Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trick Dog Titles (Part 2)

SUMMARY: Obsessing about trick dog titles, because, why not?

What could we test out of right away?

Having downloaded the PDF file containing a list of possible tricks at each level (see previous post), here's where I think we stand.


Dog must be able to do 15 of these. I'd have to see the descriptions to know for sure, but here's what I think we could probably do:

3-2-1 let’s go! - Boost & Tika
back up - Tika (Boost learning)
beginning disc dog - Boost & Tika
come - Boost & Tika
doggy push-ups (not sure what this is)
down - Boost & Tika
drop it / give - Boost & Tika. Well--maybe Tika
fetch / take it - Boost & Tika
get your leash - Boost
hockey goalie
hoop jump - Boost & Tika
jump for joy
jump over a bar - Boost & Tika (well--maybe Boost--the dog who can't earn Jumpers Qs)
jump over my knee - probably Boost & Tika
kennel up (not sure what this is)
place (circle to my left side) - Tika (assuming this is "behind")
pull on a rope
shake hands—left and right - Tika; Boost just does left at the moment
side (swing to my left side) - Boost & Tika
sit - Boost & Tika
speak - Boost
spin circles - Boost & Tika
stay - Boost & Tika
take a bow - Would have to see a description; I've taught them "stretch" instead
touch a target - Boost & Tika
tunnel - Boost & Tika. I'm very confident about this one.
walk the dog (not sure what this is)

So-- that's 18 for Boost plus learning a couple, and 18 for Tika. OK, we could probably all be Novice Trick Dogs!


After earning novice, must do 5 from this list. Not entirely sure on many more of these descriptions. It would probably be worth going out and getting this book anyway.

balance and catch
carry my purse
discern objects names - Boost some
dog on point
easter egg hunt - depends on description. I can hide a treat in a room and tell each of Boost & Tika to go find it. So probably yes.
fetch my slippers
food refusal
head down
heel forward and backward
hide and seek
honk a bike horn
jump into my arms - Boost
jump through my arms
leg weave - Tika
mail carrier
newspaper delivery - Boost
paper-covered hoop
paws on my arm
pick a card from a deck
ring a bell to come inside
rollover - Boost & Tika
sit pretty / beg - Boost & Tika mostly learned
teeter-totter - Boost & Tika (yes, for sure)
under / over
wave goodbye
which hand holds the treat?

So maybe 5-6 for Boost, 4-5 for tika. Probably more when I see the descriptions.


This requires an additional 5 from this list:

act ashamed
baton jumping
chorus line kicks
climb a ladder
cover your eyes
directed jumping
directed retrieve
disc vault off my leg
disobedient dog—under the hoop
double hoop sequence
figure 8’s - Tika, Boost learning
find the remote / car keys
get the phone when it rings
go hide
jump over my back
my dog can count
play dead - Tika
play the piano
say your prayers - both Tika & Boost learning
through a hoop lying on the ground
turn off the light

One and two halves for Tika, two halves for boost.

Well, hrm, again, would have to see some of the descriptions, maybe we could do more, but clearly we need to work. Amber could do those things and also count, cover his eyes, and act ashamed. (He was, after all, my best trick dog so far.)


So much to do! Must have an additional 5 from this list:

bring me a beer from the fridge
bring me a tissue
contraband search
find the object with my scent
hoop jump over my back
jump rope
limp - Tika learning
open / close a door
pickpocket pooch
push a shopping cart
ring toss
roll a barrel
roll yourself in a blanket
rolling hoop dive
shell game
summersault / handstand vault
tidy up your toys - Boost
track a person’s scent trail
weave poles - Boost and Tika
world’s dumbest dog

We are so remiss! Time to get at it! Sorry, agility, we have new titles in mind, and these are things I think I can achieve without having to have perfect contacts or beautiful jumping styles!

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Trick Dog Titles

SUMMARY: Why don't I think of these things?

Not only has this clever woman published a book of 101 dog tricks, but she has grouped them into 4 levels of difficulty and has associated Trick Dog titles with them! And for a mere fee, you, too, can register your dog, then (apparently for additional fees) get certificates with your dog's name proving that you've earned the titles.

You have to have witnesses sign a statement that they've read the trick description in the book so that they know how it's supposed to be performed, so you can't just say, yeah, I did it.

Plus now (for a fee) you can earn your trick dog instructor certificate, too!

Why do *I* not think of these things? Because the form for earning your titles is so inviting, and I am SO wanting to earn those titles. I am such a sucker--

Earn Your Trick Dog Title.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Canoas Creek Says No Agility Class (Big Surprise)

SUMMARY: Sob! Dogs going nuts, need practice, oh well.

Message from the hill: "WEDNESDAY MORNING and EVENING classes are canceled due to 72mph winds (from Jim's new weather station there on the hill) and torrential rains."

So we played tug and tossed toys in the small living/dining area and practiced Tika's rear-foot limp and Boost's handstand work. If I did this every day, we'd be there by now.

And now, I know you wanted--more weather photos!

Hail around noon today (slow speed so you can see streaks of them falling & bouncing. Didn't use tripod so also blurry. Such an arteest).

Now, a block away from here, little tiny Canoas Creek runs through a culvert on its way to the Guadalupe River. Here's what it looks like on a typical May day:

Here's what it looked like at 5:00 today after the rain had been pretty much gone for 3 or 4 hours--you can see the disturbed vegetation higher up showing the earlier level--

--as in, this is what it looked like at 2:30 this afternoon after the rain had been gone an hour or so (you can see there's still wet, disturbed vegetation a foot or two higher than this).

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Special Delivery Dogs

SUMMARY: More box work for 52 Weeks for Dogs
Here's my week 2 photo of Tika for the 52 Weeks for Dogs project.

And just so that Tika didn't get ALL the treats, Boost had to demonstrate her expertise, too. (Note that she's sitting on the edge of the box. She usually sits down in the box, but she has to be turned 90 degrees to do it and just didn't quite get there this time.)

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tricks for Balance and Body Awareness--Part 1

SUMMARY: Limp and handstand.
Boost is SO CLOSE to doing a handstand! She's lifting her back feet in the air to place them on something above & behind her but hasn't yet made the transition to just keeping them in the air without looking for the support. Around Christmas I vowed 2 weeks, but then I haven't practiced every day like I planned--more like once a week.

Tika is SO CLOSE to limping while holding up her back foot. She lifts it pretty high if there's something near her back foot but loses it as soon as there's nothing nearby. She doesn't even have to put her foot on it any more, but there's something about that prop behind her.

I taught Remington to limp with his front paw up--that was pretty easy, actually, once I thought about it, because he could already "shake" while standing up. But back foot up? Triiiiikeeeee!

Both of these ideas came out of the Silvia Trkman seminar of tricks for building strength, balance, and body awareness for agility. If I remember to work on them every day for 5 minutes, we could be there very soon. Maybe I'll post videos if I'm not too lazy to get it out, set it up, take the vid, connect it to the computer, remember how to use the software, upload the vid, edit it to what I want, save it, remember how to include it in my blog...

You can see why I don't do videos very often.

What tricks are YOU working on?

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Silvia Trkman Tricks Seminar

SUMMARY: We'll have fun fun fun till our human puts the goodies away.

Last week, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I had the opportunity to do something that I almost never do any more: Sit in over an hour's worth of ugly traffic to make a 35-mile drive.

Ha! But that's not the only thing. I used to teach Remington tons and tons of tricks. I loved it. Loved adding to his ever-growing list of things he could do. The usual stuff: Hold a biscuit on his nose and walk, sit up, wave, limp, jump onto anything I pointed to, say his prayers, be embarrassed, count, do figure 8s around my legs, play the tuba... you know. Except for playing the tuba, not really. But agility gradually took over my brain. Now when I want to fine-tune something, it's usually weave entries or contact speed or rear crosses or playing the saxophone.

Ha! Kidding about the saxophone, too, none of my dogs play instruments. But now that you mention it, that would be a good trick to work on.

Anyway, I audited two nights of Silvia Trkman's tricks seminar. Tricks were geared towards stretching, balance, targeting, and other nifty things that are extremely useful to agility dogs (but are fun for ANY dog). A Bay Team member has a lovely indoor facility (Javadog Training Center), which is extremely rare here in sunny California, and so we could work on a cold, dark winter's evening in a beautiful indoor setting.

She gave brief descriptions of each trick, explained a little about how to shape the trick, then let all the participants work on the trick for about 15 minutes. She said that an "operant" dog (that's actually Susan Garrett's term, not one Silvia used) should be able to learn any one of her tricks in about that amount of time. Several dogs did pretty good; several others really had little or no experience shaping and few or no tricks.

At least my dogs are fairly operant because I dink around with shaping them to do stuff from time to time.

Because I had just picked up Tika from the vet the first night, she and Boost were there with me, hidden in the back of the room where we wouldn't get in the way of the paid participants. So I took the opportunity to work on my own dogs with some of the tricks without assistance from the instructor.

I think I'm pretty good at shaping. Not an expert, but I can coax some things pretty quickly out of my dogs. Sometimes I get stuck--more in a moment--and half of being able to shape well is to figure out how to get around your dog's mental blocks.

One trick was to have the dog grab a pole with her front leg and hold it (picture them sitting up and doing this with a teddy bear. Very cute). In one session, I made great progress with both Tika and Boost in the time others were working with just their one dog. They weren't quite holding it yet, but I was out of time.

Another one I worked on a little was having Tika do a figure 8 BACKWARDS around my legs. I picked her for this one because she already does backwards on command (I use "beep beep beep" like for a truck backing up) and she already does figure 8s around my legs. This was tough to get started. Silvia had suggested standing against a wall or corner so that, when the dog backs up, the only place she can go is through your strategically placed legs. Well, Tika backed up against the wall and stayed there. Took me a while to figure out what angle of approach worked and what stance of my own helped. I got her to do one backup through my legs two or three times, and I was sweating at the end of it.

Another I worked on was having Boost ricochet off my torso. Silva started by having people teach the dog to jump onto your lap and then into your arms while you're standing. The trick for that, she said, was to get the dog to be turning his head as he arrived at you, because it's much easier to catch a dog who's sideways to you than coming straight on. Lucky me, when I taught Boost to jump into my arms, she figured out that turning bit on her own. So I just needed to expand on that.

I started by placing myself at an angle on a chair (no actual lap) and encouraging her to jump up, then throwing a toy and telling her to get it as she turned. Gradually I stood up more and more, continuing to throw the toy but still with a slight bend in my legs so she had somewhere to land and still catching her slightly, but not impeding her in immediately going for the toy. We made good progress, I think, but I worked up a sweat on that one, too.

The most popular tricks that she had people start on--and that I think we're going to see a lot more of in our area--were the dog standing on 2 legs. Sure, on their hind legs, that's pretty easy to shape. But how about doing a handstand? As it turns out, shaping that's not too bad, either. But how  about standing on the legs on one side of the body? Or kittycorner legs? She demonstrated with her own Pyrenean Shepherd, La. So wonderful to watch! And now I have ideas on how to shape it. (E.g., for kittycorner, you teach one rear leg up and then while they're doing that, you ask for a shake on the opposite front leg, assuming they already know that, too.)

Silvia didn't go into this sort of detail, but did mention in conjunction with other things some of the key pieces in shaping (for anyone who hasn't taken a seminar in shaping or read a good book on it) include:
* Breaking things down into really really tiny pieces, as small as needed to make progress.
* Being able to reward the dog regularly, every few seconds, or the dog can become frustrated or bored and progress halts.
* Timing. You have to click (or say "yes!") at the instant that the behavior you want occurs, not a moment before or after.
* Patience to start with, for the dog to do *anything* *anywhere near* what you want.
* Click for behavior, reward for position.

For example, another one I worked on with Boost was walking backwards. To shape this behavior, I started with the dog standing up facing me (I was sitting for better view of her feet) and waited for the tiniest movement backwards. People often want too much. I start with half a fraction of an inch backwards with even one foot, which dogs usually do fairly quickly as they're looking at you and figuring out what you want. So I'm watching her feet, not any other part of her body, so I can click at the instant that any foot moves backwards a millimeter.

Immediately after the click, I reward for position: I don't want her to come towards me, as that defeats the lesson of going backwards away from me. So I toss a treat between her front legs, so that to get it, she has to take another step backwards. When she does that (even if she doesn't have the first treat yet), I click again and toss another treat between her front legs. If the dog cooperates, you can be clicking/treating constantly for EVERY step backwards until she gets too far away to throw the treats accurately.

I had Boost backing up there in the back of the classroom within just a few minutes.

You can also teach a dog by leading or luring , for example by luring them forward with a piece of food. I taught Remington to back up wayyyy back when by walking towards him so that he had to back up. I think that makes the dog pay more attention to what I'm doing and wait for information from me, when what I want in a tricks dog (AND in an agility dog) is one who thinks about his body and his movements and figures things out for himself so I don't have to micromanage him every step of the way. I started working with clicking and shaping when Remington was several years old, and he loved it, too.

About dogs' mental blocks:

Tika confounded me with backing up (when I taught her probably 5 or 6 years ago) because every time I tossed a treat between her front legs, she stepped forward into a turn to go back and get it, so I couldn't get the constant click-click. I had to find creative ways to keep her from doing that. Like put her next to a wall on the side that she preferred to turn. I think I even set up a couple of chairs at one point on either side of her. I had to use the right kind of treat and practice so that it landed JUST between or barely behind her front legs so that it was easier for her to get it just standing there or moving one foot backwards. It was a challenge, where Boost was a breeze.

Yesterday I was working on teaching both girls to nest one food bowl inside another. (This is a Silvia trick from one of her videos; Boost's breeder Tammy was there and her dogs were doing it, so I came home with that idea.) Both dogs already pick up their food bowls and drop them near me, so I figured this would be a cakewalk. Tika picked it up pretty quickly--it is so amazing to see the dog figuring out the space that she needs to maneuver through to make it happen.
Boost, however, has made a concerted effort to drop the bowl anywhere the other bowl was NOT. It has been challenging, and I will continue to work to find clever ways to get her to drop the bowl under her own power nearer and nearer to the other bowl. I haven't figured it out yet, and neither has she. It's always something. It's a good mental workout for both of us.

And you never know which dog will get stuck with what--Boost, after all, was the dog who learned how to get into a box a couple of years back (this was also one of Silvia's tricks at the seminar) by watching me shape Tika into doing it! That dropped my jaw in amazement--after 5 minutes with Tika, when I called Boost over, she immediately jumped into the box.

Anyway--if you want ideas on tricks and to see many of the tricks she introduced at her seminar and a squillion others, visit Silvia's video page. I love watching her videos. She obviously loves her dogs and her dogs love doing the fun tricks with her.

Updated an hour later: I took my camera with me both nights but took only the one photo. Fellow Bay Teamer Team Whisner took photos, however; see her blog post.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Silly Rabbit, Tricks are for Dog Kids

SUMMARY: In which we start pursuing tricks real serious-like (or is that Sirius-like?).
I signed up for 2 days of auditing a Sylvia Trkman tricks seminar in December. I started thinking about how pathetic my dogs' tricks repertoire is, especially after having Remington who was quite the trick dog in his time. (Nowadays, especially with internet videos showing how to train your dogs to do all kinds of things, his tricks would be mostly considered pretty basic.)

So for the last 3 days I've been working on improving some tricks and adding some new ones. There must be something to karmic communication, because my parents showed up today with the book "Dog Tricks - 40 fun activities for you and your dog" for me. It's always fun to get a new tricks book to see what variations on a theme they might have, or new ideas I haven't tried before.

So--let's run down the list of tricks as introduced in this particular book.

(the late great)
Sit yes--could do a long obedience sit-stay yes--start-line stay is a little iffy yes--good start-line stay
Stay for my dogs, "Sit" and "Down" automatically incorporate "stay until released"
Down Yep, always a little slow Yep, getting slower Yep, very fast usually
Come Well... kinda... usually...
Drop it pretty good erm, not really iffy
Fetch something you throw Never liked it much Getting better on command. Pretty dang good.
Shake hands Yes Yes, also shakes left hand on request Yes
Speak Yes No Yes
Take a bow Yes sometimes "stretch" on command sometimes "stretch" on command
Kissyface No, but tried. Not really a licking dog. No No, but hmm she licks a lot, could be taught.
Jump for joy No Does it on her own; maybe could teach it. No
Roll over Yes Yes, fairly well Yes, fairly well
Jump over your legs never tried Hmmm--could do this ditto
Get your leash No No--worked on it for a while and quit Yes
Beg/sit pretty Yes just learning just learning--getting it
Fetch a specific item Not really Worked on it some Will look for some specific items: Dish, leash, lattice, tennis ball--
Leave it Decent Never worked on it Ditto
High five Yes Yes just learning
Spin "left" or "right" on command ditto ditto
Wave Yes just learning No
Dance Reasonably good No No
Carry [something] not a chance not really Not bad with frisbee
Figure 8 around legs Yes Yes just starting
Jump up (on a chair etc) Yes yes yes
go to your bed (and stay there) Yes Yes OK with direction
Put away your toys No just started One at a time with encouragement
balance biscuit on nose/catch Yes Decent just started
Act shy (hide face) Yes No No
Find the keys No No No
Close the door No No No
Crawl Forward and backward Just started No
Follow a scent trail (drag treat along floor) Took some tracking classes to follow my scent trail No No
Pull cord to turn on light/fan No No No
Achoo No No No
Run through a tunnel Duhhh! Duhhh! Duhhh!
Jump through a tire Duhhh! Duhhh! Duhhh!
Touch a nose target Yes Yes Yes
Run down a ramp and touch a nose target Pretty much Pretty much Pretty much
weave poles Duh! Duh! Duh!
jump over hurdles Duh! Duh! Duh!
jump onto a table, lie down, and stay until released Yes Yes In theory--

OK, how cool is it that they include a chapter on agility obstacles in the book? Looks like there are a few basic ones in there that I could work on. But here are some others that we do:
(the late great)
Find a treat (hidden) Yes Yes Yes
cha-cha line No just started ditto
Back up Yes Yes No
Bang! Yes Yes Just started but already she's added her own flavor to it.
Get in the box (like a cardboard box) No Pretty much Pretty much
Lie on one side Yes Yes No
balance biscuit while sitting pretty or walking Yes No No
Say your prayers Yes No No
Hang ten (paws on your arm) Yes No No
Where's your nose? Yes No No
Limp Yes Just started No

And probably more that I'm not thinking of at the moment.

Sooo--I want to fill out my table with more yesses, and add more interesting, more up-to-date tricks. Like, I love the one where the dog blows bubbles in a bowl of water. I actually started that once with these gals and they were doing great and I forgot about it again. Agility, you know.

Or standing on two legs--one SIDE's legs! That's got videos online, too.

Or balancing on my big yoga ball--started with both of them and abandoned. That takes a lot of work. But would be very good for their muscles.

So--onward, like I don't have enough to work on with cleaning up boost's rear crosses or serpentines or bar knocking, or tika popping out of the weaves when they run into a wall, or like that.


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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stretching...or Not

SUMMARY: Cramps, stretching, fruit in my very own yard.

Last night as I dozed off in bed and changed position, the muscle inside my right thigh and halfway down the side of my calf started to spasm/cramp like crazy. Man, those things really hurt. Tried to massage it and keep the leg stretched to make it go away. Sometimes my lower spine compresses the nerves and I get some of that, but usually in the sciatic nerve, and usually if I can get to a position where I can do some relaxing stretches, it eases off. This time, every time I moved, it went again.

I finally got onto the floor to try to do some stretching, and it went again. Repeatedly. Then, as that eased, it shifted to the top of my thigh. I'm sure the dogs thought I must be rabid, rolling on the floor and moaning and cursing and begging for it to stop. I think they were looking for the shotgun already. Then, after it taunted me with several repeats and then eased off and I moved slightly, it started on the inner thigh in my other leg. When that finally eased, it moved on down to the shin and foot of my first leg. Every time it would start to ease, I'd move, and it would start up again. Over and over.

That was 20 minutes of abject pain. I was ready to tell anyone where the treasure was and betray all my fellow double agents to make it stop.

When it all finally decided to quit, and I was able to do some stretching of the spine (hard to tell which came first), I hobbled downstairs to research about leg cramps. Yeah, I worked very hard the last 2 days, hauled a lot of agility equipment that I don't usually haul, sweated a lot when I don't usually sweat. Could've been the weight on my spine. Could be mild heat stroke--I did feel unnaturally cool in the evening before bed. Could be dehydration--I drank 4 sodas, a glass of milk, a bottle of water, and had a bowl of ice cream and some fruit between getting home and going to bed 5 hours later. Could have been I lost salt and potassium. Could've just been the unusual type of exercise. OK, so much for research. But everything said, drink more. And some said, bananas and orange juice are good sources of potassium. And some said add a tsp of salt per quart of water and drink that.

I was still thirsty, so grabbed another soda. (These are all diets, BTW, no calories.) Having had my fill of bananas for the day (2 already), I stood there in the kitchen at midnight peeling oranges (fortunately I had a huge bowl sittign on my table from the tree in my yard). Couldn't deal with drinking salty water, so I had a couple handfuls of salty pretzels instead. I'm sure that's VERY healthy.

And then I slept just fine, thenk yew. But the muscles that cramped *hurt* today--not ache from the work they did, but like they were yanked in the wrong directions. Bleah.

Meanwhile, back at the dog training arena: I've been working for many months to try to get the dogs to stretch on command. Susan Garrett says it's easy, just have a clicker and treats with you when you get up in the morning and are doing your morning rituals. So mostly the dogs have learned to stretch in my upstairs bathroom. Every time I go in there, night or day, for any reason, the dogs show up to stretch. But only their front ends; I can't catch them stretching their back legs out often enough for it to have registered, although I'm thinking that Boost is starting to do it more often.

Boost has also converted her front end stretch into more like a play bow, although her elbows are straight and it's better than nothing. Tika does actually get the shoulder and neck muscles stretched when she does it. Obviously I didn't hold my criteria well enough with Boost.

I've been putting a command to it, and they've responded really my upstairs bathroom. Have recently been experimenting with it in other locales. Was just out in my side yard, thinking about how much the muscle in my inner thigh hurts, when the dogs wandered over. I had no treats or clickers, but I did have my camera, so thought I'd give it a try. Tika did a perfect front-end stretch, but danged pocket camera wouldn't focus fast enough to take the shot. And she wouldn't do it again when she realized there were no treats.

Boost, however, did it after my 3rd or 4th request... VERY quickly.... and then had to be coaxed to try again, and DID! Long enough for a photo.

And the reason I was in the side yard was to scout out my absolutely favorite yard-grown fruit:

Blackberries! This is apparently the season, RIGHT NOW! Got to get out and start pickin'. I'm SURE they're jam-packed (ha ha?) with potassium and salt and electrolytes and muscle relaxants and all like that. I can just tell!

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

History Reappears

SUMMARY: Comparing 2002 to now.

I've saved emails about my life with my dogs since 1994, and occasionally I go back and post them to this blog, dated as they actually occurred (you can do that in Blogger; very cool) and flagged with "Backfill" and the date I really posted it.

Just posted a couple from the first few weeks I had Tika.

Here's a good one for comparison from February 2002.

How are things 7 years later? Tika definitely does NOT sit quietly and wait for her leash to be put on before going out for a walk. She leaps, shouts, runs in circles, jumps, shrieks...

I used the gentle leader with her for a long time but started getting worried about how much pressure it was putting on her neck every time she pulled on it--which was often--so a year or two back (after I had spent the $$$ to get one for Boost, too) I just stopped using them. Tika now has a nonpull harness that works very well. It's not perfect but I think it works better than the gentle leader (AKA haltie)--made by the same company.

And we have NOT fixed the screeching and barking and leaping and yanking when on leash and she sees other dogs. We have times where I think I'm making progress, and times when I realize that I'll never fix it.

And as for those "Down" commands--which we taught the dogs in two different ways to put their front ends down first because it makes for a faster, more direct down? I've noticed that, recently, Tika is always sitting first before going down. I never taught that or encouraged that; never! Funny.

Tricks--she Shakes just fine, with either paw, and does a high 5, too. Never continued teaching her the Crawl. And she can catch treats tossed to her fairly well; her main failing here is that she always leaps and snaps at it in a frenzy and often it just bounces off her nose or teeth and ricochets into some odd place where we have to hunt for it.

And, of course, I gave up within a year on the idea of having her sleep on the floor and only the old dogs sleep on the bed. Tried it with Boost, too, but noooo--all dogs sleep on the bed with mom. Sigh. Dog hair central.

And that was then, and this is now.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

News and Notes

SUMMARY: stuff..

Yesterday I did just a wee bit of agility with Tika in the yard. You have seldom seen her so excited to be doing agility! Wow was she fast--on the contacts, in the weaves, in her table down. Fast fast fast! Maybe it was good to take a couple of weeks off. Not that I usually practice that much, but we did usually have class every week and I'd do SOMETHING on the equipment with them almost every day. Maybe she will keep it up this weekend. Maybe I'd better put her over some jumps today (still too wet and slippery on the ground yesterday).

Boost wanted to go, too. So I set up a completely straight tunnel so she wouldn't slip (wet wet wet) and set it so that her exit put her in line for the dogwalk, which I figured wouldn't be hard on her backside. This was one happy dog! You can tell because she starts going into a superfrenzy on her toy afterwards. I dunno what I'm going to do with her all weekend! At least at this trial there's a huge fenced field where she can run loose and we can throw a toy or practice obedience or tricks or groundwork or something.

Daylight savings time starts Saturday night! Always interesting on a trial weekend to see who shows up at the wrong time on Sunday. I feed my dogs usually around 10:00 and 6:00. And they know it. They start hanging all over me and mooning around until I feed them. My dogs have NO PROBLEM adjusting to daylight savings time for their meals. But it takes them about 6 months to decide that it's ok to wait an extra hour when standard time rolls back in.

For some mental exercise, I've started teaching the dogs to bring me their bowls for meals. I worked really hard last week for several days just trying to associate the word "bowl" with the object and having them get it from a short distance with nothing else intruding. First time I put them out on the deck and said "bring me your BOWL," tika veered off to the side and brought me her BALL. Doh! OK, back to square one, associating the word DISH with the object. Silly trainer.

The price of everything dog related seems to have shot up. For several years I've paid roughly the same for my 40-lb. bags of kibble--somewhere between $25 and $30 regular price but you could often get it on sale for the low $20s. Last fall, BAM!, shot up to $40 a bag! It does last about 4 weeks, so I'm feeding my dogs on $1.50 a day, which is way less than *I* cost to feed. But still, wow, what a jump, and it feels worse because it was so sudden. Same thing with bully sticks. Could get a dozen at Costco for $12.99 for the longest time. Then, overnight last fall, BAM!, $20. I'm less eager to pay almost $2 each for a chew that lasts about 20 minutes. Although I *do* cut them in half usually; scarfing down a whole one usually gets me dog vomit sometime during the night (like, say, last night for example, when I didn't cut them in half).

That's all for now. This weekend: CPE. Next week: Boost visits the orthopedist.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Box Work

SUMMARY: In which I take advice to heart.

Dog agility is all about teamwork and communication. (In prior posts I might have suggested that it's all about the clothing, or the food, but in reality it's all about teamwork and communication. Today, anyway.)

Several people have suggested lately that what I really need is just basic box work with my dogs. I'm always big on taking good advice, and although box work can be a little tedious, still, I figured I ought to put in a little time on it. And I figured I'd videotape it and share it with you.

You can see that Boost needs more work on this than Tika does.

You agility folks--I couldn't resist. You nonagility folks--well--

Addendum 5 p.m.: After you've watched the video, see my Comment (4th one) for a genuine useful training observation.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Chains (continued)

SUMMARY: Oh! I forgot back chaining!

When I had my first dog, back around 1980, a lady neighbor had a pomeranian that she'd tell "Pick up your toys" and he'd run around the room, picking up his toys and putting them in the toy basket. I was floored. This was just the neighbor lady's lap dog, fer crying out loud! I thought that someday I'd try to figure out how to teach my dog to do that, but had no clue where to start and never did get to work on it. Remington (my 3rd dog) was a great trick dog but not big on picking things up to begin with, let alone on command, so we never worked on that. And Jake, who loved picking things up, had the learning capacity of half a grapenut, so I never tried it with him.

Last month, Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction posted a video of her dog picking up his toys. Wow, I said! (I say "wow" a lot sometimes.) I know how to do that now! Plus I have a Booster who fetches the newspaper every morning and will work really hard to do stuff for me! (I suspected I'd have to write off Tika, who also works hard for the clicker, but who had to spend months in remedial retrieving school because she loves to hold onto things if you're playing tug of war but won't bring them back usually.)

After the first session, Boost looked like she was getting a clue. Tika figured out that I wanted her to put her mouth on things, but since she never actually picked them up, progress was slow, although everything in sight was heavily salivated. After the second session, Boost was starting to deliberately take things into the vicinity of the basket, although she'd hover over it and then toss the toy beyond it (perhaps a clicking error on my part that I didn't detect soon enough). Tika was starting to move things, one salivary inch at a time, towards the basket, but since nothing made it more than an inch above the ground, nothing was going INTO the basket.

After the third session, Boost was actively starting to look for the basket and would pick up any objects when I pointed to them. Tika and I had decided that it would be funnier to teach her to stand IN the basket, since that's what she was trying to do anyway to get closer to the food.

On the fourth session, I dared to demonstrate it for the housemate. Boost still needs a little encouragement to pick some things up; needs some discouragement from picking up things that are already in the basket and dropping them back in; and a little reminder that a basket 4 feet away is no different from one 3 feet away, but wow (!), she was really doing it! And Tika was up to having 3 feet IN the basket; I'm having a tough time making the transition to 4 feet just by shaping, but I'll try to be patient.

When both are more consistent and complete in their behaviors, I'll videotape it.

And, yes, I did Boost's behavior using large dollops of backchaining and clicks/treats.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Remington's Tricks Repertoire

SUMMARY: A ten-minute video of Remington's tricks.

Remington was my tricks dog. Before I'd ever heard of agility, before I started practicing for competition obedience (in which we never actually competed), it was tricks for us. He was so eager to learn--and so eager to get treats--and I could barely keep up with him. When I learned how to do clicker training, it sped up his learning process even more.

This is not a complete set of behaviors that he'd do on command, but it covers most of them. In my experience, simply executing the tricks is only half of the entertainment value; the rest is how to use the tricks unexpectedly with entertaining verbal patter.

This video was my attempt to quickly capture a dying dog's legacy. At the time, I regretted not having filmed them while he was healthy (but how was I to know? He was only nine), because the whole time I noticed how slow and low-key his responses were, where he usually danced, pranced, and bounced through his routines. A couple of weeks later, he was gone, so I'm glad to have anything at all.

This is the first time I've dared to view the videos. His death has always felt too recent and too raw; I've feared that I'd plunge into a bawling jag and ruin my whole day. It has just recently occurred to me that it has been five years. Five. Years.

So I pulled out the tapes last night and watched the whole hour. I didn't cry once, although a pocket of tears kept tapping me in the gut (what an image, huh?). I did kick myself for not moving those agility jumps out of the way of the cameraman. Where was my sense of artistry? (Probably completely exhausted, as was the rest of me, waiting for Remington's cancer to become irretrievably bad.) Mostly, while watching, I smiled and laughed. So then I sat down with iMovie and put together these highlights. This isn't a Performance as such; it's just an Inventory. But for what it's worth, here it is. (And here's a text list of Rem's tricks.)

(Thanks to my housemate-at-the-time, who offered encouragement in the background, and her teenage son, who did a lovely job of videotaping.)

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tootling Along

SUMMARY: So far so good, still

Housemate's cooking fan club
Housemate gets Tika and Boost lined up for some good fetch.
When tug-of-war isn't good enough--Boost learns to fly.
Yummy home-made cookies from Saturday night's party.
That's me at Saturday's party, rather blurry, oh, well, but the only photo I asked anyone to take. Really, I only just met the guy five minutes before and his wife was sitting right there.

Things are progressing fairly uneventfully. Boost chose two of the coldest, frostiest mornings to go outside first thing and roll in poop, covering herself with gobbets of stuff head to tail, making us both miserable as I had to spend considerable time hosing her off with icy-cold water. I've always wanted to install a hot-water spigot to the back yard for dog care, but have never had the budget. Someday...

Jake has been eager to play fetch lately, which is grand.

All the dogs want more attention and excitement than they're getting, but they're surviving. I am going outside with them most days at least once and at least throwing a toy for them to bring back, with just a wee bit of basic agility that I can do while essentially standing still. Have worked on some basic tricks with a clicker inside the house on a couple of occasions for a change of pace, and have occasionally fed them their meals in Buster Cubes (which they have to roll around to get to dispense the kibble). It's been raining or drizzling the last two or three days, which makes me want to avoid having them run around in the yard--gets them all muddy and tears up the lawn.

But I haven't taken them ANYWHERE in a couple of weeks--no classes, no visits to the park, no walks, nuthin'. Really need to do something, anything, as soon as I can manage.

Fortunately, the renter/housemate always plays with them daily anyway, but has been making a special effort to get at least Jake and Tika well-run. And they love him for it--plus they're rather fond of helping him finish off a few scraps left over when he makes his daily sandwiches or otherwise cooks. Tika's not fond of fresh broccoli, but even she will munch a few pieces when she sees the other two gulping them down.

The knee mostly gets better. I had my first post-op physical therapy Thursday morning, where we did almost nothing (because my knee hurt at least a little with most things, and therapist doesn't want to start the pain cycle with even a little aggravation). On the way home, I stopped at Rite Aid briefly, and discovered that, even being able to park right in front of the store, I was tired and sore and my knee ached and it was quite strenuous. I slept two hours when I got home. That evening, I reverted to crutches around the house, which I hadn't used in probably 4 or 5 days.

But the next day, Friday, I felt my best post-op so far, even forgetting from time to time as I moved around the house that there was anything wrong with my knee at all. Saturday I went to the movies and did so by walking ALLLLLL the way from the back parking lot through the huge Oakridge Mall to the theater, the most walking I've done post-op, even including a couple of grocery shopping trips. I did take my crutches with me and used them just to give me a wee tiny extra bit of weight-bearing support for that leg, trying to walk normally, just braced with the crutches. I think I did fine.

I haven't used the icing machine in 3 days now, so that's been 3--hmm, maybe 4--nights I've gone without it overnight. The first of those nights I did get up in the night (towards morning) and ice it for 20 minutes, as it ached enough to be bothersome after I got up to use the facilities, and then it was fine again.

So I'm just icing for 20 minutes off and on during the day, and am doing a very few exercises when I remember to do so. Need to do some more; the weight is already creeping on (but I'm eating crappily, too--usually the exercise I get helps to accommodate that). Tried the exercycle in physical therapy briefly and couldn't do much; I'm going to try it again today and see what I can do.

Last night I carpooled with a friend on a lonnnng drive (over an hour an a half) to Pacific Grove to an agility club party/meeting. I survived the drive and the party and managed to snap a bunch of photos of club members, and although I was tired when I got home, I attributed it more to the late-night hour than to anything knee-related. So, yes, progress is occurring.

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Monday, August 01, 1994

Remington Learns Tricks and Obedience

SUMMARY: He's mostly a good boy.

Backfill: Oct 22, 2007
Remington's training is going great. If you'da aksed me on Saturday, I'd have moaned and beaten my head on the nearest concrete block. Consistent, you know?

He's pretty good on basic stuff in the driveway when it's just me & him. (Add Jim or other friends and it goes to heck.) So I decided that he needs more distractions to practice with.

There's an AnJan Pet Supply about a 5-minute walk from here, so last week I started taking him down to their parking lot every day. Lots of distractions! Of course, to him, someone driving by is a Major Totally Awesome Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity to See Something Really Interesting. Let alone people opening and closing car doors and walking by in the distance.

Other dogs are yet another level higher in Fascination Quotient.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it was like he'd never been on a leash before and as though "Sit" had suddenly been translated to Swahili. Or maybe Martian. I was very discouraged.

We took a break from going there on Sunday, and this morning when we went, he was a *sweetheart*!

We've been learning tricks gradually, too; he learned "Shake" in about 2 shakes. Easiest thing I've EVER taught a dog! He loves it-- "Gee, all I have to do is lift my foot, which I'd probably do anyway, and I get FOOD! Good deal!"--as opposed to having to actually WORK for goodies in things like balancing the goodie on the nose, crawling across the floor, or begging--all of which he's making progress on but is still a bit wimpy at. (Actually goodie-on-the-nose showed great improvement over the weekend--finally!--we've been working on it for 2 months!)

Anyway, I'm still doing a lot more than we've covered in class, but it's great to have Pam's experience and suggestions for things that are giving us trouble.

SHE thinks Remington learns things REALLY QUICKLY--that's because he is on his absolutely best behavior (now) in class so that he can impress the Babes. Little does she know what devils possess him after we leave--

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