Saturday, January 29, 2011

knocking and barking

I will start working from home soon, doing nutrition counseling over the phone. My home is currently not conducive to this because regardless of where I am in the house, they dogs will bark when someone knocks on door or rings the doorbell. When someone is calling for nutrition counseling, they think they are reaching someone in an office and I doubt they want to hear a pack of barking dogs. This is a bit of an emergency.

I have been working with Indigo unsuccessfully to get her to stop barking and jumping up on people for a long time. I have literally made no success. I tried to teach her to go to her mat. She just barks from her mat. I've tried removing her from the situation and letting her out when she is quiet. That doesnt work either.

My friend Greta suggested that we just give them treats and knock over and over and over until they stop barking. This worked quite well. Why didnt I think of this? I guess I was hung up on the idea that we didn't want to reward them for barking, but now I get the concept of conditioning them to associate a reward with a knock or doorbell ring.

I plan to work on this daily until I have total silence every time someone comes to the door.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

visitors have left

Kate left two weeks ago. I spend quite a bit of time with her working on her fear of other dogs. We had several sessions on leash at the park and she got to the point that she was able to be close to other dogs and not worry too much. I sent her back home when I started working because I couldnt give her the individual attention that she needs. Working with her was a good experience for me especially considering my failure with training Teal (now Lava). Now that I really understand about fear in dogs, I feel like a better trainer in dealing with this sort of thing.

Georgia was here for two weeks and made major progress while she was here. We had some trouble working on the whining because she wouldnt whine on walks. I decided to work on her whining in just in day to day life. She would whine to get anything she, out of her crate etc. One morning I waited for 45 minutes before letting her out of her crate. She finally stopped toward the end of her stay. And she finally started whining on walks.

As soon as she started whining, we stopped and did some basic tricks to get her refocused. This allowed her to walk past the scary house with the dog barking without whining. This made our walk quite a bit longer, but she made some real progress. At that point I had already had her for two weeks and it was time for her to go home. If I had her for another few weeks and lots more time, I think I could have made a lot more progress.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

First Time on the Real Box & Other Training Updates

We bought a used Fast Track Flyball Box and it arrived yesterday. We decided to try Pax on it. He seems to be ready to move to the real box. We loaded it for him and he did well! He caught the ball everytime and got his four feet up nicely.

Now we need to work on his approach to the box and his double hitting. The second arrangement in the VIDEO is much better and gets him on and off much faster. His problem is that he is going straight for the ball and not turning especially nicely. He is also too high. I am going to keep modifying things until I can get a better turn, which will involve some wall work and changing the props in front of the box.

Overall I am very happy with how he is doing. He is only 9 months and is doing real box work and is very focused on the game. I was not expecting my little whippet boy to be this easy to train!

Georgia has been on two walks so far and has not whined. I have been told that by the middle of the third walk I should expect some whining! We will find out tonight!


I trained Kate this morning on leash outside of the dog park. She got to the point that she could comfortably watch dogs from a distance, but is still very worried that they will approach her. We will keep at it, until she is a bit more relaxed. Then I will probably bring her home for a little while (when I am working full-time) and then work with her again in a few months.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

training news

First of all, I am going to have my hands full! Our friends dog Georgia is coming to stay with us and I will try to train her to to not whine while going on walks and maybe to start tugging in public. Seems easy enough right? Well, Im not a professional and her owner has been working on this for a long time. Im hoping I can at least make some progress in the right direction. Georgia will be arriving tonight.

I took Kate to a dog park the other day. It is really open and huge. I went during a time that is very empty. Having a fearful dog has helped me to realize that lots of dogs are very rude. She is clearly showing that she is nervous and many exuberant dogs take this as a sign that she wants to play. I was very wrong about taking her to the dog park. It was way too overwhelming and we had no escape from the dogs.

So last night I took her to Green Lake for some training. It is basically 3 mile path along a lake in the the middle of Seattle. All dogs are on leash (or supposed to be). We made some real progress there. I rewarded her for looking at other dogs and for looking at me when other dogs walked by. She told me that 15 feet or more was as close as she wanted to be to another dog. So that is where we worked. Unfortunately someone came up from behind us and before I could save her, some clueless person approached us with her dog and Kate snapped at him. I tried to walk away and she followed "but he is very friendly". Ughh! Other than that little incident. I think we were very successful.

At the dog park with Indigo and Epic yesterday, we did some recall work. As usual when it is time to leave there is always several people playing chuck-it near the parking lot. And as usual Indigo and Epic were happily stealing other dogs balls and ignoring us. I went to the car and grabbed our chuck-it. Indigo, being the more aware one saw it and came running and didnt leave our side again. Epic did not notice until we called him with the chuck-it waving in the air. Not great, but it was a start.

Pax is getting better and better with his recall and general self control. He is getting MUCH better at bringing the ball back and dropping it at my feet as long as no other dogs are around. Unfortunately we are having problems getting him to stop biting Indigo when they run together, so Pax will need a muzzle. He also will not stop peeing on the floor in the middle of the night. Crate or no crate, water after five 5 pm or not, let out at 11 pm or not, he pees. Its extremely annoying. I think we will have to start letting him out in the middle of the night.

Friday, January 7, 2011


To improve my dog training skills and help friends out, I have been taking opportunities to bring dogs into our house and train them. Right now we have a puppy that belongs to Diane Pagel from Deltabluez Stockdogs. She will be an awesome herding dog. She has great manners: sleeps through the night, never whines or barks, goes into her crate with no issue. She gets along wonderfully with my dogs and is very appropriate with Finley (my baby).

Her only problem is that she is quite fearful, mainly of other dogs. I have had problems dealing with this issue in the past. I think I owe it to her and myself and the other dogs that I havent trained well to work on this until it is resolved (or at least try my hardest).

Before we venture out into the world and start training with strange dogs, I am working on some basic training at home. She is getting good at "touch" "look at me" "sit" "lie down". I am also rewarding her when she is handled and for orienting to me at all. She is doing a good job and is beginning to enjoy clicker training.

Next week we will venture out into the world and watch dogs from far away.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wall Work With a Ball

Today I moved the props out further to give Pax more space for his turn and made it a little bit lower. He double-hit on the first two and then single-hit for the rest. I also tried to get him off the chute faster by being more enthusiastic with the tug. Im happy with how he did tonight compared to last night!


Day 1 - training a better recall

I am trying to condition both Indigo and Epic to recall to me when someone is holding a chuck-it. Yesterday I learned that Epic is really dedicated to the chuck-it and it is way more rewarding than any food reward or even a moving ball without a chuck-it. Indigo was a little bit easier because she thinks she is starving.

I tried using the premack principle using treats while Ben held a chuck-it. The chuck-it was completely still. Every time they looked at me, I clicked and treated. And would would release them to go stare at the chuck-it again.

Indigo got to the point of ignoring the chuck-it and staring at me. Epic on the other hand stared at the chuck-it for a long time with no throws at all. When he looked back at me, I clicked and tried to give him a treat, but he wasnt interested at all. Finally after 10 minutes of no reward from the chuck-it he would come to me to play with a tennis ball.

After talking to some people and getting some suggestions I am going to start working on their recall with a second chuck-it. I also might try the "give me a break game" from Control Unleashed.

Box Turn Problems

Ahhh! Two of my three dogs are having box issues!

Pax - Pax is in training now and does great with "hit its". He is snappy and enthusiastic. He will do it for either a ball or a tug, but prefers a ball. I wanted to start introducing a ball because, I dont want him to get used to not having a ball there.

As soon as I introduce the ball he either just tries to steal it, or he does what seems like a nice box turn, but he is actually double-hitting the box with his front feet. I took video last night and its bad. My plan is to work on his tug drive or desire to come back to me. I think he kind of loses it when he gets the ball off the chute. I am also going to keep adjusting the prop. Maybe its too tight? or too loose? Or too high? All I know is that I need to fix this.


Epic - While running Epic at practice last week I realized that his box turn totally sucks. He goes up high and his head position is just not right. He also is way ball obsessed and often doesnt even want a tug when he has his ball. I don't have any recent video, so I dont have proof. But I guarantee...its ugly.


Luckily Im pretty sure Indigo has a nice box turn. Or at least she did when I took THIS VIDEO

Lots and lots and lots more video to follow....

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Whippet vs The Border Collie - Recalls

Teaching Pax to have a reliable recall does not come as naturally as it does for training the border collies. He is not bred to want to be with me, so I have to convince him that its worth his while to come to me when I call him. The border collies prefer to be next to me (usually staring at me) unless there is something else really exciting going on.

For the border collies I need to work on their recall during really really distracting situations and making myself only say "Indy, here" ONCE. Not twice. I have trouble with this.

I have done all of the standard things to train Pax a recall...rewarding him every time he comes to me on his own and then send him to go play. Literally when ever he approaches me I reward him. We have not really gotten that far with this. If he is slightly distracted he does not recall. He also does not bring the ball back when playing fetch unless the other dogs are not around because he would rather zoom around and get them to chase him.

When I went to learn about lure coursing with a local whippet person, we talked about how important it is to have a reliable recall for whippets. You have to gather your dog after he gets the lure and you do not want to be a guy that is calling and chasing his dog for 5 minutes. On the day I took Pax for his first practice it was cold outside and Pax was determined to find a way inside the house. He totally ignored me. It was quite embarrassing.

Here is some information he gave me about whippets in general.......

"Whippets were developed as race dogs, which in terms of domestication goes, is a bit further along in the evolution towards wild dogs, as in wolves. Domestication for various jobs has been sort of along the lines of stunting or stopping the growth from puppy wolf-type to adult wolf-type behaviors. If you want a dog breed to herd, then you allow the chase and pursuit instinct to develop, but stop short of the killing of the prey. If you want a dog breed to point, you allow that instinct to develop only as far as the stalking and stop it short of the pursuit, catch and kill, and so on. Most dog jobs are variations of natural instinctive wild dog behaviors that have been stunted or halted at some particular point, and then modified to suit the specific task at hand. Bird dogs, retrievers, are often the most puppy like as they halt their development much shorter of the end, adult hunter killer version, while at the other end, the outright hunting, coursing and killing breeds develop much further into that adult version of the wild dog.

Whippets were developed to be racers, which is an outright pursuit and kill of the prey object, be it a plastic bag, a handkerchief (of old days), or live, wild game like rabbits, so they have, in a way, matured further along that whole canine development scale. Because of that, they tend to be less puppy-like in their mentality, more independent, and less reliant on others for approval and direction. In dog show language, AKC breed description terminology, it comes out as things like “aloof, independent, aristocratic” and so on. Those characterizations are more human characterizations, but in the dog world, they are indications of an animal much less dependent on humans, and more in tune with their wild dog nature. That makes them a bit less eager to please us, and hat makes them a bit harder to train. But understanding that is how they are, it gives the opportunity to work with them in ways that will get the best possible results.

Since whippets are borderline take us or leave us, they are not constant followers; they will follow if we are a strong leader, but will lead if we are weak leaders, or prone to follow them. This is never more evident than when we try to catch them. If we display a behavior that can be interpreted as a follow, there is a good chance that they will in turn choose to lead. In other words, if you go after them, they will go the other way, in an effort to lead you, the follower. This can go on all day. On the other hand, if you establish yourself as the clear and knowledgeable leader, they will more often than not agree to follow. But being that leader does require some clear signals that you are in fact leading them somewhere, that you are headed somewhere, and that you are also their superior. How one goes about that kind of depends on the age of the dog, and will get harder and harder as they mature. So it’s important to establish it early on.

The way we do it is as pups, baby pups. In the yard, we let them play, we let them play with one another, we let them play with us. But hen, we always try to create situations where they need to follow us. As puppies, they will always follow the mother, as she is their source of food and security. We become that surrogate mother, of course, and so where we go they will follow. Knowing that transference, we use it often to establish the follow behavior in the pups. While playing, I will get up, and start walking away from them. They all notice, and eagerly follow. Sit down and they swarm over me. Do that numerous times during a play session and they get the idea that I am the parent needing to be followed. I am the one who knows where we should be, what we should be doing, and so on. I am the leader, and they are the followers.

As that follow the leader training is going on, and as they grow, we introduce toys into the mix. A small stuffed toy, or a small ball at first, and when tossed they will normally bring it back just because that follow the leader behavior has been instilled. If they do no bring it back, then I start to walk away. That triggers their follow instinct once again, and they then follow, hopefully brining the toy along with them. If, instead, I try to go get them, they run away in play, which is their undeveloped instinct trying to test who is leader and who is follower. What seems like fun is in actuality training and development that occurs naturally in the developing dog brain, and if we are unaware of it we can instill the wrong impressions in their little minds. Chasing a playing puppy will tend to teach it that it is the leader and you, and other people, are the followers. It starts pretty early, the training process and their ultimate willingness to come back or run away.

Pax, after catching the lure the first time, decide to go looking for whatever, more lures, more toys, leaves, whatever he found interesting. As you called after him, and then followed after him to catch him, he moved away faster to keep that lead. That scenario right there established a leader and follower relationship, and repeating that again and again will not result in a different outcome. It will, instead, set a pattern that will last probably forever. That is how many people have trained their whippets to have poor recall. As I mentioned before, while the same actions might work with some other breeds, the whippets are not the same as other breeds. They are developed to be more adult, more independent, true hunting dogs, in order for them to have the drive to race and course, that’s what was needed to get that work out of them. The downside is that they are not as natural a follower as some breeds, not as naturally stunted as a following puppy.

So, if you remember, the way that we initially got Pax back was that I took the lure and walked with a bit of determination towards the start end of the yard. The only interest I wanted to show Pax was that I had the lure, knew where I was going with it, and shaking it for him invited him to go along. That got his interest, and he came in to the lure once again. Whether a lure, or ball, or whatever, the idea is the same. If you want to bring him back to you, establish yourself as the clear leader for him. Do not chase after him, as he will then run away. Leave enough room for you to turn away from him, and call him and start off in the opposite direction. When he sees you headed somewhere other than following him, he will question who the leader is, realize it is not him, and turn to catch up with you. One of the primary things to do is to not show that you are too anxious to grab him. Show that you are planning on going somewhere, he can come along, should come along, but that he is not going to control the pace, the direction, or your resolve. He should follow you where you intend to go, because really he is just out there to have a good time, see new sights, learn new things, and if you are steering the plans then it takes that responsibility and burden off his shoulders, and he should then be happy to follow along close enough to be gently re-leashed.

Being able to get him back on a leash should be a reward situation, where it isn’t seen as him being caught. All of our recall training is done without a leash for a long time, where when they come back we give them loads of petting and talking, approval, play, and a bit of catch and release, catch and release, where being caught is not a bad thing, but rather a good, pleasant thing. And once a leash is attached, it doesn’t spell the immediate end of the play and fun and reward atmosphere. So the leash doesn’t spell out anything negative in their minds.

As a bit of a reference, there are a great many whippet owners that really have not figured much of this out on their own. You will see it at the upcoming events, and gatherings. A family that is quite close to us are fairly terrified to let their dogs off leash at even safe places like the beach, the lake, where we race, and so on. These are all safe places where the dogs cannot really go that far away (unless they went totally feral), but they have so little confidence in their dogs recall that they just will not risk it. It is at these places that we let our dogs off leash constantly, and the result is they will always stick around. If we give them the go ahead to free run, they will go only as far as they feel comfortable with us in their sight, or to the point we call or whistle them to not go further. Giving them that freedom, and letting them succeed at it, is great for their reliability. Most often, we will have a couple dogs loose while we are setting up the course for the next day, or the race rack, and the dogs are too much under foot. They’d much rather be right with me than running off to the other side of the fields. If that is not decent recall, I don’t know what is. The desire to be with us, to be close, to be interested in what we are doing, to be waiting for us to toss the ball, or talk to them, or whatever, is the result of all that subtle follow the leader training.

As far as that other family goes. After several years, they are finally starting to loosen up a bit. They are still petrified hat something bad will happen to their dogs if they are off leash, but they seem to be forcing themselves to do it occasionally. As much as they want to believe off leash is a bad thing and that injuries or deaths will happen, their eyes do not lie to them, and they see how well it works over and over and over again, and their minds are slowly being opened by reason and their emotions and fears are very slowly learning to be controlled."

This basic advice has really been helping me with Pax's recall. In the past I would call my dogs once and if they did not listen I would walk up to them and calmly and quietly put a leash on and leave. If I try to walk up to Pax he runs away, thinking its a game. Now I just call him once and start walking away. At first he just stared at me, but now he has started to follow me.

I also plan to work with him more on the leash or long line to deal with distracting environments.

my commitments to my dogs in the new year

1. I will not get another dog. I have my hands full at the moment with 3 dogs and a baby.

I am frequently tempted to add another dog to the pack. Its a bit of an addiction actually. I will satisfy my need for new dogs by continuing to have a foster dog in the house.

2. I will teach them all to have a reliable recall.

With multiple dogs living in the city a RELIABLE recall is essential (or should be). Indigo and Epic have a very good recall, but it needs to be better. Especially when someone else has a chuck-it and we don't. And while I am calling them, that other person throws the ball. Its WAY more rewarding for them to chase the ball and ignore me.

3. I will take Epic for herding lessons on a regular basis.

I took Epic herding on Friday and it was a joy to see how much he enjoys it. He is usually a little bit nervous and unsure of himself, but when working sheep he is confident and content. It makes me happy just to watch him work.

4. I will spend more time training them individually at home.

Indigo enjoys learning new tricks and they all enjoy working for food. I need to do this more often.

5. We will debut Pax in flyball and Indigo in agility.

Pax is progressing very nicely and will hopefully debut sometime this summer. Indigo is still learning weaves, but will be able to enter some sort of agility trial this year.