Saturday, December 31, 2016

Training At The Library

This week I took the dogs to the parking lot outside of one of our local libraries.  Before we got into the actual working session, I took them for a walk around the ponds that are in the area to burn off a little of the excitement of getting outside of the house.  You know, because they're such shut ins....

The library parking lot was pretty quiet while we were there.  During Dominic's session there were a couple of minor distractions from a large truck that had been parked and was pulling away and a car that had parked nearby for a very brief period of time.  Other than that and the environment, there wasn't much to pull his attention away from me.  In the future, I'm going to shoot for getting there earlier when there's a little more traffic and more distractions to learn to work through.  During Dominic's session, we worked on heeling and figure eights.  Here's the video:

Because we have the non-slick surface to work with, I'm using some play at the beginning and during the training session.  I am going to need to find something other than his leash to use though.  While I'm not super bothered that he uses his leash, I'm more concerned about it wearing out from the biting and tugging.  I'm looking into some other options to bring along and I'll hopefully start using those soon.  Although, with the weather about to hit a pretty cold spell here starting this week, our training sessions are going to move to indoors so that my hands don't freeze.

Currently I'm trying to figure out what heeling pace works well for Dominic.  It's a balance between fast enough that he doesn't get overly excited and not so slow that it becomes uncomfortable for him.  I love that he wags his tail so much, but it does make slower paces for him more awkward.  Dominic world problems. ;)

With the handful of times that I've done a figure eight with him, I'm pleased with how he's doing.  He understands to move his rear when he's on the inside and he's understanding that being on the outside means a faster pace for him.  It needs polishing, but I like where he's starting.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Day After Christmas....

How to combat those day after Christmas blues.... (in case you're wondering, yes, that's a poop emoji onesie that I very excitedly received for Christmas this year)

For one thing, do some training!  We've got some goals for 2017 and some of those goals, you know, involve actually getting into the ring and for reals competing.  And the best way to prepare for that is to train for that.

I had today off and after some emailing with my obedience instructor, she mentioned that she had a drop in group class today that I might want to think about popping in for.  So I did.  We went.  It was great for Miley and I.  And we will be going back as often as my work schedule permits.

I've been posting the videos of the controlled distraction training out and about that I've been doing with the dogs.  But what they, mostly Miley at this point, have really been lacking in these scenarios is the distraction of other dogs.  When I'm out and about training, I do tend to shy away from areas where there is higher dog traffic.  For one thing, many people like to let their dogs off leash in really inappropriate areas and I don't want to set my dogs up for a potentially bad situation.  I also don't want to set myself up for a potential confrontation with the owner of the afore mentioned off leash dog.

Even with the on leash dogs, for whatever reason, the size of my dogs tends to draw people who want their dog to "just say hi" to my dogs.  This often happens even when I feel it's pretty obvious that we're in the middle of a training session and I'm ignoring them in favor of working my dog.  I still get people who think I'm the one being rude for not stopping what I'm doing to cater to what they, the random stranger, are asking of me.  No joke.  That one would have to go on the list of things that a lot of people don't tell you about owning a giant breed dog.  But I digress.

Miley and I joined the drop in obedience group class and it was fantastic!  Miley needs this.  Really badly.  For probably the first half hour of the class it was really challenging to get and maintain her attention.  Even with a fair amount of treats in play, she was definitely the most distracted dog in the class.  And I have to admit that she also wasn't behaving all that well in her crate.  The crate misbehaving was in the form of vocalizing, which we were actually having a little bit of a problem with at conformation shows.

On the my bad side of things, I also didn't appropriately warm her up or acclimate her.  She's been in my instructor's training building for years, but this setting was much different than what she was used to and it was blowing her mind.  That was definitely poor prepping on my part to think that I could just walk her into the building, now with other dogs and handlers, and think that she won't miss a beat.

As time went on, she did acclimate and she did learn how to focus while the other dogs were working.  Jill, my instructor, did a fantastic job of setting the class up to provide different levels of distraction for the various dogs, handlers and levels that everyone was at.  And it was in a great safe environment to work on all of this.  Everyone who was there was great and understanding.  I was really energized and excited about the class.  We have a lot to work on, but this will definitely help Miley and I ton!

I did have some pretty proud moments during the class.  As I've mentioned before, I LOVE Miley's left finishes.  The flip finish is something that I've admired when I've seen other people do and it's something that I feel is really right up her alley.  We've worked on it and I've been incredibly pleased with how she's coming along.  Jill had us demonstrate for everyone where we were at with our flip finish and Miley was more than happy to strut her stuff.  Definitely a very rewarding moment for both her and I. :)

We also tried Miley over the broad jump.  She's had some issues with a lack of confidence while jumping, which I've been working on at home (here).  I am very happy to say that she went over the broad jump like it was no big deal!  I was soooooo happy about that!  Bit by bit we're getting that whole package together!

So this year, to combat the inevitable glum feeling I get on the 26th, knowing that I have to wait another 11 months before I get to hit the Christmas bliss button, Miley and I had a blast with a group training class. :)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Blogmas Day 23 - Miley's Distraction Tree

Now it's Miley's turn!

Miley had a very different environment than Dominic did while working around the tree.  From the beginning of the video, you can see the sort of second story landing area that the kids on skateboards were dorking around on.  And as you can also see, the kids are all gone.  We didn't start working in front of the tree because there was a couple there taking pictures initially.

As with Dominic, since we were on better footing, it was safer to play with Miley.  And she definitely wanted to play!

I don't remember what she got initially distracted by when she started to bark, but I was able to get her back.  Her hand touches are really reliable and she enjoys doing them, so I will sometimes use that to help get her focus back on me and get her in a better frame of mind.  Once I've got that, I then try a bit of heeling and she's happy to get to it!

You can see where she is starting to show how ready she is to work when she swings around into heel position from the front.  I love this!  Undoubtedly she can tell that it makes me happy and I am more than happy to continue rewarding that behavior.

We then go into more heeling and I'm asking her to do some sitting now.  She's not a super fan of sitting on the cold pavement, but there are some venues that we will show in that have the rings on pavement during months when it definitely is a little chilly in the building.  Getting her more comfortable offering sits on surfaces that aren't perfectly ideal (excepting slick surfaces like most of those found in stores) is something that we do need to work on.

Once the couple taking pictures left, I readjusted where the camera was angled so as to get the tree in the shot. :) Since it's a slightly new area, I gave Miley a little bit of time to check things out.  After a quick sniff, she was ready to give me her attention again.  More heeling (have I mentioned how much I LOVE heeling with her?!) and then some checking out the Christmas tree.

In between bouts of working, there were odd noises and people that caught her attention.  Her distracted moments are when we've stopped working though.  We aren't in the middle of a heeling "pattern" when she suddenly checks out on a distraction.  THAT I'm happy with.  I don't use the leash to get her attention back.  I want her comfortable enough handling distractions to come back to me voluntarily and feel safe that I will watch out for her.  We're getting there. :)

Happy December 23rd!  And everyone have a wonderful Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Blogmas Day 21 - Distraction Tree

This week's distraction training location was downtown Hillsboro near the Christmas tree!  The weather wasn't super cold and it was thankfully dry, so I took advantage of the "optimal" winter weather conditions and did some training outside.  And I videoed most of it!  I am so on a roll with this videoing training sessions thing! ;) I do have to admit that as long as I actually watch the video that I took (which I obviously do since I'm uploading it), I think this will definitely help me with my training.  I don't video every single session of everything that we train, because that would be a pretty large time commitment for just video review alone.  But recording some of the areas that I have a particular competition goal for or need for problem solving on some behavior, I'm really liking this.  Definite plus to really trying to do my own personal Blogmas challenge was that it's getting my butt in gear.  The only downside I would say is that it has had the unfortunate effect of causing me to want to upgrade my camera already, for the better video quality alone.  Gah.  That's pretty low on the priority list though.

Anyhow, on to the video!

This clip is pretty much start to finish of a relatively brief session with Dominic.  We showed up, I started recording and we went through acclimation and into some light working.  What you can't see off to the left side is the primary distraction that we were working around.  There was a group of kids (middle school/early high school) on the stairwell and second floor landing, roving around on their skateboards.  Occasionally dropping their skateboards from the landing onto the ground and doing random odd things that only males of our species seem to get it into their heads to do.  And what you will occasionally hear them yelling out is something that sounds like doggy, but is actually donkey.  I made the mistake of chatting with them briefly when Dom and I showed up and they remarked on his size.  They had the creativity of switching things up and instead of making the usual horse comments, they inserted donkey.  I responded that yes, he was a donkey.  Which was apparently hilarious.  And much like younger children usually do, one of these kids decided to parrot the donkey phrase randomly throughout the time we were there, even though I ignored them once I turned on the camera.  Though I have to admit, I found them less annoying than some adults I've run into.

First and foremost, I am REALLY proud of how well Dom is doing!  He has never been in this location before and there was the added distraction of the skater kids about and he was such a good boy!!  This clip shows the full acclimation period that he had.  He checked out the general area, but it really didn't take him very long to get used to things before we were able to start with some simple hand touches to see where his attention was.

He did lose focus throughout, but each time that he came back, he stayed with me for longer.  And by then end, he was working stronger.  Not bad at all for an 11 minute session!

I still haven't worked him much on offering sits when we halt, so that is still not a part of the work that we're doing.  Since the footing was pavement and not some of the slicker indoor surfaces that we've been using, I was able to safely do some play with him and move about more.

After the session, I let him sniff around and explore the rest of the outside of the civic center.  And naturally, I got a few pictures of him in front of the tree.

Happy December 21st!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Blogmas Day 19 - In Between The Pictures

I love reading various dog training blogs.  I don't have as much time for it as I would otherwise like, but that's the juggling game.  A topic that has come up throughout the year on a few of the blogs that I follow, is what goes on outside of the videos and pictures that people post.  When you're seeing video after video and picture after picture of just successes and seemingly perfect moments, it can be easy to fall into a thought process that these people always succeed.  They always have the picture perfect moments, they have the picture perfect heeling, and whatever other vision of perfection you may be striving for.  They always have it.

But everyone faces hurdles at some point.  Everyone comes across something unexpected.  And sometimes, the moments outside of perfection are some of the most memorable.  Just hopefully for good reasons. ;)

I decided that I would take some video of the process I go through trying to get just one good picture of the dogs.  This isn't a training process per se, though I could extrapolate on how these moments could potentially help your training and how to play into that, to further my own self justification for taking so many pictures of my dogs.  But I digress (and I'm a little tired, so inevitably this post is going to wander a bit), here is the stuff that happens in between getting that one picture...

Happy December 19th!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Blogmas Day 18 - Christmas Past

Yep, I missed a day.  Between exercising the dogs, getting my exercise in and heading downtown to meet up with friends for a holiday pub crawl, I could not manage to fit in blog time.  But a perfect record this year would have left me no room for improvement next year. ;)

This weekend has also been a little melancholy for me.  I know that a lot of people have difficulties with this time of year for a multitude of reasons.  The holiday season has a particular emphasis on family and spending time with the ones you hold dear.  When some of those members are no longer around, their loss seems to weigh heavier.

I feel the loss of Heffner and Bess regularly, though as time has been ticking by, it gets incrementally less painful.  I don't think it'll ever get to a point where it doesn't hurt and in some ways I'm thankful for that.  But this time of year brings up so many memories that I have with them, that it's difficult to avoid feeling the stab from their absence.

So to those having a hard time right now, no matter the reason, I hope you can feel supported in that you're not alone.  I wish there were some perfect phrase that I could say to make it better, to make whatever it is more bearable, to alleviate the stress, or sadness.

To those who may be feeling none of this and don't understand, the best phrase I can think for you to bear in mind right now and any time you come across someone, regardless of the time of year, having a hard time or acting out, is "be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."

Friday, December 16, 2016

Blogmas Day 16 - Scooby Doo

You may be starting to notice that Miley has become a pro at giving stink ears.  Some dogs give stink eye, but Miley most definitely gives stink ears.  It's kind of funny.  I took a few pictures last night and in most of them, Miley was doing what she's doing above.  The "I am seriously over the pictures" look.  She has to watch me because her ever ravenous brother will otherwise eat all of the treats.  But she's kind of done with the costume posing.

I decided to bring out the inflatable Christmas Scooby Doo last night and introduce Dominic to it.  Miley has seen it before, but this was quite new to Dominic.  And naturally, I decided to film their combined reaction to it.  Miley is pretty chill about it, which is understandable since this isn't her first rodeo. ;) Dominic wasn't entirely sure what to think of it at first, but he adjusted.

Happy December 16th!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Blogmas Day 15 - Snowpocalypse

Snowpocalypse turned out to be a pretty accurate description of yesterday's weather debacle.  As I mentioned yesterday, we got some snow.  The particular area that I live in only saw a couple inches.  This was enough to completely shut down the greater Portland metropolitan area.  As I also mentioned, the city and surrounding area isn't really equipped to deal this sort of weather calamity.  Now why they can't be prepared for an event that usually happens at least once a year and has the effect of shutting down the city?  I have no idea.  I will give props for the area I live in for at least having gravel out on the roads early this morning.  That made for a less treacherous commute.  Last night, a LOT of people weren't so lucky.

I have one co-worker who's commute lasted seven hours last night.  Seven. Hours.  And he left before the majority of people did.  People were taking screen shots of the maps of the highways showing the speed of traffic and which highways were closed.  The pictures looked like well vascularized organs there were so many lines of red.  Most major highways were closed.  People were having to abandon their vehicles because it was quicker to walk to where they needed to be or they were about to run out of gas from going no where.  One of the managers at work wasn't getting very far from work and ended up parking his car and walking back to the center so that he could just spend the night in his office.  The whole situation was insane.  And this isn't the first time that we've seen things get this bad either.  This kind of highway shutdown and massive gridlock happened a few years ago.  Obviously no one learned from that joyous experience.

I was fortunate that my commute was generally in the opposite direction that most people were going.  Instead of it taking me 15 min. to get home, it took me 30.  I really couldn't complain.  And thankfully the truck is operational and insured, so I opted for driving it yesterday.  I got home while it was still light out and was excited to see what the dogs thought of the accumulation.  Mostly, they were excited to get outside.  Since they have been so cooped up lately, I thought it would be a good idea to walk them over to a field near the house to let them burn off some energy.  I'm REALLY glad that I did because they REALLY needed it!  Here's a video of some of our Snowpocalypse fun!

Happy December 15th!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Blogmas Day 14 - Miley, More Distraction Training

And the award for Most Fun Dog To Heel With goes resoundingly to Miley!  I realize that it will be difficult to keep this level of happy enthusiasm from her in the ring where the stress of competition makes things so much different, but in training, OMG!  She is so much fun.  She's RIGHT THERE.  Her left pivots!  Her eye contact!  A GoPro is so much more tempting if I could just capture the look on her face while we're heeling! (lets not talk about the price and priority of my expenditures, which really, are predominantly dog related) THIS is why I love heeling.  That connection, that working as a team.  It's not perfect all of the time, but when it's clicking, it's like a damn drug.  I want more of it.  I could spend an entire training session on just heeling so that I could get my fix!  I could go on and on about my love for heeling, but I should probably at least include and explain the video a little before I get too off track. ;)

Both aisles in Miley's video are cold aisles.  I set the camera up prior to her having time to acclimate to that specific area.  She's been doing this for a little while, so my expectations of her are higher than they are of Dominic.  In the first aisle, a bagged food area, I started out asking her to work and she started out right on it.  But you can see that she's a little more easily distracted by the environment than usual.  Or maybe I should say, I can see that her attention is more easily pulled away from me than it usually is.  The one thing that I will add is that she was very wound up when we went to the pet store.  After a weekend of being left home while I took Dominic to the dog show and then I ran around to other no-dog events, she was REALLY pent up.  She was more likely to startle at things and she was more likely to lose focus.  Which is good information to have.  The week leading up to a trial, I need to make sure that I'm on top of her exercise regimen so that she's not ready to climb the walls.  Again, though, slack leash and no leash corrections when she loses focus.  I want her focus on me to hold up regardless of the situation.  It's not there yet, but it has some moments of awesomeness.

The next aisle we're in, I set the camera up and then recorded her little acclimation period.  Miley has a much more obvious way of showing that she's ready to work.  If standing in front of me and giving me attention doesn't work, then she swigs into heel position where she will always be rewarded.  I am really happy with her understanding of this.  Again, some moments of distraction (the video is "cut" where there are lengthier periods of time where we're out of frame), but she comes back.  You can also see initially how she gets a little uncomfortable in tight quarters where we're heeling in between the support beam and the side of the aisle (the reason why I picked this aisle), but she gets more comfortable with repeated passes.  I need to work her more on ring entrances, but she's already improving on this.  Overall, I'm happy with the direction that we're going.

As I'm writing this post, Portland is currently experiencing a bit of a Snowpocalypse.  In the Willamette Valley we see usually only one day a year of any sort of snow accumulation.  When that happens, the city and surrounding area shuts down.  People are having the joyous experience of having a homeward commute that would usually take less than an hour, taking more than three, to give you perspective.  Nothing gets done to the roads and people get a little panicky from lack of experience driving in these conditions.  I drove my truck and usually feel pretty comfortable driving in it while it's in 4-wheel drive, regardless of the driving conditions.  Until today when I somehow managed to lose traction while slowly stopping for a light rail crossing.  That was an adrenaline rush that I didn't really need.  The roads appear to be slicker than I thought.  But I made it home without incident and thankfully without the lengthy homeward commute that a lot of people I know are currently experiencing.  Shortly I'll take the dogs out to burn off some energy because they are driving me freaking nuts and all I really want to do is curl up on the couch with some wine and watch Christmas movies.  Dogs.  I tells ya!

Happy December 14th!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Blogmas Day 13 - Dominic, More Distraction Training

Tonight I took both of the dogs out to a pet store to work on distraction training.  I view pet stores as the next level up of distraction from Home Depot.  There's food, there's toys, random people and random pets of all varieties.  This is getting closer to simulating the randomness of a dog show environment and some of the situations we're likely to come across.

Dominic did have a little harder time staying focused at the pet store, but I'm still really pleased with how he's coming along.  I did take a few video clips of us working in three different aisles.

The first aisle that we're in, I gave Dominic a few minutes and one loop through the aisle to check things out and get lightly acclimated to before seeing if he was ready to work.  This was after doing some general sniffing in the store for about 5-10 minutes in a different area.  You can't see it in the video, but around the corner to the right there was a couple with a young german shephard puppy, looking at toys.  I was rewarding Dominic pretty heavily for staying with me and for continuing to check in, even though he very much wanted to go say hi to the puppy.  I kept the leash nice and slack so that I wasn't influencing his decisions with collar or leash pressure.  I want him to choose to work with me and to learn to differentiate between when it's time to work and when I'm okay with him checking out from me and looking at the environment.  He is definitely getting there, but he's also still pretty easily distracted.  I am happy that he doesn't look like he's stressed by things in the environment, he's just very curious.  I did test him a little when the woman was at the end of the aisle and I maneuvered us so that our backs were to her.  He was a little concerned, but didn't fully check out from me and got comfortable once we got into doing something that he was confident doing.

The next aisle is a cold aisle.  I wanted to record him acclimating to an aisle that he hadn't been in yet and also capture when I start checking to see if he's ready to work.   You can see that he gets distracted by what's in the aisle as well as the couple who come out of one of the side aisles.  He has a harder time maintaining longer bouts of attention in this more open aisle.  I am really happy with how he maintained focus while other dogs were barking and while a training class was going on.

The final aisle that we worked in was in the dog food section of the store.  LOTS of very enticing smells.  We started off cold in this aisle as well and you can see me walking him around and letting him check everything out.  He starts checking in almost like he's ready to work, but then he checks out again and wants to do more sniffing.  Once he's giving me his attention and starts swinging into heel position, then I know he's definitely ready to work!  He does continue to lose focus in this area, but he has some nice moments of wanting to work and I'm really pleased with how he's doing.

Tomorrow I'll post Miley's session inside the store.  Happy December 13th!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Blogmas Day 12 - Raw Feeding Prep

Dominic was due for a meat pick-up this month and I thought I'd film the process that I go through, from unpacking the cases of meat to filling up my freezer.  I used to pick up both dogs' three month supply of food at once, which made for a pretty long few days of meat bagging that I was very rapidly getting tired of.  Only picking up one dog's order at a time makes for a quicker and less painful process for me.  I'm pretty sure that eventually I'm going to get to a point where I'm willing to shell out the extra money to buy the pre-bagged raw, but that time is not now!  Since I narrate throughout the video (I swear that I'm trying to work on my "vlogging" skills), I'll stop typing and just let you watch the video. ;)

Happy December 12th!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Blogmas Day 11 - Dog Show Day 2

Today was day 2 of the dog show in Ridgefield, WA.  Dominic did MUCH better in the ring today!  I was more prepared for what he was likely to do and I anticipated things better.  Our judge was also great about working with a green puppy, which is always appreciated.  We still need a lot of work, but I was really pleased with the improvement that I saw in him.

He definitely needs that hour outside of the crate to hang out and watch everything that's going on.  He's a little fidgety just hanging out outside of his crate, but not annoyingly so.  We've got some shows coming up that are longer than two days that I think will be really good for him to get more into a groove of showing.  And I'm planning on taking him to a handling class this week.  Conformation game plan for Dominic?  Check!

I did manage to take a little bit of video from the dog show today and I put the clips together.  The Rose City Classic that's coming up in January is considerably bigger, with a lot more going on and I plan to do some videoing of that show for sure.  In the mean time, here's a little taste of our weekend:

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Blogmas Day 10 - First Dog Show!

This little dude had his first dog show today!  And it went.  The pluses, he was great in his crate and I still think he's the cutest dog.  The minuses, I didn't prepare him enough for the ring. :-/ To be honest, I thought we could sort of wing our way through it.  He's generally fine with me hand stacking him.  He has started figuring out free stacking.  But I have definitely not had enough people go over him like a judge would.  And boy howdy was he interested in EVERYTHING that was going on around the ring.  I thought an hour of acclimation should settle him down before ring time.  Not quite.  I have a different game plan for tomorrow.

His breeder is at the show and tomorrow morning she's going to help go over him a few times before the show starts, just to get him practicing holding still for the judge.  I don't even care if hes stacked properly, I just need him to roughly hold still.

I'm also pretty much going to have him out of his crate for the full hour prior to our ring time and working him.  Today I didn't want to have him out for too much time, because I didn't want him to get overly tired, bored, or disinterested in what was going on.  That was not remotely a problem.  He is interested, fascinated and wanting to check everything out.  Even after being on the show grounds for three hours.  Okay little dude, I read you loud and clear, you are the canine equivalent of an extrovert; this kind of commotion and action energizes you versus drains you.  He was very excited any time he saw a puppy of any breed.  He very much wanted to play and was a pretty cute goober at trying to entice other puppies to play from his short leash.

We did a gift exchange after our ring time and after people had put away whatever gear they were wanting to put away.  I decided to leave him in his soft crate to see how he continued to do with everything going on around him.  Not a problem.  He was interested, but did lay down and watch everything going on around him.  When I took him out to collapse the crate, I decided to do a little free stacking with him and he did really well.  Calm, focused and paying attention to his feet.  Which was a lot more than he was doing in the ring.

We have much to work on, but this was his first show and there's no pressure on us to be perfect right away.  With some actual training, he'll get there.  And with a better game plan of how to hopefully get and keep him engaged with me, I'm hoping tomorrow will be a better day.

Happy December 10th!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Blogmas Day 9 - Show Prep!

Last night I also decided to try taking some pictures with the dogs and Christmas lights.  Dominic was down for it.  Miley, was not.  You win some, you lose some.

Tomorrow is Dominic's first dog show!!  And as such, I need to get that little bugger cleaned up and ready.  We've got an 8am ring time and a 45 min. drive.  Fingers crossed that the baby dog doesn't wiggle too much for the inspection.

Happy December 9th!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Blogmas Day 8 - Jumping

Miley has an issue with jumping.  I don't know whether it's a depth perception problem, a straight up confidence problem, a pressure sensitivity (the uncomfortableness of passing in between the uprights), or some combination of all of the above, but she is not a fan of jumping.  Even with only a bar on the ground in between the jump standards, she wasn't comfortable "jumping."  And this doesn't show up just in performance sport related training, I see this out on the trail when we're hiking.

She's made some progress while hiking, but in training, I was stumped.  I'll admit that it's part of what had me decide to put agility training on hold for her.  She couldn't handle working with more than one jump unless the jumps and handling sequence were in a pattern that we had worked repeatedly, and I didn't change anything about my positioning or handling.  If one thing changed, she was out.  It changed the picture enough for her that she didn't want to deal with it.

Okay, so agility is on hold while we sort this out.  Except that there are jumps in obedience and rally.  So we really do need to work this problem out.

I've had her eyes CERFed, and while they are clear, they don't have a means to test for depth perception issues.  I'm also not entirely convinced that there is testing out there currently that can conclusively test depth perception in dogs, that is also backed by findings in the literature.  So ruling that out is kind of a dead end.

Confidence issue?  That I can definitely work on.  She has matured into a dog who isn't as confident as she seemed as a puppy.  How much hormones have a constant influence on that, I'll find out once her uterus has gone bye-bye. ;)

Pressure sensitivity?  I can also work on that in many little ways at home.  I do feel like this is part of the equation as she has shown a sensitivity to "tight spaces" in a variety of settings.  The closeness of the jump standards, combined with a confidence issue and hormone related variables, could definitely be part of what we're dealing with.  And maybe she just doesn't like to jump.  But I'm not ready to accept that as the answer just yet.

I started doing some very basic one jump exercises with Miley, and by default Dominic, to tackle that which I have control over.  I want her to become comfortable with a single jump.  I'm taking it down to it's most basic elements, just walking between the standards and I'll build it up from there.  Here's the video of where we're at in the few sessions (I think three) we've worked on this:

You can see that's she's not super comfortable with this exercise just yet.  And adding "height" to the jump definitely throws her off.  This training session was the first one that I added height to.  At the moment, knocking a bar is something that I will praise her for because it is otherwise something that she's very uncomfortable with.  I want to make the jump itself as inviting as possible and get her as comfortable working with it as I can.  I don't know if it's just a random coincidence, but our obedience instructor noted an obvious improvement in her jumping style at our lesson on Monday.  I'm going to take that as a sign that we should continue with this.

Up until this point, Dominic has had zero introduction to jumping.  He has no issues jumping things while we're out hiking.  Though I will admit that I wish he were a little more thoughtful about his jumping (he ended up in a drainage ditch due to one of those not looking before you leaping kind of jumps, while chasing after Miley).  But he tends to err on the side of not paying attention to his feet during training, or when excited, which is just about all the time.  So a lot of our training on various equipment is aimed at THOUGHTFUL placement of feet.  Not just OH MY GOD THIS IS EXCITING AND I WANT TO GET THE TREAT style foot placement.  In a nutshell, he has no idea what a jump standard is, so he's learning.  He doesn't fully understand what I'm asking of him, but he's getting there and it'll be fun to see the progression of his learning.

If you live the greater Portland metro area, then you're probably already hunkered down and comfortable from today's Snowmageddon.  If you're from any other part of the country, we got some snow.  And then freezing rain.  In an area that isn't used to getting snow that sticks around.  So the city basically shut down.  I was given the okay to leave work early today due to weather conditions, so I did.  And used that time to to do the above training with the dogs.  While still sober.  And now I'm going to do what any sensible, kid less adult would do in such a situation; I'm going to get back to drinking, take some selfies with my dogs and binge watch some Christmas movies.

Happy December 8th!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Blogmas Day 7 - Crowds....

Tuesday night I took the dogs to the Winter Wonderland holiday light show at the Portland International Raceway.  They have an event one night each year where they close down the track to vehicles and they let people walk it with or without dogs.  It’s a very neat sounding event and I did it for a few years with Heffner and Bess (here).  And then I stopped. 

It’s been a good five years at least since I’ve been to this event.  Enough time for me to see it through rose colored glasses.  And enough time for me not to think about what the population explosion in Portland would do to that event.

Portland has seen a rather dramatic influx of people moving to the area.  It’s increased housing prices, jacked up rents, and created a plethora of problems that crop up when a city cannot keep up with the population boom that it’s experiencing.  I’ve noticed it in plenty of little ways and hadn’t even thought about what it would do for the turn out at the event on Tuesday.  It was nuts. 

There were waaaaaay more people than I’ve ever seen before.  Granted we did have pretty ideal weather with clear skies and temperatures that were still above freezing.  But still.  I got to the event with a friend of mine two hours after it opened.  In years past, that would be when the parking lot was starting to clear out.  Not the case this year.  It was work to find a parking spot. 

I could tell that the organizers were doing what they could to handle the numbers, but the multiple lines to get in were long.  Which meant that there was a high density of people and dogs in a smallish space as they waited to pay to get in.  I didn’t hear any dog fights break out and I have to admit that I was really surprised.  Maybe people were just watching their dogs more while they stood in line.  Cause they certainly weren’t doing it once they got out on the track.

What is it about large gatherings of people that seems to cause participants to lose what common sense they have?  Yes this is an enclosed area, but for the love, that does not mean that you no longer have to watch what the hell your kids are doing.  That’s an excellent way for your kid to get bit and have an innocent dog get blamed for it.  While I was off to the side of the path picking up Dominic’s poop, my friend had to actually guard our backs and force at least one kid around us because she was going to walk smack into my dogs.  While I was picking up poop!!  And the rest of their group kept passing by so close to us that I pulled both dogs off the path, over the string of lights into the grassy area so that they wouldn’t keep getting brushed by people.  Again, while I was trying to pick up poop. 

The worse offense of the night was definitely that people were just flat out not paying attention to their dogs.  There were plenty of people I saw walking with their dogs, either by themselves or with a group of people, who were not paying attention to the fact that their dog was going up and rudely greeting other dogs and pissing them off.  Other people were just marching ahead as they dragged their dogs behind them.  Dogs were ricocheting of each other and the owners didn’t seem to realize that not everyone’s dog was okay with this.  Then as we were going through this one tunnel of lights, large clumps of people just freaking stopped everywhere and completely blocked the traffic!  I understand wanting to get pictures of your dog.  Trust me, I do.  But when you’re trying to do it in an area that is already packed and you are completely obstructing the flow of traffic, be conscientious and realize that then is just not the time.  And also realize that two seconds from  then is also, still not the time. 

I had grand ideas of getting cute pictures and taking random video snippets.  And I did none of that.  I did not take one single picture or video.  Because I had to keep an eye on what the hell all the randos were NOT paying attention to so that my dogs stayed safe.  I will fully admit that Miley and Dominic were a little wound up and they took some effort for me to manage them both, on short leashes, at a slower than usual walking pace.  They were not perfect angels, but at least I was watching my dogs and watching OUT for my dogs.  This is an event that I will not do again.  For me, it was not worth the stress.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Blogmas Day 6 - Santa's Little Helper

Impressed?  Yeah, I get that a lot.  Ha ha!  Just kidding.  Today's post is about a holiday themed game that we play at work throughout the month of December.  I explain everything in the video. ;)

Happy December 6th!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Blogmas Day 5 - Distraction Training

Once we get beyond the summer months, I make a point of getting the dogs out of the house for training at least once a week.  I rotate through several different locations so that it's not the same location every single week.  The biggest goal of these specific training sessions is to get the dogs thinking through and learning how to work around a variety of distractions, in environments that I can't completely control.  I generally know what I'm likely to come across in each of the locations, so I can sort of pick and choose what the dogs are going to get exposed to and tailor the training session accordingly.  Dominic is still so new to this training that I don't want it to be super difficult for him to be successful.  Miley, however, is more used to this and if I want to successfully compete with her, then I need to challenge her a little.   I also need to fine tune our acclimation period, see what really throws her off and figure out what I need to do to quickly get her back into working mode under a variety of distractions.  So far I'm pretty pleased with how she's doing!

As I mentioned, Dominic is still pretty new to all this.  He's got a general idea of where heel is and he's learning to reorient back to me after distractions pop up.  I'm not throwing a lot at him right now, but I've been really pleased with what I've been seeing. :)

Last week, I took the dogs separately to Home Depot for their distraction training and I even managed to do some filming!

The first segment of the video is Dominic working in an aisle that he had a few minutes to acclimate to.  At this point, I don't work him anywhere that he hasn't had time to acclimate to and I don't start working him until he's giving me consistent attention and warming up with hand touches.  In the middle of his clip you can see that there are some big pallets getting moved around and that's fairly distracting for him.  As it would be for pretty much any dog.  But he handles it well and after doing some sniffing around, he's ready to work again.  One thing in the video that I am particularly proud of him for is that you can see that he's starting to figure out his rear end, you can see that he generally knows where heel is and you can see the beginning of some left pivots!  Proud mama!

Miley's portion of the video is in two segments.  In the first segment, she's had a few minutes to acclimate to the aisle and she was very insistent about asking to work.  She did great.  We did some heeling and then we did a little bit of work on finishes.  As you can tell, I didn't ask either dog to sit on this flooring.  I am okay working them on this flooring while they're in an upright position, but I think it's too slick for the kind of sitting that I want them doing.  So we avoid that all together and they definitely understand the difference.  On regular pavement, I will incorporate sitting.

Miley's second portion of the video is in a cold aisle, so she didn't get any time to acclimate to that particular aisle.  It's kind of tricky to completely call it a cold aisle, as she'd already been in the building for 20 min.  So she was acclimated to the overall environment, but she had not been down to this portion of the store, and specifically had not been down this aisle.  This is the kind of light testing that I'll do with her.  I'm really happy with how well she did.  You can also see a portion of the cold aisle where there's drilling going on in the next aisle over and she handles it really well.  I've built up the hand touch as a very reliable, fun and always rewarded behavior, that I've started testing out using in stressful situations to see if it'll work to get the dogs' attention back on me.  I haven't tested under high pressure yet, but it's working well under lower levels of stress.

Happy December 5th!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Blogmas Day 4 - The Tree!

There's something about a Christmas tree that really makes it feel like Christmas. :) Except for last year, from Miley's perspective.  Last year I got a little overzealous with the "fullness" of my tree and picked a tree that was slightly oversized for my living room...

After getting it into the house, I over pruned the back side of it, causing the tree to be front heavy.  I didn't even consider the physics of the situation until the tree toppled over in the middle of the night.  In my defense, it did stay upright for three days before it fell.  Unfortunately, Miley was sleeping on the couch at the time and as you can imagine, having a giant tree falling over and seemingly trying to kill you, can be fairly traumatic.  Several ornaments were broken in the process to one extent or another.  Some shattered beyond being salvageable and some just needed a little glue and they were good as new.  In hind sight, I wish that I had taken pictures of what I found.  At the time, the huge mess and the resulting terrified dog were not even remotely amusing.

This year I opted for a moderately sized tree and I'm really happy with the one that I picked.  I'm confident that it'll stay upright, but with the addition of Dominic, and more importantly, his tail, I'm not entirely sure how many ornaments will survive.  As of this blog post, we have only lost one to the perils of his ever enthusiastically happy tail.  This year I also decided to video tape the various steps in getting the tree up and decorated.  Or more specifically, I video taped the dogs "helping."  I picked the tree up last Sunday, and decided to split the process of getting the tree up and decorated across three week nights so that I was still able to fit my normal week night activities in.  Here is our tree decorating process:

As you can see from the video, Miley is still hesitant around the tree, but she is making progress.  Currently she's passed out on the couch with Dominic and isn't bothered.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Blogmas Day 3 - Christmas Movie Marathon

Since I'm delving into this Blogmas theme, I thought why not let you further into the Christmas crazy that lurks within?  Recurring theme, I love all things Christmas.  Which absolutely includes Christmas movies.  What constitutes a Christmas movie is somewhat open to interpretation.  With some people I know loving to argue that Die Hard is a Christmas movie.  I eye roll real hard at that.  Especially when I have co-workers who enjoy bringing this up on a pretty much daily basis.  I'm talking movies that are generally about Christmas or Christmas related.  Over the years, I've built up a bit of a collection of these movies.

I'm rather proud of some of the less well known movies that I have.  For instance, did you know that there is a He-Man and She-Ra Christmas special?  There is and it is He-Man and She-Ra fantastic!  I'm also a fan of basically every Rankin/Bass movie that I can get my hands on.  The Life And Adventures of Santa Claus being one of their less well known holiday movies (I'm also a fan of some of the other, non-Christmas holiday specials they did).  And admittedly, I have some specials that are really only amusing for their not so greatness, such as Santa With Muscles, starring Hulk Hogan.  Yes, you read all of the correctly.  I have no shame in my Christmas game.

As I started accumulating Christmas movies, I thought it would be fun to have a weekend day that was dedicated to watching just Christmas movies.  And so started my annual Christmas Movie Marathon.  But I don't do just any slap shod, random Christmas movie day of gluttony.  Oh no.  Please believe that I take it to the next obsessive level.  That's right, I bring in my next true love, Excel.

I have a spreadsheet that has a listing of every single Christmas movie that I own, with the run time of each movie.  I then have a separate tab for each year that I do the movie marathon (this year marks the 12th year, with last year being a skip since I was up in Seattle watching the Browns play the Seahawks), so that I can work out the lineup for that year and back reference previous years as I continue to rotate out specific spots in the line up so that there are some different movies getting shown each year, with certain movies being an annual staple.  I know, who doesn't do that, right?  But it gets better.

I don't just have the movies listed in the order that they'll play, I have specific breaks throughout the day scheduled in, as well as a three minute window in between movies.  This 3 minute window allows people to get up and get food, use the restroom, stretch their legs or whatever.  It also gives me some time to change out DVDs.  That's right, I have my annual Christmas movie marathon scheduled down to the minute.  THAT is the level of crazy that I operate on. :) To give you an idea, here is an example of a lineup from a previous year:

7:00 AM   Breakfast
8:00 AM   The Muppet Christmas Carol
9:32 AM   Claymation Christmas 
9:59 AM   The Year Without a Santa Claus
10:52 AM   He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special
11:40 AM   Santa Claus is Comin To Town
12:29 PM   45 min. lunch break
1:14 PM   Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
2:08 PM   Frosty the Snowman
2:35 PM   Frosty's Winter Wonderland
3:02 PM   A Charlie Brown Christmas
3:30 PM   A Garfield Christmas
3:56 PM   How the Grinch Stole Christmas
4:24 PM   Classic Holiday Stories
4:59 PM   Prep & Landing, Prep & Landing Naughty vs. Nice
5:43 PM   60 min. Dinner Break
6:43 PM   National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
8:23 PM   Elf
10:01 PM   Fred Claus
11:46 PM   The 11th Annual Christmas Movie Marathon is over until next year

I provide the breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a variety of holiday themed items sprinkled throughout.  It makes for a deliciously indulgent day.  The number of people that are in my house at any one time fluctuates, as it's obviously a pretty long day and I would be very much surprised if anyone other than me was able to make it through the whole day.  Depending on the number of people that show up for a particular movie, I'll have the dogs loose in the house if there aren't too many.  If there's a lot of people, it's just a lot easier to have them barricaded in my bedroom or some portion of the house, depending on how I have things layed out that year.  I've toyed with rearranging furniture in three different orientations in my current house to try and figure out what works best.  I'm still working on it.  

Two years ago, when Miley was still a sassy wee hopper, she was thoroughly enjoying glomming onto my cousin James.

Heffner was not without his own lovin from my cousin Andrea. :)

This year's movie marathon was a little different than previous years.  For one, the timing.  I usually shoot for hosting it the Saturday before Christmas, as long as Christmas doesn't land on the immediate Sunday.  This year, my sister was due with her son on Christmas Eve, so we moved the date up in the hopes that she could make it to the marathon before popping out the wee hopper.  Babies, however, just don't understand time lines, and my nephew came early.

The other change up this year was that I ended the marathon before 11pm.  With so many holiday gatherings and activities to fit in, I needed tonight free so that I could attend a holiday party hosted by some friends that I definitely wanted to attend.  I had toyed with the thought of ending the marathon early (it's not like I won't watch these movies on my own!) before, but this year I had an actual reason to.  I'm not sure if I'll continue with this plan or not, but it does allow for more flexibility in the day.

I also limited the guest list more than I usually do.  While the list of people I would LOVE to invite is lengthy, my 1,100 sq ft house can only really accommodate so many people.  So I kept things intentionally small, to see how that worked out.  I think the number of people was good and it also has me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could fit in one big marathon and one or two smaller marathons so that I don't feel like I'm leaving anyone out.  That is the last feeling that I want to give anyone, especially this time of year.  I do not want someone to feel that they are intentionally left out.  Going on at length about trying to manage personalities, backgrounds, etc. of various people I know in a group setting so that all parties are comfortable and mesh well, could be a novel in and of itself and really starts going beyond what this blog is about.  But it most definitely is a factor when I plan any group gathering.

While this post is not super heavy on the dog side of things, the movie marathon itself requires a little bit of back explaining outside of the dogs.  This year the dogs were gated in the crating/training area of the house.  There was enough food out (cough, Dominic, cough) and enough people, that having both dogs free roaming in the house wasn't really going to work.  They still got plenty of attention and loving from various people and from my parents in particular.  So their day was not entirely boring, they just weren't allowed to plop themselves into the laps of unsuspecting visitors. ;)

Happy December 3rd!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Blogmas Day 2 - The Unboxing of Christmas

Happy December 2nd!  And go me for not immediately falling off the Blogmas wagon. ;) The process of unboxing Christmas in my house, is exactly that.  A freaking process.  As I've mentioned, I love Christmas.  Which also means that I've accumulated quite a bit of Christmas related items through the years, whether it was by my own means or others who support and are entertained by my habit.  All of these Christmas items are stored in my attic for the other 11 months out of the year that it is commonly not acceptable to have them out.  Which means that I have to retrieve them all one by one down my somewhat rickety attic stairs and accumulate them in the garage, which gets dubbed the staging zone this time of year.

This year's retrieval of the boxes was not without incident, unfortunately.  In my excitement about the impending decorating, I managed to miss a critical hand grab of a beam and fell right through the hole in the attic where the stairs are, and down the stairs.  It was actually fairly lucky the way I fell because I could have been hurt a lot worse.  The fall thankfully only resulted in a scraped up left hand and some bruising on one leg and my back.  But not much will stop me and after some bandaging (I decided against taking pictures of the injuries), I finished the job.

From there it's a matter of going through each totes contents and figuring out how I'm going to go about decorating the house.  This year, thanks to finally getting around to getting some book shelves, I now have a place to put out my Christmas village!  And things are even up high enough that Dominic's tail can't destroy everything.

Naturally, the dogs are incredibly curious about everything that is going on.  This is Dominic's first Christmas with me, so he is extra curious about all the interesting things that he's never seen or experienced before.  I videoed a little bit of the process from getting the totes out of the attic to the dogs reactions to some of the animated toys that I have.  Probably the funniest clip involves Dominic's reaction to the Christmas dancing chicken.  I probably find him funnier because I live with him, but his reaction was just cracking me up.  Here's the video:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blogmas Day 1!

DECEMBER IS FINALLY HERE!!!  Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday.  Love it, love it, love it!  Red and green are my favorite colors.  I love all the decorations.  I love all the warm fuzzy feelings this time of year tends to bring out.  I love the Christmas specials.  I love the music.  I love it all!!  Now that's not saying that this time of year is also hectic and potentially quite stress inducing.  Especially if you're like me and you tend to place a lot of pressure on yourself to try and meet every one's expectations, fit in as many of the festive gatherings as possible, and still find time to enjoy the holiday on your terms.  It's a challenging juggling act that has me simultaneously wishing December was longer, while also being thankful that it's not.  Since I'm trying to keep myself on the roll of blogging, I love this time of year and I needed a self proclaimed challenge to keep my Christmas and dog juices flowing, I decided to task myself with the challenge of blogging every day.  Initially I thought I'd take part in the Vlogmas "challenge" on YouTube and task myself with creating a video and/or video blog every day, but I pretty quickly realized that I was in no way prepared to spit out that kind of content and put in the time editing videos on a daily basis.  So I decided to start a little smaller by challenging myself to blog every day in December (hence the Blogmas title) leading up to Christmas.  The blogs will be a combination of pictures and video that are Christmas related and based around our various excursions throughout the month.  There will be some training mixed in as well as just the usual randomness that is our life.  This is a challenge that I think I'll be able to handle.  I guess we'll soon find out!

On this first day of Blogmas, I wanted to share with you the picture taking process for our Christmas card shots that we did back in October. :) Getting these pictures taken is always a bit of a process.  I like the outdoor setting, which means that there are going to be plenty of uncontrollable distractions.  Not to mention we're in public, which means that there are bound to be people who want to come up and say hi to the dogs.  Luckily for me, one of those people was my friend Annie!!  Thankfully, she was also willing to help wrangle dogs while I got them dressed in their holiday attire, as well as helping to get their attention behind the photographer (my every patient friend Andy) so that we could get the right shot.  Naturally, there were some entertaining moments.

For the shots with the rock wall in front of me I was able to wear my nice comfortable foot wear.  But my original plan was to wear some cute, sparkly green heels that I have to complete the whole red and green look.  Heels really only work for nice firm ground.  Most of the park was NOT nice firm ground....

We (and by we, I really mean Andy) realized that not only is it difficult to get both of the dogs to look in the direction of the camera, but it's also difficult to get me looking at the camera at the same time that they are....

And in case you're wondering, yes, we walked around a public park looking like this, in October.

Our next challenge, was trying to get a decent picture on a path in the woods while squirrels were frolicking in the trees just a few feet away.  It did lend itself to a few moments where Dominic decided to just free stack.  Could I get someone to double handle with a squirrel at his dog shows???

There were so many pictures that I love for a variety of reasons.  Only one made the Christmas card cut, but I am in love with so many of these shots!

And with that, I wish you a happy December 1st (for previous Christmas fun posts that I've done, just browse through the various years of December posts on this blog) and I'm off to do some distraction training with the dogs!