Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Not Perfect at all, but......I Do Believe I am Forming A Training Philosophy!

 I am not suggesting I have any real answers...but I do have enough dogs and I have raised enough dogs and taken enough classes that with Katy I do feel like I am going to do fine raising her,  and I am feeling more confident to try my own thing.  Sometimes I feel like we can be so worried about doing the "right" thing and having the "right" answers that we don't get out there and put together what we do know and try to design a dog training program to fit our dogs personality and ourselves.  Having a little more confidence I decided to tackle one of our current issues which is running off in the back yard.  Parties of one can be VERY FUN for a wild puppy, but I am not so fond of them, LOL.

 It is my job as a trainer to have a goal for the session and evaluate how I need to alter what we are doing and break it down so that the game we are playing becomes more clear TO THE DOG.  It really doesn't matter how much sense something makes to me if my dog does not understand what we are doing.

I think so called "failures" can be my best friend because it shows me where we still need to work or where the dog just doesn't understand yet.  The dogs behavior doesn't lie, it might not be what I want to hear but it doesn't lie.  My dogs are great workers and if they don't get something, it means that I have not created a great enough understanding, or value for the task, period.  But that is OK because I can always fix that.  It is a bit freeing to train and not be too worried when there is a mistake, it is just all part of the process and more information to me and I do think my dogs have learned it is no big deal to make a mistake so they don't panic either.

So this is my full training session from the other day. There is some good training and some mistakes, but we made progress and I got more information, so I'm good with that ;-).   I was trying to keep Katy working with me and not taking off on victory laps or taking off for her own party.  Her favorite game is retrieve and I felt like maybe the answer to this problem was to work on some self control, asking her to come to me or to do a task BEFORE getting to retrieve her toy.   I wanted to increase the value for her coming to me, and make working with me as valuable to her as retrieving the toy. I was not sure Katy was going to be able to do this and I knew it would be challenging for her but I was pretty sure she could do it.

I had such fun watching her figuring it all out, she is such a smart girl.  This is the whole training session without anything cut out. she did great and she quickly caught on to the game, which is awesome because this game can make her really over the top but she was able to work at thinking and still have fun.   Not an example of perfect training but we had progress.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

And So It Begins........

It was a big day for us, Katy got to do something like real agility!  Just a few Susan Salo jumps with jump bumps.  As I understand Susan's program, puppies only do some jumping every couple of weeks, they do very few receptions, they use small jump bumps, and the object is not to be perfect but just to introduce them to the jumps and let them work out how to use their bodies.

Katy is targeting to a favorite tug toy on the ground, and I am standing just past the toy. Susan believes that young dogs need to think about the jumping and pay attention to their job so she would not like movement that distracts the dog.  My own personal handling system does not call for teaching the dog to blast past me, so that is why I stay up by the toy.  This was all the jumping we did, I just edited out the walking back and forth.  It wasn't about staying so I did not want to make that an issue so I had my lovely daughter as my assistant.

I do have to admit I HAD A BLAST!  After all this time with my knee injury and replacement, then Cricket having puppies, I had forgot how good it feels to be out there and what a charge it is to see my dog playing the game.  SHE IS SO COOL!!!!

In general I don't believe in doing lots of  agility or equipment with puppies, I just think their bodies and minds are not ready for it and there is so much other foundation that needs to be done.  Teaching equipment is so fast and so easy that there is plenty of time for that!  I plan on starting weaves around 15 months and not jumping full height until Katy is around 18 months.

 first jumps 6 months from kathy bordergirlsmom on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


IM BACK!  I've missed my blogger friends and I really want to track the training of the newest BorderGirl Katydid.  For anyone who does not know ~ my heart dog and best friend Cricket had three beautiful puppies February 17, 2014.  There were two boys and a little girl.  Yolo one of the little boys is in Arizona, Doone is in British Columbia in Canada and Katydid stayed with me in Southern California.

Life has been pretty perfect, and Katy is a great combination of a little naughty and tons of sweet, and has been everything I hoped for, a truly great combination of traits of her mom and her dad.   I have not felt like I needed to talk about her training much, ...everything has been pretty easy.

Fast forward to Katy turning 5 months old and hitting teenage hood, LOL, she is cheeky and full of it, she is so confident and willing to try anything and so training has really begun, and I have had to step up my game and not be as sloppy, which has made me long for my blogger friends and to track our progress.

Way back when I first took Susan Garretts Recallers- a baseline assignment was to list in order your dogs distractions.  We were just to think of all the things that are challenging for our dogs, from the easy to handle distractions to the really hard challenges for dogs to ignore and work through.

The other list we were to make is a list of things that our dogs found reinforcing--everything we could think of, from going out the door to different foods, to toys, being allowed to run outside, being allowed to play with other dogs, being able to go greet people, what ever your dog found reinforcing to them.  I thought writing all that down  was a bit silly because  I pride myself on knowing my dogs. .I did the damn list and lo and behold it turned out to be a very valuable assignment.  It made me much more aware of the distractions for my dog and things she found reinforcing.

So my issue with Katy now is that she can pick up one back foot at a time, she can shake hands, she can balance all four feet on a 3 in board, she knows left and right on a verbal, she is a smart little girl,  with a ton of behaviors but....recalls, what are those?  We used to have a beautiful, awesome recall, but we misplaced it lately because she just gets so distracted  ;-)

So here is our list of the five biggest distractions for Katy:
1.  CARS,  CARS, CARS AND CARS- she is stimulated by cars and I find that frightening
2.  If Her mom is getting excited or barking or moving fast-Katy knows she needs to be with her
3.  Dogs who are acting a bit aggressive and barking or posturing-Katy thinks she will go bark and
      with her 24 lbs she will handle them-she is on it
4.  bicycles-those are very exciting, they have wheels and move-must herd those
5.  My daughter Emma who she just adores.

surprisingly other dogs running, and other dogs training or playing is not that huge a problem, she actually does really well around that so far, which really surprises me.

We have done tons of impulse control and focus games, but Katy was still stimulated enough that I found that it was super hard to get many treats in for good behavior, and I don't think I could reward enough that she ever had any idea what it is that I wanted.  Bad Trainer. ;-(.

The last few days as much as I really don't like head halters, I decided to try one.  I just knew I needed to get cookies into her for good choices and she was just not getting a high enough rate of reinforcement with what I had been doing for her to ever really understand what I wanted.  For her it has been so nice, she does not mind the head hater because I spent a good amount of time conditioning it, and it is letting us work around distractions.  We worked around a soccer field with cars driving slowly by-I was able to stop hold onto the head halter and walk back a few steps,  Katy automatically sat and started playing our focus games, without my asking, it was like a default behavior.  I am hoping that fairly quickly I can get enough cookie and good rewards for paying attention and making the choice to keep herself calm that we can get rid of the head halter and still have a puppy using her thinking brain.

Luckily things are going remarkably well and the last two outings had zero times lunging at cars, she has sat and paid attention to me and done easy tricks as cars pass, and she has only had maybe one or two incidents of barking at anything while we were working.  She is one smart cookie and once she gets rewarded for something she learns quickly so I do think this is going to work pretty quickly so we can move onto more fun things!