Wintery Training

Jet and Cookies
Well it’s that time of year for sure. Snow is on the ground, and it’s wet and icky outside. So I have had to move my training indoors. Fortunately we got a lot of training in last summer. I think Jet and Tatum both have a really good handle on agility, and next year they are both going to be competing on a regular basis. I suspect that Jet will move up in the ranks faster than Tatum. But I’ll be proud of them both no matter how they do!

So the indoor training goals for this winter include the following….
1. Scent Articles for Jet and Chase: They are both doing really well when there is cheese or some sort of food on the bit, but when it’s gone, they aren’t doing so well. So I’m going to clicker train the scented articles with both the boys, so they understand what they are supposed to be doing. I’m getting this from Clicker Training for Obedience by Morgan Spector. I like the book, and I think it’ll work well for them.
2. Send to the Back of the Jump: Doing this just with Jet. He needs to learn the skill of being sent to the back of a jump, then coming around to jump it towards me. It does seem this is getting more common in trials. It’s a skill we need and he’s catching on fast.
3. K9 Nose Work Boxes etc: Working this with all the dogs! They love it. Moving from boxes to other obstacles like chairs and stuff too. I also hope to put the scents in this too soon. Birch, Anise, and Clove.
4. Back Up: Jet still doesn’t know how to go backwards. The rest of my dogs do, so this is on the list to teach him!

And hmm… now I forget what else is on my list that’s stuck on the fridge in the kitchen. But those articles are going to take some time, I think. And they are fun! Maybe I need go get some document scanning going so I can make copies of my training list and put one at work too.

Oh and this picture? This is jet ‘helping’ us make Christmas Sugar Cookies yesterday. He’s such a goof. It was really hard for him not to eat all that dough, even though I told him he’d get super sick! 🙂

Always on Cue, Only on Cue

The Dog Park Okay so this part of clicker training has escaped me from the first day I started clicker training. yeah I know I’m a dork sometimes. It’s really hard for me to learn out of a book. I love to read, I love to learn about dog behavior and clicker training and how it works… there’s just a lot of it that I have to have someone answer my questions directly or else I get lost.

It’s the same with my work. I can’t learn programming out of a book. Oh.. I can learn a fair amount, but to really know it, I really have to work in a class or with a teacher.

So today during our chat discussion for my Cyber Agility course, our instructor, Helix, explained what I have been missing for years. So don’t laugh just listen. LOL

My dogs are great at offering behaviors. The offer all over the place and I’ve never understood how to get them to stop offering and only do the thing on cue! So she said… are you ready for the revelation? Wait for it….

Stop clicking the offered behavior! LOL yup, simple as that. Only click when you give the cue for the behavior, not the offering of it. Okay so see, maybe I’m just a dork, and never got that before. But now I get it and I’m excited about trying it! Though I feel kinda mean about not clicking, but Helix also said it’s just giving the dog information by not clicking. There’s no need to feel mean!

Today we went to the dog park too, and I lost Tatum for about 20 minutes. Ugh.. she is a dork. The picture above is when we just got there. I wish I could take all six dogs but I can’t handle that many just on my own, especially when I have to keep a close eye on Tatum. Not that I did good at it anyway. 🙂 Someone found her, called home from her tag, and my husband gave her my cell phone number and she called my cell and she told me where my brat girl was. LOL. She even got stuck in the stream and a nice gentleman pulled her out. That Tatum… she is a brat! I love her! Fortunately I didn’t get any Plantar Fasciitis on the walk.. lol, my feet are good an healthy! And my sprained ankle hardly hurts at all anymore.

Control Unleashed Seminar

This weekend I’ll be at a Control Unleashed seminar both on Saturday and Sunday. I’m looking forward to it. I will admit, I haven’t read the entire book, but I’ve skimmed most of it. It is not really an easy read, if you ask me. 🙂 It’s here in Utah. Up in Farmington. I’m in Salt Lake City so I have to drive each day, but it’s not a bad drive and I’ll be carpooling. I’ll be driving with two people, my friend Marie who is coming up from Richfield, and Helix Fairweather who is a well known and excellent clicker trainer based in Oregon. I’m really excited to get to know her better! I am planning on signing up for her Cyber Agility class online to work with Tatum (maybe Muffit too?). I really need to get going with Tatum my collie girl in agility!

Maybe they will sell cheap t-shirts for CU this weekend… lol I might buy one so I can wear it around! But I am really looking forward to the hands on experience. Even though I’m going to audit. Still I hope to learn a lot, especially about what to do with Muffit. Oh I took Muffit to my friend Christy’s last night and I will blog more about that later! I have to get Lucy fed, go see a new park for flyball practice we may practice in, see a little or Border Collie puppies (sooo excited!) get some work in, and then clean up the house a little.

Busy day, as usual. 😉

Trying this Control Unleashed Thing on Muffit

Muffit So the new big hit in the dog sport, behavior, and training world is Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. It’s a book, and the author has also been doing seminars around the country. She is coming here to Salt Lake City, Utah, in October of this year. She started her program by teaching classes to humans and their dogs in order to help the dogs calm down, focus, and work smarter.

I am reading her book. She has a lot of good points. There is a lot of trouble in the dog sport world, especially in agility now, where dogs are pretty darn wild and out of control. They don’t focus very well, and they have been coined ‘train wrecks’ a time or two. This can be dangerous, too. Especially if a dog falls off the dog walk in uncontrolled haste to get to the other end. Or the A-Frame, or flies off the teeter unsafely. In agility, not only do we want speed, we want control and accuracy. A balance of these things are critical for a fun, safe sport.

Anyway, so I have been taking Muffit to some dog events to get him used to the situations. However, he is very overstimulated. He is frantic. Especially when he sees other dogs. He doesn’t pay much attention to me, and he’s quite unable to focus on anything but the other dogs. He is nice to them, he just wants to say hi to all of them. And when there are 80+ dogs there, that’s pretty impossible.

So I’m about half way through Control Unleashed. I guess I don’t really get the passive exercises. Either that, or I find them boring. But the theory is, as I understand it, to teach the dog to be able to relax and be calm. Because a calm dog can think. And learn. And then transport this calmness to other situations.

Muffit CampingSo Muffit and I sat on our mat today and I stroked him, rubbed his ears, and did some TTouch on him. He relaxed and seemed to like it. Then we got up and did some sits and downs and shakes, things he knows really well. He did get pretty excited when he was doing these and would paw at me and be cute. And I know he loves to learn and clicker train, and I really want to give that to him, too. So I’m not sure if I should practice calming exercises and teach him things in the same training session, or different training sessions. But I really, really don’t want to stop clicker training him. He works just fine at home, he is learning the jump for flyball, and the spring over and back over the jump, and he likes it. And he’s not frantic.

I guess it’s hard for me to see moving the calming exercises from inside the boring house, to outside. If we do this and get good at it, then i move outside… if a dog walks by he still, I think, will get frantic. I’m not sure. But if he does get frantic, we would go inside (remove him from the situation) and then do some calming exercises to calm him down again. And see what distance he can take from another dog before he gets too excited, barking and jumping and pulling at the leash. Then always keep him under that threshold.

I will try this and see what happens. I’m impatient, I will admit it, and want quicker results than this. So I’m asking lots of opinions on what I should do with Muffit. I want him to be happy and calm and well adjusted. Which he is not.. yet. He is happy and calm at well adjusted at home, and he does love walks, but the stimulating environments of flyball and agility are a bit much for him… as a border collie he has a lot of energy, and I will work with that. And I think he has some Australian Shepherd in him, too. It’s sad that we got this broken dog we now have to fix. And he’s about five years old. Poor guy. but we’ll fix him up, no doubt!

He’s different from the collies. I’m glad that Tatum, although she’s frightened in new situations, she is not frantic and she’s pretty much able to think.

Like I have said in the past, it’s really hard for me to learn from a book. But I will try. And I will keep talking to people about all this, too.

Clicking that Rear End

In my continuing pursuit of finding a reliable, solid, positive way to clicker train the flyball box, Tatum is being my experimental dog. She is so smart. She is doing great with her mat. I’ve changed the criteria so now she has to lie down on the mat, as I want that to be her default behavior. She’s getting it. The look on her face when she stands on the mat and gets no click is just priceless. 🙂 She is figuring out that criteria changes, gets harder!

She is reliably pawing my hands now. And, of course, she’s using that behavior to try to get anything else, too. So that is going to have to go on cue very soon, so it ALWAYS happens on cue, and ONLY happens on cue. You know dogs and their feet. Just like us monkeys sometimes!

She is also reliably touching a white piece of cardboard with her front feet. She’s getting both on, though slightly, as it’s small. I need to find a phone book. We just usually throws ours away now and use the internet to find phone numbers.

I really want her to have exceptional rear-end awareness. And so I have a special toy (it was all I could find last night) that I put up to her back hips and click/treat. So she knows that the toy (I need a good unique stick with a shape on it to do this, really) touching her hip gets a reaction. Eventually, though it might take a while, I want her to move her hip toward the target so she knows she is moving that back end for her reward.

I’m also clicking and treating her for when I touch her feet, all four of them. This, of course, will not only be useful for flyball, but also for obedience and trimming those darn toenails, which she hates so much. Last night she was starting to hold still for me as I touched a foot. Sometimes I would lift it off the ground, sometimes not. Before I would C/T for only when I touched them, didn’t matter if she moved away. Now I’m only C/T when she doesn’t move away. And she’s catching on. And she’s not dying when her feet are touched. 🙂

What I’ll do after she has that rear-end awareness is get her to touch a foot target with her back foot on the ground. And then I can put it up on the box, and maybe pair it with the front foot touch. Probably I’ll do this on the flat first… front foot touch, rear foot touch, click treat. When she is dong that, up on the flyball box it will go. And I want her high on that box. And pushing off with her rear.

I have confidence this is going to work. It might be slow, but she’s not built like a border collie and she’s really going to need that rear end push off on the box. She’s my smooth collie girl, and I’m really having fun shaping this with her. And she is too. Last night, she didn’t want training to stop!