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We're still trying to get the perfect "stand" picture and we'll keep working on it until we get it right. But this one is better than the last one. Ok so it's outside at night and all, but she doesn't look like she's balancing a banjo on her nose.

More coming about today's adventures (probably tomorrow), but here's just the one photo from this evening:

DSC_0421
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It's not the BEST picture, but here's Dahlia standing up on her hind legs for a treat. Right now she'll ONLY do it under two conditions: (1) HIGH VALUE TREAT OMG and (2) We just came home after being out for a couple hours.

stand
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I've been reading Pat Miller's book called Play with your Dog and they describe play styles in there. Dahlia is pretty clearly a chaser and a cheerleader (playing on the outside of a group who is more physically engaged and barking). But more than a cheerleader, I'm afraid Dahlia might be the "fun police."

I noticed, back when we went to the dog park (and it's been awhile, mostly because it's across town and we meet a lot of dogs right in our neighorhood), that when dogs started playing really rough, Dahlia would rush over and bark at them until they stopped.

See?
dogpark35

So the question is -- should I stop this? She does sometimes do this when it's a bully and a more timid dog by herding the bully away. But is this something I should put an end to? And how?
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We got home from Kitty's today with a thing of leftover steak. Dahlia is always excited about this and usually "sit pretty" turns into sit pretty and then "jump up and put my paws on their chest."

But then one time she sort of balanced for a moment on her hind legs with both front paws just dangling in the air and David gave her a treat while she was like that.

So I wondered...can I repeat it?

And I did...and this time she balanced for like 10 seconds, like REALLY balanced, sort of dancing around on her hind legs to keep the position. We did it like 4 or 5 more times. It was SO AWESOME. Seriously. I LOVE MY DOG!!!!
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We bounded out of the apartment tonight. Me with happiness over going for a walk with my dog; Dahlia with a big grin at the sight and smell of more snow. We rushed down the steps as we often do. You see, walks are fun. Dahlia gets to race through the snow, stopping to sniff when she wants to and then rushing to catch up to me or racing ahead to find the next bit of interesting snow to stick her snout in.

And me? I get to laugh with pure joy at watching her. She makes me happy. Walks with her make me happy.

When we got down off the porch I saw my next door neighbor coming up the sidewalk with her German Shepherd, Krieger. "Stop," I said to Dahlia. She froze in place. Even her big doggy grin froze in place. I came up next to her and asked her to wait. We waited.

My next door neighbor has her dog on a choke chain or a prong collar. I can't recall which, but it ultimately doesn't matter. They serve the same purpose. Krieger stepped slightly away from her and toward us. She jerked him with the leash. Not instantly. But a few seconds after he moved.

He whined.

She jerked him again and turned to walk in the opposite direction, again jerking him when he didn't follow her.

Dahlia and I stood frozen to the spot for a moment and watched them walk off. Each time he moved away from her, she jerked him with it. And he whined. We would hear his whine from several houses down.

Finally, when they were far enough away, I released Dahlia. She immediately headed in the direction Krieger had gone.

I didn't want to go in that direction. I called to her. "Dahlia, wrong way!"

She turned on a dime and rushed back to me and then past me, sticking her face into the snow as she went.

And then we started the race down the path. Dahlia pausing to sniff, me calling excitedly to her and watching her race with joy to me.

The grin had returned.

As had mine.

Walks are a joyous time for Dahlia and I. We race along snow covered sidewalks. We trudge through snow-choked fields 2 or more feet deep. I let her off leash in the park to play the "wait/come" game and to play fetch with a snow-covered tennis ball. We jump and play. We meet other dogs and she plays.

I walk along with a smile on my face that matches Dahlia's. Walks are her time, but they're also for me. It's my time to watch my dog be a dog, my time to watch her enjoy herself.

Krieger doesn't have that joy. He moves with much anxiety, his back legs bunched up awkwardly as he moves down the sidewalk. My neighbor once told me that she's working "very hard" on his training. She walks with a scowl on her face and is continually fighting her dog. It's a war of wills. She's been told she has to be alpha. She believes it. And so it's a constant fight between her and her dog. She MUST win, you see. Or else he will control all.

I believe Dahlia and I are companions, that I take care of her, that we are partners in our joyous walks together. Training is fun. It should be fun. When it becomes not fun it's over.

We returned to the apartment the same way we left it, with smiles on our faces. Dahlia raced up the porch and into the house. I followed slightly behind, shutting the doors and turning off the lights.

My neighbor is still out with her dog, still struggling with him somewhere on her walk. It's not his. Never his.

Dahlia and I are happy and content inside after our lovely, companionable walk.

I like it that way.
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REALLY sensitive. That's how much. She can't even handle a prong collar being used on another dog. Seriously. Tonight we ran into my next door neighbor whose new trainer has her buying into the "My dog is a dominan, alpha male type because he's a German shepherd and therefore I must train with a firm hand" nonsense. I'm not going to argue with her. I tried turning her onto positive training and she tried it at first, I think with a trainer she didn't like much and so now has this new one. Ugh.

Anyway. New trainer has her using a prong on the dog (well, he/she had her using a choke chain but luckily I got her to switch to using a prong, which, while awful, is less dangerous and has less potential for physical damage than a choke chain). So she wanted Krieger to sit before we approached. Fine. I wanted Dahlia calm and so had her remain at my side calmly. Had to break her out of her freeze/stalk mode once which she seems to want to get into more often these days.

So they're close to meeting when Krieger breaks his stay to come forward. She jerks the prong and tells him to sit.

Dahlia JUMPS BACK and starts yawning and licking her lips and then wants nothing to do with Krieger. She won't go near him and Sharon and walked a foot away and turned her back to us.

Wow.

And because it's too cute, here's Dahlia before our walk tonight.

walk
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I'm reading Patricia McConnell's latest book, Tales of Two Species: Essays on Loving and Living with Dogs. It's a collection of the articles she wrote for The Bark magazine (she still works for them).

In a section discussing what dogs have lost and gained by being housebound and not let out to roam the neighborhood all day, she says "What we can do is be mindful of how often our dogs have the freedom of choice. How many walks has your dog taken in which he got to decide where to go? How often does your dog get to decide when to stop sniffing? Ever let your dog choose the direction to follow at the dog park? These are good questions to ask ourselves as we exercise our dog's minds and bodies at dog parks and agility trials."

David and I always try to give Dahlia a bit of freedom. Not only do we allow her off leash in safe places as often as possible (and I'm very thankful we have a nearby park where we can do this frequently), but we also allow her to choose her own direction to go in on leashed walks. I often stop at the sidewalk and ask her which way she wants to go. I let her choose until I feel her choice is going to take us too far from home and make the walk back tiring for us both. But ultimately she gets to shape our walks. Sometimes she takes us on familiar walks we've done many times. Other times she takes us to new places or on a different route through the neighborhood, doubling back and following unexpected paths. We let her stop and sniff and spend all the time she wants taking in the "pee-mail." I'm sure some would think it indulgent and still others would consider Dahlia the "alpha" in the relationship. I'm glad to see that Patricia McConnell agrees with our choice.
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Dahlia is learning a new trick. I think. When we got home from session on Saturday I came bearing pieces of steak. I can never finish my open steak sandwich and so I always cut up the rest and bring it home to Dahlia (no she's not spoiled, not at all!). She can smell that stuff from a mile away and so combined with her excitement over our coming home, she is also excited over the smell of that wonderful, still warm steak. Well, I asked her for a "sit pretty" and she sat and then immediately came up on her hind legs to rest her front legs on my chest. It was adorable. I gave her a piece of steak, and patted my chest and up she went again. So I think I could train her to do this for some command. Maybe "give me a hug" or "up" or something.

But I don't know. Is this dangerous? She's not the type of dog to jump up on you and never does when we come home usually (instead she prances around, licking frantically, and curls herself into a C-shape while grinning). So I don't THINK this would result in her starting to jump on us when we come home, but is that possibility there? Something to think about.
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I'm reading Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs and this anecdote about a Newfoundland's rather unorthodox solution to a problem she was having, really made me laugh. I thought I'd share it here.

Excerpt )

This reminds me of Dahlia's solution to my trying to teach her "drop it." I did as the instructor told us. She had a toy in her mouth and I held out a yummy treat and said "drop it." She leaned forward, sniffed the treat I had in my hand, rushed off to the living room, where she dropped her toy, and then came back for the treat. Quite creative!
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Attempt at a sit pretty picture #2: Basically she looks like a furball with front legs. Her back legs are like GONE. She's like dorf. Dorf on sit pretty.

sitpretty4

She's also batshit crazy )
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1. Regarding the last entry. Fred from Shit Means Shit never bothered to comment back to me. Am I surprised? Not really. The last time he tried to get a dig in about that very same video, he never responded either. I guess trying to insult someone for their untrained dog (who, in a video, is playing, not working on training) doesn't work so well when that person turns around and tells you their dog has her CGC.

2. Related to that. David went and commented back to his original comment, which was something like "What is this video supposed to show? That your dog runs away from you and won't come to you?" David knows how to cut them to the quick.

Fred--I'm the guy in that video. You apparently really need to get a life. Someone puts up a video to show friends their new rescue dog playing and you come by´╗┐ to criticize? What a loser. You sound like a little man with power issues. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Some of you might remember the RV (Harvey) business from way back and David's rather cold, biting e-mails. Yeah. He's good at that shit. Fred removed his original comment. LOL I love David. He's awesome.

3. Dahlia's trick training is going REALLY well. She now knows "sit pretty" 100%. She even knows to try to stay with her paws off the ground until I give her the treat, though she sometimes loses her balance. Little by little she's extending the time she can sit up. I hope to get a picture sometime in the next couple weeks. We're going to take her out to the park on a nice day and do it then. So now the next goal? Crawling (though I've been calling it "sneak"). She's taking a little longer to get this, but she's starting to crawl forward to get the treats. It'll take some time to work her up to doing it 10 or 15 feet. I need to get more training treats though! I'm plum out of the things!
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Dahlia is now doing a "sit pretty" for 2-3 seconds without balancing on me. I sort of shaped the whole thing (without using a clicker). The steps went like this:

1. Ask her for a sit pretty while holding onto her paw and lifting upward just slightly, which made her bring her other foot up.

2. Ask for a sit pretty and let her bring both feet up onto my legs, so that she was resting with her legs on me.

3. Ask for a sit pretty and when she tries to rest her feet on me, step back and tell her to try it again. You could almost see her mind work! She looked at me for a second and then tried it without resting against me. It took her a moment to really get her balance, but after a couple tries she figured out how to balance properly for a few seconds.

We'll keep at it, but I think she's getting it. It's not a behavior I'm really going to "proof" as it's not an important one, but I do want to see if I can show it off at the work picnic this Saturday! Last year she was only just getting "down"!

Phew!

Jul. 17th, 2009 10:08 pm
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I very nearly had a dog who would be sleeping OUTSIDE tonight. She raced up a slope to see what I thought, at first, was a cat. Until I noticed it moving funny and the light hit it.

And it was a skunk!

I shouted "Dahlia, leave it!" and she rushed right back to me. I am so HAPPY my dog is well-trained.
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So one week ago I started teaching her "sit pretty." I started with holding her paw and giving her the support to get the other paw off the ground. She got that really quickly. I moved on to just asking for "sit pretty" and getting her to balance with both paws on me (like in this really old picture of her doing it against someone who was not me -- this was on the transport). She got that super quick and has been doing that steadily all week.

Tonight I decided to ask her to sit pretty when she wasn't sitting RIGHT in front of me, but a foot or so away. And what did she do? Sat up with both paws up and curled under, just like you want with a "sit pretty."

She's so smart. It brought a tear to my eye. WHY didn't I teach her tricks sooner? I keep saying she doesn't know any tricks and I feel silly for that. She's been awesome with standard obedience and I can even stop her from rushing to greet another dog by saying "leave it" (granted, I have to be forceful, but it does stop her in her tracks). She has awesome recall, can do waits/stays from 40-50 feet. So now she's learning two tricks. I don't think it will take long before she's solid on these. And then I'll get a picture!
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When we were out on our walk today, we went by the Methodist church that's down the road. Out in front of it next to the sidewalk they had set up a "dog watering station" which consisted of a large dog bowl full of water, a jug of water and a cat bowl, just in case there are cats around. It had some quotes about taking care of the animals and the like printed up and laminated and stuck into the ground next to it. I thought it was pretty neat.

Dahlia's really getting solid on give me a paw, so I'm starting a bit on "sit pretty." I don't know how most people do this, but Dahlia will NOT take both feet off the ground on her own, so what I've started with is asking for her paw and holding it while she balances herself upward with the other paw off the ground (if that makes sense). She got it right away. After a handful of repetitions and other things she stopped "getting it" and so I figured the training session was over. We did a down and a sit and then I asked for her paw and ended it there. I tossed her foxy a couple times for fun and then she settled down to squeak. All in all I'd say it was a successful training session.
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So far all I've really taught Dahlia are the standard obedience things, the really important ones: like sit, down, stay, wait, and come. But I'm always jealous of people's dogs who knows silly tricks. So last night I decided to start teaching Dahlia to give me her paw on cue. And already she's doing it. She's still in that offer up the behavior all the time in the hopes of getting a treat, but she's also doing it on command. It's adorable and I'm so thrilled she learned it that fast.

Now I just have to figure out what else I can teach her.
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Wow...the last agility class already! I was never quite clear, for some reason, on whether or not there were 6 classes or 7. It turns out there was 6. The problem? I didn't think to bring my camera just in case. I could have kicked myself! The instructor had a camera but it was a pretty crappy one and it was hard to get action shots off of it. She did get one decent photo of Dahlia coming out of the chute, and one as she was starting to leap over a jump (just had one foot in the air at the time), but that was it. Damn. I could have taken a lot better photos than that! Oh well.

There were only two of us in class this time around, just the female dogs: Dahlia and Ellie (I think, if I remember correctly, Ellie is some sort of pit bull/lab/sharpei mix of some random sort). We started off with having them do individual obstacles and taking pictures of them doing it. It was fun. Dahlia was none too fond of the weaves last night. She had closed them up completely and I think she was a bit confused. I did manage to get her through them but not at the usual speed. She did well with the jumps and the chute. And I got her to get two feet up on the teeter. I really think jumping is where it's at for her. She loves jumping and has no problem with just leaping over them when we get near them. The rest I think she could give or take, but jumping she enjoys. I'm glad that I bought her a jump!

We did a few run-throughs of the course in various arrangements. Dahlia was exhausted by the end. With only two of us there, she did a lot more than usual. During the last run through she just barely made it through the weaves. Poor girl! She was still grinning though.

At the end of class we all got a little goody bag with some biscuits and a toy for our dog, a plastic dumbbell (which floats!), and a gourmet biscuit which Dahlia loved and ate right up in the car on the way home.

Overall, I'm glad I took the class. They're going to see if they can set up "play dates" for people to come and use the equipment for a small fee, so we'll definitely go down for that if they can get it together.
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It's hard to believe we're almost done with this class! Next week, I think, is our last class. And then the following week is something marked "graduation." So we're almost done. I'll be sad when it's over. I enjoy these classes with Dahlia, but as I need to get a new car sometime in the nearish future, I don't think I can spend another $100 on a class for a time. Ah well.

Last night we started with the teeter. Dahlia still hates that thing, but the instructor managed to get her onto it (basically by lifting up feet and placing her on it). She was relaxed enough to eat the treats placed in front of her. Eventually we bobbled it a little bit and I held her on it and petted her. And then when we did it again she jumped off. It's better than she's been with it!

While we were going around from dog to dog allowing them up on it, I decided to see what I could do with the tunnel. This time they had attached the chute part of it, which makes it more of a challenge. For those who don't know much about agility, there are two kinds of tunnels: an open tunnel (and since we're using one that's short the dog can see right through it) and a closed tunnel. The latter is more challenging for the dogs since they have to go through the chute part and can't see the end. This is ESPECIALLY challenging for Dahlia as she seems to hate dark, enclosed spaces. David told me she'd NEVER go through it.

I started off by tossing treats into the tunnel and letting her go in and out of it. I was surprised at how easily she did it. She tromped right in. She wouldn't go through it, but she did go in and come back out the same side several times. I started throwing treats further back in and she went after them and came back out. Finally I tossed three treats in, the furthest halfway through the chute part. I got up, ran to the other side and started calling her to me. And she came right through the chute! I was so proud of her! We did it several times. One time I thought she got caught in the chute, but it turned out she was looking for one of the treats she missed. Food hound. LOL. I guess she was pretty comfortable. Even the instructor was impressed that my chicken dog went right through it!

She did ok on the weaves. The instructor brought them closer together so they had to really weave through and it confused her a bit, but she eventually got it pretty well. Not as fast as before, but we'll get there.

We did several combos after that and except for really bad handler errors on my part, we did ok. It was really hard getting her to go over jumps to my right side. She wanted to be on my left. I wanted her on my left. Eventually we did manage to get her over the jumps on the opposite side of me from usual and from there things went well.

One of the combos was going over the jumps in quick succession. Just a step or two in between them. I wasn't sure how Dahlia would do but she did great! Especially the second time over them. She seems to really enjoy the jumping part. The instructor set things a bit higher so she had to leap a bit instead of just step over them and she sailed right over and through the tire jump. I'm SERIOUSLY proud of her and how well she's doing. After class was over, I set the tire jump higher than it's been before and got her to go through it a few times. She sailed right through with a big grin on her face.

Yep. Jumping. That's what she's there for I think. She loves 'em. I figured she would since she loved leaping over snow banks this winter.

On a side note, I got laughing SO HARD at Samson (the pit bull) during one of his run throughs. He managed to destroy everything in the room: took apart the weaves, knocked one jump bar off, knocked the other off and steps on it so it came apart into two pieces, knocked over the tire jump, and ripped the chute off the tunnel. He cracks me up.
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I can't believe this was already our 4th class! Wow. Time flies. I think there are just two more and then "graduation" (whatever that is exactly).

Now, you might recall that Dahlia was a complete chickenshit last week. She didn't even want to go through the tunnel, even though she had done so many times. It was almost like starting over and I wasn't quite sure what the issue was. I'm thinking now that maybe it was too much stimulation and uncertainty that day. We had taken her in for grooming so she spent quite some time at Blueprints that morning (from about 8:30am until 2pm or so). So it might have been an all around bad day for her.

Well, this week she rocked the agility equipment. I was so proud of her!

We started with the teeter. She was still nervous around it, but we managed to actually coax her up onto it, all 4 feet. The instructor let it rock forward a bit and Dahlia immediately jumped off when it moved, but it was a start. She's still more nervous around it than some of the other dogs, but she's much better than she was last class. When the class moved onto jumps (which Dahlia has been doing fine), the instructor took the teeter off the base and put it on the ground (so it only moved slightly when you touched it) and suggested I work with it really low like that. I managed to get her to put paws on it while it moved around a bit. She was still nervous, but definitely much improved. I got her to stand and it on it a couple times.

We moved onto jump sequences after that. The jumps were set side by side. We had to make the dog go over the first jump and then call them to and over the second one. Dahlia did great! I think she's ready to move the jump up a bit. She mostly steps over it, sometimes slightly leaps over it. I'd like to see it a little higher for her at this point, so we'll see if the instructor wants to move it up. Of course, little Cesar (the Bichon Frise) can't have it much higher. I think he might be jumping at close to conformation height for a dog of his size already.

Then it was back to the weave poles. We started with them pretty far apart and Dahlia went through fine. Then she moved them closer together, almost so they were completely straight on (each pole was moved maybe a couple inches out from the center). I wasn't sure how Dahlia would do with that, really. I thought for sure she'd avoid going through. Imagine my surprise when she went right through them like she'd been weaving her whole life! The only problem is starting her into it. Sometimes she goes the wrong way, but once I get her in the correct way, she just weaves right through without my having to guide her. Go Dahlia! I was so incredibly proud of her. She would come out of the weaves with this look of "wow that was fun mom" on her face.

We then moved onto combinations, which I find hardest as the handler because I just can't quite figure out how to get her to them smoothly. I suppose that comes with time. I especially have difficulty because I'm moving VERY fast and over excitedly to try to get her pumped up. I can't quite recall the first combo right now, but the second combo was pause box, teeter (at least just walking over and putting a foot on it), jump, tire jump, tunnel, weaves, jump, tire jump. Quite the combo! She did well on it, though I had some difficulty getting her set up for one of the jumps. She's going through the tire jump and over the regular jumps like a real pro. She doesn't even try to avoid them anymore -- she just heads right for them.

At the end of class, I directed her back through the weaves (in both directions) and she did awesome again. And then when I headed to get her leash she raced after me looking all excited. I think she's starting to get more into it!

The really nice thing about class last night? There were only four dogs there: Cesar (the Bichon), Ellie (the only other female dog, who is also a little more hesitant about things), and Samson (the pit bull). Samson is HILARIOUS. I don't think he's quite aware of where his feet are at every moment. He runs toward things with his feet going every which way and just barrels through things. He knocked the bars off both jumps (because he doesn't jump -- he just goes through it most of the time), knocked over the tire jump, and yanked the weaves apart. I don't think his owner is helping much because she gets him all hyped up to do it. I HAVE to do that with Dahlia or else I end up with a dog who wanders over to the obstacles. But with Samson I think I'd want to keep it all incredibly low-key. She managed to start doing that on the weaves and he went through at a much more sedate pace.

On a side note, I ordered a basic agility jump (yay!) so I can do some jumping with Dahlia at home. Our next door neighbor (with the GSD puppy) is interested in the jump as well. She won't set it high or anything, but just having him go over a low jump will be fun. Now I wish I could afford other equipment, especially the weave poles!

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