Sei’s First Class

Today was Sei’s first live in-person class! We are taking a conformation handling class (tonight) and will start a basic pet obedience class next week.

Lots of things were learned on my end tonight, although few of them focused on conformation.

Sei did amazing! He struggled with the environment at first (new facility, first class setting, first time being around strange dogs he can’t meet, loud barking from the next room over, funny floors, etc), but he quickly bounced back. He focused on me, took food, played with me and even eventually played with a toy (or a strip of muskrat fur, if you can actually call that a ‘toy’). I thought that it was interesting that he was able to play with me (bouncing around, running, chasing me) before he could play with a toy. I knew that when he started trying to chew on my leg that he was ready for the toy! He walked super well on his harness, peed in a new place, and sniffed a few new dogs.

The facility we are going to is marketed as being +R, and the info session I went to yesterday for the basic obedience class (with a different instructor), supported that claim. The instructor tonight however, could be best described as balanced. Things I was told that made me cringe:

  • I was reluctant to put Sei’s lead on the ‘show collar’ (at this point, a thick rope slip collar), because he is not yet trained to yield to collar pressure. He pulls enough right now that I did not want him pulling on a slip. So any time he went to pull, I just put a finger through his harness. The instructor inquired about this, and I explained. I was confused (and a little horrified) to hear “don’t worry about the pulling, he will stop with the leash chokes him”. She had misunderstood what I meant by ‘he isn’t trained for a collar yet’ to mean ‘I don’t think I can control him on a slip collar’ rather than ‘I don’t want him choking himself because he hasn’t been trained not to pull yet’. This never actually came to a head. I continued to use a combination of luring with food, calling his name and engaging him with motion, and grabbing his harness to have Sei move with me, and not go to the other dogs without him tightening the collar. Next week I will make/buy a small martingale show collar to avoid this issue. [To be clear, I have no issue with slip leads being used for showing in general. Just because a slip collar CAN be used to choke a dog, doesn’t mean that it has to be, and by the time the dogs go in the ring, they can certainly be trained not to pull into the collar. I just feel that it is not a suitable choice of equipment for Sei right now, where he is in his training, nor does it really matter what kind of collar he wears for a recreation ‘information’ type class].
  • When another puppy was stopping and sitting during the trotting, his owner was told to pop him on the slip collar, then follow with a reward once he was moving “so that he associates the collar pop with good things, and it becomes a good thing rather than a bad thing”. I hope she didn’t see my face at that point.
  • At one point she took the leash from my hands, to show me how to lure Sei forward on the leash. She gave me the leash back quickly when she saw the shocked look on my face.
  • The ‘bilingual’ class is not really bilingual. For 55 minutes of French instruction, I got about 5 minutes of English (which ultimately worked in my favour, because me sitting on the floor playing Sei could just be taken as the fact I couldn’t understand what was being said, rather than the instructor being offended at me keeping my dog engaged).
  • Finally, I was told as I left that Sei had such great improvement from the beginning to the end of the class (he did!). And that would continue as long as I “quit babying him”. Ha! Coming from this particular instructor, I am going to take that as a compliment. In my opinion, the ‘babying’ was the REASON he improved so much over the course of the session. I acknowledged when he was struggling and tried my best to make him feel better about things, rather than ignoring him or making him press on with whatever inconsequential task we were doing at the time.

Lest I only be a Negative Nancy, I did appreciate how the instructor handled the ‘inspection’ part of the class with Sei. Sei was clearly not going to be happy having her looming over him and touching him. Before I had to say anything, she suggested having her just stand near him and have me feed him cookies, then decreasing her distance over the next few classes. We were all happy with that solution.

Things I did well tonight:

  • Observing Sei, and doing my best to respond to how he was feeling. I don’t think I made the perfect decision every time, but I tried with the knowledge I have to work with. I am a lot farther ahead of where I was with Perrin on this, simply in interpreting what Sei is telling me, and knowing what to do about in in a positive manner.
  • Keeping engaged with Sei the whole time, rather than disengaging with him when the instructor was talking. The goal of taking this class is to build positive associations with the training building and a working environment. If we learn any conformation stuff, that will be cool too.

Things I need to work on for next time:

  • Being more confident in how I handle Sei. I do know some things, and I do know Sei (at least better than the instructor, when I say he is nervous, I know he is nervous). I think that if I am more confident in a quiet, self assured manner, I will invite fewer comments that people think are helpful. I need to be less stressed and flustered for Sei’s sake too.
  • Learning how to say “Thanks, I will think about it!” in a genuine way to comments that I find contrary to my philosophies or are just unkind or unhelpful. This ends the conversation in a positive manner, and prevents me from trying to be all flustered and explain my reasoning and back story for what I was doing and then having that nit-picked, leading me to getting more flustered. Keeps my stress level down, is non-confrontational, and still invites future help on the actual course subject matter (because I certainly DO need that). Win-win.
  • Keep a better hold on my leash so that it cannot be snagged from me while I am flustered.

In hind sight, I wish I had rented ring space at this facility (if they offer it, I don’t actually know), so that Sei could have been familiar with the space and its noises and sights before adding other dogs and people. I think that would have made things easier for him.

Sei rocked all my expectations tonight. He is such a cool guy. I just want to cuddle him now ❤

August 8th, 2017 Training Log

Things have been very busy lately, and I have been recording most of our work though our Fenzi homework. I figured I would make some notes for today before going off line again for a while (I am prepping to paint much of the house, thats going to be fun with two dogs!). I am also falling behind on the puppy genius homework with the two gold classes, and in life training. Gah. Got to catch up!

Perrin’s Heeling:

Fitness Trainer Homework:

Some of the videos are shared with Perrin’s heeling.

Sei’s Crucial Concepts Homework for the past few days:

I really, really hate luring. So that is what we are working on in this course right now. So far, we are struggling with tuck sits. I debated on whether or not to go down that rabbit hole, because tuck sits are a real challenge for Sei right now, and I don’t want to spend the entire rest of the course on them if we can’t get them worked out in the next few days (few things ever get worked out in a a matter of days). We will see how it goes. These are our progress so far, with my notes.

I struggle with luring quite a bit, and find it very frustrating. It seems to me like a strange thing to struggle with as much as I do because it should be intuitive. With my older dog, I shape pretty much everything and have so far followed this with Sei.

I find it difficult to make sure I am doing the right thing with the lure, observe what the dog is doing, adjust myself accordingly (which I often don’t know how to do, how my hand motion relates to the dog’s motion is not always obvious to me beyond the obvious ones like spins), see when criteria is met, AND get my markers and timing correct.

I took video of luring attempts of roll over, tuck sits and spins, all of which are completely new berhaviours for Sei. I made progress with the roll overs, and spins, but tuck sits were not as successful. The above video of tuck sits are a good example of the issues I tend to have when luring.

I had several problems here:

  • The biggest issue is that while I theoretically knew what to do with my hand, I did not know what I was doing in practice, nor how to modify it when what I was doing was not working and I was getting rock-back sits.
  • I wasn’t sure of the best way to handle the rock back sits. He tried something, and he is at the stage where I really want to reward the effort of trying, and for working with me. I defaulted to asking for a hand touch, rewarding that, then tossing a reset cookie. That went on for a couple reps and I felt like I was just patterning that sequence. Because I didn’t know how to fix the underlying issue, we called it quits so I could come up with a better action plan for later.
  • Because things are going poorly, I am frustrating/confusing my dog, and I don’t know how to fix the issues, I get flustered. Then my mechanics, marker words, and timing go out the window. Normally I wouldn’t continue to the point where I get flustered, but I usually start there with luring.

 

I just experimented with how the lure placement/path effects behaviour: Can he follow the lure instead of sitting and waiting for the cookie (a very reinforced behaviour)? What happens if I move my hand up/down/sideways when Sei is standing? Sitting? Down? Moving? That sort of thing. No markers, lots of cookies.

I definitely have an issues splitting and setting criteria with luring. I’m not sure why. I don’t have those problems when shaping. It is definitely going to take some practice for me to get the hang of the multi tasking for luring, and to find how it is easiest to see the dog’s motions when I am so up close. Especially with Sei being so much smaller than what I am used to working with.

Whoohoo! Unexpected tuck sits! I was intending to video footage for Baby Genius with the whipped cream, but I started getting repeated tuck sits. Bonus! No subtlety in the lure with that can, but it certainly made it easier to reward for a longer time in position.

I’ve been doing trials with different treats for the lure, and what I am using makes a big difference. I think it must be my mechanics that is doing it with each for it to be so consistent across different foods, but I’m not sure. Discrete bits of food (kibble, hot dogs, cheese) yielded poorer results than something lickable that I could smear on my hand, then open my fist to reward (PB, cream cheese, jam). This video highlights the difference.

After many attempts, here is where we eventually got to with the mixed treat method. PB for the lure, and kibble for the reset. My ‘get it’ marker needs to be cleaned up here for sure, I am moving my arm before I finish the marker. (Sorry about the background noise, my husband was wildly happy about whatever trick my older dog was doing with him upstairs, but this was by far the most suitable clip).

 

August 2nd, 2017 Training Log

Today we got a lot done! Sei got quite the day of brain work:

  • Handling Face: I wanted to associate Sei’s face being touched with good things, so I was pairing a face touch with a C/T. Then he started offering chin rests, so I did a bit of that.
  • Chin Rests: Literally Sei’s second session on this. The first was earlier in the morning when I was just making good associations with his face being touched and he offered me a chin rest. With duration. Very impressed with him.

 

  • Timing for CCC: I took more video for my crucial concepts course and got it edited. Nothing too interesting here.
  • Stacking: I worked a bit more on the stacking practice. It is a slow process, but I think we are slowly moving forward with it.
  • Two Ball Game: This is really not a very good example of the game, but it is better than we were doing a week ago!
  • More Play: We had an awesome play session in the evening! I found strategy that works to keep Sei bringing the ball to me rather than running off with it. When Sei picks up the ball and turns back around, I run the other way and keep moving until he drops the ball. Then I pick it up and start the game again. I’m pretty happy with what a change that made. I did eventually have to go get a tug to to save myself from puppy teeth between Sei dropping the ball and me throwing it again, but that worked fine too.
  • Focus in the face of popping corn: Sei found the popcorn popping in a glass pot on the stove very interesting. So I took the opportunity to work on some focus.
  • More stationing, hand targets, a curiosity exercise from the Baby Genius course we are taking, and a little bit of mat work.

August 1st 2017 Training Log

Today is the ultra short reader’s digest version. Just the things we worked on, but no thoughts about them. It was a bit of a whirlwind day and I am behind!

  • Worked on more stationing with the treat and train while we are eating.
  • Had an awesome play session with Sei. He is sometimes returning with balls and rolled frisbees now! Whoohoo!
  • I started our homework for our Crucial Concepts class that we are taking. So far it is just me working on timing my makers and treat delivery. I still need to video a few more scenarios before editing them together.
  • Started reading our other FDSA course homework
  • Dealt with an x-pen climbing puppy for the first time! Jail break!
  • Hand touches, with food as well as using a toy to reward for the first time
  • Continuing to add a sit cue
  • Husbandry work, CC’ing a comb
  • Puppy Cuddles!

July 31st 2017 Training Log

We just got back from a weekend on the farm! Both dogs enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Swimming in the pond yesterday was a big hit! Perrin (who couldn’t swim at the beginning of the summer) was just a big fish, and swam around for the better part of 40 minutes! He is pretty tired today. Sei splashed around in the shallows and got up to his belly, and went for a kayak ride. No swimming volunteered yet though! He has no issues with being on the unstable floating dock, although he does hate being left on shore when everyone else is in the pond. Here are some fun clips!

 

I was also able to pick up my treat n train. Its pretty fun! Sei got it figured out in about 5 seconds, while Perrin wanted nothing to do with it. It is a bit like having a TV for dogs; it feels like cheating when I need Sei to be staying in one spot and out of trouble, but he is still too wound up to be quiet in his x-pen. I did a bit of targeting with Sei using it, which was fun.

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).