Thursday, June 16, 2011

Trick Dogs

Warning: This is a long one, but its worth it....

Yesterday was a big day for the Hamlin pups. Reyna finished off the requirements for her Expert Trick Dog title, Duncan completed the requirements for his Intermediate Trick Dog title, and Kodiak did all the exercises needed for his Novice Trick Dog title. It was amazing! The pups all worked really hard yesterday (took us about two hours, I think). I really love the Trick Dog stuff. First, its tricks! Its just fun. Second, you can modify the tricks to accommodate dogs with health problems (like Reyna). And third, you don't have to pay huge entry fees and schlep all over the place hoping everything goes well during your one try. Instead, you just have to have a witness sign off on the tricks and you can do them over time and/or via video. Its great!

First up was Reyna. For the Expert Trick Dog, she had to complete 5 exercises. We chose Contraband Search, Find the Object with My Scent, Shell Game, Track a Person's Scent Trail, and Weave Poles.

Reyna completed her Contraband Search last week, which is pretty impressive since she wasn't feeling well at all. For this exercise, Reyna had to find a specific, non-food scent - we used tea tree oil - and indicate the object. If you watch her nose, you can see exactly how the air has moved the scent from the box in the corner, up the side of the table, and along the wall to the front of the room. Her article indication is nice and clear - pawing at the object.

The Track a Person's Scent Trail exercise was really easy for Reyna - she's never forgotten her SAR training. We did this exercise back in May, shortly before she got sick. I didn't realize just how glad I'd be we did this one early - at the time, I was thinking about the coming heat. Reyna hates to work outside when its hot, and who can blame her for that? Suzie is the handler in this exercise and I'm hiding. When they left the building, Suzie gave Reyna a scent article to sniff so she'd know who she was tracking. You can tell Reyna's really following my footsteps when her head is down, and she's air scenting when her head comes up.

While we were out tracking, we had Reyna Find the Object with My Scent. Like the Contraband Search, she had to clearly indicate the article, which in this case was one of my socks.

Weave Poles - which she did yesterday - are hard for Reyna. With her hips all wonky, she can't weave like the dogs who do agility, but we're allowed to adjust the poles to accommodate that. We're going to keep working on these, because Suzie and I both think that with more time she can make it look a bit more like regular weave poles. But you know, if she can't, its okay.

Reyna also played the Shell Game yesterday. She has to indicate which cup is hiding the treats. She's such a silly girl!

Next was Duncan. He had to complete 12 exercises for Intermediate Trick Dog. We chose Find Hidden Treats, Leave It, Heel Forward, Hide and Seek, Leg Weave, Pick a Card from the Deck, Over/Under, Which Hand Holds the Treat, Figure 8's (2 points), and Pull a Cart (2 points).

Figure 8's are considered an Advanced trick, which is why he gets 2 points towards his title for these. This is something he learned years ago for freestyle, so he's pretty good at them.

He's not so good at Finding Hidden Treats, though. I thought about editing out the first part of this, but its such a great example of his personality. Duncan is willing to try pretty much anything I ask of him, but he's just not a nose dog.

Okay, yeah, this one's a gimme. After all, if he couldn't Heel, he certainly wouldn't have any rally titles.

This was another fun one. In Hide and Seek, Duncan has to come find me, which he does very easily. And then it got a bit silly when we tried to get out of the tunnels. Duncan really loves tunnels.

Leave It is another trick that Duncan learned a long time ago. Sometimes, if I distract him at just the right time, he'll actually forget there's a treat on his paw.

Leg Weaves are something Duncan and I never put into our freestyle routines. I really think they're harder than Figure 8's, but that mostly due to Duncan's size. I don't know many people who could look graceful trying to swing their leg over such a tall dog.

The Over/Under is another easy one for Duncan. Suzie missed almost the entire "over" portion, but if you watched the video of Duncan's Level 2 run, you know he can jump.

Duncan was not in the mood to Pick a Card from the Deck yesterday, which is why I'm so glad you can use tricks done on previous days.

Pull a Cart is another trick where the video option is really beneficial. There's no way I could get all three pups and Duncan's cart in the truck so Suzie could watch him pull it during a regular session. This video clip is from last year, but he's still working on his carting skills. Its considered an Expert trick, so it also gets 2 points towards his Intermediate title.

Which Hand Holds the Treat? Well, that would be the hand Duncan is chewing...

Finally, it was Kodiak's turn. I'd spent most of the last week recording as many tricks as possible at home, just in case we got to Suzie's and he decided to be afraid of air. Hey, its happened. For Novice Trick Dog, Kodiak had to do 12 exercises. We chose Come, Crawl, Down, Fetch (Not to Hand), Take It, Catch, Hoop Jump, Jump Over a Bar, Kennel Up, Place, Tug, Shake Hands, Side, Sit, Spin Circles, Stay, Touch Target, Touch My Hand, Tunnel, and Walk on a Loose Leash. Yep, that's right, Kodiak's an over-achiever - he did an amazing 20 tricks! And even more impressive, we only had to use one of the videos I took at home. He did all the rest of the tricks yesterday at Suzie's.

Catch, Take It and Tug are some of Kodiak's favorites. I brought some of his squeaky toys with us so he didn't have to worry about unfamiliar items.

Crawl is something Kodiak learned just in the last week. Suzie says he looks like an inchworm, and I have to agree. He's so stinking cute!

Fetch (Not to Hand) is something Kodiak loves to do. He spends a lot of time every day running after a ball or toy and bringing them back to me. For this trick he doesn't have to actually put the toy in my hand, just get it close to me.

The Hoop Jump has been a huge challenge for Kodiak. Those tire jumps are terrifying for a formerly feral pup. He's finally conquered his fear - for now.

If you thought the Hoop Jump was scary, well, those uprights make it really hard for Kodiak to Jump Over a Bar. He's still scared of the one sitting in my back yard. But this...this was just amazing. Not only did he go over the bars without me, he even went over some that were fairly high for a pup his size.

Kennel Up is the trick that we used the video from home. Suzie has a crate at her place, but I really didn't want to stress Kodiak by trying to get him in a strange crate. Besides, he was really cute in this one.

This one is a bunch of basic obedience stuff - things he has to know to do puppy level rally - Walk on a Loose Leash, Sit, Down, Stay, Come, Place, and Side.

Shake and Touch are tricks we started working on not long after Kodiak moved into the house.

Spin Circles is a relatively new trick for the pup. His "Twist" to his left seems to be a bit better than his "Spin" to the right, which is why that one made the final video cut.

Target is also fairly new. The goal is to go to the object I point to and touch it with his nose or paw. We have a little target pad that we use, and sometime Kodiak likes to mix things up by grabbing the target pad and running off with it.

Tunnel is at least as frightening as the jumps. I finally had to borrow a tunnel from Suzie and leave it in the living room for several days. He may not be tearing through the tunnels like Duncan, but at least he's willing to go through it now. And did you notice? It actually moved a bit and Kodiak didn't freeze or panic. Thats major progress.

I'm so proud of all three pups. They've worked really hard for their respective titles, each in their own way.


Anonymous said...

How fun! What a great job you've done with all three dogs. Most amazing to watch Kodiak's confidence grow. Mary B.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to all three pups for achieving their Trick Dog titles!!!!! HIP HIP HOORAY!!!!!!!
Loved the videos!! I'm proud to say that I've got some pretty smart grand-pups!!!!! And let's not forget my very smart daughter!!!!
:)Love, Mom