Monday, March 26, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Love Affair With An iPhone...

Whoa, what? I can post a blog entry from my phone? That means I can post them from wherever I am! For example: From schutzhund or agility training, when I am riding my elephant, or flying around with my purple & blue zebra. HOW COOL! Nina and Cadence think's it's pretty cool, too.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cadence does Agility!

As we get ready for our first trial, Cadence and I throw in a little bit of last-minuet training. She does awesome, as usual.

"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success." -Henry Ford

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What? It's my birthday?

That's right! Happy 17th birthday to me. But, according to us Italians, age doesn't matter... Unless you're cheese.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Brags that Include Pictures.

Cadence, Verdae, and I entered a UKC Show, a couple weekends ago. Both dogs did great! Verdae got 4 Best of Breed puppy and did very well in the puppy group. Cadence for 4 reserves and did very good in weight pull. I have good dogs.

Thank you, Julie, for the pictures. They're great!

Beach... Again.

Verdae, you are one spoiled rotten little doggie.

Buuuuut, I still love you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things.

Herm Sprenger Short Link 3mm Stainless Steel Fur Saver

Herm Sprenger Sieger Show Collar

Leather Drag Line

Elite Working Balls with "T" Handle

Blaster Tug Toy

Fenzi Frenzy

Do Dogs Seek Status?

I'm sure you all occasionally get the pack structure question, right?

  • "Which one is the dominant one?"
  • "Which one is in charge?"
  • "Which one is the Top Dog?"

Normally, this question comes from non-dog people. Or, perhaps, regular good ol' pet owners who are not members of the Crazy Dog Person club.

Usually, my initial obnoxious answer is "me." Recently, though, I have been asked this question by 3 or 4 actual CDP club members.

I don't see our little pack structure as this rigid linear thing. We do not have clearly defined ranks like the military. It's not like-

General Monica
Corporal Poo-Key
Sargent Nina
Staff Sargent Cadence
First Sargent Verdae 

I see it more like a family structure. The parent(s) are in in charge and the kids are just the kids-

Poo-Key – Nina – Cadence – Verdae

And before you start frowning, I am not comparing raising kids to raising dogs, nor do I think of my dogs as replacement kids. Just talking family layout here.

I usually explain that neither of the dogs have any interest in being in charge of anything as they are all cowardly by nature and I also tend to think of their relationship more in terms of levels of confidence, than dominance. Poo-Key is, overall, the more confident of the group. There are, however, certain situations where Cadence takes that roll.

I also think that most behavior that people refer to as dominant behavior is really just a dog being a pain in the butt. It is more likely due to any number of the following:
  • Being young.
  • Not trained.
  • Lacking confidence.
  • Being fearful.
  • Being encouraged to behave that way.
  • Having a generally obnoxious personality, perhaps a bully (or an German Shepherd… haha).
  • Trying to initiate play.
  • Trying to gain a resource.
  • Experiencing some pain.
  • etc.
So, all that got me thinking about status-seeking behavior. I am not someone who believes that a rigid pack structure exists. I have, however, referred to things as status-seeking behavior. If dogs don't live in a rigid structure why are they doing things to gain status? What do they think they are gaining?

I'm not even sure that dogs are capable of thinking about status in the same way we do. I don't think that they think long term like that. I don't think that a dog will sit around his house thinking…"well, I stole Fluffy's bone today, that knocked her down a peg or two. I'll do it again tomorrow and she'll be on the bottom. Next week, I'll start on Rex. In a few months, it'll all be mine!!!" No, just no. It just doesn't go like that. I think they are more in the moment. For example:
  • I want that bed NOW.
  • I want that bone NOW.
  • I want to pester you so you play with me NOW.
I don't know that a dog that steals a bone from another dog is thinking about status or dominance. I think they just want the dang bone! I could be totally off here. Maybe it's just my dogs. The perpetual young dog, Verdae, who just wants his needs taken care of right now, thankyouverymuch.

Poo-Key and Nina have this thing where they switch bones. They will both be chewing and one will get up. The other will take that ones' bone and the one that got up will take the other one. They do this frequently. It's like they are on a schedule. Fifteen minute chewing rotations. Shift work. When there is this voluntary swapping, we let it happen. We do not, however, allow one dog to take something from another dog just because they feel like it. It's fine in play, but if they are not playing it is not allowed. Are we interfering with "structure?" I don't think so. I think we are managing a three-bitch household (with the exception of Verdae) to do everything we can to avoid any possibility of a fight now or in the future. Sure, Poo-Key may let Nina take that bone from her right now, but what about tomorrow? It's not good for house harmony to allow behavior that could potentially escalate. Right?

Maybe it's the language that I have a hard time wrapping my head around? "Status seeking" and "dominant" when used in relation to people usually just means"jerk."

I don't like thinking of my dogs as jerks. Other people's, sure. Just not mine.

So, what are your thoughts on the whole "status seeking" thing? What are the relationships like at your house for you multi-dog people?

And, the funniest thing about these recent conversations is that all of the people thought Cadence was the dominant of the four! That makes me wonder if people, even CDP members, are just really shitty at reading dogs or I have absolutely no clue who's living in my house!

So, who is running the show here?!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Puppy Sitter Plus Visitors.

Verdae got to be a "puppy sitter" and hangout with grandma Julie and I. He even got visitors, how cool!

German Shepherd and Something Annoying.

I don't know if dogs can be autistic, but if they can, then he is. A friend refers to Verdae as a savant. I usually just call him an idiot. He is one of those dogs that could tell you the square root of 5842, but will walk into a screen door… Repeatedly. He is known to run into fences, sit with his tongue sticking out, and try desperately to enter a crate with its door closed.

If anyone is going home with a bruise, it's Verdae.

He truly is a special, one-of-a-kind dog. I'm not that biased. Others see it, too. There is something oddly human in his thought processes and facial expressions. Kind of creepy sometimes, actually. Like, he knows things that a dog shouldn't. He is not easily fooled and has no problem calling you out on a lie.

He really is the weirdest dog I have ever met. When people ask what he is I usually reply, "German Shepherd and something annoying."

He has a totally pure soul. Wears his heart on his sleeve. No ability to lie whatsoever. He is a very in-the-moment dog. He has a desperate need to not be "wrong" and does best when he knows, 100%, what is expected of him. I have spent the last 3 months convincing him that the sky is not falling. I think he is starting to believe me.

He loves to learn. Loves it. Figuring things out is a passion of his. Doesn't matter what it is or who it's for. He will quite willingly work for anyone. He just wants to do right. I remember the first day he offered me a behavior like it was yesterday. A little wave. One little paw thrust up in the air, with no prompting. He was so proud of himself for trying. So was I.

All that thinking also lends itself to feelings self-importance and independence. It's sometimes hard to convince him that he's not right. Verdae firmly believes that his hiking trail is the way back to the car, that his internal clock is right and, damn it, dinner should be at 2:30.

Verdae is a good barometer for me. If you are unsure of your mood or motives, look at Verdae. You'll know. I think he was sent here to teach me patience. I don't know how successful he has been, but we keep working on it. He makes me think in-the-moment, too. It's just about right now and having the most fun with what you have. He keeps my priorities straight.

He has taught me a great deal. I am grateful for his lessons and his company. Love you, Verdae!

Beach Day!

Okay, so it is still a few months early to put our boats and jet-skiis into the water, but according to Verdae, it is NEVER too early to put the German Shepherd in the water. Verdae loves everything and everyone (except the voices in his head)- The lake was no different. He loved it!

Yeah, I think he had fun.

If I Knew Then... No Counting!

I probably would have gotten goldfish instead.

Okay, maybe not fish. They are kinda hard to cuddle with. Although, you can totally teach fish agility now. See? Fish Training! They have hoops. NADAC fish agility.

I probably would not have gotten curious about how much money I have spent on agility. If you have not done agility forensic accounting already, do not. Don’t. Just don’t. Really, you won’t be happy.

It would have been a car!

A really nice cars’ worth of cash I have spent for the pleasure of getting up really early on weekends, sleeping in hotels with cement beds, questionable people in the parking lot, and either freezing my ass off or sweating buckets. And, I don't trial all that much. Some of you old-timers? Probably a house by now. Maybe a Nebraska house and not a Bay Area house, but still, a HOUSE!

We have some nerve ever thinking there is something wrong with our dogs. So they decided to go in the wrong end of a tunnel or skip that yellow bit on a contact. Whoopty-do. Are they the ones spending the equivalent of the GDP of Samoa to walk around in little circles with 50 other people with stopwatches pointing at nothing?

Perhaps we need the time out...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Summer in March? In Michigan!?

Today Verdae practiced his weave poles! He is now doing all 6 straight polls with drive and power. This is his 10th session using Susan Garrett's 2x2 (Excellence in Weave Pole Training) method. With Verdae, we are having great results! Even though there has been rumors saying German Shepherds cannot weave successfully using the 2x2 method, I decided to try it out with Verdae, after the first session, there is no doubt a German Shepherd can be trained using this method - And I very highly recommend it!

We will now put our weave pole training to a halt until his growth plates are closed. Below is a video by Susan Garrett followed by training pictures of Verdae from today.

Look at that power!!!

As a reward, Verdae got to play with Poo-Key in the hose, they both loved it! And to say the lease, Verdae DOES have that "Alta-Tollhaus Water Gene"...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trust is the Name of the Game.

Hi everyone,

Facebook is an awesome thing. It puts you in touch with so many wonderful ideas. I just watched a video from Susan Garrett about mental confidence and the importance of having a premental routine before a big event. Several things she said really hit home with me because, like her, I have learned over the years, that in order to be successful you have to trust your dog.

I find people of this generation of agility are lucky, there is so much more information today then there was back in 2006 when I started competing with my dog Poo-Key. Susan has teamed up with John Cullen to create a great workbook on how to prep for the pressure that comes with stressful competitons, whether for you, it is a local show or for others, a finals run at a national or world event. I highly recommend her new book. It is called , "Without Pressure, We Get No Diamonds."

Now with that said, I must say several things Susan said in her Vlog a few months ago that really hit home and it reminds me of a story.

When I first started agility back in 2006, like Susan, I was blessed with an incredible dog named Poo-Key. She was a great dog to start with. She gave me confidence and she was honest to a fault. Poo-Key was older when we started and I was only able to do a few shows a year so our time together was short. I took some time off for awhile and when I came back I began again with Nina, a nice steady dog and a little firecracker named Tynan.

Nina gave me my education, meaning I had no idea how to harness the wind and I knew I was in trouble. I knew then that I was going to have to go out and search for help to be able to run her successfully. I found many great handlers that helped me along the way, but for years we still struggled. Then one day I came to the realization that my problem was me. You see, I was not trusting her to do her job. Here I had given her a fabulous, rather expensive, education and I had no confidence in her, or maybe it was I had no confidence in myself.

So, at the next show I decided to run and do my job while trusting her to do hers. Amazingly we ran brilliantly. "Wow", I thought, I am on to something here. I continued to trust in her and we went on to do great things together.

Then came Tynan. He is the lucky one, mainly because I had it all figured out this time. I told myself when I first starting training him from the beginning, if I did my job and gave him a fabulous education that the trust would fall into place.

The first time I ran him at a show, I did not do that at all and it showed in my video. I came home and told myself that I would not repeat that mistake and moved forward. Well great things happened. Tynan did things that even Nina could not do and yet today he has never let me down on course. Yes, there are things we need to revisit and work on, but as long as I do my job then he is free to do his.

Bottom line, it took me years to understand this and I am glad I am able to share some of that much hard found knowledge with you today.

So my advice of the week is, trust in your dog. Give him or her their job, so you can do yours.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Someone Once Asked Me What Each Dog Meant to Me...

Poo-Key is my true inspiration and proof of unconditional love.

Nina is the perfect example of all that is good and true in this world.

Cadence represents that you can overcome any adversity and achieve great things.

Kira, even though I do not own her, reminds me that life is short - Live life to the fullest.

Verdae represents that we are given "time", it's what you do with it that is important...

Life's a Journey - Enjoy it!