Dog-est August – Training Log – July 31, 2018


Last night I tried shaping Sei to go around a bucket, and it did not go well. It is a behaviour that I have always struggled to shape, and I don’t quite know why. It is on the list of the ‘very first things to shape’ when people are learning. I have shaped much trickier behaviours easily (with Perrin) but this one has always eluded me.

Sei started the session by repeatedly laying down. Not sure whether it was a ‘I don’t want to do this because it is too hot/too boring/not worth it’ or an offered behaviour. A lot of the shaping we have done recently involves downs, so the latter wouldn’t be surprising. I upped my rate of reinforcement and C/T anything that was not laying down. Any motion, and (tried, my aim isn’t great) to use strategically placed reinforcement. We did get a couple of times around the bucket, but it quickly fell apart. I also felt like he was just chasing the cookie rather than thinking about it (so I was basically luring rather than shaping). Soon Sei was not coming around the front of the bucket, but rather swinging back and forth around the back side. I switched to Perrin (a more experienced shaper who is less easily frustrated and is slower moving. ie easier and more forgiving for me!) and he ended up doing exactly the same thing. So the problem is most certainly me and how I am approaching this! I just haven’t figured out what it is yet. My sessions were also too long, the little kibbles I was using kept getting lost in the carpet, and I didn’t quit when I was getting frustrated. Bad choices all the way around!

Today was no better. I just frustrated both of us. I couldn’t make it happen with Perrin either, not even after he was confidently doing wraps in both directions in a separate exercise. I think it has to do with treat placement, my reinforcement not coming in the right spot to set them up for success for the next rep, and reinforcement coming in the wrong place so that they go around the other way.

I tentatively tried with a toy again, but wasn’t sure if I should because I wasn’t sure if I would keep my frustration from Sei if I frustrated him. It actually went pretty well! I think I can get away without shaping this to get to the behaviour we need, but I would still like to figure out what is going wrong with the shaping. I should do more free shaping with Sei one way or the other.


Today we worked on go around and vertical target. We did try shaping on the go around, it but as mentioned above, that didn’t go well. I re-set up the exercise to see what Perrin remembered, and it turned out that I was right about my suspicion that it was everything but the verbal. We worked on adding the verbal and fading the lure. He struggles more from a sit than a stand.

Perrin used to have a vertical target behaviour, but I broke it! I was using the target stick that came with the treat n train, and somewhere along the way Perrin decided that it was for retrieving rather than touching. I spent some time trying to reteach it from the beginning, but Perrin was so fixated on putting the silly thing in his mouth that we didn’t get very far (also a problem Perrin has in nosework, but he is allowed to retrieve the scent for TEAM, so we are good there). For TEAM, the vertical target can be practically anything, so I figured the easiest way forward would be to reteach the vertical target behaviour with something non-retrievable.

I used a post it note, and worked on shaping it today. He caught on so fast. I love shaping with Perrin! He is just so happy and fun.


Another couple rounds of muzzle work, and here is one of them. I took the sessions outside today to work in a different spot. Dex was not into being left out!


Just and touches and engagement for Dex. Did I ever mention how happy and adorable this dog is? He even offered what looks like the beginnings of sit pretty. Thats neat and all, but cooler is the fact that he offered anything at all! He is catching on to this stuff really fast!


Dog-est August – Training Log – July 30, 2018

After swimming in the pond and frolicking in the bean field, the boys all got a turn at some skills today.


We worked on lured wraps today. I was waiting on the video to download (yay rural internet!), so Sei and I worked on lured wraps from the ShapeUp course notes I have from before. I think they went pretty well overall! Luring with a toy is not something we can normally do because of some combination of how I taught Sei previous toy skills, and Sei’s dislike of being in my space bubble. (I have contemplated reteaching them, but I haven’t worked through how to make it context specific to certain toys, as the system we have now works excellently for disc). These went really well though because of the space created by the tree/wing. Sei definitely liked the fur toy rather than the holee roller. Just got to make that more durable. The Silvia Trkman video has the wraps shaped; I will try that tomorrow. I’m not very good at shaping wraps, so we will see how it goes.


Perrin and I worked on two TEAM behaviours today, stay with distraction, and wrap an object. Our stay looks solid, but the wrap will need to be put on cue again. He seems to remember the behaviour but not the verbal, which is pretty standard for Perrin. I love how excited he is about some of those wraps.


We did three rounds of muzzle work, with the advancement of touching the strap. Going well!


I tried nose touches today, and Dex did great! He is just so happy, its adorable.



Dog-est August: The Plan

Dog-est August has officially begun! Well, I guess it is still July, but I have all the dogs and we are ready to go! This month I am farm sitting my parents’ two dogs, and my pups are along for the fun. They are excited to have a month of frolicking on the farm, splashing in the pond, and running their little hearts out. Meet my two ‘bonus dogs’!
Chance is an ~6 year old Shepherd/Rottweiler mix who loves snuggling, chasing toys (I have a bonus disc dog for the month!), and yodelling.

IMG_4932Dex is a 5 year old Golden/Bernese mix and is Perrin’s full brother. All Dex wants in life is love, and he will smother you if necessary to get it!

They are farm dogs who spend their time happily frolicking around the property, catching snacks, chasing birds, and generally having a grand old time. They are both really interested in spending time with me and will try their hardest for a piece of hot dog, even if they don’t know what to do to get one. Neither have any formal training; they know ‘sit’ and ‘come’, and sometimes ‘down’ and ‘wait’ but that is the extent of their current repertoire.

I want to continue with my dogs’ training while I am here, have a training project to work on for Chance, and will find something for Dex so that he doesn’t feel left out! Here is the plan so far:

Sei – Agility Foundations

I am going completely back on my last post regarding Sei and agility. Whoops! I bought a tunnel and Silvia Trkman’s agility foundations video. I hope that after working through it for a month, I can decide whether I want to take her class that starts at the end of August. I still plan to do the conditioning work and the jump grids from jumping gymnastics on the side.

Perrin – TEAM

I really need to get TEAM1 going – the TEAM requirement is the only thing standing between me and my FDSA foundations certificate. Perrin has started all of the components but on the whole, they are a mess. I plan to restart each one and see what we have. I do not have all of my equipment, no platforms, no scent articles, only jumps. I should be able to find somethings around that will work for most items, and I can’t fathom that we will get to the point of needing them all for a run through anyways.

Chance – Muzzle Training

Chance has a mandated project given to us by my mom. We will be working on muzzle training this month. Chance does not like it when strange dogs run up to him while he is on leash. My mom would like him to be comfortable wearing a muzzle so that she can relax, and in the hopes that people will not allow their dogs to run up to a leashed AND muzzled dog (because apparently for most people, leashed is not enough). All of the work I have done with Sei on this subject has been in preparation for teaching Chance, so hopefully we will have a good place to start before we have to troubleshoot.

Dex – ?

I need to come up with something for Dex. He just wants to make you happy, and maybe get a hot dog in the process. The most helpful route would be to start working on CC nail trims. Dex hates them. I may give it a go, but it isn’t something I am very good at, nor enjoy doing. I would LOVE to do mimicry with Dex, but he only has one behaviour on cue, and I need at least 3 mimicable behaviours on really solid verbals. I could also work on just basic operant stuff, teaching him to offer behaviours and eventually to shape using a variety of foundation behaviours.

I tend to get sucked into chasing butterflies when I train, instead of following the things we are supposed to be working on. Perhaps Dex will be my ‘wildcard’, with whom I can ‘legally’ jump from topic to topic with.

Training Log – July 24, 2018

It seems I have finally found the motivation to start working on some agility things with Sei. Yesterday he saw his first jump, and it was kind of fun. The problem is that where to start with agility is a huge analysis paralysis trap. What handling system? Handling or equipment introduction? Do I use the class I already have (Shape Up, some equipment, some handling), buy Silvia Trkman’s foundations DVD (equipment/skill focused), buy the FDSA handling intro course (handling focused)? Can I even self evaluate handling in a bronze level class, or would there be a huge benefit to waiting until I can do it at gold (probably)? Can I even justify purchasing something new when there are also equipment costs on the horizon. I only have jumps without wings at the moment, and most foundation agility programs need at least 1 tunnel and some wings. Wings are easily made from PVC, but tunnels and even homemade bags are more expensive.

Should I even be doing jumping? Sei is over a year (15 months), but under a year and a half. When I talked to the ortho vet about agility and jumping foundations last month, he cleared Sei for such activities given his fitness background, the program I had in mind, and that it is not something we train extensively everyday. X-rays were not taken though, so growth plate closure is not known. Is it really any different than the jumping he does in disc? It is probably safer because it is more controlled than disc (whether I should have been doing disc or not is whole ‘nother can of worms I have wrestled with). Does the fact I am doing something that is potentially worse justify doing something a little less risky? That is bad logic!

I decided to sidestep most of equipment and agility specific issues, and work on an FDSA course in my library called Jumping Gymnastics. It is a course focused on conditioning for jumping, and teaching the dog how to jump effectively and safely. All you need is 4 jumps, and some toy skills. Which I would like to think we have! It will be a nice, easy, skill based contrast to the work I will be doing following along with the Boogey-Dog course this semester. I want something that is just going to be fun and not feel like endless drilling with me screwing up, and Sei getting frustrated. Perrin’s love of jump grids have given me a +CER to them, and the course is set up with a focus on errorless learning so I thought it would be a good fit in that regard as well. Today we started with our baseline videos for the set point exercise.

The Set Up

Sei is currently somewhere between 20.75″-21″, so I used a jump height of 20″ as per the AAC rules.  I used one of my cavalettis as the stride regulator, and used distances of 4.5′, 5′, and 6′. We did 2 reps of each distance, for a total of 6 reps. Here is one of each, in real time and slow motion:


The 4.5′ and 5′ distances are too close for Sei. He is taking off much closer to the jump than he lands. The 6′ distance is better, but it is still a little unbalanced. The next time we work on this I will be curious to try a couple larger distances, or use the same distances and a 16″ jump, and see what happens. It is also clear that he is pulling from his front end rather than pushing from his rear. This is the sort of thing that the course is designed to help with through both conditioning and jumping exercises. I also wonder if I was standing a bit too close to the jump and affecting how he was landing (decelerating to prepare for the tug). I will stand farther away next time and see.

In terms of the skills department, I was so happy with our toy skills, hand touches and waits/breaks here! These have mostly been edited out of the video, but I felt good about them. I used hand touches to set him up behind the set point where he needed to be, he waited until I released him every time (although I didn’t push my luck on this part, I kept it at a level I figured he would be successful at, saying ‘tug’ while I was still in motion rather than stopping and waiting first), he drove straight over the jump to the toy (never going around or under the jump, where did he learn that? He saw his first jump yesterday! I certainly didn’t teach it!), outing the toy when asked, the whole bit! Whoohoo! I started out tugging, outing the toy, then taking Sei back to the set point to go again. I realized that the smarter thing to do would be to tug with Sei all the way back to the set point, then set him up. He liked that a lot better! (EDIT: Watching the slow motion video, he did actually break his stay once before his marker. I presented the toy a fraction of a second before giving my cue, and he broke on the toy presentation. I would have never seen that without the video replay).

In terms of smart training, I should consider stationing Sei between reps while I measure and change the set up. Either in a down if I think he can hold it (questionable) or give him a station. This would be a smart thing to work on now to set us up for success in future agility training.

Tomorrow is a long drive back to the farm, then we will be at the cottage for a few days. So we will likely not work on this specific exercise for a few days. Tomorrow I will do some fitness work focussing on the core and rear, and then the cottage days will be full of swimming, so that will be fun and fitness!



July 14th, 2018 Training Log

Today’s theme is: Lots of video, very little commentary. Go.

We also went for a walk, found Sei’s last geocache for his beginner title, some muzzle work, started on thrus for rally free, stationing work, and cuddled. Today was a bad day mentally, lots of wishing we could do things we can’t. So I tried to have some fun training lots of things we can. Didn’t work so well today.