Sunday, July 31, 2011

Green Mountain Golden Retriever Club - July 29-31, 2011

LOVE the home shows - don't always do so well at the home shows, but I DO enjoy sleeping in our own beds, swimming in our own pool, BBQing for friends here and of course the drive home!!! Some results from the weekend:

Friday - mid 80's, pretty humid. We were inside this weekend, but no AC so the humidity was uncomfortable.
FAST - Q for Teller first thing - 77 points in 32.12 seconds, good enough for 1st place and high scoring golden retriever.
Standard - we had a bar down into a corner. I had rear-crossed the jump prior to the double and I think he felt the pressure of a corner/ring crew/spectators and just ticked the double. It was a hard tick and the bar came down.
JWW - Another bust with another bar - this one 100% on me. Teller was a bit sluggish on this run and in one spot where I had planned to rear I wasn't in a position to do so with him with me (not ahead of me), I compensated by rearing the next jump - which worked, but put me in a really bad place for a front cross on the next one. Jumping into me the bar came down. Two bars in one day - very un-Woo like!

Saturday - mid-80's low humidity.
JWW - I really like starting the day with JWW, I believe it was David Hirsch who said "it's like eating dessert for breakfast". Teller had a lovely run for a Q, 9 points, 3rd place and high scoring golden
Standard - it was a lovely, perfect run until the last three obstacles - chute,  90 degree right turn to a wing, 90 degree left turn to the triple. My intention was to serp' the line, but after watching much faster 20" dogs and handlers blow the line over and over again I decided to try to get a front cross in there. I really SHOULD have gotten in there and reared the wing and then picked him up for the triple. The best laid plans....No QQ.

Sunday - mid 80's, moderate humidity.
T2B - Our first real T2B run, we've previously run it in demo's but not since July 1st. Teller did well and actually had the T2B well through the 24" class, but finished with a 2nd place, 9 T2B points and high scoring golden.

Standard - Finally our standard Q. Nice run, I felt like Woo was a little slower than normal, but he was methodical, kept all the bars up and his handler didn't do anything stupid :-) 4th place for this run, 7 MACH points and high scoring golden.

JWW - Nice jumpers run, smooth and flowing. Good enough for another 6 points and high scoring golden.

The runs from the weekend:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett was another out of the park winner from the New York Times Bestseller list, my first read (listen) from author Ann Patchett, but likely not my last!

The Publishers' Summary:

Ann Patchett raises the bar with State of Wonder, a provocative and ambitious novel set deep in the Amazon jungle.
Research scientist Dr. Marina Singh is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have disappeared in the Amazon while working on an extremely valuable new drug. The last person who was sent to find her died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding answers to the questions about her friend's death, her company's future, and her own past.
Once found, Dr. Swenson is as imperious and uncompromising as ever. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina.
State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the listener into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side.

The premise pretty much had me hooked from the get-go, though it's hard to put my finger on what exactly it was in the publishers' summary that enticed me to spend the audible credit.

I loved the characters in State of Wonder - the uniqueness of each, the strength of boy Dr. Swensen and of Marina Singh - the fallibility of Mr. Fox, the broken-hearted widow. Each were so genuine and plausible. Not once did I doubt the sincerity of any of the characters - while I was listening to the novel they existed. I started this novel on Sunday afternoon after finishing Watership Down, I finished this novel early Thursday morning - twelve and a half hours of audiobook in four days time with only chores and my daily commute for listening time - I just wasn't able to put State of Wonder down.

Actress Hope Davis' narration was superb. She became Marina Singh - bright, honest, frank - a little naive - and utterly human. When reading or listening this type of novel there's always the willing suspension of disbelief - Ms. Davis' narration added brilliantly to an already superb story.

I'm not sure where on my 2011 top ten I'd put State of Wonder - but it's certainly on there (With Sarah Jio's Violets of March, Sarah Addison Allen's The Peach Keeper, Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches, Jennifer Weiner's Then Came You, Tina Fey's Bossypants, etc) ...

State of Wonder: A Novel was written by Ann Patchett, narrated by Hope Davis and published by Harper Audio. State of Wonder: A Novel was released on June 6th, 2011 and has a runtime of 12 hours 25 minutes.

A side note (why it's worth mentioning in a second) when I stumble upon a great book like State of Wonder, Violets of March, etc in audiobook format,  I generally pickup a hard copy at Costco (if they have it) as well. My intention isn't to read it again for myself, but to gift the book to someone who I think  will enjoy the novel as much as I did, always with the instructions that they re-gift it when they finish, etc. Its funny to hear about the books getting passed along. Lots of "I loved it and I thought that 'Suzy' would love it too and she did!" Hopefully 'Suzy' chooses to pass it along too :-) The funny thing happened recently when one of the copies of Sarah Jio's Violets of March that I gifted a few weeks ago actually came back to me in a weird twist of fate having been read by half a dozen people in-between the original gift and when it was re-gifted to me. Book karma :-)

Another side note, I recently won (by lottery with an entry for buying a copy of Violets of March from Target - which was sent it to my mother in VA) a signed copy of Violets of March and a preview/pre-release copy of Sarah Jio's newest novel Bungalow (release date sometime in December). I'm so excited! Sorry gang, I'm going to keep my hot little paws on those two though! :-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday Sequencing - July 27th, 2011

Since my old GE dishwasher ignored surgeon general warnings and started smoking Monday night, Yesterday evening was spent purchasing and arranging installation for a new one. I ended up with a new Kenmore, delivered and installed (hopefully) within 48 hours of purchase. Whew!

So with adventures in dishwashing messing up Tuesday night agility, it seemed to make sense to play agility's what I setup:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kipling and the Tippy Board - Part Two

Two weeks ago then 12 week old Kipling got to play on his first tippy board - loads of fun and reinforcement for interacting with the board. Here's the original post:

Now 14 weeks Kipling is a markedly improved learner - he's well tuned into the clicker, he's offering behaviors quickly and he's not getting stuck on things that used to be clicked but now aren't. Sunday he worked on the blanket game, yesterday we worked put yer head down and today we worked 2o2o on the tippy-board - all very different behaviors! I love watching his brain work. Tonight's session was about 3 minutes (including my tossing cheese off the playing field) and we had a bunch of super successes.

Here's the video:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kipling's Training Journal: Part One

I strikes me that I really ought to keep better track of what Kipling and I are working on in this adventure of puppyhood. I'll try to publish this at least weekly going forward - with photo and video clips.

Fourteen Weeks:
Sessions are still super short and are broken into formal (planned) sessions and spontaneous (unplanned) sessions. I'm almost always walking around with a pocket full of cheerios (The Spin Doctors have nothing on me) and a toy (love THIS Cuz Dino for this purpose) and a clicker in my other pocket. I am still aiming for less than 5 minutes in duration or less in any session. The spontaneous sessions are closer to 3-5 reps and done.

Name recognition
I did a ton of name recognition when he was 9-10 weeks old in conjunction with loading the clicker. I hadn't done as much in the last two weeks or so and it was starting to show - particularly now that Kipling is growing out of the "suck up" stage.
So, lots of hide and seek, turning my back and calling him - expecting him to come around front and make eye contact, also sit in heel/right heel position and making eye contact there too. I'm really trying to do at least one 60-90 second session of this a day - sometimes in a formal session and sometimes as part of our regular routine (out for potties - "KIPLING!" {eye contact, moving towards me, etc} Click/Treat).
There's a big attention component to name recognition, I'm deliberately testing him when he's in the midst of doing something really fun like playing with Teller, in the sprinkler, drinking water, with a chewie, etc with a "Kipling!" and rewarding handsomely when he breaks away from those activities and comes to me (we're talking tugging, a piece of hot dog, loads of attention, etc.
I'm leveraging the BIG boys in some of these exercises - both of which will drop whatever they're doing for a cookie and they know cookies are available in abundant quantities right now (pocket full of cheerios and all).

Loose leash walking
Short walks up and down the street are going really well, he's hanging in heel(ish) position for 10-15 steps between reinforcement, though I'm varying reinforcement anywhere from one step to fifteen. We're changing direction a lot, paying for quick little about turns and he's working equally well on the right side as the left. Last week I had a puppy that was wanting to cross in front or behind me a lot - keeping the leash loose, but not exactly working with me. It's a stage all puppies go through and consistent placement of reinforcement has refined the expectations and he's doing well in either position.

Sit is getting more complicated for Kipling, last week we lost the sit entirely in favor of the down - which always happens at some point - it's always funny to see them start to generalize: if down means cookies, down must be better than sit, so sit=down=cookie. This is always a short setback and what it tells me is that he's learning and he's thinking. I need to reinforce that sit and down are two separate behaviors. We're adding some duration in the sit, at this point we have about 30 seconds with me 5' away and I can do a walk-around (a'la novice rally) sit-stay (though still not using the word).

Kipling came with a sit for a default behavior, which I've been working to replace with down. Down is certainly a more stable behavior for a default - and a fast down will come in very handy when it comes time for drop on recalls, table behavior, control behavior, settling ringside, etc. You probably saw with our blanket game that he's offering a lot of downs. At meal-time we have a 30-45 second partially  out of  sight down-stay while I deliver food bowls and release the dogs to eat one at a time. In the down I've also got about 15-20' of distance outside with light distractions.

Another one of those "we're gonna need this" behavior. I have some aspirations of putting Kipling into the breed ring before he starts his obedience and agility careers. Learning to stand, stack and gait is pretty high on my priority list. I'm no pro at handling and stacking, but I can get him accustomed to having his feet handled and placed, teach a bit of free-stacking and learn to hold still while "judges" go over him.

Put'cher head down
For the BIG dogs this game has a couple of names - pathetic, put yer head down and bang. When we're ringside getting ready to run Teller's Put Yer head down has turned into 'put your head down (between your paws) and frog out your back feet. This gets his belly on the colder (usually anyway) floor and it stretches him out too. During down-stays a dog with a head down isn't looking around for other options or at other dogs, it's a very stable position. I started this trick a bit on the blanket and introduced it as a solo criteria training session this evening as we were rained out of our loose-leash walk this evening.

   Down-stay and self-control before meals. I'm continuing to up the ante for Kipling around the house. First thing was "thou shalt not bark for your meals"- which I really expected to go away LONG before it did. Now the rule if the weather is nice enough to leave them outside while I prepare their bowls is "come inside and lie down next to the door, maintain that down while I walk over to get your bowl and while the BIG boys are released to eat, maintain down while I walk your bowl into the expen (his feeding station), put the bowl down, stand back up and THEN release you to your bowl". Any breaks in the down starts the process all over again...We had one morning when it took him 10 minutes to get his breakfast, but now it's pretty solid. 

I'm trying to keep life for the BIG boys as normal as possible, so if it's not nice enough outside for them yo hang out before their meal, the BIG boys wait in down or sit stays while I make breakfast, Murphy is released to his bowl, then a few seconds or a minute later Teller is released to his bowl. Kipling's criteria is to maintain radio silence during this time, stay off the side of the expen, offer a down when I pick up his bowl (from the kitchen). Continued down means I walk towards the expen with his bowl, a broken down means I walk further away (with the bowl).

  Keeping feet on the floor. One of the behaviors I wasn't so consistent about with Teller and I created a maniac. Kipling is getting MAJOR payment for feet on the floor and lots of uh-ohs for feet on me. Ditto for greeting strangers. I'm working on an offered stand for greeting friendly strangers.

Shaping games
A couple weeks ago I posted a video of Kipling doing the tippy board, this week we worked a bit of the place game. Just another silly learning to learn games.

Another shaping game. I'm still not putting him on equipment, but since he's so into playing (and bouncing on) the bulkhead in the backyard I decided to play a bit of a 2o2o shaping game with him. He 'got' it almost immediately. At the vet this week for his lepto shot Kipling was offering (and I was paying for) 2o2o on the edge of the scale next to the front desk. He's also offered 2o2o on stairs outside - which I've also paid for. All this 2o2o stuff doesn't mean anything to him yet - but I'll take that as another one of his offered behaviors!

Other Stuff
     Swimming! Kipling has turned into quite the confident little swimmer. In the last week or so he's not getting chilled to the bone as he was at 10 and 11 weeks when he'd get out of the pool SHIVERING after a couple of retrieve reps. He's confident enough in the water and a strong enough swimmer now that I'm letting him swim with the big boys. Occaisionally there's crowding at the stairs, but with a little management it's not such a big deal, the BIG boys are being pretty careful and yielding to him a bit. He's also started working some swim lap repetitions like I do with the big boys. At this point he's doing about 10 laps one way, taking a break and repeating the same the other direction. In addition to his swim retrieves I'd say he's up to about 20 minutes in the pool before he flits off to go do something else (like run around the yard chasing butterflies :-)

     Dremel. Toenails are the bane of my existence around here. Both Murphy and Teller's nails grow impossibly fast meaning I'm doing full dremel pedicures every 5-7 days so that we don't have tip-tapping on the floors (that's my metric). I was initially cutting Kipling's nails with human toenail clippers but it wasn't going as well as I liked, so I switched to dremeling with him. Every other night (or so) before bed I'm putting him upside down in my lap securing his head and taping each toenail with the dremel a couple of times. For the first couple days I just did his front feet, now I'm tapping all 18 toenails. This is serving two purposes - the daily taps are helping me get his nails back into a length and shape I'm happy with - without the stress on either of us to do more than a few taps per nail and he's rapidly figuring out that if he holds still the process is over quicker, he gets cookies for dremel taps and after toenails there's usually a party of some sort (tug, retrieve, super-awesome tasty treat, etc) - today he got a big finger-full of creamy peanut butter.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Things continue to go smoothly as Kipling is more and more integrated into the daily routine of the pack. He's consistently holding his business, asking to go out when he needs to - and when he's outside he's dependable enough to do what he needs to do before he flits off into puppy games (some of which are known only Kipling I'm afraid).
Pretty typical play session in this parts. 

Teller continues to enjoy playing with him - occasionally looking a little put-out when puppy antics become annoying. There do seem to be very few things that Teller will issue corrections for (to date a grand total of three). The first was Kipling jumping on Teller's head while Teller was rolling. Not cool dude. There was a very clear warning and then, when that warning was not heeded there was a very quick burst of motion and noise from Teller, a cowed Kipling (who was SHOCKED) and then the two immediately resumed play. That was about three weeks ago and still when Teller (or Murphy) rolls in the grass Kipling might put his head down to figure out what they're rolling in, he might join in the rolling - but he will not put feet on a rolling dog. Murphy's earlier correction to interrupting a grass roll was to kick Kipling squarely in the head - which was also pretty effective.

Kiping has gotten increasingly bold about putting his feet on the two boys. Teller's response has been the freeze and the eye which has been met with limited success.  Murphy goes into avoidance and generally goes where the puppy is not when Kipling is getting physical (sort of pawning him on Teller I guess). I've done some redirecting of the behavior - taking Kipling's collar and holding him for a few seconds before releasing him again (and repeat). This has been pretty successful, but Kipling is not getting the message that paws on other dogs is a universal offense.

Last week during a play session, Kipling bit Teller's ear - HARD. Enough so that Teller actually wimpered a little at the contact. Teller stopped play - gave Kipling the stare and resumed play. Not 10 seconds later, Kipling was at the same ear with those damn puppy teeth and Teller was not giving a second (truth be told probably a tenth) warning. A similar maneuver - lots of noise and open mouth contact to Kipling's shoulder. Effective correction once again - I've observed no further tug of wars with ears and teeth.

Today, Kipling combined paws on Teller's back with biting his tail - that was the straw for Teller. In one motion Teller spun and had Kipling on his back. Less than 5 seconds later it was done and the two were off running in the yard again. It was so quick and perfectly to the point. Message was received. To be determined if the message will have to be delivered again, or if like the pouncing mid-roll lesson the point has been received.

Also today, Kipling who was in a down-stay waiting to be released for his breakfast went to Teller's bowl instead of his own when released. In that instance, there was no correction from Teller. Kipling was retrieved by collar, led over to his original placement,  put back (a verbal "Kipling, down, wait") into a down stay briefly and was released and directed to his own bowl.

I trust Teller completely in his decisions to correct or not correct. Teller has been absolutely phenomenal with his patience, his puppy appropriate play and his social cues about what is and isn't acceptable in their interaction. I'm in awe of dogs' (all dogs) ability to wordlessly communicate with each other so succinctly - truly in awe. It still stops my breath for a moment as the instruction happens - but that's part of life as a puppy.

As effective dog-to-dog communication is (or can be) I continually cringe when I see trainers like Cesar Milan taking dog communication concepts and twisting them back into human interaction with canines. In dog language alpha rolls happen - and they're done. The motion, the meaning and the implementation is smooth. When a human handler alpha-rolls a dog it's generally nothing more than a really good opportunity to get bitten by the dog. Think about it. Cesar Milan - 200lb moderately tall man has to bend, grab scruff or collar, pickup, flip and pin a dog for his 'alpha roll'. It takes much less time to string a dog up by the neck and hang them - which is probably why that tends to be his defacto standard in training. Back to Ceasar's alpha roll example, in the dog to dog communication timeline the lesson would have been complete by the time the human has reacted to whatever he has decided to correct and has bent towards the dog. Humans are just not fast enough or clever enough!

So what are we to do? Here's the thing - my dogs are smart, but I'm smarter. I've got higher reasoning skills and thumbs - This gives me the power to use intellect over cruelty in my training methods. Also worth mentioning in my parlance 'correction' means 'to fix' - it does not mean a physical or abusive maneuver". I do use the word correction reasonably often in my language, make no mistake my usage is 'to fix'. If I issue a physical correction the extent of it is taking the collar and either waiting the dog out of whatever behavior they're into at the moment (mouthing/teeth on me is one that usually gets a collar restriction) or leading the dog away or to someplace else.

Applied consistently corrections (dog to dog AND human to dog) should be fair and the dog should ALWAYS understand WHY the correction was issued - meaning timing is really crucial. It does no good if Teller corrects Kipling for the mounting/biting behavior two minutes after the infraction occured. Some dogs do seem to do this and that's what I would classify as an unfair correction. My Kasei was that kind of dog - poorly socialized and of questionable temperament and breeding (despite having one of the most popular golden sires of the last 25 years), Kasei would often issue corrections and then several or many moments later would issue a follow-up correction for the earlier infraction. This left the corrected dog confused and wary. The mistake was made, amends were made and BAM! there's another correction.

Back to today - and one of the reasons I'm so thankful for my well socialized and sweet intact male, I have no doubt that Kipling understood that climbing on Teller's back was what caused today's correction. The correction was fair, quick and the play immediately resumed (appropriately) as if no infraction had occurred and all was forgiven (because it was). I have reasonable expectations that if Kipling decides to put his paws on Teller again he might very well take the non-verbal reminder that he ought not do that.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kipling and the Blanket Game

Not a lot of formal training for Kipling this week, all this heat and humidity is exhausting for all of us and Kipling has been growing again and sleeping more - as you'll see in the video he's also growing in his 'furnishings' on his rear and tail. Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Kippie. On Tuesday and Wednesday I worked a little bit of a 2o2o shaping game on the bulkhead outside - nothing dramatic, just lots of clicks and treats for having his two rear feet on something and his front two feet off that something. Ultimately this will become a contact behavior - but for now it's just a silly shaping trick. It's gone well, but it's also time for a new game - the point being to help Kipling learn that offering a variety of behaviors is a good thing and there are lots of behaviors he's capable of offering.
7/23/2011: Look who spotted the hidden camera!

I truly love shaping games and sometimes dogs offer me something I wasn't expecting which I might use for a different game in the future. In this clip Kipling demonstrates a shaping exercise I call 'blanket' - some folks call this game 'place' or 'bed'.

Blanket is one of my favorites to teach puppies and new dogs - it is also an easy 'trick' for trainers new to shaping to conceptualize the steps towards the final behavior. The steps are essentially: 1) look at or walk towards the blanket, 2) touch the blanket with a foot (or nose), 3) stand on the blanket, 4) sit on the blanket, 5) down on the blanket and finally 6) duration of the down on the blanket. The key is to not get stuck on any one step or behavior. It's important to wait the dogs out a little so that they have the opportunity to offer the next behavior.

This is Kipling's first introduction to the blanket game, so you're seeing all the steps of progression here. This is not Kipling's first shaped behavior though, he already understands and readily offers new behaviors when presented with a training opportunity and a clicker.

On the video you will see two separate sessions- filmed about an hour (and a nap) apart. I'm a big fan of letting dogs sleep between sessions, as I think the latent learning happens during sleep or rest. If I have a training break-through of any kind with any one of my dogs I typically crate them afterwards (and cover the crate) to let them process. Does it help? I think so, but that might by my superstition. I do notice that after a novel training session my dogs generally are tired and will nap on their own - crating just makes it easier for them to rest uninterrupted.

The final behavior I'm looking for (ultimately after many sessions) in this game is go to the blanket, lay down, put your head down and stay there until you are released...There are practical applications to this game if you choose to apply them - namely a portable stay anywhere. I don't use it for this as I want (need) a stay that comes without a prop - but for some this is how they manage stays. If that works for them I don't have any problem with it!

In the first session (clip) I'm starting from scratch - I click for any interaction with the blanket and make a BIG deal about any progress towards the final behavior. In the second session (after a couple warm-up click for downs) I up the ante a bit waiting for 'put yer head down'...Note that in the first clip Kipling sort of checks out briefly, getting his treat (which crumbled) and then sniffing around near the baseboard. I don't say anything, I don't make a kissy sound, I let him be. This is Kipling 'Choosing his own Adventure' - you'll notice he checks right back in and makes the choice to go back to work (Good Puppy). Note also that I'm not saying anything (other than praise when I get a break-through and jackpot) - I don't put a word on the behavior until I'm reliably getting the desired behavior for every single repetition.

For my puppy class people: Since we missed class this week due to the heat and humidity consider this your homework for next week. I'd like to see all of you work towards this behavior - there will be a test :-). Homework can be demonstrated at the next class or via video submission. If you get stuck email me - I'll help you problem-solve.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Anyone of my generation certainly remembers the paperback "Choose Your Own Adventure" series by R.A. Montgomery (and others) where the reader would come to a decision point: If you want to leave Suzy on the edge of the cliff and run away from the dragon guarding her turn to page 34; If you want to sacrifice yourself and get eaten by the dragon turn to page 48, etc. No, this isn't a book review - though I do remember loving those books as a child - buying the latest and greatest at the Dartmouth College bookstore and finishing most of the options by the time we arrived home 90 minutes later - this is a lesson on puppy training. A lesson for puppy trainers as well as the puppies!

 Choose your adventure is just that. A puppy - or a dog - learning that he can choose reinforcement or he can choose no reinforcement. Reinforcement could be cookies, could be attention from me (pats, praise, etc), it could be toys and interactive play or it could be freedom to go and make other choices.

A typical young puppy or early learner scenario:
I like using food for this exercise because it lends for high rate of reps in a short amount of time - you can use toys of course, but keeping sessions short you will have significantly fewer reinforcement opportunities. There's potential of course that the play reps are higher value to puppy though too.  

Start with puppy (or dog) on-leash in an environment that doesn't have a whole lot of other options (expect with a puppy that they'll find options you didn't think of though!). Trainer is equipped with moderately exciting treats (medium power) and a clicker. I generally sit on the ground (or on stairs, etc) so I'm close to puppy's level. Whenever puppy ignores other stimulus and looks at, directs attention to, engages with (etc) you - click and treat. Expect a few accidental glances, followed by checking out and exploring (but remember, puppy is on leash so he can't go too far!). When puppy checks out the trainer must not say or do anything at this point. Just wait (OK scoop the pinecone out of puppy's mouth - trading for a cookie) -  and remember that next time you play this game to scope an environment that doesn't have pinecones within your 6' radius :-). Ultimately puppy can learn that if he keeps his eyeballs on you, he can turn you into a cookie PEZ dispenser! 

Once you reach PEZ dispenser status in no distraction/low stimulus environments it's time to take the show on the road! Head off to a couple of places (or move to the other side of your driveway) and work the same attention behaviors. Remember to keep these sessions short and successful. If you get stuck with a puppy who really isn't focused on anything other than grass, bird poop, sticks, etc - back up with your goals. Get a couple of super-successes and end the session on that positive note.

The same basic game is used for shaping behaviors - offer, think, stay engaged, keep trying 'stuff' and you're going to get something. The most successful operant dogs are the ones who have figured out that try = good and mistakes = no big deal/try something else.

The Definition of operant from Miriam-Webster:
1 : functioning or tending to produce effects : effective
2 : of or relating to the observable or measurable 
3 : of, relating to, or being an operant or operant conditioning

Friday, July 22, 2011

From around here - July 22nd, 2011

Hot Hazy and Humid. Too hot for the dogs to play outside, too hot for walks - even too hot for swimmies yesterday.

7/21/2011 - 95 degrees and humid - just short excursions into the yard.
Kipling and Teller observed from afar.

7/21/2011 - Boys still gotta play!

7/21/2011 -  Woo

7/21/2011 - Murphy looking handsome.
And from today, Kipling went to the vet for his booster shot and puppy checkup. Kipling weighs 26.2 lbs!
7/22/2011 - Waiting to checkout at the vet's office Kippie starts offering 2o2o on the scale :-)

7/22/2011 -  Kippie comes home, wakes up Murphy and attempts to settle in for a
 good long chewie. No dice Kip'ster, it's time for your morning nap.....
Tonight the boys got some swimmies, in between retrieves I actually hosed them off while they stood on the pool steps - really cold water on their backs and bellies, a few more laps and a few more retrieves and repeat. Kipling is up to about 45 minutes of swimming now - joining in laps around the pool with the BIG boys.

How to: Porting a landline number to Google Voice.

Totally unrelated to dog stuff, but an interesting (I think) process worth sharing. When I bought this house nearly 12 years ago, in the days before widespread and reliable cell service in this part of the world I hooked up a basic landline service from (at that time) Verizon. In fact, I actually had two lines - one  for voice and one {gasp} for fax. The fax line got dropped years ago, but I've held onto the landline (now through fairpoint) because so many things were attached to that number. So here I am paying $25-$30/month for basic (no long distance) service of which I use - MAYBE 5 minutes a month. The straw for me was June, in which I used a whopping 30 seconds.

There are other options other than Fairpoint around here namely Comcast and Vonage - but switching to either wouldn't actually save me any money. I'd still be paying $30 for 5 minutes of talk time. I had signed up for a Google Voice account months ago - played with it, but never really found it all that useful. What good was another phone number?  When I discovered that I could port a number to Google Voice, suddenly there's promise, but you cannot port a landline (or business number) to Google Voice.
Google Voice iPhone App.

Here's what I did:
1) Borrowed an old AT&T mobile phone. This allowed me to walk into the AT&T store with 'owned' hardware. I added a line to my existing AT&T account ($10/month) and ported my Fairpoint number to AT&T. This took about 24 hours. There was no charge to port the number, the change to a family plan/add a line will be pro-rated by number of days the service was used ($9.99 / 30 days) * number of days on the mobile plan (should be approx 4 days). Because I owned the hardware there's no contract change, I can go back to my individual plan at any time. Port from initiated on Wednesday evening and was completed at 9am Friday morning.

2) Once the port was complete I was able to re-port the number to Google Voice for a one-time $20 fee. I will lose my original 'free' google voice number (which I never used and didn't give out). I could keep that number for an additional one-time fee of $20 (I could add other numbers to my GV account for the same price).  

No more phone bills for that home number. Access to (free) voicemail anywhere I can access email. Voicemail (still free) to text translation in my inbox. The ability to screen calls to that number from anywhere. Free texting to and from any number. If I wanted to use google voice outbound calls are FREE to US numbers and start at $.02/minute to almost anywhere else in the world AND there's an app for that! I can manage the whole thing from my iPhone or through a browser. It's slicker than pig snot!

Google Voice:

Kipling's Page

It was about time to make things official. Kipling got his own page on the Magica site today and gets a mention in the 'about us' blurb to the left :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cool Treats for Hot Dogs

A Previous post mentioned some ways to keep dogs cool on the road and outside - this post will offer some ideas for cool treats for your hot dogs!

Frozen Yogurt
Both my guys prefer banana flavor over vanilla.
Back when Frosty Paws (r) came on the market I took one look at the ingredients and thought "self, there's got to be a better way". The main ingredient of frosty paws is soy - not exactly my impression of a wholesome or nutritious product - I basically pictured a cup of frozen coffee creamer - made by Purina. YUCK.  

There are alternatives of course - you just have to be creative. Back when I had lots of extra time (and only one dog) I used to make my own frosty paws from a simple recipe that reflected whatever I had in the fridge or pantry at the time: usually including some combination of the following bananas, apples, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, carrots or peanut butter mixed in a blender with a yogurt base and individually portioned into paper cups and frozen individually (sample recipe below if you're interested). It doesn't take a lot of time of course to make homemade frosty-paws, but eventually I got a little lazy and switched to children's yogurt cups. They come in multi-packs - which is handy. Watch the big name brands like Yoplait and Dannon which come in weird flavors (who really eats watermelon yogurt?) with HUGE amounts of sugar. I often buy the Stonyfield Farm multi-packs (they have O'Soy multi-packs too for dogs that need a non-dairy treat). Eventually I just started buying whatever yogurt was on sale at Shaws - typically stocking up on the store brand non-fat 6oz sizes when they're 25 for $10. Yes - I'm one of THOSE people who will buy 50 cups of yogurt at a time :-)
Murph with a post-swim frozen yogurt.

Pop the yogurt in the freezer and take them out as a treat when you need to occupy your dog for a bit - WAY less work than keeping kongs around (WAY healthier than peanut butter too) and they're always ready to go when you need them.

The savior of puppy teething! Buy Cantaloupe, use an ice cream scoop to make the melon meat into strips, freeze strips and you're good to go! (Outdoor treat).

I know the dogs don't digest them, but carrots are a handy snack to have around for the pooches. Baby carrots can be tossed liberally on the floor (frozen or chilled), or tossed into the pool to play the carrot game.
Full-sized carrots make great rawhide replacements for the wee ones. Even at 13.5 weeks it still takes Kipling a few minutes to work through a carrot. I don't peel them, but I DO cut the nasty tops off and rinse them before feeding.

Partially frozen fish, chicken necks and marrow bones
For the raw feeders these are great cool and settle treats. I've stopped buying turkey necks in bulk because I kept getting more tom necks than hen necks and I prefer the slightly smaller size of the chickens. Marrow bones of all shapes and sizes are (apparently) delicious on a hot summer day!

Frozen Kongs
Kongs can get messy, but a frozen kong is generally less messy and can be tailored calorically to individual dogs. Favorites in frozen kongs around here include peanut butter, greek yogurt, coconut milk (solids), easy cheese, cream cheese or chevre (if you want to share your chevre) and fruit (bananas pressed into a paste mostly).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams

I vaguely remember reading Watership Down as a child, I think it was in the third grade as I remember Mrs. Gallenger's offering a pop-quiz on the novel. Now some 25+ years later I didn't remember the story, but had this sense that I loved the novel, loved the story and remember thinking Fiver was my favorite. Fast forward to present day and I decided to purchase the audio book offered as part of Audible's summer paperback sale.

Publisher's Summary:
Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren; he felt sure of it. They had to leave immediately. So begins a long and perilous journey of survival for a small band of rabbits. As the rabbits skirt danger at every turn, we become acquainted with the band, its humorous characters, and its compelling culture, complete with its own folk history and mythos. Fiver's vision finally leads them to Watership Down, an upland meadow. But here they face their most difficult challenges of all.

A stirring epic of courage and survival against the odds, Watership Down has become a beloved classic for all ages. Both an exciting adventure story and an involving allegory about freedom, ethics, and human nature, it has delighted generations with its unique and charming world, winning many awards and being adapted to film, television, and theater.

On the list of things I didn't know: Richard Adams conceived of Watership Down as an oral story for his children on a long car ride, the story evolved and eventually he was encouraged to write the novel. Finding a publisher willing to take on the story proved initially difficult, a small print run in the UK lead to Penguin Books picking up the novel and the popularity went from there.

I kept waiting for the story to become familiar, to remember pieces and to find the same joy (from childhood) as the rabbits trod upon the downs and made their home and family. I'm afraid I'd forgotten most of the plot details, which was fine of course as I got to approach the novel with fresh eyes and ears. There is good reason that Watership Down has remained in print since 1979 - it's that good. Written for adults and children alike, I was glad to have rediscovered it.

The rabbits are likable and rich - I could actually picture moments of the perfect fictional father putting his children to bed and picking up the story of the rabbits (and their mythology) where he'd left off the night before. Brilliant! I presume most of my generation has read Watership Down - it's truly worth a re-read for those that haven't picked it up in a while, and a first read for those who haven't read it before.

Narrator Ralph Cosham was a master storyteller, the 16 hours of audio flew by and I loved picking up the ear buds for another few minutes here and there. I've noticed that this narrator had some other "classics" in his repretiore including Orwell's Animal Farm, Leroux's Phantom of the Opera, Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Kipling's Jungle Book and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. I'll have to look into some more classic novels!

Watership Down by Richard Adams was originally published in 1979 by Penguin Books. The Audible audiobook version of Watership down was published by Blackstone Audio and was released on May 21st, 2010. Watership Down was narrated by Ralph Cosham and has a runtime of 15 hours 51 minutes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Training - July 19th, 2011

Massive heatwave barreling at us for the remainder of the week - forecasting 95 degrees and high humidity. That's too hot to work the dogs so I was relieved to have a perfect 75 degree summer evening to train! We worked each sequence for about 5 minutes, I helped some friends with the sequences and then stopped for Tiny Thai take-out on the way home. Perfect!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Carrot Game

Teller and Kipling demonstrate the Carrot Game. One of the best ways I've found to exercise and mentally stimulate a puppy on a hot and humid summer day. A good time had by all.


Kipling: 13 weeks.

Photo Credit: Sharon Pica
Kipling - 13 weeks
Kipling had another super successful weekend at the trial. Not a peep out of him in his crate at the motel or at the trial site. Kipling slept in a soft-crate, walked around on a more or less loose leash to potty and socialize. He tugged with a ton of people, went on a couple of excursions with 'strangers', met and played nicely with kids (helped that the kids were awesome little puppy handlers too) - I'm still working out the routine part of having three dogs - which I'm going to be finetuning for a while I think...Kipling is going out first, doing his business and then I'm feeding him in his crate while I take the big boys out for their potties and then their breakfast. I'm not totally happy about feeding Kipling first (he usually eats last at home), but it's significantly more efficient when we're on the road - at least for now. I'm trying not to take all three out for simultaneous potties yet - Kipling can be too into everything other than his business...mulch is very exciting as are moths, cigarette butts and sticks. Once I add in the BIG dogs and their leashes it's not super productive (or efficient). If I have to I can (like on the way out of the trial on Sunday) and it's on the list of things to work on sooner (than later).
Photo Credit: Sharon Pica
Kipling on the move! And yes, Erica running in flip-flops.

When we travel Kipling is eating Honest Kitchen for breakfast and lunch (SUPER EASY) and whatever meat and veggie mix the boy's are eating for dinner (in the summer that's chicken or turkey). This works out really well acutally because I buy mixes in 1,2 and 5 pound bricks, so it's very easy to travel with 1# and 2# bricks of pre-packaged Oma's Pride raw. - 1# feeds Murphy and Teller a 'trial morning' breakfast on the road (no swimming, no hiking, no off-leash romping plus lots of goodies) and 2# feeds all three for dinner.

Photo Credit: Sharon Pica
During the week I'm feeding about 60-40 at each meal, though I am trying not to mix proteins in the same meal: Thrive and Chicken mix and Embark and Turkey Mix. I'm feeding Kipling about a pound at each meal (1 cup honest kitchen = 1 pound of food; 1 cup Oma's Raw = approx 1 pound as well) - he seems to be growing consistently and slowly at this point, watching his growth very carefully. He weighed in at 20 pounds on July 1st - my guess is that he's about 25 pounds now, but  I do need to weigh him. I carried him around a little bit this weekend and I'm reasonably sure I won't be able to (comfortably) do that much longer.

Kipling has outgrown (or mostly so) the borrowed 24" wire crate that we'd been traveling with, but I think that he's demonstrated that he's trustworthy in a covered NOZ to NOZ crate for now - hoping he stays that way, as it will make my life MUCH easier not to cart around wire crates if at all possible. Especially for the times we get stuck on the 2nd or 3rd floor at a motel.

A couple more pics from Sunday:
Photo Credit: Sharon Pica

Photo Credit: Sharon Pica
Kipling meets Peyton....Kippie says "WOW, Peyton, you are HUGE!"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yankee Golden Retriever Club - July 16-17, 2011

We're back from YGRC's July 2011 agility trial at the SportsZone in Derry, NH. Hot inside, hot outside. Teller ran well in spite of being hot all weekend. Two more JWW legs (6 points and 8 points). One mistake each day in standard - Run-out after a call-off on Saturday and the wrong end of a tunnel today.

Here are the runs from the weekend:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

I wish Audible had a better "you might like" engine algorithm, including upcoming releases of novels that might fall into that category - I'm stumbling upon great novels or new releases that audible (or amazon) really should be recommending - instead of some of the garbage that comes in my "just for you" recommendations.  Anyhow, I've enjoyed a couple of Jennifer Weiner's novels (most recently Fly Away Home) - but instead of a heads-up from Audible that a new release was coming out, I discover the new Jennifer Weiner novel via the QRANK daily literary trivia game. Not particularly helpful Audible (though I do LOVE my daily QRank).

The Audible Publisher's Summary:
An unexpected love story…

Jules Strauss is a Princeton senior with a full scholarship, acquaintances instead of friends, and a family she's ashamed to invite to Parents' Weekend. With the income she'll receive from donating her "pedigree" eggs, she believes she can save her father from addiction.
Annie Barrow married her high school sweetheart and became the mother to two boys. After years of staying at home and struggling to support four people on her husband's salary, she thinks she's found a way to recover a sense of purpose and bring in some extra cash.
India Bishop, thirty-eight (really forty-three), has changed everything about herself: her name, her face, her past. In New York City, she falls for a wealthy older man, Marcus Croft, and decides a baby will ensure a happy ending. When her attempts at pregnancy fail, she turns to technology, and Annie and Jules, to help make her dreams come true.
But each of their plans is thrown into disarray when Marcus' daughter Bettina, intent on protecting her father, becomes convinced that his new wife is not what she seems.…
With startling tenderness and laugh-out-loud humor, Jennifer Weiner once again takes readers into the heart of women's lives in an unforgettable, timely tale that interweaves themes of class and entitlement, surrogacy and donorship, the rights of a parent and the measure of motherhood.

I'm really enjoying my summer novel kick - interesting, yet light reading and a low commitment factor - I can put the novels down and come back to it later.. Then Came You fits beautifully into this genre. The characters are compelling - four women in different walks of life with the struggles that come with their stations in life - and how their decisions cause their lives to intertwine. Then Came You is a highly recommend from me - in the summer novel genre.

Then Came You was narrated by four narrators, each perfectly voicing one of the four women who tell the story of "Then Came You". The women truly came alive through their narrators - complementing their stories and enhancing the characters. The audio production was truly superb.

Then Came You was written by Jennifer Weiner and narrated by Karen Ziemba, Aya Cash, Jenni Barber and Annalynne McCord. Then Came You was published by Simon & Schuster Audio with a release date of July 12th, 2011. Then Came You has a runtime of 10 hours 53 minutes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sequencing - July 13th, 2011

Finally a break in the heat and humidity, so a bit of agility practice for Teller-Woo tonight. Here's what I setup:

Teller ran beautifully, I handled him badly both runs. We were on grass (over sand) which was wet but not slippery, Teller had fantastic footing I didn't feel like I had very good footing so I didn't run well. As a result I was behind, late, etc. Teller worked beautifully and his second time out we worked short pieces - mostly cookie contacts. 

Mr. Kipling worked on settle while the BIG dogs worked - WAY easier to teach settle NOW before he understands the game. :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Flying Purple Puppy Pooper....

The pager had me busy this morning, which made everything a little late - so I was multitasking yard cleanup, pool maintenance and trying to remember to thaw out a brick of dog food (it was chicken and veggies for dinner tonight) - I turned around to see Kipling sitting next to me looking like THIS:

Kippie says: "I didn't do it".
It's OK folks - it's not massive head-wound Harry, it's juicy sticky residue from black raspberries which despite my best intentions to kill the buggers over the last 11 years are in full bloom right now, heavily in bloom with yummy berries that the dogs look forward to every year. It's Murphy who has taught Kipling how to pick berries through the pickers. It appears however, that Kipling has discovered that his short stature is well suited for grabbing the low fruit and getting inside the bushes to get the ripest berries. So I turn around and see what appears to be a bloodied (though very happy) puppy. It took me a moment to realize what he had on him (even though I knew he was berry picking). So of course it was funny - and worthy of a picture.

No, he didn't get a bath - no need. By lunchtime he'd mostly cleaned himself up and by dinnertime (save for the bit of berry I managed to make WORSE by brushing him) looks more like a punk kid with kool-aid colored locks. Perhaps this is his rebellion phase? Next he'll be off to get a tattoo and a belly button ring.

Lunchtime - no longer red. Living up to his status as Purple Boy.

July 12th: Flying Purple Puppy Pooper.

And here's what happens when you try to brush out the chunky purple bits.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Is he smart?

I'm in a world of chaos at the moment - technically speaking. My rusty trusty laptop which I was due to exchange for a new one crapped out on me late this afternoon - about 15 minutes before I was due to walk out the door. The good news is that I don't think I lost a lot of data and I've got my new laptop ready to go here, but I'm missing all my applications: photoshop, video editing software, itunes for syncing my phone, and then there's all the configuration I need to do for my real job. It's a frazzling feeling honestly. Over the next day or so I'll get all my data and apps installed and in short order it'll be like nothing ever happened, but for now a bit of personal chaos for this compulsive girl.
07/11/2011: Even with temperatures in the mid-80's , 
Kipling gets cold after some time in the pool. I watch 
him pretty closely and try to get him out and dried 
off before he gets too cold.  He's finally a strong
enough swimmer that he got to swim with the 
BIG dogs tonight and after 15 minutes or so he left 
the upper deck. I poke my head around and see the 
Kipling sitting on the bench on the deck. He's had 
half a dozen swims over the last two weeks and
after each swim one I pick the shivering puppy up 
on the bench to towel him off. Today he put himself
up. I consider this my not so subtle puppy hint that
he's cold, he's had enough swimmies and he'd like
his toweling now.

Anyhow, instead of our regularly scheduled program I thought I'd mention an interesting puppy topic that I've been hearing a lot lately. It's one of the most asked questions when people hear that I have a new puppy - particularly when I mention that he is Teller's son. Any guesses?

No, it's not "how is his tail" {giggle} it's always "Is he smart?" or "Is he as smart as Teller?". I'm pretty shocked at the question actually and it's coming from dog people and non-dog people alike... I haven't yet figured out if they are asking because they think Teller is a genius (I do of course) or if they're expecting Kipling the infant to demonstrate a perfectly cued tap dance routine on command. Is it a reflection on me as a trainer that people want to judge my puppy's intelligence?  I'm still not sure how to feel about the question.

I think K's favorite part of swimming is the drying off part.

Kipling is still a baby! At 12 weeks old there's so much time for him to master grand tasks. So much of the world is new to him, so many of the experiences and routines I take for granted with my BIG dogs are new to Kipling. And with those variables, he really is a puppy with a puppy-sized attention span. All the really good things come with maturity. All puppies are smart, an awful lot of puppies are clever. If the question is "Is he as good as Teller?" it's a pretty unfair question. Are you as good as your mother? Are you the same as your father?

The BIG boys await their towel-dry.
The topic has spurred some interesting conversation as I've polled my friends who happen to have multiple children: "Do random people ask you if one of your kids is smarter than the other?" The consensus was 'yes' with some pretty shocking anecdotes from parents who have been asked all sorts of rude questions comparing their children - including one about presuming that a child of Asian heritage would naturally be really good at math.

My answer to the askers has been "oh, of course he's smart! All puppies are smart", for the non-dog people, or the clueless dog people I might also offer that  "some puppies don't have smart owners". It's mostly true - puppies are born clever and born with the ability to problem solve, sometimes they don't live up to their potential because they have people who don't train them, don't train them consistently, people who don't treat them with kindness and (or) people who don't encourage them to think for themselves...

And one more photo from today - all three boys enjoying their nightly rawhides before tucking in for the night.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kippie and the Tippie (a shaping exercise)

Up side of tippy board.
A couple of my agility friends were kind enough to offer a loan of their tippy board for the wee one - well at least until Mister Kipling outgrows it anyway (which might be any time now). As a rule I don't do a lot of agility stuff with my puppies - there are so many other important fundamentals that I put ahead of agility skills. From my perspective, Kipling has all the time in the world to learn equipment skills once his mind and body are mature enough.

I do tend to start the teeter a bit earlier than other pieces - and I think that I'll start the teeter even earlier with Kipling than I did with Teller - lots and lots of cookies for stuff moving underneath your feet little Kippie!

Kipling is 12 weeks old today and has been 'home' with us for three weeks now - he was most certainly at 'home' with Kathy too (of course). Over those three weeks we've had some super break-throughs and some sessions where I've had to step back and remove my 'trainer' hat and put on my 'instructor' hat. Ebbs and flows really. Sessions are still really short - no more than five minutes - and to keep myself honest (because perspective is what it is) I always set a timer to hold me to five minutes. My goal is to finish well before the timer goes off - I've gotten really really good at hitting 4 minutes on the dot.
Highly technical pivoting apparatus (aka sock and ball)  

With all of these super-short sessions (maybe 5-6 a day), I've been meaning to do a 'what we're working on' video - the video below isn't that compilation - I promise that will come soon. This video is a pretty good indication that we're progressing on focus and attention and he is beginning to understand enough about the clicker to participate in a shaping exercise*. In the next few weeks there will be a few more shaping (or shaped) behaviors that I add into puppy routines as well.

For more information on shaping behaviors check out this blog entry:

This is Kipling's first session on the tippy-board. At this point I'm clicking for any interaction he offers me on the board. Pouncing is great, sits, downs - all good. Notice that he's offering me behaviors (noteably the down off the board) that I'm not clicking. I love that he's thinking and trying to figure out the puzzle, but that's not what I'm looking for in this session. Here's the un-edited session:

How to make a tippy board (or Buja Board):

The one I borrowed is a bit simpler - instead of the square housing for the ball, it's a ball in a sock stapled to the bottom of the board - which is visible in the video. Super simple to make if you have access to a table or circular saw...

The Carrot Game

And a beautiful summer day in Vermont.. Not a cloud in the sky, 85 degrees, light breeze, moderate humidity- spot on perfect for a weekend at home with the boys.. Given the perfect weather, I decided to break out the baby pool this morning let Kipling play the carrot game. The carrot game is simple: one baby pool filled with cold water and a supply of baby carrots cut up into halves or thirds. Fill pool, add carrots. The dogs have to bob for the carrots.

Teller shows Kipling how to play

Rub-A-Dub-Dub, three dogs in a tub.

Teller demonstrates technique.

See? like this?

Kipling gives it a try. 

And now the boys say 'enough with the kiddie pool, we want to swim in the BIG pool)'