Wednesday, January 25, 2012

To Herd or not to Herd... That is not the Only Question!

In my never ending quest to find the perfect job for Gilda, I am, in the midst of Agility and Treibball,  considering Herding lessons for Gilda...
The way I see it, a dog that is, at every waking moment,on the very verge of herding, clearly lives to herd!

{The closest thing to a
sheep Gilda could find}

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across the blog of a Blue Lacy dog owner. (True Blue Lacys Blog)These are fascinating dogs (well, to dog people anyway) and they are bred to hunt and bay wild hogs. The blog author writes:

"Lacys are a 19th century dog in a 21st century world. If you think a true blue Lacy is going to adjust to your lifestyle, you're in for a big surprise. For over 100 years they've been bred to hunt, herd, track and tree dangerous animals. These instincts were a matter of survival, meaning only the dogs who had the right skills went on to produce the next generation. And trust me, those genes aren't going to change simply because you live in a downtown Austin apartment. If you want a truly happy, healthy, balanced Lacy, you must provide them with an appropriate Lacy job. "

{Blue Lacy Dogs In Action}

She further explains that until she let her dog hunt and bay wild boars on a regular basis, she was unable to progress well in Agility and other activities. This made me think of Gilda and her constant attempts to herd.

While we ponder new undertakings, our training continues...

We worked all week on Gilda staying directly across the ball from me and on her pushing the ball toward me. In Treibball class #2, the practice really paid off and she was pushing the ball more forcefully across the floor than she had all week! She started class very well but was frustrated about midway through and completely done by the end of class. I was thankful that the instructor was able to recognize this and suggested that we end on a positive note. I am thrilled with how well Gilda is handling the stress of a new environment, and how well she is working off-leash during class while the other dogs work.

I contacted a local Herding instructor by email and found many of her thoughts very intriguing. Everything I've read about Treibball equates it to 'Herding for dogs with no sheep'. According to Kelly M.:

"Treibball is not herding. It's learning to chase and move balls physically. Herding is learning to move and manipulate the bio-magnetic field or flight zone of prey animals. The term Away in herding means: Turn 90 degrees off of the BUBBLE of the sheep counter-clockwise, and go around without DISTURBING them in any way. It doesn't mean go around counter-clockwise around the PHYSICAL body."

This was eye-opening to my novice mind. We will continue in our classes as I think it is benefiting both of us! Gilda gets the experience of working with new distractions and I am able to learn more training skills since there are far fewer variables in Treibball than there are in Agility!

I have plans to visit Kelly M's farm tomorrow to audit a Herding Class in an effort to learn as much as I can before making a decision. Exciting things are happening in the little world of Gilda!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Keeping it in Perspective

Gilda had a busy dog day today. Today was Doggie Brigade day and she spent a stressful 1.5 hours at the hospital. She still seems a little mystified that her job there is to simply get petted and do a few tricks for treats. While walking through a congested hallway with two-way traffic, I was stopped by a co-worker who wanted to tell me that her son was in the hospital. Trying my best to be polite to my friend, I was also trying to keep a close eye on Gilda. I could sense that all of people going in both directions had her radar up. Despite the short (2-foot) leash I was holding, Gilda decided, in her lightening quick way, that a toddler needed to be herded and she swung around and was ready to spring in to action. Her reaction time is blazing fast.

Other than that small incident, she did so well that I heard things like, "What a great dog!", "Wow! I wish I could get my dog to do that!", "I'd love to bring my dog here but he could never pass the test", and "You must really know what you're doing with dog training."

I left there feeling really good about my little rescue girl and how far she's come...

...And then we went to Agility class! We had a good class with Gilda moving well during some Pinwheel/ Front Cross work.
Poor Pico however, had to go back to kindergarten thanks to my novice training techniques! He seemed perplexed that we were working on boring sits and 2x2s all over again! (We did let him run through a tunnel at the end for fun).

We still have so much to learn! Sometimes watching other people's dogs perform makes me realize how much more we have to learn and conquer when it comes to training and handling. Suddenly, I wasn't feeling like the wonderfully talented dog owner that I had just hours before. :)

It's amazing (and often a good thing) that your surroundings can totally change your perspective!


It was kind of a fluke that I even heard about this Dog Sport from Germany. I somehow managed to overhear a fellow AU Agility student saying that she had to leave League Play early to go to "Tribe Ball Class". And then I heard her say that it's like herding without the sheep! (Just ask Mike and he'll tell you the awesomeness of my eavesdropping skills). Thanks to Diana and Mackey (THE most beautiful Aussie), I was able to get Gilda into an Intro to Treibball class at Ohio Air Dogs .
We had our first class last night and it was very interesting! The class consists of Diana & Mackey, Myself & Gilda, and an older gentleman with a IG/TFT cross named Snoopy. Diana and Mackey clearly have exceptional skills, I am mediocre at best, and our classmate seems to have had little to no clicker training at all. He spent the class chattering away and giving out orders at a breakneck pace. Poor little Snoopy looked bewildered most of the time.
Gilda surprised me. She seemed happy to be at a new 'school' and learned very quickly to go around an orange cone on the commands 'come bye' and 'away'. The instructor, Marie, then brought out an orange exercise ball with a homemade support.

{Gilda's new toys}

Gilda was quickly willing to leave my side to go around the ball in both directions! Next we introduced a target stick. Gilda already has a solid hand 'touch' but it didn't immediately transfer to the target stick. She is willing to 'touch' the exercise ball on a spot marked with tape. We will work on 'push' at home this week and I have a feeling she'll do well.
An hour is an extremely long time for Gilda to work on brand new tricks so I was careful to give her plenty of breaks. She acted like a totally normal dog so I'm not sure Marie understood how stressy she can be! She did a few frustrated run offs but was always willing to return to me and continue working.
I was truly thrilled with her performance and hope that she continues to enjoy this new activity!

For more info on Treibball see the American Treibball Association's website or call them: 303.718.7705

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This N That...

Lots to talk about but no real theme...
Last week I was finally able to attend Agility Underground's League Play. This week was 'Steeplechase'.

Steeplechase agility courses are a fast-paced race against the clock for both dog and handler. The steeplechase course is a two-round competition based on a basic jumpers-style course, with at least two spread hurdles, a long jump, weave poles and the A-frame with either the A-frame or weave poles being used twice. The emphasis on a steeplechase course is on speed, with dogs being scored according to speed and faults. Steeplechase is one of the few dog agility events that actually offer a prize purse and winnings divided among the top dogs.

Linda walked the course with me and explained how she goes about memorizing a course for competition. It was incredibly helpful as I've been wondering how I'd ever be able to do just that! It was great to watch all of the dog/handler teams run against the clock. One of my goals is to be able to participate in such a fun team activity some day...

Gilda is happy and healthy. She turns 3 today! With her double coat and endless energy, she still requires a lengthy daily walk. I am so very thankful that in this frigid weather, Mike does the lion share of the walking! I bought some Musher's Secret to apply to her toes (I believe weekly applications are recommended) so she doesn't get salt burn or those pesky and painful snowballs between her toes. She was not happy that I made her wear a coat today... 

{The dreaded coat}

She will hopefully get to go to League Play with me next week just to have that 'Agility Dog' experience and to see her Jessica friend. Gilda continues to have Leash Reactivity issue on walks and we are trying to use the 'Lots of treats when people/dogs appear' approach to desensitizing both dogs. 
I also have plans to investigate Treibball for Gilda as she truly lives to herd.

Pico continues to be both good and bad. He is officially housebroken but is still marking at Doggy Daycare... He is also much more reliable around the house but still can't help himself when it comes to shredding any paper products he can reach. I am attempting to teach him the Weave Poles using the 2 x 2 method. We are in the very beginning stages but he seems to be understanding his entries well so far. He is also (finally) getting the meaning of 'Stay'.

{The dreaded Stay}