Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ziggy the Cardigan Corgi - IVDD 2 years

I realize that I haven't posted a Ziggy update for a while.

On December 2nd, it was 2 years since Ziggy's disc rupture and surgery.  I wish I could say that Ziggy is walking.  Unfortunately I can't.  Ziggy seems to have defied the odds, but in the wrong way.  Given his condition at the time of surgery, there was a ~90% chance that Ziggy would walk again.  Ziggy is in the 10%.

As you know, we did much rehab with Ziggy - at home, at a local rehab vet, at ISU.  He also had acupuncture and a bit of chiro to help with mis-alignment due to the scooting he does when out of his cart.  (The chiro was done months after healing from the surgery, and not in the surgical site.)

The best thing we've done for Ziggy in this time?  We got him a custom cart from Eddie's wheels.  I think I'll do another post about this, but trust me when I said the cart has been life-changing for all of us.

Currently Ziggy is out of his cart when he's inside.  He scoots around pulling himself with his front end.

Here's a video I took of Ziggy and Rip frapping about a year and a half ago.  You can see him do a bit of scooting as he repositions himself…

When he's outside, he goes out in his new cart.  Here are a couple videos from this summer that show how well he can move in his cart.  You can also see his hind end movement and the ramp that we built to help him up on the deck!

P.S. - there's even a Maggie cameo in this one.  I miss my old girl :(

We have pretty much given up rehab with Ziggy.  At this point I think this is where he's going to be.  Sometimes I watch him move in his cart, though, and I wonder.  He really does seem to know how to place his hind legs.  For now, though, we're letting Ziggy be Ziggy and enjoy his carting and scooting life.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Leave No Poop Behind and Pay-It-Forward

WARNING:  This blog post is all about dog poop.  If that makes you squeemish, please click HERE.

If it doesn't make you squeamish, please continue:

I am now on my 13th year of living-in-a-city dog ownership, and I have developed a point of view on how to handle dog poop when on walks.  I had the strange epiphany that I have a POV on dog poop when on a recent walk at night with Rip.  He made me violate one of my rules, so I had to enact the other.

Let me explain:

RULE 1:  Leave No Poop Behind

I do everything I can to pick up EVERY turd that my dogs leave outside of my yard.

I know how hard it is for dogs to earn privileges to go places, and I know how upset people get when errant dog poops are found in parks, school grounds, their yards, etc.  I count myself as one of those people who gets upset at errant dog poop, so I do everything I can to pick up each and every turd my dogs leave behind.

Sometimes I even go to extreme measures to make this happen (think feeling around in the dark on the ground for something warm, and using random bits of trash as pick-up "bags" if I happen to have run out of bags in my pocket).

And I also have a favorite brand & style of dog poo bag.  It's the perfect size for the Cardigan Welsh Corigs, and has nice handles for tying and carrying.  Sure, having a favorite poo bag may be crossing the line, but there you go.

(I get them from PetEdge, by the way)

(this is an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper)

On our last night walk, Rip decided to roam while he pooped (so much energy.  can't stay in one place even to poop).  Since it's autumn, and it was night, and we were on a part of the street away from a streetlight, I'm afraid I may have missed a couple of turds.

Which brings me to my next rule...

RULE 2:  Pay It Forward

If I'm out on a walk, have an extra bag, and see another dog's poop that their owner hasn't picked up, I'll do it.  I pick it up and throw it away on behalf of the dog community.  This helps keep my neighborhood clean, helps keep my neighbors happy, and I think allows me a little bit of a "credit" to cover for the turds I may miss now and again.

Last weekend, for example, I picked up 3 dog poops from our local playing fields while The Small Human was playing on the playground.  I had some extra bags in my pocket - so why not?  (Oh, and special shame to those people who don't pick up poop on school ground.  GRRR)

I think of it as paying it forward - dog poo version.

So remember, if you're a dog owner who takes their dogs places, or walks them around a neighborhood or any other "public" place - Leave No Poop Behind and Pay It Forward when you can.

Cute Pictures of a Dog and Cat Snuggling

There, don't you feel better now?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Advice on Choosing a Dog (for my "non-dog-crazy" friends)

Often I feel like I'm in the strange position of living in/between 2 worlds.  Let's call those worlds they "crazy dog" world and the "normal" world.  This post is not for my "crazy dog" friends - you'll know all this stuff.  This post is for my "normal" friends who decide they want a dog.  In case I don't talk to you before you take the plunge, please keep these things in mind before you get a dog:

These dogs invariably come from a puppy mill somewhere (no reputable breeder would sell their dogs to a pet store) - meaning that dogs from a pet store are sending money to people who treat dogs like a cash crop, not like thinking, feeling beings.

FIGURE OUT WHAT TRAITS you want a dog to have.
Things like size, energy level, amount of training needed, how much grooming required, friendliness (to dogs and humans), protectiveness, and energy level (did I mention that already?) all really matter.  Think about what you want in a dog before you choose a dog.

BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR ANSWERS to the traits above.  
If you're not honest with yourself, you're asking for trouble.  E.g., a high energy dog means you'll have to exercise them a lot if both of you are to remain sane.  A dog may be really cute, but if it's not a good fit, both you and the dog will be miserable.

Find breeds that fit with the traits you're looking for.

There are a number of "dog breed selector" tools online that can help you narrow things down.  I also found a dog breed comparison chart online that I think is good.  Both of these can help you narrow down and/or compare breeds.

When you've narrowed it down to a handful of breeds do even more research to find out what the breeds are like to live with.  I'd start at the American Kennel Club breed index  and the breed club websites (just search for the breed name and "club" to get started).  What do they say about what it's like to live with this breed?  Go to some breeder websites.  What do they say?  Make sure your life fits with what the dog requires.

And YES, this matters even if you're getting a dog from a shelter.  Learning about breed traits means  you'll have an idea of what breeds/mixes you can live with - and those that you can't - when you're looking at a dog in the shelter.

If you're not getting a dog from a shelter or breed rescue, you want to find a great breeder.  This breeder will ask you as many (or more) questions than you ask them.  They will make you sign a contract, and provide references.  They'll check your references.  They will health test their breeding animals to try and minimize health problems prevalent in the breed. Their puppies will be part of their family.

The right puppy from the right breeder may not be available right away.  This goes for shelter or rescue dogs, too.  Wait for the right dog to come along, one that really fits your lifestyle.

Breeders get to know the puppies they have, and put a lot of thought into which homes they place which puppies.  You may think one dog is the cutest, but that one may not be the best fit for you.  Trust that they want to match the right dogs with the right homes.  After all, they want both you and their canine babies to be happy together for as long as possible.

It may take a long time to find the right dog, but be patient and enjoy the journey.  Your new dog will be part of your family (if you're lucky) for a long time, but a time that's always too short.  So enjoy it all!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wagmore Farm: "Forever" Homes for the Baby Trees

You might remember from a previous post that The Husband and I, with lots of help from my Dad, bought 40+ baby trees from a local forester's sale to make up for some of the trees we had to get rid of when we bought the house.

We bought them and put them in the "tree nursery" in spring of 2012.

The baby trees - summer of '12

When we went out this spring, we noticed that the babies were really starting to grow.  Starting to grow so much, in fact, that we really needed to move them.

A couple trees didn't make it, but we were left with a great selection of western red cedar, incense cedar, deodar cedar, hemlock, and 3 giant sequoia.

The baby trees - fall '13
Oh what a difference a year makes!

To minimize the amount of watering we'd have to do, we chose to wait until the fall to move them.  Since the land is in the Pacific Northwest, we figured Mother Nature would take over the watering soon enough.

First on our list was to plan where the babies would go.  While I knew the general areas for all the trees, I wanted our trees to look like a forest -- not like lines of screen trees -- so I took care to place each tree individually.  This involved figuring out how far apart each type of tree needed to be, deciding how to make things look as natural as possible, then measuring (algebra used!), and flagging where each tree went.

Here's the rest of the story - in pictures:

First, we mowed the areas where the trees were to be planted.
This is the largest area - along our side fence line.

The Husband dug up each of the trees.
You can really see how big they've become when a person is next to them!

We were smart enough to buy a post hole digger for the tractor,
so at least that part was easy...

Our first couple trees in their "forever" homes.
30 more trees went along this line.

This is the last tree in the line.
We put newspaper around each base, and finished it off with mulch.
Hopefully that will keep the weeds down a bit.

We also soaked all of them in using 
a root builder fertilizer recommended by our local nursery.
Grow babies, grow!

We put a few of the trees out near the road, 
so we'll have a nice view of them from the house.

The last few trees went in the area SE of the house -- adding some evergreens to the deciduous trees already in the "forest" area.

I can't wait to watch them fill in!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Maybe I'm back?

I realize that I haven't posted anything since Maggie has been gone.  Losing her was very hard on me, and has really made me think about what I want to do with my dogs.

Part of the great connection I had with Maggie was, I believe, because of all the things we did together.  We lived in six different homes and went many places together.  We started out hiking, then moved on to dog parks, then basic obedience classes, then more advanced obedience classes, then agility class, then seminars, dog shows, etc.  Through it all we became very close.

This realization has made me want to pick up the pace with Rip.  Ok, maybe we won't live in six different homes together, but we can go places and do things more than we had been.  In the past few months we've been to our first Rally trial, taken a heeling class, and have started to take private agility lessons.  And we're both enjoying it.

Then I think about my blog.  I don't know if I'll go back to the stories & tips on training.  Maybe other blogs have that covered.

But I think I would like to share some things I've learned about the dog world.  And most of all I'd like to share the work we're doing on our property, Wagmore.  Ok, and maybe I'll throw in a dog training thing or two -- if I come upon something fun or when Rip does something that makes me laugh.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Goodbye to My Best Girl

C-Myste Sweet Dreams CDX RAE AJP MXP
June 23, 1999 - July 26, 2013

Today we had to say goodbye to Maggie.  

She was the first dog that was mine alone, my first Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and my first performance dog.  

Maggie was with me when I was single, then married, then a mother.  She and I lived together in 4 different states, 3 different time zones, and through many transitions. 

She was gorgeous, funny, smart, and picky about who she loved.

Maggie taught me the joy of training dogs, taught The Small Human how to sleep through barking, and taught Ziggy how to retrieve a dumbbell.

Her greatest joys in life were rolling (preferably in stink), working (preferably for food), and barking with happiness.

We all miss our Best Girl.  Rest in peace.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Happy (one-week-late) 14th Birthday, Maggie!

Lookin' good for 14 years old!

Last Sunday Maggie turned 14 years old.  We didn't have any sort of celebration for our girl, but I am saving her favorite treat - a "bullwinkie" for her.  I just need to find a time to give it to her when Rip is on a walk - to avoid Rip's frustrated barks.

Physically, Maggie is doing very well.  She sleeps a lot, but remains in pretty good shape, and doesn't seem to be in pain.  She even romps down the hall in the morning when she wakes up.

Mentally, she is definitely an old lady, and her mind is going a bit.  Some days are good.  Some days not -- she seems disconnected from the world.  We have started crating her at night -- otherwise she'll get up around 4:30-5am and just wander around the house - back and forth in the kitchen or our bedroom.  Sometimes she greets me with a wag at door when I return from work; sometimes she just wanders over as the boys run to meet me and stares at me like "hmm - there's a person."  The content and "with it" times currently outnumber the disconnected times and she isn't in pain.  We're happy to have our old lady dog still with us.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

New Wheels for Me (or Dog Crates in a Honda Pilot)

Since my beloved Honda Odyssey didn't make it through the accident, we were forced, unexpectedly, into buying a new car.  

I didn't want another minivan, as Honda has redesigned the van since we bought ours, and the style is just too "mumsy" for me.  I may be deluding myself, but the old Odyssey was at least a little sporty.  The new one is not, and I'm feeling too much like middle-aged soccer mom to buy another minivan.  So what to buy?

My rental Explorer.  Loved it!

We had a Ford Explorer as our rental car, and I loved it.  Loved how it drove, loved the styling, especially loved the touch screen controls.  I thought maybe we'd just buy one of those.  Then I realized that, with the back seat up, I could barely fit 2 small crates in the back.  With my larger (24"x 36") crate - I could only fit one crate in the back.  No way.  A car that size should fit much more in the back, so the hunt was on.

We test drove and measured the behind-the-back-seat-area of:
  • The Ford Flex (43" long x 40" wide)
  • The Subaru Outback (42.5" long x 33" wide) - with slopey back window
  • The Volvo Wagon (43" wide x 44.4" wide)
We were all set to buy a Volvo Wagon, when we found the Honda Pilot.  It combines good Consumer Reports ratings, decent gas mileage, adequate sportiness, and a dog-friendly rear storage.

Here's a picture of the one we test drove - 
on the left is a 30"x19" crate
on the right is a 24"x36" crate.

So here she is.  Awaiting dog hair.

Ziggy got to be the first canine passenger.
Lucky boy!
I think he likes being able to see the driver from his crate.

And here he is in the 30"x19" crate.
Plenty of room for his wheels, too.
I added pieces of 3 rubber mats under the front of the crate to keep it level.

So far we love the Pilot.  Now I need to find a dog show or clinic to attend so I can really put her cargo space to the test.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ode to a Honda Minivan

About seven weeks ago, my minivan and motivation both took a hit.  I was driving home from work, and the traffic was stopped on the bridge.  I stopped, but the guy behind me didn't.  My van was hit from behind and thrown into the car stopped in front of me.

Unfortunately for me, my two-and-a-half-weeks-post surgery knee smashed into the dash/front console of the van on impact.  The accident set the healing of my knee back significantly - it changed (for worse) the trajectory of the healing, and put "Project Stay" on hold, as I was back to rest and ice.  So, no dog events to post.

Unfortunately for the van, it got smooshed from both ends, resulting in too much damage to make it a repair job.  So, the insurance company totaled out the van, forcing me to say goodbye to my lovely silver Honda minivan much sooner than I'd planned.

Here are some pictures of my (formerly) lovely silver van.

I miss you, silver minivan.  The whole family misses you.  

Here's a poem by The Husband titled "So Farewell Then, Silver Honda"

So, farewell silver Honda
You hauled a lot for us - dog shows
And trips to Lowes
School pick ups, the Target run
Genesis emergencies, family fun
We'll miss you silver Honda
Good luck
On your final Odyssey

Monday, April 22, 2013

Project Stay: Duration Check-in

Rip and I are now on day 5 of Duration stay work.  I must admit that I've only made my goal of twice-a-day training sessions one day so far.  But I have been working on stays every day, which is progress!

I've been increasing at 30 second increments each session - expect for 2 sessions at 2 minutes long.  He broke at around 1.5 minutes the first time we did 2 minutes, so we did not add time for the next session.  I'm not adding time unless he's successful.

We are now up to 3 minute stays in both the down and the sit.

What I've noticed:
  • I need to stay a bit closer to him than I thought I would.  Most of the time I'm 3' to 4' away.  I can tell he's just learning what I want (stay in the same position, in the same place), so I find staying closer to him seems to make him more sure of what he's doing.
  • Watching him closely pays off.  This way I can tell if he's making little shifts that might lead to a break in position.  When I see this, I step a little closer in to give him support.  I'm not rushing in to correct him (which would make him even more confused) - it's just a quiet step in his direction, reinforcing the position.

Something I'm trying with Rip that I didn't do with my other dogs is differentiating his downs.

For the downs needed in the non-stay exercises, I've trained Rip to do a quick "sphinx" down -- folding back into the down position.  For stays I'm training him the command "hip" (I'm saying this instead of down) and asking him to rest on his left hip in the down.

Why am I doing this?  First, this is the sort of down my dogs tend to do when they're resting on their own, so I'm assuming it's more comfortable for a longer period of time.  Second, I want him to know that with the "hip" type of down, he's going to be there for a while.  With the "down" down, I'm likely to ask him to do something else pretty quickly (e.g., recall, stand, sit).

I'm not sure if it will work, but it's something I've been considering for a while, so Rip gets to be my test dog ;)

Rip demonstrates the "hip" down 
that we're using for our stays

Compared to

The "down" (aka sphinx) down
that we use for the other exercises

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Project Stay - Yes, I'm Finally Training the Wild Dog to Stay...

Stay is boring!  Rip likes to run!

Ok, I'm a little ashamed that I have a nearly-3-year-old dog who really does not  understand the concept of "Stay."  Since I want to get Rip into the Rally & Obedience rings in the near future, this is a *bit* of a problem.

So, finally, I've decided to really work on "Stay" with Rip.

Coincidently last week I was in a managerial effectiveness class, and we had to work with another person and coach them through developing a plan to tackle a non-work project.  I chose to think through training the stay.  After helping me through the plan, my work colleague said, "and that is why I don't train my dogs."  Fair enough.

The goal:
At the end of Project Stay Rip will be able to hold a 5 minute sit stay and a 7 minute down stay in "public" with me 40' away.

The plan:
Take on the 3 "D's" of the Stay.  Duration, Distraction & Distance.  I've chosen to break it down this way based on what I learned from a Laura Romanik seminar I attended a couple years ago.

I'm taking on Duration first:

  • This work will be done at home, or outside in our yard - places that Rip is really comfortable with.
  • We will start with 1 minute sit and 1 minute down.
  • We will work up to 7 minutes in sit, and 7 minutes in down.
  • I will stay within 6' of Rip at all times.
  • Plan to work on duration for 7-10 days.  2 sessions per day.

Next is Distraction:
  • I'm breaking distraction down into "new places" and "what is mom doing?"
  • Rip and I will go to at least 4 new places to work on stays.  The distraction part is all the new stuff that will be going on around us.
  • We'll also work with distractions at home.  I'll introduce new things and use things that normally distract Rip to test his resolve.  We'll do at least 9 sessions of these "what is mom doing" distractions.
  • All distraction work will be on leash, with me no more than 6' away from Rip.
  • Plan to work on distraction for 7-10 days.  2 sessions per day.

Then we'll get to Distance
  • Work will be done mainly at home, and at the club building where we normally train.
  • Work at home will be off-leash.  Work away from home will be on-leash.
  • Every session I'll move 1-2' feet further away.
  • Goal is to be able to do out-of-sight stays at home.
  • I'll work on distance for 7-10 days.  2 sessions per day.

Finally, we'll put it all together:
  • In reality, this will continue as long as Rip is doing obedience, but we'll continue the stay focus for a final 7 days.
  • We'll go to 4 new places and work on distance (on a long line).  
  • The goal here is to get 50' away from Rip, and be able to hold the sit stay for 5 minutes, and the down stay for 7 minutes.

To keep myself honest, I'll post quick updates on the blog at least twice a week, and a summary of each phase as we graduate to the next.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ziggy the Cardigan Corgi IVDD: Month 15

I realize I haven't done a Ziggy post for a while.  Progress seems really slow.  Wait, that's because progress IS really slow.

Here's what's happening now:

  • Ziggy continues to use his legs vigorously in when he's in the cart and in the harness.
  • He is really trying to stand up more on his own, and is often able to get into a crouch position.
  • We've started to take him to the local rehab vet again.  She is now working her clinic full time, and is willing to have Z stop by for the day.
  • At rehab, he gets electro-stim acupuncture once a week, a chiropractic adjustment once a week (on different days), gets a couple of PT sessions each day, and gets to hang out in his cart or an ex-pen the rest of the day.

The Laziness continues:

Ziggy continues to be very lazy about his rehab.  He just doesn't seem like he really cares about walking or standing.  It's a lot of work, you know...  We've been putting him outside in cart, allowing him time on his own to perambulate around the yard.  Unless there's a squirrel to chase, he normally just stands in one place.  And saying that he stands is generous.  He often stands on his front legs and just lets his hind end hand in the sling on the cart.  Sigh.

I can't help but think that progress is slower because of Z's laziness.  The positive side of the laziness is that mentally he doesn't seem to mind his life as a couch potato at all ;)

Ziggy getting acupuncture last week.
It's just too hard for a corgi to stand up for that long.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Day in the Life of the Old Man Cat

Today is the 19th Birthday of our old man cat, Duncan.

Duncan is an indoor cat, 
but always enjoys a supervised wander around the yard.

It's wonderful to wish Duncan a Happy Birthday - especially since he's lived 4 years since the vet gave him one year to live (bad kidneys).

Wonder what life is like for a 19 year old cat?  
Here's a day in the life of Duncan (in descending order of time spent on each activity):

15 hours => lay on heated cat bed next to heater vent

7 hours => sleep on bed at night with humans

1 hour => wait in bathroom for someone to turn on the bath tap to get a drink

40 minutes =>  look for a place to puke.  do this multiple times per day - deciding whether to make it easy on the humans and puke where the dogs will clean it up OR puke where the dogs can't get it so the humans must clean it up.

10 minutes => eat cat food to puke up later

8 minutes => pee just outside of litter box

2 minutes => run wildly around around the house - preferably where the humans can't see you

We love our snuggly old man cat.  Here are some of my favorite pictures:

Snuggled up with Maggie on one of our 
cross-country trips.

Duncan is a good car cat.  
He loved to sit in the back window of my Honda.

Always the helper cat. his younger days.

Always the helper cat.

Happy 19th Birthday, Duncan!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

More Trees for Wagmore!

I love trees.   When we bought Wagmore, the property had some great trees.  Unfortunately, many of these great trees were planted very close to the house.  Big trees close to the house = bad.  Still, it was hard for The Husband and I when we had to take down those trees.

Then  My Dad mentioned to me that the Washington state foresters association has a seedling sale every year.  I was in!  I placed my order with My Dad, and sent him some cash.   Apparently, the seedling sale is rather like Black Friday deals, with seedlings going fast, so My Dad went early in the morning, and was one of the first in line.

All the trees I wanted were available, so we ended up with 42 baby trees.  I only ordered 40, but since we were buying so many, they threw in 2 extras.  So nice!  My Dad came home with 3 different types of cedars, fir trees, hemlocks, 2 ginkos, and 3 giant sequoias.

Since the trees were tiny, My Dad planted them on the property, in the area that was formerly the garden, and watered them over the summer when things got too dry.  (HUGE thanks to My Dad for all he's done for our baby trees!)

The Tree Nursery.  Hello, babies!

These are the smallest of all the baby trees.

Cedar - can't remember which type.

Baby fir tree.  

Now that the baby trees are starting to grow, it's time to think about where we'll put them.  Our plan is to put them in their permanent homes in late-April or May.

I spent some time yesterday thinking about the property, and learning about what type of environment each of the babies like.

Here's my draft tree plan:

The screen trees will be 2 of the types of cedars (deodar and incense) plus some older, fast-growing trees that we'll buy from a nursery and mix in.  I want the screens to look natural, not just a long line of trees.

The choice of the screen location in the front of the property is to screen a rather junky barn, bus(?), etc. that our neighbors have.

On the side of the property the screen will be "preemptive."  The next door 20 acres is for sale.  Right now zoned for one house, but you never know.

In the back of the property the screen will be used to block the view of a giant house on the property behind ours.

The other trees will be used to fill in an area that already has some trees.  I want it to be more of a forest  -- with room for a galloping lane running through it, of course.

Here's a view of the forest as it is now.  
All deciduous trees, and needs to be thicker to be
a real NW forest.

I'll do a post when we do our planting.  Oh, and if any of you in the SWWA area want to help, just let me know!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Obedience "must train" - The Nose Touch

I've had a number of occasions lately to be thankful that I have taught my dogs to touch their nose to my palm -- something I call the nose touch.

What is the nose touch?

The nose touch is when I say "touch" and the dog firmly presses their nose into my outstretched palm.

Why do I find it useful?

It's a great way to maneuver a dog without having to pull on the leash, grab the collar, lure with food, pick them up, etc.

With Ziggy:
  • Ziggy is a sweet dog.  He is also rather lazy, and has a bit of a stubborn streak.  If he doesn't want to go somewhere, a pull on his collar only leads to a dog who puts on the brakes even more.  No fits.  He just anchors himself into place and gives me a completely impassive look.  
    • But the nose touch gets him to move!  It frees me from having to beg, pull, or push him into place.
    • The logic seems to be touch = food = something I can do to get a reward!
  • The folks at the ISU vet school rehab center also appreciate the nose touch, as it allows them to get Ziggy to do his rehab exercises more easily.

With Rip:
  • I use the nose touch A LOT with Rip.
  • I use it to get Rip where I want him to be.  
  • I  ask him to "bounce" - or come off the ground in front a bit - to touch, which he finds very motivating.
  • The nose touch comes in handy when teaching him things like finishes.  I have him bounce up to touch my hand, to get him to move left or right, then I use the touch to bounce him into place.
  • I'll feed Rip his dinner as a reward for touching my hand (Touch = a small bit of food from my hand), so Rip is very motivated to touch.  
  • I'll even use "touch" in place of "come" from time to time.  I seem to have built more rewards into touch, so Rip almost always barrels towards my hand.  But that's probably more a fault of my recall training than a benefit of "touch."  ;)
  • I ask him to touch a lot when we're heeling.  
    • I have him touch to get his attention.  Rather than correcting him when he looks away, I ask for a series of hand touches to get him back in focus.  
    • I have him do a little "bounce" touch to get more drive when heeling -- like during the transition from slow to normal pace.

With Maggie:
  • Oh, heck, let's face it - Maggie is an old lady who is deaf and gets to do what she wants most of the time - but she still remembers that touch is high reward, and she'll gently press her nose to my hand if I hold it out there for her.  And she always gets a treat for it!  :)

(Maggie was at rest during my "nose" photo shoot, 
so I just took a nose picture of her snuggled up in her bed)

How do I train "touch?"

Touch is a fairly straightforward thing to train.


When I train the nose touch, my criteria are that a corgi nose is firmly pressed into my open palm.  I don't want teeth + nose.  I don't want near touches, or gentle tap nose touches.  I want a nice, firm nose touch, wherever my hand may be - close to the floor, behind my back, above the dog's head, etc.

Initial Training

The nose touch is easy to train if you're clicker training, or even if you're not.

I clicker trained Rip and Ziggy to touch, clicking for ever-closer progression toward my palm, and delivering the treat from the hand that I've asked them to touch.  Using the clicker to train touch is now my favorite way to train it.  It's a great thing to train when just learning to use the clicker, as dogs tend to catch on very quickly.

Maggie I trained without a clicker (this was before my clicker days).  She is hugely food driven, so I had small treat in my hand, and rewarded when her nose came in contact with my hand -- which it naturally did as part of trying to get the treat.  I think it took her about twice before she figured the game out.


Though my dogs know "touch" very well now, I continue to offer a high rate of reward for it.  I'll often just do touches for treats, or touches for bits of their meal so that it I have a lot "in the bank," allowing me to use touch without it becoming boring, or low reward.

I hope you and your dogs enjoy the nose touch as much as The Pack and I do.  I am regularly thinking of new ways to use it!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Well, I had a plan

About a month ago, I finally decided to get plans together for Rip's obedience and Rally debuts.  Two of my favorite trials take place here on consecutive weekends in late March/early April.  One of the trials offers the "regular" obedience and rally classes; the other trial offers those plus the optional titling classes.

My plan was to do 2 days of Novice B Rally at the first trial, then 3 days of Rally and 3 days of Beginning Novice obedience at the second trial.  Hopefully, and ok, maybe a little optimistically, this would gain us two titles in two weekends.

In order to meet this goal, I started taking Rip to Rally practice once a week (when I was home), and I signed him up for a CGC class as well.  He really needs work around distractions (too much practice at home!) and work on his "stay."

All was going well (or well-ish, depending on how wild Rip was on a given day), then about a week and a half ago I messed up my knee by slipping and falling on some ice while taking Rip for a walk.  Not Rip's fault at all -- he wasn't pulling or being naughty -- I just hit some ice hidden under snow.

So now I'm doctor-imposed rest, ice, brace, etc.  I'm hoping to find out early next week what I can expect for recovery time and activity levels.  At this point, though, it seems that my goals for Rip's first titles might have to be postponed.

I'm trying to do a bit of training each day, but since I can't move much or quickly, my options are limited.  Any ideas for tricks I can train while seated with my knee elevated?

In the meantime, Rip is going on snowy, woodland adventures with The Husband and The Small Human.

Scouting the woodland for small creatures

Channeling his friend, Irie the Adventure Corgi
(Rip says she's lucky that she gets to hike so much!)

Working on natural agility

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The old lady dog

In the past six months, Maggie has made the move from "senior" to "old lady."  I haven't posted about her in a while, so I thought I'd share an update.

The old lady likes to snuggle with Ziggy.

Maggie is now 13.5 years old, and in pretty darn good shape.  Some things to know about the old lady dog:

She is DEAF.  
Maggie can no longer hear.  Well, she can't hear anything except for Rip's piercing "I want something" barks.  I can't imagine that's any fun - woken up from a quiet nap by a piercing bark from a petulant pup.

Deafness means that she can't hear the "come on in" yell that brings the dogs in from the yard.  If she looks my way, I can flag her in using a hand signal (I am very thankful for her Utility training - hand signals are invaluable now).  If she doesn't look my way she'll stay out in the yard for a long time.  Now that it's cold out we sometimes have to go out, tap her, and flag her in.

What is she doing out in the  yard so long?  Sniffing!

Yes, we indulge the sniffing.

She SNIFFS a lot.
Maggie's nose seems to be supercharged.  Maybe she's trying to make up for the deafness, but Maggie's sniffing has ratcheted up tremendously.  She sniffs around the yard.  Walks are now really sniff-tastic adventure strolls.  A walk around the block can take as much time as we allow.  And the worst part about the sniffing?

She has become a TRIP HAZARD.
Maggie's infernal sniffing carries over into the house.  When she's not asleep, she can normally be found sniffing around the kitchen.  Crumbs might fall.  Humans in the kitchen must watch out or the old lady may trip them.

She still PLAYS a bit, though.
In the mornings Maggie will run down the hall and do some very mild frapping with Rip.  She also gets excited when Rip and I are doing obedience work, too.  So I often indulge her in a few dumbbell retrieves (no fronts required!) - she still loves to work!

2 dogs reporting for work.

We are really pleased, though, that Maggie is happy and healthy.  She is a dear old lady.
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