Busy Bees

The past two weekends have been good weather-wise, so we have been out tracking at the University of Guelph.

Last weekend Laura laid a really tough track for Rogue. She did an AMAZING job!!

The track was on Johnston Green, where a lot of students cut across to get to the corner of College and Gordon. There were a couple of corners where Rogue had to work harder to locate the track amongst all of the other scents, but she idd it perfectly. She has really improved over the past year.

This weekend’s track was a bit easier, but it still had some places where Rogue needed to work things out. I think the toughest part of her track was having to work through areas of slushy snow and puddles. It got up to about 8 degrees celsius on Saturday, so we had a lot of slush.

I am really glad I bought waterproof shoes last month. They kept my feet warm and dry, while also giving me enough traction to navigate the snow, slush and sections of ice.

Last weekend Arizona’s track was around MacDonald Hall towards the hospitality buildings. Laura and I stayed on the opposite side of the road to watch because Huib and Arizona had to cross the road twice. Arizona did a bang-up job!! Other than a bit of hesitation when she had to cross over the road, she really didn’t struggle at all. I love listening to people describe her working.

This weekend’s track was more about navigating the deeper snow. Laura wanted to see how she’d do with the challenge of finding her scent amongst the snow and other people’s footprints. Huib was able to see the track somewhat, so it gave him an idea of when Ari was checking out a cross track or if she was actually on the track itself. Other than taking the wrong direction near the end, she did great!! Ari had briefly indicated the correct direction, but it was such a fleeting indication, that Huib missed it.

Arizona has only been tracking for a year and she is such a different worker now than she was three months ago.

Last weekend, Canyon did a tough track that included pavement, snow, ice and sculptures. His track went through the sculpture garden at MacDonald Hall. I had to do a lot of encouraging, but he did a pretty good job considering how new all of this is for him.

This weekend, Canyon seemed a bit more unsure than usual. He kept running back to us, so I just encouraged him to continue on. Laura says that this behaviour is pretty common for obedience dogs. Canyon hasn’t really done formal obedience trials, but we have been training for them and he also does other dog events, like conformation, so I think her comment is still valid. She said that a lot of obedience dogs find it tough to work on their own, without constant direction, like they don’t think it’s okay to track.

I think it will just take Canyon some time to realize that it’s okay to work things out and to do things on his own, without any cues from me. Once he gets the idea of it, he’ll really excel!!

It has been really good for me to work with him. He is really a different worker than Rogue. I also find he’s less all over the track, so right now, it’s sometimes a bit easier to read him. This may change as he gets more confident though.

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On Tuesday I had my annual check up with my ophthalmologist. Alain wants to keep a close eye on how my optic nerves are doing, so each appointment begins with an O.C.T. (I just know the ‘O’ stands for optical). The images from the O.C.T. will give him a good idea of what is happening and if anything has changed. He wants to keep this record, so that when stem cell research into optic nerve regeneration progresses far enough, he will attempt it with my worse eye. In my left I really only have light perception, so I wouldn’t lose anything if it didn’t work. From the images he got this year, nothing has changed, so he was happy with the results. I had my pressure in each eye tested, but I didn’t have to have them dilated – YAY!!! My pressures were normal. Alain says he checks pressures because it would be a shame if I lost more vision because of something he could have prevented. He’s a pretty cool guy.

It would be really strange to have my full vision back. I wouldn’t mind having more than I do now, but I don’t know if I would want it all…

Unless I run into any problems, I’m good for another year.

We were going to meet one of my aunts for dinner, so we stuck around London after the appointment.

I needed to get a new CNIB card, since mine expires in March – it’s kind of funny to know that the card expires, it’s not like I’m going to stop being visually impaired. The new card should arrive in about two weeks. I hope the picture is better than my last one.

We went to dinner at Dawghouse with my Aunt Tracey. We haven’t seen her in a while, so it was nice to catch up. The food was great!! I had a vegetable stir fry with spicy teriyaki sauce, while Huib had a turkey club with fries and Aunty had a beef dip with a salad. We had a really large lunch at the Mandarin, so I ended up taking half of my meal home. After dinner we went over to Aunty’s place and they opened their Christmas presents. Last year, we had all planned to do a stocking sort of thing, so Aunty had Huib’s name and Dad had to buy for Aunty. We had an ice storm before our Christmas dinner, so Aunty was not able to make it. Huib got an awesome cushion for his chair at the office or in the car, along with a cute moose toque, a big travel mug and some other things that I cannot remember.

Huib is going to look pretty adorable tracking in his moose toque!!

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Friday was obedience class. Susie was quite impressed with the progress both girls have made.

Arizona and I need to continue working on heeling and sit-stays. I also need to get her used to people walking around her for the “sit for examination,” and making a beep noise when we’re doing the figure eight.

Since I cannot see, the obedience judge will have the ring stewards be the posts, making a “beep, beep…” sound as I approach. Arizona thinks this is pretty exciting at the moment, lol!!

I also need to keep working on ‘leave it’ because she wanted to sniff the floor at times, which really got in the way of my ability to remain in a straight line.

Like us, Rogue and Huib need to continue working on heeling and some stay stuff. She is paying more attention to him, dropping her head less, so that is huge progress!!

I think working with Rogue is good for Huib because it will make him a better trainer. He says that unlike the goldens, Rogue really seems to cue off his body. As a result, he needs to pay close attention to what he’s doing and make sure she knows he’s watching. When he doesn’t pay enough attention to her, she will often start tossing behaviours at him, hoping she’ll give him what he wants and get a reward.

From personally working with Rogue, and listening to them work together, I think the biggest thing he needs to do is talk to her more. I talk to her a lot when we are out walking and also while we’re tracking, so that’s what she is used to. I think she gets distracted or thinks she’s doing something wrong when we don’t communicate with her enough.

Rogue is a sensitive girl, so needs to know she’s doing things correctly. I think this communication is needed most when she’s initially learning things, then he can probably back off a bit.

While the girls were learning, Canyon was visiting his friends Mandi and Maddy. Last time we had obedience class, I left him at home, and he had a seizure. We got home just as it was finishing, but it still made us nervous to leave him again. Dad is usually pretty good at paying attention to him, but I think Canyon must have fallen asleep on the couch upstairs, waiting for us to return. i think the seizure caught him off guard, so he didn’t have enough time to get to Dad. It must have been a pretty mild one because when we arrived, he was still on the couch, laying close to the edge. If it had been a moderate or bad one, then he definitely would have fallen off. His head was up, so it was his usual partial one, but it still worried us. As long as Mandi and family are not busy, they have offered to take him while we are at class each week.

We are SO thankful for these guys!! They are so great with the goldens and amazingly accommodating.

Well, that’s a wrap. As you can see, our week was pretty busy.

Obedience with the Youngsters

It’s been a while, but we’ve finally returned to obedience class.

I would really like to try and earn the Pre-Novice Obedience (PCD) title this spring with Arizona.

If I can teach her consistent heeling and at least a one minute (30 seconds is actually required, but I’m thinking I should account for time needed to return and getting the leash back on) sit-stay, then we’ll be ready to trial.

Ari reliably performs a 25-second sit-stay at home. I need to extend this time, while also adding distractions and working outside the house.

As for heeling, it’s really a work-in-progress. She can do it when we’re at home, but add any sort of distraction in and she’s done.

From reading the CKC obedience rules, it looks like Arizona needs to earn three qualifying scores before she’ll get the PCD title.

Arizona absolutely LOVES Susie, so I didn’t expect great work. And, she didn’t let me down… She did her usual screeching and bouncing around, lol!! Once she’d efficiently greeted Susie, I took her into the training ring and began running through Sue Ailsby’s level 1 behaviours – sit, down, touch, ‘leave it.’ When we begin training sessions at home, I do this, and I think it helps to get her into “the game.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure Susie was a big fan of the work we’ve been doing. Her biggest concern was with the way I tossed treats after clicking. For me, when I click, the behaviour is over and the dogs can go get their reward. I feel tossing the treat helps reset them because they have to come back and get into position again in order to receive a click/treat. Susie doesn’t want me tossing treats because she bellies it is not promoting a bond with me, and she thinks it will just encourage scavenging. I don’t agree with her assessment, but I will follow her request when we’re in her presence.

Susie and I use the clicker in similar, but different ways. When I click, the dogs know the behaviour is over, so they can move and go get their treat. For Susie, the click means you’re doing it right, but it doesn’t mean you’re done.

I’m going to stop using the clicker when I am with her, just using a verbal “good” or “yes” instead.

I want the dogs to continue seeing the click as an end to the behaviour and a time for reward.

I am leaving Canyon out of obedience classes for now. I need to work out some problems we’re having with the sit-stay.

Last week, we started our Sensational Stays class through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, so I’m really hoping his issues will iron themselves out.

Rogue is coming to class with Huib. I wanted to do obedience with her, but she gets confused when I ask her to heel because I also require her to ‘leash-guide’ from time-to-time. As a result, Huib has offered to work with her and together they will try for the PCD.

From listening to the comments he received in class, I think the first goal for him will be to develop a working relationship with her.

Once Rogue knows that she needs to pay attention to him, I think the rest of the requirements will fall into place quickly.

Rogue already knows how to work. She just needs to realize that I’m not the only one who might ask her to perform cues.

Thankfully our next class isn’t for about 10 days because we’ve got lots of work to do.

A Doggie Weekend

Saturday morning we did some tracking. It’s been pretty mild over the past week, so good winter tracking weather.

Other than Sandy and Stewart, we were also joined by Susie and two of her female labs, as well as a woman named Margot and her three Irish Water Spaniels. Susie and Margot are just starting out, so it was also a good opportunity for us to introduce Canyon to the sport.

Laura laid tracks for Arizona, Rogue and Stewart prior to our arrival so they could age. After explaining some basics about laying an urban track, we got to work on tracks for the remaining dogs.

While Margot and Susie were laying tracks for their girls, Laura took Huib and Arizona to run their track. Arizona is still learning, so her track does not need to be as old as Rogue or Stewart’s. I walked with Sandy and got a play-by-play.

Overall, Arizona did a good job. She got a little confused by contamination in a few spots, and distracted by smells on a couple of electrical boxes, but she located the turns well and found all of the articles.

Canyon was probably the biggest surprise for us all. He has not really formally tracked before, just followed an old one of Rogue’s or walked behind another dog with us, but not really tracking. Huib used Rogue’s tracking harness and ran the track with him because it’s the beginning stages, so a lot of times you’re bending down to show the dog where to go. Huib said he had a moderate, but not hard pull, and seemed to know what he was doing. He had put two articles on the track, not knowing if Canyon would just stop after finding the one, so he was pleasantly surprised when Canyon willingly gave up the first article and returned to tracking. When they were done, he came over proudly to show me what he had found. I look forward to working with him in the future. I think it will be a lot different reading him compared to Rogue.

Finally, it was Rogue’s turn. since she isn’t a fan of getting wet or cold, I don’t ask her to sit at the start of her track in the winter. She ran into a few obstacles along the track, all in spots where people did a lot of walking, but she worked hard to figure it out and was successful each time. Even though the track didn’t go perfectly smooth, I felt she did a good job of working out the problems and ignoring all distractions. Laura forgot about her issues with sticks as a first article, but Rogue surprised us and found the stick without having to be reminded to look closer. She navigated each turn well and did her surface changes perfectly. I think she’s becoming quite the little tracker.

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On Sunday we took part in the Labrador Owners Club’s Obedience Fun Match. For readers who do not know what a fun match is… Clubs will put on in-formal obedience events where people can run through a course, for a small amount of money, to see what it is like, and also see where they might need to work on things with their Dog. It is also a good opportunity to obtain critiques and advice on where problems might be and how to work through them.

Huib and I have never been to an obedience trial, so we thought a fun match would be a good start to our future obedience work.

I wasn’t sure how it would go, so I decided to pay for one run for each dog. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of time to allow Arizona to settle, so she was a bit enthusiastic when her time came. Susie, our field and obedience instructor, was ‘judging,’ so I think that added to the excitement – Susie is Ari’s ‘friend.’

Arizona sat each time I asked her to sit and sort of walked with me, but she had to be kept on a really short leash. Also, when we did the figure eights, she wanted to visit the people who were acting as poles. They were making beeping noises, so that really distracted the Wild Child. I didn’t do the group sits with her because I am still working on her stays and I didn’t see the point of pretending she knows what she’s doing.

After Ari was done, Huib took her back to the car and got Canyon. Like Arizona, Canyon sat perfectly each time I asked and I thought he heeled a lot better, but he lacked enthusiasm. Huib thinks he might have been a bit uncomfortable with the environment, so feels we should try to get there earlier next time and allow everyone an opportunity to settle before participating. We did the figure eights quite well and I think working the course with him really helped me feel a bit more comfortable with the movements.

Huib was up next with Rogue. He has not done a lot of one-on-one work with her, so we weren’t sure how she would do. Huib said she did surprisingly well. He says they need to work on heeling and practice staying, even when I’m nearby, but otherwise he felt she did an okay job.

Once Rogue was done her course, it was time for the group stays, so I had to put Canyon in a sit-stay beside a young chocolate lab and then Huib had Rogue sit-stay on the other side of the lab. Huib suggested Rogue and Canyon not be right beside one another so she wouldn’t get distracted by him or confused when I returned to him. Canyon sat and waited for me, but Rogue broke her stay and charged me, lol!! Huib says it’s okay though because she might have gotten distracted by the other handler, who was returning to their dog to remind them to remain seated.

After the novice obedience dogs were done, the other pre-novice handler asked if she could do another run. Susie suggested I get Arizona and do the same. She feels Ari is the closest to being ready to actually attempt a pre-novice obedience run for real.

For a different experience, Susie asked another club member to ‘judge’ the runs. Arizona did a much better job of following my lead and ignored the beeping people a bit better. I need to learn how to walk in a straight line, but otherwise it’s just a lot of practice for us.

I am hoping to take Ari to another fun match before I actually consider entering a trial. We won’t be ready to try for novice obedience until next year, the dog needs to be able to heel off leash, but we should be able to attempt pre-novice by the spring.

We’ll also be restarting our weekly obedience lessons, so along with the work I do with the dogs through the Fenzi Academy and Training Levels Program, I hope we’ll see some progress.

Look Out Donald!!

Arizona has finally done it!!

She finally retrieved her first duck!! I guess it’s time I get used to being handed one.

Even though the obedience part of our Thursday night didn’t go well in my opinion, our field part sure did. We were SO freaking proud of our little girl!!

Canyon seemed a bit off, and he was really distracted. Whenever I would stop, he’d lie down in order to sniff the ground or continually run to the end of his leash – Grrr!!! If that wasn’t bad enough, Arizona was revved!! She almost took off the tips of my fingers when I was offering a treat and she wanted nothing to do with staying in one spot.

I have a picture of Ari with her mallard to share, but I’m having some trouble uploading pictures, so hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to go back to the older posts and share the pictures. When that happens, I will post a quick message to let everyone know the pictures are up, and I’ll even try to give links to the posts so it will be easy to find the ones with newly added pictures.

We will be taking a break for Christmas, but our lessons will restart in early January.

Back Indoors

It has gotten too cold to continue outdoor field lessons, so we have restarted private obedience and field lessons.

It may take a while, but I would really like to enter an obedience trial some day with Arizona.

Two weeks ago we decided to start taking Canyon to the lessons. He is already six and a half years old, but I would still like to do some obedience with him.

When we arrived the first time, Susie had me work with Arizona and Huib hold Canyon. We started off by having her retrieve her bumper with two duck wings attached – she did well. She is getting really good about not dropping the bumper on her way back, so Susie is now having me ask her to sit before I ask for the bumper.

We have been working on this daily for the past couple weeks and Arizona still thinks she can’t do both at the same time (hold the bumper and sit).

After having Arizona retrieve her bumper a few times, Susie got a small bird out. It is a type of water foul that is like a duck, but smaller. As usual, Arizona went up to it, sniffed and returned to us without it. Susie tried several times to get her interested, but nothing worked, so she asked Huib to release Canyon.

Canyon has never done this before, but he ran directly to the bird and returned to Susie with it. She took it and tossed it for him a couple more times. I am thinking he likes fetch so much that he really didn’t care what he had to retrieve, he just got to play his favourite game.

Susie then asked Huib to hold Canyon again while she tried to get Ari to retrieve the bird. She did it twice!! It wasn’t a perfect hold, she dropped it a few times on her way, but she did bring it to me.

Afterwards, we did some heeling and tuck sits. I need to practice walking in a straight line, so that my dogs don’t get so confused and I need to reteach Canyon to sit because he sits too sloppy for obedience trialling.

Susie appears to really like Canyon and thinks that once I work well with him, it will be easier to teach Arizona, and later Rogue.

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Last night we had another lesson.

I have continued to practice Ari’s hold, asking her to carry almost anything for me. I have also been trying to get her to sit before I ask for the object, but she is still struggling with the concept of sitting while still holding something in her mouth.

We started by having Arizona retrieve her bumper a few times, then Susie tossed a small bird and Ari had her usual reaction to it.

So she put Ari on leash and then I released Canyon. Other than trying to chomp the bird as he returned it, Canyon retrieved it perfectly and even released it several times in a row.

Canyon has a bad habit of refusing to release objects he has retrieved, so I really wasn’t sure how this request would go after he had done it a few times.

Susie then had Canyon return to me and she released Arizona. Ari ran directly over to the bird, picked it up and brought it to Huib – we all praised her excitedly and stopped there.

Next it was time for obedience.

I put Ari’s leash on and worked on getting her to heel. Susie still has me luring her with treats, but I only had Zukes, so it was a bit rough because I dropped treats from time-to-time.

I really don’t like luring so much and I also don’t like giving collar corrections, Susie asks me to do it, so for now I’m doing it her way.

As long as we stop beside a wall, Ari does a perfect tuck sit.

I am having a bit of trouble keeping Ari’s head up though, so Susie has me attaching two leashes to her collar: one goes behind me and is held in my right hand, while the other is much shorter and held in my left. When I ask Ari to sit, I put some tension on the leash in my right hand, so that it will help Ari know where she needs to stay, and the shorter leash helps me keep track of her head position.

I need to buy a really short and thin leash. I bought a really nice leather one last winter, but it’s too heavy, at the moment, so I got another one this past weekend that is quite long, but I thought it would be thin enough, but Susie really thinks I need an even thinner one, so she has let me borrow hers. If you saw my leash collection, you’d think we had our own store.

I am doing a much better job of walking in a straight line. It sure takes a lot of concentration to walk in a straight line, keep track of your dog’s position and follow the directions of the instructor, lol!

Susie then had me show her what I had been practicing with Canyon.

As long as we stop by a wall, Canyon’s tuck sits are improving. I wonder how easily the dogs will translate this to times when we aren’t sitting next to a wall…

I don’t need a second leash with Canyon. He is really good about position when we stop, he’s just not very good about remaining in position while we walk.

At the end of the lesson Susie got the bird out again and tossed it for Arizona, she ran over, sniffed it and picked it up and brought it to Huib – we had a PARTY!!!

We are finally making REAL progress in field.

Susie is going to have me begin every lesson with an activity in leash respect. She feels the goldens need to learn that when the leash is on, they need to respect it and not pull.

We also agreed that starting with field was not a good plan because each time we walked past a spot that had had the bird, both goldens stopped to sniff.

My homework for this week is to continue practicing Ari’s retrieve and holds, while attempting to get her to sit and keep holding until I ask for the object. She also wants me to practice leash respect with the goldens and continue working on the tuck sit and reinforce positioning using a cheese string.

I think I am going to get the clicker out this week and restart the Levels with both goldens because both of them embarrassed me with their lack of an adequate “leave it.”