Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tricks!

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!
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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.
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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.....
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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).
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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!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Monday, January 4, 2016

Miley's Training Routine


Continuing on from my last post, in order to increase Miley's confidence and put that working relationship back together, I had to completely reassess our training routine.  What wasn't working was sort of blasting through a continually lengthening list of behaviors and exercises that spanned two sports and a strength training routine.  This worked fairly well when I had two dogs, but not so much with one young dog.  My pattern was to have one on a down stay while I worked with the other on an exercise.  Then I would swap them and continue on in this manner through however many exercises I was shooting to get through.  It killed two birds with one stone by allowing me to essentially train two dogs at once.  While one was getting direct training, the other was getting their down stay proofed.  I loved it, and our training sessions would easily last an hour.  The problem with moving down to one dog is that those down stay proofing periods are basically eliminated.  Miley could handle it at first, but I let it get to a point where everything was too much for her and we had a training plan that was no longer functional.
Miley and I each had our own little break downs.  Her's was predominantly hormone and situationally (losing Heffner) induced.  Mine was basically a big ole brain fart.  One of those situations that if it weren't happening to me and someone came to me asking what to do, I would most likely have some advice that they could follow.  Advice that I should definitely follow.  But because I was caught up in my own head, I couldn't find a way out of this hole on my own.  So I wailed to a couple of friends who helped to gently get me going in the right direction.  I backed off of Miley and we did a lot of fun outdoorsy things.  Lots of walks all over.  Hiking, some light jogging and lots of trips to the lake. Aside from our weekly agility class, we basically stopped training.
After some time had passed, I gradually started adding back in light training sessions.  Only about two minutes TOPS.  And we worked on things that I knew she liked.  Hand touches were one of her favorites.  I would try to capitalize on times of the day when she was higher on energy and pestering me to play with her.  Naturally, this was usually when I was trying to get something else done and "calously" ignoring her. ;) I decided that if the little Sassy Pants wants attention, then she's going to need to do a little something for it.  I also had to do a slight mental adjustment and accept the fact that training time wasn't going to be on my schedule for a while.  And it worked splendidly!  First she was a little confused.  Was I trying to play with her or trying to sneak in some training?  If her confusion went on for longer than 20 seconds or she seemed to start "melting," then training was done for the day and I would just grab a toy and play with her or wrestle with her.  After a few days, there was no melting.  We were able to get through simple things just fine.   So I decided to up the anty a little bit again and bring out items that she could choose to interact with in a way that I knew she already knew how.  Again, only for a couple of minutes and if she acted confused for too long or started to melt, then we were done for the day.  Gradually that built up and I could present her with the dumbbell and she would go through a routine of being sassy and trying to get me to play with her without interacting with the dumbbell.  She knew what I wanted her to do and we got to a point where she did finally take the dumbbell.  Huge party!!  I did manage to get a little video at the time of the routine that she would go through and I'll put it together with other clips of where she's at currently with various dumbbells and articles, in a later post.

Bit by bit, we were able to build up our training time and I was able to adjust the timing of training so that it was more convenient for me.  You know, as in, not ten minutes before I needed to be out the door for work.  As our training sessions improved, so did Miley's performance in both our obedience lessons and agility class.  Total positive reinforcement for me!  With all these improvements and all these things that I wanted to work on, I started to feel overwhelmed with all that there was to do.   Thankfully, before my head exploded, I decided to sit down and take a more calculated approach to our training sessions.  I know that Miley has a limit to how much training time she can handle in a day.  She's still young and there's only so much mentally and physically that I want to ask of her.  Hormones aside, I don't want her to get back to a point where training isn't as much fun.  So I sat down and made a list of the various disciplines that we're focusing on; obedience, agility, conditioning and tricks.  Within those four disciplines, I made an unlimited list of the behaviors/exercises that we need to work on.  For each behavior/exercise, I broke them down into manageable parts that I would eventually chain together.  For example, the recall exercise for obedience involves a stay, a run to front, a sit in front and a finish.  This makes the recall exercise a lot more manageable than trying to precisely nail all those parts together at once!  Once I had my list, I prioritized the exercises and behaviors to make them more manageable and less overwhelming for me.  While I totally could, I'm not going to worry about directed jumping right now.  Of the highest priority exercises/behaviors from each discipline, I then divided them up so that I was only working a couple exercises/behaviors a day from each.  I would then rotate each training day what I was working on with Miley.  This kept our training sessions relatively fresh, kept her interested and gave me the feeling that we were accomplishing something.  So far it's been working out really well for us and I've been seeing some great improvements in working attitude, the exercises themselves and the bond between Miley and I.  I'm definitely a happy lady!

Let me know your thoughts on what has worked well for you and your dog!  And Happy New Year everyone!! :)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Confidence

Through a few different posts in May and June of last year, I touched on Miley's false pregnancy after her first heat and the changes that I was seeing.  I didn't go super in depth in those posts, but in June we basically had a melt down.  Both Miley and I.  We are now on the upside of that meltdown and building back up in a very positive direction, but it was pretty rough for a while.

Miley had a few different things that happened that shook her world around that time.  First, she went into season for the first time towards the end of March.  She got pretty noise sensitive and spooky.  With this first season comes all sorts of biological changes, including various hormones getting released into her system.  As we all know, adolescence isn't always a pretty time and hormones can really mess with your head.  Then she went through a false pregnancy, which has it's own behavioral changes and biological factors going on.  And finally, she lost her big brother.  Miley adored Heffner!  What I didn't fully realize at the time, was that she also relied on him a little for a confidence boost.  With Heffner around, Miley didn't fret when we were out hiking.  Because of how I usually structure my training sessions, she also got to see Heffner using the various pieces of core strengthening equipment that I have.  If he wasn't afraid of it, then she could learn to use it too.  And then there was just his presence in general, that was so sure and supportive.  In ways that I'm sure I couldn't guess at.  Things finally got too a point, where Miley just couldn't deal with everything all at once.  

That's when the meltdown really happened.  I mentioned in another post how noise sensitive she was.  I took her out to Hagg Lake one day and she was freaking out at the sound the water was making when it would lap at the shore.  I decided to wait it out and it took about 15 minutes for her to settle down, get used to the sound and realize that it wasn't something that she should be terrified of.  When we would go out hiking, just the two of us, she would startle incredibly easy at a variety of sounds.  In general, she looked a little on edge and it wouldn't be until we hit the various turn around points and she knew we were heading back towards the car, that she would relax a little and start to have more fun.  As for training?  I pretty much stopped.  At home, I was lucky if I could more than a couple minutes of attention out of her before she would start to shut down.  I'm talking tail tucked, head down, and all manner of avoidance behaviors.  No food and not toys were get her back or get her happy until some time had passed and she knew we weren't going to be trying any training again.  This is where my meltdown happened.

I don't know what to do with a dog that I can't train.  I am perfectly fine with a dog that I won't be competing with.  But if I can't participate in the primary way that I know how to further build up the trust and bond that I have with my dogs, I don't know what to do.  What do you do with a dog that you can't train??  Obviously people do it all the time.  There are plenty of people who want just a companion dog and they don't want to do anything beyond teaching the dog to sit and lay down.  Hell, there's even people that don't want to be the one to teach their dog that and have a trainer do it.  So obviously this is not some unheard of phenomenon.  I just didn't know how I was supposed to go about a daily routine with a dog that I wasn't doing any training with.  I'd never been in this position before and I just hit a wall.  I remember talking to two primary people about this and thankfully they sort of got me through it.  I lamented (probably more like a pitiful wail) to my obedience instructor that I didn't know what to do if I couldn't train.  She advised that Miley and I take a little break from training and just enjoy the summer.  We'd pick lessons back up when Miley and I were ready.  Then I wailed to my good friend Megan about everything that was going on.  She coaxed me through explaining that sometimes you do either have to accept those two minutes and continue to try to improve, or you take a little break.  It's not the end of the world.  Admittedly, I was probably being a little overly dramatic.  Now that I'm in a more rational place and I know how to weather potential future bouts (dear god please don't let this happen again!!!), I can realize that there are still plenty of things that I could do with Miley.  And so we did them.

Miley and I went on plenty of hikes.  We went out to the lake to play at least once a week and she thoroughly enjoyed it.  I spent more time wrestling and playing with her.  And I set up play dates for her.  "Luckily" enough, the summer was fairly busy, so the time went by fast.  Gradually Miley started to gain more confidence in general, so I started working in bits of training to test the waters.  Things were going well, so we started back up with obedience lessons.  Agility classes were actually going pretty well and we hadn't stopped going to them during this time.  While she definitely had some things that wasn't entirely comfortable with, agility class was the one area that I could get a fair amount of attention from her and where I least expected it.  Maybe because I wasn't expecting it and she wasn't feeling the pressure, she felt more comfortable and happy.  Who knows.  Regardless, she continued to improve and I was thrilled with what I was seeing.

She did go through her second season at the end of October and I was anxiously awaiting another melt down, but so far that hasn't happened.  Yes we're finishing up another false pregnancy, but still no training meltdown.  For either of us. ;) She is still noise sensitive and she is still nervous about the non-carpeted floors in my house, but her training hasn't suffered.  As a matter of fact, I'm incredibly pleased with how her training has been coming along and I'm looking forward to sharing that in future posts!  In the meantime, I decided to record a brief training session where she used the same equipment that she showed a lack of confidence with back in June.  I did some editing and put the low confidence clips from June next to the current clips that I took today.  I think you'll see the dramatic difference. :) The only caveat I'll add is that I haven't been using the step stool for the past few months, so she doesn't really see that piece of equipment frequently.  It's also been pretty windy the past few days and the sound of the wind outside spooks her a bit.  Which you'll also see a little bit of in the step stool clip.