Dog Forum Weekly Trick

The dog forum I frequent is holding a weekly training competition. Personally I think this is great because while I don’t mind working on something, I have a hard time choosing what that something should be. Last week was BOW which he already knows, but this week was something new: weaving through person’s legs. 

Back in the summer I had tried to teach this to Ranger. By a combination of my ineffectiveness as a handler and Ranger’s confusion, it didn’t go well and I had put it on the back burner. This time I think my experience working with a clicker paid off. 

Our first lesson was a mixture of luring and shaping. The end result was Ranger comfortably ducking between my legs for a treat. No verbal commands at this point. 

The second session a repeat of the first. I don’t want to push him too fast as this was something he had previously had difficulty with, but by the end I could request two weaves before treating. 

Now we’ve added it to Ranger’s list of short behaviours he can do for a treat. Once he figured it out, he started turning toward the back of me instead of the front which broke the flow. Opposite hand reward (duck through to the right, treat received by the left hand) has caused him to curve to the front eliminating that issue. 

Hoping the rest of this week will allow us to improve. Tonight’s little session in a new area with distractions was great with rewards after one, two or three weaves. I am so happy with him. 


Ranger’s first foster dog

Kind of like getting a pet for a kid, right? The kid does what they can to help, but in the end the majority of the work falls on you.

two dogs sitting looking at the camera

Today our very first foster dog from Home To Stay Dog Rescue came. Sophie is an owner surrender as they weren’t able to meet her exercise needs. She is under a year old and a mixture of what they believe is border collie and german shepherd. So far she’s been extremely well behaved with Ranger and the cats. Ranger seems to like having a dog mate to play with and it’s nice to help out the rescue community in the area.

dog sticking its tongue out at another dog

Ok, maybe nor always well behaved.

Having Sophie here will allow Ranger to burn off some physical energy and allow a new avenue of training: working him with another dog in the area, AND working another dog while he maintains position waiting for his turn. It will be interesting to see what hurdles we find.

Beginner Agility Class 1

Today was the type of day that showed me how far I’ve come with Ranger. Not just in what we can do as a team, but also the confidence we’ve built together. Our new agility class started today and Ranger knew what was up the minute his leather collar came out. Loaded him in the car, picked up my friend (this is the fourth course she’s trundled off to with me to watch…through all sorts of weather), and headed off.

There are two shelties in our class this time with one coming up from the same Skills Level 2 as us. There is also a large Australian Shepherd who makes me drool. One day I will own that much dog. Apparently there is another dog that will be joining us. I like classes this size as it allows for one-on-one instruction, but also has enough dogs to work around for practice.

After independent warm up (while listening to the gold medal hockey game…we are in Canada afterall) our instructor started evaluating us to see what we will need to work on. Immediately I like this woman. When I was riding horses, I appreciated a direct approach and it seems I like the same with dogs. Quick to praise, but quick to let you know if you’ve bumbled something up.

Ranger had a great stay in the evaluation, but I did reward as his bum was coming off the ground. His stool work wasn’t our best, but I will take into account that the stool was larger than normal (his elephant on a ball impression was fantastic though). He was gung-ho for the wobble board and walked nicely into the other room.

This class is going to be a lot of off leash work and we practiced with four standard sets spaced on the sides of a square. Off leash we walked and had the dogs move around us in both directions while we were in the centre. The most important lesson from today (which I will drill into my head) is NOT calling for Ranger if he goes off to explore, but rather reward the moment he comes back. Keeping your mouth shut (dogs will wander more when they can know where you are. Why check in with mum when you can hear where she is?!)

Ranger was great in both directions, held his stay when working with a single jump, and blasted the tunnel with his regular enthusiasm. He willingly interacted with new pieces and his focus was quite good. We even managed staying in a relaxed settle when one of the other dogs bounded up to the other side of the gate.

The foster home visit was put off last week because of the Dog Expo being held today. I popped in (picking up a nice new moose antler for Ranger) and met the people of Home To Stay Rescue. Tomorrow night is the rescheduled date so we’ll see how the appointment goes.


Mini Lessons of the Day

Today for the first time in ages I have nothing to do. No classes. No doctor’s appointments. No picking up the lil’ man from school, or visiting dogs to wrangle. I might head out later to see if I can catch a glimpse of the snowy owl that has been hanging around one of our local beaches, but days like today give the perfect opportunity to hold multiple mini training sessions with Ranger. 

Lesson 1: 

After a short warm up, we worked on non-verbal CCW TWIRL. I would say that 95% of the time he is working well turning in that direction, but occasionally he is still getting himself too excited and offering a bunch of different behaviours. Today it was going to his mat and then trying to climb the rubbermaid container in the living room. We had some solid twirls before we moved on. 

The next task was having him stand between my legs (entering from behind) and hold the position. I started by putting myself in a door way which really cut down on his ability to bypass me. After a few tries from both directions we moved slightly into the room and had some success, but I think it was pushing him too fast as he got too excitable. Move back into the doorway to end on success.

Finished with a quick game of It’s Yer Choice until we ran out of treats and he figured dog food wasn’t worth working for.  

Lesson 2: 

We started with some more work on twirl. He’s willing to complete the behaviour with hand signal, but perhaps will look at only asking for three repetitions before moving onto something else. 

Also worked on him standing between my legs and the command will be BETWEEN.  We started in the doorway again, but moved out to the middle of the room halfway through. He continued to find the mark, but started to almost overshoot the behaviour (too much dog in front of me). Started feeding the treat lower and it made it better. Even started walking with him keeping position around the living room.

Brushed up a bit on our ‘back in heel’. He remembered it quick with four really solid backs without swinging his bum around.


Ranger also got a run out with Poppy to burn some energy. About an hour with lots of zooming through the slushy snow and fighting over a chuck-it ball. He still tends to bark a lot, but worked on interrupting the barking fits and taking him out of play.  

Agility in five sleeps!

Today I got the call I have been waiting for; agility class starts on Sunday which means Ranger and I will have our weekly training session, homework, and an outlet for his energy. The six week course will work on creating drive and focus, tricks, advanced targeting work, tunnels, jumping skills, controlled walking, introduction to heeling, retrieving, recalls with distractions, sphinx downs, and advanced stays.

To say I am excited would be an understatement. While Ranger does have great drive for food reward (sometimes toooo much), being able to increase his focus and impulse control will not only help at class, but at home and in public as well. Plus, recalls with distraction AND advanced stays are two things that I wanted to learn.

It will be interesting to see what our weaknesses are in this class as the only issue we’ve had in previous classes was his enthusiasm (smashing the ladder for foot awareness exercises and knocking the stool into next week). To be fair, he makes me look a lot better than I am and we had a previous beginner obedience and beginner agility class to work from.


In other news, Ranger had a visit last Wednesday from Labnado and they spent the entire day playing hard, and sleeping hard. By the time his friend left both dogs were ready to crash and both spent the night curled up in their dog beds at home. It’s nice to see the effect exercise and stimulation (both his brain AND his body gets a work out from another dog) has on him. I can take him for a run at the baseball field, but I can’t run all over with him and really tire him out.

Sat down with BF and explained all the positives having another dog in the house would bring, and finally got the approval to apply as a foster home! This makes me over the moon excited. Before we got together I used to adopt senior (and I mean senior) cats to give them a hospice type environment. It meant a warm place to stay, good food, clean litter, and somewhere to relax in their final years.

By adopting older cats I was able to help more animals (in the last 4 years I have adopted three seniors who were aged 17, 17, and 16 at adoption and were 18.5, 18, and currently have the last at 18 and still going slowly but strong). It was hard on me, but BF had a really hard time when he was around for the final vet visit. I had agreed to stop taking in older pets, but that the compromise was fostering dogs. This way I could help multiple animals throughout the year, but he wouldn’t have to say a final goodbye.

We’ve chosen a specific rescue who provides all required items (food, vet care, clothing, etc) and only requests that you give the dog love, security, and a family environment. We’re waiting to have the home visit before we are approved…the suspense!

ImageGimme all the treats

Tonight we pulled out the bait bag and had a refresher course on basic commands. There is a competition on each week to train your dog a different trick/command. If the trick is already known, then you must add something to it. This week is BOW so I wanted to make sure he remembered before we start jazzing it up.

I also started Ranger foot targeting my boot so we can learn to have him walk with his front feet on mine. I saw it HERE We got the targeting down pretty good within the session and I am going to review the video some more before we trying again tomorrow. We also started lure training the CW TWIRL since SPIN  is CCW. We started with food lure and phased it out with the treat at the end after click.

Eeeeee, so excited about taking classes again!

Back to it

Despite the snow it was been a pretty good winter so far. We’ve been having our weekly Wednesday snow storms which close down most of the city (and the transit system), but the rest of the days have been filled with either bright sun with brisk temps or grey skies and spring warmth. So with our obedience course over I’ve been giving Ranger a break and using what energy and strength I have to get Ranger out to run, play, and be a dog. 



Ranger having fun while Poppy keeps her eye on the prize. 

Tonight I decided to pull out the bait bag and work on something for a few minutes while we waited for the BF to get back home. Ranger has a good concept now of backing away from me (hand and voice command) and I saw this neat video by Kikopup explaining how to teach your dog to back up beside you which you can watch HERE

After a few repetitions of backing away from me (while facing me) I put him between myself and a table to create a sort of chute. I figured out quick that it was easier to use my body leaning back to have him copy me rather than trying to lure as he was a little too interested in the treat. 

By the end of the 5 minutes, we had a pretty decent back in heel position. He tends to want to curl around behind me so I will either need to take a bigger leg step backwards to block him (which is difficult since my hip doesn’t want to really rotate on that side) or we’ll work on it slower and hope he figures it out. 

Also did some work on touch. Instead of leaving my hand where it was at the request, I moved it around me/the room so he had to actually chase it for contact. He didn’t seem frustrated or distracted by it and really followed it around. 

I’ve started creating at excel spreadsheet of each behaviour we have trained (and which we would like to in the future) so that I can keep a record of what commands I have already chosen. I don’t want a command to be too close to another one and mess us all up. The columns read:

Behaviour – Command – Started – P. In House – In House – P. Outside – Outside – Proofed

The P stands for Private meaning that we can meet our criteria without distractions being added. The difference between P. In House and In House can be as simple as having the BF in the room on the computer eating. Hopefully once the weather warms up and I am (hopefully) feeling better we can work on the Proofed column which means busy parks, outside stores, etc. For now, we’re in the livingroom.