A Fun Surprise!

I'm thrilled with the ESSFTA right now, they are seriously good at making me happy!  I just joined towards the end of 2009.  Bailey and I were included in their 2009 year end awards!  How AMAZINGLY cool is THAT?! We earned her NAP, NJP, and TD in AKC in 2009, so she fits into the multi-titlist division.  Boy do they know how to make people happy!

And... I didn't even have to do anything, they did it all!  So super cool!


A Long Road

My Bailey-dog is 10 years, 2 months, and 4 days old.  I've worked my tail off with her, because she is one of the coolest dogs I know, despite her abundance of issues.  She's also my youngest animal.  My parents got me quite a few pets when I was younger, forgetting that we all grow up I think!  They got lucky in the fact that I assumed financial and all other responsibility for these creatures, but I also couldn't get any more!  If I wanted a dog to trial with, it had to be the two I have.  I'm absolutely, positively, fine with that... it's made me who I am, and most importantly, it's made me not take my dogs for granted.  I couldn't cast them aside as failures because I wanted a new one.  I had to work through their issues with a limited budget, limited time schedule, and at quite a distance from "good training" places.  Do I have regrets?  No, I really try not to have regrets in life.  Every single experience teaches me something I didn't know before.  Are there things I wish I knew more about?  Absolutely!

Poor, poor Buzz.  He was like a science experiment.  I still can't believe everything we've done.  If anyone had seen my dog when he was younger, you'd never, ever, think the dog you see today was him.  He used to be labeled "aggressive."  I am NOT kidding you.  My happy-go-lucky-mush of a dog was given an aggressive label.  The first question should be why, but it's actually when.  From what I remember, Buzz tried to tell some dogs off for being in his space years ago.  I'm sure it was in a reasonable manner and the dog didn't/couldn't respond.  I had no idea what was going on, so he likely aggressed and I was told to correct him for it.  Thus he began to associate ALL dogs with collar and voice corrections.  He was not allowed to be with other dogs, to play with other dogs.  Buzz is one of the most tolerant dogs I know, to a fault!  My poor, poor Buzz was pushed so far, stressed so much, that he "acted" as an aggressive dog.

This should help explain why I'm sure Bailey has as many issues as she does.  I think the differences in their cases though, shows what resiliency and character can do.  Buzz was able to forgive, forget, and become a "great dog" again.  It has taken Bailey years upon years to be comfortable around other dogs.  She still gets stressed about a lot of things in life, but other dogs especially.  I honestly never thought she would play with another dog.  Sure, she and Buzz used to play somewhat, but she's never been comfortable enough around another dog to play... until she met Griffin last summer.  Kristen convinced me that Griffin would be okay, and my dog would be fine.  I tried to believe her as I let my dog off leash.  The result gave all of us a huge happy courage boost.  My dog COULD adequately read and respond to dog-body language.  She survived at camp, and even enjoyed it.  Karin, Kristen, and Abigail understood her and she relaxed.  Yes, she slept in the bad dog closet, and guarded it but she was able to be out, with other dogs!

I've been leery of getting a puppy, because I feared for the sanity of my household, and the safety of everybody.  People told me it'd be fine, everything would settle into place, but until today I don't think I truly believed any of it.  I've gotten good at training and managing my dog, but we are still so far from perfect.  There's still snarks at home, and I'm not as careful as I should be... but due to carrying out a good plan, Bailey was comfortable enough with another dog to PLAY with Fritz, with a TOY today.  I still can't believe it.  Multiple sessions of set-up greetings, muzzle conditioning, desensitizing, training, it's all starting to REALLY pay off.  I didn't keep very good notes, but it took at least two times of Fritz being at our house, before Bailey met him.  Twice, he came over to socialize with me (and Buzz) while Bailey was crated.  She got to smell his presence after he was gone.  At least three times she met him with a muzzle on, off leash, in the dog yard.  We had toys and other ways of engaging dogs.  They barely did more than acknowledge each other for the most part, but there was growling/snarling that Fritz DID respond to.  Bailey was quick to flash teeth, as that's how she's been conditioned to get her point across.  When she showed signs of actually wanting to play with him, I started taking the muzzle off after the initial greeting.

Today was the second day the whole encounter has been muzzle-free!  She'll still snark/flash teeth, but with the exception of a crate guarding incident today (that was completely my stupid fault, thankfully nobody actually got hurt), she doesn't go extreme, because A) Fritz responds and B) she can trust him to respond.

Today was the first day she played with a toy.  Last session she would drop the toy whenever he grabbed it.  First half of today it was much of the same.  Then she started barking at him, and being playful.  When Joe wound them up and threw the rope toy, she got there first, Fritz grabbed it and she JOYFULLY tugged back!  I really couldn't believe it, and couldn't get enough pictures of it.  They're not going to win any photography prize, but I still want to frame every single one of them.

I'm so proud and happy I could burst.

My dog PLAYED with another dog with a TOY!

If you made it to the end of that, congrats.  Here's a picture of her tugging with Joe to reward you.

Uncharted Territory

As far as I can tell, that IS Bailey, playing tug with Fritz.  I'm still not convinced she wasn't abducted by aliens and replaced though.

My dog was going crazy with a lack of stimulation.  Joe and Fritz came over.  My dog not only tolerated Fritz, but they played, muzzle off, for over an hour.  My dog played with another dog--with a TOY.  Seriously?!  I really don't think that's my dog.


Some of the Shutterfly order...

I'm finally almost done editing photos for my Shutterfly order.  Finally.  Almost.

Celebrating in Lake Superior


A Megan Update

A.  I'm still super excited about my new job.
B.  I have mono.  Again.
C.  I've slept more than half the day away, because now it's acceptable to do that.
D.  We finally have good juice again.
E.  I hate mono.
F.  I'm supposed to "relax" and "rest" and do all those "get well things" but for anyone who knows me, that's like... torture unless I feel like absolute crap, which I thankfully don't (anymore/yet, take your pick).
G.  Back to movie watching to entertain myself while being boring.



Nope, I'm not at a loss of how to motivate the dogs.  I'm quite literally failing at motivating myself to TRAIN my dogs.  I have a list of things I wanted to accomplish before May 2010.  If I don't get some serious motivation, that's sooo not going to happen.

Kristen and I talked tonight about how we can motivate ourselves to train.  The Go Click Challenge blog was started as a way to help us with that.  I've really been slacking in that training.  I don't know what's up!

Thus, I began thinking about places to train my dogs.  I visited a park tonight that's perfect for a LOT of things.  I could haul jumps there (once I construct them), we could track there, do obedience, field stuff, LOTS of things.  The good part is that there's a TON of places like that around here, I just need to find them and set aside time to do it.  Oh, and I live on a lot of land for tracking, so I should really take advantage of that.

How do you motivate yourself to train?  I seriously need help!


More Training!

Our lesson on Monday didn't involve any contacts.  Instead we worked on a jumpers course.  I'd taken Bailey into the agility arena to shape tugging before our lesson.  She did an excellent job and was starting to really pull backwards, YAY!  She didn't want to play tug when Annelise came over, but that's okay, still progress!  In an effort to be adequately reinforcing my dog, I brought PANCAKES to throw for treats.  That was a good idea!  They stayed together pretty nicely, and if there were pieces, Bailey wasn't going to let them stay on the floor.  I broke a 19 obstacle Open jumpers course into 4 sections and we ran it like that.  I was reinforcing speed mostly.  I took a straight lead out of tire, broad jump, and stood next to bar jump #3.  I released her and ran for jump 4 and she beat me, I threw food and YAY!  We did have some long standing issues with deceleration and cueing tight turns.  That's our homework for this week.

Now, I just need to motivate myself to train my dogs today!


My Girlie Dog

Lots of comments from today.  The number one is from Kristen, she is STILL amazed every time I tell her how sensitive/soft/weird Bailey is.  Not can be, is.  My dog is terrified of the oven drawer being opened.  It's not the noise, but the fact that it's a precursor to the oven being turned on.  She hates the smell/sound/something of the (gas) oven.  She always has.  At camp last year, Abigail was able to get her to nose touch the oven there.  That oven was electric.  I got her to nose touch the oven at home with a post-it note target (just like Abigail did), until we used the oven again.  Then she ran for her crate.  Improvement though is that she will walk past the kitchen now.  She still dislikes being in there when the oven is on, but I can get a foot or nose touch if it's off.  She still runs for cover if the drawer opens though.

She is very sensitive to perceived corrections.  Yes, that means they are corrections if she acts like that but gosh darn it, they were NOT intentional.  I made a comment today that she wiped out in a tunnel on our weavers course and that I was SHOCKED she came barreling out of it.  Normally a digger in a tunnel means no more happy Bailey.  Very sad Bailey in fact.  To say I was shocked is a complete understatement.  What?!  My dog recovered?!  When the hoop hit her at our lesson is another example of a perceived correction.  She's been measured, she's had things touching her back, yet she just knew in that brain of hers that whatever she did was wrong, so revert back to a known behavior--aka, creeping 2 on, 2 off contact.

My dog is weird in a lot of ways, but she's your not-so-average, super soft/sensitive dog.  I guess I don't talk about it enough, or something?  I'm sure most people we trial with think she is a slow dog, and that I only bring her out at trials.  Not quite.  There are four runs in my brain that I'll remember forever.  Four runs where she was the Bailey I get to play with at home.  Silly, sassy, FAST, responsive Bailey.  One was our lone USDAA Gamblers Q a couple years ago in Lake Elmo.  I still remember that run.  One was a CPE colors run, another a CPE jumpers run, and then today's weavers run.  All happened to be Qs, and I think that's because I could handle her like NORMAL!  We worked well together, because that's what I'm accustomed to.  She adores weaves now, because I took the time to proof them like crazy.  We started with one friend, and she freaked out with ONE person watching.  That person had to stand far away, then start walking around, then I added another friend, then some toys to be thrown, then the friends stood close, and now my dog loves to weave.  She's happy, confident, comfortable.  It also took two months of at home work before it transferred to anywhere in public!

Back to today's trial... Instead of my normal "set up and just get dogs in the building" mentality, I approached it like I approached our last tracking adventure.  I set up the crate, brought Buzz in and everything else we would need.  I kept out a clicker and LOTS of cookies.  I got Bailey from the car and we proceeded to walk into the building.  Or tried to at least.  She was BEWILDERED by everything.  It took us 5-10 minutes to walk from the car to the door.  I did a handful of circles when she got too overstimulated and I stood my ground while she lunged for smells and things I didn't understand.  I had as high a rate of reinforcement as I could get, yet it still took us THAT long to make it to the door.  She still wasn't as relaxed and calm as I would have liked before entering, but at least she wasn't trying to pull me over anymore and was being semi-responsive.  So, how did the plan work out?  Apparently wonderfully.  Giving my dog a chance to play LAT and get accustomed to the environment helped her relax.  Inside, we played shaping games, we played mat/place games, I was able to shape TUGGING, while dogs were RUNNING AGILITY NEARBY!  She was relaxed, happy, calm, and collected.  I wanted to hit myself over the head when I thought about how stupid I've been.  My hurry to get her inside the building has probably added an incredible amount of stress to her already stressed self.  Hustle and bustle, MOVE NOW, don't look, does not work well for my dog, yet I've done it for years.  She needs to take in her surroundings and be rewarded for acting appropriately.  She needs that communication and feedback to start the day off well.

I'm committed now to being more sensitive to her needs.  Take our time getting inside, play games in the area before being crated, and give her ample time to solicit my attention before I ask her to run.  I know she won't have any real handler focus if I don't... I just can't expect her to.  If she solicits my attention, it means she's unconcerned about her environment and wants to play with ME.

This little muppet really is amazing, when I stop and listen to her.

This little muppet qualified in Weavers and Jumpers today.  Good going girlie!


More Protein!

Acupuncture today was great.  He got a SUPER report from his massage therapist last time and I've cut his acupuncture back to just before competitions.  It's been working out well for us.  Dr. E pointed out today that he's responding "correctly" to the electricity now, which is nice to see.  Buzz is a lot more comfortable with the needles going in now, and being hooked up.  I need to study up on the electrical patterns, but from what Dr. E said, it should be something like "short, short, long" (I think...).  It was FUN to see Buzz's muscles responding, meaning he's finally relaxing his muscles enough to allow the electricity to really flow.

He's always tired after an appointment, I figure that's normal, but I've never actually said anything about it.  We did our short walk afterwards, I went to the bank, he came home, drank water, and is now zonked out.  I'll make a note about that for next time.

Buzz also loves this part of the appointment, increased protein.  He needs more protein and less carbohydrates to help his body build/maintain muscle mass.  This means even less kibbles and even more raw chicken and beef (I have FINALLY learned my lesson about pork with my two--nobody can live with them, it is THAT bad when they eat pork).  I'll stock up on foods and repackage later today if I remember, or Monday if I forget!

I've got a lot of pictures to go through, which is good and means I've actually been out with my camera, and bad that it's taken me so long to edit them.  The ones I put up earlier today were not touched, I was actually impressed with the quality.  That doesn't happen very often!

If I actually follow through, there will be quite a few pictures up later today!

Entertainment on the Prairie

Apparently we live on the prairie.  Who knew the middle-border of Minnesota and Wisconsin was considered the prairie?  I wonder if it needs a new name now, The Funny Farm Prairie sounds about right.

The dogs and I have been enjoying the warm weather and lack of snow.  Bailey loves running through the fields.  The one these photos are from will "do" but she really, really loves running on the back 40 where the weeds are tall and she can LEAP up to peer over.  I need to bring a helper out sometime to watch the dog while I marvel and take pictures (without worrying about losing her).

Buzz would like everyone to know that he's unhappy with his sister lately.  He loves playing in the fields too, but instead of running like a maniac, he sniiiiiiiffs out everything good.  This is acceptable as long as he doesn't start RUNNING in the opposite direction smelling something.  If he does that, I have to chase him down.  Even wearing a 50' long line makes me get a workout.  I guess that's a good thing, except when I don't WANT to chase the dog.  I really need to teach Bailey to "go get Buzz."  In a pinch I can send her out and she'll go cut him off and be silly, but she doesn't know what I mean-she just says "OH, he's RUNNING, must be to somewhere fun!" and then Buzz says "WHY are you interrupting my sniffing?"  He really hates his kid sister right now.  I think he appreciated Fritz being here more than she did!

Oh, and I have a JOB!  A real one, with benefits and money and fun people to work with!  I will be working as a Veterinary Technician for our vet.  I am SO stoked.  I love everybody there, and I know a lot about the clinic already, since I've volunteered for about a year now.  Really, really excited.

If we lived in Iowa, I'd feel better about this prairie business, but since these photos were taken in Wisconsin--I'm a little concerned!


Tracking SUCCESS!

Thanks to the insight of a couple friends, I got up the courage to track Bailey today. I had a game plan, stuck to it, and it worked! Our last tracking escapade was horrendous, take my word for it! That was the one and only time she tracked after earning her TD... until today.

She has a history of being unable to contain herself when she discovers it's time to track. Tracking is THE most reinforcing and exciting activity for her, ever. She barks, lunges in her harness, and is a general handful. I'm often afraid she'll pull me over or into a hole and keep on going! Do I love the enthusiasm, OF COURSE! Why haven't I done anything about it before... because it's the ONLY activity she does like that. A complete love for the game! I was afraid I'd dampen her enthusiasm, so I needed a plan first.

The Game Plan:
lay track for dog, very close to the front door, 4 articles
cut up NB roll into bigish chunks (so I can drop or throw if she starts grabbing)
wander around house c/t dog for being calm
get tracking line and put in greenhouse, c/t dog on way to greenhouse
get harness and collar, HIGH rate of reinforcement on way to greenhouse
display tracking gear, c/t for nosing it and keeping four feet on ground
*I was actually able to harness her without ANY dancing around, she stood very still

put lots of treats into hand, attach line to collar, c/t the whole way out the door
*we were actually pretty good until she saw the first article
-I should have thought to bury it better
walk towards article, c/t for dog being calm and attentive to handler
circle if necessary (she did lunge a couple times)
when dog is walking calmly by article and not dashing for it, switch line from collar to harness
do NOT cue dog, let her happen upon article
*beautiful indication, straight on, attentive, c/t 3+ for maintaining indication position
do NOT use loaded "track" word, instead--re-grip near harness attachment and allow her to move ahead when handler releases tension with a whispered "ok"

She indicated all articles, worked with her nose down and NO frantic tracking today. Indications 1, 2, and 4 were absolutely perfect. The 3rd she indicated but tried to get up and track before I reached her. I did not re-approach the article, just waited for her to re-indicate then c/t multiple times for maintaining position.

We started the track in a calm manner, she worked quickly, but still with her brain, and we ended it calmly (but quickly--yes, there's a trend of QUICK here). I c/t the whole way back to the house for controlled walking near me.

It was a short track, not aged a whole lot, on short grass with just a patch of gravel, barely any wind, pretty warm weather.


Training Frustrations

My dog is a sensitive soul, stressed easily, and can be a bundle of nerves. She has come SO DARN FAR, and I'm incredibly proud of her, but it's still hard not to get frustrated when I can't seem to illicit a response I need.

Our private last week was a mixed bag. We've had a hoop out for her to run through, it's a little small, but that's the point. She looked up to see the toy and hit it with her head, I think, last week and then viewed that as a correction. Her next response included a slow two on/two off performance. Eugh. We took the hoop off the end of the contact and just put it on the ground.

I can get a LOT of silly, offered behaviors at home, in the obedience ring, and around equipment that isn't contacts. She has a long standing stress-relationship with them due to so many factors it makes my head spin.

Regardless, she was beautiful today. We played first, then we ran on the board a couple times at 4" and then moved it up until we were at 24" of elevation at one end. She was even running up the wrong way and leaping off. She can be silly and funny and brave, in a place she's comfortable in. I've worked incredibly hard with her to be less reactive, more in tune, and we've gone a lot of public places to work. I know, patience is key, but my struggling point is reinforcers.

I've been throwing a toy at our lesson, but she doesn't want to play with it. Last week she was chasing it, and I was rewarding for the chase. Ken Ramirez says secondary reinforcers (toys for Bailey) need to be followed by a primary reinforcer (food) for the behavior to stay strong. I don't always do that correctly, but I try to. At home I can use a toy exclusively, and we play with toys a lot. When we're in the obedience studio, I can use a toy as a reinforcer, but it is definitely secondary and I still reinforce the playing with food. It doesn't make her lose supposed "drive" for the toy, rather increases it. I don't care if she ever actually tugs at a trial, but I want her to be comfortable in a training setting. "Patience" and progress will come.

Sometimes she throws me a ball in left field though and I can't fathom the correct way to respond, so then I spend days trying to figure it out. My goal for this week is to get a full length board (or two, or three) and start piecing it together at home, like I did with her weaves. She's a beautiful, confident weaver now, regardless of location... because I did major proofing last summer. I had friends walking close to the weaves, throwing things, singing, being stupidly silly, and she learned to ignore them and just WEAVE. Whereas weaves used to be a huge struggling point, they're definitely something I look forward to on a course now.

Contacts will come, but first I need to get these behaviors at home. And work on playing in scary new situations.


A, B, C, D

A) I need to practice hand scissoring Buzz's neck/chest fur. I am not going to be good at this. I think I can handle the rest of the grooming, except that. I should start tonight huh?

B) Bailey had WONDERFUL running contacts tonight. She was brilliant. FIVE incredibly fast correct responses. Beating me to the bottom fast. She CAN BE FAST! Brilliant girl-dog!

C) Buzz practiced recalls (ok, so the wait for the cue part of recalls). We did a couple where I returned to feed and a couple where I cued the recall. He loves recalls, I have video I'll upload later.

D) My dogs are goofy about all of the smells outside. I swear their brains are going to explode with all the incoming scents. I promised Bailey I'd lay a track for her tomorrow. Here's to hoping I can actually track her, and not die. She's going to be like a loose cannon, I need to have a training plan before we do that!



Annelise, Jane, and Kristen will understand my joy in this post.  Bailey was able to do TWENTY sits (granted, not all 20 were to my criteria, but that's KIND OF the point).  She was able to perform again, and again, and again, without getting stressed about it!  I was able to successfully withhold reinforcement for incorrect responses and she was STILL working.  TWENTY responses!  Only one incorrect response was due to a no-sit.  The others (very few... I need to keep count, NEED TO) were either a "move front feet back" or a "slow" sit, neither of which meets criteria.

YAY Bailey, YAY!  We'll work on repetitions of more difficult things in the near future, but YAY Bailey!

To celebrate, here is a clip from another session today.

(please ignore my inability to walk like a normal human being...)



My video camera has batteries again!  They're not very good, but I did use it!
Bailey and her jolly ball!

Rascal eating a Cornish game hen... because it amuses me. Cornish game hens are no issue for him! (raw food warning if that makes you queasy)