Monday, April 30, 2012

When Pigs Fly

Parker and I finished Obstacle Skills 2 in December 2011 and started Beginning Handling on January 5th.  Between those two dates Parker, my Labrador, started refusing the dog walk.  Being new to this sport I was baffled that Parker was looking at the dog walk like he had never seen it. I tried click-treat, click-treat to get him to put his front feet on the ramp. That’s as far as I could get. Parker would start panting, his eyes bulging and legs shaking. What the heck was going on?  I received lots of advice from my LCDA friends. “He thinks it’s the teeter and doesn’t understand why it won’t go down.” “He can’t see the other side and is afraid of heights.” “Try having him go down instead of up.”  All this made sense to me, after all, they all had a lot of experience and members always have really good suggestions. But, nothing helped.

I read that Jane Killion would be here March 10th and would work on “issues” so I signed up for the Saturday morning Introduction class, the Saturday afternoon session on Issues, and the Sunday morning Handling class. I didn’t take the Sunday afternoon Course Analysis session because I didn’t feel that we were far enough along to justify $50 for that class.  I wrote in my registration the Parker wouldn’t go over the dog walk.  Saturday morning Jane said “We’ll get your dog over the dog walk.”

On Saturday, I got to handle Jane Killian’s cattle dog over the dog walk with the instruction “click, throw the treat off the dog walk to give the dog relief from stress, and repeat.” Jane Killian asked the group if they wanted to address our issues on Sunday since we didn’t get to them on Saturday. The group said a resounding “NO.”  I kept my mouth shut. Sunday morning I got to run Parker over the dog walk when it was flat on the ground. Then we left because our time was up.

On the drive home I though about the money I‘d spent on this seminar and was disappointed that Parker still wouldn’t go over the dog walk. BUT (and this is a very big BUT) I had learned to “free shape” a dog. No collar, no leash, no correction, just click and reward when you get an approximation of what you’re trying to teach. What could I do with this new skill? I free shaped Parker to put his toys by name into his toy box. I free shaped him to sit in a rocking chair. Starting on March 12th, I went to the agility field at least four times a week, loaded with canned cheese and turkey hot dogs.  We’d do some skill sets and include the dog walk. If Parker got on the dog walk he got a hot dog thrown on the ground when he started shaking to “relive his stress.”  If he took a step forward he got a click and cheese. I e-mailed Jane Killian my frustration and she said “Keep trying.  He will do it.”

Day after day of get-on-the-dog-walk-get-a-hot-dog, and step-forward-click-get-cheese-step-forward-click-get-cheese, jump off, and repeat. Free Shaping--really??  There were days when I wanted to grab him by the scruff of his neck and throw him on the darn dogwalk.  Parker would get to the crest of the dog walk, freeze, and jump down. I wouldn’t let my frustration show.  Just a pleasant “What you gonna do?” and repeat the process over and over and over.  Before we left the field each day we always did something I knew he’d do well so we wouldn’t leave on a bad note. One month and one week later, April 18th, Parker walked to the top (click-cheese) and walked over and down like he’d never had a problem.  He went over starting at both ends, handled from both sides, and finished up doing it in a skill set.  Thanks Jane Killian!

Diane Rutledge and Parker

Saturday, April 21, 2012


About 2 months ago I took my Australian Shepherd, Abby, to the vet for her shots.  While I was talking to one of the employees about agility they asked me if I had heard of Treibball.  When I told them that I hadn't, they explained that it was basically herding large balls.  I was instantly interested and started to look up more information about it.  Here is what I found from Wikipedia:

"Eight balls of approximately 45–75 cm are set in a triangle formation, similar to billiards, with the point ball farthest from the goal. The object of the game is to get all eight balls into a confined space the size of a soccer goal within a set time period, usually about 15 minutes. The handler may not move outside of an area that contains the left half of and several feet beyond the goal area. The dog works in close cooperation with the handler, who is only allowed to use whistles, verbal or hand signals to direct his dog. No verbal or physical corrections are used in Treibball. The dog and handler must communicate effectively to herd one ball at a time into the goal, in fifteen minutes time. The dog and handler team are scored on cooperation and direction, within that fifteen minute time limit,and can earn extra points or accrue demerits accordingly."

You don't have to have a herding breed to play this game.  Any dog can have fun with it.  Even if your dog isn't a "ball dog" they will enjoy this game.  Dogs of all ages will enjoy this activity since it can be modified for puppies or senior dogs.  As you may have experienced with agility or another sport Treibball can greatly help with a dog's confidence.  

Check out this YouTube video of Treibball:

Treibball's popularity is rapidly growing so keep an eye out for a Treibball class if you are interested.  I hope you all have enjoyed learning about a new sport!

Lindsay Shuler
Rascal and Abby

Monday, April 9, 2012

Do What You Love

"Do what you love."  That's the advice many teenagers get in regards to their career path.  My cynical opinion on that statement is that if you do what you love it eventually just becomes work.  Many of you may disagree, but I'm the one writing this blog :)  The reason why I mention this advice is because I have recently started a project at work which is truly a labor of love. Since I am writing on a dog blog then it must be about dogs, right?  You got it!  Therefore, it is my pleasure to present to you:

St. Andrew's Parks and Paws
May 6, 2012
Brinker Field
1095 Playground Rd.
Charleston, SC 29407

This event is for all dog lovers and their dogs!  Only $3.00 admission per dog.  Owners are FREE!  Enjoy many vendors, dog sport demonstrations including Agility, Flyball, and Rally Obedience.  Participate in the cutest dog trick competition or get your dog's portrait taken by Uniwolf Photography.  Each dog will also receive a free raffle ticket for a chance to win one of many great prizes!  Bring your blanket, chairs, etc. because this is going to be an awesome day in the park!  The concession stand will be open and selling food and drinks.  No alcoholic beverages allowed on St. Andrew's property, please.

I am very excited to share this event with you all!  I have created a facebook event and if you are my friend on facebook then you should have an invite.  Make sure you share the event with all your Charleston friends.  This will be a great event to showcase LCDA and show Charleston all the fun stuff they can do with their dog!  I hope to see you all then.  Until then, good luck to all who are trialing this weekend.  I wish you (and myself) fast weaves and awesome contacts!

Lindsay Shuler
Rascal and Abby