Monday, September 20, 2010

Registrations and dumbbells

Post and run before work...

Last night we had a dumbbell breakthrough. We were able to put together the 3 elements we'd been working on separately: the pick up from the ground, the hold, and walking/sitting while holding the dumbbell. We finally got to the point where it was time to challenge Scorch a little bit and make him figure out what I wanted. I've worked away from having to keep my hand under his jaw for the "hold it", and I began to make him pick it up again if he dropped it. I'd been so afraid of breaking him, or making him not like the dumbbell, that I'd been playing it safe. Which may have put a really good foundation on him, because he was confident and happy last night. When we got to the point where he would pick up the dumbbell and bring it to me, we did a few reps of that, and then for the last one, I asked for a sit and hold... AND HE DID IT!!!!

We ended the session there and he got a good tug with his training rope (sorry physical therapist).

Also, I hope I got my registration in on time for the St Pete show (it was a little last minute... whoops), and I just registered online for the Orlando show... which was a little confusing. I think I'll stick to mail-in entries. I was planning to do one Rally and two Novice Obedience runs at Orlando but I might have an extra Rally run now... oh well.

We're ready for whatever is thrown at us!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

New Class

So Scorch and I are enrolled in the sequel to our competition class. He'd done extremely well in it, as the focus had been mostly on Novice-type exercises.

Last night, we were reminded of just how much more we have to learn. That is awesome.

I'm really thrilled to have such a challenge laid before us. We're really focusing on breaking down much more complicated behaviors. Teaching the dumbbell alone is making me a better trainer, because it's such a beautiful exercise that is so much more complicated than it looks.

Jack had always been thrilled to clamp down on the dumbbell. Hell, he would pick up a steel pole if I'd asked him to. The pit bull in him blessed him with strong jaws and a certain lack of sensitivity.

Scorch, meanwhile, is fastidious and sometimes known as "princess tender toes". He has to carefully dissect and ponder his raw meals before eating them. Here he is with a marrow bone I gave the boys after we earned our first two CD legs:

He would pretend to eat it, or attempt to gently, if Bryan or I came near.

But mostly he just laid there, wondering what the heck he was supposed to do with something so hard and tough.

Finally, I took pity on the pathetic pup (ooooo, alliteration) and put the camera down in order to HOLD THE BONE FOR HIM. With some encouraging words, he finally licked at the marrow and decided the bone was tasty enough to ignore it's unforgiving texture.

Wolfie, meanwhile, was in a corner going to town.

The point of all this is that Scorch is reluctant with the dumbbell. He will eagerly bump it with his nose, but taking it in his mouth was a process. Now I want him to hold it? "Please," he seems to say, "you're asking a WHOLE lot of me here."

I've considered buying a softer dumbbell, but he does seem more inclined to hold on to it now, so we'll continue. I just may have to get used to the difference between soft-mouthed Scorch, who lets the dumbbell gently rest between his teeth, and bully Jack, who left many teeth marks in this hard plastic monstrosity.

Since the dumbbell is still a work in progress, I sent him on a retrieve over the jump with a rope toy. Bev asked me if he would stay while I threw the toy, and I assured her, somewhat tentatively, that he would. So I commanded him to stay, threw the toy, and over the jump he sailed! Whoops. So I held onto him for the next couple of tosses until he remembered what "stay" meant. And we encountered a new problem. My jump-loving dog has decided he only wants to jump over towards the rope, and then he wants to run wide around it to return to me. Hmm. It could be because he's playing, rather than dealing with the more serious dumbbell, but I want to nip this early. So I'd send him, and as soon as his head moved towards the toy, commanded "Scorch JUMP", while moving myself closer to the jump. That seemed to remind him what he was supposed to do (and he only got a game of tug when he successfully completed it). I have plans (and the wood) to build a heavy duty high jump, but it looks like I may need a light one for the hallway too, so he doesn't have the option of going around.

Signals went well, and Scorchie was the only one who would consistently drop from a stand without moving foward. His signal sit from a down has always needed work, but we got a complete success after a few tries so we ended it there. Our foundation work in that respect really paid off. I'm going to be careful not to overdo the drop before our next show though, where we have stand for exams. We need to refresh that a whole bunch.

The broad jump is definitely his favorite, and it was cute when he went searching for the treat I didn't throw. He remembered it and is always happy to sail over them (although he nicked it with his feet on the first try).

We've got a whole lot of homework, but the new tasks are a refreshing addition to our Novice practice work.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dog beach

Yesterday was an adventure. The boys had a chance to earn their kibble (or raw chicken, as the case may be) by working with me on a dog distraction case. The dog in question is a working guide dog and the handler has been having trouble controlling him around other dogs. So out came the border collies. Both Scorch and Wolfie did a fantastic job playing distraction (especially whiny-butt Scorchie).

So I decided that since we were in Venice, we'd take a visit to the dog beach.

Now, we've never been there before, for a couple of reasons. First of all, Wolfie is not the most pleasant dog-park dog. He has that irritating tendency of thinking that "play" involves bowling over other dogs and grabbing anyone (canine or human) by the butt that happens to run by. Secondly, this was the real deal gulf, not the calm, reliable bay. The currents in these waters are stronger, although not as rough as Florida's east coast.

Still, it was the middle of the afternoon on a hot, still day, so I knew we'd be unlikely to encounter many dogs, nor large waves.

And what a day it was.
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Scorchie spent most of the day frolicking with his tennis ball toy and happily ignoring the other dogs.
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He's not nuts about the saltiness of the gulf (compared to the freshwater lake we used to have access to), but he will gladly cool off in the shallows and return soaked to demand more ball throwing.
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Wolfie, while not a total butthead, was definitely feeling his oats. He charged at a few dogs, and even bowled over a small one, but luckily the dogs and owners were good sports and recognized him for what he is: a social idiot. I realize that although he had a lot of positive dog experiences in puppyhood, he did grow up with Jack, and while Jack was a number of wonderful things, he was also pushy, loud, and occasionally aggressive with other dogs. Wolf learned a lot of bad habits from him, and they have been tough to break. He means well, but comes across so poorly, I often have to remove him or leash him up. Hence, our trips to parks are few and far between.

Once he got that out of his system (and realized no one wanted to play his version of tag, which involves teeth), my views of him were generally this:
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He spent a lot of time running back and forth in front of me, occasionally plunging into the water, drinking a bit of it while making a yuck face, and then diving face-first into the sand for a good roll. He had a big, toothy grin pretty much the entire time.

And apparently, the birds and squirrels in the backyard have made Wolf fancy himself a hunter. See that brown dot waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off in the distance?
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Yep, that's Wolfie, after some long-gone pelicans. Birds were infinitely more interesting to him than they used to be, and he tried to swim after a few. His recall has diminished significantly since he's been retired. I think it's time to bring him back into the world of being obedient, if not the obedience world.

However, overall it was a successful day and it concluded with two sandy, hot, tired dogs (and the same can be said for their owner!).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dumbbell work

So since we only need one more leg for our CD title, Scorch and I have begun Open work. We had played around with Sue Sternberg's shaping the retrieve techniques, but hadn't taken it very far.

Tuesday night was our last comp class of this session, and Angie brought Bev in to work with us on dumbbells. She asked to see where Scorchie was with it, and he tentatively put his mouth on it and that was about all. I explained that we hadn't taken the dumbbell "on the road" yet but he hadn't gotten farther than occasionally picking it off the ground. His hold was non-existent. I'm glad I didn't push it, because he ended up being a little sensitive at first. But after a few minutes of gentle encouragement (and freeze-dried lamb lung), Scorch had a tentative but definitive hold. There were a few moments where he sat in front of me, gazing up at me, personifying that "want-to". Bev just smiled, shook her head, and kept saying, "This dog is just so cool."

We worked on a full broad jump for the first time, and I think that's Scorch's new favorite. I stood close to the jump, called him over, and tossed a treat straight back. He soon was eagerly jumping straight without a treat visual and coming nicely to front.

He went down on a sit-stay for the first time in a loooooong time. I had a feeling he might, because he'd lain down at heel a couple of times. So we did a 3 minute sit instead of a down, and he held it like a champ, even when one of the Daisy's got up and ran over to a dog retrieving a dumbbell.

I'm debating whether to take the next level class right now, or be able to feed myself. :P Our current plan is to show in Rally in St Pete the first weekend in October, and then Rally and Novice the next weekend in Orlando. Then maybe my mom can watch us get our CD and/or our RN. She hasn't gotten to come to a show since Jack's disaster in Jacksonville.

Fingers crossed! We're doing dumbbell work a few minutes each day and brushing up on coming to heels and fronts. Everything seems to be going well. Picture post coming soon!