Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dolce's Tricks

With this trick, Dolce finished his requirements for Advanced Trick Dog (ATD)!
You have to do 5 of the Advanced tricks to qualify, and we did:  hide your face/ashamed, scratch art, jump into my arms, treibball, and play dead.

Now we're moving on to Expert Trick Dog (ETD).  This is the final title required before going for Champion.  Our first task is getting me a water bottle from the cupboard (instead of get a soda from the fridge).

This video is after about 30 minutes of free shaping/capturing clicker training. My plan is to backchain, first teaching him to pick up the water bottle and let me take it from his mouth with my hand. We'll do it from farther and farther away.  Then I'll put a skinny rope on the cupboard door for him to pull it open, get the water bottle, bring it to me, and put it in my hands. This is REALLY hard for Dolce. He's not naturally a mouthy dog, he prefers to work with his paws. The idea of retrieve is also a completely foreign concept. Wish us luck! I think we made a lot of progress for one session! I'm very proud. I honestly didn't expect to get this far today, let alone the first session.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Laguna Beach Dog Park, Trip 2

Well, this morning Dolce, JoJo, and I spent 50 minutes at the dog park again.  Unfortunately, the little dog park was not vacant this time.  However, the park on the whole was less crowded.  So, we entered the big park from the start.

Dolce was non-barky all the way into the park.  This was a first.  Usually, and I think every time prior, his alert and nervous barking starts outside the park as soon as he realizes where we are -- whether we see another dog or not.

Once we got in the park, a Boston charged the fence from the small park.  This set Dolce off.  He will not back down from a challenge.  He let me pull him away (there was no verbal anything to interrupt that raucous) and I just picked him up again.  I let JoJo in, and when she took off, Dolce scrambled in my arms for a second.  Once he settled, we walked in, walked around, and took in the sights.

There were two German Shepherds and a lab there with us, and the two Bostons in the little park.  Dolce adjusted fairly quickly, and just went off lizard hunting on the hill.

We were soon joined by a greyhound, and everyone else left the park.  Dolce greeted this big boy, Indi, very nicely, and they got along fine right away.  Dolce even respected Indi's decision to lay down, where normally he would have gone into herding mode to get the dog up ASAP.

Then came a husky, jack russel, and a doxie.  Dolce tried to herd the husky... hard core, and all the time.  I don't know what it is about huskies, or any long-haired dog!  Barking, nipping, chasing... ugh!  I apologized to the husky's owner (Dolce had pulled out some undercoat in his nipping frenzy) and they told me they usually get there earlier, and there's generally another border collie who does the same thing!  That actually made me feel better.  Haha.  Anyway, he greeted the jack russel and doxie very nicely, and they all got along famously.

Next, several labs came in with different families:  2 black, 3 yellow.  Dolce was freaked out by the first black one's face, and tried to herd one of the yellows.  Shortly after that, a pit mix and a couple other GSDs.  Dolce ran right up to the pit mix girl, and they hit it off!  She was totally into all his herding games, barking, bowing, and shenanigans.  They were a terrific match.We left when he met, face-to-face, with an even bigger male black lab, and that went FINE. :) I was shocked, delighted, and sure to end the day with that incredible achievement.

I definitely think this is a crucial element to his rehab.  I think he's ready now.  I think I tried to do it too soon before.  I love this park so much better than our local one.  Less crowded, bigger, and the owners are generally much smarter, and the dogs are much kinder.

We got a WhizzClick whistle/clicker combo.  It was $10 at PetCo, and I have it attached to Dolce's new leash Softouch Concepts leash, which has a ring to attach the handle to the leash.  His progress is SO MUCH BETTER on walks.  I really think incorporating the clicker is making the connection from all the training we do to applying it in the real world.  We can walk toward strange dogs now, we don't need as many treats, he's much more happy when he sees other, well-behaved dogs.  I like having the whistle in case I'm dry and unable to do my usual interruptor.  It's not a terribly high-quality whistle, but it's sufficient.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Amazing Dolce Day

Major success #1

Dolce and JoJo went to the Laguna Beach Dog Park this morning.  It's been a long time since we've gone to the park, and we've pretty much decided to avoid our local one.  I was very excited to see what sort of progress we've made in this kind of environment, given all our successes on walks.  I'm sorry to say I was unable to snap video or pictures. I was too attentive to Dolce.

Luckily, as I was hoping, the small dog portion of the park was vacant.  The park is essentially one large grassy area with a steep hill (it's in a valley between mountains), and the small dog park is just a small, fenced off portion of it.  The fence is chain-link, so Dolce could soak up all the commotion without having to be part of it.  It only took him 15 minutes of CU exercises to be comfortable.  I was floored.  I didn't even know if we'd make it into the big park today.

I let JoJo into the park.  I am so lucky to have such a wonderfully social, rock solid dog.  Meanwhile, I just held Dolce in my arms.  I let him soak up being in the park from the safety of Mama's height.  It worked like a charm.  I walked slowly, and he just observed from my arms nice and calmly.  When we got to a part of the park that was pretty empty, I let him down.  He ran off to sniff and pee and poop.  Eventually, we were approached by a friendly lab.  Dolce was a little snarky at first, but quickly warmed up and greeted with rear end sniffs.  This continued for the next half-hour or so, and his snarks became less and less.

I can honestly say that before we left, Dolce seemed comfortable and happy among all those dogs.  There were probably at least 2 dozen dogs there, of all shapes and sizes.  He made friends with a mini Aussie and a mutt his size -- both males!

Major success #2

After we got home from the park and I ate lunch, we headed out to our friend Pam's for a playdate.  Dolce already knows Pam's dogs, Bella and Lily.  Today, though, we had the pleasure of meeting a guest, Oliver, an 8-month-old bichon frisé puppy.

To my delight and shock, Dolce was fine with Oliver instantly.  He never once barked or growled at Oliver, they had a very friendly rear-sniffing greeting, and that was that.  I've always had a suspicion from our encounters on walks that he's more comfortable with puppies -- I think this confirms it.

Here's a snippet from playing with Oliver:
I love seeing Dolce play like a dog.

And here's a little training Pam got in with her dogs + Dolce.
Order left to right:  Lily, Oliver, Bella, Dolce.
Dolce did three amazing things here.
1) He shared food nicely with other dogs who were also getting food.
2) He sat patiently for his turn and wasn't grabby.
3) He gave Pam his undivided focus among intense distractions!

We next got to play with Pam's jumps and practice our agility exercises.  Alas, my jumps are not here yet.  We also got to show off some of our tricks. Dolce is getting more comfortable performing on grass. :)

So that was our amazing day.  I'm so proud of him.  I can't wait for him to get his CGC!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dolce's Reactivity Progress

Early Sunday morning, I held IDOGS.  Dolce went on the pack walk with Rick, and walked side-by-side with 3 strange dogs.  Not a single episode, minimal Halti corrections, and a few licks from his Licky Treat thing.  They were all girls, but still!

After going to San Diego to work with Pam and have our agility lesson, Rick, Dolce and I headed up to La Jolla (one of our favorite places in the world) beach.  It was Dolce's first time, and he did amazingly well!  Some dogs do better at home, some dogs do better in new environments, and some dogs are just bad everywhere.  Dolce is definitely better in new environments.

Dolce had his first ever encounter with seals and sea lions.  The darker one was quite loud and vocal.  I'm surprised to say Dolce was interested, but completely unfazed.  Horses gave him serious concern when we hiked the Regional Park, so I was very proud of my brave little man!

While we were there, we encountered a black lab puppy.  He was very polite about the surprise greeting from behind!  I told the owner it's best they not meet face-to-face, my dog was in training.  She immediately gave us space, but not much.  Dolce was fine either way.  Wow!

Happy boys. :)

And then this morning, on our walk, I really pushed the limits -- or so it felt.  I have resumed walking Dolce in his Halti (even though no matter how hard I try, it really gets to him occasionally), which makes a huge difference.  He's a very visual dog.  If he can't see it, it must not be that bad.  Anyway, we encountered a golden retriever, who has set Dolce off many times before.  This golden is a quiet, older girl, but has a hard stare.  Plus the bonus of long hair and bigger dog, which I now know to be triggers for Dolce.  He saw her about 15 feet away (very close!), staring at him intently.  He stared back momentarily, and I just let him, curious what he'd do.  Do you know what this smart boy did next?  He looked back at me for directions.  Not a treat, directions! So I told him what a good boy, and we walked toward the golden head-on (who was still on our same small patch of grass, but forward and to the left) with me between Dolce and the golden.  He got by without much more than a quiet, low, very brief growl and no treats whatsoever, nor a redirection of his face with the Halti.  I was stunned.  All the while, I was praising him in a whisper, "Oh, look at you, you're such a smart boy!  Good boy, Dolce..."  When we were in the clear, he got a huge jackpot.

Our 1st Agility Lesson EVER with Pam Johnson!

I first want to give a huge shout out to Pamela Johnson of Pam's Dog Academy in San Diego (read her blog here).  She gave Dolce and me our 1st lesson in agility yesterday at her school in La Mesa, CA.  We had a wonderful time, she was a terrific instructor -- very patient when I got what I call "foot stupid," and helped me learn where I was going.  I wanted to wait to really train Dolce in agility until we could have lessons to do it right the first time.  Our next lesson with Pam (most likely freestyle this time) will be Tuesday, the 17th.  

My 9 years of ballet training and 10+ years of horseback riding & horse training are definitely going to come in handy for all these dog sports!

We have a few exercises to practice.  The first was what I would call gymnastics.  There are 3 jumps in a row, about 1 stride apart.  Unfortunately, it was quite hot in the sun, and Dolce tried taking the path of least resistance at first, rather than jumping them without my luring hand.  He got it in no time, though!  My beloved husband was kind enough to get this on video...

From there, we did 4 jumps in a + plus-sign + shape.  Our job was to go around them with me standing stationary in the middle, using the arm closest to the jumps to guide Dolce over.  He really wants to be next to me, but he caught on pretty quickly, only needing a reward after each successful full-circle.  We took breaks while Pam demonstrated the next exercises with her beautiful and well-trained border collie, Twix.  Unfortunately, no video this time. :(

The third exercise involved me sending Dolce over one jump, then bringing him back around in a half-circle to a jump right next to it, facing the same way.  We did this in both directions, facing frontwards and backwards.  Again, no video. :(

The fourth exercise was sort of complicated for my footwork & armwork, but I caught on!  We used 4 jumps in a square to practice going over 2 of them, then turning to go over another 2.  Hooray, here's the YouTube video!  When Rick was heading back to take this video, Dolce followed him.  Dolce liked to check on everyone before he started the exercises.  I think he was saying, "Are you going to watch???"  But we need to be careful, or he'll go off-course to check on everyone in the audience at trials!

The fifth exercise started Dolce on send outs.  We started out with a 2 jump setup like the gymnastics in the first one.  We put Dolce in front of the end jump (jumping only 1 jump at first), and let him watch Rick put treats in a frisbee on the ground shortly after the jump.  When Dolce was really amped to get to the treats, I released him saying, "Over!"  He jumped the jump the first time like a pro, didn't even consider going around, which was a bit of a challenge before.  We worked our way back until we were behind the first jump, so now he had to jump 2 jumps to get to the frisbee treats.  He did it a few times perfectly, and we called it a day!  Sorry, no video here, either. :(

Overall, I think he has huge potential.  Pam guesses he'd probably have to jump 16" in competition and we set the jumps to only 12".  Considering the first activity Dolce came up with when we first brought him home was a mad one-man relay race of jumping over the back of the sofa to land on the seat cushion before getting to the floor, then reversing and going again, I don't think 16" will be a problem when we know our jobs and are more in sync.

So that really cheap agility set we got on Amazon?  What we can actually use out of it is the tunnel/chute (maybe on the chute), 6 weave poles, and the 1 PVC jump.  The tire jump is ridiculously cheap material.  So, we're getting 4 Clip & Go Agility Ready Jumps, like Pam's... So excited!

Friday, July 6, 2012

The +R Version of a Correction/Punishment

After watching this video by KikoPup on YouTube, I have decided to eliminate the butt blaster from our training regimen.  I am going to incorporate a whistle instead (read on).  I think they essentially serve the same purpose (at least they do for Dolce), but I always have my whistle on me, and it'll draw fewer horrified looks from onlookers.  [If Dolce had reacted to the butt blaster in a negative way, I never would have used it again.  It simply and strictly redirected his attention onto me in an immediate way that required no training.]

What I do:  when I make a specific, short whistle sound on our walks, he is to turn to me immediately, expecting a fun game of chase in reverse and a yummy treat; when I make the same whistle in the house, like when he barks excessively, he is to come find me and expect lots of pets and praise, play, or even a treat if I have one.

Today is my first official day training this and putting it into practice.  I took Dolce out with one of the greys (separately) on our afternoon walk.  I whistled, and when Dolce turned to look at me, I jogged backward and got out a treat, praising him for how smart he is.  I love that a whistle is a sound that dogs inherently orient to -- even the greyhounds!  So he and Kibeth or JoJo each got a yummy (it seems to work best for me to break the chicken jerky discs into 1/2, then Dolce's into 1/4 -- I feed Dolce one, then the girls get theirs, then he gets another afterward) every time I make this sound.

By the way, these treats seem to be Dolce's favorites for walks.
I've been getting Wellness, Wilderness, and Canidae mushy square treats,
but he always responds best to these lately.
Every dog I work with goes bonkers for them, too.
I just wish they weren't made in China. =/

It seems to have stuck into Dolce's brain after one training session; no surprise there.  The pleasant surprise was that it worked for Kibeth, too!  I'm excited for this, because Kibeth has started reacting to dogs who are acting rudely on our walks.  This will be an excellent management tool for the both of them!

We have our first social hike together tonight.  I'm hoping he'll be a good boy, and our new interruptor will help.  He's been a little on edge ever since we met Twix and Bailey on Tuesday.  I got some Natural Balance food roll (grain-free duck flavor) for the walk to help him cope.  I'll probably bring along some hot dog, too.  We generally don't use the Natural Balance because I hate how it crumbles.  We'll see if Pam's suggestion of refrigerating it prior to use helps!  It's certainly CONSIDERABLY cheaper, and I remember when I did use it, Dolce thought it was puppy crack!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

But we already have a dog store in our house...

...My husband feels this way, and I'm hoping others can relate.

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to buying stuff and shopping for my dogs.

I have tried so much stuff, and mentioning in my last post that I just bought the Sens-ation harness is bringing on this post.

Dolce is an unusual shape, just like my greyhounds.  None of the usual harnesses fit them.  I could walk into PetCo, Pet Supply, and PetSmart, and NOTHING would fit them, as far as harnesses are concerned.  The only one that sort of fit was Halti's harness for Dolce.  Like I mentioned, I lost it.  However, nothing has fit my greyhounds, and JoJo HATES wearing a harness.

I got Kibeth Hurtta's Y-harness.  It helps her get up and down the stairs in her golden years, and is the only harness that seems to fit her relatively well.

But seriously, I have tried it all.  Every time something new comes up, I have to buy one, I have to try it. I'm the same way with violin strings.  My clients all appreciate this habit obsession of mine.  My checkbook... Not so much.

I got Dolce the super fancy Walkeez harness, which has fleece EVERYWHERE that the harness comes in contact with the dog's body, including the belly straps!  I was so excited to get him the cream of the crop of dog harnesses.  Unfortunately, his unusual shape causes the fleece around his belly to rotate behind the strap, and defeats the whole big benefit of this harness.  We still use it on hikes, but I'm really bummed.  I could sew it, but I'm no seamstress.

Pam & Twix, New Gear, Anal Glands

Pam & Twix

Pam of Pam's Dog Academy in San Diego (AKA San Diego Pam) came all the way up to my neck of the woods to visit and have a doggie play day -- as much as Dolce would allow, anyway.  I was very proud of Dolce.  We walked with Twix, we played alongside each other, and he even took a little nap in his travel crate.  I was delighted with the progress we've made.  If Pam and I had gotten together when I first got Dolce and first noticed his reactivity, this would not have even come close to happening.  I was slightly disappointed Dolce didn't get to the point that he could play with Twix, but I got some valuable information about Dolce's reactivity.  He is not only worried about poodles and dogs with long hair, he's worried about males!  Thank goodness for learning opportunities.  Irvine Pam (who owns Lily) joined us later that afternoon, and Dolce was just as comfortable with Lily and Bella as ever.  However, Pam also brought a guest, Bailey, a 4-year old, male peekapom (pekingese x pomeranian).  Dolce reacted pretty badly to introductions with Bailey, even though trusted and beloved Irvine Pam was present.  The greeting streak has ended.

I wanted to thank Pam for a wonderful day together!  I admire her work in the purely positive training world, and hope that our schedules can align long enough for her to be my mentor as I embark on the dog training industry on my own!  I really want to compete with Dolce in dog sports, but taking group classes is unrealistic with his reactivity as it is.  She is an experienced competitor in a variety of venues, and a valuable resource.  I cannot thank her enough.

New Gear

I have lost Dolce's red Halti body harness.  I was relatively pleased with that harness, and am very saddened by its loss.  However, I have heard nothing but good things about the Sens-ation harness, and have ordered Dolce a green one.  We've been using a Halti head collar since watching this video by Dr. Sophia Yin when she worked with Podee, a dog who was dog-aggressive/reactive.  This has helped tremendously, and led to my breakthrough:  Dolce has to get treats until he is no longer worried about the trigger.  This has led to exponential progress in our training/counter-conditioning.  Anyway, I'm looking forward to Dolce's new theme color (which also happens to be my favorite color), green, instead of red, and I'll let you know how he likes it when it gets here!  Red is, as I said when I was little, the most festive color.  I also think it's associated with anger, aggression, etc.  Dogs also can't see red, only blue-green-yellow-black-gray-white.  I'm hoping green will be a new attitude for us both.  I doubt it, but we'll see!  This is along my same thought-processes that when we do finally conquer this reactivity stuff, Dolce might get a new name...

I'm also hoping to really focus on training Dolce to train.  I've been watching Emily Larlham's DVD set called 101 Ways to Think Outside the Box, courtesy of Tawzer Dog's rental program.  I am full of wonderful ideas how to go about motivating Dolce to work for food and toys, find the work itself reinforcing, and fill in our training gaps.  I love that girl!

Anal Glands

I've never had a dog who needed to have their anal glands expressed before.  I noticed a zit-looking growth on Dolce butt the other day, and didn't think much of it.  When it didn't go away, I did some googling, and discovered he probably had swollen (full) anal glands.  We went to the vet today to have that taken care of.  $28 later, he is empty, and it was confirmed his glands were quite full!  That must be SO uncomfortable.  I wonder if this is partially to blame for his less-than-perfect house-training and shy-pooper habits?  Anyway, does anyone know how often I should have this done?  Is there generally a schedule for this sort of thing?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dolce's first pack walk!

So today at IDOGS, we had 2 pack walks on Hicks Canyon Trail:  the usual pack walk that occurs simultaneously during the working slots, and then a secondary one with the hugely improved working slot members:  Red, Zoey, Lily, AND...


Yes, you heard right.  Dolce went on the PACK WALK. He was a superstar.  He only snarked (very, very small outbursts) twice at Red, who has a very intense stare, is a male (we're learning Dolce prefers females), has puffy fur (a huge trigger, it seems), and was the largest dog of the group (just a cattle dog mix, but still.

Rick was kind enough to take this photo.  This gives you an idea of the proximity we all were to each other.

I am so proud of the little man.  In the moment, I almost cried happy tears.  This is such a long road, it's been over a year since we adopted him.  That's about a year's worth of work.  We are SO CLOSE.

Tricks of the trade:
  • Treat bag
  • High value treats
  • Low-Medium-High value treat trail/training mix
  • Halti head collar (to help him make a better decision, AKA look away, when he's unable to if life happens)
  • Spray Shield AKA butt blaster
We also went to Fashion Island Mall for some training there.  It's a dog-friendly mall.  Who knew dogs could go to Nordstrom's?  But yeah, they do!  He was spectacular.  Wasn't too upset with all the traffic for upcoming 4th of July shopping, and was very brave around the DOZENS of strange dogs about.