Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Very short update :)

1. I'm fostering a dog.. probably an Aussie-BC mix. She is heartworm positive and begins treatment this weekend.
2. Keiko and I haven't worked stock in a while but we have some new training goals, like teaching her to shed and doing some round pen work.
3. Agility is going GREAT! More on OB/agility training with Keiko later!

God bless!

Friday, July 16, 2010


Today I was feeling frustrated and distant. I was not confident in my appearance and extremely self-conscious. I took a moment to pray aloud while walking across campus, asking God to help me.. to lift my spirits and help me to deal gracefully with others. I arrived at my destination with a smile on my face. Before the end of the day, I helped a girl with an assignment we'd been working on and my day was made. Never have I felt such joy from helping another.. I don't know exactly what made this special, but it made my day. And thinking about it even now brings a smile to my face. Thank you Lord, for answering my prayer. Good night.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Training Goals for 7/2/2010

Keiko and I should be going out to train tomorrow, weather permitting. I've been reflecting on our adventure last weekend and now have some concrete goals for training tomorrow:

1. I consider this one to be the most important right now, since Keiko has really picked up the idea of driving and is kind of blowing me off when I want her to get to head (at least she did on Saturday). I need to reinforce the 'get around' command in the round pen, sending Keiko to head and then changing the directions. Initially, I will not use a directional command. Later I *may* work on directions.

2. Continue reinforcing the grip command. No, I don't want Keiko turning into a gripping machine but in instances where she needs to reinforce herself with a grip, I want her to hit when told. So far I've just been using a "sssskitum, HIT onnnne." I drop my voice when I say the word "one".. this was working when I was trying to help build her confidence back up after the good kick she got. I may not actually need to practice this though, as Keiko showed initiative to grip again when it was necessary last weekend.

3. Continue working on a down/sit/stay while on stock. In fact, I may have her hold the stock off of the gate, starting for about 30 seconds and then sending her to head to re-pen them. This would be arena/pasture work.

4. I also need to start working on pushing her wide as she has been cutting corners lately. It is nice that we have a lighter group of calves now so she doesn't have to move in as close to lift them.

I'd like to take another adventure through the 10 acre pasture but will save that for the next time we work. I'm thinking I'll let the calves loose, allow them to settle, then go out with her to find them and re-pen them. This would also give me the opportunity to work on her actively searching for the stock when they are not in sight. It would be great if we could do this on horseback :) But we haven't talked about that yet so I'm not banking on it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

It's a good day of training when you lose the stock

So, I wanted to do something new for training with Keiko today. She is a quick learner which is a good thing! But there are times when it's a bad thing. She has picked up the driving thing pretty well but she's also kind of figuring out where we usually go when we work on things in the arena so I decided I've gotta keep her on her toes more. So, I asked Russ if we could go ahead and try taking the calves out in the 10 acre pasture for a little romp and back. He said sure, with a smile. I should have known...LOL! As a precursor to the rest of the post, I must say THANK GOD we worked on the go by/way to (directions) commands last week and a little on the stay in the round pen before we called it quits.

Let me begin by saying one of the positive things that came out of today is that I am 100% certain that Keiko kinda gets the idea of driving now. :) When did I confirm this? When she lifted the calves out of the round pen and then drove them allll the way to the back of the pasture (past the tree line)...without me. LOL. So as I was shutting the pen, I'm thinking "crap". A minute or so later Keiko returned...alone and with no calves in sight. And so the search began! I headed back in the direction of where I'd last seen Keiko and the calves and sent her searching for them with a "go find 'em" command. While I'm certain she was not searching the entire time, I know that she was attempting to scent them out because I could see her body language change when she was "in scent" and then she led me to them. That was dandy, except that she proceeded to drive them further away from me! So we succeeded in losing the calves a second time. (Note: Keiko has some foundation in "finding it" as I often have her search for toys and treats in the house and out in the backyard when the grass needs cutting.)

I called Keiko back to me this time and put her on a leash, putting her back to work with a "get back to work" and a "go find 'em". This time I could see her more actively searching for the calves. One of the huge bonuses about today, and I must make a point of this, is that even though it was getting hot and Keiko was winded, I believe that little red dog enjoyed working today more than any other day. Even when she was the most winded and hot, she seemed like she was truly enjoying herself and this whole game had become real fun. So anyway, we made it out of the brush in the back of the pasture and saw the calves up ahead, walking down the fence line. I started to go wide to the left and once I was in an opportune place, I put Keiko in a sit-stay. I went a few paces towards the calves, then sent Keiko on an "away to me" "get around" so that she would lift the calves and fetch them to me. This went beautifully! We then proceeded at a nice pace towards the pen, where I was planning on putting the calves back up. Well, Keiko got distracted for a moment and seeing as these are fresh calves which are not fully dog broke, they took advantage and headed for the hills again! Keiko wouldn't get to head so I finally called her off, hoping they would settle before they disappeared behind the tree line. ...they didn't ;-; .

So off we went on a search. This search was probably the longest. I wasn't really sure which way the calves had gone and of course, they were quiet.. it seems that cattle won't "moo" when you're looking for them haha! I put Keiko on a leash and after a bit more time searching and jogging to try to cover ground faster, we happened upon them. This time I left Keiko on the leash and drove them around the back fence, then headed for the pen. We were out in the open again when I decided to try letting Keiko off the leash so that she could help me drive them back to the pen. Yeah.. bad move. At first she was a help.. then she stopped listening, pushed them too hard, and they headed for the hills again.. ugh!

This set the stage for our final search. This one took a bit more time as I went against my instinct and ended up way away from where the calves had actually gone. But I still gave Keiko the opportunity to "go find them" and let her take the lead (still on a leash though). We found the calves and I proceeded to drive them across the open pasture towards the pen they belonged in. Having Keiko on a leash was nice because it gave me a chance to work on a "steady", "stay", and "there" command. These are all things we haven't worked much on - partially because we didn't exactly need them when we worked the last group of calves. Those calves were a bit heavier though. I'm glad we've got a flightier group of calves this time - it keeps Keiko on her toes. She's also really regained confidence and will go in for a heel *if necessary*. So we got the calves back up to the pen and just as they were all in, I let Keiko off of her leash to finish penning them, then put her in a down-stay to hold them while I latched the panels back together.

While we spent roughly 45 minutes traipsing around the back pasture in the heat and humidity, I have to say that little red dog and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Even though she was hot and winded, Keiko seemed to really be enjoying herself. I don't think I've ever seen her look so happy while working. I also realized some things I need to work on, probably a bit in the round pen:
1. We will continue directionals just to make sure those are solid but she did them beautifully today.
2. I need to reinforce the "get out" (go wide) on cattle. She had this down on sheep but I haven't used it on cattle and after working with another dog once she really started cutting corners.
3. We'll back off of driving just a bit. She gets it.. now I need to change the game up some so that she doesn't forget that "get around" means I want her to get to head and bring the calves back to me.
4. General OB around the calves - down means down, stay means stay. Neither of those mean sit up and inch towards me. That'll do means we're done - not make another go around the calves.

All in all I'm very happy with the training opportunity presented to us today. :) We closed on something positive - we drove the calves up the middle of the arena and put them through one of the panels and then the y-chute. Then I had her re-pen but this time I had her lay down by the gate to keep the calves back off of it. I'm really happy with how her down-stay is coming along. I was also able to use the "there" and the "stay" a little more while she was helping me put the calves through the obstacles. I've never used those on cattle so it was nice to see her figure out what I wanted and comply. I can't wait 'til next week!

Friday, May 21, 2010

A good day's work makes the lightbulb turn on

Today was our last chance to work cattle for a couple of weeks or so. The next time we work, there will be fresh, non dog-broke calves so that should be exciting! :) I think the day went wonderfully! Keiko and I worked three-ish times.

The first time, I tried something different. I like the flexibility that the folks I train with give me...if I want to try something new -- so long as it isn't absolutely crazy -- they let me give it a try. So I let the calves out of the round pen (as opposed to sending Keiko in to get them out of the pen) and waited for them to settle at random in the arena. They settled in the upper right hand side of the arena, furthest away from us. Here is a picture to give you an idea of the setup:
[rudimentary picture coming!]
I walked up the outside fence, then sent Keiko to fetch the stock to me. After she fetched them to me, we worked them up the fence and around, then made an attempt at one of the obstacles. The first time we just got two or three calves through but the second time we got all of the calves through. Yay! Then we drove the calves back up the center of the arena and penned them. This all went very smoothly!

The second time, I got a little bolder. One guy had taken his older dog who already has his WTCH (Working Trial Champion) title and penned the calves in a much smaller pen out in his pasture. I decided I wanted to try it, but wanted to take only three calves as opposed to all six. Well that was a fine and dandy idea but I quickly realized that Keiko and I have not quite developed the tools to take calves off of the fence and move them away from the other calves that are still in the pen -- which is of course where they wanted to stay. I won't say this idea was a failure, though, because it gave me an opportunity to see what my dog can and cannot do. I ended up having her re-pen the three calves (after trying to do this with all six calves. That didn't work because by then she was very hot) and then finished that session.

The third time, we moved the calves out of the pen and then took them down to the water troughs where we settled them. What I liked about this exercise is that it was a practical task and I got to work on calling Keiko off of the stock without having re-penned them. This gives me a chance to show my dog that there is a practical method to this madness. It also gave me a chance to practice the "that'll do" without having a pen separating Keiko from the calves. After a little trouble, Keiko called off nicely and walked back to the gate with me.

Today we struggled a little with obedience. Keiko was very stubborn and willful. While it was a bit of a pain, I can't complain too much.. I like her spirit. :) Lol. We'll keep working at it. And we'll go through some obedience boot camp to help freshen up her obedience over the next couple of weeks. I've also started asking her to mind while we go to work -- really asking her to give me a solid sit-stay before she gets to go in to work or before she gets to go back to work (i.e. while I close a gate).

So now for the most important part of the update - the lightbulb moment! I have been mulling over why Keiko doesn't want to fully grip the calves when necessary and why I can see her grip the air but she won't always actually close on the foot and it hit me! I started my dog on sheep where you don't want the dog to grip because (some) dogs could damage the sheep. So every time she went in to grip, she was told to "get out" which is a term telling her to go wide and/or she was corrected. This obviously discourages the dog from gripping. I'm sure this is the biggest reason why she will "grip air" so to speak and while I can see her wanting to grip a calf to speed it up, she will choose not to at the last moment. I need to think about how I can fix the mess I've made but for now I will continue to encourage her when it's necessary. My roommate suggested that (while clicker training is not practical for stockdog work) I could try marking for the gripping behavior and see what happens. I think I may actually try this and see if I can spark the lightbulb in Keiko's head. :)

Alright, I'm exhausted. Goodnight!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What is PETA?

If I were to ask random passers-by on the street, most would tell me that PETA is an animal rights organization which works to attain better treatment for animals. If I were to ask those same passers-by what animal rights is, they would probably tell me something similar...something along the lines of it being the desire to have animals treated well. Neither of those statements is entirely correct. What I'll lay out for you are the facts about what PETA is. I'll take some of these points into more detail in a later entry after I choose which I'd like to elaborate on first and maybe get some feedback from readers.

For the sake of time, I will give very curt definitions but have linked you to a better, more in-depth definition below:
Animal rights advocates are driven by the idea that humans have no right to use animals for any purpose.
Animal welfare advocates are driven by the idea that humans have a right to humanely use animals for various purposes.
For more, see animal rights vs. animal welfare.

So, what is PETA? PETA is an animal rights organization. But what does that mean?

1. PETA is against the use of animals for human consumption
Not only are they against the use of animals for human consumption, but they actively promote a vegan lifestyle.

2. PETA is against the use of animals for testing in labs
No matter whether the testing is being done in humane conditions (sanitary environment, adequate housing, consideration given to their innate needs) or what the testing is being done for (i.e. no matter whether it's for cosmetics or for cancer), PETA is against it. They are also against the use of animals in dissection for educational purposes.

3. PETA is against the use of animals for clothing
This is not just in relation to furs, but also the use of wool and leather for clothing.

4. PETA is against the use of animals for entertainment
This means they are against circuses, Sea World, and even rodeos.

5. PETA supports legislation considered to be anti-pet
PETA advocates for legislation which appears to help animals but that when examined, is considered to be anti-pet by many people. For example:
  • PETA is anti-crate (against using crates to contain your dog when you leave the house, or to contain a puppy when you can't watch it)
  • PETA supports mandatory spay/neuter laws - not only is this controversial because they take away the owner's right to decide when and whether or not to sterilize their pets, but these laws also completely disregard new research suggesting that the hormones produced by the gonads are essential for the healthy life of the animal (fancy that?). On top of all that, mandatory spay/neuter laws have not been proven to decrease euthanasia rates. In fact, in some cases, euthanasia rates have increased as a result of this type of legislation. See: ASPCA's Position on Mandatory S/N Laws
  • PETA has been known to support the idea that our pets should be afforded the right to sue their "guardian" (they don't use the term "owner") in court
  • PETA supports controversial breed bans
  • PETA is against the idea of no-kill shelters

At first glance some of these stances on the various issues may seem reasonable. But take a moment to think about the implications of legislation which makes any of these five points illegal or at very least, difficult to do legally. What will happen? I'm not going to voice much of my opinion on these points until a later date. For now, this is just a run-down of what PETA is really all about. I've simply taken the points explicitly stated on their website and discussed them here. All of these facts can be verified throughout PETA's website.

Please, if you get a chance to read - post questions and viewpoints. It will help give me some material to work with as I go more in-depth on this topic.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 6 (?), an Evaluation of Keiko's Ability

I'd just like to discuss the way I believe Keiko works. This will give me a point of reference for where she's at right now, which I can reflect on as we move forward. It also gives me a place to explain some of the stockdog terms and try to build my ability to communicate using proper stockdog jargon. :) Disclaimer: I am a novice and may misuse terms, please correct me if I do! Also, I may leave some things out but that's OK because I will build on this later.

Keiko seems to have a natural sense of balance and rate. This means that she can find the proper place she needs to be in to move the stock, and controls her speed well - she doesn't move the stock too fast or too slow and can adjust her speed to keep them in line.

Keiko is a strong fetch dog. This means she has a strong desire to go get the stock, bring them to me, and balance them to me. She likes to stop movement and hold the stock to me. I think this is part of her natural working style and I think it was reinforced by working on fetching sheep to me in the round pen.

I'm not certain if this is related to Keiko's fetching strength or not, but she seems to be very willing to hit the heads. She is much more confident and willing to hit the heads than she is the heels on cattle. I think she's a little more hesitant to heel a calf because of getting kicked but her confidence builds as she learns to pay attention, get out of the way, and heel low on the foot of the calf. Hitting a heel or a head simply means giving the calf a nip only when necessary to get the animal back in line or to turn it around. (Note: Excessive gripping is undesirable and shouldn't be allowed.)

Keiko needs work on driving. Of course, this is something you teach to the dog but some dogs' natural working instinct is to drive. Driving is where the dog is pushing the stock from behind to a point where you want them to go.

While biddable, Keiko also needs some work obeying on stock. Two of the times she got kicked, it was because she broke a sit or down or wouldn't call off of the stock when I told her too. While you don't want to holler and crank on the dog for wanting to get back to work, you also have to teach them to mind you. So, we'll just continue working slowly but surely on listening while working on stock.

If interested, click here for a link to a list of stockdog terms as defined by the Working Aussie course.

Also, some photos of Keiko's first day working cattle.