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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


"Naptime" (meaning "go to your crate") is by far Dragon's most reliable verbal cue. I'm not really sure how that happened, honestly.

(Look ma, no treats! Each cue is a reinforcer and, as Denise says, the opportunity to continue working and potentially earn a primary or secondary reinforcer can be reinforcing in and of itself.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Agility Foundation, week 6 recap

I took Dragon's new N2N crate to class. I kept the front flap rolled up so that I could reward him for choosing to stay inside rather than forcing him to stay and possibly stressing him. A few times when I walked too far away he started to slowly creep out of the opening and I had to return and put him back inside.

Before the class started I pulled out the little French linen tug toy I bought from Denise Fenzi. I was pleasantly surprised by his enthusiasm! We did three rounds of tugging and then running into the crate and then I put the tug away for the day.

Later during class I also wrestled with him. Coincidentally, Denise recently wrote a blog post about playing with your dog with your hands. I realized when I read the post that I push my hands into Tiny Dog a bit much when we wrestle. I switched to doing a light tap and then pulling my hands away and he quickly started diving at my hands with increased enthusiasm. It's a good session when the backs of my hands are covered with red marks afterwards. I want that drive.

We did contacts again this week. I would place Tiny Dog on the a-frame or dog walk and then let him run down toward his toy. I asked Suzanne how she will teach the whole obstacle, once we've got the contact foundation. She said that the dog walk lowers partially and then she backchains it. For the a-frame she lowers it almost all the way to the ground. Right now Dragon doesn't mind going down the contact, but he doesn't enjoy it and is slow and careful. I think I'll see a change once we're doing the whole obstacle and he can get some speed.

We also did the teeter, lowered almost to the ground and with sandbags underneath so that it just moved a wee bit. Dragon ran over it with good speed, thanks to the practice we've done at home for the past couple of weeks. Since it was so flat that it looked like just a board on the ground, I didn't use his foot target. I told Suzanne that right now, if I put his foot target on the mini-teeter at home, he slows down way before he reaches it, but if I don't put it down he's more likely to run quickly to the end, where he'll either stop and wait or just keep running like his other contacts. I've been playing around with the different options to try to figure out what works best for him. She recommended that I stick with the foot target and go back to building speed with no tipping. I signed up for a 30 minute lesson with her on Monday to work on contacts. I feel like I need extra guidance on this.

For circle work we did a simple jump > tunnel > jump > front cross and go back the same way. Then we stepped up the complexity and did jump > tunnel > front cross before a jump to another jump. All of us except for the one experienced agility handler had trouble getting into the right position for the front cross. One person ran into the jump. Comedy gold.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Dragon likes to eat peas. I like them because I can roll them across the floor, so they're both a ball and a food reward.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Year of the Dragon

The Chinese calendar says that it's the year of the dragon.


That sounds about right.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Canine Good Citizen, crates, and nasty teeth

Agility class was cancelled due to rain. We did a little practice at home instead. I hauled the mini-teeter and a-frame outside. Last week I lowered the teeter's PVC frame as much as I could. The first time he ran over it he gained confidence quickly, but when it was moved outdoors, the behavior predictably deteriorated. He was just starting to gain confidence in running for the foot target at the end instead of slowing down at the pivot point when the neighbor's dogs ran over and started barking at the fence line. I could have moved the teeter into the street, but I decided to just end the exercise. I removed the PVC frame from the teeter board and put it underneath the a-frame out in the street. The a-frame's boards aren't all that thick and are a bit springy. This makes him slow down when he runs over it. Again, with practice he was gaining speed and confidence, but I'm guessing that at a certain point I just won't be able to use the mini a-frame; it'll be steep enough that he should be running up quickly but the springy boards will prevent him from doing so. That's okay with me -- I knew when I made this equipment that it might not hold up all that well. I'm an amateur builder.

At one point he started sticking his tongue in and out like he had a piece of treat stuck between his teeth. I gently pulled back his lips and was horrified to see how much plaque he's built up. In this respect, I'm a bad owner. I brush him every two or three days, I weigh him whenever I can, and I keep mental track of the quality of his bowel movements, but I have been completely neglecting his teeth. I should know better, too, since his papillon buddy Jacques has dental problems and his momma has told me how careful she is about his teeth. I resolved to start brushing his teeth very soon.

In the afternoon we went to Pet Food Express and I used the second portion of my Christmas money and a 20% off coupon I'd been saving to buy him a 21" Noz to Noz soft crate. I'd been waffling on this -- I'd heard nice things about how they're easy to set up and so portable, but on the other hand, he's a tiny dog, and am I just being lazy about not wanting to break down/set up and carry his wire crate? But I lifted up the N2N crate and it was sooo light and easy to manipulate that I was instantly sold. Plus, it was green. You'd think, based on my room, that green is my favorite color ever. When I moved into this apartment the walls were already painted green, and my laptop and comforter are green, so then I started selecting other green things to match... it just snowballed from there. I guess green is Dragon's official color -- it fits, right? (Ira's official color was purple -- he had a purple bed and leash and a couple of purple collars.)

I also restocked my supply of bully sticks and antlers and pig bones, and bought doggy toothpaste and brush.

After the store we drove to an auto shop to replace my cracked windshield. I brought Dragon's mat along. I set it down by my chair in the lobby, and he laid on it for 45 minutes without any fuss. He even laid his head down here and there. Toward the end I dozed off for about five minutes and he hadn't moved when I woke up. Good dog.

When we got home I set up the N2N crate. Dragon immediately went inside and stared at me for treats. I gave him a treat, released him, and gave him a treat for coming out. He ate it and immediately ran back in for more. We repeated this two more times and then I had to physically block him with my arm to keep him from running inside again. I'm going to start using this crate during agility class instead of his mat. I need to start early if I want him to be able to relax inside it when we're trialing. At the beginning I'll keep the door open so that he's not locked inside, he's choosing to stay in in order to earn treats. In that way, it will be exactly like his mat, but it will be a more difficult challenge since his visibility will be greatly reduced.

And now the most exciting part of the day -- we took the Canine Good Citizen test! We took it at Metro Dog, my workplace, which was a boon because Dragon is used to working there and the location has a strong reinforcement history. He passed with flying colors. On the "heel past another dog" portion, he even outshined the tester's dog, who was not in a working mood and didn't want to sit! I had him heel for the "loose leash walking" and "walking through a crowd" portions and he did beautifully. The sit, down, stay, and recall were of course no problem. He did not get spooked during the visual or sound startle portions, which was thanks to all the counter-conditioning I've done with him. I am so proud of my boy! His full name is now Cinnamon Snapdragon CGC. (Today CGC, tomorrow OTCH and MACH!)

His friend Brooky the schnauzer mix also passed the test!

The end of the day left me wondering, "How am I going to brush his teeth??" I had him hop up on the bed and lie down, so that his mouth was closer to my eye level. I put my left hand above his muzzle and lifted his lips a bit, and clicked and gave a treat with my right hand. He didn't like it but quickly caught on to the game. I probably should have broken it down further, starting with just teaching him to raise his muzzle up to my fingers. (Be a splitter, not a lumper!) The hard part, though, is shaping the action of opening his mouth and holding it open. Any ideas?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tiny cosplay

I'm a dork. But you guys already knew that. I decided to make Dragon a full-length, long-sleeved coat. On a total whim, I decided that it wouldn't be just a plain coat, oh no, I was going to make a dog version of the red coat worn by Edward Elric of the Full Metal Alchemist manga/anime.

FMA coat

FMA coat

FMA coat

FMA coat

FMA coat

I'm not fully satisfied with how it came out, so the pattern will need altering before I make any more full coats. Well, IF I make any more. He's fluffy enough that he rarely gets cold enough to need a coat like this, so it's mostly for show and pictures.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nosework session

I've been totally slacking on practicing Nosework with Dragon. Fortunately in a few weeks we're starting another class with his Auntie Miki, and that's motivating me again. We did some hides in the Metro Dog lobby today. The first took a very long time. I think that he was figuring out the way the wind currants in the lobby were moving, as well as taking advantage of the opportunity to sniff everything. He sniffed multiple times underneath the cabinets that he always crawls under for stray balls and bits of kibble. After that first hide, though, the difference was amazing. The other four were found in 20-90 seconds. At that point he clearly could follow the direction of the scent trail winding across the lobby. So cool.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dumbbell sizing

After doing quite a bit of work to help Dragon learn to pick up his dumbbell straight (behind both canines, and not sticking out in front of one of them), I was concerned that he still wasn't consistently able to do it. I noticed that he was more reliable when the dumbbell was held in the air or laying on the carpet than on a hard surface, and I wondered if perhaps the bells were too short. I took a video:

And I captured some stills from the video:

dumbbell practice

dumbbell practice

dumbbell practice

dumbbell practice

dumbbell practice

Yes, it does look like he is hitting his nose against the floor as he picks it up. Poor guy! This dumbbell has bells that are 4 cm high, and the bit is 4 cm long. I have ordered a new one that is the same length but 5 cm high. Hopefully that will solve the "crooked pick-up" issue. (1 cm is a big difference when you're a tiny dog.)

Agility Foundation, week 5 recap, plus shopping fun

Circle work: jump, tunnel, jump, stop and reward, turn around and do it again. Tunnel, jump, same tunnel again in a tight circle. Doing well with driving ahead toward the next obstacle.

Turns next to the jump standard: 180 post turn, 360 post turn coming over the jump a second time, and front cross. I hadn't done the front cross next to a jump standard before. He's finally starting to develop his collected jumping skills.

We were on the other side of the agility field this time, where all the standard equipment is. (Usually we're on the side that has a jumpers course set up.) We worked with a full-height teeter, just getting the dogs to bang the end and, if ready, go into 2o2o. Dragon happily jumped all the way onto the end. Suzanne said that next week we'll lower that teeter almost all the way to the ground and put sandbags under it and slowly start making it more tippy from there.

We also worked with the dog walk and a-frame for the first time. Most of the dogs were just asked to get into 2o2o at the bottom and the handlers proofed their positioning and movement while their dogs stayed. Tiny Dog is the only dog doing running contacts. I had him walk partway up the ramp and then run off toward a toy thrown forward. Because the a-frame was rubberized, he was able to just walk up it. I was very proud that he had no fear! A couple of times one of his back feet slipped off the side of the walk as he was turning around on it (eep!) but he just pulled it back up and was not fazed. I guess after you fall out of trees a few times, the wide dog walk isn't so scary. I'm not sure how Suzanne will be progressing with teaching this equipment.

Lastly we had the dogs go through a tunnel which had one end right next to the dog walk (we blocked the up ramp) and the other end underneath the middle of the walk. Some of the dogs balked but Dragon had no problem.

We were going to start on introducing the chute as well, but ran out of time.

At home, I bought more PVC so that I could switch out the height of my teeter. I lowered it as much as possible (about four inches at the pivot point) and practiced having him run across with his mat at the end, and again with his foot target at the end. He has more drive to reach the mat quickly because of the stronger reinforcement history, but isn't sure about lying down quickly. He was a bit slower to reach the foot target but did the proper weight shift at the end and held his position beautifully as I moved ahead. I had told Suzanne that I would use his mat on the teeter but I think I'm going to use the foot target at the end after all. It also has the benefit of not sliding around like the mat might, and not creating as much of a height difference when he reaches it.

In preparation for the chute, I folded up an old bed sheet and draped it over a chair, and practiced sending him underneath. No problems with that.

Other agility news: I received Susan Garrett's Success with One Jump DVD for Christmas. I also received some cash which I used to buy her 2x2 Weaves DVD, and I'm going to buy him a soft crate with the remainder. He's been staying on his mat beautifully during class, but I need to start transitioning him to being in a crate and having me leave his sight here and there.

In non-agility news, I took him shopping yesterday. We went to a salvage yard, a hardware store, and even a dog-friendly discount fabric store. He was perfectly behaved. We practiced heeling, and it reminded me that I need to commit to getting him out into various distracting environments to practice this stuff. He lost focus when people were walking by.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Agility Foundation, week 4 recap

I sprained my right ankle on Tuesday morning, but that's no reason to miss agility class today! I sat out the circle work and modified the other exercises so that I could stand in one place. Bobby, the assistant, ran Dragon through the circle work sequences, which included a front cross, 180 pull, acceleration, deceleration, and going through the tunnel a total of three times. I thought that he wouldn't run for her, but once he saw that she had the chicken, he was very happy to do it! A couple of times he looked back at me and ran back to me, but she was able to get his attention back.

I practiced jumping by doing a short lead out and standing by the standard so that Dragon did a collected "jump" (the bars were all on the ground) and turned into me. He can do extended jumping just fine, and I've been wanting to develop his collected jumping/turning skills, so this was great. I also had him run across the dog walk board to his toy thrown ahead, and sent him to the table from a short distance. We had a good time despite the sprained ankle and I was glad that I went.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Update on signals

Laura commented that my proposed signals for down and sit look similar and might be confusing. My reply was, nah, my previous dog didn't get confused on those two and I think Dragon is getting the idea, too. But just in case, I decided to test that theory...

I pulled out Dragon's mat to keep him in one place and make the exercise nice and easy. I asked him to do a couple of "push ups" on a verbal cue and then on the signals (arm bending at elbow and moving up for sit, and bending at elbow and moving outward and then down for down). He started to anticipate switching between the two positions as soon as I started to move my hand. I tricked him and started waving my hand and just slightly moving my arm but resetting him if he switched positions in response to that. He quickly stopped anticipating and waited to see my arm making a full signal.

At this point I gave him the test: I signaled him to sit, rewarded him, and then gave him another signal to sit. He immediately lay down. I reset him in a sit, and signaled him to sit again. Again he lay down. I reset him. I signaled him to down. He did. I signaled him to sit. He did. I signaled again to sit. He immediately and confidently lay down.

This tells me that he can't, at this pont, differentiate between the two signals. He sees one vague signal and understands it to mean "switch to either sit or down, whichever you're not doing right now". But he does have a concept of "sit means sit", not "do the other one". I've tested that before, and did it again to make sure. I gave him the verbal cue to sit and he sat. I repeated the cue "sit" and he stayed sitting. He tensed for movement and blinked at me, but he made no motion to lie down. I reset him and repeated the test, and got the same response with two more "trick" sit cues.

This shows that he understands that if he's given a cue to sit while already sitting, he should hold the position. If he had really understood the sit and down hand signals, he would have stayed sitting when I gave a sit hand signal.

I have two options: continue training with these signals until he does clearly understand the difference, or change one of the signals. I've decided to change it to avoid the frustration and possibility of trial mishaps due to similar signals. I'm going to teach a new sit signal with my left hand, which seems to mostly bring my signals in line with the norm. In this case, I think there's a good reason that there's a tried-and-true method!

I took a video of myself (again, from Tiny Dog's perspective) doing my probable new signals. I included a come front signal this time. I still have to polish it and figure out how best to move so that Dragon can clearly see it, but I'm thinking that the common "bring arm across chest or over shoulder" will fit in well for my left arm.

In a slight segue, I'm planning on wearing a favorite black fleece vest for trials. I wear it a lot in the house (and therefore during training), and I can put it on over a sweater on cold days or just a tshirt on hot days, and show Dragon a consistent picture. My bare arms or light-colored sleeves will provide a good contrast for my arm movements. It has zippered pockets large enough for a number of treats or two small toys. If I wear it around the house and for matches and APDT rally trials it will come to mean that rewards might be pulled out of the pockets at any moment.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 in review

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first day I brought Dragon home, as an eight month old puppy.



His ear fur was starting to grow in but still short:


January was spent learning all about my playful puppy:


No No Bad Dog

Who still had his baby canine teeth!

double canines

He learned how to eat raw meaty bones:

raw chicken bone

To come when called at the park:

Redwood Regional Park

To wear silly clothes:


We explored new places:

Jack London Square

climbing a tree

Grew some more fur:

ears update


tiny dumbbell

Christmas day

Made new friends:

Dragon and Jacques

And said goodbyes:

Redwood Regional Park

Got a total of two baths:

bath time

Learned to swim:

Uvas; first swim

And had many adventures:

Fort Funston


bleeding in left eyeball

Halloween at Pt. Isabel

Here's to 2012. May it bring many more adventures for our pups.

homemade agility lead