Monday, March 29, 2010

Can't wait to backchain!

Wall-e has a rather unhealthy obsession with his 2on2off-with-a-head-bob! We trained it this morning on the stairs with the Plexiglas target again to encourage actual nose touches. (Notice that I was training it on the stairs; we're still on our agility break!) This afternoon, I was cleaning up in the front entrance of the house, and I turned around to see Wall-e in 2o2o position on a piece of cardboard slanting on an angle against something (I forget what). He started doing head bobs when he saw me looking at him. Later on I caught him in 2on2off on a pillow; yes, a pillow!

I think that the head bob has started to become part of the 2o2o behaviour; I don't have to give the head bob cue anymore at all. Funny boy!

I'm really looking forward to backchaining his 2o2o on the contacts when the field opens!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Some stay (and release) refreshing

The Pigs Fly article in the March 2010 issue of Clean Run was interesting in that it was all about training the release out of a stay. I usually reward the release almost as much as I reward the actual lack of motion. Today, though, I concentrated on the release from a stay with both dogs (different sessions).

Mika was perfect for all 3 reps. She blasted out of the stays and literally slid to a stop each time, hahah (we were inside). Mika slides when she's chasing toys too. I'll throw a toy and she'll do this huge slide across the floor as she grabs her toy with tons of enthusiasm.

Wall-e was perfect too, which was also pleasantly surprising because he's always been one to sometimes break his stays.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A new beginning

At Mika's trial a week ago, Wall-e was scared to go inside the building, the one that he had spent all of last year going inside during Mika's trials, and taking classes there too. He's generalized his fear of agility buildings from the one where the snow slid off the roof (which began his phobia of noises in general) to this building.

I was planning on trialing him at one outdoor trial in September and then a whole bunch of indoor trials after that, but with his fear of this building, I would only be able to do that one outdoor trial. Since most of the trials from March to May are indoors, he would only have one trial under his belt before running at Regionals next year. I want him to be more experienced at trials than that, so I've decided to begin his competition career early this summer at an outdoor trial.

That means that Wall-e's first trial will be in June. He'll be running in one AAC Starters Jumpers run at 10" Specials. The trial venue will be the one where he ran at his first two fun matches. It's the best choice for him. He'll be running at a fun match at the same venue a couple weeks before, so I can make sure that he isn't showing any signs of fear from the environment.

In November 2008 I wrote:

"My goal for Wall-e is to train him to eventually be a happy, fast, confident agility dog who tries his best to follow my directions. I don't expect to create a "perfect dog". After all, there is no perfect dog. But, I will do everything I can to train him to be a good little worker. I mainly want him to have FUN!"

I think I have succeeded in training him to be a "happy, fast, confident agility dog who tries his best to follow my directions." He is very happy when he runs. His speed can be awesome (although I would like him to be more consistent with it). He is confident outdoors (not talking about indoor facilities here!). And, he does try his best to follow my directions.

June. Let's see where it takes us.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Loving the weather!!

Wondering why all that mud is on the fence behind Wall-e? Well...let's just say he's a bit too enthusiastic in his car chasing :) He made a path through the stones (and the grass!) last year and when the rain turns the "dirt" underneath the stones into mud, he sprays the mud all over the fence.

Mika is so so cute. I never even think about her haircut anymore. We're having too much fun outside to have time to think about it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mika Trial Feb. 21, 2010

I had a hard time falling asleep last night thinking about this trial. (Yeah, a day after the trial. Delayed reaction!) I realized that our performances and Mika's focus have been deteriorating somewhat at recent trials ("recent" as in this trial and the trials at the end of last year). And I realized what I was doing differently. I changed our mental warm-up routine last year. Not sure when, maybe in the summer or fall.

We used to do a short mental warm-up as we were on deck waiting to enter the ring; just tricks, rewarding with the treats she'd be getting after the run. I changed that routine because Mika loses her peak drive fairly quickly.

Our newer mental warm-up routine (not including physical warm-up) has just been letting the gate steward know that we're in the building and then going in the starting gate the dog ahead of us is halfway through the course. There, we very quickly tug. I tell Mika "Drop It" when the dog ahead of us is finished running, reward her with a piece of whatever food she'll be getting after the run, and carry her in.

Now I'm thinking that maybe her decreased focus while running (at this trial in particular she ran off twice, I think, to run over to other dogs when we were running next to the gate) and decreased drive are a result of our shorter, or lack of, mental warm-up.

In the Masters Standard run, Mika reacted at a dog (a Border Terrier that Mika has reacted at before; she doesn't like any other terrier in general, but especially this little guy for some reason) at the beginning of the run after we'd entered the ring. I carried her in and set her down to tell her to sit for her start-line stay, and she ran over to the dog (who was on deck), barking several times. She's never done this before at the beginning of a run at a trial. I picked her up and held her on the ground for a running start, but she kept looking at the dog. Now this was getting even stranger; usually Mika will recover quickly when she reacts at trials. I had to go to the opposite side of her to block her view of the dog and change how I handled the beginning of the course. We were both rattled and Mika especially was stressed, for the entire run.

Before we left for home, I worked on our reactivity games both inside the trial building and inside. Inside the building, Mika let an aussie sniff her butt when she didn't even see it, which was REALLY amazing for her!! That was a nice highlight of the day.

Things to change or work on: switch our mental warm-up back to our old one; entering the starting gate when the dog ahead of us is about to start the course, and doing tricks. Also, work on our reactivity exercises at the end of every trial, concentrating on inside the building.

Mika also had a very nice, fast DW in the second Masters Gamblers run. She hit 3 out of 4 DW contacts this trial (and the one she missed was close)!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy first day of spring!

Here's a photo to brighten your day.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wall-e's maturing

On Monday, for the first time, I saw Wall-e kicking up the grass with his back and front paws after he peed. I've never seen him do that before. I've heard that it's mostly male dogs who do this. Then on Wednesday, as Mika was at the groomer's, we went with Wall-e to a big pet store. He tried to mark in the store twice, something else that he's never ever tried. I guess his testosterone is finally kicking in at 21.5 months...uh-oh! :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mika's plushy cut

Mika went to the groomer's yesterday for her haircut. The groomer said, "We did something a bit different with Mika today..." and Mika came out with a plushy cut, complete with a bow!



She has almost no beard and shorter eyebrows. I guess the groomer was trying to bring the feminine side out of her.

This one makes me laugh :)

I do prefer the schnauzer cut, but she's still the same Mika!

I just have to trim the bottom of her beard because it's a bit crooked.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Wave" and a bit of an agility break

Mika knows how to "Wave" her paw on a hand signal, but not on a verbal yet. Today I spent some time adding the verbal. At the end of our 2 minute session, we got to the point where she could give a lift of the paw on the verbal after a few seconds of thinking. She looked so thoughtful while doing it, too (is this Mika we're talking about?!). What a fun dog!!

I'm giving the dogs a break from agility training until the field opens (soon!). I said before that I was going to give them a month's break in the winter. That only lasted a week :) We do have a trial this weekend, (which I'm definitely looking forward to!) but other than that, no agility for a couple of weeks, hopefully. A break isn't that crucial because even when they do agility daily they're only doing actual running for a max of a couple minutes, if that. We spend a lot more time playing in agility sessions rather than actual agility.

Monday, March 15, 2010


...and the dogs are certainly enjoying it! (As am I!! Observe the grass! Brown, but GRASS.)

Mika and one of her favourite squeaky toys, "Spike." We haven't seen Spike in a while and just recently found him again.

Mika is getting a haircut at the groomer on Wednesday and a good thing, too. She's super shaggy!

Teehee. Mr. Wall-e Crooked-Tooth! (If you enlarge the photo you'll see.) Waiting for me to throw his ball.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Refreshing "Scoot"

I noticed a few months ago, after not practicing the trick for a while, that when I told Wall-e to "Scoot" (back up) he offered other behaviours, but not the backing up behaviour. The Scoot cue needs a bit more work. I haven't consistently worked on the trick since then, but I did just a few minutes ago. Seems that his understanding of the Scoot cue is more rusty than his understanding of the actual behaviour, so I simply started clicking him for offering the behaviour on his own (first just one little step backward, then a stride, then a few strides). Backing up is a behaviour he regularly offers during shaping sessions (which is how I taught him originally), but I guess he just doesn't fully understand the cue well enough to respond to it consistently. More training! :) That's fine though, I love trick training!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wall-e 2on2off with nose touch training

It's a beautiful day today, nice and sunny! Just a bit cold. Still, it's an improvement over the dreary winter weather! I headed out in the backyard with Wall-e to do a bit of 2on2off training on the 12 foot plank (which is raised to almost 3 feet). I put the Plexiglas 2" x 2" target there for him to touch, since he hasn't been giving strong nose touches when I've asked, more of a strong head bob. I hopped him on from the side of the yellow and asked him to Spot (his 2o2o cue), then Touch (his targeting cue). He isn't required to touch his nose to the ground unless I ask him to, but he happily nose-touched the target as soon as he hopped into 2o2o, which I gladly accepted and jackpotted!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Yeah Mika! (Turn cues)

I just had a training session with Mika about 30 minutes ago. I set up two 10" jumps in a straight line, between 15 to 20 feet apart. I started her with one of our start-line routines; having her on the ground beside me and holding her in front of her stifles (knees), then saying in an excited voice, "Ready...set..." as she tenses and then races off ahead when I say "GO!" The first rep, she back-jumped, probably because she wasn't generalizing. (I guess I progressed a bit too fast from one jump to two jumps and from jumping on an angle to jumping straight-on.) The next rep, I only had her do the second jump, and she was great and didn't back-jump. The third and final rep, we did the original exercise again (both jumps), and she didn't back-jump and I stood off to the side where I was supposed to!

We're both starting to get it. :D

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More turning cues with Mika

I never really trained Mika to jump (the old lead-'em-over-with-a-leash "method"). She had to learn the mechanics of jumping on her own and developed her style on her own.

She definitely knows how to jump extended. Looking at pictures of her taking off from a huge distance away from a jump, it seems doubtful that she makes it, yet she very rarely knocks a bar even when she does jump enormously extended.

It's jumping collected that has been her challenge. So this winter I've been training her how to have a nice round jump. I want her to know how to jump extended when cued and how to jump collected when cued. This winter we've only worked on the jumping aspect. Only in the past couple of weeks have I added my motion.

Mika was incredible this afternoon, turning/wrapping so tightly (especially for her) over 10" jumps when I send her over at an angle and give her a lack of motion cue! I increased the starting distance today from our last session. I have yet to send her over a jump from a straight-on angle because I'm sure she'll find that a bit harder. For now, though, she's been doing amazingly and really seems to understand how to wrap the jump wings! That's something I forget to say; we were training on one of my winged jumps today for the first time. She's had trouble with wrapping winged jumps in the past, but only had one back-jump today (out of 3 reps), which of course was my fault because I was standing too much in the middle of the jump. Good girl for watching me!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My Cool Little Dogs video

A lot of these clips are from last year, except for the ones at the arena and the one in the snow :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Our first training session on GRASS

I'm still psyched about this snow-melting thing!! Enough snow melted yesterday to make a patch of grass big enough for one-jump training, so this morning I trained Mika on grass for the first time this year. We're working through the Clean Run articles on turning cues, and I'm seeing a difference in Mika's collection towards the jump when I give a lack of motion cue. On the first rep she had a great turn. On the second rep she actually pulled off the jump because I cued too early (for once! I often cue late). On the third rep I cued at the right time and she had a perfect turn. Awesome!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


It's the highlight of the week...the snow is melting!! It's only the second day of March and already I'm seeing some patches of grass! It's SO EXCITING!!

Yeah, I pretty hyped up in spring; I have to say that the beginning of spring is one of my favourite times of year. There's so much anticipating and excitement about the coming year with the dogs. For me, the year only really begins when the snow starts melting!

We went on our first long walk of the year to celebrate. (although I had to cut it a bit shorter than I wanted to because I ran out of treats for Mika. I need treats for her on walks to prevent her from reacting at dogs or barking at people in excitement.) I've taken Wall-e for some long walks this winter when it wasn't really really freezing (Mika couldn't/didn't want to stay out for that long even in mildly freezing weather), but I haven't taken both of the dogs for long walks at the same time since last fall. Did it ever feel good to begin getting back to our old routine!!

Let's just hope we don't get a huge snowstorm...we haven't had a lot of snow this winter and it'd be terrible (for me!) to get it all now!