Monday, August 8, 2011

Unfortunately it's cancer. So here's a photo of a puppy. 

Puppy cancer.
After having lost my mother to cancer 5 years ago the diagnosis is pretty frightening. All told I'm doing well. I'm just relieved to at least finally have a diagnosis. Now we can actually DO something about it. Keep calm and carry on, right?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Life keeps throwing curveballs

This past week has been a bit surreal. My father has been in the hospital since last Tuesday, and it's scaring the crap out of me.

He was ill with what we thought might be bronchitis. He lost his voice two weeks ago. He went to his doctor for some meds on Tuesday, was diagnosed with an elevated heart rate and a mystery lung issue. The heart rate is being medicated, but they've not as of yet diagnosed the lung/throat issue, and they've requested he stay for tests and monitoring. Basically it could be an infection, or it could be cancer. And all the blood cultures taken have come back negative to date... 

So I've been stressed, to say the least. I never thought I'd wish so hard for an infection to be diagnosed.

To keep with the topic of the blog and to cheer myself up a bit, here's a photo of my dad the day we picked Cohen out of the litter.

I always though this photo had a Madonna-esque feel to it. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Boarded!

I was out of town for a wedding this weekend, and just about anyone who could have watched Cohen was out of town with me. So we boarded her.

As I've said before (a lot), Cohen is not an easy dog. She's rambunctious, loud, and has a history of guarding food and toys from other dogs. While talking with the woman who was boarding her, I stressed this... a lot. I wanted to make sure that she knew what she was getting in to before she was stuck with my dog while I was out of the city for five days. Better safe than sorry and all that.

Well, it turns out apparently I was worried over nothing.

I got Cohen back this morning. Apparently she did really well. She was fine with all the other dogs, large and small alike. Apparently her barking was under control. And most noteworthy to me, there were no reports of guarding (all food and toys were carefully controlled). The only vague negative was that Cohen could "get a bit silly"... your guess is as good as mine as for what that might mean. All in all, it was a success.

All this gives me hope that Cohen and Chihuahua-Megatron will coexist peacefully when Adrian and I finally move in. Of course this won't completely stop my worrying, but it'll lessen it. At least for a little while.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Diefenbaker

Snow day.
This is Diefenbaker, or Dief (pronounced Deef) for short. He was my family's first dog. We did everything wrong with him because we didn't know any better.

He was another Australian Shepherd. When we first met him we had no idea what an Australian Shepherd was (uhoh). We saw an ad in a local newspaper (ohno) when we were at our cottage near Lakefield, went out to check out the litter from a pair of farm dogs with no health testing (ohmy). As we were driving up for the first time my mother mutters, "Those are the ugliest dogs I've ever seen."

We met the dam and the dam's sister, and the litter. The farmer suggested we take the tiny ball of fur chilling in the back since "he'd be the type of dog your girls could dress up." We came back a few weeks later to bring him home with us.

Cue 12 wonderful (if a bit clueless) years with this really fabulous dog. Despite doing everything so wrong, things turned out pretty right. He never learned how to walk at heel (we never learned how to teach him, more accurately), he would terrorize our cats, and didn't like other dogs in his personal space. But he was relaxed, very even tempered, and A Very Good Dog.

Dief about 5 months old.
My sister around 10. 
He was unusually laid back, especially for an Aussie. I don't think my family could have handled much more. He was also overweight (which I really regret). He was a deep chested dog with a pretty dramatic tuck-up, so again, due to ignorance and him not looking like a sausage, we thought he was just fine. A few days ago I chatted with a neighbour while out with Cohen and the neighbour remarked how fit Cohen was, and chuckled, "not like Dief!" Man, I didn't think he was that chunky. Oh my. Embarrassing.

The week he died was a strange one. He seemed fine one day, and a bit sick the next. Three days (and three vet visits) later he was put down. During those days I hand fed him his meals since he wouldn't touch them on his own. At first we thought it was discomfort from arthritis (apparently the x-rays showed that his hips were in significantly worse condition than we thought), but there ended up being a deeper, more significant issue.

My dad was out of town, and my mom had died a few years prior, so it was just my sister and I in the vet's office when he went. It was a very surreal, very sad experience. He was sweet and compliant up until the end.

The type of dog the girls could dress up.

He really set the stage for Cohen, who luckily hasn't had to suffer through nearly as much of our ignorance. I sometimes forget what it's like to just have a nice family dog (as opposed to a furry ball of energy who feeds off attention like a vampire). It's really all you need. Everything else is just gravy.

Are we having a good time? 

He's been on my mind a lot lately, so I thought I'd share a bit.

The glasses make the man.

It's probably no coincidence that in just about all my favourite photos of Dief he was wearing some sort of article of clothing. He was a funny looking guy.

Dief after an unplanned dip in the lake pre-canoe trip.
Upon showing his prowess in the water we quickly fitted
him with a lifejacket.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Docked

No tail. Not a lot of brains either.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about Cohen's tail, or lack thereof.

The breed standard of the Australian Shepherd calls for either a naturally bobbed tail, or cropped, not to exceed 4 inches in length. These days it's largely customary and aesthetic, but historically it was meant to delineate working dogs from pets (working dogs were not taxed by the government), and to avoid fur getting tangled in brambles and burs.

As well as the dock, Cohen has had her front dewclaws removed (again, as required by the breed standard). It's done mostly to give the front foot a clean appearance, and save the dog from potentially tearing it and injuring itself. (It's not uncommon for dewclaws to be attached rather loosely, and they're prone to injury.)

While I've met many people who are upset that some dogs have their tails docked, I've never been particularly bothered by it. The dogs never seem particularly bothered by it either, and I admit it's nice to not have to worry about a wayward wag clearing off my coffee table.

The dewclaw removal has bothered me more. Cohen has two furless patches where the dewclaws once were, and the lack of fur acting as protection means that she's prone to knocking the area while running. She often has tiny scabs there. I've also read that without a dewclaw offering stability in the foot, the way the body compensates for it can lead to tendon issues down the road. And while dewclaws often seem unused, they become important when a dog is taking tight turns at high speeds. Definitely not ideal in a sporting dog.

Speaking of tight turns, dogs use their tails as ballast while running. I'm concerned that the dock automatically handicaps Cohen in this regard. I'm sure she'll perform just fine, but could it be better? I don't know. If you've watched the agility fun match video I posted yesterday, Cohen makes a faceplant shortly after she was released from the start line, as she was asked to make a tight turn into the chute. Would she have fallen if she were au natural? 

I tried so hard to follow proper Dog Purchase Protocol when I got Cohen. If I had to do it over again, I think I would have to really think about whether I was comfortable docking a potential sport dog. I think Cohen will be successful regardless, and I'm confident she'll live a long happy life. Luckily another sport dog is a long, long way off so I've got plenty of time to think about.

What about you? What are your thoughts on docking? Do you think your opinion would be different if you had (or didn't have) a breed who was customarily docked?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fun match video

Turns out I lied - I am going to post a video of our run yesterday. As I said, the plethora of rewards serve as pretty severe interruptions to the flow of the course, but we're still in the early stages of it all.



I think once Cohen has a better generalization of contacts and her overall confidence increases her speed will increase significantly. As it stands now, well, I dunno.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Yeah, we do 'gility.

Looking particularly calm in her crate at our fun match.

Unfortunately I don't have any action photos. I have some video of our runs, but since they're instructional, with lots breaks in the action and mistakes they're not particularly interesting to watch.

Today was the second trip out to Daytripper Dog Training. I sign up for their instructional fun matches -- 4 different courses with toys and food allowed in the ring, plus a walkthrough and handling tips by a judge. It's a great way to spend a day out with friends and dogs, and a fabulous learning opportunity.

The courses are designed at roughly the starters level with a few more challenging bits thrown in. It's a great prep for September's potential trial.

Today was filled with a lot more good than bad. Here's a summary:

The Good
  • Cohen is working well at a distance from me.
  • Her contacts were much (much much) improved from last time (still not perfect, but better).
  • Her focus-front is pretty good, with room for improvement.
  • I managed to shape/lure her into the pool. She wasn't a big fan, but the water kept her perfectly cool despite the sun's heat.
  • Her jump form is nice and tidy. 
  • Her teeter was great! She was almost all the way to the other end before the bang, and stuck her contacts like a pro. 
  • Between runs she was much less whiny than the last time.
  • Her focus on me in the ring walking up to the first jump is adorable -- in a perfect heel, excited and ready to go.
  • She is tugging really well around other dogs.
  • She greeted other dogs at the trial politely. 
  • Peeing on cue is just about the most handy thing I've ever taught her.
  • I'm really learning to trust Cohen more. I can simply point her at a line of equipment and have confidence that she'll take each properly.
  • Cohen's unusually focused on fetching when we're at Daytripper, and a few good throws are a great way to take her edge off between runs.
  • Cohen is a big hit there. People are always complimenting her to me: she's pretty, she's soft, she's fit, she's improving... :)


The Bad
  • Cohen got tangled in the chute and misjudged the following jump, tripping over it and knocking it around. Luckily she's pretty resilient (both physically and mentally) and suffered no lasting damage.
  • Cohen knocked a bar or two (in addition to the tumble) during the day.
  • She seems to be weaker weaving on my right side -- she popped out at the 10th pole a few times, and missed others. 
  • Her table seemed unusually rusty. She didn't seem to put a lot of effort into sticking it. Maybe she was feeling some discomfort? I need to remember to decelerate in advance as well.
  • I got lost on a few of the courses, and mis-labelled an obstacle or two. (Chute =/= tunnel)

I went up with my friend Kat and her Ridgeback Kiki. Kat's a bit newer to agility than I, but is coming along really well. She's still struggling with contacts and motivation. Sometimes I wonder what it's like to have a dog who actually gets tired.

Both dogs were thoroughly passed out on the ride home, and it's 6p.m. and Cohen is still sleeping. Maybe I won't have to walk her tonight after all.

Oh hey, more not-action photos!

Kiki and Cohen taking a break.

Could you say no to this face?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Photo Friday

Because I am lazy and haven't felt much like typing this week.

Agility fun match on Sunday. Fingers crossed that neither my dog nor I die of hot.

If you look closely, you can see an ant on the top of the stalk. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Typical. 

Her mouth is moving. Sound is coming out. This is never a good sign.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Focus, damnit.

I dearly wish this photo was in focus. 

Recallin' like a pro.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I was reading up on a few people's impressions of a recent Denise Fenzi seminar, and one thing has struck me. From what I gather from various posts, one of her take-home messages is:

silence = good

What I gather she means is that if you have a dog with whom you wish to compete in obedience you want to not have to rely on a string of reinforcement to keep the dog confident and motivated. I know I'm very prone to useless chatter when I'm pleased with my dog's performance. I've also been educated to believe that a correct behaviour should be marked and an incorrect one ignored - the dog should be able to figure out their response was incorrect from the lack of reinforcement.

The way I've interpreted what I've read is that silence, simply enough, means that the dog is doing well, and to continue. If a dog should make a mistake, it is then that a timely correction is offered.

Now, this makes sense to me on some level, but on another level it kind of throws a wrench into the whole positive reinforcement mantra that I hear repeated time and time again by my favourite trainers. It also makes me stop to ponder that:

if silence = good does voice = bad

With everything in life, I'm sure it's not such a black and white issue. However I'm curious where in the grey zone Denise Fenzi and other successful R+ish obedience competitors lay.

I think it's pertinent to be mindful of the discipline you're currently competing in. I feel strongly that agility should always be a positive experience where the dog is never wrong. I also feel strongly that a good family pet can be more than adequately trained through positive* means. Though when it comes to top tier competitive obedience I wonder when and where corrections might be necessary.** 

As always I suspect the answer is:

 it depends

I'm squeamish to think that any degree of negativity should be intentionally injected into a dog and handler's relationship.I know that even now I'm still paying for some foolish knee-jerk reactions I had when Cohen was being a no-good puppy. I don't feel comfortable thinking it justified to place undue stress on a dog in a situation that is innately stressful (stress is intrinsic to the learning process). But on the flip side, I do correct a forge during LLW with a happy-sounding "whoops" to great effect.

As of now I'm positively delighted at Cohen's behaviour. She and I are really meshing into a cohesive team, and I don't particularly plan on changing my approach. However, these types of refreshing variations in approach always make for some interesting food for thought.


* Positive means, in this context, refers to positive reinforcement.
** Necessary corrections might be things like a non-reward marker or a playful tap - not anything unnecessarily stressful or harsh.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New day, new video.



I put together a new video of some of Cohen's tricks with Adrian's help. I handled the dog, he handled the camera.

I was originally wanting to make it a bit more lengthy and arty, but this will do for now. I was working on a relatively tight schedule. So this video is short and sweet.

Cohen's handstand is really starting to come along!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moving, with dogs.

It's time for me to start getting my ass in gear and moving into the real world. I'm done university (finally) and in a position to find a new place for Adrian and I to live. And, of course, the dogs are coming with us. Dogs, plural.


Cohen looking deceptively peaceful.


I'm enormously relieved that I've gotten the okay to take Cohen with me when I move out. It really does make the best sense, as far as the dog's best interests are concerned. But she was bought as a family dog, and the whole "what will happen when the kids move out" issue was always sort of glossed over. (Okay, not glossed over, but there was always the assumption the dog would stay with my father unless circumstances changed.) Unfortunately, my sister has never really bonded with the dog, and sees her more as a chore than a hobby (or anything remotely positive). And my father, while he loves the dog, is not quite capable of handling her. Unfortunately Cohen is A Difficult Dog.

She's reactive, easily excited past the point of being easy to handle, periodically resource-guards against other dogs, is very demanding of attention, and sees very little reason to acquiesce to "because I said so"s -- she always needs to see something in it for her. I'm actually looking forward to taking on the full responsibility for her care since I feel it will give her more stability in how she's handled. The different handling styles of my family are not doing any favours for her general obedience. I have a particularly high set of expectations for her, and won't ever settle for okay, I want excellent. I could live with pretty damned good.

So, yes, I'm looking forward to caring for her morning, noon and night. However I might feel like killing her after a few weeks. We'll see.

So, I said dogs, plural. Enter Meggy, the Chihuahua. 

Meggy aka Megatron. Larger than life.


This is Adrian's dog. She's as attached to his hip as Cohen is to mine, so the thought of leaving her behind is, well, unthinkable. 

She's a sharp little dog who I think has great potential. Unfortunately I don't think she's been given the opportunity to meet that potential yet. She's the middle "child" in a three-bitch household, and is louder and more boisterous than the others. Since she's so attached to Adrian (and the others the other family members) she tends to get ignored on "family" outings where Adrian isn't present. So she's never received any sort of formal training (though Adrian delights in teaching her bizarre tricks like sneezing on command), and she isn't given enough outlets for her energy. 

Her vices are barking at mysterious noises, and when people enter the house. She's not comfortable with children and could use some better leash manners. She tends to guard Adrian from other dogs. Her strengths are how relatively easily her needs are met, and she already has experience in multi-dog households. Plus, she can be very sweet.

Quite honestly, I'm really looking forward to trying out my training tactics on another dog. She'll present a slew of challenges which which I've not yet had to work. Namely, since she's so tiny food rewards need to be controlled carefully (she already needs to lose a bit of weight). She's also headstrong and not nearly as focused as Cohen while training. I have a mental image of bringing her by my training facility and getting her started in formal classes. Next step: agility-Chihuahua!

The Biggest Challenge:

Cohen. As I mentioned, Cohen has a history of resource guarding from other dogs. She'll snark and snap at others when she feels they're doing something she doesn't like. Due to the size difference I have serious concerns that a snark could easily escalate into a fight where Meggy ends up seriously hurt. It's both Adrian's and my worst nightmare, and neither of us can stand the thought of sending either dog back home due to a conflict. It also doesn't help that both dogs are female, and Meggy is intact. 

On top of that, the last time I had Cohen by Adrian's place, Cohen snapped at Meggy when Meggy jumped up on me in standard tiny dog fashion. For the rest of the night, each time Meggy was around Cohen had her fixed with an unhealthy stare. Cohen lashed out at Meggy once more when my attention dipped for a second and the dogs were too close to each other. Clearly, without some careful planning and management this is a recipe for disaster and heartbreak. 

Emotions are running high between Adrian and I, and we've not even moved yet. 

So, I have a plan of attack. 
  1. Extreme management. Neither dog will be given the opportunity to interact with the other in an uncontrolled manner for the first month. They'll always be crated, leashed, or behind gates. 
  2. Careful management of all potentially valuable resources, including Adrian and myself. If one dog is having lap time, the other will be crated with a chew. All toys, bowls and other valuable objects will be put away and only brought out under controlled circumstances.
  3. Counter conditioning. Lots and lots of it. When Meggy is around and at a controlled distance treats rain from the sky on Cohen, and vice versa. At no point will we push distance and cause either dog to feel threatened by the other. Progress will be kept intentionally slow. 
  4. No dogs on the furniture. Each dog will have its own separate area to call its own.
  5. The dogs will be fed in separate crates. 
  6. Encourage the dogs to coexist, but perhaps not directly interact.
  7. Exercise. The dogs will be kept perpetually tired. They'll be walked together, with Cohen fitted with a gentle leader just in case.
  8. Learning. I plan to pick up the McConnell booklet about managing a multiple dog household. I'm also attending a seminar offered by behaviorist Joan Weston, BSc about multi-dog management. I'll be taking loads of notes. 
  9. Never trust Cohen. Unfortunately, with the behaviour Cohen has displayed in the past I can't trust her to never react. It may be stressful, but this a serious issue, and I think extreme caution is better than not.
  10. Stop thinking of Meggy as Adrian's dog, and Cohen as mine. Both dogs need to be treated fairly and equally by both of us. I suspect this will be a challenge, but is important.

My goal is for there never to be an outburst. I think that if we take it slowly and carefully we stand a chance of setting ourselves up for success. 

Over the next few months I'm sure I'll be musing on this subject quite a bit. Truly I'm terrified of this not working out. I don't want a dog hurt, and I don't want Adrian or I to have to give up either of them. It's ridiculous how much we both love our animals. It's the size difference that I think is the biggest issue, as I think even if a snap was not intended to hurt, it could result in serious injury.

 If any readers have any additional insight I'm all ears. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chronological list of cues - count: 62

New cues:

Weave, high five, target w/ back legs, around, tug, "through" (reverse weaving through legs), blow bubbles, handstand (still needs refined), go behind, focus forward "watch it".

Previous cues:

Touch, sit, down, speak, come, stand, paw, stay, bang, roll "over", back up, go pee, go to bed, go outside, heel, front, heel in reverse, bow, jump "up", jump "over", jump into "arms", circle, circle in reverse "beep beep", pivot, spin, twist, weave, find a toy, figure "eight", get it, drop it, leave it, table, tunnel, head up, head down, nose bridge "push", pop, beg, balance on back legs "be people", crawl, "cross" paws, "open" door, "close" door, scoot, teeter, walk (obstacle), mark, formal retrieve, out, quiet, limp.

List of learned cues starting at 9 weeks old to present. Quotation marks indicate word used for each behaviour.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Happy Sandy Smelly Dog


We went for a bike ride along the river today. Cohen was ecstatic. She's now thoroughly passed out.

I got spoiled during the winter -- the dog was slightly less interested in doing things. Now that the nice weather is here she is GOGOGO all the time. I thought she was maturing. Turns out she just wasn't thrilled about the cold.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cohen HIC


Cohen passed her herding instinct test today! It's not like I had a doubt that she would, but it was insanely fun to get out there and just get a feel for what the sport is like. Plus, getting the feedback regarding her methods and natural abilities was fascinating.

Cohen, HIC


Her summary sheet.


Here is a nice summary of what each category means. To me, coming in as an ignorant city girl, none of this made sense until I had the evaluator explain it to me.

Style - gathering. Cohen seemed mostly to keep her distance and was interested in keeping the sheep together and pushing it towards me.

Approach - runs moderately wide. I'm told this is ideal. She was a little close to start, but as she settled down she backed off a bit.

Eye - loose. Unsurprisingly, she does not use any eye while herding. I've always thought of this as a Border Collie trait, but apparently Kelpies and a few others use it too. Cohen ... does not.

Wearing - shows wearing. Apparently Cohen wears the sheep (moves from side to side to keep them controlled). I don't think I noticed this since my eyes were on the sheep for so much of the test.

Bark - some barking. The barking came as no surprise to me. Actually, I was surprised she didn't bark more. When she first got on the stock she was her normal loud self, but as she figured it out a bit more her barking was reduced to next to nothing.

Temperament - a little distraction. Cohen did alright on the stock, but I wish she was a bit more engaged. She was flagged off at one point, and I think this confused her and her confidence dipped noticeably. Instead of herding she decided to take a sheep-poo break. With a bit of extra energy thrown in I was able to get her back out and engaged, but not to the same level she was when she started. If anything, I think some repetition would be necessary to increase confidence.

Interest - sustained interest. Despite her poo-break, Cohen did pretty well sustaining interest (though, note she was not marked as keen).

Power - sufficient for stock. The stock were pretty mild mannered and well behaved, so, well, apparently Cohen's power was "sufficient".

Responsiveness - responds to guidance/control. Unsurprisingly, Cohen did well with some guidance. I'm sure her long hours of working with me in other sports helped this.

Grouping of stock - keeps stock together/regroups. For the most part the stock seemed pretty easy and grouped well, but a few times I remember Cohen putting in some extra effort to bring a wayward ewe back into the group.

Balancing stock with handler - adjusts position. Apparently Cohen is much stronger going one way than another, but did change the direction she circled around the stock as we switched up our position. This was pretty cool for me to see, since I didn't know this was a requirement.

I was also very relieved to see that Cohen didn't once grip a sheep. She was flagged away a fair amount, so she didn't have much opportunity to, I guess. I just had paranoid visions in my head of Cohen taking a bite out of a sheep.

The notes say, "Very nice instinct! A little worried but has all the right stuff."

It was interesting to see the decline in Cohen's confidence when she was flagged off the stock the first time. I would have hoped she would take it in stride and continue, but instead, as I said, she had a poop-break instead. My theory is that since I don't use harsh corrections in training she wasn't accustomed to them and didn't know what to do with herself after she received one. I'm hoping that after a bit more exposure to stock her confidence will be higher and her performance better.

After the test I had an interesting conversation with the tester. She said she really liked Cohen and thought she showed potential. She said that, in her experience, a lot of Aussies don't have a high drive to please their handler and can therefore be pains in the asses and/or inappropriate for work. But Cohen was tuned into me the whole time. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the amount of training I do with her, but it also has to do with her natural aptitude.

I went up with Helene (and her Sheltie Snorri) and Laila (with her Icelandic Sheepdog Viggo). Not only were they nice enough to snap the following photos, but I got to stick around and watch some beginner herding classes as well. It has me excited to give it a try myself at some point. I'll see if I can manage it -- it's both costly and time-intensive.

Us getting started.


Being flagged away from the sheep a bit. I had no idea what to do, so I followed the sheep.


A change in direction. She was so unexpectedly collected and thoughtful during the test.


An action shot which I wish was in focus.


Cohen doing what she does best: barking.


A shot from our pre-play in the park. Here's Viggo and Scout, two Icelandic Sheepdogs.

Huge thanks go out to Helene for taking these photos, and thanks to both Helene and Laila for the experience!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

One year ago

Cohen today.


Cohen one year ago, 8 months old.

She's starting to look like a real dog. Maybe not a real Aussie... she's still kind of funny looking and angular. But she's looking good.

Her aforementioned limp hasn't shown itself in a few weeks -- there was really only two days of noticeable discomfort. With the warmer weather her energy level has gone through the roof, and she's bouncing off the walls. I thought her lower energy level was indicative of her maturing and settling down, but... nope! It's back!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Damnit. Again?

Cohen is limping again.

I think one of her toes is bothering her. Looking between them they look slightly redder than usual, and there seems to be a discomfort response when I apply pressure.

I'm not sure how worried I should be, since it seems to become a non-issue as she uses it. I'll have to bring her by the vet if this keeps up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tricks, pain, and rock and roll.

Animal cruelty? Possibly. Entertaining though.

Today I arrived home to find Cohen limping pretty seriously. Her rear right leg seemed to be giving her trouble -- she avoided putting any weight on it and was hopping around on 3 feet. I had no idea what had happened, but I had all these images of torn ligaments and muscles dancing around in my head (or what I imagine they look like... because I really have no clue). Some simple palpating and stretching didn't illicit an obvious pain reaction, so I couldn't even figure out which part of her leg was giving her trouble.

So, I cancelled our agility class tonight, and decided to forgo her afternoon walk and just keep an eye on it. But Cohen apparently doesn't know how to take it easy, even if her leg is hurting her. She was driving me crazy. So I grabbed a hotdog, a clicker, and went to work.

It took me about 5 minutes to be able to snap the above photo. I probably had such an easy time of it since I'd previously done some work teaching Cohen how to hold a variety of objects, but I'd never pushed it so deliciously far.

We started with having her hold a toy that is the same shape as a hot dog. Then I would pick up the hot dog and have her target it maybe 5-10 times. Then we went back to her toy, and back to the hot dog. She didn't have much trouble learning that I wanted her to hold it the same way I was asking her to hold her toy. If at any point she seemed to want to lick the hot dog instead I reintroduced her to the toy to remind her of what I was asking. All told, we maybe played around with this for 10 minutes in a couple different areas of the house.

So, anyways, that's how I spent my afternoon instead of walking the dog. I think my next goal will be for her to retrieve the hot dog from across the room.

As of this evening, her limp is gone. We still stayed home from agility just to stay safe.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Self directed weaving

So I've been lazy and not taken the 2x2s in from the back yard -- they're still set up out there with a jump.

I let Cohen out for her morning pee and I watched her do her customary run around the back yard barking ritual, and after a loop she ended up sauntering through the weave poles completely on her own. Correct entry, no skipped poles.

It made me laugh. Good dog.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two weeks in: changing values and priorities


It's interesting: as I work through this course with Cohen I can see two things happening. The first is that Cohen is getting increasingly reliable off-lead and I have a much easier time competing with distractions. The second is that with the off-leash problems starting to improve I find myself focusing more on secondary behaviours that had taken a back seat due to me being so focused on my goals which revolved around casual walks.

I can trust Cohen much more easily around puppies, especially if just passing through (previously she would single them out for bullying). I can also call her off mid-chase if I feel like her play is getting too intense or inappropriate. I have a better handle on managing Cohen around food distractions while out at the park, but I feel like this will be challenged as the summer comes around and fruit falls from bushes and people picnic in the parks. A stranger with dog treats in their pocket is easy to handle (as long as they don't feed my dog without asking... this infuriates me).

So with some of the problems I felt I had going in under better control I find myself focusing on the niggling things that Cohen did but I didn't bother expending much energy on correcting. Things like sitting/downing more slowly than I'd like (Cohen has a messy down-on-recall). Slow responses for a sit/stay at a start line, and the occasional broken start line. I want to start really tackling her excitement for when the back door opens, and her extreme reaction for when the doorbell rings.

These are all pretty much non-issues. I just think it's a good sign that I'm starting to feel like focusing on them -- I feel like it's indicative of feeling less preoccupied with off-leash control.

The biggest downside, thus far, has been that as a result of eating so many awesome, tasty, first-rate treats, Cohen has had HORRIBLE gas. It's just a constant stream coming out of her rear end. I miss my almost-never-gassy dog.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cohen -- weave and jump practice

Here's a new video of Cohen's weave pole progress. Adrian was awesome and surprised me with a hand made (Adrian made!) jump. So I've set the 2x2s and the jump out in the back yard and have been running drills on them the last few days.


I think you can see some obvious progress in how Cohen is navigating the weaves. Some of those weave entries were pretty tricky and she was navigating them like a champ. She's single-stepping some of the poles, which I'm really happy to see.

The poles are technically arranged straight, but they get knocked around quite a bit as the dog runs through them.

Watching myself in this video is helpful -- I need to direct more with my shoulders, not my hands. I also need to loosen up and get my arm off my hip.

I've been working on Cohen's tugging a lot, so I think I'm about ready to start using a tug as a reward instead of food. I opted not to here because her arousal level gets a bit too high and her barking gets unmanageable. It's a work in progress.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

One week in...

Today marks the completion of the first week of the Recall e-course I'm participating in, and already I'm noticing some nice improvements, and general frustration outside has diminished greatly.

Some highlights of general improvement:
  • Yesterday in agility class I had Cohen sitting in her crate with the door open while I went across the room to listen to my instructor. Cohen sat there calmly without breaking the barrier while another dog was played with right in front of her and I was over 40 feet away.
  • One of the dogs in last night's class was reactive and generally a handful. She was barking, chasing, and got away from her handler once to chase after another dog on the course. All the while Cohen sat quietly in her crate looking to me for reinforcement.
  • Cohen recalled away from a half-eaten banana in the park.
  • Cohen recalled away from a game of chase after it had died down a bit when I was over 100ft away.
  • Cohen stopped her stalking of a nearby squirrel with a "leave it" from me.
On top of all that, there's just a general sense of ease and enthusiasm when we're out together. I've been making more effort to play with her and work the games into our walks. I've been mindful of where Cohen's reinforcement is coming from and I think I'm getting better at managing it.

I walk Cohen off-leash constantly (as long as we're away from roads). I think I'm probably not following the rules in this situation. I think the idea is for her to be leashed so as not to allow for any opportunities to inappropriately reinforce herself while we're out, but at this point I don't think that that's a realistic expectation. Instead I've been working on being more preemptive and rewarding like crazy when Cohen makes a good decision without any cue from me.

I look forward to where we'll be when the course reaches its end.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Agility class round up.

So my agility class finished up last night. To celebrate we were able to run a mock course a few times. Adrian was kind enough to come along and was able to record some of our work. I'm really happy to have a recording of Cohen's and my runs since I lose track of things pretty quickly when I'm out there on the course.


I'm quite happy with the progress that I've been able to make (Cohen's making progress too... but it's my two left feet that are the biggest problem). Of course there are huge opportunities for improvement, so in the spirit of constructive criticism, here I go. If you're reading this, feel free to offer some advice too.

First, holy crap I need to stop using the names of the next obstacle as a release from a contact. What a rookie mistake. I will say break I will say break I will say break...

Lately Cohen has been having trouble with good tunnels if the entry is in the least bit confusing, so I've made a mental note to reward them more thoroughly (which you see a bit here... while I drop a treat and everything). I think tunnels, being so simple, are easy for a handler to overlook for rewards.

Holy moly we're slow! I think I'm going to have to start running flat out to encourage a bit more speed. But I'm also going to have to get in better shape. The excitement paired with the mild exertion have a bigger effect on my body than I care to admit.

I will stand up straighter, I will stand up straighter, I will stand up straighter.

I won't cue a "back up" to re-get a broken contact. I'll focus more on getting a nose touch on the contact -- right now she's 50/50.

I want to see if I can get Cohen's teeter and walk speeds higher. She has a pretty good a-frame performance -- I'm told she just sails over the peak. I think it's a matter of revving her up more and moving faster myself.

With all that said, these are things I like:

I like Cohen's focus forward at the start line. She's doing it when cued. I've not yet gotten into the habit of pairing the verbal with a gesture, but I'll work on that soon.

I'm feeling more confident in my ability to control her on a course. I'm starting to learn more handling techniques through the class. Hopefully I'll be able to increase Cohen's already-pretty-good impulse control via the e-course I'm taking. Previously I'd thought that competition wouldn't be in the cards for another year or so, but I might revise that and say we'll be ready in a few months.

I'm re-taking this course (ahh, the benefits of working at the place you're schooling...) and next time I hope to use more tug rewards to build that drive and energy. Cohen's tugging has come along really nicely recently, so I'm hoping she'll respond to it as a reward in Agility from time to time.

With all that said, I'm really having a blast. It's been a lot of fun for me to learn, and I'm really enjoying the challenge. I just need to work on my flatwork more often at home.

Monday, March 28, 2011

One of the more bizarre habits...



Above: a shoe on my pillow

One of Cohen's more bizarre habits is she loves to move shoes around. More specifically, my shoes. She'll go into the closet, pick up a shoe and carry it up into my bedroom. Sometimes she'll get distracted part way through her project and I'll find shoes strewn along the path she normally takes from point A to point B. Sometimes she'll invest herself in this project rather earnestly and will bring up multiple shoes in quick succession.

A few days ago I came home to my runner sitting on my pillow as if lovingly placed there by some sort of confused secret admirer.

She doesn't chew them, or slobber on them. All she does is move them when she's bored.

It's endearing until I go to put on a shoe and realize that the one that matches the one currently on my foot has been brought upstairs and left in my room. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, she'll bring up pairs of shoes -- for some reason it feels slightly less crazy to go upstairs to retrieve both shoes, instead of a single one.

The photo below is from a few hours worth of work. Note that she has brought up full pairs (circled in corresponding colours), plus one chew-shoe that she got her teeth on as a pup that has been relinquished as a dog toy.



Above: a dog on a mission.

I probably only have myself to blame, as I'm the one to taught her to retrieve, and then began amusing myself by introducing her to various other retrievable items.


Above: it's all my fault.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Too smart for her own good?

Yesterday I had the 2x2s set up where I normally have them and was running drills with Cohen, attempting some more complicated entries and switching up my positioning a bit.

I thought, "I wonder if she'll go through them backwards?" We only ever worked on going through the poles in the one direction.

So I set Cohen up right in front of the line of poles, but at the opposite end she's used to starting. I cue "weave!" and she gets up... and runs all the way down the line of poles, finds her "proper" entry and does the line with enthusiasm.

I can't tell if this is a good or a bad thing, but it sure as hell was amusing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pets in Things

My contribution to a "Pets In Things" thread, Dog in Boxes of various sizes.

Dog in box.

Dog in box -- cute edition.

Dog in smaller box.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Common recall mistakes

This is a list of common recall mistakes. In an attempt to begin diagnosing my problems with recall I've marked some that I seem to have particular problem with.

Cohen is a good dog, and I would say 80% reliable off-leash. My standards for behaviour are very high and I try as hard as I can to strive for perfection. The issues I run into time and time again are a) getting too pushy during play, intimidating other dogs and not recalling, and b) finding something vaguely edible on the ground and, again, not recalling.

So without further ado, the list.
  1. Weak history of reinforcement associated with you.
  2. A strong history of reinforcement from the environment. (Very guilty of this!)
  3. Reinforcement value of having an owner chase the dog that doesn't come.
  4. History of recall equating to a loss. (Guilty of trying to call Cohen off when she gets too involved in rough play.)
  5. History of being "tricked" into coming when he doesn't want to.
  6. Dependency on confinement, tethering or a long line.
  7. History of punishing the dog upon return.
  8. Lack of opportunity for freedom to run and explore.
  9. Lack of exercise.
  10. The "poisoned" recall cue.
  11. Too much freedom too early in life and a lack of awareness from you where the balance lies. (Again, this might be an issue for me. Cohen has always been allowed off leash since she first arrived home. It's a minor issue, if anything.)
  12. A history of positive consequences when the dog chooses not to come when called. (This ties into my other issues.)

Poor strategic use of reinforcement -- lack of time or knowledge. For me, I fear it's lack of knowledge. Hopefully this will be rectified during the course. I fear I reward too often for mediocre behaviour, and use too low-value reinforcers. I use kibble often since Cohen will work for it 95% of the time.

Lately I've been wondering if I use food rewards too habitually, and the constant expectation for reward lessens their impact overall.

The most important thing to remember is to "be the cookie" as in, make yourself intrinsically valuable to your dog.

Sorry for the jumbled nature of this post -- it's more to serve as a reminder to myself than to educate those having trouble with their own recalls.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weave poles, celebrating our successes. Week 2.

Weave pole training has hit an impasse with only 6 poles to work with at home, and the almost-constant rain. I think progress will be slow from here on out. However...

Last night we had our agility class and there were 12 poles set up in a corner. My eyes lit up!

I sent Cohen through them and whoops, she popped out 3/4s of the way through. Sent her through again and she missed the tenth pole. So I slowed down, sent her through and rewarded 2 poles in. Restarted, rewarded 4 poles in. Restarted, rewarded at 6. At that point I think Cohen kind of "got" it and was able to finish the rest (slowly) while watching me out of the corner of her eye. After that she was doing the full row of twelve as long as there were few distractions. She would do the full row with me a fair distance away as long as she could hear me encouraging her.

Ideally in true 2x2 fashion there would have been a space between the two sets of 6 poles and she would have been introduced more slowly to keep her confidence higher. The weaves weren't the focus of the evening so there wasn't really an opportunity to introduce them properly.

So, Cohen can do 12 poles in ideal circumstances. Confidence is still a bit low (she's great on 6 though) but we're definitely making progress.

Last night was a good class.

On other class-related news, the last agility class I took there were only 4 dogs. Now there's 8 and class is noticeably slower and more chaotic. It's frustrating. Especially when it takes other dogs 2-3 minutes to get through a mock-course that takes Cohen 30 seconds. Ah well!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Being reinforcing to your dog

Someone recently asked me,
"How long should I use treats for reinforcement?"
This is a question that gets asked a lot when training dogs. Obviously you don't want to ever have to be reliant on treats whenever you need to ask your dog to do something. Many a positive trainer has weighed in on how best to ensure your dog's behaviour be reliable regardless of whether you have a pocketful of chicken or not. I feel like there's another question underneath the first, which is,
"How long should I be reinforcing to my dog?"
People use treats for dog training because they are a primary reinforcer, that is, they are intrinsically valuable to a dog. They all need to eat, and most enjoy eating a great deal. But food is not the only reinforcer available to you -- there's play, praise, access to the environment and more. I almost always start training with food due to its intrinsic strength, but if food was the only reinforcer available in a trainer's arsenal then the trainer would find themselves very limited indeed.

The way I look at training is that you use a high level of reinforcement to lay the groundwork for behaviours, ideally so much so that they become ingrained in a dog's behavioural patterns. For instance, when I ask my girl to sit she complies almost instantly, and almost subconsciously -- we have done so many drills that compliance is almost guaranteed. Once that initial groundwork is laid then I'm granted more variety in the way which I choose to approach reinforcement, but I will always. reinforce. my dog.

There is a constant mathematical formula running in my head evaluating where my dog is being reinforced and by how much. (Remember, behaviour that is reinforced is more likely to be repeated.) Is going after that scrap of garbage more rewarding than listening to me? What about running after that squirrel? What about that small child smeared with icecream? The jogger? The puppy? These mental calculations may sound like a lot of work, but they're easier than they seem, especially with practice.


This is where training and having a good relationship with your dog really shines. Training is the ultimate bonding experience. It teaches both you and your dog to communicate with one another and strengthens that special relationship that exists between a person and their four-legged best friend.

As you spend more quality time with your dog you become intrinsically rewarding to them. Your dog will look to you for guidance and feedback because that is the pattern you've created over the months and years of hard work. If your pup is anything like mine, it will enjoy spending time with you and earning your attention because listening to you is both entertaining and fun. And if your pup is not like mine yet you can certainly create this type of relationship if you're dedicated to building it.

This to me is the true payoff for training. All those long hours spent running drills for off-leash recalls and heeling eventually pay off by teaching both you and your dog how to listen to each other, and more importantly, enjoy doing so. My presence is rewarding to my dog, just the same way her presence is rewarding to me.

So, let's again look at the question, "How long should I be reinforcing for my dog?" By now I'm sure it's obvious what my answer is. You should plan to always be reinforcing to your dog.

When you first get your unruly puppy it might be tough to win out over all the distractions of the world without waving a piece of tripe in front of your dog's nose. You'll find yourself frustrated and wondering if you'll have to rely on these methods forever. But through being consistent and building up a positive relationship with your dog (one free of intimidation and physical punishment) you'll find that less and less you'll have to struggle to keep your dog's attention. It's a beautiful day when you realize that your dog is voluntarily giving you its attention because it wants to, and enjoys doing so. Building this reaction is a lifelong process, and is probably the most worthwhile pursuit in building a relationship with your dog.

Of course, everyone enjoys the occasionally cookie too.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Building a solid tug

Cohen is a very food motivated dog, and 95% of her training has been via food reinforcement. She's a breeze to handle with food, for which I've always been extremely grateful.

However, now that we're beginning to dabble in sports it's becoming increasingly apparent that she would benefit from a strong toy/tug drive. Last week my agility instructor approached me and said that I would essentially be selling myself short if I wasn't able to get Cohen motivated for a tug on the course. Oh my.

The problem is that Cohen loses all interest in playing when food is around, or when she expects food. Her tugging was also quite weak (more bite and slash instead of tug and hold). And more irritatingly, she's always adored playing keepaway. She can always be called back if she's playing with people, but with dogs her recall turns to mush as she leads them on a merry chase. So when we're working with tugs in class her eyes are always on her neighbour's toy which is of course more appealing than her own.

I've been aware of this problem for a few months now and have been working on improving her drive to tug. I'm really starting to see an improvement, but she's not ready to tug in the distraction and toy filled sports class.

I bought a special tug toy that I keep above my dresser that I use for the most exciting tug games. Cohen's eyes get wide and her tail starts to wag when she sees me reach for it. The increased frequency at which we tug has helped immensely with her grip and she's now much more capable of holding on instead of constantly biting at it. I also played around a bit with shaping a tug, which Cohen did well at to start but both her and my interest waned before we progressed too far.

Now I'm faced with the challenge of weaning her off food rewards in agility class. The problem I have is that I'll have a toy and throw it ahead after she's completed a line of jumps, but she doesn't give it a second glance -- she'll circle back to me for a food reward.

With certain obstacles I'd use the toy as a secondary reward -- if she ran to it and played with it I would reward her with food. But I felt as if this approach meant that I was rewarding the going for the toy, not the behaviour on the obstacle.

Any ideas on how I might start switching from one type of reward to another? Right now I'm focusing on getting Cohen more comfortable tugging in class, but we've still got a ways to go yet.

Also, here's a video of a particularly fun quasi-tug session. If only she were always this into it! (You can really see how shiny her coat is here too!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Weave poles, celebrating our success. Day 6.

Here we are, 6 days into weave pole training.

It's pouring rain outside, the dog is stir crazy and I have a video camera. Time for a video of our weave pole progress this week.

Now, before you watch it I know it's RIFE with problems. I'm posting it because I feel it shows good progress on my two goals -- 1) training the behaviour with Cohen and 2) building some confidence and value.

So I'll link the video, and afterwards I'll try to go over everything I think could be improved.


Yes, I'm using food. I've opted to use food during the initial stages because it was key in getting Cohen to focus. She values food more than play at the moment so I opted to use it to build that initial value.

No, this isn't where we normally practice. I have a slightly wider but darker area in the house where I've set up shop that allows me to practice more challenging angles of approach. In my opinion Cohen is doing quite well finding her entries in the environment. I moved the poles here because there was better light for filming. We've not worked outside since it's March, and when it's not snowing it's raining, so working outside hasn't been an appealing option.

Yes, she's going through pretty slowly. This is partially because I'm using a food reward, partially because I'm working indoors on slippery floors and partially because Cohen is still building her confidence in the obstacle. Previously she'd been rather stressed when faced with the weave poles and never properly understood them.

Yes, I see her looking over her shoulder at me looking for her reward. My timing sucks. Hopefully it'll get better outside with more space to move.

Yes, I see the poles skidding around the floor. I swear she's capable of doing them straight, even if they don't always remain so.

So, with all that said, I'm quite pleased with myself. And my dog.

The next week will probably consist of further indoor work (ugh rain) while I try to improve her speed. I might try to transition her to a tug reward if possible. We'll see. My agility facility tends to only work with the 6 weaves since it's mostly focused on foundation work, so right now I'll work on having the best 6 weaves I can shape.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Weave poles, trials and tribulations. Day 5.

Progress is good. I added the 5th and 6th poles this morning. The first two set are positioned straight-on, and the last set are at 1 and 7 o'clock.

At first the last two were missed a few times so I went back and opened them up a few degrees (should I not have? I don't know.) and then tried again. Cohen succeeded without incident. The barking came back, but I think this was enthusiasm and not stress. It was also quieted down much more easily, as I don't want to encourage it any more.

Later today I will try to move at least 4 poles outside to test Cohen's understanding of the exercise. There's fresh snow on the ground covering ice which is in turn covering mud, so it's not the most ideal place to practice, but I need to switch up locales to help her generalization.

Class is tonight. I wonder if we're going to be working on weaves. I would be absolutely flabberghasted if Cohen manages to do a line of 6 tonight (gotta keep expectations appropriate -- new location, stressful environment, etc) but I hope...

[Edited to add: Cohen did indeed do the 6 weaves in class!!! HURRAY!!! It took her one try to get them the first time, then did them successfully 3-4 times in a row. We took a break and reapproached them and had a few failed attempts before we had to move on. They're still a tiny bit complicated for her, but I'm totally psyched. By next week she'll have the 6 poles down no problem. Woot!]

Monday, March 7, 2011

Weave poles, trials and tribulations. Day 4.

I spent most of the weekend being lazy and feeling sorry for myself for having a cold. But I'll maintain that I had to let weave pole training ferment in Cohen's head before I could proceed.

We're up to 4 straight poles with very few mistakes from some pretty tough entries. Mostly I think I'm just patterning her right now however. I still don't think she really "gets" it. I'm hoping that that will come with time.

Cohen gets obviously frustrated after 2-3 failures in a row. I try my best to keep her motivated while not making the challenge any easier for her. I'm getting a bit better at this. I can see through Cohen's reactions to frustration that I've made a habit out of answering the tougher questions for her. From this point onwards I'm going to be trying to maintain criteria a bit better in all her shaping sessions.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weave poles, trials and tribulations. Day 3.

Did some exercises this morning in the living room with a high rate of success. Cohen has difficulty (less than 50% success rate) in entries around the 9 o'clock mark. Will focus more seriously on that from here on out.

Moved the poles outside again to utilize more space, but neither Cohen nor I were really "feeling" it. I was using food rewards (lazily) with the ground being pretty sopping wet so I was passing them from my hand. Not a good tactic. Incidence of barking increased, but was still manageable. It's difficult to really find a line when stuck with using food, and it's frustrating to not have enough indoor area to utilize distance in any way.

Entries from the 9 o'clock mark resulted in her repeatedly skipping the 2nd pole. I think Garrett would say this is due to her not gathering her body before entry. Should spend more time working various angles of approach.

Cohen is slow through the poles and can easily get stuck and frustrated. I realize this is an effect from me not having clearer criteria when shaping behaviours with her in the past.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Weave poles, trials and tribulations. Days 1 & 2.

First, some background. I'm taking a 3rd-level agility class and Cohen and I are doing pretty well all things considered. (Things to consider: my unathleticism, my disinclination to flail, Cohen's disinterest in tugging in public...) However, we're falling behind in our weaving. Cohen and I never really "got" the weaves when we did them in our last level class, and this class is not set up to accommodate us slow folks still stuck on teaching via the 2x2s.

So, in an attempt to make up the gap I picked up some 2x2s (6 poles) and borrowed Susan Garrett's 2x2 training DVD from a friend. It's recommended that I keep a training journal, so that's what I'm doing.

It's recommended that you not do all your weave training days in a row, so, if there are gaps they're probably equal parts break-taking and laziness.

DAY 1, Wednesday 2 Mar 2011

Building and testing value, poles set to 2 and 8 o'clock.

Since Cohen had already done some 2x2 weave pole training previously there wasn't much time required to build the value. I started out using food as a reward with a marker word readily. Testing the value was successful as well, with a good rate of success.

I angled the poles to the standard 2 and 8 o'clock position and kept my rewards on the reward line. Problem: Cohen will sometimes look back to me after having gone through the gate, not at the reward line. Solution: I need to use the rewards more accurately.

DAY 2, Thursday 3 Mar 2011

Working the arc, adding two more poles.

I thought I might power through multiple steps today since Cohen had done these steps previously. As a result I feel as if today has been rife with frustration.

I attempted to move locations into my back room to have more area to work the angle of approach, but I still did not have sufficient room. Foolishly I also added a second set of poles, giving me even less room. Rate of success in difficult approaches was 50% at best.

For some reason I thought maybe having more room to work would help, so I moved the poles yet again (two sets), this time outside. Because the ground was wet, and because the DVD warned against using food in the grass I opted to attempt to use Cohen's soccer ball as reward.

She was incredibly aroused by the ball, so much so that she lost sight of what it was I was asking of her. I was pleased to find a toy to which she responds so well, but there was no progress to speak of.

The biggest problem is her arousal barking. I feel like this barking was initially developed as a response to the excitement and stress of learning the poles initially (in Agility Level Two) and now this emotional reaction is tied to the training. Sometimes I opt to ignore it, but sometimes it grates on my last nerve. I did not cope well with it today.

I think I'm going to reduce Cohen's arousal level despite Garrett speaking of how important it is. As soon as Cohen begins barking her ability to be receptive to commands and her capability to learn is diminished.

For our last session today I plan to move back indoors, remove the second set of poles, and use food as a reward while I work angles of approach. I feel like this step might be worth sticking with for additional time depending on how Cohen reacts. It is always my tendency to want to push past training the basics to more flashy behaviours, so I'll have to remember to slow down.

The snow, cold weather and wet ground also make it difficult. Weave training really seems best learned outside, but I make due with what I have.

Edit: Later in the day we revisited the process. I was indoors and was working with food. Cohen had a high rate of success with all entries (though being indoors and crowded we didn't have as much room to work as I would like). So I re-added the second set of poles and had greater success. There wasn't one instance of barking. I consider it a success. Tomorrow (or later tonight) will be more of the same. Obviously I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here, but I really need to pace myself.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Weave poles, lesson plan.

12 stages of 2x2 weave training

1. Building value
2. Testing value
3. Swing shift - 2 o'clock to 8 o'clock
4. Working the arc
5. 2 more poles
6. Moving the poles closer together
7. Turning poles to 1 o'clock and 7 o'clock
8. Now we're weaving
9. Overcoming obstacles
10. Rollin' a six
11. Rollin' double sixes
12. Fancy footwork

Monday, February 28, 2011

Teaching Cohen a handstand


Process is slow since I've focused on building it up in stages. Plus, it takes a lot of core strength which takes time to build up.

_____

Step one is teaching your dog to target an object with their back feet.

Steps two - seven are slowly increasing the size of the object your dog is targeting.

Step eight is getting the dog to push itself up from a vertical object. It's around here that I start adding a name to the behaviour.

Step nine is working on duration.

Step ten is the finished behaviour with no wall support and longer duration.

_____


Steps eight through ten are theoretical right now, since I've not gotten there yet. I might end up changing my plan a bit if I run into trouble at some point. So far the toughest step has been one. Once I got that it was just a matter of time.

Yes, this behaviour seems almost totally pointless, but it's pretty fun and a nifty party trick.