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.