Practice Makes Perfect

I am only three weeks into Nosework! Both dogs are doing quite well but it is interesting to see their different personalities and how they work when searching. When I initially started, I started on my own through an online school. It used a clicker method immediately on odor; clicking when your dog chose the "hot" tin -- the one with odor in it (opposed to the empty). It did not necessarily teach the "hunt" which is the nice part about taking classes with an instructor. I am undecided on which may work best for me, but I do like that the hunt or the "search" is being taught. 

In the first couple of weeks the food was hidden within a box. The dogs would search from box to box. Now, the food is not necessarily in a box -- but perhaps on, or hidden somewhere completely different. It also may be elevated or slightly hidden. Placement of the boxes do however, help trap the scent. In Chesnee's search #2 you can see the clear head snap as she catches odor walking past the yellow DeWalt box where the food is in between the basket and the box. She does quickly check in video #1, and as she passes the yellow DeWalt box by the couch you can see her head turn as she catches the scent as she was going to walk past it.

For Settler's first search the food is easily trapped in a large box. He however, really enjoys hunting and searching...and taking his time to do so. He is also not as comfortable with large objects around him, so I want to work him to become more comfortable going inside something. I almost felt once he knew where it was, it was too easy so he wanted to keep searching. Therefore he left primary, and continued to search. 

His second search was also quite simple. I did not think it would be as easy, but I put a box behind to help trap scent. He almost immediately found it. I will regroup for additional searches later in the week to add in more challenges. just a week!


On January 28th of 2018, this was my dog. I was given an assignment to have him retrieve an odd object (he had never had contact with this portable Kleenex pack) and bring it back and place it into my palm. 

I realized we had a decent foundation for learning to pick up new objects, but poor accuracy when placing them in my hand. 

I also realized he "mouthed" objects quite a bit. Instead of just holding them securely in his mouth they bobbled around and he eventually dropped them near me. And while near me was always good enough before, it was not any longer. So I had to up the criteria and my expectation. 

I worked multiple sessions per day, recording almost all of them. Within a week his accuracy became A LOT better. It is truly amazing the results we can get when we put the time and energy in. Many people working foundations with their dogs want to see results but are missing the key piece of putting the time in. They want change without any effort or work. These two videos, approximately one week apart, are great examples of how dedication and consistency in a very short time can change behaviors. All of my sessions were under 4:00 that I did. 

And why am I doing this? Well, I want him to be better on the agility field. While some of you may be scratching your heads it's important to understand how behaviors are interrelated and how behaviors in one spot will help us better achieve results in another. Patience is definitely the key, and understanding that sometimes we need to have one foundational behavior in order to help us get other behaviors in the long term.

On January 26th I decided to take a new avenue with my agility training and do something I had never really done before. I decided to work with a trainer referred to me by a trustworthy friend. I have never met this trainer before and everything is done through video submission. 

It has been very helpful in many ways: accountability, being able to watch back sessions since they are recorded, and having another opinion from someone who specializes in agility. I am so looking forward to this amazing journey and to see how every day behaviors get better as we move along in our training!

Strong Foundations

So here I am, backtracking. Well, not really backtracking...but returning back to foundational behaviors in order to make them stronger. Perhaps there were some I missed, skipped over, or moved through too quickly. I need to tighten up things I have allowed, and I am OK with that.

In my spare moments I find myself setting up a less than five minute video shoots recording behaviors such as hand touches, retrieves to a basket, tight circling around a cone, and successful ball throwing sessions where my dog does not detour off to take a pee break. And in the end? And in the end this is all preparation to get back started out on the agility field. So while it may not be DIRECTLY related (or seem to be so), I know it is. I know the expectations set will carry over. 

While I often find myself encouraging others to work their foundations regularly, here I am...working mine. And not only that, I video my sessions so I can watch them back - my timing, my body motions, my verbal cues, my dogs behaviors, his mannerisms, etc. AND THEN I also submit them to another trainer I am working closely with on my agility journey with my dogs. I cannot wait to clean up some of the things that have caused challenges for me and my dogs. I cannot wait to see the progress. 

The second part of all this is a completely new avenue for me. I found a certified NACSW instructor and am getting very much into nosework. In fact, I am obsessed. Eventually the dogs will search odor inside, outside, on vehicles, and in containers. It is a sport where your dog is in charge. I have put some time into learning about how a dog's nose works and how odor travels through the air to be a better teammate to my dog. I started with an online course, and was so intrigued I knew I had to find something live! It is absolutely fascinating. What's the dog can use its natural abilities...its nose! 

I am so incredibly excited about my agility journey and nosework journey! 



Odor Detection

What an interesting last couple of months it has been. 

I took both of my dogs to North Carolina and Maryland for half of the month during August to reenergize and refresh. It was a wonderful time away; however, upon my return Hurricane Irma was about to make its way through altering a lot of dog-sitting plans and arrangements. I guess it is all part of the experience of having your own business!

I am not entirely sure where September went....and even October. I gave my dogs a big break from agility and shifted from therapy work to odor detection (since it can also be done indoors). While I was very eager to do therapy work, some of the restrictions and requirements were not inline with my beliefs. I am always advocating for my in their best interest I decided to move a different direction. 


Here are a couple of videos on the start of our odor detection training. We started from scratch, so the first step was teaching value for understanding that odor "rewards." Once they were starting to associate the scent (birch) with the reward I was hopeful they would stay on the odor for a longer duration of time. 

WIth getting back into the swing of things (who wasn't exhausted after the hurricane!) I have taken sometime away from all training (besides just fun conditioning exercises) but am hopeful to get back on a training regimen!

Moving a Different Direction

I have recently been rethinking my direction within dog therapy a bit. While Chesnee has successfully completed her Canine Good Citizen, Community Canine, & Urban Canine, the final component is Pet Partners (or another similar therapy affiliate).

Unfortunately for me, my dog's health and wellness in terms of nutrition and vaccinations comes way before doing something "for fun" or for a hobby that sets certain parameters around nutrition requirements and vaccinations (especially when the individuals setting the requirements are not fully educated on the topics they are setting restrictions for). Pet Partners does not allow raw fed dogs and also does not allow Titers in place of vaccines. To me, this is just not something I am willing to compromise considering Chesnee's long health history. While we have the option of testing with a different organization, the options close by seem fairly disorganized when it comes to offering the test and I have become impatient waiting around. 

While we are eager to get back into agility and focus on growing within that sport, I have also become more and more interested in scent work. There was a time Chesnee did some tracking but we never progressed far enough to take it anywhere. I have decided I will begin an introduction to nose work through an online dog training academy. I will be beginning August 1st for a six week period to see how interested I am in this line of work. 

Looking forward to trying something new...


Back At It

Honestly, it feels so good to be back in the game training with Mary at Lucky Dog Company after a short break. Even though I am with dogs all day, every day...and my entire life practically is revolved around dogs, it stills gives me a wonderful outlet and I truly enjoy working with my own two. While I certainly work solo with my own on a regular basis, being in a class environment surrounded by others with similar goals is not only fun but also inspiring watching everyone else's progressions.

Chesnee is approximately eight years of age, so it amazes me when people think their older dogs are simply just "trained." Why stop working with them? Dogs enjoy pleasing, working hard and it is such great mental and physical stimulation for them. Chesnee started out with agility for fun, but I soon started to get the itch to do therapy work. Mary from Lucky Dog is so passionate about therapy it is such a pleasure to receive instruction from her. 

On the flip side, it is not too early to start working on basics with a puppy - basic engagement and rewarding behaviors we like. Chesnee and Settler are very different from one another and were trained very differently from the beginning. Looking back there were things I would change with both, but all I can do from this point on is train the dog in front of me. 

These last couple of months I have also been working on training myself and my reactions (staying positive even when the situation is not good) because Settler can be reactive and a handful since he can be very insecure. I have been so inspired by Mary (and Kris!) that I also have looked into the Professional Pet Guild and some additional stress-free and fear-free certifications not necessarily associated just with dog training but also pet care that I can be a part of. 

The first thing I became a part of is the Shock Free Coalition.  Check it out and educate yourself as well! I am disappointed in the number of people that reach out inquiring if shock collars are a good idea and the lack of education that surrounds them. Looking on the bright side I am glad they are asking before just going out and buying them.....

Chesnee after her 3rd Urban Canine class at Waterside Shops. 

Chesnee after her 3rd Urban Canine class at Waterside Shops. 

Settler participating in a therapy class at Lucky Dog which teaches and works on giving dogs skills necessary to have on a therapy visit. While Settler does not hold any titles (because he simply is just not ready) he can still successfully participate in class and work on a variety of skills.

Settler participating in a therapy class at Lucky Dog which teaches and works on giving dogs skills necessary to have on a therapy visit. While Settler does not hold any titles (because he simply is just not ready) he can still successfully participate in class and work on a variety of skills.

simple indoor drills

it's hot in florida. and we're lazy. let's face it. while exhausting our dogs physically always seems to be exactly what they need, a lot of people forget the mental aspect of it (yes! work your dog almost each day at least for a few minutes on their skills!). while settler the dalmatian certainly enjoys training and understands "shaping" it is always enjoyable doing a quick session with him to challenge his brain and help him learn new things. 

i have wanted a "hold" for a while, but have not put the time in consistently to get one. however, settler has a real strong retrieve and ability to touch objects when asked, so that is where i started again. he has mastered fetching the remote fairly decently, but today i wanted to try the dumbbell again, and also my sandal...just because it was in arms reach. 

it makes it easier to video yourself because i am able to tell my timing is a little off. i also can see when i am being consistent and more inconsistent with my criteria. 

i am certainly looking forward to being able to put more time in with basic training and also back on the therapy wagon with lucky dog. more to come soon!


It's Been Way Too Long!

Sometimes life gets in the way of spending five minutes with your dog to work them mentally (or even physically). Today I snuck in a short session working on backing up, rotating in heel position, driving to his bed, and wearing a hat (don't ask).

One of my all time favorite drills and behaviors is teaching a dog value for position - in this case value for my dog staying on (and driving to) his bed. This drill has been such a life saver especially when I have company or guests because I can rest assured he will remain in position.

Since Settler enjoys meeting people so much, he is very excited (although rarely leaving his four paws) to greet and say his hellos. Since this can be quite overwhelming for some people, I decided to teach him even more value for driving to a position when guests come into the house and remaining there. While he has been doing this for two years, I still do incrementally reinforce it because I want him to get better and better and increase his duration. People are very exciting, so I need to build even more value or excitement for the bed - with the ultimate reward being able to meet the guests. 

Here is a short clip of him working off a verbal cue driving to his bed, and ending in the position which is to turn around, offer a down, and hold until released. The "back up" cue has also come in handy for this since sometimes I am not entirely happy with his positioning, but am able to ask him to fix it by backing up so more of his body is on the bed. 

If I choose not to reinforce his "send to bed" when company arrives, I usually manage the situation by putting him in the crate. Having him on leash may also also be an option, but since he is able to control his impulses well enough to remain on his bed (and has fun doing it) that is what I have chosen to do with him. 

Too many people get advice of "my way or the highway." If something is not working that you are doing with your dog...change it. If it is not working and you are not getting results, it is time to stop and think (not at your dog's expense) about what you can change to help your dog succeed.