Thursday, January 31, 2013

Trail Dogs

As a former employee of the outdoor recreation industry and all around outdoorswoman, hiking is one of my greatest pleasures and pasttimes - in fact one of the reasons I have a dog in the first place was to get a hiking buddy.  I got off work yesterday and didn't have a workout to do at the gym, so a song in my heart I leashed up the pups, threw 'em in the car, and off to the woods we went.

The last time we went hiking I had some problems, namely with Tibbs.  Since he's James' dog, that is as a rule the only person that can get through to him when he's off-leash in "WHOOOOOO!" mode.  I was concerned about it, and the dogs hadn't had any exercise in a few days and I knew they'd be running around like crazy dogs for the first chunk of the hike.

The trail I prefer for running the crazies out of the dogs is off-leash friendly and well, well away from any major traffic of any kind, so it's a great place to really let them go.  Provided they're smart enough not to fall off any cliffs, challenge any coyote packs, or chase the deer.  Guinness has been hiking regularly since puppyhood and I may have done the littler dogs a disservice by not ensuring to hike them as much as I did with Guinness.  But to be fair, when Guinness was a puppy I was a college student in rural Alabama - not much to do in Tuscaloosa except drink or go outside to play.

I let the dogs out of the car and away we went down the trail.  Sure enough, totally unlistening bonkers dogs.

Dog hiking 001

As a dog owner, I'm continually training the dogs, no matter where we are.  I had brought a bag of training treats with me, and throughout the hike regularly recalled the dogs to me, gave them each a treat, and then released them to go back to running around.  The idea here is to build a rock-solid recall that (in the dogs' minds) doesn't necessarily mean the cessation of fun times.  Get back to me, collect your reward, and off you go.

Dog hiking 002

This particular trail is a balloon or cherry-stem design - a long trail, with a loop, then you come out the same way you went in.  In the middle is a pretty decent sized hill, and it's rocky the whole way.  So this is definitely not a trail you can do without paying attention, but it's still short enough and other than the huge hill, flat enough that it's a really beginner-friendly hike.  So if you have a dog and want to start hiking, give Turkey Creek a go.

We hiked along and met several people, and I'm also beginning to realize how little off-leash socialization the boys have had with strange dogs.  Plenty of on-leash time and exposure to the outside world, lots of time going over to hang out with other dogs, but not a lot of offleash time around dogs they've never met.  Let me tell you, they get EXCITED.  Especially over a female.

Dog hiking 004
Whatever this was, it was really interesting.

We made it up to the windswept top of the hill, when about halfway through the hike, I suddenly heard a pack of coyotes start howling and crying like they'd caught something.  In these parts, coyotes really enjoy killing dogs, and I'd met a group looking for the lost dachshund earlier on the trail.  So I was a tad unnerved and wanted the dogs to all stay in eye-shot.  

After the hill down in the flat part of the trail, we were hiking along when on the trail along the ridge above us I hear another group and their dog.  Totally normal, this trail is a great place to walk a dog.  However, Shiner BOLTED.  He shot up this hill after this dog, and absolutely would NOT leave.

Dog hiking 005
Immediately pre-bolt.  I had to put my camera away for the most part after this.

I called and called. And called some more. No Shiner.  As I was concerned by the fact he'd shot up the hill, I went off trail and scaled the hill, where the dog's owners handed him back over.  I put him on his leash and we parted ways in the opposite direction.  After letting the other hikers get out of ear and eyeshot, I took Shiner's leash back off and WHOOSH.  He TOOK OFF down the trail after his dog friend.  Again, I called and called and no return by Shiner.  Guinness, Tibbs, and I made our way back up the trail to find him attempting to hump this dog, a pit bull mix.  He absolutely refused to come - he had to be caught. I have not been so disappointed in him in a long time.

The entire rest of the hike, Shiner wore the leash of shame.  The leash of shame essentially means - congratulations.  We're in a huge offleash area, and you've proved you can't be trusted with that.  In more trainery terms, the degree of distraction overwhelmed him and his motivation to check out that other dog was way higher than any reward I had available.  So I had to remove something he wanted - his freedom.  He had to walk behind Tibbs and Guinness.  He basically hated life that entire walk back to the car.

We finished our walk as the sun was beginning to set, so I laid down the seats in the car so they could have the whole back to sprawl out and then headed home.

Dog hiking 008

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pre-Game Video

As silly as it makes me feel, I had James recently video me working with each dog.  Since Tibbs has a conformation show, that's what we're working on (he's in the beginning stages of Rally training).  Shiner and Guinness are both working on their rally moves.

Tibbs does conformation:

One of Tibbs' biggest obstacles to rocking the conformation ring has been show manners.  He's a very sensitive dog, and doesn't like holding still - a combination which makes moving with confidence and poise hard for him!  We've been working on his manners, getting his free-stack down and working on our gaiting together as a team.  Hopefully when we move together, we do it gracefully and it all comes together.

From this video, I feel like I need to gait Tibbs faster.  I either need to somehow walk faster or break into a trot (which is frowned on with terriers).  But once we get the pace of his gait right, I think he's come a long way.

Shiner does Rally:

Shiner is doing much, much better with Rally!  He's starting to get the focus I want - now just to isolate his little peabrain from distractions.  This includes breaking stays, sniffing the ground, and rushing towards things that instantly fascinate him.  Once we get that polish he's going to be a good little lad.

Guinness does Rally: 

Ah, Guinness.  My pride and joy.  I feel like if we just go out there and do what we do in practice, the judges are going to fall in love with him.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy birthday, Shiner & Tibbs!

Happy birthday, Shiner & Tibbs!  And congratulations, James, Guinness, and me - we did it guys.  Didn't kill 'em once.  I have to say thank you to Kellye - she bred a beautiful pair of boys who are a hell of a lot of fun to have around.

Mr. Tibbs, at a year old


Guinness and his proteges

He's a very proud big brother.

He's also very tired.  The last year wore him out.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Goal for 2013: the Canine Good Citizen Test

I'm making it my express goal for 2013: I want all three boys to get their CGC title.

The Canine Good Citizenship test, for the unaware, is a program by the AKC open to all breeds of dog.  It's more or less an obedience test based on the dogs ability to function in a real world environment.  If you pass, you get a certificate and the title CGC to the end of the dog's name.

Taken from the AKC's website on CGC testing:

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. With the dog sitting at the handler's side, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming
This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so. It also demonstrates the owner's care, concern and sense of responsibility. The evaluator inspects the dog to determine if it is clean and groomed. The dog must appear to be in healthy condition (i.e., proper weight, clean, healthy and alert). The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot. It is not necessary for the dog to hold a specific position during the examination, and the handler may talk to the dog, praise it and give encouragement throughout.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog's position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler's movements and changes of direction. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops. The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. In either case, there should be a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The handler may talk to the dog along the way, praise the dog, or give commands in a normal tone of voice. The handler may sit the dog at the halts if desired.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd
This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler's commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. Prior to this test, the dog's leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to sit and then down. The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler's commands. The handler may not force the dog into position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of the line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog. The dog may be released from the front or the side.

Test 7: Coming when called
This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to "stay" or "wait" or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog
This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise.

Test 10: Supervised separation
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, "Would you like me to watch your dog?" and then take hold of the dog's leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, "there, there, it's alright").

My concerns about this test are the reaction to distraction with the two terriers, and with all three, the reaction to another dog.  Shiner and Tibbs are terriers and they want to approach literally EVERYTHING.  Drop a chair, and they want to go sniff it.

The reaction to another dog test concerns me because the boys may want to play with the other dog (though this doesn't usually happen at dog shows).  Guinness on the other hand can just be a bit snappy when he's on a leash - but again, this doesn't happen at dog shows.  So if I can get all three of them in "Dog Show Brain," we should be able to pass the tests with flying colors.  If not, we're possibly hosed on those two.  The other ones I think we've got down provided the test is on a day the dogs aren't too overly wriggly.

So there it is.  Goal set.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I bought my dog a sweater. There, I said it.

All three of the dogs are shorthairs and we've been having recent spells of 30-ish degree weather.  They spend a decent amount of time hanging out together in the yard, but then all of a sudden it's really cold.  Tibbs & Shiner sit at the back door, staring at me and shivering until I let them in, and are also really hyper.

On a recent walk, Shiner just started crying and shivering.  I ended up shoving him in my jacket for a lot of the walk from there.  So, yeah.  Dog sweaters all around.

This isn't my first rodeo - I bought Guinness a jacket for the same reason a couple years ago.  After stuffing the little dogs into the outfits, they looked like an advertisement for Ruffwear.

Shiner was the only one willing to hold still.

Aaaand it's covered in grass.
Considering they live in the house, and grew up in 100 degree weather, they don't exactly take to cold, and these work quite well to keep their spirits up.  It was about 40 F when these were taken, plenty cold enough for lots of puppy shivers unblanketed.  Hey, it's Austin.  We're a hot weather species.

That's Tibbs at a trot from the front.
Putting them on is fairly straightforward.  Arms through the legholes, then zip up the side.  It was easy enough even with Tibbs' wiggling around.

I can't tell whether they like them or not.

Here's their Christmas card photo.

"So....clothes.  Kinda weird."

Handsome gentlemen, Mr. Tibbs and Mr. Shiner Black.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Distraction and Drills

Since I don't participate in any classes for obedience, I have to actively work to create training environments that will mimic the amount of distraction the dogs will deal with in a real trial/show environment.  Yesterday we had a great session!

James took Tibbs for a little daddy-doggy bonding hike, so I walked Shiner and Guinness to the elementary school near our house to run around in the field and do some training.  With only two dogs, I decided to up the ante by doing what I call tandem training.

See, at home I only work with a single dog at a time about once a day or so - the rest of the time the dogs are expected to more or less work as a pack.  For fun I've started doing what my nerd friends and I call "Dog-bending".  This is where using voice commands and exaggerated hand movements I do obedience with all three dogs at the same time.  Normally, it's just cycling through sit-down-stand-stays in the living room, but no one is rewarded until they're all in position - I want them to work as a team.  It also adds distractions (which training in the house, are hard to come by).

So, back to the elementary school.  After a free play period where we run around and act like crazy people, I brought them in.  First we drilled sit-stays with large circles walked around them (it was wet and I have trouble getting thin-furred Shiner to down when it's cold and wet).  We drilled sit-stays for a while, then recalls - Shiner beat Guinness across a field in a flat out sprint!  They both ended with a beautiful finish for their cookies.

Then we did what I considered to be our hardest drills of the day.  I down-stayed Guinness, then off-leash heeled Shiner in a big circle around him.  We came up beside Guinness, I finished Shiner into a sit - and we got it!  Cookies all around.  Finally, I sit-stayed Shiner and Guinness, then called Guinness to sit in front, then come around behind me to my left and sit.  Poor little Shiner could barely hold his little self in place, but he did it!

I feel like these tandem drills add a level of difficulty to our exercises.  As we move into the later part of the month I'm going to TRY to train the "Honor" into Guinness and Shiner - meaning I can down-stay one dog, and he'll stay there while I go through multiple drills with another dog.  I suspect at first this will require tying the dog in place.  But when I train out of the house I like to take more than one dog, and it's just sort of  hard to know where to put one when you're working with the other.  Hence....tandem obedience.

I'm also going to be moving from clicking/rewarding each individual drill, to stringing together multiple drills and clicking for the complete set, eventually moving to clicking once for a whole trial, then removing the clicks altogether for actual trial-ready training.  Slow and steady wins the dog-training race!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

They're All Stacked Up

I admit it.  I wrote a title that's a cheesy, bad riff on an Elvis song.  The dogs were being cute, so I broke out my camera and hung up a blanket to work as a background and did some stacking practice with the two showdogs.  Some of the pictures came out great, and at least one came out ridiculously silly.

Tibbs has a really good "LOVE ME" face
Shiner's favorite sunny day activity is laying in a sunny patch

So here's Shiner stacking.  It seems like I may be walking too close up to him, so he leans back.  This one came out okay though.

This one's perfect, if he'd just stretch out a tad more in the back.

Silly baby!

Here's Tibbs, handsome devil that he is.  All the pictures of his flawless stacks didn't come out (ain't it just the way)

Another from the same stack - bring those feet in a tad and you've got it, buddy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

As We Stand

Since I'm going to be chronicling where we go from here, I thought I'd make a post about each dog, what we have planned right now, and where we're at with that.

Shiner - 

Shiner finished his confirmation championship despite my ridiculously novice handling at 9 months of age.  I've started him on Rally Obedience, and we're working towards his first rally trial in February.  There's also confirmation during that show and he's now eligible for the Champion's class. So if we could get a qualifying score in Rally and a win in confirmation, that would earn him a Total Dog - a pretty cool accomplishment!

Tibbs - 

Due to a variety of factors, at 1 year of age, Tibbs has never actually won a confirmation class.  For one thing, on the mental level he's been a goofy baby longer than I anticipated, which means he's lost to dogs with more precision.  He's taking a while to mature and has been, as I've had it described to me, "All legs" - so he's lost to faster maturing females and also his brother. I've also been handling Shiner, so Rachel (his breeder) has been handling him.  According to the UKC, Tibbs currently has 10 points and no wins in competition so to say the least we have a bit of a ways to go.

Going forward I'll be handling Tibbs in shows and training him with more regularity so when we walk in the ring, we do it as a team.  He's got the right stuff, we just need to bring it together.

Guinness -

Guinness has been trained within an inch of his life as long as I've had him.  I've taken the necessary registration steps so he can compete, and will be going into Rally Novice this February alongside Shiner.  Going off of our drilling, he's gonna do great!  I'm really looking forward to the chance to show off our teamwork.

In a perfect world, I could show Tibbs in all 4 confirmation shows, Shiner in all 4 rally and confirmation, and Guinness in all 4 rally trials.  The challenge comes here:

If I handle my two boys in the same show, they'll end up in the Best Male ring together, quite likely - and I want to handle both of them.  So I don't think I can show them in all 4 shows each.  But I definitely want Tibbs in all 4 confirmation shows so.....what to do, what to do.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Introductions are in order

Allow me to re-introduce myself: I'm Annie. If you read my other blog, Yay bikes! Welcome to the dog blog. If you only know me from dogs, that's cool too.

I'm an avid cyclist and lifelong dog lover. I've made this blog as a place to pontificate of dog care and training, as well as track and showcase my accomplishments with my own dogs.

I am currently caretaker, trainer, nutritionist, and napping buddy to three dogs:

- Guinness
- Shiner
- Tibbs (technically the boyfriends dog but who's counting)

They all have pages up top of you'd like to learn more about them. Welcome! I hope you enjoy long rambling articles on things you could quite likely just as easily google.