rant

So I’m not sure who I can rant about this to, so, lucky you guys get it.

I’ve recently been running a mixed online/in person Foundations class. One of the people coming along brought a 6 month old puppy, a min-pin x chihuahua. This dog is pretty cool, a bit bitey sometimes, decent drive and I saw good potential in it. The owner is an older woman, I don’t think she’d done any training like this before but her daughter has been training with me for a while now and is doing amazingly – she has been trying to help her Mum come to terms with the ideas in the class (eg. don’t lure your dog, click and treat, use toys to reward, etc).

Anyway, halfway through the course, the woman says she’s not going to continue because her dog is getting too silly. Because of the agility training.

Hmmmm…

Let me point out what we’ve learnt and worked on so far: how to use a clicker/shaping, shaping a wrap, doing basic body awareness tricks (back up, pivot, etc), restrained recalls, crate games, it’s your choice, footwork for front crosses, thinking about using toys and food in a fun and rewarding way, and going through tunnels with the owner at the other end. Not exactly what I’d call ‘full on crazy-making stuff’

Now, keep in mind this is a 6 month old dog – so, that’s adolescence too, right?

I’m just like… I don’t understand. It’s frustrating because MY confidence takes a hit. Like, damn, what if my class DID make this dog silly? But what is silly, anyway? Is the dog wanting to play more?? Or is it less focused? Pulling on a lead when walking? Biting more? I dunno, jumping around? Running around the house? Of those things, I could attribute ONE to agility training (playing more)… if anything, shaping and tricks makes them more focused, happier to work with you, happier to be with you… Ok, none of my dogs walk nicely on a lead without pulling but I never promised that, it’s agility. I don’t know. I feel like I’ve had someone else quit because of the same reason (I DID! A BC puppy with great potential) and I’m like: do you guys not realise that agility is FAST? It’s about RUNNING, and PLAYING, and being SILLY, and working together, and working through problems as a team? If you want a brain-dead dog that just plods along beside you with eyes glazed over, sure, go to the local obedience club. Then when you come back, I’m going to make your dog get happy and excited again!! And I’m going to teach it self control, too! but if you just do the crazy stuff then complain when it only wants to be crazy, that’s not my fault. You have the tools and exercises in front of you, with rationale as to why we’re doing each one…

Or, I dunno, TELL me that you’re feeling like this is a problem and I can tell you how to fix it! Don’t just quit. Like, I don’t care – she’s paid me the money and whatever, it’s just annoying to me on a personal level. It’s my job to help you with your dog training problems, so ask me to help. She hasn’t posted anything in the online class, despite regular reminders that she can post whenever and whatever she wants.

 

I don’t know if I should ask her “by the way, what behaviours are you talking about when you say “silly””, since I’ve already said: “no worries have a good life” (I um… don’t take ‘rejection’ well, so I tend to just get rid of people if they want out), and then see if I can point out how that has nothing to do with agility and how she can fix it? Or if that just looks desperate, like I’m trying to cling to her business.  I don’t know.
Anyway. I guess people can do what they want, and that’s fine.

 

</rant>

in moderation

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting. I’ve actually become really good at keeping hand-written notes after our training sessions but it means I don’t need to vent here as a way of solving problems. Plus we haven’t had a heap of problems lately. Bonus.

I’ve learnt a couple of really important dog-training self lessons over the last couple of months. It’s been sort of an interesting shift in thinking. I find it fascinating when this happens.

Firstly, I’ve learnt that even if some kind of training method doesn’t look perfect at first, doesn’t mean it won’t look better on the second session, and even better on the third. This happened with our running contacts retraining, where in the first few sessions he didn’t quite understand driving to the Manner’s Minder… We’re on full height now, taking things fairly slowly, and getting consistently deep rear-foot hits. Not at speed, but I’m confident it will come. It’s actually been a nice feeling to do a session of say, turns, and see it not work, and have faith that it will come good in the session after, or even the one after that. I think it’s something I’ve never had before, faith.

Secondly, I’ve become much better at not over-training. I’m still working on this, but it’s better than it was. I couldn’t fault Loki’s dogwalk today on his second session of full height, but didn’t want to make things more difficult than I had, so we just stopped. I think last year, I would have kept going, raised the criteria, changed something or other and then become all despondent when it fell apart. I’m trying to do the same thing with sequences – run it once as clean as I can… fix the mistake part/s if I can, and then not necessarily run it again. Otherwise, take away the mistake parts to train a different way later (we had a course with a straight line of 3 threadles at the club the other night and he couldn’t really do it, so I set it up at home but made it easier and worked on it there). It’s a work in progress but this part of my training is coming along.

 

We’ve been doing jump grid type things, but in general I’ve been ignoring his bars when running sequences, unless he gets a bit out of control and knocks a bunch, or knocks one I think he should know better on. Maybe this isn’t fair and I should be consistent – either care or not, but caring made him too stressed, and not caring doesn’t teach him much, so I’m trying to go for a happy medium. He still takes himself off out of the way after we run a sequence and he gets his toy, but I no longer think he’s avoiding doing agility, but more that he goes out there and gets ‘stuck’. I know how to get him back now, so we’re getting past that problem. Stays are still a big issue for us. Big issue! The other day I tried being stern with him and letting him know my displeasure for him standing up… All of a sudden, the 2nd jump in the sequence was haunted and he forgot how to do backsides. Oh poor little stress collie. That ended that experiment pretty quickly! But I’m going to try and have faith. Sometimes I see moments of brilliance and I can actually do a lead-out… Sometimes it’s a bit of a battle between him standing up and me stopping and waiting for him to sit again, and again, and again. Faith.

herding!

I took the dogs herding today at Lumen’s breeder’s place, who also does herding lessons.

After last time Loki herded and got very, very, VERY stuck, I was curious to see how he would go. It’s so weird, the first and second times he herded, he was BRILLIANT. Kept great distance from the sheep, was so easy and natural… then we did this ‘competition’ and he was doing fine until we turned around and then he couldn’t do clockwise circles, he just got stuck on their heads… so I took him in today and almost instantly the pressure was too much. He ran at them and got all frenzied and then just wanted to stare at their heads. When I tried to wait him out, he went to the corner, sat down and stressed… so I tried to encourage him, moved around, talked to him, called him to me… lots of things… and a couple of times he got behind me, found balance, made them walk up, and then he would stress out and go back to their heads – his safe place. If he can make them stop, he’s happy. It didn’t help that Lu’s breeder was outside the paddock telling off another dog, so of course Loki was worried about that, too…. But… well, maybe herding isn’t for him.

And then I got Lu. Lu, my dog who cares less even when the most exciting dogs are running agility… who doesn’t show much interest in dinner, and none in car rides… who had been yipping and trying to climb the fence to get to go play with the sheep… DRAGS me down to the paddock, comes in with me, sits at my side and stays, solid, ready. I send her around, she’s a little crazy but not bad… and then she’s doing it, beautifully. She’s learnt from last time – when was that? 6 months ago? She’s not coming in as close, she’s not weaving back and forth, she’s keeping her eye out and working beautifully. Her stops … well, they need a bit of work, but she was happy enough to call off the sheep and come out with me after her turn, and then DRAGGED me to the water trough. This girl knows what she wants.

And then Mal had a go!!!! 12 year old Mal! Who has a herding title but was never very good because he just wanted to sniff their butts. Omg he was so good! He’s ‘old school’ herding style, before they taught them to kick out and give more space, but he cantered around and around and around and had the best time. THE BEST. He was so stoked. He proved he could hear me before we started, turning when I called him to me but then became conveniently deaf when I tried to stop him once he was working. He was lovely. He didn’t bite them, even if he cut one out to chase it. And he was happy. And so good for 12. I’m so glad I took him with me, I wasn’t going to give him a go but we decided why not?
THEN, Lu got to go out in the big paddock! There were 3 sheep out there and they were flighty as… running like CRAZY when we got in, even with Lu on lead. So we had to walk back and forth trying to calm them (which was actually a good exercise for Lu too – YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO OBSESSIVELY STARE AT THEM)… and when they calmed a bit, we released her and um… sheep everywhere… She had the best time, getting to do these BIG FAST runs to fetch them. And they were being NAUGHTY, and she wasn’t having any of it! She was bumping them with her shoulder, barking at them. Kate (the breeder) was really impressed that she didn’t give up – I think her litter sister had a habit of giving up, but not Lu! Finally we got them to me and they calmed down a bit and Lu worked on doing big circles, and then we put them through the Y-chute which was a new skill, and she did really well for her first time.

So hey… my girl is a herding dog, that’s for sure. She can do agility, whatever, but herding is her thing. So… I have to try and find time to do it with her, cos it was pretty fun today, and she loved it so much. She was a different dog when herding… especially compared to my, “sigh, do I have to? FINE..” agility dog… I wouldn’t say she was necessarily more attentive, as such… but hmm… different. More present. Yes, that’s what I’d say. More present and more purposeful. I liked that. I really want to try her on cattle, too. Apparently her litter sister looooves working cows… I reckon Lu would too, to get all cocky and angry at them, and not back down even when they put pressure on her.

Now to find some free weekends from agility… HA.

running & visitors

So I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about Loki’s dogwalk. In the session below we worked on soft turns to the right to start with, then changed to straight exits. It was the first time we’d done soft turns and so his style changed a bit and he had more misses but I do think he was trying, and I do think that if I keep working on those turns he’ll get better at it.

Some of his hits in this video aren’t necessarily the prettiest but I’m working on understanding at the moment. So I’m doing a lot of ‘starting on the plank’ and close wrap starts and letting him choose the speed. So this isn’t Loki full speed, this is Loki thinking speed. I figure once he really understands what he has to do, he’ll add his own speed especially if I stop using the Manner’s Minder at the end, too. What I’m really enjoying seeing is the amount of effort he’s putting into… I think hitting the towel? I think that seems to be his goal… which is what my criteria has been – feet solidly on the towel. Those high probably-accidental foot hits? Reward. One foot solidly  a third of the way down the towel? Jackpot.  He’s never seemed to TRY to hit something before like this – not the target mat, not the contact area… It’s so interesting to see him shorten or lengthen his stride as he comes down in order to hit. I’m also getting front feet hits which he’s never done before (not since we first started RC training anyway)… And which although Silvia discourages, I don’t mind. I think one of his big things is not wanting to put an extra stride on the down plank because it would take him too close to the edge. If he feels confident putting in that last stride and getting close to the edge, he should be getting lovely deep hits!

I figure my plan is to keep this setup for a while longer, until turns are looking pretty solid.. then I’ll raise it up and do the same thing again.. up, up, up… once we’re on full height… work on adding speed… and then gradually fade the ‘ground’ end of the towel, and then fade it all together. By that point it should be a pretty ingrained behaviour, it’ll just be changing the picture of where the ‘end’ of the DW is (because right now the end is hidden by the towel, of course) so depending on what he uses as a marker of where to hit will depend on how removing the towel affects him.

We have a visiting dog in our house at the moment. Lumen’s breeder let me borrow a young dog to do some filming with for a class I’m going to be running. I needed an untrained dog and so I’ve welcomed Zuma home for a week or so.

It’s been an interesting few days with her… my little ‘pack’ has really banded together to keep her on the outside, and she’s used to bitches being bitches that she’s not pushy and so hasn’t really tried to get anyone to play or be her friend… Loki has been the most interesting one, showing a lot of teeth if she goes near his face, snarking once or twice at her for little things… She’s tried to play a game where she chases him and then bites him on the back. That’s gone down as well as a ton of bricks. Lu has squashed her pretty badly twice- once being possessive over Nic (I suspect Zuma pushed in when Lu was having cuddly time with Nic), and once for a reason I don’t know. I’d been training Loki in this DW session and Zuma had been trying to climb through the fence… and the next thing I know Lu was pinning her and yelling in her face, and she’s crying and trying to get out. I suspect Lu was telling her off for being naughty for trying to get through the fence. She’s sensitive about things like that (she loves it when dogs or cats get in trouble, and she goes over to help tell them off. Apparently her Mum does exactly the same thing).

But this morning Loki and Zuma were starting to play outside, though Loki was a bit rough for Z… and a bit of wrestling inside until Lu decided to be the fun police and tell them off. Gives me hope though that when it’s actually time to get a puppy that their world won’t fall apart, and they might all get along and be friends. Even my socially awkward border collie.

running type learnings

So, I’ve been playing around some with Loki’s dogwalk again. I was using a target mat but as soon as there was any speed or turning he’d stop targetting. I don’t think he likes targetting so much. So recently I’ve started doing more like what Isabelle did with Finn (Fyn?) and Jenny did with Lili and letting him choose a speed to run down to a Manners Minder, and rewarding for low hits. I’ve put a towel over the end of the dogwalk to hide the edge a bit to try and desensitise him to it a little as I think he’s in a habit of hitting in certain ways at certain points…

Anyway, everything is looking pretty nice, I’m getting a variety of hits, a mix of quite low, and one paw near the middle, one near the top of the contact (still a good hit!). We’re working on a 60cm dogwalk, even though most people seem to do it with a plank from a table, we don’t have a table so I can’t do that.

I’ve also done one session with hard turns, using a pole at the end and that was really nice… and once I feel confident he’s understanding his job more, I’ll work on soft turns by moving the MM.

But like… I don’t know if I trust my own training skills… There’s a class that Martina Magnoli Klimesova recommended – a Portuguese trainer, and I was thinking of signing up… but I kind of like what we’re playing around with, I think we’re heading in the right direction… I don’t want to start something completely 100% different… So anyway, I emailed her with what we’re doing and if it’s kind of similar maybe I’ll join. An extra eye and more experienced expertise can’t hurt anyway. I just don’t want to spend a crapton of money to then not really get much out of the course/not like the method/whatever. Hmm…

 

We also played on our fancy new height see-saw today (90cm at the top end! Yes!!!) and Loki did so awesomely. He doesn’t do the big powerful SLIDE onto the contact, but he gets there quickly enough for a first session. I don’t know if he’ll ever slide… maybe he will with more confidence. He did very well on the new height. He’s a lovely friend.

Weaves are on hold during break, as is jumping… I’m working on stays and have a bit of a plan of attack, including a new ‘setup’ routine that will help him get ‘unstuck’, as he’s getting VERY sticky when training at home.

One thing I do need to work on is listening skills… Once he has it in his mind to do something and is committed to it, it’s so hard to get him to do something different. And his commitment point for most obstacles is like, 7 meters away. 😉 I’ll think of some games I can play for this kind of skill. LISTENING GAMES, LOKI. ❤

 

choice

I recently read an article on a questionable news site that highlights the pitfalls of most new year’s resolutions in the language we use to make them. About how if we “should” do something, it becomes more like a chore, like an expectation, or that we are not currently enough how we are now, we should be more. It talked instead about making choices for the year, to have ownership and control over the actions you’ll take. To acknowledge that you are enough already, and powerful for choosing to be more.

I kind of like that.

So, as I’m sitting here, pretty sure that I have a stress fracture in my foot, frustrated that it’s already been a week and not yet diagnosed except by Dr. Google (who is also telling me that runners who get this fracture end up having surgery. Shut up Dr. Google, I’m not having surgery.), and despite having a Doctor’s appointment tomorrow to discuss the results of the X-ray that I’m 99% sure will be inconclusive (Dr. Google also tells me that these kinds of fractures only show up on X-rays after 4 weeks, leading me to believe that the Dr I went to doesn’t know anything about anything), and will then have to tell her I want an MRI, get the MRI and wait for the results for that… I’ve been thinking about the new year.

Here are the choices I would like to make:

  • I choose to be more forgiving of training problems when they come up, to accept the journey as it is and not feel rushed to fix things. After all, I recently saw on a video by Tereza Králová that it took her nearly a year to find a way that worked to teach her dog Running Contacts. So time is ok, we can take time.
  • I choose to look after myself – to be fit and strong so I am a good teammate for Loki (though, ironically, I think my foot injury came from jumping-jacks and long distance running. So much for exercise).
  • I choose to look after Loki, and schedule time to keep his body fit and strong.
  • I choose to be present in my life – at work, at home, in agility, and to live fully in the moments of joy.

 

So that works.

And in the meantime I’ll be moping about my foot and swimming laps at the pool.

I fricken hate swimming laps.

 

… oh, and Lumen has just started limping randomly. Sweeeeetttt.

like the fog has lifted

I spent the last few months feeling paranoid about Lumen.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed, how she seemed flat, not herself, like she was in a fog. When we went to the beach with her favourite person in the world and her favourite dog friends, she was on the outside, doing her own thing, trotting along, not getting involved – there, but not there.

She had blood tests and thyroid tests but everything was normal and I began to wonder where my big personality dog had done. She had never been a dog that was motivated the way Loki was, but she was big. Bigger than Loki in every other part of life except agility. She was naughty. She was into everything. Was she just more mature now? More chilled out? Was she sick in some way we couldn’t see? I had accepted that she didn’t love agility, she didn’t see the point. She didn’t see the point in running fast and earning rewards for it, no matter what I tried to make them more fun for her. Why work hard when you can work half-hearted? She reminds me of some kids at school. You know, you’ll have your border collies- the kids who try and who challenge themselves. Who want you to look at their work and go “awesome job! and here’s how you can make it better…” and they’ll go off eagerly and make it better. And then there’s the kids who are like huskies, maybe. Who do their own thing, enough to get by, but your agenda is not theirs. And then there’s Lu, who still reminds me of a teenage girl, who, if you find something she finds fun, she’ll do it in an overly enthusiastic kind of way, to the point of not really doing what you wanted at all… or, if it’s not that interesting, she’ll get it done, sure, but why try harder than you need to?

And so, I’d accepted that she was this teenage girl when it came to agility, but then she began to slip away in other places too. She wouldn’t bring us toys as often or, if she did, it was sort of half-heartedly and she’d lose interest. She looked worried all the time, especially if we were going out for a walk. She would attack Mal randomly whenever he accidentally bumbled his way near her and her toys. She would fall behind Mal (the 12 year old dog) when out bushwalking, seemingly unwilling to keep up.

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So sleepy all the time…

And then, maybe a week or two weeks ago, she felt… better. She seemed brighter. And then she dropped again – I kept a record for a few days of her energy after I wormed her, wondering if there was a reaction happening there, trying to identify what had triggered her originally to seem so… tired.

In the last week or so, she is back to the dog I knew. Still not loving agility- I think I’ve pretty much given up that dream – but big again, naughty, in to everything. Sampling the decorations on the Christmas tree. Pouncing all over the bed at night as we settle in and shoving toys in our face. Bringing us toys to throw her while we sit on the couch. Showing off, incessantly, when Penny came to visit – climbing all over her, balancing on chair arms, pinning her down and licking her all over the face. She seems to sleep less, or, when she’s sleeping, she’s ready to wake up, instead of the heavy deep sleep she seemed to fall into before.

I don’t know what’s turned the corner with her. What caused her to fade out for a good while there and seem lost in herself. Allergies? Changes in season? Food? Worms?! All that has changed or been addressed in the last couple of weeks, so it could be anything…

All I know is that although she’s a pain in the butt, Christmas-decoration-eating, in your face naughty, agility-disliking dog, I’m glad she’s back… I missed her making me laugh with her stupid antics.

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This is the dork-brain we missed…