Monthly Archives: August 2011

Rush’s first trip to the Delta

I took Dancer and Rush (not Elly) to the Delta this morning. I chose a path where I rarely encounter other dogs–and we saw (but didn’t approach) one other group, and that was it. It was a nice cool morning; we walked just over a mile; Rush played with Dancer and explored, and he came to me every single time I called. Of course he got lots of treats for that.

My favorite part: just after I took this picture, I called the two dogs to me–and Rush came just as quickly as Dancer. He’s going to be fast!

Rush and Dancer at the Delta

Huge big deal insight….

Huge insight on dog training: Play more than you do anything else.

Two of us have started doing some distance training with our dogs. Now, Paige is a much better handler than I am. Really, she’s amazing. Her dogs adore her; they run fast and they run accurate. She is a joy to watch. People all over the arena stop what they’re doing to watch her run. Judges comment on it.

I was thrilled when she asked if I wanted to do this. Today was the first day. We cleared half the equipment to the sides and set up some nice smooth wide open distance sequences. She went first, five jumps, throw the ball, play, play, play. Just as I was thinking “time to do another sequence”, she takes the ball from her dog and … throws the ball again. Plays some more. She played about three or four times more than she asked the dog to work, and the dog thought the whole thing was a blast.

I thought about that as I watched. I thought: “I don’t play enough with Dancer. She does this for me, not for the sheer joy of playing with me.”

I tried it. I asked her to do a short sequence. I played with her. I gave her treats. I pulled out a toy and I ran shrieking away from her and played tug with her when she got to me. I asked her to do another sequence and got a joyful dog. I played tug with her, I let her win and chased her all over the arena. I was laughing and she was teasing me by pretending not to notice that I was sneaking up on her… right until she grabbed the toy and ran away. After a while I offered a treat in exchange… and then started all over again. I tried to play lots more than I asked her to work–and I got a fast happy dog who was having a blast.

I need to play more. Lots more.

A change….

I was gone for the weekend (went to my sister’s wedding in Rhinebeck, NY–and yes, it got a little wet, thank you so much, Irene). This morning I put Dancer and Elly in puppy jail and took Rush for a formal walk around the block. I needed a walk, and he seemed very energetic. We’ve done a lot of loose-leash walking in training; it just seemed like a good idea.

Well, that was the first time that he seemed more interested in what was around us than he was in me and my treats. He walked in the grassy sidewalk medians, sniffing. He looked at every car. He stopped and stared at people on the other side of the street. He spent a LONG time quietly watching a cat. Yes, he walked nicely, but a few times I had to work HARD to get his attention.

My puppy is growing up! and fast!

Back to “normal”

For years, Jay and I have had a morning routine. I get up with the dogs, let them out, feed them a light breakfast of kibble, make tea for the humans, and we all go back to the bedroom to talk and relax before the day begins. The dogs get up on the bed and snuggle with us. It’s a nice way to start the day.

The puppy changed all that. He insisted on half an hour of solid exercise every single morning. Once he arrived, I took them all out, but only Elly and Dancer got to go back to bed. Rush and I spent a half hour playing and training, until he was ready to go back into his crate for a nap while Jay and I had a cup of tea. Not quite the same experience.

This morning, without even thinking about it, I got up, let the dogs out, fed them breakfast, made tea for Jay and me, and got back into bed. Rush lay down at the end of the bed. Dancer stretched out next to me. Elly stretched out by Jay’s side. We talked about the situation in Libya (Jay lived in Braga in 1969, when Qaddafi came to power). We talked about the hurricane. I completely forgot about having to train Rush before I could relax–and Rush lay at the end of the bed and relaxed while we talked.

He’s come so far, so fast. He pees on cue, and not in the house. He lies on his mat in my office while I work. He’s calm in his crate at night and sleeps until 6:30 in the morning. He sits on cue. He can wait to be released from a sit for five or ten seconds. He doesn’t annoy the big dogs nearly as much as he used to. He can hang out under a restaurant table while I eat, calm and unworried. He walks really nicely on leash (as long as he doesn’t see other dogs). His SIT, COME, WAIT, and name recognition are excellent. He has a nice nost-to-hand touch and a nice front paw target.

Looking at my list, I see that I still need to work on grooming behaviors (paw holding for dremeling, enjoying brushing, accepting clipping, muzzle holding, teeth exams), restrained recalls (which he really quite dislikes), bite inhibition (although it’s pretty good, it’s not great), and a rear foot target. He’s also really distracted by other dogs. DOWN and STAND are not yet on voice cue.

Learning from other dogs…

I’ve started to work on WAIT with Rush. I ask him to sit (he has a lovely sit now), I step back a few feet, I release him with OKAY! or go back to him. I reward only if he hasn’t moved. Today I was working WAIT with all three dogs at the same time. Dancer has a lovely WAIT; Elly’s is sort-of-okay. So I had the three dogs sit; I stepped back one step, forward one step… reward. Repeat a few times. Two steps. Three steps. At four steps back, Rush started to get up, then he looked left–Elly wasn’t moving, so he looked right–Dancer wasn’t moving, either, and then Rush put his butt back down and kept it there. BRAVO! Lots of treats!

Interesting article

The New York Times has an absolutely wonderful article about decision making fatigue. Decision Fatigue

It’s a long article, but worth the effort to plow through. Among other gems, apparently dogs make better choices when their brain glucose levels are boosted: from page 5 of the article: “After obeying sit and stay commands for 10 minutes, the dogs performed worse on self-control tests and were also more likely to make the dangerous decision to challenge another dog’s turf. But a dose of glucose restored their willpower.” This explains why I get the most bang for my training effort when I train the puppy immediately after breakfast!

Quick weekend report

It was an interesting weekend. Dancer spent Saturday leaping her contacts and left me in despair (although she did manage a single Q for the day, in Full House); Sunday Elly Q’d in snooker and so did Dancer; in addition, Dancer managed a Q in regular and got all her contacts in both rounds (with a teeter flyoff, of all things, the reason she didn’t Q in the second round of regular).

Joe Camp was there and took some wonderful photos of the girls and of Rush. Here’s Rush, strutting his stuff for the cameras (edit: I just noticed he’s pacing, not trotting, in this photo!):

Rush, photo by Joe Camp

So, a different shot of Rush, trotting in this one:

Rush, photo by Joe Camp

And here is Dancer, showing off her weaves:

Dancer, photo by Joe Camp

And a rather different view of Elly (she was doing exactly what I asked her to do, and no, we weren’t going the wrong way):

Elly, photo by Joe Camp


In the cheap thrills category: this morning I wanted to do faces and feet on the big girls, and I asked Jay to feed Rush a steady stream of treats (chicken heart bits) while I did a quick pass at his feet too. He liked the treats so much that he kept trying to get up on the grooming table while I was grooming Dancer and Elly! At one point, he leapt over from a chair four feet away.

Yesterday, I did his toenails while Deena fed him treats; today, he let me touch his toes with the Dremel without even moving his feet.

Score a few points for classical conditioning.

Working on the List…

I gather some people find my list somewhat overwhelming and think that I must be spending my entire life training Rush.

Not really.

Yes, I want to have the perfect agility puppy; yes, I’m obsessed… BUT a lot of that list is really a reminder to do all those things that make a huge difference later.

The first third of the list is socialization; I take the dog everywhere I go for six weeks and that gives excellent socialization. Rush has been so many different places now that he takes everything in stride, which makes it even easier to take him more different places.

Another big chunk of the list is handling and grooming stuff. I do most of that in the evening, when I’m watching TV. I have the brush out and I brush him a little; I hold his muzzle and give him treats. I run the clipper while he’s eating dinner. Yes, I keep a bag of his kibble in my pocket so I can feed him a treat whenever he’s good.

The hardest part of the list is the stuff requiring active training. I try to get to that first thing in the morning, when he’s fresh and rested. He loves working for his breakfast and I’m thrilled to have worked on five or six things from the list, like Reinforcement Zone (walking and giving him treats when he’s right in the sweet spot at my side), sit, go get the ball, come here and tug with me… When we’re both at a loss, I let him play on the Bosu ball. He loves that, it gives him really good exercise, and I can stand still to do it.

Finally, just before Jay leaves for work, most days, we play the Come Game with Rush. We started just a few feet apart, inside. We’ve gradually moved, and now we’re fifty feet apart and running to hide while his back is turned. He loves the game, and it only takes a few minutes. His recall is pretty amazing.

22.2 pounds!

Rush and I went to visit his vet this morning. He weighed in at 22.2 pounds and I just measured him imprecisely at around 16.5″ at the shoulders.

Rush continues to impress all those who meet him with his calm disposition and acceptance of all kinds of experiences. Nothing seems to faze him. The tech today, who hadn’t met him before, commented that Rush was behaving better about getting his temperature taken than the tech would be, given the same method. Rush did get a little indignant about getting his bordetella vaccination, but that was it.

After the vet, we went to visit my friend Deena (who is beginning to recover from her broken finger, but is still in a very bulky cast). Deena has a lovely backyard pond. Rush was playing in the yard (as were Dancer, Elly, and Deena’s dogs)–I looked up just in time to see Rush leap off the side of the pond and land quite a distance out. He swam nicely to the side and clambered out, but didn’t dive in again.

After visiting Deena, we drove to the training barn. He watched while I worked contacts with Dancer, and then I did a little agility with Rush. He loves tunnels and did all the tunnels that were out. He’s starting to do hoops, and he even experimented with climbing the a-frame. We played tug, and I threw the ball for him a few times, too.

All this activity seems to have tired him enough to sleep; he is napping on his mat right now.