Thursday, February 18, 2010

I jinxed myself

I wrote in my other blog that I would jinx myself if I bragged on Deuce. Well, sure enough, I came home to massive diarrhea in his crate and boy did it stink. I had to take him to my vet's office to bathe him because it was so bad. YUCK! I should have known better!!!!!

Oh boy!

Finally got to do some training last night out at the all-star field. We haven't really done anything out there since probably December so I was excited to see what kind of work I could get out of deuce. I arrived before anyone else so decided to do some basic work with Deuce first. He was very distracted at first and very excited, running around and sniffing. I let him get all of that out and then started doing some flat work to get his brain warmed up. We also worked on some waits in front of very fun obstacles like tunnels and very low baby jumps. If he was a good boy, he got a cookie and then a release to that obstacle. I was very interested to see how he would treat the tunnel because it was the darker tunnel, with the dark inside and it was in a dark corner. I really expected him to refuse it, but he didn't. We haven't been doing much tunnel work because I have been too lazy to drag it out for him and I don't want a tunnel sucking dog anyway.

Lori had the field set up for working on her running dog walk contact with a lowered dog walk, so i took advantage of getting him on a full dog walk to see what we could do. I had him stay, then released him to a tunnel and then called him to the dog walk at a full run. The first few times, I said nothing, just let him run. I could tell he was a little cautious the first few times as he hasn't really been on a raised dog walk, but once the light bulb went off, he was running full speed. After I got some speed, I started asking for toes at the end. He wasn't 100% but for his first time, I was very pleased. He nailed a couple, blew through a couple, and blew through a couple and then corrected himself immediately. If he held toes, he got a reward in position and then a release to another obstacle (either the tunnel or the jump on the other end). I was really pleased to see the little wheels in his brain whirling. We also did some table work with me counting out loud and then rewarding for staying in position. Again, if he held position, he was rewarded by getting release to another obstacle. I tried to keep all repetitions short and fun. To end the first training session, I introduced the tire jump with the tire on the ground basically, and then linked it to the teeter since they were in sequence together. Lori had the teeter lowered too and I was excited to see him driving to the end into position. I need to lower my teeter too and work on getting speed into position. I also worked doing front crosses off of the end of the teeter and him holding position. Of course all of this was done with no one else on the field so distraction was at 0.

I let deuce take a break and worked miller on some stuff, including some short sequences and some weave entries. I just jumped him at 16 inches and kept his session short. I did warm him up with some fun run and jumps and then took a walk with him to cool him out. I don't want to push him right now but I sure do need to get him in condition so that i don't have to worry so much about injury.

Barb showed up and Lori came out so after they had worked for a while, I pulled deuce back out to work on distractions. He was of course very excited to see his friends but as soon as I put the gentle leader on him, he started offering me downs and sits. He would whine and tremble while the other dogs were working but stare at me and offer behaviors. So funny! Just got to figure out how I am going to work through this at AKC shows since I can't have my gentle leader. He doesn't really care about the dogs in the ring but he loves his friends or anyone he perceives as friends! I had Barb do some work with Chloe while I did the dog walk with Deuce a and he was super. He held his position no matter what barb was doing so i think we can up the anty next time we work on the dog walk. He did take off once when Solei was working and it took me forever to get him back but these are things we are just going to have to work through. He is such a social butterfly! I kind of like having a dog that is happy with everyone and every dog but it is going to present some new challenges for me to get over. Time will tell!

I did weigh deuce on Wednesday and he is up to 45 lbs! He doesn't seem to be getting any taller, just wider. We did decide to start cutting him back on food since he is laying down a bit of fat. I need him to be lean and mean for his agility training! He is also doing very well in his crate without his litter box. I had been leaving it in even though he wasn't using it, but about a month ago, I took it out and he hasn't had any accidents yet (knock on wood, probably just jinxed myself). We are also leaving him out with the other dogs for longer periods of time when we aren't there and so far (again knock on wood), he has been doing great. We have had a few minor casualties, mainly out of the recycle bin and some shoe strings, but overall, he plays with his toys and seems to have a sense of what is acceptable and what is not. I hope this trend continues! I am still don't think he is ready to be out 8 hours a day while we are gone but maybe soon he will be.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

USDAA weekend-Thanks Go-Dogs Omaha crew

This was my first weekend using the gentle leader with Deuce. Thanks to Dana for suggesting it because it worked like a charm. If you remember my last post, I was very sore from deuce lunging at every person and dog as if they all wanted him. He will sit and wait but boy when you say okay, he is like a bat out of hell. I came back from the last show very sore from his antics! Well, in AKC, we can't use any type of head collar or pinch collar so I won't be able to use it at the usual shows but boy did it help this weekend. The Go-Dogs crew (Dana, Ami and of course Melissa!) really stepped up and helped me learn how to use it properly and made sure it fit correctly. We even worked some downs and waits with distractions and gave me some great clues on how to put "go see" on command. I do feel like he is gaining some impulse control and I am so sure it will get better the older he gets. I do feel 100% more comfortable using the gentle leader and would recommend it to others. It is a really nice, gentle way of controlling their lunging and pulling behavior. Not sure how we are going to work on this at the AKC show since we can't use any thing like that. I did get to get him out more and work some behaviors ring side and he did great. He is such a clicker whore, he will offer every behavior he knows if you don't let him know what you want. I like this so much because it means he gives me great attention. He did get to play with Ami's aussie Taser for a little bit and boy do they play the same. All feet and wrestling!

Deuce didn't do as well in the hotel room this time for some reason. We stayed thursday night and friday night and he was real restless both nights. He slept by the door mainly and had to go out multiple times friday night. Probably was my fault due to the rawhides I gave him so i could sleep in a little on friday morning. The show didn't start till 12 so I wanted to sleep as long as I could and he kept on waking me up every 2 hours from 5:30 on. Every 2 hours I would throw him another rawhide and he would quiet down. He has started a new trend of barking when Miller runs but harley does the same thing. We are probably going to have to forever crate deuce and harley in metal crates, since they both get way too amped up when Miller runs. I could hear him when I ran in the ring closest to where he was crated. Other than that, he stayed quiet and just slept when I didn't have him out. He is so easy to deal with at shows, just content to sleep in his crate rather than be out. He is so good about just relaxing at the shows, unlike Harley. We have another show this weekend and may stay overnight saturday night so should be interested to see how he does. I do feel like leaving him in the hotel room when we aren't there is not an option because he barks at noises so he will have to stay crated in the car. Harley does too so that is normal for us.

Well, time for bed! Need to get some sleep!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dog Walk work day 4

Here is day 4 training of my plank work. Today, clicker was used and I mainly ran with as this seems to be the most comfortable for him at this point. We tried about 10 reps and I tried to only click for the behavior I wanted. I would say out of 10 reps, 6 were the behavior I wanted (drive to end of board into 2 on 2 off position), 2 were complete misses (just kept going with the momma), and 2 were run to the end, stop, take a step into position (one of which I clicked for and shouldn't have). I am very pleased at how quickly he is getting the point of this exercise. He is so clicker savy that i should have known bringing out the clicker would help him. Tony is suppose to be building me a middle plank this weekend so that we can raise the boards up a bit more and have an up, middle and down plank for him to run on. Concerns right now are am i going to keep that speed with three planks? Am I going to still get "toes" as the height goes up? At this point, I would like to continue working the boards on the ground and very, very slowly move them up. I know this isn't the accepted way to train a dog walk (train drive first then get contact criteria second), but the clicker trainer in me wants to do it this way. Is it right? We shall see! I am not claiming I know where this is going to go and I know we will have good days and bad days but I am in this for the ride and am having a great time so far. I know that he won't generalize this behavior so after we get the dog walk full height here, we will need to take our show on the road and get on as many other people's dog walks as possible. Right now, I am keeping the reps short, maybe 10 or 12 per session, and I am working in his comfort zone, which oddly enough seems to be me running with. I did try once with me doing a restrained recall and he stopped about half way down the board, turned around and looked at me, like "why are you standing there doing nothing mom?" I also will need to work distance away from the plank as well but that is in the distant future (haha, pun intended).

Plank Work Day 3

Taking the info I got from the first couple of days of plank work, I decided to try some new things last night. I decided to keep the food tube in my pocket, so he wouldn't be pouncing on anything and I decided to use the clicker to reward correct position. Unfortunately, I couldn't video because it was too dark. I put deuce on a sit stay and then released and ran with and asked for "toes". Much to my surprise, he stuck all of his "toes" with him driving to the end of the board and popping into position. I was very happy with his performance. He got clicks for driving to the end of the board and sticking his two on two off, even when I kept running past. I am so proud of this dog! I really thought I was going to have a huge problem on my hands with his pouncing and it may come back, but I was tickled pink that he stuck every single time I asked for "toes" last night. Now, I need to work more on different criteria (very slowly of course) including what If I am behind him or way ahead of him or a distance away. I would like to refrain from using targets since that does shift their weight forward and I want his weight back and off of his front end. He seems to respond very nicely to the clicker so I am going to continue using it with the dog walk. I am glad I shaped so many behaviors in the beginning cause he gets so excited when I pull out the clicker and responds so nicely to it. I hope to get home earlier tonight and maybe get some video of his progress. Tony went this last weekend and bought some more lumber so we can make another plank since the kids broke my middle ramp. I am sure as the angles change of the ramps, I will get different behaviors but I am happy that we are starting out nicely. Now, if I could just get him to build me an a-frame!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Great Dog Walk Debate

Okay, my head is fixing to explode so I need to blog now, even though I have a ton of work to do today. So, I decided this weekend, while the weather was nice, that I would start training Deuce's dog walk. I videoed our work (posted via FB) and got lots of comments both good and bad. Some of the comments are driving me nuts and rather than try and respond to them on FB, I thought I would respond here and give a better background of what I am thinking and where I am going with his dog walk.

First of all, I do not have a dog walk. I use to have one that Tony made and some kids got on it and broke the middle ramp. Now all I have is the up ramp and down ramp. I had previously used the broken board to train "toes" on (i.e. front feet on ground, rear feet on contact obstacle). I want a stop on at least the dog walk and the teeter. I feel like these are two obstacles that need a stop on them, as a point of collection for the handler and the dog and for safety reasons. I was blessed with Miller to have a natural running a-frame and I pray that deuce will also have a running a-frame since he is so heavy, especially in the front end. Anyway, the latest rage in agility is the running contact. Everyone is teaching their dogs to do running contacts. I do admit, they give you a competitive edge but with this edge also comes some disadvantages as well. I feel like you pretty much need to train this behavior, which consists of muscle memory as well as shaping striding into the yellow, every day. For people like me who don't have obstacles, this is kind of hard. I can't drive every day out to my trainer's house and the weather isn't cooperative for training outside as it is. I feel like there is alot of maintenance to having a running contact. Some people disagree, but I think it is something that you have to train constantly. I do agree that all contact criteria has some sort of maintenance and training but I feel like running, even though it is natural to the dogs to run, is the hardest to train and maintain. I do not feel comfortable trying to train this in my dogs for these reasons. I can train a 2 on 2 off anywhere, using any type of change in surface and I can click for 2 feet on the obstacle and 2 feet off. It is black and white to me and black and white to the dog. I really don't feel like running is as black and white and for that reason, I choose not to train it. I don't need that competitive edge at all, especially if I can train a dog to drive down to position and then wait for my release. Someone commented that she didn't want to train a 2 on 2 off because she would release her dog early and thus degrade the behavior. How, if her dog is ahead of her, especially in a trial situation can she see if her dog correctly strided? How do you correct that if the dog didn't stride correctly? How does the dog every know that it is correct? Do you click for the dog hitting a specific spot or just anywhere in the yellow?

Okay so back to the current times. I decided since deuce has not really been on a dog walk and I am not 100% sure what exactly I am going to do that I would drag one of the dog walk planks out and just have him run back and forth on that. He needs to become more body aware anyway before he goes on a big dog walk and I guess I thought that would be a good idea for him. I also decided to tape his progress, more for me than anyone else. Well, as soon as we started running, he was jumping off it, pouncing off of it, and not paying attention to his feet at all. I decided to raise it up with two little bricks to try and make it more like an obstacle and less like just a plank on the ground. This did make him more aware of the board but made the pounce more pronounced. I had his food tube about 15 feet away and apparently he was focusing on the food tube and pouncing on it. After 10 or tries of this, I decided to stop and review the video and see what i needed to do. At the time, I was using the restrained recall and telling him "go walk it".

After review of the video and talking to my trainer, we decided to add a down ramp and make it more like a dog walk and less just like an elevated plank. I don't regret having one day of him jumping off because it showed me what I needed to do next. I hardly think 10 reps of something, even if it is wrong will hurt him mentally or physically. The next day, I added a down ramp and decided to experiment with asking for toes. The first few reps, I just let him run either with the restrained recall or asking for a wait and then a release to go walk it. The pouncing was still happening but not as bad so I decided at that point to add in the toes command. Of course the first couple of times he just kept on running, but withholding any type of reward, he got it and started stopping. I was getting a mix of him driving to the end and stopping and him driving to almost the end and then taking a couple of slow steps to the bottom. I do like the driving to the end, I don't like the slow steps.

At this point, it was day 2 and I wasn't using a clicker or rewards unless it was just the ideal performance, just trying to see what he would do in different situations. Things that I liked were i think it did show me that he would have a hard time doing a running contact and that at 7 months, he is capable of linking running and stopping at the end of the board no matter what I am doing. I am going to now back up a few steps and really start using the clicker for the exact performance I want (drive to the end of the board and stop no matter what the mom is doing and wait for a release). I will work on the behavior thinking of all aspects, me running, me behind, me in front but will start with what position gets the most success and build from there. It seems that he is the most comfortable with me ahead of him at this point but I am giving him no cues other than just the word toes. I am trying to refrain from adding any body movement, i.e. pointing or turning into him. I want a dog with a good two on two off and I don't think that is wrong to want that!

Here are the two videos. The left is day 1 and the right is day 2. I just finished day 3 but couldn't video because it was dark:(