“Mind Your Manners!”

“Mind your manners!”

How many of us grew up hearing those words? I’m sure we all had a magic word that made what we wanted happen. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way to good relationships. Simple things pave the way for peace and harmony in community.

These simple things so often get ignored in society and not just by the 2legged members either. Manners are a vital part of having a 4legged friend that’s a good member of society too.

Manners have always been high on my priority list with my dogs. Unfortunately it’s easy to get distracted by the flashier and fancier tricks in dog training. That’s happened with me and Magnus.

My boy turned one last month and we’ve learned a lot in his first year but I’m noticing he really needs some “back to basics” work. I’ve neglected some of what I consider to be foundation behaviors for a good pet. He has a good start on almost everything I think he needs to know, but it all needs a bit of polishing.

There are several areas I think we need to focus on, some of which would be taken care of if we got his CGC, which was one of my original goals. All of which we’d accomplish just by working Training Levels.

Greetings and Door Manners
Greetings are one place we need some major improvement. Especially when my mom, Charley and Chloe come over he gets way too excited. When a knock on the door is the cue to jump, bark and run around like a maniac you need some manners work. This is a bit of a logistical problem for me since as a self confirmed hermit I rarely have people over. Yet another 4legged lesson: Dogs make you get out of your shell.

I like the video below on how to keep dogs calm when people come over. It sets the dogs up for success even if the humans don’t cooperate with the plan. I often find I have an easier time communicating with my 4legged friends what needs done for success than with my 2legged ones and by putting the dog behind an x-pen it creates a physical cue to the humans that training is going on.

I also need to make my greetings much calmer. The challenge for me is that when the dogs run out so excited to see me and want to smother me in Cavalier hugs and kisses it’s hard to resist! Looks like I’m going to have to practice some greeting zen for myself too!

Door manners are also on my list. I’ve always taught the dogs to wait to go through the door until released. I still like that method, but I’m adding another element our trainer showed me. So instead of the dogs sitting, waiting and then when released bursting through the door and go on their merry way the criteria is now for them to sit until released then reorient to me. This applies to gates and cars too.

A combined element to door manners and greetings is that I want a solid park it on their mats when I open the door. All of this is covered in Training Levels, so if I get busy on those these things will come. Relaxation Protocol helps with this too.

Crate Manners
Both my dogs crate fine, but Magnus has trained a bad habit into me with crating. Maizey gallops into her crate just fine. Magnus on the other hand has decided he only has to get in bed if I have the treat already in my hand for him. SIGH! How did I let that happen? It was one of those subtle things that developed over time and I didn’t even notice until this week.

The solution? First I need to leave more time when leaving to put him to bed. If I’m in a hurry instead of actually training I tend to resort to “Okay I’ve got your treat now hurry up.” I’m going to work through Crate Games with him to get that eagerness to load up back.

Relaxation Protocol
I’ve come to the conclusion every dog can benefit from RP. Magnus and I have worked through three days. I have video, but I figured you were all getting sick of RP video so I haven’t posted it. I may put it on youtube eventually. If you’re dying to see it let me know and I’l upload it for sure.

Maizey spoiled me as far as grooming and handling’s concerned since she’s at “Level 33″ with handling. Magnus is the exact opposite of her when it comes to handling. He’s never loved being groomed, but this last month with is limp he’s really got the best of me.

He submits, but he doesn’t love it. I know he’s probably not ever going to love being groomed, but I need him to at least cooperate. Today I actually took him to a groomer to have him cleaned up. Neither if my dogs has ever been a groomer, and I found one I felt confident leaving him with. I’d still rather groom him myself so I’m adding handling to the “mind your manners” list. This is another thing that will be taken care of by working the levels.

All this manners work means we aren’t going to be doing classes for a while. I’m taking it back to basics with him and hopefully that will set us up for more success when we get back to classes!


Tricky Magnus Learns To Roll the Ball

Magnus has had two weeks of tricks class. We are really enjoying it.

“Whether he’s young or old, athletic or lazy, quick-witted or dumb as a rock—he’s YOUR dog, and his success need only be measured in YOUR eyes.”-Kyra Sundance

Week one was a lot of basics for Magnus and I, but what I’m really loving is how much our relationship has grown since our last class. His focus is better. His attention span is better. He is working more for the fun of working not just to get paid. And the biggest surprise of all, I actually seem to have some value to him!

Week two we started working on some more complex tricks. In these clips you see us working on him learning to roll the ball with his front feet.

This one is his second session:

This one is his third session:

So what do I learn from these clips?

I have a long way to go in my handling skills. I think he’s doing great, but videos of my training always show me all my mistakes. Which is good since that way I can hopefully learn better habits, but it sure is humbling!

I see is a lot room for improvement in the mechanics of my training. I think I know quite a bit of training theory. It fascinates me and I spend tons of time reading and trying to learn about it, but when it comes to actually practicing the mechanics of the theory I lack experience.

Sometimes I think the simplest mechanics of training don’t always get covered in classes. Maybe it’s because people want to cover the more complex things that have more bang for your buck. I mean do you want to know how to hold your clicker or learn a new trick?

Something that simple may seem obvious, but when our instructor showed me to loop my clicker around my hand, not my wrist, my reinforcement rate went up. I was more comfortable and had more control of my equipment. A very simple change, but one that made a big difference in the mechanics of my training.

Another example: In the video I can see the way I’m holding my treat hand is awkward. It didn’t feel awkward, but I can see I can improve my reinforcement rate if I adjust how I’m delivering treats.

I could go on and on with what needs to improve, things like not working past when he’s “in the game”. How and when I set the ball down to improve his success. Where I place my legs, since it looks like I’m bracing the ball on my foot when I’m not.

Like I said, I could go on and on, but my favorite thing I see is best summed up by Kyra Sundance when she said, “Whether he’s young or old, athletic or lazy, quick-witted or dumb as a rock—he’s YOUR dog, and his success need only be measured in YOUR eyes.”

In my eyes, that’s one smart, cute, fun, successful puppy!


Cavalier or Any Other Breed Query: How To Groom the Teenage Boy Dog

I haven’t been able to post lately cause every spare waking moment I have has to be spent grooming Magnus.

"See how pretty I was at nine months?"

I remember Maizey’s hair getting to this stage when she was his age, but she had much less hair and has always been much more tolerant to grooming than he is. Perhaps you remember her cocklebur debacle, which if it had happened to Magnus would surely have resulted in his getting shaved to the skin!

He seems to be giving me a run for my money when it comes to just getting brushed. Even though he is submitting to the nightly grooming ritual, he certainly doesn’t love it. I’m settling for tolerance out of him, but I would prefer a bit less misery for the rest of his grooming life.

That will come with Handling in my new Training Levels books, but we don’t get to that until the end of Level Two. Until then I’m trying to make it as pleasant as possible with liberal application of treats and not pushing him too far past his tolerance.

In the treat department we’ve found using the squeezy cheese bottle as a bribe for them to be still works wonders. Just lay it next to the current grooming torture victim and the very hope of some of that elixir of the dog gods squeezing out seems to lull them into complacency.

(Since I posted a similar picture for WW, there seems to be some concern that I’m overdosing my dogs on squeezy cheese. Let me insert the disclaimer that very little cheese is actually dispensed and you must admit it makes an hilarious picture!)

"Squeezy cheese-the solution to all grooming ails!"

Magnus further complicates the grooming issue by insisting on tramping through every weed and sticker patch he can find. His hair is just long enough the stickers go straight to the skin. The ones that don’t make it to the skin make an instant mat.

So Cavalier Query: What kind of grooming tools do you find most helpful? What kind of shampoo, conditioner and detangler? Do you use a slicker brush? He hates his, and settles most easily with a natural bristle soft brush.

The most important query of all: How do you reach those hard to reach places? I know most people are sane and groom on a grooming table. I don’t have one, and Maizey has always been like grooming a rag doll So I mostly just flop her upside down and brush her belly, under her legs and chest. Magnus doesn’t love that near as much.

Please help me out with your vast experience! If you want me to be able to post about Maizey’s Tricks Class, Magnus next class, or any of my new found knowledge from my new Training Levels books please help me not have to spend so much time brushing tangles, snarls, and twigs out of this teenage boy!

"Why do you think we'll be hard to clean up? We're not that dirty!"


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!


Puppy Class #1: Lessons Learned

After covering the general scoop on puppy class I realized my favorite lessons were in the silences.

Silence in a puppy class? Well, not literal silence of course! You can’t put nine puppy’s in a room and expect quiet! But instruction ebbs and flows as the trainers give directions and then the class works on following them. It was in these times of less formal instruction that I really gleaned the benefit of puppy class.

Mat Work
Take for instance the simple act of sitting in a chair with about 3 feet between you and the next dog/handler team. We were next to the GSD, who thought we were about as interesting as sand. Magnus on the other hand was sure they should be best friends. He expressed that conviction by straining at the end of his leash and whining at her in his best, “I’m a nice boy com’on let’s play!” voice.

Due to our rousing mat work success the night before I thought, “if I had his mat he would settle right on it.” So I asked, “next week can I bring his mat?”

Of course that would be fine, but “would you like a mat now?”

Of course I would!

So one of the trainers brought me a little rug.


Down he went into a park it. I was very proud, and relieved, now I could concentrate! Lesson learned. Mats go everywhere until he generalizes mat work to other objects.

Play Time
Playtime is structured so there is one instructor with the small dogs and one with the large dogs. Everyone takes their dogs on leash to the right area and then are directed to release them at the same time. This is to avoid any on leash aggression.

The puppy’s romp and play and then at random intervals they cue us to “gotcha” your pup. This means collar grab, treat, perhaps ask for a sit or down, then release with, “go play.”

It is amazing how much you can learn from such a simple task. Since Magnus is the best at playing the “keep away from mom” game, this was a great skill for us and one we have been practicing at home this week.

Here’s where it got dicey, for me, not him, of course. Because I wasn’t there when they started playing this I wasn’t prepared for them to cue us to “gotcha” someone elses puppy. So when she said that, I was a little nervous. But it was okay, they had done a good job of letting everyone know what to do when they approached a pup and the people acted appropriately.

Magnus response? “Oh you have a treat? Sweet! Do you have a stick? I like sticks!

At the end of the class they put on some relaxing music and had every one start handling their dogs. This was just too much for Magnus, who doesn’t love handled unless he wants it!

Most of the dogs in the class were done working at that point. I looked around and the Golden was literally upside down, cradled in his dad’s lap. Our little Shih Tzu buddy was laid out flat on the ground, ready for nap. Alvin the Chihuahua was curled up in his Mom’s arms, completely content. So I look down at my sweet, little, fluffy boy. . .

Who performs a perfect sit, and watches me with his best look of, “What next crazymomlady? Aren’t we going to work more?”

I had to laugh. . . and sigh all at once. So I got on his mat with him and started touch/treat, touch/treat. Magnus’ response?

“MOM! I don’t want to hold still! How ’bout a sit? No? How ’bout a down, or a nose touch, a paw touch? Awe, heck how ’bout I just wiggle, wiggle, wiggle!”

Not so much laughing at that point as sighing.

But again one of the trainers came to my rescue. She was able to get him cradled in her arms by marking signs of relaxing with a yes and treating him. He still looked wiggly to me, but I trusted her to mark the relaxing that could only be felt and not seen. Since then he has made good progress.

"Do I look like a boy that can't hold still?"

I was very proud of him, and of me. We had fun, learned a lot and are looking forward to next week. And I have all of your wonderful suggestions and encouragement to thank for it!


The Cocklebur Debacle

It is a humbling and yes, slightly humiliating thing when your 4legged little girl schools you in L2 handling.

Anyone with a 4legged friend know ALL burs are evil. On the scale of evil burs cockleburs rate right below foxtails.

Maizey’s front leg and the cockleburs

Basically cockleburs work like really mean velcro to Cavalier hair. It’s not pretty. Especially when the 2legged member of the team is wailing and bawling about cutting off Cavalier ears and split ends.

Let me paint the picture. On our recent jaunt in the mountains Maizey, Dare and Layla met a cocklebur bush. Before I knew what had happened Maizey was trotting off down the trail with both ears, two legs and a tail full of cockleburs. Of course Layla got her fair share, and even Dare couldn’t manage to avoid them completely.

Enter the humiliating part. That would be me with the wailing and bawling. Of course I scooped her up planted myself on a rock and flopped her over to start taking them out. Yes, still with the wailing and bawling.

“crazymomlady, please quiet the wailing and bawling!” 

Maizey? She was completely fine. I laid her on her side on my lap and she munched the field grass next to us the whole time Marie expertly removed them. As Marie says, “L2 handling? This is L33 handling and she passes with flying colors!” I however failed. Even L2 handling specifies “There must be minimal fussing.” I guess wailing and bawling does qualify as fussing.

Meanwhile Dare was a great help as she got in the bag and brought first the comb and then the slicker brush to us. When we didn’t seem to use them she also helpfully brought us a poop bag and finally her leash. We tried to show our gratitude, but she did seem a little peeved when we didn’t use her helpful contributions.

Thankfully, due to Marie’s experienced removal, some deep conditioner, and some more Cowboy Magic all is well in the continuing saga of the Cavalier ears.

Layla and Dare say, “Don’t worry we’re all still as gorgeous as always!”
Maizey says, “And I still have my ears!”

The 4legged lesson? Cockleburs are not your friends!


Not Sure Of The Purpose, But We Have A Plan!

So I have done some thinking and planning since last night and once again I am realizing how well Maizey is actually doing.

So more for my own information than because it is very entertaining I wanted to get down what I would like to accomplish this week.

Grooming with distractions.
A note on this we just did a long grooming session that included her ears (a major endeavor no matter how often we brush them). We also trimmed her long toe hair. I’ve tried explaining to her that it isn’t lady-like to have toe hair, but alas she cares not at all about anything lady-like. The distraction was Lucy and Layla milling around and for the toe trim and toenail clipping we went out side. There were horses and cows and all kinds of sniffs, and it was gorgeous. So I’m counting that as distraction for me and Maizey!

Walking with distractions
I hope to test and film her LLW using the horses or the dogs in the fence as the distraction.

We will have many opportunities for dog socialization. Not only here with our “headed south getaway friends,” but we also have a chance to go to puppy class and work while some friends practice agility at the park.

As for new Levels behaviors I want to work on target, trick, watch, go-to-mat which we cue as “park it.” I am hoping to get some help on her stays.

There I feel better already, and even if we only get a fraction of that done it will still be good for both of us.