Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Oreo is ready to go trick or treating. No need to wear a costume. We'll tell everyone he's dressed as a border collie.

And this video simply cracks me up!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

working on startlines

Part of our behavior plan is working on startline stays.

Yesterday, Oreo and I practiced with no distractions, except a chain saw going next door. Background noise around here! Seems like someone is always chopping a tree down.

Oreo knows what the deal is with startline stays. Our magic word is "go". I say "ready.....", then "go".

We use "line up...ready....go" when we play ball sometimes, so this is very familiar to Oreo. I'm simply adding agility to the mix.

Sometimes, he goes on "ready". He's too excited.

Other times, he does it perfectly.

My favorite is when Oreo starts to move on "ready", then realizes, oops she didn't say the magic word, and he comes to a halt in front of the bar, then, I say "go". It always cracks me up, because I realize something IS going on in that brain of his.

I probably should be resetting him when he does that, but I think if Oreo's smart enough to stop himself, he knows he messed up. I don't want to defeat him more by starting from scratch, at least, not at this point.

Here's a quick video of all three versions of Oreo's startline.

Isn't his little "set" crouch the cutest? OK, I think just about everything Oreo does is cute, except when he's biting my slippers, while my feet are in them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

working the plan 3

The behaviorist sent me a chart to record our progress/lack of progress. I filled it out for one week, and emailed it to her. It was a great way for her (and me!) to see what Oreo needs to work on, and how we need to tweak the plan.

I also showed her the video I posted here last Sunday, as well as this one where Oreo worked on start line stays, while my neighbor & kid worked on the towering treehouse 15 feet behind the picket fence. I thought he did pretty well, considering the added distraction. I didn't make him stay long, or lead out as far as I would if there were no distractions.

Summation.....we have to work on desensitizing Oreo to men on walks. He often will start barking at them, typically if we are still close to home. So, the doctor wants me to retreat (u-turn!) then ask for a sit or heel.

Also, Misty is a problem. I have to put her inside when training. I knew that was coming. The doctor said that Misty was distracting her in the videos, so surely she is not helping Oreo relax in the situations. Duh.

This week, we are working on teaching Oreo to go to his mat or target in the back doorway, on leash. We will use this for when the kids are in the yard. The doctor wants him to be going to the back door/mudroom on cue, rather than as an escape route. Once on his mat, we can do RP stuff.

Overall, we've made progress, but still have a lot of work to do. Plus, we haven't been to an agility class in FOREVER! I still have a bunch of stuff I want to try out there. I can't seem to get myself to the Wednesday night classes after a long day at work, so I'm excited that the Saturday classes are starting back up soon.

I recommend charting, for anyone who has behaviors they want to change. It is really enlightening when you start keeping track of stuff.

If anyone wants to see mine, let me know, and I will be happy to email it to you. I'd post it here, but can't seem to figure out how! It is really a simple chart that you could customize for your own needs.

Today, Oreo was able to walk past two men in the cemetery who were pouring concrete. We walked by 4 times, and each time, Oreo was able to heel and gaze up at me. It made me feel so good to dole out all those treats, rather than have him pulling to the end of his leash, trying to get away as fast as possible.

wordless wednesday

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

tricky t-day ~ trick or treat?

We don't get trick or treaters at our house, but I thought I'd try and see if I could teach Oreo to dole out treats. At one point, he wanted to do everything BUT hand out the sugar babies. Watch him grab his bandana in his mouth at one point, hoping for a click! Now, that would be a trick, if I could get him to pull the bandana over his nose! Maybe if I had boxes of liver, he would have been more enthusiastic.

Watching this, I realized my clicking was sooooo late. I didn't click until the candy hit the bottom of the pumpkin. That was a long freefall!

Anyone want a slobbery box of sugar babies?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

training challenge - working the plan 2

I know many people are taking a break from the training challenge, and I probably will too. However, Oreo is constantly being challenged. We can almost write about something daily.

This week, I'm posting a before and after video.

First is a video I shot for our behaviorist. It is how Oreo typically reacts to my neighbor's kids being in the yard. This was shot a few weeks ago, before our consultation. The behaviorist said that Oreo looked quite distressed with the intense circling. I agree.

I never planned to post this video, it's not something I'm proud of. But you can't see how far we've come, if you don't know where we've been.
(There is a lot of barking in this video, if you need to turn your sound off)

Well here is what happened today while two kids, one on an electric car, the other one yelling for their loose dog, were in the yard. Throw in their Dad working on the mammoth tree house, right on our property line, and the results were nothing short of amazing. At least to me.

I'm not sure if Oreo can do this every time. He had some really high anxiety moments with the kids last weekend. However, I didn't bring out the target until today.

When the video ends, I brought Oreo inside right away. I don't want to overdo it. You can tell Oreo is still well aware there are people around, but I think he was doing much better coping.

Friday, October 22, 2010

you mean I'm historic?

Today, I got the latest American Girl catalog (a really cool doll company) in the mail, and to my horror, discovered that I am now considered to be from a historic era!

Yes folks. The American Girl Company is now making a doll, Julie, from the "historic era" of 1974.

Ummmm. I think I had this outfit.

Here's Julie's Christmas dress. American Girl must have looked through our old Christmas photos, because it looks just like the printed velvet dresses my mom made my sister and me one year. The only difference is ours were a different color.

You can buy lots of fun accessories for Julie, so she's never bored. Like this banana seat bike. Gosh, I ALWAYS wanted a banana seat bike:
Never got one. Nope, my dad insisted I have a "real bike" instead. Didn't matter that I never fit in with all the other kids on the street.

Never had a metal lunch box either.
I had a homemade cloth one. A humiliating experience looking at my blue cloth bag amongst all the metal ones in the cubby holes.

I did have the privilege of owning these though. Ahhh, cassettes. Don't you miss them? Hitting eject when a song became annoying gave such satisfaction! How do kids record songs off the radio these days?

And I definitely spent A LOT of time in these. Around and around the basement we went.

OK, maybe it was a long time ago. But historic? Their previous doll is Molly, from 1944. Aren't there a few eras in between?

My guess? It may have something to do with marketing. Maybe they are banking on the moms who are making the, not so inexpensive, purchases reliving their childhood through their daughters' dolls. Or maybe they're hoping to cash in on me!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

tricky t-day ~learning to read

OK, well, it's a start. Can't tell you how many times I have to tell my students..."it helps if you OPEN the book."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

training challenge~working the plan

Here is a video I will be showing our behaviorist. It shows the work we've accomplished this week on heeling and send to targets.

Oreo has a pretty natural heel, I've just had to put it on cue, so I can call on it when necessary. I've never taught a "heel", because Oreo almost always walks nicely on a leash.

I am hoping to put these two skills to use next weekend. There is a USDAA trial at our training facility. We're not entered, but I plan on bringing Oreo, and working through some parts of our treatment plan.

So far, this is working well for people encounters on our walks, especially in the parking lot we cut through.

Oreo did have a hide behind the toilet moment this week when Jeff had a friend over while I was at work. I asked the veterinary behavior tech (she had called to see how we were making out) what we should do in those situations. For now, she suggested we put him in a safe place before guests arrive, so he doesn't enter that panic/fear mode. If he gets caught off guard, let him seek shelter. If the guests need to use the bathroom, remove Oreo from the room, and put him somewhere else he feels safe. She is going to check with the doctor for further instructions.

Friday, October 15, 2010

nationals photos

The photos from nationals finally came out. Unfortunately, there are only two photos of Oreo from the whole weekend. Major bummer. The photographer must have been having lunch during our runs.

This is the only one worth ordering, I think. I can't see Oreo's expression with the copyright stuff splattered across his face! Hopefully, he looks happy! Too bad I kinda look like a dork. If I brought this photo to school, my students would get the biggest laugh! I can just see them imitating me now!

You should have heard my students last Friday when I wore my hair pulled back in a pony tail, instead of down like usual. "Don't ever wear your hair like that again!" "I don't even recognize you!" "I thought you'd cut off all your hair at first!" "Is that you?" "Are you getting a haircut soon? Your hair is getting kind of long." "You shouldn't wear your hair like that." "Why did you wear your hair like that? It doesn't look right."

Really? A pony tail makes me look THAT different? What will they think of me running(I use that verb lightly) in a baseball cap?

This photo was at the end of our final run, I guess I should buy it, so I have something to commemorate our weekend.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

behavior consult

Oreo and I had our consultation with the veterinary behaviorist this week.

We met with the doctor and a veterinary behavior technician for almost two hours.

Oreo put on a good show, and hid under my chair most of the appointment! OK, I dragged him out at one point, and then he ran and hid under the doctor's chair.

More than half the appointment involved the vet gathering background information, and me racking my brain. Talk about stressful!

Her summation...Oreo's problems are developmental. She feels Oreo's issues would have surfaced no matter what I did. I guess I can feel good that I didn't mess him up.

However, she determined that I have been rewarding Oreo way too much, for doing far too little. Basically, I give him treats for doing nothing! She's right, I do. In the waiting room & exam room, I had been doling him treats, while he was hiding under the chair. That has to stop, along with any coaxing.

My three main concerns, I wanted to address immediately, were Oreo panicking in parking lots/new places(where he freezes in his tracks or tries to escape), ring stress, and freaking out over the neighbor's kids.

Here is our homework for phase one. This is the abbreviated version.

1. Parking lots/other freeze zones - Teach Oreo a moving commands (similar to heel, as well as sending to targets) for when he freezes in parking lots. If he doesn't respond to the simple moving command, I'm not to coax/bribe him. I am to gently pull to get him started, or resort to picking him up, until his behavior improves. We will start working in low stress areas first.

2. Ring stress- in class have one person act as judge / ring crew. Do that section repeatedly (4-5 times). Then move the person to another section/obstacle. Repeat. She would also like to see me work on a start line stay in training. She believes it would help build Oreo's confidence, and teach him that I'm there to keep him safe. Of course, I will have to start with a short stay, and a very short distance.

3. Kids- bring Oreo in yard on leash only. Do RP techniques at closest distance possible, then bring him inside. If kids come out suddenly, I'm to call him, put on leash, help settle and bring him inside.

Overall, she wants me to set higher expectations for Oreo.

Some of this is a little out of my comfort zone, but the doctor gave me rational answers for each step in the plan (the real plan has 8 parts). For now, I am going to trust her expertise, because I know there is science to back up her plan. Plus, I can still do everything in a positive manner with my clicker/toys, which is of utmost importance to me.

We've started working on some parts of the plan, and already, Oreo is showing me he is capable of more that I thought.

As for medication, we are going without for now. However, the doctor did indicate that Oreo was definitely a dog one could justify using meds. Clearly, the dog hiding under the chair needs help. She is opting for behavior techniques first, to at least establish a baseline, and then we will revisit medication options if needed (we have three months of phone/email consults).

It was really interesting to have a highly educated outsider analyze my dog and the countless techniques I've tried. Having all the methods you read about in books, finally laid down in concrete ways that apply to YOUR life ~ priceless. She wasn't afraid to tell me what I was doing wrong for MY dog, plus she's still going to keep helping us as we plod through this process. There are no overnight fixes or magic pills. I'll keep everyone posted.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

misty - trainer in training

Here is Misty learning how to be an agility trainer (this video is about Misty, not Oreo!):

She's not bad, eh?

Misty says, "It seems like being a trainer is a very rewarding job."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

tricky t-day ~ pull

I was inspired by Rob's dog, Tommy, who knows how to open the kitchen cabinet where his biscuits are kept. Tommy's also trained to wait for a human to get him the biscuit, rather than helping himself. An even more impressive skill.

Tommy knows lots of useful tricks, like finding keys and fetching beer.

I thought it was about time for Oreo to work on some useful tricks again, rather than ridiculous things like doing backwards eights!

I had given up on trying to get Oreo to pull my garden cart, because we weren't getting anywhere. When I saw Tommy open the cabinet, it gave me an idea! If I could get Oreo to pull open a door, maybe he could generalize the "pull" motion to the cart.

A year ago, I taught Oreo to shut doors. This week, I taught him to open doors. Then, we began, again, on the garden cart. Baby steps, but I think we are finally onto something!

Happy Birthday Mom!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

pumpkin eaters

Jeff & I went to a craft fair today at a local apple orchard. They also had a corn maze. I've always wanted to do one, so we spent the extra few bucks and tried it out. It proved harder than we thought. A bit creepy as well.
It was just like doing a maze on paper. We kept running into dead ends.

Even when the corn got shorter, it wasn't any easier.
Some people cheated and plowed their own path to get out! Cheaters, cheaters, pumpkin eaters!

We made it through, and were rewarded with the sight of the red neck haunted house!
We decided to save our money. We skipped the haunted house, and had lunch instead.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

run thrus

Yesterday afternoon, Oreo and I went to run thrus at our school. It was a fundraiser to help one of our classmates, whose dog had been attacked by a bear.

We did two standard runs and one jumpers run.

Oreo was on fire in our first run. He ran fast, and I was able to click for speed. I think he was almost annoyed by my clicks. He looked at me as if to say, "Now? I was kinda in the middle of something mom!"

He even jumped his contact on the dogwalk! He never does that.

It was so much fun!

Then, to prove he wasn't cured of his stress issues.....

On our second run, we ran the harder course. We got off to a fast start, I made sure to praise Oreo before he started up the dogwalk, because my teacher's husband was running his dog in the games ring. Men's voices(and children's) stress Oreo out. Unfortunately, despite my praise and encouragement, Oreo stopped on top of the dogwalk, rubbernecked and watched them for a second. I clicked when he reoriented to me, then praised him before entering the poles. Oreo must have still been stressed, because he popped out after about 5 poles, then ran in the tunnel instead of going up the A-frame. The tunnel seemed to destress Oreo, and the rest of our run was speedy and happy.

On over to the games ring. It was a really fun jumpers course, with a serpentine and pinwheel. Oreo ran like the wind. I had planned a front cross before the pinwheel, but Oreo was AHEAD of me. So, I thought I'd run on the outside, but since Oreo was plowing ahead, I slipped to the inside of the jumps instead. I spent the next few jumps trying to catch up with him. He was heading toward a tunnel, when he stopped, looked back at me, as if to say, "Tell me what to do mom!" We almost crashed, so I said, "Tunnel!" After the tunnel, he got ahead of me again, and he crossed the finish line before me.

How fun was that? I felt bad, because I didn't give Oreo any treats on course, but I think the entire run was self rewarding for him. He was getting a natural high off the speed and jumps.

Oh, if only every run could be like that! It's runs like that that show me how much Oreo loves agility. If only we could do all our runs in a bubble.

Since that's not possible, we'll keep plugging along, working through the stress, and hopefully, one day, be able to have runs like that more often.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

shy dog seminar

Our shy dog seminar was the best one we've been to yet. I definitely went home feeling good.

A lot of the seminar was talking. A ton of valuable information. Stress signs in/out of the ring, having a "reset", having a four step process at a trial....

I don't want to go into much detail. The instructor video taped the entire seminar, and plans to market it. I don't think it would be fair to her to divulge the information (but I'm sure you may notice, in future posts, new things I'm doing!).

We started off in the building doing jumps and tunnels, then went outside to do full courses in the afternoon. All the sequences we did in the building will be featured in an article in DogSport magazine in January. We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the article and try the sequences with the author!

All the dogs at the seminar exhibited stress in a different way. I learned I was one of the lucky ones. Other dogs ran away from their handler. Stopped dead in their tracks and disconnected. Went off and sniffed. Oreo always stays right with me. Someone said it is because I'm "Oreo's safety".

Well, what a good thing to be.

I left feeling I've been doing everything right with Oreo, but I could step it up a notch. Plus, I got some new ideas to try and important concepts to keep in mind when working with my sensitive dog. I left feeling hopeful. The instructor has had two dogs who are pretty much carbon copies of Oreo. Both have been able to work through their stress, and overcome it to an extent.

Even Oreo had a good day. Usually he is wiped out and stressed out by seminars, but this one was just right for him. He was even willing to do jump for joys in the late afternoon.

The instructor said that working with a stressed dog is twice as hard. Other people only have to think about handling, while we have to think about handling AND how to keep our dogs happy.

I guess we could all give ourselves a pat on the back for that.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

tricky t-day ~ not much

OK, I thought we were ready to show you our backward figure 8, inspired by our pal, Ricky.

Instead, I got a video of me doing some sort of weird 80's dance (badly).

I shot this at the end of the day, and I think Oreo was pretty tired. My bad. We'll try again, but for this week, this is all I got.

I think he'd have done better if I hadn't focused so much on luring. Oreo really doesn't like learning that way. We switched it up to more shaping yesterday morning, and I think we're going to have better results now.

Some people have kindly been asking about Misty~girl. Cautiously, I'll say she is doing well. A week after putting her on Eight Righteous from our TCVM vet, I finally started to see a real improvement. Wish I had started that from the get go.

I started Misty on dasuquin this week (Oreo has been on it almost a year). Our TCVM vet told me that glucosamine helps the bladder, as well as arthritis. So, I figure, it can't hurt. Misty is also getting some cranberry powder mixed in her food.

Hope all this keeps her healthy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Dear Marybeth, Theo, & Miles,

I hope today you can remember that silly face Alan made when he played with his dear boys. Do you know the one I'm talking about?  I could try an impression, but I wouldn't do it justice. That silly face could turn a pout, or even a tantrum, into a giggle fest. That is the face I remember when I think of Alan.  I loved how it made all three of you smile.

Hugs, love, and a box of kleenex to all of you.  I love you.
Alan Bachman

4/09/1971 - 10/03/2009

Saturday, October 2, 2010

on the road to being stress-free?

Tomorrow Oreo and I are going to an all day agility seminar. The title? Break out of your Shell! A seminar for shy or stressed dogs. What could be more perfect? I'm so excited.

It will be held at our regular class/trial site, and some of our friends will be attending too.

I've never had the opportunity to attend a seminar geared specifically toward our biggest issue, so this is a real treat. I hope to get a lot of it, and not drive home thinking, "Did I get my money's worth?" or"Why did I waste my time with that?"

Then, to continue our road to stress free living....a week from Monday, Oreo and I have a consultation with a board certified veterinary behaviorist (dog shrink). We've waited a long time for this appointment. There are less that 50 vets in the country with the certification. We are lucky to have one that comes to our area once a month.

I had to fill out a 7 page packet on Oreo. Our meeting will last over an hour, and we will be sent home with a plan(and maybe some prozac) that "fits into our lifestyle"! Plus, we get three months of follow up phone/email consultations.

Will these two sessions turn my dog into a happy, go lucky, love everybody, golden retriever? OK, maybe not, but I'm really looking forward to hearing what these two people have to say.