Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Taking a bit of a break

We are taking a break. Lately between my medical issues, the heat, work, or not working, I just haven't had much energy to go out and do much.  So I really haven't been doing anything to talk or write about.  But I have been thinking.

I have been thinking about training. I have been thinking about sewing or knitting, or even canning.  I have some cucumbers just asking to be pickled, but I havent the energy to deal with it.  I am hoping that a short break will revive me.

What do you do to revive?

Monday, July 18, 2011

UROC Magic

Horrible heat and humidity here in Minnesota.  Last night on the news they were saying its more humid here than at the amazon. YUCK.

In spite of it all Magic and I had a very good run in rally at the show this weekend-outdoors in the horrible heat even.  We did NQ twice. I blame both of those on the heat and my lack of ability to think.  We were entered in 8 classes, earned 3 perfect scores, 2 99s and a 98 which gave us 4 firsts and 2 second places and Magic earned his UROC which is the UKC Rally Champion title. We also earned a high in trial too.

Christy was kind enough to take a picture but blogspot wont let me post it. Let me just say though, that it was the end of the day we all were covered in sweat and Magic was done, so maybe thats for the best really!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gracie can PLAY!

I chose to take Grace to the seminar because motivation has always been our issue. Grace is not driven by her various drives. Although food is a motivator for her, it’s not always a reliable one. Grace really is a dog who simply eats when she is hungry and doesn’t when she is not. We have had periods in her life where food just isn’t her priority. As in she would eat 6 kibbles if I hand fed her otherwise, no thanks, not now.

I have tried to play with Grace since she was a puppy. As a baby dog, Grace would play with Magic, but not with me. She has never been one to join Magic when we play ball, or want to get in on the wrestle sessions that Magic and I have. I tried to offer her the tug, she saw Magic tug many times, but it had no interest for her. Grace is also a pretty independent dog. She is not one who feels the need to be at my feet, or on me. Across the room where she can supervise, oh yeah, that is her preferred position. She wants her daily face scrubbing, but that was the closest thing I had found to play that she enjoyed. So my goal with this seminar was to find ways to get her excited. I want her to light up for something (other than sheep, I haven’t yet found a way to get one of those in my pocket to surprise her.)

Denise talked a lot about drives in dogs in the seminar In thinking about Gracie, I realized that her favorite game really is to chase. When playing with the other dogs, she wants to chase them, she wants to chase the sheep. Even in agility, her preferred place to run is slightly behind me, not really chasing in this instance, but it’s a behavior closer to chasing than to being chased. Prey Drive. Not kill or fight, but chase. OK we can work with this.

So to teach Grace to play and maybe tug, I needed the right toy. Denise had several different types and styles of toys, from a hard stuffed fire hose toy to linen, cow skin, sheepskin, hard and soft styles. For Grace the toy that caught her interest is a bit of rabbit fur on the end of a four foot handle. According to Denise, the toy needs to simulate a rabbit and not a suicidal one. In other words the toy needs to be on the ground, zipping around front, back and sideways. Rabbits don’t run up in the air and they don’t stop to get caught. And when they are caught they do fight to get away.

So I started with Grace on the floor with the toy close to my hand, I tried making it wiggle, jump and slide along and although she looked at it, it wasn’t quite right. But when I got up and the rabbit made big runs across the floor, zipping this way and that , she was interested. Very quickly she was chasing that rabbit and occasionally even catching it. I learned quickly that if she does catch it I can’t stop moving it. Once it dies, she drops it. So Graces rabbit needs to be a wiggler, always in motion. Grace does play WOOHOO!

Denise also asked us to play with our dogs without the toy. Taking what I learned with the toy, I realized that if I gently tag her and run away she will chase me, She has always loved having her face scrubbed, where I vigorously rub her cheeks and ears, so I incorporated that rubbing her face, pushing her away and dashing off. She loved that. I can now sort of tap the sides of her muzzle and push away and she comes back for more. And I can use that while heeling to get her fired up. I love it, she seems to love it.

By Sunday night, Grace visibly brightens when she sees her rabbit tug. David was eating dinner and Grace was begging-laying next to him on the couch with her head in his lap. I pulled out her tug and she actual left him for a moment for it. He's a soft touch though, so she did go back, but it does show some attention to the toy. Last night at agility class I decided to try to reward her agility practice with the tug. She seemed to enjoy it. She does not yet have a big hold and tug reaction, but if she is happy and excited by the catching and chasing aspect, then chase she will get.

My girlie can PLAY!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Denise Fenzi Seminar

Over the weekend I attended a 3 day seminar given by Denise Fenzi. There is so much about this seminar that I am still trying to process that I am having a tough time putting it into words. Other than AMAZING!

The seminar Saturday and Sunday was about building drive and motivation for obedience and Monday was for problem solving for obedience. I was lucky enough to snag a working spot in both seminars.

Grace and I worked together on Saturday and Sunday. I was hoping to be able to find ways to communicate better with her and also to build in some play with her. Although we have tried novice a few times usually it has been just an effort to see where we are in our training. I know that we have heeling issues and I was hoping to maybe work a bit on that. First the play- I was successfully able to get Grace to play with me both Saturday with a toy and Sunday without. It’s not the vigorous play of many dogs, but she was responding. For the first time ever she showed some interest in a tug type toy, chasing it and even tugging mildly. She also responded really well to some gentle pushing and physical play during a heeling session.

During our one on one sessions with Denise, not surprisingly she saw the same bad behavior on my part in watching my dog and not looking forward. But she also noticed that even though I still do that, I also do catch myself and am trying to change the pattern. She liked the way Grace performs when she is paying attention, but she noticed that her periods of attention are short, so we need to work on building those. Oh and her sits were gone again, so we will be paying with those too. They come, they go…..

Monday I worked with Magic. Each team had the opportunity to work with Denise twice while the other teams looked on. In our first session we spent most of the time talking about teaching a go out as I need to do that. We didn’t do it, but I got fabulous directions on how she does it and I feel confident enough that we can start on our own. I did ask for some assistance with our retrieves. Since Magic loves to retrieve, in general our retrieve is nice. But his enthusiasm is also occasionally an issue as he does a few things that are not the best. Magic will munch on the dumbbell, or occasionally he will pick it up by the bell. So I got a few suggestions for both of those issues and we will work on it.

In our second session we worked on our heeling. Honestly Magic’s heeling was really nice for the first few minutes, then suddenly, he realized that there was a quiet room, everyone was watching and the normal lagging began. Denise was able to point out where that happened. She worked me through a few exercises with him and within just a few minutes he was back up and heeling much better. And I did much better too in not looking back at him which also helps! We will never be competing for high in trial, but I am hoping by incorporating some of this we will at least be successful. For the first time I realized that yes I DO want a UD on this dog and I AM going to make the effort and try.

One of the things Denise did convey well that hit home with me is that many dogs equate silence with being wrong and that we need to change that perspective. And I find that to be very true with my dogs. So I am trying to change how I do reward the dogs and what I say as well as when I say it. The other thing I need to incorporate more in my training is verbal rewards for effort on the dogs part, when the dog has tried but failed. The actual reward, whether food or play comes with success, but a good try, let’s do it again instead of a true no reward marker such as oops or wrong.

There is more, much more and I hope to be able to talk about it as I use it in the future. It was incredible seeing her work with each team and so many different issues. She was quick to point out why similar issues from dog to dog, need to be handled differently due to the dogs motivation and style. If it is at all possible I would love to do another seminar in the future with her as she was honestly the best presenter I have seen. If you have the chance to see her go for it! I know I will.

Monday, July 4, 2011

I am beat!

Today was day 3 of the NSHGC summer agility trial.  Again this year I was the worker coordinator.  I don't know that I did a great job, but all 3 days went pretty well so I am hoping everyone was happy.  I do know I worked myself exhausted!

I ran Magic for the first time in Open JWW.  We were not successful as far as Q's go, but we ran pretty well.  In Novice Standard, Magic did qualify yesterday.  He was so happy and excited to be out running. Makes me realize that I should just get him out and do more trials.  I would like to take him back to some classes, but I dont know if I can.  He runs so differently than Grace, I have to learn to be a better partner for both. But the boy was a happy guy, so it was all fun.

Now next weekend is the Denise Fenzi seminar.  I am hoping I can learn to be as muc fun doing obedience. I still haven't decided which dog to take....

Friday, July 1, 2011

Whew, hot and Humid in MN

Yesterday it sucked in MN. The actual temp was in anywhere from 93 to 98 depending on the thermometer you read. The humidity was something like 73% so it was sauna like causing an official heat index of something like 104. And of course it was a busy day for us.

First off Magic had a photo shoot. Now I can’t talk much about it, but I can say that I felt bad for the boy and I don’t think he gave his best performance. First off our car does not have air. So he was hot when he got there. The building was air conditioned of course, but he was still hot and panting when it was time to shoot, and he had to wear a sweater under those lights. Poor boy. To make things worse we asked him to hold something and you know you can’t hold something and pant at the same time. He was a really good boy and he tried, but it won’t surprise me if they don’t use these shots at all.

Then we hopped back into the car to go up to Hugo, MN for our obedience lesson. Magic mostly gets to sit out the obedience lessons as really Nancy is teaching me, so I can more effectively work with Magic. We are so lucky in Minneapolis since we have so many incredible people to take lessons from. Lets just hope I can learn and actually put some of these skills to work. After the lesson, we ran to the meat market and gas station and ran home. Did I mention this was rush hour traffic? And its hot, with no air? I think I did.

So we got home in time for me to change to my tennis shoes and grab Grace to run off to agility class. It was cooler in the building, but once you started running, well let’s just say I was a bit damp. Grace was a stinker too. I am sure she had everyone doubting me when I said how well we did in MI as you sure couldn’t see it last night! Oh well gracie is Gracie and I although she can be a stinker, she is a fun girlie.

Then we ran home I swapped Grace for Dave and Rin and we went back for Rinnie’s nosework class. Siren did pretty well with her searches. We were inside for the first time in a while and although it was cool in the building, there were several big fans going and the air was moving making searches a bit more challenging. It was good a good practice though and even though some of the dogs were having some difficulty finding the scent it was wonderful to see that they were not giving up. They continued to search until they were successful. Which really is what you want.

By the time we were done it was 9, and still hotter than hades. So even thought I had the brats I picked up at the meat market, I had no energy to cook them. Instead I picked up dinner at Popeye’s on the way home. All in all a very good day, if you don’t mind sweat that is.