Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Play Class Pays Off

Yesterday was our first agility class of the year and the first one post play class. Ricky had a great time! I did a lot of the food play games - they put you in a completely different mindset - you are really playing with your dog. I know we say agility is a game but there are a lot of rules involved and pressure to perform correctly. So Ricky and I stayed happy playing the food games and it made a noticeable difference in the agility exercises.

Ricky even tugged on my shirt sleeve for a brief time!!! How cool is that?

I am a devoted fan of Denise Fenzi now and highly recommend her classes to everyone!

Chris and Ricky

Saturday, January 4, 2014


In the play class, Denise says to start from a point of strength and go from there. Ricky has always gone nuts at the dusting rag. He jumps at it and wants to bite it the entire time I am dusting. So today I just went with it. When I finished, I started using the rag as a toy - he was trying to grab it and then I would make it disappear behind my back. Again and again - he was loving it and then started tugging with it. Very fun!

Maybe I could go to class and dust? :)

Chris and Ricky

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

To me! Ricky TUGGED with the bunny tonight! I wish I had video but you really don't need to see me running around the living room or hear me chanting encouragement. Just picture Ricky playing where's the bunny and finally grabbing hold and not letting go!

Hope you all have a safe and happy new year! 2014 is gonna be an exciting one!

Chris and Ricky

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Food Play

We are working on food play in the play class now. Very fun! Ricky loves it of course. 

It's not just like doing a trick for food - it involves games that get the dog's prey drive into high gear. Today we played a game where I throw a piece of food in one direction, he runs to get it, and then I call him and throw in the opposite direction. Ricky was really moving to get that food. There are other games as well - have him chase me to get the food, hide food around you and have him find it, and a few others. 

The cool thing today was Ricky's excitement about the food game lead to a game of where's the bunny! However, Ricky thinks the game is that he finds the bunny, doesn't tug, I snatch it up and say the bunny got away, and he starts looking again. Shelties - they just have to make up their own rules! :)

Chris and Ricky

Saturday, December 28, 2013


So the last post with Merry Christmas was supposed to include Ricky's Christmas video for anyone not on FB with me! Haha! I didn't realize until yesterday that all I said was Merry Christmas. Pretty minimalistic even for me!

Hope everyone had a good time this week!

Chris and Ricky

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Toy Play with Bunny Fur

Diana suggested I try a toy with real rabbit fur to see if Ricky would like it more. So I got a couple of rabbit tugs from Clean Run last week when they had a buy one, get one sale.

Ricky is not sure what to make of the bunny. He carefully smelled it and by the second time he saw it, he was getting pretty excited. But he still seems too respectful of the bunny and doesn't bite down hard on the fur. The video is from his third time seeing it - I did edit it down because you don't need to see or hear 3 minutes of me being ridiculous. This video is plenty long. :)


He really likes it when the bunny gets away.

I can't believe how out of breath I get playing for 3 minutes!

Chris and Ricky

Friday, December 20, 2013

You Decide

The snow that has been on the ground here since before Thanksgiving has finally melted. I went out to rake a few leaves, and Ricky all-out herded the rake non-stop for at least 15 minutes. He got so tired he had to quit all by himself. 

Then when I vacuumed just now, he was too worn out to herd the sweeper.

Genius or bad bad trainer?

Is rake herding toy play or personal play?


Chris and Ricky

Monday, December 16, 2013


I did get some personal play on video! This was the second good session we had today. I edited out about a minute of trying to get Ricky involved. It was 3:00 PM and he was already thinking about his dinnertime. So he would come to me and make a play move and then take off in the direction of the kitchen. Haha! But he finally gave in and had a good time!

I had just too much fun!

Chris and Ricky

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Adding Personal Play

This week we added the element of personal play to our play class. You know playing with your dog with just yourself - no toys or food. This is the play that I really want to develop because you can use it in the ring - like at the startline. Ricky has always enjoyed games with my hands and fingers - much like a cat would. But he also likes claw hand and bitey face. I don't have video yet but we have been trying different things at different times of the day. Very fun! Toy play is at about the same level as last week.

I am excited watching the gold level students' videos and reading Denise's advice. She is so positive and knows so much about dogs and their body language and how we can better relate to them. Seriously enjoying this course!

Chris and Ricky

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Last agility class of 2013

We went to our last class of the year yesterday morning. It had unexpectedly snowed the night before and the roads were a mess! No snow removal and tons of traffic. It took twice as long to get there as usual and it was a very stressful drive.

But I am glad we went. For the past few months I have been taking two classes back to back. I run my instructor's Sheltie Salsa in one and Ricky in another. Salsa is a pro - she is 9 years old and MACH 9. She teaches me how to do agility and I give her treats. :)

These days Ricky does the contacts and weaves class. I think this is perfect for him because the drills are shorter and there are not many jumps. Yesterday I really thought about "food play" from my play class and changed the way I reward him more into a game. I think he responded very well! He was definitely engaged for most of the class (except for the times he thought something on the floor was chicken and not fur or fuzz). He DID NOT want to go in his crate when his class was over.

Salsa is a trip! She would do agility all day long if she could and she barks at me when I am slow or she wants her turn or she wants some food or....well you get it. I am learning so much with her because of course my timing stinks. And I have trouble thinking. Haha! One day I hope to run her at a trial but I need much more practice first! Running Salsa is making me love agility again.

Toy play continues - yesterday we only had one session but Ricky got into the game very quickly. I was so excited that I didn't end the game soon enough and he beat me to it. :)

Chris and Ricky

Monday, December 9, 2013

Toy Play Day 3

Here is a video of today's first toy play session. Similar to the first try yesterday.

What did I do to turn him off right at the beginning? - he was obviously interested - and then it took over a minute to get him back. I was breathing hard by the time the 3 minutes was over. The video was only supposed to be 2 minutes in length, but it took so long to get him really engaged. This is still progress in the right direction since playing was entirely my idea!

Chris and Ricky

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Toy play update

This morning I took my raccoon, or squirrel as I sometimes call it, and ran around the living room like a crazy person pretending to be loving playing all by myself. Ricky stood there looking at me for a long time and then he finally decided to play too! This is huge because I initiated the play time. He has always tugged and played and enjoyed toys on long lines but ONLY when it was his idea! He chased the toy and tugged with it. I think in past attempts to get him to play, I was not patient enough and gave up too early.

This afternoon we played again on my terms - the same game but he got involved in the action much more quickly.

Please don't feel like you have to read or comment - I like it if you do - but I am just trying to keep a record of our progress in the class and daily accounts are probably boring. :)

Chris and Ricky

Friday, December 6, 2013

Trying new ideas

I am being bombarded with ideas from this play class! It is a little overwhelming - I don't know how the people in the Gold level are doing it all.

This week is toy play and you know how great I am at that with Ricky. Today, just once so far, I got him a little interested in his raccoon toy (you know the kind without the stuffing). I put it on the end of a rope and when he would go for it, I snatched it away. Tried this a few times and he wanted the toy! So we quit and will try again later. I guess the idea is it's the chase they love.

The other thing I am trying is to be much more energetic when using food to do tricks and stuff - all behaviors he already knows. I am stringing more together and moving around more and throwing the food for him to get it. We did this last night and today and so far it is working really well!

The internet is such an amazing tool and resource!

Chris and Ricky

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Our baseline video for the play class

This morning I didn't get Ricky jazzed up at all (not that I can), but I made a baseline video of his toy play, personal play and food play. He wouldn't interact with me at all except with food. I expected this. Then when attempting to download the vids to my computer, I accidentally erased them. Stupid.

This afternoon, I made another attempt. I cut up some cheese to use in the food play part. I left it downstairs and brought Ricky upstairs to make the new video. I got better results this time because he thought I had cheese. When he retrieves the glove in the toy play section, he does it because he is conditioned to get a treat reward for that. He will play with toys usually only if it is his idea. And he ends the game when he wants to. He barely does any personal play in the video. He loves games with my hands or fingers - he likes to bite at them and basically play cat-like games. Again only when he feels like it. And then of course, he is all about food and loves that part so much.

I really have no idea how to engage Ricky in play without food.

I am so excited to see what I learn in the next 6 weeks!

Chris and Ricky