Archive for the ‘DOGS’ Categoryby Northernmost on November 22, 2013 in Agility & Rally, Wilder with No Comments
Heeling is the most important element of Rally Obedience and since this is our weakest skill I have decided to go back to basics and start out by working on our dogs’ rear end awareness which is the key to straight sits, backing up, pivots and maintaining heel position etc. To improve Wilder’s rear end awareness I brought a plastic step stool to our Thursday training. The step stool could be replaced by a book, a frisbee or any kind of low platform that is stable and that your dog is comfortable putting his feet on. I prefer a square object to a round object but when you start the training the shape is not so important, as long as the dog is comfortable with the object.
The goal of this exercise is to teach Wilder to place his front feet on top of the step stool and remain in that position while following me with his rear legs when I move around the step stool in a circle. When starting out with a new dog, the exercise is broken down into many separate skills and yesterday’s goal was simply to get him to touch the step stool with his paws. To make Wilder more clicker “aware” and encourage him to offer behaviours freely, I’m using the shaping technique. This means that I avoid showing him what to do and instead wait for him to do some creative thinking. Every small step in the right direction is rewarded with a click and a treat.
I started out by placing the step stool on the floor and waited to see what he would do. I had the clicker ready in my hand and plenty of yummy treats in my pocket. In the beginning, Wilder didn’t understand that the step stool had anything to do with the exercise, so instead he tried to sit and lie down a few times. I ignored his attempts while waiting for him to show interest in the step stool instead. Many trainers will click and reward the dog as soon as he looks at the object, however, since I think it’s easy to miss a quick glance, or reward the dog when he is in fact looking at something else (which could easily cause confusion), I prefer to skip this step and only reward direct contact.
When realising that sitting or lying down didn’t lead to any treats, Wilder walked up to the step stool and sniffed it. This was immediately rewarded with a click and a treat and I let him do this quite a few times (i.e. sniffing the step stool equals a click and reward) to build confidence with the object and the exercise. After every successful attempt I threw a treat away on the floor, to encourage him to go back and find the step stool from different directions. This exercise took about 10 minutes from start to finish.
When Wilder was offering the desired behaviour consistently, I increased the difficulty level by expecting him to put his feet on top of the step stool. This time, to make it a little easier, I mixed shaping with “luring”, and tapped the object with my fingers to show him what I wanted him to do. As soon as he touched the step stool with his paw I clicked and rewarded him with yummy treats. It took about 5 minutes from start to finish until he put his paw on the target for the first time.
Once Wilder knew what to do he was very quick to place one paw on the step stool, run away to get his treat and go back to paw the step stool. I decided to end the exercise there, as I felt that it would be too much to ask him to put both feet on the step stool during the first day of training. Instead, that will be the goal of our next training session.
As I mentioned earlier, the goal is to teach Wilder to pivot by keeping his front feet firmly on top and moving his rear legs around the step stool in a circle (left and right). When this is accomplished, I hope to be able to teach him how to find the correct heel position himself and remain in this position while I rotate my body around. I’m going to do this step-by-step and will keep you posted about our progress. This is the first time I try this technique so I will probably be making some mistakes along the way, but hopefully Wilder will be making pivots before the end of the year (considering that our training sessions are limited to once or twice a week).
Since quite a large amount of treats is consumed during a clicker training session I think it’s important to use treats that are good for your dog (or at least not bad for them). Our Malamutes love Orijen Treats which make very good high value rewards for a big dog when split in half. Orijen Treats are preservative free, low in calories and carbohydrate free and there are many different flavours available. For yesterday’s exercise we used Ranch-Raised Lamb. Yummy!
The weather cleared up quickly after the storm on Saturday night. On Sunday morning we woke up to blue skies and a cold house so instead of staying in and waiting for the electricity to return we put our running shoes on and went for a trip to the coast. The snow-free beach is perfect for jogging and we had a nice day out with Gemma and Tuisku. People say that running is addictive and maybe it’s true, I mean, why walk when you can run?
♥ Our running buddies Gem and Tuisku ♥
The sand dunes are great for running…
…but after a while your legs feel like jelly.
Tuisku always gets wild when we go to beach but we didn’t let him go swimming this time as the temperature was below zero.
The sea has many faces – it can be wild and cold…
…and calm and inviting.
I love my new running shoes – Pytho 2-L BUGrip from Swedish Icebug. They are lightweight and water resistant and keep the feet dry in both rain and slush.
The sole has integrated steel studs which provide good traction on everything from ice to slippery rocks. A perfect shoe for safely walking and running the dogs during fall and winter.
Tuisku doesn’t need studs to manoeuvre on slippery surfaces – Malamute feet can do that naturally.
Our precious Gem at 6 years of age.
Posing for the camera 😉
And here’s another one of G & T together – they look so cute in their red harnesses.
The power didn’t return until late on Sunday night but it didn’t bother us much as we spent the whole day out of doors, cleaning up the garden after the storm and playing with the dogs. In fact, being without TV and internet during the weekend is not a bad thing. Maybe we’ll try that again next week?
To beat the autumn blues we make sure to keep busy eight days a week! Yesterday evening we took Wilder and Titan to the dog club for some indoor rally training. As it turns out, our dogs are not the only Malamutes at the club; yesterday a sweet 7-year-old girl called Nala joined the class too. Fun! Our own training didn’t go super yesterday, the focus wasn’t there and the execution was more than just a bit sloppy. As we continue training we need to increase the reward criteria gradually and wean our dogs off the treats. But for now the main thing is that we’re having fun and that they feel confident in their work. For a 4-year-old dog that has never done any type of formal training (apart from the obedience training we integrate in our harness work) Titan did well and his tail was wagging non-stop!
Good boy Titan!
As you can see, I’m holding the leash in my left hand. This is not ideal for rally training but a bad habit that I have. By taking photos during training I notice my mistakes and can correct them. Here, for example, I should have started out with my left leg, not the right, as I wanted Titan to follow me.
Titan surprised us by nailing the station “Down and walk around your dog” at his first attempt.
The weave cones were harder, probably because he is a large dog and my handling was pretty poor.
An important part of training is learning how to wait patiently while the other dogs are having fun.
Wilder kept a constant eye on me during the “Down, and walk around” exercise.
He’s making good progress at the static exercises (sit, down and stand) but struggles with his heelwork. In fact, I think all our dogs struggle with heelwork and since Rally-O is all about moving smoothly on a loose leash, this is something that we really have to work on.
Oh no, the leash is in the left hand again!
Wilder at the start of the class…
…and after two hours 😉 Nothing beats Rally Obedience in making a Mal tired!
Every time I struggle with training I return to Ruth Kellogg’s excellent work “Happy Dogs with Benevolent Leaders” published in 2012. This CD-book is made up of 900 pages jam-packed with detailed and practical advice on everything from daily Malamute care and pack management, to building the foundations for formal training. In the three accompanying DVDs, Ruth and her Inharmony Malamutes (ages ranging from young puppies to adult dogs) demonstrate in videos how to introduce and train all the foundation skills needed for sports like rally, obedience and agility. I find her work very inspiring, not the least because she is a Malamute trainer and most other authors of dog training books are not. Before we re-start our heel training, I’m going to re-read the chapter about Precision Heeling and watch the accompanying video on Disc #2. I’m certain it will put me right back on track!
As we had some time off work this morning we took the opportunity to take the dogs out for a run in full daylight. During the last few weeks we have mainly been running the dogs in the evenings so it was a nice change to be able to leave the headlamps at home. It’s been snowing this week and a thin layer of white fluff is covering the ground. There’s not enough to go sledding but enough to make the world look prettier. Last year the first big dump of snow arrived at the start of December, when we received nearly one metre of snow in just one day. Let’s hope for a repeat this year, but sooner!
There’s something special about that first snow…
The trio waiting for us to get the wagon ready.
Before giving the command Go, we ask them to sit or lie down quietly. It doesn’t always work, especially not with our younger dogs, but they did well today.
And off we go!
The breaks don’t work great on snow and ice so running a small team is the safest option.
Wilder shows great focus in harness and keeps his tug line tight at all times.
He turned 10 months old last weekend.
Training in daylight is so much nicer than going for runs in the dark. And breathing all that fresh air in the morning gives you energy to last throughout the day.
Have a happy weekend, everyone!
GREAT NEWS! Tuisku and Hilary both passed their EYE EXAMS today! It’s always a big relief afterwards. Now we’re off to celebrate the results with a muddy late night run in the rain…whatever makes them happy! 😉
Keikewabic’s Tundra Tuisku, “Tuisku”, in March 2013.
Mtn Home’s Northernmost Hiking Hilary, “Hilary”.
That pretty much sums up October here on the northern coast. While waiting for snow and winter to arrive we keep ourselves and the dogs busy by attending training sessions at the dog club and going for runs with the wagon or bicycle.
When working the dogs in the evenings we use a dead-end forest road that has a locked barrier at the start, that way we can be certain not to encounter any traffic. Occasionally an elk or two cross the road but they always see and hear us long before we see them.
It’s been a rainy October and the roads are wet and muddy. Needless to say, we have some very dirty dogs at home 😉
A couple of times each week we go to the club to train together with other dog owners. In addition to the regular training sessions we have joined a group that specialises in rally and trains with the goal of becoming competitive. If things go well maybe we’ll be able to enter a dog or two to some competitions next year.
Wilder is a fast learner and his food motivation makes him “easy” to train. At the same time he’s an easily distracted teenager who cannot focus on one thing for too long. Thus, we try to keep training sessions short and make sure they always end while we’re still having fun. Patience and consistency is my mantra...
Hilary made a new friend at the club – a 4-month old Golden Retriever girl whose owner had brought her along for socialisation.
Hilary loves to play with puppies so I think this girl had a very positive experience 🙂
In the weekends we go for long walks to soak up as much daylight as possible. Titan and Wilder love to run back and forth on the beach and in and out of the cold water.
The sun sets early in the afternoon and it usually gets dark before we are back home.
The boys looked a tiny bit tired after their romp on the beach.
While Wilder is in adolescence we return to training basic things, like encouraging good indoor manners for example. Right now he is going through the second chewing phase so when he visits indoors we practise the “leave the shoes alone and chew on this toy instead” routine. I think it will take some time before we can trust him with our shoes in the hallway but it has worked with all our other Mals so I’m confident it will work with Wilder too. Eventually 😉
Leia, Thunder and I kicked off the weekend by going for a morning run. At first it felt a bit cold at -3 C (27 F) but once you start running you quickly warm up and the colder the weather the better it is for the dogs. There was some ice on the pavement so we headed for the woods instead, where we didn’t have to worry about slipping.
The Big Bears, Leia (8 years) and Thunder (9 years), are ideal running partners as they keep an even pace and are not distracted by scents along the trail. Not all our dogs are that easy to jog with, some pull so hard in harness that it is better to take them out with the bike or wagon.
After having had back surgery last year I have decided to get fit again. Part of my health regime is cutting out sugar from my diet and spending as little time as possible in front of the computer. As you may have noticed, I am taking a break from Facebook during fall and winter.
So I may not be ready for a marathon just yet, but running is a great way to start the day.
Have a great weekend everybody! 🙂
Today was a fantastic day and I have been out in the park, kicking up the leaves and enjoying the sunshine. Hilary’s sable colour always looks extra beautiful this time of the year so I grabbed the chance to get some new pictures of her. She’s definitely an Autumn Girl.
We hooked up Wilder for his first run in front of the wagon today. He turned 9 months old this week and it’s high time that he gains some experience of working on a team. We normally start our puppies in harness a little earlier, at around 5-7 months of age, but since it’s been a warm and humid end to the summer, and since Wilder has been growing a lot during Aug-Sept, we decided to wait a little longer with his first hookup. When we introduced him to his harness today he stepped into it like a pro and worked like he had done it a million times before. A complete natural! 🙂
A happy team!
Hilary worked in single lead for the first time today and did a great job. She has gained a lot of experience from working alongside Tuisku this summer, and during last winter.
Wilder started out next to Titan in wheel but finished the run working alongside Hilary in lead.
Halfway into the trail we took a water break to allow the dogs to cool down and to practise the line-out routine. It’s not hard to get the dogs to run, but to keep them calm and orderly before the run, and during breaks, requires a bit more work 😉
Hilary worked well today and we could see that this summer’s bikejoring has paid off. Instead of taking a complete break from road work this summer we have trained our dogs on a moderate basis each week. All the dogs (except for Wilder) have been doing 5 km evening runs about three times a week next to the bicycle, sometimes one-at-a-time but most often in pairs.
It was a good first run for Wilder that promised well for the future.
Well done pup!
It’s early October and the days are quickly getting shorter so we are very happy to be able to train our dogs at the Åbyn-Byske Brukshundklubb’s indoor facility a couple of times each week. Yesterday we brought along Titan, Wilder and Hilary for an evening of weight pull, rally and agility training. Fredrik and Titan joined the weight pull section while Wilder and I started out by training Rally-O outdoors. Later on in the evening we all went indoors to work on agility with Hilary and do some relaxation training with the boys. On Thursdays the club has “open training” which means that there are plenty of people and dogs around and the busy environment is perfect for off leash obedience training and to encourage relaxation afterwards, in the company of all the other dogs.
This was Titan’s first indoor session so we started out by letting him take in the new surroundings.
Wilder has been to indoor training once before while this was Hilary’s first visit to the Åbyn-Byske Brukshundklubb. A whole new place with plenty of new people and dogs – it’s useful to change environment now and then as it adds an extra dimension to the training.
Fredrik and Hilary started off by practising down-stay in the busy room. Hilary is still very keen on visiting people and dogs but has made great progress during the summer.
At the agility course she is usually fully focused on the task.
Wilder too tried his paws at agility and did really well ignoring all the distractions in the room.
We set the bars low since he’s still a puppy and shouldn’t be doing too much jumping.
The weight pull section usually ends their training sessions with indoor relaxation and massage and their dogs were lying just next to us when we were doing jumps. Clearly they have been trained well in the art of relaxation as three flying Malamutes did not bother them one bit.
Titan too knows how to relax. This big boy is ready for a cuddle in any environment, anytime 😉
Our training evenings are great fun, for both us and the dogs. In fact, joining a local dog club to train agility, rally-o, obedience, weight pull etc. is something I would recommend to every Malamute owner. There are so many fun things, besides sledding and showing, that you can do with your dog(s), that will both strengthen your bond and keep your Malamute physically fit and mentally stimulated. Honour the breed’s amazing versatility and try something new this autumn – I promise you won’t regret it!
I have two friends keeping me company in the office today. Not easy to focus on work when I have four brown eyes begging me to go for a walk in the rain 😉
At nearly 9 months of age Wilder is slightly taller than Hilary, but he still has a lot of filling out to do.
This is what they looked like in May, when we met Wilder for the first time at the airport in Stockholm. What a difference a summer makes!
Lyra completed her second WPD-leg today on a hike along the Åbyälven River north of Skellefteå. My mother accompanied us and we had a lovely day on the trail, following the winding forest river from Blåfors to Renholmen. Lyra loves going on adventures and the weight on her back didn’t seem to slow her down one bit. We affectionately call her Lyra-Myra, as “myra” means ant in Swedish, and Lyra may be a bit on the smaller side, but she is strong and tireless like a worker ant.
The summer has quickly turned into autumn and today’s cool weather was ideal for a packing trip.
Love the colours of September. The trees seem to change from green to yellow and red overnight.
Besides pike, perch and whitefish, the Åbyälven River also has populations of salmon, sea trout and grayling. The protected freshwater pearl mussel can also be found here.
Going for a swim?
My mother Kaisa ♥
We found chantarelles in the forest and took a break to pick mushrooms and lingonberries.
A beaver had left nibbled trees and brushpiles along the trail. We heard him jump into the water but didn’t catch a glimpse of him this time.
Lyra demonstrates how to use a walking stick – Malamute style 😉
Well done Lyra on completing your second WPD-leg!
While my mum and I were out hiking Fredrik was busy clearing trees at home. Eleven pine trees had to be cleared as we are expanding the kennel area into the forest. Next week we are going to start limbing and preparing for the logs to be transported to the local sawmill. Plenty of work still remains before we can start building the pens but I think we can make it before winter, if we’re lucky 😉