Sunday, December 29, 2013

New collars

I used to make collars for Dragon, my previous Papillon. My enthusiasm for it waned after he died. However, Chimera needs an agility lead, so I finally got around to making him one.

It's a martigale/leash combo, just long enough to comfortably walk next to me. The black and red/burgandy are much more bad ass than the harness he wears for walks: pink with white hearts all over it. He will strike fear into the competition.

And while I was in the store, I couldn't help buying a glittery silver ribbon to make a regular collar after all.

Outtake photo:

And Chimera doing his best owl impression:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Weaves and teeter

No one attended yesterday's open practice agility session, which was perfectly fine with me, as it meant that I was free to set up a full set of 2x2s right across the open middle of the room. Someone asked if Chimera was having problems with skipping poles because he was getting faster, and a lightbulb went off in my head. He is learning to single-step the poles at a fast pace, but if he loses his rhythm, it makes him skip a pole. (He also skips if I'm running too quickly, which makes him speed up more than he can handle.)

I thought back to Susan Garrett's 2x2 DVD, and remembered that she helps dogs learn the proper footwork by opening up each pair of poles just a little bit, so they're offset just enough to make the motion easy for the dog. I did that for Cai, and I could see the difference right away. We practiced various entrances from other obstacles along with front and rear crosses on the way in. The only big problem I still see is that if I run hard ahead of him, he'll often skip a pole near the end to try to keep up with me. (Though he always gets himself through the final pair, so he understands that part of the behavior!) If I get another chance to practice all by myself, I will set up the slightly-offset poles again, and do other forms of distraction training (ie ignoring treats and toys on the ground and me doing things like jumping up and down or tripping and "falling"). Hopefully that proofing will then allow him to focus on the poles completely even when I'm running ahead.

In the meantime, he can do the competition set of 12 poles during class, as long as I stay beside him or behind him.

In teeter news, he is eager to run up the teeter because he knows he'll get high value treats. However he doesn't like the movement of the teeter while he's going across it. Same problem my last Papillon had -- he is happy to run up a steep plank (like the a-frame) and a narrow plank (like the dog walk) and he doesn't mind the falling -- if he's already at the end, I can drop it all the way and he'll be back for more. It's the fact that the board starts moving as he's running across that bothers him. He'd made excellent progress during our private lesson with Sandy Rogers, but then was regressing again. Once again I had the thought that the irregular practice was making it worse. Twice he managed to go up the teeter while I wasn't looking and rode it all the way down. A few other times we practiced with the chair propping it up, as Sandy had shown us, but he was still stopping as soon as the board started moving, riding it down, and then going the rest of the way. The movement was not predictable to him; it kept changing. It's also noticeable that because of his body weight and the calibration of this specific teeter, the tipping point is where he reaches the edge of the contact zone. I'm sure he's made the connection and is purposefully slowing down at the color change.

I'm thinking that perhaps the answer is to stop changing the behavior of the teeter, and let him practice running and riding it down as-is, with no props or manipulation. Let him gain confidence and speed up and start to favor the end of the board through reward placement. I tried that out (see, here I'm changing the scenario again...), with me standing on the far edge, facing him to encourage him, and putting treats at the edge as soon as it started to tip. I'll run this idea by our instructor during our next class, and I'm trying to schedule another private with Sandy as well.

I really dislike the teeter.

Hiking is fun again!

I had stopped hiking with Cai almost entirely between leaving my dog walking job and this past week. When we did the occassional trail, he would always explode when he saw dogs coming, and it was too stressful to put up with.

Somehow, though, in the meantime, Cai's reactivity toward other dogs has decreased enough that both of us can enjoy the trails again! He still does some frustrated barking at the first few dogs he sees. After that, he settles down and does nothing more than pull against the leash to get to the dogs faster. (He has to stay on leash or he would just run from one dog to another, completely ignoring me.) If the dog is staying on the other side of the wide path, clearly wanting to avoid us, I tell Cai "let's go!" (our BAT cue), and it is getting much easier for him to stop staring and pulling and start walking forward again. I am also working on interrupting long greetings and getting him moving again, because he's always been an invasive sniffer.

I am so proud of his progress, and happy to be able to start jogging the trails again!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice

(click on picture to see bigger, clearer version)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

12 poles!

Chimera finally did 12 poles, and he did it three times in one class! Yaaaay!!

He'd done 12 a few times before but they'd started to quickly deteriorate. He would skip a pole here and there, usually when he was supposed to turn left, so I suspected a medical cause. I took him to the chiropractor just before my trip to Peru, who found a source of tension and pain in Cai's back.

After the trip, I was able to attend two drop-in practice sessions at Ace, and we spent all of our turns working on six poles. I found that his footwork was improving and he was learning to single-step the poles. However he was still frequently missing a middle pole. I pulled out the 2x2s and rotated the middle pair to help him out. I could see his muscle memory improving.

I didn't think he was actually ready to go back to the straight set of 12, but I tried it in class anyway. And lo and behold, after a couple of false starts due to running at the poles at speed, he did it! He got many small pieces of hamburger as a jackpot reward!

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I went on a two week vacation to Peru, and Chimera went on vacation to my friend Sarah's home. He had a blast, playing with his BFF Owen the Corgi and barking all the time at everything.

Thank you Sarah for taking such good care of my baby boy!!