Who's a Good Dog?

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Inside Games for Bad Weather Days

The dogs and I are taking a great online class through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy called Stir Crazy.  It’s taught by Donna Hill and focuses on games you can play in small spaces–like in your living room when it’s raining outside.  Here’s a clip of Arlo, Katie and me playing one of the body awareness games.  I thought it would be a good post for Force-Free Friday.  The idea is for the dog to go around and through the cones without touching them.  At nearly 4 years old, Arlo is still wiggly enough that this game is a bit of a challenge.  But Katie is older, calmer, and more experienced, and she had no trouble at all.  I cleared out most of the furniture in the living room and used ring gates to create an “audience” area for the non-working dog.  (I had to revise that plan a bit after Arlo figured out how to get around the gate and ask whether it was his turn again.) One of the really nice features of the course is that the games are suitable for dogs with a range of abilities.  My senior girl Katie who has some mobility issues has been able to do everything so far.  You can see from the dogs’ body language on the video that they’re both having a really good time.  Ditto for me.

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I recently started volunteering at the Center for Animal Health and Welfare.  Once a week I head over to the Center and work with one or two of their dogs on basic manners.  Yesterday was the fourth session with Ruckus, a young bully mix, who is a real charmer.  As his Petfinder page explains, he LOVES his toys (a plus for training because we’re teaching him to work for toys).  He also needs to learn some leash manners.  In the video clip above, he’s learning to wait at an open door until invited to go through.  (Apologies for the shaky camera–my fault.  I was filming while Maria, who works at the shelter, was working with Ruckus.)  You can see him figuring things out.  He makes mistakes, but that’s part of the learning.  He can’t learn that sitting works unless he sees that getting up makes the door close.  You can’t see it in this video, but he’s also learned to check-in after going through the door.

During my visit yesterday I also had the opportunity to meet two wonderful senior dogs, Merida and Big Bear.  You wouldn’t know Merida is 13–she dances around like a puppy and loves her toys.  But she is very polite when she plays.

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And if you’d like a swell guy to cuddle with you on your couch, Bear is your man.

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Dog Trick Geeks

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Grades are in, graduation has come and gone, and even though I still have a couple reports to write and meetings to attend (and although my CWP responsibilities continue all summer), I am looking forward to the somewhat slower pace of the next few months. As any academic will tell you, we don’t get the summer “off,” but for some of us it does mean a break from teaching and so more time for other kinds of intellectual work. For me it also means more time for activities that, while they don’t qualify as academic work, keep me balanced–e.g. gardening, yoga, dog training.

I’ve been putting in a lot of hours in the garden lately–trying to get everything in and, at the Community Garden, set things up so that I’m ahead of the weeds. I’m keeping a photo log of garden work here.

I have a long list of dog training stuff planned, but the first two projects (in addition to weekly Rally class) are (1) taking this online class and (2) making a video for the Dog Trick Geeks challenge on Facebook. I’ll write more about the online class after it begins (on June 1). But if you like trick training with your dog then you should definitely check out the DTG group page and website. There are 6 levels of certification from “Dog Trick Geek” to “Supreme Geek.” The training is all force-free and in good fun (i.e., my kind of training).  Arlo and I have been working on our tricks for the first level.  For a preview, watch the video at the top of this post.



And finally, on the topic of dogs, if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know that Katie was ranked #16 for 2013 in level 1 World Cynosport Rally. It was totally unexpected, and a very nice surprise. (It was so unexpected, I didn’t even look at the rankings when they first came out.) Kate has slowed down a bit in the past few months (she just turned 12), and we may need to retire from competition. But she has been the best partner I could ask for.

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Fresh Start

New year, new blog.  I decided to move the Who’s a Good Dog blog over to WordPress.  I use WordPress a lot for school, and I’m more familiar with what it does and how it works.  My previous blog efforts can be found here and here.  And they’re also linked on the About page.

Mel and Em shaping the beginning of a pawstand.

Mel and Em shaping the beginning of a pawstand.

This past Saturday was a miserable, rainy day, but Arlo and I had the pleasure of spending it with some good friends at a workshop on shaping with Pam Dennison.  The workshop was held at Let’s Speak Dog, where Arlo, Katie and I have been training for awhile now.  Pam showed us how to teach a bunch of cool tricks like riding a skateboard (which Arlo was surprisingly keen to try), and doing a hand, er, pawtstand (which, because he’s so long-bodied, I didn’t ask him to try).  She also showed us how to teach a bunch of practical things like wipe your feet (which can be the beginning of teaching your dog to file his nails) and targeting various body parts (chin, cheek, shoulder, hip, etc.), which #1 is just cool, and #2 comes in handy when, for example, you’re grooming your dog or on a visit to the vet.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of Arlo and me training, but I did get one that I think is maybe more significant:  Arlo relaxing in his crate.  A workshop environment like yesterday’s is a hard place for Arlo to be.  He’s highly sensitive to his environment, and being in a room where a bunch of unfamiliar dogs are coming and going can quickly send him over threshold.  He alternates between wanting to greet dogs and worrying about them.  Properly introduced to unfamiliar dogs, he’s fine.  But in this situation that was just not possible, so I needed a plan (and thanks to Renee Hall our trainer and owner of LSD for helping me).

Arlo chilling in his crate.

Arlo chilling in his crate.

Another friend and I made arrangements to get to the workshop early and set up near the back door so that we could take breaks with our dogs as needed.  Like Arlo her dog needed somewhere to go if activity in the room became too overwhelming.  So, in between the torrential downpours that we were having yesterday, we were able to pop out, walk the dogs around, and then return.

And it worked like a charm.  Arlo was anxious at first, but eventually he settled down and even dozed off.  At one point, I was standing all the way across the room, and I could see him calmly looking out from his crate while other dogs were training.  I felt so proud.

In addition, when he was out of the crate and training, he was focused and–more importantly–having fun.  The last time we tried something like this was at a Treibball workshop a year ago where the unfamiliar dogs and the activity were just too much for him.  Yesterday wasn’t perfect, but for the most part he was focused and happy even when unfamiliar dogs were also working close by.