a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: August 2005

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Crate Training

In its most succinct definition, crate training is simply getting a dog used to a crate and, preferably, so that the dog enjoys being in the crate.

Susan Garrett is one of the preeminent agility trainers and lecturers in North America. She's extremely popular in California, although she's from Ontario (the one in Canada, not the one in southern CA).

She does crate training using Crate Games, her name for her specific, step-by-step method. Here is my interpretation of Crate Games.

NOTE: Once you start this process, dog must not leave crate for any reason until you get to the end.

GOAL: Dog must sit near the back of the crate whenever you start to open the door.

  1. Crack the door and feed at the top back of the crate. Repeat 5x (some dogs need more).
    1. Dog in (preferably) wire crate.
    2. Kneel in front of crate with goodie in hand opposite the door's hinges.
    3. Using arm closest to hinges, open door just wide enough to shove your goodie hand in to the upper back of the crate. Allow the dog to take goodie. Remove arm and close door. (No verbal cues or praise at any time.)
    4. Take hand off door. Wait about 5 seconds.

    NOTE: Dog must not be able to leave crate or even get a nose outside door at any time; if dog attempts to do so, immediately and calmly close door (don't slam it on his nose).

    NOTE: Dog might already be thinking about sitting in the back when you put hand on door.
  2. Open door halfway; hesitate for *half a second*. If dog doesn't try to get out, reach in, feed; close door. Repeat about 5x.
    1. Repeat until dog is waiting inside rather than lunging towards door.
  3. Open door all the way, wait a second or two, feed in back, close door. Repeat about 5x.
    1. Keep hand on door when it's open. Now you can start feeding thru the top instead of putting your arm in).

    NOTE: By now, dog might be sitting as soon as you touch door. If not, try waiting, wiggling handle a bit, waiting. Feeding in back towards top should be forcing the dog into a sit.
  4. Start adding distractions. Feed quickly after each success.
    1. Stand up. If dog doesn't move, feed, close door. Open door. Wait. feed. Pick up leash. Feed. Close door. (In other words, start stringing a couple of distractions together, but reward after each one.) Drop a goodie outside the crate. If dog stays put, pick it up and feed it to him in the back.
  5. When you get to where you can put the dog's leash on and stand up and dog doesn't move, open door, stand on leash, give release word to let dog out of crate, wait for him to go back into crate, praise profusely.
    1. Stand on side of open door facing the door (so that you and the open door form a channel back into the crate). Stand on the leash so there's just enough slack for the dog to get out of the crate.
    2. Give your chosen release work (e.g., "Break"). If dog doesn't come out of crate, encourage (pat legs, verbal encouragement--no more commands).
    3. When dog comes out of crate, ignore him. When he turns and goes back into crate, lavish him with goodies and praise.
    4. If dog doesn't go back in within 2 minutes, limit his choices--e.g., hold his collar so that he's facing the crate and can't move anywhere except into the crate; as soon as he steps in that direction, release him so he can go in. Praise enthusiastically & give goodies.
  6. Repeat until dog is coming out on release word and immediately going back in.
  7. When dog gets to where he won't come out, add something to make him come out, e.g., a low-value goodie, then wait for him to go back in, etc.
At this point, when dog is bouncing in and out of crate after a few times, NOW you're done with the starting crate game!

Boost's training

I used basically this method when I first got Boost; worked great. The first time I released her from the crate, it must've taken 5 minutes before she went back in. I had to have her in one position, keeping her from sitting, for about 5 minutes before she went back in, but then after that it was a cake-walk.

However, over time I let up on the getting-excited-about-going-back-in bit, so although she'll go in on her own often, and she (usually) goes in on command, the "usually" is not ideal, and she doesn't drive into it like it's the best place in the world, which is what you want.

So I did Boost at a Susan Garrett seminar yesterday from scratch. First, she's so good about sitting when I open the door and waiting for the release that she wouldn't stretch enough to take the goodie out of my hand, even though it was hot dogs, which she hardly ever gets. Eventually she did, but that got us off to a slow start.

The middle part of the process went pretty quickly, because she already knows the routine. But when we got to where she came out of the crate, she didn't go back in! She looked around at the whole world at the end of her short leash, never even looked at the crate entrance. When I finally took her collar and held her in place, she immediately plonked into a sit and just sat there for almost another 2 minutes; just when I was ready to start forcing her into a stand, she finally got up and went in.

After that, she was fine, bouncing in and out for me.

Tika's training

Soooo--since I didn't do this with Tika when I first got her (basically used goodies tossed into the back of the crate), and since she's so wired that she has a horrible time staying in the crate when the door is opened, I decided to start from scratch with her today. Wow, what an adventure.

Understand that she has a horrible time with self-control. Can't stay lying down or sitting down for more than a couple of seconds if there's food involved. All my other dogs (Boost included) learned very quickly that, if the crate door is open and I have food of any kind, they get some if they're lying down. (Same thing with popcorn while watching TV.) Tika slams into a down, but leaps to her feet if nothing is forthcoming within a second or two, then she watches me toss food to the other dogs, salivating--then eventually slams herself into a down, then leaps to her feet to lunge forward and grab the food when I toss it her way, then stands there, quivering, moving front feet in and out of the crate, watching as I give the other dogs food... you maybe get the picture. A litttttle overstimulated.

So, today, here's how we went:
  1. Crack door, 5 treats in the back. Dog might already start getting idea that goodies will be coming into the back.
    1. Getting the first five treats into the back of the crate were easy, because she simply followed my hand to the back of the crate and took the goodie, being forced into a sit, although she tried extremely hard not to have to actually put her butt down.
    2. Still, each time, she frantically followed my hand as I removed it from the crate.
    3. Then she started nosing at the door, not picking up the clue about the back of the crate.

    From there to where I was opening the door all the way?-- I must've gone through more than a hundred repetitions with her before I could start leaving the door open, and she's still not sitting reliably when I put my hand on the door--she tends to lie down instead, and it's funny how we got there.
  2. Open door partway, hesitate half a second, feed if dog doesn't try to go through door. Repeat 5x.
    1. She's in some ways a fairly "operant" dog--in Susan's terms, that means that when I get the clicker and goodies out, she starts offering behaviors. So that's what she started doing, spinning and backing up and lying down and bowing and doing nose touches to various parts of the door (not the floor--hmmmm), anything at all, desperate to get a goodie.
    2. As soon as her nose was away from the door, I'd try to open it partially for half a second; most of the time, she'd lunge forward to shove her nose out the door.
    3. But when she'd actually hesitate before doing that, I'd feed her immediately in the back of the crate and close the door. Then she'd start nosing and pushing at the door...
    4. and on and on, maybe 40 or 50 times.

  3. Open the door for half a second before feeding, if dog doesn't move towards door.
    1. took forever--as soon as I put my hand on the door, she'd start nosing at it.
    2. Or, when she finally stopped nosing at it, the second the door opened, she'd start to shove her nose out the door and I'd close it again.
    3. It took a dozen or more tries each time before I'd be able to get the door open.

      I tried to be excruciatingly consistent--if her nose came thru the door even half an inch, I closed it again, because I *know* she'll be one, if given a millimeter, to take a mile.
    4. But the most likely time for her to be not pushing at the door was when she was lying down, so after a few times of me opening the door right after she slammed into a down, she decided that's the position I wanted. It didn't matter that she had to sit up and swing around to the back of the crate to get her goodie every time--she'd immediately swing her nose right back to the front of the crate after I gave her the goodie.
    5. I gave her dozens in the back of the crate--swing to the front, swing back to get the goodie, swing to the front, swing back to get the goodie, swing front, swing to the back for the goodie, lie down, get up and swing to the back, lie down, get up and swing to the back...

      And I've always said she was a quick learner! I didn't time it, but I think it was half an hour from when we started (I was getting a little tired!) before we finally got to the part where she'd be sitting far enough back from the door that I could open the door and wait, then feed.

  4. Add distractions.
      Details: But from there it seemed to go pretty quickly to where I could drop a goodie, put on her leash, all that stuff, and she stayed away from the door (that's a miracle with her!).

  5. Stand on leash, release dog, wait for her to go back in.
    1. Here's another funny part--remember how long it took Boost to go back into the crate? With Tika, I opened the door and released her--she came out, barely slowed down--then spun and dashed right back in!

      Susan had made the point that giving hundreds of goodies for desired behavior before ever allowing a dog the choice of an unwanted behavior almost guaranteed that they'd try to do the right thing or return to that environment--and, sure enough, Tika sure associated the crate with hot dogs! So the next couple of times I had to actually encourage her to come out before she then spun and went back in.

She was just so funny, swinging all the way to the back of the crate, then all the way to the front, every five seconds as I reopened the door, never deciding to stay towards the back! This is a dog who doesn't really care about the reward cost (is that the term susan used? I keep thinking "return on investment"!), she has so much energy to burn! (The theory is that the dog will quickly figure out that, to get the goodie, they have to be sitting in the back of the crate, and the "reward cost" of standing up, swinging to the back, swinging to the front, etc. each time is too high and will do the smart thing and just wait there for it. Ha!)

So Much Going On!

Where do I even begin to try catching up? I'm not sure it's possible--

Tika's MAD chase: (That's Master Agility Dog title; compare to Tika's C-ATCH chase...) In USDAA, the MAD title is the first major title on your way to earning your ADCH. Well--usually. ADCH requires 7 Standard legs, 5 Gamblers, 5 Pair Relays, 5 Jumpers, and 5 Snooker, of which at least 3 must be super-qualifying Snooker legs. MAD requires 3 Standards and one of each of the others.

Before this last weekend in Prunedale, Tika had 3 Standards, 3 Pairs, 3 regular Snooker and one Super-Q. The super-Q requires thatyou be in the top 15% of those competing, and it's a point-accumulation thing, so it requires strategy, speed, and handling skill. We haven't been able to get a single dang Jumpers leg (bars knocked) or gamblers leg (various reasons) at the Masters level.

So for this last weekend, what I really wanted to achieve with Tika was:
  • Jumpers leg (out of 1 offered)
  • Gamblers leg (out of 2 offered)
  • Super-Q (out of 2 offered)
  • Steeplechase qualifier (making it to Round 2), just because I wanted to

    Here's what we earned:
  • Regular Snooker
  • Standard leg

    Tika in fact ran very well, but her mama blew it multiple times. Here's how the weekend went, in gory detail:
  • Sat. Standard: Our first run of the weekend, and we had 2 bars down, couldn't make a transition from a dogwalk turning into a tunnel, and something else--4 faults in a single run, which is unusual for us.
  • Sat. Snooker: Challenging course that we'd really have to be on our toes to get enough for a Super-Q. I wasn't on my toes--didn't give her enough heads up before the third obstacle that i wanted a sharp turn afterwards, and when I called her back, she back-jumped it, so Boom, we were done.
  • Sat. Steeplechase: Tika ran beautifully on a very fast course against a lot of very talented dogs. She was 10th fastest of just under 50 dogs; only 14 dogs Qed/moved to the second round--but Tika had a bar down, dropping her to 16th place. (Note that many of the other dogs faster than her also had bars or other faults, so several slower dogs who ran cleaner made the cut--but so did a couple of dogs who were faster than her but with faults.)
  • Sat. Pairs Relay: I mishandled a turn into the weave poles, earning a fault--which would've been OK, because pairs is judged on time plus faults (same as Steeplechase)--but our partner, an excellent dog & handler, went offcourse. So no Q.
  • Sat.Gamblers: A very very doable gamble. We missed some points in the opening, apparently due to a missed up contact, but were in perfect position for the closing--and then she got ahead of me and veered to the right to take a jump instead of continuing straight into the tunnel (with me yelling "Through! Through!" behind her). Argh.
  • Sun. Standard: Not a beautiful run, but clean and worth a Q.
  • Sun. Snooker: Getting the highest-possible score would be nearly impossible (three seven-pointers in the opening AND completing the closing sequence). I figured that we could easily do two 6s and one 7, but walked 2 7s and one 6 just in case we needed to try for it. We were in a good running position, so I could see what scores other dogs had earned before we had to run. I could see that I needed only the 2 6s plus the 7, and that was a VERY SMOOTH AND EASY COURSE for us. I told a couple of friends that. I told the lady filming our run that. So we went out there, did the 6, did a 7--and then for some stupid mentally hiccuppy thing, I pushed her back into the 7 again, and we then ran out of time before finishing the closing sequence, which I was pretty sure would happen if we tried to 7s. Where was my brain? The instant I pointed at the obstacle, I knew that I was doing the wrong thing, but it was too late to change it, she was moving so fast. Arghhhhh--
  • Sun. Gamblers: Another beautifully run course, right in the perfect position for the gamble, and she DID it with no hesitation. However, there was a teeter in the gamble, and apparently she didn't hit the up contact, so no gamble Q. ARggggghhhh--
  • Sun. Jumpers: What a long exhausting day. We finally ran about 7:30 in the evening, in the near-dark with the fog coming in--to my brain as well as the field. She was completely wired and my timing was way off. We got 3/4 of the way through before I again failed to signal early enough and when I tried to call her back on course, she took the wrong obstacle. Arghhhh.
  • Thursday, August 25, 2005

    How To Pick A Fight With A Bigger Dog

    (Photos from June or July sometime)
    1. Walk by with a tempting rawhide.2. If that fails to elicit an attack, pretend to accidentally drop the rawhide.
    3. If dog tries to ignore you, whisper some insults about her agility prowess.4. If she turns towards you, brace yourself invitingly.
    5. If she still manages to ignore you, abandon the subtle approach and go straight for the jugular.6. Half Nelson might work, too.
    7. Fling her bodily to the ground.8. Step on her head.
    9. Sitting on her face might be effect--wait! Something's happening!10. Could this be a fight?
    11. I think so!12. Mission accomplished.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    I'm done with these dogs; you can have them back now

    Why I hate puppies #1 (yesterday morning)
    Why I hate puppies #2 (yesterday evening)

    Why did I think I ever liked having dogs? Or that I had a clue about training them?

    Why I hate puppies #3:
    Sunday afternoon, I arrived home after running errands just after the housemate arrived home, to discover that the housemate had spread paper towels over a wide swath of the kitchen floor and was in search of Nature's Miracle. Turns out that not only did Boost pee after she'd been told not to jump up two or three times (an occasional repeat problem), but then she threw herself to the ground upsidedown and wallowed in it to get her stomach rubbed. So I hauled the stinky puppy out to the back yard and mowed the lawn (it was getting long and I didn't want it too wet when I tried running the manual mower around) and hosed down and toweled off the puppy.

    Monday morning, puppy WOULDn't pee in the yard before going upstairs to help me get dressed. She wrestled with Tika on the bed a bit, during which I discovered a large wet puddle in themiddle of my bedroom carpet. I don't know when it was done--I could've sworn she leaped into the room right behind Tika and went right at it.

    Monday evening, while I was sitting at my desk working, I never even noticed her near me until she started making cautious sniffing gestures at the dog mat I keep beside me for Jake to lie on: Sure enough, saturated with dog pee.

    Tuesday morning, puppy WOULDn't pee in the yard before going upstairs to help me get dressed. I kicked her off the bed several times. I headed around the corner into the bathroom and noticed her popping up onto the bed behind me. I turned around as she started sniffing--and, sure enough, she squatted and started to pee. (Another occasional recurring problem.) I yelled NO! and BAD DOG! and grabbed her and hauled her all the way downstairs and out to the backyard, where she DID pee when I asked her to. Then I had to undo the comforter cover and spray it with Nature's Miracle and, that evening, dragging in from work late and exhausted, wash it (fortunately I caught her before it was saturated enough to get down to the allergy cover and the down comforter itself) and remake my bed, which I had just made a couple of days earlier.

    Tuesday evening, puppy WOULDn't pee in the yard before going up to bed. I insisted, I walked out with her, I waited for her to have a huge drink of water and then walked her out--but no, she wanted to go into the house and go to bed. So she went into her crate, I zipped her up, I got cleaned up & undressed and into bed--and MOM I REALLY REALLY HAVE TO GO POTTY ***NOW****!!! came from the crate. So I got dressed, took her downstairs, unlocked the doors, walked her out to the yard--where she peed enthusiastically--and then reversed it all. This has been happening more and more often at bed time, and it's extremely frustrating.

    This morning, puppy WOULDn't pee in the yard before going upstairs to help me get changed (we must've been out there for 5 minutes with her looking at me like I was crazy). Once again, I kicked her off the bed several times, then Tika tempted her up there and they started wrassling noisily and enthusiasically. So, while I was trying to break a decongestant pill in half in the bathroom, I suddenly realized that it was suddenly quiet-- I turned around to see Boost heading cheerfully out the bedroom door and a huge wide and long juicy puddle of pee all over my bed. Went through the cover AND the "fragile don't wash if you can avoid it" allergy cover and down to the down comforter itself, although just barely.

    She's almost 7 months. Isn't she supposed to be housebroken by now? What have I missed? What have I done wrong? Why all of a sudden won't she pee on demand in the back yard? ARgggggghhhhh-- I was bawling so loud this morning with this yet another demand on my time and interruption of my schedule and absolute frustration that I managed to throw up a bit. Yes, I'm upset.

    OK, That's Boost. Tika has gotten into this thing where, when I'm trying to play with or train her in the yard, every time I let go of the toy, she turns and runs off to go looking for squirrels. Or every time she's in a stay and I release her. Or every time I toss the toy to reward her. I can't begin to tell you how extraordinarily frustrating it is. I mean, there aren't even squirrels THERE 95% of the time, she just goes to LOOK. And I've called her and been ignored, chased her down and given her what for, chained her up and played with another dog for a while (and immediately upon releasing--she chases off to the trees again), screamed NOOOOOOO at the top of my angry lungs, to which she mostly responds, but I think I'm spending my valuable "This is very important" gold very quickly. I've tried making coming back to me more exciting and rewarding; I've played my heart out; I've praised and praised when she sticks with me or looks at me; I've put her in down stays when I have to do something without her for a moment (and we know what happens when I then release her.) I'm not sure whether it's getting better or worse. And furthermore she's doing it in class a lot now, too. What worries me is that that's going to start translating into doing it at agility trials.

    I don't know why she's doing this. It didn't start immediately when I got Boost. I dont' know whether it's related to the puppy or not. Puppy is usually tied up when I'm working with Tika. I am at a loss.

    Jake: Well, he's Mr. Grumpy Pants a lot. Hasn't really landed on Boost much lately (she's heavier than he is, now, although not by much). But he growls and snarls CONSTANTLY if he has a rawhide and she's anywhere within his sight. CON---STANT---LY!!!! The only solution is to take the rawhide away, then he starts licking his feet or something obsessive like that.

    Can I please have my REAL dogs now? These can't be the ones I signed up for--

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    An--Interesting--Note from the Past

    Before I bought my current house four years ago, I lived with Remington and Jake for a year in a horrific rental at the corner of Taylor and Twenty-First in north San Jose. One of the few saving graces of the house was that it was wonderfully close to Watson Park, a huge public park that was hardly ever used by anyone, at least not during the hours when I usually walked the dogs. There were tremendous grassy fields over which I could throw the frisbee again and again for Jake, surrounded by dozens and dozens of gorgeous mature trees containing squirrels, so that Remington would exercise himself by running and running and running from one place to another. One side of the park, along Coyote Creek, was left more or less au natural; a path ran parallel to the creek but not too close to it, among meadowlands and semi-forested areas, and both dogs loved exploring, their noses down in the dirt, racing along raising dust paths behind them, rejoining me and exploding away again. And the park was so huge that I could get in my own walk of half an hour or more just following the frisbee and the dogs around and back again.
    Watson Park, San Jose; my horrid rental house circled in orange. Just half a block over and one block down.

    Now, boys and girls—the reason I have this map labeled "site" rather than the more congenial "park" is because I obtained it from a government web site—and the reason I went there is because I came home from a weekend away from home to find this splashed across the front of the San Jose Mercury (excerpted):

    Troubled park's buried past


    Years before San Jose closed large parts of Watson Park this summer because of environmental contamination, city officials were told at least three times that the popular spot for dog walkers, families, gardeners and soccer players had been the city's main garbage plant for decades.

    The city was informed as early as 1987 and again in 2002 and 2003 that the land had housed a major dump and incinerator...

    It wasn't until a construction crew uncovered burned trash beneath the park last summer that the city started environmental studies, discovering elevated levels of lead, arsenic and other toxins.

    In addition, none of the information released by the city has revealed the extent of the possible problems or the size of the dump and incinerator. A Mercury News review of historical documents found that the incinerator, dominated by a 125-foot-tall smokestack, handled up to 75 tons of garbage a day. Old property maps show that the city-owned site likely extended beyond Watson Park, possibly onto land that now holds nearby homes and Empire Gardens Elementary School.

    ... Both garbage and incinerator remains -- now recognized as sources of toxins -- were apparently buried at the dump and along the banks of nearby Coyote Creek.

    ... the hazards posed by old dumps and incinerators have been well-documented. Similar sites around California have proved to be laced with toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls and elevated levels of lead and arsenic -- all found in Watson Park soil. The potential for problems at such sites is so serious that in 2003, state regulators issued rules for handling old ``burn dumps.''

    The full article will be available on the Web for a limited time:

    It goes on to cite a long history of reports that call out the possibility of problems that somehow no one took seriously.

    So for a year the three of us were romping in a toxic mess. Isn't that nice to know?

    And of course the first thing that hits me like a runaway truck in my stomach: Is that what killed Remington?

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    Hot and Nippy Weekend

    The CPE trial in Elk Grove this weekend suffered both from intense heat (over 100 both days) and from horrific mosquitos. I've never seen them this bad there. They were eating people alive. I left on my jeans, rather than switching to shorts, in large part to avoid getting chomped more than just on my arms (and through my shirt, but not as badly).

    Despite it all, Tika ran with her usual intensity. She flew off 3 contact obstacles in a row in 2 events; the first two I made her lie down afterwards before continuing, and when that had no effect, I just took her off the course and put her away after the 3rd. Her next 4 contacts in a row were totally gorgeous.

    She had one Gamblers (Jackpot) run in which only 2 dogs out of 72 had higher scores--and we could have gotten more but I planned a course where we sat on 3 different contacts and did several touches to reinforce staying put. And she had one Jumpers course where no dog of any height or level--not even those really fast little shelties with short turning radii--ran faster. Unfortunately, she knocked 2 bars in the process, and unfortunately that was the run that she needed for her C-ATCH, and she was allowed a maximum of only 1 bar.

    Overall, she was knocking more bars again, it seems--we've been doing virtually NO jumping practice in the back yard, what with the wedding and all the prep and follow-up and me working up in Foster City for a while--but she still managed to earn a nice Standard Q (no bars allowed at the top level), two Jackpot Qs, and the one Colors that she still needed towards her C-ATCH (again, no bars allowed). Only 4 out of 8 for the weekend.

    The next CPE that I was planning on attending isn't until Thanksgiving weekend! I don't know whether I have the patience to wait four months for a chance to finish her CATCH when she's so close. There is a CPE the first weekend in October--I wasn't going to go because it's right after 2 USDAA weekends and right before two more USDAA weekends, all of which I'm planning on attending, which is a lot--too much--in a row. There's another one after all those USDAA, which again I wasn't going to do because of so many in a row. On the other hand, if I don't go to that CPE, then that would be an entire month with no agility weekends right before the USDAA nationals, which seems like a bad plan. (Still, even I do go, that would leave me with 2 weekends in a row before the nationals, unless I go to Camarillo for a USDAA, and I wouldn't want to do that AND the CPE.)

    I'm pondering whether to just go for one day for each trial to try to get the jumpers run. Driving 2 hours one way with the always-indeterminate agility schedules for one run doesn't seem like a great idea, either, though. And I'd be so annoyed if I DIDN'T get it. Argh.

    Jake was uninterested in playing frisbee almost the entire weekend. He ran smoothly but not superfast in the 2 runs in which he was entered; popped out of the weaves in one run (!) so didn't Q, but had a nice Jumpers run on the same course that Tika sped through and earned a Q for that.

    Boost simply did not get enough attention or exercise despite my pulling her out of her crate to play far more often than I did the other dogs. She's been a whirling dirvish this morning since we got up (and she insisted on getting up about 6:30 to get started...yawn...). I forgot and left her in the x-pen during one of Tika's runs, and sure enough someone had to retrieve her from where she ran, trying to get to us. Thank goodness she ran up the wrong side of the fence, away from the entrance to the ring, or otherwise she'd have ruined that one Colors run that we needed so badly.

    She's fascinated by other dogs doing agility or playing. Very hard to get her attention at all, even briefly, once she's focused on them.

    Discovered a couple of interesting things. When Boost is out wandering around and I want her to come, I'd call her name, but get no reaction (have noticed this over the last couple of weeks at least), which is much different from how we started. I don't know why it deteriorated. I have avoided yelling "Come!" because I want to use the command ONLY when I know that she's already committed to coming or when I can actually get to her to enforce it if she doesn't come. But I finally gave up Sunday morning, while she was off leash rooting around in an open field and ignoring "Boost!". I called "Boost, Come!" and she flung herself out of the bushes and raced towards me like it was the most wonderful thing in the world. So apparently I've done a better job of training "Come!" and a worse job of training her to respond to "Boost!" than I had thought.

    And the second interesting thing had to do with Jake. He largely seems oblivious to me saying his name any more. I try high voice, low voice, very very loud voice, and so on. If he's headed away from me into an open field, he keeps going and going (sort of like the Energizer Semidachsund) without even a twitch to his ears, which is a little scary when he never turns around at all to see where I am, thinking that I've got a deaf dog about to disappear over the horizon. Imagine dozens of scenes of me over recent weeks or even months, yelling "Jake!" pause, change voice, "Jake!" pause, change voice, "Jake!", getting louder & louder, dog getting farther and farther away, nose to the grassy ground. So, Sunday afternoon, with Boost's reaction in mind, I yelled "Jake, COME!", and he immediately picked up his head, turned around, and headed back to me. Argh. So HE has also learned to ignore his name! What have I done to my dogs?

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    Just Been Busy--Some Random Stuff

    My sister got married in my back yard this last weekend. It has been a long process of fixing and planting and painting and trying to keep things from deteriorating more rapidly than normal with the assistance of certain four-legged yard inhabitants.

    All three spent Saturday at The Kennel--never have done that before with any of my dogs, but I really had no other good choices. And in fact it was up where we usually do agility classes anyway, so they know me and my dogs, and they have huge outdoor runs (bigger than some people's back yards) as well as smaller, more standard concrete runs for the dogs to rest in. Seems to have gone well, even with all 3 dogs in together.

    I put away the Nature's Miracle spray a couple of weeks ago because Boost had had no accidents, but then of course that same day... She varies. Fine for a few days, then peed in the wrong places (a) Saturday evening when she got home from the kennel and went to greet people on the back deck, (b) Sunday sometime in the hall in front of my housemate's room, (c) Monday morning while I was showering, on my bedroom carpet, (d) Monday afternoon sometime while I was at work, on the tile near the garage door. Today--so far as I've noticed--we've had no accidents.

    Boostie is doing Sit and Down fairly well on command now, and her stay is pretty good. Working through a variety of distractions.

    A couple of weeks ago (or maybe more) I started occasionally putting her through tunnels with the "through" command. It took a while for her to get the concept. Note that she has always run full speed through tunnel after tunnel while playing by herself or while playing chase with Tika, but doing it on command with direction from me was an entirely different thing. Now it seems she's got it, so we're trying different angles and approaches (e.g., her in a sit and me near tunnel; her in front of me with my hand in her collar; stuff like that).

    Have just started putting her over one or two jumps set at maybe 4 to 8 inches.

    Haven't spent nearly enough time on getting her to do a nose touch to the ground or a target, let alone sending her to it, let alone transitioning that into a world-shaking contact.

    Last Tuesday, in the potty yard at agility class, I turned around and discovered that Boost had somehow slipped through the fence into the pasture with the sheep and the llama. I called her a couple of times but she was oblivious, starting to cautiously head towards the flock. So I resorted to a "trick". I yelled "Readyyyyyy--" which is what I use for all my dogs to get them revved up to fetch a toy or do agility or whatever--then turned and ran like crazy in the opposite direction, whooping excitedly. Boost blasted back to me, barely slowing to slip through the really really tiny gap between the side of the gate and the fence.

    Our instructor was a bit surprised that anyone could slip through that gap, but I said that he probably didn't have a lot of really skinny BC puppies checking it out.

    So, the very next day, same 3 dogs off leash, same potty yard, same sheep and llama. I pick up some poop, turn around--and Tika is in the sheep pasture and charging full tilt towards the sheep! Mind you, these dogs have been off leash in this same area every week for years. Maybe they've done something different with the gate. Maybe Tika took note when Boost went through and decided to try it herself.

    At any rate, the llama popped right up and went to work doing her job; chased Tika right out of there. I was afraid that Tika might get seriously injured, but after attempting to briefly stand her ground and say her piece, she decided that discretion was the better part of valor in the face of a charging llama, and blasted right through that little tiny gap between the gate and the fence.

    Our instructor was particularly amazed that she had gone through. But I still don't think he's gone down and changed anything about the closure.

    So now I have to keep the dogs on leash in the potty yard, which is a pain in the patootie.