Wednesday, October 12, 2011

painty bits

So last year in November I decided to teach myself to draw.  I found an awesome website called Wet Canvas and started picking up tips and tricks there.   I think about January I decided to paint and got a set of acrylics.  My first paintings were okay but er... not fantastic.  I got quite frustrated with one because I couldn't get the white to quit looking so matte and chalky and put it aside when I got busy with other things.

In September I got the itch again and joined in a Different Strokes challenge.  This kitty was the result... my 6th painting.  A4 size on canvas pad using titanium white, black, ultramarine, cad red med. (Finished.)

I followed the kitty up with starting in on this handsome lad.... Ch. Combee's Bearfoot Silver Magnum, an old Aussie who was very interesting. Same size, medium and but with chromium green oxide. (I am in love with that green... LOVE I tells ya!)  He's still got a little ways to go before he's finished as his jaw/cheeks area is undone and he needs glazing and tweaking of his bone structure at the top of his head (above eyes) and some more creamy colours tucked into his cheeks. (Work in progress!)

Then I played with a quick study of an rabbit that had lots of white and painted these two as a quick attempt to start to figure out rabbit fur.  (Obviously still have a ways to go on that...)  They are supposed to be Poppy and Violet, two rescue buns. 8x10, acrylic on board, same everything else. (Finished.)

At the same time I started these I started one of Verity, shown here in it's first layer of colour.  I'm working on it very slowly as it's very emotional.  It's 8x10 on gallery wrapped canvas. (Work in progress!)

I started this one, which is about halfway done, of an Isa Brown chook from a WC reference photo in one of the challenges.  She's 4x6 wrapped canvas so just a little bitty thing. (WIP)

I'm still working mainly on finishing up Magnum and Verity but needed to take a break from looking at them.  I am also working on understanding a lot of other aspects in painting and decided to do a quick study that I'd have to be convincing with out being able to obsessively tweak for detail and work with a very limited palette.  Sierra was napping in deep shadows that she almost seemed to fade into while the light that shone on her lit up her head and front with very high contrast and became my willing victim.  A4 using only burnt sienna, ultramarine and white, 1.5 hours. (Finished.)

That was so much fun I sketched up this one... no paint on it for now though.  A very obvious work in progress! ;p

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Toast anyone?

As Laurent was stowing his backpack in his cubby at school this morning I notice a large bulge in the back of his pants.  A large, box shaped bulge.  Since we've had *cough* ISSUES with him sneaking in toys and such before, which the kids aren't allowed to do and for which mum gets the politely-exasperated "we've having the talk about your child ignoring the rules about toys... again" talk I figured he'd tucked a box with toys into his pants not realizing it stuck out about 10" from his scrawny bum and was rather as completely and totally blatantly obvious as if he'd had stuck a billboard with flashing neon lights and a big arrow pointing to his backside.

Good Mummy asked in a Very Reasonable Tone - the one that is slightly more sweet than you feel when you really just want to find a brick wall to bang your head against - "Laurent?  What do you have in your pants?"

I am at this point expecting toys stuffed into one of his little carry boxes.  I mean, that would be an entirely (relatively...) normal thing to smuggle into class right?

Yeah.  Well the normal train doesn't stop at our house.

He grins a very clever little grin at me, eyes laughing and pulls out of his pants half a loaf of frozen bread.



Seriously.  Never mind it's bread (and why on earth he's got bread will remain known only to the gods because I got nuttin' out of him!) but FROZEN bread.  Down his backside. I am throwing in the towel on trying to make sense of him! LOL

Friday, September 09, 2011


I may have been a bit slack in blogging what has happened...

A week out from our test date I ended up sick as, well, the proverbial dog.  Possibly sicker, considering the dogs were obnoxiously chipper and enjoyed repeatedly shoving slobber-covered toys in my face while I was splodged on the nearest horizontal surface in a puddle of non-coherence.  (I love my dogs but I admit my sense of humor wasn't at it's best when I cracked an eye open to discover the taste in my mouth was a combo of slobber-and-carpet-crud-marinated plushie... shoved there in an effort to get it thrown. Ta ever so very girls!)  I slept like a narcoleptic, passed out when standing up (hellooooo gravity!), had a lovely visit with my Meniere's as it flared up and food was a Very BAD Idea to see... or smell... or think about... or acknowledge the probable physical existence of.  Fantastic for when you're on a to-the-day deadline to train a nice stinky-food based trick right?

The two days before I was quasi-well enough that with about a bottles worth of chest rub stuffed up my nostrils to block out the scent and a medicine cabinet worth of 'better living through chemistry' I was able to get in a few 10 minute sessions in a public space for the first time without hurling.  Dogs hey?  What boring, normal, positively sane lives we'd lead without them to do wacky crap in the name of training for!

The upside of it all is that Ms. Cleverpants lived up to her name and did the trick despite our lack of proofing.  Phew!  We found out on the anniversary of her sister's passing she got in.  Something to smile about was very welcome on a day that's been drowned in tears and spent in our Rainbow Bridge memory garden painting. Hopie's had her first lesson of foundation and was so excited that the next day anytime I was even remotely near the door she'd dash to the training bag and then the door while bouncing like a loonie so I think she may have enjoyed herself a tiny bit.  LOL

And tomorrow we're off for the first flyball comp of the season... whole buckets of yay over getting to be back out doing stuff with my best girlies again!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My name this week...

Clever McCleverpants.  And I can hold the hotdog just like a dumb-bell without nomming it!

While this one got lost in her own back yard and howled her little heart out till mumma came and rescued her. 
And these two were just plain mischief!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Breakdown of the hotdog retrieve, for anyone interested.

Steps mainly follow:
Pre-req for good understanding of 'zen' related food refusal (self control, impulse control), front and finish

I'm deliberately not spelling out steps on some of the skill-sets as there's thousands of others who've covered it well and truly, except where I've done things in a way I want to remember.
1.) shaped retrieve of dumbbell
a.) pick up and take the correct 'bit' of the dumbbell instead of picking it up from other areas
b.) pick up and hold from hand - no duration/distraction at this point
c.) pick up and bring shaping from just lifting off the ground to normal carrying height and then bringing it, duration, distraction, distance
d.) teach to release specifically into the hand and not any other location properly, duration, distraction
    d.1.) backing up to hold from hand duration and distraction (seemed more natural progression)
e.) add in distance,duration, distractions to Whole Picture
f.) stim cont
2.) chaining and proofing retrieve with front and finish and proof those for distance/duration/distraction
3.) introducing 'hotdog' in a "can't eat it" form (frozen and either in a PVC tube if your dog is persistent (has a grip that's hard enough to break plasticwrap) like Sierra or in plasticwrap if they're easier (like Hope) and introduce as a substitute dumbbell and work the idea back up.  Work on a take and hold with the froze/pvc hotdog, starting brief and working up duration
5.) begin unwrapping small bits of the end, zen work with no sniffing/licking/grabbing the tempty bits and work on take and hold, up duration
6.) unwrap more and more progressively until you are working with the unwrapped frozen hotdog.(This is where Hope is at atm.)
7.) add in carrying it over a distance
8.) pick unwrapped froze hotdog off the floor and bring it
9.) switch to partially thawed, then raw, then cooked cool, then cooked warm hotdogs (dogs may transition easily and jump from froze to cooked or need the transitions)
10.) put it all together so that it's a formal start position, send out, retrieve and release

We will also have to proof this for the hotdog having icky sawdust on it as well as the test will occur in a horse arena which the floor is compacted sawdust.  (Blerg!)

The reason we're not a bit further is I was training when tired and my timing in marking was um, just a fraction of a hair late.  Which I noticed when (you get what you reinforce) my dog started deliberately relaxing her jaw allowing it to roll out after having a nice firm hold, while I tried to get duration extension!  *sigh*  Oh well, easy fixed, just no more training at midnight! ;p

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ye Olde Hotdog Retrieve

Okay, so it's not a real hotdog because I'm a special sort of snowflake and that would make me gag which is hugely counterproductive.  However Miss Hopie is being taught the hotdog retrieve (using a 'just as tempting but not-hotdog sausage') as our trick for getting into agility classes at the end of the month to prove I can train and she can learn.  It's easy enough to teach and hopefully it looks swish enough for us to earn enough points to get in to the training center because I really, really don't want to wait ages before testing again and would vastly prefer to just be able to train.  The whole trick will involve her going out to hotdog that is thrown as if it were a dumbbell in an obedience exercise, have it retrieved, front and handed over neatly before finishing.  It's coming along pretty well at the moment, I'll try in a few days to get a picture of her being a clever bean. :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

By George... I think the girl has GOT it!

Well... that may be a tad (okay, a lot) premature BUT having been working on Hopie's dry skills I have to say we've already seen some very HAPPY results which is awesome.

The first task we focused on was one of our biggest - the stock stick, which had gotten to a point where she saw it and was already anticipating pressure before we even got to the paddock.  She's not bothered by sticks or stick like objects in general or in other contexts - so I could use literally the same one as a target wand, run it all over her body,as a prop for freestyle, for fetch etc. so it was purely the fact it'd come to represent an (albeit usually considered mild) aversive.  That's been the biggest turn around as well - madam is a wiggling, waggling ball of happy eager dog she usually is and moves off it without issue.  Hopefully this will transfer over nicely to non-bucket flocks once we've got latency and distance more where I want them.  (Yes, I'm going to proof this to death before reintroducing it and pondering on how to structure the reintroductions so that I can maintain nice fine slices of single behaviours. LOL)

The next we worked on was a basic cast out.  She already knows that - well in so far as we'd worked her before and she knew 'get around' meant get your bum out around the sheep and start fetching even if it was too fast, too close in to them etc. so not really what I want as my ideal cast!  I started with a basic one anyway to get it firmly on cue and in relation to our flock-o-buckets before I started tinkering with increasing the width she was running out relative to the 'flock', the spaced-ness of her flock and then combining that with my distance from the "flock".

So it went:
  • flock close together, me close to flock, cast out and going within .5m foot of the flock
  • flock close together, me standing .5m away from flock, cast out and going within .5m foot of the flock
  • flock close together, me standing 1m away from flock, cast out and going within .5m foot of the flock
  • flock close together, me standing 2m away from flock, cast out and going within .5m foot of the flock
    And so on to get me standing back further from the flock.  Then we spread the flock:
  • flock spread .25m apart from each other, me standing .5m away from flock, cast out and going within .5m foot of the flock
  • flock spread .5m apart from each other
  • flock spread 1 m apart from each other
  • flock (which had a population explosion at this point *G* and gained a few dozen members) spread .5 apart from each other, me standing .5m away from flock, cast out and going within .5m of the flock and so on so she had to go around a 'big', semi 'loosely grouped' flock
    Then those sheep started being further away from me.  They went back to being fewer (about half the flock took a tropical vacation...) and closer (it's cold out) but instead of being 1-2 m away, they were 3-4m away and then began drifting apart again.  At this point, now we're working on getting her further back from the flock.
  • flock spread .5 m apart from each other, me standing back 1-2m, her going around within .5m of their 'bums' 
  • flock spread .5 m apart from each other, me standing back 1-2m, her going around within .75m of their 'bums' 
  • flock spread .5 m apart from each other, me standing back 1-2m, her going around within 1 m of their 'bums' and so on... 1.5m, 2m, 2.5m, 3m etc  Then they started spreading apart again... so the flock was 1m apart from each other, me back 1-2m, her having to work progressively wider around their bums.  Basically I want her to be comfortable doing what is asked regardless of how far I am from her, how far back from the sheep she is working, how far back the total space from me to the sheep and the sheep to her is or how wide spread they are that means she has to arch out wider to maintain the wider 'space bubble' around the sheepies.
We've got it firmly from the left going clockwise but not so much from the right going counterclockwise.  That'll be our next task.  I also want to be able to have her keep going (if cued) fully around as she's wanting to come to balance and stop, hesitating if I cue her to keep going and I suspect there will be times being able to push her off/past balance will be very useful to be very comfortable with.

We've also got 'back' down pretty well - very confident on her part, complete with occasional hind foot kicking chutzpa.  LOL

We've got 'look away' and 'look bye' (turn your head and shoulders out in the direction, to widen the angle of her path when she's cued to move) pretty well too. Bye is not as solid as away and she'll sometimes offer away still so we need to go pick it apart a bit.  Probably (maybe?) to do with handedness as well?  That does link with walk-on and we've just started chaining look away + walk and she's got walk-in (straight in) pretty well.

With regard to walk in, I'm pondering teaching it from her being oriented to different directions - ie 2 o'clock, 4, 6, 8, 10 etc. on a radial but debating where exactly I want to consider the 'target spot'.  We've enough on our plate it can wait but I'm pondering away anyhow.

It's a fun experiment for us anyhow and hopefully getting us closer to where we need to be.  It's also a fair bit of thinking of how to restructure things and getting some much clearer/more precise definitions of exactly what I want for the ideal/perfect/finished behaviours in each case.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Warning to dog owners - deadly Sisotamoxym virus


Due to the massive problem with foxes, the Australian Government has begun to introduce several potent strains of a virus called Sisotamoxym in an effort to control this pest species.  However it is not species specific and our pet dogs are at severe risk.  The death rate in domestic dogs is 100%.

New strains being manufactured for release routinely.  The vector is via biting insects who are bred and deliberately released at various locations around the country to spread the virus. IE mosquitoes and fleas.  In order to ensure the virus is spread as far and wide as possible the government has imported and released two types of fleas - the European and Spanish flea - as additional vectors to penetrate areas where lack of permanent water prevents mosquitoes from breeding.  All species of mosquito can transmit the disease and some can infect up to 10 animals an evening and remain infective for up to 7 months.   

The mosquitoes and fleas transfer the virus when they bite an affected animal and along with blood ingest bacteria.  The bacteria multiplies in the insects gut and when it bites another animal bacteria is introduced to the wound. Incubation period varies but averages 5-14 days. Once the dog is infected it's skin becomes red and thickens before traveling to lymph nodes and then organs.  It is present in the skin and bodily secretions making it contagious.  After 6 days the body has become swollen, with the swellings becoming distended and thickened.  Pus may discharge from the ears and eyelids, which become thick and swollen as well to the point they're swollen shut and the dog is blind and deaf.  The virus form tumors and skin lesions throughout the body.  The entire head swells and in in-tact males the testicles swell and the scrotum ruptures.  By this point the dog is anorexic, has difficulty breathing and convulses.  If not euthanized, death occurs within 12 days or so.  While for foxes this raises a significant issue of humaneness, dog owners need to be alert and aware to the symptoms to prevent an agonizing death.

Once infected, there are no treatments. Death rate is 100% and the current veterinary recommendation is for immediate euthanasia and quarantine of house-mates who may be infected.

The only current option available to dog owners is to keep dogs inside at all times and use mosquito proofing techniques to attempt to prevent infection.  If the dog must be outdoors, it is recommended you fully mosquito proof the enclosure and take measures to prevent fleas or mosquitoes from being near.  However it only takes one mosquito coming in and having one bite of one dog to kill them all.

There is a vaccination called Nobivac Siso.  It utilizes a virus called Shope Fibroma virus which is closely related but which doesn't cause the disease. However the Australian authorities are not at this time allowing the vaccine for fear immunity could transfer from vaccinated pet dogs to wild foxes.

This reasoning is faulty and does not hold with experience in areas where the vaccination is legal.  Foxes have built their own immunity independently according to the Australian Department of Primary Industries own publications. There is also a lack of immunity in a vaccinated individual can spread let alone to foxes. In UK and Europe, where the vaccine is available, there have been no signs of a decline in the disease and there is still a great need to vaccinate pets. The British distributors (Intervet) state that:
"...the virus (Shope fibroma) does not spread readily from one animal to another and all dogs in a group should be individually vaccinated"
Now... if you are all feeling properly horrified by the thought of your beloved pet dogs dying a horrible death, take a deep breath.  There is no virus called Sisotamoxym.  

The REAL virus is called Myxomatosis and instead of being released to control foxes it is released to control wild rabbits.  Instead of affecting your pet dogs, it affects our pet rabbits.  The only difference is that the word "rabbit" has been replaced with "dog", a pet most of you will have experienced a strong bond with - the medical information is accurate.  I wrote this to hopefully provoke thought as a house-rabbit is NO DIFFERENT than a dog in terms of it's intelligence, ability to love and be loved or bond when raised with the love and care we raise our dogs with and lives as a part of the family.  We are no less devastated by their loss than a dog owner would be.  Yet the Australian Government continues to deny, on the most dubious and shoddy of reasoning, access to lifesaving vaccination.  If you are outraged by this please sign the petition for the the vaccine to be made available:

Or write the following people: Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage and Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage
along with your local representatives.

Because whatever our pets species, we love them, we suffer when we loose them and we don't deserve to have to stand by and watch them suffer horribly because of governmental apathy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We've been saying Kiah is a lot like my old fellow Cade, who is now at the Bridge.  She's been growing leaps and bounds, so I decided to hunt up the collar I made him when he was a youngster.  It's double sided velvet hand embroidered in a celtic knotwork pattern and looks rather lovely on her if I do say so myself.

Meanwhile my stomach issues are flaring back up again, so I had a little extra snooze this morning so I could lay straight on the heat.  Nic went to let the girls out, without realizing Miss Kiah Papaya needs to be escorted straight to the door if it's not me letting her out because she's a big mumma's girl.  I soon found myself with an armful of wriggly, deliriously happy puppy moaning and groaning her bliss and attempting to clean every centimeter of my face (she's not usually a licky puppy so this is about the only time I get ecstatic kissy fest from her) before settling in to enjoy the heat pad too.  Such a little smile bringer she is. :)

It's also time for the little lovebirds, Romeo oh! Romeo and Cinnamon the Cinnabun to go get their vaxes.  Unfortunately the Australian government is STILL with-holding the myxo vax from pet bunny owners for no sound reason (yay for logical reasoning and evidence based decisions... oh, wait, no that would be prejudice, ignoring evidence and just not giving a rip!) but we can vax them against calicivirus which is just as important.  So we're off to visit the Melbourne Rabbit Clinic later today.
 Romeo would be giving me this face again if he knew what I had planned...

And one of Nilla, just being full of 'satiable curiosity for cuteness sake.  Excuse the craptastic lighting in all of them.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

combo plater pics

Rinlicious... proof that while all of us are special, some of us are moreso than others!

But my mumma loves me!
And the older goober heads have a run around Shipwreck Rock...


It's distraction proofing AND reality tv for cows!

No, we're not doing herding - we're proofing down and sit-stays with maintaining attention and focus while mum is at a distance (pics taken with 30x zoom) for several minutes and the cows just happen to decide to assist with distraction proofing.
 "I know it's there and I'm ignoring it, I'm not falling for that old distraction and loosing my click!"
(Okay mostly... covert glance!)  Meanwhile apparently watching us train is the cow equivalent of Big Brother and really, reeeeeally fascinating because they all come over and right up to snuffle.
"Mum - that reward better be bloody good!  I'm ignoring it and I'm staying put but I'm getting COW SNOT on my BUM FLUFF!  Cow. Snot. On. My. Bum. Fluff!"

Later on, while we were doing some of our herding dry work I didn't realize the curious cows had come over.  Being hard of hearing and it being somewhat windy I had no idea there was a small group right behind me.  Hope did and at one point when I went to send her around instead of going where I sent her, she went around behind me.  I whirled around wondering if she hadn't lost her marbles only to see the cows fetching at me. Hope was very chuffed with herself after weeks of working dry only to FINALLY some real work!  Little monster!

the squidgey edition

Soo.... Demonspawn Anklebiter McNoseyboots is growing up... from a dainty 2kg when she first arrived the little madam is now double and a bit that size.  She has been keeping up with her 10 new people, 1 new place, 3 new things a day for the most part aside from when I've been too ill. She goes with us to club and thinks the place was designed for her admirers to gather.  The vets and all around town and bush walking are other favs.  We're working on most of the same things we established as a little tyke, keeping their practice up and waiting till she's a bit bigger to push out duration further in most cases.  She has fun playing with the flyball box, playing stalky Kelpie dog (in her mind she is a rough, tough cowdog) and generally being a little ball of energy.  She is learning calm, control and her on-and-off switch - even when you are watching the other big dogs play flyball and run in agility and your mum won't let you.  (Life is DREADFULLY unfair - we are SURE we could do it even better if only we were allowed!) 
"Yep, with these ears I almost CAN take flight!"
Proving undoubtedly that she is one of MY dogs - and therefore both weird and ruled entirely by her gut - at her vet visit when she got her vax she never paused in chewing her treats.  When she got the thermometer (and no, vets aren't progressive enough to use those nifty little ear thermometers kids get - this is the old fashioned thermometer up the bum) it merited barely even a glance.
"That's right dear, just pay attention to the nice yummy bribe... pay no attention to the man who is about to do... yes, that... here have some peanut butter."
When it came to the microchip needle however, which is fairly BIG as needles go, she alternated between yelping and chewing in a sort of oddly crunchy yodel. *yel...crunch...elp...crunch...YE...crunch...LP..gobble*  Now that is impressive dedication to your grub!

All that didn't really slow her down much however. Or, y'know... at all.
She's still her nutty self.  The only that that continues to surprise is what a comfort hound she is.  Honestly I'm pretty sure she is an Italian Greyhound in a Kelpie/Border jacket.  She loves the heat blanket, she burrows under doonas like a seasoned pro, she shivers most pathetically if required to go outside sans a coat and is generally just a bit whussy about the weather.

And I am still loving having a dog I can put a pretty collar on and SEE it!  LOL  (Please note: Rin is actually wearing a pretty collar -just even with her minimal coat you can't see it!)

Surprisingly, among the dogs it's not just Rin who is finding having a puppy a great blast of fresh air - Sierra has taken on the role of patient teacher and is Kiah's most sought out (and endlessly pestered) friend.  They have endless play sessions and mock-battles teaching her to recognize and listen to her native (body) language, rehearsing recognition and responses for HOURS every day. They practice and rehearse apologizing and making amends, taking turns negotiating resolving issues and defusing situations, approaching, inviting games, making requests etc. It is beautiful to watch how elegant and deliberate they are and how they teach and learn! I am reminded of watching a Cade and Bella teaching a baby Sierra many years ago and later all of them teaching a cheeky and irrepressible baby Hopie. 
When a response is correct Sierra will bow and invite a game, wrestle or settle in for an ear grooming session (a legacy from Bella I suspect, who was obsessed with ensuring puppies had clean ears) or such before setting back up and inviting another rehearsal. Hope and Rin get in on the act as well, both particularly love to teach play skills - how to respectfully approach an adult to ask for some of their chewie or to play with the toys they have, how to take turns in playing chasing and wrestling games.  They will take the toy and dangle it clearly in front of her to entice, prancing and showing it off before taking off at a slow run for her to chase and guide her into being both the chaser and chased, signaling that it's just play or practicing calming down skills.  Hope will bring a chew right to her and of her to practice polite approaches and requesting skills.  When she gets it right they pointedly and deliberately give her what she's requested, walking away, "I'm done, all yours!" After a few moments they'll inviting her to come away - occasionally having to show another toy to get her to drop the first, pick it up and inviting another round.  Bless her, she is such a fantastic little member of our family I don't think we could have picked better!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Hope's sheepdog-type plan rough draft thingiemawhotchie

So... best intentions aside I haven't blogged for weeks. 

However lots has been going on.  With Hopie we'd trying to figure out how to train herding using R+ based training wherever possible and to teach her to become more comfortable with human applied pressure for pressure and release.  I felt like her instincts were keen and she loves the actual work but the only real sticking point was in her not faring well with even very, very, very minor aversively taught approaches.  I had some basic ideas but fleshed it out with a discussion from some lovely folks and (hopefully!) between it we've got a good plan going.

So here is the attempt to write out the plan (something I've been remiss on...) for her and some of what we've been working on.  Worst case, it doesn't improve things but we're no worse off and best case it may work super for us. (Certainly hope so!)  Either way for a dog for whom the tools 'inside the box' aren't bringing out her best game, 'outside the box' however oddly nontraditional it appears has little to loose.

So the areas of trouble for her mainly include:

Behaviours not fluent before being asked for at working level
Dry training had been in the plans for awhile and after talking to some people who have taught working/trial dogs with R+ I came away even more certain. I decided to start dry until many behaviours are fully/very very highly fluent so I can focus just on the dog, without also having to contend with a number of other independent minds who are not stationary and more difficult to reset for multiple finely sliced reps of the same behaviour. The dry-work has the benefit of being able to practice single behaviours in well split easily achievable criteria in a controlled setting which allows the behaviour to become solid, low latency and have significant duration, distance and distraction proofing added to it rather than try to attain those on the fly with the sheep and concurrent with everything else.  Likewise you don't have to rely on other half-trained behaviours at the same time. ;)

Some of this is not new or exclusive as certainly there are a fair few well known working dog trainers who teach a down/stop/come/flanking dry. I'm also wanting to teach to higher standards:
* come in (pretty self explanatory)
* back (move directly outward from the sheep 'target'- not sure if I want this to simply be stepping back or actually turning around or if it even matters... pondering atm!)
* directional modifier cues (not flanking commands - turning out the whole head/shoulder orientation to widen the future trajectory)
* walk  - meaning along whatever path your head/shoulders are currently facing until told to do something else. I'm thinking that this can get paired with directionals - walk on, walk up, walk by, walk away) for when I specifically want her to do the movement at a slower than normal pace.
* outruns
* angles to come around sheep on - has previously been something of an issue
* and while not intended to be taught on cue per se but shaping angles for casting out on stationary objects at increasing widths and distances, proper shaped flanking

And maybe other stuff as I think of it or when I trip across the need for them in levels beyond started.  She does know many of the cues in the obedience/general context very well but the plan is to practice even those in a herding context and at distances to help them become more as high quality/lickitysplit/'no matter what' as they are in other areas.

One of the things we were seeing consistently was that she while she was okay giving the sheep some distance she wanted to work relatively close to me and became uncertain if the sheep's distance meant she was asked to work further distances relative to me.  Doubly if she was at all uncertain.  As well as making it difficult to teach/refine behaviours, it also meant she tended to quarter in and bring the sheep up too close to me for comfortable movement to stay within that relative distance and may also affect lining up for obstacles. 

While I've varied my rewards quite a bit - food, toys, games, planted environmental rewards, opportunities to access things - it seems I've unintentionally trained her that there is a 20-ish meter zone that she is to work in and expect reward delivery within relative to me.  (Since so far nothing we've trained or done has really required a functional/reliable working distance beyond that beyond a recall.)  Because of that and how sensitive she is, working outside that distance especially where the behaviours are not trained to fluency is worrisome.  While for most dogs this may not be significant, for her it's a problem.  While not directly applicable to herding general distance work may extended her safe/familiar/rewarding/comfort zone so that if there IS a stressor added it's not on top of uncertainty due to distance.   Likewise generic (non herding specific) distance (remote?) reward delivery to ensure she is aware that rewards can be delivered at that distance regardless of relation to me.

Hope is incredibly sensitive to social approval and her perceiving it to be withdrawn makes her anxious.  She is surprisingly confident with external pressure (ie that applied by the sheep and cattle in general or individuals in specific) which speaks to it not being pressure in general she is over sensitive to.  Because of this, I do not believe (natural) pressure itself is the only issue, the timing of the pressure or the degree of it but rather the combination of the behaviours not being fully trained ones and the pressure (coming from human/stock stick) being taught as an aversive to 'correct' her into guessing right to get the release.

The direct seeking-in I think is more of an appeasement behaviour over not knowing what is wanted, anxiety re: distance and anxiety re: aversive pressure and an attempt to use a fall back with a high history of being 'right' everywhere else in life.  Actions like shooing her out, withdraw eye contact or continuing to request a yield (continued pressure) becomes perceived as failing to be able to appease. The more appeasement is withheld the harder the dog tries to appease and the higher the stress raises, until shut down will be the inevitably hit when NOTHING is going to be able to make things right.

Yielding - Central to the pressure issues imo is that at the moment the yield with a stock stick is taught with P&R being taught as a mild aversive.  For most dogs combined with the heavy draw of the sheep it is mild enough that especially with precise timing in the application, the yield gaining removal and the amount of pressure being applied on an 'as mild as possible' basis for the individual and ideally passively (ie the pressure is held at the lowest possible useful level, so the dog can't gain access but is simply waited out vs successively applied increases of pressure) the dog works through any stress.
    For some dogs like Hope, even mildest aversives are enough to be significantly off putting but there is no reason the action (yielding) or reacting to pressure must be taught with an aversive.  That was the 'reframing' context I was dithering on!!!  The same action (move off/yield to either SS pressure or body signal pressure) can be taught in a slightly different manner utilizing R+ to shape the yield and then delivering the reward at or just beyond the peripheral zone.  (ie delivery in place or tossing behind/on the outward trajectory the dog may be asked to move next).  The result should be a dog who is comfortable with the pressure being applied as positive information - which was pointed out to me (I'd not realized, not being that far along) may be very useful in more advanced classes where you are sorting/shedding or instances where you want to have the dog come into the pressure you're putting on the stock.  I likes!

So that's where we are now, working on the dry stuff and then going to start scouting around for a few new sheep who are veerrryyy docile and like to stay together quietly and some quackers now that we can. :)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sidewalk Chalk: EVIL, EVIL stuff

Darling Tornado Child and the Lilium Tigrinum left their sidewalk chalks on the driveway.

As it happens, sidewalk chalk when rained upon turns into rainbow colour sludge.

As it happens I did not notice this before shooing dogs and children alike out the door in a bid to make school drop off sometime before "Horribly Late" became "Embarassingly Horribly Late With Abject Appologies Owed To Teachers".

As it happens I noticed them bolting cheerfully through mudpuddles before coating themselves in rainbow colour sidewalk chalk sludge at the exact time Darling Tornado Child opened the doors for them to hop in.  In they went, skidding to a stop just before their faces impacted with the cargo barrier. (How they do this I'll never know but they always miss by a nanometer!)

As it happens now my car carpet looks like a clown vomited on it in little paw shaped skidmark patterns.  Share the joy!

Monday, May 30, 2011

the continuing adventures of an adorable Demonbaby

This week, we remember the other poor neglect cases in our training a bit more... in the face of "taking the puppy out every 15 minutes" and spending most of our time out socializing to every person/place/noise I can wrangle and/or playing, their training sessions have been um... well... kinda not... (On the other hand we've done several towns, heaps of people, footing surfaces, the vets 2x and are rocking the mobility aid socialization gig!)

So they are all remembering where they were in stands, Hope is recalling she has a bum and she needs to tuck it for her left about turns, Rin is practicing everything because she's Rin and does everything at warp speeds.

On the cute-adorable-all-kinds-of-wonderful puppybreath front...
 Skill-set stuff: mostly the same things but where we were working primarily in relatively non-distracting settings or where if the environment did have distractions they weren't immediate (as in under 1m) we're now starting to add some distractions for the behaviours she does at a decent duration
  • crinkling a wrapper (so HARD, she LOVES crinkle toys!)
  • rattling the food container, pieces on the ground one by one while she holds
  • small/brief movements with toys around her
  • me moving around - so stepping back/left/right 1 step, waving arms, shifting weight etc
  • asking for increasing duration near people getting a trolly at the shopping center or where the doors are opening and shutting as people walk in/out
  • while other dogs are walking around her at home and at club

    As she gets better at ignoring each they get progressively longer, louder and more attention grabbing. (wrapper 1 second in pocket, longer, 1 second out of pocket, longer, in moving hand, longer, with a flourish etc.  I've totally slacked off on stand, I just find it boring for some reason so that's currently our worst.  (Erm... same as the adults actually...)  Targeting I've started adding a tiny bit of 'you have to search for it' by placing a smidge around a corner.  The bite hold is stronger on tuggy, she is SUCH a little tug freak!  Retrieving has taken a bit of a dive - not unexpected as I was just grabbing a voluntary behaviour rather than teaching it properly - as she's determined she can keep it.  So voluntary object exchange will be played with a lot this week.  Restrained recalls, walking recalls and running recalls are all featuring heavily.  Manners stuff is just more of the same for now.

    Meanwhile I'm not the ONLY one teaching her things... Rin has been demonstrating the 101 Places Border Collies Don't Belong (But Go Anyway)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The past few days have been a bit of a blur.  "Cold" turned "chest infection" along with "totally lost my voice".  Poor Lily and Nic also had it as did La, so we all pretty well curled into balls, took ample amounts of  medicine and bonded over seeing who could hack up a lung first.

Unfortunately 7-8 week old puppies (age per the vets opinion) have little respect for wishing to quietly hide under the covers till the nasty bugs are gone so we've mainly been working on stuff at home.  We have gotten out to socialize some more today (finally!) and visited Paky and Gembrook as well as visited the vets to practice having a once over and standing on scales.  We've discovered the secret to socializing with men - go in the morning when all the tradies are getting their coffee!  GOBS of socialization to guys today! 

Our coolest socialization moment this week goes to this great big fella in full bikie kit - the jacket, the liberal use of chains, the tatts, headgear, sunglasses and massssivveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee beard, muttonchops and mustache.  He looked like someone you'd NOT want to meet in a dark alley but instead crouched down and cooed at her softly while asking to give some treats, telling me he'd just lost his dog this week and we'd made his day watching her be so clever and sweet.

She is becoming a lot more active and into everything, so the real fun begins!  She reminds me a lot of Cade actually - a bit of an old soul in that little fur jacket and similar traits.  Watching her as she checks out the cows echoed Cade's reactions to the young and curious horses we had around our place in Michigan.  When she is wild she is willlldddd and when she has had her fill of running she sits with me soft and serious-eyed as she considers the world.  She is a comfort seeker - give her a cozy blanket or a lap and she's curled up under your jacket.  She seems very paw oriented as well - loves to whack things, scuttle them and bat them before taking a massive pounce.  She seems deeply loathe of all things cold and wet and detests her poor princess paws getting wet.

Skill-set stuff:
  • sit and down at about 30 seconds duration (assuming quiet area, that goes to about 15 seconds out and about reliably.... though I was very tickled when she offered +30 seconds holding while very intently watching a tempting fluttering candy wrapper in town today before I decided to mark it while the marking opportunity was still good!
  • stand at about 5 seconds reliably (without shifting feet or offering targeting behaviours)
  • touch - now includes 'hit' (feet targeting), nose-to-palm and touch plates.  Touch plates are on the floor and at a short distance pretty well! (1 meter) 
  • watch me - about 14 seconds, a bit more in a non-distracting setting
  • tuggy - bite is still wanting to be very regrippy when she's very excited... I think it's the size of the bite surface though - hard for her to get back into a good grip position so I'm looking for a thin but softly braided one.
  • picking up an item (keys, rubber kids toy, tiny ball)
  • bringing back a thrown item
  • polite release (let go when requested and pop yerself into a sit kid) even while highly excited (aka in feral SHARK PUPPY MODE... dundun dundun dun dunnnnnnn....)
Manners stuff:
  • zen work
  • jaw/tooth grip moderation (iow jaw-wrestle games, very softly with mums hand thanks!)
  • body handling - focusing on head (reaching down toward, tugging lightly on the collar, putting head through things like the collar or circled fingers and examining teeth/eyes/ears etc)
  • LAT on the kittens (wrestling mobs of kittens are just SO TEMPTING to join... and then sit and yap at when they fail to respond to play bows and offers of tuggy)
  • environmentally cued sits while walking on lead when mum stops (pretty good unless there is something fairly distracting)
  • environmentally cued sits when people reach down to pet (about 60% of the time un-cued so obviously still plenty of work to do - made harder by the fact I'm usually trying to keep tabs on a free-roving 2 year old while teaching this!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Indoor play for a rainy day...

Well since it was bucketing rain most of the day and my shoulder is still sore (although much better - bless my chiro!) I found the third set of clothing my 2 year old needed changing into courtesy of flinging herself in the mud enough we broke out our indoor goodies!  After hosing them off we had our ever faithful BOXES.  Boxes are wonderful things for amusing 2 year olds and puppies alike - you can crash them, tumble them, hop into them, push them over from the inside, bop at the flappy lid bits and doors cut into them, hide in them, use them as tunnels, bash your toys around in them and chew them to shreds without mum becoming the least bit upset.  (Somewhat abashed if you happen to have 2 feet instead of 4 but not upset!)  I am certain the nice people at Bunnings think we are a special brand of crazy with the amount we get from them every week but you just can't beat a box in the bun/dog/kittens/kids opinion!

When I was called to pick up La from school after he spectacularly crashed and burned hard enough to register even on his limited sense of pain (well, at least a bit... 3 hours later we're explaining to him he oughtn't bash about and jump out of trees on a strain... *sigh*) we also brought out the ball pit balls in the kiddie wading pool and our newest find -

Check it out!  TWELVE dollars at Bunnings!  It's a tunnel and a hidey hole and it ROLLS either when you stand on it like this or run amok inside like a giant not-quite-spherical hamster ball! They amused themselves with this for the better part of 2.5 hours before dinner!

I also finally uploaded a vid of her from her on her 3rd day here (so 6week-ish old) trying to find a free editor that works with mov formats to put the clips together.

Random funny out-take shot - Kiah does a Tasmanian Devil impression!

My puddin tats... big kittens now!

Pipsqueek - still our little motor mouth, if I didn't know better I'd swear he was part Siamese just for the sheer amount of chatter that comes out of his mouth!

Possom - has gone from the smallest to second largest and taken after Pipsqueek in terms of his chatter.  He is the first and now LOUDEST to greet me in the morning or evening or upon entering or exiting a room or or or...!  If his chat fails to make his point, he'll happily hoist himself onto your lap before repeating himself!

Punkin is proving himself the quiet cuddler... he is a little bit more cautious than his hell-bent-for-leather siblings and wants to look before leaping.  At night he is one of the ones who will quietly snuggle himself near me and settle in before looking at me like, "Well, no one was using that space where they?  You don't expect me to put up with those crazies really?"  (Punkin will be looking for a home after he is neutered, vaxed and microchipped.  The adoption fee will reflect only the cost of this vetting.  He would like a quieter home with snuggles by the fire-side and would be okay older/quiet dogs, gentle older children, other cats and kitty-friendly house-bunnies as he's been fine with Nilla here.)

And then there is Princess Peachie Pie... don't let those sweet eyes fool you, this one is an adventure princess who is the first into everything!  If there is a stalking-pouncing-chasing game she is sure to be in the middle of it but also is happy to curl up in your arms and doze half the night once she's had run play.  (Peachie will be looking for a home after she is spayed, vaxed and microchipped. The adoption fee will reflect only the cost of this vetting.  She would enjoy older/quiet dogs, children and other cats but may enjoy pouncing type games a bit much to be an ideal companion for a house bunny although she's never bothered Nilla here.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Saturday and Sunday quickies

Saturday was rather boring as I've got a nice cold going and played narcoleptic half the day - waking up basically enough to feed and water everyone and ensure the kids weren't running too feral.  We did do some basic training with Kiah (yep - it has a name!) and Rin but other than that not much.

we loaded up on cold meds, loaded up the dogs and went to training.  So the girls got their runs in flyball and obedience and Kiah had an absolute blast - she got to meet some of her future flyball team-mates (Collie, Sheltie, Poodle, ShihTzu, Lab, JRT, Border Collie, Golden, various mixes), see the flyball box (ohhh... that is COOL!) and chase a ball and play tugs.  I managed to injure my shoulder (thanks Rin!) but still got through stepping in to teach an intermediate class and Hope's flyball before going home.  Really, really pleased that Hope was pulling some very close crosses with Maddie flawlessly and Rin was handling crosses, position changes and dual lanes like a pro!  Should make September start with a bang!

At home with Kiah did a few quick-bursts of the same stuff we'd started working on manners wise a few days ago, some restrained toy fetching and worked up her tuggy as well.  She got SO revved up with the tuggy which has little 'flappy' bits she went into zoomy mode and just ran in great laps for about 20 mins before flopping over.  Then we did some cardboard box games - we had a flat piece of cardboard she 'surfed' on while I pulled it around the floor - I'm thinking that'll be a favorite game, a 'tunnel' to be sent through/recall through and a small box to bop around the house with her paws like a hockey puck.  I also used an old computer keyboard and some bubble wrap as "weird surfaces it's fun to walk over" and had her jumping on and walking around on them, sits, drops etc.  She is a funny little nutter!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On her second day after school drop off she spent the early morning toddling around after us.
She met:
  •  the kittens more fully and learned that 4:1 are not odds in her favor with curious kittens.  Whichever she was sniffing the other two or three would be patting her tail.
  • the sheep and our neighbors visiting cows and jumped up for a better sniff but without being over the top excited.
  • gardeners with linetrimmers, leaf blowers and pruning sheers as well as hard-hats and protective goggles
  • various people at he hardware store, grocery and a park, cafe
  • plastic door strips on a shop that was closed, with Lily flipping them about and making all sorts of ruckus while I encouraged her to push them with her nose and investigate.

We had several tuggy sessions and introduced the idea of running out to a thrown toy (small rope bone and plastic baby teether) and bringing it back, again with polite releasing. More work on basic sits and downs, touching etc.  We also worked a bit on bite inhibition (aka YOUCH! needle teeth hurt!) playing very gentle mouth games with my fingers.

Friday after school drop off she met:
  • various people at Coles, the shopping strip and neighborhood in Pakenham and in Gembrook - not many men unfortunately.   
  • a community van which is equipped with automated lowering and raising ramps for wheelchair users which they were very nice in letting us go up to and have a meet-n-greet.
  • the 7-9's class at La's school as well.
    Manners wise we continued with sits and downs, making them downs from sits and sits from downs as well as continuing with targeting introducing a target plate.  We continued with retrieving thrown toys (soft tuggies and plastic teething rings) as well as tuggy. We introduced the idea that if she wants to get out or into her pen she needs to sit and be polite.  We introduced a bit of doggy zen, object trading, some basic body handling (light 'pinches' on the webbing between toes, feet, ears, lips, collar holding/tugging etc), some short and light restrained recalls and eye contact.  She's been absolute gold with her house training, not a single accident and only one time using the newspapers provided in her pen - which was really my fault as I had the choice between taking her out when I saw her looking fidgety and chasing the naked-wet-soapy 2 year old who was streaking through the house on her way to merry mayhem, so puppy got ploinked in her pen till I caught and nappied the 2 year old!
 As you can see a busy puppy is well behaved by default...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

 Quick puddins pics!  I missed the 5th weeks due to being ill and have the 6th weeks but my computer ran into some *cough* minor problems due to certain small cute people holding their sippy near it just as it's lid popped off.  Turns out computers don't swim well and it's having royal fits.  In the meantime I am having to use my laptop which doesn't have photo programs on it so it requires loading the whole files to photobucket and then resizing which is a pain! LOL

Rin 2.0

Over the past few months we'd been considering either bringing another working dog like Rin into our family because she is such a little treasure and so fun to work with or else a smaller dog as I miss having a littler dog around.  We eventually decided that it was probably better to put off a small dog for several more years (3rd in line after 2 more Aussies) and get the working dog now because a little dog would be more likely to get run into in the wild play my girls enjoy just because of the size difference and it would be nice for Rin to have someone around her age (not quite 2 yrs now) to play with given Hope (4.5) and Sierra (10) are past the puppy/teenage sillies and want to lay down after a good play instead of imitating an energizer bunny.  After looking at several dogs, I found a litter of Border x Kelpies who needed homes and looked very much like Rin and a week later went to visit with the girls.  This little cutiepie is who we all chose.

She's not named yet but her nickname is Demonbaby... anyone want to guess why???  (That's midsnarl with the tuggy. LOL)

She is super clever and in her first day home had about 200x reps in which she picked up the basics of a sit and down with about 15 seconds duration (reliably, occasionally a bit more) as well as targeting with a target wand with two bumps.  She's been started on building tuggy value and learning to take it only when told, with a nice balanced bite and letting go politely when told.  She met her collar and the leash and discovered she could walk politely.  Not bad for 8 weeks old and 24 hours home after not being off a farm before!

In her first full day home she went to: school 2x, pet store, nursery and on a walk around the grocery store
She met well over her "10 new people a day" and included little kids/older kids/older teens with hats/elderly people and using prams, a trolly, a zimmer frame, a pair of crutches, a cast on the leg without crutches and two mobility scooters which she made one ladies day by jumping up unafraid into her lap when she was called.