Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Can you spot the 'CU' scrawled on one of the Flatirons? Horrible isn't it.

Enchanted Mesa Trail

Cody Baloney

Pinecones are nature's tennis balls

I'm a bit behind here, it's been so nice outside I haven't had time for blogging.

These photos are from a short hike the weekend before last at Chautauqua Park in Boulder. My first real hike post foot surgery so I kept it short, about an hour, and it went fine. Dogs behaved, foot behaved, a beautiful day on the trail. I left Lola home since 3 is a bit much for me but Jonny gave her a nice long walk and I think there might have been tennis balls in the park involved so don't feel too sorry for her.

I went for an equally short bike ride (1 1/4 hours) on the Marshall Mesa trails later in the day. Had to pass some cattle that were right next to the trail, so close I could feel their hot breath on my ankle when I passed. Thankfully they were more interested in grazing than trampling me. You can laugh but there was a woman who was seriously injured/hospitalized by a cow on a popular open space trail a few years ago. She unwittingly had come between the cow and its calf which was down by a creek and the cow charged and trampled her. It's not a common thing but still I'm wary around the cows. It's often impossible to tell if you're cutting off a mom & baby, esp. if the baby is off in some tall bushes or grass and not even visible. Once I inadvertenlty caused a stampede while riding my bike and sent a small herd charging down an 'alley' of trail (fenced pasture on both sides of the trail). They had somehow gotten out of their fenced pasture and onto the trail and when I rounded a corner there they were and they went flying the other way. Unfortunately they eventually ran into a dead end. There was a gate for cyclists to get through but fencing and barbed wire on 3 side for the cows. I was afraid that if I turned around and rode back that they'd stampede me from behind so I got off the bike and tried to walk through them to the gate but they were panicked and started ramming/jumping through the barbed wire. I stood still for a while until they had all somehow busted their way through. It wasn't a pretty sight. So I always go slooow around the cattle and hope for the best.

This weekend I was back on the bike at Marshall Mesa and looped over to the new Doudy Draw trail, very pretty trail and rideable. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera but there were some beautiful views of the front range foothills & grasslands. Then Sunday Jonny took me up to the West Mag trails just outside Nederland at around 8800 ft. elevation. I didn't think there was any way I'd be on the 'real' mountain trails so soon after surgery so I was thrilled to be out there. I felt out of shape but it wasn't as bad as I was expecting and for some bizarre reason the elevation didn't bother me. Usually the first ride of the season at high elevation is a killer. I started thinking maybe there is a chance I could do the Indian Peaks off road tri in August but maybe that's a bit ambitious, esp. with all the weekends devoted to seminars and trialling this June and another weekend in July lost to a trip to Chicago. Plus the minor detail of being so hopelessly out of shape.

I've been slowly working my way back to running, following the PT's return to running plan. I started out run a minute, walk a minute for 5 reps (5 minutes total of running), 3 times a week then add a minute of running each week. I did little to no running in the weeks before the 2 agility trials so I'm only now up to 4 minutes run/1 minute walk (20 minutes total running). It all feels o.k., not great but o.k. My foot is still sore, some runs go better than others, typical rehab. crap. I've been taking 2 dogs with me so everybody's easing back into the running thing right along with me.

Cody seems to be having some issues with his front legs but I've been burying my head in the sand about it. He's 10 next month, of course he's going to have issues. The day after the Enchanted Mesa hike he was limping for a few steps right when we left the house for a walk so I marched him home and left him with a Kong. Same thing happened this past weekend and I decided it's better for him to walk and keep in shape and hopefully whatever's ailing him isn't too serious. No problems for the 3+ mile hike other than slowing down on a steep hill but still I know better that something is probably wrong. I should take him up to Loveland to the ortho. vet but at the moment I feel like if something's wrong I just don't want to know. If I notice more limping and if it's increasing I'll take him in but for now I'm going to keep and eye on it.

Over Memorial day I bought a 12' long 2x12 plank and painted/sanded it then realized how unwieldy such a long plank is. It has to live outside and hopefully it won't get too trashed. I guess I didn't need to get such a big plank but I thought it would be good to practice on different size planks and have a full size plank at home. I have a 5' plank at work that we practice on during my lunch hour and I try to fit in at least 10 reps w/ Lola & Strum before work then maybe some more after work if I'm not too tired.

I've also been working on weaves (6 poles) in the mornings with all dogs. Strum's confident weaving 6 poles with the channels shut all the way so we've moved on to working on entries. He was having a bear of a time with the regular old on side entry and kept diving in at the 2nd/3rd poles so I started out helping him by standing near the entry and guiding him in. I gradually moved away from the entry a step at a time and after a few sessions or so he finally started to get it. The DVD I've been following said to click for both the entry and exit and a big part of me rebelled against that. Makes no sense, what if he gets the entry and blows the exit? According the the DVD if that happens you don't reward. But what about that first click? In my mind you have to reward the entry but then he might start to think it's o.k. to pop the poles or that he can pop out at the first pole when he hears the click. Nonetheless I thought I'd give it a try and sure enough he started popping out when he heard the click. I think if you want to do that you have to work with only 2 or maybe 3 poles and work only on entries. I've decided on marking the entry with a verbal 'good' which is not the same as a click (doesn't always earn a reward) then click the exit.

I tried a brief experiment with using toys with Strummer and that was something of a disaster. His brain focuses on that toy and shuts off to everything else. He was leaping off the middle of the 12' plank from midway across and racing past the weaves like they didn't exist. His success rate was down at around 10-20% for the board and maybe 40-50% for the weaves though admittedly he was flying through lightning fast when he was doing them correctly. Some people say train for that speed right from the start but I can't get him to engage his brain enough to learn anything. In fact he leapt the board so many times I feared he would build muscle memory so I decided to switch back to food the following day and voila we are back at 80-90% success. For now we'll stick with food until he's solid or close to solid and then the toys can come back out. It will be a good way to proof anyway.

I'll get some video going one of these years.

Who me? Lose my mind for the tennis ball? Never.


  1. Love the "who me?" photo.

    I have done some clicking for weave entries when the dogs were learning, but I rewarded inside the poles at the next position they were heading for. Hard to explain without a photo, but say they went between 1 & 2 and I clicked for making the turn into 2/3, then the reward would be on the left side of pole 4, which is where the nose should be going next. I mean right on the pole's left side where the nose should be going. And I varied it a bit so I was sometimes clicking the exact entry and rewarding a pole after that, or maybe doing 2 or 3 poles and click/reward after that, etc.

    I haven't otherwise decided about a click at the beginning and requiring them to go to the end to get the reward. My understanding is the same as yours; they should get the reward for the click, because if you click and they blow it and you don't reward, then you're extinguishing the value of the click=reward.

    Your list of things you're working on makes me feel like a total slacker! Guess I'll go out in the yard right now and work on SOMETHING with the dogs.


  2. Rewarding the dog as you're describing makes total sense. I was taught that the click ends the behavior so if I click the entry and Strum pops out to get his treat he's following the rules. Some people do that, click the entry and let them pop out but I don't like that idea. I like the 2-3 pole idea, that way you don't have to stop them in the poles to reward but we did a lot of work with 2 poles/entries and it doesn't seem to be transferring to 6 poles. Maybe 3 is the magic number.

  3. I agree with you that if you click, you must treat. Otherwise thet click loses its significance as a secondary reinforcer (sure hope that's the right terminology--I'm by no means a clicker guru!). I think that most people don't believe the click ends the behavior any more. A click just means, "That was great & a reward is coming," but if it's a stationary behavior, the release ends it. With moving behaviors it's more difficult. Weaves are actually a behavior chain, and I personally don't feel comforable rewarding unless the entire chain is performed correctly. But I build up to that so each "gate" is rewarded in training. Maybe I'm just not a talented clicker trainer to not be able to isolate and reward one piece of a behavior chain. It just doesn't make sense to me (as it didn't to you).

  4. I'm no clicker expert either and I've read discussions about whether or not the click ends the behavior and in tne end it makes my head hurt :) In my mind the click ends up meaning whatever you train it to mean whether advertently or inadvertently. So I agree, if I train a behavior to require a release word then I expect the dog to remain doing whatever until that release and I can click & treat multiple times before the release. But if I set up a training scenario poorly as I feel that video suggested with the weaves then I'm inadvertently teaching that the click ends the behavior in that scenario, ie I click the entry, dog pops out upon hearing the click and I have to reward so I'm teaching that yes you can stop what you're doing when I click. I think the key is to set it up so that you reward the start of the behavior chain until that part's solid then add stuff on and reward that and I think that's what you're saying. Or maybe it's too early in the morning to be thinking about this stuff without having had any caffeine.

  5. This would be a question to keep in mind at the Susan Garrett seminar.


  6. Well, maybe I'll just have to put my head on the chopping block and ask.

  7. Oooh, scary, I know! :-)