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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Costumes!

Treasure the Jester
Grace the Rooster
Owen the Rooster
Brinks the Dragon
Treasure the Princess



We had a lot of fun playing dress up today.  These are a few of my favorite shots.  Grace and Treasure spent a lot of time sniffing the other dogs in costume, and Treasure even started chewing on the dragon's spikes.  Grace then ran under the kitchen table and hid there, not wanting a turn, but I convinced her to try on the new rooster outfit and got a few shots before she'd had enough!  Brinks, ever the puppy, was constantly trying to steal the costumes and drag them away to play with!  Owen is always the good sport and puts up with a lot to please me.  Treasure was very interested and had to inspect each costume I brought out.  Then she stood right in front of me until I tried each one on her.  Some she liked better than others, but she did not leave.  She stayed very close until we were all finished and the excitement was over.  Now she's sleeping at my feet.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Class Week Five

Treasure brought some smiles when she showed off her ladybug costume tonight.  But then it was right down to business.  I did manage to get her to sit and down while wearing the costume, but she isn't totally comfortable in it, so I removed it for the working part of class. 

Tonight we did sits and downs, and I actually got two downs from a standing position, which if you remember, we had a difficult time doing last week.  We worked on our sit stay.  My stay signal is a flat hand pressed gently into Treasure's chest.  I practiced moving myself around her while she stayed sitting.  It was interesting because she seemed to know as I was moving around her and turned her head towards wherever I was to get her treat.  I'm not doing down stay yet, but I think it will go quickly because once she's down, she tends to stay down longer than she stays in a sit. 

I'm starting to use less of a signal to get her to sit.  I'm not leaving my hand in position quite as long, which I'm hoping will lead to a quicker sit response.  We did loose leash walking.  She is doing so good with this!  But I noticed something I had not planned on.  She was great working near our station where the chair and training bag were.  But when I wanted her to move away from it, she fought me a bit, trying to get back to the known area.  She was able to come out in the middle of the room and do some walking with me though, once I did get her away from our station.

Treasure is starting to move when she feels my left leg take a step, sometimes without any tension on the leash.  She is learning to feel the movement of my leg and feel the air current of its movement, plus the vibration of my steps near her.  I am feeding every few feet still, but I am able to get her to do right turns and about turns.  I am feeding her right next to my left leg to increase the importance of that leg to her and to increase her attention to it. 

We also worked on recalls.  Treasure was able to come towards me from about five feet away with me blowing towards her.  We did this several times to get a longer recall, with her getting a treat after each five foot span.  Once, when she walked to the end of her leash to greet the instructor, I was able to blow on her rear end from six feet away and she turned around and came to me.  I am very proud of her!  Now I just need to work on having enough breath for a longer recall! 

Next week is graduation!  We are still working on our tricks and I've narrowed it down to the easiest ones for now.  She has certainly come a long way in just a few weeks.  And I think she enjoys the special one on one time, and of course I know she enjoys all of the treats!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Class Week Four

Well, we didn't actually make it to class this week.  I ended up working a bit later than normal and didn't get home in time to make it to class.  They did miss us, however, and sent us the homework by email.  Isn't email a wonderful thing?!  So this week, the big thing is that they started teaching stays and leave its.  So I started teaching Treasure to stay.  I have already been giving her more than one reward if she stays in position, so she is learning to stay in position longer and wait to see if another treat is coming.  I have also been careful to give the release signal and then I actually help her to move out of position when we are finished.  I've tried to not let her decide when to move out of position on her own. 

Treasure doesn't always move when I release her, which is why I help her to move.  Maybe if she anticipates me helping her to move when she gets the release signal, she will start to move on her own.  So, back to stay.  Now I give her the cue for sit or down, praise and treat, and then quickly give the new cue for stay.  I'm using a firm touch to the front of her chest.  Then I feed, pause, feed, and release.  So the only difference is that now I'm naming the stay part of the exercise. 

Leave it is a new thing we've been working on anyway.  As Treasure is getting more comfortable in her new home (remember, she's only been here for a couple months), she is also getting a bit naughtier.  She tried to steal the paper wrapper from my hoagie one night while I was watching TV and eating.  And just this past week, she has figured out that if she puts her front feet up on the coffee table, she can get closer to whatever it is that she smells!  Once she knows she's been found out, she will leave things alone, so that is good.  Because I'm a dog trainer, I know that I have to stop this behavior now.  But the big softie part of me chuckles silently to myself.  It's great to see her feeling so at home as to unbuckle her collar now and then and let her hair down! 

I've been working on getting sits in different positions around me and with me standing up or kneeling down, sitting on the couch, while in bed at night watching TV, etc.  Her sits are coming much easier and her downs from a sit are great.  This week I've been trying (in vain, mind you) to get her to down directly from a stand.  This used to be the only way she would down, and she was very good at it.  But now that I've taught her the sit, I guess I need to reteach the down from a stand.  Dogs - they always keep you guessing!  So we haven't done very well with the down from a stand this week. 

I was amazed last night to see Treasure turn around and come to me from about four feet away when I blew on her!  Of course, it might have helped that I was holding some very tasty goodies as well!  She does love to eat, this girl!  Because she is not extremely active, I have to watch her food intake or she starts to get a bit fluffy.  Although, as she is getting more and more comfortable here, she is trotting more frequently around the yard, and she has started to invite me to play with her by play bowing at me.  Together, we are trying to figure out just how she likes to play with me.  I'm not so sure she knows exactly how to play with a person yet.  When I play back, sometimes she will engage with me for a moment or two, but other times she acts confused and walks away.  Usually she tries to get me to play with her after her morning trip outside. 

Treasure snuggles with me at night and after our trip to OH, she tends to creep up next to my head ... looking for her own pillow, no doubt!  It doesn't take long to spoil her, you know.  Just this past week, she has been trying to climb on top of me in the morning before I get out of bed.  Sometimes I even get Treasure kisses on the face.  She is also showing more and more interest in toys and in playing with them.  Sometimes the wonderful toy that she finds to play with and chew on is not so much a toy in my eyes, however!  But the other day when I wiggled a toy at her, she followed it and tried to bite at it a couple times, before getting bored and walking away. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ladybugs!

While the time of year for ladybugs has past us, I must say that I've never seen a cuter one than the one that visited us today!  Enjoy our little video of Treasure playing in her new costume, and I hope the music gets your toes tapping, too!



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Class Night Three

Just back from our third week of class.  Treasure must have recognized the training room because she promptly situated herself between my feet under the chair and laid down.  I've been rewarding her for lying quietly during lecture time, and she laid down right away and was sniffing the air for her treat.  She stayed lying down until it was time to start working with our dogs with only a few treats here and there.  It's important to place the treats on the floor between the dog's front feet, so they stay lying down.  If you feed the treats from up high, the dog will tend to get up.  By keeping their focus on the floor, they will learn to stay down and wait longer and longer periods of time for their treat.  Because Treasure can't see me putting the treat on the floor, I lightly tap her front toes as I place the treat on the floor.  She learned very quickly to sniff the floor between her feet when she feels the tap on her toes. 

The other people in class worked on things that require sight, so we practiced sit, down, all done, come and walking next to my left leg.  Her downs are great and she will do them from a sit position with my touch signal.  I am starting to introduce her to lying down from a stand.  Sometimes she does it easily and other times she can't seem to understand.  Her sits get better all the time.  Because of her spinal issues, I think sitting was not comfortable for her, but as she gets more limber, she seems to sit quicker and quicker with my touch signal.  I noticed that she seems to sit quicker in some positions around me than others ... interesting since she can't really see me.  But I think perhaps the touch signals feel a bit different depending upon which direction I reach to touch her from. 

With any dog, it's important to teach the same exercises in many different circumstances and positions.  A dog can very easily learn to only sit when it is in the kitchen and its person has food, and no place else!  So I don't know why I expected it to be any different with a b/d dog!  Silly me!  So this week I will focus on asking Treasure to sit on my right, my left, in front of me facing me, and facing away from me, with me sitting on the floor and with me standing up, or even on my knees. 

Treasure is doing great with turning towards the direction I blow on her from.  We just started introducing directions last week and she will walk several steps towards me from whichever direction I blow on her from ... to get her treat, of course!  She loves to eat!  I can now take several steps with Treasure staying next to my left leg with barely a wiggle of the leash.  She is starting to cue off my leg more and the leash less.  I am still treating after each step mostly, but I am just beginning to do two steps in a row for one treat.  This week I will add some slight turns and maybe even a sit by my leg if her sits are going well otherwise. 

The class started a wait cue to tell the dog not to proceed through an opening, like a door, or not to rush out of their crate.  I will have to ponder how to proceed with this.  I don't want to be too quick to say that I can't teach Treasure something or that I don't need to teach her it.  I think this will be one of those situational cues, where I can teach her to wait at home in areas where I know I don't want her to go without permission.  So I will give this some thought and try some things out this week.  I enjoy having a training challenge to think about.

Other things like chasing a tossed treat for attention games and hand targeting are probably not things that I will teach to Treasure.  Yes, she can target my hand very well, but it's just because it smells like roast beef!  Then she gets confused as to why she can smell the food but it's not there.  Not a very fair trick to teach her.  Speaking of tricks, I have started to teach her a couple different ones for graduation.  We have just started each of them, so I will see how they progress and then we will pick which one we will focus on to show off with. 

I'm very pleased with how quickly Treasure is learning new things and with how eager she is to stay engaged with me during training sessions.  I only wish I had more time to work with her!  I wonder just how quickly she would progress then!  Oh, I bragged about a naughty thing she did this past week.  The rest of the class didn't understand why I thought it was funny, since they all want their dogs to STOP stealing food!  But while I was eating my hoagie the other night, she came up and started pulling the paper wrapping off my lap!  At first I grabbed the paper, thinking it was just slipping off my lap (I was eating it on the couch), but then I saw that she had the corner of it in her teeth and she was slowly pulling it off my lap.  It smelled like food and by golly, she was going to get it!  Funny to me, because Treasure has not really played with toys or other objects yet.  It was funny to see her starting to experiment with problem solving and how to get something she wanted.  It's fun to see her personality starting to show through as she feels more and more comfortable here in her new home. 


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Road Trip!



We’ve just gotten back from a trip to Cincinnati, OH, for a Healing Touch for Animals® advanced proficiency workshop.  Treasure and her buddy Brinks accompanied my friend and me.  We had a great time, and I have to say how extremely proud I am of both dogs.   They have both only been with me for two months at this point, and neither one has traveled, and both are barely housetrained.  They both did so very well!
Treasure travels well in the car, but a nine hour drive is difficult for any of us.  She rode calmly and slept most of the way.  She handled rest area and gas station stops well.  In the beginning, my friend tried to walk her, but I wasn’t really thinking on that one. Treasure was in a new place on a leash and the first thing she always does when she’s put on the grass is to orient and to find me.  Well, she was looking and I wasn’t there, so we switched and I made sure either to walk Treasure myself or to take a minute to connect with her once she was on the ground so she knew I was nearby.  Once she knows I am there, she is content to sniff and do whatever she needs to do.  I did notice that she responded to the vibrations from all the trucks at the rest stops, following them with her nose.
I took as many of Treasure’s own items from home that I could.  She had her own crate and bowls and her own blankie, so she would feel at home.  I took an ex pen with me for pottying at the hotel in case I ran into trouble.  Treasure still does not really like to potty on leash although she is getting better.  If she decided not to go, I thought the ex pen would allow her a little bit of freedom.  The hotel had a small plot of grass right outside each room’s door, which was just the size for me to set the ex pen on … worked out great.  It was easy to quickly wisk her or Brinks outside in a hurry if necessary!
Once at the hotel, Treasure set about immediately exploring, while Brinks the puppy bounced around her head wanting to play.  But until she mapped out everything, she ignored him.  She was on a mission!  I had brought along her Angel Vest in case she needed it in a new place, but she wasn’t upset at all by a new place to explore and in a few minutes felt comfortable enough to play with Brinks.  She slept in her normal place on the bed with me, but I think she was very happy not to have to share it with the other dogs at home!  The last night she even slept with her head on the pillow next to me and under the covers.  She stayed there all night. 
The workshop was three full days, and I made sure to once again take Treasure’s own crate and blanket so she would have her own stuff to orient to.  During lecture times, I kept her on a leash with me at my chair, but she had her open crate next to me and she chose to lie in the crate with her head sticking out, or right next to and touching the crate.  It was like her anchor to something familiar.  She was very good and she got extra practice with pottying on leash during the days! 
Treasure was great with so many people she didn’t know handling her and loved the new techniques.  She was even very accepting of the essential oils we worked with.  I wondered if it might be too much for her because her sense of smell is so much more sensitive due to her other senses being out of commission.  But she really seemed to like them. 
I love to take pictures. I love my dogs.  And, I love to take pictures of my dogs!  So I tried to pose Treasure outside of the facility on Saturday where they had a lovely fall display.  Many pictures later, this is my favorite one of her.  Did I mention it is very hard to pose a b/d dog and get a picture of her looking at you?  And in my case it is very hard to get her to stay in one place long enough to take pictures at all!  She hasn’t quite learned to stay yet!  Maybe that will be this week’s project!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Class Night Two

Tonight was obedience class again.  Having just gotten back from our trip to OH, Treasure and I are both a bit tired, but it didn’t show too much at class.  Tonight we practiced getting our dog’s attention with their name and a word for attention.  And we reviewed using our marker signal to mean treats are coming.  Treasure has no problem with any of these, since she loves to eat!  She has gotten used to me blowing gently on her and will look for her treat.  If you remember, last week, she did not appreciate me blowing on her, so I wanted to see if she’d get used to it or not.  The next step is that I’m blowing on her from different directions and teaching her to look in the direction the air current comes from.
We worked on collar grabs.  I touched Treasure’s collar and gave her a treat, then held the collar and gave a treat, then grabbed the collar and gave a treat, etc.  We progressed up to pulling lightly on the collar and giving a treat.  This went very quickly in class because I had already been working on this since I brought her home.  That’s how I taught her to let me lead her by the collar and then how we progressed to walking on a leash. 
We continued our loose leash walking exercises, progressing from walking backward with the dog following us, to turning the dog to come up next to our leg and walk with us.  I worked a bit differently with this one.  I stood next to Treasure with my leg touching her, both of us facing the same direction.  Then I held the leash so that when my leg stepped forward, I could also put a bit of pressure forward on the leash.  She felt my leg move next to her body first, and then the pressure forward on her collar which I had already taught her meant to move forward with me.  So I am teaching a new cue for walking with me.  My goal is to have her walk beside me by feeling my leg moving next to her.  That way, she will be able to tell my speed, and direction, and know when I stop by feel.  I only focused on her moving one step with both leg and leash cues for now and for that she got her treat.  I will add more steps as she starts to respond to the cues easier. 
We started recalls in class.  I used a slight leash wiggle in my direction to guide Treasure to me and then of course, she got lots of petting and those all important treats!  As she was coming towards me, I backed up slowly to add distance.  And I rewarded downs during the times in class where I was just sitting on my chair waiting for our turn.  If Treasure laid down by me calmly, I would drop treats between her paws on the floor now and then.  She knows this game and when it came time for us to get up and work, she stayed down, waiting patiently for her next treat!