Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Part 1B: Update

I just thought you guys might want to see my progress with the new trick.
This is session 6ish, give or take. No sessions were longer than 2 minutes.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gaius Here!

I'm dirty so I must have had fun.

Hands down the most important thing that you can teach your dog is to come to you on command. 100% of the time. It shouldn't matter what distractions are present, there times when recalls are a matter of life and death.

Susan Garrett says "There is nothing more important than teaching your dog a reliable recall, nothing . . . it is the foundation of all brilliance and it reflects the relationship you have with your dog."

That last part can be tough to hear for people who don't have a good recall with their dogs.
The first key in teaching a reliable recall is having a word that means 'You come here no matter what!' That means if you use this word and your dog doesn't come to you, you must go get them, immediately, no matter what. Then you should limit there freedom for a short time (If there off lead put them on a leash, if they are on a long leash shorten it). Now we call our dogs to us all the time. More than we proubably realize. And sometimes it is a choice for them around the house. If you just casually want to snuggle with your dog on the couch you might lean down and casually call them over. They may or may not be in a snuggle mood and therefore may or may not come on command. And to be honest I don't think dogs should have to.

There is any easy distinction to make here I think. You should have more than one command. I casual "Come on over" command which implies a choice. It means "Hey, I'd like you to be with me right now, but its not a big deal" and you need a concrete "Come here now!" command, in which there is no choice. Some would say this makes all of your commands wishy washy, and that a dog should always respond to any command immediately no matter what, with the efficiency of a well trained SS officer. And that allowing your dog to ignore ANY command will mean that all your commands are meaningless and optional. Now I understand the thinking here, but then again my dog is not going to be winning any national AKC championships in obedience or agility. So I can handle a little wishy washy.

To teach a reliable recall I think the keys are lots of practice, first in non distracting locations. For example, start in your own home when nothing much is going on and your dogs are very bored. Chances are mommy will be more interesting than sleeping under the couch. Especially if she has treats. When your dog is 100% reliable then, up the anti with more distractions. Can you come to me when someone else is making dinner? When there are guests over? When another dog is playing next to you? When we're in the back yard? When you see a squirrel?

Now when your dog makes the choice not to come back to you (which at some point he will) I will usually repeat the command at least once. (Another bit of wishy washyness hard core trainers would chastise me for). But if the dog is off leash and far away, he might legitimately not have heard me. Also if you have a dachshund and they see/smell prey, they have a tendency to do this lovely thing called going 'hound deaf'. Now that's no excuse to ignore your recall, but sometimes it warrants a second chance to close the nose and open the ears. But the rule of two is a strict one. I only say it twice and then I go and get the dog. Now when your dog dose something really hard, like recall off a squirrel. It is important to some of the time let them go back to chasing the squirrel immediately after coming to you. This makes the squirrel chasing a reward for the recall.

Another tip is to never scream angrily for a dog to come to you. Even in panicky situations. No dog wants to respond to a recall when there owner is mad at them. Listen to yourself, would you run towards that? If the answer is no, don't expect your dog to come back. Recall a dog that's darted out the front door with the same calm relaxed voice you use when you practice.

Gaius' recall is generally pretty good but there are a few distractions he really struggles with. One being water fowl. Time for a truly embarrassing story:

Gaius is a proud member of the Dog Scouts of America! which is probably as dorky as it gets as a dog person. But its fun and we love the monthly hikes. Since Gaius dose have a fairly reliable recall, I generally let him go off leash for 90% of the time. Two months ago we were on our hike and Gaius heard ducks on the James River. And off he went.

Can you pick out the black spec that is Gaius?

I called once. Nothing. I called twice nothing. And I watched as my ten pound dog tried to ford the James River. Gaius has some issues with out of water recalls. He doesn't think I have the guts to dive in the water and get him. Well in this case I didn't, but luckily Sean did. Here's another picture of the very cranky Sean's daring rescue.

Angry daddy is angry

Now Jen our group leader is a little high strung and freaked a bit. She was convinced that my little purse dog would be swept downstream never to be seen again. He'd reach the ocean and be covered in oil or some such nonsense (I think he could have made it back to shore, but who am Ito argue). And for the next week I got a lot of tsking at my dog training school for having a 'bad recall'. Which was well deserved. So now the main goal on all hikes is to improve my recall skills with Gaius! Here is a short video of the hike, its only the first ten minutes because after that the flip camera took an unexpected swim (No worries its fine now. Its very hardy)

Gaius did a really great job yesterday he only ignored my recall 3 times. All were out of water (There is a clue on what needs work). All three times he ended up back on the leash for a few minutes (he was not a happy camper sitting next to me while the other dogs played).

So now we must look back at the words from Susan Garrett "[Your recall] reflects the relationship you have with your dog". So looking at the evidence, Gaius loves ducks more than he loves me :) Or in other words, Gaius finds chasing ducks more rewarding than coming to me when I call him. So will Gaius ever find my company better than that of water fowl? Proubably not. But the thing is he's not really choosing between me and water fowl. Because I go to get Gaius every time he ignores my recall what he's really choosing between is coming to me and getting a treat or losing freedom. And really that choice is a no brainier.Besides there is a high possibility that after returning to me I'll let him chase the ducks again. Unless they are in the middle of the James during a high water advisory.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Part 1B: Scratch

Remember last post when I mentioned I had some trick training ADD? Well I interrupt this three part series on what I'm teaching Gaius to bring you another trick I just started. Mostly because I saw a tutorial on you tube the other day and couldn't resist. This is pretty much the cutest trick in the whole wide world. (I also may have left a prop for one of the next videos in Chester making it difficult to video tape)

I mean come on. If you have a small dog, after seeing that how can you not want to immediately teach your dog to scratch your back. So I have a video here of Gaius' FIRST training session, learning to scratch on command. This is good because I don't think I've posted a FIRST training session yet. so you can see in the video Gaius throws out a whole bunch of things he thinks I might be looking for but in the end we narrow it down to the behavior I want.

In other training news. We got into the Agility Show next month! I'm seriously shocked. I thought an indoor air conditioned show in the summer would really fill up fast but it looks like we will actually see the show ring this summer.

I forgot Gaius' date of birth on the form and had to email the poor trial secretary. So I not only hate filling out forms but also I'm also bad at it. Well at least the trial is in Maryland and away from everyone I know. That way, if I make a fool of myself no one will see.

I was pleased with how fast Gaius was in agility last night even in 95 degree weather (Even without a ballon because mom forgot to buy more). That gives me hope for the trial. :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Part One: NO!

This was taken before the toy embargo

I am sort of training ADD at times. This means I'm generally shaping two or three behaviors at once. The next several blog post will be about three tricks I'm currently working on. I'm going to put up some videos of a training session for each to show my current progress.

The first trick is "No thank you" aka I'm trying to teach Gaius to shake his head no. I'll work on yes when he has this one down pat... if he ever does. I also have tendency to get bored with a trick when it gets to the point where I have to add a command. This is always the hard part for me. I have this really cute trick called "mark" where he lifts his hind leg (Ok immature, but I like it) but for the life of me I can't get him to respond to the verbal command. I need to work on that. Hey! There's another post!

Anyhow, here is the start of me training Gaius to shake his head no. I'd say we've had four other training sessions working on this so far over the past month-ish. This isn't his first time with the skill but it's pretty early in the process. My biggest challenge right now is getting him to turn his head to the left further. He's got the right down pat. Also I'm having an off timing day clicker wise. But I think this was still a productive session.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Little Thief

The Evidence

Gaius is a diabolical mastermind when it comes to food. Ever since we've had him he scouts for opportunities to steal food. Generally he is able to contain himself while we are present. He knows such behavior is strictly prohibited. But when we leave, all bets are off. He is notorious for range of places he has managed to gain access to in respect to food. And the amount of food this ten pound dog is able to consume is shocking. Here's one example:

Sean and I live in one of those old college style apartments in the city. You know the kind, where all the door frames are just slightly off, and the windows are always stuck and impossible to open. The appliances are always thirty years old and cheap which means our refrigerator door only shuts tight if you really slam it. Now when Gaius was about five months old (I'm going to approximate him weighing 6-ish pounds at this point) he got a very lucky break when sean or I didn't shut the refrigerator door with sufficient vigor before leaving to go to work. Since we live so close to campus I generally get home first. When I arrive I was not greeted in the usual squiriming licking wiggiling puppy way. This is always my first sign that Gaius has gotten into something he shouldn't have. When I entered the kitchen I found the refrigerator door hanging open. Curled up in a ball sleeping on the second shelf was my five month old puppy. Or what looked like the fur of my five month old puppy stretched very tightly over a football. On inspection of the fridge we found that he had consumed the following:

One entire (licked the container clean) order of Thai Drunken Noodles
Two whole sticks of butter
Three oatmeal cookies

Now for a large dog that doesn't sound horrendous but remember this was a SIX POUND DOG. Now luckily, Gaius has a digestive system like a steel trap and was no worse for wear.

More recently (A few months ago) I had a lovely and costly 3 am visit to the emergency vet in order to remove a dark chocolate bar from his little stomach. This chocolate bar he got by, opening a drawer, pulling out a paper bag, ripping open the paper bag, pulling out a plastic bag, ripping open the plastic bag, pulling out a chocolate bar, ripping the wrapper off the chocolate bar, and consuming the chocolate bar in the FIFTEEN minutes he was left unsupervised. He's like a ninja.

Yesterday I came home and was not greeted at the door. I walked into my bed room and found the bloated anaconda sprawled out on the bed. He had managed to pull his food bag down from the shelf and helped himself to the equivalent of ten helpings of dinner. At least it was dog food. The issue with this behavior proublem is that he does not do it while I am here. How am I suppose to fix something I'm not around for?

Now we've gotten much better at managing the situation. But he's a crafty sucker and every now and again he gets the better of us. I think part of the problem is that our couch is flush with our kitchen table allowing easy access to a surface that it's easy to forget food on. Now our house has a strict NO PUPPIES ON THE TABLE policy. And Gaius knows that. He only really slips up when the cat doesn't finish her breakfast and we're busy getting ready. But let me tell you, I can't count the number of times I've walked out the door, remebered I had forgotten something, and opened the door to see two big brown eyes staring at me from the kitchen table. He at least has the common curiosity to immediately hop off onto the couch and wag his tail at me. As if to say "Me? On the table? You better get your eyes checked. Dogs aren't allowed on the table."

Now I would hate to crate him during the day, though I know it would solve the issue. He is very well behaved in so many other ways. Not destructive and he only eats food, not other undesirable objects like some dogs. So I guess the only cure is vigilance. Though these occasional impromptu to bulimic binges make it diffcult to keep him a good agility weight. I feel like he's always on a diet.


The racing games are going well and the toys are still away though I do not think it has increased his drive to use toys as a reward in agility :( If anything his drive for balloon has faded slightly. But Linda said sometimes it takes a couple of weeks for the dog to figure out that 'you're serious', so I just need to be patient.

I'll tell you what it has done. Make him have some resource guarding issues at the dog park. Today he growled at a pit mix that tried to take some nasty Frisbee he'd found which is 100% out of character for him. He usually drops anything another dog has any interest in immediately. He is very aware that he is ten pounds and can't win fights with bigger dogs. And toys didn't used to be worth it I guess. Really this is my fault. He shouldn't have even had the toy without having to work for it. I got sloppy. It happens.

I'll tell you what did make him faster on Wednesday in threttles and serpentines. Giving him a cookie after every two jumps. Maybe I have been going at this whole thing the wrong way. Maybe the outdoors is just SUPER distracting and he needs a higher rate of reinforcement. Or maybe he just shaped me to get seven cookies every time he does a sequence. I'm so confused. But isn't this dog training thing fun anyway :)

This is what he looked like when I came home. No guilt. Huge belly.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Names were removed to protect the innocent

Well, its official. I have entered Gaius in his first agility trial in Maryland for July the 24 and 25. On the up side its an indoor air conditioned trial so I should get more spunk out of my little indoor pup. On the downside, male judges, so getting measured should be interesting.

Shesh, I hate filling out forms. I think that's my least favorite part of agility so far. And these trials sure are expensive!

The envelope is as big as I am...

Now I don't want to get my hopes up, because I'm entering the trial very late and there is a huge chance that there won't be a space left for my little man. In fact I heard two folks in obedience talking about how hard it is to get into trials in the summer time if you don't enter early. And this entry is FAR from early. But I feel that its a step in the right direction. I actually had the courage to fill out the form and write the check. :)

Now Susan Garrett says its important to define personal success. Now I don't expect to be getting any Q's in my first trial but I do hope to accomplish a few goals:

Goal 1: I do not want Gaius to bark at the judges when we are running. (He can bark at them when they measure him, that's understandable)

Goal 2: I want Gaius to stay with me the whole time (No darting off to bark at judges or sniff, or do whatever else comes into his little dachshund brain)

Goal 3: I want him to move at faster than a walking pace for the majority of his time on the feild. None of this slow poke bull he does outside.

If he does those three things I will consider the trial a success. (Well I'd be extra happy is he managed to hit his contacts and made his weave pole entry but one thing at a time right?).

I should look at this like the first time I took him to an Earth dog trial. My goal was: Show interest in the rat. And he did, by sniffing at the hole but not going in. On the second day of the trial my goal was: Go in the hole. And he did! If only for a few seconds before coming out. On his second trial my goal was: Go into the hole and reach the rat. And he did that too! Just not in the time frame needed for a Junior earth dog leg. Maybe next Earth dog trial he'll actually Q.

My point is that these things are gradual and they take time. He doesn't need to be perfect his first time out, and this will allow me to see what I need to work on (At the moment contacts. It's as though giving him a running A-frame has made him forget all about them). Cross your fingers that we get a slot!

Off it goes, no turning back now.

Monday, June 14, 2010


He loved the boat

Sorry I've missed the past few days, but I was gone because this weekend Gaius went on his first ever camping trip! It was lots of fun. we got a boat and he slept in a tent for the first time. All and all he was very well behaved I was very proud of him. But this blog is about training! so I've made a little video of the training I did with him outside on the trip. It was great to work outdoors, that's really what he needs to be faster.

We worked on recalls, which he was very slow at, but it was also very hot. We also did his racing game for sticks and played crate games with the tent (I'll do a whole post on crate games and how I've messed them up later).

Trying to catch ducks while pulling a boat behind him

I learned that he really likes marshmallows this trip. I also learned that he is a tick magnet! Shesh, I've removed over 50 ticks from him in the past two days. Poor thing broke both his stays in obedience class to itch tonight. But I think camping was worth it anyhow. He really loved it. Can't wait to go again. Maybe we'll do outdoor restrained recalls next time.

Gaius hanging out in my agility chair

Thursday, June 10, 2010


So I'm being a good mommy and doing my homework. All of the toys have been put away except Stitch which I let him sleep with at night. I'll tell you something embarrassing... he loves that toy, like really loves it. As in late night Cinemax loves it. Its the only toy he humps. When he started this as a puppy I told him to stop once in front of my mom. She was appalled and told me not to 'stifle my dogs sexual expression'. What can you do? So he can have the Stich toy (Disney is going to sue me). I'd hate to be 'stifling'. But only before he goes to bed. The rest of the program stays intact. And you know, I think it has increased his tug drive slightly. And that's just in twenty four hours!

So this first video is of me playing the racing game with Gaius for his breakfast. Basically I'm doing my best to teach him that everything in life is a race. And to the victor go the spoils. And in time this should make him really fast in agility. (Fyi: ignore my messy apartment. I'm sure you guys will get used to seeing it).

I won the first two times but I think its hard for him to run on the tile. He skids which makes him slower. So now I try to only do the chase thing when he's on carpet or I throw the toy far enough for him to catch up on hard wood.

Class was a blast tonight. Though I looked a little silly with the balloon. Here's a video of our runs. It has commentary. (P.S. I got my flip camera so there should be tons of videos to come! Yay!). I missed our first few turns because I forgot I had brought the camera with me. So I hope you all enjoy watching me look silly. :) Enjoy my novice i-movie skills as well. Hopefully they will get better in time.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm a Mean Mean Mommy

No, you can't do this to me!

Well we knew this day was coming. I put it off as long as I could. I thought, 'hey, when I get a new puppy they can both start on the program together. It will be a shock, but good for them.' But its gotten to the point where its the best option I have. All the toys are going away.

I know! I know! It sounds so harsh. How could she? How can a dachshund that has lived its entire life with the ability to squeak a squeaker whenever he pleased live without that sacred privilege? Well if I have to watch Gaius stubbornly stare at one more agility obstacle, and then freeze like some disinterested statue, until little pigeons come nest on his head cooing lightly, while I wait a few feet ahead doing a silly looking fake run, I'm going to tear my hair out. So this act of aggression signals the start of the war on Gaius' lack of Drive.

What is Drive you might ask. Well that's the little fires under our butts that make us want to do something. Not just to do it, but to do it quickly, precisely and enthusiastically. What creates drive? (Well other than being that one in a million High Drive dog that just dose everything absolutely the best it can do no matter what... these dogs are not commonly dachshunds) REINFORCEMENT! That's right reinforcement creates drive. And lets face it things are more reinforcing when they are special.

So Gaius struck the first blow in the war on drive. He decided working (at a reasonable speed, aka faster than one inch every ten million years) to play with toys outside was only for lame-o dogs (like border collies and golden retrievers) and not for super cool dachshunds. Nope, dachshunds only work for food, and in their own due time, thank you very much. Which makes sense. I mean why work your butt off for a tennis ball when after class you can go home, and causally walk over to your toy box and fish one out. Why run a sequence for a tug toy when you can go home, pull out a tug and shove it in daddy's face and have free tug all night long. It's like asking someone to work an eight hour shift for high fives and hand shakes.

Since toys are a much more effective than food to create speed in agility dogs (More on this later, also Gaius isn't that much faster for food and he already gets that on a ' you work for it or no yum yums ' basis) I was left with no other recourse than to usurp this land of milk and honey and enact a strict NO TOYS WITHOUT WORK program. That's right, he is allowed something to chew on during the day (The last picture shows Gaius with his consolation prize) but that's it all day until I come home. Then I will decide when we play. I will decide what toy he plays with. I will decide what he has to do to earn being played with. I will decide how long he gets to play with any particular toy (never over 15 seconds between new cued behaviors) and I will decide when we are done playing. Look how many Is are in those last sentences. Who's in control now?

That way toys will be worth a lot more in his tiny puppy world and he will have more fun playing with them. It's mean, it's harsh, but its the only way. And this way when I pull a coveted squeaky toy out of my pocket at agility class, I will get a response of unbridled enthusiasm, instead of a blank stare and sarcastic yawning (I'm not sure if other dogs are capable of sarcasm but dachshunds certainly are).

Now before all of you concerned Dachshund owners call your local animal rescue organization to save my poor deprived dapple buddy from the jaws of owner tyranny, let me reassure you. Gaius will still get plenty of toy time a day, and he'll probably like it more because it will be with mommy and totally more exciting then lazily squeaking a loofa dog under the couch by himself. And he will continue to be spoiled in many other ways. I'm guessing you can tell by now that he is well loved, happy, safe and privileged in all the ways he should be. It's just tough times call for tough mommies.

Anyhow I came to this decision after a private lesson with Cindy this morning to work on the big five letter word DRIVE. This is when she sternly told me to cease and desist with the unlimited access to toys. Ok, it wasn't so firm it was more like,

Elizabeth: -sheepishly- "Do you think I should pick his toys up and only let him have them while we are working?"

Cindy: "Oh, yes defiantly. That will really help."

Elizabeth- -Sigh- "Ok. I'll do that I guess..."

Actually that was pretty much the existent of which we talked about it. It wasn't really a huge part of the lesson for her, just a big blow/ wake up call for me and my little one. She gave me a bunch of other stuff relating to building drive and that's what the rest of the post is about (I have to write down all this stuff now before I forget it).

This is madness, madness I tell you!

Race Ya!

There are many times in dog agility when you want to send your dog out in front of you, or encourage your dog to run faster than you are running. This is an important skill because, since most dogs are faster than us (My dog certainly is even with one inch long legs) and the sport is timed, we don't want them milling about waiting for us to catch up. So to encourage Gaius to run ahead of me I'm suppose to play this racing game with him. I'm to play it at least three, no more than five times a day plus meal times (it sounds like a medical prescription). Anyhow the gist of the game is a put Gaius in a sit stay then walk a few paces away (not too far at first). There I will place something desirable (his food bowl hence with meals, a toy...ect). Then I'm to walk back and place my hand firmly on his chest. Then I will give the 'get excited cue' (more on that later). Next I will shove him backwards, say his release word and run as fast as I can to the object (Since when did agility mean I had to get exercise?). If I beat him, I scoop up the object and throw a big party for myself which doesn't involve Gaius (play with the toy by myself, pretend to eat the food...ect). If he gets there first, he gets the reward. I'm also to race him to anywhere I'm sending him (ie. the crate, the bed, the couch)

Ready Steady Go! : A Cue for Excitement

Cindy wants me to put excitement on a cue. Its sort of a weird concept but it makes sense. It's like if someone says to you, "Hey a think there are donuts in the conference room" (I'm a grad student, we think in free food). Just hearing that makes you excited, even if you can't see or smell the donuts (man I skipped lunch, I'm starving). Well Gaius needs a word that means 'dude get excited, something totally awesome is about to happen'. So the racing game above is one way to build that as a cue. I'm going to use "You Ready, You Steady?". I like it cause a lot of cool agility kids use it. Oh peer pressure. But building this as a cue means it HAS to go BEFORE the reward (more on pavlov and associated theories later). That means I have to be tricky. After he's got the racing game down pat. I have to start sneaking toys into my pocket. Then I'll but him in the sit stay, say his cue of excitement, then push him back and take off running. (This next part requires dexterity) I'm to watch him to make sure he's running full tilt. If he dose just one stride at a dead out run, I'm to dig into my pocket and throw the surprise toy! And I have to keep running (I'm going to fall, I know I am). this way he doesn't have to see the reward to go fast, he just assumes its going to be there. So I can say it at the start line of an agility course and have a totally pumped dog even if I don't have food or toys.

How will I live without them?

Reinforcement in Strange Places

The last part of my private lesson was all about reinforcements. And you thought I made that list yesterday for nothing! I knew she'd want a list. See, I do homework before its even assigned to me (Wish that was true for school). Well guess what I'll be bringing to class on Thursday? Balloons... that's right, because running a dachshund in agility didn't look silly enough anyway. While we are building drive for regular toys I'm to use something that sends him over the top in the mean time. So we pulled out some balloons and blew one up and wouldn't you know it, he took a jump tunnel sequence tunnel quicker than I've EVER seen him move outdoors. Who can argue with those results in an hour! But the toy thing should get easier with time, so looking silly is only temporary (hopefully).

Taking Education into my Own Hands

Another thing we talked about was more something she gave me permission to do. Which means if a sequence in class isn't going to help Gaius with his issues, just tell the teacher that I'm going to take my turn doing something else. For example, yesterday we did lead out piviets in Linda's class. That means leaving Gaius in a sit stay, moving far away, and then waiting for him to take the jump while I'm not moving. It was like molasses, the worst thing he could have done at that point. I've seen other students make there own curriculum and the teacher always look really irritated. And I understand, they spent time thinking about what to teach us that night and what we needed to learn. So I always did what I was told. I mean come on, I'm a novice here. But Cindy owns the place so if she says I'm allowed to do my own thing I guess it must be true.

A Tuga Tuga

The last thing we talked about was tug. Now Gaius LOVES tug... when he's at home. He likes it well enough inside in other places. He doesn't acknowledge its existence outside. This should get better a bit on its own now that toys are limited (See why I needed to go to extremes, look at all the things this will help fix). But Cindy says Gaius needs to learn that tug is not a choice. To help fix this she recommends making Gaius tug while I hold food in the other hand (Yikes!). If he can tug effectively inside doing that, he can probably tug outdoors... so yeah... I'll work on that. No doubt hilarious videos to come involving tugging (or not tugging) in the presence of food.

Well now to head home and see if Gaius has scratched and pried the lid off of his toy box in my absence.

I guess I will except this consolation prize...

P.S. More videos to come! I should be getting a flip camera soon!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Like That!

Susan Garrett has a list of Reinforcers on her website and encourages her students to create their own, in order of most reinforcing to least reinforcing. And since she is apparently the guru of dog agility and dog training in general, who am I to argue. So in a very particular order (serious, hours of deliberation!) here is a semi-complete list of everything Gaius finds reinforcing (List of distractions to come):

OVERTHRESHOLD (These are things Gaius finds SO reinforcing that he can't pay attention enough to be useful during training, but they are still reinforcing. Everything here will end up on the distraction list. Aka: the pain in my butt list)

1) Birds (Especially big ones, like geese and ducks)
2) Rats/ Squirrels/ Rabbits/ Small mammals
3) Cats (We've talked about this)
4) Gracie (less exciting cause she's always there)

5) Balloons/ Pillows (I have a cute video for this but I'll save that for another post)
6) Lazar Pointers (Another cute video for another time)
7) Water and Swimming (Especially if there are ducks. I'll go more into this when I do my recall/failures with recalls post
8) Sticks clacking together or against something else (ex. People playing drums (We lost a rock band drum set this way), fake sword fighting... ect.)
9) Fence Fighting (Ugh, he's generally indifferent to dogs unless they are behind a fence, then its a big old barking party)
10) Greeting people he loves. (Be careful of overexcited Dachshunds, you might get peed on)
11) Barking (at anything)

REGULAR REINFORCERS (These are things that could potentially be used in training)

12) Clicker/Shaping/Learning tricks (I really think he'd do this without food. He loves it)

13) Novel Food (Anything new is exciting)
14) Chicken
16) Other types of fresh meat
17) Meat Baby food
18) Liverwort and Tuna treats made by Georgie
19) Hot Dog
20) Anything you are eating
21) Zukes Treats
22) Hard Cookie Dog Treats (milkbones... ect)
23) Cheetos
24) Kibbles
25) Cat Poop (yuck!)
26) Cheese
27) Low fat String Cheese (He's gotten A LOT of this and he's pretty sick of the stuff)
28) Rawhide /Pig Ears
29) Carrots
30) Other Types of Veggies (Fruit he usually spits out and then gives me nasty looks)
31) Bread Products

32)Freedom (ie, being let offleash/ let out the door/ let out of a crate

33) Novel Toys (Mommy, buy me new things! Spoiled dog.)
34) Sticks too big for him to carry
35) Regular Sticks
36) Frisbees
37)Bouncy balls (The kind you get in line at the super market out of little machines. Dangerous, he only got these once and I was scared he'd swallow it. Never again)
38) Tennis Balls (See picture. Especially the little ones I can't pry out of his mouth)
39) Rabbit Fur Squeaky Mice
40) Used underwear/ Used socks (Gross, but its the g-ds honest truth)
41) Pens (We sneak off and chew these up when no one is looking)
42) Squeaky toys(The higher pitched the better)
43)Tug toys with real fur (Expensive damn tastes)
44) Other toys made of real fur
45) Stitch (That's right, from the disney movie. Its his favorite stuffed animal)
46) Stuffed animals bigger than he is
47) Other stuffed animals
48) Water bottles
49) Regular tugs
50) His obedience dumbbell
51)Luffas (Like for the shower)
52) smaller boring stuffed animals
53) Plastic Cups (Another thing to steal and chew in secret)
54) Rolls of Toliet Paper (He's sort of meh to these, but if one is there)

55) Being held (He's always been one to beg to be picked up. Silly purse dog)
56) Recalls (Weirdo, he LOVES recalls. But only in non distracting environments)
57) Ability to get on things (The bed, the couch)
58) Agility tunnels (must dogs love tunnels)
59) Verbal Praise (pretty meh to this)
60) Physical Praise: Petting/ Scratching/ Patting (He downright doesn't want this during training at times)
61) Hands on play like wrestling (He likes it well enough at home, but not for training)
62) Playing/ Greeting other dogs (He's very socially laid back generally)

So I could come up with 62 things my dog finds rewarding. How many things can you come up with?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cats: A Love Hate Relationship

Gaius and cats have a love hate relationship in that cats hate him, and he love love love love love LOVES them. I would say this has been one of the biggest challenges that I've had taking him places to visit (well, other than potty training issues but that is pretty much a dachshund trait right?). Almost everyone I know is a cat person (well outside the folks I know from dog stuff obviously). Now I don't really like to take sides in that particular battle (dogs vs cats is a subject I'm sure I'll explore more in the future). But this means whenever I bring my pup over what happens could be described as 50% battle Royal and 50% crazed fan worship.

This is especially true at my parents house and my boyfriends parents house (Remember I talked about kitty lock down in my last post. Pekoe is particularly anti-puppy), but it certainly has cropped up at a friend or twos. I think his poor kitty social skills began right after we got him. Let me explain:

We both hate bath time

Do you see the Grey Persian in the two pictures above? Well that's our cat Gracie. Gracie is named after the street on which we found her (Grace Street in Richmond). We were hanging out with a few friends and up hobbles the saddest, skinniest, looking grey dust ball. She purred and cooed at us and climbed into our laps, just sweet as can be. She suckered us into taking her home and fixing her up. What a liar.

For the first two year this was the meanest strangest cat I've ever owned. Hated being touched, hated being looked at. We'd have to tell guests not to touch her, even if she purred and rubbed against them (You know, the normal signs cats give when they want attention). Because if you happened to reach your hand out to this monster you'd leave bleeding. She'd curl up in our guests laps and they'd sit there like stiff robots, knowing the slightest move would result in swift retribution. She was also just strange and very poorly named. She's still the least graceful cat I've ever met. We figured being out on the streets so long meant she had received some kind of brain damage from a poor diet or some kind of trama. I'm still convinced she originated from some backyard breeder and when he realized that the inbreeding had resulted in such an awful personality he tossed the cat out. We'll never know. We did however start calling her swiss cheese for brains.

She also HATED other cats. Our friend Becky brought over her new kitten once, which caused Gracie to have a complete mental breakdown (not far for her to go in all honesty....). After seeing the unwanted intruder she let out a screech and darted under the dresser in my room. From there she continued the ungodly yowling. I mean sounds I've never heard from a cat before. The visiting kitten was shocked. It slowly crept into my bedroom to get a better look at its deranged compatriot. This caused the screaming to increase to an almost unbelievable volume (I worried for my downstairs neighbors) and caused the dresser to shake like posed furniture in a Steven King novel. The kitten gave me a look that really said 'what the heck is up with her'. "No clue," I said shrugging.

So imagine our fear when we decided to get a puppy. Not like a lab puppy. I mean a three pound rat sized puppy. "She's going to eat him," I told Sean once with a sort of morbid certainty as the day to pick up our puppy came closer. "No", he responded "She'll just spend the next ten years screaming from under the dresser". As the day of new arrival got closer my excitement about it decreased and my anxiety rose. As much of a pain as this cat was, I really do want what's best for her.. most of the time (Sean and I do have a nasty habit of joking about how great it would be if she fell out the window, because we could get a kitten >.< ). And the idea that we were about to increase her degree of stress ten fold I really found upsetting. But to our surprise this wasn't the case. She met the new addition with intense curiosity. "She's trying to figure out the best way to kill him without ruining his flavor" I told Sean while biting my fingernails the first time they were introduced. He just laughed at me. But as the days and weeks passed she seemed genuinely (and non-aggressively) interested in the little fellow. The video that follows is a good depiction of their interactions in his first few months home with us.

See, cute, nice, sweet. As time went on the dynamic switched slightly. Gaius became more interested in her and she less interested in him. By the time he had reached six months old their relationship was more that of adoring younger brother and patient but annoyed and disinterested older sister. But she still stayed extremely gentle with him. To my knowledge she has still never intentionally used her claws on him, or bitten hard enough to cause him any pain. And trust me, he's deserved it.

As Gaius moved into that tear your hair out adolescent period of dog hood (from about 7 months until.... is it over yet?) he started becoming downright obnoxious with his kitty companion. Some of his favorite activities involve licking the inside of her ears (I mean sticking his tongue in there so deep he can probably taste her brain), if she's sleeping under the couch or table he'll bark at her right in her face over and over, for hours until I get irritated and tell him to stop (what can you do, he's a little earth dog), and if he feels she is being too boring he has been known to try and play tug with her tail (On a few notable occasions he's yanked her off the couch by her tail). She has met all of this inappropriate behavior with calm patience and understanding. Calming mewing to tell him of her discomfort and maybe a light swat on the nose (no claws of course, that would be an over reaction). This from the cat that used to break the skin if you accidentally brushed against her while reaching past her to get something. It was a Christmas miracle... or something.

This has left me with dilemma, of all the anxieties I had about introducing Gracie to a puppy I NEVER thought I'd have a problem with her over indulging him. I thought she'd teach him very quickly the ins and outs of dog/cat interactions with swift Soviet style justice. But no such luck. this has left me with a dog who is so excited when he sees new cats he can't contain himself. And running at cats full tilt is not an acceptable greeting, even if all he wants to do is lick their faces. And it means he's had some not so hot introductions with other less tolerant cats. To be honest though I know this is a problem that can be solved with clicker training, but the amount of time and effort to fix it seems overwhelming. I think I'm also stuck getting kittens for the rest of my life so they grow up used to the crazed behavior of their biggest fan and won't be terrified of him the rest of their lives. Sigh.

So let's hear from you? How do your dogs feel about cats?

Best Buddies

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Tale of Two Kitties

The Black one is Pekoe and the Orange Tabby is Oolong

Well for reasons that don't really have a place on this blog, I've been at my parents house a lot recently and have been unable to bring my pup. I also have huge gaps of down time and I'm going through some training withdrawal as well as a little boredom. But for every problem there is a solution! In this case my parents two cats, Pekoe and Oolong (see the picture above).

Training cats is exactly the same as training dogs with a few amendments. They get frustrated quicker. Which means training sessions NEED to be short! Really short, a few repetitions and that is it! They also keep you honest in the shaping process. If you move too fast, they get irritated and the whole training session is kaput! The other thing is that they can handle absolutely NO physical manpulation. If I nudged Pekoe ever so slightly to get him to a better position he'd yowl at me and dart off. End of training session, and ending on a bad note is not exactly the best thing. So it really keeps you on the straight and narrow. My obedience instructor likes to tell us "Every time you position your dog, you are making him stupider". So I guess I've learned that training cats is a great way to break bad dog training habits.

So without further ado, a video of what they've learned. Sit, I've worked on earlier, but the rest of the tricks were trained in about a week, with maybe two to three, one to three minute training sessions a day, give or take. Also, I recorded this video using my dads flip camera (I have to get myself one of those), and holding treats in one hand and trying to give hand cues with the other. So you'll have to forgive the shoddy camera work. (Also this was my first real dive into the world of imovie! Very exciting).

Now lets get analytical:

Sit was taught entirely with shaping and they got this really quickly. I think that's always true with the first thing animals are trained to do. It's both of their defaults now, though with Oolong down is getting there. I think mostly because he must sit on the way to a down so if he sits he gets the treat, if he waits a bit and realizes he hasn't gotten the treat he goes into the down. This puts in doubt whether he really understands the commands so I'll need to keep an eye on it. This can be fixed by waiting a count or two after the command sit to make sure he doesn't slip to a down and only reward him for maintaining the sit.

Both the sit and the down are verbal commands. I have found that it is much more difficult to teach an animal to respond to verbal commands than to hand signals. I guess they don't listen to us much. There is an interesting discussion! Any ideas on why verbal commands take me longer to train then hand signals?

The spin, high five and 'get my hand' command were all taught with luring and then fading out the treat VERY quickly at the beginning of the process (As a rule, 3 times with the treat then never again with a treat that training session). But this means that its difficult for me to phase out the hand command.

Two at a Time:

One of the biggest issues I've had while training the two cats is the fact that when I start a training session with one, the other isn't far behind. Training two animals at once is not the best and there are many challenges. First of all, its difficult to 'mark' one animal without marking an unwanted behavior in the other animal. Also, I can't keep prefect track of both animals at once, this means I may miss desired behaviors I might want to reward. Also, I only have two hands which means fewer treats per time, less frequent rewards mean higher levels of frustration. Not very good for training cats.

Now with a dog, there would be an easy solution to this. I'd tell one dog to go to his crate (Crate games are amazing!) while training the other and then call the crated dog out after the training session. Well my parents cats aren't crate trained (They also have no it's your choice so I had to be very careful where I kept the treats! Cats are thieves). So I tried many solutions, none of which really worked. I tried to isolate the cat I wanted to train (I took Pekoe into my room and closed the door). He was only able to get one repetition in before becoming preoccupied with the closed door. A little stressed about being trapped I think but he could also hear his brother Oolong throwing an absolute tantrum on the other side of the door. Have I mentioned how completely food motivated these cats are? I tried isolating the cat that wasn't being trained but this resulted in the same tantrum (no need to stress them out when this was suppose to be fun). In the end the best solution seemed to be 50% management and 50% just sucking it up. I found that it was much easier to teach them different things at the same time. Teaching them the same trick was troublesome because if one cat picked it up faster (we all learn at our own speeds) the other cat would get frustrated faster. Watching the person next to you get treat after treat while you are getting nothing is difficult (This was especially tough on Pekoe, Oolong is a bright little cat). Somehow if they were both working on different skills there seemed to be less jealousy (I'm not sure why though.)

Jealousy can be a good thing in training though as it can increase motivation and that was defiantly true for these two.

Clicker Blues:

Now I went to PetSmart and got a clicker at the beginning of this week because I thought it would make training easier. When I got home I did the "introducing the clicker exercise" where I clicked and then gave both cats a treat. They both did very well with this... until I actually started using it for training. Then Pekoe decided the sound of the clicking was scary and would dart off every time he heard this. This was sort of a blessing in disguise because it gave me more time to work with Oolong individually, which is why Oolong knows down and Pekoe doesn't.

Oolong was really understaning the shaping process by the end but Pekoe never really got the hang of it. Pekoe understands luring/follow the treat, which seems to still be a bit of a foreign concept to Oolong (Which means Oolong is using his brain more, which is great!).

So in conclusion it was an interesting experience and a lot of fun. I can't wait to do more whenever I end up home without the pup. (As the cats go into lock down mode when he's here. Which is understandable. More on Gaius and cats later).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hollywood Dachshund

Have I ever mentioned that my boyfriend is an aspiring film maker?

Well being that this is only my second post to this blog I'd guess not. But he is! Sean's being making short films ever since we met. There is a wonderful short film festival every month in Richmond called project resolution. A few months ago Sean made a short film featuring Gaius I thought you all might be interested in. (It had to be on Vimo instead of YouTube because Sinatra has a lot of copyright restrictions. So without further ado... Play?

Untitled from Sean Van Damme on Vimeo.

The skills used in this video were a sit stay, a focus forward (great for agility, his skills on this have diminished slightly, something to work on I guess), a retrieve (this wasn't really trained so much as something he did naturally. He'd be much better at this today now that he knows the 'hold it' command), and an off leash, short distance recall with distractions (he needs some work here too but that's another post).

The video took about two days of shooting (five hours each day, which included travel time. Its a good tour of Richmond as far as I'm concerned. This was probably our first hint that Gaius wasn't so good in hot weather. By the end it was pulling teeth to get him to hold the tenis ball. Granted I wasn't using food and know that he knows 'hold it' he'd be better. Still something to keep in mind. Don't push too hard in training... keep it fun. A motto to live by!

It was such a blast to do! I can't wait to make another movie with my best little star. I keep pushing to work him into the 48 hour film festival later this summer. Well see, if I sneak him in it, you can be sure I'll post it :) Anyhow, if you're an aspiring film maker in Richmond and need a little dog to round out your cast drop me a comment. I'd love to do it again!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tricks: Not Just For Hookers!

How long do I have to hold this down stay......? I think she's going to eat me....

My dachshund knows a lot of tricks... The following is a quick video of Gaius' tricks from almost a year ago (so he's only one year old in this video). Since then he's learned MANY more. I might make a new one at some point. Excuse my ridiculously high pitched voice while training. If you follow this blog you'll just have to get used to it :)

I love training tricks! Its probably my favorite thing to do in the dog training world. Mostly because shaping is just fascinating (I almost ALWAYS use shaping to teach tricks). I love watching my dog's brain work. Letting him figure things out on his own. Its like actively watching his brain grow (But shaping and clicker training is a whole post in and of itself). Another great thing about using shaping to teach tricks is that you never know what kind of trick you're going to end up with. You let the animal lead the way to a certain extent (For example I clicker trained a cat to give me a high five earlier today... but more on that later). Lastly tricks are just freakin adorable. And isn't that what having a dog is all about?

There are other reasons to teach your dog tricks. Its a great way to build a relationship with your dog. I remember when I first started dog training someone said that to me. I have to admit my first reaction was "What the heck does 'build a relationship' with my dog mean". It sounded like some artsy, spiritual crap to me. I was expecting her to pull out crystals and make me hum, but now I think I understand. It means it's a way of making the dog like you more, making you an interesting and fun person to be around. Dogs that are taught tricks have fun, you have fun and they love you more for it.

Another reason to teach tricks is for the ups and the downs. Let me explain... Tricks are a great way to psych your dog up! I use this a lot on hot days when Gaius is dragging on the agility field (Ok, ok I just started doing this, but come on, I'm new here! ). I'll call him out of his crate and ask him to do four or five tricks which he knows like the back of his hand (paw). Then I reward each one. This way he gets excited. He thinks "Oh! these are easy, I can do this, and look at all the treats I'm getting!" Then when I ask him to do the more difficult behavior (running an agility sequence) he is more excited.

The next reason to teach tricks, I think is by far the MOST IMPORTANT REASON is to keep your dog under threshold (the downs). Not all of us have perfectly well adjusted, well socialized dogs (ahem... more on this later). In fact since I've started in dog training (I'd say, for real about 1.5 years ago. I don't think Petsmart counts.) I'd say a HUGE number of dogs have issues with socialization. Tricks are an amazing distractions.

Do you have a pomeranian that hates other dogs? You're out on a walk and the worst thing in the world happens. Suddenly you turn a corner and there is a Saint Bernard pulling its owner down the street! OH NO!! If your pompom knows a few tricks you can turn to them and say. "Cujo shake! (All pom poms should be named Cujo) Cujo dance! Cujo spin!" and before you know it the slobbery lug has gone along his way and Cujo barley even noticed! Its magic!

Now a lot of "serious" dog trainers don't like to teach their dogs tricks (I put serious in quotations because if you are serious when you dog train you are totally doing it wrong). They think that it isn't important or is somehow demeaning to their champion agility border collie or disciplined Doberman Schutzhund. Well let me tell you something, my dachshund doesn't mind being demeaned if cookies are involved! And regardless, even if trick training isn't necessarily what the cool kids do, I think it's awesome! And I was on the chess team in high school, so obviously I'm an expert on cool. (insert picture of me doing a Fonz impression here)

Anyhow I leave you with one last video. This is a video of me in the process of teaching the command IN. We had practiced this several times before but this is the first time I used the wine glass (a much smaller target). Here he isn't yet to the point were I can add the command (Maybe I'll talk to you about the steps of shaping a little later). I make a few mistakes in this training session. The first of which is it went on WAY too long. His best repetitions are at the beginning of the training session (I went on long mostly because this was how he was getting dinner and I wanted to finish feeding him, but still no excuses). I also could have fed him over the wine glass which may have help him understand where his head needed to be. Look at me, record keeping. That is what the blog is here for right? I'm sure there will be many more videos like this to come. Enjoy :)


Before getting a dachshund I was told a lot of things about them. They were nippy, loud, overly attached to their owners, prissy, and impossible to house break. Now that I own one, I have found that some of these things are true some of them aren't. But the one thing I was told above all others was that dachshunds were untrainable...

Wow what a challenge!

My name is Elizabeth and I'm a first time dog owner (sounds like I'm in AA). That's right, I grew up in a house full of cats (the injustice!) and two and a half years ago, after much soul searching, I decided to get my first dog... alright not that much soul searching. I finally moved into an apartment that allowed dogs. I'd been biting at the bit to own since I was about four.

Everyone thought this was a terrible idea. My parents, most of my friends, my ex-roommates. In fact the only person on my side was my boyfriend Sean. But he had one condition. It had to be a dachshund. UGH!

I warned him, citing all the reasons above as to why a dachshund was not the right fit for us. (I wanted a caviler king charles spaniel, well maybe next time) But he was insistent so we got a little long haired dapple dachshund in the summer of 2008. We named him Gaius Baltar after the womanizing, egotistical, scaredy cat character from Battelstar Galactica. Did I mention we were geeks?

But this little pup had a lot to live up to! Remember everyone thought he was a bad idea. So as soon as I was able I enrolled him in obedience classes. And after few classes I realized he was good at this.... I mean really good! Untrainable my butt! I mean he was the star pupil of his petsmart training class! Well, except for the lab that was training to be a service dog but that doesn't count right?

I was hooked, the classes were the highlight of my week. He made it through all three levels at breakneck speed. Except for one small issue (Well not so small but I'll leave that for another post). After graduation (see picture below) I was sad to see the training go. My petsmart instructor had a solution. He pointed me in the direction of a local dog training school were I could start taking other classes.

Its an addiction really, an unstoppable illness that becomes life consuming. Well Gaius is now two years old and currently enrolled in a Competition Obedience Class and a Level Seven Agility Class.

But now down to business. What is the purpose of this blog?

First things First, to keep track of my training and record keep. This will allow me to become a better trainer and see more clearly what I need to work on and where I've made mistakes.

Secondly, it is a place to put all of my trailing information now that Gaius' skills are getting to the point where he can soon enter competitions (Nerve wracking, I know!). He has yet to enter either an obedience or agility competition yet because there are some rough edges that need to be ironed out. (Aka being slow as dirt in agility when its hot outside, and lagging durning his offleash heeling) But the time will swiftly be upon us. He has been to two earth dog trails but they don't really count as all the training they involve is "Look tunnel, go bark at the rat" Your dog is either into rats or isn't. Gaius is into rats... and anything that involves barking. But I'll talk about earth dog here too.

Lastly this blog is a place to discuss dog training/dogs in general. To get advice from those more experienced in the dog training world then I am and to maybe help those with suggestions who might want them. So please feel free to comment!! Everyone is welcome here.

It also may be a place to coo over adorable dachshunds.... :)

It's the money shoot!