Friday, December 31, 2010

Videos as promised

Happy New Year, BUT...

I hate New Years... I mean I don't hate the new year, just the evening of the 31st of December.  I always have, even as a kid.

Okay I have to admit, I am a very 'unfestive person' in general.  I avoid most celebrations, birthdays, xmas, heritage day, anniversaries.  Seriously, I just don't get it.  Me and Ants don't do presents, not for anniversaries or bdays or xmas, but when I walk into the gadget store and I see that thing that I know he will love, then I get it, regardless of the date.  That is why I love my dogs, I mean I am sure if they could they would email/sms/phone me EVERY day, not caring about the time of year.  They love me EVERY day.   I want friends on those days that I feel really happy or really crap, who cares when I decided to pop out of a womb all bloody and screaming (Sorry that is a bit graphic), but you get the idea.  It's the same thing with New Years, *NEWS FLASH* ladies and gents, tomorrow morning the sun is going to come up same as it did this morning, and Monday morning we all have to be back in the office.  So why in Zeus's name do the idiots down the street feel the need to light up a ton of fireworks on THIS night every year (amazingly enough managing to keep all their limbs in tact and NOT on fire, despite the severe drunkness).  Of course my first complaint on the whole fireworks issue, are the dogs.  My own dogs, having a terrible New Years EVERY SINGLE year, all the strays that I have picked up and dropped off at rescue centres and all the bodies that can be seen driving around on 1 January... damn sorry, I am getting very dark...  To get back to my rant (yes, yes, I know I am ranting, refer to previous posts... you don't like, don't read it)...  Not only does it have this effect on my dogs, but I HATE fireworks.  It is loud, as in VERY loud, I don't do loud.  It gets me so beyond irritably that it might, I say MIGHT have ended in me plotting some serious revenge plans including diesel on manicured lawns and personal adds with phone numbers (not belonging to me ofc), you know the normal things.  I have never seen the 'ooh pretty lights' thing that others do, maybe I need some of their drugs too?  I just DO NOT GET IT...

Anyhow, so here we are tonight, me and Ants and all five our dogs and all four our cats, in front of our respective pc's (that would be me and Ants, I have not been quite able to teach my dogs Windows XP), chilling, doing our thing.  Because we know, tomorrow might have a different numerical assignment than today, but that doesn't change anything...  Chaos is frozen in his version of the fetal position and I know he won't move until tomorrow when the fireworks finally subsides.  Quake is lying as close to Anthony as he can without molecular fusion, he will freak out and display symptoms of severe seperation anxiety every now and again.  Delta is lying whining under my feet and he too, will not stop until the insanity has passed... him he is whining... what if he was wining... would that solve the problem... it might.  Evil, evil me!  Volt and Echo could actually not have a care in the world, they are just chilling... the kittens, well they are doing the normal 'we have to pretend to be cool with his guys, but actually we are completely freaked' act.

Thats fine, I will allow them their insecurities for tonight... 

I will end off on a lighter note... as I have mentioned before Loki, my three-legged cat, adores Volt, I mean it borders on a combination of sever obsessive compulsive behaviour, stalking and addiction.  He has also taken it upon himself to completely sabotage Volt's training, as soon as that clicker comes out, Loki is there, to swish his tail in Volt's face, pounce on him and distract him in various other creative ways.  And I swear this friggin cat can read, as soon as I typed his name he started being vocal, jumping on my pc table, getting tangled up in cables and generally being a nuisance.  Which ofc is encouraging Volt to try and jump up on the table, being vocal, getting tangled up in cables and in general being a SUPER cute nuisance.  Anyhow, today Loki used Volt's new favourite toy (the empty box mentioned in previous post) as the ultimate distraction.  Haha, just as a note, the box is from the new exercise gadget which was purchased in order to get me more in shape for Agility...  anyhow...

Arg, okay the videos are taking FOREVER to upload, so will post that tomorrow!

Have a good one all!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Puppies... AGAIN

First of all, sorry for all the posting, but I am on leave okay...  I mean what other time do you get to spend the WHOLE day having fun with your dogs... 

In my defense, I did actually 'get a life' for a few hours today, taking a hike in the Botanical Gardens (which is about 200m as the crow flies from our house) with hubby and unfortunately no dogs...

Even though it is a very commercial and well laid out trail, let me tell you...  it is some good exercise...  the second photo was not even taken from the very top.  Some useless information...  There is a breeding program for Black Eagles being run in these botanical gardens and on a good day, you can sit on our veranda and watch these guys fly and soar.  Corny but pretty cool.  Soz for the bad quality pics, but they were taken on my phone.

Anyhow back to dogs...  I wish I was this creative when I had my previous puppies (not that I am even remotely as puppy nerdy as most people out there)...  I am having so much fun with Volt that I am starting to wonder whether I am taking drugs, lol.  I know I post WAY too many videos of my dogs, but if you don't like it... well don't read this blog and don't go onto my youtube channel.

It is funny how big Volt looks on camera, when in fact he has grown a mere 0.3 cm in the last week... he is now 28.5 cm...

So let's just clarify, Echo is my old man, he is the boy that taught me all (haha, well the most anyway).  He is the dog that is never allowed to leave this world...  Delta is my clown and amusement, the dog that I laugh at even when he is irritating the crap out of me.  Quake is my odd boy, you know, that uncle that no-one wants to talk about but everyone enjoys his company, no Xmas party is the same without him.  Chaos...  well Chaos is and will always be my heart and soul, man I love that dog, issues and all...  You want to know what Volt's role is becoming?  That 'golden kid' in the family that everyone hates just because he is so awesome.  He is adorable, keen, clever, funny, nerdy, wild... the all in one package.  Haha, I am sure my other dogs (especially Chaos) are secretly thinking 'can that little bastard just bugger off, we are waaaay too jealous to love him this much'.

I am so lucky to have a hubby that pretends to be fine with the 'puppy disaster zone' that is our house at the moment... there are dog toys, boxes, old t-shirts, toilet rolls strewn across the house...  all shoes, socks, underwear, electrical cables, cell phones, tv remotes, carpets etc, have to be permanently watched and kept out of puppy mouths as far as possible...  But Ants doesn't moan...  He gives me 'the eye' (the one that says 'Woman, I am going to have you institutionalised TODAY) every now and again, but he grins and bares it...

I have gotten so much sh!t in the past...  But you know what, all the things my pups do, they choose to do.  Haha, Voltage decided being on top of that box was the most awesome thing before we could even open it to take our new Xmas present out.  I don't ask anything of him, he offers it to me.  I play rough with my dogs (and my cats and my husband (haha, I hope he doesn't actually read my blog)), have you ever watched dogs play with each other???  As long as my dogs are having fun and I am having fun...

Since this is MY blog I am allowed to sound super-retarded, off-the-wall corny, out-of-control nerdy, gives-you-the-heebie-jeebies emotional, sociopathic insane... I LOVE my dogs, they get me through each day...  they make me laugh, they make me cry, they keep me from losing my mind, they make my heart beat, they cheer me up, they support me, they are always there, but they know when to just let me be, their lives are devoted to me, regardless of my issues and fears.  They are my boys....

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Erm, the subject is Agility... what else???

Okay, so first of all... if you are not a complete and utter, all-consumed Agility nerd like I am, you better close this webpage right now, before I bore you into a complete yawn-induced coma...

I didn't do that much with the dogs today: A.  Because it is absolutely piping hot and humid...  I have actually resorted to lying down and making swimming motions on the cold tile floor (yes, remember on top of being an agility nerd I am certifiably insane). and B.  My dogs bark when I work my other dogs (I don't mind this...  I DO mind my dogs barking at other dogs being worked by other random people, but I WANT my dogs to be THAT excited about me), anyhow this barking kind of drives Anthony up the walls (yes you can get the Excorsist, dislocated limbs picture in your head, laugh but it is true)...  Hence I only did a tiny little but with them, but I decided to do an experiment with Spaz.  If you actually read this blog (what is wrong with you, are you that bored or that 'agility nerdy'?), you will remember that I mentioned in a recent post that I lengthening my sequencing during training.  Let me just clarify, this does not mean I now run 20 sequences of 30 obstacles each during every training session.  I still only train for 5min or so (less today because of above mentioned factors), I just do more obstacles before rewarding and then the 'rewarding session' becomes longer.

Anyhow, so when I trained Chaos this morning, I ran the dogwalk, five times in the first sequence and four in the second.  I taped myself and timed his dogwalks...  to explain my timing, I timed each dogwalk 5 times and used the average, I timed from first paw on until 2o2o position (NOT the release).  Now theoretically, lets say at the World Champs, I would release as soon as the dog touched the contact, but for my timing purposes I never time like that... haha, that would be WAY too tempting...  Anyhow so here are the results:

Sequence 1

Just btw, I realise it is a super crappy angle to tape from, but my garden has limited agility space, kay?

Dogwalk 1:  2.31 seconds - Okayish, I guess, for a 2o2o dogwalk not TOO bad...

Dogwalk 2:  2.30 seconds - Sigh same as above

Dogwalk 3:  2.19 seconds - Okay now we are getting there Spaz

Dogwalk 4:  2.30 seconds - Really??  You just had a sub 2.20 my boy?

Dogwalk 5:  2.21 seconds - And better again

Okay, so dogwalks 1, 3 and 5 had the same approach, dogwalk 2 and 4 the same...  hmmmm...

We had a good play and then I did another repition of four dogwalks...

Dogwalk 1: 2.16 seconds, not too shabby

Dogwalk 2:  2.41 seconds, eish buddy boy, move those legs :)

Dogwalk 3:  2.08 seconds, wohoo! Awesome, that is more like it should be

Dogwalk 4:  2.25 seconds, not too bad, but could be better.

Anyhow, my point is, that speed is not always determined by the length of your sequence OR the approach.  I think it depends on the dog's striding ONTO the dogwalk... well that is my opinion for now.  But I will do this little exercise a few times this week and let you know.

I have to admit that the reason I am so obsessed with dogwalks atm, is because of Volt.  You will not believe how many people have asked me whether I am going to do a running dw with him because he is a Sheltie... huh?  What the hell does him being a Sheltie have to do with it???  Does it not depend on my training and handling and preferences???  I don't think I would ever be happy with the consistency of a running dogwalk or the stress that accompanies that.  But luckily we are still FAR away from making that decision...  I do have to include this super cool vid of the High Voltage Sheltie Maniac targetting though...

And just before I get all the Agility and Clicker Guru's moaning at me:

1.  I know I was late on clicking for the release...

2.  I have not trained body position at all and I have put NOTHING to a verbal command yet, so at the moment I don't mind him turning around when he targets...

The little man is only 16 weeks old and we are still mainly just doing some hectic playing (I have the puncture wounds to prove it)...  As long as he is one happy playful maniac I am one happy punctured exhausted mom!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On (Sheltie) Puppies

Dog training has come a very long way in the last 4 years... which is the last time I had a puppy.  To be honest some things have really stayed the same and some have changed.  I have been on leave for two days and needless to say I am spending almost all of it with the dogs.  Here are some thoughts:

1.  Puppy teeth are still as sharp as they were 19 years ago (when I got my first one).  It doesn't matter how few of their teeth are left in their mouth or how far they are into teething.  PUPPY TEETH ARE SHARP.  Puncture wounds are inevitable.

2.  Apparently my Sheltie puppy reads my mind and knows that I have wanted to rip out the carpets in the bedrooms for years.  He is offering his assistance.

3.  Clickers are the best thing since toasted bread.  How else can you teach good and bad (accidental) habits with one repition.

4.  If your dog understands clicker training, your other dogs are bound to go ballistic when you click three miles away for another dog.

5.  Under no circumstances leave your full height dogwalk up and your unsupervised Sheltie puppy outside, even if it is just for 30 seconds.  Apparently mine loves heights and that is an awesome vantage point.

6.  Puppies love being muddy.

7.  A breeder that does good socialisation is worth gold.  It is SO nice to have a puppy without issues.  I love Chaos and Quake, but they had so many issues to begin with that Volt has been breeze.

8.  Puppies love shoes, but only your favourite pairs.

9.  Sheltie puppies are small.  They fit under the retaining wall.  I don't.

10.  Puppies tire you out.  BADLY.

Recently I had a chat to a friend about flyball training.  I haven't done flyball in 7 years, so I really don't keep up to date with the training methods, but this friend told me about one method where they stick an X on the box with masking tape or something and teach the dogs to target onto the X to get a nice box turn...  Sooooo, it occured to me that I could use this concept to teach my dogs some cool tricks.  So this morning, I duct-taped (in South Africa we fix EVERYTHING with duct tape... oh wait that is universal) onto an old plank I had in the garage.  High Voltage the Maniac Sheltie (I think that should have been his registered name), got it one shot... and as always at full speed.  So I thought no probs, the other dogs will get this one quickly.  Erm, WRONG!  All of them tried to do a two-on-two-off on the plank... Training fail!  I say this because A.  No target was down  B.  No 'touch' command was given C.  The plank does not remotely resemble any training tool I have ever used for contact training.  Now you can argue that They are offering the first behaviour that comes into their minds, BUT my dogs are not like that.  They always try and figure out what they can possibly do for the click.  This time they refused, just kept stopping TOTO... Soooo obviously even though they all have brilliant contacts, they are not connecting that behaviour solely to contacts.  Good or bad???

Anyhow, Chaos was awesome today as always...  Quake's poles sped up 123.39% within 24 hours, but with that dog, we will have to wait and see what tomorrow brings, he never fails to surprise.  Delta has a very large repertoire of tricks and it occured to me for the first time ever today to teach him how to heel, lol, you can say it, I am a JACKASS!  Echo... well can anyone tell me how to convince a 13 year old (massive) BC with an arthritic back that he CANNOT do full height jumps, the dogwalk, poles and A-Frame?  Note to self, make sure all Agility equipment is packed away/hidden/dis-assembled/invisible before taking him outside...  Volt does everything at full-speed, I am doing everything in my power to keep that up!  He targets in various shapes and fashions, downs, sits, kind-of-heels, retrieves, tugs, waits, recalls (well mostly always), gives paw, is starting to play dead, reverses... but mostly we (yes me and him) stick to the whole running around the garden like hooligans and rolling around in the grass together thing...  Neighbours still think I am insane, but quite frankly they should only start worrying when I start doing it naked...
If all the dogs (yes all FIVE of them) are this tired, can you imagine what I feel like?

Finally, a happy tired Sheltie puppy after a long day hanging out with me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Insanity, Agility and happy dogs

Okay, so the second week into our very short 'off-season' and I am already insane with boredom.  I think that my husband might just be right, there is a possiblity that I am certiafiably insane when it comes to my agility addiction...

I have been doing some good training with Chaos, just the same old same old, jumping sequences with complicated turns, maintaining my contacts and wicked pole entries.  I am very pleased with how he is working, I just hope he maintains it in the ring next year, or more accurately I maintain it in the ring next year. 

The maniac Sheltie puppy is  15 weeks old now and miraculously I have witnessed him fall asleep TWICE now.  But even then it is not a real sleep, because as soon as he sees me move he will follow me like the pied piper trying to make his sleepy eyes look alert.  He now stands at just under 28cm, so let's all hold thumbs that he grows exactly 7cm more.  I don't want him quite borderline, just because of measuring issues, but it would be nice to be close to the upper limit of his class. 

 I will be very honest, I adore puppies, as much as the next person, but I am an 'adult dog' kinda person.  I love all the puppy phases, but I adore my boys when they get to the stage where 'understanding' kicks in.  Even so, it is amazing how quickly you forget the satisfaction  of those light bulb moments in puppy-hood. 
 Volt is now bringing his toys to me and demanding playtime, instead of barging around like a hooligan pouncing on every toy (or toe or cat) that moves.  Woohoo, he realises that I am the most exciting thing ever!  This to me is one of those very special lightbulb moments, that time when they start realising playing is all about you and not just the environment.  At this point I start changing toys in the middle of games and he is taking to it like a duck to water.  I also vary between tugging games and retrieving games mid-play and he swops like a pro.  I think Anthony has even stopped being shocked that I spend half the day sitting on the passage floor... with one crazy Sheltie bouncing about.
 Obviously my camera is not quite good enough to take pics of wriggling, squirmy puppies, but you get the idea.  Not only is he starting to demand games, but he has also started to occasionally demand training...  When he follows me around dropping into perfect downs or targets ever possible thing with his feet, then I know it is time to get a clicker and some treats.  Not that I entertain his every demand, but when the enthusiasm is at its peak is the best time to train!
One thing is for sure, Volt is loving life... ever second of it.  And that is what matters right...  a happy dog.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kittens, Pups, End of the Year and Stuff

First of all I have to mention that I am very proud of the Spazzie.  We recently had our provincial Agility and Dog Jumping Year End Function and out of the 129 dogs that competed in Gauteng this year, he ended up 4th in the Agility league (all grades and jump heights included).  First was Miss Consistency Julie with Chaos's uncle, Chace, second went to Sharleen and Boetie boy and third was medium pyrshep, Lollie and Gaby.   I am not even sure if I should write it, but I also managed to get the award of 'Agility Nerd of the Year', needless to say, I completely disagree... haha, I am not THAT much of a nerd.

Photos again courtesy of Melissa Wilson.

 I have started intensifying my training again slowly but surely, in preperation for our first SA Champs/AWC qualifier on  the 23rd of January.  Since the finals will be in Maritzburg this year, I have no home ground advantage, so want to be ready.
 I have been doing lots and lots of jumping sequences, complicated ones...  he is nailing it mostly and contacts are looking very good, so just doing some maintenance there.  I really would like to make the team next year, so putting the effort in.
 And doing some serious fitness work, haha, for both me and him.

Anthony took some nice pictures of our view from the veranda the other day, he made sure to do it after the gardner had been here, mowing the lawn, to minimize the amount of agility equipment in the picture:

Of course the Madam cat Nox had to impose herself during the photo taking session.
On to puppy things.  Me and Volt are enjoying hanging out, which generally means me trying to keep him out of trouble.  He is training hard at his goal to one day climb Mount Everest and nothing in the house overlooked when he is looking for 'training equipment'.  He is such a pleasure, though.  So confident and happy.  We have been doing some targetting.  I am actually teaching him a foot target first, different than with my other dogs.  Mainly because it is so much easier to get that 'foot pounce' from a puppy.  I will teach a nose target later on.  Mostly we run around the garden like hooligans, me and him.  I am sure the neighbours think I have lost my mind... then again they might be right.  For now our retrieves are limited to the passage way, as he is more keen on the 'I will go and catch it, but then you have to chase me to get it back' game when we are in the garden.

I am also trying to take him to as many places as I can, which in South Africa is not so easy as 'pet-friendly' doesn't exist in any of the 11 official languages.  Today he went to the vet to get weighed, met the lady in the bottle store, ordered some chinese takeaways and went to the petstore to buy some more toys.  Along the way he was stopped by just about every passer-by.  All in all some good socialisation.

At 14 weeks the high Voltage Maniac Sheltie puppy, weighs 2.5kg and is 26cm high.  According to most of the Sheltie growth charts, this means he should remain in small, but I know Sheltie growth can be unpredictable.  Volt's brother Jull is about the same size as he is and their sister Jasmina is the tallest of the threed.  Please hold thumbs for me... I really do want a small dog!

 His ears have settled down again after this picture, oh the joys of teething...  I am still uhm-ing and ah-ing about glueing his ears...  he should be such a good breed prospect and I have been planning to show him in the conformation ring, but... well to me the idea of glueing ears are just a bit silly...  and I have to decide as in now.
 The one thing that I miss, is cuddling.  Volt does NOT do the whole cuddle thing and makes that very very clear.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Training Holiday

The company I work for in the mornings is closing on the 15th and I cannot wait.  Mostly because it I am planning super-training holiday with the boys.  Seeing as some of our most important events are run in the period between January and March, December is normally my most important training time.  But I am not just waiting around for that the holiday to come along, I have started intensifying my training already.

Chaos is doing very well at the moment.  My current problems include the whole 'knocking over wings' scenario and speed on the contacts.  I have been working on both (hopefully I can convince Anthony that he has to tape me tonight and then I will post some vids).  Over the last few months I have changed both my handling system, as well as my training system slightly.  I did not want to mention anything about it before, as there was no proof in the pudding yet.  But since a few agility friends have noticed the change, I guess I can go public now.  This slightly altered system has definitely been an improvement.

I have been doing jumping grids and exercises based on my 'horsy' childhood for years (long before I heard of Susan Salo and the Clothier method, although their books and dvd's are very interesting and gave me some more ideas).  My plan for solving Chaos's tendency to drop bars by knocking wings on tight turns, is threefold.  First of all, for the last month, I have worked on a variety of jumping grids.  Even though he hardly ever knocks (maybe 3%) on these grids/straightlines, I do feel that it exercises his ability to stride and general jumping performance.  The second part of my plan started with sending him around wings (no bar) and clicking for NOT touching the wing.  This is something I never thought about when I originally trained him, I just wanted him to drive there, turn tightly (often brushing the wing) and drive back.  I am now sending him around everything I can find (trees, buckets, wings, my husband) and rewarding for not touching the object.

The biggest change was the change to my handling system.  Previously Chaos's cue to turn would be that I would hang back or slow down, in general create more distance between me and him, as well as a very strong verbal.  He would turn super tight, but this would also mean that he would be looking at me, shorten his stride and wrap with his head in a horrid position as far as jumping goes.  Personally I think this is THE main problem for him knocking the wings, is the position of his head while he is jumping.  When he drops his head to look at/respon to me, he curves his back and drops his hindquarters.  To demonstrate this I am re-posting a picture I posted last month:

  Now first of all, two things that I am very proud of, is Chaos verbal directionals and his 'go round'.  He responds brilliantly to his verbal directional commands, this has won me many a class especially with tight turns out of the tunnel.  He drives into his go rounds and chooses his take off point very well.  So I did not want to lose/ stop using either one of these.  But my physical cues definitely needed to change.  So I spent a few months and retrained these.  My turn cue, is now an opposite hand with my closest leg stepping into him.  This not only results in a nice pre-curve, but a nice jumping arc, with good take-off and landing.  This of course means that I have to work a course harder, I have to follow up and be with him, but quite frankly it turns out this suits me too.  And it means I hardly every get caught flat-footed, I have better course position and I am not half as lazy.  My go round physical cue remained the same, a flick with an outstreched hand slightly infront of my body.  The only thing I have to concentrate on now is keeping my hand close to my side for a go-on cue.  This took me hours of repeatedly watching video of myself to figure out.

The other major change in my training system, is my ration of reward/performance.  Many of my previous students will have to pick up their jaws from the ground now, but I have increased my sequences'obstacles between rewards significantly.  I used to preach (and practise) that you should do no more than 5 or 6 obstacles before rewarding.  At that stage my philosophy was that if your dog was expecting to be rewarded the whole time, he was more likely to drive and focus during a full course in a show situation.  I think I was wrong, although it still depends from dog to dog.  By only working short sequences, you are not teaching your dog the mental stamina it requires to get through a full course at speed.  Please don't think that I all of a sudden expected Chaos to do 30 obstacles in succession.  I built it up very slowly.  And I will do the same with Volt.  Initially I will reward after one or two obstacles, but by the time Volt is 30 months old, he will be working much longer sequences than any of my other dogs, before he gets rewarded.  In this process I have also increased the quality of my reward though.  Instead of a quick 15 second tug after a sequence, I will have a whole game, sometimes up to 1 minute, or I will throw the ball a good few times.  I have NOT increased my training time and my sessions still last 5-7 minutes.  If there is something very specific I am having a problem with, like a certain pole entry or pull through, I will run it once or twice ONLY practising whatever it is I need to, so only doing 3 or 4 obstacles, and reward, but then I will run a much longer sequence, with this behaviour at the end and reward for this.  I feel that this has not only increased Chaos's course performance and ground speed very much, but also contributed to consistent quicker contacts.

Okay this is turning into a monster post again, but I do want to give a quick update on the High Voltage Maniac.  He is amazing... and very very very busy.  I have added quite a few things to his training program over the last week:

1.  We are doing flatwork, mainly circles and tug now.  He is very quick and damn cute, BUT I have to say that he does tend to get the zoomies when I do this.  He then ends up sprinting 5 circles around me (while I am standing still) before coming in for the tug. Hilarious as this might be, it is NOT ideal.  So when he goes into tilt-a-whirl mode, I will run away from him in a straight line, he will always follow and then come for the toy.
2.  Flat foot target, I have decided to teach a foot target first, as this is a behaviour so much more easily taught to a puppy than an older dog.  I will teach a nose target later.
3.  Targeting the back of my hand with his front feet. This is such a nice one to have, as you can teach so many tricks with it.  Anthony took some video of this last night, I will post it later.  Eish at first this was a very painful process as he attacked my hand, chomping on it while touching with his foot.  It took some patience from both me and him before he figured out that biting wasn't part of the deal.
4.  Backing up/Reversing.  He is already reversing up objects, in other words reversing and putting his feet on a tupperware container etc.
5.  Climbing in and out of a box.  This one was kind of forced, when he figured he could climb into the toy box, getting him out was a nightmare, so I decided I better teach him to climb in and out of things on command, just to make my life easier.

I don' t like wishing time away, but really wish that the 15th would come now!

Provisional Gauteng Agility Calender

I recently did the Agility schedule for next year so I can start planning.  I am posting this here and will also add it as a gadget.  Please note this was done on a personal capacity and there may be mistakes or adjustments. This calender is in no way representative of any committee or club that I belong to. This calender does not yet include the Night Series Open Shows in November/December and one or two additional shows will be added to the March bumper weekend.  If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact me.

This means that there will be approximately 24 Open Shows in Gauteng in 2011 (excluding the two invitational events that is run under open show licenses).  There will be approximately 25 Champ Shows, which means there is a minimum of 150 agility QC's available (50 for each height category, 25 each for Agility and Non-Contact) in Gauteng alone, excluding the out-of-province bumper weekends.  This also means that there are a maximum of 450 QC's available, depending on entries.  Also depending on entries, there will be 69 QC's (23 in each height category) available in 2011.

I will edit the calender as soon as new information is confirmed.

Friday, December 3, 2010

On training Voltage

I thought I would write a few things about training puppies, my maniac in particular.  I will try not to make it too long, or maybe write it over a few posts.  Oh and by the way the photos I am posting is more awesome pics of spaz courtesy of Melissa Wilson.

Everyone has a system, I am ont JUST talking about a handling system, a training method etc.  I am talking about the complete package.  As a puppy you need to train your dog according to your handling system, using training methods you are comfortable with in a timeline that suits your lifestyle at the pace you and your dog is comfortable with.  With each new dog you get you will change or modify this system to compensate for previous shortcomings and mistakes or to improve yourself and your next dog.

I believe that your dog's entire life is a training session.  That is why for the first few months, my puppies are either constantly under my supervision or in their crate (this means a total of about 10 hours a day in a crate, but that includes night-time when they (hopefully) sleep).  This time is basically just spent hanging out, getting to know each other and convincing my puppy that I am the coolest thing in the world.  I get to shape little behaviours and teach basics, but mostly we play the game called 'life as a puppy'.

Oh hat... there I go rambling again... 
I like being systematic, so I devide the my own life as well as my dog's life into categories:

My criteria:

This depends on me.  I want my dogs to perform everything I teach them at full speed, with enthusiasm and some self control.  As a trainer I am the one who has to create the oppertunity for them to do this.  This 'rule' will always ensure that I put my dog's happiness and safety first.


These are the behaviours where all I need to do is channel and control my dogs instincts, whether it is to enhance that instinct or to supress it.  These are little, daily things, that my dogs need to learn to think about. like: 'I may only play with a toy if it has been presented to me, I cannot just pick things up at random', 'I have to have good manners and self control with other dogs and people, I cannot just launch myself into their faces', 'I cannot herd the cat/helicopters/my mom's feet/the car tyres/the swallows overhead, everytime I feel like it, 'Fetching means running after it AND bringing it back'.  These are the things that  neccesarily gets trained every day of your puppy's life, through living.


These are the things I consciously train my dogs.  I do believe there is a place for shaping as well as for repetition and conditioning training.  The ratio of this depends on your lifestyle, preferences and effort.  Sit, down and stand on command, proper jumping technique, house training, handling cues, tricks all fall into this category.

It is this last category I will have a quick word about, I am sure I will write about all three of these in the next months of Volt's puppyhood.

I never want to under- or overwhelm my puppies.  This includes both physical developement as well as training of behaviour (which includes environmental).  I do believe in teaching quite a few behaviours during the same time period, but two of these behaviours should not overlap too much as too confuse my dog (which will inevitably break rule 1).  I don't believe in doing 'too little' in a set time period, which will also hinder my dog's enthusiasm and probably bore me. Voltage is 13 weeks tomorrow, but he has only been with me for 10 days.  So in short here are the behaviours I am teaching Volt, the Maniac Sheltie atm:

1.  Sit
2.  Down
3.  Crate
4.  Release (which means stop whatever you are doing and come to me for a treat or a game)
5.  Look at me (on command)
6.  Be aware of me (this I am not teaching on command, it is more of a 'check in on me every once in a while')
7.  Targetting a 'platform target (ie a box/raised surface) with front feet AND back feet
8.  Loose lead walking.
9.  Tug and retrieve (although this is actually abstract for Volt, for some dogs it might require active training)
10.  Recall

These are the things I can think about that I am doing for right now.  Very few of these have any command to it yet, at the moment these are merly the behaviours I am marking.  A lot of people might disagree with me marking so many behaviours without a command, but my philosophy is that as long as he is offering the behaviours mentioned, there is no problem.   It differed with my other puppies, each has their own strengths and weaknesses which need to be considered.  I feel this is what is neccessary for Volt at the moment and not only is he excelling at this, but he is loving it.

In the near future I would like to teach Volt a ton of tricks, including, 'bang', the circus trick, lifting each paw, standing on his back legs, reverse and many more, but for now I am happy with our progress.
At the moment I am allowing short supervised periods of socialisation with the other boys and I have good news.  This afternoon I had all 5 dogs out and had the older boys doing synchronised tricks  and all of a sudden little Volt was offering me a down with some serious eye contact.  It was a good test, he definitely 'gets' it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A High Voltage Maniac

Volt has been with us for only 8 days, but he is already a very unique part of this family...  Here are eight random Volt facts, one for each day he has been with us:

1.  He loves cats, if it was up to him, he would play with Nox and Loki the whole day.

2.  He does not stop.  I have not witnessed him fall asleep once.  He is very quiet and pleasant in his crate, but he does not stop watching me for one second.  I really do hope he does actually sleep when I turn out the lights.

3.  Squeaky soft toys are the best inventions since toasted bread (or liver in his case).

4.  He is a climber... the higher the better.

5.  He loves my shoes, but only the ones that are still in use.  He will bring me every single one of my shoes he can find, but the old cast aways that I don't wear anymore, he will not touch.

6.  He tries to eat small stones and pebbles, I have no idea why.  I have to watch him with a hawk eye when he is outside.

7.  He is more aware of his back feet than his front feet.

8.  He has better balance and control on the tile floor than on the grass and the carpet.

We tried taking some decent stacked and headshot pictures of him tonight, but it is virtually impossible as he never stops moving.  Out of the 66 pictures Anthony took, I can only post four, and they are not the best either: