Friday, March 31, 2006

Day 253

When I got up this morning I was just sure the day was going to go so well. What fools we can be some times. Sanity and I left in what I thought would be plenty of time for a stop at the bank before the nail appointment. Got to the bank and the line was backed up for what seemed to be blocks. They closed our old branch and now the only location in town is the one with only one drive up window. Couldn't get out of the line right away and I sat and fumed. Finally got to a place where I could get out of the line and head for my nail appointment. Normally the trip should only take 10 minutes. Plenty of time, no worry.

But the bank branch that was closed is now being torn down and the lanes of traffic cut from three to one. Can you spell traffic jam? Can you spell major traffic jam? 35 minutes I spent just sitting in a big, creeping parking lot. So I was late. I hate that. This being late meant I was late leaving. Being late leaving meant I was late getting home. Diane and Pam were already there waiting for me. Of course my being late meant I was the one responsible for our leaving my house late to head for the Pet EXpo in Virginia.

This was Sanity's big coming out, so to speak. Since I knew it would be crowded and loud and there would be all sorts of pushy people there I was smart enough to volunteer to work the IACP booth Friday evening. I figured it would be just about the right amount of exposure for Sanity. She didn't do too badly. Handled the petting (I took her shoulder pack off and had her off duty, so to speak)even better than I had expected. Even so she got tired of it pretty fast. Suits me just fine since I don't want a dog that is out there sucking up to everyone all the time.

Things I saw at this Pet Expo thingie that make me think just about everyone must be insane where animals are concerned. I saw dogs being drug along by the nose via all sorts of snout loop type head halters. These poor things had deep rings being cut in their muzzles and in some cases had tears coming from their eyes. I saw people carrying cats around, putting said cats down on the floor in the isles right in front of several dogs. I saw a fool of a woman walking around with two ferrets on harnesses and a leash. The ferrets were at least six feet behind her. I saw lots and lots of youngish men dressed in teeshirts, the better to show off their muscles. And to help them make those muscles pop each and every one of them had a muscle dog or a pair of muscle dogs straining out in front of them. Nary a collar in sight, nope these wonder dogs with their wonder owners wore harnesses the better to pull, I guess.

For those of you who actually go to these shows as a vendor, may G*d bless your patience. All I wanted to do was strangle one person after another. I wanted to scream, "How can you be so stupid?" I didn't, since I figured they would see me as the stupid one. After all there were literally hundreds of them and only one of me. Sad, so very sad.

Sanity and I were both really tired by the time 9 p.m. and the closing finally arrived.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Day 252

It is prettier today than it was yesterday. Much as I am glad to see the sun, I really worry about the continuing drought. We need rain so much and all we get are cloudy days with nary a drop of moisture.

The coolest thing happened this morning. Sanity voluntarily picked up her food pan and carried it to the office. I guess, no I know I haven't been paying enough attention to her. I think it was her way of saying, "see me, see me now". I sure did see her and was I pleased. After what seems like months of arguing with her about when, why, and how she was to pick up the pans, all of a sudden there she stands pan in mouth and smiling at me. Amazing, totally amazing.

Our Doberman boy student is really coming right along. Today was the day we start the down command and wanting to make sure everything went just right I saved it until last. Since he was working in the yard with all the other dogs out and about he was pretty tired. Sanity did a nice job of demonstrating the how to part and the urge to rest made the introduction ever so easy.

Once they left it was back to the office grind for me. Taxes finished and sent off to the accountant I was still facing a three article deadline. So instead of getting to enjoy the outside I was forced to slave away in the office.

For some reason almost everyone was either sick or off at shows and we actually didn't have enough people to hold a class this evening. We have to have 7 in order to be able to pay the rent. So instead of class it turned into an early night for me and no work on articles or much of anything new for Sanity. Sometimes life really does get in the way.

And about the picture at the beginning of this entry. So many people keep on asking what that awful sound is. The one they can hear when they are trying to talk to me on the phone. Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words, I just wrote that thousand words explaining the sound and the makers of said sound. Tyler is totally convinced that he is a Doberman.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Day 251

The sun is shining and I'm betting it is going to be a nice day.

And so it was, for everyone except me. I was forced to spend most of my day inside chained to my chair, slaving away on the dread tax matters. However, there was one bright spot in my otherwise unpleasant day. Lauren came for lunch and we ate outside for the first time this year. She and Tyler spent time getting to know one another.

Then after we ate lunch, Lauren and Tyler went for their first short walk.

After walking it was time to try out riding. Sanity and Lilly both rode when they were puppies and stepped up to encourage Tyler to just hop right on. So where is he? Look for the tiny black blob touching the ground and you are looking at a Tyler tail. Here is what it looks like from the other side. He seemed to think that riding was an okay thing to do and didn't really want to get off.

It sure is hard to get even a half way decent picture of a black dog.

Before she left, Lauren helped with our scent work. While I have Sanity working three articles once again I was thinking about wringing her neck. She kept on insisting she should bring one of the ones with Lauren's scent on it back to Lauren. We finally managed two sort of good finds of article and then called it a day.

My take on what was going on with Sanity was that first we were paying more attention to Tyler than to her. Second, because of the tax stuff she has been getting pretty short shift from me. I got her message, loud and clear.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Day 250

Well, we hit another mile stone today. Sanity is now 11 months old and still hasn't come in season for the first time. I thought sure she was about to almost a month ago, the boys are finding her more and more interesting. Surely something will happen soon.

Time for the progress list. Just where are we in the training journey?
  1. She always comes when called. I can't even remember the last time she didn't come or was slow about coming when I called her.
  2. She is now taking a sit command from distances of up to about 30'. Her sit/stay is pretty solid. Her turn and sit not quite so good. Her active sit is the one that needs the most work.
  3. Place command is there in the form of the "go to bed" command, but super weak when it comes to just doing a sent away. Needs lots of work.
  4. She is able to maintain a close, tight heel for at least 5 minutes before she starts to wander. I think she would be much better if I was able to walk as fast as I used to and turn as cleanly and do good, smooth pace changes. But I'm not unhappy with how she is coming along since I'm the one holding her back.
  5. Down. Ah the down command. How she hate that command. It continues to be a battle. All thought, once down her stay is solid.
  6. Stand. She is really putting me through the wringer on this one. She does a beautiful stand when she doesn't have to think about what she is doing. If I dare to make her think about it, then she gets all squirrelly on me. It is in need of lots of work.
  7. Fetch. Her retrieve just continues to get better and better. Yesterday for the very first time she finally figured out how to pick up her food pan the right way. That may seem like a simple thing and not something to get excited about. However, being able and willing to try different ways of picking a difficult item up is really necessary, if she is to be able to do her job correctly. There is still some rivalry between her and Wrap where the fetch command is concerned. Wrap is always hovering around in the background just waiting for Sanity to make a mistake so she can rush in and dog the retrieve herself. Certainly is a strong incentive for Sanity.
  8. Scent work is moving along. I would like for it to be faster, but it can go no faster than I am willing and able to teach.
  9. Jumping on command is the one thing I have been very lax about and I must get going on it this month. That includes the solid jump, the bar jump and the broad or long jump.
  10. She has pretty much mastered her understanding of 'move', 'back', 'turn', 'forward', 'steady', and the all important 'that'll do'. To get these commands to where I want them just means more time and practice.
  11. She is now able to jump the baby gate and hop up on the love seat and do the 'interview the new dog' thing for me. And she is doing a good job at it.
  12. She swings wildly between doing a good job at being a yard boss and doing way too much 'stirring the pot so everyone gets in trouble'.

All in all I think that is a reasonable list of accomplishments for her age.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Day 249

Still trapped tax hell so not much individual work got done again today. However, since there is the Monday evening 'Bits and Pieces' class to teach I did manage to get back to working Sanity on her scent work. Because of the number of days off and the fact that the last time she worked she had so much trouble, I choose to go back to working just 2 articles.

The first article was placed at 12 o'clock, she had no trouble at all with it. In fact, it almost looked like she didn't even bother to sniff it out. Just marched out there and picked up the correct one. The second article was at 5 o'clock. Once again, she marched out to the pile and sniffed both articles once, picked up the correct one and brought it back. Guess whatever the problem was, it is no more. Will go back to three articles tomorrow.

I do continue to work Tyler on come and sit. There was one thing that happened today that means I am going to have to watch him. I was sure I left him out in the yard and the gate at the bottom of the ramp was closed. Next thing I knew there he was buzzing around in the house. Then later, I went out to do something and I swear I left him on the ramp with the gate closed. It wasn't very long before I see him bouncing around in the yard. I just can't believe he is actually jumping the gate. Will start watching more closely to see if I can figure out what is going on.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Day 248

I am in so much trouble I'm not sure I know what to do. Certainly tomorrow will not only start a new work week, but a better one than this past week. Here I have been forced to sit hour after hour, with only very short breaks. All because PayPal decided to lock me out of the history part of my account. For most people that wouldn't be a big deal, but for me it turned into a nightmare three months long. I finally got the account unlocked only to find that I was faced with entering every single transaction one line at a time.

Meanwhile, Sanity and Tyler were not getting worked in the manner they were accustomed. So this was the morning they filed a formal protest. A protest that took the form of food theft. After the fiasco earlier in the week with Sanity doing a total pig out, I not only took to locking the food bins but I went back to pulling the broken gate across the doorway to the room.
It was good until today. The only thing I can figure is that Sanity jumped it and Tyler squeezed through the hole at the bottom. Doesn't really matter how they managed and it does matter that they are managing more and more escapades together. The bottom line this time was that someone pulled a boarder's travel bag to the floor, managed to get it unzipped and when I caught them they were at the tail end of...

you guessed it. Yet another pig out. Plastic baggies strewn all over the floor and when I snuck around the corner, Sanity was in the process of tearing open yet another baggy and Tyler had most of his body buried in the travel bag. Instant fire breathing dragon time. Flames and smoke billow into the room, two dogs fall all over each other in their rush to "get outta Dodge" before the final solution. (What ever that might be.) I am left to clean up the mess while Sanity and Tyler high-tail it out to the back side of the mulch pile.

You know how I knew to go looking for them and why I expected to find trouble? It got way, way too quiet.

It was almost 9 p.m. before I finally finished entering the last line of numbers and realized I had a mistake some were. No matter what I will somehow get it finished by tomorrow evening. I need to get back to training way more than they need me.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Day 247

I think I just lost a day. Had no need for Sanity or Tyler to demo in the first lesson, the lesson that followed or in the class that followed the lessons. By the time lunch was over and it was time to at the very least do a set of articles, well it just didn't happen. And poor Tyler wandered around here like a lost soul. Bad day for training.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Day 246

I think I finally figured out why so much of this past week is a blur and a loss to me. I have been forced to spent two and a half days on the phone, on hold with PayPal trying to get my account straighten out. We finally managed to get it resolved to the point where I could access the information I needed. I can't access it in the form I need, but at this point I will take what I can get. All this hassle has caused all the dogs and dog related activities to take a back seat.

Today, we did a quick run to do the nails and hair cut thing and then turned around and headed right back home and for me back to the computer and my accounting program. Training was pretty much nothing more than maintenance work. Didn't even manage to do articles this day. Shame on me.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Day 245

Today was a repeat of yesterday as far as the class demonstrations are concerned. However, there was one big difference. She did a good stand and then we went on to show how that stand would, in time, become a stand and brace. She was first very good and then very bad. I swear she tried to dump me on the floor again. When she did it, she turned her head toward me and I caught a glimpse of the devil's glint in her eye. When I saw that look, I quick as a bunny gave her a poke in the gut and said, "Don't you dare." She choose to not dump me this time.

It funny, in a sad sort of way, I remember every single dog I have ever trained to do a stand and brace goes through this period of trying to dump the person they are supposed to be helping. I used to think is was funny and we would work on it every single day with much laughter and merriment. Usually along about 18 months they stop the behavior and get really serious about helping. The sad part is that it is no longer funny to me. Where getting dumped didn't used to matter, now it matters very much. Wish I had an apprentice to turn this over to, but I don't. Poor Sanity.

We didn't get around to doing articles until the second class was over this evening. By that time I was really too tired to be even considering doing them. I did them anyway. She was pretty awful. Continued to ignore the correct article and kept going for the taboo articles. She is just going to have to learn that she has to bring back the correct article even if it does smell of pain. It took almost 15 minutes to get two correct finds. UGH!

Now about Tyler. He went to class for the first time this evening. I am so sorry I didn't take my camera along and take pictures. Using Sanity as his guide and leader he behaved as if he owned the world. Next week I will work him a little bit during one of the classes.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Day 244

Some how the time got away from me and now I have to play catch up.

This was a cold, gloomy day. We had one lesson and Sanity helped with demonstrating the stand position and the send away (place) command. She also helped through demonstration the difference between come and heel positions. Her attitude towards doing these demos was sort of interesting. For the most part, she acted as if she was doing all of us a favor just be in the room, much less actually working. Attitude, much?

Later, we worked three articles again and while she is still kicking them around, the behavior has started to lessen in intensity or length. What was interesting today, was that she kicked both the taboo articles away and then just stool over the correct one. Almost as if she expected me to come pick it up now that she had found it for me. HA! I explained via a ear correction that I don't pick stuff up off the floor. That is one of her jobs in this household.

Tyler continues to work on his come and sit commands. He is also more and more interested in doing whatever it is that Sanity happens to be doing. This is not always such a good thing.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Day 243

Somehow Tuesday seems to have become the day of the small dog. It's as if the place is swarming with little munchkins. There was a total three ring circus at the office door at 6 a.m. Out go three munchkins(Tyler, Tiny Charlie and Caesar), in come two munchkins(Brisbane and Buster). No wait, the incoming were Tyler and Brisbane, no, no, its Caesar and Buster, no that's not right it must be Tyler and Buster. Are there two in and two out? Nope, there are now three in and one out, but wait, did you see that white flash?

Its Tiny Charlie, quick shoo him out. Grab. Nope, missed him. Finally, everyone is out, but wait, what is that under the desk grinning at me? Its Tyler! Out! Out! Out that door right this minute, Shadow? Don't tell me you actually want to get involved in this nonsense? And then after about 10 minutes all are outside and peace reigns in the office for a short time.

If that had been a pack of "real" dogs I could/would have simply told everyone to go outside and they would had all complied. So how come these little swarms of munchkins don't work the same way? I'm telling you they never act like a pack of dogs. I don't care what anyone tells you, believe me when I say they are more like a swarm of bees. Try as you might there are always some buzzing off in the wrong direction. And to think I once actually thought that working with and training the short guys would be easier. HA!

Tyler is having a blast. He is putting all his newly learned Doberman skills into play and manages to come out on top, the winner, the leader, and an almost world class trouble maker. His recall is chugging right along. I must put in more time on his sit. My fault, not his. He managed to spend most of his afternoon nap time playing sort of quiet mouth wrestling games with Sanity. And a good gauge of his growth is that he can no longer fit his entire head in Sanity's mouth.

Sanity got up this morning with still way too much belly from yesterday's pigout. So she will continue on short rations for all of today. Man-o-man, does she think she is being abused. I just tell her she is lucky to have me to help her watch her waistline. I need someone to do the same for me.

Working articles today, it was interesting to see the change in how she is now approaching the three article pile. She is starting to show a little bit more thought and a little less randomness in her behavior. Seeing the change I have started using the ecollar for corrections. Having it set at what she views as her "learning" level, I can back further out of the picture and allow her more room to make decisions. It certainly makes a difference in how she works.

I used the same set-up as yesterday the first time and she had two mistakes with the first send and then no mistakes with the second send. It was the second training session of the day when I added the ecollar and sort of removed myself from the picture. She made one mistake when I first sent her for the article in the 9 o'clock position and then no more mistakes. Her working the 11 o'clock position was a pleasure to watch. She was a little slow and tentative on her return, but she is showing far more confidence in her decisions.

In reviewing her progress, I just realized that she is actually only days away from my starting to introduce leather articles. Things are moving right along.

Help-wise, she is doing much better at fetching the metal food bowls, but she still insists on trying to pick them up on the near side which causes the bowl to stick straight out in front of her. I know this is making the task very difficult for her and so I continue to encourage her to pick them up from the far side. This causes the bowl to hang down under her chin and is a much easier and more efficient way of doing the job. Shoes, articles of clothing, some paper items are all coming back to me in a more reasonable fashion and to tell the truth, I'm not really sure just when the change started. I just know it has definitely started, in spite of the fact that she is still trying to play games with me on the stand. All in all, she is pretty darn good for being still just a pup.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Day 242

What a brat! Miss Piggy figured out how to open one of the food bins at some point during the night or very early this morning. She must have eaten at least 12 cups of food from the looks of the bin. See I know I was very careful to make sure it latched when I closed it last night. I've been through this with Wrap and she was getting the bins open when I forgot to make sure they had latched. This taught me to close the door, push to engage the latch and then check to make sure it really was latched.

So now Miss Piggy is waddling around here with a big belly and in no condition to do anything other than run outside to potty a whole lot. The food bins are now snap bolted shut. If she figures out a way to open the bolts I'm not sure what I will do.

While Miss Piggy was busy stuffing herself outside another interesting battle was raging. This is the evil tree rat and one of the combatants.

This is the fearless leader with a ground crew to back her up. See her climb. Up and up she goes to wage battle in the sky.Can you even believe what you are seeing?Yes, that really is the evil tree rat on the underside of the tree trunk and, yes, our brave and fearless squirrel hunter is higher up the tree than the squirrel. High above the ground the battle rages.At this point our fearless hound is about 20 feet off the ground.

And now we will take a break in the story to hear a word from our sponsor. Just kidding. Bet you are wondering just how the fearless hound manages to get back down to earth without getting hurt. Actually, it is pretty easy. I call her and she comes. And now back to the story.

I just called her and what you are now seeing is the beginning of what I call the high turn.
And now she comes at a run.This is what I call a reliable recall, how about you?

Later in the morning I did get to work Miss Piggy aka Sanity on articles. She is working with three metal now. Two taboo and one correct one. The articles are being placed in a row with the correct article at 9 o'clock and the two taboo articles at center of clock face and 3 o'clock. Each time she went straight to the pile and started slapping the articles around, grabbing them, spitting them out, flipping them and finally selecting the correct one and returning. At this point I am only stepping in to correct when she either stops working all together or insists on coming back with a taboo article.

Since Callie, the Newfie, is also working only one step behind Sanity, it is worth noting that her way of showing her uncertainty is to go to the pile and start walking in circles around it. Around and around and around until finally she will stop next to the correct article and then she just freezes. A correction happens and the next time she is just fine.

Each dog has her own way of showing just how uncertain they are about what they are currently doing. It is worth noting that this morning lesson was outside and it was pretty darn cold and windy.

Tyler continues to struggle with his step lessons. His entire attitude being that of "Please, oh please, don't make me have to think about what I am doing." This too, shall pass. During the lessons I had all the dogs stay outside and Tyler was in a kennel run with a Maltese, a giant Yorkie and an Italian Greyhound. By the time it was time to come in they all pretty much had it with him. He just went from one to another pestering and teasing and generally making a nuisance of himself. He is doing just fine.

When evening rolled around, Miss Piggy aka Sanity was still looking oh so firm and fully packed. That being the case she got a whole 1/4 of a cup of food for dinner. You should have seen the look on her face when I put her pan down.
"That's all? Come on, where is the rest of my dinner?"

Later when it was time for the Monday evening class, she groaned all the way down the stairs, flopped on the bed in the corner and proceeded to fart her way through the class. Working articles for the second time about all I can say is that there was less of the goofing off behavior and more attention to what she needs to do.

And finally the day was done.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Day 241

Even thought I swear I'm not doing anything on Sundays I felt I had to do something about Tyler. He is starting to look way too fuzzy for me. Figured I could at least do his face, feet, tail and tummy (fftt) with the idea of a bath, blow dry and finish getting done on Monday. HA! My clipper blade was so dull and his coat so dirty it was like trying to get the job done with hedge clippers.

Way back when, when I owned a grooming shop had a bather/brusher, much less a groomer turned in a job like I just did I would have fired them on the spot. So to make a long story short he got his fftt sort of done. There will be no bath and finish job tomorrow because I finally woke up to the fact that I was going to have to order some new grooming tools. The tools I currently own have been sitting in a tack box in the basement for so long they are pretty useless. (note to self: must find a good sharpening man)

Four different times today Tyler went up on the back porch and then insisted there was no way he could get back to the ground. I explained to him that I was not amused.


Sanity took a huge step forward today. After watching her work her two articles at the 4 and 7 o'clock positions I decided it really was time. Time to add the third article. So the article set-up became correct, taboo, taboo. This put the correct article back in the original starting point with a taboo as the center point and a second taboo in the 3 o'clock position.

Sent her and she went straight to the correct article, but you need to remember it was in the 9 o'clock position. She picked it up and started back only to get a puzzled look on her face and quickly turn back to the pile. Then she dropped the one in her mouth and started to pick up the center taboo article only to spit it out and grab the 3 o'clock article, turn, stop and spit it out. She then went back to the correct article and picked it up and froze. After waiting for a few seconds I went on and called her to me with a single "good". Will have to be careful to not continue with the voice at that point. However, for a first time I was well pleased with the results. She was so pleased she started leaping straight up in the air.

Day 241 Sunday Answers

Question: Margot,I hope everything is OK. This is Friday. How did you communicate your "Correction" to Sanity in the Doctor's office?Stay Safe,Mike CrimensBayern, Germany

I answer:
Actually that was pretty easy. I excused myself with the doctor so I could turn my full attention to the brat in question. I stepped on the leash and started to pull up at the very same time I pushed down with my thumb between her shoulder blades and pressed on the constant button on the ecollar. It was also very helpful that the floor was slippery so I had all the leverage and she had none.

My efforts garnered a mournful look from Sanity as she complied and a small smile from the doctor. I then explained that she was my newest service dog and that she is still very much still in training and no way was I willing to let her think she could get away with disobedience in certain circumstances. He wanted to know how old she was and when I told him 10 months, he said, “She’s just a baby. How I wished my patients with children would do what you are doing. Their children would be much better behaved.”

I laughed and pointed out that at least for the time being dog owners are still being allowed to actually train and apply appropriate discipline, whereas, parents don’t appear to have that luxury anymore. He agreed with me and we went back to the real reason I was there.
Question: It sounds like Tyler has noticed that all the "important" dogs wear their e-collars.

I answer:
He very much has noticed that the ecollars appear to confer a level of status on young dogs that is something he wants. After all, Sanity wears one and she is the tall, red-headed goddess that he follows as much as he possibly can.

Poor Tyler he just doesn’t understand that he will never grow up to be as tall or as fast. I don’t have the heart to tell him, so he just keeps on reaching.


Question: Margot,Please forgive an ignorant person for this question. Question: is a cue (or encouragement)for scent a stim when she sniffs at the correct item, or is she only working from information given in the command given at the beginning of the exercise? In other words, are both used, in the training process?

I answer:
I wish I hadn’t lost my first answer to this question, since it was a really good one. Now I am going to try again.
At this point, I am not using the ecollar for anything other when I first send her and then again if I need to get her moving because she is out there in “la la land” rather than working. I give her my scent and say “find” at the same time tapping the momentary button set at the low “encouragement” setting. After that I for the most part keep my mouth shut. The only cues/signals/signs she is getting from me now is a totally blank face with eyes staring off into the distance when she has the taboo article and a happy face with eye contact and a big smile when she has the correct article. However, she doesn’t see either face until she has committed to a choice and is on her way back to me.

Verbal praise happens when she gets back with the correct article, sits and I take it from her. After two correct finds the praise includes the right to leap straight up in the air and give me a lick on the way down. When she is of a mind to, she can spring higher than my head now and from past experience with previous Dobermans I have enough sense to keep my head out of the way. I use the right to spring/jump up like that as a form of tension release, since I realize that what she is being required to do creates a substantial amount of tension in a dog. They will keep on working and keep on trying as long as there is a way to release the tension every so often. Hope I managed to answer your question since I wasn’t all that clear on just what you were asking.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Day 240

We did the Saturday hustle again today. After last Saturday being so nice it was a bummer to have go work inside again. The first lesson was a week three which meant we would be teaching place, stand and exercise finished and as time allowed checking up on the random sit, heel and come commands.

I try as much as possible to show each exercise in a practical way. So the lesson started off by my using the place command to send Sanity down the basement stairs. Once she reached the bottom I gave her a sit command. I then went half way down the stairs and gave her a "go to bed" command to send her into the training studio. This was the very first time I had put all the commands together in that sequence. She handled all the commands without so much as a tiny wobble or hesitation. Turned out I couldn't have picked a better demonstration of practical use. In this case, the student dog has been a problem where stairs are concerned for a very long time. Funny how that works out.

Sanity went on to demo introducing the place command and then introducing the "exercise finished" command and finally the stand command. Rather nasty dog who choose to really show her colors when it came time for the stand. She was ready and willing to attempt to take a face off or remove a hand rather than allow herself to be gently lifted into a stand. HA! No was will that stop me. I just showed her owner how to make a sling out of the leash and via sling, chain collar and ecollar she, by golly, did learn that she would have to stand. Seems this touchiness is a new behavior and the owners have agreed a vet visit is in order.

Next came the retrieve class and not much happened there since not a single person/dog passed the test that would allow them to move to the next level.

After the retrieve class came the Doga class. Sanity started out thinking it was silly and she was acting pretty, well...squirrely. Then we did that chant stuff and don't you know, she and Chance the other Doberman in the class both joined in. After that she was very calm and definitely totally tuned in to what we were doing. I am going to try and get some pictures next week.

Are next class was a watered down version of the normal week three class. These owners were adamant that they really didn't want to use one of those nasty "shock" collars but they couldn't get the dog to come when called or sit when told and so they were unable to walk her on the trails without a leash. They actually trained somewhere else. When I asked them why they didn't have the instructor were they normally train teach them you are not going to believe what I was told. Then again, maybe you will. Seems this other place uses all positive, food and a clicker to get the dogs to do stuff. According to the instructor off leash reliability is not possible.

What I don't get is how someone can be faithful to that sort of thinking and yet come to someone like me to learn how to do the barest necessary to use an ecollar. It totally boggles my mind. Anyway, Sanity and I taught the place command again and then worked on the remote sit and finally moved outside to work on long, random recalls. What I now know is that I am going to have to get outside and really work Sanity hard on the place command. As good as she is in the house, she is equally bad outside. I was hard put to get her to go 15 feet when I actually needed her to go at least 50 feet. Bad business that part. Sadly, I know the dog and owner will most likely not be back. After all, they got what they wanted. Their dog now comes off leash and sits off leash and if they actually do the homework will move away from them when told. So how come I feel so glum about it? BAH!

Not to leave Tyler out. Then again maybe I should leave him out(side). He is really stuck on this stair hang-up of his. I'll bet I had to work with him on it at least 5 or 6 times and yet, when it came time to come in for the last time of the night. I'm calling them in through the office door and where is Tyler? On the back porch insisting he can't possibly go down the steps and come around the house. This is part of the training I much prefer doing when the weather is warm.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Day 239

Had a totally rotten night and getting up in the morning was not something I really wanted to do. For the first time Sanity helped by pushing me out of bed. No, its not what it sounds like. What really happens is I push against her and she pushes back, just harder and then I have the leverage I need to swing around and sit up. Normally one more push or even a strong nudge is enough to get me up and then I manage to keep on going. This morning she had to jump off the bed and stand beside it so I could pull up. This was the first time she has managed to do the entire job without my getting disgusted and calling for Wrap to come help.

As the morning progressed, I swear all the dogs knew I wasn't quite "up to par" and little spats kept on breaking out until I actually saw Sanity put a stop to what could have been a nasty fence fight. Two of the dogs both decided they wanted a piece of paper the wind had blown down from the highway. The paper was on the other side of said fence and the fools were actually at the posturing/screaming stage when Sanity just blew right between them. The two would be combatants turned and trotted off in different directions. That was really something to watch. A ten month old pup ordering two adults to stop the arguing and they actually obeyed. She has some power, this newest yard boss. Now to make sure she doesn't mis-use it during the months to come.

I am such a dolt sometimes. I missed the most amazing set of pictures because my mind was just not working fast enough. Sammie the tree climbing hound got into a "fight" with a squirrel. This fight took place about 15 feet up in the tree. Sammie would charge the squirrel and the squirrel would back up just far enough to be out of reach. Then Sammie would start to loose her balance and have to back down the tree limb. When she would do that the squirrel would charge her. Sammie would gain her balance and charge back. They dueled back and forth like that until my son went out and called Sammie out of the tree. Turned out the squirrel wanted to get in a hole in the tree that was right at a point where Sammie could reach if she had been able to maintain her balance.

The duel would have made a wonderful video or even set of stills. If it happens again I sure won't stand there totally mesmerized by what I am watching and I will get some pictures.

My keys hang on a hook on the back of the door and someone going out shut the door with just enough force to send the to the floor. For the first time, Sanity took my directional signal and the fetch command and came back with the keys on the very first try.

After all these good examples of moving forward with learning and responsibility, at the nail salon when I needed her to do a stand and brace so I could get up she proceeded to dump me. Sigh, I just keep on reminding myself how far she has come cause that is better than dwelling on how far we still have to go.

In the afternoon Tyler managed a fair number of really good recalls. For some reason he is having a real problem with the back porch. If he is on the ground and I call him to come, he takes one look at the steps and swears he can't possible manage them. If I am out in the yard and Tyler is on the back porch he swears he can't possibly come down the steps to come to me. Seems we are going to be practicing steps for some time. I still think it is really funny to see this little, curly, black mite flying around the yard in the company of the two resident Dobermans. More power to him, he attitude just keeps on getting better.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Day 238

Well the not so new any longer Doberman boy was here and we started him on sit. Since the longe line work went really well last week, were able to give the position he is walking in the name "heel". I thought Sanity was following me too closely to be any good at doing a sit at a distance demo. She proved me wrong and took my send-away (place) command just fine. This then enabled me to show how the sit at a distance should look. We then worked on both sit at heel and sit at a distance.

The very best part was when we came in and I did has I had promised. Specifically Sanity demonstrated running up and down the killer basement steps. Then with a longe line attached I went to the bottom of the steps and with some strong guidance got him down the stairs the first time. Sent Sanity up and then back down and then sent (or more to the point let) him go up the stairs. A couple of repeats and he was going up and down like a pro. The next step will be to teach him to do one of two steps at a time. Sanity demo'ed how that is done and then we call it a day.

I actually managed to get in more ecollar recalls with Tyler today. Not real sure just why he was better today than yesterday, but I'm happy to take all the gifts I get. His housebreaking is coming along well, but he is still not reliable enough to have complete run of the house.

Classes went okay, but my great idea of using 2 different rooms and running two classes at once seemed to pretty much bombed out. I think it was because I hadn't thought it through completely and besides the room was actually too small.

Sanity worked her two articles with only one mistake. She picked up the taboo article, brought it half way back, stopped and stood there for a minute, put it down started back to the correct one and then just froze. I finally moved in and corrected her since she was just flat not doing anything. After that she was just fine. Moved out, checked both articles, selected the correct one and brought it back.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Day 237

The first lesson this morning was a new student and we needed to work on paying attention, ecollar language introduction and a casual recall. In theory Sanity is supposed to help me introduce these things. In truth, for whatever reason she did nothing but get in the way. I finally got so fed up with her foolishness that I tossed her in a kennel run with all the day care dogs. Then I went and called Wrap to come out and help.

LOL Talk about raining ice and hail on her parade. Goodness, you would have thought I had beaten her with a stick till my arm fell off. When I finally let her out of the kennel run she was so worried that she had been permanently demoted that she spent the rest of the day trying to "suck up" to me in one way or another. I got the full treatment; complete with lip licking, head in the downward, off to the side, eyes lowered stuff to falling on the floor and doing that sideways slither stuff they do when trying to appease another dog. I remained totally unimpressed and unrelenting in my insistence that the only way to please me was through solid, reliable work.

What did happen was that in the afternoon, when I went out to work Tyler, she was right there ready and able to do the things I needed her to do. No muss, no fuss, just good solid work. The sort that makes it so much easier to the beginning dog to understand what is expected of them.

What can I say about Tyler? He wants to stick so close to me it is almost impossible for me to get in any really meaningful practice on coming when called. I know it will all work itself out, but I am being reminded once again why I so seldom get the pleasure of working with a good Poodle. They pick stuff up every bit as fast as my beloved Dobermans, but unlike the Dobermans they actually want to work for a human and there is no alternate agenda.

Scent work is pretty much stuck at 4 o'clock and 6 o'clock. I will stay here until I begin to see a very important thing happening on a fairly regular basis. That thing is...checking in with my face. I will continue to smile when she picks up the correct article and remain stone-faced when she has the taboo article. In the end, even the different faces will go away, but for right now I really want to build that into the lessons.

This time she went out, I don't know if she even bothered sniff the taboo article. I do have my doubts, after all she has a 50% chance of getting it right no matter what. So I get the correct article at once. Nice work, bit of praise and we set up to do it again. This time she grabs the taboo article, get half way back to me, glances at my face and drops it. She then goes back and picks up the correct article. Gets half way to me, stops, doesn't look at me but does look at the taboo article. Drops the correct article, goes over to the taboo article, knocks it around with a paw a couple of times, picks it up and when I see this sort of behavior I can only wonder what is going on in that head.

She carried the taboo article back to the original location and spit it out. Then she returned to the correct article, picked up, took it back to the original spot dropped in pretty much on top of the taboo article and stood back. I waited and waited and waited. Finally she used her paw to separate the two articles, sniffed both of them and came back with the correct one. I just wish I had a camcorder so I could get this stuff on tape and then study it. I just know I am missing some really important stuff because as carefully as I watch, there is no way for me to really see all the subtle little things she is doing. And so she grows and learns while teaching me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Day 236

Yesterday was such a totally beautiful day weather-wise, it sure was hard to get up this morning and find that cold weather and strong winds were back. Didn't do any scent work outside today, it was just too windy. Did do one set this evening inside. She is still trying to work by taste or sound. The important thing to me right now is that she is not the least bit hesitant to get out there and do something. I don't thing she is totally clear about what she is doing, but she knows she needs to do it, just as soon as she figures out what it is.

I had another doctor's appointment this afternoon and this was with a new doctor. It sure was a good thing he was nice and better yet, he really liked Sanity. I say it was a good thing because I most certainly didn't like what he had to say to me. Oh well, I guess I'll adjust and as always, life goes on.

The first thing Sanity did after we got into the exam room was to see if she could get away with not doing a down. I calmly and quietly told her that defying me when I tell her to do something was just not in the cards, today or any other day. I then had to excuse myself to this new doctor and correct her into that down. After that, butter wouldn't have melted in her mouth she was so good. The doctor seemed to be rather amused by the entire exchange and after the exam, asked me about her. When he found out how old she is, he said he suspected as much and that he just wished more patients had children as well-behaved as she was (after the correction).

Yep, after the correction she stood when told, did a brace when I needed it, downed when told, was very careful to stay right in heel position and even picked up my cane when I dropped it.

There was one problem spot. The elevator. When we entered the building and got on the elevator I noticed what I would call a reluctance on her part to enter and then she sort of did a crotch instead of a sit or even a down. Not a good sign in my book. Sure enough, when we went to leave she was pretty determined to not get on that elevator. My attitude? Sorry girl, but you don't have any say in the matter.

Not only did we get on the elevator and then she had to sit in the corner, but we rode that elevator down to the first floor, we rode it back to the third floor, we rode it to the second floor and then back to the third floor and finally down to the ground floor. Looks like to me we have a bit of elevator riding in our future.

Actually did manage to start Tyler on the ecollar this morning. He figured out what the static feel meant in under 5 minutes and then for the next ten minutes I had to struggle to get in a reasonable number of come commands. Couldn't call him if he was glued to my left heel and that was pretty much where he planted himself. I suspect I really won't be satisfied with our work until we start the sit command which I fully expect to start on Saturday. Meanwhile, he will wear the ecollar during the day just like everyone else. He acts as if the ecollar has somehow elevated his status around here. Interesting behavior on his part.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Day 235

Two sessions, both outside. How to describe what is going on? I am going to try and describe the impossible. Sanity is now working the 3 to 6 o'clock positions and she has moved to the taste method of discrimination, except for when she hopes to con me into letting her go for the discriminate by sound.

Here is how it works. She goes out to the pile and just hits on an article, sort of willy-nilly. She picks it up and starts back with it, all the while keeping her head really low to the ground and not looking at me. When she is working the taste method she gets about half way back to me, stops, makes some smacking sounds with her mouth and spits it out. Then she goes back to the article left behind and picks it up. Smack! Smack! Smack! If it is the correct article she returns to me. If it is the wrong article, she puts it down and goes back to the first article.

Sometimes she picks up the wrong article, starts back with it, stops, spits it out, paws it, picks it back up and takes it back to the original spot. Once there she spits it out, paws and tastes the correct article, picks it up, spits it out. Kicks the taboo article away, picks up the correct article and brings it back to me. Go figure that one out, I think it is really interesting to watch her working.

Then there are the times when I think I must have screwed up during the previous session, because I know darn good and well she is waiting for even the tiniest little sound of praise. Those are the times when I say she working by sound rather than scent. She is so close to putting the pieces together now, it is hard to not work her every couple of hours or so.


I put an ecollar on Tyler for the first time today and then got so busy with other stuff that I never did get around to doing any training with it. So tomorrow will be
the day
for him. He is now so sure he is a Doberman that I am not the least bit concerned about his level of self-confidence.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Day 234

Since I have totally goofed off today, I thought I would take this time to answer a couple of questions that have been directed my way.

The Q: At what point do you feel comfortable excluding the pre-training and post-training confinement, and moving to regular and varied practice throughout the day? Perhaps I missed or mis-read some sections of your blog, but I don't recall seeing you doing either with Sanity, at least not in the past few months that are standing out in my mind. What qualities do you suggest looking for before making this transition? I recognize that the confinement provides a substantial level of contrast that proves to ! be of great benefit to the initial training, and desire to work. What I'm still a bit confused on are the signs that this is no longer necessary.

I guess I wasn't as diligent as I could have been when it came to writing about the confinement time. If you go back to the August 05 entries you will find mention every so often about her being bench chained to something while waiting her turn to work. Since she was selected for her work ethic and desire to work, it was only a matter of holding her back until she had the basics down enough to be of real use. That tends to happen about the same time a solid "place" command paired with a "down/stay" are in place. So I think I most likely dispensed with the confinement along about 5 months of age. In her case, that would have been toward the end of ten weeks of training.

It is important to note that around here there is more than a little competition for my attention and only the dogs willing to work receive that attention. Annoy me when I am working with another dog and risk being banished to a kennel run. We call it being "86'ed". As a result all dogs learn very quickly to consider not being selected for work as a form of confinement.

The Q: I do start with a clock type method I guess. Two articles and moving it around until I can tell the dog is understanding that they have to scent and regularly chooses the right one. I started this dog on the metal, because he doesn't like it and it took a long time to get a reliable metal retrieve. I then start adding metal articles, still making sure to move it all around and also straight lines, chevrons, as well as clock faces. Then I start over again with the leather. Then start over again with mixed. He now is doing mixed. It sounds like you spend much longer on the two articles. This is only the second dog I've taught, and in both cases I just moved on when the dog seemed ready. I tried the tie down method with the first. He was an eager retriever and just brought back the whole dang contraption. I figured if I just started with the two, I could get him to figure it out. That dog took a while, this one seemed to get it and start scenting very quickly.

Do you have a prescribed time frame for moving around the clock and adding more?

I am very methodical about my approach to scent work. I always start with the metal articles. I always have the taboo article as the center of my imaginary clock face and the correct article is first placed at the 9 o'clock position. I will work the 9 and 11 o'clock positions until the dog is going out without hesitation, selecting the correct article without a mistake and is able to do the two placements before I move on. In moving on the new position becomes 10 and 12 o'clock. In that manner I slowly move all the way around the clock. Sometimes I have to hold at a specific position for several days and other times we move through several positions in a matter of days.

Almost all dogs hit a wall after you pass the 12 o'clock position. For a time they just don't seem to be able to even see that side of the picture. That is the point when people want to go to the tie-down or some other form of aid. I always tell my students, forget about it, all those "aids" just slow things down in the end. The only aid needed is that of a slow and methodical pace that has you changing the location of the correct article just a little bit each day, as appropriate.

Once they are able to see it, you will see them beginning to use their nose in a more obvious manner. One of the things I watch for as a sign I can add a third article is that use of the nose. Most of the time there is nothing of value to be gained by adding a third article too soon. It only means you have a weak spot in the training and sooner or later will have to go back and fix it.

I would love to see both questioners in Columbia, MO for my 5-day Balanced Trainers school. It is always so helpful to be able to actually see and then try things that you have only been able to read about and try out on your own.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Day 233

Yippy! Sanity did articles outside with only a tiny bit of guidance from me on the first article. She was working with a stiff breeze, strong spring smells and several loose dogs. After I gave her a very slight leash correction for being too interested in the taboo article she went on to get the correct article 3 times. The positions were 3 o'clock and 5 o'clock. We have just about completed the clock exercise and I am betting that we will be moving on to three articles next Saturday.

Sanity helped out with the first lesson while Tyler got to walk around the yard in the company of my student's teenage daughter. They wanted to slip him into a carry sack and steal him away. Guess you might say he was a hit.

Second lesson and she did an awful job of demonstrating the place command, by basically claiming she didn't have a clue about what the command or signal meant. Much to her disbelief, I actually upped the ecollar pressure and made her do it anyway. Her response later was to yell when I told her to sit at a distance. P.S., I wasn't using the ecollar at all. All I could say at that point was, "busted". The next 3 times I needed her to demonstrate the remote sit she did a very nice and very quiet job of it.

Diane's Doga class was much nicer this week. With the wonderful weather, we held it outside just like all the other classes. There was this one thing we were supposed to do that called for the dog to be sitting in front with their backs to us. We had to call dog to front. The instructions then called for us to step around behind dog and put one foot on each side of dog's back legs. Do a, b & c, but when you do c, rub your hands down the dog from shoulders to legs. Cradle dogĂ‚’s front legs in your arms, between dogs elbow & ankle and lift dog into sitting position as you come upright, so dog has nice stretch. I was doing the exercise from a chair so that meant Sanity had to come front and then turn and then sit with her back to me.

Talk about an argument. She was totally and completely convinced I was wrong and that under no circumstances should she sit with her back to me. Then it was a case of, "okay, I'll sit that way. But you won't like it because I am going to slump or hip sit or scoot back under your chair."

Picky me, I wouldn't accept any of those offerings and in the end we managed the exercise three times. Each time we did it, Sanity became a little looser and more trusting of me and what we were doing. I like this stuff, but am willing to bet my reasons for liking it are a universe away from why others like Doga.

The next lesson came to a bad end since I sent the student home without doing any work on the grounds they had arrived totally unprepared to work. Hey, he hadn't done a lick of work all week with the dog and there was no way I was going to be a party to his using the ecollar to teach new material when they hadn't done last week's assignment.

The very final session of the day was the beginnings with the biggest Yorkie I have ever seen in my life. I really don't believe this critter is 100% Yorkie. He is bigger than an Australian Terrier and at 10 months hasn't even finished growing. I'm betting he is really a YorkiePoo since his coat has an awful lot of curl to it.
And now for the misbehavor of the day we bring you:

At 7 a.m. this morning I couldn't believe what I was seeing. That damn bitch was back in the flower bed yet again. I very likely would not have been lucky enough to catch her in the act except for the fact that the weather has taken such a wonderful turn I had the office door open and heard a very suspious sound. So rather than just get up and go outside to check, I picked up the remote, set it on 6 constant and with fingers on both buttons when to peek out the window. Sure enough, there she was digging a hole in the middle of the crocus bed. My fingers just clamped down on the remote.

Well, she let out such a yelp and started dashing back and forth in the garden. All at once, she whipped around, lined up and launched herself. It looked as if she had just sprouted wings and she floated up almost four and a half feet to shoot through an opening that is only 15" high. As she landed on the ramp my fingers came off the buttons and I turned my back so when she came in the office I wasn't even looking in her direction. For the next couple of hours she was most concerned about my well-being. Where she had been and what she had been doing was never mentioned.

While she will never again be able to get in and out of the flower bed that way again, I dare not say the battle is over. My son just nailed lattice work up to close up the opening. She may be determined, but I am more determined.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Day 232

Can you believe this picture? This is the blasted chunk of wood that Sanity has taken such a liking to. Look closely at the upper portion of the picture. That is her licking her lips as she worries that someone else just might want to taste the nasty thing. Has you can sort of see in this picture she was not going to let that thing get away.Much happier now that I finally let her have it back. She took it back to the mulch pile and buried it. Don't know if that was to protect it or help it grow.

Anyway, once it was properly buried, she was off and running. Trevor, the GSD had decided to take position of a rope tug toy and his goal was to do the troll number. You know, where they put the object down and stand back just a little bit. They are waiting, hoping that another dog will come by and try to even look at it. When that happens they rush in noise and teeth threatening to do all sorts of bodily harm. It was interesting watching her work him out of the behavior. She would sort of slink and slither in, he would rush her, she would dive and twist and some how be tearing off across the yard with it in her mouth and him is hot pursuit. Some times she would let him catch up, grab the other end and a tug of war would go on for a few minutes before she would all of a sudden let go and take off.

After she did this to him four or five times he just gave up on his guarding. So she quit teasing and went off to pull Sage's tail. And so went the morning until it was time to leave for our normal Friday activities. Not a single thing to report there other than she did manage to retrieve my cane, but oh my the faces she made about having to do this particular job. You would think I was asking her to burn her chunk of wood.

Back home I thought things were going very well, since it was a totally beautiful day. Pam stopped by for some lunch and after lunch we happened to step out on the porch to head down the ramp for something. Sanity suddenly pops up from a direction she shouldn't have been. That damn bitch was in my flower garden again!

I'm telling you, I don't think she is going to get to live to see her first birthday. And to add insult to injury one of her short buddies, a Westie named Butchie was in there with her. If that wasn't bad enough they had been in the goldfish pond and had managed to kill the last of the goldfish. While Sanity jumped through a small opening in the ramp railing, Butchie had managed to dig his way under the new gate. So this weekend the opening will be sealed with lattice work or wire or something and I will figure out a way to fix the area under the gate so there can be no more digging. Maybe I will just put concrete down, that would fix them.

After that I didn't do a lick of training. Sigh Tomorrow is going to be a very busy training day, so that sort of makes up for today.

And for those of you who are wondering, Tyler was a very good boy all day long. So there!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Day 231

The red Doberman boy was here this morning for his first lesson on the ecollar. It just seemed like the perfect time to start her on another one of her duties. I just had the feeling she was ready and it turned out I was right. She acted as the loose dog in the park, which pretty much means she was lose in the training yard, running hither and yond as a distraction. She isn't ready to do this job with just any and every dog, but for a first time I was very pleased with her work. Little minx, I'm sure she knew she was pleasing me, because she sure did prance.

Tyler just keeps on trying to be a Doberman. His determination is helping to set in concrete the feeling I have always had that the larger Poodles were simple funny looking Dobermans. I am also fairly certain he is drawing some of his staunchness from the knowledge that a certain young Doberman will be there watching his back. So he too, has become a part of the overall training of Sanity.

It's strange how the entire thing seems to be playing itself out. Way back when, 1985+, I had a Doberman who took a young Papillion under her wing and was the guide through months of training. That young Papillion went on to become the first Papillion to work as an Assistance Dog. He held that position for almost 10 years, doing all sort of amazing things along the way. When he had to retire because of age and illness, I found myself training a Sheltie as his replacement. Wrap took this rather shy and retiring Sheltie girl under her wing. After months of training she went on to do a good job as the replacement Assistance Dog. Now along comes Tyler at about the same point in Sanity's training. Sure enough, Sanity has taken Tyler under her wing. I have resigned myself to the reality that both dogs are meant to be, since there is no way I could have forced, tricked or cajoled any of these dogs to behave the way they have chosen.

In class we did articles and Sanity was actually almost over eager to do them. I had a hard time getting her to hold a stay long enough for me to be able to give her the scent and send her. She did 1 and then 4 o'clock without a single hitch. Well, that is totally true. She did come back with the correct article one time and proceed to throw it at me. Of course, I dropped it and she had to pick it up again.

The really funny thing happened when we were working on flat retrieves. The room was set up with baby gates dividing it in half. I was had a team working on each side of the baby gates, just as an interesting diversion from what we normally do. When it came time for Sanity to do the retrieve on the flat, her opposite was Lightning. Diane and I both threw our dumbbells.

Sanity, not waiting for my command shot through an opening at our end and grabbed Lightning's dumbbell. Not to be outdone, at the other end Lightning upon seeing what Sanity had done, proceeded to do the same thing with her dumbbell. The entire class burst into laughter. The mistake got sorted out and when we repeated the exercise, both dogs shot out, grabbed their own dumbbells and shot back. No worrying about the guy rushing passed on the other side of the fence, no cutting over to steal from the other guy. Just a straight, clean, fast retrieve. Nice.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Day 230

Did a consultation with a young Lab who has started down a very bad road. Four months old and in quarantine for biting. No it really wasn't a bad bite and had he been my dog I would most likely had a serious muscle reflex that caused him to land on the other side of the room and then there would have been no more dinner for that day. An Epsom Salts soak or two and life would have moved on to some very serious training on many levels. In this case the bite led to the doctor's and from there it went to Animal Control. No matter what the offence, be it human or canine, get in the system and all sorts of nasty things can happen.

This time the system allowed them to take him to the vet and then to a trainer. Personally, I think he is a rather nice pup, just sort of clueless. It was so funny to watch him when Sanity hopped the gate and came in the room. More on that later. The interesting part to me has been her behavior since she was left behind on Tuesday. She has most definitely taken another leap forward in her mental growth and development. I think I may safely say that being passed over was a wake-up call.

When she hopped that gate, she didn't even need to be told, guided or even signaled to get up on the love seat. She just hit the office floor, turned and hopped up on her own. Took one look at the Lab puppy, sniffed, stuck her nose up in the air and lay down with a loud sigh. Too, too funny.

Meanwhile, this pup was in complete awe of her and became most humble. A little bit later she turned when told and positioned her head so I could remove her collars. Removing all collars is a part of the consultation. I do it for a couple of reasons. First to demonstrate that training should not be dependent on a piece or pieces of equipment. Second I take the collars off so I can use the ecollar to demonstrate just how an ecollar feels. Then I put Sanity's thin nylon choke collar back on her and continue to talk about the ecollar and training.

As a measure of just how far along her training is, I didn't have to call for Wrap to demonstrate how once the training is far enough along the dog will respond to voice commands without a collar. This time I commented to the clients that Sanity was just about to graduate to the next level of her training and so I was going to test her for the first time. I also made sure they knew how old she isn't. Good for her, she hopped off the love seat and did a sit and then left the office on command and went back to her bed where she did a down. All single this done with single, almost whispered voice commands. I don't know about them, but I was impressed.

Consultation over we moved on. My friend Linda arrived with her two dogs, one of which is a new Pup puppy. I am jealous. That pup stirred up my Puglust again. Thank goodness I am in a position to not know of any Pug puppies. I need a Pug like I need a hole in my head. But darn them, they are so cute.

Frankie the Pug is just about the same age as Tyler and they spent the next couple of hours hard at work...playing. At first, they got the entire yard to run and chase in while the rest of the ankle biters got to be out in the yard. Then we put Frankie and Tyler in the double run with the middle gate left open. That way they could continue to play and explore and I could let the rest of the day care crew out. Tyler got to shine. He already knows all there is to know about that space with its dog houses, resting platforms and interesting gate. Frankie had a bit of a problem figuring it all out, but was willing to follow Tyler's lead. Tyler was almost too proud to show him the ropes. What Tyler doesn't know is that his carefree puppyhood is just about to come to an end.

Scent work: Did articles outside for the first time. It was really hard and she did well. The wind was blowing and that makes scent work harder. There were at least half a dozen other dogs wandering around, walking between her and the articles,and standing over the articles. But none of that was any ways near as difficult as the fact that she had had to put down her most precious hunk of wood in order to work. Then, to make matters even more grip, one of her rivals came along and stole the hunk from the place she had stashed it. Oh the horror of it all!!

This just seemed to make her focus on the task even more strongly. Zip, zip and she had made two correct finds, heard a word of praise from me, was off leash and free to reclaim her hunk of wood. Which she promptly did. Interesting how she reclaimed it. More interesting yet to watch the other dog willingly give it up.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Day 229

The Maryland House of Delegates has a truly awful bill about to be consider. The synopsis of House Bill 1457 states: Reorganizing specified provisions of law relating to service dogs; providing for specified types of identification that can be used to identify a service animal or animal being trained as a service animal; requiring a specified service animal trainer or organization to hold a specified certification by a specified entity; authorizing individuals with a disability to train specified animals if the disabled individual is a certified service animal trainer; etc.

The number of ways this proposed bill is awful are too numerous to list. Because I don't believe a person should just sit back and whine or complain about how our government works, I put aside everything else and along with my friend Pam and Wrap headed for Annapolis. There we walked the halls of government and talked to a good many of "the right" people about just what this bill would mean if it were to become law. Seems it has already gone through a redraft and some of the original offensive language has been removed. Not all, mind you but at least some. There is more, but it really doesn't fit in this blog.

What does fit is that I left Sanity at home and had Wrap come out of retirement to travel with me. Why would I do that?

The answer is really easy, when you stop to think about it. The outcome of this bill will have a long range lasting effect on all residents and visitors in the state of Maryland. Should someone, in this case me, show up with an untrained or poorly trained pup as an example of why owners should continue to be allowed to train their own dogs or why private trainers should continue to be allowed to train dogs for other people with disabilities, well the results could very well be less than desirable.

For instance, I knew for past experience that I would be asked just what sorts of things the dogs are trained to do. I also know that when that question is asked in the halls of government, the person doing the asking and the people standing around watching and listening want to see some action. They don't want words, they listen to words all day long, every day. Nope, they want action. Of course, they never come right out and say so, but past behavior taught me that is what they really want. With that in mind, I have no desire to have to say, "well, after she finishes her training she will be able to (fill in the blank). Nope, they want to see stuff now and it had better be right the first time.

So with those requirements in mind Wrap came out of retirement and Sanity stayed home. Sure enough, we did need to do a couple of demonstrations above and beyond the super mannerly dog stuff. Sanity is not ready and won't be ready for at least another year. Lobbying done we headed home.

At home, Wrap sort of marched in the house with a "don't mess with me" attitude. She stopped long enough for me to take off her shoulder pack and then she headed straight for the bedroom and bed. Getting up for dinner and to hang out for a very short time after dinner, she was back in bed again. I sure do know exactly how she feels.

Meanwhile, back to Sanity. What can I say? She was pissed. I mean she was royally pissed off at me, at Wrap and the world in general. Stomped and stalked around here all evening and just sort of glared at me. So how will this slight of her exalted self effect the coming days training? Only time will tell.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Day 228

Give her a day off and she really buzzes the next day. It's a good thing I felt better cause if she hadn't gotten some work I suspect she would have managed to get herself killed by someone.

Started the day off with a delivery of mulch. This load went not just to the mulch pile but also to the space by my favorite big tree. That is an area where a lake forms every single time we have more than a few drops of rain. My goal is to slowly build it up until I no longer have to deal with a lake. By using mulch and doing it slowly I don't have to worry about upsetting the tree, something that is a major concern since it is very old and not in the best of health and I don't want to lose it.

First lesson with the Newfies went well. We actually worked outside for the first half and didn't come in until it was time to do scent work and deal with my most unfavorate thing, to wit: fronts and finishes.

I tucked an article under my arm and then worked with Paul and Callie. Had to listen to all sorts of teasing because of my strange superstitious behaviors where scent work is concerned. However, Callie had a difficult time working her articles and Sanity didn't. I still maintain that warm metal articles give off a stronger scent than cold ones. So in my mind, Sanity was truly working the hottest scent and poor Callie was struggling with two cold and not very appealing articles with weak scent. Sanity worked 1 and 3 o'clock. The only real problem is this business of playing around with the articles when she first gets to the pile. I will let that continue for a time longer for a couple of reasons. First, she is still very puppy in much of what she does and play is a part of puppy behavior. Second, I very much favor the three-bar articles. She is actually turning each article over to better check all three bars before she makes up her mind. This will slow down and slowly go away as she becomes more confident with her work.

Paul made an interesting observation as he watched me correct Sanity into the exact position I wanted her in. He said, "you know, I kept on thinking she wasn't learning very fast until I started to get Leo ready to show. Then I realized that what you were doing was to make sure she learned each thing right the first time. You aren't going to have to go back and clean anything up because you aren't letting bad stuff get started."

To which I responded, "that's right. I would much rather teach it right the first time than to have to go back and fix stuff that happened because I was sloppy in my original teaching. Besides which, it certainly doesn't take any longer to get it right to begin with and I don't have to back track."

Evening and the "bits and pieces" class. Did articles again and this time had her do 1 o'clock and 4 o'clock. Was interesting to watch. She went out selected the correct article, put it down and started to come back with the taboo article. I moved in and corrected. She then went on to do two correctly other than that fool play stuff she is doing.

And now for Tyler. He is getting closer and closer to being ready for me to start what I think of as "the training". I continue to be selective as to which big dogs he gets to run with, but he sure doesn't need to stay on the porch very much. And food, he is eating like a little pig at dinner time. Likes his afternoon cookie and isn't interested in a morning meal at all. I have had what for me is a house full of little guys the past few days and he is enjoying sort of lording his upper dog status over everyone.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Day 227

I was so tired from last week and the final blow of a full day yesterday that not one single bit of training got done this day. In fact, other than laundry I spent most of the day sleeping. So much for going shopping and getting in some more public practice. GRRRRR

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Day 226

The first Saturday in March, the beginning of a new season and it turned out to be a killer. First lesson at 8 a.m. A Doberman getting ready for the spring obedience trials and starting to learn the working retrieve. Sanity was great. She helped me show how to teach a good sit in front and a crisp, sharp, straight sit in heel position. Her week one and week two retrieve demos were wonderful including her opening her mouth on the fetch command and ever so carefully taking my hand in her mouth and holding it with only the lightest of gentle pressure.

Second class was mostly done outside and Sanity got to stay inside cause it is so windy and cold outside and I knew I would be unable to give her instructions while instructing the new student. This was a first week on the ecollar and the dog an over-reactive Australian Shepherd who has had nine, that's right, nine years to practice using teeth to enforce dog law on all the surrounding humans.

Third class and Sanity hopped right up on the table and let me demonstrate the hold correction without so much as batting an eye.

Fourth class. This one Sanity and I are students rather than teachers. We started a Doga class today. Diane, who has much experience in teaching Yoga has put together a Doga class. For right now we are doing the pilot run. Once the kinks have been worked out we plan on offering it as one of our regular classes. It was so neat. I am way too stiff and my knees are much too damaged for me to be able to do the "floor" work, but I was still able to sit in a chair and follow along with a big chunk. Totally cool. I could just feel the tension draining right out. For this first lesson, the dogs just worked on meditating in the down except when we did the Mountain Pose. They joined us in that pose. As we all gain more experience the dogs will get to do more and more of the special dog poses. It was great.

Fifth class. Sanity demonstrated just how the remote sit really works. The best part was how she made it so clear that she wasn't completely sure of what she was supposed to do and how the ecollar helped her work it out. It was without a doubt the most difficult class to teach since the owner believes ecollars are cruel and is only doing this because food doesn't give a reliable recall. Good thing I had taken the Doga class first.

After lunch, we worked on articles and she chose the wrong article at 1 o'clock. I corrected her, the article was replaced in the same spot. She got it right. Then we worked the 3 o'clock position and she had no trouble at all.

If I can manage to find the energy we are going to work on some flat retrieves later.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Day 225

Friday and after everyone checked in for the day, got out to exercise and then come back in we were off to do our usual Friday nails, bank and even though I really did need to make several more stops, nothing else. Did she stand and stay to help me up? Nope. Did she pick up my cane when told? Nope. Did she get in the car like she is supposed to and certainly knows how to? Nope.

Here I am, dead tired. There she is, being a total jerk. What can I say other than, I swear I hate teenagers. Besides which, the weather is cold, windy and it just makes me hurt and act grumpy. Not a time to do anything other than what I think of as maintenance training.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Day 224

Did a consultation/first lesson with a new dog this morning. This was a young, male Doberman. Only a month older that Sanity and red, when he saw Sanity it was one of the funniest things I have gotten to watch in a long time. She hopped the gate and went up on the love seat when I called her to come in the office. Then she ever so slowly turned around. It looked like she was showing off for this guy.

Meanwhile his eyes were about to bug right out of his head. He gave a soft moan and proceeded to puff his chest out just as far as he could jut it out. She looked down at him, sorted of sniffed and stuck her nose up in the air. He then looked mournful and put his head down. After a few minutes he shifted, lifted his head back up, puffed out his chest again and managed to get one of his "cropped but flopped" ears to stand just as straight and pretty as you please. She just lay on the love seat watching all this. I'm not sure what she "said" at that point, because his owner and I were having way too much trouble not laughing. The entire little interchange was so clear and obvious that even a novice owner was able to quite clearly read what was going on. She said she had never, ever seen him puff his chest like that. I said he was saying, "I'm the man." And Sanity, with her disdainful sniff was saying, "I hardly think so." It is going to be fun to watch the two of them over the next few weeks.

With the amount of writing I have agreed to do, there was no time for any specific training until evening classes. When we were getting ready to leave I noticed something rather interesting. Yesterday as we were getting ready to leave to head to the mall, Sanity was playing the head duck game when I went to put her shoulder pack on her. I finally had to grab her muzzle and tell her to knock it off. This evening when it was time for the shoulder pack, she all but put it on herself. Will start paying more attention and see if I can figure out what that was all about.

Did stay with the group and didn't have any problems at all. Even shifted just the right amount to make room for me to back into place beside her and she did the shift without technically breaking position. She heeled next to the scooter better than she has in the past and when I did scent work with her she actually went straight out and made two successful finds in a row. The first one had a little bit of a hitch in that she went out made her selection, pick it up, dropped it, went to the taboo article, touched it and then went back to the correct article. Hope this continues. Anyway, by the time we got home at 9:30 I was way too tired to worry about anything other than how fast could I get to bed.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Day 223

Today was a killer day. Just as soon as all the day care dogs had checked in and had a chance to run around for a little bit, it was off to the vet. Most people take one dog when they go to the vet. A few may take two dogs, but how many of you take four dogs with you to see the vet? Wrap needed a rabies shot and she was out of heartworm preventive. Sanity needed help with her on again, off again diarrhea problem and she was out of heartworm preventive. Cromwell had diarrhea and Tyler went along to say "how do" and because he needed heartworm preventive. So there you have it. Two Dobermans, one Schipperke and one Miniature Poodle pup.

Poor Tyler. He couldn't figure out whether he wanted to walk on that leash or not and then there was the issue of where to walk, beside the Dobermans, behind them, in between, under? So many decisions and so little time to make them. Then again, maybe I shouldn't be saying "poor Tyler". Once we were in the exam room there was a steady stream of tech's and staff finding an excuse to walk through or come in and hang out for a while just so they could meet the "little guy". So he got loved, and snuggled, and fused over to the max.

By the time we got finished, the bill paid (no you really don't want an "office visit" bill like that one), got home, unloaded and everyone back outside it was time for the next thing scheduled for the day. Which meant I had to bring everyone back in.

The next thing on the schedule was a service dog evaluation and public access test. Sanity was totally great. She hopped the fence when I called her and got up on the love seat with only one quick reminder. She stayed right with me doing everything I needed her to do when I needed it. Since a part of the access test is a dropped food/refusal test, I took the opportunity to get in some training myself. She did very well for a full 3 minutes. I did have to tap the button twice, but they were little "reminder" taps rather than true corrections. That piece of food was so close to her front paws she could have snarfed it up by just sticking her tongue out. She didn't. Will continue to work on that task, since it still has a long way to go.

I really should have taken my scooter or borrowed one of the ones the mall has. I didn't. I couldn't "see" myself doing the testing while riding a scooter. That is something I am going to have to work on, because by the time I got home from the mall, finished up the evaluation, let all the dogs back out and had a chance to catch my breath, I was totally fried. Didn't get another thing done for the rest of the day.

No scent work again today. We did practice in public at the Mall We worked on heeling, sits, downs, the stand as used for a stand and brace, she demo'ed a short recall, of course there was the food refusal. Best of all she did what I would consider to be her first real working retrieve. It was a folded up piece of paper I accidentally dropped. She took two tries to pick it up, but there was no playing around and no tearing of the paper. looking at what I just wrote I realize we really did do a fair amount of training after all.