Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Two For the Price of One

I'm about to talk your ear off about a couple of things. But I want to point out first, that although these are two very important things and are both more than deserving of their own individual posts, I'm going to keep them together because really, one wouldn't have happened without the other.

These two things are, of course, Bella and Simi.

On September 17th, 2012 we hit the two year marker that I've been without Bella. It feels like she's been gone so much longer than that. I miss her, still, and always will. But at the same time, it feels like just yesterday she was here, a part of our family. Bella was a special dog. Everyone who has heard me talk about her before knows this. She came into my life for a reason, I don't doubt that at all. And having gone two years without her, the reasons that I ever had her at all are clearer and clearer everyday. She helped me become the person I am today, this I know. If it hadn't been for Bella, things would have played out much differently in my life.

The people I know now, the choices I've made, where I am location wise, it was all effected by Bella...

As crazy as that seems. But it's true. She was such an important role in my life... and still is.

I don't know where I would have ended up without her. And there's no way for me to tell really. But that's okay, because I'm honestly happy right here, where I am.

Bella was a once in a life time dog. There will never be another like her come along in my life. She was special and not just in her speshul way. And even though she was a hand-me-down of a gift, she was a gift none the less. And just like my life with Bella effected who I am, Bella's life before me effected who she was and therefore her role in my life.

Everything happens for a reason.


Which brings me to my second subject; Simi. On September 22nd, 2011, just mere days after the one year marker of having lost Bella, my little Demon Child was born. At that point, I don't even think I knew her litter was planned, so I had no idea that all those puppies had been born. And I honestly had no idea that somewhere in all of those pretty puppies was my future headache... er, I mean, my future Brain Child.

But there she was, a teeny little sable girlie waiting who had no idea that she'd be joining my crazy crew and that she'd be forced to put up with me.

Poor girl, someone should have warned her.

And somehow, someway... these two dogs were connected. Call me crazy, I don't care. But I know that there was a reason Simi came into my life, just like Bella had plenty of reason to come into my life. And I honestly feel as if in some way, Bella sent Simi to me.

Simi is mostly a pain in my butt, honestly. But I love her. She's crazy and foolish but calm and dignified. She's the perfect combination of go-go-go and wait-wait-wait. Now, anyway.

Of course, we had our days... weeks... months where she was insane. No brain, no manners, no will to work with me. She was hell on paws. I said it on a regular basis.

But she was my puppy. That well bred GSD that I'd craved ever since Bella came into my life and I caught the GSD bug. She was goofy and silly and she was mine.

Now we've made it through to almost a year old. I can't believe how time has flown. From how we've gone from that little, cute adorable puppy that was always biting me to this 'big' pretty dog who is... well, mentally still in about the same spot. *snorts* And now that I think of it, yeah, she still bites me...

But I swear with her age has come some kind of maturity... I just cant' see it all the time.

So this is mostly just a post to let you know I'm still alive and to recognize two amazing things in my life that just happened to end and begin a year and some days apart... I know it's just time between two things that were bound to happen... but I don't think that it was by random chance that Bella was gone a year just days before Simi came into this world.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Waah, mobile post!

Typing this on my cellphone so please excuse any and all typos.

Just a quick update on what's going on.

Psyche rocked her last trial! 3/7 Qs, and some really beautiful moments over the span of the weekend. Her first full trial in a while. Oh! And she got top Starters dog on Saturday; so proud of her for that. She got her first Standard Q, with a beautiful table, and nice weavies. And a snooker and jumpers Q put her into Advanced Snooker and Jumpers. She only needs a few more Qs (one gamble and one standard) for her first title (SGDC) and two more standards for her second title (ADC). So proud of her.

Crash is a beast in training. He's starting to offer distance and rarely goes around any jumps and never goes under the bars anymore, and is jumping all 22 inch jumps. We started a 2 foot dog walk last night and by the end of the session he was running the full length of the dog walk with me standing still. He has no end behaviour, but we will get it... Trying to decide if maybe I want to train a running.

Simi is doing really well in classes and is starting to get a little more oomph to her work. She's starting to seem like she's enjoying herself. She also turned 10 months old yesterday! I'm going to try to get a photoshoot done of her. She's so pretty and grown up now, but still a baby where it matters.

And my mom bought a van, so now I can travel all of my big dogs, not like the HHR, so booyeah.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

It's been a while.

Wow, haven't really updated in a while, my bad. So this thread is going to be a mess of things that have happened in the last month since I've posted.

Hmm, where to start. We'll start with me, cause I'm selfish and self centered! I graduated college (my photography class) on the 27th. Ended the year on Honors, got a cool cord because of it, and finished the program with something like a 3.85something average. Boo yeah! I also had my friend Diane visiting me from the 16th to 30th. That was mucho fun. She's another agility person so it was cool to have someone to train with and offer new ideas and suggestions. I'm still currently jobless and it's making my mom crazy, which is in turn making me crazy, but I'm looking. I've been doing C25k and was starting week 3 when Diane came and ended up putting it on hold for the two weeks she was here, and so am now starting again, but back at week 1, day 1. Oh well. Hm, that's about it for me, that doesn't involve the dogs!

Now for Psyche. Psyche and I didn't go to that trial I mentioned because we were having car issues. But we've got another one planned for next weekend. Full weekend, lots of games. I'm really excited. I finally took the dogs out to the docks! Psyche loves it and started jumping off the first time out, and has every time I've taken her after that too. And her jumping keeps getting better. Less going under water now. She's even to the point where she will jump off before you throw the stick, woot! In terms of her agility we have been doing lots of fun little sessions. Been working on a "dig" command which is basically for wrapping around jumps, I guess? Using it for her threadles. It's coming along nicely. She's so happy and confident in training; really loving it. Tonight I'm taking her out to a club training night to work on a Snookers course (good cause we have a snookers or two this weekend and if she gets a Q we'll be in Advanced *gulp*) and I'm excited to see how she works there.

Crasher has also seriously started some agility stuffs. I've put his weaves on hold because I want to start over and get more motion without ME moving from him. No big deal, really. He's been doing lots of box work and pinwheels. But straight lines too and starting to work a little more on distance. He's doing great. Needs some circle work stuff, though, as he's starting to cut behind me a lot (bad dog!) but I knew he needed more circle work and haven't done it with him (bad handler!). He's also been out to the docks with me a few times and isn't really one for swimming... he likes wading. I'm going to get him a life jacket and see if that helps. He WANTS to jump, he does, but he's scared. Haha. He's fallen off a few times (stands on the edge of the dock chasing his tail, falls in) and always swims out like nothing happened so I know he CAN swim, just needs to get more comfortable.

Ah now for the Simi. She's still a Satan spawn. But I still love her. She's doing well in agility class. Still not eager to tug or play really, but much more focus now and she's getting way more comfortable. We started them on a raised plank a few weeks back and Simi LOVES it. She will jump right up, RUN across it and jump right off, turn on it in both directions, etc.. No fear of it at all. Very proud of her for that, since she's mostly a little fearful of life, haha. We started the bang game last week, too, and again, no fear. Also started some 3 jump jump grids. She was struggling a little bit in class (since it's a release to a toy) but she would drive over to the toy and then look to me for the treat, so I can deal with that. Need some work. I started her yesterday on the flirt pole. That was fun! She loves it and it tires her out -- double win! Yesterday I only used one toy on it and didn't ask for anything from her besides her chasing it. Today I took her out and started asking for some sit stays/down stays between chases and she was all for it, although a little confused at first as to why she actually had to DO something. I also tried three different toys on it today and she chased all three. After that she was willing to tug one on one with me with all three toys -- boo yeah! Way to go, demon dog! After that we did some circle work, which she was kinda not into, but she was also tired at that point, and then we did some of those 3 jump jump grids (don't worry, in class they're only jump bumps and at home only 6 inch jumps). She did GREAT! She was holding her stay (for the most part; need to work on that) and she was running to the tug, getting it and tugging with me. I was also able to send her out over them to the tug, wahoo! She's come a long way, that's for sure.

Zoey is, of course, enjoying her retired life. Her days are full of urgent matters, sock hunting and sun bathing, and that's just how she likes it.
So yeah. That's about it... or at least all I can think of right now. Besides, this is pretty long already.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pye K9 Kapers Trial

Psyche and I headed out to our club's trial this past weekend. They were having a Steeplechase Friday night then full days Saturday and Sunday, so after Psyche's last trial  I decided to only enter her in one event per day and to try and avoid places where I knew she stressed a lot more. So basically, no standards. Standards have weaves and tables and we hate those. Well, okay, at home we don't hate those. We loves those at home, actually. But at trials we hate those.

So anyway. Steeplechase friday night went surprisingly well! I am so proud of my baby girl for that run alone. She was eager to go into the ring, PULLING ME THERE! And she was happy even when I took her back and made her redo obstacles she missed. I didn't see her even start to hesitate until the jump after the weaves, but I figure that was because a) I was getting tried at that point and b) that was two "corrections" in a row, so might have been a little hard on her ego.

Saturday was one jumpers run. Last class of the day. So I took pictures all day until it was time for our run. What a brilliant run! I am so proud of her. She was happy and comfortable in the ring and really bootin' er. Look at her go! And look at that, clean and under time -- her first Starters Jumpers Q and a 1st place! She was the only dog in regulars open to Q! That means we have Gamblers, Snookers and Jumpers Qs now!

Sunday was another jumpers course and really nice. Just one refusal because I wasn't where I needed to be, all my fault. Psyche was having SO MUCH fun. You could really tell. No video from Sunday because of a camera issue. She ended the run with one refusal and under time, giving her a 2nd place out of three dogs! I am so proud of her for this weekend. Man. Just wow.

I always hoped I'd get runs like that out of Psyche at a trial. And it felt so great finally getting them. It was just so nice to have "normal dog" issues at a trial. Refusals, over time, etc. those I can handle. They're so much better than stress. I honestly thought for a long time that Psyche was just never going to be a trial dog. But this weekend gave me some hope that things could be different!

We have another trial on the 23/24th of June. Lots of games. I think two standard runs all weekend is all. We're doing the full weekend, but I am hoping that with most of them being games we'll have a good weekend again. So excited.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

That moment when you can't tell that something's broken until you fix it.

Or at least until you start to fix it, as is the case with Simi. I started hand feeding her Saturday night and we started minimizing her first meal of the day (I can't bring myself not to feed her ANYTHING, so she's down to 1/2 a cup from 1 1/2) Sunday morning. Today is Tuesday and already I am seeing a difference. Simi offers behaviours while trying to earn her meal at night like you wouldn't believe. She's tail wagging the whole time, happy and throwing behaviours at me.

In the day she'll be free to go outside in the dog fence or be inside and she is more often coming over and visiting me on the couch. Sitting all snuggled up beside me, staring at me. When I look at her and pat her she melts into me. She'll come in from outside, without my calling her, to just give me a happy "HAI MOM!" and get a pat then she'll go back outside. This is new. Usually once she's outside, she's outside. It's amazing what putting effort into building a relationship with her is presenting me with. And you know, I didn't realize just how broken our bond was until I started trying to fix it. The difference is amazing.

The little monster also swam for the first time, intentionally, Monday night. I was throwing a ball out into the middle of the pond for Psyche (who only just started swimming this year!) so Psyche could have a "safe zone" from Simi, who thinks it's fun to body slam Psyche, and the first throw was good, Simi waited until she was in the shallow to body slam her, but the second throw Simi swam right out beside Psyche. So much for that plan, but man, I am so excited that she's started swimming! Even though our pond is disgusting. I'm thinking I'd like to take them down to the river/docks for a trip here directly, just need to get someone to help me handle the Twins and Simi, since Simi is a handful on her own.

I'm hoping to take a trip out to the agility field this week with Psyche and Simi. Class was cancelled this week so I'd really like to use this chance to maybe take Psyche and Simi out and let Simi see that it's a fun, cool place and that Psyche really loves it, so Simi should too.

There's not really much else to say.. I just wanted to express my joy at the feeling of moving towards something great. I know Simi and I have a bright future ahead, and it finally feels like we're on the right path.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Issues in the land of The Simi.

So I guess I hadn't really written a post here about Simi's issues we've been having, but here's what I wrote on a dog forum I frequent:

This is going to be long and very poorly written, I imagine, so I apologize in advance. Simi turns 8 months tomorrow and in the past month or so I've noticed a huge difference in her desire to work with me, or even interact at all with me. When I picked her at a young age she was very "into" me and the breeder described her as a "people pleaser" and that never faltered in her early weeks and months. However, I'm seeing a difference in that. In the last little while at obedience I've been struggling with desire to work, attention span, drive, enthusiasm. I put it all up to her stressing because it's an indoor environment with an echo and can be a little loud and hectic. At agility fun matches she was very on and would do drives to tugs, sit stays, restrained recalls, and even obedience tasks. But as soon as we got to obedience she would cower in the car and try to get away from the building. All the while, she would pull me to things that belong to me, my coat, my bag, my car, etc.. She had no interest in staying WITH me, but would turn herself inside out to get to something that was mine. We started agility classes 3 or 4 weeks back and I had a bit of this same issue. Rather than staring off into space like she did at obedience, however, she would stare at other dogs, and so we've done a lot of clicking and treating for making the choice to look back at me and we're having less of an issue. It's still very hard to get her interested in tugging or playing with me. She'd rather sit beside me, look at other dogs, look back. We originally had her crate in the field with us to work on crate games, but she would pull me across the field to get into her crate. Tonight she ran off from me in class, jumped over the fence (where it was down) and ran about 200 feet away with her tug toy. I chased her for a bit, hoping to grab her leash, but no luck. So I stopped and ran the other way, she dropped the toy and ran back to me, but even when she got to me, it wasn't really a "don't leave me!" it was more of a "oh, you're running, fun!" there wasn't any big hoorah to see me. When we got home from agility and after she'd napped for a while I decided to take her out to the field on her long line and have mom hold her back from me while I teased her with the tug and tried to get her amped up to see me. She would just stare off into space, there was no desire at all to come to me. A couple times I got a good bit of interest and then a pull to get to me and a good game of tug, but never with as much ooomph as I was looking for. Other bits of information: She hasn't gone into heat yet, and is 8 months old tomorrow. She's been on a very limited play time/hanging out in the house time schedule the last little while because a) her shoulder injury, that is now healed, b) having other dogs in the house (first a puppies, then Swiper, then Pecker). She gets two training classes a week, monday night Agility, Tuesday night obedience (now wednesday) besides that she gets a little extra training but not much. I know this is a problem, and I've been working on it. Other people in the house pay her little to no attention and she rarely asks for it from other people. She's not a cuddler and rarely comes asking for pats. She'll come over, let you snuggle for maybe a minute then she's off to harass a dog or find something to get into. But mostly she just clobbers me and then leaves. She has had a jolly ball in the fence that she will carry around 100% of the time outside when she's out. I've taken that away from her now. She's fed at night by me, and in the morning by mom. However it's a put the food in the bowl when they offer going into the crate and wait calmly. There are toys laying around that she will play with without human interaction. She's very into the other dogs. Will pull me to get to others, etc., and it's something I've been working on. I realize that these ^ are probably the root of my problem and that I'll need to change things a LOT, but basically I'm looking for someone to just simplify what I need to do to try and get my dog to actually LIKE me. It's just frustrating and I know I have it easy with Psyche and that's what makes it hard for me to deal with. Psyche thinks the world revolves around me. She won't go potty unless I tell her to. She is so devoted to me. Then I look at Simi... and yeah. She's happy to stare off into space, even when I leave her alone in a strange place.

If you read all of that, here's a cookie. *hands cookie* If not and you just skipped to this part, hey, that's cool too! So in the past week we've been doing a lot of me and Simi time, no toys, no treats, just her and I hanging out, going for walks on the trials around out place and in the back pastures. Already I noticed a difference in her, but I also contacted her breeder to go out and talk to her about it. Today we went out. 

Upon first getting there, Simi cowered in the car, as she sometimes does. We waited while our breeder, Robin, finished up with someone else and Simi and I stood in the shade to keep cool. Simi was clearly not comfortable. Not crazy stressy, and not  trying to pull me to my car, but not at ease. When it was time for us, Robin came over and when she did, Simi barked at her, Robin just ignored her and Simi dropped it, she started sniffing her and was fine. If people don't give a reaction to her barking, she's fine. So out into the field we go. We start with some restrained recalls, first without a toy or treat, and upon leaving Simi with Robin, she pulled trying to get to me, or get away from Robin, and when I called her she came running to me with so much speed and drive... but then kept on booking it past me probably 50 feet. So I turned and walked back to Robin and where I'd left my toys, to get a tug to try it with a toy, she ran over to me then and stopped and looked at me, and got a verbal praise and a pat. Took out a tug, did a restrained recall again. This time with me running, with the tug. Same reaction. Pulling to get to me, running as fast as she can to me, but then going right past me. She did this for every single recall we did. So I dropped the toy on the ground and drug it around and Simi came over and grabbed on for a game of tug, then she "won" I dropped the tug, grabbed the leash and she got her victory lap. Headed back over to Robin, rinse and repeat. 

Oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. When I first got her tug out, Robin told me to play a game of tug with her, so I started how I usually do, smacking it on my legs, making lots of growly "gett ittttt" noises and nothing, so then I pulled the next trick in my book, pushing the tug forward into her face. Robin then told me to let it drag on the ground and let her chase it, and I did, and immediately she was on for a game of tug, that really turned her on, so that was what we did for tugging the rest of the session -- no more of that pushing the tug into her face thing.

So we did some recalls and then I went over to sit with Robin and she let me know what she thought. She figures a few things. A) Simi and I have a very poor bond. This wasn't surprising, I was assuming this was at least part, if not all, of our issue. and B) She thinks perhaps Simi is going through a fear stage. This makes complete sense. It would explain why I'm noticing it lately. It's not like Simi and I ever had a really strong bond, so that's not new, but the combination of the fear and the lack of bond together is the difference I'm noticing. 

From there she recommended a few things. She tells me to cut out one of Simi's meals a day, and hand feed the other. Simi's fed twice a day, so I can handle this. No more breakfast, and handfed dinner. She said I can make her do simple things for her food when handfeeding or I can use that as a chance to shape new behaviors. She said that for our bond, we should be doing some obedience and stuff but not in a formal setting. So I'm going to go back to really basic, easy stuff here at home and make it as fun as possible. And for the fear thing she reccomends the buddy system, so to speak. She thinks that since Simi's so into the other dogs in the house I should use that at this stage. She said that I should be taking Simi lots of new places, with Psyche. This makes total sense to me. And it all kind of hit me there. Simi is a-okay at agility trials, fun matches, etc.. Those are all places I have Psyche with us! Even if they're not together, she always knows I have Psyche too. So I'm going to take Simi to some new places with Psyche, maybe even to the agility field a few times outside of classes with Psyche to let her see that it's a fun places. I'm going to make it my goal to take them on some adventures as much as possible. Am thinking we might take a trip to the docks later tonight. Robin said that letting Simi learn from the other dogs that things aren't scary, in this stage will help. I realize, though, I'm going to have to pair this time with lots of bonding time with Simi and I too, though, and I'll do that. 

As a side note, I also got to see Lava, the bitch from the litter that Robin kept, and Simi is slightly smaller than her, and weighs less. But you can SO tell they're related. They've got the same adorable ears. 

So there's where I sit right now. I'm going to give it a shot and see how it goes. Simi and I were also invited out to the "puppy classes" that she offers for the Schutzhund club, so we're going to try a few of those, too, probably. 

And just because this was a LOT of words... here's a picture of Simi from last week: 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Time to confess, you guys.

Okay, seriously now? Who stole my little demon puppy and replaced her with a decently behaved canine citizen?

Simi had another class of Grade 2 Obedience last night. Since Grade 1 (a 6 week course) we've been struggling with her stress in this specific training facility. It's an indoor building and the echoes in there are what I've always assumed was her problem. She really hates the place, honestly. Most days, we'd get there and she'd cower in the car, not wanting to come out and then go indoors. I hoped that time would get her over it, but it seemed to get worse and worse.

Last week we had an okay class. She did pretty well and was less stressed than normal. I took that as a huge win. At the end of class, I fed her her whole meal for the night in little 5-10 piece piles all throughout the room. I dropped her leash (when everyone but a few dogs, who were standing with their owners by the door, was gone) and let her follow me around as I placed her food on the floor. The first two or three piles you could see her slinking. She was more scared without me, but I kept going, figuring that since she's still eating, she can't be that stressed. We pushed through and by the last 10 or so piles, Simi was running to keep up to me, while I ran to try to keep ahead of her to drop food. She was visibly more comfortable.

This week when we got there, she was a little leery coming out of the car, but she made the choice to come out on her own and so that was a big step. She'd been coming out on her own before, as well, but it was a much slower process. When we walked around a bit for her pee there was no pulling back towards the car and she seemed slightly more at ease. So we go inside. Instead of pulling to get right back out the door, which she will sometimes do, she walked forward with me across the room to the far end, no hesitations. We started immediately with ... I can't even think of that they're called, but basically when you go from a front position step back on your left food, dog goes back, turns, comes forward into a heel... anyway! We started with those and I kept them very "fast" as fast as I could do them and she did really well. She was really into it. I'd discovered at Agility the night before that the faster we're moving the more focus she had, so I tried to use that at class last night.

She did have some moments where she started to get a little stressy, but she recovered quickly, which I really like a lot. She was crazy when it came to the loose lead walking; we were just very "off", both of us, for that exercise, and she was struggling a little bit with sits along the wall, and was going in front of me a lot, but we've been doing that since a really young age, so I think it was just an off night.

Sim really rocked the eye contact. We've kind of fallen behind in that, not sure why, but we had. A few well timed clicks and lots of patience and I had her caught up to where everyone else was in class, if not slightly ahead. She had some serious progress with her stay, which had been iffy at agility the night before, and she had some huge moments of success with her perch work. I think it was a combination of my finally understanding how I need to teach it and how all of the steps come together, plus my finally letting her start by coming to my right side instead of left. We'll teach left after when she knows what it is she has to do.

I am just starting to feel like things are clicking with Simi. Maybe it's that I was gone Friday-Monday, or maybe it's that she turned 7 months on Sunday, or maybe it's just me noticing her potential for the first time... what ever it is, I like it. :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

If this was a taste...

I'd like an order, please!

Tonight was Simi's first agility class. It's an intro to agility class and so it's really basic foundation stuff. But still really good for Simi. She was a little freaked out at first in meeting Erin (who is teaching the class) but warmed up, then had a little moment with her shoulder and Erin and that was bad, but I think we set things right after (with both, I hope -- sorry again, Erin!). In terms of the other dogs, she did pretty well. There's a pug in our class that she's a little iffy about, as she has been before with the squishy faced dogs, but we'll work on it.

We started with tugging after introductions and Simi was really good. She can sometimes be a little slow to catch onto her tug, but she was really going for it tonight. After that we did some circle work, which she did okay at, but not great. But it'll get better, I know it. Then it was time for recalls and I was worried Simi would want to go over to the Pug, but she did REALLY well. I am super proud of her. Next comes tugging and collar grabs, which honestly, I didn't understand, but I was told that Simi's used to it and what we were doing (throwing the toy, holding her back, amping her up with a collar grab, releasing to the toy and tugging) was more advanced, so we mostly just did some of that. Then we moved to release word work, releasing with only the word, no movement of the body. And she did well with this, too, but was starting to get tired and totally didn't want to hold her sits or downs.

I noticed a huge up in her focus and enthusiasm when my speed was up and that makes me pretty excited. The moment I move faster than a walk she perks up and is like "oh yeah, it's go time." So that makes me really excited. All in all, if this was a taste of what agility with The Simi is going to be like, I'm super stoked.

Stay tuned for more updates. :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Schutzhund as a second fiddle sport?

I've been thinking a lot about this for the last few months.

When I first started working with Simi's breeder, I was just coming out to her house in the evenings, working some dogs on obedience some rain or snow (lots of rain -- I worked one pup in the rain one night until we were both soaked!) and later on started coming out to the clubs training days to watch Schutzhund. I enjoyed that, a lot. I still love going out and watching. It seems like a lot of fun and I can really appreciate the time and effort put into training it.

However. This brings us to Simi. Simi will be 7 months old on the 22nd of this month and we've been out to Schutzhund training all of once. I bought Simi with the intention of, first and foremost, a pet, but also a working dog in the sense that we'd do sports. Agility was always my first intention in terms of sports. After that I wanted to get into Schutzhund and maybe even a little herding. The thing I'm running into now is that even though Simi is still young, I know that when it comes times to start training for agility (more than the little bit we're doing now) that we'll be spending a lot of time on it. The older she gets, the more we're going to train. I have agility equipment in my backyard. I have an agility field. I'm on the executive of the club, and I'm at trials on the weekends with Psyche, and hope to be at more with her as I work through her issues. Training agility is easy for me.

Schutzhund doesn't need much in terms of equipment, but it's a lot of time. A lot of time. And I have to drive 45 minutes to the training club to work on the training days, and fees for the club are about three times more than the agility club fees. Schutzhund trials are as expensive or more so than trials. Training days with the club are in the evenings (which I often can't make, because of work or school) and on the weekends. Agility trials are on the weekends.

Really, agility will be easier for Simi and I. It'll be more accessible and so that will make it easier for me to train and enjoy. I'm at a bit of a crossroads, here. Maybe Simi and I won't do schutzhund... maybe we will... it's really completely undecided right now.

Not that she's doing much right at this minute... dummy was giving me too much eye contact while walking and tripped in a hole (I really don't know if I should be upset about the eye contact... I was pretty impressed at the time!) and hurt the shoulder she hurt back in February. Urgh. Back to crate rest.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Maybe it's all clicking?

Or maybe my promise to my dogs has really paid off, for Psyche, at least?

Psyche (and Simi) and I piled into Mom's car (thanks to Momma for coming with us and supplying her car) for another fun match, three hours away. Simi was just tagging along, of course, but Psyche was entered to run Standard, Steeplechase and Jumpers. All at masters levels, since that's all they offered. This was also an exciting weekend because I'd ordered Psyche a whole case of her favourite toy, which is a latex chicken ball thing. Sadly, when we got there, the company hadn't been making those anymore, so we got these instead:

But the good news is that she loves these just as much as the chickens, so we're all good. I did put one into a holee roller, which is what her old toy was, but she didn't like that as much as just one on it's own, so for out runs we did just the ball, and she really loved it. Before each run she chased the ball, played hardcore, offered tricks and all around just really focused on me, even when we walked into the ring, through people, past dogs and up to our start line. She was just so happy.

Her standard run was a real surprise. We did a start line and she broke it, so I took her back and set her back up and there was a little bit of stress, but not much. I was expecting so much more stress, but I think even the little amount I got was due to me being stressed out about her startlines. That's usually where our run falls apart so I think she was picking up on me a little. But on Saturday there was very little stress on her start line. A little bit of change in her body, but it's hard to tell if that was a "I'm getting ready to run" change or a starting to stress change. Usually we get a little looking back, sniffing, etc., but none of that this time. She kept her head looking at me, no dropping her nose down to sniff, none of that. Just a slight tail drop and head lower. She did break her start line just as I was getting ready to release, but I didn't worry about it too much this time around. From there we had a tunnel under and a-frame that she was supposed to go tunnel, around then flip out to the right onto the a-frame, she didn't get it the first time around, but after our initial run, I went back and tried it, and she nailed it the first try. It was my fault, because I wasn't where I needed to be to signal our get out. Her contacts were really nice though -- I think she only blew one all weekend! And she did her table, then her weaves (each time) and stuck with me and never dropped her nose. Overall she was so happy. I could tell, running her, that she was HAPPY and that's such a huge thing for us.

Steeplechase was great -- her weaves were amazing. A little confusion with which tunnel mouth, but again, my fault. So pleased with her.

Jumpers was a hot mess, but it was because she was going faster than I expected and so there were issues in my handling, but not her problems. It was a good, fun course, and she loved it and so did it.

This weekend really felt like a lot of things just clicked into place. She was really happy and it was clear. And the best thing, besides her being so happy, was when people commented on how much happier she looked. I'm glad it wasn't all in my head. We've got another fun match in the same spot on April 28th and if things keep going well, we may enter a trial in June with just one run each day. We shall see.

Oh, and if you're interested, here's her video:

A terrific birthday present to me... my dog finally happy doing agility out and about, when I know she loves it so much at home/training.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Obedience Adventure

Simi started her obedience class ... hmm, 4 weeks ago, I believe? I haven't written about it yet because it's really been nothing special. She's been a puppy with a short attention span in a room full of other puppies also with short attention spans. So really, nothing to write home about.

She's been rather stressed out in classes, even. She just prefers to sit and watch the class and take in what everyone is doing. She has had a little bark fit, one night, at the Shar-pei puppy who was staring her down as well as the Bernese Mountain Dog that was trying to come in on her space. Both of these were the same night, and it was the week before last. Last week she had no issues with any of the dogs and was doing a lot better with looking back at me.

In the slow spots of the class I've been allowing Simi to watch the other dogs, but I've only been rewarding for looking back at me and lots of it, at that! She did really well with this last week.

Eye contact has been fun with her. She does really well with it, but she's still kind of stressed out so I wasn't getting long periods of it. Last week at class though, she was doing really well. Even going so far as to make eye contact with me through the mirror, SEVERAL times. We were in the spot beside the floor length mirror and don't get me wrong, Simi has seen her reflection before, but she thought it was a lot of fun to look into the mirror, find my eyes through the mirror and maintain eye contact that way for as long as I've ever seen her do it. She did this several times throughout the night. It was tricky; I didn't know if I should be rewarding that or not, and I had to stop myself from busting out laughing several times. She's too smart sometimes.

We also started perch work in class and she did pretty well with that, but at one point was laying down with her from paws on the stool. *rolls eyes* We need to do lots more shaping sessions.

Our trainer would like to see me enter her in competitive obedience someday, so that's a sort-of goal for us. Even though I don't think it would be very fun. And agility will always be our main sport.

And just to make this thread worth reading, here's my big girl:

Friday, March 9, 2012

A promise to my dogs.

My promise to my dogs for the next however-long-it-takes is to let them be who they are, love what they love, and enjoy life how they choose.

This has all stemmed from Psyche's trial issues. She's a soft dog. She always will be. She may never be a hardcore dog who gets so amped up she's stupid and that's not a bad thing, because I love Psyche how she is. For the first while I had her I tried so desperately to get her to like toys. More specific, tug toys. I bought anything I could that I thought she might like, made new ones, tried combining things, and never gave up. But really, it was there in plain sight. Psyche liked toys. She liked balls. And sticks. It wasn't hard. She'd do anything for a stick and just as much for a tennis ball. Added to that select few was a rubber chicken ball thing. Even when I realized her love for the chicken ball thing, I still wanted her to tug, so I built a tug (chicken + holee roller + braided fleece tug = Chicken in a Cage) and don't get me wrong, she likes it a lot, but more often than not, she wants me to throw it, not drop it for her to tug with... And that's okay.

It has taken me way too long to figure this out. Way too long. Zoey will never be a toy dog. Psyche doesn't love to tug. The verdict is still out on Crash. Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to try tugs with my dogs, but if that's not what they love, that doesn't have to be their training toy.

And so I've decided that this summer, if Psyche wants to chase a ball instead of tug, we'll do that. How can I expect her to love the sport like I know she does if her reward is only her second favorite thing? So if we use a chicken ball instead of the caged chicken, so be it. It won't make or break our agility career if she tugs or doesn't. And heck, at this point, maybe I've even been holding her agility career back by insisting she tug?

So with Crash, as training starts and goes on, if he likes balls, okay. If he likes treats, okay. If he likes verbal praise, okay. And the same goes to Simi (though I think it's pretty clear there that that brat likes tugs!). I can't make my dogs like things if they don't. And it's not fair to try, just because I've fallen under the illusion that you have to like tugs to be a good agility competitor.

And ultimately, this decision will stand if it comes to agility. If I truly begin to feel that Psyche doesn't enjoy the sport, or she tells me so, we'll stop. Because my dogs are my loved ones and I want nothing more than for them to be happy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Crash meets agility?

Crash has done a very small amount of agility. Like, very small amount. We did a little work with offering a jump and then some one jump work at 4 inches back when I first got him (it's been since at least June since we've done that) and I took him out today thinking I could do some jump grids with him and he just wasn't ready for that. I think his brain was rusty, maybe.

So I went back to offering one jump, then some lead outs with that one jump and he started to get it. We need a lot of work yet, because everytime I verbally praised him with more than a "yes!" (so what I often say is "good boy" or "nice man!") he was getting really wound and nipping at me. So we need to work on that.

Circle work went well. He was really responsive and only nipped me a couple of times (only on the right side, so clearly I need to work the right side more).

At least I know now what I need to work on. He's gonna get a session or two a day for the next little while. He's entered in a fun match (haha!) on the 24th of this month, so ideally I'd like him to be able to handle doing some start lines and maybe a short jump tunnel sequence.

We shall see.

No video today. I'll try for tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Circle Work, Racing to The Tug and Release Word!

Tonight things didn't work out that I got all the training in that I'd planned, which meant I didn't get any crate games in, but I DID get some circle work, racing to the tug and worked on her release word work in.

Her release word was much better tonight. I took her outside with treats and a tug and sat her in a sit, led out, said "okay!" and on the first time, when she just happened to get up (I think the higher distraction of being outside played to my advantage because she was a little more cautious in her stay because there were so many fun things to do and smell!) I verbally praised and then gave her a treat when she got to me, then dropped the tug down to her reach and we had a play session. She liked that a lot, and I liked that she was able to use treats and a tug in that situation with ease. After that she caught on that "okay!" means break your stay and good things happen.

Circle work was... well, interesting. I mostly just ran around and praised and toy rewarded her for running with me. It's just the starting stages, so I'm not asking for too much, but she did well... I am, however, very out of shape.

Racing to the tug... oh, she loves that one! I hold her back, chuck her tug about 15 feet then hold her back and amp her up. I wait until she's really fighting me to go forward and release, then run beside her, sometimes let her get it first, sometimes I meet her at the toy and we tug from there. Always results in a game of tug, which she loves.

We also, among all of this, had a moment where while tugging I either stepped on her toe, or the tug hurt her little toofers or something, cause she let a little squeal out of her, then BAM without even thinking, she was back at the tug with even more gusto. That's a good thing, I reckon.

I'm very proud of her sessions tonight and yesterday. Little Puppy is very impressive.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mission Crate Games Begins.

So I was a little later than I said I would be in getting Simi started with Crate Games, but hey, at least it happened!

Tonight I sat down and watched up to Stage 3 of the DVD, which is as far as Susan recommends you to go (at least) in your first session. That included just lots of opening the door, rewarding back and high in the crate, then closing the door. Then we did more pause between feeding and adding the distraction of a leash. Then coming out, going back in by choice, and eventual collar grab, rev up, pull back, let go, ram into the crate.

She did REALLY well. I am crazy impressed with her. She didn't hate her crate to start with, so that really helped, but I'm also very impressed with how quickly she caught onto that this game was about staying in the crate, not something I usually make her do (though I do require her to down or sit in her crate before I put her food down).

Our one and biggest issue was releasing her out of her crate for the "You're in, you're out" game. She doesn't really have a release word, per say. Even when I sit on the floor and call her by goofy names, she still maintains her sit or down or stays in her crate, waiting to be rewarded... and I haven't even proofed her stay yet. Heck, sometimes I'll throw food on the floor to TRY and get her to get up, and she won't. I swear, she's an already trained robot.

We weren't able to use Susan's suggestion of a low value reward for the release and collar grab part, because she just really doesn't like having a release word, I guess. Maybe she's lazy? But we did get some out of her and she did really well on running right back into her crate.

I'm going to do some restrained recalls, I think, to work on her release word. Honestly, I've never had this issue before. Most of my dogs are so eager to be released that it's easy to add that "okay!" and it mean good stuff, you can break stay now. But Simi takes staying where I put her very seriously (sometimes) and just seems immune to all my attempts to make a release word fun.

Anyway, over all, I am VERY proud of the Simi. She went above and beyond my expectations and it makes me really excited to work more on her crate games with her and to start our obedience class next Tuesday.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fun Match Fun

Yesterday morning Mom and I packed up the HHR with 4 crates (two of which were Psyche and Simi sized) and headed out to Shediac for a fun match. Mom took her two girls and I took Psyche to work and Simi to just visit.

Simi was really good the whole drive there. She still tends to whine a little bit while driving but she was really good yesterday. No sound from her at all. When we stopped for pee breaks she completly forgot all of her loose lead training and nearly knocked me over, but meh. She was tugging and racing me to the tug in the hall outside the agility ring and could hear the dogs doing it, but she was still below threshold, so all was good. Then I took her in to watch Erin and Mach run their jumpers run and ... ha, yeah. So turns out my puppy really likes to watch dogs do agility. She was screaming and flailing... I had to pick her up and take her out and back below threshold, where she was happy to tug, so we worked on slowly getting closer and closer. Heck, I'd much rather deal with this "issue" while she's this small and not full grown. She was also pretty freaked out by a kid in a snow suit, but the lady who was organizing it spoke to the little girl (she knew her, I didn't) and asked her to come over and give her a treat. It took Simi some time to get comfortable enough to take the treat, but after she realized it was just a kid in a scary suit she was happy go lucky again.

Now as for Psycherdoo! She did really well! I mean, sure, she could have done better, but I am SO pleased with her! She was running with me, and while there was some minor stressing, she was really good. Nailed her contacts most of the time (there were I think 2 times she didn't hold it) and got her weaves and ROCKED them every time. Missed an entry once but when I brought her back she rammed through them, no questions asked.

She was really happy when she wasn't stressed and that was nice. I tried something new with her, which was letting her actually watch and fixtate on the smaller dogs running before her. She loses her brain when she watches small dogs, but I figured hey, I'll try it and see if maybe then she'll get more into agility itself after. I didn't notice a HUGE difference, however, the second time I let her do that, the lady with the one small dog she really loved stayed in the barn and was within Psyche's view/reach and Psyche played with me and didn't run off to the little dog, even at the end of the run. She was looking back at me waiting for her reward.

I didn't try to run without her toy this time. I wanted it all to be fun. And I may not even try to take her toy from her at the next one (we have another fun match on the 24th and then a puppy seminar for Simi on the 25th) but maybe at the one in April.

As for mom's two -- they did REALLY well. Rhyme was amazing. So proud of her for not having had any agility work for like 6 months.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Crate Games with the Monster.

It has been decided. I WILL start Simi's crate games. Tonight. With out a doubt.

(now just to find time to do that and catch up on my photo projects!)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Similarities in the breed, or in the dog?

Bella, to me, was always a little different. She was a lot like what I was told a GSD should be, but also very different. That was, and still is, okay with me. Difference makes the world go 'round. But now, as I live with Simi, I'm seeing a lot of similarities between the two.

Although Simi is a much better bred GSD than Bella, she still has some of those little quirks that have got me flashing back to moments of Bella doing the same, or very similar, thing.

It's just got me thinking... was Bella more like a GSD than I thought, or is Simi more like Bella than I could have ever dreamed...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

She's on fire!

Psyche and I hadn't been out to the agility barn for winter training since at least before Christmas, I'm thinking. We've gone once all season. But we went out on Sunday and had a lot of fun.

It wasn't a busy day -- there were only 2 people there, 3 working dogs total between us, plus Simi, who didn't do much. We decided we were going to work on some weave drills, and since Psyche hasn't done any in a while, that was a-okay with me. She was ON FIRE! She was totally 'on' and she was just ripping. And doing pretty well with her weaves, too. There were a couple times at first she was struggling with them, but it was 12 poles and we haven't done agility in ages. However, before long she was hitting her weaves and nailing them nicely. Good girlie.

She did have a few stressy moments, but there were far more success moments. I got some video, that Bev, the other lady there, filmed for me on her camera, since mine was dead, that I'm working on getting onto the computer and into a video, so stay tuned for that.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This requires a blog entry.

So yesterday was the 'January Thaw' a horse-related trade fair where every horse lover in the local area comes out and celebrates their ponies fuzzy coats.. okay, not really. They actually come to spend money and socialize.

Anyway! Thinking I'd go help mom with her booth for a little while, then go to Simi's breeders for some training, I brought Simi along... and also because come on, lots of people, new place, new smells... need I say more? GREAT training opportunity! So I bring Simi along with me, and since her crate is buried under tubs and tubs of mom's stuff, she has to help me help unpack. So I take things I can easily carry and still manage a puppy and start in. Simi walks into the building like it's nothing. No fear. Loose leash, offering eye contact, calm cool and collected.

From there I set her crate up and we started socializing. She met LOTS of new people. Like, I mean a lot. I'd be trying to take her out to pee and people would be like "*squee* PUPPY!" and stop me, and we'd have to wait. That said, a lot of people did just look from a far until I'd say "You can pet her if you want -- she's here to meet new people!" She also met a lot of new dogs. I believe there were 2 Great Danes, Pit Bull, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Golden, Bernese Mountain Dog, and a couple of Boston Terriers. She didn't like the Bulldogs much, or the Pit Bull much, but I think that had a lot to do with the situations that they met in. The Pittie pulled it's owner over to us, then backed her into a wall of stuff and was standing over her in a friendly, but obnoxious, manner. As for the Bulldogs, well, I don't really know about those. I think she didn't like the Frenchie because it was wearing clothes, but either way, I took my clicker and treats out and worked on it and she was fine then... so really, for it being her first time meeting new dogs, I think she did okay.

Then today she turned 4 months, and went to the barn with Psyche and I for some agility. She didn't do much other than play with Psyche and their friend Cyclone. We did do a few restrained recalls, though, and some racing to the tug toy, one tunnel and a few sit-stays with a release to me, over a bar less jump, just to get her used to the jump standards.

Can't believe how grown up she's starting to act! Well, not really... she's just getting good at pretending to be a good dog out in public!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Transitioning Rewards

The last few weeks I've not been using any treats at all with Simi's training. We've been working on her down with the tug as a reward, offering behaviors in general, and Friday we went to the vet and she was offered her tug instead of treats throughout. She's been doing really well and she's really doing well with tugging in general. I found her to be a little leery in her tugging before. She wanted the tug, but she wasn't going to fight you to get it, but as we've worked with no treats her enthusiasm is getting better and better! She's "fighting" a lot more to keep the tug and that's what I like to see.

Anyway! Today I was working on holding her back while I threw the tug out ahead. We've done it a few times before, but she usually just saunters over, grabs it and plays with it by herself. Today the first time she RAN to the tug, got it and came about half way back to me with it, so not wanting to let this be a session where she learns she can run to get it and dink off bringing it back, I went and grabbed four treats. I was only going to try with the treats because I fully expected her to just lose interest in my tug when I had treats. She got a treat for giving me the tug the first time, and after that we did three reps. Driving towards the tug and bringing me the toy back. She wasn't crazy fast about bringing it back, but by the third rep she was catching on.

But the cherry on top is that she was fine with bringing the toy back, getting a treat, tugging some, then setting up to do it all again. There was no loss of interest in the tug, and honestly, at one point she wanted to keep the tug, not take the treat. Can't say I'm going to complain about that one!

Just a very small victory, but worth enough to me to share!

And that said, Simi did very well at the vets office. She got her last round of shots and is a "big dog" now. Time to start getting out and about even more and meeting new dogs! At the vets office she was very keen to play with a lab that was there (but did NOT want to play with her) and really, she was being flat out obnoxious trying to play, so I've got to start getting a handle on that. She happily met all of the staff, though, and gave kisses to all. And at one point during our actual visit with the vet she pranced over to where I'd sat her tug, grabbed it and started playing with it, so while I talked to the vet we tugged. I was VERY pleased with that. New person, new place, new smells, new situation, and she still wants to tug with me? Score!

Anywho, that's about all for now. I'll try to get some fresh video of her soon.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Training Goals : 2012

I guess it's about time I do this, huh?

I've been thinking about where I'd like each dog to be by the end of 2012. It's been hard because I don't know where I will physically be. I may not still be in New Brunswick, so I don't know what clubs I'll be training with, etc. I've also been on a waiting list about my ankle that I'll find out more about this year, so I don't know if I'll be able to run, if I'll be being operated on, all of that. It's hard to say, so I was hesitant to make a "list" of things I want to do by the end of 2012, because I don't want to look back at the end and be disappointed for not having reached each goal.

So this is a draft of my goals that will never have a "good copy", really.

With Zoey I'd mostly just like her to be happy and healthy. She's more or less retired, but I've been throwing around the idea of getting her obedience better and maybe looking into some therapy work with her. She loves people so much this is likely what she'd be happiest doing.

For Psyche my one biggest goal is to be able to be stress free at a trial by the end of the year. This might mean lots of trials or not very many at all. We're starting some private lessons that should help, and so hopefully by May/June we'll know just how likely that wish to trial will be.

I'd also like to teach her a boat load more tricks and just have fun with her. She's a fun dog, and I don't want to waste any time I've got with her not taking advantage of that fun.

With Crash I'd like to have him sequencing and doing most if not all obstacles by late-June. I've got two friends coming from Maryland to visit and they both do agility, so I'd like for them to be able to work him when they come, since I don't know how well Psyche will work for them. I'm also thinking maybe a trial by the end of the year. It's hard to say. It all depends a lot on what I have for equipment here, where I'll be, what I'll be doing for work, etc., and how much training I can actually do with him.

I'd also like to start him on sheep and see where we can go from there.

And of course, a continuation of the work on his anxiety.

With Simi I've got "big" hopes and dreams but they're not really big tasks. I'd like her to be well on her way to her BH by the end of the year, start in agility classes and working as appropriate for a only slightly over a year old puppy. And maybe somewhere in that year get her CGN title. And to start in sheep herding. So agility, schutzhund and herding. Sounds like a lot, right?

Over all, I just want to love my dogs and see them happy and healthy for many more years.