Hello, who are you?

Wow, almost a month since we trained. I slipped on ice and got a really bad concussion. Lost several hours and couldn't turn my head for two weeks without taking a moment for the world to stop spinning. Then we went out of the country for a couple of weeks and just got back.

To celebrate being allowed to drive again, Serra and I went for a walk downtown. Auntie Barbara, his babysitter while we were away, reported that in situations that aren't outside stores (where we work a lot), his leash work is... not his best thing. The goal of this outing, then, is to work on a loose leash somewhere else.

He started the session out less than brilliantly by diving into the garage hoping to find a cat (he didn't). I wasn't ready so was holding the leash in the arm with the shoulder that's going to be replaced next week. I was not amused. There may have been some unkind words.

When I parked downtown, I put his halter on (still thinking about my shoulder). I was determined, if possible, to use as little bait as possible. Up until today, he's been paid almost every time he does something right, but he's not going to be paid every time for the rest of his life. This would be a walk-walk, not a sniff-walk, and not a heeling session. Criteria would be a leash long enough for him to walk comfortably without looking at me, short enough for him not to reach the ground with his nose and for "walk comfortably" to take place in a very loose heel position. No sitting required, no watching required.

He started out eager to look around but more eager to get a treat. One treat for hitting the ground, one treat for keeping the leash loose as he got out of the car, one more for starting his walk. We're on the north side of the street and there's ice on the sidewalk, which makes me nervous. I'm glad I've got the halter on him. Wish I had a harness too so I could hang on to hit.

Then we started walking with no treats. I backed up a few times when he got to far in front of me, and bumped the leash a few times and sidestepped right when he got to far away to the left (don't make it better, make it worse). Pretty soon we were having an enjoyable walk!

There were a bunch of kids on the steps of the library, which were on my right as we walked by. He didn't exactly tighten the leash but he came around in front of me on his way to tighten it. Nope, sorry, buddy. I shorten the leash enough to keep him on the left half of in-front-of-me and shuffled forward into his feet. I was impressed with how nimble he his. Over the course of the walk, he tried going in front of me twice more with the same results, and after that he appeared to decide that walking in front of me wasn't a viable option.

We stopped at a sculpture on the outdoor mall where I asked him to hop up on the base and lie down to watch people walking by. Fun to watch people see him, think about going wide around us, and then see his little tail announcing his love to the universe.

We walked the mall several times. No problem with people passing on my right. He didn't lunge or even veer over for people walking on our left, but sometimes he had to stop, hold his position, and wag them past.

Two people tried to pet him. I said sure, but ONLY when his feet are on the ground. That didn't work. Too general, I think. They DID stop when he jumped, but they couldn't see the precursors and the only thing that kept him from flossing their teeth was the leash and the halter.

The third Interested Party was a teenage girl who approached reasonably and asked politely. This time I said ONLY when he's sitting. If he stops sitting, you have to stop petting him. That worked brilliantly. Five times he broke his sit, five times she stood up and backed off, and five times the leash and halter kept him from French kissing her. Each time I asked him to sit again and she approached again. The sixth time, he stayed sitting and got his loving. Then she blew it. She was so excited by his success that she squealed OOOOH WHAT A GOOOOD BOOOY! and ran off to tell her friends while he tried desperately to hold her back. Sigh.

Then I got a phone call and talked for 20 minutes while Serra lay at my feet watching people go by and wagging quietly to himself.

Lovely outing.

Incidental learning

Thinking about incidental training today. Things I can teach him without putting any effort into it.

I can't throw the ball if I don't have the ball. I started out by throwing it for him a few times, then I sat in a recliner working on my iPad. He came and stood over me and chewed the ball. I ignored him. Then he chewed the ball with his chin on my lap. I ignored him. Then he dropped the ball on my lap. I picked it up and threw it. He tried suckering me into trying to get it from him a couple of times, but I'm not playing that game so he gave up and now drops it every time (sometimes he needs to give it a couple of extra chews first). Now if i don't respond to the ball in my lap he'll poke it with his nose until I wake up and throw it. This is going to be a TON more fun for me when I have a new shoulder.

I don't throw the ball until he makes eye contact. This isn't something that will have to continue forever, but it introduces the idea that the ball getting thrown doesn't happen because he willed the ball to fly but because he earned the flight, right now by making eye contact, later by responding to a cue or even focusing on the where it will land, depending on what *I* want out of the deal.

I already talked about how he can't lie in the path of people who are walking.

He has to go down or up stairs ahead of me. No way am I getting on a flight of stairs with that rhinoceros behind me!

Syn can hump him if he lets her. He can't hump anybody ever.

If he loses his ball or anything else under furniture, he tries to get it out and can't, and he comes and stares at me, I will ALWAYS help him get it out. Yes, maybe the third time in a row he won't get the ball back, but I will ALWAYS respond to his asking for assistance. Dogs in the past who have known this have even come to me with things stuck in their skin or wrapped around a paw. When he's doing a nosework hide and doesn't have the confidence to keep looking when he can't find it, if he asks, I will move a step or two (sometimes toward it, sometimes randomly) to encourage him to keep looking (or better yet, not put him in that position).

Another dog getting something isn't cause for struggling to get it, it's cause for sitting back and waiting because it's a gold guarantee that he'll get something too.

Whining when I'm working another dog gets him crated in a far corner of the house.

Bugging me for supper at 18:01:23 does not make supper arrive faster.

Fondling will occur if he's lying quietly beside or on me. ONLY when he's lying quietly beside or on me. This has resulted in him getting very quietly cuddly.

I love to play bitey-face with gentle mouths. He loves to play bitey-face so he's very gentle. It thrills me to the core of my being to be playing safely with my hand in the mouth of a large animal with 3 cm teeth. He hasn't quite figured out yet that feet are slightly more delicate than hands, but it's coming.

Good session

Very short session - watching mama Rumba practising nosework, so we tried another round. The boy has a nose. He needs a little confidence/stick-to-it-ivness (if he can't find it right away he thinks maybe it would be easier to come and offer me a sit) but he nailed every one - hidden on the floor, up on a table, inside a wicker stool. I expected him to find the stool one from the outside, but instead he upended the stool and found it from the inside.

Then a little quick heel work. Today he's finding heel position almost entirely by himself! And excellent Hand Touch duration, static and moving.

Then because I was standing there with a couple of treats left over, I worked a couple of Front arcs - uh oh, he wants to stay in heel position. Can't call that bad, and I did manage to convince him to come forward to make eye contact, so that's a beginning. Happy little session.

AND managed to insist on a sit while the neighbour came in this evening. He stayed sitting (sort of on his own) and didn't jump on her when I released him.


Things we have successfully worked on without concentrating on working on them:

- not barking when he doesn't get his way - for instance, when Syn has a toy that he wants. Mostly now he just lies nearby, stares at her, and sighs heavily every once in a while.

- getting out of my way. He started out thinking that he could lie wherever he wanted to and the world would go around him. For this I have always used my brother-in-law's training method. As someone at a party once said about his Seeing Eye dog: "Did you see that? He comes in the room and she gets up and moves out of his way! It's as if she KNOWS he's blind!" Or, more likely, if someone tripped and fell down on top of you several times, you'd figure out lying in his path was not a viable option.

- responding to the GET AWAY FROM ME signal when his beard is full of snow water or gravy or dog poop.

- not looking deep into the toilet when he has a loose grip on a toy.

- in fact, not looking deep into the toilet when he has a firm grip on a toy.

- actually, not looking deep into the toilet any time at all.

- the fact that the "This is for Stitch, this is for Syn, this is for Serra" game works even if I'm tossing orange peel or raw meat.

- his food dish disappears if he runs off in the middle of eating. Yes, even if the neighbour is coming in the front door. Thou Shalt Not Leave Thy Dish With Food In It.

- thanks for running ahead of me into the dog room when I'm carrying the dish, but if he takes his eyes off me I stop walking in that direction. BAM. That only took one rep. No way he's letting me stop on my way to the feeding station if he can help it!

Things we never did work on that he knows:

- his riding-in-the-car behaviour is utterly fabulous. Sometimes I pull over and check to be sure I didn't leave him somewhere.

- he suddenly decided he can jump on the grooming table. More, that he'd LIKE to jump on the grooming table.

- front feet go on a little stool while he's eating (physio recommendation).

- blame the breeder for this one - impeccable food dish manners. He wouldn't think of diving into a dish without permission. Even with his feet on his stool he won't start until I've told him (usually twice).

Things I know we worked on but it didn't seem like we worked on them enough for them to be as great as they are:

- loose leash walking. Not fabulous but pretty darn good.

- nail grinding. ZERO discussion. It's a pleasure. I lay him down on the table, and I take each foot in turn and grind his nails.

- stacking on the PawPods. Lovely.

It is tough to be a guy!



So much for good intentions. All the bones are out in the snow somewhere in the dog yard. Glutton for punishment, I got a new tea bag (strawberry this time). It was in my hand so he was eager to touch it. Did 5 of those. Then I sat on the coffee table and put it beside me. No problem, we did 8 touches with it on either side of me on the coffee table. He knows the job and is looking for it. Then we did 8 on the floor, to the left, right, and between my feet. No problem. He's got that.

Then I did one to my right, and then hid it behind the leg of the table on that side. No problem!

So I put him in the bathroom, hid it in the same place, and let him out. He went right back out where we'd been working, caught the scent, and found it (spit out the tea bag, there's a dear). EE HAH!

Put him in the bathroom again. Hid it behind a different leg. He came out of the bathroom looking for it, ears up, trotting, aiming for the previous location. He's got it! When he didn't find it where he expected it to be, he cruised a neat little circle, caught the scent, and found it (please don't eat the tea bag, sugar).

Then we did another 10 in increasingly difficult places and he literally is searching the whole room. He's easy to read. It's exciting to see exactly where the scent snatches him by the nose. Most hides were on the floor, but one was in a cardboard box on the stairs and another was under a cushion on a wicker chair. No problem. I think it's time to go buy some dollar store salt and pepper shakers to protect the tea bag. The last hunt my hand was down his throat before I managed to grab it (seriously, pumpkin, do NOT eat the tea bag!).

So great start to the day!

Then we did a little work on retrieving with no reportable progress, worked on Kamal's duration Hand Touches and Food Follows for heeling, did some stretches on the PawPods, and called it a day.

Kamal's heeling class is lots of fun. I'm sorry I'll be missing a lot of it - but at least I'll have it in my library so I can keep working. I had strut heeling with Song (Giant), but Serra seems much more blocky. This may be my impression because he's a pup without much muscle yet, or because he's in full winter coat. He may not be able to get a strut in, maybe never, maybe until he's older and in better condition. Doesn't matter. It's flashy but it's not necessary. Syn OTOH is getting it very well.

I have to work more on his swing finish. When he was a baby, he was way ahead of the game, but now that we need it, we don't have him convinced that he should automatically go there on his own yet. Interesting - pocket hand has taught him to swing into heel position when I touch the side of his muzzle in front of his left eye. Silly puppy.

The biggest problem we're having right now is that he is easily distracted by... a treat he thought he missed, Ron doing something in the kitchen even though there's a door between us and the kitchen. I prescribe better treats and more work on floor Zen. I expected his dedication to task from being outside stores and ignoring people to translate to all situations. I was wrong. He's not ready to generalize on his own yet.

Retrieve - he's still peeling off the first toss at 12 feet, but after turning back toward me, he remembers what he was doing and goes back to the dumbbell. That was a test. I'll be starting with short tosses and building up to the longer ones, Chuting when he comes off without waiting for him to go back and get the job done. Also we need a bit more work on delivery to hand, sometimes he comes near but doesn't think of putting his nose up to present the dumbbell. Looks like it might be a throwback to the difficulty we had with getting him to let me have his bone the other day. Better treats, more in-hand practise.

Aaand... I'm down for the count

And the very next day I went to an appointment in town, slipped on frozen rain, and arrived at emergency 90 minutes later with no idea how I got there. Which was followed by 2 weeks lying very still in a dark room, followed by 3 weeks of walking very slowly and sleeping for 19 hours a day. And I'm not allowed to drive for another 5 weeks. Worst concussion I ever had - and the first one not caused by a Giant Schnauzer.

And I got my shoulder surgery date - March 8, which will be followed by another 6 weeks of not being allowed to drive.

I'm tired, bored, twitchy, annoyed, desperate to go outside, and afraid to go outside.

The good news is that about 3 days ago I started working Serra again (oh, newsflash, his name is indeed Serra, not Spider. If you want to know why a male's name is Serra, you can imagine he's Inara Serra's cute little brother, Serenity. Google Inara. And his "real" name is, after all, Firefly.

I'm taking the next 2 semesters off from teaching at fenzidogsportsacademy.com to get this, the shoulder, and my parents' move under control. In an optimistic frame of mind I signed up for 2 Fenzi classes - UK-style Heeling with Kamal Fernandez, and Calling All Dogs with Chrissi Schranz. SO thrilled to be working beside such fabulous instructors as all at Fenzi, to be working for such a great boss, and especially right now to have the opportunity to work with great instructors from around the world - Kamal is in the UK, and Chrissi I believe is in Thailand right now.

I'm planning (like my plans have anything to do with reality this year... ) on working both Syn and Serra in the heeling. For some reason doing nothing for so long has inspired me to get back into obedience with Syn, who could be ready for Utility without much work if only she could a) heel, and b) stay. And the recall class because he hasn't really got a great one (will come under all conditions except distractions I haven't worked) and it'll give me a chance to actually work on changing his name in HIS brain.

HEELING - So the last three days we've been playing around, getting back in the game. I'll have to take him out to stores and parking lots when Ron is going for groceries, but I can work in the house. Heeling is starting off with a lot of static work, which is great for me. I'm really sick of putting off obedience and muddling through rally because I can't be bothered teaching heeling. When they do it, I want them to be GREAT, dammit! Working with Syn really points out how much Serra doesn't know yet. We start heeling with feeding in heel position from the left hand, high up for a prancing heel for whoever can do it comfortably. Syn got it right away, and moved quickly on to holding a hand touch above her head. Serra's all gung ho to follow the treats up, though the position is a little tough for him. Maybe needs another physio session. The constant touch on my hand took the full three days so far, but this morning he woke up and gave it a try. Friend Barbara wants us to go to BC for a BH test in September. uh, yeah. I can't even WALK far enough to do that yet, let alone do it.
Yep, that's right - at LEAST 4 minutes of heeling. If he can do that, he can certainly do obedience!

LEVELS - the worst part of what he doesn't know about Level 2 so far is duration of anything, so we'll be working on sit stays a bit every day. Note to self: do NOT NOT NOT work on down ANYTHING with Giant Schnauzers. Once he's down, he's stuck there for the next hour. I distinctly remember doing out-of-sight down stays in obedience with them. While everybody else was like "please please please let her stay down!" I was totally calm because it's actually illegal in 27 states and 7 provinces for a Giant to break a down stay. So we'll be doing sit stays and then stand stays and hand touch durations but no down stays.

CONFORMATION - just some stacking and stretching on the PawPods (duration there as well) and some arcs for self-stacking. It'll be a while since it'll be 3 months after I start stripping his coat before he can be shown and I'm still 4 months from even being able to start that with my new shoulder.

SCENTING - I've started a fair number of dogs on scenting by simply teaching them to nose-touch a container with a teabag in it. No problem. Syn and Stitch figured that out in, like, 5 minutes. 3 sessions a day, 10 minutes each session for Serra and he has ZERO clue what I'm talking about. If he sees the container he'll happily touch it, but no idea that he should go looking for it, let alone by scent. So yesterday afternoon everybody got a salmon-stuffed bone. He's thrilled with his bone. Worked on it for 6 hours straight. That gave my poor addled brain in idea! I'll hide have him target the bone and then see if he'll start searching for it!

First problem - um, no, HIS bone. Took me several minutes to talk him into coming to me with his Precious, even though we've played a lot of trading-for-treats games and a lot of giving-it-back-once-I've-looked-at-it games. This is Precious. Different! Well, he finally put his face in my lap so I could take the bone (take the bone. No, can't let go. But you can take it. No, can't let go. Go on, take it! I had to pry his mouth open the first time, even though he held his head there for me to take it). So of course I had to admire it and give it back for a minute. Then another 4 times of calling him over. By the 4th time he was able to let me have it without prying his jaws open. And at that very moment, the power went off. Oho! Another idea! That's what I need for my concussion - a little help with ideas!

In the dark, I shut him in the bathroom and put the bone in the middle of the room. Let him back in and he Found It! (wow, clever guy!).

Bathroom again, I hid it behind a chair leg. He looked for it, glared at me, tried to go back to look in the bathroom. I called him back and stood near it. He caught the scent and followed it down to the bone. YAY!

Four more reps with me hiding the bone in tougher spots. Yes, he DOES know a bit about using his nose. I'll use the bone for at least another week before I try switching to his ball or something. Well, we got a start, anyway!

Ron's away for a day, so dogs got to sleep with me. I shut the bedroom door so they wouldn't be outside through the dog door barking at the coyotes half the night (also old Stitch gets lost outside sometimes which I don't want to happen at -30 when I'm not around to send Syn out to help her find her back into the house). He was great. Didn't start chewing on me until 8 AM.

EYE CONTACT - we're back down to about 6 seconds before I give him his dish. More duration work.

RETRIEVE - that's coming nicely. He's got a good solid hold, he's delivering it to hand and holding it until cued to release. Distance is a bit of a problem - once in a while he decides that 12 feet away is too far and he should maybe look for something easier to do. When that happens, it takes maybe 2 clicks to shape him back to the dumbbell and once he's near it again, he remembers the job. May be a case of approaching-puberty-male-brain, though he hasn't started lifting his leg yet.