Fetch

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Picture can be found HERE

 

A man and his dog go out to a field with ball in hand. The dog excitedly waits for the ball to be thrown and burst with joy after the ball as it sails through the sky and bounces along the ground. If the dog is fast enough, it is caught before it even has a chance to bounce and the dog careens back to his owner to deposit a slimy mess at their feet. 

The sequence is followed again and again until the man’s arm is tired and the dog’s tongue hangs from his mouth with a goofy grin spread across his face. They go back home where the dog sleeps away the good exercise it just received. 

Seems simple, right? 

Ranger isn’t one of those dogs. He’s lived with us for almost 10 months now and although his interest in toys has improved greatly, fetch just isn’t his game. Sure, he’ll go after the ball and bring it back a few times…until he smells something interesting on the ground, or wants to roll, or sees a butterfly lazily making its way across the sky. And those are only the reasons that I can explain. Sometimes everything looks perfect and he runs right past it and off in the corner. 

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Not talking about me, are you?

The weather here in NS seems to change every five minutes so nice weather needs to be used for as much physical exercise as possible. Lately we’ve been hitting up a nearby baseball field that has been allocated for off leash use. It’s usually empty (I’ve never turned up and there is another dog) and Ranger has the enjoyment of running full tilt through the snow, rolling around, and sniffing great things. 

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Snow dolphin breaking through the surface

This week I decided to work on our fetch skills. Fetch gives a bonding experience between owner and dog while working on basic obedience. Since Ranger seems to have an idea on what fetch is all about I didn’t feel it necessary to work backwards through the chain of behaviours and instead work from where we are. 

I needed to make sure:

– dog is excited to chase the ball and is focused on me
– ball isn’t thrown too far which allows for more distractions
– make sure to encourage the dog through chasing the ball and bringing it back
– reward each ball return to me (Ranger is VERY food oriented so we used his veggie biscuit treats)
– stop before he gets bored (this is the hardest for me since I tend to push)

By allowing Ranger to move freely throughout the area as a warm up, I decreased the amount of distractions in the environment. Ranger had ten minutes (could have been longer if he needed) to check things out, wee on EVERYTHING and create some violent snow angels. 

Near the end of his free time, I started playing with the ball myself. Throwing it in the air from hand to hand while making weird noises drew him into the game. Once I was sure I had his focus I started throwing it for him following my rules outlined above. 

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Ranger was interested in playing, but I found that I could keep him interested if I threw the ball a shorter distance and allowed it to bounce off the ground a few times. At the end of the first session, he got distracted and ignored the ball. I called him back to me and we went to where the ball was laying. Ranger has a solid “pick up the…” for most of his toys so once he saw it I repeated the command and he passed it to me. 

Since Ranger knows specifically what I am asking, I rewarded only with verbal praise only. The ball was thrown a very short distance and when he happily brought it back to me he received a jackpot of treats and cuddles. 

We did another short session right at the end of our time before the mini blizzard moved in and he was great. Like any command, we will slowly build up in the 3Ds (Distance, Duration, Distraction) but for now I am just happy he’s bringing it back. 

Skills Level 2 – Class 5

Last Thursday was our second to last class of the course which always makes me sad because it’s almost over, but excited that we can start a new training course soon. 

We’ve been working in a stations setting for the last couple classes. This allows for a 3 minute session on each of the equipment pieces. The teeter and wobble board are not giving him any problems and we’ve started asking for commands while on the wobble board. The ladder is still being met with absolutely no finesse (think bull in a china shop with a carrot tied from his horns) so I am thinking of making a PVC pipe ladder for use at home. The noodles just aren’t impressive enough to demand any respect. 

We had a breakthrough with the peanut and Ranger managed a sit for a few seconds before settling back into a lay down. I’m hoping that we can get one in the future to improve upon. Building up his balance, core, and hind end muscles will be beneficial for agility. 

Ranger can now be left in a sit-stay infront of two jumps (with poles on the ground) and will wait to be released once I am on the other side of them. Our break word, BACON, is sure to draw some laughs if/when we make it to competition. He is jumping onto the table, but still being lured into the down. 

While the other teams worked with the instructor for table or their sit-stays, I have started to work on Ranger’s stay proofing. I noticed in the last class that he would almost break if I tried to pass behind him. During the week we worked in several short sessions to try and desensitize him which seemed to work. In class he spun his head around to follow me, but did not break his stay. Also introduced me waving my arms (big slow circle) without him breaking. 

We ended with some Loose Leash Walking (LLW) and the tunnel. LLW really shows me the quality of his focus and the improvements we’ve made: his attention while passing other dogs remained on me and he caught be trying to change direction twice and mirrored. It also showed me our flaws and weaknesses…specifically LLW with him on the right. We managed a few good times around, but he was inclined to cross over behind me and try to hug into my left leg if we turned or he got behind at all….something to work on at home. 

The tunnel was met with Ranger enthusiasm. Our coach says that he “finds the tunnel entrance well” and “enjoys barrelling through”. Due to my back, he is held longer by her to allow me time to walk far past the exit. He doesn’t have a one sided issue with going through and will catch up on the same side as released into the tunnel. 

Next week is our last class and then we have to wait for the Agility Class 1 to start. Classes are held once they fill up, but I believe that at least three of us (from our classes of five) are going to be moving forward. 

Barkbox Review – January 2014

Today a knock at the door announced one of Ranger’s favourite times of the month: Barkbox delivery day!Image

You can sign up by the month, 3 month, or 6 month package. Obviously the more you get, the cheaper each month. I did the six month package and remember that they renew automatically. Plus, each month there are different codes you can put in to get a cheaper deal.

This month use code BARKFRIDAY to get $12 off a 6-month subscription. That’s only $17.00 per month!! Just go to http://www.barkbox.com 

Anyway, onto the important stuff…the goodies

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Item: Grandma Bowser’s Country Oven Bisquits (6oz bag) (approx value $5.00)

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These treats are peanut butter flavoured and contain no wheat, corn, or soy. If that wasn’t good enough, they also add no preservatives, sugar or salt AND the peanut butter is human grade! I can also pronounce every ingredient on the packet. Ranger politely waited for me to get the package open, but for the first time I saw real drool. 

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Is that for me?! Begoodbegoodbegood….

Item: Think!Dog Louisiana Alligator Jerky (6oz) (approx value $7.00)

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I was interested to see if Ranger would like these considering he’s never eaten alligator before. These soft treats are the perfect size for training and contain no wheat, corn, soy, or artificial ingredients. Ingredients are grown/harvested in the USA and the meats are sourced from farms and fisheries within Louisiana. 

Ranger absolutely adores these treats and I think I’ll be popping a few in my pocket for recall training. A great option for people who have dogs with chicken/beef allergies; now if only I can get used to the smell of them. 

Item: Wigzi Stuff n’ Throw Pocket Ball (approx value $14.00) and Stuff n’ Crunch Treats (approx value $6.00)Image

 

Toys that can be combined to include treats are always a hit at this house. Currently Ranger has two kongs, an orange treat ball, and the BusyBuddy treat toy from last month’s BarkBox (which you can see here). The Wigzi is dishwasher safe, recyclable, and made in the USA. It has two pockets to shove the Stuff n’ Crunch Treats and will bounce AND float. 

The treats contain no wheat, soy, or articifical colours. I find they’re a little small to stay in the ball, but with all the treats I’ve received from BarkBox I am sure we’ll work it out. 

This Barkbox had approximately $32.00 worth of stuff which is way over the subscription price. Everything is going to be used and once again they have prevented me from dashing into the pet store each week to get presents. 

Obedience Classes 3 and 4

My dog makes me look really good.

Like, really good. 

We’ve started putting out the stool before warm up as a distraction. Ranger thinks the minute he sees a piece of equipment that he must use it right away. Ranger’s idea of using it right away tends to be uninhibited enthusiasm which sends it flying in a whirlwind of legs tripping over each other. By working him with it just out of reach, he’s learning to leave it alone until PLACE is asked. If he plows it over or misses it completely on the first spin there is no treat. Now I’m fussier and only rewarding finesse and accuracy. 

The wobble board has been raised a little now and he has no problems moving around on it. Our mini teeter sessions have him walking from one side to the other and waiting with his hind feet on the contact (which I haven’t asked for, but is VERY welcome for a dog who likes to power through everything. 

Class 3 introduced the Peanut. While his clumsy antics had us rolling our eyes during the ladder foot awareness exercises, his “anything goes” attitude had him climb up on the ball without hesitation. The first time his legs slid over the side and had to be readjusted often, but in out Class 4 he managed a short sit before sliding into a down. Back legs were kept tucked underneath him more though. 

Unfortunately I still can’t participate in the recall games of having the dog chase you from spot to spot while you praise and reward. We did play hide-and-seek recall where I would leave him with the instructor and walk to the other room. I have to record him coming around the corner in our next class…Fast and the Furious have nothing on his drift. 

With only two more classes to go I’ve been thinking of what I should do as our next class. I want to get into agility, but realistically he’s a VERY fast dog and I can barely out-hobble a toddler. Other things I have thought might entertain us would be a rally obedience class or one of the recall perfecting class (however I may not be fast enough for that one either). 

Until then, there is snow in our future and I cannot wait to get him out to the trail days. We’ve been working on our Gee and Haw, On-By, Whoa, Hike, and Line Out. Let it snow.