Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sonic's first Christmas

Another Christmas is almost over with a very pleasant day had by all. Sonic came with me to Mum and Dad's for lunch and was an absolute pleasure to have around. Although the statue of the panther and the door stop border collie had to be covered over or removed because they were obviously up to no good and required a very stern telling off by Sonic...
I've been doing quite a bit with him of late, mostly because I've been watching lots of training DVD's and reading books so I've been feeling quite inspired. He has done his first V Shape jumps over the jump bumps and did very well. We've been doing a lot of work getting him to go to a stationary toy on the ground which is imperitive for the jump bump work. He is great at chasing a toy when you throw it but when it's placed on the ground and I send him too it he's been a bit unsure. However that is coming along quite well now. One of the DVD's I've been watching is Susan Garrett's "One Jump" exercises. When you watch her demonstrate with her dogs and you see just how well educated they are and how well they know their job it makes you realise just how much there is to teach! So much work to do, so little time... The one jump DVD actually has some interesting things I would like to try with Riot too so it will be interesting to experiment with him well before I get to that type of thing with Sonic. A lot of it is about building value for doing the jump work so I hope that Riot will really benefit from it.
I've also had the opportunity to try out some of the things I've read up on in "Control Unleashed". It talks about rewarding your dog for not paying attention to you which when you hear it sounds ridiculous but when I put it into practice it worked a treat. On Friday I had a workman come out to do some work on the roof. While he was here I had to let Sonic out for a wee. While Sonic was in the yard he took offence to this strange person wandering around on my roof and going up and down a ladder and went ballistic, alarm barking etc. So I dutifully grabbed a big container of Sonic's favourite treats, went outside and every time that Sonic looked at the man on the roof and went nuts I rewarded him. Within about 10 seconds he stopped barking and once he figured it out was actually offering eye contact to the scary man on the roof so he could get a treat from me. The barking and panic he was displaying had completely eliminated itself without any real effort on my behalf. In the past I would have gone out there and tried to get eye contact from him to distract him which I'm sure would have been a battle as he was really upset about the man on the roof. Instead I got the eye contact anyway because he would offer the behaviour of looking at the man and then look at me for his reward. It was a great moment and it was such a great feeling to totally diffuse a situation that could of had the potential to stay with Sonic if it was handled badly. As it was it became a totally positive exercise for all.
Unfortunately my training for the last couple of days has come to a halt as our real summer has finally reared it's ugly head. 40 degree plus days are definately not suitable for doing much other than lounging in the air conditioning!
And lastly, I am having a delima. Do I put Sonic on sheep or not??? When he is playing with my other dogs he is showing real herding potential. He has lovely shape with lovely wide flanks. He is strong on the head (just ask my cat) but also shows great cover. However I am reluctant to do sheep work as I don't want to encourage him to work wide of me when it comes to agility. Mmmm. Will have to meditate on it some more...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Puppy and a Hole

Why is it that when your dog digs a hole, no matter how far you rake around it, there is never enough sand to fill the hole back up??? I can't even begin to imagine how far the sand was flying today while Sonic dug his frenzied way to China. However I was very productive and used sand from one of his other holes dug in a less dangerous location to fill this one back up (after placing undesired leavings underneath to put him off a second attempt at it tomorrow).

Since my last blog I have spent time shaping Sonic to run through a straight and very compressed flexi tunnel and done some high level rewarding for interacting with two weave poles. It is not that I am in any rush for him to do agility equipment, I just think he needs to have new fun stuff in his life to help stimulate his brain. He is so active and into everything that introducing new challenges in a non threatening way is something that he needs. Once he figures something out there is certainly no holding him back. Although for safety reasons I do often try....I have concerns that he is going to really hurt himself getting into the back of the car as he doesn't feel that waiting until I've opened the back of the wagon or the dog cages for that matter is necessary. God forbid he should be left behind on a car ride!!!

I am currently totally engrossed in the book "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt. It's about teaching dogs of all temperaments how to relax and focus in overstimulating or stressful environments. It is pretty full on and I don't think it would have made sense to me when I first got into training dogs, but after instructing for the last few years and having issues with Riot I am finding it fascinating. I think there are many things that I will be able to use for both Riot and Sonic on an ongoing basis and I can see myself constantly referring back to it as things come up. I recommend it to anyone who does agility or teaches classes.

The book also talks about being more in tune with your dog, something I was able to put to use tonight at training. I find whenever I get Sonic out of the car for the first time when I get to training he is always way over the top and puts his head down into his collar while galloping frantically in any direction. So I started using the Pavlov philosphy ("you do what I want you get what you want") on him. Every time he checked in with me I click and treated him (when he gave me the eye contact), then immediately released him back to his environment by saying "OK" which is his release cue. I noticed that while he was dragging me along he was yawning too so I can only come to the conclusion that he becomes overwhelmed by the stimulus at training and his way of coping is to charge around and leap all over any poor unsuspecting passer by, be it dog or human. Using the Pavlov technique, by the time we got half way around the oval he had settled down considerably so he was no longer galloping, but rather walking in a relaxed posture (tail down, muscles relaxed) without pulling on the lead at all. His rate of checking in with me had also increased dramatically. I then sat down with him on the grass and let him watch what was going on around him and gave him a good massage. Then the second time I got him out of the car to do some actual training he was a different dog. He was focused, calm and totally engrossed in the activities that we did. It will certainly be interesting to see if there is an improvement in his "arrival at training" behaviour as I continue with the relaxation and focus work.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sibling Rivalry

Secret & Sonic

The pups are now just over 18 weeks of age. I recently measured Sonic at 45.5cms at the shoulder (just wiping sweat off brow...) making him noticably bigger than Secret and now also slightly bigger than Billy. When Sonic and Billy were playing at training this week both Gillian and I agreed that Sonic is now even more solid than Billy. It's interesting that Sonic is the only one who is remaining more like his father. All the rest seem to be carbon copies of their mother with lighter bone and finer faces. Considering that Sonic was by far the smallest male puppy in the litter it's quite bizarre that he is now the biggest. Although I do remember Sam saying that Sonic wasn't always the littlest but he was too busy to eat, preferring to be off exploring and playing.
Last weekend I was fortunate to be able to attend a jumping workshop with Cathy Slot from Queensland. Cathy is very involved in ADAA and has been lucky enough to have spent 7 days in Canada at Susan Garrett's Say Yes Training Centre and work with Susan Salo. The jumping workshop went for three days and covered all the basic jump grids that have been developed to teach dogs to understand jumping and learn scope. All the jump exercises that Cathy showed us can be done with puppies using jump bumps instead of normal jumps. The idea being that by the time they are old enough to start the adult grids they will already have a solid understanding of how to control their bodies and make decisions on judging distances. It will certainly be very interesting to try and I'm very glad that I've had the opportunity to start this with a pup who has done nothing. As we watched the dogs over the weekend doing the work shop the ones that improved the most seemed to be the dogs with the least experience. Now I just have to work on Sonic's sit stays so I can set him up on a start line and I've also been working on getting him to watch a toy before I release him to it. That way he will look at the jump in front of him rather than look at me.
Over that weekend Kriszty and Secret came to stay. Needless to say both Secret and Sonic spent a wonderful weekend non stop playing. I still find it amazing that they are so similar although I think that Secret is much more over excitable than Sonic. Not a big surprise though as I generally find that boys tend to be a bit more laid back. I don't believe that over excitability means that a dog is any more driven or translates to drive so I feel kind of relieved that I live with Sonic! Calmness is a good thing...They are both very sweet pups and both love a good cuddle which is really nice.
Sonic has also taken to following me around. So now instead of Murphy being the only one who feels the need to follow me from room to room Sonic is coming along too. He seems to prefer to hang out with me in the house rather than go outside with the other dogs. He really enjoys going to training however I realised this week that I'm trying to do too many things with him during the course of the night. So instead of trying to work on 6 different things of an evening I need to just pick two and focus on those. Otherwise he will be able to lots of things really badly and I would much rather have him know fewer things and do them really well!