Sunday, May 31, 2009

My obsession with dog behavior.....

OK - Anyone who really knows me knows how obsessed I can be over my dogs behavior. This weekend my friend Dawn was supposed to come down Friday night for the AKC trial in Westford. Just minutes from my parents house - so no getting up at the crack of dawn. But between car troubles and her grandmother being ill, she decided not to tempt fate. :-) Probably a good idea to stay home for the weekend. So - even though Dawn couldn't make it down I decided to go to the Tunneler fun runs that were happening in Wrentham.

Note to self - Steeler with no exercise outlet for the day is not good planning! Logan had a chiro adjustment scheduled - so I worked half a day and basically came home, played with the pups for 30 mintues outside and put Logan and Steeler in the car to drive to Framingham. The traffic was awful - which made me a few minutes late. Fortunately that wasn't a problem .... but then I left there later than planned and it took forever to drive the 15 miles to Wrentham. EVERYONE was driving about 10 miles under the limit. So I got to Wrentham later than I wanted to. And Steeler had been in the car for 2.5 hours.

I got him out of the car for our first run and he was a wild boy. Wild boy took the first tunnel and then proceeded to make up his own course. Then saw a barking sheltie on the side lines and jumped the FENCE. ARGH!!!!! Looked at the sheltie and decided not to mess with him but the big black lab also hanging out looked like and easier target. I am sure most of you can imagine how fast this happened. Well all I can say is Thank Goodness for Mark. Somehow he was able to catch Steeler mid stride and pick him up before he connected with the lab. He carried him back out to me and said - take a deep breath - he didn't connect, everything is fine, just get him working with you again. Talk about an adrenaline rush. Fortunately Steeler recovered quicker than I did and ran the course just fine. I of course was shaking. Not wanting to end on that note - I did do two more runs with him, for which he was much more focused and never thought of jumping the fence again, even though the barking sheltie was still there. (I had asked them not to move to far away so Steeler could work through the barking- because after all barking happens A LOT at agility trials)

I am really disappointed that Steeler jumped the fence ... I had thought I could count on that being the one thing that he would not do. Generally he is very respectful of ring gates and has never jumped a ring gate in obedience settings. Some days I wonder whether I should even think about competing in agility with him. I know that I tend to panic and obsess over everything that he does - which doesn't make things any better. On the other hand - Mark's timing was impeccable and the total calm and unemotional manner in which he grabbed Steeler was just amazing. And the look on Steelers face as he was carried back to me was priceless.

On the plus side, we stayed to hang out with Julie, Carmie and Bug for a while, and Logan got to do a Tunnelers run too. Of course at 11 she just trotted through the course - but I think she had a good time. I also took the opportunity to practice our moving stays with Steeler. And yes Katrin - I did actually drop the leash for this. Steeler was totally focused on me while we were working and charging forward full speed to get his cookie when I released him. :-)

And yes I am still obsessing over the fence jumping and subsequent behavior!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The past week

AHHHH ... a long weekend with no major plans except to relax!

The last week has been a pleasant although busy one. Monday night obedience class continues to go well. Though I think I do need to go back and refresh some of the basics that we haven't worked on recently. This week we worked on retrieving. Steeler is doing great with that - with the minor exception of letting go of the dumbbell when I put my hands on it. It was a pretty common problem in class and we talked about two different ways to work on that. The first way seemed to me to be shaping the dog to want to hold onto it. The other way used doggy zen to maintain the hold. I will likely play with both methods this weekend and see how we do. Meanwhile - Steeler's stays are coming along nicely and I think I might be ready to take the leash off pretty soon.

Agility class on Tuesday - Oh boy! It is so nice to be in a class where everyone seems to care how you are doing! Everyone in the class is competing except for Steeler I think - oh and Solo. OK - so half of the class is competing. Everyone wanted to know how Steeler did at the Match last weekend. We worked on a new lead out skill this week. Some day I will get my act together and maybe get some maps uploaded. It was a hard one, three jumps to the poles and Catie wanted us to be able to lead out to the third jump. Which really wouldn't have been that difficult - except for the fact that it wasn't a straight line! We started closer to jump 2 than to 3 the first time thru to work on the mechanics. Steeler and I are still working on our timing - but we quickly got the hang of it. The second time thru we were closer to jump three, but not quite where we ultimately wanted to be. We had a bit more trouble there - I am still working out what it means for Steeler to be committed to an obstacle. We also added a few more obstacles this time through. So Jump Jump Jump, poles, jump, tunnel table. By the time we finished our turn - I was standing where Catie wanted us close to jump 3 and Steeler was committing to jump 2 before turning into me and he nailed his weave poles and turbo charged the next jump to the tunnel and didn't fall off the table! YAY! And everyone said - OH my doG he is going to be FAST! :-)

On another note - Steeler did have a few things to say when Solo came into the agility ring, but when Steeler set up in front of the first jump and Solo was 4 or 5 feet behind him on the other side of the gate - Steeler didn't seem to care much. He did glance at Solo once, but I just reminded him to sit and walked away. And Steeler held his sit and waited for me to release him! He also got a bit distracted the first time through and left me, not sure if that was a minor stress issue - because we were working on something hard for him. I had a moment of slight panic because he decided to play with the BC girl in our class. Luckily she is a sweet girl that doesn't give off any hard vibes. And after my moment of panic I did manage to call Steeler back to me in an almost normal tone of voice - and he came running back! On our second turn he started to leave again to go play - and this time I had my brain back and just called him before he got very close and he came right back. :-) YAY!

Thursday night is Communications class with Katrin. I am really enjoying this class. We worked on the eye targeting game some more. Steeler had some trouble getting started, he was a bit distracted by a couple of the dogs. We worked with peanut butter for a bit, and then switched to a can of Evangers all meat canned food. All of a sudden Steeler was REALLY into this game. Amazing what you can do with a novel treat. And he seems to be getting the idea that he needs to find my eyes. I will try to video this weekend. We also introduced the space game this week. Steeler LOVES this ... of course any thing that involves motion is good with him. This game is to teach the dogs to move into our space when invited, and out of our space when we step into theirs. I'll have to video that too. It's all about pressure. Creating pressure when you step into them, and easing pressure when you invite them into your space. I talked to Katrin a bit about Steeler's reaction to Solo (and he has a similar, less intense reaction to the golden in class) and I am going to try to be proactive next Tuesday (and Thursday). Before Steeler can notice Solo I am going to start playing the space game with him. And if he does react to Solo, I am going to just back up and reward him for coming into my space. We have lots of homework this week. Continuing with the eye contact game, the space game - moving forward and back and side to side, as well as working on backing up in a straight line. hmmmm I guess I will be doing more training and less relaxing than I thought this weekend. Oh wait - dog training is a form of relaxation! :-)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Agility B Match in Wrentham

Today Steeler was signed up for 3 runs at a "B" Match after the AKC agility trial in Wrentham. Most of the day I had been thinking that I was nuts to follow through with this. All of my normal agility buddies that would help me keep my anxieties in check are off at a Susan Salo seminar at clean run. But I decided there was bound to be at least one person there that I would know and I loaded Logan and Steeler into the car and off we went. I am glad that I went - I ran into Maggie, who I hadn't seen in a year or so and my friend Nancy with Lola and Butchy. She had Lola with her today. Lola and Steeler aren't too fond of each other - but handled hanging out pretty well.

Steeler handled the commotion of the trial site very well! I was very pleased with his ability to walk with me instead of 6 feet in front of me. LOL There was a fair bit of commotion at the start of the match - lots of people and dogs still around. Closer to a trial situtions than the Tunneler runs that we did in April. The match was run in 2 rings, with 155 runs between the two rings.

Steeler is definitely not ready to trial just yet - but he is getting there. The first run felt pretty good, even though we were just a bit disconnected. Steeler was listening to me and coming when I called - so I was pretty happy with that. The novice course started with Jump, Dog Walk, Jump, Broad Jump, weaves. The first two runs he held his start line but bypassed the dog walk for the tunnel underneath it. Once I got him on the dog walk he hit his contacts and handled the jump to broad jump sequence just fine, but turned into me when I tried to cue his weave poles. On the third run I decided to handle the dog walk on the other side. That was enough to get him on the dog walk without going thru the tunnel first. And he hit his contacts and his weave pole entry without pausing!!!! After the first run I bypassed the Aframe - he really is not ready to handle it at full height yet. I was generally pretty pleased with his runs. His second run I felt he was a bit more distracted and drifty which in turn made me more anxious - but his third run felt pretty good - so I felt really good about being able to pull my mind together and not worry about what "might" happen on the next run. :-)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Life has been rather busy the last few weeks. Not with anything special - just everyday stuff. I had to spend two days in Cambridge - that was a pretty awful commute. Tuesday wasn't too bad - but Wednesday morning was just awful. I don't know how long it took for us to go from Rockland to Cambridge ... I think we left around 7:40 and got there about 9:15 or so. It's only 20 miles away, but route 93 is just a parking lot at times!

Obedience class continues to go well. Steeler's Stand for Exam is back to where it was before we stopped practicing for a bit. It didn't take much to get it back - just a bit of refreshing his memory. I feel like his Stay's are coming along quite nicely as well. I still feel like I need to do them on leash - but I think we are close to the point of taking the leash off. But knowing me I won't do that until Esther makes me take it off. We did some group heeling this week and Steeler did really well with that.

I decided to try a new agility class with Catie after run thru's at the barn. The people at the run thru's were super nice and I felt welcome even though I was keeping my distance with Steeler. Plus - if I could have a class that was 5 minutes from home - well that would be the best!!!!! We've had one class that went really well after Steeler settled down a bit. In the class there is a Briard, a shepard, and a BC. The first class the BC was absent and there was a malinois making up a class. We worked on start line stays, and rear crosses. Last week we missed agility class - didn't get home until after 7 pm ... but this week we went down and in addition to our regular class we did the beginner class before ours. I could have made up class in a class at the same level - but sometimes the basics are worth repeating, plus I figured it was a couple of new dogs and that would be good for both of us. We worked on the 2x2's and some contacts. I actually felt confident enough to take Steeler's leash off while we were all working at our 2x2 stations. Steeler stayed with me and was focused on the game! Yippee!!! Then our regular class was next. Steeler was pretty good with everyone until Laurie put up Solo's hair (Solo is the Briard). I think Steeler could then tell that Solo was looking at him ... heaven forbid another dog actually look at him. Solo is young and still intact - who knows if that was playing a part ... Laurie took Solo outside the ring and Catie worked Steeler through his "issue" - Steeler barked and lunged a couple of times - but I think when Solo didn't react at all to him Steeler kind of deflated and then didn't have another problem with Solo. Solo is such a good boy!!!! And Laurie is great! It is nice to be in a class where I feel like people understand and don't think that Steeler is "bad" ... I've only been in one other class last summer that I felt that way - but I still hadn't worked through a lot of my anxiety about what Steeler "might" do if he ran up to another dog. So, anyway - last night we worked on some short sequences that Steeler handled very nicely. I was able to lead out 2 jumps and there was a pinwheel and a front cross and the A frame. We haven't worked much on the A frame since I have spent a year or so debating 2on 2off or running contacts. So the A frame was low and Steeler was able to figure out the 2 on 2 off behavior that I have decided on.

Thursday nights are Communications class! We had our first class with dogs last week. It is hard to let Steeler just do whatever rather than trying to manage everything. In class there is a golden retriever - very bouncy and active, young I think, Brew, Steeler's Malamute friend and another dog ... maybe a mix of medium size. This whole eye targeting game is hard work. Basically we are teaching the dogs to find our eyes rather than us finding their eyes. A "simple" targeting exercise - but one I am finding difficult. I am just not sure that the lightbulb has gone off in Steeler's brain yet. But we are plugging along. I took some video this weekend. And we spent 15 minutes tonight working on it. It is so hard to not move my eyes to find his! I think he is just starting to figure things out. He is getting a bit distracted though - I think because he can't figure out what I want as easily as other behaviors we have shaped. We started by shaping eye contact in front of us and then when they seem to get that behavior, we turn 90 degrees and see if the dog can figure out to come in front of us again. Steeler seems to be getting that tonight so we tried the next step which is to turn just your head and see if the dog can find your eyes. Steeler did (woooo hooo!) and then we ended with a couple of easier turns of the whole body instead of just the head. Then I ended the session on that note. Here is the video from this weekend. It is kind of long - need to find some editing software that I can figure out how to use!