Archive for the ‘Dog Training’ Category

HABOC AKC Agility Trial

Saturday, September 4th, 2021

After last weekend, when we had one single Q, we had a kick ass day! I worked quite a lot with Alice over the last week and it paid off. Connection, connection, connection, staying slower (not slowing her down but not pushing for speed) and calmer and quieter meant that she went 3/4 on the day, earned her first Excellent Jumpers Q and finished her Open Agility title (she’s all the way into Excellent now!). It also helped that she had two games classes before a “real” class, so we had a chance to warm up and get some kinks out. And Zhora doubled. Quite challenging Laura Kuterbach courses (the ending of Open Standard was significantly harder than the Masters course ending):

Alice Excellent FAST (NQ, training mode, great weaves and ran off to reward):

Zhora Master Standard (QQ #135):

Alice Time 2 Beat (Q, first T2B leg):

Zhora Master Jumpers (QQ #135):

Alice Excellent Jumpers (Q!):

Alice Open Standard (Q, OA title!):

Olean KC AKC Agility Trial

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

I made some changes, did more practice, and what do you know? It makes a difference!

Alice really, really needs connection, she really needs me to focus on her and get her to focus on me before we run. And she had her best trial day to date! A beautiful T2B run with just one off course. A FAST run where I didn’t connect and she transformed into ALICEALICEALICEHEY! And then qualifying runs in BOTH Jumpers (for her OAJ title, now she moves into Excellent Jumpers) and Standard (for her second OA leg). And weaves on the first try every time. So proud of her!

And Zhora doubled for QQ #134, winning standard and coming fourth in jumpers. She’s like a pair of comfortable slippers that barks and runs fast.

Really proud of my girls.

Alice Time 2 Beat (NQ but really nice run we need to work on our tunnel call offs and discriminations)

Zhora Master Standard (QQ #134):

Alice Excellent FAST (NQ and a great example of what happens when I don’t connect and use clear and calm cues):

Zhora Master Jumpers (QQ):

Alice Open Jumpers (Q, almost 5 YPS, OAJ title):


Alice Open Standard (Q):

Tamarack Lake AKC Agility Trial

Sunday, August 1st, 2021

I’m so glad Sue started videoing early yesterday, so I can see what I’m doing and, more importantly, what I’m NOT doing. Until the video got messed up in transfer, you could clearly see Alice is seeking connection multiple times at the start of Jumpers and I don’t give it to her. It’s easy to forget how little mileage she has, and how much more connection and support she needs from me. She’s a working dog down to the bone and that’s a really good thing. I need to do better for her. I’m rusty too obviously, especially since I should have recognized how tricky that tunnel (right lead through the rocket launcher) to weaves (left lead and collection) sequence was for a green dog. I didn’t cue a lead change and should have recognized that was needed. So many little things I need to be aware of. I so love this little dog, I see shades of (grandma) baby Nina here. AND HOW ABOUT THE LAST HALF OF THAT JUMPERS RUN!!!??

Zhora earned QQ #133, won Standard and came second in Jumpers. Running her is like putting on comfortable shoes and we’re getting our mojo back.

Alice Time 2 Beat (I didn’t get to walk since there was a mislabeling of the running order, so it was a disaster and I didn’t do our usual warm up and connection routine):

Alice Excellent FAST (ZOOM):

Zhora Standard (QQ #133, first place):

Zhora Jumpers (QQ #133, second place):

Greater Pittsburgh Golden Retriever Club AKC Agility Trial

Saturday, July 24th, 2021

Nina’s still on injured reserve so Alice, Zhora and I made the trek to Erie today (and I came home sick from work yesterday so I wasn’t 100% even though I felt better). Zhora had an uncharacteristic double NQ thanks to the EXACT SAME HANDLER ERROR in both her runs, and Alice had two really nice NQ’s. Her Standard run today is probably one of my favorite runs we’ve had so far, especially since we had over a year off trialing thanks to the pandemic. I am really loving what I’m seeing in her, she’s brave and forward, not afraid of mistakes and always happy to try again, and stresses UP UP UP. I’m also seeing what we need to work more on, but overall I’m very happy, so proud of my girls. And SO HAPPY TO SEE FRIENDS I HADN’T SEEN IN WAY TOO LONG!!!

Zhora Master Standard (nice run, NQ):


Zhora Master Jumpers (nice run, NQ IN THE EXACT SAME SPOT):

Alice Open Jumpers (wild but some good stuff, NQ):

Alice Open Standard (really nice run, NQ):

The Name Game

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

So I made a video about how to play this game. I didn’t invent the game but it’s a super useful way to train your dog to come when called!

This is classical conditioning (like Pavlov): you are teaching the dog to associate their name with something good. They don’t have to DO anything to get the reward, they just have to hear their name, and then eat a cookie!

Here’s how I play this:

  • choose a boring (to the dog) and small room in your house (the bathroom is perfect)
  • take a handful of kibble or treats (literally no more than 10-15 per session is enough)
  • take the puppy and the food into the room and close the door
  • say the puppy’s name, feed a treat
  • say the puppy’s name, feed a treat
  • not “come”, not “sit”, not “down”, this isn’t teaching the dog a command, it’s simply building an association between their name and something good
  • do this twice a day for two or three weeks, until you can tell the dog is looking for the treat when they hear you call them
  • periodically just walk up to the dog, call their name, feed a treat (I still do this with my 13.5 year old dog!), this keeps putting money in the bank that the one time you really REALLY need them to come when you call them, they’ll think it’s worth their while
  • try your best not to “poison” their name by using it for negative things (baths, nail trims, end of playtime, just go get them).
  • occasionally call your dog to you, take their collar, feed a treat, and let them go back to what they were doing (so they learn that coming when called doesn’t mean playtime is over necessarily, sometimes it means snacks!)
  • it is NEVER a bad idea to play this game at ANY point in your dog’s life!

I have Orange boy Timber on my lap for this video, but in a bathroom you can just let the puppy wander around (remember, he doesn’t have to come to you, he just has to hear his name and eat a treat, even if you have to follow him around and say his name and feed him like a crazy person!)

Day 54 – Clicker

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

My timing isn’t great (video is unforgiving), but they are getting the idea.

Yesterday was affirmation of why I have started sending them home at 10 weeks instead of 8 weeks. Yellow girl Charlie and red girl Alfa, who’ve both been happy and confident all along, were worried about the paper bag I gave them to play with. Fear period. Today they are almost back to normal, but pink girl Golf, who’s consistently been one of the bravest of them all (and who was a maniac with the paper bag just yesterday), is worried about things today. Fear period.

Fear periods are very normal and can come and go quite quickly, but the wrong thing at the wrong time during a fear period can be a problem sometimes. Much better not to upend their entire world when there’s a statistically higher risk of a fear period! You can see pink being quite cautious and subdued in her clicker video below, when she was perfectly happy and reckless as is her usual personality yesterday. Fear periods can happen throughout their first two years according to some behaviorists. We used to think you should work through them but now most think you should just ignore them and they should normally just go away (and the risk of what’s called “single event learning”, which is where one bad experience can cause a significant and lasting issue, is higher during a fear period).

The paper bag:

You will see in pink girl’s clicker video that she is quite subdued, this is NOT normal for her, as anyone who’s been to visit them will attest, she’s normally an absolute lunatic (and look at her in the paper bag video taken just yesterday). Purple girl and red girl are also a little quieter than normal.

Red girl:

Orange boy:

Yellow girl:

Green boy:

Blue boy:

Purple girl:

Pink girl:

Barrier Challenge Day 41

Sunday, December 20th, 2020

We videoed their barrier challenges today. This helps them with frustration and problem solving. The first video for each has the puppy and the food very close to the same end of the barrier (the puppy can see and smell through the barrier). The second video has the puppy farther away from the food. Later we will place both the puppy and the food far away from the way around the barrier.

Alfa barrier challenge 1:

Alfa barrier challenge 2:

Bravo barrier challenge 1:

Bravo barrier challenge 2:

Charlie barrier challenge 1:

Charlie barrier challenge 2:

Delta barrier challenge 1:

Delta barrier challenge 2:

Echo barrier challenge 1:

Echo barrier challenge 2:

Foxtrot barrier challenge 1:

Foxtrot barrier challenge 2:

Golf barrier challenge 1:

Golf barrier challenge 2:

40 Days Old

Saturday, December 19th, 2020

What a busy week! Here’s what we did:

  • continued to have at least one new enrichment item every day (including an empty pop bottle, new toys, and an especially poignant toy – a present from Riley‘s family which was a new version of Riley’s favorite toy)
  • met new people including a very active toddler and a man with a huge beard
  • started working on a conditioned emotional response to nail grinding (feeding the puppies baby food, which they love, while they listen to and then feel the Dremel), they did spectacularly well at this! Nobody was too worried about it and everyone loved the baby food more than they cared about the Dremel
  • experienced SNOW!

34 Days Old!

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

I haven’t been blogging as much as usual because work is insane (we added a new doctor, which is amazing, but we aren’t yet adequately staffed for it, which is not). I’ve been working overtime and then basically I come home and do puppy stuff until bedtime. So I’ve been blogging in spurts and uploading video and photo dumps so you can at least see what’s going on!

What’s going on:

  • a couple of the puppies have entered their first fear period, which is normal at about this age. According to Puppy Culture, you should assume that the entire litter is in a fear period when one is, so we have adjusted things accordingly. We aren’t doing startle recovery (what happens in the house happens, but we aren’t purposefully startling them), we are minimizing anything which might frighten them while still providing new experiences daily
  • they get a new object or toy in the box every day, and we take out the old toys (they will count as new toys again after a few days). So far they’ve experienced all kinds of toys and textures from soft to rubbery to crackly, and they are starting to assume that everything in the world is something to explore
  • they are walking on all kinds of surfaces from wood to towels to carpet
  • they ventured out onto the deck yesterday
  • they come out for a “bomble” in the house several times a day, and are getting braver and braver about exploring new areas (this is also a leak test for our puppyproofing as we discovered this morning)
  • I introduced the clicker yesterday. I don’t normally “charge” the clicker when I’m training adult dogs, but I do think it’s helpful with baby puppies. “Charging the clicker” is teaching the dog to associate the click with the reward without a behavior, I don’t bother with this with most dogs because they figure out very quickly what the click means and sometimes I think omitting the behavior actually confuses them. For those who don’t know: clicker training is based on the principle of operant conditioning. The click marks a behavior and tells the dog that whatever they were doing when they heard the click earned them a reward. I have found it to be an extremely powerful training tool. We used tiny bits of Pill Pockets (they have a perfect texture for this) and shredded cheese. I take the puppy into another room so that the other puppies can’t hear the click
  • One thing Jane Killion points out in the Puppy Culture movie is something I think we don’t always realize: learning to eat food from a person’s hand is a skill in and of itself! I have been hand feeding the puppies some things for a while so they are getting the idea but…
  • Socializing them during COVID is a challenge but we’re doing pretty well! Yesterday they met a family who owns Alice’s brother, we know they have been extremely cautious and they came with their baby so now the puppies have met a baby. The big dogs were thrilled! During these brief socialization visits we all wear masks, stay far apart, and we put a fan in the window to circulate air. It makes it a bit chilly but it may help. We also discuss our exposure risk carefully beforehand. My work family has also been visiting.
  • Our house is a disaster! Having to move half the living room out to make room for the puppy pen, and having so little spare time right now that it all gets spent on the puppies means some things are falling by the wayside but it is what it is! Jim is being incredible as he always is, picking up poop and doing laundry and playing with puppies.
  • They’re eating the Royal Canin starter kibble really well, they’re getting three meals a day and I am already starting to feed them before Alice does to start taking the load off her. The litter Alice was born in were terribly slow to start eating but I think these guys will be weaned before too long.
  • I can’t wait to evaluate them and see what we have! I am already starting to get an idea of which puppy might fit where, but they change so much I don’t make any decisions yet! We have already seen two puppies change significantly over the last couple of weeks!
  • They are learning to speak dog very well from their interactions with the big dogs. Tish especially has been amazing with them. You will see in some of the videos in today’s huge video dump of videos from yesterday that there’s a lot of really nice and appropriate interaction. Every time we think Tish is being too much for them, we realize that the way they are reacting tells us that it’s just fine
  • They are so cute and sweet and they run over, tails wagging, crawl into your lap, beg to be picked up…I am going to cry a lot when they leave for their new homes. I love them.

Some Helpful Links

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

Here are some links I think might be useful:

Puppy Culture Stories is Jane KIllion’s blog, there are some excellent articles on there. Especially this one about Socializing Puppies During The Coronavirus Pandemic

And here is the FREE course for puppy owners!