Ok, so it’s confession time.  Idgie has some fear-based dog reactivity issues.  So far I had been utilizing the Control Unleashed “Look at that!” game (I say “wheresapuppy?”) with Idgie and it was going pretty well, so that she actually didn’t bark and lunge, but is was still showing fearful body language, and would get defensive if the dog got too close.  Then, a few months ago, I began implementing Grisha Stewart’s BAT protocol for fear/aggression.  I really like it because it utilizes functional as well as “bonus” rewards, and works to both classically counter condition the situation (every time dogs come, the opportunity for reinforcement arrises, therefore making the arrival of dogs into a pleasant occurance) and to operantly condition a replacement behavior (calming signals and neutral/deferring body postures to replace fearful/aggressive behaviors).

Since I believe the root of this issue is my very own backyard setup, I have worked on BAT there with the neighbors’ dogs.  Idgie used to play in daycare once a week and had extensive dog socialization during her critical periods, but her negative experiences regarding my neighbors’ dogs is what I believe created this problem (these are her only bad experiences, and they happened during critical developmental times, and her first fearful reactions to dogs started here as well).  But it doesn’t really matter why the behavior is occuring, it is clearly present and requiring a plan of action.  She is now friendly to one backyard neighbor that she used to consistently bark at, wary of but not having huge reactions toward another neighbor dog (who is often accompanied by a really rambunctious little boy that Idgie is afraid of–good grief!) and I haven’t even worked on the next-door-neighbor’s GSD who is the root of the problem.  I simply can’t get far enough from him in our backyard setup to even try.  So for now I do click for looking from the sliding glass door if he is in his yard.  We are moving at the end of July anyway, and I have informally decided to not work on her specific issue with that dog since he will be out of our lives soon, and her new yard has five foot priavacy fencing with no shared fences.  No neighbor dogs=happy dog trainer.  

BAT has been a sort of miracle for us since  beginning.  When we are out on walks she will notice a dog, I will pause and wait for her to offer a calming signal (right now I am getting mostly head turns, some tongue flicks, and the occasional sit), at which point I mark (usually a verbal yes! but I do use a clicker at times) and we run away from the dog, sometimes then having a bonus reward, sometimes not.  We have been working like this for months with mostly impromptu situations out in the real world.  She can now stay relatively calm while we pass other dogs if I give her plenty of space (which seems to be at least 30 feet at this point), and can get pretty close to them if I work up by volleying the reward distance.  

Our progress has gone up and down due to uncontrolled intances (a dog rushed us from his open garage a few weeks ago which has really set us back–thank you irresponsible dog owners of suburbia!), but over all I really respect the process and she is doing well.  The progress of my clients that are doing BAT is monumental.  People who make time to train their dogs because they don’t train other people’s dogs all day are having enormous success with BAT.  I love that it is a really simple protocol, which is why I believe there is so much success on the clients’ end.

One recent dog I worked with went from whining, barking, and lunging at other dogs as soon as they were in sight to walking straight up to some dogs behind a fence, getting within inches of them, offering a head turn/tongue flick combo, and walking away in one session.  Less than an hour out on the walk with his owner handling him for more than half the time and me only taking him to demonstrate, and this boy was showing clear coping skills and a considerably relaxed demeanor around other dogs.  Impressive, to say the very least.  I think Grisha is really onto something special with functional rewards (which is not a new concept, but I haven’t seen is so eloquently applied to fear/aggression/reacitivity before). 

I’ll post the specifics of a BAT session in another post, and keep the blog updated about Idgie’s journey with BAT.

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One week ago today Kelso and I got the final double Q for our Master Agility Champion (MACH) title at the Mile High Golden Retriever Club’s agility trial.  Kelso just turned 9 and we started competing in agility when he was about 2, so this title was literally 7 years in the making.  The past 9 years with this dog have been nothing short of a wild ride, and his influence in my life has truly made me who I am today. 

It all started with the tragic and untimely loss of my dog, Duffy.  Duffy was almost ready to compete in Agility and Obedience when I lost him, and there are not words to describe how hopeless I felt at that time.  But a new beginning came to me in the form of a little black and white puppy named Kelso.  

Kelso was ten weeks old when I took him home and he was ten weeks old when he bit his first dog.  The very first time Kelso met another dog, an on-leash encounter at a park with an older labby mutt, who was pretty polite if I recall correctly, he pulled his lips back into a snarl and gripped the other dog straight on the muzzle.   A little surprised, but unwilling to label my new puppy as anything but bouncy and beautiful, I walked on. 

From there I became the official dumping ground for opinions and advice about dog-dog aggression as the dog world caught wind that Sarah’s new puppy has a nasty temperament.  Everyone wanted to help, and everyone thought they could.   I was told to grab him by the neck and shake him when he growled at another puppy in puppy class. I was told to pin him to the ground when he attacked to show my “dominance.”  I was told to pop him under the chin with my fist, so show him exactly which body part had committed the crime–his jaws.  I am sorry to say that I desperately tried it all, and I am now certain it is all of this that made my sweet dog’s problem so much worse.

What resulted from years and years of abusive “solutions” to my dog’s problem was nothing but increased aggression and a broken relationship with a dog I loved.  I would sit in the parking lot of the training center I was using to teach him obedience and agility and cry more often than not.  I would hear suggestions about getting a new dog, of a different breed, to participate in dog sports with because not only was Kelso aggressive, he was very low-drive for a border collie as well.  I now understand that Kelso is NOT a low-drive dog, he is in fact quite easy to motivate and a willing participant in all that we do.  The truth is that Kelso learned to hate training because of the unfair sitations I put him in, and the dispicable corrections I doled out when he tried to tell me he was uncomfortable.   He learned to hate agility. He hated obedience. He didn’t want to get out of the car when we arrived at training class.  My heart ached for him but I didn’t know what else to do.

Years passed and I finally found my way with this dog.  I learned that fighting aggression with aggression is absurd.  I learned that correcting a fear-based behavior only confirms the fear that caused the behavior in the first place.  I learned that first and foremost, my relationship with this dog had to be repaired.  Because dogs are the most forgiving of creatures, he learned to trust me again, and I learned how to show him that I would keep him safe.  Interestingly enough, when I abolished the use of physical corrections in my training my dog soared to become one of the best obedience dogs in the state, earning his Utility Dog title, 4 UDX legs and a handful of OTCH points with an Open B first, and other wins.  He started to be a fantastic agility dog that consistently came in 15-20 seconds under time, as opposed to barely making course time before. 

What this dog has taught me is about more than the sports of dog agility and obedience, though he has taught me more about these than any instructor or seminar. What he has taught me is about more than dog behavior, or aggression in particular, what he has taught me is about life.  He taught me above all to consider the experience of others. To know that no one has all the answers. And to trust myself.  If your gut tells you something is wrong, it probably is.  If you cry after an hour spent with your best friend, there’s a reason.  

The way that I train now, whether it is behavior modification or stupid pet tricks, I feel energized and happy.  I never feel beaten down and exhausted. I am a constant student of excellent dog training, I never settle for an answer that seems wrong.  I never train dogs based on tradition or opinion.  I now look at training or behavior challenges with a scientific mind that can merge easily with my own personal philosophy gained through the spiritual journey Kelso led me through. 

I don’t believe in religion. But I believe in universal order.  I believe in souls converging for a greater good.  The mistakes Kelso so generously forgave me for do not get filed in the category of regret, they get filed in the category of remember.  I will always remember how I did wrong by him so that I will never forget to do right by the next dog.  I can always draw strength from the fact that he and I finally got it right in the end.  Getting our MACH last weekend was an experience that proved our dedication to each other.  I knew there was a way for this dog to be successful, and I finally found it. 

As for Kelso, it’s on to Big Adventure Time.  That means that though his formal training is through, he will still get to do something fun every day.  While the baby dog gets to learn agility and obedience and how to be a good dog, he gets to walk with me to the mailbox and carry the mail in himself.  He gets to do a grid of 8″ jumps, at the end of which I tell him he is Champion of the World! He gets to go on long walks carrying his Chuck It Squirrel.  He gets to just be, and I get to reflect on the lessons he taught me and continues to teach me.  Thank you, Kelso, my life would be so very different without you.

Totally guilty of not writing in this thing AT ALL.  Oh well, a lot’s been going on so I have good reasons.

First and foremost Kelso and I just celebrated his 9th birthday earlier this month.  He and I went for a long hike with no baby sisters allowed.  It was foggy and chilly and absolute bliss for both of us.  He carried his Chuckit Squirrel the whole way, and we only saw two dogs the whole time, both well-behaved and on-leash, so we were happy.  He is my soul, and I love him.  New additions to his life are Zeel, a homeopathic arthritis medication, and my own Kelso-specific raw diet formula which took me months to figure out, but now that I have, he has had pretty much zero GI troubles (except for when he eats something stupid that is not included in the diet!) which is a huge blessing.  The Zeel is interesting, not sure if it’s working or not.  I gave it to him for an agility trial weekend a few months ago and I, being the very best kind of dog mom, took one too.  We were both groggy all day.  So I won’t be using it for times he has to be sharp, but I have been using it in between with Metacam when he needs it, and of course our trips to see Dr. Long for accupuncture.  I think , with all of this, he feels great most of the time, which is my goal.  In more exciting news (what? more exciting than a birthday?) Kelso and I got our 19th double Q for our AKC Master Agility Champion (MACH) title, which means we only have to double Q one more time for his MACH.  Yikes! We have a trial coming up in a week so I will of course post on how that goes.  I am super excited, he just knows he got to have a cheeseburger (yes, the vegan feeds her dog a cheeseburger when he double Qs–remember those indiscretions that cause his GI upset? yeah…)

On the baby dog front all I have to say is HOLY CRAP, HOLD ONTO YOUR SHORTS.  This bitch is DYNO-MITE.  She isn’t such a baby anymore, she actually just turned 16 months old and I already can’t believe what she can do.  Her running dogwalk is currently timed at a consistent 2 seconds, which I suspect will get faster as her confidence grows.  Her Susan Salo gridwork is looking good, and she is pretty sure tunnels=crack.  Her automatic down on the table is fantastic, too.  We just started training her 2×2 weave poles a few days ago, and I think she really could have 12 poles in 12 days as Susan Garrett suggests is possible.  Her A-frame training is going well, she is consistently running it without fault, and I will let you know how fast it is when it gets up to full height.  Her teeter is proving a minor challenge (fun!) and we have gone back and forth trying some new things.  We spent weeks just playing the bang game and now I am having her run to her 2on2off position with the starting end up on a chair.  She is doing well with that, total confidence, which is how I would like to keep it.  She is also continuing with her strengthening and conditioning via Sasha Foster of Canine Fitness Zone.  She actually loves all of the shaping games for fitness we’ve been doing, and it’s a good brain break for both of us to focus on that stuff a few days each week.

And that same future agility rockstar has a few behavioral issues that I am of course constantly working on, learning from her all along.  Her leash reactivity to dogs has made steady progress, and I am currently implementing Grisha Stewart’s BAT program as an experiment.  It is working great for her, and we actually had a really peaceful walk along the Poudre River this weekend.  She is getting used to her new face jewelry (aka her Comfort Trainer head collar) to help us along the way.  So far, though, I am actually really thrilled with the progress we’ve made on all of her issues which include but are not limited to: fence fighting, dog reactivity, fear of children, and general weirdness.  LOVE her. I have a theory that the universe sends dog trainers screwed up dogs to make them better, and that is certainly what has happened to me thus far!

Work life has also been good, and very busy.  Hence the lack of writing.  I’ve been working on new curricula for the classes I teach, writing up behavior protocols to help with my private clients, and have been seeing an average of about 4-5 clients privately on weekends.  WAHOO! That is truly awesome.  So I don’t have a social life, so who needs one? 😉

Patricia McConnell’s dog Lassie passed away today.  Dr. McConnell has been an inspiration to me for 13 years, ever since I fell in love with her call-in pet behavior help show on Animal Planet.  She is the reason I first wanted to do what I do now, and was instrumental in my transition from traditional force-based dog training to the ethical reward-based training I now practice.  Lassie, a border collie, made it to 16, and I feel like I knew her, since she was so young when I first began following Trisha’s work.  Her loss is a great one, and in her blog Trisha encouraged us all to write about our own beloved dogs, summing up their lives in just six words.  Of Lassie, Trisha wrote, “French vanilla. Ice cream. Summer day,” making it clear to her readers how much richness Lassie brought to her life.  How sweet she was, how refreshing.

Here’s my six for the dogs I’ve lost: 

My most recent loss was Reece, my doberman.  Her six words go something like this: “Michevious red beauty. Loud belly laughter.”

My first dog was Rodchester, my shepherd cross, my childhood best friend.  His is more like this: “Patient leader, loyal protector, silent guide.” 

Brillo, the little schnauzer mutt that people are shocked I had, would be like this: “She ran the joint, every day.” 

Duffy, the short-lived heartbreaker, looks like this: “Tragic catalyst for a life uncommon.”   

I won’t write six words for Kelso or Idgie, because that (long, far-off, super super far away) day hasn’t come yet.  But I will say this (because whenever someone loses a great dog I find it necessary to get a little sappy); Kelso and I only grow closer as we grow together, and my gratitude for him is never-ending.  He is the reason I lost Duffy so soon, and he is worth it.  Idgie is my muse and my laughter, every single day.  She brings so much zest to everything she does it’s contagious. 

Love your dogs today, every one of them is a gift.

Haven’t posted in a while, been super busy trying to be a professional dog trainer. Anyway, a few updates are in order, if you care about that sort of thing.

The first is that after going back and forth about it for years I finally switched my dogs over to a raw diet.  It has been about two months now and up until the past week I was thrilled with it.  Idgie’s coat looks incredible, they both love their food, and I just feel good about their new diet because I know exactly what’s going into their mouths, where it came from, and how balanced it is.  But I am learning still, since Kelso had a bout of bloody diarrhea (scared me, for all of his lifelong stress colitis he has never once passed straight blood) yesterday, and last night Idgie gobbled a chicken back and promptly threw it up.  Kelso is on some meds for the multitudes of spirochetes and Clostridium (which is his usual stress explosion, and he has had increased stress this week so I expected it) and the potential giardia and the potential campylobacter.  The potential part is frustrating.  We have had another rush of the big G go through work, so that part doesn’t surprise me (though the doctor couldn’t really tell if it was in fact a giardia cyst or if it was an epithelial cell, go figure), but campylobacter? Ok that freaks me out.  I kind of need to know if he has that or not.  I kind of need to know if his stress colitis makes him overly susceptible to things like campylobacter (which is commonly contracted from ingesting raw meat…hmmm) and if I should therefore be cooking this dog’s meat.  For now, I will treat him and see.  I am also switching probiotics soon to see if the new kind helps his gut out more than his current kind.  And might be giving him some digestive enzymes to help him digest bone, since he has been passing some chunks.  The thing about Kelso is he gets stress diarrhea. He just does.  And he has actually had a lot less of it since switching to raw.  Since the switch he had two diarrhea-free visits to my parents’ house, which is basically a miracle.  I am a firm believer in hearing what your dog is telling you, in all aspects of life, so I will change if necessary, though I can’t see myself ever going back to kibble. 

In more fun, less messy news, I have decided to train Idgie a running dogwalk. I decided a few weeks ago to ditch the 2on2off (mostly because I just hate it) and figure out some running contacts for this kid.  I started using Siliva Trkman’s method, and I am really excited about it.  Even more exciting is that my friend Sasha Foster of Canine Fitness Zone has added her imput with regard to motor learning theory, and we are trying something brand-spanking new to the dog world.  Hold on to your pants, this could be huge.  As of last night Squidge is doing the down plank at about three feet high, running all the way through at about 85% accuracy.  Pretty sweet.

In other news I revamped our training classes at Come-Play-Stay! and as soon as we get them underway and Ashley and I work out all the kinks, I will be writing an article for the APDT’s Chronicle all about it.  As far as I know there isn’t much like it out there, so once again, get excited, this could be big!

A labrador-poodle mix puppy recently went through our puppy program, and is now a regular daycare client.  I will call her Lucy for the sake of this blog.  As a young pup Lucy was reserved with her humans, nonchalantly moving just out of reach whenever they reached to pet her, and never asking for their attention.  During puppy play time she engaged and mostly participated in chase and be-chased games.  She never displayed blatant fear or stress while being handled or petted by people, but always wore  look on her face that seemed to say, “must you? Must you always do that?”  Her humans of course adored their “easy” puppy.  She never cried or barked in the kennel, entertained herself just fine, and best of all, never mouthed on their children, seemingly skipping right over that puppy biting period.  Medically, she was a perfectly healthy pup, so what could possibly be wrong about a dog that is never a bother, and never mouthed on human skin? A whole hell of a lot, as it turns out.

Ian Dunbar’s bite inhibition model teaches us the importance of allowing puppies to mouth on human skin, breaking them of this habit slowly, giving them feedback the entire way.  The pups learn good bite inhibition (or a soft mouth) through this feedback, and it is extremely important to allow them to go through this process.  At first pups are allowed all sorts of bites as long as the bites are not painful, then all bites with any sort of pressure are weeded out, and finally play-mouthing is put on cue, paired with a cue to cease play mouthing–or all mouthing on humans is erradicated.  A far-cry from the old days of “never let a puppy’s teeth touch human skin!” this method works. It doesn’t only work to curb puppy biting, it actually teaches dogs to inhibit their bites, if they are ever forced to bite–making injurious bites less so, and infrequent.  There is one draw-back, however, and that is what on earth do you do with that rare, seemingly angelic pup, who has no interest in chewing on human skin?

You must get that puppy to bite.  It seems silly and counter-intuitive to encourage a behavior you eventually wish to erase, but the feedback puppies receive about their mouths through early play-mouthing is absolutely priceless.  Bite inhibition can not be relearned later in life, and a well-socialized dog without proper bite inhibition is an even bigger danger to the general public than a dog who has never had proper socialization.  Owners of puppies that would rather not engage in play biting have a duty to encourage play biting while their pups are young.  I recommend doing so by playing with the pup with small toys (increasing the odds that the pup might “slip” and hit skin), run your fingers on the ground in a teasing manner (call this game “spiders”), and touching the pup’s mouth and face affectionately.  The point is to bring these kiddos out of their puppy shells, getting them to bite at us in play. 

Returning to Lucy, the mixed-breed puppy I mentioned earlier, she inspired this blog because her parents failed to engage her in such play (they didn’t want to, found it tough to see the point, and well, it was tough).  In their defense they tried, and they have done a good job with her otherwise.  For the most part she is a well-adjusted, well-socialized, well-trained dog.  She gets to go to daycare, does not pull excessively on leash, sits and waits and doorways and for her food bowl, and at face value is a “good” dog.  Unfortunately, even good dogs get put in tough situations sometimes, and that is precisely what happened to Lucy.  She was involved in a tangle where another puppy got his mouth caught on her collar (hence all daycare participants are required to wear quick-release collars).  The daycare staff member who stepped up to intervene was bitten by Lucy, since Lucy felt she was choking, and most dogs will bite when they are in such a state of panic.  And herein lies the difference between a dog with an inhibited mouth and a dog who does not.  A dog with proper bite inhibition would have bruised, or at worst scratched, the employee’s hand.  Lucy, a sweet-tempered, generally easy-going dog, bit her daycare supervisor’s hand so deeply, she exposed bone.  Had this been a different situation, one in which there were less dog-savvy people involved, or worse, had it been the children Lucy lives with, Lucy might not even be alive now, having placed such a serious laceration on a human being. 

So my point here is this: allowing puppies to receive feedback about their mouths is often a matter of life and death.  I can think of not one more important thing to teach a puppy, and yet it is misunderstood or even overlooked by the vast majority of puppy classes being offered to the public.  The first puppy classes I ever attended made no mention of teaching bite inhibition, and instead focused on stopping the annoying habit of puppy biting now, not later.  Some methods to stop puppy biting that I encountered were aversive, and others downright cruel.  It is absolutely unacceptable for dog “professionals” to take puppy owners’ money and not teach them about bite inhibition. 

You will not teach a dog not to use her only defense mechanism in times of panic, so the best you can do is to teach her to use it correctly.  The best lesson a dog can learn is that humans are delicate flowers, and we need not bite them too hard.    

Funny how excited I am that Idgie is finally a year old, and on the flipside I find myself dreading Kelso’s birthdays.  He is 8, and will be 9 (oh god, 9…) in March.  My favorite times of a dog’s life are the very beginning, when everything is new, the puppy is cute and brilliant and the trainer hasn’t screwed anything major up yet; and the mid years, age 4-7 specifically, since that is such a prime time for performance, the dog is trained, you know each other well, and you seem to work together like a machine that took years to build. 

I do appreciate the dog’s retirement days, and I only love my dogs more as they age, but there’s something really bittersweet and surreal about watching your lively agility partner morph into a dog that just can’t physically do everything he wants to do anymore.  Kelso is actually still going pretty strong at his age, we are still seeking 2 double Qs for his MACH, a title I had no hopes of achieving with him until he was about 5, and his course times skyrocketed along with his confidence (something I regret it took me so long to figure out, he has been so very patient with me).  His course times are definately not what they were at that time, but they are still well under, and he still sails through the course with ease–most days.  But he does have kind of an old man back, and I am finding that though I used to do massage as a preventative measure for him, it is a necessity now.  In the past year I have also added accupunture to the list of things I do to keep him running strong, and I have to say nothing has made the difference that it has (thank you Dr. Long!).  He does get really stiff and sore after running his heart out on the mountain, but at this time I choose to let him run, and get him some accupunture and Metacam afterword. 

So what’s the point of this blog? Just to remember to celebrate Kelso every day, because he really is my doggie soul mate.  People in the dog world talk about “heart dogs,” meaning dogs that for some reason just get deeper into your heart than others, dogs that you’re not sure how you lived without before, and that you’re not sure how you’ll live without later, as you most likely will have to. Patricia McConnell said of her border collie Cool Hand Luke (a dog who even looks like Kelso, it’s weird), before he passed, “I imagine Luke’s death to be as if someone took all the oxygen out of the air, and expected me to live without it,” and I can think of no better words to describe the painful knowledge of a dog’s finite life. 

Kelso is not elderly or sick, but he is no longer young either.  This is the sobering time of a dog’s life, especially when that dog has been so very important for so very long, because you begin to be aware of their aging.  I am paranoid about Kelso, to say the least.  If he pants for no reason, if he looks worried, if he moves a little slower, if he sniffs his food before scarfing it, my mind spirals into a million different thoughts.  The other day while grooming him I noticed a swollen lymph node (which can happen for any number of reasons) in his arm pit and immediately had two other people I respect check it out.  By the time the doctor went to feel it, it had gone back down.  I am now obsessed with his armpits, officially.  Crazy? Maybe not.  I also do a full blood panel on him every 6 months, even though there’s nothing “wrong” with him.  Jumping the gun? I don’t think so.  This is a dog that is literally a part of me.  His existence is the reason I am the person I am.  He has taught me more about the way dogs learn than any book or seminar ever could.  Everything I do right with Idgie, and every dog after her, will be because Kelso showed me the right way in the first place.  Every dog I help throughout my life will owe a part of their success to this very special dog, because without him, I would probably be doing something entirely different right now.  I also got Kelso when I was 15, a rough time for all people, and it happened to be particularly difficult for me.  There are times looking back that I am quite literally not sure I would have survived had it not been for Kelso.  He took my heart, ran with it, and has protected it like any good dog ever since.  He is, and will always be, at the heart of everything I do that has any importance.  

December is our official month off from Agility, and we enjoy the break each time.  I would do agility every day, but I recognize it’s not good for either half of the team to do it constantly, and I have always given Kelso at least 6-8 weeks off in a row at some point during the year, a practice I have always believed ot be healthy for both of us.  We take that time to work on other things, walk together, be together, enjoy each other without competition or training.  Next month we’ll get back in the ring and hopefully finish up that MACH.  The title isn’t really the important thing to me, since Kelso has already surpassed all expectations, and has made me love him more than I knew was possible.  What I honestly can’t wait for is that final run, our connectivity, and our victory lap, knowing that this Kelso Willie Wonderdog and I got there together, through a lot of tears and mistakes, every step of the way like one being, learning first how to crawl, then to walk, and finally to run.

November 25th marked my baby dog’s first birthday.  I really can’t believe she’s already a year old! I have to say, most of this blog will be non-sappy I swear, but I seriously love this kid. She is so freakin’ adorable. She is cute, lovey, fun, and did I mention CUTE? Not to mention I could not be happier with the fact that she and Kelso are actually friends. Anyway, onto the real stuff.

Agility training is going well.  Now that she’s passed the year mark I’m getting pretty serious about it.  Up till this point the only obstacle training she has done was some tunnel fun (I couldn’t resist, there’s something so precious about a puppy’s first tunnel), puppy jump grids (ala Susan Salo www.jumpdogs.com), and some table games we learned from Susan Garrett.  Before that is was all foundation; nose targeting, crate games, flatwork, toy drive, and impulse control.  We are still spending significant time on her foundation stuff, as it truly is everything, but I have added some obstacle training to her monthly goals.  Right now I would say the only obstacle that is truly trained exactly how I want it is the table.  She has an automatic down and will slide into the down as I run past it at full speed.  She also responds to front and rear crosses within the context of the table–which is how I planned on applying those handling maneuvers to sequencing, and I am happy with the results thus far.  She also gets really excited about practicing the table (which I use to practice driving a line, front and rear crosses, as well as stays).  She vocalizes, runs as hard as she can, and just loves it.  She is so much fun to train!  We’re also starting to work on her 2 on 2 off dogwalk, which is frankly a little frustrating. I am attempting to teach her to do a 2o2o with a repeating nose touch, like Susan Garrett’s program teaches, without actually going to Say Yes! to learn how to do it! I would love to go to Say Yes! but financially it will have to wait. So, I have a repeating nose touch to a clear plastic ground target. I have her doing that with 2o2o a step, and a plank.  I am struggling fading the target and proofing my body position, and I am not convinced that she understands the 2o2o part of the behavior.  So it’s back to the drawing board on that one, I have some plans to figure that out with Ashley (whose website is this BTW www.completek9training.com you should all buy her book).  Meanwhile, we are going to work on driving ahead and crosses. 

Life training is also a priority right now, and by that I mean getting the little weirdo out in public more.  For a dog that had seriously extensive socialization she sure does get freaked out easily.  She doens’t panic, but she does get locked onto things (like distant silhouettes of NOTHING) and forgets to hear my voice.  So I plan on getting her out without Kelso more this month.  She really needs to learn how to work at places other than Come-Play-Stay! but when it’s literally freezing out we have less options. She also came into season for the first time  just a couple of days after her birthday, and so far it’s not too bad, just kind of yucky.

Overall I couldn’t be happier.  I absolutely love this puppy.  Her structure is a dream, her drive is intense, and above all, she’s got heart–she puts all she’s got into everything she does. We showed in conformation last at the Greeley Kennel Club shows in August, and she’ll come back out in February for the Rocky Mountain Cluster in Denver, looking better than ever!

On a final note I would like to add one more major change in the lives of my dogs that has happened recently.  After years of toying with the idea I finally decided to take the plunge and switch my kids over to a raw diet.  I’s been a few weeks and I honestly could not be happier.  Watching Kelso crunch into a raw turkey thigh, bones and all, confirmed for me everything I needed to have confirmed; they are meant to eat this way–and WE ARE NOT. And so I am a vegan who feeds her dogs raw meat every day.  If you want to know more about what that’s like, check out my other blog, Sarah in Veganland.

Here’s a super-cute shot of the Squidge herself, as a wee baby dog, at one of her first agility trials.

  

I recently had a comment posted to my blog that read (the typos are not mine);

Hi, I just want to tell you a few things that are very wrong about your blog. You said, that this blog was for you to write about Confetti Schnauzers, but really you said nothing about them.

Aparently you know nothing about them. They are a cross, but they are of reg. stock to start with. One being AKC. After tyhe first cross you only go on with AKC dogs. So after 5 generations they will be 100% AKC blooded. Now you will maybe still call this a mutt, but acording to the all mighty AKC a dog bred of 5 generations is deemed a PURE BREED…………………….

So maybe you should do some research before you blog. And Confetti Schnauzers are a registered bred with the DDKC.

I approved this comment for posting, since I feel it is only fair to post ALL comments, not just the positive ones. Then I started to reply to this poster, and realized I needed another blog entirely to clear some things up about what I said in my blog entitled ” ‘Designer’ Dogs.” 

First, I was not intending to write exclusively about Confetti Schnauzers, though this designer mixed breed did spark the need I felt to write about designer dogs in general, since one signed up for my class a few months ago, and that is the first time I heard about this “new breed.”  That’s the only reason I brought these dogs up at all. 

The poster stated; They are a cross, but they are of reg. stock to start with. One being AKC. After tyhe first cross you only go on with AKC dogs and I reply; yes, most designer mixed breeds are originally a cross between two purebred dogs, I stated that in my previous blog.  I believe this person is bringing up the American Kennel Club because I mentioned that the original cross can not be between dogs of “good” stock, since good breeders would NEVER sell their dogs to someone intending to crossbreed them. You will notice I made no mention of any kennel club or purebreed registry in my blog, that is because registering your dogs with a kennel club alone  (in this country the two main registries are the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club) does not make you a reputable breeder. In fact, a lot of unethical breeding goes on that is then reinforced by the issuing of AKC “papers” allowing for these breeders to receive more payment for their puppies.  The only thing you must do in order to register a litter is prove both parents are indeed AKC registered, meaning their parents were registered before them and so on.  There are any number of ways to fib on paperwork, and believe me, fibbing most certainly takes place not only in the world of unethical commercial or backyard breeding, but in the high profile dog show world, and the performance dog world as well.  This poster seems to me to be implying that if litters are registered with some sort of registry (bringing up the DDKC, Designer Dog Kennel Club, an organization in its infancy that is providing pedigrees to designer mixed breed litters) then the dogs are automatically a pure breed and they have been produced by sound breeding practices, and it is ethical to buy one.  I hope I have made it clear here and in my previous blog that I do not believe any kennel club to be “almighty” and that researching where your puppy is coming from goes far beyond being sure that your puppy will be registered.  I personally wish the AKC would keep better track of their registered dogs, and keep closer tabs on people breeding these dogs, but that day seems far down the road.

As far as the AKC’s five-generation pedigrees are concerned, understand that both parents of the puppies with 5 generation pedigrees also have five generation pedigrees attached to them and so on all the way back to when the breed was first introduced and the stud books were “open” allowing dogs without such a pedigree to be registered.  So to answer the poster’s claim that confetti schnauzers are indeed purebred schnauzers, I beg to differ, and would we be calling them “confetti” schnauzers if they were just plain miniature schnauzers? I think not.

So, in conclusion, I do not care who deems a breed a “pure” breed, or what kennel club these dogs are registered with.  I care that unethical breeding practices be brought to a screeching halt, and in my opinion that includes the production of new “breeds.”  If you want a mixed breed dog, go to your local shelter and pick one off of death row.  If you want a purebred puppy, do your research and go with only reputable breeders.  You will find that limiting your buying options in this way limits your contribution to the pet overpopulation problem, and you will also find that as your understanding of what a reputable breeder is increases, there will be less and less room on your list for producers of designer mixed breed dogs.

I haven’t posted in a while about Idgie’s training, so I figured I would catch up. She turned 11 months a couple of days ago (I know, I can’t really believe it either) and she is really coming along.  In August I wrote out a training plan for her, outlining what I planned to accomplish each month for the rest of the year, and so far we have done great.

Obstacle Training

Since Idgie is still young and obstacle training really is the easiest part of agility I am not doing much with this.  I have decided to teach her a two-on two-off contact for the dogwalk and teeter, and as soon as I made that choice I got to work teaching her a repeated nose-touch to a clear target on the ground.  She will now target the clear plastic disc, with her back feet on a board, repeatedly until released.  I need to proof the behavior and put it on a verbal cue, next step will be sending her down the board to that position and fading the target.  Then I will proof for handler movement and train the dogwalk, in full, before I add the teeter.  The only other obstacle work I have done is jump grids, still with 4″ bars, she does the straight line equal distance grid, and all three set point exercises (straight, bend, and slice).  That’s about it for jumping right now, keeping it simple because we can’t do the grids outside on grass or turf   due to weather.  I don’t want her to do too many grids indoors on the rubber because she tends to run a little too upright on it (which is typical of a lot of indoor flooring) and I don’t want her to only learn how to jump that way.  Springtime will be when we get serious about jumping and sequencing.  That’s it for obstacles, the near future will bring table games and I might teach her the chute just for fun.

Handling

This is the good stuff! We have been working so hard on handling, I know this girlie is going to be fast and she is really going to need some excellent training.  We have been working on building value for the reward zone (RZ–right at both of my sides, no crossing in front or behind) and testing that value for the RZ.  We have started some great anti-flickaway excercises too as I will be handling her within the Greg Derrett system.  She is working on driving ahead, focusing forward, and reading accel/decel cues.  We are doing great on all of those.  She will run right with me in the RZ in big and small circles, as long as she is on the outside.  Dog inside circles are still tough for her on the right, but great on the left, because I have been training her to heel for obedience and (baaaad dog trainer) didn’t teach her to heel on my right. We have also been working on the stationary rear cross training exercise we learned at the Susan Garrett seminar, and that’s going well.  Crate Games Squared are on the agenda for next month and I can’t wait to teach her that stuff! 

Obedience

We haven’t focused too much on this, but her heeling is coming along fabulously anyway.  She also does gorgeous recalls (no front yet) and will retrieve the dumbbell to my hand, though without a front at this point.  Why no fronts? I have opted to wait to train her fronts until I have built up the value necessary for the RZ at my sides.  When I was trying to train them concurrently I found she was wrapping in to my front and flanking a lot more, both on the left and the right.  She does a nice finish left, and once again I have opted to wait on the finish right.  The reason for this is because she has to cross behind me for that finish, and that is a no-no in agility so it will have to wait.  The rest of obedience is on hold, I will probably get serious about that (my second favorite sport!) after she has begun competing in agility and I like what I see there.

Life Skills

Just as important as all that other business is life skills! Loose lead walking continues to be challenge, so I am getting more serious about it. I never had to work to hard in that area with Kelso so I wasn’t expecing Idgie to be such a puller (and she wasn’t, to be honest, it sort of popped up over night, since I was a bad bad dog trainer and didn’t reinforce the absence of pulling like I should have).  She has started to be a little snappy with strange dogs when we are out and about (damn border collies) which I perceive to be a resource-guarding issue (the mama is a HOT resource!) so at the agility trial last weekend I took her out and did clicks for “where’s the puppy?” and escorted her quickly back to her crate whenever she acted inappropriate.  Reason number one million we’re going back to wearing a Gentle Leader at all times!  Other than that she is pretty good.  She has improved regarding barking at the neighbor dogs. She still does it but it is much less frantic and I am usually successful at verbally interrupting her and having her come back inside. Overall I feel like our relationship is growing into a really strong one.  She loves working with me and wants to be around me at all times. When she and I are closing up work she follows me around checking doors and turning off lights, all the way through the building, no leash on.  She will even bring me her toys when I toss them, and I finally have my recipe for a great retrieve! Relationship=retrieve. A blog on that specifically will be written in the near future.

In general I am super happy with this little girl, and I’m sure she and I can go as far as the yellowbrick agility road goes.