Thursday, June 27, 2013

Donut Videos!

Last night I took a video of Tessa working on the first step of her donut training.  Here we go . . . Step 1:

And, just for fun, here is one of Dean doing the full "back around" off the right side, with guides.  More to come very soon!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


On Monday night at Rally FrEe class, we met the "dog backs around handler" sign.  I call this "donut".  This is one thing that I have never taught any of my dogs to do fluently.

Dean has done the work in an x-pen, or with pieces of furniture and boxes all round him, but only starting and ending in the side position.  Never from heel.  He can do this with a lure from the side position, but not from heel.

Tessa has never done anything with it.

So, this morning we worked on this.  I worked with Dean in a corner formed when I close the doors to the two back bedrooms.  I always start this by getting the dog into position and then using a treat magnet to draw the dog slightly forward.  Then I take my hand away and the dog usually backs right back into the original position, since that is a position of high reinforcement.  I have to be careful not to pull the dog too far out of position at first, or the dog will likely just pop out altogether.  This is one advantage of using an x-pen, but my home made one is out in the shed right now.

I worked on this with Dean, working off of heel, and he picked it up quickly.  By the end of the session, he was doing almost a half circle.  We worked off of side, as well, which is much more familiar to him.

I knew that Tessa would probably balk at working in a corner, so I just set a line with two kitchen chairs.  I set her up in heel, and used the treat magnet to draw her out just slightly.  She immediately backed herself into heel position!  Good girl!!  We worked up to her backing from being about 4 - 6 inches out of heel position.  We are going to take this slow so she really understands the process.  She worked even better off of side.

I'm thinking it's time to get my makeshift x-pen out and set it up to work on this.  It would be good for them both to be able to back all the way around so they can start to offer the full behavior when ready.

Both dogs also did paw work with the wooden spoon, both worked on moving toward me in center position and backing away in center.  Dean worked a few laterals.  Tessa and I took a break from laterals and pivots today.  I did a little bit of work with Tessa on verbal cues, as well.

After doing some heeling through the house, Speedy worked on pulling a tug toy out from under a piece of furniture.  This is for an Advanced trick that I think he can learn toward his Advanced Tricks title.

Sammie also took a break from his usual mat exercise and we worked on pushing an object across the floor.  He liked that!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Maddie . . .

A couple of weeks ago, Sammie had a bit of a mishap and he needed stitches in his leg.  Sammie being Sammie that was not happening without some kind of sedation, so the vet drugged the heck out of him!  So, when we brought him home, he was still out of it - eyes half open, tongue hanging out, limp as a wet noodle!  As Ben was driving home, I was holding Sammie in my arms, and I realized that it felt like I was holding Maddie!  She was such a floppy girl and when she was being held, she would go completely limp, flop against you, and just be there.

Now, Sammie is fine.  He woke up a couple of hours later, the stitches are out now and he is good as new.

But ever since then I have been thinking about how much I miss Maddie.

I miss her bright eyes and her thumpy tail.  I miss the feel of her flopped in my arms.  I miss watching her run and play.  I miss walking into the big bedroom and seeing her sprawled out on the bed.  I miss walking with her in the woods.  I miss singing the silly songs that I used to sing to her.  I miss saying "Maddie Lynn" and "Maddie Maddie Mat Mat".  I miss running Agility with her, although I would probably mishandle the heck out of her now!  I miss the way she would plant herself on the ground on her side when I leashed her because she didn't want to leave the course!  I miss watching her and Dean wrestle.  I miss watching Tessa follow her around and copy her every move.  I miss watching her and Sammie sniffing the fence line together.  I miss calling her and Speedy "the puppies".

I know now that even having moved on, I don't think I will ever really stop missing her.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Our Week in Training

Ah - summer break!  We trained quite a bit this past week and made a lot of very nice progress.


Speedy and I did several sessions here in the house.  We did a lot of heeling through the house, with twirls and spins mixed in.  I focused on reinforcing him for maintaining side position, as that has been a life-long weakness of his.

Speedy is making nice progress with the reverse circle around me.  If we should try Rally FrEe by video, he is going to be good to go with that exercise!

We also did some paw work, with particular focus on paw lifts in heel and side.

Dean Dog

Dean also worked on heeling through the house, and circles and reverse circles around me.

Yesterday we focused on paws and I had him paw target a wooden spoon.  I would like for both him and Tessa to get to the point where they can lift each paw on verbal, whether standing or sitting, in any location.  So, I am going back to really solidify those cues.

Dean also got to go to Rally FrEe class on Monday, where he did an excellent job!  For one of his Free Choices, I had him work on circling around me backwards.  This is something I really need to take some time to focus on.  He sort of knows it, but we never really finished the behavior.  It is far from fluent.  But he can perform it with a lure, so we are on our way.

I am still on the fence about continuing with him in Agility.  It is clear that he has come to love Rally FrEe.  He very obviously adores the high precision work that we are doing in our training for that sport.  Agility . . . I don't know.  We did do a jumping exercise in class, and he liked that.  If Agility was all about skill drills, he would love it . . . .


Yes, Sammie!  He rarely gets training sessions, but he did this week.  I was inspired by some reading that I've been doing to free shape the Mat with him!  He is the only one of my dogs who is not Mat trained, so it had to be him.  Sammie has done a little clicker work but not much, so this was very new to him.

We started in the kitchen with the mat and I clicked and tossed a treat for him just looking at it.  He has had enough clicker experience to quickly progress to walking toward it, and even to putting a paw or two on it.  From there I had to be very careful not to lump!

On the first day, we went no further than one or two paws on the mat.

On the second day, we progressed to usually two paws on the mat, sometimes even four.

By the third training session, he actually offered a sit and even a down on the mat!  I was pretty surprised.  I did not expect him to get it that quickly!!

I am looking forward to this coming week and seeing where we go with it.  Sammie clearly enjoyed the training sessions, and I am considering getting out the Intermediate Tricks list to see if he might be able to work up enough of those to go for that Trick Title!  He already does have the Novice.

So, good things going on with my nearly 14 year old "just a pet" boy!!


I saved Tessa for last because, of course, I have the most going on with her.

We started off with Rally FrEe class where we finally met the lateral!  I haven't really done any lateral training with Tessa, so this is our newest endeavor.

In our training at home we focused on the pivot platform and transferring the pivot in front behavior from the platform to the floor.  That is progressing slowly.

We also did the same paw work that I did with Dean, using the wooden spoon as a paw target.

Tessa rocked at Agility class!  Where I am not sure if Dean is really enjoying himself, Tessa is having a party!  Courses, skill drills, anything - she is eating it up!  The weaves were wired in class, but I was reminded, I need to get to her weave pole retraining very soon.

On Friday I rented the building to run through her Heelwork to Music routine.  Unfortunately, I don't like it.  I don't think Tessa is feeling the song.  That leaves me exactly one week to come up with something else.  I don't like going into something like this unprepared, but at this point it is what it is.

We also took some time at the building on Friday to start working on laterals.  I am using a rather unusual method, but after trying several lateral approaches, I believe this one will be the best for Tessa.  I do have video of our very first session with this . . . . 

I worked on this with her at home yesterday and she did even better!

So, we have quite a lot of training going on and I mean to keep it up this coming week.  Updates coming soon!!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Finally! Some Training!

After an insane last couple of weeks of school, grading a mountain of final exams, and being sick, I finally, finally got to do some good quality training today!

I rented the building to work with Tessa on her Heelwork routine.  We only need it in . . . oh . . . two weeks!  Yikes!  I actually hoped only to do a bit of discovery mode with her today, but we ended up choreographing the entire routine!  It's simple, but that's what I wanted.  If we work diligently over these next two weeks, I think we can do a pretty nice performance.

Discovery mode was a challenge for Tessa.  I don't think she and I have ever really gone through this entire process before.  She did give some input, which surprised me.  She very clearly nixed a few of my ideas, but she also presented a few of her own.  Even though it was a bit of a stretch for her, in the end she did a great job with it.

On now to training mode, which she will absolutely love much, much more!

After working out the routine, we spent a bit of time working on duration heeling, using the clicker to build her drive as she moves in heel and side positions.  I got a bit of video of this.  The music that we were using for this exercise is not our routine music.

Finally, we broke up our training a bit by working some front and rear cross flatwork, using a cone.

Later on in the day, I had a chance to do some training at home and everyone got a short training session.

Speedy got a free form free shaping session.  I had a cone out and he got clicks and treats for touching it with his paw, touching it with his nose, going around it, backing up next to it, sitting next to it, lying down next to it, standing right up against it, etc.  He enjoyed the heck out of that.

Dean and I worked out "fly" into heel and side for Heeling Games class.  I need to get a video of that one day soon!

Tessa worked some more driving up into heel and side, with a bit of duration.  We also worked on "sit pretty" because I notice the behavior has weakened lately.  That's a great one for core strength, as well as a great Freestyle trick, so we will work on it every other day for a while.

Even Sammie got a training session.  We did some shaping with a mat.

It felt great to get back to all of this, and I look forward to our next training sessions!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The urge to start over . . . .

It's back.  Something that I haven't experienced in several years . . . 

The urge to start over with a new dog.

Now, I have made a personal commitment to not add any more dogs to our household until Sammie and Speedy have passed.  So, I am hoping that will not be for several years.  So, what is this?  Why this sudden desire to go back, start from scratch, and begin from the beginning?

I think this happens when, for some reason, I am not satisfied with the way things are going with my current dogs.

I think Tessa and I are at the end of the honeymoon phase.  We have done all that we can do rather easily.  Now we are at the difficult part.  We need to train the precision.  We need to train some complex tricks.  We need to move to a level that I have never performed at.  I can see where I want us to go, and I know we can get there.  But there is so much to do that I barely know where to start.

Hence, I believe, the desire to go back to simpler times!

But this is Tessa's time.  I honestly believe that if I can't get where I want to go with this dog, I will never go there at all.  Sure, she has her challenges, but every dog has challenges.  And, really, she's about the most challenge-free dog I've ever worked with, in spite of where she started.

I think I need to set a goal, put the hand to the plow, and get working on something - anything!  I think that once she and I accomplish something new, something that she has never done, I will break out of this rut.  And the desire to start over will melt away.

I hope so, anyway.  That simply isn't happening any time soon!!


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Heeling Games - First Lesson

So, our Heeling Games class through the Denise Fenzi Dog Sport Academy has begun.  There has been just one lesson so far, and already it has made a really big impact.

I don't have any video to put up this time - hopefully next time.  But, basically we are putting three skills that Dean already knows together, one of them, obviously, being heeling.

Of course, Dean and I work everything on both the left and right sides.

It is interesting being an auditor.  Already I have had a couple of questions come up.  For instance, what do I do if Dean starts to anticipate being sent away from me to do something else?  Because I am a bronze level student, I can't ask questions, so I have to come up with the answers for myself.  And that's probably good for me.  In this case, be more variable about when I send him.  Don't make a pattern that will allow him to anticipate the send.

So far the three skills that we are using are things that Dean knows from Freestyle, Agility, and CU class!  But we have never put them together in quite this way before.  Dean has done three training sessions and he LOVES it.  He is going to eat this up!

I am very eager to see how this translates over into his Rally FrEe and Freestyle . . . . 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Onward - Soon!

This was a quiet week on the blog.  I was swamped beyond swamped at work.  The last couple of weeks of school are definitely a busy time for a High School teacher.  But now regular classes are over, most of my grading is finished, and we only have exams ahead, so I can get back to some focus on dog things.

We did go to Rally FrEe class on Monday night, and that went very well.  We are working on Intermediate level signs now, and one that was brand new was the 360 pivot in front.  Both dogs did a pretty good job with it.  Tessa really isn't quite ready to be off the platform yet, but she is super close.  One of my goals for this exercise is to be able to execute it with my hands behind my back.  This was a Freestyle move that Speedy could do, but only if I had hands in front of me guiding him.  Both Tessa and Dean can certainly learn it without that kind of help.

I was talking to our instructor after class, and she gave Dean quite a compliment.  She said that he is very talented.  It meant a lot that she said that.  Sometimes I get so caught up in all of the extra challenges that performance with Dean Dog presents that I forget to appreciate the fact that he is quite a talented dog.  And he is really, really starting to like Rally FrEe quite a lot!  I'm seeing some of the excitement and joy that I used to see in his Rally.

No Agility this week since I needed to attend Baccalaureate Mass and Awards for the graduating Senior class on Thursday night.

Today the Heeling Games class begins.  I am going to post some of my work, and reflections in the experience, here.  I won't give away details about Ms. Fenzi's instruction, of course, but I will share some bits about Dean's progress in the class.

I am sharing this as our "baseline" video.  This is actually a couple of years old, but it represents Dean's heelwork pretty decently.  I do have food in my hand, and building his duration - with this level of enthusiasm, precision, and focus, is one of my goals of the class.

So, we shall see where we go from here.  Hopefully someplace good!

And, on the topic of online classes, I am starting up some more of my own in July!  In my very limited spare time this past week, I put together the course descriptions and registration flyers.  I already have a few people signed up for one of them, and interest expressed in the two others.  For information go here:

Online Classes for Summer 

Onward - soon!  School is completely and officially over in one week.  Then our dog training intensive begins!!!