Thursday, April 29, 2010

Slow week....

It's been a pretty slow week for us, but I didn't want to go an entire week between entries -- so here is my meaningless post of the day. :o)

We had a short training night on Monday, just using treats (because I was lazy). We primarily just worked on bottoms, pinwheels and recalls/releases. I had a tunnel discrimination set up under the a-frame for the boys and played with that a bit, but she really isn't even remotely ready for that yet.

Rascal & Bethany came over on Tuesday, so Secret got in some play time after his agility lesson. They are starting to have so much fun together and there is a lot more running during their play dates now -- Kaiser doesn't dominate things nearly so much, although he certainly does try.

Secret still had some energy to burn after they left, so I brought out the frisbees to play with her. She's been doing great chasing the rolling discs, so I thought I'd toss one to see if she'd chase a flying disc, too. Stupid error on my part -- she jumped at it as it went over her head and either twisted something or landed funny. When she came down she took a few steps then laid down and acted like her right hind was bothering her, as she kicked it out a few times and looked at it. I poked and prodded her all over and couldn't get any reaction, so I have no idea what she did. She was moving fine, so I tried not to stress over it too much. ONLY rolling discs for some time yet, she's too young to be flipping all over the place.

My plan last night was to give the dogs the night completely off from everything, but Secret was pestering Kaiser and had a bug up her butt -- So I decided to chuck a few frisbees across the lawn for her. She did better than ever and snatched nearly every one. She's getting good at reading their path and catching them as they roll. Even better, she brought back EVERY SINGLE ONE! Our routine is that she brings one back, drops it and I roll the next one for her. Sometimes we tug, but she seems more eager to just chase the next one, so we generally do that.

We only did about 10 rolls last night. I'm really trying hard to not burn her out on playing and make sure to quit while she's still actively participating.

Luke has a chiropractic appointment tonight and I'm considering leaving Secret & Kaiser home while we drive to Viroqua. It's such a long time for them to sit in the car -- Ultimately it depends on how warm it is this afternoon, I suppose.

This weekend we finally have another agility trial here in La Crosse. More great socializing time for Secret!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Busy Day!

Yesterday was one heck of a long day, as evidenced by the way Secret crashed on the car ride home.

The fun started on Saturday. It was a rainy day, so the poor dogs were stuck inside pretty much all day doing nothing. I gave Secret & Kaiser their baths around 4:00 p.m., and at that point life got even more boring because they could no longer even go outside unsupervised. With as pent up as everyone was, there was sure to be some mud wrestling going on -- and we couldn't have that after making them all white & beautiful! :o)

I went out Saturday night, so that meant boring crate time for Secret. I tried to make it up to her by making an extra special Kong for her. I froze canned dog food into the Kong earlier in the day and then added peanut butter to it before I left. I figure that should have lasted a bit longer for her.

We got up and going around 8:00 on Sunday. Sadly (for me!), it was one of those days where we probably could have easily stayed in bed until 10:00 because the dogs are always tired on nights I go out, but alas we had to hit the road! Everyone cooperated and we were able to leave a bit after 9:00. The good thing about everyone being tired is that all three dogs pretty much slept the entire trip to Woodbury, MN.

We arrived at our destination around noon and the dogs were ready to get out of the car! I went in to register and discovered that there wasn't any sort of crating area available, which meant the dogs were going to have to stay in the car. :o( Thankfully it was a beautiful, cool day and they would be comfortable in there. I set them up with the water bucket and then took them out in turns for walks and into the building to settle into the environment.

I cannot say enough about how proud I am of Secret's (and Kaiser!) behavior. It was literally a mad house in there at times. Many, many dogs showed up for the open casting call -- and the majority of them did not have the sort of manners you would expect from an "animal actor." Multiple dogs came in on halties, presumably because they were uncontrollable any other way (going by their behavior). Several dogs were hyper beyond belief and wouldn't settle down. A few were aggressive, most had no manners. I was a bit appalled. Those of us with mannered dogs seemed to congregate together to try to protect our dogs from the madness.

Secret got many compliments on her calm behavior. She went through her repertoire of tricks a few times and otherwise just laid calmly at my feet. She lightly growled at a few of the crazy dogs that came near, but settled when I spoke to her.

Our total wait time was THREE HOURS. The dogs got shuffled in and out of the car several times in that period and they all did so well. When it was Secret's turn to be photographed, she was a bit nervous but she held her sit-stay incredibly well. She even got to show off her bow, pretty & stand (on her hind legs). Hopefully the pictures turn out well!

The timing could not have worked out better. As soon as Kaiser & Secret were done at the photo shoot, we hit the road for Shakopee and made it just in time for weight pull practice for Kaiser. They hold these a couple of times a month, but generally it doesn't pay for me to drive all that way just for a quick practice. I lucked out that I was able to combine it with my trip up for the casting call!

Secret was pretty pooped by this point, so she slept quietly in the pen for the majority of the time we were at the pull. The dogs were happy to be out of the car for a little while, I think! Poor Kaiser was sleeping in the pen between pulls, he was so tuckered out. He still did a great job, though, and pulled the 300 lb cart four times -- once with a young girl sitting on it to add another 50/60 lbs or so.

I fed the dogs their dinner at the warehouse, figuring they would be upset if they had to wait until 9:00 to eat. That put us back on the road around 6:00 p.m. Secret & Kaiser had a bit of a wrestling match in the back of the car, but everyone was zonked out by the time we hit Hwy 52.

It was a long, long day, but everyone traveled very well and were model citizens. I will be interested to see if anything turns up with the animal acting gig!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Make me a STAR!!

On Sunday I will be taking Secret & Kaiser to "audition" for a animal actor photographer in Minneapolis! It's time for the kids to pay the bills.

Kaiser has a more unique look, being a rare breed (and a cute one at that), but I'm hoping Secret has a shot due to her split face & expressive look. I look forward to seeing what the photographer thinks! Then we just sit back and wait to see if any of her clients are interested in using one of them. Fun, fun!

I should put the picture below into her acting portfolio to show how well she could play a dead dog. :o)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Another tooth??

Last night I was sitting down to read the paper when I heard an odd crunching noise coming from the living room. How odd, I thought, since I have removed almost all the toys (part of the Ruff Love program I thought I'd follow) and surely there wasn't anything "crunchy" out there.

Secret was acting like she was chewing on something, but I didn't see anything. Hmm. I went back to reading and I heard it again. What DID she have, I wondered? So I went to check again and this time she presented me with a prize.

Another tooth? Really? I thought she was done teething, but this does explain why her ears have been doing such odd things the last few days and perhaps her reluctance to tug the other night.

So we're up to five that she's left for me now. Do you think we're done yet?

I hope you appreciate my attempt to be artsy-fartsy by photographing the tooth on the pretty backdrop of my stove. lol

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Toys, toys, toys

Secret has had two really good days in a row of training exclusively with toys. I don't even wear my treat bag out into the yard, as I figure she's learned that there is food in there and might, then, be less inclined to play with the toys.

On Monday I set up a simple drill of two tunnels running parallel to each other, connected by a pinwheel on one end and a single hoop on the other end. I started with the Ringzee and really got her going nicely. The only issue we have with this toy is that she starts to shut down after a few running recalls -- I am almost positive that it is because I fear the safety of my hands with the smaller ring, and she feels my hesitancy. So when she started to lose interest in the Ringzee, we switched to the longer tug stick with the squeaky ball on the end and the fun was restored. She really did awesome with this drill and was driving nicely forward. After our "training" session, I threw the big squeaky Kong ball for her and she had a blast. Yay for increasing love of toys!

Last night I set up a chances course to play on with the boys. The layout offered us a lead out to a tunnel, a pinwheel sequence and a straight line of jumps to play with, all set at 6". We started with the Ringzee, moved to the big tug stick (no squeaky) and settled on the squeaky chicken. I'm excited that Secret is starting to target into jumps and go over them with enthusiasm!

I also started to introduce the rear cross at the tunnel, since she is getting so much better at driving to it. The first couple of times she was like, "What? Where are you going?" She figured it out very quickly and we had several successful rear crosses at the tunnel.

I did try to move on to introducing the rear cross at a jump, but she was quite done by that point. I made the mistake of pushing her too long. She was already a bit tired when we started our session, so I should have kept it very short & simple. Instead, I pushed too long and she ended up shutting down on me at the end. Bad handler!

I haven't decided if I'll push for another training session tonight or if I'll finally mow the backyard.....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Contacts, Flyball, Beach & Petco!

We got a lot done this weekend and Secret got in lots of socializing time. There was a flyball tournament at the dog center this weekend, so I met up with Holly to take the dogs and watch for a bit on Sunday.

I was surprised at how well Secret did with all of the noise. And there was a LOT of noise compared to agility trials! She got better as we sat there and even watched a little bit of the action, but she certainly didn't get high from it. A few people commented on how calm & relaxed she was in an envious tone, but really, part of me wishes she was a barking, lunging lunatic like their dogs were. lol Just a LITTLE drive would be nice at this point...

I started to get this look after about an hour -- Her, "Plllllleeeeeaassssee, can we go home now?" look. She & Ailie were both getting fairly bored at that point, so we decided to give our ears a break and head out.

We went to the beach again with all of the dogs. Neville was along this time and Secret hasn't really met him yet, but they did very well together (Kaiser didn't, but he's kept on leash so that didn't really matter). Secret was most interested in all of the sticks along the shore, so we used those to get her in the water since the tennis balls didn't seem to interest her much. We played with distance and threw one out to a point where she would have to swim -- if she didn't get it, we'd just be down another stick! :o) Well surprise, surprise -- she got it! She had to swim a fair distance out and back, too! Good girl!! She's a good little swimmer!

As if all this activity wasn't enough, we had to swing into Petco on the way home to pick up more dog food. Since I was just picking up a smaller bag to get us through until we see "our supplier" at the next trial, I figured she could come in with me. She was a good, good girl! I've never seen her so happy & relaxed in a store. She trotted beside me on a loose leash the whole time and didn't even take note of all the kitties there for an adoption day.

When we got to the checkout counter, she stood up on it with her front legs and looked at the associate, wondering where her treat was -- she knows the drill! She sat nicely when asked, inhaled her treat and then went looking for more. lol

After her busy day, she totally crashed on the trip home.

I did make a video of her contact work on Saturday, but we did it late in the day after several play sessions, as I was waiting for the insane wind to die down (didn't want her blown off the dog walk!). As a result, she was not quite as into it as usual, but she still did a great job and it was worth documenting for her blog. :o)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Big Improvements!

The above photo was taken after a busy night -- First Secret went in to visit the folks at the vet clinic (the boys had an appointment tonight) to show off her tricks and get a weight. The first bit of good news is that she was only 38 lbs! A month ago she was 37.6 lbs, so we are finally tapering off on the growth. :o)

The other good news is that she was super happy to see everyone and went right up to them for petting, loving and, of course, treats. Everyone remarked at the change in her. I'm so happy that she's becoming more confident and friendly. She showed off several of her tricks including -- SHOCKER -- Bang! That trick has never been very successful in public because she doesn't like it much. lol

After all that activity, I wasn't sure how much dog I would have left to train when we got home. I had to give it a try, though, because my a-frame was finally brought out of hibernation Wednesday night and I wanted to see what Secret thought. The teeter also got brought up from the basement, so we had that to play on as well.

We started with bottoms on the dog walk as a warm-up, then moved on to running the length of the dog walk and connecting it with a jump or hoop on each end. Secret LOVES the dog walk and is starting to actually run across it. She nearly lost her footing on one pass, but recovered nicely. Granted, the dog walk is still set as low as it goes, so it's not far to the ground in case she were to have a wobble. She nailed each and every one of her 2-on/2-off positions, but did break a little early once or twice. I'm starting to test her more on her releases, so that is to be expected.

When we moved to the a-frame, I had her do her bottoms from all angles and she nailed it. I have the frame set as low as the chain goes -- about 4' -- so the angle is relatively easy at this stage.

She absolutely shocked me when it came time to go up and over the full frame. I fully expected her to go over and keep running, but she nailed her bottom the very first time and held it. GOOD GIRL!!! She was absolutely 100% with hitting her position and held it while I did a front cross to send her through a hoop. She really floored me with how well she did. I am so excited about the idea of having a dog who nails contacts. :o) Other people are working hard on running contacts because it is undoubtedly a faster performance, but at this stage of my life I'm just thrilled to have a dog that won't get faulted. lol Some time down the road we'll likely work on a quick release or transition to running, but she obviously enjoys doing the 2-on/2-off, so we'll continue with this for now.

The teeter is set as low as it can comfortably go -- the end is probably only 8" - 10" off the ground, so it's more or less a glorified wobble board. Secret was like, "Really, is this it?" I will probably move it up fairly quickly for her, but I have Rascal coming for a lesson tonight and he will need it low for his first introduction.

It's been very windy the last few days, so not a good environment to bring the chute out again. It is supposed to be gorgeous this weekend, so I look forward to getting in some good training time. We are also planning to meet Holly & Ailie at the beach on Sunday!

And whoops, before I forget! Secret is slowly turning into a frisbee dog! She has gotten FABULOUS about chasing after the rolling discs and better yet, she's coming back to me with them! The general routine is that I roll the disc for her and then I run to the other end of the yard for her to chase me. When she brings it back, I tug with her for a bit and then show her the other disc in my hand to get her to release and then run after the new disc. This routine seems to make her happy and she's starting to get excited about the frisbee. We haven't been doing any short toss work until her bite gets better on the rolling discs. We've transitioned entirely to flexible hard discs (I bought a couple recommended by Zak George at ) and she loves them. The fabric frisbees are easier for her to catch, but she was becoming far too fixated on ripping up the grass through them rather than playing with me!

My goal for the weekend is to video Secret's contact work!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

First Beach Trip!

I had to run to the dog center to get my crates out of there before the weekend (no class this week, long story...), so I decided to make it a fun day for the dogs. We met Holly & Ailie and took the dogs to the beach!

Secret wasn't sure right away if the water was something she was interested in investigating. She kind of hung around on the shore for a while, but eventually she decided to check it out when she saw that all of the other dogs were having fun.

Secret is still in love with Ailie, but Ailie only had eyes for the bumper. Secret didn't seem to notice, as she enjoyed chasing after Ailie on the retrieves.

When Ailie was occupied in the water, Secret turned her attention to beating up on Kaiser.

Secret showed an unexpected interest in the bumper Holly had along!

Which led to.... SHOCKER!!! Secret retrieved!! From the water!!

We were in awe and couldn't believe how many times she did it. She was funny to watch because she would run to a certain point in the water, stop, then walk out to the bumper before *slowly* walking back each time. Holly played with the distance and at one point Secret went out so far for the bumper that the water was over her back. Good girl!!

It was such a fun time for everyone! We took the dogs for a walk down the road afterwards to dry off a bit. Secret ended up on leash after she turned her ears off, but it was safer that way because there ended up being more traffic than we expected. They got to go for another short walk when we drove down to the spillway before going home, so I had some nice, tired puppies when we got home!

My copy of Ruff Love did, indeed, arrive on Friday and I read it that very night. It was an eye-opening read and full of great information, but ultimately I don't feel I am in the position to be able to implement everything in the program. I am using parts of it, such as removing free access to toys (hey, the house looks cleaner already!), feeding her dinner by hand (breakfast has too much stuff mixed with it) and using her crate more (she gets a timeout when she doesn't come in when called and I also crate her while I work the boys, before she gets her session outside).

I'm trying to make a point to have several tug sessions with her each day to build up her drive and to make myself more fun. I ordered a Ringzee from Clean Run with the books and it seems to be a big hit with Secret. It's just a wool ring, but she enjoys tugging on it and has been getting really into it with me. I used the Ringzee during our play/training session on Saturday and was thrilled with how into everything she was. I was about ready to die from all the running around I was doing to hype her up, but she did some nice fast tunnels and even connected some 6" jumps to them.

Hopefully this is the start of more good things to come! Holly loaned me her "Shaping Success" book (also by Susan Garrett) and I wish I would have ordered that one instead of Ruff Love. I'm halfway through it and have already gotten so much from it. It has many great suggestions for drive-building games and training exercises!

Friday, April 9, 2010

8 Months Old!

Happy 8-Month Birthday to Secret today! She's turning into such a big girl, as you can see by the above photo. She looks like such a goon when she does "sit pretty." lol

My copy of Ruff Love did not come last night, but I somewhat implemented some of the stuff I know about it. When she blew me off when it was time to come in the house, into the crate she went for about five minutes or so. She's always very well behaved when it's time to come out, and it does seem to help to get her to come inside the next time we go out.

I also fed her dinner by hand, making her work for it via crate games and tricks. Boy did that fire her up! I didn't hand feed breakfast because I always add stuff to that meal (yogurt, oil, etc.), but if I do the program I'll have to hand feed that meal as well.

Secret has had a bit of an epiphany with tugging, it seems. She's putting more effort into it and seemingly having more fun with it. That's good, I'll take it!

The book SHOULD be here tonight, and I'm really looking forward to digging into it over the weekend.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Backing up...

Wow -- No new picture today. :o( I didn't plan for it, and now she's just zonked out and not looking very photogenic. lol I must be starting to slack on the picture taking front!

I took a step back after that last post and have been doing a lot of thinking. I may have to change the way I do a few things in order to develop the type of relationship I'm seeking to have with Secret. I did order the "Ruff Love" book by Susan Garrett, along with a Patricia McConnell book about playing with your dog. I expect them to arrive today or tomorrow, and look forward to really digging into the subject matter.

Several people have told me that "Ruff Love" will be exactly the answer I'm looking for, but I do have my doubts that I will be able to commit to the program. It seems very intense and completely different from our normal lifestyle -- But then again, our "normal lifestyle" is not giving me the connection I had hoped for. I struggle with the concept of "fair treatment" of the dogs, as I don't plan to put the boys on the Ruff Love program, but I have been assured that dogs have no concept of fair (are you sure?).

I realized the other night that it had been a very long time since I had done any trick training with Secret. I more or less abandoned it when the nice weather hit us. Tuesday evening we were stuck indoors from the rain, so I grabbed the clicker and took Secret into the bedroom (our way to get away from the boys!).

She was so happy. She loves her trick training time with the clicker. It made me realize that I definitely do need to put it back into our schedule. It also gives us some good one-on-one time, so there are multiple benefits.

Last night at the dog center I decided to not even worry about trying to get her to play. I just grabbed the clicker from the start and gave her a click/treat for going between the jump standards. She was having fun, so we just continued to play like this. We also did her bottoms and she freaked me out by going up and over the teeter! Surprisingly, this didn't seem to scare her, so we did it a couple more times. I guess the tippy board work has paid off! She also started up the dog walk on her own while I was talking to Holly, so rather than risk her turning around and falling that high up, I let her go across the big dog walk for the first time (just walking!!). She didn't seem to notice at all and popped into her bottom at the end. Silly girl.

It will be interesting to see what the coming weeks have in store for us and whether or not I'll be able to implement the Ruff Love program.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I continue to be frustrated with my lack of ability to really tap into any sort of drive or enthusiasm with Secret. Early on, I appeased myself by saying that neither of my boys developed much interest in playing games like fetch until they were six months old or so. Six months came and went with Secret; she is now days away from eight months and still I struggle.

Last night I had two tunnels set in a straight line. Easy stuff, more or less just to play with. I had the Wubba, since this has typically proven to be a "fun" toy for Secret (and is only available during play time with me). I believe she chased after it with a measurable degree of enthusiasm twice. She may have chased after it in a "ho-hum" manner a couple more times, then was completely disinterested.

She displayed quite a bit of what would typically be called stress sniffing behavior from the beginning. What frustrated me the most, however, was that the sniffing behavior continued even when I switched to rewarding her with treats. She just had zero interest in interacting with me last night. Even when I ran around and tried to get her to chase me, she generally chose to sniff around in the grass instead.

I got pretty much no interest from her whatsoever until we got near the dog walk and she offered her 2-on/2-off behavior. Then it was a light came on in her eyes and she beamed. I grabbed the clicker and we worked on the dog walk, including going up & over with a stop on the end. She did fantastic. She was happy. We went back to do a tunnel and she was bored. I put a hoop in front of the dog walk and she was happy. ARGH.

I tied her up to the deck while I worked the boys and again got the, "OMG, I'm so deathly bored" expression out of her. When they were done, I thought I'd give her another shot at the tunnels to see if she had gained any sort of excitement whatsoever from watching the boys. She did the straight line of hoop, tunnel, hoop, tunnel, hoop, but she just loped through it without any real enthusiasm. But still, I ended there because she did it.

You'd think, "Oh, maybe she's just tired?" But no, she goes completely bonkers running around with Kaiser when they are done working. Her entire world of play seems to revolve around Kaiser and I often wonder if that is the issue. With me she is so SERIOUS and Kaiser is her playmate.

I have always "poo-poo'd" the Ruff Love program, but I am giving it serious thought now. I just find it very frustrating that Secret has almost no interest in playing with me and I am unsure of how to bring it out in her.

I want agility to be a game and fun play time for her, but I'm wondering if I would have more success turning into a clicker session with her. She gets so serious and unplayful when the clicker comes out, though -- She's all about work, work, work when it is around -- Maybe she'd be happier if agility were a job, not a game? It just seems wrong.

If this post sounds cranky, I would say it's likely due to the fact that I have gotten very little sleep the last couple of nights. I am trying to get Secret to settle and stay in bed with the bedroom door open, as it's been getting stuffy in there with three dogs as the weather gets warmer. This seems to be far too much of a distraction for her and she's been very active throughout the nights. Last night I gave up and closed the door after she jumped off the first time. She jumped off again an hour later, so I gave up and put the dogs outside. While they were outside, I moved her crate into the bedroom. Of course, she then zonked out like a light the rest of the night (even with the door open).

The crate WILL be used if we have any further restless nights. Constantly changing position, pushing me out of the bed by pressing against me every time I move away (it's hot!), and tail thumping will not be allowed in bed.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Such restraint!

I found it much easier to teach Secret not to touch Kaiser's food dish than to get Kaiser to eat on any sort of schedule.

Oops, I caught her! lol

So sad, she fell asleep by his dish! :o)

We had a very, very lazy day yesterday. The dogs were all absolutely exhausted from the busy week they have had in our gorgeous spring weather. Secret didn't do any training after class on Wednesday, but she did get to play with Ailie and it tuckered her out. So because yesterday was such a quiet day, today they are all rested and ready to go...

Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much we'll be able to do today. Luke has a chiropractic appointment in Viroqua, which means Secret will be spending a good portion of her afternoon in the car. :o(

It is Easter weekend and we don't have any big plans, so hopefully we will get several opportunities to play outside!