Sunday, December 23, 2018


Dom had his surgery a week early and is doing great.  The clinic called me on Tuesday, the 18th, and said that they had a spot open up for this surgery on Wednesday, the 19th.  They knew that I was eager to get this surgery done (they originally thought they'd be able to fit him in on the 17th, but the correct sized equipment for Dom wouldn't be resterilized in time) and wanted to offer us the spot.  Naturally, I took it.  I wanted to do the damn thing (can I get a woop woop from my Bachelorette watchers?!) and get the 8 week recovery phase under way.  I said yes and they reminded me of the pre-op things that I needed to do for Dom.  After hanging up, I then wanted to vomit.  Yes I had already made the decision to do the surgery and set the date, but at that point I had then had less than 24 hours to mentally prepare for dropping off my dog and start rearranging our schedule for the next week, which had been under the assumption of a non-operated on dog.

After updating my friend Megan and Dom's breeder, I was feeling a little better.  Dom made it through the surgery with complications and nothing unexpected found.  When I chatted with the surgeon the morning that I dropped him off (also, trazadone is a WONDERFUL thing pre-op; for the dog, but probably also for the owner.....) I got a little more thorough explanation of what was going to happen, which put me a little more at ease.  The bone fragment was going to be removed and the abnormal bone spur-ish growths within the joint were going to be deburred, along with generally cleaning the arthritic gunk out of the joint.  Cool beans.  Prognosis post op was good with a hopeful return to normal activities.  I specifically asked about hiking and was told that this was quite likely after his recovery period.  SILENT HELLS YES!!!

I got an update on Dom post op that he was doing well and happily drugged up.  After the surgeon was done with surgeries for the day, I got a call from his as well where he told me everything went well and he removed the largest bone fragment he's ever removed from this type of issue.  When I picked Dom up the next afternoon I saw just exactly what he was talking about.....

Do you see the size of that thing???  I believe my exact words were "holy mother of god." Followed by "can I take a picture of this?"  To which he replied that I was welcome to keep it.  I politely declined.  This bone fragment is a piece of bone that should have fused to the rest of the bone as Dom was growing up.  For whatever reason, it didn't and has been sort of floating around in his elbow creating quiet havoc.

Dom stayed at the clinic over night and I picked him up the next afternoon.  I was shocked to learn that he was fully weight bearing on the leg and they gave me a bunch of typed out instructions as well as going over his various medications with me.  I brought my ramp (while realizing that I had only practiced using the ramp inside the garage and not into and out of the minivan....) and Dom was super great about calmly (drugged) walking into the van.  Our ride home was uneventful and I basically spent the rest of the night staring at my very doped up dog. 

His recovery has gone really well and I am already at the point (a mere 4 days post op) where I am fondly looking back on the first 24 hours home.  At this point, Dom acts as though he is totally recovered and should be able to go back to business as usual around the house.  However, for these first two weeks, he is only allowed to walk around when he is going out to potty.  He is otherwise to be restricted on his movements with minimal walking, no running, no jumping and no real playing.  Have I mentioned that they prescribed trazadone? ;)

We have already devised ways of keeping Dom from attempting to hop up onto the couch or bed when he is passing near them.  X-pens and baby gates are my best friends.  We have four dog beds sprinkled throughout the house so that we don't have to lug anything as we move from one room to another.  And I am learning just how much it sucks to be a dog who has to go out into the elements in the back yard to use the facilities, because he HAS to be on a leash whenever he goes outside to maintain that activity restriction.  Overall, he's been a champ.  We've only had to use the inflatable elizabethan collar for the very brief times that he has been alone in his recovery room.  So far that has been enough to keep him from licking his sutures.  Otherwise Tanner and I have taken shifts when we've needed to leave the house or even just for us to go to the bathroom, and one of stays with Dom and we therefore don't have to use any collar on him.  Tomorrow, the 24th, starts up a normal work day for Tanner and I both, so that will be the first day that Dom will be left home alone for a few hours.

His incision sites are healing up nicely.  The edema in his feet was gone by day 2 post-op.  He's eating normally.  Drinking is a little hit or miss and we've been giving him spritzes out of the spray bottle at regular intervals to make sure he stays hydrated.  Which reminds me to mention why it's not a great idea to use a spray bottle as a punisher.  A lot of conformation people already use it to keep their dogs hydrated during warmer weather at dog shows to keep them from panting or to cool them down, so you obviously don't want a dog who sees the spray bottle as punishment.  But I've had enough instances where it has come incredibly handy to have a dog be able to drink out of a spray bottle, that it seems like you're eliminating a possible positive tool from your bag of keeping your dog in good health.  When Miley was no longer weight bearing on the leg affected by osteosarcoma, the only way I was getting water into her was via the spray bottle.  She wouldn't get up on her own to get water out of a dish.  And now with Dom, he seems to be afraid of the fountain in the crating area that he has previously loved.  So we're utilizing our friend the spray bottle to maximize his water intake. 

But in general, Dom is doing great.  Which makes me happy on so many fronts, but apprehensive on the exercise restriction front.  We aren't even one week post op and trying to get him to WALK from one room to the other requires a hand on his collar at all times.  Don't even get me started on how he longingly looks at the couch and bed...

I also realized that I hadn't done my monthly podcasts!  For the month of December my dog/training related podcast that I HIGHLY suggest you give a listen to is the Animal Training Academy.  Ryan interviews a variety of guests with a varied background in the species that they've worked with.  I find it fascinating to hear how trainers working with other species go about approaching training plans and decisions.  Especially how they figure out reinforcers and enrichment items.  I recommend you head on over and give him a listen.

My non-dog/training related podcast that I recommend is absolutely holiday themed.  Check out the Christmas Old Time Radio podcast!  This time of year in particular I enjoy listening to the stories that used to get broadcast over the radio.  The thinking several decades ago was a little different, but the heartwarming, holiday sentiments are still the same.  It's a little something holiday themed to brighten up your drive if you need a little break from some of the overly repeated songs on the radio. ;)

And with that, I hope that everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Dominic Update

I give you the state of Dominic's elbow.  The right elbow on the bottom is how his elbow should look, but when you compare them side by side you can see that the left elbow is missing a little something that the right elbow has.  Things have flowed a little something like this:

Sunday night I heard a more thorough explanation of Dominic's x-rays.  Dominic has elbow dysplasia.  It's a very broad term that generally encompasses abnormalities of the elbow joint.  I got two solid recommendations for orthopedic specialists to talk to and not the best outlook for Dom.  Basically he was going to have to be a couch potato for the rest of his life.  No hiking, limited walks, and a lot of the work on the unstable surfaces.  This was a little crushing.  The vet also prepped me for the price tag that was likely to come along with the necessary surgery to get Dominic comfortable again.  It was a lot to digest and she recommended that I have a glass of wine that night.

Monday I set about setting up a consult appointment for Dom.  I have decided to go to the Veterinary Surgical Center of Portland for Dominic's surgery.  They're relatively close to my house, they came highly recommended and conveniently enough, Heffner and Bess have both been seen by vets there.  Heffner for his iliopsoas strain and Bess for her spay and gastropexy.  Dominic's consult was set for Thursday morning. 

As the week progressed, I kept Dom on the meloxicam and tramadol and restricted activities and he got a lot better.  On Sunday he could only stand up for about 5 min. before he didn't want to be weight bearing.  By Monday night, there was no limping.  He has continued to act like isn't feeling any discomfort and I have been slowly decreasing the amount of tramadol that I have him on.  I'm hoping this is a good sign, which you'll understand more in my description of the consult.

On Thursday we went in to see the surgeon.  He showed me the areas of concern and diagnosed Dom with an ununited anconeal process.  Something most commonly seen in young german shepherd dogs.  There is also some abnormal growth/arthritis in his medial coronoid process that the surgeon thinks may be what's causing Dom the discomfort.  The plan is to go in and arthroscopically clean the arthritis and abnormality out of the joint and hope that the gunk in the medial cornoid process is what was causing him the discomfort and with it gone, that he'll do much better.

The surgery is set for December 26th.  There are three likely outcomes of the surgery.  The first is the worst case scenario.  In this case the surgery wouldn't do anything for Dom.  He'd still be intermittently lam post op, the arthritis would come back quickly and at a more advanced rate.  It would be pain and exercise management for him from there until a quality of life decision was made.  Option number two is that the surgery doesn't do much for him.  He's not lame post op, the arthritis comes back a bit later and a slower rate and we monitor for pain and manage accordingly with exercise restrictions from there on out.  Option number three is the one that we really want.  In this scenario, removing the abnormal growth is the "fix."  In this scenario Dominic is in better shape post op than he was pre op.  The arthritis will eventually come back, but much further down the road and at a slower rate.  We would medicate for pain as needed, but I'm not totally sure what his exercise restrictions would be. 

The surgeon found it promising that Dom has not been lame until the weekend that I took him to the emergency clinic.  Normally dogs in Dom's position are at least painful enough to be limping most of the time.  We don't know what triggered it, but Dom was only lame starting two Friday nights ago. 

We are also going to do an injection into the joint of plasma rich platelets two weeks post op to aid in healing.  I did discuss medication options with the surgeon for further down the road as well as supplements and utilizing other modalities to aid in healing.  So I feel that we are ready for this surgery.  Thankfully Dom hasn't been climbing the walls and I have been doing some modified training with him at this point.  It's just pretty limited or modified in the position that I have him in, which is mostly in a down.  We've emphasized reintroducing the ramp.  My house is thankfully one story, but there is a rather large step down into the garage in order for him to get outside to potty.  So this week I do actually have a couple of training videos that are centered around getting him comfortable with the ramp so that he's good to use it when he will actually need it.

Day 27

Day 27 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  We are no longer going to be doing consecutive days, but we'll keep chugging along with this as long as we are able.  As I've mentioned, Dom is pretty restricted on his activity level and we've needed to stop doing most of what we were previously working on.  He does have a surgery on the affected elbow coming up likely next week.  While my house is thankfully only one level, there is one fairly large step into the garage in order to get out into the yard for him to potty.  I know from experience that this one step is incredibly daunting when you are not fully able.  I do thankfully have a ramp, it's just been probably close to two years since I've had Dominic walk on it.  Many things have changed in that time and I would rather make sure that he's comfortable with the ramp NOW while he's more functional than wait until it's go time and becomes terrifying for him.  Thankfully I did so as he was hesitant initially to walk on the ramp.  I'm starting him out by just walking him on it while it's flat on the ground.  Super simple.  We'll increase the difficulty in future sessions.

Day 28

Day 28 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Today we elevated the ramp.  This one step down into the garage in order to get outside is the one step that I will have to be really careful about with Dom.  Conveniently right now, that means that's as high as we need to get him comfortable with.  I started him out in the garage walking UP the ramp.  He is less intimidated by going up something than going down, as you can see in the video.  He has less hesitation going up, but definitely is more hesitant going down.  He's doing really well and we'll keep working on this.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Of Bones And Things

Dominic has splintered a piece of bone in his left elbow.  How it happened, we have no idea.  Tanner went to the gym on Friday and Dom was fine.  He came home from the gym and Dom wasn't weight bearing.  I thought that maybe with some rest it would go away, but it didn't.  So I took him in to the emergency vet yesterday (Saturday) to figure out what was going on as he wasn't wanting to bear much weight on the leg.  Naturally, I freaked out and thought it was osteosarcoma.  X-rays thankfully showed otherwise.  Two other vets are going to review his x-rays tonight and see what they think about it.  The orthopedic specialist that I want to take him to is closed on the weekends, so come Monday morning I'll have a better idea of what we're in store for.  I didn't see the radiographs so I don't know how large the piece is or where exactly it's located, I'm just assuming that surgical removal is the only option.  As we're currently doing just pain management until I can get him in to see a specialist, I really don't see any other option.  I'm REALLY hoping that I can get him in for surgery this week as its hard on him to be hobbling around and all I can really do is just keeps pain meds on board and restrict his movement.

Understandably, our training has been a little curtailed.  Once I know the scheduling for the course of action for him, then we can continue on a modified training schedule, but we're taking a little bit of a break at the moment.  I will post the videos that we got done before he got injured, though. 

Day 23

Day 23 of the #100DaysofDogTraining: I am feeling the rush of this month.  I filled out my calendar at home so that I stay aware of all of my committments.  I'm calmer this year.  I knew this month would be ridiculous.  But still.  I love it, but December needs to be the length of two months because this is getting ridiculous.  Again, I love it, I just need more time to be able to really enjoy it.

With the being said, you'll have to bear with me as some of these videos are going to be of where we're at with a particular exercise or piece of equipment.  I'm staying committed to doing this challenge.  Working with Dom is a priority and I do enjoy the daily training.  I just feel like sometimes the video content is a little flat. 

But here we are.  I've continued working with Dom on the donut.  His confidence is slowly increasing.  The video of his first time working with the donut is back on Day 14 for reference.  He has definitely increased his level of comfort putting his front feet on it.  We're still working up against the wall for added stability as I want to reinforce his confidence to work on the equipment.  He's a little less confident putting his rear feet on it than during one of our sessions last week.  He actually got both rear feet up on it then.  And I did push the session a little too far and Dom definitely said that he was done.  So we ended there.  It's great to end on a good note, but not great to keep pushing until you can find that "good note" when things have started going in a less desireable direction.

Day 24

Day 24 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  On Day 18 I posted a video of the start of teaching Dominic to nose bump a ball to me from a down.  So he has the beginning understanding of what we're going for.  For this behavior, I want to teach him to nose bump the ball hard enough to roll it a ways.  Specifically nose bumping and not pawing with his foot.  When he's standing, the pawing is his go to move, so I needed to focus on nose bumps. 

He has no problem touching the ball with his nose, but he only gives it a good bump twice in this session.  I did jackpot him for those, but he hasn't quite made the connection yet.  I THINK what I need to do to encourage the stronger nose bump is to add a little bit of movement to the ball prior to him bumping it.  It seemed like that may have helped.  I try that during our next session.

Day 25

Day 25 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  We're a quarter of the way through!!!

My desired end goal behavior is that I can use this target to get Dominic to close a door with his nose.  For that, I used the lid from a large yoghurt container.  The first part of the video shows him on our first day where I just had him nose targeting the lid.  I started out in the open and then moved it towards the wall, until it was right up against the wall.  Because Dominic already knows a hand target, I figured this wouldn't be difficult for him and it wasn't.

From there I put tape on the back of the lid and had him start nose bumping a closed door.  While he was starting to learn this I wanted him nose targeting something that didn't move.  I wanted his confidence in the nose target high in the off chance that nose bumping an open door might weird him out.  So confidence was high and I started opening the door.  No problems with any door movements. 

Where we're at right now is that he has no problem touching the target with his nose.  He's just not hitting it hard enough to do much to the door.  I tried adding a little bit of excitement or movement to the door to see if I could get a more forceful nose bump, but that didn't really happen.  Doesn't mean it won't, but this time around it didn't.  Maybe once I figure out how to encourage a nose bump on the ball with more force, I can put a cue to that and transfer it to the door.  In the meantime, we'll just keep plugging away at this.

Day 26

Day 26 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Today we brough out one of the large paw pods.  I can't remember what they're actually called, but I think of them as large paw pods, so that's what I'm going to call them.

I warmed Dom up with both sets of the small paw pods first (that video is posted before I started the 100 Days), then we worked on just the one large pod and then on to one large pod and one set of paw pods.  The large pod is definitely less stable than the paw pods and trickier for him to manage between the two, but he's doing well.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Here Comes December!!

I am so excited that December is here!! (ornament by Sally's Bits of Clay on Etsy) And we are officially a two Christmas tree household!  Due to being sick and time constraints, we did get a real tree this year, but we got it from Home Depot.  Since we already have the fake Christmas tree, I decided to do the fake tree as the dog tree and the real tree will be the main one in the living room.  And I am LOVING it!  The dog tree has all of my Scooby Doo and dog related ornaments on it.  I eventually would like to get a dog tree topper, but a regular gold star will do for now.  I did take some video of us (basically all Tanner while Dom and I hung out) putting up the tree.  Dom was pretty cute.  He also decided it was a good time to start barking at the Rudolph statue that has been out for almost a week now...

Now on to the #100DaysofDogTraining!


Day 16 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Two paw pods and a partridge in a pear tree....

I posted the video previously of Dom working forwards and backwards with one set of paw pods and the FitBone.  Today we added in the other set of paw pods.  Outside of this video I did warm Dom up with the paw pods by themselves and with the one set of paw pods and the FitBone (I feel like I'm saying paw pods a ridiculous number of times).  His confidence is definitely increasing and I like how he's thinking about placement with those back feet.

Day 17

Day 17 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  This, is a behavior that we have been working on for several weeks.  The goal behavior is for a him to do a tuck sit while maintaining his front feet on the FitBone.  After that, I'd like him to go from a stand to a sit and back. 

I'm glad that I took video during our very first session so I have a pretty good comparison of how he's progressed.  Again, rear end movements take a little extra concentration for him and aren't the simplest thing.  Tucking in that rear end for a sit is work. 

The first half of the video is of our very first session.  During this session, there is a longer latency between some of the cues and attempting the behavior.  I could tell that he understood what I was asking and that he was trying.  So the first few sessions involved rewarding for effor and rewarding for his approximations of my desired end result.

The second half of the video is from today.  This week I have been really happy with his ability to maneuver that rear end.  I WISH that I had videoed our sits on the platform as he is really coming along in those tuck sits!  Because of that, I decided to video his progression to now.  He is SO close!   I did put the FitBone up against the wall as he had started to really swing his rear out and I thought he could probably use a little help keeping it straight.  He is definitely tuckin that rear in more.  He doesn't QUITE have the understanding to keep his front feet on the FitBone though.  But we are seriously close and I am so proud of him!  I did push it one repitition too far during this session.  Again, something for me to work on.

Day 18

Day 18 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  The end goal of this behavior is for Dom and I to sit in these positions and roll a ball back and forth between us.  This was the very first session of that.  I'm starting by rewarding nose touches to the ball.  Eventually I'll get to rewarding nose touches with more force, but this is a good place to start.  I did decide to test out a smaller size ball to see what I thought of it, but I prefer the larger ball.  I'm also hoping that starting this behavior from a down will get him to focus on his nose touches and not throw in paw touches.  I'd like to use this behavior for other tricks, so I think this will help us to lay (no pun intended ;) ) a more solid foundation.

Day 19

Day 19 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  apologies for the coughing and sniffling.  It's now my turn to catch the gunk that's going around.  Today we worked on balancing on the FitBones in different configurations.  I warmed him up with other exercises before working on this.  Then I eased him into the balance work with the easiest configuration first.  And we ended with the most challenging.

Day 20

Day 20 of the #100DaysofDogTraining: Or as I am calling it today, Day 2 of The Plague.  This sucks.  I did a little bit of training with Dom tonight and that is the full extent of his activity today.  Thankfully he's a very good little dude to just hang out on the bed with.  Because we've been doing a lot of that.

Today's video is of a shaped chin rest behavior.  My end goal was that he would come up, at the cue for "chin," he'd rest his chin on the towel.  The video is a compilation of our very first session, third and today, which is either our seventh or eighth session. 

At the very beginning I started by clicking for steps towards me and the towel.  And why, you may be asking, am I using a towel?  By now you've seen the froth this boy produces.  I love him, but I'm not a huge fan of having a froth filled lap, so we use a towel.  After he got the moving towards me down, I started clicking for head dips towards the towel.  Towards the end of the first session I was also getting some consistent front right foot movements with the head dips, but I was pretty sure those would go away once he figured out that I wanted him to put his chin on the towel.  That first session he was just figuring everything out.

In our third session you can see that he very clearly understands to chin bump the towel. 

In between our third and today's session, I worked on adding a cue to the behavior and then started on duration.  This behavior is basically where I want it, but it needs a longer history of reinforcement so that it becomes more reliable.  Eventually I want to use this behavior for husbandry related tasks like cleaning ears and brushing teeth.  Actually, the reason I started training this behavior is because I decided that I wanted to start brushing Dominic's teeth.  What I realized is that he doesn't like having his mouth messed with.  He doesn't have a dramatic reaction, he just very clearly moves away from my hand when I try to do anything with his mouth.  I've decided to tackle this in two ways.  The first is teaching him the chin rest and everytually working up to using the chin rest as a precursor to ear and teeth cleaning.  The second is that I'm working on desensitizing him to my hand coming towards his mouth and eventually touching his mouth and hopefully being able to look into his mouth without the need for a chin rest.  THAT has been taking a while.  I periodically video where we're at with the desensitizing, so I have some pretty good examples of him saying "no thank you."  And I also have a list of ways I've tried to go about it.  I think I've figured out a manner that he is currently comfortable with, it's just going to take a bit.  I may post a video of where we're at compared to our "failures" along the way.

Day 21

Day 21 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Following after yesterday's video of why I was working on a chin rest behavior with Dom, here is the video of the desensitization work that we're doing with my hand going towards his mouth.  The beginning of the videos are clips of the "nopes" from our previous sessions.  As you can see, I tried slightly different techniques and I've tried with him in a down and standing.  With this behavior, I think it's just something that is going to take time. 

The end goal behavior is for him to let me lift up his lips and brush his teeth.  We've got a ways to go to get there, but he is definitely making progress.

Day 22

Day 22 of the #100DaysofDogTraining: Today's behavior is really just for fun.  I decided to shape Dom walking through the hula hoop.  Why the hula hoop?  Because it's a random object that I've had sitting in my garage for quite some time and it was about to get donated to Goodwill, so why not do something with it?

This video shows Dom during our first session and then today.  I shaped him initially for approaching the hoop, then putting his head towards the center, then through it and eventually for putting a foot on the other side.  This did require some coordination on my part and it took me a couple sessions to figure out exactly what to do with my hands depending on what side he was on.  I did find out that I needed the treat hand to be the one on the side of the hoop that I wanted him to end up on.  I only recently started adding the verbal cue "through" to the behavior.  I think I'll continue building up the reinforcement history for this and I may add the hula hoop in with some other equipment.  Who knows!  Now that we've done this I kind of feel like we need to actually do something else with it.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Happy T-Day!

Happy belated Thanksgiving to any US readers!  We have had a pretty wonderful break getting to hang out with family, eat a whole lotta great food AND we got out for morning hikes ALL FOUR DAYS!!!  I may be a little low on sleep, but I'm really happy with how this break has treated us.

Naturally, Dom and I have kept up with our training schedule.  And in keeping with my monthly goal of talking about a couple of podcasts that I'm listening to, let's get after it!  In the dog training realm, I am a HUGE fan of Hannah Branigan's Drinking From The Toilet!  I love how minutely she breaks a behavior down.  Right down to which muscle contractions and body movements will indicate a desired tuck sit.  To her sense of humor, which is so up my alley.  I think I've even heard her say a "that's what she said" joke!  I enjoy the way she delivers information and her self deprecating manner.  Her podcasts have plenty of useful training information in them, but they're also just enjoyable to listen to.  If you haven't already, I highly encourage you to go check it out.

The non-dog related podcast that I'd like draw your attention to this month is Threshold.  This podcast takes one topic and explores it from multiple angles.  Digging into areas that may not seem directly related to the topic.  Season 1 focused on the bison and Season 2 is about the negative environmental effects that are impacting the arctic.  Amy Martin has an easy voice to listen to and I enjoy hearing the many sides of one topic.  If you're looking for something a little different to listen to, I encourage you to check it out.

And now on to the #100DaysofDogTraining!

Day 9

Day 9 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  We've been working on crawl using a food lure, which you can see in the video.  And that works totally fine when I'm just wanting him to do the exercise.  But I wanted to spice things up a little and also get him thinking about the movement a little differently.  I decided that I wanted to try and sort of shape him crawling towards me.  This is the second time that we've done it.

I like how he's coming along overall.  It's a movement that takes more control from him and has helped to get him to pay a little more attention to how he lays down.  He used to lay down in a nice sphynx position, but then he got into the habit of rolling onto one hip.  Which is totally fine if I have him in a down where he's going to be waiting for a bit.  I prefer the sphynx down position while we're working.

I also should have ended sooner than I did.  That last jackpot that came after the movement I was looking for should have been the end, but I pushed it further.  I'll work on that.

Day 10

Day 10 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Today we spiced up the platform pivot.  I still warmed him up with pivots in both directions at all three levels (not included in the video).  Since I'm increasing the difficulty of the pivot, I took it back down to the lowest level to start with.  Though I don't think that I will increase the height.

My aim for this exercise is to continue encouraging Dom to pay attention to his back legs and increase the strength.  He is quite proficient at the regular pivots, so I added a FitBone on one side of the platform.  Initially I put the FitBone perpendicular to the platform.  I changed the position to be parallel to the platform as I started thinking that maybe the perpendicular position was too difficult for him, but the parallel position is definitely more work for him.  In subsequent training sessions I plan on going back to having the FitBone perpendicular to the platform until he's more confident in his movments.  Then I'll work more on the parallel position.

This exercise definitely was working those muscles.

Day 11

Day 11 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  I gotta say, today I am feeling like a badass!  I was able to leave work early and I feel like I've gotten a ridiculous amount accomplished.  For crying out loud, I've gotten a full training session in with Dom and am able to post the video before 9:30pm!  Excuse my while I pat my productive self on the back. ;)

I'm continuing with the spicing up our standard exercises theme and today we added a FitBone in to the mix with the paw pods.  I warmed Dom up on the two sets of paw pods first, which I didn't include in this video as it's already part of another.  Then I swapped out one set of paw pods for the FitBone.  Adding the FitBone actually decreased the difficulty for Dom while moving in one direction.  But I decided ot take it a step further and have him come forward and then back up to the FitBone.  This is something I haven't had him do before.  He already knows how to rear foot target and back up, but I haven't had him do something like this.  You can see that initially he's not sure.  Occasionally I'll use a little physical pressure by leaning towards him to get him to adjust where he's distributing his weight, but he's not used to me asking him to actually move backwards for these exercises.

After the first time, he totally got it.  When I reset him and had him do it again, he totally knew what to do.  And props to me for quitting while I was ahead instead of continuing for more gratification with more reps. ;)

Day 12

Day 12 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Today we spiced up our core disc work.  I did warm Dom up with some front and rear foot targeting on the disc and we attempted a sit, but that wasn't happening today.

I have one end of the platform propped on the core disc so that it now has a little bit of instability to it.  Now simple movements have increased difficulty.  Dom has done the first part of the exercise before and is very comfortable walking forward onto the platform.  I had forgotten which type of a dismount I've had him do, but I figured it out after the first one was definitely ideal.

After working on forward movement on the platform, I introduced rear foot targetting and moving backwards on it.  This is something that IS new to Dom.  He obviously understands that if front foot targetting isn't getting reinforced then I'm likely looking for rear foot targeting and he offers that.  As he's never moved backwards up the platform, I used physical pressure along with his cue to move backwards.  He got the idea and showed improvements after the first time.

Day 13

Day 13 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Today we did our simple rear foot targetting using the platform.  Dom has been doing this since he was little, so he's got this down pat.  We start out at the lowest height and work our way up to the highest height.  He's done this enough that I realized we haven't worked on stimulus control at all.  Towards the end I started having him do his watch cue so that he would wait until I gave him his rear foot targetting cue.  This is the base behavior that we use to transfer to other objects.

Day 14

Day 14 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Today I picked to reintroduce Dom to the donut.  It's been well over a year since he last saw this and I don't think that I really did all that much with him other than having him place his front paws on it.

As you can see, he's initially not entirely sure about it, but his confidence increases.  I move the donut a little and have him approach it from different directions so that he doesn't become comfortable interacting with it from only one position.

I then propped it between the crate and the wall and had him start rear foot targetting it.  He's pretty unsure about this, so I reward for just putting one rear foot on it and we leave it there for this session.

Day 15

Day 15 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Today I decided to start tackling my plan to use the platform as a station.  Or what ended up translating into "hey, you don't have stimulus control or correct cuing for this!"

Going into today's training session I had already realized that I don't have going onto the platform under stimulus control.  Most of the equipment that I use for conditioning with Dom, I don't have stimulus control over.  I also realized that I don't really have a clear cue for how I want him to get on the euipment.  Or at least sort of.

Dom does understand that "touch" means to put his front feet on something (which has meant that I needed to redo my cue for a nose touch, as I also had the same cue for that).  And he knows that "back feet" means to put his back feet on something (I try to stick with cues that obvious to ME so that I don't bugger them while training them).  What I don't have is a cue that means to put all four feet on something.  I decided to go with "up" as the cue for all four feet.

And as I mentioned, I also don't have stimulus control over this behavior.  Dom has the general understanding that when a piece of equipment is on the ground, that means to put at least one paw on it.  What he doens't understand is that I need him to wait until he's cued to do so.

So today we worked on developing a cue, "up," to mean get all four feet on the object, the beginnings of waiting until cued to get on the equipment and starting to develop an understanding that he shouldn't always just position himself based off of my body positioning.

I guess that's an additional realization that I had, is just how much cuing he takes from my body position.  It's understandable as that has really been the largest cue he's had for how to interact with the equipment.  And from a conditioning stand point, that's totally fine.  Our end goal for this behavior is that I want to be able to send him to the platform from a distance and have him station there until released.  We've got a little work to do. ;)

These beginning stages aren't always the most entertaining, but I have a picture in my head of how I want the final behavior to look and it'll be nice to have this beginning stage to compare to.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

We Made It....

....Through the first week of the #100DaysofDogTraining!!  I am finding more and more that if I plan things out in advance and put them in a readily visible and therefore easily reminded location, that I am MUCH better at keeping to a schedule.  Granted, sometimes my day will get away from me a little and my scheduling doesn't line up as well with real life, but having as many things as possible scheduled out helps to keep the feeling of being overwhelmed, a little at bay.  And considering that we are full on into the holiday season and my weekends are now booked up, advanced scheduling is my best friend.  I love this time of year, but I have to say that I'm looking forward to a little more breathing room come January.

This will be my first daily training videos recap post and I think it's going to be a little lengthy.  I did notice that my video descriptions started off not super brief, but as the week continued on (and I got lower on sleep) I started getting a little more concise.  It helps that these videos are more descriptive of the beginning stages of things.  Once I do videos of similar exercises with increasing difficulty, my descriptions won't need the discussion on how I got to that point.  I can just refer to previous videos. ;) Without further ado, here are this past week's videos:

Day 2

Day 2 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Dom has some minor mobility issues that require him to put more thought into his rear leg movements and make some things a little more challenging for him.  He is still fully capable, it just requires understanding that he may not get a particular movement on the first training session.  Sometimes it takes a few training sessions if the particular movement requires a lot of control over the rear end.  Regardless, I like exercises that build and maintain rear muscle mass.  That is key.

For this exercise, I'm utilizing a platform in the form of an aerobic step.  I have the platform up against the wall to give Dom added security while he figures out how to move his body in a controlled manner for a sit.  If he gets to a point where he easily and rapidly does a tuck sit, then I will increase the difficulty by moving the platform away from the wall.  We practice the sit from both directions to try an balance out the muscles.  He does have one side that is weaker than the other and you can see it in the video when he swings his rear completely off of the platform. 

When I first started doing this exercise (I really should have done a comparison video.  Maybe I will further along) I would stand next to him on the open side and use my body as a guide to help keep him on the platform.  Gradually we've worked up to a point where I am standing in front of him except for some days when he swings his butt out.  Then I'll step a little out to the side to help guide him.  As always, I reward him for effort.  He's trying and that's what counts.

Day 3

Day 3 of #100DaysofDogTraining:  Today's video is of Dom doing some pivots on the aerobic step that I use as a platform.  As long as I'm keeping track, I do one full revolution in each direction at each of the three levels.  Pivoting on an item is one of the first behaviors that I train my dogs for, so he's got that down pat and is very responsive to slight weight shifts from me to cue which direction he should be moving.  I am moving slowly because I want him to move intentionally on and off the platform and I want him really paying attention to what he's doing with his rear.  If I move too quickly, he is more than happy to keep pace, but doesn't move as intentionally as I would like.

Day 4

Day 4 of the #100DaysofDogTraining: I've already posted the video of Dom doing the paw pods outside of this training "challenge," but I do add the paw pods to different pieces of equipment to change things up a bit.  Some of these exercises I do some warm up moves him to get him paying attention to his feet and to make sure that he is physically doing well to keep proceeding. 

As you can see, I start with just the one set of paw pods and then work up to both.  From there, I bring out the aerobic step.  Targeting his front feet on the paw pods is the easiest for him to do, so I start with that.  Then we move on to putting the back feet on the paw pods.

Also wonderfully captured was a little sliming session.  Dominic gets really frothy when he's taking treats.  And he just happened to shake his head and fling some froth on me.  This is why I keep towels in the training area....

In the process of cleaning myself up, I managed to knock the mini hood off my betta tank.  Which was of concern to Dom.  When I started to get him back on the platform, he was doing some ear movements that indicated he was still concerned about the area.  So I took him back over there, we did some hand targets in the specific directions that he was concerned about, he got to get a good look at things and then he was fine to keep working.

It's been brought up by other trainers that a lot of people post videos that show only the successful segments of the training session or the segments that make things look like they are always perfect.  We all know that this isn't the case.  Though I do understand why people more heavily edit a video when they are trying to keep the clip rather brief.  This video is almost six minutes long, so clearly I'm not trying to keep it brief.

But here is Dom and I working on this exercise today.  Bumps, slime and all.

Day 5

Day 5 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Today I videoed a little of our core disc work.  My goal with this exercise is to get him targetting with his front and rear feet separately and to eventually sit on the disc.  I have the disc up against the wall to help as a guide for him.  He was sitting on it earlier this week, but today it wasn't happening.  I try to go with what he feels capable of doing each day and that definitely varies.  I'm sure that if I kept detailed records of his activities each day I would be able to figure out what activities caused increased muscle tiredness the next day, but I'm not at that level of obsessiveness.  Yet. ;)

I am happy with how he's targetting with his rear feet from the middle of the room.  It's probably not a bad idea for us to brush up on that a little bit.

Day 6

Day 6 of #100DaysofDogTraining:  This currently is the most fun exercise that we are working on.  Clearly Dominic enjoys it and I CANNOT help but crack up at his antics! 

I decided that I wanted to be able to release him to a tug as a reinforcer for some exercises that I would like to do.  He understands taking the tug while I'm holding it, but he doesn't have any experience being released to a tug.  I have a couple scenarios in my mind where I would like to use this.  One is with the tug placed behind him and me releasing him backwards toward it.  And the other is having the tug in the middle of the room while I work him on something and then release him to the tug.  Both scenarios require gradually building up to those points and this is the start of our work towards that.

I've combined our very first session, where I just release him to the tug straight in front of him.  And then our third session (today), where I have started moving the tug off to the side of him so that he does have to turn to go for it.

You can also see that I need to work on his out cue.....

Day 7

Day 7 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Today we were tight on time, but I'm trying to stick witht the goal of consecutive daily videos of our training sessions.  So I went for dumbbell work.  The beginning of the video are a couple short clips of where Dominic was with regards to a shaped dumbbell hold in January of 2017.  The rest of the clip was from today.  We've taken a few months off from doing anything with the dumbbell, but we're basically in the same spot that we were.  He will mouth the dumbbell, but we haven't progressed on the hold.  I've tried added movement on my part to entice him to grab for the dumbbell so that I can hopefully capture a longer hold on the dumbbell, but that hasn't happened.  I've brought out both the wooden dumbbell and the leather article to see if maybe he has a preference, but that hasn't changed anything. 

So this is where we're at.  Admittedly, if I do show him in obedience at all, it will not be at a level that requires dumbbell work, so my motivation is low for this behavior.  However, the fact that he is the only dog I have not gotten an actual hold on does tend to keep me going back and wanting to figure out how to communicate to HIM what I'm wanting.  So I'll keep periodically plugging away at this and probalby trying different things.  We'll see.  For now, we're at a plateau of just mouthing it.

Day 8

Day 8 of the #100DaysofDogTraining:  Dominic has a pretty decent recall when he's off leash, but it could definitely use a little actual work.  As you can see from the one incomplete recall that we had.  At one point I was being really good and bringing treats for him and Miley and focusing on random recalls on our weekly outings.  I have been less diligent about that over the past few months and now seems like a great time to pick back up working on that.  The longer his reinforcement history for off leash recalls, the more automatic his response potentially becomes.  Continuing to build up this history under low to moderate levels of distraction puts us in a better position for when high levels of distraction crop up.  Like deer or elk.

I don't do a ton of recalls on these weekly hikes because I do want him to enjoy himself and get some good exercise and sniffing in.  Now that it's getting colder, I'm also going to switch to a different method of treat distribution because my hands get really cold really fast when I have to take them out of my gloves to hand him a treat.  I have one of those treat tubes and I'll definitely start using that instead. 

I also reward Dom for his periodic check ins.  I don't reward every single one of these with food, as I don't want him just hanging out next to me for the whole hike.  So for check ins I switch between a food reward and physical play.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

100 Days of Dog Training

I decided that I'm going to go for it and shoot for completing the 100 days of training!  It's started some fun thoughts in my head for little behaviors that I could train Dom to do.  Things that I wouldn't otherwise have a reason to try out, but wanting to keep having something new to post will, I think, help keep those creative juices flowing.  And Dom loves training, so it's really a win-win.

From my general search on Facebook, the 100 days of dog training challenge is to do a daily post about a trick, behavior or exercise that you're working on.  A nice broad area.  I will post daily on the Facebook page, but I think I'm going to still stick with weekly blog posts that involve a wrap up the videos that I've posted.  We'll see how it works out.

Our first submission is around the counter conditioning I'm doing with Dom in the hallway outside of my bedroom.  I either didn't realize or it didn't manifest until after Miley's passing, but Dom is pretty uncomfortable walking past the baby gate in the hallway.  Previously, Miley was the one who wasn't comfortable and I focused on her and Dom seemed to be fine.  After Miley passed, it became readily apparent that he wasn't comfortable moving around the gate.

Dom's nose touch to my hand is a strong behavior that has a solid reinforcement history.  It's a fall back behavior that I can use to assess his comfort level.  It's also a behavior that he feels very confident performing.  Having him do a behavior that he is confident in around something that he is less comfortable with has helped to counter condition his response to something that he's not completely comfortable with.  I also worked him both directions in the hallway on alternating days so that he didn't become okay passing the baby gate in only one direction.  Though I only apparently recorded on days where he was moving out of the bedroom.

Initially I focused on rewarding for the nose touch, but I changed up the location of my hand based on which direction he was showing some discomfort in.  If he eye balled the baby gate in between nose touches or cocked an ear towards it, I would place my hand in the direction of the baby gate.  This allowed him to do the behavior that he was confident in while being able to keep a solid visual on the thing that he was less comfortable with.  After a couple of strong nose bumps, I'd move my hand elsewhere.  I'd do the same thing if he was starting to give the bathroom the hairy eye. 

Gradually I would take a step backwards so that he had to also gradually move further out into the hallway.  I would stop taking steps backwards once the "pull" from him was too great.  Basically, once I felt that he wouldn't voluntarily move forward any further without me actually luring and essentially taking him beyond the point where he was most comfortable.

Progress was slow, but he was ending each session just a smidge further into the hallway than the previous session.  We finally hit a point where I felt that we had plateaued and we weren't gaining any ground.  I decided to change the picture a little and add an additional element.  I've trained him previously to touch an item with his feet and it's been a pretty solid behavior.  I would warm him up with nose touches to my hand and then add in the foot target.  Initially he wasn't entirely sure about the set up.  I started by rewarding him for effort.  He may not have been hitting the foot target every single time, but he was definitely trying.  It was just a matter of increasing his confidence in doing this behavior in this setting.

I also started adding in jackpots for steps forward, which was the ultimate behavior that I was aiming for.  Any time that Dom took a step forward with any foot (which did require me paying attention to the back feet that I couldn't always see super well) I would jackpot the foot movement, regardless of whether I had asked for any other behavior.  That saw a larger improvement in willingness to move down the hallway with a happy attitude.  Happy attitude I based off of ear placement and how he was taking the treats.  Ears up and faced towards me was the desirable position.  Taking treats neither too hard or too hesitantly also indicated that he was comfortable with the position that he was in.

He is now comfortably working down the hallway and the number of glances towards the baby gate has decreased.  Even though I have hit the desired "end behavior," I will continue working on the counter conditioning for a couple of reasons.  One is that I don't know for how long of a period of time he has been uncomfortable moving past the baby gate.  Miley was obviously uncomfortable and he may very well have been flying under the radar.  So he quite possibly has a longer history of being uncomfortable than comfortable, that I would like to counter balance.  And two, it's and easy and fun way to warm up to a training session of other behaviors.  I can also continue to add in other behaviors with a longer reinforcement history to spice things up and keep it fun and interesting.