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!

 

June 7th Training Log

Perrin is starting to get settled into the city after the big move and then testing life as a farm dog. Our morning walks have consisted of going to the busy park across the street during rush hour and watching all the people, bikes, skateboards, kids, and dogs go by; just generally getting used to the noise and movement of the city again. In the afternoons we have been doing more serious ‘downtown’ walks that required thinking of Perrin. This has been lots of loose leash walking, heeling tightly, waiting to sniff until cued, not being able to pee on every blade of grass, sitting at crosswalks and lights, and being resilient to all the crazy city noises. He has done so well and blown me away with what he remembers from being a puppy in the city. Navigating the busy city seems to have taken all his brain capacity, as today was the first day since we have been here that he wanted to do some brain work.

Today we worked on sit-to-stands on a couch cushion for an unstable surface. After 3 months I am still waiting for the fitness equipment I want to come back into stock with the Canadian supplier, so until then we are improvising.

We then worked on a new shaping trick: unrolling a yoga mat. This was a completely new behaviour that I had never worked on shaping before. Perrin has never been taught to roll anything with his nose. The whole process is below, unedited, so it is full of my mistakes. Well, its mostly unedited, I pulled out the part where I ran out of treats and ran to the kitchen to get more.

Then we worked on putting ‘be sad’ (laying down with his face on the floor) on cue, then called it a day when Jake got home from work. It has only been three nights, but Perrin absolutely knows who is coming up the stairs after the buzzer to the apartment goes off.

 

Training Priorities/Honouring the Dogs Aptitudes and Desires

Perrin is enjoying his life as a farm dog at the moment. We have been working on bits and pieces everyday, but I haven’t been documenting lately. I figured I would post some thoughts I wrote a while ago but hadn’t gotten around to posting.

Once I dove into the world of behaviour theory and training, then saw how much Perrin and I love training, my training list suddenly became very long! I want to figure out how to train THAT, and THIS, and ooh, THAT too! I very quickly had a list of behaviours to train that was longer than my arm. And while I could still use some more focus and priorities when it comes to that list (I am very guilty of flitting from one thing to another), there have been many things that have naturally fallen to the bottom of the list.

One of the items that has fallen to the bottom of that list is skijoring. It was something I wanted to try with Perrin since he was little, so when he was the right age I bought the equipment and started desensitizing him to the harness and introducing him to pulling. He took to pulling in no time, loving both his cart in the summer and the toboggan in the winter. Here Perrin is with his home made cart:

image.jpeg

This winter, I felt like he understood pulling well enough to try him out on the trails. And he bombed!

When in the woods, Perrin likes to noodle about and sniff EVERYTHING. This was not terribly conducive to pulling straight ahead of me, and led to many line tangles, me falling down and much cursing. It sucked the joy out of both skiing, and being with my dog so I ultimately just let him run beside me on leash. He happily trotted beside me, but at no time did he want to line out and lead.

Many people at the ski club who skijor were saddened by my news that Perrin didn’t naturally take to skijoring (who has heard of a dog who doesn’t want to pull?!?!). “Can you train it?” They asked. I’m sure that I could! In fact, I have several half baked training plans in my head to do just that.

But you know what?

While I could train him to lead out and run ahead of me, it would take a considerable amount of time for something that is just not important to us. We have found that we both have a much better time when we ski un-attached. He can sniff around and keep up to me, I can ski unhindered and we can both enjoy our time together out in the woods. I have other things to train, and there are lots of things that Perrin actually enjoys. So we move on to other goals, while enjoying skiing together but unattached, and that is just fine with me!

Reflections on Goal Setting and Relationship

My recent brain capacity for dog training has been being channeled into puppy preparations. As part of this, I have been focusing my energy on learning more about play, especially toy play. The new pup will have a drive for toys, provided that I don’t kill that drive, and I want to make the most of that. Toys are not Perrin’s favourite type of play, so I don’t have a lot of exposure in this area. As part of this process, I am making my way through Dog Sports Skills, Book 3: Play! by Denise Fenzi and Deb Jones. In the beginning of the book, there is a section that emphasizes the importance of reducing the pressure in training to ‘succeed’ and enjoying the process of working with your dog. This got me thinking.

In most areas of my life, I am an outcome or product drive person. I didn’t go to university because I love learning in a school setting, I needed my degree. I don’t knit because I love the process, but because I like custom socks. I don’t sew because I love the process, I sew because I need to make something I couldn’t buy.

This is where dog training and the relationship I have with my dog is different than anything else in my life. I just love being with Perrin. I truly enjoy working with him and playing with him because it is a fun thing to do. I am actually having difficulty setting goals and sticking to them, because there are so many fascinating rabbit holes to fall into and explore. Every time I set a training goal (we will finish our Parkour title, finally get our TEAM videos cleaned up and submitted,), there is another cool looking butterfly to chase (a new thing to shape, co-operative care, adding new things for Perrin to retrieve).

My lack of specific goals seems to keep me from getting frustrated, and by extension, keeps Perrin from getting frustrated. If something we are training  starts going sideways, I quit when it is clear Perrin or I are no longer having fun and move onto something else. Not because I thought this was good training (although in hindsight I would like to think that it is), but because it simply wasn’t enjoyable any more. I would work on something different, and maybe come back to the offending activity later (in the day, in the week or in the year) when I had thought more about it, or the environment was more appropriate, or I simply felt like it might be fun to try again.

I was given a great compliment from one of my friends who is a local trainer. We were training our dogs in the training building, and I was working on some skill with Perrin (I don’t remember what it was), but Perrin could just not focus on the task at hand. I switched gears and played with Perrin for a bit then worked on his ‘settling’ behaviour (laying flat out on his side). Perrin did super at his settling, not even looking up when new dogs came into the ring, and I was so so pleased with his ability. I left so proud of Perrin and my friend said “I love how fluid your goals are!”. I thought that was a wonderful compliment, as someone who has issues with relentlessly pursuing goals and quitting if I am not living up to my unrealistic expectations. The more I have thought about this, the more I realize that the reason I am able to be fluid about my ‘skills’ goals in any given instance in time, is because my overriding goal is having fun with my dog. Everything else flows down from there.

This is an interesting new perspective for me. It makes everything so much more enjoyable, and I hope I will be able to carry this over to some of my other hobbies, and into other areas of my life in general.

I would like to compete with Perrin one day, but I am scared of my hyper goal oriented, type A, ‘must be good at everything’ side coming in, taking over, and sucking the fun out of working with Perrin. I am terrified of going into the ring and failing (which is ridiculous, most people are not getting Q’s every run, and first runs are often a bit of a mess). I still have some personal work to do on not caring what other people think and not worrying about feeling judged for not being good enough at something. I have historical issues with only participating in things that I am good at, and only having fun if I am winning.

It seems that I have not brought this attitude over into day-to-day training with Perrin, as I was quick to recognize that it was entirely unfair and unrealistic to apply my own insanity to my non-human team mate. Perrin’s success at what we are doing was a direct result of my ability (or lack thereof) to clearly communicate,  and motivate him as well as making the right judgements for the environment/situation we are in, rather than a comment on Perrin’s innate abilities (and often his innate abilities shawn through where my abilities failed. There have definitely been ‘learning in spite of me’). I have done well understanding and internalizing that our normal work together is all about us having fun and having a relationship, and I need to transfer that same attitude over to competing before I go into the ring or it will be miserable for both Perrin and I.  For now, we will do fun things, keep working on skills, and continue developing our relationship while I work on gaining that outlook.