Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Teach your dog a quick trick -- Say Your Prayers

First you will need to teach your dog to put their "paws up" on something. I teach my dog to stand up on a horse feed bucket, which is very useful for teaching a myriad of tricks and behaviors

They cost 10 bucks at a feed store. Worth it. A local trainer tricks out a clementine box and makes it no slip, by gluing bits of rug on the bottom corners and remnants of rug on the top. You can also use a step stool, books, weighted five gallon bucket, and even the soon to be extinct phone book. Use your imagination.

I freeshape putting paws up with a clicker but you could also use your voice as a marker.
Remember whenever you use a food lure -food in front of the dog's nose, you need to fade it as quick as possible so the dog does not get reliant on the lure.

One day in class I had a slip and called it Relurant. Don't you love my new training word? Don't let your dog get relurant! Freeshaping is wonderful tool, plus it teaches your dog how to think and problem solve, and I think it makes for a more fun partnership.

After your dog is comfortable putting their paws on something, take it different places. If you are using a base that is not stable and it moves our from under your dog's feet, be sure to throw them a party. Lots of happy talk and lots of treat rewards. Things that wobble are good for building trust, brave dogs, and future agility dogs and skateboarders! But for some dogs, they will shut down if the base moves, so choose your base wisely. Base choice will also depend on the height of your dog for this trick. 

Now here is the key part. Put food in both of your hands. Feed the dog a treat, or just get him interested with your hand that is furthest away from the dog to keep him busy, while you slip your other hand with food up between his paws and lure the dog's head down between their legs. Feed feed feed with the dog's head lowered!! Remember behavior that is rewarded is likely to be repeated. This trick is a trickier than most to fade the lure. Start naming this trick just before the food appears between their paws and they will start looking for it in short time. You will click this, and soon will be clicking for increased durations of head between front legs. You may find your dog's front leg closest to you moves onto your hand. This is ok, only for the first  few times. 

You don't need to call this trick say your prayers if you don't want to. Where are you? Want to go to the Vet? Who wants a bath? Be creative. Some of my favorite tricks are simple behaviors with hilarious names.


update 5/9
Here is Beck making progress. At this stage he has offering the behavior without a lure. I am rewarding him  between his front legs to strengthen the behavior. He pretty much has the trick on cue, now we are working towards longer durations.

Good dog Beck!

This post is dedicated to  Mel. Good luck teaching this trick to your clever dog walking client.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bromancing my Beck

After back to back posts whining about Beck, I feel I need to set the record straight a bit. He is an awesome dog and I don't regret adopting him, even during his trying times. As a commenter pointed out, dogs who are sweet and cuddly and give us the time of day, are easy to bond with, and to forgive them their trespasses.

Except  for the times when Beck is stalking the not really evil Daisy, or barking, or acting a young fool, he is a blast to work with. I saw a lot of potential in him (*obviously*) when he was my foster dog, but I also saw a lot of potential for a disastrous placement. Between his brain power, high energy needs, and his mild separation anxiety I knew he was not the dog for the average pet owner. Honestly, aside from basics that he would need for adoption, (stop jumping on top of people!), I didn't spend much time at all working with Beck until after March 4th when we adopted him.

Since I made a list of his issues, it is only fair that I write the behaviors that Beck has learned in 5 weeks. This is a dog who did not even know how to sit.

Beck has learned his name and to pay attention and watch me, sit, down, paw, paw an object, leave it, hit an easy button, howl on cue, sit stay, down stay, heel on and off leash on both right and left side, auto sit, come!, target my hand, an object, and a  target stick, boing with 4 feet off the ground, get in, sit front, finish right and left, say his prayers, jump up on something with 4 feet, paws up ( 2 feet) , crawl, play dead, roll over, spin, twirl, put his head all the way to the ground front and side (settle), go through my legs, back up fast, back up on both right and left side, jump 20 inches, send to a jump, bounce jump, down on a table, off, default down, 101 things to do with a box, go out around an object, go to his mat, target a mat with his hind feet, bow, sit up pretty, dance on hind feet forward and backwards and in a circle,. Whew! I am sure there is more, but well you get the idea. Only a few of these are proofed, but that is a lot of new info in just over a month. Yea!

The dog has excellent retention and it is mind boggling to me what a sponge he is. Hard to imagine such a great and needy dog in a shelter  for more than half of his life. I spend lots of time day dreaming and trying to figure out what is important and what in what order I want to teach him new behaviors. I have worked a lot on back, since it is a key behavior in Freestyle and my last 3 dogs have kind of sucked at it. Every night at dinner time, he backs up to his mat. Very enthusiastically I might add.

Today is not his day Beck's day for training. As I mentioned the other day Poppy is here for a service dog tune up, and she will be coming with me every where I go today. Poppy got a play pass yesterday because she looked like this pretty much most of the day. 

Service dogs should never be taken out in public access dirty, and when I tried to rinse her off, she stuck her whole head in the hose with such joy, that I just gave in and let her have a party. She took forever to dry, and by then it was too late and I was toast. So this morning,  she was not allowed access to my swamp yard. The yard  is a major loosing battle right now with all the rain we have had. Poppy came out with me most of Saturday and she did long downs yesterday while I was working with Beck. That was hard work for her and then she got lots of ball time and lots more mud. Poppy  will need a good grooming before I can take her any where today.

We are also watching a friend's Aussie and well, it is total spring break mayhem over here! I can tell you what, this never would happen  if Charlee was still here.  That dog knew how to keep order.

I told Beck to just say no, but he led Scout on. and on. and on.

As you can see, the pups are pooped at the end of the day. 

It's all good.  

Today is also Valli's first day of school.  Wish her well in class tonight.  She has her first meet and greet on Friday and she has to cram.


Trainer's note. Scout's humping is not sexual.  It is a displacement behavior brought on by being a herding dog with lots going on around him that he cannot control.
. When in doubt. some dogs hump. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

oh and another thing....Training Beck

Beck thinks that 11 year old Daisy is a She Devil. Beck has met Daisy a few times outside her home when I was picking up Poppy and wasn't all too thrilled with her, but she is way scarier in his very own yard.   Poppy is an Autism Assist Service dog that I have been working with for the last few years who goes to school with her middle school boy Jack.

Poppy and Daisy's family are away and both dogs are staying with us. Poppy will be brushing up on her service dog behaviors during vacation week as she has been out of work for a while recovering from knee surgery. My youngest and her friends can't wait to take Poppy to the movies to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2. Movies are a great place to train service dogs. There are lots of people who try to touch when they should not, and lots of food on the floor to work on  lots of "leave it" practice . Plus Poppy LOVES LOVES LOVES kids and she needs to leave them and concentrate on her handler. I will be posting more on Poppy later this week.

Back to Beck and Daisy. I am pretty sure that Beck does not recognize Daisy as the same species as him and he thinks we are all in grave danger if she remains any where near us.

Therefor it is his job to BARK BARK BARK,

circle circle circle and BARK BARK BARK

and herd herd herd to get her to move the hell on.

I really thought he would give it up once he saw that she wasn't gonna budge and that she could care less about him, but he did not. He wouldn't let me catch him either, so I went in the house and grabbed the camera.
Live and learn. Tomorrow we will try again. This time I am bringing a hungry Beck and he will be on a LEASH.

As you can see, Daisy loved our cool swamp. I mean yard.  Daisy is ELEVEN!! and that is OLD for a Newfie.  By the way, Daisy didn't give a rat's ass about Beck. At first I thought maybe she didn't see or hear him, but I observed her carefully. Nope, she just didn't give a rat's ass.
She gets around ok, but is clearly not a spring chicken.  

This makes two posts in one day bitching, complaining about my sweet dog. 
I do love Beck,  he just needs a little help learning about the world. 

Training Beck -from Honeymoon to the reality

The honeymoon period between Beck and my family is long over. He arrived as a foster dog the very end of January and we made him officially our dog the first week in March. Still it took a full another 3 weeks or so for my little gem of a dog to show his true self. I figure him to be about a year and a half old give or take, and he spent nearly half of his first year in a shelter. Nothing else is known of the first part of his life. The honeymoon period -or the time that everything is blissfully perfect and true doggie selves have yet to show themselves, is said to last anywhere from 2 weeks, to 6 months. We noted lots of new issues at about the 10 week mark.


Here is a list of some of the things that I didn't realize we signed up for when we adopted him. Do note that this list is for my personal training plan, so we can address each and everything one at a time.

For each item below, you can assume that I am actively managing these behaviors so that (ideally) Beck does not practice them and in turn get really good at them.

- Chases loud cars, loud trucks and motorcycles

- Jumps on people a lot

- Steals food right off your plate if you are not paying attention

- Ace counter surfer

- Seems to be a bit of a freak when it comes to people wearing hoods. He is afraid, but will go quite forward in his fear

- Has taken to growling at my youngest when she tries to move him at night

- Is reactive (barks, lunges) at some other dogs

- Is not the leash walking angel we first met, and he has pulled away from my youngest 2x now chasing a squirrel. Beck  does one of those no self control, quick dashing,  Lord protect my rotator cuff kind of pulling. 

- High prey drive

-Fence runner

- Does stoopid young male dog things, like posture with other (some) young males, and he ran straight into a farm fence and injured himself

- Has a degree of separation anxiety (which I knew)

- Shreds toys and homework and what have yous.

- He has been a challenge to teach stay to but is slowly getting it.

- Digs

 -Barks --yes all dogs bark, but he has been seen barking at all manner of things to include letting us know that the sky is blue. 
  - Destuffed an entire Premier fleece bed that was outside hung up  to dry

Update--the kids would like me to add freak about the hair dryer. Middle daughter said she thought he had a stroke when she turned it on. Same from me for the vacuum. One will assume same for lawn mower and weed wacker. 

On the positive side, we still adore him. He is cuddly and smart and easy to teach just about anything. He LOVES people, and loves my kids. He is a pretty good side kick to take around with me in the van and I adore watching him run flat out full speed ahead.
Beck has not tried to jump my fence since he got his foot caught, but I can never trust that he won't again.

Tune in soon for another episode of training Beck. Triaged to the top of the list is chasing vehicles for obvious reasons. I am thinking of taking him to the Cumberland County Choppers on Warren Ave this week. Like many herding dogs, Beck reacts when surprised but is ok once her realizes stuff ain't gonna git him.

For the record, none of these things, except the vehicle chasing suprises or worries me, and I am fairly confident that all of the above will be worked through. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ya, though I bought food for Valli in the shadow of death

A few days ago I bit the bullet and bought a new camera, but I have been less than thrilled with it .At this point, I am wondering if it is defective, and I most likely will bring it back.

It is hard to capture Valli's gorgeous.

But, it has been great to have a camera. I am trying really hard to get some winning shots of my foster dog Valli.  My neighbors all stop me to ask her about her. Everyone is intrigued with her sweet ways, her piercing amber /green eyes (depending on the light) and her magnificent ears. .

Gorgeous eyes

Valli is a love and she and Beck are as thick as thieves. From the second Beck saw her, that was it for him. They came from the same shelter and I  have to wonder if they knew each other. More likely he recognized her shelter stink, which of course I have since washed off.

Beck doesn't mind if Valli  gives him an at home face lift 

Valli is one of the few dogs that I trolled for. I saw her picture on line, and that was it, I wanted to sponsor her. We are not keeping her, although she fits in her great, repeat- we are not keeping her.

It turns out that Valli has a skin allergy that so far I do not have a total handle on. We knew this when I agreed to take her on. Her hope for a home in the south was slim to none.   She is on a elimination diet, and special shampoo and some anti itch meds from time to time, but still not 100 %. We started on Evo meat and she was doing fine and then I gave her a marrow bone. Next day-red dog.

So what I did next was out of love of animals and not 100 % kosher. Did you know that most good pet stores will take back opened bags of dog food if your dog won't eat it? Before Charlee died she was on a very expensive food and she had barely dented a new bag. It sat untouched in the closet making my stomach turn, encased by bad momories.
So I phoned  the store where I bought the food,  and told them...wait for it...

"My dog stopped eating her food."

It wasn't a lie and it was for rescue. (right?)

Problem was, I am still fragile after loosing my dog, and it took all my wits, every last one of them, to pull this off. Before I left the store I had to repeat myself to at least 3 employees. "Your dog doesn't like this any more" they asked. "she stopped eating it" I replied with a shit  eating grin on the inside.

Someone quick tell me they would have done the same thing. Valli's new bag of food is at the top of the price chain. I was in an inner turmoil at the store, essentially looking Charlee's death right in the face of the employees. I wanted to bolt, laugh and cry hysterically all at the same time.

Of course there is always the truth and I tried that. I called a few times on the phone, and hung up before I could get out the words "my dog died can I swap out her food." Then I cried.  A lot.

It's weird the things we can and cannot do, the scams we will and won't pull, and just how great I felt leaving that parking lot with food that we hope will make Valli better.

I will continue to try to get  great pictures of Valli. So far the best ones are on her Petfinder bio, but even they don't capture the essence of her.
This picture that I shot of my former foster pup Piper (Layla) in her  new home, on her new bed, with her new toy sure does though.

If you made it this far, you are in  for a treat. 

"Male Collie gives birth to Border Collie x"

Finney would have made a great Mom

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Speechless Wednesday

My happy place is under construction .That's not some mumbo jumbo psycho babble. Literally,  my (former) happy place is filled with downed trees, front end loaders, and dump trucks. It even has a port a potty.
Evergreen Woods is walking distance from my house, and for the last 9 and a half years I have snuck off to  hike there with my dogs. Having access to 150 designated off leash acres that were so beautiful, and so accessible was one of the reasons I purchased a home where I did.

My dog Charlee died last month and I have known for many years that one day I would bring her ashes to the fork in the road that led to her favorite stream. The stream that she always lay down in was like a fountain of youth for her. After a quick dip she would out run and out play even the youngest dogs.

It was Charlee's most favorite place to go to on earth,  Just walking past it used to  bring me to tears just thinking about the day that would ultimately come.
When my last dog Dina died it took way to long to figure out what to do with her remains, but  Charlee had made it so clear to me so many times.

It took me a month to make myself go back in the woods without Charlee.  and I was really upset last Sunday afternoon to find the spot I had picked out those many years ago to bury her ashes was under construction.  The actual spot was a  wood chip pile over a story high,  roads had been widened,  and there was a whole new road!  When I called Evergreen first thing Monday morning, and I mean FIRST thing, I was told it was not Evergreen's doing. The city of Portland needed access to sewerage. Ok, I can understand that. It is not like they are putting up a parking lot or rows of ugly prefab homes. Ok, I told myself, at least they are not paving the road, and it is still a bit of a secret.

But the reality is that my special spot is gone.
Nothing stays the same right?

All I can say is that I am glad that I held onto to Charlee's ashes. I can't tell you how glad I am that my dog is not under that big pile of wood chips. At this point, Charlee's ashes may or may not end up at Evergreen, and right now I am content with keeping her in the gorgeous and totally unexpected pottery urn that my vet gave me. Thank you so much Casco Bay Vet!

Jared Charney photo

I have been reflecting for the last few days that maybe it is time to find a new happy place in more ways than one .

Saturday, April 2, 2011