Friday, November 28, 2008

Photos from around here...

I've been regularly grabbing the camera to take shots of the boys - but haven't had time time to download them from the camera and then upload them to the blog (or website)...Just not enough hours in the day I guess...I'll make more frequent uploads a resolution for next year!

When my folks moved out of state I got a bunch of furniture that FILLED my garage. I got the garage cleaned out now and moved this chair and ottoman into the den. Teller decided that the ottoman was fun because it rolled - which was hysterically funny - but also that the upholstered chair was a pretty cozy place to take a nap.

This series is from a few weeks ago - October-ish - look at how everything is GREEN!!! The squirrels were extra busy making their rounds that day which kept Teller pretty busy defending his yard.

The funny thing is that as I was working through a customer problem this afternoon a squirrel climbed up on the door and made a knocking sound - Teller was NOT impressed.

See what happens when you start using peanut butter as a reward for toenail dremeling time? The only drawback is that everyone who opens your fridge wants to know why you have peanut butter in syringes...

Part two - aren't they cute?

And here's a shot of the three boys passed out on the couch the other night...From left to right: Q, Teller and Murphy.

As always you can view the full-sized images by clicking on them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being proactive vs punitive

I responded to a thread on one of the golden lists I subscribe to and it gave me a really good "buzz phrase" that I really like - it goes along with my theory and methods of training my dogs. There is a bit of background to this story so I'll give you the sequence of events.

The list member has a young dog (20 months or so), he has his CD and had two CDX legs - she's really been pushing him pretty hard and seems to be more proud of that he's gotten these accomplishments at a young age than she is about the titles. Which is weird and I think a novice mistake - it'll eventually bite you in the ass - it's just a matter of time. The first post was a month ago, her dog went around the high jump in training (instead of jumping back over with the dumbbell). Her correction at that time was to go to him, scruff him and really physically correct while scolding him.

Anyone who knows me knows this isn't my cup of tea - I'm not a purely positive trainer but I'm not physical with my dogs and I make darn sure that if I am going to fix something I'm careful to make sure my dogs understand what it was that I didn't like. The net result with this woman's correction was that her dog developed a fear of the dumbbell - didn't want ANYTHING to do with it. She had another show going for her third CDX leg the following weekend and wanted a magic fix for the problem. The consensus was that she needed to back way up and reintroduce the dumbbell as if it were a new thing and that she should probably scratch the trial that weekend. She did some pinch work and eventually got the dog to pick up the dumbbell, went to the show and eeked out a qualifying score.

The most recent post had to do with a practice session where her dog left her on the directed jumping exercise to go visit dogs outside the ring, played through the ring gating, then jumped over the ring gating to play with the other dogs. Her correction for this was to go outside the ring, grab her dog and do another scruff shake and yell at him. The context for this post was basically "he jumped the ring gating - I don't want him to do that when we trial" and "how do I teach him not to jump the ring gating - I wish it had fallen over and scared him". You wanted him to be scared by ring gating?

There were some people who responded with "wow, your dog is really pretty" or "he was just trying to make friends". My feeling was basically that she dropped the ball and corrected her dog unfairly AND at the wrong time. She could have called him after he took the jump, stated to lose attention, when he started running towards the gating or she could have called him as he was greeting the other dogs (before he jumped the gating). She didn't say anything to him until he was outside the ring and when she did she grabbed him and punished him. So what does a dog think in this situation - was he corrected for losing attention? Was he corrected for greeting and playing with other dogs? Or was he corrected for allowing his mom to approach him? Hummm - me thinks it might be the latter.

My first thought was "why the hell is she using physical corrections again when she knows that shuts her dog down". And then it was "wow, she really turned a proofing opportunity into a really negative thing". My point here was that she had missed the window to fix the problem before it escalated. There was a huge window of time where presumably she just stood in the ring watching her dog make a series of mistakes and didn't intervene. She didn't call him - she watched him make the mistakes and didn't take any action. Because she didn't act and his small mistake (going off-course) became a bigger mistake (greeting the other dogs) and then a bigger mistake again (jumping the gating) she overreacted and made an unfair correction.

My phrase in my advice to her was to be proactive, not punitive. It should have been training! She was practicing not training - maybe standing there like a stump is one way to handle that situation in the competition ring - it's not the way to handle that in a drop-in TRAINING session - or in a match. Honestly I'd fix it in the obedience ring too and take the "training in the ring" excusal, but the other part of this is proofing! I take every opportunity to proof for stuff like that when I'm training. I'll put Teller in stays next to a bitch in season, I'll ask him to heel past dogs he played with the day (or hour) before. I also work very hard to be more fun to work (play) with than another dog. Another dog can't tell him he's a superstar or play the hand-touch game - I can and I do. It's not all about the cookies - they don't come into the ring. It's understanding what the task is at hand and wanting to play the game - in training and in practice!

Anyhow, this is what I chewed on all day today. Be proactive not punitive, train more and practice less - and of course train, don't complain!

Pro-ac-tive: adjective serving to prepare for, intervene in, or control an expected occurrence or situation, esp. a negative or difficult one; anticipatory:

Pu⋅nitive: adjective serving for, concerned with, or inflicting punishment

I think it's hard sometimes to see our dogs objectively - to know what is an honest mistake and know when they're being goofy dogs - either way our dogs do not choose to do these sports with us, it's something we ask them to do for us. It's our job to be "on" 100% of the time - to pay attention to what we are doing when we're working with our dogs - to hold up our end of the bargain. To that end (and because today is Thanksgiving) I am thankful for my dogs - how much of the time they go above and beyond what I ask of them. Thankful that they give me another chance when I screw up and thankful that they keep me warm on COLD winter nights. And I'd be SO VERY thankful if they learned how to vacuum and work the buttons on the washing machine - but I know that's pretty unrealistic!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Indira Gandhi had a golden retriever...and some HSUS ranting.

I ran across this picture the other day - it came in the context of the Obama family decision to get a dog for the children, and what kinds of dogs other world leaders kept as pets...Indira Gandhi had several golden retrievers in her lifetime. I tried and failed to find out this dog's name...

There's a lot of buzz surrounding the new presidential pet - I've heard that the Obamas have been offered strays from Puerto Rico, hairless dogs from Peru (the Inca orchids), poodle mixes (I refuse to call them doodles) and some various other breeds that are totally unsuitable if as we've heard over and over again that one of the girls has a dog allergy. Honestly I think we've got so many other problems in this country that what kind of dog they get just isn't even on my top 10...Can we please just fix the economy?

My perception is that Obama has been lured into the animal rights zone by organizations like the Humane Society of the US (H$U$) - a powerful lobbying group - that breeding dogs is cruel and causes shelter dogs to die, etc. I won't rehash all of the real facts that are out there but mention this - the HSUS doesn't run a single shelter, they didn't adopt a single dog last year (not to be confused with your local "Humane Society" which is probably self or community funded and adopted out a TON of dogs last year).

The HSUS mouthpieces have been very clear that their ultimate goal is mandatory spay and neuter of all puppies and kittens which would ultimately mean the end of domesticated animals as pets in a single generation...Is anyone doing the math here?

As Cassy so succinctly said the last time this topic came up: "Where do people think their dogs will come from after mandatory spay and neuter? The Puppy Fairy?"

We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. ... One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding."

-- Wayne Pacelle, Senior Vice-President oF HSUS, formerly of Friends for Animals; Quoted in Animal People, May, 1993

And then there's PETA - which most people think is on the side of animals right? Not so fast, did you know that Peta euthanizes upwards of 80% of the animals they take in for adoption?...

These aren't good organizations! They are adept at marketing, they are proficient fundraisers and expert lobbyists. So many pet lovers send money to the HSUS thinking that they are helping animals - when they are in fact filling the war chests of a scary political powerhouse.

Why shouldn't we be concerned that the HSUS contributed to Obama's campaign? Why shouldn't we be really concerned when the HSUS endorses a candidate?

Whatever breed the Obamas bring home I hope that it is loved and cared for (though the fact that the president has a dog handler on staff full-time helps out considerably towards that end). I also hope that whatever breed they get doesn't become a fad like cocker spaniels did after Nixon's dog "Checkers" - everyone had to have one and the breed suffered for their popularity - being popular is never good for a dog breed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Baby its cold outside

Yeah, I tend to complain about the heat and the cold - I'm a middle of the road person myself. I have a very narrow comfort zone - if it's above 80 or below 30 I'm not a happy camper. I woke up Tuesday to three inches of snow - not enough to shovel - but enough to make my fellow drivers loose their little brains so driving to work was a real bugger with accidents all over the place causing traffic to backup everywhere. Right now it's hovering around 20 degrees and I'm not happy about it! I came home and the house (which is usually set at 68 degrees was 66 degrees. I turned up the thermostat to get the chill out and it didn't get any warmer - so...I flipped out. Having been through a week of below zero with no heat a few years ago - I'm ultra sensitive to when the furnace isn't on - so I cranked the heat to 80 - and nothing!! I guess I was just too cold to be patient because as I was looking up the number to call for service I noticed that it had gotten quite warm in here - so lesson for the night, be patient (and long underwear is your friend).

The boys are doing well. Murphy is really enjoying agility right now - I've adopted the train don't practice vibe from the Bobbie Anderson seminar and have been breaking things down with him, rewarding more often. I'm switching up my contact behavior with both boys - and stopping to reward every contact. I'm doing the same thing with Teller breaking things down, rewarding more often and not trying specifically to get through a sequence. Teller is also working open and utility obedience stuff and seems to be doing well with that. We hadn't worked any open stuff in a couple of months, but when I broke out the dumbbell and broad jump it was right where I left it - needing some polish - but he understands the exercises...

I hadn't planned to enter any shows until March - I'm not sure I can hold myself to that one - I'm thinking about doing one of the trials down in Amherst, NH in January - knowing full-well that I might need to add a day on either side if the weather gets really bad and we get stuck somewhere. Fortunately Q loves Nancy so if I need someone to do kitty duty he'll be well taken care of...Both of those trials have FAST so it'd be a chance to get three runs in each day - yes SIX runs a day total...With that thought still in my brain I'd better go do some treadmill work before I dremel doggie toe nails!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bobbie Anderson Seminar Notes

Well BOTC's seminar is in the books - It was a resounding success - lots and lots of good information - This is a brain dump of sorts and I'll work through what I applied directly to my work with my dogs.

Bobbie mentioned that nothing happens only in the ring. If there's a problem in the relationship between the dog and handler it becomes magnified in the ring - dogs that shut down, dogs that leave their handler, dogs that lag on the heeling, etc. I saw that concept a lot this weekend - little things like dogs not wanting to play with their handler and a lot of handlers bribing the dogs to do things - dog doesn't come on the recall so the handler begs and gives second and third commands at which point the dog finally returns to the handler. Bobbie insists on one command and never letting a dog release itself to anything. We get into this in class all the time - I really hate hearing people repeating "sit, sit, sit! I said SIT!" over and over again. The dogs tune them out and learn quickly that it's when mom or dad gets mad that they finally have to sit. I've always been careful not to fall into that pattern - but I'll admit it's hard when the dog is sitting on the table and doesn't seem inclined to down.

Play - such an important part of making this fun for the dogs - engaging them and generating some impulse control - The toy belongs to you - not the dog. He shouldn't be self-rewarding with the toy - work around them all the time and don't hide the toys - I tend to do a lot of that myself - tucking tennis balls in my bra and tuggies in my back pocket. It's just not necessary - Teller needs to work around it.

How do you define correction? Interesting concept here - and yes, I know a lot of it is entirely semantics. Correction in the positive training realm has come to mean collar pop, yank, pull, ear pinch, or some other physical method of punishment. Bobbie uses correction in the sense of correcting - or fixing. Fixes don't have the same negative association in the dog training world do they?

Collar stuff...I was happy to see that there wasn't a rush on the prong collar or choke chain - buckle collars were for the most part the rule this weekend - a couple handlers had them - but there were no collar pops all weekend! Bobbie does advocate a fair amount of taking the dogs collar and fixing them - if they went down on a sit stay she takes the collar holds the dog in position and says something to the effect of "shame on you, you know better than that" (in that grandma voice that makes you feel so guilty for breaking the 100 year old pickle dish). Then she puts the dog back into a sit, releases asks for another sit and rewards. I have always done something similar in the sense of dog goes down, help him back up and then reward the sit - the difference here is that I was helping - in Bobbie's method you don't reward what you helped - you reward what the dog does. So once you have fixed the position you let the dog think and reward the correct behavior.

Training vs. practicing - how much do we train and how much do we practice. The take-home here (and again semantics) was that we should do a lot more training and a lot less practicing. BUT - that's an excellent point - and I had noticed a similar thing with Teller in agility - now that he's reasonably competent in his work I had stopped breaking down behaviors as much as I need to - I was practicing when I clearly should have been training. How many times do I do a formal recall with Teller? Way too often - I should be breaking that down way more often - practicing a bit here and there to see where things are - but way more training.

That flows into the next thought: Bobbie breaks the obedience behaviors into many many pieces and said that she rarely works the whole behavior. I've recently (this week) started the drop on recall with Teller - I was shocked when the first time I asked him to drop on a recall that he just did it. Well let's think about the pieces - I've ALWAYS asked him for random drops even in puppyhood - if he generalizes the drop - he'll get the drop on recall. So...I'm going to work more informal stuff to see if I can get even faster and more flashy DORs. This ties in so closely with the training vs practicing piece - TRAIN MORE!

Pivots! I've never had a good left pivot - Not with Teller and really not with Murphy. I've struggled a lot with how to teach it properly and to some extent because I didn't have a clear picture of how to get there I haven't really taught it. Murphy fuddled his way through rally advanced and excellent pivots passing the exercise because of my footwork - not his understanding...I got some great advice here about working from the stand - teaching a kickback stand (which took Woo all of two reps) and then inducing the pivot - damn - it just happened!

Teller is more or less ready for Open - more polish on a few things - lots more training :-) Utility stuff - I think I have a much better handle on how I'd like to teach things. We did a lot of marking this weekend and I'm going to work that through for both the gloves and go-outs.

My takeaway from this weekend is that I'm a little further along with Teller than I thought he was - or he was a little further along THIS WEEKEND than I thought he was - we've got a lot of the parts and pieces, we just need to continue breaking things down - and keep things successful.

As for our homework - Teller and I really need a better partnership - I need more control in the sense of keeping him tuned in with me - he's got this amazing amount of energy and desire to work - but I need to help him channel it - it's not going to work for both of us if he does this beautiful heel work and then lunges at someone who smiles at him as we're leaving the ring - and oh yeah - that happened this weekend and ALWAYS when I'm holding the leash in my left hand (bad wrist).

He also wanted everyone else's dumbbell more than he wanted his own - Wheeeeee! So I think I need to back up here and go back to working sit for greeting - and impulse control!! I might even break out the grandma guilt voice..."Did you just jump on her head? Shame on you silly boy, let's try that again without the mauling of strangers". For those of you in the area don't be surprised if I ask you to throw dumbbells for your dog while Teller and I try to cope with vast amounts of excitement coming at us from all directions.

Lastly I noticed the phenomena several times where people will insist to the seminar presenter (and to fellow participants) that "their dogs NEVER do that" or "he's never done that before" even when we've all seen their dogs do that a bunch of times in practice and at shows...I hope that I'm able to see my (our) mistakes and what we need to work on as we move forward. On the same vein I spoke to Bobbie a bit about pressure and Murphy - throwing dumbbells into populated corners of the ring, tri-colored aussies putting pressure on the weave poles, etc. The answer I got back was basically a) that's who he is and b) work through it. I know that's who he is - no surprise, working through it is hard - because he doesn't "want" it badly enough to push into that pressure bubbles. Yes, that's an excuse and in this case I'm OK with it. I also see some of the relationship issues that Bobbie mentioned - Murph still gets into these moments where he's overstimulated and starts with the tail chasing, or the jumping, etc...What are we missing from our relationship that is causing that? I'm mulling it over and I'll repost something when I have a good answer.

So all in all a good weekend I think. It went by fast - two very long days. I'd LOVE to crawl into bed early tonight but unfortunately I've got to work tonight until about 6am (at least I'm working from home!). At around 8pm tonight I was trying to decide if I wanted to take a 4 hour nap or just work right through tomorrow evening - 40 hour day or 4 hour nap? I decided the nap would probably make things worse not better so...I'm up and will hopefully make it through the next 24 hours :-)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bobbie Anderson Seminar tomorrow...

Now that the BOTC obedience trial is officially in the books (complete with Teller's CD and RN), we've been getting ready for the Bobbie Anderson seminar. Bobbie hardly ever comes "east" to do seminars so we were really lucky to get her. So Teller and I will see what she has to say - Murph will come along too and will likely work a bit here and there. I'm really excited to hear what she has to say about motivation, weaning off the cookie. We're all so wrapped up in cookie power and I think we've done a great disservice to our dogs in that respect....there will be a lot of the east-coast "big fish" there this weekend too - which is always interesting to hear what the OTCH people have to say at this kind of seminar...

Early morning for us - I've just cooked up some spam and some garlic tortellini for Wooie - his favorites!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

BOTC Day Two

The Burlington Obedience Training Club's 2008 Obedience and Rally trial is officially in the books! All of the "stuff" that had to be setup is now broken down and packed away in the trailer - hopefully all of our exhibitors are home sitting on their sofas, sipping some tea and planning to go to bed early and I'm relaxing at home putting together today's video for your viewing pleasure :-)

Teller was FULL of himself today - really amp'ed up and I wonder if that's how he reflects "I'm tired". Or if he didn't get enough warm-up. Or he switched brains with Riva (again). He definitely had some distractions today and once again had a hard time not mugging judges, he worked like a green dog today - which is what I should have gotten a month ago! This is something we will regroup and work on some more. At this point we've got a seminar next weekend and then we're DONE until March. That's a long winter of training and perfecting what we have - I don't know at this point if he'll come out in Novice again or if I'll move him up to open - My plan is to work open and utility but keep him out in Novice for a while.

Rally novice went fine - I expected it to (honestly), he started off a little out of sync - but the way things went he came out of his crate and into the ring without a warm-up (a lot of the novice A dogs had stay conflict so they moved onto the B class without any warning) there was a miscommunication on a left u-turn but we fixed it (without a tight leash and only a single out of position). We lost placement by time but still ended up high scoring golden retriever (more toys)...

Overall, a super weekend - a TIRING weekend - and at this moment (but I'm sure not so much in a few weeks) I'm actually looking forward to the winter off...We'll keep busy - and the blog will get updated, so this isn't a sign-off just a {sigh}.

Title photos by Ruth:

Canadian Champion

~SunKissed Light and Magic~


Today's video:

Saturday, November 01, 2008

BOTC Day One

Another great day at the dog show! The weather was gorgeous and the people were seemingly all in good spirits - that always makes things go smoothly!

Teller started the day in the novice Obedience ring. You know it's going to be an interesting day when the judge somewhat casually mentioned that he'd seen Teller working in the match last night and "he was SMOKIN'". Umm, OK well that's setting awfully high expectations now isn't it? Then as we're setting up for the heel on leash and Teller is vibrating (yes VIBRATING) he asks me "How many cups of coffee did he have today" - {SIGH}. We had some not so pretty moments as he was somewhat distracted by all of the energy in the space (plus the dumbbells FLYING in the next ring). But he held it together, there are pieces that aren't pretty - but he came back to work and I'm SOOO darn proud to report that my baby Woo (still 21 months) managed to get his CD in just three trials - I never would have expected a baby dog to pull that off - especially given how much of a baby dog he still is in so many ways (like wanting to mug the judge between exercise - he was FASCINATED by Mr Whitney!!!

Then off to the rally ring for Novice Rally and while I'm standing there at the gate looking at the running order this woman comes up to me and asks "are you the woman who owns the absolutely STUNNING male golden retriever?"
Me: "Ummmm, maybe?"
"He's the most beautiful golden I have ever seen in my life - I watched him at the NOMAD NADAC trial in August and I was just floored at how handsome he was"
Me: "Wow, thank you"
"I was down at an agility trial a few weeks ago and I was talking to a golden retriever person and she brought out this beautiful female golden and I told her that she had a gorgeous dog and that she was the second most beautiful golden that I'd ever seen - that the first was this dog I saw at the NADAC trial in Vermont...."

It turns out the bitch she was talking about was none other than Teller's littermate Truly!!! What a small world! It was an amazing compliment and I was thrilled that I got to hear it. Woo is definitely winning over the public with his personality and looks!

Anyhow, back to rally. Teller went in the ring and owned it! I made a mistake with the leash and cost us a point and then there was some crowding on the 360 left - which were totally my fault. He finished with a score of 97 and was 4th by time. That was Teller's second RN leg - earning the first one at the nationals. To make Teller's afternoon he also was high scoring golden and won toys!! More than I could carry (he was only too happy to help carry them out for me)...

Teller is ZONKED out tonight - sprawled over my legs on the couch - a little bead of drool on his lips. The Wooie will sleep tonight (a-whema-whet, a-whema-whet, a-whema-whet).

Tomorrow is another day - we'll try for a bumper leg under Bob Harris (we couldn't have titled tomorrow because Bob was the obedience judge at the GRCA Specialty and AKC rules are still three legs under three judges) and try for a third rally novice leg.

We go back to eastern standard time tonight - falling back one hour - it'll be nice to get that extra hour of sleep tonight but the shorter days can really be quite a drag on the ol' psyche! I generally don't make use of the daylight in the early morning - totally not a morning person - so I don't really have daylight gain...Now, if I were emperor - that'd be the first thing I'd change (OK maybe not the first).

Of course I got all of this on video - and of course I put the runs to music (that may be the dressage rider in me).

P.S. - Teller (and Murphy too) is actually tired tonight - passed out on the couch. The key metric here is that I went to take a shower and he didn't move - that is VERY uncharacteristic for Teller.