Monday, November 22, 2010

Exercise in a Minnesota Winter

My blog is sorely lacking in pictures, I realize. So, this is what it looks like to play outside with the dogs in a Minnesota Winter:

I only assume there are dogs in the picture, since something kept bringing the glowing balls back to me. Metorlite balls are our best friend in the winter. They are soft rubber, and the exact size of chuck-it balls. Their extremely bright glow is turned on/off with a button that is flush with the ball so the dogs don't (usually) turn it off. The battery lasts a long time and can be changed when it wears out (though it's kind of difficult to do). Plus, they can be seen under quite a bit of snow!!

Currently my yard is covered in a sheet of ice, so it's indoor play only until we get some snow. Disc play in the basement and shaping games to put bored dog brains to work.

Speaking of dog brains, Lok's seizures continue despite phenobarbital. He was in pretty rough shape last night, and it's so hard to see him suffering. The age he is (almost 5, and I understand epilepsy shows up usually from 1-3), at the onset of seizures and the other behaviors (paw licking, and other OCD/anxious behaviors) have me worried about a brain tumor. My vet agrees its a concern. I'll be consulting with a UofM neurologist in the next day or two, and possibly setting up a CT scan. Please send my boy some good vibes!! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jun 1, Trainer 0

How does she get me to do these things?

So, Jun has been really "spooky" lately, which is weird for her. I am used to her spooking at people, but lately she's been spooking at objects A LOT. Especially outside in the dark, branches will move or something will brush up against her and she will jump back. She recovers quickly, but still. We've been working nosework in the basement utility room (which she is rarely in) and she walks around part of the room half-crouched, leaning backwards with her nose stretched out. She will touch something with her nose and jump back. The other day she barked at a paper bag on the kitchen counter. And if I make a sudden move, especially if I have something in my hand, she will jump and cower. This is really weird and is starting to worry me. I swear I don't beat the dog!!

I'm trying to just ignore it for the most part, as well as trying not to startle her myself, making sure she sees me before I touch her, etc. But it's starting to worry me. It's been awhile since Jun has "tried on" a "new" behavior problem. She seems to have settled into her favorites--excessive pointless barking, leash reactivity/aggression, and biting people--which I've given up on solving. I manage the barking with a bark collar, and I manage the reactivity and aggression by just keeping her out of bad situations. But I really don't need a dog who is going to be afraid of THINGS. More specifically, I don't need THIS dog to be afraid of things. She is enough work as it is.

But to get to the point of this post, Jun has been known to be . . . manipulative, and last night I began to suspect she is just doing this to see what she can get out of me or get away with. Last night I was cooking some bacon and Jun spooked at something on the kitchen counter--the contents of the counter hadn't changed all night, nor were they any more or less cluttered than usual. So what do I do? Thinking it may be time to step in and do some counter-conditioning. I grab a piece of bacon, encourage her to put her paws up on the counter and feed it to her there. WTF, Tania?! Counter-conditioning all right--conditioning counter-surfing that is. Smarter than the dog, Tania, it's, like, the first rule!!

And P.S., if any of the like 3 people who read this blog have any ideas on the sudden spookiness, please let me know.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Highlights of the Weekend--Edit

Re: the lack of capitals and punctuation in the first draft--wrote this on my phone and for some reason it won't let me do capitals. Also, it cut me off, so finishing this now . . .

On Saturday, Jun remembered how to do a back vault. she forgot in July, so that's a pretty momentous occasion. She also remembered how to flip, which she forgot in the past month or so. No guarantees she will remember either next week. Jun has been a pretty challenging dog to run freestyle with, and I've finally gotten to the place of accepting that we may never accomplish much in disc dogging. You never know, taking that pressure off may be the key to her greatness, but I think Jun will always be Jun. My focus now is trying to play within her Jun-ness. We are working on patterns and also on NOT being so focused on patterns. Jun is a "rules dog" and and she gets her sequences down pretty well, but if I ever need to change plans in the middle of a routine, due to her positioning, wind or anything else, it all goes to hell because Jun does NOT change plans. "WTF is that disc going in that direction for, mom? This is wrong." And then the whole thing is screwed up. So we're doing sequence work, but also just THROWING so she learns that her job is to chase the disc in the sky and not worry about WHY it is there!!

Elo retrieved about ten rollers at the park!! he has come so far since last year when he had zero interest in the disc. He's catching, retrieving, and tugging! Not getting my hopes up, but I would love to get him on the field next year. First we have to conquer his dog issues, and distractibility, but being able to play at the park was such a huge step for him!

Also worked some loose leash walking with Elo and he did well! I am determined to have at least one dog that can do this skill. After that, we went to a slightly busier park to work some LAT. Elo is pretty much fine around cars and people now! Even if they "surprise" him. His level of focus on me isn't great around distractions, but he no longer flips out! Dogs are still another story. At this park, people walk dogs pretty frequently so i thought we might be able to work that a bit.

It was pretty dead, and Elo saw the first one before I did and started flipping out. I calmly walked backwards until I was able to catch his attention for half a second. Clicked for that, then I did some rapid fire LAT with tons of treats. He was teetering on the edge of threshold, but he was calm enough to eat, which was at least something. I've discovered the putting the treats on the ground, even behind him, is better than having him take them from my hands. When he gets all fired up, his "gentle" goes bye-bye, so putting the treats on the ground not only saves my fingers, but breaks his focus on the target for an extra second while he finds and eats them. It was kinda funny, the lady walking the first dog we saw must know dog training because she yelled out to me "excellent work" when she saw what we were doing. We worked one more dog. Then Sunday we got to work another dog in the parking lot of the pet store. I am hoping that once he recognizes dogs as LAT objects, just like people and cars and moving things and things that make noise, that it will be pretty quick work.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Power of Cheese!!

Ok, updates . . .

Nosework 1 ended last night. Lok was really enjoying the sniffing and had kind of gotten out of "searching" mode and into "random sniffing" mode for a couple weeks, but he brought it back last night with some really nice, organized searches! I credit the cheese he was searching for. Sharp Cheddar! Not many updates on the training process. More of the same. Getting more creative with hiding the food, new locations, putting the food out without a box, etc. Nosework 2 starts next week and it sounds like we'll be introducing scent in a few weeks!

Jun might get to go to nosework class too! The instructor was ok with me switching out dogs from week to week, since I'm working all of them at home. Not sure if I want to bring her, cause it's kind of Lok's special thing, but Jun is brilliant at searching, so I'd like to have her do it too. Jun has been working on tricks. She's learning to balance a treat on her nose (VERY impressive that she can sit so still for even a second or two) and learning a bow. We're working on distance with the bow. Last night she held the treat on her nose for 3 seconds and bowed all the way across the room from me! I credit the cheese!

Elo . . . dog who doesn't know any words . . . suddenly was able to discriminate between sit, down, stand, come, bummer, and flat (lie down on side) all in one training session last night!! I had planned to work on his response to "flat" and we ended up doing all sorts of verbal discrimination work! He wasn't right every time, but he was right a surprising amount, and he was really listening and trying, not just guessing! I credit the cheese!

Cheese is apparently a very powerful thing, which can turn on areas of a dog's brain that were previously set to "off"!! I will have to remember this.