My dogs are drooling idiots. Have you ever tried training with canned food? Well for the next couple of days I'm supposed to feed my dogs a low residue food as both Lance and Vito have giardia. So I dish out some canned I/D and soon have slobering zombies. It's hard enough to train as I/D is extremely crumbly and doesn't exactly stick to the spoon, plus I have to dish a new little bit out each rep. But the dogs were just stupid! Lance spent more time staring at the spoon in my hand than he did offering behaviors. Even when Lance's turn was over and I was working with Vito, Lance sat as close as he could to me without me yelling. His eyes turned pitiful and he started grunting. At least when it was Vito's turn, Vito offered things like a mad man although he still wasn't thinking.

And this was with low residue food! It's supposed to be extremely bland! I can only imagine the blobs I would have on my hand if I used actual good canned food. It's amazing what your choice of reward can do for your training. Generally I just use their dog food as "treats" at home since they are willing to work for it without shutting down or getting distracted. At class I use a mixture of different soft treats and a few hot dog pieces, although I could probably still use kibble without a problem. I have also been trying to use toys and balls a reward for Vito when I'm outside playing with them. At those moments Vito is a lot more "stupid" with excitement and it's harder for him to focus when he just wants the ball thrown. But now I know how really excited a dog can get :)

At least before I got restricted to the I/D I had a session with both Lance and Vito on the balance ball I got in the mail. I'm hoping that it will help the dogs develop a strong core and work their muscles! Vito is already doing pretty good at sitting, standing, and doing a little "beg" on top of the ball. I've also worked on him backing up to put his hind legs on it. Lance is also doing pretty well, but it is definitely harder for him with his longer body. I would have thought Lance would have had an easier time with his short legs and lower center of gravity, but I guess not!

I also received a cheap 18ft tunnel in the mail that I can fold out and stake down in the yard. The dogs had fun doing their first sequence in the back yard- weave poles (well run through the center channel) to tunnel and then in reverse. At first Vito was apprehensive about going in the new tunnel, but within a short time he was being naughty and trying to go behind Lance at every turn.


Vito the tripod

Vito is becoming a man! Well as much of a man as he can being a eunuch an all. He is starting to lift he leg when he pees! I know this may sound gross, but I wish I had a picture! You see, Vito is hiking his leg in the air so high it goes even higher than his head. He wobbles back and forth has he tries to balance on 3 leg and is truly a sight to see. Vito apparently thought that it is too wussy to lift his leg just a little and goes all out. I almost wonder if I created this by teaching Vito to lift one back leg on cue :)

At Petsmart today I did a demonstration that I have been wanting to do for a long time. I love Susan Garrett's video where she talks about creating a high energy dog (you should really watch it if you haven't seen it; if you really need to you can skip to 49 sec in )

But since Lance doesn't tug crazy enough yet, I have been waiting until Vito got a better "drop it" to try. Well today was the day! I modified Susan's demo to talk about the rules of tug and how not to do "drop it." It took Vito a little bit to really start tugging, but once he started Vito was crazy! I cursed "Bad dog" at him and Vito growled a ton! I'm so proud :)


Flying Zoe

I am getting so pissed at Zoe right now. Right now she has spent less time out of her cage at this evening's playtime than in time out. I wrote awhile back how she has discovered her ability to jump the babygates that keep her confined to the living room. Apparently she wants freedom, freedom to run right under the bed, or behind the dresser, or under the fridge, where she hides, quivering in excitement, because we can't catch her. Little brat. She had stopped doing it for awhile, but today she has an obsession. As soon as we let her out from timeout she sprints over the nearest gate and tries to fly over. This little 2lb thing sails over 3ft. None of the other ferrets have even tried to do this, either they're too nice, too supid, or not atheltic enough, I don't know. We apparently have to think of something, and fast, to prevent her from getting into the rooms.

And yeah, I know I'm giving a time out to a ferret, but it at least makes me feel better.

And she is always the first one to escape into the bathroom when someone exits. All of them gather, and I swear they know the sound of the toilet flush predicts the door opening shortly.

And of course, once Zoe is in, it leaves room for the others to enter!


Lance's Obedience Trial Day2

15 points. That's how many points off Lance got deducted in the ON-leash heeling. It was horrendous. I didn't even think it was possible to be that horrible. There were very few moments where Lance did anything resembling a heel. On the positive side, he only got 7 points off in the off-leash heeling. only 7. *sigh* At least his stand for exam was perfect and he didn't move in the group stays so didn't lose any more points. However, he looked like he was really thinking about getting up in both the sit and down stay, thankfully he stayed put and just settled for little fidgeting movements. His recall was decent, however on the finish Lance took quite a long time to get in position as he studied the crowd behind him on his way to heel, only 1 point off though for crooked sits. We somehow still managed to qualify with a 175/200. Ridiculous.


Lance's Obedience Trial- Day1

I decided to enter Lance in the AKC National Obedience Invitational Regional Competition Obedience Trials this weekend. Not to actually qualify and go to Nationals, but to give Lance some practice being in the ring. I entered him in Novice B since even though he already has the novice title he is not ready for open.

I felt he did amazing! Generally Lance is an angel in practice with perfect unwavering attention, but in a new ring he falls apart. Part of that is being distracted and part of it is my nervous body language making him stressed. But today Lance was the most focus he has ever been in an obedience show (rally-o and run-throughs excluded)! He wasn't perfect, but I didn't have to struggle to get eye contact, he caught up and sat for each halt, and was just a good boy!

I felt it was a really hard pattern as well. There were 3 about turns and that is where I typically lose Lance. Today wasn't an exception as he always lagged after the about turn, but at least he caught up with me today. On the figure 8's he was again lagging on the outside turn, but was able to catch up for the inside turn. His stand for exam was perfect! On the off leash heel I had to use an extra command right away as he looked away right as I started moving and didn't follow, but he did pretty well the rest of the pattern. Right before the last about turn he lagged and crossed sides, but at least when I turned without him it put him back on left side of me! I felt his recall was superb! The judge knocked a point of for crooked sits, but I thought it was the best Lance had ever done in terms of speed, straightness, and attention! When it came time for the group stays, Lance didn't even waver when the dog next to him sprinted towards his owner half way through the sit (a woman yelled, very loudly, Rover COME! in the next ring).

His total score was a 186, so it wasn't his best score (not his worst either), but I really don't feel the score reflected his performance today I am very proud of Wonder Boy!

I have to work tomorrow so we're not entered, but Sunday we'll be back!


Fuzzy air time

The ferrets wanted to say hi.
Here's Molly! (who looks really weird with a Bjorn behind her!)

Hey, we're playing here!

Picking on Vito
Wrestlin' with the kitty
Opie's always stealing the show!



It was a really gorgeous day outside today. So after taking a little nap after daycare, I head outside with the dogs. Apparently, they were still sleepy.

Lance found his own special spot.

Vito didn't know what to do either

But Adam came out with a ball to liven things up a bit.

If you think it looks like Lance will get there first, you are wrong! Lance only thinks he wants the ball, but in reality he does not. The one time we held back Vito to give Lance a shot, he took the ball to his "special spot."
He does however, like to beat Vito back sometimes.
So excited!

But Vito got a little demanding
So Adam made them lie down.
What a good little retriever
Straight to hand!
I will leave you on this great picture of Lance. He always has the greatest pictures :)


Another thursday agility class and AWESOME news!

Today was a great day! Lance had agility practice and only 3 other dogs showed up. This meant that when we divided up it was just Lance and one other dog, and his partner was from the "big" dog side of class (a little cockapoo) and was somewhat decent! Lance got a lot more practice time in today, and actually got to do activities that challenged him :)

Today was the first time that we worked on a serpentine. We started with the jumps not fully parallel so the dogs could easier see what they were supposed to do, but since Lance did so great we closed them! Unfortunately he did the first closed set great, but then got too excited and failed so we had to make it easier for him again. Next we did a rear cross sequence that Lance actually got PERFECT. Normally we have some problems when I have to cross behind him to change sides, but not today :) By the end of class though he was pretty tired, not used to actually having to work!, and wasn't thinking very much. He still had great drive, but his attention wasn't as solid so he failed to read some of my cues on the first attempts that he normally wouldn't have a problem with. But overall it was a really good class!

I've decided that I'm going to stick with this club for Lance's agility class, but I am going to talk to the instructors and insist that either they divide the class by skill and not height, make the groups random, or just put Lance in with the "big" dogs and lower the jumps for him.

And in really really great news, I decided to try Vito locked up in the kitchen while Lance was at class. I dragged a doggy bed in, set up the portable cloth crate with door open, and threw in a whole bunch of bones. When I came back nothing was destroyed and there were no accidents! But in even better news, while reviewing the videotape I noticed that Vito didn't cry once!!!!!!!! He paced a bit, did a bit of panting, but actually ate his bones while we were gone and didn't have a heart attack! I didn't have the greatest angle on the camera since I was worried about Vito going on a rampage and destroying stuff, so I couldn't really see what he was doing most of the time. But I can't get over the fact that he was a relatively calm puppy! I am so so happy :) I'm still going to work on Vito being in the kennel and locked up, but hopefully I'll be able to use the kitchen again when I have to leave him alone for real and not worry about any setbacks in our training. YAY!


Super glue!

I recently posted about Vito's amazing levitation powers during a retrieve. Since he can now return an object promptly to my hand, regardless of where my hand is, I've been trying to teach him to do a formal sit in front of me with the object. So I've been telling him "sit", giving him an object, and want to click while he holds the object for half a second while sitting. Well as posted earlier, Vito's front feet immediately leave the ground and he goes to "beg" position once he is holding something and supposed to be sitting. Thanks to some great advice, I tried putting a little bit of pressure on him by leaning, and then taking a step forward to see what would happen. Well Vito practically did a backflip as his paws flew wildly in the air to try and maintain balance and then dropped the dumbbell as he tumbled to the ground.

Well I went to film it today so maybe people could better see what I need to fix, and wouldn't you know it but that little stinker stopped doing it!! Ah, the power of a little super glue.
Just kidding, but not once did any paw leave the ground when he was holding something. After I clicked and took it one paw raised up as he grabbed his treat, but zero paws off ground during the actual hold! I of course didn't do that many trials so as to quit on a good, no, a great note (one of the few times I actually am a good trainer and quit when ahead).

I swear Vito is some type of evil genius. He must have known I was videotaping and wanted to show the world that he knew all along what I wanted him to do!

Of course I know that I will see some levitation on many more trials in the future before it is completely gone, but at least he got several jackpots today for maintaining a sit :)


Vito's 5.5 month video!

Vito's 5.5 month video is up!!! I had a lot of fun teaching Vito's these tricks. I especially love backing up the stairs, I just wish that we had more stairs in our place than those 3! Vito is still struggling with the stacking bowls trick though. At first he wanted to stand in him (way to generalize from the food bowl, yay!) and now he understands his job is to pick them up but has much difficulty. Part of his problem is that he is moving way too fast to think about where he's dropping it, but he is also knocking both bowls around in his excitement that they either flip or wobble out of his way!

Oh, and Vito's lethargy didn't even last a full day. He woke up Saturday morning bursting full of energy and wanting to make up for Friday! Here are some crappy pictures of Vito eating the kitty

Of course, when Vito moves on, it leaves Luke looking like this

Help me
Luke decides that be better hide to get the upper hand


The Big Day

Snip snip snip :) Vito is officially an "it" today. I'm not really sure if I agree that every pet dog should be spayed/neutered, but because of our lifestyle I figured it was the best for him. I don't really know enough to really talk about it, but spaying and neutering isn't as great as we once thought it was.

From my understanding, neutering can actually increase the male's chance of getting cancer (especially prostate cancer, but others as well), especially if done under 1yr of age. Spaying can also increase the risk of cancer, although UNspayed females have a 7x higher rate of getting breast cancer. Spaying and neutering also make ligament tears more common and results in lanky looking dogs such growth plates close slower. From everything that I've gathered, most female dogs should be spayed before their first heat cycle, or at least before 3yrs of age to lower the risk of breast cancer and something complicated call pyometra; but males should NOT be getting neutered from a pure health perspective. Responsible owners shouldn't automatically be pressured into spaying and neutering pet dogs.

With all that said, I did decide to get Vito snipped. Although I would not be oppossed to owning an intact dog and dealing with the "behavioral" issues (or you know, just a dog being a dog), because Vito and Lance have to deal with such a large number of dogs each day between daycare and petsmart it is much easier without the complicating issue of hormones. I would have like to wait until he was a little bit older before having it done to have him fill out a bit more, but the wellness plan he is on includes the neuter and saves me hundreds of dollars if done before he turns 6 months.

Vito was VERY excited to see me when I picked him up this evening. There was definetly a "toller scream" to be heard as he squealed like a little pig! He has been pretty lethargic and cuddly ever since he has gotten back from the vet :)
And surprisingly Lance really missed the little bugger. Lance kept looking for Vito and wanted to spend ALL day outside sitting on the porch steps. He even went into Vito's kennel a couple of times. Who'd of thought :)

Oh, and if you're interested there are a ton of studies done on spay/neuter, but here's a link to one of the latest presentations at the Canine Health Foundation



A little backyard "agility"

Now that spring is FINALLY here I can start moving my training outside! I've been dragging out the long wooden board and starting to teach Vito running contacts. Even though running contacts are still controversial in the agility world, I plan to use Silvia Trkman's method (my hero!) as it's the easiest (plus she's the one who invented running contacts). Just put a board on the ground, have dog race over the board to a target, and gradually raise the height of the board until you have full dogwalk height. There's no reason for the dog to jump off and miss the contacts if it's flat on the ground, running is the most efficient! So Vito and I have started and since it's easy, we have no problems. The only hitch is that Vito is not the most patient of dogs and has decided that if I am taking too long he might as well do it himself, run over grab target and bring it back to me in hopes I put a treat on it for him. Clever boy, too bad it doesn't work that way!

Adam also put the weave poles back together for me and I've just started Vito running the channel. Right now he's not actually weaving at all, but gradually the poles will move closer and closer together until he's weaving without even knowing it! I'm in no hurry for him to start really weaving since he's not fully developed yet, but for the next couple of months I just want to practice him having good entries. I also am restarting to do this with Lance. Unfortunately I got the weave poles right at the end of summer last year and we barely got started with Lance before the poles were buried in the snow. But Lance seems to be right where he was when we quit last fall (still a definite channel for him to see, but his body has to weave a bit to make it through).

My dream is to have a backyard full of equipment, but right now all I have is one 6ft board, and a set of channel weaves made out of pvc! I was able to utalize Petsmart the other night pretty well with Lance though. There were quite a few big display boxes in the center isle so I made up a mini agility course! It was just a bunch of "outs" (go around the displays without me) sequenced together in a funky pattern with some front crosses thrown in. But Lance seemed to love it and read my directions perfectly :)


He Levitates!?!

Vito and I have made great progress with our retrieving work. He will bring a toy thrown back to my hand 95% of the time (not always when other dogs are around) with no reward other than a game of tug or just another throw. Even with plastic, leather, and metal dumbbells he will run after and bring it back (I use treats for dumbbells to make it extra cool!). So I have no regrets (yet) about my decision to allow him to roll the dumbbell into my hand at first and then raise the height of my hand so he can't roll it anymore. (see Vito 17wks for the explanation

However, now I am working on more of a hold but we have ran into a slight problem. Either the dumbbells are made of helium or Vito is levitating.

When I gave him the dumbbell, all 4 feet were on the ground.
My plan is to click early, before he has the opportunity to bring any feet off the ground. But it really is an instintanious lift off, so I end up with this
He is trying so hard!!!

I've been looking at my body language to see if my leaning forward to give him the dumbbell is too much pressure and causing him to want to move back, but standing straight or even kneeling doesn't make a difference. I've also tried not letting go of the dumbbell as is recommended by Sue Ailsby, but I've never been able to make much progress with getting even a 1/2sec hold with that route on Vito or Lance. So I'm trying to decide if I should just keep trying to click early and so what if he levitates, eventually the law of laziness (there some name for this, but I can never remember so I make up my own name) will lead Vito to do less and less of a lift off. The downside being obviously that laziness might not take over and since what you reinforce is what you get....

He does look cute though!


Happy Easter!!!


Doesn't he look cute!

Ok, Vito hated it.
Lance was just perplexed.
Even Luke didn't get away!
If only I had a little one for the ferrets! Oh well

Happy Easter :)


HR 669

There is currently a bill before Congress titled HR669 or The Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act. It's purpose is "to prevent the introduction and establishment of nonnative wildlife species that negatively impact the economy, environment, or other animal species' or human health, and for other purposes." Sounds good, right?

Well if you think about it at all, you realize that almost all of our pets aren't native to this country. So most rodents, birds, fish, and FERRETS will be banned! Yes, even cute little hamsters will be illegal to own, breed, or sell.

I realize that this is years away from making it through all the stages to become a law. And even if it did pass there would be ammendments made so more than likely gerbils and hamsters would be excluded. However, if this were to be law I know that ferrets would not make the excluded list. In California it is still illegal to own ferrets despite years (since the 80's) of hard work to educate legislators. Basically it is said that ferrets will spread rabies (there's not even 1 case of ferrets EVER spreading rabies, now compare that to dogs!), will get loose and form feral colonies (99% of ferrets in the U.S. are from pets stores and already come spayed/neutered, in addition to the fact that a female ferret in heat MUST be bred or will die- hence owners having to spay, plus the fact that there's NO way any of my ferrets would surive more than 3 days in the wild!). Even though it is generally believed that ferrets have been domesticated longer than the cat, I have no hopes that the U.S. Congress knows anything about ferrets and would exempt them from this horrible bill.

Look at this evil Zoe, poor Lance!

Ahh, he's being attacked!

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.- Roger Caras

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