Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kimma - The Urban Hunter

Finnish Spitz are bred to hunt birds and sometimes small game by treeing them.  They bark and stare at their "prey" while moving their tails and essentially hypnotizing whatever it is.  They do this to give the hunter time to shoot, then they get a reward once the hunter comes over to claim the kill.  In groups, they have been used to hunt elk and even bear.  But birds are their main thing in Finland.  Here in the US, they are used for squirrel hunting, as we don't have the large types of birds that live in Finland. 

That being said, my guys do their fair share of treeing birds, and especially squirrels - we don't do the shooting and killing part, though.  We live outside of Houston, which is a large city.  There aren't any places around here where they could really hunt.  And I'm cool with that.  They get rewarded for good work by getting to tree something every once and a while, especially up one of the large trees in our backyard.

Now, Pentti has a natural tendency for treeing - his positioning looks correct, he stands still and does the tail wagging thing, and his barks are clear, evenly spaced, and different from his normal barks (which is sort of how it's supposed to be).  Kimma doesn't have that natural ability, though she does try. 

Here's where the fun comes in.  I took Kimma to Petsmart yesterday to buy some random stuff.  We go in, get our things, and go to leave.  But not before we've done some random training.  As we're doing bits of flatwork outside, we spot a parakeet on the curb - a pretty blue one.  It's not moving too much, which tells me it is probably hurt or sick, and I'm pretty sure it must have escaped the store (I don't think parakeets reside in the wilds of Houston :p).  I go back in and tell one of the cashiers that it is out there.  No one comes out, but we keep watch over the bird.  Eventually, Kimma gets tired of just looking at it, and barks.  The bird then flies and lands on top of the automatic doors. 

I go back in to the store, and find another person working and tell her about the parakeet.  Kimma and I go back outside to keep an eye on the bird.  Kimma decides that she's had enough of being polite, so she barks at it incessantly.  Then her tail goes.  And by golly, the girl is "treeing" this parakeet!  In good form!!! 

Of course once the people from the store came out, I told her thanks, and called her off of it, and she was sort of content to watch the people catch the parakeet with a little whining.  But it was still a very interesting thing to see! 

Good job, Kimma :p

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ruff Love

Poor Maui!
2 weeks and 1 day of Susan Garretts Ruff Love program to the letter.
And why? You may ask!

Maui is without question the best dog that I have ever had. He doesn't steal, chew or jump on anything that he shouldn't. He loves his crate and is very happy to spend endless periods of time there. In fact he is such a good dog that he has never heard the word NO! 
So why is he on the Ruff Love program... To build a better relationship with me.

Maui has learnt that if I am busy he can play with a toy on his own. The toy has become more interesting then me! So has the garden or any other distraction. So when I call him his response is, later lady can't you see I'm busy now!
This behaviour in the family pet is fine but we have a dream!... O.k so I have a dream... AGILITY STARDOM and beyond!

So... Ruff Love! 

Even after 2 weeks... each morning Maui refuses to come out of his crate. As this is when he gets his Gentle Leader put on. " I don't need no gentle leader Lady". BUT unfortunately for Maui he has a weakness for full fat cheese and this is how he begins each day!

I can not believe what a difference this program has made. My food driven dog after just 2 weeks is enjoying tugging with toys, returning toys to me and finding me interesting! 

Thank you Susan Garrett!

We are also currently doing her recallers course. WOW! 
Now if he would only stop reactive barking ... Success would be ours!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We get the dog we need...

...not always the dog we want.

I've heard that said numerous times, and I've always thought it was meant to make someone feel better about having a crazy, out of control dog  ::cough::Kimma::cough::

But the more I think about it, I do believe that "saying" has some merit.

I'm new to this whole thing, as last Friday marked my 1 year, 2 month anniversary of being a dog owner.  I always thought I would love having a dog that was easy, but still had high enough energy to enjoy lots of training and walks/hikes.  I NEVER thought that I would love having a dog that was as impossible as Kimma.  But I really do.

She and I have become so bonded, it's ridiculous.  The vet makes comments about it, as do people at the dog park/training class, and even my husband, Justin, claims that all she wants in life is to be near me.  Not to say that I don't love Pentti, because I absolutely do, but the relationship I have with Kimma is just so much deeper - probably because she can be such a terror and we've worked so hard to get where we are now.

In reflecting on all of this, I am realizing that even our personalities are quite alike.  The same goes for Justin with Pentti, and Margie with Maui.

Kimma is naturally very anxious, as am I.  She projects this in her leash-reactivity, and boredom barking.  She needs something to do, as do I.  Otherwise, we both become restless.  We also both have a bit of ADHD, which can turn into anxiety - we need something to do, but it has to change constantly.

Pentti is really laid back, as is Justin.  However, if you want to play ball/frisbee/tug with Pentti, he's all about!  Same goes for Justin with physical activity (running and playing hockey).  Both Pentti and Justin are totally cool with down time, but they can go all out with the best of them.  And neither of them likes to be around large groups.

Maui is a very particular dog.  He likes things to be a certain way, as Margie does.  Maui doesn't like to do things like roll on the grass, or in the dirt - he even protests when you try to make him lie down on an unclean surface!  But he does want to please, and likes having people/friends around him.

I'm not sure whether we push these traits on our dogs because of our own personalities, or if we just happen to get dogs to compliment us.  But the similarities are quite amusing, and the bonds we build are strong.

Though maybe not quite strong enough to cause a good recall....  ::cough::Kimma::cough::

"But...  But I love you!" says Kimma!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Random Assortment

I've been doing lots of "random" training lately.  Not sure why.  I guess there's so much I want to train, and so little time!  Plus, I don't think Kimma and Pentti would appreciate my attempting to keep their attention for long training sessions.  So we shall continue to keep it short and sweet!

I suppose I will separate this post according to dog.

We've been doing tons of proofing, especially with weaves, and prolonged sit/stay and down/stay.  Her weaves have gotten fantastic, except we still need tons of work with the more difficult entries in other environments.  She can do pretty much anything in the yard, but of course taking it to another field = WHHHAAA????

Another thing we've started working on is getting a good, solid heel.  With the help of another trainer, of course.  Goodness knows I have NO IDEA how to go about teaching heel.  So I pretty much am luring Kimma's face to my knee, and treating her like crazy when she gets there on her own.  Then I take slow, calculated steps, and treat her for keeping her face close ("close" is our verbal, BTW).

We do 90-degree turns, and I'm having her start to find her position from different angles.  And then there's circle work!  Kimma LOVES it!  Though she does bark the entire time we're doing it, hahaha.

Hmmm what else...  Oh yes!  Tighter turns involving jumps, and using jumps to work on focus and following me.  It's been so far so good with her focus, however!  Especially because hot dogs are now being use sparingly while training!!!  Oh happy day for Kimma!

Standing waits and trying to teach directionals have also been a bit of a focus.  She likes the idea of doing spin moves (the directionals), but hasn't quite gotten the concept of WHY I'm asking her to randomly spin in place different ways, hahah.  And she barks while moving, so I don't even think the girl can hear my verbal marker anyway!  What a crazy.  But her standing waits have become amazing.  That, along with some Doggy Zen should be good for her impusle control.

Overall, she's becoming quite the little canine athlete!  Still has tons of drive for the obstacles, though he developed a little bit of fear for the teeter for no apparent reason, and with her new-found realization that paying attention to Mom = treats, we're hopefully on our way!  As of now, she's actually eligible to compete in some venues (she's 15 months old), but I'm in no rush.  I want her debut to be amazing, and I'm not even going to bother until we fully become a team.

Then she will truly live up to her new nickname (given by a Facebook friend) - The Flying Finkie!!!

Here's a pic of her at training yesterday, taken by our trainer, Lesley!

Poor guy is still overwhelmed with the outside world.  By outside, I mean anything not in my house or in the yard.  He is now walking perfectly in the yard, but as soon as we head out into the driveway or the lawn, he freezes.  Won't play with toys, doesn't want treats (which isn't all that unusual anyway - he definitely loves toys more than treats), and doesn't even really want to go anywhere.  He just stares at nothing, LOL.

Today we did make some progress on the front lawn, however.  I just kept walking in circles and taking random turns, and each time he ended up next to me in a nice loose-leash position, he treated him, pet him, told him he was the best doggy in the world, etc.  So then we took it to the street and he did so well!  He didn't even care that the mailman was only about 30 feet away putting away the mail!

Other than that, we've been doing some Doggy Zen with him, too.  We have been working mostly with treats, and he's been good.  I'm sure it will be a bigger challenge when we switch to toys, though!

I can't wait to get him in a class...  But I know that I can do a lot of basic work with him beforehand, so I'm not in too much of a rush...  Even though I am...  LOL!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hey Mum...Where's My Treat? Oh What A Week!

Maui is completely food driven. Don't get me wrong, he loves to play with toys and really enjoys playing tug with me, but food rules in Maui's world! He will even drop his most treasured item, a tennis ball, when food makes an appearance.
In fact, the little guy will actually let you know what he enjoys most by the constant quiver in his underbite when he thinks something really really rocks!

So...what rocks? Well, this list has to start with cheese, cheese and more cheese. Stick cheese, fat free cheese, full fat cheese, he's not choosy when it comes to cheese. Closely followed by hot dogs. Any hot dog as long as it's not reduced fat, as the underbite does not move when this is offered. But hey, he will eat it if that's all that's going. I have offered him roast chicken, roast beef and even rare beef, but cheese and hot dogs are the ultimate for the little guy.

Now, Crate Games is his favorite thing to do with me. Why??? Food of course! In fact he often goes missing in the house and where do I find him? Trying to start Crate Games by sitting in the very back of his crate. I'm sure this is not what Susan Garrett had in mind!

Last Sunday Maui passed his CGC test with my husband handling him. Unbelievable event! My bark-happy, all-American dog now has letters behind his name! What can I say... I'm so proud of him. In the days that followed he was extremely well behaved on his walks. No pulling, no barking and walking around the neighborhood with the confidence of a graduate.
He brought his new found confidence to his agility class this week. I placed him on a long line and he followed and stayed with me for most of the class. However his new found confidence was to be short lived. As our class was coming to an end Maui decided to pay a visit to another dog who was running the course. Whilst I was removing the long line that was tangled around my shoe, I shouted for him to come to me. This feel on deaf ears and within seconds Maui was examining the tonsils and inner dental work of a very large dog. Maui's vocal range reached notes that I had never heard before!  Thankfully Toi Leo's aren't very tasty and Maui was released. Believe it or not... only minutes after his ordeal he ate cheese!
These photos where taken just before the lion became a rabbit!

Maui on the dog walk

Trying to weave!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kimma has manners?

Yes, that's right!  My little wild child has manners!  She was able to get her CGC (Canine Good Citizen) last weekend.

I, of course, was a nervous wreck.  She could have done a lot of stuff better (her "Out For a Walk" was a bit iffy), but I totally blame it on my nerves.  I was definitely overcompensating and spewing out random commands/kissy noises for no reason...  Ah well!  At least it's done, and I get a cool certificate to hang up somewhere!

As for the agility stuff, we have begun having her on a long string.  It's not like an actual lead, but just a thin, nylon string attached to her collar.  I think that it has really helped us the past few weeks.  Mostly because I know that if she does decide to go run off on her own, I can stop her.

So we have been treating after every obstacle, doing a lot of single jumps, releasing waits from different angles, etc.  All of which is helping.  Plus, I've been rewarding every little positive thing that she does.  Part of her issues probably stemmed from my lack of proofing and fading rewards too quickly.

Another thing that has really picked up is her weave training.  She is now doing 6 weaves outside, FAST.  It's awesome.  Since she still refuses to work for toys, I decided to try putting a bunch of goodies inside of an old treat pouch and throwing that instead.  You'd better believe that when that pouch comes out, she gets excited!  So she gets a mini-meal after doing a set of weaves.  It's building drive, and helping her not to look at me at the end.  We also started adding a jump at the beginning, and continue to work our entries.

Here's a quick video from last weekend (the same day she got her CGC!):

My camera cut out the first weave pole, so you can't see it, but she actually does have a correct entry.

Susan Garrett's Crate Games has also been a big part of life lately.  Well, I guess I should say that attempting to implement Crate Games has been a big part of life...  So far, we have been doing it about 3-4 times a week, hoping that it can help with impulse control and drive, and also make her feel a bit better about the time she spends in her crate.  I wish I knew about this method sooner!

Interestingly enough, the past couple of weeks have been HORRIBLE for Kimma's crate-hatred.  She barks like CRAZY if we are in the room and she is in the crate (say, if I'm doing dishes, cleaning, practicing, stuff where she can't be out anyway), and this causes her to therefore be awake, and she will sometimes pee.   Of course, she gets taken out then (I can either see her doing it if the blanket isn't down, or I hear it or hear her licking it, which is gross), defeating the purpose.  She's been through every crate training method imaginable, but she will not calm down in there unless she is SUPER tired.  It has been frustrating for everyone involved, including Pentti who is probably sick of her voice by now.

I have been diligent with putting the sheet down every time she barks, and lifting it after she's been quiet.  That, and the continuation of Crate Games has been helping.  I think.  Well she's in there now and she's quiet, so that's progress, right?


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hierarchy of Interest

Kimma is pretty reactive on leash.  She's getting better and better every day through tons of training and work, but I don't think she will ever be "bomb-proof."  I'm OK with that, as long as she is manageable and can walk reliably on a loose leash a good amount of the time.  It also helps when she doesn't freak out other people who are unfortunate enough to be walking past us with their dogs...

Pentti, on the other hand, is not nearly as reactive on leash, though not through my own doing - he came to us that way.  But even he has some issues.  The man can't walk with a loose leash to save his life.  We're working on it, but he is so sensitive that even turning around and going the other direction when he pulls can sometimes be enough to make him shut down.  But of course, in the show ring, he's fine.  Go figure!

Anyway, I think I've come up with out a pretty accurate hierarchy of interest for both of my crazies, based on their every day leash walking habits.  It doesn't necessarily mean that they bark at everything listed, but I can usually predict what they will react to and how bad the reaction will be.  The "items" listed go from least interesting to most interesting for each dog.

14.  People
13.  Kids 10 and under
12.  Strollers
11.  Females on bikes
10.  Males on bikes
9.  People running/jogging
8.  Skateboards/scooters
7.  Birds
6.  Dogs in a fenced in area (someone's yard, in the dog park when we're outside, etc.)5.  Ducks/geese
4.  Things blowing across the sidewalk/street (leaves, wrappers, etc.)
3.  People with dogs on leash
2.  Dogs off leash (usually where they aren't supposed to be, of course)
1.  Squirrels

7.  People of any age
6.  People running/jogging
5.  People on bikes/skateboards/scooters or with strollers
4.  Things blowing across the sidewalk/street
3.  People with dogs on leash/dogs in a fenced in area*
2.  Birds/ducks/geese

So yes.  Squirrels are where it's at.  Finnish Spitz were bred to hunt birds/small game, so it doesn't really surprise me, but the look on their faces when we see a squirrel is insane.  I sometimes let them tree the squirrels, but after they wait or perform some other task first.

If I had the money/time, I would actually LOVE to get them trained to hunt.  In fact, someone at a dog show even asked Pentti's handler if he could purchase him to be a squirrel hunting dog!  Nope, guy.  Sorry.  I guess the only hunting these barkers are going to do will be done in my yard!

In other news, WE GET PENTTI BACK FROM WESTMINSTER ON FRIDAY OR SATURDAY!  I can't wait to have my little cuddle bug back!  And I'm sure Kimma will be happy to have her live-in playmate home again!

*Luckily with Pentti, we haven't come in contact with any off leash dogs.  But I'm sure he would not react too well given his history, especially if they tried to sniff him.  (He was attacked at a show trying to defend his handler, so he is not a fan of random dogs)