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Monkey See, Monkey Do: Wave & Shake

Chispa swam a little bit more today at the ponds, this time after a thrown stick. No, I don't throw sticks for my dogs! I just tossed it out on the water so she could swim out after it. I did work on having her carry a short stick at several points on our walk this morning; although she's getting less mouthy, she still likes to run and JUMP up at me, and her darned puppy teeth invariably catch on my skirt or shorts and then get snagged, and then my bottoms start coming off, and I hear ripping, and, well, it's just not something I'm interested in encouraging. Something else in the mouth seems preferable.

At one point, at another of the several ponds on our walk, I got all the dogs on the shore, Chispa included, and then with a “ready, steady, GO”, they all jumped in. Sometimes, in the flurry of excitement, the hesitant dog will get caught up and jump in as well. But, Chispa was not caught up in the flurry of excitement, and remained on the shore. I wasn't too disappointed, because it was actually nice to see that she didn't lose her marbles when things got exciting.

Ready, steady, SWIM

Ready, steady, SWIM

People have these things called mirror neurons, which are pretty interesting, and as far as we can tell, unique to primates.  Birds supposedly have a similar system, and there HAS been some research and speculation about whether dogs have mirror neurons as well, which would explain their ability to be so tuned in to our emotions and actions. Certainly, anecdotally, I've seen plenty of monkey see, monkey do around my house, and my guess is that most of you readers could say the same.

Anyway, today's trick is one that I actually started at the show last weekend. Chispa came out at intervals to hang out near the rings, get some attention, and a lot of cookies. She's pretty well nailed down the “sit for a cookie” behavior, and, when I don't pay up, it has turned in to the “I will sit for a cookie and if you don't reward me I will jump up and punch you in the thigh, and when you turn to look at me I will be in a very cute sit again” behavior. And of course, I reward it every time. Hooray!

Anyway, since she nailed that behavior, and I was tired of getting thigh punched, I decided it was time to work on another easy behavior. Easy in the sense that it was something I could do with her ringside, would pay out nicely, capitalized on behaviors she already knew how to offer, and was cute.

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The two toy game – adding motion

Before I go on with the newer behaviors that I started working on with Chispa over the weekend (at the show, ringside, because I wanted to do something other than just feed her for being cute…), I want to finish up with the Two Toy Game. Obviously I'll continue to work on it, but this last step of three is really all that is required to continue building up a nice retrieve. Of course, having said that, my dogs are not retrieving champs by any stretch of the imagination – they have functional retrieves. Meaning to say, they'll bring back a toy, often through a crowd of staring border collies, and drop it nearby. And, during training, they'll bring back a toy to play with whatever OTHER toy I might have, or, continue playing with ME with the same toy.

Homemade Tug Toys

Homemade Tug Toys

I'm pretty sure I've already mentioned that I don't do a lot of toy/ball throwing – playing fetch has just never seemed to me to be an efficient use of my time with my dogs. If they need exercise, we ALL walk, off leash if possible, and over varied terrain whenever possible. If they need mental stimulation, we play games together that don't require a lot of space, or they play with food puzzles. And, of course, we do some agility. And, all too often, I see clients at workshops and seminars who have border collies who have learned to not come inside that magic “she's gonna throw the ball” radius, and when I ask, “do you play a lot of fetch with your dog?” the answer is invariably yes 🙂

In any case, here it is, adding motion to that beginning retrieve!

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3

Slowtime Summer

While there are 2-3 items I have on my list of things to do this week with respect to posting actual TRAINING to the blog, today was just a fun day. After a long morning of talking to various mortgage lenders about refinancing the house, I found I was kind of mentally and emotionally wiped out. So, an afternoon walk in the woods seemed like something mindless yet productive. Off we went.

I'm so fortunate to live just a few minutes away from some glorious trails, including ponds that the dogs can swim in. They're fishing ponds, which means that the hotter the weather, the less likely the fish are biting, and the more likely the dogs can swim without interrupting somebody else seeking solitude as well. I don't get a chance to walk every day, although with a little effort I could, and should be out there every day that I'm home. Even so, a walk in the woods is always so nice.

And…ever goal oriented, I figured it would be an opportunity for Chispa to work on thinking about swimming, maybe. Of course some of her littermates have already been in the water, so I figured, must keep up with the Joneses, right?

Chispa is brave about many things, but about water, she is not so sure. In the past, I've taken the heave-ho approach, which is to say I just toss a puppy in, provided I think they're brave enough to handle it and they seem to WANT to go in. That first step is the hardest, right? But, you know, I didn't really feel like it this time. No need to be overbearing, just let her go in at her own pace. Baby steps. Of course, I had incentive – treats that float!

It's a small tragedy that I filmed vertically rather than horizontally with my phone. The puppy cuteness will make up for it, right?

Chispa after swimming, 7-11-16

Chispa after swimming, 7-11-16

Chispa got in after some convincing, but she was not thrilled about being wet. It was pretty cute, she kept squatting like she thought she had to pee, because water was dribbling off of her lady bits. She only swam for a few seconds longer than the video above captured. Like just about everything she does, it was not without at least some forethought. She's lively, and vivacious, just like her name (Chispa means “sparky, lively, vivacious” in Spanish), but she's not careless, really, and seems to have a lot of good German logic about her as well. It took a little bit of build up before she decided to wade in and swim after the cookies that were floating just out of reach.

What just happened?!

What just happened?!

When she was finished with her tiny swim, she had to back up and sit down for a moment to think about what had just happened. Then she tore around and rolled a bit, squat, roll, squat, roll. It was pretty funny.

Again, like a doofus, I filmed vertical. But again, who cares, because…puppy!

She was a little square, and now, she's a little rectangle!

It's funny how sometimes I don't think she's grown at all, and then, there are moments, like today, where I realize, she's really getting BIGGER. And right now, her rear end doesn't quite match the front end. But, oh my goodness, I am smitten with Chispa. She is so right up my alley, and I am enjoying her so much. She probably won't learn oodles of tricks; it's just not something I have time for at this point in my life. But she IS learning, bit by bit, and it's at a pretty enjoyable pace for the both of us. And she's just so much darned FUN. Her name fits her perfectly.

Nothing but puppy gushing for today; tomorrow it'll be back to “real” training. But as far as developing the dance, the dance the two of us will do as a team in and out of the ring, even slowtime summer days like today are “real” training. No need to worry about accomplishing this or that trick or behavior each day. It's not a job, it's not a “must do”, it's just fun, enjoyment, and relaxation. Chispa has far more freedom than any of my other puppies have ever had, and guess what? She's doing just fine. Instead of me constantly trying to solicit HER attention, it's the other way around – she solicits MY attention. And when I do need a snuggle and she's too busy to settle in to it (which is always), I hold her just long enough for her to give me a kiss and a lick, and then I put her down and she's off again. And even THIS is “real” training, because over the past few days, guess who is settling in to do a lot more licking and kissing and snuggling? Yep.

Now hey there, Chispa, quit chewing on my laptop! Reverie over…

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The Two Toy Game – Get The Live Toy

Last week was an amazing week here at Clear Mind Agility, because it was Summer Camp Week. I'll write more about that later, separately, at www.daisypeel.com, where my ramblings on life in general reside. This is all about Chispa! No real “formal” training happened, but she did get passed around, a LOT. Between camp duties, teaching, and such, it often fell to my trusty helpers to make sure Chispa was cared for during the day, and she was a champ being passed around. My trusty helpers were champs too; Chispa knows not to chew on me, but each arm is a new lesson to be learned.

Chispa also got to play a little in front of a crowd, which was great. On the first evening of camp, Sandy Rowan, a wonderful instructor who lives just down the road, gave a presentation on motivation and drive – timely, as the instructors and campers were then able to refer to the material all through camp to keep dogs going til the last day. In any case, Chispa got to play with Sandy as a demo dog, in front of a crowd of people, while I watched on. It was a great opportunity for me to see how she'd function in front of a group of onlookers, and, after all, isn't that what agility (at the competitions, anyway), is all about?

I do think that it's important to take your show on the road, as it were, with your puppy. Even if “the show” is sitting for a cookie, or a very small recall, it's important, in my mind, to start practicing the PERFORMANCE aspect of those behaviors as a team, in front of others. And, as Chispa's future undoubtedly includes performing in front of onlookers in both a teaching/demo and competitive environment, it was great to see that she seemed to really revel in the whole process of being a demo dog (I think the term was “she's such a HAM”). Sadly, I was too busy enjoying watching to get any photos or video, but Chispa was clearly reveling in the attention, AND, to my delight, even seemed to enjoy and feed off of the crowd laughter when she did something “naughty”. I'm not sure if that sense of “got game” can TRULY be trained, personally. We (dogs and people) can learn to enjoy the game, and to cope with the obstacles that are put in our path when we choose to step in to the arena and perform in front of a crowd, but that love of the game, a love of showboating? I'm not sure that can be taught. Maybe, but I was happy to see that Chispa appeared to enjoy hamming it up for a crowd with Sandy.

When things finally settled down after camp, I got busy on shifting focus back toward some daily training with Chispa, as well as her puppy booster shot (which she didn't even flinch for, but then again, she was nose deep in a kong filled with cream cheese). So, first things first…

Time to make some toys…

Homemade Tug Toys

Homemade Tug Toys

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Puppy Posture and Recalls to Heel

Today is day ONE of the third annual Clear Mind Agility Camp, and I thought I'd take a few moments to update the puppy blog. No real training is being done with Chispa this week, other than “learn to spend a lot of time in your crate”. This is a good lesson, and one she needs to get comfortable with, and as I can't be around to hear her barking (if it's even happening), I've avoided needing to feel guilty when I hear her. I'm also dying to get her out of her kennel and play with her during the lunch break!

Last week, while teaching in Alaska, I taught a session on foundation/fundamentals. These sessions can often go in a variety of different directions depending on the dogs that are present, and this one was no different. One of the students had a puppy just a few weeks older than Chispa, and another student had a dog that was about a year and half; quite a spread. “Recalls to Heel” was on the list of things to do, and it's a FUNDAMENTAL behavior in my mind, but also, a super BORING behavior to train. When I say “recall to heel”, I mean a recall as taught in Mastering Jumping Skills – it's a skill that does reward the dog for coming to the handler, but it's the HOW that is important. And, frankly, the HOW is applicable to herding, obedience, and life in general. The recall in heel is meant to teach the dog to stop using her rear end. No crashing in to anything with the front feet while the rear end swings about. Being able to stop nicely with the front and the rear makes for a nice, sudden stop, like a quarter horse.

What I DON'T want (watch til the end)

So, anyway, I've got this group of inexperienced dogs, the youngest being 14 weeks. Obviously, the 14 week old puppy isn't going to be able to do all the exercises. BUT, recalls to heel? YES, absolutely, and here are some of the reasons why:

Your puppy can probably already do it

Have you ever noticed how little kids, toddlers, can sit with the most amazing posture? They also STAND with the most amazing posture.

When asked what I do to CORRECT some of the problems dogs have with the recall to heel, I was a little at a loss for words. I know all the things you can do, and I teach all of those things, but since Chispa was right there, in her ex pen, and puppies are high on my mind, I realized that the best answer was to never let those issues develop. This led in to the question of “do I reward if the dog does it wrong?” And again, ideally, I don't want to be in a position to HAVE to withhold reinforcement with this one – I don't want to NOT reward my dog for coming to me, after all!

Puppies, like toddlers, already HAVE good “use” of their bodies. Correcting people's posture problems is a HUGE industry – so many of us engage in ways of moving about in our world, including sitting, that are NOTHING like the way we sat, stood, walked, or ran when we were toddlers. Of course, we are much more coordinated, but our posture is typically much worse, and that poor posture, sitting or standing, typically leads to all sorts of problems.

Puppies, like toddlers, already seem to, for the most part, possess the ability to move nicely through their worlds. Sure, they're floppy and not coordinated. BUT, they can stop with their rears square behind their fronts. They can come in for a recall and they already DO it. It's we as handlers/owners who start to promote poorer “use” of their bodies, either through what we allow to happen in the house, at the park, OR, in formal training.

The goal of ANY training is to CAPTURE the behavior, REWARD it, and GROW it. Puppies already HAVE this behavior – we just have to capture, reward, and grow it!
This training is not the most exciting stuff

Another reason to start working on recalls NOW, aside from the notion that right now there's lots of GREAT behavior to capture, reward, and grow, is that it's not super exciting, IF I focus on it as an agility specific behavior. But, I can honestly say, I NEVER have recalls to heel on my to-do list. Recalls aren't something I decide to start working on. They're not something that I put in my training book or calendar. It's just the way I want my dogs to come in to me – ALWAYS. From the very beginning. You'll never hear me say “oh I worked on recalls today”. The only time I've formally worked on recalls as an exercise that I can remember (assuming I did this early on when I was just learning) was when I was filming them with Chipper for the Mastering Jumping Skills Foundation Flatwork class. I just don't think it's exciting enough to be working on during a formal training session. If I just make it part of the way we interact, ALWAYS, I don't need to WORRY about making it exciting – it's just how we dance together.

This isn't an agility skill, it's a LIFE SKILL

As I mentioned before, I want my dogs to ALWAYS be coming in nicely to me, stopping with their rear ends underneath them, not just in agility!! Nothing makes me cringe more than seeing dogs running around with no regard to how they're going to STOP. I start seeing dollar signs in front of my eyes, and vet bills. I don't want them running in to me, or each other, or the walls, or trees, or anything. I don't want them slipping and sliding through life. I'm pretty careful to not engage in behaviors such as coming in to me for a toy, grabbing the toy, and swinging off of it. Obviously my dogs run around, and obviously I play games with them that include toys. I just try to be constantly aware of what good “use” is, and encourage and promote it.

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Chispa goes to the parade

Last weekend was the Portland Pride Parade. I wouldn't have known about it but a good friend let me know, and, given the recent events in Orlando, and that I have a puppy who needs to see the sights and sounds, the parade was a no brainer.

As usual, Chispa was amazing. This is an amazing puppy, gah, I'm so smitten. She is also a coppertop, energizer bunny. This week, I'm in Fairbanks, Alaska, teaching a three day seminar (with a great group of people!), and I brought her with me, mostly just to get some travel experience, be with me, and not burden G. back at home with her care (or shenanigans). There are some other puppies at the seminar, and Chispa, well, she is BOSSY. No surprise there. But she is also sweet with everybody, and brave, and non-stop. And she is a GREAT traveler. This is almost certainly her last Sherpa bag venture; she's got that dense feeling, the feeling puppies get right before they sprout UP.

Anyway, coppertop. She wandered around loose while participants walked the courses, took herself off to the edges of the arena when she needed to poop, and ran laps nearly endlessly when she was loose. I've never seen a puppy with so much go. She kept going well beyond what her stamina should have dictated, and as I write this, she's in a dark room in a crate so she will SLEEP for a while. Because, surely, she needs to sleep, right? Hopefully I won't regret naptime before MY bedtime…

No premium content today…a bit more tomorrow, when I'm at the Anchorage airport waiting for my connection back to Portland, where I'll be heading straight up to team practice in WA with Frodito!

Chispa, Fairbanks, 2016

Chispa, Fairbanks, 2016

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Collar Grab

Chispa and I are in Fairbanks, Alaska this week! I'm here to teach a three day seminar, just prior to this weekend's AWC Team Practice, and next week's Clear Mind Agility Camp. So, the next two weeks are going to be busy, busy, busy. But, I have my phone, to shoot video, and I have a backlog of video to post from the past few days, so never fear, the blog is still here!

This past weekend Chispa and I went to the Portland Pride Parade, and I have a few hundred photos to go through from that, and will post them here. BUT, more importantly, a bit of training that I'm working on in earnest.

Chispa has learned that she can slip between the vertical pickets on the fence in the potty area, and when she slips through, she heads straight for the cat poop she remembers being in the back yard. BUT, then she sees all the world before her, and…..like the confident puppy she is, she takes off. At that point, there's no recall to be had. And, if I make a grab for her collar as she's slipping through the fence, it's just an accelerant, and she's gone faster, leaving me to either cavort after her, shoeless, or do the rational thing, go get shoes and cookies, and then head out after her.

With that in mind, I realized it's high time for THIS behavior…

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Beginning rear foot targeting and another trick

If it seems like a lot of the things I'm doing are small and simple, well….they ARE. It's not my goal here to provide a how to all at once, for any one behavior; that's just not how training works at the moment. I tackle a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and there is a LOT of assembly going on. What do I mean by that? Well, there is a lot of training going on, but at the moment none of it really yields a finished product with respect to behavior. I work on things that don't always seem like they have any importance in the grand scheme of things. But, there are a lot of pieces that are required to be assembled before I can even think about more grandiose behaviors. AND, a lot of the time, if I concentrate on those pieces, the larger behaviors, some of them at least, seem to magically just happen.

Of course it's not MAGIC. It's splitting things down in to manageable chunks, and approaching each of those little tasks with a curiosity and sense of inquiry that promotes more and more learning and enjoyment on the part of both dog and human alike.

For today, there are TWO items, beginning rear foot targeting and a trick. Premium members, read on…

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Chispa Meets The Manners Minder

The Manners Minder has long been a staple of my training – in fact, I literally wrote the book on using it for agility training. Yep.

An eBook I wrote for Clean Run

An eBook I wrote for Clean Run

Today was Chispa's VERY first interaction with the Manners Minder (Treat & Train, same thing), and I must say, I'm thrilled, yet again, with how she IMMEDIATELY acted as though it was old hat. I love this puppy, have I mentioned that?

Now, of course, not every puppy or dog is going to approach this highly novel situation with the same zeal as Chispa. Trust me, I speak from personal experience here (Frodo, thank you yet again, for providing perspective). So, as with everything, this introduction is very much on the PUPPY'S timeline, and not mine. I have months and months and months until I would really like my young dog to be excited about the Manners Minder/TNT, so right now, we have all the time in the world.

And, well, really, we ALWAYS have all the time in the world, right? No need to rush, no need to accomplish more than one or maybe two things a day. And, by accomplish, I simply mean, set OUT to do something each day. Right along with the “10 treats to loose leash walking” idea, just doing one little thing, and calling it good. On the one hand, I feel like I'm doing NOTHING with Chispa. If you're reading this blog series hoping to get the secrets of how to sequence with your puppy by the time it's four months old, you are in the WRONG PLACE. Nope, not here. But, even so, there is absolutely a part of me that is still a little anxious that OMG I haven't done 50 tricks with Chispa by the time she has been with me for a week. That voice is a small one though, and I recognize it for the insecurity that it is, and I spend a little time reflecting on how I'm pretty sure it will be juuuuuust fine. 

For those of you reading this with your own puppy, take a deep breath, and remind yourself the same. It'll be juuuuust fine. Your puppy, if it's to be a performance partner, can and should be brought up with that in mind, but instead of taking the Little League approach, try taking the approach that your puppy is going to be a performance superstar and never even know it was happening, your early and ongoing coaching. We ALL know that person, who has a dog, who is AMAZING, and NOBODY can say WHY. That person who is a first time puppy owner, who knew nothing about all the must-dos of puppy raising, and yet…there they go, totally in sync with each other on course and totally a bonded pair off the course too. That person did do SOMEthing right, a great many things, but they can't tell you what those things WERE. Good clay, a good starting material, probably did play a role. But also, even if that person didn't know WHAT they were doing, the HOW of what they did was the magic maker. And, in order to REPEAT that with a variety of dogs, I do think that being able to put your finger on the how, as well as the what, is important. Being able to document a thing goes a long way toward being able to repeat it. That's the chemist in me talking, but this is a pretty grand experiment, isn't it, this puppy business?

Enough with the philosophy already! Bring on the TRAINING.

Introducing your puppy to the Manners Minder

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Chispa’s Weekend

OK, spoiler alert, NO major training happened this weekend with Chispa. I was Trial Chair for the local agility club's USDAA trial, and as it was my first time in that role, I was pretty busy making sure the place didn't burn down due to my lack of experience. I'm happy to say, it seems as though the trial went well, and everybody seemed to express as much.

Just because I didn't set down to do any formal training with Chispa, doesn't mean no learning happened. On the contrary, she got a LOT of socialization and experienced a lot! Each day of the trial, George and I took it upon ourselves to take the judges around to see some of the sights and sounds of Portland. I'm not a city gal; I much prefer the quiet of the country. And so, I'm not likely to pack up a puppy and go downtown just for the purpose of said puppy getting some “city time”. So, it worked out perfectly that we headed downtown after the show each day to show the judges around. Chispa got to:

  • Learn to potty in the tiniest bit of landscaping
  • Slow down all pedestrian traffic she encountered with ooh's and aaah's
  • Brighten people's day with puppy breath
  • Meet kids, adults, men, women, wheelchairs, street singers
  • See and hear sirens, traffic, trains, and all of the noises of the city
  • Try Ramen and Tots
  • Head to Multnomah Falls (where again, pedestrial traffic slowed to a crawl upon seeing her)
  • Visit the Portland Rose Gardens

Even though she spent a good portion of each day AT the trial in her crate, snoozing, the time spent in the city each day, doing touristy stuff, was WELL worth it. Just getting to “be” in an environment, with no expectations other than being cute, is priceless. Of course, she took it all in stride, no surprises there! So much cuteness…

So, now it's Monday, and it's back to more, erm…productive training, at least as far as this blog is concerned! Chispa doesn't really care what kind of interactions are taking place, she's up for anything. BUT, here's what's on the list for this week:

  • The Manners Minder
  • Beginning Foot Target Training
  • Rear Foot Awareness
  • Backing Up
  • Shake my hand

This is in addition to all the “other” stuff we're working on still…recalls, sitting for your food, getting in your crate for a kong or chew toy, potty training, dog door training, and DON'T CHEW ON THE MAMMA training 🙂

So, tomorrow, it's back to some instructional video and other content for premium subscribers only. But for today, it's catching up on other work related stuff, including decompressing from the weekend as Trial Chair!

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