Steps To Success Level One Complete!

It’s official! Both Maizey and Magnus passed level one in the new Steps to Success!

For Maizey L1 was a matter of testing behaviors she already knew. She got stuck on Sit, step 4 “dog sits by open door.” After a bit of work on that she finished her last test on January 14.

Magnus completed his last test on January 16. “Dog sits by open door” was no issue for him since he thinks it’s too cold to go outside anyways, so sitting by the door and getting paid for it was a great deal to him.

The Issue of Testing
Which brings me to one thing that has held me up in the levels before: the dreaded testing!

One time in Junior High I got a B on my report card. I don’t remember what class, I don’t remember why. What I remember is being devastated. That B may as well have been an F. I was a perfectionist about my grades, among other things, back then. All or nothing thinking seems to run deep in many of us.

Although I have shed many of my perfectionistic ways, when it comes to testing in the S2S I get hung up.

To pass the test the dog must perform the skill correctly one time on a day when you haven’t trained. Seems simple enough, but somehow the test skill never goes A+ worthy to me. This is B may as well be an F syndrome at it’s best. I can’t count how many times I probably could have passed one of the pups on a skill, but didn’t.

Once I stopped being a perfectionist about it I realized I was being cautious to the detriment of their progress. The S2S are progressive so a dog does need to have a skill solid, but they also reinforce the previous behaviors while building on them.

Make a note: progress comes from moving forward, not standing still.

For those of you who do the levels, how do you handle testing? Do you test only one step of one skill on a single day? Do you test several steps to a single skill at once?

Moving Forward
We have started L2 and are looking forward to a few months of L2 work for Magnus. For Maizey it is more a matter of testing and filming many of the skills.

Looking back I realized I started this blog as a training blog and now it’s hardly ever about training.

I guess that’s because when I started I thought I knew a little and now I realize how little I know!

One consistent lesson in my life has been the older I get the more I realize I have to learn. So it has come about that my training blog has turned into a forum for my learning from all of you, and I hope somewhere along the way perhaps you learn something from my 4legged friends.

With the completion of the new S2S book on the horizon, I hope to make some real progress in the next few months, so I will be doing more posts on the levels. This will mean more posts on getting back to the basics. I hope it wont be too basic and boring for many of you who are much more experienced than I, but maybe our progress will inspire other newbies to pick up a clicker and get learning with their 4legged friends!

A Word To My Pups
I have include a short gush of proud Crazymomlady. My favorite part of running through L1 was how much my pups love to work. Their joy is contagious, and their love of learning inspiring.

Level two here we come!

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Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Too Many Teeth

"He is having HOW many teeth pulled today? OUCH!" "What did you say sisser? I am having WHAT ouchy thing done?!?"

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My Maizey’s Story

Maizey was the culmination of a dream.

"I'm two years old today!"

I don’t remember the first time I knew about Cavaliers. They are fairly rare here, even more so several years ago when I started needing one.

The first time I saw a saw a Cavalier in real life was in Poland in 2006. He was a black and tan beauty and I knew I was in love.

It wasn’t until our tenth wedding anniversary, in September 2009, after years of researching, reading and begging Mehusbandy that he finally said the words that made my heart sing, “Okay, if it means that much to you I think you should start looking.”

Good thing he didn’t know how many breeders I had been researching for three years!

First night home.

Maizey Comes Home
On March 14, 2009 I brought my dream girl home.

I won’t go into the issue of breeders here, but suffice it to say I knew I would have to go out of state to find a good one. But of course in my dreaming I kept an eye on local breeders.

So it was that we made the cardinal mistake of all puppy dreamers. We went to see a litter, “just to look.”

It was a somewhat justified idea (read excuse here) since it made sense to meet some of these little dreams in person. Remember, at that point I had only met one Cavalier in my life, and he was a brief encounter on the street for a quick snuggle. My love was based on mere research at that point. I wanted some real life experience.

I thought I would be okay. I thought I was determined. I thought I was strong enough to just “go look.” I thought wrong.

She is exactly what I wanted.

I knew exactly what I wanted: an 8-10 week, tri-color female. People oriented, brave, from good lines. I would settle for nothing less. There was much I didn’t know that I should have about choosing a puppy, but we all start somewhere.

In the litter there were two tri females. They were around 11 weeks old and couldn’t have been less insterested in us if we were dust on the floor. They were not the girls for me. But as we met the dogs we kept visiting with the breeder.

(In the interest of full disclosure I will say this breeder was not a pond scum bottom feeder on the scale of breeders, but I will never return to her. Still, I knew she didn’t fit all my criteria for breeders and it was my choice to compromise my standards. I can’t say I am sorry except in a principled way. In reality my Maymay is my Maymay and even when given the chance to give her back I didn’t.)

Since the two puppies we had come to see were not the fit for us, she finally she said she did have another puppy she had been holding that we could meet.

"Are you my Crazymomlady?"

She went in the back and came around the corner carrying a gorgeous, nine week old tri-female. She set her down and I experienced my first time of being ‘slammed’ by the typical Cavalier friendliness. This sweet little girl ran straight into my lap and hardly left.

She was playful, but still wanted cuddled. She instantly loved Mehusbandy and though she liked the other puppies she wasn’t scared of them at all. They seemed to think she was some kind of wicked step-sister or something and pretty much ignored her, but she just came right back to us for more snuggles.

By that afternoon she was home with us. Meeka and Little Man were welcoming her and our family had grown by one adorable snuggle bug.

"My big sisser Meeka couldn't resist me!

Meeka’s attitude was tolerant, not playful. She was very careful around the new baby. As Mehusbandy put it she seemed to be saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but I only play with humans.” Still, in time they became good zooming buddies and sisters.

She immediately wanted to play with Meeka, which was a comical and hair raising event all at once. With maizey weighing in at barely four pounds our Big Girl outweighed her by at least 80 pounds!

It was clear from that day on she had my heart and now two years later she still does.

Two Exciting Years Later
As she turns two years old this month I am reflecting on how much we have already been through together.

As a friend recently put it, ”She has had a dramatic life.”

It is so true! From two knee surgeries for luxating patella’s to illnesses, both mine and hers, we have loved and nursed each other through a couple of exciting years. We have travelled together, learned together, watched era’s change together.

Maizey has grown into more than just a friend. She has appointed herself my therapy dog. My nom de plume isn’t Crazymomlady for nothing, I have my ups and downs and she knows them better than anyone else. She’s always there with a hug and a snuggle.

"Seriously, who wouldn't want to be smothered by this face?"

Of course her preferred way of comforting me (or anyone else in distress) is to smother my face in ‘face hugs’. She’s convinced that if she smashes her face against mine, Cavalier ears and all, that it will cure what ails me. And you know what? She isn’t all wrong since it never fails to make me laugh!

Sometimes I worry she takes her self appointed duties too seriously so we make sure there is lots of fun and training in every day.

Maizey is my first straight positive reinforcement/clicker trained dog. As such she has had the unfortunate experience of being the guinea pig to my learning process. In spite of it all she is a master shaper and a dedicated worker. She loves to train and is willing to work for just about anyone as long as they have treats!

But she is teaching me so much more than just training lessons.

My Maizey Lessons
Maizey is teaching me about overcoming fears and learning new ways to see the world.

She is a fearful girl when it come to other dogs, and we have worked hard to help her learn the world is not a big scary place. A lesson that will likely continue our whole lives.

She is teaching me about being observant and intuitive. She pays such close attention to everyone around her. Her sensitivity is one of her greatest assets and one of her greatest challenges.

One of her greatest lessons is eagerness. It’s a beautiful thing to have a dog that is so willing to learn and loves to please, who is friendly and out going and brings a smile to each face she meets.

She is a good example for me and I hope an ambassador for her breed in many ways.

The 4legged lesson? No matter where you came from or where you’re going, each moment with 4legged best friend teaches us something. For me, Maizey teaches me about loving life where you are in that moment. She teaches me how full your heart can be with happiness and love. She teaches me the essence of friendship.

What will she teach me next? I never know. But one thing is for sure, no matter how the journey starts, a life with a 4legged friend is always an adventure!

My Favorite Maizey Posts
Below is a list of some of my favorite Maizey photos, stories and videos.
Sick Puppies Don’t Work For Treats
Milestones Should Always Be Celebrated with a milestones video
On the Road with Four Busy Legs
So Pig in a Blanket is Easier To Say
Not All Cavaliers are Princesses
The The Cocklebur Debacle
Don’t Throw Me in the Deep End of the Lake
Post 100: A Trust Walk
Training Challenge Week 7: A Reactive Maizey Victory
Gratitude For Friendship
Tricky Maizey! Load Up the Suitcase

Moments of Fame
In her two years Maizey has had her moments of online fame and been allowed to share her story with others. A few places you can find her are:
Fearfuldogs Blog
Bark’n About
Resqtails
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel-a-Day

(This post will be have a permanent home on Maizey’s personal page.)

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I Promise We Didn’t Fall Off the Face of the Planet

I feel bad I have been missing in action around here lately. I promise we are all still alive and well. I hope to get caught up around the blogosphere tomorrow.

I have exciting training news, (okay, not that exciting but still news) but really want to save it for it’s own post. Just to peak your curiosity it is Training Levels news at last!

Maizey News
In other day to day goings on Maizey’s eyes seem to be doing okay. She is on an antibiotic and ointment for the eye infection. She has a recheck with the ophthalmologist in two weeks or so, hopefully it is cleared up by then.

In the mean time we have been working on shaping her to take her antibiotic instead of bribing her by slathering it in peanut butter. I feel bad for her having to take something so icky so we are using very high value treats to erase the yucky taste from her memory.

Since she may have a long run of antibiotics or allergy pills ahead of her I thought we would should see if she can learn to take it without the bribing. I would love any suggestions if anyone else has experience with daily pill giving.

Magnus News
In Magnus news, he and I are headed to the vet to find out when he can get his extra set of teeth pulled. I really, really, really did not want him to be put under anesthetic just for baby teeth removal, but it’s pretty obvious they aren’t going to come out on their own before they ruin his bite. So I guess we will up the pet budget this month, bite the bullet and get it done.

2Legged News
In real life news, Meusbandy started a new job. This is good news, but since it’s a completely new line of work if has meant many changes. We are now in a green business of hauling and recycling cardboard!

It has been a time and energy consuming process to for both of us to learn new things, as I will be doing all of the record keeping for us. I forgot how much time even the little things like business licenses, cards, insurances, etc. etc. etc. take to get set up.

Thankfully I think we are coming ’round the bend with that and I will be able to spend more time on what really matters-the dogs! They are feeling very neglected with Crazymomlady and Moneybagsdad working so much. They are used to me having much more time for games than I have this week.

In a last bit of news I am attending a K9 First Aid seminar at CAD’s on Sunday. I am excited to have the opportunity and will report back how it goes.

Walking Challenge News
Until then I would love to hear everyones progress on the Walking Challenge. You are all whooping my busy behind and I want to keep up to date. Plus then I will have that much more motivation to get out there and march!

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Wordless Wednesday: Magnus Thinks Migraines Are No Fun

"Migraines are no fun Crazymomlady. Don't you want to come and play?"

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Cavalier (or Any Other Breed Query): How Do You Walk Two Dogs At Once?

First, a special thanks to all you have joined the 2011 Walking Challenge! Many are off to a banner start, especially those who live in warmer climates than the frigidly cold weather we have been having. (You know who you are and you know I am jealous!) It’s exciting to have so much support.

Thanks to Kathleens’ thoughtful suggestion, I made a badge for us all to post on our sites if you would like to. If you have any suggestions of how to make it better please let me know!

Miss Kodee and Becky passed along this great site to help figure out and track mileage. I have been playing with it and it is super cool. I also have used google maps and google earth, but I think I Map My Walk even better.

Be sure to update me with our progress in a comment in any post, it doesn’t have to be a walking challenge post. Again if you have a good walking story to share feel free to post a link, I will love to read everyone’s adventures!

Query: How To Walk Two Dogs At Once
I’m just full of questions lately! So here’s another Cavalier Query for you:

How do you walk both of your dogs at once?

Now I know there are a lot of rules about loose leash walking and both must be good on leash before they go together and all that jazz. . .

Be reassured both dogs are getting plenty of individual practice. But I really need to be able to walk them together sometimes. Time is short, energy is low, the weather is lousy and I am doing good to get out there at all, let alone twice, or whatever the case may be-I need to be able to walk them both at once sometimes.

So I want the inside scoop here!

What kind of leash do you prefer? Leather? Nylon? Flexi-lead?

How long is your leash? Six feet? Four feet?

Do you use one of those dog couplers that lets you use one leash and have two dogs on the end? (I hesitate to think the kind of chaos that could create when they decide to zoomy around and tug on each others ears!)

I prefer a nice 3/8 to 1/2 inch, six foot leather leash for one pup, but two nice 3/8 to 1/2 inch, six foot leather leashes, each with their own dog on the end is not working well for me either. (Insert sighs and rolling eyes here!)

What about different kinds of walks? When we walk by the river we use a long line for more freedom. I have a pretty good setup with a 15′ long line with  hook on each end, and I hold onto the middle. Keeps tangling down, my hands are free for c/t’s, it can be gathered up for nice walking. It works pretty well, but what better ideas do all you brilliant people have?

And what about taking a nice stroll through the city with two dogs on one sidewalk? You know the quick jaunt around the block? How do you make that as fun and leash tangling free as possible?

Once again I beg and thank you for the benefit of your wisdom. We have 361 miles more to go and need your advice to make it happen!

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Train For This Moment

Yesterday was an interesting day.

Magnus and I went to an agility practice at a big arena where they have a lot of agility and obedience matches. We had friends practicing there so we got to watch and do some fun training of our own.

We worked a lot of the basics and he did fabulous!

But once again for me the 4legged lesson was not one of sits, downs, mat work or beautiful loose leash walking, although all of those things were great.

I know I’m silly. I know I was in a building filled with talented, well trained dogs. Dogs dreaming of and training for world-class competitions. Dogs that know more than my dogs may know in their whole lives.

I know Magnus was not achieving things anywhere near that level, but I was beaming. I wasn’t beaming because he nailed his contacts, or had the fastest weaves. No, I was beaming because while I filmed our friends run, while dogs, people, and even a stroller went past him, he laid peacefully on his mat next to the ring.

I was beaming when he learned the elevator wasn’t a scary place, but instead the little moving room where treats magically appear out of the floor. I was beaming when he ran up that big row of concrete steps that he bee-lined away from the first time he saw them.

And when he went in his crate and took a nap? Oh, glowing with pride is more like it!

I know! I know! I am absurd. I mean here I am surrounded by some of the most talented dogs and handlers in our area, with friends with titled dogs, spent hours and years training, and have dogs with skills mine may never achieve and what am I gushing about?

My dog can take a nap in a crowded place! Miraculous!

I’m rolling my own eyes at myself so go ahead and have a laugh on me.

But having a pup like my Maizey who spends so much time on guard and is so uncomfortable in so many places has taught me the little things really count to me.

Now that’s not to diminish the achievements of anyone else there. That’s not to say I don’t want my dogs to learn those things. But life is teaching me a lesson right now. It’s a lesson I have been long in learning, and am still fighting with in some ways.

The lesson is that this moment is all there is. There are no small victories. There are no small accomplishments. If it is pure and brings you joy in this second that’s all that matters.

Your heart already knows this lesson. The other day my friend told me your heart only, “beats this seconds blood, not one second ago or one second from now.” He was reminding me this second is all your body is living. This moment is all that matters and if you can let go of the past and the future and stay in this moment, we will have achieved what some of our dogs already know.

If you can lay down in a safe place and take a nap, or hang out on a rug and watch the champions, or soon to be champions, it doesn’t matter if you are one yet. If doesn’t matter if you were one once. All that matters is being in a pleasant moment with a friend, no matter how many legs they have.

So I have a new Maizey Promise: I will try to be happy in this moment with you, and I will try to infuse this moment of happiness to you.

I know this is a lot of philosophical mumbo jumbo for a dog blog, but it’s a lesson that is helping me. It’s helping me not get bogged down in the past mistakes. More than that, the lesson to live in this moment is helping me not get overwhelmed by expectations, plans, contrivances and projects, but to train whatever presents itself in that moments opportunity.

The lesson to live in this moment is helping me not get overwhelmed . . . but to train whatever presents itself in that moments opportunity.

Perhaps not a new lesson to most, but a profound one for me in many areas of life.

This is a good thing for me and for my dogs. As an relatively inexperienced trainer my anxiety about what to do and if I am doing it ‘right’ can discourage me from trying at all. Using each moment to teach and learn whatever presents itself is freeing me of that pressure. It just lets me have more fun.

Yesterdays 4legged lesson? Learning is in the moment you use to the full today, not the one you passed up yesterday, or the one you will love tomorrow.

So now we are off to walk in the moment. A cold moment since it’s only 15 degrees, but you all are doing so well in the walking challenge I have to get our there and catch up!

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