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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bad Mommy 'fesses Up...

I don't know why I've put this off for so long. I expected a big prolonged process after how outraged she was about it before. It seems that in growing up, she's decided she can do anything if the pay is sufficiently motivating. I'm so glad I decided not to push it when she was so set against it. By letting it go, I think it became less of an issue.

What am I talking about? The dreaded n-word. No, not THAT one, the one that dog owners the world over stress about... "nails".

When I brought Gimme home, her nails were beautifully done and her breeder assured me she was a delight when it was time for her weekly pedicure. Either we have very different definitions of "delight" or something happened in Gimme's mind about the whole nails thing. Interestingly I was also assured she never even noticed the needle prick for her vaccinations. Yet, when I took her to the vet she was immediately dubbed "The Drama Queen" for her histrionics. When I first tried to do her nails, her drama-queen histrionics at the veterinary seemed a mere warm-up act by comparison.

At the time, I just thought the stress of all the changes in her life had gotten to her... so I let it go. From time to time I'd think "I really need to get her nails done", but something always came up. This weekend I was going to my parents', and both my parents adore her, so I knew I had to at least get her front feet "un-sharpened"... So I cleared the grooming table and set to work.

She got clicked/treated for:

standing on the table
standing on the table kissing me
standing on the table and letting me stroke her legs
letting me touch her feet
letting me hold my hand around her foot
letting me lift her foot
letting me lift her foot while holding the trimmers

Then put the grooming arm on, noosed her up and more click/treats for:

standing on the table with the noose on
standing noosed while kissing me
standing noosed and letting me stroke her legs
letting me touch her feet
letting me hold my hand around her foot
letting me lift her foot
letting me lift her foot while holding the trimmers
letting me touch her body with the trimmers
letting me touch her shoulder with the trimmers
letting me touch her leg with the trimmers
letting me touch her foot with the trimmers
trimmers touching the nails
trimmers touching her leg while I held her foot
trimmers touching her foot while I held it
trimmers touching the nail while I held the foot
trimmers touching the nail while I fiddled with the nail
trimmers touching nail while fiddling, then set trimmer down while still holding foot
NOTE: Years ago I learned by accident a secret to using the clicker to mark a good nails behavior. At the time I had the idea that I would attach a clicker to the nail trimmer handle, so I could click at the exact moment I clipped the nail. Unfortunately it wasn't as effective in practice as it was in theory. I never could get the coordination going to clip and click at the same time. My efforts led to my dog sometimes jerking the foot away as I clicked, which I knew was not something I wanted to happen as I was clipping. So I purposely delayed a moment. In delaying, until after the clip so there was no jerk in mid-clip... I was actually clicking for letting me hold the paw AFTER I clipped. Since then I've refined the behavior even further - now I continue to hold the paw while I set the trimmers down and then click. As I get to this point in the behavior, I leave the clicker on the table, so its right there when I lay the nail trimmers down.
That first night I proceeded to take the tip off each of the front nails, one at time. After which I did two back nails one at a time, then the other back nails in twofers. It took less than twenty minutes and about a hundred treats. Who knew it would be so easy.

We actually did her nails again on Saturday before leaving to for my parents' - getting the front nails more rounded. Then we did them again on Sunday evening after returning.

I started by luring Gimme onto a chair and then onto the table from there. By Sunday night she wasn't having any of that and for a moment I wondered if we'd worn the fun off getting a pedicure. Yet, the moment I got out of her way, Gimme leapt from the floor to the grooming table top. (I'm still requiring her to use the chair to get down.)

BTW on Saturday as we were doing our morning cuddle, I happened to stroke her leg all the way down to her foot. Suddenly her eyes popped open and you could see her waiting and listening - could there be a click coming, followed by a treat?

She is who she is.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Busy Us...

Gimme and I have been soooo busy lately.

She is enrolled in a wonderful ten week set of modular classes, 3-4 nights a week. Honestly she knows most of the behaviors that are taught in those classes, but isn't yet able to do them in stimulating and/or distracting environments. It is helping her a lot to learn to exercise self-control in exciting conditions. The instructor is well aware of our goals, so is pushing us beyond the goals of the class. Gimme is making such great headway that I'm sure I glow with pride when I leave class each night.

I must say I think our instructor is an amazing and gifted trainer. I'm thrilled to have Ursula teaching again in our area. She is, far and away, better than anyone else teaching pet training and behavior training locally (including myself [and if you know me, you know how seldom I say something like THAT!]). What a great resource to refer people to. If you are in this area and want to know more, please do contact me.

Additionally, we continue to train toward our goal of entering novice Rally classes at the Puget Sound Dalmatian Club specialty in late August. I thought that would be a great way to debut her performance career. As much as I can, I am teaching the behaviors with a view toward our final goals in competitive obedience. There is a rally/obedience match nearby the last Saturday of July. I plan to enter that to help us get ready for the big day.

We are also working on some of the other obedience skills that Gimme will need that don't show up in rally. As good as Gimme is at stays, I was totally unprepared for her to have difficulty with the stand stay. Had no idea she'd be such a fidget widget... <G> We are also working on the dumbbell retrieve, distance hand signals, and scent discrimination.

Additionally we continue to play at tracking. I havent' been consistent in this, so we aren't as far along as we could be. Gimme is doing well with aged tracks. I discovered that non-vegetative surfaces completely threw her - so we are introducing them as well. Gimme has a keen nose and a lot of desire - so its only a matter of time.

Meanwhile I am working on her agility behaviors at home and after the classes I teach and she's quite the little natural at most things - show her once, help her twice... then she totally has it. I'm not in a hurry for agility, since her growth plates won't close until around 16 months (about Christmas) or later. Until then I don't want to do anything repetitive or joint-stressing (trust me, the monkey does plenty of that on her own). After the growth plates close, we will get more serious about agility. In agility we are working a lot of flatwork, some very low jump sequences and baby contact equipment.

I have also registered us for a two day freestyle seminar in November with Julie Flanery. I've done a seminar with her many years ago, so I'm looking forward to that. Gimme is so dang cute she's sure to steal the show.

Then we continue to get in three 60-90 minute walks each week.  We do a lot of training during those walks.  Gimme thinks I need more training than the average hooman, so she never misses an opportunity to reward me for doing something right.

Needless to say she keeps me verrrrry busy.

As if I wasn't busy enough with her... my friend Linda and I have been working away making a quilt for several months... We made it for Nicole, as a wellness quilt, to honor her survival of breast cancer. In the picture is Linda on the right, Nicole's daughter Grace (who joined us for a few quilting sessions) on the left... and me peeping over the top.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Proud Mama.... me...

Before I prattle on about what I'm so proud of... let me indulge in a silly Gimme story. 

When I take my morning bath, Gimme comes in the bathroom and gets to lay there gnawing on a nice bone while I bathe.  We were using other chews, but have recently changed to nice big beef bones.  That way I know she's staying out of trouble and at least once a day we get to practice her "giving up the goodie" skill. 

Yesterday as I was getting ready to go about my day, I noticed Gimme sitting in the bathroom on the bath matt, patiently waiting.  I ignored to her see what she'd do next, since she's always good for something to amuse...  Well before long she came out and poked my butt with her nose, then put her face down and pawed at her nose before trotting back into the bathroom.  I believe that translates as, "Peeeeeuuuuuuu Mom, you need a bath."  That's my girl, never at a loss for words...

So why am I so proud? 

The other day we were walking one of the trails, Gimme was a bit ahead of me sniffing something that looked suspiciously like a dead thing.  As I walked by, I called her name, just as she picked it up... she paused briefly before dropping it and running up to me.  Naturally she got a big long suck off her peanut butter tube for a reward.  When I thought she'd had enough payment for her wonderful decision, I put the tube back in my pocket.  She paused for a moment looking back at the dead thing, weighing her options, then turned to come with me.  She got rewarded for that good decision too.

Then later as we came back around we had to pass it again (I was right, it was a HUGE dead mole).  She veered toward it and I said "leave it", not sure what she'd do since we have only just started introducing that concept.  She turned her head away from it slightly and went right on by it, as if she never was veering toward it in the first place, AND just as if she knew all about the dictionary definition of that cue.  Good girl!

She is so much better than I have any right to expect.  That's what comes of being a canine genius I guess...