Friday, May 28, 2010

Maybe I *can* be taught?

If I have one failing as a trainer, it's that I always tend to push just a *little* too far. I am addicted to success and always want a little more. And what always happens? The dog shuts down.

I am guilty of doing this not only with Secret, but also with Kaiser. Luke doesn't seem to have a fail point, other than physical exhaustion (which I must be careful of, lest injuries come into play).

I am trying desperately to get a grasp on this habit of mine, and the first positive step is that I'm aware of the problem. :o)

Last night I made a deliberate choice to stop before Secret quit on me. I had a CPE Jackpot course set up for the boys, which gave me several schooling opportunities to play with Secret. I made sure to not drill any particular obstacle more than a few times and I tried to space everything well out, interspersing things I knew she goes nuts for (ie: contacts).

The surprise of the night was that she immediately took to the chute. I haven't had it out for some time due to all the wind we seem to always have, and we haven't done much training on it at all. Secret decided it was super fun, though, and offered it several times on her own -- including a time when I wasn't prepared and she ended up twisting a bit in the end.... It didn't scare her, though, as she immediately went all the way through again when asked. Silly girl...

We have not done much up & over work on the a-frame at all, but still I was surprised that Secret repeatedly went around it when I asked her to go up. After a couple of times luring her over with chicken, this passed and she ran right up and over -- nailing her two-on/two-off at the bottom, of course. I'm not a fan of the force that position puts on them with the a-frame and am still considering switching Secret to a running contact on the a-frame. I'll worry about it in a couple of months when she starts doing more of them, I suppose.

Her teeter & dog walk work were spot on, as usual. I will likely raise both of them a bit in the coming weeks.

The rear cross continues to be our nemesis. Secret responds beautifully to front cross cues and honestly just isn't running fast enough at the moment to get a proper rear cross. Maybe I need to put off focusing on them until she finds her gears a bit more. Secret's speed is directly related to my own speed, so she's definitely making me work! :o)

Tonight Rascal is coming over for an agility lesson -- we haven't seen him in weeks for various reasons. Tomorrow we plan to lay low and then Sunday it's off to an agility trial in Zumbro Falls, MN!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Secret vs the HOSE!

I can't believe it, but I've finally found something that Secret went nuts for -- The Hose.

It was HOT yesterday. We hit a record high of 94 and it was humid; definitely a day that was not good for doing anything outside. Alas, the dogs needed to do something AND the lawn needed to be watered, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone. Truthfully, I already knew that Luke & Kaiser wouldn't be interested, but I secretly hoped that Secret might find it a fun game.

Did she ever! I have never seen her get so wound up about anything in her life thus far. She thought the water shooting out of the hose was just grand and she would chase it in circles, pounce on it and snap at it coming out of the nozzle.

The game actually went on for quite some time, especially considering how hot it was. Normally she poops out far sooner, but I guess she's willing to work a bit harder when she thinks it is the most fun game on the planet.

I had a pooped out puppy at the end of it all, and a very wet one at that. Luke tolerated being sprayed with the hose because he was hot, but Kaiser wanted none of it. He thought Secret was nuts and watched the whole game from the shade next to the house. Poor Kaiser does not tolerate heat well at all.

The end result? We went back in the house, had dinner, and then Secret crashed for the ENTIRE night. Yay for our new friend, the hose! :o)

Monday, May 24, 2010

We met Blizzard!

Secret had a mini family reunion yesterday! We made it down to the dog center early enough that we got to spend quite a bit of time with Secret's brother, Blizzard, and his owner, Ruth. Lucky for us, they happened to be outside on a potty break when we pulled up, so they were an easy pair to spot. Secret, of course, sticks out like a sore thumb due to all the pictures I've posted of her online. :o)

She started out with her usual uncertain growl and snarking. Blizzard was a champ about it and cautiously gave her the distance she needed, but also kept trying to be friends. It's so very hard to tell if they actually remembered each other straight away, but Secret got over herself fairly quickly and then they were fast friends.

We were able to let them off leash to run and play for a while when there weren't several other dogs around. The two of them had a grand time chasing each other around and boxing at each other. It was a hot morning and it didn't take long for the two of them to tire out and crash. Then they settled into laying next to each other to eat grass. :o)

It was so fun to get to see Blizzard again. He's obviously grown up a lot since I met them all as little puppies! He's turning into a handsome boy, and he has the best personality! We had a lot of fun telling everyone that they are littermates. Their coats are obviously completely different, but I think they share a LOT of similarities when you see them side by side. Their faces & expressions are very similar, as are their size & build. Surprisingly, they also share the exact same bark!

I stuck around to watch Ruth run her two older dogs in Excellent JWW, during which time Secret got to help me run score sheets back and forth. She was perfectly well behaved and acted exceedingly polite around all of the unfamiliar people & dogs in tight quarters.

After a nap at home, I took all of the dogs swimming. We met Holly & Diane at the Dresbach boat landing. I've never been there, but it ended up being a fantastic swimming spot for the dogs and we'll definitely go back there again! Secret found her sea legs and actually went on a couple of random swims for no reason -- well, truly, I think she was searching for a stick or something, but she actually went out fairly far! She retrieved a stick at swimming distance several times, but there is definitely a limit to how far out she will go to retrieve. She's turning into a little water dog!

Secret traveled well to the agility trial in Savage, MN this weekend. We went up on Friday and just did the one day on Saturday. There was a bit of an issue with her refusing to go to the bathroom at the hotel Friday night, so unfortunately she had to spend the night in her crate. I'm still not sure what that was all about!

I decided to keep Secret separated from the boys at the trial to give the boys a bit more space, and because I think Secret behaves better that way. She barked a bit, but was much less vocal than she was at the La Crosse trial! We had every weather event imaginable that day and she was a real trooper dealing with the wind, thunder & rain.

She did quite well with the people she knows and fairly well with those she doesn't. We got to play with Peppy & Neeko for a while and she thought that was great fun. She wasn't so sure of Neeko in the morning, but once she was off leash around him later in the day she was fine. Secret seems to adore Peppy!

It is hot, hot, hot here for the next few days, so I have a feeling we won't be getting much training done at home.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just a quickie...

Just a quick post since we're going to be gone for a few days -- Tomorrow we're heading out on the road for Secret's first away trial since January! I imagine staying in a hotel should be slightly more relaxing now that she's fully potty trained. This particular hotel also has doors that open straight to the outside, so I don't have to worry about three dogs dragging me down the hallway...

We're going to just one day of the MMBC NADAC trial in Savage, MN on Saturday and leave tomorrow afternoon. I'm going to head over to the park tomorrow afternoon to set up my stuff so that we can sleep in a bit Saturday morning. :o) I figure it will also give the dogs a chance to stretch their legs a bit before we go back to the hotel for the night.

Secret has had a great week. A couple of nights ago I set up a simple circle of jumps and hoops -- eight total, I believe -- and the last two nights we've been working on just getting a bit more speed and distance going around the circle. I throw in a wrap every now and then as well as continuing to work on developing the rear cross. She's still spinning, but she'll figure it out eventually! Distance-wise, she's finding the obstacles on her own quite well now and I've been able to move about 10' to 15' laterally to the inside.

We don't work this for very long (mostly because I get pooped!), so it generally isn't long before she's terrorizing Kaiser in the house. When that happens, we go outside for frisbee time, which Secret continues to view with more & more enthusiasm. She's starting to catch more of the short tosses I throw at her after she's tired from chasing the rolling discs. We'll still wait a while for the long tosses.

On Sunday I hope to meet up with Ruth, the woman who adopted Secret's brother, Blizzard (formerly Mozart). She's coming to the AKC trial in La Crosse and I have to remember to haul my butt out of bed in the morning to get down there before she leaves. I'm so interested to see if Secret remembers her brother! I can't wait to see how much he's changed since I met him as a little squirt.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Great night of agility work!

Sassypants impressed me last night!

Secret and Kaiser were running around a fair bit while I was setting up a course for the boys, so it was obvious she had plenty of energy to burn -- but I always worry about her pooping herself out before we even get around to doing anything. It's a silly concern, really, since she generally only needs five minutes to recharge her batteries before she's up and running again.

I am still in the habit of putting Secret in her crate in the house while I work the boys first. I feel that if I were to tie her up to the deck to wait her turn, I surely wouldn't have a dog left when it came time to work her. She's starting to bark a bit more while we're outside, hopefully because she knows that her turn is next and she's excited about it.

At any rate, Secret had a fantastic session last night. We played around on the various sections of a Chances course I had set up -- There were two jumps that led into a tunnel under the dog walk followed by the option of another tunnel or a jump. We also had a wide open pinwheel of hoops to play with that led into the weaves, but we obviously haven't started on that yet. :o) I did get my 2 x 2 poles delivered on Friday, though, so we are all set when the time comes!!! I'm so excited to try that method.

I started with the first jump and kept building on it, working both on leading out and racing with her. Plain and simple, the faster I run, the faster Secret runs. We actually ended up connecting seven obstacles -- jump, jump, tunnel, tunnel, hoop, hoop, hoop -- which included a blind cross on the tunnel exit. What thrills me the most, aside from her increased speed & enthusiasm, is that she didn't go around a single obstacle! Even when I was running ahead of her, she hit them right on target. Good girl!

We did a bit of work on the dog walk. Secret doesn't feel confident performing the entire dog walk independently, for if I led out or raced too far ahead she would either completely miss the up ramp or she'd go up a couple of strides and jump off. So long as I stayed even with or just ahead of her, she didn't have a problem. Secret didn't seem to have an issue with the tunnel being under the dog walk.

We touched on the tunnel/dog walk discrimination. That one may prove to be a hard one for us in the future, thanks to the high rate of reinforcement that Secret has always gotten for the contacts. I did get the "out tunnel" through to her, but only by body-blocking the dog walk ramp. It's a start, though, seeing as she began by plowing through my body block to get onto the dog walk. lol

I let her play on the teeter a bit since she loves it. It cracks me up how she seems to be unfazed by the taller teeter, although the first time it drops she tends to get a bit of a surprised look on her face. She's holding her bottom on the teeter like a pro, although every now and then she does get a bit crooked on me.

When I bring the boys back outside, I like to put them all in a sit or down/stay and let them race across the yard to me. For as well as Secret holds her stay when it's just the two of us, she absolutely stinks at holding it when the boys are around. I resigned myself to walking backwards to keep an eye on her and ended up only going halfway across the yard. Secret actually beat Kaiser for the first time ever last night. :o)

The picture below is of one of Secret & Kaiser's many morning wrestling sessions on the bed...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weekend update -- 5K walk!

Saturday morning, I packed up the crew and we went to La Crosse to meet my parents for a 5K walk that my mom was doing with her Weight Watchers group. It wasn't an "official" event and I hoped that dogs would be welcome. As it turns out, I wasn't the only one with the idea to bring a dog or two (or three...), and several others arrived with dogs as well. And children. Lots and lots of children.

It was a good experience for Secret, although it did fry her brain just a bit. Several of the other dogs who came were, shall we say, unstable. Secret doesn't do well with unstable dogs and she was very reactionary towards them as we waited to get started. I used this as an opportunity to get her to focus on me, which worked well the majority of the time, but there were a couple of dogs she really didn't like.

The other issue was the children. Oh my, I didn't expect there to be so many. And of course, what do children want to do? Pet the puppy! And do you think the majority of the children asked if they could pet the puppy? Of course not! I had to be quite vigilant of watching our surroundings to make sure one of them didn't come up and grab her from behind.

Honestly, Secret started out incredibly well and even let a kid pet her. She started having problems when said kid started waving his hand around above her face. That's the point where she became uncomfortable and she did a little air snap at his hand. That was the end of her allowed interaction with children. These were just not dog-savvy kids and by far not a good socializing experience for her.

I had to keep her on a fairly short leash and keep my attention on the kids, because quite frequently one would dart closely past us and Secret would try to chase after it. Really, when you think of it, what are errant children but sheep who break away from the herd and need to be returned? It is no wonder that Border Collies have a reputation of nipping and herding children. They move like crazy little sheep.

Things improved ten-fold once we actually started walking. There was quite a bit of pulling on Secret's behalf, but she was no longer stressing over the other dogs or children among us. We started out at the back of the pack and very quickly moved to the side and ended up at the front. I know from experience that the dogs (and myself) do not do well being kept to a slow pace behind a crowd and they were much happier once we were able to stride out.

The dogs all handled the length of the 5K with ease. It was a gorgeous morning with temperatures around 70 degrees; about as perfect as one could hope for. Secret did better with the pulling as the walk went on and she began to settle. By the halfway point she was more or less walking nicely by my side.

We finished the walk in about 45 minutes and then let the dogs hang out in the shade under a tree with the bucket of water I'd brought along. They were all happily pooped and didn't seem to mind hanging out in the car with the water bucket & a fan while I went shopping at Kohl's afterwards. :o) In fact, the remainder of the day was quite quiet for all!

Yesterday was lawn mowing day -- Secret more or less just hung out on the deck and sunned herself. We didn't do very much else because I was gone a large portion of the day to my cousin's graduation. I attempted to play frisbee with her when I got home, but she was having none of it. She seemed happy to chase after tennis balls, though -- not bringing a single one back.... Secret has done so well with learning to retrieve the frisbees, but it does not seem to be transferring to tennis balls in the least. Oh well, I guess it gives me exercise, too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Done growing?

I had to stop by the vet's office yesterday to pick up Luke's medication, so I took Secret in to get a weight on her. I looked back and see that the last time I weighed her was April 15 and she was 38 lbs on the nose. Last night she was 37.7 lbs!

She had a little bit of chunk to lose and it looks like all of her recent activity has helped to take that off. Secret is quite lean at the moment with her ribs very easily felt. I don't think I'd want to run her any skinnier than this.

So with "negative growth" experienced over the last month, is it possible we have topped out? I'm hoping so, as I think she's quite a nice size at the moment. Her height is hovering around 21", more or less. It sounds like her brother is very similar in size, at 21" tall and 38.7 lbs.

We had another agility night using the clicker & treats (cheese, mmmmm) last night. The results confirmed my earlier decision to go ahead and stick with this route until her drive and enthusiasm are a bit more set.

I set up a jump sequence that offered a lot of options -- A straight line of four jumps that ended with a box into a pinwheel to the right. I started with single jump wraps (everything is 8") and turned that into figure 8's. After that we worked on driving down the straight line and she is starting to get so much faster! (Not blazing fast yet, mind you, but she's at least putting some effort into it and not trotting and going around jumps.) I was even able to leave her at the start of the line and go all the way down to the last jump (@ 70' away) to do a recall -- the little stinker only went around one jump, but oddly, it was the same jump that Kaiser went around when I did the same exercise with him. Huh. Odd coincidence.

The tire was part of the box, so we worked on that as a single obstacle and connecting it to the jumps around it. We also worked on sending through the pinwheel, but learning to stay on her line through a curve is going to take a bit more time, I think, to build up her confidence and speed. Basically, she's moving out nicely when I run with her, but when I move less, so does she. Understandable!

She really is doing ever so much better since I caved and started using food. She remained so engaged that she actually started to get amped up and barked at me when I revved her up with, "reaaaaaaddddyyyyy?????" She's doing awesome with recalls and turns into me, but now we have to work on more obstacle focus and driving forward. I also started to introduce the switch/rear cross. Yeah, that's going to take some work.... It's easy to forget that my boys were once at this same stage! I have to keep reminding myself that she'll get it in time. :o)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

First walk -- seriously...

Okay, I know this is really, really pathetic -- But last night was Secret's very first on-leash walk around our neighborhood.

I have not flaunted the fact that I have three dogs. Actually, I've more or less tried to hide it as much as I can because of my neighbors. I'm sure it is no secret (tee hee) to any of them that I now have three dogs, but I still don't feel the need to parade around with all three of them by my side.

Obviously Secret goes on walks almost seven days a week (five for certain!), but they are largely entirely off-leash and she can go where she pleases. In general, the only time she is on leash is when we go to the vet and to agility trials. I have done pretty much zero leash training with her to date.

Considering these facts, she did EXCEPTIONALLY well on her walk last night! I took her out by herself, having first taken the boys on their own walk. She started out a bit uncertain of her surroundings, but I made a point to frequently reward and praise her as we walked and her confidence increased as we went along.

There were a handful of moments where she zig-zagged around, veered off to the side, stopped to smell something or tried to barge ahead, but largely I was impressed with her decision to remain at my side with a loose leash. Her natural gait seems to match well with my walking pace, which is always a plus.

We encountered a fair amount of traffic and Secret did not seem bothered by that in the least. Even the busy street we crossed did not scare her. We walked all the way down to the intersection by a couple of fast food places and a gas station and only then did the hustle & bustle seem to get to her. It was at that point (our turn-around) where I decided to ask her to sit, and it took a couple of tries for me to get her attention. I asked a few more times as we got further away from the busy area and she was much better.

By far the most "exciting" part of our walk was when we had to pass next to a chain fence with a barking/running dog on the other side. Secret had her hackles up from head to tail and was incredibly unsure of what she should do, but I pumped her with treats as we passed the property and she made it without any negative reactions.

During the last portion of our 45-minute walk she didn't try to pull or wander at all and stayed nicely by my side. It amazes me how good her leash manners are for a dog who's never had any work on such a thing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So... The clicker it is.

Last night I went out to the yard armed with nothing but the clicker and a treat pouch -- no toys in sight. I wanted to compare the difference between Secret's enthusiasm with the clicker vs. my wayward attempts to get her excited about toys.

I still had the five-jump grid set up in the yard and I decided to go the back chaining route, starting with the final jump. Secret began with about as much energy as she usually does with jumps -- Fairly, "meh" about the whole thing. The difference with this session, however, was that after she got a few clicks for it, she suddenly thought, "hey, this is pretty cool!"

We moved our way down the line of jumps, working from both sides. Each time I added a new jump, we worked that particular jump as a single before adding it to the existing line. By the time we had worked our way to the start of the chute, she was getting pretty fired up about the whole thing and running down the line of 8" jumps. Stupid clicker.... I wish she'd care that much about toys, but I guess you do what motivates your dog.

We did a couple reps of the dog walk, including the hoops/jumps before and after it. I've had some issues with her not being interested in doing the obstacle after the contact, but she was much more enthusiastic with the clicker. She got so excited at one point that she actually broke her stay, something that RARELY happens with her (sometimes I can't get her to leave the start line...). It was nice to see her getting into it for a change.

After the dog walk, we worked bottoms on the a-frame and then I had her go all the way over it in each direction one time. She bailed off the side the first time for some reason and then it took some convincing to get her back on -- She kept going around and hopping up into her end position. She nailed her contact when I did finally get her to go over, and then she went back up in the opposite direction without any hesitation.

I still had some treats left in the pouch, so we did a little bit of teeter work (I haven't moved it up at all yet; I probably should start) and some stay/recall drills. She's getting good at holding her stay while I jog away from her and her recall was better in that she ran all the way to me (vs. jogging the last part). When I did a group stay/recall with the boys, however, she found the temptation too much and broke both times. Naughty girl, no treats for that! :o)

So what did I learn? I learned that for the time being, training will be more successful if I use the clicker and food rewards. Perhaps we can transition to toys once she is more confident and more value has been transferred to the obstacles themselves. I'll obviously keep working with her on toy drive, but I think it would be best to keep that and her agility work separate.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nine Months Old!

Growing is hard work!

We didn't do much this weekend -- the weather was crummy on Saturday and then I spent the day cleaning & doing family stuff on Sunday.

I set up a 5-jump grid (ala Susan Salo, although I've never actually watched one of her videos!) on Saturday to play on with the boys. I worked Secret on it a couple of times during the day at 8". Just getting her down the entire line proved to be a struggle, although when she did finally get all five jumps we had a huge party and quit.

I still fight with myself over whether or not I should cave and use more treat-based training with her or if I should keep plugging along with the toys. She is doing better with toys, but it only lasts a few minutes before she decides she's not all that interested. I guess I should be happy that her toy drive has increased this much, at least! :o)

Yesterday we had a whole slew of people at the house -- several of my family members have never been to my house, despite the fact that I've been here nearly two years already, so they stopped by for a visit after we had dinner for Mother's Day. There were 11 of us (and three dogs!) total, so it was quite a crowd for my house.

Secret did exceptionally well! Those who have met her were impressed with how much friendlier she is -- she was a bit *too* friendly when she tried to jump up on my grandma... But she took the correction very well and kept her feet on the floor when the remainder of the guests arrived.

I'm happy to see that she's coming out of her shell and becoming more confident as she gets older. Tonight I've been asked to do a home visit for a family who is looking to adopt a Border Collie puppy from rescue (not Secret's rescue) and I was asked to take a dog along with me to evaluate how the family -- the kids in particular -- interact with dogs. I wish I could take Secret, but her almost non-existent history with children has not been that great, so I don't think she's the best candidate for the job. She does need more interaction with kids for sure, but I don't think it would be appropriate to use this family to socialize my dog -- so Luke has the job and will get to play with the kids tonight.

The picture below is after our walk last Friday -- We did go for a walk. In the rain.... Three wet dogs!

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's raining...

It's raining and I don't think we'll make our daily walk today. Secret is giving me sad eyes. :o( We'll go wander for a bit and see how wet we get, I suppose. I should have brought a hat!

It's been a fairly slow week for us. Weather has not allowed for much agility (rain, then wind!), but Secret has been getting in lots of frisbee time. We did some fun stuff last night like sends to the tunnel and recalls over a line of 8" jumps, but Secret only lasted about five minutes before she started to poop out on me. I used the big Kong squeaky and she seemed to respond well to that as her reward. I tried to interest her in tug at the beginning and she wanted nothing of it. When she got tired I switched to food (cheese left over from the trial weekend!) and let her do some contact work on the dog walk. I squeezed in a little wrap work on the jumps before I completely lost her -- but ultimately I pushed for too much again. Sigh. I need to stop that!

We don't have too much in store for this weekend. It's supposed to be fairly cold in comparison to recent weeks, but the rain should stop tonight. Hopefully we can get in several short repetitions outside to build motivation.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What a bitch...

For real, I wouldn't know what else to call it!

But to preface, the pictures in this blog post were actually taken on Friday when we stayed home to SLEEP before the trial. Secret was having a "good ear day" and I had to document it! I wish her ears would always stand up....

Back to the weekend -- Secret was a massive bitch at the trial this weekend. She really wasn't that bad with people, but she was growling, barking & snarking at nearly every dog she saw!

The trial was outdoors here in La Crosse. I hadn't planned on crating outside, but when I arrived it soon became apparent that *everyone* was outside. I didn't have a shelter along, but it was cool outside and we bogarted the shade coming off our neighbor's canopy.

By the end of Luke's second run, I moved them all indoors. Secret (and Kaiser...) was barking at every person or dog that came near the pen. I wish I could say things improved once they were inside, but really the only difference was that fewer people went past them.

She was also a bargy brat when I opened the pen door to get one of the boys out. Secret is SO well mannered about waiting until released in the crate, but apparently this behavior does not automatically lend itself to the zippered door of the play pen. It does not help, of course, that the boys were equally as bad.

I decided to bring her crate on Sunday to keep them separate a majority of the time and also to give me the ability to cover her crate if necessary. As it was, I had about 3/4 of it covered and left the rest open for her. The barking was *better* on Sunday, but it always seemed to occur when I was working in the ring and could do nothing about it.

Secret got to "work the gate" with me for a class on Sunday and she was the picture of perfection for that. She frog-dogged out in the grass next to me and didn't squawk at anyone or anything the entire time. I wish I knew why she was being so bitchy at other times....

I worked on her stays & recalls for a bit yesterday outside of the far side of the ring. It was the first time we've really done this with any sort of distraction and she was amazing. I left her well over 30' away at times and she never budged from her spot until released. What I need to work on is to get her to drive all the way to me on the recall. She would zoom off at the beginning, but then slow to a trot as she got near me. Not bad, but I'd certainly prefer she run all the way.

Everyone remarked at how big she's gotten. She is a week away from 9 months now -- well, according to the birthday I've given her, at least! ;o)