What To Do When YOU Are Not “In The Game”

Did you ever have a training session or class where your 4legged friend was working hard, eager, excited, totally in the game and you. . . weren’t?

That was me at tonight’s Agility For Fun class.

I was just not in a place where I should be training new, complex behaviors. Even before I went I knew I was not in a great place, but with a class I always feel like I paid for it and I don’t want to miss the chance to learn.

Of course sometimes when I just don’t feel like training and I get started it’s so much fun I soon find myself forgetting everything else, playing games and having fun.

Unfortunately that was not to be the case tonight.

Okay confession time. . . I was so in my head in the first 5 minutes of class I stepped on Magnus toes twice! Humilating and horrible to say to the least.

The second time I stepped on him he had just come out of the tunnel, I was trying to get him to get into tugging and after that he would not tug the rest of the class. After that I just stopped everything. We went back to our mat and sat and T-touched and snuggled and just tried to reset.

I started with just slowing down. I sat and breathed and got in touch with him and tried to get out of my head a bit. Then I just started letting him play easy games, get on the things, touch, sits, downs, etc. Things I knew he could handle and I could richly reward.

He is such a trooper! After that he threw himself into doing his best and working for me. He still wouldn’t tug and he was really distractible, but honestly I was still not in the game and I wouldn’t have wanted to play with me either.

I know it’s dramatic, but tonight I felt like here I am-a positive trainer who tries to avoid the use of aversives, and at this class I was the aversive.

So what do you when your just not in the right frame of mind and it’s a class, or trial, or something?

At home I would just change gears, do something easier, more fun, or maybe not do any training at all. At a class there is the pressure I put on myself to get the most out of it and I want to know: Is it best to abandon ship and just call it quits for the night? Is there some way you use to change gears in your head and get in the game?

We spend lots of time figuring out how to get our pups in the game and keep them engaged, what about ourselves? Of course I may be the only Crazymomlady who deals with this level of crazy, but any suggestions are welcome.

As for Magnus? He seems to have survived and is now zonked out asleep in his spot at the end of the bed so hopefully no permanent damage was done. Hopefully he wont be burdened by being handlercapped by me too much of the time!


Agility For Fun Class: Magnus Learns To Skateboard

Magnus and I have now had two weeks of Agility For Fun class. We are having a BLAST!

This is the class we started back in December, but then Real Life got in the way and our instructor and CAD’s was were king enough to let us wait to finish the last four weeks when Real Life had calmed down.

Thankfully it has!

The first class we attended was a review of what we learned in December. We did lots of propriaception work with the wobble board, boxes, exercise disks, and my favorite: a skateboard!

Magnus is so brave, nothing scares him and the biggest problem is helping him not be like a bull in a china shop. The point of these exercises is not just to teach a dog to be confident on all kinds of equipment, but to channel his energy and enthusiasm into some control. That may take some work!

Our class last week was jam packed with some review and many new skills. We covered perching on a step stool, rear foot targeting, getting all four feet in a box and again my favorite: skateboarding!

You may be thinking the last time you checked an Outside Boardslide wasn’t part of any agility course you’ve heard of, so why skateboarding in an agility foundations class? I have been amazed how much you can learn about rear foot awareness and handling from teaching a dog to skateboard.

While pushing with his rear feet. As a handler I have to think of treat placement, watch where his front feet are on the board, where his back feet are pushing him and I have a hard enough time keeping track of my own feet!

We are both learning so much, but mostly we have just been having a blast! I am learning so much from the class and can’t wait for next week. Until then we are practicing getting all four feet into a smaller box and rear foot targeting a piece of cardboard.

Interestingly I have been working these same tricks with Maizey and since we have never worked any of this I expected it to be harder for her. Of course I was totally wrong. It took her less than twenty treats to go from the biggest box into the smallest box. Now the only problem is she thinks she’s supposed to sit in it! She just makes me laugh.

I’m reminded again of Sue Ailsby’s training rule: “It’s all tricks, relax.”

Even though this is a serious class with serious lessons to be learned it’s still all tricks and having fun with the skills as tricks has been a good 4legged lesson for me to learn!


Hodge Podge of a Post

There has been a lot of fun around here lately. So much fun I’m giving you the cliff notes version.

Sit stays for CDX (Twist is the Sheltie)

On Friday Magnus and I spent the day at an obedience trial. Of course he wasn’t entered, but it was excellent socialization for him and a great chance to learn self control and patience in his crate around lots of other dogs.

It was an especially exciting day since we got to see our friend Twist earn his CDX. Twist is one of my favorite 4legged friends, he has so much character.

Maizey was not left out of the fun since she spent the day with Chloe and Charley.

Last week Magnus got to have his first take your dog to work day where he learned all about riding in the big truck.

One thing that I was very happy about was how well he handled all the loud noises of the truck. I set his mat on the seat in between us and he just laid there and slept while we drove around. I am going to get him a seat belt harness for next time, since there is no way to take a crate.

In other Magnus news he starts Agility For Fun class on thursday night. I am excited, but also nervous-as usual.

Unfortunately we had a funeral to attend in Saturday so we missed Maizey’s Petite Pals class. Next week we’ll be back on schedule with that.

Maizey’s eyes are better, though I know until I have the $900.00 to do the allergy testing they will continue to have problems. She does have some relief with the meds she is on now, so that will have to be good enough for now.

Marie gave us a new crate that Maizey loves. It’s a soft sided travel crate, but it is super light and the best one I’ve had yet. Maizey  loves it so much that I’ve hardly been able to get her out of it since I set it up! Thanks Marie!

Charley and Chloe are staying with us this week, so Magnus is in heaven. He is in love with Chloe and they play so well together. I figure with all four of them to walk I ought to get in some good miles for the Challenge. If you have suggestions for managing a four dog household I would love to hear them!

Well this is a disjointed crazy post, but I wanted to at least update for myself. Don’t give up on our poor neglected blog, I have a big announcement coming with exciting news so you’ll have to keep coming around for that!


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!


Updates and Other Miscellaneous News

After all of the wonderful encouragement you all gave me in your comments after my string of that kind of days several changes happened. Some I chose, some that were just necessity. So an update seems in order.

Some of you may know I had the exciting privilege to write a guest post for Fearfuldogs Blog. I want to thank Debbie Jacobs for giving me the opportunity to share Maizey’s story on her blog. It is a wonderfully written and informative blog and I was honored to have a share in it. If you haven’t read it before it is well worth a regular read.

In other blog related news I updated our Who We Are page. It took me a while because it meant changing Meeka’s information and I just haven’t been able to face that. But I hadn’t added Magnus and he certainly deserves some explanation! Keep an eye out on that page as I hope to add a page with the story of each of my 4legged friends in the near future.

Many are already following our story using the Google Friend Connect Followers widget. For all you google, blogger and blogspot users I hope this is a good way to keep up with the blog.

Now you can also follow with through Networked Blogs using your Facebook profile. If you have a blog and a are part of Facebook Networked Blogs is a really cool tool to connect with other bloggers. I have thus far stayed off Facebook and Twitter, but am considering adding FB and Twitter like/share buttons. Do you regular readers find that helpful or fun to use those sites in your blogging?

In training news changes are also happening. Due to unexpected scheduling conflicts I had to postpone finishing Magnus’ Agility for Fun class. I am disappointed, but it is the best choice for the whole family right now.

Thankfully Astrid and the other wonderful trainers at Calling All Dogs are going to let us make up our last four classes the next time the class is available. I really want to say a special thanks to all of them, I am so glad we found such a great place, with generous trainers to work with.

In the meantime I am going to refocus on polishing up the new Training Levels. Maizey has completed level one and is mostly done with level two. Magnus will be finishing up level one and starting level two. I hope to do video’s of them both, but with all the “real life” I have going on around here I am not making promises on that one.

Generally our life, like many of yours, is a roller coaster ride, but even roller coasters have their thrills. Especially when it comes to the dogs the thrills keep rolling in, even if I do have to adjust my expectations and plans. So as the next year rolls around it will be fun to see what it brings in ups and downs, to share it with you all, and to read all of your stories of progress.


A String of One of Those Days

Where to start?

As you may have noticed from the conspicuous lack of training posts lately I am in a training slump. Actually when it comes to life I am in a slump.

This is never a good time of year for me, but this year it seems to even be affecting my motivation with the dogs. Being unmotivated to train rarely happens to me, so maybe that’s why it’s unsettling.

It is especially bothersome since Magnus is at a critical stage before and entering the dreaded adolescence and I need to be giving him a better foundation than I am.

We have this wonderful opportunity with his Agility for Fun class, and I just don’t feel like I can get up the energy I need to really give it the attention it deserves. It doesn’t help that due to other obligations we had to miss class last week, thus I already feel behind for tomorrows class.

Between health, weather and all the other “real life” distractions I just can’t seem to get it together. Normally the dogs themselves are enough motivation for me to give myself a swift kick in the behind and get going, but even that doesn’t seem to be helping right now.

But enough of the pity party. What I really want to know is what you all do when you get in a slump. I know that probably never happens to the likes of you loyal, dedicated dog handlers, but if it did what would you do? I read about all the great things you all are accomplishing so I know how brilliant you are-so how do you get yourself motivated?


Agility for Fun: Class two: Relationship

“Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable. They might be a bit out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well.” - Bonnie Wilcox ‘Old Dogs, Old Friends’

After Magnus’ class Thursday night our instructor, Astrid, asked me how it was going and I said, “Umm. . . Good?”

We had a good laugh but of course they wanted to know what my hesitation was. I commented that my working relationship with Magnus was, “Umm. . . young.”

The other CAD’s instructor said, “Yeah, cause he’s young.”

Funny how the smallest comments can have the biggest impact.

First I should clarify that the class is going great. I am learning so much about clicker use and shaping. Our instructor reassured me that we are doing fine, which I appreciated since I was feeling quite overwhelmed by the end of the class.

What Bonnie Wilcox said is true. When your dog is older your relationship is familiar, comfortable. You know each others abilities and limitations, teaching and learning styles.

A working realationship with a 4legged friend takes time to develop. It takes time to get to know each other outside of the snuggly puppy stage and into the handler/student phase.

(Yes I know the student phase really starts at birth and never ends. We have been learning from each other since day one. But the official training session type of handler/student relationship is different.)

Some are simple and will change with time. At one point I really lost Magnus’ attention and as I was puzzling out why, he clearly let me know, “Crazymomlady it’s potty time!”

A silly thing, but he is just a baby and I need to keep those little things in mind.

Another thing that is likely to change with time: his attentions is short. He needs to work much shorter times with much funner breaks in between. Astrid suggested I count out only 5 treats, leave my treat bag at his mat, go do the exercise and make going back for more treats a game.

Again such a simple solution, but brilliant really. She suggested I pick him up and love him, or play a game of chase back to his mat. Once at his mat I have the option of letting him chill out with a good chew, or doing some Ttouch to relax. I just need to be more creative with his breaks.

I need to have less of a learn A-B-C agenda with him and let the agenda be building our relationship. Now that is an agenda I can get in to!

My other lesson was about comparing him to Maizey. After about my sixth, “but Maizey. . .” comment Astrid asked me if I was comparing him to my other dog.

“Uhhh. . . yes?” was my very reluctant response. I know better than to do that.

I make the comparisons since she is my only frame of reference for how I am doing. I understand why I do it, but it’s still not helpful. Especially in the context of building my relationship with Magnus.

She is not a frame of reference for him at all. Magnus is is own frame of reference for success. He gets to set his own bar. We get to discover what it is together.

The 4legged lesson? The beauty of building relationships is each one gets to be it’s own. Success is not defined by sideways comparisons, it is defined by individuals.