Sunday, September 28, 2008

Camera Progress

I bought a new camera last summer, and Iris promptly decided that she did not like it. She was 100% fine with my little point-and-shoot, but the new dSLR is big, black, hides my face, and makes a louder noise. I'm pretty sure the noise was the real issue. This is the dog who bolted out of the room the first time I tried using a clicker.

I started just holding the camera down at my side and giving her a treat every time it made a noise. Well, I think we had a breakthrough yesterday.

As long as I'm pretending not to point the camera at her, she'll tolerate it in exchange for cookies.

Oh look! Is that a dog in my shot?

You can tell by the direction that she's looking in that I'm not looking through the camera at all. That shot was just luck. It's not cropped. Her ears are up, she's making eye contact with me, and she's not concerned about the proximity of the camera.

I think the girl is ready for her close up.

That's right. I'm behind the camera and right in her face with the camera. Probably about a foot away from her. It's hard to tell, but her ears are still up. She's not afraid to look at the camera and is happy to keep playing with me. Hopefully she'll keep this up next time I take out the camera!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Agility Update

Last weekend, I took Iris over to watch some of the NADAC trial. I figured it would be a good opportunity to start exposing her to a trial environment (and people and dogs in general). It was the largest number of people and dogs I've ever had her around. She did great! I kept her pretty far away from everything and let her look around, had her do some obedience, and gave lots of praise and treats every time a dog walked past us and she didn't explode. I didn't push her very hard at all because it was her first time out.

To keep enough distance from the trial, we had to be closer to the road, so Iris ended up being a lot more interested in the cars. At least there were only a couple cars that drove past. The only thing that really weirded her out was a guy who had a very pronounced limp, but I did get her attention back on me, so no exploding. Initially, she jumped when she heard the loudspeaker (megaphone? I couldn't tell what they had) but after hearing it a couple times, she was completely ignoring it. She seemed to really relax one she got used to being there, so overall I think it was a positive experience for her.

I was also amazed by how quickly Iris recognized people from agility class. She saw Sandy from a pretty good distance away and started wagging her little nub. Iris does not wag for strangers. I was surprised because although Iris has seen Sandy in class regularly, Iris hasn't really interacted with anyone from class much. She saw Julie from way across the field and started whining. If Julie is here, where are the sheep??? Goofy girl.

Iris was full of piss and vinegar at agility class on Tues. The course included the teeter, table and chute. Iris hasn't seen the chute in a very long time. We were supposed to have the dogs "go" to the teeter and the table. There's also a front cross after the first tunnel.

Baxter (lab) was in class and I know he was stressing Iris out. He's a big black dog with a big bark, and something about him bugs her (poor Baxter, he's a nice boy!) Iris wanted to go cause trouble right from the start. Brat dog.

The goofy zoomie Aussie came out to play. She knows I think she's funny, which doesn't really help. But at least we're both having fun, right? She did not fly off the teeter (Katrin was standing right there, probably for my own safety more than my dog's). However, Iris did do the teeter backwards and wants to know if she can get bonus points for creativity.

I still have trouble with front crosses. I haven't quite mastered the art of watching my dog and watching where I'm going at the same time. I'm good at watching my dog and generally have no idea where I'm going. Crosses of any sort are my biggest challenge right now.

The last obstacle was the chute, which Iris hasn't seen since ABC. If I remember correctly, she never actually did the chute without me holding up the end. Well, she did it just fine on her own! It took a little coaxing while she was in there, but she figured it out on her own. Good girl!

She tired herself out so much with her zooming and stressing, she was pretty brain fried at the end of the night, but I think she had a good class.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ABC Reunion?

Maybe everyone else already knows this, but I just realized that the Tues night agility class is almost the same class as ABC. The only one we're missing is Strata.

Look at how far everyone has come!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Agility Class

Iris had a great time at agility class tonight (and I had fun too)! It was the first class of a new session. I forgot, and we got there a half hr early, which turned out to be a good thing. I noticed yesterday that Iris has a much easier time with down from a sit than down from a stand. Bad dog mum not realizing this sooner! Since all of her downs in herding are from a stand, that's probably part of her issue. We practiced downs in the parking lot while we waited.

Because it's a new session, there were some different people in class - Julie with Carmen, Lael and Neil with Makin, Shaya with Tom (mixed breed, Sheltie-Terrier?), and Kim with Opal (Greyhound). I think Sandy and Sadie are in class too, but they weren't there tonight. ABC in March was the last time Iris had class with Tom and Opal, and she was definitely aware that there were new dogs in class. A couple of times when Iris was running, I saw her start to think about the other dogs, but she came right back to me. Good girlie! Both Opal and Tom came pretty close to Iris' crate and different times and no explosions. Ok, mouth full of cheese may have helped, but the fact that Iris was more interested in cheese than exploding was good.

Iris and Carmen started class off with a lovely duet while we walked the course. Here's the course diagram from Katrin. We broke the course into two parts starting with just the first eight obstacles (ended with the jump after the teeter). Before Iris ran, Katrin asked me what I need to remember. Uh cooler than dirt? It's the default answer. Sort of like the only French I actually learned in high school was "I don't know" and "nothing." But apparently I've graduated from that, and "I don't know" isn't a good answer in doggie higher education (and I know well that my dog is NEVER actually doing nothing). Here's the real answers so I can study up before next class:
  • Keep my arm out and level (not down at my side, not up by my head)
  • Keep my speed consistent - if I start and stop, my dog will too
  • Treat out of the hand CLOSEST to my dog. I think I'm going to write in sharpie on the back of my right hand "other hand!"
With the first eight obstacles, we had to do a front cross after the first tunnel, and a cross sort of during the second tunnel. When I do front crosses, I very consistently look at my dog and not where I'm going. This generally means that I end up on top of an obstacle by the time I bother to look up. Ooops! We did have some trouble with the teeter. Iris thinks contact obstacles are great fun. She's wanted to fly off the teeter since we started agility. I think sometimes I'm a little late telling her "wait." The first time we did the teeter, Iris flew off the end. I grabbed for her. Grabbing at running dog on teeter is not really how you train wait. Ok, we tried again. Iris runs onto teeter. I yell, "wait, wait, WAIT!" And my good Aussie did wait on the teeter. And everyone teased me. Hey, I got my dog to wait. Iris was probably rolling her eyes at me too. The third time, I did manage to say wait only once and Iris, of course, was perfect. It's a good thing I have such a tolerant little dog.

Working on the second half of the course was much less eventful. We started from the jump after the teeter The dog had to do a switch between jumps 9 and 10. Switch was the only tricky part. I still think switch is one of the hardest things, but I think we're getting better.

I thought Iris did great tonight. She really stayed with me, even when I was being silly. She was happy, playful, and silly too even with new dogs there. I had fun, and it was just what I needed for a week that has started off sort of iffy and stressful.

There's an agility trial this weekend, and I think I'm going to try taking Iris over to hang out for a little while. What I'll probably end up doing is going without her so that I can watch for a bit and get a feel for it. Then I'll go home and get her since it's only about 15 min away from my house. Should be fun!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Herding Lesson

Herding two weekends in a row! We thought it would be good for Iris and Bug to have a few lessons close together (Bug had a great lesson too). I think a couple of things are really starting to come together in Iris' mind, so I'm really glad we were able to get two lessons so close together.

When we got there, Colleen was finishing up another lesson, so Iris had to wait in the car. Oh god there was a tractor! Someone thought it would be even more fun to chase tractors than sheep. Looney dog.

We started out by walking (on leash) around the pen with me asking Iris to down periodically. When we do this exercise, Iris gets excited and lunges when we get close to the sheep. Whenever she starts to lunge, I switch directions. We turn back toward the sheep once she settles. During the last lesson, I could really see Iris working it out in her head. "When I act like a crazy dog, mom turns and walks away from the sheep. When I calm down, we get to go back to the sheep!" I really like the turning-around method. There's no fuss. It's just "Fine, you can act like a crazy dog if you want, but if you do that, you don't get any sheep." By then end, I could see her thinking about lunging but then checking herself. Cool!

After that, we continued working on "walk up" and "out." I know Iris hasn't made any connection between the words and the motion yet. At this point, I think it's probably more important for her to get used to what it feels like to put pressure on the sheep and then take pressure off.

Iris says weird faces are one of the best ways to intimidate sheep.

After that, Iris worked on "get around." It's her favorite part. Julie too some really cool video of Iris working.

During the first couple of lessons, Iris would sort of "buzz by" the sheep, and then she'd check out to go sniff grass. She was definitely a little intimidated by them. She'd dart in with a lot of flourish and then back right out before the sheep had a chance to get her. If you watch her close, you can still see that she sort of darts in and out, but she was staying engaged for a much longer time. I think she's starting to figure out just how much control she can have over the sheep.

At then end, Iris was trying to act like she was too tired to work any longer. Then she saw her opening, darted in and scattered the sheep. Brat dog. Too tired to do it right but not too tired to cause trouble?

See that? That's the butt puff of a trouble maker. She may look like she's relaxing, but don't be fooled.

After the lesson, we helped Colleen put in some fence posts and then let the dogs run around the field. Both Iris and Bug ran right over to the pen where the sheep had been. Iris came bounding back, "Mom! Where did they go???" Instead, she found some really stinky sheep poop and had a great time rolling all over it. Lovely. Poor smelly Aussie got a bath when we got home. All that work rolling around went right down the drain. She was not impressed. I mentioned to Colleen that I've only had Iris for about a year now, and she said that explains a lot about our relationship. She's settled in so much at home, I forget that we're still building a relationship!

My poor girl started limping on Sat night. All that running around, I think she pulled something. She was a lot better on Sun and better today too.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Agility and Reactive Dog

Iris and Makin were the only dogs at Tues night agility class, so we got lots of practice! Julie set up a course that was mostly jumps with just one tunnel and had us work out how we were going to handle it initially.

The first time we tried it, I planned on doing a front cross after the fourth jump (that little circle-thing. Front crosses don't translate well to diagrams) and another one after the tunnel. Ok, the very first time we tried it, my dog was much faster than I anticipated and beat me to the front cross. After that we did much better! I'm getting better at front crosses. Iris was really goofy, taking jumps while Julie was still setting up the bars, demonstrated her ability to jump 20" vertically from a stand still, and just generally happy and silly.

After we started get the hang of it, Julie told us to run the same course but change one thing. Oh no! Actually, it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. This time we did a switch after the fifth jump and front cross after the tunnel.

The dreaded switch! But we managed to do it without any weird spinning around or me tripping over my dog. Horray! Last time we did a sequence in class that included a switch, I was never able to get Iris to do it without a weird spin. I think we might be getting the hang out it. I even think I liked doing it with a switch better than with the front cross. My front crosses are still a little choppy.

Iris was getting tired at the end of class. It was a lot of jumping especially since it was just Iris and Makin, but I know a certain Aussie who's put on a little extra weight recently. I'm going to start calling her "Pudge," which maybe isn't a bad thing if you're a Red Sox fan. Regardless, my poor starving Aussie is going to have her food intake monitored more closely. She tired herself out faster than I expected her to in herding and agility, and I think the weight gain is a factor. We've also been doing walking instead of jogging more often than not lately. We both need to start running again.

The last thing we did, I had Iris wait while I led out all the way to the fourth jump. It was almost the length of the barn. Iris held her stay! For whatever reason, she did skip the first jump, but did the other three. That's definitely the furthest lead out I've ever done with her. Lead outs are harder for me than Iris. I worry about her breaking her stay to go harass other dogs even through that's something she's never done. Good girl proving me wrong!

Thurs night was the second Reactive Dog class. We worked on hand targeting and leave it with only one dog coming into class at a time. Iris loves hand targeting, but she does need a better leave it. The first two classes were slow, but Emma said they'd be the only slow classes. Regardless, Emma had some really good observations about the different dogs which just don't quite translate to text. I am looking forward to next week.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Iris had her second herding lesson last weekend. It gets it's own post so it's easier for me to look up later. Iris was great! Colleen said she was really "hot." Yeah, she was definitely pulling to get to the sheepies. I asked her to down outside of the pen.

Even in the photo she looks intense. I think our focus right now is getting Iris used to taking pressure on and off the sheep. Initially, I just walked Iris around the pen and had her down periodically. We still need to work on "down" in various locations. The distraction of the farm and the sheep was too much for her. I had Iris on a leash, and whenever she started to run toward the sheep, I switched directions. Iris needs to learn that too much pressure means back off a little, not run around like a crazy dog. But I think she really likes being a crazy dog.

We also started working on "walk up" and "out." Julie brought up a really interesting point that those commands, especially "out"are used in agility but mean different things. I use "walk it" in agility for the contact obstacles, and "walk up" in herding is move in a straight line toward the sheep. I don't really foresee that as being much of an issue for Iris because sheep don't really look much like a dog walk. I think "out" could be a little more tricky. In agility, "out" means increase lateral distance between yourself (the dog) and me. In herding, it means turn and walk away from the sheep in a straight line, which takes pressure off the sheep. Colleen does agility, and she said her Tervs don't usually have a problem with out. She had more trouble with "come" and "come bye" (circle the sheep, I forget whether is clockwise or counter clockwise), so she uses "go bye" instead. Just something interesting to think about.

For "walk up," we moved toward the sheep until they started to fidget and then I asked Iris to down. She was so focused on the sheep! After a few seconds of pressure, we walked back to fence. It was a good chance for Iris to feel what it's like to put pressure on the sheep without causing them to run.

After that, we had Iris drag the lead, and worked on "get around." Iris was doing "fly-bys" where where she'd run around the sheep real fast and then go sniff. Colleen said Iris still isn't quite sure about the sheep, so she sort of rushes in and makes a big show about it but then backs off right away.

Iris looks like she was totally zoning out in that photo. Actually, I think she's about to go sulk because I toughed her with the rake. Right now, Iris does herding very much so on her own terms. That seems to be how my crazy red dog does just about everything! Is it a girl thing? I'm hoping the more I work with her in herding, agility, and whatever else we're doing, she'll get the idea that working together isn't such a bad thing.

By the end of the lesson, Iris was exhausted. I started walking her around the pen again and having her down periodically. The brat dog had perfect down in the shade and did not feel like downing in the sun. See what I mean about "on her own terms?" Silly dog.

After Iris' lesson, it was Julie and Bug's turn. Bug completely turned on to sheep! It was so cool to see. Everyone had a great lesson and we're going again tomorrow. I think it will be really good for both Iris and Bug to have two lessons so close together.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What a Week

Does it make me a bad dog mom if I laughed when I read that note? Admittedly, I am glad I heard about this after the fact. We have had quite the time the past couple of weeks. Iris' misadventures include jumping the fence, busting open the front door to harass the mailman, fighting with Zeus (and she's got the puncture wounds to show for it), and just generally tearing at the windows and everything around the windows in her quest to bark at cars.There's a tear in the screen door, and I'm afraid she'll go through that door next. So in short, Iris will be staying in the basement while I'm at work (she has 2 x-pens worth of space). She's got a nice bed, a bowl of water, and a kong. She gets walked before I leave. It's not really the ideal situation, but it is better than her getting hit by a car. Plus, I really don't want her spending all day barking and lunging at cars through the windows. My biggest issue with that is that every time she barks and lunges at a car diving past, she learns that barking and lunging is effective at making things she doesn't like go away.

In more fun news, agility class a week ago went well. We worked on different entrances and exits for weave poles. I'm starting to get the hang of front crosses. Iris still needs cages to do weaves. I think my next big purchase will be a set of weave poles. We need more practice! At the end of class, the barn's owner came in to check the lights (we had some weird buzzing sounds going on during class). Iris was up in arms as soon as she heard the tractor. She's been really good lately about not barking at the other dogs in class, but a strange man entering the barn pushed her over the edge. At least we were done for the night and I brought Iris out to relax in the car. Last night agility was also lots of fun, but more on that in a separate post.

Lately, Iris has been really good about not "checking out" or getting really flighty during class. I've been trying to build up some toy drive at home partly just to convince her that playing with me can be just as much fun as playing with Henry. She's not quite convinced... I have figured out that she likes stuffed animal squeaky toys the best. The problem is that they only hold up for a couple of minutes. Iris thinks tearing them up is pretty cool. I can't afford to to replace a toy after every 2 min of play. If anyone knows of any stuffed animal toys that are also durable, Iris will thank you!

Last Thurs we started a Reactive Dogs class at Masterpeace. The first class was no dogs and really basic. We just went over teaching eye contact and sit with a clicker. So maybe a little too basic for Iris, but it's definitely something that every dog should start with. I think we're going to get a whole lot more out of it once we get into the "meat" of the class. Another interesting note, Emma is teaching a Control Unleashed class right now too, which I hope she runs again at some point.

It seems that my crazy red dog is keeping me too busy for blogging so sheep herding and this week's agility class (both complete with pictures) will follow later.