Monday, March 18, 2013

Quick summary

You know you're in trouble when your Malinois-owning friend comes over and comments that your dog is "busy" and has "trouble settling".

There hasn't been much to report here. We're taking a three week class called Strength, Balance, and Body Awareness from Braveheart Dog Training. We do some stretching, cavalettis, and peanut and pilates disc work. Not anything that new for Chimera, but fun and always good to practice.

We're puttering around in our training; trying to keep up with agility class and dabbling in obedience and tricks and handling work. I'm in a super busy period and don't have as much time to play with Cai or take him on as many trips as I would like.

We did a BAT session on Saturday and it was the best one so far. Cai was willing to eat chicken for most of the session, and he only barked a few times. When we were about twenty feet away he seemed to think, "Oh, forget about it", and was still watching the decoy dog curiously and intently, but wasn't reactive anymore. We ended with parallel walking and even crossing each other in opposite directions, about twenty feet apart.

This is Luke the mastiff mix, Saturday's BAT decoy:

Later this week, Jacques the Papillon will be staying with us for a few days while his momma is in the hospital for surgery. Prepare for shenanigans.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fancy new collar

There's a local store called Paco Collars, which was founded to make, yes, nothing but beautiful leather dog collars (and leashes)! They've now expanded to include cat collars, belts, bracelets, and harnesses. I highly recommend checking out their online store.

I always buy my dogs fancy show collars for competition, and when I found myself near the store a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't resist buying one for Chimera already, even though it will be a long time before he needs it! His custom order was picked up yesterday. You can click on any picture to see it show up bigger and scroll through the pics.

Who's that pretty dog?
Now just look forward, not at me!
There's the collar!
Admittedly, it's not very visible when his long fur falls over it. Still beautiful, still worth it.

Here are a couple pictures from back home, just 'cause.

Rolling around.
Eating treat off floor.

Video of Owen and Chimera playing

From 03/18, an extremely dizzying video of Chimera playing with Owen the Cardigan Welsh Corgi:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Agility class 1.6, leash walking, making friends with Owen

Lots of review of skills we've been working on for the past few weeks: collar grab and releasing forward to a toy when the dog leans or pulls forward, lining up at our side, circle work, and stays. I barely did any training with Chimera over the past week because I was super duper busy, and that will probably continue for a couple more weeks.

At the end of class, we did the It's Yer Choice throwdown. Since we hadn't been practicing and Cai tends to move his paws a bit, I didn't think we'd last long. However we ended up holding our stand-stay longer than all the other students! I did lots of distracting things -- jump up and down, get down on the ground, twirl in a circle, shake out my jacket -- but I made sure to only do the things that I thought Cai could handle, and it worked. What a good boy. We won a new toy and a back issue of Clean Run.

Loose leash walking has greatly improved. Last week, something clicked in Cai's head and he started to come back to my side on his own after he would reach the end of the leash and I'd stop. Sometimes he does it quickly, and sometimes I have to wait a little bit, but he consistently comes back on his own. This definitely makes the walks more pleasant for me. If we're covering new ground, he still gets to the end of the leash frequently. However if we walk back home along the same route, he'll spend much more time walking nicely at my side.

Last Friday we met up with Sarah and her Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Owen, to do BAT. She picked a perfect spot -- wide open, grassy park, with very few people around. Cai started off doing very well. He got stiff and stared at Owen, but was calming down quickly when we would run away from him and sniff new patches of grass as a reward for looking away. After about ten minutes, he stopped to poop, and as I was tying off the poop bag, he lunged in Owen's direction and the leash slipped out of my hand! He made a beeline for Owen. I yelled and Sarah had time to pick Owen up. Cai started circling her and jumping up on her legs to say hello to Owen. He was not aggressive or reactive at this point at all; he was doing his usual over-exuberant greeting. However, the "damage" had been done -- even after this limited greeting, he no longer cared about being on leash with Owen nearby, so my "decoy" was ruined for BAT.

I was quite disappointed at first, but things took a turn for the better. Owen has a history of not liking intact puppies getting in his face, but he showed curious and friendly body language toward Chimera. We let them greet properly, and they became fast friends, zooming around and around the park.



Even though we'd intended to spend the hour doing reactivity work rather than a play session, in the end we had happy, tired dogs, and I can't be sad about that!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Agility class 1.5

Another great class this week. So happy with my little guy! We arrived early and I walked him around, doing circle work with frequent breaks to go sniff the equipment (which he's been dying to do since week one). This was the Give Me a Break structure from Control Unleashed. When the other dogs started coming in, he got happy wiggly tail as he watched them; none of the stiff body language from the first couple of weeks. He was particularly interested in a female English Bulldog who's been wearing panties for the past couple of weeks (gee, wonder why he's interested in her...), and a big chocolate Standard Poodle.

Warmed up with IYC stand-stay. Next week we're having an "It's Yer Choice throw-down", in which the last dog still staying wins, with a second prize being given to the owner who gets the most "style points" (in other words, can do the most interesting/entertaining stuff while their dog holds the stay). We're not going to win. :) But Cai is making good progress. We're battling foot movement, especially if he gets distracted by the other dogs, and then forgets what he's doing and reorients to me. I can toss treats and toys toward him, and do things like spin in a circle, jump up and click my heels, or get down on all fours like we're playing. It's the other dogs that make him lose his head.

The instructor explained the rear cross and had us continue the stays, working on going behind the dog. Cai sometimes moves his front feet when he whips his head around too quickly

We've been encouraging our dogs to pick up a toy, and then putting our hands on it and trading it for a treat, to build value for the dogs' putting their toys in our hands. Chimera is a big resource guarder, so I had to do this carefully, but I'm now able to take the toy right from him if he knows that I have food on me and he's in training mode. Getting him to willingly put a toy in my hand is another story -- but I'm working on that by shaping a retrieve and doing fetch training (throw a toy down the hallway, stand in his natural path back to the living room, and trade him when he gets to me).

For a couple of weeks we've been trying to build the dog's drive forward when taken by the collar, by dropping a toy in front of him and then letting him go to run to it. Cai just meanders to the toy, even when I tease him with it, even if I pry it out of his mouth during tug and immediately release him to it, even when it's his highest value toy (bunny fur tug). I mentioned to the instructor that he'll run if I toss these ball-shaped chicken and rice treats, so she suggested that I use food in a sock as his drive-builder instead. She wants us to put the food into some sort of pouch so that it's an item we can throw. I didn't try this initially because I knew that he would run off with the pouch and guard it, but I'll try it now that he is better about trading.

(If we never get the collar/drive forward thing down, we'll still be okay. Dragon learned agility without it, and I can already use my hand and arm forward to send Chimera to obstacles/objects.)

Did circle work, on our side of the classroom while everyone else went in a big circle together. Outside turns which face Cai toward other dogs are the hardest part of circle work, and we practiced this a lot, starting far away at first and slowly getting closer. I was VERY pleased with how much he progressed during these five minutes. If he did stop to watch them, I backed away and used a little bit of leash pressure if needed to call him back to earth. I felt comfortable with this because I could see that he had much more relaxed body language compared to previous weeks, and he was quick to reengage and go back to work. During previous weeks, I would let him watch the other dogs, because he was more worried about his surroundings. Of course, as much as possible I tried to work at a distance and angle at which he could be successful. A few times he disengaged to sniff the floor, and my reaction was to shorten the leash so that he couldn't wander, but to let him sniff until he was done. He didn't react to his name in these moments, and if I tried to pull him away I knew he'd get stressed. He may have been stress-sniffing in the first place. When he's fully engaged in heeling, he doesn't notice smells on the floor or other dogs moving around him.

Then everyone practiced outside turns, a quarter turn at a time. Cai did this okay last week, but this week he kept going forward and turning his butt out to face me. I'll practice this with Denise Fenzi's pocket hand to help him be successful. I don't think this is that important for agility, but it's similar to doing the pivots in rally, so we might as well. The instructor seemed to teach this as part of getting the dog to line up, but I get my dogs to line up with inside pivots.

Finally, we finished up class with restrained recalls, one at a time. We would call the dog, run forward, front cross as they ran up to us, then pull 180 degrees. Cai ran toward me super quickly and did the turns perfectly, no losing focus on the outside turn. Yay!

Visit to the car dealership

I got into the habit of taking Dragon with me to the dealership every time I had to get maintenance work on the car. I've been to four different dealerships now, and none of them have ever said anything negative about having a dog with me. Dragon would always stay in his crate or on his mat during the wait. I decided that it was Chimera's turn to do the same.

Before asking him to settle down in a new place, we took a long walk around the dealership area. Of course we worked on loose leash walking. I noticed right away that if Cai went ahead and reached the end of his leash, and I stopped and waited, he would eventually self-correct and come back to my side and look up at me. That was great! However for the first twenty minutes, it was slow going, because as soon as I took one or two steps forward, he was already at the end of the leash again. It also took him a while to finish sniffing and looking around and come back to me. We were in a brand new place, so I understood his need to explore the environment, and I let this ping pong game play itself out. It was more important to me that he get lots of rehearsals of putting himself back at my side rather than trying to force him to pay attention.

Finally, after twenty minutes, his pace started to slow down, and the walking improved. After thirty minutes we were able to actually walk together for a few yards at a time. There was one magical moment, right at the end of the walk, when he went ahead of me, and I stutter-stepped as he reached the end of the leash, and he immediately turned to look at me and then came back to my side. I guess that's what we're working toward (along with keeping pace in the first place).

Back at the dealership, he spent the next ninety minutes chilling in the soft crate. At first I gave him chicken through a little opening in the zippered door, and then he settled down with a bully stick, then he dozed off, then he whined just a little bit and tried to chew on the crate out of boredom (I interrupted that and he promptly stopped), and then he just lay around. All in all, the experience was exactly what I was hoping for -- just hanging out in the crate, not worked up about it. I sat next to the crate the entire time. He would have gotten very upset if I'd walked away.

His reactivity is slooowly getting better. Sometimes when he gets reactive I still have to drag him away from the stimulus, but other times he might give one bark but then turn away and willingly move with me away from the Danger. That's a major improvement. BAT is teaching him how to disengage and walk away with me. We have two more sessions already scheduled with friends, and I'm going to put out feelers to do some more.

Yesterday he freaked out when the neighbor kid came into the apartment with his hood up and walked directly at Cai. Today he freaked out when my roommate's kid came out of the shower and was wrapped in a towel. He has a phobia of people with bulky, shapeless silhouettes. It's not something that comes up as often, so I think I'll just work on it after we've got the dog reactivity more in check. One thing at a time...