Wednesday, December 30, 2009
With this awesome PVC cutter in the parking lot.
It's hard to juggle a cart, a cutter, and fifty feet of PVC pipe in a parking lot in November.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Pigs Fly is for dogs that didn't read the directions.
I know "what" I'm supposed to do. I know "why" it's supposed to work. I do not know "how" to make it work for my dog.
Hands down the biggest struggle I have with Gatsby is keeping his attention. How is a human supposed to stack up against all the STUFF in the world? About a quarter of the book is dedicated to answering that question.
The first fifteen pages are a pep talk. Your dog isn't one of those biddable breeds, just sitting around waiting for input. No! Your's is a problem solver! He has an agenda! This is Good!
The first couple of "real" chapters are an introduction to clicker training. Nothing I haven't read before, but interesting in that it's a little more in depth and science-y than most intro to clicking pieces. It also includes an excellent section on shaping.
The second quarter of the book is the most valuable part, I think. "Teaching Attention as a Behavior" and "Using Your Dog's Natural Behaviors to Train Him" are particularly useful. It's the "How." How to get your dog's attention outside, then let him go sniff as a reward. How to apply the Premack Principle. How to make your dog watching you self-rewarding. And it does this with bull terriers, a decidedly un-Border Collie breed. And acronyms. It really dovetails nicely with Control Unleashed because both are ultimately about changing your dog's emotional reaction to things.
The last half of the book is on teaching basic behaviors and solving problematic ones. I haven't read that far yet. From my skimming of it, it doesn't seem to offer as much new information as the rest of the book.
I would recommend this book to any one having trouble motivating their dog. If your dog loves working for you because you are you, it might be worth checking out of the library for some of the exercises, but a lot of the problem solving isn't going to apply because you don't have the problems that are being solved.
Later this week (probably Friday when I have to work allllllll daaaaaay): Three-Fold Winter Break Training Plan, or, In the name of all that is sacred why the @#$% do I live in Wisconsin
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I went to an AKC Obedience trial today. It's never been high on my agenda, but I like going to dog stuff and it was nearby (almost died nine times driving in the mushy snow, but that's besides the point).
I have never been in a room of more negative people. :(
(Note that I'm coming from this fresh off my Positive Dog Training Affirmation)
I'd say something like 97% of the dogs there were on choke chains. The other three percent were on martingales. I don't think it's because their necks are bigger than their heads, either.
No one seemed happy with their dogs or their run. There were lots of angry faces during their turn, even when those people went on to get 199.5/200. These are not untrained dogs, people. I get that it's in the rules that you can give practically no feedback or additional information during the run, but come on! Stop yelling at your dog to sit! Remember that part where they hear better than people?
But what killed me most is that there was no sense of humor. (This is a big deal to me; I don't know if you know this but I'm funny) I was watching the one miniature schnauzer entered and a woman sat down next to me and asked me if they were getting in. I kind of chuckled and said, "Well, kind of," because the schnauzer was being a schnauzer, which is to say he got out there and did whatever the heck he wanted to, and if that happened to coincide with what his handler wanted, so much the better. And she just looked at me with disgust and asked, "Well are they or aren't they?" So I had to confess that I didn't know and she totally dismissed me.
Come on people. This is dogs. Dogs are weird. Yes, even your three-times-a-champion UDX golden retriever. Dogs do funny things. This is part of why we hang out with one another. I understand wanting a title (because I do love to win) and not wanting to waste money (Hi, I'm a college student), but come on. It's. Just. Dogs.
So no AKC Obedience for us. Part of me wants to train the heck out of G and show those 40-year-old women ~*The Power of Positive!*~ (with a miniature schnauzer none the less). But to be honest? I was bored. Watching obedience isn't like watching agility. In agility, even though the course is the same for everyone, everyone runs it differently. And heck, it's exciting. In obedience, everyone does the exact. same. thing. Which, is kinda the point. And is boring. The most exciting part is hearing what words people use as cues. Because even their hand signals are the same.
Tomorrow I'll write up my review of When Pigs Fly: Training Success with Impossible Dogs, the other dog training book I got. In short: It answers my "How?" and I like it very much. Lots of updates while DF is pitching a fit at me.
Friday, December 11, 2009
As humans, communicating with dogs, an entirely different species, we really have no idea what they're doing. I mean, we can guess, and we've made some really good guesses, but not always (Remember when people thought dogs were wolves, so they should act exactly like wolves, then we realized we don't even really know how wolves act?). This is why learning theory is THEORY and not learning FACT. We think it works, and it appears to work, except when it doesn't. Gatsby, for one, has clearly not read the book, or he'd be perfect by now.
So I can't really find it in me to be up in arms over traditional trainers. They are just going off of what had worked for them in the past (which is totally explainable with current learning theory, by the way,and is part of why I get so excited over operant conditioning-based training [I really love science]).
So why am I a pure positive trainer?
Frankly, my technique sucks. I soak up all the theory I can get my hands on and love fitting it all together (the critical thinking rant is a separate post), but gorramit, put a clicker in my hands and I might as well have paws. What's the worst that comes out of a poorly timed click?
Gatsby gets a piece of kibble. That's it. Maybe dried liver, or a piece of cheese. One point to the dog. We'll try again until I get it right. Then he gets lots of kibble.
I have no doubt that correction-based training works. No one can really argue that fact. People trained dogs before us and they'll train dogs after us. Obviously, I think positive reward based training is best (otherwise I wouldn't use it, only the best for my Gatz). But in the hands of a poorly trained trainer, the chance and magnitude of dog-shattering fallout is much, much higher.
I think pretty damn highly of myself, but even I don't want to take that chance.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I don't care. Agility. Next week. Make it so.
I'm trying not to get my hopes up. Gatz has been making leaps and bounds lately (can he get a named toy from the other room? yes he can! can he sit and stay while I get his dinner? yes he can! can he down and stay while a toy is thrown? yes he- well, kinda), but I know I have a tendency to ask more of him than is really fair. I want everything now now now, and this is an issue I work on not just with my dog. Working towards a goal with patience is not something that comes naturally to me.
We'll see what kind of vibe I get from the trainer. I want to get Gatsby into another obedience class (goal: put a CGC on him before I graduate). I know loads and loads of training theory, but my practical application is, shall we say, shit. I want someone that can match (and exceed) me in theory, and teach me how to apply it.
Last night we went down to campus to run around on the quad, he was very good! Usually he just walks around and sniffs and pees on things, but last night we actually had some toy play! He's getting better about dropping things too, I think he's beginning to enjoy running after things and actually bringing them back to chase after them again! Usually he's like, "Why do you keep throwing it away if you want it so bad?! I'm going to lay down out of reach and chew on it, maybe then you'll learn."
Monday, October 19, 2009
On to an official agility re-cap.
Friday: Today there were only Excellent runs, standard and jumpers with weaves. Lots of great dogs, of course. The people I had already met (remember, old enough to be my mother) kept telling me "These are the college level dogs!" Hahaha, funny joke. Once. Kinda. Not all day. They ran small to tall, so I missed a few papillons and the two miniature schnauzers that I had wanted to see. But then, oh heavens, the border collies! I loved seeing all the different breeds that ran, but NOTHING compares to a GOOD border collie running agility. So FAST! There was one blue merle that was three to four obstacles ahead of his handler. It was a good run to illustrate how important handling is, they didn't Q because the handler couldn't keep up or direct from a distance. Right after that though was bi-black that was an example of excellent handling. They were amazing to watch, ran a perfect course, and were well under time until the handler called her off the final jump into his arms. Why? the crowd buzzed. Word soon spread, that morning there was a border collie speciality nearby. There is apparently some rule about Q'ing at two seperate events in the same day. General consensus was that this is a good rule, although I'm not sure why. Last dogs to run were a sable German Shepard and a Belgian Malinois, and then I helped set up for the next day's JWW.
Saturday: I was in and out all day, I had a lot of other errands to do. This was the one I got pictures at! Only a few and from one spot because I was very very nervous of being told off, but I got them. They are at the end, but first I want to talk about this kid: This is them clearing the final jump to qualify in Novice A standard, but I saw them run JWW Novice A first. He was walking the course, planning his crosses and I happened to be standing next to his mom at the time. She doesn't like the decision he's making at one of the turns and starts shouting directions at him. Not meanly, just, "Hey son do it this way!" The other moms are counselling her to let him figure it out on his own (which he should, and eventually did). Walkthrough is over, and then it's their turn to run. The dog, who is more experienced than the handler, tears it up. Zoom zoom zoom. Kid's doing well keeping up, too. At a far turn coming back towards the spectators, Kid goes down. Dog keeps running. Kid pops up, pulls Dog off wrong jump at last possible second, and the dog zooms through the rest of the course, largely in spite of any handling Kid is doing. Not that he's doing a bad job, but Dog can clearly read the numbers on the obstacles. It was something to see, let me tell you! (They qualified, to much ribbing of Kid's mother). Their standard run went more smoothly, and they qualified there too.
Friday, October 16, 2009
When I took Gatz out for his late-nite pee, he pitches a holy hell of a fit. The weirdest bark I've ever heard out of him (and this dog makes some weird noises), comes baying out of him at our neighbors. "Come on Gee, none of that, let's pee, yadda yadda yadda." He's usually better with them so I'm apologizing over this extremely strange bark he's got going on.
Turns out Maggie, the bulldog next door, is in heat. XD
My poor, neutered boy.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Now that I've had a little distance from the event, I've been able to think about it a little more critically. I've been loathe to attach the label to him, but I think Gatsby may be "reactive," especially to other dogs. He was wayyyy over threshold on Sunday and I really think we should have left as soon as I noticed it. I don't know how to get him out of that, since he gets so focused on whatever it is that has his attention that he doesn't see me as anything other than an obstacle to his target.
I didn't even go to the last day of the trial because I was so bummed out. It was really hard to see awesome dogs so focused on their handlers and just not get that from mine.
We've been working on watch me. He's up to three seconds reliably; our longest stretch is seven. I have a three-day weekend with the apartment to myself. Gatsby doesn't know it yet, but he's going through the ringer this weekend. Watch me, crate training, and impulse control. Foundation, foundation, foundation. He's a young, small dog. We have years to do the sexy stuff. (Does it sound like I'm trying to convince myself? I am.) We can do this.
Friday, October 9, 2009
My question posed to you, oh blagosphere, is what is picture taking etiquette? There's some gorgeous dogs doing amazing things and I want to capture and video, but I know some people are touchy about pictures. I also am really nervous about talking to anyone because I don't want to knock them off their game (especially since today was the big leagues). I want to engage these people but I don't know how.
Everyone from the club is super nice though. I got to help take down the Excellent Jumpers course and set up the Open Jumpers! Carrier of heavy things (okay, PVC pipe) is my job title. I really get a good vibe from the ones I've met, and when the next obedience class opens I'm going to enroll Gatsby there instead of Petsmart. I'll miss Jake, who is excellent as well, but it's closer, cheaper, and I want to build a relationship with the club and compete. There's a Rally class in the Spring that I'm on the waiting list for. I might be able to take an Intro to Obstacles class in Oshkosh since thier agility course is inside, but that's a bit of a drive and won't be until January.
Monday, September 14, 2009
But Saturday was great! My student group ran a water table for a small bike race that was coming by, and he was just so good. There were a bunch of little kids, under fives, and he was just a doll. All four feet on the ground, minimal licking, super friendly, just excellent. So proud of him. Later that day we went to a street fair (from which the bikers had come) and he got a doggie ice cream. Big fan of that; I think it's just frozen peanut butter. After that we went to the dog park where I threw frisbees to myself since he was having none of that.
Sunday was the first class of intermediate obedience I was able to go to (the first lesson was the week before labor day; I couldn't make it because of school so Deb took him). I'm not going to lie, he's not quite at the level of the other dogs (so disctractable!). He did really really good though. He has such a joyful recall that I'm thrilled about. Stays are getting better, though he did keep popping out of his down stay. Loose leash walking still needs work, and that is totally my fault for being lazy about it. We started heel work and automatic sits. I'm actually really pleased with how that started.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
When we last left Gatsby, he was run down and expecting company (that weekend was my 21st birthday). I am pleased to report that by the time the party arrived, he was feeling much better! He got some wild rice and chicken soup and perked right up. When my ENTIRE FAMILY showed up at the door, what can I count on my little guy to do? Growl his little heart out, of course. I don't know what he's expecting to do, since he still crawls up to whoever he's growling at, wagging his tail. Literally every single person I am biologically related to was in the room at one point. Granted, there's five of them, but it still. They are also not "dog people." (Although my cousin has a malti-poo, which is a rant for another time.) He was much better when friends of ours came over though, who are dog people and had a brittany that just died a few years ago. They brought him toys too, which helped. Including a frisbee! More on that later.
The weekend was hard, we out running around most of the time so he didn't get much attention. That Sunday (the week before Labor Day) I moved back to school. Gatsby got to come along, and hang out with my student group during a carnival for the end of New Student Orientation. He was pooped that night! Which was good, because the next week was awful.
School kind of exploded. I work on campus, and there have been some reorganization such that every minute I was not in class that first week, I was working. Luckily it's calmed down since then, but I still didn't even get home to Gatsby until Thursday. My aunt was able to let him out and take him to the dog park.
Labor Day. My aunt's best friend was having a birthday party in Chicago that Saturday. Gatsby came with us, since Sunday we were going to the Earthdog Trial sponsored by the Madison Dachshund Club. Can I just say, they are excellent. I had nothing but a positive experience from the people. In Gatsby, however, I was a little disappointed.
In hindsight, I really should not have been surprised. My dog does not like to walk on tile what was I thinking he would go in a small dark tunnel. He was interested in the rat, he just didn't want to go the right way to get to it. I'm not sure if we'll try again, maybe if there is an event closer. I can't tell if he just doesn't like it or didn't get the game. The other dogs there were mostly dachshunds and border terriers (from the Great Lakes Border Terrier Club), but there were a few other miniature schnauzers there. Actual minis, which showed just how giant mine is comapred to them. I'm happy he's bigger though, he's a great size for me.
This past week was better. Work is calming down, and I have a nice hour and a half break on Tuesday/Thursday when we have time for a run to the dog park, and a shorter one MWF when I can jet home for a couple minutes to play.
And what have we been playing lately? FRISBEE! Well, "disc" if you want to be technical. I love playing frisbee. Love love love it. Since Earthdog does not seem to be our thing, I'm trying disc with him. It's trying. As with everything, he's great at it indoors, interested in the disc and going after rollers most of the time, but forget it outside. There are Smells. These are more important than your stupid piece of plastic.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
This morning he rediscovered it and pulled it into the living room to play. I left the room for a couple minutes to futz with something, and when I came back discovered he had peed in it. Not ON it, INSIDE a milk jug. Through the narrow little neck that milk comes out of.
My dog is weird.
Sidebar: I picked up The Other End of the Leash, by Patricia McConnell today. I'm very excited to read it because I have a suspicion that if I can get my body language sorted out, Gatsby and I will really make headway. I've got agility plans for this dog, and I kind of think I want to try obedience or rally.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
When the nose goes on, the ears go off. While frustrating when trying to build a reliable recall, I wish I could see like this dog smells.
Now, one perk of having a purebred dog despite being an outspoken shelter mutt lover is the AKC will let my dog smell stuff and let me stick a bunch of letters on to the end of his name. They call it Earthdog, and if I didn't not pay rent I would grab a shovel and dig a 9" trench in the yard right now. There's a trial in Illinois right across the border Labor Day Weekend. I don't know how Gatsby can't not love it, it is all of his favorite things. Sniffin', barkin', other dogs, and more sniffin'. I am, in a word, stoked.
I'm going to make a little cardboard tunnel for him to make sure he'll fit. Legs like a giraffe, my mini has.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
That went a lot better. No accidents in the house and when he ran to the door it was just a matter of sidestepping the jumping and peeing. I think he didn't know that we were going to come back and now that he knows we will, he's better. Still bonkers to see us, but no pee. Good dog Gatsby!
I still want him to be comfortable in the crate though, just in case plus that's where he's supposed to sleep during the school year. I've been feeding him in the crate while I shower in the morning, so there's good connections between the crate and me being gone.
Last night we went to the motherhouse fields to run around and try some off-leash recalls. There was very little of both of that. Gatsby mostly just sniffed and dug for gophers. He dug his very first hole! I'm very proud. Videos and pictures of our outing will be up later today. By the time we got home (after custard for the humans) he was beat, even though it was an hour before we usually go to bed. I'm sitting in the living room watching the Rachel Maddow Show and watch Gatz trot out of the room and hear his tags jingling in my bed room. Then nothing. Then tags again and he appears in the living room looking at me like, "Well come on, are we going to bed or not?" I get up and follow him, and find the dog curled up at the back of the crate (cuddling his food dish, I might add). He slept there most of the night, but hopped up on my bed at one point. I know I really need to break him of this, because it's not going to fly with Deb, but I just love having him sleep with me! He's so warm.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Gastby loves it. It stinks, which I'm sure helps this nose-on-feet, and tears up into tinier pieces than the kibble anyway so one stick goes pretty far. I read somewhere that size is pretty immaterial to the dog, since it's about the flavor. I've been calling him away from the window when he gets barking at something and I can actually get him away! Only when he knows I have a treat though. Fading rewards continues to kick my butt.
Other things we've tried are cheese (cheddar block and Kraft American singles), which he likes but doesn't love and Oscar Meyer sliced ham which seemed to work but made his stool runny (and stinky!) and was a pain to carry around. I'm going to try nuked-to-a-crisp hot dogs next, I think. He's on grain-free kibble (to which I suspect he might have allergies, we'll find out Friday at the vet) and in an ideal world a raw diet for treats, but I'll take what's cheap and gets results. I put more thought into what the dog eats than I do.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I'm making vet and groomer appointments tomorrow. I think I'll stick with his current vet, at least for this first visit. Gotta pick up a new rabies tag, one that doesn't have his old name on the back and get an updated id tag. I've got a good recomendation for a groomer and reference pics of how I want him to look from a mini schnauzer magazine. The last groomer took him way too short (as if this dog needs to look any ganglier!) and nicked him a few times besides. One last sigh for a clipped-not-stripped terrier coat.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Before I really get into talking about Gatsby, I need to talk about the process leading up to him. And that story starts twenty one years ago, with a fourteen year old (admittedly he was not always fourteen, but he was always a grumpy old man to me) black cockapoo named Cody. Cody was two years older than me, and never liked me half as much as I adored him. My first word was his name; “Here, Cody!”, “Cody, sit!”, “Cody, no! Don’t drag the baby out by her bald and oddly shaped head.”
Cody was for the most part a well-behaved dog, his obedience school diploma was framed over his food dish, but he was also a little snit. He’d hide behind the couch when he was tired (of me), poop in the living room when he was displeased (at my father), and whine when the car slowed down. My earliest memory is when he bit me when I pulled his tail.
I don’t have a lot of heartwarming memories of him, he never mystically knew when I had a bad day or let me dress him up (there is one picture of him in a Christmas sweater, and he is snarling his little heart out), but I was head over heels for that dog.
Gatsby is a weird dog. He growls to himself nearly constantly, draws on the windows with his nose, and barks at leaves, but he also lays outside the bathroom door until I’m done with my shower, lays down practically on top of me, and goes absolutely nuts when I come home (complete with excitement pee). I have a dog, and that beats every single con and downside you can throw my way.