Monday, March 31, 2008

Nail Biting

Iris is sitting next to me right now, happily chewing on her nails. I know a lot of people with this habit, but I've never heard of a dog doing this. In the 8 or so months I've had her, I've clipped her nails once. Not because she really needed it done, but because I wanted to make sure she'd let me do it. I checked her nails a few days ago. They weren't long enough to clip. She has plenty of toys she could be chewing on instead.

It's not an obsessive habit. I'll see her do it once every couple weeks (although she could do it when I'm at work, her nails don't look like she does). She never bites them short enough to bleed, so I let her. I have my bad habits too.

She's just an odd little dog.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Last ABC Class

Iris had her last ABC class on Thurs. She was great! I think she's made a lot of progress since we started the class. During last class, I ended up keeping her in her crate when we weren't working on an obstacle. It wasn't originally my intention. The last couple classes she's been doing well with attention work outside of the crate once she's settled down. I kept her in the crate because there was a new dog in class, a black lab. He had such a big bark, and I could tell it was gearing Iris up. Inside the crate, she was doing awesome about glancing over at the direction the noise was coming from and going right back to making eye contact, that I wanted to keep that going with her. Also, she seemed more focused when I took her straight from the crate to the jump chute, so I wanted to try that for the rest of class. When we start our next class, I'll continue working with her outside of the crate, but on Thurs, the crate just seemed to be working for her.

The first thing we worked on a was a jump chute, with the tire as one of the jumps. Iris never has trouble with running and jumping! I figured she would be a good agility dog when she decided that jumping baby gates was a fun new game. The second time I ran her through the jump chute, she wanted to stop and sniff around at the beginning, but once she settled into running she did well.

Next we worked on the a-frame followed by a jump. Iris has no problem running up and over. She likes the contact obstacles. Her wait on the a-frame needs work (or probably more likely, I need to give the cue a little sooner since I know she's bounding over it).

After that, we worked on weave-polls. The way we introduced weave polls was by using sections of an x-pen attached to the polls to form the correct path through them. So, the dog can't go through the wrong way. The dogs were supposed to come out of the weave polls and into a tunnel or over a jump (depending on which direction we were going in). Iris did bolt once over to Baxter (lab) but just sniffed him when she got there. Once she came back, we did the weave polls and tunnel again, and she got excited and went back through the tunnel and half way up the a-frame before bounding back over to try the weaves again. I just need to get her to realize that she doesn't have to charge the other dogs before she can relax! She's lucky that Baxter was such a good, and tolerant, boy. Our next class is six weeks of weave polls, so it was good to see how this is set up. Once I get my weave polls put together, I'm going to get set up the x-pens and start having her practice the same way we did in class.

Last, we did the teeter, and I think Iris did better with her wait. She's pretty good about rocking back her weight when the teeter starts moving, which is good. I still think she'd like to see how far Aussies can fly...

Now Iris has a few weeks off (well, not completely off, we'll still be training :-) ) and then weaves! We decided to do weaves next because it will be a little less overstimulating for both of us, and I'll be able to work on both weaves and focusing with her. There'll be a few people from the ABC class in weaves with us, so it should be fun!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Those Dogs

I took Iris for a walk yesterday and I stopped to talk to a guy who was out with his little girl who wanted to see the doggie. He asked me if Iris is "one of those dogs who runs around and jumps through hoops and things?" hehehe Yup, she's one of "those dogs." Maybe I need to make her one of these so she can jump through hoops more often:

If I do, I'm going to need to find a new place to store her jumps and things.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

3/20 Agility

Well I have to admit, Iris was better in class than I expected her to be. My brother's friend (who Iris does not like) was over the house, so she spent the day shuffled between the crate, the yard, and on leash with me. She was so edgy all day, I thought for sure I would end up with the hell hound during class.

Iris' attention was definitely more scattered this week than last week. For one thing, Tessie (Springer) was there this week, and for whatever reason, Iris does not like Tessie. Her barking at Tessie is much more forceful than at any other dog in class and I have a much harder time redirecting her. Poor Tessie has done nothing to deserve such a bad reputation!

This week, class was run a little differently. Instead of all the dogs working on different things at the same time, everyone had to wait while each dog/handler team went through the obstacles individually. Waiting quietly isn't one of Iris' strengths! I mostly did attention work and the space game. Also, I've found that hand targeting is good way to to distract her when she starts staring at the other dogs. If I can sort of "break" her stare, by either walking into her or asking her to target (depending on how focused she is) I can get her working again easier. She did really well as long as no one else was barking and Tessie wasn't the dog running.

Class started with a pinwheel (3 jumps at 90 degree angles). Katrin had the dogs that were most likely to bother Iris leave the barn while the calmer dogs stayed inside (to get Iris used to working around other dogs without completely blowing her brain). Iris' mind was all over the place. She rushed the barn door when she saw that the other dogs were out there. She felt they needed to be supervised. What would happen to the world if there wasn't an Aussie overseeing every activity? Then she took a little jaunt over to check out Carmen, who was such a good girl and ignored my nosey Aussie! Which was also really good for Iris who decided that the other dogs weren't actually doing anything interesting and came back to me. During this exercise, Katrin was having me give Iris a treat every time she checked in with me. I need to start doing this at home - rewarding every time she checks in with me during the day (with a treat, a game ect). By the end of the exercise, I think she was starting to focus a little more.

Next we worked on a teeter, tunnel sequence. Iris is definitely getting better about "wait" on the teeter (I know she'd love to see how much air she can get off the end of the teeter, but you know, Aussies don't actually have wings). After that, I walked her to the other side of the barn so we wouldn't be too close to the dogs working on the a-frame. We walked a little too close to the dog walk, and Iris said "oh hey, let's play on that!" Brat dog. She seems to really enjoy the contact obstacles.

While we were waiting for our turn on the a-frame, I had Iris lying down against the wall (she seems a little more relaxed up against the wall, maybe because she doesn't have to worry about what's behind her) and just worked on keeping her attention since we were waiting closer to the other dogs than we'd been. She did really good. Neil and Makin (Vizsla) ran right past us and Iris didn't react! I admit, at the time she was looking for treat crumbs on the ground so she didn't really see them, but she still didn't bother jumping up when she heard their footsteps. Yay!

Iris didn't have any problems with going up the a-frame. She wasn't too impressed with the idea of doing it backwards (it's more fun to run up and over than to inch her way backwards!) She was enjoying it enough that she bounded back for one more go after we'd finished. I know I should probably try harder to keep her off the contact obstacles unless I've told her to go up, but I'm just happy when she decides that she'd rather be playing agility than supervising the other dogs. We ended with the dog walk, which she has no problem running across. I just have to make sure I keep up with her.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Introducing the Beagle

Katrin mentioned tonight that Iris has put on a little weight, which is something I noticed too. I know everyone in my family thinks I'm crazy since Iris is definitely at a better weight than the Beagle, but at least I know someone else agrees with me! I need to start jogging with her more often now that the weather is better. Also I have to convince everyone else to measure her food more carefully. I know she gets extra when I'm not the one feeding her. But since Iris wants to prove that she still has a better figure than Henry Wenry, here are the trouble twins

Thursday, March 13, 2008

3/13 Agility

I'm so proud of my girl! Iris was so good during class tonight. I decided to spend the beginning of class just really getting her settled and relaxed, and I think it helped.

I started Iris off in her crate while we were setting up equipment. In hindsight, I should have put her farther away from the door because I know that's a trigger for her. So she was barking at people coming in, even with the crate covered. If I'd had it completely covered to begin with, she might have been fine, but my initial thought was that she'd stay quieter if she could see me (which did work until someone came through the arena door).

When class started, I had her do some work inside her crate (mostly hand targeting because she likes doing that, and also rewarding her for eye contact when she could hear people moving around). Iris did react when another dog got too close to her crate, but otherwise she was good. I waited until I thought she was pretty relaxed before I let her out. When I brought her out of the crate, I did a combination of attention work and click/treat for looking at other dogs without reacting. There was a jump chute set up and other dogs were running down the length of the arena and over the jumps. They weren't running directly toward Iris, but they were running into her general direction. The first dog that ran toward us was Carmen. Iris looked at her and then looked back up and made eye contact with me. Good girl Iris! I was so proud! A few weeks ago, I'm sure that she would have exploded at a dog running anywhere near her general direction. I definitely think that was a breakthough for her.

After I thought Iris was pretty relaxed outside of the crate, I played the space game with her and worked on the "wait" on the contact board. She was able to work on the contact board without barking once! She's never been able to really do that with me. I think she knows the contact board enough that she thinks she can do it without paying attention to me and instead looks for other dogs. Tonight she was really focused on me, and I tried to keep her moving so she didn't have an opportunity to explode. She did great!

When I walked her back over to get some more treats, she went into her create and lay down. I guess she needed a break! So I let her rest there for a few minutes and did some hand targeting when I could see her starting to peak around me at the other dogs. When Katrin called us over to work on the teeter, Iris walked through the middle of the arena, with dogs standing to both sides, and she didn't explode! She even looked up at me a couple times while we were walking!

Iris did much better waiting on the teeter tonight than she has been. I think she'd love to rocket off, but she's definitely learning that she needs to wait for it to hit the ground. She did lunge at another dog as she was coming off the teeter the first time. Katrin started having me stand away from the teeter so that Iris would run off the teeter to me instead of over a jump and toward other dogs. Iris did much better.

After the teeter, everyone worked on three jumps that were set up so that the dog had to run in a circle. Because each dog was running individually, Iris had to wait through all of the other dogs going (we went last). Iris actually lay down next to me and let me rub her belly while the other dogs were running! I couldn't believe it. She wouldn't have lay down that long a few weeks ago. We were sitting away from the other dogs who were waiting, but it's still progress! When it was Iris' turn, Katrin asked the other dogs to step outside so Iris would be less distracted. My handling needs work, but I guess we can only have one breakthrough a night. :) Iris was a little distracted, but she was happy and running around. I definitely think she enjoys playing the agility game when she isn't worrying about other dogs.

After the jumps, we immediately did the dog walk for the first time, which Iris had no problem with. Then she was done for the night and got to retire to the car. All in all, I'm so proud of my crazy Aussie girl.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Posing Aussie

I took Iris over to the state park this afternoon and made her pose for some photos (and she thought we were just going for a walk... She did get her walk. She just had to wait until after the camera ran out of batteries). Finally it's not too muddy to take her over there! Maybe spring is here to stay?

Here's a couple of my favorite shots for the day:

Ok, this last one is just because I wanted to include proof that she does look at me. Sometimes. When I'm holding food and making weird noises. And there are no squirrels in sight.

And that stream behind her? Iris felt the stream and the log on the other side of it (you can't see it in the photo), both needed to be jumped in a single bound from a standstill to celebrate the end of the photo session.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

3/6 Agility Class

On Thurs, I brought Iris' crate to class. I'm hoping that by having her crate there as a "time out" spot, I'll be able to get her to relax and focus more when I'm working with her. My intention is to put her in the crate when she seems to be getting overloaded by the other dogs' activity and then do some simple work with her in the crate (sit, down, hand target, etc). I only used it once with her on Thurs, but I probably should have done it more often. I need to get better at seeing when she's just having a little reaction and can get back to work right away vs when she's too overwhelmed and needs a break.

In class we worked on a bunch of different things. First, we did a sequence of tunnel, jump, table. The goal was to have Iris do the tunnel and jump then go to the table and down a few steps ahead of me. I thought she did really well with this. She got really happy and bouncy when I was working with her. She even had a short bout of zoomies. Silly girl. But at least she was having fun, and it was probably the most relaxed and playful she's been in class. For the most part, she was good about working with me, although she was taking the down on the table as an opportunity to glare at the other dogs. I just hope I can get her to a point where she can stay in "happy play" mindset the whole class. She did take off to go see one of the other dogs, but at least when she got to the dog, all she did was sniff. Still, she needs to learn not to do that.

After that, we practiced the teeter. At least Iris isn't afraid of the teeter! She does everything with enthusiasm, I'll give her credit for that. She has no problem being on the teeter, but she does it the same way she likes to do everything - fast. I need to get my contact board sand painted tonight so I can work on "wait" a little more with her. She has no problem doing it right on the contact boards in class, but I know if I let her, she'd finish off her teeter performance with a flying leap! Again, she did take off to check out another dog when we were doing the teeter. I'm worried about this becoming a habit for her. She's ok once she gets to the other dog, but it's really not fair to the other students in class for Iris to be charging around.

We also introduced two new obstacles: the tire jump and the chute. At first Iris wasn't sure what I wanted her to do with the tire jump, but once she figured it out, she had no problem with it. It's so cool to see that light bulb go off in her mind, "Oh, so that's what you want me to do!" I think that moment is one of my favorite parts of training. She was really comfortable going through the chute if Julie held the end open. She was able to do it with the end mostly closed, but not completely. We'll get there.

Between all of that, I worked with her on "wait" and also spent a lot of time just rewarding her for looking that the other dogs without reacting. I do think that's helping her. This week, I think I'm going to try and focus on "wait" on the contact board. Also, I want to work on building up a better "leave it" to see if that helps with her problems with the other dogs. Plus, I want to do more moving stays with a "go" to target. Hopefully, I'll be able to build a couple jumps this week. I need to work on "down" too. She's always been a little slow with down, so I want to build up speed on that for the table.

We have a busy week!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Intro for the Red Dog

Since it seems to be the popular thing to do, here's Iris' training journal! I think keeping a record of her training will be good for me since I'll be able to look back and see her progress. So without further ado, here's a little background on The Rainbow Dogess herself!

I adopted Iris last summer from the NHSPCA. I was looking for a dog to do agility with and decided I wanted a medium-size herding dog mix. My first choice for a breed was an Aussie, but I didn't expect to find a purebred in the shelter. But now here's Iris! She's four years old AKC/ASCA registered, from a working/conformation cross breeding.

Iris (previously named Lula Mae, that had to go!) was surrendered to the shelter after she escaped from her owner's house (through the front door, which maybe shouldn't have been left open in the first place) and killed two of the neighbor's uncontained, pet ducks. I know she's a herder and I got the impression that she was sort of a "farm dog" so killing livestock is a big no, but they'd only had her for six months. Personally, I'd have sent whoever left the front door open to the shelter instead. It turns out that she'd also been chasing and nipping running kids and was "over protective" of the house (over protective being a bit of an understatement as I've learned). I think those were probably the real problems and the ducks were just the last straw.

Before that, she'd been through 2 or 3 other homes. As far as I could tell, the only command she understood was "sit" and that was inconsistent. No wonder no one could live with a high energy, untrained dog. She's got a ton of energy and lots of intensity. I'm pretty sure that she believes life is a race and anything worth doing needs to be done with everything you have. She needs a job and daily training to exercise her crazy brain, so that's where agility comes in! I'd also like to try herding with her, but I think she needs to tackle one challenge at a time.

She's not perfect, and she's not without her challenges. She acts like she's spent the first 4 years of her life running the house according to Aussie standards. She can be pretty reactive with other dogs in agility class and is not always good with guests in the house (or outside the house or driving a truck past the house or delivering mail to the house or, well, you get the idea). Trucks are her arch-nemesis, so jogging with her is sometimes interesting (the Gentle Leader is a savior). A friend told me that if I want to stick it out and work with this dog it will be a long and winding road. Well, I guess it's a good thing I have a dog to come with me for the trip.