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


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.]