Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wall-e fun match June 26, 2011

Amazing weather today, cool and breezy! I hope it stays like that all summer! (I probably just jinxed it :)

I only ran Wall-e at this fun match. Mika is probably heading into semi-retirement from trials and fun matches (I'll explain that in a future post).

I did run Mika over a few jumps in the practice ring, though, because she just won't settle down until she gets her turn:

With Wall-e, I ran the Advanced Standard course twice. We ran the course mostly as numbered, except that I added an extra jump before the teeter to make the angle less sharp. I really don't want Wall-e to injure himself on a teeter again! I also ran him at 16" because he'll be running 16" at trials from now on. (I've just been running him at 10" to help ease him into the trial atmosphere.)

The first time, he broke his stay, but I kept going. We'll have to work on stays a lot in training. He also lifted his elbows off the table and self-released on the dog walk! I guess I haven't been proofing stays enough. Other than the self-release, his dog walk WAS beautiful, though. I used a target to help him because his DW's weren't so great at his last trial, and I think having the target there really did help. The video of the run is shown below:

I really worked on his stays during our second try at the course. The "judge" (the owner of the facility) suggested that I lead out more confidently, which helped a lot. Thanks Sue! When we finally ran the course, it was beautiful; Wall-e was fast and we ran the course clean. He kept his elbows down on the table too, and didn't self-release on the DW. I also loved how he kind of "pounced" into his 2on2off on the teeter! Run below:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Will You Catch Me Now?" video

A collection of various training clips!

Kathy, at the end of the video you'll see the set-up for your weave challenge #1; we haven't worked through all the maneuvers yet (we're having some difficulties with the recall), but I hope to in the near future!! :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mika and Wall-e trial June 12, 2011


Wall-e Starters Jumpers
18.97 seconds, fastest time yet!! Q, 1st, and Best Run in Special; so Wall-e is now in Adv. Jumpers.

Mika Masters Gamblers
Good run; Mika hit all three of her dog walk contacts in the opening, and right in the middle of the yellow too! No gamble.

Mika Masters Jumpers
Q (and 1s); can you believe it!? But more importantly, we had fun and I felt so connected with my girl!

Wall-e Starters Standard 1
Wall-e's very first Standard run, ever. He watched me so well. Highlights: he did the teeter (wasn't sure if he would jump off or not, even though we've worked through his little teeter problem), stayed down on the table (I thought he might lift his elbows off), and didn't pop out of the weaves! Q, 1st, and Best Run!
You might notice that he sniffed on the table after the table count was finished. This was because a dog (a female dog, actually!) had peed on the table a couple of dogs before.
As for his contacts, they were good. On the dog walk, he stopped in more of a 1-rear-toe-on position instead of 2on2off; only his back toes stayed on the contact. He realized this and backed up to go into the proper position, but backed up a bit too far so that his whole body was actually on the contact. So I waited for him to go forward again...and he gave a cute little impatient woof as he stepped forward to finally go into "correct" 2o2o! His A-frame was nice, but for some reason he let his butt plop back into a Sit after he stopped in his 2o2o. Still, it was pretty fast! Overall, I was so, so pleased with his very first Standard run!!

Wall-e Starters Standard 2
Another nice run! I did sacrifice a Q in order to train in the ring; he slipped a teeny bit as he went up the DW, and then forgot to stop in 2o2o when he descended the down plank. My initial impulse was to keep going, but then I stopped myself in order to ask Wall-e to hop in 2o2o position.
My personal rule with my dogs is to always, always keep going whenever they make mistakes (especially at trials)...except when it comes to Wall-e's 2o2o. I have to maintain criteria or else he'll think that he can do running contacts (which I'd LOVE, but I know that they'd break down over time). I was originally planning on bringing Wall-e back in a loop of obstacles to the beginning of the DW, and then doing the whole DW again; but the judge told us during the briefing that if we did this, we'd get a whistle, which might have freaked Wall-e that was out! You'll see in the video that he had no problem at all with hopping back on the end of the DW.

Wall-e Starters Standard 3
Another fun run with the Wall-e boy! I was pleasantly surprised when he came back to me after the second tunnel, at 0:14 in the video. We actually did a very similar sequence in training last week, and I didn't use a strong enough off-arm signal, so Wall-e took the DW the first time. But at this trial I knew that I had to really use my off-arm, and Wall-e read it right away and took the jump near me! The rest of the run was great as well. He could have had a faster AF, but we'll work on that in training.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The reasons

What makes a stressed dog?

Genetics? Environment?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I post on a couple of Yahoo lists about my dogs' fears, and also as I finish up my "introduction to social sciences" class at school. According to my class,

Genetics + Environment = an individual

Although the class focuses on humans, of course I generalize everything to dogs :) And I've heard of this equation before, referring to dogs. It's gotten me thinking about why my dogs are the way they are.

Mika came to me as an 8 week old puppy. She was shy and cautious from the start, and her initial reaction to things that frightened her was to run away. I remember when we were in Petcetera one day (a Canadian version of PetSmart) and there was a big, black brindle lab mix. We were walking Mika behind it, and then the dog turned around and lunged and Mika. My puppy, about 10-12 weeks old at the time, ran away screaming. And so began her fear of big black labs.

Today, she is fearful of all dogs; but while she can handle the average dog approaching her without "blowing up," if that dog is a big black dog, she'll go absolutely nuts in panic. Coincidence? I think not.

We started puppy kindergarten with Mika when she was 18 weeks old. During the puppy play sessions, while most of the other puppies tumbled around, chasing each other and wrestling, Mika would spend her time hiding under the chairs.

When Mika was 6 months old, she began to bark at other dogs, and people. Fight instead of flight; a typical terrier response!

And I also believe that the "activity" that Mika was bred for -- conformation -- played a part in her reactive tendencies. Terriers in conformation shows are encouraged to "spar" with each other in the ring; basically, acting tough and showing the beginnings of reactivity. I wasn't aware of this sparring technique until a few years ago. No doubt Mika has some at least slightly reactive dogs in her lineage, as both of her parents were conformation Champions.

And Wall-e came to me as a confident 5.5 month old puppy. I could bring him anywhere and nothing seemed to faze him. He always showed a bit of nervousness/awareness when he heard heating fans in dog training buildings, but no true fear; just the typical sheltie sensitivity to the environment. Overall, I called him my dog with "no self-preservation" and he was an outstanding example of a sheltie without any fears (unlike so many fearful shelties). That is, until his bad experience, which changed him into a fearful dog. So Wall-e's situation is a bit simpler in terms of what caused his fearfulness, unlike Mika, who has so many elements that made her who she is today.

Some people say that if both of somebody's dogs
(or all, if they have more than two) have the same "behavioural problems," then that person obviously doesn't know how to prevent or fix the problem. But what if things just happened that way? I'm not perfect, but I "did everything right" with Mika during her puppyhood; socialized her, did puppy kindergarten, brought her everywhere and anywhere. And yet, she still became reactive. I've recently read about the new belief that shy dogs should not be over-socialized because this could cause their fears to maybe that was my mistake with Mika. But to be honest, I think she still would have become reactive anyway, since she'd been showing fear ever since I brought her home.

And Wall-e had a bad experience, which of course couldn't have been my fault, since it was just a "freak" thing (maybe that's too big a word, but oh well) that nobody could have expected.

It's just gotten me thinking.

And I don't know how much longer I can call Wall-e a "fearful dog" because this year I've been seeing so much of the old Wall-e, the confident Wall-e I had before the bad experience. On walks, he wags his tail when children approach him, smiles at women in hijabs (another one of his previous fears that I haven't mentioned), and confidently turns to me for guidance when he hears a scary noise. I know that Mika will never be a completely confident dog because she was never confident to begin with; but I'm getting my Wall-e boy back.

Anyway, these are just some of my random thoughts. Do I hope that my next dog will have no fears? Not really;
I love working with my fearful dogs. Seeing them face a situation with a big smile, that would previously cause them to fight or flight (depending on the dog :), is something that I wouldn't change for the world. There are few things in my life more satisfying than helping my dogs learn how to deal with their fears and truly live.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What that sequence was supposed to look like!

In my last post, I posted a video of a (failed :) sequence that I ran with Wall-e. I also ran this same sequence with Mika, but didn't post the video, so I decided to post it now to give you a better idea of what the sequence was supposed to look like.

We ran the same sequence two different days. This was our first try on June 3. I called her off the last jump to practice our call-offs; she did wonderful!:

And this is when we ran it on June 5 (the same day that Wall-e ran it in my previous post). I rewarded her early because she had a great A-frame even without her usual prop. (I usually put a jump bar at the end of the AF to help her hit it and retain her muscle memory, but this time I forgot.)

I still wasn't perfect, but
I'm so much more used to handling Mika than Wall-e, and you can tell! :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Our recent training

First off, I wanted to say a big thanks to everyone who gave me advice for our gambling and snookering skills (post here). I've been using everyone's suggestions with Mika during our training this past month!

We have a big trial coming up next weekend. Well, big for Wall-e; he'll be doing five runs for the first time (the most he's ever done at a trial is two, but he's done three at fun matches). 2 Starters Jumpers and 3 Starters Standards. It'll be his first time running in Standard, and his first time doing the A-frame and dog walk at a trial. Looking forward to it!! Mika will be doing a Masters Jumpers and a Masters Gamblers, although I might switch the Gamblers for a Snooker instead. It'll probably be hot next weekend, and I'm sure Mika won't be dying to run a 60-second Gamblers run in the stifling heat.

I've spent the last week preparing Wall-e for his Standard runs. His weaves have been funny lately; he's been popping out halfway through. So I've been training them with guide wires. Here is one of our reps from today (we did three in total, but this was the best):

We also ran a jump/tunnel/AF sequence that we ran on Friday as well. I need to learn how to handle and support my dog; I pulled Wall-e off a few jumps. Here's the sequence; I'd love to hear any suggestions:

I'm really happy with how much his table has improved, though! His elbows actually touch the table now, lol, and he's much more relaxed about it than he used to be (he used to occasionally lick his lips when he got on the table).

Then it was Mika's turn. She didn't get the 90 degree weave entry and she had a bit of trouble with the weaves in general. I don't think she likes the guide wires very much; I won't use them with her next time. On her third and final rep, she entered at the second pole and actually made the effort to weave UNDER all of the guide wires! Poor girl was trying so hard, haha; she weaved under the wires for the first 11 poles, which is when I just threw her food tube because I felt bad for her. But she still had some speedy weaves.

She also did great at the sequence and had a nice AF! We ran the sequence fast and clean.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mika and Wall-e trial May 27, 2011

I knew I was forgetting something! I forgot to post about this trial.

Wall-e ran first. This was Wall-e's second indoor trial; he did another Starters Jumpers run. The run was good, although he was pretty slow, for him. We NQ'd because of a missed jump.

Mika ran a Starters Snooker course. The opening included a teeter at a 90 degree entry, which Mika did WONDERFUL with!! So glad that all of our plank entry training is paying off. I forgot my opening and did two reds in a row, which got us whistled off! :)

This may have been our last indoor trial. I'll talk about that in a future post.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dogs: a misunderstood species

I just posted this on an aggression list that I belong to, in response to someone who said that the most respectful way to treat a dog is to "treat him like a dog," with corrections. I had to reply, and I thought I'd post my reply here because this is an issue that I feel very strongly about. I could discuss this for pages and pages, but I'll spare you all from that :) I'm always trying to learn more about dog behaviour, emotions, etc., and I don't consider myself an expert at all; but I feel so angry when I read about people who still believe the old-fashioned opinions on how to treat dogs.

Treating him "like a dog"? What does that mean exactly? How people treat dogs is often based on tradition, on history, on how their parents taught them, etc. Is using collar corrections treating him like a dog, or is rewarding behaviour with treats treating him like a dog? What about ear pinches, or on the opposite end of the scale, pleasant ear rubs?

I'm not sure if I've made my point or not, but I fail to understand the "traditional" belief that dogs need to be treated as little demons who always try to undermine our authority. If you watch, truly watch, dogs interacting with their people for any given length of time, you'll see that this is not the case.

At agility trials, I see countless misunderstood dogs. I see dogs who lunge at other dogs after showing stress signals, and receive a strict muzzle grabbing from their handler. I see dogs who trot around the ring, sniffing in an attempt to relieve their stress, after which their handler takes them off the course, berating them for "blowing them off." And I see the dogs who painfully walk through the course, appearing as though they would rather be anywhere else than in this stressful environment, but who bear it because they know they are not allowed to leave.

I have successfully diminished my Miniature Schnauzer's genetic-based reactivity to other dogs without any physical or verbal corrections whatsoever. My schnauzer used to start screaming and barking whenever she saw other dogs, whether they were two feet away or two hundred feet away; now, she sees a dog approaching her and turns to me.

Dogs understand reward-based training. What dogs don't understand is being grabbed, yanked, pinched, or jerked for simply being honest. Dogs are always honest, and they always try to communicate with us, but we humans often miss it -- unless we're looking.

I don't pretend to be an expert, but with all due respect, I do wish that people would try to consider the newer methods of dog training.

EDIT: And now I learn that the moderators of the list didn't even publish my response. Talk about bias.