Saturday, December 31, 2005

Puppy Practice

Laev rocked at Schutzhund practice this week -- she's finally figuring out how to focus on me despite other dogs' presence, and she's given me some really nice heeling in the training barn. That darn mulch flooring still lures her, though! We're working on that. Tonight I used it as a reward a couple of times, clicking for a sit and eye contact and then letting her sniff the floor.

I really need to find other practice venues as well, though; I am eyeing a local trial in February and want her to be prepared for it. No, I don't expect her to take High In Trial ;-) but I want her to have a good first obedience trial and not feel overwhelmed. That's our primary goal; she's got a lot of years ahead of her and I want her to think trials are easy and fun!

I have some photos of her doing her puppy bitework which I'll try to post soon.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Backstage practice

Last night I took Laev along with Shakespeare to rehearsal. Shakespeare has only one scene during Act 2, and that's the final scene, so it left plenty of time for me to fetch Laev from the car and expose her to some different environments. We did a little heeling in the lobby area (she was very distracted at first!), met some teens, did a little heeling in the house down the aisles (while Warbucks planned to adopt Annie, followed by song and dance -- lovely distractions!) and then went backstage, where she was petted by costumed orphans.

It was great kid exposure, though they were a little closer and tighter than I would have liked; they're very good about asking to pet the dog, as they must always ask before petting Shakespeare backstage, but I let many pet him at once, and it was hard to get them to slow down for Laev, who's *not* used to being overrun with kids! Still, she did quite well, and when she got a little excited I just had her lie down and nibble at some dried lamb heart while they petted her back. (I don't tell the kids what I'm feeding!)

Anyway, she was pretty distracted at first, so I kept the heeling in very short bursts, but I was overall happy with what she did. I have my eye on an obedience trial in February which is close to home and relatively small. It would make a great debut environment, but I want to make sure first that Laev understands she can heel *anywhere* and not just at home!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Snow!

Laev thoroughly enjoyed our 8" snowfall, though it's complicating our article training in tracking ("You want me to lie down in the snow? And stay there?")

Saturday after tracking, I took Laev to the park's sledding hill. I'd been reflecting that she hadn't met many children lately, as I don't have access to many when I have the dogs. I know a hill full of laughing, shrieking, sliding kids isn't the best place to start! but it was all I had, and I was relying on our previous foundation.

I passed out the remaining tracking treats for article indication and had Laev sit for them from four kids and two teenagers. She was bouncy, eager, a little uncertain at the oddly bundled people, but overall enthused. We'll take it for the moment.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Easy Medicating, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the i-Click

Laev had an inflamation of the third eyelid which was matting her eyes with nasty stuff, so we got some ointment on Nov. 21 for treatment. I had visions of wrestling with a ever-larger puppy to insert goo, and this was compounded by my own eyeball hangup (I'm one of those people who can listen to fingernails on a blackboard, but don't talk about eyeball contact).

Well, heck, I'm fresh off ClickerExpo and a series of wonderful workshops with video footage of tigers volunteering to get stuck with 6" needles. What kind of lousy trainer am I if I can't convince my dog to handle this minimally invasive procedure?

So I stuck an iClick under my foot so I had two hands (love that thing) and clicked Laev for resting her chin on my palm. Then I added handling her face. Then I added the ointment approaching her eye. Then I finally held her eyelide open (lumping!) and applied the ointment. Click! Treat! Repeat for other eye.

Laev probably won't solicit this as a game, but she has no problems with it, either. Ain't this stuff cool?

Her eyes cleared up pretty well, and we had no more problems. Then Laev woke up Friday morning and couldn't open one eye. It was filled with mucus and matter, and when we couldn't successfully clean it and it appeared to be bothering her (no pawing at it, but she sure wasn't happy with us handling it) I took her in to the vet again.

The vet took one look and was nearly positive of a corneal scratch. Stink! So we prepared to confirm it.

I'd brought my clicker and some excellent treats, and I told the vet I wanted to use our training with only mild restraint rather than making this an ordeal which would haunt us later. She agreed, and so we began. We cleaned Laev's eye, applied numbing drops, applied stain, flushed the eye, examined it, etc., all with only very mild restraint and guidance!! Laev was asked to rest her chin on my hand with my thumb lying lightly over her muzzle, and then we used some pressure to open her eyelid.

The vet kept telling Laev, "You're so good! You're so good!"

I was thrilled with how she did. Even though I can only imagine how irritating so much handling and intrusion must have been, even aside from the physical hurt of her eye, she was a real trooper and worked very well with our fussiness.

And I was also thrilled to learn that she did not have a corneal scratch, but only some truly massive conjunctivitis; probably she ground some stuff into her eye while doing one of her recreational headstands (she's a nutty dog) and started the whole process again. I swear, she needs a helmet with a full face shield.

Anyway, it was a fantastic example of how a little proactive training can ease the dog's (and human's!) stress levels in the vet clinic. Laev was still wagging and licking the vet's face at the end of the visit, which showed some small amount of stress, but she wasn't in any real avoidance. She was MUCH better behaved than I would have been in a similar situation! And, the process took only a few seconds longer than it would have taken if we'd relied on restraint alone.

I'm betting we'll make up those few seconds over the lifetime of the dog when future visits get progressively easier instead of harder. ;-)

Just braggin' on my dog....

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

First Bitework

First Bitework is way more fun than First Heat. :-)

Last night Laev went to Schutzhund and was WAY too distracted to work on obedience. I should have known better; we were working inside the barn because of the cold, with multiple dogs and the Salamander running, and it was loud and stinky and busy and she just couldn't focus on me.

After a while I got smart and went outside, where she was able to give me much better attention, and we did a tiny bit of heelwork.

Then we started bitework, and Laev came into her first non-infant bitework session looking around like she expected something to happen, though of course she'd had no experience previously. The helper came out of the blind with a rag and stick and she LIT UP with excitement. She was all over that. The helper gave me a surprised look as she crammed the rag into her mouth with a massive deep bite: "You've been doing biting."

Nope, just playing with me at home. No bitework on anybody else.

"Then your play was perfect," he said later, a rare compliment.

"It's such a good genetic package I haven't been able to screw it up yet," I answered.

He swapped to a rope, to test her bite on something harder. No sweat. He swapped to the puppy sleeve.

OH, YEAH. Laev thought she'd gone to Puppy Heaven. This is a BIG prize to win! Super-awesome-cool-can we do it some more!

A couple of bites and outs, and then she carried the sleeve to the car. Problem: I can't get the harness off her while the sleeve is still visible, because she is crazy-frantic to reach it again. I finally have to chuck the sleeve behind the car so I can strip and kennel her. Sheesh.

And I little later we did it all again. This time I asked for a sit and eye contact before we entered the barn. I want that intensity and enthusiasm, yes! but I also want her to know that this is a joy to be earned, and that I'm still an integral part of this process. Laev is already very accustomed to trading me behavior for what she wants, so there's no compulsion here to quash her; she just had a little extra time and wriggling in the sitting behavior (it's hard to sit and bounce at the same time!) and then gave me nice eye contact. I immediately marked with a "yes!" and we ran for the barn. As she gets more mature and more understanding of the game, the price of admission will increase, but I think this is far kinder than waiting a year and then trying to compel her to control herself when she's already learned to kick herself into hyperdrive.

She garnered several compliments last night on her intensity and her full, deep bites. She looks like she's trying to gag herself on the sleeve!

Monday, November 28, 2005

First Heat :-(

Laev is in heat. While I'm glad it held off this long, I'd rather avoid it entirely! Ah, well.

Little posting lately, because I've been involved elsewhere. But we're still training....

Some really nice heelwork on Saturday, rewarded with the tug toy; I sure wish I had video of that! We need to go places and do it with more distractions.

Today I wanted to track in the rain, just for the experience, but the rain actually stopped when we reached the park (now would that have happened if I'd wanted to track dry?). Still, Laev did her best corner in weeks on today's L-shaped track. We've started article work, but it hasn't clicked in her mind yet.

And I'm spending some time with Shakespeare, who will be playing Sandy again in a local production of "Annie" for Christmas. Fun!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Laev Has a New Trick!

Man, nothing like a really good training conference to make one feel like a slacker.

My first day at ClickerExpo, I met a 10-month spaniel puppy who knew 60 cues. Sheesh, I thought. Laev's nearly that old, and I don't have any idea how many cues she knows, but I don't think it's 60.

(I got a little ego boost, though, when a number of people who shouldn't know me from Adam's off ox recognized Shakespeare from the very first ClickerExpo in 2003 -- "oh, didn't he win some shaping award?" (it was the Clicker Challenge competition) -- and when Kathy Sdao, one of my favorite trainers, recognized me in the hallway. So maybe the older dog and I have done a few things after all.)

So I decided to start shaping some new things. I'm trying to do more shaping, to work her brain a little harder, whereas before I'd done a lot of luring to help her be correct right from the beginning. No more help! You're a big dog now, you can think for yourself.

This week we started shaping article indication, which isn't too bad for being less than 48 hours old :-) but obviously still needs some work. We also played a "find heel" game in which she has to come back to heel position (just standing) for her next click and a thrown treat.

And today we shaped a new behavior and have already put it on cue. At "Strike a pose," Laev will go to the overturned cooler and stand dramatically with her front paws on it and her head high and alert, looking much like Lassie might if Lassie were a natural-eared gawky young Doberman with a tail.

Just to prove we had it on cue, I finished the session by mixing up sits, downs, and poses randomly. She never misses a down, ever, and she was pretty solid on the Strike a Pose, but she seemed to have totally forgotten what a sit was! Goofy puppy. We got everything right a couple times in a row and then I gave her the rest of her meal in her crate, where she promptly crashed and has not stirred yet.

Oh, yeah, another thing I love about shaping -- it wears a dog out more than physical exercise!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Puppy Agility Class

I've started Laev in a Beginning Agility class for dogs 6 months and up; I think she may be the youngest there. There are a lot of adolescent dogs there, and a few show dogs who are exploring a new sport. It's a nice mixture of doggie people and the pet-owning public.

Laev is a little ahead of the other dogs, because she's seen some equipment before (we played on some at 10-14 weeks and then quit). So she remembers that tunnels, for example, are really fun, while the other dogs have mostly not seen a tunnel before. Hence we have scenarios like the following:

We're approaching for a second or third repetition of a full-length tunnel, having graduated out to that size. The dog before us needs three tries to go through the tunnel to reach the treat he already knows is at the end. If this dog were in my beginning agility class, I'd say he was doing fine for a newbie; this is a completely new experience for him.

Then it's our turn. I am holding Laev's harness directly as she approaches the tunnel on hind legs only. A few feet out I drop her and gasp, "Tunnel!" as she launches. I immediately wing her tug toy to the far end, as I know I don't have a prayer of beating her down there -- blasted straight tunnels! She brings me the toy and we play.

She was kind of a klutz on the boards last night, though; she hasn't done narrow ramps since she was a tiny little thing, and at eight months she doesn't really have a clue where her butt is. ("Mom! It changes daily!") She can do a ladder decently well, but she saw no point in walking a flat board at all. ("The floor's right there. Why not?") An angled board down was easier, and an angled board up was a puppy highway. So I think she'll be okay.

I told my husband that I was quite proud of Laev's "can-do" attitude, that I anticipated she would do well. But, I said, that dog ahead of us, who needed more time? He's probably a really awesome pet, a great snuggler, a perfect companion with whom to watch a movie at night. Laev is not; when we sit down to watch some anime or a movie, I give her a stuffed Kong for a while and then crate her so she doesn't practice horrible couch-mauling habits. So there are always trade-offs.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Need a Number for Your Lottery Ticket?

A couple of weeks ago, Shakespeare was injured. Shakespeare and Inky were both out playing with us, when one chose to run clockwise around the house and the other chose to run counter-clockwise. They met at a blind corner at full gallop, with a sound that could be heard in the next county.

Both thought the other one did it on purpose. Neither apologized. We cleaned them up after the fight and treated them appropriately.

I knew Shakespeare's head was swollen and sore, so I pulled him from that weekend's Schutzhund obedience routine and entered him in tracking, instead. (I wanted to make sure our club had the minimum number of entries for a valid trial.) It was a poor showing, and we failed, and a few minutes afterwards someone reminded me that many antibiotics interfere with the sense of smell. Oh, well.

Anyway, two weeks later, Shakespeare's head still had a sizable knot on one side, and it was pretty firm. I worried about calcification -- ye gads, had he fractured his skull? -- and took him in for x-rays.

Well, yes! The impact of Shakespeare and Inky running into each other around the corner had knocked a pretty big chunk of bone loose!

More, their heads had to collide at exactly the right location and angle that it struck his skull where there was no overlying musculature to cushion the impact, where there would have been merely bruising or damaged muscle.

I'd originally told my vet that I could have set up the situation, each dog running around the house in opposite directions) at least 50 times and maybe once have seen them collide like that. Now, with all these tiny details lining up just right, he amended my statement to once in 500 times or more. He suggested we play a lottery ticket on him.

So if anyone needs a number this week, Shakespeare's ILP is 91434. And he would appreciate a share of the winnings to go toward his medical bills. :-)

(He's going to be just fine, by the way. Just a little lumpy for a while.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

How The Other Half Lives

So there I was on the sidewalk, in my black vest, black leather jacket, stringy unwashed hair and muddy paw-printed jeans. I looked like someone who should be chased away from the school playground so I couldn't give the kids free samples. And at the end of my leash was a Standard Poodle with traditional pom-poms, a pink rhinestoned collar and pink bows on her ears. :-)

Let me back up a little.

I got to learn about appearances yesterday. :-) I was filling in yesterday and today for Amy of Amy's Happy Critters, Inc., a highly-recommended pet-sitting and dog-walking service, while Amy was out with an injury. So I got to meet new dogs and go new places, which is always enjoyable.

Because I had been really harried over the last few days with WAE tests and shelter benefits and stuff, I dressed down for the day and counted on the dogs not caring. What the heck, no humans were going to see me anyway, right? (I wasn't thinking about downtown visits.) So I went out to do the dogwalking in my warm fleecy vest and grimy hair. The dogs didn't care; dogs are good that way.

But my last stop of the day was for a dog who lived in a downtown penthouse apartment, and she and I didn't necessarily look as if we went together.

This was really interesting for me, because I'm usually walking a Doberman. Now, I didn't choose Dobermans for the macho image, and I work pretty hard to make sure my dogs don't terrify people and are well-mannered in public, but generally people do respond differently to large, black dogs. And I can pretty much guarantee you that if I'd been walking my Dobes in that get-up, I would have prompted a few conversations regarding urban renewal. ;-)

But with a pink and sparkly Standard Poodle beside me, incongruous as we were, I was still approachable, and a few people commented on the "pretty dog." No comments for me. :-)

Made me think of the Ultra Disguise Kit.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Laev on joists


We're building our porch now, and Laev found the spaced joists to be a puppy playground! I didn't get a photo the first time, but here's a shot of the re-enactment. :-) Crazy fearless dog!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Heeling

Okay, so I've been slacking off. I admit it. But at least I've been feeling guilty about it.

So this afternoon I came home and took Monster Berserker Puppy out of her kennel (the only thing which still holds her, as she can escape from the other kennel and escaped today from the agility field) for a little heeling training. I selected a burlap rag for a reinforcer, as I want to work on this with a toy and I don't particularly like the idea of training with a ball (not interactive enough with me). Also, I didn't want to have to worry about good grips and bite quality, so I used a rag instead of a bite roll.

Anyway, it was a little rough at the beginning, as I had good attention and position for the short bursts of heeling (2-5 steps) but it was taking a long time to get ready to begin again after the tugging ended. I decided my rate of reinforcement was thus too low and dropped criteria -- she no longer had to be in heel position for me to start forward, just eyeballing me.

This helped immensely; I think the problem was that the hyperdriven tugging puppy brain could not immediately switch back into "sit and focus" mode after tugging. She'll have to be able to do that later, of course, but not just yet. :-) So if I started forward with just eye contact, she put herself into good heeling position, alert and intense, and then I could click and whip the rag out for tug. I got longer bits of heeling, too, after that. I probably could have gotten even more, but I'm trying not to push too hard.

I'd really like to get video of this and see it from a different angle. Darn having to work alone almost all of the time!

This is, by the way, a full body workout for both of us! I tired out the puppy, quitting before she was ready to quit, of course, and I completely exhausted myself. It used to be easier to swing her around :-) and I was out of breath when we were done!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tracking Challenges, or, Let's Make This Track Just a Little Harder

So I took the dogs to the park today to track. I laid Laev's track first, no articles, and then I laid Shakespeare's track, with three articles. I really want to get Laev onto articles, so I'll start that soon.

While the track is aging, I ask Laev to do a little obedience for me. She's really distracted when I take her from the car -- that's my fault for teaching her we always track here, and I've built a pattern of wanting to go directly to the track instead of playing with me -- but after a few minutes she's doing some simply heeling with me. I put her up, take Shakespeare out for even shorter bursts of heeling, and then we start the track.

He starts down the track at a steady trot, amazing me since I thought he was a little overloaded and stressed with tracking; I guess that's what a week off will do. :-) A little struggle with the first corner, but he finds it eventually, and then we go on to the first article. Good. Continue, corner, second article, good.

I'm petting him at the second article as I glance down the remainder of the track, looking as I always do to make sure we're still on target and I know where my track is prior to sending my dog on. That's when I notice the white park pick-up truck crossing my track leg ahead.

Drat. Oh, well, it's just a big cross-track. He'll have to work through it.

I wait a moment to let the truck get fully out of our way, when I notice it slow and the driver leans out with a reacher to collect a piece of trash and toss it into the back. They'll collecting litter. Oh, no.....

I leave Shakespeare in his down and run after the truck, chasing it down the park. "Excuse me," I pant, "but did you just pick up a black leather wallet?"

There are two guys in the truck. "Yeah. Was that yours?"

I explain that I'm training tracking dogs and that I leave articles for them to find. It of course was not their fault, they weren't to know it wasn't something someone had dropped. They're very apologetic and return the wallet.

"Oh, wait," one remembers. "Were those your flags, too?"

I collect my third article and flags and call my dog. I decide to abandon the final leg of that particular track and I lay a super-short track with the wallet at the end for Shakespeare to indicate and reward him. End of track. :-)

Laev's track was also contaminated, by the truck and by a runner crossing just in front of us as she worked the first leg, but aside from some corner trouble of her own, she did alright. I had to think a little harder about what points I used for my legs, since my flags had been plucked, but the dog kept her nose to the ground the entire time.

Moral of the story: inform the maintenence workers of what you're doing. :-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Big, Big Mouth



Why, yes, she does have an enormous mouth. And she likes to stuff it. Here you see Laev with not one but two Dober-sized toys crammed into her maw. I'm not sure why she doesn't gag herself, but she loves this.

Friday, October 07, 2005

FEMA testing & media prejudice

We went this morning to observe FEMA Search & Rescue testing. Laev had nothing to do there, of course, but she and I played for a while and then she played with one of the certifying judges (tug). And that's the end of Laev's part in this post.

The testing was interesting. I was passingly familiar with it, but I'd never seen it before. There were several different phases: obedience, committment to scent (at least 30 seconds of continuous barking to indicate a victim), directability, and search on a rubble pile.

A TV crew came out to tape, which I thought was great. With all the BSL (breed-specific legislation) out there and pending, dogs need all the positive media they can get! Even my county is trying to sneak in BSL under the radar. We're fighting that, by the way!

Anyway, the news team got footage of a Labrador and then of a German Shepherd. They disappeared immediately before the pit bull came out to work, and I was disappointed at the unlucky timing. If the city is considering banning pit bulls (and other breeds/types of dog), they should be seeing what the dogs can offer!

The pit bull finished and left the field. And the news team reappeared suddenly, just in time to tape a yellow Labrador.

Am I the only person who thinks this looks like an deliberate attempt to leave out images of useful, life-saving pit bulls?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rally Obedience Video

In case of insomnia, download video -- these are two edited bits of our recent APDT Rally Obedience trial.

Shakespeare's video is from his fourth run of the day, and you can tell he's mentally tired and physically worn from the heat, but I picked a few of the more interesting exercises from Level 2, including a jump and my personal favorite, the stationary sidestep. You can also catch me delivering a small treat after the sidestep, since it's an exercise which ends with us both standing still before starting for the next station.

(APDT allows certain deliveries of treats in the ring, under restriction, but limits repetition of cues/commands and disallows any luring in the ring. AKC disallows treats, but allows unlimited cues/commands and does not penalize luring with fake treats in the ring.)

Laev's video shows the very end of her 18-station course; this is her first time in the ring. You can see why she scored a 169 -- she's pretty good for a puppy, but she's not quite good enough. We're not very proud of that sloppy stand at the end, but I do like her attention and her happy heeling attitude. Not bad for a six-month-old!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Praise the Dog -- Slap the Handler!

Went tracking today. Carefully laid my track, sighting along trees for a straight line and then corners.

Got puppy. Started track. Noticed that she was drifting upwind (unusual, to say the least). I guided her back to the track. She went upwind again.

Repeat. Repeat.

Finally realize that I am sighting along the wrong tree this time! I hadn't used the big individual tree, but the uniquely white one. I'd forgotten that while laying Shakespeare's track. Laev was resisting the blown scent trail and instead clinging, like the good little footstep tracker that she is, to the original track. I'd been correcting her from doing exactly what I want her to do, and in challenging circumstances.

See above regarding "praise the dog, slap the handler."

So I quickly laid another short track, heavily baited, and let her work it out without any "help" from me. This second track had only two trees. ;-)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

happy trials to you.... until AKC raises the rates

Weekend wrap-up: AKC Rally Obedience, 98/100 and 98/100. At least we're consistent. :-)

AKC Open, NQ x 2. I was really pleased with Saturday's run, though, and we had the same error both days -- he didn't respond to the first send for the retrieve on flat and the retrieve over high jump, respectively. On the second try, he did each very well, got compliments. I thought it was stress-related -- Sunday he was clearly very stressed, our heeling was uuuugly, if one were even generous enough to call it heeling -- but three different people told me they thought I was speaking too softly in the ring and that he didn't hear me send him. I'm not sure that he couldn't hear me, but I'll buy that maybe I am too soft in a loud noisy trial and he's too stressed to go without a hearty voice.

As I told someone today, the moral of this weekend's story is that two days of trialing is okay, but three in a row is too much for this dog. And anyway, he held the out-of-sight stays, which I know are very stressful for ths momma's boy -- even though another dog broke and went visiting around the ring and caused a minor snark. Whatta boy!

But this is Laev's blog, not Shakespeare's, and I'm not entirely sure why I'm posting his results on here. (Got in a rut of dog reports, I suspect.) But I did take Laev to the trial today, just to get her some mileage. No one thought she was a coonhound. ;-)

I know I said AKC Rally courses were shorter than APDT, but I had ample demonstration of that yesterday. My sister went with me for her first AKC trial (and second trial ever; first was UKC-SDA trial last April) and competed in Rally. I'd meant to video her run, but forgot, so she taped mine instead. Only I'd left the video accidentally in the middle of last week's APDT trial, and now there's about a third of our APDT run, our entire AKC run, and then the last third of our APDT run again. Yeah, I'd say there's a course difference.

Everyone I spoke to who'd done both, including an AKC Rally judge who was competing this weekend, says that AKC is easier than APDT. I haven't seen such a difference in venues before, as most are roughly comparable, except that a lot of people say UKC Utility is tougher than AKC. I'm not sure if it's really tougher, or just different, but most people train for AKC.... Anyway, AKC Rally was short and sweet, even if AKC is being a bunch of extortionists by not counting it as a second class and charging big bucks for it, and I should have entered Laev, too, this weekend. ;-) (Not really -- we're not short on time.)

But really -- conformation and Obedience are less money to do than Rally and Obedience? How do they reconcile that conformation and Obedience are the same event but Rally is not? That's just purely mercenary. I think it's obvious that they realized Rally is popular and wanted to cash in.

Oh, and my sister got a score of 90 and her first leg in her Rally run. :-)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Rally Correction and Update

I was wrong. It used to be that APDT offered varied titles based on score averages, then the varied titles were offered according to scoring within guidelines, and now they just offer one title for all qualifying legs, just like AKC and UKC. So Shakespeare has a RL2 as of last Sunday. It would not hindered her in the future if Laev had qualified after all with a low score, but I don't care; she doesn't need a leg that young.

Today was our first AKC Rally trial. I've seen only one course, obviously, but I found AKC to be *much* easier than APDT. Multiple commands, signals, etc. are allowed without penalty (it's -3 points for each in APDT) and the Novice course was only 11 stations long, as opposed to the 18 we did in Level 1 at the APDT trial. Also, there's no time limit in AKC like there is for APDT. Several others there who trial in both venues said that AKC is written to be easier, too; I checked the rules and AKC has fewer allowable exercises in Novice than ADPT, making for less variety and less challenge (in my opinion).

Even so, I was amazed that I actually felt nervous before this trial, unlike my APDT runs. I'm so conditioned to thinking AKC competition is strict, unyielding and difficult for us; what must my poor dog think? And yes, between stations 3 and 4 he glanced around and suddenly a little thought bubble popped into existence over his head: "Wait! This isn't Rally -- this is a trial!!!" He lagged a bit on the 270-degree Right Turn immediately following, and then he came back mentally a little. He didn't feel quite as good to me as he did last weekend, though.

And AKC Rally courses are tight! Stations are close together, or at least this one was. No room to really open up and trot out. Kind of like AKC agility courses versus USDAA or NADAC, I guess.

Anyway, Shakespeare left today with a 98/100, so I was pretty happy. :-) We didn't place; there were 5? dogs with a 99 score, and times were used to break those ties.

Rally is definitely popular! We had over forty dogs entered in just our class alone, not including Novice A. Someone said today that her last trial had over 100 dogs entered in Rally in one day. That's amazing! Obedience folks can only dream of such numbers right now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Trial Results

Warning: shameless bragging follows.

Shakespeare and I manned a CIA booth at Hancock County Paws in the Park and then another at a Camp Bowwow grand opening on Saturday, where we did clicker demos, and then Sunday we traveled to an APDT Rally Obedience trial.

Shakespeare had four runs, pulling two firsts and a third and never scoring below 200 (a perfect performance score is 200, with a potential of 203 with attitude points). He finished his Level 2 title and got some legs toward further titles.

I'd signed up Laev for two Level 1 runs as well, figuring that we didn't have to do the full course and it would be good experience for her to enter and have fun in the ring. I had no goal but to play with her and leave her enjoying the trial experience. Imagine my surprise, then, when we left the first run only one point shy of a qualifying score!

I wasn't only not trying to qualify, I was actively trying to avoid qualifying -- unlike other venues, APDT Rally O awards different titles based on the quality of scores, so I don't want Laev to qualify until she can do it with a high score. I was therefore simultaneously amazed, slightly disappointed and relieved to see that she'd missed it by a point. :-) The next round, I warned the judge that I was going to deliberately NQ, which she graciously allowed.

Laev was by no means a stellar performer, but she was pretty good for a six-month-old puppy who hadn't even seen all the exercises in a Rally O course. She got quite a few compliments, because between bouts of trying to eat the signs ;-) she showed real focus and brilliant attention, even if she didn't understand all the exercises. And those she knew -- finding heel position, fronts, changes of position, etc. -- she did pretty well. I was just thrilled with her.

She doesn't have the duration of attention required to really make it through a 18 station course, but I won't be attempting that seriously for a while yet. In the meantime, Shakespeare is actually having fun in a competition ring and Laev is getting good experience. :-)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

brief little post

My computer is completely fried -- massive hard drive error, cannot boot, etc., etc. -- so I'm posting this from another machine and it will be very short. :-)

I took the dogs tracking today at the park. They hadn't been tracking in a while, as I was out of town, and it showed in Laev's work. Shakespeare, on the other hand, started strong and then got a little shakey, only to finish better again. Both dogs did two tracks, one 100-pace for Laev and then another of about 80 paces (I lost count), and one shorter one (50?) for Shakespeare and then a second purely to practice article indication.

I think I need to worry about Shakespeare mouthing the articles. Gotta come up with a plan for that....

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cropping/Docking (corrected post title)

I never intended for this blog to become a forum for debating cropping and docking, but apparently some critics are not content to let it be (see comments to previous post). So, since this is my blog, I guess I should be entitled to express my own thoughts.

If we're going to address "how a Dobe should look," we cannot avoid discussing conformation. To that end, I submit that the physical requirements detailed in the breed's standard are far more relevant than the ears, as conformation and temperament are genetically determined and passed to future generations, while cropping and docking are not (sorry, Jean Baptiste Lamarck).

When we've achieved a stable breed without CVI, overangulation or cardio problems, etc., with universally correct temperament and sound conformation, and when every specimen of breeding stock can pass the ZTP, then we can afford to debate whether cropping should be required or merely optional, as it is now.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- I'm not opposed to cropping and docking. But I am consistently amazed at those who say, "I have a right to crop and you can't tell me what to do!" who then try to tell me what to do. /sigh/

I will NOT tolerate comments which attempt to argue in favor of or against c/d, in response to this post. I'm not interested in hosting that debate. If the main thrust of your comments is to promote cropping or to protest cropping, your comment will be deleted.

Further comments on my personal qualities will still be cheerfully accepted. /grin/

Today was fun.

Shakespeare had Agility class from 9 to 10, and then after that I took Laev into the ring with another six month old Dobe, and Carolyn and I just practiced individual behaviors with the dogs ignoring one another. They were great! Two six month old pups, working within inches of one another, ignoring each other to focus on their people. Awesome.

We weren't really working on agility, which was good, as Laev pretended she had no clue what a tunnel was for. ;-) No fear, just going in and turning and bouncing out again. But her heeling was very nice.

As I left, I called Jon at work and asked if we could meet for lunch on my way south. A couple of hours later, I parked in an underground garage downtown and led Shakespeare and Laev upstairs into the Circle Center Mall (I'm pretty sure this is a no-dogs area, so don't tell) and out the door to the sidewalk. Laev had been here once before, but I discovered in the parking garage that Shakespeare had not seen an escalator before! No problem; I just let him think about it a moment and then he went right up, though a little uncertain of this moving staircase.

Two escalators up, across a lobby and we're outside. A block over, a block up, and we're at the Soldiers & Sailors Monument on the Circle (and see here). Jon was waiting there with my steak quesadilla. Shakespeare and Laev ignored most of the people (Laev is still distracted by people who make direct eye contact or speak to her; Shakespeare couldn't care less unless I direct him to "say hello"), and they lay down beside us while we ate and shared bits for good dogs who lie quietly and don't bother eating humans. ;-)

Then we went back through the streets, the mall, the garage, and home. Then Shakespeare and Inky and Laevatein and I took naps.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Rain. 350# of dog food. Bad.

I'd gotten tired of running out of dog food -- with a Dobe, an adolescent Rott, and a puppy monster, we go through even the big bags at an alarming rate -- so I placed a bulk order. Two varieties, Merrick and Flint River Ranch, totalling 350 pounds. (Hey, Merrick was on sale!)

It arrived all at once, which I didn't expect, and so I left most of it by the gate. Jon and his visiting brother could get it tomorrow.

Jon came home tonight from his business trip, I rubbed his shoulders, we settled into bed. Thunder rumbled romantically. Lightning flashed. And just before 2 a.m., it began to rain.

"Your dog food," Jon said.

"Drat," I said.

So we pulled on some clothes and ran through the downpour, loaded over 300 pounds of food onto a cart and pushed it back to the house. Brigaded the food into the house, brigaded it into the basement, pulled it from wet packaging so the moisture wouldn't seep through.

The rain stopped.

At least we don't have to worry about moving the food tomorrow.... And I knew there was another reason I wanted to get the dogs back on raw....

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Level 1 -- and 2! Er, sort of.

My 8:00 didn't show tonight, so I killed some time in the training building sweeping, straightening the interlocking mats, etc., and finally I gave up and went to get Laev. Might as well get some training in, right?

I'd printed Sue Ailsby's Training Levels earlier in the day. I've mentioned before that I was certain Laev could pass Level 1 with little difficulty; it's pretty simple. But I had never proven it, so tonight we did it.

No problem. Well, Laev was a little pushy about the "zen," and wanted to reach for my hand, but that's because I've rarely asked her to back off my hand; usually I'm luring her into a new behavior. But after a few "warm ups" she did just fine. ;-)

So, on to Level 2. I kinda figured this would kick our butt -- we haven't even practiced most of what's in Level 2, focusing on other things. But what the heck, why not try to do it?

(I know the spirit of the Levels testing is to do it straight through with no mistakes. We did have mistakes, but considering I didn't train for much of this, I think it does say something about what we have done, and we can always ace it later.)

Come: " the dog comes from 40’ away with no more than two cues (voice, body language, or hand signal)." Hey, no sweat. Laev will recall from ~100' with someone holding her while I walk away, and she'll recally nearly 40' (the length of my training building) away from someone offering free dog biscuits. Yeppers, I felt pretty good about this one. And indeed, she didn't disappoint me.

Crate. I don't have a crate in the training building, so I let this one slide. We do practice it a couple of times a day, though, so I felt a little justified.

Distance: "dog goes around a pole from a distance of 2' with no more than two cues." Okay, this one we'd never practiced. The closest we'd ever come was my clicking Laev for entering a hula hoop on the ground a few feet away from me. But I set a chair out in front of us and gestured for Laev to go out, figuring I could then lean and call her around the other side of the chair.

First try! She went out a few feet, turned to look at me, I called her and she came back on the other side. Click and treat. Whoa! A click for something to do with the chair...? I didn't want to get credit for just a fluke, so I tried it again. This time Laev went out, turned, jumped on the chair, looked at me, and then came back when called. But she went out and jumped on the far side of the chair, so I guess it's okay. ;-)

Down. No sweat.

Down Stay. 20' away. I've never, ever gone this far yet. And indeed, Laev indicates very quickly that our current limit is 10'. So I take a few minutes to walk 10', return and treat, walk away, return and treat, sneak away further.... And then we do 20'. And then we do it again. Yippee! She does not hold still very well at all, but I saw the light bulb go on and she just glued her little self to the mat. Good girl.

Go To Mat: "from 5' away." I was feeling pretty good about this one, as I'd discovered almost completely by accident a few days ago that Laev knows this in the house. I haven't spent a lot of time working on it formally, but apparently the informal latent learning was enough. So I tossed out one of the carpet squares the group classes use to start the mat behavior and wave her in its general direction.

My mistake. Laev didn't recognize the carpet square as a dog bed at all, and instead she wandered around and then went over and poked the chair hopefully. :-) I waited until she drifted near the mat, clicked, and threw a treat across the room. She came back to the mat -- click, throw a treat across the room. Repeat. Laev stands firmly on the mat. I call her to me and send her again. She goes, but with the little cheat of turning back to face me hopefully just before the mat. It takes a couple of tries before she puts herself right on the square.

The Levels book didn't specify that she had to down on the mat, so I guess we eventually passed. She does down on the mat in the house.

Handling. Ears, tail and feet. Minimal struggling. Pass.

Homework. The handler has to describe the four legs of operant conditioning and actual scientific definitions of "reinforcement" and "punishment." Hey, I used to give others written tests on this subject.

Leash Manners: "handler stands in one spot while the dog keeps the leash loose for one minute with one distraction. Handler may use cues but may NOT cue the dog to Watch or to Heel, or to Sit, Down, or Stand or Stay. The intent of the exercise is that the dog’s default behaviour for one minute is to keep the leash loose."

Aw, stink.

I knew this would kill us. We'd have a decent chance with movement, but standing still. Laev does NOT stand still.

Still, I leashed her and tried it, watching the wall clock. She did hit the end of the leash as she wandered in boredom, but she never really dragged at it. If I'd been holding a cup of water in my leash hand, she would have sloshed it once, but not badly. We cheated a little toward the end, when I realized I was standing too near the trash can and she sniffed happily at it instead of thinking about wandering. We didn't have a real outside distraction, because I was alone.

Sit. No food, no clicker. No problem.

Sit Stay. Another 20' stay. The only time we've ever done this was about 5 minutes ago, with the Down Stay.

But it only took Laev one mistake, and then her brain connected that this was basically the same thing we'd done a little while ago. I actually went further than 20' and did a formal return around her, twice (while treating as I walked around). Good girl!

Stand. Hand and verbal cue, no problem.

Stand Stay. Yeah, right. Have I mentioned that Laev doesn't stand still? She can hold a sit or a down if asked, for a short time, but standing?

Still, she did it, for probably the first time. I secretly suspect she was getting tired, but I'm not going to let that stand in our way. ;-)

Target. This was a little tricky; I've done palm touches with Laev, which is how I taught stand, but she'd never seen a target stick before. I pulled one off the wall and held it so that just the very, very tip stuck out of my hand, lest she want to bite it and tug. Click for the first inquisitive sniff. Throw treat. Repeat. Ease stick slowly out of hand, withhold a couple of clicks for sniffing the length instead of the tip, and voila! a puppy who touches the end of the stick (end on, quite forcefully) for a click.

Trick. Do we have any cute simple tricks? She knows that "get in the puppy storage unit" means run from the kitchen to her crate in the bedroom, but tricks? I dunno. I probably could have taught her one right then, but I think she was starting to tire mentally and besides, it was already late. So we skipped this one.

Watch. Oh, we've done quite a bit of eye contact. It's going to be crucial later, so we're making it darned reinforcing now. No problem.

Zen: "the dog stays off a treat in the handler’s hand for 5 seconds and off a treat on couch or chair for 10 seconds. No more than two cues for each behaviour, handler cannot guard the treat to keep it safe. Intent is to present the treat at nose level."

We'd just done the hand for Level 1, so that wasn't much trouble. I pulled up a chair and set a dog biscuit on it, telling Laev to wait. I stepped back and hoped.

Her default behavior in the kitchen is to see something she wants and lie down on one hip; I made darned sure as a tiny puppy that jumping up at counters was never, ever rewarded and alternate behaviors paid big. But on a chair seat? Would it generalize?

Well, she didn't lie down, but she did back up and sit. I counted the 10 seconds and then tossed the biscuit across the room for her to chase. Yippee!

So that was Level 2. Rough, unpolished, but way better than I would have guessed. We'll clean it up and keep going.

There's an APDT Rally trial next month; I think I'll enter both dogs. Shakespeare hasn't done Rally in over a year and needs to finish his Level 2 title (no relation to the Training Levels program), and I've been thinking since before Laev was born that an APDT Rally trial would be the perfect first outing for a young'un. We won't expect much, but at least it will be a happy ring experience.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Did You Know...?

...that a grouping of four 24" dried steer pizzles arranged in a vase can look just like brown bamboo shoots? More or less? If you squint?

...that if you sit on a 24" dried steer pizzle while a puppy chews and pulls on it, so you can trim puppy nails, that when the puppy pulls back and then the pizzle slips loose, that it strikes a laminate floor with a truly satisfying whack that amuses and excites said puppy?

Six Months!

Happy Birthday, Laev! She's six months old today -- February 16 to August 16.

Informal retrieves today; I'd throw a rope bone and she could bring it back directly to me for a treat. (I know she's going to chase it and pick it up -- it was the coming back I wanted to reward!) We didn't do it long, just long enough to take the edge off the wiggles, but it was fun to watch how she learned very quickly that she couldn't just shortcut to getting the treat by staring at me instead of retrieving! That didn't take long, maybe two tries. By the end of our super-brief session, she was bringing the toy all the way to my hand, no cheating by dropping it en route.

um, you're gonna need those teeth later....

Laev is eating her kennel.

Well, not eating, but biting. And tugging. And yanking. She's got a mouthful of chain link and is flexing it backward. I happened to see this as I looked out the window, curious about the frustrated (not playful) growls and screams I was hearing outside.

The fence fabric is twisted and bent, now. This is serious business.

See, I'm not playing any tug games with her, as she's too young to be able to summon a serious hard bite right now and we don't want to practice soft bites. (Things are a little different pre-teething.) But without that as a physical outlet, she's going berserk. I can't run her to wear her out, either, because her growth plates aren't closed and I don't want to risk damage.

I guess we'll be doing some targeting and ball-chasing games, maybe. I hope that's enough. Help?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Photo Time!

Yes, yes, I can be nagged. :-) As requested, here are new photos!


"I just love photos -- I get to eat the camera!"

It's hard to take photos myself, as I'm usually working with the monster -- er, I mean, Laev. I'll take my camera to Schutzhund practice tonight and see if anyone can get some shots of us heeling or something fun, but it'll probably be too dark to photograph well, as we practice in the evening.

But I did get some shots today when we went tracking in the park. Just under 80 degrees, so not too hot, but humid -- perfect for holding scent. /grin/ Laev and Shakespeare both did very, very well.

I've been putting extra "dummy" flags on the track, so that the dogs see flags frequently and not only when they're helping me mark a turn or keep the dogs on course. I also alternate between sticking the flags upright or laying them on the ground. A couple of my tracking partners have had trouble with their dogs getting sensitive to flags, so I'm purposefully overexposing my dogs to flags so that they don't see them as relevant to the track.


Track start and dummy flags

All I want is for the dog to look for the flag to mark the start of the track; that's it.


Laev's first track went so well (no dragging or fussing, just working) that during the second I carried a camera and snuck a few shots with one hand while working the line with the other, then dumped the camera in my treat bag while we finished the track. In Schutzhund tracking the dog should be indicating each individual footprint, and Laev's still at the stage where she'll find tidbits hidden in footprints occasionally. Here you can see her at work. And no, that tail doesn't ever stop while she's working a track!


checking left footprint....


...and the right

Afterward I tried to get a few shots while she played. Laev happened across the end of our first track today and followed it for a short distance. Thus I was able to capture this profile shot of how Laev looks while tracking. Well, I'm assuming this is what she looks like; I never see anything but a wagging tail.


tracking free

But tracking's only a tiny part of our time. Laev also has a home life.


"The Laev." Coming Soon to a Face Near You.

She's definitely in the gawky-ugly stage of development, but she's awfully cute and I think she'll mature into a nice-looking dog. We're are very reliant upon stuffed Kongs for a worry-free day.


These Kongs are empty. Fix 'em!

Laev likes bananas smooshed into a Kong and frozen, or frozen green tripe, or frozen canned dog food.... You're noting a frozen theme? That's because this summer has been pretty warm, with some record-breaking temperatures, and because frozen Kongs take longer to unstuff! And I rely on this precept: the more time and energy spent on a Kong, the less available for unauthorized remodeling of the new house.

But she is still a puppy, and she does still nap. Not as often as I sometimes wish ;-) but it does happen. Usually Laev sleeps in standard Doberman fashion, which is to curl into a Doberwad small enough to tuck under an airplane seat, but when it's warm she sometimes gets more adventurous.


Ooh, I think I need a chiropractor....

That's it for now!

Friday, August 12, 2005

getting bigger and better

Laev's feet are larger than Shakespeare's. Is this a problem? She's not supposed to be an oversized Doberman....

A very short track today, probably only a hundred feet or so, but with two turns. I also stuck an extra flag in a leg; I don't always mark turns with flags, and I sometimes stick extra flags that don't mean anything in a leg, so my dog should believe that the flags are completely irrelevant to the track. :-) Laev did well, starting eagerly, getting right to work, and not dragging or flopping down in an effort to work faster. She did pick her head up twice, looking a little confused, but I think she's still adapting to my new half-halt style of line handling. She also overshot the first turn, but she corrected that. I don't think she missed any food on the track which means she's slowing down.

I might take both dogs to the park this afternoon for more tracking. I'll probably also feed everybody in tracking squares.

Laev's tracking squares (about 1.5 times the length of the dog on each side) are a lot bigger than they used to be....

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

oops!

Okay, so maybe it's time to do something about this young-dog-jumping-up behavior. I've been pretty much just letting it go, as I don't want her to be inhibited about jumping on a helper later, but now she's getting bigger....

A large-ish clap of thunder was Laev's ticket to getting rescued from her outdoor kennel and brought inside. I let her run around a minute to wipe any mud from her paws and then she came barreling at me as she does. I turned away but couldn't really move out of the way, due to standing beside the pool we keep for the dogs to cool themselves in. So she launched into me with two paws squarely on my butt.

I went into the pool.

Not flat; just stepped into it, but it was enough to make me burst out laughing and decide that maybe it's time to address this jumping issue. :-)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What did that toilet brush ever do to you?

We've made it through infant puppyhood with relatively little chewing damage -- my best puppyhood yet, I think. That's due to an obscene amount of supervision and management. :-) But I can see that as Laev earns more house privileges, the supervision will have to be maintained or increased.

Last week I heard furious barking from the direction of my bathroom. I went to check, figuring that Laev had cornered a cat in the tub or something. But no; she was merely challenging the toilet brush which had been pulled from its holder and lay playing possum on the tiled floor. I rescued the toilet brush and returned it.

Since that time, however, she has taken every opportunity to seize the brush and teach it a lesson. I don't understand the attraction of the toilet brush over what else she has to play with, but apparently Toilet Brush is the new Kong.

Then this morning I turned around to see that she had dragged the vacuum to the dog bed so she could chew on it at leisure. The vacuum. Whatever happened to typical puppy antics like stealing underwear?

Monday, August 01, 2005

[Insert Post Here]

[dunno what happened to this original post, which seems to have vanished, but anyway, it was commentary on improved tracking seen in both dogs.

It was a really good post, about Laev focusing well and tracking right over a crawfish hole and through a ditch. And it was about Shakespeare really, really enjoying his fourth and final food drag track, with only about 5' of drag.

Just smile with me and pretend you enjoyed it.]

Thursday, July 28, 2005

still tracking, and heeling

Laev is very erratic. She did a horrific puppy square on Tuesday, so bad that I actually took her off it and crated her while I tracked Shakespeare. (A second food drag for him, by the way, and he was so thrilled that a few hours later when I turned him out to run, he ran to the tracking site and ran the track again just to be sure he hadn't missed anything!) Then I brought Laev out to do her puppy square again and then to run a short, straight track. It was hideous -- not unfocused, as the puppy square had been, but high and fast, and if I held her back she became frustrated and just lay down, alternately trying to stretch forward and looking back at me with confusion.

I know, I know, it was also ungodly hot, over 100 degrees and near total humidity. We've been having record heat; a funnel cloud could have formed if someone opened a freezer door. (Yep, we get a lot of tornados in Indiana; we average 20+ touchdowns a year and I don't even know how many funnels that don't touch down!) I'm sure that affected tracking conditions. But it was depressing.

Then Wednesday, yesterday, we tracked again. It was raining lightly -- yippee! a cold front, and no tornado! -- and Laev's tracking was lousy. Any pressure on the line caused her to strain forward with opposition reflex. She ate only two pieces of food on the entire track. I came inside and called Debbie; I didn't want to allow Laev to rehearse bad tracking.

Debbie and I debated and finally decided that I had to be more careful about light pops (half-halts, I think of them instead, from my equestrian days) to slow her rather than steady pressure. I also upped the value of the food, back to using Simon & Huey's, and I put more than one piece of food in a footstep when I baited it.

I laid two short tracks and a puppy square. We ran a short straight track first; she was eager and pulling, but willing to slow when I showed her the good stuff in the footsteps. Then a puppy square, which she did with more focus and presence of mind than she had before. Then the second track, which featured two right turns. Laev started strong and then settled right down, checking for treats and keeping her nose low enough to even dig out crushed treats from the grass. By the end she wasn't dragging at all.

So I'm going to continue using good food at the beginning and fading to mediocre bait at the end of the track, to reduce her desperation to reach the end. And I will start using articles very soon. But at least, as Debbie said, I have an enviable problem of a dog who loves the track more than anything else!

Meanwhile, I bought a hula hoop at a garage sale and have been clicking her for going to stand inside it, sneaking in some distance while we work. She's not nearly as adept at this as Shakespeare would be, but I'm giving her some allowance for being young and inexperienced. :-) We'll get distance work yet.

On the good side, her heeling is looking quite decent for a five-month-old dog. She likes to be a little wide, but I can polish that later. Her shoulder is right beside my leg and she keeps nice eye contact. Good girl!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Whee! Tracking!!

Wow. Today I went down and tracked with my friend Debbie, my tracking guru. It paid off!

It was stinkin' hot today -- when I was driving at 9:30 a.m. it was already 88 degrees and climbing, and while I didn't see an official humidity report that was certainly in the nineties. Hard weather for dogs and handlers. Tell me again why I like outdoor sports?

Laev has been having trouble rushing the track, skipping food and keeping her nose high instead of sniffing deeply into each footprint. Rather than a basic puppy square, I wanted Debbie to troubleshoot a real track, so Debbie laid a track for her in the shade, aged it about 20 minutes, and... Laev demonstrated a perfect track. I was so proud, certain that our Sunday breakthrough was still in effect.

Then we tracked Debbie's dog, and then I laid another track for Laev. Aged about 25 minutes. I brought her out and -- bam! back to old tracking problems. She was frantic on the track, swiveling her head and straining forward, practically tracking on two legs. We struggled through the track and finished badly. Eek.

Debbie and I talk. Aaah.... The second track was laid in the sun. Heat makes it harder for the ground to hold scent, roughly speaking. Laev might have panicked a little at the harder going and wanted to bolt ahead, looking for the scent. Memo to self: be more consistent that she absolutely cannot take a step forward without her nose all the way to the ground and in the footprint.

Then we tracked Debbie's dog again on a track already laid. His first track was great, and he started this one like a machine. When the track passed from shade to sun, though, he visibly lost it for a moment, searching on both sides of the track and really struggling to get back on the footprints. Wow! What a difference the heat made! But after a few seconds he managed to get back on task and finished pretty well.

Laev will be starting articles soon, and then I'll be using those instead of food on the track. I'll still be rewarding articles with food, but I want her tracking human scent and crushed vegetation trather than any food scent. (Today I used Simon & Huey's soft treats in footsteps, which are less stinky than hot dogs but still yummy to the dogs.)

And then -- and then! -- we worked Shakespeare.

Okay, I'll be honest. I'd almost completely given up on the idea of tracking Shakespeare. He's just not remotely motivated anymore. It's partly my fault; I started him on AKC-style tracking (more trailing, really) and then switched to footstep tracking, and then didn't work consistently, etc. He's confused and bored and just plain doesn't care to do it. And how can I blame him?

Jeremy, a SAR friend, had suggested a food drag, but I'd never done it before and was a little scared to try yet another thing and just annoy the snot out of this poor dog. ;-) But Debbie suggested we try it with some tripe, which of course Shakespeare just loves. I've never yet found anything -- raw chicken, beef, bones, anything -- that could trump tripe.

So we dumped a handful of green tripe into a sock, hooked a leash to it, and I laid a track while dragging it behind me. Then I left the sock at the end as the world's tastiest article and got the dog.

He looked miserable coming out. "Tracking... Oh, sheesh." Then I pointed him to the flag and told him to track. He dropped his nose and lit up like a bulb.

Track, track, trackety track.... He lifted his head once and immediately got back to work when I told him. Track, track. Wanted to cheat at the end and rush to the sock, but I held him back and made him track up to it and down before emptying the sock for him. Yum! Tripe! He even wanted to get up and track the tail away from the tripe!

So now I have a new technique for Shakespeare. I think I'll gradually delay the drag to later and later in the track, so he learns to follow the footprints to get to the drag to get to the article. Comments are welcome! but this is my new plan. Fortunately, I have a lot of canned green tripe at home. :-)

By the way, I have every confidence in Laev's passing Sue Ailsby's Level 1 test (except that Zen one, if she's really amped, but she can do it nearly always). We're far from ready for Level 2, though, and it's really just because I've slacked off on some things and haven't addressed others -- like going around a post, which is part of Sue's distance work and something Laev will need for a revier later. And one minute of loose leash without moving? Are you crazy? :-)

I maybe gotta work some more.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

adolescence begins...?

It was dumping rain in fierce buckets when I woke this morning, but we went tracking anyway. I took my oiled-leather hat, but the rain faded and it was merely muggy and moist during our work. Yay!

Laev's a little too happy to be tracking -- she starts jumping and spinning when I put her harness on -- and she's trying to keep her nose up and rush down the track too quickly, without checking each footprint and attempting to overshoot corners. Basically, she enjoys following the track so much she doesn't pause to eat and therefore doesn't get her head down. Not good. So today I really upped the ante and used shredded hot dog bits, leftovers from the Dobe Club summer picnic. (I took Laev this year, by the way, leaving Shakespeare at home -- I'd been out of town until a couple of hours into the picnic, Jon was out with some friends instead of accompanying me, and didn't feel up to handling multiple dogs. She had fun and we bought a fuzzy squeaky toy at the club auction.)

The hot dogs may have done the trick. I'm still internally opposed to hot dogs on the track (if I can smell 'em, surely the dog can smell 'em!) and I'm a little chagrined that I ended up using them, but by the end of the third track she was no longer straining on the harness and tracking on two feet. Her first task, a puppy square, she was frantic and flailing all over the square. No thought process. Her second track was still kind of messy, and she seemed surprised when I held her back and she found hot dog bits in the prints. I'd tried to drop the bits into the natural pockets of the grass, making her get her nose down low for them.

On the third attempt, though, she started strong and pushy and then slowed down, getting herself under control. By the end, she was actually getting her head down, even on the sections without bait in the steps. So maybe we'll have to stay on this program for a while....

Laev's still teething. I thought she was pretty much done, based on the fact that she's been wanting to tug more and doing less basic teething chewing. But apparently I was wrong, because yesterday we were playing and I was ribbing her verbally about her weaker-than-usual grip, and then she jumped and bit hard and we each tugged, and then the toy slid out of her mouth and something clattered on the floor. Eek.

I quickly let her win a toy and do a victory lap with it around the living room. I kept the tooth. Bad Laura!

Laev still has a remarkably decent recall (and I'm trying to keep it up), but I can tell adolescence is just starting. It's really hard to hold her attention; even playing tug is tough to hold her. She can't keep her mind on chewing or eating! Only the raw bones can lock her brain for more than a few minutes. Silly puppy.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Baby Tracking

I was recently asked to teach some baby tracking to a few and since then asked to do a post on beginning tracking, and while I readily acknowledge that I am not a tracking expert, I can tell you how I'm teaching baby tracks now.

Note that I am teaching footstep tracking, in which the dog is expected to point out each step the human took. SAR dogs generally trail rather than track, meaning they follow the scent to its source and may take a completely different route than the original track, either shortcutting or following where the scent drifted downwind. AKC tracking, with its generous allowance of ranging widely off the track, is more accurately trailing.

First, I don't use the yard which we trample daily. The scent there is just too hot to expect a novice dog to distinguish. I use fields of relatively short grass, or I'd use soft dirt if I had that available (but my crop fields are all chemically treated by the farmer who rents them, so we don't use those). Big grassy fields, large little-used lawns, etc., are all options. Check out parks or local businesses (I got permission to track at a local car lot with a large front lawn that's purely for show).

It's probably best to start with a puppy square, which is essentially a 3'x3' area (larger for bigger dogs) pounded flat and seeded liberally with kibble or tiny treats. I use kibble in tracking, while most of the people I know use hot dogs or equivalent. I'm not personally comfortable with hot dogs as a food item :-) and also I want the dog to be following something less stinky than hot dogs. As long as she's motivated by the food, it'll work.

Stick a flag (like those the gas company marks lines with) at the bottom left corner of the square, stomp it all flat, let it age about ten or fifteen minutes and then let the dog work in it to find the good stuff. The lesson here is, put your nose down when you see a flag, and follow the scents of human/disturbed earth/crushed vegetation. See Armin Winkler's article for more.

Next, I'll start laying short baby tracks, maybe 10-20 steps. Flag at the start (get your nose down!) and a kibble in each step. I like to put a big pile of kibble at the end, but I'm ending that for Laev, who doesn't need any more encouragement to hurry. I'm about six inches from the dog, pointing to the track to start and praising quietly as she works, helping if necessary but generally trying to stay out of the way. If she gets off the track, I'll give her a couple seconds to put herself back on, as I don't want to teach helplessness; no more, though, because I don't want her to get distracted and reinforced by something else.

Corners and curves are introduced carefully, with me making sure that the dog won't be confused by blowing crosswinds. I do both directions (some dogs are naturally better at one than another), both obtuse and acute. I bait every step at a turn and then, later, I'll move the food to after the turn to reward an accurate track.

The most important thing is, I always have to know where the track is. I can't let the dog get off the track and be reinforced elsewhere or feel she's failed and doesn't know what to do. I have to be able to find the track no matter what. This is where the judicious use of flags, natural markers, sight lines, etc. all help!

Gradually I'll lengthen the tracks, fade the food, age the tracks longer, etc. It was suggested to me that if I use one piece of food in a footstep, I should use at least three in sequential steps, to keep the dog from developing the habit of finding one piece and then skipping ahead instead of continuing to check each step. Eventually I'll work myself back to the end of a 33' tracking line, but that's a long way away!

Okay, that may be the shortest tracking dissertation ever, but as I said, I don't consider myself good enough to teach, and there's a lot of better information online. Shakespeare's a pretty lousy tracker, but that's entirely my fault -- I started teaching trailing instead of footstep tracking, for use in a different venue, and then I was very inconsistent with practice while I tried to work out priorities. Consequently I have a lot of training band-aids to apply and fixes to accomplish. I've been much better with Laev, and I hope to continue in that vein!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Vacation! Humiliation?

There will be no puppy training this week, as I'm on vacation. :-) Laev is comfortably established in a roomy kennel with a trusted petsitter caring for her and giving her zoomie times, with friends watching the place closely, and I don't anticipate any problems except massive boredom and frustration at not being able to open up the throttle as often.

I, on the other hand, am going to need to open up the throttle a little more often, after eating as we have been! See my sister's travel blog for more info. Amazing food here in Seattle!

The trip has been really enjoyable thus far, except for meeting a vacationing Japanese couple. We ended up speaking with them and they asked us to speak in Japanese, as their English was poor. Well, their English was certainly no worse than my Japanese!

"Please speak Japanese," the husband said. Alena and I froze up. I have never seen Alena freeze like that before, and I can say with some certainty that I don't think I ever have, either. Total idiocy.

"Nihongo ga zenzen wakarimasen," I managed. I do not understand any Japanese. That, at least, broke the ice, and we were able to move on from there. Roughly. I missed a lot -- an awful lot -- but I think we talked about dog training, the high cost of living in Tokyo, whether or not I've ever been bitten (we tried to discuss how I was bitten in the face and needed surgery, but vocabulary failed), and the fact that our Japanese was insufficient yet to go to Japan for one of Terry Ryan's seminars. The nadir was the point at which I used omae for a second-person address.

Let me explain that. Modern English has only one form of second-person address, "you." Most European languages still have two, a polite/formal address and an informal/friendly/condescending form. Japanese has, well, several forms. Omae is not the one I should have used for a just-introduced elderly lady. I was hastily corrected to anata. I bowed and gomen'd until I was red, but it's hard to overcome that sort of mistake.

My fault entirely. I could think of everything I wanted in Spanish, but nothing at all in Japanese. This was my first attempt at having a conversation with a native, and I just had no vocabulary at all. Of course, once we'd finished our 45-minute (one-sided) conversation and I was no longer facing them, my brain kicked back in and I could think of a lot of words I simply hadn't known a half-hour before.

A lesson to myself as a trainer -- stress does affect behavior and recall!

For the rest of the story, including a delightful bookstore, my new favorite restaurant with a killer commute, a chat with an itinerant poet hawking books, the glorious transcontinental train trip, etc., see Alena's blog as mentioned above.

Today's dog story.... I was approached by a fish-seller today who'd seen my agility shirt. He started telling me I couldn't run his dog in agility, because she was very hyper and stubborn and 3/4 wolf. Hm. Yeeee-ah. I could have told him about clicker training used with wolves, and anyway I sincerely doubted he had a 3/4 wolf (I've seen a lot of "wolfdogs," and I think maybe one of them had a wolf somewhere in the family tree, and at any rate I don't tend to think of wolves as "hyper" unless they're frantic -- which, of course, his might have been), and he was standing at a personal distance which might have been borderline acceptable in a Latin culture but was way, way too close for typical North American interactions, and so I just made a sympathetic comment about how wolves weren't designed to work well as human pets and oh, where had my husband gone?

I don't go for "I'm-so-macho-you-can't-touch-my-dog" pick-up lines.

Today's musical tracks are courtesy of "Record of Journey To The West," a techno-musical retelling of the Saiyuki legend. In Chinese. With occasional sound effects. Really, it's most suitable for our old aerobic kick-boxing routines, so Alena and I were experimenting this morning and plan to use it throughout the trip to try and combat the excess 4,000 calories a day we're taking in. ;-)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

heckuva crosstrack

I went out to lay a track this morning, about the same time that Roger brought the earthmoving equipment to fill in an old discovered septic tank and do some grading in the field. I thought I'd left adequate room, but the dozer went right by our track. Of course, Laev is tracking the scents of disturbed earth and crushed vegetation as well as human scents...! So she was very interested in finding what had made such a huge track!

She was a little distracted on the track itself. I started with a puppy tracking square, just 3x3' of tamped grass and kibble, and she kept looking outside the square for the track. She self-corrected each time, going back into the square, so she got to keep working -- I would not have allowed her to finish and reward herself if she couldn't stay in the square -- but she really, really wanted to be following a track.

Then we moved to the track, which had her morning cup of kibble on it. I think she ate maybe five kibbles in all. I am "tapping" her back, keeping her slow and on the track with little half-halts (how on earth would I train without an equestrian background?), but she's just not really interested in eating while she's tracking. Maybe I should up the food value again, but I don't want to start relying on hot dogs, etc., on the track.

Track had two 45-degree angles, two ninety-degree turns, and went through some pricklies. She wasn't really on task during the prickly part, but I think it was more the change in vegetation type -- no grass, just weeds -- rather than any discomfort. She was pretty excited to find where the grass started again and got back to work.

Our only real trouble spot was near the end; I ended near a fenceline and the gate had been moved to make room for the dozer, so I had to pass pretty near my final leg in order to get out. As luck would have it, the west crosswind was blowing toward that escape route and Laev wanted to drift toward it a little and then, catching its scent, wanted to take that instead. I kept her on task, though, and she finished well.

Then she got to track the BIG dozer track all the way to the septic tank work site, where she met a worker and watched the pumping preparatory to filling. Good girl.

Monday, June 13, 2005

of tarps and teeters

ye gads, has it really been a week without tracking? Wow, I've been bad.

I've been giving Laev less training time, since her teeth hurt and she's easily distracted, but then I feel guilty about spending less time with her overall. It's now far too hot to take her on car trips where she can't go inside with me, and there are fewer places that will allow a 4-month Doberman inside than a 9-week little blob that's too cute and small to present a problem.

Plus, I'm going on vacation next week, and that means she'll be spending almost all of her time in the 13x7.5' kennel run. It's well-fitted -- it has an 80% shade cover, a very nice doghouse with cedar shavings, etc. -- but it's hardly stimulating. I feel guilty already.

Shakespeare is perking up considerably, which makes me happy. I don't know if he's adapting to the heat or is just revitalized by playing in the pond refilled by our tornadic storm.

We went to an agility fun night with some friends, and Laev had a blast running through the tunnel and chute. She's also absurdly comfortable on the teeter -- she'll jump up and land on top of the high end, which isn't necessarily something I want her to be doing at this age, but at least she's not afraid of it! No jumps of course, as she's far too young. Likewise I'm trying to stay away from the A-frame and dogwalk.

Speaking of NOT AFRAID.... Jon and I have a giant tarp, large enough to cover our entire house while it was under construction this winter, and I wanted it under control. So we were trying to fold it this weekend while Laev was in the yard playing. It was harder to fold than one might think, because it is 100' or so long and because Laev was busy having puppy zoomies all over the tarp! It didn't matter if we were holding the tarp four feet off the ground trying to fold it, she'd run right over it and smash the tarp and herself to the ground, landing at a gallop and having a blast.

Jon looked at me across the sea of muddy pawprinted-tarp. "Well, you got what you wanted," he said. "I'm not sure why you wanted it, but you got it!"

I still worry about fireworks and similar noises, but I have to say that Laev has not shown any sound sensitivity since that time.... Here's hoping....

Why is it that I think all day of things to record in the blog, and then when I finally get to a place with internet access (yes, I'm still without access at home), I cannot remember the good stuff?

I need to go tracking.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Shakespeare, again

Just a follow-up to my previous post: I am fairly convinced that it was just the heat which was bothering Shakespeare, and not some dire creeping death. He perked up considerably when a cold front came through ("cold front" being relative, of course!) and is now happy to run around and patrol at night instead of during the day. So I hope he continues well!

He did, however, gain some weight, so now I'm trying to get that off him.... It just never ends, does it?

experiences

I was reviewing in my mind today things Laev has seen or experienced, and I thought of some highlights:

  • escalators

  • motorcycles (seen, not ridden)

  • wadded tarps that drop her into unexpected puddles

  • agility teeter

  • agility chute

  • wading pool

  • all types of footing: rubber mats, grass, gravel, pavement, wire mesh, wooden boards, etc.

  • sidewalk cafes

  • crowds


I haven't shown her an elevator yet, nor has she done any tugging on linen bitesuit material or leather toys. I should probably address the latter.

Still, she's darn experienced for a puppy. And I'm proud of the way she takes just about everything in stride.

She is developing a strong jump which, as someone pointed out tonight, might well bloody a lip or nose in an unsuspecting greeter. I hadn't really thought about it because I never bend over her, so it wasn't an issue for me. I don't want to inhibit her jumping this early -- I'll do that later, after she's confident working on strange helpers -- so I guess I'll just have to be more vigilant.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Teething

Ah, teething. The age of complete and total brain fade.

She's still bright and enthusiastic, but she can't focus on me for more than a couple of seconds. Nor can we play tug now, so that limits our playtime, as she can already more than outrun me. Obedience is still fun, but she has trouble keeping her mind on things. Of course we're not doing anything involving duration! but she can't even look at me between one treat and the next. Silly puppy.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Race Day!

Indianapolis has 12 months, just like most places, but they're known here as January, February, Mud, April, Welcome Race Fans.... I'm not a race fan myself, but every year I attend a cousin's traditional Race Day Party. This year I took Laev, for socialization.

It was great, great socialization. Close to 100 people, but lots and lots of space (many acres) to get away if necessary. Laev got to see friendly people, indifferent people, drunk people, happy people, people playing volleyball, people with other friendly dogs, a big pond to drink from, a big field to play chase and recalls in, and a volleyball to pounce on. Much fun. She was very well-behaved, offering sits and downs whenever she saw a plate of food instead of jumping up, and took nearly everything in stride. She was clearly having a wonderful time for hours.

The only trouble came at night, when it was announced that we had fireworks. Fireworks! Not little firecrackers, but real, professional-like fireworks that hurt the ears and turned the black sky red. There was nowhere to escape to and little warning, so I simply snatched a leftover brat and treated Laev at each boom. She didn't seem to care. Then I started having her do sits, downs and palm touches for the brat bits, and she still carried on like a trooper. She didn't even flick an ear when the fireworks burst overhead. It was only after about ten minutes that she started hesitating a bit before responding.

Crud, I thought. It's starting to affect her.

My sister fetched more bratwurst for me, but we were losing her. Yeah, she'd been fine, but it was just going on too long. She wasn't getting a chance to relax or bounce back. When she started looking genuinely worried, trying to move away from the booming, I took off running with her. We ran down the drive, me letting her get about 20 feet ahead of me and then calling her back for brat, and then continuing in the same fashion. I found a stand of trees that deadened the noise somewhat and tried playing with her there. My husband and sister joined me, good helpers that they are, to try and distract the puppy. Jon fortunately had our tug toy in his pocket, and I devised an emergency plan.

"This dog is genetically engineered to vent stress through her mouth," I said. "Tug with her, letting her win at the moment something booms. Immediately somebody else grab the toy and restart the game, so she doesn't have time to think about what she's hearing."

This worked. We had a few rough moments where we missed grabbing the toy in the dark, or when Laev, stressed and in the dark and not aiming clearly, grabbed skin instead of toy, but I was more than willing to look like a heroine addict in exchange for helping my puppy weather this unexpected storm. By the time the fireworks ended, we were all exhausted, human and canine, but the puppy was not showing any ill effects.

My sister Alena was called inside to help settle another dog, one whose heart rate was dangerously high and who wouldn't come out of his hiding place, tramatized by the sounds. I was very happy we'd come out as well as we had. I will test later to see if Laev carries ill effects related to loud noises, but not for a long while, to give her maximum recovery. At least she had a good bounce-back at the time.

I don't know the moral of this story -- it would have been silly of me to forego such wonderful socialization and training opportunities as this presented, and indeed with the exception of that half hour Laev enjoyed the entire thing, but I would not have knowingly exposed her to the fireworks at this age. I guess the moral is, keep a tug toy handy. ;-)

By the way, I was counting on Laev needing to sleep the next day after over six hours of party and the fright of the fireworks. Indeed, she slept an hour late the next morning, and she did move just a tad slower when running up the stairs the next day. That was it. She didn't even take her afternoon nap on time. Sheesh! What's it take to wear out this dog?

this is classical conditioning -- for me, not Laev

Okay, I'm getting twitchy.

June 2002 - While we're away for the weekend, Dante does not eat his dinner one night. The petsitter does not know him well enough to know that anything other than diving into his food bowel constitutes a full emergency for Dante. We return home and, hearing this, take him to the vet, but he dies before surgery for an intestinal blockage. Autopsy reveals that his intestines were completely necrotic; the blockage was old and his notorious imperviousness to all discomfort had hidden it from us until he was dying anyway.

first week of July, 2003 -- Chaucer has a few accidents indoors the week we move to a new house; I'm not worried, figuring it's stress. She is losing weight, too, so I take her in. The vet thinks it's a bladder infection and we treat with antibiotics. That doesn't seem to help, so back we go. She catches a rabbit on Monday, is diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis on Tuesday, and is dead on Saturday.

June, 2004 -- While Tempest has made amazing progress in her aggression issues, her first instinctive reaction when startled is and will always be to bite. For the safety of humans and Tempest herself, I make the painful decision to euthanize.

Now it is June 2005. I am not generally superstitious in any way, but these events hurt. Now Shakespeare is suddenly lethargic, wanting only to sleep on his bed all day instead of running the fenceline for hours on end. I hope it is only the heat coming on and not anything more. I'll keep my eye on him for other symptoms.

Gah, it feels stupid to confess worry on the basis of timing alone.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Spooky?

Okay, I think we've finally come across a real fear period. Today was the first day I saw real evidence of teething, and I know some pups can get weirded out during teething. Tonight Laev ran barking from a toddler -- okay, it was the first one she'd seen, so I didn't think too much of it, though I did note that it was the second time that I'd ever seen her actively retreat from something. (The first was an animatronic singing and dancing hamster, at 8 weeks old; I'd run, too.)

Nothing phased her at Petsmart, not other dogs, friendly people, my purse falling on her head, nothing. Then I went to my parents' and she was spooked by my dad. That's odd.... Then he dropped a sweatshirt and she ran. Very, very, very odd for this dog! She continued to regard him and particular the worrisome clothing with concern for some time.

I guess I'm just going to have to be careful of socialization at this time, making sure she has lots of positive experiences. Just funny to me that she's finally acting spooky.

Last night I walked back in the middle of the night, having left Laev penned outside while I was gone for a while. I walked up my 1/3 mile gravel drive and heard ferocious barking from a distance of 100 feet or so. "Who's that?" I wondered. I knew it wasn't Inky or Shakespeare, both of whom were inside and both of whom have readily recognizable voices. I wondered if a neighbor's dog had gotten loose and ended up at my place. But no, it was Laev! doing her best guard dog routine. Quite impressive, actually; she might have scared off a real intruder. She didn't sound small. And most intruders wouldn't have recognized that she was simply alarmed and trying to warn me away. But she was quite happy to recognize me and welcomed me home.

She's now asleep on a pile of laundry. Cute pup.

A Typical Day In The Life of Laev, by Laev herself

Hi everybody! I'm skipping my nap to post this. I hear we dogs aren't supposed to be too good at this writing business, but I've been watching Uncle Shakespeare at work.... His stuff always comes out all funny and rhyming, though, and you gotta bark in rhythm to read it. Weird. Inky just eats the paper, so she isn't much help.

I woke up at five, like usual. Like usual, Mom got out of the bed -- I don't know why she's so slow in the morning -- and let me out of the crate to go outside. Usually we have a really fun game where she tries to get me to the door before I pee. Lately I've been letting her win. She thinks this is some sort of progress, but it's really the same thing she does with letting me win the tug toy. I'll save it all up for a really big surprise later!

Anyway, then I went back in the crate with a bone. Honestly, that Mom of mine thinks that just because I went to bed hours before she did that she should be able to get up after me. Silly woman.

Later, when Mom finally hauled her carcass out of bed, we went tracking. TRACKING! My favorite thing ever. Tracking is this really cool thing where Mom takes me out to a spot where there's a little flag -- I used to try to eat the flag, but I know better now -- and even though I can smell where Mom walked all the way up to the flag, at the flag the smell starts having KIBBLES in it! That's fun for a minute, but then it's SMELL SMELL SMELL and I just want to run and smell and chase the scent and go so fast down the track 'cuz I can see where it goes even around corners and turns and it's so cool!!!! but Mom has me on leash /sigh/ and I have to slow down. Sometimes I eat the kibbles on the smell to make her feel good, but I really don't need them and they're kind of silly. I think that frustrates her. But I thought speed was most important, right? Like, I have to catch the person who made the smell and smells are good and scenting and oh boy--!

Oops. Tracking's over. Okay, I can sit with Mom in the field a moment, but I wish we had more smells.

Ooooh, obedience. My favorite! Mom says this is obedience, anyway, but I think that must be a fancy human word for "make Mom give you fun stuff she has." Sits and Downs are really, really easy, but Mom's confusing me a little by changing my nose touch. Hmm. It used to be that I had to touch my nose to her palm and she'd give me a kibble or a treat, but now sometimes she gives it to me just when I start to move forward. I'm not sure I get that. I mean, all I do is push my back feet out and bam! there it is. Kinda confusing. Not to mention, she's not saying "Touch" anymore, but some new word called "Stand." Huh. Guess it'll all make sense later....

Stays. Okay, who invented stays? I mean, they're easy and all, but kinda dumb. I'm 13 weeks old, for crying out loud! I don't want to stay in one place for more than 2 seconds at a time! Although it's a little better when Mom's moving around during stays, 'cuz at least then I have something to look at. Sheesh. Can we do Heeling? I think that's my favorite. (Mom doesn't know that I know what that's called, 'cuz she doesn't use any words for that one yet, but I overheard her talking to Dad and that's what she called it. I'm so clever!)

Naptime! You're kidding, right? I hate naptime! I don't wanna sit in the box. I'm not sleepy. I don't wanna be here. Where's something for me to chew? Bark, bark! I'm not tired! I'm not... a bit... sleepy....

Ooh, the car! My favorite! I love going places. There are always funny people there wherever we go. Sometimes Mom lets me meet them and then they talk all funny to me and rub my ears. Even if I don't get to meet them, there are always cool smells and things. I love the car. I love my crate in the car. I don't mind being in there at all, 'cuz it's more fun. Where are we going today? Oooh, farm store! Lots and lots and lots of smells! Yippee!

Home again. What now? Oh, agility! My favorite! Mom doesn't let me do very much like Uncle Shakespeare does, but she does let me bang on things and climb on things and I get treats for it! A puppy's dream come true! Mom says that I'm fearless, but I can't figure why everybody doesn't do this. When else can a puppy get treats for climbing all over stuff?

Hey, Mom's got a sandwich. Watch this! I'm gonna walk up real easy like -- can't look at the food, that kills the whole game -- and lie down just a little bit away from Mom. No barking, no jumping! Just lie down and pretend like I'm a piece of floor. And check it out! a little piece of lettuce just fell on my head. Yep, puppy karma. Cool.

Ick. Time to go in the kennel. Man, the kennel is boring. Just me and a doghouse and chainlink and a bone. Pbleh. Guess I'll just hang out 'til Mom gets back from wherever she's going without me. Sheesh, what is she thinking?

Ooh, dinnertime! My favorite! I like it when I get dinner in the orange ball; that takes a long time to get all the pieces out and I get to chase it around. I'm pretty smart, though, and I get 'em out pretty fast. Mom says I need a harder ball, but I don't think they make one. That's how smart I am. And fast. Wanna see me catch that thing? Ow, that hurt! Oops, that was my tail.

No, Mom! Not tired! Not tired! Don't put me in the crate. Man, now I have to lie here and just, well, just chew this bone. Yummy. I like raw bones. I need more bones now 'cuz my teeth hurt all the time. Maybe that's why Mom's not playing tug as much as she used to? I thought she was just tired of losing. But I guess swinging off the floor wouldn't be as much fun now that my teeth hurt. Hope that's over soon so I can get back to winning.

/yawn/ Okay, night-night!