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. =)