2017 Year in Review

Another year ending.  This last year was a huge change in our household with the addition of a tiny human! 


Zumi had a hectic year.  Several breaks in training due to her heat cycle, being bred, becoming a mother, and then getting spayed.  It was just sporadically broken up over 7 months!  
I still tried to train in as much training, and trials, as we could during our times together.  

In USDAA Zumi nabbed all 3 advanced standard legs she needed to move up to the masters level in all games.  I was grateful she did it before the puppies came!

In UKI Zumi kept searching after those 3 standard legs to get out of novice and into senior.  1 little thing kept popping up and preventing it from happening.  But finally the last trial of the year she did it!  1 from the masters heat class even to count towards her novice title!

I'm excited to get to play with the higher level courses in 2018!  My goal is to attend my first national agility event next year.  right now I'm planning for the UKI Open!

In obedience, we had a bit of a setback.  Well, a big set back.  And all the time off certainly didn't help.  Zumi started having vocalization issues on her retrieves.  And then that spilled into go outs.  And I decided to go all the way back to the beginning with her scent article training due to Zumi's tendancy to just grab when she couldn't find the article right away.   

Looking back at old video, I can't see any hint of vocalizing on the retrieves last year, but it started to creep in the beginning of this year.  I didn't really pay notice of it until the CDSP trial in July where I put her in Open for the first time to see how she would handle it.  That, of course, was a disaster in terms of vulturing, and whining on all her sends away from me. 

And now we're still working on.  Progress has been extremely slow and frustrating.  

We did end up doing our first AKC obedience trial to get her 3 novice legs.  Due to her recent issues I I wasn't planning on it, but knew the provisional judge needed the numbers.  At least I'm happy to say that she's out of novice forever now!  I am hoping to show in Open after the new rules take effect, but at the rate we are progressing that's quite the stretch goal!


Vito miraculously earned his last Super Q needed in USDAA to earn his ADCH!  I was planning on this being his last spring/summer jumping 20in, so after he earned his championship title I moved him down to 16in.  He doesn't really seem any different at 16 vs 20/22 in terms of excitement, it's really just how he's feeling at the moment!

In UKI Vito also earned his championship IAC title.  A big year for Vito!

I don't really have goals of getting the performance versions of the championship titles so we will just continue playing in a very small number of runs per day and mainly do my favorite classes of the masters heat/challenge series in both organizations.  

This was actually a pretty big year for Vito in obedience too.  It was the first year I didn't try an AKC with him at all, just CDSP.  And while Vito was Vito, he really did well for me.  I only did utility with him this year and he was happy in each of his runs!  We had some issues with the gloves in being worried about the stewards on the side, or just doubting his choice. But otherwise Vito was pretty darn consistent in every exercise!

Next year I want to continue to play in CDSP Utility and maybe even try doing 2 runs a day.  I still dream of going back to AKC, but I'm content to let Vito lead me.



Well it's been over a full year and half since being involved in setting up the exercises in TEAM and then teaching the TEAM levels 1-3 classes through FDSA!

And now I finally decided to go ahead and do the program with Zumi.  I've played with the upper levels with Zumi and of course have done all of the foundational pieces at the lower levels too, but I hadn't actually sat down and run through the tests for levels 1 and 2. 

So many excuses.  My house is clearly tiny.  I didn't want to haul in any equipment from outside and I'm sure not doing it outside now.  And of course a baby who doesn't believe in sleeping and even if she does go down for a nap it has to be right next to me.

But I did it.  So you can too!  Thanks for cooperating Netta!

One thing I just love about the TEAM program is how it can really structure your sessions if you're a little lost on what to train or how to even start.  It's all about really solid foundations. 

Props are not just allowed but required at the first level to make sure you know how to really train a solid pivot in heel and finding front but different angles.  But you have your cookies!  And you can fit it into a postage stamp size space!

Have I gushed enough on how much I love the program?  Seriously, I'm not even exaggerating!

I will hear back in a few days if this was a pass or not and then I'll attempt level 2! 
And if you're interested in getting started with TEAM, I'll be teaching level 1 through FDSA in February!  You can check out my sample lecture on how I teach backing up right now.


Dumbbell Progress?

It's been 2 weeks since my discovery of Zumi better able to handle sends to her toy vs sends to a food reward.  We don't work on it as much as I like, but she's gotten roughly 2-3 session a week on it.  

Baby steps. Tiny baby steps.

But at least I actually feel like things are going int he right direction again instead of getting worse!

I'm currently telling her wait and takign a step forward to toss the toy or db.  She'll still move that front foot to vulture sometimes, but not always and that's definetly improvement.

I'm still doing reps of marking the toy with reps of focusing on me before the db.  I'm also usually throwing the toy now instead of pre-placing it.  I figured since she's better with the thrown toy vs the thrown db (that's weird Zumi!) I might as well keep getting practice with tosses!

Distance is still a huge deal with her db.  I got 1 squeal release this week when I pushed the distance just a little too far.  Here are our 2 sessions this week:


Problem Solving Vocalization

I've been continuing to work with Zumi with trying to clear up her confusion and get rid of the vocalizing on her mark and retrieves.  But even with going all the way back to marking a food bowl and sending from only 5 feet I still was getting whining on the release at least 50% of the time if I had her wait the 2-3 seconds.

Alternating the 2 exercises  - marking the food bowl, and focus on me before a retrieve-  did seem to help her be more clear with where to focus and when.  But the vocalizing just wasn't getting any better.

It was getting frustrating. I know it will eventually get there, but I wasn't finding the right answer for her.

And then I was playing with a toy after working on the 2 exercises and suddenly it hit me that Zumi never vocalizes when being sent for her tug toy.  I experimented and did the mark of a dead tug with success, even with 3 seconds duration.  Then I even pushed it and threw the toy out there, marked her, and still didn't get whining when sent.  Huh!  I then experimented even more and followed that up with a very short db placement and send and didn't get any whining at all!  Props to me I even quit when I heard the words "I'll just do 1 more" come out of my mouth :)

This was Zumi's 2nd session working on this new routine.  I see that she still moves that foot pretty much as soon as I say "wait" but there was no vocalizing.  Win.

I'm not sure if this good fortune will continue or if the arousal will creep back in with the new routine....

In somewhat related news, my online TEAM 2 class started yesterday!!!  We are also working on mark training and retrieves in that class, Zumi would fit right in!  I think there is one working spot left if you want to join us.


Out of Novice!!!

Zumi and I headed to Wisconsin for a last minute trial decision last weekend! I actually didn't even know about the trial until a few days before, thank goodness for day of show in UKI!  Like the last several UKI shows, Zumi needed 2 novice "agility"/standard legs to move up to senior for all the classes.  We've been stuck for awhile. 

So I once again entered Zumi in novice agility and then the Master Heat agility/jumper series. 
The novice course was made for her.  Just flowed so well!!!

And then Master heat agility she also qualified!!  She had a little bobble where she turned towards the judge instead of a jump but easily fixed it.  Whew!

Since the masters class counts for whatever level you are at, it applied towards novice and now Zumi is officially out of novice! 

Masters heat jumpers did not go so smoothly.  Not 1 or 2, but 5 different mistakes. Ouch.  Missed the 2nd jump, took an off course tunnel, took the wrong end of another tunnel, took the backside of a jump instead of actually taking it like a normal dog, and then popped out of the weaves. Wow.

But onto the new year!


Broken Training Sessions

Yesterday Zumi had a horrible training session.  A session in which I attempted to go back to basics in order to try and fix a problem that's cropped up with her go out training.  But it didn't go as planned.  I attempted to make it even easier and it still didn't go as planned.  Finally, I scrapped it so I could step aside and really look at what might be some of the root issues.  I left the session feeling frustrated.  A good sign that I should have stopped even earlier than I did.  And a huge blinking neon sign that I need to break things down even further.

There will always be sessions where the unexpected happens.  Times where you feel like you're spinning your wheels.  But they

So I sat down and really looked at the problems I've been having with Zumi's obedience training.  Mainly it's in 2 areas.
1) Retrieves
2) Go outs

Both are "sends" away from me.  Both have similar symptoms of vulturing and vocalizing as soon as she is released.  And both have gotten worse.
I have mainly been focusing on the retrieve portion and have written about how I wanted to tackle her arousal levels though adding eye contact as a criteria to be sent, paying attention to her foot moving as a precursor to vulturing and scootching, working on calm duration before the send,  and when she vocalizes going into calming mode before the next rep with cookie scatters, duration hand touch, and/or a down stay with frequent slow cookie deliveries. 

But while progress seemed to be going well, it has lately gotten worse.  And since the go out has similar symptoms (and causes) it has effected it even though I have not been focusing on it.

If I had to guess where I went wrong I would point to focusing too much on her foot movement.  I don't think Zumi is consciously aware of moving her foot out and thus resetting her for a moved foot added too much stress and uncertainty. I should have noted the foot movement as a symptom of her arousal levels and made things easier the next rep, but not focus on it itself.

So the retrieve started to break with now actually moving her whole body on some short tosses as her frustration level rose.  Her eye contact criteria actually still remained pretty strong though!  I did find that stepping out of heel position seemed to help Zumi relax a bit more, less muddied waters compared to heel!

And then it makes sense that Zumi's go out mark started to get worse with the emphasis I've been putting on eye contact with her retrieve.  And with the stress of the  mark starting to creep in this led to more vocalizing on her sends even though she was still fairly straight and her nose touch still strong

When I attempted to just work on the mark portion yesterday I got this awfulness:

And sadly that wasn't the only rep I did.

Today I broke it back down more and went back to marking her cookie bowl.  That was pretty solid.  However I also saw that she's not completely confident on the duration portion.  Zumi moved that front foot and sometimes did her squeal on the release even with the short 5ft send.  We will stay with marking her a food bowl or a toy for awhile longer.  And maybe even add in a platform.

Wish us luck.


Nala- Pivoting in Front

Nala, the service dog trainee, has been here longer than initially expected.  She passed her eval with me with flying colors and volunteered to keep her with us until another dog needed an eval.  She's my practice dog for Netta learning how to pet dogs nicely ;)

Since Nala is just turning 11 months old she's still very puppyish and even going through another crazy teenage stage right now.  A bit more testing on the rules at home than she was earlier!

We've been doing some training with her here of course.  Admittedly not a ton.  At least with Yummy I had more pressure since she was "in for final training" with me. Nala is just a pup still.

She has pretty good pivots to my left and right side now.  And I've mostly gotten rid of Nala's habit of wanting to come out in front of me to get her reward.  The dogs always have such a strong history of everyone always feeding them in front and hardly ever at the side!

So this week I started working on pivoting in front.  While Nala started out her pivot training in front of me, as I moved to pivoting at my side I always find the skill disappears.  The dogs get so excited about trying to pivot into heel that they aren't able to remain still in front even if I manage to get them there!

This was Nala's 2nd session with being re introduced to front position.  I am mostly trying to "catch" her with my treats to remain somewhat centered and prevent her from trying to get to my side.  Since Nala mostly gets rewarded on my left in heel position I try to focus my efforts on moving clockwise to have an easier time balancing out her movement.


Zumi CD!

Quick story-
Yup we spent the weekend entering the novice obedience ring 3 times for our 3 Q's and a new title!

Long story-
Saturday Run #1:
This was her first trial run of the weekend. Not perfect, but very good attitude!  We scored a 197.5 with points of for halts and then her front on the recall.  I also got a nice lecture from the wonderful judge on how she debated about whether Zumi anticipated the recall because I said her name before cuing front.  I never say her name in practice! 

Saturday Run #2:
Run #2 was fairly similar but a few little stuff crept in.  I get hit for a handler error on not moving fast enough on fast time!  Ahh nerves!  And Zumi gave 2 small glances at our judge at each start of heeling on the figure 8.  And then a little bit bigger moment of lost connection as I make the left turn on the heel free.  I don't think she really needed the extra cue but I chose to give one anyway to support her.  But a better recall!  And I'm thrilled with how she kept focus on the stand for exam both trials.  Q for a 194.

Sunday we went in for our final leg and with a different judge.  I thought she started very well again!  Fast time needs some work but we get that occasionally in practice too.  I find it interesting that even if she is over aroused we still don't get forging issues!  She has a little bit of distraction on the end of the heel pattern and that shows up as a bigger issue as we start the figure 8.  I give her an extra cue right at the start of the pattern as she immediately goes to sniff the ground.  And because she was now lagging I decide to switch to going left instead of right at the start!  A couple more distraction moments which I think were due to food bowl sounds.  More proofing opportunities!
We ended with some little bit of lagging on the fast and about turns and then a total loss of connection as we heeled up to where the figure 8 spot was.  :( 

Not quite the run I wanted, but she tried really hard for me when she wasn't quite feeling it! 
And then while setting up for the group stay there was a snark and loud commotion as we were getting our dogs into the sit.  Zumi startled, I startled.  I took a little bit of time to get her to jump up and reset back up. And then did some of our duration nose pocket while we waited for the other dogs who I'm assuming where effected as well.  Thankfully all the dogs held both stays even with all the stress that was in the air and all the activity that continued behind us during the stay as well.
Zumi got her 3rd Q with a 190.5.

And now I am grateful to be done with novice.  I have no reason to ever put her in novice again! I know some people like to stay in novice to perfect everything, but I don't see a reason to keep putting my dog in what I think is a way more stressful class than open!!
Zumi isn't ready for open yet as we are still working on calmness with her retrieves.  And my fingers are crossed that the proposals pass and she will never have to do an out of sight stay in a lineup of strange dogs!


Obedience Run Throughs- The Night Before a Trial

Well tomorrow Zumi and I will step into the AKC obedience ring for the first time.  Wish us luck!

Tonight I spent time moving all the equipment and ring barriers to setup for the trial.  Afterwards there were run throughs for exhibitors to get some fun ring time where they will be showing in.  I took time with Zumi and Vito to do some ring entries before heading home.  Since it was still a little bit before we opened to the public the space was still much quieter than I wanted.  But I was able to grab a "judge" to stand in the ring.

I did a small handful of ring entries over about 3 "sessions."  I know Zumi has some weaknesses that will likely appear with the pressure of a trial, but the night before a trial is not the time to train them.  My only goal is to work focus and attitude.  I want her confident this weekend.

Interestingly enough I found Zumi was a little worried on our first 2 entries.  I don't know if it was due to how different the room looked (it's usually our agility side!) or perhaps it was due to Netta being on the floor close by.  Zumi does well with Netta but she's not really confident.

And I was a little greedy.  But I tried to rectify it!

You can see her stress in the first 50 seconds.
Then you will see the greediness. I wanted to get in that ring and work on stuff before packing up! So although Zumi didn't give me her full "I'm ready to work" behavior of bouncing when I ask the question, I cued her "up" anyway. And then she refused to go into a squish position and did a hesitant setup.
More greediness. I entered the ring, removed the leash, and still didn't reward. The stress of an upcoming trial made me a bad trainer! I finally reward her at 1.18.
Then i give her a tiny break and see some improvement. but notice I still get a failed response to a jump cue. I at least reward her much sooner this time. Then I give her a kennel break while I do some ring games with Vito.

When I get her back out she is much more comfortable! Still a little flat in energy, but whew, I at least have a dog! And then on the next rep, I am thrilled to see some forging as a sign she was feeling much spunkier!
I walk her around the ring for a few laps next and finally do one last entrance with a tiny bit more work as well mainly I was greedy again and wanted to practice a stand.

Vito did some too even though he's not entered this weekend.  He was extra bouncy!


Dumbbell Focus with a Jump

It's been awhile since I've posted about my obedience training with Zumi!  Mainly we are still focusing on keeping her arousal levels done, especially with retrieves and go outs. 

With her dumbbell I'm still working hard with Zumi not moving a front foot, which leads to vulturing on my db throw, and then focusing on me after she marks the landing.  She's doing pretty good with longer throws now, although I usually warm her up with short ones still.

I decided to add a jump into the picture as I know that will be even harder for her.  I started with tossing the db a short distance with the jump in the background, and then a very short toss over the jump itself.  This session from 9/30 is still roughly where we are at.  Haven't had too many opportunities to train at home recently!

In general, I've really been trying to watch Zumi's arousal levels in training.  These last 6(?) months she has been doing some vocalizing in her obedience work and of course the vulturing.  It hasn't yet crept into heelwork but it is a problem with her go outs as well as the retrieves!

It's sure been interesting watch Zumi grow into adulthood this last year!


Real Agility Dog!

The tollers just competed at a 2 day USDAA trial.  I am happy to report that my sleep deprived brain remained focused for all their runs!  Outside of the ring I can't say that was always the case, but I'll take victories where I can get them!

Zumi really stepped up her game.  This was her very first trial where she was focused and connected for EVERY single run.  Zumi has been having some great trials recently, but it's still been a mixed bag of those connected runs mixed with wheeee!!
Incidentally, it also coincided with 3 of 4 clean runs on Saturday and 1 of 2 clean runs on Sunday with the only fault being a missed weave entrance, a rare move for her.

We were at that point where pretty much all of the wide turns were about my handling and not due to just blowing by!  So proud of Duckie!

She even made it to round 2 of steeplechase and placed first!  Actually both dogs made it to round 2 which was a first for me!  I don't enter Vito very often in the tournament classes

Vito is also doing great running at 16in.  He had a table slide off he was running so fast in standard(!) although I also take blame as I forgot the lower table in performance meant I shouldn't race him to it and get in front...

Fancy Jumpers!


I am saddened that once again we will have a long break from trials.  One more trial to go next weekend, although I think Zumi got slammed by the labrador as she's favoring a foot today.  We will see if it's an actual issue or not...  Otherwise not till January!


Stand Signals, Anyone?!

If you are at all involved in competitive obedience then you've been hearing all the hollering going on right now about the proposed change of position exercise for open in AKC.  Comments range from how impossibly hard it's going to be for the new dogs, to how much dumbing down we're doing to the sport.  Regardless of how you feel, I'm at least going to be training for it!

I guess I'm lucky that all 3 of my dogs have a verbal only stand and can do it at a distance.  I've even had fun doing some proofing of the stand cue while doing it with my back turned, lying on the floor, etc.  (Side note: TEAM level 3 also has a fun version of leave the dog, assume a weird position yourself, and then cue a position change, x2!)

But what I don't have is any type of signal to stand.  Yes my dogs can do a moving stand, or the stop in a stand position, aka signal exercise version.  But in both cases it's more of a moving "freeze" in position rather than move into a stand with a signal.  And regardless, heel position signals don't quite translate to now having to face the dog. 

So I need a new signal!!!  While the proposed regulations allow verbal and/or signals, I want to use every tool in my box to get that distance stand in a trial! 

I personally like all of my signals to start slightly different from each other.  This was drilled to me from others and I like the logic in knowing my dog knows exactly what I want from the second the signal starts versus needing it be completely finished.  But this also makes it harder to come up with new signals and not add confusion for my dogs!

So far I've settled on my left hand for the stand signal since I have slightly more signals on my right hand (down, come, finish right, take the right jump) than my left hand (sit, finish left, take the left jump). 

I'm currently experimenting with my signal starting coming in towards my body first so it looks the most different.  But of course that also makes it harder to see at a distance!

This weird wave of a hand signal is what I got so far. Very open to ideas!

I'm currently giving signal +verbal at the same time to Zumi as she's very twitchy!  If I do new signal, then pause and give the known verbal she will twitch in anticipation of wanting to do something, but then of course she doesn't know what I want so she waits for the verbal.  I don't like the twitch :) so I'm getting her used to seeing the signal at the same time for now.


Nala Walking with Focus

I admit that I usually don't have to do much with the dogs I've raised to get nice "attention walking" or heads up heeling.  Having focus on me is always a must have before I begin any actual training with a dog each session.  I don't want to have to fight with a dog in trying to be more exciting than the environment, so I just don't.

Through our play sessions, all of my dogs have easily learned how to keep their focus on my eyes or shoulders even while moving.  They don't want to miss out on anything!  Then it's just a matter of getting that focus as part of our criteria when doing formal heeling or our less formal attention walking, but the foundation of focusing while moving has already been taught.  I don't require any of my dogs to keep their eyes on me 100% of the time when we're going on our neighborhood walk, but they can be called upon that skill when needed.

Nala has been a fantastic 9 month old puppy for me.  Very easy going, eager, and just a bit sensitive.  But she has really struggled with learning this skill.  Of course, she gets the typical level of distractability that any puppy would have, but even when "focused" and wanting to work she naturally dips her head any time we start moving, on or off leash.

As a future service dog, the ability to give eye contact while moving can be crucial in navigating crowded areas.  Nala does a great job of general "loose leash walking" but she has a long way to go in learning to focus on her person instead of getting excited to greet people, or sniff the shelves, or...

I am currently teaching Nala that it IS possible to keep her head up and still move! Rewarding UP has helped her quite a bit.

I've also found that Nala is a bit different from all the other dogs I've worked with, in that she has had an easier time learning to focus up when walking forwards than backwards.  I think we finally reached 6 steps of walking forward without a head dip vs backwards walking is still about the level she shows in the video from a few weeks ago.  Very slow progress, but progress!


Rally Advanced title and kids

This past weekend I went to another AKC trial with Zumi to see how she would do.  I like rally as a stepping stone to obedience for her as it lets me see how she's doing with the bit more formal and stressful AKC environment, yet is a much shorter time in the ring and with more opportunities for me to support her with praise if needed.

The trial was unexpectedly HOT.  It was inside, but not air-conditioned. Summer came back to MN and was even warmer than most of the entire summer was.  I know I was affected by the heat on Saturday and I think Zumi was too.   She was a bit sedated than expected but I didn't get the feeling that it was just from stress.  Overall she was eager to engage and I didn't notice any "broken" behaviors outside of the ring.

My main worry on Saturday was that the first sign in advanced rally was the figure 8 with toy distractions.  Zumi has done well with those signs before, but I've never seen it right at the entrance before.  It was definitely a case for needing a strong connection on the ring entrance and leash removal!!!

However when it was getting close to our turn in the ring I discovered that the toys would be the least of our worries.  There was young boy who walked up to the ring and I could see that his mom was going to be in the ring right before Zumi.

Zumi is terrified of children.  I didn't put as much effort into socializing my winter puppy as I should have and it shows with kids.  Getting gradually used to Netta getting more mobile will help, but I am doubtful it will generalize to other children.

I strongly believe that kids have every right to be at trials, from all ages.  I want more kids involved in dog sports!!!  And yes, I currently bring Netta to agility trials so that I can actually trial my own dogs and she will continue to come to trials as she grows.  Zumi's issue with children is MY problem, not the other family's problem.  I see it the same as if I were to have a dog afraid of black dogs, or didn't like men in hats, or....   Sometimes you can do training to help with the issue, but mostly you need to figure out how to manage it as you can't expect that trials are completely sterile environments devoid of anything your dog finds distracting or scary.

I have no problem with people coming up to me and asking for REASONABLE accommodation if their dog has issues with Netta.  (And of course some people give me evil glares no matter what.)

Since the child was extremely well behaved and already off to the side of the ring I couldn't reasonably ask the child to miss his mom's run.  And unfortunately Zumi had spotted him and was clearly nervous.   I tried to calm her with moving away and cookie scatters, but it wasn't enough.  When we went into the ring the boy was walking behind us and leaving the area, and Zumi turned to give a single bark to him.  I told the judge that I thought we were going to have to leave since she was worried, but he was generous enough to give us a few minutes to regroup.  I was able to get Zumi refocused and mostly pulled together so I decided to try our run.

The first half of our was held together with praise. She was technically precise, but not with the attitude I want.  After the first half she loosened up and finished pretty well.  The run scored a 99 and finished our rally advanced title.

Sunday I moved her up to excellent and was certain it wouldn't be an issue since we would be behind a different team.  Unfortunately for Zumi, there were about 4 different kids there (but YAY for the sport!) and once again a young girl was going to be watching the dog right before us.
This time I had a better plan for managing the issue so that Zumi would hopefully not notice.  I did end up apologetically approaching the handler to ask if she would station the girl a bit further from the ring entrance instead of right in front of it when it was closer to our run time.

I can't say our warmup was exactly what Zumi needed, but we did have a great focused ring entrance without any anxieties.  Her focus was better, but whether due to the warm weather or stress some of her energy was lacking.  We did qualify again for our first excellent leg.

I was honestly surprised by Zumi's behavior at the trial, minus the kid worries.  Based on her last CDSP trial where she was high as a kite, and then the AKC rally trial we did last month, and in general her higher intensity while training recently...I was expecting to work on calming her arousal levels down.  But mostly she was very relaxed outside of the ring.  I remain puzzled on how to best warm up Zumi for a trial.

All that being said, I did end up submitting my entry for AKC novice at my club's trial the end of October.  I'm not entirely sold that Zumi is where I want her to be before entering, but I was swayed by several outside factors including supporting the 2 provisional judges who need the numbers.
Now I just need to practice doing the stays as I can't say I do very much formal practice with it!


2 Day Trials

Our consecutive weekends of agility finishsed up this last weekend with a 2 day UKI trial.
And I learned I absolutely should not be trying to do agility runs 2 days in a row with how sleep deprived I am.  Snooker was certainly a disaster on Sunday, sorry Vito.  If only Netta would stop waking up every hour!

Alas my goal of getting a standard Q or 2 with Zumi was not to be.  She was a pretty good Duck, but I feel we're not quite consistent yet in her handling.  Sometimes she feels very "sticky" and other times she's barely contained, and alternates in the same run.
Still, there was improvement from our last trials!  Zumi's "vulturing" start line was much improved! Still there, but responding to "sit" cues to get up.
 I'm working on it in practice with having her do a "Beg" before released but she can't do it yet with much distance.

Zumi's Master Series jumpers course was probably her best run of the weekend.  She even made up for some poor handling in the beginning when I wasn't quite moving fast enough.  The dropped bar was all my fault.

Her novice standard run on Sunday, some more bad handling as well!  So tired!

Vito was also very happy for his runs on Saturday.  Sunday was more meh.


Zumi's Dumbbell Progress

I have been continuing to work with Zumi on being in a more calm, thoughtful mode before being sent on her retrieves.  We are making progress with distance of the throw and starting to do a little bit more proofing with my body language and other cues before being sent.  The new critieria I've been working on are:
- No foot movement as I give the cue to wait
- Eye contact before being sent

And the new criteria for myself is remembering I changed her cue from "Get it" to "Fetch" in order to be more clear with my marker/reward cues.

This is a session from Zumi this past week.  She is still moving a foot in wanting to vulture when I give the wait cue for the beginnign reps each session. I  try to reset when I notice this.

When I add in other cues she sometimes whines in excitement although she is able to listen and do what I ask.  Since this is a sign of over arousal,  I try to go into calming mode with cookie scatters and sticky targets.  You can see this at 1.31 in the video below:

Zumi still has a long way to go before she's ready to take this into a trial setting again!


Back to Agility Trials

In a very rare move for us, we're actually doing 3 agility trials in a row this month!  Agility pretty much becomes non-existent for USDAA/UKI and I wanted to squeeze some trials in with Zumi.  She's had such a broken up year in being able to trial vs being on the sidelines!

1 day of UKI we did the first weekend of September.  In UKI we still need 2 Q's in standard to get out of novice, so I've been having fun doing the master heat challenge courses in addition to our quest in novice.  She's been spiraling upwards in intensity and just started the dreaded vulture again.  But on course she's mostly listening well and getting very close!  No standard Q's for us, but she did actually qualify in the master challenger jumpers run!

Then we did 2 days of USDAA this last weekend.  Vulturing continued on the startline, but she again impressed me with her focus on course.  Zero issues with visiting Grandma again!

Here was her master standard run on Sunday, NQ of course, although she did manage to qualify on Friday!

The biggest area of off courses can be narrowed down to serpentine type pushes.  She comes in but then doesn't go back out so well.
The same difficulty with finding jumps on weirdly angled lines.  Zumi just isn't experienced yet to push slighty off her path to them.

This coming weekend we are back for 2 days of UKI.  Seeking those standard Q's!


Evaluating our Automatic Leave its

When I train the service dogs, the task I work on the most is getting solid automatic leave its in the real world.  Without being given any cue such as leave it or watch me, the dogs have to learn to ignore dropped food on the floor, trash, and people excitedly calling out to the cute doggy in the store.

For the service dogs in public, they are kinda in a weird combination of being in "working mode" and "relaxed mode."  The distinction between those two modes is actually quite important in most dog's mind!  For many dogs, they can learn to leave distractions alone and focus on their handler when they know they are actively working.  A well-trained dog can heel right over tempting crumbs on the ground without even really registering they're there.  The dog is in the zone and has an active task to do.

But that same dog might really struggle with leaving distractions in their relaxed, every day life mode.  They're not actively working and tend to default into move really quickly before mom yells "leave it" mode.  That trash on the ground during a walk? Fair game!  You drop a kernel of popcorn on the couch, and watch all your dogs madly sprint for it!

For competition purposes, this sometimes means that dogs can struggle actually getting INTO the ring to work if they're not being 100% managed by their handler.  The dog knows they're not really working and they choose to seize the moment by staring and even lunging at what they want.

With some dogs, this distinction between working and not working is muddy even when actually in the competition ring.  Does the dog consider themselves "working" when you move to setup on the startline in agility?  Or in between exercises in obedience?  I focus a lot on these moments in my Ring Confidence classes as I find they are very common moments where dogs tend to tune out and focus on the environment.  The handler needs to learn how to stay connected with their dog during these moments and train the dog that this in between time is still a part of their "work."

Evaluating Your Expectations
Dogs are masters are reading enviornmental cues and learning when certain behaviors are expected of them and when they aren't.  Maybe you accidentally trained your dog that they only need to focus when they're on leash and you're looking at them.  Or perhaps your dog is great when at training centers, but has no clue about impulse control in your house.

The first thing to think about is if you actually care about your dog automatically focusing in each situation.  Maybe it doesn't bother you at all that your dog scarfs up anything that hits the ground when you're at home as long as they learned not to touch things on the counters.  But you decided that anytime your dog is on leash or actively doing a command, that is the cue you want for them to ignore distractions.  That's ok!

But maybe you looked at what you want and you realized you have huge contradictions.  It is much harder for your dog to learn it's ok to go after ice shooting out of the freezer's dispenser but it's not ok to sprint towards your dropped slice of ham in the kitchen, or your dropped pill bottle.  Maybe there's a simple work around solution such as you deciding it's fine for your dog to lick your plate when you are holding it for them, but you decide to start training them it's not ok to lick it/steal food when you set it on the coffee table or put it in the dishwasher.

Training For Better Impulse Control
So you decided you want to clean things up in one or more areas, great!  Since your dog already has thier own expectations of what to do in that context you will need to go back to the beginning.
Make it easier for the dog by putting them in "working mode" when you introduce your distractions.
Even consider giving them a very concrete task to do such as lying on a mat.    Reward heavily!

As you progress, keep looking at how they respond the first time.  Does your dog always fall for it on the start of each session and then quickly learn "it's a trap!"  That's pretty normal!  One way you can try to minimize that is to move between each repetition.  If you're working on heeling by pieces of fuzz on the ground then, after rewarding your dog, move to a completely different area of the ring and briefly do some other type of work before trying to go back to heeling by the fuzz.

You will also want to make sure to introduce surprise distractions as you train.  If your dog watches you walk out and set food on the floor that is a pretty big clue that you are setting up a proof for your dog!  But if you set the distraction out before you even get your dog out of their crate then you are much more likely to get some advanced level training in!  The more you purposefully set stuff out before the start of a session, the greater likelihood that your dog will start automatically thinking that stuff they stumble upon was a purposeful proof!

Here I set out an obvious target distraction for Vito.  The bigger distraction is actually easier than something smaller!  Progress to cutting out small squares of paper that look like cookie crumbles!  With Vito I am working on not just ignoring it when actively heeling, but continuing to ignore it as I do less formal play with him!  He shows that this work is still a challenge for him:

Getting the Real Life Leave It
A similar concept can be applied to working on impulse control when your dog is out of their working mode and in their relaxed/off duty mode.  One of the biggest clues to our dog that we're not really paying attention is eye contact.  Build up to practicing your distraction work when you're not actively staring at the dog!

Once your dog is a pro at learning to leave food you drop from the kitchen counter, start sly dropping a piece of food while your back is to the dog and you're pretending not to notice the fall.  Be ready to body block the food if you need to!

Is downtime your issue at training centers?  First, teach your dog a nice place to wait (maybe between your legs!) and then slowly start "ignoring" your dog while you talk to someone.  Reward heavily for your dog continuing to leave distractions when they think your attention is of them.  And remember that your dog isn't being bad, they are just learning a new skill!  Previously eye contact was their cue to ignore distractions, and now they are having to learn to do it in a new context!


Using Marker Cues

A loose goal I set for myself this year was to try to become more consistent with marker cues.  I was first introduced to the idea that markers, such as the clicker, are actual cues to the dog to do a behavior several years ago.

At first it's a weird concept.  Doesn't the marker just tell the dog the instant they earned a reward?  Yes!  But it also can be used to tell them so much more info such as exactly where to go to get that reward, or even what type of reward they earned.  When you think about the fact that one of the most powerful pieces in training is reward placement, this makes a ton of sense.  No matter how great your timing is, you can really struggle to train a behavior if your reward placement doesn't support it.

I believe I first heard of different marker cues through Fanny Gott a long time ago.  I remember being fascinated by the idea of having one marker cue tell the dog to turn around and grab a toy that was set behind them vs another marker cue tell the dog to come get a cookie in their hand, etc.  And then I promptly set that idea aside.  

Then a few years after that I was reintroduced again through Shade Whitesel.  Shade is like the Queen of Marker Cues and really lays out a great argument for how having multiple markers helps to reduce confusion in your training and reduces frustration when switching from food to toys and back again.  

I got excited again, but then it faded away.  It was kinda the same thing that I've done with other great ideas.  Recognize it's brilliance, think of it as excellent training, and then go eh it's hard to change.  I'm better at training the dogs than trying to train myself.  

Somehow at that point, I discovered I did indeed have different marker cues even if I wasn't super consistent and didn't think about it as such.  I already had 
- "yes" means come to my hand for a cookie
- "gooood" meaning wait there while I bring the cookie to you
- "get it"  meaning chase after the cookie, or the toy,  or grab the toy on the ground.  or their formal retrieve cue... :(
- "behind" used in heeling to tell them to duck behind me and get a cookie at my right leg.

But as I said, consistency just wasn't there.  I should technically always use "gooood" when I walked up to reward the dog at their go out spot instead of saying "yes."  But the dogs figured it out, they're amazing.

The problems with my "get it" cue didn't take a genius to figure out.

And even my "yes" cue should have been spot on right? But I abuse that one too by saying it as praise sometimes and not delivering a reward.

I certainly didn't have different markers for food vs toy reward.  

But as time progressed I found myself instructing others just how useful it would be to have at least a room service cue (Thanks Hannah Brannigan for that great term for waiting there while the reward comes!).  And then as I saw some teams struggle with their dog wanting to run off to their reward at a distance when they just praised the dog, I started recommending really training a remote reward cue too.  Clarity.  
Random dog picture.

So this year I tried to tackle myself.  I still have a long way to go towards consistency, but I'm at least more conscious of my cues.  I sat down and wrote out what I want their meanings to be.  I haven't yet tackled food vs toy, but I'm at least making the effort right?!
- "yes" = reward from hand
-"goood" = wait there for cookie to be brought to your mouth
- "get it" = chase reward tossed
" cookies" = send to reward bowl on the ground
- "behind"= duck behind me and get a reward at my right leg (whew, didn't have to change anything!)
- "Jackpot"= Sit while I get the reward that's located off my body and usually out of the working area.

This has also meant changing my formal retrieve cue.  Zumi's retrieve is no longer "Get it" but is now "Fetch."  


Trials, Training, and More Dogs

I've not been so great at updating the blog lately!  Let's give a quick recap of things I've been working on this month.

Zumi's been working hard at learning to give me eye contact and not start the vulture before being sent on retrieves.

She also did an AKC rally trial last weekend, her first two times in advanced.  I was eager to see if she would handle the environment of AKC better than her last trial all the way back in October.  The great news is that I didn't see any of the small stress signs I saw back then!  Her run on Saturday was everything I could hope for.  She did struggle with doing the halt-call front exercise but that was not a surprise to me.  While Zumi does have a beautiful pivot to front, I've noticed that lately she's been doubting the verbal cue and just twitching instead.

On Sunday's run her focus entering the ring and even ignoring a delightfully chatty judge was excellent!  However, she seemed to think that the "fast" sign meant that we were suddenly doing agility and she should look for something to send to.  I called Zumi back as she started to take off, but as soon as she returned the lightbulb went off in her little head and she proudly went forward again to do an "out" around a sign.  Other than her creativity, I was happy with her focus and clearly confident performance.

I hope to enter another AKC rally trial next month as a stepping stone to getting her ready for AKC obedience.  Our club's trial is in October and I'm debating about entering Zumi in novice obedience then, or just continuing our rally route for a few more trials.

Vito has been working on his fronts with a retrieve item.  Something that's never been 100% and has steadily declined over the years.  I cringe as he always comes in close and straight and then right as he begins a sit he suddenly decides to shuffle back a half step.  I  have no idea why.  He never does that without an item in his mouth of course.

I'm trying an experiment with him involving a chin rest.  It would be an easier experiment if the way I teach their retrieves didn't involve an automatic drop into a held out hand as an informal delivery option...  But we are making progress.  Mainly he needs to learn how to target and then do a tucked sit vs the rock back shuffle.

And this week we got a visitor!  Nala is an 8 month old Labrador puppy!  Another service dog in training of course.  She needed an evaluation and some training as she had really been struggling with life behind bars.  Nala was in our prison program, but it was determined not to be a good fit for her.

So welcome Nala!  I'm not sure how long we will have her for, current plan is a few weeks.

Zumi is in love. She lets Nala get away with all sorts of stuff she never lets other dogs even think about.  Sadly for me, this means they have been playing in the house.  Our house is so tiny that I really prefer the dogs only wrestle or chase outside.  Especially with a crawling baby now!  This usually isn't a problem since my only player is Zumi and her play style is usually more chase than wrestle. Well with Nala she's been more open.  I'm hoping that things settle down once the novelty wears off.

Nala is proving to be a very sweet, gentle girl yet still extremely puppyish!  Between Nala, Yummy, and another lab foster we had last week, it's becoming clear while labs are such great family dogs.  The dynamic between them and Netta is very different than with the other dogs.  I'm still doing a lot of management and making sure Netta isn't grabbing them, but I swear the labs are almost begging to be poked by a child.


Fixing the Vulture

If you read Zumi's trial report of her first experience in the Open obedience class, her biggest issue was over excitement and anticipation with the retrieves.  She was like a little red border collie as she hunkered way down, just twitching to be sent.

I recently spayed her and with the restrictions, it was a great time to work on just being still!
I divided up the issue into 2 goals.

1. Maintaining a straight posture as I cue the wait and go to toss the dumbbell.
2. Offer eye contact after watching the dumbbell fall in order to be released.

Good Posture
The first goal of sitting straight I tackled first.  Zumi doesn't have the issue with me tossing cookies so I went straight to the dumbbell.  Just holding it out and rewarding Zumi if her front paw didn't move forward, always her first move before she really hunkers down.  I would immediately take the db back to my body if the paw moved and re-cue her to sit.

Essentially this just became a version of doggy zen with me moving my arm back and forth in a tossing motion.  I'm not sure how much Zumi knew it was posture I was working on and not eye contact, but I got a 2 for 1 deal.

Eye Contact Before Sending
These last few days as Zumi has been allowed to do more activity, I've moved on to actually requiring eye contact before being sent to retrieve.

My first sessions were very short retrieves where I didn't throw, but gently set out the db on the ground.  This setup was fairly easy for Zumi as it was reminiscent of our work with remote rewards.  Zumi knows that she always needs to give eye contact before getting a reward at a distance.

It did become slightly harder once Zumi knew she was being sent to the db though.  Typically when I work with rewards at a distance, I am the one to go and actually get the reward vs sending the dog to it.  I find this works better for the obsessive tollers for me to have 100% of their brain in training vs some of it on the reward itself.  So once Zumi was being sent to the db on the ground it became a little problem to work through.  But the small distance and lack of throwing was still very doable.

I have recently started throwing the db short distances for Zumi.  This is where getting eye contact has been very difficult.  Zumi's hunt training, although limited, I need her to keep looking straight at her marks until sent or given another cue to turn away.  She will be able to learn the difference in context, but it is not an easy task for her!

I don't require my other dogs to give me eye contact before released after watching a thrown mark, but with Zumi I feel this is crucial to helping her anticipation issues when over excited!

Here was today's session with Zumi and her dumbbell.  Notice I warm up a little bit with posture work, but also let that slide while focusing on the eye contact department!  I'm a little greedy and throw too far here :(

The quick version:

The full session for those who care:


New Website- Online Lessons!

I recently took the jump into making a more formal website for my dog training.  And because I didn't want to feel left out of all the cool trainers having offical business names, I made up one too.

Introducing Tandem Dog Sports

I even used photoshop for my first time!

The big news is that I'm opening up my private lessons to more people and offering them online.
That means people can purchase an hour, or multiple hour blocks, of time for video review and feedback.  It might look something like this:

  • You send me video of a behavior you're training and some notes.
  • I look at the video and spend some time writing suggestions on how to improve or what the next step is.  I keep track of the amount of time I spent working on my feedback.
  • You respond with anything that needs clarifying.
  • I reply back.
  • You send me a new video on the behavior or switch to a new behavior.
  • Repeat the cycle.

This continues until an hour of my time spent on feedback is up!


Open Vulture Dog

This weekend was the CDSP obedience trial and Zumi's graduation from Novice into Open.  As I wrote earlier, I knew we had some precision issues to work on and some possible anticipation issues.

Preview: Watch the 1st video to see her best run . The 2nd video if you want to see her extra high.  And the 3rd to see my attempts at handling her differently.

Friday was an evening trial and she had one run.  In many ways, I was surprised with how much effort into precision she was giving me.  Not a single thought of running a victory lap on the retrieves.  Jumped long on the broad, but not in a spiraling out of control way.
Vulturing big time on the retrieves.  That itself wasn't a huge surprise to me as she occasionally does it in practice when extra excited. But I was very surprised by the extra intensity of it.  I was praying the judge released her quickly as Zumi wasn't just vulturing but was teetering off the edge of control.
And a mini scream before the go out, what was that?!  My multiple stay cues before the exercises started weren't exactly great handling!

She qualified in this run, but only because her anticipation on the1st retrieve went unnoticed.

Sunday we were back for 2 more attempts in Open.
Attempt #1 Zumi was even higher.  I didn't really think that was possible with her.  The good part was that she wasn't thinking about anticipating the finishes.  The scary part was all her squeals on each send.
And major anticipation on the ROH.  She did catch herself though and I paused for awhile before sending her.  Clear NQ.

Attempt #2
I had no idea if Zumi would naturally settle in a bit more with a 2nd run or if she would  get even higher.  My plan was to try to calm her as much as possible in our warmup.  I did lots of walking outside with her.   Had her out for her crate quite a bit longer before her run.  At first it was just sitting on the ground with her, then I got the idea to see if someone had a snuffle mat.  I had Zumi search for treats in the snuffle mat for several minutes.  Unfortunately she's not really used one before as I've primarily used it with Vito.  So Zumi did some sniffing for cookies, but also just offered lots of her sad chin down trick.  At least we did some slow cookie delivery games to try to center her.

On her squish release into the ring I also handled it differently by asking for a sticky target instead of leaping heeling.

The downside of all these calming changes was that we weren't really connected in our heeling.  I think partly due to Zumi not being used to this way of starting work, and partly due to Zumi needing more drive to focus as well in heeling.  She was a bit unfocused and hesitant, and even did some right sided heeling attempts.

The positive side was that Zumi seemed slighlty more in control on the other exercises. We did lots of sticky targets in between exercises to try and connect in a calm way.  No anticipation, but still vultured a lot.  No screams until the go out.

Qualified for her 2nd leg in Open!
Pretty obvious on what we're going to be working on the next few months!!!  Although Zumi is getting spayed next week so we will be on a bit of a hold again for a few weeks...

Vito also did one run on Friday and one run on Sunday, both Utility.  On Friday I was thrilled with how eager he was to warmup with me.  Very driven Toller!  Inside the ring he melted a bit on the stand for exam.  Not easy to start out with that when he has judge issues!  
And then he searched for the steward again on the first glove retrieve, just like the last trial.  On the 2nd glove send he did great.  
Go outs were hard for Vito to mark as he fixated on our videographer.  Someone he still pulled it together and went out straight.
Articles were odd.  I thought he did nice calm sniffing, but he brought back the wrong one.  I played with him and told him he was brilliant anyway.
Good signals!

On Sunday Vito was calmer.  Took a long time to choose to engage with me outside of the ring.  Despite that, I was thrilled with the level of play he gave me in the ring!  Unfortunately we had the same order of exercises, so the moving stand was up first.  This judge was quite a bit peppier (yay for happy judges!) but was also more "involved."  Vito seemed to have a harder time with her.

More glove issues in trial 2.  Going out happily on both sends, but then freezing over them and staring back at me.  We have done so much work on happy glove games since the last trial and it just puzzles me....

I did leather this time for scent articles and he was correct but was tasting each one.  

No more CDSP trials for the rest of the year I think :(  So Zumi will attempt some AKC rally and Vito will just be on hold until the next CDSP trial..


Ready to Trial?

I'm getting excited for a CDSP trial coming up this weekend!  Zumi will be doing open for the first time and I'm extra thrilled to be done with novice.  I'm not one to sit around in novice forever trying for a 200, although at least CDSP's version is more fun than AKC's!

Is she ready?  Well that depends on what you mean by ready.
Focus in different places- check.
Happy attitude- check.
Confident with the exercises, in different locations- check.
Confident without a high rate of rewards and with the reward set away- check.
Used to formality- check.

The rest is a bit muddy still.  There's about a 30% chance she will *think* about doing a victory lap on the first dumbbell throw, and a 10% chance she will actually do it.  But it would be a happy, oh I thought it was a toy, victory lap at least ;)

There's also about the same chance she will go wheeee and stride very, very long with the running broad jump before turning back to do her front.  The CDSP version is x1000 more fun Zumi says.

Oh and maybe the mini go out will be veered off the right, and the drop on recall will be a bit slow, or since I sent in the entry she of course is beginning her experimentation now with the occasional anticipation of the drop.

Fronts and finishes are of course a lifetime work in progress.

There's a ton of things that may not meet that perfect picture.  But I am still confident in my decision to enter her.  Zumi really does know the exercises well.  I know what errors may crop up, and if they rear their head they will be errors of enthusiasm.  And most importantly, I'm not worried about any mistakes ruining her confidence or making the problem worse.  Her focus and happy attitude are going to be there.  And if need be, I'll give her the extra support that CDSP allows.

All that being said, I'm still not entering Zumi in AKC obedience at this point.  Based on Zumi's reaction to the more stressful atmosphere that hangs in the air at local AKC trials, I'm holding off.  I need more practice with Zumi being confident in more pressure filled environments.  I am entering an AKC rally trial in a few weeks to test the waters as I think she's getting closer to that goal.  Rally is shorter, I can support her more, and she doesn't seem to mind the start/stop design of rally.

In the meantime, I've been trying to continue my goal of training in different locations.  This week I visited a park to see if Zumi could happily choose to work near kids playing.  Zumi's not so sure about screaming children!

This basketball court near the playground, and a tennis court, was a great place for Zumi to work. I think there was a day camp as there seemed to be a billion children, but she wasn't worried about the kids at all with the distance.  I chose to keep the work very simple to reward her.  Actually I went all the way back to simple ring entrance setups! After a few minutes of ring confidence fun I did do a tiny bit of more "work" with her.

I also took Vito out for a turn and was thrilled that he was able to work with me there too.  They even started playing tennis immediately to the side of the basketball area and Vito was able to watch the players and then turn back to me.  That would have been major Toller Screaming a few years ago!  Or even on a different day?!  I stuck purely with very basic ring entrances here so as not to push too hard.


Getting Out in Public

I've never been that great about getting out and actually training the dogs in public.  I use the training club about once a week and then at least in the summer I try to train in the yard several times a week.
Actually going beyond our comfy, easy, places into the real world just doesn't happen much.  And of course now I have a built in excuse with the whole baby thing ;)

But going out is exactly what Vito needs to keep working on his choice to work.  And while Zumi generally can work pretty much anywhere if I have her rewards, she really needs more opportunities to become comfortable in challenging environments.

So I am committing myself to going out in public for training at least once a week with the dogs.  Mainly I've been going to to a little plaza that's not typically very crowded.  On this day there were some people seated in a patio behind us, but traffic was extra low due to the road being temporarily closed on this side of the plaza.

This was Zumi's first experience working while I was babywearing.  I let her forge a bit more because of it!  After I started working with her in this session I kicked myself for not forcing more acclimation time on her.  Zumi waited in the car while I had a meeting and  I wanted to get a quick session in before going home.  She always wants to work quickly but I usually don't let her work so soon.  Zumi had about 8 minutes of waiting at the table while I took Vito out, but I don' think that was enough for her based on her behavior here.  Subtle little things that you feel more then you see.

I do ask her to take a break at the 3:20 min mark here, and then remember she needs a more formal down for that.

At the 6min mark I work on some of her drop on recall issues that have recently cropped up.  Zumi has started anticipating the drop cue in our practice sessions!  Because of that I've been choosing to drop her pretty late on the recall. You can see she's slow and thinking very hard!

Vito was with me at the meeting so had a long time of getting used to being out, even though our meeting was still on the other side of the building.  I still rushed things a bit with him and ultimately lose Vito when our flow was broken.

Vito has been getting much, much better about working in public with me.  But there are still those sessions where he just isn't ready.  If I were to get out cookies and really show them to Vito I can get his attention easily even if I put them back away, but that's the not the real engagement I'm looking for.

For those who like watching long videos of dog training, here is a recent session of Vito working where he was much more UP and engaged.  At the 4.5min mark I switch to having the rewards of my body altogether.


1000th Post- Podcast!

I just discovered that after journaling for over 8yrs I am now on my 1000th post!  Does anyone want to send me cake to celebrate?

So I also did this podcast thingy.  Very hard for me to be social, but I did it!  More cake please.
I actually couldn't bring myself to listen to it for 4 days.  But I finally did and now I'm sharing it with you guys.

Seriously, if you haven't already checked out this podcast and subscribed you should do so now.  Lots of great trainers and way better at this thing than me.

And on that note, the August schedule at FDSA  is insane.  SO many good classes that I have no idea how I'm going to choose.  Honestly.  Sara Stremming's class on shut down dogs?! Amy Johnson's class on action photography?!  And Deb Jones is even teaching a class for training cats!  I'm pretty sure my evil kitty would love getting cookies instead of having to steal whatever he can.

Of course I'm also teaching a class for obedience foundations called TEAM 1.  If you ever wanted to teach an independent backup I already have that as my sample lecture for you to get started!



UKI trial this Saturday with the tollers.  Many thanks to Grandma coming along to watch Netta!  She got to experience eating astrotuf, napkins, and Grandma's shoe. Good job Netta.

Zumi had 4 runs and only had a single off course all day, the very first run.  She even did well with choosing to focus in the ring and not running off to see Grandma!  We stationed Grandma right at the entrance for each run so that she knew exactly where she was located and it was close by.  Who knows whether that new protocol helped Zumi or whether it was just maturity.

Sadly the one run Zumi actually needed to qualify in was novice standard.  While I was very proud of that run, she missed her dogwalk contact.  On a straight exit to a tunnel too, drat!

I had Zumi entered in the masters heat challenge runs for fun again.  Very wide on most turns but listening and even putting up with some late front crosses on my part.  A knocked bar on jumpers and a refusal on standard cost her Q's, but since it's time plus faults she actually placed first in her height and earned me a tiny cash prize!

Vito and I were a bit more out of sync.  Silly little things, mainly on my part.  And while he seemed to run pretty happy and decently fast on most his runs in the ring, he had trouble engaging and getting excited out of the ring.

Next agility trial won't be until August now!


Right Sided Heeling with The Corgi

I can't believe it's been over 2 months since I started training right sided heeling with The Corgi.  2 months, and sadly not many sessions and thus results.

Lance still needs work on his pivots and doodles, but his forging is way down.  It's a bit difficult for him to physically do the pivoting now so I try not to do it too much.

So mainly I've started to work on forward motion.  It was no shock that his natural tendency of forging keeps trying to rear its head, but the wideness Lance has been showing was a surprise!  I've been working on doing a pivot before each reward to get Lance in the habit of moving in towards me.  Eventually when wideness is the problem I'll throw in a moving side step each time, but he's not quite ready for that.

The horse flies are just starting to appear at home and The Corgi thinks they are his mortal enemy.  I don't disagree, but I've never taken it to the point where I don't want to come off the porch!  Thus I'm really proud of Lance for doing a training session out in the yard yesterday.  You can see how hard he thinks about it after each cookie!

So not quite there with pretty heeling on the right, but he's having fun getting to learn something new!


Masters Debut

I took the tollers up for a USDAA agility trial this past weekend.  Zumi had just about 3 weeks back of practice since her maternity leave, and of course her first trial in 3 months.  I fully expected Feral Duck.  And since she earned her advanced title at the last trial, this would be her first time in masters.

I got Zumi out loads of time before her 4 runs to walk around the area.  She desperately needed it.  Wild Child.  I was grateful it was an outdoor trial so we could do all that walking without bothering others.  But all the acclimation time paid off!  Her first run of the day, gamblers, she was only semi-feral. Didn't keep her stop on the teeter and did a bonus loop up the dogwalk, but overall listened well.  Almost made the gamble, but did a 15ft send out to the backside instead of taking the um obvious approach to the jump.

The remaining 3 runs she listened very well!  Even got her very first master Q in snooker with a 50pt run.  Here are Zumi's snooker run and so close run in standard:

Vito ran 4 runs as well.  Seemingly happy and running decently well until quite a bit slower on the last run of the day.  Now that Zumi is running the same course it's fun to compare times.  Vito also failed this standard run by taking the wrong end of the tunnel, but it's fun to compare Zumi's run above with Vito's:


Yummy- retrieve pt3 Victory!

Mission accomplished!

That was Yummy a few days ago, showing off her hold, pickup and hold (with help of target to leg!), and retrieve of a metal canning ring.  Round of applause to Yum Yum.

I've spent these last 2 weeks with Yummy working on getting her to pick up a variety of items and deliver them to my hand.  At first, it was rewarding lots of flings and maybe getting her to deliver the item to my hand after a couple of reps (or sessions).

Today was the first time she worked with 2 brand new objects and on the very first attempt she confidently picked them up and put them right in my hand.  Extra mission accomplished.

Well, really she would still have a long way to go if she were to be a mobility service dog.  Besides the other tasks she would need to learn or keep fine tuning, the retrieve really isn't done yet either.  More items would need to be conquered from the small to heavy to awkwardly shaped.  The hold would need to be generalized more.  And while Yummy has always been easy about generalizing skills to new locations, this would need more attention.

Yummy doesn't need to learn a formal front and hold like she would for obedience.  But just for fun I've trained her to find front with the help of a platform.  And I gave her one single lesson in combining her hold with her find front exercise just to see how she would do.  Good girl Yummy!

And now that I've accomplished my personal mission with her, we're sending her off!  Yummy will now "officially" be in for final training and live at the facility while the trainer works on getting to know her and finding her a good match.  More than likely she will be placed as an easy going autism assist dog!  Wish her luck on her upcoming journey!


16 inches!

This past Friday, Vito ran for the first time in an agility trial at 16 inches.  We've only done 1 practice at that height so I'm still not used to how low it feels.  A big leap from the 22in he was at last year!  Technically he's eligible to even go to 14in in USDAA performance but I'm definitely not ready for that!

His first two runs of the days, jumpers and MC jumpers, didn't seem all that different in attitude.  Same old Vito.  Happy but not really putting on the burners.  Qualifying easily.
And then his next two runs, standard and MC standard, he really went fast!  Granted I can't really say the difference is due to the lower height as Vito always loves his standard courses over jumpers!  But he was happy to the point of being a little naughty and doing the wrong tunnel entrance in both standard classes!

I look forward to running him at this new height for awhile!  And I admit part of my want to lower him is so that when Zumi gets to start trialing again I won't have 2 dogs both running masters in the 20in class.  We don't exactly have huge classes in USDAA and UKI around here!

Which brings me to Zumi!!!  My girl is back :)

She may have been referred to as a "4 week Momma" by her breeder.  Did well with the puppies, but definitely being way more interested in whatever else was happening around that time.  Zumi didn't want no free loaders!

We've resumed training obedience without much of a hitch other than seemingly forgetting to how to find a straight front and pivot in front.  As soon as she's a little less endowed I'm excited to get back to agility too!


Yummy Retrieve pt 2- More Problem Solving

Yummy, the service dog in training, and I are still working on that retrieve.  It's been about 12 days since our last update where I shared our progress on trying to get movement and a short stationary hold.

I'm happy to share that we now have a few steps of forward movement after picking up the dumbbell.  Yummy can pick it up and walk forward about 4ft to put it inside my bucket, or right at the edge of it.  Remember, my goal with the bucket/platform isn't really to teach a clean up at this point but more to use as a reward station to help Yummy develop a pattern.  The location you reward tends to act as a magnet!
Her consistency still isn't quite there as she regresses into flinging sometimes, and fairly frequently Yummy also just does a quick grab and immediate drop.  But with Yummy it's pretty darn big progress!

In the meantime, I was also able to slightly progress Yummy's hold so that she would pick it up off the ground directly in front of me and hold it briefly in a stand.  This was incredibly hard for her and often resulted in Yummy lying down while doing her hold or just dropping it immediately.  I was seeing too much avoidance behaviors as well.

So I abandoned our stationary hold practice except for the occasional rep while I remain holding it or she's holding it while doing a chair visit.  Then, since Yummy had started to get the concept of aiming, just a little bit, to her bucket or platform, I tried to see if just using her platform training and always rewarding in a sit would help her.  Pick up dumbbell, drop in front of platform or just barely on it, complete the "front" to get her cookie.  Hoping the reward placement and the chain itself would start to come together.  It might have helped if I stuck with it longer, but I switched tactics.

I realized that what Yummy was really struggling with was being able to lift her head UP.  Most dogs at this point I've been able to place my hands together in a big cup as I move backward.  I can shape them pretty easily in aiming for my hands with the help of my movement guiding them.  But once again Yummy needs something different.  So I started working with her "visit" to the chair cue as being her new target.  Tiny lift off ground, reward placed on the chair, and then cues to visit in between reps.  Here I liked what I started to see.

Today for the first time I added myself into the picture.  Review pick up and put it on the chair (which still needs practice by itself), and then I sat in the chair and worked on visit to my lap instead of to the chair.


All the Utility!

Agility on Saturday, back to obedience on Sunday.  I love my Toller :)  CDSP obedience of course, no AKC meltdowns here.

Vito was a very good Toller.  A bit worried about the judge at the start but as soon as we started the short heeling pattern CDSP has on signals he did so with great energy and focus.  And did his signals!  We continually work so hard on trying to make downs fun for Vito, they're just not his thing.

A bit more distracted during article setup, but then he lasered his eyes into me during the long delay as I think the judge tried to flip the article the other way.  I admit his intense focus during that wait was my favorite part of the run.

On go outs every dog got sucked into where the article pile was in the corner.  I've done gloves to the corner followed by go outs, but apparently not articles there before!  I was proud to see Vito go straight!  And then got sucked into that corner when I cued the sit.  On the 2nd send he made sure to ignore my sit cue as well to go touch the gate... twice.  Smart Toller.

Gloves were the best he has ever done in a trial.  Actually pivoted well!  And we have been working hard on making gloves fun after some weird avoidance issues since the last trial so I was relieved not to see that show up here.

Finally on the moving stand Vito stood very well for what seemed like an extra thorough exam!  Hesitant coming in again on the call to heel so something to work on I guess.

A Q in Utility!

Mr. Corgi also got to play.  We did his usualy WCRL rally run in level 3.  For whatever reason he was actually quiet for the entire first half of the run!  No barks on the pivoting!  And then his corgi sass came out for the 2nd half...

I also entered Lance in Utility for the first time since his retirement.  Not expecting much since well you actually have to practice to qualify.  But Corgi always loved to show.

Lots of great moments, and some sass of course.  
On Signals Lance did his down which made me so happy since that was one point that did stress him out about utility.  And then he said he knew the pattern and went straight to his sit.  I wasn't sure what to do there, so I gave a sit signal anyway and smiled when he lifted his butt so he could sit again :)

Articles showed his old habit of grabbing so fast that it just falls out of his mouth a few steps later.  But good boy.

On go outs Lance got sucked into that pesky article spot like the others.  Ignored my cue to sit and just came to me on the first one.  On the 2nd one he sat, and then started to go while the judge was talking to me about what I wanted to do.  I tried to signal the far jump but I admittedly didn't cue it with my normal eye flick and pause first.  Not surprised he just came to me.

Gloves were also pretty good on the pivot.  I underrotated a bit as I was rusty too and forgot that usually ended up happening to me in trials.  I had to always do a 2 step pivot towards #3 in a trial to get lined up correctly even though I never had issues in practice.  It probably helped him though as the other dogs couldn't find the glove behind the poles.

The moving stand had naughty forging and then not actually staying.  Eh.

I do miss showing The Corgi.

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