July 23rd, 2017 Training Log

Sei and I worked at desensitizing the brush for a few sessions again today. His wooly puppy fur mats up pretty quickly, so this will be a necessity for the next few days so I can get him brushed out. We did some foot targeting, name games and lots of play today. Sei’s love of the flirt pole continues to grow. He runs over to the shed where it is held ahead of me and waits for me to get it out. We worked on some tug with a fluffy bungee toy, rolled some floppy frisbees, and tossed some balls around. I started asking him for focus every now and again before throwing a ball for him, or letting the flirt pole move. We tried some personal play, but he is still too bitey with his little needle puppy teeth for that to be fun for me.

Perrin’s love of toys is definitely building. Apparently all he needed was a little brother! I got some decent work from him today for a tuggy and a ball. He went absolutely nuts for the frisbee, which is unlike him.

We also worked on some more free stacking, rewarding for anything that is not sitting when I take my hand full of food away from his face. I think we are making some slow progress. Here is one of today’s sessions:

He did some of the best he has done so far here. Reviewing the video, it is clear that he does better when I move my hand away more slowly. He moved forwards more often when I moved my hand away quickly. Good to know!

We did some mat work:

Perrin worked on more drum shaping. He is totally getting it!

 

On the ‘life’ front, we are having some issues with Sei climbing all over us when we try to eat. I usually handle this by waiting for him to back off and rewarding for it, but even that leaves him too close for my husband’s comfort (I joke he resource gaurds his food, he gets quite upset about the dogs being near his food). So we have decided a solution that works for everyone is to work on building value for Sei’s bed by the table. For today we just threw cookies over every 5 seconds or so while he was on it, but I am excited to get my manners minder next weekend so I don’t have to handle kibble while I eat.

July 22nd, 2017 Training Log

Today started out with a walk in the park. The other half and I took both dogs for a quick walk, then worked on some attention and focus with both dogs. It is definitely going to be a very long time before I can take both dogs out together on my own. I don’t want Sei picking up some of Perrin’s bad habits, and its really hard to manage both of the individual needs at the same time. I guess that means more exercise for me! (And I need it).

Perrin has been missing his own work, so I finally got back on track with that. As the drum room was being set up, a bass drum mysteriously found its way into the dog training space, so I decided that would be a fun trick for Perrin. He is so fun to shape with, here is the whole process from the very start to the first success:

I especially love where he tries to see if a rear foot target is what we are trying. So cute.

Today’s trick for Sei has been learning some basic free stacking. I tried to take some pictures of him last night for tracking purposes as he grows, and it was a bit of a mess. I was working the camera while Sei was being lured by my husband. Sei didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing, but was happy to be getting peanut butter. So, back to shaping for next week’s photos. I am working through Puppy Culture’s Killer Free Stacks for this and we have done three little sessions today. I clearly need to go back and watch it, because I am getting a lot of sitting (something he has been heavily reinforced for). My first reaction to this was to throw a reset cookie to get him standing again, but I’m not seeing improvement in the amount of sitting I am getting. I need to go back and re-watch the video to see what step I am missing. I likely just need to reward him for standing, before pulling the food away and expecting him to hold the stand for a split second. This evening he did better when I was standing rather than sitting, so that will help moving forward as well.

Today was also the sign up period at FDSA, and I have decided to take my very first training focused class at gold! It is called Crucial Concepts of Competition, and I am very excited to improve my own skills.

July 21, 2017 Training Log

Working through Relationship Building Through Play continues! I am now on the lecture about toy play, specifically the section on how to effectively use a flirt pole to build/develop more interest in toys (not that Sei needs much of that, but I figure I start at the beginning and progress at his pace so that I don’t skip steps). The day started out with more flirt pole. Now that I know Sei loves it, I’m upping the criteria on the tugging/holding. He got one run first thing, but once he caught the fleece, he quickly let it go and it escaped! I videoed the later afternoon sessions to see how my technique is. The answer is: Not Good. In order to try to stop them from running in tight little circles, I try to change directions, but what happens is that then the fleece heads towards them, which isn’t good. I speed up just as they are about to catch it, which isn’t fair. Perrin gets distracted by Sei barking in the house when it’s Perrin’s turn, so that complicates things a bit too.

Perrin is still learning that it is the END of the pole that he needs to grab, rather than just stealing the entire thing out of my hands, or grabbing the string part. I think I may need to add a more interesting toy that the tiny scrap of fleece I have on it right now. What Perrin does not have an issue with, however, is the grabbing and the holding. I can’t play with the flirt pole the way he would like after he has ahold of the string because the flirt pole is not made to be gripped and tugged with. My grip is just not strong enough for that game!

I’m still trying to work my way through the FDSA Empowerment course I have in my library, but I find the content hard to work through with no guidance. I think this is one of those courses that would have been valuable to take at gold. I didn’t realize this when I was working through it with Perrin, because he is a pretty empowered guy all on his own (see the agility teeter. Perrin thinks that jumping on it to make that weird noise is the funnest game ever. He scares other dogs in the room. I couldn’t leave it out while I set up other equipment because he would run over and stand in the middle and make it drop, then pivot still on the teeter and make it slam the other way. Repeatedly) . With Sei, I get to watch the process. He isn’t fearful, but he thinks things through in a way that Perrin didn’t/doesn’t. Perrin runs in like a bull in a china shop, where as Sei thinks about whether he wants to cause destruction or not first (he usually settles on destruction!).

Sei and I went to the park for a little while this afternoon. We kept the walking to a minimum as it is pretty hot out, and his threshold for walking is not very high yet. We sat in the shade and watched the joggers with strollers and bicycles go by. We worked on some attention, which he did well at for a little bit. He met a couple of preteen girls, who greeted him nicely (which I was really happy about this, because given the language barrier, I can’t instruct people). He thinks people are awesome and tries to go up to everyone we pass. I am keeping an eye on this one, as I really really don’t want it to develop into leash frustration down the road. We will keep working on attention/focus on me for the time being in all sorts of different places. We tried to play a bit, but Sei wasn’t having any of it. He just wanted his garlic cream cheese. For cuteness, here are some pictures of Sei at the park (I am trying to re-learn how to use my SLR):

On the shaping front, we did some more hand touch work in the yard, some mat work and more name games. Apparently I say “Say What?” enough to Sei and reinforce what comes after it enough that he has decided that is his recall word. I figure I’m just going to steer into that skid!

It is going to be interesting to see how Perrin’s exercise requirements change when it cools down a bit. Right now, he basically plays with Sei in the back yard, works on some brain stuff, and sleeps the rest of the day. I tried to do a short walk around the neighbourhood with him yesterday to get out and see some of the new sights, but he was just lethargic and unhappy looking. He is happy to play with me, Sei and some toys in the backyard in the mornings and evenings, but that seems to be the extent of his exercise requirements at the moment.

July 20th, 2017 Training Log

I forgot to charge my camera, so none of today’s work was recorded.

Today we worked on more of the same (name games, nose touches, collar shaping, mat work, etc), but took it outside onto the porch and into the yard. I want the back yard to be a training space, so I need to get working on that. The collar game is really coming along. I have brought the diameter of the collar down to about the size that a martingale collar for Sei would be, so thats about as small as we need to go. He is starting to shove his head in, or rest his chin on it and push down (his expression says “Just give me the cookie, damn it!”).

Today we also worked on body handling/husbandry things. We started making the nail clippers a good thing by C/T every time the clippers touched one of his nails. Through the three sessions we did today, I even managed to get two clipped. I will condition foot handling separately, and I did not touch Sei’s feet at all during today’s work. I have been clipping his nails while he sleeps, which has been working for now, but I want to set him up for good things when he is bigger.

Along the same line, we also worked on associating the brush with tasty food. Sei seems to have a natural dislike for the brush, so we are going much slower on this one. Brush nears side: C/T, brush touches side: C/T. That is about as far as we got today in two sessions. I actually have to put Sei away (or wait until he is sleeping) to brush Perrin, otherwise the brush is a fun chase to that must be attacked. Perrin doesn’t appreciate that much.

The flirt pole came out again today. It is definitely Sei’s favourite thing so far. The family crack eyes come out, but his arousal level seems to be staying at a good level and he maintains self control around it. I will be keeping an eye on that as he gets older to see if that toy needs to have a vacation. Sei and Perrin got separate sessions with the flirt pole, because they play so differently with it (well, that and because Perrin is 5x Sei’s size).

July 19th, 2017 Training Log

The high temperatures continue! Both the pups spend most of the day sleeping on the tile until it cools off in the evening.

Armed with more garlic cream cheese, hot dogs and peanut butter, Sei and I went to a local park for a bit to work on leash skills and see the sights. He did really well, and I accidentally took him too far. He did not complain about having to be carried back to the car he was so pooped! He didn’t bat an eyelash at several leaf blowers or the loads of construction equipment installing new paths. He also met some people that he was excited to approach, and had to learn that we weren’t going to meet everyone that Sei wanted to go meet. Tomorrow we will go back and explore a new area of the park.

We did a little more mat and collar shaping this morning, and lots of hand touches and name games.

 

Once it cooled off we did a major play session (we did lots of little ones throughout the day, the dogs are never out without me so they just come naturally). I busted out the flirt pole and that was a huge hit! Sei absolutely loves it, and so does Perrin. I am going to have to play with them individually with this game though. Perrin cheats and just goes after the handle!

July 18th Training Log

No overwhelming amounts of videos today! Today we did more ‘life skills’ things instead. Name game/recall foundations continue. Sei is really starting to respond to his name well! He knows it!

We did a few short on leash walks up to the next street and back that went really well. No balking at all on the first one! It helps that I found out that garlic cream cheese is indeed more interesting than sniffing the pavement, and that Sei can lick cream cheese off of a lid and walk at the same time, which is a very good thing to know (chewing a kibble or piece of cheese while walking is too hard just quite yet). I’m getting more leaning into the harness (I’m using a non-restrictive back-attach harness at the moment), but I’m good with that for now. Loose leash walking can be added later with collar yielding, but for now I just need him to be able to be on a leash happily so that we can go places.

Play continues, Perrin is really getting into things, and Sei continues to love chasing things. The snuffle mat has been a great hit with both of them too.

We also did our first session of mat work with Sei today, which he did awesome on!

 

Perrin does pretty well keeping his nose out of things given how close he insists on being, but its getting to the point that I’m going to have to start separating them for individual training sessions. Not sure how I’m going to do that yet, as Sei isn’t the world’s largest fan of a crate just yet, and we are working on that separately.

I worked on some rally skills with Perrin in the back yard, and found out that I need to work more on just working in the back yard. He wasn’t super engaged in that space, after being pretty pushy about wanting to work while in the house. It didn’t help that it was super hot out, and Perrin just wilts in the heat. We will try again on some individual skills when its cooler out.

July 17th Training Log

Today was a shaping kind of day given the weather. Sei slept for a large swath of the day, which surprised me, but made getting things done around the house super easy.

  • Relationship Building Through Play
    • It rained all of the morning and most of the afternoon, so I didn’t get any more personal play sessions filmed like I was hoping to. I did go to video a baseline for both dogs on food play, but realized that all I really know how to do is throw food. It was a pretty boring video, so suffice to say that I will be going through the lectures to learn more about this one, because this one is all lack of handler knowledge.
  • Empowerment
    • No empowerment homework today. I’ve got to get creative and come up with some new push games for Sei. The set-ups I used for Perrin’s won’t work because they are either too tall for the pup, or I no longer have the equipment after the move. Hopefully moving on to the next lecture tomorrow.
  • Collar Shaping
    • We did a fair bit of shaping and other puppy things today. I built off of yesterday’s mediocre collar work with some better thought today. I found shaping having Sei put his head through a puppy sized collar really hard for me to mechanically do. I have to hold the collar with one hand, the clicker with the other, my treats have to go…somewhere (I didn’t have my bait bag handy as I usually don’t use it in the house. With Perrin I would have just put them on the ground, but Sei is still figuring that whole thing out). The collar is pretty little, and puppy motions are small and fast, so are hard to catch. Then, I don’t want to be too rough getting the collar over his head, and that’s hard with such a little collar when I can’t use both hands. Anyway, today I decided to shape it with Perrin first to work on my mechanics. And that went great. Then I figured that if I used Perrin’s giant collar to work with Sei rather than the puppy collar, it would give me two advantages:
      1. Split the behaviour down even further. Instead of ‘put your head through this small thing’, the behaviour was ‘put your head through this thing’. This removed some of the spacial pressure and made the exercise less intimidating for Sei.
      2. The larger collar gave me more margin of error for holding the collar, for catching Sei’s head movements and removed the issue of roughness while the collar moving over his head. The last item especially reduced my stress about the whole thing, which made me do much better.
  • Hand Touches
    • This is the fourth or fifth (?) time we have worked on these. I’m really happy with how he is coming along, he is totally getting the game!
  • People Do Stupid Things
    • This game was suggested by Sei’s wonderful breeder. It is basically getting the dog associating the rude things that clueless people may do to them (or a less clueless person may do by accident) with awesome food. Today we started on basics. Face touching, closed hand petting (gently grabbing fur/scratching kind of), picking up feet, gentle pushing etc.
  • Front Foot Target
    • He did really great with this!

 

This having a back yard thing is really great. Now that I have the space, I am really excited to get Perrin started on his first Cyber Rally-O courses. I have picked out 4 that we have all the skills for, now I just need to dig up my rally signs and figure out what to use as pylons and ring markers!

 

July 16th Training Log

More homework!

This is the work that I videoed and had the energy to edit and upload today. Honestly, it takes as much time to video, import, edit, upload, and write as it does to plan and do training!

Non-videoed/edited/uploaded work done today included: more play with both dogs than is seen here (including an amazing personal play spurt with Sei that was not on tape), shaping putting one’s head through a collar with Sei, and a quick first walk together with both dogs. Sei’s leash skills are not being heavily worked on at the moment. He has a tendency to balk at the leash, but I haven’t yet found a food that he will take while outside. When he walked with Perrin, I had minimal balking and lots of leaning into his harness and moving forward. I will take that! I can work on yielding to collar pressure separately for loose leash walking as long as I have a functional way to take him out places.

As for videoed work, I have two toy sessions with each dog. Both dog’s disengaged this morning; Perrin never engaged at all with me, and Sei quit playing. I find it coincidental that both dogs did that in the morning but not in the afternoon. I must have been off this morning, or gone too long, or it was too hot for them out or any number of other things. Maybe a fluke, maybe something else, just got to keep an eye on it. Both dogs did stellar in the afternoon. Perrin even wanted the tug badly enough to sit for it! Whoohoo!

Sei also did another round of the push game for the empowerment course. I upped the difficulty only a tiny bit from yesterday by adding tennis balls to the pan and canning rings, and by trying the metal bowl again, but this time with nothing in it but kibble.

 

We tried substrates for the first time today. I have no idea if I did this right. My vague understanding of the exercise is that I should be marking and rewarding for interaction with the substrates/random things I put in the middle of the room, rather than focus on me. If the goal was to get him to interact with the substrates, I do think we made it that far. At first Sei only wanted to follow me around the pile, but then started interacting with the things more and more as we went. Please excuse the broken lid on the big container, Perrin wanted to demonstrate how awesome it is to get on top of things and broke it, haha.

My Most Embarrassing Dog Incident (AKA The Beginning of the Beginning)

Lots going on at the moment! Perrin continues to enjoy running with his brother on the farm and doing a bit of fitness course work. His inability to wait his turn while I am working with other dogs has become painfully apparent, so that will be a big skill to work now and after the puppy gets here!

In lieu of training notes, I had some more musings to share. In this case, what I feel was the most embarrassing event in my life, and the time I failed Perrin in the biggest way. The therapy test. Before I knew anything at all about dog training, before I even got Perrin, I had decided that I would train my dog to the ‘therapy dog standard’. I really wanted to train and to have a well behaved dog, but didn’t know where to start. The therapy dog standard gave me a direction and a goal. So when a group arrived in Grande Prairie to do testing, and Perrin was old enough to test, I jumped on it! We had been working with a local coercion trainer for about 6 months, and I was pretty happy with Perrin’s skills overall. I almost threw up before the testing started, but that is pretty normal for my performance anxiety nerves.

It was truly the most embarrassing experience of my life. I was sure everyone else was looking at us thinking “Wow, she is a pretty big moron if she thought THAT dog could pass a therapy test!” and/or “What a horrible dog!”. And that mattered to me, what other people thought. Perrin could have passed the test, his skills were great! As long as he had a job to do, he did well, but being able to wait his turn around other dogs? That was another store entirely!

The barking. The lunging on the leash. The frantic games of leash tug. The whining. The rolling around on the ground. The jumping and biting my clothes. The barking.

To make a long story short, although Perrin’s skills were fantastic, we were dismissed before lunch due to the disruption he was causing. I managed to be gracious to the evaluators and hosts, and almost made it to the car before I started crying. Then I quit training for 4 months.

In hindsight, the idea that an adolescent intact male might have difficulty focusing in a room full of other dogs is to be expected under the best of circumstances with a well prepared dog and trainer. And these were not the best of circumstances, nor were either of us well trained. As I learned more after the fact, and looked back at this situation, the more I saw the piling on of factors that made this a recipe for disaster:

  • Perrin was 18 months old at the time, right in the midst of adolescence. Not exactly the best known developmental period for impulse control and attention span, let alone around other dogs! And I had never worked on calmness that close to other dogs. I just expected that because he knew the skills, he should be able to ‘behave himself’.
  • I had no idea about over-arousal or how to deal with it. Everything I did just upped Perrin’s frustration levels and made things worse.
  • There was no treats or toys allowed in the the testing room. That was where we waited, as well as where the examinations were conducted. This worked out to HOURS without classical reinforcement, and I didn’t even know the concept of personal play as a reinforcer at the time, let alone actually having had worked on it. That is a much longer time period without any classical reinforcers than any dog sport venue I am aware of, and there are entire courses devoted to reducing reinforcement schedules for the duration of a ring performance. I was expecting WAY too much here.
  • I was a nervous wreck, which only got worse the more Perrin acted poorly, and I’m sure that directly translated to Perrin’s frustration levels. I was by far the youngest person/trainer in the room and didn’t have the emotional maturity to deal with what was happening, or to understand that I did have an option to end things: I could have left! I could have walked out the minute it was clear I was just stressing Perrin out. It never once occurred to me that I could leave the room and quit the test, and I didn’t yet have the knowledge to understand Perrin’s behaviours as an expression of stress. I just thought he was being ‘disobedient’.

I really didn’t understand any of this at the time. I was angry, and upset with Perrin because he had embarrassed me by behaving so badly in such an inappropriate situation. And I was angry and upset at myself for being mad at my dog because I knew the whole thing was my fault and not his, I just didn’t know how. And not knowing how, or how to fix things made me angry and frustrated and sad and feeling like a failure. Failure has never been something that I deal with well. To this day, I have never been back into that training building or its associated pet store. I quit working with Perrin altogether for months before either of us felt like working together again.

BUT over a year and a half later, I can look back and have an infinitely better idea of what went wrong, how it could be fixed if it were something that we wanted to pursue again in the future, and how to better handle a similar situation if it ever happened again. I can see how much personal growth I needed to do before I could get to where I wanted Perrin and I to be. I can also see this disaster of a day was the catalyst for all of the wonderful things that have happened for Perrin and I since. That incident led me to pursue a different way to train. I never wanted to feel so angry with my dog again, like he was a failure who was acting poorly just to make me look bad. I wanted us to be a team, and enjoy working together. I wanted to have fun with my dog, and for training not to be a chore that left me crying after every session.

Less than 4 months after that test, I took my first online course in shaping, and through that I discovered a new way to train and have a relationship with my dog. A way to train that fostered the relationship with my dog that I always wanted to have. Changing the question from “What is my dog doing wrong?” to “What am I doing wrong?”, and having the knowledge to answer that latter question changed everything fundamentally. I wasn’t just picking on behaviour of Perrin’s I didn’t like and putting the entirety of the responsibility on him. I was acknowledging how I may have set him up for failure, or how I could make the path to success more clear to him. We were a team working through puzzles together, and the only thing that mattered is how we both felt about doing so.

I also got introduced the great wide world of dog sports. I realized that I didn’t even WANT to do therapy work, it was just the only guideline I knew of for training a ‘pet dog’, and what I wanted to do was have a relationship with Perrin. Once I found out about all the other goals we could have, therapy completely dropped off the radar for me. Not because we did badly once and I am afraid to go back. I am confident that I could build a proper training plan, and with the right amount of time, and careful selection of the organization in which we would test (to ensure I agreed with their testing set-up), that Perrin would pass with flying colours. It just doesn’t fall that high on my training priority list anymore (I dont even like people!). That test was leading me to other things: to a better way of life for us. I’m glad to say that I haven’t cried over dog training since!