Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wobble Board/Clicker/Distance Training

My old wabble board, and Winnie Pooch
New puppies provide fresh opportunities to play "guessing games", what Susan Garrett calls "It's Yer Choice" games, and push those games to their limit.  These last few days, with a 13.5 week old papillon I'm calling Winnie Pooch, aka Honey Bear, I set up my wobble board outdoors, and we've had a blast playing the guessing game and videoing the process (see videos below).
Underneath, a stack of 3 wood pieces
screwed to the board,
slightly off center.

For those who don't know, a wobble board is just a short plank or 2' to 3' square board with 3-5" of something (wood, pvc pipe) affixed under it that makes it wobble whenever the dog hops on.  It's used in Agility to desensitize green dogs to a moving surface under their feet, in preparation for the see saw. You can purchase fancy ones, but my homemade wobble board is made out of scrap wood--old, weathered, and beat up--and it's worked just fine for years.

In a nutshell, the GUESSING GAME is when the dog does something you're looking for without you asking for it, you CLICK then TREAT. Dog does it again -- CLICK, TREAT. Repeat 10 to 30 times. Dogs LOVE the challenge of trying to figure out what they did that got them a treat, and puppies seem to catch on more quickly than adult dogs. I wrote earlier about how to play guessing games which I won't repeat here, but it's important to do it right.
WOBBLE BOARD/CLICKER TRAINING: To start, you may have to lure the dog to pay attention to the board, then CLICK, TREAT when they put a tentative paw on the board, eventually 2 paws, then all 4 paws. Papillons, however, don't show the slightest fear and jump right on and dance around.  Every few days you can advance the guessing game by CLICK, TREATing only when they do things like:
  • sit or down on the board
  • enter from the high end of the board
  • keep only 2 back feet on the board
  • jump off the board 
  • etc
It's important that they be trying to figure out what you want rather than you telling them, but be sure and wait until they master the previous exercise.  You'll know when things become routine -- their performance becomes blaze' and they act "entitled" to a treat without thinking. The beauty of clicker training, you can increase your distance from the board by several yards and still deliver the "treat" at the moment the desired behavior takes place.

I videoed 3 days in succession of Winnie Pooch running from me to the board.  At first he was distracted by everything and making wide haphazard circles around the yard (major distractions), but by Day 3 his performance was phenomenal, running straight to the board again and again from over 40 feet away!  Training sessions lasted only so long as the puppy invited me to play.  I kept my clicker and jar of treats on the table at all times so the game could commence any time he offered the desired behavior.  Here's a composite video over 3 days.  I only videoed a few sessions of the many that took place.

Gosh golly, this is so much fun! Honey Bear, you be smokin'!

I didn't video the steps of introducing Winnie (i.e. Honey Bear) to the board and couldn't repeat them since he was already familiar with the board, but there are lots of YouTube videos on the first steps.  I haven't seen any on the distance work we've accomplished.

Later I had John video me introducing the game to Maxie.  Surprisingly, due to 3 years of me training him NOT to take an obstacle unless I indicate it, he was unwilling to get on the board until I gave a signal, then increasingly unwilling as I moved further away. Well, well, well!  I had no idea I had trained the "wait for my signal" skill so well, and I suppose it would NOT BE WISE to "untrain" it.  I sure don't want him "guessing" in the competition ring.  Here's a video of that session, which is fascinating in its own frustrating way!

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Naming a Puppy

It has never been hard for me to name my pets.  The name just burbles off the tip of my tongue, and sticks.  With Maxie, I picked him up from the breeder and on the way home I just knew he was ACE MAXIMILLION.  His father's name was Ace.  He was full of maximum attitude, and my heart was so full of love for him, he was worth a $million to me.  Ace Maximillion von Fry.  Easy.

Lucky was easy too.  She was so lucky to have been found on the side of the highway at 5 weeks, adopted by me and John at 8 weeks.  She was so long legged, loose-jointed, floppy eared, and malleable, Lucky Loosey just flowed off the tongue.  Nothing could hurt her, stop her, or scare her.   Sometimes we added Lu-Lu because she was so loopy.  She could wiggle out of anything. Loosey became spelled Lucy on the AKC CAR paperwork.  Lucky Lucy Lu-Lu von Fry.  Easy.

Fooh Fooh was easy too.  As our first foster dog, we thought he pooped so much at about 10 weeks of age (4 times a day seemed excessive, so little did we know), we just called him Poo Poo. We weren't planning on keeping him.  Fontenot came from a cajun notary joke circulating at the time.
Poo Poo Boudreaux goes to a notary to have his name changed.  He said "I'm so sick of people making fun of my name, I have to change it."  Notary replies, "Yes, I can certainly see why.  What do you want to change it to?"  The cajun replied, "Poo Poo Fontenot!" 
That cracked us up.  (Perhaps only funny if you're from the South and/or hear a lot of Boudreaux Jokes.)  But then you can't go around the neighborhood calling "Here, PooPoo". Well, FoohFooh rhymes with Poo Poo, and since we found out FoohFooh means "the crazy one" in French, and FoohFooh was/is so crazy, his name devolved into Fooh Fooh Fontenot von Fry. Easy.
"Winnie" at 13 weeks.
Naming this new pooch, though, is proving a tougher job.  Winnie The Pooch is a great working title for a few weeks until I get him sold.  He's so open-minded, patient and docile.  Marshmellow would work as well - he's so soft, sweet, squishy and white.  A comfort dog, always yearning to be in my lap, nuzzling my neck. Eyes on me all the time.

But calling him Winnie is beginning to grate.  It's a girl's name.  I thrashed all night mulling over a more suitable name, then wrestling with the FACT that I don't really need to come up with a better name.  I'm not keeping this dog.  But I so often call his name, he needs a better nickname.

Then, I ran across this photo on the internet and couldn't help imagining that with Winnie's similar markings, ample snow white coat and long plummage growing 1/4 inch a day, he might one day look very similar to this AKC conformation champion.  With his excellent lineage from The Pines Papillons kennel (good genes) and good looks, and being still intact, he would make a superb first sire if I decided to become a breeder. In which case, he would really need a better name.  Not that I'm keeping him.  Jester would be cute, and accurate.  He's very entertaining. Boomerang would describe his nature of retrieving and scampering back to me with whatever I throw out to him.  A retrieving Papillon?  Tugger?  He tugs vigorously and for as long as I keep it up.  Digger?  He loves to dig.  Does a name have to describe a dog's personality traits? I can't seem to settle on anything.  How about Honey Bear?

Dearie me, someone better buy this dog AT ONCE.  I'm on dangerous ground.  With a tough year of training/trialing with 2 dogs I adore who won't be retiring for 8 more years at least, this dog can't be mine.  How could I manage 3 competitive dogs, struggling as I do with 2? Do I want an intact male in my household?  Followed no doubt by a female? Or two?  What does that entail?  I don't know.  Every pet I've had has been neutered or spayed except for Annabelle Lee, but that was 30 years ago.    Will there ever be another dog I like as well, with all the traits I see in Winnie Pooch/Honey Bear?  Will I regret letting him go, or am I just a sucker for all puppies? Yes, darnit, I've loved them all so far.  Whoever dares buy him will have to prove they will provide the best of circumstances to this awesome little champion of a pooch, and when he leaves there will be a another big hole in my heart.

Meanwhile, I'm busy polishing him up every day, and he's learning very fast.

Upwards and onward!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tackling the Acorn Problem

It's not a very glamorous project to start on the weekend when all my agility friends are at the Kiln trial racking up MACH bars and/or Double Q's, but all last week I was home dealing with the Acorns Galore problem I wrote about earlier.  And grappling with a hard truth -- the wall-to-wall acorns in my training yard won't disappear on their own, and my dogs won't run on this "sea of marbles".  Because the acorns have quit raining down like hail and most of the leaves have fallen off our trees, I'm thinking NOW is the time to reclaim my training space.  Whatever it takes, I HAVE to do it.
What's left AFTER the mower has sucked up
all it could.
I started by running the push mower with vacuum attachment over the training area , (about 80' x 60') very slowly vacuuming up as many leaves and twigs as I could.  Then I mowed over the whole area again, even more slowly, picking up more debris and exposing those devilish acorns, which, it turned out, still had no intention of being sucked up by a lawnmower!

Disappointed but undaunted, I called to my husband, "Bring me the shop vac and a 100' extension cord".  We have a big one with a 3" diameter hose and mightly sucker attachment, and I felt empowered -- like Napoleon.  Then it got too dark to continue.

Next day, shop vac on full blast, I attacked the problem, and in about 15 minutes was only able to tease up the acorns nestled in a 3' x 3' patch of grass.  At that rate I calculated it could take me 2 months to cover the whole yard, plus which the vac kept clogging up with twigs and a few times I had to turn it off due to the smell of something burning.  All I did was 3 wee patches before I was feeling like Custer towards the end of his last stand.  John later reported the vac bag was full.  Not the anticipated victory.

The only method left was the dreaded leaf rake/push broom/flat shovel method and after 5 hours of raking, raking, raking the yard into piles (over 3 days) then shoveling them into large wheeled trash cans, we ended up hauling 14 cans of acorns out into the woods.
It was a nasty job, with acorns continuously needing chasing as they popped out thru the tines, making me momentarily question the joys of living in the woods under majestic oak trees.  But now that the blisters are healing, my back isn't aching any more, and I've successfully reclaimed a useless yard where I now have a Backyard Dog course set up, with great shade to practice in, back on track again with my training program, and getting ready to compete in Mobile a few weeks from now, I'm feeling victorious.  We do what we have to do, and work with what we've got, right?  It feels good to know I have some grit left in me.

Not to mention, I'm able to work with the new papillon puppy, now re-named Honey Bear, who yesterday raced Maxie thru the 15' tunnel over and over without the slightest hesitation, has brilliant recalls from 50' already, and is coming along nicely with It's Yer Choice games, clicker training and the wobble board.  I'm working on a video of that for my next post.  Puppies!  What joy.  They are amazing!

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sports Vision

So what is Sports Vision and how does one get it?  I looked it up on the internet and found this fascinating link with clear explanations and easy exercises one can do to improve depth perception, peripheral vision, eye foot hand coordination, contrast sensitivity, focus flexibility, dynamic visual acquity (seeing fast-moving objects clearly), and more.  These additional skills would probably come in handy in the agility ring and out.  Check it out.

Upwards and onwards!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Handler Fitness and Agility

These past 2 years of competing in agility, hearing my fellow competitors yell "Run, Michele, run", seeing myself wabble thru my runs with baby steps and no accelleration (thank goodness my dogs have a rock solid start line stay so I can lead far far out),  and mostly avoiding front crosses for fear of twisting an ankle, I've been looking for
  • a running coach,
  • or at least running tips,
  • plus a lower body fitness routine to do a few minutes every day, and
  • a short handler warm-up routine to do before my runs. 
Nobody has come forward to offer me these so I've sort of picked up tips and made up my own routines -- not optimal since I don't know what I'm doing but surely better than nothing.  In fact, still no agility handler I've met personally seems to think handler fitness training is important.  Some say "running just comes natural", others say I'm taking the fun out, or over-complicating things.

But . . . . . . . it isn't fun to be unsure on my feet, and running DOES NOT COME NATURAL to me.   I swear, either I am missing some muscles, or maybe they have atrophied in 45 years of NEVER having an occasion to run. I didn't run thru my classroom as a teacher.  I don't run in the grocery store, don't run from room to room at my house, don't run to the mailbox, and I don't run behind my broom, mop or push lawn mower.  I certainly don't run at my computer where I spend at least half my time.

Finally, today, I find Daisy Peel's website of Online Classes, one of which is:

This 9-week course is designed to give you some guidance with exercises that you can incorporate in to a new or existing physical fitness program to help you move around a course fluidly. We’ll address the areas of core stability, balance, strength, acceleration and deceleration, and sports vision.

Aha!  I'm not crazy.  Handler fitness training is important!  It's not only about training the dog!  And I so love the sound of "moving around a course fluidly", the phrase has just become one of my New Year's Resolutions.

"Move around the course more fluidly."

But what the hell is sports vision?  Do I have it?  Do I need it?  If I google it will I get answers?  That will be subject for another blog post. 

The more I learn, the more I learn that there is always something more to learn.  "Knowing it all" is a goal "that fades forever and forever when I move" (quote from Ulysses).  Thus, another New Years' Resolution this and every year is to

"Set realistic expectations, so high they require reaching, but reachable with consistent effort
and some luck."

As it happens, I have an eye appointment scheduled for this Thursday afternoon for a dilation and vision screening in preparation for possible cataract/lasic surgery.  Because I have floaters and look through a fog in my left eye and my reading glasses are getting stronger and stronger, and the TV looks blurry, and I need a magnifying glass to distinguish between 3 and 8, between 5 and S, and I squint a lot which makes me look angry when I'm not, and stuggling to see makes everything harder to do and gives me vague headaches, so that is already another New Years' Resolution of mine:

"Get my eyes fixed in 2012, before trialing begins."

Upwards and onward!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Finding Agility Trials To Attend

Yesterday I was given an excellent tip by a fellow club member for finding agility trials to attend all over the USA.  I checked it out and it is awesome.  It costs nothing to use, not even a username/password, so I look at it as an ingenious gift from a benevolent hand.  Please, check it out.

Go to   Choose your venue (AKC, USDAA, etc.), choose your states (hold down the control button and you can pick multiple states in the drop down list), then click on any trial listed to get to the desired premium.

For AKC events at least, you pick a trial and can type in your information into the fillable .pdf form,  print it out and mail it in.  Better yet, if the actual premium hasn't yet been posted, you get served up a blank form just like the one you see in printed premium lists.  You can fill out all that tedious information online, just once, including the dog's height, class, birthdate, AKC number, breeder info, your name, address, handler name, your phone number and email.  Then, you can print multiple copies for your dog, enough to last the whole year, sign them ahead of time, then when the actual premium comes in, you can just print, cut and staple the first paragraph containing the specific club information for that trial and check boxes for the classes entered each day, onto your pre-filled forms.  Repeat for each dog you trial with. What a time saver!

Reading the list, you can pretty much decide on your whole trialing calendar for the year.

Trialing has become a whole lot easier for me now with this tedious step made so much easier.  I printed out 10 for Maxie, and 10 for Lucky Lucy.  They are stored in my desk.  I was so excited, I grabbed a dozen envelopes and affixed stamps and my return address on them.  I've got the stack ready to go.

Snip, snap!

As my club's webmaster, I'm also considering how maybe I can save myself even more time not having to link to Agility Trial premiums on our club's website as they come in to me.  I can just post the list and refer them to one place for the premiums. 

Is there such a service for locating Obedience, Herding, and Tracking trials?  Anybody know, let me know.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Papillon Puppy For Sale

At 11 weeks, this tri-color male Papillon has the markings and personality of a champion.
This tri-color puppy is out of The Pines Papillons in Myakka City, Florida.  The breeder, Lois Horan, is my cousin, and sometimes sends puppies with me to Louisiana to train and/or sell.  As a dog trainer, I enjoy working with the puppies every day until they find a forever home.

My puppies are usually leash trained, accustomed to being handled, accept treats from my hand, come when called, sit, shake, are learning to focus on handler commands. and we work on house-breaking.  In one day with me, this 11 week old puppy already walks on a loose leash, tugs, fetches, and holds his business until we go outside. He is very people oriented, follows me everywhere.
This puppy is eligible for AKC Full Registration to the right owners. Dew claws are removed and he is up to date on all shots, with vet certification that he is in good health. All paperwork for AKC registration will be filled out at time of purchase.

Both sire and dam of this puppy have ample coat, and no shortage of ear feathers as seen in these headshots below.

This puppy has perfectly symmetrical markings.  He has a very sweet, laid back personality, puts everyone at ease.  Here's a shot taken the first day home with the puppy and our 3 year old cur, Lucky Lucy. Neither seems concerned about the other being a stranger.

Here is a composite video of the puppy at play.  He is alert, feisty, cute, and follows me everywhere I go. With previous puppies, even my Papillons growled for hours, but not with this pup. He was immediately accepted into the pack.

For more photos and my personal observations on this puppy, refer to my previous blog post.  For a 3-generation chart, see below.

I'll post more pix later if I can, but if interested in purchasing this puppy now, contact me:

Michele Fry
I'm located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Here are the particulars:
Birthdate: 10/17/11
Color: Tri-color, Red, White and Black
Largest puppy in a litter of 3 (at 11 weeks, weighs 4.5 lbs)
Pedigree (3 generations back):

Birthdate: JUL-19-2005
wt. 6.5 lbs, ht. 10"
White & Black

White & Black

White & Black

White & Sable

White and Black

White & Sable

White & Black

Birthdate: April 22, 2010
wt. 6.5 lbs., ht. 10.5"
White, Black & Red

White Black & Tan

White Black & Tan

White Black & Tan

White & Sable

White Black & Tan

White & Red

NOTE: The only full body photo I have of Rain (dam, above) is 6 weeks after she weened her puppies. Thus, her hair has molted and is shorter than usual. She normally has a long beautiful coat. You can see she has good structure, with champions in her bloodline (1 generation further back than I can show here). The sire's bloodline has 13 champions, going back 5 generations. I only have room to show 3 generations in my chart. Thus, this puppy has a solid pedigree and potential as a show dog/breeder.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Papillon Puppy, "Winnie Pooch"

Winnie Pooch, on Lois's coffee table posing with Papillon Santa!
Before we left my cousin's house today, she and I washed and took photos of several of her Papillons, including the puppy she gave me, and his parents. We dressed a few puppies up in Christmas garb and had some fun posing them. 

Landing in Tallahassee for the night, John and I settled in at LaQuinta with nothing much to do but relax and get acquainted with our new puppy, take more pictures, and come up with a working name for him that matches his personality --  until he finds a forever home and a forever name.

At only 11 weeks, already a natural poser!
I thought of Fuzzball at first because he's so soft, cute, fat and fuzzy, but that wasn't dignified enough for this 11 week old poser.  After hanging with him all evening he reminded us so much of Winnie The Pooh (gentle, malliable, trusting), we shortly began calling him "Winnie Pooch".  He presents little resistance to anything.  Crated for the 6.5 hour drive, he didn't whine.  I put a slip lead on him for the first time at our first Burger King stop, and within a few minutes he caught on and just followed along, and he did his business outside like the other dogs.

When I laid him on his back at the hotel, he just laid there, looking at me with complete trust, giving me time to grab my camera.  Not many Papillon puppies will do that without some coaxing.  At the same time, he is spunky, alert, and catches on quickly, so should be easy to train.

Max and Willow are not the least jealous of him, unlike the previous puppies I brought home.  Apparently they don't perceive him as any sort of threat.  Why is that?  It seems he has a calming influence on all of us, thus the nickname -- Winnie Pooch.
The only thing he distinctly doesn't like is being isolated.  We tried confining him to the bathroom tile floor in our hotel room until we were sure he had peed, and he cried without cease until I let him in with us.  He didn't pee, though, until we went outside!

I'm looking forward to getting home and finding this adorable creature the perfect forever home -- before I get too attached.  See more writeup and video on this puppy on my next blog post.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Years Day and Resolutions 2012

L to R.  Lois, John, Larry, Michele on the alter, clapping and singing.
I believe supernatural things get set in motion based on what we think, what we believe, what we want and ask for -- and where and when. Very powerful stuff!  So for many years I have chosen to be HOME at the stroke of midnight New Years Eve, in the bossom of my family, friends, and pets -- feasting, clapping, singing, ringing in the new year by walking our labyrinth together (dogs included).  In the craddle, so to speak, where my support comes from.

Thus, I was trepadatious being in Florida this holiday, missing my home, closest friends, family, and rituals.  After lunch with my parents at the rehab in
Ft. Myers, FL on New Year's Eve, we headed for my cousin Lois's house in Myakka City, FL., a few hours closer to home at least.  Symbolically, I was heading in the right direction.  John and I had no idea how we would spend the evening -- we felt tired, disconnected, out of sorts. We agreed to stay open to possibilities, however, and ended up attending a bonfire/fireworks/pot luck dinner at the Sandy Baptist Church which Lois's husband pastors, and though we're not church goers, we went back to attend Larry's church service on New Years Day.

Larry describes his preaching as Pentecostal. He believes every word in the Bible as written, preaches from the heart (no script), people in attendance sometimes speak in tongues, and there is hands on healing.  There are only about 20 members, all country folks, and most of them are related (from grandparents to grandchildren) -- all of them jovial and welcoming to us outsiders. Throughout his talk, the 30 or so people in the pews raised their voices to embellish Larry's points or stories, many offering Amens, Praise Jesus, and That's Right.  It was a conversation more than a sermon.  Anyone could join in.  I'd never seen anything like that in church, so it turned out to be an interesting adventure.  And I was getting to know my family!
The wee tiny Sandy Baptist Church, circa 1904, located in Sandy, is the only building still standing from that ghost town, hidden deep in the heart of Florida's cattle country, down a long winding country road amidst huge expanses of cattle ranches and scrub trees on sandy soil.

Larry invited me to take all the photos and videos I desired, so I did what I could to capture the essence of the place. The hand-painted sign attached to a cow fence on the turnoff to the church is quaint and telling. Cousin Lois painted it herself! 

I was allowed to run my camera during the service, too, but that felt so odd and my camera makes such a tinkling noise when I start it, that I mostly chickened out.  I'm kicking myself for that now, but when I get home I'll do my best to put together a composite of what little I got.

I asked Lois if the church had a website . . . . . and she invited me to build them one!  The Lord provides! We spent New Years evening searching the web for any history of the town or the church -- and found nothing except a photo of the old outhouse, since removed.  We also discussed how to get the church recognized by the Manatee County Historical Society, have it declared an historical site, and apply for grant money to repair and refurbish it.   The structure is sagging and needs paint, pew cushions are threadbare, and they barely take in enough offerings on their own to pay the electric bill.  It should be on a list of old historical churches, open for tourists to attend a genuine "old time religious" service and the folksy, friendly, chatty down-home cookin' afterwards.  It's a totally authentic one-of-a-kind rural American experience! Lois wants me to write the grant!

Today, Dec 2, Lois, John and I went looking at Motor Homes.  I found my perfect floor plan for my taste, a 31' Jayco Granite, 2003, in very good condition, with only 16,000 miles on it, for only $39,900, recently reduced to $29,900.  It has been on the lot 6 months, so I made an offer of $23,000 with the requirement they would have to repair some things so I could leave with it by tomorrow.  I was pretty sure they'd turn it down, and mighty relieved when they did, but if they had accepted it would have been a steal of a deal.  Knowing that what I want is out there puts me one step closer to getting one.

Departing tomorrow, I'm also coming home with a Papillon puppy to sell, compliments of Cousin Lois and Merry Christmas. More on that later.

Considering some of my New Year's Resolutions, I think I kicked some of them off to a good start:
  • to steel my nerves to travelling farther from home (I'm such a hermit) so I can take Maxie to more trials and attain our MACH in 18 months or less  (can't do that attending only local trials). 
  • to strengthen family bonds.
  • to identify and acquire the perfect motor home for me
  • to raise money to pay for my agility trials this year
Upwards and onward!