Sunday, May 15, 2011

Holy Catch-Up Batman

Blogger was down a few days ago and now I feel like I have a ton of catching up to do. Wow. We've done quite a bit this week. So Wednesday I posted about Monday and that's where I left off. Of course it's worth mentioning I've veered off training a bit lately - but not entirely. We haven't had agility in a bit but most of what we're doing is training related in one way or another, even if it's conditioning. So Tuesday was Leo's agility class and I had an appointment after work so the dogs didn't get a whole lot of attention. We just did some random stuff around the house but nothing notable. On Wednesday after work Vegas and I headed to Memorial Park with our friend, Pam, to practice our nose work again. It was raining and nasty so we used the Forest Shelter at the park which turned out to be a pretty great place. We spent about an hour and did three searches with varying numbers of hides. Vegas did pretty well. Sometimes I think I push her ahead too quickly so really need to rein things in and remember she doesn't have the experience that Pam's Jewel does nor is she quite such a natural at it. Either way, I'm glad I went ahead and joined Pam.

Thursday I came home from work and mowed the lawn. Afterward the dogs were feeling a bit neglected and since it was such a beautiful evening and we get so few of those, we headed out for a walk. I mentioned before I liked the app I found for my phone, Walkies. Well, goofy me, I'm going to have to figure out what I did and not ever do it again. Our two hour walk would have been fantastic to have mapped and stats tracked, but I managed to turn the app off not once, but twice, and delete our information both times. Either way, it was a nice outing. It was cool enough the dogs weren't so warm but I did notice how much more tired they were than they might have been a month ago. It makes quite the difference getting them out as often as I have been and working them at home or on other activities, too. One thing I didn't mess up with my phone, a few pictures taken along the way....

This one is funny because there was a critter she had just chased down and really wanted to get out of the brush. Probably a squirrel. Boy does her prey drive kick in though.

After our two hour walk and probably about four miles, all the dogs wanted was food and their comfy bed.

So along with our increased activity, biking, hiking, walking, I've noticed Vegas' gait is a bit off. I couldn't pinpoint what it was but I suspected either her right shoulder or her left rear hip/low back. I had asked my friend, Rachel, whose a veterinarian if she had any ideas and she suggested putting some video together of her from both the left side, the right side, front, and rear. I also had Lindsay take a look at her today and she thinks it was the rear left, too. Fortunately she doesn't act like anything bothers her at all. She's not in pain, favoring anything, and it's not slowing her down. It's more a well, "hitch in her giddyup" for lack of a better way of putting it. It's just one of those "off" things you notice when you're in tune with your dog and used to working with them.

Here's the video. I'm curious to hear what anyone else thinks, too.
So Friday was another lazy-ish night. I was exhausted after work so aside from the gaiting Vegas for video, I took a nap before taking the kids to their dad's house. When I got home I had intentions of crashing early but that didn't happen.

Today we went to My Dog's Gym and Training Center for the really cool opportunity I mentioned us getting to participate in. We got to be students for the students of the Karen Pryor Academy. I cannot say enough good things about this experience. It was awesome! It makes me wish I could attend the academy and get into this field. Every opportunity I have to spend seeing dogs and their handlers learn and grow makes me enjoy dog training all the more.

So we were directed to show up and come to the door without our dogs first. I was the last to arrive (although I was early) and met our first trainer, Shaun. She walked with me out to the truck and we got Vegas out, grabbed her bed, my treat bag, and took Vegas to go potty. Then we went in and set up. They had this great space set up with separated partitions so dogs didn't have to interact or worry about another dog next to them. There were just four of us participating with the four students. Vegas was by far the largest dog, the second being our friend, Crystal's Koira, then a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and then a Portugese Podengo, the latter who was just a puppy. Helix started things off by having us (the volunteers) introduce ourselves and our dogs. I had put Vegas in a sit and stay with Shaun and just started to speak when she lunged and practically drug Shaun up to me. Yeah, not the greatest start but fairly typical of Vegas. Keep in mind, I was fully in sight and only about 10 feet away. She's a nut.

After everyone had introduced themselves we got started. Helix came over and talked to us a bit about Vegas. I hadn't realized the intention was to have the student work with the dog and then the owner. I let them know about Vegas' severe separation anxiety and told them she may be more cooperative if I wasn't in the room. We figured we'd see what we could do. Helix started out working with Vegas. She took her lead and was just backing up and treating her. She did this for several minutes and it was actually really cool to see how quickly Vegas caught on and didn't even more than glance occasionally to make sure I was there. We did try to move forward, too, a bit, and then Helix handed Vegas off to Shaun. Oh my goodness! Would you believe that in almost not time Shaun had Vegas heeling at attention with her? Yes, I started out by her side as the "third wheel" but eventually as we progressed, I was able to get as far back as about eight feet behind Shaun and Vegas kept working with her. First, it seriously almost brought tears to my eyes to see her work with someone else. Just the simple fact that she was able to give someone else her focus was amazing. Second, that she was giving the kind of attention that I envy so much with other handlers. It is possible! was the thought that kept going through my head, still goes through my head. Wow. Amazing.

Basically all they had done was set up two large circles on the floor with flat cones. The cones were spaced approximately one large step apart from each other so there were quite a few. As the training progressed, Helix removed random cones so the distance between cones varied. What the students were doing is stopping briefly at each cone to click and treat. As long as the dog was giving attention and on a loose leash, they were rewarded. I don't think Vegas even realized there was anything to this "game" except food, but she was offering such beautiful behavior it so totally inspired me. At times she was striding ahead eight feet watching Shaun, heeling with attention, and not checking back on me. It was so cool! I never did try it because it was so inspiring to see the two of them work together.

Believe it or not, that took about an hour between each of the students and volunteers taking turns on the circles. We took a 10-15 minute break and got back into things. We also traded students. I forgot the second student's name already.... She worked with us on targeting. She just started with holding her hand out and clicking for any interest Vegas showed in her hand. Of course being food motivated, Vegas instantly was interested since hands deliver food. For the first little bit she was doing a fair amount of licking at her hand, but before long she was just giving slight nose bumps as was desired. We talking about using other objects, too, particularly with small dogs who are lower to the ground. In Vegas' case, targeting to a stick/spoon didn't draw her interest so we went back to the hand. This gal was quickly able to get Vegas moving with her hand, following the motion a step or so. I tried it a bit and saw some result in our little cubicle, but when asked to do it in front of everyone, Vegas was not interested in working with me. I will say, too, she preferred me giving the "Yes" marker word while working with her (I didn't have a clicker.) versus the other girl using the clicker for the marker while I did the targeting. The two of us working with her at once seemed to confuse her.

Amazing how tired they can get from doing mental work though, although Vegas never tires of the treats. She acted like she was starving the entire time. It was a great opportunity and I have some new tools in my toolbox for sure. What a great facility at My Dog's Gym, too. Very spacious and wow do they have a ton of equipment for working just about anything. My biggest, burning question at the end was: Do you constantly work the attention with heeling/loose leash walking or do you ever get a break? Here's why that came up: On the break I took Vegas out to potty. My thought was, it was a break. Do I work her or do I let her relax and walk the way she normally does? Yikes! The honest truth is, Vegas isn't a horrible puller. She's just an end of the leash walker. It's cats and squirrels that will cause me doom if I'm not "on my toes." But she's never been a loose leash, hanging by my side, remotely close to heel kind of walker. The answer? Basically, every time I let her walk at the end of her leash, pull on her leash, it reinforces the way I don't want her to walk. How to get around it? Helix suggested some other kind of hardware. And, as a for instance, she explained that her dog gets to go fast and be out ahead when she (Helix) is on her scooter. But if they're both walking, she needs to be on a loose leash. They also introduced me to a new kind of harness and let us try one on. I'm going to look into having one custom made with the padding on it when I can. It'll go from affordable to yikes with the padding, but a bare dog like Vegas can't really afford to have anything rub on her. In walking her around the gym with this harness on, she really wasn't prone to pulling. Of course she wasn't faced with a squirrel and had just spent two hours working her brain so, who knows. It's worth a try.

After being in Salem we went home for a brief 15 minutes to gather Leo and some treats and water, then went to the barn for drill team practice. We had a good practice again working over the first umpteen counts and trying to make sure the steps are solid in our own brains then we took the dogs through it a couple of times. Then we worked without the dogs on some of the transitions and scheduled our next practice. As we were clearing out and I was waiting for my class to show up, I worked Vegas a bit on some of the equipment being as she hadn't done any agility since our last trial. Oh my goodness was she happy! That girl had some major mad weaving skills tonight that I would give anything to have at a trial. We're talking me moving in completely random directions out off the end of the poles while she was weaving and she just kept on moving through them super fast. It was awesome to see and I know she was glad to be working again. I can't wait for our next trial!

And that's all for now. We've got a low key day for tomorrow including some more nose work at the agility barn with Pam and then a meeting scheduled. It's supposed to be rainy and 50s here so more inside time than outside is on the books again. Guess we'll work on our balance disk and some backing up and spinning tricks.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool Kennedy!! The Clicker Expo is being held in Portland in January and I'm seriously thinking of attending. Maybe a posibility for you as well? It's not cheap, but it's far enough off that I think it's possible to set aside money for it. At least that's what I'm hoping!