Sunday, February 7, 2016

Of Dumbbells and Rats

Yesterday Miley and I went to a Barnhunt workshop in Newberg.  There are so many dog sports that I would love to try out!  Thankfully I live in an area where opportunities abound to learn, train and trial in many of them that it's really just a matter of finding the time.  Since I'm already pretty heavy on the disciplines that require a fair amount of very regular training in order to progress in, I'm wanting to try out some of the sports that rely more on the dog's natural instincts versus trained behaviors and exercises.  Hence barnhunt.  This is a sport that I so wish I had tried out with Bess.  She would have lost her mind over it! :)

The workshop was incredibly helpful in going over the general gist of the sport.  Then the dogs get to meet a rat, first in an open fronted cage.  Then in a clear tube.  And finally in the competition tube.  An instinct course is set up and the dogs have the opportunity to do a mock instinct test a few times.  Miley showed some initial interest in the rat, but not a huge amount.  Once the rat was inside the competition tube, she wasn't quite as interested and needed some encouragement to find the one tube out of the three that contained the actual rat.  She did nail the climb element that is required for the novice level testing, but I already knew that she would have difficulty with the tunnel portion as she still isn't going through the tunnel in agility class.  We're gradually working on it in a very low pressure manner.  Since I already know she's got at least a year before she'll be trial ready, I haven't been terribly concerned.  The workshop hostess was thankfully very willing and patient to work with Miley and she set up a modified tunnel that consisted of only one straw bale that she had to go under and we actually got her through it!  Woot!

Miley was incredibly spacey the night before at agility class, so I wasn't terribly surprised that her general distracted behavior continued into the workshop.  We've been through this before with the whole time line of events that followed her last season, and this time isn't any different.  I just need to ride it out and things will get better.  Just in time for her to go into season again. ;) Generally, she was very interested in smelling everything and climbing on the straw bales.  Her real interest in the rats is hard to gauge at this point.  I don't know if she really isn't interested, or if she's just too distracted for it right now and something that requires her to be stationary and not running and climbing is of very low interest to her.  At any rate, it was another fun thing to try out with her and MY interest is enough that we're going to try again in March when we're able to rent some one on one time with the instructor to give it another go.  Dominic will also be bigger and have a little more of an attention span at that point and I'd like to see what he thinks of the sport as well.

I did take full advantage of this outing to bring Dom along so that he could get more socialization in another very different setting.  The workshop was held at a stables, so there were new sights, smells and sounds for him to experience.  More new people that he hasn't met before.  And a larger quantity and variety of dogs in working mode than he's been exposed to so far.  He also got to get a taste of what it'll be like training away from home when he has to wait in a crate when it's not his turn and the back and forth of swapping dogs out.  As has been his way of handling everything so far, he took it all in stride!  We started joking in agility class about Dom's motto in life after he decided that the lowered dog walk and everything else that's been thrown at him, was no big deal.  Dom's motto on life:  "I got this."  Now lets just keep our fingers crossed that puberty and those damned hormones don't mess with my plans. ;)

And in case you're wondering, there are great danes competing in this sport, one of which has his champion barnhunt title already!  I'm very lucky to have Marta in my area.  She has done, and continues to do a plethora of performance sports with all of her danes.  She is someone who I admire not only for everything that she has achieved with her dogs, but because of the respect and consideration she shows them as well as the vast amount of knowledge that she has.  Here's a video of one of her dogs' master barnhunt legs:

I've also been continuing to work with Miley on her dumbbell retrieve.  We got a little stuck when it came to her picking it up off the ground.  She was not super confident picking it up without my hand being right next to it.  She understands that the dumbbell plus the command "take it" mean putting her mouth on the dumbbell and bringing it back to my hands.  Picking it up off the ground without my physical support makes her less sure.  I was prepared for this.  Bess went through the same process.  However, I decided to do things a little differently with Miley and I decided to play around with choice.  My end goal is that regardless of the situation, location, or what have you, I want Miley to pick the dumbbell/article/glove off the ground and bring it back to me.  So I eliminated distractions on the ground so that it was clear what I was wanting her to retrieve and just waited for her to make the correct decision that I knew she had a basic understanding of how to make.  Really, she just lacks the confidence in herself and experience with the exercise to generalize it.  I wanted to see how long it would take her start retrieving and how much support she would need initially from me.  An experiment of sorts.  I was pretty pleased with the results and thankfully recorded the first two sessions I did with her.  First we did the leather article, which is her favorite.  Then we did the wooden dumbbell.

She did need a little support at first and she was a little slower to pick up the article and dumbbell at the beginning.  But you can see her progress with each in just the single sessions while she gains confidence in what she's doing.  I'm really proud of how she's coming along with this!  One she gets pretty solid retrieving in our training room, I'll move it to other areas of the house that she's comfortable with (there are portions of the house that are uncarpetted that she is not a fan of walking on).  Eventually I'll take it on the road and we'll start working the retrieve into our weekly training sessions in very distracting environments.  Bit by bit we're getting there and I'm looking forward to what the final product will look like! :)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Life With Miley

I started this post when I was not in the right frame of mind.  I was feeling frustrated and there were multiple things that were out of mine or Miley's control that were influencing what was going on and it was unfair of me to get so overly critical and negative of my dog.  Miley has been going through a false pregnancy (I feel like I'm beating a dead horse every time I bring this up) and it has been worse than the last one.  There have been things going on with her physiologically that neither she nor I have any control over.  While I can rationalize this part of the time, the rest of the time it's a little hard to deal with and I get frustrated, negative and critical.  So I need to check myself, before I wreck myself.  Or my well meaning dog.

Miley went 7 days without eating her normal food.  She even refused all treats that I offered her in a non working setting.  Thankfully, she would accept her normal training treats while working.  But that was it.  So while she didn't completely starve herself for 7 days, she really didn't eat much.  And she has become incredibly noise sensitive.  To the point where the sound of Dominic eating out of his metal bowl will make her tuck her tail.  She finds new inanimate objects to become afraid of every couple of days.  Things that she has a history of touching and getting treats for, she now doesn't even want to come near.  This has been a very difficult and frustrating false pregnancy to get through.  Part of me is worried about my dog (lets be real, how often do you voluntarily pass up delicious food???).  Miley is the first dog that I've had for whom refusing food is not a sign that I need to rush her to the vet.  It's disconcerting and while I can rationalize that she'll get through this and start eating again, while it's going on, it seems that she will never eat again and I'm going to watch my dog self starve herself to death.  I can admit this now because she has started eating again.  Admittedly it's hit or miss how much she'll eat, but she's eating real food.

However, I hit a wall.  The combination of worry, frustration and not being able to rationalize myself out of the moment, made me a very unsupportive partner for Miley.  I didn't act out negatively towards her, but I was not as understanding when she needed me to be and there was a whole lotta negative talk going on inside my head at the time.  So I'm writing the post to sort of put myself in check.

I got so stuck on the difficulties that we're having at the moment, that I couldn't switch gears.  I'm a big fan of Denise Fenzi and she has had a few blog posts about training the dog that's in front of you.  Not the dog you wish you had, not the dog you plan to have, not even the dog you might have had yesterday or an hour ago, but the dog that is standing there right in front of you.  I wasn't doing that.  Admittedly, my way of not training the dog who was in front of me was to just stop working with her.  And that may very well be the solution for some dogs on some days.  Miley is very forgiving and she was fine with that, but that was a failure on my part for not continuing on with something, anything, that maintained the connection that she and I have.  Something that continued to further and build up that connection that will ultimately strengthen everything else that we do.  I'm getting a little grandiose and maybe a little overly exaggerated, but really, it's the truth.  I want a working partner that I have a very strong relationship with.  Not every dog is going to be in a position to do or work on exactly what I want to work on at that exact moment.  I need to pay attention to the dog that's in front of me.  Period.

I did a lot of thinking while I was at work today as well as thinking out loud with my friend Megan, who is probably the most awesome person for me to go to when I'm needing to work through these moments.  Giving myself a little bit of time and separation from the frustrating moments allowed me to dissect them a little and try to figure out why I was reacting the way that I was.  Ultimately that was the problem.  Miley is having a physiological response that neither she nor I can control.  So the real problem is how I'm reacting to what's going.  In it's most basic sense, why am I getting so frustrated with the training hiccups that we're having?  What's going on is out of my control, so why am I placing so much importance on it?  Ultimately, I feel the need to prove and produce.  If Miley and I aren't making progress that I can show, then I'm failing.  But who cares what kind of progress she and I are making?  We're not going to win the Nobel Peace Prize for anything that we do.  It won't solve world hunger.  And it won't stop global warming.  But it does matter to me.  And because it matters to me, I put pressure on myself to produce.  I know the mechanics of producing the end product, but when things get jumbled up in between, frustration happens.  I get caught up in knowing how things can go, how I feel that Miley should respond if there weren't other forces at work and I don't alter my game plan based on the dog who I have before me.

Sometimes switching gears to focus on what Miley is giving me at that moment can be as seemingly simple as focusing on what SHE can do instead of what she can't at the moment.  When I focus on the negative, the negatives have a way of seeming to pile up and become insurmountable.  If I focus on the positive, it gives me a more productive and better oriented place to start from.  So lets focus on what Miley is good at.  The most basic thing I desire from my dogs is that they be enjoyable to live with and are able to go on the most basic activities that I get so much enjoyment from.  Miley does that with pretty flying colors.  She's my current running partner (for everything except my weekly long run) and my current hiking, snowshoeing and random outdoor expedition partner.  She very happily goes along with me on these outings and is only continuing to show more enthusiasm the more varied the places she gets to go.

She's a pretty happy and forgiving dog.  Bess was not terribly tolerant of repetition while training and would shut down.  Miley may wilt a little if we're working with something scary, but she doesn't check out from me entirely.  As a matter of fact, if she's scared of something or unsure of herself, she's more likely to come to me for reassurance.  Even when I'm the one asking her to work with/around something she's not entirely certain of.

She has increasing stretches of wonderful heeling while out in distracting environments!  I LOVE heeling.  Love it!  That is probably the single exercise where I feel the most connected to her.
Really, the list continues to grow of the things that she does well and that I love her for.  I just needed a little perspective.  And probably will again.  Now I've got this post to go back to as a reminder that this is just temporary and there are still many things for us to come.  In the end, I'll be a better dog trainer because of it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


I have taken my first foray into online dog classes recently by registering for a tricks class that my agility instructor teaches.  The class involves six lessons spread out over 16 weeks.  Knowing that I have a tendency to over commit myself and adding the schedule tweaking of a new puppy to the mix I was a little hesitant, but I figured this would be a fun way to try this style of class out.  And I am sooooooo glad that I did!!

Each lesson involves multiple tricks with a purpose.  Whether that purpose is to build over all strength and body awareness or to start working on skills that can later be applied to a wide variety of dog sports, they all have a greater goal.  The method for training each trick is really up to each individual handler, however, shaping is strongly encouraged and only positive methods are to be used.  Since the class has only been under way for one week, we've only had the first lesson.  Once I've got the individual tricks trained up to their final goal with each dog I'll share my video clips of the training process.  Some of the tricks right now are ones that I've trained Heffner and Bess to do and I'm excited to also do a comparison of how I've progressed with the four different. dogs.  That's right, Dominic is totally participating in this class!

My experience so far with the class has been completely positive and I am having a total blast!  The online format negates the travel time involved in going to an in person class, which means that I can work on my class video submissions at my pace and convenience.  I don't have to worry about week night conflicts or trying to work juggling two dogs and drive time into my week night schedule.  Which also means more time for training!  Having other people in the class with a variety of other breeds submitting videos that everyone gets to watch and read the feed back from the instructor as well as the comments and narrative from the individuals has been even more helpful than I thought it would be.  There is no timeline for when each trick needs to be "completed" by.  We're all free to work on the various tricks in whatever order we each choose.  So before you start working on one of the tricks, you may see someone else submit a video for where they're at with their dog, see how they're going about training it as well as what bumps in the road they've hit.  I've already benefited from seeing how another handler went about training one of the tricks and where her treat placement ended up being to further encourage the behavior.

And the class is just fun!  I'm remembering how much fun I had with Heffner and Bess when I was training them to do random tricks.  Watching that excitement on their faces when it's training time and the sense of accomplishment when a trick is fully trained, is addictive!  Strengthening that connection that you have with your dog, figuring out how they think and process what you're doing, teaching them to problem solve and accomplishing things that maybe you didn't think you could.  It's such a great feeling when you get those ah-ha moments!  And watching the videos and getting to share your proud moments with YOUR dog(s) are really reinforcing.

Dominic is definitely the puppy that I have gotten the most involved in training from the get go.  Heffner was my first real dog of my own and I didn't really get into anything beyond the basics until he was older than six months old.  I had managed to sort of burn myself out on competing before Miley came along, so I spent a lot of her early puppihood just enjoying having a puppy in the house again.  That's not to say that I didn't do anything with her, I just definitely didn't do as much with her as I'm doing with Dom now.  This tricks class came at a perfect time for getting Dominic involved.  I already have outlets for him, but this is giving me the umph to really teach him how to think and start problem solving and to help me create a better overall foundation for the future sports that I hope he and I will be involved in.  I've had such a hang up for a while about not wanting to break or ruin a happy puppy that I haven't really given my dogs the early foundation that is so beneficial.  I'm finally getting past that and I'm ready to see what this little ball of black puppy craziness can do!

With all of that being said, I don't have the tricks polished to a point where I'm quite ready to share video clips of them.  I do, however, have videos of the dogs doing some other things during some of our training sessions that I wanted to share. :) The first video is of Dominic on the large core disc.  The first half shows him at 8 weeks, the day after I brought him home and his first time on the disc.  The second half of the video is of him at 10 weeks.

This is not an exercise that I work with him on every single day.  I change things up so that he gets some variety and gets comfortable with a variety of equipment and textures.  Even though there's only a two week time span, you can already see the difference.  He's gotten more confident, gained more body awareness and gotten stronger.  He's also gotten bigger.  Weird how that happens. ;)

The second video is of I think the second training session that I had with Miley after bringing Dominic home.  She was still adjusting to having him around, so I did a fair amount of playing with her at the beginning, which she obviously loves.  Then I worked on some things that I knew she was already pretty confident and comfortable with, to reinforce the focus that I was getting and need to build back up around Dominic.  You can also hear that Dominic is a pretty good puppy in his crate while I'm working with Miley.  

Both dogs are a ton of fun!  Exhausting at times, but totally worth it. :)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Run, Run, Run!

This week I feel a little like I'm frantically running from one thing to the next.  Primarily of my own making and I will admit that I wouldn't remove any of it.  Though I might say it while laughing at the slight edge of hysteria!

Monday was a holiday and I had the day off.  So naturally, I made sure to fill it.  In the early afternoon we had an obedience lesson.  Dominic's very first one!  He was quite well behaved in his crate while Miley was getting worked.  Miley was understandably distracted and we have taken a few steps backwards.  But that's alright.  Once I brought Dominic home I realized this was going to happen and as I already mentioned, I've reassessed my training and competitions goals and time lines with Miley to reflect this new adjustment to our lives.  Not that our training was getting stressful, but that has helped me to relax a little bit more.  I have a picture in my head of what I would like Miley and I to look like as a team when we compete and I know that I can get us there.  It's just a matter of taking my time and making sure I prepare us both appropriately.  None the less, I will admit that there were a few eye rolls from me during our lesson and quite a bit of laughing from my instructor.  Dominic was well behaved and we didn't really ask much of him.  I basically wanted to introduce Jill to him and show her kind of what he was like.  She had the pleasure of being able to pick up an entire great dane! ;)

From there we headed south to Silverton so my parents could meet Dominic.  Jazz was apprehensive at first.  Understandably, Miley tends to err on the side of playing too rough with him.  Dominic very quickly realized that fluffy dogs have a lot to hang on to!  Tails being the most desired handle.  Miley was more than a little pent up and her ability to rein it in with either dog was non existent.  So I hung on to her collar while everyone was out together.  When Jazz and Dominic went inside with my parents, I let Miley off to stretch her legs a little bit.

Tuesday was an involved day at work involving some industry visitors that I got to show off for.  I enjoy doing this in general, but particularly when the audience is very into and appreciative of the work that you do.  Wednesday was another full day at work.  Followed by a mad dash at home to take care of dogs and to get Miley and myself ready for the big Rose City Classic dog shows the next four days.  The double specialty that has previously been held on the Wednesday before the four days of all breed shows got thankfully moved to coincide with another series of shows.  I am particularly thankful for that this year!!  Thursday was our first day of competition.  Nothing for Miley, but we had a good time hanging out and chatting with friends.  Miley and Dominic's breeder was there for the day before having to fly out for a board meeting, so I got to chat with her.  Bess' breeder, Georgia, played a little prank on me that initially scared the crap out of me.  If you don't know her, she's quite the prankster!  I managed to lose my rose stickers (this is one of the few shows that they charge spectators admission for, so they mail rose stickers to exhibitors to exempt them from having to pay to get in) between my front door and the truck that morning so I had to step away from Miley's crate for a couple of minutes to get a replacement sticker from the show superintendent.  When I came back, this is what I saw:

It might be a little hard to tell from the picture, but that's a stuffed orangutan in there with Miley.  I have a certain fondness for monkeys. ;) This time, though, coming back to the crate I just see a furry blob in the crate and for whatever reason it made my heart drop.  Apparently I wasn't quite as appropriately caffeinated as I thought I was!  All in good fun! :)

After we were done with the show it was time to head home and play with both dogs.  I think I mentioned it previously, but I registered for an online trick training class taught by my agility instructor.  I hadn't really submitted much in the way of videos of where both dogs were at up to that point (not too surprising since the class just started on Sunday), so I did some training and some video taping and I'm pretty stoked with how both dogs are doing!  I'm particularly proud of Dominic!  He's really loving this whole training thing!  I'll gab more about that class, but I'll save it for a separate post lest this one get super long.

Did I mention that I've had a little fun shopping the Christmas clearance area at PetSmart???  I've gotta have a little fun dressing him up before he's to a size where that gets really expensive.  And it has the added benefit of combining some of my favorite things: Christmas, dressing up my dogs and getting things for cheap!  Each of the three sweaters above were $4!  Yes, I will spend $12 on sweaters that he will only be able to wear for a few weeks.  But he'll look freaking adorable while he's doing it!  And honestly, this is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying him multiple coats right now to deal with the cooler temperatures (admittedly, it's been in the upper 40's to low 50's this week, so there's not too much to complain about).  I may have taken a video of him in the sweater on the far right.....

Today was more dog showing.  Miley is such a solid girl in the ring!  She did win her class today, but nothing beyond that.  Then this afternoon, my friend Ashley came over with her mom's 11 week old golden retriever puppy!

The cuteness level here with those two was out of control!  Dominic was a little befuddled by how easily she out maneuvered him.  Then end result was two happily zonked puppies and two happy people who can now get a few things done around their respective houses. ;) I took advantage of how tired Dominic was by taking down his ears and letting them breath a bit before putting them back up.  Doing ears is always way easier with a sleepy puppy.  Unless you're Miley, who pretty freaking patient regardless, when it was ear time.

Tonight there's a get together of a lot of the dane exhibitors which is always a ton of fun!  Getting together without the worries of ring times, standings or the immediate needs of every one's various dogs allows for some fun chatting, getting to know people better and also the opportunity to learn a lot from the people who have been in the breed for a while and been through all sorts of things.  The rest of the weekend will be more of the same.  Dog show, work with my dogs and hopefully fit in a nap or two.  Each morning I end up making my coffee stronger and stronger.  How did people get through the day without coffee???
Happy Friday everyone!  Here's to a fun weekend and I'm looking forward to sharing more about some of the things I've been working with Miley and Dominic on in future posts!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mish Mash

No lie, I'm a little worn out.  This post is going to be a little of this and a little of that.  Partially because we haven't been doing a ton of concrete things right now since this is still Dominic's first week home (it's only been a week???).  And also partially because my brain isn't functioning at its sharpest at the moment.

Dominic is growing like a weed!  As he's getting bigger and more sure of himself, I'm giving him and Miley small chunks of time out together.  Miley has learned that she has to take it down a notch with the puppy or else play time is over.  They're both learning and happy to be out together.  Dominic gets tired out because it takes so much more effort for him to play with her and she's basically a big jungle gym that plays back.  Miley is happy because she's not excluded and she gets to play with the puppy, which is the ultimate motivator for her.  Unfortunately for her, she does not get to play with him endlessly.  Which means that there are chunks of time each day where I am in with Dominic and she has to stay on the other side of the x-pen.

She is not a fan of this and it leads to much whining.  Thankfully, the amount of whining has decreased over the past week, but it does leave me feeling strung out between the two dogs.  A balancing act that I am still adjusting to.

Also thankfully, Dominic's bladder control is increasing!!  Thank goodness!!  He can now pretty reliably hold it for 20 min. or longer while outside of his crate.  This means that I'm not having to watch him like a hawk for the slightest indication that he needs to go out, which is a bit of a relief.  I am, however, having to watch him to keep him out of trouble.  He has figured out how to open the kitchen drawers and cabinets.  He stumbled on this by accident because everything that can possibly go in his mouth now does.  It started with chewing on the nobs on the drawers.  Then he pulled on them and voila!  The drawer opens!  Super.  Now he's graduated to using his paws instead of his mouth on the handles to open them.  Sometimes I wonder how much easier it would be to live with dogs who aren't terribly bright. ;)
Training time with either dog is sort of sporadic.  I think it's going to still probably be a couple more weeks before I'm able to really figure out a routine and feel like I'm accomplishing more than just shuffling dogs and playing with them.  Having to keep an eye on Dominic means that everything else I do around the house is taking me about three times longer to get through than it did before.  Again, with increased bladder control that's getting a little better.  But he's also still ridiculously cute and I want to soak in this phase while I can since they grow up so fast.  Which means that I do spend a lot time watching and playing with him just because.  I have managed a couple of training sessions where I alternate between working with the dogs.  It's been stilted and a little awkward, but I think I've got an idea that might work.  Initially I would work with Dominic first with Miley on the other side of the x-pen.  Then I would put him in his crate and work with her for a bit, periodically rewarding him with treats for being relatively well behaved and quiet in his crate.  The part that I didn't factor in at first was that an awake puppy, regardless of where they are, is a puppy who's bladder is still on the same time frame that it would be awake and outside of the crate.  Ahhhhhhhh.  I sort of forgot that little nugget and was operating on the timeline of how long he can usually hold it in his crate ASLEEP.  So we had a few accidents to clean up, but I have been sufficiently trained to factor this in now. ;) Today (barring any tweaks in my timeline for today) I'm going to try having both dogs in their crates when they're not getting worked, versus having Miley loose in the living room.  Partially because it'll be less awkward switching dogs and also partially because I need to work on reinforcing her for not whining when I'm working with Dominic.  We'll see how that goes.  Neither one of them is particularly pleased when I'm playing with the other and they aren't part of it.  Juggling two dogs who are both quite social and in need of plenty of exercise and attention is definitely different than juggling two dogs when one of them is a senior and less needy and the other is a puppy; all while keeping them mostly separated.  So yeah, I'm a little tired.

And because I haven't slowed down my schedule at all, this means that Dominic gets to go along on all sorts of fun outings and join in on some of the classes that Miley and I are taking.  He got to go and watch Miley's agility class from his crate on Friday.  He was surprisingly well behaved in there and didn't whine too much.  Tomorrow he'll go along to Miley's obedience lesson, where he'll actually start participating.  His portion of the lesson will be short and will consist of the beginnings of foundation work as well as some conformation work.  We'll also be heading down to Silverton to visit my family after our lesson so that my parents get to meet Dominic.  And today is the start of a 16 week online tricks class that our agility instructor is teaching.  I'm pretty excited about that.  I was a little apprehensive initially because I do have a tendency to over commit and end up overwhelming myself.  And adding additional things to my plate when I'm still in the process of figuring out how to juggle/work in a new puppy, could spell uber stress for me.  But I do like this class because it's fun (less serious or competition oriented right now equals less strain for me), it's spread out over a lengthier time frame (less intense training schedule) and it's online (I'm not having to factor in drive time as well as the time it takes to load and unload two dogs and all their gear, which has become an entailed process at the moment).

I've also relaxed my timeline for having Miley obedience ring ready.  My initial goal was to have her ready to enter Beginner Novice for the Great Dane Club of Northern California specialty in Lodi in April.  If she had continued to be an only dog, this is a timeline that I think we could have been pretty successful at meeting given how we've been doing and how she's been working out in random public locations.  However, that kind of timeline right now with a new puppy, makes my brain want to implode.  So, I decided to stop stressing myself out about it and I'll reassess where we're at after the specialty.  There's a match the night before the trial there, so I can use that as a barometer of how we're doing overall and see how much more work we need to do.  Not that we won't attend matches in the mean time, I'm just setting that as my reassessment point.  Plus Dominic will be much bigger, they'll be able to be loose in the house together a lot more and I'll have a much better handle on a training schedule for both dogs that doesn't put me in the loony bin.

In other non-competition/training related news, Miley got to see her first REAL snow yesterday!!  I was going on a group snowshoeing outing to Mt. Hood with a bunch of friends and I brought Miley along as well.  She was very unimpressed by the one inch that we got at our house a couple weeks back, so I wasn't sure if she would have the same blase attitude about the snow on the mountain.  My hope was that she would absolutely love it like Heffner and Bess did.  Thankfully she did. :) I didn't take a ton of pictures, but I did manage a few.  Her absolute favorite was to leap through the deeper drifts.  She even attempted climbing the big hill at the end to the ridge line with me, but the soft and deep snow meant that she was post holing the whole way.  A factor that made for a high amount of frustrating effort for not a lot of gain.  She wasn't enjoying that part, so I had one of our group keep her on leash with them while I got to a point that she wouldn't try to climb after me.  Meanwhile at home, a co-worker was hanging out at the house watching Dominic.  Thankfully she loves puppies and was happy to wear him out and keep him entertained while Miley and I went out to play.  At the end of the day, I had a fun time out with friends and two tired dogs.  It was a really great day!
Happy weekend everyone!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Miley's Dumbbell

Before Miley went into season for the first time, we were making some pretty good progress with her dumbbell work and the dumbbell retrieve on the flat.  We actually had one lesson where she did almost a full retrieve!  She just didn't have a front with a sit or a finish at that time.  But she ran out and picked up the dumbbell!  That was a skill that was a victim of the puberty monster.  After going into season, Miley wasn't interested in the dumbbell at all and we were back to square one and trying to figure out what was going to work for her.  I put together a video clip of where she was at in June of last year and where she's at now.  The difference is thankfully obviously. :)

As seems to happen periodically while I'm training, I just sort of stumbled across what worked for Miley.  I started out using periods of time when she was relentlessly wanting me to play with her.  This was usually when I was in the middle of something.  So I decided to go with it, but add my own twist to things.  I'd play with her for just a bit, but then I'd grab the dumbbell, hold it and wait for her take it.  She knew what I wanted, but it wasn't exactly the game that she wanting to play.  As long as I had enough patience, she would eventually take the dumbbell and then we'd play some more.  As you might guess, this was not a method that allowed for very many repetitions or was terribly brief.

After some playing around while training and being slow with the food rewards, I found what has so far worked for Miley.  After a successful hold of the dumbbell and release on cue, I rewarded with a high value treat.  Bingo!  What I intended to do was hold the treat behind the bar of the dumbbell to encourage her to open her mouth and take the dumbbell.  Sometimes I'm a little clumsy and as I already mentioned, slow on the food reward.  In this case, the timing was perfect and for what ended up working.  We started with the dumbbell right in front of her face and having her just open her mouth to take it on cue.  Then I slowly started moving the dumbbell away from her face so that she would need to reach for it.  And now we're to the point where I place it on the ground and have my hand near but not touching the dumbbell and she takes it.  She's still gaining confidence with it and some days she's more enthused than others, but we are making steady progress and she is definitely enjoying herself!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention anything about Dominic. ;) He is still the most adorable, sweet little thing.  He's slowly gaining a little bit of sass.  And last night he went the whole night without an accident in his crate (I have an alarm set so that I get up in the middle of the night to let him out, so no, he isn't already sleeping through the night)!  I'm able to write these post unimpeded because he is currently napping.  I'll have plenty of further updates about him, but I will say this, there is a HUGE difference between housebreaking a puppy during the wet Oregon winter versus the warm late spring/early summer!  Miley basically housebroke herself with a total of three accidents inside the house (not counting any accidents in the crate).  She magically did this because she had the benefit of an open sliding glass door that she would scamper through to go outside and do her business whenever the need arose.  She was so easy!!  I have to watch Dominic like a hawk and be on top of regularly taking him out so that we avoid accidents.  I really hate cleaning up pee, so the solution to that is watch his every little move.  Not exactly a bad thing since he's so adorably little and full of puppiness.  But I will admit that it doesn't allow for getting a whole lot done.  So I'm going to be switching up how I do things for the time being and that little darling will be learning the fine art of napping so that I can get things done and also spend some time with Miley!

And now it's nail dremmelling time!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Introducing Dominic!

Miley has a little brother!! :) Meet Dominic.  I drove up to central Washington on Friday to pick him up from the breeder, who is also Miley's same breeder.  He is co-owned by my good friend Megan, Miley and Dominic's breeder and myself.  He was a super star on the four hour drive home and hardly said a peep!
Miley is quite enamored with her new little brother, however, she would really like to play with him as though he were an adult.  So for the time being, the short x-pen is up to keep them separated while Dominic is out of his crate.  This also acts to limit the number of places that D can wonder off to and pee.  And speaking of pee, boy can he!  Miley was going about every 20 min. at the same age.  Dominic is going almost every 10 min.  Then I started remembering house breaking Heffner.  There were a LOT of accidents in the house with him.  Boys!
But seriously, I can't get enough of this little guy!  Hes so sweet!  I just want to eat him up!  He loves crawling into my lap and just chilling with a toy.  And when I get him out of his crate each time, I'm met with a hug and lots of puppy kisses.  Puppy breath!!  He's got a surprising amount of impulse control, at the moment.  He's also not as sassy and chatty as Miley.  Actually, other than some whining in the crate, he's been pretty quiet.  He's just this sweet, mooshable, contemplative puppy and I'm already completely in love with him!  
I haven't been super productive this weekend in terms of overall training and just generally getting things done around the house.  So this post is kind of bare bones as I adjust to juggling an 8 week old puppy and a 22 month old.  He's currently asleep in my lap and I'm typing this up one handed.  It's taking forever!  But I also want to soak this up for the short period of time that he's this small.  

Happy weekend everyone!  And I'm excited to share more of Dominic and Miley!