summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
The weekend was long, the show successful;
I am tired, and there is no poetry
in my soul. In the dogs' expressions,
the shape of paws and skulls,
the texture of their coats, there is
beauty and intention enough.
summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
Because I have him all groomed out.

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2 more )
summer_jackel: (Default)
I got some good ones! Spring is hitting its stride and Kyn and I hit the beach yesterday to celebrate it.

In addition to gently introducing some more of the behaviors Coba will need in open level obedience, I have begun to focus more on training him to show in conformation. I plan to start attending handling clinics more frequently, and I'm trying to stack him several times a day, which should get him more comfortable standing properly and holding it long enough to be judged well. I'm getting better at coinvincing him to keep his ears up, too.

Handling in obedience is much more comfortable for me, but my dog is ready and I think he is good. Given my level of inexperience, the fact that I'll only be showing him locally and his somewhat imperfect ear set, I probably won't be able to finish his championship, but I'm really hoping that he can at least earn some points towards it before he reaches retirement age.

So: I am learning to stack and will try to take regular photos to analyze what I need to do (also to record progress and for prettiness). Critique is invited, although for this set, bear in mind he is on an uneven surface and his coat was last finished a week ago.

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A bunch of stacks and some nice action shots! )
summer_jackel: (Coba ^_^)
I'm pleased to announce that my wee sheepdog has earned his first points toward his first obedience title! The show was oh so conveniently located within walking distance from Kyn's house. Coba had been performing beautifully all week, and our "rehearsal" the night before was fantastic, so of course on show day, the little furball was totally in a mood and not performing well at all. He did pretty well in the morning trial until he marked the ring, which of course disqualified him. Time to practice our show heel around the perimeter of the dog park, right...?

The afternoon run saw Coba throwing a polite sheltie tantrum full of lagging, slow sits and general surliness. It was his worst performance in the ring to date, but I have to appreciate the humor in the situation (and let's face it, the concept of competitive dog obedience is intrinsically hilarious)---he didn't do anything to actually disqualify himself, so he got his first points. Our score was 176 1/2; the lowest possible qualifying score is 170. Since there were only two qualifying dogs in the class, he got second place, a pretty rosette and a dog toy almost bigger than he is as well.

The day was stormy and a lot of entrants didn't show up. Unfortunately one of the people I did share a ring with was not only so new to this obedience thing that he didn't have the first clue as to how to do it, which is certainly forgivable, but was also a huge jerk, which isn't. He showed up with two dobermans that weren't even close to being ready, and during his runs repeatedly yelled at them, jerked on their collars, stomped his feet and raised his fists at them and even smacked them, all of which are strictly forbidden in dog shows and, had the judge been less nice, could have gotten him kicked off the grounds. His dogs got more and more nervous and upset as he dragged them through a process they had not been trained to understand; the bitch (who appeared to have whelped a few months ago...lovely!) actually took a snap at Coba as we were going in for the stays. I was a bit freaked, but thankfully she didn't get close, and was gated for it. The dog looked like he wanted to bite someone, too, but since he broke his sit within a couple of seconds, the handler held onto him (being an angry dick while his dog got even edgier) for the rest of the trial. Oh, and this fellow also insulted his wife loudly in front of everyone assembled, too. I am sincerely hoping that I never hear a judge telling a competitor not to smack his dog, in the ring no less, ever again.

Coba's stays were perfect this time, though. Even if he did make the ring in the first trial. Sigh.

Two more successful runs, and beastie will have his CD title. Fun and progress!


Dorkiest picture ever of team Coba beneath the cut )
summer_jackel: (Default)
When I got home today, Mr. Greybird was happy to see me, hopped right onto my hand and wanted pettings. I'm so touched. I introduced him to his play area and cage in my bedroom (essential to maintain household harmony; most of the sounds he's produced so far aren't any more obnoxious than my little birds', but Nicki isn't quiet, and he can project). He wasn't nervous or hesitant at all; he's hanging out on the tree, watching me ride now. What a sweetie.

Kyn called me this evening, and we both happened to be in the room with birds. Nicki and Ninja started whistling at each other over our conversation; it was hilarious. It is probably for the best that I'm seeing someone who also keeps parrots...

Gavin is regrowing breast feathers, which makes me happy. He still Wants Kaya More Than Anything. Kaya is seeming a little jealous and a bit needier than usual, so I'm giving her extra attention and taking care to handle her before I take Nicki out. None of the other pets seem to care, although of course the dogs immediately added Nicki's cage to their list of areas to check regularly. The area that skirts my birdcages is spotless. This is not because my parrots eat neatly.

Coba and I did a practice obedience trial, and he did very well! We have a real one next month, and I hope we pass it.

I finished a couple more pages of Bone Shard, which you can see here and here. I'm rather pleased at the coincidence that had me finsihing the pages which introduce Travis's Scottish Deerhound, Ghost, on the same weekend that a gorgeous Deerhound bitch took Best in Show at Westminster, for the first time ever. One of my favorite breeds taking BIS is not something that happens much!
summer_jackel: (Default)
Today was warm and pretty and I went to the park in sunny Sebastopol to take advantage of it. The trail there was still too muddy to be fun, but we got some dog park time in and I did some training on the lawn. I'm planning on entering Coba in an obedience show next month; my goal for entering another conformation ring is a show in September. It was a good session; his attitude is great and he's improving in several places. I would like him to be cleaner on his about turns and sometimes his finish looks sloppy, but his stays are much better now. Hopes that he'll get points in Novice A soon are reasonable.

I figured out how I'm going to train his conformation gaiting, which is the big issue---Coba likes to work very close to my heel, which is fine for obedience. For conformation, he must move in an animated, precise trot, not breaking into a gallop, and do so at arm's length. (This is so that the judge's view of the dog's gait is unhampered). So, I need to teach him that. The command I'm using is 'gait' and what I'm doing is pretty simple; holding the treat in the extended left hand and prompting his focus to that hand instead of my face. Without boinging, please. Ideally, I will gain the ability to hold him at the proper gait with MY gait while I ask for this this; Coba's ability to follow this move is going to be directly proportional to my ability to lead it, as it were. We should have it well enough by September. I hope.

I got the following shot of the shirty little cupcake beast, and while its quality as a picture is embarrassing, it shows Coba's profile really well. Note that he's not properly stacked, so his topline isn't right; for one thing, he's standing on uneven ground. But his head planes look nice; for those inclined to canine geekery, the geometry of a sheltie's head requires the lines of topskull and muzzle to be straight and parallel to each other, separated by a small and gentle but distinct stop (the bit of a dog's face where muzzle meets head). Collies, fwiw, also have the parallel lines, but they have more of a gradual "rolling" stop. Coba also has his ears up in the ideal position, by which you all know that I took dozens of these pictures and this was the only one that got it, because the beast just will not hold his ears.

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Still: Coba totally grew into his promise and I need to get him in the ring now.

conure, pretty sunny day, doggies )
summer_jackel: (Default)
I'm planning on entering our year's first show in March. (This will be in obedience and possibly rally; I don't plan on entering another conformation class until the fall). Coba is much more solid on the long sits now, so I'm thinking that earning his CD and/or RN by the end of the year are realistic goals. Hopefully _I_ will be a bit less high-strung about it this time 'round. I mean, come on. I'm apparently more comfortable in the courtroom than in front of a dog judge, and that's just silly.

(Those titles, btw, are Companion Dog, obedience; Rally Novice, rally...unless the AKC means to confer nursing degrees upon dogs).

I'm riding my trainer at hour 2, and ended up playing with Coba when I took a break. Incorporating tricks like rolling over and boinging, and letting him get completely hyped up, really improves the overall mood of a rather sensitive dog. Coba loves playing with me, and it seems like the more that I can make learned behaviors part of hyper play, the more subtle our communication in general becomes and the more relaxed he is when asked to do difficult things which he does not enjoy. We are starting to work on polished and longer sits/downs and the beginning of work away from my side, which require a lot of mental discipline and can be emotionally taxing for dogs. I am learning when and how to best give him positive "stress valves" to make it easier and boost his confidence and trust in me.

The other cool thing about this is that it increases my ability to strongly reward Coba without food aids. I'm beginning to think that that is as important for dog communication/training as being able to correct properly, beyond withholding a treat. Physically correcting something like a sit turns out to be a whole lot easier than its opposite, rewarding correct behavior only using eye contact, posture, tone of voice, etc. Dogs tend to eat that kind of thing up, though, especially herding beasties that are wired to enjoy taking subtle and complicated cues from the handler. It's made training more fun for the lot of us.

I'm starting to focus on using things like the show heel in everyday life, too. It is so useful to have the dog be completely focused on me and stopping without having to be told, etc. --- having a dog around is so much more fun when you can tell it to "velcro" and be able to turn your whole attention on something else for a bit. (Not that they do this all the time, of course. Sadly, my dogs are NOT perfectly well behaved in public, but usually they're ok). Impresses people, too; the expressions of shock when my dogs actually come when called are sometimes pretty entertaining.
summer_jackel: (Default)
Training update:


Sit---Dog sits (and doesn't stand or lay down) til released---Everyone, to varying degrees; Coba to show

Down---Dog lays down (and doesn't stand or sit) til released---Everyone, to varying degrees; Coba to show

Heel---Loose heel; allowed to sniff but not pull---Everyone

Banished---Dog leaves the room---Bliss, Coba and Rogue

Get---Dog leaves immediate presence of handler----Everyone

Paws---Dog untangles self from leash while walking---Everyone

Silence---Dog stops barking---Bliss, Coba and Rogue

Velcro---Show heel; dog stays close and keeps pace w/handler---Coba; now teaching Bliss

Stand---Dog stands. They usually hate learning this one.---Coba and Bliss

Come---Dog recalls!---Everyone

Stay----Dog stays in position until called---Everyone roughly; Coba to more advanced levels

Stop---Dog is recalling and then stops and lays down when told---Coba, in progress (he's pretty good)

Come 'Round Finish; dog circles from front of handler to l. side Coba, teaching Bliss

Up Dog "sits pretty" Coba, Jez, Rogue, teaching Bliss

Roll over Dog rolls over from a down Coba, Rogue (who likes it too much)

Jump Dog jumps hurdles Coba (the new trick!) will teach Bliss

Out There Dog leaves handler's side to several feet out (sendout) Teaching Coba but we're not there yet

Back Dog walks backwards Teaching Coba and Bliss

Take it Dog takes an item from handler Preparing to teach Coba and Bliss

Hold it Dog holds the item until told to drop it Preparing to teach Coba and Bliss

Fetch it Dog fetches a thrown item Preparing to teach Coba and Bliss

Drop it Dog drops what she's holding Everyone

Snout Dog puts muzzle on target Preparing to teach Coba and Bliss

raise your paw Dog raises her paw Jez only!

Boing! Dog jumps up in the air Coba


So, that's what I'm working on with colliebeasts; I introduced 'jump' and 'back up' last night. Coba gets the jump totally, but I really need to work on his sendout before I can train him to do the CDX level obedience trick, which is to go jump a hurdle away from the handler and come back. Of course, I don't need to be worrying about CDX (Companion Dog Excellent, the second obedience title) when he hasn't actually got points toward a CD (Companion Dog; the first level in obedience) yet, but it doesn't hurt to start now. I also realized that I haven't taught them anything new in awhile, and though it's necessary to spend a long time perfecting the stays and tight heels to competitive degree, learning new things engages them in a way that perfectng stays does not.

Also, Coba likes jumping. It's adorable. Bliss is a lot better at backing up. Also, take/hold/fetch is going to be _difficult_ with Coba, who does not like to carry things in his delicate sheltie muzzle.
summer_jackel: (Default)
As of this weekend, Coba is officially a show dog and I'm a show dog handler. A bad one, maybe, or, ok, maybe just a lot green, but we did it and we had fun. Our run in obedience actually wasn't that bad, and Kyn took video so you can all see it. My about turns were too wide and Coba's finishes are sloppy, but these would have probably been qualifying performances had Coba not stood up during the sit-stay (Saturday) and lay down (Sunday). Still, something to work on. Coba had fun (you can see him having a little too much fun bouncing in the first vid) and that is the important part.

In conformation, I just need to learn to handle better before we're even a tiny bit competitive. I got some gentle but useful advice after my first attempt from a very kind lady who turned out later to be the best in show judge being nice to the newbie, (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) so that makes a story.

It was fun. Maybe next time, we will win something. I see the whole enterprise with a great deal of humor and appreciation for its inherent silliness, but somehow that doesn't keep me from being utterly terrified when I'm doing it---which may have more to do with why I am doing it than I originally realized. Regardless, I have a sweet, extremely devoted and very pretty little showdog who likes this, and that's the important thing.





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Fun pics by my dog show accomplice, Kyn )
summer_jackel: (Default)
I introduced a new concept, the send-out, to Coba, Bliss and Rogue today. It's something none of my dogs have ever been trained to do, and I have never trained any dog to do this. (This isn't the kind of thing you would ask of a wolfdog). It will be interesting to see how well and how quickly the four of us can get it.

The final goal is a dog who will go "Out" to a place that I'm pointing, leaving my side and moving away until I tell her to "Stop." If they become comfortable with the basic sendout, I'll start asking other simple behaviors that they already know at distance. This won't be necessary for novice obedience, but does start to come up in open and utility, the levels after, and I may as well start now.

The challenge is for me to explain how to do this clearly and keep it fun for the dogs, always the hardest part of teaching a new behavior. The first step involves having the dog on a thin long-line threaded through an object several feet away, so that I can pull him away from me as I excitedly tell him to "Out!" Then ask for "Stop", praise him verbally the minute he does, go over and treat him effusively. Go away, call him back (recall has to be really solid before you can teach sendout). Repeat.

So far, they all did fine for a first introduction to a potentially difficult and unpopular task; they don't understand what I'm asking yet, but aren't disturbed by being pulled away from me by the long line. I suspect that working at a distance is going to be a somewhat difficult thing for all three of them...we'll see. It's pretty exciting.
summer_jackel: (Default)
Joyful Solstice, everyone. I just rode 4 hours on my trainer; now I'm making a delicious rare hamburger and a fruit smoothie, which I will enjoy out on the deck with a book in this lovely evening. It's been a hard several seasons, but things have been really nice for me lately.

***

re dog training; I'm asking for command suggetions. The parfait pretty much has all the commands I've taught him down and would like to learn some more, so I'm thinking of introducing the sendout, i.e, you ask the dog to go away from you, sit and await command. It doesn't seem hard to train, but I need a command for it, ideally one that is cute, catchy, easy to say and understand for Coba and kinda geeky. Does anyone have ideas? To clarify, it will be "Coba, [command]," and he will go away a few feet, sit and look at me.

I'm also going to try target-training him, iow to touch his nose and/or paw to my hand or another target. That will probably a stick or toy, but I'm thinking of training him to touch my hand first, as I can get him the treat faster and therefore help him make the association sooner. The hardest part of training a dog something is making sure he understands what it is you want, and colliethings tend to be both fast learners and highly training-motivated. For Coba in particular, doing something I ask is in and of itself a reward on top of the treats, so he's very fun to train. But anyway, I think I'm going to use 'touch' for using his nose, but I also need another command for 'touch it with your paw.' I would use 'paw,' but 'paws' is already the cue for 'your leash is under your leg; untangle yourself.' Any ideas for that one?

And for fun, other things Coba knows:

Sit, down, come, stand
stay (he has sit and down for about 5 min with a reasonably decent rate of not laying down on the sit stays. This matters because I want to compete in obedience with him). Stand-stays are a little harder.
rollover, sit up (although Rogue is much better at these than he is. Bliss doesn't know them at all yet).
focus give me your attention
heel , casual heel, means they can sniff around but not pull the leash. I've only trained Coba for this so far, but I think Bliss is getting ready for it. He's starting to show interest in what Coba's doing for the first time, so I'll begin his training soon. Rogue isn't a show dog and Jez doesn't have interest in this kind of training.
velcro , the show heel, sit whenever I stop and keep focus on me.
come round , what I use for the 'finish' command, where dog circles from in front of you to heel position. Coba doesn't seem to have a problem differentiating between 'come' and 'come round'---I tried to train a different finish, but that's just what I seem to want to say, and training the dogs is easier than training me. I've introduced this to Bliss but not really worked with him enough to have it solid yet.

oh, and load (the truck), off (your paws off me, or infrequently get off the couch), get (leave), banish (leave the room) and of course silence (you want to teach that one young if your dog is a sheltie).
summer_jackel: (Default)
So, the short version is, we had fun but we weren't in the show. [livejournal.com profile] kynekh_amagire , my wonderful, vastly appreciated dog show support, and I appeared at crack of dawn with housefox parfait fluffed and ready, but there was human error on both sides. It was a two-day show, and I only wanted to enter Saturday, but somehow I overlooked checking this on the entry form. They left a message asking which day I wanted to appear; I called the office, told the person who answered and left a message in the box of the person who'd called me, but I still didn't get entered.

So we called it a dress/tech rehearsal and spectated. It was fun and a good experience; I'm a lot less nervous about the whole process now, and got to carefully watch with Coba in hand and almost completely groomed up. At this level of regional showing, it looks like the little guy has a chance of being competitive, and I believe I have enough idea on how to handle him that I'll appear to be at least a competent amateur. It was a lovely class of shelties, but Coba was of like quality.

This looks like enough fun that it will be worth my time to do a couple times a year...more and I'd get bored and overtired, because it's the kind of high-group-energy kind of event that exhausts introverted little me, but I really like the idea of doing a couple per year. I've missed livestock showing since I gave up my rabbits and show chickens, and this fills that gap while adding more interesting complications and strong partnership with my exhibition beast. For his own part, Coba is ready: he seems to be coming out of his youthful shyness with the grave and wary confidence that shelties are ideally supposed to have. He was focused on me and permitted polite strangers to touch him. I don't think he's going to shy away from the judge in the ring.

Bliss Like Showdog, on the other hand, is really unlikely, but since I never planned to show Collies in conf and I actually find him more personally attractive than what wins anyway, I'm fine with that. He'll be lots of fun in the obedience ring once he finishes growing his brain and learns that, when called, to come to a stop before crashing into me snout-first.

So why do thia? Well, it's a pleasant game, and while my competitive streak isn't strong, it does exist, so why not play a few turns? More deeply, purebred dogs are one of my favorite universal human artistic expressions, the dogs themselves history, cultural commentary, artwork and participant all in one, and you're surrounded everywhere by gorgeous, mostly very happy animals turned out to their best advantage. It's all very exciting and pretty.

There are lots of issues and aggravations, of course...for example, wtf was with the handlers who left two barking and furiously protective Samoyeds ringside and didn't correct them? And of course the existence of show-type German Shepherd Dogs whose hips sway sickeningly and should never be bred. Pugs. Still, even with the breeds you don't like, it's like a request from the universe to respect the artistic expression of people who are nothing like you yet still share your love and passion. it's not a bad reminder to be tolerant, even when people are really stupid.

Kyn and I hiked the ridge today, in full and glorious spring with our coiffed showdogs, and really, that's what the whole point of it is: having beautiful animals to share your life, which truly complement you in a joyful expression of our ancient interspecies partnership. To live a little piece of humanity's unbroken artistic expression. Dogs are great.

...also, did I mention shiny new leashes? Bliss and Kyn's Rooster now sport the softest and most supple-feeling bright purple leash/collar ensembles, and Coba has a new show lead. It's basically a black and silver string with sparkly beads, and it's adorable. I'll confess that shopping was part of the agenda to begin with.

There are lots of other shows. Assuming I can figure out how to fill out an entry form.
summer_jackel: (Default)
There's a journey taken, all in silliness
that involves offering one's coiffed canine love
for exhibition;
They're long-haired. I have horses, haul hay
and so I cleaned the truck this morning.
Still says something for my life
that I had some cleaning to do
because the car was going to get the dogs dirty.


***



This one was almost too easy; I was going to write a few lines about that, and then realized, 'ok, you haven't done a poem today; can you make that a poem?' Maybe all of my entries should be in free verse from now on.

...right, how about not.

Busy as heck, but in a fun way. I'm pedaling a couple of hours, and then it's dog brushing for the rest of the day. I spent a bit over an hour last night pre-grooming Bliss, so I won't have too much to do on him now, and though he's a tall, skinny yearling, he's really lovely all brushed out. This may be his only conformation ring appearance, but we'll at least have fun.

Coba is very excitingly in coat, and his obedience routine has become more assured and confident, so I think he'll be fine in the off-leash heel. His big challenge will be maintaining his sit-stay (not standing up or laying down) and standing still a foot in front of me while the judge touches him. He should be fine in the conf ring...if I manage to actually show him well. So much is how _I_ gait and pace the dog, etc., and I am an amateur.
summer_jackel: (Default)
This lanky puppy
is trimmed and clean and very brushed.
Win?
Only if they award ribbons
for good intentions
and length of snout.

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