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.


Retraining Scent Articles- One Dog's Guide

I've mentioned before that for whatever reason Zumi had a very hard time doing her scent articles when I was pregnant.  I'm sure I smelled differently with all the hormones, and likely still do.  The other dogs had no problem adjusting but Zumi's mind was blown.  I put off all article work until recently.  When I tried Zumi again on a small pile she was just purely guessing.  Maybe a tiny bit of actual sniffing but mostly just grabbing one when she got too frantic to think any longer.

Scent article retraining!  When Zumi was a puppy I was able to teach Zumi using my food conditioned method and have the retrieve be her indication pretty much from step #1.  (I think I had to interrupt before the retrieve for the first 2 lessons to show her it wasn't just a retrieve exercise.)  This time I knew I had to break it down further and completely remove the retrieve as an option to prevent frantic grabbing.  She has a much higher reward history for retrieving and some of that toller obsession as well!

Zumi already has a sticky target (aka duration nose touch) so was in a great spot to have that be her new indication.  I also decided to go back to using food on the correct article to fully get her back into sniffing mode and cut down on some of her high arousal levels.  A shaping method to article training also works really well, but I usually prefer doing a bit of luring with the food to start.  I just like how it gets the dog sniffing for scent very quickly, especially when we are asking for a scent that they are so used to ignoring in every day life.

This was her 2nd session.  I put a smear of food on every repetition.  I usually prefer to use my honest kitchen mix as a smear as I can get more watery juices than a thicker blob, but the peanut butter was what I had available.  In this session, I still needed to praise as soon as she found the correct article.  Then I had to hold it in my hand in order to get Zumi to do her nose touch or she would want to keep searching for more food.

In the next session, I started having Zumi do her indication without my hand help.  She sometimes still left the article to reexplore but started settling in as we went.

And I think 2 sessions later I filmed again.  Here we no longer are using food on the article except for the first rep.  I also start doing a few food tosses so that she's coming to the pile with some speed.  This is much harder for her and while she doesn't make any mistakes in this session there is some franticness.

For the next few sessions still working on about the same step.  The first repetition Zumi usually needed a tiny food smear to help calm her and keep her confidence high.  Then I no longer reapply the food and am working on having Zumi search after the food tosses. I waited awhile to go back to a retrieve indication with her rings or dumbbells as just the little added excitement had some errors creep in.  When Zumi guesses wrong I have her come out of the pile and do a short down while I feed her for being calm.  Sometimes I need to have her do some other calm tricks such as a chin rest so she doesn't go back to the pile frantically.

Finally, Zumi has started showing signs of being ready to at least introduce retrieve items as a distraction.  I am still having the correct article be a lid, but will start having a ring or two present in the pile.
Today was Zumi's first session with the retrieve distraction.  And of course she falls for it!

In some ways, this re-training came at a good time.  Starting June 1st I am re-running my online scent article class!  While I've gotten to help many teams start articles from scratch or work on fixing issues that have cropped up on the way, it had been 2 years since I've had to do the actual skill training personally!


Obedience Run Throughs

I'm ashamed of how long it has been since I've been able to get to an obedience run through.  Both tollers need practice applying our ring games to more of a trial environment.  But I took advantage of one pretty close to home tonight to do exactly that!

With Vito I was impressed with how quickly he was able to offer focus outside the ring and ask to work. The environment certainly felt "lighter" than most run throughs before an AKC trial so I'm sure that had a lot to do with it.  When it was his turn I told the ring steward we were going to do our own thing.  I started with a ring entrance, leash removal hand off, and then immediate play.  I repeated that a few times, leaving the ring briefly in between reps and loved that Vito was extremely pushy and super focused.  The last rep I did a bit of heeling and transitioned with play for a short recall.  It was exactly what I wanted for his trial experience.

With Zumi I did a bit more actual work.  I kept the judge in the ring and started with an off leash heel pattern before playing with her and leaving the ring to start rep #2 where I repeated the plan.  She had great energy and overall I was pleased.  I did discover that she definitely noticed the adjacent open ring with a stolen glance on an about turn and more of a stare on the final halt when she heard the dumbbell land.  Things to work on before her next attempt!

It was also great timing as I'm running my online Ring Confidence class right now!  I just released the lecture on what to do at fun matches :)


Getting Outside

I love going to parks with the dogs.  They have so much fun running, sniffing, and if you're the corgi then also peeing on all the things!  I am also extremely lucky that since moving close to the edge of the cities suburbs there are quite a few unpopulated parks around here and depending on what neighboring little town I'm in there often aren't even leash laws- just dogs under control.  Which is good as I just don't do leashed walks anymore other than the occasional neighborhood walk.  I just love watching the dogs get to run and sniff at will.  And dog parks I find terrifying plus the fact that with Vito's ball obsession it is out of the question anyway.

Now that I'm home with Netta I'm trying to make our walks more than just a weekend
thing.  Trying to master the art of babywearing.

With the weather warming up now I would love to get to daily romps with the the tollers and a few times a week with the Corgi also coming along.  He loves going to the parks to run but his legs shake once we're home and he sometimes limps.  More limited visits work for him.

There are 2 skills that are a necessity for my trail walks.  One is a recall and the second is a stay.  I realize that when I do come across people on the trails they're not usually expecting to see 3 off leash dogs.  So the instant I see a person I call the dogs and put everyone in a sit on the side of the trail.  Just as I don't want to be bothered by others, I don't think it's fair for my dogs to go up to people or other dogs even for just a quick sniff.  People who let their dogs wander up to other people and other dogs are my biggest pet peeves, no matter how polite the dog seems to be.  You're not in a dog park.  Your dogs do not have the right to "say hi" and invade others space.  I admit I've failed this on one of our park walks this week.  My dogs were gathered near me and knew not to approach the person at a distance but I wanted to get a little closer before having to stop and wait with everyone.  When the nice person shouted out in greeting to me the dog's immediately rushed to "say hi."  I learned that their impulse control on greetings isn't as strong without that stay!

Visiting dogs get the long line until they prove themselves.  I love my biothane long line! I try to give a warning or a recall before the dog hits the end of it in order for them not to become reliant on the leash tension being the cue to check in.

The other part I need to figure out is how to babywear and still use my fun camera.  I don't quite have the solution yet!


Masters Agility Dog!

Zumi had her last agility trial for awhile this past Sunday.  She needed 1 more standard Q to earn her advanced title and do the fast track option to be eligible for masters in everything.
And she did it!  Didn't quite turn tight enough off of her running dogwalk and ended up going around the jump, but since there are no refusals in advanced I was able to save it and continue on. Phew!

She also entered in Biathlon for the first time and did way better than I expected.  Not very trick by biathlon standards, but still!  Managed to qualify in Fancy Standard and listened pretty well in Fancy Jumpers.  She was able to push to the backside of a jump with a tunnel straight ahead not once but twice!  She couldn't handle the temptation of the tunnel at the UKI trial two weekends ago so I was very proud of her thoughtfulness here.

Running 2 dogs in the same class was exhausting though.  After Vito ran I sprinted outside to do his quick chuck it ball throws.  There is no way I can cheat Vito on that promise, he definitely expects it.  Then sprint back inside to get Zumi warmed up for her run just 7 dogs later.  I suppose it could be worse.  This was more than double the amount of 20in dogs I have seen run in a trial since it became a height class this year!

Vito qualified in both MC Biathlon runs.  And broke his startline each time.  Love Toller :)


Obedience Practice

More obedience this week!
Zumi is being restarted on her article training as it's been about a year since she has last done it successfully.  She seemed to have a difficult time finding my scent when I was pregnant so I just put it on the sidelines.  I'm restarting with food on the article and went back to lids as she was WAY too retrieve happy.  I was able to originally teach her with a retrieve indication from the start as while she was excited, Zumi's retrieve drive wasn't nearly as strong as it is now.  I'm sure we will get the scent work back quickly but it definitely needs retraining.

Vito I planned on using a lot more food rewards in this session as I had been focusing a lot on working with personal play and any rewards off my body.  I'm wanting to work more on precision and proofing challenges with him now which would require more rewards.

I found in this session that Vito had a difficult time doing slow heeling with a right turn.  He thought it was an invitation to do his "behind" reward cue (it does look similar!) so I did some proofing to tackle that issue.  Then later on in our session I found an issue with Vito not sitting when cued on his go out.  Going all the way to do his touch trumped the value of the sit.  Personally I would much rather have that problem than the opposite!  I did some cookie toss sits to remind him of sitting at a distance before putting it back together.


Getting Back to Obedience

I've started back teaching again for the obedience club since Netta's arrival.  Just one night a week but this also gives me time to train my dogs before class.  They haven't really done any obedience in months besides some tiny drills in the house.

Zumi has mainly been working on 3 things
1. Go outs- Still our main issue of not taking the jump on the way out.  She's great with cones and really has improved a ton with this issue over the year but it's still a real choice for her.
2. Retrieve over the high- Opposite issue of our go out :)  Zumi's super strong desire to fetch makes it hard for her think on off-centered retrieves.  She has no problem playing this game with targets and food all around the clock.  But must fetch as fast as possible!
3. Finishes.  A new problem that wasn't there before our long break.  Zumi has been cutting her left finish short and also seems to occasionally be confused on what her "around" cue means.

This is the first half of our practice session this week, focusing on the 2nd two issues.

Vito has still been working on our main goal of engagement and choosing to work.  Overall that has continued to go well.  He even seems to be sniffing less before we start work- a problem that cropped up after our experiment a year ago (with a lesson to me on how to structure it differently next time!).  So I've been adding in some more instance on precision for him, not just his free for all.  Slower heeling.  Active proofing to get him thinking on his finishes.  And still lots of reward for fast, fold back downs; a lifetime issue for Vito.



The tollers have done 2 more agility trials since I last posted.  One day of USDAA the first weekend of March and then we just got done with 2 days of UKI this past weekend.

It's just hit me that Vito has really settled into a nice, consistent agility dog.  He has come a long way since I was close to retiring him a few years ago!  Recently just his first run of the day is his slower run and then he's been deciding to run for the rest.  He's never been much of a morning dog.
I still limit his runs to 3-4 the first day and generally 2 on the 2nd day if I do one.

No video of his USDAA runs but he went 3 for 3, even getting a difficult weaving gamble!
UKI he was 4 for 6 with all very solid runs.  So close on this super fun jumpers course!

Zumi is also maturing nicely alongside just a tiny bit of "whee!" runs.  USDAA she was incredibly solid for her 4 runs.  Listening to cues!  I still have a long way to go though in really learning how to handle her.

And we still have some focus issues with people distractions.  She kinda loses her mind with her favorite people still.  Flail!!!
Grandma was nice enough to visit again for the UKI and Zumi couldn't quite handle it for her first run.  Especially when she lost track of where she was!  Second run was better so there is some improvement going on.
Run #1 where I hardly had a dog:

And her last run on saturday in the challenging masters heat class.  Sucked into 2 tunnels but I was proud of her on an advanced level course:

Final run of the weekend was the master challengers standard course which she came so close to qualifying but just had to rush to the dogwalk!  Video is pretty low quality but it was my favorite run of the weekend!:

Things are kinda coming together!


Stay at Home Dog

Since Netta has arrived the dogs and I have had our schedule drastically changed.  No longer are we all going to work every day.  Work involved many stressers for the Toller.  Two long car rides.  Staying in the cubicle area while Mom abandoned him to train the service dogs.  Seeing favorite coworkers come in for the day and not always being able to hang out with them.  Then seeing coworkers pack up to head home and thinking he may be left all alone..forever!  Really most of Vito's anxieties at work boiled down to me not being able to be with him the majority of the day.  He would have been a very relaxed dog if he could just sleep at my feet all day.  Drugs helped.  And helped with the car rides too.  Really Vito was doing pretty well with the situation and his current drugs.  But still daily stress.

And now Vito is a stay at home dog.  A very relaxed stay at home dog. Mom is always there.  Car rides are way less frequent and usually very short.  Happy Toller.

So relaxed that I've weaned Vito off of both his "situational" drugs that were given twice every day. No more Clonidine, his favoritest drug that you could always tell when 2:30 rolled around at work and it was time for another dose.  Vito would definitely tell you he needed his Clonidine!  And no more Clonazepam, the latest of numerous drugs rotating in and out of his life.  Of course if Vito does have to go on a car ride for some reason I'm keeping the drugs around to well actually use situationally.  How novel.

And at this point I'm still keeping Vito on his base drug, which currently is Sertraline.  I'm not sure if I should keep him on it or not.  A part of me hopes that maybe Vito could get used to being left alone again for short periods of time.  Perhaps without the daily stressers in the other areas he will be able to handle it.  His separation anxiety has always been his biggest issue.  But at one point, several years ago, Vito was able to be left alone for a few hours.  With the help of drugs of course.


Trialing in Heat!

The tollers got to do another agility weekend!

But first, I forgot to wrap up Zumi's USDAA trial last weekend.  Overshadowed by Vito's championship!  Zumi actually had her best agility trial yet.  Very focused on Saturday and much more responsive to handling than she has shown in other trials.  Growing up!  Sunday had a bit more distractions when Grandma came to watch and Zumi wanted to maul Grandma vs focusing on warming up.  Definitely a training issue that still needs to be worked on!  She still managed to do some very nice runs on Sunday.  Her only "bad" run of the weekend was the very last run where she left me once to run over to the wall of spectators and then while she didn't leave me after that her brain was still thinking about her audience.  That's ok, I also had a stupid run where I did the opening the masters course with her instead of the advanced course.  Beautiful run, but not exactly what the judge laid out for us!

I made a montage of her good moments!!

This weekend I was glad it was UKI as Zumi decided to come into heat and UKI has no problems with girls still competing.  I think it's ridiculous that other organizations have not come on board with the same allowance.  In Europe it's seen as just a training issue.  And while Zumi was just in the beginning of her heat cycle at the trial this weekend, I don't think any dog had a major problem with it.  A bit more sniffy and excited perhaps, but everyone was able to run their course.

I think Zumi had more of an issue with running during her cycle than anyone else! I was grateful I was able to take the dogs to the facility on Friday night for a fun run.  Zumi was much more sniffy of the grounds than she has ever shown.  But once in the ring she was very focused!  At the trial on Saturday it was about the same.  Sniffy and more easily distracted than usual outside of the ring, but doing fairly well inside.  We had some issues on the startline for her first 2 runs of the day on Saturday as Zumi had to sit on a towel.  She did not want to sit on that towel!  Very weirded out by what should have been a non issue since Zumi knows "go mat" games very well!  But we worked through it with treats and then she didn't have an issue the rest of the weekend.

Unfortunately, we couldn't qualify at all.  Lovely runs with just a few baby dog mistakes of running by obstacles, a dropped bar, or refusal.  I do think her runs got better with each one, and her speed increased too.

Zumi had one incident at the trial though where I didn't think I was going to get her in the ring.  Shockingly there were quite a few spectators at the trial on Sunday and before Zumi's jumpers run there was a mom with 2 young children.  Zumi saw the kids and was terrified.  This is not a new issue for her, she's been wary of kids and definitely undersocialized to them.  I'm not worried about Netta as she will grow up gradually getting used to more movement and Zumi's personality just isn't one where I'm concerned.  I think it will remain to be seen though if I can get her comfortable with other people's kids!  But at the trial she was freaked out more than usual, likely due to all her hormones playing games with her.  I politely asked the mom to move off to the side isle where Zumi wouldn't be able to see them before her run.  The mom mentioned her kids not being able to see if they were over there, but I nicely asked again and mentioned Zumi would be the very last dog anyway.  The mom agreed and moved off but when I took Zumi out of her crate again I saw that they just moved 15ft down the line and were now directly in front of the entrance, actually touching the gates...  I'm not mad the family was at the show.  Zumi's issue is just that, an issue we need to work on.  But I also didn't think it was unreasonable that I asked them to move for one dog.

Zumi was freaked out and I didn't even know if she would enter the ring with me.  I entered on the exit side and brought her ball in with me, trying to play with her.  I am SO glad UKI allows non-qualifying toy runs!!!  Shockingly Zumi did enter the ring with me and while I totally lured her with that ball on the setup, she obliged. And even better she had an amazing run!  I ended it early so that she wouldn't go near the entrance again and would be far from the kids who were actually hanging on the ring gates.

Here is Zumi's toy run with the kids at the gate:

And here is her standard run on Sunday:

Vito also had a great trial on Saturday.  Very Happy Toller!  And then on Sunday he was a really good boy but not as fast.  Lots of Qs all weekend though even on some challenging courses.
I think I might go to just one day a weekend for Vito.  In the past Vito has been terribly inconsistent about whether he is faster on day 1 vs day 2 in the same way that he's not predictable on whether the first run or the last run is better.  But, since Vito's getting a bit older now, limiting him to one day might be something to consider.

Here was his only run I got on film.  Actually I felt this jumpers run was his slowest run of the weekend.  Still a very nice that I'm happy with:

I usually do some toy runs for Vito in UKI but I chose not to do that at this trial.  Vito's been Vito with his agility runs for years now and while has made TONS of progress with his anxieties in it, not really anything has changed in the last 2(?) years.  Vito runs fast when he wants to and runs meh when he wants to.  Toy runs really haven't made any difference for Vito except for being magically faster the second half of the same run he got a surprise reward in.  I don't think Vito needs any more classical conditioning and confidence building with trials (agility), which is really a good thing.  I think it's just pure motivation issues which aren't going to change with rewarding in the ring only a small portion of the time.  Maybe if there were a lot more UKI trials it would be different. I think our jackpot training and leaving his ball at a distance in practice have been and will continue to be the best plan for him.  That and me being completely at peace with whatever he decides to give me in a trial.


Toller Champion!

Spoiler alert- Vito earned his ATCH this weekend at the USDAA trial!  He needed 1 jumpers Q and 1 Super Q in snooker.  Honestly it was a feat I wasn't sure would ever happen for him. Jumpers is his least favorite class and he's prone to going slow and knocking bars, but it's also very doable for him.  But in snooker Vito has gotten the points needed so many times and just not the speed needed to beat the other great teams for those special super qs!

I took the tollers to their first trial in 4 months.  So excited to compete as well as just getting out of the house,  It was also our first time at the new jump heights.  Zumi was already assured to jump 20in and Vito I wanted to remeasure as I was certain that he was easily under 19in tall in order to make that 20in cutoff as well.  He made the measurement easily!  I'm extra excited as I wasn't sure how much longer I wanted him jumping 22" but 20" is so much easier for him.  It's amazing what just 2in can do,

Vito had 3 runs on Saturday.  Jumpers was first and he needed 1 more towards his ATCH title. Well Vito was pretty happy and put out a solid run.  Not warp speed but not a Sad Toller run either.

Standard was the same although Vito missed his dogwalk contact on a very easy straight exit.  It's been a long time since that's happened!  And then finally snooker.  Since he was in the new 20in class now there were less dogs and an easier chance of getting that SQ.  We pulled out a 50pt run and waited.  I was a bit dismayed to see 1 team who also did 50pts slow down and not go for speed at the end.  She mistakenly entered championship when they're now in performance and didn't want to take a placement away, but I didn't want to win that way.  She didn't know I was going for my ATCH.  Oh well.  So Vito won his height.  I did feel better to see that (sadly) all the top teams made errors at 22in and Vito's score would actually have gotten first in that height as well.

Vito's first championship.  My first championship.
Vito must be content with his new accomplishment as his 2 runs the next day were more flat.  Still manged to pull off a difficult gamble but not really excited about the day.


Mealtime Training

I've started resuming some of the dog's obedience training lately.  Still no time to go the club and actually have some space for the bigger exercises, but I've been working on the little things in my tiny living room.  Training with their dinner has always been easiest for me as I have to get off my butt anyway to dish up food and it requires no special treats.

Zumi is working on fronts again with different angles.  Speed is hard for her and she can't really get up much in the small space, but I can work difficult approaches.  And doing crazy spins before a front can get her arousal up...and maybe a little dizzy too.  We're also working on not anticipating position changes when working on signals.  Lots of deep breaths from my part and then no signal given.  

Vito is working on right sided heel work again for my pretend goal of getting back to the hunt training.  He's also doing some stand re-training as apparently he lost some precision (surprise I know!).  When prepping for my upcoming online stand for exam class I found out that Vito still has a nice kick back stand but he pops his butt out when in heel position.  I will be fixing it with his pocket hand.  Here is a video of his "before" with crookedness, alternated  "with help" of the hand guide:

Note that just because he's doing it nicely with my hand guide it doesn't mean it's fixed.  Instead of alternating reps with and without the hand like I did for sake of the video, I'll scale back on testing until straightness is a better habit.  If you want to join us in working on stands and/or exams there is still room at all levels!  Class starts Feb 1st!

Lance isn't working on anything in particular.  I do a few tricks and whatever obedience I feel like doing at the time.  Joys of retired dog.


Don't Eat My Food!

My dogs don't have a ton of house manner rules.  They can jump on me.  They're allowed on furniture of course.  The Corgi often leads obnoxious barking bouts at what are clearly grave threats to the household.  They charge out the door when opened.  And they are all very good supervisors of our food.  SUPERVISORS is the key word in my mind.  The main rule in my house is you can watch the food, even snuggle up close while I eat, but do not even think about eating it.  I often set my food down and even leave the room and only have to fear the cat who seemingly springs out from nowhere.  But never the dogs.

Zumi's station every time I eat is to place her head in my lap.  She doesn't even look at the food and if I accidently drop a piece she doesn't even lift her head.

But apparently she's acting out since Netta has come home.  Or more likely her lower exercise and mental stimulation the last several months has gotten to her.  Because Zumi has broken my main rule more than once now.

So now we will go back to basics and revisit training and management.  I admit that this skill that all my dogs and long term fosters have had is not one I explicitly teach them.  It just kinda comes with our everyday life and gradually pushing their understanding of rules.

First I will review her automatic leave it in training mode.  Is the dog truly able to resist a distraction without any clue from you?  If you're having to give a verbal cue, or even just a small stop in your motion then the dog isn't quite there yet.  And keep in mind that it's the first rep that really counts, not the ones after the dog knows it's a proof.  This with Zumi I'm certain is solid.  But a dog's ability to ignore distractions and concentrate on work is not even close to the skill level needed to ignore distractions when not working.  Zumi may still have some work to go with automatically ignoring things but overall she gets the game pretty well,

Outside of training sessions is where most of our work will take place,  I will do all of it without giving Zumi any cue to leave it or stay as I want it to be automatic.  If she was a different dog who really struggled I would consider using boundary training or place training to provide structure but Zumi doesn't need that.
First duration.  This is easy for me to practice because I'm lazy,  I'll just eat my meal, usually on the couch, and leave my plate sitting next to me.  In easy reach so I am a part of the picture still.  Duration will also naturally work on another variable such as my focus waning in and out.  Zumi still has this stage down pat.

I think it's important to note that I don't ever reward from my plate when doing this training as I don't want Zumi thinking about when she is going to be able to eat it. I want her to completely ignore the food altogether, knowing that it's not going to be hers.  Actually in this training at home I don't even like using food rewards at all, just calm praise.  Unlike in her sport training where I want her to leave a reward and focus on me, in this every day life moment I ideally want Zumi to not focus on what I'm doing at all.  Go chew a bone, take a nap, wrestle with the cat, I don't care.  Of course since supervision doesn't bother me either I also don't mind if she does choose to lay her head in my lap and closely watch either!  And I have fed my dogs directly from my plate quite often, but I will be suspending that with Zumi until she is back on track.

My movement and distance will be another variable.   She has already proved she can leave food without my focus on her so now would be seeing if she can leave it while I stand up from the couch.  Then whether I can pick up something in my hand, or bend down to touch my toes, etc.  Can I move to the kitchen with direct eye contact?  Move away without the eye contact reminder?

Next the dog's movement if she hasn't done that on her own already,  I want to see that she has no problem walking away from food.  I will reward any cues given to come but then dismiss her again and go back to pretending the food isn't there.  I don't want her in training mode. And a release is not a free for all,  I want to see Zumi relaxing and not thinking about running back to my food.  A hard step for many!

And finally the big one, going out of sight again.  This will be done only after she doesn't need my eye contact as a clue that I'm paying attention and isn't glued to its location.  Quick around the corner and back.  Not drawing too much attention to anything.  Low key praise as needed, but overall me being gone as no big deal.  The food doesn't exist.

Of course management is going to be equally important.  No leaving food unguarded again for quite awhile.  If your dog struggles with this training management will be far more important than any training,  Keep training steps easy so that you don't have to body block or verbally cue your dog. The more you have to help your dog the less your dog is practicing impulse control.  Actually progressing to quickly can mean your dog is learning more about how long your arms are and how fast you can run than anything else.  It's amazing the calculus a dog can do to figure out whether they can beat you to the food before you even see what's happening!

I am also reminded to always keep in my mind my dog's personality to have realistic expectations.  The Corgi humbles me often in this department.  As long as a body, a conscious body, is in the house he wouldn't dream of tearing into any food and raiding any desks/tables in search.  I;m willing to be that he would leave a hamburger on the floor untouched for hours.  But if nobody is home or everyone is sleeping then he is on a mission in an instant.  He is going to be 10 in a few months and still can't be trusted outside of his crate or being closed in the bedroom when left alone.

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

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