Friday, December 31, 2010

My Dad

I haven't posted in a while. The last part of this year hasn't gone well for my family. On November 14th, my Dad died very suddenly. He had a heart attack while he was driving down the country road we live on to get a battery from the store. I saw him go down the driveway and he simply never came back. My family's world has been turned upside down. We are thankful for a few things. First of all no other vehicle was involved. Secondly Mom, Dad, Chad and I had been out sheep herding that afternoon and we had had a great time. My dad's dog Pepper worked really well and he was very happy. It was a good day.

Chad and I spent a lot of time with parents, we went to the Canadian Open golf tournament for the past five years and last year went to the US Open and this year our trip took us to the Bridgestone Invitational. We had a lot of fun on those trips and there are so many fond memories. We also did a lot of dog stuff together, going to agility and obedience trials over many years. I am very lucky that I have no regrets about my relationship with my dad. I miss him terribly and I have never experienced such deep sadness. I feel like I haven't been able to breathe since the policeman told me my dad was dead.

In December of last year I lost two dogs seven days apart and so have been also dealing with the anniversary of Quinn and Presto's deaths. I feel like I am surrounded by sadness. I know this will get better or at least easier to cope with. But right now I feel consumed by grief.

I didn't want the end of this year to pass without posting what has been going on. My dog's Gali and Ribbon have been trying to make me feel better. They have been remaining very close to me and in the two times I have trained since losing my dad they both have worked really nicely and looked disappointed when training time is over. In the New Year I plan to rewrite my goals and start working towards them. Gali is really ready to get back into the Utility ring and Ribbon is ready to matches at the Novice and Open level.

Here's to a better year in 2011

Monday, October 4, 2010

So Close

Gali has officially lost his utility virginity! He did really, really well. The only thing we missed was the last jump on the second half of the directed jumping exercise. When I signalled him to go to the jump on my right he took the jump on the left. I will have to look at the video to see if I moved my left hand as I gave the signal with the right. It is disappointing to not qualify, but I am so happy with the way he worked. I think he quite enjoyed it. It felt good to be back in the utility ring, it has been awhile.

We had some bobbles during the routine, such as lying down on the turn and sit for the first go-out. He did that at the match too. So I officially have that problem to fix. I will have to try to create that during training and see what I can do to fix it. On the moving stand he moved his rear feet away from the judge during the exam, she very nicely tried to move his back to which Gali gave her a look and put his feet back where they were. It was sort of funny. So one more thing to work on is that I need to get more people to examine him and have them approach from different angles and then I can reward him for holding his position. Also for go outs I have get to more different places and practice having him go in a direct line in strange environments.

I had Echo entered in Novice Rally. She is Chad's thirteen year old Border Collie. I have shown her a couple of times before. I wanted to finish her Novice title and use it as practice for the US Nationals in a few weeks. She did great. We were second in the class with a 99 and she seemed to really enjoy herself. She even had fun walking around the show making friends with people. I would see her during the day laying in her kennel watching people doing things and wagging her tail at them.

I have posted both these videos on YouTube if you would like to check them out, search for Buhund doing utility and Echo Novice rally and you should find them. If not I think I can post them here in the blog. I am just not sure how to do it yet.

Gali's next trials are about a month away. I can't wait!!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Match night

Tonight was the fun match at the hall where Gali and I will be trialling on Sunday. I also took Ribbon along to do Novice (and to make Gali jealous!) I was feeling pretty good about how things were going, when I trained Gali on Thursday he was amazing. I did a run through in the training hall including a warm up how I have planned for the trial. During the run through the only glitch was that I somehow managed to step on Gali's tail. Quite a feat given that he has a really tight Buhund tail. So I had one finish that he didn't sit, but I can't really blame him. Other than that he was really, really good. I jackpotted him after the signals and fed in a few other places, but went from exercise to exercise.

So tonight at the HDOC match he was feeling pretty perky. He had a large dump while I walked him outside, so he was feeling rather fresh. (You probably didn't want that detail, but there you go). We repeated what we did on Thursday with a warm up and also included a game of tug on his leash. We went from exercise to exercise; I had a no sit on one finish again. We got down to the last jump (bar jump against the baby gate) as I sent him to the bar jump the Novice dog in the next ring halted in line with the jump and Gali pulled off the jump. I quickly took him back out to his go-out spot and redid the jump and he was fine. One other thing that happened was he laid down on his first go out instead of sitting. Not sure why, he hasn't done that in a very long time. When he sat on the second go-out I praised him, hopefully that will help. His heeling was really nice and his fronts where quite good. And he is so darn cute!!!!

I did learn a couple of things about the venue. Sound proofing panels have been added to help with an echoing problem they had, I think it deadens the sound, so I needed to project my voice a little better. The other thing that I learned was that Gali had no problem with the siding on the wall for a go-out surface; he just marched out there and did his thing. So overall I am feeling pretty good about Sunday. I think our team work is pretty solid and Gali is relaxed about his jobs.

Ribbon did a nice job tonight too. I was really focused on Gali, so my run with her felt a little choppy and she got into trouble for losing attention on the fast pace. She was distracted by the utility ring beside us. Her attitude was really up. Nothing seems to bother her. I am really glad that I had asked for her to be videoed (thanks Dawn!!) on the video you can see how hard she is working and how happy she is while heeling. On the figure 8 she is really using her rear end around the circles. As the run went on her sits got a little crooked, but she was pretty excited. On the recall she came beautifully and popped up in the air and came down really slowly with her front end into a perfect front. For some reason I sent her to the right for her finish, which isn't her best finish, but she an okay job of it. I would like to see her go around faster and sit closer, but the foundation work is all there. Judging by tonight I would say we are about a year away from entering Novice.

I am ring stewarding tomorrow as one of the many requirements to apply for judging licence. I am so excited to see how all the Companion students do. Everyone looked fantastic at the match tonight. There are students in every level!!! I better adjust my eating plan and leave room for lots of cake!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Still counting

When I trained Gali last night, I was trying to squish it in before classes started. It didn't go as well as I had hoped. He was distracted by everyone arriving and I had to get on his case about working with distractions. This was not what I wanted to achieve during my training session. He did do quite a number of things really well. His attitude was quite nice, even though he got into trouble over running to the door to greet Jaimie arriving to teach her rally class. I was able to settle in and just stay focused and keep Gali on task and get some good feelings out of the session.

A few minutes ago I went to the hall with lots of time to spare and I worked on articles (which he missed the first one), Front exercises, Heeling with turns at a slow pace and random rewards for different elements of heeling. When I worked on my signals I worked from a much further distance than will be required this Sunday. He was AWESOME!!!!! I always say that Gali is a fun little dog to live with and to train, but what I sometimes overlook is how talented a dog he is. I really want to showcase that side of Gali at the trial this weekend. I am so lucky to have a dog like him.

My plan at the trial is to arrive with lots of time to spare. I know from past experience that Gali likes to do something as soon as possible at the trial site. So I will do some heeling with him and a few signals. But I will also need to find a time closer to our run to calmly warm up without having to keep my eye on the ring. Gali needs to have energy from my, but he really needs me to be calm and focused to lead the team.

Five days to go....


Also, I did a no-food run through with Ribbon in her rally class last night and she was amazing!!! Her eyes never left me, we moved together as a team and her rear end was fantastic. It feels really good to have her work this well as we approach the speciality and the fact that I am hoping to enter her in some pre-novice trials and rally trials this fall while Gali is out doing utility.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Countdown has begun

One week and two days from today Gali will be in his first utility trial. I am really looking forward to it. I can't wait to see how he does!!! I just finished training him and I have a pretty good idea on what I will be working on this week. EVERYTHING!!! I started off my training session with some heeling and signals from a short distance, (which he didn't drop all the way to the ground). I also worked on some fronts and finishes. I took him into the "ring" on lead, no food on my body, but he knew where the food was (specifically meatballs, the new wonder drug for training) I worked formally through each of the exercises and didn't do anything that I wouldn't be comfortable doing at a trial.

He jumped on the way back from retrieving the glove, but tried pretty hard to correct his front. He did both articles very nicely. On signals he did a horrible about turn after the slow pace. It was as if he felt squished by the gate and sort of shot forward out of heel position and then waited for me to catch up. He did a LOVELY drop and then walked in on his sit signal (so no pass on this run through), I kept going with the routine. His moving stand was really nice and his directed jumping was fantastic!!! I trained for about 15 minutes more and did some heeling, more signals and some fun proofing drills such as verbal only directed jumping and rewarding touching on the go outs. We ended our session playing with the Frisbee. Gali seemed relaxed through most of the routine and training session except on the signal recall; his body language was telling me that he was pretty unsure.

Here is my list of things to work on:

  1. Glove exercise coming through the jumps, reminding him to watch and/or maybe a chute on the ground.
  2. Heeling
  3. Fronts and Finishes
  4. Fun article things to keep him up and relaxed
  5. Working our signals from various distances, and rewarding different parts
  6. One or two run throughs this week
  7. Getting people to do moving stand with me this week, I am always practicing alone
  8. Various distances for go-outs and distance between the jumps. Randomly rewarding go-outs and surprise endings after jumping.
  9. I should also ask Susie if I can train in her hall this week to give him a change of environment.

It is going to be FUN!!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Not all fun and games (or is it?)

It's Labour Day weekend and I've been off since Thursday night. I've had things to do, you know the usual, laundry, clean the bathroom (hummm.. still have to do that). Chad and have had two herding lessons, one today and one yesterday. Basically though, I've had a lot of time off this weekend to lie around read, watch the tennis and golf. The thought has occurred to me that I should post something on my blog. I wasn't really sure what to write about. I've been getting Gali ready for our first utility trial in October, he coming along really nicely. I think we may be peaking at the right time. So other than bragging about my fabulous Buhund, which I am happy to do, there is not much to say. Ribbon's heeling is suddenly coming together. Her understanding of head cues has come together and I am working on perfecting her figure 8. Signals and articles are coming along great; she is really enjoying those skills. While training random drops and figure 8 tonight I momentarily heard myself saying to classes this week, "Make sure you choose two things each week that aren't your favourites to train and put some time into those skills." Well, guess what I was doing? Heeling (favourite), Articles (another favourite) and random drop with food tossing (nothing more fun than watch your dog chase a piece of food across the floor and then drop). What wasn't I doing? Fronts (least favourite thing to teach) and Dumbbell (not high on my list either).

So before I left the training hall I did some doodling and worked on fronts reminding Ribbon where her focal point is for this skill (my face). She has a habit of planting her rear end quickly and then moving her front feet off to my left which makes her crooked. Sort of an unusual thing I think. By reminding her to watch she picks her head up higher and keeps her front feet still. Then I added some distance, we had some anticipation problems, but no big deal. One thing I really like about my new little girl is that she holds onto a concept really well. What I showed her to do only travelling a few feet easily transferred to a full length recall and she nailed 4 out of 5 fronts. Guess what?? My dog was reinforcing me for training a skill that I am not usually that motivated to train!! How cool is that? Next I got my chute out and worked on sharp off angle fronts allowing her to chase a piece of food to get her away from me. As she was coming back towards the chute, if she wasn't looking up I reminded her to "Watch" and cocked the knee closest to her to make her go around it and into the chute. Worked like a charm and again I think I got 4 out of 6 fronts perfect. I can't wait to train fronts tomorrow!!!!

Good girl Ribbie


Friday, August 27, 2010

Up too early

Chad and I (and all six dogs) are leaving in a few hours to go to the Canadian Border Collie Associations Sheep Dog Championships for the weekend.  I am so excited I can't even sleep.  We are only volunteering. Isn't it silly to be this excited??? I have certainly spend more time herding this summer than anything else.  I had a lesson with Ribbon yesterday that went really well for Ribbon, but I felt like a complete idiot.  I am trying to get ready to do a HT at the BC Specialty in October (AKC).  I have never competed in herding, so I feel like a have three left feet.  To cut myself some slack this was the first time I have put together all the elements of this test.  But I really struggled with the parts of the test not going as I had imagined and then having to remember which direction to walk in and then to turn clockwise or counter-clockwise.  Keeping Ribbon where I wanted her and to continue to walk so that the sheep and Ribbon knew where we were going---It is frustrating just writing it down!!!! I really struggled with going from training mode to trailling mode.  If something didn't go as it usually did, like getting her to bring me the sheep, right away I wanted to get in there and fix it, but Steve kept saying, "go with it, keep everything moving." Why is it so hard to switch from being the leader of the team to being part of the team??

This certainly reminds me to spend more time with my Novice students (or any students showing for the first time at any level) on the strategies of moving around an obedience ring and setting up for exercises, so that it becomes second nature for them.  Someone has to guide the team from location to location and the dog is not the likely candidate for the job.  Something else for me to remember is that each handler needs more than one plan.  What do you do if your first step of heeling doesn't go well, your dog hesitates to move or doesn't move at all?? What do you do if your dog become fixated on one of the figure eight posts?? At what point would you use a second command?? So many scenarios to think about. 

Using visualization certainly makes a difference as far as the perfect mental picture, practicing the routine over and over again.  I believe that you should also include some bumps along the road, so that your reaction to a mistake is pre-planned and then you can return to your routine more smoothly and feel good about things. 

Okay so now I have a plan for my next herding lesson.  A few weeks ago I sent Ribbon on a gather and when I asked her to lay down she did it immediately and the sheep were calm and with me.  Steve's comment was, "You can't do it any better than that."  This is only time I have heard Steve say this, so I am going to put that into my visualization and then add turning counter clockwise and clockwise at the cones and Ribbon pushing too hard on the sheep or over flanking and how I would deal with that and then return to my perfect mental picture.  Three out of four times I am going picture the test going perfectly, but one out of four times I am going to add the bumps in.

I guess getting up early has its advantages!!! Gotta go pack the van now

Monday, August 9, 2010

Golf and Dog Training

Some of you know that I like to watch golf. I have never played a day in my life (but would love to) but I find this sport interesting. For the last five years I have attended the Canadian Open to watch the players do their thing. Last year Chad, my parent's and I ventured to Long Island, New York to watch the US Open (that is a whole story in itself...) and late last night we got back from going to the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio. It was a great trip; I would go again in a heartbeat. I saw the world's best golfers and got to follow my favourite, Canadian Mike Weir. I proudly wore my Canada shirt that says "True North Strong and Free" on it. I had a number of people coming up to me to ask if I was Canadian and then conversations where started about where everyone was from and so on. By the end of the day I would see these people on different parts of the course and we would share a wave to say that we knew each other. It was pretty neat. I have to tell something else that was totally cool... actually there are two things. This has nothing to do with dog training or how I am going to segue into dog training. I just want to share this experience with you. If you don't care about my golf story please skip ahead to the next paragraph. ... The one thing I really wanted to do was to be on the first tee when they announced Mike Weir, so that we could cheer for him. We planted ourselves in the stands (the front row of course!) and cheered with many other Canadians and Mike's fans when his name was announced. It was quite a thrill, firstly because it was the biggest cheer we had heard all day and secondly, I think he was a little shocked by it and looked up and acknowledged us with a wave and a head nod. I think we made him feel good. I would like to say that he looked right at us and maybe, just maybe he recognized us from all the years of stalking him at the Canadian Open. My second story is really, really silly... it was late in the day and the final pairings were getting ready to go. We were walking to first tee to see Phil Michelson tee off. Chad and I were crossing the first hole near the tee with about 40 or so other people. I started to hear people yelling "Hey Phil", (I want to go on record to say that I am not really a big fan of Phil's) I started looking around to see what people were yelling at, and lo and behold Phil is standing about 6 feet from me. Being the very cool person I am, I pointed and said "Hey look Phil Michelson" (duh). He answered someone's question from the crowd and went on his merry way. Once Chad and I regrouped on the other side of the crossing my immediate response was "okay, I know I am not a fan, but that was pretty cool." It was very cool to see someone you watch weekend after weekend on TV that close to you. It was also very interesting to feel the energy around him. The fans were excited to see him and he was responding to their enthusiasm. Lastly I also think that when you are good at what you do and you are embedded in that environment you feed off of it and the result is a very palatable type of energy. My response was silly, but what a neat experience.


While waiting for Mike Weir to tee off, we stopped by the practice range. The golfers can warm up their driving and putting. Often the coaches and caddies are present and you can see some of the things that they are working on and hear some of the banter that goes on between the players. This brought to mind that the same feeling is true at obedience trials. Many of us are there to compete but there is the underlying social aspect to the shows. Friends group together and get caught up on each other's lives. For some of us we only see certain people at certain shows, so that is a part of the draw to that event. The other similarity to golf that I noticed was the ratio of time spend preparing vs. actually competing. Some of us train for years to complete a title that takes about a total of about 45 minute to complete (actual time in the ring + stays). These players practice every day, some play 36 holes of golf a day, plus time at practice ranges and watching video and play four rounds in a tournament for a total of 16 hours of golf. They still have family life to balance and most do charity work and have other irons in the fire with sponsors. They live very full lives just like those of us who choose to compete in dog sports. Another thing I noticed was that the players and coaches fussed about the little things. Where is your head? Keep your left elbow tucked in, routines leading up to hitting the ball and visualization are big components in golf. Sort of like front and finishes for the dog and handling skills for the human part of the team. I think the biggest comparison is that golfers practice, practice, practice and then compete under pressure to put everything they have worked on to the test. Once they hit the ball they can't take it back, just like we do when we start our heeling pattern, whatever happens happens and you have to work forward from that point. Maybe this is what draws me to golf; too bad that dog training can't have corporate sponsorship and prize money equal to this sport. Now that would make things really interesting.


Happy golfing, I mean training!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

So proud (part two)

On my way to the match on Friday I reviewed what my plan was for Gali. I was really looking forward to seeing where Gali is at in terms of when he'll be ready to trial. The seek back exercise went as planned, he managed to jump the bar on the way back to me, but no biggy. It was really, really hot in the arena, so setting up for articles I wondered how Galibwas coping and if what I was seeing was the heat or the fact that we had a male steward hovering at the ring gate. I let him do the first article and I thought he did a great job with it. To test my theory on heat vs man at gate, I asked the ring steward to back up a bit before Gali did his second article. I think he was pretty much his normal happy self, so I guess he was just hot. He had to work his second article much harder than the first and really did a nice job with the whole exercise. For signals I used my one verbal praise that I had planned about 5 steps before we started signals, everything wad going well, I gave my drop signal and he dropped like a stone, but immediately lifted his elbows back off the matts. I re-enforced the drop told him he was a good boy and went on to the sit, which was lovely. I had planned to feed after each signal, but didn't feed the drop because he popped up. My lesson learned wad that I have been putting too much focus on the sit. Moving stand went fine, one little movement on the exam. Our go outs were going to be tough, Gali has done few go outs in context away from home. I did the one short go I had planned, but it didn't help, he went to the jump. I reset a couple of times and had moderate success. His directed jumping was fine. So no real surprises from the whole run, he is pretty much where I thought he was. I was very happy with his heeling and his attitude was fantastic. So over all I am proud of my curly bum dog!!

So proud

While I sit here watching the FIFA world cup soccer, I am reflecting about the match on Friday night. It was a tough one for me because I would have been Presto's 12th birthday. I am certainly struggling with getting back in the game since losing Quinn and Presto at Christmas time. So for me this match was a big deal. The result is that I am very proud of myself for going and enjoying being with my dog show friends and being able to concentrate on what I wanted to achieve. I'll come back to Gali and Ribbon in a minute.

What was really cool for me is watching the people that train with me do there thing at this match. I was sitting in the stands taking in the atmostphere and I realized that all three rings had Companion Dog Training students in them. I was so proud to see their dogs working with attention and tails wagging. What impressed me the most is that they all had a plan. I saw Dawn rewarding fronts and keeping Emma relaxed in utility. Cheryl was working Indigo and was keeping her attention between exercises and alternating rewards of food and a tug toy in the novice ring. In the open ring Angela was working her green open dog and making sure he knew what exercise he was doing and spending time playing with him between exercises. If the dogs made mistakes all three handlers dealt with the mistake quickly and got the dog back on track. There were quite a few others that also did a fabulous job. I have to admit to feeling a little pressure to do just as good a job. One little side note is that Jaimie St. Maurice and her Beardie Windy, finished their CDX and HIT!!! Way to go you two!!!

I will post later and tell you how I handled the pressure of having such great students!!!
My family is calling me for dinner.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It is a rainy Wednesday morning, I have some time before classes begin this morning to think about my training plan for the match this Friday. Gali is going to do utility, this is his first match away from his own training hall. The match is at Pine Point arena, a place we both are very comfortable at. In fact Gali has earned one Novice HIT and one Open HIT at this venue. My plan is to Play around with warm up exercises just like novice and open, keeping him relaxed and animated with games. I will add some tug with his glove and reward response to his signals. I want him to walk into that ring like he owns it. I am going to do seek back formally, reward his set for the articles and reward after each article. For signals I am planning on one verbal praise and then 8 steps away for signals. When he gets his drop and sit I will run in and reward, then back away for the recall. For moving stand I need to remember to fade to the right do that he always has a direct line of sight to me. This seems to help him keep his feet still during the exam. Depending upon his attitude I may do a food toss recall to keep him going strong. I am planning one short go out and then back up for two full distance go outs and directed jumping.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The things you never stop working on (part three)

Hey this is my second post of the night!!! Good for me...
Finishes... the simple little exercise that can bring your score down in a hurry.  I will admit that training the "fiddly" stuff is not my favorite, so over the years I developed ways of teaching the left and right finishes that I find interesting.  For the left finish I like to see my dogs lift out of the front position and then use their rear end to complete the exercise.  I focus on the tidiness of the finish and the intensity of the eye contact between my dog and I.  One of the pickiest definitions is that the spine is paralel with the handler and the dog's front feet are not ahead of the handler's feet.  This is the definition I go with.  I use a my fronting chute for finishes.  I think it helps the dog to do the job all by himself and because a properly fitted chutes allows very little room for error the reinforcement on the exercise is high. 

Here is a list of things to cover in your training sessions: Keep note of which way he is most accurate in the different situations for use later in the ring, just in case you lose half a point on a front you can save yourself another half point deduction by using he most accurate finish.

  • Finishes from not perfect fronts.  Position your dog so that he is off center.  Send him in either direction.  
  • Finishes from a stand.  Place the dog in a stand about 1 foot from proper front position.  Practice sending the dog on a verbal or a signal in this situation.  Your goal is to find out if the dog understands his cue for finishes in different situations. 
  • Right finishes from heel position.  Will the dog go all the way around you and return to heel position??
  • Perpindicular set-ups.  Position yourself so that you are perpindicular to your dog (he would be staring at your left hip) Have him do a finishes from this position. 
Always ask yourself how many finishes you should be doing in a row.  It can be pretty dull from the dog's point of view.  Play in-between sets of finish work.  Reward random parts of the finish to keep his reaction prompt and his expression relaxed and interested in what you are doing.  Extra special reaction for a job well done never goes un-noticed by your dog.  Even for the most food driven dog, a regular "Good Boy" piece of food in the mouth doesn't hold a candle to a "WOW.. you are so smart!!!!" big smile on your face, cookie in the mouth reaction. 

I'm back

My new computer has arrived... finally and the Ontario agility regionals are over, so now I can settle back into my routine of writing.  The regionals were lots of fun and on thursday night I stayed by myself in the trailer with 3 dogs and did some work on my new book.  I started the turns chapter and got started on a new topic about corrections/commands and how to keep them separate to reduce stress in training.  Writing must take more energy than I remember, I was totally consumed by the turns topic.  I don't think I was talking aloud, but I glanced up from my computer to find Echo, Ribbon and Gali staring at me.  It was interesting and weird at the same time. 

If all goes well the book should be out in the spring/summer of 2011.  In the short term I will be making every effort to post more regularily.  It would be great if you would post some comments/questions too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The things you never stop working on (part two)

Attitude---- I am sure this is not a shock to anyone reading this blog, but your attitude will be mirrored by your dog.  I can remember once showing Megan when I had a really bad cold, I felt like crap and Megan was there to share in the misery.  We got through our weekend of showing, but more than a few people commented on how "down" Megan was.  However, my next statement might come as a shock to anyone reading this blog... Have you tried spending one whole week and not training with food or toys??!!  It is a great way to discover how to motivate your dog with your energy and enthusiasm. When practicing heeling I will zig and zag and make weird noises and move in unpredictable patterns.  I am not worrying about footwork I am only looking for ears up, eyes wide open, interested look on my dog's face.  Skipping is another thing to try.  Playing hide-n-seek is a great way to play with your dog.  Right now Ribbon has to find me after retrieves.  She loves it, she flies out to pick up her dumbbell or article and then turns back growling,  trying to find me.  I might only be hiding behind a chair or in the bathroom and when she finds me we play a game of chase.  Hell, this is the only exercise I get!!  Releasing from exercises is a great time to develop interaction and attitude building.  Play with your dog physically for a few seconds.  Get a hold of the hair on the side of their neck and rough house with them.  Mimic how another dog would hang onto your dog when playing, let go and take off running. 
I am curious to see if you will try it and if you do let me know what you came up with. 
Happy no food training!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The things you never stop working on (part one)

Fronts, Finishes, Heeling, Attitude and Motivation.

Choose one or choose several, but these are the things that you should always keep on your training schedule. For today let's talk about fronts, I think that if you asked your dog what a front is he would say it means to come close and sit. For the handler the definition is different. Mine is: Dog sitting tidily with his spine straight, paying attention in the center of my body. The question is how do I transfer this very detailed skill to my dog? The answer is keep working at it. There are other variables that come into play.

  1. Is the dog trotting towards you or cantering? When trotting the dog reaches forward with both feet to an equal distance, when cantering the dog will be on a specific lead leg. This means that one leg will reach forward further than the other. This might cause the dog to twist his body as he gets close to you throwing off his front.
  2. The dog's focal point can make a difference. Is the dog looking at your face, your hands, or somewhere else? Generally where the eyes are looking the dog's body will follow. If the dog is looking up, in theory he will sit up straighter and have his feet underneath him when he sits. His focus will be center, providing that you are looking where you want the dog to be. If he is looking at your hands he will sit more off center closer to the hand that has his attention (usually the hand you feed more often with). He is unlikely to sit with his feet underneath him because his head will be lower and his feet will be spread further apart.
  3. Is the dog carrying anything in his mouth. Often a dog will front differently with a dumbbell or glove in his mouth. The weight of the dumbbell may change how the dog holds his head and thus how he fronts.
Training Tips
Use a fronting clip (like a target) to help the dog come close enough
Use a front chute (two boards stood on their ends) to "mold" the dog into a straight front. The use of the chute is valuable because it increases the number of correct responses and rewards, with little help from the handler. You just stand there and let the boards do the work.

I will try to get some pictures of these two ideas and post them in the next few days.

Happy Training!!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Training what training

I thought that running your own school would mean that I would have lots of time to train my own dogs and have a facility to do it in. I am discovering more and more that having your own school actually means that you have to take care of business first and then if you aren't too tired or if your to do list isn't too long you can spend some time with your own dogs. Lately what I do with my free time is to take the dogs on walks or swimming. It is fun to spend time with them and it also is a stress reliever for me. I have been make a conscious effort to train my dogs on a regular schedule. Gali is getting ready for Utility in the fall, so I have lots to work on there. Ribbon is learning all her foundation skills and my first goal with her is to have her ready for rally at the border collie specialty in October, which I don't think will be a problem. What I have learned from getting back into the groove is why I do this in the first place. I REALLY enjoy training my dogs. I learn something from them each time. My relationship with my dogs gives me something to be proud of. My achievements with my dogs gives me something to celebrate. My mind never stops taking in the information the dogs are telling me. Does he understand this? Are we ready for matches? What is my next step?

So I guess that having your own school has its perks, I just have to remember not to miss out on them and keep doing the things that got me here in the first place.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Welcome to my blog

I will be honest I have never done this before. I could start at the beginning but instead I am going to start with tonight. It's Wednesday and I get to train Ribbon in a Mixed Skills class. This is one of my favorite classes to teach and I am discovering why so many of my students take it over and over again. In one hour we covered retrieving over the high jump, heeling, finishes, directed jumping, go-outs, sit stays and scent articles. My puppy was completely enjoying training and I didn't even notice the time going by. So, I guess I should give a big thank-you to Kelly Morrow for teaching the class so that I can have fun with my puppy.

It has been 14 years since I have had a Border Collie puppy, I guess Ribbon technically isn't a puppy now, since she is a year old now. I am thoroughly enjoying training her. She is different than my other border collies, she has a great work ethic like my other dogs, but no sense of humour when she is working. It will be interesting to see if one develops. I am a big believer that you get the dog you were meant to get. So the question is why do I need a dog like this? I can't at this stage of our relationship even picture what it will be like to walk into a ring with her and compete. But I am in for the challenges and effort it takes to get there.