Friday, April 30, 2010

For Sale

I usually avoid blatantly breaking the leash law in our community before. The other day I posted about working Rugby at the park, but there wasn't THAT many people there. Today however the playgroud was OVERRUN with short people. It seemed like there were hundreds of them (probably only 30 but still...its not a big playground). Since our house is officially for sale now and we are moving I figured it wouldn't matter if someone got mad at us for working off leash (and if they did it wouldn't matter).

Part of my justification for working off leash is that Rugby never leaves my side, unless he is on a stay or retrieving, he does not approach other people without having been given permission, he does not bark at people, he is not allowed to even relieve himself unless I allow him and he is at ALL times under control. If for any reason Rugby even considers the possibility of not meeting any these requirements, he looses off-leash priveleges.

The huge audience we got when we started working clapped and cheered for Rugby every time he went over a jump. We were able to put them to work too, doing stand for exams on Rugby and also forming a tunnel to do a drop on recall through. Then they all took turns throwing the dumbbell for me to send Rugby for. It did take some explaining to get them not to follow Rugby out and back from the dumbbell though!

Once I had bored a lot of them and only 6 kids were left I let them help me with articles. One of the kids scented the three that aren't supposed to smell like me, and the other kids took turns puting mine out with the tongs in the place I told them. Rugby was really aweful about articles yesterday and after he has been doing so well with them it was dissapointing. He started off that way today too, but the last two he did were better again. Hopefull that is the end of this little stumbling block - we will see how he does tomorrow.


Another story that makes all the time we spend training worth while.

I dropped my car off at the shop last Tuesday (while we should have been at that run-through class except I completely forgot about it) and took my dads truck while it was getting worked on. In the process of moving my stuff to my dads truck, I had packed the only readily available leash away.

No big deal, I just gave Rugby a heel command and walked to the door of the shop. I put him on a down-stay just out of the way of the door and left him to drop my keys off. Then, Rugby and I waited outside for my dad to finish and spent the time wisely practicing drop on recalls, pivots and signals.

When I went back in the second time, Rugby came with me into the waiting room in heel position untill I directed him at an open chair and sent him to place there. He left me and jumped into the chair and layed down while I took care of things at the counter, then I joined him in an adjacent chair.

I left him one more time to get something else out of my car and this time he was still in a stay in the waiting room chair. I came back in, put my keys up on the counter again and gave Rugby a heel command. He left the chair and met me on my left side and we walked out just the way Rugby likes it - with people looking at him!

Sigh...he is amazing. <3

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Summer Yet?

This has been the longest week of my life and it is only half over! I have so much to share, but I still have two exams this week and a paper to write so I will summarize.

We went to the the Timonium show last Saturday to get our last Rally leg and entered Open A since we would be there and we are still within the 60 days of earning our title.

He did get his last Rally leg with a 99 and 3rd place. But who actually cares about Rally... this is how our Open run went.

We focused on three problems from York to fix before this show.
1) Left turns
2) Fast transitions
3) Fronts off the Broad jump.

Saturday his left turns were much better. The only thing we changed was my handling since he responded better when I used the training left turn as opposed to the 'ring' left turn. So thats what we did - easy enough!

Fast transition we didn't work on very much at all but it was near perfect. He didn't forge and stayed with me into and out of it (as in...didn't go wide). Perfect!

Broad jump was much better too. He came in straight, just off to the right a little. Improvement. Since we have been working it differently (and not enough for Rugby to get used to it) he was a little less confident in his performance. Even after a much better front, it showed in his finish. Getting his confidence up is super easy to fix though, so we are not going to sweat it.

Overall, he was much much better Saturday which is a huge relief! We do still have some things to work on, but they are going to take a little more time to fix than what we had in the couple weeks between these shows.

He got a 193 and second place. Lower score than in York, but he didn't give me this good of a performance ANY of the days in York so I am not complaining.


These are some pictures of Rugby at the barn. It has been so long since we have been just because I don't have time with school but Rugby REALLY enjoys it. What dog doesn't like the wide open spaces?!

He did wonderfully here too. It has probably been close to or more than 6 months since the last time he went. This was the first time I didn't tie him, or kennel him while I rode. I was always worried he would get up and get underfoot, or too close to a horse. It isn't so bad with big dogs, but that would very quickly be the end of Rugby and there is not much I can do from on top of a horse! 

 I did still leave him on a 'place' command and he was more than happy just to watch. I was worried I didn't give Rugby the opportunity to become 'horse savy' but apparently you don't need to be horse savy when you are well trained!


And the best news of all - Rugby has started leather articles and with some luck will be working FIVE articles tomorrow! WHAT a smart boy!

There is soo much more, but this is all I have time for now.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes

... Thats what I told Rugby when we worked scent articles tonight. Thats right. He brought me back the right one out of three articles FIVE times in a row. I didn't have to re-direct him or verbally stop him from picking up the wrong one at all! He did it all by himself! After he did the first two right, I was pleased. On try number three he picked up the wrong one, went around to the other ones and then traded the wrong one for the correct one and brought it back. I wasn't sure if I should keep going but we did and he kept getting them right! *insert big grin*

It is rainy today and I haven't really worked anything else with him

The run-through class was much better yesterday than last week. I decided I didn't handle him too differently last week and the actual difference was in how much he had worked in the days before. Last week we didn't really work Saturday, Sunday or Monday except for articles and it showed when we went to class on Tuesday. This week while we still didn't do much Saturday or Sunday, we had our "field trip" Monday and we spent a little more time warming up on Tuesday = MUCH better = normal Rugby.

Only thing we really really need to work on is our fast transition because he keeps forging during it. Fronts and finishes will never be something we can stop working on obviously. I also noticed that he is much better coming in straight when he has his dumbbell in his mouth than when he doesn't.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Field Trip

Since I finished my homework early for once in my life, Rugby and I took a field trip to the "park" up the street from our house. I call it a "park" but really it is just a big grass field with a playground at one end. We set up all our jumps and went through directed jumping, gloves, signals, retrieve over the high jump, retrieve on the flat, and the broad jump. We saw only one other person there the whole time and he was walking hi beagle through. He came right as we started signals and rugby STILL did all the signals and I didn't have to help him any. What a good boy!

Rugby told me today that he doesn't know how to stand again. He is a liar - we have to keep working on this.

We are working the broad jump a little differently (with me holding a long rod in my hand to push him out with) so I can get him to go over it straighter and I am really happy with how it is working. The first couple time we did it this way he tried to refuse the jump but now he is going over much straighter. Today I didn't use the rod and he was still going straight over it. It is helping his fronts off the broad jump as well.

After we worked I put the jumps away and took some pictures of Rugby. He was too tired to run around on his own, so I just kept leaving him in a stay and calling him to me. These are my favorites...
"You want me to stand on THIS tree?? ...NOT gonna happen!"
I did prevail after a couple of tries, however!

Now Rugby is out cold beside me on the couch. I am sure by the time I get home from my next class he will be ready for another round!

We still need to work articles today (they were sooo sooo soooooooo good yesterday) and stays. I want to try to proof his stays with some food distractions. If I had remembered to bring food with us when we worked at the "park" then we would have done it there but....oh well!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mud Heaven

Rugby and I have picked the winner to our GABE giveaway! We assigned each comment with a number (we numberd them chronologically in the order that they were recieved) and went to the handy-dandy random number generator. Comment number 4 won, Toby- The Dog with a Blog! I think Toby would have loved the book since it features quite a few service dogs, although I am sure the next puppy will love it just as much!

They will be getting their copy of Mud Heaven, by Margot Woods in the mail shortly! Thanks for playing everyone, and thanks to Twinkie for putting the event together!

It is great read. If anyone is interested in the book, signed copies are available HERE. The book can also be purchased on Amazon.... unsigned. :p

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pool Time

We know winter is over when the baby pools come out at Margots. In an attempt to convince spring to stay, I got one of them out for the dogs to play in.

Rugby LOVES the water probably because he knows he can get dirty much more quickly when he is wet. Last year Ellie would only get in if we begged her to but today she was going in and out and running around like crazy in between. Pete was the happiest that the pool came out for sure.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cleaned Up

Rugby and I signed up for a 12 week "run-through class" at a local club to give us one more place to do get our obedience practice in. Basically we just show up and call patterns for each other. There is an instructor but no instruction is given.

He was looking kind of rough Monday night since he was outside helping us re-do our front planter for the spring time and was a brown dog from the knees down. We couldn't show up to the first day of the class looking like that.

I think Rugby looks like a rat when he is wet so I have refrained from photographing him in the bath for this long, but I couldn't resist any more!

...Look at that EVIL eye he is giving me!

So Rugby can have some dignity still - here he is all dry and clean.

Good thing we are going to this class because it is going to make us focus on not forgetting our open stuff. We have been working so much on utility, and less on open - it showed today. His heeling was wide, and lagged in some places. His fronts and finishes were just...weird today too. It definetely wouldn't have gotten us the scores we got the other week.  At least he "qualified" in all the exercises.

 I was so dissapointed we went back in the warm up ring once we finished and it took me a bit of time to get him back to working normally. I know we can do much much better than we did today. Mediocrity is not okay.

 Now that I sit here thinking about it, I think it was more a reflection of ME than anything else. I handled him differently today than I usually do. I can't really say WHAT I did that was different but obviously he didn't like it. Next week I am going to pay close attention to what I do and treat the class more like a show. The only other difference I could think of is that we ran a B pattern instead of an A pattern... but we run B patterns in Thursday night class all the time, so why would that matter?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just Keep Driving

Being prepared for the worst is a dog owners responsibility. It is my responsibility to everything in my power to make Rugby successful at surviving in society. That includes training him NOT to act like a little dog (which will quickly lead to his being eaten). That includes training him to be attentive enough to me to be able to call him off dangerous situations, or send him away from me for the same reasons.

On my way to work Saturday I saw the potential death of two very good looking dogs. The first was a jack russel, all white, with a harness on. The second was a boxer, also white, with a flat buckle collar on. (while I don't mind flat buckle collars, I do mind untrained dogs in flat buckle collars)

The boxer and the JRT were walking towards each other on the sidewalk, and the boxer's owner was having an increasingly hard time maintaining control over her dog. Being that the dog was not well trained enough to ignore the distraction that today took the form of a JRT, and that he was wearing a flat buckle collar - the owner had set this dog up for failure.

The JRT owner was ahead of the game only in that he recognized that the boxer posed a serious threat to his dog and had moved 4 ft over into the grass, and shortened the leash up to allow the boxer to pass. Even though he had moved over, the dog was on a harness - which as typical of dogs on harnesses - meant that the JRT was not under any sort of control either. He was at the end of the leash barking at the approaching boxer. In this way the JRT owner had also NOT set his dog up for success.

If he planned to leave the dog on the ground, the only chance the JRT had was if he quietly waited in a down-stay immedietely next to, or preferable behind the owner. By putting the dog in a harness, he took away his only available means to correct the dog for this unwanted and extremely dangerous lunging behavior.

I slowed my car almost to a stop, ready to yell at the man to pick his dog up, waiting for the events to play out. I could imagine only two scenarios if things continued the way they were going....

1) Boxer owner would lose control, and boxer would charge JRT and attack... dragging his owner along for the ride.
2) Boxer owner would mainting control untill they passed the JRT at which point the boxer would very likely back out of his collar and charge and attack the JRT... leaving his owner chasing and yelling after him.

Unfortunetely, scenario 1 was playing out before my eyes and I held my breath for the catastrophe that awaited. At the last second the man hoisted his dog above his head as the boxer drug his owner over and began to circle the man trying to get the JRT. At this point I drove away since the JRT now had his owners height at his advantage.

The whole episode made me beyond angry. Did those owners realize how close both of those dogs had gotten to death in that instant? The boxer certaintly couldn't hide from animal control for too long since they would surely put him down should he have even mouthed the JRT's owner in his attempt to eat him. Did those owners NOT realize how much of the blame was to be put on THEM for using inadequate equipment, not handling the dogs properly and not training them? How are dog owners not capable of reading their own dog's body language and intentions? Since when does dog ownership not include training? Since when does dog ownership not include MANNERS at the very least?

Should either of the owners not learn from the entire episode, it reinforced the fact for me that the odds are against us, and training and ever mindful management is essential to ensure he lives a long and healthy life.

On a much happier note - it is official now! Rugby got his CDX certificate in the mail yesterday!

Friday, April 9, 2010


We worked on our scent articles today, and we have officially started working with THREE articles! He was amazing. For the first time he sniffed an article, passed it up and brought back the correct one! What a wonderful glimmer of hope that he can do this utility thing after all!! One small step in the right direction!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

We Got Skipped

Spring is skipping us here in Maryland, apparently. It has been in the 90s all week! While I am glad that this means no more snow for quite a while, it also means I have to take more breaks when working outside.

Rugby started protesting the first day about the heat by not sitting, or sitting then popping right back up. I took this to mean the pavement was burning his reproductive organs! He is a baby though because when I realized what he was doing I took my shoes off to see if it really was hot and... it wasn't. So I made him sit a couple times before we called it a day.

Since then we have redesigned our daily work schedule to accomodate the heat. Instead of one 45 min session a day, we are splitting it up into three 15 min sessions a day. Since it is hot and we are working on harder Utility exercises the three sessions will make sure I don't fry his brain or his rear end!

His scent articles are very interesting. I THINK he is actually getting it. We took a break to focus on Open, then he was on drugs for his itching so it has been a while before we worked on them. We started last week again with a quick review of the beginning material to see how much he remembered. He has a good memory and we working mostly at where we were before now.

Yesterday we were outside and I made the first one easy. Yes! He got it. Moved on to the second one - not so fast! Yuck! He went for the wrong one. Third one he got right again. Fourth one...he actually got the wrong article in his mouth before I could stop him. I told him to spit it out and he did. I repeated the command and he looked at me like, "Are you kidding, I just had it in my mouth" So I told him one more time and he looked down to see the right article and brought it back. A light bulb clicked just then! I changed both articles so they were fresh and we tried again. This time he got THREE in a row right without any help from me. I was shocked honestly and stopped then.

Later that afternoon we took them out again. This time he wasn't getting them right as aften but his way of working them had chaged. He wasn't rushing out there to grab it like he does his dumbbell and I was able to stop him from getting the wrong one with just my voice. He was slower and more deliberate. He did get some of them right too, so I am taking this as progress. I interpreted his different working style as him actually thinking about what was going on this time.

I forgot to work them this morning and by the time I remembered we didn't have anyone to scent the 'other' article for us so it will have to wait till this afternoon.



If you go back to the beginning of this blog when Rugby was still a puppy you will find post after post after post on me trying to get Rugby to stand on his own - and failing at it. He held a very nice stand stay, and as soon as my hand was on his side he would pop up without me having to lift him BUT that was as far as we could ever get. I ALWAYS had to reach down and at least start to place him in a stand before he would do it by himself.

The other day I was thinking about how Rugby has gone over a year now and STILL wont stand up on his own and it made me angry! I can teach him to all sorts of random things but I can't teach him to stand?!

So I started playing around with ways to get him to do it on his own. I could not very well lure him into a stand with the touch command because I very specifically want him to stand by keeping his front legs in place and walking 'out' with his back legs from the sit. That would be counter-productive to this task.

A side note-
We have been working on backing up in heel position since that is a Rally exericise and although it would be fairly easy for rugby to back up in heel position it is not so easy to get him to do it without sitting once he got there. So without thinking about it effect on the stand I started last week rocking my weight back on my left foot, giving the back command and as soon as he moved backwards just one step releasing him and running forward ( to prevent the sit). Today we were backing up two steps and running forward.

Then it hit me - if he backs up from a sit, I will be getting the correct stand motion from him, and with the "back" work we have been doing he should be able to resist the temptation to sit. To help him out I looped the leash under his belly so if he went to sit I could catch him without having to bend over. Then I remembered when we first started articles transistioning from fetch to find through a combination of the two words.

This time as I began to back up with my left foot I said "backstand" and had to hold his back end up with the leash (since he was convinced he needed to sit). I told him he was really smart and we did it again. And again. And again. Then I focused on fading out the "back" and the leash. By the end of our session I could say "stand" and move my left foot back just a smidget and he would stand up - ALL BY HIMSELF.

Phew how long did it take us to get to this point? I imagine just a couple more days of this and I won't have to move my foot anymore either.

Sorry that was so long and boring, but how could I keep that to myself?!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Utility and Sunshine

I am not sure I can accurately describe Rugby's new attitude lately. It seems after our trials the other weekend, he has been unusually happy and attentive. He was happy before, but this is a different kind of happy. I can think of only one reason for this - he must know he is amazing!

We have been working on our Utility exercises much more seriously since then. I forgot how much more energy it takes to LEARN new things. Now that we are introducing new exercises Rugby demands a nice long afternoon nap to recharge after working.

And just because he is cute....

Lots of studying going on the past couple days, but we will get caught back up soon!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Global Animal Blogging Event 2010

 So what is this GABE thing anyways?

GABE was started by Twinkie to bring animal bloggers together. Head over to Twinkie's blog for rules and details on the event. You can join in all the way up to the 10th. After that (both active or passive participants) just browse through the blog links listed on Twinkie's GABE page to meet new blogging friends and leave comments for a chance to win giveways while you are there. GABE ends on the 18th, so comment away untill then.

We thought long and hard and finally came up with a giveway! We will pick the winner when the event closes on April 18th.

Drumroll please.....

We will be giving away a copy of Mud Heaven by Margot Woods.

Definetely a good read - Mud Heaven is a compilation of short stories about living with and training dogs from a dog trainers persepective.

For a better description of the book than I am capable of giving, visit the link above.

If you didn't know, Margot Woods is our dog trainer extrodinaire (her blog)!!!  One of the main dogs of the book is Wrap, Rugby's first doberman girlfriend who taught him a wealth of information about surviving in a big-dog's world. I think some of her roles in the book have a lot to do with why Mister Rugby is so dobe-obsessed these days!