Life with Sampson and Delilah….The 411

Archive for the ‘Positive Dog Training’ Category

Tick Tick BOOM

Thursday night Delilah and I popped into the drop-in agility class at The Mellow Mutt.

We were a few minutes early so I started my treat shopping, with Delilah’s help of course.

I was checking out the grain-free treats while Delilah tried to steal checked out a pig’s ear.  Sara’s dog, Chuck came over, whether it was to say hello to me or to tell Delilah to back off the treats, I’m not sure.  But before I knew it, they were snapping at each other.

What the BEEP?

I mean it’s Chuck, our buddy, the guy we play with ALL the time.

Chuckers went to sulk in the other room, Delilah and I finished our shopping and then we walked into the agility room.  I looked around and only saw one dog I knew, Brisco a really high-energy little guy.

I walked to the farthest corner of the room.

Dude.  I won’t lie.  That altercation with Chuck really threw me.

So there we are in our corner, Brisco is in one corner, there is a German Shepherd mix in one corner, an Akita named Boots against the wall and this couple walks into the last remaining corner with two Labs, one yellow and one black.

I thought Brisco had a lot of energy, but these two labs had way more and their mom said they’d been swimming and running earlier.  I thanked God right then and there that neither one of my dogs are that energetic.

We were up first and I wish I’d had a video, it was a great run.   All our future runs were mediocre as Delilah was now on the hunt for the treats left behind by the Labs.  In fact, when Sara took the chute up, Delilah spent a bit of time in there cleaning it up.

You can see the little brown treat between her legs, she could smell it but had the hardest time finding it.

During her first attempt at a run the black lab decided to rush headlong into our corner.

That didn’t work well.  She got a face full of chocolate lab.

Thankfully I remembered to scream LOOK, at which point Delilah’s head whipped around and the mom moved her dog out of the line of fire.

After the fiasco with the black lab I tried to keep Delilah distracted with treats.

The A-Frame was set up so when the dogs came over in one direction they could in fact run straight into our corner.

Unfortunately the GSD did not get the memo telling him to avoid the chocolate lab eating treats in the corner.

Yup, he was the next dog that got a face full of chocolate.

By the time we got to our fourth run, Delilah was exhausted and had more interest in cleaning up the leftover treats than she had in running the course again, and I was totally on edge, so we declined a fifth go.

I didn’t get a video of our run, however I did manage to record Brisco’s with his dad.

Up until a few months ago his parent’s were working agility with treats, but he loves the squeaker ball,  so Sara suggested using that instead which works a little better for him.

He doesn’t have the best form but his enthusiasm and energy makes him a joy to watch.  (Mental note to self, don’t hit the stop button quite so soon.)

The Tick Tick BOOM has absolutely nothing to do with this post, it’s a saying I heard on a show and I thought it sounded cool. 😉

Here Has Many Meanings

We’ve had a humid streak in the northeast for the last few months.  It’s actually been so bad that I’ve had to keep the dog’s walks to about 30 minutes.  Much more than that and we are all just about ready to drop.  Even on those mornings when we’ve been able to get out early, the humidity really does us in.

Friday night we got some big thunder storms which thankfully drove the humidity away.

Hubby and I take turns sleeping in on the weekends.  Unless Hubby has to work on Saturdays, that is his day to sleep in, while mine is Sunday.  I love sleeping in on Sundays.

Yesterday was no exception.  I’m not sure if it was the cooler, fresh air pouring in through the open windows or the Xanax I took just before bed, but I slept pretty darn good; only pulling my lazy butt out of bed just before nine.

It was so nice yesterday morning I couldn’t wait to get out with the dogs in the cool morning air.

As I’ve noted before, I’m calling the dogs back to me quite frequently.

What I found out yesterday is the Here command can be used for more than one purpose.

Delilah loves to roll in things, especially when she’s in the soccer field.

Usually it’s a clump of fresh-cut grass, but you never know with Delilah.  I’ve caught her rolling in worse.

I can tell she’s on the scent of something and I try to distract her, but some days it’s just inevitable that Delilah will roll in something.

Yesterday was one of those days.

She was just too quick for me.  Maybe it was the after effects of the Xanax but before I knew it there Delilah was rolling around on the ground.

Here, I said reaching into my treat bag.

She immediately stopped what she was doing, jumped up and ran over to me. 🙂

Focusing on just one command has been beneficial to the dogs but it has also been really good for me.  It is far easier to remember one command rather than here, come, leave-it, wait, sit, down.

Well you get the point. 🙂

Traveling In The Wrong Pack

Most of the people who follow this blog and train dogs, work with the positive reinforcement method.  I train this way because I want my dogs and I to have a bond and I believe that is achievable through positive reinforcement training.

A couple of years ago I stopped at a tag sale a couple of streets away. I was very impressed with a woman and her dogs, they stayed calmly in the yard and followed her around.  I told her how I was struggling with Delilah.

The woman went in the house and brought out a postcard stating she was a dog trainer along with all of her contact information.  She asked if I would like to walk with her sometime.  I told her I would love that.

I waited a day or so (I didn’t want to seem TOO eager) and contacted her via facebook.  She asked if I wanted to walk and I said yes.  I then gave her my schedule for the week.

I never heard from her again.

In retrospect, this was a blessing in disguise.

This is the same woman I mentioned in my Passive-Aggressive post.

The same woman who deliberately left her dogs for seven to ten anxious, panicked filled moments, while she taught them a lesson about traveling with the wrong pack.

The same woman who thinks dogs have the capability of being passive-aggressive.

The same woman who lets her dogs roam all over the woods with no regard for anyone else or their dogs.

The same woman who has no identification of any kind on her dog.

As I stood there in the woods last Saturday listening to these two women talk about the archaic methods they use to train their dogs, I took a moment to say a prayer of thanks that I don’t travel in her pack.

Most Improved

Well hello, most improved the instructor said in a high-pitched meant-to-praise-and-reward-your-dog tone of voice.

It worked.

Delilah lifted her head up as Jackie our instructor reached down and took Delilah’s face in both hands, bringing her own face down to deliver a kiss on the end of Delilah’s nose.

We had just completed the last class of our Intermediate Dog and Handler class put on by Pet Education and Therapy.

Jackie looked up at me and we shook hands.

Thank you, I said.

Thank you very much.

It was my pleasure, really.  You know you could title her in Rally with no problems, Jackie said.

Really? I may have sounded slightly incredulous, I mean this is Delilah we were talking about after-all.

Oh yes, no problem.  She’d pass first time in the ring.

If she did as well in the ring as she did in Tuesday night’s class, yes she could pass in a Rally ring.

Our class was held outside.  We started with a quick recap of sits, downs, looks and stays.

Then we went advanced.

We did Figure-Eights.

Using two cones and starting in the middle, work your figure-eight with your dog in a heel position.

We worked on recalls.

Jackie had us line up and then she walked up to the first dog, took the leash from the handler and the handler crossed the field and recalled their dog.  She did this super quick, so we were running.  On the second pass she didn’t tell us, but she was holding a handful of treats.

I had to call Delilah twice, the first time she didn’t even look at me. 😦

Using a jump, we practiced our wait command.

This is Mopar, he is nine months old; waiting was hard for him.

We then worked our stay commands.

Delilah was the one of only two dogs who did a three-minute down WITHOUT breaking.

Three minutes, that’s nothin! What else ya got?

She was the ONLY ONE who did a one minute sit.

Jackie says the sit stays are really hard, because some dogs want to just lie down.

Lastly we walked past another dog, making sure we had a loose leash.

I think this class was really good for Delilah and me.  I really do feel like we have formed a bond.

And I’m really grateful that Sara has no problem with me checking out another trainer.  Sometimes I think it’s good to hear the same thing from someone different.

I know there are things that Delilah and I learned in this class that Sara has tried to teach us.  Maybe it’s because I’m so comfortable with Sara that I don’t pay attention enough. :-0

Surprised, eh?

Me too.

What surprised you the most, that Delilah and I were most improved or that I don’t pay attention? 😉

Passive-Aggressive

Everyone knows Delilah’s on a long leash.  It’s a pain in the bum walking in the woods with a dog on a leash.  None of the people who walk their dogs in our woods likes to walk with me because of the way I train my dogs.

None of them use treats, none of them use leashes.  There is no boo-hooing on my part, those are the facts.  The truth of the matter is, I don’t like the way any of them train their dogs either, so I’m quite content walking with my dogs.

By myself.

While on our Saturday walk we ran into Brady and his mom, ‘S.’   After a few minutes we ran into the dog trainer, ‘B.’

Trust me the irony of the ‘B’ and ‘S’ initials are not lost on me.  But those are really the initials of their first names.

‘B’ usually has at least six dogs with her, she’s told me before her car can’t hold more than six.  Some of these dogs are hers and I believe some of them are fosters.

‘B’ and ‘S’ were talking on the walk and ‘B’ said, adoption fees have gone up to $450.00 so she was not going to do it anymore.

I said, it’s better than paying a breeder thousands of dollars.

She countered that most of the dogs she gets are results of people not spaying their animals. (I’ll give her that, I have no idea where she gets her dogs from.)

We reached a turn in the path and ‘S’ and I, along with Sampson, Delilah and Brady made the turn.  Up ahead of us, was one of ‘B’s’ dogs.

B’s dog was up past where Sampson is in the photo, while B was further back than I was.

‘B’ stood at the beginning of the trail and said, he doesn’t see me.

‘S’ said go ahead and call him ‘B.’

‘B’ turned and went the other way.

It was at this point that I had called Delilah to me, and Sampson, Brady and ‘B’s’ dog all came running.  While I was doling out treats we were joined by another one of her dogs.  They traveled with us for a short distance and then they went off.

‘S’ and I stopped to chat about Brady’s behavior and how she was going to take the advice of the dog trainer at Cabella’s and jack his electric collar up because she was tired of his behavior.

Naturally I lodged my protest, but it fell on deaf ears.

‘B’ then arrived with four of her dogs, the other two still  MIA.

None of ‘B’s dogs wear collars and unless they’re chipped, they have no identification on them what-so-ever, in fact I’m not even sure they are registered with the town.  So if someone found these dogs, they would more than likely call animal control.

‘S’ said the trainer at Cabella’s (who by the way does this for free) said her dog cannot sleep on her bed with her, he must sleep on the floor, maybe even in his crate because otherwise she is not the pack leader.

‘B’ started on about a dog being passive-aggressive.  Her example was a dog jumps up on the couch and comes over and puts his paw on your shoulder.  In his mind he’s elevating himself above you, but he’s not being aggressive.

Personally I don’t believe dogs are capable of that particular thought process.

But I played Sergeant Shultz, I said nothing.

The talk then turned to her two missing dogs and she said, they chose to travel with the wrong pack, we went off to a party and they spent the time stressed and anxious.  They’ll think twice next time.

I know when you are training a dog off-leash you play a lot of hide-n-seek.  Where you pop around a tree and wait a few seconds for your dog to ‘find’ you.  This was not hide-n-seek.  She left those dogs for a full five to seven minutes.

I said, it doesn’t matter to Delilah, she’s gotten stuck before but that won’t stop her from running off.

‘B’ said, well she trained you a long time ago.

Talk about a passive-aggressive statement.  It ticked me off so bad I wanted to rip off her arm and beat her over the head with it.

There’s no passive in that aggression.

(Yes her dogs did show up.  Apparently they went to wait for her by the car and returned to her when they heard her voice.)

Practice Makes Perfect

There are actually two stories that came out of our Saturday walk.  One was AMAZING and one was aggravating.

I was going to write the entire post with both stories and then decided that the really good, exciting thing should be celebrated all by itself with nothing negative involved.

On our Saturday morning walk we ran into Brady and his mom.  We walked for a few minutes and then ran into the dog trainer who always has about six dogs with her.

If the dogs are approaching cautiously I generally keep Delilah on leash.  If the dogs are running at us, I usually drop the leash, let them greet and then pick the leash back up.

I was feeling either brave or crazy Saturday and decided to take Delilah completely off-leash.

I made her wait, while she was un-clipped and then FREE DOG.

Delilah was off-leash.

She stayed right with our little pack as we continued our walk through the woods and when I called her to me, she came right away.

I guess in retrospect I was feeling brave, because I definitely wasn’t crazy enough to leave her off-leash too long.  I kept it at about five minutes and then secured her once again.

This was the first time she has been unleashed and allowed to run in about six months.

I was so pleased with her and so proud of her.  I wanted to dance a jig through the forest.

What a good girl!

Will I ever let her start our walk off-leash or let her free in the areas I know are tempting?

I’m not sure.

But this small success proved to me how imperative it is for me to work on their recalls every single day.

Practice makes perfect.

Light Bulb Moment

Yesterday I hinted at a light bulb moment I had during our Tuesday night training class.

If there was an incident or comment that caused it to happen, I can’t put my finger on it.  All I know is I was struck by an epiphany.

I don’t work with my dogs enough.

Granted since we started taking this class, I’ve gotten better with practicing, but I still haven’t set time aside each day to work with the dogs.

I can’t expect Delilah to know what I want her to do, when I’m not consistent with my requests.

It’s not like I don’t attempt to train my dogs, it’s just that once I teach them a command, I expect they know it and then I sort of don’t reinforce it as frequently as I should.

Which brings me to our recall.

How in the world do I expect Delilah to return to me, if I only ask her for it right when she’s found a really enticing smell?

It’s not like Sara hasn’t drilled this into my head.  How many times have I heard her say, I call my dogs back about 75 times a walk?

So how is it, that it never sunk in before?

I’m reminded of learning my multiplication tables, I said it so many times over and over again that it is ingrained in my memory.

Seven times seven is forty-nine.

Which is exactly what I need to do with the dogs, I have to work it over and over again until it is second nature.

I want to work it so much that my dogs come back to me every couple of minutes all on their own.

Is that even possible?

Do you have a training schedule set aside for your dog?  How frequently do you reinforce your commands?

The bigger question is, where do you find the time?

Team Delilah

I wanted to share something really amazing that happened at Delilah (and my) training class last Tuesday.

The class is held in a smallish size gymnasium.  I’m very grateful the class is small because it gives us a bit of room to spread out and not be too close to another dog.

It was our next to the last class and Jackie, our instructor had a little Rally ring set up.  Just to give people a small taste of what Rally is all about.

Before we had the opportunity to do Rally, Jackie stated she was going to test us with our leave it command.  (Coincidentally this is also the class where I had my light bulb moment of everything I’ve been doing wrong, but that is a post for another day.)

I watched as Jackie, armed with a squeaky toy and a handful of treats approached each team in turn.  For whatever reason Delilah and I were last.  I stood facing Delilah, waiting anxiously,  worried that I would fail Delilah and myself.

Finally it was our turn.  From the corner of my eye I saw Jackie approaching from my right, I can’t tell you how close she actually came but I would guess it was within three to four feet.

I had Delilah focused on me, by having a treat in my right hand, with my right fore-finger resting on the tip of my nose.  Our gaze was intent, there is no other way to describe it, I didn’t dare look away.

Squeak.

Delilah’s head shifted slightly to her left.

Eck!  Look, I said.

Snap her head turned back to me.

Squeak, squeak.

Look. That’s right, stay focused on me.  Good girl, you’re doing fantastic.

I heard the handful of treats drop, but neither Delilah nor I looked, or even flinched.

Our eyes were locked and Team Delilah rocked.

Here Here!

Since I’m back to work I’ve got to either 1) walk the dogs on lunch or 2) walk them after work.  I really do prefer to walk them on lunch, but when it’s this hot, I opt for after work.

It was still hot yesterday but thank God the humidity broke.  There’s nothing like walking in 90 degree heat with 90% humidity.  It feels like you went swimming with all your clothes on and you’re just waiting for them to dry.

My pants seem to have a mind of their own and that’s to sag as far down as they possibly can.  I seriously considered putting a pair of boxers on so they could hang over the top.

You don’t believe that do you?

Good because I would never consider that.

Where was I?  Oh yes, the walk.

I normally let Sampson and Delilah pick our walk, I figure it’s their walk too so why shouldn’t they go where they want?  I keep a pretty good eye on them and if it looks like one of them has really committed to a certain path, I gently encourage the other one to go in the same direction.

What really surprises me is how frequently they go to the same trails, all kinds of possibilities yet they still follow the same paths.  I think they are checking their pee mail and waiting to see if they will run into some friends.

We were getting on towards the end of our walk last night when I saw what I thought was a deer running through the trees off to my left.  It caught everyone’s attention and I shouted to Sampson, “No, don’t do it.”  Thankfully he followed instructions and stopped what he was doing.

When I looked up, Bruno (who the dogs know well) was standing staring at us from about 25 yards away.

I shortened Delilah’s leash and told Sampson NO.

He took off after Bruno.

Delilah whined and pulled but I held fast.

Bruno is a big dog, but he’s also a big baby.  As soon as Sampson took off after him, Bruno took off too.

Sampson chased Bruno around a really large rock and I saw Delilah gear up to go and I knew I was a gonner.  So I dropped the leash.

I figured it’s better to chase her through the woods, than get pulled along the trail…on my face.

The dogs all converged at the rock, sniffing each other and I clapped my hands and called, Here, Here, come on let’s go.

What do you suppose happened?

Yup, she came right back to me.  I did the happy dance, gave her some yummy liverwurst, praised and petted her and we finished our walk.

I don’t think I am ready to take her off-leash but it’s nice to know I can give her a small bit of freedom.

Rally Thursday

Rally is an AKC dog sport, it is basically an obedience sport, but the ‘commands’ are located at little stations throughout the Rally ring.   It  is also the sport I stewarded at last November.

There are three Rally divisions, Novice, Advanced and Excellent.  It is possible for a dog to title in all three divisions and your dog does NOT have to be a pure-bred in order to compete.

Ribbons are awarded to the top three dogs.  The highest score is 100, but the dogs are also timed.  In case of two dogs achieving the same score, the time is factored in to determine the winner.  Any dog who achieves a score of 70 or better  achieves a ‘leg’ once the dog has three ‘legs’ the dog has titled in that particular Rally division.

At an AKC Rally match, there is only one dog in the ring at a time, unless there is an ‘honor’ dog.

In the advanced Rally ring,  a ‘Honor Dog’ is expected to lie at the edge of the ring and not move until the dog working the course has finished and the Steward in charge advises it is safe to release the dog.   Normally the honor dog, is the dog who was in the ring before the current dog.  If a dog is honoring, their score is not complete until the steward advises the scorekeeper that the dog passed or failed.  The dog working the course is ‘scored’ based upon their performance in the ring.

Stewarding an advanced AKC Rally match is one of the more difficult rings to run, especially if there is an honor dog.  Not only are the Stewards required to insure all jumps are the correct height for each dog, the Stewards are also responsible for making sure each competitor is up and ready to go when their number is called.

When I Stewarded there were three of us. Besides the official scorekeeper, there was my friend Ann who made sure competitors were up and ready to go, and held their leash while they were in the ring.  I ran the stop watch and monitored the Honor Dog.   In between dogs we had to check that the jumps were the correct height and in some instances we had to make adjustments.

I can tell you it was a lot of work, and you see some crazy people with their dogs. 🙂

I like the idea of the Rally and have actually considered working Delilah toward a title.

If you would like to learn more about Rally, you can check out the AKC  link here.

Hubby and I have been on vacation all week.  Even though I’ve been walking the dogs every morning I couldn’t help but perk my ears up when Sara mentioned she was going to have a drop-in Rally class on Thursday evening.

Normally on a night that Delilah and I have training class I force gently encourage Hubby to take Sampson for a walk.  Thursday night I asked if he and Sampson would like to check out the Rally Class.

Not quite as sophisticated as the AKC commands, but it got the job done!

Sampson doesn’t really care for obedience or agility classes but I think it’s good to keep him on his ‘game.’  Of course Hubby didn’t want a little baggy full of treats, so someone kept going right back to mommy when he was done.

There was eight dogs in the class, Sara had one person start at station one, then once they were at station three, the next person started.  In this manner we got all dogs thru fairly quickly.  After two runs thru, Sara changed the course.

Sampson and his dad.

Sampson kept looking over to me as if to say,  please help me mom, you know I don’t like these classes.

I want to say we did about four different courses, it was a nice way to work on our obedience without being in a traditional classroom setting.

After class was over, Sara cut Sampson and Delilah’s nails.

Stop fighting it Sampson. 🙂

Both Sampson and Delilah are so laid back when they get their nails clipped that Hubby joked, take it easy Sampson don’t get so stressed out.

Delilah is not so fond of lying down and leaving herself vulnerable.

Have you ever tried a competitive sport with your dog?  Would you?

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