Friday, 29 June 2012

Calm and Quiet and new Kennel

Last night Kobi and I tagged along to a soccer game my fiance's friends invited him to. I thought it would a fantastic opportunity to work on him being calm and quiet in an outdoor environment with a lot of noise and movement.

I packed up Kobi's bed, some high value treats (homemade freeze dried liver)  and his tug toy. Turns out the bed was a little unnecessary as he was much happier on the grass. But we got there and got settled as quickly as we could. Those first few minutes are always the hardest because all Kobi wants to do is run and meet people and play. Once I got his bed out he knew what was going on and though reluctant, laid down and started taking treats.
For the first half hour I was pez dispensing like a machine just to keep him from barking. The second half hour he had settled down enough that I was able to get some pictures! At that point though my fiance was playing closer to our side of the field and it was funny watching Kobi keeping his eyes glued on him to see what he was doing. But he stayed laying down and stayed quiet!

Kobi found himself a huge stick to play with, not unsual

I also bought a new kennel for us yesterday. I had found a cheap plastic one on Kijiji that I have just bought the week before, but I quickly discovered when picking it up, plastic crates are massive and aren't the best thing to have to lug around and put together. So I knew I either wanted a wire crate or a fabric one, but needed to keep an eye out for a relatively cheap one. Turns out one was spotted at winners! So yesterday morning I went to check it out. I must of looked like a crazy person trying to assemble this huge crate in the middle of the pet aisle at Winners but I needed to be sure Kobi would fit inside. So for $50 I found a large fabric crate that will be perfect for agility. It's nice and vented for those warm days, and it has a roof opening so that taller dogs can sit straight up in them (I'm not sure how well that would work but for me it's nice to be able to throw treats in from above while keeping the door closed.
The only thing I don't like about this crate  is that the door is on the long side of it rather then the short end. Kobi is still convinced that the crate will eat him, but at least with the plastic crate it was easy to toss some high value treats to the very back and have him go look for them and then work on getting him to turn around in the crate and finally lay down in it. We were making some serious progress with the plastic one but are now back ti square one with the fabric one. The problem with the side opening is that Kobi only needs to get his front paws into find the treats and I don't want to just shove his back legs in (as tempting as it is) because I know it'll freak him right out. I'll take my time and hopefully he'll learn to love it. Hopefully soon because I would like to start taking it to class with me so that he can learn to relax in his crate while other dogs are around.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Kennel Games during meal time

Since getting the new Kennel for Kobi, feedings have been our training times with the kennel.

For the first couple of days we would just toss handfuls of his meals into the back of the kennel just to get his head and eventually all four feet inside.
Once he was able to get all his feet inside we then worked on getting him to turn around in the kennel and feeding him towards the front of the kennel while his whole body was inside.
 The next day we worked on getting him to lie down in the kennel and would only get food if he was lying down in the kennel.
The next day we worked on having him "Go to his Kennel", turn around and lie down before he would get food and to be able to do this repeatedly.
We focused on getting him in and lying down for a couple of days to make sure he was comfortable in the kennel before progressing to some more "difficult" kennel games.

These games would be great for a puppy as well to make sure that they really love their kennel. We still don't have the door on the kennel and won't be adding it until Kobi is able to stay in the kennel for extended periods of time without it. The point of this is that the door shouldn't make him feel trapped in the kennel, the door will become more of a security measure to ensure he doesn't leave the kennel when I'm not looking to reinforce that he is only allowed to exit the kennel when given his release cue, which for us is  "release".

Kennel Game #1

Once they are getting comfortable going into the kennel and laying down, start extending the period of time between treats. Make sure that your dog is successful, try to avoid having them get up and exit before they are released. To avoid that, start with very short periods of time, just a few seconds, and reward often as well as release them often. Once they start to get the idea that staying in the kennel gets them treats, start leaving the room, sit on the couch, run around, do jumping jacks, make your cat walk by, anything! to start generalizing having them staying in the kennel. This is taught the same as with a stay, the only difference being they can move and change positions in the kennel, so long as they don't leave it. Be sure to decrease your expectations as you increase the difficulty. (We're still at the leave for just a couple seconds phase but this is how I trained Kobi's stay which is pretty solid).

Kennel Game #2

This game can be taught first if your dog doesn't have a great stay or has never been taught a release cue. Kobi knows what "release" means so he only needed a small amount of work to generalize the release cue to the kennel as well. You can use a new release cue for the kennel or the same one you already use. To teach them that they are only allowed out when released, have them enter into the kennel and say your cue word before they exit the kennel. At first it's okay if they walk straight out, so long as you say your cue word before they exit. After a few times get them to wait a few seconds before giving your cue. If they try to leave before the cue is given just block the doorway so that they must stay inside. They can be in any position when the cue is given so long as they are still inside the kennel. If they are for whatever reason reluctant to leave the kennel, try to encourage them out. If you find you need to give a lot of encouragement to get them out or they just aren't moving, attach a leash to their collar and give a light tug to get them to come out when the cue is given. This will prevent your dog from rushing the kennel door when your go to release them. As mentioned before the door should only be added security rather then the thing containing them.

Kennel Game # 3

Building drive/ excitement about the kennel. This one is particularly important for us where Kobi is still a little less then thrilled about the kennel. In agility this is called "Push Back and Jam". Get your dog lined up in front of the kennel, standing or sitting. Show them the treats you have in your hand (his kibble) and toss them to the back of the kennel (I find it helps if it hits the back wall so they can hear it). Push lightly on their chest and when they are looking straight into the kennel, release them in a very excited voice and watch them rush straight in! Just don't forget to use your release cue when they exit the kennel afterwards.

Monday, 25 June 2012

How to Build a Practice Agility Tunnel

We were finally introduced to some of the agility equipment in our final two foundations classes, and Kobi's lack of confidence became incredibly apparent. Kobi was able to get through every obstacle at least once, but simply being around them freaked him out and actually cause him to have some out bursts towards other dogs that got to close to his space.

Since adopting Kobi, he has been terrified of enclosed spaces and it's that reason that we decided to not crate train him. But his fear of enclosed spaces reared its ugly head when we tried to get Kobi to go into the tunnel. He wanted nothing to do it and found it incredibly stressful. So I decided that in my two weeks off before starting level 2 I needed to boost his confidence, and what better way then to start with the scariest obstacle first, but to do that I needed a tunnel, and for anyone who has looked into getting themselves a tunnel there are only two options. You can either get the real deal for $150 (not in my price range) or you can buy a kid's tunnel, but they tend to be on the small side. So I decided to get creative a make one!

For less than $20 I was able to make a 4ft practice tunnel. It wouldn't support a curve, but is great for a dog like Kobi who just needs to learn that going through the tunnel isn't all that bad, and I can then start building some drive for the tunnel. This size is also perfect for indoor use and for small backyards as it can be collapsed or expanded for transport and various sizes to practice with.

What you'll need:

- A tarp (any size you want, I used a 4ftX 6ft tarp)
- Tarp tape or duct tape
- Coiled rubberized tubing (mine was about an inch in diameter, you could go smaller but I wouldn't get much bigger.

According to agility rules tunnels must range from 20"-24" diameter in competition. I made mine 24".
1. Cut your tubing to the appropriate length, I only needed about half of mine. Keep in min you need enough length for the coils to size properly, but you don't want so much that you can't alter the size of the tunnel.
2. Create a 24" loop at each end of the tubing
3. Coil all your tubing up so the spirals are the appropriate diameter.
4. You may need a hand for the next couple of steps, line each of the loops with the edge of the tarp and tape the loops to the tarp.
5. Spread the coils out and try to ensure they're all about the same size.
6. Start taping the coils to the tarp.
7. Roll the the tarp around the coils and continue taping
8. Repeat step 7 until all the tarp is wrapped around the coil.
9. Tape down any seems and make sure the coils are securely attached to the tarp so the dog doesn't trip wen going through the tunnel.
 10. Enjoy!

Kobi trying to help out

It's not the prettiest tunnel around but it serves it's purpose.

Saturday, 23 June 2012


I have yet again failed miserably at keeping track of things and updating. I've been intensely busy with teaching motorcycle courses, working at the theater and with just life in general. Well things are finally settling down and it looks like I'll find some time to post again.

Here's a quick run down of what's been going on in our lives.

Couple of Sunday's ago we went to the Paws for a Cause dog walk at the Dingle park. Kobi did half awesome half terrible, and I think the terrible was more my fault. The walk started over an hour late meaning we had to stand around for the entire time and that is not something Kobi enjoys. The walk was great, but short, I wish they had planned a longer route. After the walk, I should have left, but I didn't because someone hinted that we would be winning the owner dog look alike, and we did, but as they decided to finally give us our prize Kobi hit his threshold and flipped out. But that was my fault for not leaving when I should have.
The goodies we won... not worth the out busrt from Kobi.

Last week in class we finally encountered some agility equipment and I was soooo impressed with Kobi. He has such low confidence that silly little things scare the crap out of him. We started with a teeter board and thanks to teaching him "Step Up" he immediately planted his feet on the board without hesitation. When the board moved he was a little freaked out but thanks to lots of praise and treats he didn't get totally freaked out. We had some trouble with the tunnel, our trainer had to help direct him inside while I played with his toy on the other side, but he went through once! Same thing happened with the tire, but he got through once which makes me happy!

Kobi and I went on our first ever walk with no treats!!! That's right, not a single treat! And he still stayed at my side and didn't bark once. All the hard work paid off! His loose leash walking has come along so well I'm not able to walk Kobi and Scout together again! I used to have to walk them one at a time so that I could give Kobi my full attention.

We bought ourselves a dog crate. I have never been a fan of crate training and don't think it's necessary for us, but after going to that fun match a little while back I realized just how useful a crate could be in those environments. If I had been participating in the match I along with everyone else would need to go check out the course without Kobi, I would need to pay fees, go to the bathroom, get stuff from the car, all without Kobi. So a crate is really the only option for us. It's currently set up in our living room with the door removed so he can go in and out as he pleases, so far he still prefers out. But he's been eating all his meals from the crate and I frequently toss some treats or a toy in to get him going inside and realizing that the crate is becoming the source for all things fun and yummy. Kobi is terrified of confined spaces so we're taking it slow, I'm not pushing him in or getting him in and closing the door on him, he'll learn to love it on his own time.

Well I think that's about it that's happened. I'll be sure to try to do a better job at keeping up to date from now on.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Day Behind

So I totally missed the Dog Agility Blog Action Day regarding attitude, but it's something I think is important so here's my quick thoughts about it before heading off to work.

Kobi has been making leaps and bounds in his progress lately and part of that could be due to him maturing, but part of my likes to think it has to do with my attitude towards him. For so long I was so convinced he would be the best Therapy Dog there ever was even though he's so far presented all the signs of being the worst Therapy Dog. I kept comparing him to Scout and thinking "If only you were more like Scout". Well guess what, Kobi is not Scout. Obvious to most other people, but it was hard for me to accept that. Scout it Scout. Scout is amazing and truely one of a kind, why I thought I could magically conjure up a mini Scout was ridiculous. Kobi is Kobi. Sure he can be annoying and frustrating, but I wouldn't trade him for the world.
Kobi is an amazing little guy and he makes me happy. Scout does to, but in a different way. Scout is my calm compassionate side where as Kobi is my fun goofy side.

Learning to accept Kobi was huge, lowering my expectations of him was another huge step, but the efforts are paying off. We've just gotten started in agility and I am amazed with him. I see the others in class clearly struggling to get their dogs to even just play with a tug toy while Kobi does it with gusto.  I can sometimes see the jealous faces gazing our way with the interior monologue of "why can't my dog be like that". What they probably don't realize is that the second the exercise is done and we go back to relaxing, I'm the one looking around in jealousy. The class doesn't really see the ridiculous side of Kobi until the trainer attempts to use him for a demo then has to switch to another dog because he's just soooooo excited.

My attitude so far in agility has been a pretty relaxed one. I'm letting things be, I'm having fun. That's what matters. I still really really want to do Therapy Dog with Kobi, but I'm not ready to try. I know I would fail him because I would expect too much from him. With agility though, I'm doing it for fun.I'm doing this for Kobi as a way for him to have a job in the hopes that he learns some of the focus and skills he'll eventually need for Therapy Dog work. I constantly see that jealous face on people at classes, seizing each other up and trying to determine who has the best dog. There seems to be a real competitiveness involved in agility. I honestly don't care about that. I'm doing this for us, all that matters is me and Kobi (and Scout). If he struggles with something, I'll make an effort to work harder on it, not get mad at him. If he has a reaction, I asses what I could have done to prevent it. Right now my agility world is a little bubble that consists of me and the work I'm doing with Kobi, no one else matters. I'm having a blast with training and I want it to remain that way, the second agility isn't fun anymore, what's the point?

I look forward to all that we have to teach each other in the up coming years.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Difficulties of Apartment Dog Living

I consider myself incredibly lucky to be in the apartment I'm currently in. We have a fantastic land lord who lived in the space previously with his two weimerainers. We have a yard which is pretty rare in Halifax rentals, and we live in a fantastic dog friendly neighborhood.

Now all that being said there are difficulties that come from being in an apartment no matter what.

Having a reactive dog, little things like sounds are a big barking trigger for Kobi. We are fortunate to be on the top floor flat of the building, but that being said, when new tenates move in or out, he gets very stressed, we can also sometimes hear the people downstairs moving things around or walking around (not sure how that works). The sounds of doors slamming is also another thing that bothers Kobi.

We consider ourselves to be relatively private renters, we like to do our own thing on our own time and don't force ourselves into getting to know our neighbours, however, when you have a dog, things don't always seem to work out that way. There is usually a lot of explaining of our dogs behaviours, such as him freaking out if we try to walk out our front door at the same time as the down stairs neighbour, or if they try to wave and say hi on the street.

Having a shared backyard also makes things interesting. The previous tenants downstairs rarely if ever used the yard space meaning we felt safe letting Kobi and Scout out at pretty well any time of day. Our new tenants on the other hand have a dog of their own (which is great for when they want to play because they get along great),  but isn't so great when Kobi needs to go out to the bathroom. There is nothing worse then your poor dog trying to find a spot to pee only top be rushed at by the other dog wanting to play.

Finally, with our shared backyard, is the entrance to the basement unit of the building, meaning to get in and out of their unit they must come through the backyard. For most of the year we have had little to no interaction with this tenant, but when we do, it's not very pleasant. I will be letting Kobi out for his morning pee (on a long line incase situations like this happen) when the downstairs tenant will burst out the door which freaks Kobi out. He hates nothing more then having people just appear in  "his" backyard. Kobi will usually charge at the "intruder" barking like crazy, and if he assess he's not too scared, jump on them.
Now I know this is by no means good behaviour from Kobi, but what bothers me is how disdained this tenant gets when it happens. This tenant rented the unit knowing full well it was a dog friendly apartment, knowing they had to enter and exit through the dog area. I've tried talking to this tenant before to explain that Kobi gets freaked out, but they refuse to acknowledge me and will even lower their head and ignore me if I pass them on the street (with or without the dogs). I understand that they are fully entitled to their privacy, but if living in a three unit dog friendly building with yard entrance seems to be such an annoyance, why not live in a low rise or high rise where you can be truely annonymous. Lastly of my pet peeves with this particular renter, there are so many people in Halifax desperately seeking dog friendly rentals, and this one is being wasted on someone who clearly is not a fan of them (they don't even like Scout and all Scout does is stand there).

Despite my frustration with certain aspects of apartment living, I love where we live, I love our unit, we have awesome landlords and it's great that  Kobi has a doggy friend to play with. Dog friendly apartments are hard to come by and compared to our last rental, this place is a palace.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Low Calorie Treats

For constantly having treats floating around the house in copious amounts for training, our dogs rarely get treats just for treats.

Kobi gets so many treats within the day as part of his training efforts that I never feel that he needs treats for treats. When he does get a treat it's usually a long lasting bone to keep him occupied for a little while. 

The trick with treats at our house is making sure there is a fair balance, which I usually fail at. If I'm training at home with Kobi, he'll be getting a pile of treats while poor Scout just looks on longingly. But if they are getting a large treat we make sure to give them each one of the same thing to ensure fairness and no fighting. Recently I discovered that Kobi goes crazy for carrots which is a blessing because I can now give him a full carrot in the place of a bone and because Kobi is such a slow chewer it takes him almost as long to eat the carrot as it takes him to eat a bone.

Now that being said, Kobi must preform a task to get a treat, whether he's training or I'm giving him a bone, he has to work for it, and the bigger the treat, the harder he has to work (multiple commands in a row), where as Scout on the other hand, just gets the treat. He's worked hard over the years we've had him and preformed trick after trick when on his Therapy Dog visits, Scout is a retired dog.

When we did do Therapy Dog visits low calorie treats were a must for us. Some volunteers have tried to not allow their dogs any treats during visits to avoid a growing waistline, but I personally found that people would get disappointed when told that they couldn't give your dog  a treat.

When I was doing my visits with Scout I had gotten into making treats and at the time low calorie dog treats weren't really in demand. So we found two types of treats that worked for us, they weren't the healthiest of treats, but they were the perfect size and were low in calories, meaning Scout could eat a pile of them on his visits, skip a little food at dinner then still be on track.

When visiting we used primarily Good Bites dog treats, they were small mini shaped bones (and sadly the look of the treat when doing therapy dog visits is important to, people like the idea of giving a dog a bone, even if it's a miniature bone.) We would also use the Temptation Cat treats as a last resort when we couldn't find the Good Bite treats.
The only problem that arose from using these small treats was having to prove to people that Scout wouldn't munch their fingers off when presenting him with a treat and having to show kids in particular, how to give a treat in the palm of their hand if they were nervous that Scout would nip their fingers. Scout was always a gentlemen and never lunged at treats, he would gently take the end sticking out from your fingers and wait for you to release the treat before practically swallowing it whole.

Now that I've started making my own treats I'm hoping to make some treats that are just for treats. As Kobi progresses in his training he requires fewer and fewer treats on daily activities such as walks, leaving room to give him a couple more just because. And Scout, he'll continue to get treats just because.

Monday, 4 June 2012

WOW, it's been so long!

So it's been almost a full two weeks since my last post! Life has been crazy to say the least. With the summer months for me comes more work. During the summer I'm a a Safe Rider Trainer, which is essentially a fancy way of saying that I teach people how to drive motorcycles. I've been working a lot recently and my days start around 6 am and I get home around 6, so updating my blog has been pretty low on my priority list.

That being said we've had some major leaps forward in Kobi's progress, as well as some steps back.

Two sunday's ago we went to the Blue Nose Marathon. (My phone died a couple days ago and the pictures of Kobi at the event got lost....). We walked around the downtown area for about two hours in some pretty intense crowds, something Kobi has only encountered once last year. I went prepared with lots of treats and low expectations. I've been noticing a lot recently that when I have zero expectations of Kobi, is when he does his best, where as when I do have some expectations of him is when he seems to struggle. Kobi did amazing in the crowds, there was lots of loud noise, people running and yelling and he stayed relaxed. He let people meet him politely and met some other dogs politely. All in all it was a fantastic morning.

Later that afternoon we went camping in Porters Lake for the long weekend. Getting there was a bit stressful as I had to pack everything up on my own which meant I forgot a few things. This was our second time camping with Kobi. We went camping last year at Dollar Lake and had a fantastic time. This time was rough, mainly for Kobi. Because it was the long weekend the campgrounds were packed, and every camper seemed to have a dog, so even though we chose a relatively private walk in site, the two adjacent sites had running kids and young playful dogs. So Kobi spent almost the entire two days growling and barking from discomfort. I would like to go camping again but I think I will do several things differently with regards to Kobi to ensure he has a more relaxing time and actually enjoys the experience more.

We also had another fantastic agility class this week. We worked on a few skills that sadly I didn't have much time to work on at home before class but that didn't seem to stop him from learning the new skills and preforming them incredibly well. What was most exciting was the fact that he was able to get ramped up and work, but choose on his own to go back to his bed and relax. This is huge progress because he is starting to recognize when he is getting overwhelmed and choosing to relax rather then continue to get revved up.

Lastly we tagged along with a friend of mine yesterday to a fun match in mount uniake. I've never been to a fun match before so it was new for both me an Kobi. The event took place at an old horse barn, so Kobi and I found a stall to set up a blanket for me to sit on, Kobi's bed and get out a pile of treats. For most of the time we just sat and relaxed, walked around a bit and did some basic work such as circles and nose touches to my hand and to a target. Kobi had a bit of trouble with the sound of people walking on gravel at first but quickly settled down and stopped reacting to it. We finally got the chance to meet Shiva and Kristine from Rescued Insanity and got the chance to see Shiva do a fantastic run as well as see some of her quirky antics. (I seem to be having zero luck with phones. I had a video of Shiva's run but I uploaded Harleys first and now it's just gone along with all the pictures from my phone. I'll make sure to post it later if I ever manage to retrieve it.)