Saturday, October 29, 2011

Patricia McConnell seminar: Shy / Bold

The Patricia McConnell seminar on Canine Behavior today was great.  I learned a ton, and I barely learned anything.  There's so much to learn, and an increasing amount of research being done in the area of canine behavior & cognition. 

I highly recommend attending one of Patricia's seminars, and won't go into a summary of 8+ hours of material (you're welcome).  As a Cardigan owner, and a performance person, one thing that really engaged my interest was the section of the seminar about shyness and boldness. 

Research has show that the shyness or boldness is easy to pass on (a preponent trait), and it's hard to breed out of a genetic pool.  Patricia explained that dogs basically inherit some space on the shy <-> bold continuum.  They inherit a small piece of in that range, if you will.

Socialization and environment can help determine where w/in the interhited range the dog ultimately lands, but these things can't change the dog's space on the continuum.  A shy dog can be made less shy, but will never be bold.  And, shyness or boldness a dog has is very stable over time.  So what the dog's like as a puppy is likely to hold true throughout its life.

I also found it interesting that shyness can be about social situations and/or the external world.  I had never thought of it this way.  I just figured that a shy dog is a shy dog; a bold dog is a bold dog - no matter what.  Thinking about it differently makes a lot of sense to me, though. 

Maggie is a great example that made this information "real" for me.  Maggie is shy around strangers.  I worked my a$s off to socailize Maggie around humans.  For a long time, every human who met or petted Maggie gave her a treat.  In fact, that's still true most of the time.  This helped her progress, but never far enough that she really likes strangers. 

At one point, when Maggie was about 3 years old, I expressed frustration to my obedience instructor.  How come I work so hard at socialization with humans, and still Maggie doesn't like to be petted by others.  My instructor said, "Well, she's not a Golden Retriever, she's doing her best."  Good reality check for a newbie.  Maggie made it to the point that she doesn't hide around new people - but there's really only about 10 people she really likes. She also made it far enough to never lose a point on the stand for exam in Novice obedience, and tolerate the more "hands-on" exam in Utility obedience practice.

Though she's shy around people, Maggie is quite bold in the environment.  She's not phased by new places, loud noises, etc.  Which is probably why she made it so far in Rally, Obedience & Agility.

Another bit of research shared relates to how shy/bold impacts a dog's success in performance success.  A study in 2002 showed that the best predictor of success in high-level performance events is boldness.  It makes a lot of sense, and is a good thing to know when looking for a perfomance dog.  Now I know something to pay particular attention to in puppy testing. 

Oh, and I'm just happy that Rip is a bold boy.  But yikes, now I've got no excuse...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Madison and Maggie

This picture has nothing to do with this post.
But I wanted to add a picture and this one of Ziggy makes me smile.
And shouldn't the weekend start with a smile?!


I'm here this weekend for the Patricia McConnell and Ken Ramirez Seminar.  I am very much looking forward to learning more about dog behavior and how to be a better dog trainer.  Hopefully the Trio will appreciate what I learn.

I'll post a few insights tomorrow night.


I decided to add pages to my blog.  One for each dog, and one for Wagmore.  I've got Maggie's page up and running if you're interested in learning more about the wise old brindle girl.

P.S.  Maggie and I actually lived in Madison for a short time. We both liked it here (great dog parks!).

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Last week I took 5 vacation days from work and did things that I don't get paid to do.  For me that = a vacation!

What did we do?  The Family and I went out to Washington State to work on our house/property - Wagmore Farm.

Our goals for the week:  Continue brush clearing and figure out what our options are for the house.

The house stuff took up tons of time (which I'll talk about in another post), and we logged ~2.5 days of brush clearing/land maintenance.  Here are some pics from our brush clearing days:

Thankfully we had uncharacteristically gorgeous weather. 
Only a small bit of drizzle the whole week!

Our goal was to clear the brush & "unauthorized" trees 
that were growing along the drive.  
The lovely maples need room to grow!

And I had a personal goal:  
To get rid of the freakishly overgrown juniper bushes.  

They're blocking my view of the fields!  

The Husband calls them "Bunnytown" as they're likely to be harboring hosta-eating, Cardi-vexing little vermin.

Here's me at the beginning of project juniper.
Happy with my loppers.  
I dove right in! (And have the bruised-up legs to prove it!)

Then I reached the heart of Bunnytown.
My loppers and I were overwhelmed.
In my lopper-addled state I pictured a very large excavator.
It was a sign.  This was a job for heavy equipment.

I made it about 1/4 of the way through these awful bushes before I gave up.
I was able to clear ~ 30 feet of junipers. 
In the process I uncovered a basketball, 
some trash (including a Little Debbie snackcake wrapper),
and an old section of fence.  Hmm - I wonder what else is in there?!?

That same day we also burned the brush that The Husband and my dad cut down in September.  It was all very dry and went up very quickly!  Burning brush is a fun and rewarding endeavor!

Then I started to work on other brush like little locust trees, and blackberry bushes, and hawthorns.  Junipers didn't seem so bad after all.  Thankfully by that time it was getting dark and time to go home.

I finally came up with a glove combination that thwarted even the thorniest bushes:

Extended-length (midway up forearm) leather and heavy canvas gardening gloves
plus thick cowhide leather gloves.  
Yes, my hands were sweaty and I had impaired use of my fingers 
BUT I had no scratches/pokes that day!

The next day I decided to burn the brush we'd cut the day before.  The Husband and my dad were not optimistic.  "The brush is too green" they said.

What they didn't realize:  I have a hidden talent for brush burning!

Here's me and my brush pile.  
Secretly I enjoyed it!  
Good bye and good riddance blackberries and hawthorns!  
(Insert evil laugh here)

Even though the brush I was burning was newly cut, I found an art to selecting things that would burn hot and/or quickly - and balancing this with the stuff that was slower to catch/burn.

I spent the day loading piles like this into the truck:

Come with me, my lovelies...
Over the course of the day I moved and burned approx.
4 times this much brush.

Yes, I spent nearly all of the daylight hours loading brush into the back of the pickup, unloading it, burning it, then going back for more.  

My abandoned burn pile.
I wanted to burn more, but The Husband said I didn't have enough time.

The finished product.
Compare to the first picture.
Unfortunately we didn't have time to finish it all...
Maybe in January?

Though most of the week was work (ok, pretty much all of it) - we did manage to squeeze in a bit of fun.  On Saturday night we had a "campout" with some friends in the house.  Our first time ever spending the night there.  Since there's no furniture, heat, or hot water in the house right now, staying there counts as camping in my book.  It was a lot fun, and great to just spend some time on the property.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sniff-tastic Adventure Stroll!

Some Most people call it a walk.  When I take all 3 dogs out around the neighborhood I now call it a "Sniff-tastic Adventure Stroll."

Why have I made this change?  Because this is the most common activity when I walk the Trio:

Don't judge us - we just love to sniff.
Is that so wrong?

I took the dogs out this morning before work.  I told The Husband, "I'm going for a walk."  Our 1.5 mile jaunt took us nearly 40 minutes.  AND we were almost passed by an 80+ year old woman who was not moving particularly rapidly.  That, my friends, is not a walk.  Thus the re-labeling of our trip...

"Sniff-tastic"  --  because the Trio thinks sniffing is fantastic
"Adventure"  -- because for the Trio sniffing their way around the neighborhood is akin to an adventure quest
"Stroll"  --  because 1.5 miles in 40 minutes does not qualify as walking

So what in the world has gone wrong?
I used to walk the dogs so quickly and with such purpose that The Husband called it a "forced march."  Now it's a stroll.

I blame it on this:

Darn you, Alexandra Horowitz.  You've written "Inside of Dog."  A book that has caused me to think in more depth about how my dogs see the world.  A book that I enjoyed so much that I've altered the things I do with my dogs.

Now I want to let them sniff on a walk.  It provides them enjoyment and information about their world.  Now my walks don't really qualify as walks anymore.  Now my dogs stop and sniff everything that's of interest.  And almost everything is of interest.

Maybe I've gone too far.  I need to find a balance between Sniff-tastic Adventure Strolls and forced marches.  Or maybe not....

Monday, October 10, 2011

Playgrounds are good for training!

Back before I was a parent, I wondered how I'd ever find time to train my dogs.  While it is more challenging now, I'm working on finding creative places to train.  I mentioned that I use soccer matches and practices for socialization and training around distractions.

Lately, I've been bringing Rip with me when I take The Child to the playground.  We started by just heeling around in new areas and working on our self-control (such as it is) when meeting new people.

One day I took my clicker with me and decided to see what I could get Rip to do.  I started by clicker training him up some broad steps on the way to a slide.  He made it up the steps, but seemed a bit nervous once he got up a bit high.  Since he'd put in a good effort we quit for the day.

The next time we went to the playground I took him up the stairs again.  When we got to the top platform he seemed more comfortable, so we did some really basic obedience - things he knows really well -- sit, down, stand.  He succeeded at this, so we quit for the day.

See how cute Rip looks on the small platform?
To get up to this one we had to jump on a couple of stepping-stone sized platforms. 
Good agility practice - body awareness?

On our next trip to the playground, he started to offer to get up on just about everything, so I decided to see how far he'd happily go...

To the top of the slide?  Yep!
This is a really short, low slide.

Even down the slide!
Note the loose leash.
He was a bit apprehensive the first time,
but happily jumped back up to try again.

Then I sat on the end of the slide and worked on some 
up-close-and-personal recalls.
I love working with this dog!

Some other playground training we've tried -- recalls with me "hiding," balancing on the boards or curbs that keep the mulch in, and jumping over low logs or beams.  I find it fun to think of new things, and playground training helps me wear out The Child and Rip at the same time!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wagmore step 2: Now that the grass is mowed... BRUSH!

Our first step with the new property was to clear the fire-hazard dry grass.  Once all the grass was gone, we realized that we had a bit of a brush problem.  Well, we knew we had a brush problem going in, but didn't realize the extent of all of it until all of the grass was gone.

The view of the un-mowed part of one field...

The Husband decided he wanted to "work the land" and cut brush George W. Bush - style.  So he deserted The Child and I for a week, and went out to clear brush with my dad.

The first step was to rent a Billy Goat brush hog
and tackle the daunting task of the blackberries
This is the BEFORE shot...

It works well - berries flattened and chopped.
Apparently it's a LOT of work, though...

Here's the AFTER shot. 
Yes, it's the same location - it just looks much better!

Please don't think that this was the ONLY blackberry patch.  The Husband and my dad cleared many more over the course of week.  And we still have an entire fenceline in the back that is completely hidden by 12' tall (or higher...) blackberries.  Those might just get to stay around for a while.

And blackberries weren't the only brush around.  We also had baby trees, some scotch broom, and weeds/brush that we couldn't even identify.

The barn was surrounded by brush-various.
You can barely see the chicken coop in the background.
Oh, and there was a bunch of junk hidden in there, too.

...wait, where IS the barn?

But here's the "after" near the barn - a different side

Denzil continued to serve in a supervisory capacity.  
He also helps give an idea of how big the Billy Goat is...

The small trees and big brush that had to be chopped by hand
were put into burn piles.  We should have some good bonfires soon.

Now we've tackled the grass and brush - what's next?  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ziggy Naughty; Ziggy Nice

Ziggy is a multi-faceted dog.  In my last post, I shared his adventures as a guard dog.

Not only is he a guard dog but also, he's:


This is what I found in the living room this weekend.  A sweet black-brindle dog sitting next to a pile of crayon papers.  Z loves his Crayons, and The Child left a whole small storage tote full of crayons sitting on the floor.  What luck for Ziggy!

Let's take a closer look at Ziggy's after-dinner snack:

Burnt Sienna, Goldenrod, Red Violet, and Verde

But Ziggy's not all about snacking on non-toxic bits of The Child's art kit.  He's also:


Ziggy and his soccer friend

I take a dog to every soccer practice and game, as I think it's a great environment for training with distractions(!) and basic socialization.

Rip normally gets to come to soccer practice.  Not as many people are there, so it gives me more time to work on his manners and training.

Maggie gets to stay home.  She's not particularly fond of new people, and she doesn't need any socialization.

Ziggy gets to come to games.  He is lovely, calm, likes kids, and is not bothered by all of the activity.  

The sister of one of the kids on The Child's soccer team loves dogs.  Unfortunately she can't have dogs because her dad is allergic to them.  At every practice and game, she seeks the Cardis and I out.  Ziggy is her favorite.  At last weekend's game, she ran up to me and gave me a hug saying, "I'm SO glad you're here!"  Then she squealed, "Ziggy!!" and gave him a big hug, too.

She spends the entire game with Ziggy.  She grabs some treats and leads him around (often running).  When Z decides he's had enough activity (meaning he comes back to me and lays down), she brings her chair over and sits or lays next to him.

So sweet.  Good Ziggy.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ziggy the guard dog

I realize that this is the side of Ziggy I often share - sleeping, calm, a bit lazy...

But the other day, Ziggy showed a different side of himself:  he was Ziggy the Guard Dog.

Let me explain.

The Child, Ziggy, Maggie and I went to the playground near our house.  While we were there a contractor came to our house to give us a bid on some work we needed to have done.  

Z, M, The Child, and I arrived back home AFTER the contractor had left.  

When we were at the front door, Z started to sniff the ground A LOT.  I had to drag his furry body inside.  Once I unclipped the leash, he sniffed the floor inside and started to get a little agitated.  He just kept sniffing, and headed down the hall in the direction of the bathroom (where the contractor spent most of his time).  

The Child stepped out of the bathroom, and Z started barking like mad.  I told The Child to say hi to Z, and the barking stopped.  The agitated sniffing did not.  Z sniffed his way into the bathroom, then back out into the living room where I was standing.  

Then it dawned on me.  Z smelled a strange human smell - the smell of someone who he had not seen invited into the house, and he DID NOT like it.

I was able to walk Z around the house, and assure him it was ok.

I am so impressed with Ziggy.  He does take his job as protector of the house seriously, and something was not right in his house.  Good boy.

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