Time Flies

It’s been over 2 weeks since I last posted and a lot has happened.  Breeze and I attended the AKC’s Agility World Team Tryouts in Minneapolis.  I spent a wonderful week – without dogs!! — with my husband and two grown kids in Rocky Mountain National Park.

And just after we returned, I learned that Breeze and I were selected to join the AKC’s Agility World Team that competes in Germany Oct 1-3.   It’s been a fun, rewarding and exciting couple of weeks, to say the least.

And how is Tai?  Well, he spent a great week at Aunt Sherry’s and given that she has a pond and border collie playmates, I’m not sure he wanted to come home!

Tai is just about to turn 5 months old. He weighs just over 30 lbs and is roughly 19-1/2 inches tall.  His adult teeth are popping out all over and he’s getting just a wee bit independent as his confidence grows and he discovers the joys of the world.  Tonight we went to a favorite walking spot and he chased birds across a field – yes…he is very fast!  It was a joy to watch him and hard to believe he’s only 5 months old given how comfortable he is in his body.

Today was also the day that he heard a super fast dog go through a tunnel as we stood outside an agility ring.  That perked his ears up and gave me a perfect opportunity to work attention on the mama.

Training priorities haven’t changed much and they include impulse control games, greeting behaviors, hand targets, body awareness exercises and loose leash walking.  Establishing a good retrieve is getting higher on the list given how keep-away has all of a sudden become an attractive game to Tai.

Today I watched Justine Davenport’s 1 year video (click on “video” to get to it) with her border collie Summit.  A preview of where I hope I’ll be with Tai a year from now.  Great job Justine!  For those that don’t know…Justine is a Canadian agility competitor (and great dog trainer) who has been on the Canadian World Team umpteen times since she was about 16 yrs old.

One measure of Tai’s maturity are the disappearing pink spots on his nose.  Here is a collection of pictures showing that progression from about 4 weeks to today.   Amazing eh?

The good, the bad, and the ugly

I chose Tai’s name because his markings reminded me of the Yin-Yang symbol (Taijitsu).   Yin and yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole. This concept resonated with me because it supports the concept of acceptance (not judgment) and striving for balance of the parts within the whole.   So, why this title?  You’ll see as you read below.

The good: Tai is growing up fast.  Breeze and I were away this past weekend at the World Team Tryouts and my husband stayed home with Tai.  When I asked…how did it go?  Answer was: a lot better than last time, when Tai was not even three months old.  So, I guess that means he’s learned some things in the last 5 weeks!

He loves his crate and we are upping the distractions around the open crate door.  And he’s learning to relax in a sheltie size dog bed.  He tugs enthusiastically even when I have a fistful of high value treats in my hand or there are other dogs around.   His loose leash walking is coming along and we’re working through big distractions like other puppies or busy streets.   His greeting behavior is a work in progress since he’s so friendly people want him to jump on him.  So it’s as much about training people than the dog.  I even had to laugh when he jumped in my lap the other day.  We’ll get there.

His recall is great under most circumstances.  But his herding instinct is kicking in when I call all the dogs back together or even just Tai.  He’ll stalk Breeze and Lacey as they come back to me.  When we’re walking together I’m careful now not to use his name unless I’m sure I can control that.

He has several puppy friends and plays appropriately.  He’s even figured out how to get both Lacey and even Breeze sometimes to play with him, using different strategies.

The bad: nothing really.  He’s just growing up too fast.   Tai is 4-1/2 months and at that awkward stage…  His head is bigger than his butt and his butt is higher than his shoulder.   He’s all leg and I’m hoping he’s not going to be a 24″ border collie :-).   He moves nicely and we’re working on specific body awareness exercises like back up.

So, what about the ugly?  Two days ago,  it was a glorious morning with the sun shining and spring green everywhere.  We went to one of our favorite places for a long walk.  About half way through the walk,  it happened.  Well, we happened on it.  A fresh rabbit kill – dead and decapitated – maybe a coyote kill.  What do my shelties do?  Nothing.  Just a little sniff and walk on.  What does Tai do?  He picks up the rabbit head and joyfully starts running around with it.  Ok…at this point all reason is abandoned. I scream, I lure, I cajole…as Tai is gleefully playing keep away with this rabbit head in his mouth.   Having not trained a “drop” or “leave it”,  I’m left with nothing to hope for except a bigger distraction that will prompt him to  drop the head.  Lucky for me, he noticed the carcass, dropped the head and I was in position to grab his collar.  Whew.   Even though I feed a raw diet, that was just too ugly for me.

Yin Yang…acceptance of the whole.

Green Dog and a Trash Bash

Tai proved he fits well into our family as he joined my husband in picking up trash on a walk in Lake Ontario’s Braddock Bay Fish & Wildlife Management Area.  We applauded his  help with the aluminum can and joked that he is our “green” dog in more ways than one.  I will say though we were not so thrilled with some of the “biological” trash he later tried to eat.  With that in mind, we avoided puppy kisses for a bit.  You know what I mean.

We live in a beautiful part of the world and in an area rich in water resources.  Lake Ontario, or the Lake of Shining Waters as the Huron Indians named it brings us lake effect snow, cool summer breezes, beaches, swans, apples, peaches, cherries, grapes and wine.

In my non-dog life, I’m a board member of the Center for Environmental Information (CEI), a great organization that promotes environmental protection and stewardship in our region.  On Saturday May 15th, we are holding our 2nd annual Trash Bash at Durand Beach on Lake Ontario.   Volunteers will clean up the areas around Durand Beach, learn about the importance of the environmental protection of our shoreline and raise funds for CEI.    If you would like to VOLUNTEER or SPONSOR me, click here! Note: to sponsor me, just select the DONATE NOW button at the top of the page.   Your support would be greatly appreciated and any amount would be welcome!

Tai and I will be jumping for joy if you help!

Blessing in Disguise

What do we say for comfort when we find ourselves in an undesirable situation?  “It’s a blessing in disguise”, “There is a silver lining to this cloud”, and so on.  That’s what I’ve been repeating to myself since realizing that from Tai’s perspective, I have a number 10, humongous DISTRACTION living next store.  Prior to a few days ago, I was able to play all our puppy games outside in my beautiful fenced backyard…with it’s attendant squirrels, birds, neighborhood noises and activities, etc.  Occasionally, I’d have to kick it up a notch to keep his attention and enthusiasm but was always successful.  When we go for a walk together, I work through lots of distractions including the fun of running with Lacey and Breeze or finding a puddle to play in…

But in the last few days, Tai has turned on to our next store neighbor’s dog.  She is a lovely English Setter who actually pays little or no attention to Tai but who loves to run back and forth through her yard which is adjacent to ours.  She moves beautifully by the way and would probably make an amazing agility dog.  But  sadly, she doesn’t get much attention from her owners.  She’s left alone a lot in her yard and has beaten a figure 8 shaped path back and forth near their back door.   When we first come outside, she comes to the fence hoping for a little human attention but never even acknowledges my dogs.  Because he’s a kind man and loves dogs, my husband has taken to giving her a cookie and petting her across the fence.

You would think that since she doesn’t pay attention to Tai, he would have diminished interest.  But Tai – who is right on schedule at 17 weeks old to turn his growing confidence to things other than “mom” — has fallen in love with the Setter and her movement.  The first thing he does now when going outside, is to whip his head in her yard’s direction.  From his vantage, I have fallen off the face of the earth in the face of this distraction.  When I realized this…I knew our days of walking outside off leash (again in my beautiful fenced in yard) were over for now.   Yesterday, the Setter was outside all evening so we did several sessions of attention training – on leash and head halter.  To match the reinforcement with the level of distraction, I needed to use steak – fortunately I had some handy (apologies to my husband who may have wanted to eat those leftovers).  The usual mix of training treats (cheese, puppy kibble, etc) was not even close to cutting it.   Even though Tai’s toy drive is very good…there was no way I could get far enough away to work this and drop the leash.  I tried once and one part of me admired how fast Tai is getting as he shot across the yard to see the Setter.

I may be in danger of whining now, but for those of you have known me for a while, you only have to think back to all the challenges I had with my very confident and independent-minded sheltie Lacey when she was a puppy to understand how my heart sank.  She was a year old before I could get her to play with me in the yard – and that meant the only “work” we did in my yard was attention for that whole time.  But I know a lot more now – thanks to Lacey — and Tai is a different dog so it will be interesting to see how it goes with him.  So for those of you who need to go looking for that number 10 DISTRACTION, think of me…I am lucky enough to have it right outside my back door.

A Good Dog

Many people say that getting a puppy is a “crap shoot”…meaning of course, that when choosing a puppy you are taking a big chance on whether the puppy will develop into an adult dog with a nice temperament, good health, sound structure, work ethic, etc. Then others say that getting a puppy gives us an opportunity to shape the puppy into our dream dog through our nurture and education.   I guess the reality is somewhere in between.

But a couple of weeks ago…just before I started a crazy (but good) 2 weeks of travel,  it just came to me out of the blue and with total certainty.   Without a doubt Tai – who is now 16 weeks old – will be a “good” dog.  Using the term “good” in my mind is in no way limiting – substitute “great”, “super”, “fantastic”, “phenomenal”.   To me those descriptors are synomous with “a good dog”.

It happened during a trip to our local rehab facility – TheraVet –  where Breeze was working out in the underwater treadmill.  Tai came along for some socialization.  He gave his usual friendly greeting to the staff – but this time with some self-control, waiting to be asked before giving his “bear hug”.   He sat on the scale nicely to be weighed.  He cracked us up with his antics while Breeze was working out – testing out all the toys in the box and darting from one end of the room to another, occasionally poking his head between the technician’s knees to get a look at Breeze .  He checked in with me every few minutes.   He walked nicely into and out of the facility.  And I thought watching him – here is “a good dog”.

You could explain this away with the fact his behavior is the result of relationship building and training over the last 9 weeks.    But does it matter why I believe that he is a good dog?  The fact that I do believe it is what really matters.    It  opens up the potential for greatness by eliminating any restrictions on my belief in what he will become as an adult.   That belief is all up side as it provides self direction for achieving my goals with Tai – that belief enables hope, commitment, motivation, confidence and excitement for what will come.

As for Tai…he’s growing like a weed as he should be.   Here’s a picture showing all the leg on a nearly 4 month old puppy.

As for training…we are working on the basics – relationship, motivation, self-control and socialization…with a sprinkling of agility based training too.   I spent a great two days at Susan Garrett’s Say Yes training facility this past weekend at a phenomenal workshop called  “Critical Elements for Sport and Life”.  Check out some of the pictures at Susan’s blog: http://susangarrettdogagility.com/2010/04/a-pictorial-glimpse-at-the-critical-elements-of-say-yes.html

1 9 10 11 12 13 14