Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Positive-Reinforcement Trainer's Favorites from Cesar Millan

As a clicker/positive/progressive/least invasive, minimally aversive/marker/reinforcement trainer, I am constantly working to find ways to communicate with my dogs that do not inflict pain, fear, or intimidation.  I have several tools in my tool belt already, but I love learning and keep looking for more to answer questions I don't have a sufficient answer to yet.  Especially dealing with reactive and/or aggressive, so-called "red zone" dogs.

So my colleagues will be surprised to hear I do have favorite sayings from a trainer such as Cesar Millan.  My reasoning often differs from his, but I feel they are worth mentioning.  As professionals, there has long been discussion of a line being drawn in the sand between "modern" training and "traditional" training.  I have been frowned upon by many trainers for following "traditional" trainers in social media networks.  But as many of my clients, friends and family have this methodology as their primary or even sole background, I feel it imperative that I be fully immersed to best relate to and help the dogs.

Without further ado, here are the pearls of wisdom from Cesar Millan's show The Dog Whisperer, and why I feel they are worth repeating:

  • No touch, no talk, no eye contact.  Contrary to the myth of dominance, I feel this is a crucial approach to take with insecure, shy, reactive, and aggressive dogs.  All of these behaviors are signs of respect, calm, and help put the dog at ease.  By not touching the dog, you're not forcing your presence on them; perhaps triggering an unpleasant memory, or causing stress.  By not talking to the dog, you allow them to think and process your scent and how you look without distraction nor the pressure of greeting.  By refraining from making eye contact, you're being polite in the dog world; where in the human world making eye contact is a sign of respect and attention, in the dog world, it's a potential threat -- as a predator, you never keep your eye off your prey.
  • The power of the walk.  Walking your dog can be a very good way to build a bond, but not because of establishing a leadership role over your dog.  By going on a walk, if you structure it correctly, you are your dog's gateway to the wide world of wonderful smells, new people to love, new dogs to greet with a wagging tail, small animals to chase and practice hunting, as well as the simple joy of novelty.  By being the giver of all good things, you become more interesting than what you give, and your dog will love you for it.  How to structure a walk properly is worthy of its own entry later.
  • Correct the dog before the behavior can escalate.  I would modify this to be more like "interrupt the dog before the behavior can escalate," but it's essentially the same message.  Instead of allowing your dog to stare at what is making him/her upset, interrupt them so they can make a better choice -- calm down and walk away.  Poking, tapping, kicking, leash popping, etc. are all forms of physical influence; while I'm in favor of being able to physically handle your dog with utmost comfort, I find these forms of touch too frightening for most dogs outside of a play setting, if at all.  Instead, I prefer to use a positively-conditioned sound, such as a kissing noise or whistle, that can pierce through any distraction and remind my dog to pay attention to me.
  • The power of the pack.  Dogs surely are the best teachers to their own kind.  Humans don't have the same vocalizations, physiology, or scent -- no matter how hard we try to mimic it, the dog knows better.  Allowing the dog ample opportunity to learn from their own kind can work miracles.  Scientific studies have proven that dogs can learn by example.  However, it is dangerous to put an aggressive, fearful, shy, or in any way "unbalanced" dog into a situation where they are surrounded by [well-behaved] dogs, and not actually effective in teaching the unstable dog the lesson they need most -- trust.  This method is called flooding, and while it can be effective with people who have phobias, it's not the same with dogs, because we can't possibly explain to the dog why they're in this situation.
  • Project calm, assertive energy.  The power of intention is one of the hardest lessons I've ever had to learn, but certainly one of the most powerful and influential.  I don't know if it's a foundation for influencing behavior, but it certainly helps to go out into any activity or outing with your dog with the full picture of an ideal in mind.  It's impossible to improve "bad" behavior without first defining "good" behavior.
  • Human goes first through any doorway.  Cesar wants the leader to go through the doorway to reinforce the dog's follower position; but I say it works better to keep our dog safe.  If we're the first one through the door, we're the first to see what is beyond it.  If we have a dog afraid of other dogs, for instance, rather than allowing our dog to be the first one to see the dog beyond the doorway and thus likely make a "bad choice" as in reacting to the dog, if we're the first through the door, we can manage our dog to get past its trigger.
My hope in writing this post is that the line between traditional trainers and modern trainers can begin to be blurred.  Science evolves just as the world does, and all we can do is make an effort to stay up-to-date.  Dominance has officially been debunked, at least in the common sense as it applies to canines.  Let's move forward with what I feel both sides can agree on:  mutual respect, teamwork, partnership, and companionship.

So, what are your favorite Cesar Millan sayings?  How about other trainers?  Have you adapted any to suit you and your relationship with your dog you'd like to share?  Leave a comment...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Maya's Quivering Hind Legs Mystery - SOLVED

Ever since I adopted Maya, I've noticed that her hind legs quiver if she's been standing a while.  Not sure if she were just excited or sore or what, I've let her settle in before thinking anything of it.  Naturally, all my greys have had shaky legs after a hard sprint -- that adrenaline rush, there's nothing like it.  But this is even after mild exercise, and then standing for a while.

Maya is insured through Healthy Paws, and I confirmed they cover alternative treatments like laser, hydro, and chiropractic therapies.  Not wanting an unknown old racing injury to be causing her discomfort and thus the source of her quivering, I made an appointment with our wonderful new vet, Dr. Morgan at the Quail Animal Hospital in Irvine for this morning.

Dr. Morgan gives wonderfully thorough exams, and I feel very lucky to have him.  He's the one who discovered Dolce's loose tooth -- I had no idea!  Dolce had his first ever dental a month ago in Dr. Morgan's care to have it removed, and since the tooth was likely loose from playing bitey face with his sister, Zenzi, Healthy Paws covered most of that.  So when he met Maya today, he gave her a similarly in-depth exam.  Her hind legs were already quivering, though she was rightfully nervous about being at the vet's.  He check her hip range of motion, which was excellent.  He checked the solidity of her knees, which was fabulous.  Then he started pushing on the vertebrae of the back of her spine.  It was like 1... 2... 3... BOOM!  The fourth vertebrae, Maya screamed in pain.  She'd been wonderfully stoic up until that point, so we knew we had something.

Dr. Morgan said that she should see a neurologist and have a CAT scan and MRI done if I wanted to get an absolute diagnosis and/or pursue more invasive treatments like surgery, but it seemed clear to him she has the beginning of spinal disease, IVDD.  I brought up Kibeth's lumbosacral stenosis, and he said yes, it's like that, just higher up in her spine.  He didn't mention a cause, but I assume it's from Maya's racing career. She raced 112 in Mexico, and won 11 of them.

I don't want to pursue surgery.  It's risky, and she's already 4-years old.  If she were a puppy, maybe, but I ruled this out for Kibeth long ago.  My opinion hasn't changed.  I don't need a definitive diagnosis, I feel that scream being the only scream was tell-tale enough.  So we started laser therapy today, on-the-house first trial thanks to Dr. Morgan's generosity.  She whimpered a few times when we first started.  I suspect that's due to her paranoia that the last time he pressed there, it hurt A LOT, as he assured me everyone in the office has tried the laser and although it gets warm, it is certainly painful or uncomfortable in any way.  By the end, she was starting to hang her head over my knee and close her eyes, so I think it was comforting.  I'll see how her walks go for the rest of the day, but I expect we'll make that a regular part of her management/treatment going forward.  It could be as little as once every other week; just depends on her needs.

From laser, we turn to herbs like turmeric and supplements for anti-inflammatories and joints.  I started giving her JoJo's leftover liquid joint supplement, but it's expired and not agreeing with her; she has had loose stools since I started her on it a few meals ago.  Thus begins our exploration into supplements to help manage the inflammation.  Hydrotherapy seemed to be a no-go as it's not really joint or muscle-related, and chiropractors are hit and miss, Dr. Morgan advised.  ETA:  acupuncture was another option to consider.  I do plan to use my rice-filled heating pad for several minutes on her back at night when we're all settled in.  I'm grateful we caught this early -- my only tip off was the shaking.  She has no neurological symptoms as of yet, we checked her nerve that runs across her back and hips, as well as how she corrected her back feet if they were turned under, and she's completely normal.

*****

Maya holding a mat stay.
She only broke it twice, and self-corrected within 20 seconds.
No treats required or present.


After the vet visit, I took her to meet my husband at his work, and from there to lunch.  She was perfect outside Subway.  I don't know what I did to deserve this good girl, but I love her and want to keep her happy and comfortable for many years to come.  If anyone has any experience with this, please feel free to comment your much-appreciated wisdom.  I'd really appreciate all the input of what worked and didn't work.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Plans for Maya

While Zenzi is mid-growing up, Maya starts to take the front seat in training. After having her meet my vet for the first time, and seeing the smiles she brought to all the staff's faces, it hit me that she needs to be a therapy dog. Yesterday being her first day in daycare, she proved that when all the staff announced she's an instant favorite.  So here's what's going on to meet that end:

  • I've registered for and begun Pet Partners' online Pet Partners Handler course.  It's step 1 of 4 to become a registered Therapy Dog team with them.
  • One of the requirements is that the dog has been home with the handler for at least 6 months.  That means we have 5 months to train.
  • Maya is slated for her first Obedience class in January at Wags & Wiggles in RSM, where I work part-time.
  • Once we complete Obedience 1, we'll progress through the two other Obedience classes prerequisite to take the Canine Good Citizen class and subsequent CGC test.
  • Schedule-permitting, I'd like to put her in a Sport Dog class, too.  I think she'll have a lot of fun and it'll be very good for her physically.
Maya spreading love and happiness to the vet tech.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Maya's First Dog Park Video

Getting to Know Maya

When Darren said "Lauper's got a home!" and things were about to be finalized, Maya gave me one of her famous hugs.  It's like she knew, too.

On the way home, I called my Mom to tell her all about the intro:  how great it was, how I instantly knew Lauper was my Maya, how happy I was at how well Darren handled everything, how relieved I was that everyone was so happy to have such a perfect fit for our little family.  I cried happy tears as soon as I started getting into it.  I couldn't stop, I had to put myself back together to drive.  Maya really is amazingly perfect for us.

We stopped along the way for dinner, where I let Maya out.  She peed right there in the parking lot.  No shame.  She took treats, even as she took in the loud, busy city world she'd never really experienced before.  She was mesmerized by a man on a bike -- also probably not something she was accustomed to seeing.  She rides in the car well, though doesn't know how to jump in yet.

Since we've had her home, there were a few issues that needed sorting out:

  1. Dolce needed to learn how to share his toys with ANOTHER dog besides Zenzi.
  2. Zenzi needed to feel comfortable enough to have her gear put on for walks without going into bitchy mode.
  3. Maya refused her food from the rescue.  She barely ate for a few days, and I decided to go all out and give her JoJo's leftover frozen Instinct raw bites.  She lapped it up, and now eagerly/happily eats an Orijen 6 fish kibble + Instinct raw bites mixture.
  4. Maya has sleep startle (mildly, not nearly as severely as JoJo) and we're working on counter-conditioning by gently waking her and then immediately giving her a treat.  No thrown socks, toys, treats, or anything to trigger a reaction.  Just creating a positive association with being awoken and disturbed.
  5. Maya needed to learn house training. She has never been in a home, so why should she know?
  6. Maya had almost zero leash-walking skills, so I installed those with no issues.  She walks almost as well as Kibeth and JoJo now.  Perhaps it's an instinctual greyhound thing to walk nicely on-leash?
  7. Maya learned her name in a couple hours, and we turned it into a pretty good recall in just a few days.
  8. Maya learned how to climb up onto the couch, one paw at a time.  She has jumped up onto it a couple times in the heat of play with Zenzi and Dolce, but doesn't seem to understand how she got there out of context yet. ;P
It's currently day 10 of Maya being home.  I'm happy to say she's had a grand total of 4 accidents, and seems to be 90% house trained.  She, Zenzi and Dolce all play nicely together, with and without toys. Maya can hang out in the living room with my other two while I'm gone, no more being segregated behind a baby gate in the bedroom.  We can all get ready for a walk without bitchy Zenzi emerging.  Maya loves to snuggle when it's on her terms, and enjoys being treated for disturbances during a hardy slumber.


This past weekend, she went on what I believe to be her first dog park outing.  She had a great time.  She was a little unsure at first, but warmed up quickly, and was giving all the humans hugs and all the dogs play time in a few minutes.  She's the fastest grey I've ever owned, and the tallest.  I've made a video, and it's processing on YouTube.  I will post it soon in a separate entry.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Introducing Maya

Not a week went by after JoJo's passing I realized the entire balance of my household was askew in an unhealthy way without a greyhound, a "normal dog."  I talked to my husband, and we agreed...

We will always need a greyhound in our lives.

It caught me by surprise.  I was ready for the hole JoJo would leave behind.  I was ready for the desire to fill that hole with another dog.  I expected to want to fill that hole, however, with a border collie.  I thought I was making a transition from greyhounds to border collies.  I was wrong.

I applied to GreySave on Saturday morning.  Didn't hear back by Monday, and applied to Greyhound Adoption Center and Fast Friends.  Greyhound Adoption Center got back to me first, so I explained that to Fast Friends and GreySave when they eventually responded to my application.  A couple days later, we were assigned an adoption representative in our area, and made an appointment for the home check.  We passed, and then nothing for weeks.

I started to panic.  Why were they putting us off?  Why were they taking so long?  Why couldn't I request to meet a dog?  Why couldn't they tell me who the short list would be?  I started inquiring at other rescues, but no one would work with me as part of a mutual non-compete the rescues have out here.  I started considering other breeds, golden retrievers in particular.  I even applied for a few dogs and inquired with a couple breeders, but that didn't go anywhere for one reason or another.

Finally, about 4.5 weeks later, we got word late Tuesday evening via email that they were ready at the GAC for us to come down to the kennel and meet some dogs.  Eager as I was, I inquired if NOW there would be a short list?

Nope.  No idea.  Just go down and see what happens.

My candidates included all the dogs that were small dog friendly, + Jonny, a beautiful brindle and white girl who was too newly rescued to have been tested yet.  Jonny's picture captured my heart the moment I saw her, but Lauper's profile was the winner of the bunch.  It described her as small dog and kid friendly, as well as cat workable.  She loved to give hugs, and wanted nothing more than to climb in your lap.

Lauper
Best-fitting profile.

Jonny
Captivating eyes.

So we were told to show up at 1:00 on Saturday, November 15th.  On our way down, we ran into 45 minutes of traffic, which made us 30-minutes late.  I was panicking, but needn't have.  They were just clearing the agility equipment off the field when we arrived at 1:30.  Darren was the guy in charge of handling the potential greyhound(s) and introductions between my two crazy furkids.  He handled Zenzi's alarm barking at his hat with aplomb, and took Dolce's reactivity in stride.  He made both of my dogs feel very comfortable in the big open field and with him before bringing out the first dog.

I inquired about Jonny, and he said she wouldn't be ready for another 6+ weeks.  She needed some time to get healthy, as they all do.  He said that they saw I had expressed an interest in Lauper (I had mentioned that she seemed a good fit on my application), and that she was their top dog for the day.  He just hoped Dolce's reactive noise wouldn't scare her away.  If she could ignore him, we'd be off to a good start, he said.  When the kids were tired from fetch and zoomies, he went to get her from the kennel area.  Dolce was to be off-leash, and he would bring Lauper down to the fence, turn her rear, and let Dolce have a good sniff.

As soon as I saw her, I wanted to cry.  I knew she was the one instantly.  I crossed all my fingers and hoped with my whole being my dogs would agree.  It was unlike anything I've ever experienced before when seeing a dog.  When I've told people this story, they've questioned whether I'd cried seeing any greyhound again, since the passing of JoJo; or whether it was nerves and anxiety about the forthcoming introductions.  I assure you, it was nothing like that.  This was soulmate seeing soulmate, and love at first sight.

Dolce took off like a shot when he noticed her approaching the field, and charged the fence, barking like a fool.  Lauper did absolutely nothing, and tolerated having her rear end turned to the fence for this mad dog to sniff.  She stood like a statue while Dolce sniffed a good long time.  He quieted as soon as he sniffed, and barked again when they started walking.  Zenzi remained on-leash with me, and was so tired from fetch, she couldn't care less there was a new dog coming in.  In fact, she was lying down when we started parallel walking:  Darren with Lauper, me with Zenzi and Dolce (who was back on-leash).

The parallel walk, or low arousal walk as Darren called it, went very smoothly.  We gradually worked our way closer together.  Dolce snarked a couple times when he and Lauper made eye contact, but nothing too serious, and he always stopped as soon as the eye contact was broken.  Zenzi was actually fairly interested in her.  We had a few polite butt sniffs, and then Darren suggested that when I felt comfortable, to casually take off the leashes from Zenzi and Dolce.  I did it as quietly as I could, and they sort of walked with us a bit, then trotted off.  Lauper was last to be let off-leash, and things remained pretty low key.  Everyone was in close proximity to each other, and there were no more snarks.  Darren wanted to go to a medium arousal, and get Lauper doing some zoomies, to see how everyone responded to that.  So he had Rick jog a bit along the fence line with her.  She happily pranced at his side, then took off with glee around the field.  Dolce tore after her at full speed, and Zenzi said "Want to play ball?!" to me.  Dolce had to cut some corners, but eventually caught up to Lauper, and they just sort of stopped together.  Dolce had tagged her, end of game.  Darren said, "That's it, that's what I was hoping for."  So now it was time for some medium arousal off-leash play time, and he wanted to go into a smaller enclosure they have to make sure if something did happen, they couldn't get too riled up speed-wise.

In the smaller enclosure, everyone did great.  Zenzi pooped, Lauper pooped, I cleaned it all up.  It was pretty low key, even with a thrown ball.  Dolce was reactive to some barking dogs and passersby from the kennel, which was very close and definitely in sight now.  So back to the field we went for some high arousal play time.  Darren used a Chuck It to throw a ball for Maya, who fetched it, then did a victory lap of zoomies.  Dolce was having a blast chasing her, and Zenzi continued to politely sniff, but remain more interested in playing with me.  After passing this phase, Darren said:

"So, do you want to see another dog?"

To which I replied, smiling, "No!  I was hoping that'd be optional!"  They'd been talking about possible alternates to bring out, I heard Pajamas and Iron mentioned:

Pajamas
Small dog safe, 2 year old male with a broken leg.

Iron
4 year old male that needs work with cats and small dogs.

But I knew going in Lauper was the one, and I didn't want to put my dogs through another introduction to confirm what my heart already knew.  Lauper was family.  I already had the name Maya picked out, named for Maya Angelou, a hugely inspiring and strong woman for me.  The entire introduction took about an hour, paperwork took another 15-20 minutes, I handed over my check for the $295 adoption fee, waived the included collar and leash (I already had a set and planned to purchase something they didn't sell) and told them to consider it my donation, and we were on our way home.

Here's the photos from the day:

Zenzi and Dolce's hammock in the back seat of my Honda Fit.

Soon-to-be Maya's bed in the back.
I put a blanket up over the head rests
so nobody could bother anybody else on the way home.

Zenzi loved having a big, green field to run in!
That's her true element, and not one she gets to experience often.

Dolce was his typical perimeter checker self.
He also enjoyed a good set of zoomies.

Richard loved her right away. :)

I've waited 21 years for a brindle greyhound.
Fell in love with them when I was 8 years old
at Michigan's Ann Arbor Art Fair.

She was as happy to have someone to constantly hug
as we were to add her to our home.










Wednesday, November 19, 2014

RIP JoJo

It is with great sadness I am ready to announce the passing of my heart dog, JoJo.  She was the hippie dog to her last day, spreading peace, love, and happiness to everyone everywhere she went.  I had her from 5 years old to 11 years young, and can never be grateful enough for those nearly 6 glorious years.

She was diagnosed with a possible tumor in her urethra when a blood clot showed up in her urine at daycare with no other explanation, and then a mass started growing on her toe.  She was grumpy with Zenzi and Dolce approaching her whenever she was laying down, not just her usual sleep startle.  Walks hurt so much she was panting within seconds, and she flinched if I even lightly touched her hips.  No more hip scritches, and she started not eating, because of the pain meds that were making life bearable for as long as possible.  I knew it was time, my girl never wanted to be on drugs, and was suffering.

She went in our home, experiencing her first true relief from the pain in years, and then dozed off to sleep peacefully.  I felt something, wind that wasn't wind, brush my left cheek as she crossed the rainbow bridge, and I knew she was gone.

Run free, my best girl.  Though I cry to write this, my heart rejoices having known your love.

Phoney Jonie, Alabama racetrack
Born:  September 19th, 2003

She came home perfectly (intuitively on her part, I'm sure) trained for all occasions.


JoJo
November 11, 2008 - October 16, 2014


Monday, February 3, 2014

Social Rehab at the Laguna Beach Dog Park

The Laguna Beach Dog Park (LBDP) is my favorite dog park in the area.  The setting is lovely and interesting, excellently groomed, and the people are always on top of their dogs.  The dogs, for the most part, are excellently socialized.  It's a wonderful place to go.

Zenzi and JoJo have been going here and there ever since Zenzi was old enough.  They always have a good time.  Zenzi follows JoJo's example, and is fine with other dogs off-leash.  Zenzi actually doesn't really care about the other dogs or people, she is only thinking about...



... BALL

Anyways, I used to take Dolce once a week to try to work on socialization.  I gave up on the idea.  He wasn't ready.  He was just over threshold and not learning or enjoying himself.  It was flooding, and not useful.  Lately, he's been SO MUCH BETTER on his walks, I decided to give it another go today.

Since food is banned in the dog park, I couldn't use treats to help him over the initial reaction to the environment.  So I brought my handy dandy "butt blaster" (Spray Shield citronella dog fight spray) and hoped that would suffice when paired with praise and petting...


... It did.

Dolce was initially off his rocker when we arrived.  A combination of reactivity, excitement, and anxiety.  Luckily, the place wasn't very crowded at all, and the small dog area was completely vacant.  So we went in there to absorb the place in peace.  Dolce did calm down after some initial fuss, and was getting sniffy and curious and polite, so we entered the big dog area with everyone else.  He was never off-leash for this excursion.  His greeting skills leave much to be desired.  Until he can master them, I don't trust him off-leash.  Now a lot of people will criticize that him being on-leash in an off-leash environment is a huge no-no.  99% of the time, I'd agree with them.  Dolce is just... Special.  So long as I was careful with my leash handling skills, it was not an issue.  The only time he felt tension on the leash was when he made a bad decision and required restraint (initiating a chase after another dog inappropriately, getting snarky if greeted, etc.).

Dolce's initial greetings were iffy.  He'd sniff, but he couldn't be sniffed.  He would snark, I would spritz the air behind him, and we'd be on our merry way until the next opportunity presented itself.  Mostly, we hung out on the perimeter and watched.  I'd praise him heavily for looking at the doggies playing, and give him his favorite scratches whenever he checked in with me.  He wasn't over threshold enough to not enjoy these things.  It was plenty of space for him to feel safe.  I was feeling better and better about my decision to bring him.

Eventually, much to my amazement, Dolce was greeting other dogs appropriately.  He sniffed, even from face to face, and allowed himself to be sniffed.  If he felt overwhelmed, he would make himself smaller instead of explode, and I'd get him out of there, praising all the while.  When he discovered that retreating didn't make the other dogs hunt him down, he gained confidence.  He became at ease, and even started to lower his tail.  He really liked this little chihuahua girl, and he tolerated a Boston terrier puppy brilliantly.  The chihuahua rolled over onto her back, and he sniffed her, then they play bowed, and chased each other around a bit.  The Boston kept saying hi over and over, and Dolce learned to greet gently of his own accord.  He even invited the puppy to chase, but they were interrupted by a big, white, fluffy dog.  Dolce snarked at this dog, I spritzed the air, we retreated, and Dolce immediately approached at a polite curve to greet the big, white fluffy dog.  They greeted nicely, and split peacefully.

I stood there with my jaw dropped.  I praised Dolce heavily, of course, but with my mouth wide open.  Dolce successfully greeted 3 off-leash dogs today.  Dolce was HAPPY to be in the dog park with other dogs.  Dolce played with the chihuahua.  Dolce invited another dog to play chase.  There must have been something magical about this chihuahua, because Zenzi liked her, too, and chased her around a bit for fun.

JoJo, of course, stuck to the perimeter, sniffing and marking.  She hammed up all the people and got lots of love and attention.

We left on a total high note.  Zenzi was just finishing playing with the chihuahua, Dolce had just greeted the big, white, fluffy dog, and JoJo was leaving a couple who had been petting her thoroughly.  Dolce was getting eager to go play with everyone else, but we left to make sure he wanted to come back for more.  Today was a glorious day. :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Herding 11/10/13

Zenzi posing at Rancho Ventoso of SoCal Herding
Zenzi had her second herding lesson at SoCal Herding yesterday.  She was again totally over aroused by the sight of the sheep running around with other dogs working.  She was a barking maniac, but did manage to soothe herself effectively enough that we could hang out ringside if she sat behind my legs.

Her first session was pretty intense to start.  She was very, um, eager to work.  Kelly says that she's still working out what her job is, exactly.  She definitely has figured out that if she runs at, barks at, and bites them, they run away.  That's pretty nifty.  Now she has to learn about the safety zone for the sheep, and not be so quick to bite.



While we waited for our second round, I got some photos.  I was very proud of Rubble's session with Kelly, so you'll notice a few shots of her petting him.  That was the first time, in nearly 2 months, he's allowed anyone there to touch him.  Kelly said, "I have goosebumps.  This is amazing."  They're such good people.





Zenzi and I await our first run.




I don't know their names yet, but there are horses!

I keep forgetting to bring them carrots. :(

Sarah and Rubble making friends.

Kristina grew up a farm girl, and now pursues that passion with her sheltie, Merlin.

Rubble is growing up, and getting his fur back.


What it looks like to wait by the arena and round pen.

Red & white border collie puppy boy.

Rubble is posing. :)


He really enjoys a good wither rub. ;)

Kristina and Merlin are practically pros now!



Look at Rubble go!  His confidence to experience the world has grown leaps and bounds.



Believe it or not, he actually jumped over the sheep when they wouldn't move.




Sometimes the ranch dogs help less experienced dogs get the sheep moving.  Meet Drew.




Kelly's first time petting Rubble.  Mama Sarah was right there.  She shed a tear. :)


This mailbox WILL be mine someday. ;)

Kelly working a GSD.  They have a totally different style.  It's fascinating!







Kristina and Merlin (left) wait to train while Ted pets a student GSD.
 So then it was time for our second run, and you can see Zenzi's frantic beginning mature into a much sweeter, more controlled finish.  Kelly was impressed!  She says Zenzi is progressing very well.  I don't know much about any of this, but I'm glad to hear.  Kelly also says that Zenzi's confidence is growing, and now that she's seen that Zenzi will bite and grip, Kelly plans to increase her wand pressure to discourage that.  I love how they're so careful about any sort of correction they plan to do.  I'm 100% behind it, though.  When you're dealing with instinct and using real-life rewards, there's no way around corrections.  The corrections are totally fair and correspond to the level of the behavior.  Zenzi did get her first tap on the nose with the wand.  She's decided that she'd just as soon bite the wands as the sheep, so... Anyway, here's our second run!


Once again, we had a glorious time.  Zenzi allowed several people to approach and pet her, without running away or barking at them.  The socialization aspect is, again, just as valuable as the actual herding!  We're making friends ourselves, Rick and I, and discovered that they board dogs over there. Any time our dogs need boarding, that's the plan.  Wags & Wiggles is wonderful, don't get me wrong, but not a perfect fit for a dog like Zenzi.  She does not relish the company of other dogs the way she does "her people" and working sheep!  Sarah is boarding Rubble there over Thanksgiving.

Next week, I'm flying home to MI to visit family, so there will be no herding next week. :( After that, though, it's back on!