Finally! On our fourth attempt at Open, Lance hold his stays (mostly) and we qualify!!! I was a bit worried going into the show since Lance has shown at this particular facility 3 other times (doing novice) and those were his very worst scores. So today I did lots of happy tricks and fast heelwork in the warm up ring and Lance was looking a little distracted but pretty good.
His off leash heel work was decent. I can't say it's the best he's ever done as his attention wandered, but Lance didn't leave me to heel by myself at least! A bit of forging, wide turns, and a crooked sits lost us points. I also forgot to put my hand to my stomach before the judge said "forward" so I cost Lance a point too.
On the drop on recall I was very pleased how fast Lance came running, but I don't think he was expecting the drop what so ever. His stop was a bit slower then normal, although faster then most dogs, and he remained in a stand ever so slightly before going down. I don't think we lost any points for it since it was so slight, but we did lose 1pt for what I think was the front and finish.
The retrieve on the flat was nice and fast. I was a bit worried though since again Lance wasn't looking at me (or the dumbbell) when the judge said "send your dog." Luckily he still went nicely although this inattentiveness on the retrieve seems to be a recurring theme. I was pleased to see that Lance didn't hesitate as much this time when he got close to me on the return. On the previous trials he has slowed down and acted unsure if he was doing it right. This time I tried to keep a big smile on my face so maybe that helped Lance? We lost .5pt for something.
The retrieve over the high jump was also nice. The judge knocked a point off for me though as she says I moved my head forward as though to gesture towards the jump. I really don't remember doing anything like that, but I'm sure I did something. Actually the judge was really really picky about handler movements for everybody as several competitors lost points for little movments. Anyways, we got 1.5pts off on the high.
Broad jump was good and we lost 1pt for something.
And the stays..... I tried to remain very very happy going into the ring, setting him up, and use a very happy voice to tell Lance to stay. Usually I do a lower stay voice to not encourage Lance to follow me, but since he's been stressing majorly on the stays I thought the happy voice might help. I came back after the 3min and Lance was still in a sit although he was not quite where I left him, not forward at all, but shifted left. I didn't know if he had NQed or not until later, and then found out that the judge took off 3pts but passed it. She said he moved sideways and *kind've* stood, but it was such a real quick repositioning that she wasn't even sure and since he's a long and low kinda guy she gave him the benefit of the doubt. So I'm assuming that she could have NQed him for it, but I have no idea since i didn't see it! And the down stay was perfect! No standing up, no sitting, just lying down :)
Total score was a 189.5/200 with technically a 191.5 for Lance if you take out my errors. I am very happy! While it wasn't his best performance, he kept things together during the "individual" portion. And I know that I'm not out of the water yet with our stays, but at least I'm finding some things to do that do allieviate some of the stress he's feeling being left.
This past week I've found a way to create lots of stress for Lance at home to practice our stays. Apparently if I dish out Lance's food but then don't do any training or anything, Lance starts to quiver and shake uncontrollably! I can even pet him and tell him what a good dog he is, but unless I start some training with him (or even Vito), Lance will just tremble. So I can then put him in a stay when he is stressed. I've been rewarding him heavily for it, and only doing short stays (no more then 3 minutes, with lots of treats during it), but Lance hasn't broken a stay once even though he's shaking like crazy. I feel really bad doing it, but I do want some way of replicating the stress of a trial. I'm not sure if it helped him today or not, but he did it!
On Tuesday, Vito went in for his dental surgery. He's always had an underbite but it of course got worse and worse as he aged. It became crooked and just ridiculous. Luckily you can't really tell he has one unless his mouth is open so I left it alone until his last checkup. That is when our vet saw that the left canine was intruding on his upper gums (or something like that, I have no medical knowledge what so ever) and brought in his partner to take a closer look (who just happens to be one of the best dental surgeons in the country). She thought Vito was likely in a bit of pain and highly recommended either doggy braces or surgery. I went with surgery, removing the left canine, since as well as taking less time and actually costing less, I didn't want to subject our puppy to the ridicule of his peers. Plus I really don't care what his mouth looks like :)
So the big day came. I was very worried, but more about Vito's anxiety then the surgery itself. But the amazing staff assured me that they would give him some anti-anxiety drugs and just let him hang out with everybody in the back so he wouldn't have to be in a kennel. During my several checkups over the very long day I was told that he was pacing around the room a bit, but not whining at all and was happy to be loved on by everybody. So yay :)
When I come back to take over cuddling duties as little Vito begins to come out of anestesia, I am told that the surgery ended up being quite a bit more complicated then it was supposed to. The vet told me that Vito's tooth was really messed up and was "something she's never seen before!" yay. Apparently the root of Vito's canine was split, which meant that his nerve was no where near where it was supposed to be and should have been causing him a ton of pain. The nerve was actually in the canal which is very rare and our vet had never seen that. She's seen the nerve be too close to the canal, but not in it. And to top it off, the root was also very close to 2 other teeth and there was no way to remove this bad tooth without interfering with them. So Vito had 3 teeth pulled. And the canine (or all?) had to be chopped out in bits and pieces or risk destroying the nerve. I don't have a scanner, but here is my excellent depiction of the teeth
The vet said that the surgery was very invasive and wanted to keep Vito overnight to give him some monitoring and then extra pain meds in the morning. I was saddened, but she insisted that Vito was not in good enough shape to go home. This equaled mommy having big separation anxiety over Vito's first night away in a strange place and worries over his mouth. We finally got Vito back home Wednesday evening with very strict instructions and lots of meds. They want Vito to be wearing a basket muzzle anytime he can't be 100% supervised, no toys, no balls, no bones, no playing with doggies/cats/ferrets, and no hard food for 30 days. Wow. With my pleas that Vito loves tugging more then he loves food, the vet said that if I can make it at least 2 weeks she might lift some restrictions. It'll mean that Vito will have a bad scar, but it's inside his mouth so who cares!
It's going to be a long 2 weeks. Today is the first day that Vito is really awake, and man is he depressed! This dog needs to be heavily exercised and without doggy daycare or the ability to toss a ball I'm screwed!
On a cute note: Vito spotted a piece of food on the floor during our family Thanksgiving and I just caught him with his face down hovering directly over the piece of food, just staring. The little guy was unable to eat his discovery with the muzzle on and looked like he was thinking very hard of a good way to try!
I just have to say that I am SO glad Vito has pet insurance. Dogs are expensive! And on a hopeful note, the vet also thinks that Vito's anxiety might lessen. Since the split root was causing Vito a ton of pain, there's good reason to believe that it may have contributed to his separation anxiety!
Lance had his very first agility trial today! Snookers was first in what I found out was supposedly a very stupid decision :P When I was deciding what events to enter on Sunday I just looked for events that had a good chance pf having no contacts. But I wasn't aware that everyone would laugh at me and tell me how brave I was for entering snookers at my first trial. For the non agility people, snookers is a strategy game but one where the team can be whistled off for silly things like off courses and dropped red bars :)
Well Lance was amazing! Not only did we complete our opening nicely, but we also made it through the entire closing for our first Q, a score of 46pts, and 1st place! But what I am most proud of is how well we actually ran together. There were zero bobbles and he listened so nicely to me :)
Next up was jumpers and I again couldn't be more pleased! We again finished the course with a clean run for a Q and 1st place :)
I am so proud of the little corgi! Lots and lots of pros for the weekend. The only con I can think of is Lance's speed. While Lance ran through the courses decently, they were not close to top speed. I think I've been realizing though that Lance will pretty much go at whatever speed I run. In practice he loves to chase after me. But in a trial I was very nervous and wanted to make sure we hit everything right so I didn't run as fast. And hopefully with more experience the corgi will get confident to start pushing things!
Lance has apparently been doing some hard thinking the past week since he came to class tonight suddenly knowing how to do the weave poles! Previously I've ranted how Lance can do the straight set of 2x2's at the club, but had no clue what to do on a "real" set of poles. I just thought I would see what Lance could do on a set of 4 pole tonight and at first Lance was confused but with a tiny bit of help he tentatively did it. Soon Lance was racing through the poles at all angles and with confidence so I moved him over to the set of 6 poles where Lance got it no problem! He was still able to hit the poles at angles and even at speed!
So I'm estatic :) But I also can't really take credit for Lance's breakthough. The only time I practice weaving is at class using a combination of the 2x2s, offsets, and a regular set with partial guides. But Lance can now actually weave! I'm not stupid enough to think that there isn't a ton of proofing to do now but I feel like we have finally made it to the top of the hill :) Yay Lance
I've been thinking about posting a typical day in the life of my dogs, and now feel pressured since 2 of my blog friends have done it recently. My schedule varies a lot, but this is a typical Monday:
5:15am: cat starts making noises, waking me up. I try it ignore it but am unsuccessful. I remain in bed anyway.
5:34am: alarm goes off and the dogs shoot out of bed (both in their open kennels at this time) to be let outside.
5:36am: Dogs are fed. It's too early for me to think so I don't have they do much for their breakfast. Some days I have them do a few tricks, but mostly I dish it up and then make them do a sit stay while I get my breakfast (oatmeal or cold cereal) ready.
5:58am: dogs loaded into the car and we set off to work (doggy daycare!)
6:15am: arrive at work. the dogs lounge around by themselves while I take care of letting out and feeding the boarding dogs.
7am: the playroom is open and my dogs excitedly race around the floor chasing each other while daycare dogs slowly trickle in.
7:15am: Lance is tuckered out. He curls up in a corner and tries to tune out the noise :) Vito looks to see if anyone of his girlfriends are here yet to play with. Otherwise he sighs and curls up too.
7:30-11:30am: Vito plays on and off with his girls, occassionally barking at Lance and nipping at his butt to try to get Lance to play for a couple minutes. Lance obliges and then curls back up, not really sleeping but resting.
12:10pm: Back at home, Vito races into the bedroom where he hops up on our bed and curls up. Lance remains in the living room to pass out somewhere on the floor near where I sit.
3:30pm: The dogs usually wake up. Most days I am already back at work around 1:30, but some days I am home at this time. If I'm home, I usually do some agility contact training with Lance and Vito. But today I'm at work!
4:30pm-6pm: Vito is dropped back off at the daycare where I'm working again and chills out. He usually doesn't play too much this 2nd shift of daycare. Lance is usually left at home alone during this time, but I don't want to leave Vito alone this long on a regular basis yet. Basically I still only leave him alone for max of 2hrs and he does ok with that now, but I'm still scared to push it!
Some evenings Vito and Lance take a trip down to grandma's if I have to go to Hearing and Service Dogs of MN after work. Then they are fed there and don't come back till late. Lance loves the big backyard the grandparent's have and just wants to be outside all day. Vito loves that he has free access to tennis balls and tries to smooch in a whole bunch of playing time. Both Lance and Vito tolerate the cranky, old border collie mix and the excitable, pestering Ridgeback.
6:30pm: Back at home, the dogs are fed! Most days I try to spend 10 minutes with each dog and try to work on some obedience or tricks. But even on days where I'm lazy, the dogs still have to do more then just stay to get their supper.
7pm-10:30pm: Quiet time. Vito curls up on the couch with us and sleeps a lot. On days he didn't go to daycare the 2nd time, he is much more antsy and is constantly asking us to play tug. If we ignore him though, Vito sighs and goes back to trying to squish himself between us on the couch. He usually pretends to ask to be let up by sadly resting his chin on the couch. If we ignore that, he then places his front feet on the couch and stares at us from a closer angle.
10:45pm: Dogs are let out and we all go to bed! Vito starts out on the bed with us and them goes to his kennel in the middle of the night. Lance refuses to sleep with us and goes straight to his kennel :P
And that's basically it! Usually if I"m not working again in the evening it's because one or both of the dogs have classes. Both go to obedience class once a week and agility class once a week (different classes). As you can see the dogs sleep a lot! But I can very easily tell the days when Vito hasn't gone to daycare at all as he is just nuts those days! Daycare is so nice, I don't know what I do without it there to tire out my babies :)
I decided to enter Lance in another Open A trial to see how he handles the stays again. I've been doing quite a bit of proofing on our stays, having Lance do them in different locations and with different distractions. So far Lance hasn't broke once. Which I suppose is really good news, but I'm also pretty bummed about it. If Lance has managed to hold all of the weird stays while I've been out of sight, it means that I still haven't recreated the trial situation for him. And while when a dog is learning something, you want them to be successful, you also can't teach your dog what he can't do if he never does it. I guess at the very least I'm giving Lance extra good treats for his stays so hopefully he's associating staying with good things and this will make him more confident under the stress of a trial. I entered Lance on Saturday only and it's Thanksgiving weekend so I still have a couple weeks. Unfortunately I just realized that the show location is one that Lance has never done very good at. But that was before all our remedial work we did this past spring and summer so fingers crossed!
I am very excited for this weekend though as Lance has his very first agility trial! It's a CPE show and he' entered on Sunday only doing Snooker and Jumpers. I'm not entirely sure how Snookers works (or really how anything works) so I'm a bit nervous about that, but I suppose we'll find out!
So Lance usually likes to keep me company in the bathroom when I am taking a shower. He curls up in a little ball on my clothes and just chills out, usually. Well two days ago I was taking a shower and noticed that I didn't have my little buddy there. I didn't think much of it at the time. Instead I continued my shower and noticed that Vito was sitting out there, occasionally poking his little nose through the shower curtain but just sitting nicely. As I turn off the water and go to dry off, I remember thinking to myself "I wonder if dogs recognize the sound of the water turning off and know that they have a few minutes left to finish up whatever naughty thing they were doing." I then remember chuckling to myself and thinking how good my little boys are. hah!
I exit the bathroom, look around for Lance and see him standing in the kitchen staring at me. I slowly walk over with an increasingly worried look and ask him what he was doing. No answer, but Lance slowly walks past me and then turns back to look as I go into the kitchen. I find one empty loaf of sliced bread on the floor with a small hole. Correction, Lance wants to make sure that I note him leaving 4 slices of bread for me so it wasn't an entire loaf!
I actually remain very calm and while I use my stern mommy voice on Lance, I am proud to say that I didn't even yell. Ok, I do remember chucking the bag so it landed right in front of Lance and having him do an implied leave it while I went back to the bathroom.
What I found very amusing was the very tiny hold in the bread bag, it was smaller then a tennis ball. So Lance must have practically sucked up the bread slices through the bag! Also Vito either tried to tattle tale on his big brother, or just wanted an alibi for the event since he almost never keeps me company during a shower! Good boy Vito :)
Lance's stomach was huge! And to top it off, he had agility class less then 2 hours later that I wasn't going to miss since you pay for a series of classes, not a drop in. The extra baggage didn't seem to slow the dough boy down any at class though! But Lance was very sad to see that his food dish was quite small for the next 3 meals.
I get commented a lot on how attentive my dogs are, how much they watch me. Sometimes the comments are then followed by "oh, you must have a treat on you" as if this explains everything. And it's true. Most of the time I do have a treat (or at least kibble) on me if I'm out in public with my dogs. I don't see this as a crutch but as a way to reward my dogs for behavior that I like. As their training progresses they have to work harder to get a reward, but the possibility of a reward is always there for them. I am always hurt when I hear that clause to their "good dog" comment even though I know the person isn't trying to insult me. Since all of my readers are, obviously, dog lovers you know that just having treats on you does not magically transform any dog to a good citizen, at least for longer then 5 seconds! Plus, you need to have a reward that the dog actually wants at that moment, and/or teach the dog that he can gain what he really wants by listening to you. Vito won't take any treats when he is overstimulated (ball in hand, oh no!) so I have been working with him below threshold and have also been teaching Vito that he can earn the ball if he comes to me first. Or for dogs who are distracted by dogs/squirrels/a falling leaf, teach them that you can provide this reward if they tune into you.
So my blog post today is on attention. Besides the people who just dismiss me and my dogs once they know I have treats on me, some are genuinely interested in how they can get their dogs to listen to them. I highly believe that the number one thing you need to teach your dog is eye contact. You can't teach ANYTHING if your dog won't even look at you. So if your plan was to work on heelwork, or even a cool new trick, you have to throw that plan out the window and start a new one if your dog's eyes are everywhere but on you. The new lesson plan for that session is eye contact. Seriously. Here is the very first lecture/how to/rant of my blog!
How to Start, Game One
Do you think that your dog has really good attention at home and that your problems just show up out in public? Well I hope that's true, but let's just do a little test first. Show your dog some really good treats, hold them right to your dog's nose. Now move your hand with the treats out to the side of your body and hold them out parallel to you. Wait. Your dog is very likely staring at those treats and drooling. Say your dog's name ONCE (or use his "watch me cue"), does your dog turn your head to look at you? How long will your dog make eye contact before staring at those treats again? If your dog successfully looks into your eyes and ignores the food distraction, congratulations!!! If not, start training eye contact and start this work at home.
Basically, the game described above is how I start with all puppies. I don't ever bring a treat to my forehead since 1) you have to fade it or end up with a dog who only stares at you if you have a cookie plastered to your head and 2) I'm teaching my dog to stare at the "distraction" he wants, instead of teaching him from the start to look away from it. So show your dog treats, hold them out to the side, say his name, and wait. don't make any other noise. I don't care if your dog stares at those treats for 5 minutes, you will wait. As soon as your dog makes a glimmer of eye contact, click and give your dog the treat that is held out. Once your dog understands that staring a treat does not make it fall into his mouth, make this game harder by:
1. Lengthen the time your dog must look at you before you reward him
2. Start moving your hand with the treats up and down, in circles, etc.
3. Add treats in your second hand and hold that out too.
4. Try with really really good treats!
5. Try this game with his favorite toy.
6. Try holding your dog's food dish out to the side!
Oh, and I personally only use my dog's name as their cue to look at me. I don't use the word "watch me" since I feel it's redunant to their name. Plus I do a lot of voluntarily eye contact, game 2, so I just don't find it neccessary. But go right ahead if you want to!
Catch and Release, Game 2
This is basically the Premack Principle, or in simple terms it's rewarding a behavior your dog doesn't do that often with a behavior he loves to do. The behavior we're looking for is eye contact and the rewarding behavior can be anything else but it should be a behavior (like sniffing, chasing squirrels, greeting another person/dog...). Unless i specifically know what it is my dog wants at that moment, I usually just give a general release like "ok!" to let my dog know he's free to do whatever he wants.
Start outside in your backyard with treats ready and your dog on leash (a longer leash works best, ~10ft). I do a lot of training off leash, but at this point I want to control the access to the rewards. I am teaching my dog that he can choose when to train and when to go off on his own, but that I am the one providing access to both rewards. So you and your dog are standing in the backyard on leash, and you are in one spot of the yard. If your dog looks at you, click/treat and then immediately (as he is still chewing) release your dog. Follow your dog wherever he wants to go for a short time (5-15sec) and remember that you're not working on walking skills so run with your dog if you have to but it's your job to keep the leash loose at this point). After a short time of freedom, stop moving again and wait for eye contact. Repeat the process of rewarding eye contact and releasing your dog. Do this until you find your dog just staring at you even when you release him. Continue to click/treat and release a few more times, but basically you are just conintually rewarding this eye contact every 5 seconds. Maybe lengthen the time your dog needs to look at you to 10 seconds or so before getting a treat.
Do this for several more sessions in your backyard. Try to time how long it takes for your dog to really start playing the game and stop going off to sniff. Once you're happy with that amount of time, take this game on the road. Go to a parking lot, baseball field, or any place else you can think of. Try not to have any other distractions besides sniffing (like no kids running or dogs playing) until your dog is a master.
Remember how I said the reward could be any behavior? Well if you progress to doing this game in front of a tree of squirrels, click the eye contact and then RUN with your dog to that tree of squirells! He may not even want a treat at this point, but the running after (the long gone) squirrels is a reward enough. Or if your dog want to say hi to a person, click the eye contact and then run to the person. Once you have good attention from your dog you can start training other behaviors (like walking nicely to the person) but right now I wouldn't worry about it. Train one thing at a time.
My dogs have great attention, but they're not pefect :P Whenever I go to an obedience trial, or really anywhere new, I always start with eye contact and then release Lance with an "ok, go sniff!" Lance can do whatever he wants for about 5 seconds, I even follow him as he walks, and then I stop moving, say his name once, and then wait. I refuse to budge or say anything else until Lance looks at me. Eye contact earns a click/treat and the release "ok, go sniff!" Whenever Lance looks at me in this new place, he gets a click/treat, whether I asked for it or not. I don't train anything else until I find that Lance is staring at me, even when I release him. Then the warm up beings :)
You Don't Always Get What You Want, Game 3
Don't be in too much of a rush to get to this game. Dogs really need to learn HOW to get what they want (by listening to you) before you start teaching them the realities of life! If you already have a "leave it" taught this is basically the same, but easier and harder at the same time. I do formally teach my dogs "leave it" but I also want it to be automatic whenever we are out in public. I don't want to have to tell my dog's "leave it" in public since I may not even see what it is that they want. Teach them "leave it" step by step first though and this game will go easier since they already know the behavior.
Put a treat down on the floor about 15ft away from your dog (adjust if needed). This is just Game 1, but now the treat is on the floor instead of in your hand Just stand in one spot and click/treat eye contact with a different treat. Gradually move closer but keep your dog successful. You want your dog learning to ignore what is on the floor and focus in on you instead. This time though, your dog won't be getting whatever object is out there. Overal several sessions, work on distance until you can easily walk your dog past and around the object without issue. Then repeat this work with a toy. Next repeat it with a person, then a dog, etc! You will essentially be teaching your dog automatic eye contact amongst distractions.
Reward Lots, Suggestion 4:
Ok this isn't really a "game." But basically if you want your dog to be attentive to you, then be attentive to him and tell him that you like what he's doing! That's why I carry kibble when I'm out in public with my dogs. I want to be able to capture eye contact and reward it. In Vito's classes, I am always giving him a treat when Vito's looking at me and being calm. They're not free treats, Vito's earning them by being attentive. When he was a wee lad, Vito got treats every 30seconds. Now he gets a treat every few minutes. But Vito has a job to do in between exercises and he knows it. I don't care if his eyes are drilling into my skull, but I do care that Vito isn't pulling towards another dog or completely ignoring me. In these situations, I don't require direct eye contact but calm, lying down at my side will do. Sometimes I surprise Vito and whip out a tuggy toy when he's being "good" and I play a game while the instructor is talking. But the point is that I am always attentive to my dog if I am asking him to be attentive to me. And I reward lots in the beginning! It's so easy to fade out the treats once attention becomes a default behavior!
Good luck :) End of rant.
Edit: See this additional post on teaching your dog to focus around food
Well Lance and I competed in Open A again this past Sunday. He did all the individual exercises really well even though he was a bit distracted during some parts by a dog warming up in the isle. Apparently I have really proofed the retrieve over the high well since again I didn't think Lance was going to pull it off but he managed it! The little stinker wasn't paying attention when I sent him and wandered a couple feet to the left before coming to his senses and taking a sharp angle to go over the jump and complete the exercise. We lost a total of 6pts on the individual exercises so I was pretty happy with it.
The stays were where we NQed again. Lance held his long sit quite nicely, but when I came back in the room after the long down Lance was again sitting nicely. Apparently he sat after only 15 seconds again and held it for the whole 5 minutes. Which is shocking in an of itself that he sat for basically 8 minutes in a trial setting.
So now I'm not sure what to do. Lance has now broken his sit once, and the down three times in a show. All the down breaks were right after I left the ring. Lance has always had great stays, even with distractions. At a run through last week there was flyball in the next ring and Lance still did his stays nicely. It's just the stress of me, and probally the overall stress of the trial environment that gets to Lance. Adam told me that I looked extremely stressed when telling him to stay. I usually drop my voice and use my "serious" (not suppposed to be harsh) tone to stress that I'm not going to call him for anything but perhaps I could work on telling Lance to stay in a happy voice? And of course this is extremely hard to replicate this issue in practice since he just doesn't do it. I can't make that many run throughs in new places either.
I'm really deciding right now if I want to enter Lance in a trial Thanksgiving weekend. There's no trials in December so the next one wouldn't be till January. Do I give it one more shot and work on keeping Lance and me calm before the stays? Any advice?