Monday, October 3, 2016

Stuck got her BH!


My club was struggling for trial entries and on a whim I decided to enter our fall trial this past weekend. The AWMA was able to send me a score book right away which made everything possible. I did not have much prep time, we did go to a practice the night before but I literally had only been teaching a recall two weeks prior and she learned to finish from a front in 3 days.

Here is the BH video with judge's critique at the end:

Stuck came to me with very good foundations in all three phases of IPO. Stuck came to me with good engagement and a nearly finished heel. I've spent the last six months working on teaching her a finish to the left, a left about turn, and heeling with some duration. However the BH was the longest I have ever heeled her without giving a reward. She does get flat at times in the video but perks right back up. At the end when I go to leash her she thinks I have dropped a toy for her :p.

While I cannot take credit for the heeling I am extremely proud of myself for stepping up to support my club and I am proud of the relationship I have built with Stuck. I don't believe she would have performed as well for me if I hadn't invested the time that I have to try to train and work with her. I can take credit for her awesome recall and her turns (which aren't too bad actually.). I am proud of myself for last minute entering a trial because I have really bad performance anxiety and it would have been easier not to do it, especially since we didn't have much time to prep.

I honestly couldn't be happier with our routine. Seppel's routine was nothing like this one. This BH with Stuck is probably the best obedience routine I have ever had and it was super cool to be in between two trainers I really respect and be included with them in a really nice critique. It felt amazing.

I'm hoping to try for our IPO1 in the spring. We have no protection routine, no send out, and no retrieves. Hoping I can pull it together by then and be decent enough that it is worth trialing. After this past weekend I know the dog can do it and I know we can be a good team.

It's hard for me to believe this is the dog that I felt like I couldn't train. We are currently working on the jump for the retrieve and I think teaching the exercise will be a breeze. I finally feel like we are starting to understand each other and it is super awesome.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


A post a month is okay right? Haha. I have been super busy and because things have been very up and down I haven't felt like posting.

Stuck's food drive or lack thereof has been a BIG struggle. It is hard to teach her simple things like perching for our Relationship & Engagement class when she refuses to lure. I guess 'refuse' isn't the word, she might try but if it is 'hard' she doesn't have the food drive to want to keep trying.

It's also been difficult because she bit a bee in tracking and will no longer track for food. I honestly was panicking this past weekend that I was going to have to give her back to her breeder. Initially I thought she had a personal problem with me and tracking but my friends that I train with watched her and the issue mostly seems to be food/food on the ground. My training director from club showed us how to start tracking for a ball. Stuck's entire body language changed, she was actually excited to do it and completely loosened up. If I ask her to track for food she goes into complete avoidance.

I was mostly panicking because long-term deprivation is not something I want to do. I can't tell you how many times I've left from training her and come home crying lately because of this whole issue. I just have no desire to continually starve my dog to get them to do something be that food or attention. It made me start questioning if I was really cut out for this sport - if that is something I have to do to participate. But it's actually not. I mean for some dogs and some trainers, yes, but it's actually not the whole of IPO to have to do these terrible things to your dog to make them work.

When I saw that she could track for the ball it made me feel hopeful and after thinking and talking with a close friend I decided this was something I wanted to continue with. Initially I was very torn because Seppel was my project dog and Stuck was supposed to be my IPO dog, but I also felt if I couldn't train her how could I train another dog? Other dogs will have challenges, training is hard, IPO is hard, if I can't get beyond this challenge, how will I get beyond others? That thinking isn't entirely realistic because low food drive is a very hard problem to have, but a big part of me was like - if I can't do this, how can I train another dog?

This is not the first time I've struggled with thinking of giving Stuck back. A few weeks ago we went to a seminar with Forrest Micke and I contacted my training director and friend for some advice. She suggested sticking with it but also getting a second dog to take some of the pressure off of Stuck.

I got Stuck to help take pressure off of Seppel and to also have a "real" IPO dog. Now that Seppel is gone all of the pressure is on her. I don't want to jinx it so I won't go into detail but I am getting a second dog hopefully in October. When it happens, if it happens I will definitely share more info because it's not set in stone yet. For IPO Stuck is my primary focus, the second dog will be training relief - so I can rotate between the two, and is also for my personal mental health.

Some realizations that I have made:
  • I know that Stuck is capable of getting an IPO title but it is going to be a challenge and take a lot of work. If it gets to be too stressful we will just focus on OB and protection, we can get titles in just those things and that is okay. My next dog can go all the way.
  • Stuck fits my lifestyle well especially for her breed. I took her to the fair for dock diving this past Sunday and she handled the crowds super well. She was touched by multiple people and was super chill being in such a crowded venue. I was super impressed by how well she handled everything. We did some OB in the crowds and she was awesome which made me feel fabulous. 
It was suggested to me because the conflict was with the food in tracking to feed Stuck on scent pads only. It took 5 days(I almost gave up!) but Stuck is finally eating off of the scent pad. She's done it two days in a row. I am trying not to hold high expectations so if she doesn't eat I am not disappointed. Yesterday she did it without hesitation so I am feeling really good that this is repairable.

This has truly been a ridiculous emotional roller coaster and I've struggled a lot but I am finally feeling really good about everything. Things can only go up from here and I'm ready to actually be part of Stuck's journey. I am still battling some emotions over the loss of Seppel but this is a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Food Drive Saga & Beach

Well... hand feeding was short lived. I did it for several feedings and a few days but did not feel like there was a huge improvement in her food drive. She also wasn't finishing a complete meal (about 3/4s through she would get less interested and I could feel it/see it).

Breakfast is the worst time for her in terms of eating. I think it has something to do with not really being hungry even though she has fasted all night. Dinner time is usually not a struggle and I think that is because she has been active throughout the day and has worked up an appetite. I posed a question to dog friends/dog people asking how much I could feed in one sitting. Stuck needs 3-4 cups of food a day to gain or maintain weight. It's been a struggle to keep weight on her because of this food issue. She maintains for a while and then starts refusing meals and drops again. Anyway the general opinion and experience seems to be that it is okay to feed 3 cups of food in one sitting.

That being said, for two meals now I have fed Stuck 1 cup in the AM and 2 cups in the PM and so far she has eaten every meal. I am going to give this a try and if it doesn't work I will switch to feeding her once a day.

We are starting a Relationship and Engagement Class through Harmony Canine and I decided to boil some chicken for bait to see if she would eat it with more enthusiasm. Well, knock on wood, she really likes the chicken! She is luring and pushing into my hand and has even bitten me a few times trying to get the food (Hahaha, who knew I'd be happy about that?). I'm hoping this trend continues because it makes training a heck of a lot easier for me. I used the chicken today to work on chin rests, takes/holds for the retrieve, and also for working on teaching her to stand.

In other news, we went to the beach on Tuesday. I honestly cannot thing of a time I laughed so much. It ended up being Seppel's birthday that day (I hadn't planned it that way), I thought, what better of a way to celebrate my dog than to go have a fun day at the beach. Stuck had a great time. At one point we went to a beach that had a lot of logs/rocks to climb on. She didn't hesitate to get up onto things for me, it kind of made me feel good that she was willing to do those things for me. It's a very slow process but I feel like we are headed in a good direction as far as our relationship goes.

Half brother Detour

Stuck's sister Livid

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Seriously, eat your damn breakfast!

Enough is enough and I am changing the way I do things when it comes to meals and Stuck.

I have always felt like meal time for my dogs is their time. I have never felt a need to make them work for their meals. That isn't to say I've never done it. A few times I have had them work for their dinner, but for the most part I let my dogs eat their meals in peace.

However, I have also always had dogs who would eat themselves until they exploded.

Unfortunately, that is not Stuck. Stuck will eat her food most of the time, but she is picky about treat rewards, she would rather work for a toy, and more often than not she will either skip breakfast or only eat part of it.

It sounds really stupid, but it drives me up the wall! I'm like, EAT YOUR FOOD!!!!!

SO, that being said, I tried something new yesterday that I am going to run with for a while and see how it goes. I am not going to feed her breakfast anymore. I will soak her food and feed her when I go on my lunch break and make her work for the meal. Yesterday she was extremely happy to work for the food and she ate the entire meal. I did the same thing for breakfast this morning and dinner tonight. Right now I am working on food luring, teaching her to roll over, and teaching her positions. It's a bit inconvenient depending on the day, but if anything I guess it helps encourage me to do even more with her.

I feel like a lot of people poo-poo malinois ownership. I know not every mal is like the dog that I have. I also know that she is a fairly easy dog compared to a lot of other Belgian Malinois, but, that being said, I never had to do this kind of thing with my other dogs. There is a lot that I have to do differently with her. I exercise and train her multiple times a day. My other two dogs Seth and LiLo don't need that. They can go days and days without exercise and right now I haven't been training either of them and they are just fine. They eat their meals without question. They will take any treat that I offer. I also discovered today that she will play on the springpole by herself. Seppel loved the springpole but would only play on it with me standing there watching him... I think it's a testament to the difference in drives and energy level. I am really glad she is willing to play with it on her own because it's something she can do outside while I am doing things outside too. I guess I'm just saying, a high drive dog is a huge commitment and you won't know what you're in for until your experience it. But don't blow off the experiences that other people have to share, because it can be helpful to you, I feel.

Now to go way off topic but I took hip and elbow x-rays on Stuck and sent them to OFA. They came back as good and normal. Today I took her to a health clinic and got her CAER/CERF and cardiac certifications. The CAER testing is only "good" for 12mos, but I did it just be sure that her eyes are totally normal - and they are. If I were to breed her in the future I would repeat the testing. Her heart screening came back normal too. At this point it looks like Stuck can do all the things!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Regroup and Rebuild

It has been a week and a half since Seppel passed away. I have good days and I have bad days. Unfortunately Stuck is caught in the middle of this.

To say it has been hard is an understatement. I battle not wanting to do anything daily. If I could crawl into a dark hole and hide there for forever, I would.

Most people when they lose a dog have time to grieve and think about things before getting another dog. With Stuck I feel like I am living with a new dog before I am ready to have a new dog. That's the best way I can describe it. We don't really have a relationship(because she is still new) and there are things about her that were more tolerable when Seppel was around.

That being said, I have a lot of really good dog friends who have kept me grounded.

Right now I am mostly working on building a relationship with Stuck. We are still training, but I am taking time specifically to just do things with her. It is hard because there are many days where I don't want to do anything but I have to because she needs it. In a way I am thankful for this because it makes me get out and do things. Inevitably we have a good time too, even if I wasn't feeling it at first.

It's not really Stuck's fault that I am in a funk. Grief is a really strange thing. If I were to give Stuck back (not happening) I would not go out and get another dog for some time. I love the sport of IPO too much to just give up. The logical side of me absolutely does not want to do that. However the sad side of me would like to give up a lot of things right now.

As far as Stuck goes, she's doing really well. I taught her a trick ("rewind" or reverse circle), she's getting really good at now. I took her to a dock diving competition where she was called for finals but we couldn't make it that day. We've been going to dock diving practice and she really enjoys it. Last weekend she was jumping 18ft.

Last week I took her to the beach for the first time with her sister and my friend Kay. She had a good time, we all did. I hope to take her back there soon.

I took her to 1000 acres park down near Corbett on the 4th of July. We met up with Lauren from Zoephee, they go to that park a lot and I was having a very terrible day. Lauren and her girls showed us around the park. I wouldn't normally go to a large "dog park" like that but Stuck is not dog aggressive and at this point is actually afraid of larger dogs, so everything went okay. We honestly didn't come into contact with many dogs other than Lauren's dogs (all of the girls ignored each other) because she took us in areas that were being less traveled that day. It was a good experience overall and I hope to take her back only because dogs are allowed to be off leash there.

I also bought Stuck a collar from Puppy Posh. You can see in the beach pictures her sister has one too. That was completely by accident... I guess the girls want to be twins:


I hope that in time Stuck and I will form a real relationship and that she can help fill the giant hole Seppel has left in my heart. All I can do is try. She is so different from having a bulldog. She is happy and eager but the energy is completely different. It's hard to explain without experiencing it for yourself, but she's just not the same. I do enjoy her and I enjoy working with her, but we have a really long way to go in developing our partnership. It doesn't really help that I am in the throws of grief right now, but I am making a conscious effort to try to build us up.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A great dog.

Stuck has been here for 8 weeks!

I can honestly say she is one of the best things to have happened to me as far as dogs go. I recently wrote an entry in my Seppel blog about a seminar I attended last weekend. Things initially did not go so great with Seppel. I had the opportunity to work Stuck three times, twice in obedience and once in protection. The trainer at the seminar told me that we have developed a great relationship for the amount of time I've had her. I wish I could take credit but I think a lot of it is her - from day one she was willing to do things for me. It was so refreshing to walk out onto the field knowing she was going to do what I asked to the best of her ability.

Sometimes with Seppel I don't know what I'm going to get. Sometimes he is super motivated and 'up' but other times he is not really interested in doing what I'm asking. I never really know what I am going to get out of him, especially if we go to a new place.Well, I guess that's not true. I know if we go somewhere new he's likely to be checked out and not really interested. We have been taking an engagement class and our relationship has improved a lot, but he's a bulldog and sometimes he just doesn't care.

With Stuck, there has never been a 'down' moment. If we are doing a thing, she wants to do it! She is willing to work wherever we go. She doesn't get weirded out by going new places and is only interested in me and whatever I might have for her.

It's really freaking awesome.

Don't get me wrong. We have our challenges. Stuck is an extremely intelligent dog, but sometimes her brain is moving so fast that she isn't always thinking and she does things like spin into my car license plate or runs into a closed door. Training is a lot easier with her in some ways - she catches on to new things fairly quickly and she generalizes well. However, in her case (and as I am learning, for a lot of mals) her food drive isn't the best. If she's hungry she is better about working for food, but she is also picky about the treats she will accept. She works the best for freeze dried meat, right now I am going through a lot of dried chicken livers. I took her tracking two days ago and she did very poorly, but the food I used on the track was a treat she will usually eat but not with much vigor. Today I took her tracking and used the livers and she worked just fine for them. I think I am still coming to terms with the fact that I have a semi-picky dog, haha.

Even though I said I would never get a Belgian Malinois, even though I said I would never have an intact bitch(or bitch in general, I wanted a male so bad!), I am really happy being a hypocrite.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Week 6

Stuck will have been here for 6 weeks this week.

Everything has been going really well, apart from my own poor self esteem and feeling frustrated with myself.

Last week I was just feeling really down. I felt very inadequate as a dog handler.  I have tried at various times to teach Stuck things. I have been trying to teach her a 'front' as well as have been trying to teach her to hold a dumbbell. Every time I have tried to work with her on something new, I feel like she looks at me like I'm speaking spanish. I have gone through periods like this with Seppel and Seth. He has been very frustrating at times because I can work with my dog Seth and whatever we are doing, he figures out immediately. With Seppel, it always seems to take more time. Anyway, it got me thinking and wondering if this was all really normal. I know when I got Seppel it took me almost a year to really connect with him, but I credit some of that to us just not having a training focus.

I like Stuck a lot. I can't say that I 'love' her yet, because it's still new and I don't feel like we are fully bonded. I think it is harder for us to form a relationship because she was well started and trained with someone for almost 2 years. We are still trying to figure each other out and I think in a way it's even harder for her because I am trying to pick up where she left off and I am not the handler she has known her whole life. I know that as we spend more time together our relationship will grow and I know it isn't impossible because I have seen it with Seppel.

I guess in some ways I just thought things would be easier, and in some respects Stuck is VERY easy.

I just worry a lot that I will screw up the awesome training she has or bore her to death when we are working.  I compare myself to other people, feeling like if she were with someone else - someone more capable or with more time, she would know 20 behaviors or something ridiculous.

Luckily I have some awesome friends who talked me back down. They made me understand and realize that just having her in my house is enough. The things she has learned are enough. Tricks are cute, but we are working towards a pretty serious dog sport and just working on those things is enough. They also reaffirmed that 5 weeks is NOT a super long time!

All that being said, today I decided to try to teach Stuck and Seppel 'rewind' or 'reverse circle'. It's where the dog circles you backwards. I don't have video of it yet, but I would say that both of them are on their way to learning this behavior! I am super excited because it is something I can say I actually taught Stuck, and it was something she picked up really quickly.

I'm hoping this is just the beginning of our training relationship developing. She really is a wonderful dog and a great fit for my household, but even though she's a super smart dog and came with some awesome training, that doesn't mean that she doesn't come with some challenges.