Saturday, December 17, 2011

The puppy tells you who the dog will be

What a puppy is like tells you a lot what the basic tendencies of the dog will be.  Yes, you can modify and change it through training, but the basic temperament and tendencies will always be there.  Its like a river, it wants to follow its path.  You can make it jump its bank and take a new course, but that is a lot of work!

Tycho as a puppy at about 8 weeks old.
Tycho as a puppy: Tycho arrived on a plane, in the kennel next to his litter sister Mini.  Tycho was excited about all the exciting new things going on and was trying to figure out how to kiss and play with all these new people:  luggage handlers, airport employees, crazy blond ladies, dark-haired guys...  He was really cautious around other dogs.  A friend's gentle yellow lab had to lie down and be still before Tycho could get up the courage to sneak up and sniff the end of her tail.  (Once that was accomplished, he was quite eager to play!).

Tycho as an adult:  he adored people.  His idea of a good time was meeting people and getting petted.  He was perfectly happy to go new places, to meet new people.  He liked some dogs, dogs he knew, and got uncomfortable around dogs he didn't know.  

So what about Bo and Tip?

Bo as a puppy, about 15 weeks old.
Puppy Bo: Even as a little puppy, Bo watched his breeder.  That is what he did.  She was the center of his world and his eyes were on her all the time.  He would play and gambol, with an eye on her.  If running through a tunnel made her laugh then BOOM,  he was going through that tunnel again!  And he had endless energy.

Adult Bo: Bo spends his life watching me and figuring out what I want so he can do it.  again and again and better and better.  I have managed to work Bo so hard he gets overheated, but I am not entirely sure if we have ever actually exhausted him.  He will keep going and going, and pay later.

Young Tip, about 15 months.
Puppy Tip:  OK, all I can say is his breeder's daughter actually thought he was autistic or retarded or something.  seriously.  He didn't play or interact or bumble about like the other dogs.  He would just sit there and watch.  Sort of like a vegetable.

Adult Tip:  It took a year of living and training by Bo, but Tip will now play and fetch balls.  He suffers through innumerable play attacks and mounting sessions by Bo.   Though suffers is the wrong word because it often seems like he doesn't even know Bo is latched on to his other end.  And Tip watches and thinks.  I am hoping that is what he was doing as a puppy:  watching and thinking.  Because the other option is he was just sitting there like a little fluffy white vegetable...  Like a hairy mangel-wurzel.

Having read that, it makes Tip sound like a horrible little lump.  Nothing could be further than the truth.  He is very sweet, entirely charming and truly earns his nickname "the little gentleman".  Tip truly does not wish to do things wrong, has excellent manners, and is universally loved by all that meet him.   When we take the smalls for walks, Tip charms everyone we meet, while Bo stands by me, watching me, avoiding the strangers and waiting for a cue that we will start doing something again.  Yes, Bo comes off as unfriendly because the rest of the world simply does not matter to him (only I do).  The rest of the world matters to Tip, because it is more people that can admire him...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bo's fabulous weekend

Bo finished his 16th title this past weekend, earning his MXJ at the Oriole Trial.  He ran fabulously: Qed in 4/6 runs and should've been 5!  He also placed in each run (in a very large and competitive 8" class), and earned 75-80 MACH points from those 4 Qs.  On top of that, he picked up a double Q (QQ).  He came very tired, very dirty, and with a rosette bigger than he is!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We're gonna party like its ...

Tip did it!!! He opened his mouth and took the dumbbell!!!!!

So maybe this seems silly but... I am so proud of Tip and so happy!!!!

I have been working for weeks to get Tip to take and hold the dumbbell. Started trying to just open his mouth and put it in, and that was met with fearsome resistance. Just a couple tries and I had a pissed off little dog who clenched his mouth shut, and shoved the dumbbell out as hard as he could, and who was clearly not pleased.  He would avoid the dumbbell and look away.


So then I went to do clicker training for a week or so.  That got him to the point where he would open his mouth and grab the dumbbell and immediately release.  I could not get him to extend the hold.  So he had a grab, but not a hold.  But at least he was now feeling positively towards the dumbbell.

So then I went back to a more correct implementation of the inducive retrieve.  The first week or so I got it so I could open his mouth, put the dumbbell in, and have him hold it very briefly.  No longer trying his best to shove it out of his mouth! About a week ago I came home and decided he could certainly learn to hold it for a short period of time.  Lo and behold, 5 minutes later he was doing so!  All this training depended heavily on the amazing powers of liverwurst, and a small amount of "cut the crap and keep holding that, its not going to kill you."

Today, I decided that the next step I wanted him to take was I wanted him to open his mouth and take the dumbbell, rather than having me open his mouth and put it in there.  aka: I wanted him to take ownership of the behavior and not be a passive participant.

For this I used chunks of fresh beef roast (from the deli, cut very thick) and Bo.  And as I was grabbing lunch at home today, I decided to take 5 minutes and work the retrieve with the dogs.  I did 3 repetitions of "put in Tip's mouth praise, take, and feed hunks of beef". Then I let Bo take and hold it a couple times and get treats.  Then I decided that if Tip was going to get the chunks of roast beef, he was going to open his mouth himself.

He sat there for ~30 seconds, then I offered it to Bo, who got chunks of beef. I offered it again to Tip.

Poor little guy was so stressed that he was literally shaking like a leaf.  All I was doing was holding it in front of his nose and I said "take it" once.  I am not exactly sure what was so difficult, but clearly this was REALLY HARD for him to take the initiative.  Finally he opened his mouth and took it, though it came out quickly.  For this he got 2 pieces of beef and gobs of praise.  We did that a couple more times, then took a break (and Bo got to take it and get treats).  Then went back to Tip, who started consistently opening his mouth and holding it, and now I had him hold it for a few seconds each time before taking it.  And each time he got HEAPED with praise and several pieces of beef.  And by the end of the session the shaking had mostly subsided.

I am very proud of Tip.  This was clearly VERY VERY hard for him, and he worked through it!  But seeing him sit there shaking like a leaf while he was working it out -- wow.  And I was working this in a very non pushy and low-stress way, just waiting for him to take the initiative.

If I can just teach him sits in heeling and fronts and not try to take on every big dog he sees...  he could be going places!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tip's first obedience title

This past weekend, Tip finished his Beginner Novice (BN) obedience title.  So he is now CH. Waytogo's Walk This Way BN NJP.

I am rather divided how I feel about this achievement. In one sense, I brought a dog who was scarcely trained at all into the ring and earned three qualifying scores (with decent scores) without hardly trying.  All I really did was to teach him to gait next to me (only slightly changing his breed ring behavior) and teaching him how to hold a sit stay.  He did not give a single sit in heeling, figure 8s, or recalls.  This lack earned me (well-deserved) steely looks from the judges.

So in one sense, it feels like a cheat.

On the other hand, my little Dipper earned his first obedience title in three straight shots, with really decent scores and is showing great promise!  Yeah Tip!!!!

This I will say, however: on both days, I went right from the BN ring with Tip to the Open B ring with Bo.  To work a dog who could heel so perfectly!  Is delighted to work and give perfect attention!  Knows what to do and tried so hard!  Yeah to BO!!!!!! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

i don't want to be hasty ... but ...

I almost hate to jinx it, but I think there might be some progress in the "teach Tip the formal obedience retrieve" front.  I reread the inducive retrieve instructions, and realized I had not been doing it exactly as they said.  so yesterday, I did exactly as the directions said:  put dumbbell in dog's mouth, praise, release, and reward.  Reward was liverwurst.  3 reps of that then breaks for a bit of heeling and try again.  do this 3 times.  By the end, Tip had a look of dawning comprehension  in his eyes, and was no longer trying to force the dumbbell out of his mouth.

Today, we tried again.  Tip started to hold it, and I kept the dumbbell in his mouth for a second or two before having him release it.  and he started to try to hold it.

On top of that, we had a decent session working on sitting at heel position.

Bo was going completely berserk, poor guy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Two small dogs curled up at my feet.

Bo and Tip are curled up because they are tired.  They got to practice agility this morning then play hard for a long time outside in the frosty field with Alan's 4 dogs (3 border collies and one canaan dog).  Bo played fetch with his flippy disk.  Tip played that game until Minnie, the girl canaan dog came out.  Tip spent the rest of the time either chasing her as fast as he could go or barking at the two BCs playing tug (for like 15 minutes -- they are BCs after all).

There were some really difficult courses set up and Bo and I tried a few of them.   After a flub or two, we actually did them pretty good!  the whole start line thing is still horrid.  But then bad is better than non-existent (That is definitely the glass half full approach to life).

Bo and Tip showed at the Capital and Mt Vernon obedience trials in October, and are showing again in obedience at the catoctin trials the first weekend of December. Bo didn't Q in Utility, but he did Q in open, with a nice score (despite the BC staring at him and slavering through the long OOS sit stay.  That dog got excused before the downs, and Bo spent the 3 minutes staring straight ahead and not moving.  NO WAY he was going to lay down (or breathe) with that dog hard staring at him the whole time!).

Tip shocked me by putting in a really good performance in beginner novice.  Watching the video, I can see all sorts of horrible handler errors.  And he only got a 188, because he did not sit once in heeling or on the recall.  however he did his best to heel and stayed when I told him to and sure did come when I called!

I realized right before the show that I had never actually practiced a Figure 8 with him.  When we started heeling, he started just charging ahead, but once he realized what as going on, he really did try his best to heel next to me.

I am now trying to teach Tip a retrieve.  We are starting with a hold.  So far, things are not going particularly well.  He is such ... such a little Tip!!!  But its one of those things, I've got a bee in my bonnet that this dog is going to learn to retrieve so ... this dog is going to learn to retrieve.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

agility paps

Bo and Tip and I went out to meet our friend Alan and do some agility.  Despite the fact that I have been sick and all tuckered out.  So we drove out to Leesburg.  Alan had already worked his dogs, so I walked one of the courses (the one with the table!), then brought Bo out.  Bo held the start line stay then we ran the whole course really nicely!  Then I put Bo away and ran Tip, for a lark.  Except for the fact that some handling moves he just doesn't know, he was fabulous -- and darned fast!

Then I ran Bo on another course, and I got the nicest complement from Alan, on how well we were running!  Except for me getting lost, it did go really well and smoothly and easily.  even the tricky bits.

Then Alan and I worked Tip on the low teeter, just to see where he was with it.  He started going up it while we were moving it!  Then he did the teeter several times (for the reward of some of Alan's hot dog slices, as I had no treats!).  So then I brought both paps over to the main agility area, to try Tip on the full-size teeter.  no problem!!

Then Tip got to chase Minnie the MACH Canaan Dog around the arena.  Yes, that little bugger is fast when he wants to be (like when chasing a pretty girl's tail!).  Got me starting to think that maybe I might try him at agility again one of these days.  But indoor or outdoor???  I am not quite sure...

Sadness, was that after the 35 minute drive home, I got the dogs out of the car, and Bo's eye was swelling shut again.  So we spent a couple hours at the vet, waiting for an emergency appointment.  No scratches, and no idea why his eye was swelling shut.  Maybe he is just delicate.  The vet advised we try to take it easy for another couple weeks...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

NOW you're talking my language!!!

I figured out how to tell Tip what I wanted him to do: for him to not move out of place while I walked in a circle around him.  Because if he changes position or moves, we NQ in Beginner Novice.  And I want my little Tipster to come home with a green ribbon!

Tip was doing his best to keep watching me, whihc included scooting out of posaition.  He figured he was supposed to stay sitting, but didn't realize that scooting to face another direction was not OK.

Then I thought about Tip and how to get things across to him.  So I did some sit-stays and walked around in front and beside him, and he stayed like a rock.  A small rock.  maybe a large pebble...

Then I tried walking behind him and he scooted around to keep watching me.  So I swooped in and repositioned him into the position where he started, then kept walking around him, until I got to heel position, waited, then gave him a treat and told him he was good.  I repeated this whole thing another time or two, and I think he figured out what he was doing wrong and then ... he started doing it RIGHT!!! 

I could tell him to stay and walk in a circle around him, and his butt stayed planted, stationary on the ground!

Yeah little Tipperoni!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The role of respect in dog obedience

Melinda Wichman's most recent essay on her blog made me start thinking about the expectations of respect in dog obedience. Usually this runs along the lines of "you must ensure your dog respects you!"

Which immediately made me think of Tycho. He demanded from the very start that I respect him. Once I understood this, and started a long career of ignoring obedience instructors, we began to form a working bond which was made up of mutual love, respect, and fun.

Some of my favorite memories, which exemplify this.

first time in the agility ring

Our first Canaan dog national specialty, in Tucson. Tycho was barely two years old. Tycho had entered in the specialty and had been charming. Then we showed in Novice A obedience. First Time Ever. And he QUALIFIED!!!! Then I dragged my wonder puppy over to the agility arena, where I made him hang out next to me, on lead, in the sun, for several hours until it was our turn. Right before our turn, I tried the practice jump, which he refused. I cannot sufficiently emphasize how strange this is, as there was NOTHING he loved more than jumping. So we went into the ring, I set him up, led out, and called him to start the course. He sat there and gave me a Look. I called again and he got up off his rump, sauntered over to the first jump, and peed on it, while giving me that LOOK again.

Yes, I learned. NEVER again did I make Tycho hang out endless hours in the sun, on lead, exposed to passing dogs, people, etc, and unable to relax.

Let me make this perfectly clear

Next incident was many many years later. At another specialty, this time in California. I knew the rules and compact under which Tycho worked, and I broke them once again. I entered him in Veterans and then Veterans Sweeps. And probably parade of titleholders. And then there was obedience. He already had his CDX but I entered him in open. He was tired and had already been paraded Round the ring many time and did not want to do anything again, but I brought him into the obedience ring. Our judge was the wonderful Mid Rothrock, who managed to not laugh out loud at his performance. Tycho deliberately NQed every single exercise, while giving me a dirty look, to make sure I knew what was going on. He proved his knowledge of the exercises by carefully NQing each one. And everyone at the specialty was watching. I loved him so much in that moment!

I don't want to but for you I shall do my best

Just in case you think all the examples are negative, nothing could be further from the truth.

Tycho finished his Open Jumpers title in a pounding rainstorm. This is a dog who truly loathed the rain. I kept him under the canopy until our run. I was out in the rain, but he stayed dry. When it was our turn to run, w ran that course, and he was beautiful and fast and responded perfectly to my every cue. I am pretty sure we won the class and finished his title. I was so wet...

Then there was the day we finished his CDX. He Qed in the morning, and w had entered the afternoon trial. The first time the AKC had allowed two trials in one day in one site. I almost left, but decided to stay, and he Qed again. It wasn't the prettiest performance ever, but what heart! He did it ONLY because he knew I wanted him to!

Then there were his RE title runs. At this point he was over twelve years old and had arthritis and some weakness in his hind legs. But he loved to work still! At yet another Canaan dog specialty I showed him in Utility and Open. He NQed but showed well, if slowly. By the time we got to Rally Excellent, I think his hips really hurt. We did a glacially slow rally course, because each time he had to sit, it was so slow. But he Qed with a good score. He Qed each time he went into the Rally ring and got multiple perfect scores, and many placements.

Why would a dog do such things? When they were hard or painful or unpleasant? Because their person asked them to. Some of those moments were the most precious gifts that Tycho ever gave me.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dishpans & Dog Training

I have been rather weakly and forlornly dreaming of doing some obedience with Tip.  I sporadically try to get him to heel.  He has learned to gait beautifully and very flashily at my side.   About 2 to 3 feet to my side.  Worked GREAT in the breed ring, but as far as heel position?  Not so much. 

The sitting next to me thing??? Not really.  He ends up way off to the side and rotated.  Cut him some slack!  It took him 9 months to learn how to sit, and in doing so he was always facing us!  So suddenly expecting him to achieve a sitting position while sitting next to me is a huge, unprecedented shift in expectations.  

But, I console myself that in Beginner Novice or Novice, No Sits in heeling are only points off.

However, not maintaining position during a stay while a handler goes back to heel??? NQ!!!!  Why is that bad?  because he has no concept that stay means he cannot pivot around and continue to face me while I try to walk around him to reach heel position.  

How to teach this little dog that stay means hold that position, even when I walk round behind you??  hmmmnnnnn

This was something that only required husband and child to leave the house, leaving me with a glass of wine, a bag of treats, and two hungry and eager little dogs.

Then I thought.  YES!!! A platform!  I will put him on that little footstool in a sit stay so he cannot easily get off it, and that will help him keep position while I walk around him.

Flaw in this plan?  I have no idea where that footstool is.

However, there was in the basement a blue dishpan.

There are some real advantages to having a toy dog.  Like they fit on a dish pan.  First Bo demo'ed how to sit on a dish pan while your person walked in circles around you, telling you to stay, telling you were good, and feeding you treats.
Bo shows how to sit on a dish pan.
So then I got Tip to figure out how to sit on a dish pan.  OK -- so I still have to physically help him, but once he is positioned on there, he could stay there while I walked in little circles around him, without him pivoting around and breaking position.

Then I realized.  Wow.  It has sides.  He could sit there, down at foot level, and the dish pan would prevent him from breaking the sit stay by the little walls.

So we did that, too.
Tip in dishpan.  Bo beside dish pan.
Tip held his stays while I walked around him several times and went to heel position.

Now sadly, I was doing this in the basement, with no audience, rather than in public, in a place where I could baffle and really worry my neighbors.  But I am seriously considering taking Tip and the dishpan on the road, to some dog training venue.  To try things out.

Monday, July 11, 2011

July perspective

Bo now has 16 Qs in Open and 60 Obedience Master points (all from open B).  And two UDX legs.  Now, to some obedience folks, that might seem like a modest achievement.  But this is the first time I've got a dog with a UD and the first time I have tried campaigning one at the Open B/Utility B level, so its all new to me.

He has gotten some nice scores and even a few placements.  And I continue to learn a lot, and some day I will be as good a trainer and handler as my dogs deserve.

The Utility Qs are elusive.  But what is heartening is that he continues to gain in confidence, and except for the NQs, his work in Utility continues to improve.  We have a batch more trials coming up in the coming month or two, in obedience and agility.   We shall see how they go, but at least I can look forward to going to them with my faithful, hard-working little dog, who always gives it his all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hope springing eternal ... its like a weed

Bo is entered in two trials the next few weeks.  And the last utility practice we had on monday we was working sharp and flawlessly.  Didn't travel much on his signals, made him get felt up real good for the moving stand, and he did everything ever so nicely that our instructor finished the class with delusions of OTCh-dom...  Well, they wouldn't be delusions if he had another handler!

I am still trying to figure out what I ought to do to best get him mentally prepared to go in the ring.  Though it goes against my grain, I suspect it is a lot of sustained drilling in heeling etc, to get him in a working mind set and help him channel his drive in an appropriate direction.

But whatever happens this coming weekend, I am dead certain about one thing: I have the best dog, and he gives 110% all the time, trying to please me. 

Every judge we have shown under has commented on what fun he must be and how promising (yeah -- those were the ones who had to NQ him).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Papillons go camping

Bo and Tip spent two days camping at Cape Henlopen State Park, in Lewes, Delaware.

For once it was not a blistering 95 degrees but instead pleasantly in the 80s during the days and down to about 70 at night. I still think my next camping trip will be cooler weather.

The portable crate was essential -- it went everywhere (camp, beach), as did the smalls. While Bo usually sleeps on the bed with me, he chose to sleep on the floor of the tent -- I think the big air mattress was making him sea sick. Wherever we took them the smalls got a double take. People don't expect to see small white fluffy dogs camping, hanging out on the beach, or sitting in bike baskets being pedaled around.

Bo and Tip both got in the ocean briefly, then rested in the shaded portacrate on the beach. In the sand.

Beach Beau Tay!

I was rather surprised when we left the beach at how clean both dogs were. However, despite their apparent cleanliness, both each got subjected to the foot wash. They did not appreciate this at all, as it was high pressure and cold. And they still smell rather fishy, but beauty knows no pain.

Bo, Tip, and Paul at breakfast.

Lewes is a very dog-friendly little town, with many nice places to eat with outside tables, and many water bowls for hot dogs. The smalls created pedestrian traffic jams because people had to stop and admire them. Wherever they went, the smalls got cooed over by the adoring public, which Tip appreciated to no end as he knows that fawning adoration is no more than his due.

Bo and Tip enjoying the waterfront park at Lewes.

However, as Tip was getting rather tired after two days of pandering to the adoring masses, he started getting a bit snarky towards any large dogs he saw. The most amusing incident was when we went to the outdoor movies. There was a 2 or 3 year old child on leash (you know the ones for overactive toddlers), and this kids was hurling himself at the end, straining and running and crawling for all he was worth. Tip failed to see that this was a small child (whom he loves) and instead saw a very rambunctious and rude large dog. And he growled at the sight of this horribly behaved "dog" non-stop.

Lesson of the day: how to protect your dog from obnoxious children.
Just before we left town to go home, Paul and I and the smalls stopped in Lewes for some lovely ice cream at Kings. Paul and I were sitting there eating in the benches right by the door to the shop, in the shade. Bo and Tip were mugging everyone passing by or going in and out. I'm still a bit unclear on what they thought they were going to get. A family comes out, just as the dogs are drinking water from the cup Paul got for them. mom, dad, tiny baby, and toddler sitting up on its parent's shoulders. Coming out of the ice cream store, so you may imagine its fretful, sticky, and on a sugar high. It starts shrieking about the small dogs and how it wants to pet them. Up until now, every single person who has wanted to has petted them -- primarily Tip, because he likes it. But this child looks like hell on wheels and it is NOT going to come near my little dogs!

Who could resist him?

In response to the child's shrieks about the little doggies, mom asks if my dogs are friendly with kids. I smile a big shark smile (lots of teeth showing) and assure her they are friendly as long as the child is GENTLE and there is NO PULLING OF FUR. Mom is clearly no idiot and they start walking quickly away while she assures them the doggies are tired.

Yeah -- child-friendly does not mean "will happily be abused by ill-mannered little gits". Even if the dogs take it, I won't.

And Bo was happy, because Bo is always happy.

Happy trails from U-CD Waytogo Fuligin Beau Tay UD RE AX AXJ OF AD SJ