Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dot's Gotcha Day

Today we celebrate Dot!  It is her Gotcha Day!  One year ago, we drove north to pick her up, we were her third leg in her journey to our house so she had had a longer day than we had but she was still in good spirits and excited to see us.  In her one year with us, Dot has earned her CGC, her CD, her RN and her RL2.  She has killed a squirrel, learned all sorts of tricks and gained a brother.  She has been on a cruise in Lake Michigan, traveled along Route 66 and ridden in a horse-drawn carriage.  She is remarkable for having done all of this with ease and gentility, grace and humor, some of these things with only a few months of acclimating to her new home.  She is a princess in the house and a bird-fanatic sporting dog outside and we love both!

Join Nola and Sugar in the Black an White Sunday Blog Hop!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Taco, Dot and me!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Seminar Video

As an update to this review of the Bridget Carlsen seminar, this is video of the short session on heeling that Dot and I had with Bridget.  First she used a recall to build up momentum for the heeling segment, then broke up the heeling with lots of spins and hand touches.  I LOVE the idea of not starting from a stationary sit because it remedies the issue of a dog lagging from the start, dropping their head coming out of a sit and gets the speed and enthusiasm up from the moment you start heeling.  Big thanks to my doggy friend Elisabeth for taping!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sleepy dogs

Mike caught the dogs looking awfully sleepy the other day.  Or maybe they just got bored with his photo session.  He was taking pictures to be used by an artist to paint a portrait of Dot since we were the lucky winners of the Coupaween Grand Prize!  How lucky are we?!
Join Nola and Sugar in the Black an White Sunday Blog Hop!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Crafting

I've been up to some crafting, mainly for the dogs.  We have a couple of traditions in our family. One is that everyone, even pets, have stockings.  So since this is the first Christmas for both Dot and Taco to spend with us, they both go new stockings.
Another tradition is that every pet gets an ornament.  When they get hung on the tree, we get to remember good times with lost pets.  Here are Dot and Taco's ornaments, they are just wood frame ornaments with scrapbook paper on them.
Here are some other pet ornaments from years past.

They are both getting new crate pads for Christmas.  Dot's is cushy foam covered in cute pink houndstooth.  Taco can't be trusted with foam so his is quilted with layers of fleece to make it nice and thick but still (hopefully) more chew resistant.
Taco also got a new coat because when it got below zero, he didn't want to go outside in the mornings!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

WinsDay #2! (seminar review)

Join us for WinsDay and show off your dog showing/trialing/training pictures and stories.  Show off your ribbons, tell us about your latest training triumph or ask a burning dog show question you're dying to hear others' opinions on.

WinsDay is not just the place to show off ribbons.  Maybe you learned something new about a breed or dog sport that you'd like to share or maybe you have a doggy giveaway going on at your blog and would like to give us all a chance to win!  Maybe your dog earned its CGC or you started working on a new level of obedience or agility.  Maybe you mastered doorway manners or housebroke your new puppy.  These are all wins, celebrate them with us!

A win recently for me was attending a seminar by Bridget Carlsen a few weeks ago and I wanted to post some of my take-aways. I was reminded by Laura (The Dogs Are Really In Charge), who posted her thoughts on a seminar she recently attended, that it can be greatly beneficial to hear thoughts from actual attendees because you find out what not just what was presented but what actually got through to people. It's also great to write out and re-digest what you learned while attending.

The seminar was called Motivational Techniques & Heeling with Enthusiasm!   The motivational section included ways to get a good working attitude and enthusiasm from your dog, things that ruin a dog's attitude and create slow, laggy, unenthusiastic performance, use of the correct rewards (toy, chase, tug, great food, etc.) as a motivator and correct timing and placement of that reward. I've started giving my rewards to the dogs while they are in movement, and never while they are stationary. In 10 training sessions I have seen this create an eager, engaged Dot who is working just below her boiling point. Sometimes when she is in a sit or down she looks like she is vibrating just a tiny bit, ready for whatever is next, be it another command or a release to a reward. Taco is slower to catch on, he does not have the history to know the potential outcomes yet, and he is fresh from learning positions (sit, down, stand) with static rewards so he is used to being handed food without having to move. :)

Another thing I realized was that my rate of reinforcement was WAY too high for a dog that knows what is expected and wasn't giving any extra effort. Dot knows how to do the exercises, and when she did them I was rewarding. What is that teaching her? And how is that going to help us improve? It wasn't! Rewards are for training the exercises and once they are trained they are a motivator for going above and beyond. It took Dot a couple of really pissy sessions before she figured out the new plan. She was incensed that I would tell her to do something, she would do it and no food was delivered straight to her waiting mouth!

The heeling portion included lots of little tricks to throw into your training to break up the heeling pattern and give opportunities to reward that are NOT part of any exercise you do in the ring. These include lots of circles, weaving your legs, hand touches, heeling between your legs, and little games like chasing and push-away/resistance recalls. These tricks are used to get the dog in an engaged and highly excited state before you start off heeling so that you get the attitude you want and can reward for THAT instead of yanking and punishing for lagging/sniffing/etc. (One thing Bridget is not cool with is dogs sniffing. Dot is kind of sniffer. We train some exercises by throwing food (2x2 weaves and rapid recalls with intermittent drops, for example) so she gets some rewards from the floor and in down-time will floor-surf. I understand that, I won't say I'm cool with it, but I know why she does it and it's not huge for me. When she is giving me attention, she is not sniffing so it works for us.)

She also introduced target training.  Dot and I use for go-outs so she knows her little blue target. Bridget used them for recalls and as distractions for heeling and I have found that heeling with Dot around loaded targets adds a LOT of pressure for her, which is good for her to work through. She knows she can't go to them so she REALLY tries to avoid them, and that creates a sort of odd anti-gravity force around them and she angles her head away from the target. So getting good, bouncy, engaged heeling around the targets and then releasing her to one of them is an awesome addition to our bag of tricks!

Bridget also teaches a sit-back, down-back and stand-back for much the same reason, an opportunity to treat for something that is not the completion of an exercises done in the ring. These are all just the dog moving back in each position and stopping after a few steps. After our 10 training sessions, I am convinced Dot is not physically capable of the down-back. Her terrible, wonky hips are not able to scoot her backward without tipping outward, causing her to roll onto one side or the other. Taco has got it so I successfully trained it on one dog, but gave up with Dot. And this brings me to a BIG take-away from this seminar: All dogs are not created equal and it's up to us to recognize their strengths and weaknesses without comparing them to all the other dogs in the room. There are not a lot of dogs like Bridget's dogs. They are bred for that off-the-wall energy, enthusiasm and never-stop attitude. Yes, you can increase enthusiasm in any dog, but not every dog is capable of that high level of pushy, snappy, never-ending bouncy work ethic. It made me wish she had a variety of dogs to show the techniques with so that we weren't always seeing the end product achieved of her style of training on that specific model of dog.

What about you?  Have you been to any great seminars recently?  I am just finishing up watching a DVD recording of an Ian Dunbar seminar and will be posting my review of that soon.  His ideas are vastly different from Bridget, but he also has vastly different goals.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Dog Club Holiday Party Games

I was put in charge of the games at our Dog Training Club's annual holiday party.  I thought you all might benefit from hearing about how they went, maybe try them at your own party too.  After a fantastic potluck, we gave ourselves a few minutes to digest and then the fun began!

We warmed up with a few rounds of Heads or Tails, the classic game we play at every Project Linus function.  Everyone stands up at their seat and for each round of the game they choose heads or tails.  So everyone places both hands either on top of their head or both hands on their tush.  The leader flips a coin and those who chose correctly remain standing while the losers sit.  Repeat until you have one winner and award a prize!

Then we moved on to a rousing game of Pennyhose, one of my favorites from my Minute-to-Win-it parties. Here I am in my master of ceremonies hat, demonstrating.
Place a penny in both toes of a pair of pantyhose, then the contestant places one hand in each leg.  The object of the game is to get the pennies out without touching your hands together, and within the 60 second time limit.  Hilarious to watch!

Another Minute-to-Win-it game followed:  Bobble-Head, which I renamed "Dog with an Ear Infection".  Contestants wear a headband with a pedometer on it and must wrack up as many "steps" as possible in 60 seconds by shaking, nodding and moving their head around.  Also hilarious to watch, but we had several people get over 100 steps, which is pretty good.

The next game was a bust, so I won't even go into it.  It involved trading beans and no one seemed to understand it so we will NOT be playing that again!

And the last game was Human Agility Course.  The agility course was set up for practice over the winter break.  We timed runs which consisted of 6 jumps and a set of 12 weave poles.  You could also do the tunnel for bonus points and one person did!  We awarded first and second place in open and had one veterans competitor take home a prize as well! 

We have fun!  What do you do at your Club?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wedneday is WinsDay! #1

Join us for WinsDay and show off your dog showing/trialing/training pictures and stories.  Show off your ribbons, tell us about your latest training triumph or ask a burning dog show question you're dying to hear others' opinions on.

WinsDay is not just the place to show off ribbons.  Maybe you learned something new about a breed or dog sport that you'd like to share.  Maybe your dog earned its CGC or you started working on a new level of obedience or agility.  Maybe you mastered doorway manners or housebroke your new puppy.  These are all wins, celebrate them with us!

My win this week is mailing in Taco's CGC form!  He passed his CGC on November 21st, but I just got around to mailing in the form to make his title official.  Yes, I paid the extra few dollars to make it official.  Why?  I guess I like seeing those very first title initials after the dog's name, it breaks the ice for all the others that are sure to follow.  I'm awfully confidant, aren't I?

Taco is a mixed breed dog so he has an AKC Canine Partner number (shown above), which is a fairly new invention.  Canine Partners can compete in Rally, Agility and Obedience trials, the new Coursing Ability Test and starting next year they can compete in Tracking tests.  Now, all of these are up to host club, they have to ALLOW mixed breeds in.  So far, in planning next year's trials, our club is allowing mixed breeds into every event we are hosting, including tracking tests.  Why wouldn't you?  We all want our trials to fill and make as much revenue as possible!  Minutes from an AKC Board of Directors meeting shows that for events held or approved through June 14, 2103, 97% of Agility event, 95% of Obedience events and 95% of Rally events were open to canine partners. So it looks like a LOT of clubs are feeling the love for mixed breeds (and their owner's $).


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Pizzles

Once again this week, we're joining Nola  for Black and White Sunday.

This weekend we put up our Christmas tree and outdoor lights!  To celebrate, each dog got a candy cane shaped pizzle stick, which they thoroughly enjoyed for about 5 minutes and then they were gone.  
Dot's was gone before Taco's, she has turned into such a chewer since her brother moved in.  I think she just doesn't want him to get any so she makes things disappear extra fast.
Taco enjoyed his for a little longer, getting it good and smooshy before chewing off bits and eating them.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black and White Sunday

Happy December, everyone!  Back in November, Taco passed his CGC but then we went to New York and didn't have time to celebrate.  We're very proud of him, now he can move on to big-boy classes!

Monday, November 18, 2013

2013 fall AKC Obedience

Our one green ribbon for the weekend.
Our Club's fall AKC Obedience and Rally Trial was this past weekend.  I entered Dot in Graduate Novice both days and Open on Saturday only.  I don't like to throw money away and didn't figure we would qualify in Open but wanted to get an idea of where we were at in our Open training.

Saturday Open A- NQ, She ALMOST qualified, all the exercises were passable but she got up when I was about 2 feet from her returning from the long sit!  Ack!  She was all tail-wagging and so excited to see me she just couldn't keep her little butt on the ground for 10 more seconds!  Such a silly thing to NQ for with a dog that sticks her stays 100%.  Now I have to say 99%.
Can't stay mad at a face like this!
Saturday Graduate Novice- Q.  Not much else to say, there were some missing sits and some crooked finishes.
Do I smell a tornado?
Sunday Graduate Novice- NQ, She was doing well until she walked around the high jump.  I'm going to blame the tornadoes blowing through the area and the fact that she had to wait around all day while I stewarded for Utility and Grad Open.  But really we just need more proofing and practice.  I put her through a 2-week Drop on Recall crash course and she's got it fairly well but it's not pretty like it will be with more polishing.  She also had a 2-week Broad Jump cram session because that is something we had not really gotten past the jump-over-for-thrown-food stage.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Winter is here, it snowed last night

Are these two cute or what?  They have both been busy whipping up some obedience magic in the basement.  (Indoor training season means the basement turns into my obedience playground.)

Dot has an obedience trial this weekend which will include her debut in Open.  We have mainly been focusing on the Drop on Recall and Broad Jump, which are not quite where they need to be.  We're hoping we make it into the Agility Prep class this winter, the waiting list is long so it might be spring or summer before we finally get to start though.

Taco will attempt to earn his Canine Good Citizen certificate next week.  Little Choco Taco hopes to be able to move on to Beginner Novice class but needs that CGC first.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What's Taco?

That trip to Chicago was likely Dot's last solo leisure trip.  (She'll still be on her own for trials for a while.)  We have a new addition to the family!
 Taco is a ~1 year old Lab-Pit mix adopted from the County Humane Society.  Erroneously listed as a Brittany-Lab mix (???), he came up on a Petfinder search and his picture was just too cute! 
 Unbeknownst to me, October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month AND National Pit Bull Awareness Month.  So be aware!  (Not beware though, because Taco, like most Pits, is a lover.)
Dot is adjusting to her new housemate.  He still plays a little too rough at times and we have to interject.  Dot is a NOISY player but she would rather tug a toy than full-body-contact wrestle while Taco likes to use his feet to box.  He also likes to dig in the backyard and can really do some damage to a fleece tug!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Dot made her first trip to Chicago recently and it wasn't even for  dog show!  We headed to the Windy City to take a leisurely cruise, thanks to Two Pitties in the City.  We won tickets to the Mercury's Chicago Canine Cruise, a dog-friendly river and lake cruise highlighting history and architecture. 
The day was overcast, but not too chilly.  We took Amy's parking deck advice and got to the dock with time to spare so we strolled a bit on the Riverwalk.
The cruise itself was enjoyable.  I was impressed with how much fun our guide seemed to have telling us facts he has probably said hundreds of times.  Boats rides are so relaxing, and I loved the spray from the lake when we got up some speed! 
I was blown away by how well-behaved each and every dog on the cruise was.  We usually avoid pet-dog type activities like fun fests and "dog days" at certain attractions because people are notoriously bad judges of whether their dog should attend or not.  But everyone on this particular day had made a wonderful decision, and all the dogs enjoyed themselves.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why I walked for 10 hours straight

On April 6, 2013, I set off at 7 am and did not stop walking until I had walked the entire circumference of Champaign-Urbana, a little over 29 miles.  I reached the exact point I had begun, having come full circle, at around 5 pm. I've had time to mull over what this walk meant to me and now present this fairly wordy post about the experience.
Why did I do it?  In honor of Sully, our beloved Pembroke Welsh Corgi, who passed away September 2012.  It was coming up on his Gotcha day (April 15) and what would have been his 10th birthday (May 11).  I couldn't let those dates slip by, I wanted to do something special in his honor.  I linked the walk to my fund-raising efforts so that I could donate money to three of my favorite animal charities but in reality the walk itself was not intended to be a money maker.  No one sponsered me per mile or made bets on how I would go before I quit.  I made money by making and selling dog crafts, household items and plants and was able to donate $100 each to the Champaign County Humane Society, CorgiAid and Critter Coral.
The walk was really a personal challenge to myself, inspired by Sully's courage and bravery, I would try something new that I had never done and that scared me a bit.  When he came to us, Sully was a shy boy who had most likely never lived inside a house and certainly had never attended an obedience trial or gone on a family vacation.  But he was so dedicated to us and willing to trust,  he gave every outing and new experience his best shot, brave in the face of so many scary things that are commonplace to many dogs.  And so I took to the road to walk what for me is a HUGE distance, not knowing if I could finish, scared I would be forced to quit, hoping along the way that I would have time to reflect on his short life, the fantastic times we had, how he blossomed and became a more whole dog, able to enjoy a squeaky toy, a trip to the park, a spot on the couch and in out hearts.  I had many hours to contemplate also the final decisions we had to make, if they were the best course of action.  I can't say I had any real breakthroughs during the walk, there was not a point where I thought "I am cured, the pain is gone and all is well." but I didn't really expect that.  Still now, typing this it painful to think about Sully, happy and healthy, enjoying summer and seemingly the next minute fatally ill.
But while the walk didn't trigger any hard-and-fast lasting mental turning points, I have been left with one big physical reminder of my walk, why I did it and what it meant.  The walk went fine, I was  sore for the next few days but most of my body recovered.  But lingering pain in my right knee and ankle led me to Carle Sports Medicine.  After prescribed exercises and total rest for well over a month, I was back to normal in most regards but I will always have a knee and ankle that remember April 6, 2013.  And when I can no longer remember the exact pattern of Sully's blaze or which of his little back toenails was black, I can take a nice long walk and get a twinge in my ankle and know that part of me remembers.  Not unlike a tattoo, it is a permanent physical change that can't be erased with time, in honor of one loved and lost.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 2013

We took a little vacation up north.  Dot enjoyed the fresh air and lake water! 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dot's CD

Hello, blog-I-wasn't-even-sure-I-remembered-the-password-for!  I saw the blog of someone from the Dog Training Club all updated with their recent shows and upcoming plans and thought I should update you with the latest.  Dot earned her CD in three straight attempts at Novice.  She is an awesome dog, fearless, a happy worker, always giving 100%!  The summer will be focused on Open and in the fall we will start tracking.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I'm sporty!

Can you believe Dot is my very first Sporting Breed dog ever?  I went almost 32 years without owning a Golden Retriever.  Or a Lab or a Spaniel or a Pointer or a Setter.  I (or my family) have had dogs from every other group. 
We had, at separate times, a Bichon Frise and a Dalmation (Non-Sporting group). 
I have, of course, had Corgis and my very first dog was a Shetland Sheepdog .  As well as several German Shepherd mixes and an Australian Cattle Dog (Herding group).
I had a Jack Russel Terrier in 4-H (Terrier group).
My family owned a wonderful Doberman named Chelsea (Working group).
My very first competition Obedience dog was a Rat Terrier (Miscellaneous group)
My dad was rather fond of Beagles (Hound group).
My mom has owned/fostered several Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes (toy group).
But somehow we managed to completely avoid two breeds that have remained in the top 5 AKC registered breeds for years (labs and goldens).  Last night at our dog training club meeting I was told that I now have an instant athlete and believe it!  She is super speedy and moves non-stop with no input from me, just for the shear joy of moving and running and being free.  Does this mean I have to learn about agility?