Monthly Archives: March 2013

Two Crazy Dogs

I’m so proud of little Java 🙂 She is determined to catch up on everything she has been missing out during this long, snowy winter.

This is a part of training we did yesterday:

What I like about this video:

  • She gets so excited about the two toy game, doesn’t matter what toys I have! I wanted to challenge her a bit by choosing two toys of unequal value – ball on a rope which she likes and ring on a rope which before this session she didn’t even recognize as a toy.
  • She switched from toys to food and back to toys without any problems. We have been working on this since the day she came home and it has paid off!
  • She continues to bop my hand even though I pretend I’m going to deliver food with the other hand.
  • She followed my body really nicely when I turned for 180 degrees (called “post turn” in agility or “follow the RZ in Recallers course)

We also did some restrained recalls with dogs barking less than 5m away and she was completely focused on me! In the past I would have used food in such situation, but yesterday I chose to play two toy game instead and I think she was more focused than she would have been with food. Toys are winning!

Today we went to play on agility equipment.

Java did some lightning fast jump wraps (Cik&Cap):

Then we played a tunnel game that I found on Silvia Trkman’s Foundations Fun DVD. Java looooooved it!

Ruby had an exciting day as well though not in the way I hoped. I took him to a really nice, wild place where he could romp around on a flexi (a luxury he didn’t get in months). I got him out of the car, taped his toes in case he would start runing, put his coat on. He was excited and I had to repeatedly ask him to calm down since I don’t want him to run just yet. Two minutes later he decided to jump over a stream, but flexi wasn’t long enough and he fell in the icy water. Huh, it seems I have forgotten what a crazy dog I have and not to let him near water in the winter because he always manages to fall in. So I took him back home to dry in the comfort of his crate…

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Two Toy Games

I recently got a question about improving tugging with a dog that prefers thrown toys (and doesn’t necessarily retrieve them 😉 ) and I thought it would make an interesting blog topic.

Note: This is not how I teach retrieve, but it is how I teach the dog to not play keep-away with the toy I have thrown. I never, ever chase the dog once she has the toy – I run in the other direction!

My Toy Is Better Than Yours

I learned the basic two toy game from a dog disc site, but I forgot where… The intention of this exercise was to teach the dog that the toy in handler’s hands was more interesting than the one the dog has. The two toys should be exactly the same so the dog doesn’t prefer one over the other. The game is simple:

  • Make toy 1 come alive, entice the dog to grab it
  • Release it and make the toy 2 come alive
  • Pick up toy 1, release toy 2 and make toy 1 come alive…

This is a lot of fun and my dogs love it! Once they’re really into the game you can also throw in a Sit or other cues to practice their listening skills while in drive 🙂

Tugging For Retrievers

In its basic form this game can be just about chasing and grabbing the toy, no tugging required. But if you have a dog that will hold on to the toy for as little as a second you can start reinforcing tugging with it. First just tug a little before releasing the toy and grabbing another one. If your dog goes crazy for a thrown toy you could also try throwing it in between, so the game now looks like this:

  • Make toy 1 come alive, then tug for a second or two when dog grabs it
  • Say Yes or another marker
  • Throw toy 2 (this is reward for tugging)
  • Make toy 1 come alive as the dog is returning with toy 2 (she will probably drop it somewhere near you)
  • Dog tugs on toy 1
  • Say Yes, throw toy 2

Or, if the dog releases the toy when you say Yes you can also throw the toy you have been just tugging on. Mix it up!

If you want a better tugger make sure that you always start with a little tugging (even if it’s just a tiny tug) before you throw any toy.

Ruby and Java were really happy to demonstrate this game for you 🙂 And the grinding noise in the beginning of video? That’s Manners Minder keeping Java occupied so she doesn’t have the time to voice her disagreement over me playing with Ruby…

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This and That

Oh, how quickly they grow up. In just half a year Java doesn’t behave like a baby dog any more. She always had wonderful focus so even when she was little it was easy to forget that she’s just a puppy, but now there really is no difference if I’m training with her or with Ruby. I just need to remember their different preferences for rewards and the rest is the same.

The only big thing that we still need to cover is working with other dogs as a distraction which we haven’t really done since puppy class. We went to a new training place today just to do some Gimme A Break game (Leslie McDevitt, Control Unleashed) and Java was brilliant, so I think this will be pretty easy, at least until the dogs are running 😉

Ruby is happy to go for longer walks these days since his toe is better and working more systematically on Recallers games. It’s quite amazing how he can tell if I’m working with him just to keep his mind occupied or if I have a purpose. He gets more excited, more engaged when I’m working on something that matters to me. It must be something I do, but I have no idea what it is. Or perhaps he’s mirroring my own excitement? Now that I think of it that sounds like the most likely explanation.

These days we’re brushing up on “observers manners” – the dog that is not working should lie quietly while the other one works. I let these slide in the past two months and it really shows… oops! My ultimate goal is that the dog that is not working lies down while I’m practicing Cik & Cap with the other which is much, much harder than tricks. We’re starting with staying in a crate and will progress to staying on a sofa, a mat and some day on the ground.

This type of work builds self control which is admittedly not something that I look forward to working on. But good self control is very useful for recalls, so I’m actually reaping double benefits. Not bad for some training that happens while I’m actually working with the other dog! Now that’s a super-productive use of training time if there ever was one 🙂

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Silvia Trkman’s Agility Foundations Class

I have just enrolled Java in Agility Foundations class! I can’t tell you how excited I am!!! Well, perhaps you can tell 😉

I love Silvia’s method of teaching agility because it emphasizes running fast and having fun (not to mention that she is very successful with it). What more could one want out of a sport where a human and a dog run as a team?

My crazy boy exiting the dog walk... Oh how I miss those days...

My crazy boy exiting the dog walk… Oh how I miss those days…

I also love that she got around to making a companion DVD, called Foundations Fun. You can order it even if you’re not participating in the course. If you don’t know her methods yet and feel that 200 EUR for a class is too big a commitment then those 50 EUR for a DVD will be well spent. (Java is watching it intently and softly whining – I think she wants in on the action!)

When I first went to Silvia’s Agility Foundations class with Ruby I didn’t care about how soon we are going to be able to run mini courses. Just doing a single piece of equipment was a very exciting prospect. But now that I got hooked and haven’t been able to run agility in such a long time I am extra happy that Silvia’s method encourages handlers to run their dogs on small courses almost from the start. I will get my fix soon! Very soon 🙂

Truth be told I tried to get some today, but shockingly someone forgot to teach Java to look for a jump when she comes out of a tunnel 😉 I should set up a tunnel course, that would be fun!

Ruby’s action photo was taken by Janja Erjavec.

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Number Eight Around Jump Wings

Since the weathermen predict all sorts of nasty weather in the future, we stopped by agility club again to sneak in another short session. Unfortunately the snow was a bit slippery today so we only did a few repetitions for the camera and then went for a walk.

This is the same exercise we did yesterday, figure eight around jump wings:

Only today it was a bit slower due to snow conditions. Still a lot of fun, though 🙂

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First Agility Session

Since we’re having an unusually long winter this year I decided to brave the elements with Java and do some agility training in the snow. This was our first agility session this year. Oh how I missed it! Apparently Java missed it as well, as she knew exactly where we were going and was all excited when we got there 🙂

She decided that today would be a good day to start teeter training. It was covered with a tarp and weighed so that both ends were in the air to keep it above the snow. Java jumped on one end and rode it to the ground. It was a slow ride because the other end had a weight on and she seemed to like it. I got her off and the next thing I knew she was on the teeter again… and again 🙂

What we really came to do were some wing wraps and tunnels. She exceeded all my expectations with jump wraps. Last time I checked my girl was having trouble collecting if I started her 2m away from the wing. Well, she must have been practicing in secret, because today she was able to do figure eights between two jump wings (about 4m apart) without a problem! I really wish I had a video, but the weather didn’t look good, so I didn’t bring the camera.

Tunnels were great, of course. As soon as I got her away from the teeter she found the nearest tunnel and ran through 🙂 It was too slippery to have her run through curved tunnels, so instead we did some straight tunnels with left / right turn at the end. This was a difficult concept for her, but she’s catching on.

To keep her warm between sessions we did a few restrained recalls through jump wings with a bar on the ground. Java thought that was GREAT fun. Need to try it with several jumps next time.

I can’t believe my puppy is ready to train agility. I keep thinking that I forgot something, that I need to teach her something essential before we do more agility, but nope – she’s ready. She really is. Bring on the Spring!

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Ruby Update

I finally feel optimistic about Ruby’s toe troubles. Two weeks ago I took him to another vet. While he couldn’t promise that it will work he suggested three shots of hyaluronic acid directly into the affected joint. After the first shot the toe was tender for almost a week. After the second shot the tenderness subsided in just two days. I think we’re making progress! He will receive the third shot next week and full benefits of this treatment should be seen a week after that. A canine physiotherapist checked the joint today and she too was optimistic.
It looks like he will be ready for more action just as the snow melts. Can’t wait!

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