This is a page to share with you all what we are going through right now; what we are learning, and what we are struggling through, in hopes that we can inspire some of you to research new ways to work through the issues in your own lives.  

New Beginnings with Bentley!

August 21, 2013
Here is Bentley! We had been boxer-less for about 5 months, and decided that it was time =) Bentley came to us from West Coast Boxer Rescue, he was being held in a kennel in southern CA. Bentley came to us with a little bit of a rap sheet, he had been in a foster home previously, but had been returned to the kennel because he was fighting with their boxer female alpha dog. We weren't sure whose fault those fights were, we just knew that they were bloody. He had been back in the kennel for about 10 days when he came down to us. It turned out that he has wonderful manners with other dogs, but he does have prey drive- motivated aggression. He went after Kenzie while she was chasing her ball and gave her a pretty nasty puncture under her eye. They got in a fight and I had to (safely) break it up. We kept him on leash for the next couple days, to make sure that did not happen, and until we knew him better and he had earned some trust. It didn't take long, we saw that he was wonderful with the kids, and very respectful of Kenzie's space. He was so good with Kenzie in the house, but as soon as we were outside and she ran after a squirrel, lizard, her ball, or anything else, Bentley got a jolt of adrenaline and went in attack prey mode: head up, ears up, eyes big, pulling really hard on the leash, etc. It has been 5 days since that first incident, but Kenzie still does not trust him. I don't blame her, he went after her when she wasn't looking, that's like being shot in the back! I also think that she looks at his spine sticking out of the top of his back as his hair being up all of the time... =-(  That is the only thing I can think of to explain how fearful she is of him, even when he is displaying the most submissive, non confrontational body language possible. 

So anyway, we started prey driven aggression training day 3, and I saw a big change in him right away. Thankfully he is highly food motivated, so this does make it easier. Today on day 5, I dont think he would go after her if he weren't on the lease, but I still had treats, but I'm not going to test that any time soon, it's just not worth it. I will move on to a long lead for training before I go leashless. 

Bentley also has severe separation anxiety =( Poor guy, he sounds so pathetic. He lost his voice from barking in the kennel, so it it just this sad squeak of a panicked bark. We worked on trying the crate thing last night, it did not go well, he never calmed down. I went in and out, in and out for an hr, but he just kept panting and barking. I decided to try keeping him loose in the house today to see if he did better...and he did, but he still never relaxed while I was gone. After 2.5hrs of working from 1 second out of the door to 10 minutes, he would over and over start barking and howling and jumping on couch after 10 minutes. 

So we took a break. I will mull it over and try something else. Training is not a perfect science. What has always worked on all other dogs I have trained is not working on him, so back to the drawing board and try again! 


An unexpected Goodbye... Riley...

August 21, 2013
This is Riley his last week with us. He loved our children so much, and was sooo wonderful with them. His last day he found the strength to say goodbye to each of them in his own way.
Riley had a sudden, drastic decent health, so we took him in and had ex-rays done, and our Dr found that Riley had many metastasized malignant tumors on his lungs. He was in pain, and we knew that his fight was over. The next day we took him in, and it was heart wrenching saying goodbye. He went to heaven while in my arms. Thankfully I'm a pretty good typer and can type through the tears... It is so hard because you have those questions of "what if": what if we didnt take him in and he felt better tomorrow and he could have had another 2 happy years with us? What if he's not really in pain, and would rather stay here with his family for a little bit longer? But in the end, the other what if's won out: What if he is in terrible pain, and in my selfishness I decided to make him suffer longer than nessesary? What if, out of extreme pain, he bites one of the children he loves? He wouldn't understand why, and would have been crushed that he'd hurt one of them, not to mention the fallout of one of my children being injured. These what if's outweighed the others, and when I looked into his eyes, he looked like he was in pain, so I did the most loving thing I could: ended it. 

Trials, Trials and more Trials!

October 3, 2012
Kenzie and I have just had so much fun this summer! We went to trial after trial, getting better and better at figuring out the whole camping thing, staying calm while at the trial, revving up before running, etc. Our last trial of the summer was in Medford, and boy did we have a great time! We got to see old friends that we used to train with when we lived there, and camp in their nice facility there. My husband was even along for the ride, so that was the icing on the cake! We did very well that weekend. Kenzie moved into Excellent in Jumpers, after placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd the entire weekend. I think we missed one Q, but that was mommies fault : /     She also did very well in Standard. We would have Q'd every run and been close to the top every time if not for weave faults! She started doing some weird things with the weaves in that ring, popping out, but worked though it by the end of the trial so that we did get one strong Q. The best news is that she was 100% ON CONTACTS, and FAST!!!!! She was the fastest she has been do date. Since this was our last trial, we will see if that was just a fluke, or her new speed while trailing! We took a pretty big break from trialing after that, because we were just too busy after that moving, and traveling.  

Riley's Scare

April 25, 2012
Well, now that Riley is doing so much better, he has been getting into more and more things. Pulling dishes out of the sink, pans off the back of the stove, etc. Unfortunately it also causes me to get a little lax in giving him his supplement treats. I had forgotten like 5 days in a row when I left a carton of eggs on the counter while I ran over to my Mom's to have a cup of coffee. Well of course, I came home to egg juice all over the house. Lovely. Riley ate 12 raw eggs. I really didnt think anything of it, I have heard of people feeding their dogs raw eggs, and my husband used to eat raw eggs all of the time. Well I came home to Riley just wanting to be outside eating grass so that he would throw up. So I left him outside while I took Kenzie to agility class. I came home late and Steve and Riley were already asleep. The next morning Riley was lame in his right hind leg, and very weak in his other hind leg.I had to carry him outside to do his business, and then back in a well.  He looked to be in a LOT of pain, so I ran him to the vet. She said that he has a fluxating patella (moving knee cap), and that if it causes him pain, he would need surgery from a specialist. Very bad news, since it was obviously causing him a lot of pain. But I kept thinking about when Riley was really young and he got into the organic fertilizer. That caused him to vomit and then be lame in his hind legs the next day too (though not as painfully as this time), so I was REALLY hoping that Riley has always had the fluxating patella (but the supplements keep it from being too big a deal), and that he was just dehydrated, or whatever happened with the fertilizer was happening again, causing the lameness. I made him some electrolyte water and some extra of his supplement hoping that with some rest he would improve. Well, he woke up this morning full of energy and using his back legs no problem!!! He doesnt seem to be in ANY pain!!! SO exciting! So I guess it was just those stupid eggs that threw him off. It just shows me how badly he could be doing, if I did not have him on his supplements. I am so glad that I have that for him!

Tug, TUG!!!

April 20, 2012


Kenzie did great at her first trial! We did have a little fallback from the stress to deal with afterward (jumping at every sound), so we went back to the thundershirt/music regime for a few days, and then she was fine. On the way to the trial I gave a speech about how relaxed I was, and how it did not matter how we did, we were just there to have fun, etc. Once we got there and went to get measured etc, there were dogs milling around everywhere. She was stressed, but not aggressive, so that was good. I then massaged her while we waited for our first run. I left her with a bully stick to work while I went to walk the course, then came back to get her when it was getting close to our time to run. I massaged her at the gate while waiting at the gate after warming up. She completely relaxed on the ground for me to massage her, even while surrounded by pumped up agility dogs! When it was time to go in I showed her the toy, then tossed it behind me and went in. To sum up this first run, she was VERY relaxed on the field....slow, not zoned in, and loopy. I expected wayyy too much from her while planning our run (it was a gamblers course), so it was a rather rough run for us both. She did hit her dog walk contact though =) 

For the following runs I decided to try to ramp her up beforehand, to see if I could get her back in that zoned in place, but it just didnt happen. She did get a little more zoned in as the day went along, we actually placed twice and got 3 Q's. She always ran with me, such a good girl, even if her mind was not all there. She was doing great in Snooker until I messed up and took her the wrong way!!! Ugh, I have been out of the ring for too long!

I mostly noticed that I did not have a strong enough reinforcer with me in the ring to get her to focus on me, rather than ALL THAT NEW STUFF OUT THERE!!!!!  When we finished running, I had to have my mom at the finish waiting for me with a tennis ball so we could sprint out to the back area to play fetch.

So, I decided three areas can be improved upon:
1). Go to more trials so that it is not all such a big deal
2). Practice getting ramped up for agility, so that we both have that routine
3). Increase tug drive, so that I do have a reward with me in the ring

Okay, so how to do these:
1). Obviously just go to more trials. I'm not going to worry about this one too much, it will come with time.
2). I know that going into Kenzie's agility field at home is a major reward, so I decided to begin a routine of putting the agility leash on, asking her if she is READDDYYY????, then go to the gate, open it, then get her all ramped up and say "OKAY" when she reaches her most worked up, then enter the field quickly and put her on the startline just like I would at a trial. After a week of doing this, she now knows that she needs to be barking her head off and growling to enter the field, so that is what she does =D
3). Okay, so to increase her tug drive, I knew that I needed to put all throwing toys away, so that her play need was not being met by those. I also googled how to increase toy drive (yes even trainers call upon google occasionally). I found a great paragraph on how someone trained their dog how to tug by shaping it. She said she learned it from her teacher, but didnt say a name, so I dont know who to actually give credit to, just know that this was not originally my idea. 

Begin by shaping your dog to pick up rope. Hold it in your hand, when she touches it, click treat, then when she opens her mouth and touches a tooth to it, click treat, then when she picks it up, click treat. Once your dog is picking it up out of your hand, then just close your hand over it, then let go when she pulls, c/t, then wait till she pulls a little harder, then a little harder, until she is pulling really really hard to get it out of your hand, and whalla! Your dog is tugging. I also will sometimes not pick the rope back up and let her bring it to me to start the game of tug-for-a-treat. I started doing this before dinner every night one week ago, and took it outside for the first time today. So I did our usual routine of getting her all worked up before entering the field, then went in this time with no toy, just a braided rope leash. We took off and did a quick course, then ended with me throwing the rope leash over a jump. She ran to it and I said "get it!" and she brought it right over to me and we tugged tugged tugged! When I let her win, she just kinda looked up at me and I said "GOOD GIRL!!!!", then grabbed the rope and started again. I let her win two times, then decided that I was going to win! I pulled and pulled and screamed YOU GIVE ME THAT TOYYYYYYY!!!!! (I got this from a very cute video by Susan Garret found on youtube). I smacked her up a bit and grabbed her like I do when we played, oh ohh boy did she love it!!!  Once I did get it from her I said "LETS GO!" and ran her around the course the other way, then threw the toy again, repeated the tug game, then called it a day. I was SOOOO happy!!!!  Before last week when we started training this, she had never tugged on a leash for more than a couple seconds, and that only half heartedly! 

When I started training this stronger tug, I also started researching what kind of leash I wanted to have. I decided to get into leash making, and I have had a blast!

Update! Almost there!!!!!!

April 4, 2012
SOOOO, it has been a while since I updated you all on our agility progress. We have now been to 3 fun trials, where Kenzie learned what the whole trialing thing was. At the first two fun trials she was what I call "loopy", which just means that she ran with only 5% of her brain focused on me, the rest of it was focused on everything else = /  So she just ran very wide, though she did stay with me, which is more than it could have been. Then, a couple weeks ago we went to her third fun trial, and she ROCKED IT!!!!!  She was so tuned into me, and I her, it was awesome. She hit ALL of her dog walk contacts (4) and all but one A-frame (6), and had an awesome teeter every time as well. I was SO happy. 

So we are now working on getting faster weaves and higher drive through the course. I have found that as long as I trust her, Kenzie is pretty darn consistent on her DW contact. We have our first real trial this weekend!!! It is USDAA, and we have 5 runs, so that should give me a pretty good idea on how consistent her contacts are right now. I am super pleased with her teeter performance as of late. She was going very slowly, but then I stopped working on it at home, and only did the teeter during class or fun runs, and I guess because her drive was so high, it no long seemed a big deal that it dropped.So she just runs to the end and holds her two on two off beautifully. So now I just make sure not to practice it too often. It is too easy for her to practice crawling on it during at home practice when she is not as hyped up. 

Kenzie's reactivity to other dogs is going okay. She did have a set back at this last fun trial, not that she aggressed really, she was just very very on edge afterward, and she did not get over it before out group class two days later, so that just made it worse, and then it took an entire week. after that of thundershirt/massage/music therapy to get her over it. But she did great the next week in group class, so we will see how she does this weekend. 


Showing off...

January 17, 2012
So we have just started our agility group classes with a trainer in Stockton. It is SO funny to watch Kenzie "show off" to the other dogs. I am shocked at how fast she is when we are in a group setting. Of course this could just be that she is a little "on edge", so her adrenaline is pumping, making her run faster, but either way, I am very happy with it. Now that we have the performance of the individual obstacles down, we are now on the very fun process of fine tuning our team performance. Learning how to read each other, to best work fluidly as a team. I love our new trainer here, she is a very good people trainer =)  Certainly the hardest part of any dog trainer's job description.

Update on Contacts/ Weaves

December 15, 2011
SOOOO, Kenzie is rocking 12 weaves!!!! It is so exciting to now be working on speed, more difficult entries, and independent performance. Kenzie is also making great progress on the Dog Walk running contact. We are now able to go jump, tunnel, full dog walk, toy. We are working up to full speed, not quite there yet, but I am very happy with our progress. We start A-frame training in 2 days, as well as introducing the chute. Her teeter performance still is not as quick as I would like...I will be working on that the next few weeks as well.

Weaves and Contacts

November 22, 2011
Ok, so I have been working on weaves and contacts for about a month now, if you take out my traveling for the conference for a week, and now recovering from surgery. I am finally starting to be able to work outside with Kenzie again, albeit slightly dizzy, and moving very little, and slowly at that. =(

We are making great headway in both areas. Kenzie has been running the full height dogwalk starting from the middle of the top plank for about a week.  

We are just about to 6 straight poles, with front x, rear x, and shoulder turn, as well as sending to the entrance from parallel to 6th pole on both sides (very advanced entries). She did it all on 4 straight poles, and 6 very very slightly turned poles.  

Max is back...

October 31, 2011
The tricks are going well, Kenzie is finally "sitting pretty" on her own, it took her quite a while to have the confidence to try to balance herself. I am still working on a really strong paw swiping over the eyes/nose, I call it "shy?". She does it great while lying on her side, but we are working on it while sitting or standing now. She has "say your prayers" down! I think that is her favorite trick as of now, it is really cute.

Oh, so new news, I had to go pick Max up from his adopted family...=(  This is the little guy who had been deemed unadoptable, then we fostered him for 8 months (in which time he bit no-one), and then we found what we thought was a perfect home for him with a terminally ill woman about 30 min away. Well  it turns out that there were some things not reveled to me about her lifestyle and health issues that made Max not appropriate for her as a pet. So he bit her while I think she was pulling him off of someone else, and now she is afraid of him. So I picked him up on friday. She said that he was getting worse instead of better (which of course he was, since he was not being aggressive at all when she got him). So I took him back with me. I was expecting to have a very stressed out puppy on my hands, but he really wasn't. He is pretty chill, and has not so much as raised a lip at the other dogs, which is HUGE.  So anyway, I am now taking him back to square one of people reactivity training, and we are going to be using the BAT method. He is getting clicked for having the courage to look at the guest right now, and that seems to be working well, because he actually tries to trick me by turning his head toward the guest, but not looking with his eye balls! Silly boy. But this tells me a lot, that it is difficult for him to look at the guest. He is a lot more uncomfortable than he seems (his mo is to run up to guests and roll on his back to be petted, but then gets spooked and turns into attack mode). People think, oh look how friendly he is! But really he just needs to be ignored until he is comfortable enough to ask for his head to be petted (then if he does get scared, he does not feel trapped like when he is on his back). Anyway, he is being a really good boy so far. I was afraid that he would be back to square one, peeing all over the house and attacking my dogs again, but he isnt! WHEW! lol

Oh, and I got my large stuffed dog! It is FREAKY!!! It feels and looks like a real dead dog. It worked well for my reactive client, we were able to see of the dog was friendly and was just a frustrated greeter, or if she was actually afraid and reactive. It turns out she was just a frustrated greeter, which has totally different training than reactive dogs, but the behavior looks identical (crazy barking and lunging at end of leash). So that was pretty cool. I will be using it tomorrow in my reactive dog class, doing BAT.

Oh, and other new news (boy I am just full of it today!) I took Kenzie to her first agility trial this weekend. It was indoors and pretty large, held in an arena. It took us about 2hrs to get in the doors, doing the zen down when she started to get stressed. Once we got inside she did not do too well, so we left for about an hr. When we came back, she was much more calm. We were actually able to get all the way inside, and settle on the outside of the ring and watch the dogs run, while surrounded by other dogs! That was sooo cool. I could not have gotten there though without the "zen down". It worked wonders to help her trust me to protect her.


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