Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Find it" 101...

Yesterday, I finally introduced Da Vinci to the the "find it" game.  He did pretty good.  Tossed a cookie a couple feet away and said "find it".  After a few of those, I tossed it a little farther while cuing him.  Then I had him wait and watch me place one even farther away.  Then I released him to "find it".  He doesn't have a solid stay so I had to use the crate for this part.  He did well.  He was really using his nose for the last one.  Good boy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Venturing Outside

Today, I let Callie do her first outside "find" since her injury. It was short and she only got to do one, but she did great. I hid the treat under a large cone so she would be likely to continue learning to indicate the find. She found it quickly...after the initial spazzing out when she realizes I was freeing her from the confinement of a leash or that strict off-leash heel! Took her awhile to realize she needed to indicate to me, but she did and sparkled with joy when I gave her the sqeaky ball. I tossed it into her mouth and she gladly made lots of noise! Overall, a day of progress...both toward finding truffles AND getting healthy.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Games, games, games...

Training dogs to do just about anything is so much fun!!!!  They (as well as us) learn so well through games!  Today, Da Vinci continued to play the "fetch" game with me...and with an interesting blip.  He ran after the toy as I said "fetch"...picked it up and started distracted and dropped the toy, but continued to trot toward he arrived about 5 feet from me, I threw my hands up as if to say "where's the toy?"...without my saying a word, he paused to think for a moment and then went back to the toy which was a good 20 feet away...he brought it right to my feet.  What a little thinker.  I love that!  It's amazing what can happen when you keep learning fun, allow them to think and make decisions without us barking orders at them!!!!!!!  We followed that game with a chase & tug game...letting him figure out that eye contact would earn his release to get that exciting toy...then we would tug with it, practicing our "outs" and "take its".  Prey drive is an amazing motivator and a powerful tool...which is why it is so important to also practice self control during these games.  Harnessing prey drive is a delicate balance.  It's an incredible display of nature!

Speaking of prey drive, Callie got some nice practice at indicating her "find" today.  She searched the house for a treat that I secured in a container with holes in the top.  Since she couldn't get the cookies out on her own, she had to indicate the find somehow.  She's figuring it out and fluctuates between pawing at it or pouncing at it.  With more and more practice, she'll probably pick just one of those as her indicator.  Until then, I'll let her choose.  Thankfully, she is moving better today.  In fact, it's been challenging to get she and Da Vinci to cool it.  She was very sore yesterday from her swim lesson two days ago.  I was really discouraged last night...hated seeing how slow her recovery is going to be.  It is very possible she won't be making a return to agility until February or March.  I was hoping she wouldn't be so stiff, but it is what it is.  I need to keep my head, not my heart, in control of her rehab and reconditioning.  I have the tools and knowledge to keep her safe with extensive personal and professional experience managing injuries in humans...especially cruciate injuries.  I KNOW what I am seeing in her is to be expected...but I still don't like it.  One step at a time :)!  In the meantime, she will, no doubt, master the art of truffle hunting!  It might be time to introduce the truffle odor soon!

Monday, December 6, 2010

What a delightful surprise!

Fetching is a very useful skill for all sorts of canine activities so, naturally, I have been teaching Da Vinci to "fetch".  Among those activities, truffle hunting will certainly involve fetching...whether it's bringing the truffle to me or as a fun game as his reward for the find.  No matter how it is used, fetching is important.  Callie plays this game tirelessly...Cash, well, he's more of a foodie, but he will run with the other dogs while they chase a ball or toy.  Since Da Vinci came home, I've been working with him on bringing tossed objects back to me.  He's been progressing nicely and figuring out that returning the object to me is a good thing that he often gets cookies for.  Until now, these were always exercises or I was taking advantage of a play moment to encourage what I wanted.  Last night, Da Vinci "ASKED" to play the game!!!!!!  He took off in the yard during a potty outing and came trotting back (very proud of himself) with the toy we have been using most recently.  He looked at me with the big purple ball dangling from his mouth as if to say "can we play that game?"  I grabbed a handful of cookies and off we went.  About a dozen perfect fetches followed.  I started being diligent about putting the game on cue and we stopped while he still wanted to play (that's important).  Lots of praise for a well played game!  I blurted it out on Facebook and couldn't wait to tell Josh.  Oh, what a proud moment!  But it gets even better :)!  Today, he did it again - TWICE!  Brought me the toy, asked to play and gleefully "fetched" the ball for me...confident that he knew what his job was and how to do it.  What a delightful surprise it was to see him figure out 1) what to do and 2) that this was a fun game to do with me.  I had a great time watching his little fuzzy puppy butt bounce across the yard after his toy and seeing the confidence on his face as he trotted back to me...knowing he was doing exactly what he was supposed to!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting The Hang of it...

This is my first attempt at posting from my phone. So far so good. This afternoon, I worked with Callie on getting her to indicate the scent of her treat when she finds it. Both Cash and Callie are very good at the "find it" game...I usually pick a treat and hide it in the house or yard. The treats vary so I let them smell one and then release them to "find it". For Cash, the reward is the hidden treat. For Callie, the sqeaky ball is her final prize. This is the first time I've tried getting a signal from one of them. I started Callie with our usual game...the treat accessible to her when she found it. Then I hid it under a cup so she had to work a bit more to get to it. Next I added cups with no treat (I think these are called "cold") and praised her for finding the "hot" cup. Then we progressed to upside-down mason jars where she might need help getting to the treat. My hope here was to see what signal she chose to indicate the find. She pawed at the jar so I marked that with "yes", rewarded her and helped her get the treat out. Next we moved to upside-down bowls...even harder for her to turn over. Again she pawed at the correct bowl. I continued to mark the behavior and reward her for indicating the scent. She got her well deserved sqeaky ball! Good girl! Callie is recovering from a knee injury so during her absence from agility and herding, this type of "work" is great for her! This is the first time I've seen her really look satisfied since her injury. We have kept her busy during the long rest period, but that's just not the same as "working" for her. She is peacefully napping now :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Grand Adventure It Will Be...

Welcome to Wagnificent K9!  On a recent vacation to Italy, I fell deeply in love with truffles and jokingly announced to my friends and family that I needed a Truffle Dog!  Little did I know at the time, we live in truffle country.  The Pacific Northwest is one of few regions where native truffles can be found.  How exciting!  At that moment, the reality of training my very own Truffle Dogs was born.  We have working dogs and are always looking for new activities to do with them.  Cash, a 3 year old Sheltie, and Callie, a 3 year old Border Collie, are my agility partners as well as herding companions for my husband and I.  We have great fun with them.  Josh and I have enjoyed hiking and backpacking for many years in this area.  What better way to add even more enjoyment to hitting the trails with our pups!!!  During that time of grand ideas and brainstorming, we were also considering adding a third pup to our pack.  A Belgian Tervuren...with plans to do agility, herding's the limit.  Being a breed with such versatility and talent for scent work, everything just fell into place.  We welcomed Da Vinci to this grand adventure!  He is just 11 weeks old and experiencing the world as we launch this journey...journaling our training through this blog.  Join us...follow our progress, laugh at our mistakes, share your voice and enjoy the ride WITH us.  What a grand adventure it will be!