Monday, March 29, 2010

Meet 'n Greet-less

This week Zachary starts Canine Good Citizen (CGC) class.


True, he was a bit young last time (8 months) and being your typically friendly Golden he was totally incapable of keeping his rump on the ground while the nice stranger came up to say "Hi." Then there were the heeling issues, the separation anxiety...

He was just a youngster, after all. Now that he's a Big Boy, I'm hoping things will go a bit better.

As I see it, there are three main areas of concern:

1. Greetings
2. Ignoring another dog
3. Supervised separation

So yesterday I decided I had procrastinated long enough and it was time to start practicing.

Off to the Library we go, sporting a dapper scarf and bag of treats (that's Zachary in the scarf and me with the treats.) The Library is a wonderful place for Meet n' Greets, full of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. I used the Library a lot when I was preparing Beau for his CGC. We'd sit outside, lots of people would walk up and ask to pet my dog, Beau would practically be bursting out of his skin to show them his undying love and affection... ah yes, the good old days...

I don't miss them one bit.

(No, really, I don't.)

Now I'm sitting on that same bench with a dog who is very different from Beau. Zachary is cheerful, curious, friendly, cute as can be (Beau is more handsome than cute) - but most importantly, Zachary is calm. Zachary isn't going to jump on anyone. Zachary isn't going to mouth anyone. Zachary isn't going lunge at anyone (in that oh-so-over-the-top friendly way.) Zachary isn't to pee on anyone (remember my "not missing" comment above?)

This should be easy.

And so we sat...

... and sat...

... and sat...

... and no one stops. I had a few older women smile wistfully from afar, a couple of little kids playing tantalizingly close (like, 2 feet close while eating cookies) for a good 15 minutes, and that's about it.

In the 30 minutes I sat there, just one teenage girl stopped to pet him. I must have watched 50 or more people walk by. He was perfect, either sitting or laying on a loose leash with a happy smile and a gently wagging tail.


It was beyond weird.

Yes, he was good while another dog walked passed and then chilled out with his owners nearby. Yes, he was good when the rickety cart full of books rattled past. Yes, he was good when people walked within a foot or two of him. Yes, he was good when the teenagers ran past. Yes, he was even good when the little kid offered him part of his sugar cookie (thankfully his mother nixed that one!)

So I guess it was a success.

But why didn't anyone want to pet him?

The only time I'd seen that before was with Beau when it was dark. Beau is a darker and bigger dog with a huge head, and I think people were just plain scared of his looks at night. Here, it was broad daylight, Zachary looks about as intimidating as Winnie the Pooh, and...


I'm hoping it was just an aboration - some strange alignment of the stars that caused people to pass by as though he didn't exist - because it's going to be awfully hard to practice Meet 'n Greets if nobody wants to stop by and say "Hi."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

BZ's Video Guide

Announcing: BZ's Video Guide

Blogger allows up to 10 "static" pages, so I added one to track the boys Training Level's videos.

There are three tables, one for Beau and two for Zachary (the extra being "On The Road".) The links in the table will take you to the appropriate (I hope!) YouTube video containing that behavior (Sit, Down,... etc.) at that Level.

There is also a permanent link called "BZ's Video Guide" in the column on the left side of this blog (in the "BZ TRAINING BLOG PAGES" section) that should whisk you away to that page.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Elective - Assisting

This is the first Elective in the Partner group.

My thought with Assisting was to come up with ways my boys could lend a paw, keeping in mind the things they enjoy doing.

I have no grand schemes for them. They are not service, assistance, working, teaching, demo, or therapy dogs. But even plain old pet dogs can help out every now and then.

(As always, click to see larger)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day...

Oh, what a glorious day it was!

The sky was clear and blue - the sort of day where you could see for miles and miles (assuming there weren't hills and houses and things in the way) - with the sun shining and temps just touching 60F. Who could resist getting out?

Not me!!!

So after my all my whining and soul searching in my prior post, it seems all I really needed was a nice sunny day to break me out of my "But I don't want to go out" huff.

(And of course, as I posted about it, everyone now knows I was huffing. Sigh.)

Zachary, the camera and tripod, some lovely chopped up turkey ham, and I took a stroll to a pretty patch of sidewalk/bike path we don't usually frequent. There, despite the novelty of the place, he was a super good boy and gave me all I asked for - even on grass!

That would be all of Level One (except Come - not possible there) plus Level 2 items:

Sit Stay (20')
Down Stay (20')
Stand Stay (10 seconds)
Handling (ears, feet, tail)
Trick (spin)
Zen (on a raised surface - in hand was done in Level 1)


Level 3 Loose Leash for 40'. Since this was On The Road, I'm thinking it does double duty for Level 3 -plus- Level 5's On The Road. I was a bit upset that when I looked at the video as it looks like I had food clasped in my hand (which I didn't!)... but I'll probably use the footage anyway. Who knows when I'll get out again.

Bottom Line (literally): I'm so proud of him!!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Playing Hooky

Anyone reading my progress reports (on my bzdog blog) these past few weeks will note a definite lack thereof. Lack of progress, that is. Part of that is due to Real Life (school, Lacrosse, work) but we all know we can find time for that which we truly love...

... and lately, that hasn't been the boy's classwork.

With each passing week, as I copied the same items from the old sheet to the new and wrote up whatever reason there was as to why they were still undone, there was a growing sense of obligation coupled with diminishing desire to actually complete the tasks. I knew I had to move forward on those items in order to reach my Goal of completing Training Level Five by years end, and yet...

Not happening.

So last week I decided to shake things up by only having "fun things" on the list. I figured a week of fun might make the eventual return to classwork seem less onerous.

(Isn't that a great attitude.)

The first day, Sunday... (yes, I know what dates are on my sheets, but as I wasn't making any progress on that week's sheet I figured it couldn't hurt to start the new one a day early) so Sunday I spent class time exploring sticks with the boys and crawling around on the ground in the glorious sunshine looking for "Unusual Angle" shots (to see what ended up in their scrapbook, click HERE.)

Monday was Tricks day, where I trotted out the (dusty) flip camera and shot footage of a bunch of the boys tricks.

Tuesday was dress-up day, where the boy's modeled headgear and a scarf (see HERE.)

On Wednesday, along with a cold that the entire community seems to have, came the realization that just setting goals wasn't good enough. Yes, I have read Training Levels 1000 times, and I have created lists and charts and plans in order to "stay the course".

But I wasn't.


I think it is because I lack a reason to do so.

Perhaps the question isn't just "What are my goals?" but also "Why do I want to achieve them?"

My boys are not service dogs, working dogs, or assistant dogs. My dislike of "performing" means getting a CD or RN isn't a huge incentive either.

No incentive = lack of motivation = icky tasks undone.

These past few weeks I have been putting off activities that require going outside. This includes Contacts (as I can't figure out where to put a 10' plank in the house), leash manners (I need 40' and my hallway isn't that long), the long sits and downs (see leash manners), and all the On The Road stuff (which, by definition, can't occur in the house.)

It's not that I don't want to go outside, it's just that, well... actually... it is because I don't want to go outside. It's dark outside by the time I can hold class. It's Dark and Cold. It's Dark and Cold and (usually) Raining.


I learned a lot about myself this week, and while I still don't have a good reason for wanting my goals, at least I know I should be looking for one.

Thursday night I pulled the flip camera out again and shot of video of Zachary learning to push a door closed. While I was at it, I shot video of both dogs doing Heel and Finish for Level Four. Somehow it didn't seem so bad after all.

As I'm sitting here, I'm realizing that Daylight Savings Time is coming tonight and soon the weather will be bright and sunny. Until then, I think I'm going to refocus on doing what can be done right now - those things that inspire my boys and me.

Those other things? They can wait a little bit longer.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fashion Model

Tonight I decided to tackle "Take a picture of the dog wearing something on his head" from Photography. I knew this would be easy for Beau, as I have often subjected him to such foolishness in the past. I have pictures of him wearing a Santa hat, a Witches hat, a glove, and even a tennis ball on his head!

I started easy, dressing him up in a scarf and hat that was laying about - perhaps a start to "impersonating a human"? I had no trouble putting things on him or his head and I liked the effect, but I don't think it's "done". We'll have to see what else I can add to it.

And then, inspired by a picture I saw of Lily, I pulled out a fuzzy purple headband (complete with fuzzy purple antenna balls) and I told Beau to Sit and Stay.

Once again, I had no trouble getting the shots.

Once again, the fact he drooled ruined pretty much all the pictures. Guess I'll need to keep my day job after all.

Then it was Zachary's turn.

I don't believe I've ever successfully taken a picture of Zachary wearing anything on his head. I'm not even sure I've ever tried (the Witches hat never even get near his head.)

Once again, I said sit and stay.

Once again, I pulled out the fuzzy purple headband (complete with fuzzy purple antenna balls).

Alas, one quick swipe of his paw and that was that. It seems sit and stay doesn't preclude moving a front paw. Hmmm... Let's try this again.

Once again, I said sit and stay.

Once again, I slipped on the fuzzy purple headband (complete with fuzzy purple antenna balls). THIS time I said "Leave It!" and he froze.


I ran back to the camera (already positioned on the tripod and ready to go) but as soon as I turned my back, he dropped his head and the headband slipped down his nose, and fell onto the ground.

Good thing I had said "Leave It!"

Hmmm... wait... I know. My camera has a 10 second delay option. So I got him seated, the camera centered, and I clicked the button. The camera started beeping.

Once again, (beep) I said sit and stay (beep).

Once again, (beep) I slipped on the fuzzy purple headband (beep) (complete with fuzzy purple antenna balls) (beep).

I said "Leave It"! (beep)

I stood just out of the picture (beep) with my hand held in my best police officer impression (beep).

(beep)(beep) Click!

Ok... call me biased, but I think he looks adorable.

The scarf shot turned out to be a breeze. He decided he preferred to lay down, and I decided he looked much better that way.

Perhaps I'll turn him into a fashion model yet!

Scrapbook - Share?

Another lovely spring day and what was I doing?  Crawling around on my belly snapping "dog's eye view" pictures!

To see the rest of their scrapbook, click HERE.

(As always, click to see larger.)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Video Progress - Training Levels

I love Training Levels.

I don't love trying to keep track of what has and hasn't been done in Training Levels - particularly since I have two dogs.

Yes, I do use the Training Tracker (at least I try to) and in the beginning was I was really wild about it. Then my son discovered XBox Live. So much for my internet connection! It always seemed that when I had free time to work with my four-legged boys, my two-legged boy was on-line.

Funny how that works.

Without an internet connection to check Tracker, I found it hard to remember what I had done and what was left to do.

So I wrote up checklists for each level, printed a copy for each dog, printed the training level instructions for each level, and put the whole thing in a binder with pocket folders so I could easy pull out either the instructions or the progress sheets.

That worked extremely well, and I still rely on it (going on a year now?) as the ultimate guide of what I've done and what is left to do. But then I started videoing everything, which created yet another wrinkle (x2 - a wrinkle per dog.) Now, in addition to tracking what they know and what they are working on, I needed to track what had already videoed. Oh, and don't forget noting what actually made it into a final video.


So I created a simple Excel spreadsheet (aside: While I'm not much of a Microsoft fan, I really love Excel.)

I created rows for the activities and a pair of columns for each dog for each level. It's very much like Tracker (surprise, surprise - I did say it was wonderful, I just can't get to it when I need it!) only made to handle 2 dogs and in black and white instead of pretty colors. A solid color in the square means that activity is not part of that level (ie: there is no Heel in Level 1), a white square is a required item, a gray square is an optional item, and a square with a single slash is one with no training aides.

There are some things that I have no intention of videoing (like my boys doing their business for handling level 3 or, most likely, things requiring "strangers")  and I mark those squares with a red circle with a line through it. Things that I have clips for are shown with a clear happy face and when they are "released" in a video the face turns yellow (following Tracker's cheery yellow seal of accomplishment.)

Below is how it looks at this very moment. While hardly a thing of beauty, I have to say it gives me great satisfaction staring at it!

(Click to see larger)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Duck Zen - update

Well, it's been a week since we started practicing Duck Zen and I'm pleased to say it's going well.

Well for me, at least.

The first few days were pretty a much a repeat of the first, with quite a few demanding barks, quite a few perplexed looks when I didn't budge, and ultimately... silence.

I knew we were making real progress the day he DIDN'T stop barking. Ah, the Extinction Burst. I knew it would come, as Beau was a rather difficult teenager and we had experienced more than our fair share of Extinction Bursts during those trying months.

As those things go, it was absurdly tame - perhaps a sign of his (long awaited) maturity. I spent 5 minutes or so standing by the Kitchen table, with him stopping only long enough for me to twitch in the direction of the bookcase before he started barking again.

He stopped, I twitched. I twitched, he barked.


Poor guy, he did his best to appear non-demanding. He averted his gaze, stared at the floor, then stared at the wall, then backed out of the room altogether. He tried a whimper-bark, a whine-bark, a half-howl bark, and then a cute little muffled bark I'd never heard before.

No joy.

Finally, after I was beginning to wonder if we would even have time to play (or equally if Zachary was going to get disgusted and try to deck him) he just stopped.

That was three days ago, and the barking hasn't returned.

No barks.
No whimpers.
No whines.
No half-howl barks.

Not even the cute little muffled bark.

Just beautiful silence.

I don't know if things will stay quiet or if he will regress again. I do know that I won't let him get away with regressing!

... as for him barking while Zachary is finding the Duck? I've changed things up so that Zachary is now looking for the Duck in a room out of sight of Beau. That stopped the barking during the "find" part. During the "victory laps" (wherein Zachary zoomies around the room proudly displaying Duck and causing it to quack) I've been keeping Beau's attention riveted on a cookie and his butt firmly on the floor.

It seems to be working.

Once Beau figures out that Quiet Dogs Get Cookies, I think peace will return to our happy little kingdom...

... unless you happen to be a Duck.

Monday, March 1, 2010


One of the biggest challenges I have Homeschooling my dogs is staying motivated.

Without a class to attend or a test to take, it's not always easy to justify the time spent instructing my dogs - especially given the many Other Things vying for my time (hubby, son, job, house,...)

It's hard to spend a day at work, rush home to make dinner, spend an hour or two with Lacrosse/School things, clean up the house, and still have the desire, energy, and proper frame of mind to give my four-footed students the instruction they deserve.

And so I created a curriculum to give the effort scope. I make syllabi, lists, and schedules to keep things focused. I post things here to force myself to stay the course and not let my dog's tuition fall victim to those louder forces.

But in all honesty, I fail as often as I succeed. There are weeks that pass without a single Field Trip. There are months that go by without one Special Event. And while I usually manage at least 1 hour per week per dog, it's not as consistent as I would like (5-10 minutes per day, per dog, 5 days a week.) Had I paid "good money" for the time, would I do better?


But there is a Silver Lining to Homeschooling.

Last week Beau's exuberant behavior with regards to "Find the Duck" reached my annoyance threshold, and so I promptly dropped everything else to work on it. No, it wasn't on any list or plan. No, I had not allocated any time to it. Yes, it will cause other things to "fall behind".

But it doesn't matter.

Whereas a traditional student climbs aboard the education train at the start of a course, takes in the information along the way, and hopefully disgorges the knowledge learned on a test at the final station - a Homeschooled student's (or dog's) education doesn't have to follow predefined tracks.

It is OK to derail the Homeschooling train.

Last week, Beau and I veered off onto a footpath and explored Zen Duck. Late last year, Zachary and I spent three weeks wandering down Watch Way - one little second at a time. This week we might take the bridge over the river Lunch Time Begging, or go down the fire road that explores NOT running out Open Doors.

Or we just might stay on the tracks of this Week's Worksheet (wouldn't that be a change...)

The point is, in the end (as with most things in life) I need to make the most of the journey and worry less about the destination. So long as I remember to do so, then these side roads and detours will never seem like a waste of time.