Sunday, February 22, 2009

Week Two of Beginner Two

There's the happy face at dinner time. What a cutie.

Well, I've been busy as hell and I should really be doing other things but I just can't help myself, I need to squeeze this update in!

Marge is much much better with Test 1 on the CGC. Susan came up to her today and on my command she did not budge. I almost got her to do it with someone else in class, too, but we're not quite there yet.

I have been practicing a lot with her sitting there and getting petted by other people - albeit, people that she isn't afraid of, but I need that as a solid foundation so we can move on to the big and bad and scary people.

It's going to take a lot of work but this is slowly starting to seem like it is more within reach than it was before. I hope we can do it. I hope I can attach those three letters at the end of her name in two months' time.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Early Morning Outing

7 AM. Wake up, get dressed groggily, head downstairs to feed both Marge and myself.
7:30 AM. Head out the door and into the car.
8 AM. Make my way to the dog park mentioned to me by the owner of the Flattie at Clove Lakes.

It was pretty good. Wasn't sure about it at first, as Marge was the newcomer and was being swarmed by other dogs. But she made her way through it.

The place was huge. Big enough so that Marge could avoid the group of large wrestling dogs and instead fraternized as she pleased. She wasn't all that social today, but I think it had more to do with being slightly afraid of the new environment and also because at least three different people gave her treats. So she focused on them instead.

But her recall was good and she got some playtime in with a couple of dogs.

Marge really just stood around and sniffed the whole time (while evading other curious dogs looking to sniff her tush) but then got fired up five minutes before we left and ran zoomies with the Poodle below.

I think we'll be going back. I'm less and less inclined to go to the regular dog parks. There are too many horror stories and too many out of control dogs. I do miss the regulars, so once the ground thaws and there's no more mud, I'm sure I'll be heading back. But for now, going at 8:00 AM helps to weed out those who have no idea what they're doing. At least a little bit.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Always wow-ing me

Marge has had a good past couple of days. Friday (when this picture was taken) she went to the park . There weren't many people around but it's still an accomplishment that none of them scared her. Yesterday, I took her on multiple walks around the neighborhood. She stayed at heel most of the time, with attention, and barely batted an eye at the screaming kids across the street.

Today, Beginner 2 started. It's a small class with just two other dogs, which is going to be great. One of them is from the last class - the dog who beat Marge on the back up. Another is a big bumbly chocolate lab, really cute guy. Marge voiced her displeasure at his bumbly-ness. But I think it was a hidden gesture of friendship, because if they were offleash I bet she'd just chase after him like she does with the other silly big dogs at the park.

We have the same teacher. We practiced a lot of old stuff today - stays, walking, recalls, some clicker basics - and started a couple of new things, like fronts and finishes. We need to work on finishing most of all.

We also continued sit/stand for exam stuff. Marge was GREAT. She broke position, as usual, but it was to APPROACH Susan, rather than move away from her. She constantly targeted with her nose, which was also good. I let her nibble on one of her treats while Susan actually managed to pet Marge on the head a couple of times.

We also did some of the beginnings of the supervised separation stuff. We basically did a round robin of dogs, where everyone switched dogs until they wound up back with their owner. Marge really wasn't all that agitated; she was fine with Susan, maybe mildly uncomfortable with the other people.

Best of all, my dad was there to see all of it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Saywuh? Doggie in the TV?"

Marge pondered about the strange television dogs for a while, wondering just how they got into the big black box with a power button and why all those people were tossing little yummy treats around and not letting anyone eat them. She then proceeded to grab her squishy new pink n' white ball, run around with it lodged in her mouth such that it turned up her nose and made her face look all screwy, deciding that doing so was much more fun those those "other doggies" could have possibly been having in the box.

Congrats to the Sussex Spaniel, Stump.. pretty cool win! I wish I was there.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


The people at Obedience, Petsmart, the park, the beach, etc, aren't REALLY people, to Marge anyway. They do not count; they are not scary. We went back to pick up a new bag of treats, and Petsmart was PACKED. I didn't see Marge's tail go between her legs even once. She has very much picked up on the idea that targeting people means food, which is good, at least from a socialization point of view. One lady gently scratched her neck and she didn't bug out, either.

And the park was swamped, too, in more ways than one. I'm happy we didn't go to the dog park, because I would have come home with a chocolate lab instead of a black one. It was muddy. And, there were lots of half-people too. Joggers, mothers with strollers, the ONLY thing that really got to Marge just a little bit was a whole gang of little kids passing so she was squeezed and felt like they were going to run into her. But, nothing too dramatic. She made quick-friends with a couple of doggies and then practiced passing some dogs/people while at heel. She did great!

Later on I just took some candids of her. She keeps me laughing.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Snow Days and Smart Shopping

It's been cold and snowy here. Walks haven't been as long as they should have. Finally, this weekend, it's supposed to clear up, so I'm hoping we can fit in a trip to the park on Sunday. Burn out some of Marge's energy.

We took a trip to Petsmart, just to give Marge something to do and some new people and dogs to meet. Oh, and of course, to add to the ever-growing collection of toys.

There weren't too many people there, but surely more than I'd find walking around the block in 25 degree weather. We picked up a squeaky ball, a squeaky frog, more of Marge's Nature's Variety treats and also another kind of treat that I'm thinking might wind up in the garbage. Silly me, I didn't read the label close enough and let's just say there's something I'm less than impressed with.

Oh well. It wasn't a wasted trip. She likes her new ball, and I've decided to wait a bit before I allow the destroying of the newly bought frog.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Headed for Citizenship

Marge's tongue looks abnormally large in this picture.

I have no doubt that I could accomplish *something* with Marge. Be it Rally or Agility, she may never be a star, but she is certainly more than capable of learning a lot, provided I take the time to teach it to her. She is quite smart, extremely food driven, and because of those two things seems to like to have something to do.

Something I am less sure about is the Canine Good Citizen, a test that we very well may be taking in the not-so-distant future to conclude the upcoming Beginner 2 session.

Not only does it look for obedience and knowledge of basic commands -- both of which Marge has -- it looks for a dog of sound, amiable (at worst, aloof) temperament. Marge is nowhere near amiable and not too close to aloofness either.

She is hyper aware when people approach her and doesn't usually react kindly. She'll break position, hackles go up, and she'll attempt to circle her way towards the person to get in a sniff. On occasion, she will growl.

That alone will cost us the test.

"Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator."

Most likely, FAIL. Depending on the person, she may be alright because the person would be ignoring her. But if I had to bet, she would most likely use that as an opportunity to break position and sniff a non-threatening person.

"Test 2: Sitting politely for petting This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. With the dog sitting at the handler's side, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment."

FAIL. She hates to be pet on top of her head and will definitely move away if a stranger's hand runs down her back.

"Test 3: Appearance and grooming This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so. It also demonstrates the owner's care, concern and sense of responsibility. The evaluator inspects the dog to determine if it is clean and groomed. The dog must appear to be in healthy condition (i.e., proper weight, clean, healthy and alert). The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot. It is not necessary for the dog to hold a specific position during the examination, and the handler may talk to the dog, praise it and give encouragement throughout."

100% FAIL. She would never allow a person to get that touchy-feely with her, especially when grabbing her feet.

"Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead) This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog's position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler's movements and changes of direction..."

PASS. So long as the environment was a non-threatening one, like the training hall or in the park, Marge would most likely be fine with this portion of the test.

"Test 5: Walking through a crowd This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash."

PASS. Again, so long as none of the people are threatening.

"Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler's commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. Prior to this test, the dog's leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long..."

PASS. Should be fine, provided Marge will actually down on whatever the surface is. Sometimes she won't do it if a treat isn't present.

"Test 7: Coming when called This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to "stay" or "wait" or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog."

100% PASS. She really has a good recall.

"Test 8: Reaction to another dog This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler."

PASS. She might need some more practice on this one, but it's easy enough for me to do. Also, in a class-like environment (which I'm assuming the CGC is, with trainers and dogs and stuff all around), she usually does not bother all that much with other dogs.

"Test 9: Reaction to distraction This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise."

Not 100% sure, but I'm going to say PASS. Jogger wont bother her, I've worked with the chair, and I doubt a cane/crutch would bother her either.

"Test 10: Supervised separation This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. ..Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, "there, there, it's alright")."

PASS. She'd probably just stare off in my direction and wait for me to come back. If the evaluator tries to pet her, it might go down the crapper from there. But, overall, I'd say she'd be okay.

So, roughly, we're 70% of the way there.   Working on the whole stranger issue is so difficult when you actually need to provide the strangers.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My my, how she's grown.

She may have been forty pounds the entire time I had her. She may not have required certain types of diligence associated with having a months-old puppy. But she's blossomed nonetheless.. and grown from a dog who shut down and ran away at the sight of danger, to one who could successfully complete an Obedience class filled with sights, sounds and smells she's never seen before.

Marge did well tonight. She had temporary lapses in memory regarding sitting (!?!?!) and stand-stays, but at the end of the night all was well. In the little contest we had she was intially tied for first place with another dog (one who I truly DID see grow from a tiny puppy into a beautiful young adult, since I knew him at the shelter before his owners even did), but was beaten when given the command to back-up. She did it, but he did it better.. and that's okay. Just something else I need to work on.

For her prize, she won a large Milkbone coated in that candy-like stuff that freaks me out since it looks like toxic human food. But I guess I'll have to suck it up and give her her reward for a class well performed.

I am so happy I made the decision to enroll her in these classes. We have learned so much and built upon the things we already knew..

  • sitting, downing, standing, and their respective stays
  • recalls with mild/moderate distractions
  • loose leash walking and the beginnings of heeling
  • becoming more comfortable with people moving around/targeting strangers in exchange for a reward
  • increased attention
  • an assortment of parlor tricks -- paw, other paw, BANG!, roll over, take a bow, spin, among others that I'm probably forgetting at this time

It gave Marge something to look forward to every week. For the last few weeks she'd get excited when we'd pull up to the building. I NEED to continue this with her.. it has done her wonders.

Next class focuses on CGC-related topics. Some of it kind of scares me.. I mean, we have the majority of the CGC requirements down pat, but I don't know how far we'll get in 8 weeks in terms of accepting petting and standing for an exam. But I guess all we can do is try.

Big Day

T-minus 4 hours until Obedience class and Marge has already had quite a lot to do today.

This morning she accompanied us on the paper routes and got to see her buddy Lourde, a GSD who lives up the street. She nearly rolled completely over onto her back for him. There's something about certain dogs that just gets Marge going.. she loves that old dude. I wish I had a picture.

We then hit up the parks. Dog park first -- which was a sheet of ice -- and some other fellow crazy dog owners were there too. Marge showed the place around to a little first-timer Beagle pup, and got to play with her usual friends, a German Shorthaired Pointer mix and a Catahoula Leopard Dog mix. The dogs dealt better with the ice than we did, but it was slowly turning into a pool of slush and dirt and grime - the kind of environment you DON'T want a freshly bathed dog to be in. So we didn't stay too long.

It was then time for Clove Lakes Park, where we met up with the GSP again. I guess they had the same idea we had - why go home with such nice weather? We did some hiking, some spectating of ducks, and Marge did her usual routine of casually trying to trot up next to joggers. In Marge's book, I don't think joggers count as people. Because she loves them!

We hung out there for a while, just snapping pics and walking around. Went home, gave Marge a manicure with the battery-eating Dremel. Now she's relaxing on the purple bathmat she claimed as her own upon arrival to this house.

Obedience really soon. Screw the Super Bowl; we'll be kicking butt tonight.

  © Blogger template 'Isolation' by 2008

Back to TOP