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

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Agility recap

I haven't been posting about our weekly agility classes lately. We just learned the serpentine, and we need to put in a lot more practice because Dragon tends to look forward and just keep running instead of looking at me and seeing that I'm giving the serp cue.

We also just started working on the chute/closed tunnel. Dragon was nervous about the fabric at first. I shaped him to step on it and then go on through the tunnel, and now he doesn't mind running through it while the fabric is held up. Slowly we're holding the fabric less open.

The teeter re-training looks good so far. Today Wendy and I called him back and forth across the teeter and Tiny Dog ran quickly back and forth while it dipped about six inches up and down. There were sandbags underneath to control the height and so that it wouldn't make much noise. We also did the classic bang game and he was happy to have me raise him up and let him ride it down. I'm continuing to give him treats every time another dog makes it bang.

Wendy set up a sequence of 11(!) obstacles, including sends, a 180, a front cross, and a serp. Dragon did it well, and I was so proud. We're getting to the point now that I'm learning some finer points of handling sequences, like stepping here or standing there for the front cross. Real agility stuff! Although the only obstacles we used were jumps and tunnels.

Still have a long way to go for reliable dog walk and a-frame running contacts. Haven't been practicing lately.

The crate training has taken a setback and he leaves it to wander around if he loses sight of me. Or if the door is closed, he whines super loud. So annoying.

2x2 weaves: sessions 15-17

Session 15 (classroom):
2 sets of poles! Whoo! He was confused. Did a short session with the poles open. Rewarded going through the first set a few times, and then both sets.

Session 16 (classroom):
Still confused. I moved them closer together and that helped him. Sometimes he would run right through both sets, and other times he would just take the second pair. Sometimes he didn't want to go out at all because he was confused and afraid of being wrong. If that happened I helped him by moving really close to the first pair.

Can't take any shortcuts. Need to do lots of rewards just for going through both sets when they are totally open.

Session 17 (agility field):
I set the two pairs closer together and this time Dragon understood that he should run through both sets. I did some straight on entries and then started working from 6 toward 3 o'clock. Here and there he had too much speed going in and couldn't slow down and collect well enough to go through the second pair. The 2x2 method shapes the dog to learn how to do so on his own, so we will just keep practicing until he figures it out!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


If you haven't seen it, this is what the logo for my dog training business, Ruff Translation, looks like. (The background is yellow because that's straight from the webpage, which has a yellow background.)

I paid someone with an embroidery machine to make me a few patches with my logo on them. I just finished sewing them onto a new jacket for Dragon:

logo jacket

Now every time we go to the park or somewhere else to practice our training, he can advertise my services! The patches are open at the top so that they're actually pockets, held shut with blue velcro. Each pocket carries five business cards and two bright blue poop bags.

logo jacket

He's truly a working dog now.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

2x2 weaves: ready for the next step!

Session 14 (classroom at work):
Worked all the way around the clock: from 1 o'clock sending from my left side, all the way to (for the first time!) 11 o'clock from my right side!! It looks like Dragon finally, totally understands the concept of the first pole always being on his left. The only time he didn't do the correct entry was a few times when he crossed in front of my feet to do an entry that would have been correct if the imaginary 12 poles had been extending in the other direction. I would resend him, making sure to extend my sending arm and leg more, and then he wouldn't cross in front of me and got the entrance correctly. Next session we will add the second set of 2 poles!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2x2 weave pole sessions 12-13

Session 12 (classroom at work):
Spent most of the session working off-side entries from 7-8 o'clock, with me running full speed. This was difficult for Dragon. He would repeatedly go around the first pole correctly but then put on speed and run past both poles. I would slow down for a few reps and then build back up, but again he would have trouble. We also did a few stationary sends from 9 o'clock, and he wasn't reliably doing the correct entry. Ended the session feeling like we still had a looong way to go. This session was right before my shift started at the daycare.

Session 13 (classroom):
This session was right after my shift, on the same day. I wanted to warm him up by doing on-side sends from 2 o'clock, from my left side. Twice in a row, Dragon cut across my front to do an off-side entry going in the opposite direction. I gave him some praise and petting, since it was partially correct, got a proper on-side entry, and then switched to off-side again.

He got it.

All of a sudden, Dragon could do off-side entries sent from 8, 9, even 10 o'clock! With me running! He confidently went around the first pole, slowed, collected, went through in the correct direction, and then blasted forward along the reward line.

We ended with me doing a little proofing of his independence, by doing funny things like jumping up and down and waving my arms, or "tripping" and falling. He looked at me but continued running. Wow!

Next session, I will review the clock again to solidify his understanding, and then we will be ready to add the second set of poles!

2x2 weaves sessions 8-11

Note: I realized that I was orienting my "clock" differently than the official 2x2 DVD does, so I've gone back and editted my previous entries to bring everything in line. 12 o'clock now refers to the direction the weave poles would extend if all 12 poles were up in line.

Session 8 (local field):
Nailed a number of on-side entries, sending from the left side of my body, and wrapping more than he had before we did the session with the food toy. I tossed the ball closer to the right-hand pole also, rather than throwing it way out for him to chase as I did at first. I realized as I was watching Susan Garrett's DVD that he really needs to learn how to collect better, so we'll continue working on this.

Started working off-side entries again, even reached 8 o'clock once, but then a little girl and her chihuahua puppy came to the field and she was screaming and they were running back and forth. This was way too much of a distraction for Dragon, and he kept staring and tried to join in the chase a couple of times. I got a few more good entries from him but it was a fight so we ended the session. On the bright side, he was curious and excited in a happy way to see the little girl, not alarmed as he used to be around children.

Session 9 (agility field):
Reviewed on-side entries, saw nice wraps. Did a bit of variation with standing, walking, running, spinning in a circle. Worked off-side entries from 6-8 o'clock, on my right side. Got farther than before. Dragon does better if I'm standing still, as then the picture looks much like a send to the backside of a jump. If I run, he runs next to me or goes around both poles. Worked at doing a slow jog when sending from 7 o'clock, or holding still to send from 8 o'clock.

Session 10 (agility field):
Wheee made good progress! Able to do correct entry while I ran beside the poles, starting from 7 and 8 o'clock. Did a lovely collect and bounce through the poles. I worked on slightly delaying the throw of the ball until he had actually exited the poles and was looking forward, as I'd gotten into the habit of throwing it the moment he was starting to go through correctly, and that made him pause to watch for the throw. Then worked on stationary send from 9 o'clock, and he finally got it. Of course we also reviewed the on-side entries (1 through 6 o'clock), with speed, and he got it every time.

Session 11 (agility field):
Review of on-side entries with speed. Stationary sends from 8-9 o'clock, and walking or running sends from 6-8 o'clock. Slowly expanding his understanding of "always go around the first pole, and wrap inwards to go between" when doing off-side entries.

Getting the off-side entries is taking a long time, but we are both enjoying the process. I can see that if we don't get this solid, it will give us lots of trouble in the future.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Teeter update and plan

I had a private lesson with Susanne Cohen just to work on the teeter (although she also had us do a few short jumping sequences to break up the lesson and give Dragon a break). I told her in detail what we've done so far. Discussing everything and then demonstrating it all was helpful -- it solidified in my brain that there's a very specific element of the teeter that Dragon is having trouble with. It's the movment of the board under his feet as he's walking/running across it. He can deal with riding it while he's stationary; our extensive wobble board practice laid a great foundation for that. He can run across straight planks and sloped planks no problem. He doesn't like the bang but it's not the sound that's making him slow down at the pivot point. It's the movement as he's moving.

(By the way, since we're taking a break from practicing the teeter in class, I'm using that time to just counder-condition the noise.)

My current plan of action is to use restrained recalls back and forth along a stationary teeter to get him once again running from end to end without worry. (We did a session of this already, and doing it as a restrained recall makes it more fun/exciting for him.) Then I am going to do the same thing I did on the wobble board -- add movement manually, so that I can carefully control the timing and intensity. I'm going to do it first when he's moving toward me, so that he can see that my arm is moving and that I'm controlling the teeter. At first the movement is going to be as much like a little vibration as I can make it. We'll work from there.

I'm feeling hopeful about this plan because it's working on just the element that is currently causing a problem. (And separately we're working on the banging noises.)

I'm also going to incorporate Silvia Trkman's method of having the dog run across a full height teeter that is held stationary by the owner, and then manually lowered. This will enable him to gain confidence running up the steep ramp, and get a careful, controlled feeling of the full-height fall. I don't want his first experiences with those two elements to be at the same time as we're working on raising the height of the teeter and increasing its fall. The traditional method -- get the dog running across the teeter at a low height and raise it over time -- changes too many variables at once and was not a good fit for Trauma Dog.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pictures from obedience training

Denise is preparing to write a book, and took pictures of me heeling and playing with Dragon during our lesson. We may be in the final version of the book. You can bet I would be stoked about that! Here are some of the pictures we got:

Jumping into position on my right side as a warm-up.

Happy heeling -- love this one!!

Jumping all the way off the ground to do a hand touch -- another wow!

Automatic sit at heel and expecting a treat, hehe.

LOVE this picture for an analysis of body language. Look at the original-sized photo here to see better. Dragon's ears are down and slightly back, his lips are puckered forward, and at first glance he's leaning away from me. The first reaction that a person is likely to have to this picture is that the dog is threatened and moving away from the hand. In fact, he was pulling back only to ready himself for another playful strike. Looking at the detail of the zoomed-in photo, you can see that his eyes are soft rather than widened in fear. His back legs are braced to go forward, and his front right leg is held high up against his chest. He's ready to jump forward or shift side-to-side, rather than pulling backwards as the front left leg might make you think. His tail is very, very high up in excitement. This dog is in the middle of a fun game, and not intimidated by the hand coming right at him.

I often clap as part of my reward sequence. Dragon's mouth is puckered again -- it looks like he's barking in excitement, but I think he was just readying for more play-biting.

Funny face. I'm pushing him sideways as part of the wrestling game.

Happy dog getting into position.



More hand-biting. He likes to roll over during play but only does it if he's very comfortable with the area.

Tug with my finger.

More tugging. He used to do this more when he was younger; now he prefers to latch on to the back of my hand.

These pictures bring a big grin to my face. Hoorah for positive training!

Another lesson with Denise Fenzi

We had another 30 minute lesson with Denise last Thursday.

We started off by reviewing heeling. Dragon was doing fairly well. Distracted here and there, but clearly knew the point and how to move his butt to stay in position. Denise focused on fixing my handling. I still need reminders to look ahead rather than at my dog -- a very basic thing that nearly everyone has heard and yet struggles with! I am not immune. Another thing she pointed out was that I tended to speed up if he drifted away, to try to attract his attention and get him to catch up. She said that instead of becoming more interesting, I should become still and be less interesting. Heeling is fun, not running away and then coming back. She had me do more circles and loops to the left and right, and said I should do way less straight line heeling, which is boring and difficult. By having me focus more on my body rather than my dog, we took some of the pressure off him and he performed better. Wow! I know I will need more reminders about this...

I rewarded him by wrestling and having him play-bite my hands, which is his favorite game and is easily transferred to the ring environment. Denise is always happy to see this example of "personal play" between us. Confidence booster!

We switched to articles. For months now Dragon has been fluent in metal articles, as well as 100% accurate when working with plastic pens and plastic pill bottles. Yet with the leather articles, his success rate was only 50% or so -- he would guess, often not sniffing the leather rings at all, but just grabbing the first one he reached and retrieving it. I'd talked to Denise about this last time we met, and she suggested that I warm him up with the metal canning rings, then keep the context exactly the same as I switch to the leather rings. It seemed to help at first but then he reverted to guessing. I was baffled.

We went into a little, bare room Denise uses to train close in work and I brought out the leather rings. Dragon sniffed the small pile, mouthed one and carried it over to another, then picked up another, then finally brought one back. Denise commented that he moved them around so much and so quickly that she couldn't tell if it was the right one. I didn't think it was. We tried again and had the same result. At that point we were frustrated because all the articles were quickly getting contaminated and it was hard to keep them straight. So Denise brought out three of her own large, leather dumbbells and had me heavily scent one, and we put them into the same corner. Tiny Dog immediately started to sniff the scented one all over and circle it, trying to figure out how to pick up the large object. I rewarded and with some coaxing he even brought it back to me. We did it again, and again he immediately indicated the correct one and managed to bring it to me. Third time, same thing.

Clearly Dragon does understand the exercise well, but there's something about the leather rings I had made by Paco Collars that throws him off, and he can't pick up my scent properly. I couldn't believe that after all the worry over teaching him articles, this was the answer all along. All I have to do is get a different set of articles, and we should be golden!

Next Denise asked to see his stand for exam, which he did perfectly! As I turned to face him I gave him the toothy smile that I've conditioned to mean "you're on the right track, keep going and you'll get reinforcement". As soon as he saw that his ears went up and he stared at me with big eyes, body tense. He didn't even glance at Denise as she walked up, leaned over, and ran her hand down his back. He even stayed while I returned to heel position. I'm so proud! I used to expect that to be the most difficult exercise for him.

Finally we did the sit-stay with recall to front. One time Dragon stood up when I left him but he stayed correctly twice. When I called "here!" he would start running quickly toward me, but then he would veer off to sniff something part way. Like most of his ring behaviors, we need to proof this in distracting contexts.

With an extra cue, he would come to front nicely. His fronts aren't perfect yet, but they're definitely more enthusiastic and straighter than when we saw Denise last month. Teaching him a "through" finish between my legs has helped a lot. Denise said that we're allowed to use it in the ring for small dogs, since we don't have to move our feet to do it and the dog isn't interfering with our performance. That would be great, although he also does a beautiful left finish.

Overall, Denise and I were both happy to see his excitement about working with me and doing the exercises, and his knowledge of the skills. We have a lot of work ahead of us in terms of distraction training, but Denise sees no problems with taking away the food and toy rewards when we go into the ring, since he loves to wrestle-play and I can use various tricks to keep him engaged and as a reward. Tiny Dog is my first obedience dog, so I am always amazed when we're able to pull this stuff off!