Jul 31, 2010


Part of my adventure with Potion has been a learning curve of dealing with a very skilled toy murderer. While all my puppies have gone through teething periods and had their share of inappropriate chewings, the only murdered toys were soft toys - and all stopped after teething.

Since we're getting an education in toys able to withstand (or not) Potion's teeth of doom, I decided to share our experiences with different toys. I'll post reviews of the toys we've tried so far over the next few days. :) If you know of a toy that we should test, please let us know!

Jul 11, 2010

Finishes, and Heel position in general

So this morning we worked on  finishes and heel position in general for Potion's breakfast. She got quite annoyed at me at one point (this is our first time shaping something relative to me vs another object or just herself) and barked at me - she was about as unimpressed with my reaction as I was to being barked at. ;)

My main goal for the breakfast session was to get her to realize the behavior I want may be in relation to me, rather than teaching competition-quality any of the above in a single session. In the beginning I had to move a little bit in order to get her to move around and would c/t anything remotely close to my left side. The criteria got gradually more specific until I was requiring she be facing the same way as me and fairly close to me. What I found quite interesting is because of the treat delivery (in this session I tended to toss treats away in front of me to reset for another attempt) she began offering both finishes on her return to heel position. She had a slight favoritism towards the around finish over the swing finish but I rewarded either. The favoritism may be based on my response - the around finish is easier to get a nice response so probably got small jackpots more frequently than the swing finishes where I was weighing if it was good enough to c/t that.

As you may have noticed, I don't necessarily work on a single behavior straight through in consecutive sessions - I'll probably do the stand / down again for dinner tonight but prefer to change things up. I've yet to see a reason not to in the training sessions thus far (both with Potion and other dogs) so may as well. ;) I find myself more prone to getting frustrated (and/or raise criteria too quickly from session to session) if I do multiple sessions in a row on the same behavior. Easier to have more realistic expectations when "we haven't worked on it in a while." :)

Going to be quite scarce for the next few days - a friend of mine and I (Angie of Humble Schnauzers and a Sam) are going to NC to pick up her new Samoyed puppy from Brandy (of Agility Laughs). He's making his trek from his breeder, Donna of Wintersong Samoyeds, to Brandy's in NC where we'll pick him up on Monday. Lots of pictures to follow of this handsome boy I'm sure!

Jul 10, 2010

Today's dinner session

I'm going to try to do better about blogging about particular sessions, at least most of the time. I try to train with at least one meal per day on average - kibble is high enough value to Potion to work with enthusiasm (especially at meal times) and it keeps my more "interesting" reward options much more special when they're available.

Today we worked on stand and down on verbal cue up on a grooming table (not necessarily a specific reason for the table, other than it minimized movement and made it a bit easier to see more clearly what she was doing). I picked these two to start since she has some issues trying to throw in sit between stand repetitions. I've left it alone for a while and worked on other things - I prefer to leave things alone for a bit when I run into a problem that is going to take some thought to solve, and come back to it once I feel I have a different approach that may be more successful. Beating away at it session after session isn't going to make progress.

Interestingly enough, I did not observe Potion throwing in a single sit in the table sessions. I think we'll need another session or two on verbal discriminations between stand and down (as well as building duration in each) and I will probably move from the table to the floor in 1-1.5 sessions. Since the table seems to have made a difference in her throwing in sits, I see no reason to mess with what's working ;) and is apparently encouraging her to not rehearse the behavior. I will probably wait until stand and down are very strong behaviors before adding in sit into the discrimination, to hopefully alleviate the issue of tossing it in at random.

I have to say I'm going to have to get quite creative to keep her occupied with mostly non-agility stuff for at least the next 6 months. I really want to hold off til she's at least 10 months before beginning any "serious" agility, since the methods I intend to use (Linda Mecklenburg's Developing Jumping Skills and Susan Garrett's 2x2 Weaves) progress fairly quickly to full height/difficulty. Both recommend waiting until the dog is ready for the full height/difficulty work before starting due to that. Potion's certainly not making that easy with how quickly she powers through things though ;)


I've always done a (possibly tweaked) version of the Choose To Heel method when teaching my dogs to heel, but have since learned about the method that Fanny Gott (link to the right) has blogged about. It seems quite interesting to me, and I think it's a sensible way to be able to train heeling during the same period you're training for the show ring without the two conflicting (since in the beginning stages they look entirely different). So I think once I've done some of the prerequisite work below (front position, heel position, and finishes) I may give it a go with Potion. :)

I should make a list of stuff I want to work on in the near future (or already am) since lists supposedly keep people more on track ;)
  • Nose-to-hand touch
  • Positions (on verbal cue + building duration [stand especially])
  • Front and Heel positions
  • Finishes
  • Crate Games
  • Wobble board work
  • Perch work
  • Handstand?
  • Back up
Yes... you really saw a list fairly agility-free, despite me being a huge agility addict. I'm biding my time on starting the agility, primarily because I think it's going to go insanely quickly once we start, so I want her to be close to a (IMO) acceptable age to be doing the full height/difficulty of that obstacle before we do much with it. She's making it terribly difficult though :) And I suspect we'll start the super tame stuff before long, such as tunnels and the pause table. I will hold off a bit longer yet on starting to teach her a running dog walk. I don't have concerns about the obstacle itself being remotely stressful on the body - however I do have reservations based on her current coordination. I'd like her to be a bit more balanced and sure-footed before we get to the point of having the plank up at much of any elevation. The last thing I want/need is her to splat off the side and hurt herself. As you can see below.. the coordination needs some work yet ;) as I'm pretty sure she was intending to go towards the ball... not away from it.

Jul 9, 2010

Life with Potion

Well Potion has been here a bit over a month now, and a very entertaining month it's been!

From a whirlwind trip to and from CT, to adjusting to having a puppy in the house again - let alone a very opinionated one. We've since attended 4 puppy matches, her first herding lesson/exposure, and two puppy classes.

The trip to and from CT felt a bit like Murphy's Law running amuck. My flight to Chicago almost having to turn back and return to Indianapolis do to extreme fog (which caused a very tight connection time when we were finally able to land - not much fun in an extremely confusing airport layout). Coming back I had just an hour in which to get through check-in, security, and get to my gate to prepare to board. Potion was less than impressed with the Sherpa idea which made getting through everything harder since whenever possible I was juggling puppy, Sherpa, paperwork, and my "purse" (which was large enough to be a carry-on and was used as such). We made it through just as they were boarding the plane, which she SCREAMED in her Sherpa until we were well into the air (and yes, that WAS with benedryl). We landed in Chicago, and I searched for a family restroom (single stall) to give Potion a chance to potty. Never did find one, but in my search I managed to wander out of security (when following the directions of an airport employee) which meant I had to abandon hope of finding a restroom for her and just try to get through Chicago security as quickly as possible (with only about 30 minutes until my plane was supposed to board). Needless to say we got to the gate just in time for boarding, and another tantrum-filled flight to Indianapolis. We located a family restroom in Indianapolis which gave Potion the opportunity to potty before our final hour-long trek home.

More pictures of Potion growing up here

At the first puppy match, I was surprised that we weren't the only Border Collie entered! The other entry was a nearly 5 month old male from Terbo Border Collies. Potion was just barely 12 weeks and could have probably walked under the other BC without hardly ducking. We took Best of Opposite to that dog (I believe his call name is Sherlock but I'm not sure on his registered name). See the video below :)

At the second puppy match only two weeks later, we ran into Sherlock again. This time we took Best of Breed over him and a Group 4! :) This was our first time showing on grass, so Potion was convinced I'd thoroughly lost it ;). I'm quite pleased considering this match was held with a cluster and had a much larger entry than the stand-alone match.

Two days later we made the trek up to Montpelier, OH for the two UKC shows. This time both Potion and Merlin showed. Merlin already has his Grand Championship in UKC, so there's nothing left for him point-wise. Potion is still too young to compete for points in UKC (it's the same minimum as AKC - 6 months) but UKC shows often host "puppy matches" for 3-6 month olds within their normal shows. Those 3-6 month olds then compete separately from any other puppies in that breed (which compete in the licensed classes) for Best Puppy In Breed and Best Puppy In Show.

Merlin was Best of Breed both shows and went on to a Group 3 and a Group 1. :) It was insanely humid (not his forte) so I'm pleased with how we did given the circumstances. Potion showed well and was Best Puppy In Breed both shows as well as BEST PUPPY IN SHOW both shows! :-D The second judge we had just raved about her both to me and to just about anyone that would listen :) I think UKC is so great for puppies - almost all the judges I've ever shown to in UKC make it such a total blast for puppies so they learn it's tons of fun.

Between the first and the second AKC matches, Potion went and was exposed to duck herding for the first time. The instructor considered it to be very age-appropriate work and I'm looking forward to doing more with her. I think as her confidence grows she's only going to get better at it :)

I also had the opportunity to herd with Merlin for the first time. All his previous herding had been handled by more knowledgeable people as I was told that if I were to attempt to learn with him I'd ruin him and he's far too talented to go to waste. Bit of a moot point now ;) and I intend to pursue it with him since he enjoys it more than any other activity we do.

Potion has also spent some time hanging out at agility lessons and her first trial, in addition to attending her first two puppy classes. We had to wait for the next start date of the puppy class, but after the first night I had concerns about the environment and curriculum so we withdrew from that class. I decided to give a class an hour away a try (not many local options) and after attending a session of that class I feel it'll be a great fit for us. The space is significantly larger (even though it's only a 2 car garage) and is a much calmer atmosphere and curriculum.

I hope to have much more frequent updates after this, but for now I think we should be pretty caught up. ;)

For now, here are some other cute videos of Potion - including a sample of what we're working on so far. :)

Potion June 7, 2010 from Jenn Stanley on Vimeo.