Thursday, June 29, 2006


I have worked hard with Wyatt on his release. He was releasing too early and releasing on all kinds of words and body movements. Now I am having the opposite problem. Sometimes he is not releasing at all. I usually have to repeat the release word (OK) and/or show him a treat to get him to release. I would say this happens about 10% or less of the time. It is interesting. Never a dull moment. I don't think there is much I can do but to keep practicing and rewarding for releasing the first time.

I am wondering if he is afraid to make a mistake. I do see this more often after he blows a contact and give my (very unharsh) oops word to mark the mistake. I do know for sure that he know what this means. I see this most clearly in a directed retreive when he goes to the other glove after I say oops. That is pretty cool that he has generalized the meaning of that.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Utility Relapse

I have been focusing mostly on open lately with Wyatt which is going well. I always include scent discrimination, though, in our daily practice. I decided to just do utility stuff the other day and found that he was confused on the directed retrieve. I guess I should not wait so long between practicing it. I am going to go back to one glove. He seems to have gotten rusty on the mark command and will sometimes head to the wrong glove. He does know the "oops" command very well though. When I say "oops" he switches to the correct glove. I have been noticing that he stresses when corrected though even though I am not harsh at all. I also see this on contact where he will stay high on the contact sometimes after being corrected.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Upcoming Schedule

We will race Patriot in Otis, MA this weekend.

We have NADAC agility July 1-3 in New York State for Wyatt only. I am hoping to get lots of good contact proofing over the 3 days and 5-6 runs per day.

We are entering in 2 CPE trials in July (NH and VT).

I entered Wyatt in Novice B obedience and Rally Advanced B in July for one day. We need one more Rally Advanced leg.

I hope to see some of you at one these events.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Treats on the Ground

Wyatt has been always been distracted by treats on the ground during agility class but has gotten worse lately. He will sometimes leave the run (especially at the start line) if he smells treats around. I wanted to work on this problem. Here's what I did:

1) Maintain eye contact when leading out.
2) Give him plenty of treats from me especially at the start line.
3) Don't allow him to get treats from the ground. This is difficult but I was able to do it by leashing him and keeping his head off the ground when it looks like he smells a treat. I also will grab it if I see it and give it to him from doing something. I also use his "leave it" command and reward him if he does "leave it."
4) If he chooses to go on a treat search, put him back on leash so that he loses his turn. Try again later.

It seemed to work pretty well last night...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

CPE Results

We did one day of a CPE trial in New York State. Wyatt and Patriot did well. Patriot was pretty pumped up and happy all day. Dawn has been dunking or hosing him before runs on hot days. Patriot finished his level 4 CPE title.

Wyatt got 2 Q's. One was in fullhouse (level C) and one in Colors (level 5). We almost Q'ed in Jackpot but came up short by one second. The gamble was to get any three and exactly three tunnels. I think there was a hesitation on one because he was flying. The first standard run I blew and misdirected him but he had 3 great contacts. I could kick myself. The second standard run was an NQ because of a missed A-frame, otherwise flawless.

I had trouble at the end of day with flies. Wyatt is obsessed with catching flies and they were coming out in numbers. They tended to land at the bottom of the weaves so I had trouble with the weaves in colors. He is a funny dog sometimes.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What a Thrill!

Our club had run throughs last night. Wyatt had one his best runs ever for his first standard run. On a difficult course, he just flew the whole way, running fast down to the contacts and just flying through the 12 weave poles. As usual, he jumped like a true maniac! It was such a thrill to run at that speed with such a responsive dog. I think he could have whipped any BC last night on that run.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New "Puppy"

Introducing Aidan Michael Heffernan. He was born on Wednesday, June 7, 2006, the same day as Patriot's fifth birthday. He is beautiful and has a great temperment. We are overjoyed to have our first child after a long journey through infertility and now adoption. He was worth the wait.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Correcting Long Sits

I received this advice from a friend on how to correct problems with the long sit... The only thing I wonder about is if I should use our "oops" command, which he already understands.

Here’s what our obedience trainer suggests: Put the dog in a sit, with the collar (I use a martingale) loop at the top of the dog’s neck. Stand close in front and notice the first signs of starting to go down. At the first sign, return to the dog, say nothing, gently and quietly straighten the dog up by the collar without saying anything, and return to standing in front of the dog. The point is to neither reward or punish but just reposition—no words, no pats, no nothing. To get longer sits, you can walk back and treat periodically for good sits.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


I went to a NADAC trial Saturday with both dogs. I enjoyed running 2 dogs because it keeps you busier and if you mess up with one, you can still do well with the other one.

I was real happy with both dogs. Wyatt ran well and after his run, did pretty well with his contacts. That first run of the day seems hard. I think we are both nervous on the first run of the day. It was a double shot touch and go and he only missed one contact on the second go around. (You basically run 2 course back to back - the same course - if you want to.) He Q'd with a third in Weavers with a real nice run - no entry problems. He Q'ed in regular finishing his novice regular title. We had a very nice and fast elite jumpers run but had one off course - he really seemed determined for this one jump despite a lot of call offs on my part. He also had a nice chances run where you had to send to a far tunnel from other side of a near tunnel. The old other arm signal worked great. I believe it just helps point you in the right direction. There was a cool moment in the run where he cam off the jump and I could clearly see him looking at me for the cue was to which tunnel. He saw the arm and or body and zoom off he went. It was really exciting to see him respond that way.

Patriot ran really well too. It is nice to run with a dog that is so consistent though you have to cheerlead him a lot. He had a very nice standard and weavers run but missed each by 2 seconds. He loses a lot of time in the weaves. He ran great for me in jumpers and chances and finished his novice jumpers titles. I got him in a real playful mood before each run and he ran pretty fast.

All in all, a very satisfying weekend.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


This photo is one of the proudest moments I have had as a dog trainer.

We rescued Wyatt when he was one year old. He had quite a few issues including separation anxiety. He is generally a very sensitive and anxious dog and has fear issues with other dogs. I am 47 years old and he is my first dog. I knew zero about dogs, whippets, or dog training when we got him. We managed to work through the separation anxiety mostly through medication and getting a calm, older dog.

We went to dog B&B when he was a year and half and had our first agility lesson and took that up when he was two. At two and a half, we started formal obedience training. He had come a long way since our first household obedience lesson when he would nervously and continuously jump up on us or hide between our legs.

By using positive methods I read about and a lot of trial and error, we entered our first obedience match and managed to squeak by with a 173. We trained twice a day for about 15 minutes per session and went to an hour long class once a week.

At our next few attempts, he started to go down during the long sit and generally needing more proofing. II did not want going down on the site to become a habit so I stopped competing and retrained it using cones at class. He is a creature of habit so I was not sure I would ever be able to get past this problem. We kept working on the sit, heeling, and everything else. I also discovered that he REALLY enjoyed utility and open work especially retrieving, jumping, and scent discrimination so we added that for fun.

We started to compete again and we missed one thing for a few trials. First, he anticipated the recall which he had never done before. Then I sat him poorly and he went down on his sit. But I knew we would do pretty well if we put it all together because we were scoring in the 180's if we had qualified.

We went to a really nice trial in the Worcester area with a really nice judge. We were in the first class, first dog and it was a nice quiet area. I knew taking off that he was really paying attention. We got through all the exercises beautifully and the judge told me we had Q'ed so far. He stayed with me well with minimal lagging. We got 0 points off on the stand for exam and the recall. I I started to think we would place if we made it through the group sits and downs.

He made it through the sit in what was the longest minute of my life. The three minute down seemed like an hour but he stayed down even though he looked around nervously and kept changing his head position. I knew we had Q'ed but had we placed? I saw a couple of other REALLY good novice A dogs. The judge announced 4th place, then with a score of 190.5, Wyatt of Dodge City for our second CD leg and third place. The second and first place dogs were 195 and 196 which was awesome. At another trial, the judge asked one of the owners if she had a utility dog from Canada competing in the US for the first time. The answer was no.

The high from the Q and the score lasted for quite some time. I was so proud of him and happy that he had done so well. I had worked a lot on heeling since then and think we can score even higher. The open and utility exercises seem fun and not too hard except for the out of sight sits and down which will be the hardest thing for us.

Wyatt loves to work and play hard. He is the kind of dog who diverts his path going out to pee in order to go over a jump. He whines to start scent discrimination exercises. In spite of his nervousness, he love to work for me and always give it 200%.

There is nothing like the feeling when you and your dog are clicking and in the groove. What a special thing to be a smoothly working team with a different species. Congratulations, Wyatt!

Sunday, June 04, 2006


I don't know if it because I am working on drop on recall and rewarding dropping so heavily but Wyatt is going down a lot on his group sits (never a strength anyway). I am backing up and staying in sight and using shorter times. I always wonder what the best thing to do is when this happens: start again from scratch, pull him up, use my up command to get him up, etc and then if I should reward since he went down during some part of the exercise...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Puppies at 4 Weeks

We went to visit Patriot's puppies last night. They are very cute and full of life and mischief. Our faves were the red brindle male and red and white male. The red and white male seems very solid, fearless, and athletic as well as a beautiful dog.

Puppy Photos

Friday, June 02, 2006

Patriot as a Therapy Dog?

I took Patriot lure coursing a few weekends ago and there were 2 indications that he may be a good therapy dog.

During a coursing run, the other dog, Mira, owned by Donna Lynch, got tangled up in the line, went down, and stayed dog. Instead of going to play with the bags, Patriot went over and stood by her until help arrived. It turned out that Mira was fine. I have never seen a dog do something like that.

On the way home, we stopped by my grandmother's nursing home. She is 94. She was very sleepy and would not wake up so I just sat with her and held her hand for a while. I invited Patriot to jump on her bed which he did. He snuggled right next to her and put his chin on her stomach and went right to sleep.

It makes me think he has potential as a therapy dog.