Monday, April 30, 2012

Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Dogs do TRICKS!!

The Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center

 This evening Seeker and I had the opportunity to visit the IC Animal Care and Adoption Center.  We visited with their staff of volunteers to discuss 'trick training'!  HUGE thanks to Liz and Carol for inviting me out for an evening of fun and learning!

This is a small shelter, but don't be fooled by the size, they have some GREAT dogs!!  The volunteers and I worked with 4 of their dogs this evening, but only two currently have their pictures listed.  All were very nice trainable dogs.

Swisher - he's an Am Staff, and he was all about putting 4 feet in a laundry basket.  We actually had him going into a suitcase by the end of the night.  A few of the 'cookies' got stuck in the bottom, so we also deemed him a certified 'drug dog', as he was scratching at the corner to retrieve the treat.  

Wendy, is a golden retriever mix.  She warmed up quickly and really enjoyed the training.  She already has an amazing sit and down, so we added a great start to:  Roll Over, Play Dead, Sit up and Matt was working on a 'shake', he'll get it!!  She also LOVED to play fetch with a ball!  What a sweet girl!  The most amazing thing about her was the automatic behavior of "It's Yer Choice".  If you had treats in your hand, she just sat right back and waited for you to give her one.  No jumping, or trying to get it out of your hand!  GOOD GIRL!!

Polka, a little terrier mix has a lot of potential!   She did well in the 'box' after we put in some bedding and is a doll.  A very nice little personality, and will be a quick placement!

Finally, Porter, a young black lab.  I know what your thinking, a wild and crazy boy!  You are so wrong!  A nicer, sweeter boy you'd be pressed to find. He will be an 'easy' train, but tonight he seemed more into just cuddling with his 'peeps', than doing any serious work.  I think fewer distractions will be just the ticket for this guy!  He needs a family with some kids, so if you're one of those, RUN, don't walk!  I can't imagine he'll be there long either. 

Hats off to all the volunteers that put so much time, love, and care into this facility!  
It truly shows in the amazing animals that are available for adoption! 

Take a BOW!!! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Start Lines

What's 'YOUR' criteria?

This is what really matters, it's not what 'I' think, it's not what anyone else thinks, it's you that matters. You'll need to be the one to train it, you'll need to be the one to proof it, and you'll need to be the one that trials with it.

It's much easier to start off with what you want, than it is to go back and try to fix it later.  Not that it's impossible to do, it's very doable, just easier if you get it from the 'start'. (Pun Intended)

This is one of my favorite videos, makes me smile every time I watch it.  Not because of the broken starts, but because I enjoy seeing my friends and their dogs.  Some of the dogs are gone now, and those kids are getting BIGGER!  It's just amazing...just two and a half years ago.  Time sure flies!  I will admit, there is one part that can make me laugh out loud each time I see it....I'm pretty sure you can figure out what part that is. 

What's also interesting, to me anyway, is what our dogs are showing us.  They are nothing, if not honest in what they've been shown is acceptable.  Ring wise?  Maybe, but then how did they get that way, and who allowed it?

We had a discussion at class about feeling 'rushed' during open work outs, and being told to 'Just sit your dog and go'.  There is a 2 minute (or so) time limit for your time on the equipment each turn.  So, I asked, what's more important?  Your start line, or your time on the equipment?  Again, this isn't my decision, it's the handlers. 

What I suggested was that they pick a 'turn' in which they will only work their start line.  Spend your whole time there, rewarding, breaking off for a game of 'chase the cookie in my hand', or 'tug'.  Set them back up, lead out, maybe even release them over the first jump.  Don't even think about running the course.  

On there next turn, if they want to use that as a 'test' to see where their start line is at, great.  You need to be sure to have in your mind what you will do if they 'fail'.  Will you let them run the course because you really want to, or will you go back and work your start line again?  

If you are really set on working the course, and you aren't sure they will stay, have someone hold them for you.  That way, you get to work your course, without the start line being an issue. 

Bottom line, you do need to be aware of the time that you are taking when working in a group setting.  You also need to prioritize what is most important for you at that time.  Having the ability to work a start line in a distracting environment is AWESOME!  So, do take advantage of it.  Because let's face it......We all know that they can do it......AT HOME!!! 

Happy Training!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Braunschweiger Treats!

What to do with a half of a package of Braunschweiger that I found in the freezer....THAT was the question.  I could thaw it, dice it up and make it into little training treats, or, I could make it into a 'dry' dog cookie recipe.  Not only were the bowl and beaters a HUGE hit with the dogs, they liked the treats too!! (What is Braunschweiger?  See below the recipe)

Braunschweiger Treats for Dogs (or people I guess????)

1 lb. Braunschweiger (soften in microwave for about a minute)
3 eggs
2 cups of flour
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Mix Braunschweiger, eggs, and garlic powder together in a bowl.  Add flour, adjust as needed to make a brownie mix consistency.  (You might need to make some brownies if you don't know what this is - I would suggest baking THEM first!) 

Spread in a 9X13 well greased/sprayed cake pan.  Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, or until well done.  Slice with a pizza slicer to desired size. 

Freeze in baggies as desired. 

What's NOT to Love about Braunschweiger! 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Braunschweiger (named after Braunschweig, Germany) is a type of liverwurst (pork liver sausage) which, if stuffed in natural casings, is nearly always smoked. Commercial products often contain smoked bacon, and are stuffed into fibrous casings.
The USDA requires the product must contain a minimum of 30% liver (pork, calf, veal, beef, etc.), lean meat (can include mechanically separated poultry), fat meat, binders and seasonings.[1] A typical commercial formula is about 40% pork liver or scalded beef liver, 30% scalded pork jowl, 20% lean pork trimmings and 10% bacon ends and pieces. Added seasonings include salt and often include white pepper, onion powder or chopped onion, and mace. Curing ingredients (sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite) are optional.
Braunschweiger has a very high amount of vitamin A, iron, protein and fat. The meat has a very soft, spread-like texture and a distinctive spicy liver-based flavor, very similar to the Nordic leverpostej. It is usually used as a spread for toast, but can also be used as a filling for sandwiches, often paired with stone-ground mustard, sliced tomato, onion and cheese. In the Midwestern United States, Braunschweiger is typically enjoyed in a sandwich with various condiments such as ketchup, mustard, and dill pickles. There are also a few recipes for pâté and cheese balls which use Braunschweiger as a primary ingredient. Pâté is creamier than braunschweiger.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Young Dogs First Night Back - Criteria Focus!

What a great group of Young dogs and handlers last night.  They were wonderful about sending in my e-mail request for 'where they were at' and 'what they've accomplished' over the winter months.  This provided me with enough information to develop a 'test' if you will, to see where they were at with their criteria and their dog's focus on the handler.

I asked that they bring a kennel to put their dogs in so they weren't always standing right by them.  I wanted the dog to have some 'chill' time, and the handler to not worry about what their dog was doing, and reinforcing them for doing nothing.  I really do think this is helpful for the handlers, especially when they are trying to absorb what they are suppose to be working on.  When the dog is 'out', it's working, when it's in it's crate, it can 'chill'. 

I set up a few work stations of one 'obstacle'.  For instance a contact plank, to assess where they were at with their 2o2o criteria.  I'd also set up a jump and straight tunnel to work on start lines.  There were other stations, but 2o2o and Start Lines were the main topic of last nights class.

We spent a little time discussing 'criteria', and what there's would be.  It was an interesting and hopefully 'enlightening' discussion.  For instance, one person explained that she didn't care if her dog, 'sat, did 2o2o, or stopped at the base' of the contact equipment, as long as he did one of those.  This lead to a discussion of how dogs understand black and white, but are not good at 'grays'.  If the dog is rewarded for 3 different positions, that can lead to a lot of gray, and a lot of uncertainty from not only the dog, but also from the handler.  Trust me, Seeker has taught me a LOT about the lack of understanding of 'gray'.

The first decision was going to be, what do you want on your contact?  Then be consistent with it.     Your criteria doesn't need to match everyone else, it just has to be yours.  So, whatever that is, that's what it is.  Pretty simple, right?

Next was our Start Lines - in front of a jump, and also a straight tunnel - how inviting is that!! The dogs actually handled it very well!  GOOD DOGS!!  Is there room for improvement?  Sure, but I think there is always something we could tweak just a bit to make it better.   So, back to that darn criteria again, what do you want it to look like?  Then work it!!

The great thing about both of these criteria is they don't require equipment!  Or at least, not much.  Start Lines can be worked any time, any place (Finger UP on that topic).  To work contacts, you can use stairs, a plank, a pivot board, carpet, or yes.....even a piece of paper!  Seriously, we just make this too complicated!  You don't need much if any equipment, so don't get hung up with that!

One last thing before I end this post.  "They'll do it at home."  Yep, MINE TOO!!  So, you need to 'take it on the road', now when I say that, I don't mean literally 'on the road'.  The change could be as simple as going from your back yard to you front yard.  It might be at the neighbors, or two houses down.  So, don't make this more difficult than it really is, it just needs to be a different place.  Also, I'm sure you have 'dog friends' that live close by, USE THEM!  Make a trade, can I come work (name whatever), and you can come over and work (whatever).  Buddy up!  Challenge each other!  That's the way we improve, and it's how our dogs improve.

Most importantly, have fun.  Criteria is important, don't get me wrong, but you need to enjoy the journey!  Remember, just because you know what your dog wants, doesn't mean they understand.  Be patient!  They are truly amazing animals, and they will do it for you.....if they understand what you want.

Happy Training! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Do You Train In a Vacuum?

Meaning, you always train in the same places, with the same people, with the same distractions?  Your dog is in a low state of arousal, because everything is familiar.  Do you train alone, and have a hard time replicating things that happen at a trial? 


So, last week I spent a bit of time trying to replicate the trial setting, while training alone.  It's hard!  What I wanted to do was to get Seeker's state of arousal up, so, his most FAVORITE thing, besides the squeaky ball, is Kruz.  So, I took both boys out to the building and put Seeker on a crate pad.  Kruz then did some 'jumps' (a bar on the ground between two uprights), and tossed a toy reward.  I did lots of clapping, hooting and hollering...which Kruz LOVED, and drove Seeker crazy!  Seeker is a good boy however, and remained on his crate pad. 

Then I swapped the boys out, and played a great game of tug with Seeker in order to keep him up.  Okay, let's be honest, Seeker is always up....but, I wanted him as close to 'trial high' as I could get him.  We did a few short sequences, and they were fairly trial like.  I was happy with his work, but realize the training level was not 'perfect', in regards to the energy he has at a trial. 

I've started playing a radio in the building when I train, just to add some background noise.  A stray chicken or cat might wonder in, but for Seeker that's not much of a distraction.  So, I'll continue to look for opportunities, or ways in which to bring his arousal up. 

Nettle is MUCH easier to distract.  Especially since we have a pair of squirrels living in our trees now.  What a totally AWESOME distraction!!  Unfortunately, or not, Seeker doesn't see these as a distraction when there's agility equipment to play on.  Actually, he doesn't seem to be interested in them much at all.  Net can't focus if there is a squirrel present, so I'll have to be sure to keep them around so we can work through it.  In other words, I have to be more interesting than the squirrel!!!  Hum, maybe a squirrel skin hat? G

In the mean time, Nettle's second greatest distraction is Seeker.  So, he gets used in her training quite a bit.  We play some pretty complicated (for her), sit games.  Meaning, can you sit while I send Seeker through a tunnel, and throw a toy for him.  Can you....sit while I run away and release Seeker to a jump.  This not only helps her understand to hold a position, it was be very helpful in USDAA Pairs, or DAM Relay when you have one dog running and the other (one or two) are waiting.  Does she make a mistake once in awhile?  Sure, but it's no big deal, she just gets put back where she was, and we try again. The nice thing about working with Seeker as a distraction is that I know he will lie down if I ask him...thus Nettle's fun has ended. 

It does take some thought to figure out how you can 'break you training habits' and make it more 'trial' like.  You can do it!  You just need to think about what really puts your dog over the top.  Find what really gets your dog excited, and bring that into your practice session. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Consistently - Inconsistent (The Wrap)

 But I can 'Change'!!!  

Monday, I took the first "BIG" step in making that change! 

Seeker really struggles with wraps, especially with any speed (acceleration) going into them.  Of course, it's not really 'his' fault!  Sometimes I'm still moving when he needs the cue to wrap, sometimes I don't decelerate at all, and sometimes.....I'm not just plain not thinking!  Poor Seeker!!

With World Team Tryouts coming up in a few short weeks, 
we need to really put some time into working through this. 
(Realistically, it won't be resolved by then)

On my end, I need to be completely consistent with the cues I'm providing.  
I also need to make it worth Seeker's effort to collect, and come in tight.  

Let's face it, Seeker loves extension running, which means blasting past the jump, 
turning wide, and then coming back.   Not only does this add wasted seconds to your run, it's also not good on the dog's body.  So, if I can become consistent with my cues it will be win/win for both of us.

So, I got out my little notebook, and wrote out a 'Game Plan'.  
It involved one jump, a tug toy, and of course Seeker.

My written plan is to work 4 jump heights, two jumps each, (one each direction) so a total of 8 repetitions. The heights would be: 12/16/20/12.  Seeker would be approximately (jump height) away from the jump, and I would be right next to the upright, so I could easily reach my beverage that was sitting on it.  (JUST KIDDING!! I didn't include a beverage....this time!!) Then evaluate where we should go from there.  

Yes, Seeker does jump 26" in competition, but this problem didn't happen overnight, so we need to start easy and build his understanding of what I want.  I now wish I would have videoed this first session.  RATS!!  He must have landed 3' out past the 12" jump.  It was 'kind of' funny, but not really.  It was really an eye opener in regards to his lack of understanding of 'lack of motion' on the handlers part.  As we worked through the jump heights, it got better. He realized where the 'game was', and how much work it was for him to turn back to the tug.  

We've worked this 4 times now....and it's better.  I have not added any distance, or motion to it.  I'll let him be the one to tell me when it's time to add more height and more distance.  It's my fault he doesn't understand, so, I'll let him set the pace.  He's also weaker turning to the left, so, we'll do some other exercises to work the left turn. 

Our ultimate goal will be to work 16/20/26/16, from a stand still.  
Then going back to 12 to see what happens when I had a bit of distance.  When I say a bit, it's going to be a foot or two at first.  As we progress, we'll change one variable at a time, (either height or distance), but not both.  It didn't happen overnight, so it won't be fixed that quickly either. 

Nettle is working the same skill, at 8/12/16/8, and doing very well.  
I'm determined that she will NOT have the same lack of understanding of collection and extension.   It's probably not surprising that I'm already adding a bit of distance to hers after just a couple sessions.  Of course, she doesn't have all the history of ignoring 'lack of motion'.  
Good Girl Buttercup!

As with all 'life lessons', we learn as we go.  
So much to learn from these amazing creatures!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

Start Lines, Recalls at USDAA Trial

The 'Fam' packed up and headed to Crystal Lake, IL early Saturday morning, or last Friday evening.  The time (2:30 am), depends on how 'split' your day.  It's Saturday morning to me, but I realize a lot of people won't look at it that way!  The plus side of leaving in the wee hours is you don't have to deal with a lot of traffic, and you save a night of hotel expenses!  

Of course at all events you have a little 'down time', so this weekend my focus was on Nettle and working a few 'set point' jumps, recalls, and start lines.  I waited until a course was being set before I played with her, as I don't want to use the practice jump, or cause an unwanted distraction while someone is preparing for their run.  

Sunday we did mostly recalls and start lines.  She was AWESOME!  The distractions were perfect!  Sometimes we'd have someone pass between us, dogs/handlers and even a tunnel was carried by.  I finally thought to 'flip' a couple, so here they are! 

(Nettle sitting, Tammy running and Deb crossing)

Not the best picture, but you get the idea.  
This was NOT planned, but hey, things happen!

How did I get her to hold positions?
(I know...I don't see a crate in this video either!)
Seriously....$35 folks!

Seeker has a super nice weekend.....expect for the first run of the day on Saturday.  Carol L was WAY happy, as she'd had a 5 hr energy drink, I'm pretty sure she SPLIT it with SEEKER!!  OMG!!  The class was Gamblers, and thankfully it doesn't really matter if the dog 'does what it wants'...and he did!!  It was a comedy of errors!  LOL 

He got both of his Tournaments for Nationals however, and won Steeplechase...for MONEY! (Guess who bought Dairy Queen!!)  He should have won Grand Prix too (for a buy), but I seriously got lost, and as Natalie would say, "He saved my BACON!" What a mess...but we got it done! I so needed that "Bang Head Here" sign!!

We came away with MORE homework.  He thinks if I post up at a jump that I'm going to rear cross, so need to work on making the difference clear to him.  He also doesn't know what "OUT" means, as I've never taught him that.  To be honest, the last thing I really want him to do is to go and look for obstacles on his own, but in Gamblers you kind of need it.  So, I'll put it on our 'to do' list.

We also got to see a lot of 'relatives'!!  Terry was there with 'full brother' (2 years younger), Time.  Denise was there with cousin, Reese. Carol had Pirate (1/2 sister) and Cousin, Rio.  Tom has little 5 month old 'nephew', 'Who", that little white puppy I loved in Dena's last litter.  Typical EPD (Excessive Personality Disorder) gene present in that boy!  What an adorable puppy, who obviously has such joy for life!  I love that!!  It's so much fun to see the Fam!!

On the way home we passed the 'Dog Wash' again!  I grabbed my 'flip' to produce this poor quality photo, but you get the idea.  I wonder how it does?  There were two large wash tubs, a great idea IMO. 


We of course found a Dairy Queen on the way home. 
Seeker entertained the people sitting outside, as he stared into the DQ as we were ordering.  He promptly started licking his lips as we exited.  Is there ANY doubt he KNOWS what this is all about?  No, none what so ever.  I'm just hoping that no one ever tells him there are LARGER cones than the 'baby' size! G