Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ramona Falls With Miley

Today's forecast called for temperatures that were NOT triple digits and some friends of mine were planning on hiking Ramona Falls.  Even better, this hike included a wide trail with lots of area off to either side that wasn't crowded with underbrush.  It was a hike that I wouldn't feel guilty bringing a giant ass dog on!  It also helps that I've done this hike before with both Heffner and Bess and knew what the trail conditions were well in advance. ;)  What I didn't factor into the equation is that Miley hasn't been introduced to the dog walk yet.  i.e. a downed tree.  Specifically a downed tree over a rushing creek/small river.

Unfortunately the bridge was out and the water levels aren't quite low enough to make a water crossing feasible.  As you might imagine (and can tell from the above picture), the tree "bridge" was a deal breaker for Miley.  I tried a few different tactics and I tried finding a different crossing option for her, but nothing was going to work.  I told my friends to continue on and I would keep working with Miley to see if I could get her comfortable enough to cross or find another route.

Miley has been experiencing some decreased confidence lately (I plan on talking about this in a separate post), and there were a few obstacles that she was hesitant around that I figured I might as well take advantage of the time and opportunity to let her get comfortable with them and work her through at least some of her hesitation.  I was pretty sure there wasn't going to be any getting her across the log, so we tackled the other areas.  She spooky around the water in the creek.  It was fast moving, choppy and visibility was very poor.  So depth perception was completely gone.  We tackled that first.  I pretty much handled it like I did the lake water on our first trip out to Hagg Lake this year.  I just kind of popped a squat right at the waters edge and let her figure things out at her own pace.  I quietly praised her first when she would lap at the water.  And then when she would stand in the water.  It didn't take her long to realize that this water was very similar to the lake water and was fun to play in.  I did figure out that the middle of the creek was getting on towards waist deep on me, but thankfully she was figuring out to feel things out with her feet first without just plunging into the rapidly moving deeper water.  I'm glad that she figured this out on her own. ;)

Once she was cooled off, we set off upstream to see if I could figure out a better crossing for her.  The shoreline was littered with downed trees and debris, so walking directly next to the water wasn't ideal immediately around where the bridge should have been.
We climbed back up to the main trail and then made our own way upstream.  The terrain is honestly pretty ideal for working on jumping obstacles with decreased impact on the joints and body of the dog.  There's this lovely spongy moss and lots of pine needles that are all over the ground that made for fantastic landing material for Miley.  She was initially hesitant to jump over some of the logs, boulders and tree debris that got in our way.  She fairly quickly got over that and started actually busting her way through areas where the underbrush needed busting through.  Atta girl!  As we kept going, she was slowly gaining more confidence in what she was doing.  So maybe her not crossing the creek wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Our next obstacle of sorts was getting back down to the creek.  The area that we were traipsing through was raised above the creek bed by a fair bit and most of it had a very dramatic and steep descent that just wasn't possible.  Finally I found a spot (looking back, I wish I had been taking pictures/videos of what we were doing to better illustrate in this post) that would technically work.  The descent was still a little steep, but not beyond Miley.  I was a little hesitant because it was trickier footing for me with only two legs.  Miley had no problem!  Once I started toward the descent, she went ahead of me handled it like a champ!  I almost ate it a couple times.  So I guess I'm glad I wasn't trying to get video of that. ;)

From there we meandered up and down the creek.  Miley was getting more and more confidence and handling the rocks and boulders with ease.  She was venturing out into the rapidly moving creek and wasn't panicking when the large grain sand would give out from under her.  I tested a few different areas that I thought might work for a crossing, but the water got too deep and the current was too strong.  The last thing I wanted to do was terrify Miley by having her do a water crossing that would be tricky at best and possibly injure her at worst.  She was being a good sport the whole time and following me where ever I went.  I checked my watch to see how much time had elapsed since we had left the original crossing and we were at an hour past.  I decided to call it and head back to tree bridge and see how she was feeling about it now with more confidence in the terrain.

We watched a few different hikers with various dogs cross over the tree.  I was partially hoping that she would see the other dogs crossing and either see that it was doable or at least take note of how those dogs were handling it and apply it to her own footwork.  Right, because a 15 month old great dane is going to studiously watch other dogs for their footwork so that she can later apply it to her own methods......I can't help that my train of thought isn't always realistic!

At any rate, Miley chose neither option.  She just wanted to play.  Right.  15 month old, super social girl puppy.  Makes more sense.  While we were hanging out, a couple of people on horses showed up to check out the "bridge."  Needless to say, they didn't attempt a crossing.  Miley handled the sight of the horses fantastically!  She did come to attention, but she seemed more curious than anything.  I did have her by the collar, but she wasn't putting any pressure on it.  She didn't vocalize, she didn't freak out, she just watched interestedly.  That is a reaction that I am very happy with.

I finally decided to call it good and head back towards the trail head.  On our way back we passed several other hikers who were just starting out.  Miley is really good at picking up on patterns when we are out an about and she has to do something frequently.  I've noticed this on our closer to home hikes lately too.  I like being able to have my dogs off leash while I hike, but I am very aware that not everyone wants a giant dog to come running up to them.  So my preference is to have my dogs close to me when we are near/passing other hikers.  Trail manners are a great thing to have.  Miley was great!  She got to a point where every time she spotted people ahead of us, she would stop and look back at me for what to do next.  I was VERY pleased with this!  I usually had her recall back to me.  Which she also was really great at following through on.  I was incredibly pleased with how well behaved she was!  Though I will admit that part of this has to do with her personality and not necessarily because I've trained this set of behaviors so studiously with her.  She's a very biddable dog and we weren't coming across anything that was a super high reward for her.  And she got a TON of praise from me each time, so she was a pretty happy camper.

Once we got back to the truck, I decided to pile into the truck bed with her and rest a bit while we waited for the rest of the crew to get back.  Here again I also have to praise Miley on her behavior.  I left the truck bed open so that we could catch the full breeze (it was over cast as well and the temps were not terrible, though still warm).  While I was laying lengthwise across the opening, she didn't once try to step over me to go say hi to new people or new dogs.  She was quiet, and while interested in the things going on around us, she was very well behaved.

After a while, the rest of the crew got back and we headed into Sandy to grab a bite to eat.  After some searching the day before, we found a place with outside seating that would allow dogs.  This was more difficult than I originally anticipated, but we persevered.  Miley was again very well behaved.  Everyone ordered food that I'm sure had to smell incredible to her, but she was pretty happy to lay on her blankets, chew on a toy I brought and just generally chill.  All together, it was a pretty great day!

Friday, June 26, 2015


Last week, was awesome! :) I was in Bend, OR for about three days for a work related conference.  The conference was great and I really enjoyed it.  I got to stay in a great hotel, that I didn't have to pay for.  Ate food that I got reimbursed for and sampled 10 of the awesome breweries (10 is significant because my coworker and I were doing the Bend Ale Trail and were bound and determined to get that pint glass!) in the area.  One of the days I got to go on a fun hike with a friend of mine who lives in the area.  And Miley was very well taken care of while I was there, which meant that I could fully relax and enjoy myself. :)

As it turns out, my parents make excellent Miley sitters!  Not terribly surprising considering they already have a dog of their own, and they are my parents after all. ;) While I got to play in Bend, she got to play at my parents where she always had at least Jazz, their golden retriever, to play with.  Plus my dad is retired and my mom is off for the summer.  Which meant that she had at least two people around to lavish her with attention.  And my parents live on a gorgeous 5 acre lot, so lots of room for her to stretch her legs.  I actually think that she was a little bored once we got home and she was all rested up.

Saturday morning we were in Canby, OR for a dog show.  Miley was a little squirrely, but otherwise good.  She won her class with no competition and behaved herself in the Winners Bitch ring, but no points for her.  Which is still alright since she's still got some maturing left to do.  After the dog show, we both took a nap and then I went about the business of getting things back in order around the house after being out of town for a few days.

The next morning we were back at it with the hiking.  Things were slightly over cast, but it was still a gorgeous view. :)

Now we're full on into this ridiculously hot weather.  Mother Nature is apparently pissed and she wants EVERYONE to know.  I'm thankful that I've got air conditioning, but I've got plans for a little outdoor entertainment to hopefully help Miley and I stay cool without having to drive any where.  More to come!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Miley's First Agility Class!!

Wednesday night was Miley’s first foundation agility class!  Yay!!  I’m having a mixture of the same feelings starting this class that I did when I started taking private obedience lessons with her.  It’s exciting to start fresh with a new dog and hopefully avoid the mistakes that I made with previous dogs.  But it’s also overwhelming when I start to think about how much there is to train for and how much work we have ahead of us to really start working like an in sync team.  I think about things like how long it took me to figure out how to make the weave poles make sense to Heffner and Bess.  But then I also start to think about how amazing it felt when they got it and we were able to start consistently nailing them!  Who knows what training challenges Miley and I will have ahead of us?  I do know that it's about time to start giving it a go!

When I signed up for this class, I did tell the instructor a little bit about my philosophies for training for agility with the breed that I have.  A lot of it won’t apply until much later, but since we’re starting out with an instructor that we’ve never worked with before, I felt it would be beneficial for her to know where I’m coming from.  While Miley is 14 months old, she’s still young for a giant breed.  Which means that I don’t want to do much jumping with her.  When we do start working with the jump standards, my preference is to keep the jump height low.  Yes the dogs need to learn appropriate skills and build the appropriate muscles and coordination to accommodate the height they will be jumping competitively.  However, she has got a loooooooooong road of training ahead of her before she is competition ready and there is no need to rush things right now.  I also don’t do a lot of tunnel training.  With H and B I greatly minimized the numbers of tunnels we did in training.  For Heffner, we might do one tunnel a week during class.  Once he knew it, I wasn't going to put that continued strain on his body.  Bess was a slightly different story in that she LOVED tunnels.  She was a tunnel sucker.  I still minimized the number of tunnels that she did, but she did only do them during class once a week. 

With all of that out of the way, we figured out when our first class would be and have joined a foundation class already in session.  I wanted to make sure that I went into this class with the right mind set for myself as well as to make sure that it was a positive experience for Miley.  Which meant setting realistic goals for what I wanted/expected to get out of it.  This current point in time is a little tricky because I still don’t have my normal Miley.  She’s still a little flighty, distracted and doesn’t have the attention span that I’m used to from her because she’s going through a false pregnancy right now (and hopefully will be done with it in another week or two).  Which means that I have to take my expectations for normal Miley and lower them a bit.  I also needed to take into consideration that this would be the first time that I was asking her to work WITH me and do tasks that she might not find all that interesting, while there was the distraction of other young dogs in the class doing their thing.  Working around dogs who are getting trained for agility is a whole different ball game than working on random exercises and attention inside and around the conformation ring!  I decided that regardless of the exercise, I needed to be happy to have a dog that was working with me at least a little bit and the biggest thing I was going to have to work on was teaching her to bring her attention back to me when I asked for it (as well as when she offered it), regardless of what else was going on in the class.

I set pretty realistic goals for Miley and I’m glad that I had a sort of mental game prepared before we entered the class.  Because I did not have much of a dog for about the first half!  The areas that I figured she would struggle with, she did.  And the areas that I knew she would excel in she did. 
We struggled with small movement exercises or exercises that were aimed at voluntary interactions with inanimate objects.  She just didn’t have the focus or interest for fine motor skills or tasks that weren’t “exciting.”  She also doesn’t have much of an appetite right now, so her food motivation is just about non-existent.  Using toys isn’t appropriate because it gets her focus off what she’s supposed to be doing.  Toys are great for some things, but, say, front pivots on a step stool?  Not so much.  Granted, if I really put the effort in, I’m sure I could find a way around this.  Since her current attention span is temporary, I’m going to take the lazy route and say that I’ll take what I can get. ;)
The areas that she excelled in were the exciting exercises.  Things like restrained recalls and front crosses on the ground.  The latter done with two different toys.  As soon as I brought out the toys her whole face just lit right up!  Suddenly I had a very attentive and excited dog!  I was more than a little thankful for this.  I was about ready to tell the instructor that I swear this dog is capable of these things and I’m not making it up!  Miley LOVED doing the front cross on the ground exercise.  When she is on, that girl can make some seriously tight turns.  These snippets, just like the snippets of awesome heeling in obedience are making me so excited about the working partner that is slowly building next to me!

All-in-all, it was a good first class.  Lots of distraction with some good moments at the end.  Miley is going to learn a lot about working in different conditions with this class, which is happily transferable to all sports.  She gets exposed to working around a wide variety of drivey and “drivey” dogs.  She gets to work in a barn with all sorts of natural distractions inside, not to mention being exposed on one side to the elements and everything that’s outside.  And she will learn to work in a non-temperature controlled facility.  All while I get to learn even more about what kind of a partner she needs me to be.

It’s a little bit scary starting all over again, but I can’t wait to see where this new endeavor takes Miley and I.  Most of all, I’m looking forward to further strengthening the bond that she and I have as we continue to further learn how to work together as a team.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Lake

When it's too hot out to do much, what's a girl to do?  Go to the lake!!  We've had a bit of a hot spell the past few days and I was getting more than a little tired of it.  I did break down and put Miley's pool out, which she is thrilled about.  But I needed something that was also refreshing for me and got her a little more tired.  So I figured it was about time that we made our first trek of the year out to Hagg Lake!

As I've already mentioned, Miley is going through a false pregnancy.  I've talked with her breeder and she agrees, so I'm just waiting for it to pass.  As I've also mentioned, I am starting to see signs of Miley getting back to her normal mental capacities, we're just not fully there yet.  She's still a little flighty and jumpy around things that she's not entirely sure of or hasn't been around in a while.  I didn't really take this into consideration until we got down to the shoreline.  Miley's previous experience, as with many other situations, is that she always had her big brother Heffner there to either show her how things were done or to inadvertently demonstrate that there was nothing to be concerned about.  Since she no longer has that, she's having to find her own confidence, while dealing with hormones to boot!

Miley did not understand what the deal was with the water lapping at the shoreline.  She would go to get a drink then leap backwards so fast, like the waves were going to eat her.  I know it wasn't all that nice of me, but I couldn't help but laugh!  It was like she got dropped into hot lava!  All laughing stopped, of course, when she decided to use my bare foot as a launch pad during one of those moments when those crazy one inch waves tried to attack her.  Do you have any idea how great it feels to have 125 lb. vaulting off your foot???  It tickles....just a little.....

In between spaz sessions, using me as a launching pad and coating me in the ever wonderful Hagg Lake mud, I tried to get a few decent pictures of Miley "posing."  She doesn't quite understand the notion of holding still for the camera for more than a couple seconds just yet, so I got several pictures that are probably really only entertaining to me.  Pictures such as these:

I finally gave up on that idea when I realized I had a video functioning that I was failing to use.  And with my puppy being every so hilarious!

I could NOT stop laughing at her!  She was just too stinkin' hilarious!  I was even re watching the videos at work today.  I freaking LOVE this puppy!

And speaking of this crazy puppy, she had her very first foundation agility class tonight!  That's right, the agility training has now officially begun.:)  Miley is on her way to being a multi sport dog.  But I'll save that for a separate post.  Happy hump day everyone!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Oh Deer......

On my various hikes with the dogs, we come across all sorts of wildlife.  Coyotes, foxes, birds, rabbits, deer and elk.  Due to Heffner's and particularly Bess' very high prey drive, trying to capture a picture or video of any of the game was generally not going to happen.  As H and B got older, I got a little better at spotting deer and elk before they did.  Though often I was clued in by Bess' higher intensity sniffing.  So really, I was cheating.

Miley has had very limited exposure to wild game beyond birds and the occasional squirrel.  Or at least game that she has actually witnessed.  She's been on the trail when Heffner has done a little chasing of deer, but for the most part, she hasn't really seen any.  Until this past Sunday!  While we were out hiking we came across not one, but TWO deer!  I'm used to deer immediately running away from the dogs and I, not casually walking towards us!  Then I thought about it.  Bess' prey drive was INCREDIBLY high.  Wild game and she was on it!  If it ran speedily away from her, she was on it.  Comparatively, Heffner had a more casual prey drive.  He loved chasing the game, but didn't really know what to do with it when he got up to it if it was small game.  And didn't feel like putting in the additional effort of chasing larger game through under brush for very long.  Without another dog around to emulate, her first real encounter with deer was confusing.  And I wasn't helping any because I was totally caught off guard by deer that weren't immediately dashing off.  At any rate, Miley's confusion, my bewilderment and the deers' apparent lack of concern about either of us gave me the time to capture a couple of quick clips!

Kind of neat.  It did remind me of running across a couple of elk last year with just Heffner.  It was after Bess had passed and before bringing Miley home.  I saw the two elk to the side of the trail and Heffner hadn't caught on to them just yet.  I had just enough time to whip my phone out and catch a couple of pics.

I was pretty proud of myself for actually catching that!

I hope everyone is having a decent Monday.  If you need a little pick me up, here's Miley distributing some of her opinions. ;)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hormone Brain

Having an intact bitch can pose "interesting" training issues when she goes into season.  And afterwards if she goes through a false pregnancy.  You never know for sure what you're going to get until it actually happens.  I will give Miley a lot of credit and say that she really hasn't been that bad.  And if I hand't been doing much training at all with her before she went into season, I wouldn't have had a solid baseline to compare to and I probably would have thought that she handled herself really well over all.  However, we had been training, and I did notice the gradual progression leading up to her actually going into season and the eventual false pregnancy that has followed.

About two or three weeks before going into season Miley's attention span started gradually getting shorter.  I'll admit that I felt fairly spoiled and it wasn't uncommon for her to give me her undivided attention for a solid 20 or 30 min. without much of a break.  She liked the interaction and she liked training.  Gradually that attention span broke down.  Exercises that she was doing easily before, she got distracted from then. I was looking at an attention span of a max of 5-10 minutes before she was ready to just walk away from it.  She who is the attention whore, walking away???

Her stays were also breaking down horribly.  I like to train my dogs loose, all together in the same room (depending on the exercise to a certain extent).  While I'm working directly with one dog, the other dog(s) is working on a stay with a very tantalizing distraction right in front of them.  I basically kill two birds with one stone and everyone is getting worked in one way or another, whether they're really thinking about it or not.  Miley was having serious difficulties holding a down stay for more than a couple minutes while I was working Heffner.  It was getting pretty frustrating.

She was also getting physically sensitive and a little flighty.  She'd never been bothered by the overhead fan in the crate room where I normally train.  But she suddenly was very worried about the fan whether it was on or not.  She also became really flighty about her rear.  If any drafts from the air ducts or the sliding glass door touched her rear, she got spooked by it.  Which was also leading to stay issues that weren't there before.

Then we had issues with the texture of the floor in the living room.  While she had never given it a second thought before, she was now incredibly concerned about walking on it.  Slowly these little things were adding up in my head and I was really hoping that she was about to come into season.  Either that or my little girl was losing her mind!

Thankfully she did come into season, and while she was a little needy and a little emotional, she was otherwise still her happy, playful, sassy and loving self.  And I couldn't wait for her to be out of season so that her attention span and our training could get back to normal.  Except it kind of didn't.

After Miley came out of season, she was still a little flighty, sensitive and her attention span wasn't any better.  Okay, I'll just give it a little more time, I figured.  Then it started becoming visually apparent that she was going through a false pregnancy.  Complete with unpredictable eating patterns and nesting behaviors.  Alrighty then.  On the upside, I have an otherwise still hilarious and enjoyable dog to live with.  She's just got the attention span of a gnat. ;)

Things are now starting to calm back down and I'm getting my puppy back.  Equipment that she was squirrely about working with, she's now getting her normal confidence back on.  We trained today with the overhead fan on and she didn't bat an eye.  And best of all, her attention span is coming back!!  Though I should probably be careful what I wish for...... ;)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Paw Pods and Dumbbells

I feel like I haven't done a training post of any sort in a really long time.  Probably because I haven't!  I have taken some periodic video of the dogs during training sessions, but between Miley going into season, me getting really busy, and then Heff, I haven't spent any time putting anything together.  So I grabbed some video of a couple exercises that we were playing around with in March and put them together!  It was a little difficult watching Heffner, but also good to "see" him.

The first video is when I was playing around with Miley and the obedience glove.  We were just starting to work with it and I was getting her used to just taking it from my hand before we were doing anything off the ground.  Because I always worked Heffner in on whatever we were doing, but modified it, he got to work with his favorite dumbbell, the plastic one.  Then I decided to just throw in the leather article just because.

The next video is of me working them on the paw pods.  Because I didn't video their training sessions from the very first time they were introduced to them, I showed how I generally progress through working up to all four paw pods.  First I start with only two and get them to target with their front feet.  Once they've got that down, I have them walk over the paw pods so that they acknowledge that they're there and I start having them target with their rear feet.  I pretty much always warm them up this way before moving on to all four pods.  Once they're comfortably targeting front and rear with only two pods, then I put all four down.  I still start them at the back and have them walk forward.  I haven't actually tried having them only start on the front ones and figure it out.  I may try that with Miley tonight.  Particularly with Heffner being 9 at the time, I wanted him to be very cognizant of where the equipment was and mindful of what he was doing with all four feet.

In the description beneath video on YouTube I explain why the clips I used for the dogs are from different sessions.  Heffner's clip is from the second session and Miley's is from the first.  When I did the first recording, I didn't check to make sure that I had the camera positioned to always have the dog in the frame, so parts of the dogs were cut off.  I redid the recording session to get a better view of the dogs, but when I did, Miley was just about to go into season (I didn't know it at the time) and she was starting to act REALLY weird for her.  She was getting really weirded out by the sliding glass door that I normally had her in a down stay near and she broke her stay several times during Heffner's session.  And in general, she was just very unfocused and not her normal self during her training session, so I opted for using the first recording of her even though she's not always in frame.  It's a better demonstration of her skill set than the one of her in hormonal brain mode.

I am going to make a conscious effort to do more recording of our training sessions and put more videos together for the blog!