A ferret and her lab

Zoe is in love.
She loves to cuddle with Chuck.  But I'm not sure the feeling is mutual.
Zoe will nibble on his ear.  Or hang off his lip.  
Chuck just sits there.


How to: Start Shaping

I'm getting ready to teach a tricks class* and started thinking about how I can introduce people to free shaping.  I am sure that many people have heard of "the box game" and that many have given up.  Free shaping is hard!  The dogs who have been so used to getting lured for everything will just sit and stare.  People are told to not say anything, don't move a muscle, and just wait.  And so they do, and so the dogs stare while the drool starts coming down.  Eventually either the dog or person gives up and they think that clicker training isn't for them.  But I don't think it has to be this way!

Back to the box game, the original game is called 101 Things To Do With A Box and it's a creativity game invented by Karen Pryor.  The dog is clicked for any NEW behavior he offers.  So a paw touch might be clicked once, but a nudge of the nose the 2nd time, then climbing inside it, etc.  I have never played that version.  I think it's a great idea but I personally want the dog learning that a click means they are on the right track.  I don't want them learning a click means to not do that again!  I know an advanced dog CAN learn the difference between a traditional shaping session and the 101 Box game but I can see a new dog and person quickly give up.

The version that I recommend is clicking any interaction with the object.  The 3rd or 4th time you play you can start to narrow down your criteria and actually work towards a specific goal.  But the first few times I just want the dog to know that it is his job to interact with whatever I put on the floor.  If I'm working with a person who has tried to play the game before and failed, I won't even use a box.  They see the box as boring.  Instead I'll put down a block to start pivoting skills, a small basket that the dog will eventually learn to jump in, or even a skateboard (rigged so it can't move on the dog).  I will put down any object other than a box to try and get a fresh start.

I then have the person MOVE and TALK!  While eventually I want the team to be able to sit quietly and let the dog think, I also want want both dog and person to be successful and have fun.  They know how to lure, so let them do it for a little bit.  Put the object against a wall and stand so the dog has no choice but to step on it or sniff it.  Yeah he might delicately stretch his feet over it in the beginning so not one paw touches it, but still click the proximity to the object!  Feed ON the object so that the block/skateboard/whatever seems to grow the treats.  Treats don't come from you, they magically appear on the object!  Is the dog still standing on it (eating it's treat perhaps)?  Then click and drop another one on it! 

When the dog starts to think that the magic object gets him the treats, then CHUCK the treat down the hallway.  Dogs love thrown treats so it makes it fun, plus it resets the behavior without the person having to move.  If the dog doesn't come right back to step on the magical treat growing object, then by all means move around the object to get his attention.  And if you have to, sure go ahead and lure them up on it.  But keep tossing those treats and gradually start moving away from the object.  I don't find that it is long before I can get rid of that lure and have the dog offering interacting with the object.  Remember to quit after a pretty short time those first few sessions so that the dog is left wanting to work.  If you get stuck, try picking up the object, moving a few steps, and then putting it back down.  Most dogs will reinvestigate the object so click right away and then end shortly after.

The beginner dog and person should go through the above for a few more sessions.  The point is not to get the standing silently and waiting from the get go, but to teach the dog to interact with objects and the student how to click the little steps.  When the dog is happily running over without any lure or movement from the person, then start the free shaping.  Start defining the tricks and decide the tricks that you want to teach.

To summerize here is my advice for new shapers:
- Go ahead, move and lure in the beginning
- Throw the treat.  Makes it fun and resets the dog.  THROW IT!
- Do it in a hallway.  This way if he gets stuck and you toss that treat, you can now re click the dog for running back towards the object (even if he was just trying to get to you)
- Drop the treat on the object in the beginning stages.  Make the object magical!
- Pick it up, move a few steps, put it back down.
- Be prepared to start the training session as soon as you put that object down.  Most dogs will go sniff the object right away, all dogs will at least look at it.  If you aren't ready, you miss these first valuable clicks!

It may not be the conventional way to teaching shaping but I have had success with these methods.  If I can prevent the dog and the person from giving up in those initial sessions then it is easier to start real free shaping.

Does anybody have any other tips in either getting the dog to start interacting with an object or to help the person learn the skills? 

*I got roped into teaching classes at TCOTC.  It's been a while since I've taught a class so I'm a bit nervous.  Will be starting the end of January with this tricks class and a competition obedience class (all current students are at the novice level).  They're desperate for instructors :)


Vito in 2010

Same video as in Lance's, just posted again :)

Vito's accomplishments in 2010

Vito's first experience in a trial was doing APDT in August.  I was extremely proud of how focused he was and he quickly got his RL1 and his first leg in level 2.  He has done two days of AKC rally starting in September and it won't be long before he gets his RN.

Vito's debut was the toller specialty.  I wasn't planning on showing him yet but decided I had to since the specialty was here in Minnesota!  I am glad I did as while he had some baby dog moments Vito has done extremely well in every trial and earned his CD this year.  I am debating about what to do with him next but don't plan on doing Open for awhile yet.

Vito hasn't been in a regular obedience class yet this year except for a handful of drop in classes.  My goal for next year is to find him one!  This year 90% of our work was on heeling.  The other time was spent on trying to get rid of him stepping on my foot for the left finish and on the front.  I mostly succeeded on the finish but we are still struggling with the bounce off me on fronts when he is coming from a distance.  Another issues I will tackle next year are halts- not bumping into me.

Vito currently has a decent start to all of the open and utility exercises.  Retrieves need work on a straighter closer front but so far he has no problem with knowing to take the jump both directions from extreme angles.  Broad jump I have gotten rid of the target but are still tossing a treat as he jumps.  The drop on recall has been recently started and I am still using both verbal and hand signal to down him.

He has good signals and strong scent work.  Vito still needs work on building distance for his go out, and has not seen directed jumping yet.  Pivoting and marking is still done with targets, I have not added in the actual gloves yet.

Vito had his first experience in a trial in May doing tunnelers and jumpers.  But I knew we weren't really ready so I consider his first real trial to be in July.  He bounced a lot more than he ran for his first several trials and just now do I feel he is truly starting to get it and run.  He did mainly CPE and managed to qualify for CPE nationals next year held here in Minnesota by finishing up his level 2 titles.

We struggled a ton with his running contacts, with a meltdown occurring in February.  It got better and then we had another one in June.  Fixed the last one with the toy set out again really close to the end this time and was able to move it further away again until I could take it away.  So far all but 2 of his dogwalks in a trial have been good although we don't always get the next obstacle unless it's a jump straightish ahead.  We are still slowly working on turns and I'm afraid we will be forever training it as I don't get down to practice that much.

His teeter was changed from 4ft on to a 2o2o as he started to hesitate at the pivot point a little too much.  Too kamikaze for a running teeter and then too uncertain about the criteria of just stopping on it!  I am much happier with his teeter now!  In his first few trials he would stop and sniff and then switch back and forth between 2o2o and 4on.  He will occasionally still do that to me in a trial.

Also worked on the paw vs nose touch discrimination with Lance in January.  I will never do that again!  Other tricks learned this year were sidestepping on my right, sticky target, pray, limping, penguin (needs lots of help still), hug, ostrich (another work in progress), and jump through my arms.  I also worked on the sidestepping stuff I did with Lance, but struggled a bit more with Vito in learning to walk perpendicular towards me and also with facing out and sidestepping.

In May I went to a introduction put on by the MN Disc Dog Club and was hooked.  At that time Vito had little interest in his disc, only wanting his beloved tennis ball.  I picked up all the toys outside so he had no other options and it wasn't long before Vito became just as obsessed about the disc as his ball.  I created a monster!  In toss and catch competitions we seemed to get worse every trial.  Vito would be so frantic trying to get to it that he would jump too early and while he would always make contact with it, he would rarely catch it.  Many times he will twist himself in weird contortions trying way too hard.

We did make progress at home with teaching a back stall, overs, flipping both directions, and sometimes a vault off my leg (with a grab to the still disc).  Vito is also starting to be able to do his tricks when a disc is out such as backward circles and weaving.

Other Stuff:
Vito's separation anxiety issues have gotten worse.  He is doing fabulous if crated at a trial with people around, and is even doing ok when at work with me.  But he is doing a little bit of howling when left home alone for periods over an hour.  When I analyze the video tape it doesn't look like he is that anxious but he won't eat any of his many bones and just howls.  I'm pretty sure I won't be able to afford it next year, but if a miracle happens I want to take Vito in to see a specialist at the U of MN.

Goals for 2011:
Have a solid running dogwalk WITH turns!
Enter open obedience at our club's October trial.
Prepare a novice freestyle routine for disc.


Lance in 2010

A look back at Lance's accomplishments in 2010.

Did 1 last AKC rally trial to get his Rally Excellent title.  Was introduced to APDT rally and entered both of the 2 trials offered this year.  Lance got his RL1, RL2, and now needs one more leg in level 3.

Finally got his last 2 legs in Open to get his CDX title in May!  I expect an ongoing battle with remaining down on the stays when we get back to open, but in the meantime we have been working hard on utility exercises.  Lance did his first trial with Grad Open in December and will continue to work towards utility next year.

This year I switched the way I heeled with Lance by keeping my arms swinging instead of up at my waist.  I also am continuing to work on forging issues and changed the way I reward Lance by having him go behind me to get a treat on my right.  I have also been playing around with what to do when Lance forges on me and while I had a little bit of success by slowing down I have just started walking backwards as soon as he forges and am liking the results better.

Early in the year I also changed Lance's go out from working with a target to having him do a paw touch to the wall/gate.  We babystepped distance and now Lance can do a full length go out but still needs practice on doing so with the jumps out.  Lance also went from only doing 3 metal articles to now doing the full utility scent exercise.

Did his 3rd ever agility trial in January.  Did mainly CPE and finished up all level 1 titles, level 2, and is halfway through level 3.  Did a few one day NADAC trials to get his novice jumpers, tunnelers, and regular titles.  In March I changed from a 2o2o on the dogwalk to 4 on the floor.  He did great with it but has recently started taking extra strides before downing in trials.  I have been proofing it a ton in class and have pulled him from doing the aframe and dogwalk in trials unless I can put him back over it (as in some CPE games, NADAC, and ASCA trials).  Lance's stutter stepping has gotten worse and I have started doing more jump chutes with him.  Of course I haven't found time to do enough of them to make any difference.

Lance learned to discriminate between a nose and a paw touch back in January although I haven't done it since and he likely can't do it any more!  We also did a little bit of work with praying, limping on his other front foot, crossing his front legs the other direction, sticky target, moving backwards in a beg, jump through my arms, marching in heel position (need work!), and the past two months our focus has been on holding his paw on his nose.

I've also done quite a bit of work this year on sidestepping exercises.  Lance learned how to pivot and sidestep on my right, to sidestep towards and away from me while perpendicular across my body, and to face out away from me and sidestep.  Facing out is really hard for him but he is doing pretty well with it.

Other news:
Lance started seeing a chiropractor in June when he started to run by the contact obstacles at trials.  He now seems much much happier and continues to see the chiropractor every 1.5-2months because of his structure.  He is also getting cuddlier as he gets older (a whopping 3.5yrs!) and it's not uncommon anymore to find him sitting next to me on the couch or even on my lap!  Petting him doesn't even cause him to jump off anymore :)

Goals for 2011:
Enter utility by our club's October trial.  In the meantime keep entering Grad Open when it is offered.
Fix his 4 on the floor at agility trials!
Do jump grids!


Frog legs

This is Chuck's favorite toy.

Frog leg.  It used to belong to his favorite frog, now it's just his favorite foot.  Chuck often carries it around his mouth so that you can only tell he has something because his jaws don't shut.

He likes to taunt Vito with it.  It's pretty easy to do, anything possibly throwable or tuggable grabs Vito's attention.  But often it backfires since as soon as Vito gets it he runs over to the couch where Chuckles can not go on.

After pouting for a bit Chuck will go and grab another toy to try and trade it for his favorite frog leg.
It always fails.  But since Vito wants the toy thrown he will get a 2nd chance.
Chuck always loses in the race.  But today I am mean and make Vito practice eye contact games.  Very tough for the toller.

And the hungry lab strikes while Vito looks on in horror.


Day 2 of CPE trial- brilliant and idiot

Oh my.  Vito started out the day really well and then we seemed to get a little bit worse every run!

Fabulous job on the short little course.  Vito actually placed 1st out of all 45 level 3/4/5/C dogs who ran it.  Nice running aframe and good weaves

A little scream after I released him from his 2o2o on the teeter, 2nd obstacle :) Same set up as yesterday with the wrap to the dogwalk and this time a 180 left afterwards.  I knew Vito wasn't ready for that turn again so I planned to drive him off the end again.  He didn't read the wrap this time so we did it again after he took the tunnel.  Today his dogwalk seemed really nice, he looked like he did a little stride adjustment on the middle board right before the descent.  Yay!!!  Good rest of the course including a rear cross into the weaves, and nice aframe.

Vito was a little nuts before we even went on the course, doing some screaming at me.  The run didn't feel connected at all, but it doesn't look as horrible on film.  Vito didn't collect at all for the 1st set of weave poles, looked at me instead and screamed.  He self released from his teeter if he even stopped for any time at all.  I screwed up trying to do a send to a double that I didn't walk so Vito went around it.

Did a different plan then I walked (I do that a lot to myself!).  Vito's weaves were broken :(  Took 3 attempts to get the entrance the first time, had to them again for the 2nd #7 and it was fine.  But broken again on the closing.  I also wanted to avoid doing the threadle in the closing so tried wrapping him around the other side of the jump.  Vito went really wide and even went around the pole marking the start line.  Teeter was good at least!

What a wreck!  Vito self released on the start line and I was so stunned that I stupidly didn't have him sit right where he was.  Then he misses a jump, blows past the weaves to sniff the number sign, totally ignores my cues to NOT go in the damn tunnel.  Idiot :) He wasn't even acting super excited and zoomy, just stupid!  What a way to end the trial.

Here's video from Friday's 2 runs and the first 3 runs of today.  I was going to include snooker and colors but it got too long and I don't really need to remember them :P


Blizzard and a Trial

Us agility folk are hardcore!  Despite a gigantic blizzard with 17inches of snow falling throughout the day, most of us managed to make it to the CPE trial.  It was canceled after the first two games when we heard the plows were being pulled.  Took us about 2hrs to get everyone shoveled out and pushed out of the parking lot.

I had pulled Lance from standard and put him in fullhouse because of our contact issues.  And thankfully there was an aframe in fullhouse today!  I planned it for last and tested him by continuing to drive past the end and sure enough Lance came with me instead of downing.  I gave a simple "ah ah" and put him back over it and then he was a good boy :P

I was very happy with Vito's fullhouse run!  His aframes were quite lovely!

Standard I wasn't all that optimistic about since I knew he wasn't ready for the dogwalk sequence with his running contacts yet.  We don't practice that many wraps to the dogwalk and then it was a hard right turn to the weave poles of all things.  On the positive side there wasn't any looming off courses straight ahead, but there was also a wall pretty close.  I decided I was going to accelerate to hopefully drive him off the end and not worry about making any turn off it, no big deal if we had to redo the weaves because he wasn't collected.

Well when we actually ran it I thought he jumped.  Vito didn't do a clean wrap up the dogwalk, went pretty wide, and then didn't have his pretty footing on the run down.  While putting the video in extreme slow mo I can see that his hind feet were separated so it wasn't a real jump and he did clearly get his back paw into the yellow.  While it wasn't the performance I wanted I'm not upset with it.  I know he needs a ton more work on turns and just isn't ready for this type of sequence in a trial yet.  The rest of the run went fine and we qualified! It was our last Q needed to finish up level 2 and last thing Vito needed to finish up the qualification for nationals!  Since this is our last CPE trial we are entered in before the deadline I am relieved.  I wouldn't have been too disappointed if he hadn't made it, but it was a nice goal I had.

After the trial Vito wanted to snuggle in bed but Chuck loves the snow!  Lance joined him, but seemed lost.


More Contact Work- ASCA Trial

Busy weekend, obedience yesterday and agility today!  There was an ASCA trial  this weekend and since they take day of show entries I decided to head on down with the boys and train their contacts in a trial environment.  I was a bit bummed the contacts weren't rubberized and the aframe was taller than Lance is used to.

I entered him in two rounds of open standard.  The first course had the dogwalk in the beginning and the aframe at the end which was perfect for us! He is much more likely to do his 4 on the floor in a trial on the dogwalk and he did it perfectly in his first run today.  Middle of the course goes smoothly, even does his very first set of 12 poles in a trial, and then we get to the aframe.  He gets to the top, stops and stares at me.  I repeat his command for floor, and Lance takes a few more steps down, slowly, looks at me again and then gets to the bottom and lies down immediately.  I praise him and we do the last jump and run for our treats.  While I'm not thrilled about the creeping, at least Lance was thinking instead of launching.

In the 2nd run the Aframe was the 4th obstacle so I planned on leaving the course after I was satisfied with Lance's performance, whether after the 1st attempt or several.  His performance wasn't horrible.  No hesitation at all on the aframe and he did down, but still took an extra stride on the ground than I would like.  I put him back over and he did a perfect 4 on the floor so I praised him and left the course to give treats.

I thought it would be good for Vito to get some more dogwalk practice in a trial so entered him in two rounds of novice standard. Since I'm debating about whether to enter him at 16 or 20in at the NADAC trial in a few weeks I entered him at 20 today.  We jump 20 in practice but since he has mainly done CPE shows he has only had to jump 16 in a trial setting.

 He was crazy amped up for the first run, even screamed and stood before I got one foot away from him on the startline.  I resat him and released him to the aframe as 2nd obstacle and dogwalk as 4th.  Both were drop dead sexy!  Acceleration with each stride on the dogwalk with foot placement all the way to the very bottom of the plank.  The judge even made a Wow comment as we ran.  Rest of the run was Vito's fastest running in a trial so far.  He did knock 2 bars which I'm not thrilled about.  Also hesitated on the teeter with only 1 foot on the ground so I waited until he got to his 2o2o position.  Weave poles were good.

2nd run Vito wasn't as psycho and the dogwalk and aframe were right at the end.  It was another gorgeous running contact which lead to an off course.  I was totally expecting it though as there was the aframe/tunnel discrimination 1 jump after the dogwalk and the extension of running the dog walk put him right on the tunnel path and I didn't pull him off it.  Teeter and weaves were good.


Vito has his CD!

The little guy pulled it off!

After his stressed performance in the last trial I wasn't sure how Vito would do in this new place but he did awesome!

Heel on Leash/ Figure 8- 4pts off, mainly for sits
Great attention and he really worked had on holding heel position.  I felt like I was being run into the walls for the about turns, but I think Vito was fine with it.  No sit on the last halt.

I was happy with the figure 8, we have been working hard on having him drive through the outside turn and Vito did today!  The last halt would have been a no sit but the judge waited awhile and he finally did.

Stand for Exam- 0pts off
I thought Vito moved a foot as the judge went over but she didn't take any points off and the video was blocked at that point.  Oh well!

Heel Free- 2.5pts off
Vito seemed a bit laggy at the start, the turn and slow time got him in a better position but he was distracted by the warm up ring on the slow.  The about turn seemed to recharge him though and I felt like we were really connected after that.  But again the 2nd sit would have been non existent if the judge hadn't waited.

Recall- 0 pts off!
He was distracted by the other ring at the start so I had to tell the judge we weren't ready.  The way he came bouncing in I thought for sure Vito was going to step on my foot, but instead he bounced to a halt and had a beautiful straight front! 

We got our title with a 193.5!!!  I don't know where all the no sits came from and noticed that they were on the 2nd halt in each exercise.  I actually find it extra odd since I taught Vito to heel by working on the SIT with lots of pivoting, side stepping, 1 steps at a young age.  I think my next dog I won't have the sit be introduced right from the get go, but it is what I did with Vito.

I'm not sure what I want to do with Vito now in terms of trialing.  I know that I don't want to put him in open yet as while he can do all the exercises, just work on introducing the drop on recall the way the exercise actually goes, I want to make sure that he has an insanely solid out of sight stay.  I am being extra cautious after the mess I had with Lance stressing in the ring.  My dilemma is more if I want to keep trialing him in novice, try graduate novice (I don't think it's that great of a stepping stone), or take a break from trials.


Lance in Grad Open!

We made it through! 

Signal Exercise-
I believe this was the least amount of forging the corgi has done in a trial!  We lost points for forging and then our front and finish.  I was planning to use both verbals and hand signals on the signal exercise but in the moment just used his signals and he did great!  He didn't move forward at all when I left him, just adjusted his front feet.  He also didn't move any feet on the sit!  I would prefer that Lance move his front feet back instead of his back feet forward, but since Lance much prefers this way my rule is his front feet have to be still and they were today!

Scent Article-
Handler gets to choose which one and I chose leather as Lance is the most confident on it.  He picked up the right one immediately, excitedly turned to bring it and then dropped it.  Adam thinks he dropped it when a dog barked, I have no idea.  He then looked at me, wandered over to the judge, found the right one again, looked at me, sniffed the rest, and finally brought back the right one.  Technically I should have been NQed on this exercise as the last time Lance looked at me I waited a tiny bit and then moved my head up.  I don't know if the judge noticed it or if he was just being generous on my green dog.  We just lost 1pt for the drop and 1/2pt for the front.

Lost a 1/2pt on the pivot sit as Lance over roatated.  He veered off at the wrong angle but then saw the glove and happily bounced to it.  I saw him eye the jump on his way back with the glove but then made a good choice not to take it!  I know Lance still has lots of questions on how this exercise goes!

Moving Stand-
Big forging!  But instant stay and I will overlook the sniff to the ground.  I forgot that I bring my hand up to my waist as I turned to face him (I've been told it is legal but to be prepared to lose some points by some uneducated judges) but it didn't phase Lance.

Go Out-
Before the judging started Lance needed a 2nd signal to lock onto the go out spot, but then almost held it until I sent him.  Still need to work on duration with this.  On the actual send he sprinted off to the corner where he retrieved the glove, very certain he was right.  Lance even tried to do his touch to the gate, and I wanted him to touch the first few shows, but we didn't lose any points as his paw actually went through the hole :)  We usually practice on solid walls and solid ring barriers so I am very happy that he drove out (although in the wrong direction) and still performed his touch!  I am also proud that he didn't think about arching back to take the jumps like he has tried in his 2 run throughs.

Directed Jumping-
Good boy!  Lost 1/2pt on the front.

Q, 191.5.  I am so happy with where we are at in our training.  I know we are not yet ready for utility but this was a great class to get him used to the exercises. 

Work to do before we are ready for utility:
- Practice everything with the jumps set out so he knows that he does not need to take them on gloves and go outs
- Work on doing the go out right after we did gloves and teach him the difference!
- Go outs in many more places with confidence in being sent from a full ring distance
- Holding his mark on the go out until released
- Confidence on scent articles.  Also work on spreading them far apart as when he does get nervous and drop one, it is often carried a few steps out of the pile and he has a hard time refinding it. 


December Goals

November Progress:
1. Tricks- I taught both dogs to jump through my arms.  Lance actually seems to really like this one, after he got over the initial avoidance issue he always has with tricks involving me.  Of course it's not all that impressive at corgi height but still :)  Vito finally got over trying to pray on my arms and now happily jumps through.

But that trick didn't take very long at all so I then moved on to tying to fix their paw over nose trick.  I feel like I made zero progress as all 3 still suck at it.  I did communicate I wanted duration to Lance, but it lost the paw on nose part and is more of holding paw in air in a prolonged wave.  Vito's action turned into more of an ostrich movement of sticking his head in his armpit.  And the little I did with Chuck turned into stomp feet on the ground!  Clearly this trick is not my strength!

With Chuck I worked a very tiny bit on baking up away from me without any forward movement on my part. I also worked a tiny bit on crossing his paws with the use of a target still.

2. Go Outs-  I didn't do as much as I wanted with him in new places.  Only work done was Lance doing very miniature go outs at the horse barn during an agility trial.  We did do our 1st run through though!

3. Heeling- I've done quite a bit of heeling with Vito this past month but no more than usual with Lance.  I have no grasp on if either are doing any better or not.  I guess we'll find out next weekend at the trial!

4. Fronts and finishes- crap.  Did practically zero work on it.

5. Disc- Another failure.  Nothing done that I can remember.

December Goals:
1. Run throughs!- Get off my butt and take Lance and Vito to more run throughs.  At the very least get them out to a petstore or somewhere to practice with distractions.

2. Lance's agility contacts- Work on insane proofing in class with him holding his 4 on the floor position.  See if I can get him to other locations to practice.

3. Drop on Recall- Start to work this concept with Vito.  He already has a great moving down while heeling, good downs at a distance, and a good wait while running towards me.  Now to combine!

4. Out of Sight stays- Maybe go back to the random stays I was doing for Lance last January and work more with Vito.  Or maybe just work on simple time out of sight.  Oddly while Vito does have separation anxiety, I am not worried about his long out of sight stays in open.  I know he needs more work on time, but I'm just not worried about him.  Of course now I probably jinxed myself!

5. Tricks- I will try one more month to get a good paw over the nose.

Must pet the kitty!


Operation Contact Proofing

The work has begun!  I hope to be able to get Lance to new places to work him nailing his 4 on the floor criteria but I am not sure how likely that will be.  So while waiting for run throughs here are the proofs I have done, mainly on the aframe and some on the dogwalk.

- Running past
- Stopping early before the end
- front cross, rear cross, blind cross
- Recall over while I stand far beyond
- Hovering over

- Target just beyond reach of position
- Treats just beyond reach
- Food bowl with treats just beyond reach
- Thrown treat: Gotcha! Only once though, 2nd attempt was great
- Thrown bully stick

- Someone else holding out food: Gotcha!  I had Adam hold out food and he went for it the first time.  All repeated attempts were great.
- Someone else rolling food.

So far he is doing awesome and nailing his down at the end.  He is very tempted but being a good little boy. 
I only got him with two of the tests, a rolled treat and Daddy holding out food.  On our reattempts he passed the tests with flying colors.  On the positive side this means Lance is really understanding his job.  On the negative side, I really wish Lance would fail more so I can work on the issue and punish the wrong response (in terms of decreasing the behavior of extra strides before downing, not by using force) instead of just reinforcing the right response.  I don't want it to become like our stay issue, zero breaking in class but failing almost all the time when competing.  If we hadn't have this issues already crop up in competition then I would take a different perspective.  Generally when I am proofing something my goal is to really make them work hard, but not have them fail.  I want the dog to make that tough decision to perform that behavior and mark the instant they seem to have made the choice.

Does anyone have any other distractions we can work on?  Lance doesn't care for toys or I would have done everything with toys and food.


Vito's CPE Weekend

While Lance was having a crappy weekend Vito decided to man up and have another great one!

We qualified 3/4 on Friday.  All had little bobbles, but overall fantastic!  His dogwalk was amazing, most aframes fabulous with 1 decent.  Teeter confident with zero sniffing or hesitation before going into his 2o2o.  Our main problem lies with weaving as Vito just isn't collecting very well in a trial environment and ends up entering at the 3rd pole most runs.  This was the cause of our only NQ on Friday as while I tried to restart him he sprinted into the next tunnel.

We did have one major baby dog moment on Friday.  Daddy was bar setting and decided to hop over the little wall to go outside of the ring to film our snooker run.  Apparently Vito saw this and just went nuts.  Lots of reactive barking at the start line and I couldn't calm him.  When I released him we were heading towards that direction and Vito took the obstacles in his path until we got there and continued his barking display with waggy tail once he jumped on the wall.  I got him back right away and started to finish our run when we were whistled off due to a judging miscalculation.  I got to rerun it again and was happy Vito was calm and in control of himself at the start line.  But he still made the happy run to pounce on the wall where Adam was standing again!  I got him back right away and finished our course.  Idiot!

3/4 Q's today but not quite as fabulous as yesterday.  Vito decided to start out the day by happily running to the wall where he found Adam yesterday  but then felt like an idiot when Adam wasn't there and didn't try that again the rest of the day :)  He only got to play with his running contacts once today as the games didn't use them.  And well it wasn't pretty.  Complete flying off the dogwalk!  In his defense I was late with my "left tunnel" cue which really wasn't even needed in the first place and he pretty much leaped as soon as the words were out of my mouth.  But in my defense, come on Vito!  We did layer a jump nicely at the end at least.

Still had issues with entering the 3rd pole in the weaves in standard but were great in snooker.  He also saved my butt in snooker when I forgot the course in the middle of a 3 part #5 combo right after a 2 part #4 combo in the closing.  At the last 2nd I regained a brain, called him and he turned on a dime to fix the course for a perfect 51 point snooker :)

Jumpers was another baby dog run.  He turned as soon I told him "Switch" instead of turning after the jump.  We fixed it, did a few more nice obstacles and then he missed another jump to nibble at his bum.  We finished the 2nd half nicely at least!

Oh, and there was no dogwalk or aframe in fullhouse so Lance got to just have a fun course.   And Vito did get the number of legs he needs to qualify but unfortunately still needs 1 more standard Q to finish up his level 2 title.  We have one more weekend we're entered in before the deadline.


Naughty Pants

For once that title belongs to Mr. Corgi.  We have a serious problem with our contacts.  Had a trial today and Lance was first entered in Jackpot so while fooling around gathering points I did the Aframe twice.  Both times he gave me the finger with his 4 on the floor criteria.  Taking several strides after he hits ground so that he is more like 5ft from the aframe.  On the 2nd one I used my stern Mommy voice to remind him to "floor" which caused him to creep down, then launch off it, take several steps and then stand for a second before lying down.  His contacts have been getting worse and worse each trial but none as bad as today.

His next run was standard and I decided that if he blew me off again I would remove him from the course.  Well we didn't get very far as the aframe was the 3rd obstacle.  I have no idea what to do about it.  I don't think pulling a dog off course is very effective for the majority of dogs out there.  But Lance doesn't have this problem in class and it doesn't seem to be a stress issue as Lance looked extremely happy with himself each time he launched and ran forward; just not happy with me still standing slow and waiting for him to down.  I know it's not a physical problem as he sees a chiropractor on a regular basis now, just had his first massage 1 week ago and was given such a great evaluation that she doesn't want to seem him again!

I'm sorry Mommy!
Right now I am thinking I am going to stick to NADAC trials where I can re put him back on the contact if he blows it and maybe enter our first ASCA trial where I can do the same thing.  If he is successful I think I will happily run off course and give him a jackpot.  Tomorrow Lance is only entered in Fullhouse so since I can make up my own course I am thinking about plotting an easy course that ends with the aframe.  If he doesn't do it I'll send him back over, if he does I will quickly exit and party with him.


CPE Trial

The boys had a CPE trial!  I worked a few classes on Saturday and then actually played today!

Lance only had one run today.  I can't afford two dogs even with all my vouchers so while I am trying to get enough Q's to qualify Vito for CPE Nationals (held in MN next year!) Lance is on the sideline.

Apparently on the bench is where he needed to be.  His 4 on the floor after the aframe was horrid.  He leaped and took a few steps off the aframe before actually lying down.  Dogwalk was better at least.  The course itself ran fine but he is stuttering worse than ever.  Lance actually knocked 3 bars in a row on a simple straight stretch.


Standard- Q
Yay Vito!  Running pretty fast and listened nicely.  He missed his weave entrance and popped in at the 3rd pole, while trying to redo he took an off course.  Teeter was the best he has ever done in a trial; only a tiny sniff and went right away into his 2o2o and no self doubting by going back to 4 on!  Dogwalk was perfect and great drive to the jump straight afterward.

Wildcard- NQ
Totally my fault.  Since I wanted to test his dogwalk again it meant I needed to push him out to the far jump in the beginning.  Problem was I didn't lead out far enough so wasn't anywhere near the position I needed to be in to prevent him from taking the more obvious jump straight in front after the tunnel.  Weaves were good and dogwalk was ok but a bit higher of a hit.  It was hard to tell from the camera angle if his feet were separated or not.  1st half wasn't caught on film.

Snooker- Q
Daddy was leash running and Vito was very distracted by him at the start line.  It wasn't the fastest but he listened well and we had no errors.  I think I held up my outside arm to cue the wrap too early but he didnt seem to care.  Didn't do his automatic down on the table, chose to sniff instead, but did lie down right away when asked.

I was happy with this run.  He missed the 2nd jump in the serpentine (out) and we fixed it.  I'm pretty sure I was too late with my arm cue.

I feel like we are finally starting to be a team when trialing.  He's actually listening to my handling instead of being completely obstacle focused.  We have another CPE trial next weekend and hopefully will get the last of our Q's to make nationals.


1st Utility Run Though

Tonight I took Lance to his first utility run through!  I have him entered in graduate open in a few weeks to be held at SPDTC so I thought it would be good to get him some practice in that environment.

Lance's heeling was great.  Forgy as usual, especially in a trial, but not as bad as it could be.  He did a great stand even though he was at his worst forging wise and I practically had to reach way forward to stand him.  I decided to go the full distance out and Lance did a nice signal down and then started to sit on my signal but stopped and started to move towards the jump.  I reset him and his down, sit, and come were all great the 2nd time through and I praised the sit.  It's a good reminder that I need to practice all exercises with the jumps out as Lance was clearly confused about what I wanted that first try.

For articles it was hard to get Lance to watch the pile as it was being set out.  So when I did our turn and send (no sit) he confidently shot out but then paused as he veered too far right and didn't see the pile.  He looked for it though and found it before I had a chance to say anything.  He seemed a bit hesitant while searching the pile but brought back the correct one.  His second send was nice but he mouthed a few wrong articles before bringing back the correct one.

Gloves went well, we did #2.  He immediately locked onto the right glove when I marked it and I sent him right away.

Lance's moving stand was perfect, zero complaints :)

I set out his go out from just past the jumps.  I was really happy that he looked on my mark and held it until I sent him.  But the 1st attempt started out well but then he started curling back towards the jump (already past it) as if he thought he screwed up and I really wanted the jump.  I called him off, set up a little bit closer and then he went nice and straight all the way to the gate to touch it!  I walked in to treat, walked back out for the jumping which went well.  The 2nd go out had the same problem as the first, with him again curling back towards the jump.  After calling him back I did the go out from the same spot (just a bit past the jumps) and he went out perfectly, I walked in to treat, and he did the jumping part nicely.  I did a 3rd go out and had no issues. 

I rarely have the jumps out in practice when I am doing go outs so I thought he might have an issue with running between them here.  I thought I could avoid that by only starting half way but apparently Lance decided to over think things.  We will see what happens in the trial; at least he only has to start from between the jumps.

I am ecstatic about Lance's performance tonight!  It may not have been perfect but this is the first time we have done utility in a new environment and he performed well on every exercise!  It was good to see what still needs some work.  Besides adding some distance to our go out, I think just having jumps out while I am practicing will fix our other issues!  If I can get to some more run throughs I might feel confident enough to start Lance in utility next spring.


November Tricks

Poor Vito, he is not feeling so hot.  While Vito may not be the fastest eater on earth averaging 10 minutes for just under 1 cup of food (2/3c + 1/4c to be exact, I'm a stickler!), not eating at all isn't a good sign for him.  First he didn't want breakfast, so I put it away.  He came with me to work for a few hours and was eager to perform some tricks for me in my downtime, but still spit out all kibble.  He finally did decide to eat breakfast but then thew up bile at 5 and now doesn't want dinner.

Still doesn't want to miss out on training though!  His always excited attitude still ran through our practice and even wanted to do some shaping.  After every click he would excitedly sprint to my waiting hand, but then not take the offered piece of food.  I'm not really worried about him, yet, I just hope he feels better tomorrow!

For my November trick goal I settled on the very basic jump though my arms.  So far Lance has gone through his avoidance issue that he does anytime I want him doing something new while interacting with a part of my body but it was much better this time and I think we are done with that nonsense now.  I don't need a target or lure anymore and he has even added a cute little twist where he weaves through my legs right after the jump :)

Vito took a bit on convincing that I do NOT want him to pray on my arms!  Even when set up at a distance, he would run up, screech to a halt and pray.  Then he moved on to trying to blast through my arms, just like a video game character who meets a wall and keeps trying to go forward!  But now he's happily going through nicely. 

Since it looks like I need a new trick I decided to reattempt the paw on nose trick.  This is one trick that I just can't get!  I can get my dogs pawing at their nose, even without any aids, but I can not get them to hold it there for even a microsecond!  I suppose I could call it "got an itch?" because that is all I have ever gotten them to do!  So far I am not doing any better than my previous experiences.

And on a side note, I was thinking about how long it takes Vito to actually chew every piece of kibble and calculated that Lance could happily inhale 20 cups of food in the time it takes Vito to eat 1 cup!  That would be one happy, and very sick, corgi!


Part 2 of Ian Dunbar Seminar!

Since apparently Crystal is going to take awhile to write about he Ian Dunbar experience, I might as well finish up on the other things that really caught my attention from Saturday.

One question I had about his RRNR (basically repeating the cue and walking closer continuously until the dog does the behavior) was if it could inadvertently reward the behavior you are trying to punish.  What first made me ask this question was when Ian was talking about teaching dogs to heel.  A lot of trainers only focus on the negative and are constantly leash popping their dogs for being out of position.  Ian was arguing that not only do we need to reward the dogs when they do the right thing, but that we need to give more constructive feedback such as teaching the dog a word such as slow, or hurry up and then use those cues as information to the dog.

My question to Ian, was that can't a cue that was positively trained actually reward a behavior?  In the same way that a finish can be a reward for a straight front, couldn't a dog learn to forge and then be rewarded by the cue to "slow."  Or as a better example, I think a lot of dogs out there learn to jump up first before sitting.  They jump up to get the owners attention, are asked to to sit, and then nicely fold back down where they receive lots of praise.  They learn not only that sitting gets petting, but as part of a behavior chain they learn to jump first, then sit.  I did try and ask this all to Ian, but either I didn't ask it correctly and he misunderstood me, or he just blew it off because he doesn't think it occurs if you use RRNR correctly.

Another aspect I found interesting on Saturday was that he actually teaches his dogs different levels of performance based on their name.  Ian formalizes disobedience :)  90% of the time Ian argues that we don't actually care if the dog obeys or not.  If he really wants the dog to listen, then Ian uses the dogs full name.  So Rover Sit would be optional.  But Rover Doggy Sit would always be enforced.  And if he wanted pizzaz, a nice tucked it sit, that Ian would use yet a third name to go be before the cue sit.

I thought about it and I do currently have a little system for my dogs. But instead of using a cue to go before the real command, I just use different commands.  If I say sit, down, stay, come, all done, etc then I ALWAYS enforce it.  But if I tell Vito to go relax, just lie down, come cuddle, come over here, no more, then they are basically optional.  I would like it if he would down, or come, but I don't really care if he does it or not.  And if I want precision, then I use his formal obedience cues such as front and heel.  Having more cues makes it a bit more complicated than just putting a different name before the cue, but I would think that it would be easier for the dog to learn what you expect.

And finally, my last observation about Saturday was the use of the command in the praise as in Good Sit.  Now I know that dogs are really great at learning what we want so it probably doesn't matter one bit.  Traditional trainers have always said the command after the dog did it so it clearly can be done that way.  But I still find it extremely annoying.  I believe that dogs see cues as actions.  Sit means to lower the butt to the floor.  And that is why a lot of dogs have zero clue what you mean when suddenly the dog is lying down and then you tell the to sit.  They can't lower their butt any further, so it is like an entirely new command!  By saying Good Sit, I would imagine the dog would hear it as good....Sit rather than as a quality of the position.  Especially in the learning stages when you are naming the behavior, I always give it right BEFORE I think the dog is going to do it, not after.  Just a pet peeve of mine!

Does anyone else get what I'm trying to say about cues rewarding behaviors?
Do you guys have different levels of obedience, and do you think a different name is an easier idea than different cues?


November Goals

For those of you who don't read my update and goals, I wanted to catch you before you closed out your reader.  I'm looking for some new tricks to teach the boys.  Please respond with any ideas!!!

Update on October Goals
1. Heeling: Work on Lance's forging- Still too early to tell if having Lance go around behind  me and treating on my right is helping.  He does seem to love it though!
With Vito I wanted to work on fast time and turns- Well at the trial a week ago Vito stayed with me on the fast time and wasn't quite as wide on the about turn.  I still want to do quite a bit more work on these aspects with him though.

2. Disc: back stall and reverse chest vault- Vito can do the back stall now with a disc in my hand!!!!  I don't know how to toss a disc to him yet from that position so we have been working on multiple disc catches/drops while he is sitting in front of me.  For the reverse chest vault I really didn't work on it that much.  I was starting it with an exercise ball and likely need to go back to that.  On me he jumps up and does put his feet on my chest, but he's not really sure of what to do.

3. Scent Articles: mostly a failure this past month.  I was lucky if I did them twice a week, some weeks none at all.  But fingers crossed no issues are cropping up.

4. Retrieve:  Closer, straighter front- Some improvement!  I'm moving my hands in front of me to guide him in closer, and he is doing very nice with the extra help.  Without help it varies.

November Goals:
1. Tricks!  I want to get back to doing trick work with the boys.  Anybody have any ideas?  I really can't make up my mind.  Retrieve a hot dog?  Actually complete Vito's handstand?  Back leg limp?  Jump through my arms?  Shake head no or yes?  Please tell me what to do or I won't decide and end up not doing anything.

2. Go outs- Practice Lance's go outs in several new places.  Try and go to a run through and see how he does.

3. Heeling- Continue treating "behind" with Lance to fix forging.  Keep working on control with Vito.

4. Fronts and finishes- I haven't really worked on these in awhile.  Be picky about what I'm rewarding, no reward if he has to fix his position.

5. Disc- Anything I can do in the house.  Back to the exercise ball for his reverse chest vault practice. Multiple catches/drops while sitting in front and start to transfer a catch/drop while on my back.  And without Vito, work on floating a disc correctly.


Vito's Halloween Agility Weekend- Happy birthday!

While I was at the Ian Dunbar seminar on Saturday, Vito was at the agility trial with Daddy.  Thank you honey :)  A bit nervewrecking for me to give up control, but well he did practice running Vito in agility for all of 3 weeks!  Actually, I was really happy with how they did.  Vito broke some startlines and got Adam into a bit of trouble with being in the right position, but overall listened nicely.  They even managed to qualify in 2 out of the 4 runs, fullhouse and wildcard.

Sunday I was able to go and retake control of my puppy!  I was very happy with how we worked, much more connected and listening then the last goofy trial.  He is continuing to pick up speed every trial and soon I hope to have the confident dog I have in practice. 

Running contacts were beautiful every single time, even with dad, and really great commitment to the next obstacle.  He was even able to do two rear crosses after the dog walk and the aframe.  We did fail on a right turn I wanted to practice in jackpot as he continued to run straight, but at least his striding was lovely!  I wouldn't say he is completely confident on the dog walks in trials, as he even did a quick sniff on it during standard today, as well as the teeter.  But really no complaints today and we even managed to get our first 100% Q rate!!!

Vito turned 2 today as well! Happy birthday little man!


The Great Dr. Ian Dunbar, part 1

I had the great opportunity to attend Dr. Ian Dunbar's seminar the past two days along with my coworkers!  He is a very good speaker and had many great points.  I am sure my friend Crystal will post a very thorough analysis of it later (hint!) but I just want to record and talk through some of my impressions on a few points I had strong views on or disagreed with.

One of the big points of the weekend was that feedback needs to be binary.  The dog really needs to know when it is doing something right AND when it is doing something wrong.  He doesn't believe that aversives need to be used, but he does want constant feedback given to the dog.  If just given negative feed back dogs and people are clearly stressed and can shut down.  If just given positive feedback, Ian says that just shaping can cause a dog to be frustrated and get easily stuck in a rut of offering the same behaviors over and over again.  But playing hot and cold, with calm negative feedback and not yelling can result in very fast learning.

My argument with this is not the logic that giving both neg and pos feedback can be effective.  I do think that a lot of dogs can do quite well with it and definitely believe that punishment doe not have to be aversive.  However, I think that when a dog is first learning something that shaping a behavior is best done without any no-reward marker.  I know that Lance especially can very easily shut down on me and that he would not want to be told when guessing wrong.  Some dogs might not care, but I think that free shaping without the negative feedback can really promote creativity and without inhibiting a dog's behavior.  And with a dog experienced with shaping and with a great trainer, there is no reason a dog needs to be frustrated and getting stuck in offering wrong behaviors.  A good trainer would have a high rate of positive feedback (click lots) and even if the dog tends to stall out there is always something little one could reward (head turns) or treat placements to get the dog back on the right track.  So personally when teaching a new behavior to my dogs I am going to stick with the positive only feedback and see no real point in his argument against with a skilled trainer.

Once a dog has learned a behavior I see nothing wrong in using punishment.  Ian tends to use mainly positive* punishment* (correction, he  uses negative reinforcement) while I still prefer negative punishment.  I agree with him that time outs really aren't all that effective and tend to be used for too long, but I think turning your back on a dog, setting dinner back down on the table, or walking away from the door can all be very effective.  But I also use verbal reprimands with commands I am sure are well taught at the current level of difficulty.

One of my bigger beefs was with Ian's method of negative reinforcement.  He terms his technique Repetitive Reinstruction in Negative Reinforcement (RRNR), at least I think I got that right.  Basically if  dog doesn't adhere to a command, let's say a sit, Ian repeats the cue over and over again while walking closer to the dog until the dog finally does it.  It is negative reinforcement because the annoyance ends once the dog does the behavior, but relentlessly continues as long as long as the dog doesn't perform.  He previously termed it Instructive Reprimands as it also tells the dog what he wants them to do.  While it may seem like nagging, Ian states that it is not.  Unlike nagging, he will persist until the dog actually does the behavior, and then he will insist the dog to do it a 2nd time for any reward.  Clearly not nagging.

I cannot ever see myself doing that with my dogs, let alone recommend it to average Joe whose dog is already used to tuning out his drones.  I have seen lots and lots of "sit sit sit sit sit SIT SIT"s in my lifetime and it bugs the crap out of me.  I don't think that repeating a command is evil, but I don't see any benefit at all to repeating it a thousand times until your dog does it.  If my personal dogs don't sit the first time, I usually ask again, possibly in a more strict tone.  If the dog does it, I tell him thank you but don't reward it since it wasn't on the first cue.  If the dog doesn't do it, I silently walk in to help the dog (if at a distance) and then use gentle guidance with either body pressure, maybe collar pressure, or usually just a look. Once I get compliance I would then ask for it in the exact same situation (or maybe a tinier bit easier).  If the original blow off was a behavior at a distance, I go back to that distance, or if the original behavior was a stand to a down, well then I make sure that position change is what I practice, not a down from a sit.  I was disappointed that in all the examples, Ian would practice the behavior again so he could reward the dog for complying, but it was always right up close and the initial misbehavior was at a distance. (*note, in my personal choices of what I do, I'm talking about pet dog behaviors.  In training for dog sports, my dogs DO always have a choice on whether to comply or not.  My goal is to make training so fun that the dog doesn't even consider not playing with me.  I also don't do the same corrections when the dog makes a "mistake" in dog sport training" that I personally use in everyday life.*)

On the other hand, with a behavior the dog does not know very well or in a situation they haven't been it, I wouldn't even bother with those corrections but would instead give him the benefit of the doubt and immediately help him out.  Or in a training session where the dog is paying attention but simply not responding, I interrupt the opportunity by telling my dog "too slow," move a few steps before he completes the behavior if it was started, and ask for it again.

I have a few more points of his points I want to write out and think over and will likely post a bit more tomorrow.  And really I did enjoy the 2 days of seminar I attended, I think it is great when a presenter really makes you think, whether you agree with them or not!  The 3rd day of his seminar is tomorrow but I will be off at agility :)

Anyone have any comments on the above?  What do you see as the appropriate usage of punishment with a known behavior?  Do you agree with Ian in that a no reward marker, or even a a bit of punishment (non aversive) is a good tool in the learning stage?

Click here for part 2


Cuddle Buddies

19 Weeks

5 Months

6 Months

8 Months
14 months
2 Years

And Luke is still feeling great.  No more incidents since the two blockages early last week.


He's Back!

Chuck is back.  Just in time for the Puppy Raiser Halloween Party we sent Java back to the kennels and grabbed Chuck from his vacation.  

Lance didn't seem to care.

He did win the Godzilla contest though, knocking down the most boxes and in the fastest time, so maybe he just redirected his frustration.
Vito was pretty upset.  Not only did we take away his girlfriend but the presence of the wiggle butt was just too much.  Lots of grumbling but it quickly turned to sighing.

As for Chuck, we have had several conversations about manners since he has been back.  Yes the leash needs to be loose always, no you can't break a stay whenever you feel like it, and a few licks are ok, but teeth is  not.


Day 2 and a 180

Another day of trialing, and Vito sure likes to keep me grounded.

Novice B Obedience:


Heel on Leash/Figure 8- 2 pts off
Is 1st heeling pattern ended up looking decent but I just didn't feel that connection.  A bit of a lag again on the about turn, but caught up nicely.  I didn't realize until done that I heeled with my arm at my waist, something I haven't done with either dog for a long time, but I don't think Vito cared.

The figure 8 wasn't bad either, but he seemed even more disconnected.  The 2nd time around he was lagging pretty bad and decided to cut in on my right.  I told him to heel and he did go on my left and proceeded to bite at his butt.  Probably shouldn't have given the extra cue as I think it just cost us more points then it was worth.

Stand for Exam- 0 pts off
I was a bit worried for this one as the nice judge got rid of her cane and hobbled towards the dogs.  A lot of dogs moved their feet to perhaps help her out a little, but Vito was good and remained solid.

Heel Free- 6.5pts off
I had to tap him to get his attention at the start and then Vito immediately lagged and twitched towards his butt.  As soon as he caught up and sat he proceeded to itch.  Vito was then very laggy and just out of it after that.  I gave another cue to heel on the return but it didn't seem to help much.

Recall- .5pt off
No stepping on my foot today :)

Long Sit- NQ
Vito was very distracted going in for the line up.  Right after the judge asked if we were ready she dropped a pencil on the ground.  Vito immediately fixated on it and as it took forever for the judge to hobble over and pick it up she told us to sit our dogs and leave our dogs in basically one breath before the pencil was off the floor.  Vito downed about half way through the stay.  I don't think the pencil drop contributed to it, but it couldn't have helped.

Long Down
Vito held it but was stressed the whole time.  Lots of eye blinking

His performance wasn't horrible, but I don't know why Vito was so stressed today.  He was laggy and scratchy the first half and then I'm pretty sure he was stressing up on the release from the heel free before the recall.  Our warm up seemed just fine and Vito was happily tugging with me and eating  the cookies.  But as soon as I was at the gate waiting to be invited in he became very distracted by the stewards and I had to fight for his attention.  I'm actually kinda glad we got an NQ today as I don't really want the title under today's performance.  I know it wasn't that bad, but attention and enthusiasm are the two most important things to me when trialing.

Rally Novice B:
Vito also had rally today.  At the start it was seeming that was going to have the same problem as in obedience.  He sniffed at the start sign instead of setting up and immediately started lagging a little bit.  I feel like was able to get him back by talking to him, but if it was the obedience ring we would have been lost.  We lost a point where Vito didn't do his automatic sit and I had to give a verbal.  Overall it wasn't bad and I'm happy with how we finished the course, but again am bummed about the start.  We got a 99 and fastest time for 1st place.


Vito's 2nd Obedience Trial!

Today Vito has his 2nd attempt at Novice B!

 Heel on leash/figure 8- 1pt off
What a great dog!  Very attentive and really working hard on heel position.  A little bit of a lag, and a peek at the judge, after the first about turn but catches up quickly.

I remembered to go the left on the figure 8, unlike with Lance, and I think this helped.  He still lagged a tiny bit on the outside turn but I tried to remember to drive though it and Vito started to pick up the pace

Stand for Exam- 0pts off
Big head turn towards the judge but no feet moved!

Heel Free- 4.5pts lost
Some lagging at the first left turn, and another look at the judge.  Much tighter about turn but I felt some nuzzling on my hand as Vito checked to see if I was holding any treats :)  The last about turn Vito got distracted by a wall and went off to sniff but quickly caught himself before I had to say anything.  Actually quite a few dogs got lost in that corner today.  And I cost us 3pts during this as I forgot to let my left hand swing enough.  When I get nervous I tend to stiffen up and heel with a straight left hand.  I think it also makes me feel safer about my dog's heel position, as sort of a target.  The judge rightfully hit us for it and it's a good reminder for me to pay more attention.

Recall- .5pts off
Less bouncy this time :)  He still steps up my foot but I dont think the judge caught it.  She did get the crooked front though.

I am so excited by his performance!  Vito scored a 197, but I got that knocked to a 194.  Everything from his debut last month was much better.  Vito didn't get ahead of me on the fast time and had tighter turns.  He did steal a few glances at the judge so I think I need to practice with a "judge" following us.  Tomorrow I will try to relax and move my arms and hopefully get our 3rd leg!


You have got to be kidding me

And it happened again.  Luke went back to the vet this morning as all weekend he continued to lick himself a ton and was constatly squatting with very little coming out.  The vet said he was partially blocked.  At least this time it was only 1/4 of the cost.  Are you going to give us a break kitty?


Damn Cat.

Luke had to be taken into the vet for a blockage earlier this week.  This is the third time he has had issues down there in the past year and he has now been diagnosed with Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD).  Basically it's a catch all term for cats with bladder issues and they don't really know the cause.  Luke's 1st incident involved a lot of bloody pee, his 2nd had him lying in a pool of his own urine, and this third time he was blocked and needed surgery.

Risk factors include
1. gender (male) being spayed/neutered:  Well we can't change this.

2. not drinking enough water:  Already have a pet fountain after the 2nd incident so I don't know how get him to drink anymore.  Will have to consider wet food although we really can't afford it.

3. obesity:  Never been free fed and is on a diet currently.  I don' think he's too fat at 10.9lbs although I will start feeding him even less.

4. stress:  He really never seems stressed with the other dogs and upstairs cats.  Really flaunts himself in front of the doggy visitors even.  But the 2nd vet trip happened a few weeks after we got Chuck, and now this latest one is 2 weeks after Java came home.  Maybe a feliway diffuser?

5. diet:  Currently he eats Felidae and I am very bummed that the vet now wants to put him on Hills C/D.  She agrees with me that the food is crap but doesn't know of any high quality foods that will have the nutrient level she thinks he needs.  Mainly high in fatty acids, and very low in phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium.  She did mention Royal Canin veterinary foods and at least that doesn't have rice, corn, and byproducts as the first three ingredients (just the 2nd, and 3rd...).

Thank you kitty for continuing to add to our ever growing Care Credit bill.

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