Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dog Reading Day

Our local library has a dog reading program for kids. The idea behind it is that children find it easier to read aloud in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. Once a month five dogs go to the library where kids take turns reading a small book to the dogs. It's very popular with the kids, who like to collect the individual dog's "business card," which contains a picture of the dog, some specifics about the dog and a printed thank you.

Yesterday was Parker's first day in the program. I had signed him up for it as another step in our socialization program. He's getting much better around strangers, especially children. We got to the library with Parker's tail up and wagging as we walked through the parking lot. He wasn't on a heel, so when I stopped at the door, he didn't have to automatically sit. Except that he *was* supposed to sit and wait before I opened the door. The fact that he didn't I excused because it was a different kind of door -- when I whispered, "It's a door," his butt hit the ground.

We walked into the library and then into the room where we'd be listening to the kids. Dogs get there about twenty minutes early to settle in before the kids arrive. There are only five dogs on any given reading day and yesterday the dogs were a black lab, a bishon, a King Cavalier Spaniel, a terrier mix and Parker. The terrier mix weighed about three pounds and immediately went, barking and snarling, for Parker, who popped around behind me. The other two small dogs were being held high in their owners' arms and never hit the floor until the kids came in. The lab wanted to see Parker, and, with permission, the two boys greeted each other very nicely and did us both proud.

Then we settled onto the floor (I was promised help in getting back to my feet at the end of the program) and the kids came in.

Parker was a prince. He either laid at my feet quietly after letting each child run fingers through his topknot, or he stared intently at the child reading. When the child looked up from reading and smiled at him, he'd "smile" back. Only one child had trouble reading to him because he kept putting his head onto her book, which she thought was hysterical, as it was a book about a dog finding bones. One little girl showed up with a new cast on her leg, so she sat in a chair rather than on the floor, and Parker got up to sit next to her, several times resting his head on her cast (I asked if that bothered her and she said no). Several kids showed some hesitation about petting him and Parker just stretched his head toward them, and when I told the kids that Parker would be sad if they didn't pat his head, they did. (Parker seems to be the odd man out on that one, who likes having his topknot massaged.)

When we were done for the day and they brought the forklift in to get me back onto my feet, he was his usual bouncy self walking back to the car. His reward was a two hour play date with his bff -- a Golden Retriever who loves to play chase games with him in our backyard.

What a guy.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hand Targeting revisited

I got feedback from much better trainers about teaching Parker hand targeting. Most important was that, since I had taught the stay with an open hand, by asking him now to touch, I was confusing him. It's clear in the prior video that he was holding a posture instead of trying to touch my hand. So this time, I only offered two fingers, used a clicker and treats and did it without Emmy around. I think he got it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v​=jKVieGdQWtU

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Only one more class to go

Today was class seven. I went to class with my Rally notebook, which has all the rally signs and explanations, prepared to study them after walking the course. Which would have been an excellent plan if I could have remembered the seventeen (!!!) signs on the course. Sadly, the only ones I remembered were the ones I already knew.

Parker was obviously having a really good time. Which means he was a total clown. When we did the down stay, he was flipped over onto his back, which makes it really hard to walk off from the down, but I kept telling myself that the whole reason we’re doing this is to get him to open up and relax in a crowd.

My friend Ellen came to watch and Parker went right up to her for some love and even, at one point, rested his head in her lap. While waiting for our turn to start the course, Parker went up to the instructor who was acting as judge to get some petting. I told her that that behavior was more important to me than having him sit calmly before starting, so she gave him some gentle scritches.

Somewhere downstairs there’s a trunk full of Halloween costumes I made for the kids, including a clown. Gotta remember to go look for the ruffly collar and hat to put on him next week.

One of the instructors asked if I were going to enroll Parker in the Rally competition in September. I said that I was not only not ready for that, but I was concerned that the tight quarters and crowds would upset Parker and I didn’t want him to learn that competition is scary. She said I should just bring him, walk in and out a few times, have him sit by me while I watch a few trials and then leave.

Sounds good to me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

All it takes is a little encouragement

I forgot that I was ready to quit last week as I headed to class this morning.

I remembered as soon as we walked inside, but it was too late.

Parker went into a crate without a fuss as I went out to walk the course. There were several new signs and we were told that there’d be more new ones on the second one. Ugh. And that next week, we’d be doing the “back” exercise. To teach this, we were told, we needed to have the dog next to a wall or fence. With the dog in a stand, a treat in our left hand, we say, “back,” start moving back ourselves and give the treat as soon as there is any leg motion by the dog. We all worked on this for a few minutes. A few very frustrating minutes for me, so I was astonished, when we walked off passed someone who said, “He got it right away!” I literally looked behind me to see who the guy was talking to before realizing he was talking to me.

As we waited for our turn (why do they always make us go last?), Parker was fine. There was an “Honor” sign, so, since we were last, that meant we were first to do it. With the dog in a sit this time, and me on the end of the leash, he was supposed to maintain the sit for as long as it took the first course runner to go through the course. He really did that rather well until someone got too close to him. Then he would get up and come next to me. Not so bad.

Then it was our turn to do the course. While we were sitting (okay, you know that Parker was sitting, and I was standing, right?), the instructor asked me if I were having fun. Although this was a perfect invitation for a pity party, I maintained my cool and explained that I was having fun at home, but not so much in class, because Parker is really pretty good at home. Alone. With no one to see it but me. But that in class, he was a clown, although I blamed myself for being too competitive and transferring my anxiety down the leash. She said that chilling was a lesson all handlers had to learn and that at least I had managed the first step -- blaming myself instead of the dog.

We went through the course with Parker paying just about no attention on me. There were other dogs all around the edges of the course practicing and he was on high alert for anything that might go wrong, but the instructor was full of praise for us. Obviously my standards are way too high.

And the second time through (we skipped several signs, in order to concentrate on the ones we “knew”), the instructor told me that we had done a stellar job and were making good progress.

W00t!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Giving up on Rally (?)

Having missed last week’s class, with Parker almost two weeks in a kennel without any training, going to class today was a total waste of time. And morally depressing. We did manage a little training yesterday at home, during which Parker was spot on and perfect, but you wouldn’t know it based on his behavior today. He spent most of the time the first time through the (advanced) course with his nose in the pocket where the treats used to be (I had them in my hand this time), and, when I took off the vest for the second time around, he kept his nose in my pants pocket instead, sometimes giving it a bite. Very nasty looking. His sits were all very crooked, when he sat at all and you’d have thought he never had heard to word “heel.”

Ugh

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Class Clown

Yesterday was our third rally class and I was waffling about going. Not only was I planning on taking Parker to his boarding kennel that afternoon, but I had an early flight out for a two week vacation the next day (I’m typing this in an airport), and had changed Emmy’s boarding plans to accompany Parker. She had originally been scheduled to board with Tilly at the vet’s office, as usual, but we lost Tilly this past weekend and that kind of changed our plans. Emmy has never been kenneled alone and she had no reason to board at the vet’s other than to keep Tilly company. So going to rally class meant driving both dogs and all their bedding to class and from there to the kennel, an hour away. That’s a lot of stress for both the dogs and me.

But my friend Ellen said she’d go to class to cheer us on and ride with me to the kennel to help with all the shit I was taking for the dogs, so we went.

I hit my first snag before I’d gone a mile from the house -- road work kept me waiting for seven minutes. Then, just a couple of miles later, there was an accident on the road. So I was about fifteen minutes late for class and even more stressed. The rest of the class had already done their walk throughs and were taking their dogs onto the course. Ellen held both dogs for me and I shadowed another handler as she took her dog through the course. There were a few new signs, but nothing that involved any new training.

When it was our turn, Parker, who had been sitting quietly with Ellen, released his inner clown. He went through most of the course with his nose in my pocket. That would be the pocket with the treats which I had forgotten to take out to give him. One of the signs involved a down stay. When I said, “Down,” he flopped onto his back and waved his legs around while I circumnavigated him but he maintained the down in spite of how silly he looked. All of his sits were crooked, even his fronts, but at least we didn’t have the dreaded fronts which involved me stepping backward.

There was a short jump -- nothing like the height he did last week, and he approached it with glee, zooming out in front of me after leaping over it. Which looked cute, but isn’t what he’s supposed to do.

The second course involved two signs with pivots, one with a stand, and a “German” turn -- the handler does a 180, turning to the left, while the dog does a 180 to the right, basically going around behind the handler. At first, I just said I’d skip that one, but another student convinced me that it was easy, acted as my dog to walk me through it, and Parker and I practiced doing it off the course and he did fine. Off the course -- on it, not so much.

Here’s what’s weird. I think there’s no doubt that Parker’s having a good time. He “grins” throughout the courses we do, and his tail is high and wagging. But he looks remarkably silly, doesn’t focus on much but treats and clearly isn’t as well trained as just about any of the other dogs. But, while I had him on one of the courses, one of the teachers went up to Ellen and told her that “We need to start working on convincing Dorothy to enter Parker in our upcoming trial in November.” That would be the same teacher who came up to me after class and said I was concentrating far too much on the signs and not enough on Parker. She said he would learn to read the signs himself in good time and for now I should just make sure he’s where he needs to be and does what he needs to do and not worry so much about the signs. I’m not at all sure how I can do that without knowing what the signs are, but I just smiled and agreed and filed the advice away into my “WTF?” file.

The past week was fairly training-lite as most of my energy was focused on a ultimately fruitless attempt to keep Tilly alive and now I’m away for two weeks. Damned dog probably won’t remember his name by the time I get back.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rally Class, Day Two

Okay, so we aren’t going to win any awards. For a while, at least.

We started class with introductions this time. And we were supposed to say what we liked most and least about our dogs. Most for Parker? He’s a quintessential Poodle. Least? He’s not nearly as shy as he used to be and he’s making up for it by acting the clown. It’s a period I loved the most about raising children. Those terrible twos when they started developing personalities, learning that they didn’t have to do and say what Mom and Dad asked for. Not sure why I loved it so much in children and find it so distasteful in a dog, but there you are.

Then we put the dogs in crates and walked the course. Parker either whined or barked the entire time. A definite first for him. I suppose some of those dirty looks were deserved, but I ignored him. I didn’t want to go back to the kennel to correct him, mostly because getting me to come back was what he wanted, and trying to yell at a barking dog is just saying, “I hear you, can you hear me?”

There were several new signs, and we were able to do the course twice, as well as a second course, which was much more advanced, with about five new signs.

When we started, the first sign was a “Halt, down, stay, walk around the dog, sit it, and take off.” Parker did the down just fine, but kept popping up as I walked around him. The instructor walking next to me told me to (1) keep my hand on his head and (2) keep saying “stay.” I did the former but not the latter. I’m a firm believer in not repeating myself. It kills me to listen to folks saying, “Stay. Stay. Stay.” All that does is teach the dog that it has to stay as long as you keep repeating yourself. Problem with keeping my hand on his head (which worked a treat, by the way) was that, by the time I got back around him, I was dizzy and fell over on top of him. He forgave me.

He was much better on the front thing (one step, two steps, three steps backwards) because we’ve been working on it very hard this past week, although sitting straight isn’t in his repertoire yet. And he did as well as could be expected on the pivot signs, considering how off balance *I* was doing them.

On the second course, there was a jump. When the instructor started telling us what to do, I said that Parker had never seen a jump before so if he showed any hesitation, I was just going to walk on by. Which I did the first time. The second time he was approaching the jump straight on and when I said, “Hup,” he lifted himself right over, no problem.

All in all, a good day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Parker Does Rally

Our first Rally class was today. Since Parker has done both Basic 1 and Basic 2 and since in both classes I was complemented on how good he was, I rather expected him to do well. Mike also told me that, when they are out for their walks, they do fronts and Parker does them well.

Ha!

We class members walked the course with our dogs in crates. Parker hopped right into one when asked and never made a peep while I was gone, although I could see he had his eye on me the whole time. Then we got numbers and took turns on the course. It was a fairly basic one with right angled turns, 270 turns, 360 turns, a moving down (the dog isn’t supposed to sit before doing the down), couple of weaving patterns, stops with finishes to the left, and the dreaded fronts -- call the dog to the front, step back one, two, three steps, with the dog hopping up and following in front and sitting.

When it was our turn, Parker started out in a good sit next to me. That was about the only good thing he did. I had chicken and he knew it. He did almost the entire course walking backward, nosing my chicken hand. When it was time for the fronts, he sat everywhere but in front, usually doing a 360 spin between them. Several times he grabbed the leash in his mouth and shook it, as if to remind me that he needed more chicken.

The second time we went through the course, I kept the chicken in my pocket and he did better. Not well, but better.

The instructor who was walking by me on the second go round said we had a lot to work on over the next week.

The really scary part is that they said for the first four weeks of the class, we’d be doing novice to advanced courses, and for the second four weeks, we’d have advanced to excellent courses.

Yikes!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Retrieve (3)

Counted this time. Twenty treats/clicks; hallway bathroom. Only clicked for touches on the middle part, where he will eventually have to take the dumbbell.

Twenty in a row, no problem!

W00t!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Teaching the retrieve (2)

Okay, I’m impressed. At first, any interaction with the dumbbell is clickable. Even pawing, although the goal would be to fade that one.

We just did a session where Parker touched the bar of the dumbbell every freaking time, either with his nose or with his mouth.

Woo who!!

(approx twenty treats, in the bedroom -- last time was in my office)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Teaching the Retrieve

Shirley says, “keep a training log,” so here’s Day One.

About twenty-five cubes of chicken, a clicker and a tennis ball style dumbbell. The idea was to bring the dumbbell out from behind with a flourish (I kept saying, “Ta Da!” which felt really stupid, but I kept thinking ‘flourish’ and couldn’t help myself). He would get clicked for anything resembling noticing the dumbbell; looking, pawing, nosing. Well, he nosed it every time. In fact, the only time he didn’t was right after he had a piece of chicken and was too busy throwing other behaviors at me.

So I’d call this training session a success.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Forgot to mention

Parker passed both the CGC and the therapy evaluation just fine, with no mishaps or need to repeat an exercise.

Yay!

Face it; Dogs are just funny

Parker is a sprawler. When he goes to sleep, he starts by lying on his side, but as his sleep deepens, he will slowly roll over onto his back and end up with four legs going in four directions.

When riding in the car, he likes to sit up on a car and look our the (closed) window. (For those who remember my harness problems of a while back, yes, he has learned to hop up onto the seat when I ask so I can fasten his harness.)

Those two characteristics resulted in a bit of silliness yesterday. He had a day at a boarding kennel I've been considering for him. A friend boards her Golden there and recommended it. Missy, the Golden, and Parker have had several play dates and meet regularly when I would take Parker to observe Missy's rally classes. So my friend offered to take Missy to the kennel yesterday so Parker's first visit would involve interaction with a friend. We paid a bit extra so they could have a field trip (a romp in a multi-acre, fenced area of both open field and slightly wooded area). We dropped them off together. Parker seemed hesitant to go with the kennel guy, but when he agreed to take both together, he followed Missy without a qualm. Then my friend and I went off for a day of window shopping and yummy cheesecake (*my* reward for leaving Parker).

When we returned six hours later, Parker was happy to see me, but his tail was up and wagging before he caught sight of me, which was good. I got him into the car and he hopped up onto h is seat, got buckled in, and fell asleep before we left the parking lot. On the ride home, he fell off the seat three times, starting his sprawl, he was just that pooped. Each time he'd get back up onto the seat and slowly fall asleep again and fall off.

I will take him back to that place again in a couple of weeks for an overnight as Mike and I have a trip planned. I have to make sure that they mark his records better, though. When I picked him up and asked how he did, the kennel guy said he was very well behaved except he didn't come when called to get out of the field. Then ended up sending Missy back for him. She brought him back in. I was about to explain that he's still rather shy when the kennel guy said, "I called, 'Tyler! Tyler! Tyler! But he wouldn't even look at me.'" That's when I had to explain that Tyler is *my* name, not his.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Class is over

Yesterday was the last class before tonight’s Canine Good Citizen Test and Therapy Dog Evaluation. The entire class was run as if it were the real thing. Although not all the dogs have therapy work in their future, the tests are so similar, we all did both. Starting with a greeting, the dog was seated next to the owner and an evaluator came up, asked to pet the dog. Then (the therapy part), the evaluator ran a brush over the dog, touched its paw and tail. Next step was loose leash walking. Set off, turn right, walk, about turn, walk, left turn, walk back to the start, with a slow and fast pace in there somewhere. Third part was walking through a crowd, with greeting people thrown in for therapy, with distraction (banging food dishes). Fourth was a down stay, owner walks twelve feet away, returns to the dog, walks away twelve feet and calls the dog. Fifth was leaving the dog with a trusted stranger while the owner disappears for three minutes, returns to the dog who doesn’t get hyper. Sixth and final was a greeting with another dog being walked. Owners stop, dogs on the outside, shake hands and walk away, with the dogs not reacting.

When we got to class, there was a little tyke at the table with a coloring book. This was a perfect set up for Parker, who loves little girls, so I took him over to her and asked her if she’d like to pet him. She came up to us and started running her hands over him and he sat quietly, with his eyes closed, slowly leaning into her. (Imagine sixty pounds of dog leaning into thirty pounds of little girl.) I thanked her and we went out into the ring to warm up. He was so happy. Then we left the ring when class started.

When it was our turn, we went out and Parker sat nicely. When the evaluator came up to us, he got up and took a couple of steps toward her (he wasn’t on a stay). This is a monumental improvement for my shy boy. Then he sat and she pet him and, using the brush I brought, ran it over him, touching his feet and tail. Hey, he’s a Poodle, he’s been groomed a lot. No problem. Then we started our loose leash walk, which is not a heeling pattern. Just in case, I had the leash looped over my shoulder. Parker was perfect. Right up to the end, when, for the last several steps, he hopped on his hind legs, his front paws being busy, balancing on my butt. I think the evaluator was too doubled over with laughter at this to mark us down.

On to the wandering through the crowd. He did stellar, not going up to anyone or shying away, until I asked him to meet each person. He sat quietly for the man, who rubbed his ears (Parker likes that); sat nicely for the evaluator in the wheelchair, another teacher he had avoided throughout the classes, who pet him gently; standing by the teacher in the walker who has held him before every class while I would run to the bathroom, who disliked all Poodles until meeting Parker and now loves them; and finally getting some time with his little friend, laying his head in her lap. The banging food dishes didn’t distract him. He reacted by looking at them, but otherwise ignored them.

For the next part, he sat when I asked, but took a minute to do the down. I don’t like repeating myself, so when I said, “down,” and he didn’t, I said, “Uh oh,” and repeated the gesture. That time he flopped onto his belly. I told him to wait, walked away, turned around and came back and then walked away again. And he followed. That was entirely my fault. Not only did I not tell him to stay, but I started off on my left foot, the signal to follow. So I took him back, had him sit, told him to wait and walked away, this time starting on my right. Perfect. I turned and called him and he rushed to me, leash dragging, which he normally hates.

He had no problem being left with someone in a chair while I went outside. When I came back, he remained sitting, but I could see his tail wagging and another person holding another dog said he started to smile as soon as he saw me. But He Didn’t Move. W00t!

We had to wait for a meet and greet until another person was ready. One of the teachers had her Golden Retriever there for that, which worried me. Parker’s good buddy Missy is a Golden and he gets very excited when he sees another one. But she was busy, so we did it with another student who has a Chocolate Lab. Parker did great, not sitting when we stopped (we weren’t on a heel, just a loose leash) and he didn’t react when the Lab stuck his nose in my crotch.

We would have passed!

The real test is tonight.

News at eleven.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I think he's got it

Yesterday I took Parker into the bedroom to do some training. Not my first choice of venue, but we were having another day of pouring rain, so it was inside or nothing. He trotted in with me without hesitation (I had chicken!) and, as soon as I shut the door on a disappointed Emmy and turned around, Parker started throwing behaviors at me! He's never done that before, always waiting for me to ask for something. Yes, it can be frustrating when I want to work on fronts to have a dog doing rapid sits, downs, spins and whatever else he can think of, but it was a special moment to see that he finally understood that I wanted something and he was willing to try to second guess what that something was.

W00t!

Don't remember if I ever said that Parker and I have been attending a friend's rally classes. One of my teachers had recommended that that would be a good place to take him in my continuing efforts to get him socialized. Lots of other dogs and dog-people. From the first, the teachers in that class have been asking me if I wanted to take Parker through the course. Every time I've said I would after the class was over, if there were time, but there never was. But yesterday, due in part to my apparent inability to read a clock, we got there fifteen minutes early, and when I got the same question and gave the same answer, one teacher said, "No one else is here -- do it now!" So we did. Of the fifteen signs, there were two I couldn't figure out and, I was told after, several I did wrong. But *I* did them wrong. Parker did everything I asked! No, not properly or elegantly. His fronts were crooked, and each time he did a three-sixty first (he would be in a crooked front, I'd take one step back, he'd pop up, spin around and sit in a crooked front). When we came to a sign for a down, when I asked for one, instead of the beautiful elegance you'd expect from a Poodle, he threw himself onto his back and waved his legs in the air. But he did it!

But the best part was that he went through the entire course with his tail held up high and wagging with vigor. Bouncing. It was pretty damned cool.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

He was easier when he was shy

Another class day today. Parker was raring to go when we got there, although he managed to control himself when we got there early and watched the puppies. Somehow I’m going to figure out how to steal the little collie and take it home. Then they put up some agility stuff and we were told to walk our dogs around. Parker headed right for the tunnel, but another dog was there first. So Parker started barking! Parker never barks! He was dancing on his hind legs and pulling to get at it, so once the other dog cleared the tunnel, we took off at a run, or as close to a run as I can mange. I dropped the leash and he plowed through the tunnel at top speed, getting to the other end before me and spinning around on a dime to leap up by me. So we did it a second time. Only this time, instead of waiting for me at the end, he took off to go greet the other dogs. Yes! Parker! He eventually came back, but he was hyped up and very excited. We did the other stuff, but his heart wasn’t in it. He wanted the tunnel. Right before the tunnel, they had put a ladder on the ground and he was so focused on the tunnel that he never seemed to notice that he was walking through the ladder. Something he normally doesn’t do.

Even when the put a u-turn in the tunnel, stretched it out to its full length, and turned it into a s-shape, he had no hesitation running through it. He was in heaven.

Sadly, the new schedule of classes is out and there’s no agility listed for next time. So I’ll either have to choose between rally and pre-novice or maybe do both.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day Four of Basic Two

One of the teachers today told me that Parker should fly through the Therapy Dog evaluation. Since that’s one of the reasons I wanted a Poodle, that was what I wanted to hear. Of course, in order to pass the test, he has to have a clean fecal, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Class today was fine. I probably should have taken him for a long walk before class, because he was awfully excited about being there and didn’t heel all that well. But this isn’t an obedience class, so that’s no big deal. He didn’t pull or act up. Just too joyful for quiet heeling. When we put the dogs in kennels and left them to hold another dog, whose owners then went outside, he went right in without a fuss. He was one of the few not to bark, although he kept his eye on me the whole time and greeted me with a happily wagging tail when I went back for him. Then I handed him off to another person and went outside. When I came back (two minutes later), the woman holding him said he sat the entire time without fuss.

He let all the teachers come up to him and pet him and took chicken from each of them, although he refused the tasty meatloaf one of them offered.

All in all, a good day.

Before I make it sound too much like he’s a perfect dog, he’s learned how to jump onto the bed from a stand and he proved it this morning while I was trying to make it. Didn’t seem to understand why I wasn’t pleased with him. Mike wonders how long it will take him to realize he can jump the fence around the backyard, which is only four feet high. I suspect it will just take the right incentive. Like me being on the other side.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day Three of Basic Two

We didn’t have class last week, so this is day three, although week four. You’d think that, with an extra week to practice, we would be much improved. But not if you know me.

We arrived at the tail end of the puppy class (I do adore watching the puppies), and started with a floor covered with agility equipment. A pause table, a couple of very low jumps, a pause table, a wheelchair, a vacuum, and two barbershop poles lying on the ground. I have no idea what the last was about. In spite of his first experience with the pause table, when his newly shaved and slippery feet caused him to slide off, Parker went right up to the table, hopped on and gave me a sit without my asking. He climbed the stairs like a pro and again sat, this time looking at the pause table, where another dog was lying down. So he hopped off the steps, went to the pause table, climbed up and lay down. Good boy! Although I guess it would be better if he waited to see what I wanted him to do. The wheelchair and vacuum got sniffed, the jumps jumped and we walked through the barbershop poles.

The class officially started with some heeling work. Parker was a bit too enthusiastic (hey! I had chicken!), going out in front, but a few turns got him lined up again. As long as we weren’t too close to any other dogs, he sat reasonably straight.

Then half the class put their dogs in crates, came back and took our dogs from us and the rest of us went into a bathroom. It’s hard to describe the look, but if Parker’s ears could be said to droop, that’s what they did. He didn’t whine, jump or pull, but he had a horribly abandoned look about him. I watched his reflection in the bathroom mirror and he was heeling nicely with the stranger, but his tail was tightly tucked under his legs. After two minutes we were allowed back. I walked up to him without looking at him and he kept still by the stranger, not whining or jumping. When I took back the leash I asked for a hug, and he put those big front paws around my waist and leaned his head up against my chest.

Then it was Parker’s turn to go into a crate. Man, he didn’t like that, but he allowed it. Again, for the two minutes I was with another dog, he didn’t whine or bark. But he about knocked over the crate with his wagging tail when I went back to get him.

We did some in and outs around a circle. His focus was pretty good as long as the other dogs didn’t get too close. And he allowed most of the others to reach out and pat his head, although, for some unknown reason, he kept circling behind me for one of them, the last to try. Maybe he was just tired of it.

So all in all, a good day. And, as usual, he’s collapsed at my feet now and will probably remain so for the rest of the day.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I suck as a trainer

I just did another training session with Parker. Having attended another rally class yesterday (without Parker who was getting beautiful at the groomer’s) it was so-o-o-o clear that he has a long way to go before we can hope to do rally together.

So, spurred on, I armed myself with some chicken (he’ll work hard for chicken), I took him into the bedroom to work. He followed happily, tail up and tongue out (“Oh boy! Chicken”) and, as soon as we got into the room, he threw himself into a down. Now I’m well aware of how many posts I’ve put up, despairing that he would never learn the down, but now that’s all he thinks to do. I say, “Sit!” He does a down. I say, “Come!” He does a down. I say, “Watch me!” He does a down.

So I’m confused about how many different things to do in one session. Since, really, he only wants to do one thing.

grrr...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Grrr...

Mike decided to work from home this afternoon, so he took off from work and came home by way of dog school to watch. He hadn't done that yet. So, of course, Parker chose today to put on his goofy. When I asked him to sit, he'd give me a down. When I asked for a down, I got a sit. A very crooked sit. He interpreted heel to mean get out in front of me and walk -- or bounce -- backward. Or to flip over to my right side. As a consequence, whenever he did it right, I'd treat him. So after class, Mike's comment was, "You treat him way too often. You're teaching him to be a squirrel."

grrr....

Mostly in class we worked on the sorts of things that we will have to do to pass the Canine Good Citizen Test and a bit on the therapy dog evaluation. So real obedience stuff wasn’t high on the list, and Parker did rather well. He continues to be a gentleman, and while he’s not fond of my leaving him or other people getting too close, he doesn’t jump or pull, whine or bark. We walked through other people and dogs walking and he paid pretty close attention to me, although he kept a close eye on what was happening around us. He wouldn’t go up to a person in a walker or a wheelchair, but I think it was more because there was a person there, rather than that there was a wheelchair. He was on a down stay when one of the teachers suddenly dropped a metal bowl on the floor, and he didn’t startle or budge. And he did let others pet him, although it was clear that it wasn’t his first choice.

So I’m pleased with him. I’m just not all that pleased with Mike.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Parker's Big Outing

Yesterday I took Parker back to the training center to watch a rally class. Not to participate, but just to watch. He did really well, politely greeting some other dogs and renewing his love affair with Missy, the Golden Retriever. He said hello to a couple of people, but was mostly standoffish to them, which was okay.

I wanted to go, not only because it’s fun to watch rally, and to get Parker out, but because I had taken Emmy to the vet’s that morning for some teeth extractions, and I was nervous about that. I needed something to keep me occupied. As I was leaving the class, I got a call from the vet. Emmy had taken the surgery well and was in recovery. Ten teeth taken! She only has two left. One fang and one front tooth.

As usual when I take Parker out, he got home exhausted and just slept most of the day. I went to get Emmy around 5:30, with a stop at the grocery store for a supply of soft food for her. She’s on only soft stuff for at least a week and maybe forever. Damn, that stuff is expensive! When I got her home, I kept Parker in his crate while Emmy and Tilly went outside. The vet said to keep Emmy’s activity level restricted for a few days, and Parker tends to play chase games with her, so I thought it best to keep him inside while Tilly and Emmy were out. When they came in, I went to release Parker, Emmy at my heels. As soon as I opened his crate, he bounced over to Emmy, who snarled at him and lifted a lip -- a rather pathetic sight with only two teeth, but Parker immediately dropped to the ground and rolled over onto his belly. For the rest of the evening, Emmy put Parker through his paces. With really very little effort on her part, she kept him racing around the house. Then she took a break and went to *his* bed. That stopped him in his tracks.

At least it kept him occupied and allowed me to get some serious knitting done.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day One of Basic 2

I’m thinking this might have been a mistake. I should have paid more attention to the syllabus. I thought it would be more obedience training -- off leash work, fetching, that sort of thing. Turns out the goal of the class is to prepare the dogs for passing the Canine Good Citizen test. So there will be lots of hands on stuff. Hands on by someone other than me.

The teachers seemed to think that Parker did really well. Personally, I think he was just to rigid with fear to do anything other than hold his sit while strangers either pet him or took over his leash while I walked away.

However, he didn’t try to jump on anyone (like the Lab or the Golden). On the other hand, he didn’t happily lick the face of someone leaning over to scratch a chest (the little Chin mix) or roll over onto his belly (Cocker) for a rub. I never got a chance to interact with the Airedale.

One of the teachers suggested I take Parker out everyday to local strip malls, pet stores and wherever else I can get him to walk amongst strangers. Damn it, I *hate* socializing personally and now I need to do it more with my dog.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I've decided to let him live

I was sitting in the living room, quietly knitting, wearing a brand new white shirt, thinking how soft it felt and how much I liked it. That’s when Parker came up to me and laid his head on my shoulder. Cute, huh?

Except he had just finished munching on a black gel pen.

On the rug.

ARGH!!

I used almost an entire can of spot remover on the rug (didn’t do much good) and I’m afraid to look into the washing machine to see if my new shirt is salvageable.

Parker Makes it onto the Bed!

Several years ago, Tilly’s arthritis prevented her from making it onto the bed. She would try and try and cry and cry when she couldn’t do it. In order to help her up, Mike getting tired of getting out of bed to lift her up, we bought a couple of ottomans to put at the foot of the bed to give her a boost. That worked for a while, but this winter her nights curled around our feet were few and far between. She usually sleeps on an old down comforter on the floor of our bedroom on those nights when she even bothers to join us instead of sleeping in her bed in the den. But the ottoman’s remain there (they’re good hiding places for Christmas presents that accumulate during the year).

As for Parker, although he has demonstrated that he can leap small buildings in a single bound, he’s never figured out how to get onto the bed. A few weeks ago he finally got one hind leg onto an ottoman, but couldn’t figure out how to use them as stepping stones. This is the same dog who can leap five steps at a time onto the deck from the yard with plenty of clearance. But, in the mornings, when I’m trying to sleep in, he will get at most his front paws onto the bed by my head and whine.

I’ve been doing physical therapy every morning for a coupla months now which include exercises with me lying on the bed. Since only one arm is in motion during most of my exercises, Parker obviously thinks it’s a waste of a good petting arm not to employ that other arm, so he usually positions himself to make that easier for me. But when I’m on the bed, he just gets his two front paws on the bed, one hind foot on the ottoman and tries to figure out how to get to me.

This morning he finally figured it out and I found a very excited dog bouncing on the bed next to me as I tried to exercise. Laughter may be good medicine but it doesn’t do much for physical therapy. Not that I care.

Once those exercises were over and I got off the bed I got some more good laughs in as he tried to figure out how to get down, which he eventually did. While I continued with several exercises using both arms (nothing left over to pet with), he got up and down from the bed several times, as if cementing the process into his brain.

Looks like those morning lie ins may be a thing of the past.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jumping the gun

Okay, so classes don’t start until *next* week. So I have eight days to get Parker trained.

Yeah.

Right.

Just a test

Sometimes software sucks.

Yikes!

My calendar just notified me that tomorrow is the first day of Basic 2. I had had grand plans for having Parker spot on with Basic 1 commands.


Not gonna happen.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I guess Harvard is out of the question

I decided to try the Dog IQ test. (http://www.abc.net.au/animals/dog_test/default.htm) Not that I think it’s the be all and end all of measuring devices, but what the hell.

First test was treat under a soup can (show the dog the treat, put it under a soup can and encourage him to get the treat) and Parker scored a four out of five. Not so bad.

The second was a towel over the head (throw a towel over the dog’s head and shoulders and see how long he takes to shake it off. Parker got a five out of five on that one, although his initial response was to not move, which I rather liked.

Third: this was weird. When you get the dog’s attention, count three seconds and smile broadly. The dog is supposed to respond to this by coming toward you. Parker didn’t budge. Possibly because he was wondering about this strange facial expression on a person who rarely does it. So he got a one out of five. Wasn’t possible to get a zero.

Fourth: covering food with a towel, see how long it takes the dog to get it. Again, it wasn’t possible to get a zero, so Parker got a one although he didn’t make any moves toward the towel. Neither, for that matter, did Emmy when I tried that one with her. Didn’t want to wake Tilly up to give her a try.

Fifth: put a treat under a low table so that the dog has to use its paws to get it. Parker got a two for trying to sniff it and get it with his muzzle. No paws.

Sixth: Call the dog’s name in a happy voice, but the name is “refrigerator.” Parker turned his head but kept where he was. Do it again, using the word, “Movies.” Same response. “Parker” brought him right to me, so he got a five out of five for that one.

Total score: 18

Web scoring sheet:
















Over 25 points...
Your dog is a genius
15 - 25 points....
Your dog is smart, but won't go to Harvard
5 - 15 points......
Your dog is not too bright, but is most likely very cute
Below 5 points..
Your dog must be an Afghan

Stupid test.

Sigh

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Just when I was thinking he was clever

Yesterday, while I was knitting, Parker wandered off. I meant to follow him, but wanted to finish counting stitches first. That’s when I hear him whimper. So I went off to find him. Walked all over the house -- no Parker. So I called his name and followed the sounds of him in distress to the closed door to the bathroom. That would be the bathroom where the kibble bin is in the closet. Apparently he had gone into the bathroom and, in an effort to get to the kibble, had closed the door. I opened the door to be greeted by one very happy boy, thrilled that I own opposable thumbs.

You might think this falls into the category of lesson learned. Au contraire. I went back to my knitting, had just sat down and realized he hadn’t followed. Sounds of whimpering. Yes, he had gone right back into the bathroom and done it again.

After four of these episodes, I finally closed the door to the bathroom, but, when I went to Tai Chi class last night, with Parker in his crate, I left the bathroom door open. When I got home and released him, he went outside with the other dogs, came in with them and -- yep, closed himself in the bathroom again.

So much for a Poodle’s superior intelligence and ease of training.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Training outside of class

I’d really like to see some serious progress with Parker before Basic 2 Classes start in a month, which means getting serious about training between now and then.

Yesterday, armed with about thirty tiny pieces of cheese, we ran through sits, downs and target stick work. He started out enthusiastic enough, but the requests for downs slowed that way down.

Today I had about the same amount, but we did less. Just lots of jackpots for downs. But we added a few comes and he did -- okay. The really good result was that, although he started the day full of zoomies, a short training session seemed to have taken it out of him, so I’ve gotten a lot of knitting done while he snoozes out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day Eight -- It's Over

Hard to believe that today was the last class. We just did some heeling to warm up and then the teachers set up a rally course. (1) 360 to the left, (2) 270 to the right, (3) Halt -- one step, two steps, three steps (with sits after each), (4) 270 to the right, (5) sit then down) (6) stop, lace dog in front, finish to the left, (7) 180 to the left, (8) weave around four pylons twice, and (9) finish.

Parker and I got called second, “Because this will be a breeze for you,” although the “judge/teacher” said she would stay far away from us so as not to scare Parker. Then she proceeded to stay just a few feet away, so Parker was less than perfect. And the down was a complete loss.

Then, while we waited for the rest of the class to go through the course, I got into it with one of the teachers. She said she didn’t like rally and preferred obedience. I said I found obedience to be somewhat artificial. Not exactly politically correct, and she didn’t like that much.

Then, with little time left, we did a heel-off. We started out heeling, with some about turns thrown in and then, when the teacher said, “Halt,” the dog which sat last was out. Now, in Parker’s defense, he was the only dog heeling with a loose leash (I had it thrown over my shoulder to free both hands) and the only dog who sat without getting hauled up on a choke chain with one hand and who didn’t get his butt pushed down with the other.

He was great. Okay, his sits were crooked, but he was very responsive. However, when the person in position nine was called out, instead of doing what I’ve done in all the class sessions -- cutting across the ring when the folks in front of us started to bunch up -- I started out at their snail’s pace. Wo when the person just called out came right up behind us, and the teacher called, “Halt,” as Parker started his immediate sit, he got a nose in his butt, which made him pop back up and knocked us out of the running. My competitive juices were pissed.

And now it’s four weeks before we go back for Basic 2.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Daring Move

For the past few weeks, when Parker has gone on a car outing with me, I’ve released him from his harness and not put the leash back on. Hasn’t been a problem. He doesn’t run off or get squirrelly -- just goes to the door to go inside.

Yesterday and today, after our morning walks, I’ve taken the leash off once we get back to the driveway. Without speaking or otherwise giving commands, I’ve then walked with confidence to the house, although I suspect the increased beating of my heart and rising blood pressure are signs he could probably read. Both times, he’s just done his happy spinning dance and pranced by my side back to the house.

W00t!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Addendum to Luring with Love

Shirley told me about back chaining the finish to the right, which I’m trying with Parker. The downside to this is that it takes a mild amount of sophisticated footwork on my part, taking tiny steps forward and clockwise, which is so far beyond my brain capacity to perform. The idea is to teach the dog to follow in a pattern which involves walking around. Problem with Parker is that he seems to think that his sit is the be all and end all of training exercises. “I’m sitting, which you asked for. If you want to dance, that’s up to you.”

An alternative method involves the use of the target stick, which I’ve neglected sadly. I tell myself that we’ll get better when the weather is more cooperative. Like in May.

Seven Down -- One to Go

Class seven was today. Hard to believe it’s almost over. Parker did really well, all things considered. We mostly did heeling and finishing, both behind and to the left. We did some weaves, four dogs sitting, four dogs weaving around them. Was really pleased with Parker’s focus on me and ignoring (mostly) the other dogs. Unless one of the other dogs pulled its owner off the heel position in order to sniff Parker’s butt, but even then, he didn’t break his sit -- just swiveled his head around to keep an eye on them, something I really couldn’t blame him for, but called his attention back to me, and got it.

We also did a bit of ‘leave it,’ with several toys strewn around. Almost all the dogs ignored almost all of the toys (except for the Lab, who was unfairly tempted by the ball). The one toy no one ignored was a stuffed Golden Retriever puppy. In their defense, most people see that toy in a crate when they walk into the training center and complain that it’s much too young a dog to be kept in a crate. Most of the dogs, Parker included, just wanted to sniff. One German Shepherd apparently either wanted to play with it or eat it and barked like crazy when pulled away.

As usual, when asked to do a down, Parker wasn’t interested, but when released from working and while I was listening to the teacher talk, he did them perfecly. Several times I was able to coax him into a down, but he was completely over his leash, so I had to drop my end in order to do a stay. But he managed to hold the stay anyway while I walked around him, so not a complete mishap.

I’ve signed him up for Basic 2, and am waiting on a reply to my question about whether or not it would be a good thing to also sign him up for the beginning rally class. That looks like so much fun and the dogs go through the rally courses singly, which he does so much better than work in a crowd.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Miracles Do Happen

A little while ago, while I was trying to count stitches, Parker stuck his face under my arm -- his signal that he needed to go outside. So I said, “Okay, but I have to pee first,” and he sped off to the bathroom. I think it was back in 1979 when I last managed to pee alone. While we were there, we did some training (where do *you* train your dogs?). He sat when I asked. Then, being an eternal optimist, I said, “Down.”

And he *flew* onto his belly!

W00t! W00t, w00t, w00t!!!

It may never happen again, so I figured it would be best to immortalize the moment.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Luring with Love

In class this week, we started learning the finish to the right. The teachers pointed out two ways to do this. First, with the dog sitting in front of us, step back on the right foot, luring the dog with a treat to move around behind, passing the treat from right hand to left. The difficulty with this method, she said, was that it required some coordination and that neither hand would be free to hold the leash. The other way was to use the leash to pull the dog around. The latter was the favored method for just about everyone.

Parker did it spot on perfect the first time without a treat lure or pulling on the leash. The teacher who was watching from several feet away was very impressed and said so. I accepted her praise without pointing out that the only reason Parker was so willing to perform was that, by doing so, he put me between him and the scary lady who was watching so closely. Once she moved on, he was no longer interested in moving. "You asked me to sit, I'm sitting -- if you choose to move, that's your business."

Having discovered that Parker works better for cuddles than kibble, I'm trying to figure out how to lure him into a finish without trying to use treats. The advantage to a dog who is more of a love bug than a chow hound is that there is never a situation where you don’t have a reward readily at hand to reinforce a behavior. The disadvantage is that there’s a real problem with luring.

Anyone with a hint, feel free to let me know.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Forgive my euphoria

But damnation! He not only fetched, but he BROUGHT IT BACK!

Okay, I know Poodles are supposed to be good retrievers, but it’s not as if Parker is a Golden or summat. He loves to chase things, like sticks and footballs and (#@$@#$) balls of yarn that he steals out of my knitting bag. But so far he has shown no particular inclination to bring anything back. So playing fetch with him is largely an exercise in walking him down to get the stick back. But he was playing with a tennis ball a few minutes ago, so I threw it for him and it disappeared into the den. We were both disappointed, so I went to find another toy and got a felty ball. It’s largely circular, made up of strips of felt. And I threw it down the hall, he raced after it and then HE BROUGHT IT BACK! He already (mostly) drops things when asked, so that was no problem.

Yeah, yeah, I know that he didn’t really have many options of where to run off with the ball, but who cares? It worked.

Playing fetch with Tilly when she was a youngster Cattle Dog with way too much energy for me was always a piece of cake. All I had to do was stand in one spot and kick her soccer ball. She’d tear off after it, bring it back and repeat, repeat, repeat, until she was exhausted. I read many, many books while exercising her.

I LIKE it!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Class Week Six -- Parker sets the standard

I only wish I could take credit for it.

We started with the usual. Heeling, sitting, recalling. Then we began the finish. Dog has just come to us and is sitting in front. You finish by having the dog go behind and around to sit in the heel position. Parker looked as if he caught on right away, but it was really because on of the teachers was close by watching and by going around behind me and finishing on my left, Parker was able to put me between himself and the teacher. So he was eager to go to the safe place. Once the teacher walked away -- not so much.

We worked on the attention thing. Instead of using treats to distract him, I used the other two Poodles, which were on either side of him. It was easy to tempt his attention away from me with them. They both seem to have a crush on Parker and he revels in their attention. But calling his name worked for focusing on me.

While we were doing that, one of the teachers set of a Beginner’s Novice Rally kind of course. From Start to Fast Walk to Normal Walk, Left turn, Slow Walk, Normal Walk, About Turn, Right Turn, Sit. Then a figure eight around two people. This was the exercise where Parker set the standard. We went first. All the other dogs were behind the fence and away from us, the teachers were watching from a distance and we had the whole ring to ourselves. So no distractions and nothing scary around. Parker was spot on through the entire exercise. Not because of any special training I’ve done, but probably because of those long morning walks with Mike, learning how to heel nicely. The figure eight at the end was not so perfect the first time, mostly because of me going around the two people too far out. “Confidence, Dorothy!” So we did it a second time getting closer and it was much better.

One of the teachers asked me if I were planning on showing Parker. I started my answer by going into my explanation about how the vet wanted me to wait until he was fully grown to get him neutered, but she interrupted me and said that wasn’t what she meant. She was asking if I planned to show him in obedience. I was flattered that she thought this was a possibility, but it turned out she wasn’t really. Instead she meant to point out that if I kept keeping my left hand so low by my side, I was teaching him to lag and I needed to stop that if I ever thought of showing him. Duh. This is getting to be a standard comment on her part, as I keep doing the dame thing every class. Wonder if I’ll ever learn?

We ended the lesson with a Sit for Exam. We were supposed to wait until all three teachers had come by and pat the dog on the head before releasing the dog and going home. Parker hopped away from the first two teachers. The third one, who had seen this backed up to Parker and then pat him on the head. This worked and she said I should go home, releasing him on a high point. So I did.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's Official -- I'm an Idiot

After carefully counting out treats, I took Parker into the bedroom for a training session. Mixing up sits, downs, spins, stand and come. As usual, although Parker started happily enough, it soon became an exercise in waiting. So it was time to end. I asked for a sit, something I can usually count on, planning on a jackpot of remaining treats. He sat -- slo-o-o-owly. I reached into my pocket and discovered I had miscounted. No more treats. So I threw my arms up and told him he was a good boy. He leapt up to give me a happy hug. After a serious ear rubbing, I said, “Off.” He backed up right away onto his hind legs. “Good boy!” brought him right back into a hug for more ear rubbing. Could it really be that simple? For the next minute we ran through everything with a happy hug and ear rub being his reward for performing.

Okay, so he wasn’t spot on perfect with everything, but his happy factor was so obviously high that it’s apparent that treats aren’t what floats his boat.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Class Week Five -- Fun, Fun, Fun!!

It was bitterly cold this morning, so Parker didn’t get his morning walk with Mike. And yesterday was stressful for him (new groomer) so he’d slept most of the afternoon and late this morning. End result, a dog full of beans and zoomies. Good thing today was a fun day in class. We got there to see a few pieces of agility equipment set out. After a few rounds of heeling, which Parker now does with the leash draped over my shoulder, we split into groups to work on the equipment.

Our first was the table. We were supposed to get the dogs up onto the table, have them sit, stay while we backed away and then call them. Parker hesitated getting up, but I didn’t. Which was probably not such a good idea, since I weigh slightly more than the average Bull Mastiff, but I didn’t think about that until I heard the table creak. It worked, though, and Parker got right up with me. Problems arose when I asked him to sit, which he did, but the table was slippery and he had just had his feet shaved yesterday. So I got him off right away and the next few times I didn’t ask for a sit.

Then we went to the ladder, which was short -- about six rungs -- and lying on the floor. The idea is to get your dog to step through the rungs with confidence. The way the teacher told us to do it was to hold a short lead and not give the dog much opportunity to pull away from the ladder. Yeah. Right. Instead, I walked backward through it and Parker followed nicely. Which works well if the owner has a better idea of where her feet are than the dog. Which I don’t. Next time I placed treats on the floor between the rungs, and Parker walked right through, head down, scarfing up food.

Onto the jumps. They were all set so low that it was a piece of cake. We walked through the first time and ran for several other tries. He was happy with that one, although I think the running part about killed me.

The final piece of equipment was a tunnel. I wasn’t happy with the fact that it was over six feet long. I would have preferred to take him through one that was completely collapsed. We were supposed to have the dog at one end, held by the teacher who would throw the lead through. We were to grab the lead and “encourage” the dog through. In this situation it helped to be a baldfaced liar. I told the teacher that I was afraid that the dragging lead would scare Parker, so I asked her to hold his collar. I went to the other end, got down on the floor (oh, the sacrifices we make for our dogs) and stuck my head into the tunnel. He raced through to me. The teacher said, “Oh, good! Bring him right back!” Easy for her to say. She was standing up. So I asked Parker for some help and he stood steady as a rock while I used him to get back on my feet. This from the same dog who refused to stand, an exercise they had taught us earlier in the class. We ran through a few more times, finally doing it at a run toward the opening, releasing the dog at one end and meeting him at the other. Like I could run that fast. Parker rushed through and bounced up on his hind legs in happiness when I caught up.

All in all a good day.

Oh, and they showed us “spin” (clockwise) and “twist (counterclockwise). Mike will be disappointed to learn that Parker is right-handed. Spin, yes. Twist, not a chance.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Be careful what you train for

Earlier this morning, while I was getting dressed (think one end of the house) and Mike was reading the paper (other end of the house, by the back door), Parker came bouncing in and stuck his nose into my left armpit. This has become his default behavior for “I want to go outside.” (Don’t ask.) So we walked/bounced to the back door, where, while putting my coat on, I remarked to Mike that this armpit behavior wasn’t the most dignified.

Side note: When the kids were young, I was the go-to parent for requests. I remember once, when all the kids and Mike were in the kitchen, and I was on the other end of the house, one of the kids got up and came to me to ask for a snack. Me. Not the father who was right there in the kitchen with them.

So, after remarking about the armpit to Mike, he said, “Oh, he did want to go out? He had come up to me, but when I asked if he wanted out, he took off to find you.”

grrrr....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Class Day Four

It struck me on the way home that class is now half over. We haven’t made nearly the kind of progress I’d like to have seen.

We did a lot of heeling in class. As usual, Parker heels nicely but still pops around to sit perpendicularly to keep an eye on everything else going on around him. Interestingly, when we did heels from one side of the room to the other, half the dogs going north, the other half going south, Parker did fine, without breaking his attention from me as we passed the other dogs. Still sat crooked, though.

We did some sit stays from a larger distance. Although Parker is great at this at home, he wasn’t doing well in class. At home, before we go out the door, I ask for (and get) a sit, tell him to wait and open the door for the other dogs to go out first. He waits nicely until I tell him it’s okay to go out. Of course, in class I was following the teacher’s instructions and telling him to stay. Once I realized this and substituted wait for stay, he was fine.

Duh.

He breaks the stay as I walk around him, something we haven’t worked on at home.

Still won’t do a down, but we have given that two weeks off at home. Time to fire that one up again.

Attention he does well (doggie zen).

Then we did some distance comes. The teacher had me take off Parker’s lead, afraid that if it dragged, he’d get scared. I did wonder about her admonition to never do a come you couldn’t reinforce, but didn’t argue. And he did come to me, possibly because the alternative would have been to stay with the teacher who had hold of his collar. But it wasn’t very fast. Having an Australian Shepherd and a Border Collie in the class kind of put everyone to shame on the come. Then again I mentally felt superior because Parker heels with a loose lead and they both pull and pull. We take our kudos where we can get them.

I was surprised when the teacher told the class at the end how important it was to practice at least five minutes a day. Five minutes! We’d still be trying to sit at that pace.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day Three of Class

Parker was reluctant to get into the car for yesterday’s class. Probably because I have a harness for him and he had not learned how to move around without getting hopelessly tangled. However, once he was in and belted (I said reluctant, not stubbornly refusing), he settled nicely into a sit and didn’t budge for the entire ride.

Class started with heel work. Although Parker is just about spot on perfect with this at home on his daily walks, in class he tends to be a bit squirrely. He sits perpendicular to me, probably the better to keep an eye on the other dogs. As for the actual heeling portion, he’s great, although one of the teachers pointed out that I should keep the left hand with the treat in it further in front of me or I’d end up teaching him to lag. In fact, throughout the lesson I kept hearing, “Move your hand forward, Dorothy.”

Then we worked on sit stays. Parker was great, although we hand’t done any work at home with moving back to the dog’s side by stepping around him, and Parker kept getting up. We’ll work on that.

Then we started doing down stays. Sadly for me, this meant putting the dog into a down. One of the teachers came over to me when she saw that Parker was sitting, now lying down and I told her we were taking a vacation from the down for a while, as my frustration levels were flowing down the leash. Happily she agreed this was a good thing. Of course when, later in the lesson, we were listening to one of the teachers explain the settle to us, Parker calmly lay down perfectly. Little snot.

We did a little work on attention. Parker and I have done Shirley’s Doggie Zen -- hold a good treat in one hand in such a way that the dog can’t get it. Once the dog finally turns away from the treat to look at you, which they inevitably do, wondering why this doofus won’t give up the treat, you click and give the treat. It hasn’t taken Parker long to learn this and now he stays focused on me, no matter what, never breaking eye contact. Clever boy.

The real job for me this week is to get more serious about training time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Second Day of School

I had planned on getting to class early to give Parker a chance to sniff and chill. I hadn’t counted on making every single light, so we were half an hour early instead of fifteen minutes. That was way too much. He did well and was happy, but he started to shut down about fifteen minutes before class was over. Of course, that was when the ‘down’ was started, so there might have been some cause and effect going on.

We started out on the mats, just walking around and around. I had a little bag of smelly treats fastened to my belt which brought his nose right up to where I wanted it and kept him from forging ahead. Mike’s daily walks are paying off, as well, as Parker is now used to a loose leash.

Once everyone got there (minus the two Standard Poodles and with the addition of a young black Labrador who seems well trained already -- her owner was doing off leash recalls while the rest of the class was gathering), we reviewed the ‘sit,’ which mostly everyone seemed to have down. Once again, the teacher wanted us to place the dog into a sit, with hands on, but I happily ignored that. Parker sits without it. Then we started real heel work. With the dog sitting properly, take off on the left foot. As often happens in classes -- not sure why -- most folks do this at a snail’s pace. So Parker and I either went on the outside of the ring of dogs, or the inside. Problem with that was it brought Parker in proximity to the other dogs, which distracted him from me. But mostly, with a smelly treat right in front of his nose, he kept close to me. Only real problem was when we stopped. He steps back with his sit, and sits really, really, crooked. So we’ll some hallway heeling this week where there’s less room for that kind of thing.

We did a minimum of ‘stay’ -- hand in front of the dog, outside leg around to the front, short count, back to the dog’s side. I learned to use my left hand to signal the stay -- the instructor said to use the right. So I got kind of confused.

All of this went well. The third of the three teachers was there today and she asked me, while we were heeling, if I had other dogs at home because I ‘really seemed to know what I was doing.’ Naturally, it was at this point that I dropped the treats I was holding and Parker put the brakes on to vacuum them up.

And then we started the down. We were first supposed to lure from the sit. Parker did one down. One. Then we were supposed to lure from the stand. Parker sat. And sat, and sat, and sat. And turned his head around to ignore me. So we did some sits to make him happy again and heeled in tight little circles while everyone else did what they were supposed to do.

Sigh.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Parker Starts School

My plan was to get to class early, give Parker a chance to eliminate before going into the building and get the paperwork done with. The first indication that this wasn’t going to happen was when I backed out of the garage and got stuck in a snowbank. Several repetitions of four inches forward and two inches back and we were on our way. There are about a dozen traffic lights between our house and the training center and I had my timing perfect. I missed every one of them.

We got there on the dot of nine thirty when classes were to start, but apparently I wasn’t the only one who had to deal with the weather. Eventually eleven of the twelve who had signed up for the class arrived, but we didn’t get started until nine forty-five. There’s a year old German Shepherd who wanted to meet everyone but whose owner had other ideas and popped him on the head when he tried. Hopefully the teachers (there are three of them) will put a stop to that. A year old Australian Shepherd whose owner hopes to end up with a calm house dog, which makes me wonder why she got an Aussie. A six month old Border Collie who lives in the barn with her sheep and who has a life of herding ahead of her. Hardly seems fair -- like ‘training’ a Papillon to be cute. A six month old German Shepherd wearing a muzzle. An eighteen month old Golden Retriever whose owner is an elderly lady who brought her grand nephew along to handle the dog, as she (the owner) has an injury which makes it hard for her to handle the dog, and who started to cry when explaining that the dog was still acting like a rambunctious puppy. The teachers explained that Goldens act like puppies for longer than lots of other dogs. An Airedale whose future holds therapy work. A seven year old white Standard Poodle in show coat who has just retired from the show ring and whose owner wants to start something else with her for more titles. A seven month old Standard Poodle with a show career ahead of her. A beautiful dog of indeterminate heritage with one eye who was rescued a year and a half ago and may be about three now. She was very timid when rescued and is now a very happy pup. And a little mixed breed with a Japanese Chin look to her whose tail never stopped wagging and who never stopped barking.

And Parker. Parker wanted to meet the little barker and was very polite about it. But when a teacher came over, he ignored her offer of food and leaned heavily against my leg.

Once the talking was over, we started on sits. We were supposed to first lure the dog into a sit and then move the dog into a sit (hands under the chin and the rump). One thing Parker knows very well, so luring him wasn’t necessary -- I just said sit, with a hand gesture and he got clicked and treated. Putting him physically into a sit was harder because, as soon as I moved to touch him, he sat. I did ask if I could use the clicker and was told it was fine.

Then we were supposed to walk the dogs in a circle. Parker was fine with this, too, until the other Poodles came around. Their owners wanted to meet Parker and he was perfectly fine with all the sniffing. I did warn them that he wasn’t neutered.

So it’s an interesting mix of dogs and should be fun.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Giving up

Yesterday I gave up. Although Parker will come running from one length of the yard to another for a single Cheerio, he obstinately continues to refuse to come when I call from the back door. And it’s too furking cold to wait him out. So I gave up on waiting and came inside without him. It took him several minutes to realize that I wasn’t coming back and then he came to the door and barked. Just once and not loudly. I let him in.

We’ve been out several times today. It’s the only way I get to smoke. But each time I’ve come in directly, without even calling him. Each time it’s taken him a few minutes before he goes to the door, although each time the amount of waiting has lessened.

I’m going to kick myself if he learns waiting me out won’t work, considering how much time I’ve spent over the past few weeks freezing my ass off trying to get him to follow me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Be careful what you wish for

Thursday afternoon I headed for the den with a book. Tilly, who has learned the lessons of old age -- never pass up the opportunity to eat, pee or nap -- headed straight for her bed. Parker and Emmy came to me first for some loving. Parker got there first, which effectively blocked Emmy. Emmy took exception to this and jumped up to nip Parker on the ass, which sent Parker scurrying from the room. Emmy then stationed herself at the door and whenever Parker made a move to reenter the den, Emmy would yip, which sent him back a step. Parker finally lay down, which seemed to be what Emmy wanted, as she then went to her own bed. For several minutes, Parker remained down and then -- with great caution -- he got up and came into the den, never taking his eyes off Emmy as he went to his bed.

Friday he was equally cautious around Emmy until we took all the dogs out at night for their final pee. Emmy and Tilly peed and headed for the back door. Parker, who had peed as well, had to go over to where the girls had peed and marked over the spots -- it's a guy thing. And then, to everyone's surprise, Emmy bounded off the deck and bowed in from of Parker. For the next several minutes, the two of them had an energetic game of chase. Tails up, no barking, each one taking turns chasing the other.

They repeated this Saturday. Mike and I were thrilled to see this interaction. Thrilled until this morning, that is. Here’s a video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFwzD9GL59o

Parker woke Mike up with a quiet ‘Whompf’ this morning around 5:30. On weekdays, this is typical and acceptable. It’s quiet enough not to wake me and is better than an alarm clock. The two of them then get up and off they go for a long walk. But today is Sunday, so, although Mike got up and took all the dogs out for a pee, he brought them back and climbed back into bed. Mike then went back to sleep. But Parker and Emmy decided to play. Still very quiet -- no woofing or yipping. But for half an hour we were ‘entertained’ by the sounds of prancing dog feet as the two of them chased each other around the bed. I say ‘we,’ but Mike’s snores made it obvious that it didn’t bother him a bit.

At least they were considerate enough not to bark.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Who knew Cheerios were so delicious?

A couple of days ago, when it was cold and rainy, Parker wouldn’t come inside. I was tired, grumpy and unwilling to wait it out, so, knowing it was probably a mistake, I went inside and looked for something to tempt him. Not willing to give him anything good, I got a ziplock baggie of Cheerios. When he saw that I had them, from a distance of about twenty feet, he rushed to my side. And I gave him one.

One lousy Cheerio.

The downside: as I expected, he now only comes inside when bribed.

The upside: he’ll come for one Cheerio.

We’ve now made it as far as the backdoor for me and the farthest edge of the yard for him. As soon as I see him start to move, I’ll call out, “Parker! Come!” in a happy voice.

Well, at least it’s a start.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It only takes once -- no repetitions

Mike usually takes Parker for a long walk every morning. He takes all three dogs outside first with Parker on a leash, brings them all back in after they do their business and then takes off with Parker out the front door. But a late night last night ("Just one more chapter!") coupled with an early morning meeting meant he didn't get a walk in this morning. So it was up to me. I took all three dogs out back (no leash), let Tilly and Emmy back in and headed for the back gate, taking out a leash from my pocket. Parker knows what the leash means, so he trotted right along, got hooked to the leash and off we went.

Several minutes ago we all went back out again for a backyard pee. Tilly and Emmy got it over with and headed back to the house (it's very cold outside). Parker, who likes to sniff for a while, took his sweet time, but finally eliminated. I picked it up and headed for the gate, where I have a bag hanging for disposal. He saw where I was headed and beat me there, tail high and wagging. When all I did was use the bag and not open the gate, but walk away from it, his tail drooped pathetically. What? No walk?

Kind of like the kids and family traditions, defined as anything we did one time which they enjoyed.

Ironically, we came back inside and worked on ‘downs’ for a while. Using bacon flavored treats sped up his response time -- who *wouldn’t* work for bacon? -- but he’s still almighty slow.

Can’t wait for classes which begin next week.