Sunday, September 25, 2011

No she does not have fur, but she does get some time on the dog blog! :-)

I know this is not even a little dog related but....Guess what we did this weekend? It was not an agility trial but surprisingly it had a lot in common with an agility weekend.

My younger daughter competed in her first swim meet. When we arrived at the meet I was surprised to see that there were a lot of people there, lots of easy ups (those looked familiar from agility) a lot visiting and plenty of hurry up and waiting going on (that was also a familiar thing, LOL). ;-)

Unlike agility trials the younger kids generally go in the morning because the inexperienced or younger kids get worn out by the end of the day, I think they should do that sometimes with the novice dogs, but hey that is a topic for another day.

There were some HUGE teams, all gathering around doing their cheers together, but we live in a pretty small town and we only had two kids and their coach here on Saturday. There were a couple of younger kids that had swam in the morning and there was a younger kid or two that stayed to lend support and watch Emma. I think there should be one or two more team mates swimming on Sunday afternoon.

Just like agility trials it would have been a bit stressful just to figure out how to check in, where you sit, where you find your lane and what heat and race you are in, but luckily Emma had a great team mate that took her under his wing and showed her around.

The most surprising thing of the day was how many people were yelling for Emma, she has made a lot of friends and it was fun to see all the people that were supporting her.

I was so proud of how Emma handled the whole experience, she was a champ and seemed to take it all in stride and sure did not let nerves get to her (so unlike her mom).

The only thing that could have changed to make the entire day perfect was if they gave the spectators say ten minutes to jump in the pool and cool off, hahahahaha.

SOOOOO to set the record straight: It is funny, I do have to say that I get a lot of kidding because I do not post or do a lot of videos, or even take a lot of pictures of my kids-and I do a lot of pictures/videos of the dogs... I think a lot of parents of teenagers will understand that the fastest way to have your teens disappear from your view is to take out a camera. If there is no means of escape for them .....well, that is when you can get as many of the precious hand over the face pictures as you can snap.

I do a lot more pictures and videos of the dogs because the dogs are better sports about the camera, LOL. Emma's FIRST ever swim meet gave me an opportunity to get some video because her defenses were down and she was not watching for the camera!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Breeze turns FIVE-how wild is that?

It has been a wild year, physically things seem to be catching up with Breeze and of course that makes me really sad, she can not do a whole set of weaves without looking sore and limping, and she sometimes is having trouble in the mornings with being stiff, and we have to work hard on exercises to keep her in shape.

On the plus side she loves to play and now she is a tugging fool and she was never a dog I did much shaping with but since we have not been doing much agility we have concentrated on doing tricks and she is getting to be an awesome dog at shaping, we are getting better working with each other with each passing day ;-).


Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Cricket- Her Story!

GUESS WHO IS TWO YEARS OLD! ;-) can you believe it?

Today is Crickets SECOND birthday. I can not believe how time is flying. I could not have asked for a dog that is more perfect for me. She is so much fun to play with, so exciting to train with, and so comforting to snuggle with. I just plain could not think of anything I would change about her.

In honor of the big day I figured I would share Crickets story...especially since her birthday has me remembering...

I had been looking for a puppy when I found that her litter had been planned. I asked around and friends in the area told me that they really liked the puppies her dad had produced, everyone from the area said all of his puppies that they knew were fun dogs.

I talked to her breeder and got on the list to get a puppy, but I got cold feet and backed out right before the pups were born. The pups were all spoken for when they were born, I was pretty comfortable knowing those pups were not meant for me.

Weirdly enough, as often happens with litters, plans changed and things fell through so a couple of the pups were looking for homes when it was time for them to go to their forever homes. I saw a video posted of "Abby" (Cricket's litter name), playing with her moms co-owner Lori,little Abby was available to the right home. I plain nad simple fell in love with her. I thought she was as cute as a bug, and I loved that she just seemed focused on the people and on playing. I got a really good feeling about her, it just seemed so right to get her.

Once I talked to Crickets breeder things moved fast and Cricket was on her way to Southern California in about two days. I spent the day after I found out that Cricket was mine on a buying spree -making puppy food, setting up xpens, buying toys and assembling everything for her arrival. Cricket arrived her on the Thanksgiving weekend so I was not able to get a ticket to go pick her up so she had to fly here alone ;-(, that was the first time I had ever had to do that and the first time I have had a dog that has flown anywhere.

I got to the airport about an hour before Cricket was to arrive because I was worried about holiday traffic, and Cricket was about an hour late getting to the cargo area, so I sat waiting for a long time, I was sooo nervous.

When I finally got to go and get my puppy I will never forget seeing that little freckled face looking out of her crate at me. She did not look anything like I had expected, she was fluffier and had freckles which I had not seen before and she just had such a cute expression on her face.

I had talked to some other people picking up pups and they clued me in on the best potty places for puppies just coming off of the planes. Poor Cricket had some horrible diarrhea before I got her, when I took her to potty and try to clean her up a bit she only wanted to cuddle with me, for about ten minutes she just cuddled her diarrhea soaked body into my neck, LOL. After she got her fill of cuddles she got down on the grass and immediately started playing and tugging with me. From those very first seconds it just always felt so right.

For the last two years I have not spent more then a few hours here and there away from my Crickster and we have just had the most amazing journey. I have learned so much and of course I think my relationship with Cricket has benefited from all I have learned and all the mistakes I have made with my other dogs. I do not think environment or training explains just how perfectly she fits with me, and how I think we both bring the best out of each other, she is just an amazing dog and I am so lucky I found her. I really think the way it worked out we were really meant to be together.

So anyway, on Crickets SECOND birthday I thought I would share the video I did on her FIRST birthday.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

seminars and DVD's

I am not a natural player with my dogs and in the past I have managed to kill the play instinct of my first few dogs before I learned I am always very interested in learning all I can about playing with my dogs because I really value my dogs play drive and can not believe how much fun it is to train with play. Who knew that someone could do a full 5 1/2 video or a whole seminar day on playing and tugging, but ya know, like so many things I guess there is whole lot more to the subject then you would think.

The last seminar I attended with Marla Friedler-Cooper was about creating desire and passion for play. It was a great seminar. I know Marla had worked with Michael Ellis recently so I was interested in checking out some of his info.

I was able to watch his DVD The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog, from his Building Focus and Drive series I do have some mixed feelings because another DVD in his series is about how to effectively use electric collars for training- I am very against that type of adversives.., but I also do feel like sometimes you need to look at things and take the parts that are useful to you and learn from those even if there are some parts that are definitely not in my belief system. The interesting thing is that Michael Ellis's system does use a lot of familiar things, ...markers...making sure to mark what you want, the premack principle, short sessions and making sure to find things the dog wants and highly reward with that. Michael and Marla both talked about making sure that you make any rewards food/toys that you give your dogs an event. You don't just hand your dog a toy or a piece of food you make it exciting and they both showed us how to do that.

One of the interesting things Michael talked about in this DVD was his view of socializing dogs. Instead of wanting people to take their puppies or dogs to lots of places and encouraging dogs to check out things, going to visit lots of people he feels that how socializing should be handled is that you take your dog/puppy to lots of places...when you get to a new place you take your dog and ask for some attention and you play around the new environment. You have a great play session, or use food in an exciting way and you just have a lot of fun with your dog. Keep it short and leave when you are done. He says that by just interacting with your own dog and just having the new things around, you can make sure your dog does not have bad experiences because if you just encourage your dog to go up to everyone and everything you can not control what other people are going to be doing. He feels that by playing with your dog around new people and places the dog relaxes and has a positive experience and feels safe because they are playing with you.

Your dog also gets used to just going to a new place and it becomes automatic that they expect they will be interacting with you and it will be fun so when you go to distracting places they will automatically look to you to find out what sort of fun will be coming up next. I also was interested because when something scary did happen-like say a loud noise, he would just start a game with the dog, so the dog would associate the loud noise with something fun and not scary. I remember Susan Garrett talking about her dog being jumped on at a start line by a loose dog and so she just called her dog and started a wonderful game of tug.

Another thing that I found interesting was that Michael does not put many rules on play or puppies until they get pretty excited about what he has to offer (play) and until they are into the game. He wants a puppy to be a little wild and pushy. I like hearing that because it does seem like sometimes there can be so many controls put on playing before the puppy is really into the game and ya gotta think that has to have something to do with the puppy not thinking play is as fun as it could be.

As far as tug, Michael goes into the mechanics, which who knew playing might be something I should practice and sharpen up my mechanical skills? By mechanics he shows how you can keep the tug so it is easy for the dog to target to the tug. I know you do not shove the toy at the dog but I did not realize that say when I would move the toy to my side for Cricket to get I was bringing the toy behind me at my side so my hand was right in front of her and the tug was actually positioned so that the place I would like her to bite on the tug was hard to get to. By learning body mechanics and learning how to step away from the tug an rotate my arms so the tug always stays right in front of the dog, the biting surface is oriented right at the dog. The dog can become way more confident in grabbing it and learns to target to the toy better, not your hands. Poor Cricket when Marla was having us try moving the tug to our side I saw that when Cricket goes to grab the tug she would stop and check to make sure I had not move the tug out of her way and my hands into the way- she had to reorient to where things were before she could leap at the toy and bite. I would not have believed I was doing that until I was shown how to do it properly ;-). Michael and Marla both spend a lot of time helping with body mechanics so that you could have your toy be more predictable to your dog which makes it more fun for the dog and safer for you when you play tug.

Once the dog really was into the game and really loved tug, then Michael says you can teach the "out". To teach the out he would just be playing and tugging and stop, he showed how to keep the toy totally still and when the dog should let go, you would mark the behavior and immediately start tugging again. Soon the "out" is a happy thing that just starts the game again. As the dog really understands the "out" you can slowly add in duration.

To teach the retrieve once your dog understands tug you just let go of the tug and back up as your dog is playing, encourage your dog to return the tug to your hand as you back up. Soon you can throw your tug and your dog just wants to get the toy back to you so the game can start again.

I do not think this DVD was necessarily aimed at starting your dog to tug, although he did talk about not having rules on the game for puppies and using different types of soft, floppy toys for babies, and being soft and not expecting a lot of tug drive until puppies are beyond the teething stage. Most of the DVD seemed focused on dogs that were playing,how to keep it safe and fun for all players-the people and the dog, and how to use that play to build your relationship with your dog. I was just surprised there were actual mechanical skills that I did not have-who knew????

Marla presented material based on the training she has done with Michael but of course with her twist on it, she had a few different points, and it was really great to be able to practice some of the mechanics and have someone watch and critique. If you are in the So CA area and get a chance to attend one of her play and motivation seminars it was a lot of fun, I learned a lot and had a great day.