Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where Your Dogs Come From……

Have you ever stopped and wondered why most ‘performance’ people don’t get their next dog from the ‘breeder next door’.  It’s ‘almost’ like, the local dogs aren’t ‘good enough’.  If you didn’t go out East, West, North, South, or even out of the country, you didn’t find a quality dog. 

This is not meant to be a post about ‘finding a local dog’, 
just an interesting observation.   

Take a look at your own dogs, where did they come from?  
 Don’t you wonder if anyone out west, east, 
or in other countries come to Iowa for their next dog?   
Or 'local' for your location?
If not, why?   
 It’s just interesting.

Our dogs, growing up, came from within my hometown.   
There wasn’t any thought of going anywhere else to get a dog. 
I can’t imagine my parents would have traveled across state lines,
to get the ‘perfect’ dog, let alone out of the country. 

Molly, our Bichon was the first dog we actually ‘traveled to pick up’.  Yes, a whole 2 hours away!  She was still in Iowa, and she is our only Iowa dog thus far.  She came from a back yard breeder, without any performance background.  (That’s a topic for another blog!)  She had a lovely temperament, and was fantastic with kids, maybe because she was raised with them?  Or, it could be that I had so many young nieces at the time, and  she had a lot of exposure.   
Regardless, she was a great little dog. 

Molly was our first ‘performance dog’.  When you begin participating in dog sports, you soon learn that the majority of dogs ‘come from somewhere else’.  I would guess that most people’s ‘first dogs’ come locally.  It just makes you wonder, doesn’t it? 

All the rest of our dogs came from other states, 
outside of IA; IL, WA, and MN.   
With the expectation of one, all were within 5 hours of our home.   
Not an extreme trip at all. 

Our first Border Collie, Kruz, came from IL.   
His breeder was recommended by a friend, 
she also picked out a puppy from this litter.   
Kruz has a great work ethic, 
a wonderful temperament, and is just an all around good boy. 

Our second Portuguese Water Dog came from MN.  The breeders were people we’d met at agility trials up in that area.  Nina was a puppy from their first "A" litter.  Mad also came to us from them as a 2 year old. 

Seeker is from MN as well, starting to see a pattern here!  Seeker is actually Kruz’s nephew.  His breeder is the friend that picked out a litter mate of Kruz.  If you find something you like, stay within the line.  That was the plan.  Seeker is a great dog too, but in a different way than Kruz.  The plan down the road, in 4-5 years, is to get a Seeker 'nephew/niece'.  From a photography standpoint, another white faced one would be great!

 Nettle is also from MN, the same breeder that Nina and Mad came from.  Again, if you find something that works for you, stay with it.  I love their temperaments, and willingness to work.  Nettle is a combination of both Nina and Mad, I guess I love that part too.  I love my BLACK DOGS!!  Hate the ‘black blob syndrome’ in the pictures, it makes photography challenging.  I guess I’ll just have to become a better photographer because of it.

The nice thing about having dogs from breeders near-by is that you get to see them more often. With the internet, it doesn’t really matter anymore.  You can send pictures, videos, talk on your cell phone, it’s almost like ‘being there’.  Isn’t technology wonderful!! 

Will I ever get another dog from Iowa?   
It’s hard to say what the future might bring. 

Now you can sit back and think about where your own 
dogs came from, and why.  

It’s kind of fun!  

**Can you tell we've been playing
in the water a lot this summer?? **

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Failed As A Responsible Dog Owner......

....If all I taught our dogs, was how to run an agility course.
 (Blast from the past!)
(Sept 1998 with the "FLYBALL" puppies)
Double click on it to make it larger

Have you ever thought about how much time you really spend running an agility course at a trial?  It’s literally seconds, or combined, minutes.
If you travel to 12 – (two day) trials a year, with 3 runs a day, you’ve spent under 60 minutes in the ring. 
One hour! 
If you and your dog are fortunate enough to run 10 years, that’s only 10 hrs!  Even if you trial more than 12 weekends a year, and run more than 3 times a day, the amount of time you actually spend on an agility course is very small in comparison to home life. 
What are you doing the rest of the time? 
Sure, you might also compete in obedience, tracking, water work, hunt tests, flyball, herding, etc…..but your actual training, and trialing time is not going to take up the majority of your dogs time.  The majority of your dog’s time is spent being a companion, at least I hope so.
My goal is to have a good companion, as well as a great ambassador of the breed. 
I want people to say, “I wish I had a dog just like……”. 
That makes me feel like ‘I’m doing my part in being a responsible dog owner.’ 
Of course, participating in performance events exposes your dog to a lot of different places. 
The dog must ride in a car, stay in a crate, get use to new trial sites, and sometimes stay in a hotel.  Ignoring strange people, and strange dogs. What a wonderful learning experience.
When at home, the dogs hang out wherever we are.  They might be taking a nap while we’re on the computer, or reading a book.  They might be outside ‘helping’ us with chores, or just having a good romp.  They are a large part of our everyday life. 
We’re similar to a lot of ‘dog people’.  Our dogs are our “kids”, and we spend more time with them than most people do with their human children.  Hum, maybe that’s what’s wrong with our society today?
Keep doing what you’re doing!
Showing people what great companions dogs are!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"My Puppy is OVERWHELMING ME!!!"

This was Rilda’s statement to me in May.  She had just she brought home her little schnauzer puppy, Nike.  How can one little puppy cause so much stress?  Actually, it’s pretty easy……

First there's the crate games, then the recalls, the puppy tricks, and not to mention socialization!! Oh, what about the house breaking, getting the other dog use to this new little MONSTER, and the constant ‘helpful’ feed back of…’you should do this, and have you tried this and this’…..!!!  Dog owners don't even need a 'mother in law' telling them how to raise their kids!  
That's what dog friends are for!!!
  Calgon -TAKE ME AWAY!!!   
(Do they even make Calgon anymore?)

Now, I understand what she meant.  You can’t do it all!  Not all at once anyway.  So, you pick and choose what’s important to you.  That’s all that really matters.    

Nettle knows an amazing number of ‘beginning’ behaviors.  I say beginning, because I tend to get bored doing the same thing over and over again.  So, one morning we might work on one behavior, the afternoon a different one.  We might not come back to the first ‘behavior’ we worked on, for several days or weeks.  Guess what, she still remembers it! 

To me, the absolute number one thing to work on is a good recall.  If you’re dog won’t come when called, you are putting them at risk.  Not to mention, if they won’t come to you when called, what’s the likely hood they will stay with you if there’s something more appealing?  NOT LIKELY!!  So, along with a good recall, a nice working relationship is formed. 

Our recall games involve restrained recalls, whether they are restrained by another person, a long line around a post, or off a distraction.  We mix them up; sometimes I run, sometimes I stop and let them catch me.  It’s all positive, as I want them to be successful and associate coming with good things.  There has never been a time when I’ve asked her to come and she hasn’t.  NEVER!!! 


She’s 4 months old, and I’m not stupid enough to compete with a Border Collie’s tail, a duck, chicken or turkey.  I’m not even more interesting than a cat.  So, guess what….I don’t call her!  It’s really pretty simple.  If I need her to come in, I can call the Border Collie!  Guess who follows along, sometimes still attached.  The birds are not as attractive as they use to be, but if she was chasing one, it would be pointless to call her.  The cats, they don’t run and she knows which end is NOT safe!  So, it’s easy enough to just pick her up.  Okay, not as easy as it use to be! Someone needs to STOP GROWING!!!

So, you might be asking, “What do you do if she chases something and you can’t call her.” Well, I go get her, then bang my head on the sidewalk for being so stupid.  I had to do this a couple times (OUCH!!!),  with the birds.  Especially the ducks, who knows what made them so attractive.  It’s probably their lack of speed, when compared to the chickens, and they are not as big as the turkeys.  Over the last month, they’ve thankfully lost their appeal. 

Crate Games – or impulse control is right up there on my list of important things.  Duck chasing would be an impulse control issue.  Your start line stays….impulse control, right along with contacts (if you do 2o2o), retrieves, walking on a loose leash, not bouncing off the windows when another dog is outside training, and numerous other things that happen in every day life.

No Barking, is another very important rule at our house.  Sorry, I don’t like it, and we have several vehicles a day coming down our lane.  Not appropriate behavior, and for our household, not acceptable.  Yes, we’ll probably be murdered in our beds, as our dogs didn’t alert us!  G  Barking will earn you a little “crate time out”.  It only takes once or maybe twice, and they figure it out.  Nettle sometimes forgets, and will bark at Kruz while he’s taking a nap.  Sorry Muskrat, into the box you go! 

One continued struggle is when she’s in a crate and we’re outside, she continues to bark.  I’m hopeful it will stop….but so far, not!  It would be ideal to go in a praise, but as soon as she has the slightest inkling that you are near, she’s quite.  Mowers on, she’s quite….it shuts off, she barks.  Honestly, this girl has stamina!!

Not pulling on a leash is another ‘right up there’ in my book.  Not that we have much opportunity out in the county to ‘go walking on a leash’, but it’s important.  I don’t know how people do it.  When your dogs are pulling hard enough to win you the Iditarod, how can that be fun, or pleasant?  Nettle wears a head halter when we are in situations that I can’t control her reinforcement.  I do not use it to yank, or pull on it, as this should not happen if I’m attentive.  The idea is to get ‘rid’ of this as soon as possible, in the mean time, reinforcement comes from the handler, not the environment.  The “Red Light/Green Light” game worked wonders for Seeker, but Nettle is NOT a Border Collie. (that’s material for another post!!)

Socializing is not a biggie on my list either.  WHAT!!!  Okay, I do not want our dogs to be afraid of people, or other dogs. I don’t necessarily want them ‘running up and pouncing’ on every John, Dick, and Spot either!  I love Michael Ellis’s approach to puppies in a new environment, and people.  It’s about YOU (the handler), not about that scary shape in the corner of the dark building, or the large man in the hat.  Bring the puppy into a new environment, play some games, and leave.  Do that several times, so they know when they get to a new place, it’s about YOU, not about ‘what new fun friend’ or ‘what scary object(s)’ they might find. 

How often do you go to class, and your dog immediately wants to go visit with your friends, or their dogs.  I’ll admit, that’s very cute, but is it the behavior you want to nurture.  Do you then get angry or frustrated when it’s time to ‘work’ and your dog still wants to visit?  Who’s fault is that?

The majority of the time, Nettle works for her meals.  Not necessarily a lot of work, but something.  Why?  Building value for working with me, is one very important factor.  I’m also learning how she learns, and she’s learning to learn.  How cool is that!  I think so many people miss out on this amazing training opportunity.  What a waste of perfect good food! 

I had a friend tell me once; when I said, “Nettle could visit when we were done training.”, that “I was mean, poor Nettle”.  Mean?  Maybe?  Structured, YES!  I do not want Nettle to think its okay to just go off and visit whenever the opportunity presents itself.  I’ve seen too many PWDs running up and down the beach during their water test.  I don’t want her, to be one of them.  Will this guarantee that won’t happen?  No, but it will sure increase the odds that it won’t.

Not to worry, Nettle found a couple laps to sit on, and a couple puppies to play with over the weekend.  Those opportunities were on my terms however, not on hers. She spends class time in an xpen, and is perfectly quite and gets attention from people and dogs alike.  She's great at the vet's, yes, even though she is shaped, she can be touched!  Shaping doesn't mean you never touch your dog.  I'm not sure how that rumor got started?

She has plenty of free run time in the yard at home, with the two Border Collies, and an occasional cat or two.  She loves to jump, bite, play in the pool, get dirty and just be a puppy.  

She doesn't even think Seeker is a "Freak", 
even when the rest of us do.

Bottom line, you need to do what’s best for your puppy.  You also need to keep in mind what ‘freedoms’ you’re giving him now, could ‘bite’ you down the road.  You can’t have the puppy doing whatever it wants for the first 9 months of its life, and then expect it to change its behavior overnight.  That’s not only unrealistic, it’s unfair.  

Mold your puppy into the dog you want it to be.  
The confident, well adjust, dog you want!
The best time to do that is from day one!

Now….where’s the pliers, so I can pull the rest of those teeth!!!  VBG

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shaping To Help

Shaping is really a great way to mold desired behavior.  Some times it might even be for the animals own welfare.  Granted, we can all physically touch, or restrain our dogs.

But....what if you couldn't??

I know there are strong views on zoos, this post isn't about that.  
It's about how shaping is used to help care for these animals.  
Pretty interesting stuff.

Thanks Marsha for sharing!
I know you are going to want a new target stick!!!

Did someone say MEATBALLS!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nettle - 4 Months....

These are a few of her favorite things!

(We couldn't get Seeker's tail on the table)

Challenges - 

Coming when called.
Keeping 4 feet on the ground when greeting.
Walking on a loose leash.
Being quite in her crate.
Leaving Seeker's tail alone!
Down Position.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Free Dog.....Needs Room to Run.....


I just love those newspaper ads!

So, this morning, I put the 'dogs' outside
to  RUN, while I did some 'purging' upstairs.

Looked out the window to 
'watch them run!'


Could just ONE of you 
show a little effort????

I think they are just waiting
for me to put a sofa out there 
for them to lay on.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My dog is a thinker……….

and he doesn't like to be wrong.

If I had a dollar, okay - $100, for every time I heard this, 
I would NEVER have to work again! 

On the flip side, how many people will say, “My dog’s as dumber than a box of rocks.” 
I would bet, not often.  Hopefully, never from you.

So, dogs are thinkers.  That’s great news! 

Here’s another thought.  If your dog is a thinker, and doesn’t like to be wrong……
how do you suppose he knows he’s wrong?  Who defines ‘wrong’?   
How does the dog learn that he is wrong, and that wrong is bad?   
Wrong, is defined by the trainer - that would be you. 
Whether wrong is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is also defined by you. 

So, something else to think about…... What if being wrong was okay?  
 What if being ‘wrong’ just meant ‘try again’.  Wouldn’t that be AWESOME!! 

That’s really what I love about clicker training tricks, or shaping behaviors.   
The dog keeps trying different things (even if he is ‘wrong’) to get the reward.   
He tries the ‘wrong’ things, with just as much enthusiasm as the ‘right’ things.   
Remember – right or wrong is defined by the trainer.   
After awhile, the ‘right’ things just happen more often, 
because that’s what's being reinforced.   
When he's ‘wrong’, he don’t stop trying!   

Positive reinforcement, withholding the reward, or even 
denying access to a reinforcer, is so easy!
This actually takes less time, and the behaviors are more reliable 
than when trained with compulsion or ‘force’.   
Compulsion methods often result in a dog that develops 
‘learned helplessness’ (or shutting down).   
The dog ends up saying, “Unless you do it for me, I just can’t.” 

With positive reinforcement, you don’t get the stress licking, the pinned ears, and the low tail wag.   
I’m not saying that the dog has zero stress, they do.   
Just like any other animal that’s trying to figure out the answer, it is stressful.   
They just react differently because they don’t fear the outcome if they get it ‘wrong’.  
You also get better 'generalized' behaviors with shaping.

Some of the behaviors you can get from shaping are truly amazing.   
A few of my favorites are Cougar sitting on the edge of a suitcase; Mad’s back up shuffle;
Seeker’s backing up onto a wall, into a hand stand.  

If you can get these, why not others? 

"I’m just saying…………"

Thanks to those brilliant trainers (Susan Garrett and Silvia Trkman) 
for helping me ‘think outside, (or inside) the box’!!   
You ladies ROCK!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

I Solemnly Swear That I’m Up To No Good

Chasing Ducks, Chickens or Turkeys.
(Guess who's NO longer OFF leash!)
This is SO Naughty!! 

I took a bucket of toys out to play with.
She dumped the toys out and took off with the bucket!

Got the bucket back, so she took off with a toy!

Filled the bucket with water to drink.
She promptly EMPTIED IT!
No, she's NOT drinking!

Took everyone out to swim at a local beach. 
It's close enough to a road that I left Nettle on a flexi.
See picture number ONE with the ducks?
I might be dumb, but I'm NOT STUPID!
Nettle also loves EVERYONE, 
so, I'm sure some of the sun bathers would NOT
appreciate a PWD puppy covered in sand on their abdomen!

Nettle's favorite pass time is pulling Seeker's tail.
Someday, maybe?, he'll tell her to stop it!
Right now, she doesn't believe he will.