overcoming fears

So Loki’s toe is looking pretty good, given how bad it is. If you’re interested, I’ll put a new picture under the cut. Cos you might not want to be grossed out. Not that it’s HORRIFIC, but some people don’t like that stuff.

Not that it’s too gross now. Because it’s healing up well. A vet lady who I knew from when I competed with Mal has been giving me advice over the internet which is extremely lovely of her because I bet that vets get bombarded with “help my dog has a weird lump can you look at it for free?” all the time. Like doctors. But she is very lovely and says I can send her photos. It might be because I told her she was my agility hero when I started or maybe just because she is a nice person.

Today I wanted to work on the ‘hug the pole’ trick with Loki. I hadn’t attempted it before because whenever I got out the pole for Lumen he literally ran away. He is terrified of poles. I think one day, back when he was innocent and naive, he was hanging around while I changed a course or putting up a height or something, and I accidentally dropped the bar on his back. It’s not like… the end of the world… except he is a very sensitive BC at times and has a very keen memory for dangerous/hurty things, and this has stuck in his mind. Me setting up courses now sees him lying at the very outskirts of the course, eyeing me suspiciously. Me putting a bar up that he’s knocked sees him trotting a big worried circle far away from it. So… doing the hug the pole trick? Should be interesting.

I decided then, that instead of just trying to make the standing upright pole friendly for him, that I would try and help him get over the whole thing. Because let’s face it, sometimes poles fall down. Sometimes I drop them. Being scared isn’t going to help.

So I made a game. In much the same way, I’d like to think, as Silvia has made slamming the cupboard doors into a seesaw game, I went and did that. First I had to lay the pole on the floor at my feet. This was scary enough and I rewarded any step toward the pole and threw the biscuit away from it so he had time to ‘get away’. Lumen loves this ‘treat and retreat’ game so I figured I’d use it here, too. Then he got confident that it wasn’t going to fall from the floor onto his head, so I rested it on my feet and repeated the process cos it got scary again. I was clicking for nose and feet touches from him, but aiming mostly for feet, jackpotting if he made it roll or move (but I didn’t let it fall off my feet). Then I held it on a slightly higher angle and went through the process again. Then I lowered it toward the ground like it was a lever, clicking as it went down and dropping the treat near it. This was very scary for Loki but he seemed to calm down as he realised it wasn’t falling and that its movement got treats no matter what he did.

Building on that, I then moved onto the soft carpet kind of in the other part of the room and let the pole drop a short way. As soon as it hit the ground, I clicked and threw the treat away from us. Loki had no expectation to participate at this stage, he was simply being clicked for the noise of it hitting the ground, which was softened by the carpet. He coped with this pretty well. I built up from where the pole was dropping from vertical to the ground, with its base on the ground. Then I moved into the room where Loki was (so closer to him) with less carpet and tiles on the floor. This meant sometimes the drop was louder, and on those occasions, he’d get more treats. NOW I started to make it into a real game. I’d get him excited about it by saying “readyyyy?” and then drop the pole, click as it hit, and threw the biscuit away from me. He began to anticipate the pole hitting the ground and going to fetch the biscuit.

Now I started to ask him for help. 😉 I wanted him to feel in charge of this game too, and to get a little more bold. I called him over, said “get it!” and he would sort of half-heartedly hit it with his paw. As soon as he did, I’d drop the pole, click and throw a biscuit. We went on like this, jackpotting the strongest hits to the pole. My next stage was to feed him where the pole had landed as he was still trying to spring out of the way – I did this back in the soft carpet room so it wasn’t so scary.

Once he was really enjoying hitting the pole with his feet and was happy to stay around while it fell over and eat from that spot, I introduced one final challenge, but only since he had been doing so well. I now held the pole horizontal to the ground, not too high. He hit it with his paws and I dropped it. I built up the height again and as you’ll see in the video below, he was able to really jump up and bounce it and bring it toppling down, and didn’t dart away. There are moments I can still tell he has some anxiety about it but considering I couldn’t even PICK IT UP when we started the session without him running away, he has come a huge way in one short session.

Maybe we’ll get the hug the pole trick soon after all!!

Edit: Wow! Apparently this is my 500th post here! Cool!

And below here you can find pictures of toe injuries.

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reflections on break, week 2.

We just past two weeks We’ve done one agility-related thing which was to shape 2o2o on the end of the DW which is really just a trick so doesn’t count. We’ve also shaped it inside and he’s running into position like a PRO. More on that in a minute.

It’s interesting though – I watched Silvia’s newest DVD over the last couple of days. Initially I just got antsy that Loki’s DW wasn’t good enough, and especially his soft turns. So then I started forming plans and stressing about it. And then I couldn’t go do anything about it because we’re on break so the stress faded away and I actually feel ok. Plus I have a plan, and it’s a plan that hasn’t had a chance to fail yet so I can still feel ok about it.

I messaged a French person on YouTube the other day as well whose dog is very fast and has very nice contacts even on soft turns so I picked her brain and she gave me some ideas and some things to try. I think I’m going to try a 2o2o for hard turns – Polona does this, too and Loki is motivated enough that he won’t mind, once he figures out the game irrespective of my position. I don’t think I’ll do it with Lu – she responds really well to a “brake brake brake!” and just trots all the way down. Not the fastest, but faster than some of the creepy creeper collies I see competing. He’s now driving into position if I’m behind him – as long as there’s a toy ahead (but he will dive into position and wait, so he won’t run to the toy without release. YES!), he’ll sprint there and wait even if I run past, too. I can’t really practise any going to the side type positions in my little house but my plan is once his bandage comes off his foot (he managed to cut a nice hole in the toe paw-pad on his back foot) that I’ll take him out to a plank in the shed, and once his break is up, we’ll try it on the DW. I’m feeling confident. Polona said it actually helped one of her dogs understand RC more so I’m crossing my fingers on that, too.

It’s rainy here this week, so there’s going to be lots of tricks going on. I’m juggling plenty at the moment, but in particular we’re doing lots of:

  • trying to get better at side legs.
  • stand on a chair w/ front paws and hold one back paw up
  • Lumen is working on hug a pole while in sit up, working toward hug a toy (a Unicorn trick of ours!). She is SO STRONG in sit-up (and pretty much every thing else). Also working on penguin! We’ve got one very small shuffle forward now. Lu is also working on ‘hide your face’ – at the moment she does ‘where’s your nose?’ by bapping her nose with a paw, but doesn’t keep it covered by a paw, unless she’s lying on her side. So we’re working on that.
  • Loki is working on duration with sit-up as he’s not great at this yet.
  • Both are doing sit to stand up with front feet on a peanut and lowering into a sit. This is part of our conditioning class. Both find it pretty easy but Lu moreso – she thinks this is the BEST. When I ask her to stand up, she springs up and lifts off the floor with her back feet. Such a fool.
  • Loki & I will be playing with 2o2o a lot.
  • Lots of other things with balance discs and such.
  • Loki putting toys away in the basket.
  • Loki flicking a sock onto his face in preparation for the ‘cover yourself with a towel’ trick. Cos why not. 😉
  • Verbal discriminations. I’m starting with commands inside for now (left, right, back, drop, sit) and will steal a Silvia idea for cool-downs once we’re back outside (cik/cap and push on verbals only with a low bar & me sitting down). It will help if I manage to tell him the right word during a course but we’ll see.

It’s actually been really lovely to not feel pressured to get out and train but to just do whichever tricks we feel like doing. My right index finger is feeling it though, with a number of teeth-sized red marks and cuts from overzealous food-taking.


Stay class is also going along brilliantly. Loki rocks. Here, you can even have a video, I’m so pleased with him. But…! He’s always been pretty good at these games. It’s when I sit him in front of a row of agility obstacles that he moves. It’ll be interesting to see how we handle that. Also I have to do the challenges in this video outside. I think that’ll get him too. There’s another even better video than this where I’m throwing his favourite ball for Lumen and she’s RACING past him and I’m calling her and we’re playing… and he does a really good job of managing to stay. But YouTube is being SO WEIRD and is stuck at processing it at 95% and has been for the last 6 hours. Whyyyyyy?


dog of iron

Part of our “Let’s Play” class was to do some “Iron dog” tricks, to make sure they’re fit and strong enough to be able to run full speed.

What you’ll see below is the result of all Lu’s food play over the last few weeks as she obsessively wants to stand up on me because this is her new favourite trick, and the fact that she is now so intensely interested in the food that her brain is trying to explode a little. The whole sit pretty-stand-sit pretty bit where she’s basically just losing her shit is just her not being able to get her brain together to do the trick like I know she knows how to do. Bye bye thoughtful thinking dog!!


And look, she’s not Loki-like in her absolute frenzy of behaviours in the way that he is, but she’s so much more animated and keen than a month ago. It’s really cool.