Monday, January 5, 2015

Agility Dogs and Continuing Education: Clicker Training

My thoughts on Clicker Training since I began learning it:

1. What? A clicker? No way...
2. My dog is scared to death of the click. This will never work...
3. Teach my dog to do something with a box using capturing? She is never going to get this...
4. Oh shoot! I wasn't ready to start...
5. I am far too clumsy to manage treats and a clicker...
6. My dog is too fast...
7. Oh look! she touched her nose to the box!
8. Oh My Gosh! She's IN the box! My dog! IN the box!
9. Holy Cow! I taught her to wave!
10. What else can we teach with this thing?!

Clicker training is science based AND it is truly an art. One I am still trying to learn...

Gilda and I are in a Clicker Tricks class this winter at Agility Underground and we are learning all about Chaining Behaviors using Clicker Training methods. The process is slow going for us (because Gilda is reactive but mostly because I am struggling)

In the meantime, Gilda learned this:

I cannot express how amazed I am by this. I would never have guessed that Gilda would ever be brave enough to get on top of a wobbly surface! (Linda Randall had no doubt she could do it, and believes she can even learn to balance on an exercise ball!) 

Daily clicker sessions have really made Gilda a much more confident dog. (We are also using high-value peanut butter here). This is Gilda's second short session with the half Bosu Ball!

I was so reluctant to try Clicker training and now here I am, enrolled in ClickerExpo 2015 (ComicCon for Dog Nerds) and looking for a way to encourage others to try it!

For More Information on Clicker Training:

Hopefully, we will be posting our Chained trick someday :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Barn Hunt Open

Gilda and I attended a fabulous 2-trial Barn Hunt at Columbus All Breed this weekend. Gilda was entered in Open Trial 1 and Open Trial 2. Gilda had one prior attempt at an Open level course last month and she NQ'd for going over time. I was thrilled though because she worked and worked for the entire 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

{Gilda & Friend}

{Open Leg 1/3!}

For Trial 1, Gilda was wonderful in the pre-blind area, blowing my mind by acting like a pretty normal relaxed dog! When we entered the Blind however, she became very animated and started pulling on the leash for the first time all day. I thought, "Wow. she is so smart, she knows exactly what we are doing!" but I'm not so sure about that theory. She seemed fixated on something way across the building that I could not see. She was over threshold and wouldn't even take treats. The Old Gilda had returned :)

We were the fourth dog in the blind (out of 5) and when it was our turn, she was ready to go! She entered the ring (pulling the entire way from Blind to Ring) and waited for me to remove her leash and collar. On my release, she was off and working to find a rat. She spent some time with her nose down in the middle of some hay bales but she quickly came off of it and went to hunt other areas. When she returned to the same hay bale circle and once again dove into the center, I doubted my initial read thinking, "Hmmm... if she returned to it, maybe it is a rat..." and I called Rat! Sadly it was a litter tube and my lack of trust in her ended her fun early!

For Trial 2, I chose a seat in the Blind that had no view of the door and things went much better. We were the 5th dog in the blind for this round and when you have a dog like Gilda, 15 minutes can be an eternity!

Here is video of her Qualifying run. Apparently, she was determined to get our money's worth out of this run and she took 2:26.98 to find 2 Rats, Perform a Tunnel, and Perform a Climb. Nothing like taking it right down to the wire! Apparently not many Medium dogs qualified because her time earned her a beautiful 2nd place rosette in addition to a Qualifying Ribbon.

I was thrilled that Gilda took the Tunnel right off the bat. I've seen dogs complete the Rat Find and then NQ because their handlers could not convince them to take the Tunnel! You can see Gilda locate a few tubes. I try to be patient because she often takes a moment to examine the tube but will come off quickly once she realizes there is not a live Rat inside. You can see this clearly when she finds a tube on the Inside Rat Wrangler's right side (left on the screen). Also interesting, you can see Gilda actually go and sniff right in the area where the 2nd Rat was eventually found.
In Novice Level, I would just sort of follow Gilda around and (try to) watch her signals. In Open Level, I learned quickly that the area is bigger and that part of my job is keep track of where she has already looked and to direct her to areas that she hasn't searched. I am still always amazed when she follows my directives as we don't have a strong history of that :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

NYC: Everything's Moving (except for the dogs)

Mike & I took the train from Pittsburgh to NYC recently. The ride was peaceful and easy, complete with fully reclining seats and lots of legroom. The train left on time and arrived at each station right on time. The big windows gave us great views of the rolling fields and majestic mountains of Pennsylvania. We stopped in little PA hamlets where life looked idyllic...

{'World Famous' Horseshoe Curve Altoona, PA}

And then, like a big smack in the face, we were in the heart of New York City. The train doors opened and all serenity vaporized! People were everywhere. Every. Where. Moving quickly in all directions. I would have stopped to wonder how all of these people could be moving at once without bumping into each other but there is no stopping. Stopping gets you trampled in NYC...

As we made our way out of Penn Station and up onto the streets, it was much the same... People everywhere moving in all directions. Moving, moving, moving. Within minutes, I saw many things that aren't usually seen in Ohio: A 'bag' lady with a shopping car of god-knows-what, Police on horseback walking down the street, Pigeons narrowly escaping death. I also heard many things that aren't usually heard in Ohio: Horns. Honking Horns. It's not so much that we don't hear car horns here, it's just different in New York a) because it's constant and b) because no one pays attention to them! Machinery from the day and night construction was a constant background noise as was the constant traffic.

We finally saw dogs on our second day. They say New York is America's melting pot and it's true for the dogs too. We saw tiny Yorkies and Poodles, medium sized mixed breeds, and large Doodles and Goldens. Of all the dogs we saw, none of them were in 'agility shape'. Also, we saw most of the dogs early in the day with sleepy looking owners as though they had just rolled out of bed and wished their dogs would hurry up and 'take care of business' in the tiny little square of dirt that was a tree planter. I imagined that as soon as the dogs were done, they were shuffled back to their apartment to spend the day sleeping while the owners went to work. We did see one dog at night and it was a Pit Bull sleeping with what we presume was a homeless man. There, without benefit of treats, a clicker, a front-clip harness or a leash, that dog was, demonstrating the most incredible go-to-mat behavior I've seen (complete with the distractions that a few hundred people walking by can bring!)

I sure hope that my impression (formed over a 2.5 day stay) is inaccurate... it just seems like for all the hustle and bustle, the dogs barely get to walk let alone run...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

K9 Parkour: Way Outside the Agility Ring

{This post is a part of Dog Agility Blog Action Day: Outside the Ring. For More blogs on this and other topics, please click HERE}

When I reluctantly agreed to adopt Pico, he was supposed to be my cat-like lap dog. Gilda, after all, with all her behavioral needs, required all my attention, right? Oh so wrong...

{funny face}

With Gilda, training was grueling, painstaking, requiring every ounce of  patience I could muster (and I wasn't formerly known to have more than an iota of patience).  Gilda was so frustrating (for me as a novice trainer) that our instructor recommended bringing Pico along to Agility class. Her theory was that Pico could come out to play and this would motivate Gilda to want to work and play with me. When Pico was crated, we could work on his crating skills... Well, a bunch of stuff happened: Gilda was motivated, Pico, taught himself Agiltiy, and we are still working on Pico's crating skills!

Training and working with Gilda taught me patience and perseverance. Pico showed me that some dogs *love* to work and that dog training could be all f.u.n! He loved it so much that I no longer dreaded it! Thanks to Pico, I was able to see that part of Gilda's issues were her trainer (me!) and I was able to think outside the box and find the things that make Gilda happy too: Gilda's Happy Place

When we started Pico in Agility training, I truly believed that he was fearless and that nothing would stand in our way... and then he developed the dreaded Teeter Fear! To this day, he will not perform a Teeter in a trial, relegating us to CPE Standard Level 2 forever it seems (we are in Level 4 in all other CPE classes).

As an 'Outside the Ring' exercise, I started placing him on things and asking him to get up on things thinking that it would help him with height issues...

As it turned out, heights clearly weren't his issue with the Teeter! In true Pico fashion, he loved our new game (treats are involved after all).
I quickly learned that I could gauge his comfort level by his ears. If he held his ginormous ears upright, all was well in Picoland. If he dropped his ears to half-staff, he clearly wasn't comfortable with what I was asking so we would move on.

k9 Parkour quickly became a fun game and an integral part of our 3.5 mile walks...

The center pic was our first post attempt. As you can see, he quickly became proficient at Post Sitting and each post we have tried has its own challenges...

I found that K9 Parkour is a good 'Outside the Ring' activity in many ways: Increased confidence, Increased Core Strength, Increased Balance. All of these are great skills for Agility dogs!! Bonus!!

And so we kept it up...

K9 Parkour has made walks more fun for both of us and has generated many comments (and I'm guessing smiles) on FaceBook. I think K9 Parkour has also helped with our team work and has improved trust between us too... again, beneficial out there on the course in Agility.

Looking for another Sport for your Agility Dog? (Safely) Give Parkour a try and see where it takes you! The possibilities are literally endless.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Good, The Bad, & The Teeter

Pico and I attended a CPE trial at Medina Swarm on Sunday July 6, 2014. As a Medina Swarm member, I was able to take Pico to 'Open Gym' night a few times and he was doing the Teeter and Weaves there just fine :)

{Some of the AU Crew: Alicia & Marty, Alyssa & Harper, Sweetie's Owner (sorry)
 & Sweetie, Team Pico}

The first run for us was Snooker Level 3 and the course was:

My plan was to do Red 5, Red 6, Red 3 as our open for 17 points. We would then use our new Backside Jump skill (cue word 'Quick') on #2 and run 3-7c as our close for a total of 44 points.
While Pico did not have a good Start Line Stay, he did follow my plan beautifully including his beloved 'Quick' at Obstacle 2.
We finished with a Run Time of 36.87 (game time 50) and 44 points for our 3rd Qualifying Snooker 3 run. Thank you Judge Margaret for the Weave-less Snooker course!

Jumpers 4 was a nice, flowy course:

With my Rear Crosses still needing some timing work, I chose to start Pico on my Left for 1-2-3-4. I Front Crossed after 4 and kept him on my right for 5-6-7-8-9-19-11-12-13. I Front Crossed after 13 and sent him over 14 and 15 off of my Left, Rear Crossed him over 16 and picked him up on my Right for 17 and 18.
I made a few small bobbles along the way but I was happy with my FCs and Pico was focused and swift. H was so swift in fact, that at the end, he never stopped. He ran from the last obstacle, out the gate and straight to his crate! I was mortified and a little concerned that now we had a new problem to fix!
We ran the 44 second course in 36.22 and finished with a Clean Q for our first Level 4 Jumpers run!

A Non Traditional Jackpot was next. We were running Level 4 so we needed 24 points in our Open. The rules were:
'After the whistle, must complete 1,3, and 5 point obstacle (in any order) then go to the table. Jackpot (including table) is worth 2-4-6-8 for a total of 20 points.'

My plan was to start with the Tunnel (3) Jump (1) A-Frame (5) Tunnel (3) 5 Point Combo (5) Tunnel (3) Jump (1) Jump (1) Double (3) [This is where I thought the whistle might blow so that I could take the A-Frame, Jump, Tunnel, Table for our Jackpot]
We followed the plan perfectly... But there was no whistle so I took the Tunnel (3) Jump (1) Tunnel (3). We were heading for the Double Jump (3), The Whistle Blew, and Pico took the Double at which point Margaret called out "2!", I took the A-Frame and heard Margaret call out "4!", I took the Jump and she called out "6!" At this point, I was confused and thought I missed something but I sent Pico to the Table, heard Margaret call "8!" and figured we were okay. I was more than thrilled that this run ended with a Table because Pico is trained to perform a 'down' and he is pretty reliable. There was no quick exiting on this course. Phew!
We ended up with a 49 point, first place Qualifying Run and a new title: Strategy Games Level 3 :)

Last up was our Nemesis: Standard 2...

I started Pico on my Left and we ran 1-2-3... He got right onto the Teeter, ran about halfway up, and stopped. I tried to keep moving forward, I maintained eye contact with him, and try to be encouraging. I really thought he was going to do it but he bailed off. I sent him through 5 and I FCd to send him to the Weaves off of my Right. He had a good entry but failed to collect for the second pole. I restarted him twice trying to give him a good, straight-on entry but he did the same thing all three times. We moved on... He took 7-8-9-10-11-12-13 and then sailed wide Left around the A-Frame! We took the last 2 jumps and called it a day. To my relief, he waited to have his collar put on before going to his crate.There was no Chicken Baby Food after this run much to Pico's dismay...