Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where Have I been?

I think that says it all :) The end of the school year is rather busy. My dogs have been languishing on the couch. But that has all changed. Some of my criteria has slipped, and we are putting it back in place. Sitting politely at the door. Staying until released for dinner and breakfast. Rumi will start 2 X 2 weaves tomorrow and Thai will work on remembering what a correct weave performance might be. Herding starts again on Friday...or maybe tomorrow if thunderstorms hold off. And I need to get some tracking in there too :) So I will soon have much more to write about than end of school reports, paper work, and clean up the wetlands day (did I mention 400+ of our students pulled out over 1100 POUNDS of Garlic Mustard?).

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I clearly remember this day and realizing it would change my life forever.

"Hatred never ceases by hatred; by love alone it is healed. This is the timeless and eternal law. Forgiveness is primarily for our own sake, so that we no longer carry the burden of resentment. Our hearts are already heavy enough."
The Gatekeeper
Columbine High School memorial

For an interesting take on what we've learned since Columbine check out this article.

Don't judge a book by it's cover

I, along with evidently over 12 million other you tube junkies, saw this video (they turned embedding off).
And then as I was cruising youtube I found this one also.

What hit me more than their music, was how everyone judged them by their outside looks and appearances, and had never taken the time to see what else was there. And the tv almost went out of its way to highlight how "backwards" they were. It made me think, how many students or adults do we do that to in our everyday life. And these people don't have any "stage" to get up on and make them "famous" for their unique talents. There is a Susan or a Paul in some aspect of all of us. Why don't we look harder to find it in other people?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Finally Jeanne's

I didn't get up to Jeanne's last Friday as originally planned due to late snow and then it all melting creating a pond out of the small area at her place. And there has been no recent post because I'm the yearbook advisor and the deadline was this past Friday and with the snow, a lot of the spring sports were cancelled for the week and this created a headache for me trying to get pictures of those sports in the yearbook!

But today I made it up to Jeanne's. Nothing like a 4 hour drive up and a 4 hour drive back for a one hour lesson, but she made it worth while. And I caught up on some podcasts on the drive.

Rumi is working in the round pen and did well, although I still don't always put the pressure on and take it off at the right times. But I'm getting better and he tries so hard to figure out what I want from him.

Jeanne had awesome suggestions with Thai. I worked on some driving, and some exercises to get her to rate herself instead of going full out the whole time and almost enjoying pushing the sheep past me so she can bring them back again :)

One thing I noticed about myself (and I think is true of many teachers) is that I am not a great student. I've noticed that teachers are often the hardest to teach (although we all are hard in different ways). I found that I was very quiet at Jeanne's and didn't give her a lot of information. I think it was because I was trying so hard to digest all her information and not influence her with my view points until she had had a chance to make her own decisions and impressions. But this kind of left her trying to figure out what I and my dogs knew, where we were, and what I wanted. I have only worked with her once before...just under a year ago. So she doesn't know me or my dogs well at all. I really need to work on being a better student and giving my instructors the information they need to work with me...but everything happens so fast and I'm trying to figure out their way of teaching and explaining that I end up not giving them much feedback. Glad I don't have to teach me :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Continuing Progress

We didn't herd for a few days because of, believe it or not, snow. In April!!! And Rumi is not happy when we don't work for a day or two. Whether it is obedience, tracking, herding, or agility...he wants to be learning and doing.

Thai worked first today and really stayed off my light sheep who think the long bamboo stick might be scarier than the dog. She held them to me on the fence and then stayed way out so they walked down the fence with keeping a gap between them and me. I was way proud!

Rumi continues to work quietly without arguing, although he still is not willing to go between the sheep and fence from a start without strong persuasion. However, the cool thing that he did today was I tossed the shaker bottle at him to get him out on the top and then circled around to pick up the bottle. I went to do what I hoped would be a smooth graceful swoop and totally missed it. As I had to stop and side step to grab it I suddenly realized the sheep weren't running past me. I looked up and there was my dog standing still holding the sheep to me, but not pushing them past me!!! I was NOT trampled! What a good dog ;)

Friday I go up to Jeanne Weaver's for a herding lesson. 4 hour drive, but well worth it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Herding/Tracking/Training junk :)

Rumi, Thai and I have been herding for the past few days. Rumi is covering heads, almost never barks, and when I've set it up perfectly and he's been worked down, he'll go through between the sheep and the fence on the go bye side without trying to flip back. He will stay easily holding the sheep between him and me on the fence. (not me guarding the sheep on the fence).

Thai and I have been working the lighter sheep in the big field. I have been working on the same back up and stay holding the sheep to me. Today I really saw a light bulb go on as she balanced up and stopped on her own willingly and then stayed out and flanked to cover the sheep as they tried to stay away from me and her. I was so proud of her :)

Yesterday we went tracking. I suddenly realized that Thai's certification expires soon so I thought I'd see what she remembered. It was a windy day. I layed Rumi a track with two challenges...both through heavy pricker bushes (ugh). I layed Thai's in a big open field. After aging it 30 min. I ran Thai's. She was working off the track some, but with the wind and only 30 min. age that didn't surprise me. She did great, but tired out at the last leg. She had great article indications. When I ran Rumi's track it was about 1 hour and 15 min. old. He too did great and had no problem with the obstacles. However, the last leg he too was tired and missed the last turn. Not bad for no tracking in 6 months.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Herding Day 2

I love spring break. Gives me time to work the dogs, and clean the house, and do all the other things that need to get done. Rumi has done wonderfully. Only one small yip today. Stopped nicely and held the sheep to me. Went around the sheep, even when it meant doing a go bye on the fence (which he finds hard). And he didn't kill the duck that came to see what we were doing (suicidal duck). Thai worked the lighter group of sheep and did a nice job keeping them together and not letting the crazy one split off. My goal for the rest of the week is to get to work on my two by two weaves.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Taking it home

I always find that the best indication you can have that the clinic you went to was great, is if you can take home what you learned at the clinic and manage to do it on your own. I'm sure that often it is my fault if I can't replicate it at home, but then, for all practical purposes, the clinic didn't really work for me. Especially since I can't afford to go live near every trainer/clinician that I'd like to :) This all leads up to the fact that I worked Rumi today on my sheep. And we did great (IMHO). I only got barked at twice, and he quickly knocked it off and went the way I wanted him to go. I used a long bamboo pole and a shake bottle. I had a rattle paddle, and was going to try it if the shake bottle didn't work. I didn't need it. Rumi went both ways nicely, didn't get around me once (as in fake me out and flip back the other way) and went between the sheep and the fence every time I asked him. He handled holding the sheep to me on the fence twice. And took his down when we were done. All in all a good day.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Red Clay

I spent the weekend in Georgia at a Sherry Baker herding clinic. Sherry was amazing. Not only a gifted dog trainer, but also a gifted teacher. She helped fix some things that were broken on Rumi and gave us a good foundation to continue building on. The people were a great group and the Bryants were wonderful hosts. The weather, however, was not cooperative. It rained Friday and Saturday. Sunday was dry, but cool with a strong wind to make it even colder. And in Georgia, when it rains the red mud seems to end up everywhere. Poor Rumi was orange by the end of the weekend. On the way home I stopped at a pet wash so all the clay would end up all over their bathing room, not mine :) Here is a video of Rumi running in the red clay herding orange sheep.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I love the TED website. I could never afford to go, but boy can I get lost exploring all the inspiring people and learning new things, often about things I didn't know existed. So why am I writing about this on my dog training blog? Well tonight I watched/listened to this...

Plug your computer into really good speakers, sit back, and be astounded. Most of these young musicians come from poverty that we can't even imagine. But because of the dream of one man they are playing music like this for a live audience all over the world.

And my dog can't do a full length go out because I don't have a big enough training area in my house. Hmmmm.....kind of puts things in perspective. With the right drive, motivation, and some dreaming ANYTHING is possible. Go Outs aren't even a small blip on my radar when I'm thinking of ANYTHING. Dream IT, and then find a way to do IT, what ever IT maybe for you.

Rumi lesson 2--Obedience

I am continually amazed by Rumi and how much energy and stamina he has for training. And he is very forgiving of mistakes I may make. After our 3 lessons with Laura Romanik (whom if she had a website I would gladly link to it ), I have some good solid concrete goals for the next 5 or so weeks. First of all, here is a link to him working in December at an ASCA show in wildcard novice.
This was at a busy dog show with lunch begin cooked and all the usual dog show hubub. So here are our goals:

Work in at least one new place for each of the next 5 weeks.
Work on the forging in straight line heeling.
Work our left turns (and I need to not slow down)
Work on about turns (and I need to not slow down)
Work on the coming back to me on the retrieve faster
Work on Rumi being able to do things with the dumbbell in the mouth (when his mouth is engaged he forgets he can use his hind end to jump/climb)

Of course we'll have other things we're working on like go outs, broad jumps with targets, gloves, signals, drops,.... But the above is our focus. I'll try and post every time we work someplace new.

Herding Clinic

So I am slowly recovering from my very busy weekend of dogs. Thai was not happy that the herding part was only for Rumi! I promised her I would change that at the next clinic. Rumi had a good time at the clinic and enjoyed working for Jack Knox. Although primarily a border collie clinic, there were several aussies besides Rumi there and a Terv. The farm was wonderful, the sheep awesome, and plenty of different size areas for working dogs. Thanks to Denice of Clearfield Stockdogs for hosting the clinic.

Jack and Rumi worked on getting around the sheep and taking time to think before acting (hard for a 16 month old aussie boy!). I was shown clearly where I had given Rumi too much slack and that although he is only 16 months old, he is very ready and able to handle serious, intense work without shutting down. So our goal for the next month (before the Sherry Baker Clinic) is to really have Rumi settle down and take herding as his work, not a game. Of course some of this is predicated on the weather holding so I can actually work dogs!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lessons--Part one

I've had a busy weekend. I spent Sat. and Sun. at a herding clinic. And then have done obedience lessons Sunday and Monday afternoon. Part one is going to be about the obedience lessons. :)

Thai had the larger part of Monday's lesson and Rumi had the larger part of todays lesson. Thai has a hard time dealing with the stress of any environmental change. Especially people and dogs. So the first thing we worked on was her heeling with as many distractions as we could throw at her :) She did much better than she did in the past. I think it helped that she had been the forgotten one at the herding clinic and was excited to be the center of all attention :) Her tugging has gotten much stronger, even when she is stressed, which in turn is helping to despurse the stress. Her scent articles ROCKED! She even got the one when Laura was standing in the middle of the pile on her second try :) Her Utility stand for exam is also getting better. And Today she held it for two different people, did her gloves (although we need to work on blind retrieves) and was up the whole time.

Rumi. We came up with a goal. Work in 5 different places in the next 5 weeks. His heeling. Work on no forging in straight line heeling, and my cadence in left and about turns. Nice run to the dumbbell and clean pick up. Work on the return and holding the dumbbell longer (while running, walking, climbing stairs). Continue working go-outs, broad jump with target and fronts :)

Overall, good lessons, nice time to focus me on what to work on for the spring :)

Next time...herding

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Goal setting

It's been a busy week. I used to feel bad, almost guilty, when life got in the way of dog training. But these past few months I've come to discover that is just a waste of energy. If there is time to train...great! But when life gets in the way the dogs are there to cuddle with and get some unconditional love from.

However, I found this wonderful blog that is written by another teacher. She has a great goal setting exercise. It includes a powerpoint about Smart goals, a worksheet to help you set your own goals, and a fun quick quiz to look at your strengths.

This weekend I'm off to a Jack Knox herding clinic. I'll have a report when I get back :)

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I thought that maybe, the more geeky things I add to the blog, the more likely I am to keep blogging :) So I've decided to pick a skill and post a short movie of it once a week for a few weeks to see how I improve with focusing on a skill and having video feedback of how I'm doing (and of course your helpful comments :) )

This week I found that setting up the video camera, without a tripod, to video tape yourself is HARD :) I captured some good fronts, which is the skill I'm really focusing on. But I also managed to capture some drops and the video was really telling in that I haven't set the criteria clearly what I'm reinforcing. So I kept the drops on the video also.

Thai is the red aussie, Rumi the black one (for those of you who don't know my dogs). I think if I just keep videoing once a week it will make the blog more than worth while and keep the tech geek in me happy since writing doesn't seem to be inherently reinforcing for me!

Mud and Chickens

Today was a nice day, almost 50 degrees, which meant MUD. I took Thai out to work the sheep, but it was way too muddy, with spots of unmelted ice, for me to want to work the younger dogs. One of us would have broken a limb (and it would probably have been me :)

Thai and I worked on her down and stay. She was so excited to be working she was trying to read my mind and doing things before I gave the command. But I think I need to go back and fix my criteria for her stay. I have been way to lax in my criteria. In the house she could not hold a stay when I was putting one dog in the crate and letting another out. So I know what we will be working hard on the next few weeks. Her flanks were nice and she wasn't too pushy. Not bad for the first time out in 2 and a half months.

As I was on youtube I found this rather long video of chicken camp. A place I'd love to go, but it is not in my budget in the near future!

Three things stood out for me in this video, two of which I need to carry over to my training of my dogs. First, there were many clickers there and the chicken KNEW which one was her click. I have always found this to be true with my dogs, and have never had a problem with them paying attention to other people's clicks. But I have often heard this as an excuse as to why trainers don't want to use a clicker in class. Doesn't seem to hold true here. Second, the placement of the reward was so important. It was given as quickly as possible and in a place that set the chicken up to do the behavior again...not right at the target most of the time. Once the chicken was proficient with the clicking they moved the reinforcer around so the chicken had to start the next behavior from different places on the table. I need to do that more with my reinforcers. And Third, they kept upping the criteria to be sure the chicken understood the behavior. They put in other colors or shapes to be sure the chicken knew which target to hit. And then they with held the correct target to show that the chicken only would perform the behavior with the correct target. This reinforced to me not only to always up my criteria for distractions, but also to proof that my dog understand the verbal/signal cue for the behavior and won't perform the behavior without the correct cue.

Today I am grateful for the warm weather that allowed me to pick up some of the mess in the yard and clean the duck pen.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

starting out

I have never been very good at blogging consistently, but have decided to try again. I think journaling about anything is a powerful tool and I just need to be more committed to doing it. I was reading over on Ferrah's blog about a song that popped into her head during training. I wasn't familiar with it so immediately went to youtube and found it.

The chorus of the song goes like this:
"You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between"

I think many times when I train I try so hard to get to the final product I don't take the time to accentuate the parts of the behavior that my dogs already know. So when I trained Rumi today I worked on accentuating the positive. With the go outs, I really focussed on how well he is bopping the go out gate gently (instead of taking the whole row of gates down ). And with his fronts I rewarded each one he got perfectly, starting with easy ones and progressing to some really hard ones. And I did not mess with any that were just in-between :)

I really enjoy working Rumi, because he will work all day long for me, trying his hardest to figure out what I want. If I can explain to him what it is I'm looking for, he will do it for me in a heart beat. I can't wait for the weather to break, the ice to melt, and be able to start working him on stock!

Today I am greatful for feeling better and having a room to train the dogs in, inside my house.