Saturday, March 30, 2013


One of the books I purchased and read a couple times before getting my puppy is called, The Focused Puppy, and I learned a lot of training ideas that I've been using with Rigby.  My desire with Rigby is to train using positive methods to end up with a happy dog who loves to work.  Thanks, Deb Jones, for a wonderful book that has helped me in many ways.

Today Rigby showed how focused she can be and how much she truly enjoys working and especially tracking.  Wish I had a video to share of today's fun, but I didn't bring the camera this time.

Rigby's turn to track today came at about noon and, because it was a beautiful day, the park was pretty busy.  Just as we took Rigby to the small field to begin her tracking training a family with small kids pulled up to the parking area and as they exited their truck the level of commotion in the area increased and my heart sank as I thought, oh, shoot, we waited too long.

Ellen, who was going to lay Rigby's tracks, told me she'd make the first one short and we'd just see how Rigby did, but if Rigby could handle this situation she'd handle anything.  As Ellen started to lay the first track the noise level and activity continued to increase.  I tried to focus only on Rigby, but there were barking dogs, screaming kids and the kids also had brought out a big, colorful ball and were playing just behind where Rigby was waiting for her track to be ready.  All this was happening within 30 to 50 yards of my young pup.

Rigby was quite excited, sometimes watching Ellen lay her track and other times watching the kids and dogs around her.  When it came time to run her first short track Rigby was all business and once we stepped to the flag and I told her to find the glove, her head went down, she started finding hot dogs and she continued along till she got to the glove, her focus never waivering from the job at hand.  I was quite happy at the end of her track, too, as she did a couple glove retrieves, showing again that she could keep her mind on the business at hand.

We did two more tracks with Rigby and her excitement to track increased and her interest in other happenings around her decreased.  Her last track was 35 yards in length and just as with the first short track, she kept her nose down and followed the track to the glove and then happily played with her glove at the end.

I thought her level of concentration and her work ethic were wonderful for a puppy only 6 and a half months old.

Last night Rigby was enjoying her nightly playtime on my bed before being put in her crate for the night.  I was laying on the bed with her keeping an eye on her and doing some reading and, before I knew it, I heard snoring.  This was the first time Rigby had ever fallen asleep on the bed like this, she is always too busy playing and doesn't sleep till put in her crate.  She was so adorable laying there that I let her sleep most of the night with me till I woke and put her in her crate.

I have a few videos I'm going to load here for your viewing pleasure.  Two of the videos are from earlier this week, one with Rocky and Rigby sharing some playtime and one of Rigby on the couch chewing a toy.  The other video is of her tracking last week and you might notice that she is now tracking in a leather harness, as she has outgrown the nylon harnesses I had. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Celebrate the Ides of March

On the Friday, the 15th of March, Rigby and her litter mates will turn six months old!  The time has flown by for us, as I'm sure it has for her brother and sisters.  I will have to make sure I get some photos of Rigby this week to keep a good memory of where she was at six months of age.

Rigby enjoyed playing in the March snowfall.

This week Rigby started a new class which is designed to give her the basis for a solid retrieve, a talent she will need as she progresses through her obedience titles.  The class has only four dogs in it (the limit is five dogs) and is based on positive reinforcement training -- my favorite way to train. Through the weeks of the class we each shape our dog's behaviors in a gradual manner until we have taught a reliable and happy retrieve.

The first step in this week's homework is teaching Rigby to lay her muzzle in my outstretched hand.  She is getting that down pretty solidly, so I'm moving to the second step which requires her to lay her muzzle in my right hand and then I take my left hand and gently place it over the top of her muzzle.  At first she moved whenever my left hand came towards her, thinking I was delivering a treat to her with that hand, but she is now learning to wait and see what the left hand is really doing.

One lesson being taught in this class which I think will benefit Rigby down the line in her training is that her treats are in a bowl sitting beside me, not in my hand or my pocket.  She is learning that even though the treats are sitting at her eye level in an open container that she has to wait to be given a treat, it's not her choice to just eat because the food is nearby.  I can see using this technique to wean her away from food during training as she gets closer to the time to enter her in obedience trials -- keeping her treats in a container on a table beside the ring, train for a bit without food in my hands and then reward her from the treat container.

Rigby has learned to push the lever on the freezer to get ice cubes to come out.  We have not used the ice dispenser for several years because it was not working and I never thought she would get rewarded for her efforts, but she seems to have fixed the mechanism and she thinks it's grand.  We have been trying to remember to lock the water and ice dispenser, but have forgotten at times and, before you know it, she is pushing the lever and her icy reinforcement is delivered to her.  Dan and I will have to work harder to extinguish this behavior, as it's one I don't want to encourage.

Rigby was tracking again on Saturday.  She is now tracking in a leather harness that was loaned to me by a friend whose Lab wore it to get her TD.  We had to make many adjustments to the harness to make it large enough to fit Rigby.  I don't think she'll be able to use it for long and she may be using Rocky's harness very soon.  She is quite enthusiastic for tracking so far, but it's mostly the hotdogs that have her excited right now, as she doesn't have a grasp on the tracking game yet.  I'll try to get some new tracking video of her soon.

The tracking group following Ellen as she tracks Ava.
Ellen and Ava.

Linda and Katie

Katie working her track.

Next week's blog will celebrate Rigby's six-month birthday and how far she has come in such a short time!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Quiet Week at Our House

We've enjoyed a quiet week at our house with no really exciting news to post.  There has been our usual training time, morning play time and, of course, our walks -- one day we even made it to the park, although it rained lightly during our walk.

Rigby has mastered the Easy button trick and I've added a "command" to it.  I think she'd continue to click the button for an hour if I'd let her!

The highlight of our week was a training/play date with Karen Schroeder and her pup Skye.  Since our last visit with Skye she has grown up so much and is a lovely, happy, playful girl.  The two pups enjoyed their playtime together.

Rigby also got to see an agility tunnel again and had fun running in and out of the tunnel.  She even decided to share her Easy button with Skye and Skye's reactions to the button were priceless.  Wish I had been taking a video of her first few minutes figuring out the new, strange toy.

Skye really impressed Rigby by her progress with her training in heeling.  Rigby has decided that she better start working a bit harder on this skill!

Thanks, Skye and Karen, for joining us for an evening of fun for the pups and some much needed fun for me, too!

Next up for Rigby, we're going to take a retrieving class.  There will only be up to five dogs in the class, so, in addition to giving her a good foundation for retrieving, it should be a good atmosphere for a young, excitable dog to learn about behaving in a class situation.

The other great news I have to report is that Rigby should be back to tracking this Saturday and I'm anxious to spend time in the park with our tracking friends and to watch Rigby get back to tracking.  It's been eight weeks since she last tracked, but I think she'll remember her lessons and move on quickly.  We've worked quite a bit on retrieving a glove during this hiatus and I'm hoping that that training will carry over to her picking up the glove at the end of her tracks.  I'll try to get some video of Rigby tracking in the next couple of weeks.