Monday, 27 May 2013

more videos!

Since I learned how to post videos, here are a few more from Piper and I's hike this morning. Piper is now 11 months old, I can't believe how this year has flown! She is the most amazing dog, I just love her to pieces.

Piper is still learning how to swim. She has no problem going in after a ball, but she still doesn't like it when her feet leave the bottom. I think she'll get over this once it's warm enough we can swim together!

She was so adorable leaping through the tall grass, and she was having so much fun! Pictures weren't capturing it, but I think the video did a pretty good job.

Friday, 24 May 2013

positive vs negative

The last year or so I've been following a blog written by Patricia McConnell, a well-known animal behaviourist and trainer. Most of her posts I find interesting, and every once in a while a subject comes up and I say "yes, finally somebody is talking about this!"

One such topic was about mounting, an ongoing issue for Ace. It was refreshing to hear from all the people who deal with this in their dogs, and learning how they deal with it.

Last week's topic was called Confrontational Techniques Elicit Aggression. You can read it here:
Reviewing a recently completed study, Trisha wrote:
"The most confrontational, and I would argue, aggressive, behaviors on the part of the owners resulted in the highest levels of aggressive responses from the dogs. 43% of dogs responded with aggression to being hit or kicked, 38% to having an owner grab their mouth and take out an object forcefully, 36% to having a muzzle put on (or attempted?), 29% to a “dominance down,” 26% to a jowl or scruff shake. You get the idea. Of course, these are all dogs who were seen by veterinary behaviorists for aggression-related problems, but it makes the data even more important. Violence begets violence, aggression begets aggression."

As someone who does use leash corrections, and occasional scruff shakes, I found this interesting. There is such a divide between people who use corrections and people who don't, and I feel a lot of personal pressure to be 100% positive all of the time, despite feeling that it is not in my personality to do so. I just don't have the patience, and honestly, I feel like many dogs will continue to be pushy until they're told they are not allowed to do that.

After 73 comments on this specific post (and I read pretty much all of them!), Trisha wrote:
"I go back to believing that we need to be thoughtful about over simplifying what we mean by good training; that it is essential to be as benevolent and positive as possible, which doesn’t always mean being “100% positive,” that corrections can be used on occasion without harming a dog, but need to be used sparingly and carefully, and that, most importantly, every dog needs us to be its coach and teacher, which means understanding the dog as an individual, and understanding the principles of learning in general."

This I think is the most important idea to come out of this whole thing. Corrections are ok, if used in appropriate context, and as long as the dog understands what it is being corrected for! Don't use corrections to teach, use them to reinforce what the dog already knows; use corrections only when necessary, not as a matter of routine. More important perhaps, it is imperative to understand your dog, know their thresholds, and make sure training brings them joy and an improved bond with you!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

almost swimming

Piper looks like she is almost ready to go swimming! She really wants to catch up to her friend, Jazsy.

Monday, 13 May 2013

herding instinct test

This past Saturday, Josh and I took Piper and Baron out to Alliston so they could be tested for herding instinct. It was a pretty stressful morning, figuring out what we needed to bring (not much) and how to time the drive. I really dislike driving to new places - we weren't sure exactly how to get there, or how long it was going to take. But we arrived safe and sound, after an hour and a half of driving.

Once there, we hopped out of the car and went to find someone in charge! The farm was very small, and we quickly found the correct person. It was very informal, which was nice, as we were all quite nervous. Even I hadn't seen sheep so close before!

We walked the dogs around a bit, trying to relax them. There were a number of dogs around, and of course the strange sights and smells of the farm animals. Piper took about 10 minutes to settle, Baron was quite worked up and took a little longer. Josh ended up leaving him in the car so he could watch (and take pictures of) Piper's session.

When they were ready for us, we went into a small gated area and put a long line on Piper, it was probably a horse lead. There were three sheep waiting for us in a larger pen attached to the one we were in. I took Piper through the gate, and the sheep started moving away. The tester had us follow the sheep, to see how Piper was reacting to them. After a few minutes she asked me to drop the lead, and Piper was off chasing sheep!

Piper chasing down a rogue sheep.

Generally she did very well, rounding them up pretty quickly. When they would separate she would chase one down, but often on the wrong side. It took her a little while to figure out what would work. Once the sheep were grouped she would just stand there watching them, and actually started to ignore them - sniffing the ground and going to visit Josh at the fence. Once they started moving again she went right back to work. The tester quite liked her, and said she shows great potential, but she needs some encouragement, and to learn what is expected of her. Not too bad for having never seen sheep before!
Trying to get another sheep back in line, this time correctly running on the outside!

Piper being told to "back off" by the tester.

Piper very properly moving the sheep around the pen.

Piper after the test...tired and happy!

I put Piper back in the car and Josh pulled out Baron. He settled much quicker without Piper around, and was fairly relaxed by the time they went into the ring. Once he saw those sheep, boy oh boy there was no stopping him! He pretty much had the sheep on the run the whole time he was in the pen. He knew his job and he did it! Baron's only problem was that he was a little too keen - he was pretty rough with the sheep, biting at their tails and such. He even came away with a big hunk of wool one time. Oops. The tester said he did very well, and scored him a bit higher than Piper. She also said he would be more difficult to train in herding, since he needs to broken of the biting before much else can happen.
Baron's on the move! Very efficiently moving the sheep.

Continuing to move the sheep in a circle...they were probably getting dizzy.

Baron chasing down a rogue sheep.

Great action shot, although poor judgement on Baron's behalf...this time separating a sheep out.

Baron being told to "back off" by the tester... in no uncertain terms!

Overall a very successful day, and now both puppies can add the title HIC (herding instinct certificate) to their names!

We are hoping to take them to herding lessons sometime in the near future, maybe in the fall. It was a joy to watch them do what they were bred for, they really are amazing animals.

Sunday, 5 May 2013