An Interesting Day of 4Legged Lessons

Magnus and I failed the CGC today.

As a trainer that’s one of those sentences I may be sorry for writing later. As a dog mom and a writer I feel no shame about it. I learned something more valuable to me than a set of letters after my dogs name.

We arrived for the test and the neutral dog that was there is one that Magnus just loves. I have no idea why, but he just goes crazy with excitement for that dog. I immediately thought he will never do Test 8: Reaction to another dog with that dog. Perhaps that’s a trainer fail on my part, since according to the test he should, “show no more than casual interest in [the other dog]. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.” Technically it shouldn’t matter who the dog is, so mark that one down for more practice and as a lesson learned. That was not the main problem though.

Our downfall was stress. I wasn’t stressed when we got there, but due to the way the test worked out we didn’t have a chance to get settled before we did the parallel walk past the other dog and start the rest of our test. It was a bit of a sink or swim with no warm up and we sank.

After the first dismal pass of the other dog he started stress sniffing. I have never had a dog that expressed stress that way like Magnus does. This is so totally the opposite of how Maizey tells me she’s stressed that I haven’t ever learned how to deal with it. That’s my second lesson: learn how to help a dog that disconnects when stressed.

After blowing the pass another dog part of the test we went out the the room to wait our turn for the rest of the test. I knew he was stressed and we tried to jolly out of it, played a few little recalls and took some sniffing time, but then it was our turn. Even though it didn’t go good I’m proud of my choices from here on out.

Based on his performance in passing the other dog I figured we had already failed so I told our trainer if that was the case I didn’t want to test with him stressed. She said if he passed the rest of the test she wouldn’t fail him so we got started. He did fine for Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger and Test 2: Sitting politely for petting, but even at his best my boy does not like to be groomed and the next test item is, Test 3: Appearance and grooming. According to the test, “The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot.” He accepted the brushing, but when it came time for his ears he was having none of that and backed right up out of reach. That’s a fail. Since it’s the brush he’s had the most trouble with we practiced the most on that and slacked on the ears. Lesson number three for me: Practice it all, practice more and more thoroughly.

At that point since we’d already failed she offered to work with us on a few things, but I declined and that’s where the most important 4legged lesson of the day came into play. I just wanted to take the pressure off of him. If it’s not something that’s a quality of life issue or a life or death skill, like a recall, the most important thing to me is listening to my dog, not if he performs or not. If I was to do it again I would advocate for him at that first stress sniff. I would speak up and say, he’s stressed and we need to regroup. If that failed us, so be it. I listened when my boy spoke and next time I’ll advocate for him even better and that’s what makes me proud of us.

I’m not discounting the value of the CGC or any other title, but there are no letters after our names that matter more to me than building our relationship. I listened to my dog tonight. There are so many human expectations I could have succumbed to. I’m a dog trainer by profession. Now I’m a dog trainer whose dog failed the CGC. That’s reflection on me, not him. Trust me I feel the pressure of that. I could easily have let that push me to push Magnus to continue the test for my ego. But I didn’t. I also didn’t succumb to the pressure of wanting to please our trainer, who by the way, happens to be my boss. I want to do a good job of course, I want to be worthy of being a trainer there and I want the respect of my boss, so all of that could have crowded in my mind when I saw him start shutting down. Now I have to go back to work on Monday and face all the people I work with who actually know what the CGC is and understand what it means to fail. I’m not immune to those thoughts and pressures, but I’m proud to say in the moment I didn’t think of those things. I thought of Magnus. I listened to him and I hope I conveyed to him it’s okay to get stressed out. Now my lesson is just to learn how to help him work through his stress and find success in a new way. That’s a 4legged lesson learned that I know will make me a much better trainer and mom.

So while I guess I should be feeling a sense of failure, I don’t. Which if you know me is ironic, but I’ll take it as a sign of growth. What I feel is that we learned a lot, have a good plan of action to improve and at the end of the day the title that matters most to me is one that Magnus has mastered: that of Master Toe Warmer and Mom Snuggler!


My Favorite Training

The value of planned training sessions can not be underestimated. But these are rarely my favorite training sessions.

My favorite sessions are the ones like tonight with Magnus. He went to my human class with me for an hour and half. Even that’s some good training. Tonight I used a piece of paper for him to park it on since I didn’t take a mat. He has to greet people without jumping. He has to be quiet and settle while I listen. He gets plenty of leave it practice since there are usually drinks and purses and what not on the floor by people’s chairs. All in all it’s good practice, but no fun for him at all.

Since he was such a good boy and it was too dark to be safe for a walk we went to our little park. We ducked into the park to play fetch and have a quick run, but it turned into a great training session!

We’ve been working on his stays. He’s doing really well, but we still don’t have much duration. We’ve worked more on distance since he needs to have a 20′ stay for the CGC. The stay was pretty much the last thing we needed to get solid and now I think we’re pretty much ready to test the CGC.

I keep getting off the subject. . . back to tonight. We were just playing fetch and goofing off, but I thought I’d see if I could proof his stay with a toy. He does a really good job of sitting and waiting before I throw his toy, so I started really easy with putting him on a sit-stay and set the toy right in front of him then released him with an “okay, get it!” He broke the first time, but after that we kept working the duration of how long he sat and how far and enthusiastically I tossed it. By the time we left he was doing really well.

It’s not like that’s all that impressive, but it reminded me how much I love our impromptu and real life lessons. I tend to get bogged down in the details and neither of us has as much fun. When I keep it light and playful he really does better. He’s always needed shorter sessions than Maizey and tonight reminded me of how much he needs to play to stay in the game.

Granted I’m not looking for obedience level precision, but I still think I have pretty high standards. I get a lot better work out of him when he doesn’t think we’re working. Plus we both just have a lot more fun!

So what about you? What kind of training do you find best for you and your 4legged friend? Do you use more formal sessions or do you enjoy informal training?

For me tonight’s 4legged lesson is: Keep it fun! Training happens all the time and for my boy the more fun the more learning he does. It’s a lesson I suspect applies to all of us!


Magnus is an AKC S.T.A.R. and Maizey Will Soon Be a Petite Pal

I always read these succinct, short, to the point blogs that are so easy to get the news you want without wading through extraneous fluff you really don’t care about.

Then I read mine. . .

So, I am going to endeavor to keep this short, which should be difficult since I haven’t kept up on the news around here lately.

I promise to do my best.

Monday, February 28, 2011 Magnus took and passed his AKC S.T.A.R. puppy test! Enter a proud Crazymomlady moment when his instructor said, “He’s almost ready for his CGC.”

Now that he is officially a S.T.A.R. and my life is trying to resume some sort of normalcy (whatever that is) he’s starting back to Agility For Fun class. On March 24th we will join one of our favorite instructors, Astrid, for the last 4 classes which we missed due to “real life” getting in our way the first time.

Since the instructors at Calling All Dogs are so wonderful they have agreed to help me work Maizey through the Petite Pals class there on Saturdays. She starts on March 12th.

Yes, this means I am officially insane, as both dogs will be in different classes on different days. Something I swore I would never do. However my Notsocrazymomlady is taking Chloe to that class and when Nicole heard the progress Maizey is making both she and Michelle, the instructor of Petite Pals felt it was worth a try to see how my Princess Of The Shrill Bark would handle it.

I will take it week by week and have their assurance they will help me monitor her stress levels and if it’s not a fit for her we will adjust accordingly.

In Steps to Success news Maizey has completed 38 of the L2 steps. Magnus is close behind with 29 steps complete. With our weeks filled up with classes we will be taking a bit of a hiatus from the levels until Sue releases the new book. (Which we are hoping and praying and wishing and begging will be soon!)

There! How did I do? Succinct enough? Oh wait. . . I forgot to update about Maizey’s persistent Blepharitis, Corneal Dystrophy and Distichiasis. Then there’s the Walking Challenge, my new obsession with making leather leashes and the perfect treat bags.

I can’t forget to at least mention the great honor Magnus had of being named one of the naughtiest dogs at Embee Cavaliers! A great thanks to Mary Beth for including him!

Most important of all I need to come up with a registered name for Magnus’ AKC PAL#!

Goodness, this being succinct thing is hard. Oh well, I guess I will have to get caught up on a night when it’s not already 12:15a.m.

In the mean time why don’t you help me out by coming up with a clever AKC registered name which includes the words: Magnus, Magnificent, and Moments. Who knows one of you could have the honor of giving Magnus The AKC S.T.A.R. his registered name!

(Don’t worry if you’re drawing a blank my next post is about the confusing world of AKC Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege and should make you all as confused as I am!)

Okay, Okay, I wasn’t short and to the point at all, again. All I can do is beg your mercy and hope you’ll keep putting up with my long windedness since I value your input so much!


Walking Challenges, Plans, Contrivances and A Purpose

One time I heard an illustration about the difference between a plan and a purpose. For the purpose of dog training it would look like this:

Your purpose is to have a well mannered, well rounded, skilled pup. Your plan to do so is to train that dog the necessary amount to pass her CGC and be able to perform the skills for Rally Obedience.

But on the road to your purpose there are a lot of “road blocks”. Reactivity rears its reactive head, other 4legged friends get Degenerative Myelopathy and require much more daily care, your pathetic 2legged body just doesn’t cooperate (ok thats a wimpy road block, but honest), real life just does get in the way of your plan.

Here is the superiority of having a purpose. A purpose is not so rigid that you can’t take a different route, bypass the road blocks and move on towards your ultimate goals.

A plan get derailed by the roadblock, not having a contingency plan to keep the purpose in focus the whole plan is derailed and failure looms! (Dramatic thunder and lightening booms here.)

I have a purpose so I do not feel failure loom, but I take a lot of refocusing to stay on the road to my ultimate goal of a well rounded, well mannered Maizey. It seems to take many adjustment in my plans that allows for contingencies.

It was only on August 11 that I did the last of these get organized and giddyup posts. Time for a new one, sorry! Maybe I should just make this a regular monthly feature to give forewarning to everyone!

Since this is the month of the walking challenge the plan is to work the rally skills we both know the basics of into our walks.

For an easy example, HALT: Handler stops, dog sits in heel position team heals forward. Should be pretty simple as we stop for each road crossing and can do random halts in any walk. Simple enough!

Another example, HALT DOWN: Handler stops, dog sits in heel position, then downs from sit. Team heels forward from down. Same application of above and all skills she knows well.

Okay, for the enactment of this plan I think I am going to need more flash cards! The same way I keep the TL’s skills for that session on a carabiner to my belt I can choose a couple Rally skills for that day/walk and put them with the TL’s ones. Ahh. . . now the plans are flowing.

For the CGC skills I want to focus on: obviously we will meet plenty of strangers walking so Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger, can continue as aforementioned, with the addition of some increasing distraction level by walking past the elementary school near here, she LOVES kids! This also works nicely for Test 2: Sitting politely for petting and obviously for Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead) also for Test 5: Walking through a crowd.

Again I can see the usefulness of more flash cards for this too. YAY! (I do love flash cards you know!)

Also this month I would like to work on Test 10: Supervised separation as the trouble spot to focus on. Having this nailed down more would have made our trip much easier on both of us. . . but that is its own post in itself!

Of course we will continue to work on Ricky’s Training Challenge, and finishing up our last 5 L2 skills:
distance, stand, stand-stay, target, trick.

So in conclusion I have a good purpose, which is what keeps me going and a lot of plans and contrivances. Perhaps a month in review may be in line here too! Goodness its, plans, contrivances and purposes, Oh my!

"Do you think she is biting off more than I can chew? Good thing I'm such a snarf hog!"


Training Challenge Week 4: CGC Prep: 2legged Greetings

As stated in the last challenge we posted for there were two areas of CGC prep that will be challenging for Maizey: Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger and Test 10: Supervised separation.

On our trip there was plenty of chances to work on both but for this weeks training challenge I thought I could show you some of the progress made in Accepting a friendly stranger.

Ahhh. . . this greeting a friendly stranger thing is nice!"

Technically for the CGC Maizey will need to sit and ignore a stranger that is friendly to me. I felt this was going to be too big of a lump for her to train all at once so we started with helping her develop more manners and self control when people greeted her.

I felt this especially important for in our real world interactions people generally bypass me and head straight to her, making it important she knows how to respond appropriately. I can’t say I really blame them, I mean who am I compared to her glory?

It was suggested that since she has such a good leave it that I apply that to help her not greet people that may not want greeted. (A totally foreign idea to my little social butterfly!) I started this when it would be easiest to help her succeed, while we were walking past people. It worked well, as I could keep her moving and use natural rewards of a destination along with treat rewards.

I also worked hard to be assertive in talking to people that wanted to greet her. Maybe I am so used to people crossing the street to avoid greeting my Meeka that the liberty people take to greet Maizey never ceases to amaze me. I mean I can understand people wanting to greet her pretty princess face, but the way people swoop in over her with their high squeaky voices to grab her long ears makes me want to jump on them!

So before we left I scripted some brief sentences I could use to direct the 2legged members of the meetings in more appropriate behavior. I tried to use language that helped them feel like they would be doing her a favor and not me, since it is her they love so much.

“Ooohh your dog is so cute!!”

To which I respond with a simple, “Thank you, she really likes to be petted under her chin.”

But the most successful was a simple, “Thanks! She is practicing for a test to help her be a good girl so could you please pet her only when she is sitting?”

Obviously we all know 4legged members of our environment often prove themselves easier to train then the 2legged ones so this wasn’t always successful, but it was good practice for me and I think my assertiveness helped Maizey feel more confident that I had things handled.

You can tell in the pictures she is not always sitting, but she is learning self control. I also tried to adjust the the criteria to the circumstances so if it was a high distraction situation I lowered the criteria from sitting to just keeping all four feet on the ground.

While still need to practice in a formal CGC Test type setting I am happy with the lessons we bothed learned and confident we will be able to practice enough to pass that area of her CGC, eventually.

"Sitting isn't as much fun as smothering you, but thanks for petting me anyways!"

DATE and TIME: August
LOCATION: South Dakota
SKILLS TRAINED: Sit for greetings from 2legged friends and strangers, sweet solitude
SUMMARY: While still need to test in a formal CGC Test #1 setting, using a “leave it” to prevent greetings altogether and assertive direction on how to greet her to the people involved we saw good improvement. Her supervised separation may prove more challenging. Left her with mom several times, will bark if she can see me. Left her in trailer, and on long line all supervised by family. Does settle eventually. Big test was day took mehusbandy and meeka to city to go home, was gone from 8:00am-3:00pm. She did good. Went on walk, had two reactive episodes, but was calm on my return, not stressed and happy to see me.


Training Challenge Week 2: Meeka’s Challenge and CGC is Hard For Social Butterflies

Meeka joins our challenge this week with “first time in a seat belt harness” substituting for something out of her comfort zone.

"Check me out, I'm wearin' read!"

Mehusbandy was wondering what Meeka was doing for Ricky’s Training Challenge. I told him Meeka didn’t really qualify for this challenge because there really isn’t anything our of her comfort zone! She is my solid, stable girl. Her 4legged lesson to me is always:

"be comfortable in your skin crazymomlady and don't worry!"

I always think of the CGC (Canine Good Citizenship) and in my naivety I think, “oh, she (whichever girl) could do that. . . or that. . . or. . .” well you get the idea. And Meeka could, no doubt about it. But when I started breaking it down I was surprised how many things there were that Maizey would find challenging.

I feel strongly that a dog who passes the CGC should really be able to pass with flying colors. There is nothing worse that a pup, or a child, or an adult, that says they qualify for something but end up being not such a shining example.

So with Maizey I really want her to be solid with the skills. Obviously Test 8: Reaction to another dog is not passable at this stage but I decided I was focusing too much on that as a problem area. While I don’t think that was really affecting Maizey negatively,it was affecting my motivation negatively.

So I decided to keeping doing what we are doing with reactivity and refocus on ALL her skills. Out of the ten items on the CGC test I see only two others that may pose a significant challenge. One is Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger and the other is Test 10: Supervised separation.

With test item 1 the problem is that she is too accepting of friendly strangers. She pretty much thinks every human in the world wants smothered by Maizey ‘face hugs’. Since she is too little to reach their face she settles with jumping all over them. Not that we allow this, but she thinks we fixed her knees to restore her position as resident spring of our house.

The CGC test rules state: “The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog . . . must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.” So meet and greets of the 2legged variety has moved to the top of the Maizey Lessons Priority list.

(Due to the sheer volume of her challenges this post has been split for easier management by all readers. So do you need a break before learning how many 2legged friends Maizey smothered on CGC Prep Training Challenge? Take a breather and then dive in to see if any survived!)


Training Challenge Week 2: My Social Butterflies’ CGC Prep

With that we meet the core of our Training Challenge for week. Since “real life” made my big plans to go to the farmers market unfeasible, I planned my “real life” tasks so I could take Maizey with me every where I went on Friday afternoon.

That meant she went into the local farm/ranch supply store for Bullies, and to a clothes store where she rode in the cart while her crazymomlady spent 45 minutes shopping for a new Dog Duffle for the trip. She also practiced waiting in the parking lot of the post office (no dogs allowed in there). As an aside mehusbandy gets double props and many thanks for meeting me there and sitting with her since it was too hot to just leave her in the car.

It’s always amazing to me how much training we do on these little jaunts out. To illustrate how many opportunities there are for challenging things I tried to see things from her viewpoint. Take CalRanch for example: getting out of the car means sit nicely for seat belt undone, sit and wait for okay to exit the car door (both fit into our Day to Day skills for boundary Zen), LLW into the store included 2 cars and a family of three walking past, a man coming past her with a cart, bails of hay and manure (even I could smell them!) Inside the store is a whole new set of challenges: At the counter she had to sit and down while I exchanged something. In total there were 3 younger women and 2 older women with their husbands who wanted to greet her (perfect for CGC#1), At this point we met a lab and a tiny dog of unknown origins (more to come on that later), then walking back to the dog section there were toys, a rocking chair, too many people to count and finally the park it next to the bully’s. (LLW, ZEN and CGC 1) And that list doesn’t even count the skills used while paying and leaving.

As for the clothes store that presented its own set of training opportunities. But let me just sum it up with the 4 year old in the cart that was hollering, “I wanna pet the puppy!! I wanna pet the puppy! Can I pet your puppy!?!” Now for some pups that may not have been a challenge, but Maizey LOVES kids. Must be cause their faces are more convenient for face hug smothering.

So for her the little kids were the biggest challenge. She knows she must be quiet in the stores with carts. (Could a shopping cart be a contextual clue?) And she was perfect, but when we saw the little kids she would wine very quietly as if she “just can’t stand it! There is a little 2legged friend crazymomlady!” (Which again fits into our CGC prep #1.)

"Seriously, who would not want to be smothered by this face?"

I am very proud of my little social butterfly. She did very well on what was actually a lot challenging stuff. It made me more determined than ever to keep helping her and who knows maybe she will learn that some 2legged friends are okay with not being smothered in Cavalier ears!

Next weeks Training Challenge: Week 3-who knows what we will come up with in the vastness of the Back Hills!

DATE and TIME: August 12, 2010 afternoon
LOCATION: CalRanch, Post Office Parking Lot and clothes store
SKILLS TRAINED: sit for meet and greet-#1 CGC; LLW; On the Road L3 tests: L1sit, down, target and zen, Two dog reacting: used holding her with stop it cue
SUMMARY: Sliding doors make a stunning distraction and blow LLW out of the water. USE DOORS AS DISTRACTION FOR L3 LLW. In CalRanch one lab and one little scrappy dog on leash came around corner of check stand. I picked her up, she reacted but ??on fear amount. I held her and did muzzle hold. She barked at them, but quieted. ??on effectiveness of holding her, but was easier in that pinch. Passed L1 sit, down, zen and target (L3 OTR) in post office parking lot. Post office also fit the bill for CGC #8 and our “solitude is sweet” daily task. was in clothes store for 40min. she ride in cart. Did perfect. Loves Kids, high on distraction scale.