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Archive for September, 2009

And it’s NOT me.

Tooey scouting the back yard for squirrels

Tooey scouting the back yard for squirrels

The sight, or even the suspicion, of squirrels makes sweet, affectionate, reasonably biddable Tooey forget her manners, the rules about not jumping onto the counter tops, and the appropriate way to walk nicely on a leash.

Sheesh! What is the big deal about those furry tree rats, anyway? OK, so, yeah — they’re little and furry, they squeak appealingly, and they run. I get that.

But is that enough to freeze the puppy mind into a single, lizard-brain track?

It shouldn’t be. But, based on results, I have to say, yes, it is. (Dang it!)

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This morning we resurrected an old tradition of walking the mile to the nearest Starbucks for coffee, rolls, and liver treats. (We bring the liver treats with us — for some reason, Starbucks doesn’t carry them.)

Trice and Tooey at Starbucks

Trice and Tooey at Starbucks

It’s a nice opportunity to soak up some morning sun, introduce the dog to a new environment in which to practice her “down,” and chat with the spouse without the distraction of chores. Tooey was very calm — not quite as calm the Pug at the table to the right, but way calmer and quieter than the two yappy little Bichon Frise to the left. 

On the way home, trees must be scouted — a squirrel might be foolish enough to come down to within reach.

Scouting for squirrels

Scouting for squirrels

Here we’re almost home, meeting a neighbor. Tooey is being VERY brave, getting that close to an unpredictable little boy. This particular boy had observed Tooey eating grass, and thought she might like some more.

092609_0163

Greeting a neighbor

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On the whole, dog training is confusing. It’s a wonder that people can keep it all straight, much less the dogs.

In my first efforts decades ago, I was taught to use a choke chain collar to move a dog into position and to correct a wrong behavior with a just-hard-enough jerk. These days, I’m more likely to learn about using clickers, treats, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and positive reinforcement.

And the commands I’ve been expected to use vary from trainer to trainer, and from companion obedience, to competition obedience, to hunt training.

From a trainer who was just training for having a well-behaved companion, I learned a whole slew of commands: sit, down, stay, wait, right here, off, up, come here. In obedience trials, beyond tradition, it doesn’t matter what word you use, but here I’m just talking about the words I’ve learned from the people I’ve gotten training from.

But from the hunt trainer, we’re told that (at least in the field) there are only five commands: “Heel,” “Sit,” “Fetch,” “Hold,” and “Here,” plus the corrective, “No.” All of them to be delivered with a firm (not necessarily loud) voice and a posture of “command presence.”

Hunt Command Equivalents Hunt Training Explanation
Heel Heel

Right here

“Heel” tells the dog to be right next to my left knee. It’s similar to “Right here.” Both the hunt-training ”Heel” and the ”Right here” are somewhat less exacting than the “Heel” command used in obedience trials. In obedience trials, I think judges look at how straight the dog is headed, how exactly the dog’s head lines up with the person’s knee, how far away the dog is from the person’s body, stuff like that.

The hunt-training “Heel” is more practical — have your head close enough to my knee that I can comfortably grab the duck (or your collar, if necessary).

Fetch ??? Pick up whatever I’ve indicated. I think similar commands are used in obedience trials, too.
Hold ??? Keep what you have fetched in your mouth (no matter what) until you’re back into the heel position and have placed the thing in my hand.
Here Come here

Come

The hunt training “Here” is somewhat different than the companion or obedience versions. “Here” seems to mean just come very close to my front, while the obedience command seems to mean to come in, face my front, and sit. Or maybe front and sit are considered two separate but related behviors — I don’t know.
Sit Sit-Stay From the hunt trainer, “Sit” means put your butt down and keep your butt down in that same place without moving it until I tell you to do something else. Slouching is okay, but creeping forward or lying down are not.

From the other trainers, there is a “Sit,” which means temporarily putting your butt down, and “Sit-Stay,” which seems to mean keep your butt down and your body straight, legs in tight, no creeping, turning, slouching, or lying down until released.

Down

Down-Stay

Put your butt and elbows on the ground. When the “Stay” is added, keep them there until released.
No (*it depends) From the hunt trainer, “No” seems like an all-purpose word that means stop doing what you’re doing. It’s usually followed by one of the 5 magic words: ”Heel,” “Sit,” “Fetch,” “Hold,” or “Here.” I guess the theory is that a dog out hunting is supposed to be doing one of those things at all times — otherwise, the dog is in his kennel.

That may also explain the lack of a “Down” from the hunt trainer. Dogs can lie down in their kennels on their own time.

*“No” is tricky. Some people consider it a positive punishement — something the dog doesn’t like that you do to get the dog to stop doing something — and hence not a good thing. From that point of view, it’s much better to either

  • prevent the dog from getting the opportunity to do the thing you don’t want it to do (close the toilet so they can’t drink out of it or crate your dog so they can’t pee in the house), or
  • ask for an “incompatible behavior” (if your dog is about to jump up on you, ask for a “Sit” before it jumps, and then reward the dog when it sits.)

I tend to think that a firm (but not angry) “No” is just simply good information when it’s tied to another concept:

  • “No, sit.” I told you to sit, and you’re not doing it. I want you to stop what you’re doing and sit.
  • “No, <next command>.” Stop what you’re doing and do something else, which I will inform you about, like “go to your rug” or “sit” or “go bug Russ.” (No, that last one isn’t really one of my commands…)
  • “No!” Used immediately to get the dog’s attention upon observing something that the dog must not do, and which temporarily robs you of the ability to come up with the right words, like peeing on the duck.

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Sometimes you first need the punchline, and then the full story:
092009_Life is Good

I’m sure you’ve had those weeks: everyone wanting something, some not coming through with commitments, others passing blame on to you, still others asking for what you can’t give. The whole “life isn’t fair” routine.

After one of those weeks, I think to myself — I have to do something fun. If I can find the time. There’s work. Then there’s all the household responsibilities: laundry, shopping, vacuuming, blah, blah, blah. But this morning, I decided that all that can wait.

But what to do? Well… Water has to be involved. Tooey has been to the river once, but not to the beach (as far as we know), and she’s never actually done more than jump in and wade. Cannon Beach, about 1-1/2 hours from Portland, has a wonderful policy — well-behaved dogs can run off leash. And it’s forecasted to be sunny and warm. And we have gas in the car. So off to the beach it is.

Here’s a taste of our day. First, the ocean:

Tooey, Haystack Rock, and Trice

Tooey, Haystack Rock, and Trice

Tooey running in the surf

Tooey running in the surf

Mmmm... kelp. Yummy

Mmmm... kelp. Yummy

Running, running

Running, running

Then, after a sandwich and ice cream cones, we moved on to Ecola Creek, a river that runs into the Pacific, just north of the town of Cannon Beach.

Hey! What kind of ducks are those?

Hey! What kind of ducks are those?

First actual swim (note those rear hips up and out at full extension -- so IWS-like)

First actual swim (note those rear hips up and out at full extension -- so IWS-like)

Looking for the frisbee under water

Looking for the frisbee under water -- it's down there somewhere

Once she got the hang of it, Tooey swam. We threw sticks, and then a found frisbee. The stick was easy to grab, but the frisbee was a bit more elusive. Even so, she swam out and searched, found the frisbee, and brought it in, just the way you saw it in the first picture. Life is good indeed.

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Sometimes all you need is one picture:

Tooey and Trice on the beach

Tooey and Trice on the beach

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Andy's dog kennel on wheels (at the pond)

Andy's dog kennel on wheels (at the pond)

After a night of rain in the Pacific Northwest, the sun popped out about 10:00 am. I took this one photo just after I made the 80-mile drive up I-5 from Portland to one of Andy‘s training grounds near Chehalis, Washington. Then it was time to put the camera away and to start working with Cooper.

Andy had set 2 pair of launchers on either side of the pond and a stack of bumpers on the far side for blind retrieves for the advanced dogs. My job today was to keep Cooper “steady at the line” until I released him in a series of single retrieves of Dokken Dummies (fake ducks). The task was to keep Cooper’s drive in check and for him to be aware that I was the sole source for the permission to leave the line. Once I said, “Cooper,” he shot down to the bank and launched himself into the pond as though this was a dock diving competition. He may be a rookie, but he gets points for style.

Then Andy had me do the same drill with a Lab who was quite a bit more pushy than Cooper and about 20 lbs heavier. Made me appreciate my seemingly sedate package in the curly brown coat. And then another chance to work with a 2nd Lab before the bonus round of handling Joey, the talented IWS from Colleen. After his double, Joey just swam out to the blind retrieve of about a 100 yards, came back, and calmly laid the bumper in my hands, looked up, and asked if there anything else he should get on my behalf.

Another handler mistook the curly brown dog in the water for Cooper and thought we had a prodigy taking back cast instructions after only 8 weeks of training. (I believe Joey has been at this for a year — and it shows.) Perhaps Andy had me handle Joey so I would get an appetite for a really well trained IWS.

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How many names do your dogs have? Mine have more than several each —

Cooper:

  • Coopman
  • Coop
  • The Coop
  • Coop My Man
  • Coopie (Andy and Colleen call him this — sounds weird to me)
  • Cooperator (as distinct from “co-operator”)
  • You Weasel!
  • Mr. Cooper
  • The Dude
  • Cooper Dude

Tooey:

  • TooeyToo
  • Too
  • TooToo
  • Tooey Honey
  • Tooey Girl
  • Tooey Puppy
  • Twofer (may eventually morph into Twofie)
  • (She hasn’t done anything annoying enough yet to earn a disparaging nickname)

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Sometimes the fact that a dog can’t talk is a blessing. Those times when you just want someone to listen but not give advice. When you want to take a walk or a drive without having to chat. When you just want a snuggle.

But when your dog is sick or afraid, everything becomes a guessing game, and it’s not always easy to know if you’ve guessed right.

Late one afternoon last week, I opened the front door and walked into a wall of smell — gaggy and disgusting. It had to be Tooey. Fortunately for us, Tooey was in her crate, so she’d had no opportunity to spread whatever it was around the house.

When I got to Tooey’s crate, I could see that she must have gotten into something that made everything come out both ends. Poor Tooey — stuck in a crate with all that. We’d coincidentally had a vet appointment that afternoon anyway, so I swooped her up in my arms, put her in the car, and drove to the vet.

She’d gotten into something, all right. We don’t know what, but something that introduced way too many actively reproducing bacteria into her gut. The vet prescribed antibiotics, and then away we rushed to the dog wash. That night, after washing and drying the dog, cleaning up the car, washing my clothes, cleaning her crate, and then washing all the various towels I’d used, I flopped into bed and slept.

That was easy.

Harder is the fear. For some reason, Tooey is afraid of people. When anyone comes up to her, she backs away. Fortunately, she’s not aggressive or defensive — she just steps away.

This is such a change from the day we met her. That day, she was thrilled to see us, two strangers. She ran with us, wanted us to pet her, jumped up on us for hugs, chased a ball for us, and hung around us as much as she could.

And with the two of us, she still does all this. After 3-1/2 weeks, we’re not strangers anymore. But with strangers, she steps back.

It’s a puzzle. I’m hoping it’s merely a combination of being in her 4th home for only 3-1/2 weeks and being 9 months old. I’m hoping that as she gets used to us, our house, and our neighborhood, she’ll become less afraid. That as she matures, she’ll become less afraid. That getting her some training and not forcing her into anything will help her become more confident.

So, just as I did with Cooper and all his various and completely different behavior issues, I’m talking to as many people as I can, reading as much as I can find, trying to figure out what Tooey can’t tell me, and how to help her.

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Earlier in the week, Russ was telling a friend that Cooper is doing pretty well at duck school, but that Tooey has the drive of a turnip. Well, both cases turn out a lot better than that.

Today, Cooper went and found his bumper w-a-a-a-y out at about 250 yards — farther than we expect to need him to go during a hunt trial or even in hunting. But training for it is good — if he can find it out that far, then closer in will be a relative piece of cake.

arrow points to Cooper at 250 yards

arrow points to Cooper at 250 yards

He did need some assistance finding the bumper all the way out there. The first one landed in a patch of high grass, where he couldn’t find it. So the winger (a training assistant who throws bumpers and ducks) threw another one, yelling, “Hey, hey, hey!” That bumper he found and brought back. This is actually pretty common for dogs as his stage of learning, so we weren’t at all unhappy.

After Cooper had four or five long runs, Andy put him up in his kennel with a pan of water, and we got Tooey out of our truck. She’s shy and had to be coaxed to say hi to people (treats helped). But then Andy got out a training duck. That caught her attention.

090809_Tooey and Duck

Tooey and her 1st duck

She didn’t pick up the duck, but she was definitely interested in chasing after it. We’ll do like we did with Cooper, and play with her using a training duck for a few minutes every day. Maybe we’ll get her to actually grab it. I guess she has somewhat more drive than a turnip, yes?

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When we were out in the field earlier this week, we noticed that Cooper is bigger — he seems broader in the chest and bigger of bone. He just looks more mature to us (at least physically). Compare the width of his chest here to a picture taken at 1 year.

Cooper_082109When you see someone every day, it’s hard to see the changes. But when you see them only every once in awhile, the differences seem so obvious.

Cooper has always loved getting his picture taken. That direct stare right into he camera, those almost orange eyes, that focus, the drive to do what he’s meant to do — all come into focus so clearly! I think he’s stunningly handsome, and I miss him so much!

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We got to see Cooper today, and Russ got his first training session from Andy. Everything was set up in a field near the Chehalis River, with uneven cover and three launchers.

Cooper did pretty well — he got distracted from time to time by the scent of birds that had been dragged through the grass by other dogs, and he had to be assisted once or twice in finding the bird. But he always retrieved his duck and brought it in.

Russ did pretty well, too. When to command, when to correct, when to assist. It’s all a learning experience, and he’ll go back for more next week.

Cooper (calmly!) waiting, Andy talking, Russ listening

Cooper (calmly!) waits, Andy instructs, Russ listens

Russ sends Cooper out

Russ sends Cooper out

Cooper brings the duck in directly

Cooper brings the duck in directly

Cooper brings the duck back to Russ

Cooper coming into heel position

Cooper (calmly again!) waits, Russ listens to Andy's comments

Cooper (calmly again!) waits, Russ listens to Andy's comments

Patrice says goodbye to Cooper (in the truck)

Patrice says goodbye to Cooper (in the truck)

We’ll be back!

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I was going to say “vibrator” instead of “massager” in the title, but that didn’t sound quite right…

Anyway, most evenings, Russ uses one of those hand-held vibrating massagers on my calves. (I’ve had a long history of achilles tendon issues…)

not the exact model of massager, but close

not the exact model of massager, but close

Night before last, Tooey was relaxing on the bed with us when Russ got out the machine and turned it on. Instant infatuation!

She was so fascinated that she completely forgot that I existed. (This is the dog who waits on the bathmat for me to come out of the shower and leans on me when I’m combing my hair.) She wouldn’t get her nose out of the way so Russ could work. No amount of coaxing or luring with treats could get her attention off the massager.

Finally, we had to pick her up and put her in her crate. And she was not happy at being separated from the object of her attention — whining, beating on the crate door, even a bark. A real puppy tantrum.

Then last night, we put her in the crate first before the machine came out. We got the same reaction as soon as Russ turned it on — whining and beating on the crate door. She went on with it even after we turned the machine off and switched out the lights.

After a few minutes of ignoring all this racket, I had to tap the crate and tell her, in my best head-bitch tone of voice, “Knock it off!” I haven’t spoken to her in that tone before, and that must have shocked her into quiet.

Wonder what will happen tonight?

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Next Thursday, we get to go see Cooper again, where he’ll demonstrate his skills retrieving ducks from a pond near the Chehalis River.

In the meantime, we’ll have to comfort ourselves with some video from Andy’s website. The first dog shown is Joey, another Irish Water Spaniel.

Waterdog Kennels Training Day

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