Friday, July 29, 2011

Rip and the Seminar

As I mentioned in my previous posts on the Laura Romanik Seminar, I took Rip along with me, and had a working spot.  I'm not sure the working spot was great with a green dog, but taking Rip to the seminar was well worth it, as we both learned some important lessons:

Black Dogs are SCARY!!

The first day, we met a couple of new breeds of dog.  Rip was scared of one of these breeds....  The dreaded Newfoundland!

Rip says not to let this innocent face fool you.
The Newfie is a big mountain of a dog 
and it must be thoroughly and vigorously barked at.

There were two Newfies at the Seminar.  The first day Rip did a LOT of alert barking at them.  Even after going up to meet one of the dogs, he still continued to bark.  Not fun.

One of the women I was chatting with mentioned that some dogs don't like black dogs because their expressions are harder to read.  Maybe that's true -- it helps explain Rip's dislike of Gordon Setters, too.

On the second day Rip only did a bit of barking.  On the third day there was no barking at all.  We also got to meet a black Flatcoated Retreiver, and a black Field Spaniel.  On one of the breaks, 2 Newfies, the flatcoat, the field spaniel, and a dobie were all doing stays in the ring.  I made sure Rip got a good and keep-it-positive-aren't-black-dogs-nice look at that scene.  So from a black-dog socialization standpoint, the weekend was great.

No More Playing

While Rip learned that black dogs aren't so scary, I learned that I have been too indulgent with Rip.  I let Rip meet-and-greet-and-play with a few dogs on the first day.  He's a happy, friendly boy, so what's the harm?

I soon realized the harm, as Rip became FIXATED on the dogs he played with.  For the rest of the weekend he would stare at these dogs.  If they got close, he was desperate in his attempts to get to them. Not mean aggression.  Just play drive gone wrong.

This was an "ah-ha" moment for me.  Rip no longer gets free play time with other dogs when we're in a show or practice situation.  I was allowing this to keep him socialized.  I think I overcompensated a bit after Maggie (who in her younger years was not a fan of other dogs) and Denzil (who has some stranger-dog issues when on leash).  In an attempt to make sure Rip didn't have trouble, I'm afraid I've overcompensated a bit.  Time to change the rules and insist on good manners first.

Learning to be Quiet in a Crate

Taking Rip to the seminar, and having him in the hotel with me -- just the two of us -- was also good practice for the life of a performance/show dog.  He got to spend quiet time in his crate during the day (he still needs a sheet over the crate so that he stays quiet).  I got to reinforce coming nicely out of the crate.  We got to practice resting in a crate, coming out, warming up briefly, and getting right to work.

Rip also got to learn more about hotels.  Since it was his first solo-dog hotel trip, I didn't leave him alone in the room for more than 1/2 hour total.  But it was good for him to get used to the sights, sounds, and smells of a hotel.  I also learned that Rip barks a few times when I leave, but then quiets down (whew).  I had a room on the ground floor so I left the room, went outside, and stood by the window for a while to wait for the barking to stop.

Hotel Perks

This is the life!
Why do the CATS get the bed at home?!?

Rip also learned that being a bed dog is fun.  He tried unsuccessfully to jump up a couple of times (it was a tall bed), so I thought, "what the heck?" and I put the ottoman near the bed so Rip had stairs.  Needless to say the naughty boy loved sleeping with me on the bed.  Next time I'm brining an extra sheet to put over the duvet.  I used some extra towels I had with me to create a sleeping spot on the bed, but - as the picture shows - Rip ignored those completely.

All told -- scary black dogs and restless bed-sharing- dog considered -- Rip and I had a nice weekend.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Laura Romanik Obedience Seminar: Days Two and Three

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent last weekend learning more about competitive obedience from Laura Romanik, one of the most successful competitors in the country.

Days 2 & 3 of the seminar were about how Laura trains her dogs for the exercises needed in competitive obedience.  I appreciated Laura's approach to the exercises, and how she talked about them.  The approach was very methodical and logical.

Of all the seminars I've been to (and if you read this blog, you know I've been to more than a few), this one would be GREAT for someone who's just getting started in competitive obedience.  Her approach to training is easy to understand, and should be (I hope) easy to implement and remember.

That doesn't mean the seminar isn't good for more seasoned trainers and competitors.  A few of my friends (who've shown a lot more than me) went to the seminar as well, and came away with many new insights.

I won't summarize the whole two days, but below are some of the things that provided "ah-ha!" moments for me:

There are 11 basic skills that need to be really solid to succeed in AKC obedience.  If these skills are week, or the foundation isn't strong, somewhere along the way trouble is likely to surface.  The skills are:  down, sit, stand, heel, stay, come, front, jump, fetch, go out, and scent.
  • I appreciated this way of thinking about the skills.  Lately I've been in a "so much to train, so little time" state - so my training approach has been a little scattered.  Thinking of it this way should help me focus a bit.

A better way to think about Stay

  • Laura talked about the "3 D's" of the stay:  Duration, Distance, Distractions.  When she trains, she adds in the Distance last.  
  • I appreciate this insight, as I am having trouble with "Stay" for Rip.  The wild man (surprise! surprise!) just doesn't see the point.   
  • Focusing on duration and distraction before moving away will give me a good place to start, as I need to go back to the beginning here.
  • Laura also trains the sit stay first - as this is a good default behavior to have for obedience.

When to cue
  • Timing of cues is important for a dog's learning.
  • When adding a cue to a behavior, add the "unknown cue" just before giving the "known cue."   For example, if a dog has been lured into a down with a treat, and you want to put it on a verbal cue - say "down" then lure into the down.
  • This thinking makes a lot of sense to me, and I've got to say I've never really thought about it before.

The Seminar Overall
  • One of the things I like the most of Laura's training techniques is that they are very thoughtful and intentional.  Like the timing of the cue mentioned above, she's really thought through how she trains dogs.  It's logical and it makes a lot of sense.  I'm working to bring this thoughtfulness into my training.
  • Laura is also a very observant dog trainer, and was able to provide good feedback to the handlers, alerting them of things they were doing to cause the problems they were having.  She would be a great person to take individual lessons from.  Too bad she lives so far from Iowa...
  • I had a working spot, and Laura does a nice job of managing the number of people on the floor, etc.  I don't know if it was quite worth the extra $$ for a working spot with a very green dog.  The folks who had challenges that they were working through seemed to get much more out of it.
  • I recommend Laura Romanik's seminar if you're ever able to attend one. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Laura Romanik Obedience Seminar: Day One

This past weekend I spent 3 days learning more about competitive obedience at a Laura Romanik seminar. Laura is one of the top obedience competitors in the country, and campaigned her dog Flare to Obedience Dog of the Year in 2009.

Training Philosophy

The first day of the seminar was lecture only - no dogs working.  Laura explained her training philosophy including how she builds the confidence, fluency, and motivation needed to succeed in the obedience ring.  She talked about the background behind how she teaches, conditions, and proofs.  Unlike many other seminars, she also talked about the how and why of corrections to help dogs improve their performance.

I've got to say that I was a bit worried about sitting through 8 hours of lecture on obedience theory, but Laura did a great job keeping things interesting and engaging.  Even though I was jet-lagged (I arrived home from Germany the afternoon before), I had no trouble staying awake!

Some key take-aways for me:

  • In the teaching phase, when the dog is learning a skill, you want the dog to be successful most of the time.  Keep things positive so the dog likes each exercise, and thinks they're fun.  This fun foundation is needed for long-term success.
  • Dogs need mental stamina for obedience.  Some of this stamina can be built through work.  Some of it just comes with age.  This was a big one for me.  With a bright dog, it's hard not to push and expect too much too soon.  With Rip I need to be very mindful of this.  I don't want to ruin the game for him.
  • Remain upbeat even if you have to correct your dog.  A dog making a mistake means that they're learning.  Anger or frustration only makes things unpleasant for the dog (and who likes to work if it's unpleasant?).  
  • Something I've been doing right is taking Rip to fun matches (obedience practice shows) since he was a pup.  Even though he does very few (if any) "formal" exercises, we go in the ring, do some heeling and play, play, play.  I want Rip to think being alone in a ring with a judge is FUN.  I should have done more of this with Ziggy....

The thing I appreciated most about the "philosophy" day is that it provided an opportunity to learn about many of the things that make for successful obedience training and performance.  This type of insight is based on Laura's years of experience and success, and is hard to learn/find out.  It's the stuff that folks just forget they know and had to learn when they were new to the sport.

I'll talk about the 2 training days in another post.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I'll be home soon

The last couple of weeks for me have been busy with travel.  Here's an overview:


It started with a 2 day road trip to Bloomington, Indiana.  I was part of the judging panel for the business case portion of the Indiana University Young Women's Institute.  The YMI is a program for bright, over-achieving high school girls.  In the week-long program, the young women learn about business, and work on a business case.  At the end of the week, the teams present their business case in front of their parents, friends, and panel of judges.

This is my second year to help out, and I LOVE it.  The young women are driven, smart, dedicated, and impress the heck out of me.  I hope that all of them join the business world.  We need them!

Germany & The Netherlands

I was home for one night, then off to the airport for a trip to Germany.  The hightlight of my trip was a day trip to one of our factories in The Netherlands.  I'd never visisted the country before, so I talked my colleagues into taking me somewhere "Dutch."

Here's what I saw:

The center of town in the middle of the day.
Lots of pedestrians and cyclists.

The old town hall building.
The bottom floor is now a restaurant.

So why not stop for an afternoon snack?
Apple cake and coffee.
My colleagues tell me this is a traditional Dutch afternoon snack. 
It was yummy and I'm not even a fan of apple-y pastries.

This day-trip convinced me that - on my next work trip to Germany - I need to fly into Amersterdam and spend a couple of days before starting work.  Apparently it's only a 3 hr train ride away from the office.

Des Moines

The day after I got home from Germany I got up early (4am) to drive to Des Moines.  Rip and I are attending a 3-day Laura Romanik obedience seminar.  I've picked up a couple good tips so far.  I'll do a post in the next couple of days to share some of what I've learned.

I'm looking forward to heading home tomorrow night and sleeping in my own bed for a change!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sometimes crates are just too roomy

That's what Ziggy seems to think anyway.  He has free run of the house most of the time (after we've picked up all Crayons within reach), yet here's where I've seen him sleeping quite a lot lately:

Inside the coffee table is den-like, mom.
See - cozy!

Yes, Ziggy's taken a liking to sleeping in the 9" space between the top and bottom shelf of the coffee table.  Apparently he likes to squeeze into small space and lay on The Child's drawing paper.  Go figure.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Grooming part 2: Now what do I do with all the stuff?

After my "Grooming Part 1" post you know I’ve got the (grooming) stuff.  That was the fun (albeit slighty painful to the wallet) part. 

Now what do I do with it?  I watched Mandy, Carolyn & Jeri groom at the Specialty.  They made it look easy.  I left feeling pretty good that I knew what to buy and how to use it.  Then I got home, bought the stuff, and stared at it.  What was all of this for again?

To give you an idea of my level of grooming expertise, I’ve still only used my dryer four times – tops.  And the only “product” I’ve used is chalk. 

I’ve seen how good Rip can look when a skilled person grooms him.  I understand the importance of good grooming, and truly, much of my dread of showing in conformation stems from all the *!@# grooming that one must do before entering the ring.  All of that grooming takes skill. This means one needs to spend lots of time grooming and practicing grooming.  Time that I could be spending training my dogs for performance.  Or exercising.  Or sleeping,  Or aimlessly wandering around Facebook.

Watching all of the great groomers at the Specialty has reinforced my need to practice -- shamed me into it, really.  So now I’ve resigned myself to using all of the grooming tools more often.  Wait, that doesn’t sound very inspirational.  I am now up to the challenge of learning how to groom properly.

doG help Maggie, Ziggy, and Rip because none of them is immune.  I’ve got three dogs, and they all get to serve as my “test subjects” in this venture.  Thus far my focus has been on using the new grooming tools I’ve purchased.  The three of them are losing masses of hair right now, so I’m working on using a comb to remove it. 

I’ve had all three dogs up on the table every weekend – spritzing them with water and brushing and combing away.  

Here’s Rip’s approach:

Grooming again? 
Up here with nothing to chew and nothing to chase?
 Forget it, I'll just lay down.
Hey mom, can you move that brush a little closer?

Maggie and Ziggy are not quite so tolerant.  Maggie can be bought with food, so she gets lots of treats while on the table. 

Ziggy doesn’t like to be groomed in the first place (he prefers a scratch to remove the hair) and the table just ads insult to injury.  At first he was so unhappy he wouldn’t even take a treat.  Now he’ll take a treat, and doesn’t try to jump off.  Given his dislike for the table, he’s spared much of my practice.  I’ve been doing a bit of brushing/combing – then resorting to the Furminator.  Faster and easier all around.

Next weekend my plan is to bathe one of the dogs (whoever is stinkiest/dirtiest), then dry them and try out some product. I’ll just keep experimenting until I get it right (ish). 

My overall goal for the next few months is to get comfortable enough grooming that I don’t dread it quite so much.  That will leave me free to stress about other parts of showing in conformation.  Like getting my wild one-year-old to stand still for the judge….

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What it was, and who (I think) did it

I must admit that it took me quite a while to figure out what the mystery poo was, and who did it.  Using my best detective abilities, here's what I was able to piece together.

FIRST:  What was it?

I had to dissect the specimen a bit to figure it out.  For those of you who guessed wax - you're right.  It was just about 100% wax.  The green string in it is a bit of a rope toy that the boys chew on from time to time.

NEXT:  Where did they get it?

I could not figure out for a long time where the furry perps found a bunch of wax.  Then one day I noticed that the lid was missing from the shoebox on on the right of the picture.  The box that's shoved back in my closet - marked "candles."

How/why they even decided to investigate this box is a mystery to me.

A box of candles chew treats.
 There were quite a few more candles in this box last time I looked.

FINALLY:  Who did it?

The most frequent guess was "Rip."  And that's not suspiring.  Rip is a little dog of destruction, who has a lifetime of naughtiness behind him already.

But what I haven't told you about is Ziggy's secret love.  Crayons!  If a Crayon is sitting out, Ziggy will eat it with surprising speed.  Z loves Crayons so much that I'm not sure he wouldn't choose a crayon over a Greenie.

Ooh look!  The Child left the lid off the Crayons.
Look away, you see nothing.
That's just a stick I'm chewing on.

D'oh - caught in the act.
Don't judge me.  I love Crayons.

Given Ziggy's love of waxy colored things, and the fact that Rip is not allowed to be loose in the back of the house, for weeks I figured that Ziggy was the culprit.

Then, just last week, while I was reading in bed, Rip opened the closet door (it wasn't shut tight), shoved his head in the closet, and came out with a votive candle holder.

So maybe it was Rip.  Or Rip and Ziggy.  My guess is the later, based on the number of waxy poos found in the yard.

Mystery solved.  Well, sort of.

Friday, July 8, 2011

WTF Friday - Found in my yard

Oh yes, this is what you think it is.  

A dog poo made entirely of "non-traditional" materials 
(i.e., no fecal matter in it - is that even possible?)

Guess just WHAT the dog(s) ate to produce this??

And, though don't know for sure who did this (it happened while we were on vacation), bonus points if you can get the culprit(s) right, too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grooming part 1: What is all this stuff?

I mentioned a while ago that one of my goals for the National Specialty was to learn more about grooming Cardigans for the conformation ring.  In case I haven’t mentioned it before (though I know I have), it mystifies me that a “wash and wear” dog like a Cardi can take so much grooming.  One of the things that attracted me to Cardigans is that they are a breed that looks good naturally – no weird trimming involved.

You can imagine my surprise when kind folks like Cindy and Dawn started to open my eyes to the world of Cardi show grooming.

The first eye-opening thing was all of the equipment, supplies, and stuff required to groom a show Cardi.  Prior to selling my soul to dark side of conformation, here is the size of my grooming bag:

A nice, small bag.
I've included the brush to provide some perspective.

What did the bag contain?
A pin brush
A metal comb (that I never really used, but had because Mandy told me to get one when I first got Maggie)
A pair of hair trimming scissors
A curry comb (Denzil liked this one best)
A Furminator (don’t judge me – it’s much quicker!)
Nail trimmers
Apple scented dog shampoo & coat spray

That list seems pretty long, no? 

These supplies served me well to prep my dogs for everyday life, and performance events. 

THEN I saw Cindy’s grooming equipment and I realized I was out of my league.  I didn’t even know a table and dryer were necessary (oh, how silly I used to be…)!

After visiting Cindy, I bought a grooming table and dryer -- the “big ticket” items.  I sold most of my herd of Breyer Appaloosas on eBay to pay for them.  (Also, I used the sale of the Breyers to support the "see I'm getting rid of stuff" argument in preparation for the arrival of a sea of boxes filled with grooming gear.)

What a pretty dryer!
It still  looks new because it's only been used a few times.

My new grooming area in the basement.
Note that I even have an apron.  
That makes me official.

Grooming with Dawn convinced me that I also needed some chalk, a chalk brush, a nail grinder, and whitening shampoo.  Now I’m ready to show! Right?!?

The National Specialty highlighted how woefully inadequate even my “beefed up” grooming kit was.  Based on what Mandy and Carolyn used on Rip at the Specialty (with some extra tips from Jeri) - here’s what I’ve got now:

Look at all the lovely supplies!
Most of them are still unused....

And I get the impression that this is just “the basics.”  Where did I get his impression?  From the lift trucks lined up to haul people's grooming boxes into the hall at the Specialty.  (Some of those boxes were bigger than some of my furniture!)

I also bought a cool grooming bag from Doggone good.  That was the best part of this whole shopping scheme – a lovely new bag to organize all my new necessities.

I love this bag.  See, it's big enough for all my current gear.
And more!  It also has an insulated compartment for bait.

So now I’ve got the stuff.  Where do I go from here?  

More about that in Grooming Part Two:  Now what do I do with all this stuff?
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