Saturday, December 27, 2008

Training class

Went to Saturday morning class again today =) I used my new DT tote bag that I got for Christmas and I LOVE IT!!! I feel so cool carrying it around =) Everything I need fits in it nicely and it looks good too.

Red was much better than last week. I can really tell the difference when we haven't gone for awhile versus when we can go regularly. He was quick on his down commands this time - which I was worried about after his brain farts last week.

We got there and played tug with the puppy jute for a couple minutes, then warmed up a bit. I rewarded with the jute after almost every exercise to build up motivation with it so I can use that drive at the trials. He seems to really like it.

We started with heeling, as usual, but didn't heel for as long this time. His focus was better and I only rewarded for focus and being in correct heel position - he has a tendancy to want to drift ahead of me out of position.

Next were figure 8's and he did really well for that as well. Good focus and nice sits.

Then recalls... which is what we need to work the most on. He anticipates the recall when the judge says "call your dog" and he hops forward a bit. So we had the judge say "call your dog", then I'd walk back to Red without calling him. Did that twice and it seemed to help because he wasn't bouncing when the judge said it again after that. Then there are the problems with the straight fronts... I've been working a bit with Red at home and using the word "front" to mean sit in front straight, and he's been doing that well with short distances. But the further away I am, the more likely he is to sit crooked at the end. So for this recall at class - which is a long one - I didn't quite go all the way back, and when Red got close, I started backing up saying "front" and he came in straighter but still not perfect. I am not finishing him AT ALL now. I think if I continue to work on the "front" command, it will improve, but we still have a long way to go in this department... Who woulda thought recalls would be the hardest thing for Red to do???

Next was sits/downs. We did every other dog in line this time - meaning every other one sat or downed, and then reversed on the next go through. I think we did 3 minutes each this time. We did the down first and Red did really well at first. I was clear across the room with my arms folded. He went down in a sphinx position first, then rolled onto a hip for a bit, then completely flopped on his side, then went back into a sphinx. At the VERY end, he popped up into a sit. GRRR! We almost had it! I didn't reward him when that exercise was over.

The sit was a bit better. I didn't go clear across the room for this because he is more likely to break a sit and go down than he is to break a down into a sit, and I wanted to be closer to correct him. Sure enough, at the beginning when another dog broke her down (she was next to Red), Red went down. I walked back, got him back into a sit and walked back to where I was, arms folded. He was doing really good, so I went back and rewarded him once, then walked further away. Then it was over and I rewarded well for that one.

Then the others set up the jumps and broad jump to go through a course with their dumbbells. I went off to the side and practiced short recalls with straight fronts. He does so well when its a short distance!

Then they had me take Red through a Novice obedience run. The judge told me to really make my slow/fast paces noticeably different than my normal pace (which is naturally quite fast). Other than that, the heeling was very nice - both on leash and off.

The recall was better this time, he came in and sat quite straight after I backed up and said "front", but then when I reached around my back to get a treat, he moved out of position crooked again in anticipation to accept the treat. So I'm going to have to have the food in my hand before I call him next time.

The stand for exam was excellent! I only gave the command/signal to stand once, told him to stay, and he didn't move his feet at all when the judge approached and put his hands on him. He did reach his nose around a bit to sniff though, but didn't move his feet. I returned and really rewarded for that!

Then we were done. I had to go because I was waiting on a phone call from my mom - my sister is (hopefully) having her baby today and I needed to be on call to go to the hospital when the time got closer. But anyway, I was glad to be able to do the full novice run-through. It's good for both me and Red to do all the exercises in a row like that.

So all in all - good training this week!

1. continue to work on "front" to the recall and slowly add distance.
2. work on long sits/downs without returning to reward

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

Red sends a big wet "Merry Christmas" kiss to you and yours. Hope you have a great day and safe travels where ever you may be going today!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Red is Runner-Up in Holiday Photo Contest

A few weeks ago I received an email newsletter from Paco Collars. They were having a Holiday Photo Contest and said the winner would receive a free Paco Collar of their choice. I sent in this photo of Red, and immediately received an email back from Ana (the owner) saying how much she loved the photo and to consider it entered in the contest. =)

Well I just got an email again today which says:

"So the bad news is that you didn't win, but the good news is that not only was your picture good enough to show off on the site, but you're also going to win something! While there's only one grand prize, every picture that won a runner-up position will get something cool in the mail.

So you know have two duties...

1. respond to this e-mail with your current mailing address and
2. go check out the site!

There were so many entries that it was really hard to decide, so there's reason to be incredibly proud.

Have a great holiday, thanks for sharing, and congratulations!

-- ana poe"

I'm really excited, especially to see his photo on their webpage. And curious to know what I will be getting in the mail. I love my handsome Redders! =)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

House troubles

Over the past week or so (since the first 12" of snow), our house has suffered some major water damage from leaks. We had to cut power to James' computer work room because water was running into one of the light switches - creating a serious fire hazard. Then it started coming further across the ceiling and leaked on his personal computer desk and our TV and everything. It's been a disaster. At one point - Red went to his crate and wouldn't come out. I couldn't understand it and finally coaxed him out 10 minutes later.

We've spent the last couple nights moving computer desks and computer stuff to the spare bedroom and basement, and preparing to tear the wall out. The insurance company is going to cover it but its been a big pain, and its only going to get worse as everything is torn out.

Red has been "helping" by following us from room to room as we move stuff, and standing in our way as we try to walk by. And today when some work guys came out to try to stop any further water damage to the house, he excitedly greeted them with a wagging nub and hand licks. The guys were here working for a good 3 hours or so, ripping out the ceilig and parts of the wall, and we had to keep Red away because he just wanted to watch them and what they were doing. He hasn't slept all day and now doesn't want to nap in the computer room because of all the noisy blowers and dehumidifiers that are in here.

And we can't even go out for a walk because its been too cold with the windchill - below zero. But hopefully tomorrow and the next day will be a bit warmer for us. Another good thing is that we will be attending training class this Saturday and next Saturday so that wll give Red some time to get out of the house as well.

ah... the joys of homeownership!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Training class this morning

This was the first Saturday morning class we've been able to attend in about a month. Red was glad to be back, but it was obvious that we haven't been there in awhile because he seems to have lost some of his brains since then...

There was a new dog - a French bulldog - that Red was really interested in at first and didn't heel well at the beginning because of it. But finally got over that, then heeling and focus was really good.

Then he decided he's not going to go down anymore on the down command - just sits there are looks at me. After two good corrections for ignoring the command, he miraculously remembered again, though he was slow to obey.

Figure 8's ok - nothing really to comment there. He's getting better at reading me for the left turns when I cue with my shoulders so he's not bumping me so much. So I was happy with that.

Long sits/downs - he went down once on the 3 minute long sit after the dog next to him kept breaking position. Did pretty well with the 5 minute long down - though he flopped on his side to begin with, he sat back up and did really well up til the end when the same dog next to him kept breaking position, he went into a sit, but went back into the down when told and was fine the rest of the time. So not horrid, but not really great either.

Recalls were iffy. He was jumpy the first time I walked away in anticipation, so I returned to him once and walked away again. And he won't come in straight to save his life. I don't finish him on recalls anymore, and I've been backing up to try to lure him into a straight front, but he just won't go straight no matter what! It seems to be getting worse. I really have to work on his fronts.

Michelle brought him a puppy jute for tug which he loves. It will be a good motivator for class in the future. He demolished his "tuff" tennis ball on the rope.

I had him off leash for the end portion of class and he did really well - stuck by me and didn't wander off at all. So that was good.

We will be going to class the Saturday after Christmas and New Years so that will be good to get another 2 weeks under our belt with our next Rally trial looming on January 17th.

1. Revisit downs, and get quick responses.
2. Work on fronts.
3. Stop finishing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Red and Titus "playing"

I recorded this video at about 1am last night. I had gotten the mouse toy out for the cats, and Red just couldn't help himself - he wanted to play with it too! But needless to say, the cats didn't appreciate this, especially Titus. The mouse toy is Titus' most favorite toy ever and he doesn't like sharing it. He even growls when you try to take it away! (which you can hear in the video)

Listen for the wapping of paws, and please try to ignore my annoying giggling... And see if you can spot the doberbutt ;)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Update on the rawhide roll

Well, Red ate that rawhide roll on Monday around 5:30pm, and its now Thursday about 11am, and still no problems. So I think we're ok, thank god!

I feel bad - he needs to go out for a run, but I've been sick with a bad cold and haven't left the house at all. Poor guy needs some running time, but I'm just too sick to go... Well, we will be able to go to training class Saturday morning, but I'm afraid he'll be a crazy nut without any time to get out and run beforehand...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ate a rawhide roll whole...

I gave Red one of these rawhide chew things yesterday, and he was chewing on it for like 10 minutes, then I went in the other room to feed the cats, came back in the room and the whole thing was gone! I was only gone for maybe 60 seconds, if that. He's had these before and never ate them whole. I'm really worried he's going to obstruct or something.

So far today he's been acting normally and ate his breakfast ok, but I found vomit overnight - some clear liquid and some digested food fluid with what could've been a hairball, but one of my cats is a puker and it could've been him too. But I'm just not sure. I have to work all day and I'm afraid he's going to get sick and I won't know it.

And come to find out, Red's littersister, Didi, ate some kind of foreign object and is now undergoing exploratory surgery. What are the chances they'd both eat something funky like this?? I really hope she does ok, and I really really hope Red passes this damn thing. I'm never giving him one again!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Lights Parade

Went to the town's holiday light parade last night. It started at 6pm after dark and all the floats in the parade are decorated in Christmas lights. It was a very cold night, but was neat because it was snowing and made it seem really festive.

James was working with the police department to help close roads and direct traffic, so as his wife, I got to sneak in and park right in the middle of the road - no long walk for me! =D

Took Redders with me - had him in his fleece sweater. He did really well. Sat beside me while the parade passed, and amused people by trying to catch snowflakes as they fell =) His favorite part was when the reindeer walked by - he couldn't figure out what they were and wanted to go sniff them to bad!! Couldn't really care less about the horses or the band, but was very interested in the guys skiing down the road, LOL!

Then we walked down to the park through crowds of people and other dogs, and so many people commented on what a beautiful dog he is! He got lots of attention, and kids loved to pet him.

Didn't stay out too long because even though I was warm, my feet were frozen, and I figured his feet must be cold too. So we went back to the car and drove the whole mile or so home =) Then he laid in front of the fireplace for the rest of the night!

Here are some photos of the parade:








And then some of Red:

"Can we walk or something?? It's too cold just to stand here!"

Watching the horses

In front of a float

With Santa and Mrs Claus

and SpongeBob =)

Lots of fun!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Good work but... grrr

Poor Redders hasn't been out for a walk in a few days (I keep getting home from work after dark) so he was really wound up when I got home. I cut up some dog food roll, nuked it a bit, and put it in my treat pouch, which always gets Red really excited because he knows what that means! Took off his leather collar and put on his chain choke that we work in, and set to work in the computer room where we always work when its cold outside.

Hubby started bitching and moaning about Red being too bouncy and the floor doesn't have support, and blah blah BLAH BLAH BLAH... I don't like to do anything else or talk to anyone while I'm working with the dog because I want Red to have my fullest attention, but DH just would not stop, so I was forced to quit working the dog and proceeded to get into a drawn out argument about who knows what - a bunch of stupid shit not even worth arguing about.

So anyway, training was decent, but I felt we got ripped off. Red was SUPER motivated to work and I couldn't take full advantage of it. Tried to end on a good note, which was difficult with all the BLAH BLAH in my ear... grrrr. oh well... there's always tomorrow, I guess...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Poor Redders attacked by the dresser this morning

I wake up to a horrendous crash next to my bed this morning, and see one of the dresser drawers upside down in the middle of the room! And poor Red looked like it fell on him - he was standing there all hunched up with his ears down.

I thought maybe one of the cats got trapped in there and somehow made the drawer fall out, but turns out one of the tags on Red's collar got stuck on the handle of the drawer or something and he pulled it out on top of himself. Poor guy! I found out it was his CGC tag because the clasp was snapped off and it was laying in the middle of the room. His collar and the rest of the tags are fine, and I don't see any lumps or bumps on him, so I suppose he's ok too. So I ordered another CGC tag today - only $6.00 so not too bad.

We have been taking his collar off at night because he's been getting little bumps on his throat where the collar rubs, but for some reason we didn't take it off last night. We'll have to definitely remember to do that from now on!

Also, on a different note, here is a short video of Red's left pivots:

And a video of Red getting smacked by the cat... poor boy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


We've been tagged by Kim to list 6 things that Red really likes:

1. Walks - or should I say... runs! He LOVES going over to the grounds of the local high school and running off leash in the wide open spaces, trails, and around the pond. You should see how crazy he goes when I say the word "walk"! Definitely this is one of his favorite things.

2. Car rides to somewhere fun - like the petstore, grandma's house, training class, etc. The car rides he doesn't love, but he tolerates because it usually means something super fun at the destination. He hops right up into the back seat and he really good in the car. He especially loves the summer when he can stick his head out the window =)

3. Dinnertime - He gets more excited about dinner than breakfast for some reason. He spins around and then waits patiently while I feed the cats, then gets all excited when its his turn. The food is gone in like 30 seconds flat.

4. Working - Red LOVES going to training class. Absolutely adores it! But he also likes when I get the treats out for some obedience work at home. He loves to work for his yummy treats and usually puts his all into working. As a side note, he also loves having his nails trimmed and ears cleaned. He gets all excited when I pull out the supplies!

5. Kong Frisbee and Laser - His two favorite toys in the world. I have gone through countless Kong frisbees because he somehow rips a hole out of the center. Good thing I get them for like $5 through my work. And at night, he loves chasing the laser, though we do this very sparingly and only when he hasn't had much exercise that day - probably only once every couple weeks or so.

6. Sleeping in front of the fireplace - now that winter is upon us, we always have our fireplace on, and Red loves sprawling out in front of it to sleep.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I've been working with Red on pivots for the last two days. Not because I have a sudden, burning desire for good pivoting, but because its so freaking cold outside, and the very limited amount of space in my house doesn't allow for practicing much else...

The right pivots have been so-so. He understands to move with me, but the sits are not very straight and he tends to drift out in front of me a bit. Still needs a lot of work...

The left pivots are something that he never quite understood until last night. Before then, I wasn't using any verbal commands - just the motion of me doing the 90' turn and expecting him to adjust accordingly. But he'd just sit there and look at me, not understanding that he was supposed to move his rear with me and stay in heel position. Then I started using the dowel to try to guide his rear around with me. Didn't work - thought I was going to snap the dowel in half trying to pull his rear toward me. So then I used my word for left turn (which is "turn"), and lo and behold... he pivoted left! Jackpot! It was great =)

I had stopped using the word "turn" for left turns during heeling and just using my shoulders as a cue, which he has transitioned to beautifully for heeling, but apparently the resurrection of the word helped him understand what he was supposed to be doing for the pivot. These little mini-successes are so fun =)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Red was in charge of the Christmas tree this year...

Since Red was only 10 months old for his first Christmas last year, and now he is nearing 2 years old, I figured he was old enough to be in charge of putting up the Christmas tree this year. No live tree for us, just a good ol fake one... Anyway, here's how it went.. (click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pics)

"ok, first of all, its hard to assemble the tree when I'm trapped here by this ginormous box.."

"I'm not exactly sure where all these branches go.. They're supposed to be color-coded, right?"

"How's it look so far, mom?"

"ok, tree is up and in its proper position. What's next?"

Testing the lights

"Yep, these ones work."

Titus getting in on the action

"Whadaya mean I can't tell Titus not to steal my spotlight?"

"Mom, can you help put on the lights?"

"That's not what I meant."

After awhile... "holy moley that was hard work! Time for a nap"

"What do you mean we're not done yet??"

"Mom, we're supposed to be decorating the tree, not me."

And... the finished product!

"ok, I am seriously done now."

The End =)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Odds and ends

Not much to report lately. I've been working all weekend, but have a couple days off now. It's been really snowy - we have a good almost 6" on the ground now, and the snow continues to fall in the bitter cold. So we haven't been spending much time outside - least of all to train.

I did run across this YouTube video called "It's Yer Choice" (thanks to Ruthann on the Rally Obed yahoo group), and I've been doing some of the exercises with Red. They are good indoor games that teach self-restraint and patience. Red caught on fast and seems to enjoy the games.

I received Red's 2009 TDI card and collar tag in the mail yesterday. And also his red TDI bandana! I was happy about that. Now he can be official and wear his bandana on visits. I was wondering about getting a TDI shirt for myself to wear, but I haven't decided whether I want to spend the money on it right now or not. It's been a few weeks since Red and I have done a visit - I'm thinking I will schedule one for next week.

On another note, I have switched Red from a combination of dry and canned Pro Plan Selects Chicken & Rice, to just dry to see if his stools firm up at all. It's really hard for me to monitor the quality of his stool because we live on about 1.25 acres and he poops at the very back fence line - and I usually don't just take strolls out to the back of the property everyday to search for poop piles. Especially in 6" of snow, which has been covering it up so I don't know what's new and what's old. The only time I can really see the poop right away is if he goes while we're on a walk. But he doesn't even go on every walk, so again, its hard to tell. All I know is that while he was on the canned and dry, all the poops I'd seen him do have been soft and unformed. I have done fecal floats and giardia tests but nothing comes up. Someone on DT recommended just trying dry and cutting out the canned. So I will see if that works.

I just bought another 33# bag of Pro Plan Selects Chicken & Rice, but I'm not sure how happy I am with it. Red's coat seems kind of dull - though I don't know if that's because its winter now and drier in the house or what. I was contemplating switching to the Turkey formula of the Selects, but I wonder if I should switch to a completely different brand altogether. I go back and forth about this all the time and drive myself crazy. I just can't seem to find a food that he does really well on all the way around. I think at this point, the Science Diet has been the best... There is a thread on DT about Costco's Kirkland and dogs have done well on it so maybe I should try something like that? It seems like cheap-o food, but I guess the proof will be in how the dogs do on it. Once we finish this bag of Selects I just bought, we'll see where to go from here...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Super Snowy Fun Time with Redders

Went on a nice looong walk with Redders today. It was gorgeous on the trail - I'm so glad I brought my camera!

Warning - major photo dump ahead...

But first.. a video of how Red starts our walks before we hit the trail:

I loooove running!


On the trail... Come ON, mom! Let's go!!


This way!


More running running running


Stop in the action


puppy face


ok enough of the pics, let's go!



Winter Wonderland


I think I see the pond up ahead!



More running running running round the pond


It's a wee bit nipply out here


Let's go this way!



Look! Another trail, mom! The sign says go this way


I think this is north, no wait.. south


No, of course we aren't lost.. I know exactly where we are...


ah the trail! See I told you we weren't lost!


ok now play with me


The End =)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Just another walk.. with a surprise

A walk just like any other today - Red and I went for our usual off-leash walk on school property, down the trail and around the pond. There's a good inch or two of snow on the ground now.

We were on the trail headed to the pond and Red was walking a little ways ahead of me. I heard a voice and saw Red stop and look down the trail ahead of him. I called him back to me and he immediately came. I clipped the leash back on his collar just in case whoever it was had a dog. Around the bend came a fat yellow lab, off-leash, and a woman coming toward us. She didn't even bother putting her dog back on leash, even though she knew we had a dog - what an idiot! The lab came running toward us, but seemed more interested in me so it ran to my right side and Red was on my left side. She circled behind me and started sniffing Red's butt. Red continued to look straight ahead and sort of tucked his rear a bit. I thought it was rather rude of this owner not to try to call her dog, and just let it sniff my dog's rear. We just continued walking, and after a brief moment, the lab continue walking with its owner, heading back the way we just came from.

I unclipped Red's leash and lavishly praised him - what a good boy! He didn't seem interested in that other dog at all - didn't want to sniff, play, or anything! Just wanted to continue our walk. =) He pranced ahead and continued as if there had been no interruption.

If this would've happened a year ago - it would've been a completely different story. I owe this indifference to other dogs from all the training we do in class around other dogs and at trials. He's not allowed to play with other dogs, nor to even approach them unless I say so. Before I started not allowing playing with other dogs - if he ever saw another dog, he would pull me toward it and try to engage in play. So this is a complete turn-around from that, and I'm very happy with it =)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Visit to "Grandma and Grandpa's" House

Red loves James' parents. They come over sometimes to let Red out if James and I are gone for a long day. They don't have any pets of their own, but they always say how much they love him and what a great dog he is. =)

They invited us over to dinner tonight and we brought Red with us. He has been over there plenty of times before and loves it. He is hyper when we first get there, but calms down pretty quickly now and is fine. I made him lay in the other room so he wasn't bugging us while we ate dinner, but then we went and sat in the living room to chat. Red especially loves wrestling on the floor with James' dad and playing tug with his rope toy. We showed them his newest trick "bang!" (play dead) and they loved it.

After awhile Red started getting sleepy - and very gassy. After stinking up the room multiple times, it was time to go. =D Now he's sleeping in front of the fireplace.

I love that "grandma and grandpa" love Red. It makes me so happy to hear that they think he's such a good dog =)

About the ecollar...

I meant to write a post on Tuesday... Our walk was NOT fun. The battery was dead on Red's ecollar so we went for a walk without it. I must admit I have not been good about trying to prevent him from becoming collar-wise. Well he is very wise now and I could've kicked him on Tuesday's walk.

First of all, he ran through the woods and ripped his sweater - which obviously had nothing to do with not wearing his collar, but it sucked all the same. The first 3/4 of the walk was fine, but its always on the way back down the trial that he tests me. He ran ahead - which he is not allowed to do - and ran into the woods. Not usually a big deal, he usually circles around and comes right back out. I watched... nothing. I stopped to listen for the jingling collar or rustling of running... nothing. I started calling him. Nothing. I called and called for probably a good 60 seconds. I was SO pissed. If he had his collar on, I'd be shocking the shit out of him right about now. Finally he came bursting out of the woods, waaay up the trial. I didn't shout at him - I never want to yell at him for backing back to me. No matter how long it took. So while I was boiling inside, I decided that I will never take him for a walk without his ecollar again. Then about 30 seconds after we started walking again, he saw an animal and took off after it. I didn't know what it was, so I didn't want him chasing it. I said "leave it!" and he usually stops dead. He paused, but then turned and kept going. I screamed at him and he stopped and went down. I marched up to him, put his leash back on him and took him straight back home. I made him walk right beside me the whole time and didn't look at him or say a word. I was so mad. Maybe I was more mad than the situation warranted, but I was also mad at myself for creating this situation. It's my fault for not training him better with the ecollar, and my fault for not having it on him. But I know he KNOWS better than to not come when he's called. I was just disappointed, that's all. We made up after we got home and everything was fine. I felt bad for being so mad at him.

Anyway, we went on another walk today - this time with his ecollar on and fully charged. And didn't need to use it one time - he was a perfect gentlemen again. So yeah, he is totally collar-wise. I feel like I've failed him and maybe now its too late to fix the damage. *sigh* I know its probably not but I'm ashamed that I didn't put more effort into this.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Training Class

Had another Saturday morning training class. We haven't been to one in awhile so I was glad to be able to go again.

We got there about 10 minutes early and warmed up a little, but mostly played tug. I showed Michelle our new "bang!" trick and Red did great. All the normal dogs showed up, plus one huge black Newfoundland. Red was transfixed by this dog and wanted to approach him so bad, whining and carrying on. We did some focus exercises and heeling in the other direction and then he was better.

Heeling went fine as usual. Focus wasn't as great though, so I made a point to reward more for eye contact. Next was the figure 8's and we got paired up with the Newfy and his handler, as well as a Boxer and her handler. Red and I went first, while the handlers and their dogs acted as the posts. During the set-up, the Newfy's handler had a bag of (apparently) yummy-looking treats because Red would not take his eyes off her. I had to pop his collar and get stern with him to get his attention back and get him into position. Once we started heeling, he completely ignored me and started to approach the Newfy's handler. I gave him a good correction - which is very few and far in between with me - and then Red stayed with me after that. He even stayed acceptably focused on me when we were the posts and it was the Newfy's turn to run.

Then we did stand for exam, and Red did really well. I don't feel like I have to stack him or really touch him at all when he stands himself. I've been told to make him off balance so he sets himself up better, but I find that if I touch him, he tends to move more and not stay in place. So I've decided not to touch him at all. He stood for the exam and attempted to sniff a bit, but didn't move his feet at all.

Then we did long sits and downs (3 minute sit, 5 minute down). For the sit this time, I went clear across the room. He did really well for a long time, then the Newfy who was sitting next to him kept breaking position and attempting to go to his handler. After that, Red went down. So I went and put him back into a sit, then turned to walk away and he went down again when my back was turned. I walked back, put him back into a sit and sternly told him to stay. A few seconds after that, the long sit was over.

I quietly praised and gave a treat and he didn't get up out of position. Then we went straight into the long down. We had a bit of an issue at first because when I said "down", he went into a side flop like "bang!". After doing this twice, I said "Red, no - DOWN". And he went down into a sphinx-down, then popped onto a hip, which is what I want. After that, he did GREAT. I went across the room again, and decided not to go back and treat him at all if I could help it. I watched him closely for any signs of moving. About 3/4 of the way through the time, the Newfy got up, walked over to Red and started sniffing him! I said, "Red, leave it" and he started straight ahead and unmoving as the Newfy continued to sniff him. I was so proud! He didn't attempt to get up, move or anything, just continued staring at me. The Newfy's handler went back to him and put him back in position. Once she had him back in place, I returned to Red and praised a lot and rewarded. Then walked away again, and shortly after that, the long down was over. We did a good play session after that one - I was really proud of him for not reacting in any way when the Newfy was sniffing and standing over him. What a good Redders =)

Then we did recalls. He's still coming in a bit crooked. I had a brain lapse on the first run and finished him after the recall, which I'm not supposed to do because this anticipation of the finish may be causing him to sit crooked to begin with. But I also think its because I tend to treat with my right hand, so he sits angled toward my right hand. So I'm going to start treating with my left hand instead and see if that helps.

Then everyone started setting up their broad jumps and fences and things to do more Open and Utility things. I practiced shorter recalls with Red, though didn't make much progress with the straight fronts. Then we regressed and worked on downs - he didn't go into a side flop at all now. I've made up my mind not to do "bang!" in training-type environments, only at home as a fun trick. I really don't want him to think he can flop on his side at all during obedience training.

Then we went back to the car and Red got his usual jackpot of finishing off the treats in the treat pouch =)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bang! You're dead!

Last night I started teaching Red to "play dead" after I shoot him with a finger gun =) It's been awhile since he's learned anything new and I wanted to try something fun.

So I got the clicker out and a pocket full of treats and kneeled on the floor facing him while he sat in front of me. I had the clicker and a treat in my left hand, and made a "gun" with my right hand. I said "BANG!" and then pointed to the floor which is the signal for down. He went down into a crouch, then I sort of directed him over so he rolled on his side - then click/treat. After a couple times, he realized he doesn't get a c/t until he is laying on his side, so after I said "BANG!", he'd go into a down and then flop on his side. It's amazing how quickly he picked it up. He doesn't stay in the position long because after I c/t, he gets up to accept his treat, and he doesn't lay his head all the way down yet, but I think its a good start.

I did it again this morning, just to see if he remember what he was supposed to do. I got the clicker and treats out again, had him sit in front of me, then said "BANG!". He sort of looked at me funny, so I pointed to the floor, and then he seemed to remember and went into a roll onto his side.

I only use the clicker when I am teaching him something new, so he gets all excited when I get the clicker out, because it means treats are coming! He loves it!

We'll continue to work on his new trick and I'll probably post a video of it at some point =)

EDITED TO ADD: Here is a video of Red learning to play dead.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

2nd post today - training update

I figured I'd make this a separate post from the crate post.

Regarding recent training, to be honest I haven't done very much with him since the trial. I've been busy planning my sister's baby shower and now that oud next trial isn't til January, I've been slacking with the training a bit. However, in the past few nights, I've been doing call-fronts from sitting in heel position without moving my feet. He does it perfectly - I am seriously amazed with this dog. I have never done sationary call-fronts with him before, but all I do is say "front" and point between my knees and he comes around in a straight sit right in front of me. No luring, no nothing to get him to know what I want. He's so damned smart!

I'm also starting to incorporate shoulder cues in with my turns and cutting out my verbal cues for turns. He's getting really good at his left turns, staying in nice and tight. I am going to start working on the pivots that the Advanced level in Rally has. And some more of the Advanced signs - for example the jump and returning to heel. I'm pretty sure he will do okay with that.

I have to start doing some new things with him because these novice exercises are becoming old hat for him and I think he'd like to start learning some new things. However I still need to work on a straight front after a recall - he likes to swing his rear out to the side in anticipation of the finish. I'm thinking I might start doing some other activites like introducing the dumbbell and doing send-outs for retrieves. And also starting to work on the back-up for the Excellent exercise. Never too early to start learning that as well. =)

Anyway, I wish I had more exciting progress to report, but like I said, I've been slacking big time. Now that the baby shower is over, I can go back to concentrating on other things. The shower was fun, but it was a lot of planning for me!

New Crate

Red got a new crate today - a soft-sided one for shows. After waiting around at the last Rally trial for over 3 hours, I figured it might be a good idea to get a travel crate. This way I can put Red in there for a break with a bone or something, so I can do walkthroughs or go to the bathroom or whatever. And I would rather not put him in the car unattended, especially if the parking lot is far away.

He already has a 40" Vari-Kennel hard-sided crate, but it is so big and bulky. In order to get it into my PT Cruiser, it needs to be disassembled and I have to lay the back seats down. Which means Red has to perch on the hard backs of the folded down seats, which is both uncomfortable and unsafe since I can't use his seatbelt harness. I'd probably need a cart to get it into any facility considering its size, even while disassembled and didn't want to have to deal with that.

After consideration, I ended up buying the N2N Port-a-crate P2 in the 36" size. There is one size bigger - the 42", but I figured the 36" would be sufficient for the relatively short amounts of time he will be in it. Plus some places have limited room to set up chairs and crates, so the more compact, the better. It is well-made with thick durable nylon sides and mesh screen. I like that the screen on the sides doesn't go all the way down to the floor, giving the crate more security and privacy from passing dogs. The screens on the door, back, and both sides roll up and secure easily for more breathability. It sets up quickly and breaks down into a very light and mangable form. It comes with a cushy foam mat for the bottom, but I will be putting a plush crate mat in there as well.

If the crate works as it should, it should be a place that Red can go to calm down and relax while we are waiting to trial. I will be putting a sheet over it for added privacy as most people do at trials. I'm hoping he won't be too anxious in it knowing all the sights, smells and sounds that is going on around him, but he's just going to have to get used to it. If I know him well, I'm pretty sure he will come excitedly out of it and be ready to work.

He is crate trained to his hard crate at home, though we haven't been crating him at all for about 4 months now. But after discussing the issue on DT, I decided to crate him periodically to keep him in the habit of using it. I put him in it yesterday while I ran errands for a few hours and it was just like old times - I said "Bedtime!" and he zoomed into it, turned around and waited for his cookie as usual. So now I will just have to get him used to being crated in the soft crate. I set it up tonight, and after kicking the cats out of it, I tossed treats into it, which he gladly retrieved. Then I said "Bedtime!" and pointed to it and he went in, turned around and waited for the treat. Then I'd say "ok" and he could come out. I put him in there a few times and had him lay down, to gauge the size, and he probably could use the 42" but I think it will be fine. He can still lay down and turn around and everything without a problem. I even crawled into it and he came in with me, laid down and let me rub his ears for awhile. We both fit in there - so I'm sure he won't have a problem being comfortable in it by himself.

It has a weird "new" smell to it right now, so I have all the windows open and set up in our computer room to let it air out. I'm going to disassemble and store his hard crate and move the soft one into the spare room to replace it. I'm thinking I'll just put him in it when I'm only going to be gone for shorter periods - i.e. not a full working day. Just so he gets used to being crated in it like his other one. I'm also considering bringing it with us to next week's training class and putting him in it so he can get used to being in it in different/exciting places, but I'm not sure if I'm over-thinking it or not. I don't want him to get a negative association with it either. I dunno.. we'll see.

Anyway, I'm happy with my purchase and will be using it for our next trial in January. =)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our Third Therapy Visit

Red and I went back to the healthcare center for another visit this afternoon. I have started making our appointments for later in the afternoon so this gives me ample time to run him in the morning and work off excess energy.

Before we left, I realized the cats had jimmied the screen door open somehow (it is a gorgeous day today and I had the sliding glass door open), and both of them were outside! Titus was sitting on the deck, even though the door off the deck was wide open and he could've gone out in the yard, and Cloud was wandering around in the garage. Red was standing there on the deck looking from one cat to the other, as if he was keeping a close eye on them. He seemed to know they weren't supposed to be out there and was trying to keep them close. I called the cats and they came running back in and then Red looked relieved. What a good boy, looking out for his kitty brothers =)

Anyway, so we left to go on our visit. The flat nylon martingale collar is a godsend! So much more control than on his regular flat collar. And I used the shorter leather leash again today. I didn't bring in my purse or anything to carry this time. I put his TDI card in my pocket, along with my car keys and our visit log. Then I had both hands free to control Red. I took him over to the trees to potty first, then went inside to the front desk. I asked if they wanted to page the lady that I usually deal with, but they said to go ahead and start our visit.

I started walking around - still not really knowing where I was going because the facility is large and confusing to navigate. I saw several officers in uniforms there and wondered if something bad had happened. Then the lady that I usually see for our visits came up to me and said they were having their random inspection. I immediately offered to leave if it was a bad time - I didn't want them to have anything to worry about with the inspection. She assured me it was fine and just wanted me to be aware of it. She assigned another lady, Sylvia, to walk around with me, who was very nice and cheerful. Many of the staff members were so happy to see Red, and came up to us to play with him. They all thanked us for coming and doing this. =)

Sylvia took us to the dining room where about 10 residents were watching a movie and having a snack of cheese puffs, graham crackers, and juice. We went along to each person, and instead of asking "Do you want to pet the dog?", I asked "Do you like dogs?" and I got a lot more people who seemed to open up and want to pet him. Before when I asked people if they wanted to pet him, a fair number automatically said no without really thinking about it. But by changing the question around, I got a lot better response. I learned this from the book "Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others" by Kathy Diamond Davis. The author is a member of the therapy dog yahoo group that I am also a member of, and I am really enjoying the book so far. So more people seemed interested in petting him and a couple of them kept trying to feed him cheese puffs and graham crackers, which is off-limits. It was hard to tell people to stop offering him food - especially when Red was so willing to to accept it! Thank god for the "leave it" command!

So after making the rounds in the dining room, we went down the halls to visit individual rooms. We saw the gentlemen who really liked Red last time. His name is Franklin and he was thrilled to see us back. He remembered that we were there last week dressed up in costumes =) He petted Red and tried to offer him the rest of his barbacue chicken lunch! I spent a lot of time with Franklin because he really seemed to enjoy Red. He wheeled himself out into the hallway so he could have more room with him. The staff encourage residents to come out of their rooms and get out and about, so it was nice that Franklin came out and was moving around. He wheeled himself down to the end of the hall where there are glass doors looking out into a courtyard. Franklin sat there in his wheelchair gazing outside and Red stood there quite still on his right side, looking out into the courtyard too. I wish I would've had my camera with me - seeing their dark outlines against the bright sunlight, both just sitting there and looking outside - it would've been a great photo =)

Sylvia seemed to want to move along, so we said goodbye to Franklin and I told him we'd see him next time we came to visit. He seemed really cheered by our visit. We went to another room, to visit a woman named Marsha who used to have Shih tzus. She absolutely loved seeing Red and asked lots of questions about his age and breed. She seemed genuinely happy to see him. We chatted for a little while, then moved on to the next room to a gentlemen in a bed who also used to have Shih Tzus. He couldn't move much, so I took Red up to his bed and Red licked his hands. He laughed a bit and then touched as much of Red as he could reach. Another gentlemen in another room who was wearing a Red Wings sweatshirt wanted to see him too. Turns out his son keeps Great Danes and he used to have a couple Great Danes of his own. We chatted a bit about that, and about hockey since I am a Red Wings fan as well. =)

Many of the rooms were either empty as their occupants were off to physical therapy or other places, and the rest were napping and we didn't want to disturb them. I really enjoyed this visit, and Red is becoming better at knowing what he is supposed to be doing. We were there for about 45 minutes this time. Sylvia thanked us over and over for taking the time to come, and invited us back whenever we could come. She signed off on our visit log, then we were done! Went back out to the car and Red got a jackpot of treats as usual.

This was our 3rd weekly visit. I think I am going to start making this into a biweekly thing rather than weekly. Especially going into the holidays when there will be less time - I don't want to commit to weekly visits and then not be able to do it. Or start to think of it as an obligation. I want it to continue to be fun and rewarding so going a little less often seems like a good choice. =)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Red's Debut in Rally Obedience

The day finally came, and now we are home from our first ever Rally Obedience trial! What a day! My instructor, Michelle, came with me today for moral support, which I was so grateful for. She's the one who encouraged me to get into Rally and competitive obedience, so it was great to have her there for her company, help and support.

The trial started at 11am today, starting with Excellent A & B, then Advanced A & B, then Novice A &B. Based on the number of dogs in each class, we estimated that we would go into the ring around 1:30pm, so we wanted to get there an hour early. We arrived at 12:30pm and discovered that they hadn't even started the Advanced classes yet, and the judge was just getting ready to take a 45 minute break! So the Advanced classes didn't even start til 1:30pm. So we had a lot of time to kill...

When we first got there, I took Red straight to the potty area to do his thing, then went in and sniffed around a bit. We found a place to set up our chairs and drop our stuff. I got a copy of the Novice course map and started to study it a bit. Luckily, all the stations were ones that we had practiced a lot and were confident on. After looking over the course map for a few minutes, I took Red back out to run around on a deserted grassy area for a bit. It was the most beautiful day today! Sunny and in the high 60's - practically unheard of for Halloween in Michigan. So we played outside around for a bit, then went back inside and tried to get him to settle down. Didn't really work - he just couldn't sit still. So after a few minutes of that, I took him back outside and sat in the car with him for about 30 minutes. Red was starting to seem kinda sleepy and calmer now, and it was 1:30pm and I wanted to see the Advanced classes start, so I took him back inside to see if he would sit still any better. Still no - nope, just wouldn't lay down to save his life. So I decided to put him out in the car by himself since he seemed tired but just couldn't relax inside the building. Took him out to the car and went back inside to watch the rest of the Advanced classes. He was out there for a good hour or so. I'd sneak out to look and see if he was standing up in the back seat or laying down - just to make sure he wasn't freaking out in there or anything. Every time I looked I didn't see him, so he must've been laying down.

I wanted to leave him in there until after my walkthrough was over. I walked the course 3 times and was pretty confident. Several people commented that this was the biggest Rally course they've ever seen. I thought it was great though, because it was easy to navigate and the signs weren't so close together to make you confused.

After the walkthrough, I got Red out of the car and amped up my energy in an effort to re-stimulate him after so much down-time. We ran over to the potty area again, and then went back into the building. I grabbed his frisbee and played tug for awhile. Then went into the practice ring and did a few exercises, then came back out and played more tug. I could tell his energy was declining, but he maintained good focus in preparation and during our play session. I rough-housed with him through the entire Novice B class. We were the second team to go in Novice A, and ended up going into the ring around 3:45pm.

After the last Novice B dog left the ring, I took off Red's tag collar, and switched his leash to our shorter trial leash. I removed my treat pouch, but took a big handful of hotdog bits in my hand to feed him while we were waiting for the first Novice A team to finish. He focus was excellent, and I fed him the last tidbit just before we entered the ring.

We walked into the ring, I put him in a sit at my left side, adjusted his collar and my grip on the leash, took a breath, then looked at the judge. The judge said, "Are you ready?", I choked out a "Yes!", then I heard the word "Forward!" and off we went.

I was a little nervous about the Slow Pace since sometimes I go too slow and Red thinks I'm stopping so he starts to go into a sit. But no problem with that this time. When we were along the back fence, he lost some focus, but thankfully stayed with me. I boosted up my energy and my voice and started talking to him more. This made a big difference, especially as we were going into the Serpentine cones. I praised him as we heeled, and didn't have any other focus issues throughout the rest of the course. I was little worried about his right finish-halt, because sometimes he drifts too far ahead and out of position, but it was perfect this time =) Lots of praise for this as we made our way to the middle of the course, then the rest of it was all good from there.

We finished, I vaguely heard clapping, but had no idea what my score would be. I was pretty sure we performed all the stations correctly, but didn't know if I had any minor deductions for anything. Michelle had the biggest grin on her face and said if I didn't have 100, it would be a 99 because it looked perfect from her point of view. And sure enough, they wrote up my score and it was a perfect 100! I was in total shock! I never in a million years would've dreamed we would've got a perfect score on our very first trial! All I cared about was qualifying - so this was just icing on the cake. Red was allowed to dip his face into the treat pouch and eat the rest of the hotdog bits as a jackpot. I usually hold our jackpots til we get back to the car, but I couldn't help myself! Then afterwards, he just stood there staring at me like saying - "Ok, that was fun - can we go now? I'm tired!". But we had to wait til after the awards were given out.

Finally we were called back into the ring to accept our awards. Turns out, another team achieved a perfect score as well, but Red and I had the fastest time - so we got first place in our class out of 7 people! We got a blue blue ribbon, a green qualifying ribbon, and a ghost rope toy in honor of Halloween. Red loved his toy and continued to carry it around and shake it while we packed up our things.

And that was that - our first Rally trial was over. Red slept all the way home, let me take some photos of him and his ribbons, got his dinner, and is now sleeping like a baby =)

Michelle got our run and the award presentation on video for me, so without further ado - here it is!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Second Therapy Visit - in Halloween Costumes!

Today was the Halloween party at the healthcare facility where Red and I do our therapy visits. We were invited to come and visit the residents in the rooms who weren't going - or unable to go - to the party in the dining room. I dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood, and Red was the Wolf in Grandmother's Clothes. Everyone loved our outfits, especially the staff =) The residents had a lot of family and friends visitors today, which was nice to see. They all really liked Red and I too.

We weren't accompanied by anyone this time, so we were on our own. Most of the rooms were empty since most of the residents were attending the party in the dining room, but we visited the rooms with people still in them. One elderly gentlemen really loved Red and encouraged Red to give him kisses all over his face til he licked his glasses askew! Then he played with him and petted him while we chatted. After awhile, I started to get up to leave and he made me promise that we would come back and see him again. =)

Another lady - who was 102 years old according to her son - couldn't sit up in her bed, so I brought Red right up to her and he gently gave her a single kiss on the cheek. She started laughing and said, "He kissed me! Did you see that??" She was all smiles, and her visitors thanked us for coming and seeing her.

The funniest part of the visit was when Red and I went to check out the party in the dining room. There were a lot of residents there with family members, and about 6 employees were dressed up in costumes doing a dance for the residents. There was one girl dressed up in a very colorful clown outfit fringe, an orange wig, and a twirling umbrella - and after the song was over, she started dancing over to the doorway where Red and I were standing. Red started growling, his hair stood up, and then started barking. He started to pull me forward like he wanted to go after her! I'm thinking - "Well at least I know he'd pass that portion of the WAE, but now is not the time!" I called him back and made him sit and down. Then once the clown walked by, I asked if he could approach her and she agreed, so I took Red up to her and then he was completely fine. I think he just didn't like her in that outfit doing weird movements toward us! Everyone thought it was quite amusing. We stayed for about 30 minutes again, and decided to go after we made the rounds.
Red seemed to do better this time as far as hyperness and pulling goes. We went for a run earlier and I used a different collar this time, an all nylon flat martingale style collar, and a shorter leather leash. So it may have been a combination of the exercise beforehand, and the different collar - but I am confident he will continue to improve the more visits we do. =)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Novice Obedience Fun Match

I can't believe our first Rally trial is in 2 days!! gahh! I'm so nervous and excited! The facility - Companion Dog Training Center in Flint, MI - where the Rally trial is going to be held, holds Fun Matches on the last Wednesday of every month. Basically, a Fun Match lets you go through an obedience run -either Novice, Open, or Utility - but its just for practice (i.e. no points/titles awarded). I like them because it gives Red and I exposure to working in the ring - even though its for an obedience trial and not a Rally trial. The main thing was for Red to get used to the building and environment as much as possible before going for the actual trial on Friday. We attended last month's Fun Match as well.

My main concern today was timing - I mean, you need to arrive to a Rally trial at least an hour before you are scheduled to go into the ring. So in the meantime, what do you do with your dog? Some dogs do better in a crate, some in the car, some with their owners, some without warm-up, some need warm-up, etc, etc. So I need to figure out what works best for Red.

I don't have a travel crate yet, and am not sure if I'm going to get one. I have a feeling Red wouldn't do well in it. I know he wouldn't relax in it - if anything, I think it would make him more anxious. There are some people there who don't use crates either. So we'll see as we get further down the line, but at this point, I'm leaning away from a travel crate...

Anyway, we got there an hour early, so I could set it up like a mock trial timing-wise. I left Red in the car, took in my chair and bag, signed up and paid my money (only $5.oo per run), and then went back out to get Red. We went straight to the potty area where he marked like 3 trees, then we went inside to sniff around. It was pretty empty at this point, but it was filling up fast. We did a few warm-up exercises, but he was still pretty wound up, so I took him back outside. We walked around the building and up the street a little ways. Then we went back in to check on our stuff. Did a few more exercises, and tried to get him to play quietly with his tennis ball, but that didn't work too well considering he kept dropping it and it kept getting away from us. So I decided to put him in the car for a little awhile. I felt horrible for leaving him out there, but thought it would be best to try and see how it worked.

On my way back into the building, I met a woman with a 4 year old black Doberman named Maximus. Very handsome, well-mannered boy. We chatted a bit and I mentioned about putting Red in the car for now, and she made a comment about how sometimes they get very anxious and end up doing worse. At this point I'm picturing Red freaking out in the car, so I promptly go back out to get him. I can see him turning circles on the backseat, clearly not sitting patiently. I get him back out and take him back out to the potty area, and then back in, thinking I'll just sit in my chair and he can play with a toy or something next to me. But the place was so full by now that there was barely room for him to move without coming too close to the husky sitting next to us. She got a little nippy one time when Red accidentally put his butt in her face while playing with a toy, so I decided to get back up again and go back outside.

We walked a little ways and found a decently-sized patch of lawn in front of an office building. I took Red off his leash and he was sooo happy! He bounded around and we played fetch with a tennis ball for about 10 minutes. This seemed to make a big difference in his behavior. When we went back in, he was more willing to sit or lay in one place for longer. Or maybe it was because I got out my camera to snap a few photos and he's used to sitting still when the camera is out =) Either way, I think the off-leash run was good for him. I hope I can do this for the trial day as well. I purposely didn't take him for a run today before the match - and haven't been doing it before training class either - because I've heard the dog seems to have more energy and drive, but I'm thinking its something I'm going to have to do for Red before an afternoon match or trial in order to keep myself sane while waiting our turn. I'm pretty certain he will still perform in the ring. I guess this is something else I will have to see as we go.

Anyway, it was time to start group sits/downs. The novice group was so large that we had to go in two groups since 10 dogs are only allowed in the ring at once. Red and I were in the second group which still had about 6 dogs. We were on the far side of the ring, against the fence where other dogs were sitting crated on the other side, so this served as extra distraction. But Red did really well for both the 1 minute sit/stay, and the 3 minute down/stay. His focus was excellent - I was really happy with him. In training class, I was told not to make a huge production for the reward after the sit/stay, considering the exercise goes right into the down/stay and you want to keep your dog generally quiet. So I rewarded and praised quietly after the sit/stay, and Red didn't even move out of the sit position - it was great! Then we did the down/stay, and he rolled onto a hip for the down, which always makes me feel more secure about his down/stay. Again, his focus was good, and I did a big reward after this exercise was finished! These long sit/down/stays used to be a big obstacle for us, and I'm really proud of him.

After that, it was time to start the actual runs. Red and I were #3 in line. We played tug for two runs ahead of us, and he managed to rip his tug toy that he's only had for not even a week! There goes 10 bucks... Also, there was an elderly man sitting next to us that Red wouldn't leave alone! He kept licking his ears and giving him kisses! I couldn't figure out what the hell this was all about, then I wondered if Red thought he was supposed to give kisses to this older gentleman because he's supposed to give kisses to all the older people in the nursing home with white hair! =D

Anyway, then it was our turn to go. I took off my treat pouch since I want him to get used to working without me wearing it. I asked one of the stewards if she would mind videoing our run. She was more than happy to, and even went around the other side of the ring so she could get a better angle of us.

Here's the video:

The judge was very nice and offered me suggestions throughout. You'll see she was talking to me after the "stand for exam" portion - she was basically telling me to put the dog in a more secure-looking stand, because Red looked uncomfortable and may be likely to move his feet which would be a deduction. I was under the impression you couldn't touch the dog in the ring, but they said you can touch the dog for this to get them in position. Good feedback, I thought. Her other advice (as you'll see just before the recall portion) was give my dog more signals during heeling and give myself more time on the turns - I was stiff and didn't give him much warning of what I was about to do. Again - very useful feedback. On the recall, I didn't realize I did it, but she said I sort of bowed my head when I said "come!" which is a non-verbal cue and would be a deduction. Something else to be more aware of during training. The recall wasn't the greatest - he didn't come in straight and I had to take a step back to get him lined up. But all in all, she said it was a respectable run and we should do fine for our Rally trial =)

After we left the ring, Red took it upon himself to give himself a jackpot by shoving his nose in the treat pouch that I threw on my chair. I held it for him for a second or two, then gave him his tug back. No less than 3 women came up to me and starting chatting with me and giving me friendly feedback about our run. They complimented us, but also mentioned about working my footwork so the dog can anticipate what I'm about to do. This is an area that I haven't done much practicing in. I'm still having trouble remembering to do everything at once - listen to the judge, arm placement, watch the dog's performance, etc. But I will really have to start putting my footwork into higher priority. I think I will have to practice it and get it mastered before using it when heeling with Red. Because if it's not second-nature, I know I will have a hard time executing it when I am thinking about everything else.

The other piece of advice the ladies had was to remember that the reason we are all here is to have fun with our dogs! Relax and have fun and try not to take it so seriously. This is great advice that I think I should try to remember when I am nervous on the actual trial day!

So anyway, I packed everything up, put Red's flat collar back on him, took him out to the car, then came back for the chair and bag. I gave him the rest of the jackpot once we were back in the car, which is our normal routine. He was so excited or happy because he kept licking my ears for the first 5 minutes of the ride back. Maybe to say he had a fun time? I dunno, but I had a fun time too! =D

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Our First Therapy Visit

We just got back from our first therapy visit, and I think it went reasonably well. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics - it was hard enough to hold Red on his flat collar, plus my purse. I think I will ask someone else if they can take pics next time. But I will give you the blow-by-blow of how it went.

I meant to take him for a run this morning, but since we had to be there so early and it doesn't get light outside until later, I didn't really want to be walking through the woods in the dark. So basically he just ran around the yard for an hour or so before hand.

Once he knew we were leaving to go somewhere, he was jumping around like a maniac. I was getting very worried at this point. "Oh god, he's going to be jumping around like an idiot and people are going to wonder how he ever got certified to be a therapy dog in the first place.." I put his red bandana on him to add a little friendliness - plus I thought it would help disguise the fact that I'd probably be choking the hell out of him in his flat collar while we were there.

We arrived a few minutes early so he could go potty, then I took off his prong and had him just on his flat collar. I could tell right away that this was going to be difficult. Being in a new place with new smells, coupled with all his morning energy, and being on a flat collar = pulling me all over the place. I held the leash right at the clasp to the collar and did my best to appear like I wasn't holding back a charging sled dog. I didn't want to harshly verbally correct him in front of anyone either, so my only weapon was the occasional pop on the flat collar, which of course did not help.

We go inside and there are a few nurses standing there. Red goes straight up to them and tries to lick their faces, then goes into a fit of circle-zoomies and play bows. He will not hold still for a second to even let them pet him. "oh sweet jesus, how am I ever going to get through this??" I'm thinking. To demonstrate that contrary to how he's acting now, he is trained - so I have him go through some obedience exercises - sit, finish, down, and a few fun ones like shake and touch. The girls really liked this, but it seemed to rile Red up even more... Finally, the lady in charge of the volunteering program, and who was going to accompany us, appeared. She herself had a female Doberman, so we had a common connection, which was good.

First, she took us to the dining room where there were about 8 people either sitting at tables or in wheelchairs, watching a big screen TV that was playing the karoake words of YMCA. One of the residents was dancing, and Red really liked him because he was moving around - Red started playing bowing and licking the guy's hands. We went around to each person and Red's reaction to every single one was the same - approach, lick the face, then continue to sniff around everywhere. He knew he was supposed to greet everyone, which he did, but he had a hard time just sitting in one place to let them pet him. So I had make him sit by the chair, hold him by the collar, and rub one of his ears (which is the magical calming spot on him) so at least each resident could get in a few pats.

Then it was off to visit each room. Some residents were still asleep so we didn't bother them, but most were up. We knocked and asked if they wanted to pet the dog. Some didn't want to see him, but most said yes and were delighted to see Red. Red's game plan was the same - approach, lick once in greeting, and continue sniffing around. He especially liked to put a nose print on each TV in the room.

For each person who wanted to pet him, I'd kneel down, make Red sit, and hold his collar or head so people could pat him. After awhile of this, he seemed to calm down and was more willing to sit still and allow people to pet him. One lady really liked him and he stood really well for her while she stroked his head and told him how beautiful he was. Another lady wanted to give him a treat and spent 5 minutes rummaging around the drawers in her room trying to find one to give him. But since residents aren't allowed to feed the dog anything, I told her that he just had breakfast and was ok without a treat. She seemed really sad she didn't have anything to give him. I said that we'd be back to see her next time and maybe she would have something for him then. She reminded me of a little grandmotherly lady who wanted to stuff the grandkids full of cookies and sweets every time they came to visit =)

The only weird thing is that he LOVES licking toes. Even through the thin hospital blankets. I had to pay extra attention to him while taking him around the bed because if toes were exposed, or poking up in the blankets, he wanted to lick them. I don't know - he's got some sort of weird toe-licking fetish, LOL

Red still pulled quite a bit in the hallway between rooms, but he did get better the longer we went. After awhile when we got into a room, he'd just stand there by my side while I talked to residents. His excited energy was wearing off a bit, which was good. Every now and then in the hallways, an employee would stop and ask questions about him and wanted to pet him too.

Our round of the floor took us about 30 minutes. Which, I thought, was enough for now. Since it was only Red's first time, I want him get him used to the environment without overdoing it.

I asked the lady that accompanied us how she thought he did (since I was not sure Red was doing the greatest due to the pulling, excessive sniffing and not sitting still for long for petting), but she said he did well, and the residents really seemed to like him and we got a lot of smiles. She invited us to come back. She signed my TDI visit log, and she gave me a volunteer packet to take home and fill out to return to them with proof of rabies and our information.

We left and got back into the car. Any time we finish with training or anything, I always give Red a jackpot of treats when we get back into the car. Usually I let him stick his face in the treat bag and let him finish what's left, but since there was no treat bag, I gave him a handful of cookies out of my purse.

So all in all, I think it went ok. It wasn't a disaster, but he wasn't the calm golden retriever that you see laying its head in someone's lap for 10 minutes either. I think he will get better as he gets older and also as we do it more, he will know what he is expected to do. I am thinking I want to make this into a regular thing - maybe every week or every other week, on whatever days I have off work during the week. Considering it didn't take very long and the more we go, the better behaved and calmer he should get. Next time, I'm going to see if we can go later in the day so he doesn't have all his morning energy to burn. Maybe after lunch or something which will give me time to run him ahead of time, and keep him awake all morning so he may be a little more sleepy.

There are a couple other facilities on the list from TDI that I may want to check out, but I'm thinking of just going to this one a few times first so Red can get more used to the idea and environment. This was a nice place - the employees seemed really nice and happy we were there, and the residents seemed happy and well taken care of. I can't imagine spending all day every day in a facility, so I feel if I can make a difference in their day, make them smile and be able to pet a dog for a couple minutes, maybe I've made their day a little brighter. =)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A day off with Red

I had the day off today (and mercifully have the next 2 days off as well). He woke me up at 8:30am whining at the cats who were moving around trying to get me up to feed them. I swear I need to lock all 3 of them out of the bedroom on my sleep in days...

He ran for awhile outside while I had my breakfast and coffee, then we went over to the high school grounds for a nice, long off-leash run through the woods, around the pond, baseball diamonds, and trails. He had his ecollar on and I used it once when he tried to dash into the forbidden woods near the pond - I don't like him going in there because it goes down a steep hill and I can't see where he is and he is always slow to return when I call him. So I've decided he can't go in there at all anymore. So now when he breaks the tree line, he gets stimulated with the collar until he turns around to come back. I don't say a word so he doesn't associate it with me - just with breaking the tree line. Other than that, he was a good boy as usual. We didn't see any other people or dogs today so we had the grounds all to ourselves. We played frisbee on the football practice field for awhile afterwards, then walked back home.

He was pulling more than usual today which is frustrating because we have our first therapy visit scheduled for tomorrow morning, and I really hope he doesn't embarrass me and drag me all over the place on his flat collar. Our appointment is for 10am so we be going for another walk beforehand to (hopefully) expell some of the excess morning energy. I'm going to take my camera and see if the worker accompanying us will take some pics. I will post them if I get any good ones. Anyway, wish us luck! Will update tomorrow =)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Training this morning

Training at the group class went well today. Michelle brought me a new leash to use - it's a braided leather 4 foot leash with a ring on the end to make it into a hand leash as well. I really like it because I don't have to fold it up to use for Rally, it's just the right length for what I need it for. So I was excited about that =)

I got a couple more videos - one is of the heeling warm-up at the beginning, which was still pretty long, but we did other things in it this time like 1,2,3 steps forward-halt, and the 1,2,3 steps back-halt, and some stays and moving downs. Red did well and had good attention. He wasn't crowding me as much this time. I really concentrated on treating with my left hand (using popcorn this time) when he was giving me good attention. Here's the video:

After that, we did the Figure 8 exercise, which I got a video of this time. He didn't so as well as last week (figures!) but it was okay. There is one mess-up in the middle on a halt when he drifts out and into a crooked sit and I reposition him, but other than that, it was decent for him. Here's the video:

We did a new exercise today - which I didn't get a video of, but it was a good exercise. Everyone stood with their dogs at intervals around the outer mats (like when we start the warm-up heeling). We put the dogs in a sit/stay, walk directly across the room from where your dog is, then we called our dogs one by one. This was great distraction practice because the dog has to sit/stay with the distractions of other people calling their dogs and dogs running across the middle of the room in a recall. Red did really well the first time - I was really proud. Then we set up to do the exercise again, but this time after everyone was across the room from their dogs, one of the GSDs started growling and snapping at the dog next to it, so there was some commotion, and Red looked extremely worried sitting vulnerable across the room from me, he was shifting around, really wanting to come back to me, but knowing he was supposed to be in a stay, he didn't get up. The guy calling the exercise noticed and had me recall him, and Red came to me, though sort of made a wide arch to lick the hand of the women standing a few feet away from me. Not sure what that was about. So we stopped the exercise after that.

That GSD who started growling at the other dog tried to do the same thing to Red at one point too. It was after an exercise and Red had his tennis ball in his mouth, and the GSD came over and attempted to take it from him. Red sort of turned away, not really interested in the dog, but the GSD started growling, still going for Red, and then Red started growling. This all happened very quickly and I pulled Red away. I have no idea what the girl handling the GSD was doing - obviously not paying attention or it would've never happened. There are two GSDs in our group now - the one has been there since I started going and is a bit older with a male handler. This dog also has occasional dog-aggression issues, but it seems more fear-induced. This other GSD, the one who tried to take Red's ball today, just started coming last week. The handler is a younger girl who yells at him a lot and handles him roughly. He doesn't listen to her, or respect her much from what I can tell. I don't think this dog should be in this group because its obvious she can't control him, and he is dog-aggressive. I am thinking about saying something to Michelle about it, and maybe she can talk to Marc, the owner of the training facility (the one in the green shirt with one of the Rotts). I don't want it to escalate until the dog attacks and injures a dog or human before something is done about it.

Anyway, other than that, it went well. Even though Red really liked the popcorn and worked well for it, it was messy and I ended up dropping crumbs all other the place that the other dogs went for. I felt bad that it was a distraction for the other dogs when they saw a dropped crumb, but I didn't have any other treats to use. I tried to be careful and pick up any pieces I saw. But I guess you can say that it's good distraction training for the "leave it" command as well...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Received Red's TDI stuff today!

There was a certain large, thick envelope in my mailbox today which contained our TDI (Therapy Dog International) ID card, collar tag, visitation information, and handler's DVD. We were supposed to receive a TDI bandana too, but apparently they are having problems with them so they won't send them out until after the 2009 renewel. I love the ID card - it looks like a driver's license for the dog, lol. It has his photo (a headshot) on it, his name, my name, TDI logo, ID number, and expiration date. The collar tag is large, plastic and yellow with the TDI address and phone number on one side and the words "I AM A THERAPY DOG" on the other side. =) I think I will order myself a polo shirt or something to wear during visits too.

I have to complete a True/False and multiple choice test about the rules and regulations about TDI and how to conduct appropriate visits. This has to be mailed back within a month. I also have to do start doing visits within 3 months and send back a separate form listing the facilities we are visiting.

I am thinking about getting a harness for him to wear to visits, but I'm not sure yet. I have a feeling he's going to want to pull me since only flat collars are allowed, but I don't want to encourage it by putting a harness on him. My rational was that the harness would mean we are doing a different type of working - like how I use a special collar and leash for obedience training versus casual walking, versus general public settings, etc. So I'm not sure about that yet.

I also want to work on Red keeping his head still while people pet him. He likes to try to lick the hand that is petting him, or poke the person who is petting him. He does it in quick motions which scares some people. I think he is looking for treats mainly. So its good there won't be any food allowed for visits - so he will learn he doesn't get food and can stop looking for it (hopefully). I think he will be better for this once he is a bit older (and maybe calmer?). I noticed most of the dogs in the DVD had gray muzzles, including a black Doberman. I know for sure I will have to run and run him and expel as much excess energy as possible before doing this.

I think it will be fun though. I really want to help make these people's days brighter, and contribute to the community in some way. And also to show people that Dobermans aren't vicious man-eaters.

Well, I will start thinking about scheduling our first visit after we get this rally trial under our belt. One thing at a time! =)