Posts Tagged With: Ruby

…and we’re back!

My poor tortured dogs during walk in Russi

My poor tortured dogs during walk in Russi

Last week we went to Ravenna to see dr. Piras. (Thank you all for nice wishes!)

This was the longest trip I ever took with Ruby and Java – about 5.5 hours each way. They did surprisingly well, settling down and not making a peep for the whole journey. I thought we would be hearing some complaining after two hours, especially with no stops. I remember going for my first two hour drive with Ruby and how impatient he got after just one hour of driving. We stopped at a rest stop, I let him out, he discovered it was freezing outside and was very happy to go back to his crate πŸ˜› Well, there was no complaining this time. Maybe it helped that it was freezing cold in Ljubljana and they figured they would rather be in their crates than out there πŸ˜‰

By the time we got to Ravenna they had enough, though. They were so happy to be out of their crates and we even had some time to take a walk. Not so happy when they discovered we drove all that way to see a vet of all people, but they were good patients nevertheless.

We found out that Ruby’s toe that gave him the most trouble in the past has become unstable – in other words it moves around too much 😦 Apparently there is nothing we can do about it that would stabilize it for good, so it needs to be buddy wrapped with the next toe to fixate it whenever he runs – forever. I have been wrapping it since we came back and I think he is driving from the rear more than he did before. Maybe I’m just seeing things that I want to see, but it really looks to me like he’s using his rear legs better.

I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t understand Java’s diagnosis very well… By the time of our appointment I was very very tired (driving in a car is very taxing for me for some reason), I slept only 4 hours that night and I think only half of my brain was still awake at that point. I *thought* I understood what dr. Piras was saying, but by the time we got back to Ljubljana it was all a haze.

Well, after calling Piras ten times a day all week I was finally able to get him on the phone yesterday and this time I was able to process the info πŸ™‚ Here it goes: Java sprained the medial collateral ligament when she fell into the ditch and then some scar tissue formed. The ligament is doing OK. The swelling we see is a result of scar tissue pressing on the tendon sheath. The fluid in the tendon sheath is pumped up when Java runs, but because of the pressure from scar tissue doesn’t flow back down. It helps if I massage it or guide the joint through it’s range of motion.

He advised using DMSO on it, therapeutic ultrasound and to keep wrapping the wrist for a long time to help with proprioception and therefore stabilization. Just like in humans, sprains have a tendency to repeat, so it’s best to be careful… but he said she can run and even do light agility. Ahhhh… I feel so relieved that she doesn’t need a surgery or another 6 months of rest!

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Vet Time Again

Two weeks ago Java’s wrist swelled up after being trouble-free for more than four months. I guess the vet was wrong when he said that it should heal on its own in 6 weeks to 4 months. We were very patient and yet… Here we go again 😦 It makes me so sad to have to restrict Java’s freedom again even though she is a good little patient. She does very well with walks on leash, even with other whippets running around which seems to fascinate other whippet owners to no end. The only thing that really gets to her is if someone is throwing a ball to said whippets. Then she starts screaming her ALL! BALLS! ARE! MINE! song.

Last Sunday there was a Canine Sport Medicine Seminar in Croatia and Alessandro Piras, an Italian vet who works with racing Greyhounds and sport dogs of all breeds, was presenting topics on sport injuries. He came highly recommended from several friends, so I went. I brought Java with me and she was a demo dog for physical examination. Piras thinks something is up with her medial collateral ligament. Tomorrow we’re driving to Ravenna to have it checked out. Fingers crossed that he will find the real cause of Java’s swelling and that she will soon be able to run free.

I am also bringing Ruby along as I’m really curious what Piras will say about his fat toes. It bothers me that he has two fat toes next to one another on his hind foot and the knuckles rub together, irritating the skin. It doesn’t seem like it will work long-term. For those not familiar with sighthound foot injuries, a “fat toe” is a toe that has been sprained and then developed a lot of scar tissue to strengthen the joint, so now the joint is bigger than it used to be.

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The Aftermath

Stoned Ruby

Stoned Ruby

Anesthesia is a scary thing, but luckily everything went well, everybody at the vet’s office was very nice and Ruby is now completely back (also in his mind, not just his body πŸ˜‰ ). He reminds me of this several times per night as he bumps into things with his Elizabethan collar. Thanks, Ruby. Can’t sleep? Yeah, me neither.

He was shivering this morning. I checked his gums and they seemed white to me. He was lying perfectly still. I got worried. I checked Java’s gums. They looked better than Ruby’s. Went to check Ruby’s gums again. They looked better this time. Then it dawned on me to ask him to get up. He looked at me like: “Are you sure you want me to get up? I thought I was in a stay.” Then he got up and was bright as ever, just a little cold. I put his Back on track coat on and was happy as a clam πŸ™‚

Later today I took him for his first real walk and he was happy and pulling all the time. I don’t think I was ever so happy to see him pull on leash πŸ™‚

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Family Jewels Removal Business

Hey guys, I’m sorry for not writing for so long. I hate it when that happens with blogs that I like 😦

My life has been pretty busy these past two months and it’s going to stay busy for a while… So if you don’t hear from me for another month or so it’s not because I decided to stop writing altogether, it’s just another stretch of craziness.

Speaking of which, I decided to take Ruby’s family jewels away. I don’t make this decision lightly. I know it is accepted, even highly desirable in certain parts of the world, and also among certain groups in Slovenia. But it doesn’t sit so well with me. In essence it means taking a perfectly functioning organ out of the body. It disturbs hormonal balance and makes other tissues work harder to make up for the deficit. There are some indications that neutering could be connected to behavioral and health issues.

Hiding behind the table leg on his last vet visit

Hiding behind the table leg on his last vet visit

However, in my view the pros outweigh the cons now. Ruby goes crazy when Java is in heat, so he has to spend two weeks with friends. Then when he comes back I go crazy because he looses his mind all over again even though Java is not in heat any more. This was no fun, but doable with lots of management, training control behaviors and remembering to be Zen about it. But things have changed and I won’t be able to board Ruby with a person I trust next time Java goes into heat. He is not the easiest dog to handle so there aren’t many people that I feel comfortable leaving him with. I think that in terms of his quality of life it will be best if he gets neutered so he can stay with me during those days.

So this is it. Enjoy the last intact days, my friend. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we won’t regret this!

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Day 26: Another Rally Obedience Report

Recently I have changed my focus from doing as many exercises in a row as possible (for a single reward) to checking that Ruby knows his job well and fixing heeling precision (he started drifting away from my leg). We’re still working on reducing reinforcers, just in a different way. I’ve been quite good at remembering to work on that it showed in class today. It’s funny how the things I work on tend to improve, while the things I don’t work on do not πŸ˜‰ Like the about turn (I turn to the left, Ruby circles around me to the right). I haven’t found a good way to signal that. I haven’t actually been trying much, just hoping he would get it on a verbal cue. But he is not a very verbal oriented dog and he has been taught for five years NOT to go behind my back like that, so I will probably need to come up with a good visual cue to let him know it’s now OK to do it. He will do it if I walk slowly, but at normal pace he will sometimes do a front cross instead (and I get it, my body cues totally look like a front cross is coming up).

We also worked on heeling with distractions and I think there was some progress here as well. Really beautiful spiral and perfect focus on heeling around toys even though he knew exactly where they are.

At home we’re working on generalizing his Park cue (a tucked sit) to flat ground which he had a lot of problems with in the beginning, but I think he is starting to get it. He even did it at the training field today, but he’s not ready to start using it as a part of Rally exercises, so for now we’re using Sit.

I just can’t believe how much fun he’s having… he can’t wait for his turn to begin! I need to practice at the field with Java more often and make some video of her, too.

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Day 18: No Behavior Is Ever Trained

I have decided it’s time that pups and I got back to basics in our training. Back to doing core Recallers games, back to maintaining and upping the criteria in Rally Obedience, back to doing more self-control, just plain old basic stuff. It might not be fancy, but it really has a great impact on the big picture and right now it feels good to do basic stuff.

So this morning I focused on dogs touching my leg during heeling which meant I was clicking almost every step. I had to click this often for Java because she tries to offer all sorts of stuff since I taught her to go backwards around me (she looooves that trick!) and I wanted to make sure that she understood what we’re focusing on. I didn’t want to create a chain of move away from my leg – move close to my leg – slide her butt behind my leg (the start of going backwards around me) – correct position – click – treat. I wanted her to be in correct position 90% of the time. That went well. Then we did heeling over kibble on the floor and I noticed that after I deliver a treat she glances toward the floor (to check if the kibble is still there, no doubt) then she looks up. So I started clicking before she looked down which pretty much meant I was clicking and treating continuously while we were walking over kibble. She stopped trying to look down pretty quickly. Of course we didn’t get much duration yet, I’m saving this for the evening session πŸ˜‰

For Ruby I also had to click very often because he developed a habit of walking 10-20cm away from my leg, which is not so bad in itself, but it seems to me like he’s moving further and further away with each Rally Obedience class and I would like to stop the trend. So today the criteria was that he had to touch my leg while heeling. Not too bad, but not good enough that I would add distractions to the picture, so instead of walking over kibble I had a different distraction exercise for him: I put him in a down and did recall to front with an empty food bowl near his path. That went good, so next time I filled the bowl with kibble. This is similar to one of Recallers exercises that he knows well, so I didn’t expect him to try to eat the kibble, but in RO class he sometimes veered toward the bowl instead of coming to me in a straight line. I am sure he would come directly to me if I used his recall word, but I never use that unless I intend to reward him really really well, and in RO I don’t plan to have a party after recall, so I was using an informal recall to get him to come to me. Now I need to teach him to come in straight line on this cue. Bowl of kibble didn’t even get a glance from him (I also had kibble, so my rewards were no better than what was on the ground). Very pleased. πŸ™‚ Now I need to find the minimal situation in which he will fail.

Another problem that creeped into our training since we started doing RO was randomly getting up from a sit. Ever since Ruby was a puppy, Sit meant “sit there until I release you” and it worked really well once I proofed it. I only used one release word “OK” and he was listening for that. I could shout out “Orange” or run around, or throw his favorite ball, or throw a ball and let Java chase it and he would maintain that sit until I said OK. But with Rally Obedience exercises I didn’t always say “OK” before I gave next cue. Of course giving the next cue releases him from Sit so he can do what I cued, but apparently this has thoroughly confused him because he will now release on all sorts of things that were never meant as release, even just plain movement. Need to work on that release criteria more. This will be fun πŸ™‚

In one of the videos for the Recallers 5.0 Susan Garrett said that no behavior is ever trained. It’s either improving or it’s deteriorating. So true. I should have this framed on my wall!


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Day 12&13: Why Are Whippets Fast When Running, But Slow In Training?

Today I was reminded of something I read a long time ago on a blog:

In my experience Whippets can suffer a bit from the ‘good dog’ syndrome. (disclaimer: of course there are exceptions to every rule!) It’s really easy to teach a Whippet to be well behaved, and I think that might be why one occasionally sees slow-ish Whippets in agility. Unlike some dogs who can take constant reminders not to go wild and act like heathens, Whippets seem to take the lesson to heart too quickly and once they’ve been convinced not to go wild, it’s hard to convince them that sometimes wild is appropriate.
Frankie Joiris

For those who don’t know her, Frankie is a remarkable animal trainer. She has trained several breeds of dogs, cats, birds (sorry I forgot which kind) and turtles for film industry. Heck, she taught her dog to tightrope walk! So when she talks I sit up and pay attention.

You know how with some whippets the handler says “Sit” and a whippet takes like 5 seconds before their butt finally reaches the floor? Are those ‘good dogs’? Sure. Are they well behaved? Possibly. Would I like my dog to sit like that? Hell no! If the butt is not on the ground within 1s (and that’s on a bad day) I’m seriously reconsidering my training session.

I don’t think Ruby was ever in danger of being one of those whippets who slow down because their owners want them to. He had another reason to be slow: he just didn’t care about what I wanted and about my stupid training ideas. He was fast and crazy when doing the things he wanted to do (usually mischief) and slow when it was “training time.” He was one of those 5-second-sit dogs. Well, maybe a little less, but he was sloooow. I don’t think anyone who sees him work today suspects how slow he really was.

Puppy Java in playtraining (c) Yinepu

Puppy Java in playtraining (c) Yinepu

Java is different, she definitely cares about what I think and though she is naturally fast it would be easy to make her slow down so she would be more user-friendly for slow human reflexes. That would make it easier to teach her precise heeling because she wouldn’t be so all over the place from guessing what I want. It would be easier to click at the right moment. But the downside would be that the resulting heeling (or sit, or down, or retrieve, or recall, or tunnel,…) would be slower and less intense.

The thing is, it can be difficult to get a fast, enthusiastic performance of a behavior that was taught in a slow manner. In that case you say “sit” and the dog hears “sloooowly move your butt to the ground”. Whereas if you teach sit in an enthusiastic way then you say “sit” and the dog hears “the quicker you sit, the sooner I’m gonna throw this ball!”.

If you want to see fast, energetic responses you have to train your dog when he is in the fast, energetic state of mind. You want to see sparkling eyes and wagging tail every time you train, so first play, then train. If your dog doesn’t like toys you can play with food, too. Just run around and give him food when he catches you, or roll it on the ground.

Also, try to remove “no” from your vocabulary. “No” is slowing the dog down, decreasing the energy and doesn’t actually tell the dog what to do instead of the “bad” behavior. Instead of saying “no”, teach the dog what it is that you want. Don’t want the dog to jump up to get the food? Teach him that all paws on the ground make food appear. Don’t want him to bolt out of the door? Teach him to automatically sit when you put your hand on the handle and wait while you open the door. Don’t want him to pull? Teach him that only loose leash moves forward.

Whatever you reward is what you will get more of. So if you want to see excitement, reward excitement. Don’t tell the dog “no” when he jumps up. Instead, if he’s jumping up because you’re holding a toy and he’s not usually totally crazy about playing with you (I’m going to contradict my advice a bit…) REWARD that energy by playing with the dog. Don’t say “no”, “calm down”, “feet on the floor”. Just play. Jumping up is energy, so if you want more energy, then jumping up in a training situation is your friend.
Yes, that means he will be more likely to jump up on you next time you’re holding a toy. BUT it also makes it more likely that he will show more excitement and energy when you play. Sometimes you must temporarily sacrifice one goal (your dog not jumping on you) to get another goal (sparkly eyes when playing and working).

Does this mean I let my dogs do whatever they want so they will work with excitement? No. Well, I let them jump on me, that’s true. I find it useful to see when they are at the right level of excitement and ready to work.

Here’s an example of how I teach them my rules AFTER I taught them that working with me is fun and exciting: Yesterday we had a Rally Obedience class after another class where one of the females was in heat. For Ruby this was the first time of doing RO under this particular distraction. He can do agility without a problem, but he would sell his soul for agility, so that makes it easier. We were getting ready to begin and Ruby found a particularly nice sniffing spot. I asked him “Are you ready?” He just chattered his teeth at me, no doubt still very interested in that female’s smell. I smiled and thanked RO gods for a wonderful opportunity to make a point. I could have asked him “Are you ready?” again and then kept correcting him every time he would drop his head down to sniff during RO sequence. Instead, I didn’t say anything. I took Ruby back to the car and got Java out. She was more than willing to take his spot in the class and within 2 seconds Ruby knew that he just lost his opportunity to work. (Java did great! But sorry, no video 😦 ) During next round I let him have a go again and he was a superstar. “Smells? What smells? I don’t smell anything, just don’t let that black bitch take my spot in the class again!” Much, much more effective than saying “no”. And the best part? If done correctly it increases dog’s energy instead of squashing it. With enough practice distractions become cues for the dog to focus on the job more intensely.

Training, communication and building a relationship with your dog is a wonderful, positive, HEALTHY thing to do. And if the dog isn’t having a total blast while you’re doing it, you’re not doing it right.

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Day 8: Rubystar :)

I’m writing this at 1am because I’ve been watching SPARCS conference all day, and I need to get up early tomorrow so I’ll be quick πŸ˜‰

One month ago Ruby had a photoshooting for a story in a dog magazine Moj Pes (
It was cold and windy and he really wasn’t sure if that Shar Pei was a dog and if yes was she about to eat him, but he did his job like a pro nevertheless πŸ™‚

Photo by Yinepu

Photo by Yinepu

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Day 7: Rally Obedience Training Notes

I’ll get to Rally obedience in a minute, but first I need to alert you to another source of excellent (and free!) information on dog training: the SPARCS conference this weekend. They offer completely free live video streaming. I missed it last year; I don’t intend to miss it this time! The themes are:

Friday: Aggression and Conflict

Saturday: Temperament and Personality

Sunday: Science in Training

Here’s what I think we need to train according to the weaknesses exposed by Sunday’s Rally Obedience class:

  • Get a reliable and pretty much error-free performance of all RO I exercises when I don’t have food in my hands and I don’t have the treat pouch on. Ruby is pretty forgiving of training without the treat pouch (in agility this is the sign that the real fun is about to begin!), but before I try to improve performance of several exercises without a treat pouch I first need to be sure that he can do them well in isolation.
    • First with treats coming from my pockets
    • Then mixing with rewarding from a food bowl
    • Try it in different environments
  • Which brings me to the question of when will I reward. I don’t like to always reward after the exercise is finished because I think Ruby will learn the patterns of exercises (example of an exercise: heeling, recall to front, sit, go around me into heel position, get a cookie) and the intermediate behaviors will loose their value because he will know for a fact that he only gets a cookie after going around me. This is a behavior chain so one could also argue that every next cue will reinforce the behavior before it and therefore there is no need to reward variably. I don’t know…Β  I’m sure there is excellent information out there about whether always rewarding at the end will hurt the chain, I just need to do some research.
  • Keep heeling with eye contact even when there is food on the ground (on the first pass!)
  • For myself: remember to say Sit after recall, not Down! πŸ™‚
  • It would be nice to find a way to straighten his downs when there is a bowl of food present. I played around with a platform in the living room and of course that’s no issue. But even on the ground it won’t be a problem at home I think… Only at the club. No idea there yet.
  • Also his recall could be straighter πŸ˜‰ Need to refresh recalling by a bowl of food!
  • Sending him around my back while there is a tempting bowl to my right.
  • Maybe teach him to walk toward me without jumping up πŸ˜‰ Not really a priority right now as I don’t think that exercise is a part of RO I

And a video of the second part of RO for those who didn’t get tired of it last time (same course, 2nd try):

Notes to self:

  • Keep rewarding from the hand until there is a really good behavior to reward. Use send to bowl as a jackpot, not as a random reward.
  • Engage him for the whole session just as if he would be a highly distractible dog. It breeds excitement and focus which breeds speed.

A short update on Java: she is having short walks on leash and light tricks training at home, making sure we are not unduly stressing her wrist. I am currently gathering veterinary opinions on how to proceed. I expect we will know more about her mysterious swelling in a week or two and then we will also decide how to treat it.

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Day 4: Distraction Monster

I have to admit I’m not a good Rally Obedience student. I had an unusual desire to practice last month and it showed as Ruby made fast progress from being rewarded for every behavior to doing several in the row and maintaining speed and confidence (and mostly also precision). But during past two weeks we only practiced sporadically, in part because it was hot which means Ruby wasn’t as excited to train. I mean, he was still OK, he just lost that little extra spark that I’m addicted to, so I was like meh – whatever – we’ll practice some other time. Though to be fair to myself we did work on one thing: keeping elbows on the ground while waiting in a down position which was quite a project because all his life Ruby was waiting by keeping his left elbow off the floor which then gradually becomes both elbows off the floor and then a half-sit… you know where this is going πŸ™‚

Then we had to miss one class so there was even less incentive to practice. And then came yesterday… It turns out we better practice some more if I want to get rid of having treats on me! It’s funny, if this was agility and Ruby would have a much better focus with reward on me than without a reward I would take it very seriously, make a plan, analyze the videos to find best moments to reward, agonize over the great things that I didn’t reward and so on. Since this is rally obedience I’m just going with the flow, trusting he’s going to figure it out as long as I don’t make any major mistakes and otherwise just having fun teasing Ruby with the food bowl on the ground. When we’ll have a problem that won’t resolve on its own with some practice, then I’ll engage my brain. Until then, as long as he’s happy it’s all good. Of course I’m not saying that’s the best way to train… I’m just not motivated to do any better right now πŸ˜‰

First part of this video is pretty good, but in the second part after a break Ruby is a distraction monster. He reconnects pretty easily, but he disconnects even easier. I’m not worried about it. We’ll just do a more gradual fading of food on my body – some treats in my pockets to reward good stuff on the spot. And practicing more often should help as well πŸ˜› He kept his elbows on the ground much better this time, yay! πŸ™‚

More rally-o video coming tomorrow πŸ™‚

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Look, Mum! No Treats! (Well, Getting There)

Guys, I have a confession to make. I am a reward and praise addict. I get nervous if I train a dog for 10 seconds and can’t tell him he’s brilliant five times and stuff his mouth with treats so he wouldn’t talk back. I just feel this… compulsion to reward. Every. Single. Behavior. Except in agility. Somehow my brain figured out that running a sequence of 20 obstacles in agility without stuffing my dog’s face after each one is fine and the sky won’t come falling down if I don’t do it.

This spring Ruby and I started on a new adventure together: Rally Obedience. I thought it would be good for him because Java was getting more training time than him and this would give him some more one-on-one time with me. It would also be good for me because I would have to learn to fight my compulsive feeding habit.

There is a reason why I like to reward every single behavior: it’s crystal clear what I like and what I don’t like. If the sit is too slow, I don’t reward it. If heeling is too wide or the dog looks away during heeling, too bad – you’ll just have to heel a little longer to get that reward. Though heeling is already a grey area because the dog can make many many decisions before I reward. If I reward every behavior that I like it’s easy for me to keep improving it over time, even though I’m not specifically working on it, or at least keep it from deteriorating from lack of reinforcement.

RallyO is making me face my fears of:
– Loosing Ruby’s enthusiasm (which very quickly means loosing ability to work with Ruby – he is either 100% on or he’s gone, there is little middle ground with him)
– Making him frantic, thinking he did something wrong because reward didn’t appear immediately
– Seeing behaviors deteriorate, becoming less precise and/or slower

We practiced doing several exercises before a reward at home, but today was the first time doing it outside with all the distractions that this brings. Main rewards were placed in three bowls positioned around the sequence. I couldn’t help but reward him twice from hand as well – he was such a good boy πŸ™‚ While he did feel a bit “off” sometimes and not as connected as he usually is, I am soooooo proud of how well he did πŸ™‚

I love seeing his fast responses and excited tail. πŸ™‚ I would hate to loose that in the process of reducing frequency of reinforcement. I might combine rewarding from hand with rewarding from bowls for a while, so that I can reward anything he does exceptionally well right away. This way I’m hoping he will figure out that it still pays off when he tries hard and this should keep the enthusiasm up.

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Happy 5th Birthday, Ruby!

Oh time flies, doesn’t it? I love how you tell me that you would like to sleep in the bedroom and how you snuggle under the covers as I watch movies. I love how you seem to understand so much of what I say even though you don’t agree with much of it. I love how crazy you are about agility even though I often don’t dare to run fast because I know you would run even faster and I’m afraid you wouldn’t be able to handle your body over obstacles. I still get an adrenaline rush every time I run with you. I love how you lure Java away with a toy so that you can have a few moments alone with me. I love how you keep checking on me during walks. You are perfect in so many ways. ❀ Please stay sound and happy!

Photo by Stisnprtisn!

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Rally Obedience, Lure Coursing, Conditioning And Agility – Whew, We’ve Been Busy

Ruby... ready to go!

Ruby… ready to go!

Ruby started his Rally Obedience class last week and really showed off for the instructor. He kept his excitement up for the whole hour without me lifting a finger for it except for releasing him every few minutes so his brain got a break. I wasn’t even using toys, just food. Why do I never get such excitement for work when we’re practicing alone?

Really nice precision in heeling, matching my pace from slow to running and back and following direction of movement, without crowding that I usually see in agility. Backing around me – no problem, changing positions – no problem. Ignoring distractions like a pro. Lovely sends to the table even though he has never done that before. Down stay on the table was iffy – his elbows came up, anticipating recall to heel. In short, he loved Rally Obedience. It did help that we were doing all this around agility equipment. Maybe he thought this was just a long agility warmup πŸ˜‰ I hope he will keep the attitude even after he figures out that this isn’t agility!

Speaking of warmups they have changed quite a bit since we started K9 Conditioning class. In addition to 15 minutes of walking and some tricks we now do a series of exercises to warm up the joints – even toes! I don’t yet know how much they’re helping, but this week Ruby had first two agility trainings after a month and he looked great in the evening, wasn’t sore at all. Of course I made sure that these trainings were easier on his body after such a long time off, but maybe also the new warmup and cooldown routines helped some. Continue reading

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Physio News

We’re back from the physio session and I have great news: Ruby’s toe is not really bothering him, it has just developed a lot of scar tissue which keeps it stable and (unfortunately) stiff which is especially apparent when he walks down the stairs. We got some exercises to try to break some of the scar tissue down over time. Most importantly there is no reason to keep him from running free πŸ™‚

Java is also fine, just some muscle soreness in the right shoulder because she loves running to the right so much, but that was gone by the end of the session. It seems that we have successfully built up the left shoulder so there isn’t any detectable difference now. All ready for the K9 Conditioning next week πŸ™‚

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Looking For Competition Zen… Have You Seen It?

When I competed with Ruby I dreaded those wide open courses in A1 (novice) level because he was very handler-focused, but had no intention of slowing down just because I was slow. Instead if I was late he would turn into me and at that point there was basically no way to get him focused on the next obstacle before getting a fault. I knew he needed more independence, but I thought I had a good reason not to train it: I was afraid that with his length of stride and over-the-top attitude he would become very difficult to turn so what would work for us in A1 would work against us in A2.

So I put this pressure on myself that I must get three clean runs in A1 as soon as humanly possible so that we can move up to A2 Continue reading

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This weekend my awesome sister came by to do a photoshoot of my doggies. The result are these A.M.A.Z.I.N.G photos. I expected them to look great, but these are way better than that. I think she has really outdone herself. Thanks, sis!

Click on a photo to see a bigger version in a slideshow.

(c) Stisnprtisn!

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Winter Is Coming

I love this winter! If every winter would be like this – dry, not really freezing, and sunny – I wouldn’t mind at all. Sure, the real cold is still coming, but I’m enjoying what we have right now. Plus, the shortest day of the year is almost here and then the days will start growing longer again. What’s not to like πŸ™‚ Continue reading

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No More Running Contacts

I have been thinking for quite some time that I should switch Ruby’s dog walk performance to stopped contacts. He gets all crazy and wild-eyed when running over the dog walk and it’s not safe to be in that state of mind at that elevation and that speed. I love running contacts so this was quite a hard decision to make and I was postponing it… Until last week when Ruby fell off the dog walk. Continue reading

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What We Trained This Week

Here are some of the things we trained in agility:

I can’t believe that Java can do short sequences so well! When did she learn that? πŸ™‚

We went back to the ground zero with running contacts and we’re now adding height again. The good thing is she decided the contact zone isn’t going to eat her! Wooohooo!

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Agility Ruby :)

I have been asked whether Ruby does any agility these days. Well yes, he does πŸ™‚

During the summer he looked mostly OK, but there were a few times when his back got tight after activity. Each time I made an appointment with physiotherapist, and he was good for another two weeks, then he got tight again. One month ago I took him to a chiropractor to see if he could find the source of this issue. I was amazed when Continue reading

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Teaching a Tucked Sit

Sit was the first cue that Ruby learned as a pup. I was reading When Pigs Fly at the time and I learned there are many ways to get a behavior – luring, free-shaping, targeting, molding and capturing. I decided to capture sit since he was sitting on his own when I prepared food in the kitchen.

Capturing simply means you observe the dog in day to day life and click when he does the behavior you would like to put on cue. At first the dog won’t know what you’re clicking, but with time he will offer that behavior more and more often and eventually Continue reading

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Retrieve Party

Very wet Java

Very wet Java

You’re probably wondering what happened to my grand plan to become the center of my dog’s universe.

As usual. Life happened. Half of the things I planned to do didn’t get done. Most of them because I didn’t push through inconveniences to make them happen. Some of them because Life made them impossible at the time. But you know what? Some of the things did get done and they made a difference. Actually, I was surprised how big of a difference a half-assed effort can make. Continue reading

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Cik & Cap On Verbal Cue

I can’t believe what just happened. And of course I have no video 😦

The dogs were restless so I decided to train a little to tire their brains and help them settle down (probably not a good idea if you have a working breed, but with whippets it works just fine πŸ™‚ ).

For Ruby the exercise was cik & cap around a cone on verbal only, no help with body or arm cues. Not that this is important to me… the main reason he can’t tell cik from cap is that he has a handler that shouts out the first word that comes to her mind, and it’s usually the wrong one πŸ˜‰ I thought it would be a good exercise to make him think. Continue reading

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Become The Life Of A Party In Three Easy Steps

In my previous post Confessions Of A Party Pooper I explained how my dog’s behavior on walks deteriorated because I wasn’t using rewards effectively and have become less fun than environment. Now it’s time to make a plan for improvement.

I have a very analytical mind and this post contains my thinking about a problem so continue reading at your own peril. But first here’s another photo taken by my wonderful sis πŸ™‚

(c) Stisnprtisn!

(c) Stisnprtisn!

Continue reading

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Confessions Of A Party Pooper

For some time now I knew I had to do something about it, it couldn’t go on like this anymore. But I was lazy. I was afraid that it will take a lot of work. I was afraid that I have fallen out of favor and could never get the old times back. I was afraid that what I would try wouldn’t work and I would be disappointed. Yes, it was mostly Fear. I don’t actually believe that Laziness exists, but let’s leave that for another conversation.

Environment holds many rewards

Environment holds many rewards

Continue reading

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