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Let’s start with the good:

  • After this last Sunday’s hunt test was over, I was invited to come later this week to practice retriever work on some private land that actually has ponds on it. This is wonderful for two reasons:
    — I was invited. This means that perhaps I am losing my newcomer status a bit and slowly becoming part of a group.
    — The other reason is that Carlin and I get to practice retrieving in some water. Practice-able water is not easy to find around here – most ponds and rivers are on privately owned land, or they are on park land where dogs must be on leash and/or there are lots of kids and other dogs close by.
  • The judges and gallery were very kind.
  • I learned that somehow I have to accustom Carlin to duck decoys, which I realize now he’s never seen.
  • I brought a couple of dead pheasants home with me, which I gutted and then stuffed with insulating foam so I can use the birds for training.

Now to the not-so-good:

The hunt test went bad right from the start. We were out on the first bird (which for this test was pheasants). The first mark was about 75 yards into a pond just shallow enough for the dogs to run through. The pond was small, planted with five duck decoys at the right edge, and the starting line was about 30 yards back from the pond’s edge. A dog going straight through the pond to the bird would not encounter the decoys at all. A dog running around the pond would run right past them.

You can guess which dog I had. The one running around the pond. And when he got to the decoys, he stopped dead in his tracks. WHOA!!! WHAT IS THAT?!? Each decoy had to be thoroughly investigated.

I don’t know if you’ve seen other Irish Water Spaniels take a certain posture while checking out something potentially evil, but all of mine have done it. The dog stretches his neck w-a-a-a-y out in order to get the nose close-ish to the evil thing, while the body stretches as far away as possible. This is what Carlin did to every single one of those four decoys, one at a time.

And then, OMG!!! A breeze drifted over the water, and one of the decoys moved. Carlin jumped up and ran away several yards. At that point, he’d totally forgotten what he was supposed to be doing out in that field, so he went into default spaniel mode, and started quartering. He got farther and farther away from the bird, and I could hear one of the judged shifting in his chair. So, I blew my whistle to stop Carlin.

He stopped, which is good. But then, when I tried to call him in just enough to get him away from the decoys, he ran the other way instead. Finally, the judge said, “Pick your dog up, and we’ll give him the live flyer.”

That mark went great. Carlin lined the bird, picked it up, and brought it back to hand.

I should have stopped right there.

Ordinarily, I’d have had to stop for the day because dogs that fail the 1st series don’t get called back to test in the 2nd series. But since there were so few entrants in the Junior test, the judge invited the dogs who had failed the 1st series to do the 2nd series anyway. I thought, well, I paid good money for this, I should take advantage of the opportunity.

Actually, I should have declined and let Carlin end on the success. The next two marks looked straightforward, and they were. Carlin lined each of them, ran straight to each bird (one through rather than around some swimming water), brought it back, and dropped it 6 feet away from me. He would not pick up either bird, just nosing and poking them on the ground. Aghhh! So embarrassing.

We’ve had this bird-dropping problem before at a retriever hunt test. Since he’s successfully picked up and delivered many a pheasant at spaniel hunt tests, we had thought the problem at retriever hunt tests was that the birds were ducks. But Sunday’s test used pheasants. So, now, I’m thinking that there is something about retriever hunt tests that bugs him.

Don’t know what the problem is, though. My retriever club has had several training days that were set up just like retriever hunt tests, with guns, birds, crowds of dogs, holding blinds, a marshall, and judges (but no decoys). And in all of the recent training days, Carlin has picked his birds (both ducks and pheasants) up and delivered them to hand.

So, what to do? For now, the lawn is strewn with Russ’s decoys and I’ll run some short marks past and through them in the yard until the decoys become no issue for him. And Carlin and I will go out to the property with water later this week, and put the decoys in there, too. And maybe when I’ve done that, some other bright idea will occur to me.

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I recently got an email from a woman whose dog has SLO:

Hi! I was so happy to come upon your site!! …I have an English Springer…, [we are] sure she has SLO. …We are having a really hard time getting her to take her supplements- I’ve tried multiple ways to get her to take her Omega – disguised in food, on her food, I bought filtered to decrease the odor- so many things-she just turns her nose up. She will eat cooked Salmon but that is it… She has a jaw that is tight and will not let you open and I really hate to force down her. I have left her food down and walked away and it stays that way…uneaten. …I love reading all you have written and so feel like I finally have another person who understands.

I looked back at this post Training Unawares, and I realized that I hadn’t said anything about how I actually trained Cooper to jump up onto his grooming table and take his many medicines. Here is an edited version of my reply to the woman who wrote me:

I am so sorry this is happening to your dog. It is indeed painful to watch.

I’m trying to remember how I trained Cooper to take supplements. It didn’t take long he was jumping up onto our grooming table without being asked in order to get them.

I’m pretty sure that I started out with the best, most yummiest treat ever. For Cooper, that was Yummy Chummies or Red Barn Beef Roll. Cooked or dried liver chunks worked well, too. I would show him a treat, get him onto the grooming table somehow, and then gave him the treat. He could also see and smell the pile of treats on the counter from up there.

That first treat made his mouth water, so it was easier to slip a pill or capsule down his throat. I soon learned that I had to stuff it way back into the back of his throat, or else he’d spit it out.

The thing I don’t quite remember is how I got him to open his mouth for the big fish oil capsule in the first place. I think I must have had a capsule between my thumb and first finger, while holding a treat against my palm with my other fingers. He’d open his mouth because he’d just gotten his favorite treat ever, and could smell the 2nd treat. Then, as soon as I got the capsule into the back of his throat, I gave him many, many treats – maybe even up to 10, one at a time. (They were cut into small pieces.) He soon realized he’d get a major payout for letting me stuff a pill down.

And I probably did not start out trying to stuff everything I had to give him all in the same session. But as time went on, and he was more willing, I reduced the number of treats, and upped the number of pills per session. But I always started with a treat and I always gave him a treat after every pill or capsule.

If your dog is really reluctant, you could start by giving him a treat for just letting you open his mouth a little bit. Then when he’s happy letting you do that (and that may take several sessions to teach), a treat for letting you open it little wider. Then a treat for letting you open it all the way.

Then after a couple of sessions of that, you could go to giving a treat, stuffing one small pill down, then giving many treats. And after several sessions of that, then do treat-small pill-many treats-larger pill-many treats, and etc. Gradually build up the number and size of pills you give over several sessions.

And you have to use the dog’s very favorite, very best treat. And, while you’re teaching this, I think he should get it only for letting you open his mouth and then later, stuffing pills down. The dog may change his mind about what he thinks the best treat is, and if that happens, you’ll have to change treats until you find the next very favorite.

Here’s another idea. Cooper has passed away, but my current dogs will do anything for green tripe. I can get them to eat almost anything if I have it mixed in green tripe. I buy a brand called Tripett, and it comes in cans. You might buy a can and see how your dog likes it. Then, if he really likes it, try mixing your supplement into some tripe. Start out with a little supplement and then gradually work up to the full amount. I will warn you, green tripe smells disgusting, but it’s good for the dogs. (Cleaned tripe or the tripe you can buy in the grocery stores for people food isn’t nearly so interesting to my dogs.)

Hope this helps. If not, I suggest you find a dog trainer to help you. Find one who is good at teaching dogs to do tricks using positive reinforcement. The process of teaching a dog to take pills is the same as teaching a dog to do tricks. You break the learning down into small easy chunks and reward the dog with whatever the dog thinks is rewarding. (Pardon me if you know this already.)

My best wishes,

I truly do hope it helps. Dealing with SLO is never easy, but sometimes there can be learning that makes life better.

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Usually, I like to sleep in on weekends, but when the day is promising to reach triple-digit temperatures, everyone gets out of bed and out to the training fields early. So that’s what we did.

We have this nifty launcher, operated by remote control, that throws pheasant-sized retrieve objects straight up into the air.

Dogtra Pheasant Launcher

Dogtra Pheasant Launcher

The action is supposed to mimic the action of a bird launching itself from the cover when flushed by a dog. And except for the noise of the latch letting loose and the springs letting go, it does a pretty good job.

So, we loaded the launcher with a partially thawed chukar, hid it in the four foot cover, and tied a small piece of orange ribbon to nearby grass stalks to mark the spot. Then went back to the car to get Carlin. We set ourselves up as much like a hunt test as possible, Russ and Carlin on one side and me on the other. Russ sent Carlin across the course, and then whistled him back and forth, gradually working toward the launcher. It would have been better had we a third person along (any volunteers for next weekend?) to play the second “gunner”, but even so, Carlin did a nice job of quartering the field, looking for birds.

When he got close to the laucher, Russ set it off and whistled a short single blast simultaneously. Carlin’s butt hit the ground (YAY!), and then stayed on the ground when Russ shot the starter pistol (double YAY!). This is exactly what we’re looking for.

Russ went out and petted Carlin (who was busy looking back and forth between the area of the fall and Russ (Dad! The bird is right there! It’s right there! Dad!!!). Carlin doesn’t get to retrieve every bird, though, so back to the car he went, while we set the thing up again in a different spot.

And he did it again! Great place to stop.

I wish I had videoed that — it was great. But I didn’t think to video until Russ set Carlin up for a blind retrieve in the water.

As you can see from the video, Carlin didn’t go straight at the bird. Instead, he veered off toward the right a bit. In a hunt test, this is less than ideal, but it’s not bad, and it would definitely be more than OK while out hunting. He found his bird and brought it back. That’s what we’re looking for. Good boy!

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I’d really hoped to bring Carlin home today. The plan was that we’d have a last visit at the Academy, get a demo of Carlin’s progress, and get a lesson ourselves on how to handle him. We’d walk him around with Tooey, and my hope was that he’d stay in a nice, polite “Right Here” while doing so. And then we’d check out and go home.

I got it about half right.

While we practiced indoors yesterday, Carlin did better than last week. I was able to walk him almost right up to Russ and Tooey, and then turn and walk away, and have Carlin come with me, leash loose. Very good! I was happy.

But we hardly ever walk our dogs on leash in the house, so I asked to try it outdoors, one of us walking Tooey up ahead, and one of us walking Carlin not too far behind. I knew this would be hard because Carlin does not like to be left behind, prefers to be in front with or ahead of Tooey, and generally just finds all of the scents and activity outdoors to be very distracting.

And alas, he still wasn’t ready to do this, no matter which of us had Tooey and which of us had Carlin. He still couldn’t concentrate on staying in position while his beloved Tooey was near and they were both outside.

He has to learn to stay in position, no matter what the distraction, whether it be Tooey, a squirrel dashing across our path, another dog coming toward us, or other dogs running past to retrieve a bird.

So to help solve this problem (we hope), we are now dogless for a week. We left Tooey there so she could help Carlin learn to work around one of his top favorite distractions.

Tooey really didn’t want us to leave her this morning, but it looks like she’s made the best of it.

image

Tooey snoozing on the couch (in a house where dogs are not supposed to snooze on the couch)

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This time Russ and Tooey accompanied me on my second visit with Carlin at the Academy. Parts went about as I thought, and some parts exceeded my expectations but didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.

Sometimes hopes are just that — not something you expect, but something you really want, nonetheless.

Before our visit, I’d told the trainers at the Academy that I’d like to be able to walk Carlin on the same walk where Russ is also along, walking Tooey. In the past, this hasn’t gone nearly as well as I’d like, especially when Tooey is ahead and Carlin is behind. Carlin hates being left behind, so when he was behind, he would pull the leash until he was ahead. It seemed like I was always correcting him, which is unpleasant, so my usual strategies were to always have Carlin ahead, or to take an entirely different route altogether.

So, at the Academy, we tried it. Russ and Tooey sauntered along ahead of Carlin and me, and I did my best to remind Carlin to maintain his “right here” position, which is a loose heel. Carlin was really trying hard to do what I asked. I could see him trying, and then forgetting. So I’d remind him with a gentle pop on the leash, and he’d shake his body as to say, “Oh yeah! Right here. OK,” and then he’d hop back into place. But at the same time, he loves Tooey and what he really wanted to run and play with her, not stay a couple of steps behind.

So Carlin had a real challenge, and I did, too, trying to remember how to handle the leash, and when to say “No,” when to (or not) repeat the command. I’m pretty sure he’ll be able to do this — it will just be hard work on both our parts when we get Carlin home. And if I can get a solid “right here” despite any distraction, then I know I’ll be able to walk him at a hunt test from the holding blind to the start line off leash.

Then on to the next challenge: I wanted to know how to handle Carlin while going into and out of a room crowded with dogs, such as in an Obedience trial or conformation show. So, while Russ put Tooey up in the car, the trainer, Carlin, and I went over to an Obedience class that was being held on the grounds. I had Carlin wait at all the various gates and doorways, and he did a great job at that. Next he did a beautiful “right here” getting into the area where all the other dogs were working. Then the trainer had me work Carlin a bit, doing easy stuff like a sits and downs.

He did the sits and downs right away upon cue. And he didn’t move out of those positions until I told him to do something different. So that’s great. He was so good at this, better than I expected. But what I’d hoped was that he’d relax in his down, such as by tipping over onto one hip or putting his head down. Instead, he lay ramrod straight, like the Sphinx, watching (but not staring at) the other dogs intently. So, good. He lay down, he didn’t stare, and he didn’t bark or lunge. Finally, I could see that this was just very hard on him, so I started to say something to the trainer about our leaving. But just then, he relaxed onto one hip. Good boy! So I said, “This is a good place to stop. Let’s get out of here.” So, I released Carlin from his down, asked him for a “right here”, and we got out of there without problem or incident.

I think his being able to relax at a dog show will be a long time coming. He’ll get it, but I think it’s going to be a long time and a lot of work.

So, then we went back to the office, where Russ and I both got our rewards — being able to tell Carlin “Hugs!” At this, he leapt into our arms, and gave us kisses galore, over and over. Neither one of us could see past our goopy eyeglasses. And maybe at least one of us also had something in our eyes that made it hard to see.

Until next time, Carlin. We’ll be back.

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Western Oregon doesn’t have many bogs. There are some cranberry bogs on the Pacific coast, and there are (or at least, were) bogs near the great Klamath Marsh in Central Oregon, from which a mummified body, named Peat Man, was unearthed during the winter of 1999.

But there aren’t the vast swaths of bog in Oregon as there are in Ireland, bogs where Irish Water Spaniels were used to hunt gamebirds and waterfowl, giving them the nickname “Bog Dogs”.

Then again, there are usually lots of small lakes and ponds in Oregon. But this spring, there just aren’t. They’re all dried or drying up.

Here’s one example: The Oregon bog you see my three IWS cavorting in (after a couple hours of field training) in the photo below is usually a shallow lake this time of year, not drying up until July.

Suavie Bog Dogs

Cooper, Tooey, and Carlin sittin’ in the bog

This year, it’s just three inches of undried up water filling the spaces between aquatic plants, creating a not-very muddy, but very squishy bog.

dogsbogging

Russ and the three curly brown bog dogs

Even though there wasn’t any water to practice water retrieves with, there was plenty of firm cover alongside the bog to work on land retrieves.

Carlin started us out with three retrieves, all in a line with one another, one at 125 yards, another at 100 yards, and a third at about 50 yards. The hope is that he would start to learn to judge distances.

He found and delivered the first mark just fine. Unsurprisingly, for the second mark, he lasered out to where the first mark had fallen, and was a bit puzzled not to find his bumper in the same spot. He widened his search, and found the second mark. Then for the third mark, he went out to where the first mark had landed, then to where the second mark had landed, and wow! — no bumper in either place. So he widened his search again, and found the third bumper.

Cooper went next, with exactly the same drill. For him, who know distances pretty well, the challenge was staying steady at the line. Russ had to persuade him to come back into place and sit before releasing him to the retrieve. By now, though, this is a familiar ritual in itself. Both Russ and Cooper know how that dance goes.

Tooey went last. Instead of retrieves, for her we planted a frozen chukar in deep cover, and sent her from about 60 yards away to go find it. After repeating that several times in different locations, we repeated the same exercise with the two boys (with Carlin’s distance shortened up to about 25 yards). All three did a very nice job, finding and delivering the rapidly defrosting bird.

So, work done, it was time to play, to go get wet and cool, dogs a’bogging.

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Last Saturday, I played judge for a Rally match at my dog obedience training club. It was fun. I enjoyed choosing and setting up the courses, running the people and their dogs through them, watching for errors where I might take off points if I were a real judge at a real trial, all to help my fellow club members improve their and their dog’s performance.

I discovered that I naturally see certain things, like inefficient or incorrect footwork on the part of the person, or the dog’s sitting at an angle at the Halts, rather than sitting parallel to the person. I saw incorrectly done stations and missed stations. But I realized later that I  hadn’t really noticed out-of-position heeling — as long as the dog was not really lagging for forging, as going along pretty much next to the person, I didn’t really see if the dog’s neck was right next to the person’s pants seam or not. Interesting…

But what I did gain was a pronounced appreciation for real judges. For their ability to stay focused, observe closely, treat every body with respect and kindness, all while standing on hard floors, for hours.

Thank you, judges.

I didn’t judge the whole time. In each of the courses, I took a few moments to run one of my dogs: Cooper in Excellent, Tooey in Advanced, and Carlin in Novice (sort of).

Each dog had a different experience:

  • Cooper: “Hah! I already have my RAE title. I don’t have to do this anymore. Except the jumps. I like the jumps. Let’s do that jump again!”
  • Tooey: “You really want to do this? You do? Really? Oh… okay…. But there will be food in the ring, right?”
  • Carlin: “Wow! Look at all these dogs! Smell all those treats! What are all those cones and signs all over the floor? Oh, you want some heeling? Ok, I can give you three steps. 1, 2, … Oh! Look at that puppy over there! Let’s go say hi!”

We all came home tired and ready for a nap.

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