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.