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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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