Pivots, seminars and footsies

So Inara and I had dog school tonight and she did fabulous.¬† ūüôā¬† Last week was a little rough ’cause it was our first session and there were new dogs in class, but this week all the dogs did beautifully.¬† Ginger had us working on a bunch of different things to help keep it interesting for us.¬† She broke out the dreaded Left Pivot sign.¬† I HATE the Left Pivot.¬† You have to put your dog in a sit in the Heel position, and then turn 90 degrees to the left without really moving your feet, and your dog has to go with you.¬† Right Pivots are no problem for us.¬† But the left ones have just been elusive.¬† Not tonight though!¬† I, being the genius that I am *rolling eyes*, finally remembered that Inara knows what “Left” means.¬† Duh.¬† So I said, “Inara – Left!¬† Heel!” as I turned so she knew to turn left and get back in heel position.¬† It wasn’t tight beside me, but after several reps she was turning left and then hopping back into heel position.¬† I was pretty excited.¬† Alright, that’s a lie.¬† I was thrilled.¬† I thought we’d NEVER get that down but now we’ve got a great start on it!¬† Woot!

This weekend I’m PUMPED ’cause Inara and I have working spots at a seminar with Steve and Jen White.¬† They are known for their positive reinforcement training skills, even of police dogs (WHAT???¬† You don’t need compulsion to train police dogs???¬† Yes, that was sarcasm.).¬† And I keep hearing, “you get to go to that?¬† I’m so jealous!!!” so I know it should be really good, LOL.

Inara is having some sort of problem with her feetsies.¬† The outside toenails of her back feet (mainly her back left) are rubbing raw spots onto the inside of the toes next to them.¬† Her nails aren’t long or rough, so I’m not sure what the problem is.¬† Her toes actually were bleeding after a long walk this past weekend.¬† I’m not real sure how to toughen them up or stop the rubbing.¬† And I’m not sure why it just started.¬† The only thing I can think is that I got her a walking harness (from Brown Dog Designs – OUTSTANDING quality) so she could pull on walks and get a better workout, so maybe as she’s pulling her feet are pushing outwards a bit, causing the outside toes to chafe on the inner toes.¬† I don’t know, but I don’t like it and I WILL figure out a way to keep her toesies comfy.

Inara in her BDD Walking Harness
Ouchy feet. ūüė¶

I’m a bad blogger…with a GREAT dog!

It has been WAY too long since I updated this blog, which is a travesty because Inara is doing so well!!!!  *insert happy dance*

Since my last posting, we’ve been doing Rally almost non-stop.¬† The classes usually have 6 dogs total in them, and we no longer are confined to the corner by the bathroom!¬† There are no more Sucks To Be You Sequesterings for class!!!¬† Ever!¬† Inara may still give a few random barks when dogs enter, but I truly believe it’s more out of habit now than anything else.¬† She is easily redirected back to me at these times and starts throwing tricks at me for treats.¬† She will occasionally still throw a half-hearted lunge/bark at another dog, usually females (she’s becoming rather bitch-selective!); but again, she is easily redirected and continues right on as if nothing happened.¬† And we actually worked off-leash this week (with the other dogs in other rooms).¬† She has NEVER paid attention to me like she did while working off-leash.¬† It was really neat.¬† I’ll admit it – I was giddy.¬† ūüôā

So I have gone from having a stark raving lunatic of a dog that barked and lunged uncontrollably at other dogs and couldn’t be in a class setting, to a dog that is now happily working off-leash with other dogs in the near vicinity.¬† All with the miracles of positive reinforcement and negative punishment.¬† No aversive collars.¬† No leash yanks.¬† No yelling.¬† Just a clicker, treats, fun and a great trainer who read my dog correctly.

Holy amazing weekend, Batman!

So Inara had a crazy amazingly good weekend!  It was busy and stressful for her but she handled herself spectacularly.

Friday night we started a new class at Fortunate Fido. ¬†It’s an intro to C-WAGS Rally-O. ¬†We’ve not done any Rally-O before so this is new stuff for us. ¬†Also, there are other dogs in the class, which Inara is learning to deal with well. ¬†However, this time there are FIVE – count them, FIVE! – other dogs. ¬†Holy crap! ¬†The most other dogs we’ve dealt with is three. ¬†Fortunate Fido isn’t huge, so having six dogs in there is cozy. ¬†Ginger had a ring gate up between us and the closest dog (I think more for me than Inara, LOL), but it was still nerve-wrecking!

Ginger had us come in first so we could assume our position by the bathroom. ¬†I kept her in the bathroom while the other dogs came in, but she was still VERY worked up. ¬†Lots of barking and ignoring my existence for about 10 minutes. ¬†Once she settled down I opened the bathroom door but we stayed in there, just clicking/treating for attention. ¬†Eventually we were able to move into the little hallway outside the bathroom where she could peek out to see the other dogs but they weren’t in her constant sight. ¬†We continued working on focus and played a lot of Look At That. ¬†After maybe 30 minutes we were able to do some of the exercises, out in full sight of the other dogs. ¬†By the end of class, we were actually doing a Rally course out in the middle of all the other dogs! ¬†We had five dogs around us and Inara was doing a small Rally course! ¬†I nearly died of joy.

And then Saturday there was a big dog event, the Doggie Doo, where vendors and doggy professionals can set up tables and the dog-owning public can meet everybody. ¬†There are TONS of dogs there, not all of them under great control *wink*. ¬†But Ginger asked Inara and I to help out with a demo of shaping. ¬†Oh dear. ¬†Terrifying. ¬†But we’ll give it a shot.

We got there early before there were too many other dogs. ¬†Before long though, the hoardes arrived. ¬†And Inara had a melt-down. ¬†Okay, that’s a lie – she had several melt-downs. ¬†But you know what? ¬†She recovered each and every time. ¬†I was able to regain her attention. ¬†And we did our demo successfully. ¬†Within a few minutes, Inara had been shaped to push herself on a skateboard. ¬†And we did a little Rally course as well! ¬†In front of an audience of both people AND dogs! ¬†I was completely beside myself!

Isn’t it amazing what our dogs can do when we give them a chance to push beyond their (and our?) perceived limits?

9 or 10 week old Inara, snuggler from the beginning!

Graduation Night!

For Inara, that is. ¬†ūüôā ¬†We graduated last night from our Attention At Heel class at Fortunate Fido. ¬†It ended up being such a super fun class! ¬†I really never thought we’d have so much fun heeling and practicing turns, but we really did. ¬†Inara was consistently bouncy, with a waggy tail and playful attitude, even though there was another dog in the class. ¬†She especially loved it when Ginger broke out the jumps – at one point she was just jumping back and forth faster than I could click and treat! ¬†She didn’t care about the c/t – she just wanted to jump! ¬†LOL

We rarely had to do any Sucks To Be You Sequesterings (STBYS). ¬†Most of her barking was very playful and when we were having downtime letting the dogs rest. ¬†She wanted none of that resting business! ¬†She wanted to WORK! ¬†I didn’t do the STBYS for the playful barking at me – I saved those for when she was just blatantly barking at the other dog for attention, but that only happened a handful of times throughout the whole 6 week session!

Through this class, we worked a lot on teaching the dogs that the heel position was a great place to be – we would do maneuvers that kept the dogs moving and active, and by using targeting we’d eventually end up with them back in heel position, with a big c/t for that. ¬†We practiced sidestepping both directions, backing up in heel (Inara actually does that pretty well, one step at a time!), tons of different turns (cripes, who knew there were so many fancy turns in Rally competitions???), jumping, figure 8’s, etc. ¬†It was never dull, for the handlers or dogs!

I know I shouldn’t still be surprised by how far Inara has come, but I can’t help it. ¬†Ginger and I were lamenting the fact that we don’t have video from the first day of Relax class so we could do a true comparison. ¬†That first day was rough – non-stop barking and lunging, no attention on me, and she couldn’t even see the other dogs! ¬†Now she’s able to work around other dogs and remain focused on me as long as the dogs stay about 10′ away. ¬†She cannot yet sit still and watch other dogs jump and race around, but that’s okay. ¬†We’ll get there.

I’m finding that a great reward for her is the opportunity to jump up and touch my hand. ¬†She used to just jump up with her front feet, leaving her back feet on the ground, but last night she decided to leap straight up with all four feet to bump my hand! ¬†Her head was even with mine! ¬†It was so much fun! ¬†And I’m thrilled that she’s enjoying targeting so much since we can’t treat in the trial ring, but I can have her do that. ¬†ūüôā

We’re starting a new class tomorrow night. ¬†I’m a little nervous about this one because there are 4 or 5 other dogs in it and it’s going to involve a lot of movement because it’s a C-WAGS Rally class. ¬†We’ve never tried Rally before but I think it’ll be a lot of fun. ¬†We’ve just not had a class with that many other dogs in it. ¬†Ginger is going to give us our regular corner by the bathroom so we can easily do our STBYS. ¬†I’ll keep you guys updated!

I’ve begun kind of interning with Ginger, which is neat. ¬†I’m helping her return phone calls and schedule appts, and I’m tagging along on private appts. ¬†I’m doing a shaping demonstration for her on Saturday at a big dog event, which is scary! ¬†I hope we don’t get performance anxiety in front of all those people! ¬†LOL

Well, I will try to keep this updated more frequently with our progress. ¬†I appreciate all the kind comments you all leave! ¬†I like knowing that some of you are getting hope and ideas from my blogs. ¬†Let me know if there’s anything in particular you want covered!

Inara with the greatest dog toy ever - Tuffy's "Rant the Ant"

Adventures in Heeling!

We are still having so much fun with our heeling class! ¬†And I am continually shocked by how amazingly well Inara is doing. ¬†She’s ignoring the other dogs or just watching them calmly. ¬†Generally now the only barking we have is upon first entering (though this past week she barely barked at all when we got there) and then maybe some play barking as she rolls around on the floor during our breaks. ¬†I never thought I’d see her so relaxed and silly around other dogs!

This week in class we worked on some crazy turns that Ginger said we’d need to know for advanced rally classes or if we did agility classes. ¬†We also worked a little on heeling on the right side, which confused Inara immensely. ¬†She’d do it for a few steps and then cross behind me to get back to my left, LOL. ¬†I think I’ll hold off on working on that outside of class – I want to get normal heeling perfected, first!

Ginger had us do some jumping this week, which Inara adored. ¬†She flew over the jumps with room to spare, tail wagging, and then turned around and pulled to be allowed to go back over. ¬†She didn’t even bark at all at the other dogs jumping, which is amazing! ¬†I think at some point I’m going to have to accept the fact that she’s learning now and stop being shocked when she acts normal, LOL. ¬†I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted, though – we’ve had to work too hard to get to this point.

Tonight we went outside and practiced our heeling in front of the house. ¬†This was our first time trying it outside, so I began with clicking and treating every couple of steps. ¬†By the end of our session (30 minutes?) she was able to heel 2 houses down before I treated her. ¬†We also worked on getting into the heel position. ¬†She’s still having a bit of trouble realizing that if she’s in front of me and I say “heel,” that she needs to get beside me. ¬†But I think she’s starting to get it. ¬†A few times tonight she would move from right in front of me to perpendicular, facing me, and then pause, and then swivel and sit beside me. ¬†It was neat watching her figure it out and try different things to see what got her the click. ¬†And the best part of a good training session? ¬†Having an exhausted dog afterwards!

Tired Inaras are good Inaras!

We have an obedience trial coming up at the end of August. ¬†I use that term loosely as it’s really more of the obstacle course from hell (in a fun way!). ¬†But I’m really looking forward to it as I think we’re going to make an awesome showing. ¬†Inara and I are really learning to work as a team and trust each other. ¬†If she’s on her game we may even try the novice obedience, which is off leash. ¬†When she’s in her working mode, she’s astoundingly attuned to me and I think we may be able to do it.

The next 2 sessions of class have been postponed until September due to scheduling conflicts with everybody, so that sucks. ¬†I’ll just have to hold my own “class” and continue working. ¬†I may even sign up for this class again, just to keep working on it. ¬†Or I’ll try something else. ¬†Who knows? ¬†The possibilities are nearly endless now that I have a less reactive dog. ¬†ūüôā

Who’d’a Thunk It?

So last week we started an Attention At Heel class with Ginger at Fortunate Fido. ¬†We had class again yesterday and Inara just did great! ¬†We only had to go into the bathroom 2 or 3 times, and once was our normal beginning of class sequestering. ¬†That’s the lowest number of sequesterings yet! ¬†And it’s even more impressive because there was a lot of movement in class yesterday and several times we got within probably 15′ of the other dogs while we were all moving. ¬†Inara barely even noticed! ¬†She’s getting so focused while heeling. ¬†We can even do it without treats in my hand, at least for short distances. ¬†That’s quite a feat, at least for us!

Yesterday we worked a lot on turns – left, right, u-turn, about turn and Schutzhund turn (AKA left about turn). ¬†Inara and I got to show the class how to do the Schutzhund turn. ¬†It wasn’t as pretty as she normally does it, but it’s hard to do on leash. ¬†It gave my classmates the basic gist of what to do, though. ¬†We also worked on finding the pace that works best for our dogs. ¬†Ginger says that normally people need to walk a bit faster than normal, but Inara and I have to do a steadier, more even pace. ¬†We try hard to slow down most everything about Inara. ¬†ūüėČ

It’s actually kind of amazing me how much fun I’m having learning how to heel and turn. ¬†Heeling always looked kind of staid and boring, but it’s really not! ¬†It’s fun getting this connection with Inara, and seeing her have fun as well. ¬†She looks so pretty when she heels – she’s got her eyes on me, she bounces a bit and her tail is wagging. ¬†I think she’s actually enjoying it, too. ¬†That, or she’s enjoying the plethora of treats she receives! ¬†LOL

We had a great little training session this evening. ¬†She earned most of her dinner by heeling in straight lines, doing Schutzhund turns, and just learning that the heel position is a Very Good Place to be. ¬†We tried something new tonight since she’s having trouble learning that if she’s in front of me (not in a front, just somewhere in front of me) she needs to come back to me when I say “heel.” ¬†If she’s already beside me she’ll stay beside me, but she doesn’t realize she needs to get beside me first!

So I lured her into a heel position, clicked, and then tossed the treat in front of me. ¬†She ran out to get it and I did a 180 so my back was to her. ¬†As she was heading back towards me, I said “heel” and waited for her to naturally get beside me, then clicked and tossed the treat in front of me again. ¬†It actually worked really well! ¬†I got a bit dizzy from constantly doing 180’s, but I was setting Inara up to succeed as she naturally wanted to come back to me for another treat, so by adding the “heel” command in I’m hoping that she will associate the act of getting into that position with the cue.

So yeah, heeling is actually fun!  Our next task tonight is to work a little bit on getting her accustomed to her new iron basket muzzle.  

I figured she should learn to wear one – it will give me more peace of mind when she can start meeting other dogs. ¬†And, technically, she should have it on anytime we’re not in the city of Cleveland. ¬†I won’t use it for that (I’m such a rebel!) but it’s nice knowing I’ve got it now just in case she ever needs it. ¬†But I want to make sure she thinks it’s a Very Good Thing, so I bought some squeeze cheese because the nozzle will fit through the wires more easily than treats will. ¬†So we’ll spend a few minutes working on that and then we’ll be done for the evening.

Happy training to everybody!

Started new class yesterday!

Inara and I started a new class at Fortunate Fido yesterday – Attention at Heel. ¬†The description is: ¬†“We work on attention and proper heel position.

  • Heel position
  • Find heel games
  • Back up in heel position
  • Attention games
  • Canine freestyle moves

I thought this would be a good class for us as Inara’s loose-leash walking (LLW) is atrocious and this can only help. ¬†This will also help us in our C-WAGS competitions.

There are only 3 other dogs in class – a young yellow Lab (who likes to stare at Inara, not aggressively, just rudely), a Golden that thrashes at the end of his leash and plays tug with it, and another Golden who is very very senior. ¬†Tough crowd for Inara! ¬†Ginger gave us our usual spot by the bathroom so we can easily do our “Sucks To Be You Sequestering” (STBYS) as that has been so effective so far.

Inara was a little more worked up yesterday than she has been, but I attribute that to being cooped up for the past week due to the heat, as well as having been out of class for several weeks. ¬†She did her usual “I’M HERE!!!” barking upon entering, so I just picked her up by her harness and carried her straight into the bathroom for our first STBYS. ¬†It took her a couple minutes to settle down but she worked well once she was relaxed. ¬†She got into a couple barking matches with the young Lab, forcing us to go into the bathroom. ¬†We had to do several STBYS’s, some of them for a few minutes at a time, but overall I was pleased with her behavior.

We worked on “fronts,” which Inara can basically do but often is slightly crooked. ¬†Ginger said that this class is to prepare us for competition so we’ll only be accepting perfection – time for the crooked fronts to stop! ¬†We obviously worked on attention/eye contact, as well as having the dogs sit, down and stand in the heel position. ¬†Inara doesn’t know stand, so that’s another thing we need to work on. ¬†I’ve worked so hard on ingraining an automatic sit that she gets confused when I want her to stand! ¬†I can’t even lure her into a stand from a sit – she just scootches forward on her hiney and stretches her neck real far. ¬†So I have to get her up and walking and then click the split second we stop before she can sit. ¬†I think this is going to be a tough one for us.

She did impress me though because Ginger wants us to teach them to target things with their back feet. ¬†I’m pretty sure Inara doesn’t realize she has back feet most of the time. ¬†But Ginger used us as the example pair since Inara’s done some shaping exercises before. ¬†She put a folded blanket in between 2 ring gates set up to mimic a hallway. ¬†I walked Inara toward the blanket and then backed up a step so she was sitting in front of me, with her back to the blanket. ¬†I then used social pressure to encourage her to move backwards and get her back feet on the blanket. ¬†With just a few clicks she was doing it on her own, and making the other people laugh because she was trying to stretch and reach the treat while keeping one foot on the blanket, LOL. ¬†I was really impressed and it was fun having my dog be the “this is how you do it” dog. ¬†ūüôā ¬†We then worked a bit on the touch command, which Inara is great at – she can be sitting in a heel beside me and jump straight up to touch my hand and then land still in the heel position. ¬†It was a good class and I think we’re going to have fun and learn a lot.

Outside of class, we’ve been trying to meet with friends 2-3 times a week to walk with another dog. ¬†She’s doing great! ¬†She’ll bark a couple times when she first sees the other dog (shocking, I know), but then very quickly can walk beside it, just a couple feet away, like it’s not even there. ¬†It’s very cool. ¬†ūüôā

I hope everybody else is doing well with your challenging dogs!

Thank you’s and brags!

Hello all!  I hope this blog entry finds you all well and your dogs healthy, happy and non-reactive!

First of all I’d like to say thank you to Embrace Pet Insurance for featuring Inara as part of their Therapy Pet Week newsletter. ¬†It was so kind of them to contact me and ask to use her story! ¬†So check out their newsletter, leave them a kind comment thanking them for being pit bull friendly and then order some insurance for your pet through them!

Secondly, I’ve been getting some kind comments recently from readers who stumbled upon this blog and I want to say thank you. ¬†I know I don’t keep it updated like I should, but your comments really brighten my day (and make me want to just hug some of you who are struggling!). ¬†I’m so glad that you guys are realizing you’re not alone. Sometimes you feel like the only one with a crazy dog, don’t you? ¬†I know I do, even now. ¬†But trust me when I say there are a TON of us with reactive dogs. ¬†If you’re looking for someplace to get training assistance or just find a sympathetic ear, feel free to pop over to PitBullTalk. ¬†You don’t have to have a pit bull – we welcome all breeds of dog owners. ¬†ūüėČ

Now, onto the brags! ¬†Inara and I had been training for a regional competition called C-WAGS. ¬†We were entered in the obedience portion of things (HA! ¬†I know, right???). ¬†Well I was pretty nervous but we got there this past Sunday morning and things could not have gone better. ¬†It was at the center I train at, so I think that helped Inara a lot. ¬†Also, it was CRAZY hot so there weren’t many dogs out. ¬†Most were crated in their cars with the AC running. ¬†So Inara was actually content to lie in her crate in the air-conditioned car, napping, with the occasional foray out to stretch her legs and pee. ¬†She barked at a couple dogs but it was half-hearted. ¬†She was announcing her presence, not threatening them.

Finally it was our turn for our first run-through.  We were second to last, and the woman competing behind me knew Inara was reactive and had agreed to not bring her dog into the building until we were out.  So there were no other dogs in there, which was great.  I had a little trouble getting her focused when we walked in, but I waited until I had some eye contact before we entered the ring.  So we entered and went through the routine Рand not only qualified but got FOURTH PLACE!!!!!  There had been probably 15 dogs competing and we got 4th place!!!  I nearly cried with joy.  I never thought my crazy little pit bull would compete, in OBEDIENCE, of all things, and actually beat other dogs.  It was pretty amazing.

Our second run-through we NQ’ed because she was hot and tired and couldn’t focus on the heeling portion. ¬†It’s too bad because the rest of our routine was nearly perfect so we would have ended up pretty high in the rankings again. ¬†ūüôā ¬†But I didn’t care. ¬†I had gone there with the intention of having fun, seeing how Inara did, and not even qualifying. ¬†But we came home with ribbons.

So please, I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t underestimate yourself and/or your dog. ¬†Believe other people when they say that you can do it. ¬†And above all, make sure you AND YOUR DOG always have fun while training/competing.

Thanks for reading!

Quick update on life!

I know, I know, it’s been a while since I updated. ¬†But we moved so life was consumed by packing for quite a while! ¬†LOL ¬†We now have our very own house, with a fenced in backyard. ¬†It’s exciting and Inara really seems to be happy here.

What else? ¬†Let’s see. ¬†Inara’s mom, Sophie, is safely in a rescue in NY where she is being fostered and loved. ¬†She’s been there for a few weeks now and is apparently quite the energetic dog!

Unfortunately we had to miss the last 2 sessions of our class with “normal” dogs due to car troubles and moving. ¬†However, we are competing on May 30th in a C-WAGS competition. ¬†We had a practice run-thru last night and Inara did SO WELL! ¬†She heeled beside me like a pro, making my instructor laugh because she was obviously having trouble staying with me as opposed to bounding ahead. ¬†She’s got quite the perky heel! ¬†She did her sit and down stays very well. ¬†And perhaps most shockingly of all, she managed to stay in a sit and down beside me while I shook hands with a couple people she’d never seen before!!! ¬†Woot!!!

So with our competition coming up so quickly, my instructor and I are conspiring as to how to give Inara a fighting chance at competing. ¬†We both realize that if she has to navigate through a gauntlet of dogs to get into the building where the competition is being held, she’ll fall apart and won’t be able to get focused on me. ¬†So Ginger is actually doing some research to see if the two of us can come in through a window in the office! ¬†Can you imagine??? ¬†I love having a trainer who’s willing to brainstorm and do what she can to help us out. ¬†So hopefully that will work out and somebody will get a video of me hoisting Inara and myself through a window! ¬†LOL

I’ve started a new business making and selling slip leads, leashes, slip collars and martingale collars made out of parachute rigging cord. ¬†They’re colorful and super strong. ¬†Check out my website! ¬†Lead Me On

Pink and yellow 5' leash

Finally, and very excitingly, Embrace Pet Insurance contacted me to see if they could interview Inara for their newsletter! ¬†How cool is that?!? ¬†As soon as I have the link to the newsletter I’ll post it up here!

Anyway, I suppose that’s about it. ¬†Thanks for sticking around through my sporadic postings!

Enjoying the sunshine