Sunday, February 28, 2010

Almost There

Tracking season is short in California-it runs from November to early April. Afterwards it is too hot and dry to do anything but lawn work. Echo has really come along way in a short time. We have been out tracking probably every other weekend since December. She is almost ready to certify. Her weakest area-and true for all my dogs-is article indication. Most trackers ask their dog to lay down or sit over the glove. Since a greyhound rarely will offer this behavior out in a field I have always just asked them to stop and stand over it. This is not a particularly strong indication and easy to miss. I decided with Whisper and Echo I would ask them to paw it or pick it up. I use the "touch" command to shape the behavior. Below is Echo learning the basics of article indication. You can tell by her behavior the glove is not a big treat-yet. Touch Treat is done over and over again-it is a good exercise to practice in the house.


After learning the glove will provide a reward we move out into the field to track. This a 32 minute old track with some but not much food on the track. Although the track layer has marked the turns and is giving me advice of what the track does, Echo is not getting any help from me to indicate which way to go. She is telling me the direction the track goes. Her turns are excellent and her desire to track is very good. Now we just have a run a blind track or two and get better article indication and she will be ready to certify for a tracking test.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wait a minute!

Everybody needs to learn self control, even adorable little greyhound puppies. Teaching a puppy or adult dog to wait before jumping out of a car, bolting through a door, or diving for a food dish is important for the safety of the dog as well as the owner. There are many opportunities through out the day where a dog can and should be taught self control. Learning in many different contexts allows the dog to generalize more quickly and can make your life happier.

Tanner and his littermates all had a good sit and wait for a cookie before they went to their new homes last year. When he arrived at my house, he was asked to sit and wait for his food bowl to touch the floor. If he got up from his sit before the food bowl touched the floor and his release command was given, the food was picked back up. In the very beginning, I used my hand to help restrain him, to give him an extra cue and make it easy. After all, I believe in setting the dog up to be successful in teaching new things. As time went on, the physical cue went away. Now, he goes into his pen and waits for the food. I don't verbally tell him to sit anymore, he knows what he needs to do because I am consistent in what I ask. He eats twice a day and twice a day he has to sit for his food. Here is a video clip of Tanner and Shine's dinner routine.

We have a narrow set of stairs in our house. When we first moved here, the dogs would rush past us down the stairs, often bumping into us in their haste to get by. Hmmmm, this could be dangerous! I could have my hands full with laundry or the dogs' dinner! I could have a visitor who is unsteady on their feet. Someone could get hurt! It's an easy fix. I thought to myself, "what do I want the dogs to do instead of rushing and bumping past me down the stairs?". I taught the dogs to wait on the stairs. When I head for the stairs, they wait for me to go (unless I tell them to go first) and I tell them when they come down or up after me. Since I am consistent, they do this well. If they forget and I hear them put a foot on the step, I stop and back up until I hear them take their foot of the stair. Here is a video of them waiting on the stairs until I get to the bottom with their food. In my mind, this is not a dominance issue, this is self control. Shine often sees me preparing their food and goes down the stairs and to her spot before I get there. I don't mind, as long as she is not pushing me aside to get through.

Another opportunity that Tanner has to wait is when he is in his pen. Whenever I can't be around to watch him (see the posts on chewing), he is in an x-pen that is anchored to the wall. He has access to small part of the yard through a rather large doggy door. When I go to let him out, he sits and waits to be released. He knows what to do because of consistent repetition multiple times a day. When he first came home, I would ask him to sit as I was reaching for the door. He was really good at that! If he tried to get up and come out when the door was opened, I would shut it. At the same time, he was learning to wait for the release command on the sit in our training sessions. It was easy for him to understand in this context as well. Eventually, I would reach for the door latch before telling him to sit. Now, he understands that my reaching for the latch his cue to sit. He has also learned the same behavior in the car and his crate. He sits and waits to be released. Here is a video of him waiting in his pen.

Last but not least is the front door. I hear about poor dogs running out the front door and getting lost all the time. I try to combat that at my house by purposely teaching the dogs to wait until told to go through the front door. There are three different routines that we practice with the front door. One is where I go through the door without being prompted by a knock or without putting leashes on. In this instance, I started by opening the door and throwing treats to the other side of the room. In the following video, you will see that I can leave the door open while I go through it and dogs don't even want to approach the door. In fact, in order for the video to show anything at all, I had to cheat and bait them into hanging out anywhere near the door. The kept running to other side of the room! Here is the video:

The other door routine involves a knock at the door. The dogs run to the door when they hear a knock. They always want to greet visitors! I make them sit and feed them treats while I deal with whoever is at the door. We don't get many visitors so I have to convince a friend, or my hubby to help me train this. My plan is to get a wireless doorbell and train the dogs using this before hooking it up for actual use.

The other door routine is with leashes. They sit while I put their collars and leashes on. I open the door and pick up their leashes before releasing them. Once through the door, I always have a cookie for them. The idea is that instead of wanting to leap out the door to look around, I want them to go out the door and then turn around and look at me. That way if I missed the cat/squirrel/bunny in the yard on my first look, I have another opportunity to get control over the situation. It also ensures they are not tempted to pull on their leashes while I am trying to lock the front door.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Champion

Today was Santa Clara Dog Show and we did it-Echo is now officially Ch Aragon Black Ice. She is the first puppy of the litter to finish her breed championship. She only needed one point to finish, today was two points in girls. After winning Winners Bitch I handed her to a tracking friend Sherrie to take in for Best of Breed. She handled beautifully and gaited extremely well for someone else-in fact the judge said she almost beat her mother for breed.

It is interesting to look at the variety of dogs and people at the dog show. Some one once told me people resemble their dogs. Not sure I look like a greyhound-terrier maybe.

Now onto performance sports. Since the beginning all of my greyhounds have had titles in front and behind their names. I firmly believe a greyhound can and should be pretty AND smart AND functional.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Becca Growing Up

Two fabulous weekends-Exactly one year apart

The first weekend in February, 2009 was when I brought Becca home from Helen's. She was 9 weeks old and full of lots of fun and puppy energy-I had forgotten just how much energy puppies have as it had been about 17 years since I had had a puppy. One year later on exactly same weekend, she was all grown up (except maybe for her "puppy brain"!!) and did some winning at the Sun Maid Kennel Club Shows in Fresno as described below.

The drive to Fresno was a little "iffy" due to the weather so I went prepared with an alternate driving route in case the Grapevine was closed down due to snow-Southern California was being invaded by cold storm with heavy rain. However, it was smooth driving and as we approached Fresno, a beautiful rainbow appeared as the sky cleared for a bit--I took it as a good sign for the upcoming shows. It most definitely was!! On Saturday Becca was selected as Winner's Bitch and Best Opposite Sex over Specials. On
Sunday she was selected as Winner's Bitch and Best of Winners. These wins
added to her championship points which included the recent Winner's Bitch
win at the Palm Springs Kennel Club.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Darby's Agility Experience

Lisa and Darby came back from a dog show in the Central Valley. They did well, earning Best of Breed one day over multiple specials and the next day Best Opposite Sex again over specials. As this was done from the the classes he earned three more championship points. Now he is just 3 points short of his Breed Championship-his first title.

Lisa frequently hears me talk about agility so although she doesn't compete in this sport she is aware of what equipment is needed and what is required of the dog. Below is her story coming home from the dog show.

We stopped for a potty break at Casa de Fruita half way over the Pacheco Pass. While there, we discovered a Darby-sized tunnel, which he eagerly leaped in and out of. Much MUCH easier, in Darby's opinion, than that claustrophobic standard agility tunnel. I'm wondering if he would prefer a tractor tire to jump through instead of the standard suspended tire? Maybe I need to start looking for a super-sized set of agility items, maybe 2x4s for weave poles and split rail fencing for jumps? Interesting idea, although I doubt any of the agility aficionados who visit this site will think that's funny. :) I think we'll just stick to obedience and conformation for now, aside from being very heavy, I think supersizing stuff would be pretty costly too. Oh well.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Agility Weekend

We entered our first agility trial in over a month. Lately Whisper is doing pretty well in the trials-we seem to have a Q rate about 75% of the time. Gosh but does that make the MACH title seem a far away goal. She seems to qualify more often in Jumpers than Standard. The show this weekend was in my least favorite place. The location is dirty, rings are very small and the courses are always tight. The below Jumpers run was one of the most confusing I have run. We went over the same jump 4 times. During the walk through all the handlers were laughing saying if lost just go over the blue jump. Luckily we remembered the course and Whisper is good about being called off an incorrect jump. Suprisingly this was her fastest speed run to date-she ran the course at 5.24 yds/sec. I ran it much slower.


The really good handlers are able to communicate direction to their dogs through their body language. Some how no matter how hard I try to run the course silently I seem to talk ALOT. In these videos I am back to hand clapping. Yikes I thought I was done with that. However the rings were very small for the number of obstacles, so clapping or talking seemed to resurface in my handling.


The second day the video person missed her standard run but her Jumpers run earned her another QQ.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Greyhound Ears

Ears are a funny thing with greyhounds- as puppies they seem to have a life of their own. As they get older they settle down into the more typical rose position. Echo has a lovely ear set but they still seem to their own agenda. Perhaps indicating the wind position?

Or direction she is going?

Or mood?

Apparently her siblings also have her talkative ears-Becca listening?

The Van Gogh one eared looked as modeled by Merlin and his sister Jesse

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dog Lover's Equation

Kind-hearted owner (not pictured)

+ 2
faithful, loyal and deserving dogs
+ 1
pair of well broken-in water-proof boots
+ 2 leashes
+1 bait bag full of goodies
+ 1 empty state park off-leash dog area

45 minutes of fun

2 tired (and wet) dogs

1 happy owner (still not pictured)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Missing Eggs

Generally all my puppies have outgrown their chewing habits after several months. Then along came Echo. I can't keep up with her thievery. She is over a year old now and still will investigate and take anything not attached. Lisa gave me 18 eggs from her chickens. I was in a hurry to go to my obedience lesson so quickly put them in the far back of the car-out of dog reach I thought. Each dog got their training time, after the last dog was done I opened the back of the van to put my obedience bag away and found a partially chewed egg carton.

No broken eggs but one egg missing. I was puzzled-had Lisa only given me 17 eggs? The 18th egg remained elusive, that is until I looked in the middle part of the van. A few broken eggshells were present. Echo had climbed over the back seat, chewed through the egg carton, picked up the egg and climbed back to the middle of the van to eat it-all without breaking the egg! Although I rarely muzzle my dogs Echo may be the exception-at least until she learns what is hers and what is not.