Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A year ago today

December 29, which is today, was the last day I blogged last year:

Click here

Wall-e looked so little! (He was 7 months old at the time.)

Reviewing foundation

We just finished doing a lot of foundation review. I set up a couple crates in the basement. that way, Mika and Wall-e could easily take turns.

We mostly did 101 things to do with a box. This was one of the very first things that I did with Wall-e when he came home as a 5 1/2 month old puppy. It was an awesome game for encouraging him to offer behaviours! We did so many shaping games during his initial foundation training that today, Wall-e is VERY operant. Especially with box-like objects...if he sees a box, laundry basket, etc. in the hallway, he'll immediately start interacting with it.

Anyway... The idea is that the dog should interact with a cardboard box (or any other object) and offer different behaviours. When you first start out, you should mark for any behaviours, even repeated ones. When I first started playing this game with Mika a couple years ago, because she wasn't very operant at the time, I marked simply for her looking in the direction of the box. It took many sessions, but finally she offered her first "real" behaviour -- scratching the side of the box with her paw! I can still remember how overjoyed I was. Now, she's very operant!

The biggest difference between Wall-e and Mika is that when I play shaping games with Mika, she'll bark incessantly throughout the entire session, barking louder and louder if she ever gets stuck on a behaviour! (I try not to let that happen :) Wall-e, on the other hand, doesn't make a peep except for an occasional woof if he gets stuck.

Back to today's session. (Why is it that I always get off track when blogging about training sessions?) When Mika had her turn with the 101 things to do with a box game, she didn't even see the box at first. She just got on her hind legs and barked and barked and barked! This dog has SO much attitude, but I love it!! I just inched closer and closer to the box until she finally saw it. Unlike Wall-e, who just jumps right in (literally!) and starts interacting with the object, Mika gradually increases her interaction. She started off by looking at the box, then beginning to sniff it, then pawing it, and eventually putting her two front feet inside. End of session, with a nice jackpot that I always give at the end of a session.

Wall-e had a good session too. First he jumped in the box, then immediately brought his front legs outside of the box and put them on the carpet, keeping his back feet in the box. It was a sort of "2on2off." He did this so fast that he really just had all four feet in the box for a split second before bringing his front feet out and landing them on the carpet.
I'm not surprised that the first behaviour he offered was 2o2o...Wall-e loves 2o2o and is generalizing it to everything now! (Aha, Success!) He really liked this behaviour and kept offering it over and over. But when I paused to let him offer a different behaviour, he pulled his front legs back into the box. He offered that a couple more times, and then we ended the session. He looked really cute standing or sitting in that little box (well, fairly little).

Actually, I was using a Clean Run box, that my new books came in! I got 3 books from CR for Christmas: Dogged Pursuit, Control Unleashed (the book, not the DVD), and Canine Massage in Plain English. I'm about a third-way through Dogged Pursuit and it's hilarious!

Also just realized that Wall-e is 19 months old today. Wow.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Teeter fun!

We haven't trained the teeter for a while, since the fun match in November actually. So I took out my mini teeter (which is actually a TDAA-regulation steel teeter, I love it!!) yesterday. Mika and Wall-e had lots of fun playing the bang games.

This morning I refreshed Wall-e's 4-on wait on the teeter, as he's been leaving the teeter just a bit early in past months. Not enough to be called a fly-off by most judges, but some of the stricter judges might call it. Wall-e is actually generalizing the 2on2off behaviour on the end of the teeter... Hmm, interesting and good to see that he's generalizing, but gotta work on that because a 2o2o isn't part of his teeter criteria.

He actually had a real sliding teeter on one rep :O He's too small to slide on a full-size teeter, but it did look pretty cool on this one.

After Wall-e's short session, Mika got to join in and they played some more bang games. Woohoo, gotta love teeter-crazy dogs!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wall-e: plans for the future

I've been making a lot of plans about Wall-e's trialing career. I'm pretty excited to start trialing him, but I'm also a very cautious person in that I really have to think things through before making a decision. That's why Mika was 3 years old when we started trialing -- I wasn't even THINKING about trialing before a few people convinced me that we actually were ready!

I'd like to run Wall-e at Regionals in May 2011 because I'll probably be running Mika (assuming Nationals will be held closer to us in 2011), and I might as well run Wall-e too since we're driving all that way.

So if I want Wall-e to be ready for Regionals (though I don't expect him to qualify for Nationals because he'll barely be 3 years old), I'll have to:

1. put his 2o2o on the full DW and AF
2. train Masters courses and sequences during 2010
3. start trialing

Yep, get ready for some more over-planning, as usual... :)

1. put his 2on2off on the full DW and AF - Right now he has a very nice 2o2o on the plank in the backyard, which is at a 1 foot incline. Before the field opens I'll have to raise it up to 2 feet, so that I can backchain his 2o2o on the contacts.

2. train Masters courses and sequences during 2010
- I don't think he'll really have a problem with the Masters courses. He's pretty good at tough sequences, as long as I handle him half-decently!

3. start trialing
- My current plan is for Wall-e's very first trial to be outdoors in September 2010. He'll be 2 years old, about 27 months to be precise. Hopefully it won't be too hot then, and we'll have had the whole summer to train. Then, if all goes well, he'll likely be able to do a couple indoor trials in October.

I want Wall-e to run at full speed consistently, so I don't want to do anything to take his drive away. I want him to know that he should just let loose and RUN, like he does when he chases cars in the backyard! At trials I'll be doing the same thing as I do with Mika -- never correct for mistakes. If he makes a mistake on course, I'll ignore it and continue, but make sure to spend extra time training that skill during training.

I'm looking forward to trialing "the W" -- he's going to be a lot of fun, that's for sure!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas decorating -- LOTS of it

This house is in the neighbourhood of my grandparents' house. It's impressive! The people living there decorate the house this way every Christmas. It's awesome to see year after year.


"Um...hello, I'm trying to sleep here!"

(I guess I've kind of been going overboard with the sleeping pictures lately...but my dogs are cute when they sleep!)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

True to European traditions, we began our Christmas celebrations on Christmas Eve, yesterday. We all gathered in the living room, including Mika, Wall-e, and Shadow the cat of course!

Wall-e just can't wait to get started

Shadow wants to eat the whole bag!

Peeking in somebody else's gift bag

"FINALLY, we get OUR stuff!"

All eyes on the treats

Aaand, the celebrations and excitement is over...time to sleep.

Hope you're all enjoying a great Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Training Levels -- Level 2 homework

I can't believe I'm actually doing the homework :)

I'm just giving the very simple definitions and explanations.

Definitions of "reinforcement" and "punishment":

reinforcement -- strengthens the behaviour
punishment -- weakens the behaviour

Four "legs" of operant conditioning:

1. Positive reinforcement: a reward is given (ex. giving a treat)
2. Negative reinforcement: a correction is removed (ex. releasing the pressure of an ear pinch)
3. Positive punishment: a correction is given (ex. yanking the collar)
4. Negative punishment: a reward is removed (ex. crating the dog for a broken start-line stay, therefore the reward of agility is taken away)

List of tricks

On the forum that I help moderate, there was a thread with a poll asking how many tricks your dog knows (not including the basic obedience cues like sit, down, etc.). I didn't really know, so I thought I'd count. I'll try to post as many tricks as I can remember, but I'm probably forgetting a few. These are in no specific order. They might give some ideas for anyone trying to think of a new trick to teach -- I know I'm always eager for new ideas!


1. Are you crazy? (barking/spinning in circles)
2. Take a bow
5. Wave
6. High five
7. High ten
8. Kiss
9. Drop it
10. Touch (nose touch to my hand)
11. Bang! (play dead)
12. Push (tap doors, drawers, objects, etc. with paw)
13. Bell (tap a bell with paw)
14. Paw
15. Other paw
16. Spot (2o2o position on any object)
17. Are you a person? (stand on hind legs)
18. Right (spin right)
19. Left (spin left)
20. Are you happy? (wag tail)
21. run around a barrel
22. yawn
23. balance treat on nose and catch it
24. Fetch the paper (newspaper)
25. Find the remote
26. Fetch ___ (whatever toy I name)
27. Pick a card (from a deck)
28. jump over my stomach (while I'm in the "crab" position)
29. pull on harness (pulling a bag, basket, etc.)
30. Soccer (push a ball with nose)
31. put a toy in a basket
32. Shame (hide head under a pillow on a chair)
33. Want supper? (sit on chair with paws on table)
34. Up (jump into my arms)
35. Dance (bounce in circles on hind legs)
36. Wait (stop on cue)
37. Get in your kennel
38. Pillow (race over to the nearest dog bed and lie down)
39. Start (go between my legs and sit)
40. Arm (put front legs on my arm)
41. back up into 2on2off on a low object (like a book)
42. Target (with paw)
43. run between my legs
44. hold an item in mouth
Give (drop item she's holding into my hand)
46. Watch them (look at the nearest person)
47. Under (go under my raised leg)
48. jump in a box, basket, etc.
49. put front paws on an object
Scratch me (with her paw)
51. Figure eight
52. Where's ___ (whatever person I name)
53. Off (jump off whatever she's on, a couch for example)
Leave it
55. go in the general direction I point in
56. pick up a pen that I've dropped and give it to me
57. Side
58. Check (look at me)
59. jump on or in n object
60. jump over my leg
61. jump over my arm
62. jump through my arms

Tricks in progress: backing up, jumping over my back


3. Wave
4. Kiss
5. Drop it
6. Touch (nose touch to my hand or target)
7. Push (tap doors, drawers, objects, etc. with paw)
8. Bell (tap a bell with paw)
9. Paw (shake right paw)
10. Shake (shake left paw)
11. Spot (2o2o position on any object)
12. Are you a person? (stand on hind legs)
13. Right (spin right)
14. Left (spin left)
15. run around a barrel
16. Shame (hide head under a pillow on a chair)
17. Want supper? (sit on chair with paws on table)
18. Up (jump into my lap as I'm sitting down)
19. Get in your kennel
20. Pillow (race over to the nearest dog bed and lie down)
21. Start (go between my legs and sit)
22. Arm (put front legs on my arm)
23. back up into 2on2off on a low object or almost-vertical board
24. run between my legs
Give (drop item he's holding into my hand)
Watch them (look at the nearest person)
27. jump in a box, basket, etc.
28. put front paws on an object
Scratch me (with his paw)
30. Figure eight
31. Off (jump off whatever he's on)
Leave it
33. Side
34. Check (look at me)
35. jump on or in an object
36. jump over my leg
37. speak
38. Scoot (back up)
39. Jump (in the air)
40. weave through my legs
snap at the air
42. perch
43. push ball with front legs while walking on hind legs

Tricks in progress: fetching a tissue when I sneeze, handstand

Monday, December 21, 2009


Finally sleeping ;) Wall-e likes his privacy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Heeling "the Silvia way"

Wall-e loves heeling!! He has the cutest little prance and flings his front feet up high as he trots beside me. I was re-reading Silvia Trkman's page (for the thousandth time!) about tricks on her site. The parts about training the "prancing" kind of heeling, where the dog lifts his/her legs up really high while heeling, inspired me to do some more heeling with The W. He already has a nice prance, but he could lift his legs up even higher. I did as Silvia suggested, slowing down my pace, then marking and rewarding when he slows down and lifts his legs up higher as he does so. He's such a cute little guy. He has this intense stare as he heels.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Quick update on the Training Levels that we're working through. We've been working on Zen a lot lately, every day. Zen is training for self-control -- basically, you start off by holding a treat in your closed fist and waiting until the dog stops licking your fist, scratching at it, nudging it, etc. and either just stares at it or looks away. I've worked Zen before with both my dogs, but they haven't done it in so long that it's a good thing to refresh.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fun match Dec. 12, 2009 video

LOL! She goes into 2on2off on the table!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Worried Wall-e

We went to a fun match on Saturday. Wall-e was super happy at first, bouncing around inside the arena as we waited around. Then the snow slid off the roof of the arena (pictured above), making a big noise. Wall-e's heard that noise before when we trained at this arena last year, so although he skittered away, he came back to me to bop my hand with his nose and took the reward I offered. But then right after, the snow slid off again. And then again. Wall-e must have thought the sky was falling or something. He was in complete panic, TERRIFIED, and started shaking.

After that, I left the arena and went back to the car to let him recover. After a few minutes, I headed outside and was going to shape him to walk over to the arena, but I wasn't planning on actually going inside in case the snow fell off again. Going back and forth from the car to the arena, I shaped him to go to the front door of the arena, relieving the pressure each time by letting him go back to the car.

Then the snow slid off the arena again, just when we happened to be close by. Wall-e freaked out, just like before. I let him go in the car again.

But when I tried getting him out for more shaping later on, he wouldn't even take a step closer to the arena. He was scared to death...I've never, ever seen him like that before.

Poor guy. He didn't even want to say hi to the other dogs, which is so unlike him. He just lay in the car for almost the entire fun match. As much as I felt sorry for him, I had to stay cheerful around him since he's so sensitive to the tone of my voice.

Major deja vu how this is almost EXACTLY what happened with Mika at a fun match at this same venue, two and a half years ago. (Not that I don't like the venue -- I do!) Except with Mika it was the bang of the teeter, and the problem had started a week before when we went to practice for the fun match. Still, it's uncanny how alike the situations are.

Like Wall-e, Mika didn't even want to go near the arena. I ended up carrying her in. I made a mistake by technically forcing her to go inside when she didn't feel comfortable...I definitely didn't want to do that with Wall-e. At least I've been through this kind of thing before, so I know what to do now with Wall-e.

We haven't done any agility since the fun match because it's our break from agility for a couple weeks that I mentioned last Wednesday. I'm hoping that Wall-e hasn't generalized the bad experience at the fun match to agility in general. With Mika, years ago, she didn't even want to go over a jump at home after her bad experience. But then again, Mika generalizes almost everything, and Wall-e isn't too good at generalizing. I guess that's a good thing in this case!

It probably won't end up to be a big problem (-knock on wood-) since we don't go to any other venues that are dome arenas, other than this one. I feel bad that Wall-e was so terrified, though!

(I'll talk about Mika's runs in a later post. She had a blast though and gave me some good laughs!)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Training Levels -- Level 1 homework

I found out about the Training Levels Yahoo group from Kathy. It's really cool! I'm using it to refresh on the dogs' foundation this winter.

One of the things we have to do for the Level One test is homework -- the person has to write "five things that s/he hopes to accomplish by working the Levels." I thought that, since I'll be writing it down anyway, I might as well share on my blog.

So, here's my homework for the Level One test (I'm testing both dogs). What I'd like to accomplish by working the levels:

1. refresh their foundation (which I already said ;) and manners
2. improve Wall-e's self-control
3. improve distance skills with both dogs
4. start contact re-training
5. generalize more behaviours

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What we've been up to

Well, to be honest, we have done any agility since last week (that video that I posted). Unless you count Mika and Wall-e going into 2o2o position on the plank every time we go in the backyard, hoping for treats :)

Starting this winter, I'll be giving my dogs at least a month's break from any kind of agility, once a year. Our 5-week agility break begins this coming Saturday, and lasts until the next fun match in January. We'll use those 5 weeks to work on other things like tricks, and just basically relax.

Speaking of tricks, I started teaching Wall-e a couple yesterday! I started teaching him how to do a handstand, using the method we found on Ricky's blog
. He was actually doing really good and I had him backing up about 12" onto the ironing board (which I'm using for the "plank"). The ironing board was raised about a foot and a half off the ground. I'll raise the board slowly, so that he can build his front end and back muscles safely and won't strain his body too much by doing a handstand. I won't get him to stay in a handstand for very long at all, anyway.

I also started teaching him the "get-a-tissue-when-I-sneeze" trick. Actually, I started teaching it by accident! I was going to teach him how to walk in backward circles around my body. The method I was going to use involved teaching the dog to do backward circles around an object before going around a person.

So, I grabbed the nearest object -- a tissue box. Immediately Wall-e started interacting with the box, thinking that we were playing a shaping game! He tapped it with his front paw, touched his nose to it, and did other goofy behaviours. As I was laughing, he started ripping the tissue that was sticking out of the box. Right away I thought, "Aha! I have a trick!" and I started shaping the trick.

First I clicked for a grab of the tissue, then a pull, then pulling it completely out of the box. After a few minutes, I could hold him by the collar, say "Achoo!" and release him to grab a tissue out of the box. The next step will be to shape him to bring the tissue back to me!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mika and Wall-e's new stuffies

My grandparents came over today and brought a set of four dog stuffies for Mika and Wall-e!

I should have bent down to Mika's level to take this photo, oh well, still cute!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wall-e's a big boy now!

As of November 29, 2009, Wall-e is old enough to trial, since he turned 18 months old on that date.

I've been asked quite a few times when Wall-e is going to start trialing :) The answer is...well, I don't really know! I do know that I'd like him to gain some more drive before trialing him. His focus is definitely good enough for a trial, though, he has awesome focus!! (maybe even too much, at times :) he needs a bit more obstacle focus)

He hasn't tried running a full course yet, although I'm sure that he could run a Starters Jumpers course clean and probably an Advanced Jumpers, too. His dog walk and A-frame training hasn't been completed yet, so it'll be a while before he could run any courses with contacts.

I like taking it slow with my dogs when it comes to trialing. I didn't trial Mika until she was 3 years old even though we'd been doing agility since she was 11 months. I might end up trialing Wall-e in 2011, when I'm 110% sure that he's ready!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009