Saturday, December 31, 2005

Day 163

New Year's Eve and I liked the picture I took yesterday so much it gave me all sorts of ideas. This is what happens when I lay awake most of the night dreaming up crazy stunts.

To see all the pictures in order you need to go to:

Sorry about the need to cut and paste. I just couldn't seem to figure the code out to make the link work.

Anyway, it turned into an all day project just shooting the pictures. Sanity show real promise at becoming one of a long line of "actor/dogs". Towards the end she started to get the idea that this was some sort of game we were playing and that it was actually both fun and funny.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Day 162

Friday and off to get nails done and hair cut. Car wouldn't start so we had to hitch a ride in Jesse's truck. Uck! I hate trying to get in or out of that "thing". However, as a measure of how much Sanity is growing, she hopped in without any trouble at all.

The other measure of how much she is growing is that the normal Friday jaunt no longer is enough to leave her feeling as if she has actually done much of anything. I suspect the "time off" isn't going to last for much longer. If for no other reason than because she can't stay out of trouble when she isn't being worked. Caught her in my flower bed again. Not sure how she got in this time. I don't even want to think about the fact that she may be clear jumping the four foot fence.

Wanted to send everyone a New Year's Eve card and when I went to look for one all I could find was really yucky. So it became a case of have digital camera, dogs and an idea. This is what I got:
Yes, those really are glass wine goblets and no the stool is not too small for Sanity. Having to think about balancing helps her focus on the task at hand.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Day 160

Wednesday. Have decided that a break is in order since Sanity and I are starting to get a very bad attitude, besides which she is eight months old today. So a break really is in order.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Day 159

Tuesday, the house is full of dogs and there is no way Miss Sanity is going to get any training this day.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Day 158

Today was one of those days where I should have taken pictures and I didn't. Diane came over to help me out. What a life saver! After all the outside work was done, it was cold and damp enough for me to vote that we go in, warm up and then train in the studio. And that is exactly what we did.

We "bench chained" Black and Blue at one end of the room, put Molly and Lightening on down/stays at the other and Sanity went through the place pattern I had set up as a training aid. Imagine a square with a place board at each corner. Each of the place boards is different. Different surfaces, different heights, different looks. There is the one made of wood and one made all of plastic and one made of PVC pipe and the last on being a small step stool. Makes for a much more interesting session than just sending to the same thing over and over and over again.

After Sanity set the pattern, Black was worked and then Blue and then Diane's Lightening. We gave Molly a pass since the stool really was a tad bit too small for her size and lack of agility.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Day 157

We had a little sun this morning and it was almost warm, then the sky filled with grey clouds and the rains came. With so many dogs here the outside time was pretty hectic. If you want to know where Sanity is, just follow the loud noise. You will be guaranteed to find her in the thick of things. Actually she is the one stirring the pot.In this case, she is the one on the bottom. Look closely at her coat, those are streaks of mud. By the time I finally called all the dogs to come in due to the rain she was pretty much covered with a coating of mud.

I cooked a pot of chicken for their dinner and there were no complaints about the food at all. Didn't actually do a lick of serious training today.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Day 156

Saturday, the day before Christmas and the yard is full of dogs. Will share a few pictures of what it is like around here right now.

In the game of King of the Mulch Pile, we call this one the smallest King.
It takes a bit of courage to open that gate and step into the yard when faced with the greeting committee.
Sammy-poo starts to move in on the king position while Spot doesn't seem to realize his rule is being challenged from a different front.
Sammy-poo manages to hold the crown, but with the "indians/Dobes" starting to circle he won't hang on for long.
Sure enough, one of the Dobes now rules.
Sammy-poo would much rather watch a stand-off than take part in one.
Rosie teases Sammy-poo and Spot

Everyone should have a tree climbing hound. Sammie going up the tree.At this point she is about six and a half to seven feet off the ground.
Here she is in all her glory. May I present, "Sammie, that tree climbing hound..
And for those who may wonder here is how she gets back down. As you can see, it is not a problem at all."
I think you could say it is rather busy around here right now.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Day 155

After driving all the adult dogs in the yard crazy for the better part of 3 hours, she came in, stood nicely so I could make an attempt to clean her up and put her service dog in training cape on her. Instant transformation from wildass, crazy puppy to very serious young working dog.

Off we went so I could get my nails done. She never ceases to amaze. Waits at the gate until I tell her to go through, waits for me to close and lock the gate, stays in heel position to the car. Waits at the door until I tell her to get in. Once we reach the parking lot of the shop, she waits in the car until I call her out and then falls into heel position without my having to say a word. In the shop she ignores the other clients and goes straight to her rug.

From the time we leave the house until the time we return she manages to do every single thing she is supposed to do and never does a single thing that could be considered to be out-of-line. It is truly amazing how she can be so very, very good one minute and so very, very bad the next. All a part of growing and learning.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Day 154

It was a little warmer today. All that means is Miss Sanity became PigpenSanity. I don't think I have ever owned a Dobe who was as completely happy to be covered with mud. YUCK!

So why is she getting so muddy? Because she just can't seem to help herself and just has to stir up one uproar after another. I have a very full house right now and inSanity moves from one small group to the next stirring things up as she goes. Want to know where she is? Just listen for the barking and squeaking and squealing, follow all that noise and sure enough you will find her in the thick of whatever is going on. Usually something that shouldn't be going on, like digging holes in places other than the mulch pile or pulling one of the window well covers off and tearing it up or doing buzzing fly-bys just to see what the older dogs will do about it. Wonder if she will live to see her first birthday?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Day 153

Worked inside today and Sanity got a chance to help with the training of the two board and train dogs that are currently here. Notice how both dogs are actually watching what Sanity is doing. I brought the male out first and he had a bit of trouble figuring out how to get up on the stool without tipping it over so Sanity came back out and got up on the stool again. Then he got it and when I brought the girl out she just hopped right up on the stool without any hesitation or balance problems.If you look very closely at the reflection in the big mirror you can see Sanity laying on her bed watching and waiting for a chance to help me.

Today she managed to make it through the entire day without getting into major mischief.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Day 152

Well the day's of inSanity are truly upon us. Should I talk about the full box of tissues she trashed or the trash can she knocked over and the trash she then spread all over the room or the fact that she got into my closet and pulled out some new balls I was saving for when the ones she is "chewing to death" are done.

Lordy, lordy, lordy, if this pup makes it to her first birthday it will be a major miracle.

All of which just goes to show that making sure a pup gets enough physical exercise really isn't enough. It is the mental exercise that makes the real difference.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Day 151

Here it is Monday and I am still dragging around here just about able to keep up with the training necessary to keep the board and training dogs moving in the right direction. Part of me worries about the fact that Sanity is missing her daily "new material" drills and part of me says, "Don't be silly."

Just because I am not drilling on new material doesn't mean she isn't getting worked. There is the business of learning how to be the yard boss. Now that is a really tough job and right now since her idea of bossing is to stir things up and then run around in a circle barking at everyone, she is getting lots and lots of practice at coming when called. In time, she will figure out what is acceptable behavior in the yard and what isn't and will start coming to tell me when things are amiss. Meanwhile, I will continue to tap, pause, tap, tap, pause; repeat until she really figures out what that particular code means.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Day 150

Normally this is the day I simply refuse to do any training. However, I was forced to make an exception. Seems there were far too many days last week where I didn't do enough training to meet Sanity's idea of a good day. I knew I was bound to have to pay for the lack of work, but...

So by late afternoon I had chased Sanity out of the kitchen where she was doing some very determined counter surfing on a counter that didn't even have anything of interest on it. This was followed by her getting caught repeatedly jumping on and off the sofa in the living room. A bit later she grabbed the tissue box and took off with it, only to drop it and slip behind my chair so she could grab a box of cold pills to be followed in quick succession with my nose spray.

My solution? I put feeling sorry for myself aside and found leash, remote, dumbbell and small stool. Yep, my solution was to work her on the retrieve, the place command on a very small, difficult place and some serious full attention sits. Work we did, for the better part of a full hour we moved between just getting on and off that stool, arm's length retrieves and full attention sits with direction changes. And then the itch had been scratched and she was willing to stay out of trouble.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Day 149

Today's Retrieve class will be the last class for this year. Not a bad thing since so many have had to miss one or more classes. We will start up again in January and that will give everyone a fresh start.

Meanwhile in checking the response to "open on command" and finding holes in the training, Sanity was called on to show how it is done. I really needed her to be a little slow in her response and so I used my hand instead of the Dumbbell. Was good training for her and made it really easy for everyone to see what I was talking about.

Then for good measure we moved on to looking at why they were having problems with the simple open on command. To do that it was necessary to go back and look at the sit. This meant Sanity came out and demo'ed getting up on that tiny foot stool and holding a sit. With her help I showed them how to get the dog to step up on the stool using the place command and then follow it with the sit command. One thing it does is put a stop to that business of rocking back into a sit. If the dog tried to rock back into a sit they simply fell off the stool. Was pretty amazing to see how fast they all figured out how to do a tuck sit. I like it so much better when things can be set up to allow the dog to figure things out on their own.

Having done that part, it was clear that we actually needed to go back a bit further and make the definition of sit clearer and so Sanity came out and stepped up on the place board to show what a sit should look like. Head up, eyes on me, back straight, rear legs tightly tucked and front feet firmly planted. Step a quarter turn and require the same sit again. Repeat. Does wonders for clarifying the entire sit exercise in the dog's mind. You leave no fuzzy spots where confusion can creep in on tiny cat feet.

Later, we went outside and Tonia and I tossed bumpers for the Doberman girls. It was really interesting to watch the interaction between the three. It also became very clear that the reason Jersey gets shut out of games so often is that she has a temper and is struggling to learn how to control it. She will also forget herself and grip too hard, causing the "gripee" to yelp. When that happens, poor Jersey is once again kicked out of the game.

When I watch an interchange like what went on with the bumpers, I can't help but wonder, how much is breeding and how much is early training. Of course, when I say early training I am talking about from age 4 weeks to age 16 weeks. I suspect the lack of proper training between 4 weeks and 10 weeks is truly critical to later behavior. Leda and Sanity both show the behavior of two well brought up pups who had the benefit of a serious headstart program. Properly differential of their elders, able to play with a soft mouth, not afraid to try new things, these are some of the traits I see in not just Sanity and Leda but other pups coming from breeders who take the time to do the early puppy training. They are also traits I see as missing in pups who lack the earliest training.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Day 148

What a bummer, my car still isn't working and so Sanity and I had to ride in Jesse's truck. She doesn't seem to mind now that she has figured out how to jump into the cab. I hate it. I can't jump into the cab any more.

The one neat thing that did happen was that since we had to wait for our ride to return home, Sanity practiced a new sort of down/stay. I simply moved to a different chair and Janene's next client took the chair I had been sitting in. What difference would that make? Well, Sanity is on her place rug on the right side of that chair. She continued to remain there while a total stranger sat next to her. She sat up once, I think to check on where I was, I was just a voice that reminded her to remain in a down. She laid back down and when it was finally time for us to leave, I simply told her to "come" and then to "heel" and so she did.

This is the sort of everyday training that makes the difference between a well-trained and mannerly dog and one that doesn't have a clue as to how to behave. Actually, in this case it was good training for the stranger. She was having a difficult time wrapping her mind around the idea that this seven month old pup was quite willing and comfortable holding a down/stay next to her and most amazing of all not bothering her.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Day 147

Thursday and it was just a filthy day. Biting, damp cold in the morning was followed by snow, sleet and freezing rain in the afternoon and evening. I'm still sick and didn't do a lick of training today. Shame on me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Day 146

Wednesday and I am paying for going out a'partying last night. I don't think I managed 2 hours of sleep, my chest is killing me and I have absolutely no voice at all. Shoot, I can't even make a squeak. No training today and I know I am going to have to pay for it in a day or two.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Day 145

Tuesday and since I traded my mouse voice for no voice at all, I gave all training a pass for the day.

Then because I thought I was feeling better in the evening we go out to dinner. It was the annual end of the year dinner for the Citizen's Advisory Committee I sit on. Well, what can I say? I really did feel better. My throat didn't hurt and my voice was back. Real raspy, but workable. I pretty much never go anywhere and I really didn't want to miss this.

Sweat suit and in training cape on, ecollar for silent, low-key communication and we are off to Red Lobster. Snag of the sort that says, "maybe you really should stay home". The battery is dead in my car. Not to worry, son Jesse volunteers to take us in his truck. Getting in and out of that truck is spelled P A I N, but I really want to go and so we go.

I'm glad we went. Dinner was fun and Sanity behaved like she had been doing this all her life. Well actually, now that I think about it she sort of has been doing this sort of thing all her life. Since they don't do reservations, we had to do the wait thing. Sanity came, sat, turned, downed and then backed up to fit under the bench with not a single hitch. When our table was called she heeled when I told her to, moved forward in front of me when I told her to and followed when I told her to and most important of all she kept her nose to herself.

At this point in her training the keeping her nose to herself in a restaurant is a major point with me. She is now tall enough to rest her head on the tables as we move passed them. I needed to give a tap or two in one particularly narrow aisle where the food on both sides was close enough for her to snag a bite without breaking stride. Good girl that she can be, with just those couple of reminder taps she stayed totally focused on her job and never even so much as turned her head towards the temptations.

During the course of the evening, one person after another left to use the restrooms only to come back with a story about who the met while they were gone and all the questions they were asked about THE DOBERMAN under their table. Seems the thing that was of most interest was her tender age and how they had never seen a dog so well behaved, much less one so young. Good Girl, Sanity, good girl. When she is good, she is very, very good and when she is bad she is horrid.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Day 144

Monday morning and I wake up feeling like my throat is on fire and my head is pounding. This turned into a very long day. It was too cold and uncomfortable outside to work which forced us to bring both Newfies inside and confined our work to the studio. That studio is just barely ok when you are working with a small to medium sized dog. Put two huge Newfies and a Dobe plus two humans in the same space and it seems to be no larger than a small closet. The end result being that Sanity and Leo never did get a play session in.

While I call the sessions play, they really are more about both pups learning how to handle their bodies while around a breed that is much larger or much smaller as the case may be. The long and the short of it ended up being that they didn't get to do what they normally do on Monday morning. Then by late afternoon I realized there was no way I could teach the evening class. However, one student somehow didn't get the message. So I tell him he can use the studio and just do his own thing. Ok, that works.

Meanwhile, I figure since I'm already there I might as well go ahead and do a few retrieves. Bad, bad, bad move. My not feeling good and having a super weak, squeaky voice triggered the "I'm not working for you cause you aren't a leader right now." I know the kind of temperament I like in an adult dog means there is always a rough and rocky phase from about 6 or 7 months of age to 15 to 18 months of age. I get challenged for my right to call the shots, make the decisions, give the commands at least a dozen times a day. Under normal conditions I suspect it is a large part of what keeps me on my toes.

Monday was one of those times when I not only didn't have any toes, but was figuratively walking on my knees. I toss the dumbbell about 4 feet out in front and give the fetch command. Sanity cuts me that sideways look and starts to saunter out of the room. NOT! Ok, so I made the correction and the battle is on. I got the entire gamut of refusals. The screaming, "I ain't a gonna do it." trick. The slit-eyed glare, body locked, "you can't make me" number. The limp puddle of "oh woe is me on the floor" trick. And the one that always gets me, the "go out pick it up and come back to spit it out at my feet instead of giving it to me" routine.

Finally, it dawned on her that even sick and with a mouse voice I was still going to insist she do the job she was told to do. So out she flies and back she comes with the dumbbell. Good girl, and not being a total fool I quit while I was ahead.

I have a major gap in the training and now I am going to have to back up and see if I can figure out where I went too fast. Glad to find the gap now rather than when she is working at 15 to 20 feet away from me.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Day 143

Sunday and all I did was work on the retrieve a bit. I am just not happy with what I am seeing in the way of a response. It sort of goes back to her play retrieve in a way. She didn't mind going out and getting a toy a time or two, but even then bringing it back to hand was not high on her list of "things I live to do".

Both Sanity and Jersey seem to have made some sort of pack based on seeing just how much they could get away with in one day. The answer? Not a whole lot. I have got to find some really good chew toys for the both of them. They are in a heavy chewing phase right now and going through approved chew toys at a blinding rate.

On a different topic all together, I finally made the decision to wash Jersey from the training program. She is a nice dog and will do well, BUT she is just too big for the person she was intended to work for and now I am back to the drawing board in the search for a new service dog for someone else. True, Jersey is on the smaller side for a Dobe but I was hoping she would be really small for a Dobe.

In fact, we were all hoping she had finished her growing when she came here the end of October. Sadly, that was not the case and I have this weird idea that the person working the dog needs to be noticeably taller than the dog. Jersey was just a tad bit too tall in the beginning and now, well now that she is almost at tall as Wrap there is just no way.

Besides which she had no idea of where her body is as far as space and time are concerned. This means she will body slam without so much as an "oops, sorry". Not too much of a problem when you are steady on your feet, weight more than twice as much as the dog and are more than a foot taller. However, when more than one of those requirements is missing it becomes a problem and when not a single one of the human requirements is met, it becomes an insurmountable wall.

The search for the right home for her is now in progress.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Day 142

Good, bad or indifferent I find I am tending to work on specific commands as the need for a demonstration comes up. So today it was the place command. Not the "go to bed" or "kennel up" or "go upstairs" or "go downstairs", but the plain vanilla "place" command. That command so simple in requirement and yet so seemingly difficult for both human and dog to understand.

I say "place" and I mean for you to move away from me at a reasonable and workmanlike speed until I tell you what to do next. To me it seems so simple and yet, I have owner after owner just not able to grasp the concept. Which brings me to today's lesson. Student is still having trouble with the "place" command when the place is the negative space. Neither dog nor human seem to have a clue as to what or why they are doing what they are doing. So my solution was to start by working Sanity on "place". This is a command I haven't worked on very much lately and one that I knew she would not do correctly since like the student's dog, she really didn't get it.

Sure enough, I set up the exercise and give the command and she just sits there like a rock. Tap on the ecollar and help with my left hand on the leash up close to her collar all the way to the negative space. It is only a matter of about 4 feet, not exactly a challenging distance. I repeat this twice more and then warn my student that the next time I give the command there is more than likely going to be some yelling.

Why the change? Because, when I said tap/place, Sanity locked it up and had that "you can't make me do it" look on her face. Ha! Watch me. So I increased the stim level by one and repeated the entire exercise. When I said place/tap she let out a yell and made to head for the door. Nope, I simply helped her move in the correct direction all the while keeping my finger on the button and not letting up on the stim until she was in the area defined by the negative space. Just as soon as all four feet cleared the space marker, I took my finger off the button, said "sit" and helped her into a sit as I praised and talked softly to her. Her response was a sort of "humpf" noise. Repeated the exercise again but this time I turned the stim back down to the normal training level. Sure enough, when I said "place" she moved at once to the negative space and sat almost before I had a chance to tell her to "sit".

Then it was the student's turn with her dog. She still didn't get it and was actually using the place command to mean sit. Her dog was most confused. Stopped the exercise and had Diane, my assistant bring her dog Molly out and demonstrate what the completed command looked like. We put out two negative spaces in a row. There was about 6' of space between the two spaces. Diane set up to send about 6' back from the first space. She sent Molly and didn't give the sit command until Molly had her front feet in the second space. Molly stopped, turned and sat in the second space, having first run right through the first space because she had not received a command that would tell her to stop.

I then repeated sending Sanity to the first space and with that the light went on in my student's head. She got it! This means the dog will get it and in the process learn yet another useful command. Now I have to decide if I am going to continue to drag my heels with Sanity's training or am I going to get busy and finish the training and lose the demonstration that I know makes such a difference to my students. Will have to sleep on it and give it much thought.

In the retrieve class I did my usual sneaky thing. After checking on each students progress I got out the broad jump and had them introduce the "over" command to their dogs. Sanity and I? Well, I am working on an idea for how I can best teach the "over" command to her that will get the idea of speed across to her when I can't run along beside her and I really don't want to have to use a "runner". More on that as I work it out. Since I have a student in the same boat I'm in there will be two of us working on the problem. It really is much nicer to have company when embarking on a new training journey.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Day 141

Got up this morning to snow and sleet and ice. Groan, moan, whine, complain. I HATE THIS TIME OF YEAR.

None of the dogs wanted to go out. I had to do the proverbial "beat 'em out with a stick" just to get them to go out to potty. Then, I was really mean and insisted everyone stay out long enough to get a decent amount of exercise. Meanwhile, I struggled to clean off the back porch and steps so I could get to the water buckets, haul them in, de-ice them, fill them with warm water and put them back outside. Everyone said, "thank you". That made me feel pretty good. Then it was on to trying to do something with the office porch and the ramp and the path from the gate to the ramp and the sally port area.

I am so slow and get tired so darn fast that just doing that little bit was an all day affair. Work, rest, call a dog. Work, rest, call another dog. Forget sit or stay, or stand or heel or just about any other command. It was way too slippery and the dogs were in serious need of movement to keep warm. So after about 2 hours, we all came in and took a nap. After the nap it was back outside to repeat the morning efforts. Two hours and then back inside for another nap.

One of the things Sanity did was to lead one rather wild chase after another around the yard, up the mulch pile, slide down the other side, hide behind the holly, leap out and start the entire wild chase/run all over again. Thank goodness, because it sure did help to get all the dogs well exercised. Good girl, that MissSanity.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Day 140

Well I took the big step today or rather this evening and "imposed" on what felt like just about everyone. Meaning my scooter got loaded in Linda's SUV and off to class we went. Goodness! What a difference it made for me. I made it all the way through both classes without having to stop. So much for me.

All the casual work with the scooter has really paid off because Sanity is very comfortable working beside it. We have all sorts of kinks to work out. Things like pace changes and even the heel command when it is for motion. I actually wonder just how much that command means when I am using the scooter. The problem is caused by a very noticeable pause between the time I actually depress the go lever and the time the scooter actually starts moving. I knew it was happening, just didn't realize how much of a lag there is until now. Not real sure just how I am going to deal with the problem. At least in my mind it really is a problem.

The other problem was speed. This little scooter has all sorts of convenience things going for it, however speed sure isn't one of them. I realized pretty darn fast that it is going to take a lot of practice on my part to be able to do slow, normal and fast and make the differences really different and at the same time have each speed be smooth and consistent.

All the while I was fiddling around trying to figure out how to do the pace changes and even more troublesome, the turns, Sanity was pretty much trotting right along beside the scooter with a rather bored look on her face. Scooter doesn't have a top speed that is fast enough to really engage her attention.

The other thing my playing around last summer and fall did was to make a big difference in how all the other dogs view a scooter. We did stays with everyone else and that meant I had to turn around in the middle of the ring and then back into heel position. Meanwhile, all the other handlers and their dogs had to wait for me to get in position. Not to mention the fact that both Sanity and the dog next to us had to hold their position while I slowly backed into place between them.

The entire process didn't cause a single dog to so much as blink. However, a couple of students quipped that I was not going to be a favorite exhibitor when the carefully patterned trained dogs got antsy when exposed to something outside the normal pattern. I laughed with everyone else, but I do have to wonder at just how much of a problem it is going to be.

In the second class, I was calling all the commands while dogs worked Utility level material. Not a single dog was bothered by my coming up behind them during the signal exercise and not a single dog so much as moved a paw when I moved in to do the examination during the moving stand exercise. I realize that it most probable isn't a fair test. After all, most of the dogs attending the classes spends at least some time here in either day care or for boarding. The end result of all my playing around and getting all the dogs to follow me as a pack last summer and fall is I have managed to create a group of dogs who view a person on a scooter as just another form of normal. Pretty neat, actually.

Problems to be solved: How to get in the best correction for stay breaking when using the scooter. How to time the heel command at the start. How to deal with about turns when the instructor or later the judge doesn't allow for scooter turning space. How to manage to do the pace changes smoothly. How to best handle the return to your dog command during the stays. And the recall. What to do with it? I solved that problem by parking the scooter and carefully standing just far enough way so as to leave room for Sanity to pass behind me when returning to heel position.

Because of the lag time between the time I leave her and the time I call her and all the stuff I have to do to get in position, Sanity is going to have to have a stay that is like the Rock of Gibraltar when it comes to steadiness. Just because she was steady last night is no reason for me to think she will be as steady once we get into a real ring situation. Just one more thing to work on. Need I say that I am already trying to think through how I am going to handle all the Open exercise and I guess I will not think too much about Utility just yet.

The real point to all this is that I know that by the time Sanity and I have worked out all the issues to make competition a reality in all three classes (Novice, Open and Utility) she will be a truly fantastic service dog.

Goodness this is a long one, but I need to add just one last thing. A couple of my students were both amused and surprised at how much I talked to Sanity as I was working out how I was going to do each turn, each pace change and each halt. I was telling her when I was going to back up and when I was going to stop and warning her of turns, that sort of thing. If I did something that didn't work out quite right, I talked to her about that as well. This conversation, at least as far as I am concerned, isn't a one sided affair. Sanity is learning how to hold up her end so that we are truly having a conversation rather than my doing a running monologue.

One of the advantages to this sort of conversation is that once you put a thought into words and actually utter those words it is much easier to repeat the action you are discussing. It is also easier to work the kinks out and not repeat a mistake. Besides which, it sure does wonders for the relationship between dog and human. The key? Soft, quiet conversational voice and actually talk rather than high pitched squeaks or low pitched grunt and growl sounds.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Day 139

The funniest thing happened this morning during a lesson. Wrap and Sanity were both on the dog couch in the training studio. I needed a dog to demo something and I didn't bother to use a name, just said "heel". Well when I looked down I had Wrap beside me instead of Sanity.

Okay, so she wants to work and Sanity is willing to sit on the sidelines watching. This happened twice more and then they up and switched and I had Sanity in heel position. The problem with the switching after that first time was that I was making very sure I was using the name of the dog I wanted each time I needed an assistant. In spite of my care I wasn't always getting the dog I wanted. This jocking for position was sometimes funny and sometimes annoying. It also make the lesson run overtime. Well, I could have worse things to complain about, like not having two dogs who both want to work.

As always on days like this, besides the class work we worked come, sit, down, and stand into the daily routine. In the class I had Sanity working on the sit/stay while I made the point that the command "stay" totally changes the command "sit", turning it from an active exercise to a passive one. She was good. Totally ignored teasing and the other dog sniffing her.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Day 138

Funny thing happened this morning. I was sending a board and train dog home and needed to do the exit lesson. Since the ground was covered with snow and ice we worked in the studio. When I got ready to start the lesson, much to my surprise Wrap was on the "helper's bed" instead of Sanity. I don't have a clue as to what was going on, but for some reason they decided to trade places. Sanity stayed outside with the other dogs to play in the snow and Wrap was back to being my helper. It did make her happy and it was so nice to work with a partner who is part mind-reader. A thing that only happens after working together for years.

Linda came over and took Sanity and I to Columbia Mall for an outing. I know, I know, there are lots of people out there who would consider a voluntary Mall trip this time of year to be extreme punishment. But I don't get out that much and Sanity needs all the outside exposure I can manage to give her. It was really crowded and I can't imagine how much worse it will get as the season moves on.

This tree was just breath-taking and I so wanted to get a good picture of Sanity using the tree as the background. There turned out to be two serious problems with the picture taking. First the floor was so slippery that she was having a super difficult time holding the sit/stay and not sliding back and falling into the water. Second there were way too many people and they kept on walking between the camera(me) and where she was holding her position. Then they started walking behind her as well and we just sort of gave it up as a bad job.

She was like the country rube when we first got there. Trying to look in all directions at once and sniff everything at once and sort of "do" everything at once. It was so bad at one point that she managed to squeeze herself onto the scooter platform just so she could pay more attention to what was going on and less attention to where she was walking.

Speaking of walking/heeling next to my scooter. HA! I lost count of the number of times she managed to get a foot run over and not even notice it had happened. The number of times she managed to run into the scooter, well if I said at least a thousand I don't think I would be exaggerating a bit. I really would have liked to stay a bit longer, but sadly this dimwit had forgotten to plug the scooter in after the last use and I started to run out of juice. So we had to beat feet home. The last little bit going up the ramp to get into the house was not fun at all.

It probably worked out for the best. Sanity was almost as tired as I was by the time we got back home. More trips have now been moved to the top of the list of necessary things to do.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Day 137

Monday. It was cold and raw all morning. Even with her sweatsuit on Sanity wasn't real thrilled about being outside during the regularly scheduled lesson. Since I felt exactly the same way, we both voted to "pass" on doing any training of our own. The only thing Sanity could be said to have practiced was patience in the face of discomfort while she waited on the place platform during the lesson. Only the Newfies seemed to be happy with the weather conditions.

Snow and ice forced the cancellation of the evening class, so we pretty much had a total bust as far as training goes for the day.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Day 136

There is a super bad winter storm on the way. I can feel it in every single joint and muscle. It sure does make me cranky. Absolutely no training of any sort today. Not just because it is Sunday, but because I don't subject any of the dogs to me when I am like this. Frankly, no one needs to be subjected to me right now, not even me. I HATE WINTER.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Day 135

This time of year the number of lessons really drops way off, even those scheduled for on Saturdays. Nevertheless, there was a big leap forward today where Sanity's working with me is concerned.

My dog, the dog who walks by my side all day long traditionally has always had a very long list of jobs. That dog has to be able to switch gears very fast and fairly often without missing a beat. Acting as my demo dog is just one of those jobs.

Today there was this student who just couldn't seem to get her dog to hold a sit/stay while she walked all the way around it and back to heel position. Now there really was a good reason for this problem. She was inadvertently teaching her dog to do an active sit rather than a passive sit.

(Aside: An active sit calls for the dog to physically hold the sit posture while at the same time turning so as to always face the trainer. A passive sit calls for the dog to physically hold the sit posture and not move, change facing direction or attempt to face the trainer.)

I have been working with Sanity on both types of sit, off and on, for about a month now. This was the first time I had ever tried to use her to demonstrate what was going wrong, how to fix it and how to do it correctly to begin with. As I set up to do the demo, I made the comment that I didn't know how it would work out since I had never ask Sanity to do this sort of thing before and when a dog doesn't know what to expect it can feel it is being treated unfairly.

What happens is that I have to tell my dog to do one thing, signal something else and then guide them into doing a third thing. Very confusing for the dog, to say the least. Most dogs hate it and usually end up with a very bad attitude when put in the position more than once or twice. The really good dogs catch on quickly to the fact that this is not "for real" and that you are just acting. They figure out what is needed, based on prior training, and go along with the program. After a time, the entire thing becomes seamless and people watching have no idea just what went into teaching the dog how to do their part.

But I digress. The whole point was to say that wonder of wonders, I set it up and it worked. I gave the sit/stay command and started around her. When I reached that critical dog's left hip position, I ever so carefully began to pressure her to break the stay and start the turn to face me. When she did begin to follow the pressure I did the same thing the student had been doing with her dog. This meant that Sanity ended up turning in a full circle and of course broke the stay part of the exercise.

Next I set it up again and this time when I started the pressure that caused her to start to get up and turn, I "corrected" her back to the original position. Now comes the best part. As I started the "correction" I could feel her start to stiffen in what I think of as outrage over unfair treatment. And then, and then she all of a sudden lightened up and just flowed with the picture I had in my mind. It felt so good to had a partner down there.

Diane, my teaching assistant said it was really amazing to watch. She said she saw Sanity grow up almost instantly. That she had a sort of sulky puppy look about her and then all of a sudden the look in her eyes changed, the expression on her face changed and she started watching me very closely. The puppy was gone and in its place was a young adult dog with a job to do and she what that job was.

We both started babbling at each other while at the same time I was telling Sanity just how pleased I was to have her as a partner. Meanwhile, the student who was watching the entire thing didn't have a clue as to why we were all so pleased and excited about "just a sit/stay".

Later in the afternoon, just to remind me of her true age, Sanity went back to puppy mode and chewed the back off of one of my shoes. Didn't do a thing to dim the glow of that special morning moment. She is on her way. Oh yes, she is on her way.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Day 134

Friday and here we are on the way to nails and a hair cut. Sanity is now starting to work off leash and she takes her responsibilities very seriously. She ever so graciously agreed to pause and pose so I could snap a picture of her in her sweat suit. At the rate she is growing it sure isn't going to fit her for much longer. Guess I really need to get out the old seam riper and take apart another of the old ones so I can make a new pattern and make new ones for both her and Wrap. Too bad they no longer make this kind of sweat suit. It is without a doubt the nicest one I have ever found. They stopped making it about 15+ years ago and the one Sanity is wearing is one I made from the last of the "puppy" size I had.

Here is a close-up of what her vest actually looks like. See I am still grumping about what happened at Petco on Tuesday.

She trotted into the store and went right to her "place" after pausing for the photo shot. After the manicure was finished, Janene moved the rug away from the wall and put it under a small table pretty much in the main walk-way.
She stayed there until it was time for me to go get my hair washed. I told her she was free to stay or come with me. She chose to come with me and then wasn't all that happy about having to do a down on the cold tile floor beside the hair washing basin, but she did manage. Then it was back to her rug while I went to the other side of the shop for my hair cut. She didn't even so much as twitch as people walked back and forth in front of and around her.

After my hair cut, Sanity fell into heel position on command and then did a down at the front counter while I paid my bill. As you can see, she really isn't all that fond of the super slippery floor in the shop.

Next it was out to the car and home. All the time working off leash with only three single taps to remind her of where she needed to be or what it was she was supposed to be doing. Not too bad for 7 months old.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Day 133

It was Diane's turn to teach the 7 p.m. class which means I teach the 8 p.m. class. I managed to goof off all day and not spend a single second training Sanity. Well, actually I didn't really goof off since I managed to train everyone else, just not Sanity. By the time 5 p.m. rolled around the list of aches and pains in all my joints was reaching a code red emergency level. So since I don't have to drive I figured what the hey and popped a bunch of pain pills. In this case, no pain means I gain.

By the time we got to class I was feeling pretty good and when it was discovered that the wheelchair I usually "borrow" had fully inflated tires, I up and decided I should work Sanity in Diane's class. Couldn't quite manage the entire class, but we did manage most of it. Sanity, after a very short bit of fumbling around managed to locate a heel position that we were both happy with and from that point on heeled beside the wheelchair like she had been doing so all her short life. This particular chair has a leg strap as well as a U shaped foot rest. Sanity really had a problem trying to figure out where to sit when I called her. On more than one occasion she came flying in and somehow managed to sit with her front legs on the other side of the U bar and leg strap. Getting her untangled and not tipping the chair over was an interesting experience to say the least.

She was pretty steady on her stays UNTIL I decided I was going to leave the training floor and go up the ramp to the lobby level. My plan was to turn around and come flying back into the room as a major distraction. Seemed like a great plan, but as Bobby Burns said: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” Sanity, while steady and comfortable as long as she could keep track of my comings and goings wasn't about to let me get out of her sight completely when she saw me heading for what she knows is the location of the front door. Seems the out of sight stays will take a bit more practice.

Working in the class was fun and I lasted until about half way through the teaching of the second class. At that point the drugs wore off and I thought my elbows were going to explode. So I think starting next week I am going to make myself take my scooter and see if the difference it makes far outweights the hassles of having to asked others for help getting it into and out of the car. It may fold up easily and be light weight for everyone else, but for me most of the time it might as well weight a ton. whine whine whine whine

I did manage to have her do a few 6 foot placed retrieves as everyone else was leaving and she was already thinking we were leaving as well. Turned out to be a good distraction and she passed the test with flying colors. I think I will be moving her on to the next level before much longer.