Disorganized Organization

I am the queen of plan making. But when it comes to accomplishing those plans I seem to be somewhere in the league of wicked step-sister.

But really, I can make a beautiful, detailed, well thought out plan. And I do, make many many plans. This is true of the four legged lessons too. But, alas, the plans so often fall by the wayside in the face of so many interruptions. So I thought I would try to put together a few tips for organizing regular dog training.


Recently on the Training Levels Yahoo Group (a wealth of info everyone should tap into) there has been some discussion of journaling about Levels Training. There is a great on-line tracker specifically designed for this by someone is not only skilled at making plans, but very skilled at accomplishing them. (Unlike certain other two legged people(me) who shall remain nameless.) I fall into the category of making my journaling way too detailed so that it always gets left undone. So application of tip #1: I am going to pull up their journals and see where we are at.


I tend to be the all or nothing thinker, and try not to let that apply to working the pups. But, ahhh. . . .the fallacy of beautiful, complicated detailed plans: if I can’t do the whole plan perfect its not to encouraging to even try. Here enters another thought from the wisdom of the Training Levels group members: even 30 seconds of work with their dinner is “daily work”. Which is something both girls do nearly every day, so two wags for us! Another not-original-from-me (unfortunately) thought was to train a different behavior on each commercial break. Not sure that works for us as if its not on the DVR I don’t watch it. But the principle is sound. 2-3 minutes of work on a particular behavior w/ a longer break in between and each session is a new behavior. Application of tip #2:start the laundry. . .do a short session. etc. . . etc. . .etc. . .

Real life work and lessons get done every day, all day in our house, but it is the regular, more structured sessions that I have been neglecting the past bit so hopefully this will help us get back on track. And now in the spirit of applying these useful organization tips I’m going to go start the laundry and work a go to mat session and then I am going to track it, so if you’re interested in how we did hop over to Maizey’s journal and check it out!


Sometimes Old Toys Are The Most Motivating Toys

Since the middle of March we have been working on building Maizey’s toy drive. (A bit of the hodgepodge we are working on)
Having appropriate rewards as reinforcement is vital in clicker training. The right reward, and a variety of the right rewards will really motivate your pup to work harder and offer more behaviors. Humans are the same as our four legged friends in this manner, the higher the paycheck the more motivated we are to work. While food is usually the easiest thing to use toys are a very important part of this. Because of Maizey’s knee’s we couldn’t play tug, so I really neglected encouraging her toy drive. But with a couple of weeks of playing the games mentioned in the “Hodgepodge” post problem solved!
She is now enthusiastic and excited to work for her tug goody.
At first she was a little confused to not work for treats. She offered me less behaviors at first and would do as I asked and then run to the kitchen and look at the counter w/ her eager, “where’s my goody?” look. 
“Comeon mom I did good lets go getta goody”
“Where is it? Where’s my goody?”
But that was a learning experience for me too, because it showed me she was learning to work at a distance from the treats, but also I need to vary where we go to get her treat. Quickly though she got the idea that the tug game was her “goody”. It has been a lot of fun to watch this develop. 
One of the recommendations is to have a toy you use only for rewards so I dug in the toy box and pulled out one of her oldest and most revered tug toys. Made by the famous Zoe and Dare’s mom for my pups years ago it’s still going strong, although now missing the tennis ball (thanks Maizey:)) and one of its strings, it remains her favorite tug.
“Yeah I know this tug is twice my length and girth! I killed it and its goin’ with me!”
“I’m gonna get it!”
 ”I GOT IT!”
“And I’m not letting go!”

The End Of An Era

warning: this post does not contain useful information about dog training. Unless you count the down-stay Maizey did on the hood of the Jeep. Hmmm. . .that may be stretching a bit though.LOL

I try to avoid clichés, and “they says” and I realize this is both, I apologize in advance. But, ‘they say’ “All good things must come to an end.” I suppose that is true tonight.

Once upon a time in a land not so distant from here, in my younger and more adventurous days I bought a Jeep Wrangler. It had all of  7 miles on the odometer when I drove it off the lot. Then I met mehusbandy and were were married. Not long after the big event he undertook to build my “Little Jeep” into a rock crawling machine. Needless to say I was overjoyed. For many years growing the jeep was our hobby, it got bigger tires, stronger axles, better gears, more even bigger tires, lift kits, short shaft kits, K&N filters, Borla exhaust manifold with catback exhaust. . .ahh but I could go on and on and this is a dog training blog not a rock crawling one. And as we grew the Little Jeep we climbed bigger rocks, and harder trails and generally “a good time was had by all.” (sorry another cliché-two in one story what is the matter w/ me?)

Sadly we must sell the Not-So-Little-Jeep. Thus as  this is the is the end the “Little Jeep” era of our lives tonight the Jeep officially went up for sale. In case any of you dog-folk out there reading are also Jeep-folk like us and would like to see the add we posted feel free to message me and I’ll send you the link.

So in memoriam here are a couple of shots of the fun we had.

I guess I will just have to continue on in the 4 legged lessons era of my life, and in the spirit of that I promise next time to have some actual training information for you!LOL

Mugged By A Herd Of Small Children

We went for a walk this evening. In 25 minutes we made it four houses away.

Not an auspicious start to our “walk X number of miles in 30 days plan.” It’s X number of miles because I haven’t got that far in the plan yet to decide how many miles we’ll do.lol Apparently our walking log will look like: Day 1: 400′

Oh well, it was all for a good 4 legged lesson.

So what happened four houses down? We were mugged by herd of children! No, don’t be alarmed no one was injured or too permanently traumatized, they were a very nice herd of children. It started with two, then another little girl came out with her mom. That was interesting because the mom says to me, “Can she pet your dog with out getting her face chewed off?” By that point the first two kids were giving the girls treats and pets so I ‘m thinking, “I hope so or these two little kids are in some serious trouble!”

Slowly three more little kids trickled out and joined the party. So here is me, Meeka, Maizey and FIVE kids all kneeling down on the side walk. Did I mention I don’t have any kids? Yeah, me:no kids. I find when I’m by myself kids really aren’t interested in me, apparently I’m pretty boring. But me and my girls? Now that’s quality kid entertainment!

It went like this: us walking, Meeka perfect loose leash, Maizey on her new harness being a maniac because we are walking toward a scruffy black dog in a fence. Here comes two little kids, running, of course! I see them, I stop, put Meeka in a sit-stay and the kids of course run right up into the girls space, waving their hands and shouting, “Can we pet your dogs? Can we pet your dogs?”

Now here’s is where it get’s interesting. Maizey is still boinging  around and shouting at the scruffy black dog, the scruffy black dog is boinging around and shouting back, the kids are boinging around and shouting at me, Meeka is sitting, but wiggling, a lot. Cute girl.

I answer the kids, “You can pet them, but you all have to be nice.” I don’t think they realized I meant them and the dogs.lol So I told them to ball up their fists, hold them out and put them under the girls noses, then they could pet under their chins. I had to keep reminding Meeka to sit, but she would. Meanwhile. . . Maizey continues her crazy act.(sigh)

So I told the kids to back up two big steps, think “Mother-May-I-” in reverse. It worked! The kids backed up and then I told them to stand still (is that a stand-stay for kids?) and I backed up until Maizey was under threshold and could sit and do a glance “watch”. Then I told the kids to come forward very slowly. I kept cuing the girls to sit and marking it w/ a yes/treat. Soon enough the kids were giving the girls the treats and, thank goodness, everyone was a LOT calmer.

By this time the other kids had trickled in so I asked every one to squat down and we played a crazy game of “hand zen”. Picture the girls in a sit, and 5 little hands held out palm up just out reach above their heads. I place one treat in each little palm and tell them to immediately close their hand. Then I had them sit still with hands closed and when the girls sat and were calm, not nosing towards the treats, one of the little kids would open their hand and the girls could take the treat. If things started getting too wild (of course they were wild! Five kids, two dogs and a me is not a recipe for calm!lol) but if they started getting too wild I just told every one to close their hand and cued a “leave it” to my girls. They did so good! And they had a blast.

Then the kids wanted to see some tricks so I put Maizey on a sit in the grass and showed them Meeka’s wave, and hand shake. That really got them going because then they all wanted to “shake her hand.” So I told them to all get in a single-file line and one at a time they came up and put out their hand for a Meeka hand shake and gave her a treat. It was adorable. Meanwhile I was able to keep working Maizey on being calm and maintaining her sit-stay. The kids kept saying, “Can Maizey do tricks?” Little did they know she was learning the hardest trick of all-self control!

All in all we didn’t get our walk, but their truly was too many great 4 legged lessons to list. For the pups and kids!


Airplanes Beware! This Rotti’s Gonna Getcha!

So we deal quite a lot w/ the prejudice that is so often directed towards Rotti’s. I admit it often hurts my feelings for my big girl when someone crosses the street to avoid her. (Yes I know I’m quite silly since it doesn’t hurt her feelings.) The cynic in me wants to shout, “You don’t have to toss yourself into traffic! She’s not going to go crazy and chew your leg off!!” I never have, but you never know. . .lol

It is particularly funny to me since there is only one thing she is protective of, in a sense anyway. She is the best guard dog when it comes to chasing off airplanes. Yes, airplanes, and not low flying little planes but the big time jets that we can barely see. It is very funny to see her placidly laying in the front yard scanning, not the street, not the crazy dogs next door, not the kids on their bikes, but always the sky! Then she will explode barking, jump up and race around the back yard, and to the back of the house as she faithfully chases those vicious, dangerous airplanes out of her space. She is very diligent about it’s and a good thing cause what if those crazy jets just decided to stay in her space?  I truly fear for the life of the airplanes!

The first time this quirk manifested itself we were in the car traveling across Nevada, we thought she was a asleep in the back seat when she explodes barking her “big dog” bark. I hollered and mehusbandy just about swerved off the road we were so surprised! Then what do I see when I whirl around? 80 pounds of Rottweiler trying to climb out the back window of our car to get to the jet way high up in the sky. Oh funny funny girl!

So, the four legged lesson? Beware of airplanes they are dangerous and unpredictable creatures!

“don’t worry mom I’m on the lookout”
“Oh-Oh I see the enemy!”
“I’ll get it! I’ll get it!”
“YUM! Now that was a good airplane!”

Lumpers V. Splitters

In clicker training, particularly in shaping there is a concept called “lumping” and “splitting”. I think most humans by habit are lumpers. I know I am.

Lumping is a term in clicker training that refers too asking for a complete finished behavior before your dog knows how to do that behavior.

So it goes like this: we want to teach a dog to lay down. We tell the dog, very earnestly and lovingly, “Down!” Pup looks at us and is thinking, “I know you want me to do something Mom, but what is it?” While they are thinking they stand there patiently waiting for more information, for a better explanation. Which to us looks “stubborn” when really we just haven’t given enough explanation.

Meanwhile as they stand there thinking, we as humans stand there thinking impatiently, “Why won’t this dog lay down? I have told her 25 times and she won’t lay down!” Come on admit it, we’ve all been there.lol

Enter the beauty of splitting. Splitting is exactly what it sounds like. You picture the finished behavior and split it into many smaller behaviors. And with the right timing of the clicker you are able to reward any behavior in the right direction to the finished behavior you want. This is a wonderfully fun way to teach something because, really, who doesn’t like to get paid for being successful? We all do, and so do our dogs.

As an example in L2 Tricks it states: Dog performs a trick of the partners choice. It may be very simple. L3 Tricks is much the same, but it has to be a shaped trick. So I chose to start shaping Maizey to ring a bell that sits on the floor.

Now think of this in lumping. I imagine it would go something like this, “Maizey here’s a bell ring it!” At which point she looks at me as if I’m nuts and offers me 5 things she already knows all of which have nothing to do with ringing the bell.

But picture this w/ splitting, there are plethora of behaviors she can offer me that are in the right direction of actually ringing the bell. She looks at this strange shiny thing, click/treat!(c/t) she walks closer to it one step c/t! Two steps c/t! Sniffs it c/t! nudges it w/ her nose (can you hear me cheering?) c/t! and so on until she accidentally hits the little button and “DING!” c/t! and a huge cheer from me! She is excited and I am excited, I mean just look at all the things she did right! Do I care that the actual ringing of the bell was an accident? NOT AT ALL! It gave me the chance to reinforce the final behavior I want and then in the next session I can just go back to splitting. Gradually you can ask for more behaviors in the right direction before you c/t. But in the beginning if is important to have a high rate of reinforcement to encourage the dog to keep offering behaviors.

Here are two video’s that show her third session.

You can notice in this clip we end on a successful “ding” of the bell.

Obviously I’m not a pro at this (yet;)) but hopefully this shows the basic concept. And please forgive the goofy ‘dog talk’ and probably just get used to it. The more enthusiastic I sound the more enthusiastic she is.


Cats have 4 legs too

Obviously most of what I write is geared toward lessons from our K9 four legged friends. But felines have four legs too ya know. I have two, cats that is. . .well and legs too, thank goodness! But back to the cats. I have two, both rescue kitties and complete opposites.

We have Edie, the scaredy cat and Nellie, the meanest cat alive. Ironically Nellie came home with me at four weeks old to be my ‘cuddly kitten.’ That lasted about 3 days before her true personality came out. The first time she went to the vet for shots he came in and said, “have you ever had a tortoiseshell cat before?”

“No.” I innocently and ignorantly responded.

“You might find she can be slightly moody.” he replied, with I’m sure no malice intended. Can anyone say: understatement of the year? I can!

This ‘cuddly kitten’ quickly ceased to be called Nellie and is most often referred to simply as, “Mean” or if we feel charitable, “The Mean.” It’s not intended to be malicious we just tend to call things as they are around here.

So now to the point, for all her quirks she is quite simply the smartest cat I’ve ever known. Not that  I don’t think cats are smart, sometimes I think their intelligence quota outranks some humans I’ve known. Really I think she spends so much time with the dogs that she thinks she is a dog, just a far superior one of course!

Why do I think that? Well, we have bells on the back door that the dogs ring when they need to go out. The dogs and ‘The Mean’ that is. I never knew cats could learn stuff like that. I’m not one of those cool people who has ever trained a cat before although I know a lot of cool people who clicker train cats I just never have. And I think I would be seriously taking my life in my hands if I tried to interact too much with her. We have developed a ‘don’t mess with me and I won’t claw your eyes out while you sleep’ pact. But evidently she doesn’t need me to train her cause she’s got that covered all on her own.

Thus the bell ringing trick, which admittedly I think is pretty cool even if she does still hate me.

And now: “The Mean”