Monday, October 25, 2010


Over the past year or so, I have clicker trained Cadence to do a few cute tricks, just for fun and for us both to get better at shaping behaviors.  Unfortunately, one of the things I am worst at as a trainer is getting behaviors on verbal cue.  In fact, all of my dogs seem to learn and perform best when I just shut up.  Trying to turn over a new leaf though, I made a list of the behaviors I have trained and what the intended verbal cue is for all of them, and have been working at testing his understanding of these verbals.

Ugh.  I discovered quickly that the verbal for one of his first tricks, walking backwards, (“back”) was not understood at all.  I was stumped about why this was, when we have repeated it so many times.  It finally occurred to me that every time I worked on “back,” I knelt down on the ground so that I could easily deliver the reinforcement in position by tossing it between his paws after he backed up.  I was basically “blocking” the new, verbal cue – my kneeling down was his signal to back up, therefore any new cue I gave him (giving a verbal command) was meaningless as it didn’t give him any new information.  Ah, finally some of the learning from my many books, seminars, and classes was starting to sink in!

So I started carefully separating the two cues – I would give the verbal first, then kneel down.  After a few reps and a couple more practice sessions, I think he was picking it up. 

Today, I decided to give his whole repertoire of tricks a little workout.  We started with “back” and he was trotting backwards nicely.  So far so good, until I tried to switch to other commands.  But once we’re in reverse mode, “Sit” apparently means “sit for a half second, then back up” and “Down” means “lie down for a second, then back up.”  Fun.  He was wearing a path in the living room floor going forward, backing up, repeating.  It was cute though.

Finally stopped that behavior, and discovered that his new, cute paw wave has suddenly become the default whenever he is asked to sit.  Sit and wave.  Sit and wave.  Butt hits the ground and the right paw goes straight up, never mind if I asked for it or not.

At least his newest two tricks seem to be going well, but they both have very obvious physical cues – weaving between my legs and putting his paws up on my outstretched arm to stretch. 

Sigh.  Got to keep working on this.  Poor Noodle.  It is a wonder dogs ever figure out what on earth we want with all our yammering.

sacked out cade

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Interlochen Weekend

fall color This past weekend was Lowell’s birthday, and we celebrated by taking one final camping trip for the season, heading up north to the Traverse City area.  We set up base camp at Interlochen State Park, and spent three days hiking trails at Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Traverse area VASA trail.  Lowell also ran a 10K race on his birthday on the VASA trail, and had another fine performance coming in third in his age group.  Cadence and I cheered him on from the trailhead.


noodle in your face No other way to describe it other than just a perfect weekend trip.  The colors were beautiful, and the weather could not have been more ideal.  72 degrees and sunny the entire time – you could never dare hope for such amazing conditions in October in northern Michigan. 

Django, Maebe, and Cadence joined us for the trip, and the five of us spent hours hiking the trails by day, and curling up by the fire at night. 

Pyr pt


Plus, I got Lowell the best birthday gift ever – custom designed Maebe-gear, courtesy of Laura at Team Small Dog.  You can see it for yourself here:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall Outing 2010

camp in fall

We were back to camp this past weekend for three days at the annual DSA Fall Outing.  Just a long weekend to enjoy the fall colors of northern Michigan, hike, camp, play with the dogs, visit with friends, and hang out by the bonfire.

I don’t know how many miles and hours of hiking Lowell, the dogs, and I have done over the years on the trails around camp.  It is one of our favorite things to do.  The dogs can run off-leash without worry, and the only people we ever encounter are fellow DSA campers.  Whenever we visit, we trek along our favorite routes several times a day.

water break We logged several miles this weekend, I’m sure.  Cadence got several more backpacking miles in for his “Pack Dog” title, and completed his five-mile check-off hike.  While he and Maebe accompanied us for several longer hikes, we also were grateful for the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the older three dogs.

Django helped us set up the Spooky Trail, which is a bit of a tradition at the fall outings.  He particularly was helpful in the placement of the rubber skulls along the trail:

dj and skull Apparently they are a fine substitute for a Jolly Ball in a good game of solitary soccer.

Jj and t hikeade and Tristan did a lot of hiking, and we even gave Jade some off leash freedom on the trails.  Usually he stays on leash on our forays into the woods, as his prey drive is so strong I have always worried he’d head into the next county after a deer.  I figured perhaps in his older age he would be a bit more reliable, and he did great.  The one time he started air-scenting, I was able to recall him back to me immediately.  It took almost eleven years, but maybe he’s getting a little more trustworthy finally!

Cadence and Jade took part in the costume contest.  Cadence reprised his role as the Great Pumpkin, though Lowell said that since he is “The Noodle,” he really was a Spaghetti Squash. 

spaghetti squash

Jade was SuperDog, and he tried his best to act the part:

super tuna

As always, it was a great weekend and I left feeling very grateful for the opportunity to spend this time together in one of our favorite places.

maebe bench