Thursday, April 30, 2009

Puppy socialization and training

Today we took our puppy training on the road. We visited our friends Raquel and Angela at Silver Square. I wasn't sure if this office building was ready for Page, but it was a fun place filled with young professionals interested in everything. 

As I've come to expect, Page trotted into the building on her leash in the steady rain as I carried a large umbrella. I took down the umbrella outside away from Page, and she wasn't fazed. Inside there was two sets of metal stairs with no risers (you could see through them) with a landing between them, again little Ms. Page followed me right up both sets. 

Page trotted down the hallway which included a catwalk across the lobby below and boldly walked right up to meet Raquel. In fact, she liked Raquel so much, Page followed her back down the hallway! She also loved Angela, who took advantage and got in some puppy cuddles!

Of course, I brought props and treats to take advantage of an audience and a new training situation. Page showed off in style, and the audience didn't bother her one bit. She did her sit, stand, back up, tug and pivot on her perch. For some of her tricks, Pete the Planner was in the "audience," and he thought Page was way smarter than his baby daughter.

After our socialization and a nap for Page, we went back out to the building to tape all of Page's training so far. In the first clip, you can see Page sit on command. This is followed by me asking for a kick back stand. That didn't go so well; I only got a couple that I really liked (I figured out why later). Next I did some agility groundwork or worked her in circles on both sides in a loose "heel" position followed by some front crosses. Finally, I asked Page to back up using the command "beep, beep."

Next we did some perch work. This is probably Page's favorite game (and mine, too). First, she puts her two front feet on the perch to the command "feet." Next she spins around using her rear legs to walk herself around in a circle. The command I use here is "dance." Page is better in one direction than the other!

Next I asked for something very hard, to switch to toy/play drive from food drive. I also asked for playing in the same area that I just fed her. I used a high value sheepy tug toy (thank you Agile Gold for finding this toy for us, because it's Page's favorite). In this game, I'm waiting until she gives me a sit and I want her to stay until she's released with a verbal "OK, Tug." 

I'm very pleased to see her learning curve increase with this game. In these clips you see she stays while I move and even take a step or two. This is real progress, as is her "give" when I take the collar and ask for the toy back. She does get distracted by the food on the floor once, but I like how she came back and worked for me.

This last clip is of a hand touch that I will soon move to a target. In reviewing these videos, I had the "AH HA!" moment why she wasn't getting her kickback stand today. I'm presenting the same picture to her in the kickback stand as I am the hand touch. I need to move the kickback stand to my side anyway, so there's no time like the present!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Full-sized contacts for a smart little girl

Gaylan's Golden Retrievers has one of the best puppy raising systems around. These puppies come home knowing all their proprioception (knowing where their limbs are in space) and their edges and ledges. How many adult Goldens don't know they have back legs? Well, Page and Devon before her, knew exactly where their legs were when they came home at 9 weeks, thanks to all that woods walking they did. 

While the puppies are still sponges before they are 16 weeks old, we try to expose them to everything they will see in their adult life. It makes the first few weeks of puppy raising very busy, but it's well worth the effort down the road. 

Three years ago when I brought Devon home, I stuck with the advice of not introducing full-height contacts until she was 1 year old. That was probably the single biggest mistake I have made with her. Devon could have done all her contacts well before she was a year, and we probably wouldn't have gone through the teeter fear we had to overcome.

With Page, the advice I sought out (and I fully agree with) is to get these puppies on full-height equipment in a controlled experience before 16 weeks. I won't drill the contacts or repeat them every day, I just want Page to have a good experience at an early age. 

Monday night was Page's first trip across the full-height dogwalk, teeter and A frame. She had no problem and trotted across all of them. I had friends here to spot her on the equipment, so she was very safe. Today my friend Holly came over to play agility with her Golden Retriever Ripken. Before she and Ripken played, she helped me take Page over the equipment one more time before we lowered it for additional training for Devon. Holly also manned the video camera for us.

Page says, "The dogwalk is fun! And look, I even tried to run! And I hate my leash!"

My teeter is full of water, so it tips very slowly!

The plan was to put her on the top of the A frame and go all the way down it just like we did on Monday. However, Page had different ideas. She did a 180 and climbed right back up and over the A frame this time! 

So we decided if she wanted to do it, she could do it again. The first time up was better than the one we actually got on video.

So, that's all the full-height contact work there will be from Page for a while. Hope you enjoyed it!

"I have you now!"

I think this video is in the running for cutest puppy video ever! Page is on a house leash inside and a long line outside when all the dogs are loose (and I'm always out with her, too). She's so used to them being a part of her world, she just picks up the long line outside and trots away with it. I started calling it her "binky" since it's almost like a security blanket for her. 

Devon and Page were outside and I was getting ready to leave to track both girls. I was grabbing my purse from the dining room, so I'm not sure how this started but all I could do was laugh! I'm so glad I had the video camera handy, and I could tape through the back door. I know if I'd opened the door I wouldn't have gotten all this video. 

I hope you enjoy my girls as much as I do!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The other Goldens get on the sofa....

Page is just the funniest puppy. She's not bad; she's just BUSY! And she has a mind of her own. A couple of days ago, I was sitting on the sofa, and she just hopped up to join me. It's a pretty big hop to get on this sofa! She's following in her sister Devon's paw prints, just doing it a couple of weeks earlier. 

The funniest was this morning when Connor got on the sofa prepared to catch a nap after playing with Page. The next thing he knew, Page hopped up right behind him and walked over to him. The look on Connor's face was priceless! He got off the sofa and came over to me as if to "tattle" on her. When he walked back to the sofa as if to say, "Hey, you aren't allowed up there, it's only for the big dogs," Page took a flying leap off the sofa at him as if to say, "All the better to pounce on you!" Poor Connor. She did this to him last night at the bottom of the stairs, too.

This morning I took Page upstairs with me while I was on the phone and needed to check on something on the computer. I put the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs so I wouldn't have to monitor her along with all three dogs. The next thing I knew, she was leaving the room. I made a quick check of the upstairs rooms, nope! She'd gone downstairs and slipped between the baby gate and the rails and was enjoying playtime with Devon. 

I have to say, Page is everything I asked for!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The unstoppable Ms. P

I don't think puppyhood is easy for anyone (ask Ian). But it also comes with some really funny moments. Here are some of Page's top "make me laugh" moments:
When she flipped her stuffed toy up in the air and it went behind a coffee table out of her sight. She just flicked her head all the way around like, "Hey! Where'd my toy go? It was right here a second ago!"
When she flipped her stuffed toy up onto the daybed right next to Connor. She then calmly approached Connor and sat looking up at him like, "Ummm, excuse me. Can I have my toy back?" He looked down on her with all of his 9 year old regal-ness, then turned at looked at the toy, then back at her as if to say, "You mean this toy little girl?"
When Connor took her toy (all toys are Connor's), then he roared in triumph as he walked away from her. The look on Page's face said, "Mean cream Golden." Oh she got him back. She very politely walked up and took hold of it, then let go when he flicked his lip. When he laid down to bask in his "win," quick as a flash she sprang in, grabbed the toy and was across the room before he could blink! I think I know who really won that round...
When I suddenly "lost" her today and went to the bottom of the stairs and called up, "Page?" After a second, she emerged from the bonus room to the top of the stairs and looked down at me saying, "Yes? Do you want me?" Hummmm... guess we need that baby gate at the foot of the stairs again.
When she realized the house leash attached to me was curbing her freedom (even though she had full access to all the toys in the room). She confidently walked up to me, grabbed the leash just below where it was attached to me and started tugging for her freedom.
When she picked up her long line from the deck and sailed back out into the yard with the line flying behind her ... I'm not introducing her to toilet paper, or she'll TP my house like Connor did as a puppy!
When she calmly picks up the end of her house leash and trots into the living room to play. She's taking herself for a walk!
When she "follows" Ian around the downstairs ... she's not allowed to "chase" the black dog, but surely "following" at a walk wouldn't hurt, right?
When she watches the videos on You Tube as she's sitting on my lap as I'm at the computer. Her favorite are videos of herself (does that surprise anyone??).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Page's first track

The wind here in central Indiana has been very bad (30-40 mph) for the last two days and forecast to continue into tomorrow. I really didn't want to delay Page's first track too much, but tracking in this wind was too much. However, winds die down around sunrise and sunset. So I took advantage early this morning of only a slight wind.

Just after the sun came up, I laid a 35 yard track in my side yard for Page. I laid it into the wind. I had a start article, then food in every footstep for the first 10 yards, in every other footstep for the second 10 yards and every three footsteps for the third 10 yards. For the last 5 yards, I had nothing dropped but I put a jackpot in the glove. I used a dark grey end glove so it was harder to see, and I used Bil Jac dog food as my food on the track. It's very fragrant.

I tried Page's bright pink puppy tracking harness on her yesterday, and it fit. I put it back on her this morning and used a 6 ft. leash. Page had not yet had breakfast, and I knew she was hungry (she's ALWAYS hungry). She trotted all the way out to the start flag like a pro. 

Page start sniffing the ground before we got to the flag. She wasn't tracking me, but she was very interested in the scents and I can't help but think she smelled me out there. It didn't take her long to scent the first piece of food. She skipped a couple of pieces and progressed down the track about 3 yards. 

After this brilliant start, she stalled a little. I pointed to the ground twice, but the she tried to sit at my feet so I'd show her more. Nope little girl! You've got to find it yourself. And she did. The next 10 yards were painfully slow, but she got the idea. I only had to redirect her twice more, and that's when she started digging in the grass. 

She did a great job of working out the third 10-yard section when the food was every third step. She started off to my right once but then quickly turned and corrected herself. And I knew just when she air scented the article. She could smell that jackpot, but it took her at least 20 seconds to work out where it was.

Boy did she love this game! She got yummy food and she really used her nose! After she got the jackpot from the glove, I started playing with her with the glove. She tugged and retrieved it, and eventually she carried it all the way to the van. I'd say it was an outstanding first start at tracking!

Now I know why she was so quiet!

Remember when I posted yesterday and said Page was mellow before her woods walk? I was surprised by this but attributed it to me waking her in the middle of a nap. She was also more subdued on her woods walk than I anticipated. Well, I finally figured out the reason yesterday afternoon. She has a bladder infection.

Deep down I knew it the day before. She was just pottying way too often. But by yesterday she really felt crappy. Devon went through this, too, but it was at a slightly older age; and Ian also went through it at 9 weeks. The next time I get a puppy, I'm just going to get the antibiotics at the first vet check!

Of course, I'm really lucky my uncle is our vet. I called him, and he called in a prescription at my local pharmacy. An hour later I went to pick it up. I gave the pharmacist my name, and she searched all over for it. She asked what it was, and I said pediatric amoxicillin. Then she said, "Oh! For the dog! I had it under Page." Now why didn't I think of that?

Even with just one dose at dinner, I noticed a difference last night. She was just feeling better. And she was also better with the older dogs, even though she tried! Devon gave her two good corrections when Page jumped on Devon's head. And Connor got a bone and laid down to chew it near her. When she got up to check it out, he growled. She sat back and considered. After that, all he had to do was flick his lip at her, and she'd get really respectful. Ian continued to watch from a distance, but he did approach her and sniff her a couple of times.

I also had the house leash on Page attached to me while she played. The little stinker figured out who was controlling her! She walked up close to me, grabbed the end of the leash attached to me and started tugging to get her freedom. What a little stink pot! And of course all the toys and bones in the room were piled within her reach!

The other really funny thing she did last night was air scent my dinner. I was walking with the plate from the kitchen to the dining room and she was standing there kicking up her nose following my plate! I suddenly had a vision of her mother Bizzy standing in my kitchen! I was only around Bizzy for two days, but we all knew how Bizzy loved food!

And speaking of Bizzy, I have to post this "free puppy ad" her mom Donna created when Bizzy was a puppy. Gambler is Donna's older Toller, and he really didn't like Bizzy's abuse. Devon would have told him to correct her, but apparently he was too nice. Donna reports he hasn't been as forgiving with future puppies! Bizzy wore him down!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Our first woods walk

Today was the first "quiet" day we've had to actually get some training done. I also wanted to start a good routine with Page. We went through the same morning routine as yesterday, but today it ended with me leaving for my exercise class. I realized this morning, it would be the first time I've left Page at the house alone.

Page got a Kong with grain-free kibble and peanut butter. She's getting very good about going in her crate in the kitchen since that's where she eats. She only fussed a little as I left ... well as far as I know! The other dogs didn't rat her out. 

She was totally quiet when I came in 1.5 hours later. I ran upstairs to change clothes, which prompted her to bark. However, once I stopped moving around (to wait her out so she'd stop barking), she immediately became quiet so I could go into the kitchen and get her. After a potty break, it was into the SUV for errands and a woods walk!

Before heading to the park for the woods walk, I stopped back by church (where my fitness classes are) and introduced her to a few people there. Once again, she walked from the car all the way into the building and through the doors on her own. I'm really proud of her boldness to do this. Inside, she was adored, which she loved. 

Someone commented how mellow she was because they knew Goldens who were "hyper." I laughed and said they were seeing her in a rare down moment. I think she wanted to take a longer nap this morning, which was why she was mellow. On the way back through the parking lot, she got to meet two little girls and their dad. When she heard the kids playing on the playground, she wanted to detour to see all of them too! Just like Devon, she loves kids. Thank you Gayle and Lise!

After a couple of errands, we went to the park for her first woods walk. Surprisingly, she was hard to lose. She stayed right behind me almost the entire walk. I was able to get these videos only when I could get ahead of her by stepping over logs.

The more we walked, Page did finally venture to my side and gave me some distance. Twice I was able to step behind a couple of small trees and give her a few seconds to wonder where I was. I know she used her nose to find me, which is a great start for her tracking.

The best thing about these woods walks is the puppy learning proprioception. Page especially enjoyed playing on logs and walking on them. These two clips show what I hope is the start of a great dogwalk and teeter performance! All I did to encourage her is walk beside the long; I didn't say anything to her. She was even trotting along the log, she was so confident.

The temperatures had reached the upper 70s, and it was getting warm. After several weeks where we couldn't get out of the 50s and had cold rain, this was a big temperature change. In fact, it was 20 degrees warmer than the previous day before noon. I know humans and dogs have to get used to this warmer weather gradually, and I could tell Page was very hot and tired after 25 minutes, so I headed back toward the car.

I made my way to one of the paths, to see what Page would do when she hit a trail. On my first woods walk with Devon, she was on a trail and I stepped behind a tree. She took off and tracked me all the way back to the car, scaring me to death! Sure enough, Page got on the trail and took off like a shot racing ahead. She didn't even think about me being behind her; she was hot and tired and thirsty. Before she got out of sight, I called her back, and she came running. Three times this happened, including once where she was out of sight before I called her. I can see we'll have to work on this over the coming weeks!

Back in the car to the water bucket and air conditioning! But the woods walk did what I intended. Page was completely sacked by the time I got home. I carried her into her crate where she went back to sleep without a single whimper. Finally, I was able to get the kitchen and downstairs cleaned up! Now maybe I can make a dent in the 250 emails I have waiting for me...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Mom, being at 'home' feels a lot like traveling."

Page's first day at "home" felt a lot like her first 3 days with us. I think I passed my first "new morning routine" test pretty well. Feeding and managing four dogs with one being a puppy is a trick! I'm using a house leash inside and a long line outside on Page. This allows me to stay close to her and manage her when the adult dogs are around. Right off this morning it prevented her from chasing Ian both in the house and outside. It is also teaching her to focus on me more than bonding with the adult dogs, something that's very important for our performance career. 

One of the first interesting things that happen this morning was between Connor and Devon. Connor decided he wanted to play with Page after breakfast. Connor has raised both Ian (when no one else would play with him) and Devon, so I know he's good with puppies. However, Devon didn't want Connor near "her" puppy! She walked between Page and Connor and even shoved Connor away from Page, nipping at his neck. I guess Devon really does like Page!

First thing this morning we were off to see my vet, who is also my uncle. My dad rode with us for company. Uncle John loves Devon and he felt the same about Page. Right away he noticed that they were quite different in personality! Where Devon is quiet and sits politely, Page was perpetual motion. As we were going over Gayle's medical protocols, Page kept trying to pull the papers from his hands! Page was a good girl for her shot and weighed in at 13+ pounds. After pronouncing her a very busy girl and wishing me all sorts of luck with this wild one, we were on the road again. 

Our next stop was to visit my Grandparents' Abbott. Page went inside and enjoyed being petted, but she'd been napping, so she was also ready for some fun! My grandmother found some of their dog's toys (which he never plays with; being a farm dog he prefers empty plastic bottles). Page had a great time chasing and pouncing on these toys and proving how great she was at steps. She also was a handy retriever, returning a dropped metal bookmark and a screwdriver from the floor.

Next, it was on to see my Grandmother Scamahorn. Again, Page went right up several steps to the front door and trotted right inside this new house. She's such a bold, confident little girl. She played on the floor and climbed around the chair legs, another signature specialty of hers.

Finally, we dropped Dad off at home. Our friend Debbie, who makes my house clean, was at my parent's place and she came out to meet Page. My Grandmother S. was on the phone to Mom, telling her how cute and spunky Ms. Page was!

We headed home for quick lunch for me and Devon, and out time for the boys. Page was in rare form after her morning of "meet and greets." Here's a quick video clip of her playing by herself in the living room. What a funny puppy she is!

This afternoon, Devon, Page and I got back in the SUV, picked up Mom and went across town to Sheree Farber's house. Sheree is an amazing person who works wonders on our of place and sore muscles. She is also an expert in canine structure and is now working in performance sports with her Goldens. She couldn't wait to see Page. 

Although tired, Page perked up to meet Sheree. Then she napped as Devon, Mom and I got worked on. After two long trips to New York and many hotel beds, I needed the work and can't wait to crawl into bed tonight.

The rest of our evening involved Page, Devon and Connor playing outside for more than an hour. Connor was able to play with Page some, but Devon continued to interrupt and play with Connor instead. As this interraction happened between Connor, Devon and Page, I realized some of what is happening is the change in pack leadership from Connor to Devon. Connor is getting older and should turn the pack over to Devon, who is ready to take it. However, as much as he's trained her to lead, he's also fighting the transition. The new dynamic of Page in the house is leading to some interesting interactions between Connor and Devon over the pack leadership. I saw similar interactions when Golden Reba and puppy Denver stayed with me last summer. Connor went from top dog to #3 when Reba, a dominate girl, came in and took the pack over and elevated Devon with her.
Then we all had dinner and after the dogs napped had more play time. The older dogs quickly tired of the rambunctious puppy, and Page was put to bed a little while ago. After two nights here, I'm learning that Page doesn't crash in the late evening when she's tired. Instead like a toddler fighting sleep, she gets manic. She gets the puppy zoomies and flings herself at me and the other dogs. As soon as I put her in her crate, she curled up and fell asleep without even a whimper.

Homecoming of a wild goose

On Wednesday, we were up and out of the hotel early, headed to HYBAR for an obedience lesson with both girls. Before we headed out, Page made me laugh by sitting in front of the TV and watching the Weather Channel. She was probably hoping for an end to our rain! 

At HYBAR, Devon spent an hour working on open and utility exercises, with Linda showing me the progressions so I could work ahead at home. I can't wait to continue working Devon's heeling, fronts and finishes and moving on to some additional exercises. After an hour, it was Page's turn.

Luckily we could skip the proprioception exercises since I already know how to do them from agility. We did go over a useful "settle" command that will translate well into any venue. We then went right to learning proper ways to sit, down, and stand for the obedience ring. I also learned how to teach her puppy go outs, puppy recalls, foundation for heads up heeling, finishes, and fronts. We also talked about starting scent articles now, before she does pile work for field. Pile work is one of the few things that contradicts her obedience work, since in pile work the dog just needs to bring back any bumper and with scent articles they need to search the pile for the right article. 

After 50 minutes, we called it a session. I was really proud of this little one working so hard with me, when she had only been with me less than 48 hours. We have a lot to work on over the coming weeks!

And after all the driving the day before, both girls got back in the SUV and fell fast sleep as we headed toward Columbus. The photo at the top of the post is what Page looked like during most of her time in the SUV! After a stop for gas and a stop to visit "Uncle Dave," we were finally headed home. I told Linda this poor puppy probably thought she'd been placed with a homeless woman who just drove around all day and slept in hotel rooms!

Finally we arrived home! The girls had a grand time in the back yard, then they watched as I unloaded the SUV. After looking at this video, I have a feeling I'll get questioned if these two are mother/daughter!

Outside, Page showed what a great job Lise and Gayle did with teaching them proprioception. How many other 9 week old Goldens are this good with stairs?

Devon took the time to show Page where the toys where after the house was cleaned. Devon's such a good big sister!

And then it was time for dinner before she met the boys.

I decided to introduce Page to the boys on fairly neutral territory, at my parent's place. I got the added bonus of having Reece around to meet her too. As expected, Connor thought she was pretty neat on first inspection. He didn't play right away with her, but he did like her. Next, I brought out Reece. He is really great with puppies. And remembering Devon's reaction to seeing a black dog with pointy ears for the first time, I thought I'd get Page introduced to him before Ian. As the clip below shows, Reece really liked Page!

Finally, I held Page on my lap as I sat in a chair and we let Ian out. I was most interested/concerned about Ian's reaction to Page. When I introduced him to Devon, I expected him to be thrilled with a girl in the house. Instead he was terrified of her, and Devon quickly learned he'd run from her. Being chased by this strange creature Ian terrified him more, so they had to be separated for several weeks. 

However, I was pleased with Ian's initial reaction. He remembered what puppies where from his terror 3 years ago, and he had his ears up and tail wagging as he met her. He danced away and didn't want to stay long, but it was a much better interaction than his first meeting with Devon!

We ended our Wednesday with me cutting and repackaging Bravo in approximately 1 pound chunks for easy feeding. Page watched and commentated from her crate in the kitchen as I talked with Kathy of Agile Gold and updated her on our trip home. Kathy can testify to the tenacity of this litter to BARK! 

There's nothing like hearing a puppy bark for most of 90 minutes to make you thankful for a good night's sleep. It must have been the barking that wore her out, because Page slept from 10:15 p.m. to 5 a.m. this morning. Aaaaaahhhhh! The benefits and joys of sleep are never overrated!

Bringing home a wild goose, part 2

Tuesday was to be a long day of driving for all of us. I was to leave New York and drive to northern Ohio, where I'd spend the night. After making the trip to Gaylan's several times from central Indiana, now call Pennsylvania the "never-ending state" of Pennsylvania. With a 9 week old energetic puppy known for barking, I was thinking I'd have a lot of new names for Pennsylvania by the time I was out of it.

Even with the new feeding schedule and a new puppy to monitor, I was impressed we made it out of the hotel within 90 minutes of getting up. This included play time for Page and having both girls walked long enough to "do both." 

Luckily, Page was ready for a morning nap when she was loaded in the car. She didn't even move when we stopped for gas about 45 minutes out. In fact, she slept for about 2-3 hours before waking up and getting interested in her surroundings. She barked a few times, but soon decided that wasn't going to faze me. She tried to poke Devon through the crates where they overlapped, but she got the same response from Devon she'd gotten the night before - she was ignored!

Finally, she discovered one of the Styrofoam coolers that held her frozen raw dog food. Now this was interesting! She began to nibble on the lid. Great, I'm going 70 mph down the Interstate with no exit in sight! How was I going to stop this! Well blessings come in all shapes and sizes!

Two days earlier as we were cleaning up from our Golden Retriever club meeting where we have a pitch in lunch, Jim asked if I wanted to take some of the fruit he brought in my cooler as I was traveling. I jumped at the chance for a healthy snack as I was driving! I had the cooler open and a gallon bag of fresh fruit open beside me on the seat, and I was using a fork to skewer fruit as I drove down the road. 

To distract Page, I skewered a piece of cantaloupe, reached back and dropped it into her crate. Bingo! She turned and wondered what manna was falling from heaven. Wow! The angels gave her a slimy orange toy! Soon I heard, "bark, bark, bark!" I glanced back to see her chasing this piece of fruit around the bottom of her crate, pouncing and playing with it. The cooler destruction was long forgotten! I only wish I had video for you!

Page was a trooper and the girls made it within 78 miles of Ohio before we stopped for gas and a potty break. I gave Page "lunch" of two kongs filled with Bravo and grain-free kibble. This kept her busy until the road put her to sleep again. Before I expected, but one more cantaloupe play toy later, we were rolling into our hotel in Ohio.

Once we were checked in, the girls and I had play time. Believe it or not, after 24 hours Devon decided maybe Page was an OK kid after all. Devon waited until I seemed distracted, so I was very quiet when I took these videos of their first play sessions. Once Devon saw me watching, she got a little more aloof again; she didn't want to let on that maybe this puppy was kind of neat!

After 1.5 hours of play, Page crashed. I took this opportunity to load them in the SUV (yes, again) and head to HYBAR to watch obedience classes. I take private lessons from Linda MacDonald of HYBAR, and she had said to come watch if I had time. I was really glad I did because I got to see more advanced work and proofing. Pauline and her Golden boy Blue was also in this class, so it was fun to see them work since I have not seen them do obedience. Page got to come into the building to say hello to some of the Golden crowd after the class. 

As we headed back to the hotel, I ordered carry out, fixed a quick dinner for the girls, walked the girls and got my food. They watched me eat, then enjoyed evening play time. We also did another couple of sessions of clicker training before we went to bed. 

Page didn't sleep as well this second night, probably due to lots of sleep and little activity during the day. She got me up 2 hours after we went to bed, and I did take her out. However, when she wanted to go out again 3 hours after that, I told her "quiet" and she didn't fuss much. I got up around 5:15 a.m. to take her out, and she did go. However, I did notice a damp spot on the towel in the crate. I think I misread the earlier request to go out and she had her first accident. My fault, but we'll both live through it. 

Bringing home a wild goose, part 1

On Monday I left Columbus, Ohio, headed for New York and Gaylan's Golden Retrievers to "fetch" Ms. Page, soon to be officially known as Gaylan's Wild Goose Chase. Devon, unaware of what was to come, was riding with me. Page was the last puppy to be picked up, due to Devon's library duties last week and hosting the local Golden Retriever club's April meeting at my house on Sunday.

After checking into the hotel, we pulled into Gayle and Andy's driveway, announced by Una, Dreamer, Risk and Corey. Ms. Raspberry (Page) was alone in the puppy pen, sitting on an elevated bed. As Gayle walked out to greet me, Ms. Raspberry started in with lonely barks, ending in a pitiful wail. Gayle chuckled, and I asked if she was the last orphaned puppy that no one wanted (which was the furthest thing from the truth, talk about a drama queen!). Apparently that's what she thought when all the Game Birds flew away, including Lise and Drake (Mr. Red) that morning. Page had been barking and protesting her alone-ness by even putting her teeth on the expen and pulling on it!

We decided to take Page and Devon on a short woods walk to hopefully give me some sleep and stretch Devon's legs. Devon promptly took a time out to take care of some private business, but Page wanted to meet her new friend. The look Devon gave Gayle and I clearly communicated, "Seriously, I'm trying to have a private moment here, can one of you DO something about this?" After that pit stop, Devon promptly ran off ignoring Page completely. Instead, she stuck by Gayle and I as we walked and talked "strategy" for how I was to train this new little one in my life. I'm so lucky for all the wealth of information Gayle has from training with so many of the dogs she's bred. Those insights are invaluable. Of course, I think the email lines to Donna to ask questions about Bizzy will be hot! Everyone says Page is similar to her mother's personality.

Devon did decide to play bow at Page toward the end of the walk, causing Page to drop to the ground and show her belly. Devon tried again with similar results; both girls acting totally appropriately. Then it was off to give Devon dinner and warm Page up inside as Gayle and I did paperwork and chatted.

As we loaded Page and her food into the SUV, the look on Devon's face isn't fit to reproduce in words! Devon was NOT amused that the small fur ball was coming with us. This was NOT in her plans! Gayle could only chuckle as she said goodbye to both her girls and wished Devon good luck.

At the hotel, Page got used to walking on her leash with us and did a great job of pottying outside. I had treats and a clicker with me, so we did a couple of short sessions of clicker work. Boy, this was grand fun for Page! She go a piece of cheese every time she looked at me! She was so impressed by the cheese in just a couple of short sessions, she was sitting and giving me eye contact. What a smart girl! Devon also got cheese for staying on the bed and quietly watching the session.

After some play time, primarily by herself since Devon still wasn't acknowledging her presence, we headed to bed. I put Page's crate on the second bed in the room, facing mine. Since it was still pretty early, I decided to wait Page out for barking in the crate, knowing this would be a problem. Once the lights were out and I was still in bed, she only barked for about 1 minute before giving up and going to sleep. Round 1 to me!

Page slept for about 3.5 hours, then woke up and entertained herself in her crate for another 30 minutes. She started to whine, and since it had been 4.5 hours since her last out, I took her outside where we had success. Now for the dilemma: it was not 1:30 a.m., and I didn't think my neighbors in the hotel would like me letting Page bark. The "earthquake" method of shaking the crate to get her to stop barking was creating a nice game of her being successful with negative reinforcement. What were we going to do?

Then, I had a brainstorm. I turned out the lights and laid down in bed. When she started to bark, I took a bed pillow and softly "thunked" it against the crate (I didn't throw it 90 mph at her). The barking stopped and the pillow fell back at me. She started barking again, "thunk" and a pause in the barking. A third time she started to bark, "thunk" and this time after a pause, she mumbled and laid down in her crate and slept until 6:30 a.m. Yippee!! Round 2 to me!

Here's a video of her first meal of raw food, prepared by me! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Devon the library dog

Tonight was Devon's first official night as the Library Dog. I thought it was a big success, and I'm very happy we spent time preparing Devon for her new "job."

Last week we had a "dry run" with some volunteer children. I was very glad for this rehearsal, because while Devon really enjoyed the children, she wasn't quite sure what to do when they settled down to read. She fidgeted and even volunteered several behaviors (it shouldn't surprise anyone she was foot smacking the chair legs). 

To Devon's credit, she also had quite an audience for her practice session. A reporter from the local paper came to do a preview story. She was wonderful and took lots of photos, as did Chrissy who is in charge of the children's programs for the library. Devon loved to mug for the camera! Finally, by the third child, Devon either got the idea or she was so tired she ran out of things to wiggle about. 

This practice session prepared Devon for what to expect this week. Chrissy had a great activity for the kids while they were waiting. They made picture frames out of colored paper, and she took a photo of each child with Devon. Chrissy realized that Devon notices everything in her environment, so we decided to take the photos before the kids started reading so Devon could focus on the children. The photo allowed the kids to meet Devon, get comfortable with her, then set about choosing a book and reading.

Last week, the story of the library's new program ran on the front page of the paper with the photo here on the blog. Zoe and Janet Ripley also attended the practice session and had their photo in the paper; unfortunately they couldn't be at the sessions this week. 

With the added publicity, I wondered if we'd be swamped with kids. As I pulled up to the library, every side of the street was full of cars, as was the bank parking lot next door. I really hoped this wasn't for our program! I got Devon out of the car, gave her a toy to carry and we were off to the library. Devon was very excited and trotted with purpose and a wagging tail right to the door!

As Devon trotted downstairs to the children's area, I heard cries of, "She's here! It's her, the library dog!"Devon was in her glory! She was surrounded by kids and adults all wanting to pet her. She talked and wagged her tail and leaned into each one of them. One eager boy threw his arms around her and give her a big hug, which she promptly returned!

Once her adoring fans were greeted, we moved into our room and got settled with her blanket. Over the PA system, they announced that the library's therapy dog was in the building and was starting to listen to children read. I have to admit I got a little misty when that happened. And then they came, one by one, to sit and read to Devon.

Devon was a trooper tonight. We allowed each child 10 minutes of reading time. Some kids got through their books quickly and wanted to play with Devon. Others wanted to chat about their pets or ask questions about Devon. One boy told me the story of how his father came to the United States from Honduras. Even though he told me he didn't read well, he was actually one of the better readers. Another boy brought his own book to read and petted Devon's head as he read.

After getting through her fidgets for the first 2-3 kids, Devon did very well. I started having some of the kids throw her toy if they wanted, and this was a good idea. She got the hang of returning it to them (and not me or their parents). She was very gentile and gave the toy on command and never jumped on the kids. After about 5 kids, we took a break and got her outside and let her potty. The fresh air was good and she did the rest of the evening without any more breaks. 

After 90 solid minutes, the last child came through. I lost count, but I think she saw 12-15 children. She ended the evening with a long belly rub from one of the volunteers. We called it her massage/spa treatment after her long session of volunteering.

I'm really proud of this girl. She did a fantastic job in her first official therapy dog role. I can't wait to see what Saturday holds, but I know she's going to be great!

Introducing Page

Introducing the newest member of my family: Page. Page is part of the Gaylan's Game Bird litter. She is sired by Can. Ch. Gaylan's Born to Fly SH MX MXJ CCA WCX OS ADHF VC CGC (Goose) and her dam is Ambertrial's I Am A Wild Party Can. WCX (Bizzy). The Game Bird litter is named for the heritage of the Golden Retriever breed, which is to retrieve game birds. In Page's registered name, which has yet to be finalized, I will give recognition to her dam and sire. Page's call name comes from another icon of the Golden Retriever breed, Rachel Page "Pagey" Elliott. While I never met Pagey Elliott, her devotion to the Golden Retriever breed, her study of canine structure and her love of agility (into her 90s) is an inspiration to me. 

I want to say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!" to Gayle and Lise for trusting me with this special little girl. She really wowed me this last weekend, and it is really an honor for me to bring her home. And she's going to have at least three more "interested aunties" watching over her from afar! Marcy, Pam and Donna will also be watching this little girlie grow up! Thank you already to all five of you for your insights into this little pup and for the support and advice I know you'll continue to give me.

As for Page, Devon and I will head back out to New York to pick her up on Monday evening. I'm planning to take lots of packed Kongs for our trip home. We'll make a stop in Ohio on the way back for an obedience lesson for both girls with Linda MacDonald at HYBAR. Today, I even bought her a bright pink puppy harness for tracking. Can't start them too early! 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Great Gaylan's weekend

What a wonderful time we had visiting Gaylan's Golden Retrievers this weekend! Since I live so far away, I rarely get to head east to visit Devon's cousins and their owners. This trip was worth the 12-hour drive, and we had a jam-packed weekend that I'll remember for years to come.

First, bright and early on Friday morning we started the Game Bird litter's temperament test. These are some amazing puppies, and every single puppy owner is getting a fantastic puppy! Pat McKinney did a fantastic job testing the litter, and I'm glad it's Gayle and Lise's job deciding where these pups will go! I would have taken every one of them home! 

Following the puppy test, we all joined Sandy and Trader's OTCH party. I was thrilled to be able to join in the celebration for this fantastic team! And I think the "OTCH bar" is going to become a hit all over the country!

After a good night's sleep, we headed back to Gayle and Andy's for the Game Bird litter's puppy walk. I think this is a wonderful way to celebrate each litter with a walk in the woods, play time and a pitch in lunch with friends. It was raining a little, but those Game Birds didn't care! They raced through the woods as I carefully picked my way down hills and over trees. 

Our other job is to watch one puppy and note what they do on the puppy walk. Our Game Bird charge loved to carry things in its mouth. The puppy picked up leaves and sticks. It raced through muddy streams and over rocks and fallen trees. The puppy darted around people and trees and looked interestingly at the water before racing back up the hill to the end of the walk.

After the puppy walk and hours of playing with kids, the pups still had energy to play with each other before finally settling in for a nap. I got to see one of Devon's littermate's Spring. This was an added bonus after getting to see her littermate Jerry the day before.

After the Game Birds' nap, we introduced them to birds. I've never seen this done and was interested to see the puppy's reactions. Every one of these pups turned onto the birds and carried one. The adult dogs didn't understand why they had to watch from an upper window!

It was so wonderful to spend time Friday and Saturday with Gayle, Lise and Marcy and hear all about the Game Birds and exchange training tips and plans. I loved talking with Pam Martin and Donna LaHaise in from Canada to see the testing and take Bizzy home. Pam was wonderful to share her field knowledge and encouragement for future plans. Donna was a wealth of information about Bizzy, and I know she was so excited to take her much loved and missed girl home. 

And I bet you're wondering which little Game Bird is coming to Indiana. Well, they still have some more tests to be done before we know the final answer. Check back later in the week to find out more!

We concluded our trip by stopping by the Hudson Valley Golden Retriever Club's All-Breed Agility trial on our way home. We got to see several of the Gaylan's dogs run, including Trader, Tango, Pilot, Juice, Jerry, Brig, Bette, and Kite. If you click on each dog's name, you can see video of their run (unfortunately I couldn't tape Kite's run, because I would have been standing in front of her mom). It was so awesome to watch these dogs run. I saw shades of Juice's mom Abbi in his run. And it was a thrill to watch big, athletic, powerful Goldens handle these agility courses at 24-inches. 

I had a wonderful weekend reconnecting with old friends and spending time making new ones. The Dancing litter has brought so many new and wonderful people into my life, and I'm looking forward to the Game Bird litter doing the same!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Game Birds here we come!

Agile Gold and I are headed to Gaylan's Golden Retrievers tomorrow for the Game Bird litter puppy testing and puppy walk! I can't wait to see these wild little puppies.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Reece is 12 years old!

Reece's birthday always sneaks by and I don't notice until later; it was April 4. That's probably because he wasn't a planned puppy. He was a spur of the moment decision that I have never regretted. You only have one Novice A dog, and oh how I wish I had the puppy Reece now that I know so much more. But your Novice A dog also makes you the trainer you are now. 

Reece moved out about a year ago to live with my parents. It was his choice, not mine. I always said he was smarter than I was, but maybe that's not true. Maybe he just figured things out before I did; I always got there in the end. He's living the life of a spoiled dog and the center of attention, and he's keeping my folks on their toes, too!

Someday I'll have another border collie. I love the breed a great deal; enough to know right now isn't the time for me to have another one. And my next border collie will be biddable, and not as incredibly independent as Reece. But I doubt there will ever be a more handsome border collie than Reece. 

Happy birthday, buddy! I'm so grateful for you coming into my life!

More VST work

We just got a VST track in today before the rain set in ... well, we did get a little wet. I laid this track at a local school which has some really cool tennis courts. Although I knew this track was long, I didn't realize until I got home it was probably about 850 yards and had 54% non-veg. There is no map of this one because there are no satellite images of the school completely built. My distances are estimates based on partial construction of the grounds.

The other interesting thing about this track is I laid something very similar on Wednesday, but picked it up. Terrie and her friend Suzette were laying tracks at this school, which was on spring break, and got hassled by a custodian. They eventually picked up their tracks and left. About 20 minutes later I showed up and laid a track through the same exact areas but didn't get hassled. Instead of fighting with the guy when I went back, I waited and picked up my track after he left. We'll wait until summer break (and Sunday mornings) to track much more at this school.

I ran this track at exactly 3 hours, because the rain was headed towards us. Devon started strong and as we were on her second leg big raindrops fell on us. By the time she made her second turn, it was a light rain that made everything wet and then stopped. It was good practice. 

I was interested to see how Devon would work the second leg. I laid the track about 3 feet west of the path I took on Wednesday. When Devon ran her certification track (at 7 months) she indicated a 48 hour old cross track. The tracks I laid at the school were 96 hours different in age, but laid by the same person. Devon worked the leg on the Sunday track through the grass and the first landscaping area to the concrete sidewalk at the front of the building. On the concrete she showed loss of scent and actually picked up the Wednesday path off the concrete and across the landscaping back into the grass. I would have thought she was just fringing if I did not know where I laid the other track and she was nose down on it. 

Once in the grass, she moved to the Sunday path again. She searched wide for the next corner, and I knew I probably laid the two turns at different places. I also knew Terrie had likely been in this area, and she's tracked Terrie before. Devon made the correct choice and tracked right across her chalk marks to the back side of the building. 

From here the track ran about 50 yards in the grass along the building and then turned out across the sidewalk and into the parking lot. Devon overshot the turn and started working a transition farther down at the next downspout. Again, I suspect she was working the Wednesday turn at this point. She came back and forth between the Wednesday turn and the Sunday turn, then she spotted the chalk from the Sunday track and started working it more heavily. She finally decided to commit to the Sunday track and went into the parking lot. 

Devon did a wonderful job on her first of two MOT turns. She did sniff the chalk and worked it, and once she committed to the new direction, she tracked strong and straight. She was rewarded with a metal article. At this point she really needed water, and (bad, bad mom) I forgot the tracking pack with the water bottles. I suspect the only reason she made it through this track without water was because the ground was wet from our brief rain. 

Devon struggled with her second MOT turn more and needed a couple of rescents before she committed to her new leg. She was quickly rewarded when she saw a leather article laying on the parking lot. We tracked on into the grass for some much needed break from the parking lot. However, her longest section of non-veg was to come, and it was the toughest.

The neat thing about tracking at this school is the tennis courts. There are a series of tennis courts separated by concrete sidewalks that are about twice as wide as a normal sidewalk. The map with this post shows you similar tennis courts at another local school. The courts are all 50 yards square, so it's a legal track and makes for interesting scenting work. All the courts have chain-linked fence with privacy strips in them, and there are multiple entrances to each court. 

Devon's first leg went down the west side of the courts. She searched into the grass for a while before committing to the sidewalk into the courts. She had the courts on her left and the fence to the football fields on her right. She chose to track this entire leg on the grass to the right of the sidewalk. I allowed this and wondered what she would do when we came to the end of the courts; would she continue to track straight on the grass or make the turn deeper into the courts? 

Amazingly, Devon showed loss of scent right next to the turn and eventually worked the turn to the left after checking straight ahead into the grass and looking into a tennis court. She was rewarded by a plastic article down the track hidden to the left of the track behind a fence pole. I believe she actually winded the article which is what helped her turn. But she did have to search for it and didn't give up. 

Her next two turns in the courts were very strong. She struggled a little on the last turn, but I knew the track was getting long and she really needed water. She was a trooper and accepted her rescent and made her last MOT turn. She was rewarded by grass and a grassy turn with less than 80 yards to her final leather article hidden under a tree.

Devon did an amazing job on this track. I was thrilled with her confidence on non-veg, especially her MOT work. I was also amazed at the indications of the 96 hour old track she showed me. We humans have very little concept of what really happens when our dogs track, and Devon's work today showed me she is far smarter about scent work than I will ever be.

Tail-wagging happy

I really wonder what dogs dream about. Devon must have amazing dreams. A lot of times she woofs or growls in her dreams. I wonder if those are nightmares, and I worry about her. This evening, I know she's having happy dreams! I heard a soft thump, thump, and I turned to see Devon wagging her tail in her sleep. Is she finding a leather article and earning her VST and CT? Her head is stretched up and her feet are forward, maybe she's earning her first High in Trial. Or maybe those are my dreams, and she's just saying hello to another friendly dog who wants to have fun!

Field drills are coming together!

I'm glad I challenged myself to give Devon a variety of field drills and not to repeat any drills two sessions in a row. This was a fun challenge, and I think it's helped her training. I know it's made me review my resource materials!

Yesterday, I went back to working "overs," but this time I isolated them and only worked "overs." I set two piles on either side of a tree, with both piles being 30 yards from the tree. I brought Devon out and sat her in front of the tree, and I walked back 15 yards. I identified the left pile, then sent her to it. She did great. I did the same with the right pile and we had another success. 

I sent her to each a couple of more times, then started to add a little distance away from her. She broke down and came right into me instead of going to her right over pile. I still don't understand after going to that pile three times how she could suddenly get confused. However, since she cannot verbalize her thought process, I decided not to even dwell on it and just fix the problem. I re-identified the pile and she was successful.

For the next 20 minutes I worked on getting farther back from her and still having her be successful on the over piles. It was nice she figured out her tree spot, because I was able to send her to the tree on a back and then sit her in front of the tree. 

The right over is clearly harder for her. She wanted to bow into me a lot, and one time I had to call her back in three times in a row because she continued to bow into me. However, we were able to work through it without her shutting down or me getting frustrated (I'm fully aware one leads to another). We ended with her being successful on both over piles with me 30 yards back from the over line. I was very pleased!

This morning, I got up early to race the rainy, stormy weather coming in to put in a track and do a field drill. This time I repeated the Three in a Row drill, but I used stakes with streamers on them instead of white buckets. I was curious if the moving ribbons on the stakes would bother Devon. I also did the drill in a different location than the last time.

Devon did fantastic when I sent her to each pile the first time. The streamers never bothered her; in fact I think she liked the new posts. She struggled only a little when she was working on the left side of the line and only got sucked into the middle bucket twice. However, when we were working the right side of the line, she really struggled with the middle pile sucking her in.

Once again I kept my frustration in check and we just worked through the drill. Devon showed some avoidance behavior by wanting to mark my discard pile and then got distracted by ducks quacking in the area when she failed three times in a row. After a couple of incidents of this, I took the tab on her collar and heeled her forward a few steps. She hates me grabbing her collar like this, and it was enough of a figurative "kick in the pants" to get her attention. She focused in and worked the drill, finally working to success!

Devon only really struggles with the suction of the middle pile when she's running this drill from the right. I finally found if I over compensate slightly to the left of the blind line, she was successful and didn't bend in to the middle pile. At first I thought I wasn't lining her up correctly, but I could clearly see she was bending the line to cut into the middle pile. 

I think these observations I'm learning are the teamwork we'll need when running tests. If I know there will be suction in a certain direction, I might want to line her up to the left of the line knowing she'll curve in slightly. The same is true of the over drill I did on Saturday. I learned to read her head to tell me when she was only bowing in slightly but would commit to the over and when she was coming into me too much and won't go to the pile. 

Going forward I'm going to focus on learning to read her versus trying to make her perfect to the drill. In clicker training, you move forward with an 80% correct behavior rate. It's interesting how we tend to want the dog to be perfect. However, most of the times the best lessons are learned when we aren't perfect. And my goal is for Devon and I to learn lessons that lead to more success in practical application!

Way to go Beth and Denver!

Last Thursday I had the privilege of laying a blind track for my friend Beth and her 1-year-old Golden Retriever boy Denver. Beth has tracked by herself and was curious to see if Denver was ready to certify. I laid a 475 yard track with 5 turns that was aged 35 minutes.

I told Beth to go ahead and start thinking I'd catch up with them on the first leg; Denver was a green dog. Well, Denver was off like a shot, trucking down the track with his nose down! Clearly he knew just what he was doing and I had to jog to keep up! Beth and Denver have worked hard, and when he reached his article, I told her they were 95% of the way there! 

Beth just had to work out a little issue with Denver's confidence on turns. Occasionally when the going got tough, Denver wanted mom to help.  Giving your dog that little bit of "confidence" is really easy to do when you lay your own tracks and work by yourself. I've done it to all three of my dogs; if you look back to the beginning of the month, you'll see Devon and I had to work that issue out, too, on MOT turns!

Beth did her homework, and so did Denver. On Saturday, she met Steve and Janet Ripley out tracking. Little did she know, Steve was going to pull a fast one on her! He laid a blind track as she'd requested. Denver and Beth did a fantastic job and when Denver laid down on the final glove, Steve asked Beth when she was going to start entering tracking tests. Beth said, "Well, I have to get Certified." Steve grinned and said, "You just did!" Steve laid a certification track for her but didn't bother to tell her. Why get her all nervous?

So congratulations to Beth and Denver. You worked hard and it all paid off - now go enter some tests and make us even more proud!

Tracking down south: lessons in distractions

On Friday when we visited Agile Gold in southern Indiana, we laid a VST track for Devon at a local community college. This was a fun track and it provided lots of distractions for Devon. The track was aged 3.5 hours, it was 558 yards long (42 yards shy of a regulation track) with 244 yards of non-veg or 44%. It was cold and very windy with gusts reported near 40 mph. This was difficult tracking weather for the challenges I gave Devon, so it was going to be very interesting how she ran this track.

The start went along a grassy area between a parking lot and a barbed-wire fence. When we started, there were black Angus and Angus cross steers laying near the fence. Devon started nicely, but when she saw one of these steers get up, she turned and barked at them. Instead of going away, the steers got more curious about this dog and all got up and walked towards her! Devon barked more and came back to me. She wasn't really sure what to do and these were big black beasts! 

Kathy and I chuckled at her, but then I told Devon to get back to work and track. Probably in an attempt to avoid confrontation with the steers, Devon did what she was told and put her nose down and got to work. I was pretty proud of her to work through that, only to discover it wasn't over yet! The steers were following Devon along the fence line! Since they were behind her, Devon didn't know she had a bovine gallery. She likes to track for an audience, but I wasn't sure this is what she had in mind. Kathy and I began to wonder if she'd realize she was being followed. 

Sure enough these steers caught Devon's attention and she gave them another stern barking. Kathy and I laughed and told her to get back to work, and she did. This time, she had offended her audience enough that they stayed put. It was a good thing this leg was just over 100 yards so she could get a good scent and work the track avoiding the steers.

The next part of the track was what I expected to be the hardest for Devon. On the map, you see it goes onto some brown colored area; these were brick pavers. I had been told pavers scent differently than concrete, and Devon struggles on gravel, so I wondered how this would go. I didn't put chalk through this area because it was a main courtyard to the building. I did add some extra scent with hand prints in three places. This was a heavily traveled area, so I was sure there would be a lot of extra distracting scent.

In the second diagram, you can kind of see that this area was actually a raised concourse. The building was set against a hillside, so in the back you walked into the third floor. Because of the railings and the wind, I was sure the scent was doing a lot of funny things. Just into the paver area, you can see a grassy area to our left. Devon spent a lot of time search this area. Beyond the landscaping was a fence and then a two story drop to the patio areas below. I was sure the wind, coming from our right was pushing the scent into this grassy area where it stuck and then over the edge to the area below. 

Devon eventually worked this out and tracked to her turn where she lost scent. She circled the area several times. I offered her a rescent, and after a quick sniff she committed instantly to the right turn. This was another tricky area. It was a concrete amphitheater down to the lawn below. I put extra scent at the top step and again halfway down. Because there was no handrail for me (the steps were on the sides) and Devon committed 100% and hopped all the way down the concrete steps, I let her get to the bottom (and all 40 ft. of my line) and told her to wait (which she did) and slowly made my way down. When I reached the bottom I told her to track, and she easily made her way into the grass for her first article.

After the turn on the sidewalk, Devon allowed the stiff wind to push her into the grass where she caught the turn to the left. I was sure the wind had blown the scent into the grass so I allowed this. She struggled a little with the plastic article in the curb. She winded it but it took her a while to find. She handled her two MOT turns very well, and tracked very quickly to her glove. 

I was very proud of how Devon handled this track. She had distractions from steers and lots of scent from people. She also had difficult scenting conditions from the wind. I gave her minimal chalk and some extra scent. I really am pleased with how well she's doing!

Friday, April 3, 2009


I bet you're thinking this post will be about Devon, but you're wrong. It's about Ian. Today we headed to southern Indiana to spend some time with Agile Gold. We let Ian, Connor and Devon run in Kathy's big pasture. 

Devon brought a bumper with her from the van, so I threw it for her. Ian raced with her down the hill for the bumper, and when he reached it first, he didn't know what to do with it. It wasn't a ball! My dad has taught Ian to play retrieve with a ball, but this was a long, orange, knobby thing with a rope. It didn't look like a ball!

Well, Devon sure knew what to do with it. She swooped in and grabbed it right from under his nose and turned and raced back to me. Ian was left trying to catch up with her. I threw it a second time, and they both raced down the hill again. Ian beat Devon to the bumper again (those longer legs and lighter body weight really made a difference), and this time he reached for the bumper. Devon backed off, but Ian still wasn't sure exactly what to do with this weird thing! Finally after a couple of drops, he picked it up on one end and ran back full speed at me with this long orange bumper hanging out of his mouth - he looked like he was running with an orange Popsicle in his mouth and all I could think of was I hoped he didn't trip and shove it down this throat!

This lead to a game of "fetch" with my Belgian Sheepdog (Devon could never beat him to the bumper, so she gave up). Ian had a so much fun running back and forth retrieving this bumper. His tail was wagging 100 mph, and he looked absolutely beautiful as he posed for his bumper with his black eyes dancing and raced down the hill at top speed with fur flying in the wind.

Ian is truly a beautiful dog, and when he's comfortable and having fun, he forgets all his worries. He's happy and bouncy and very goofy. I was so happy he could be comfortable and share this side of himself with Kathy. So few people other than my family and his breeder ever get to see this side of him and it's why I do really love this boy. He does make me laugh (usually at him).

Since Ian loves birds so much and is now retrieving bumpers, Kathy wondered if we could enter him in hunt tests. It's an idea! We can tape his ears so the fold down and maybe people will believe he's a Flat Coated Retriever! 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Becoming a children's reading dog

Devon passed her Delta Society Pet Partners evaluation last  year shortly after she turned 2 years old, and I completed my testing shortly after that. We've been searching for a way to use Devon's abilities as a therapy dog. She is especially good with children, so I was hoping to get involved that way.

Well, instead of waiting for a program to come to us, one day on a whim I asked at my local library if they had a program. Turns out, they were wanting to start one and didn't know how to find a dog! In 2 weeks Devon will launch the library's program to improve children's reading skills. Based on advice from the Gaylan's family and especially Anita, Devon and I are preparing for her first session. 

Here's what we're doing:
  1. I'm shaping Devon to lay on a special blanket. My mom got Devon a very cute blanket that was handmade by one of the ladies in her church. It's quilted fleece, and it is red with black paw prints on one side and a variety of dog themed fabrics on the other side in white, red and blue. Devon figured out very quickly that she was to lay down on it, after first trying to sit and then (you guessed it) use her paws to paw at it. Anita also says that the blanket alerts Devon to what is expected and that only Devon and the child share the blanket. I think this will go a long way to cuing Devon she's supposed to settle and go into therapy mode.
  2. Teaching Devon to nose touch the book. I'm teaching her to touch the book so when a child points out something in the book to Devon, she will nose touch the book as if she's looking at what the child wants to show her. I'm shaping this with me pointing to the book. I hope to be able to say to the child, "Show Devon the (an object) on the page" and have the child point to the book and Devon nose touch.
  3. Anita also suggests that I not be afraid to interrupt and lean over as if I'm listening to Devon and say, "Devon doesn't understand what (such and such in the book) is. Can you explain what that is to her?" Or I could say, "Devon thinks it's funny when you make that sound, can you do it again?" I think I need to be careful it's not the sound of a motorboat, or Devon might sail into the puppy zoomies!
As Anita said, the goal of the program is to make reading fun for the children. Studies show reading to an animal can improve children's reading ability. Based on Devon's skill with children, I think she's going to really enjoy this!

Tomorrow I'm hoping to take the blanket and book to a new location and practice. On Saturday, Devon will take her first tour of the library, and we'll take our blanket and book and practice where she will be doing the program. Next week we're practicing with a few children, before the first formal program on National Library Week.

So, get out a good book and read to your dog! Devon recommends Blue's Clues!