Monday, April 27, 2009

i probably should have done some training with the dogs today, but when i got back to NJ, it was 90 degrees here too and no air moving at all. it was stifling.

the dogs played in the yard, rah played with his ball, and now they are all sleeping.

i have a lot of thoughts going through my mind right now - things id like to comment on, things i want to say, things id like help on, things i am curious about. i dont know why i dont... im not sure anyone wants to hear from me, or has anything to comment back about. im not sure my opinion would be welcome and i dont want to offend people. seems im always the contrary one :)

i really need to get to working outside. i need to get more ring gates and make an entire ring outside to start working in.

isn't that confusing? so instead, ill watch amityville. good horror movies ftw.

Friday, April 24, 2009

a baltimore update

so here i sit at the hotel room (suite) in baltimore...

wednesday classes were ok. agility - everyone was a little blah for some reason (the weather?)
we worked weaves again, which no one had really practiced (bad us). then we started some tunnel work (and rah went crazy). most of the dogs had problems with sends, and then we all had trouble incorporating the rear cross into it because of that - berlin didnt seem to get to run out that far ahead of me for the tunnel.

then we did some circle work with a pinwheel of jumps, and berlin was just like "what the F is the purpose of this?" and i need to work on that with her something fierce!
after class though i brought rah out before the pinwheel was taken down and rah him through and he had a blast - he was lightening fast, followed all my body cues (BERLIN TAKE NOTE), and i even through front and rear crosses in to cross the pinwheel. he was super, for a dog that hasnt done this in a year!

we went out for dinner and drinks in between classes. nice drunk heeling :)

open class - heeling almost killed me i think. rah was crazy. thats about all i can remember.
except that rah had a breakdown with stays - terry was walking around watering the plants while kathy did stays with us, and rah saw her and when she got near him, he had a meltdown - he flipped out and ran - he was PETRIFIED of her with the watering can. GO FIGURE? i didnt correct him - he was scared, so we worked on touch and then i stood there while he finished the stays and terry walked arouund him and he was much better. silly dog.

thursday -
berlins class. i have videos from all night i should upload. i remembered to push out with her and she was pretty good - im happy with the drive and the attention i was getting from her - much better. her transitions were good too - much better than last week. if i can keep that drive and push from her, we'll be golden. did SFE - she waited as she was last in the class and got bored and laid down, so i started over and she was golden. berlin says SFE's shouldnt last 2 minutes :)

did fig8's - im working on a pop and motivating her through the outer post and she's been a LOT better, driving around.

recalls - she nailed them all, she had nice fronts for them, even if she runs crooked (how come her butt cant follow her head??). then we worked on some finishes - im not fully finishing her, im just doing a pop up to the left for now. she CAN do a pop finish, so i want it from her.

(mental note, need to work more finishes with her on both sides)

open with rah - heeling was ok, we did some work with jumps out and having the dogs heel with the jumps and not take them - rah was wired and it shows on the video :) then we heeled and circled all the jumps. broke down for individuals...

DOR - not bad. still need to work on me giving less upper body movement with the signal.

ROF - pretty good. working those fronts. front front front...

ROH - he did nicely, but those fronts. AGAIN.

fig8 was nice.

utility - we started with a go out game - we all rotated through and did one go out and then someone else would come in the ring. so we were able to work ring entrances and exits, and having dogs in their faces for them. then we incorporated a directed jump with the go out. rah is routinely giving me 2 go outs, and then pulling up short for the third one (rah, who woulda thunk it?) so i have to go out and remind him that he "missed" his toy out there. but other than that - his go outs were perfectly straight, he was fast, and his turn and sits were nice and tight and STRAIGHT. jumps were GREAT too, and the fronts werent bad.

articles - we did them facing another dog- the hardest part for them. he got all three articles right, but it was hard for the dogs to be facing each other (literally, as scout turned she hit him with her tail!) for the set ups, it was a bit distracting. but they worked through it. have to remember to set the pile further so he can run out.

moving stand and signals - i STILL need to work with that damned stand without him moving his feet. GAH.

gloves. his pivots are still broken.

so lots to work on. lots.

im in baltimore for a convention and i feel like shit and is it bad if i miss the conference because i feel so bad? just sit in the hotel room with the dogs? its a SUPER sweet hotel room... its HUGE. and i have a big flat screen tv :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

three more pics from the training session this past weekend marylyn just showed me. how rah is airborne i dont know. but want heeling like this all the time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

a blog award

Jackson, the superduper great dane, has passed along the Honest Scrap blog award! To accept, Rah needs to list 10 honest things about himself. In addition to listing the 10 things, we must pass this award on to seven other blogs.

So, our ten... (unfortunately with no pics - I can't get the pics to embed in the right place!!!!!)

1. Rah is a rescue dog - he was adopted from DRU on April 29, 2005 - the day I fell in love with the big blue puppy! He originally belonged to a Jamaican gang and was found wandering the streets with a collar embedded in his neck, but animal control sent him to DRU which is where I found him!

2. I actually considered for a brief moment returning Rah to rescue, because he was SO BAD when I got him - he didn't sleep for DAYS (really - NOT AT ALL!) and he chased my cats, whined and sighed all the time, and would NOT lay down in bed! And then, on the fifth day, Rah fell asleep. FINALLY.

3. Rah is a blue dobe - which means he is afflicted with CDA - color dilution alopecia. He has a genetic disorder that results in an abnormal distribution of the color pigment in his hair shafts, a dry patchy hair coat that falls out easily, and a general baldness to his coat that will continue to get worse. He has a fairly mild case all things considered, and looks good for an almost 4 year old blue.

4. Rah does, however, have severe allergies. When I was in MA, it wasn't noticeable, but once we got to NJ it became clear that he was chewing his legs raw and scratching himself silly. He saw multiple dermatologists and I diagnosed him with environmental allergies, mostly to molds and mites of all kinds. He lived on antibiotics for over a year, all different kinds - he had recurrent resistant skin infections, including MRSI (methicillin resistant staph intermedius), and I even had to put him on steroids. He is finally well controlled with cyclosporine, which he will be on for the rest of his life. It just costs a ton. Like, a TON.

5. Rah Rah lives with 4 cats, but he would gladly chase and eat any cat outside - his prey drive is a little too high.

6. That being said, Rah is a little afraid of cows, especially when they moo!

7. Rah cannot help himself from stealing food and countersurfing. No matter how much training I put on this dog, I do not think anything will stop him from stealing food, opening the trash can, and eating food/cleaning dishes in the sink. Rah is incorrigable. IncorRAhgible.

8. Rah's best friend is Berlin, and he luffs her lots. She is the only dog that can come near him when he eats, she can lay on him when he is sleeping, and she is just allowed to do a ton of things that Rah would NEVER let another dog do. She's golden in his eyes.

9. Rah light and shadow chases. It's a really bad habit, and if it was allowed to go out of control it would easily become OCD - laser pointers, reflections off watches, DVDs or any metal - shadows in front of lights - he will chase any of them and he's been known to spend HOURS (the entire length of a movie) staring straight up at the ceiling waiting for the lights to come back. My tv is 5 feet in the air so he can't make shadows in front of it, and I have dark curtains preventing light from coming in and making shadows because of him. And forget the cat laser pointer...

10. If Rah is not plotting how to get some food, he is playing with a tennis ball. His teeth are already worn down from them, and he adores them to death. The only thing that comes close to them in terms of squishability (because he loves to chomp the balls in his mouth) is Cuz toys - but they HAVE to be orange. And his tennis balls HAVE to be green - he will not chase or retrieve other colored balls, and he will seek out ONLY the orange Cuz and/or other rubber toys, and ignore the rest.

and I tag...

save the pit bull, save the world
Never Say Never Greyhounds
Good Whippet
She's Got the Look
Days at Daybreake

revisiting sunday

so, i told you there would be an update from sunday.

eventually :)

got at the match at 830, worked it for hours. rah had his utility run through at 1:15 or so -and he was AWESOME! im very pleased, since this is the first time we've put all the pieces together in a show type situation. we ran the A-pattern.

signals were ok - used the stick on the ground and he overstepped the first one, i put him back, reheeled him up and stood him, and then he did an awesome down/sit. i didnt call him to me, i released him from there since he was so good.

articles - the one icky note. set up, sent him for the article and he missed the metal article, sent him back out and he found it. he found leather immediately. i did a right pivot for this today because he's been such a butthead for the left pivots -f or him right now at least on articles and gloves (his two hard things) its much less demotivating.

gloves - right pivot to glove 1 and he was great. it was a PERFECT pivot terry said. woohoo. right, of course. not going to argue with left pivots right now. keep training.

moving stand. stick on ground, stood him - he stepped over it but held the stay so i didnt make an issue.

directed jumping - we had 2 sticks down in the center to ensure straightness, and 2 at the stanchions to give him a target. "looked" him, sent him, PERFECT turn and sit 2-3 feet from the stanchion (which is technically too close i guess, per our conversation after the judges seminar kathy went to with terry, but ill take it!) rah is too fast and too big to start calling him off 5 feet from the gates - because he needs as much room as possible. my goal of course is to NOT have him touch the gates - and one of the ones he did was amazing. did two straight, third he pulled up so i walked him out and showed him the toy he "missed" (tricky tricky mommy!), sent him again, and did bar jump. perfect front, didn't ask for a finish. sent him again, gREAT go out, fast accuurate straight turn and sit - high jump PERFECT, lovely front.

all in all, very pleased with that. i know it will all break down again, but im happy he's at the level he worked at!

berlins run was next in novice - she was a pistol outside the ring. barking, jumping, biting (YES!) - had great attention into the set up. did heel on lead - their comment was she's not necessarily out of position, but sometimes she just floats back 2-3 inches. I KNOW. did the fig8 about 1212212 times because kathy worked us hard - she falls back and lags just a bit on the outer post, so we worked on where i will pop and motivate her and she was ROCKING by the end, yay!

sfe was perfect. transitioned over to HF, had her on a light pull tab. started heeling and kathy told me i needed to PUSH OUT, i was going way too slow. and i was also slowing down on all the turns, which just made her slow down too - she made me do little almost pivots in place for all the abouts and berlin was WHIPPING around them. my only sadness is i didnt have a clicker on me to click them!!! but they heeled me a ton extra and berlin was kicking butt there, tons of attitude. played with her after, jumping up - intermixing tug with juust playing with me, back to tug, back to me.

set her up for the recall - not SUPAfast, but a brisk trot, and into a perfectly straight front. then spent almost a minute just playing with the ring, mixing it up again. kathy said we got her to break out a bit, i was happy. definitely had more attitude!!! we talked about conditioning her to certain things in the ring to expect them to be her reward.

rah's open run was actually the worst of the day (ironic, since he's the one dog showing, and that's the class he's showing in?!?!?!?!?!!?) - i did the B class since he's going to be entered in B soon *YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT< IM GOING TO ATTEMPT TO FINISH HIS CDX FROM THE B CLASS* - did order 3, which would be our IDEAL order i think. started with ROF - terry said some judges will let you heel IN with the db, which would rock! set him up, and he tried to take the jump. set him up again - not a bad front without his box. gave up the db, set him up for the drop. perfect drop (strong signal NO BODY MOVEMENT KIM), and he hit a PERFECT FRONT. terry said DO NOT finish him, let him savor the position of a perfect front!!!!!

moved to ROH next - not bad overall, made him wait for TWO send your dogs (evil mom i am). worked on take its and giving him the db back so he will be happy to bring it to me.

broad jump, he missed the front by a hair the first time, played a game a second time and he nailed the third one.

heeling - theoretically by this time his heeling should be a little more controlled beacuse she should be a BIT tired in the ring, but the converse may happen - he may be high as a kite and be crazed. who knows - we can try! he was forgey as all get out and jumping up in my face, so we did a lot of left turns into him.

ahhh.... dogs.

afterwards, came home for a quick nap and then went to chris s's place of uber-acreage to run rah rah and berlin with bogey, her male. bogey is still showing, and raisin his mom (yes, THAT raisin - blue chip's purple reign and all those other titles) stayed in the house while we hiked. the property was beautiful, both dogs got to play in water and had a BLAST>

came home and the slept almost immediately. so did i :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

a fourth post!!!

yeah, four posts in 2 days. and there's a match today im going to work in a few minutes, so you may get a FIFTH post too!!! phew.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

This is post 3 of 3 today (I'm getting them all out!!!!) - make sure to go read them all!

So Thursday class (remember, im working backwards - ill get to wednesday last)

Novice - started with set up/transition exercises - walking from set up point to set up point, and setting them up, then transitioning to the next set up point. she did well when she was on leash, but when i took it off i felt she was a little laggy on the transition. terry said i really didnt move out while i heeled, and she's right - i didnt (upon review of the videos i took). i wouldnt want to heel much with me if i heeled like that either - its like a self-fulfilled prophecy - shes of leash, i push her back by looking and slowing.

worked heeling as a group while two dogs in the group did the cookie toss game in the interior.
did well - except when i tossed for berlin, the berner in the class tried to attack berlin. she came back to me immediately. heeling looked pretty good there.

worked recalls after - berlin ran crooked (her butt was not lined up with her front feet!) but she ran in a straight line and hit a straight front. woohoo!

she did 3 min sits and 5 min downs without a problem.

Open -
heeling. worked on sudden left turns into rah withoutu any cue to get him off my body. we shall see. did lots of other heeling work - transitions and tricky heeling patterns.

worked fig8 and terry said that i need to push my right leg in training with my hand so that i push into RAH instead of walking to the right - i LET him forge by walking to the right. or does he push me? who knows.

broad jumps were nice. recalls/drops - we decided the night before that my signal involves too much upper body movement so i probably am losing points for rah so i worked on that.

didnt do the high jump.

for ROF - we are now going to be trying a new thing - first, rah only gets to give me the db from a sit (since i got no fronts in the ring). and the minute he outs, he gets it right back. i will do it repeatedly and always let him keep the db. we will see.

Utility -

started with signals. Heeling was ok, and I'm using a stick on the ground to remind rah not to move on the stand signal. terry watched my signals wondering if it was something i was doing, but in the end we decided i WAS using the best signals for him :) he did do some nicely - he just needs to figure out what i need from him. i forgot to bring his clicker out for that so that was my bad. i didnt recall him at all - im not recalling at all for this anymore until the stands are better. no more forward motion.

gloves - pivots SUCKED. i dont know what happened - my footwork was gone, i was leaning over him, he didnt want to sit - it was just all over the place. actually marking and retrieving the glove wasnt bad, but the pivots need some major work. they used to be SO GOOD and now he's just BLAH - part of me wonders if he was getting tired, but thats no excuse.

moving stand - again with the stick. terry raised it up to stop him since he didnt respect him and the time after that he did a PERFECT moving stand. i heavily rewarded him for that!!!!!!

directed jumping - wasnt bad! i was leaning over him for the first 2 looks, and it almost sent him over the jump - but i straightened out and he went out and i turned him and his turns and sits were straight, tight and fast. NICE! did a few and then i sent him over the jumps and THAT was nice too - and when he came in front i backed up repeatedly to encourage him to come in close and tighter and rewarded him up and in my face.

didnt do articles - i ended up talking to terry and forgot. oops.

So -- wednesday!!

agility first with berlin.
first we reviewed what i missed last week when i gave my raw feeding lecture.
we did tire work - recalls through the tire (berlins like a bullet), sending through the tire, and this weekend i should work on slicing her through. worked on tunnel work - since berlin had experience with the tunnel (since one lives permanently in the backyard), we worked on sending and getting her attention immediately out of it to change direction.
worked on the go on cue.
worked on ladder work for hind end awareness.
and then we started weave entrances. i need to start doing this at home - ive been so busy with everything else, i havent worked them at all. will have to do some tomorrow.

open --
mostly a blur. cant remember. dumbbells and heeling :)

im really stressed over rah's fronts. i dont know what to do with them.

the funny looking one

oh, and by the way - pat calls rah the funny looking one. i told him its all part of his charm :) rah rah is beautiful and marylyn defended him and said rah is infamous (which is kinda is... lets not get into the nationals performance)... but most people remember a 95 lb gigantor blue with natural ears. but yeah... the funny looking one :) he meant it in an endearing sorta way :)

backwards in time?

so, its been a lot of stuff these past few days and i havent been a good girl and updated my blog like i should be - so im going to have to go from memory and try to remember.

ill start with today, since its freshest in my memory. rah rah and berlin went out to marylyn and tonys friends house to do some bitework - hes a friend that no longer has a club, but in private does some work and is a well kept secret.

this guy is a GEM. his ability to read dogs - not just just protection wise, but overall, is spot on. he's funny as hell, and i had a BLAST. i really liked him, and my dogs did too - i appreciated how much time he takes to talk about how he sees things, what he wants you to do, and his rationale behind things.

rudy, suzie and gina worked first, and then we brought out rah and berlin just for a few minutes each so he could watch me interact with them. i put them up and he told me his thoughts, and he was SPOT ON. he immediately said that im not getting all i could from them, especially for berlin - she's not putting her heart into it right now. she's more distractable than rah, and she wants to work, though - she has a little more environmental sensitivity in the sense that even when i try to engage her, she's a little more concerned about what is going on around her and ready to react to that. rah he said has that inner fire to do the work for me just because he wants to be with me - he gets out, im here and we're playing and that's all that matters to him, he said - a dog like that he can take far. despite the fact that rah has issues focusing outside, if IM trying to make the game rah was very willing to play with me without concern for his footing, what noises pat was making, etc - his focus was on me the entire time, the minute he came out of the car. he said so much more, i can barely remember. he liked how i interacted with them, he liked my relationship with them, and he said he can tell them like working with me.

he also said straight up, that he thought he would progress faster with rah! that surprised me.

we talked about my goals, my desires, where i want to take them. what he can offer me, where he can take me, what he will and will not promise. i was honest that i told him other people have evaluated rah and said he didnt really have what it takes (especially since i always thought of rah as really male-sensitive).

so we worked suzie and gina once more quickly, then i got out berlin and he got out a tug. berlin came out BLAZING and ready to go - she was barking her head off and went after the jute immediately - he did say that she's working more like a PP dog than a schutzhund dog - she's more interesting in pulling into her, and she's got a lot of defense in all of this - even in a fun tug game. we worked on body sensitivity with her too. she got to keep the jute back to the car and eventually she dropped it, and i put her up.

then the noodle - i told him i was honest that i wasn't sure what he would do. berlin was fired up in the car while others did bitework, and rah was just sleeping in his crate - keep in mind, i specifically parked so they COULD see what was going on, COULD see the dogs get agitated. rah just sat in his crate watching like a good man (how come SOMETIMES he has manners? i cant get the dog to stop stealing food off the counter?!?!?!?!?! but he wont bark in his crate???).

i brought him out and he ZEROED in on the game immediately, barked, and latched on - and never let go. he shook it, he walked with it, he climbed up pats body - but rah never ever let go. pat said that i can tell whomever told me rah would never bite that it was all bullshit, because he can have rah on a sleeve soon - i was amazed. my dog, the one i thought would never go near a male helper EVER, was climbing up a 6'8" male stranger to keep his grip while he pet his head. rah got to hold the tug for 4 minutes because he held it calmly right near the car, and when he did drop it, i put him away. i know it was just a tug, but from where he was, and what he is - i was impressed.

so that was that. im really happy with this guy - because he goes into the psychology behind it - not just working dogs, but its like - MIND stimulating, ya know? we're talking about drives and control and such, and that's what i want from training. i want to talk about this stuff - not just be told what to do. i want to dissect every little thing i do!!!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Let Them Eat Cookies!

Let Them Eat Cookies! by Patty Ruzzo and Jenny Gattis

There is a colossal amount to learn and assimilate about training competition dogs with positive reinforcement. Exchanging food for behavior is at the heart of it. For the purpose of this article, we have decided to address the three most commonly asked questions about food training.

What about the dog who does not like cookies and will not eat during Obedience sessions?

Food drive and a willingness to work for food is present when compulsion is absent from the training program. Relaxed dogs will eat, (most) stressed dogs will not.

The quickest and easiest way to turn finicky into famished is to use really, really good treats to reward obedience whenever and wherever you observe it, be it during training sessions or in life. Cubed roast beef, chicken, beafheart, liver, cheddar cheese, cheese tortellini, liver brownies and pizza crust would all be considered high magnitude reinforcers. For best results, bring three different kinds of treats to training sessions that will be of long duration, and switch from good to better to best as the session progresses. Also, hand feeding every meal for one week will absolutely increase the dog's willingness to swap behavior for food.

Dogs will not continue to work for food they are teased with and never receive. Be generous! It makes much more of an impression on the dog if you reward him with many tiny pieces of food, one right after the other, praising all the while with "Excellent!" "Splendid!" "Beautiful!" "Perfect!" or "Nice Job!" than if you give a single cookie and a "Good." Pair excitement, praise, touch and obedience training with delicious, desirable food.

How do I get my dog to ignore distractions and pay attention to me in the ring?

Dogs who ignore distractions and pay attention in competition have interesting, creative energized trainers who are ultra attentive to them.

The dog show environment is a difficult and stressful place to achieve reliable attention. To do so requires the dog (and handler) to block out all extraneous movement, noise, objects, smells, people and animals. Trainers often think only in terms of Obedience exercises, so the tendency is to reward eye contact only during training sessions. Opportunities to reinforce (strengthen) attentive behavior during everyday life are being missed. Pay attention to your dog and he will respond in kind.

A dog's age needs to be taken into account when determining how much focused attention can be reasonably expected. The mature dog (3 years and up) has some life experience under his collar, and is a cool dude in comparison to the socially and emotionally naive adolescent.

Teaching a dog to pay attention is fairly simple.

  1. Reinforce an attentive behavior offered, whenever and wherever you observe it.
  2. Be quick, generous, variable and unpredictable with a variety of wonderful rewards.
  3. Repeat steps one and two throughout the dog's career.
Reinforcers might include cookies, toys, petting, play, or opportunities to pursue such doggie activities as sniffing the ground, running with other dogs, and even access to leg lifting for boy dogs.

Make watching you a game, not a chore. If the complaint is the dog leaves you during training sessions to go sniff the ground whenever he is not under command, the answer is a simple one. Be more interesting than a few crumbs on the floor. However long it takes, wait for the dog to look at you, and when he does, notice and appreciate. Smile, clap, do a dance, say YES! and feed him.

How about the dog who looks away from the trainer during the signal exercise? Again, wait until the dog makes eye contact, then reinforce that particular behavior. Run to where the dog is and feed him. Throw light colored, visible pieces of food to him and behind him, and release him to it. Place light colored food or a favorite toy on the floor behind the dog as you practice signals, and tell him "O.K. Get It!" when he performs all or part of the signal exercise with his eyes and mind on you, not on the reward. If after all that, the dog still looks away long enough to miss your signal cue, go feed his cookies to another dog! Some say their dog does not care about food in the presence of other dogs. The solution - use better food! When the degree of environmental difficulty is greatest, we bring out our very best treats. Liverwurst, bacon, crab cakes, Italian meatballs or teriyaki beef or chicken will get the job done where a ho-hum (yawn) dry dog biscuit will not.

When and how do I wean my dog off the food to get him ready for the ring?

Training obedience exercises with positive reinforcement is all about being generous, not cheap. Obedience exercises are made up of a series of unnatural, non-instinctive behaviors which are not inherently fun to repeat over and over again. Unlike herding, hunting, tracking or lure-coursing, competition obedience is not in and of itself reinforcing. So we pay the dog to work. We pay him to learn and we pay him to continue to do his job well. We reward him so generously that he comes to actually enjoy the work, and the time we spend together practicing obedience becomes precious to him.

We never stop giving the food, smiles, praise, touch, toys or applause. What we do instead is become variable and unpredictable with a wide variety of reinforcers. We feed lots of treats as we increase environmental difficulty. As we raise criteria, we raise rewards. When friends help us "proof " the dog, we remain the good guy who keeps the cookies coming. We continue to use food rewards during practice ran-thru's with a friend playing judge, and at all match shows.

True, we are not allowed to carry food into the obedience ring, but that does not mean we are without reinforcers in there. Often overlooked is the actual physical presence of the trainer, and the fact that we are allowed to smile at our dog, and calmly praise and pet him before and after every exercise. In fact, a handler who has the same body posture, breathing pattern, stride length, verbal tones and expectations in competition as they do in practice is essentially reinforcing his/her dog in the ring!

It is not a matter of "getting rid" of the food rewards. Once behavior is learned, being quick, generous, variable and unpredictable with all our reinforcers is the name of the game. For instance, sometimes we have the food on our person. but do not give it to the dog, we use praise, petting and play instead. Other times, the cookies are kept on a table or chair, away from the immediate training area, and when the dog does as we ask, we race over together to get the food.

Got a problem? Put a cookie on it!

We are generous with primary reinforcement (food) throughout the teaching phase, and we keep treating through the many, many, many repetitions it takes to achieve muscle memory of the task. We use food in each new and different environment until the behavior has been generalized, and we use even better food (and more of it) when distractions are abundant.

In the ring, it is relationship that takes over when the cookies are gone, and it is previous reinforcement history, clear cues and consistent handling that cause the dog to do his best when it counts the most.

Focus, Food, and Fun Philosophies

Focus, Food, and Fun Philosophies by Patty Ruzzo

  • Ever forward, slowly.
  • Reinforce means strengthen.
  • Behavior that is reinforced (while it is occuring) will increase in intensity, frequency, and duration.
  • Be quick, generous, variable and unpredictable with reinforcement.
  • Food is a powerful reinforcer. Be generous! Pair delicious food with smiles, compliments, touch, applause, and appreciation.
  • Dogs learn by association--Pair all things wonderful with Obedience.
  • To maximize results use a variety of high-magnitude, delicious treats. ie small pieces of (cooked) roast beef, pork, chicken or turkey, cubes of cheddar cheese, toast or leftover pizza, and cheese tortellini and homemade liver, turkey or salmon brownies. How about peanut butter to reinforce stays, or several small pieces of bacon. Yum! Yum!
  • Continuous use of reinforcement, lasting 7-17 seconds, while the dog is in an Obedience position, really makes an impact.
  • Soft textured food (rather than crispy) works best. Faster to swallow and no crumbs falling to the floor.
  • Cookie viewing is not reinforcing to the dog. Give him/her the cookie!
  • In the sport of competition Obedience, there is a process (training) and a product (showing). Enjoy both.
  • Be a handler who is clear, concise, and consistent.
  • Got a problem? Put a cookie on it!

handling for teamwork

Handling For Teamwork by Patty Ruzzo

  • Clear, concise, consistent handling is reinforcing to your dog.
  • Body Posture, facial expression, verbal tones, energy level, positive expectations and clear, recognizable signal and verbal cues all play a part.
  • Attention starts with the handler. Trainers who are totally focused on their canine partner will receive reciprocal attention from that dog.
  • Handler sets him/herself up first and checks own body position for straight alignment before expecting perfection from the dog.
  • Handlers feet in line and pointed forward, shoulders over hips.
  • Soft focus on floor in front of handler. See dog in peripheral vision.
  • Walk, think, focus on straight lines.
  • Give verbal and/or signal cues before commencing heeling, pivoting, and stays.
  • Shorten stride length on all turns, halts, and curves of the figure 8.
  • Double track (not single track) when doing left and right turns, the slow pace, and on both curves of the figure 8.
  • Take responsibility! The dog is exactly where you put him.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

a puppy interlude.

since everyone else is getting puppies except for me, instead you get to get a pictorial of berlins first hour home since i want to relive it. she was so teeny tiny then (ok she still is!!!!).

first, we have good taste - berlin eats her star of david.

berlin plays tuggie with rah rah. rah was absolutely convinced i got the puppy for him. i guess i kinda did? i mean, they are like BFF.

roo roo smacks uncle tyler on the schnoz :) no fear, puppygirl! she says no uncle tyty, you cant make babies with me.

three men and a little baby. :) this is life - tyler was laying down, rah going after his ball, and mercury about to have a little freako zoom session. and roo in the middle.

that, my friends, was berlins first hour home :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

second CDX leg...

ah, so the harrisburg update!

i wish we were updating with a new CDX, but twas not meant to be :)

left bright and early thurs am - up at 5:30, out of the house by 6:30 - i wasn't sure how much traffic we were going to hit, and its a 2.5 hour drive out there without traffic, so i didnt want to risk missing too much of my class.

ironically, OA was the biggest class of the show both days and we ran well past every other class, so that wasn't a concern at all, especially since i was the last dog in the class!

got to the show and they raised parking fees to 8 bucks!!!! OUCH!!! !i parked my truck 1123123123 miles away, loaded up the crate dolly, and moved the crates, my training bags, the chair, etc into the building, then came back for the dogs. pottied them and hung out and watched the end of utility and such - anne (of rah's girlfriend dune's fame) and betsy (and dealer) placed in both utility and open both days - dealer only needs 14 more points for his OTCH - not bad for a dog that just finished his UD last month and has only been OTCH-hunting for 4 weekends, i think ;)

started the class and watched - high rate of attrition, half the class NQ'd before sits and downs.

got to me, finally. i was warming rah up and he was very distracted by drool on the floor (wtf??) but we got ready to go in the ring. set him up and walked in, i backhanded the leash and set up for heeling. he dropped his head when the judge was talking (NEED TO WORK ON THIS) but we were off - and he nailed the first halt so i was happy for that (we had been practicing outside).

the heeling pattern was a tough one on us - forward, halt, forward - left turn, fast, normal left turn, slow, normal, about, right turn, about turn, halt. it was the first part that was hard for a forgey dog, but he nailed it!

fig 8 was ok - one of the stewards was saying something to me as i set up but i just ignored her and focused on rah. i think there might hav ebeen a crooked sit, but i just kept on trucking.

got over to DOR and he did it well - slightly crooked on the front, but he was fast and furious!

ROF - zoomed out, and when he came in --- he was THINKING about sitting but opted to sit REALLY FAR away and then play keep away with the db so i reached with all i had to get it out of his mouth. judge jokes "good thing you didn't trim your fingernails today!"

get to ROH - and i think i blew it here. i dont recall how close i was set up in the ring, but i dont think far enough - rah goes out, but when he comes back he doesnt have a chance to collect himself so he runs into me, and just stands there. judge gives him no chance to fix his front, i take the db, give him the finish signal but he's lost at this point so i goet NO FRONT AND NO FINISH.

go to broad jump and in my mind he NAILED it - perfect front!!!!!

sits and downs were meticulous!!! phew.

we ended up with a 187 and third place - considering i lost SIX POINTS on the no front and finish (ouch), that would have put us in first place. rah outheeled every other dog in the class, and all his other individuals were better than every other dog or tied with them.

so it really was the ROH that killed us. oh well, it was still a leg!!!!!

went back to the hotel, checked in, pottied the dogs, and hung out watching tv and sleeping while they chewed on the bones i got them and the toys - they were exhausted. i got the internets working later that night and played around while the dogs slept.

friday morning - checked out, packed up the car, and went back to the show... again ours was the last class running. rah was CRAZAY. CRAZAY. CRA-ZAY.

the judge had an odd way of doing things, and the stewards sucked. they were late on EVERYTHING.
i got rah in the ring, but had to go the entire length of the ring to get to the heeling set up point. he dropped his head but he was with me - but i want more connection. he set up promptly so that was nice. started the heeling and i could tell we were in trouble - it was the exact "power struggle" feeling i had for his second CD leg (a theme?) - where we were a train wreck and it was just him overpowering me and pushing me all over the place - and he also heeled in front of me looking backwards :)

got to the fig 8 and he did that nicely (i was afraid for some major interference but it didnt happen, thankfully).

drop - looked wonderful, front was straight. im not sure what i lost points for here, so i want terry to look at my signal and see if *im* the one losing the points.

ROF - threw the db and we're sitting there watching and rah is twitching and im not breathing and im wondering why the hell she isn't sending him?? thankfully he held it and i send him when told to and he brings it back - but he brings it back to front and doesn't sit.

then we get to the high - and i toss it, and again the judge is quiet. and rah is sitting there... and he cant contain himself any longer and he just goes...

NQ! just says sorry. he missed his front again, and he cut the broad jump majorly.

he held his out of sights just fine though again!

so, no CDX. i gotta work on these fronts... im racking my brain here...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

an almost trifecta...

Well, mixed bag at the trial today.

First, I thought it was 30 minutes away - but it was really an hour and 15 minutes. BAD BAD BAD.
not a good way to start of f:)

They ran the trial 2-3-1 and of course, guess who the last dog in the entire show is in level 1? of course - RAH!

Rah's level 2 run was first - it wasn't a bad course, and we were motoring, he was ON - and I had some concerns in the beginning about the jump placement but the judge said just don't be on top of it. Then I get to the corner - its a recall, right finish, forward, right turn straight into the jump... and I ended up too far directly in front of the jump and I didn't realize how close we were - I tried to send Rah over while at the same time running to the right to get AWAY from the jump (this needs to be a send - you can't run next to the jump with the dog, you have to be 6 feet away and the dog needs to leave you)... and Rah never saw the jump. At all - he jumped the sign and the cone, instead - almost but not quite? I called him back, he saw the jump and took it (reverse doesn't count!) and then I resent him over (third times a charm) and we continued - and it would have been a perfect run.

I think it was a few things - first, 4 of the 6 BIG dogs in the trial missed the jump - Rah, a greyhound, a lab and a golden retriever. NONE of the small dogs missed it. It was also not the regular obedience bar jump, but instead just a white agility PVC jump. I honestly don't think he ever saw the jump, period - there was no black/white standing out when he looked, and it was white PVC - same as the ring gates ahead of him. I think for the dogs jumping the bigger jump heights, the bar of the jump must have been in line with the ring gates maybe? Also, because of the prior signs, I ended up way too close and too far to the left for the jump. I tried sending him to my right, but my body was going to my left to try to get 6 feet from the jump, and clearly that's just ODD.

oh well.

I slept through most of level 3 (or tried to), had lunch, played with the dogs outside on the grass (it was 65!!!) and Berlin's run was first. She was good, pretty up in the ring. First station was a call front, forward right - the station ended up being right in front of the front doors to the building and Berlin and a bunch of other dogs stared at the doors and the people coming in and out 5 feet away - I told her to leave it and she looked back up and me and finished it up (good girl!). Then we got to the married stations -- a sit-walk around dog, a sit-down-sit, and a left pivot. You can share sits with all of these, so I did. Berlin is funny because for some reason the ONLY time she ever does a straight curl is when I tell her to down from a sit. EVERY other time, she sphynx's -- and it means that when she comes back into the sit, she's slightly crooked. Today, it was a little more crooked, and silly me instead of fixing it before trying the pivot, I just went on with my bad self and her pivot SUCKED (as did my footwork). the rest went just fine, and she rocked her bonus (lateral fronts). 207!

Rah's run - same course, level 1- he was last. He was on, he was perfect, 210. Not much can be said because I didn't feel anything wrong - he bumped me a bit on the inside spiral the first time, but he he responded to my verbal cue to back up.

Then, of course - Rah is last in the class - but Berlin is in a run off!!!!!!! three dogs tied with 209's, and three of us tied with 207's! so I throw him in the crate and get her out and get her going - she's jumping, barking, tugging, I start working some positions with her and get her into the ring and she was great.

She won the run off for 4th place to finish her RL1 (woohoo!), and Rah won the 1B class with his perfect score.

The judge came up to me afterwards before the pinning of the classes and commented on Rah - she said he's such a joy to watch because he's a machine in the ring, he just works his heart out and he's doing it with such joy, she says if I find another one like him let her know because she wants one! That's how I knew Rah had taken the class :)

Anyway, Berlin finished her title but Rah did not - but I'm sorta not sad for a very silly reason - the ARCHX and RL2X ribbons were TINY! like, regular ribbons, not the long, spectacular, glorified ribbons of a CH title that they usually are! So, I'm happy we didn't finish there...

now to find more trials. And to start working more on the moving stand so I can enter him in damned level 3 again and start working on his EX!!!!

I promised Roo she wouldn't have to show again for awhile...

Friday, April 3, 2009

the wrap up

so the classes -

the agility class first - started with of course a review of last week - and im ok to start naming berlins target and sending her to it, and she showed me how to reward at the target since berlin was so OCD with targeting that she would run out and back to me as soon as she touched it/got the click.

worked front crosses straight and with a turn, and then started rear crosses. berlin is rough turning to the left for some reason, but is great to the right. will have to work on that - im teaching her to spin as well, should help with that. showed our wraps and our front crosses around the stanchion and she was great with it -- then we started some contact obstacle work. for starters, its taking the board and working front feet on it - berlin got that in two clicks, so we aimed for all feet on there - by next class i should have her on the box, doing stationaries on it.

we also have homework to work on teaching them to back up, something i never bothered to teach her. rah had learned how to back up in heel at one point (though he's since forgotten) - but he backs up in front of me. so today at work got the clicker out and in 5 clicks she's backing up - she's so wickedly smart with that clicker.

open with rah - heeling killed me. rah's heeling is forgey mcforgerston again, and im killing myself. it was left boxes for me nonstop and he's still all over me. heads up doesnt mean up my ass! need to work on that, work HARD. worked individuals - put the "bite your butt" game into the broad jump and he was like WHOA, worked the drop with some heavy distraction - so heavy in fact, that karin threw a db and hit him while i left him in the wait and he just sat there and held that wait (WHAT A GOOD BOY).

during the ROH i threw the db and it was too close to the jump, so i platzed him and went out to get the db (practicing for screwed up throws in the ring) - apparently when i was out there i dropped my clicker as well. so i opted to leave it out there for distraction, and sent him for the db on the second throw. then, being lazy, i sent him after the clicker - and of course, being the good boy, he retrieved it. what good is an obedience dog if they cant retrieve .

not much else in that class - moving to thursday. dogs were tired and clean since i had to bathe them after their jaunt in the lake during their hike.

berlins class was first. we played some games working on left and right finishes and getting fast snappy starts into the positions. also worked some heeling - she was good for the most part, but she gets tired fast when shes tired (wow what a statement)- we had the metronome going and it helped when we heeled in smaller groups, playing first and going straight into fast short stretches of power heeling.

then we went to mega-fig8's - 4-5 posts and we had to go around them all and cirlce them all. she still lags a big on the outer post - i verbally psyched her up and she did really well for it - but i want to work that more on that. maybe give her some sort of other body cue its coming.

did a quick recall and she was awesomely straight on the front, woohoo! i didnt do stays with her, i opted to do rah instead, because we had things going on behind him and need to practice for next week.

rahs open class - heeling - terry says to start double leashing him again because he's just becoming a butthead. played individual games again, and worked attention games with the db and handing it off to people, having the judge come up and take it, hand it back, and walk around us while they are retrieving it and holding it in front. rah was good for it, even though my judge was lydia and she was standing on top of him. rest of class uneventful.

utility - started with go outs - rah did awesome go outs again - we had toys all over the floor. if he looked down at them, i told him to leave it, focus back on me, and remark the go out spot. he went straight out and did 6-7 turn and sits - at one point, he hit his butt on the stanchion but still sat - on the next one he didnt want to go all the way out, but i just popped him out there and the next time he did go out. and MIRACLE OF MIRACLES he did two directed jumps perfectly WITH the go outs!!! woohoo!

did circle of gloves while others worked go outs - i just tossed gloves and heeled him around them to work on his attention while his beloved glovies were on the floor, reinforcing that despite the fact that he knows he needs to retrieve them he still needs to look at me. i just sent him for random ones, but his marking was spot on and he retrieved well.

signals - the stand is killing us because he's moving his front feet - we put a bar out and i worked hard on reminding him of his moving feet, and we seemed to make some progress. i may try to rename this and capture it while doing some opposition work... i havent decided. his actual signals once we got to them were nice - i need to stop calling him to me though. didnt work moving stand because of his stand issue.

articles - did 4 , with heavy distraction. he got 3 of the 4 - two were easy picks, he got them right off some how, barely had to work the pile. on the first leather, he was working the pile really well and there was a band and he looked up, and then when he looked down he just grabbed the one under him, like he forgot what he was doing. the second leather article we did he worked the entire pile and found it. even with a large monkey stick (3 feet long1) 4 inches from the pile!!!!

i think thats it. i need to figure out some show schedules for the upcoming months. i also need to start thinking about what i am going to be showing in at nationals...

which reminds me - tonight i want to work on those front exercises that neversaynever had on her blog...
and work berlins right cirlces.