Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jackson meets the Cactus

Jackson's ear -

The Cactus -

Now picture a hunk of the cactus in Jackson's ear.

As if to prove that we actually do live in the desert, Jackson came in the house this afternoon with a hunk of cactus in his ear - acccckkkkk!!!! When we first got here a couple months ago my husband came in the house with a hunk of cactus hanging from his arm. I didn't panic - I just got a tweezers and started pulling the needles out one at a time - about a hundred of them, and they seem to have hooks on the end that make pulling them out a challenge. But, hubby held still - and didn't even scream - so we managed to free the cactus from his arm.

When Jackson came in with his cactus, I did panic - a little. I tried to pull them out, but he didn't want to hold still, and let out some yelps as I tried. Since I was alone and didn't have anyone to help hold him, I called the nearest vet and asked if I could come in right away and get some help with this. They said 'yes,' so, I put my mastercard in my pocket and off we went.

Long story short - I got him out of the van at the vet's, he shook his head, and the offending hunk of cactus went flying across the parking lot! Problem solved. I ducked into the vet office to cancel our appointment and we went back home.

Lesson learned: don't panic, it's probably not near as bad as it looks : )

Now if I were the home owner instead of the renter, this sucker would be gone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Life in the desert, training, an award, etc.

Life is good in the desert - and busy. If Jackson thought retirement from the ring meant sleeping on the couch all day, he was in for a surprise. Although we're not training to go in the ring again, we have hooked up with a fun group of trainers here in Arizona and train in a park with them on Sunday mornings. My goals for Jackson now are to keep him moving and thinking, and maybe try to figure out some new training strategies that will help him relax in distracting environments, and build our relationship.

I'm also working on training with lots of games and positive reinforcement. Jackson loves going for our daily walks around the neighborhood so on these walks I'm doing a lot of treating when he's in the 'reinforcement zone' - which is keeping him in heel position and paying attention - by choice. It doesn't seem like 'training' but it's working. He's choosing to stay close to me and check in with me frequently - looking for that treat. Makes for enjoyable walks : )

Thanks to our friends, Falkor the Great Dane and Famke the Field Spaniel, we've received the 'Liebster Blog' award. We are honored. This award goes to 'up and coming' bloggers. Now I need to come up with five bloggers to pass this on to. I'll be working on that.

In the mean time, here's a few pictures of Jackson's life in the desert.


Wishing all our friends a very happy holiday season!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where in the world is Jackson???

If you guessed the 'Valley of the Sun' - you'd be right!
Jackson is wintering in Arizona. Would write more about what we're doing here, but having an unbearably slow connection today.
More later.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Finding the Balance

Lately I've been thinking a lot about finding the balance between the time spent training and the time spent just enjoying activities with my dog. When I think back over my time with Jackson, it seems as though we've spent 95% of our time outside the home training for competitive obedience. I'm thinking now that's way out of balance.

Although I have tried to make training fun, a lot most of it has been  just plain 'work' and repetition. Probably not something he would choose to do, if he had a choice. So I started thinking, "What would Jackson enjoy doing?"  He doesn't like to play with balls or toys. He doesn't like to retrieve. He doesn't like to run and jump. However, I think I've found something he loves to do - sniffing and exploring new territory!  With that in mind - and being blessed with some gorgeous fall days here in Iowa - we have been going on walks and exploring some new parks in the area.

Jackson's "heaven"

I don't plan to do training on these excursions, however, I don't pass up a chance to reward him when he is in the 'reinforcement zone.' I find that he frequently checks in with me and falls into heel position on his own. I guess I could consider that 'choosing to work with me.' 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Growing old is a 'state of mind' .... right????

Am I getting too old for this obedience stuff?

The heartbreak of owning a giant breed dog such as a Great Dane is knowing that their life span is estimated to be eight - ten years. Considering they need two years to reach physical maturity, that doesn't leave a lot of time for training and competing in obedience.

I was perusing my 2010 National Invitational catalog recently and was not surprised to see the ages of the top obedience dogs. Looking through the sporting breed listings, I found the majority of the dogs competing were in the five to seven year-old age range, with a dozen more that were eight to ten years old.

I feel fortunate that Jackson stayed healthy enough to compete through the udx level prior to his seventh birthday. However, I think I am now seeing some signs of his age catching up with him, which may start to limit some of the jumping exercises. He has started refusing the bar jump lately - something he has never done in training. I'm not sure if it's his eyes or a lack of umph when he needs to jump.

Oh, we will continue training, although we will be lowering jump heights or omitting the jumping exercises altogether. I think it's important though to keep him moving and thinking. We just need to find some different things to keep him - and me - learning!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Still trying to figure things out - some random thoughts

Labor Day - can't believe it's the official end of summer. The summer has flown by and we're still training regularly, although with somewhat fuzzier goals. It was easier to stay focused when we had title goals we were working on, but I must say it's been a lot more relaxed without them.

I do have goals though. I'm working on changing the way I train with the goal of making Jackson more comfortable in the ring. He's a natural-born worrier so it's always been stressful for him to be in the ring. Now I'm wondering if my approach to training had something to do with that. Jackson was my first attempt at competitive obedience training, so when we started training I used quite a bit of 'have-to' / compulsion training, which is where my limited experience laid.  However, I've really been trying hard to move away from that toward 'it's your choice' and making the correct choice the most rewarding option. (You can probably tell SG has had some influence here : )

When Jackson walked into the ring, things changed - his happy demeaner in training disappeared and he became somewhat of a zombie in the ring. Some trainers will say it's because there are no treats in the ring - but, in Jackson's case I don't think that is it. I think it had more to do with his fears - fear of distractions, fear of making a mistake, and his general lack of confidence. Anyone watching us in the ring would probably think, there's no relationship in that team. I'm left wondering if my initial training with compulsion and corrections helped set the stage for the stressful performance.

On the other hand, could he have held it together to qualify if it weren't for the 'have-to' training?

Another trainer that I follow online, Denise Fenzi, recently posted about 'fixing' a client's dog's unhappiness in the ring. First on her list of things to do was: 'remove all compulsion from training.'
That got my attention! Is it possible to get a dog to perform competitively without compulsion? It works for her dogs - but then she has high drive dogs - so would it work for Jackson?

DF also makes a point about 'work is a privilege when trained motivationally.' She recommends 'putting dogs away (in the house, in the crate, etc.) for failures of effort - dogs don't get to work who don't want to work.' Hmmmmm..... I'm thinking that may be exactly what the dog wants - to be left alone????? I guess the challenge there is to make training so exciting, they will choose the training over being in the crate.

So many theories, so many things to try - maybe something will work for us : )

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Have you Googled your dog?

You might be surprised what you find when you google your dog's name. I sure was. On a tip from a friend I googled Jackson's name last night and was surprised at a couple links that came up. The biggest surprise was the picture below that was published in the Waterloo, Iowa newspaper in April 2006! I had never seen it and didn't know that it had even been taken.

The caption was: "With front paws on a chair Great Dane "Robindane's Heartbreaker CD RN" takes a good look around Saturday morning at the Waterloo Kennel Club Dog Show."

Rich Chase / Courier Photographer.

Another link came up that had two win pictures from a trial in January 2010 that had been published on the Northstar Working Group Association website, plus loads of other stuff I hadn't seen. So, if you haven't googled your dog yet, do it. You might be surprised at what comes up : )

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's a miracle - my dog can tug!

Now, those of you that have dogs that are natural tuggers, you're probably asking, "What's the big deal?" Well, I have been working with Jackson off and on (usually 'off' because I have given up a number of times) to try to get an enthusiastic tug from him. Unlike a lot of dogs, he just never seemed to have any interest in tugging with me. I've tried all kinds of tugs - soft, hard, ropes, food-containing ones, etc. - with not much success..... until recently.

According to SG, and a lot of trainers, this is the foundation to building a relationship with your dog and building drive. (Heaven knows - we could use some drive : ) So, I've started working on the tugging again with him. I'm not sure what is different this time, but we seem to be having some success. We have a long ways to go to get to the point where he will tug with me in new settings with distractions and when I ask for it, but for now, we are building value with tugging in the house. We'll gradually try to move it outside where there are some distractions and then to the club, etc.

And for now, I am only asking for tugging when he is 'up,' like before we go out to train, or when it's time to eat. If anyone has any tips on how they have gotten a non-tugging dog to love tugging, please share. We can use any help we can get to keep this thing moving in the right direction.

Here's the proof : )

Monday, August 1, 2011

The invitation and the questions

Jackson's invitation to the NOI (National Obedience Invitational) arrived today. This is the second year in a row that he's received an invitation. This year's invitational will be held in December at Orlando, Florida.
I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about posting this. Don't get me wrong -- I feel honored to have received this invitation. I think it does recognize all the hard work and effort Jackson and I have put into training and trialing, as well as the unique challenges some of us face when we choose to train dogs that are not of the traditional obedience breeds.

For those who may not know how invitations are decided, AKC invites the top 25 obedience dogs in the country based on number of OTCH points earned in the reporting year. In addition to these 25, the top three dogs (according to their OTCH points) in each breed are invited. A third way to get invited is through regional qualifying events.

Some breeds have no qualifying dogs; some i.e., herding and sporting group breeds have lots; and some breeds i.e., Great Danes, have very few competing at that level so their chances of getting invited are much less competitive - although they do need to have earned OTCH points to be on the list.

I guess the thing that seems incongruent to me is - the goal of the NOI is to have dogs compete for the title of National Obedience Champion (NOC), which to me means the best obedience dog in the country - at least on that given weekend - but they also invite dogs such as Jackson, who are nowhere near the same level as the top obedience dogs are. Perhaps AKC is just trying to encourage wider participation in obedience and are recognizing the accomplishments of nontraditional obedience dogs - and if they are - that's okay. I am proud and honored that we have been invited, even though it seems a little weird : )

Just thinking out loud. 

If you have thoughts on the NOI, I'd love to hear them! 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

Temps - 90s
Heat Index - 100s
What's a guy going to do?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tracking and Training update

Just a quick update on our training and tracking progress.

It has been too hot to get out in the field much to work on tracking. Even if I could get myself up at daybreak - and that's a big if - it would still be too hot to track. Nighttime lows have been mostly in the 70s this month with high humidity. But - we did get out a couple mornings ago when the temps dipped to the upper 60s. I was really, really pleased with his enthusiasm for finding the glove. We did 30- and 50-yard straight tracks, with the track layer doubling back on the track, and Jackson took off flying (well, loping - which is flying for him : ) to find the glove.

What I'm noticing now with the longer tracks, is when he gets about two-thirds of the way out he realizes he can't see the glove and he starts using his nose. Now, I don't know if he is smelling the treat on the glove or if he is smelling the track, but either way, he is finding the glove with no problem.

The next level is setting the 30- and 50-yard straight tracks but not doubling back on the same track. I may stay at the current level a couple more times out to make sure he is using the scent of the track to locate the glove.

We are also going to the club regularly to train to keep us mentally and physically active : ) Trying to keep the training fun and games. Susan Garrett has been posting some videos about her training challenges and struggles. She talks about staying in 'Do-land' as opposed to 'Don't-land.' In other words, communicating to your dog what you want him to 'Do' rather than what you 'Don't' want him to do. It makes sense to me and I'm trying to stay in that land more often - but, it's hard sometimes : )

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A new title....and a patch to go with!

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is now issuing Therapy Dogs a new title - THD -  to place at the end of their names. This program went into effect June 27, 2011, and Jackson received his letter and patch in the mail today.

From the AKC website:
     "The purpose of this program is to recognize AKC dogs and their owners who have given their time and helped people by volunteering as a therapy dog and owner team.

     The AKC Therapy Dog program awards an official AKC title awarded to dogs who have worked to improve the lives of the people they have visited.

     The AKC Therapy Dog title (THD) can be earned by dogs who have been certified by AKC recognized therapy dog organizations and have performed 50 or more community visits." 

Jackson's name is now -

We are particularly proud of this title as this is one of the things he does best : )

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tracking - Part One

Part One - Building motivation to the glove
When I first started tracking three years ago, the method used involved dropping food along a track to teach the dog to follow a track. You eventually fade the food so the dog learns to follow the scent on the track to get to the reward (glove/treat) at the end of the track. After a few months of tracking, winter came and I got focused on obedience training and did not get back to tracking until this spring.

The food drop method works great for some people, but I felt Jackson and Jolee were lacking in motivation to find the glove. Then I came across a website that described another method of training, which focused on building motivation.

In this method, you start close in with the glove and treat in sight and get the dog excited to get to the treat. You gradually lengthen the distance. At first the dog is finding the glove by sight, but the theory is that as you lengthen the distance and the glove is out of sight, the dog will transition to using the scent of the track to find the glove. That's a real quick and dirty explanation. If you would like more detail on this method go to this Basset Hound website.

We've just started this method and I'm really liking it. We're still at the very beginning stages of it and I'm excited about how motivated the dogs are to find the glove. I don't know how the transition will go to finding the glove by scent, but we're having fun with this stage of it.

The video shows Jolee first with the initial exercise of getting the dog excited about the glove. Then I taped a couple short tracks with Jackson, who is surprisingly motivated to find the glove : )

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dog friends are the best!

I received this photo recently and was reminded why I love dog training - it's so much about the friends you make along your journey :)

The photo is of the decorated cake that my training friends surprised me with at one of our training club meetings shortly after Jackson earned his UDX. The relationhip you build with your dog through obedience training is great, but having friends to share it with enriches it all the more!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Nose Knows

Now that we're retired from the obedience ring, we're getting into nose work - and really having a lot of fun with it. I was reading Laurie Luck's article, introduction to nose work, and thought it looked like a fun thing to do. I went out and bought some cardboard boxes to get started. Unfortunately they were too big. The dogs didn't want to put their heads in the boxes to get the treats, so we improvised by laying the boxes on their sides. I think I may need to start over with some properly sized boxes. Anyway, this was our first attempt.

In addition to working with the boxes, I've started playing 'find it' games with Jackson at the club where we train. He has really taken to these games and is getting really good at finding treats I've hidden around the training building. What's really been interesting is how it's carrying over into his motivation for tracking. We went tracking yesterday and I had to run to keep up with him - he was so motivated to 'find' the glove. I'm starting a new method to teach tracking that seems to be more motivating to find the glove than using the traditional food drops. I'll post more about that as we get into it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Trial weekend - leaves me pondering

Jackson was entered in a UKC (United Kennel Club) trial this past weekend. When we achieved our primary goal of the AKC udx title earlier this year I wanted to continue training and decided to train for the UKC ud title. I wanted to have more fun in training, practice some skills and see if training and trialing with no pressure would improve our ring performance.

Well, the answer is 'no.' It did not improve our performance in the ring. We have incorporated a lot more  fun and games in our training sessions and done some fun activities outside of obedience training, but it hasn't transferred to lessening the ring stress for him. Which leaves me pondering whether or not I want to go back into the ring with him. ( I know he doesn't want to go back!)

He did hold it together the first day (three-day trial) enough to qualify and get his first ud leg. It wasn't pretty and he was stressed.  I don't know what was so different for him the next two days, but he was too stressed to hold it together. He was just too worried to pay attention to me and focus on the job at hand so missed the signal exercise and the directed jumping. What I was most pleased with all weekend was his getting the glove (directed retrieve) exercise correct each day. This is the exercise that is quite different from AKC utility and something new that we have been training for quite a bit.

Ring stress is something we have dealt with from the very beginning of his obedience career and have never really been able to overcome. We've worked through the stress to qualify for the titles, but it has not been the picture of performance that judges are looking for in the ring. As I look back on our training and trialing, I don't know what I could/should have done differently to help him - or, maybe nothing would have made a difference. He is what he is.

So, I'm thinking maybe it is time to retire him from the ring. Doesn't mean we won't keep training and doing fun things - such as tracking, learning tricks, doing school demos, and such  - but entering another trial is questionable at this time.

What would you do?

Friday, April 29, 2011

School visit

Jackson was invited to do another school visit/demo today at an elementary school. The students in this group were younger than we normally see ... and somewhat more animated :) They were six and seven year olds. Jackson wasn't sure quite what to think of them at first, but warmed up to them pretty quickly.

Our team consisted of two standard poodles, two Nova Scotia Duck Tollers, a Border Terrier, a Scottie and Jackson. The class had been studying dogs so we talked a little about our breed of dog and demonstrated some obedience exercises, then had a meet and greet with the students. All in all it was great fun.

Here's some of the photos taken at the visit.

Some of our team members.

Demonstrating the Stand for Exam

The Figure 8

Drop on Recall

Retrieving the dumbbell

And... just waiting for the next command

I've added this last photo so Laura could see there actually was a Toller present : )

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is there a dance routine in Jackson's future?

Well, I haven't decided yet, but.... at least I'm thinking about it : ) Our blog friends, Honey and Hsin-Yi in Australia, are having a contest - Dancing with the doggie Stars - and have encouraged us to participate. She suggested that we might use some of Jackson's obedience moves to create a dance routine. We have until June 15 to come up with something, so if anyone has ideas on which obedience moves might lend themselves to a dance routine ... please, send them our way. I'm a little short on creativity. But, I'm thinking it would really be a fun challenge.

In the meantime, we continue to work on our obedience exercises. I think my readjusted attitude is making a difference. Now that we are no longer under pressure to achieve the udx title, we have really relaxed our training attitude and are having a lot more fun. I didn't realize how stressed we were!

We've also started tracking again. We hadn't been out tracking for a couple years so we're starting over this spring with the basics - doing straight line tracks with lots of food drops along the way. Both Jackson and Jolee are doing great with it. I'll leave you with a short clip of Jolee and hubby on their first time out tracking this spring. (The orange flags mark the beginning and end of the short track.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Yes, I have puppy pics!

Thanks for asking : )

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Jackson and Jolee!

Wow! Can't believe it's been seven years since these pictures were taken. The happy day was April 7, 2004, so they are seven years old today!!!

Jackson and Jolee three months old

Friday, April 1, 2011

On the Road to a Brilliant Recall!

Last summer I took Susan Garrett's online course, "The 5 Minute Formula for a Brilliant Recall!" A different game was presented every day for a month to help achieve brilliant recalls. It was a good course and introduced a lot of fun games to play with your dog. I believe Susan's philosophy is that if you have a brilliant recall, everything else will fall into place - so to speak.

I think that's true - if you have a brilliant recall, you likely have a good relationship with your dog and he is much more willing to work with you. It's all about the dog finding the value with you, and not with other distracting things around him. Not having done a lot of these games previously, things moved along pretty fast and I found it hard to keep up. I was still trying to master the first day's game at the end of the month. Fortunately, at the end of the course, we were able to download all of the daily lessons so we could go back through them again at our leisure. So, that's where I am this spring, starting back with the basics.

Jackson has a pretty solid recall - but brilliant - it is not. So, now we are recommitted to going back through those lessons to make our recalls more brilliant. Today we worked on one of the first games to shape the basic recall. Jackson is not motivated by toys so I used the highest value food treat that I have found - moist dog food.

Since the weather is breaking here in the Midwest, it was a great day to get outside and play. (I wish I had done a lot more of this type of activity when I first started training Jackson : )

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jackson's new collar/leash

I was stewarding a couple weeks ago at our club's agility trial and was quite taken with the colorful fleece collars that some of the agility competitors were using. They were martingale collar/leash combinations. Thanks to Melinda at Exercise Finished, I was able to find the exact collar I was looking for at Genuine Dog Gear.  So now I have about 506 collars and leashes!

Here's Jackson in his new "padded martingale tug leash"  : )

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Training update

It's been two weeks since I posted about Jolee's breakthrough with picking up the article. I'm using the clicker to mark the behavior I'm looking for. She had gone from nosing it, to mouthing it, and then the breakthrough - she started picking it up and bringing it to me.

I had not done anything else with her until this weekend when I was spurred into action by Laura's post, "How to: Teach your dog to hold." This is our next challenge, getting Jolee to hold the dumbbell/article. She currently wants to drop it as soon as she gets to me so I'm only clicking and treating when she holds it for a second or two. For the next few sessions I'm going to try to extend the length of time she holds it and work on getting her to look at me when she holds it. Perhaps if I get more regular with my training vs. once every two weeks, she will progress faster : )

Today's training with the dumbbell.

Jackson's training for UKC (United Kennel Club) utility class is continuing. The directed retrieve (glove) exercise in UKC is quite different than the glove exercise in AKC, so that's the exercise we've been concentrating on the most. In UKC the glove placement is different (they use the entire ring for this exercise) and there are two retrieves instead of one. On the second retrieve you send the dog to the middle of the ring and then direct him to the glove from there. You are working away from the dog for that retrieve instead of being right next to him so it's been more of a challenge for Jackson. He is coming along nicely though.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Breakthrough!

I started experimenting with clicker training articles with Jolee last month. It's been somewhat hit and miss, and it seemed we had reached a plateau.  I had been putting three articles out and clicking/treating when she indicated the scented article.She would indicate and maybe push the article around to get the click/treat, but wouldn't put her mouth over it.

Then it occurred to me that I had never worked with her on taking and holding an article. Maybe that's why we weren't making any progress???? So, I took a step back and stopped with the training on identifying the scented article and started working on taking/picking up a single article.

One other thing I did today that was different is I had her sit and watch Jackson pick-up the article a few times. Now, I don't know if dogs can learn from watching other dogs -  or was it just a coincidence .... but shortly thereafter, Jolee started picking up the article. The video below is of our session today and it is the first time she has picked the article up. Not sure where we go from here - but it sure is interesting : )

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Training update

Training has been more relaxed lately, and I've had time to think through what some of my training goals might be now. I have a couple things I'm working on with Jackson - some new behaviors/tricks and a new obedience exercise.

The new obedience exercise we are working on is the UKC directed retrieve/glove exercise. It's quite different than the AKC glove exercise so it's incorporating some new commands. I think learning a new exercise will keep both Jackson and me challenged. We have competed in UKC trials previously and Jackson has his UKC CDX title. I like UKC trials because they're usually quite a bit smaller and  more relaxed than AKC trials - at least in our area. If I do decide to enter a UKC trial later this year, it won't be the kind of pressure we've been under trying to get the other titles. I find though, that if I don't have some kind of plan or goal to work toward, I'm kind of at loose ends.

We had a fun match at the training club this morning. I did run throughs in both Open and Utility to see if I could see any improvement in the areas we've been working on lately. I was okay with both run-throughs, even though he didn't come on the first command from the down on the drop-on-recall exercise. Otherwise, he was staying with me pretty good on the heeling/figure 8 and he seemed more relaxed. I'm working on a behavior that will relax both of us in the ring between exercises - it's 'give me five' - having him offer me his paw. I see a lot of handlers doing jump and touch behaviors between exercises, and I tried to put 'touch' on command, but Jackson would never do it in the ring. However, he will sometimes raise his paw at me in training - usually when he's stressed and is trying to calm me : ) - so, I decided to try to put it on cue. He seems to like doing it and did it when I asked in the fun match today. I've heard some judges don't like handlers doing 'tricks' between exercises, but I'm not going to worry about that.

Now, for our other 'trick.' I've been looking for something that Jackson can do to entertain the residents when he goes on his therapy visits to the care center. The one I settled on was,  pick things up and put them in a basket. I've been trying to use the clicker to mark the breakdown of behaviors I'm training. However, I am not a 'clicker' trainer - at least not the kind that captures behaviors. I have found that I just don't have the patience to wait for a behavior to occur on it's own and then try to capture it. So, I'm using a lot of shaping and then I try to mark what I like using the clicker, and treat. Our first lesson was today. He knows the pick up part, and it was pretty easy to get him to bring it to the container. We need some work on the drop it in the container part. I ended up putting a treat to his nose so he would drop it to take the treat. (I was really off on my timing with the clicker though, as you will see in the video.)

Clicker trainers out there - if you have suggestions, please don't hesitate!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Introducing Jackson's co-star, Jolee

Ch Robindanes She's So Fine CD CGC aka "Jolee"

Now that Jackson has achieved his quest, I guess it's time to shift the focus a bit and include his littermate - Jolee - on this blog. I've periodically mentioned her in posts and featured her in a couple videos, however not everyone has met her. (We are now a two-Dane family so there won't be any more surprises.)

Jolee is six years old and spent her early years in the conformation ring, thus obedience training was kind of an after-thought with her. I did start some obedience training with her a couple years ago and then rushed her into the ring to get a CD (companion dog) title on her so she would have a title at both ends of her name : )

So, what are my goals in training with two six-year-old (almost seven-year-old) Danes? Not sure, but I think this next year I am going to focus on continuing obedience training with both of them to help keep them mentally and physically challenged. I don't have any obedience title goals in mind at this point, but want to continue learning from training them; try new training methods; and improve and expand my training knowledge and skills.

And, as soon as the weather breaks - we're going to get back into tracking.

Stay tuned : )

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Good bye Beemer

Ch Mesaba Razzle Dazzle aka "Beemer"
May 23, 2001 - February 18, 2011

I debated about posting this today, but decided it would help bring some closure. Everyone that has pets knows that someday they will face the loss of that pet. However, the sadness of that day is compensated by the years of love and companionship you share with them.

Beemer was our first conformation champion, mother to Jackson and Jolee, and a joy to live with. We will miss her terribly.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


My name is Kathie - I'm an obedience training addict.

There, I've said it. Being addicted to obedience training as I am, I couldn't just quit when we reached our goal. So, I started thinking about what new goals could I set now to keep me motivated. What I've decided for the time being is - to continue training Jackson to try to improve his execution of the various exercises, and to improve and expand my training skills. I probably won't enter many trials with Jackson, but I may enter a few local trials at times to measure our progress. I think it's going to be interesting to see if things improve now just because we don't have the pressure of attaining any titles.

I'll be continuing with the previous goals I set to accomplish the improvements - incorporating a lot of play and treats, and learning new tricks. I think I'll probably drop the tug thing though. He's just never going to be a tugger :)

Now that the pressure is off Jackson, I've also started doing more training with Jolee. I don't know if I'll enter her in any trials, but I'm sure having fun trying a lot of new training methods with her - primarily using the clicker. Her personality is so different from Jackson's, I think it's really going to expand my ideas on training.

Which brings us to the following video - clicker training Jolee for articles. Up to now, I've not done anything with articles with Jolee, so I thought I would try clicker training them. I used the traditional tie-down method with Jackson and he is very reliable with the scent discrimination exercise. But, I thought it would be fun to experiment with something completely different with Jolee.

These are our first two attempts with it. I put out three metal articles - one which I scented - and clicked and treated whenever she would hesitate over the scented article. In following sessions I will look for more committment to the scented article before I click, and so on.
Please excuse the background noise. Note to self: turn off the tv when taping :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Wasn't easy. Wasn't supposed to be"

Wow, I didn't know how to start this post until I recently saw this quote attributed to Roger Bannister, the runner who broke the four minute mile, and I thought this fits so well in describing our quest for the UDX title. Heaven knows, it wasn't easy and I don't believe attaining that title is meant to be easy.

But, we did it! Jackson qualified in both Open B and Utility B yesterday at a trial in La Crosse, Wisconsin to get his 10th leg and that elusive UDX title.


Now, for the rest of the story ..... It was a small trial and the facilities were really nice. Lots of room to crate and warm up. The only downside - when we walked out of the motel Sunday morning the temperature was 14 degrees below zero! That's not the wind chill folks, that was the temperature. But, we're from the Midwest so we're tough and we adjusted : )

The first day of the trial was a good day, except he went down on the three-minute sit in open. The high point Saturday was his score in open would have been a 192 if he hadn't NQd on the sit. Not a good score for competitive dogs, but a great score for Jackson! His utility score that day was the usual 176. He lost a lot of points on lack of precision on fronts and finishes and on the no sits on go outs - things we have been working on in practice but he loses in the ring. 

The second day (Sunday) we had utility first at 8 a.m. His utility exercises went better than Saturday although he was somewhat stressed as usual. He only had one go out with a no sit. His score was a 181.5! Yay, we finally broke out of the 170s. One down and one to go : )

I was nervous about open because of his sit problem the previous day. But, he did the exercises fine, stayed up on the long sit,  and ended up with a score of 189.5. Again, higher than his average score for open.

Thus we ended the UDX quest on a high note all around last weekend. Now, to ponder ... what next?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Training update

Time to do a quick, week-that-was review of our five training goals.

1) Begin each training session with play - Yes, we've been doing a lot more play - as in throwing treats and running. Today, he was really up and attentive. That was in contrast to yesterday when he was really sluggish. I don't know if he was having an off day, or just didn't feel well. I'm getting a little concerned about his age and the accompanying joint problems that giant breed dogs have so I started him on Rimadyl today to see if he seemed more comfortable - especially with the sits. Sometimes he seems really stiff when he gets up from the three-minute sit in Open B. He has been on Dasuquin (a joint supplement) for two or three years.

2) Play tug twice a week - Not making a lot of progress here. He'll mouth it, but still doesn't want to hang on to it.

3) Shorten sessions and/or take more play breaks - We've been doing a lot more breaking out in play while we're training lately. We'll just do short heeling segments and when he's in perfect heel position I'll throw treats. I'll give him the down signal and then throw a treat, or give the down and sit signal, then throw a treat, instead of doing the whole signal exercise. When we go from one exercise to the next, I'll set him up then release and play, then set up again to do the exercise. I have a hard time keeping him with me when we move between exercises so I'm hoping this will help.

4) Try a new treat each week - We're throwing Charlee Bears this week. They're easy to see on the dark floor, they don't take as long to eat - and....they're a lot cheaper than Bil Jac liver treats : ) They seem to be working just as well.

5) Work on one new clicker behavior each week - I was remiss on the clicker training this week. Maybe next week.

Oh, did I mention - we have a trial coming up this weekend. Hope springs eternal : )

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another bright idea bites the dust!

We've had a few snow days lately so thought I would try to keep the dogs challenged and entertained with  one of the toys that dispenses treats. I've seen them work great for other dogs, but hadn't tried them with my guys. So, I went looking for one of these toys. Well, I found one at Wal Mart for only $5.99. The price should have been the first clue that this was not gonna last. And, it was hard plastic - not a good thing.

Here it is - the Dogzilla!

I loaded it with some treats and Jolee was the first to try it out. She nosed it for awhile, then she got impatient and started chomping on it.

Jolee with the Dogzilla -

Two minutes later she had chewed it apart and left it with hard, sharp edges that made it no longer useable.

So much for the Dogzilla!

You would have thought I'd seen this coming, wouldn't you?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Week One - and still on track

I thought perhaps if I review in writing each week how close I've come to incorporating my new year's resolutions into training, I might be more likely to accomplish my goals. Hopefully that will keep me more accountable and I'll stick with it. We'll see : )

Week One - working on our five goals
1) Begin each training session with play - We've been starting each session with throwing treats, running around the ring, doing restrained recalls - and just generally picking up the pace.
2) Play tug twice a week - I got the tug toy out and loaded it with good treats to entice him into tugging. He will put it in his mouth - in the kitchen - but let go as soon as I take hold of it. My goal is to get him to tug in the kitchen, then take it to another location.
3) Shorten sessions and/or take more play breaks - We've been doing more really short sessions in the house and when we do go to the club we've been taking more play breaks during training sessions.
4) Try a new treat each week - Our new treat this week was left-over chicken breast. He was interested, but didn't go nuts over it like he does Cesars moist dog food.
5) Work on one new clicker behavior each week - This week we worked on 'touch.' We've done this before, but it's been awhile so it's kinda new. Thought we would start out on something pretty basic - touch my hand - and build on it.

It will likely take awhile before I see significant/or even any small changes in his behavior/attitude in training, but I feel I've accomplished something by just sticking to my goals - at least for one week!

We'll see how next week goes : )