Thursday, July 23, 2009

A little bit of sunshine ....

Should definitely be taken advantage of! Especially this summer in New England!!!! Of course that brief bit of nice weather didn't last long, it is raining yet again. Yesterday I brought Steeler over to my friends Ann and Paul's place. They have two dogs, Brandy and Nico. Brandy and Steeler have done some previous work together recently and I knew that they would probably get along with each other. But it's been probably a year and half since Steeler has seen Nico. And while Nico doesn't really care about the dogs around him, I worry about how Steeler would react if he got nervous. I am doing much better with dogs exchanging butt sniffs... but when they go nose to nose I get just a bit nervous (ok maybe more than a bit). At any rate - we took the 3 dogs for a walk. Ann and Paul are not far from the Blue Hills reservation and near a equestrian facility. So we walked up the trail to look at the horses - no reaction at all from Steeler. Then we walked through the woods up to the pipeline. After Nico was turned loose, and ran full tilt towards Steeler with no reaction from Steeler, we let Steeler off leash as well. I had a couple moments where I was nervous, but I think it was just me being over anxious. Steeler and Nico ran around for a bit, and then Nico had to go back on leash for the rest of the walk. Nico (he's 12) is supposed to be taking it easy and building up to those energetic romps in the woods. We put Steeler back on leash and let Brandy loose. After working on her recall a few times, we let Steeler loose as well. Steeler and Brandy played for a bit, and we gave them a break when it got a bit too exuberant. Neither Ann or I want to have their play tip over into something more frantic. They did great together ... and Steeler seemed totally unbothered by Nico. So Steeler has two more buddies that he can walk with where I can work on relaxing a bit more. :-) Below is a short video from our walk.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fabulous Weekend for the Steeler puppy!

This weekend was rather busy for us - though not as busy as some weekends can get! On Saturday my dad came down and we took care of the cedar branches that had come down over the winter and did some weeding and bush trimming. FYI - always keep an eye on the extension cord when you are using the electric trimmer!!! :-) Otherwise the sparks will fly! Dad also worked on the lawn mower - which still won't start, and the snowblower, which still won't start - but probably just needs a new spark plug. (fingers crossed on that one). Didn't quite get the AC unit installed in the bedroom - but it's not too bad with a couple of strategically placed fans. Dad left about 3:30 and then I had to get ready for our class that is based on some of Leslie McDevitt's exercises in Control Unleashed. It was HOT and humid on Saturday even at 4:30 and the back yard doesn't have a whole lot of shade at that time.

We are working on Box Work, and Give Me a Break. This week there were four of us. Lindy the aussie (I think she is ~12), Seamus the Berner, who gets reactive when other dogs rush him, Nahar the aussie/BC mix who was only adopted by his owner in February. While the other dogs were learning about the give me a break game, Steeler and I were working on shaping some relaxation. OMG that is hard!!! I have worked so hard on having Steeler focus on me and not really pay attention to the other dogs around him, that he will happily lie on his mat for extended amounts of time on the off chance I might drop him a cookie. So this week he only got cookies when he was doing something other than looking at me using that spotty will power to get cookies.

Steeler and I did some work around the box while Seamus was working in the box and the boys did great. Seamus didn't seem all that concerned about Steeler or Nahar walking around outside while he was working inside. Seamus was even ready to handle both Steeler and Nahar walking around outside the box. Yay Seamus! Steeler and Seamus did some sits and downs very close together but with the gate between them. Both boys did wonderfully. And Steeler and I practiced some formal heeling as well as loose leash walking around the other dogs. And Steeler was able to hang out on his mat and let Lindy come walking by as well as Nahar .... Both dogs got pretty close to him and he didn't care! Whoo hooo!

Today was obedience day! I volunteered to help out at the Show n Go up at MasterPeace Dog Training from 9 - 12:30. So I went up early so I could work Steeler in the building before the rush started and of course he was a good boy. I worked the open ring today - and it is nice to work the list of people from the begining! Much less confusing than when you take over half way thru. Things were running pretty smoothly for a change! I thought about crating Steeler in the building while I worked - but I really thought that he would just be a basket case in a crate with dogs coming and going all around him - so I left him in the car backed up to the building with the back gate open and reflective tarps to keep out the sun. He was much happier out there and the car actually stayed cooler than it was outside!!! We also took several breaks since things were running so smoothly so I was able to get him in and out of the building several times. I really dislike crowds myself - so it is even harder for me to relax with Steeler in a crowd. Steeler is doing great though!!!! He only had one minor growl when I was trying to get away from a dobie on a flexi lead that was visiting while his owner was talking to someone else. And it wasn't the dobie that he grumbled at but the boxer on the other side of us. *sigh* Honestly - why would you bring your dog into a crowded training facility on a flexi ... if you are going to do that at least lock the leash at 5 or 6 feet. ARGHHH!!!!!! Of course this had to happen as we were getting to do stays - which I dread as it is!!! However - Steeler recovered very quickly and was able to do the long sit and downs without issue. I did sits and downs with the open crowd since the novice ring was kind of crazy. :-) For the first set of Stays - I kept Steeler on leash since I was so wound up. I did another set later with a group of 5 dogs and I was able to actually drop the leash and walk across the ring instead of staying at the end of the leash. So we are making progress!

I was very pleased with Steeler's behavior today - both in the ring and out of it. And he is a tired boy now! Spotty dogs are especially cute when they are tired!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Monday and Tuesday classes.

Monday night is obedience night at my house. This week we were working outside the ring. Typically I really hate it when we do this! It means working in tight quarters and that other dogs coming in for agility class have to come through us. So even though I hate it - it is good for me to work on that kind of environmental stress. Steeler did GREAT. He grumbled once at Dove (the golden puppy) as she walked in, but he was able to get passed Dove and into the ring without even looking at her. The only other time he seemed to see her was when a group of 4 was working on Stays and the other group of four were heeling behind them on the other side of a ring gate. The first time it was our turn to heel, Steeler sat very nicely beside me and then when I said Heel, he took off towards Dove who was on the end of the stay line. Since he still had a leash on he didn't go very far, and it didn't seem like he did it with and real intent other than maybe investigate - so maybe we are making some progress. And he did come right back and start working with me, which he might not have done a couple of years ago. And the second time around he never showed any interest in Dove. Oh yeah - and when we were doing stays and people were heeling behind us - Steeler glanced in their direction - but never broke his stay! Even when it was Doves turn to heel!

Agility class last night was great! We worked on some really hard stuff for Steeler and I. I can set him up in front of a jump and be in lots of different places and he will take the jump in front of him - but this course required that he take 2 jumps in front of him before turning in my direction! And it was a twisty turning course that we were working on. Of course we only worked the first 8 obstacles - but that was enough. And I am much more confident that steeler is going to stick with me now and was able to have Laurie and Solo in the ring with us and hanging out behind where Steeler was setting up! And Steeler never once showed any signs that he even noticed that there was a dog behind him. Next week I am going to see if can finagle some video. Apparently I am dropping my arm at times and Steeler actually crashed a 16 in jump because of some weird cues I was sending.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Steeler goes to the barn!

Updates for the past week ....
Obedience class continues to go well. And this week I dropped into a different agility class so that I could head to Maine on Tuesday. The dogs stayed at my parents house with Brian to look after them.
So - after a week away the dogs were very happy to see me again (and Laurie, grandma, Aunt Dot, Barb, the kids and my parents). On Saturday we were supposed to have our self control class in my yard but one person got stuck in traffic in NH, another had a headache, and another classmate also ran into a problem. So it was just me and Steeler ... and Ann and Paul with the video camera. The video still needs to be digitized - but hopefully I will get to see it soon.

Today Steeler and I took a trip to Ann's - me for brunch (yum!) and Steeler to make a visit to the barn where Ann keeps her horses. I don't know why I didn't think of asking her if we could do this years ago! Well other than the fact that there is another dog there that is not always dog friendly and I just never thought to ask.

It took us FOREVER to reach the barn! Ok maybe not that long. From the car it is oh - maybe 100 feet to the barn. I am not that good with distances. I haven't put a lot of emphasis on Steeler being "with me" when we get out of the car in new places. I just tend to loose patience and want to get to the good stuff. Well this time, we took our time. There were LOTS of new smells for Steeler to check out. Eventually he was able to take more than one step before lunging ahead of us. The horses at the barn are very dog savy. Barking dogs don't bother them. So I was able to bring Steeler all the way into the barn to work on being near the horses and the horse noises. There were a couple of times that I thought Steeler was clearly anxious inside the barn and he started barking. But when I moved in front of him to block his view he stopped barking and was able to sit and look at the horses again. We spent some time in the barn and then moved back outside so that Ann could clean hooves (I am sure there is a fancy term for it) and do whatever else needed doing. Steeler was clearly more comfortable outside watching the horses than inside, but one thing that I noticed that was interesting was that when I took the leash back from Ann (She had been holding the leash so I could move to block Steeler's view when nessessary) and Ann went to say hello to the horses - Steeler's whole body posture changed. It was like he watched Ann go rub noses and thought - Oh well the horses must be ok then. He was much more relaxed after that! And our walk back to the car was accomplished easily on a loose leash with no pulling! Hopefully we will be able to do this some more. We've been seeing horses where we walk and it would be nice if he thought they were nothing special. :-)

Now to finish all the laundry and clean the house! UGH!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Steeler takes a walk with Winnie the Malamute puppy

OK - so she is 7 months old and has about 20 pounds on him, but she is still a puppy and I still worry that he wants to tell all puppies exactly who is boss in his world. Though I think that once puppies hit 6 or 7 months old he generally does much better with them. We started with a quick walk around Lisa's house with the youngsters before heading to the state park. They did great together except when they went nose to nose and I got tense ... just a little bit of grumbling that had Lisa and I debating the wisdom of including Winnie on our walk. We debated and debated and then finally decided (since the dogs were lying down next to each other waiting for us to decide) that we might as well take her. Worst case scenario - I would put Steeler on a long line and keep him with me instead running all over the place. So off we went!

And of course the dogs were all fine together. Steeler and Brew have been walking for a while now, and Logan has never met another dog that she can't take a walk with. Right at the beginning we ran into a few horses waiting to cross the road and another pair of dogs. Lisa was ahead of me and told them the dog on a leash (that would be Steeler) didn't like strange dogs in his face and the guys were great ... Steeler was straining to investigate - but not doing his Cujo impersonation and we just kept walking by them. So a bit of an improvement. After that we ran into two horses on our way back to the car but no other dogs.

Not much else to report on .... obedience class and agility class are going really well. Steeler hasn't reacted to Dove the golden puppy much the last couple of classes which is good. We are getting LOTS of heeling practice and lots of work with long Stay's. Last Tuesday at agility class Steeler "met" Solo through the fence, with no growling until Steeler had his feet up on the gate and Laurie was feeding him and Solo thought maybe he should get a treat too. But Laurie said his "growl" was really half hearted and didn't have much oomph behind it. Then Steeler realized that I wasn't standing there any more and had to come looking for me. Then I sent him back to Laurie and he and Solo were fine! I talked to Laurie after class and we are going to try to get together at some point in the next couple of months to continue working on my relaxing a bit with Solo and Steeler. We also have a "back yard" class running based on some of Leslie McDevitt's exercises in Control Unleashed. We've had two classes so far, and Steeler is handling intruders in the yard just fine. This week we worked more on relaxing on the mat and some box work. I don't know that I will ever have a dog that melts into his mat - but we will continue to work on it.