Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August Treat Review Thanks to

Once again let us try out a new-to-us product!  We chose Dogswell Vitality Beef Recipe Meatballs Dog Treats. 

I chose these treats because they are grain free, contain flaxseed and they description said they were soft and easy to break.  They are also made in the USA, which is a plus.  I like any treat with flaxseed because it is a great source of Omegas for Dot since she can't have fish.  These treats are indeed soft and easy to break but they are NOT a training treat you can break into pieces and put in your pocket.  They crumble like crazy and you are left with nothing but a pocket of small meat particles.  I found it handiest to keep on in my hand and break chunks off as needed.

The dogs loved them, they smell pleasant and didn't leave my hands greasy or smelly.  I was happy with the ingredients.  The only thing the lost a few points for was the fact that the crumble.  They are a treat I would certainly purchase because they were convenient (much more convenient than cooking and chopping a chicken breast when I am in a hurry to get to a show or a class.

Ingredients: Beef, Peas, Maple Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Sweet Potatoes, Flaxseed, Flaxseed Oil, Carrots, Salt, Citric Acid (Preservative), Spinach, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavor, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Vitamin A Supplement, Rosemary Extract, Vitamin E Supplement

Disclosure: provided me with one package of treats to review.  I was not compensated in any other way and the opinions are all mine and the dogs'.  :) 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

More Dog (and Cat) Sitting!

I've mentioned DogVacay before, it's a great way to meet fun dogs and their people and make a little pocket money on the side.  I have a full time day job so I don't have guest dogs at my house all the time, but when we're able, we take in boarders and I also do care visits at the pet's home if they'd rather stay in their own house.

Another reason I love hosting dogs is that I get to see different dogs interacting.  Watching my dogs (who I know generally how they will respond) and other dogs I'm not as familiar with is a great learning experience and sometimes  it's almost like watching nature programs on tv.  Whether they are indoors and trying to get each other to play or outside and discovering new territory, I really enjoy watching dogs use their body language and voices to communicate with each other and having guest dogs is a great (and safe) way to do this.  Much safer than dog parks or trying to observe dogs on leash walks trying to communicate.

Here are some of our more recent visitors!
Taco made fast friends with this little cutie!  She is destined for agility greatness as her owner is a pretty awesome trainer and competitor.
Leo is BIG and lovable and super relaxed.
More fun with these big fluffies!  I am a regular at their house and they've just recently added a fourth!
Lucy was a well-mannered guest (for the most part) but was a little demanding.  She has NEEDS!
Riley was a joy to have at our house!  He really enjoyed swimming in our dog's kiddie pool, and he liked getting dried off even more!
Sometimes I get to watch cats!  Sneakers is an adorable PETITE little sweetie.
I couldn't get enough of Triton's eyes, he is just a young guy but gorgeous!
Another friend who really enjoyed our pool, Rex is also a BIG baby who hasn't quite grown into his big boy body yet.

This is Yoli, who is a regular.  And she LOVES this toy with a passion so she's easy to entertain.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Agility and Rally recaps

Dot got a second place and a first place in Novice Preferred JWW 16".
July 18 and 19 AKC Agility Trial

Dot's very first agility trial!  Very exciting and super fun, what a really relaxed and friendly atmosphere this trial had.  It was our club's summer trial and only offered Novice and Open levels so it's a little less competitive and very newbie-friendly.  Dot ended up with two Qs in Jumpers with Weaves!  Standard and FAST were all good runs but not quite Q worthy.

One of our JWW runs:

Here's a Standard run where I forget to do the teeter (next to last obstacle):

July 25 and 26 AKC Rally Trial

Our club started doing AKC Rally as a stand-alone trial and we offer two trials each day, which is a lot.  I was the Chair of this year's rally trials which just means I get really nervous and hope everything goes off without a hitch and everyone is happy!  And everyone was happy!  Dot completed her Rally Advanced title.  And Taco got his first two Qs in the Advanced class. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Positive Training Blog Hop-Training Mistakes

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” 

― Stephen McCranie 

I used this quote in a previous blog post and when Bethany commented that the topic of July's Positive Reinforcement Pet Training hop was Training Mistakes, I knew I had the perfect post!

My biggest mistake in training is that sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) I am paralyzed by the thought of doing it wrong.  Sometimes I don't train because I haven't devised the perfect plan of attack yet and don't want to mess up and make mistakes.  But mistakes will happen no matter how well-planned and though out your training sessions are.  And mistakes are how we learn.  Not only how our dogs learn but also how we learn, what works, what doesn't, how to schedule and sequence training sessions, what is important and what is not so important.  These are all things that you won't figure out if every training session runs smoothly 100% if the time (HA!  AS IF!). 

Denise Fenzi has a nice post about the paralysis of indecision.  She says:

"Dog training is very much an applied art as well as a science.  A theoretical understanding of how you are “supposed” to train a dog won’t make it happen unless you practice.  Through practice you’ll develop muscle memory and a natural responsiveness that matches your dog’s needs at any given moment.  Not over days, weeks or months, but over years. Practice and thoughtful reflection after you train will place you on the road to mastery, not reading about training while your dog takes a nap."

Isn't that the truth?  Your dog won't learn to heel by watching you watch hundreds of YouTube videos about heeling!  At some point you just have to get in there and experiment and try things out and be ready to make mistakes.  

So, here is a video that very clearly illustrates a training mistake.  Watch as I clearly place the scented ‪#‎6 metal‬ article, happy Taco goes out to the mixed pile and gets it. But no, I am SURE the correct article is ‪#‎2 metal‬ (I took my eyes off the pile and forgot which one it was). So I take the "wrong" one and wait for him to go back on his own. As soon as he goes back to the pile and sniffs the #2 metal and doesn't take it, I SHOULD have aborted, trusting him to know by now.  But I let it go on for over another agonizing, confusing minute. Watch as Taco is so clearly telling me "It is NOT any of these, I already brought you the correct one, stupid human!" I went straight to the camera and watched the video and uck, stupid noseblind human! We did two quick and fun fast no-formality sends to recover and then called it a day. It is painful to watch, but rest assured Taco is not scarred for life.  Mistakes happen, we move on.  Nothing is ruined, tomorrow is another day and we will make more mistakes.  (But hopefully not the same ones!)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June World CynoSport Rally trial

Rally is fun!  The people are fun, the activity is fun, it's low stress and casual and I really enjoy it.  But I still want to do well.  I don't want to just drag my dog around a course with air cookies and try to get by with a passing score.  I want my runs to flow and I want to feel like my dog is interested and engaged and enjoying it as much as I do.

The two dogs I have right now kind of put up with Rally.  Dot thinks heeling is awesome as long as you never stop.  What is rally but one long sequence of stops?  So it's not her favorite thing.  Taco does not yet have the endurance in heeling to really flow through a course.  Every stop throws him off and I have to re-engage before we take off again or else we will NOT be heeling together or anywhere near each other!  I think he'll really like rally once we have the duration and teamwork in heeling that we haven't yet built.
Despite Taco not yet having the heeling skills, I debuted him in level2 (off leash) this weekend.  He did ok.  Ok enough to get two Qs and two second places.  But they are not runs I felt really stellar about.  But that isn't why I'm not showing you videos.  I am showing you the only run that I remembered to ask someone to video!  Dot earned two first places and her Level 3 title!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review of Fenzi Dog Sports Academy OB300-Heeling Games

I audited this class at the Bronze level.  I had used Denise's heeling series to start Taco's heeling so this was a continuation of that BUT like it says in the prerequisite section, this class is helpful even if you didn't start your dog using her Precision Heeling skills.

This class has a wealth of information that all work to make heeling FUN and interactive.  The class is broken down into different types of games and each dog might benefit from one or more types and not others.  An example:  My dog Dot loves to jump so a high hand touch for her is both motivating/energizing and allows her to let off  some stress that she builds up during heeling.  I use a hand touch to reward her for a great about turn, and also bring her back into position when she tends to drift a little wide.  It is a correction of position that she doesn't view as a correction, it is fun and enjoyable for her.  But (at this time), I am not able to use a high hand touch to reposition Taco.  A hand touch stimulates him too much and more often than not knocks him OUT of position.  Instead, leg weaves bring him in close to my leg and get a fantastic head position.  I leg weave (through my right and then left leg straight into heel position) before taking off to bring him in close and get his energy level up and his attention and eyes on me.  These games not only break up the heeling in order to keep the dog's attention, each type of game also reinforces and builds attitude, attention and excitement.

A lot of the class reminded me of Denie's posts on "obility" which is what she calls "obedience where you keep the action moving as fast as possible by blending exercises together and removing as many fronts and finishes as possible."  I was also reminded of a session Dot and I had with Bridget Carlson about heeling and how to apply her "3 reps before you reward" principle to our heeling.  She uses a handful of tricks (games) but her spin on it is that you have the dog do it three times before rewarding.  That way in the ring you can have the dog do one after an exercise, then again and it knows the reward is coming ONLY after the 3rd rep so it keeps working harder and harder, waiting for the chance to do that 3rd trick and earn its reward.  Having her tell me when to hand touch, spin or weave was extremely helpful, but I won't say Dot has gotten the hang of the 3 reps thing (mostly because I am not a stickler about it).  The important thing we took away from that session was that heeling does NOT have to be straight lines and halts, there are so many fun things you can add into it!  And that is what this Fenzi class is all about, with a lot more variation and options than just tricks in heel position, there are also sends, circles, toys and more for you to try out.

To get a taste for the class, watch the promo video and check out her blog posts on heeling games: Heeling Games, Heeling Games-"Fly", Heeling Games-Horizontal Movement, Obility.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dot earns her CDX!!

Our home club's spring Obedience trial was this past weekend and we had a great time.  Between ring stewarding and shuffling between running two dogs, I was busy and tired after each day.  Saturday Dot earned her last CDX leg!!!!  I was super happy, she did a stupendous job and everyone kept commenting on how happy she was.  She really is a happy girl who just wants to be doing something, anything, she loves being active and participating with her humans!  When she understands her job and you keep her moving, she works like a dream.
Taco earned his first two Beginner Novice legs.  He is just starting to understand the dog show routine.  Get there and potty, set up the crates and WAIT, potty again and WAIT, potty again and WAIT, warm-up and do 2 minutes of obedience and WAIT.  He's great at the waiting part but he isn't yet used to getting warmed up and ready to go, he sleeps soundly in his crate and can be hard to wake up!  But Sunday he showed me that he's starting to get it, he was ready to work after only a few minutes of focused warm-up and earned a fourth place in a really great Beginner Novice B class.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bailey/Farhoody Seminar Wrap-Up

 “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly - until you learn to do it well.”
-- Steve Brown

I attended a Bob Bailey/Parvene Farhoody seminar this weekend.  The seminar was entitled Out of the Lab and Into the Field: Performance Dogs in the Real World and covered how to apply scientific training methods to dogs that need to perform in real-world scenarios.  The concepts of operant conditioning, stimulus control, generalization, when to shift criterion, fluency vs. proficiency, distractions, etc. were the main focus of the lectures.  Randy Hare and Lucy Newton gave a great demo with several dogs applying these concepts to scent detection work.

But I'm not going to review the material Bob and Parvene covered this weekend. This post is about what I was left feeling and thinking after this weekend, the questions I'm left with and how I'll possibly proceed.

Am I creative enough to come up with training plans tailored to each animal, specific and detailed enough to elicit only the approximations of the end behavior I'm looking for in order to get the animal their in the shortest amount of time?  Bob talked about training being a craft for most of history and not a science.  In my other hobbies (sewing, baking, gardening, etc.) I am naturally a craftsperson, I can follow a pattern or recipe very well.  I can use traditional skills and create something fairly impressive, but I am not really an artist.  I very rarely create a truly unique piece of art or anything one of a kind.  In dog training, I am very good at following a prescribed plan, the more detail the better.  But I'm not sure I can think creatively and critically enough to come up with such detail on my own.

Am I able to take enough risks ("take a flyer" as bob would say) and set the animal up for something just a little more complex than the last time?  I am a very anxious person who doesn't like change.  When I train, I tend to start out where we left off last time, or even worse a few steps behind where we left off, thus always setting us back at least a little.  I tend to stagnate at a certain level for too long, not wanting to progress too fast but end up not progressing at all.  Some days I am so paralyzed by the fear of not knowing exactly what the next step should be or not wanting to make mistakes that I don't train at all.  I know in my mind that it is worse to stall training totally rather than just get on with it and make mistakes.  Yet I have a hard time clearly defining the next steps and following through when it is not exactly spelled out.

Am I observant enough to pick up the tiny shifts in behavior required to really move forward?  I find it extremely difficult to both observe myself, my body language, cues, reward delivery, etc. AND still focus on the animal's behavior and responses well enough to deliver properly timed rewards and (importantly) NOT reward incorrect behavior.  It's a lot to keep track of all at the same time.

Bob often says something akin to "Anyone can train any dog to do anything using any method given enough time."  Do all methods work?  Yes, but not all methods work with the same speed and accuracy. This isn't my career, I don't have to produce a 100% fluent working dog in 8 weeks to make a living.  This is my hobby, if I'm not the greatest at it no one will starve.  I can take my time learning and maybe not ever be great, but my dogs and I should absolutely be enjoying it.  If we aren't there is no reason to continue doing it.

But that's no excuse to settle for sub-par training methods.  I know it is much kinder to the dog to use methods that are very clear and work relatively quickly so the dogs can have success and earn many rewards in a short time.  It isn't fun to see a dog confused and stressed because they don't know what is expected or how they can earn reinforcement.  Will I ever find myself scientifically training at 100%, tracking data, keeping myself cool and calculated during trials instead of whooping it up and hugging my dogs?  I don't think so, but I will certainly utilize the parts that make sense to me and incorporate them into my training. 

What I took away (besides about 15 hours worth of behavior theory lectures):
  • To effectively teach, you have to be ready to change your OWN behavior!
  • "What do I have" - "What do I want" = "What I need to train"
  • Get the desired behavior, then add environmental changes quickly.  After two correct responses, move on or change something, don't stall and slow down learning.  Adding distractions is really adding discrimination to the learning process, which enhances learning.
  • Before creating a training plan, clearly and objectively define the target behavior including what it will look like  and what the final cue will be.
  • In regards to conditioned reinforcement (such as a clicker) "When in doubt, leave it out!"  A lot of times a clicker simply muddies the water and removes the primary reinforcement from the behavior by one unnecessary step.
  • Once fluent, the animal should exhibit the same latency, magnitude and intensity in response to the cue as it does to the primary reinforcer.
  • You will make mistakes.  Mistakes will slow learning down.  But don't let mistakes keep you from trying new things or working to be a better trainer.
  • Do not take any training technique or advice as gospel.  Really critically analyze what you are being told, scrutinize it and decide for yourself if it passes the test of good science/advantageous for your situation.

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”

― Stephen McCranie

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Taco was adopted from our local Humane Society so I decided we would participate in their annual fundraising event this spring.  In the past, it was called the Mutt Strutt but our community is getting fairly well known for our spring marathon so this year it was called the IL Muttathon.  It's basically a  group dog walk followed by activities like paw painting and agility obstacles and contests like the Peanut Butter Licking Contest.  Cute! 
Taco, are you all tuckered out from fundraising?
Taco and I set our fundraising goal at $200 and we made it!  I sold dog toys and treats.  And I participated in a research project at the University.  (That's kind of my go-to  for making extra pocket money, I am an excellent human research subject!)
Taco showing off his plastic bag boot.  He cut his foot (again!) and has to be booted up for a while.
But due to the dog flu, they have postponed it.  Bummer!  And even bigger bummer, the new date is the same date as an obedience trial I've already entered Taco and Dot in.  :(  But I'm happy we set our goal and made it and will be helping out the Humane Society. 
Taco shows our house guest, Cali,where the best sunbathing opportunities are.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 4-H Kick-Off

4-H Dog Training Classes have started and are busily teaching the beginners what dog training is all about and preparing the more advanced students to take their training to the next level!  The K-9 Crusaders is the name of our club and I was a member of this exact club when I was in 4-H.  Nowadays, it's what's known as a SPIN (Special Interest) Club as we focus on only one project, dogs.  In our county, there are also SPIN Clubs for baking, shooting sports, robotics, sewing, etc.  It's a great way for kids interested in a particular project to get info and hands-on instruction.

The thing I love about teaching is seeing the moment someone gets excited and genuinely clicks with a concept.  This year we have a continuing student from last year who did not want to move up to the advanced class.  I think she was comfortable being one of the "better beginners" and wasn't excited about the prospect of not being at the head of the class.  We also use mostly positive reinforcement and motivational techniques in our advanced class and she is most comfortable with more traditional chain collar corrections.  The moment I saw her correctly applying the Fenzi pocket hand to her dog, and loving the result, my heart sang!
A fellow leader teaches the Showmanship class.
Kids and animals are an awesome mix most of the time but it also has it's challenges.  In my ten years of volunteering with the club, we've had some trying times.  I don't want to gloss over these as I hope we have used them as learning experiences.  This year we had a fairly serious dog bite incident where a beginner's dog bit (and kept going for and biting) a Junior Leader who was helping the class.  I felt terrible, so upset that it had happened to a young person who was only trying to help and did nothing to provoke the attack.  I felt bad for the young handler who was upset that it happened and scared what would happen to her dog.  I felt angry at the parents, who had decided this dog was safe to bring to a class of children despite finding out later that it had a bite history with family and friends.  But animals are animals and things will happen.  We got through it, hopefully preserving the young handler's interest in dogs and training for the future.  And we learned from it, hopefully improving our process for registration, screening and intervention in years to come.

My lesson plans this year stress NOT drilling your dog, NOT rehearsing and rehashing the same old trial prep.  Training sessions should not look like the same boring string of exercises you are required to do in the competition ring.  For the most part, the class is willing to try my silly activities but I wonder what their training looks like at home.  I hope if I give them enough options, they'll find a few that they enjoy enough to do on their own.  Any suggestions?  So far we've worked in hand touches, leg weaves/recalls through the handler's legs, games/toys to end heeling without a formal halt, Janice Gunn's cookie toss games for fronts without a formal recall, and we do Shirley Chong's clicker retrieve method.