The Training Stash

Getting motivated to train can sometimes feel like a big project- setting up the area, finding the right treats, digging through the laundry basket to get the clicker out of yesterday’s jeans….  By the time do all of that, you could have easily trained the dog.  My secret for this is to have hidden stashes of training supplies everywhere- on every floor of the house, in each car, in the motorhome, even in my backpack.  That way, whenever the urge strikes I have the basics of what I will need.

I’m fortunate enough to have a designated agility yard and basement training space, so that’s where the big stuff like jumps, weave poles, and fitness equipment lives (well, ok I’ll admit to a Fitpaws donut in the living room.

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But small items like treats, clickers, tug toys, targets, dumbbells, and nose work odor can be stashed and used just about anywhere that the dogs can’t reach to help themselves.  That last part is tricky since Juno seems to have opposable thumbs that she uses to open up drawers containing cookies, but with some creativity you can probably find suitable places for training stashes too.  Training multiple dogs with a full schedule has shown me just how much dogs can learn in 30 second sessions snuck into an otherwise full day, if you just have the right tools at hand.

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Moving On

When I graduated high school my yearbook quote was “It must be so lonely to think that you have only somebody’s else’s life to live if they let you” from the Billy Joel song Blonde Over Blue. My eighteen year old self always knew I would work with dogs, but she also always pictured working for herself, as a kennel owner, professional handler, something like that. Looking back, every single person that I seriously and admired and considered a mentor was in that situation. When I graduated college and the reality of living in the city (not so conductive to a dog business) and not having money to invest in facilities hit hard, so I did what seemed like the next best thing and started a career in the service dog industry. Along the way I have met (and hopefully helped, at least most of the time) some really great people and mostly enjoyed what I did, but a part of me always knew I was living someone else’s dream. 

This week everything changed, not exactly by choice but probably for the best. It’s time to pursue my own dream, which I now realize is a private training business. I’ll start by doing private in home training, with the hope that a facility will be part of the longer term plan. Honestly, after 17 years in the same job it’s nice to even have a long term plan. Yes, there are things (and people and dogs) I will miss, but not the drama, politics, and pressure that comes when you literally promise miracles to people. It will be liberating not to feel like I have to suppress a big part of myself to be accepted into a corporate culture where I really don’t fit or to face judgment for being a woman who is not maternal and nurturing. Dog training is what I know best and this is a chance to go back to doing that, on my schedule and in a way that works for my life. 

In honor of my brilliant Chili-dog, the new business will be called The Clever Hound. A website and Facebook page are coming soon!

Handling 360 Video 

Here’s this year’s video. Some cool hunt footage and lots of agility. Chili, Salsa, Juno, Gromit, and CC are all featured. And in case you’re wondering, no rabbits were harmed in the filming of this video!  The bunnies know the hiding places at the Beagle clubs way better than the hounds do. 

And they used to be so cute- adolescent puppies

Spice and her siblings are 8 months old now. Over the past month, I’ve noticed definite changes in Spice’s behavior and energy level.  From the reports I’ve gotten from their people, her siblings are going through the same phase.  

Spice has gone from a cuddly puppy to a very active, more than a little pushy, bundle of energy.  While this bodes well for a successful dog sports career, she is a pet and member of the family first and I’m not buying into the theory that a dog has to be rude and obnoxious to have enough drive for agility. 

What this means is that right now a lot of training is happening in day to day life. It’s really easy to get busy and ignore the calm puppy lying in a dog bed and chewing a bone , but those are the things that need to be rewarded and encouraged. Lately I’ve had to remind Spice that jumping into my face and chewing on my nose isn’t such a good greeting in my culture, but that cuddling next to me on the couch will result in petting and attention. 

The upside to increased maturity is that Spice has much more attention and engagement in training sessions.  Until recently I had to keep sessions to 1-2 minutes (never a bad idea, really) and tightly control the environment with gates, leashes, etc.  This morning when I turned off the video at the end of a lesson (you do video your training sessions, right?), I realized we had been working for more than 6 minutes. Spice was off leash in my basement training area, with the door at the top of the stairs open, and never really left work.  Some of my transitions between activities could have been smoother, there was a little sniffing there, but she came back to work readily. I don’t have great toy play with her yet, but am happy with the way she is willing to play with just me. 

This is an unedited video and unfortunately I moved one of my props outside of the camera range, but it gives you the idea. I know there are 8 month old puppies running agility courses, but I’m not in a hurry to get there. This session is pretty typical of what I’m doing with Spice now- agility foundation behaviors, shaping, relationship building, and body awareness. If you’re a Susan Garrett groupie like me (and if not you should be), you may recognize some of the things we are doing. Anyway here’s Spice’s training session


PBGVCA 2016We just returned home from a 2 week road trip to the PBGV national specialty in Indianapolis. This was the first year that the club has offered a triathlon, where handlers are encouraged to try to qualify in three or more events with the same dog during the week. This challenge sounded perfect for us, so I entered all 7 adult PBGVs in triathlon. 
This year’s show had the benefit of being just a one day drive from home, but we broke up the drive by stopping in Ohio for 3 days of agility. Chili and CC had perfect weekends and Salsa had some really fast runs, so we were feeling really encouraged as we headed to Indy. 

We arrived at the host hotel in Monday morning and settled in. It was a pretty nice place, although the abundance of republican presidential candidates and protection trained German Shepherds kind of made it feel like we were vacationing in enemy territory. I was disappointed to discover that Muse had come into season, which meant she wouldn’t be able to compete in any events. 
Tuesday was agility. The site was great- nice turf and air conditioning. Both the regional and national trials were held the same day, which meant that even without Muse I would be doing 26 runs. Overall the pack had a great day and earned 17 Qs. This was Wally’s debut trial and he did really well. It’s taken me a while to feel like he is ready to compete, but I think waiting was the right choice. Salsa ended up winning the national High in Trial by 0.26 yards per second for her standard run- not an easy feat since she was running at full height and had to compete with some really fast preferred dogs. This trial was a great example of just how good PBGVs can be at agility. The qualifying rate for the day was 50%, which is much higher than you would see at an all breed trial. 

Wednesday was a day off, but we woke up to discover that the generator wasn’t working. Luckily the repair was covered under warranty, but we were without power for 2 days while it was fixed. We did slip away to see the racetrack on Wednesday morning. 
Thursday was the regional obedience and rally trial. I was worried about how the boys would work, since they were living in tight quarters with Muse, but they did a great job in obedience. Wally got his first CD leg with a fourth place and Gromit placed first in a large beginner novice class. 

In rally, the boys were trying for legs towards Wally’s excellent title and Gromit’s advanced, but I also had Chili and Maya entered so they would have a third event towards triathlon. The older girls hadn’t done rally in about 8 years, but they humored me. Chili would have liked more jumping and less sitting, but Maya had fun and won Advanced B with 98. Wally’s rally Q officially made him the first dog to qualify as a triathlete. 

Spice was the only dog I entered in conformation. She ended up being the only baby puppy, but had a good experience in the ring. Watching the dogs in the ring made me feel good about the choice not to entered anyone else in breed. Show PBGVs just aren’t the rustic, casual breed that I fell in love with anymore. I’m not interested in turning my hounds into froofy show dogs who wouldn’t have the correct coat to protect them on the hunt field. Dogs being shown groomed according to the standard are becoming fewer and farther between, and judges seem happy to recognize dogs presented incorrectly. I find it especially frustrating when the owners of these dogs claim to have no control over how their handler grooms their dog. Sorry, but your handler works for you and if you pay their bill, you are giving your approval to how they prepare your dog for the ring. 

Friday was another day mostly off. The boys both passed their AKC Community Canine test and more importantly the generator got fixed so we could have coffee before walking dogs (and dodging German Shepherds) in the morning. 

Saturday was the national specialty. Wally didn’t keep it together for off lead heeling, but Gromit got another BN leg with a fourth place. Salsa and CC did rally today and ended up in a 3 way tie for first place in Excellent B. CC had the fastest time and won the class. 

On Sunday we headed to the hunt grounds. When we arrived, Muse decided she’d had enough of being cooped up and took off on an unauthorized romp, taking her easily corrupted mother Maya with her. After getting everyone (especially me) completely panicked, they came back when called. We got to have some open field time in the afternoon, which was especially nice for baby Spice and Juno the GBGV. 
Monday’s field was wooded and very large. The weather stayed cool and overcast, so the rabbits were active. All 6 dogs qualified, which officially qualified them as triathletes. Tuesday’s field was smaller with nice cover and a really treacherous hill. The weather was warmer and less rabbit friendly, so only one of my packs of three had success. 

After Tuesday’s hunt we started for home with some very tired hounds. Well, except for Muse who thinks this was the most boring road trip ever.  

Rally and Agility Nationals

I’m a bit late in reporting this, but last month we made the trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma with CC and Chili for the AKC Rally and Agility National Championships. Chili has qualified for agility nationals several times but we’ve only been able to attend one other. Since she is 11, I don’t know how many more chances we’ll have to get the required points so it seemed like a good year to attend.  Once I saw that Chili’s granddaughter CC had qualified for rally at RAE level, the decision to make the trip was easier. Besides, Tulsa is only halfway to Arizona so it hardly even seems like a long drive.

The girls did a great job and represented PBGVs well- they were the only ones competing in their sports. CC had what would have been qualifying scores on all four of her rally runs and Chili had fast agility runs with just one mistake all weekend. To her credit, the mistake happened because she was going too fast to make a turn tightly enough. Since I spend half of my life trying to gets the girls to run faster I can’t complain when mistakes happen because of speed. 

I know some people would say that it isn’t worth going to nationals if you can’t win. I knew without question when I decided to enter that there are lots of rally dogs more precise than CC, who was one of only 3 hounds competing in RAE, and that pretty much everyone in agility would be faster than Chili. It was still an amazing weekend showing off my awesome girls, so I’m glad we made the choice to go.  



The last of Muse’s puppies went home this morning, so this seems like a good time to introduce the newest member of the pack.  This is Clancy’s Pumpkin Spice Ale.

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Many people have asked how I could go about choosing one particular puppy from a large litter to keep.  There were a number of factors that went into the decision.  One big criteria this time was gender.  I don’t like to keep a lot of male dogs and already have two, including Muse’s son, Gromit, from her previous litter.  That meant the decision was essentially between the two female puppies.  Had the option of keeping a male been available, there was one in the litter that might have tempted me.

The two female puppies were very different, and each had qualities that appealed to me.  Spice looks very much like her father, while her sister Lacy looks more like Muse.  Spice is very substantial and was actually the heaviest boned puppy in the litter.  She has nice proportions and angulation with a very pretty face.  Her substance is something I need in my breeding program and was a factor in my decision.  Lacy has a little more length of leg and is slightly finer in built- in order words built for more speed on the agility course.  I will admit, deciding between the two girls caused a little bit of a dilemma for me.  Showing in the breed ring isn’t  a priority for me anymore, as my beloved breed has morphed into just another over groomed, professionally handled, generic show dog.  On the other hand, I do still want to produce quality PBGVs that are true to type, so the right choice was to keep the puppy with better breed type.

Since I am looking for an all-around dog, structure and breed type were not the only factors in my decision.  We did formal temperament testing on the whole litter at 7 weeks, which largely confirmed the observations I had already made of the puppies.  Both girls were relatively confident (bearing in mind that hounds are by nature somewhat soft), but Spice was the more social and biddable of the two.  This fit with their behavior in other settings also- Lacy would frequently be the one to explore new territory and figure things out, but Spice would be the one following me and showing the most interest in what the people were doing.  20 years of training hounds for performance events has taught me clearly that the puppy who choses humans over the environment is the one I want as my next training partner. Lacy is a lovely confident puppy who will make an excellent companion for her new family.

So now Spice will adjust to being the only puppy in the house.  She is gradually meeting the pack individually, but needs to get a little bigger before hanging with the whole group at once.  We started puppy class this week and are taking field trips out into the community when the weather allows.  Her favorite thing so far was checking out the rats at Petco.  Spice is pretty food motivated and has some interest in tugging, which I will work on building.






Puppies at 7 weeks

It’s hard to believe that Muse’s puppies will be 7 weeks tomorrow.  They are starting to act like real dogs now.  They are mostly eating on their own.  Muse visits them briefly to clean up any crumbs they leave behind, but she doesn’t find them so cute now that they have teeth.  Individual  personalities are becoming clear by now.  I have a pretty good idea as to which one will be joining our pack, but that will be a topic for another post.

This week the puppies started working on crate time.  At first I crated them in pairs, and now individually, for increasing amounts of time.  With this litter I tried using a Snuggle Puppy for the first time- a stuffed dog with a heartbeat and a warm center.  They do seem to settle in crates more quickly with this present than without.  A least two of them will be flying in Sherpa bags to their new homes, so they will need to be pretty good at settling in a crate by the time they leave.  IMG_3866

They also went for their first leash walk today.  They look really cute in their little harnesses!  We walked part way up the driveway, ate some Kong stuffing paste (a great treat for teething puppies) and walked back.


This week they will have their vet checks and formal temperament evaluations.  At that point, I’ll start deciding who is going where.  Here are stacked photos from today.  They are a little deceptive at this age because the cooperative puppies sometimes photograph better.

These are the girls:

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And the boys.

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