Magnus and Agility for Fun

Seems I haven’t been able to put together a coherent sentence lately, thus the lack of posts. . . Come to think if it I’m not sure if this is a coherent sentence!

Oh well, I have exciting news, so you will have to bear with my lack of coherency.

Tough Choices
Since this Saturday is Magnus last Puppy Prep class I have debated what to do. Obviously his age makes him prime to move into Wonder Pups, the next level of puppy class at Calling All Dogs.

But they also offer what seems to be a great class for reactive dogs. It is a class I feel will be wonderful for Maizey and I am anxious to have her take it.

So the debate began.

I know realistically I can only take one class at a time. Money of course is a consideration, but time and energy are resources I am constantly short on, so I must consider that too. And for me one class at a time is what is realistic.

That leaves me in the uncomfortable position of choosing which pup needs it more. Not something I was happy to choose. But Magnus age, and class availability had me convinced to move on to the next puppy class with him.

Magnus the Brave Goes to Agility for Fun
The assistant to his Wednesday night class teaches a course called Agility for Fun. It is an agility foundation skills class. I would never have considered him for this class since the prerequisites require him to complete the class he is in plus one or two classes past his.

But then a very exciting thing happened.

The Agility for Fun instructor asked us if we would like to join her class! I was floored. And honestly more than a little proud of my little guy for being such a brave, smart boy that she felt he could handle that level of class.

So of course that settled the debate once and for all. I will continue to work with Maizey here at home and use this opportunity to continue Magnus’ education and socialization. I am quite excited about it, and yes. . . a little nervous. (You wouldn’t honestly expect me to be not be nervous by now would you?)

It is a great way for me to learn clicker skills, and for him to learn confidence and focus. Did I mention I am excited?

A Simple Task
Magnus loves to tug, but I have had little experience teaching a release.

Maizey came with a built-in release: “This tug thing is boooring crazymomlady, so sure I’ll give it to you.”

Thus I beg the wisdom of your experience. What foundation skills did you find most helpful? What skills do you wish you spent more time on now? Do you have a favorite method of teaching focus, tug drive, and a release to tugging?

Growth is a continual process and this is an opportunity I hoped to have with my Princessface, so I am very excited and determined to learn all I can and bring it home to her. Hopefully this will be yet another confidence booster for all of us!

"I'm goin' to agility, cause I am Magnus The Brave!"

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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.

Plop!

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!

Handling
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!

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A Park It, Mat Work Triumph

It’s late and I’m tired. . . but triumphant!

Mat work with Magnus has really barely started, but tonight he made his first real life application. Let me lay the stage.

It has been a long, but good day. It’s time for bed and mehusandy is snoozing away.

But not my mutts! They, of course, have their typical night time zoomies. And the zoomies in this house are not quiet.

I have two choices: put them to bed and hope they settle in quick and quiet, or whip out their mats and see if they can settle.

I love their mats. Cute and square, Maizeys’ orange with pink squares and Magnus’ green with blue squares. I have visions of them parked on their cute mats, ears flowing and tails softly wagging while the breeze ruffles their hair and sends the scent of new grass through the air. . .

Okay, that’s taking it a little far, but seriously mat work is invaluable.

So as I set out to do my dishes I put one mat behind me to the left and one behind me to the right. Maizey immediately parks it, she loves this game. Magnus’ version of mat work up till now has been to get on Maizeys’ mat with her.

But not tonight! Tonight he CHOSE his mat! Well okay, it did take one lure the first time to get him there, but after that he CHOSE wisely! Repeatedly! While I loaded the dish washer, walked around the kitchen and changed the laundry, he CHOSE his mat! By the end he also CHOSE to lay down and stay on his mat for an estimated two whole minutes!

Imagine! What a smart boy!

And my Maizeymaymay? She stayed in her park it for the whole time! Well, she broke twice when my treat throwing aim was off and the treats landed just out of reach, but each time she CHOSE to immediately return to her perfect park it.

Imagine! What a smart girl!

So the 4legged lesson? I love it when my pups make good choices, I love training and there really is nothing small about small triumphs!

. . . Tomorrow, puppy class. Sigh. I’m glad Magnus isn’t nervous, cause I sure am!

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Maizey’s Level 2 Video-Part One

Time for the L2 video of Maizey’s Training Levels progress. She has tested 8 out of the 16 behaviors. So we are half way there.

She tested her first behavior on April 1, 2010 then the last behaviors we tested were on June 6, 2010 so 8 behaviors in 2 months is pretty good. Keeping good records, which I admittedly am not great at, does help. It’s quite encouraging to look back and see how fast her progress really was.

The video shows the tests as outlined for L2, I view it as sort of the basic foundation to build on.

Then after you lay a firm foundation the levels outline a “Continuing Education” section. We are working on much of the continuing education skills for the skills she has already tested. These are some of the great ideas:

COME: call her with my back to her, and recalling her and gently grabbing different parts of her body helps her learn to be caught.

DOWN: work on using other forms of payment. Try a back scratch or Maizey loves it when I clap for her, apparently she loves applause! A toy, or before being released to go through a door are some other ideas.

PARK IT: This has been a really fun one. Part of it is too move the mat around and teach them to figure out where it is and go to it. One time her floppy lion was a few feet closer to her and in front of the mat so she ran over and pounced on it in perfect park it position and just grinned up at me like, “How ’bout this? good enough?” Such a silly girl! This has proved a very practical skill also to help with her reactivity so we have been doing a lot of mat work out side and in many locations.

CRATE: Location of the crate becomes very important now and so far she has learned to be crated outside in our yard, at numerous other peoples houses, at a training field, and in the car to name a few.

To really understand the depth of the levels you really have to just visit Sue’s Training Level book and dive in, but it is a great program, especially if you aren’t in a position to do a lot of classes.

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A tired puppy is a happy puppy!

Today I was reminded, again :) , just how much happier the dogs are when we work for just a few minutes a day.

We always hear the vital importance of physical exercise for our 4 legged friends, but often neglected is the vital importance of mental exercise, or stimulation. Of course regular physical exercise can’t be underestimated, but the truth is I see them just as tired from a few sessions of positive reenforcement training as from a good walk. Combine the two and they’ll sack out for hours!LOL

That certainly showed tonight. Today we were in and out much of the day and the girlies entertained themselves (aka snoozed;)). They are fine to be left, never destructive or noisy. But when we got home in the afternoon they were full of energy. Normally this would be a great time for a walk, but that wasn’t possible today. So with their dinner I did 3 ten minute sessions w/ Maizey, and basically a longer “play” session w/ Meeka.

Maizey did one session of L2 ‘down-stay’. She did excellent! Then a while later, as in after I put the dishes away, we worked one session of L2 ‘go to mat’. It was her first session working that and she really had to think, even though it is something she is familiar with. Then a few minutes later we did one session to practice for her L2 ‘zen’ test. She has this down pat so its more like a fun game, less thinking.

It really just took about 30 minutes total, we both had fun and after that this is what we got:

 
Translation: A tired puppy is happy puppy!


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