Wednesday, March 21, 2012

hugely successful walks

Now that the weather is nicer and I'm actually home when it's light out, we've had more opportunities for walks and the dogs are loving it like crazy.

I've been walking them separately and working hard on their leash pulling and reactivity using the clicker, and they have both become (almost) model citizens on their walks by themselves.  The only time we have an issue is if something really out of the ordinary happens, like the guy up the street playing with a remote control car that's the size of a small dog, or the random off-leash dogs charging us.  I think I've spoken to all of the neighbors who used to keep their dogs off-leash in their yards, and most, if not all of them, don't do it anymore. In fact, the only one that does it keeps her eyes peeled for me, and when she see's me coming, she puts her dog in the house while we're 2-3 houses away and I typically wait and do some basic obedience with whoever I have while she's doing that.  I don't like it, but I can at least appreciate her being aware that we don't appreciate her off-leash dog charging us.

In the past, walking them both together has been extremely difficult because they both pull like crazy and if Buster whines, Roxy becomes more hyper-vigilant than normal, and if Roxy notices something and gets curious with her ears and tail up, Buster whines, which sets off the barking... it's a vicious cycle.  We've been working on them being together without reacting and we've had a lot of success, but we haven't done full walks together because they weren't ready, and we need more practice in ideal conditions (fewer people and dogs out!).

But today we didn't have enough time for separate walks and it was later in the evening so I opted to take them both together, knowing there would be fewer people out with their dogs.  We only encountered one dog, a beagle, who usually bellows and growls at us while the teenager on the other end of his leash asks if he can say hi because he's friendly...  But today we were able to walk by the beagle, on the opposite side of the street, without Roxy or Buster making any noises.  All we needed was to stop and take a breather upon approaching because they were both excited, and then Roxy pulled a little on her leash when we were walking by (pulling forward, not towards him).  Of course Roxy pulling made Buster pull a little, but a little "Oops!" (for Roxy) and "Easy!" (for Buster) got them both to settle down and continue peeing on everything in sight. 

There were plenty of dogs barking from their houses and back-yard tie outs, and all Roxy and Buster did was look over and maybe walk a little faster. And both pups responded so well to "Leave it!" when we passed the house with dogs running the front fence, barking at us.

I'm so pleased :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

roxy's first valor agility event

Roxy and I went to our first VALOR event this past Sunday.  VALOR is a venue for agility dogs that might need a bit more space or management in order to compete -- dogs that are nervous around people or other dogs, for example.

We ran in the training division, which is just the beginner level courses, but they allow you to bring treats or toys into the ring.  Roxy ran 2 different Jumpers courses, and one Standard course.  She ran qualifying runs (what is referred to as a 'Q') in all three courses, which is really exciting considering it was our first event.  All that is required for a Q is for the dog to complete all the obstacles in the right order without lunging at or aggressing towards the camera person.  There is no time limit in VALOR.  I'd still like to work on our speed, and we more practice on distance handling, but in the meantime, I'm really happy with our progress and specifically Roxy's ability to adapt to a new environment so well.

Roxy also received a lot of compliments, she met a few people (and of course checked their hands and pockets for treats) and she saw several dogs, but didn't react to any, aside from mild curiosity.  My favorite comment was when we walked into the ring on our first turn, in a brand new environment with strange people everywhere... Roxy was so relaxed, mouth open, tail wags and paying attention to me, and someone said, "Wow, she's so happy!"

Here is my favorite video of the day, primarily because it's her fastest run.  She was really booking it, and even though she knocked down a bar and missed the last jump, I was so proud.  We re-ran it for a Q, but this run is the one I'm happier with because her speed is better.

And here is our standard run (I know the video says Jumpers, it's just labelled wrong).  I'm really proud of her, she went up the A-Frame and the Walk without any hesitation.  We've been doing it in practice without a problem, but this was a new venue with equipment that is new to her, we were outside, which we hadn't done before, and there were new people and strange dogs as well.

It was a very successful day, and we're looking forward to doing it again!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Not the best quality pictures, but they make me smile, nevertheless :)

Buster, don't you dare tell anyone what I'm about to do.
I luffs you, Buster.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

awesome walks

We've had some really successful walks with both Roxy and Buster lately.  Their leash-walking skills continue to get better, and we're at a point where I never get dragged down the street, but do occasionally get a tight leash.  I'll take that, because I'm more concerned about the reactivity, whining, and freight-train pulling towards people and other dogs that we used to get.

You talking about us?

Just today, Buster walked by an unattended dog without making a peep, and just next door he walked by a barking and lunging Maltese.  Sure he was pulling forward on the leash a little as we walked, but he didn't start whining and pulling towards the dog, he didn't bark, and he kept walking when I said, "Let's go!"  He also ignored the Puggle who was lunging and barking through the glass door in her house.

Roxy also did great.  We saw a neighbor of mine who has an English Springer Spaniel.  In the past Roxy and her have been able to interact a bit because the Spaniel is not jumpy and in-your-face, which is okay in Roxy's book.  The Spaniel is a little scared of dogs that are over the top and her owner has been spending a lot of time helping her feel more comfortable with other dogs, and because Roxy's behavior around other dogs can be a little unpredictable, we opted not to have them greet one another.  We stood about 10 feet away from each other chatting because both dogs were doing so well.  Roxy kept a loose leash the whole time we chatted, except when she was walking politely towards the Spaniel in an arc (!!!!!).  Roxy had some really great body language, she was relaxed and checking in with me frequently, and even looked away when they made eye contact (contrast that to her prior behavior of pulling at end of the leash, on high alert, possibly barking, and barking and lunging when eye contact was made).

Progress is wonderful.

Friday, February 24, 2012

take the good with the "bad"

At agility today, Roxy decided she only wanted to wander around the course when it was our turn to run... she had no interest in actually running, or even walking around, with me.  But she did run with our instructor, and she greeted every person that came within a few feet of her with tail wags and butt-offerings ("Here's my rear, please scratch!"), including a complete stranger.

And on the way home we stopped to get gas, and Roxy didn't bark at the gas station attendant and responded to "leave it" when I asked.... which has been something we've been working on, but haven't had a whole lot of success with.  After all, the gas station attendant is a monster who attacks the car, and Roxy doesn't like it one bit.  So, this was a proud and happy moment for us.

I guess I'll take a dog who occasionally ignores me on the agility course (the "bad") if it means a dog who happily greets strangers and doesn't make the gas station attendant pee his pants (the good)!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

roxy's learning to play

Roxy and I have been playing agility for a little over a year now, and she really seems to enjoy it. My goal has been to keep things light and fun. I want agility to be a positive experience for her, a happy outlet for energy, and another way to help build her confidence. So far we've been pretty successful, although there are times I get a little frustrated when I can't figure out what is going wrong, but I've learned that when I get frustrated, we get nowhere, so instead of getting frustrated, I just run around the agility course with her, pretending there isn't actually a course to run. Anything she does is fair game and then we're done for the day. It helps me get my frustration out, and makes sure to keep it fun for her without much pressure to do certain things.

So, with agility we've started playing a bit more, in general. I'm experimenting with different techniques to get Roxy to play with me more, so I can transfer them over to agility and help build speed and drive in her. The first thing I did was put her play bow on cue.  I say "Roxy, play paws!" and she play bows.  I use it to get her excited, because "play paws" is how I get her excited to play with me at home.  It's transferred over to agility class a bit, but I really want to find other ways to get her excited (partly so I don't have to get on my hands and knees anytime I want her to run fast, but also because it's good to mix things up with her and use different motivators!).

So, I've been working on getting her interested in playing with toys that don't involve food (like tennis balls, tug toys, stuffed toys, etc.). Some days, I come home from work and she's beyond happy to play with a tennis ball. Usually she only wants to play with the one that Buster has, but nevertheless, she wants to play with it, which makes me happy! When we play, it's not a formal game of fetch or tug or anything -- it's playing however she wants to play and however she's having fun doing it.

So, here's a short clip of her playing and chasing a tennis ball. Although I don't think she's really too sure how the game works yet, she does seem to be enjoying herself, at least a little bit.

This is a huge improvement over her previous interactions with tennis balls, which included the patented, "Why you fro dat fing?" look with the long-winded, "I aint gettin dat," sigh.

In addition to playing with the tennis ball, Roxy has also been learning how to tug!  Prior to a few months ago, the only thing she'd tug was her flirt pole.  That's literally the only toy she'd play with, besides from de-stuffing toys, and that isn't a team sport for Roxy.  Her normal flirt pole is taller than I am, which makes it a bit cumbersome to use while running a course, so I made a small flirt pole, but she wasn't quite as interested in it, so I still need to troubleshoot that.  In the meantime, we started playing with the easy "Tug-It!" toy, which she wound up tugging into 2 pieces in a matter of 30 seconds (thanks to turkey sausage!), so we moved on to the advanced version, which she enjoys and tugs with, but hasn't destroyed yet (whew!).  I also have a rabbit fur tug style toy that we can put food in, but the interest in that is still short-lived, so we'll keep working.  Either way, I'm happy she's tugging on something small enough to bring to agility classes.