On the adventures and training of Cinnamon Snapdragon, a papillon destined for greatness.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rafting adventure! (image heavy)

Today Dragon and I, along with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and their dog Tori, took a rafting trip down the Russian River. It was a very mellow section of the river, and the rafts were inflated and very stable. I was still a bit nervous that Dragon might get an upset stomach from the movement (he gets carsick sometimes) or that he would be stressed that he was trapped on a strange object in the middle of a river, but he was a champ. I was so proud of him -- he spent most of the ride calmly standing at the front of the raft, garnering comments about being the caption of the ship or the mermaid at the prow.

I brought along his orange floaty ball and tossed it into the water here and there. He happily pawed and mouthed at it in the shallows, and twice he went in deep enough to swim for it. However he was clearly reluctant and did not actually enjoy swimming. I was disappointed about that, but maybe in time he'll come around to it. I did buy him a tiny doggy life jacket in case the current swept him away. Indeed he jumped from the raft into the water once toward the beginning of the trip (I think he saw something intriguing in the water), and one time he lost his balance and fell in (surprisingly, that didn't happen until almost the very end of the five hour trip). I had his leash clipped to the top of the life jacket and so was able to quickly reel him in without any panic on his part.

Of course, I took a ton of pictures. I'm including some family photos along with the dog stuff this time:

He has skinny chicken legs when he's wet.

Tori enjoyed swimming.


She did not enjoy the raft, and her parents had to coax her in...

Only for her to hop back out on the other side.


Totally wet from his jump into the water.



He had great balance on the side of the raft.

With my mom.





Tori frequently jumped ship when the raft went by shallower water. Here she's humoring her parents and staying in, but you can tell from her closed mouth and pinned back ears that she's not pleased. By the end of the day she was resigned to staying in.

My dad, the best paddler.

Dog or giant ball of lint?

There were plenty of downed trees on the banks. Sometimes we weren't so great at avoiding them.

Dragon has moved to the prow.

We stopped for lunch and my dad peeled a cucumber. Dragon really liked eating the skins!

Sticks! Tori's favorite part of the day.



Dragon kept stealing her sticks.

What an a-hole.




One of the few times that Dragon lay down on the raft.

It only lasted for a few seconds each time.

My dad loved the rope swing.




We all had a great time and plan to repeat the trip next year!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vet check scheduled

Dragon has a vet appointment on Thursday to get his teeth checked. I've noticed for a little while now that he would sometimes abruptly stop playing and not want to go back to it. This was happening both with toys and when we wrestle with my hands. It wasn't too frequent, and I wasn't sure if it was due to something uncomfortable in his jaw/teeth, or if he was hearing something that unsettled him and the problem was with his comfort level/play drive. Finally yesterday we were working on holding a plastic tube in his mouth without moving or chewing on it, and I was super excited because I was finally getting some microsecond holding action, when all of a sudden he dropped the tube and didn't want to put his mouth anywhere near it. I called the vet immediately to schedule a check-up.

In the meantime he's still chewing on a pig hoof every day, is still playing tug with the soft toys, and is still eating his food/treats normally. He even ate two chicken feet twice this week, though perhaps he ate more slowly than usual. So I'm not sure what the vet will find.

First formal obedience lesson

Dragon and I had our first lesson with Denise Fenzi on Thursday morning. I have been reading about the sport of competition obedience, and about how to train for it using positive methods on the Click Comp Obed list, but I didn't have any direct experience with it. After bumbling along on my own for a bit, I decided that I better call in an expert to help me figure out what I'm doing.

Denise's coaching was wonderful. She started off by asking me to show her what little progress we'd made with heeling so far, and the rest of the lesson was spent not on training Dragon but on fixing my mechanics/handling and improving my way of communicating with him -- which is exactly what I knew I needed! She was also very attuned to Dragon's comfort level and ability to focus, which I appreciated.

We talked about giving the dog a cue which meant that his window of opportunity to work and earn reinforcement was now open, but that cue doesn't mean that the dog has to work. If the handler has done their part to always make the training fun and rewarding, then it follows that the dog will usually choose to work, and if he doesn't, it's a sign that something might need to change. We also need to let the dog know when the window has closed (such as when the handler is busy talking to someone), and so I would pick up Tiny Dog whenever we took a break.

The biggest chunk of points when trialing in obedience is the heeling patterns. Denise helped me figure out where Dragon should be when heeling -- the space between his giant ears and giant doe eyes should line up with the seam of my pants. I need to reward him so that his head is up and my hand should be against my leg, close to my knee. She had me hold the treat between my thumb and forefinger, with my other three fingers pointing straight down and lightly touching the left side of his muzzle, so that he learns to line up against my hand and I can use that as a guide when pivoting and to help him get into position.

practicing feeding in heel position
Coordination is not my strong point, so I have to practice just the feeding part.

practicing feeding in heel position
I should be feeding higher and closer to my knee here.

Then we practiced actually taking some steps. She coached me to move quickly, talk to him, be animated, and look at my feet and not at my dog (especially if he's lagging!). I would back up to get him moving and looking at me, then turn to the right, walk in a right circle, and reward him when he drove into heel position. (This is a varient of the "choose to heel" method.)

Our homework is to practice more of that, along with our left pivots, and practice more on our right side to balance him out. (I had initially trained both the left and right sides evenly with Silvia Trkman's method, but was practicing the right side less and less -- oops!) Left turns tend to slow the dog down, so I shouldn't do any left turns yet other than our stationary pivots.

Last part was introducing sitting in front. I'll use a little platform for his front feet to get him to pivot so that he's lined up in front of me. (I'll have to hold my hands low at first to keep him in front and not pivoting to my side.) Denise also likes to teach dogs to drive between the handler's legs to get speed and close fronts. Dragon is nervous about going under my legs, so I'm starting by tossing treats between my legs.

I'm now really looking forward to training for obedience!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Water Dragon

On Thursday we drove down to Gilroy to spend the afternoon and evening at my parents' house. Dragon loves it there because he gets to roam around their fenced-in backyard. He doesn't get that opportunity here because the yard isn't fenced and there's a chicken coop in it -- he's closely supervised and restricted.

But first, on the way, I stopped by the dealership to get maintenance done on my car. I brought Dragon's crate and set it up next to the couch where I passed the time on my laptop.

waiting at the car dealership

I left the crate door open the entire 90 minutes so that I could reward Dragon for choosing to stay inside. Only once, about halfway through the wait, did he try to leave the crate. I asked him to get back inside and he promptly obliged, and stayed inside. I had brought a hoof for him to chew on but stupidly left it in the back of the car, so he was restless and bored, but still he put up with having to be "contained." What an angel. As we were leaving he got to say hello to a little girl who had been shyly watching him, and got lots and lots of treats for being calm around her.

Later in the day, after cooking a plum pie with my mother and catching up on all the news, we took a trip to a little creek. I had been telling my mother that I was trying to teach Dragon how to swim -- or rather, at every opportunity I encouraged him to wade in and splash around shallow water, and hoped that at some point he would venture in far enough to start paddling around on his own. She had suggested that we go to Uvas Park. It turned out to be the perfect place.

There was an area where the water was about 20 feet across but no more than 2 feet deep, and even that was only in the very middle. The water was slow-moving along the wide, shallow banks. I walked into the middle of the creek and threw his floating ball a few times. He splashed around after it. Then I threw it into the middle of the creek, and sure enough, Dragon followed.

Uvas; first swim

His eyes grew wide as he suddenly lost contact with the ground but his flailing quickly turned to paddling through the water. He managed to pick up the ball while swimming and get back to the shore.

Uvas; first swim

IMG_1382Uvas; first swim

Fortunately his surprise did not traumatize him -- he was ready to get right back in for another go.

Uvas; first swim


Uvas; first swim


Uvas; first swim


Uvas; first swim

Uvas; first swim

I got the ball, ma!

Uvas; got that ball!

Are you just going to stand there taking pictures or are you going to throw the ball again?

Uvas; throw the balll again!


Taking a break to eat grass.


After the second swim he was tired and shaking from cold, so I put the ball away and let him just explore the area some more. I was grinning like a fool, so happy that I finally had a dog who would swim and play in water. When we got back to the car he buried his head and rubbed against a sun-warmed towel. In a week we're going on a rafting trip on a mellow section of the Russian River, and I hope he'll get more practice swimming then!