Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Chill Out

I took Stella for a visit to a client’s office this week.  We had not been there for quite some time and she was beautifully behaved.  My client was very impressed with her as she greeted appropriately with her feet on the floor and happily ran through some of her tricks.  We got a lot of “I can’t believe how good she is” etc. and comparisons to another young “out of control” dog that is owned by an office in the same complex.

I am very lucky to be able to take my dogs to various clients occasionally while I work.  It makes scheduling busy days easier when I need to go to dog classes or other dog related appointments.  Both dogs have done this since a young age so have learned to just chill out while I am working.  Stella is still a pup so I usually tether her to me or my desk to keep her from getting into trouble but she has learned to mostly just curl up and sleep or entertain herself with a chew.  Calm behaviours and a good "off switch" are super important life skills that a lot of people underestimate.  Dogs and especially puppies need to learn that although there is lots of time for fun there are also times to chill out.  It's not fancy fun training stuff but it sure can make life a lot easier.

My dogs aren’t perfect and I am far from a perfect dog owner but generally my dogs have good people and environmental social skills.  I have also gained a bit of wisdom and make some better choices about when to just leave them home.   I know that is not always an easy task when people have fearful or otherwise challenging dogs.  We dog owners face many “dog haters” and rules and regulations in today’s world and if we provide well behaved dog citizens then perhaps we might prevent even more of those awful restrictions.

Here is a little video of Stella working on some of the fun training stuff :o).

I am headed to clicker expo this weekend.  So excited!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


I discovered something interesting last night at dog class.  I was working Riley with my trainer on some heelwork and things we will need to compete for our novice obedience title later this year.  While working with him I noticed that I am handling him better than I used too.  I think that working with Stella has taught me how to be clearer in my body language and how to read his reactions better.  Both dogs move very different from each other and I think working the combination has taught me to be more aware of my body position as well as their positions.  It really is true that almost everything a dog does "wrong" is a result of handler error.

It's not that I didn't have a good working bond with Riley but I had gotten used to the "feel" of working with him and perhaps that caused me to become lazy with my criteria and making excuses like his size etc.   I also believe that working on more shaping has probably taught me to be a bit more patient and wait for the response that I want instead of fixing the response that I get.

Stella was supposed to attend class last night as well but she was sick on sunday so I opted to leave her home.  I ended up assisting my trainer with one of the new puppy families in her class.  It was fun and it was a bit of an ego boost for me to realize that I actually had good answers for their questions.  Each animal that comes into our lives has so much to teach us.  I still have so much to learn but it was nice to take a moment and recognize how far I have come.

We've had snow here this week which is unusual for us but the dogs have had a blast playing.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

In the moment

One of the best things about dogs is the joy they have for life.  This week was an anniversary of when my dad died and I was feeling sad and missing him a lot.  That same day I took the dogs walking and as I watched them zoom around and play I couldn't help but smile and laugh.  Stella's latest favourite game is to steal Riley's ball and have him chase her to get it back.  He is faster on the flats but she can out maneuver him with her quick twists and turns.  If he gives up then she just comes closer and almost stuffs the ball in his mouth to taunt him back to the game.  I had worried that he might not be thrilled to share his precious ball but he seems to enjoy the game as much as she does.   Our daily walks bring balance to my life and I love watching them enjoying life so much.  Dogs have such appreciation for the moment and they are a good reminder to appreciate the little things.  Life really is pretty good!

 Can I have your stick Riley?

 Tug, tug, tug

 Is this the ball you want Riley?

 Nanananabooboo, I've got the ball .....


Monday, 9 January 2012

Handling Seminar

This past weekend I attended a seminar with Stella on Show Handling.  Confirmation is not really my thing but I am considering doing a few shows with her just for the experience.  She is seven months now and I thought this was a great opportunity to introduce her to a world that will be similar to any rally or obedience trials in our future.  The seminar was well attended with about 50 dogs and was held in a building that often is the venue for local trials.  My original plan was to take both dogs but I decided it would be good for Stella to go alone plus Riley is kinda to big for his crate for any long periods of time.

My goals for the weekend were to learn more about confirmation handling and to make sure that Stella had a positive experience.  When we first walked into the building Stella seemed a bit overwhelmed but within minutes she was happy and looking around.   This is also the first time I have crated her anywhere other than a home situation so I wasn't sure if she would be scared or anxious.  I placed my chair close enough to hear her and walked over occasionally to give her a treat.  A dog right next to us was screaming loudly so I didn't want her to pick up on that.  Luckily most of the dogs settled and she did great!  I did cover the front of the crate a few times when she first saw some dogs out working close to her and barked at them but by the end of the weekend she was very comfortable and a few times when I went back to reload treats she went right into her crate and settled with the door open and waited for me. 

Our first time out in the working part we were just supposed to trot them out and observe if we saw any of the common movement problems.  She cracked me up because she bounced happily the entire way around the ring trying to play with me.  In my book that was great because it showed that she was very comfortable.  The weekend progressed and we learned lots about presentation.  A lot of the moves were tough for both of us because they are contrary to the obedience type things we have worked on.  She is used to sitting in heel position and giving me more eye contact in heel position instead of just moving forward but we figured most of it out by the end of the weekend.  The techniques shown were all very positive and treat based.  I worked lots of our own fun games in to keep her interest high and I loved that she was happy and focused even when there were 50 dogs working all around us.  She is going through a minor fear stage right now so a few times she was startled but recovered quickly.  I love this puppy!

The only downside I had this weekend was watching a woman react to her dog that was whining in it's crate.  She walked over and opened the door and smacked the dog and then grabbed it told it to shut up gave it another little smack and closed the door.  She didn't "hurt" her dog but she definately just added more stress and will likely just make her issue even worse.  I waited until she turned back towards me and saw that I had seen her and gave her a super disgusted look and shook my head at her.  I doubt that will have any effect but hopefully she was at least embarrassed.

We also got to meet some more Vizsla relatives this weekend at the seminar.  Stella is on the far right.  The pup far left is two days older than Stella.  The other pup is approx 3.5 months and his momma is seven.  All dogs are descendants of Stella's maternal grandfather Sasha.   They all had a great time playing at lunch on sunday.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

So excited!

I am going to clicker expo in Portland at the end of January.  I really had wanted to attend this for months but the responsible, practical side of me said I really couldn't afford to do it.  However it appears the stars have aligned and thanks to an incredibly generous offer I will be attending with my trainer Heather.  I am very excited!

Dog "training" is relatively new to me.  When we got Lucy 15 years ago I did the regular basic obedience course (complete with choke chain) and that was it.  She was a mostly well behaved dog and fit into out lives well.  She had some issues (hated little dogs) but they were very predictable and managed fairly easily.  When Riley came along I was a bit more interested in training and my main goal was a dog who came when he was called and got along with any dog or person.  Those are probably the same goals of 90% of pet owners.  We did puppy class, intermediate and advanced pet dog classes and even did some tracking courses.  All of those things went very well and I was pretty darned proud of myself and my "well-trained" dog.  When Riley hit about 1.5 years of age he went though a terrible teenager phase and he began to ignore me and developed some agressive tendancies (on leash etc.) towards some other dogs.  This is very common teenage behaviour but it really threw me for a loop.  I was so sure I had done everything right!  Truth is I did do most things pretty well but also got complacent and figured we had done enough training. We got away with that with Lucy and people everywhere get away with it with some other dogs but Riley wasn't that dog.  I needed to fix things or end up with a bunch more issues to manage for the rest of his life.

That started me about three years ago on my path to learn more about training.  It began as just trying to help my dog and developed into a new interest that I needed in my life.  There is a ton of information out there and I finally feel like I am discovering what is comfortable for me and how I want my relationships with my dogs.  Riley loves to "work" with me and Stella is a wonderful new partner that I am sure will teach me all sorts of new stuff.  I have more knowledge now but learning really is a lifelong process and I am just starting into the world of dog sports.  Clicker expo is another step in my learning process and I am very grateful to be going.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

Welcome 2012!

2011 was a year of mixed blessings.   It was a rough year for some very special friends and hubby and I both had injury filled years but lots of good stuff also happened.  Old friendships were things to treasure and got even stronger.  This world of dogs and dog training has brought lots of new friendships and adventures to my life.  We welcomed puppy Stella to our home in august almost exactly a year to the day that we said goodbye to our beloved Lucy.  I love having two dogs in our house again and Stella has brought lots of laughter and butt wiggles to our home.

Stella turned seven months old yesterday and weighed in just shy of 35 pounds and almost 21 inches tall.    She is currently all legs and I expect her to continue growing and filling out but think she will end up nicely on the smaller side of things.   Here is a pic from today of her on a table which she wasn't all that thrilled about.

Next weekend we will be attending a handling workshop that "covers canine conditioning for all sports and ring presentation".  I'm still not sure if I will try to show her in confirmation but I figured this could be a great experience for her.  The session was recommended by a friend who states the trainer uses lots of fun games and positive methods.  I am also taking Riley.  He will obviously never do any confirmation showing but there will be other stuff relating to rally and obedience trials.  They are supposed to be busy days so this way both dogs can have lots of breaks.

New Years also always brings up thoughts of resolutions.  I have the usual personal resolutions of weight and fitness and some goals with the dogs.  I have started using Stella's meals whenever I am home as shaping sessions.  I need to improve my skills and she needs to learn how to work through frustration.  I have been doing this for the past three or four days and already notice a ton of improvement.  I also want to get Riley's rally excellent at trials in march/april so we have lots of work to get back to.  Nov/Dec were really busy months and I notice the lack of training with him as he feels a bit less "connected"  when compared to when we are working regularly.  He loves to work so I am feeling a bit guilty and a goal is a great way for a kick start.

Happy New Year to all.  I wish laughter, love and friendship for you all.

I was also pleasantly surprised to receive a blog award today from Empty Nest Mom.  It's nice to know that people are enjoying my ramblings!

Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve. As with any award, there is a bit of ceremony involved. In order to accept the award, we must do the following:
1. Copy and paste the award on our blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who gave us the award
3. Pick our five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award
       I will get my picks up very soon!