on again, she bails but comes right back. We take a break and I decide to leave the treadmill running. I try and be very clear with criteria and because of all the chicken in the bank she gets up to walking one foot on the moving treadmill

Day 4 - We quickly get up to two feet walking on the moving treadmill, I try to lure her all the way on, no dice, too much pressure, she walks off. We take a break. I turn the treadmill back off and we spend some time getting on and off the stationary treadmill. Back to moving, she is confidently walking with two front feet and occasionally lifting a back foot. We call it a day.

Day 5 - This time we get up to three feet walking on the treadmill which sounds as weird as it looks. Now we are stuck. We take lots of breaks during each session and repeat the stationary exercise back and forth with consistent results. Stationary she jump right on, moving she settles right in to walking with three feet on one foot off.

Day 6 - She is now walking VERY confidently with those three feet, but she is stretching herself out to do it and I am worried she will hurt something. We stop after 5 reps and just sit and think

Day 7 - Still thinking...Okay She is comfortable jumping on the treadmill while stationary, so I will add a physical cue of a hip tap to ask her to jump on and then maybe I can use that to get her on the treadmill while moving. So we spend most of the session teaching me tapping her hip is cue to jump on the treadmill. No problems. Turn it on, give the cue and she leaps on!!! aannnnddd flops right off the back. Luckily she wasn't phased at all and soon becomes good at jumping on and falling off the back.

Day 8 - Time to think do I teach her to WALK? I try luring as she jumps on, no luck. Hmmm, if she were just wearing a collar I could keep her from going off the back by physically holding the collar...and then I would have betrayed the whole point of this training. Okay now what...

Day 9 - Okay what if I teach her that my hand on her hind end means walk we spend a session shaping that and she catches on quickly.

Day 10 - reiterate the last lesson and then try to add the treadmill into the mix. Hop on hand on the rear, she sits, and then falls off the back. We go back to hand on the rear means walk forward for awhile then back to the treadmill...she sits again and then falls off the back. Call it a day.

Day 11 - Really focus on clicking those back feet for moving. We make quick progress, now she is running across the treadmill perpendicular to the belt and thinks that is AWESOME! *sigh*

Day 12 - Okay now I need her to stop bailing off the side. So I block it with a plastic tub thinking maybe she will get on and stay we are back to three feet walking on the treadmill.

Day 13 - Really thinking hard about that leash and collar at this do I teach her to walk while she is on there....she can walk with three feet but as soon as that fourth foot gets up there she stands stock still and falls off the back.

Day 14 - Okay somebody HAS to have done this before...lo and behold a quick internet search pulls up this gem... why did I not think to check online before??? The big piece we were missing was teaching her to run across the stationary treadmill.

Day 15 -  Spend the session training running across the stationary treadmill. No problems, she loves it. Then I start the motor, nope. Go back to stationary for several reps, then start the motor (remember she is extremely comfortable around the treadmill at this point so I was comfortable raising the criteria in the same session) nope....okay stop and think for a second....put a pile of chicken on the floor at the front of the treadmill and let her get really excited about getting to it and the only way over is across the moving treadmill because I am on one side and the tub is on the other still. She thinks about it for a minute....and then goes!!!! I dump half the bowl of treats on the floor and throw a massive party. Party over, she looks at me, I look at the treadmill, and she runs across it again!!! and then again and again...she has it now! (I felt that because of all the foundation work she could handle the pressure of having the chicken on one side and her on the other, if she had shown any real stress I would have called it immediately and gone back to the stationary belt)

Day 16 - Now she thinks running across the moving treadmill is really do I make her stay on the treadmill? I tried clicking and treating as she got on but she would just run off the front past my treat hand and then turn around for the treat. I tried that with the treat in multiple locations and sizes of treats with the same past then turn for the treat. What is something bigger that will really get her attention? her food bowl...can she walk and eat treats out of her bowl at once? probably not. So I spend some time away from the treadmill teaching her to walk and eat treats out of her bowl at the same time. Then back to the treadmill and.....SHE DID IT!!!! She walked on the treadmill while I held the food bowl in one hand and dropped treats into it with the other!!!!!! YAHOOOOOOOO We did it!!!!!!

The training may have gone much faster if I had watched the video beforehand, but I think it was also a good learning experience for me to have to try and come up with Reyna friendly solutions that would help her understand what I was looking for. I can't tell you what a huge success this is for both of us...for Reyna overcoming her fears and for me keeping Reyna's attitude always ahead of the results I was wanting and getting both in the end!!!!

We still have speed, duration etc to work on, but this had just been an awesome journey these last several weeks.

Thank you Reyna!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Learning to use Fred

I read this post by Denise Fenzi, and began to wonder...would I be able to use Fred effectively with Reyna? I have some serious doubts that I would use him correctly without outside guidance from an instructor. Since reading the article I am trying to take mental note of when Reyna multi tasks and when she clearly needs me to paint a different picture. Here are two examples...

We are playing in the back yard, I am giving her my full attention. We have some small working bursts in between periods of play. Generally just have a good time. I ask for a short heel spurt and let her grab the tug, instead of bringing it right back she prances around with it. Normally I would call her over with my hand held high for her to jump the toy up to my hand. Suddenly I realized, she isn't giving me 100% engagement...why am I putting more effort in?? So when she prances off with he toy I turn and go talk to my husband for several minutes.

By this time Reyna has come back over and is trying to get my attention with the toy. Now when I turn back toward her she shoves the toy at me. We play, I release the tug, she shoves it right back, I throw it she brings it straight back to play. In fact throughout the rest of the play time she remained 100% engaged with me!

Second example was yesterday working on some strength and balance skills. I pushed her just a bit too hard and she checked out. I could have pulled out Fred, but this was not a "oh look a bunny" distraction issue. She was stressed. So we took a break, played, did some easy tricks and games and then went back to it refreshed and made a couple major leaps forward in her understanding.

The difference between the two is the emotion and motivation of the dog. In the first situation Reyna thought playing by herself might be more fun, so I showed her it wasn't. In the second situation Reyna was stressed and telling me she needed a break for a minute to clear her head, and we did.

After those two successes I am feeling a little more courageous, but I still have to be very deliberate and thoughtful with the use of Fred, it is a punisher after all.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nose Work - Introducing Anise

Here is our first set of hides with Anise. We will be going back and doing LOTS of short easy hides and pairing with Birch, but I just wanted to see from a curiosity standpoint how quickly Anise became important to her. 

Near the end of the session I did a two hide search, one with birch and one with anise. She found birch first only because it was closer, and then immediately and confidently alerted on the anise. 

We are still working on our levels check list but I just stand a break from Nose Work for more than a couple weeks!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Puppy Picking - Personal Responsibility in Choosing a Dog

I don't know how many of you have seen this Today Show piece from this morning...

I'm going to get on a soapbox for a minute here so forgive me.

I don't care about AKC Registration. Reyna is registered with the AKC, it means nothing except that she has a number and can participate in their activities. Mixed breeds can be registered with the AKC. Somebody left a male Boxer on our doorstep when I was a kid and my parents registered him with the AKC. I appreciate that this registration means we can participate in their sports, but I do not put any intrinsic value in it...they haven't seen Reyna, she could be a horrible example of the breed, she could also be a potential champion sleeping on our living room rug. The registration does not in anyway indicate health, or value, of the dog.

Now when the AKC says that they have inspected a kennel and certify that the kennel meets their standards that's a whole different kettle of fish and they got themselves into the mess this article exposes all on their own.

What I don't like about the way this is presented are statements like "most AKC breeders are probably fine, but...". If a person walks into a breeder's facility, sees the dogs in the condition that those Great Danes where in and then STILL chooses to purchase a puppy, they have made that decision on their own. I don't care if the AKC gave them a giant gold star and announced their awesomeness at every sanctioned event in the country. I believe it is the personal responsibility of every person obtaining a dog from a breeder to:

1) Inform themselves about the breed they are interested in
- What traits are you selecting your breed for
- What health issues are factors in your breed
- What tests and certifications are available to screen dogs of that breed for those health issues
- What are the standards for color, coat type, size
- How should a fit healthy individual from that breed move, look, and behave

2) Look at EVERY dog that breeder has and get proof of up to date screenings for health issues for EVERY dog that breeder has, not just the parents of the litter you're interested in.

3) Meet the dogs, look for the temperament that should be typical of the breed

4) Inspect the facilities yourself - except for key periods of time when puppy's immune systems are at risk, you should be able to see the entire facility.

5) Choose the Breeder NOT the Puppy
- Don't go when you are ready to get a puppy
- If I think "man I would sure like a puppy this week, let me see who has German Shepherds between 8-10 weeks old today" that is a recipe for bad decisions.
- Go when the breeder does NOT have puppies available to take home that day
- Pick your breeder first and then wait for the right litter to be born so you can make a clear decision and not be blinded by puppy cuteness

6) Be ready to PAY
- Good breeders are not "bargains"
- They invest so much into showing, training, competing, obtaining health screenings, upkeep of the facilities and the dogs that the purchase price of the puppy doesn't compare to the costs that went into that carefully planned litter
- Each breed varies in what you can expect to pay but if your budget is $200-$500 you really are better off rescuing, because that is about the level of predictability you can expect from that price point, so why not put your funds towards an ethical rescue organization instead of a breeder who does not raise litters with the future of the breed in mind.

Which brings me to my next point about adopting from a rescue vs. purchasing from a breeder. It's the same thing technically, you are just choosing who to support. People attach the term adopting to rescues and purchasing to breeders but it is the SAME THING. You are writing a check to take home a dog, calling it an adoption fee or a purchase price doesn't change anything. The important thing to consider is who are you choosing to support and why. When I paid the fee to the Greyhound rescue for my dog in college I don't think I was a better person than when I paid the fee to the breeder to bring Reyna home. I had a specific goal for what I needed at that time. I found an organization that met that need that upon inspection was ethical, responsible, held high health standards, and truly cared for their animals, so I wrote them a check and took home the dog.

Some people believe it is unethical to breed dogs and they choose to support a shelter or rescue exclusively. I disagree, but I also have some pretty high expectations for what I consider a "responsible/reputable breeder". I commend the people that save the dogs from death row and are willing to take on the unknowns that come with rescuing. It's not for everybody. I don't think rescuing is always the better option, and I think the same level of scrutiny needs to go into which rescue organization you are going to support as you would for a breeder. 

I just think passing the personal responsibility off on the AKC (i.e. the AKC said they were okay so I don't have to do any research, and now I have a sick puppy so it's the AKCs fault) is passing the buck!

Okay I'm done.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Levels To Do

So here is where we are at with Level 3:

Zen - still need Step 4, Step 4 ComeAfter, and Step 5. We have been practicing though.

Focus - Done, but it seriously is a foundation behavior so we continue to work it in new and challenging inside the dog park with dogs running around

Sit - Done

Down - Done

Lazy Leash - this was our 1,000 treat challenge goal. We are still working on steps 4 and 5, she is really getting there.

Retrieve - need to go back and retest...we had it but its been awhile

Target - missing step 4. She is having a hard time figuring out the physical aspect. We have been adding in balance and strength building tricks and that is helping

Crate - Done, but we still take advantage of every new crate we can

Relax - we have steps 4 and 5 done, but haven't started 1-3

Distance - Done

Jump - Done

Go to Mat - haven't officially started, but we do play a fun game when guests come over where the guest stands between me and her mat and I call her to come C/T and then send her to her mat, so she has to run back and forth past a strange person.

Handling - haven't started, this one intimidates me

Communication - haven't started

Homework - waiting until I finish the rest

So there you go, that's our starting point. Handling will be the hardest. I may have to try some Relaxation Protocol for that one. I want to see how far I can get by June 1, but I m starting to learn that training isn't race. I am really enjoying the ride  :)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

To Do List

Summer is coming fast and that means summer camps...and that means training time is about to be non existent. Time to stop goofing off and decide what I want to accomplish this summer and set out a training plan, otherwise I will totally lose track of where we are going.

Goal 1 - pass level three of the training levels
     I plan to use pattern games and crates games to help with this
     I need to pull my training spreadsheets back out so I can track where I am on each item
     I need to really focus on the spirit of the levels and not just do the bare minimum

Goal 2 - teach Reyna to walk confidently on the treadmill
      Aha! You didn't know about this one did you?
      I have been secretly training scaredy dog Reyna to walk on the treadmill.
      This is harder than you might think with a dog who is afraid of movement
      Before Reyna I would have just thrown the dog on the treadmill, turned it on and waited for them to get over it
       This is called flooding and is NOT the best way to get a happy confident dog
       We have been working on it every few day and she is up to the point where she will walk with her two front feet on the treadmill but when she jumps on with all four feet she forgets how to walk and falls off the back.
        Just the fact that falling off doesn't freak her out is pretty incredible!!!
       I also train her without her collar on because it forces me to make it her choice
       If she was wearing her collar I don't know if I could resist the temptation to "help" her stay on the treadmill

So that's it. Those are our goals. I am letting go of everything else...competitive obedience, Nosework, everything, until we meet those goals.

What about you? What are you doing this summer?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Reyna update

In case you were wondering what we have been up to....

Levels - still working on lazy leash Level 3. We have passed step two, but I am spending a lot of time on the comeafters because self control is very difficult for Reyna.

CGC - the levels work above is helping with our goal of Reyna earning her CGC before too long. She  is getting better but just gets so excited when she sees people and dogs that she knows

Crate games - We have done some work lately using her mat where I ask her run between me and the mat with somebody she would REALLY like to say hi to standing between us. That has been a lot of fun and is really helping her focus and self control.

Trkman tricks - loving these. I need to watch the video again, but Reyna is doing awesome at the four paws in her food bowl and that is a lot of fun. Plus she is actually catching on to sitting up much quicker than I thought. We don't have much if any duration on either of those but just the fact that she is learning to get herself into hose positions is awesome. Two on two off is going slower only because I don't have a good raised surface to give Reyna a clear definition so we are using a carpet square. That is just a difficult point to start at, so I may put that on hold for now until I find something better to work with. Balancing on a ball with two feet while walking with her back feet is out right now for lack of a good ball, so we substituted the office chair and she stands on it with her front feet and walks around...not bad for a dog who is afraid of things that move!!

Rally/Obedience - just working on engagement in more and more distracting spaces. I have been going to the dog park and using the small dog side if there is nobody there to practice having her focus on me while other dogs play. Yesterday we actually got some short working spurts inside the regular dog area with other dogs around!! Way to go puppy!!! It was a great day where the park had four dogs in it all with very watchful owners and no toy drive dogs. If I am ever playing in a situation I always move us to a corner where I can see the other dogs. Depending on the other dogs I can either  body block as they come up or have Reyna out the toy so she does not become a target. By doing this Reyna's confidence in tugging with other dogs around has shot through the roof compared to where it was, because she doesn't worry about being mugged while she's playing with me.

Nosework - we haven't done anything! I need to order some Anise.

I felt like we have just been playing around and having fun without really going anywhere, but now that I write this out we are actually making small steps towards all our goals...very exciting! And I have to say we are both having a blast. It feels so good when I take her out and about to have people comment on how focused and well behaved and "wow she's only 3?" Instead of "wow she still has a lot of puppy in her" which is code for " your dog is crazy". The other day we were at Lowes and I had a small crowd talking to me with my arms full of treats, toy, leash, purse, and items I was actually buying. I started to walk off and dropped one of the items. A lady started to reach for it, but before she could and with no cue Reyna picked it up and handed it to me....awwws abounded :) Thanks Sue for the levels retrieve!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Punishment in Positive Training

It is impossible to train without some form of negative consequences for the dog failing an exercise in the process. At some point no matter how careful we are to set the dog up for success, the dog is going to make a mistake, or choose the wrong option. Now what?

I am a motivational, marker based, dog trainer. I don't use physical pain as corrections. But that doesn't mean that consequences for mistakes do not factor into my training. People can say, I never punish my dog for getting it wrong, I just don't reward the mistakes. But if you have ever told your child, you do not get dessert because you didn't eat your dinner, or you may not go out and play because you didn't clean your room, you have just withheld a reward for failure to perform. That is a correction in the sense that you are doing it in hopes of decreasing the likelihood that a behavior will continue.

If there are litterally no consequences for getting it wrong, then that means being wrong is just as rewarding as being right. Imagine trying to train a stay if she got the toy every time whether she got up or held her position....I'd rather not.

So the question is really, when there is an error made by the subject in the learning process, what are you going to do about it? If I have learned anything from my 3 years with Reyna it is that I better have a plan for when it goes wrong that is just, if not more, well thought out than when it all goes perfectly.

I think it's relatively easy as a motivational trainer to say...I am not using physical pain to correct issues so I'm all set. But take a look at the following video. Sam has a Level 1 foundation in Sue's training levels, and I needed to teach her to stay out of our playroom while she was staying with us for the weekend. I have layered in a high rate of reinforcement, but watch when she starts to make a mistake. Even a weight shift towards her is enough of a pressure correction to make her back up immediately. Sam is not nearly as sensitive as Reyna, and yet something as "gentle" as taking a step forward sends a very strong message of "that is the wrong choice, back up".

I think as positive trainers, we need to consider the effects that our corrections have on the learning process, just as we would hope a compulsion based trainer would critically look at their methods, to ensure that we are always being fair, taking the dogs body language and emotional state into consideration, and objectively looking at whether or not our methods are humane. And then being willing to change them, for that situation, that dog, or even overall in our training if there is a major problem.

I'm not saying never use pressure (obviously since I use it the video above), but I am saying we need to be deliberate and thoughtful in how we employ even physically pain free corrections. If you have seen Eileen's shock collar video where she displays how negative reinforcement  is used to teach a dog to climb on a platform, I can tell you right now I could do the same thing to Reyna with pressure alone and it would be just as inhumane in my opinion.

Before Reyna I really was oblivious. I thought that since I used a clicker and treats and wouldn't go near a prong, choke, or shock collar I was acting in the best interest of the dog. But by focusing on the methods I was using and not the attitude of the dog sitting in front of me I created a dog who found very little joy in her work.  Here are a couple examples of misused punishment/negative reinforcement and the fallout because of it:

Crate training:
We brought Reyna home at 9 weeks old and the first thing we wanted was for her to sleep through the night in her crate. So I slept next to her crate the first night and if she would whine and I knew she didn't need to potty I would say "hush" and give her a hard stare until she disengaged and laid back down. That is A LOT of pressure especially for a 9 week old puppy. It worked too. We did the same thing to make her stop whining when we were in the yard and she was on the porch. It made her so sensitive to eye contact that by 8 months old if she was dozing and I looked at her she would get up and pace and whine.

Loose leash walking:
When training Reyna to walk on a loose leash I put a leash on her and pulled on it just enough to make her uncomfortable (doesn't take much for a puppy). When she stepped toward me I rewarded. This might have worked fine if I had laid a foundation of  reinforcement for walking next to me, and then walking while dragging the leash, and then some luring into position with the leash on to remind her what a great place being next to me was. I didn't. When I took her to a training group they asked if I ever played with her because she was so uncomfortable on leash.

Proofing behaviors:
I used to use a No Reward Marker pretty often. If I asked for a sit and she offered a down, or just didn't sit I would say "wrong" and turn my back for a few seconds. Again, maybe for a different team this would have worked just fine...My Greyhound in college caught on pretty quick, the boxers I had growing up did. It completely demoralized Reyna. She stopped being shape-able and anything that sounded like a new cue would make her shut down and walk off. I can't tell you how many times she just walked off in a training session.

It took a lot of rethinking, and changing the way I train, to turn our relationship around. Now I try to always have a plan for what will happen when things go well AND when they don't. Also I always consider how the consequences of her miss affect her attitude in training. Does it build drive to try again? and does she exhibit joy when she gets it right or just relief? My goal is always joy!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My K9 Nose Work Superstar!

Oh excuse me, did I hear you say you had lost something valuable?...and it happens to smell of Birch?

I'm ON it!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Allow me to introduce...

Queen Vom Nobelos NW1 "Reyna"


The trial was awesome! If you feel like a long read here is our overall experience. If you just want the quick version scroll to the bottom for times/results.

Newberry Nose Work 1 Trial breakdown...

 We made the long drive to Jacksonville Florida on Friday. We stayed with a good friend Lisa Mallory who was trialing her doberman Kelly on Saturday too and we spent Friday evening just playing with the dogs and trying to relax. That night I realized I had left my score book 7 hours away in Carrollton, GA. Crap. This was not starting well. It turns out I worried for nothing, apparently you don't have to have our membership card or scorebook with you to trial at all, but I spent that evening and the whole way there the next morning stressing about it for nothing. I wish they would make it more well known that you don't Have to have it.

The next morning Lisa and I headed to the trial site with both dogs. It was two hours away and we made it just in time to check in, find out I had worried for nothing about the scorebook, and get settled into our little "camp" site before the walk through. The site was amazing, plenty of shaded parking, huge potty area, plenty of room for everybody.

Then the walk through started. Our group did the walk brought in reverse order of what we would run. Thanks to this blog post  I had a plan in my head for how I would work each area .

There were three vehicles parked at angles facing the main building. I noted that the wind was blowing away from the start line and hoped that wouldn't cause too much trouble. I was thankful we had done a good bit of work in the wind.

This time the wind was blowing toward the start line...awesome. But there was a closed shed with a wooden ramp leading up to it as part of the search area. I crossed my fingers and hoped that if the hide was up there that all of our work on decks, stages, and sheds, wold help her push past that. This was also where I started to get nervous. The area wasn't too big, but it had asphalt, gravel, wooden decking, grass, concrete, vertical surfaces, and a bit of clutter. It was a lot to take in.

Now this was a breath of fresh air. It was like they had copied the gym set up that we practice in. Even the chairs and tables were the same style. Reyna would be totally comfortable in here.

Another nervous one. So. Many. Boxes!  And they were in the shape of a clover. That would make it easy to miss one. I was really going to have to stick with a pattern or risk missing a box.

After the walk though they started running dogs. Each dog would run container and exterior one right after the other and then be done until lunch. Then after lunch we would all run interior and vehicle back to back. I like that much better than the idea of container, break, exterior, break etc.

I was almost dead last. There were 27 dogs running counting an exhibition dog, and I was 25. That made me VERY glad I followed the NKJD blog post and practiced long aging on hides. Reyna does better when the odor has been out for a while actually.

During the down time before our first search I tried to simulate our training environment so about every 45 minutes I would get Reyna out, play a little, run the practice boxes, and then put her away again. The rhythm really helped both of us settle in before the actual searches. I tried to keep Reyna out of the sun, but the on deck locations were pop up tents and Reyna was a bit nervous about the high winds flapping the tents. Turns out she had good reason because one blew over, luckily nobody was there. Other than those short little bursts I tried to just relax in our lawn chairs and enjoy the shade and chat with folks nearby about anything except the specific hides. This was difficult when Lisa came back successful, because I really wanted to ask her how it was, but all we could do is celebrate that her first two hides where over and wait for mine.

I formed my plan for the first two sections, Container I was going to walk Reyna clockwise through the pattern to make sure we didn't miss a box. Exterior I was going to give Reyna 1 minute to do whatever, and then after 1 minute I would do a perimeter walk and then a zig zag to see if we cold pick up odor. I would use the same strategy for the interior and vehicles except that because of the wind on the vehicles, if she hadn't alerted in one minute I would restart her from the opposite side facing the wind.

When it was our turn on deck we paced and played and paced some more

We walked in and Reyna was focused on the boxes. I held her about two feet behind the start line to make sure she didn't cross early. I gave her the cue and we started. She was NOT interested in checking every box. I had to insist she check a couple. We may have wasted time but I would rather waste time checking empty boxes than miss the right one. I shouldn't have worried because about halfway around she got very focused and started pulling faster until she skidded to a stop and did her very clear chin target and paw touch for the box. I called alert and got the YES! We had passed our first NW1 element and actually got a Pronounced!
Time: 38.05 seconds. Place: 10th

Reyna caught odor on the way to the start line thanks to the wind, I held her for a second more to focus myself and remind myself of the plan. She shot off the start line and went straight for the wooden ramp. My heart sank a bit and I just crossed my fingers that if it was there she would work through it. She hopped off the side of the ramp though and started detailing the ground. She gave a double nose tap and froze on the seam where the ramp meets the concrete. I called it and waited that painful millisecond before we got a YES! We whooped it up and practically ran back to the car. We were halfway there so now I just needed to try and relax until after lunch.
Time: 21.81 seconds Place: 10th

During lunch we all celebrated and lamented and got to talk about the searches since the whole group was done. Lisa and Kelly did awesome on the containers. They got it in 12 seconds and the exterior in 29! If I wasn't nervous before (which I was) now I was really nervous! We only had two more to go.

For the second half I pottied Reyna and played a little bit and then gave her a bowl of kibble and some water. I knew she didn't eat much for breakfast and I wanted to make sure she could make it through the day. She wolfed down her kibble and drank a good bit of water and then settled back into her crate. I decided I didn't want to follow the morning pattern of getting her out repeatedly for fear of wearing her out. She was resting really well in her crate so I just put a frozen blanket over the top of the crate to help keep her cool and let her nap. I was very glad to see her relaxing even when dogs and people walked up to chat. I had been worried that she would wear herself out getting excited every time somebody came by.

I really tried to stay relaxed and not think about the fact that when this was all over it was 20 hours of driving and two vacation days from work and it would really be a bummer to miss the last hide. Lisa went first again and was gone for what seamed like forever. She came around the corner with a thumbs up....she had her title!!! I am glad she went first because she warned me there was a long wait between the two searches and suggested I take some water for Reyna which I did and was very thankful for!

There were three holding stations before we got to the interior so I tried to keep a healthy balance of engaging Reyna and then letting her just wander on her line and sniff fence poles etc. When we finally got called in the threshold was at the doorway. I held her back to let her get her bearing and then sent her on. Honestly I was sure it would probably be on the tables or chairs, but Reyna went straight into the middle of the room, between the tables, turned back and hit the far left perimeter and followed it around to the right until we hit a little alcove with a dustpan. She detailed the area for a second and then hit and stuck on the inside of the dustpan. Alert.....YES!!! We were only one away from a title and we received a Pronounced on this hide as well!
Time: 32.84 seconds Place: 12th

There was a long wait before the vehicle and I was glad I had water, I was glad Reyna had a cued relax, and honestly she was so calm, happy and focused during the wait period that all nerves about the vehicle vanished. I felt calm, and connected. She shot off the start line and I started my internal timer. Just the fact that I felt present and relaxed into to count off seconds in my head while maintaining focused on Reyna told me we were in a good place as a team. In a stroke of luck she ran past the vehicles towards the building and I stopped her. She turned to face me and was looking right into the wind. She immediately caught odor and went halfway back towards the start line in between two cars. As she got halfway down the vehicles she whipped back to the right and started detailing the front wheel well and tire. She stuck her nose into one hole in the hub cap, I gave her harness a little tug to see if she would back up or lean forward. She backed up a step and slammed her nose into the next hole over. I called alert and they said "where?". Holding my breath I pointed to the second hole and got a YES!!!!! We threw a party!!!! Reyna almost took my hand off snatching the ball she was so excited. The judge said he like her head snap into odor. I don't remember if I said thank you or just nodded, but this time we ran all the way back to the car. There were cheers and hugs and laughter. We had our NW1 Title and we received a third Pronounced for this search.
Time: 21.90 seconds Place: 4th

Not only was I absolutely thrilled to have the title, I was very pleased with her consistency. We didn't place on any of the elements but she was extremely consistent. We got a lot of great comments from the judges about her drive, attitude, my ability to read her, and our teamwork.

AND....are you ready for this???? Even though we didn't place on a single element her consistency paid off with a FIRST PLACE OVERALL TIME!!!!!

Ahhhhhh!!!!!!! WE WON THE TRIAL!!!!!! I cannot believe that! Our total time for the trial was 1:54.60, averaging less than 30 seconds a hide....Way to go my formerly reactive crazy baby! She also got several comments about her focused and happy attitude. I am so proud of her and us as a team. We have come so far to get here and have so many people to thank for their help, guidance and inspiration.

Thank you all!!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nose Work Trial Prep

We will return to our regularly scheduled updates and training note shortly. But for now it is all about Nose Work. Our trial is this weekend and I don't think I would do anything differently in preparation for it.

Reyna is now searching for birch on decks with a happy fluffy tail. The stage still gives her the creeps, but she will search it and alert. We have practiced on leash, off leash, high, low, accessible, inaccesible, windy, rainy, short waits in between, long waits in between, totally blind, timed, box refreshers, hides with people walking through the search area, even had a stranger handle her on a couple hides, cars, trucks, forklifts, brand new odor, old odor, 4-6 hour old hides, tiny room, expansive gyms, playground equipment....I even took her to a nose work tournament this past weekend where I was volunteering and had her just wait in the car for 4 hours while I worked it with dogs and people wandering by the car and then brought her out for two quick hides and then left.

To support our Nosework training we have been working on confidence on weird surfaces, focus in extreme situations (heeling off leash near a stray cat feeding station), long working days where we do non Nosework stuff off and on all day, self control on leash and off, drive building with tug and fetch and more tug, relationship building through play, confidence strength and balance through tricks...

I can't lie, if we don't title I will be disappointed, but I don't think we could have prepared better, and I have enjoyed the last couple months of training and relationship building sooooo much, I wouldn't do a thing differently.

Here's to Saturday!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fenzi Dog Sports Academy...

Wow...just wow!!!! I can't wait for this to get up and going...Denise Fenzi herself, Hannah Branigan, and my personal hero Sue Ailsby are on the list of instructors WAY cool!!!!!

Also I received the greatest compliment the other day while doing some work in a distracting environment. Somebody said "she is just SO into you". I can't imagine a greater comment!

Week and a half 'til the NW1 trial...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Adventures with Samantha

Okay I FINALLY have our Reyna and Sam video uploaded. We worked on Relax a lot. I looked back at our old video from last march and its amazing our far we have come even though we haven't been working on it very much.

Sam is Reyna's best friend, she goes out of her mind whenever she sees her, so to have both dogs off leash in the house would be pretty much impossible I thought. My plan for the weekend was just to go back to my old protocol of on leash or in a crate for both dogs.

Once Sam got here though I decided I owed it to both of them to do some training. They rough housed like crazy and started slamming into furniture...what I had we gotten ourselves into???

But instead of crating them I decided to work on thir default behaviors. At the time they had never done anything together that involved much self control at all. So I got out their dinner, each dog with her own bowl and sat on the couch. Sam has a Level 1 foundation so her zen pretty darn good. It took her a few minutes to realize that I was paying for downs, but once she worked it out the two did awesome! And Reyna got to work on her Level 3 relax which is to relax in sight of other dogs playing...might as well start with another dog not playing to break down the behavior! 

By the end of the weekend, both dogs had developed a default calm for indoors and we only crated them at night! 

Which brings me to the next fun thing we needed to work on, Reyna totally losing control whenever I let them out of their crates. It didn't matter what order I let them out, it became a scream fest each time. So again, it was time to implement a protocol. Reyna was doing much better by the end of the weekend, but really could have used Sam there for another week or so to get herself really under control.
Forgive the angle of this video and just keep your eyes on the dogs haha!


Some other things that Sam learned were, to not go into the playroom no matter how tasty the toddler looks, that "mealtime" means no dogs allowed in the dining room until somebody says "floor patrol!" at which point it's a free for all and Penelope's chair is usually the best place to start.

Reyna got to work on self control around another dog and progressed very quickly. Much better than I would have thought. At the start of the weekend we couldn't pet Same without Reyna coming in to push her out of the way. So we working on of few of theses games:

Sam gets pets, Reyna gets chicken
Both dogs stay, then both dogs come to front and get chicken
Both dogs stay and only Sam comes - Reyna gets chicken for holding her stay
Reyna Stay while mommy bounces around and makes crazy noises with Sam - Reyna gets chicken
Reyna plays tug with mommy while Sam tries her best to distract her - Reyna gets chicken

As you can guess after just a day Reyna decided there was an awful lot of value for her in letting Sam get some attention. The joint recall was actually probably hardest because they are both moving together but must remain focused on me and not each other. Very difficult for two playmates. But they did wonderfully. Such good girls!!!! 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nosework news and other stuff

Well I was really hoping everybody else was slacking off on their 1,000 treat challenge so I would feel better about having only trained a few sessions, but nooooo Eileen has to be out there making progress...fine....I'll get back to work

Reyna is doing well in the very few sessions we have had. We have a college student working with us now so she is going to help with some of those comeafters in the levels we had to skip because we didn't have anybody to work with her. I'm really excited about it. 

On her CGC stuff we have been practicing a lot of self control like crate games, and also spacing out reinforcement more as well as working basic behaviors in more distracting situations like around the feral cat feeding stations. I need to start translating her crate games into mat work games to improve her understanding. Even though its not directly a CGC requirement, the skills she is learning in crate games is really helping. When we went to the campus today three people stopped and petted her and she held her sit cold each time! 

We are exercising a lot more these days. Having Sam here really showed me how much better Reyna does when she gets a 2-4 mile walk each day, I do great for a little while and then slack off again and forget how important it is to her baseline behavior. 

Along the same lines as crate games helping her CGC stuff, we have not been training Nosework specifically,because she knows how to find birch. What she can't do is walk on weird surfaces like decks, stages, bridges to find birch...way too stressful (btw- she grew up running around on decks and bridges so I don't know where or why this fear cropped up). So we have been taking the time we would normally spend on hides, to find every bridge, stage, or deck possible. I did not want the fear linked with Nosework at all, so just like when she was afraid of boxes and I played fetch with her ball near, around, and eventually in, a pile of boxes, this time we are just going for walks and "oh lookie there, a deck how cool, let's check it out....oh wow where did all these treats come from, they are EVERYWHERE! Okay let's go now." I kept that up and then having Sam here really helped her make some big leaps in her confidence levels.

Yesterday I took her to Home Depot with some hamburger, left her in the car and hid treat pieces in the sheds. Some very close to the doors some all the way in the back. Then I got her out of the car just on her regular collar and we walked down the row of sheds when we came across a shed with treats in she would find it, eat it, and then I would put her back in the car just like in a search environment. Then I'd get her back out and we'd walk down the line again. I never gave her a cue, or encouraged her to go into the sheds. At first she was a little hesitant, but by the end she was practically dragging me over to the sheds.

All these forces combined until tonight....drumroll please....Reyna searched for birch confidently on a low outdoor stage she has never been to before!!! AMAZING!!!! I am beyond proud of her, and I am so glad I didn't push anything! We will continue to work on her confidence outside of Nosework and just throw some hides out from time to time to keep her nose sharp, but I just cannot tell you the joy I had in watching her search that stage...if we don't title in march I have already won. Just like the CGC "failure", this is a benchmark of where she is and how far she has come! 

Coming soon I promise....videos of Reyna and Sam. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Canicross Fun!

Just in case you thought we didn't do enough different things with Reyna!

We really enjoy canicross, which was a major factor in deciding which harness to pick for her Nosework. We wanted something that would work for everything, and we ended up going with the Nordkyn Skijor harness. We absolutely love it, and in addition to being great for Nosework, it suitable for Canicross, scootering, bikejoring, etc. We have been training her to pull in her harness off and on for a few months now and this weekend has been a total blast!!!

We have Reyna's friend Sam staying with us for the weekend (videos and pics to follow). I have taken them out for two walk/jogs so far and Sam is picking up on driving cues quickly, plus Reyna works a lot harder when she has Sam trotting next to her. She leaned into the harness as soon as we headed out, and didn't slack off for the whole 4 miles! What a good girl!!! She absolutely loves it and clearly differentiates between pulling in the harness and walking on her flat collar.

It was so much fun to have both of them out in front responding to the verbal cues to turn, speed up, slow down, or screech to a halt. And let me tell you, with two shepherds on the line there is no hill too steep for me :) 

Another plus is that Reyna is much more confident when Sam is with her, so I have been running the girls up onto decks, ramps, staircases, and even the infamous stage in the gym that Reyna thinks will eat her. She hesitates for a second, but with Sam leading the way she overcomes her fears and quickly gains the confidence to run on and off by herself. Now whether that experience carries over when Reyna is by herself remains to be seen. But for right now I am just trying to get them onto any crazy surface I can think of! 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nosework Scavenger Hunt!

Holy smokes was this a learning experience! Amber Burckhalter with K-9 Coach invited us up to Smyrna for the first ever Nosework scavenger hunt. There were 40 hides over 5 locations within a fourish mile radius. What a blast.

Reyna had an opportunity to work in lots of new and distracting areas with dogs and people wandering around and all kinds of smells. This was the first time Reyna has searched that many places in one day let alone in the two hour time frame we were given. I'm sure Reyna benefitted from the experience, but I think I took away even more than she did...

The first thing I learned is that I still put WAY too much pressure on her. We are light years better than we were before, but I still need to work on backing off and listening to her. At the end of the day we found 24 hides in the two hours allotted. Other teams found over 30, the main difference I think was that they accepted when a dog couldn't find a hide and they moved on to a new area. I stayed in one location until Reyna found all the hides there. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but when Reyna is clearly showing signs of stress or frustration and I put pressure on her by remaining in the search area it does nothing to improve our efficiency and communication as a team.

Second is...if I won't ask for heel work until I have her full attention, why do I think it's okay to chant "go find" repeatedly when she is obviously distracted? I don't normally do that during our training, in fact it is extremely rare that she needs a re-cue, and usually it means something unexpected happened to disrupt her pattern. But today, because of the pressure we already talked about I started saying "go find....go find....where is it?" Which only furthered her stress and frustration because repeating the cue when she is too distracted to work does not suddenly diminish the distraction. It is just another way to pressure the dog.

Third...I need to work more table top hides. She really had difficulty alerting on a tin that was just sitting on top of a table!

Don't get me wrong, we had a really great time. When I realized she couldn't handle 5-6 hides in a row I slowed down, I stopped focusing on the number of hides, and made sure that she got breaks to play, drink water, rest for a few minutes etc. one great thing about Reyna, is even when she is absolutely fried, and can't do another thing, give her a 10-20minute break and she will be back on and ready to rock! I think that will serve her well at the trial in a few weeks!

Some things that went really well were...

One search area was bordered by somebody's back yard. As we started to search the area a massive dog charged the fence in full blown reaction!!! What is good about that? Reyna jumped out of her skin when he first charged, but didn't react even though she was right beside the fence!! Her hair puffed up for a second but then without any treats from me, she immediately settled back down and got to work locating all three hides in that area! What a brave girl!!!

Then in one search area she missed a hide around the outside of a house because she was too worried to get on the deck (big surprise, hope they don't have a hide like that in the trial or we are hosed!). But as we were searching for the second hide Reyna gave a clear and confident alert on a spot on the ground. I know Reyna well enough to go ahead and reward without looking for it, because when she is that sure, it's there. Sure enough there was about a 1/2" stick of a q-tip laying on the ground. no cotton on it, just the stick piece. The cool part is that this was not one of the hides for the day! There is no telling when that was dropped there. It was probably just yesterday, but still, that is a pretty old and small hide for her to pick up on and alert! Way to go!!!!

Reyna also did great on the container search so, I feel pretty good about that one too. I feel like if we miss the NW1 title it will probably be because a hide was placed somewhere Reyna was not confident enough to go.

I did take Reyna for a nice long walk today (I told you 10-20 minutes and she is ready to go again) and I found a low deck that we could work on. It only took her a few minutes to decide it was safe enough to run and tug on, but I still don't think she would have sourced odor there. Need to do some more work...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

1,000 Treat Challenge Day 2

Well I have stopped counting treats for the challenge. I'll just know that when I am done with the bag I am halfway there, and then I'll count out the other 500. We started off day two testing step 2 of Lazy Leash Level 3. Reyna did not pass step 2 the first time out so below is our training session. Except to cut dead time this is our whole session.

I did not refresh my memory of Sue's directions for this step, and I did not start with a plan in mind. You can definitely see that in the first part, Reyna is fairly confused by the whole thing and I am not very clear with how I wanted to approach it. Also notice that when Reyna hits the end of the leash she licks her nose...she REALLY wants that ball. But when it is her choice to turn away from it there is no lip licking.

When I follow Sue's instructions and click her when she turns with me we progress much faster. Also I switched to a verbal marker and made the food more of an event and less just stuffing a treat in her mouth. All of that seems to improve the session overall. Reyna still manages to snatch the ball once, and comes close a second time. And you can also tell that while Reyna is being a really good sport through the whole process, her main focus is always the ball. Even when she is looking at me it's only to say..."if I do this can I have the ball?"I love that at the end she doesn't fetch it, she just takes off ...silly can't throw it by yourself :)

So for the next session we will lower the distraction a little bit to make it easier for her until she understands the pattern better, and then add the ball back in as a distraction. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

1,000 Treat Challenge - Day 1

Okay for our first day of the 1,000 treat challenge my goal was to video tape a short before clip of Lazy Leash L3S1.

So we counted out 500 treats (it was way too much work to count out 1,000 at once!)


Then I reread the step 1 walks through an exterior door on a loose it! I picked the front door first and I set up the camera, we were ready to roll. The first rep was without warm up, without clicker, and without treats, the goal was to show a starting point. 

She passed!!! We did it again, and again no tight leash, in fact now she got wise and thought it was a zen exercise, I had to call her through the front door.

Okay now I'm going to challenge her...we'll use the back door, this is the door we let her dash out of to chase squirrels...nope lazy leash all the way. Even on the first rep there when she goes out ahead of me she leaves plenty of slack on the leash.

Hmmm okay, the garage door...surely she will try and slip out the garage door and make a run for the strollers...nope...pass again. And in case your wondering, no that is not heaven just past the dog crate. It's our laundry room which is basically the same thing as far as Reyna's concerned since that's where her treats and toys live. So much for a before video. Thanks to Sue's Level 3 Zen Reyna passed Lazy Leash L3S1 and S1 ComeAfters on the first go round. Here's our unedited complete video...we went through 5 treats in out first session....995 to go!

Now on to step 2...Walk 10 steps towards a single distraction. I'm trying to think of good distractions...treats, her ball, a stroller since she likes to rush over to the strollers. I think David or Penelope might make a good focal point. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nosework practice

I haven't been doing much lately in the way of Nosework practice. Maybe an interior hide here or there. My biggest concern is how she hates weird surfaces. Especially raised weird surfaces. We are working on it and he is making progress, but as of today if her NW1 hides are on a deck or stage we are screwed.

Well we took a break from all that today and had a big group get together for some actual Nosework. We me a bunch of folks from Atlanta at the ORT and Melanie did a get together with them two weekends ago but I was at a conference and missed out. This weekend we practiced in Carrollton and had a great time!

11 dogs, 6 or 7 handlers, some on birch some on anise, at very different stages. It is was a huge learning experience. We did interior, exterior, containers. And the pouring rain made for a great challenge.

Reyna did really stellar. I don't often get to do blind hides, especially true blind hides where I can't see the container when she is alerting. I was a bit nervous that hr alert would not be strong enough for me to call it on a true blind hide, but she nailed it!

I won't go through each hide since we did about 6-7 searches totally about 12 hides, but some of the highlights were...

A chair search that I thought would be easy all of the dogs struggled with. It was a bunch of plastic chairs with metal legs and I stuck the birch underneath one. Something about the air current in room made all the dogs want to come at it from the front of the chairs where it was inaccessible. And then even when thy came around to the back side of the row they all wanted to alert on the top front left corner instead of the bottom right rear....wired. But all the dogs worked through it. It was a lot tougher than planned. It just goes to show how something we perceive as easy may have unseen factors that make it quite challenging.

I was thrilled with Reyna's container search. I have to admit was nervous since we hadn't been working on it, and boxes were a weak link before the ORT. But our Pre-ORT pattern work seams to have stuck. Even though e had just done a bunch of interior searches, she locked onto the boxes right away and did a clear paw touch/nose touch on the hot box the first time through GOOD DOG!!

It was raining during our exterior, which made for chilly handlers, but a great learning experience. Reyna found one buried under leaves in good time, but a second one in the area was very tough. Harder than anything we'll see on trial day. She worked hard, but it was our next to last search, she was tiring and the hide was difficult. A single q-tip in a closed plastic container stuck in a crack in a wall in an alcove. Tough stuff. The current must have been moving the air up because several dogs wanted to try sourcing it from the top of the retaining wall directly above the hide. I hadeto ask where it was and restrict Reyna's search area to a 10' radius around the hide to help her source it, but she did it and I am SO proud!

We did two extremely blind hides in the bathrooms because the people that knew where the hides were had dogs searching other areas. I thought I'd give it a go anyway and just trust Reyna. I rewarded as soon as she alerted with nobody to verify it and she was right both times. I wouldn't recommend that exercise to anybody, but it really showed me I could trust my dog and it was a Great way to end the day!

It was a whirlwind experience getting that many dogs to that many hides in 2 hours, but we did it, and I think it may have replicated a trial environment to some extent...dogs everywhere, different stations, delays between searches, and then scrambling to get your dog watered and pottied for his next run. It was a total blast!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The 1,000 Treat Challenge

We failed our CGC because of self control issues. Reyna cannot walk on a loose leash. It's 100% because I don't care enough to fix it. Even when she's "pulling" I can still hold the leash with one finger so we've just been letting it go. But she CAN walk on a loose leash. On our regular walking route there is one 1/2 mile section where she maintains a loose leash every idea why but she does.

The main problem with accepting a "leash lean" is that it is an indicator of self control issues. So I am determined to pass Level 3 Lazy Leash. AND I think I can do it in two weeks. That's the challenge that is sweeping the Internet....Madeline Gabriel's 1,000 treat challenge . Now it may take longer than two weeks depending on how many treats we go through in each session, and if we miss days, but still I think when used with purpose 1,000 treats could go a long way!

We will continue to work on Reyna's Sylvia Trkman behaviors, and her confidence on surfaces for Nosework etc. but I figure we might as well take this challenge and hopefully check off a level 3 behavior at the same time!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Stepping backwards to move forward

We went to the park today to work on one Level3/CGC stuff.

My plan was to only stay about 15 minutes and work on some relax and lazy leash around the dog park.

We got there and Reyna hopped out of the car and made eye contact. What a great start! Then it sort of fell apart. She wouldn't walk on a loose leash even in the parking lot, I couldn't drag her nose off the smelly ground to save my life and she was completely disconnected. I was angry. We had come out here,I had a plan and she was blowing me off. I almost shoved her back in the car and went home.

Then I stopped to think...

What do I have to have for this to be a successful session? I want her to walk on a loose leash with high distractions...okay so lets look at the chain in reverse. The we will keep stepping back until we hit something solid we can launch off of.

To be able perform under high distractions she first needed to be focused...nope
Okay can she focus under moderate/easy distractions? Nope
So this is not a distraction problem it's a focus/engagement problem
Can she focus when I stand still? No
So lets work on active engagement...
Will she engage with a tug? No
With food? Nope
With food if I run around with it? YES
With her orange ball? YES

Okay now we have a starting point and we can begin working our way back up the list. We worked in our Yes category which is very small at first until we had built enough engagement. Run with food, toss the ball, run with food, pause for a default sit, treat *gasp* she just took food while stationary...we were one rung up...

Play with food, play with ball, stationary food, throw ball, throw tug, she retrieves it but doesn't play with it. Repeat the stuff she will do for a minute, present moving tug...YES another rung up.

Played with food, tug and ball interchanging and then stop and stood still...riveted focus...we're almost to the top...

Now I start asking for some work before I will play. I gradually asked for more work under more distractions, giving her the "go sniff" cue to check her engagement levels. Before you knew it we were heeling in short spurts with other people and dogs nearby, with total focus. How long did it take to get all the way from the bottom to the top? Less than 8 minutes. Plus we had a blast!!!

And to think I was so irritated we almost went home and missed that amazing training session!

Friday, February 1, 2013


Things we have going on...

Continued work on levels, we are chipping away at level three. I have taken a new approach to teaching the relax, because the laddering was just getting quite frustrating. Reyna kept waiting and waiting for a treat so, while she would hold the position she wasn't relaxing the way I would like. I read on Denise Fenzi's blog about her passive stay and decided to start incorporating some of that o help her calm down and it really seems to help. She is already up past 3 minutes so we need to start working distractions now. We have a long way to go on lazy leash and relaxing on a vet table.

Nosework- we are training for her trial in march. I am focusing less on finding birch because she does that very well, and focusing more on her confidence with strange surfaces. It's been a busy couple weeks since the CGC so I haven't had much of a chance to work. Right now we would miss out on NW1 if they put a hide on a deck, or in a shed because she hates going in to places like that.

Crate Games - fell off this wagon a touch, but restarted and she is doing very well driving to her crate. I'm going to start using her mat and ring gates outside to start building some generalization. I think she really needs this and it fits very well with the levels work we are at right now.

Sylvia Trkman tricks - LOVE this!!! We have been having a blast teaching tricks for balance strength and coordination. I have 3 feet in her food bowl...I'll try to get a video of that soon. This has just been really fun little tricks to work on with no pressure, gives me something to do when we need a break. I don't have a timeline or goals, we just practice a few of the tricks and gradually Reyna is getting stronger and her balance is improving. I'm also hoping this will help her confidence. Also it's a testament to how much more sane she is, because we can shape the same trick for 5 minutes with no frustration and whining. I'm sure it helps that I am a better trainer with clearer criteria, but she is also just learning how to deal with failure and frustration and to work through it instead of shutting down. We are really having fun!

Other stuff- trying to figure out how to play with Reyna without toys and food. I need to get Hannah Brannigan's video on obedience maybe. I am definitely getting better at engaging Reyna, but without guidance it really is difficult to know what to do.

Am I Crazy to have all this going on at once? No I just own a working dog :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Measure of a Dog

Or..."How Reyna Failed Her CGC"...

Reyna had really been doing well in class and practice sessions out and about. Melanie was sure Reyna would pass the test. I had my doubts but held out hope that she could put it all together on game day.

We Failed. Blantantly, spectacularly, beautifully failed. I couldn't be happier with her performance.

We met at Home Depot and warmed up, she was relaxed and focused. Then came test time. She hopped out of the car and saw Melanie...she LOVES Melanie....Melanie is made out of bacon and nobody can convince Reyna otherwise.

Reyna was over threshold without a doubt. I probably could have taken a few minutes to calm her down, but there was no guarantee that she would calm, and there was a pretty good chance she would ramp up more. So we went for it. Reyna was totally unfocused and only cared about getting to Melanie.

We walked into the aisle with four people and two dogs plus Melanie. Reyna obeyed commands to sit, nose touch, down, and give eye contact, but she couldn't maintain it for any length of time. She slobbered all over the friendly stranger, wriggled, wagged and licked all through the petting and grooming, and had to be pulled away from the neutral dog.

Total failure!

She aced the supervised separation which used to be very difficult for her. The sit stay, recall, and noise distractions where pieces of cake.

Some things that I did wrong were...

1. I should have done some advance and retreat instead of just plowing through the exercises, but I didn't you could.
2. I should have given Reyna more leash to work with. I knew she was distracted so I shortened up the leash, but that never helps her calm down, so I dont know why I tried it.
3. I need to condition a secondary reinforcer that I can use when ood and toys aren't around. She needs that feedback, but since I had not conditioned one I had nothing to give after each exercise if she had done well. In normal circumstances a smile with a  "gooooooood" will help bridge between primary reinforcers, but I haven't specifically worked on building that into the tool box and spacing out food and toys more. I need Denise Fenzi to come out with a book!

On the positive side...when I walked back in to be part of the crowd for the next team everybody commented on what a sweet dog she is, just a bit puppyish still. As over threshold as she was she never growled, or puffed up, or got nervy. She was genuinely in a great mood and super excited to be there, she just wanted to say hi the everybody. I really can't believe that we were in a narrowish indoor space with five people and two dogs, and Reyna's biggest problem was that she was "a bit puppyish still".

None of the other class dogs passed, they all had the same issues....lack of self control. It is really exciting to see that Reyna fits right in with all the other dogs. Forget about the fact that it took two years of intense work to get us here. We made it.

I am not disappointed at all with the result of the test. I believe it is an accurate measure of where we
are and what we need to work on. I feel like I've been given a second chance, Reyna is back to where
she was at about 7 months, before the reactivity reared its ugly head. She is an excitable dog with a tendency for her brain to go out her ears. This time we are going to do things right and fix the self control issues first and foremost.

I have learned so much through this journey from neurotic beast who couldn't relax, to the joyful happy dog I have now. We have so much more to learn, and Reyna will always be a sensitive dog who is harder to handle than the golden next door. I wouldnt trade her and her lessons for any dog. I cannot thank her enough for all that she teaches me, and for this second chance at ....everything!