Thursday, July 31, 2008

5 Directions #6

Tonight we had our last 5 Directions class. I think we both got a lot out of this class. Iris was so good. She does exactly what I tell her to do. If I have my arm up, she stays out. If I bring my arm down, she comes in. My little dog swears she'll make a good handler out of me yet! :-) I really do have fun with my little red dog even if she is a crazy-head (and look at her head! Her eyes can't decide if they're blue or brown, her ears can't decide if they stand up or flop over, her funny little mane sticks out in all directions... She's a crazy head).

We started by working on the same tight-out-switch-out sequence that we worked on a few weeks ago, except this time we added jumps. Iris was stress sniffing when we started, but then she figured it out pretty quickly. I think I'm starting to get the hang of switch and tight. We've been working on those two a lot at home over the last couple weeks. Even more exciting is that they mowed all of the grass at the airport field last week, so I'm going to bring jumps and gates over there this weekend so we can practice this some more. At the very least, I need to try and remember that I have TWO hands I can deliver treats with. I am not an ambi-treat-deliverer. Like Zoolander, only with a dog instead of fashion sense (phew! I'd rather have the dog).

After that, we worked on the same sequence for "go" that we did last week. Iris did a lot less sniffing when we worked on this. She even started to go toward the other dogs, but turned around and came running back. Good girlie! I think a table in going to be my next project. Iris has no problem hopping up on it, but I'd like to work on getting her to down automatically.

Sandy brought her new Aussie puppy, Teddy, to class. He is adorable! I want to steal him, but I think eight people and three dogs is more than enough for one house. I'll have to settle for playing with Teddy in class. Iris says she's still the best Aussie ever.


Slightly off-topic, but I thought this post on Dolittler was really interesting - the comments are better than the post. Right now, raw isn't an option for Iris because she'd be the only one of the three dogs to get raw, which seems like a fast way to end up with food guarding. Anyway it's a study I've heard cited before, and I admit I've wondered about it in terms of ever switching Iris to raw (why risk making her reactivity worse?) The comments bring up some very valid points against the study results.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Julie posted this game over at her blog so though I'd give it try for Iris.

1. What is your first name? Iris

2. What is your favorite food? cheese

3. What high school did you go to? Maplewood

4. What is your favorite color? red

5. Who is your celebrity crush? Rin Tin Tin

6. Favorite drink? water

7. Dream vacation? camping

8. Favorite dessert? Frosty Paws

9. What you want to be when you grow up? supervisor

10. What do you love most in life? running

11. One Word to describe you: energetic

12. Your flickr name. none

1. Broche Arco-íris, 2. "I, Piórko, like Cheese!", 3. maplewood farm, 4. Gizmo, 5. jordi tongue flickr, 6. October Morning on Lake Michigan, 7. Campsite by Moonlight, 8. Tasteful, 9. Terracotta warriors. Xian, 10. The chase, 11. Sally, Sally, pride of our alley, 12. Sunny Side Up

And then Henry Wenry wanted to play too....

1. What is your first name? Henry

2. What is your favorite food? muffins

3. What high school did you go to? no school!

4. What is your favorite color? green

5. Who is your celebrity crush? Lassie

6. Favorite drink? coffee

7. Dream vacation? grocery store

8. Favorite dessert? Pop-Tarts

9. What you want to be when you grow up? chef

10. What do you love most in life? food

11. One Word to describe you: hungry

12. Your flickr name. none

1. Bigui, Beagle, 2. It's A Girl!, 3. Over/Under, 4. Meeting the pregnant princess of the forest, 5. Lassie, is that you?, 6. WIRED, 7. Schmidt's Grocery sign, 8. Mini Pop-Tarts, 9. Little Chef, 10. Metzis Tasty Takeaway Hamburger with the lot - Australian style!, 11. Caught in the Act, 12. bun... none

5 Directions #5

In 5 Directions on Thurs, we worked on "Go." There were three jumps set up in a straight line with a table and a tunnel at either end. The idea was to have the dog go over the jump and pass the handler at the third jump to do either the tunnel or the table. Iris did really well with it, especially since she hasn't really don't anything with equipment in this class. She was happy to do all three jumps and only hesitated a little before going into the tunnel. She has no problem hopping up on the table, but I need to work on getting an automatic down. Iris wasn't really going very far ahead of me, but she seemed pretty happy to be playing with me and not overly distracted by the other dogs. There were a couple of moments where Iris thought it might be more fun to go supervise the other dogs instead of going in the tunnel, but she stayed with me (with a little help from Katrin blocking her...) Iris was a little more bratty than she has been recently, but in general, I think she did good.

Katrin pointed out that as long as I keep my arm up, Iris will go over the jumps, and as soon as I start to drop my arm, she starts to think about coming in toward me around the jump. I'm surprised by just how important body language seems to be to all of the dogs in class. I've never really thought about it before, but it makes sense because that's how dogs communicate with each other.

We were practicing "switch" and "tight" last night and I noticed that Iris seems to only pay attention to my body language. I think I could insert any word in there and it wouldn't matter to her right now because she's not actually listening to what I'm saying. If I'm staying more stationary, she just sort of walks around randomly hoping to guess right. I'm not sure how much that matters right now?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Year In Review

My little red dog has come a long way in a year.

One year ago today, I adopted Iris from the NHSPCA. The first time I met her, she came into the visiting room at the shelter, sat down, and leaned against me. When she's not being crazy, she really is exactly the dog I was looking for. When I got Iris home, she refused to eat for two days and spent most of the first week hiding under the coffee table. She'd come out if I sat on the floor and talked to her. She had kennel cough, which only added to her stress. Iris was 4 years old and I was her fifth owner. She was housebroken, but I don't think she had much other training.

The first photo I took of her to email to a couple of people - she was hiding in the corner.

A photo from a few weeks later, you can see she decided to upgrade her spot. The photo makes her look like a gremlin, especially with her demon dog eyes. It's still her favorite spot on the couch:

It took Iris a few months to get settled in, and I just worked on some basic manners at home with her. She started out so shy, I didn't want to push her into classes. A big thing for her was learning not to bolt through doors. It's one of the reasons she was in the shelter. Coming home from work to find out that the dog I'd only had for a few weeks, the dog who was still spending a good deal of time under the coffee table, was missing was one of the worst nights. She was only loose for an hour and half or so.

As Iris got more settled in, her behavior issues started to come out more. She's been through four other homes for a reason. The shelter said she was surrendered for escaping the house and killing ducks. Going through the paperwork later, the secondary reasons she was there were being overprotective of her house and nipping kids who here running around with "her" kids. I think those were probably the primary reasons and the duck killing was just the last straw. Iris is extremely aware of everything going on outside the house. She's reactive to guests coming into the house. Men make her nervous. She's reactive to other dogs. She pushes Zeus around. She's obsessed with cars. Her nickname is "the supervisor." She can't be left alone loose in the house because she makes herself crazy obsessing over cars passing the house.

In the fall, I enrolled Iris in a basic obedience class at MasterPeace. I wanted to work on her manners in a more distracting environment than my house and also get her used to being in a class. She did really well in the class, even with the other dogs. It was a pretty stationary class, so I think she found the other dogs less threatening?

In January, I started classes at Maplewood. Iris needed something to do with her brain besides just supervise the house. I wanted an agility dog from the beginning so we started in ABC. The beginning half of the class (now called Communications) was excellent for building a relationship with Iris. The second half was an intro to obstacles and Iris seemed to enjoy running and jumping around. Her issues with other dogs came out in full force. Iris was turning into a lot more dog than I'd bargained for. Katrin has been extremely patient with my crazy dog right from the beginning. In the 7 months since we started classes at Maplewood, Iris has gotten so much more relaxed in class, and as a side benefit, she's gotten a lot better at home. Of everything I've done with her, starting agility classes had by far the most positive effects. I've learned a lot about managing her around other dogs and keeping her attention, a lot of which applies to barking at people, chasing cars, etc. I'm still working on being cooler than dirt. :-) The only downside to agility is that Iris now thinks my 24" baby gates are agility inside the house. So far, we've done ABC, Weave Poles, the 5 Directions, and Competition Heeling.

In class, Iris is happy to hang out in her crate when she needs a break. She's gone from not being able to focus with other dogs in the barn, to being able to play while certain dogs are still inside. At home, she now loses her window privileges as soon as she starts barking, so she's gotten better about relaxing in the house. She's only allowed to greet guests if she's relaxed. If she starts barking, she's walked out of the room. She's made huge improvements with greeting my friends. When I'm out walking her, she can sit and stay while a car passes.

We also tried herding at a clinic given by Tenley Dexter and put on by ASCNE. Iris was afraid of sheep but really interested in the ducks and not all all rough with them. Tenley thought Iris would make a really nice duck dog. Quite a compliment! There were a lot of people there, which I think was stressful for Iris. Even when I went in with her for the ducks, Iris kept looking over at the people and dogs watching. I really want to see how she does in a less stressful environment.

A quick recap of the year, I'll probably think of more later but it's getting late -

Things Iris learned:
-her name (means make eye contact)
-Sit Up
-Wait and make eye contact until I say "ok" before going through an open door
-Hand target
-Target plate
-Back up
-Loose leash walking (with no distractions)
-Off (our dogs are allowed on the furniture as long as they'll get off on command)
-Relax in crate
-No dogs in the kitchen for meals until they're told "ok"

Things Iris is still working on (in no particular order):
-Loose leash walking with distractions (especially cars)
-Come with distractions
-Greeting people without jumping up (mostly an issue when I get home from work)
-Toy motivation (Henry is still the coolest toy ever)
-Weaves (I need to invest in my own!)

Things we've only worked on a little but I'd like to work on more:
-Leave it
-Go to place
-Turn and make eye contact after going through an open door
-Ears (bring ears forward, a good trick for photographs)

What next? Our next agility class will be Putting it Together at Maplewood. I'm also thinking about putting Iris in the Reactive Dogs class at MasterPeace in September. As soon as I get my car fixed (or rather, find out how much it's going to cost to fix my car), I want to try herding again. And of course we'll still be training at home, running in the field, swimming at the pond, harassing the poor Beagle, and finding new and exciting ways to get in trouble!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

5 Directions #4 and C.H. #6

In 5 Directions class on Thurs, we worked on switch and tight over jump bars on the ground. Iris and I got there first, and she was being great about giving me attention and working while we waited for the rest of the class. The two other dogs showed up and came into Iris' barn (she owns whatever space she can see) and they started barking (Iris is actually the only dog in the world, except Henry, allowed to bark), and I completely lost her focus. I took her for a walk outside to see if I could get her to "start over." Sometimes life needs save points and reset buttons.

Iris relaxed a bit and we went back in. We worked on switch first. The goal was to have the dog go over one jump bar and switch to go over the other jump bar. I think Iris is starting to understand that turning is important, but she hasn't quite made the connection that doing an obstacle is part of it too. When I was practicing with her earlier in the week, she was trying to turn before getting to the cone. Once Iris thinks she knows what I want, she usually tries to find a shorter way of doing it. If she turns before the cone, it's less work than walking all the way around the cone!

After switch, we worked on tight over one jump bar. I need to remember that tight actually means really tight. Iris was doing better with tight than switch, which is probably partially because I have a better understanding of tight. By this point in class, Iris had stopped worrying about the other dogs and was doing a much better job focusing. She went from wanna-be-reactive-dog at the beginning of class to happy-working-dog at the end of class. I think that's the first time I've actually gotten her paying attention and happy after she'd gone into reactive mode to the beginning of class.

Today was our last Competition Heeling class. This was a great class! Iris still has a ways to go before she's doing perfect heeling, but I think it's helped a lot with getting her to focus on me when I'm moving. That was really what I wanted Iris to get out of the class and I think we're off to the right start. Today was really hot and Iris was really spacey. She was looking for an excuse to explode at the beginning of class, and I was more concerned with just keeping her attention than with teaching her anything new. We worked on pace changes and then put everything together at the end. Iris' head was in the clouds somewhere. She really doesn't like the heat and get more snarky when she's hot.

Later in the afternoon, I took Iris over to the abandoned airport field to practice heeling a little more. It cooled off a bit after the rain and was mostly overcast so I thought she'd have an easier time focusing. It was still hotter than I thought, so we kept it pretty brief and I took Iris to the pond across the street when we were done. Iris thought the pond was great fun! I had her on a long line, so she really got to romp around. Now I have one very sleepy Aussie.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Heeling #5

Sunday was windy, which means all of my dogs were acting a little wacky. With the windows open (and with no AC, the windows have to be open) the wind makes all sorts of weird noises as it blows through the house. All three dogs were freaked out by it, and they were all getting each other going. I also had company. Iris was being really good, but I know it stresses her out, especially since they were guys who showed up driving trucks.

During class, the wind was still going, and Iris was pretty worried about it. She was more concerned by the wind than the other dogs. Katrin had me start Iris off with tricks that she was familiar with. That seemed to help her relax a bit and then we borrowed from canned food from Julie. The canned food was a lot more exciting than the treats I had! We worked on making left and right turns. Iris did pretty well with it. I think she's starting to get the idea of heeling. Eventually, the novelty of the canned food wore off and she started worrying about the wind again. I let her retreat to her crate. Overall, I was really happy that she was able to relax enough to work for a little while.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Three Is More Than Two

I think it was me that said "three dogs can't possibly be much more work than two." And that's when Iris joined the pack. Usually it's just Iris and Henry here during the week, but this past week I've had Zeus as well.

Normally, my routine before work is to get up, feed the dogs, start getting myself ready while they eat, let the dogs out, finish getting myself ready, let the dogs in, get Iris in her crate, and then I leave.

This week, it's gone something like this: Get up and let the dogs out because Zeus won't eat unless he's been outside first. Start making their breakfast - all three are on different diets. Let the dogs in. Red dog comes in, hound dog comes in, where's the black dog? Grab a leash and go outside. Zeus has dug himself a crater in the backyard and is laying down there, growling and grumbling when I go to bring him in. Slip leash over his head, he hops right up. Back inside, give all the dogs their food. Dogs finish eating and they have to go back outside because Henry won't go relieve himself until after he's had breakfast (food is just too exciting!) Iris runs outside. Grab Zeus' collar so he won't go back to his crater outside. Where is Henry? He's the one that actually needs to go outside. Henry is in the kitchen trying to lick Iris' bowl clean as fast as possible. Alright, get Henry outside, keep Zeus inside, now Zeus is licking bowls. Finish getting myself ready for work. Let Iris and Henry in. Bring Iris down the basement to keep cool. The boys get the run of the house for the day. I turn to go back upstairs, and see Henry trying desperately to get into the recycling to lick empty dog food cans. Usher Henry back upstairs. Find car keys.

Finally, ready for work!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Week in Review

It's been a busy week. Last Sunday was Competition Heeling #4. It was supposed to be without dogs. I forgot and brought Iris with me anyway, so she hung out in her crate. The first thing we did was pair up and have one person act as the dog while the other was the handler. Katrin gave the handler instructions (such as left, halt, turn around, fast slow, etc), and the "dog" was supposed to watch the handler and try to stay in position. When I was the dog, I found myself really watching the handler's feet. That really drove home how important my footwork is for Iris. Also, abrupt transitions make it lot harder to stay in position. This is something that's important in agility too! My dog is smart, but she can't read my mind (although she's gotten pretty good at guessing).

Next we practiced our footwork. When making a turn, you place the outside foot in a T over the inside foot. By turning that way, it slows you down and gives clear body language so the dog can see you're turning. To turn around completely, you just make 2 T's. This footwork stuff is going to be much harder when I add in the dog!

Iris was good about hanging out in her crate when I was sitting next to her, but she turned into a complete loudmouth once I walked away. Partner (a young lab) was also in a crate, and while he was much quieter than my crazy dog, he would whine when Ann walked away. I noticed that when Iris would quiet down, she'd start right back up when Partner would whine. Looking back on it, I could have been better about rewarding her when she was quiet. That's something I'll have to work on with her in future.

Thurs was 5 Directions #3. Iris was great. We worked on "tight" which is the opposite of "switch." I can't keep them straight. I pretty much sent my dog toward the cone, said a word, and hoped that she'd go around the cone and come back toward me. I'm going to have to spend more time training myself this week than training Iris! The difference is the dog turns away from you for switch, the dog turns toward you for tight. As long as I remember it that way, I think I'll be able to get it. Eventually. Otherwise the end result might be that I shout words, flail my arms around and hope that my dog guesses right. I could say that she's got a 50-50 chance of getting it right since she can only turn left or right, but I know my dog better than that. Iris' options include left, right, bark, bounce, sniff, zoom, chase the Beagle... I'm sure she could keep adding to the list.

Everyone in class (4 dogs) practiced tight at the same time. Iris was so good! She stayed with me and kept working the whole time. "Other dogs moving around" has always been a trigger for her, so I was proud of her. After we practiced tight, Katrin set up a course of cones and gates which included tight, switch, and out. Julie has a diagram of the course on her blog, although I think it's lacking a stick figure schnauzer. Iris did really well with this, better than me! I need to remember to give commands further in advance. Iris doesn't know where I want her to go (again, she's not a mind reader) and without enough feedback, she starts to check out.

So much to remember! But both very good classes.