In the News: Using the Canine Nose

In the United Kingdom, Tui, a flat-coated retriever is being trained to search for harvest mice.

Researchers are hoping Tui will be able to help them better estimate their numbers because it is believed that their population is on the decline.

You can read more about Tui and the reason for her mission here.

In ruled by paws news…

Rogue and I had an excellent tracking practice this morning, so this article was a great one to share.

We ran a CKC regulation length track in just over 8 minutes without difficulty.

We need to practice corners a bit more and work on Rogue’s article indication, but those are very minor problems.

I think I will break out the clicker and work on teaching Rogue to come “touch” me and then return to the article.

The countdown is on, 46 days until our tracking test.

Won’t That Affect Her Work?

Won’t that affect her guide work?

This is a question I hear constantly when I tell other service dog handlers about the various activities I choose to do with Rogue.

No, it doesn’t affect her ability to guide.

When you have a good working relationship, like Rogue and I do, you can choose to do almost anything together.

Rogue knows the difference.

She knows that when her guide harness is on, or even if it is off and she’s just hanging out in my office at school, that she needs to be professional. She knows she can’t be sniffing everything, visiting everyone, or chasing small critters that cross our path.

Rogue knows that when her tracking harness is on that her job is to “find” the track and follow it to the “article.” She knows that she doesn’t need to be paying attention to anything else. She knows that it isn’t her job to keep me safe. It’s her job to find the “article” for me.

Rogue knows that when we are at a conformation show and she’s wearing a show leash and collar that it isn’t time to guide; it’s time to walk nicely beside Huib. She knows that when they stop along side other dogs in the ring, it isn’t time to greet them or to sniff around. Rogue knows it’s time to “stack” and let the judge check her out. She knows that Huib will let her know what is expected and that he’ll remind her if she forgets.

When we are at field training and she’s wearing just her martingale and leash, Rogue knows it is time to retrieve. She knows that it’s okay to run away from me and get the duck (bumper with wings for now), and bring it back to me. Rogue knows it’s not time to sniff for articles or show me obstacles, it’s time to “mark” (or look forward and see where the duck is dropping from) and then “fetch” it and bring it back.

It’s true that dogs are not good at generalizing, but Rogue and I have been working together since she was 8 weeks of age. We’ve practiced things in a variety of environments and we’ve learned what’s appropriate in each situation.

Rogue knows that I will let her know if she’s made the wrong choice. And, I know that she’ll turn to me for help if she needs help figuring out what is expected.

so, the answer is no, conformation, tracking and field work will not affect Rogue’s work.

And, if we decide to try something else it won’t affect her work either.

This is why I love owner-training. I can choose to participate in any dog sport I want with Rogue. With Cessna, this was not the case. I wanted to try out rally obedience, but her school said no.

For Rogue and I, the sky is the limit!!

***This post is not directed at anyone. The questions I’ve been getting just got me thinking that it was time to try and educate others. I am thankful for all of the questions.***

She Did What?

Last night, Arizona returned to field training. She’s been off for three weeks, first because of the hot weather and then because she finally had her first heat.

We have continued to practice retrieves over the past few weeks, but you never know what is going to happen at the group training.

Susie was away at the cottage, so Laura worked with us while Dean and Maverick worked alone in another area.

We first attempted to do some simple land retrieves. Laura went out into the field while I got Arizona to sit beside me and ‘mark’ (or look out to see what’s happening), then Laura made a duck call and tossed the bumper with the wing attached. I then let go of Ari’s collar and said ‘fetch’.

Arizona ran straight over to Laura, then to the bumper. She then brought the bumper to Laura instead of bringing it back to me. After getting her excited about the bumper again, Laura got her to pick it up again and I called her back. She came. This same sort of cycle happened a few more times, with Arizona going to a shaded tree behind me to wait for me to coax her out again, so we knew it was time to try something new.

Even though it was 6:00pm it was still quite warm.

As part of the Working Certificate (WC) test, the dogs have to do two land retrieves and two water retrieves.

We’ve been working on the land retrieves for months, not wanting to introduce the water retrieve until Arizona was working perfectly on land.

With the hot weather we decided to try some water work.

I walked to the edge of the pond while Laura walked part way around it. I had Ari sit and ‘mark’. Laura did the duck call and then tossed the bumper into the water. As I released Arizona’s collar, I said ‘fetch’.

She ran into the water and swam directly to Laura, ignoring the bumper. So Laura tossed another bumper into the water, hoping that would entice Ari to go for it – not happening!

I had Rogue with me, not a usual occurrence, because we had been at a meeting and Huib picked us up with just enough time to get to training.

Rogue had been watching Ari “have fun” and she wanted to “have fun” too. She was excited while watching her do the land retrieves, but the water work had her whining loudly. Rogue does not like the water, so to us this was pretty strange. But, since Ari wasn’t retrieving the bumpers and they needed to be brought back in, we decided to see if maybe Rogue could create a bit of competition.

With Ari’s refusal to retrieve we have been told to try a force retrieve (pinching her ear), and with her sometimes slow recall we’ve told to try a shock collar. Both of these methods are not ones we’re willing to consider though, there are so many other options out there.

Like a little bit of friendly doggie competition.

I let Rogue off the leash and she bolted directly for the water. She ran in and as soon as she realized she could no longer touch the bottom she started to panic. This didn’t stop her though, she wanted to get to that bumper, so after a few false starts, she finally stopped panicking and swam out to the bumpers. She brought the first one in and dropped it at Huib’s feet. Then she turned and went back into the water for the other.

While she was doing this Arizona swam along side, only trying to get the second one off her.

We then spent 20 minutes tossing the bumpers into the pond and having Rogue and Arizona compete for them, returning them to Huib for treats.

Once Ari seemed to be getting the hang of it, I held Rogue and Huib worked with Ari, tossing the bumper a short distance from where he had her sit. She ran into the water without an issue, but it took a few attempts before she finally started swimming out and bringing the bumper back to Huib. A few times she gave up, so I would let Rogue go out a few times, before holding her again.

We worked on water retrieves for probably 30-45 minutes total and by the end I think both girls had a pretty good grasp of the concept.

We then decided to try some land retrieves again. Arizona did two almost perfect retrieves, just taking it back to Laura at first, but then turning to bring it back to me in the end.

Laura thinks that because we’ve been working so much with her bringing the bumper back to the person who threw it, that when she’s at field training and the “Gunner” throws it, Arizona thinks she needs to return the bumper to whoever tossed it.

While this was happening Rogue stood with me watching intently.

Once Ari was finished, I decided to do a couple practices with Rogue and she was freaking perfect!

Rogue has never done field work training, she’s only watched us work with Arizona. Just like in conformation, where she learned by watching Canyon, Rogue has learned field by watching Arizona.

I think I might start bringing Rogue with me to group field classes, maybe she can get her WC. I think we are also going to start bringing Ari to rogue’s tracking lessons so we can do some field work afterwards.

The ability to do whatever activities with my dog is one of the highlights of deciding to owner-train, rather than go to a program for a guide dog.

I think Laura had just as much fun as we did watching Rogue figure things out, and teach Ari about water retrieves.

Animals in Translation

Anyone who knows anything about autism or dog training has heard of Temple Grandin.

When I started learning about clicker training and positive reinforcement, I heard about her book Animals in Translation and knew I needed to read it.

Fast forward 8 years and I have finally read it.

Grandin writes about how animals and individuals with autism think and behave similarly. She talks a lot about her work with cows and slaughter houses. She describes her achievements in making the process less stressful and more humane for the cows. She explains how squeeze shoots work and talks about making one for herself and how it influences her emotions. When Grandin isn’t talking about cows, she talks about dogs. She helps her readers understand that they need to look at things from the level and point of view of the dog. When a dog balks at something, we need to get down to their level and think like they do. They could be concerned about something as simple as a reflection of sunlight they never noticed before.

This book wasn’t brilliant, but it was an easy read. If I learned anything, it was that I need to remember to think like a dog, get down to their level and see things from their perspective.

Growing Up

It’s hard to believe we have already had our Wild Child for 3 months, but it’s true!

Arizona hanging over the edge of the big jet tub, playing in the bubbles. She has bubbles around her nose and under her chin.

Arizona is maturing and growing quickly, but she’s still just as crazy as ever.

Hmmm….what’s been happening with her since the last time I wrote…

Ari is now 19 inches tall, 18 inches long, has a 22 inch girth and weighs 38.5lbs.

She is also teething, so we really have to watch what she puts in her mouth. She seems to think everything is chewable. So far she has redesigned our front door mat, added some artistic touches to a few baseboards and created handfuls of wood chips, doing her beaver impression on fallen tree branches in the backyard.

On the training front –

We have started field lessons, so our homework right now is to work on having her sit in one spot until we give her a release word, to not just come when we whistle and to walk on our left side.

We are working with Susie Bell of Pinebank Labrador Retrievers. Susie is a Labrador Retriever breeder who teaches both obedience and field work. With our schedule and my visual limitations, we have decided to do private lessons, so we meet with Susie every 2-3 weeks.

Our work with Arizona is slow going, but she’s getting there. we really want to avoid luring and forcing her into position as much as possible, so it’s taking longer to teach her to sit and heel then it could.

Ari is a bundle of energy, but she is extremely curious and confident, so it’s been a learning experience for us and a lot of fun at the same time. I had hoped to be further in her basic training by now, but with her energy and independent-mindedness, I needed to take a step back and let her mature and let me enjoy her without the frustration. I did this with Rogue and even though her training took longer, I think that in the end she became a better companion for us, so I hope the same can be said for Ari when she’s Rogue’s age.

we finally got Arizona’s CKC paperwork in the mail this past week. She is now officially registered as: Taygold’s Kindred Spirit.

She will make her conformation debut next weekend at the Elgin County Kennel Club show, which also happens to be the Purina National. Arizona is still considered a Baby Puppy, so she will only show on Sunday. Canyon is also entered, but he shows on both Saturday and Sunday with Huib and then again on Saturday with our friend Kira, who will make her debut as a Junior Handler.

I am not so sure Ari will do well in the CKC conformation shows, because she’s from a working line, so I talked to my friend Amy who has Dalmatians and I think we’re going to try and show our dogs together in the US starting in February. I just need to ask Arizona’s breeder for full breeding rights, so that I can register her with the AKC – wish me luck!

That’s probably about all I have to update everyone on for now with Arizona. I have some entertaining antics to share, but I will try and put them together in a separate post.

Rogue In Action

After missing July’s tracking lesson, we got back at it.

And, Rogue was a freaking pro!!

Rogue searches for the scent. the picture is taken from the side, you can see me holding her tight leash and Huib walking closer to her head in case she needs some direction.

A front view of Rogue searching.

A front view picture taken from a lower point.

rogue is getting close to the end of the track we laid. She's pulling hard towards her prize.

Rogue has found her orange Orbi ball on an orange braided nylon strap. The picture is sort of taken from the side back and you can only see Rogue with her toy.

We laid two shorter (50 feet long) and three or four longer (130 feet long) tracks for rogue to do.

On the shorter tracks, we had the treats laid out every couple of feet, but once we got to the longer tracks she was only getting treats about every 10 to 20 feet. On the longer tracks, Huib would lay four treats a foot apart from one another and then walk 15 to 20 feet before he laid four more treats a foot apart from one another.

Rogue freaking rocked the tracking lesson. If we had not run out of treats, the instructor was going to have us start spacing the treats out to 25 or 30 feet – which is our homework.

Huib, Rogue and I stand together. Huib and I are facing the camera, but rogue has her side showing. Huib is wearing jeans with a navy blue hooded sweatshirt. I am wearing jeans with a teal t-shirt and navy blue vest, pink baseball cap and rogue is wearing her teal Silverfoot martingale and a brown leather braided leash.

Rogue made us SO proud! We are going to try hard to practice before the next session, when we’ll begin learning about tracking corners.

10 Weeks Old

The past week has been full of ups and downs. Maybe it’s primarily due to the fact that I have had migraines almost every moment of the week, so my patience is a bit thin, but it’s definitely been a trying one.

Arizona with her head sticking out the front screen door.

Arizona is learning tons and settling in amazingly well with our gang, but she’s also becoming more determined and opinionated.

rogue continues to play with her and has even started explaining the rules and boundaries – I am SO proud of the Rogue Monster!

Cessna doesn’t know what to do with the puppy and has decided to just keep ignoring her existence.

Canyon tolerates her efforts to play and has even started doing his tug game he used to play with Rogue. He lies on the ground holding a toy in his mouth and Arizona tugs on the toy with all her might. Rogue and Canyon still play this game, so as Rogue became bigger she started pulling him around the house.

Arizona sleeps well some nights, but sleeps horribly the following night, it’s SO frustrating!! I am hoping this pattern will stop sooner than later because the getting up every hour is quite exhausting.

She is sleeping in her crate without the blood-curdling screams though and even takes naps for a couple hours each morning in it, so that’s progress.

On Friday our friend Karen came with her 7 month old puppy, Spark, and our friend kelly came with her two dogs, Piper and Ace. It was a really good experience for Arizona to have the three dogs to interact with.

A view from above of Arizona sleeping under a chair while on a coffee date with a friend.

Spark played with her the most and got a bit rough at times, so Karen would grab his collar and have him relax for a minute before being allowed to return.

Piper took a bit to get used to Arizona’s size. I think a lot of dogs wonder if it’s safe or appropriate to be playing with such a small puppy. After she realized that Arizona wasn’t breakable, they had a blast wrestling and chasing one another. Ace wanted nothing to do with the puppy, but that isn’t too abnormal for the big guy, he is more into wandering the yard or mourning Rogue.

On Saturday, Kelly took Arizona for a few hours. She had a coffee date with a friend, so took Arizona to sit on the patio.

On the learning front, Arizona is doing amazingly well at learning to come when we whistle, so now we need to decide if it is worthwhile teaching her the word ‘come’ or if whistling is good enough for recall. Her work with zen (or ‘leave it’) is coming along. I am starting to say ‘leave it’ as she goes to back off from the treat I have in my palm. Arizona is also doing really well at learning to sit. Our little friend, Kira, has been helping me out with this. I really want to teach Arizona to sit using the capturing method, so I have had Kira clicking whenever she sees Arizona sit. Arizona began to quickly figure out what she was getting the clicks and treats for, so now Kira is starting to say the word ‘sit’ as Arizona’s bum is moving to the floor. I think she’ll be ready to learn a hand signal for sit by the end of the week.

I am going to continue working on zen, sit and come, but I also think I may start trying to capture the ‘down’ and try teaching Arizona to give paw or maybe even paw target. I am eager to teach her to nose target, but my friend Robin has suggested I avoid teaching the nose target until Arizona is understanding ‘leave it’ because she is extremely food motivated and needs to learn a bit of self-control.

Arizona has started to switch over to eating raw. We switched her over to Orijen puppy just over a week ago from Pro Plan, but now it’s time to switch her to eating raw like the others. So far she is just getting a tiny ground beef ball with her breakfast, but probably by the weekend she’ll be eating almost purely raw. Maybe the diet change will also help with the house training.

The house training is a challenge, but I think it’s improving. Arizona is now 10 weeks, so her ability to wait should be increasing. We have reintroduced the box with wood stove pellets, like her breeder used, so I am hoping this will speed up the house training process. The only real issue I am having, that is perplexing, is that Arizona has now decided pooping in her exercise pen is acceptable, but seems to know that she shouldn’t be relieving in her crate.

Puppy rearing can be such an adventure, stay tuned for more updates on Taygold’s Kindred Spirit, who should have really been named Trouble not Arizona.

Week One: An Overview

It’s been exactly a week since Arizona joined our family.

Arizona lies on a bed with a cream colour blanket.

She is probably one of the most fearless and entertaining puppies I’ve raised so far.

I think she missed the memo on how baby puppies are supposed to behave because she is definitely not eager to please or a follower, unless of course there’s something in it for her.

Arizona stands with her head between the rails. She's looking down into the living room from the kitchen.

Let’s see, what have we done this week…

On the training front, I’ve started to teach Arizona zen (leave it) and sit, while continuing to proof her recall.

As mentioned earlier, Arizona’s breeder teaches the entire litter recall using a whistle, so Huib and I have been continuing to do this and her response is getting faster and more reliable every day.

Arizona is starting to understand the concept of zen, but I’m not quite at the point where I feel comfortable enough to name it.

As for sit, I am still in the process of capturing it (clicking/treating when she offers it on her own). I taught both Rogue and Canyon to sit by capturing the behaviour and their sits are extremely reliable and well done, so I’d like to do the same with Arizona.

On the hilarious front, Arizona is the youngest daredevil I’ve ever met.

Most puppies won’t even attempt jumping off something high or walking down stairs until they are closer to 16 weeks, but as of the very first day Arizona came home, she’s been running up and down the stairs and launching herself off the couch and bed – which is always a heart-stopper for me!!

Arizona lies on the bed with her head up.

Also, Arizona is a talker. She barks and growls at everything!! She has arguments with the grass and bushes in the yard. She wrestles with the toilet brush and it’s holder. And, she has full out battles with the springy door stops in the house. I really need to try and get some of these on video to show everyone because it’s SO funny!!

The other dogs are slowly warming up to her, but I hope they learn to teach her the rules and boundaries quickly.

Cessna pretty much ignores her completely.

Canyon plays with her a bit. Her favourite game with him right now is to chase him while he plays fetch and then grab his chest hair or ear and tug while making growly noises. Canyon doesn’t seem to be bothered by this game, but does not like it when she tries to take his toy away or cuddle up with him.

Arizona investigates the container that holds all of the extra dog toys while Canyon supervises. Arizona is in a big black storage container that is about half full of dog toys that aren't always out.

Rogue makes me VERY proud. She’s my shy and timid girl, but she’s actually begun to initiate play with Arizona. They bounce around the living room, grabbing one another’s necks and bark and growl at one another. this probably sounds bad, but it’s really not, they are both just really loud players. the only thing I wish Rogue would tell Arizona off for is her constant need to try and nurse from her. Rogue just stands there while Arizona pokes her and begins trying to suck on a nipple…hopefully this stops sooner than later because I feel horrible for the Rogie Monster.

The cats aren’t too sure of the bouncy, barking fur ball. They try and avoid her because if she notices them then she immediately runs over and tries to get them to play.

A few days ago Huib saw Arizona bowing and wagging her tail excitedly while barking at Logan, trying to get her to play, but not understanding that she had absolutely no interest in associating with her. After a while, Arizona gave up and walked away. But, last night, Logan wasn’t so lucky, instead of walking away, Arizona decided to pounce on her and then chase her under the bed, trying really hard to get Logan to play.

On the not so wonderful front, Arizona hates the crate, unless we aren’t in the room then she settles quickly enough and naps until you’re ready to bring her back out. The first night, Arizona screamed for close to an hour, but then settled for a few before waking up to pee and then screamed some more when I put her back in. The second night wasn’t so bad, maybe Arizona was exhausted or something, because she didn’t fuss as long and slept a bit longer than the night before. The next night was worse though, maybe she was gathering up the energy to really give us a taste of how bad she can be…

On Thursday, I talked to my friend and she suggested putting Arizona’s crate up on top of Canyon’s, so she could see us better. We did this and she slept really well. Maybe it also had something to do with the fact that we had taken her to watch Kira’s soccer game and then our friend Karen came to visit with her 7 month old Belgian Shepherd, Spark. Who knows, but we got some of the sleep we desperately needed.

But, then Friday was horrible and so was Saturday, so for now I’ve sort of given up on the crate at night. I’ve just been sleeping down in the living room with Arizona attached to me by a leash. She seems to sleep well and doesn’t really wake me up as often. I think we’ll probably try doing some crate work tonight, but who knows.

It’s been a week of learning, laughing and frustration.

hopefully this coming week will see improvements to her sleeping patterns. If we can get that on track, then the rest should be a little easier to deal with since we won’t be so exhausted.

Jean Donaldson

After reading Ian Dunbar’s book, I decided to read The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson.

In her book, Donaldson writes about the psychology surrounding common dog behaviours and informs readers about how things we do must look from the dog’s point of view.

I both liked and disliked this book. On one side, I think Donaldson did a really good job at explaining the positive reinforcement model of dog training and not only told readers how to do things, but why it needed to be done. On the other hand, I really disliked the way she wrote as if every dog owner who isn’t a professional is stupid. I found her writing style to be a little cold.

After reading this book, I really began to understand where a former dog trainer I worked with got her training style and opinions regarding dog owners and how dogs should be treated and trained.

It’s kind of hard to explain my thoughts regarding Donaldson’s training style, it’s almost as though to her, a dog should not just be allowed to be a dog, or part of the family. I felt as though she believes that if training is not happening then the dog should be crated or something like that. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I explained things wrong, but it’s sort of what I got out of the book and what I witnessed working with the trainer whom I feel mirrors her work according to the word of Jean Donaldson.

Ian Dunbar

In preparation for our new addition, I have downloaded some dog training books in an effort to learn more about positive reinforcement training and also to learn about other training methods.

I totally recommend Sue Ailsby and plan to continue using her levels program to train the dogs, but it never hurts to add some extra tools to the dog training toolbox, right?

I just finished reading Ian Dunbar’s How To Teach A new Dog Old Tricks. I’ve wanted to read this book for years, but for one reason or another, I never had an opportunity until now.

It was really well written. I love the way he writes it as if from the dog’s perspective. There were some things Dunbar recommended, like repeating cues until the puppy obeys, that I don’t really agree with, but then there were other things he suggested, like making sure your cues make sense, that I found quite useful.

Dunbar suggests that when a puppy has an accident and the owner witnesses the discretion, that instead of saying “Puppy…NO…you shouldn’t have done that, let’s go outside”, that you skip the no and the conversation, and just say “Outside” in a firm voice, as you pick the puppy out and carry it outdoors.

I think this recommendation makes a lot of sense. I think that we have a tendency to treat our dogs like children, which is not a bad thing most of the time, and forget that their attention span and vocabulary is far less advanced than the capabilities of humans.

Before we pick up our little golden girl, I am going to sit down with Huib and make a mental list of the cues we want to use with her, so hopefully we will avoid some of the awkward stumbling we tend to do in the first year of training.