Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What Am I Doing Here?

I thought I'd give everyone a chance to see what I do on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The dog in the videos is a hyper, crazy guy named Foggy. I'm helping to train him for personal protection and police work.

So, What do y'all think?

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Random Stuff About My Daily Life

Ok, so I know a lot of what happened today was stuff that's already happened since I've been here, but today just seemed to be really interesting.

I think the most interesting part came when we had a consultation with the owners of an aggressive dog. The dog is a pit bull mix and is quite adorable, but he shows a significant amount of fear aggression. I think we'll be able to work with him, but we have to figure out what sets him off. One instant he can be jumping and playing around and the next instant he's biting someone. I think he just bites once he's had an opportunity to think about what's going on. Keep him busy and he'll be fine. Of course, that solution doesn't work for the owners, so that's where we come in. I hope it works. He's such a cutie pie!

I'm also really starting to feel sorry for Cody today. He just seems so bored! Of course, I try to take him for walks, and there's a field nearby where I can throw his frisbee, but it's a lot harder for me to get outside when it's cold. I'm hoping I'll do better tomorrow, but today he hardly got out at all. He takes it like a champ, though. He still snuggles, and he'll chew on his Kong if he gets really bored.

Cody is also doing really well in the training. He's learning a very nice on-leash heel, and I plan to start him on off-leash commands this week. He's also responding very nicely to my sit, down and stay commands. I'm so proud of him!

Oh, and I received my final exam today. It's quite a doozy too. I have 1 year from March to complete it. Of course, I'm pretty sure I'll have it done by March. I want to be done with this course as soon as possible, so I can move on to the next step. As fun as it is, I'm pretty sure starting my own business will be much more exciting. Oh well! Here's to the future!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Different Weekend

Well, I just finished weekend 3 and I must say it was quite different. Usually, I'll leave school early on Friday and drive home. This weekend, however, I didn't leave Sanford until around 8:00, drove to Winston-Salem, and met Hans and his grandmother's place.

We actually had quite a nice time, but I do feel a bit guilty. Both Hans and I had such busy weeks that, by the time we got to Gan's (that's what we call her), we were too exhausted to be good guests. I mean, I actually fell asleep in the middle of her livingroom floor on Saturday. Still, though, it was really nice being able to see her.

I am still looking forward to next weekend, too. I'm going home again, but this time Hans doesn't have to work and I don't have any plans on Saturday. I think the plan is to sleep all day. Yay!

As far as school goes, I'm finding that I'm starting to find my groove here. I'm figuring out how much time each dog needs to be successful, I'm learning tricks for the difficult dogs, and I've even sent a few dogs home to happy owners. The teachers here are proud of me, because I'm making videos of the dogs I teach. See, each dog has a video made before it's sent home. Normally the interns do this, but I wanted to learn how it's done (and I think the interns do a crappy job of it) so I've started doing it. Jeff said he was very proud of me for doing that (YAY!).

I think the big task I need to undertake now, though, is taking pictures. I'm sure you all want to see what I'm doing down here. Maybe next time Hans visits, he can take some video or something.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Behavior Issues

Today we had a lecture on dogs with behavior issues, how to recognize them, and how to treat them. We did this mainly because of a dog named Heidi. She's very people aggressive.

While I'm seeing dogs with a lot of issues here, I'm not necessarily the one talking to the "parents." So, I'm hoping all you people in blog land can help me.

What's the biggest behavior issue you've faced with your dog?

This can be anything from digging, to pees when excited, to aggressive behavior, to stealing toys from other dogs. I'd really appreciate it if you left a comment instead of emailing me. I may or may not respond. I'm really just looking for the problems y'all have had, but I may have a few follow up questions.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Week #3

Ah, week number 3. What a week! Ok, so it's only the first day, but I can tell it will be an exciting week.

How can I tell? I have SEVEN dogs to work with! If you remember my post from last week, I only had 4 plus the one I "stole" from Matt. I won't describe them all like I did last week, but all the new ones are German Shepherds, except for one and he's a Lab mix. Also, Odin went home. He was much improved in the past week. I was shocked how much he learned to focus after just a correction or two. He wasn't motivated my treats, but he definitely didn't want the pop on the collar.

Oh, and this brings me to a good point. If you're going to buy a $3,000 puppy, make sure it's bred well first. And, if it's a big dog, CHECK THE HIPS!!! It's just way too easy to be ripped off.

Ok, so I feel like I'm rambling (which I am), but my brain is dead right now, and there's so much to tell! Maybe I'll think of something better to talk about next post.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Issue With Doggie Boot Camp

Ok, so the trainers at Tarheel are top of the line. They really know what they're doing, and I'm learning a lot from them. The dogs are taken care of pretty well too. Sure, they don't have the comforts of home, but they are taken care of.

So what's the issue? Here's the thing. For dogs, respect is not transferrable. So the issue with boot camps it that you're not there! I can take four weeks to train a dog, and he could be perfect for me in all scenarios, inside and out. But you're the one who's been coddling him all his life. He's never had to work for you. Do you really think he'll work for you now? The answer is probably not. He knows all the commands, but he has no reason to listen to you. You've never punished him before.

Really, for effective training, you HAVE to be involved. Besides, wouldn't you want to be involved in teaching your dog new tricks? Seek all the assistance you need. Take classes, read books, do whatever. Just be involved!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Impatience is a Virtue

So, I was thinking about what I posted yesterday, and how I said I was often a bit impatient. I decided that isn't always a bad thing. Most of the time, I'm impatient simply because I'm bored and want to move on to the next thing. This isn't so great when it comes to rushing a dog from one level to the next, but it's fabulous during single training sessions.

When it comes to training dogs, one thing to keep in mind is that they have extremely short attention spans. They bore easily. So, a trainer must always keep everything interesting. That's where my impatience is useful. If I'm bored, typically the dog is too. It's easy for me to move on to something new or change the pace because I'm bored too. And, just like a dog, as long as the pace is changed briefly, I can typically go back to the original project fairly easy.

Ex: When I was teaching Henry to down, he seemed to have a lot of trouble with it. Both he and I got extremely frustrated after just a few tries. Henry didn't want to work for his treats anymore, and frankly I didn't want to have to make. So, I took him for a walk. I asked him to heel. He was still learning (and earning treats) but he was doing something different. Both Henry and I were happy. After many tries, he finally got the down, but every session went like that (and still does). Even though he now knows the command for down, if that's all I asked him to do he'd get bored and quit working. Instead, the pattern is typically down, heel, sit, stay, down, stay, heel, place, etc. Within about 15-20 minutes, his time limit is up and I'm typically ready to move on to the next dog anyway. It works out great for both!

Yes, I know that the dogs have to learn to listen for more than 20 minutes, and they will. But, at least at the phase Henry's in now, short bursts of work followed by impatience and boredom work great!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Moldy Bread

:( All my bread molded! I have no bread for bologna sandwiches. I have no buns for barbeque sandwiches. All my bread is covered in a green and white fuzz!!!

Ok, so that was the bad part of my day, and it was kind of sucky. Really, though, my day has gone quite well.

Today, I successfully progressed Odin, Seamus, and Coal to the e-collar, and I moved Darla further along on it. I also got Henry to do tricks with rewards. A few more sessions like this, and he'll be on to corrections.

I know most of you don't really know what any of that means, but it's really just too hard to explain in a blog (at least for me). Just know that it's all good!

Kylie, the girl who was first teaching me, seems to be pretty impressed. She actually made the comment today (get this) that I might make a good dog trainer after all! Another girl in the room made it very clear that she doesn't say that to everybody. Yay for me!!!

I am noticing my biggest fault is lack of patience. I'm patient in each session, but I tend to try to rush the dog to the next level. So, I'm really trying to take my time with them, and really see where they are. I will never move to the next level until they've had at least three sessions of one level, and then I judge the dogs. Some need as many as 6 or 7 sessions before we can move on.

Take Coal, for example. He has a sister here named Onyx. Onyx got corrections right away. She did what we asked and was quite happy. Coal, on the other hand, shut down. He didn't want treats. He didn't respond to praise or loving. He just laid down and moped. Coal took a lot more work. Now, however, they're both on the e-collar. Coal doesn't like it, but he's coming along quite nicely. Onyx on the other hand, tries to run away. Some dogs just need more time on different levels.

So that's my big problem right now...patience. This has always been a problem for me, and I figure this is just good practice. For those of you reading, though, any tips??

Monday, January 12, 2009

Week #2

Just so everyone knows, I made it back to NC safe and sound after a fun-filled weekend.

Since my cold was doing so much better, and I wanted to keep it that way, I decided to clean my room. I just did some basic sweeping that I hadn't the energy to do last week, but boy has it helped. Take a look!

Yes, that is the pile of filth I swept up from my floor. Most was under my bed, but there was plenty elsewhere too. Anyway, sweeping that up meant a better night's sleep for me!

So, how was today? Today was great!!! Either they do this for everyone, or they think I'm doing a really great job, but I was pretty much unsupervised today. I have four dogs I've been assigned, and one I've taken from one of the interns. All but one of them were started by other trainers first, but it's still great to keep them improving. I feel more confident in what I'm doing because there's not someone looking over my shoulder, but I also know someone is always close by if I have any questions or concerns. So, let me describe my dogs!

1) Henry: He's a sweet, excitable, sometimes timid beagle. I am the first trainer to work with him. He's great with just about every command except for "down." We're really working hard on that one. Oh, but I finally got him to do that command today. Yay for me!!!

2) Coal: He's a very dark German Shepherd. He's also a big baby. Coal is here with his sister, Onxy, but his progress is much slower than hers. We have him on corrections (which he's terrified of) and we'll probably be moving him to the e-collar in a couple of days.

3) Odin: He's our mentally-deficient child. I don't mean he just has ADD (although he does), I mean he's an idiot. When I take him out to use the bathroom, he pees on himself. He doesn't stretch out, he doesn't lift a leg. He just pees on his leg. Basically, he's the prime example as to why you shouldn't buy a Shepherd in the states. They're idiots! Either way, with corrections we have gotten him to focus quite a bit. I'm sure he'll be on the e-collar by Wednesday.

4) Seamus: He's the ADD child. He's not quite as dumb as Odin, but he is just as easily distracted. He's in pretty much the same place training wise as Odin, so really, he's moving along nicely. Keep in mind that all these dogs (except Henry) were just on rewards less than a week ago. I've moved them to the next level!

5) Darla: She's the dog I've stolen. She's a 17 pound beagle puppy and she's adorable. Since I'm the one to take her out the most, she's always super-excited to see me. Darla is also the only dog I have now who is already using the e-collar. I just started her on it today, and she did extremely well. The only problem? She's so well behaved I never actually need the e-collar, so she's having a difficult time figuring out what it means.

So, there you have it. That's my job right now. In a few weeks, those dogs will change and I'll have new ones with different personalities and different challenges. Now, though, I'm having a great time with these 5.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Little Tidbits

I haven't yet mentioned one somewhat amusing bit of info.

This week, I accumulated 19 bruises. Some of these are from Cody (we play rough), one is from me falling on the cement (the floor is slick), but most are from very excited dogs who like to jump around a lot.

At this rate, by the end of March, I'll have 228 bruises! Wouldn't that be a sight!?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Much Needed Estrogen Day

YAY! I'm home!!! Ok, so I'm only home until tomorrow, but I'm still really happy about it.

For those of you who don't know my living situation, let me explain. I live in a 6x12 cell. There are no windows and the walls are paper thin. In that room, I have a bed, an extra large dog crate, a cooler, a box of food, a suitcase, a box of Cody supplies, a dog food container, a box of kitchen supplies, and a box of books (I read a lot). So this is not much room. Part of me says I don't need all this stuff, but I have actually used all of it in the one week, and I have plans to use it all again.

This is not the worst part. The worst part is that I live with 3 guys (and not very clean ones at that). There are two college-age boys whose walls are covered with swimsuit models and who spend their freetime playing shoot-em up video games, and there's a married, Louisiana cop who, while nice, is still too much testosterone for me.

To make matters worse, I am battling the cold from Hell. I'm sure everyone reading this blog either has this cold right now, or just got over it. What does every girl want when she's sick? Someone to take care of her. She definitely wants to at least be able to walk around in her pjs, maybe a robe, with a box of tissues in one hand, and a glass of juice/water/whatever in the other without worrying about 3 guys commenting. So, I spend most of my evening time in my "cell." I eat there, I read there, and I sleep there. Oh yeah, and I cough and blow my nose there.

This weekend, though, I came home. Hans took care of me and I got lots of sleep. Today, I went out with my best friends for a girl day. We got manicures and pedicures, had lunch, and saw Bride Wars. It was definitely an estrogen-filled day. Now, I'm back with Hans and I'm quite happy. I hate the fact I have to leave tomorrow, but at least I know it's only for another 5 days.

And I have to keep in mind that I LOVE the training. The school is great. It's only the dorms that make me want to run away screaming. Maybe I'll start spending more time in Barnes and Noble, even if it is 30 minutes away!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

They Weren't Kidding

A quote from the Tarheel Canine website:

"Above all, this is a hands-on apprenticeship that will challenge you every day."

They certainly weren't kidding about that one. I'm only in my first week, and I don't think I can cram anymore into my head. I know I'm doing some things right, but there's still so much to learn and perfect. Luckily, I have 3 months.

All I can say now is, "Phew! I'm exhausted!"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Big News!!!!

Ok, so the first bit of big news, which most of you knew about anyway, is that Cody (the dog in the picture) is officially playing the roll of Sandy in Theatre IV's production of 'Annie' this spring. The play runs from April 24-May 17. If any of you can make it, let me know. We'd love to have you here!

Other big news, Cody officially started training today. He did about as I expected. He got distracted easily, but focused fairly quickly. I'm training him like he's never had any training before. Basically I'm starting from scratch. Of course, since Cody needs hand cues instead of voice commands (for the stage) I'm doing a few things differently, but all in all it's the same as the other dogs. I can't wait to work with him again. Obviously, he's my favorite dog to work with.

Lastly, today I got my very own dog to work with. All of the dogs I've been working with already had a start from other trainers. This dog just came in today. His name is Henry, he's a beagle (I think) and he's really sweet. Today was just socialization, getting him used to the place, but tomorrow we start training for real. I'm so excited! I guess that means I'm doing well?

You know, it's funny, because every morning I think, "I probably won't have much to post today." Yet every day, I'm filled with so much news. My only regret is I wish everyone could be here to watch it happen. I know I'm probably forgetting half the things that happened today.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Me and the 80 Lb. German Shepherd

Today was a great day! That is the only way to describe it. I had a nice, relaxing morning (thank the humidifier for a decent night's sleep), and then I went to work.

I'm being given my own list of dogs to handle, so that's pretty awesome. I learned a new technique in training and I fully intend to use it on Cody. He's being a stubborn, little butt, though I think that's due to stress and too much energy. I also got some tips on using the e-collar even though I think I'll still wait to really start working with it. I want to have lots of practice with it. Then, before lunch, we all learned some really great techniques on how to deal with aggressive dogs...especially if they're younger.

After lunch, I thought we'd be doing more obedience training. Kylie, my instructor, had said it's really good if you can work with the dogs at least twice, so I figured we'd be going through the same 5 or 6 dogs we had this morning. I was wrong!

Instead of obedience, we did bite work. This is where the 80 lb. German Shepherd comes in. I, luckily, was the handler and not the decoy. It was my responsibility to hold back a huge Shepherd and keep him from destroying someone's face. I apparently did a decent job. No one was injured in the process. That is, unless you consider a handful of poopy leash an injury. Yes, dogs can be very dirty. And for all you OCD people out there (you know who you are) I scrubbed quite thoroughly. ICK!

After the day was done, I stuck around for Club. It's basically a protection club where semi-amateur / semi-pro people come to all work with their dogs and get tips from each other. That wasn't quite as exciting for me as I had nothing to do, but it was great to watch how all the dogs worked. I found that I quickly learned if a dog was behaving properly or not. I also found that I really need to learn all the German and Dutch commands. It took me quite a while to figure out what they were asking the dog to do!

Now, I 'm back in my tiny, tiny, little room (It was an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny...). I'm quite pooped out (if not pooped on) and I'm ready for bed. Yay for fun days!

Monday, January 5, 2009

First Day

First day in a nutshell:

- Orientation

-First steps

-Dragged through the mud

-Punched in the eye by a dog's nose

-Avoid savage attack by scared dog

All in all it was a learning experience to say the least. I have to say it was fun though. It would have been more fun if I hadn't been hopped up on Advil Cold and Sinus, but I enjoyed it none the less.

And I wasn't exactly "dragged" through the mud. It would be more correct to say that the klutz in me took over and I slipped and fell. Either way I have a pair of very dirty jeans.

Mom is in town, so that was nice. She took me out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we went to Fayetteville to visit the Barnes and Noble and Target. We'll have breakfast again tomorrow morning, and then she's headed back to Richmond.

Speaking of Richmond, I still can't wait to go home on Friday. I think Cody will be happiest with that decision, though. He misses being free in the yard. It is hard being in a single bed by myself when I'm so used to being in a queen bed with Hans. Although, I have to say I wasn't exactly by myself (Gasp!). Cody was with me. :P He spent most of the evening guarding the door, but took a couple hours to sleep and was only comfortable when he was up with me. I must say, I felt safe and sound.

Hopefully I feel better tomorrow, but either way I'm excited!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Here in NC

Well, I finally made it. I'm in North Carolina. Hans and I decided to leave a day later so I could have one more day to pack and we could have one more night in our bed together.

I'm definitely still terrified. Being here and seeing how small everything is (much smaller than I'd remembered) doesn't help either. But I think I can make it work. Hans and I ran to K-Mart today and got tons of disinfectants and deodorizors to help rid the smell of dogs past, although I actually think that was Cody's favorite part.

Cody is the real champion today. He's just sleeping in his crate right now as if he knows that's his new home. I hope he enjoys it here. If he doesn't, it will just make me miss home more.

All in all, I think I'm prepared as well as I can be. That doesn't mean I actually feel prepared. It just means I've gone as far as I can.

Again I say, Wish Me Luck!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Leaving tomorrow and ICK!

Well, I leave for school tomorrow. Could there be a worse time to get a cold? The best part is that both the hubbie and my dad are sick as well. So nothing is getting done even though there are about 15 million things to do.

Things to do before tomorrow:

- Spend time with friends J and L before I leave

- Do laundry and Pack

- Mop the kitchen

- Clean the bathroom

- Clean the bedroom

It doesn't sound like much, but when your head feels like it will either explode or separate from your body, it's a lot.

Wish me luck!