2 Day Trials

Our consecutive weekends of agility finishsed up this last weekend with a 2 day UKI trial.
And I learned I absolutely should not be trying to do agility runs 2 days in a row with how sleep deprived I am.  Snooker was certainly a disaster on Sunday, sorry Vito.  If only Netta would stop waking up every hour!

Alas my goal of getting a standard Q or 2 with Zumi was not to be.  She was a pretty good Duck, but I feel we're not quite consistent yet in her handling.  Sometimes she feels very "sticky" and other times she's barely contained, and alternates in the same run.
Still, there was improvement from our last trials!  Zumi's "vulturing" start line was much improved! Still there, but responding to "sit" cues to get up.
 I'm working on it in practice with having her do a "Beg" before released but she can't do it yet with much distance.

Zumi's Master Series jumpers course was probably her best run of the weekend.  She even made up for some poor handling in the beginning when I wasn't quite moving fast enough.  The dropped bar was all my fault.

Her novice standard run on Sunday, some more bad handling as well!  So tired!

Vito was also very happy for his runs on Saturday.  Sunday was more meh.


Zumi's Dumbbell Progress

I have been continuing to work with Zumi on being in a more calm, thoughtful mode before being sent on her retrieves.  We are making progress with distance of the throw and starting to do a little bit more proofing with my body language and other cues before being sent.  The new critieria I've been working on are:
- No foot movement as I give the cue to wait
- Eye contact before being sent

And the new criteria for myself is remembering I changed her cue from "Get it" to "Fetch" in order to be more clear with my marker/reward cues.

This is a session from Zumi this past week.  She is still moving a foot in wanting to vulture when I give the wait cue for the beginnign reps each session. I  try to reset when I notice this.

When I add in other cues she sometimes whines in excitement although she is able to listen and do what I ask.  Since this is a sign of over arousal,  I try to go into calming mode with cookie scatters and sticky targets.  You can see this at 1.31 in the video below:

Zumi still has a long way to go before she's ready to take this into a trial setting again!


Back to Agility Trials

In a very rare move for us, we're actually doing 3 agility trials in a row this month!  Agility pretty much becomes non-existent for USDAA/UKI and I wanted to squeeze some trials in with Zumi.  She's had such a broken up year in being able to trial vs being on the sidelines!

1 day of UKI we did the first weekend of September.  In UKI we still need 2 Q's in standard to get out of novice, so I've been having fun doing the master heat challenge courses in addition to our quest in novice.  She's been spiraling upwards in intensity and just started the dreaded vulture again.  But on course she's mostly listening well and getting very close!  No standard Q's for us, but she did actually qualify in the master challenger jumpers run!

Then we did 2 days of USDAA this last weekend.  Vulturing continued on the startline, but she again impressed me with her focus on course.  Zero issues with visiting Grandma again!

Here was her master standard run on Sunday, NQ of course, although she did manage to qualify on Friday!

The biggest area of off courses can be narrowed down to serpentine type pushes.  She comes in but then doesn't go back out so well.
The same difficulty with finding jumps on weirdly angled lines.  Zumi just isn't experienced yet to push slighty off her path to them.

This coming weekend we are back for 2 days of UKI.  Seeking those standard Q's!


Evaluating our Automatic Leave its

When I train the service dogs, the task I work on the most is getting solid automatic leave its in the real world.  Without being given any cue such as leave it or watch me, the dogs have to learn to ignore dropped food on the floor, trash, and people excitedly calling out to the cute doggy in the store.

For the service dogs in public, they are kinda in a weird combination of being in "working mode" and "relaxed mode."  The distinction between those two modes is actually quite important in most dog's mind!  For many dogs, they can learn to leave distractions alone and focus on their handler when they know they are actively working.  A well-trained dog can heel right over tempting crumbs on the ground without even really registering they're there.  The dog is in the zone and has an active task to do.

But that same dog might really struggle with leaving distractions in their relaxed, every day life mode.  They're not actively working and tend to default into move really quickly before mom yells "leave it" mode.  That trash on the ground during a walk? Fair game!  You drop a kernel of popcorn on the couch, and watch all your dogs madly sprint for it!

For competition purposes, this sometimes means that dogs can struggle actually getting INTO the ring to work if they're not being 100% managed by their handler.  The dog knows they're not really working and they choose to seize the moment by staring and even lunging at what they want.

With some dogs, this distinction between working and not working is muddy even when actually in the competition ring.  Does the dog consider themselves "working" when you move to setup on the startline in agility?  Or in between exercises in obedience?  I focus a lot on these moments in my Ring Confidence classes as I find they are very common moments where dogs tend to tune out and focus on the environment.  The handler needs to learn how to stay connected with their dog during these moments and train the dog that this in between time is still a part of their "work."

Evaluating Your Expectations
Dogs are masters are reading enviornmental cues and learning when certain behaviors are expected of them and when they aren't.  Maybe you accidentally trained your dog that they only need to focus when they're on leash and you're looking at them.  Or perhaps your dog is great when at training centers, but has no clue about impulse control in your house.

The first thing to think about is if you actually care about your dog automatically focusing in each situation.  Maybe it doesn't bother you at all that your dog scarfs up anything that hits the ground when you're at home as long as they learned not to touch things on the counters.  But you decided that anytime your dog is on leash or actively doing a command, that is the cue you want for them to ignore distractions.  That's ok!

But maybe you looked at what you want and you realized you have huge contradictions.  It is much harder for your dog to learn it's ok to go after ice shooting out of the freezer's dispenser but it's not ok to sprint towards your dropped slice of ham in the kitchen, or your dropped pill bottle.  Maybe there's a simple work around solution such as you deciding it's fine for your dog to lick your plate when you are holding it for them, but you decide to start training them it's not ok to lick it/steal food when you set it on the coffee table or put it in the dishwasher.

Training For Better Impulse Control
So you decided you want to clean things up in one or more areas, great!  Since your dog already has thier own expectations of what to do in that context you will need to go back to the beginning.
Make it easier for the dog by putting them in "working mode" when you introduce your distractions.
Even consider giving them a very concrete task to do such as lying on a mat.    Reward heavily!

As you progress, keep looking at how they respond the first time.  Does your dog always fall for it on the start of each session and then quickly learn "it's a trap!"  That's pretty normal!  One way you can try to minimize that is to move between each repetition.  If you're working on heeling by pieces of fuzz on the ground then, after rewarding your dog, move to a completely different area of the ring and briefly do some other type of work before trying to go back to heeling by the fuzz.

You will also want to make sure to introduce surprise distractions as you train.  If your dog watches you walk out and set food on the floor that is a pretty big clue that you are setting up a proof for your dog!  But if you set the distraction out before you even get your dog out of their crate then you are much more likely to get some advanced level training in!  The more you purposefully set stuff out before the start of a session, the greater likelihood that your dog will start automatically thinking that stuff they stumble upon was a purposeful proof!

Here I set out an obvious target distraction for Vito.  The bigger distraction is actually easier than something smaller!  Progress to cutting out small squares of paper that look like cookie crumbles!  With Vito I am working on not just ignoring it when actively heeling, but continuing to ignore it as I do less formal play with him!  He shows that this work is still a challenge for him:

Getting the Real Life Leave It
A similar concept can be applied to working on impulse control when your dog is out of their working mode and in their relaxed/off duty mode.  One of the biggest clues to our dog that we're not really paying attention is eye contact.  Build up to practicing your distraction work when you're not actively staring at the dog!

Once your dog is a pro at learning to leave food you drop from the kitchen counter, start sly dropping a piece of food while your back is to the dog and you're pretending not to notice the fall.  Be ready to body block the food if you need to!

Is downtime your issue at training centers?  First, teach your dog a nice place to wait (maybe between your legs!) and then slowly start "ignoring" your dog while you talk to someone.  Reward heavily for your dog continuing to leave distractions when they think your attention is of them.  And remember that your dog isn't being bad, they are just learning a new skill!  Previously eye contact was their cue to ignore distractions, and now they are having to learn to do it in a new context!


Using Marker Cues

A loose goal I set for myself this year was to try to become more consistent with marker cues.  I was first introduced to the idea that markers, such as the clicker, are actual cues to the dog to do a behavior several years ago.

At first it's a weird concept.  Doesn't the marker just tell the dog the instant they earned a reward?  Yes!  But it also can be used to tell them so much more info such as exactly where to go to get that reward, or even what type of reward they earned.  When you think about the fact that one of the most powerful pieces in training is reward placement, this makes a ton of sense.  No matter how great your timing is, you can really struggle to train a behavior if your reward placement doesn't support it.

I believe I first heard of different marker cues through Fanny Gott a long time ago.  I remember being fascinated by the idea of having one marker cue tell the dog to turn around and grab a toy that was set behind them vs another marker cue tell the dog to come get a cookie in their hand, etc.  And then I promptly set that idea aside.  

Then a few years after that I was reintroduced again through Shade Whitesel.  Shade is like the Queen of Marker Cues and really lays out a great argument for how having multiple markers helps to reduce confusion in your training and reduces frustration when switching from food to toys and back again.  

I got excited again, but then it faded away.  It was kinda the same thing that I've done with other great ideas.  Recognize it's brilliance, think of it as excellent training, and then go eh it's hard to change.  I'm better at training the dogs than trying to train myself.  

Somehow at that point, I discovered I did indeed have different marker cues even if I wasn't super consistent and didn't think about it as such.  I already had 
- "yes" means come to my hand for a cookie
- "gooood" meaning wait there while I bring the cookie to you
- "get it"  meaning chase after the cookie, or the toy,  or grab the toy on the ground.  or their formal retrieve cue... :(
- "behind" used in heeling to tell them to duck behind me and get a cookie at my right leg.

But as I said, consistency just wasn't there.  I should technically always use "gooood" when I walked up to reward the dog at their go out spot instead of saying "yes."  But the dogs figured it out, they're amazing.

The problems with my "get it" cue didn't take a genius to figure out.

And even my "yes" cue should have been spot on right? But I abuse that one too by saying it as praise sometimes and not delivering a reward.

I certainly didn't have different markers for food vs toy reward.  

But as time progressed I found myself instructing others just how useful it would be to have at least a room service cue (Thanks Hannah Brannigan for that great term for waiting there while the reward comes!).  And then as I saw some teams struggle with their dog wanting to run off to their reward at a distance when they just praised the dog, I started recommending really training a remote reward cue too.  Clarity.  
Random dog picture.

So this year I tried to tackle myself.  I still have a long way to go towards consistency, but I'm at least more conscious of my cues.  I sat down and wrote out what I want their meanings to be.  I haven't yet tackled food vs toy, but I'm at least making the effort right?!
- "yes" = reward from hand
-"goood" = wait there for cookie to be brought to your mouth
- "get it" = chase reward tossed
" cookies" = send to reward bowl on the ground
- "behind"= duck behind me and get a reward at my right leg (whew, didn't have to change anything!)
- "Jackpot"= Sit while I get the reward that's located off my body and usually out of the working area.

This has also meant changing my formal retrieve cue.  Zumi's retrieve is no longer "Get it" but is now "Fetch."  


Trials, Training, and More Dogs

I've not been so great at updating the blog lately!  Let's give a quick recap of things I've been working on this month.

Zumi's been working hard at learning to give me eye contact and not start the vulture before being sent on retrieves.

She also did an AKC rally trial last weekend, her first two times in advanced.  I was eager to see if she would handle the environment of AKC better than her last trial all the way back in October.  The great news is that I didn't see any of the small stress signs I saw back then!  Her run on Saturday was everything I could hope for.  She did struggle with doing the halt-call front exercise but that was not a surprise to me.  While Zumi does have a beautiful pivot to front, I've noticed that lately she's been doubting the verbal cue and just twitching instead.

On Sunday's run her focus entering the ring and even ignoring a delightfully chatty judge was excellent!  However, she seemed to think that the "fast" sign meant that we were suddenly doing agility and she should look for something to send to.  I called Zumi back as she started to take off, but as soon as she returned the lightbulb went off in her little head and she proudly went forward again to do an "out" around a sign.  Other than her creativity, I was happy with her focus and clearly confident performance.

I hope to enter another AKC rally trial next month as a stepping stone to getting her ready for AKC obedience.  Our club's trial is in October and I'm debating about entering Zumi in novice obedience then, or just continuing our rally route for a few more trials.

Vito has been working on his fronts with a retrieve item.  Something that's never been 100% and has steadily declined over the years.  I cringe as he always comes in close and straight and then right as he begins a sit he suddenly decides to shuffle back a half step.  I  have no idea why.  He never does that without an item in his mouth of course.

I'm trying an experiment with him involving a chin rest.  It would be an easier experiment if the way I teach their retrieves didn't involve an automatic drop into a held out hand as an informal delivery option...  But we are making progress.  Mainly he needs to learn how to target and then do a tucked sit vs the rock back shuffle.

And this week we got a visitor!  Nala is an 8 month old Labrador puppy!  Another service dog in training of course.  She needed an evaluation and some training as she had really been struggling with life behind bars.  Nala was in our prison program, but it was determined not to be a good fit for her.

So welcome Nala!  I'm not sure how long we will have her for, current plan is a few weeks.

Zumi is in love. She lets Nala get away with all sorts of stuff she never lets other dogs even think about.  Sadly for me, this means they have been playing in the house.  Our house is so tiny that I really prefer the dogs only wrestle or chase outside.  Especially with a crawling baby now!  This usually isn't a problem since my only player is Zumi and her play style is usually more chase than wrestle. Well with Nala she's been more open.  I'm hoping that things settle down once the novelty wears off.

Nala is proving to be a very sweet, gentle girl yet still extremely puppyish!  Between Nala, Yummy, and another lab foster we had last week, it's becoming clear while labs are such great family dogs.  The dynamic between them and Netta is very different than with the other dogs.  I'm still doing a lot of management and making sure Netta isn't grabbing them, but I swear the labs are almost begging to be poked by a child.


Fixing the Vulture

If you read Zumi's trial report of her first experience in the Open obedience class, her biggest issue was over excitement and anticipation with the retrieves.  She was like a little red border collie as she hunkered way down, just twitching to be sent.

I recently spayed her and with the restrictions, it was a great time to work on just being still!
I divided up the issue into 2 goals.

1. Maintaining a straight posture as I cue the wait and go to toss the dumbbell.
2. Offer eye contact after watching the dumbbell fall in order to be released.

Good Posture
The first goal of sitting straight I tackled first.  Zumi doesn't have the issue with me tossing cookies so I went straight to the dumbbell.  Just holding it out and rewarding Zumi if her front paw didn't move forward, always her first move before she really hunkers down.  I would immediately take the db back to my body if the paw moved and re-cue her to sit.

Essentially this just became a version of doggy zen with me moving my arm back and forth in a tossing motion.  I'm not sure how much Zumi knew it was posture I was working on and not eye contact, but I got a 2 for 1 deal.

Eye Contact Before Sending
These last few days as Zumi has been allowed to do more activity, I've moved on to actually requiring eye contact before being sent to retrieve.

My first sessions were very short retrieves where I didn't throw, but gently set out the db on the ground.  This setup was fairly easy for Zumi as it was reminiscent of our work with remote rewards.  Zumi knows that she always needs to give eye contact before getting a reward at a distance.

It did become slightly harder once Zumi knew she was being sent to the db though.  Typically when I work with rewards at a distance, I am the one to go and actually get the reward vs sending the dog to it.  I find this works better for the obsessive tollers for me to have 100% of their brain in training vs some of it on the reward itself.  So once Zumi was being sent to the db on the ground it became a little problem to work through.  But the small distance and lack of throwing was still very doable.

I have recently started throwing the db short distances for Zumi.  This is where getting eye contact has been very difficult.  Zumi's hunt training, although limited, I need her to keep looking straight at her marks until sent or given another cue to turn away.  She will be able to learn the difference in context, but it is not an easy task for her!

I don't require my other dogs to give me eye contact before released after watching a thrown mark, but with Zumi I feel this is crucial to helping her anticipation issues when over excited!

Here was today's session with Zumi and her dumbbell.  Notice I warm up a little bit with posture work, but also let that slide while focusing on the eye contact department!  I'm a little greedy and throw too far here :(

The quick version:

The full session for those who care:


New Website- Online Lessons!

I recently took the jump into making a more formal website for my dog training.  And because I didn't want to feel left out of all the cool trainers having offical business names, I made up one too.

Introducing Tandem Dog Sports

I even used photoshop for my first time!

The big news is that I'm opening up my private lessons to more people and offering them online.
That means people can purchase an hour, or multiple hour blocks, of time for video review and feedback.  It might look something like this:

  • You send me video of a behavior you're training and some notes.
  • I look at the video and spend some time writing suggestions on how to improve or what the next step is.  I keep track of the amount of time I spent working on my feedback.
  • You respond with anything that needs clarifying.
  • I reply back.
  • You send me a new video on the behavior or switch to a new behavior.
  • Repeat the cycle.

This continues until an hour of my time spent on feedback is up!


Open Vulture Dog

This weekend was the CDSP obedience trial and Zumi's graduation from Novice into Open.  As I wrote earlier, I knew we had some precision issues to work on and some possible anticipation issues.

Preview: Watch the 1st video to see her best run . The 2nd video if you want to see her extra high.  And the 3rd to see my attempts at handling her differently.

Friday was an evening trial and she had one run.  In many ways, I was surprised with how much effort into precision she was giving me.  Not a single thought of running a victory lap on the retrieves.  Jumped long on the broad, but not in a spiraling out of control way.
Vulturing big time on the retrieves.  That itself wasn't a huge surprise to me as she occasionally does it in practice when extra excited. But I was very surprised by the extra intensity of it.  I was praying the judge released her quickly as Zumi wasn't just vulturing but was teetering off the edge of control.
And a mini scream before the go out, what was that?!  My multiple stay cues before the exercises started weren't exactly great handling!

She qualified in this run, but only because her anticipation on the1st retrieve went unnoticed.

Sunday we were back for 2 more attempts in Open.
Attempt #1 Zumi was even higher.  I didn't really think that was possible with her.  The good part was that she wasn't thinking about anticipating the finishes.  The scary part was all her squeals on each send.
And major anticipation on the ROH.  She did catch herself though and I paused for awhile before sending her.  Clear NQ.

Attempt #2
I had no idea if Zumi would naturally settle in a bit more with a 2nd run or if she would  get even higher.  My plan was to try to calm her as much as possible in our warmup.  I did lots of walking outside with her.   Had her out for her crate quite a bit longer before her run.  At first it was just sitting on the ground with her, then I got the idea to see if someone had a snuffle mat.  I had Zumi search for treats in the snuffle mat for several minutes.  Unfortunately she's not really used one before as I've primarily used it with Vito.  So Zumi did some sniffing for cookies, but also just offered lots of her sad chin down trick.  At least we did some slow cookie delivery games to try to center her.

On her squish release into the ring I also handled it differently by asking for a sticky target instead of leaping heeling.

The downside of all these calming changes was that we weren't really connected in our heeling.  I think partly due to Zumi not being used to this way of starting work, and partly due to Zumi needing more drive to focus as well in heeling.  She was a bit unfocused and hesitant, and even did some right sided heeling attempts.

The positive side was that Zumi seemed slighlty more in control on the other exercises. We did lots of sticky targets in between exercises to try and connect in a calm way.  No anticipation, but still vultured a lot.  No screams until the go out.

Qualified for her 2nd leg in Open!
Pretty obvious on what we're going to be working on the next few months!!!  Although Zumi is getting spayed next week so we will be on a bit of a hold again for a few weeks...

Vito also did one run on Friday and one run on Sunday, both Utility.  On Friday I was thrilled with how eager he was to warmup with me.  Very driven Toller!  Inside the ring he melted a bit on the stand for exam.  Not easy to start out with that when he has judge issues!  
And then he searched for the steward again on the first glove retrieve, just like the last trial.  On the 2nd glove send he did great.  
Go outs were hard for Vito to mark as he fixated on our videographer.  Someone he still pulled it together and went out straight.
Articles were odd.  I thought he did nice calm sniffing, but he brought back the wrong one.  I played with him and told him he was brilliant anyway.
Good signals!

On Sunday Vito was calmer.  Took a long time to choose to engage with me outside of the ring.  Despite that, I was thrilled with the level of play he gave me in the ring!  Unfortunately we had the same order of exercises, so the moving stand was up first.  This judge was quite a bit peppier (yay for happy judges!) but was also more "involved."  Vito seemed to have a harder time with her.

More glove issues in trial 2.  Going out happily on both sends, but then freezing over them and staring back at me.  We have done so much work on happy glove games since the last trial and it just puzzles me....

I did leather this time for scent articles and he was correct but was tasting each one.  

No more CDSP trials for the rest of the year I think :(  So Zumi will attempt some AKC rally and Vito will just be on hold until the next CDSP trial..


Ready to Trial?

I'm getting excited for a CDSP trial coming up this weekend!  Zumi will be doing open for the first time and I'm extra thrilled to be done with novice.  I'm not one to sit around in novice forever trying for a 200, although at least CDSP's version is more fun than AKC's!

Is she ready?  Well that depends on what you mean by ready.
Focus in different places- check.
Happy attitude- check.
Confident with the exercises, in different locations- check.
Confident without a high rate of rewards and with the reward set away- check.
Used to formality- check.

The rest is a bit muddy still.  There's about a 30% chance she will *think* about doing a victory lap on the first dumbbell throw, and a 10% chance she will actually do it.  But it would be a happy, oh I thought it was a toy, victory lap at least ;)

There's also about the same chance she will go wheeee and stride very, very long with the running broad jump before turning back to do her front.  The CDSP version is x1000 more fun Zumi says.

Oh and maybe the mini go out will be veered off the right, and the drop on recall will be a bit slow, or since I sent in the entry she of course is beginning her experimentation now with the occasional anticipation of the drop.

Fronts and finishes are of course a lifetime work in progress.

There's a ton of things that may not meet that perfect picture.  But I am still confident in my decision to enter her.  Zumi really does know the exercises well.  I know what errors may crop up, and if they rear their head they will be errors of enthusiasm.  And most importantly, I'm not worried about any mistakes ruining her confidence or making the problem worse.  Her focus and happy attitude are going to be there.  And if need be, I'll give her the extra support that CDSP allows.

All that being said, I'm still not entering Zumi in AKC obedience at this point.  Based on Zumi's reaction to the more stressful atmosphere that hangs in the air at local AKC trials, I'm holding off.  I need more practice with Zumi being confident in more pressure filled environments.  I am entering an AKC rally trial in a few weeks to test the waters as I think she's getting closer to that goal.  Rally is shorter, I can support her more, and she doesn't seem to mind the start/stop design of rally.

In the meantime, I've been trying to continue my goal of training in different locations.  This week I visited a park to see if Zumi could happily choose to work near kids playing.  Zumi's not so sure about screaming children!

This basketball court near the playground, and a tennis court, was a great place for Zumi to work. I think there was a day camp as there seemed to be a billion children, but she wasn't worried about the kids at all with the distance.  I chose to keep the work very simple to reward her.  Actually I went all the way back to simple ring entrance setups! After a few minutes of ring confidence fun I did do a tiny bit of more "work" with her.

I also took Vito out for a turn and was thrilled that he was able to work with me there too.  They even started playing tennis immediately to the side of the basketball area and Vito was able to watch the players and then turn back to me.  That would have been major Toller Screaming a few years ago!  Or even on a different day?!  I stuck purely with very basic ring entrances here so as not to push too hard.


Getting Out in Public

I've never been that great about getting out and actually training the dogs in public.  I use the training club about once a week and then at least in the summer I try to train in the yard several times a week.
Actually going beyond our comfy, easy, places into the real world just doesn't happen much.  And of course now I have a built in excuse with the whole baby thing ;)

But going out is exactly what Vito needs to keep working on his choice to work.  And while Zumi generally can work pretty much anywhere if I have her rewards, she really needs more opportunities to become comfortable in challenging environments.

So I am committing myself to going out in public for training at least once a week with the dogs.  Mainly I've been going to to a little plaza that's not typically very crowded.  On this day there were some people seated in a patio behind us, but traffic was extra low due to the road being temporarily closed on this side of the plaza.

This was Zumi's first experience working while I was babywearing.  I let her forge a bit more because of it!  After I started working with her in this session I kicked myself for not forcing more acclimation time on her.  Zumi waited in the car while I had a meeting and  I wanted to get a quick session in before going home.  She always wants to work quickly but I usually don't let her work so soon.  Zumi had about 8 minutes of waiting at the table while I took Vito out, but I don' think that was enough for her based on her behavior here.  Subtle little things that you feel more then you see.

I do ask her to take a break at the 3:20 min mark here, and then remember she needs a more formal down for that.

At the 6min mark I work on some of her drop on recall issues that have recently cropped up.  Zumi has started anticipating the drop cue in our practice sessions!  Because of that I've been choosing to drop her pretty late on the recall. You can see she's slow and thinking very hard!

Vito was with me at the meeting so had a long time of getting used to being out, even though our meeting was still on the other side of the building.  I still rushed things a bit with him and ultimately lose Vito when our flow was broken.

Vito has been getting much, much better about working in public with me.  But there are still those sessions where he just isn't ready.  If I were to get out cookies and really show them to Vito I can get his attention easily even if I put them back away, but that's the not the real engagement I'm looking for.

For those who like watching long videos of dog training, here is a recent session of Vito working where he was much more UP and engaged.  At the 4.5min mark I switch to having the rewards of my body altogether.


1000th Post- Podcast!

I just discovered that after journaling for over 8yrs I am now on my 1000th post!  Does anyone want to send me cake to celebrate?

So I also did this podcast thingy.  Very hard for me to be social, but I did it!  More cake please.
I actually couldn't bring myself to listen to it for 4 days.  But I finally did and now I'm sharing it with you guys.

Seriously, if you haven't already checked out this podcast and subscribed you should do so now.  Lots of great trainers and way better at this thing than me.

And on that note, the August schedule at FDSA  is insane.  SO many good classes that I have no idea how I'm going to choose.  Honestly.  Sara Stremming's class on shut down dogs?! Amy Johnson's class on action photography?!  And Deb Jones is even teaching a class for training cats!  I'm pretty sure my evil kitty would love getting cookies instead of having to steal whatever he can.

Of course I'm also teaching a class for obedience foundations called TEAM 1.  If you ever wanted to teach an independent backup I already have that as my sample lecture for you to get started!



UKI trial this Saturday with the tollers.  Many thanks to Grandma coming along to watch Netta!  She got to experience eating astrotuf, napkins, and Grandma's shoe. Good job Netta.

Zumi had 4 runs and only had a single off course all day, the very first run.  She even did well with choosing to focus in the ring and not running off to see Grandma!  We stationed Grandma right at the entrance for each run so that she knew exactly where she was located and it was close by.  Who knows whether that new protocol helped Zumi or whether it was just maturity.

Sadly the one run Zumi actually needed to qualify in was novice standard.  While I was very proud of that run, she missed her dogwalk contact.  On a straight exit to a tunnel too, drat!

I had Zumi entered in the masters heat challenge runs for fun again.  Very wide on most turns but listening and even putting up with some late front crosses on my part.  A knocked bar on jumpers and a refusal on standard cost her Q's, but since it's time plus faults she actually placed first in her height and earned me a tiny cash prize!

Vito and I were a bit more out of sync.  Silly little things, mainly on my part.  And while he seemed to run pretty happy and decently fast on most his runs in the ring, he had trouble engaging and getting excited out of the ring.

Next agility trial won't be until August now!


Right Sided Heeling with The Corgi

I can't believe it's been over 2 months since I started training right sided heeling with The Corgi.  2 months, and sadly not many sessions and thus results.

Lance still needs work on his pivots and doodles, but his forging is way down.  It's a bit difficult for him to physically do the pivoting now so I try not to do it too much.

So mainly I've started to work on forward motion.  It was no shock that his natural tendency of forging keeps trying to rear its head, but the wideness Lance has been showing was a surprise!  I've been working on doing a pivot before each reward to get Lance in the habit of moving in towards me.  Eventually when wideness is the problem I'll throw in a moving side step each time, but he's not quite ready for that.

The horse flies are just starting to appear at home and The Corgi thinks they are his mortal enemy.  I don't disagree, but I've never taken it to the point where I don't want to come off the porch!  Thus I'm really proud of Lance for doing a training session out in the yard yesterday.  You can see how hard he thinks about it after each cookie!

So not quite there with pretty heeling on the right, but he's having fun getting to learn something new!


Masters Debut

I took the tollers up for a USDAA agility trial this past weekend.  Zumi had just about 3 weeks back of practice since her maternity leave, and of course her first trial in 3 months.  I fully expected Feral Duck.  And since she earned her advanced title at the last trial, this would be her first time in masters.

I got Zumi out loads of time before her 4 runs to walk around the area.  She desperately needed it.  Wild Child.  I was grateful it was an outdoor trial so we could do all that walking without bothering others.  But all the acclimation time paid off!  Her first run of the day, gamblers, she was only semi-feral. Didn't keep her stop on the teeter and did a bonus loop up the dogwalk, but overall listened well.  Almost made the gamble, but did a 15ft send out to the backside instead of taking the um obvious approach to the jump.

The remaining 3 runs she listened very well!  Even got her very first master Q in snooker with a 50pt run.  Here are Zumi's snooker run and so close run in standard:

Vito ran 4 runs as well.  Seemingly happy and running decently well until quite a bit slower on the last run of the day.  Now that Zumi is running the same course it's fun to compare times.  Vito also failed this standard run by taking the wrong end of the tunnel, but it's fun to compare Zumi's run above with Vito's:


Yummy- retrieve pt3 Victory!

Mission accomplished!

That was Yummy a few days ago, showing off her hold, pickup and hold (with help of target to leg!), and retrieve of a metal canning ring.  Round of applause to Yum Yum.

I've spent these last 2 weeks with Yummy working on getting her to pick up a variety of items and deliver them to my hand.  At first, it was rewarding lots of flings and maybe getting her to deliver the item to my hand after a couple of reps (or sessions).

Today was the first time she worked with 2 brand new objects and on the very first attempt she confidently picked them up and put them right in my hand.  Extra mission accomplished.

Well, really she would still have a long way to go if she were to be a mobility service dog.  Besides the other tasks she would need to learn or keep fine tuning, the retrieve really isn't done yet either.  More items would need to be conquered from the small to heavy to awkwardly shaped.  The hold would need to be generalized more.  And while Yummy has always been easy about generalizing skills to new locations, this would need more attention.

Yummy doesn't need to learn a formal front and hold like she would for obedience.  But just for fun I've trained her to find front with the help of a platform.  And I gave her one single lesson in combining her hold with her find front exercise just to see how she would do.  Good girl Yummy!

And now that I've accomplished my personal mission with her, we're sending her off!  Yummy will now "officially" be in for final training and live at the facility while the trainer works on getting to know her and finding her a good match.  More than likely she will be placed as an easy going autism assist dog!  Wish her luck on her upcoming journey!


16 inches!

This past Friday, Vito ran for the first time in an agility trial at 16 inches.  We've only done 1 practice at that height so I'm still not used to how low it feels.  A big leap from the 22in he was at last year!  Technically he's eligible to even go to 14in in USDAA performance but I'm definitely not ready for that!

His first two runs of the days, jumpers and MC jumpers, didn't seem all that different in attitude.  Same old Vito.  Happy but not really putting on the burners.  Qualifying easily.
And then his next two runs, standard and MC standard, he really went fast!  Granted I can't really say the difference is due to the lower height as Vito always loves his standard courses over jumpers!  But he was happy to the point of being a little naughty and doing the wrong tunnel entrance in both standard classes!

I look forward to running him at this new height for awhile!  And I admit part of my want to lower him is so that when Zumi gets to start trialing again I won't have 2 dogs both running masters in the 20in class.  We don't exactly have huge classes in USDAA and UKI around here!

Which brings me to Zumi!!!  My girl is back :)

She may have been referred to as a "4 week Momma" by her breeder.  Did well with the puppies, but definitely being way more interested in whatever else was happening around that time.  Zumi didn't want no free loaders!

We've resumed training obedience without much of a hitch other than seemingly forgetting to how to find a straight front and pivot in front.  As soon as she's a little less endowed I'm excited to get back to agility too!


Yummy Retrieve pt 2- More Problem Solving

Yummy, the service dog in training, and I are still working on that retrieve.  It's been about 12 days since our last update where I shared our progress on trying to get movement and a short stationary hold.

I'm happy to share that we now have a few steps of forward movement after picking up the dumbbell.  Yummy can pick it up and walk forward about 4ft to put it inside my bucket, or right at the edge of it.  Remember, my goal with the bucket/platform isn't really to teach a clean up at this point but more to use as a reward station to help Yummy develop a pattern.  The location you reward tends to act as a magnet!
Her consistency still isn't quite there as she regresses into flinging sometimes, and fairly frequently Yummy also just does a quick grab and immediate drop.  But with Yummy it's pretty darn big progress!

In the meantime, I was also able to slightly progress Yummy's hold so that she would pick it up off the ground directly in front of me and hold it briefly in a stand.  This was incredibly hard for her and often resulted in Yummy lying down while doing her hold or just dropping it immediately.  I was seeing too much avoidance behaviors as well.

So I abandoned our stationary hold practice except for the occasional rep while I remain holding it or she's holding it while doing a chair visit.  Then, since Yummy had started to get the concept of aiming, just a little bit, to her bucket or platform, I tried to see if just using her platform training and always rewarding in a sit would help her.  Pick up dumbbell, drop in front of platform or just barely on it, complete the "front" to get her cookie.  Hoping the reward placement and the chain itself would start to come together.  It might have helped if I stuck with it longer, but I switched tactics.

I realized that what Yummy was really struggling with was being able to lift her head UP.  Most dogs at this point I've been able to place my hands together in a big cup as I move backward.  I can shape them pretty easily in aiming for my hands with the help of my movement guiding them.  But once again Yummy needs something different.  So I started working with her "visit" to the chair cue as being her new target.  Tiny lift off ground, reward placed on the chair, and then cues to visit in between reps.  Here I liked what I started to see.

Today for the first time I added myself into the picture.  Review pick up and put it on the chair (which still needs practice by itself), and then I sat in the chair and worked on visit to my lap instead of to the chair.


All the Utility!

Agility on Saturday, back to obedience on Sunday.  I love my Toller :)  CDSP obedience of course, no AKC meltdowns here.

Vito was a very good Toller.  A bit worried about the judge at the start but as soon as we started the short heeling pattern CDSP has on signals he did so with great energy and focus.  And did his signals!  We continually work so hard on trying to make downs fun for Vito, they're just not his thing.

A bit more distracted during article setup, but then he lasered his eyes into me during the long delay as I think the judge tried to flip the article the other way.  I admit his intense focus during that wait was my favorite part of the run.

On go outs every dog got sucked into where the article pile was in the corner.  I've done gloves to the corner followed by go outs, but apparently not articles there before!  I was proud to see Vito go straight!  And then got sucked into that corner when I cued the sit.  On the 2nd send he made sure to ignore my sit cue as well to go touch the gate... twice.  Smart Toller.

Gloves were the best he has ever done in a trial.  Actually pivoted well!  And we have been working hard on making gloves fun after some weird avoidance issues since the last trial so I was relieved not to see that show up here.

Finally on the moving stand Vito stood very well for what seemed like an extra thorough exam!  Hesitant coming in again on the call to heel so something to work on I guess.

A Q in Utility!

Mr. Corgi also got to play.  We did his usualy WCRL rally run in level 3.  For whatever reason he was actually quiet for the entire first half of the run!  No barks on the pivoting!  And then his corgi sass came out for the 2nd half...

I also entered Lance in Utility for the first time since his retirement.  Not expecting much since well you actually have to practice to qualify.  But Corgi always loved to show.

Lots of great moments, and some sass of course.  
On Signals Lance did his down which made me so happy since that was one point that did stress him out about utility.  And then he said he knew the pattern and went straight to his sit.  I wasn't sure what to do there, so I gave a sit signal anyway and smiled when he lifted his butt so he could sit again :)

Articles showed his old habit of grabbing so fast that it just falls out of his mouth a few steps later.  But good boy.

On go outs Lance got sucked into that pesky article spot like the others.  Ignored my cue to sit and just came to me on the first one.  On the 2nd one he sat, and then started to go while the judge was talking to me about what I wanted to do.  I tried to signal the far jump but I admittedly didn't cue it with my normal eye flick and pause first.  Not surprised he just came to me.

Gloves were also pretty good on the pivot.  I underrotated a bit as I was rusty too and forgot that usually ended up happening to me in trials.  I had to always do a 2 step pivot towards #3 in a trial to get lined up correctly even though I never had issues in practice.  It probably helped him though as the other dogs couldn't find the glove behind the poles.

The moving stand had naughty forging and then not actually staying.  Eh.

I do miss showing The Corgi.


Vito IAC!

We took a drive down to Rochester on Saturday for the UKI trial.  Vito needed a lowly 2 points in jumpers, a single Q, to earn his IAC- the championship title in UKI.

I signed up for the first 3 runs of the day so it would be another short adventure.  2 Speedstakes runs and then his jumpers run.  Vito was pretty happy on all 3 but not as intense as he has been the last 2 trials.

Jumpers Q!

No victory lap.  I started to do one with Vito but he was confused and went to his leash right away :)  Good boy buddy, you know the routine.

Both speedsteakes runs before it were also qualifying.  Consistent Vito.

And now he is likely done with 20in jumps.  Down to 16in.  I didn't make any promises to Vito so there's a small chance I might go for a single Q in USDAA jumpers to finish up his Jumpers Championship title, but at this point I'm not really feeling compelled.

Netta came along too for her first agility trial.  Only a little fussy, mostly content to be held and walked around, and take a few little naps.  I wish she had taken a few more notes on the agility handling for future reference.


Yummy- Teaching a Retrieve

We have had Yummy for 3 weeks now, working on teaching her some mobility and autism skills.  Her temperament is greatly suited for autism assist work but I like all the service dogs to also be introduced to some of the basic mobility tasks as well as actually learning some sharper obedience tasks such as pivot skills for heel and side, moving downs, etc.  It's also possible that Yummy might not pan out for autism work due to her body sensitivity issues in wearing a bigger backpack that she would need for that placement.

So we are working on quite a few tasks.  The biggest hurdle for Yum Yum is her retrieve.  Last summer I spent weeks getting her to pick up a fleece rope and then just started to get her to levitate a dumbbell.  I have taught a LOT of retrieves to different dogs, not just labs and goldens(!), and by far Yummy has been the slowest.  When Yummy returned to her puppy raiser she was actually biting both objects and lifting them off the ground a few inches, but that was it.  Luckily this time she did at least pick right back up with where she left off.  I had levitation of a rope right away and just a few sessions later I had the dumbbell moving a few inches off the ground.  This was Yum from last summer, working on not just opening her mouth but actually getting teeth on her rope and db.  I remembered wanting to get video to show how hard it was with her db, but easier with the softer rope:

And now I've spent 2.5 weeks trying to get movement.  Any movement at all of Yummy being able to take a step or even turn her head with the object.  Baby, baby steps.  With dogs like Yummy I almost always use a reward station so the dog has a predictable spot to get their reward.  Just like how a dog will start to crab out in heel position if you always feed in front of your body, I wanted Yummy to think about moving towards the reward station with her dumbbell in prediction of food delivery!  Usually I use a bucket, but I also did some experimentation with a platform.

We are finally to the point where she can usually do head turns without dropping the dumbbell.  And if I put the dumbbell in a bit of a chute she can back out a step or two with it.  It's progress.  Eventually, my goal is for the dog to purposefully put the object in/on the reward station, to clean up, but for right now it's all about reward placement!

Yummy is also working on a hold.  Typically I don't introduce any stationary holds until after I have a decent retrieve to hand.  I backchain many things, but not my retrieve.  But with Yummy already spending quite a bit of time (well, compared to the amount of time I will have with her to try to finish it) on the retrieve, I wanted to see if it would be a better approach.

Again I chose to deviate from my usual first approach to hold training.  Since I teach dogs to tug back when biting a dumbbell to promote a strong grip, I've never been able to teach a hold with my hands on it.  Even with my own dogs, they can be given an item to hold and then can remain holding while I reach back to put my hands on it.   But if I try to give it to them and want a hold without me letting go first it's just not going to happen!
Since I hadn't gotten to that stage of tug back on the db yet with Yum Yum and didn't see it being a fast process with her, I decided to do mutual holding.  Actually I made it a 3 way with me, Yummy, and a chair to use for a chin rest.  Yummy does kinda know a chin rest to my palm, but I wanted a free hand to use reverse luring as well.  Of course :)

This was Yummy's 2nd and 3rd lesson working on a hold with chin rest:



When Zumi left to whelp her puppies I decided to grab another dog for the household.  Can't be short a dog for too long!  When I told the service dog organization that I was looking to foster for a few weeks they called in Yummy to start her "final training" with me.  Yummy just turned 2yrs old and is a golden/lab mix.

I had done her evaluation and training for several weeks last summer when I was working so already knew her pretty well.  Very sweet, calm, eager to please, maybe not the brightest bulb, but loves kids.  And she has the most amazing house manners of any dog ever to enter my house.  Has never once picked up one of Netta's toys into her mouth, somehow she came knowing the difference between dog toy and baby toy even when I struggle to see the difference.  Never ever jumps up when excited. And doesn't try to steal my food even when I walk away.  Just amazing.

And I know you're thinking that she's a service dog in training so it's to be expected.  But it doesn't work that way, they are still dogs.  Teenaged dogs.  And in a completely new house.  Our service dogs have solid temperaments for handling chaotic environments and like to please, but usually, they still do a lot of rule testing!  Yummy may not know a lot of  "skills" but wow are her manners good!


3 Weeks Old

Zumi's two girls are 3 weeks old now!  We went to visit everyone on Monday to cuddle the cuteness and I not so secretly wanted adorable pictures of puppies with Netta.

Well the lighting was dark and Netta was uncooperative.  She did let me take a few photos before demanding being cuddled, but not quite as I planned!  Puppies are always fun though.  And fat.  Very fat.



Netta's feelings.

And a lot of trying to eat the ground, her hands, and puppies.

No smiles.

At least somewhat cooperative at times.

To those curious, no we are still not taking home a puppy!  Super cute, but I want a little bit older baby and more space between dog ages.
Sadly my plan of breeding Zumi when that time to get a puppy comes closer is not going to happen.  Due to her progesterone levels needing to be supported and then some difficulty in birthing she's not going to have any more litters.  It's really ok. There are plenty of choices out there for future litters!

I can't wait to get my Zumi back next month and resume our training!


Vito UKI

Vito got to be the only trial dog again this past Sunday as I headed to a UKI agility trial.  Weird without having Zumi there!  I only entered him in 2 runs as Vito is one jumpers Q short of getting his UKI championship title.  He already has all the points he needs, just not the right distribution of points.

It was not to be.  Vito was very happy, very fast for him, and I absolutely loved his jumpers run.  But he skipped the 3rd pole on his weaves.  I don't think he has made a weave pole error in a trial in....  well I actually had to consult my record book where I have a spreadsheet of faults.  2013 was the last with a single run unless we count one run last year where he slipped in the weaves and popped out.
Oh well.

Vito's next run was speedstakes and he was still super happy, fast, and qualified easily.

I'm still thrilled with how fast Vito was running in his 2 runs.  I am hoping this great streak he is on continues!  And now Vito will force me (because I"m greedy!) to go to Rochester for the next UKI trial.  I was going to go to a closer USDAA trial that weekend but now I want another shot at getting his title.  And then most likely I'm going to move Vito down to 16in in UKI.  I love how he looks at 20 so I'm not in a rush, but man Vito is looking old these days.


Training Right Sided Heeling

Since Lance is pretty much done with his formal training for sports I've tried to still keep up with training.  He still wants to work even if his body no longer cooperates as well as it used to.  In my attempt at increasing my motivation I occasionally come up with goals to work on.

Recently I decided I want to train Lance to actually heel on my right side.  Technically Lance "knows this" to the point that if rally required right sided work (and I think the new AKC rally class does!) Lance could easily pass under rally scoring.  But it wouldn't be pretty.  So much forging and crabbing!  Does anyone remember how Lance used to be a good body length ahead of me, looking over his shoulder at me, during his normal left sided heeling?!

So I'm going to clean it up.  And that means going all the way back to heeling foundations.  Since Lance has a history of being really pushy it's going to be a lot slower going than starting fresh with a dog.  Zumi learned both left and right side at the same time and while her right side work is a little rusty, the foundations are solid so it wouldn't be hard to clean up.  Vito is kinda in between.  His foundations on the right were at one point pretty solid, but now well I've created an obsessive and pushy monster over the years in attempts to work on his motivation.

The way I teach heeling to the majority of dogs who are relatively easy to motivate is through pivot work foundations.  Stand on a perch and rotate, rotate, rotate.  Then the same thing without the perch.  Lots of rear end work going towards me.  I almost always start heeling with pivots, side steps, and backing up long before I add a single forward step.  The emphasis is on holding position with small changes in direction.

Lance's occasional sessions are still focusing hard on those small doodles.  The biggest progress so far is that his attempts at forging are WAY less.  Mostly this is due to reward position.  I did a lot of feeding behind my back with each cookie.  Now I usually don't feed quite so far back, but when I remember to I pass the cookie from my left hand to my right hand behind my back instead of passing in front.

This session on Friday I tried one of my first steps of forward moving.  I planned to counteract each forge with a pivot, but I see that Lance isn't quite proficent at doing his pivots out of motion vs starting from a standstill.  Oh and I'm completely ignoring the error of his butt being behind me right now as we work on not crabbing out.  The opposite error is ok for now!


Using a Snuffle Mat to Lower Arousal in Training

Snuffle mats seem to be all the rage recently.  For those who are unfamiliar with what a snuffle mat is, it's a rubber mat with short strands of fleece tied on the mat to make a very thick grass like look.  The idea is to scatter a few pieces of kibble on the mat so that they fall in between the fleece grass blades, allowing the dog to sniff them out.  Very simple idea.  And a very effective stress reliever for a lot of dogs.

I think we are all familiar with the idea that a dog suddenly sniffing the ground is likely a stressed dog.  Sniffing is a go to stress reliever for many dogs.  Many of us have used this to our advantage when we bring our dogs to a new environment and want to see if they can work.  At the start of every trial, or even every training session, I walk my dogs around the perimeter of the rings and let them sniff to their hearts content.  It's a nice relaxing walk that lets them get used to the area and settle in.  Even during a training session if I'm in a more difficult location I give the dog frequent chances to take a break, to "go sniff."

This need to take a break is pretty obvious in our dogs that stress down, tending towards disengagement.  But it's less obvious in dogs whose arousal levels tend to run high.  If your dog is getting more frantic they likely need a break too.  Sometimes those dogs love to work so much that they don't actually want to take a break even though their brain is turning to mush.  That's where doing a forced acclimation walk can be helpful.  Cue a break, and take a calm walk around before trying to work again.

Sometimes the stress low and the stress high dogs may not need a full break from work.  You just want to calm them down a bit before starting the next rep.  This can help prevent ever higher levels of arousal creeping into the work so, for example, that the dog doesn't start to associate heeling with bouncing and barking.  I think this is where using a snuffle mat, or a cookie scatter just in plain grass, can be very helpful!  Your forcing the dog to take a mental break as he spends some time sniffing out cookies.

At the CDSP trial a few weekends ago I noticed that Vito had a hard time finding the right scent article.  He eventually found and retrieved the correct article, but he looked a bit frantic as he quickly sniffed over each article several times before finally calming down enough to grab the correct one.  Often dogs resort to just guessing when they get like that so I was happy Vito was able to work through it.  But when the issue cropped up again in practice I knew I need to work on lowering Vito's arousal in the article pile.  More than likely it was due to stress, not excitement, but even a dog too excited will feel the stress of frustration.  So I started using a snuffle mat between reps and went back to very easy searches to build Vito's confidence.

We still have some work to go.  Vito is often a little too frantic on his first send still, although he is much more clear headed with the snuffle mat between #1 and further repetitions.  This is his session yesterday, where with distance added back in he shows this:

And yes I didn't really need an actual snuffle mat in the 2nd video when I was outside as well grass.  But I do kinda like the more defined search area it brings to the picture!

Snuffle mats have a variety of uses from general enrichment fun, stress relief, and arousal lowering.  I love that I'm starting to see people even take them to trials!



We said a quick good bye to Zumi for a few months!
She's staying at her breeder's house.  Some astute readers may have noticed that Zumi had been looking a bit chunky recently and has been missing from the last few posts.

Yup, puppies!!!  Zumi is the proud mom to 2 daughters born April 24th.  Mach and Sonic!



I'm a Grandma!  
And no, we won't be keeping one.  Not a good time ;)  



I took the dogs  to a new park today and was excited to see that there was a nice dock.  A nice empty dock!  I had brought along a toy for Vito and decided to try some dock diving practice.  We got in one fun rep.

And then on our 2nd attempt Vito landed right on the toy and it was enough to sink it under the windy waves.  :(    Moment captured in bluriness....

Saddest Toller.  Really Sad Toller.  Obsessive Toller.
Luckily Vito did recall back to shore without the toy.  Something that just a year or two ago I would have been terrified of Vito spinning in circles in the middle of a lake forver and ever until he drowned.  But recall he did.  And then immediately went back out.  Repeat until I finally got him away and tried to go for a walk.

Will a stick make you happy?  Ahh,  crazier face!  And then right back to looking after having obsessively fetched it.

And then Vito went feral.  Well maybe not fully feral, but only semi domesticated.  Wanting to range far and looking frantic.  Recalling, but still no brain to stick around in his allowed range distance.  So we turned back.  And eventually needed to be put on leash for our return as now we were headed back in the direction of the lake and his long lost toy.

Sorry buddy.



Recently Vito has really been showing me how far he has come in obedience and agility.  He's been the club a good handful of times now since my return and has always been ready to work in just about 5 minutes.  It's felt good.  My dog can do things!

But he keeps me humble too.  Spring is here with all its new smells as well as my recent planting of the agility equipment.  Yesterday was especially gorgeous out and I wanted to work with Vito on our reward sequence in agility.  Mainly watching his ball being put down, happy and focused walking away to the startline, then choosing to shove his head back through the leash and going to sit in front of his ball.

Vito had different plans. Plans of sniffing the spring air, and probably munching on some sweet grass too.  Rejected me and my silly games.  I could have easily brought out the ball, teased him with it, and got him obsessive over it in just a manner of seconds.  But that wouldn't have accomplished much of anything.
Oh well.  There's always another day!

Boring video of a dog who did not want to work.  Usually I don't leash up during acclimation time, but I wanted to actually use the leash in the work I had planned!


Back to Utility! And Corgi Barking!

It's been over a year and a half since Vito last entered the obedience ring.  After our experiment, we had just started doing some rally trials last fall with great results in WCRL but still feeling the stress in AKC.  I was optimistic that Vito could handle the low key CDSP atmosphere and wanted to see where we were at.  I almost entered good old Open like I've done so many times with Vito in the past, but decided to be brave and try utility again with him.  Vito technically has his CDSP utility title, but 2 of the 3 counting scores needed double signals given on the signal exercise so I don't really count them as a Q in my mind.

At the trial I took Vito out a few times  in the hours before his run, just to walk around and sniff things.  I didn't go into letting him offer work or play until about 15 minutes before his run.  I was thrilled that as soon as I assumed the work available pose he took me up on it!  I mainly did some play and a few down signals with lots of rewards before putting him back.

Right before his run I took him out again for more of the same, and then miscalculated our waiting time before entering the ring.  I was a bit worried as he didn't want to do any of our "squish" position, but he did our 2nd style crouching "squish" ok.

And then in we went!

Love his ring entrance and go outs :)  I let him go all the way to gate to take the point losses.
Articles he struggled a bit on both the setup and the actual selection.  It's kinda hard to see the setup, but he was a bit distracted by the whole thing and then his article leaving.  I am proud that he was able to think enough to eventually select the correct one!

Signals I was beyond thrilled.  Some moving on the stand and then travelling on the down, but he didn't freeze or do it slowly!  Vito has always hated downs and he offered me a pretty snappy one here!  My favorite part of his run :)

Moving stand had a few glances at our judge and a wussy call to heel, but still good.

Gloves were ridiculous.  I knew he was looking at the steward when I sent him but I couldn't get him to look away.  Maybe I should have waited longer or just said screw it and reset completely.  Had to check out who was standing suspicously on teh side.  And then very odd with going to both the middle glove and then finally selecting the one farthest away.
On the 2nd glove he again wasn't confident on the seleciton so I helped him.
Both pivots were WAY better than they have been in a trial though!!!

So an NQ, but I was thrilled.  The next CDSP trial isn't for awhile but I'm excited to try utility again with Vito :)

The Corgi also came along and got to do his rally.  He just loves getting to strut around in rally!  So much barking again.  Our new theme!  We alo had a few instances where he lost his auto sit in heel, but improvement from the last trial.  I didn't notice any hind leg shakes in his runs so I think he was feeling better.  Forging was a bit worse again than the fall, but more cute prancing :)

Trial 2 was a bit less barky, but also less left turns- definitely correlated :)  He loves the bonus retrieve at the end :)


Bunny Ears!

I hope everyone is having a great Easter!!!  

Obligatory bunny ears.

And yup, I totally tried to be one of those parents.

And fail.

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.- Roger Caras

Email: lkwaudby (at) gmail.com

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