Thursday Linktasticness

Oh good its Thursday… time to screw around…

  • I havent found the time to make it through this yet, but so far, a really nice in-depth article about HSUS vs. the Ag Industry.
  • And, I am struggling to find anyone/anywhere that really explains—in detail—the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the law against animal abuse videos. The best I have found so far is this NYT article. I understand the slippery slope of free speech, yet am missing the difference between child porn and animal abuse depictions (which is a case Alito made, the lone dissenter)? Maybe there’s a dog agility enthusiast who also happens to be a lawyer who can explain it to me better…
  • I could have used this Behavior Modification training site this morning, before our totally disastrous walk. I even saw it coming, and yet, I managed not to hang on to leashes, dogs ran across streets, harassed multiple dogs, and me—Miss Positive Reinforcement—was not all that positive. Instead I was that idiot dog owner running around screaming “my dog is friendly!!!” as they circled innocent dogs and walkers like little piranhas. Awesome. A certain dog may have gotten exiled back into the house while the another may have had his little butt dragged at a jog all up and down stairs and hills and across the beach… Control Unleashed needs to be visited in a big way by Diego. Pack mentality was in full effect this AM, so anything Forest has learned went out the window in the presence of his BFF. Sigh.
  • Update on Courage’s case. The abused GSD saga continues: Vet Tech gets fired, her previous employers vet hospital have been receiving death threats (no wonder the average public thinks animal advocates are all a bunch of whackos), and the trial is in a few weeks. Courage has gained 20 pounds since being surrendered on 4/7. You can donate to his recovery here.

Just found out my club practice got canceled as someone failed to properly secure the permit for the park on Saturday. LAME. I guess we’ll make our own practice, maybe incorporating the EVIL home weaves… Class tonight.


Taken Down a Notch + Ambiguous Westminster Snark?

I love how animals always know the most opportune time to knock you down off your ego pedestal. When I was a teenager I taught one of my horses (or rather he tolerated me doing it) to ride without a bridle. I though I was hot shit one day and was riding him out in one of the turnouts. He got wound up and took off, bucked me off. I landed hard on my tailbone. I swear that took a year to heal… definitely took me down a few pegs.

Just last week when I thought I was Controlling Forest Unleashed like a pro, he brought me back to reality.

Had him and Diego out at the soccer field for a quick lunchtime training session. (Error 1–thinking I can manage both dogs at once, outside of the house. I can barely do it at home.) I took them on a quick walk/sniff to burn off some steam pre-training as they had been at home alone for the morning. (Error 2–don’t let them start off paying attention and then let them recess into evermore distraction-land. Sun, grass, bugs, bushes after being cooped up all AM. It was all too much.) I had a decent amount of confidence as last time we went to the field, Forest was great. So I let him off the long lead to do some single jump drills. He was fine to start with, but quickly got bored/distracted as half of my attention was paid to Diego trying to get him to stay on his mat. (Error number 3–not reading the situation quickly.) Needless to say, Forest thought the other world was far more interesting than my half-attention and dumb drills, so he took himself on a walk. I chased him down and got him to stop by throwing a handful of treats at his head from ten feet away. Not my finest dog training moment, but it worked.

We then quickly packed it up and went to the office where I dropped Forest off at Doggie Day Care across the street. Diego sleeps quietly on his bed while we are at work, so he gets to hang out. Forest sits in my office, growling and barking at me working until I can’t stand it any more and give in to his annoyances. And last week, his little routine bought him 3 days in a row of DDC. He was not happy about it. I put him in the Dog Play area. He promptly ran to the corner and jumped out—over the 3+ foot partition. I picked him up, and put him back in figuring I would win this test of the wills. Turns out his will is much stronger than mine. After SIXTEEN jump-overs, I gave up. I had the DDC lady step in so I could leave.

I felt like a failure that day for sure. But as always lessons learned as well… Pay attention, dont assume, and that maybe I am not always the smarter or more resilient one in the partnership.

On a high note, we have been doing some weaves at home in 5 minute sessions and he has been getting really consistent with his entries, even when I angle them somewhat. That is a victory, so I will take it.

And this is what I thought was a nice little piece I found over at on Westminster. Subtly catty or not? I can’t decide.

Baggage Agility and a Big PQ This Morning

So I recently stumbled upon a great online group; Baggage Agility. Its a Yahoo Group created for people who do agility with their rescue dogs. The timing of me finding this was quite appropriate as lately I have been struggling a bit with having the only “baggage” dog in Monday night class.

They have something they have coined the “PQ”—ie a “personal Q”–and they consistently notify other posters of these events. Its a super-positive online environment from what I can tell, which is refreshing.

So, in that spirit, we had a HUGE PQ in our household this morning. We are lucky enough to be living in a place that has a well-fenced and gated courtyard. Our dogs and my Aunt’s dog are all welcome to go in and out of the house as the “yard” is secure. Somehow this morning Forest escaped. This luckily doesnt happen often, but when it is its a 19 alarm firedrill. There is a reason this dog was in the pound and I am convinced it was because he is a runner. If he does not want to be caught there is no way he will be caught unless he is cornered with no way out. Which I hate doing, but most often it is the only option in lieu of him getting squished by a car. So this morning we were prepared for the usual dog hunt up and through alleys and around and in outher people’s private properties.

Instead things took a most unusual turn. I headed out back to the alley where I could hear him barking. I saw him right away, about 100 feet down the alley. He looked scared. I called to him, as happily as I could, anticipating the cold shoulder and a bolt. Instead he looked relieved to see me and came bounding straight to me, immediately. I was in shock but quickly collected myself to throw a big ol’ party. Unfortunately I hadn’t had time to grab any treats, but believe me, he got stuffed when we got back into the house. What a champ!!!

Now if we can just get him to do that ALL the time…! Working up to it… Very happy with our guy today!

CU #2

Last night was our second Control Unleashed class. It was good. We are definitely not following the book exactly, but thats okay. I think its probably best to be doing both simultaneously regardless. We worked on more focus work, reorienting, and just barely started mat work.

One thing we did that was pretty eye opening was a shaping exercise. We partnered up, one person was the trainer and one was the dog. The “trainer” worked on shaping a behavior on the “dog”.  Man, that was tough. At least the more advanced ones were. It was great to understand what the dog was thinking—as in “what the eff does she want me to do???”—and also measure how accurate your timing and communication is. I was told to shape my partner to take off her earring… needless to say we didnt get all the way there. Regardless though, probably an exercise I would want to do again, as silly as we all looked jumping around and waving our arms like a bunch of looney dog ladies.

So, practice on focus and orienting and mat work this week.

I have my “safety test” this Saturday for the local agility club. Its looking to rain again, so we’ll see what happens. I hope it goes off, I would like to get in some practice as we missed this week of class. Also printed out my first Trial registration form. It looks like greek to me, will probably fill out as much as I can and take to my trainer on Monday to have her help me decode the rest. Early April is looking to be our first “official” trial. Counting down…

It Was a Good Morning

We went to bed early last night, like embarrassingly early. As in slept for ten hours early and still was up and at ’em by 7. This meant we had time and energy to go to Pirates Cove to do some burnouts and donuts amongst the debris. I swear, I live next to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and the amount of crap that washes up really is a bummer.

What wasn’t a bummer was Forest at full tilt–sighthound spine and limbs at full compression and extension–whiplash turning at my recall and bounding back full speed. It wasn’t the usual wide arc and stop and sniff along the way, it was a “Mom called and here I come right NOW” come. He got a major party and jackpot for that one to say the least. Lets hope it happens again soon! That made my morning.

CU number two tonight. Leaving earlier for sure so we have time to relax and potty and get set up. Planning and stress management go hand in hand. The stress in manifesting itself in evil ways in our house… Pete is still a hot mess but at least made it to the doctor, I came home from travels with a lovely case of the hives. Ick. Today they seem to be wrapping up though. Thats the last of my travels for a while, we are almost out of the woods and back to a normal routine. I hope.

CU #1 — Which Kind of Crazy Dog Lady are You?

So last night was our first CU class. I unfortunately have to take one of the shittiest freeways to get there at rush hour, so it took me over an hour to go 25 miles. Sweet. Luckily I was not the only one who was late and next time, well, we’ll leave at 5 to make it there by 6:30. Good times, living in So Cal.

There were only a few people in the class. Us, a women with a Jack Russell, and a woman with a BC. Hopefully it stays that small, would be nice. The woman with the JR amazed me. Her dog seemed well-behaved enough, just “talky”. She went on and on about how he likes this and he does that and she already has her Novice Obedience and Rally titles, blah blah blah. And yet, once we go into things, she didnt know what the instructor meant by “raising the rate or reinforcement.” Sigh. She also didnt seem to understand that by scratching her dog every time he growled at her (in a talky way, not a mean way) she was handing over the reins to who was running the show.

How you could get that far along in training and not have a clue as to how a dogs mind operates–in the most basic sense–is beyond me. Or maybe some people just go through the motions and get “close enough” and never look at the how or the why. Obsessively reading all of these blogs every day makes me think the R+ theory is incredibly common in dog sports, but maybe not?

Anyway, last night was pretty basic stuff, but learned some tweaks and new ways of looking at things. The biggest thing for us at this point is going to be reorienting. We make them wait to get out of the car or go out the gate, but once they’re released, they just blast off into the universe never to be heard from again. Not good. Training them to orient (ie. turn back to me to “check in”) coming out of the crate, and ESPECIALLY out of the front gate or the car is going to be huge. The hardest part will be getting Pete to carry the treats on him at all times. Maybe I can stash them all around at all of those points so he has no excuse not to do it.

Another fairly large realization I have been coming to over the past few months (peripherally related to the dogs) is my change in “life focus” I guess you could say. It really hit me hard last night as I was packing for a trip which I am leaving on today. This is a trek I have made annually for many, many years. I look forward to it every year firstly as I get to see many of my favorite people on this earth, as well as get to live it up and ride snow and talk about riding snow and look at pretty new things made to ride snow and wear while doing so.

I really, am not that into it this year. It will be fun, I have no doubt, and yet I just am not that amped about it. I am more bummed that it will be taking a huge hunk out of my training schedule and that when I go back to CU class we’ll only have been able to cram in a few sessions.

I dont know if its my age, or the economy, or being beat down by the industry that I love (same for Pete, we’ve both had a rough last few years work-wise), or what. Many of my favorite friends are all in the same boat as me. Maybe we’re all just growing up and caring more about inner circle things than who is on what team and how they got arrested at Brand X’s raging party? I dunno.

I will always and forever love riding good snow with my friends. Being outside in the snow in the middle of no where and hearing nothing but the sound of your board across the snow and maybe whoops by your freinds off in the distance is one of the greatest feelings I ever hope to experience. And I will again, undoubtedly. But I also have loved–since the very day I was born–horses and dogs and most things four-legged with a passion.

Maybe this is just the new phase.

Two steps forward…

So. Last night went better. We got to class super-early. I stopped en route and grabbed some dinner (salad in place of fried Chimichanga). Forest had his dinner in the back while I had mine. No rush, watched the Advanced class before ours. He tried to get wound up once he was done with dinner, but I just stayed calm and ignored him. Put his leash on and worked on laying on the mat in the trunk. Took it out and down to class with us, clicked him for “go to yer bed”. He seemed happy with that for the beginning as opposed to laying on dirt or wet grass.

We usually seem to do jumpers first, which is definitely our strong suit. He was great, as usual, any bobbles were entirely of my doing. He runs really fluidly and I don’t have to give him much verbal direction except when calling him back towards me. He’s getting quite good at going ahead of me. I actually realized last night that I think thats where a lot of our hang ups are occurring–at any point where there is a loss in momentum is where we tend to melt down… And, he may make me lazy as he is so good at going ahead of me, its a lot of work to get out ahead of him in front as opposed to sending him from behind. Maybe I’ll start charging myself $5 for every lazy rear cross…

Standard course was not perfect, yet it was miles ahead of two weeks ago. I think maybe he has a hard time seeing things occasionally (?) in the dark, or maybe its me who has a hard time seeing. Either way we missed a few easy, obvious entries–to the tunnel and to the teeter–but got back on track quickly.

I did notice at one point where after we kept missing the tunnel entry he scooted away and started eating grass. I think I was starting to get stressed—I always thought he didn’t care so much what I was thinking/doing/saying, but am coming to realize he really is a pretty sensitive guy. It was pretty eye opening now that I am more aware of what to look for. I calmed down, gently grabbed him and told him it was okay. I think after that we got going again.

We also were just doing the short weaves as we had a few first time Novice people joining. He missed a few times more because he hasnt figured out how to slam on the breaks yet, but was no big deal. We practiced the full 12 set at the end of class. He nailed it on the second try so we quit with that.

Also reinforced a TON throughout class, including clicking him for laying/sitting on his mat. I should have fed him less for dinner…

Overall a much more relaxing experience than last class, so that is a step in the right direction.

Tomorrow night starts our Control Unleashed session. Six weeks long, looking forward to it—I think it will be a big step in the right direction. I love my agility trainer, but she definitely does not have the time nor the training style to address individual behavioral issues. I hope this can help us work through both of our stress and focus issues. Fingers crossed.