Training Update 11/30/08


So after 5 days of vacation/Thanksgiving holiday, I have some good training news to report!  Both dogs have had some breakthroughs and I feel like I know Rue much better.

For Miles, the major goal for this past week was to work on our new teeter training method.  Since my private with Melanie last Sunday, Miles has decided that he REALLY likes this game.  In fact, he’s loving it so much that he even played it on the scaaaary aluminum teeter today at PBH in the freezing cold pouring rain!  Right now I’m working on lowering the end faster, but still controlled.  The teeter is at full-height at home, but half height at PBH and maybe even a bit lower for the scary teeter.

Here he is at home on the 28th.  Note his speed and general demeanor.

Compare that to today at PBH with the aluminum noisy rickety teeter.  He’s a little slower at first, but picks it up at the end.  He’s never ever gone past the pivot on this teeter and he’s been quite nervous about any noise it made previously.

We also did the bang game on the same noisy teeter today.  He’s never played this game on it either….

For Rue, the main goal was to have fun with her.  I need to figure out what gets her going and how to tap into the drive I know she has.  Melanie suggested that I take this week as an easy week and just work on things that I knew she’d succeed at–easy money as she put it.  I also was to try to get some more speed out of her with our chase games and cone work.  It became apparent early in the week that she was a little off her game…come to find out her tummy was bothering her and she had some icky poops Tuesday and Wednesday.  She’s also teething so I know tugging probably hurts her.  In fact, we started the week with her having 3 adult canines coming in without the baby teeth falling out.  They were occupying the same socket, poorest girl.  As of last night she lost the last baby canine–yeah!!

These were her cones last week.  Lacking speed and drive….

Here they were on the 27th.  I got rid of the target and just tried to get her to run with me.  I was met with moderate success, but she was distracted by Miles standing in the agility ring.  I also think she still was feeling the effects of her tummy issue.

I decided to try working on a recall to side and then running off with her since I wasn’t having much luck with other methods.  I had been working our chase games and shadow handling by starting this way if I didn’t have anyone to restrain her.  I tried the Push Back and Jam with her, but that seemed to demotivate her–like it insulted her.  I think she likes this method better…i lost her at one point because Miles was barking at the neighbor dogs and it scared her a little bit, but she got it back.

Goals for Miles this week will be to continue to work on all teeters at home and at PBH.  I will start to let it free fall an inch or so as long as he maintains his speed and drive.  Also, continue to proof our weaves and work on handling skills (“grab the collar”, big stride front-cross, post turns, 270s).  Other things to work on are weaving through my legs backwards, perchwork clockwise, 4 feet into a small box and jump chutes.

As for Rue, we need to continue working on speed and drive with our flatwork and cones.  I plan to continue working on the buja board and general shaping.  We’re working on 4 feet in a small box as well as perch work.  I also need to work through all of Linda Mecklenberg’s recall-to-side behaviours.


PBH Run thru’s 11/28/08

I wanted to go to Friday night run thru’s the day after Turkey Day since it was supposed to be an Advanced Jumpers course and I need all of the practice I can get since we’ve moved up and have a trial in mid-January.  I dragged my mom and my uncle there to watch, but to my chagrin the course wasn’t set up and they were planning to do Steeplechase.  I didn’t mind Steeplechase because it is mostly jumps (plus the a-frame and weaves) and it would still be good practice.  We had to wait awhile and I had to help set the course so my family was quite frozen by the time I got to run.  The good news is, Miles did great!  He’s really moving out and his strides are really getting bigger.  Since he’s so much faster I am actually losing him to off-courses much more often as I’m not cueing turns fast enough and he’s more confident to take jumps, etc. on his own.  What I liked about this course was that it gave me an opportunity to work on our “grab the collar” turns, post turns, and weave entries at speed.  I ran it twice, both times I lost him to an off-course, but I was very happy with our performance.  He actually hit the weaves so fast in our second run that he missed pole 3!  I’ll take it 🙂

The Teeter–A New Approach


I’ve posted before about Miles’ teeter history and after 2 years, i believe that I’m FINALLY making progress.  Gosh I hope so!  We’re playing lots of games with this obstacle now…it’s almost like a jungle gym 🙂 

I started out this past summer by shaping Miles to play the “bang game” whichhelps the dog understand that they’re in control of the movement.  It went something like this at home:

That game got us pretty far, but Miles still had trepidation about doing the teeter in public (ie. class, run throughs, trials).  So my instructor suggested we try this game:

That game teaches the dog to tolerate movement that’s out of their control.  Again getting somewhere, but still not really there.  So we decided to try this:

I do believe that all three games are going to get us past this stumbling block.  The blasted teeter, our albatross.

So here’s our plan:
1.  Keep playing the bang game on all teeters we can find and gradually increase the amount that Miles has to jump up to bang it down.
2.  Keep playing the other end game with all teeters we can find while increasing the amount that I move it under him.
3.  Continue to play on our buja board and skateboard.
4.  Continue to countercondition Miles’ response to teeter noise as well as other loud sudden noises.
5.  Work through all of the stages of the “sliding teeter” game on every teeter we can find.

Wish us luck!

Things my dogs find reinforcing.


So following on the tails of my last post, I decided to pull up my list of reinforcers for Miles and then create one for Rue.  I am determined to find something that turns her on and then hopefully find a way to channel that into things that I can better use in training.

Here is Miles’ list as of very recently (A is highly reinforcing and E is the least reinforcing):

Reinforcers for Miles



Orange rubber ball                                                                              A

Any other ball                                                                                      B

Tug ropes                                                                                            B

Frisbee                                                                                                C

Playing “fetch” with the Chuck it                                                           A

Swimming                                                                                            A

Hiking in woods                                                                                   C

Sniffing                                                                                                 D

        String Cheese                                                                                       B         

Cheddar cheese                                                                                    B

       Hot dogs                                                                                              C        

Salami                                                                                                  C

Raw meat (his meal)                                                                              A

Cooked chicken/turkey                                                                         B

Hard boiled eggs                                                                                   A

Raw eggs                                                                                              B

Easy Cheese                                                                                          B

Peanut butter                                                                                         E

Liverwurst                                                                                             B

Cream Cheese                                                                                       B

Charlie Bears                                                                                         C

Kibble as treats                                                                                     C

Freeze dried tripe                                                                                   B

Freeze dried liver                                                                                   B

        Dog biscuits                                                                                           C        

Petting                                                                                                   C

Verbal Praise                                                                                         C

Wrestling with me                                                                                  B

Playing with other dogs                                                                         C

Playing with Rue                                                                                   C

Chasing squirrels, etc.                                                                           A

Chasing Me                                                                                          B

Jolly Ball                                                                                               C



Now here’s Rue’s list.  Notice how most of the things that she finds reinforcing have nothing to do with me??  This has to change.

Reinforcers for Rue



Eating grass                                                                                          A

Various balls                                                                                         D

Tug ropes                                                                                             C

Frisbee                                                                                                 C

Swimming                                                                                             D

Hiking in woods                                                                                    C

Sniffing                                                                                                 A

        String Cheese                                                                                       B         

Cheddar cheese                                                                                    B

        Hot dogs                                                                                              B         

Salami/pepperoni                                                                                  B

Raw meat (meals)                                                                                 B

Cooked chicken/turkey/roast beef                                                         B

Cheese tortellini                                                                                    B

Raw eggs                                                                                             C

Easy Cheese                                                                                         A

Peanut butter                                                                                        C

Liverwurst                                                                                            B

Cream Cheese                                                                                      B

Charlie Bears                                                                                        C

Kibble as treats                                                                                    C

Freeze dried tripe                                                                                 B

Petting                                                                                                  D

Verbal Praise                                                                                        D

Wrestling with me                                                                                 C

Playing with other dogs                                                                         A

Chasing things                                                                                       A

Chasing Me                                                                                          C


Puppy training update 11/20/08

I’ve been having some issues lately with Rue.  I’m not sure what’s going on with her (or maybe me), but I feel as though she hasn’t been engaging with me as much as I’d like or as much as she had been.  I started noticing this trend during our new class “Sport Foundations”.  It’s a pretty good class, but it is a lot of pressure for little Rue.  At not quite 5 months old, she’s being asked to be focused on me throughout a lot of distractions.  We’ve been doing restrained recalls in parallel with other dogs doing recalls among other things of that nature.  I think it’s a great concept and something that I wish I had been able to do with Miles, but it is a lot for her.  Don’t get me wrong she does really well, but towards the end of the class I can tell she’s ready to check out. 

Something that she’s always done is eat grass….when she’s bored, when she’s stressed, just for fun.  She doesn’t just eat grass, she pulls it out by the roots.  In giant clumps.  This is not exactly good for a nice lawn or a nice agility field!  Last class she spent a good bit of it ripping out grass.

It was suggested to me by my instructor, not the teacher of the class, that I should never work her for an hour straight.  That doing so would very quickly undo the very bond I have been working so hard at forming.  Sigh. 

So the plan became to try crating her during class to give her downtime and to work Miles during those times if needed.  Tonight was the first chance I had to try it out and it really did seem to work!  The first part of class was about 15 minutes long and was a game of “monkey in the middle”.  Three dogs and handlers were in a circle playing and the dog in the center was to work on obedience/tricks/whatever with food.  Rue did great with the playing…I’ve finally figured out how to get her really fired up even without toys!  She’s so funny when she gets going too…she sounds like a gremlin!  We had a lot of fun doing that.  When our turn came to be in the middle, she rocked there too.  Totally focused on me and did a variety of tricks.  After that we went to work on cones.  Now the cones is the area that Rue did great in last week–totally focused on the game and having fun.  Today we worked on them at home and she was less than thrilled.  The same attitude held true tonight, so I put her in her crate and took Miles out to play.  He had a blast!

Next up was teaching them to go around our legs behind our back to the other side.  We were told to do it by luring them around behind us and rewarding them on the other side.  I taught this to Miles as an obedience “finish” where he moved from a “front” to a sit in heel position.  I’m not sure if I’m going to do the same with Rue or not and so I kind of fooled around with it in class, but was just having fun.  I’m not big on the luring thing with her, but I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers, so we just did a few and then played before crating her again.

She was very into our next exercise which consisted of walkng through a plastic ladder on the ground and eventually a mini agility “course” of walking on different surfaces (plastic, wood, and cardboard) and then through the ladder.  Rue LOVES to walk on things, so that was easy and fun for us.  Then back to her crate she went.

The last exercise we did was to have them drive to a loaded target.  I haven’t done too much target work with her because I’m not sure how much I’m going to use targeting.  I did shape her to nose touch a target, however, just in case.  What I wanted to see with this exercise was if I could get her fired up enough to run to it.  This is another thing I’m having issues with–getting her fired up about something.  She’s so serious all the time when we are working.  I was able to get a few good ones in by restraining her by her collar and saying “ready ready readyyyyyyyy” and then releasing her to the target with a “GO!”.  I will need to work on this more. 

So in summary, the things I learned from last night are:
1.  She needs to be crated even if just for two minutes in between exercises so she can recharge.
2.  I can get her fired up by crouching down at her and grabbing at her feet and saying “haha…I’m gonna getcha!” until I annoy her enough that she starts becoming a crazed gremlin-like puppy.
3.  She gets frustrated quickly if she doesn’t understand what I want.
4.  It appears that dogs and other things in the enviroment are more exciting than me and I don’t know what really jazzes her up yet.
5.  She’s a very different dog from Miles, which isn’t a bad thing it just makes me work more 😉
6.  I need a plan.

Weekend training update.

We took the pups to PBH yesterday to work on some training.  I’ve been admittedly slack lately with the shorter days and colder weather, so I felt it was due time to put in some more effort for their sakes. 

It’s been two years and Miles still won’t go on a teeter in public.  Well, that’s not true….I got him to the point of using a very quiet teeter during class until it broke.  With him on it.  Sigh.  It’s been an uphill battle to say the least.  Not only did we get off to a rocky start with this obstacle, but Miles has some underlying sound sensitivity as well.  Not to mention that I never started him out on a buja or tippy board.  Anyway, it is my goal to get this dog confident and comfortable enough that he’ll be able to perform the teeter away from home as well as he does at home before the end of the year.  So that was the first thing we practiced yesterday.

Here is Miles tentatively doing the bang game at first.  This was how I started retraining him at home.  He’s using the least scary teeter at the club (aside from the one that broke which is still broken).  I am not giving him any commands, but am shaping him to play with the end of the teeter and eventually to jump on and bang it down.  I realized after I started that I should have made it easier to begin with so I lowered it.  As soon as I did that his confidence blossomed.

Here he is just a short time after starting.  I’ve raised the drop of the teeter and he’s running and jumping on the end of it.  I will gradually lower the propped up end until he’s jumping on it with it parallel to the ground.  Then I will add a table to prop it up and start him from the table, then gradually lower the table until he’s running the full length.  Then I’ll do it over again with the scarier and louder teeter.

Lastly, I played a different game with the scary loud teeter working on him enjoying movement that is not in his control.  The first game teaches him to enjoy movement that he controls.  Again, nothing is forced, but he is rewarded for offering to get on the down end of the teeter and to stay on while I move it under his feet.  He only gets a cookie if he stays on the board, but he’s allowed to jump off if he feels uncomfortable.  I adjust how high I move it and I also “force” him off the end when I want to.  This does two things: it relieves the pressure by me making him get off, and builds his drive to start the game again for more cookies.  Here’s how it looks:

Next up, and along those same lines, I took Miss Rue into the arena to work on the buja board.  We have one at home that she’s been playing on for months.  This was our first time using a different board and “taking it on the road”.  As I did with Miles, the first session was low pressure and we started out from the beginning like we did at home (barely any tip).  I’m just shaping her to get on with all four feet.  Here’s the first session:

Quickly the game became this:

And finally this:

Notice in the last video I’m using a tug toy for reward.  I will tug with her for as long as she stays on the board.  As soon as her feet come off, the game ends.  Soon the dog realizes that they have to get on the board to start the game and they fight to stay on it as long as they can.  This teaches a dog to LOVE movement!

Next up, weave poles.  I’ve been working on weave poles for about the same duration as the teeter.  They are probably the most difficult to teach of all the obstacles.  I was first taught to lure him through a set of six straight poles.  This worked, but it did not teach any obstacle independence.  I had to be right next to the poles for him to commit to taking them.  Plus I had a hard time if the entry wasn’t straight ahead or if he wasn’t on my left.  Not exactly effective for higher levels of competition.  It was then suggested that I retrain using channel weaves with a target at the end.  Again it worked, but I still wasn’t getting very far.  So I tried Susan Garrett’s 2X2 Weave Pole method, which had an amazing effect on Miles’ understanding.  It uses shaping to teach the dog how to find the correct entry on a 2-pole set.  Eventually it builds to a series of 2-pole entries and gradually to a full set of 12 straight poles.  That was groundbreaking for us and then I found this system by Joe Canova.  I haven’t looked back since.  We’re now to the level of proofing the weaves against things like distance and distraction.  Here are some clips:

A warm up.

Adding distance and a layer jump at the end.

A warm up sequence.

Sequence with a rear cross before the poles and a layer jump.  He pops out at pole 10 in the video, but he got it right the next time through.

Finally Miss Rue got to work on flat work and handling with cones.  I did some restrained recalls with Doug holding her to warm her up and then some stays with recalls.  With the cone work, I started by shaping her to go around a cone in both directions.  Once she was offering that behavior I started adding the cue of my hand closest to her extend towards the cone to indicate clockwise or counterclockwise turning.  Then I worked on getting some more distance from the cone and finally sequencing to multiple cones.  Yesterday we worked with 3 cones and integrated front-crosses, sends, shoulder pulls, and I tried a rear-cross or two.  She did awesome!  In retrospect, I think I pushed her a little too far and should have stopped earlier than I did because I started to lose speed towards the end.  I always need to remember that she’s a tiny puppy with a short attention span 🙂

Cone work: