I should probably stop late-night-blogging, I’m not sure it’s that coherent.

Since I finally realised that Rio’s issues are threshold related, so I went back and re-read Control Unleashed, and immediately felt better. I formulated a plan, and it’s already in action. We’re worked through the Take a Break exercises and she’s already improving in terms of focus and control, but she’s also relaxing faster on the breaks.

We’ll continue working on it during high-intensity training like agility and flyball, but during clicker sessions and general training during the day. Daisy is doing some CU as well, since it fits in nicely with her clicker training. She’s finally sort of getting the hang of things; she offered her first behaviour this week, nudging a box with her nose. She is not a paw-kind of dog, which means it’s going to be interesting teaching her to hit a flyball target. I guess that’s because she uses the paw-lift a lot as a calming signal though, and she’s not comfortable with being physically handled.

I’m at an event this weekend with North K9, which also includes a few demos. Somehow Dylan has turned into my go-to dog (when did that happen?!) but it’ll be a really good opportunity for Rio and Daisy as well.

Failure to Launch

Really struggling with Rio these days, when it comes to training.

Agility on Tuesday started out really well, she ran 4-5 times on short, focused sequences where she needed to respond to handling well. She was great! Super focused, super tuggy, and ran all the sequences really well. Then she shut down and I lost her. Again, at flyball yesterday, she came out of the car tugging and focused, really wild, and then as soon as we got to the equipment, shut down. It’s literally like flipping a switch, from wild child Rio to sniffing, displacement Rio.

I seem to come up with a new theory every week, because I can’t find one that feels right. I still think it must be partly to do with pressure; apply pressure, dog switches off. But I am also wondering if it is partly an overload; she’s getting so worked up prior to training, that it doesn’t take much (or anything) to hit threshold and blow the fuses. She was going bonkers in the car before her turn at flyball, barking at Dylan and digging her crate door. If she was on a high and then I added tugging/pressure, it wouldn’t take long for her to reach threshold. Likewise, it may explain why she has a longer focus period at agility, as the car is parked some distance away and she doesn’t get worked up until she reaches the arena and starts work.

If this is the case, how do I avoid pushing her past the tipping point, and/or bring her back under threshold if she goes over the edge?

On the other hand, returning to her car crate seems to act as a “reset button”. She can go from crazy to displacement and with a simple “Go to Bed!” command, she goes back to her crate and then immediately switches back on. Security of the crate? Is it environmental?

Sometimes I seriously think I must be doing something wrong. Why do all my dogs have stress-related problems? I suppose they all have different stress issues, but still.

Things to Do with Daisy

Miss Daisy is definitely finding her feet. She’s such a puppy! I’m getting to know her better and we had our first play session today with just us, no toys or treats.

Things I want to do this week with Daisyface:

  • More clicker training! Some offered object interaction would be nice.
  • Ball obsession work (my least favourite game)
  • More crate games — learning Go to Bed would be useful!
  • Recall work … she’s getting cheeky.
  • Play!
  • Get more photos

She is getting better at life. She’s better at interacting with other dogs, although she’s still quite reactive to dogs she meets on walks. This is generally just barking from a distance, ala Dylan, but because she has little to no reward system in place just yet (not one that she trusts to revert to), it’s difficult to regain her attention. She is also somewhat uncomfortable with people, and the main issue there is her rate of escalation, which is FAST; she goes from minor calming signals to snapping within seconds. (Snapping is air snapping, there’s no bite intention and her bite inhibition is great). She’s done this maybe two or three times? Always in situations where she’s tired. Tired Daisy = grumpy Daisy.

Interesting that she has absolutely no kill instinct though. Rio found a squirrel to play with this weekend (and got bitten by it) but Daisy had no desire to kill it (neither did Rio or Dylan … we left it alive and intact, but possibly ready to die from stress). She also didn’t register the Mink? Weasel? Thing? that crossed paths with us the other day.

Bit of research suggests Daisy is maybe a Plummer Terrier? Not a breed I’d ever heard of, and not much of a real “breed” at all, but rather a working terrier strain that mainly consists of Jack Russell with a bit of Beagle and Fell terriers from the 80s. Speculation, however!

Reconsiderations and Theories

Theories: http://chaosinagility.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/if-onlys-have-tos-and-what-nots.html

I do love it when bloggers post about something which is both relevant and timely. I love Alett’s blog and she posted this today:

Back to the point linked to a recent post, I have sadly seen many many victims of PTC… yup you guessed it, Pressure To Compete. I have seen two specific strains of PTC recently: A. Handlers that have done well with past dogs, trying to recreate their glory or prove a point, in their rush to do this, they forget their previous steps to success, they forget that the importance of the small things. B. Handlers that are blessed with those ‘X-factor’ dogs, that want to fast track into mainstream success, they rush development and turn a blind eye to small niggly problems (that will soon turn into huge gaping flaws). I can write a book on this subject… but today I only want to remind myself that I should appreciate each unique relationship with each unique canine Agility partner I may be fortunate enough to have. The only pressure I should ever feel is the pressure not to fail my dogs.

I have spent the past few days reading the blog posts I made when I debuted Dylan, and how I aimed for small BAA shows where I could train his runs and work on his focus. I don’t know why I thought I could or should skip this step with Rio, but I did, and it was a very silly mistake. I’m now pencilling in UKA dates for the winter, finding unaffiliated shows, and figuring out what I want from each show.

I have been working with Rio on her focus and trying to identify when and where she gets “lost”. She’s not very good at waiting for information, for a start.

I am very happy with how she worked at flyball today, she did 5x hits on the box (BIG improvement over last time, still not perfect!) and she did 1x recall, and then we quit.

Demolitian Derby

Rio was utterly wild at training this week. Since we have a lot of people on holiday at the moment, our final session was very quiet, so I brought Rio and Dylan down to the arena at the same time. Mistake!

Apparently watching Dylan (or me running Dylan?) is way too exciting for Rio. When it was her turn, she promptly ran like a lunatic, demolished pretty much the whole course and would not. Stop. Barking. She even decided to try to weave the uprights, and despite her moderate success, we put a stop to that as I don’t really need broken weaves. I will start moving her on to the uprights soon though, if she wants to try them!

I realise now that this is probably why I’ll never be a Champ level handler. I should really care that the wild dog demolished the place, instead of finding it sort of hilarious. She was having so much fun though, and she really is a blast to run. Her drive down lines was fantastic, and she was picking up obstacles well. We did get some productive training done!

Dylan worked his socks off, super dogwalk and super weaves, just hope it all holds together for the weekend. JDA are supplying this show, so no scary aluminium dogwalks. I’m interested to see if there really is a difference!

Small Dog is Small

Daisy is settling in well. She is very much like an 8 week old puppy in some ways, rather than 8 month. There is so much she has never learnt, even very simple things like walking on a lead. She now understands that doing something cued = food, which is progress!


Her resource guarding continues, although with minor improvements. Of course, most dogs guard their resources to a certain extent, and I’m happy for my dogs to guard what belongs to them from the other dogs. For example, Kim is within her rights to growl at Dylan if he tries to eat her tea, and Dylan is allowed to guard his toy from Rio-thief. Because all the older dogs have always reacted appropriately in terms of guarding their objects, this is a bit of a new one for me … I know the theory but it’s always a bit different in practise! Daisy has a BIG personal bubble space for guarding, she doesn’t like anyone to come within 6ft of her guarded object. We are working on that! She also guards things which aren’t hers. If I am eating, she’ll guard my food from the other dogs. That is an official No in our house.

Unfortunately, because she guards and because her guard-bubble is so big, Dylan doesn’t really understand her. She tries to play with him on walks (in much the same style Ri plays with him, by launching and hanging off his ruff), and he stands looking horrified, because she also growls at him sometimes and he can’t understand why she’d do both. Dogs are either Not Scary or Scary, in Dylan’s book. Some dogs can move from one to the other (like Diesel!), but they can’t be in both at the same time, so Daisy is currently in the Scary category.

Daisy Ri

She did very well at Lune Valley at the weekend, met lots of suitably appropriate dogs (thank you Diva, Jess, and Kobi!) and wandered around in all the busy stalls and food seating. She got quite interested in watching the dogs running but it was easy to keep her under threshold and get her re-focusing on us. She also queued for Diva and tried to steal a Malinois’ toy, so we played some queue-tugging with her own toy as well. She’s got the Ready-Set-Go impulse control game down to perfection. The Malinois was very impressed.

Threshold is still low for excitement, however! If the other dogs begin getting excited (ie. before a walk), she tips over. Setting off for a walk is a nightmare, she cannot control herself! So that’s the other major thing to work on.

In every other respect she’s just a super cute puppy doing all the usual super cute puppy stuff. She tugs like a fiend!

Timely Thoughts

Denise Fenzi has a timely article up on motivators and motivation, which has left me thoughtful. This is a somewhat tangential post.

Rio worked well for treats at our extra session at the arena this week, but she wasn’t fully engaged in the game. I had a mixture of food and a treat bag toy. In terms of skills, she is working really well; her drive forward is beautiful, providing I keep quiet and let her roll. She is picking up obstacles nicely, and she’s responding well to handling cues (rear and front crosses). She occasionally ducks out on the first jump, which I’m beginning to suspect is an inadvertent mishap on my part; when she breaks her wait (which is rare), we run back to the start and begin again. I think she thinks the failure to continue is because she took that specific jump, not as a consequence of breaking the wait, so I need a new plan there.

She also occasionally ducks under/around jumps if they’re on odd angles or she’s on the wrong stride, which is fine. She’s a baby and I’d rather she did that than the pole crashing we’ve had in the past. Her jumping style is occasionally unconventional but she is smooth and clean and fast, but not as fast as she can go.

Returning to motivators. Sort of.

We dropped in on a clicker workshop at North K9 this weekend, after my Agility Skills class in the morning. Rio was a handy demo dog and she loves shaping, so I thought it would be fun. And it was! We had such a great time, Rio was super switched on and 100% engaged in the game. Why? Because her motivator was better, or because the method was better, or because I wasn’t placing any pressure on her? I think I know the answer to that.

Dogwalk notes: Restrained recalls on the dogwalk were less successful than the Aframe. The narrower plank meant she wasn’t comfortable powering along, she was a lot more cautious, especially on the top plank. She’s concerned about falling, I think. Not entirely sure how to overcome that, other than more restrained recalls?

See Me Learn

Dylan & Rio

Rio is continuing to surprise me at flyball training. She was introduced to the hit-it board for the first time this week, and was pretty fab. We initially introduce the dogs gently and don’t ask for a turn, just build their confidence and see how they adapt to the board. Rio had a couple of normal target moments and then offered a proper turn! Very happy with that, she’s hanging on the board a little and is very high, but we’ll refine that in the next few weeks.

I’m also ramping up her weave training, although it’s somewhat frustrating as I don’t have car access during the day anymore (the problems of car sharing!) and I can’t train at home. So I have 2-3 evenings a week when I can trek to the park and set up the weaves, providing the weather is suitable … which it hasn’t been.

Mr HandsomeNevertheless, we managed to fit in a good half hour alternating between Rio and Dylan. Rio is learning, the Vs are a couple of inches apart and she’s showing a good action. I’m happy with her entries and she’s driving to the end well. Interestingly she’s having a similar problem to Diva, in that if I race the entry she has a tendency to hit the first poles way too hard and pop. I can send her to the entry and then run to catch up without an issue, it’s just that initial drive in if I’m running alongside. I didn’t really test this theory as I didn’t want her to hurt herself, but it’s not a big issue anyway.

Dylan did some pretty awesome weave entries that I wish I’d filmed, just to prove how incredible his entries are! He’s not usually confident enough in competition for me to push him to the level I do in training when it comes to weaves, but he really is very good. This is why I’m not too concerned about Rio having weak entries at this point in her training, since Dylan was the same and he turned out ok.

Meanwhile, I’m working through my KCAI APL (that’s the Kennel Club Accredited Instructor Assesment of Prior Learning, for those of you who didn’t want to know) and I’m drowning in paperwork. I’ve been encouraged to go for my KCAI and I have to admit it’s really excited for me to be back at school, I love having an excuse to go out and read all the books and attend all the seminars! Hopefully I’ll eventually be accredited in agility, although accreditation for agility is really tough when you’re not a Judge (which I’m not). That part of the module is letting me down at the moment, as although I enjoy setting courses and assessing our club dogs, judging isn’t something which has really appealed to me before. I don’t have the patience! I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone however, as I am attending a UKA Level 1 Judging course, which would give me the opportunity for judging experience without the 8-9hr days and 300 dog classes (at least in our area). The APL should hit the postbox this week and we’ll see what happens!

Oh, and I helped found a new flyball club for our area recently! Check out phantomsflyball.co.uk – it’s been a lot of fun so far.

Dogwalks and Tunnels

We did lots of dogwalk work at training this week! I had three things to work on in our classes; dogwalk, weaves, and long-jump.

For our dogwalk training, I planned a similar set up to his very bad run at Lincoln and he refused again, so I think we can conclude that the tunnel under the dogwalk is definitely a contributing factor to his meltdowns. I’m not sure why – it’s a fairly common feature and not something we’ve had a problem with before – but it’s something concrete that we can work on. We broke it down and rewarded for driving on the up-plank, and then pieced it back together.

By the end of the session he was powering through some really beautiful dogwalks, which always makes me happy! If I got half the dogwalk in competition that I do in training I’d be happy, and with our next show being UKA I hope we can work toward making that happen.

We also had part of the course set up for fast weave entries that encouraged the handler to run on ahead, since some of our less experienced dogs are struggling in competition to check up for the weaves (and Dylan popped a few times at Hare’n’Hounds). Of course, everyone was perfect! I couldn’t get Dylan to pop out and all the baby dogs nailed their entries.

The long-jump is a bit of a weird one, Dylan has a tendency to check his stride/stutter into this at competitions and it can be a sign of injury with him, so I wanted to see how he worked in training. Apparently nothing to worry about, he was extending nicely and no stuttering, and he was also offering it as an obstacle when I mis-timed my cues.

On We Roll

Rio is still bored and still full of herself. She had her stitches out 10 days ago and she’s in full coat-blowing mode; seems to be her stress response to anesthetic/being left at the vet, since she did this after stitches in her paw as well.

Trick training is keeping her mildly entertained. We’ve got backing up to a much better distance. Object retrieve is going pretty well, she’ll fetch my car keys although not to my hand. Stand is not going all that great and I’m now formulating a new approach. I’ve been trying to lure her into position but I know I’d be better shaping it with the clicker, but I’ve always found that difficult for a stand. Bow is also going ok! Kim learnt to bow but Mollie and Dylan never did, so I haven’t done this one in a while. More practise for me!

I’ve also been doing some scentwork games with the whole gang. Kim doesn’t get to play very often since she ends up getting angry with everyone for eating what could have potentially been her food. Dylan loves these games, gets super exciting and gets very animated, his tail waving like a flag as he rushes about like an idiot. Rio is the opposite! She gets very focused and methodical. She’s very cute when she’s concentrating hard on something.

She has started lead walks again this week, and I’m trying to find “interesting” places to walk her. That’s turning out to be quite difficult, there’s only so many places you can find on the outskirts of a Yorkshire village. I might take her on a day trip to Lincoln this weekend with Dylan, although it’ll depend on the weather.

Can’t wait til this time next week when we reach the month mark! I’ll feel more comfortable about adding in a few proper walks and so on, and maybe do some flatwork for agility in the weeks after that.