Sunday, July 30, 2006

What a GREAT day!

At the crack of dawn we all managed to pry ourselves from our bed and rise, gulp down breakfast and head out the door. We managed to get to Keilor without getting lost *once* which has to be a record for us!

Everyone was just being divided up into groups so there was enough room to work the dogs without overlapping eachother too much when we arrived. I didn't have tracking harnesses for Cade or Sierra and so one of the club members was kind enough to loan me her harness and tracking lead. (For anyone who hasn't seen tracking before, tracking leads are a lot longer than your average leash... like about 11 meters long and require a bit of getting used to in order not to tangle yourself and/or your dog up!)

We had an absolute blast and learned oddles courtesy of the Tracking Club of Victoria, which I am recently a member of and in particular Andrea Sciberras who helped me learn how to lay tracks and introduce the dogs. Now I am going to have to sew up some harnesses and leads for the dogs, get some tent pegs and hunt up some old socks for articles! How COOL is it to see the dogs start to get what we want them to do and follow a trail we can't percieve in the way they do!?! (Scent-wise, humans being utterly nose-blind compared to dogs!)

It was such a gorgeous sunny day and the park we were at was absolutely lovely, with cockatoos and lorikeets and rosellas flying overhead, plus big airplanes for Nic and Laurent to watch. (It was near the airport.) Nic took Laurent on little adventures while I did our tracks and in general was an absolute trooper, while Laurent was a little charmer the whole time. We also got to meet a number of the other club members and in particular were lucky enough to meet a herding judge who mentioned a herding test coming up (!) and another member who may be able to help us with our desire to get Sierra into Croyden, both of whom were super nice. WOOT!!! What an awesome day!!! Not to mention how nice it is to be around other doggy-people who really GET where I'm coming from, both with my obsession for training and working with my dogs and with how much I don't like living in the city! I think I'm going to be pinging off the ceiling and walls for awhile to come! To top things off, one of the photos Nic took of us herding is going to be in the ASCV newsletter! :-) How neat! He's really chuffed!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

After the past few days being a bit full-on emotionally, today was pretty perfect! Laurent woke up at 7:30 and I was still tired, so Nic decided to take him on a nice long walk to give me extra time to sleep in. I got up after the Pointy Red Dog decided to burrow under the covers and goosed me in the process. I wandered out to the kitchen, flicked on the water for tea and found Nic and Bunny already back and playing. I tip toed through quickly before Bunny saw me to the bathroom and when I came back out I was directed to go sit down. So I did and this is what I found... my boys hadn't just been out for a walk, they decided to buy me flowers, a cherry tart and put it with a little message...
Awww... *gushes* How sweet is THAT?!?

The rest of the day was pretty good as well. Bunny is in a much better mood from the previous few weeks and was cheerful and chattering all day. We went back to the Gardens today and spent more time wandering around. Bunny slept most of the time but we'd brought the dogs and I decided to snap a few quick photos. Most of them turned out pretty icky, the camera was refusing to meter the light right and a lot of them came out noisy. (This is a well known issue with FZ30's!) Nevertheless here are the ones that I liked...
This one of Sierra standing on a tree-base... not the greatest shot but okay I guess. These were shot in fairly low light (no flash, so it's all natural and unedited aside from resizing) which I'm finding really challenging.
A slightly better one of Cade. This one did have some editing, I had to retouch the area where Cade's lead was dangling next to the right front leg. Not a bad job if I do say so myself!
And a close-up of Sierra and her pretty blue eyes. :-)

My beautiful bubby, earlier photo that the park. Just because he's so gosh darn gorgeous! ;-) (No, not prejudiced at all here!) I got all gooshy about him pulling himself up on objects and wrote this as journaling for a scrapbook page.

Since the moment you were born I've been struck by the desperate feeling that time is simply passing too fast. I remember looking at you, only a few minutes old and thinking those minutes had simply passed too quickly as I sat and held you watchfully. I wanted to grab each moment, hold each one and force it to slow down, to linger gently for awhile so I could enjoy those first few hours and stay in each one for at least a few days or a week or a month.
You would never again be one minute old, one hour old, one day old, one week old. Slowly you would loose the special look of a newborn, your downy hair would be replaced with silky fine baby hair, your eyes wouldn't squench in quite the same way as they grew used to the light of the outside world. I suppose every mother feels a bit like this but I wasn't prepared for how keenly I felt the minutes and even seconds rushing by. I felt such an intense need to savor each moment to the fullest, commit it to my heart and never ever forget. In the wee hours of the night when I was so exhausted my eyes stubronly refused to focus and all I wanted was to sleep just ten more minutes, I reminded myself that this time would pass all too quickly as well and I would miss it later and it made me treasure it as well.
I treasure the changes in you, I love the sparkling eyes and gummy smile and chubby kissable cheeks of your 9 month old self that have replaced my newborn and then my infant. I still bury my nose in your hair, no longer downy but now a lovely wispy golden brown and inhail the wonderful scent of you. I adore the way you look when you reach out your baby-soft arms to me or babble a response to me, the way your crawling speeds up when there is something you really want to see, your sweet laugh and the way you wrap your arms around my neck and cuddle close. I know that you will keep growing and I will treasure the next set of changes even as I treasure the ones that have come thus far but I know I will miss the 9 month old you as well.

Soppy much? But true. I have to wonder where the time has gone and I miss that sweet newborn even as I adore the toddler he seems to be rushing pell mell into becoming!

Now for some other cool news... we got into the tracking day tomorrow! Yippie!!! I wasn't sure there would be enough openings but we got a phone call today and were told to come along. So tomorrow at the crack of dawn we're heading out to Keilor to take the dogs Tracking! :-)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Good news all around!

Okay, first the good news: Nic got the job! And it may have an option to go full-time! (Not for certain but it's possible... which would be very good!) So he'll start Tuesday and be working in TGI Friday's at the Jam Factory. Since it was so gorgeous today, I really wanted to get the heck out of the house and enjoy the sunshine. After Nic got off we went to the Royal Botanical Gardens and wandered around. Not much in bloom at the moment but I still love the place!

Here's a few quick pics I snapped that came out okay. Three others came out blurry and noisy as I was having a hard time holding the camera steady.
And of course I had to have some of my little man, because there's just no such thing as too many cute bubby pictures! LOL

Of course inbetween shots, Bunny had to give kisses... big, gooey ones! (Which as everyone knows are the very best kind of bubby kiss.)

Now for the other good news: for the past week we've been testing my eatting dairy again to see if it would still affect him. So far, so good... he's been fine with it! We're still not pushing our luck too hard, in case we build the sensitivity back up but at least now I can relax how paranoid I've had to be about reading labels!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Further Saga of the Green Socks

Okay for those who don’t know the story thus far, basically we couldn't keep any socks on Laurent's feet. After trying (and losing) dozens of different socks, we tried Bonds. We got a couple types, one of which was a green and white pair he glommed onto. The child is seriously obsessed with the color green and wonder of wonders... those green socks stayed ON his feet!

Which brings us to the update. A few weeks back we went to get more except they were out. They did however have them in blue. Same style, same size... only difference is color. They lasted for all of 2 minutes. And haven't stayed on his feet since. So apparently it's really only green socks that are acceptable! TSL is still out so I put in the call to their other stores to send over any pairs they have... but only the green ones! LOL

Speaking of Laurent, he's made out like a bandit recently. I'd put our name down for some stuff pre-out-of-workness which arrived... 3 t-shirts from Beastly Bums, a bead twirl toy, a gorgeous board book, a nice activity table for him to stand up at and a bunch of wooden blocks. Okay so he's too young to build stuff with the blocks now but he enjoys banging them around, dove straight for the green one and Nic finds it amusing to build structures for Laurent to smack down. Still, do you know what the hands down coolest toy tonight was? An empty mineral water bottle which he spent a good 20 minutes chasing around the floor! ROTFLMAO!

I'm thinking about moving some more. (Still. Perpetually.) Our house is just really poorly laid out for a child. That's not the only reason we want to move of course but it's becoming a bigger one the more mobile he gets. There's no where he can really play except for the back room, which has hard slippery floors, folding doors to the dining area he knows how to open (they're impossible to secure) and all glass windows from the floor up among other hazards. I'm rather seriously thinking we may move to Blackburn/Blackburn North/South area later in the year. It's not out in the country like I want but that's just never going to happen no matter how bad I want it. Maybe we could at least find a more child friendly house and a nice back garden for setting up a tiny agility area. The very little I've seen of the area looks nice. Nic might consider it as there's a train station and it's only 15-17 minute drive from Preshil for Laurent. Plus the prices seem to be reasonable. We'd get maybe $550-600 out of this house, minus whatever taxes and stamp duty so maybe we'd even have some leftover to put into other investments. I'd like to avoid having to borrow, as we don't have a house payment now and I want to keep it that way. So something to think about...

In better news, Nic has had a couple of ring-backs and has an interview/trial run at TGI Friday's tomorrow for a position as a grill cook. It'd be nice if so, it's only part-time, not sure how many hours per week but at least it would be some money coming in and qualify for experience as well. Then he'd need a second part time or eventually find a full time. Hopefully he gets a ring back for one of the full time ones as well in case this doesn't go through.

Training is still going really well. Cade is having fun with various things, while we're working on heeling and tricks for Ms Sierra. Caught a snag in the heeling thingie... Sierra apparently was taking away the idea that it only means to come from behind me and into position. She doesn't know it from the front or side short of swinging around me. Opps! So we're working on that as well as lengthening the time she'll keep heeling.

We're at a point where we need to start putting our first routine together. I'm jumping the gun a little bit, it's actually for another 2 weeks the class is going to start but I it's too much fun not to think about. It's going to be a short one and we don't have to do anything but heel around if we don't want to. I'd like to throw in a bit of fun though! ;-) I think I've chosen our music as well. Where do you find a short clip without having to remix? Television theme songs. I was thinking about a couple but as a bit of fun I think I've settled on the theme from Scoobie Doo. I think the tricks are simple to picture and it would be a funny little skit for the audience.

Anyway, that's it for now.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Cade tricks

I'm going to write a proper post later but wanted to show off some new Cade tricks. Well the jumping isn't a new trick but the other two are and it was a nice shot so I'm including it! ;-)

Anyhow, this first pic is the "Hi Ho Silver" trick. He rears up and stands like this. The cue is my finger held waist level and pointing out. If I wiggle the finger "Silver" goes from the standing-rear to pawing the air in the standing-rear. Please excuse our horribly messy back garden, it's under renovations! LOL

Okay, now this is an example of a variation on a theme. "Do something with your paws" turned into this cute little "hold my hand"trick during a 101TTDW Your Paws session. We also have a wave, a high five, a 'hit' his right or left paw to the opposite hand (iow his right paw, my left hand OR his left paw, my right hand), knock a target object off the table, open the door, close the cupboard or door etc. etc. etc. He is a very paw oriented dog.
And last but not least, the pointy red dog (as opposed to the fuzzy red dog) gets some air time. Yes, it's on cue so it counts as an actual trick instead of just him being a stinker! LOL

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Okay, so I had this big long thing I wrote the other night after training as I'd had this moment where I just realized several really important things not just about training (in fact, probably relatively little to do with training) but about myself and why I do things the way I do and how pervasive the damaged done by punishment and negative reinforcment is and it just totally highlighted to me why I don't use aversive based methods and was very, very emotional and and and... *poof*... "Corel has an internal error and must shut down this ill designed piece of crap program". ARRRGHH!!!

At the time I was really upset because I just didn't have the energy to write it all up again and it REALLY was exactly what I was thinking and feeling. Right now I'm inclined to be philisophical about it. Maybe it was the universe's way of telling me to just get it out and let it go.

I'll actually sit down and write about what it was in a day or so but right now I am severely drained energy wise. Laurent is teething or maybe he knocked something out of alignment with the fall or maybe it's a growth/developmental stage or gods only know what... but he is VERY windy and waking up every 30-45 minutes, screaming, not able to take day naps, super over-tired and just generally NOT happy. It hurts so he wants to nurse (and nurse and nurse and nurse) but even that doesn't settle him. My poor beautiful boy. I can just hear his stomach gurgling and he crunches and arches in pain and wails before letting out the longest, loudest farts you've ever heard. Honestly, I've counted to ten-one-thousand slowly and he's still farting. It's probably a world record for farts. I wish there was something, anything, I could do... my poor sunshine boy is miserable with it and it's breaking my heart to see him so upset but everything we've tried so far seems completely u s e l e s s.

On the upside of things we met Nic's cousin Nina today and her son and daughter. OMG we have family here! We have NICE family here! *does a little happy dance* Ohhh... she is so nice and warm and easy to talk to and we had a great chat! We finally saw pics of Nic's dad as a child and Laurent looks similar in certain ways, as does Nic. Laurent got a nifty music toy that projects little figures on the ceiling when it's dark in patterns, so cute! She was so sweet and kept assuring us that she was so happy and would love to keep in contact but only if we wanted to and I was just falling over because here we'd been wishing and wishing we had some family here! An imposition?!? More like a dream come true! LOL

I also finally wound this skein of yarn I got a month or so ago. It's hand painted and hand dyed and YUMMY colors! Ohhhh... I really like how it knits up all bluey-greeny! I'm trying to make a hat out of it for Laurent because I've only got a small ball and it's expensive ($16 for 50 grams) and my ability is limited to say the least but I just have this vision of a beautiful sweater and longies in this stuff... it's sooooo gorgeous!!! Here's the link to the maker, Art Yarns but it doesn't show how truly rich and VIVID the colors are. They're just yumlicious amazing!

Anyway, I need to go, the poor dogs are staring at me pitifully begging for attention and preferably training because training is attention that results in rewards. Greedy little things!

Friday, July 21, 2006

For anyone wondering....

...what the Freestyle I've been mentioning is, it's effectively tricks and heelwork put to music or less elegantly - dancing with dogs. Sounds silly but it's fun and a great way to use all those tricks you teach. If you want a squiz, here's two great routines:

Go have a look, you'll smile.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day 1

Day 1 of being unemployed. Yikes, that's a scarey word! We prepped Nic's resume, sent it out to a few people and put feelers out with a few others. Other than that he's mostly just helped around here and played with Laurent. I'm moving between feeling like impending doom is about to come crashing down with the financial situation and feeling completely at peace that this will all work out and that it's necessary and happening for a reason. It's also a bit weird having him here now as Laurent and I have our little routine and having someone else here just throws that. On the other hand, I'm really glad he is getting this time with Laurent. He was amazed by a couple of things that Laurent has done, nothing huge, stuff Lala does about a hundred times a day but stuff that Nic isn't around to see. And it's nice to have him around for "handyman stuff" there never seems to be enough time on the weekends to finish it all. So... yeah. Dealing. Mostly. Unless I think about the money aspect of it.

That aside, the dogs training is coming along nicely... Sierra is doing SO well on the things we were given to work on! :-) Granted it's foundation level stuff and we'd already messed with them to one degree or another yeah, yeah... BUT she is really doing very well and I'm happy with our progress! Heeling, I need to be careful she's not turning her head toward me looking for eye contact. This was taught as a puppy and I've never gotten rid of it. (Through lack of trying due to 900 other things being higher priority...)

It wouldn't be a problem now but I don't want to have to retrain later if we do competition obedience and it puts her out of line for being straight in sit/down/send out if she's slightly angled in. The thing that needs the most work is coming through the legs from the front. I gave up on luring or using the target wand and just started free-shaping it. Hard as I try NOT to lean forward, I do lean a bit to see what she's doing which is the problem I suspect. (Explanation for non-doggy people: many dogs are at least mildly uncomfortable with being leaned over and some find very intimidating indeed. Generally speaking, one dog looming over another would mean it was intending to attack, probably with the intent to kill, so it is a weirdly aggressive move from their POV when humans do it even if there is a long history of nothing bad resulting.) She's doing it, it's just that it's less enthusiastic than when coming from the back or doing a leg curl. Speaking of which, the cute little leg curl I started shaping last night has now been worked into 1.) go around my left, 2.) go around my right and 3.) a passable figure 8. (So using my legs as posts, she moves around them in a 8 shape.)
That's about it for now.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


For the past several months, DH hasn't been real happy at work and has been making noise about leaving but then saying he didn't want to as he felt like he was finally getting somewhere with it, they were promising new equipment which would make the job easier and higher rates of pay etc. I was dubious and told him I didn't believe this was going to actuate since it hadn't thus far and felt he should be putting feelers out for a new job instead of staying here just because it was a safe and comfortable "known" situation. But typical cancerian he is stubron, doesn't like change or moving out of his comfort zone and just plain didn't want to hear it. The last week it's became more tense - they weren't being given the information they needed and were promised in order to do their jobs but then they were getting scolded for not meeting target. Management Logic at it's best. It was obvious to me where it was all heading and he talked about quitting. I told him not before he secured another job - we are barely scraping by as it is, we don't need to go who knows how long without money!

At any rate, today it all came to a head and they told him and several other people new policies were put in place that basically meant if you didn't meet target there was zero tollerance so they had the choice between resigning now or having the contracts broken at the end of the week.

So, we are currently among the unemployed. NOW he admits I was right and regrets not looking and in his own words, letting his "big head get in the way of listening to you and what my heart was telling me about the job." He has several prospects he's started to look into but none of them are a sure thing and we NEED a sure thing. We have the pay from this fortnight coming and the commissions from this month, which is good. But that wasn't even covering our monthly expenses and after that...
I think my brain is just plain refusing to deal with the idea of his being out of work now and I'm sure tomorrow denial is going to crumble, it's going to hit me and I'll end up freaking out.

Sorry, that's it for tonight. Hope I didn't bum anyone out.

ETA In shaping Sierra's "through the legs" trick, I got a cute variation where she goes through and curls around my leg. AW! CUTE! So I'm keeping that as a seperate trick. So it'll be straight through from front, straight through from rear, curl around L leg from front and rear, curl around R leg from front and rear.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

a short post

Just a short post tonight... betchya didn't know I could do those did you?

Doggie stuff is coming along great, Si is doing a lot better in several areas and we're working on her homework for freestyle. We need to think of a piece of music for our first routine, which we'll start putting together the week after this one. I have a few things in mind but it's hard to find one that is appropriate and short enough, needs to be about 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds. I also got into contact with the Tracking Club of Victoria as they're holding a tracking training day the 30th, which sounds like fun! I may take the two hooligans! :-)

And an interesting thing happened today... we got a letter from one of DH's cousins on his father's side. We didn't even know she existed! Apparently his father's brother had a daughter, Nina, who has a 17 year old son and a 14 year old daughter and lives in Burwood East! Neat! We're going to go meet them this Sunday afternoon for dinner.

Nina, Nic's cousin, also told an interesting story about our surname. We'd always wondered a bit about it, it's not a typical Italian surname and aside from DH's family we don't know anyone who shares it. Apparently the story goes that way back when churches had a donation box of sorts which was for anonymous donations. You basically opened a little door, set something in the little capsule, closed the door and the capsule rotated to the inside of the church. Well one day the monks found a most unusual donation - when they opened it, among the donations lay a little baby. It was suspected one of the royalty who had an affair resulting in a child not by her husband which meant she couldn't keep it. The monk picked the baby up and had to decide on a name. Finally he decided that as the baby had been orbiting around in the donation box all night, the baby would be called Orbitani.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The night before last we went to Jayne's birthday dinner and had a lot of fun. It was so nice getting out and talking with adults again and it was really nice for Nic to get a chance to talk to other AP parents too! Unfortunately, most of the time he gets crap about CC, CIO etc at the office and doesn't really know any other AP parents so it's nice to balance the naysayers with parents who parent the same way we do.

So anyway, we went to the herding clinic and tests today after almost zero sleep and... we had a blast! Laurent was a sweetie the whole day, flirting with people, giggling, smiling and just generally being way too cute.

I was really pleasantly surprised with how well behaved Sierra was. I'd worried that she'd forget her head in the excitement and not listen to me and/or go nuts over the other dogs and be a wild child. We've had real problems in the past and though
we've been working on it this was going to be really exciting, a new place, lots of dogs, lots of people and sheep, so... I worried.

With the herding my only goal was she had a positive experience* and maintained our training**. (*Her first time on sheep she got swatted with a rake and shut down, so I wanted her to learn sheep=fun.) (** I didn't want to practice ignoring cues, teach that in charged situations it was okay to ignore them or worse, have not listening be rewarded by something as super cool as access to the sheep/chasing them.

Instead she did really, really well! She chilled out nicely when put in downs, stuck close on and off-lead, ga
ve lots of attention, showed interest when dogs visited but wasn't over the top, came away when called in a conversational level voice and ignored other dogs walking by and even a few who ended up stepping on her or coming over to sniff. At one point an older puppy accidentally trampled on her and she maintained eye contact, never once even glancing away! Sooooo proud of my girlie!!! YAY!

Before we went in and during down time we rewarded calm behaviour, eye contact, ignoring other dogs etc. She was on the sheep a total of 4 times, the last 2 being the tests. The Australian Shepherd Club of Victoria, our hosts, did an excellent job of introducing the information, keeping things very fun (esp our two volunteer "sheepdogs" who taught the handlers by pretending to be the dog and letting us "herd" them *G*) and organizing everything!

We arrived fairly early and left about 5:00 so it was a long day and Si had good behaviour throughout! :-) The first test I thought she did pretty well, esp with coming back toward the rake after initially moving off. By the second test, I could tell it'd been a long day and she was starting to hit the point where like an over-tired child her behaviour was going to start going downhill. I tried to take her aside and do some fun training to give her something to focus herself and relax her, so we goofed around with targeting the target wand, eye contact and down-stays. Even so, the second test was more than she was ready for after that long a day.

Hindsight, I shouldn't have run her in the lurecoursing between tests and ideally should have quit after the first test. End it on a really super high note. She was still fine after the second but it wasn't quite as nice. I *almost* asked to be excused rather than continue to push her when she was showing signs of flagging and pretty much at that point they declared the test over. From what I gather she did fairly well but we need to work a lot on getting her to not go to head so much and not split one off so she can herd it back up.

So we had lots of fun, behaved well, got two passes, though the first was definitely better than the second and with that she completed her instinct certificates which makes her U-AGI Samilyn Too Qute To Be Tru CGC HIC now. :-)

Quick explanations w/ each photo:
This is just before I took her lead off, with the lady in the corner being our judge and giving me instructions on what she'd like us to do. As you can see she is giving me nice attention and even though there are sheep nearby... good pup!

After the lead came off, we had to either walk the dog up to the sheep and then move them or send them ahead of us to move the sheep towards us. We did both at various points, though it definitely SOUNDS a lot more simple than it is! The rake is in lieu of a shepherds crook and is used to direct the dog. In this case, she should stop going toward my left-hand (holding the rake) and swing back around to my right as I'm walking backwards so the sheep come into me. (Yes, that does make you dizzy...)

Last but not least, just a shot of the little red dog having fun...

Friday, July 14, 2006

highs and lows...

We got Laurent the highchair awhile ago as I mentioned. Normally I *do* strap him in but because I was right there with the left side of the highchair literally touching the right arm of my chair I figured it was okay to leave the straps off. That is a mistake I won't make again.

Somehow in the second I bent down to pick up a toy he dropped he managed to stand up in it, which is the first time he's ever done so... and pitch himself over the right side - the opposite side from me. I saw a flash of movement, launched to catch him and heard the most horrifying thump before I could even fully get out of my chair. I think my heart stopped. I basically caught him just as he was hitting so he didn't fully hit but his side still managed to hit the ground.

He is fine before I freak anyone out besides myself. Not a scratch, not a bruise, had a cry for all of 15 seconds from being startled rather than hurt, flashed me a smile and wiggled to let me know he wanted to get down and play. I checked him over throughly. Kept an eye on him all afternoon just to be safe but... thank the stars, he's fine. He spent the rest of the day happy, playing, crawling, chucking crackers to Sierra, flirting with people at the grocery store, regaling daddy with tales of his adventures when he came home complete with his new tongue clicking noises and giggled in hysterics and bouncing while watching the dogs dancing around in the evening's Freestyle class. Meanwhile I've had at least 20 years scared off my life, I'm sure there's a whole new crop of grey hairs are sprouting as we speak, I'm still nauseous and get shaky thinking about it and I will never ever ever ever put him in a high chair without straps on again. The ironic thing is, I'm REALLY paranoid about falls... on the bed, couches, chairs, his daytime bassinette, change table etc. etc. Too many years of daycare kids in me. Even the highchair usually but I figured it was okay as I was right there and watching. :-(

On the "he's fine" note... he's starting to CLICK. He was watching me train and started making these little clicking noises with his mouth, like you use to signal a horse to trot or canter and chucking cracker. HOW FREAKING CUTE is my kid?!?!?!?!?!?!

We did have a really good time at Freestyle classes though. We got to watch the Level 3's a few weeks back and there are some freaking brilliant routines... really inspiring to see all the neat stuff people are getting their dogs to do and the amount of teamwork! I wasn't sure how Sierra would do but she gave nice attention, practiced "laying-on-my-mat-and-giving-eye-contact-even-when-other-dogs-are-bouncing-around-and-getting-treats" and had at least some experience with the other stuff that was done in the class. We're supposed to practice heel-work of course, teaching the dog to find the 'front' position relative to us regardless of our position, going through the legs from the front and back, the rock-back step and brush up on targeting. Nothing too hard. Si actually did better at the heel-work than I figured she'd do, even messily approximating staying in position when we did the rock-back steps. I was pretty happy with that and think all in all this will end up being a lot of fun for us. Two of my classmates also do Tracking, so I spoke to them about that as it was something I'd meant to start training for. Good bit of news, one of the ladies thinks there is a club in Blackburn North. Holy cow... you mean there's something dog-related that's not hella far away?!? Well paint me purple and call me Barney!

Also, I *think* I mentioned awhile back that on one of the Aussie lists, someone mentioned a herding day coming up with two chances to get passes for an Instinct Test at the end of the day. I lost my mind long enough to sign Sierra and I up for it. Well, it's coming up this Sunday and I'm starting to feel really nervous. I have a distinct feeling Sierra will completely forget she has even HEARD of obedience. All we really need is to be able to down the dog and recall them but with the excitement of chasing sheep around, I have grave doubts she'll hear on the first (or second, maybe the third...) cue to halt and lay down. I'm equally uncertain about what we'll when it comes to the part where they'll probably want us to try and turn the dog by using a crook or the like... I *know* Sierra doesn't care for those and don't want to shut her down. I'm sure if I ask the people before we go in they'll have some suggestions and will probably allow us to do some in ring training of sorts...but I'm still wondering what the heck I was on when that sounded like a reasonable idea. I'm not Catholic but maybe St Jude will have pity on us anyway...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

How does everyone come up with a creative title each time?

We did end up getting out today which was just what we needed! We got to stop by the crystal shop and Bunny helped pick out some incense (white sage) and a few small crystals. I'm still looking for a moldavite tie-pin for DH. I'm told this is a weird request, the tie pin part I mean. (Honestly, what does she expect? I'm the Queen of Weird Requests!) DH really was taken by the stone and I think it's a good match for him at this point in his life as long as it's coupled with something grounding. Unfortunately the car ride back was less happy, as Laurent still hates the car seat and was crying, so we had to pull over and calm down and in the end distract him by giving him my key ring to play with. Still, all in all a nice day out.

We got some dog training in, with lots of "help" from Laurent in the form of trying to snag my clicker or the treats. He tends to put everything in his mouth though, so the only treats he gets to give the dogs are the kind I don't mind him eatting as well. (Like a bit of cereal or apple-mush or something... yes, my dogs eat veggies and fruits.) Sierra is still progressing nicely. Cade decided he needed some training as well and pointedly sat in front of me eyeballing the clicker today, so yes, we devised some stuff for him as well. I need to find a baby-proof i-Click though... munchkin has mangled two of mine out of three in a few days. He also managed to snag two of my poor plants as we were walking by the window and they're now in several little pieces. Thankfully they're the type that take from cuttings easily though, so it's a lemons-to-lemonaide kind of thing. Laurent also finally figured out how to suck from a sippy-cup! He's quite proud of himself! Huzzah for Bubby La! LOL

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I have a very good dog, she has a rather slow owner...

Last night after I posted DH asked if I'd figured out what the hang-up was. I'd been chasing the problem around in my head and I felt like the answer was simple and obvious but I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I outlined what I thought it could be but none of those reasons felt like I'd hit the nail on the head.

As I was saying this, I looked down at Sierra who was laying near my chair. I paused, taking in her body language. She met my gaze and I was taken back. I'd not reacted in any obvious (to a human) way but she knew. Probably picking up on the chemical changes that occur with emotions and noticing subtle body language like the slight unconcious tensing of muscles, change of respiratory rate and carbon dioxide levels on my breath etc. Lying to a dog about how you feel is darn near impossible. Even though I wasn't at all upset with her, it was affecting her.

Her eyes asked what was wrong, why was I uphappy, she was trying so hard and just didn't understand despite it. "I'm sorry," her eyes said, "I don't like it when you're upset, tell me how to fix it and I will..." I sighed and all the frusteration just rushed out of me. My poor girl, she'd been trying her heart out and I'd been so frusterated with MY figuring it out I stopped listening to her. We'd practiced and practiced but we practiced failure. Our rate of reinforcement had fallen... it should be about 1x every 3-5 seconds, which should have been a neon sign to me right there to stop what I was doing. If I can't find an opportunity to reinforce at least that fast, I'm doing something WRONG. The lack of progress? Prolly due to my making the R-o-R so low she lost her confidence in what we were doing. How did I let that happen, how did I MISS something so obvious??? She went 3 days and kept trying every time I asked was out of sheer heart. *sigh* Si-si Girl, I screwed up again didn't I? I know better than to let the R-o-R get so low, I know better than to lump, I know better to persist in bone-headed behaviour when it's not working. Yet I fall into the trap of doing just that at times still, though thankfully not frequently now. I called her over, she put her head on my knee and leaned into me in quiet understanding. I rubbed the shoulder she offered and appologized for being so oblivious, promising tomorrow we'd do better. Nub, nub, nub went her stumpy little tail on my foot, "Yes, tomorrow we'll do better and we'll have fun mum."

Today we're coming at it fresh, we're doing better, we're getting better results... last two rounds we've gotten the behaviour offered precisely consistently instead of her going to fast and missing the criteria, then getting anxious that's not what I wanted and throwing off a different behaviour. Much, much better! It seems like life is one long learning curve for me and the biggest challenge isn't just absorbing the information but integrating it into practice consistently enough that it gets generalized. Thankfully I have dogs that are very forgiving of my occasional denseness.

Training aside, it was a really average day. We, once again, had nothing to do (well, nothing I can do one armed and with a helpful helper...) and no where to go, just lots of time to fill. He did manage to get a nap in - I rocked him the entire time as he was fidgiting so badly. Poor mite. The rest of the day we spent part of it doing fun stuff, reading, singing (badly) with some French tapes (well I sing badly, he just goes LALALALALALALA real loud), playing, going outside to the park and showing Laurent the different shapes and textures of the plants and letting him feel them all... normally I revel in these quiet days and spend them soaking up every moment of being with him but it's been this way for several days and I'm just itching to get out of the house. Tomorrow we're making a break for it... ;-)

In more vain and less wonderous news... I found my first grey hairs. Yup, that's plural. There were 8-9 of them. I'm feeling surprisingly blase about it but I didn't expect it at 25. Laurent better hope he inherits from his father's side of the family though, DH's grandfather had a full head of jet black hair at 90+, only going grey in his mid-90's!
Just realized I haven't posted a recipe in awhile, so here's a quickie from tonight.

Pork and potato stew with smoked kabana
Serves 4, Prep 15 m, Cooking 2 h 25m
1.5 kg pork shoulder cut into 2 cm pieces
100g smoked kabana sausage thickly sliced
1 lg brown onion, halved and cut into wedges
4 medium sized potatos good for stewing cut in wedges
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 lemon
625 ml chicken stock (make this yourself, see prior post on how to make it if you don't know how)
2 T dijon mustard
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked
First make the stock, according to directions, this takes an hour or so if you don't have some pre-made frozen. Take the fat you trimmed from the pork and melt to grease the pan or alternatively you can use olive oil sufficient to coat the pan. Brown the meat and set aside. Brown the onions and kabana till onions are lightly brown. Put potatos in an oven-proof dish with garlic, put the pork and the onions and kabana together in the dish. Put stock in the dish with the rest. Put the lemon juice and mustard in a container and mix thoroughly, pour over the rest. Add the rosemary, salt and pepper to taste, put it into a preheated oven at 180C till cooked, stirring gently half way through. This was originally from Good Taste (July 2006, p ) but the way it's cooked is slightly different for ease of making and we used our standard stock recipie instead of using theirs which was, well, just a plain WEIRD way to make stock imo.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

rambling, rambling, darn I'm SURE I have a point somewhere...

The past several days Laurent has been just generally clingy, easily irritated and very, very, very tired because he's been missing day naps. Usually he goes down at 11am and then about 3-4ish. The past several days though, I'll get him to nod off and about 15 minutes after I set him down he wakes up bawling. I know it's probably just teething and we've tried the Bauers drops and even tried Dimadon at one point... no dice. Combine this with his new-found mobility and desire to be into ev-er-y-th-in-g but worrying if I move a single inch away and the fact we're in no-one-but-mum-will-do stage (including dad, even if mum is not 2 inches away) and there have been some moments I've really wished he'd plleaasseee just take a nap so I could have 10 minutes whinge-free time to grab a tea and relax!

Still... this is *such* a cute age with all the stuff he's starting to do now. I am in love with the look of a crawling baby bum. Especially when he kicks in the afterburner when he really wants to get something. Not so cute? Today 'something' was the sooty fireplace. He looked like a chimney sweep! He's also started to give kisses as well but hasn't figured out we close our mouths when we kiss him so his are open-mouthed and drooly, frequently with little bits of apple or pear or whatever he's been eating recently. LOL

Training wise, fluency is being a bug-a-boo with Sierra at the moment. We've got the behaviour in question on cue but it's not fully fluent and I can't get her past whatever the roadblock is to get it more fluent than about 65-70%.

So the question begs, where is it breaking down?

Is my timing off, even a itty bit, so she's not getting a concise idea of what it is I want to keep progressing? Possible. My Meniere's tends to mean there is a bit of lag time between thought and action. Did I attach the cue to early and the behaviour wasn't fully clear and precise in her head? Hnn. An issue of maturity or confidence? Mayyyybee. I could see that. Is she anticipating the cue, be it hand signal or verbal and only getting the first part (ex. Acting on "s" sound instead of waiting to hear the -it, -ractch, -pin etc. before flinging herself into whatever was recently reinforced but that could just reflect lack of clarity of the criteria for her. Hnn... this seems most likely to me but I'm not sure this is the cause so much as a factor of it. Actually, come to think of it, I'm actually not entirely sure I didn't just click the wrong thing... did I click the action or the motion? May just be onto something there!

I think I need to video tape it and replay it in slow-motion to see exactly what is going on and start actually charting and monitoring with quantifyable measurements instead of just eyeballing it. Lazy trainer...

Stuff to ponder on... later, though, bubs is done eating...

Okay, moving along, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to answer comments in the comments section or in the bloggy bit but *shrugs* it's my blog and I'm answering here.

Kate TBH it was your post on AB that prompted this as the topic d'jour. It'd been kicking around before but it just kind of came to a head yk?

Loz: That would definitely be great to get recomendations and would love to talk more with you about this and your experiences! Happy bday btw if I don't see you before then!

Sif: I think that's one of the fundamental differences in how I train. It's like how you can do AP things (sling, ex BF, GD etc) but AP is more than it's components, it's a philosophy and way of thinking about child rearing yk?

You've done some EC w. Bryn right? I keep meaning to look into it more but I remember thinking it sounded like what I do with pups, so tell me if this sounds similar? (This is my protocol for teaching pups to eliminate outside and eventually hold it inside.)

Don't destroy their innate desire to be clean by forcing them to acclimate to being dirty or restore it if they've been acclimated. Be aware of their bodies rhythms and signals. Don't ask for more than they're physiologically/mentally capable of. Give opportunities when they signal to go in the desired location. Make it enjoyable and safe to do so. Attach a cue ("potty-potty"). As they become able to control their bodies they'll go in the desired location when they need to go because it's got a history of being a good place to go and they're not conditioned to go in areas that look/feel/smell different - like the house. This starts from day 1 in the whelping box by encouraging mum to keep them clean (mum potties them by stimulating them to go) and changing bedding the second I see any wee or poo on it. (This is far more often than typical, most breeders will lay down several layers of 'soaker' and a fleece top liner to absorb any wee/poo, changing it 1x day or every other day avg. My goal is I never want them to think being in wee/poo is the norm, the equiv of sitting in a wet/dirty nappy.) I don't expect a pup to be reliably fully house-trained till about 6-9 months old, they are managed before that to ensure positive experiences in the potty area, until they're capable of holding it. This doesn't mean I have pups having accidents till they're 6-9 months old. I've had no more than 3 housetraining accidents with any pup (and only one pup had 3, most have 1-2) because of careful management and supervising. But IF I miss and there is an accident, it's dealt with by quietly calling the puppy outside to offer a chance to go in the potty spot if it has anything else to do, then clean up while someone else supervises pup. At no point is the puppy corrected or shown disapproval in any way because attaching any sort of negative emotional response to it only creates the idea that they should hide going or avoid you watching them go. (Ever hear of a puppy who went behind the couch or went the second you looked away after you'd been watching them like a hawk?) No way do I want that or my pup thinking it shouldn't go in front of me... major PITA if you're traveling, at the vets etc. and have to potty them on-lead standing right next to them!) I've been doing this since I was 12 or 13 years old as we had rescue pups often enough - long, long before I ever heard of EC or thought about potty training a child.

If you don't mind me asking (if not, that's fine!) and are still reading... is it the actual idea of using a method that happens to also be used/work for animals that was offensive or that there were some pretty unkind judgements on Erik, yourself and your parenting implied in FIL's statement with a rather blunt assertion you needed force the issue and train him the 'right' way, presumably using methods that weren't in keeping with your beliefs?

Anyhow, dinner needs making. Ciao!

PS My cuties!

(Cade doesn't exist during winter to be photographed, he was hiding under a doona, which is his fav thing to do! LOL

Sunday, July 09, 2006


No training today and not much in the way of deep thoughts, it was just too darn busy!

I spent the morning and afternoon cleaning, doing laundry, sweeping, vacuming, mopping, dusting, cleaned the kitchen top to bottom, broke down storage boxes we'd cleaned out, weeding the entire front garden, planted 2 standard roses and artemsia, some bulbs, cleaned the bathroom top to bottom, the windows, line brushed the fuzzy dog, got the cat box, sorted out some of our files and then made a run for party supplies as it's DH's birthday tomorrow but we'er celebrating today.

I'm happy to say his party went off quite well! He enjoyed his gifts and spending time with his mates. I'd been worried about how I'd pull a nice b-day off for him. Birthdays are reaaaally big deals to me. I want to give the person something unique, something that reflects our relationship, something they'll cherish and be a tangible reminder of how much I love them. I want the day to be *perfect* and memorable.

Initially, I'd thought to surprise him with a weekend get-away but our financial situation is uh... not conducive. (Our costs plus finding somewhere you can bring 2 dogs, plus boarding for cat, ferrets and finches.) Okay, so what was perfect but budget friendly? *thinking thinking* A HA! I planned to have a bunch of his mates show up at Games Workshop and surprise him with a night of gaming together and then dinner. I mentioned it without mentioning it (said he should take his stuff and go play with them sometime) and he pointed out his their work schedules would make it impossible, one guy isn't into it etc. Hn. Well. Crap. That was the sole cheap-but-brilliant-and-unique idea I had, so I 'fessed up I'd been planning it as a party. Feeling rather dejected (how could I pull off something deep and meaningful but not budget busting in a few days?!) I said well maybe we should just get a bunch of pizza and beer and have everyone over. "Hey! That sounds like a great idea hon! Yeah, let's do that!"


I'm elated it was a great birthday for him and the most fun he's had in awhile (his words) but I'm (mentally!) smacking my at the thought that all my nice ideas being surpassed by pizza and beer! LOL (How many times have I repeated the adage that what is a reward and what is an aversive is determined by the individual?!?!?)

One of his friends brought his girlfriend, who is a really nice and very down to earth person. She had fun playing with Laurent who enjoyed her equally the little ham but at one point she asked after our back garden. I showed it to her, mentioning what a mess it was (needs lots of weeding) she said, "Oh you just need to get motivated!" See, that's how you tell if someone has kids or not... comments like that! I laughed and assured her motivation isn't the issue... I have that to spare! If all it took was motivation, the garden would look like something out of a Home & Garden magazine. Time on the other hand... especially baby-free time, well, that's another matter!

Anyhow it's time for me to get to bed. Oh bed, oh bed, delicious bed! That heaven on earth to the weary head...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

lotsa stuff, musings on birth and behaviour etc

Something that's been on my mind lately, and brought to a head by a post on AB, is the idea of home birth for my next pregnancy. (If indeed there is a next one.) At first I was pretty divided. On one hand, my birth with Laurent had a lot of stuff I'd rather not repeat but I wasn't confident a homebirth would be personally right either.

I didn't like having to argue with the midwives about every little thing like keeping a spew bin handy, when all I should have had to do was focus on the birth. I didn't like the midwife disregarding our birth plan which said no non-medically necessary augmentation and nothing happens barring a medical emergency that I'm not informed of and agreed to. First thing she did was say I'm just doing a VE and then after told me, "and while I was down there I stripped membranes". I didn't like the fact they were planning to cut me when I was flatly saying, "No, I don't want an episectomy!" (It was NOT a medical emergency.) The MWs attitude toward it was disgusting and unprofessional; they were getting out the sterile packet (instruments) and laughing, joking about how it was her first one in six years and she was *so* excited about doing it, while ignoring me as I hollered protesting. Anywhere else but birth forcing a non-emergent procedure on them against their consent would be unethical at the least and malpractice at worst. Here we call it normal procedure.

At points, I think they were also using it as a blatant scare-tactic as well. After the birth, after DH left to take care of the dogs, it got worse as they had to get me out of the delivery bed and made me get up and walk to the wheelchair with no painkillers or anything, despite plenty of stitches and just being very shocky, while I kept passing out every time I moved and warning me if I dropped she wasn't going to break her back catching me. Stripping me and sticking me in the shower, smacking water in my face with the wand repeatedly as I was passing in and out the whole time telling me not to pass out as she wasn't going to hurt her back catching me. Then a whole bunch of incompetence when Laurent got sick... I'm sorry, it should NOT take an hour and all four limbs to get a line in a baby before you finally catch a vein and don't freaking LOSE it. You get it right the first time or take a break and come back later. Stupid doctor told me, "Oh, I knew this was going to happen. Guess we'll go up to NICU because they have better lighting and proper equipment so it'll be easier up there." WTF... so WHY didn't you just go up there in the first freaking place?!

That said, at the time I felt very strongly that I WANTED to be at a hospital. I wanted those doctors a few paces away in case we needed them. I wanted the peace of mind of knowing that we wouldn't have to wait 15 minutes for an ambulance and then however long to get to a hospital for treatment when seconds might count bouncing around in the back in agony. I honestly did feel a lot more relaxed in the hospital, up until the point they started lying and bullying. And if I'm really, really honest... as much as I wanted his birth to be as natural and intervention free as possible, I liked the idea KNOWING painkillers were available if I decided I wanted/needed them. Not that I wanted them but I wanted the OPTION yk? Of course now that I've been reading more about the long term effects of those.... *head spins*

And to be fair even with all this crap, his birth was a good birth overall to me (sounds weird but true) and I was really impressed with myself and DH, we did have some good experience in the hospital - the midwife student who was with me almost the whole time was AWESOME, wonderful, caring and compassionate... and several of the staff members were great, there was a ward MW I would gladly have adopted and brought home if I could've and who was largely responsible for Laurent and I being kept lost in the shuffle instead of my getting discharged after day 3 and them keeping him in NICU. So, a mixed up jumble of stuff.

In hindsight I'd definitely have had a doula. A rabid one with a chip on her shoulder the size of Texas and big teeth to chew up and spit out nasty midwives and doctors in lil'bitty pieces. I would have loved to have had the beautiful blessing ways ceremonies I've read about... gods, those are just sooooo beautiful and I love the idea of being surrounded by that positive feminine energy of other mothers and connecting to the whole feminine-creation-earth goddess aspects of life. I love the idea of birth the visualizations and affirmations... wow, why didn't I know about those the first time? That would have been so much nicer than just trying to "ride the wave" of pain out.

But... I still wasn't totally comfortable with the idea of a homebirth for myself. Did the good bits to a home birth outweighed the personal negatives? There aren't lots but they're big ones. Would I be comfortable with it enough that I wouldn't be freaking the whole time thinking I should have been in a hospital? How would I deal with it on the off chance something went wrong? How would I deal with it if (and I realize this is a far fetched worst case scenario) something happened and the baby died because of it when it could have been prevented if we'd been in hospital? Heady, heavy stuff.

I've also been thinking, not only on the birth being fully empowered for me but also in terms of it being a non-violent birth for the baby... the more and more I read about the long-term effects of the mother being distressed during pregnancy and birth, the more I read about neo-natal memory, the more I read about early trauma sensitizing our children for years... the more I want a gentle birth. (Ref. a bunch of studies on early memory, a study showing boys circumcised, w/out anesthetics, remained sensitized for a long time and at 4 and 6 months were much easier to distress and more distressed by vaccination procedure; children who have experience extreme trauma in surgery or treatment (all surgery was carried out without painkillers or anesthetic until 1986, so these babies were simply immobilized and subjected to major surgery fully awake and aware for hours) as newborns carrying phobias years after the fact.) I really would like to have a birth that is BEAUTIFUL for the child instead of traumatic. Have a baby come out smiling and calm should be the norm, not crying and wailing in distress and rage. Maybe do something like the Panthuraamphorn program. So I know I need to learn more. You can't make an informed decision only half informed neh? But right now HB is definitely looking more and more like something I'm interested in.

Now that aside, something else rather unrelated that's been weighing on my mind...

Laurent had another doctors appointment and to get him to hold still she gave him a second stethoscope to entertain him. It worked but invariably sticky monkey paws managed to grab her stethoscope, pen, shirt collar etc. etc. etc. She tried to gently pry it out of his hands, nicely but prying. I stopped it and rubbed the back of his hand with a finger in a little circle saying, "soft hands please" and *poof* he lets go. After a few times seeing it repeated and realizing it wasn't just a fluke he let go when requested she commented what a useful little trick it was. Very eruditely I reply, "Um. Yeah. I'm a dog trainer, so kind of a behavior geek." I got a really weird look.

To most non-dog people, that is a REALLY weird answer. I need to remember this. If I go onto one of my training lists, no one is going to blink about it. If I go to a training session or seminar, same deal. The rest of the world... not so much. One day I'll learn just to nod, smile and say thank you but I'm either a slow learner or a sucker for punishment so it keeps falling out my mouth and I keep getting "hey, you've sprouted a second head and announced you're from outer space!" looks.

As best I can tell, everyone who objects falls either figures it's degrading humans somehow or has an image in their head of the trainers who promoted the alpha-wolf domination nonsense (no matter how outdated or erroneous that research has since been proven) waltzing about with pinch collars punishing them into submission. One teacher Nic's mum knew from his schooling days got in a real huff and snarked "wait till he's 2 or 3 and then we'll talk!" Hate to burst her bubble but but in a daycare setting, my own babysitting and a number of hours in the 2 and 3 year old room at BWC over the years I've found 2 and 3 year olds respond nicely to fair, consistent, clear, compassionate, respectful interaction. They do well with instructions being broken down into manageable chunks and respond nicely to positive reinforcement and being set up to succeed. In fact, the nicest kids I know have parents who use the same techniques, even if they don't know it as such! I'll grant people are a bit more complex in what they deem rewarding or aversive, especially older kids but the theory is the same.

There also still seem to be a whole lot of folks who have a hard time believing you can teach a baby anything, especially very young babies which is when I started teaching Laurent, by 3 days old he opened his mouth wide on request to the amazement of the MW's and by a few weeks old knew the mitty-game which also taught him the give and take of communication and that there was another way to communicate than crying. This is despite research that shows they are capable of conditioning and habituation and various types of learning (anyone interested in refs LMK and I'll look them up but off the top of my head there are several studies by David Chamberlain published in pre/perinatal psych journals) and have memory such that they can remember rhymes and songs heard in utero (DeCasper), come out recognizing their own language and can understand words enough to use Sign Language by as young as 3 months old when basic motor skills are in place. All of those things are far more complex than just opening a hand when requested but you have hold-overs from the tabula rasa era of infant amnesia and that mentality is strongly in place. (IMO this is the reason so many parents are okay with a detached style of parenting young babies!)

I'd rather spend a short time teaching to let go and using trading games** to get away items I don't want him to have, than spend the next few years attempting to pry objects away from an unwilling child. It avoids creating a conflict where they try to hang onto it, think what happens when someone tries to grab something - you clutch it harder to you and jerk away. Do I want him doing that if he's holding a piece of glass or something dangerous? NOPE. When he's older and his thoughts are a bit more sophisticated it'll help avoid creating a need to 'hide' things, especially 'forbidden' items, he thinks I might try and take away. It'll also avoid teaching him through my actions that it's okay to grab stuff away from someone if you're bigger/stronger. (How many times have toddlers been chided not to grab something from a sibling when that's what's done TO them?) See? Now this is why I'm a dog trainer. I'm too freaking lazy to be bothered dealing with all those situations if I can avoid it just by teaching him to let go by stroking his hand and saying "soft"!

** Trading game: start by trading him a super cool object for an boring object he's already got, then returning the boring object after looking at it. After awhile we start working with him giving up cooler objects as well, always for something at least as nifty in his eyes. Lesson: Letting me see your stuff when I ask is valuable and not something to worry about - you'll get it back if I possibly can (if it's not dangerous) and get something extra. The 99 times I give it back make the 1x I don't an ignorable anomaly. Also teaches I respect you enough to give you the same consideration I would anyone by asking instead of just grabbing. And yes, this is the same game I do with puppies and dogs to avoid creating a resource guarder!

Friday, July 07, 2006

training progress, slowly but surely

We've been busy a couple of different things for Sierra over the past several days.

First is reinforcing left-side position LOTS. Not a formal competition heel but a LLW position with about 18" (about 45cm) radius. Dog is in position she gets attention, smiles, cookies, training opportunities, games... all the good stuff in life. By contrast, standing in front or back of me or by my right is rather boring. One day we'll get that formal heel but for now we're working on daily life style instead of stylized ring stuff, which might sound simple but is actually not terribly practical for dogs to maintain on an entire walk.

We've been revving up the tennis ball to make it a super-high value reward. All of the dogs I grew up with (Aussie/Cattledogs, CattledogX, Aussie/BC's, working line setters) came factory installed loving to play fetch and tug but Sierra has been one where I've had to develop those behaviours. So we're doing at least 1 fetch-the-ball before anything fun/nice. Ball before getting a drink. Ball before going out. Ball before getting a chance to put your lead on. Ball before we train etc.

Tuggy... DH decided to play tuggy with her and despite my asking him to stick to my rules, he just doesn't remember them and untaught a lot. My rules are:
1.) Don't grab even if it's dangled in front of your face enticingly , wait until I tell you to take it in your mouth.
2.) Let go of it the second I say to and wait until I say you can take it again
3.) No re-gripping or it goes bye-bye.

Basically they're there as a safety... I don't want her grabbing something she thinks is a tuggy (child's doll, purse, whatever) and scaring someone or wrecking it. I don't want her so wound up she is out of control. I don't want her re-gripping (letting go and readjusting her bite before biting back down) and accidentally grabbing fingers. She’s been making motions like she's going to grab the tug lately before I say to take it and I highly suspect Nic has been playing with her and getting her to just grab it. Nic knows the rules, he understands, he's just used to the way he used to play tug with his old dog and forgets he’s not supposed to do certain things.

Stupid pet trick: "Sad" where she is in a laying down position and puts a paw over her left eye as if sad. She's not a very paw oriented dog (unlike Cade, who uses his like a cat) so this is our attempt to get her to start spinning off into the umpteen different useful paw-involved tricks.

Sticking her head through a collar when it's held out. Got in another quickie shaping session and she's got it past her ears. Yesterday we shaped it up to her eyes but not past her ears. (So it started by me holding the collar and saying, "do something" which is her cue to start offering behaviours and she has enough 101TTDWAB that she knows to interact with props when presented. Then we went to moving towards the collar, touching it with her nose, nudging it up and down, nibbling on it, whacking it with her paw etc. whittling down the behaviours progressively to sticking her nose through the O a little bit, then more and more of her head through.) Reckon by the end of tonight it'll be over her head and we'll start attaching a cue of "necklace".
Bow (head down, bum up) - fluency
Stretch (in a bow, head down, bum up and streeetch) - fluency

Down - working her to get fluency in high (multiple, high level) distraction situations, on and off-lead, various positions (in front of me, at my side, from behind me, when I've got my back turned, when I'm close, when I'm far away, while I continue walking etc.) and other such things. She is doing a herding thing where she will get a chance to work some woolies and I think have two goes at an instinct test at the end of the day. Suffice it to say, "woah", "down" and "leave it" are trying to be quickly reinforced for very charged situations! LOL Plus I'm going to start the crazy fuzzball in Freestyle classes on the 14th as well, unless I decide to take Cade instead.

I think some Doggy Zen is in order too. She's been snarfing crumbs and stuff out of L's highchair seat once I pick him up. Hnn...

Cade is not loving the cool, damp weather. I suspect his old hip injury is flaring up again poor guy. He's been camped in their crate on the sheepskin and curling up with hot waterbottles. He still wants to play clicker though,

Oh I saw the coolest sig line on one of my lists: "They're not problems, just training opportunities!" I wanna bumper sticker that says that!

Laurent still has his cough thing going on and these really feral poos so I guess something isn't happy in his tummy. Poor mite. He had a second acupressure treatment the other day to try and help it and still has the homeopathic drops which he fights because he hates the taste of. He alternates between being sunshine and bawling and really upset. The weird thing is the bawling will just start and stop like a switch has been flipped but when he's upset he is SO upset and it just kills me there's not much I can do besides cuddle him as comfort. Anyone wants to send some healing energy his way, it'd be much appreciated. Just to show it's not all bad though, here's a few snaps of him playing around today. He's hit the stage where he both wants to be independant (put me down! *wigglewigglewiggle*) and worries about it at the same time (hey, where are you going? Pick me back up, I need a cuddle and some reassurance!) It's adorable if somewhat maddening when he squirms to be put back down not 2 seconds after asking to be picked up. He's also hit the stage where he's starting to get mad if I do something he doesn't very much like, even to the point where if he's fairly steamed he'll push me away or push my hands away. He's pulled himself up into a standing position on the cot (yes we have one, we got it before we actually HAD him and it turns into a bed and then a sofa so we kept it), the cane chair, the basket and the back of the couch at the doctors office. Eeep! He's going to turn into a toddler soon isn't he?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

photos, training and stuff

Lotsa stuff tonight! :-)

First, I have to share some neat photos I took the other day of the dogs and then some of the kidlet. Both the dogs and the child were going a bit stir-crazy and so in the interests of me not going just plain crazy, I bundled everyone up
and headed out to our local dogs-off-lead park to let the four-leggers burn off some steam. 'Natch I also took my camera and grabbed a few shots. ;-)

This one is Sierra on the same rock Cade was sitting on except she was hot from running even though it's mildly chilly out, so she
frog-dogged her belly on the rock (um, non-doggy translation: she spread her hips out in a frog-like position) but kept her elbows on the ground! What a nutter! LOL

And this is a much more typical shot of the fuzzy red dog! LOL These were shot on my FZ30 at ISO 200, F3.2 and 3.6, 1/250 and 1/320 for anyone interested. I'm still trying to learn all the technical aspects of photography!

Okay and a few of my very, very adorable super cute wonderful precious much-loved baby:

Cheeky little fellow isn't he? Okay, now for the story:

The park is somewhere we go quite often and we usually try to aim for a quiet time of day as an 8 month old and two hooligan dogs is enough to keep anyone occupied without reems of distractions. Unfortunately yesterday I *missed*. It was quiet for 5 minutes after I arrived. Then 2 sets of sports teams out for practice and every grandma and grandpa in a 5 K radius arrived with a fluffy yapper off lead! I knew it was asking a bit much of them, we haven't proofed for that level of distraction when I've got the two dogs together. If I were smart, I probably would have turned around but I come by my blond honestly so we simply tried to go to the furthest paddock and stay away out of everyones way because the dogs were SO hyper they'd have exploded if I tried to put them back in the car before they got to run.

For the most part, we did pretty good. There were little fuzzy dogs running around and Cade alerted but stood-down and worked with me every time and was well rewarded for his good behaviour! But we did have two incidents.

Problem one: I'd been watching where other dogs coming our way were but a Cockapoo (off-lead) came barreling at us from a blind-corner across the field while granny and grandpa attempted to call him back. Crap! We'd been doing SO good at having them ignore other dogs and this clueless fluffball was going to ruin it! *whine* I really hate it when people think it's perfectly fine to let little fluffy-kins charge someone else... especially when I'm the someone else!

Sure enough, Clueless barreled up, skidded to a halt in front of Sierra and Cade wiggling and
bouncing on them in his glee, his gran and pa calling him all the while. Clueless playbowed, Cade turned away clearly assessing him as an ill-mannered lout he wanted nothing to do with. Sierra responded though. Sierra loves to play and whomped him back. I didn't want this to turn into a free-for-all so I said "Si down!" which she did while Clueless bounded around her head playbowing till Sierra broke position. (Training failure.) Cade took this (tenseness in my voice) as his fun police signal to enforce my wishes and dashed from where he was at my side to the two of them. I could just see this sort of shift when Cade turned and chased after Clueless and he and Si shifted into pack mode, tag-teaming him. Cade went after him, Si joined in only instead of chasing him she was trying to go to his head and herd him... going to head and trying to drive him back toward me. Clueless really wasn't sure what he'd gotten himself into by this point, one chasing him, one herding him but both of them tag teaming... he wanted to play but his body language was less confident and a bit uncertain, it looked to me like he was about to get a clue to tone it down a bit. I might have let them teach it but didn't want his owners to get upset so I was calling it to a halt.

ICK! This happened in um... four seconds or so? Bad planning, bad reaction on my part (should have placed them into downs when I saw Clueless break away from mum and dad and shooed him off with my Mean Human impression before he ever got to them), shouldn't have placed them in that situation, crap, crap, CRAP. "Sierra down! Cade, leave him!" Darn it! Clueless still refused to return to mum and dad and was dancing around in playbows inviting them to play, so I held onto the little bugger until they came to collect him. *sigh*

After I felt pretty crappy for not having managed stuff better and also annoyed at granny and pa for letting Clueless be off-lead without a decent recall in the first place. I took them to the far corner to chill myself out for a few and we worked on some attention stuff. Then I gathered up the child and the dogs and started heading back avoiding the sports teams. Except apparently there is this one kid in our direct path, no way to avoid him, kicking a soccer ball. Aw nuts. How'd I miss that?! Cade is a sight-hound so chasing movement is a big thing for him anyway but he LOVES playing soccer! We actually used to do it as a game, he blocks and kicks and everything. I just KNOW where this is going. The kid thinks it's a hoot and is scooting the ball around with Cade who thinks this is wonnnnderful! I finally catch Cade's attention, snap his lead on and leave. *SIGH*

:::tattoos my forehead with the mantra, "I willl NOT ask my dogs for more than I've trained them for or put them in situations I know they can't handle!":::

They did PRETTY darn well for the level of distractions and I'm proud for the bits they shone in. BUT they never should have been put into that situation and I should have been paying more attention. I guess it really highlighted to me how much I need to work on getting control at that level of distraction and being more aware of a couple of things. One of which is that the two of them together will create a pack mentality, which isn't a good thing or a bad thing, just something to remember because I have to deal with them differently than if I were just dealing with one or the other.

My biggest challenge is Cade thinks it's his job to be the fun police and he's had a bad incident where he was jumped by two large off-lead dogs which left him a bit nervy about dogs acting like that. I've worked with him a lot and he's come a loonng way.
He'll still alert to dogs he thinks are acting wild - ears perk, body tenses, whiskers poof and mutter a soft "ruuuu" under his breath but I can interrupt the behaviour and say, "I see, but it's not our business", he's okay. He'll keep an eyeball on them periodically but he will stay with me nicely and we can start working on sits, downs, stays, eye contact etc. with good focus. If I miss it, he'll either "ruuuuu" again louder and dash or just dash off. When he gets there it's just some tense butt sniffing, nothing horrid, but again, I don't like him dashing off and I could see the behaviour escalating with time into something less benign.

The only time this doesn't work is if the other dog is an idjit and comes barreling at us like the aforementioned friendly-but-socially-clueless cockapoo. (Barreling straight at another dog and getting in their face is rude, just the same as if I dashed up to a strangerand glommed onto them. I might be being friendly and harmless but unless I've got a mental handicap that prevents me from understanding, it's friggin' rude and inappropriate. Unfortunately, you see this a lot with pet dogs who haven't learned doggy-social-graces!)

Which brings me to a whine: WHY oh WHY is it that whenever someone sees me call my dogs over, put them into down-stays and OBVIOUSLY try to keep my dogs AWAY from them/their dog they seem to need to come over and stare and tempt my dogs to break the stay??? Seriously. I want to know what thought process makes that seem a good idea? And why is it these people find it a good idea to let their little dog (it's ALWAYS a little dog, I'm not prejudiced against toy breeds but how come these people always have a shitypoo malti/chi/yorka/cocka/pomapoo?) crawl on mine. One lady even let her aggressive little terror attack Sierra in the down-stay and HANG OFF HER JOWLS GROWLING while Sierra just gave me this look, like "what's this thing's issue?". I actually had to kick it to dislodge it as it's owner assured me IT WAS FRIENDLY! WTF!!! And last but not least why do these idiots ALWAYS have their little dogs either off-lead or on a flexi???

Nifty idea...
On one of the training lists I'm on, a rather shy dog managed to escape and luckily was able to be caught without incident. This spawned a conversation which was really awesome but one particular tangent of it was that a neat trick to train is to teach the dog to put it's own collar on. IOW owner holds to collar out in an "O" and the dog sticks it's head in. Simple enough to shape, useful as anything with a dog who might decide to play keep-away otherwise... give them a fun and rewarding trick to do instead of thinking they're going to get captured and the fun is going to come to an end. Cool! Off we went a clickin'! I shaped Sierra to put her nose through the collar up to her eye level so far but not pushing it past her ears yet. Cute trick!

Oh, unrelated to training or dogs or my photographs, one of DH's work-mates runs a really cool collage service he's just started. Go check it out, it's SOOOOO COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Visual Opus is the site.