Friday, December 31, 2010

Endings, Ongoings, and Beginnings

I will end this year's blogging not with a look backwards, but with a gaze turned towards the future. I've got some exciting changes in the works for 2011...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When I am a Dog Trainer... II

When I am a dog trainer, classes that don't differentiate between pet dogs and performance dogs will be called "Non-Regular Classes."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When I am a Dog Trainer...

Although I have always loved dogs, and I love people who love dogs, I am but an adoptee of the dog people. My first home, my people, are Engineers, the nerds, the geeks, the gamers, the wedgerats, the techs, the fraternity of Lamda Nu Lamda. And, once upon a time, I spent a year and a half residing at Worcester Polytechnical Institute, the University of Science and Technology. And Life.The motto of this fine institute of many sciences is "Lehr und Kunst." It is upon these words - Theory and Practice - that my school will be founded.

I will teach pet classes, because honestly you have to, but there will be a Pet track and a Performance track and there will be flow charts and it will be awesome. Some classes, like Clicks & Tricks and other things that can stand alone will be trackless, but entry level pet classes won't see much actual clicker, if any.

Novice A
A Performance class for people who have never titled a clicker-trained dog in Obedience. 8 weeks, 6 teams.
Prequisites: Performance Foundations I and Obedience Foundations

Week 1: Bring Dog, crate, clicker, treats. Review Novice exercises in slideshow and assistant + demo dog forms.
10 minute warm up: Rally-style doodling. Do you and your dog remember the things you've already learned?
15 minute lecture: Dogs in crates. What areas do you need to polish? Most of this class is about heeling and proofing, since sit-down-stand are covered in the preqs. Leashes are a safety net! If your dog needs a leash to stick with you, your rate of reinforcement is too low. Demo footwork and other handling signals with dog, then without for right-about turn. Leave slide up showing footwork while handlers pair up and walk 3 paces - about turn - 3 paces with "dog" watching only feet. Switch. Repeat, watching face/shoulders/upper body.
15 minute practicum: Get dogs out, set up for heeling. Handle about turn as practiced. Treat often, and work at your own pace. It is more important that your dog is successful and is keying in on your movements than keeping up with the class.
10 minute lecture: Dogs in crates. Demo right turn as before. Homework: 300 peck heeling with verbal "Name, sit." Practice right and about turns - not in the context of straight line heeling.
10 minute free-time: Leave, or stick around and get questions answered, a little extra practice, etc

Week 2: Warm up before class. Think about your routine before going in the ring to compete.
10 minute homework check: Who can 300 peck the farthest? When you drop out, stop where you lost and practice sit-stays. Winner gets some kind of credit that can be applied to stuff.
15 minute lecture: Dogs in crates. Left turns.
15 minute practicum:
10 minute lecture: Dogs in crates. Demo linking straight line heeling and turns. Be sure to lower distance/duration since you are making it harder. Homework: Can you work up to where your 300 peck was at the start of class with a right, left, and about turn? Don't add them all at once!
10 minute free-time

Week 3: Slow

Week 4: Fast

Week 5: Figure-8

Week 6: Long Sit

Week 7: Long Down

Week 8: Heeling Off Leash/Run-Through

I got to our Obedience class early tonight, and after letting Gatsby run out a bit of his crazy left him in the car to watch the Beginner Obedience class. I had thought about putting Gatsby in this class instead of Pre-Novice, and I'm glad I didn't. For one, it's MUCH larger and fairly chaotic.

I really enjoyed the chance to observe though, because there were a lot of interesting things I saw.

First of all, you can tell who breeds what around here - there are a fair number of Dachshunds (1 in agility, 3 in Beginner, 2 in Pre-Novice) and the Danes! I think the instructor (same for my class and this one) breeds them, from what I picked up in conversation. She uses them to demo a lot, there was a beautiful Harlequin tonight.

Secondly, because the class is so big, there is a lot of confusion for people and dogs. I don't think more assistants would have helped all that much, the room was too full. People didn't really know what they were doing and were trying to keep up with the rest of the class, when everyone's dogs really needed different things. It was just TOO MUCH. Maybe I'm just sensitized to it, but most dogs needed to come way dowwwwn, not more up happy playful yay! But then there were a few people like the lady with a young Dane who was shutting down under the excitement (I suspect). The dog was terribly confused, she'd barely get herself into a sit before starting off again. Each time she sat slower and slower, I suspect she needed to be told she was RIGHT for sitting, but now we're going to move on.

As a side effect of size, I'm beginning to realize that the standard structure of a training class is all wrong. Nobody knows why (or exactly what) they're supposed to do what they do, so they don't know how to change it if it's not going to help their dog. Understanding the why behind something is a huge soapbox of mine, which is why I'm such a theory buff (and why I can know all this and still have only a half-trained dog, I never did have much use for practice). Tonight they sent dogs through tunnels as a confidence booster. For the Dane who started out apprehensive but by the third time though was bounding? Yes, and it was delightful to see. For the timid Miniature Poodle who slipped through at first and by the end was trotting calmly (if unenthusiastically)? Yes! For the collie mix who had her leash pulled through the tunnel and still threw back her head and dug in her feet? Not so much.

There's too much lumping - because there's so much to cover in a class period (and let's face it, it's easier to get by with lumping in correction-based training) - and not enough splitting. And trainers have been saying for as long as I've been around that short, high energy, successful training bursts are more effective than dragging through for an hour. I know my energy goes all over the place during class, and there's still a lot of downtime.

So that's my rough outline of how I'd do a Pre-Novice class. Obviously there's a lot left to fill in, because this is my first time through an obedience class with an eye towards competition (and I don't know what I'd cover in the foundation), but the structure is the most important thing. Talk - do - talk - do. Split, practice, combine.

Lehr und Kunst.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


The next time I think to myself, "Wow, Gatsby is being a really excellent dog today," I am going straight to the vet to get anti-inflammatory medicine.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gun Dogs - Part One

My local library has a plethora of gun dog training books. Probably because this is Wisconsin, and if there is one thing people in Wisconsin like to do, it is sit in a forest in the dead of winter in the worst weather imaginable and hope something walks by so they can shoot it. Clearly, this is not my home state.

But, someday I will get my dearly desired Toller and I want to fool around with field training because I think it's neat. And, you know, fulfilling bred-in drives and original purpose and all that stuff. Hey, I took Gatsby to Earthdog, didn't I? Not my fault my dog is afraid of tunnels and rats.

I really haven't found any of the books to be all that different from one another. I get list titles if you want, but they aren't very important. I certainly don't recommend following the training advice contained within. A) They're quite out of date, the two I'm sitting next to right now were first copywritten in 1949 and 1983. They've been revised and rereleased several times, but still. These books are basically giving the same advice you would have been given 60 years ago. And B) They're really, really, harsh. Like Koehler harsh, but without the consistent system that at least makes Koehler fair. Fairly brutal, but fair.

See, gun dog books (I am mostly within retriever books, and I am learning that they are sometimes a separate distinction from gun dog books which are mainly pointers and setters) are working with, surprise, gun dogs. Who are fairly biddable as a whole. Which is kind of the point. These books are a huge purporter of the "he wants to please" myth, because generally speaking sporting dogs are more likely to be reinforced by praise and praise alone. Any dog that doesn't learn by their methods isn't worth training. Which is honestly garbage.

But what I find really interesting is that every book I've picked up starts more or less the same way: start with a good dog. Hunters aren't trainers. They want to get a dog, go shoot something, and have the dog go and pick it up. So speed and ease of training are given a lot of words, as is the futility of working with a mediocre dog. "Get rid of the beast" is not uncommon advice if a dog proves stubborn in the early stages of training.

They're actually really against backyard breeders, because the dogs are untested. Not big fans of bench breeders, but it's less animosity and more of the mind that they're just irrelevant to hunting dogs. Most hunting breeders aren't people I would buy a dog from, but every advice about buying a dog to shoot over I've read really drives home the point that the parent dogs must be proven hunters and other really solid advice about picking breeders, litters, and puppies. Which is really kind of nice to read. Let's get a little health testing in there and some more proactive guardianship of puppies (don't place a pup with just anyone with money and a gun, some more litter socialization, less endorsement of breeding as a money maker) and honestly I think most of them would pass the I'm Queen of the Universe test.

I do wish some of these books mentioned Tollers though. Considering they weren't players in the American scene until recently I'm not surprised, but I wish it.

I think I'll do a few more posts on this topic, because I'm enjoying the reading, and I think there is a lot to be gained from studying tradition. Don't reinvent the wheel, right? Well, in this case the wheel is a very specific shape that only works on one kind of bicycle and on one kind of road with special grooves, but still. It's interesting.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Taking Classes with the Reactive Dog

So Gatsby and I started a new class tonight. Pre-novice Obedience. We also have agility on Mondays. The Obedience class is the first time we've really advanced a level. Skillwise, he's clearly out of the beginner class, which is targeted to the typical out of control adolescent dog who hasn't had a day of training in his life. I've taken that class five times at different locations, I am ready to move on.

Gatsby is... well, himself. Honestly we were barely a part of class, in many cases we opt out of exercises or drastically lower the criteria so he has a chance to succeed. I feel ridiculous. He's one of maybe two other dogs on a flat collar and he gets way more treats that the rest of the dogs combined. And I still don't have even most of his attention. When I do, he's brilliant. We had maybe three really excellent moments tonight, and he has beautiful finishes to both sides. But he's constantly worried about the other dogs and had more than a few reactive outbursts. Heeling is impossible, we're either too close to a dog or he can see a dog approaching or a dog moving away.

Here is what I do to get through a class.

1. Your personal bubble needs to be bigger than everyone else's.
Pretend everyone else in the room is covered in Parvo. If you are in a class to learn skills (vs. a behavior class), your goal is not to push your dog's threshold higher. It is to practice skills. Talk to the instructor and other class members. Let them know you and your dog need more space. Try to be aware of how other people are moving. It can be very hard to split your attention between your dog (who takes more focused attention that most other dogs will need from their handlers), the exercise, and the other teams, so try to stay off the probable path.

2. Keep distraction to a minimum. 
This can be hard because most classes that I have attended have push proofing way too fast. For "normal" dogs they can get by with this, particularly traditionally trained dogs. However, it's really a case of being a lumper, not a splitter. It's also an outcome of the class environment: there's only so much time and so much to cover.

3. Work Ahead
Many classes give handouts at the end of the class. Depending on who is sponsoring the class, they may already have next week's handouts available. Being prepared ahead of time allows you to be proactive and more confident in the handling of your dog. Which leads into the final point...

4. Be Proactive
This is what being the owner of a reactive dog is all about. Watch your dog, predict what might set him off, and avoid it. Remember that your allegiance is to your dog first of all. I am very good at this, but often come off as abrasive or a nervous idiot. Probably an abrasive nervous idiot. Know your goals for the class. For me and Gatsby, I want to start preparing myself for the Novice Obedience ring. I want to learn how to handle. I want Gatsby to start learning to ignore distractions, not react-remember-return. And I want him to start being comfortable while under threshold.

Now, I know all of these. But it's hard putting them into practice. It's hard to manage him while not being obnoxious to the other teams. A lot of the things I do to bring Gatsby back involve lots of high, fast movement like fist touches or running backward.

I'm also concerned I'm starting to use food as a bribe instead of a reward. During the explanation of the next exercise, the dogs are expected to just sit and wait. This isn't really a problem for normal dogs. But Gatsby is, you know, crazy. I'm trying to reward calm sitting behavior, but he'll growl and then escalate his vocalizations if I'm not treating at a rate he finds appropriate. I don't want to reward that, but I also don't want to be the ass in the class.

So I don't know. Maybe I'll drop back down to Beginner. But that isn't really going to solve the problem, he really needs to be in a class of bombproof dogs that won't react to him reacting. I love being in a training class, but the way that most are structured are just not compatible with the dog I have. I really need to work with someone who knows reactivity and who knows getting reactive dogs to trial, and who knows getting reactive dogs to trial with positive methods. I basically need to train with myself from 20 years in the future. I assume by then I'll be a world class dog trainer specializing in getting reactive dogs competition ready.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Clicker Training: Way Less Crazy

So I'm a member of several different dog training Yahoo groups. Most are clicker-orientated, but I'm on a few general lists, mostly for Obedience.

And. Seriously. It seems the more the traditional a trainer, the more totally crazy their training fixes will be. My favorite is where the dog interacts with an object/prop and when he messes up the trainer "corrects" the object, with the idea that the dog will try to avoid getting the object in trouble again.


I once yelled at my computer and punched a chair because tech support was giving me hell. Gatsby wouldn't look at me for fifteen minutes.

Really. Clicker training is just easier.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Public Service Announcement


Like, yesterday.

We now return to your regular schedule of Schnauzer-related programming.

Monday, September 20, 2010

State of the Schnauzer

This is going to be long, and emotional, and full of my flavor of crazy.

It's really demotivating to go to shows and trials full of stable, normal dogs.

It's extra demotivating when you decide it will be a good, low-key situation to bring your dog so he can experience a trial environment and in contrast to every other normal dog is a shrieking reactive mess that can't see another dog pooping fifty feet away without getting set off.

I just get so frustrated. Indoors he's practically attached to me, right now he's sprawled across me from knees to shoulders, and if I say his name he's right there looking up at me with utter adoration. But, get his nose past a doorway and he's just gone. The lights are on but there's nobody home.

It's so hard because there is nothing I want more than to run agility. I've been madly in love with this sport since I was eight and it's a huge part of why I got a dog in the first place. I'm not content with just a pet. I want to compete. I want to win. I want to train the nitty gritty technical skills that lead to HIT, Nationals, FCI World Agility Championship winning runs. I love dog training, it's the most fascinating thing I've ever done and I absolutely want to train dogs professionally some day, but I feel like such a sham when I can't get my dog to LOOK at me. And I hear stories about how other people took their messes-of-dogs and turned them around and are doing the things I want to be doing and I think why am I not there? No one knows dog training theory better than me. My mechanical skills are decent, but I could shape anything. I get dog training. I have a very high level of general competence; there isn't much I'm not sufficient at without much practice. I want so bad to be good at this. But my dog won't look at me.

And so, I want a puppy. I feel like if I can just read enough and think enough and watch enough, I can get a perfect puppy and do everything perfect and never hit any snags ever. And I know that's not how it works but if I just try harder I can make reality work as well as it does in my head. And then I get this paralyzing fear that if I mess up I'll end up feeling about that puppy the same way I do about Gatsby.

I like him the most when he's sleeping. When he's not trying to scratch through the screen door because the wind deigned to move a leaf, not when I'm picking him up because carrying him is better than making a scene that everyone thinks involves my dog trying to kill another dog with excitement, not even when we have an actual good day in class and he walks on a leash like normal dogs do. Just when his little warm body is curled up against mine and we aren't doing anything.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why do people think we don't want them to own dogs?

In this particular case, I don't know if this guy was being facetious or not, but it is not the first time I've seen the phrase "so I guess you are trying to dissuade me from getting a dog," or some variant therefore of, thrown back in the forum collective's face when we suggest that maybe dogs are too much for them right now. I want to tackle the "I want a smart dog (read: I want Aibo)" thing too, but not now.

Let me just put this out there: We love dogs.

We love them. Every single person responding to you has a deep and meaningful relationship with one or many dogs that is just the most fantastic thing in the world. We LOVE dogs. A perfect world would have everyone enjoying that magical connection with dogs. It's not like we don't want you to have a dog because we want every dog for ourselves or some nutty thing like that. We love our dogs and sharing our dogs with other people because dogs are freaking awesome.

BUT, we make sacrifices to own dogs. For most of us this isn't a big deal (if the sacrifices outweighed the joy we get from dogs, we wouldn't own dogs), but like hell we're going to suggest you go ahead and get a smart dog because you think it's easier (biggest lie ever told) if you're not aware, willing, and able to make those sacrifices.

Yes, that forum can be a little harsh on people that are just uninformed, but you gotta run the gauntlet.And for the dog's sake, listen! These people know their shit. If you want to learn to get the most out of your camera, you go to camera experts. If you want to get the most out of your dog, you go to dog experts. Would you go to a mainstreme photographer to learn to take mainstreme photographs? I mean really.

This post is dedicated to mikedavid, who deserves to be mascot of the internet. I have never seen anything unite the internet into a shining beacon of solidarity like that man.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Upcoming Events

Sept 11-12: GSD Specialty in Big Bend, WI with Jackie and Erin from
Status: Completed and awesome. Meeting internet people in real life is always stressful (because everyone on the internet is a 40 year old man who wants to rape and axe-murder you, dontcha know), but it was a really good experience. I pet dogs, judged ringside (always a fun game) and was outraged at judging inside the ring, and learned I am no where near fit enough to show dogs, let alone run agility. In my defense, I would like to point out I had a major health crisis this summer in which the words "almost died" were thrown about. So, yeah. Excuses.

Sept 17-19: ASCA Stock, Conformation, and Agility Trial hosted by the Rock River Valley Australian Shepherd Club in Saukville, WI
Status: Upcoming and pending. Camping with Erin and her dogs, because I love to camp. I might take Gatsby, it should be a smaller trial and spread out enough that he's not constantly brain-mush. Maybe he'll even, gasp, relax once in a while. Longshot, I know. But it's a good chance to expose him to some things, I think, and it's close enough that I can always take him home if it's too much.

Sept 22-26: NSDTR-USA 2010 National Specialty in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
Status: I have to order food! Hotel is reserved, itinerary is printed out, boarding for the Gatz is booked. I am stoked. We're making a family trip out of it, Aunt and Grandmother are going to go gamble while I ogle dogs and network and try not to make an obnoxious ass out of myself.

Dec 4-5: Winnegamie Dog Club Novice Agility Trial in Menasha, WI
Status: Oh doG please let us be ready. I want to trial SO BAD, but there is SO FAR to go. Anyone have a 2x2 weaves DVD they aren't using? A dog with the ability to think continuously about something for more than five seconds?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

In Which the Government Buys Me a Puppy

Do you know what day Friday was?

Student refund check day!

I have some unique circumstances which results in enough financial aid to cover my entire tuition (and yes, I know how amazingly lucky I am, and here's an internet shoutout to the spectacular people who support ,e while I languish in undergrad) and since I moved back home to take care of Gatsby, the money that would go toward my room & board gets refunded.

Friday afternoon I opened a savings account for my puppy fund. This is real, folks. :)

Although most of it is going to pay for the exorbitant medical bills I incurred this summer (good health insurance is a MUST, people), there's some "play" money left over which I'm going to use to start building a grooming kit.

Who knew Dremels were carpentry tools, not specifically manufactured for grinding dog nails?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Thought Re: Dog Breeding

"We only breed when we want something for ourselves."

I don't like this line of thought. I spend a lot of time thinking about dog breeding considering it's something I never want to do. I'm for it, of course, the risk and responsibility is just too much for me. I've been mulling over ideas about titling stud dogs, because that would be a way to train and trial dogs for things I enjoy without dealing with hard to deal with pet owners (not that I expect dog people to really be any easier), but that's neither here nor there.

But I don't like a lot of the "passwords" of responsible breeders because when you go a little deeper, it reveals really unhealthy thinking.

I read a lot of Ruffly Speaking (those are two links, go read them and then come back because that's what I'm thinking about as I write this), and that one blog influences my thinking a lot, and that first post is based it looks like solely on Nathan Winograd, so, bias alert. And then read this one too because I just found it and it's relevant too.

So what does this have to do with breeders that just breed for themselves?

First of all, they're no different that the people who say, "Oh we just love her temperament and think it would be wonderful to have a litter of little Lady's running around the neighborhood." Now, the show breeder may be able to say that other people think that's a grand idea too because Ch. Kennelname's Little Miss Moppet finished in three shows and is getting her therapy dog certs next month, but still. The goal is not to produce pet puppies for other people. It's to get something for them, and then place the other puppies that they don't want. That sounds a little cruel, but it's not wrong.

The problem with this is that more pet puppies is exactly what is needed.

The problem with more pet puppies is the majority of breeds make pretty lousy pets. If you're breeding to maintain the original breed with the original drives, where are normal people supposed to get their dogs? People that love their dogs and are great homes for dogs, but homes where the dog never sees a sheep, never fetches anything more than ball, certainly never hears gunfire, a home where the dog must never show aggression? Where do these people get their dogs? Are they restricted to the companion breeds? Do we go the way of the Klee Kai, start breeding dogs that look like other dogs in miniature, without the extra work the original breed needs?

From my observations, your average suburban prospective dog owner thinks a couple hundred dollars is a reasonable price for a puppy. Interestingly, he's probably more likely to research and move up a level on equipment - fancy collars, roomy crate, good food, puppy K - than do the same for breeders (part of this I feel is because he doesn't know there's a spectrum of breeders, to most people there's puppy mills, show breeders, and then the sensible people in the middle, but that's another post). I think when educated on the breeder costs and owner benefits of a responsibly bred puppy he can be persuaded to move up a price point, the upper hundreds. But $1,000 for a dog that the kids won't walk and that will occasionally eat something incredibly important to people and also incredibly dangerous to dog stomachs seems a little excessive.

So, I don't know. How do you balance between what's good for dogs, what's good for the breed, and what's good for the breeder? There has to be a way to fill the BYB market with better bred dogs.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

It really pisses me off when people don't know how to use dog parks

Gatsby, for all his issues, is a model dog park dog. I 100% trust him to make good choices while off leash in an enclosed area. All he wants to do is sniff and pee on stuff, and maybe chase the bird that thought a really good place to sit would be the middle of a dog park. He has good off-leash greeting skills and has appropriate play (chase me!).

So no, I don't appreciate the Husky wearing an inside out prong collar with the martingale part dragging on the ground who keeps assertively sniffing my dog even though he's showing all sorts of appropriate "Yes you're better than me please leave me alone" signs. And tensely yelling the Husky's name is not doing anything, and in fact is making him more aroused.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


And then we have days like today, where I try to go to agility for the first time in six months and Gatsby FREAKS OUT because there are OTHER DOGS. BEHIND A FENCE. LOOK. LOOK AT THE OTHER DOGS.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Creative Reinforcements

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Conditioned Reinforcers

Gatsby loves the sound of my laptop closing because it means I'm going to ask him to do weird stuff for treats.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Level Two - Distance

07/19/10 two foot length 20 17 85%

20 -
only offered clockwise direction? Circled behind. Sluggish.

10 10 100% Dropped # of reps, got better response

toes 20 15 75% Added cue “Get By,” pole back to toes

10 8 80%

10 9 90%

support at toes 10 9 90%

foot length in front of toes 10 9 90% poor handling, water break

two foot length 10 5 50%

10 7 70% asking for too much, stick to the plan

10 -
ended on 3rd or so rep, GOOD response, ended w/ jackpot

Good morning, internet! After a warm up, Gatsby seemed to be waiting for direction (and truth be told his heart really wasn't in it) and we were at about the distance this level requires so I decided to add a cue. I dropped the difficulty back to the beginning and added the cue as he started the turn. Click came as he finished it (so pi/2 radians between cue and click). My handling was kinda iffy on some parts, but not my worst. Mostly I was pushing for too much too fast. Like asking he return to heel and wait for the send. WTF did I do that? He's barely ever heard the word heel. But we got a lot done for so early in the morning, and I got caught up on Fullmetal Alchemist.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Level Two - Distance

Distance (Level 2): Dog goes around a pole from a distance of 2’ with no more than two cues.

Behavior: Distance
Date Criteria Reps + %
7/16/2010 Crosses midpoint of pole 20 13 65%

20 16 80%

20 16 80%

Move pole forward 20 18 90%

20 16 80%

Move pole forward 20 18 90%

Move pole forward 20 19 95%
07/18/10 Pole support even w/ ball of foot 20 13 65%

20 18 90%

two inches beyond toes 20 18 90%

foot length in front of toes 20 - carpet to tile is different

foot length in front of toes 20 19 95%

Once upon a time I bought some PVC pipe and built some jumps. That was so much fun, I bought some more PVC pipe with the intention of building weaves poles. Well, I built a weave pole. It's pretty neat, actually, I'm building them in a sort of modular way so I can add and subtract poles in any order to any number. 

But right now it's one. Pictures will come.

Our front hallway is tile, and Gatsby has surface issues. When I first brought him home he wouldn't go inside because he doesn't like walking on tile. He's gotten better about it, but does try to avoid slick ground when he can. At one point the distance from me was set up such that he would have to go from carpet to tile and then back. What was interesting was he way flying through going around the pole, but after one rep at that distance he stopped and started asking me if I was treating for heel position.

So I learned a couple of things. One, is that I give too many sympathy cookies and the spreadsheet method curbs that. I have stricter criteria for what a successful rep is, so I have more patience to wait for the behavior I want.

Second, when I have this under stimulus control, I'm going to go back and retrain this behavior at the change from carpet to tile. I think this will help him get over the tile thing. We need to do sits and downs there too, as well as other weird surfaces. And sitting facing away from me and at distances.

From: Susan Ailsby's Training Levels

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I am very new to conformation, but I love a well-built, sound dog. Structure, movement, and soundness is one of my very favorite topics.

Unfortunately, I suck at seeing it. I know, generally, what I'm supposed to look for, I just can't get my brain to process what my eyes are seeing in comparison to basic bio-mechanical principles. Ruffly Speaking has a very nice post today about evaluating structure, and this blog has a derth of pictures of the Gatz, so let's go.

This is Gatsby's ILP picture. Could be a better picture, but it's fairly representational. He's roughly 17.5' tall and weighs twenty pounds.

Horizontal red line is topline, vertical red line runs from his elbow up and down.
Um, yikes. This leads me to believe that his front is a lot straighter than I had thought. I really want a nicely angled front for an agility dog since they spend so much time slamming down on their front paws. It looks like his head and neck are nicely forward, but it's so low and that's whats worrying me. I think if his shoulder was better laid back, that would bring his head up. His topline isn't great to boot, I could do with less rise over the loin and a gentler croup.

This really isn't terrible. If he had more angulation, no that's not right, he needs more length in his upper arm. That would shift his leg further back and more under him.

Rib cage is nice, in my opinion. He could maybe use a little bit more, but I like a little extra loin for the flexibility. A nice tuck up, even though it isn't really Schnauzer-y. He does need more chest, it's very shallow. Even though he's angled away from the camera you should be able to see some of the posternum. The depth isn't too bad, but there isn't a lot of muscle in his front chest area thing. Brisket? I don't really know. Look at the front shot at the end, you can see it really clearly there.

These lines are really just a total guess. I have no idea how to eyeball shoulder and stifle angles. It doesn't help that his front leg is forward. Hands on I don't think his rear is as straight as it looks here, but I suspect his front might be a little worse.

Here you can see how little chest he has - practically none. He does have nice straight legs, nice rear ones too. His elbows are nice and tight. He toes out a little, but it bothers me less than it used to. I think he has nice feet. They could stand to be a little tighter and I need to be better about nails (gotta getta Dremel), but over all they're nice.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And now for someone I do totally fangirl for

I freaking love Bob Bailey.

"Training is a mechanical skill."

That's it, right there. That's the magic secret of dog training (how do you get to Carnegie Hall IFCS World Agility Championships? Practice practice practice).

I love this interview with him. Because honestly, BB does not give a flying crap about all the drama and baggage dog trainers have. He just trains animals.

He is not the plucky hero, the traditional methods are not an evil empire, and this is not the grand arena. He just trains animals.

He preaches no great wisdom from the altar of the clicker religion about what he has learned from working in a delicate dance with our animal brethren ("Animal training, and animal behavior, has consumed a large part of my life.... Clicker training has had little impact on what I did, or what I will do.... Clicker training has not taught me a whole bunch.")

He just. trains. animals.


Training is a mechanical skill. Training is a mechanical skill. Training is a mechanical skill.

Excuse me, I need to go find a chicken.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

If you want to be a great dog trainer, change your name to Sue

Seriously. Do you know how many big name trainers are named some variation of Sue? It's ridiculous.

But I've decided I don't really like Susan Garrett (I still want her 2x2 weaves though...). I read her blog and for a long time I was utterly star struck by her. But lately she just seems so commercial. I mean, I know she makes her living by this and total props to that, but I get this feeling like... she's a brand. Buy "Susan Garrett Dog Training" and get a "Susan Garrett" Dog (c).

It's like she's arrived. She doesn't have anything left to learn, but us poor plebes should wait for precious drops of knowledge on The Path to Agility Greatness and then buy her exorbitantly priced books and DVDs. And that's part of what I love about the clicker community, that it's so open and there's a real sense of we're all in this together.

I dunno. Just something that's been on my mind.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Great Gatsby


Ok, so I stacked the deck. It was hot, he was not full of his usual vim and vigor, and I pretty much just stuck a funnel down his throat for the treats (Natural Balance roll, nuked hot dogs, and some crumbly thing I bought at a show), but he had spent most of the day crated.


We started just fooling around in the parking lot. Shaping pivots on a text book (and after we wandered away from it and then back, he offered it so strong as I went to pick it up!) and general loose leash/heeling (15 ft line) stuff and I really gotta put some effort in teaching him a recall.

There was a Golden practicing on the agility course, and as we gradually moved closer, she got distracted first! Ok, so, Gatz was like sniffing grass or something, not exactly focusing on me and ignoring the distraction, but I'll take it. He did have a few barks at the Golden, BUT HE WAS ABLE TO GET OVER IT and do a semblance of work.

We moved closer, into a small fenced portion where the warm-up jump goes during trials (July 17-18, Fond du Lac, WI, be there [even though I won't be]) and that didn't really go as well. But he was really getting too hot and I wasn't very focused or consistent in what I was asking for. It would have been better to do some pivot shaping in there, but I had left the book in my car. He actually does really well shaping under distraction.

Spent some time in the car (parked in the shade, with water, and I could watch him from the window) while we cleaned the building for the trial. Dinner. Meeting. Dog comes in for meeting.


Now, granted there were only a handful of people and one other dog (in a crate) but HE WAS FANTASTIC. Super focused on me. Throwing behaviors. Sit, touch, left paw, right paw, even some stands (which we're just starting to add a cue for, and downs once he decided he was tired enough to not care if the tile ate him (it didn't). Holy smokes eye contact. Good response to name, but not yet the whiplash turn I want. Tends to look to feeding hand instead of my face.

Barked a bit when he was surprised by a toddler coming from around a table, and there were some clatters that put him a little on edge, BUT HE RECOVERED.

When did my dog learn to keep his brain for spilling out of his ears? Still can't walk on a leash, BUT HE WAS SO GOOD.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

06/29/10 glance at handler in backyard (handler sitting) 10 7 70%

10 9 90%

½ sec of eye contact in backyard (sitting) 10 7 70%

10 6 60%

10 7 70%


scanning with ears and nose. Could hold gaze, but wouldn't offer quickly

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just Chuck Food

06/28/10 1 sec of eye contact in bedroom (handler standing) 10 7 70% still do not hear clock ticks

10 8 80%

10 7 70%

10 9 90% Good timing!

Also, LLW in a playground by the "throw treats down the throat" method. ;) Got a few clicks for a nice head-up/eye-contact heel. Two women almost ate Gatsby. That is, walked across the other side of the playground and entered a building. He was remarkably good about the street sounds though. His reactivity is very sight based. Oh how I wish I could find a reactive dog/CU class here! It's not aggression, and I don't think I'd really call it fear either, he just doesn't like it when stuff happens and he can't investigate. Off-leash he's a little rude in the approach (rushing, very fast movements) but doesn't sound like he's being fed to a woodchipper. Also need to do a closer reading of Feisty Fido.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Training is a Mechanical Skill

I didn't get to do as much as I was planning to do today; I took a surprise trip to Milwaukee. But when someone offers to buy me books, I don't turn that down. I got Alexandra Horowitz' Inside of a Dog and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Not super impressed with it either so far, but I'm only forty pages in.

Behavior: Focus
06/27/10 1 sec of eye contact in bedroom 10 8 80% I have trouble with duration criteria as I have no idea how long a second is

10 7 70% on second thought, I have three ticking clocks in my room. Why was I not using that?

10 8 80%

10 9 90%

1 sec of eye contact in bedroom (handler standing) 10 9 90%

1 sec eye contact in bedroom, standing, moving fist up and down 10 7 70%

10 7 70% got sniffy, distracted. Ended training session.

General Thoughts on Today: Mechanical skills were kind of crap. I was in a rush to do something with him that I wasn't as precise with treat delivery as I should have been. It's harder standing. Gatsby may be a Giant Miniature Schnauzer, but he's still a little dude. Some of my clicks were off. Duration of anything is a struggle for both of us.

Tomorrow: Pass 1 second of attention with moving hand. Short break, then move to the yard. Continue as per I'd like to shoot for three or four sessions: one refresher in the house, one in the yard, and one on the road (there is the possibility of a softball game tomorrow night?)

Future: Start Crate Games again. Think about reorientating points (CU) - Coming out of crate (no more zoomies!), collar touch. Work on a whiplash turn on name. Look at That Stuffed Dog (CU). Back of hand (or knee?) continuous nose touch.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Back in the Fold, Day 1

I love science, tables, and data.

Behavior: Focus
6/26/2010 not sniffing offered treat in fist 10 6 60%

10 7 70%

10 9 90%

Ignore 1 sec 10 4 40% offered treat in flat hand to differentiate from touch cue. Protecting treat=failed trial

10 7 70%

10 9 90%

glance away from treat fist (held away from body) towards handler 10 8 80%

10 7 70%

10 9 90%

glance towards handler in bedroom 10 8 80%

10 9 90%

½ sec of eye contact in bedroom 11 11 100%

Tomorrow (later tonight?): 1 sec of eye contact in bedroom

Kool-Aid, Please.

Right, so, scratch that. Penalty Yards are more effective than a choke chain by a factor of a billion. True facts, I took data. Why in the world did it take me a year to find this? Knocks the roots off "be a tree."

How do you like the new layout? Because I freaking love Blogger's new layout machine. There are some new blog in the roll, ch-ch-ch-check them out.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dogs are Hard, Let's Go to the Mall!

So I have no idea how I'm going to get through a show weekend when I'm actually showing. I was EXHAUSTED just from being there and watching and chatting (though I cannot WAIT until I can say, Yes, I have the Miniature Schnauzer that jumps 16" and runs like a whippet on speed). But I saw a lot less depressing behavior from dogs and handlers at Fond du Lac's show than I did at Oshkosh's. Apparently Wis/Ill/Minn is super competitive for obedience. Apparently it's hell to get OTCH points. In Wisconsin. Who knew?

I'm sure I'll post collected thoughts from the show later, but right now I want to verbalize some training thoughts I had but couldn't tell anyone about. So, I turn to the internet.

I'm never quite sure how to tell people I'm a clicker trainer. I'm not really sure it's appropriate, but at the same time I really really want to talk about dog training with these people (one man had a BEAUTIFULLY trained Elkhound in Utility A; the dog took the wrong jump and so wasn't lined up properly for a straight front. The dog realized it's mistake and corrected it's position by shifting over. It was stunning to watch) and feel like I the way I train is a relevant point. I also am dying to find other positive trainers in my area because I've realized I'm really pretty atrocious mechanically. I can quote you theory until the Long Down is over, but when I try to do it I'm a mess. I want to work with someone who can show me what I'm doing wrong and help me fix it. I just need help.

I want to train WITH people so bad, I'm considering trying a choke chain on Gatsby. Or maybe a prong. Or maybe signing up for my club's training class and clicking in a corner. I don't know.

See, GOOD training is good training, regardless of methods. I think of it sort of like cutting the Gordian Knot. A really good trainer just trains dogs and gets results without to much fussing from any party, dog or human.

Bad training is bad training, and I've talked about why bad trainers should choose positive methods until they stop sucking before.

And another thing. I've heard it said, "Obedience is about HAVE to, agility is about WANT to." I've started to realize how reactive Gatsby is. He doesn't do really well with restraint and he doesn't like sudden changes in his environment (adding or subtracting people, sudden movements, sudden noises). I have some hope with agility, because he's much better if he can be DOING something and I really do think he enjoys it, but honestly I have doubts about that too. Run-throughs start next week, for the first few we're just going to go play Crate Games and try to stay under threshold.

But I wibble on Obedience. I wibble on competing at all. I'm very very competitive. Trialling would be almost exclusively for my enjoyment. I want to show off, I want to beat people, and I want people to think that I am a competent and savvy person. I want people to think "wow, there may be something to this clicking nonsense after all." A lot of people in this area still see Obedience as the gold standard (this is because they all have Golden Retrievers) and to be honest I wouldn't mind having an obedient dog. I am so damn lucky Gatsby turned out to be more or less easy to live with. I struggle with balancing what I want to enjoy and spend my money on versus what is best for my dog.

It sort of comes back to the idea that "you can't get reliability without corrections/aversives." How much is fair to expect of the dog? I read a Koehler e-mail list and they talk a lot about making the dog responsible for his actions and avoid the correction. (Koehler and learning theory is a whole 'nother post to put in the queue.) When is it alright to say, "No, you MUST do this, even if you don't want to, because I say so"? Is behavior modification really any better? I read a conversation about how a dog wasn't getting a clicked retrieve, but just got it when an ear pinch was introduced. "Now he loves his dumbell!" How ethical is it to condition a dog to LOVE a hunk of plastic?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Adventures Are To Be Had

Going to a dog show tomorrow. Can't read the premium. Totally lost. That's ok, I've got fresh batteries in my camera and GPS.

Monday, January 18, 2010

First off, let me just acknowledge how much the AKC's recent treatment of mixed breed dogs brings to mind the civil rights movement. Come on, you've all been thinking it. I've even seen the word apartheid bandied about. Now that we've got how down right creepy that is (especially in light that purebred dog breeding and the AKC are both very reminiscent of the Victorian Era's wackadoodle social Darwinism), we can move on.

By now it's circled 'round the 'net that the AKC has abolished the Mixed Breed class and now MB dogs will run (or compete in Rally/Obedience, but since I only just barely care about those I'm not going to deal with them) against PB dogs. Many people are happy about this. Many people are not happy about this. My thoughts, let me show you them.

I'm for it. If the AKC is going to let MBs run at all (they don't have to, they're for purebred dogs and if they choose not to let the MBs play in their sandbox that is their right), then for doG's sake let them run. If your trials regularly fill up, don't allow MBs. That's cool. You're overloaded as it is, don't worry about it. But if your classes are so small that everyone who Q's places, maybe you should think about it (and then stop thinking and just do it).

Repeat it with me folks: It's. Just. Dogs.

There is no inherent value in a purebred dog above the already inherent value of a dog by virtue of being a dog. It's just a dog.

There is no inherent value in a mixed breed dog above the already inherent value of a dog by virtue of being a dog. It's just a dog.

The value comes from purpose bred vs. random bred.

Let's take Mr. Jay T. Gatsby as an example. Mr. Gatsby is a purebred Miniature Schnauzer. His parents are Miniature Schnauzers. Their parents are Miniature Schnauzers. And so on and so forth until there stop being Schnauzers. To the AKC, this makes him "better" than a BC mix that herds reindeer in Alaska (ok I'm stretching a little, gimme a break I should be asleep).

Gatsby is, for all intents and purposes, a random bred dog. There was no outside validation of breeding stock, there was no comparison of sires, there was no health testing, there were just two Schnauzers in one room.

He's a great dog, but he's not really what the AKC had in mind (good earthdogs are not scared of rats and tunnels).

And yet they will take him over the BC mix that was bred for work, who's parents were chosen for their ability to take reindeer from one place and put them in another place, who had record of producing good working pups in the past, who were OFA'd and CERF'd because a working dog going lame at three is a pretty bad deal, every. single. time. Because the two dogs in that room both looked the same.

So for doG's sake, let the damn dogs run, you bunch of filthy dirty apes.