'Not only is punishment risky, but it also fails to teach the dog an acceptable alternate behaviour. The dog does not learn what to do the next time he is in the same situation. He only learns to fear the situation.' Emma Parsons, Click to Calm p73

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Bunny Ears and Motorbikes.

Yesterday: Lola and Rocky, who still adore playing with each other!

Today, we made two trips up town, one at about 10-11am and one about 8-8:40pm.

In the morning trip, the town centre was really quite quiet. I took advantage of that to work on some of Lola's other niggling fears.

For the last couple of weeks, whenever we've gone past this 'odd grey blobby thing' near a bus stop (I have no idea what the thing is), Lola has shot to the end of the leash to get away from it. But there's always been people around, so I've not been able to do anything about it, until today. Since it was so quiet, I was able to shape her to being near it, moving toward it, touching it, standing on it, and then walking over it in the space of about five minutes.

We also, this morning and this evening together, shaped (again taking only five minutes or so per thing) her to be calm around a stationery motorbike, a traffic cone, and a loud/rustling crisp packet (thanks to the wind, it was harder to work with this). By the end of the first session we'd done all but the crisp packet, and in the second visit to town I took her to the traffic cone and grey thing, and she was perfectly happy to walk around and lie down on the cone's edge, and to walk over the grey thing.

In the morning, she barked three times at two different dogs. Once was at a westie in a car; she was fine going past it into town (before we started work on her other nervous/fearful things, so possibly she was stressed from that later), but on the way back she barked at it. I immediately stopped, cued her to down/stay, and rewarded her with a minute or two of food, cuddles and praise as she ignored the dog, which was going crazy in the car.

The second and third barks, both at a golden retriever, happened simply because I wasn't far enough away from the dog. I'd seen it, moved Lola into a side-road, but hadn't taken enough steps away, so Lola shot to the end of her leash and barked twice at it as it passed. Lesson learned: for now, more space is always better.

With people, she was generally really good! She had no problems (no hackles raised, no vocalisations, no hard stares) in the morning, though in the evening it wasn't so good--but still no barking. We had three issues.

Firstly, a teenage girl went past wearing a rabbit ears-headband, and walked across the road quite quickly toward us. Lola freaked out at that: she cowered against the wall I'd moved her nearer to, and I've never seen her hackles so raised before. Not good.*

Secondly, a man decided to click his tongue at and coo at Lola, and then followed us as we moved fast away from him. Lola raised her hackles for the first 10-15 seconds or so, but after we got some more space between us (since he followed us for about a full minute) she was happy and relaxed once again.

Thirdly and finally, as we were walking off the main road onto an adjacent road, a man carrying a bag full of noisy things followed us. I didn't notice him until after Lola did--when she shot to the end of the leash, away from him, and cringed as I tried to move her away. She was visibly startled by that, as well as by the girl, so tomorrow I don't think we'll go to town - going to give her a day to de-stress, instead of pushing it.

* Since we got home, I dug my own rabbit ears out of my drawers, and wore them for a while. Lola gave me the look of, "something's not quite right here" but didn't seem too bothered - they certainly didn't stop her from snoozing on my lap. I took them off and had Mum put them on before she came in the room with the dogs, and Lola grabbed them and pulled them off of her head when she crouched down to say hello, and then promptly ignored the headband.

So for tomorrow, I'm going to be spending several hours wearing bunny ears (for five minutes every half an hour or so, I think - they hurt!) and raining treats down from the sky whenever I have them on.

Saturday, 30 July 2011


Lola met chickens today! She was a good girl--she lunged a couple of times, but we were pushing it pretty hard to get her to learn that chickens are not for chasing (and we only had ten minutes with the chickens before we had to go get food). She looked away from them a couple of times, ate food, and even followed some simple cues. We should be going to see them again tomorrow!

Dreaming of chicken. Tasty.

Muzzled to keep chickens safe.

Chicken watching.


Being a Good Girl and lying down for me, rather than trying to pounce on the tasty chickens.

Not happy about the muzzle, but otherwise Happy Lola

Wondering if she can get the chicken without me noticing

Another post on the rest of the day coming later--when I'm not so exhausted!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Big Day, Small Dog.

The foot and leg in this picture don't belong to me!

Today started out very well! I got ready and out with Lola nice and early (about 9am-9:50am) for her socialisation walk, and although she huffed once, she didn't bark, lunge, snarl, growl, raise her hackles, or anything throughout the walk. She broke a down-stay once when a pram went past about a foot away, and although she shied away, she didn't lunge at the pram or anything. She also dealt with the usual kids, loud people, etc, and also stayed quiet when a man stopped me to inform me that I was 'spoiling my dog.' I sort of smiled all non-committal and left.

Shortly after we got back from that walk, we went out for an hour or so walk at the park, to thoroughly exhaust her. Nothing of major note happened--other than having to stop every seven or eight minutes to force Lola to have a break and drink in the shade, as it was so lovely and hot!--except for when we were leaving. An elderly woman was sat on a nearby bench with a shitzhu and two little kids, and when the kids saw Lola they made a beeline for her. I called her quickly to me, and walked away without looking back, ball in hand, and Lola followed happily. They didn't stop following us until I actually left the park, which was infuriating - if you're looking after children, WHY would you let them walk after someone who is obviously trying to get away? Some people!

When Kelly arrived, Lola was in her crate with a kong, as I wanted to keep her awake and working at something for as long as possible. She barked a lot, and even continued barking when I put her in the kitchen to calm down. When she finally shut up, I let her out, she barked, she went back in, and then when she came out again she was quiet. We left to go to the shops shortly after that, and upon our return Lola barked once at her (after barking and yapping and squeaking at me), but was silent as soon as I told her, 'that's enough.'

After we'd sat down, Lola leapt up onto my lap and fell asleep, pretty much immediately. She was really good after that, until me and Kelly took her out to the park for a walk at around 2:30pm-4pm. Kelly had thrown the ball for her a couple of times, but Lola once dropped it about three metres away. Kelly told her to bring it closer, and Lola growled very softly and moved away from her. But other than that, during the walk she was fine - running past my friend, moving near her, letting her take and throw the ball (with the chuck-it ball launcher) and even occasionally fetching it back to her, rather than default fetching to me.

We went home, and Lola slept on my chair whilst I made food. Kelly was sat about a foot away, with her legs dangling near Lola, and yet Lola made the decision to get up on that chair and settle down there. That was nice. She did growl at her once more, just before she left, as we'd both gotten up suddenly, and Kelly was moving pretty fast; Lola gave a quick growl and fled upstairs when K moved toward her. Not so great--but it was a growl and retreat, thankfully not a growl and lunge, so I'll accept that for now.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Wednesday: words, words, words (and photos).

Right now, Lola is being such a good girl.

Today, there was a lot of people who were walking 'strangely' in town. That is usually something that Lola reacts to--it's one of her stronger triggers--but she handled it like a champ, and by the end of the session in town she seemed to be reacting to people who were walking differently no more than to the average 'normal' walking person.

At one point, a guy with crutches even fell over, about four metres away from us, and she didn't explode into barking, lunging, or anything. She didn't lift her hackles, growl, huff out her lips, or try to bolt too much. She hung back away from him, obviously not wanting to get closer, but she didn't kept a loose leash with me at all times. What a good girl.

We had two very minor things happen: two little 'huffs', one at an older man who was staring at her as he passed about a foot away, and one at a teenage (trigger one) boy (two) who 'suddenly' appeared out of a doorway (three), and who stared at her (four). Considering she only blew out her lips (her precursor to barking) and then self-interrupted and looked hard at me for a treat, I was pretty pleased!

Today we've been implementing two new things. Firstly, the down/stay around big triggers (a jogger passing us by about two feet; children running past squealing), and that has worked fantastically. Her downs are always nice and fast, and she didn't seem at all bothered by being asked to stay around Strange Things. Secondly, I've also been heaping praise and cuddles on her when she is really good - for instance, when she locked on to a person, and then looked away and held my gaze for the majority of the time as we passed them, she got a massive puppy party, which she loved.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Throw the ball throw the ball THROW THE BALL
Lola has such a dumb/funky body structure, it constantly amuses me

Yesterday was good. Lola barked once at a person (a man in a baseball cap who walked up behind us - I only noticed him from about a metre away, and Lola barked almost immediately after), but other than that she was very good!

When we were at the park, a strange Cairn came up to Lola whilst she had her ball. She dropped the ball to sniff the dog--cautiously, hackles up--but didn't start anything after I told her quietly to 'leave it'. I picked the ball up and rewarded her good behaviour with a hard throw of the ball in the opposite direction, and she went charging off after it. We also saw a couple dogs during the day, and she was good with all of them.

Yesterday marked the first "real" day (well--not including today, ha!) of our new exercise schedule. And the difference is obvious: today we've been busy and, well, lazy, so the girls have only had a single hour/half mostly off-leash walk playing fetch, with some training this morning. But Lola has been dead-to-the-world asleep for the vast majority of the day, and when I went driving she didn't put up much of a fuss.

I'm looking forward tomorrow to giving her a good throughout-the-day workout again, and seeing how this impacts on her reactivity.

Eddie Chapman - 'The Working Jack Russell Terrier.'

One: What is a Jack Russell?

'In the last century, a hunting parson, the Rev. John Russell, bred his own type of Fox Terrier. [...] Because he bred only from proven game terriers, the Russell type has stood the test of time.' (p4)

'The Jack Russell of today is as different as chalk from cheese from the show Fox Terrier. [...] So, what we have in the present Jack Russell Terrier is the original fox terrier, which was bred for work and not for its pretty appearance . . . [Russell] was insistent on gameness and took no notice of fashion.' (p4)

'If you are dedicated to improving your stock you should always demand to see a stud dog work before using him no matter how many championships he has won or how long his pedigree. Or, for that matter, how many scars he has on his face.' (p5)

'I think it's true to say that the genuine workers are of the most docile temperament and show their true spirit only when at work.' (p6)

Two: The Jack Russell Hunt Terrier

'This intelligence also contributes to the Jack Russell's wonderful temperament and adaptability. It is marvellous how versatile a Jack Russell Terrier is.' (p8)

Three: The importance of breeding pure

'A well bred Jack Russell is a truly wonderful dog. It can be a perfect pet with the smallest of children or the most demanding of adults. It can be taught to do any number of tricks and its standard of obedience can be perfection itself. It can be taught to hunt any animal it encounters if told to. Its bravey is unquestionable. This is why it is such a perfect hunt terrier.' (p23)

'Hunt terrier men avoid Bull Terrier blood like the plague.' (p24)

Four: Advice on entering to fox

'To start with, do not waste your time and money on a pup from unproven parents. The Russell has a deserved reputation, but not every one will become a worker.' (p30)

'To be quite sure of full maturity, and I do not mean just full growth, but mentally mature, you should wait until he is at least eighteen months old [before entering to fox].' (p33)

Five: Hints on breeding

'It is not easy to breed a strain of working Russells. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of experience . . . The problem of breeding is that, on the whole, Jack Russell Terriers are a motley bunch. Each one is an individual, no two are identical, and no two strains the same.' (p41)

'. . . a Jack Russell Terrier does not need to be a powerful dog. He is not bred to be a fighter, or a killer, but a clever bayer, no more and no less.' (p42)

Six: Handling a Fox

'The question of being able to call out a Russell Terrier is a very controversial one and I have heard several terrier men say that no terrier worthy of the name could be called out. They seem to think that any terrier that leaves his fox under any circumstances is useless. [...] It takes a good relationship between an owner and his dog to get a terrier to leave a fox and it is not a thing you can get every terrier to do even if he is normally very obedient.' (p54)

Eight: The Bleeper

'For the sake of a bleeper, many dogs, good, honest dogs, would be alive now. A working Jack Russell gives you his best. The least you can give him is this lifeline to the surface in case of emergency.' (p67)

Ten: Mink Hunting

'Jack Russells are famous vermin controllers, which is why they are so popular with farmers as they keep the rat and mouse population to a minimum, being tireless hunters.' (p74)

Monday, 25 July 2011

Bob Clough - 'Down to Earth Jack Russells.'

Chapter One - Serious Time

'As a terrierman's dog disappears from sight into the darkness of an earth, it's 'serious time'. It's great to laugh and joke, enjoying our Russells in many different ways, but to work any terrier to ground is not to be taken with a pinch of salt. This dog is putting its life at risk whenever it does this.' (p1)

'A terrier that can be called out will be of enormous benefit to the hunt terrierman because the fright that the baying dog will give the fox is enough for it to bolt from the earth even when the dog is out of the ground. [...] The terriermen of Sweden try their best to teach their dogs to leave when working if called.' (p2-3)

'Not only do [terriermen] love our terriers beyond all imagination, but any terrierman worth his salt will risk his very life to help his dog in a dangerous situation. The pet owner of any breed hasn't a clue as to the dedication the terrierman has to his dogs. [...] [A working] dog is his/her life; a dog above all others; a friend, a loyal companion who will give his very best, giving endless days of hunting thrills; a pride and joy to own - a real dog.' (p6)

Chapter Two - Fighting

'Jack Russells are not nice little pets. [...] Fighting is a common problem that most working terrier owners face at some points; but with a little time and understanding it can be prevented. [...] Unlike the majority of pet breeds the Jack Russell has been developed to work an aggressive quarry. This must play a big part in their mentality and shows itself in the general character that most have.' (p7)

'Left to its own devices, a Jack Russell can be unpredictable and catch you on the hop but nine times out of ten, you should be aware of what mood your dog is in at any given time . . . just watch your dog's body language for the mood shifts and the ownership of a Jack Russell may become somewhat easier.' (p8)

'Like smoking, Jack Russells are addictive.' (p13)

'Once [a fight] happens, the Jack Russells will never forget. Once hatred has been established, especially between bitches, they may wish to fight the instant they see each other.' (p15)

'My best working dogs have been quite laid back, unassiming Russells who, to the lay person, seem far removed from being able to deal with a fox. It is, however, the growling maniac that gives false information toward its ability to work.' (p15-16)

Chapter Seven - Judging

'Even though personal taste will guide the judge in his placing of the Jack Russells on display under him other points are being considered whilst handling each terrier. [...] The most important of all is that the dog's temperament is sound. Terriers who try to bite whilst handled are hard to judge and a liability to the owner. Regardless of the cosmetic appearance of the animal, it must be mentally stable and safe for the judge to approach.' (p37)

Chapter Eight - Show Condition

'Correct coat preparation before a show is essential if you are serious about making the best of your Russell.' (p53)

'The most important consideration in my mind, regardless of the quality of the terrier, is its condition. Instantly it is apparent whether or not the dog is fit and well presented. I should be able to take any Russell from that show and find that it is fit enough for a day's work.' (p53)

'The Jack Russell terrier isn't stupid. It knows how to get what it wants from its owner.' (p54)

Chapter Nine - Groundhog Day

'I have always felt that anything but underground work is not really seriously working a dog because this is where the terrier is tested to its full potential and the reason for its existence in the first place.' (p58)

Chapter Ten - The Norfolk Fox

'Never think you know your dog one hundred percent, as these clever little dogs will often astound you.' (p67)

Chapter Eleven - Judging and Working in Other Countries

'For me, to be able to handle another Russell enthusiast's terrier is a real high.' (p75)

Chapter Thirteen - Breeding for Quality

'Each mating should be looked at as a way of correcting a certain fault that your bitch has.' (p91)

Chapter Fourteen - Too Young to Work... or Not?

'Terriermen will know that 'little spark' in the eye of the young dog that tells them this dog has promise. Some are full of it at a very young age while others appear hard pushed to kill a mouse at a year old. To be mentally mature to start work is the most important part of getting it right with the Russell as they all develop differently.' (p111)

Chapter Fifteen - Breeding for Coat

'Understanding your dog's pedigree is so important if you really want to breed consistently good Jack Russells.' (p117)

Chapter Seventeen - One Swallow Doesn't Make a Summer

'...just because the dog has scars from its encounters underground, doesn't mean that it is a guaranteed worker. A hard terrier may take more punishment from working one fox than a more sensible type does in a full season's work, so picking the winner on scars alone does not always result in the best worker winning the class.' (p126)

'The dog, when working above ground, doesn't need the true grit courage and determination that is called for in a working terrier. This is what sets our terriers above all other types of dog . . . the bravest of the brave, working without the human assistance that the above ground working dogs have.' (p127)

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Cat vs Dog.

Every time I see a cat, I get so excited: 'yes! a chance to show Lola she's not allowed to chase cats!' Apparently it's been paying off, as today she only honed in twice (both of which are shown in the video - I moved into her path the first time to break her gaze and body block her away, and gently pulled her away the second time as the cat was moving and therefore much more attractive) and did a good job at keeping her focus on me when so close to a cat! Before I took the video, we walked around it in a half-circle, staying at about the same distance from it as we were during the video to help her keep her mind working. I only had to cue a 'leave it' a couple of times, too.

In training news: yesterday pretty much bombed, and I didn't want to discuss it much. A drunk guy (at half 2 in the afternoon) sat down next to me on the bench, and in order to move away I'd have had to move slightly closer to him to get around the bench's arm. So I stayed put, tense and anxious and frozen, and tried to feed Lola for calmness as he was trying to stroke her. She growled at him a lot, and during the time also lunged at a kid that ran past about a foot away. Note to self: if I feel uncomfortable with a situation, Lola will feel ten times worse--and try to forget about being polite, as not everyone deserves it.

Today, Lola was good with people (she barked once at the neighbour's kid, as we'd just come outside for our walk in the park, we were both unfocused and he was stood in his garden only a couple metres away - the consequence of that was that I brought Lola immediately back inside for a few seconds to calm down)... but she wasn't good with dogs. At all, really.

We saw today: a Bedlington Terrier, a Golden Retriever, a Chihuahua, a Westie, a pair of Basset Hounds, a pair of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, some giant black thing and an Akita.

The Bedlington is a dog I've seen a couple of times in town now, and it's always good to practice BAT on as the woman who owns it generally stands with it for five-ten minutes at a time. Very handy! Lola was fine with it, and even carried on walking away from it on a walk-away reward when it barked.

She lifted her hackles at the Retriever - and it wasn't even looking at her. Urgh. She was fine with the Chi. She barked (once) and lunged at the Westie when it lunged to the end of the lead to see her, and she had an intense, hard-to-break stare at the (really obese) Bassets.

That was all in town; later at the park, two Staffies came charging up to see her while she was five-ten metres away with her ball, and she snarled and air-snapped at one, but immediately left it alone when I cued her to do so, even when one of the dogs (the one she'd reacted to) followed us for a couple of moments, right up behind her. The giant black scruffy dog (no idea what it was - but it was huge and had a moustache, and it was kind of hilariously adorable) passed by us about a metre away as I was putting on Lola's leash, and although she glanced at it she didn't react at all. Same to the Akita we saw later, when I was walking her and Jess together.

Apparently today was Not So Great for dogs--but it was okay for people. Kind of starting today, I'm also implementing a stricter exercise schedule, which will go something like:
9:00-9:30am - boomer ball indoors (Lola)
10:00-11:00am - breakfast (Jess), walk in town (Lola)
12:30-1:00pm - boomer ball (Lola)
2:00-3:00pm - indoor games (both dogs)
3:15-3:45pm - walk/hang out near children (Lola), joint care (Jess)
5:00-6:00pm - dinner (Jess), walk in park (Lola)
8:00-9:00pm - speed walk (both dogs).

It's going to be stricter than what we have now (general midmorning/lunch walk in town, some play around half 1, see kids at half 3 when they're out, a walk anytime between 4 and 7), and I'm hoping it will help her reactivity. If she's tired, she'll be less alert and frustrated, which should hopefully help her to feel more relaxed.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Silly Saturday.

Behaviour Adjustment Training (and what it means for us).

Behaviour Adjustment Training, or BAT, is a training method used on fearful or aggressive dogs. It was developed by Grisha Stewart, and the core idea of it is that it gives dogs the ability to control their environment in a non-aggressive manner.

Reactive dogs have often learned previously that, when they are feeling socially pressured (because another dog is too close, or a person is looming over them, or a jogger passes by) that aggressive displays will serve to increase the distance between themselves and the trigger. BAT changes that - handlers do not remove their dogs upon the dog giving an aggressive display, but rather when the dog is non-aggressive. Thus, the dog is helped to understand that it has choices: it can react and be interrupted, or it can be non-aggressive around a trigger and be permitted to move away from the trigger.

In time, BAT helps to show dogs that they can get what they want--the social distance they show that they want by reacting--by not reacting. Their job is to simply offer behaviours: the handler moulds and works with these. You can read more about it at the Ahisma Dog Blog.

For Lola, Look At That (LAT) and BAT are perfect for her. She loves to be in control - for example she is offended, and often upset, if I 'manhandle' her into a certain position. Her 'leave it', taught through It's Yer Choice, involves her removing herself from temptation: from the first time I introduced it, she didn't just ignore the distraction, but actively worked to distance herself from it, to give herself room to make the correct choice without the additional pressure of closeness. In fact, I've actually had to work on Lola moving closer to food once she's been cued to 'leave it'; she instinctively wants to keep her distance.

LAT and BAT are both helping her to learn that interrupting and redirecting HER OWN BEHAVIOUR are fantastic ways to earn what she wants - food, toys, social distance, handler approval. If we had access to people and dogs that would work with us (though I have a plan, for the next time my mother is off work for the day, to try and needle her into taking Jess out to the quiet field nearby so I can practice Lola on Jess), we would be working more on BAT. Since we've started doing BAT, I have noticed that her behaviour toward other dogs--which is reactive edging more on aggressive--has gotten better.

We began simply, and with what she already knows: look at the dog, look at me, and then the difference: we can move away and party (so we get to walk away, and then her behaviour is reinforced with additional reinforcement, which also serves to increase the inherent reinforcing nature of the walk-away). I've been keeping at this step for a while because I have no access to dogs to work with - it's hard to remember everything in a random encounter with a strange dog.

Our next steps will be (not in any order): marking and rewarding for bodily turns toward me, which she often already does; for any calming signal she displays; for any displacement behaviour she displays; for offering tricks without cues; for breaking eye contact with the other dog to sniff the ground, to look away (away from me); for softening of the body, face, tail set and ear set when looking at the other dog; and for any other behaviour in proximity to another dog that is non-aggressive.

More and more I'm coming to realise that dog training, especially when you're working with a reactive dog, is about choices. You need to encourage your dog to make the 'right' choices, so that they don't resort to the behaviours that they know work but which you do not want them to use. Over time, the 'right' choice becomes more appealing than the 'wrong' choice - because the 'right' choice has been reinforced with distance, food, play, praise and the 'wrong' choice is merely ignored or interrupted, and so doesn't get the consequences that they desire. The dog begins to replace Trigger > 'Wrong' (to the handler) Behaviour > Consequence with Trigger > 'Right' (to the handler) Behaviour > Consequence; and as time passes and their experience with this game continues, even in the presence of increasingly high distractions, they become ever more likely to display the appropriate behaviour.

It is easy, with hindsight, to look back at things you did right and wrong. I wish I had never taken Lola to either of the puppy classes we attended. She learned to display her frustration at not being able to greet the other dogs by barking in the first, and began to learn that posturing and nipping at other dogs got her increased social space in the second on the forced greetings. I know where I've gone wrong - and I know what I need to do to start putting everything back together.

I'm not asking her to become best friends with every dog and person she sees. That is unattainable, and it isn't her. But she must learn to be polite - I would much prefer a polite disinterest in dogs and people to a lunging, snarling mess at the end of my leash. It is easy to look back, but hard to look forward and think: how am I going to change this?

I'm lucky that Lola isn't worse than she already is. With another handler, perhaps she would be - or perhaps not. Punishment would have broken her: it sounds dramatic, but it's true. She is far, far too soft to put up with any mishandling, and she would shut down completely. But perhaps another person would have forced the issue when she was a puppy, and taught her immediately just how great other people are. I failed in that department, and I failed by not removing her immediately from the negative environments of our training classes.

I know all of that now, but I can't go back and change the past. I need to change the present to change the future. In a year, perhaps two years: I hope she will be able to pass through a moderate environment, with rewards, with no reactions whatsoever. I want her to learn that she holds the power to affect what happens to her: that she can walk with me and I will protect her, and I will support her. I want her to stop fearing her environment, and to start learning what it means to be a dog.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Lola Gave Birth...

...To two healthy, fluffy white puppies.

Each pup is about a handful, and both have been homed to Mr and Mrs Trashbin.

I got about half a handful just off of Lola's forelegs, because it's been about three or so weeks since I last gave her a 'proper' hand stripping. The tips of my fingers are raw and stinging, but that's not all we've been up to lately!

Yesterday I took Lola to a place I've only been to twice before with Jess - and there was a lot of rabbits. Lola went crazy chasing their scents (when we saw them, I gave them a headstart to avoid any bunny deaths) and recalled nigh on perfectly each time I called her back to me. And then after she'd been rushing through bushes and various vegetation, she was blinking a lot, pawing at her face and shaking her head. She also had squints in both eyes, but especially on the white side, which was very red, as were the tips of her ear undersides. I booked her in for a vet appointment this morning, as although she was perkier she was still squinting, but the vet said not to worry, that it was likely pollen and to bring her in on Monday if she's still bad (she's nearly back to normal now).

But a Great Thing happened at the vets! Before we went in, we were in the waiting room with an old collie that was staring hard across at Lola. I was tense anyway, imagining the worst ('your dog is going to die in x hours', for instance) and when Lola looked at it, I told her tersely to 'leave it.' And she did! She looked at it a couple times, relaxed; she didn't bark or growl or posture in any way.

And then in the vet room itself, she took several treats from the vet - both before and after the woman handled her face (which she's sensitive about anyway). After the procedure she was trying to claw up my legs and hide behind me a little, but after a couple moments of me ignoring her she was creeping back to sniff the woman's hand, and then took a couple more treats from her. They stunk to high heaven (mm, fish treats) but apparently they were just what she needed to get her motivated enough to take them.

She didn't bark at anyone there or back either, when usually after visiting the vets she can be a little quicker to react for the next half hour or so, and I celebrated when we got home by giving both dogs the roasted bones we've had for about a month.

Both dogs have now thrown up (Jess three times, Lola once). You win some, you lose some!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Obnoxious Children: Wednesday edition.

This video was able to show Lola working "thanks" to a screaming female child, who you can probably hear. I don't even know why she was screaming--she was pushing a pram and seemed happy about it, but then randomly just screamed so I just don't know. Children are weird.

As you can see, Lola handled the screaming child (who was nice and far away) pretty well. That wasn't all we dealt with, as in this 3:30-4:10 slot we were stood in the parking lot that a lot of the kids go through when they're let out. She did really well, handling herself quite nicely. At one point, a small boy went past clutching his mum's hand - he'd come running to the lot earlier and then backtracked upon seeing me and Lola. His mum looked at my teeny tiny super-dangerous dog and seemed amused at his fear. Lola, despite being interested in him, did well and didn't so much as lift her hackles or strain the leash, which was nice.

What wasn't so nice was the obnoxious girl children that, when they saw Lola, squealed loudly and stalked me across the lot. I didn't even realize they were following me as I moved around--I'd introduced that today; Lola not losing her cool when we're moving and there's a lot of children--until they were about two metres away and one said something like, 'AWWW! What's she called?!'

'Lola.' Moving quickly away.

They kept stalking me and I had to move constantly between them and Lola to keep everyone happy. My pup wasn't too impressed - I was stressed and anxious (I don't like strange children at the best of times myself anyway), and here was a pair of girls annoying her. She growled once, and I gave her a mild verbal correction (a quick, quiet 'no') and redirected her to a down. She didn't bark, lunge, lift her hackles or stare too much, though, so I'm not too bothered. She's still doing really well.

As we were heading back home (since the 'town/kids' trip sort of turned to me staying on the parking lot to practice LAT, movement and some BAT with dogs and kids, as you can kind of see in this video if I'm doing it right), I turned a corner and there was a young boy sat on his (stationary) bike. Lola saw him. A month ago, I'd have put money on her barking, if not lunging.

She looked up at me, and trotted next to me as I moved quickly back, for a jackpot of hotdog and liver. The boy was able to get past, and was even polite enough to thank me for moving myself and the pup out of his way, without anyone getting stressed.

Pictures and Some Words.

The words are me-centric, the photos to come are Lola-centric.


Had my first driving lesson today for about 7 months (I stopped a couple weeks after I got Lola, because of the stress of driving/puppy/university/household stuff), and I apparently did really well. I need to work on a couple things again, and I totally screwed up once, but hey ho these things happen.

I also went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2. Holy shit that film. It is the most spectacular film of the series, and the greatest way to end it. I'm very tempted to get tickets to go and see it again - just need to drag someone along with me.

The following are photos of yes, half 11 at night is a perfectly good time to play.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Brenda Aloff - ‘Aggression in Dogs.’ (Section 2.)

SECTION 2: Dog Communication Systems

6: Learning To Interpret The Signals – Dog Communication Systems

Dogs make endless effort to communicate with humans. Lack of awareness and misinterpretation occur between us because dogs do not understand our language intuitively, and we do not understand theirs.’ (p47)

‘Sure, dogs bark, but most of their communication is done silently, through “dog dancing.” Dogs are excellent observers of prey animals and of each other, and body language takes precedence over spoken language.’ (p48)

‘Your dog doesn’t “express” his emotions as much as he “lives” them. It is crucial that you understand that your dog does not have a “Hidden Agenda.”’ (p48)

‘In order to manage and modify aggressive behaviour efficiently, you need to gain expertise in recognizing the topography of behaviour so you can ascertain the dog’s emotional state. This helps you decide what your next action will be. To avoid clouding the issue with emotional overtones and moral judgement, think of aggression as being one possible strategy to gain or insure exclusive access to a Resource (food, toy, couch).’ (p48)

‘Recall that much of a dog’s language can be divided into Assertive behaviours and Yielding behaviours. Assertive behaviours are ritualized patterns used to gain resources, social or physical distance and, if unheeded, often lead to aggression. Yielding behaviours are signals that are the opposite of aggressive. These signals are used to appease another dog or human, and appear via lowered body posture or a submissive roll. These behaviours are Ritualized Patterns that are used to inhibit aggression.’ (p48)

‘In some cases, selective breeding has altered the physical and visual signals that a dog is capable of giving.’ (p49)

7: Dog Signals & Stress

[Categories of] ‘...intentional Signals that dogs use specifically for Conflict Resolution:
1.Stress-related topography (observable behaviours, behaviour sequence or physical reaction) is that which is primarily reflexive – the Physiological symptoms of stress.
2. Displacement Signals are behaviours done “in place of” something else, and are specifically out-of-context. The dog may be using a familiar activity to “comfort” herself. These signals indicate to others that the dog is feeling stressed.
3. Calming Signals are used as a way to avoid threats and to communicate a wish to prevent confrontation. The dog uses these signals both to calm himself and to communicate to others nearby that he wishes them to remain calm also. These signs indicate that the dog using them has an awareness of personal space infringement (either his own or the other dog’s), and he wishes to communicate his own non-aggressive intent or good will.
4. Distance Increasing Signals (from your dog’s point of view), which say, “Please move out of my personal space,” or perhaps, “Move right on out of my territory.” Maybe even, “Move right on out of my life.”
5. Distance Decreasing Signals are an invitation from a dog to approach. A Yielding behaviour would be one type of Distance Decreasing Signal.’ (p51)

‘It is important to recognize the overt signs of stress, because, at this point, our dogs are telling us that they are in a reactive state. [...]
Signs of stress include:
- Sweaty paw prints
- Vocalization – whining, growling or frantic barking
- Dilated pupils (the physiological response to an adrenaline “dump”)
- White rim on eyes
- Flaring whiskers
- Body tension (stiff, rigid appearance and movements; slow movements)
- Muscle ridge around mouth
- Muscle ridge around eyes
- Dog uninterested in food
- Excessive or frantic activity level
- Increased or decreased energy level
- Shallow breathing
- Rapid breathing or panting with the corner of the mouth drawn back and facial tension
- Holding breath (often a precursor to a bite)
- Excessive, sudden hair loss or exfoliation (dander appearing on the surface of the coat)
- Hypersalivation (drooling)
- Freezing – a dog holding very still with rigid body
- Increased heart rate and respiration
- Flight reactions
- Fight reactions
- Any behaviour you have never seen before may be an indication of stress’ (p52)

8: Displacement Behaviours & Calming Signals

‘[Calming Signals] are used specifically and deliberately by a dog to “calm” down others in the environment. This implies that the dog is aware of personal space (his own and others) and is making an intentional endeavour to communicate with others.’ (p53)

‘Displacement behaviours are used to “distract” the other dog (or person) by using a totally out-of-context behaviour to divert the other dog’s attention – rather like a tap on the shoulder and a “Hey, did you notice this really interesting smell?” in order to divert the other dog’s attention momentarily. It allows a “time-out” from the current activity.’ (p53)

‘Displacement and Calming Signals are often used for the same purpose by the dog: both may indicate stress caused by invasion of personal space past that dog’s comfort zone in this particular context, and a wish to avoid aggression. [...] It is important to note that the same signal can be used to convey more than one meaning.’ (p53)

‘Displacement and Calming Signals are therefore used by dogs to:
- Signal non-aggressive intent
- Indicate stress
- Calm other dogs
- Serve as a familiar “comfortable” behaviour that alleviates a dog’s feeling of insecurity’ (p54)

‘Some common displacement activities are:
- Marking territory
- Increased activity level (fooling around – the equivalent of nervous, inappropriate laughter in humans)
- Scratching
- Yawning
- Shaking
- Sniffing
- Looking in a direction away from the threat’ (p54)

‘Dogs use Calming Signals to communicate non-aggressive intent. These signals are used with others who are an unknown entity, with a known entity in potentially volatile situations, and in play situations where the play is beginning to make a dog feel uncomfortable with the direction the play is going.’ (p54)

‘Dogs use the following signals both to indicate stress or a personal space violation, while at the same time to communicate: “I’m friendly – I mean you no harm.” Or perhaps, “You look really nervous, I am not threatening you. Return me a signal so I understand you are not threatening me.” [...]
There are some signals that transfer well to people. That is, there are some signals of non-aggressive intent that humans can make use of to reassure or communicate more effectively. The next time your dog is nervous, try looking away and yawning. Many dogs will show visible signs of relaxation instantaneously. [...]
Other Calming Signals include:
- Sniffing
- Yawning
- Looking Away
- Scratching
- Lip-licking
- Nose-licking
- Paw lift
- Moving slowly in an arc on approach
- Sitting or lying down
- Blinking
- Slow careful movements
- Shaking
- Sneezing’ (p54-55)

‘[Looking Away and Lip-Licking] is definitely a polite and friendly gesture. This is a great behaviour for humans to use when approaching dogs who are unsure. If a dog is polite enough to give you a “look-away”, you should respond in kind. When approaching timid dogs, you should initiate this. [...] Remember, in a dog’s native language, immediate direct eye contact is rude and considered challenge or threat behaviour.’ (p57)

9: Distance Increasing Signals: To Minimize Contact and Interaction

‘Distance Increasing Signals are designed to gain social distance. Assertive, threatening and aggressive behaviours all fall into this category. [...]
Distance Increasing Signals include:
- Staring.
- Snarling. (Lips are lifted vertically. The line formed by the lips is short.)
- Ears erect or flat.
- Tension in the body or face.
- Stance. (Particularly changes in head/neck position, either raised or lowered.)
- Piloerection.
- Urination and Ground-Scratching; Marking territory.
- Tail straight or arched over back.
- Wagging just the tip of the tail, or wagging in a short, sharp arc with the tail held “up” over the back as much as the structure of the dog will allow.
- Stalking.
- Brief “Look away” at a very tense moment.’ (p60)

‘A piloerector reflex is most often evident when a dog feels uneasy or uncomfortable, and is due to a lack of, rather than an excess of, self confidence.’ (p61)

‘Overt aggressive displays are designed to avoid aggression.’ (p64)

10: Distance Decreasing Signals: To Invite Interaction

‘The following is a list of Distance Decreasing Signals:
- Forequarters lower than rear-quarters (play-bow, greeting or yielding display).
- Avoidance of eye contact.
- Submissive grin. (Lips are pulled back horizontally. The lips look “longer.”)
- Ears slightly lowered, drawn back or drawn so that the pinna is held out to the side of the head.
- Lowering of body.
- Wagging tail.
- Flicking the tongue.
- Lip licking.
- Raising forepaw.
- Rolling over.
- Urinating while rolling over or on back.
- Lifting the rear leg when a human touches the dog near the flank, or when another dog sniffs the area to reveal the inguinal (groin) area.’ (p66)

11: Tails – The Other End

‘Remember to look for “clusters” of signals. Each signal may be a “word,” ut the various signals combined will make the “sentence.” Check the overall body posture and demeanour: look for tension, then look at details. Is the tail still, wagging, over the back, tucked or at half mast? If at half mast, or low – is it normal for that breed or dog?’ (p70)

12: Interpreting Intent Through Observations – Signal Clusters

‘When you observe dog body language, remember that the dog is the “native speaker.” You are learning from the dog and you are not a “native speaker.”’ (p72)

13: The Role of Play Behaviour

‘Playing with several dogs allows [puppies] the opportunity to learn that not all dogs have the same exact display and signals, which is how a dog becomes sophisticated with native language. This makes for a dog who does not get into trouble; in fact, it is hard to get this dog into trouble because he does not overreact to other dogs. Therefore, allowing a puppy to play with other dogs is a way to prevent aggressive behaviour later on in life.’ (p80)

‘A Play Behaviour List might include the following:
- Stalk, Chase
- Bared Teeth
- Ambush
- T position (head over shoulders of the other dog)
- Shoulder/hip slams
- Circling and pushing
- Boxing or sparring
- Attacking
- Mounting with or without pelvic thrust
- Biting littermates’ face/head/neck area
- Ears very erect or very flattened
- Growling vocalizations’ (p80)

‘Play can begin as play and escalate into an aggressive event. If there is going to be a change from Play to Posture, there is a subtle difference, initially, in body tension as the dogs approach. Then, as the interaction continues, rough behaviour escalates. The Posturing Dog begins to ignore signals of discomfort from the other dog.’ (p86)

14: Dog Parks

‘My biggest concern with Dog Parks is that dogs will learn inappropriate language and behaviour from dogs who are rude and unsophisticated with uneducated owners.’ (p89)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Continuation: Second Week.

Despite not going out yesterday with Lola, and the day before being not so great because of the weather, the pup was great today! We did both the waiting on the yard at school let-out time and a trip to town (later, from about 6:15-6:45pm, due to the weather), and she was so good.

At the school time, rather than have her side-on and on my lap, I was crouched beside her on the floor as she laid with her back to the school. And it worked pretty well. She startled up about six times - one for a motorbike literally three metres away (the guy was stood there for about a minute, and then revved it crazily) and one for a car door slamming loudly. The other four times were for kids yelling, running past, etc. I hadn't checked before, but I think her average for startling up from the kong when side-on on my lap is about the same amount of times a session. So she didn't seem bothered by my experiment, but nor did it seem to help or hinder. I'm not sure what I'll be doing on Wednesday.

When we went out to town, there were some young girls close to us quite quickly. She dealt well with it, consistently looking back to me after glancing at them, and I got us away as soon as possible, only to walk into two cats chasing each other. One sat at the entrance to a garden, crying after the other, and Lola was intensely honed in on it; ears fully pricked, body leaning forward (on a loose leash though), perfectly still. I snapped her focus by moving into her line of sight, and she immediately relaxed. I marked and rewarded a couple times for eye contact, and was then pleased when, when I cued her to down, she instantly obeyed. Good girl.

Apparently our impromptu BAT sessions with any dog I see are helping--it's definitely better right now than just clicking her for watching me/them. She noticed and didn't aggressively react to: a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (connected to his owner's bike), a Retriever cross, an English Bull Terrier and another Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which was walking off lead on the main (busy!) road. For the final one, I immediately walked the other way when I got Lola's attention, because I didn't want to entice it to run over to see us. The owner shouted across that 'ASBO' wouldn't cross... and then immediately after, his dog ran into the road. Thankfully, it listened after he screeched after it, and returned to him just before a car went wizzing past.

On the way home, two of the three earlier young girls were present, and both of them honed in on Lola and started staring at her, squealing and cooing at her. She was obviously alarmed, and when I heard one of them say, "Shall we go see the puppy?" I quickly had to move even moreso between her and them. I clicked a couple times for watching me, interrupted a potential reactive outburst (she bounced forward, which is something she often does right before barking) by stepping in front of her, and then clicked for disengagement from the kids and we ran away, as if we ourselves were little girls.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Day 7: The Day That Did Not Happen.

Today's weather has basically not stopped being hideous up until about ten minutes ago (and walking through town after 11pm doesn't sound like a great idea to me). It has been a mixture of very heavy rain and the horribly persistent drizzle of yesterday, so I decided against taking Lola out in it this morning, and then couldn't take her out all day as it just got steadily worse. We played some rainy day games, did some training, let her have her boomer ball, and the rest of the time all three of us were just snuggled up in blankets. It's been cold, wet and miserable - a traditional British summer day!

Hopefully tomorrow is clear at least (and preferably warm), so I can take her out at least once, as I'll be busy Tuesday--first driving lesson since December at 11am, then seeing the final Harry Potter film at 1pm--so she'll only get a quick trot around town early in the morning, or after I get back.

I'm still reading Brenda Aloff's 'Aggression In Dogs', and it really is a must-read for reactive dog owners. I'm about a quarter of the way through, and she's covered more in that hundred pages than most other books do in three hundred. It's fantastic.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

End of Day 6.

Okay so today wasn't so great (though not as bad as I'd worried). It was horrible weather before we even started--that kind of pervasive rain that soaks you to the bone--but it seemed to be tapering off as we set off. Within five minutes, we were both soggy, and Lola had begun begging to be picked up.

I didn't want to abruptly end the session because of a 'little bit of rain', but in hindsight that was a bad idea. For now, medium/heavy rain means playing rainy-day games inside and going out later.

The sounds of cars going past on the main road were amplified by the rain. A woman suddenly appeared in a doorway, holding a popped-out umbrella. A grown man jogged fast from the boot of a car into a building (Lola growled at him--the only time she did growl, though she thought about it with someone else too; a woman that ran across the road to her car on our side of the road).

She kept her head, but barely. She was really anxious, and spent about 80% of  the time we were out in my arms. The rest of the time, she was asking to be carried.

Our walk later went well. We got a chance to practice BAT three different times, with four different dogs. And I'm pleased to say that she didn't bark, growl, lift her hackles or anything at any of the dogs - even a labrador that 'suddenly' appeared out from behind a tree with a fellow dog.

So all in all, despite a shoddy wet day (and the farmer's market being a disgrace - I don't know if that was because of the weather, or if it only ever sells flowers and chocolate bars; even the guy who sells eggs in the normal market wasn't there!) Lola did okay. She was definitely way more stressed than I'd like, and has been venting that stress by harassing me to play with her for the last couple of hours (first play catch/fetch with the toy, then attack the toy on my lap, then chew the toy on my lap), but she growled at only one person, and made a couple of good choices in looking back at me for reinforcement rather than reacting to provocative stimuli (like the woman in the doorway, holding the umbrella).

Friday, 15 July 2011

Brenda Aloff - ‘Aggression in Dogs.’ (Introduction and Section 1.)

INTRODUCTION: A Positive Approach

‘This book is based on the notion that many dogs display aggression because they are “uneducated.” This is a dog who, for whatever reason, never learned how to communicate in an appropriate and effective manner to humans and/or other dogs.’ (p21)

SECTION I: Understanding and Managing Aggression In Dogs: A Positive Approach

1: Aggression - The Most Misunderstood Survival Trait

‘[...] aggression is an adaptation that dogs use to aid them in the “Survival of the Fittest” game. It is used as a means to gain control over important resources or to gain personal space. Aggression is one of many social behaviours dogs use to communicate information to other dogs, humans, and any other species with which they come into contact.’ (p25)

2: Is Dog Aggression Ever OK?

‘All dogs are a combination of desired and undesired traits, just as you and I are.’ (p26)

‘The Terriers, as a group, are well known among aficionados to have a tendency toward being “dog hot.”’ (p26)

‘By contrast, inappropriate aggression occurs when there is no actual threat to the animal, and the animal’s past experience should have established the situation as non-threatening.’ (p27)

3: Canine Social Systems

‘To the scientist and ethologist, dominance is defined as: priority access to a preferred resource. It doesn’t necessarily describe an attitude, belief or approach an animal has. Using dominance as the “reason” your dog does not come when you call it or doesn’t sit when you request a sit is excuse-making.’ (p30)

‘The process of Rank Ordering [in packs of (wild) dogs] . . . is indicative of an individual’s need at that point in time. The Rank Order within a social group or pack is dynamic (ever changing) and highly dependent on context.’ (p30)

‘Dogs do not start out “bilingual.” This is a skill we must help them develop, as we develop our own skills for understanding dog language.’ (p33)

‘Dogs “negotiate” all the time, using their own native language, including assertive and yielding behaviours.’ (p33)

‘Dogs developed assertive and aggressive behaviours to assure their success as social, family-oriented, pack animals. In addition, several other factors are known to influence aggression in dogs. These include:
- Learned Behaviour
- Genetics
- Hormones
- Social Development Periods
- Stress and Fear
- Physiological Factors
- Resiliency and Trauma’ (p34)

4: Factors That Influence Aggressive Behaviour

‘Dogs are very flexible, inventive creatures, discarding, adding and changing behaviour as required.’ (p34)

[In explaining aggression from learned behaviour:] ‘There are also mis-associations that occur. The dog starts out friendly to other dogs and humans, and so whenever he sees another dog or person on the sidewalk, he rushes to meet them. The owner, not liking to be dragged down the street, punishes the dog with a good hard collar correction on a choke chain or a tug on the pinch collar. The dog, whose behaviour is making perfect sense to him, does not associate the punishment with his natural greeting behaviour, but instead begins to see approaching dogs or humans as a predictor of punishment. Therefore, the dog begins to become defensive at the sight of another person or dog.’ (p35)

‘What might be normal behaviour for one breed could possibly be classified as abnormal in another.’ (p35)

‘Not only is there a vast array of traits and characteristics and personalities between breeds, but within a specific breed as well. Any breed, after all, is made up of individuals who will display a range of characteristics.’ (p36)

‘Hormones can play a significant role in aggression. Testosterone, for instance, acts as a type of behaviour modulator that makes reactions more intense. The intact male dog will react more quickly to stimuli, with more intensity and for a longer duration. . . . Intact bitches who are living together and coming into heat may be inspired by the change in their estrogen and progesterone levels to begin quite nasty displays and fights. I have also found that spayed bitches may become very reactive around each other if you have a bitch that is intact and coming into heat. Amongst experienced dog people bitch fights are infamous.’ (p36)

‘According to Scott & Fuller (1965) in their Bar Harbor, Maine, Studies, dogs go through critical development periods during the first 20 weeks of life:
- Weeks 3-8: learn to interact dog-to-dog.
- Weeks 5-12: learn to interact with humans.
- Weeks 10-20: learn by exploring novel environments.’ (p37)

‘By the time a puppy is seven weeks old he should have been exposed to the following situations (and any others you can think of):
- Been in 7 different locations . . .
- Eaten from 7 different kinds of containers
- Met AT LEAST 7 different people (including safe, gentle children)
- Ridden AT LEAST 7 miles in a car (or more)
- Been in a crate at least 7 times (more is better!)
- Played with 7 different kinds of toys
- Been exposed to AT LEAST 7 different contexts: for example, had their picture taken, exposed to learning simple behaviours like Sit, etc.
- Been played with or taken somewhere alone, without mom or littermates, 7 different times’ (p38)

‘Stress stems directly from an inability to cope with whatever the current situation may be. For myriad reasons, the dog lacks the skills to contend with whatever the existing circumstances are. Aggression is merely a symptom indicating how stressed the dog is being made by the environment.’ (p40)

‘If flight is not an option, the fearful dog enters into a defensive mode, where aggression becomes a viable tool for the dog.’ (p40)

‘Think of the brain as being divided into two sections. [. . .] The Limbic system is where the primitive reactions reside – strong, overwhelming emotions such as fear, lust, grief and rage are initiated and centered here. Think about this as being the Lizard-Brain. Then you have the polar opposite – the Fre-Frontal Cortex, where higher-order learning and thoughtful action take place. This is the Einstein-Brain.’ (p40-41)

‘Brittle dogs do not “rebound” well. That is, once stressed, the recovery time is slow. Other dogs are very resilient and can tolerate a lot of frustration and provocative stimuli without becoming aggressive or fearful.’ (p41)

5: How Dogs Learn To Avoid Aggression

‘Normal dogs with adequate early experiences, including opportunities to interact with dogs and humans, understand and use signals that allow them to avoid aggressive behaviour. These signals are your canine's natural language and dogs are very intuitive about it. By contrast, dogs who lack early experience, are not well educated, or have experienced trauma may have “lost” their nature language, or, more accurately, no longer believes that language “works.”’ (p43)

Day 5 in the Big Doggy House.

Today was good, again. Waiting for the other shoe to drop now--it probably will tomorrow, as tomorrow is the town's monthly Farmer's Market (which I'm going to investigate, as I've never been to it before and I'm hoping it's as cool as it should be), so I expect it'll be busy in town. I know such a short space of time since we've started this more intensive training scheme can't possibly yield causation results, but there does seem to be a correlation right now between the amount of work we're doing, and the results we're seeing.

We very nearly made it home without a single vocalisation. We were playing down-stay and release games on the last two minutes home, as I was down to about three pieces of food and didn't want to not reward Lola for LLW (whereas a release from a stay, in order to be 'allowed' to run to me, is often reward enough for Lola and her stays - though obviously I don't just rely on that reward only). Lola was in a much more excited state, as when we're working on don't-bark-at-people, right now we're working on keeping everything calm--Lola's nature makes her want to bark, bark, bark when she's excited. A woman was knelt in front of my neighbour's front door; Lola saw her the same instant I did, and, from the sounds of her growl (very much a 'I don't like this' growl - the same thing she does if she's worried about a sound from next door, or a bin bag blowing across the roof opposite us when in my mother's bedroom, etc), she was taken aback by this Weird Thing.
My pup is quite in tune to what "is correct"--by her limited, doggy standards--so things like strange woman crouched in front of doors, people limping toward us, people in those motorised wheelchair-esque things, etc, are all going to rub her up the wrong way.
However, when I was at my door (the woman was still there, she didn't go until a few minutes after we'd gone in - I was watching, wondering what she was doing), Lola jumped up onto the wall. She looked at the woman, and then seemed to decide that, no, it wasn't a Strange Horrific Monster, but just a woman, and looked back at me. I rewarded her and we went inside.

She is still quite anxious about people, at the moment (lots of avoidance), but she definitely seems to be starting to see that turning to me rather than freaking out when she's startled or overwhelmed is worth it. A man walked past, about a metre away, in a hi-vis jacket carrying a huge plank of wood on his shoulder--I didn't see him until he was parallel to me, and I first noticed him from the fact I was watching Lola: she focused on something, paused for a second, and then glanced up at me. I rewarded her liberally for making the right choice.

At one point, early in the walk, there were a couple of prams heading our way (I'm still very much trying to make children and prams, especially, a really great thing, because a lot of her reactivity towards people started with and is worst around kids), so I manouevered us out of the way, onto a sloped platform that leads nobody knows where. A man stopped behind me, and I could see him out of the corner of my eye. He kept moving--it seemed, to get closer to Lola--and I was watching him through my hair and deliberately sidestepping to keep him away from Lola. She was a little stressed, but continually looked at me, rather than lunging past to get rid of the strange man.
After a couple of seconds, I realised he wasn't going to go away. I quickly scooped Lola up, practically hugging the wall to keep her away from him, and pulled around to face him (and the direction I'd originally been headed in). He, oddly enough, reached out for Lola with one hand and gestured with another to the clicker I was holding.
"Is that a clicker?"
Somewhat bemused, I just sort of stepped back away, said that yes it was, and furthermore that my dog didn't like strangers. I'm still not sure what to make of the interaction--if he knew what a clicker was (i.e. a training tool), why was he interfering so much? It seemed strange.

On the plus side, over the last couple of days I've been getting some nice feelings and looks from people. I'm mostly ignorant to the stares and mutters (from people who are probably wondering, 'why is this strange girl clicking at me?!'), but a couple of times I've definitely noticed some--generally older women--smiling at me and saying amongst themselves that Lola is really well-behaved, and that we're obviously working hard training. It makes me smile, too.

Today (and a little yesterday), I've also been making our morning town-sessions a little harder. Since she is much more reactive when people "suddenly" appear, quite a few times I had her stand in doorways, so she only saw people basically as they entered the space of a few metres she could see. I shovelled treats in her mouth to begin with, and within two or three of these little trials, she was quickly looking back to me when startled.

We had our "usual" session sat on my wall, too, today. I had Lola facing the correct way, and the difference in her overall startling and looking away from the kong was astounding. She is so much more relaxed when not watching people coming in and out of the gates--probably because the high concentration of parents and children at the gates (who only pass our house in threes or fours at most, generally, as a lot of them get into cars or go another way) makes it more overwhelming for her. She glanced up at a dog once, at a couple of shouting kids - and each time went back to her kong without fuss. Ideally, I'd like to get her down to barely startling at all, or even not at all, before school breaks for summer, but since I'm not sure when that is I don't know if it will be possible.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

End of Day 4.

At the moment, everything's going pretty well. I keep expecting to hit a wall (I'll know it will happen - and I'll stress out, and then deal with it) wherein Lola will have a really bad day, and constantly bark at everyone and anyone.

But at the moment, and I'm probably jinxing myself here, everything's going swimmingly.

Today Lola didn't even bark -- she gave just one soft, uncertain growl, at a dog. The situation was that there were a line of prams behind us (three, plus chattering people) and a spaniel ahead with it's owners. I ducked into an alcove with Lola to pick her up, since it would be easier negotiating prams and a strange dog with her in my arms than on the floor, and tensed up when the spaniel looked at us. She growled a second or two later, and I gave her a soft verbal correction and turned my (and her) back on the dog to help her calm down, as she escalates her emotional response with verbalisations and direct eye contact.

Moments that I was really proud of her not barking, in the session from 11:30-12:15:
- A child running to the end of the street we were on (suddenly appearing child!, only a few feet away) that shouted something at us. She stared, but didn't bark, and got a jackpot.
- A staffordshire bull terrier coming up to us whilst we were sat on the bench in town, and sticking it's nose into her side (literally). She wasn't impressed, but my hand was immediately there, overflowing with food (as I'd just refilled the food I had, seeing the three teenagers - I didn't see the dog), and she chose to calmly eat the food rather than lunge at the dog.
- A yorkshire terrier went past, about a metre away, leaning on it's leash to see us.
- Another staffie walking past on leash; she glanced at it, and then dived for my hand. Progress?!
- Another spaniel on the other side of the road staring across the road.
- A disabled man asking to sit on the bench, and Lola having to quickly move away. She showed a lot of avoidance - she really wanted to get away from him, as he moved to sit right where she was before I had time to get us out of the way - but she didn't bark, snap or lunge. She was definitely stressed, but she was avoiding confrontation rather than seeking it.

I didn't get to do the sitting-on-the-wall-at-home-time thing today, as I had company over from about 1pm to 10:30pm. But fear not, I'll be there tomorrow, probably creeping out parents by sitting on my wall while they collect their children. It's probably a good thing I'm not a middle-aged man, or I'd raise even more eyebrows than I already do.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

End of Day 3 (& Wordy Wednesday).

Lola isn't happy here, but she was quiet and recovered well from the stress.
Since starting this, I am already noticing some changes in Lola. Her focus on me has improved, and she has started looking to me a little faster when something startled her. She's still very much a terrier, but she's learning that ignoring scary things can lead to really delicious consequences.

She barked once today--just once. A dog barked and lunged at her on it's leash, whilst we were attempting some BAT* - so although her reaction was not desireable, it was understandable (the dog suddenly became a Big Threat, and her nature as both Lola and a JRT led her to show the Threat that she was just as loud and scary as he was).

Also whilst we were in town, heading down a hill to avoid passing the builders in the high street again, a woman limped very noticeably up toward us. There aren't many people with severely affected gaits that we've seen in town, ever, and Lola was very perturbed - staring, ears back, hackles starting to rise. She interrupted herself and looked at me, and I jackpotted her and we ran forward and onto a street leading off of that one. Lola really wanted to investigate the Threatening Woman, and kept turning and pulling toward her and staring, so I put her in a down-stay for a few moments to cool off, and then she was fine. It's one really great thing about terriers that they recover easily from stressful events.

When we were sat on the wall at school release time, nothing really worked in our favour. There were two dogs (collie and german shepherd, I think) that were muzzled and barking and snarling at the end of the street, for about five minutes until one owner smacked the dogs' heads and they continued walking; the children that passed our yard kept running their hands over our fence and staring at Lola (some pointing and cooing); quite a lot of children ran past, in both sides of the street; and a pair of boys were even jumping in and out of yards. Lola didn't bark, growl, or have her hackles up--but she quite often had her ears back, the whites of her eyes showing, and was often startled into looking up. She kept returning happily to the kong though, and when the children had slowed in volume she relaxed enough to put her paws onto my hands and the kong. However, we were also facing the wrong way--towards the school gates, rather than with her back to them and her side facing the street--and she was quite anxious about that, frequently looking up even when licking at the kong, as the photo shows.

* I'll post a rundown of BAT, and specifically what we were doing, later today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

End of Day 2.

Today was pretty good, I think.

Lola barked twice (once at a guy that tried to pet her immediately after rounding a corner about a metre away - he startled both of us; and then once at a dog that, again, appeared around a corner) for the whole total time we were outside, so twice in two and a half or so hours. She had her hackles up and was about to bark at a dog that was flipping out behind a fence (I cued her to down, and I don't even know why because I'd have usually cued her to leave it, and she immediately laid down and watched me to see what our next move was), and reacted to a Rottweiler that rushed across the park to see us (I picked her up to avoid her potentially provoking a reaction in the other dog; it's one thing to bark at a yorkshire terrier, another thing to bark at a dog several times her size) by just wriggling in my arms. If she'd been on the floor she'd have reacted, but she kept her mouth shut and didn't bark or snap, which I like to think of as progress.

An older woman, whilst we were sat on a bench in town, came over and tried to stroke her. I managed to interrupt her just as she'd outstretched her hand, and explained to her that Lola was scared of people (I generally find this works better than saying 'she doesn't like people', as people who like dogs seem to enjoy saying 'oh, she'll like me!'). She was very understanding, and apologised for trying to stroke my pup, which was nice. Lola was anxiously moving away from the woman, but she didn't bark or snap--definite avoidance rather than outright aggression (still stress, but I prefer avoidance displays to aggressive displays)--and she quickly recovered when the woman had carried on.

When we were sat on the wall whilst kids came out for the end of school, she was a little anxious at times, and was definitely startled a couple of times (generally by car doors slamming or buses screeching past, only three times by people, and two of those were for children that ran past), but she didn't make a peep. She was on my lap licking a kong, and at one point she had her front paws tucked under herself whilst lying down licking the kong, with her side facing the people going past. She also held on to the kong with her front paws, whilst I held it, several times, which is just how she is if she's on my lap with one indoors.

Both when we were in town (on the bench) and when we were on the wall, she offered some behaviours - lying down and the trick we were working on most recently, to put her head on her paws. Down is her go-to behaviour, since I like it as a default, and I'm guessing she was doing 'duck' because it's the freshest thing in her mind from getting through it a few weeks ago?

I also came to the realisation today that I should stop treating sudden appearances like anything else. That's probably her biggest trigger - so when people suddenly appear, I need to be clicking whilst she's looking at them, and stuff her face full of food. Right now, a sudden appearance has only a 65% or so chance for her to check in with me - the other times she'll react (whilst for the average person, who might tick one or two of her triggers, she'll look at me north of 90% of the time now).

Monday, 11 July 2011

End of Day 1.

Just before I start recapping today, I need to say that I ran my training plan by a couple of online training people with reactive dogs, and ended up scrapping the plan. So there is a new plan, which I'm going to stick to solidly for a week to see how we go.

So, today: Day 1.
- 10:30-11:10am: town. Lola barked twice in the entirety of this. Once was in the first two or so minutes, when we had to cross to the side of the road with the school on, whilst children were out playing. One boy ran past shouting, and she leapt away and barked. She quickly recovered and we carried on. I was clicking her for basically everything - looking away from people at me, looking away from people to sniff the ground, moving toward people to sniff them (voluntarily--I just captured it and rewarded it). Anything that was non-reactive, she got rewarded for basically. The second time she barked was when she had to greet another dog (I'd turned around and it and its owner were a couple inches or so away). She was fine greeting, until I tried to move, and she tried to follow, and it followed us. She whirled around, barked and air-snapped, and then moved on. For the most part, she did pretty well considering the busy time of day, I think!
- 3:15-3:50pm: front yard. This is the replacement for the second session; half an hour or so of sitting in the front yard with Lola when the schoolchildren are let out at home time. I started out click/treating for looking at kids and back at me, but when the number of children pouring out of the gate increased, she got too anxious to eat the food from my hand. So I pulled out the kong I'd prepared with wet dog food that is basically the Best Thing Ever in Lola's eyes, and she happily licked it until it was pretty much empty. She was relaxed, laid on my lap, and at one point when a woman with a dog stopped to talk to me, Lola looked up at the woman, thought for a second, and then moved her head back to lick at the kong, without staring hard at the woman or anything. She was laid so that her side was toward the street (so she had to move her body and gaze away from triggers to get at the kong), and she did really well! She did bark once, at the beginning of the session, at another dog across the road that was leaning forward on the leash and staring at her.
- 7:00-8:00pm: park. We spent an hour or so at the park, playing fetch. It began really well--a pair of dogs were chasing each other near the entrance, and after ignoring them for the most part, Lola began to chase them when they ran past her only a metre or so away. However, she immediately stopped and sprinted back to me when I called her (not a sharp 'leave it!' cue, just a general 'Ro, come here'), and stayed happily in a down-stay until they'd gone. But then a guy had to spoil it by letting his huge huskies run across the entirety of the park to us, not once but twice, whilst he just feebly called for them occasionally. The first time, Lola air-snapped at one, but stopped and walked with me when I cued her to 'leave it' and walked quickly away; and the second time, I saw them coming and managed to get a head's start. They arrived, Lola barked once, but she didn't go after them and we speedwalked away. It was a bit of an annoyance to end the day on.

I'm going to keep this up for at least a week, and see how she reacts. I already saw a definite improvement in her focus on me in the first session, even though she was flagging by the end (I need to strive to make the sessions half an hour max - they must be tiring, as she slept solidly from when we got back until about 3pm).

We'll just see how it goes, I guess!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Queen and Princess.

Lately I've been teaching Lola to pull in her new padded harness. She caught on in the first time, and has clearly made the distinction between collar=loose leash, harness=pull. At the moment, a half hour walk in the harness tires her out about as much as half an hour or playing fetch, so that's pretty good! I'm hoping that when she's old enough, I'll be able to use the harness for jogging with her in; I'm sure she won't mind pulling me along if I go slow.

Next week, we won't be doing tricky t-day because we're going to be going, twice a day (at meal-times) up town. I should have really been doing this already, but I am by nature an incredibly lazy person.

Plan of action:
- Monday: click/treat up 5 times for each person. Two sessions.
- Tuesday: c/t up to 4 times for each person. Two sessions.
- Wednesday: c/t up to 3 times for each person. Two sessions.
- Thursday: c/t up to 2 times for each person. Two sessions.
- Friday: c/t once for each person. Two sessions.
- Saturday: c/t once for every two people. Two sessions.
- Sunday: c/t up to 2 times for every three people. Two sessions.

I'll obviously use more treats if I need to to stop a reaction, but this is the plan. I'll be playing fetch for half an hour with Lola before we head out each time, and she'll also get her usual middayish fetch-walk outdoors. For the week after, I'm going to try and arrange to meet people to c/t for them progressively getting closer to us... but I'm not sure if that will happen or not.

At some point during the week, we should also be visiting chickens, and Lola will be learning that there is a time and place for prey drive. I'll have her muzzle handy, and she'll be on a harness and leash at all times, to make sure there's no risk to the chickens. I'm hoping that seeing her brother and mother mingle with the chicks will help her realise even more that, no, she is not allowed to hurt them. But we'll see!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Queen of the Balls & Saturday Pet Blog Hop.

In reality, there were ten balls used in this shot - four tennis balls in each of the backpack's pockets, plus the big tennis ball and the gym ball. Lola was in heaven.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Richard Curtis - 'Dancing With Dogs: A step-by-step guide to Freestyle.'


'In the USA, Heelwork to Music is exactly what it says, i.e. heelwork performed with limited moves, set to a piece of music. There is also a category called Freestyle, which is a routine where anything goes. . . . In the UK, in the early stages, there was just one category, which was Heelwork to Music, but there was no restriction on how little or how much heelwork was included.' (p6)

'Regardless of the breed, it is very important that a dog is fit and healthy in order to complete some of the moves. As with Agility, some of the moves put strain on the joints (e.g. standing on the back legs), and should not be attempted until the dog is fully developed.' (p7)

'When you start working on a complete routine, it is essential to start with a warm-up session. The dog may be asked to . . . [use] parts of the body that are not in general use. A human athlete will warm up gently before racing; so, with the dog, we may do some heelwork at various paces, or perhaps just ggive the dog a massage before starting training.' (p7)

'The beauty of this sport is that it is open to anyone, of any age. The routine is invented by the handler, so it can be adapted to suit the individual.' (p8)


'Playing with your puppy is essential, as a dog that is play-motivated often has a happier outlook when it comes to work. . . . Use your play session positively. . . . The emphasis, however, is to take everything slowly and gently, planting the seeds for what you want the dog to do in the future.' (p11)

'In addition to food and play, the handler has another powerful weapon in his armoury - the voice. It is very important that you use your voice to motivate the dog, as well as working with food treats and play. . . . In a competition, you can speak to the dog as much as you like, so it is an invaluable aid.' (p12)

'It is up to each individual handler to decide on the commands or signals that are to be given to the dog. . . . When you have chosen the commands you will use, write them down so that anyone working the dog knows what commands to use.' (p14)

'At the beginner level you can give as many commands as you like, and you can talk to the dog throughout the routine. However, as the dog becomes more accomplished at moves, the handler can start to make the signals less obvious. This is an important step, as when you are performing at higher levels, the signals or cues to the dog should be hidden in the body language of the handler.' (p14)

'When the dog is confident in a move, it is important to get him used to the fact that he will be rewarded, even though you might not have a treat in your hand. The dog must understand that he needs to accomplish he move, and he will be rewarded by the owner taking the reward from his/her pocket, i.e. the reward is out of sight. This is important for when the dog starts to compete, as no toy or treat can be taken into the ring.' (p16-17)

'If you decide to use clicker training, stick to the following guidelines:
- Use the clicker only when you are starting a move.
- Get rid of the clicker and put the move on command as soon as the dog is responding consistently.
- Help the dog as much as you can.' (p20)


Obedience training required involves--left-hand heelwork, focus work, instant down, recall, wait, retrieve and moving sits/stands/down.]
Step 1: To help the dog keep in position, hold the lead close to your left leg with your left hand. Hold the toy or treat in your right hand, above the dog's head but close to your side, in order to keep the dog's attention.
Step 2: Start with a few paces in a straight line, giving the command "Close" or "Heel", and then progress to a small left-hand circle. Intersperse verbal praise with the "Close/Heel" command to remind the dog to maintain his position. It is important to remember to give the dog the toy/treat while he is close to your leg and looking up at you.
Step 3: After a period of time, the dog will realise that he is getting the reward for being on the left-hand side, close to the handler's leg. Then it is just a case of developing the amount of work, including changes of pace and changes of direction, which you can accomplish with the dog in position.' (p21-22)

'It is imperative that you keep your dog's attention when you are in the ring, especially when there might be many hundreds of people watching you, as well as lots of things going on around you. Basically, the command "Watch" should mean that the dog looks up at your face - and nothing else - until you give the next command.' (p23)


Beginner moves outlined are--spin in either direction, spin on the move, circling the handler, dog going through handler's legs and returning to heel, dog walks backwards away from handler, dog walks backwards through handler's legs, heel on the right, dog passing through handler's leg to different side to heel, roll over from left to right and bow.]
'It is important to remember that all dogs are individuals, and this can be seen very clearly when you are training moves for Heelwork To Music. You may find that your dog has a real liking for some moves, yet there may be others that he finds difficult and is reluctant to perform. My advise is: if a dog does not seem to like a move, do not force him. All dogs have their strengths and weaknesses, and it is far better to concentrate on the positives.' (p31)


Action moves outlined here are--left-hand heelwork (dog and handler walking forwards, backwards and sideways), dog weaves between handler's legs, dog moving in-between handler's legs, dog jumping over handler's arm or leg or a prop and dog and handler side-stepping whilst facing each other.]

'[...] a dog who can hold a nice left-hand heelwork position will be a bonus during a routine.' (p53)

'It is important that the dog is fully developed before he starts any jumping work.' (p58)


'Heelwork To Music is performed in front of an audience, so, when planning a routine, it is important to include some moves that have special appeal.' (p62)

This is actually a combination of three of the basic moves that you have already been taught, namely: Verse [dog reverses through handler's legs], Twist [spin] and Back [dog walks backwards].' (p63)

This move always gets the crowd going when you are performing a routine. The dog places his paws on the handler's back, and then the pair move forwards.' (p64)

This move suits the smaller or more agile dog, as it requires him to stand on his own back legs. The previous exercise ['up on back'] will help the dog to build up muscles in his back legs to support his weight, but if your dog is of a heavier build, it may be advisable to leave out this move.' (p66)

A dog that performs this move well often gets the "ahhhh!" factor from the audience. As the command suggests, the Creep is where the dog crawls along the floor, on his belly.' (p68)

This is where the dog performs a circle, backing around the handler. It is a fairly difficult move to teach, but, when the dog masters the Wiggle, it can be stunning to watch.' (p70)

Asking your dog to put his paws up on command may seem a very simple thing to do, but it often gets a positive reaction from the crowd. The important point to remember is that it works better in a routine if the dog puts his paws up high. This has big appeal, especially with the larger breeds.' (p74)

As the command suggests, this is when the dog sits in a Beg position with his front feet off the ground. Small dogs find this move easier, but it can be more striking if the dog is bigger. In all cases, be careful with older dogs, as this position puts strain on the dog's back.' (p77)


'There are many ways that you can advance your dog's training simply by using the basic moves outlined so far. There are three main areas to proceed with advanced training, which are as follows.
It is easy to forget that the handler can change the look of a move by simply changing position. however, as the handler is changing his stance, this needs to be taught so the dog still understands what is required.
This follows on from the last point, getting the dog to perform various moves but at a distance from the handler.
As your dog develops more moves, you can link certain moves together athat are more difficult.' (p80-83)

This is where the dog will walk forward of the handler, and then reverse down the right-hand side of him, ending up back in the left-hand heelwork.
This move works well in line dancing/Western-theme routines, as it looks as if the handler is doing a do-si-do with the dog.' (p83)

This is a useful position, as it enables the handler to move around the ring without having the dog in heelwork. For this move, the dog should keep his head on the side of the handler's right leg, facing the opposite way to the handler.' (p85)

This move is best taught when the dog is doing a good, basic Weave. Basically, this is a backward weave that flows better than doing an ordinary figure-of-eight weave backwards (see page 55). The dog needs to take a slightly different line into the Weave. Note that the dog will be facing the opposite way to the handler, who is going to be walking backwards.' (p87-88)

Earlier, the dog was taught to walk sideways to the handler's left when he was in front of the handler. Side Behind is basically getting the dog to do the same move, but facing the handler's back.' (p89)

This move is easier with Collie types, as they naturally circle the handler, but any dog can be taught to do this with a little help. It requires the dog to go out away from the handler and to do a big circle around. The move looks better if the dog is at least 6ft (1.83m) away from the handler.' (p90)

This move is more difficult for the dog, as he will need to have his back to the handler. In the Train position, the dog should be straight in front of the handler, but facing the same direction, hence the command "Train" (i.e. like a train on a track!).' (p93)'

When you are performing, you can use a prop, such as a walking stick/cane or a hat, that will go with your costume. The prop can be used in the routine to create different moves.
If your dog has been taught the command "Over", this move can be used in conjunction with a stick
. . .
This is where the dog circles the stick while the handler either remains still, or walks around the stick in the opposite direction to the dog.
. . .
The dog is required to weave through the handler's legs, around the stick, and then back through the handler's legs. It is similar to the weave in Agility, although in this instance, the dog must do a continuous weave one way, then go back the other way.
. . .
By holding the stick between your hands, the dog can jump up and put his paws over it. The handler can then move in any direction.
. . .
This is where the dog does a figure-of-eight around the handler and an object, such as a hat or a stick.'(p94-100)


'When your dog is able to do a variety of moves, you are ready to find a piece of music for your routine. It is often helpful to choose music that the audience and the judges will recognise, as this will enhance their enjoyment.
Do not choose a piece of music just because you have always liked it, or because it is by your favourite artist. When performing Heelwork To Music, there are a variety of factors that need to be taken into consideration, such as the speed of the music in relation to the movement of the dog.' (p103)

There are definitely some pieces of music that are easier to work with than others. Listed below are the four main types that are useful for a Heelwork To Music routine.
Foot on beat: This type of music has a walking beat, so that when each - or just one- foot hits the ground, it is on the beat of the music. An example of this is We Are Family by Sister Sledge. This is probably the best type of music to go for when preparing for a first performance.
Count the beats: This is where you need to count the beats. For example, count to four constantly, i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4 twist 1, 2, 3, 4.
Split sections: If the music has no lyrics, you may need to break the music down into sections and time each one, so that you have an idea of how long each piece of the track is.
Lyrics: Tracks that have lyrics can also make a performance easier, as you can have 'marker words' which signal when to perform a specific turn or move.' (p103-104)

'It is not essential to have a theme, but it can help to tie the dog and handler together, especially if the handler has a good costume. [...] If you are using a theme, then your costume should follow it. . . . The costume should not detract from the dog, and it is essential to ensure that nothing is hanging down that is going to distract him when he is working.' (p105)

'Your dog's breed or general appearance can give you inspiration for choosing a piece of music. For example, a flashy Poodle suits amore extrovert track, or an American Cocker Spaniel might do a American line-dancing routine. It is also important that the speed of that track suits the pace of both dog and handler.' (p105)

'Having found a piece of music with the potential for a Heelwork To Music routine, the next area to examine is the length of the track. To start with, you need to find out what length of time you will be expected to perform in a competition. This will depend on the organisation that is running the competition, so find out what is required, as points may be deducted if you over-run. [...] It is important that you are really aware of the music before you start putting moves to it.' (p106)

'Some people have natural rhythm when it comes to working or moving with the music, but not all of us are that fortunate! So it is important to look at improving your own movement to music before you put the dog into equation as well.' (p106-107)


'Before starting to construct a routine, it is important to be aware of what the judges will be looking for. There are three main areas they will assess:
Programme content: The judges will be looking for a programme with varied content. Repetition of moves can be valid (e.g. heelwork), but continual repetition should be avoided, as this could result in a lower mark. I try to use a particular move only twice in a routine, but I may use a move in batches, e.g. three Thrus, one after the other.
It is important to make full use of the ring during the performance; marks may be deducated for the team staying only to the boundaries of the arena.
The judges will also be evaluating the dog and handler as a team, watching how they interact, and assessing whether the moves complement each other. However, the emphasis should be on what the dog is doing.
The judges can also mark down teams in this section if they are not tidily dressed, so it is important to have a clean and tidy image when you enter the ring.
Accuracy and execution of movements: The judges will be looking to see how well the moves are executed, and how accurate they are. If something goes wrong, try to disguise the mistake by going on smoothly to the next move. This section will also take into account the bearing and deportment of the handler, which should be smart and not cramped. In addition, the judges will be assessing the dog's style, which should be happy and willing.
Interpretation of moves: Although the judges will be looking for some reflection of the music in the routine, it is not necessary for the handler to move in time to the music. However, some musical interpretation is needed to score well in this section. The gestures of the handler will be taken into consideration, but should not play more of a part in the routine than the dog's moves.' (p108-109)

'When you have listed the moves that you can link together, try to visualise performing them to the music. Remember that you need to move around the ring, so make sure that some of the linked moves enable you to move to other parts of the ring during the performance. It is also important to mark which of these moves your dog performs best.' (p111)

'Before working on the whole piece of music, it is important to decide on your Start position. An innovative Start position is very important, as it will make the judges and audience sit up and take notice. As many people start their routine with the dog in the heelwork position, you will need to think about the look of your Start, as you will be static for a while until the music starts. [...] You also need to work out how you are going to move out of the Start position, as you will need to flow forwards or backwards to continue with the routine.' (p112-113)

'There are two options for the Finish:
Finish on a pose: Finishing with a static pose can be difficult, as it requires good timing and precision to end on the correct piece of music. If you are running late in the routine, it can then throw the end, which will look out of place.
Finish on a move: This method of finishing is easier, as you can put the dog into a move that he will be able to maintain until the music ends.' (p113)

'I am often asked how many times a routine should be used. Normally I will only use a routine for three competitions, making small changes each time to make it different for everybody. A lot of time and effort goes into putting a routine together, so it is impossible to put a new one together for every show.' (p121)

- One of the first things to do is to take the dog to different places to train the routine, making sure you use a place that is similar in size to the competition ring. This is where a portable CD player comes in handy. Moving training areas will accustom your dog to working in different environments.
- Another factor that can affect the dog is the audience clapping at the start of the routine. To overcome this, use tapes of people clapping at different levels, which will help to desensitise the dog.
- When you are confident that the dog can work the routine, you need to get used to performing in front of an audience. Ask friends and family to come and watch you train, as this will place you under more pressure. It is often more nerve-racking working in front of a few people than when you are faced with a big audience at a competition.' (p123)


'Start by contacting the organisation that is holding the event, and ask them to send you a schedule. With the increase in the amount of classes available, it can sometimes be confusing as to whether your dog's routine fits the Freestyle or Heelwork To Music category. If you are unsure of which class to enter, ask the show secretart or an experienced competitor. Don't forget to send your payment with your form, otherwise it will not be accepted.' (p124)

- Make sure your costume is in good order, together with any props that are required for the routine. There are usually places to change at the venue, so don't wear any part of the outfit until the performance, as you never know what may happen during the day.
- Make sure you have at least two copies of the music that you are using. Mark it with your name, the dog's name, and the class that you are entering. It is essential that you have two copies, as it is not unknown for tapes to get eaten in the recorder or for CDs to get scratched.
- Take rewards for the dog, especially if the dog has a favourite toy, as this can be used when you are warming up.
- Don't forget to take food and water for the dog, plus food for yourself.' (p124-125)

'At most events, the organisers will let the competitors practise in the ring before the start or during breaks. So get the dog in the ring, and let him have a look around - there may be pots of flowers or speakers at ground level, which could distract the dog if he has not seen them before the performance.
Now start to get the dog's attention, and do a few moves that he likes, as this will give you both confidence.' (p125)

'When it comes to your turn, remember to take a big, deep breath and smile! This is so important, as it makes you look as though you are here to enjoy yourself - even though you may feel petrified. Usually, the compere will introduce you and your dog to the audience, and then you must walk confidently to the middle of the ring.' (p127)

'It is always important to remember how far you have come with your training. Be happy with what you have achieved, and how much progress you have made. Above all, make sure your dog knows that you think the world of him, regardless of how highly you have scored in competition.' (p128)