Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Behind yet again!

Some days I feel like I will never catch up! So here is a short run down on our latest adventures! Steeler's Monday night obedience class continues to go well. We are getting used to working around Dove the golden puppy. Dove is very sweet - and just way too cute as well - and I am trying really hard to not expect there to be a problem. The first week we moved back to the earlier class was a bit rough - but this week he hardly seemed to notice her at all. Winnie the malamute puppy now has at least 10 pounds on Steeler and he doesn't seem to concerned about her anymore. Maybe one day soon Lisa and I will take them for a walk together and see how they do. On one had it is nice for Brew to have his walk with Steeler and time away from the "baby" - but on the other hand - Winnie needs the exercise too ....

Tuesday night agility is awesome!!! Steeler is now running with Solo the briard in the ring. Steeler hasn't even looked at him with any intensity in the last two weeks. And this week he did the dog walk with Solo about 8 feet away and in his line of sight. He didn't quite meet my 2 on 2 off criteria - and he kept glancing at Solo - but he didn't bail off the dog walk and he might have been looking at Solo because I was glancing at him to keep track of what they were doing. Last nights course was a lot of fun ... and had some hard parts for Steeler. And it was still raining and misty - so I was thrilled with Steeler's attention and desire to play in the rain. He is not a dog that enjoys being wet! LOL - he did earn his nickname of "sissy boy" a few years ago as his grandma will remember. Last night he did the A frame at almost full height and was able to hold onto his contacts a couple of times. When he didn't - he was clearly thinking about it and knew that he was supposed to stop. Yippee! I think full speed at a trial is going to be interesting the first time out, but we shall see. He is really starting to put things together and I think I better start a sprinting program! He is "border collie" fast!

Last weekend we went to Maine Friday and Saturday to hang out with friends at the agility trial in Cumberland. On Friday there was a match after the show, and we were pretty much looking like drowned rats by then. I had signed Steeler up for 4 runs, but only did 2 of them. The weather was just miserable! I didn't really feel like I got a lot of agility out of our runs - but he stayed with me and he played tug with me in the ring! So all things considered I feel that it was a successful afternoon for us. He handled Sara running under the easy up with Carina before I even saw them coming with no issues at all. Steeler knows Carina - but only see's her a couple of times a year so I was thrilled that Carina could run into his space and he didn't care one bit. We had a bit of a growly moment with Axl the GSD - but I think I caused that by tightening up on the leash and pulling him back. Later that weekend he was fine with Axl hanging out within 6 or 8 feet. After the match we drove back to Dawn's, picking up dinner along the way. Of course once we were on our way home the rain stopped and the sun came out a bit. After drying out - Steeler got to play with Aura, Dawn's sweet little liver girl. Aura warmed up to Steeler much quicker this time and they played well together. Then Rachael and family dropped by with Jenna who Dawn was showing in the breed ring on Saturday. I thought that Steeler and Jenna would play quite a bit since they had spent a whole week together last year at the national - but Jenna was being a little bit bitchy this weekend. Steeler took it in stride though - and I used it to practice calling him away from another dog. He was just the BEST!

On Saturday Steeler and also worked on being near Corey (another one of Sara's dals - he's 4 and still intact) and both boys handled it well. Sara is working hard on Corey's attention because he wants to play with EVERYONE! We also saw Laurie with Solo and met her husband Dave and the rest of her crew ... Rio and Shadow. Steeler practiced walking past their expen several times - and he had absolutely nothing to say about it ... just walked on by wagging his tail as if to say - Mom - I already know Solo!!!! I've been warned that once Steeler like Briards that he will probably like all of them - but they are not all as nice as Laurie and Dave's crew!

On Sunday - Ann came over and brought lunch, which was a good thing since I haven't been to the store yet! We watched the Sara Kalnajs DVD Am I Safe. Well we watched disc 1. We had to keep stopping to talk about what we saw vs what Sara was seeing. It was fun! We are going to do disc 2 at some point.

OK this is long enough for now. Look for a posting on the Suzanne Clothier seminar that I went to a couple of weekends ago! I have to say - she is a great speaker, and FUNNY! If you ever get a chance to see her it is well worth the money!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Classes so far this week....

Last night was obedience night and I have to say - Steeler did great. We switched back to the 5:45 class since Maria has a new job (YAY!!!!) and wasn't sure if she could make the early class. There are a couple of intact boys in the class - And Steeler really didn't care at all about them. He did join in the barking a few times, but really I guess that would be kind of a normal dog response. And we have a puppy in the class. A few times Steeler has not handled puppies well and I usually avoid them if at all possible. This time though we were able to work through a lot of it - including having to set up for a heeling pattern that started in front of the puppy. We still need some work there - but he is getting better all the time.

Tonight was agility class. There was a new (to Steeler not agility) Belgian Mal in the class. A girl who Steeler thought he just had to say hi too. Our first sequence that we worked on he had no trouble with the other dogs being in the ring. And he handled the sequence really well. Even when I twisted my ankle in the sand. On the second sequence he really just HAD to go say hi to Jazz. *sigh* So we had to work through that a bit. Really he just wanted to play with her. I was a bit nervous at first because she seems a bit reactive, barking and lunging at the dogs while they are running. But maybe that is just part of a herding breed??? I don't have that much experience with Mals, even though I have a friend that has a couple. We had to work the rear cross a bit, but we haven't worked much on rear crosses.

And the best part of class tonight was that Steeler was hanging out withing 4 feet of Solo - the young intact Briard that he initially had some trouble with - and the boys were great. Steeler showed no signs of anxiety around Solo. Solo of course thinks that they should be able to play - but I am not ready to test that theory yet.

I am looking forward to our Communications class this week as we are working on some toy stuff. I really need to build some toy desire back into Steeler's toolbox in places other than the back yard.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Training Time

Today Steeler and I went to a "training party" organized by Karen. We all had obedience run thru's and worked on whatever else we wanted with our friends. Steeler was just AWESOME today! First - he took a little short walk with Winnie - the malamute puppy that is now bigger than he is and I think he has decided that she is ok. We might try a walk in the woods at some point this summer. Second - he was SUPER hanging out with dogs going past him and he felt comfortable enough to just lie down and hang out. Third we did some work with a Collie puppy - I don't remember how old she is now - maybe 7 or 8 months? And the two of them went nose to nose at one point, kind of by accident - and Steeler has decided that she is ok too! He had no reaction when I called him away. We worked on Stays as well and we did a bunch of short ones where I actually took the leash off for a change and went all the way across the ring! And to top that all off - his novice run thru was spectacular! His heeling was awesome, his recall was great even if his front was just a little bit crooked. His stand for exam was pretty good too, just a little bit of minor shifting of the feet when Karen walked in to do the exam. He LOVES his auntie Karen - so to stand still while she comes in is really hard for him.

After that we stopped at Ann's house to do some more training. Ann and I have made a pact to try to get together more often to actually do more training stuff with our dogs. Some friends of hers with a little white dog named Harry also came down to add another dog to the mix. While we were waiting for Harry, we started with just Brandy and Steeler hanging out - they are both a lot alike - this is BORING when are we going to MOVE! When Harry arrived, we took the dogs down the street to an area that I think links up with the Blue Hills Reservation(?). At any rate - we took the dogs for a walk through the woods where Steeler and Brandy went nose to nose sniffing the same spot a couple of times with no reaction from either of them. We saw some horses as well. When we got to a wide open spot where we could see for quite a ways we worked on taking the leash on and off with Steeler. It seems I have done a spectacular job of pairing the leash going on, the appearance of other dogs, and mom getting nervous to result in Steeler doing a cujo impersonation. So we are going to try to uncouple that by working with dogs I know first! Instead of trying to jump straight to strange dogs. At least it isn't just putting the leash back on that causes this reaction, so we have a place to start! And I know he can do this - because we can walk all around the agility trials and not have a reaction to other dogs passing within a foot or two.

All in all, we had a great day hanging out with friends! But now Steeler and I are tired! :-)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tagged! - how my dogs came to me

So- I've been tagged by Julie - to tell the story of how my dogs came to me.

Logan - Logan is my first spotted dog, my first very own dog, who came to me from the Conneticut Humane Society. Brian and I went to visit the humane society on July 3rd, 1998, where he had adopted Puka (pooka)the year before. Really - we just went to look. I had been laid off in June and I was "thinking" about getting a dog. Brian agreed that if/when I did get a dog that the dog could stay with him since I couldn't keep dogs at my apartment. Heck - they could even visit which meant I was spending most of my time in CT instead of in RI. So - we are at the shelter - and there is this really cute 3 month old spotted dog all alone in her kennel. Her brothers were together playing across the aisle. I just HAD to take her home. I had to! So about an hour later - after going to the bank to get cash and signing all the paper work, I walked out with a little spotted girl. Did I know anything about dogs, or puppies at that time???? Nope! I got her because I wanted a dog and she was cute and all alone! Never gave a thought to whether or not Puka (who was about 1 1/2 yo) would like having another dog around? What was I going to tell my parents .... sigh. The next day we were headed to my parents for the 4th of July cookout and we told them that Logan was Brians dog! It took me until April of 1999 (when Brian got out of the Navy and moved back to Chicago) to finally tell my mother that Logan was really mine. And since I was living with my parents after finding a job in Cambridge, could she come live here with JR (my parents dog - whose name stands for Jennifer's Replacement) who was 11 at the time and had never really been around many other dogs. Thank goodness that JR had the temperament of a golden retriever (he was part golden part chow). JR took to having Logan in the house without any issues! Do you think I realized how lucky I was to have a dog with Logan's personality?

Enter Keegan in May of 2000. Brian had moved back to MA (because he missed me)and I had bought a house. I had discovered agility and dog training. While I absolutely adored Logan's laid back personality (except for some separation anxiety)- she didn't LOVE agility. She was happy to train and play, but would only run as fast as I did. I decided that I wanted a dog that loved to run. So - Brian and I went to the animal shelter up in Salem - to LOOK. The north shore animal league maybe? And there was a litter of black lab mixes that had come up from TN. The puppies were about 14 - 15 weeks old and we were told part Belgian sheep dog and part chocolate lab. We happened to have Logan and Puka in the car and we decided that we should get a boy as we already had two girls. At least this time we checked to see if the dogs would get along. So at 8:30 that evening we left with a new addition to our four legged family. Now we had Puka (Brian's dog) Logan (my dog) and Keegan (our dog). Little did I know what I was getting into this time around. Keegan has taught me a phenomenal amount of things about animal behavior and dog training. Who knew that socialization window was slamming shut so fast and that Keegan would become afraid of big dogs as he got older and lash out with teeth when he felt cornered. He has come incredibly far in the last 7 years (he is 9 now)but doesn't love to compete - probably due to a variety of reasons and not just the fact that he doesn't care for other dogs. He and Logan are my resident couch potatos and bed warmers. So after the addition of Keegan in 2000, I was no longer allowed to "visit" any animal shelters .... 6 years pass ..... I move, Brian moves out to go to Grad School in NY, and in 2005 I decide I am ready to start thinking about adding another dog. Enter Steeler, Kingdom's Thief of Hearts, CGC, TDI.

Steeler Dealer Puppy Dog - OH boy. I thought when I started looking for a dalmatian breeder that it would take me at least a year to find what I was looking for and maybe even longer before there might be a puppy available. I had lot's of things that I wanted in a litter. I wanted a puppy from a raw feeding litter, I wanted someone that did the Puppy Stimulation exercises, I wanted someone that was willing to give me a puppy unvaccinated as I didn't want to vaccinate until the pup was 12 weeks old and I wanted to do single vaccines rather than 5 or 7 at once. For that reason I wanted a winter puppy as well if I could. LaDonna of Kingdom Dalmatians had emailed me that she had a litter arriving for December of 2005. At first I thought - no that is too soon, I'm not ready yet. And so I didn't respond other than to say thanks for the information. Well after the puppies were born she emailed me again to tell me that they had arrived - all 12 of them, 6 boys and 6 girls. Well - I thought - lets see what she thinks of all my questions? And I sent her an email that had to be 3 pages long. Instead of trying to answer that email - she picked up the phone and gave me a call. We almost immediately discovered that we had a lot of common interests as far as dogs went and probably spent 45 minutes on the phone talking. I had said I wanted a girl because I thought that would be easier for Keegan and she said that I could pretty much pick my puppy - after the stud owner picked her puppy and Barb the co-breeder picked her puppy. I could come out and test them if I wanted too, whatever I decided would be fine with her. So when the pups were 6 weeks old I flew out to visit my friend Donna for the weekend who lives in Pittsburgh. Being the BEST friend that she is - we drove out on Saturday to see the puppies for the first time. LaDonna had been telling me that she thought she had the perfect agility puppy for me and it was *gasp* a BOY!!! but I could decide on my own. So we went out and videotaped and did some puppy testing that day. And when I left I had it narrowed down to 2 or 3 puppies. Donna says that she knew I was going to pick Steeler aka Goose the boy that LaDonna thought would be perfect. Luckily Donna's husband Will is a great guy and while Donna was working - he took me back to LaDonna's for another look at the puppies. And yes - LaDonna was right ... I ended up deciding that "Goose" as he was known was going to be mine! Steeler has a couple of spots or combination of spots that are heart shaped - hence his name Kingdom's Thief of Hearts. OK kind of corny I know ... but really I had every intention of getting a girl!!! but he stole my heart. LOL

So I think I am supposed to tag someone else??? So I tag Kim
and Lisa

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Saturday's Agility Match

...or a continuation of my obsession with dog behavior. On Saturday I had planned to spend the day at the agility trial with my friend Dawn and Ghost. Since car trouble and other issues canceled those plans I took my time getting up there on Saturday. I dropped Keegan and Logan at my parents house, got some lunch and headed over to see who I could find at the trial site.

Steeler and I walked around and around the agility rings and I couldn't have asked for better behavior. We were passing within a few (2 -3) feet of other dogs and handlers and the occasional puppy. Even a dalmatian puppy, with no reaction other than occasional mild interest. We stopped at Kathy and Sandy's tent to hang out for a while and chat. I used to train with Kathy when I lived in Chelmsford so it was good to see her and chat for a while. Of course we (I) had to talk about behavior and get her take on what happened on Friday night. And now I don't really remember what was decided - if anything - other than it was good that I had a chance to work through what happened. And that I need to practice putting a leash on in the woods for no reason.

By the time the match was ready to start there wasn't anyone around that I knew - so no video this time, sorry Kim! :-) Steeler's first run was lovely. He was really focused, though the opening was jump - poles and he missed his entry. But I got him back and he handled the next few obstacles very well. Stopped on his dog walk contact and waited to be released! Then into the tunnel. He still doesn't have a full height A frame - so we skipped that, though we practiced his contact behavior. The rest of the run was fine, tunnel, teeter (wasn't exceptionally fast - but he didn't hesitate and held his contact. Table to the next series of jumps (first a 270) then over the broad jump and another jump to finish. I think I should have stopped there! BAD HANDLER for forgetting that he did that whole course with no real rewards during the run. I haven't been able to really get him to play in that environment lately. So I couldn't stop and reward him during the run. In retrospect - I should have stopped after a few obstacles and run out and gotten cookies. *sigh* Some day I will learn. I did take him out to run up and down the dirt road after we finished, and he got cookies. And we tried to play with his favorite rabbit tug - which he did a little bit, but he was far more interested in sniffing the grass than chasing his rabbit.

Runs 2 and 3 I felt were just awful. Run 2 started with him leaving to investigate the shelties walking down the side of the ring. Thankfully the snow fencing was 4 ft and he didn't think about jumping it. But I panicked, which sent him looking for something else to do, and he almost went to visit the next dog that was waiting his turn. *BIG SIG* OK so now I was in complete PANIC mode ... but he did come back and we were able to do a couple more obstacles before I left the ring. Oh and visiting the ring crew was fun for him too.

Third run - probably not as much of a disaster as the second run. Now I had ring crew guarding the exit so Steeler couldn't escape. I didn't even ask them to do that. Steeler was still really distracted and though he would come back to me I clearly wasn't doing a good job of being reinforcing enough for him.

So- plans for the next match in June??? This time I am going to stick to my plan to do 5 or 6 obstacles and then take him out and reward him for doing well. :-) Though at the moment I am vacillating between being done with dog sports, done with agility, or just doing obedience. *sigh* Sometimes I think that these ups and downs just can't be normal.

Since Julie has Tagged me to tell how my dogs came to me - you can look forward to that in another post soon!