Train Your Dog Month Challenge – Going with the Flow

Since we have passed the midway point for the Train Your Dog Month Challenge, I thought i  should check in to see how you are doing with your projects. Taught any new tricks? Conquered any fears? Have you even come up with an idea yet? Shiva and I, naturally, have not only perfected all of our goals like rockstars, I have actually moved on to teaching her how to drive the trick.

Right, and The Cat curls up to sleep in my lap every night.

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Perhaps what I should teach her is how to look at the stinkin’ camera once in a while! Sheesh!

But that’s okay. Even if we are still attempting to master a simple hold the larger goal is to spend time together and have fun. This is what I repeat over and over again, like n incantation. Sometimes with a smile, sometimes muttered under my breath, sometimes through gritted teeth.

Like many people, I thrive on instant results. The most onerous part of dog training is that some things are easier than others to teach. As every dog is so different, I have to remember to be patient when something is difficult for Shiva that was so easy for another. Dogs are not that different from humans in this respect. All of us learn at a different pace and with our own styles. Though Shiva was able to learn leg weaves within a few days, it doesn’t mean she will be able to learn how to toss a treat in the air or balance a book on her nose. As simple as holding a toy in one’s mouth might be for dogs in our former agility classes, this task may be Shiva’s Waterloo. Even if it isn’t, I have to remember that it might take a long time for her to understand what I am asking and that keeping my frustration in check is a vital part of the process.

My former dog trainer – how I miss her weekly advice – linked to a great article on praise and its necessary place in training. The article focuses on agility but I think it applies to all forms of training, whether working with a fearful dog, playing around with tricks, or in more formal activities like obedience or flyball. I’d love to just re-post the entire piece for you because the whole thing is brilliant and I think it should be required reading for every dog handler. Because that would be cheating, I will just share the final paragraph of EmDogs’ motivating post:

My one and only goal is to have fun with my dogs, and show them a bang-up awesome time.  It’s my decision to play this game.  They’d be just as happy with hikes and Frisbee and swimming and…Their life is so short compared to ours.  When they’re gone, you won’t remember if you Q’d in Grand Prix in January of 2014.  You’ll remember the sweet kisses they gave you every morning.  You’ll remember that look of “this is SO AWESOME, MOM!!” they gave you every time you brought out their favourite toy.  You’ll remember that deep down feeling of joy you get every time you cross the finish line with your best friend.  THOSE are the things that are important.  Take the time to stop and focus on those, and you just might find yourself with an amazingly willing E dog living in your house, too.

This is how I want to live my life with Shiva. Let’s face it, we’re not going to Q anything. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try or that we can’t have a blast in the attempt. This attitude embodies the ideal of how we approach everything with our dogs. We don’t bring them home with the goal of correcting their mistakes or screaming in frustration when they don’t understand our rules, right? Training should be super good times for BOTH parties. If it isn’t, you are doing it wrong.

007That being said, dedicating time to working with your pet every day is troublesome when you feel like you aren’t getting any results. I know all too well the dissatisfaction of achieving something one day and then watching it unravel the next. It is demoralizing when your dog appears to prefer chewing on a stick than learning a new behaviour. However, it is these times when it is most important to shrug your shoulders and go with the flow. The more cheerful you are – and no faking, they can tell – the more likely your dog will choose to join you. Even if you never even get to any actual training that day, if all you have to show for your time is a tired, happy animal who is looking forward to your next play session, that is a huge success.

I only say all this as it is something I need to be reminded of on a regular basis. When I am in the thick of things, annoyed that Shiva keeps running off to chase the cat when I am standing there with clicker and treats in hand, I need to remember to keep it light. Flexibility has been so important. If she would rather run around then the best thing I can do is ditch my training plan and turn it into a running game instead. After a bit of goofing off we might then be able to work on my goal but we may not. That’s what tomorrow is for.

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Or maybe it will be for looking at the camera without looking terrified. Baby steps.

All you have to do is read every post in this blog under the “agility” category, to know Shiva wrangling is not as simple as I’d like it to be. When things have been at their most frustrating, it has been most helpful for me to remember to laugh. Even when I feel like crying, even when Shiva has just dove over a fence and ripped through a trial staging area filled with reactive dogs and treats that don’t belong to her, even when she jumps on a table and frightens a score-keeper, forcing a laugh helps me relax and makes it more likely she will come back for more.

It is my goal to keep all this close to my heart as Shiva and I work on our challenges for Train Your Dog Month. Along with my talented co-hosts, I am keeping the focus on building our bond. Something Wagging This Way Comes has had a few surprises this month and the wise Pamela has learned to be flexible with the beautiful Honey and Alfie at Alfie’s Blog has hit the books and gotten the hang of the platform spin. It’s a good thing this isn’t a competition or we’d be in trouble! I hope you also have been having an amazing time with your pets, whatever your goals may be, and that at the end of the thirty one days, you’ll have made some awesome memories.

Train Your Dog Month

If you are still looking for ideas, I have put some links together below of my favourite Youtube channels.  Even if you aren’t participating in the challenge, I encourage you to check them out. The enthusiasm and joy of the trainers is only matched by those of their dogs. It is always a dazzling thing to watch.

Kikopup – If you haven’t learned from her patience yet, you are missing out.

My Favourite Pup Jasmine – There is a brilliant mind underneath that soft fur, I believe this adorable Havanese also has a blog of her own.

Nana Border Collie – Nana isn’t the only one showing off her stuff. Her feline and rodent siblings also get in on the fun!

Success Just Clicks – Tena is a thoughtful and spirited trainer. The connection she has with her dogs is more than inspiring. Her blog is also worth a subscription.

Zak George’s Dog Training rEvolution – You are probably tired of hearing about him but I love this guy and will link to his videos every chance I get.

So. Are you in yet? There is still time! Join the Train Your Dog Month Challenge along with my co-hosts at Something Wagging This Way Comes and Alfie’s Blog. Set a small goal to work on with your pet and check back in at the end of the month to share your success. Every eligible person who enters by sharing their challenge in the comments on the January 31, 2014 post or the link list will get a chance to win a donation to their favourite animal charity and a special treat for themselves and their dogs. But, obviously, the real prize will be improving your relationship with your furry friend. You can’t lose!

New Trick Time!

It’s been a long time since Shiva and I have had anything worthy of video footage or blog space. My motivation to work has been at an all time low for the last few months. I reckon it’ll eventually return, probably just as winter arrives and it will be too cold to do anything outside.

Anyway. We’ve lazily been practicing the below trick for a little while. I’d originally assumed she was far too big to jump through my arms successfully. Or without kicking me in the face. Once again, she proved me wrong. When will I learn there is little this dog can’t do?

Since Shiva already loves to jump, this was a (fairly) simple thing to teach . I lured her at first by tossing a treat and then standing in front of her much the same way I would if I was asking her to jump over an agility obstacle. Only this time my arms were the jump standard. I kept my arms really low to make it easy for her. After a few repetitions I removed the lure.* It took her a while to understand what it is I was asking. She kept just running straight into my arms instead of leaping over them. But after a few sessions she picked it up and I could gradually raise my arms higher.

She actually surprised me during the filming this morning. I’ve never gotten her to jump so close to me before. Previously I’ve always had to put her in a stay and then lead out. I don’t know why I even thought of trying it this way but it worked really well! She kept getting distracted by something in the neighbour’s yard – don’t ask me what – so I am even more impressed we pulled this off.

Dogs are always full of surprises, aren’t they? You never know when they are going to blow all of your expectations or when they are going to drive you to drink. As it’s far too early in the day for the latter, I am excited I got to experience the former.

Happy Friday!

*There are those who feel luring is a cheap way of trick training but since it’s just about fun, I don’t really care. This trick can definitely be shaped the way you can shape an agility jump. If I was a more patient trainer I may have done it this way. Maybe with my next dog.

A Little Competition Can Be a Good Thing, Right?

Back in August I read one of Pamela’s excellent “Puppiness Project” posts over at Something Wagging This Way Comes. This one was regarding competition and how it can be healthy for us and our dogs. While I’ve never considered myself a competitive person, preferring to step aside to let others win, since I’ve read the aforementioned article I’ve realized there are  several areas in which I am always motivated to push myself forward. For the most part I am happy to come out somewhere in the middle – or even at the end – but when it comes to the few things I actually take pride in (imagine that), it irks me when I don’t finish on top.

Silly dog tricks are one of the accomplishments I hold most dear. Nothing motivates me to train with Shiva more than a dog performing a trick she doesn’t already know.* Screw agility or competitive obedience. Who cares if she never learns how to be calm when a stranger knocks on the door? In my mind it is far more important for her to walk backwards while standing on two legs. That is a much more valuable life skill.

Case in point, when I first saw the below commercial**  I immediately started thinking of what I could use to teach my dog how to ride on a scooter. It’s been a lazy summer for us training-wise, but Samsung has given me the boost I’ve needed to get back to work.

I’ve always thought there should be some sort of competition or event to showcase tricks. Though there are performance groups like Super Dogs, sadly there isn’t anything similar in my area.  Unless one appears on a reality show, there doesn’t seem to be a way to get any recognition for our hard work. I mean, blogging is great and all, but it doesn’t come with a pretty ribbon or even a cool title.

 This has bummed me out until the author of The Elka Almanac shared a link to a wicked online program organized by Kyra Sundance. Apparently, all I need to do is fill out a form, get a witness to sign it, and Shiva can earn her very first trick dog title! This honour not only comes with an official certificate and recognition on the Do More With Your Dog website, but we would finally be able to add a professional-sounding suffix to Shiva’s name! And then after that, we could try for her intermediate title, and then advanced, and just maybe Shiva will eventually work her way to being a Trick Dog Champion! Just think of all the initials she will rack up!

Because apparently that is what it’s all about.

Please tell me I am not alone in my thirst for dog trick glory. Is there anything that makes you feel competitive?

*Unless the dog is Jesse the Jack Russell. Because seriously? I am almost positive he is part terrier, part monkey. That dog is just ridiculous.

**I love this commercial for so many reasons and can’t watch it too many times. What made me smile the most is that the dog appears to be a mixed breed. No fancy border collie necessary for these killer tricks!

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My good friend Sammy Sam of My Dog Sam has been asking for a very specific video for a long time. He has been so supportive that I just couldn’t say no any longer. I didn’t think it would be hard to put it together but – as always – Shiva surprised me. Even though she has been doing this basic trick for around three years, apparently everything changes when I get down to join her.

Silly, but fun. I hope Sammy Sam approves!

This may also be the last video shot in our current location. No more tiny dark living room. Maybe, just maybe, the next one you see will be taken in our very own fenced yard.

Can you beat that? I can hardly believe it myself.

After months and months of looking, I’d pretty much given up hope we’d ever find what we wanted. Last Tuesday morning, I half-heartedly went online to see if there were any new listings. Not expecting a response, I sent a couple more emails then went to work. Nine hours later we were in the house of our dreams. The rest of the week was spent in agony as we waited for the usual reference and credit checks to go through. When we signed the lease on Friday, all the tension finally lifted.

Of course, now we only have two weeks to get everything ready to move. Which seriously blows. But right now I don’t even care about all the work that awaits us. We have a place to live! It’s a Father’s Day Miracle!

What’s making you happy today?

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For Petfinder’s Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, I am taking a minute every day in June to share the stories of a few of the cats waiting for their forever homes.

 

This guy’s name is Van Gogh. Does he remind you of anyone? He is kickin’ it with the folks at Hungry and Homeless Cat Rescue in Ottawa. Like a certain Kitty Meister, Van Gogh is laid back and unphased by the world. They say he is a natural leader, and I wonder if that impressive mane doesn’t have something to do with it. If you are looking for a cat to serve, he looks like your guy.

 

 

Here is another orange dude, appropriately named Simba. At Lucky’s Place in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, Simba craves affection. While he can be a bit shy with strangers, he’ll have you wrapped around his paw in no time. I can’t think of a better way to spend the day than curled up with this cutie.

Barking and Lunging on Cue

It’s new trick video time! Yay!

Today Shiva and I have two new tricks with which to entertain you. The first is responsible for several large bruises on my upper right arm and the second is why our neighbours are not very sad we are moving. Until I watched the two side by side, I didn’t realize how well they fit together. It makes me wonder if I could put her reactive behaviour on cue. It would come in handy for late night walks or avoiding religious missionaries.

Not that I would ever use my dog to escape hearing about the Good Book.

This may be the first time Shiva’s bark has ever been captured on video. It’s quite an impressive sound, I think. My only regret with this trick is that she seems to enjoy it a little too much and has taken to offering a bark when I am trying to work on something else. It gets very annoying, very fast. The next thing we’ll have to learn is a “shut up” cue, otherwise I foresee her woofing her way through every behaviour for the rest of her life.

Happy Friday!

Adding a Little Irish

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Shiva’s fancy Sirius Republic dog collar suits the occasion well and adds some cheer to an otherwise gloomy morning. This is one dog who won’t get pinched!

I thought I would take advantage of this rare Saturday post to show off the trick we’ve been working on. After tallying all of your votes from last week, walking sideways was the clear winner. I haven’t come up with a verbal cue yet – and am definitely open to suggestions – but I think we’ve done pretty well in only seven days. Shiva loves tricks that involve a lot of movement. I think the extra little “Irish” makes it even better.

Have a great weekend!

What Trick Should Shiva Learn Next?

It’s been a long time since I showed off a new trick on this here website. Perhaps because it’s been a long time since Shiva and I perfected anything. I’ve only my own laziness to blame, of course.

The handstand saga continues, much to my dismay. Though I think we are in the home stretch now. I’ve decided Shiva is finally ready for me to up the criteria. I will no longer reward her for putting her back feet on a tree or a wall, or anything else for that matter. It is now both feet in the air or all she gets is a blank stare. Hopefully this will help her figure out the final goal and I’ll be able to present something pretty wicked within a month or so.

Cross your fingers!

In the meantime, I’d love to work on something simpler as well. Now that spring is in the air I have more motivation to experiment. It’s just about time to shake off the winter dust! There are a few little behaviours we’ve been working on but nothing worth presenting. Certainly nothing even close to being on cue. I’ve flipped through a couple of my trick books but nothing sounded all that exciting. Apparently my creativity is still in hibernation mode.

 So. This is where you come in! Below I set up a little poll and I’d love it if you’d take a second to vote for your favourite trick. I entered a few options of things we’ve half-worked on but if you’ve got another idea that sounds like fun, please feel free to plug it in! We’ll see how ambitious I get – maybe we’ll even accomplish more than one!

Thanks in advance for your help!