Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Dogs are like their owners?

I've been thinking about Rhyme and some of his personality traits and wondered if dogs are really like their owners.

When Flint was in his prime he never got things wrong - at that time I was working in a bank. Contrary to now popular belief bankers were generally very professionally and had regular checks to ensure things were right or they wouldn't balance.

Torro is a constant loner and prefers his own company so he doesn't have to worry about things. Mark can vouch for times when I've spent sleepless nights over things not worth worrying about and I must admit sometimes I wonder if I would do better not mixing with some people or situations that confuse me.

Rhyme is the opposite - he just wants to have a laugh, sit on his friends and hang out. He can perform brilliantly but mostly it's a case of life is too wondrous to do these chores. A bit like that emotion when you heard the school bell ring and class was out - in his case for summer LOL

Take a moment to think how your dogs reflect different personality traits. As for me I'm off life's too short to worry about that. Anyone wanna hang out?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

An Update on Rhyme

Rhyme is over 10 months now and looking like a grown up dog. He is not going to be quite as big as I thought he might be. He is a bit too skinny for my liking and could do with more coat. even so he is still the most handsome dog in the world :)

Attitude wise he has now decided that he wants to be doing things with me. That also may be down to the fact that I am booking various training days/sessions for him with other instructors and so need him to be focussed so that I can get the most benefit from them. Training on my own means that I have taken my time and gone very softly softly on various bits of behaviour that would otherwise have been nipped in the bud a while ago.

One such behaviour is going off and doing what he likes. Influenced by outsiders I took this to mean that I wasn't interesting enough or was asking too much or that I should have taught him to play more etc. I was taking the theory of It's Your Choice too far and literally giving him a choice of training or doing his own thing without first ensuring that he understood what was required, that it would be rewarding and giving him too many other naturally interesting things to go and do instead.

In some ways it has worked as I have been able to spend time learning his body language and he has had a very stress free puppyhood. Now I need to help him understand some good basics so that we can enjoy group training and make the most of any opportunity we get.

As an instructor the things that appear to me to waste most training time are :-
Handlers that can't get their dog on start line without a fuss
Dogs that don't enjoy or understand waiting
Handlers not having rewards ready
Dogs that don't come back with the toy
Dogs that don't come to where owner wants them to
Dogs more interested in the other dogs in the group
Dogs that have to have all other dogs/distractions out of the way to work

So I know that in order to benefit from a training session I need to ensure Rhyme and I are not guilty of any of the above. I am confident of the first 4 or 5 but am conscious that the last two would be a challenge at the moment.

Previously I have been doing lots of recall work one on one with him but decided to work on calling him off my own dogs, especially Devo whom he is obsessed with.

I have started with them all in a controlled postion either sit, stand or down then call them individually. Rhyme enjoys waiting so although he has got up a few times to follow the others he more often than not waits very proudly for his turn.

Next stage was to throw a treat past Rhyme and release another dog past him to it. This took great self control and is most difficult if it's Devo. With this exercise if he broke to follow I called him to me and so far although he has broken his wait he has recalled off the other dog to me. Then happily waited the next time. So in focussing on a different thing I have strengthened his understanding of his name and recalling to me.

Because of the confidence gained in this I can now call him if he runs after the others down the garden and he is coming back each time.

Next stage is to take it to the field..........

This is Rhyme and his Dad Reef :)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

It's our game - not the dogs

I do agility because I love spending time with my dogs and with Mark and agility combines both. Our dogs love to do agility and spend time with us too. An added bonus is the lovely people that we train and know though competing with them. As an instructor I also get pleasure from helping people enjoy training their dog and the sport more.

At the KC International Festival an awful incident has made me question what it is all about. Do our dogs really get the most out of life by doing agility? Do we improve our relationship with them by training and competing with them? Or is it all really about our own desire to compete?

I do not know what upset me the most, the sight of a dog so out of it's mind that it attacked it's owner or the fact that somebody said she came back from hospital and competed with her other dog in the afternoon - sorry BWTF. Surely the dog that attacked her needed to be taken away from the show to somewhere peaceful - is competing at agility more important than your own dog's welfare?

Maybe the lady had her reasons (as the dog had it's for doing what it did) and as I don't know the whole story I'm not in a good postion to comment on her actions. I do know I do not want to see of that kind of frenzy again. Hopefully there will be an explanation of a long stream of events leading up to the incident and valuable lessons will be learnt.

For my part I will be more mindful of my own dog's stress levels and ensure they are enjoying the competition as much as I do without loosing control.

Talking of control Ruth has hatched a plan for improving Inka's focus from an training method used in Leslie McDevitt's Control Unleashed. It is early days but already shows huge leaps of success. I will let you know more about how it works as it progresses.

Talking of progress - Rhyme actually played tuggie with me around the rings at the KC Festival. We walked around quite a bit and I got focus and play in more than one place. Once even when his Dad Reef was running :)

Talking of running - I must get a move on with other things now :) :)

A short clip to help relax after all that stress

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Any wind is favorable if you don't know what port you are sailing to

I tend to be very lucky in life and have got to some very good places by just going with where life takes me. I'm also lucky in that Mark does do planning so generally it's his wind that is favourable LOL.

We are in the process of taking stock of what we have and what we want for our future (our ten year anniversary in February or somebody's milestone birthday can have that effect). The result could lead to some big changes and we are putting our bungalow on the market. I know, all that work we did to make it easy to maintain and energy efficient so we could just enjoy our weekends and now we maybe embarking on another project. Keep your fingers crossed for us and I'll fill you in once we get a buyer and our offer accepted on the house we've seen.

It's also a good time of year to take stock on how we're doing against the plan with our own dogs.

Those of you who follow Mark's blog know he's where he wants to be regarding Devo. Kodi is still not back to full strength and at nearly 9 we are not confident he will ever be. He still enjoys his agility though so we will keep him ticking over.

Torro is a brilliant dog and I am frustrated that I can't seem to harvest his speed in the right time and place. He is such fun to run though and I will keep trying.

Rhyme - now what can I say about that cheeky little monkey :) He is growing up nicely and did some lovely stuff at Anthony Clark's Puppy Camp. He also got over excited and decided to join in everyone else's game - sorry least they can be confident their dog is good with distractions.

Ant was great though and put Rhyme on a lead and got me to do some recalls so Ant could control him if he went off. Needless to say recalls are still our main priority. I have many games to offer him distractions. I get him to ignore food on the floor, toys on the floor and Flint to come to me. He is very good with those now I just need to add Kodi, Torro and lastly Devo to our dogs as a distraction then move on to other dogs playing etc.

His play is continuing to build with every time I go near him us playing tuggie. It is strange to me that some dogs are totally obsessive with tugging (e.g. Kodi & Devo) whilst others need to develop the joy of it. It may be something I do as Torro wasn't toy driven as a pup. Even now he is not one to take the toy away and play on his own preferring instead to bring it to me so we can play together. As an instructor that is a good thing as there is considerable time wasting in a lesson with people who can't get the toys back off their dogs or even worse reinforcement opportunities wasted because people aren't prepared to present the toy as the dog won't share.

I generally avoid the agilitynet forum but a recent post wanting to ban tuggies from shows was unbelievable. Some guy whose dogs were not in control and even attacked another dog blamed use of tuggies by others.

I will do all I can to help Rhyme want to tug with me rather than interfere with other people and their dogs (even though his version is to lick people and want to play with other dogs) and if I can't then I won't put him that situation and I certainly won't be using any form of punishment.