Posts Tagged ‘Academy of Canine Behavior’

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.


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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Three weeks ago, I took Carlin up to the Academy. January 9th, it was. A Saturday. I left him there, and I came home.

When I left him, I hoped they could succeed where I had been failing — helping Carlin feel comfortable while he’s on leash. I wanted (and want) him to not have to worry about being attacked out of the blue. And if he does start to see and then react to something that worries him, I hoped that he would have a quiver of other behaviors that I could ask him to do instead of worrying.

You see, about four months prior, Carlin was viciously attacked by a Malamute, a big dog, twice his weight and at least half again his height. Physically, Carlin was wounded, but not badly. But mentally, he began to worry every time I took him out on a leash. When I took him to Obedience lessons, he worried about the other dog in the room. And if another dog got too close on a walk or in the obedience building, Carlin would lunge and bark.

Carlin was obviously scared on our walks, and I was scared too. Left untreated, behavior like this can be (or at least become) very dangerous. To Carlin, because lunging and barking could incite another dog to attack. To me, because I could get pulled over.

So I sent Carlin to the Academy, where they have a controlled environment, experienced trainers, and a wide variety of dogs to practice around.

Friday was my first visit with Carlin since I left him at the Academy. It reminded me very much of our second visit to Cooper during his stay at the Academy almost 7 years ago.

I sat quietly on a couch in one of their training spaces, while Amanda took Carlin through his paces. I got to watch, but she asked me to sit still and not speak. I’m a good student, so I did my part, while I observed Carlin ace a variety of commands: sit, down, wait, stay, let’s go, and right here. Carlin did a great job following all those commands, even though he was in a confined space with a string of other dogs working around him.

Then the tough test: Off. He made the wrong choice on this at first. He was led over to me, told to sit, and then I was asked to say, “Good sit.” At the sound of my voice, Carlin lost his self control. All he wanted to do was throw himself into my arms. This was so like Cooper in that long-ago visit. Cooper shook so hard with his attempt to follow the sit command. He really tried, but finally, just like Carlin, he couldn’t help himself.

Finally, after several corrections and reminders to “Off” and “Sit”, Carlin regained control of himself and sat. After just a few seconds, Amanda released him, and I stood up and gave the command he really wanted to hear: “Hugs!” Carlin threw his whole body into my arms, back legs scrabbling on my thighs, front leg wrapped around my neck, tongue licking my face (and glasses), ears, neck, and hair, and back to my face.

We were both so happy to see each other.

Then we went outside, where a bunch of other dogs “just happened” to be, and I put him through all the exercises that Amanda had demonstrated. I made my share of mistakes — the biggest one was using the leash correction on him while repeating the command rather than using the correction together with the “No” that should precede the repeated command. I have homework this week to help me train my reactions to time that stuff correctly. But the thing that made me happiest, was that Carlin did not seem to resent the corrections when I gave them correctly. He seemed to react as if my corrections were reminders rather than any sort of punishment.

After we were done with my practice session, we went inside again, and I was told to put Carlin in a down-stay for about 10 minutes while the trainers took a break and did some paper work. In the picture below, you can see him nested up against my legs, staying in his down-stay. A few minutes after this photo, he turned over onto his side in the shelter of my legs, and went to sleep.


So this week, I have my homework and I know Carlin will have his. I’ll get to see and work with him again next weekend.

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Boarding school for your pup is something I would not have endorsed a couple of years ago. But with experience and observing the results in Cooper, I changed my mind. Cooper is a much better companion because of his time at the Academy of Canine Behavior and a better hunter because of his 3 months at retriever boot camp. So now that Tooey is a show dog champion, it is time to move her full time into her training as a field dog.

For the last year in Cooper’s field training and hunt tests, I have been affiliated with the Lower Columbia Hunting Retriever Club. It has given me an opportunity to forge new relationships and friends, see lots of dogs work, and hone my own skills as a trainer. One club member, Butch Higgins, is a professional gundog trainer. His success with a variety of breeds and temperaments is a significant reason why we have decided that Tooey and Butch will be working together over the next few months.

Both Patrice and I have observed Butch at hunt tests, and the rapport between Butch and the dogs he is handling is very upbeat with a lot of tail wagging and a lot of positive communication taking place. This is not at the expense of high performance either. (Butch had 4 dogs this year pass all 6 days of the Master National Retriever Tests.) Plus, at the initial evaluation that Butch did with Tooey about a month ago, Tooey decided she likes Butch. So we anticipate that this should be a good fit.

Lesson One: "Watch Me"

Tooey’s very first training with Butch is pictured above. Butch walked her around the the lobby of Parkdale Kennels, and then encouraged her to sit in the chair and focus on him. Note that she is wearing a leash, but it is loose on the floor. This is all under his verbal control and encouragement. We should all be so relaxed with relative strangers.

Looking for that stash of office cookies

Tooey then decided that if this was going to be her home for a while, she should get to know the staff and her surroundings.

In about 2 months, Patrice will be making weekend trips to Parkdale (about 50 miles from home) to start learning how to be Tooey’s field handler. This will all be leading up to the hunt test season of 2011, so they can join Cooper and me in competing for those hunt test titles. Team Tooey will be testing for a Working Certificate this spring and hunt titles in the both the AKC and the HRC.

Blog posts about Tooey will probably be sparse for a couple of months, but as soon as Patrice and Tooey meet up again, she will probably be a very popular topic for Patrice.

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If Tooey were home, this would never happen:

This is a picture of Cooper’s bowl after he’s finished eating. I could take this picture every day, and they’d all look about the same.

For reasons beyond me, Cooper routinely leaves a few pieces of food in his bowl. He does this even when he’s very hungry after a hard day in the field. I’ve always found it strange. But he’s been doing it so long, that I no longer feel baffled, just amused.

Of course, I do have to empty the bowl before popping it into the dishwasher.

Except when Tooey is home. When Tooey is home, she waits until Cooper is done eating. Then, her own food being long gone, she steps over to Cooper’s rug and eats whatever is left in his bowl. It’s usually just a couple of pieces, so I let her go ahead.

If it’s more than a couple of pieces, though, then no. Can’t let her do it, much to her hangdog, poor-me disappointment. I don’t want Tooey getting a dose of Cooper’s Chinese medicines (for his SLO), which we put on his food.

Tooey’s been gone 13 days. I hear she’s doing well at the Academy. I guess you can tell I miss her.

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Liz picture-messaged this photo to us today. She titled the picture “Tooey demonstrating the booking process at the Academy.”

I’m not completely sure what that means, but I do know that Liz is staying with Colleen and Jack, owners of the Academy of Canine Behavior. I’m guessing that dogs coming into the AOCB get weighed. So Tooey must be demonstrating how to sit nicely on the scale so that the needle doesn’t jump around.

Liz and I had a nice long chat about our dogs (Liz has several Irish Water Spaniels), and she assured me that Tooey is being well taken care of (I was confident of that already), has another girl dog for company in the “girl yard” where girls in season are safe from boys, and even has her own comfy bed.

I also found out that Tooey has Liz bamboozled into thinking she’s sweet. Well, Tooey certainly can be sweet and very affectionate. But she’s also pushy, opinionated, domineering, and independent.

I guess you can tell I miss her.

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When I was so sad about missing Cooper while he’s off to hunt school, Colleen suggested that I might want to have another dog in the house. She said, “I have a young girl (IWS) that would love to come and visit while Cooper is gone! She likes going on adventures.”

At first we discounted the idea, but then, the lonelier we got, the better the idea sounded. A few emails went back and forth, and we agreed to go see the pup at Colleen’s later this month.


In the meantime, Colleen has been sending us pictures. This one was taken today while she was on the grooming table. How nice — I won’t have to train a puppy to tolerate being on the table. And she’s been through the AOCB‘s training program — another plus.

The pup’s registered name is Stanegate Second Thoughts. When we see her, she’ll be about 8.5 months old, still a puppy, but just in time for adolescence!


You can see she looks a lot different than Cooper — broader nose and a tendency to bleach blond from being in the sun. And Tammy says that she’s very sweet, more like the companion dog we were looking for in the first place.

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