summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
I cherish little canine epiphanies. This morning, Coba made the first glimmerings of connection between what I was asking him to do and the movement of ducks, that crucial first bit of mutual understanding, excitement and willing participation that I needed in order to teach him to herd them.

A long, rambling explanation, with too much detail, of how this wonderful event came to be. )
summer_jackel: (Coba ^_^)
Kyn cooked some delicious BBQ ribs the other day. No hounds, of course, were allowed to be unsupervised anywhere near the cooling meat, which makes miss Zhava very sad. She had never wished so passionately to commit a perfect crime, and it would only have taken her mere seconds to complete it.

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oh please, humans, just turn your back for a moment. That's all it would take, just a second of the relaxation of protective primate glare, and those ribs could be mine, so mine, oh please. )
summer_jackel: (Coba ^_^)
Bliss is of the opinion that neighbors should be met with great joy and wagging, followed by an armful of joyous, wiggling collie, a personal human necessity that he is happy to meet. I am of the opinion that if people want 70+ lbs of collie in their arms (and this only because he's a thin beast), they will ask, and the canine in question is to sit politely until they have indicated this desire.

We keep having this discussion, and it's hard to train him out of it when he is almost never poorly behaved in any other context (other than that 'not liking food' thing). The problem is, the neighbors keep encouraging him. I need to teach them to wait patiently while I correct him, before running up to him excitedly and accepting the proffered armfuls of collie. That's much harder to accomplish than training the dog.
summer_jackel: (Default)
So there was a dog show! Coba qualified for his second of three necessary trials to earn his Companion Dog title in novice obedience. It was one of our better runs, with a score of 186, and I am very proud of him. He was calmer and more focused in the ring, probably because I am becoming more comfortable with it myself, partly because at four he's starting to find his stride, to be the dog he was becoming. Coba can be a bit of an amplifying mirror for my emotions sometimes (if I didn't need supervision and commentary, I shouldn't have gotten a shelite, right?) and the complicated little beast is usually more effected by what's going on in my head than I give him due credit for.

There was a run-off for fourth place. I was not expecting to be called back into the ring, and really blew it by giving him the wrong command right as we started. "Let's go" slipped out instead of "velcro;" it confused him, and he was all over the place for the rest of the trial. "Let's go" is one of the things I say to release him; he knew better than to think I was actually telling him to go do whatever he wanted in the middle of a dog show, but I can hardly fault him by thinking he was allowed to lag back and take a quick, genteel sniff at the side of the ring before re-attaching himself to my heel when I stopped. Egregious handler error, but hey, qualifying score, fun and exciting show, can't complain. We had a lot of fun, and I have gained a deeper understanding of myself, my dog and how we relate. I'm pretty sure that's why I'm doing this to begin with.

In addition to that, Zhava debuted in the breed ring. She was the only one in her puppy class and was not placed above the mature winners of the other classes, but our moment in the ring was a happy experience for both of us. One handler, who ended up taking her huge, beautiful solid red bitch to Best of Breed, was quite kind to me and appreciative of Zhava, and gave me some useful handling advice. I should gait the dog more slowly going out and back than when asked to circle around the ring, and must keep the dog on the mat in an indoor show. I've never shown indoors, so didn't realize that they mark out the pattern on the floor with mats. I love this idea so much after a few moments of horrible confusion in outdoor rings, so I suppose can be forgiven for clutching to it for security. Still, I must remember: The mat is for the dog.

Leaving the show, I finally felt like a competent novice, less out of my depth. I am very proud of my truly splendid and amazing dogs, who are still blessedly exhausted. And two people complimented Coba's grooming. So life's good.

A couple of pictures under the cut )
summer_jackel: (Default)
My pup continues to grow. For all that she strongly implies the thing that she is becoming, Zhava still remains a knobbly-kneed puppy, not fully grown in coat, height or anything else. Here are some moments.

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dogs in sun and mist )
summer_jackel: (Default)
The last couple of days have been so clear and beautiful. Kyn and I took the dogs to the beach yesterday.

Perforce, beneath the cut you will find a number of dog pictures and rambling about same. )
summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
The show was lots of fun. We didn't place, but Coba's first obedience run in particular was great. I think he might even have had a pretty high score, had he not sat up at the very end of his down stay. But I can hardly fault him; the dogs on either side of him had broken completely and were up walking around, and he only sat when a siren startled him. He is almost there; I just need to work him in somewhat noisier, more urban settings, and in more strange places. His second obedience trial wasn't as good, and he lay down on his sit almost immediately...but hey, we know what to work on.

I was not expecting any success in conf...shelties are very competitive in breed, and he's lacking in ear set, which is heavily pointed. Still, my handling is getting better, and I needed the ring experience. Coba may not have a chance at finishing a championship (if I can even get points on him); Derzhava has a very real chance at finishing, but only if I learn how to handle her. Getting there!

The Borzoi people found Derzhava when Kyn and I took her to spectate the end of the show, when Coba and I were done. They were very kind (and some of them recognized her mother), and I got to meet the Best of Breed dog, a rockstar of a Borzoi, GCh. Aashtoria Wildhunt Hidden Agenda, "Casper" who I have admired from afar for some time and didn't expect to meet at a local show. He's even prettier up close, even/especially when politely pulling his lips away from his lovely sharp fangs to express distaste for his hairspray.

Kyn, Eclipse and I had a great time, and I think I'm almost done with dog show nerves. This relaxation translates into Coba having more fun, too, and I think if that isn't the ultimate point of this exercise, you are doing it wrong.

Also, lots of pictures. )
summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
Long rambling dog-geekery; feel free to skip over if this isn't your thing.

I just made the homeliest jump ever: a PVC pipe duct taped between two old plastic flowerpot stanchions. It took me about a minute to make it and about three to teach Coba to jump it. He definitely associated the "jump" command with what he's supposed to do; this isn't the first time he's been introduced to the concept, but it's the first time I've done it in awhile, and his best performance so far. He does really well when he is positioned squarely on one side and I am squarely on the other, less so when either of us start more than a few feet away from the jump or on a diagonal to it. These will come with time; I kept the session short and fun. The jump is also lower than it will be in the ring, but height can come later.

What this is all for, of course, other than it just being fun to train one's housefox to do entertaining things as well as being good diversion for an active little mind, is that I am starting to look seriously at what's needed for Open level obedience competition. It seems likely, knock on wood, that Coba earns his Novice title of Companion Dog either this month or next, and it would be pretty cool if he was ready to enter Open classes next summer. Ergo, train the dog now.

We have a way to go.

The article above summarizes that "Open Class involves 7 exercises: Heel Free and a Figure 8 (off leash), a Drop on Recall, Retrieve on Flat, Retrieve over High Jump, Broad Jump, and Group Exercises: a 3 minute sit stay and a 5 minutes down stay with the handler out of sight of the dog." Coba's heel free/figure 8 is getting pretty snappy, to the point where I'm hoping that, at least if he's in the mood, we are going to look pretty good in our upcoming Novice appearances. His Drop on Recall is good enough for the ring now, and his stays with me out of sight are coming along well enough. That's proving easier to train than I thought (of course I introduced it last winter). This leaves the jumps and retrieves.

Jumping should be easy enough to train; he already has a good attitude about it, and it's only a matter of time and repetition to build confidence. If his jumping gets as snappy as his recalls are now, he is going to be just adorable.

Which leaves us with the retrieve, Coba's least favorite idea in the world. This is a dog who doesn't even want to pick up (any) toy and bring it to me while enthusiastically playing. I've gotten him to the point where he will hold a plastic dumbbell toy when I put it in his mouth, change positions (sit to down to stand and back) and perform short recalls without dropping it, though his opinion of the exercise is eloquent. I try to use the best rewards for this, things like tastes of canned food he only gets for this exercise, but I haven't seen his 'tude improve yet. There's no hint that he will willingly take the object into his mouth, and I that's our biggest hurdle: convincing Coba to pick up that distasteful foreign object---the horror!

I am thinking of training with something much lighter, like a piece of fabric or leather, to begin with. Perhaps I'll use a glove, as the directed fetching of gloves comes up in Utility, and he might find them less objectionable than a plastic dummy. His moving stands are quite good, btw, as are many of his non-verbal commands, and I honestly think that the most difficult thing I will have to teach Coba in terms of obedience competition may be the one I'm starting to work on right now.

As soon as he'll pick up something, anything, on command, the rest is time and fine-tuning. Given Coba's reluctance and sensitivity, it may take awhile, but with consistency, short, positive sessions and the nastiest dog food I can find (from my POV, anyway) we should eventually get it.

...I hope.
summer_jackel: (Default)
I came across this site, which boasts a bunch of links to neat old silent films which show that the trope of the heroic, romanticized collie is a lot older than 'Lassie.' I find this stuff amusing and fascinating, especially since I really didn't know many of the details about the breed's history before I decided to obtain one.

There's also something just fundamentally trippy and weird about seeing a film over 100 years old.



more of them under the cut )

Send outs!

Apr. 12th, 2011 10:49 am
summer_jackel: (Coba profile)
I am trying to explain the "send out" concept to Coba again; he seems more ready to learn it than he was last year and we are getting closer to the point where I need him to know it in order to teach other things. The goal is a dog who moves away from the handler in the direction indicated and then waits for further instruction.

What I need is a command for it. It needs to be shortish, easy to say and not overly similar to anything else I regularly say to the dogs. I've introduced it as "send," but as Coba doesn't understand yet, it isn't too soon to change it. "out there" is tempting but too confusing, since I've used "out" to make dogs leave my presence or the house and of course I don't want him to think I'm punishing him or angry.

In the ideal world, I would like something cute, interesting or clever. Anyone have a better sendout command than "send?"
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 )

Dogspam!

Mar. 8th, 2011 03:08 pm
summer_jackel: (Default)
Dog pictures from the last couple of weeks. Emphasis on the zoom!

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make those dogs run! )
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)
The weather has been just too beautiful to be indoors, so I took the afternoon off work yesterday (still reeling from Sunday, of course) poked a Kyn to see if she was game for a trip to the beach, grabbed a truckfull of underexercised dogs and headed as west as this continent goes.

We had lots of fun and I feel much better now. We also hauled half a tree's worth of driftwood up a rather steep trail so that we could make parrot play structures, because we are the kind of mad individuals that enjoy the company of houseparrots. Of COURSE the beach with the best driftwood deposits is the one at the bottom of a very steep cliff; that's just how these things work.

I took pictures.

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in the spring and waves and sun we run )
summer_jackel: (Default)
Chaser, a border collie who lives in Spartanburg, S.C., has the largest vocabulary of any known dog. She knows 1,022 nouns, a record that displays unexpected depths of the canine mind and may help explain how children acquire language.

I am utterly fascinated. I am also really pleased that the article discussed how Chaser's human trained her to have such a large vocabulary. I don't know that it would be worth the time to train my dogs to put words to many different objects, but I agree that most dogs, especially herding breeds, could be taught to do something like this if the trainer wanted to put in the time. It might be fun to train some of mine to name some items (Rogue has known what her "duck" is for years).

Naming the item might help me teach Coba to retrieve a dumbbell, something he will have to learn eventually for obedience showing. I'm afraid he's not going to like it and am not looking forward to training this at all, so I'm trying to devise ways to make it more interesting for him before I start. Teaching him a name for at least a couple different toys (including the retrieve dummy) could be a useful angle.

Science is neat. So is training dogs to do stuff.
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.

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