Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Am Not Dead

I have been informed that I have been a "slacker" for not updating the blog, but I plead the following:

1) I spent 3 weeks out of the country
2) I returned and spent 6.5 days in bed with high fever
3) I arose and celebrated Christmas with multiple households
4) I am presently trying to catch up from all of the above as well as
4.a) preparing to host a New Year's Eve party
4.b) completing new costumes for competition in the first week of January
4.c) preparing three panels' worth of information for lecture and discussion at the same time

Laev is getting some remedial heelwork, straightening her half-tracking heel, and a little bit of long down practice, as well as standard play, etc. Her regularly scheduled blog will return sometime in the second week of January. :-)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Video of Failed BH

You can see video of our failed BH routine here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Trial/Workshop Report, Day 3 (Sunday)

Well, never let it be said that I was too proud to post my humiliation....

Sunday's weather was supposed to be colder than Saturday (which had gotten quite cold by the end of the day) and chance of rain had dropped to only 10%. So much for the forecast; we watched tracking from beneath an umbrella and at least the good news was that it was possible to eyeball the track in the wet grass, if one lined up correctly. It was a drizzle, not a hard rain, but damp enough. :-)

Shakespeare tried on his track, he really did, but he walked over one article and cast hugely on the second and third legs. When he reached the article marking the end of the track, he happily picked it up and brought it to me -- a very nice article retrieve, except I've only ever trained an article indication and have never asked for a retrieve. I have no clue where that came from, but I laughed and thanked him and went to receive my critique. No, we didn't pass. I didn't really expect to, given the previous two days, so that wasn't too bad. I'd done the tracking to be well rounded and to take a shot at the title for him; this weekend was for Laev.

No dogs passed tracking, actually; even the dog trying for his SchH3 who had done so beautifully the previous two days failed after his second turn, just stopped tracking and couldn't restart. Scores for the day were 57, 51 (Shakespeare) and 10. Ouch!

We arrived at the trial field and I was told that Laev and I were first up for the BH. That was fine with me -- no waiting and no time to develop nerves! I pulled her from the car, aired her, and did a brief warm-up. She wasn't awesome in the warm-up, but she was functional, and we went to report to the judge. Long down first, he said, so we headed to the flag marking the down. Laev didn't seem to be minding the drizzle much (good dog!), but when I cued the down at the flag, she merely crouched; I walked away knowing we had no down.

Indeed, as I saw later by the video, Laev sat up almost immediately. I caught a glimpse of her in my periphial vision as I was watching the working dog and noted that she seemed awfully tall...! But if she stayed in a sit, we'd at least get partial points, so I just watched the other dog and waited. She did remain in the correct location for a long time, but finally she broke and began to wander and sniff. This was a first -- always if she's broken it was to run to me -- but I collected her and kept her beside me.

That was probably a good thing, after all, because a moment later, the working dog left his handler and started for us. This had never happened before and it got my attention in a hurry, because this particular dog has displayed dog aggression since about 12 weeks of age. The handler generally keeps good control of him, but when he left during the off-leash portion and came for us I expected an attack and a serious one at that. I grabbed Laev's collar and stepped in front of her possessively, hoping he wouldn't come through me to get her.

He didn't really care about me, but to my happy surprise he slowed and came in a non-aggressive manner, just acting like a pushy adolescent. He just wanted to shove his face into Laev's! But I didn't want that, either -- I'd never seen him make friendly overtures before and I didn't trust that nothing would happen -- and so I circled Laev, pulling her behind my legs as I moved, and I grabbed a handful of shepherd scruff and stiff-armed the two dogs apart. Laev was quite good for the first few seconds of his approach and then she decided that she'd had enough ("too much shepherd in my face!") and growled and threatened. Quite honestly, my pulling her about certainly didn't help, but given what I knew, I wasn't taking any chances of close contact. The other handler arrived and collected his dog, and I leashed Laev and moved away.

It would have been REALLY nice right then to take Laev away and let her blow some stream for a few minutes, but there is no down time here, and I had only the space between the honor down and the start of our heeling pattern to regain my dog. That space is supposed to be covered in "controlled heeling," but we did it in controlled bouncing and playing and happy talking. Hey, if he failed us for not heeling there, we weren't going to get it elsewhere without that moment of decompression, so.... /shrug/ But the judge said nothing, and when I reached the center line Laev dropped immediately into heel position and sat. Oh, I love this dog.

Her heeling was perfect. PERFECT. I had originally intended to smile as a conditioned reinforcer to Laev, but the smiling was very soon merely a reaction rather than a deliberate action. It was nice, just like it's supposed to be. My shoe came untied, but I just hoped I wouldn't trip; I wasn't interrupting this. Through the group, she was awesome, we turned and started off-leash. And then things started to fall apart.

The dog coming at us had rattled me as well as Laev, and I wasn't thinking quite as clearly, I suspect. I also suspect that I should have spent more time specifically planning my verbal and physical reinforcement between exercises, because I sure did skimp when I had my opportunities. Laev generally does better with tasks chained together rather than broken up with many reinforcements, but this is a long routine to go with no intermediate feedback, and I should have taken the time to chat with her between the group heeling and the center line again. Laev started to waver in the off-leash heeling but self-corrected mostly; I gave her a second cue only once. My leash slipped from my shoulder and around my waist, and I stepped out of it and kept going. My loose shoe began slipping in the mud, but I didn't dare stop to fix it, lest I break Laev's thin concentration. She held it together until we turned toward the honoring dog, where I got nervous.

The first time we passed the honoring dog, we were on-leash and Laev was brilliant, so I didn't sweat it. This time we were off-leash and she was shaky, and I decided to turn early to keep some extra distance between us, in case Laev eyeballed him. (After the incident a week before, when the offending dog turned toward us while Laev was down, her eyeballs popped and she got very tense.) So I turned and headed up the field. Laev went very wide on the about turn, self-corrected, and then caught up to me. I halted, and instead of sitting Laev dove into the ground.

I don't know what she found, but it was tasty. I think she was actually eating something. I took her collar and pulled her away, but she couldn't take her eyes off the spot. I eventually had to lead her by hand to the start point for the next exercise (and nearly kicked off my slipping shoe to work barefoot), where Laev left me twice to run back to the goodie spot. On our third and final try, Laev didn't leave me, but she moved beside me in a way that could not possibly be called heeling and then she failed the sit out of motion miserably. Zero points for that exercise and no chance at the down out of motion, either.

The judge's critique was short and to the point. "Excellent" he called the first half of our routine, but he said we began to lose control in the off-leash portion and that the dog sensed me becoming nervous (you think?! /grin/) and then failed.

We failed the BH. I don't even know how to comprehend that; we failed the BH, the entry-level temperament/obedience test. Ouch.

I wasn't alone, though. Not one dog passed anything that day. Seven failed BHs in all (no traffic test needed, so the trial ended an hour or two early), and no passing Schutzhund titles, either. It was NOT a good day for anyone. It wasn't that the judging was awful -- we just didn't have it that day.

It did make me wonder, though, why I'd ever thought it was a good idea to blog Laev's work and establish relationships with people from around the world who would want to know how we'd done. /grin/

A friend watching (whose dog also failed in another phase) wondered if there had been a cache of dropped hot dogs from someone who'd been training on the field early that morning before the trial. I don't know if that's the case or if Laev just found some droppings from a critter or who knows what, but I can announce this: We will be adding heeling over dropped food to our training repertoire. :-)

Trial/Workshop Report, Day 2 (Saturday)

Saturday was supposed to be the nice weather. It was supposed to get up to fifty degrees. Yeah, right.

Shakespeare tracked better than Friday, but it was still ugly. The judge had recommended that I practice moving up and down the tracking line behind him, but that freaked him out and he got frantic on the track. Ann (another working Dobe person I know from UDC, who had come to train today only) suggested I track him again and gave me some treats which Shakespeare was just crazy for to seed on his track. Shakespeare and I did three more tracks, and while he tracked very enthusiastically for Ann's food, he was so enthusiastic that he ran right over his articles. /sigh/ Oh, well; I'll take eager over accurate for tomorrow's trial.

Laev's was the second track I laid and the fourth I ran, and by the time I started her I'd forgotten my second corner. Consequently when she took it, I tried to block her, and she got frantic ("no! this has to be right! why don't you want me to take the track?") and tracked ugly. I'd also changed the way I had started her, asking for more attention to me instead of the track as we approached, and she was a little more frantic from the beginning. Her track wasn't nearly so pretty as Friday's, she pulled a lot and cast at the sides a little bit, and when I finished the track two people were discussing my equipment. "I hear you won't use a pinch collar," one said, in the tone of voice which might be heard from a gunfighter as he slaps his Colt -- "I hear you won't recognize a brand."

Nice. Yesterday she's great and gets compliments; today she's off and I'm using the wrong equipment and am not a good trainer. From the same people, no less. Sometimes it's better to just do what you do and not care about what others say. The problem is, I have zero confidence in my tracking training skills, so it's harder for me to brush off tracking advice.

For obedience, I planned to just classically condition the field as an awesome spot for Laev for tomorrow's trial. I took a clicker on the field with me (haven't been using a clicker for obedience for months, just reinforcing known behaviors, but I wanted one for practicing reporting in and decided that it couldn't hurt in the least for our routine) and clicked/treated frequently.

Laev held her long down under distraction really well, until I treated. I gave her a large food reward, which took her a little longer than usual to eat, and by the time she finished she'd apparently forgotten what she was doing. I replaced her and she held it again, so well that she didn't want to sit when I returned. Time to go back to the standard chain of down, return, sit, reinforce.... But we'll mess with that after the trial.

Laev worked really well in our moving exercises until we got to the moving down and recall (last exercise). She just couldn't get a moving down. She'd sit, she'd stand, but she didn't down.

Now, Laev has had a moving down since she was six months old. It was the only exercise about which I felt really confident when discussing the BH a few months ago. But I just couldn't get it on the field without a huge hand signal to the ground. Finally I made the conscious decision that Laev has done this correctly hundreds of times and incorrectly a few, and there was nothing to be gained by making a big deal over it the day before the trial, and we just quit. If she stopped in the wrong position during the trial, she'd lose points, but she probably wouldn't fail.

The judge had a lot of comments for other handlers, but none for me. I doubt that was because we were so perfect ;-) but probably because I hadn't taken his advice yesterday. Also, someone probably tipped him off that I wouldn't let him demonstrate on my dog, because he uses methods which I do not and I am fiercely protective of my dogs with other people handling. It would have been pure disaster if he'd tried to demonstrate stomping a leash attached to a prong collar on my dog who has almost never received a true "collar correction." I would not have been rude, but I wouldn't have let him work my dog, so it was probably just as well that he didn't offer. :-)

After 12 hours, we were done with Saturday's training and talking. On the way home, I stopped at a Petsmart for good distractions, and Laev hadn't been in a Petsmart in nearly a year. I bought some of the dog food roll Shakespeare had loved and I worked Laev briefly in obedience. She nailed every down out of motion I asked for. See, I knew she knew it!

Trial/Workshop Report, Day 1 (Friday)

The club had opted to spend two days in seminar/workshop and then trial on Sunday. I would have preferred to trial on Saturday -- I didn't think an extra day of training would make a significant difference one way or another, and I also had the purely personal motive of then having Sunday free either for church or for the APDT/CDSP trial an hour away. But my opinion didn't carry, which was fine.

We've been getting an amazing amount of rain this month, and our club field was completely flooded with inches of water, so we used a soccer field near our tracking fields for practice and the trial. We met the imported German judge at the tracking fields -- "Let us say not seminar, let us say we make dog training" -- and started our workshop.

Shakespeare's morning practice track was pretty lousy. This didn't surprise me greatly, because I'd really forgotten that I wanted to do tracking with him and had been focusing more on Laev, but I thought he'd do better than he did. He skipped one article and tried to skip another, and this is the only part of tracking he'd been really reliable on! What a great picture to show the judge. :-)

Laev's track was better (of course -- Laev's much better at tracking because I didn't goof up her training as much) and she actually received compliments from the judge and a visitor from another club who came to train and then trial this weekend. Nice.

The visitor from another club had brought a dog to try for his SchH3. He waited and laid a track over our used tracks, and when they ran the track it was very pretty indeed. The dog had earned his 1 and 2 earlier this year, and if he worked anything like he tracked, he'd have a 3 on Sunday. :-)

Tracking finished, we ate lunch and then headed to the makeshift trial field. Obedience was largely a chance to let people work through the routines and get suggestions or help if they wanted. When it was our turn (we work in pairs, to simulate trial conditions of one dog working and another honoring), I pulled Laev and went to practice reporting to the judge.

This was the second time for the club to practice on this field. I'd driven over once during the week to practice with Laev and let her see the place, but that was obviously solo. I was approaching with my eye on the judge instead of my dog, as he'd recommended, and I wasn't watching Laev closely. (No reason too, in my experience.) But apparently the act of going into a group with another dog was too near last week's experience, when one dog jumped another, and Laev decided to take preemptive action. She lunged at the Shepherd beside us.

I was stunned but caught her ("Oh," said Carol from the side, "so that's what those ears are for!"). I could barely believe it; I've not seen Laev aggress like that before. Still, there was no time to marvel at it, because the judge was coming to me and telling me to put a pinch on her for training.

Crud. Laev's never had a pinch on for obedience -- she uses a customized one for parts of bitework only -- and I was pretty sure that adding one for this would not fix the situation. She snarked because of stress, and adding stress to the situation might after a few ugly moments suppress the obvious behavior but wouldn't get me the long term fix I wanted. Still, here's a man we flew in from Germany for this weekend, who is going to judge me, who is German and probably expects that I will jump at his training advice (training directors there generally get fewer arguments than I give mine here!), and I am standing in front of my entire club and outsiders, with the dog who was indeed the problem in this situation. No pressure.

I stare at Laev for a moment, who is giving me good eye contact back, as trained. "I see you thinking," says the judge. "What are you going to do?"

"We're going to do that again," I said, "in this collar, and I'm not going to take my eyes off her."

The two teams reported to the judge again, this time with both my eyes on Laev. I reminded her verbally to watch me, and while we were speaking to the judge I shifted slightly, asking her to scoot forward, backward, sideways in heel position. When we'd finished our spoken protocol, I quietly told the other handler that we'd be moving first, and then I heeled Laev backward from the judge and other dog and moved away. Success! She never even glanced at the other dog. No trouble, no repeated mistakes, and no band-aided training that would have given me problems in the long run.

Laev's obedience was middling; she didn't look awful, but I know she can do better. I wanted to practice reporting in again but didn't really get a chance. I didn't want to insist and fret people about working their dogs next to one which had previously snarked; I can do it tomorrow.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

But Dobermans melt in water!

Today I was driving home when I noted a nice empty grassy field at a corner, the last holdout in a commercializing intersection, and I immediately changed lanes, turned, and pulled in to get a few minutes of practice with Laev in a new location. :-) I noticed first that Laev gave me very nice attention upon exiting the car, ready to get right to work; I noticed second that we haven't done much work at all around traffic, and it was a big distraction for her.

It's been raining for days here, and it's been a wet fall overall, and it was taking a break from actual rain to do a little misting while we practiced. We did a short routine of heeling, which was pretty decent, and then as I headed across the field I tried a sit out of motion. What I couldn't see in the long grass was the enormous deep puddle which we reached just as I cued the sit.

My shoes filled with water. Laev sat, but she gave me a dirty look. "Don't you know that Dobermans melt in water?"

Neither of my Dobes really dislike standing water (except that obviously sitting and lying down in it is ridiculous in their eyes), but they're not crazy about rain. I've tried to raise Laev so that she didn't regard precipitation as a terrible evil, and she will play tug in the rain with me, but apparently asking her to sit in the puddle violated some unspoken agreement and while she complied, I had better pay big for this one. I did. :-)

I did a couple of downs out of motion as well, and she crouched at first until I reminded her that she needed a full down in order to get a piece of cheese, after which she did sink into the lowest position of not quite smooshed into the wet that she could get. It looked like a down, anyway. :-) We moved to a different area and did a down with recall.

Everything was very short distance; I wasn't going to take her offleash beside two busy streets, even if she was giving me nice attention and working well. It takes only one mistake. I am, however, learning to look around unfamiliar fields before I train. :-)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bellyache, and Potential Trouble?

So the semi full of Bravo! Raw Diet came yesterday, and my husband set out 30 lbs on th porch for my sister to pick up. Last night, he (completely forgetting the food) let Laev out front. By the time he realized his mistake, Laev had eaten somewhere between 2 and 12 lbs of ground raw food -- on top of her normal supper.

At least with a raw diet I don't worry much about bloat, but even so, Laev looked positively like a bowling ball this morning. I didn't think she would track for food, but she did (TOTs in the footsteps, and cheese/hot dog bits for the article). A few minutes after I put her in the car, she puked it all back up. /sigh/

We practiced in a mock trial format today, tracking first (better for both Shakespeare and Laev, although I'm told I need to age Laev's tracks much more in order to slow her down more) and then obedience. Laev was still willing to work for food :-) but was a little slow for the toy, as if she for some reason didn't want to jump around a lot. /wink/ The weather was nasty -- a crazily unseasonable 60 degrees yesterday, and then today a miserable cold, wet, dark day. We were all saturated and freezing.

Three of us reported in to the "judge" at once, as for the trial, and while we lined up, one dog attacked the next. I immediately backed away and called Laev to me, reaching for treats and rewarding front position as I backed hurriedly away, swinging Laev between heel and front, but she was rattled by it. I don't blame her; she hasn't seen much of that, and she's only 18 months old -- it's hard to believe sometimes that she's still impressionable, but she's really not terribly mature in some things. I brought her back when things had settled and treated generously for holding eye contact while the offending dog was heeled about the group. She did it, but it was a little tough.

Then I went to put her in position for the honor down. The offending dog worked first, starting the heel pattern. The pattern is in the shape of a capital J, with the baseline and short upper stroke heeling toward the honoring dog. Laev broke the down as the team turned toward us and the two dogs made eye contact. I replaced her and when they came for their second lap, Laev broke again. This time I replaced her and stayed close, reminding her to down and hoping my proximity would give her some confidence, but she popped up from the down two or three more times before her turn ended.

We started our heelwork, and it was obvious that Laev was a little rattled. She stayed in heel position, but she just wasn't "on" like normal. It was a new field (our usual field was completely flooded with the weather change), but I felt her performance had more to do with the incident than the environment. Still I didn't hesitate to take her off leash for the second half of her pattern, and aside from a botched down out of motion (she gave me a sit instead), nothing was too hideous.

I took her back for another try at the honor down during the next dog's work, and she remained in place the entire time. Of course, that was the attacked dog, and not the attacking dog; the problem is, I'm pretty sure we'll be paired with the dog she's newly unhappy about for trial day. /sigh/ Just when I was starting to feel pretty confident about the BH, a new challenge....

I'll have to work my butt off this week, training in different locations and with big and slightly scary distractions, but not crossing the line into stressing the dog. Ick.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Discrimination & Links in a Chain

I started a new game with Laev tonight. Well, it's not totally new; we did some discrimination work with Kathy Sdao in May. But this was with new objects, and despite my intentions we'd done nothing to continue the original discrimination work we'd started then.

I wanted to try some color discriminations, so I cut two pieces of construction paper and tacked one to the wall. Blue. Then I stood near the paper and Laev and waited. She moved around, happened to turn toward the wall, and I clicked. While she ran after the tossed treat, I recalled that I knew perfectly well I could shape her toward the target, but it was equally valid to tell her what to do for the sake of time, since the lesson here was not in shaping or targeting but in discrimination. So I placed my index finger on the blue rectangle and said, "Touch," and Laev did. I clicked, treated, and waited. Laev immediately went back and touched the blue again. I love quick dogs.

So I moved back a few steps and clicked for touching the blue rectangle on the wall. Laev recognized that I was asking for something new and tossed a few other behaviors at me (down, spin) on her way to the rectangle after chasing down her tossed treat. I ignored those -- I thought -- and clicked for the next nose touch. Laev returned, spun, and touched. Returned, spun, touched. Returned, spun, touched.

Have I mentioned that Laev chains faster than any critter I've known?

I was laughing aloud and trying to decide how important it was to get a clean touch for this. It's not a competition behavior, it's just a discrimination for my own pleasure and practice, but I decided that it was worth doing cleanly anyway. As Laev spun the next time, I held up a finger to attract her attention and gently interrupted. She looked at me, hesitated a second, and then touched. I clicked and treated. Then she snuck over to the rectangle and touched again, looking as if she thought she was testing the limits. "Ha! Betcha I can sneak this in without spinning!" I clicked and treated. She touched again, and from that point we had no more spins.

We did this a few more times, and then I decided to add the cue. I held up the other blue paper and Laev touched it with her nose. (It was, after all, a blue paper rectangle, just like the one she'd been touching.) No click. I withdrew it, waited briefly, and held it up again. Laev turned and touched the paper on the wall about 6 feet away. Click!

We did this for a few minutes, clicking for touches when the cue was offered (I held up the blue rectangle) and not clicking for touches when the cue was not offered (the second rectangle behind my back). Laev was appearing to understand the cue, but she's not solid yet; she goes instantly when the cue is offered, but she doesn't wait if the paper is behind my back.

Enough of that; time to do something else. Sits and downs out of motion -- success! She nailed each one. I'm so proud; sits out of motion were tough for so long. But she can do it completely, even as I continue forward at the same pace, without hand signals, without looking back, without hesitation. Good girl.

Then I took the dumbbell and set Laev in heel position. We tried our first full formal retrieve; we've done only bits and pieces before now. Laev learned to pick up the dumbbell for a click, and then she learned to bring it to my hand, and then I started associating a cue. Separately she's learned to sit (and remain sitting) and to come to front.

"Sit." I threw the dumbbell. Laev watched it but did not move -- I'd quietly hooked a finger through the loop of her martingale to block reinforcement in case she wanted to pursue it, but I never felt pressure. "Good girl. Take it." She ran to the dumbbell, picked it up, and returned. "Good girl!" I clicked before she came fully to front and showered her with praise and treats.

Repeat: "Sit." I threw the dumbbell. It bounced across the rubber matting and landed against the wall underneath two bumping chairs. I treated Laev for waiting quietly. "Take it." She ran across the room, crawled beneath the chairs, took the dumbbell, and ran back to me. I clicked as she was beginning to sit in front. "Whee!" She knows her job! She could put all the pieces together on her own, without additional help in the middle, and she understands how to pick up the dumbbell even though it's hard to reach, even though she had to wait because the sit was in effect. Good girl!

Here's what I learned tonight:
  • Use previously learned cues to build new behavior. It's natural for me to want to shape the new target, but there's nothing wrong with using something she already knows.

  • Use careful treat delivery. In theory I already know this, but I didn't apply it tonight. The first time I saw her offer another behavior on the way back from chasing a thrown treat, I should have started treating immediately beside the target. But I know Laev enjoys chasing her treats, so I allowed her to make mistakes, and I chained something I didn't want.

  • I'm going to need something sturdier than paper rectangles for Laev. Even tacked to a wall and receiving only relatively gentle nose touches, paper is not going to stand up. I'm going to need colored cardboard.

  • A behavior chain is only the sum of its parts. Well, yeah, obviously! but it was neat to see that even though we've practiced only pieces of the final product, it was enough for her to understand the final product.


My plan is to add colors to our discrimination. I don't know how much effort I'll really put into this (shapes, color names, objects?) but it should be fun and it can't hurt anything. :-)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Title Cheat Sheet

Okay, I was prompted that I speak in a lot of industry lingo :-) so here's a cheat sheet for anyone who wants to know what we're about:

Dog Titles & Abbreviations

This obviously isn't all that's out there, but it's a sampling. :-)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Co-Blog

Laev has another blog now as well, on the new beta ClickerTraining.com site. Many posts will be duplicated, but others (clicker-specific) will appear only there. Please feel free to visit Laev there as well. :-)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Anybody Feel a Draft?

So Laev has figured out that if she leaps up at the front door, she can operate the thumb latch and push the door open, letting herself inside. This would be merely annoying except winter is starting here, and it's supposed to snow soon. I wonder if I can train her to shut the door behind her.... /grin/

We're Training!

Okay, so I confess, I don't feel ready for the BH. I know, Laev's 18 months old and they're "supposed" to be ready for the BH at 14 months, but.... I don't feel that we are. I would be glad to pass it, not totally confident that it was positively going to happen.

This is primarily for two reasons, and the biggest one is that honor down. Sheesh! Who decided that a dog should lie quietly while someone calls "Come!" and another dog runs to him? While the honoring dog's handler isn't even there facing the dog, a visual reminder that it isn't *her* handler which is recalling her?

And, we're still having trouble with that sit out of motion thing.

Laev's heeling is pretty, but we have to go through the entire pattern twice. That's something like 300-350 paces without R+. That's a long time for that kind of focus from a young dog; I'd rather have the gunshots back in the pattern and only heel once. Let's just do it offleash from the beginning!

But, I don't get to make the rules :-) so we're training for the BH. I took Laev to the car dealership today, while Alena had an oil change, for a little practice in the shop area; she was a little distracted by the sounds of the shop but never stopped working. Left heel position once, I think, and returned when called. I was pleased with that.

Then tonight I did some heeling and sit-out-of-motion with her before classes, and for the first time it looked like she was started to get it. She hesitated a few times, sitting slowly, and a few times she dropped toward a down and caught herself inches above the floor, but she was getting it more often than not. Maybe there's hope!

Then for my recall module, we had only one dog, a service puppy in training who needed work around distractions. Well, we had only one dog, so few distractions -- until I brought out Laev. :-) It was good for both dogs, working around each other, and finally I put Laev on a wall tether and we did recalls away from distractions (me offering free food) with the service puppy.

This was PERFECT for Laevatein. The tether didn't pin her in place, but it prevented her from moving forward if she broke her down while the puppy recalled to his own handler. Then, if she held the down, I could go to her while the puppy was being reinforced and I could reinforce her with lots of treats between her paws.

And it worked! She started holding her down nicely. There might be hope. Maybe. :-)

Very nice service puppy in training. I hope he does well!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

re Shakespeare :-)

Sunday, Shakespeare finished his ARCH title and his L1X. (How embarrassing -- I'd been focusing only on the ARCH and had completely forgotten to track his Level 1 legs toward the L1X! Fortunately someone else earned it on Saturday and that prompted me to review....)

ARCH is a Rally Obedience Championship. As Shakespeare is not going to have a MACH or an OTCH, we were quite happy to get this one.

Laev was to debut in Level 2 the same weekend, but she had the ill grace to come into season and I had to pull her. Next time!

FO UCD ARCH Shakespeare To Go CD CGC BH WAC TDI RL1-CL L1X RL2 RN ATT RL3

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why, Yes, My Dog CAN Count

Tonight we wanted to go back and do some simple backaways -- a scenario where the helper taunts the dog with the bite sleeve and finally allows a bite, reinforcing a particular physical and mechanical technique by the dog.

Laev loves this. She thrashed and strained in her collar while the helper teased her -- one pass, a second, and then he cued me on the third and I released her to the bite.

Very nice! We did it again, just the same.

The third time, Laev made little effort to reach the helper on his first and second pass, just a nominal lunge and barking. But on his third pass, she was more than ready for him.

So this dog, who spends her alert time in total berserker mode and rarely touches the ground (www.CaninesInAction.com/laev/laev-video.shtml), was thinking clearly and rationally to evaluate patterns and make cost-benefit analyses. I have always said that Laev chains faster than any dog I've ever met; the problem is, she often does it when I'm not looking for a chain!

Of course we promptly changed the pattern of our work. :-)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Video up.

I've created a page for some video of Laev. Enjoy. :-)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Video coming! and why smug doesn't pay

I just wanted to say that I have video from the last several sessions of training, and as soon as I get it rendered in a smaller format and compiled from two computers, I'll post. :-)

Today's humiliating learning experience.... Our phone was out, so a worker came to fix it. The phone box isn't far from Laev's kennel, where she was spending a few hours (I couldn't leave her loose in the yard with him and the open gate, and she didn't deserve to be kenneled inside, so she was doing laps in the kennel). Predictably, she barked at him. "Hey! Weird stranger touching our stuff! Hey!"

I walked around the corner. "Thank you, Laev. Good girl. He's allowed to be here."

Oh, hi, Mom. You're here? You're on this one? No problem. I think I'll trot along my fence, then.

I went back inside, feeling a little proud of her and of my training. (First mistake -- never get smug.)

A few minutes later, I put a treat in a Kong and left in it Laev's crate, thinking I'd bring her in from the kennel for a nap in the warmer house. I went outside as the serviceman was walking outside the kennel. Laev ignored him and sat for me to open the gate. I glanced toward the retreating serviceman and decided he was at a safe, non-distracting distance, and I opened it. Laev hopped out and started for the house door as usual. But she glanced over her shoulder at the serviceman.

Something deep in my brain panicked. "Oh, no! She's not paying attention to me!" I don't know why I even reacted; the worst that would have happened was that she would have jumped on him for attention, as I'm confident I could have called her back before she got to the open gate. And I *could* have simply said her name or taken a step toward the house myself; she was only looking. But I reacted unconsciously and leaned suddenly forward for Laev.

She caught my body movement and whipped around, ready for play. Wiggling with glee, she lunged upward and gave me an enormous hug, as many paws on my body as she could manage. I grabbed her -- again, reacting without thinking -- and she flailed with excitement. "We're wrestling! We're wrestling!"

So when the serviceman looked up, he saw a Doberman wrapped around my torso, thrashing and smearing mud. Good one.

I stepped back, disengaged, asked Laev to sit, and released her into the house. Sheesh. You'd think this wouldn't be so difficult for me.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Better Than Elemental Summons"

Sometimes your friends say things that tell you how it is.

I peeked in a live chat between friends. I think it went kind of like this....

ALICIA: "I say that even knowing I'll get elbowed in the ribs."
ALENA: "I can do better than elbows. LAEV, COME!!!"
ALICIA: "Garrgh"
ALENA: "Better than elemental summons."

Okay, so maybe Laev is a little... effervescent in her greetings. At least she's open and easy to read. :-)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sad News

Well, I think I'm finally ready to post about this.... This has been a pretty cruddy couple of weeks.

We were absolutely crushed just two weeks ago when Alena's splendid rescue dog Lucrezia was killed. Lucrezia was in her fenced backyard when Alena checked on her through the window. A half-hour or so later, Alena went to bring her inside and the dog was missing. Alena and I rode about the area on bikes, calling for her, but she was found just at the edge of Alena's front yard....

We were able to reconstruct what had happened pretty nearly, as the evidence was clear. An oppossum had come just outside the fenced yard and attracted Lucrezia's attention. We're guessing the possum played dead rather than retreating from the dog rushing the fence, as obviously it stayed there a while -- long enough for Lucrezia to completely dismantle the fence. I built this fence myself, a wooden picket fence backed with 2x2" welded wire to prevent dog noses or legs slipping through the pickets. Lucrezia completely removed SIX pickets and broke an additional THREE, and then she ripped and bent the wire until she could escape -- all without Alena ever hearing her bark. Apparently she was too high in her pursuit to even vocalize.... True predators don't bark to warn their prey.

She wriggled free of the yard, killed the possum and left it beside the fence, and then most likely took off across the yard to a favorite squirrel haunt. The squirrels like a tree just beyond a brushy extension to the road; Lucrezia would have burst around the brush into the street without anyone being able to see her coming. We're pretty sure she was killed instantly.

Lucrezia was a great dog. Alena and I couldn't believe she'd escaped the yard; she was always such a great respecter of boundaries. We'd literally drop a string across a threshold and tell her it was a gate, and she'd wait politely behind it. But an oppossum lying continuously outside her fence was apparently too much to bear.

A week later, my old horse Peppy took a sudden turn for the worse. He'd cut a tendon in the pasture five weeks before and was given only a 60-70% chance of living even after the surgery at Purdue; however, he seemed to recover just fine and everyone was thrilled. He never fully came back, though, and he returned to Purdue for a few odd symptoms that had nothing to do with the original injury. We'd tentatively decided on early symptoms of Cushings when he started having problems with his leg again, and in the end he seemed to have an infection in the tendon sheath. I didn't want his last days to be full of medical experimentation and stress, so we let him go last Wednesday.

Peppy was only 24, a young 'un as our last two horses were lost at 34 and 36. He was an accomplished show horse in his day, but he'd earned the right to serve as an equine lawn mower in his later years. He had so much personality and was so lovely to handle through his convalescence; even the Purdue staff loved and nicknamed him. It's hard to find horses like Peppy.

I've been a little hyper-protective of my critters of late; I walked out and closed the front gate before moving Laev from the kennel to my car, "just in case." The best training in the world can fail once, and sometimes once is all it takes -- Lucrezia had never in her life crossed a barrier, even one that was only a chalk line on the floor, before escaping Alena's yard that day.

Somebody said last week that Shakespeare was looking old. No, he's not. He's only six, nearly seven. That's not old. He's got years left. They should live forever....

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Clean!

Three sends to the blind today to start; all perfectly clean. Then we did obedience for the bite, requiring Laev to look at me (away from the helper!) to be alerted, then cued to sit, and she must sit to be sent to the helper. Very tough in the beginning, but today Laev was thinking a bit and she nailed all of her sits within three seconds or less (which would be an eternity if she were just working with me, but is not bad for literally dropping her out of the air while she's lunging at the helper and saying, "sit!" on her way down). We're going to whittle that down to a second or less, and then we'll add other cues to the mix....

I didn't start by asking her to look at me in the beginning, but I'm really glad that I'm doing it. If she can't even look at me, how is she going to listen while she's raging at the helper? And this will only improve her focus on me and her ability to hear and obey in heavy distraction. :-) Interestingly, it seems to be easier for her to sit quickly out of her frenzy, still looking at the helper, than to look away from the helper to me during the moment of quiet before I cue her to rev. That's okay; I just wait her out, and she's getting that looking at me starts the game.

But, she did quite well today, and I'm looking forward to playing with this. She's a quick little dog, and I think she'll be good at this. It's really good for me, too, as I have to give accurate feedback. Timing is everything!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cute Little Barks & Jaw Power

I have long held that demand barking will not be reinforced in my house. I just don't like it! But at the same time, I want the dogs to be able to communicate. If Laev needs out of her crate in the morning, for example, I want her to tell me that rather than wet the bed. So I carefully reinforced the quieter barks, so that now Laev has a very soft bark that communicates need, and I can safely ignore most loud barks which are just fussing and will end soon. :-)

Just now Laev, resisting a nap and trying to engage in *something* to prevent her from falling asleep, walked over, looked at me, and said clearly, "Mrap." It was a tiny little bark, barely worthy of the word, but a distinct vocalization. "Look, I want something, but I know that if I make too much noise, you'll ignore me." So I dutifully told her she was cute, and she thought that was nice, and then she fell asleep in a patch of sunlight.

Laev lost a little weight while we were out of town (lots of kennel pacing combined with suddenly cooler weather), and she was never plump -- her raw diet sees to that -- so petting her now is like slapping granite. She's all muscle! She has been, of course, but normally you can just see the outline of her ribs, and now you can actually distinguish them, so she needs 2-3 pounds. She will be happy to help with that, though. :-)

I gave her a handful of dry, hard treats in a Tricky Treat Ball this morning to occupy her and throw a few calories her way, and she was crushing it in her uber-jaws. I can compress it if I use two hands, but sheesh! I couldn't possibly palm it and crush it. Then later I put a few biscuits in a Kong Stuff-a-Ball, and wow! she can crunch that, too! Scary. I guess I should be surprised, since I routinely swing her off the ground with her tug, but it's just impressive to see it another way

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Energy!

Yesterday I was driving home from a private lesson, just trashed. Tired. Fighting a cold. I really, really wanted a nap. But when I pulled in, I saw Laev in her kennel, bored out of her mind because I'd been gone.

Guilt.

So I pushed back the nap and took Laev and a toy out to the agility field. We tugged, she ran, we played with a tunnel and a jump. I went back to the teeter she hasn't seen in a few months and re-taught it, using only a tug toy as reinforcer (no click, just a verbal marker, and no food). We played some more.

I never got my nap before my next class, but she shared some of her energy with me and I did okay. :-)

Tonight's dinner was funny. I was prepping the dogs' buckets and asked them to lie down. Two complied, but for some reason Laev didn't want to lie down in the kitchen, but kept circling around the island. I asked nicely twice; no response. So I fed the older dogs right there in the kitchen. (Inky made a mess of the floor, but that's a small price to pay for training.)

Laev panicked. "They're eating without me! Where's my food?" She rushed into the kitchen, looked at the other dogs, circled, and finally looked at me. I cued a down. She did, staring worriedly at the disappearing food, and then back at me. I rewarded by cuing, "Kennel!" and she ran to get in her crate for dinner.

Silly dog will down more quickly next time. :-)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Squirrel. Jeep. Bad.

So I walked out this morning and noticed something hanging from beneath the front end of my car....

It wouldn't need a Prince Humperdinck to track what had happened. Apparently a squirrel or similar prey had tried to take refuge within the underbelly of my Jeep. Laev (or theoretically one of the other dogs, on their turns out in the yard, but I strongly suspect Laev) had attempted to remove it by ripping out the mud shield from beneath the Jeep. At least two pieces had been shredded completely off, and the main shield was half-removed from the car.

In addition, the entire hood and the lower windshield was liberally smeared with pawprints and scrapes, where a dog had checked for an entrance from above.

I crawled under the car and replaced the remaining mud shield, and I suspect the paw prints will wash off easily, and I'm hoping there aren't any really serious scratches in the paint. If there are, well, I already own a bit of touch-up paint. I didn't see any squirrel bits, so apparently it went out the other side. Sheesh!

Friday, August 25, 2006

update

Well, I've been slacking in posting for a while, but we're still working!

Laev was getting over the top on her blind searches and getting dirty in the blind, so we've dropped back to clean hold and barks, increasing distance again so that we'll be able to combine that with the searches. Right now the protocol is that when she cheats or attempts to cheat, I remove her from the blind (she's on a long line) and start completely over again. No "corrections" which then allow her to continue toward the end reinforcement; all that does is teach her to take a few collar hits and go on without thinking.

She's also getting a bit better at calm holds and cleaner (but far from perfect) outs on the field. She's much better at holding nicely after a good hard fight than a quick slip of the sleeve, so we're making sure to make her work to win it!

In other news, she's having a hard time with the moving sit. Moving down? No sweat! She's great at that. But the moving sit is really tough; we keep getting either a stand or a down. I need to find a way to break that down into a smaller learning piece, but it's not working yet.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hand to Forehead -- With Vigor

Well, today was another Schutzhund workshop day, and we were out at the training field for about 8 hours. (The club is meeting again tonight, but I have a birthday celebration to attend.) Laev is getting dirty in the blind, and attempts to fix it today were not totally successful; she has a very strong opposition reflex and collar pressure sends her forward, so collar pops produced a messy solution at best.

And then on the way home, I had the classic forehead-slap moment.

Laev's entire training has been based on, "get it right and be marked/reinforced for correct behavior; get it wrong and try again." The very fact that she was allowed to continue the behavior (the hold and bark) after the dirty attempts indicated to her that she was correct -- and indeed, the bite at the end of the hold and bark reinforced the entire CHAIN of dirty snap and then clean hold and bark.

I'm so stupid. This is what comes of trying to make decisions on the fly rather than planning in advance. I of course can't see from across the field that she's being dirty in the blind, so when others did and offered to take the line to keep her clean, I went with it. I didn't take time to think through a training plan.

I do need to teach her that she can work forward while wearing the prong; that confused her during the blind search today. But I'll also be trying to interrupt and restart dirty holds, and we'll see how that goes. I'll bet it's a significant improvement.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Found this photo

I found this while browsing through pictures of the UDC Nationals this past April. This was taken during the SAR aptitude evaluations.

I absolutely love this shot, because at firs glance it looks as if Laev is lying down beside me while helper Mike approaches with the toy. But look closer....


Laev got very nice comments on her evaluation form. :-)


"I won! I won the toy! I'm taking it back to Mom now!"

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Blind Search

Laev did her first blind searches today. :-) I've worked briefly on going around an object and returning to me, but she's not really fluent at it. She had enough of the concept, though, to figure it out this morning, as I set her up beside the #5 blind and sent her around it, where I immediately sent her all the way across the field to blind #6. (Schutzhund fields have 6 blinds; the helper is always in #6.) Watching Laev book it across the field at Mach 7 is quite fun! if I don't have to be right behind her to take her after the bite. /laugh/ We have a large Schutzhund field; it's my exercise program!

There were only three of us present at training today, so no gates to help at the blind. She hasn't needed them for a while, but it's still a big picture change. So our helper has a plexiglass shield he could use to keep her from getting a successful bite, and it was kind of fun to watch her work that out. "I want the bite! Give it to me, darn you! Grr! Give it!" (She bit at the shield; she whacked it with her paws.) "Fine! Barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark!!" And she was rewarded with a bite. :-)

The second time we started a little further back, though she wanted to look over her shoulder to #6. But she did it correctly. The third time we did it even further.

The fourth time, now directly behind blind #5 as opposed to beside it, she tried to cheat. She knew, of course, that he was in #6, and why on earth would any sensible dog run around the empty blind in front of her instead of going directly to where she knew the bad guy was? Really? I mean, humans have such stupid ideas of fun games! So she ducked out as I sent her and ran toward blind #6.

We knew this was likely, of course, so we had her on a long line running loosely to a person standing just past blind #5. A correct blind search means Laev never feels the long line and then drags it at high speed all the way across the field, but an attempt to cheat means that the line tightens and she can't get more than a couple of feet behind me.

I sent Laev again, and she tried to cheat again. Man! Stupid humans!

The next time, she played by the rules she knew worked, even if they were dumb, and she got around that blind in record speed and across the field. Way too fast for anybody to be moving in this kind of heat and humidity! But I caught up in time to see her earn the bite.

All told, the day's reps were 3 successful, 2 cheats, 2 successful.

I need to review our training plan a bit, though; it's obvious that she does not find the calm sleeve-holds and outs to be reinforced, because they're degrading terribly on the field. And indeed, almost every time she wins the sleeve and holds it as asked, she is then asked to out it and we drag her away from it. Not good! and that's obviously why she has a 99% reliable out anywhere off the field and a mediocre out on the field.

The problem is, traditional Schutzhund training relies strongly on that frustration in the dog ("darn it! that was my sleeve! I want it back!") to build strength into the next behavior (another blind search followed by a hold and bark), so we need to be creative in finding a way to reinforce the calm hold and the out without losing that intensity.

Tracking this morning STUNK. As in, Laev was more interested in my right foot than the start of the track, she skipped most of the food on the first leg, and she didn't want to play at the end, just wander and sniff after a desultory tug. In good news, she didn't go more than a foot or so off the track and she did very nice article indications, but it was a long way from what I want it to look like.

DPCI club picnic this afternoon. We decided to make a bid to host the 2008 Nationals. I think we'll be busy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Laev's a Nut

Saturday was odd. On her second session, Laev ran past the blind *twice* instead of going to the helper for a hold and bark. What? I could not even conceive of such a thing! That would mean she wasn't heading directly for the helper and the sleeve. What the heck?

So we did a rep where Randy peeked out of the blind and stimulated her a little (that means he made some noise and movement, so that she knew he was there and ready to play the game) and then she was sent directly to a bite, no holding first. Then she did a perfect repetition on the fourth time, which you can see below.

Of course, I didn't get any video of the first session, in which she gave perfect rep after perfect rep. Of course.

hold and bark video

Monday night, she did not repeat the mistakes of running by the blind, so I don't know why that showed up just randomly. Weird.

And here's a little photo essay of what a hold and bark looks like, for those who don't want to download the video:

Laev comes skidding into the blind....

...the barking begins....

...and usually involves bouncing while vocalizing....

...and finally the helper moves and she may bite.

The gates are still present in case they're needed, if she forgets to "hold," but she's doing much better. They'll be faded out soon.

After bitework we did water retrieves; Laev was TERRIBLY distracted by the German Shepherd pups working on either side of her and really didn't do as well as I'd expected. Okay, she's never done water retrieves before, but still! she was just really, really into barking at the other dogs as they jumped and splashed and ran. Something I'm going to have to work on, I see.

After all that, Laev was tired. How tired? Well, here's something you'll probably never see again....



That's a french fry lying next to her muzzle. She was so out, she didn't notice when we dropped a treat into each crate. Wow!

And just how tightly do Dobes coil? My friend Bev says any Doberman can fit in a bushel basket, but I think they can go smaller yet. My car crates are 36" x 21" and here's Laev asleep on the way home:



Note that she's lying across the short side of the crate, just 21" wide. This is why people give me odd looks when I'm buying mid-sized crates and houses for my large dogs!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Anytime, Anywhere

Well, okay, this is actually just on my front porch when Jon and I came home late from a wedding. But this picture makes me laugh.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Back to Work

I was out of town for a week (family reunion), but Laev was happy to welcome me home. Today my afternoon session was canceled, so I took Laev to the great room for some shaping.

First, I pulled a tower of rolling file crates into the center of the room, and we worked on going around them. This is something that I should have taught months ago but have been lazy about; eventually it will turn into a blind search behavior and a useful agility send, but for right now, it's a cute trick involving the stacked file crates in the great room. Laev caught on quickly for a right-hand turn about the tower (what I want for a blind search) and I was able to get distance up to 10-12' with no problems. Then I started to add a temporary cue ("go") and a hand signal, which will eventually be refined to "revier" and a smaller hand signal. Then, pushing my luck, I started discrimination in asking for right-hand OR left-hand turns, differentiated by my using an alternate hand and angling my own body to make the correct choice easier. She was getting a high rate of success, but I was giving a lot of body help and it was a lot to ask, so I dropped that after a short time.

Then I moved the tower away and scooted my chair elsewhere in the room, so that we had a different environmental picture, and I started to shape a bow. When, oh when am I going to learn that I should be videotaping this stuff? It was just incredible to watch her think about what I clicked -- at first she kept offering spins and searched for a target, but I clicked for pausing in her wandering or for a lowering of her head. Quickly that became clicking for bending of elbows, and *then* the brain started working, and she experimented with lowering the head, bending elbows, lying down, facing different directions while doing all of the above, etc.

It wasn't totally smooth -- she gave me a number of nice bows but only in certain directions, due to superstition. She faced me and lay down too quickly for me to click the front end movement only, so no click. She puffed air, stood and faced the couch, where she bowed -- click. After that, every time she didn't get a click, she'd give me a perfect repetition while facing the couch. :-) Eventually, though, she was starting to figure out that she could do it in any direction.

We don't have a cue yet, but within 5 minutes she was giving me repeated full bows. I really love this clicker stuff. She's learned a little more about how to think through what I'd like to see and evaluate feedback, so further training and real life will be simpler. I really, really love this clicker stuff. And now she's taking a lovely nap in her crate, all tired from thinking so hard. I really, really, really love this clicker stuff. /grin/

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Self-Control, and Why We Need More of It

Jon and I arrived home late tonight, after a wedding. The dogs were rather emphatic about the fact that dinner was coming several hours late. Shakespeare and Inky lay down immediately in the kitchen, but Laev was having a hard time staying in position. So I fed Shakespeare and Inky immediately in the kitchen :-) and asked Laev to give me a down while they ate. Nope, couldn't do it. Shakespeare and Inky went down to their crates with an extra treat while I tried Laev in an empty kitchen. Nope, couldn't do it. She was so wired about dinner that she was having a hard time controlling herself and kept popping up to look for a cat in the next room, or to start for her own crate down the hall, or to listen for the other dogs' noises, or to move toward my husband's voice, or....

I occasionally use an NRM to mark incorrect behavior (better to let her know as she moves that she's already blown it, rather than waiting for her to run down the hall and wait in her crate for a minute before realizing that I'm not coming) and began using it here. (Obligatory trainer's note: an NRM is an advanced concept and not something I recommend for novice dogs or handlers; it's awfully easy to turn it into P+, which can actually slow down training. Sorry, my instructor's brain won't let me skip that!) Laev got about six in a row, which is WAY higher than I'd ever consider acceptable in a training session, but at least it was coming later each time. My goal was for her to lie quietly while I banged her feed bucket and walked toward the hallway and while Jon and the other dogs made noise down the hall in the feeding area. :-)

She finally got it -- I started for the hall and got to the point where I could see just the tip of her tail wagging behind the kitchen island. I praised quietly (conditioned reinforcer and keep-going signal) and then released her. She launched like a rocket around the island, around the great room and down the hall, careening off a couple walls as she navigated into the bedroom and slammed into her crate. But she got dinner!

And it really worked her brain, too. After eating she immediately lay down quietly and then fell asleep after a few moments, with not a single bark for her usual post-meal bathroom break. Wow.

Obviously, though, I need to go back and spend a lot more time on holding a position in distractions. She *almost* had a sit-stay while guests came in last Thursday, but she finally broke just a second or two before I released her; she was able to do it the second time, but that's not quite good enough. :-) I need to be more diligent.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Focus

Rally class today, with a lot of Excellent/Level 3 signs. I ran Laev through once, with passing fair results. She just seemed a little... distracted. Not even looking at other things, but just kind of slow and unfocused.

When it was our turn again, I asked for lots of noise and movement outside the ring. The class obliged, with running dogs, clapping, loud talking, barking, etc. Laev actually did *better* this time, and I kept the rate of reinforcement very high for correct behavior (no lures, nope! just rewards). I lost her twice; oonce she turned when a dog and handler went by the ring gate while playing with a mobile phone, and the second time when Alena went running down the length of the ring with Laev's most favoritest tug toy and banged it hard on the ground (one of my ways to fire her up). Both times she came right back when prompted, though I could tell it was tough to ignore that tug toy! But she did quite well, and I was very happy.

Her left pivots and turns are starting to look really good! I'm so pleased with that, since it's all entirely shaped.

Laev is still severely handicapped by a lazy handler. We need to be doing a lot more tracking than we're doing, and a little extra obedience in other locations wouldn't kill us, either. Bad trainer.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I Love It When A Training Plan Comes Together

Okay, last night, it was all good. :-)

Laev's first protection session consisted of only four repetitions. I'd stated that "correct" meant she put no paws on the gate (closed first rep for review, open for all others) or the helper. I was going to let her stop herself entirely, giving her no collar help. I was a little dubious about the coming session, because she was absolutely *wired for sound* and very, very, very eager to work, so I didn't know if she could exhibit the self-control necessary for the hold and bark.

Laev's first try was to run around the blind and hit the gate with a paw, but she immediately realized her mistake and self-corrected before I could even tighten the long line. We completed the rep by allowing her to hold and bark and then giving her a bite; this had the potential for creating an unwanted chain of "touch and off and bark," but I thought I could see her thinking and gambled that she remembered that touching wasn't part of the behavior.

Repetitions two, three, and four were flawless. FLAWLESS. Just beautiful. No paws, no jumping on the helper, no dirty bites, just a fast run in, a beautiful hold just in front of Randy and strong barking. Randy was very good about rewarding quickly with the sleeve to reinforce this awesome behavior. We quit after the fourth rep because, well, why push it?

For her next session, we added even more distance (she's now about 20-25' behind the blind). We had the helper in the blind, two club members working the gates (little to "work," now, but they're on standby to close the gates between her and the helper if she gets dirty), Alena holding Laev's collar so I could send her from a distance while I myself handled long lines from the opposite side of the blind, and one more person to track success rates. When I sent Laev the first time, she tried to go around the opposite side of the blind -- we think she was confused by seeing Randy's shadow on the fabric blind in the artificial lighting -- and then ran around to the front. Later during the session, I took off the long line to the prong at Randy's suggestion, because I don't use it to slow her anymore anyway (she's not trying to break her neck on the leather, and the prong will actually push her forward if used to hold her at the blind) and she doesn't need the stimulation (she already is more than happy to bark strongly at the helper).

Nine reps, this time, and seven very good. Her two mistakes were one jump on Randy and one dirty bite to the sleeve. Her dirty bite, a product of excitement, resulted in me instantly hauling her backward, hand over hand on the line to her padded leather collar, while Laev screamed her frustration and tore out chunks of earth. "Do you think she knows what she did wrong?" asked one of the gate-holders, as I handed Laev off to Alena to send from a distance again.

"Yeah, she knows exactly what it was," Randy answered.

And Laev did. Powered even higher now because of the frustrated last effort, she zoomed around the blind and reached for the sleeve -- and caught herself, without any help from the line or Randy, and began barking with only a slight nose bump to the sleeve. "Good save!" I cheered, as Randy gave her a bite. Yippee!

So she *is* thinking in there! Even in overdrive!

One thing that I really love is that while someone else is holding her collar, ready to release her to the blind, Laev is looking at me. Most dogs focus on the goal, straining toward the helper; Laev looks at the blind and then looks at me, because even though her mind is clearly running along the lines of, "Oh please, please I want him so bad, I want that bad guy, please, let me have him," she recognizes that the way to *get* him is to have me send her. And so her focus is on me. I'm not sure if that's ideal from a performance perspective, though right now I don't see how it could hurt, but from a perspective of her attitude, I could not love it more! She is actively thinking and wants to trade some behavior for what she wants. Yay!

I've got to do more tracking with her, with lots and lots more turns, but at least some part of this stuff is firming up in a good way!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Behavior Geek

(Warning: This is about me and only tangentally about Laev.)

Okay, so I've always admitted I'm way into this behavior stuff. Behavior analysis is my business and my hobby. But I didn't realize exactly how bad I was.

I have to re-certify for my CPDT this year, the initials which say I passed the first national certification program for trainers (with a 95%, if anyone besides my mom cares). I needed to accrue 36 Continuing Education Credits in the past three years to recertify without testing. That's 36 hours of specific CCPDT-approved education.

Sitting next to me, I have documented evidence of 189.75 hours, and I haven't even collected all of my CEU forms yet. That does not include an entire ClickerExpo (another 20 CEUs) or any of the other seminars I haven't dug up the paperwork for yet.

In addition, my husband asked about the other seminars I've attended that were not specifically pre-approved for CEUs. I told him I could apply for credit from those, but it's probably not worth the time it would take me to do the paperwork. :-)

Laev has been to only a few of these seminars, and only one for which I myself earned CEUs (that was the Kathy Sdao Advanced Clicker Training workshop, which was fabulous), but she'll be racking up some more miles with me in the future. Wow. She has a geek for a partner.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Laev's Busy Day

We started with a Rally class this morning. We attend a small class (all Dobes!) every two weeks. Laev did well enough in the class, but when we went to the next ring to play on the agility equipment, she did the teeter and then freaked out about it -- something I never saw even when she tried it for the first time -- and refused to remount it. I took her to the dogwalk, and she refused that, too. "Equipment is scary! It moved under me! It might eat Dobermans!" And I've almost never seen this dog frightened.

Ah, adolescence. I guess it really is hitting her!

We hit Petsmart on the way home, for discount days. I bought a huge stockpile of treats for the coming months. I carried most of them in when we arrived at home, but my arms were full and I left one bagful in the car for a later trip. I also left Laev outside, but my Jeep windows were 2/3 up and I was going to be in the house only 15 minutes before leaving for a private lesson.

When I came out, I found Laev in my car. She had leapt up and somehow squeezed through the window and into the driver's seat, where she had torn open two bags of Charlie Bear treats and eaten about two pounds of dry treats.

I loaded her and Shakespeare into their crates and went to the private lesson (also a Doberman -- it was a thematic day!). Laev showed no trouble, but when we went to our new agility we started tonight (where she and Shakespeare were the only Dobermans), she was sluggish and standing a little funny, so I put her away partway through class. I should mention, though, that she was still anxious to work for those exact same treats of which she had already eaten two pounds! Because Sym and I were able to work her up and over the dogwalk with them, until Laev was trotting happily over the equipment just like she used to. ("Oh, yeah. I'm an adolescent and I'm supposed to freak out suddenly at things and then remember that they're not really so scary.") All for Charlie Bear treats. That's when I noticed her starting to move a little funny, as if her stomach hurt, so we stopped working her. I kept an eye on her and rationed her water intake to reduce risk; because she eats raw, I didn't want her to binge on water after so much dry food and bloat.

Nutty dog. No, she didn't get a full supper tonight!

Schutzhund workshop

This weekend our club did an intensive training workshop, tracking in the morning and then working protection and obedience in the midday and agility in late afternoon. It was also an intensive workout for the handlers! as I had two dogs to work multiple times each. Sunday, we also used Laev as the barking dog in a puppy circle, so that was two extra sessions for her and me -- totaling five protection sessions on Sunday alone. We're tired!

At least, *I* am tired. Laev was totally fine by Monday morning.

Anyway, the weekend's sessions showed Laev's hold and bark achieving a new success rate high of 88%, according to my recorded data. That includes varying the angle and distance of approach and opening the gates partway instead of having them totally closed. Huzzah!

That also demonstrates the need for a Schutzhund *club* as opposed to training at home; we had one helper in the blind, two people working the gates myself on the dog's lines (sometimes someone else will handle the lines, necessitating another person), one person sometimes holding Laev's collar so I could send her from a angle other than where I stood, and a person tracking my data. Whew!

Laev absolutely stops better on the leather than on the prong collar, now that she knows the collar is a cue to stop. I think the prong stimulates her to jump the gate for the helper! She also works better on light pressure rather than on strong; because I've never relied on collar and leash to control her, she has no punishment callous and can think through light contact rather than needing heavy (and stimulating) pops on the leash. She still has more conflict on the outs than I'd like, but we're working on that. It was better this weekend.

Most of the club does not pursue agility competitively, so we didn't do a lot of that, just some jumping courses. Laev is something of a klutz in her jumping (she isn't sure if she should be watching me or not and so jumps awkwardly) but that will change with experience. She did stay with me around the course, which was nice. :-)

Her tracking, after being so wonderful the previous weekend, was sloppy on Sunday. Ugly start, frantic on the track itself, and skipped articles. Shakespeare was the same way, though, and I haven't seen him miss an article in six months! I can't say why that was so.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sunspots

Right now Laev is lying on my bedroom floor. A few minutes ago, she carried her toy into the sunny spot by the window and, after struggling for a moment with inner conflict, lay down. This is important because it's one of the first dozen or so times that Laev has settled herself in the house without me having to artificially settle her (crate, mat, chew, etc.).

That sunspot crash didn't last too long, and she got up to go raid the kitchen trash. I heard her and went after her, replacing the trash and directing her to another toy. We petted a moment in the kitchen, and then I returned to the bedroom and the computer, and Laev wandered around the bedroom, looking for a soft spot but definitely *not* sleepy. Never sleepy. She finally chose the rug beside the bed and chomped a toy for a while before gradually rolling onto her side....

Oops! Inky just barked outside, and Laev left to check that out. Still, that's pretty good for a dog who's never been able to let herself just stop. Even as a tiny puppy we used to laugh ourselves sore at her, because she'd fight falling asleep so very, very hard.

By the way, Laev has finally gotten the idea of swinging her hindquarters around behind me for left turns. We haven't practiced it a lot, but I was actually getting left 90- and 180-degree pivots in the great room on Tuesday night. Yay!

Oops! Another trash raid. Laev has now been busted to her crate for a (obviously needed) nap.

Thinking Dogs :-)

Saturday, while practicing the hold and bark before the gates in the blind, Laev was experimenting. She really wanted those gates to open! and she knows she's supposed to offer behavior to make reinforcement happen. So in front of the gates she kept barking intensely, as we want, but also shifted positions from sit to down to sit, angling right, angling left, creeping right, creeping left, down, sit....

"Oh, no!" I can hear some cry. "She's not learned reliable behavior!"

To the contrary, she's in the process of learning very reliable behavior. She's asking questions -- is this part of it? is this? will this help me? how about this? -- and getting answers. We were simply careful to open the gates or give bites only when she was sitting directly in front of the helper and barking strongly.

That was Saturday. On Monday, the variability was gone. She had her answer -- sit in the center and bark your brains out! -- and there was no reason to try anything else. If anything, she'll be *more* reliable in the future.

I am keeping data on our hold and bark training. So far it's interesting to see that the leather collar actually stops her at the gates more reliably and with less pressure than the prong. That is contrary to everything the club has seen, but I attribute it to the fact that the prong is a stimulation tool and it makes her *more* determined to reach the sleeve, not less. The leather, on the other hand, is just a physical block and she has no reason to get jazzed about fighting it.

By the last rep Monday night, I didn't use any line pressure at all to stop her at the gate. So the light bulb is flickering, even if it's not on yet. :-)

I don't like where we are with outs, however. Laev is very much in conflict about the outs, wanting to hang onto the sleeve. I want to do more trades, dead sleeve for live, but Randy worries that this will teach her to release the sleeve too quickly. (I don't really understand this -- a quick fast out off the tug does not cause mouthiness while she plays with me -- but I'm not the expert.

Randy says not to worry, that we can always clean up the outs later -- which is true, if I am relying on using compulsion. But I'm trying to be smart enough and plan ahead enough that I won't be. :-)

Someone else pointed out that I might be asking her to hold the sleeve for too long before outing her; I'll try shortening the holds and see if that makes a difference.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Tracking, BSL, and Hold & Bark

Today's track went very well! I'd been something of a slacker, having given the dogs a tracking vacation, but today we resumed in a new field. I not only placed articles but dropped treats in occasional footsteps, making the track itself reinforcing as well as the articles and, I hoped, slowing down my little manic tracker puppy who would love to do the entire track at a controlled run.

It worked; Laev slowed herself down without help from me, and she overshot her corners by a foot or so instead of six. She also, for the first time ever, I think, downed on every article without any reminders from me. Why, yes, I did make that worth her while. :-)

In an interesting coincidence, the school lawn we were using for our tracks had a woman walking across it while I laid tracks. Oh, well, I thought; just a cross track. But it turns out that she was laying a TDX track for a friend! I've never bumped into another tracker, ever. How fun! And so we talked.

As most of you have probably detected :-) I am pretty adamant against BSL (breed-specific legislation). It should be absurdly obviously that phenotype does not determine behavior, and outlawing certain breeds or types of dogs because they are "inherently dangerous" is first unfair to all dog owners and second dangerous to the public, as it creates the idea that somehow all the remaining legal breeds are "safe."

Anyway, this tracklayer and her friend had Goldens, and they brought up the subject of breed discrimination. Yep, them, not me -- see, I was being restrained! I was very glad to hear that they were not biased on the basis of breed -- they said right off that it was breeding and training, not breed itself, which created or prevented problems. (We've had two awful and high-profile cases of dog bites this week locally. One toddler lost an eye in the attack -- but it was the *fourth* reported bite for this particular dog and owner. Why did it ever even get to this point? We don't need laws banning the breed, we need to enforce the vicious dog laws already extent!)

But even though these two experienced dog people knew that breed did not determine behavior or danger, it was sad to note how many discriminatory phrases were used in the conversation, simply because they have (I'm sure) never thought about it. Things like, "The kids were scared of my dog because she was big, and I said, It's okay, she's a Golden," and "I saw one of those attack dogs, you know, that breed that was in California." The first implies that Goldens are inherently safe (not true) and the second that the breed in question was inherently "attack dogs" (also not true).

Language is vital, and it's so easy to create an impression without thinking about it. For me, it's necessary to specify that not all small dogs are yappy and nipping, something that is easy to imply if I'm telling stories without paying attention. :-) For others, it's easy to say, "Mean dogs like Rottweilers and pit bulls" or something similar. But if we want to keep the legal right to have dogs -- all dogs -- we need to be careful that we're not giving any reason that we shouldn't.

Back to Laev. So then we worked on the hold and bark again. The data sheet shows a success rate of 60% and 40% for my defined criteria for our two sessions. My impression is that she actually stops herself better if I let the gate do it or just bump the leather collar, that bumping the prong actually drives her forward into or over the gates (not unusual, since the prong collar was designed to stimulate a dog rather than inhibit it! and now it's commonly used for a completely different purpose and usually poorly).

We varied angles, distances of sending, etc. Laev started strong on the second session and actually got worse as time passed; I think she was getting tired and hot and less capable of truly thinking. It was hot and humid today, the first really of the season after a very stormy spring, and the dogs weren't prepared to handle it yet. Laev carried the sleeve back and dove under the car with it -- "Shade!"

We'll see if the hold and bark continues to improve, but I think this gate bit is working far better already than using the lines alone. She just had to see the gate in the blind, one more step, to connect that the revier in the open is the same as the revier in the blind.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shaping "Spin"

So I brought Laev out tonight and started shaping, clicking for head turns to her left. I wanted to get a spin counterclockwise. But Laev has been clicked for many targeting behaviors, and she was convinced she was supposed to be interacting with something in the room. The two or three clicks I got in didn't really mean anything to her. Finally she spotted a blanket on the floor behind her (because I'm a lousy housekeeper) and turned toward it.

!click!

Laev froze mid-step, her head cocked over her left shoulder and tail up. Hmm. What was this click for? Because I use a click as an event marker rather than as a keep-going signal, it interrupted her concept of the reinforceable behavior and replaced it with mine!

I tossed the treat; Laev ate it. She faced me, looked confused, and turned again toward the blanket behind her.

!click!

Oh, huh. The click has something to do with being *here* and not with the blanket at all!

Laev ate the treat I tossed and very carefully turned to her left, looking at me. Yes!

We didn't get a real spin right away; it started with a lot of smallish circles, and of course she didn't really understand what I was clicking for yet. But her body was going through the motions, even if she couldn't yet distinguish all the details I wanted.

Enough of that, I thought. I put down the Simon & Huey's treats and picked up a bag of kibble and similar items. Laev was looking frisky, so I threw a toy and clicked when she bucked her way back, killshaking it. Within a moment or two I had her bringing the toy back with a calm hold. I clicked for the hold; I'll worry about adding the formal give later.

After a number of reps, Laev dropped the toy and fussed for a moment in front of me. I waited, willing to throw the toy again when she was giving me good attention. But she didn't look at me, turned away, turned back, turned away....

Oh! She's offering me circles to the left!

I'm guessing that she decided she wanted some more of the better treats, and those had been coming for the circles rather than the retrieves. :-) So I grabbed the good stuff and began reinforcing.

Very quickly we had smaller, tighter circles and then a real nose to tail spin. It was still a little jerky, but it was recognizable.

At that point Alena arrived with Cesare, the 15-week-old puppy. This of course distracted Laev temporarily, but within a few minutes Alena and I were both seated with clickers, working the dogs individually. Great distraction work! and when Laev and I quit, I had continued tight spins to the left, getting clicked at anywhere from 1/3 to 1 3/4 rotations.

This clicker stuff is kinda fun. :-)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday

On Sunday, Laev earned her first performance title by finishing her APDT Level 1 Rally debut. :-) She didn't quite make the Award of Excellence, missing it by two points in her second leg. The judge hit us for 3 points for a second cue (my continued posture), while I know (because I know my dog) that it was just a slow response to the first cue and by the time she looked around and saw me it appeared to be a second cue. However, I also feel that if we were cutting it that close, we didn't really deserve that Award of Excellence, and she'll just have to pick it up for Level 2.

We actually NQ'd on her first time in 1B (for titled dogs; follows 1A, for untitled dogs) -- or, I should say, I NQ'd! Laev was getting a little fussy and started some "vertical heeling" (bouncing in place at my side) and as I spoke to her to get her back on track, I did a 360 right instead of the 360 left the sign called for. Oops! That would have been a decent run, too. Oh, well.

Shakespeare finished his Level 3 and has way more than enough points for his ARCH; he needs 2 QQs for that. We'll get those our next time out!

On Monday, I suggested we go back to using a gate for the hold and bark. Laev just isn't holding herself in the blind and I don't think she really understood that the gate work should carry to the blind. So we're combining them. We didn't make awesome progress in our two sessions of about five reps each (why would we in ten reps?), but on her last attempt she just bumped the padded leather collar instead of hitting the prong, and she was holding herself nicely at the gate. So maybe the light bulb will come on.

Tuesday... And then there are some days when you just don't like her.... Today I took her out to a friend's agility field, and she just could hardly be bothered with me. Didn't want to play, didn't want to give me attention, just wanted to zone. I did get a little dogwalk work and a couple of tunnel runs, finally, but she had to go back into the crate twice (if you won't play with me, you won't play, is the rule) and never really "turned on" for this session. Tired? Probably, but I wasn't asking for that much, and I know she could do this. Adolescent brain distracted by something shiny, just as likely.

But Sunday and Monday were good. :-)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Rally, day 1

Two runs with Laev today, both qualifying. That was good. The second suffered a bit of "puppy brain" -- she was a little distracted and therefore slower to respond -- and we scored only a 188, knocking out our chances of an Award of Excellence for Level 1. Drat. Still, she did very well overall, with crisp heeling for the most part and no major bobbles in attention.

Shakespeare -- I know this isn't his blog, but lemme brag on him -- really surprised me today by holding it together for six runs. The trial ran from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., so I was amazed that the stressy dog was able to maintain it. But he's always liked Rally, and he qualified six times, all scores above 195. Yippee!

I'm a little worried about tonight; Laev eventually went to sleep last night and was very good 'til morning, but today she spent most of her time in the crate and Shakespeare and I are exhausted. Right now I'm buying peace with a raw marrow bone on a towel from home, but if she eventually gives up on that and is fussy, she'll go in the car.

'Twas the Night Before Rally...

...and Laura's getting what she deserves.

It was a healthy drive to our Rally trial this weekend, and I'm running eight courses a day, so I thought I'd drive over the night before and get some rest. Wasn't that a nice thought?

I forgot a crate for the motel room.

So Shakespeare is lying on my bed like a good dog, wondering why we're all still awake. Laev is sleepy but resisting, and she keeps leaving her makeshift bed (a towel and my jeans) to roam the room -- stealing a shampoo packet from the bathroom, my keys from the table, a bar of soap from the tub edge, or whacking the trash can for the fun sound it makes. She's almost never stolen and chewed illegal items at home, but she's also never been great at settling herself; she's always needed an outside hand or crate to keep her still long enough until she could pass out when she's tired. I thought she was doing quite well for a while, but apparently she just can't get to sleep.

I could put her in the car overnight, but I'll wait a while longer before I resort to that.

I don't understand the attraction of the soap, really.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Workshop Weekend w/ Kathy Sdao

If you haven't been to a Kathy Sdao seminar yet, quit reading this blog and go find one. I'm not kidding! I have seen her three(?) times and I think she's fabulous.

Okay, this weekend was an advanced clicker training seminar, and between lectures and dicussion we did dog work focusing on discrimination and adding cues. I had been a little worried about taking Laev to the seminar -- I thought she might not be advanced enough -- but I thought she needed the mileage and it would be good experience. Well, she did better than expected. :-)

First, Laev learned to target a ceramic saucer from among a hat, book and saucer, no matter the arrangement of the array. (Kathy suggested we wear opaque sunglasses to reduce the additional cues from our eyes.) She also learned to touch a plastic bottle, from an array which did not include a saucer. No sweat for either, of course. Then we added a cue for touching the saucer or bottle -- that broke the flow a bit, because she didn't understand my new action, but she pretty quickly caught on to that. I was flashing a matching object as a cue, and at first she tried to target it (it was, after all, a saucer!) and was confused when that wasn't reinforced, but after a single session (10 reps) she got the idea that flashed saucer = go touch saucer.

When she had learned the cue for touching the bottle or the saucer, it was time to put the two hot objects together and see if she could discriminate between the cues. This may sound easy at first -- hadn't she already learned the cues for these objects? -- but of course it's not that simple! All the cue had been 'til that point was permission to go and touch the hot object; it had nothing to do with identifying the object, even though it might appear that way to a casual observer. Of course Laev would go to the saucer when shown a saucer -- why would it even occur to her to target the book, when that had never been reinforced? But going to the saucer when the bottle was also available, and it also had a reinforcement history, now that was challenging.

This is why when clients tell me that their dog already knows "sit," I don't always believe them. :-) Yes, the dog probably knows to plant his rear end, but he probably doesn't really understand the cue like they think he does. Can he distinguish between 3 or 4 or more cues for different behaviors reliably? Then he knows "sit." Otherwise, you're just getting lucky in that you're asking for what he's already guessing.

Laev didn't quite "get it" in our limited training time. I have data sheets showing success rates of 40-100% in various sessions, but she could not consistently stay above 80%. But given the amount of time we spent on this, that was to be expected; none of the other dogs present really nailed it, either.

I'm going to try to continue this work at home and see if we can get a solid "match to sample" behavior under our belts.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Therapy Greetings

Every year Shakespeare does Agility demonstrations for the Reach For Tomorrow program for handicapped and at-risk children. It's a five-day program servicing about 3,000 kids, but this year we participated only two days, as I had other committments. But that's still two days of several hours of running agility and greeting kids -- each demo is followed by an opportunity to pet the dog and learn basic dog safety -- and that can be quite tiring for a black dog in the sun. So I took Laevatein along this year to help share the load.

Laev hasn't had the therapy training that Shakespeare has, so during the meet n' greet sessions I have her lie on a blanket and take occasional treats from me while the kids pet her back. I also make sure to choose Shakespeare for those kids with special equipment or more obvious mental handicaps, as he seems to be a little better than average at recognizing that this particular "abnormal" is not a threat of any sort. He's actually great at this; I've seen kids overcome with emotion at actually being near the dog begin to shriek and flail their arms excitedly or even step on his ear as he's lying on his side, and he doesn't react. Laev is never going to be that kind of dog, so I didn't even ask her to do that.

But Laev did some basic jumps and tunnels for the kids (delighting them and teaching her to handle applause and audiences). She also learned very quickly that if she flopped on her blanket and ignored the kids touching her, she could get very tasty treats. That was pretty simple for her, as she's confident in groups already and all I was after was reducing the number of Doberkisses she distributed to kids to may not want them, but she thought it was a great game.

We had trouble only once in the two days, when I delayed in talking too long to a new group and lost Laev's attention while she was waiting. She actually left our "ring" (marked by a line of flags, nothing more) and went loping across to the next station -- the archery range! My heart stopped for a moment as I called her, but fortunately no one released as she ran by. (There probably wouldn't have been serious damage, as these are small bows designed to let kids try it for the first time, but it sure wouldn't have done her any good.)

Laev did recall to me, but more slowly than what I've seen before. It was a loop back to me at a lope rather than a racing gallop. Granted, she was moving through a crowd of people in an open field with wooded edges and there were a thousand things competing for her attention, but I'd rather see her come more quickly even in that situation. Guess we'll be seeking out new recall distractions for practice! I wonder where I can find crowds through which we can legally train.

Laev stayed on leash for the rest of that afternoon. At the end of the day, as crowds were clearing, I took her off leash again and did some heeling and short formal recalls in the area. No problems then, she was happy to stay focused for her toy. But I ain't trusting her yet. :-)

We're headed to a Kathy Sdao seminar this weekend. I'm actually really looking forward to that, trying a conference setting with Laev. She's not as fluent in clicker skills as I would like (she is less inventive than Shakespeare in offering new behaviors for shaping) but that's what seminars are for, right?