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! =)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fall Photos

I've been a bit behind in blogging, but that's because I've been working all day every day and haven't had much time to work with Red. Which is ok though, because Red seems more motivated and excited to work after we've taken a break for a couple days. We'll be training at class again on Saturday and then going to Canada to visit my sister on Sunday, so I'm looking forward to that.

Anyway, I took some pretty photos the other day. I woke up in the morning, let Red outside and realized all the trees had changed color overnight! So I took the opportunity to take some fall photos of Red and the pretty foliage. Here's a few of my favorite shots:

I would post all of them here, but the image tool on this blog sucks. You can view them all (plus a bonus pic!) on the Doberman forum by clicking here. I love taking and sharing photos! =)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday morning obedience class

This is the first time in a month that we've been able to make it to the private invite-only Saturday morning class with the CD and CDX handlers and dogs. And just so you can put a face with a name while watching the videos, my obedience/rally mentor (and the one who invited Red and I to join this training group), Michelle, is the tall one in the pink sweatshirt with the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier named Mazie. Mazie has all her Rally titles (RN, RA, RE) and her CD. They are currently working toward her CDX in Open classes. Michelle will be going with Red and I to our Rally trial on Oct 31st for moral support, and to man the video camera =)

Red was very excited to be back with the training group this morning and did a really good job. I had hotdog bits, and his tennis ball for rewards. I used the hotdog bits for rewards during certain exercises, and the tennis ball for rewards after the exercise was finished. He seemed to really respond to using both of these rewards.

The first exercise is a heeling warm-up. The group heels around the room while someone calls out instructions for halts, turns, and other exercises. This one lasted for about 10 minutes. I used hot dog bits very sparingly. It seems like if I use treats in the middle of heeling, he puts his head down to swallow and then loses focus and starts forging ahead of me. So I didn't treat much except after the sit/stay, down/stay, stand/stay exercises, and it seemed to work pretty well. He was crowding me a bit through a lot of the heeling, which he usually doesn't, but the heeling still wasn't horrible. His attention was really good though. Here's the video:

The next thing is usually Figure 8's. Which unforunately I didn't get a video of, because naturally it was Red's best Figure 8 performance to date. He did really well this time! Usually he's not very focused and is slow on the halt-sits, but this time even the people I was working with commented on how well he did. I'm bummed I didn't get a video, but oh well, maybe next time.

Then we do the 3 minute sit/stay, and 5 minute down/stay. No video of this since it would be boring to watch. About half the group went out of sight since for the CDX exercise, and the other half stayed in sight for the CD exercise. I didn't go clear to the other end of the room like some of the CD handlers did, but probably about 20 feet away. I am still weaning him off my return/rewards for longer stretches of time. About halfway through on the sit/stay, before the first return/reward, he went into a down. I returned to him, put him back into a sit, then left him again. I returned once to reward after that, then the exercise was finished. So other than that one mistake, he did okay for that - his attention was really good and he didn't fidget very much. The down/stay was even better. Usually he sits in a sphinx-like crouch, but this time he rolled onto a hip and laid so good! I returned to him to quietly reward 3 times within the 5 minutes, and then the exercise was finished. I was really happy with this one because he seemed very relaxed, had great focus, didn't fidget, and didn't act like he was thinking about getting up at any point during the excerise. I think the rolling onto a hip really helped - I've heard people say they've trained their dog to do this instead of sitting the whole time in a sphinx-down, but I haven't trained Red to do that yet, he just did it on his own this time. Anyway, these long sits/downs have given me a lot of grief in the past, but I think we are making tremendous headway, and I was very proud of how Red did today.

After that we did the formal recalls. I usually treat after he sits in front of me, but after today I realized I need to stop doing that, because he comes in nice and straight, and then when he sees me getting ready to treat, he moves to the side in anticipation to accept the treat. You can see what I mean when you watch the video. So I'm going to stop doing that, and just let him front and finish, then reward. Here's the video:

After that, it's sort of a free-for-all. The CDX crew sets up jumps and broad jumps and they do work with the dumbbells. During this time, I usually play with Red and do a few random exercises, but mostly just play. Because by this point he'd losing motivation for focus so I try to keep him interested in me with a toy. I got caught in conversation with a fellow handler with her 9 month old (170 lb) Mastiff from our intermediate class, and Red was the best boy - he sat there on my left side, intently STARING at me the entire time - for like 10 minutes straight! I was feeding him bits of hotdog to reward him for such excellent attention during the chat. What a good boy =) After the chat, I got down on the floor and rough-housed with him as a special reward for being such a good boy while I chatted. He got the zoomies and almost ploughed me over a couple times, completely losing his mind and licking my whole entire face and ears. I didn't care though because he was using this play-energy on me rather than trying to do it with the other dogs.

All in all, it was a successful morning! I really wish we could do this every week - I actually requested more Saturdays off per month so we can attend. We will be going next Saturday too, so I'm happy about that! =)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Practicing on a mini course

I set up a mini-course in my driveway today consisting of 6 novice stations, plus the Start and Finish signs. I wanted at least a couple left turns in there, a cone exercise, and one of the 1,2,3 halt exercises. I don't have a lot of room on the driveway, so for a bigger course I'll need to either do it on the grass in the backyard, or go to the football field where the grass is pretty short. I would like to set up a full size course and run through it with some call front-halt exercises and left turns, the moving down and the side step right. But maybe I can put some of these exercises in another mini-course next time.

Anyway, here's the video:

I was very pleased with everything, except the left turns (specifically the full turns like the 270 and 360) still need some work to get his rear to pivot around and tighten up the circle. His attention was good, and had a pretty quick response on all the commands. I think he likes the cone exercises - he always seems to do exceptionally well with those.

I had a pouch full of hotdog bits, which he seemed interested in until the tennis ball made an appearance, then it was all about the ball. So I didn't use any treats for these run-throughs and just rewarded with throwing the ball and then playing with him for a bit.

We didn't drop into the advanced class on Wednesday night because Michelle said they were doing "place" and other things we haven't worked on yet, so I figured we'd skip it. But we are going to the private class tomorrow morning and I'm hoping to get some video of it so I can see what we look from a 3rd person perspective working with these CD and CDX dogs. I love videos! I can really scrutinize my body language - how I'm holding my arms, footwork, etc - and see what Red looks like from another perspective as well. Video has been a great learning tool for me to improve our performance. Plus its great to share the videos and get constructive feedback from experienced Rally exhibitors and judges on how we can improve.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

There's a killer on the loose...

...and his name is RED!!!

ok so Red has been outside for awhile this afternoon, and I occasionally get up to check on him. I hadn't seen him for a little while, so I get up to go see what he's up to... Usually when he hears the backdoor open, he comes flying around the house to greet you, but I opened the door, and nothing. I look around, don't see the dog. I walk down the steps of the deck and see him in the side yard just standing there, watching me. Once he sees that I see him, he puts his ears down, tucks his tail, and runs right at me, then straight past me, up the stairs and into the garage. I'm like "what the hell is going on?" Wierd behavior...

I go to where he was standing and there is HALF of a chipmunk (or maybe squirrel?) on the ground. The back half. I turn around and see Red watching me through the screen of the deck with his ears down and a very guilty look on his face, clearly thinking I'm going to be mad at him. The sight made me chuckle and once he saw I wasn't mad, he came bounding back down the stairs out into the yard all happy.

So I pick up the half a chipmunk, take about 3 steps, and see a dead mouse! OMG all these dead carcasses all over my yard! At least the mouse wasn't severed in two though. Here's a pic (unpleasant but no blood or gore) I took for James who would be very proud of Red the Great Hunter.

I pick them up and throw them over the back fence into the woods, all the while Red running around like the happiest dog on earth. He is clearly very proud of himself. (and happy I wasn't mad at him) LOL I've got a mad rodent killer on my hands!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jog/Walk and some training along the way

After I got home from work today, and Red chased some squirrels as usual, we went for a jog/walk. I say "jog/walk" because I am NOT a long distance runner and cannot keep a jogging pace for any length of time - especially with as out of shape as I am. I'd say we go for about a 1/4 mile at a time, and then I feel like I'm going to die and slow to a walk. Red, of course, keeps looking at me as he paces along beside me, that I am SLOW and he would appreciate it if he were allowed to break into a full gallop. I have these fantasies of me with a pair of rollerblades and Red leading the way, but then reality sets in and I realize that (first of all) I have absolutely no skill on rollerblades, especially with stopping, and hence, strapping myself to Red the tireless sprinter is probably not such a wise idea.

Anyway, we stopped at the local vet clinic to weigh the Redders. He is 80.8 lbs. Exactly the same as he was a couple months ago - I think this is a good weight for him. There was no one in the waiting room except the two receptionists, but we used the opportunity to practice some heeling, fronts and finishes, which he did well for. He's really coming along nicely!

After leaving the vet clinic, we proceed to walk the remaining mile or so to hubby's work to visit him. I didn't really plan on working him there, but he was giving me such good attention that I couldn't ignore him, so we continued to work. We did more fronts and finishes, and working on the moving down (which is starting to look a bit nicer), and also a long sit/stay. The customers that came into the store were very impressed with him =)

On a sort of unrelated note, I have discovered that Red LOVES popcorn! I don't think popcorn is bad for dogs... is it? If not, I will buy some plain, non-buttered, non-salted popcorn and use it for training sessions.

I am planning on dropping into the advanced class at my training facility tomorrow night after work, but we will see if I get out on time to make it or not. Michelle, the instructor who taught our intermediate class and who has been my training mentor, invited us to drop by the advanced class that she teaches on Wednesday nights. Also, I have this Saturday off so Red and I can attend the Saturday morning obedience group with the experienced CDX dogs. It's been almost a month since we've been there so I'm really looking forward to it. =)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Better training session today =)

Today was better. I need to try not to get all freaked out and bent out of shape when Red has an "off" day. We all have off days, right?

Anyway, I've figured out that he works better before any walks or off-leash runs. The more energy he has, the better. This knowledge will come in handy for our trial - this means no walk that day, and minimal standing around and warm up before going into the ring.

Today we worked briefly (for like, 10 minutes, if that) on
- Fronts
- Finishes
- Moving down
- Heeling

I used sliced hotdogs and a squeaky little soccer ball as rewards. And of course, an upbeat attitude and lots of praise and smiles. He liked the hot dogs, but he liked the ball more. I think he is transitioning from food motivation to toy motivation. Which is fine by me - less smelly crap to carry around! =)

The fronts still need some work, but they aren't horrible by any means. Not crooked enough to be counted out of position by Rally standards, but they would lose points in traditional obedience.

The finishes are coming along MUCH better! Good and straight, and not sitting on top of me. I'm really pleased with his progress on those.

The moving down definitely needs work, so I will incorporate that into our future training sessions as much as possible. I have to lure him down and even then, it's not a super-quick down like I want.

The heeling is good, with good attention. The right turns are nice, but the left turns still need work.

I'm pretty confident in all the exercise signs for Rally, except maybe the left turns and moving down. I've found a potentially good exercise to try to train Red to pivot with his back feet while leaving his front in place. Someone on the yahoo group sent me this link: which looks very promising. I started to try it with Red yesterday, but he wasn't quite "getting" it. However, I used a cardboard box at first that slid when he tried to get on it, so I tried an overturned litterbox on the driveway, which was a little better but not great. I think tonight I will put a textbook like the one in the video on the carpet in the house and see how it goes. I think this will really help - that and using the dowel to direct his rear end around. If we could just get these left turns to be tighter, and the moving downs to be quicker without so much lure - we would be good.

But anyway, I'm in a much more encouraged mood than I was yesterday. Part of it because of Maylissa's comment to my last post. I think I just really needed a hug and some kind words of encouragement, which was really helpful =) Thanks M.T.!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lost motivation

Our last couple training sessions have been a bust. By this, I mean Red's head has not been in the game. There must be something I'm not doing right. Am I too boring? Too drilling? Are we doing too much of the same boring exercises over and over? Are the treats not tasty enough? I don't know, but something's got to give here. Maybe we both need some time off. But I really can't afford that with our first Rally trial looming closer and closer. We both need all the training time we can get. Maybe this is my problem - I'm too focused on perfection, and not focused enough on fun, and Red is picking up on it. I wouldn't be motivated either if my teacher wanted everything perfect and didn't make it fun to do... ugh, I feel like I am failing him somehow.

We don't train every single day as it is, so when we do train, I want a good session. Should I schedule training time every single day? Or just when I think he would do well? I don't know. I feel so lost. We haven't been to our Saturday morning class in 3 weeks due to my stupid work schedule. I have the next 2 Saturdays off, though, so maybe this will help. Sure, I can get tastier treats, but I want Red to work for me, not for the treats.

Am I expecting too much? I've never trained a dog before and I feel like I am ruining him or something. He is capable of so much, but is being held back because I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I need some professional advice - something to give me some direction, and some hope that I'm doing the right thing in thinking we can compete in obedience... Because right now, I'm not so sure.