Friday, March 22, 2013

Teachers Pet

Our Homework for this week is some foundational limb awareness exercises.  That's not exactly what our trainer called it but that is how i understood it.  Basically the idea is to develop Embers ability to maneuver herself thoughtfully and develop her coordination across all four of her legs/limbs.

We are doing this through 'pan work'.  she is to place her two front feet on a slightly raised target (her overturned, empty water bowl  and maintain connection of feet to bowl.  Then we introduced movement and gradually rewarded her for shadowing us until she could fluidly shift her back end to maintain position, while keeping her feet on the pan.  Finally, we have her sit without taking her feet off the pan.  The last exercise is great for helping ember to learn to sit straight down without backing up a few feet first and then sitting down (something she is notorious for at the moment).

An added exercise of teaching her to offer a raised back-end off of a platform rounds out the following video. It didn't take Ember long to really pick this up... and class isn't for a few more days, so we are hoping to further refine her performance on this homework to a point where its even more fluid, obedient  and accurate.  The trainer admitted that she really liked Ember and said that we shouldn't have a tough time of training her to do these things because of her drive and eagerness to learn and deliver.  It also doesn't hurt that she has a near obsessive drive for summer sausage, but she will do the work for lowly biscuits too. :)

Check her out in action!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Photo Flood

These are in no particular order... Time frame from Dec 2012 - March 2013

Brodie was all dressed up for Ember and him to hang on Valentines Day

Been So Long!

We have a 6 Month old puppy on our hands.

  It seems almost a crime that there hasn't been a Post since way back in December   Ember blew through her puppy class with ease often learning her homework almost entirely on the day it was assigned.  all we were left to do was polish her up a bit.

  That isn't to say shes ready for an obedience title or anything.  ;)  We are learning right along with Ember, doing our best to stay consistent and support her natural ability to do pretty darn well.
Here is Ember 2 days ago. Hard to believe how fast the weather has changed yet again (there's something like 3 er 4 inches of snow out there today with more falling). Here she is doing her 'informal' stay and recall. As this was more just messing around i was using our informal commands. Soon we will have a 'stay' and 'here' command that will be chiseled into her correctly and formally. We cant wait for the weather to consistently get better... taking her to the park is as fun for us as it is for her as long as it isn't covered in snow and below freezing.

 So whats been happening in the past couple of months you ask?

   Well, as puppies tend to do... Ember has grown at a pace which has stunned us as first time dog owners. She is beginning to look like a full grown dog, which is a little sad because she was the most adorable puppy ever. Hesitant to change her Blog photo :( but spring is about here, and shes more than double the size than that Christmas photo.

  Fast forward to now and Ember is as spunky and energetic as she ever has been. She still leaps into your lap like she hasn't gained a pound. Oomph! She takes commands very well, and is eager to please. there's still quite a bit of puppy in her though... she's feisty and impatient with some things, especially hanging with other dogs. If there's another dog nearby and you want Ember to ignore them and behave, it isn't a cake walk... yet. But she gets better everyday. Ember completed her puppy class and we are on to the next step, Performance foundations. Today was her first day and she was in looove.

 Circumstance dictated that only one of us could go with Ember to class today :( so we don't have many photo's (at least that's my excuse this time)
Bad photo of the table. Ember was probably pulling.. YEAh...ITS ALL EMBERS FAULT SEE! ;)

Ahead of the table was the 'bump' and then the tunnel! I am a fan of the tunnel.

This is our Trainer Rebecca.  She's great.

 These badly taken photos are all we have of the session today. Next time we are teaming up and taking videos.  The first two photos have the obstacles we introduced Ember to today. The table, The Bump(?), and the Tunnel! Ember was ready to drag me on my belly in the beginning so she could meet the other dog in class (weather kept some other owners away today) eventually she calmed down and we got to work. First the table: Ember was brought to the table and allowed to inspect it without any guidance, we just let her be curious on her own. When she sniffed the top or interacted with the top at all a treat was place on the table far away enough to encourage her to at least step onto it to get her reward. Ember jumped right on the table entirely. After 4 repeats she was jumping right up on the table after a redirect, looking for cookies/biscuits/meat... the good stuff. she had it down, she knew what time it was... if she was near the table, she got on it and got happy. Next was the speed bump thing (in front of the tunnel in the second photo) that i have no other better name for, though I'm sure one exists. we walked ember to one side and had her sit. Then I walked over the speed bump while she was sitting, with her leash in hand, and released her to come to me for a reward. she leapt up, slowed a bit as she traveled over the bump to sniff it in motion and then sped back up to me for her reward. From that point on she was bounding over it like it wasn't even there. So we removed her leash and connected the table after the bump. She stayed sitting perfectly fine even with another dog vying for her attention behind me... came over the bump when released, received a much deserved treat as she followed me through to the table and immediately leapt on top of it. another treat was dropped on the table. treating on the table is done on the table and not out of hand... there was a reason for this, but it escapes me now as i type this post. As is the case with much of dog training, the devil is in the details and I remember what I'm supposed to do, just forgot to commit to memory 'why'.

 Finally, The Tunnel! so i was a bit intrigued how she would handle this. the tunnel has a sock of sorts attached at the end which is collapsed and the dog has to run through it until it finds daylight. I remember thinking that it must take a certain element of boldness in a dog to go through such a thing for the first time. so we brought ember up to the mouth of this beast and let her inspect it without us guiding or commanding her. Her trainer held the sock up a bit so she could see through to the other side and fine that there was a way through. She got her body halfway in no problem, her back legs slightly trembling while she was in there... Then she backed up. so i placed a treat a little further in which rolled forward and she followed after it, and then pushed all the way through on her own without anyone calling to her. The trainer was impressed and remarked on how bold she was being with all the obstacles.  So we loaded up a target after the sock, which Ember witnessed, and then we lead her to the entrance to the tunnel and let her go in... this time no hesitation just blew right through and nailed the target for her reward. at this point she was thoroughly amused and wanted to go in the tunnel any time we went near it.

  Now we connected this to the other two obstacles, Nailed it. Ultimately we tried all three without a leash, she nailed the first two... but skipped the tunnel and went to the trainer. The trainer stood still and so did I. When she came back to approach me she took a moment and then went through the tunnel and was upon the target (which she conveniently forgot about until she went inside the tunnel).

 Things the trainer noticed; Ember is quite a bold little dog. so far she's willing to try new stuff no problem. Ember is very driven. She runs through obstacles, and is a bit impatient to start them :-) Rebecca said "shes a maniac! look at how driven she is!, shes so good, a superdog!" So im standing there all proud of this girl, and both of us were very happy to do some work, had a great time. We would like to take the credit for how good she can be sometimes, and we will take some credit for her training, but this is how she came to us way back in the beginning; ready to go and demanding our attention for things to do. Just have to be careful and not take it for granted. we want to be every bit as hardworking as she is because she deserves it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

First Class

Today was Embers first class with her trainer Rebecca Letson!

Rebecca got us novice puppy owners started by giving us a foundation to start with and a path for Ember to follow in her training. Before, we felt a little lost even though we had great books at our disposal and lots of advice from several sources about training puppies. It's one thing to read or hear about it and quite another to see some of the fundamentals in action and witness demonstrations as to how they will eventually lead to the rest of the things we would like to.

Our first steps toward heel! up until today we have done little to no "heel" work with Ember. Most of her training has been sit, down, stand and place. So today we started some of the initial lead work that leads to heel and we will continue to condition her into the action everyday.

We worked on seperating "sit" from "down". Somewhere along the way Ember began to occasionally attach sit and down together when she became confused... offering each in turn until she recieved a treat. She knows the difference but having put her in a down from sit far too often has created a small obstacle when she gets a little mixed up. She would occasionally default to down from a sit if a command was given, regardless of the command. She's a bit used to doing sit then down then sit then down. So we began working each command seperately. After returning home and using her dinner for treats we have seen a lot of improvement and refinement on her sits and downs in just one evening!

working on her "off" switch: As our final bit of homework we will be working with ember to relax when we want her to with a physical command. We place our hands on her shoulders and wait for a small bit of relaxation... and then treat her, slowly increasing the pause time between treating or praising each day over the next couple months.

Probably one of the best things for us was gaining use of the "yes" tool which is delivering a solid confirmation to ember that she has done something right... whereas before "good girl" was serving as both confirmation and praise. Now Ember knows when she has completed the task correctly... and praise won't sound like we are confusing her by repeatedly confirming her action and not offering more treats. Already we can see Ember understand and respond to the confirmation in a way that she never reached with "good girl".

We learned more than just commands and good foundations... we also learned that we ought to pull out the camera and take a few measly pictures once in a while... we're sorry! we were listening far to intently to remember to snap a few photos. Ember will be getting another private puppy class before christmas, we will try to let the photographer loose this time.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Blog posts sure have gotten scarce!

Main reason is that Ember is allowed outside and can mingle now!  We have been frolicking around with relative reckless abandon!

Ember has been loving her new found freedom.  Gone are the constant carrying trips... though she still looks to be held from time to time :)  Now she can explore and meet other dogs!  Which is good because she's quite bored with our cats having little interest in stimulating her playful nature.

Ember received her shots on December 7th.  Apologies on the slow news day around here!  Holiday hub-bub and getting her out and about have been keeping us really busy.

 Something we have been waiting for is getting Ember up to the barn.  You can see that she has found a friend.  Ember was eager to sniff at this big gentle giant and Poco was fascinated by the new friend in the arena.

Ember had her tail between her legs for all of about 20 seconds and then she was ready to roll in the dirt with him... if only we allowed that.

She met other horses that day and witnessed some kenneled beagles who were far too rowdy and loud for her tastes.  She snubbed them and we headed back home.  Muddy pastures and dusty arenas forced us to pull out the shower head.  Ember does pretty well in the bathtub... she doesn't even mind the 70's era color!  But she doesn't love it either. :)

 The next day we took her out to Struble Pond which has a lot of open area and a couple baseball diamonds no one was using.  Ran around a bit and let her stretch her legs.  We had a 30 foot lead which we used to lightly work on a little bit of recall.  Ember is happy to run towards you if you call her name... even from over 60 feet!
 There were a few other folks walking there dogs up on the top of the dike and in the other baseball fields.  Ember desperately wanted to investigate them.
 Here you can see Ember getting a little rowdy, and the dike in the background.  Later we would go for a walk up there and Ember met her first dog ever who was very accomodating and patient with her.
 Ember likes to chase and run in general.  Her big floppy ears tolerate the abuse.

After a long day, these two spent some quality time together.

Another day, another park!  This is Sandy Beach... a relatively abandoned park with rarely any visitors.  It has a river and a boat lauch so we figured it could be fun for Ember to explore it a bit.

The weather has been surprisingly cooperative these past couple weeks.  Almost unseasonal.  If it wasn't so windy, we would have  probably left the coat in the car.

Ember has her first private obedience lesson on Monday with Rebecca Letson!  Look forward to a quick post about the goings on!