Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Marshall's new training lesson

In recent days, I've been working on training Marshall to "touch" Bo. Having no children of my own, Bo (my other dog) is the only other moving target I could think of. But initially I had to keep Bo on a leash to keep him in range.

It still takes a little while for Marshall to remember what I'm asking, but once he gets it, he has the "touch Bo" down. (He'll tap Bo on his side with his nose). Now I'm trying to increase the distance and add then hope to add "search" . It's only been just two days, so I'm early in the process.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


On Saturday, I met the most amazing young man. Ethan. An austic teenager, with a passion and gift for drawing pictures of dogs. I met Ethan when his mentor tapped me on the shoulder to ask if Ethan could draw a picture of my dog. I agreed.

Ethan presented me with a notebook of pictures of dogs of all breeds drawn with precision in comic-book fashion. Many of the pictures were takes off of movies. My favorite drawing was entitled PAWS. A picture of a dog, I can't remember the breed, maybe a doberman or a rotweiler with large jaws ready to grasp the poodle swimming above the water -- i.e. a play on "Jaws."

Ethan did his best to draw a dog who wouldn't sit still. He told me Bo should take an obedience pill. He did an amazing job. When he was done, he signed his work and presented it to me.

Later when I spoke with his mentor about Dogs for Autism, I learned that Ethan has found a place for his gift. He works at the local animal shelter and draws pictures of all the dogs being adopted and gives them to the adopting family. Ethan is working with a bloodhound on search and rescue training.

I was truly humbled to meet such an inspiring young man, which helped me see a glimpse of the potential of what Dogs for Autism just might give to a family and an autistic child-A hope for independence and finding a special place in the world.

Ethan has so much to give the world and I was priviledged to be a recipient of what he has to give. This inspiration motivates me all the more to invest in the puppy I've been priviledge to raise.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Marshall sounds the alert

Last night I was awoken by a strange three-toned beeping sound. It wasn't the alarm clock...it wasn't the C02 detector...it wasn't the smoke alarm. At first I thought I was dreaming. As the sound was only periodic. After a few times when the noise would make its presence known, Marshall would do three non-obnoxious barks in response. I lay their listening trying to figure it out. It went again, Marshall barked again. I got up in the dark trying to figure out where it was coming from. I guess I had turned on my cell phone several days ago. The noise was the cell phone giving off a battery spent warning. I got up, put it on a charger and everyone went back to sleep without hesitation. (Except the golden retriever who never woke up in the first place.)

It was interesting to note how Marshall alerted to something very strange going on. But his barks weren't his "pay attention to me" barks, but a calm sound noting that something different was happening that needed attention.

Daddy's Boy

Bear isn't the only one with a big stick. Problem is...I didn't know my yard contained a big stick! Marshall....who's your daddy?!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Marshall and Mower Mania

Marshall has some serious issues with the lawn mower. I wish I could get in his little mind to understand what he thinks it is. I haven't mowed much this year so haven't had a strong chance to get Marshall desensitized, but as a young pup, he could have cared less. So something in his perception changed some where along the way.

The only solution I have found to excessive barking and trying to attack the mower is to put him on a leash and let him walk beside me. It is interesting that he walks calmly at my side back and forth while I mow. But if I have to stop for some reason, when I restart the mower he starts barking and getting all crazy. As soon as I tell him heel and start forward he stops.

Is it the restraint or does he have some other perspective? It is a herding thing? that by walking behind it he feels like he is controlling its direction? I don't have an answer but it is an interesting study in behavior.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quiet evenings

With the cooler weather upon us, Marshall has had the opportunity for some very long walks. But the daylight is working against us.

This past week and weekend, we've enjoyed walks of one hour or more. It sure does make a difference in his wiggles from being confined during the work day.

He continues to work on his obedience tasks for the show ring coming up this weekend. And, on his halloween "trick".

I have extended him a little more trust in the mornings, allowing him to enjoy being out of the crate while I get ready for work and before going outside one more time. Most of the time he spends this "freedom" beside me.

But he is still young...I bought some new shoes and he discovered the box and shred the tissue paper...So the training continues!

But it brings me joy to see a dog spent at the end of the day. The fresh air makes him happy too.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Take us Home"

Marshall took his "brother" Bo and I hiking today at the Brick House trail. We hiked about 45 minutes each way. I could have gone further, but we reached a creek and I wasn't willing to get my only pair of tennis shoes wet.

In my poor memory, I do believe this was Marshall's first hiking in the wilderness trip. He was a trooper. I had both dogs on short leashes - much to my shoulder's dismay - but Marshall wasn't the one pulling.

I observed something interesting about Marshall today.
As we reached the creek and I told the boys "This is as far as we go. It's time to head home." I turned to walk back and Marshall's nose hit the ground. I'm not sure when he stopped his tracking. But it did seem to be quite a way. I wonder why if he didn't enjoy the smells of nature on the venture out, did his nose hit the ground when we turned to head back?
I have no doubt he was re-tracing our steps. Quite something to see.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Marshall solves another problem

Yesterday Marshall tried to get me to play by putting his toy in the bathtub. Well, I was busy getting ready for work and I told him he would just have to figure out how to get it himself.

He mustered up the courage and got his toy. Of course he got lots of praise.

Now I can't get him out of the bathtub!

Another fun search thing...Yesterday I was mowing the yard. When I went around front he went in and out the doggie door to watch me out the front window. When I finished and returned to the back yard to sit and rest. You could tell he was looking for his toy for me to play. Again, I told him he would just have to find it. He searched the back yard circling several times. Went inside...back outside to search the yard again. I kept telling him "search".

By now it was getting rather dark.

One more time he went inside, long enough for me to wonder just what he might be up to.

Here he comes out the doggie door with his toy! He found it in the dark and didn't give up until he found it.

His reward? Playtime...and of course some directed jumping and go outs.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Marshall makes friends

I was walking Marshall in the neighborhood last night. We met a dog that usually leads or sometimes follows us. Although he barked, he quickly sat and I do believe he was actually wanting to be friendly!

When we met again on the back side of the walking loop, Marshall just looked at the dog and kept on walking!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Teacher or student?

Oh, Marshall...He makes me laugh. He is so competitive for attention between my other dog.

Tonight I was working with my dog on scent articles (pick the one I touched out of a pile) and Marshall thought it would be a good idea to put his toy in the middle of the pile. He did just like I did...put something in the pile and walk back to where I was standing.

When my dog picked out the proper article and wasn't the least bit distracted by the toy (that used to be his, by the way) and returned it to me Marshall went and got his toy and brought it to me. The problem is, he doesn't let go too easily just yet.

Little does he know that he helped to train my other dog to ignoring distractions and showed me that with focused training, I'll just bet he'll be able to retrieve anything you ask...He can already get his bone from another room if you tell him to "search for his bone."

So much instinct yet to be honed for a purpose. What a joy to watch him develop.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

School is in session

Marshall still has school despite the holiday. Here he is learning to jump according to a direction. Although you can't see another jump on the right hand side, Marshall was seated between two jumps and directed to take the jump on the left.
While this is a fun game now, it builds the foundation for searching for a child. If a child gets lost, a parent can direct the dog which direction to search by pointing.
Marshall still needs to learn "go out" which is another element of a search assignment...go out and search for (child).
Lots of small building blocks for a hopefull future.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lake Learning

Left: Nikki tries to save me from drowning. Okay maybe she just needed a rest from swimming but either way she is a sweetie.

Left: Don't ask. We were in the sun for a while and poor Calhoun had to deal with our shenanigans. Bless his heart.

Left: Calhoun and Nikki in a battle for the coveted stick of the day.

Left: Nikki- the beach bum

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Marshall - Man about Town

Marshall had an extended "public" day today. He was stretched and passed several "tests."

We started off the day in downtown Greenville to attend an event behind the Peace Center. We parked up the road on Main Street and passed through the Farmer's Market and past several dogs, to which he gave hardly a glance--his first test of the day.

We mingled among the crowd like a star. We saw our friend Otto, but he didn't see us. He was busy learning his job, too.

After downtown, we went to the Women's show. A very heavy crowd. Marshall held his sits or chose to plotz while I visited with varous vendors at their booths and traversed the crowd with ease. DFA did not have a booth at the show, but lots of people learned about DFA today.

And perhaps he was tired from charming the crowd, but as we left, Marshall walked right over the remnants of a trail of cheerios without breaking his stride.

Monday, August 24, 2009


We took the dogs swimming yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, after a decent hike, I realized my camera didn't have the memory card in it so there are no pictures to share. However, Nikki is like a fish in the water. She LOVES to swim. Our Lucy- not so much. In fact, I was wondering exactly what it was that she was doing. She looked as if she was killing the water or something. Anyway, the girls ran off leash for about 4 hours chasing, jumping, swimming, digging. Lucy likes to wander a bit more than Nikki so we introduced Nikki to the "Find Lucy" command. Lucy is her charge so it came quite naturally. She really helped us keep tabs on Lucy. Calhoun had to be confined to his VERY long leash though. He really likes to... explore. He was still able to play in the water though. What a great day we had! Everyone including Ashley and me were exhausted. We plan to do it again soon so I will post pictures then!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

This week Bear is visiting us, and is teaching Tucker lots of manners that can only be imparted by an older male! Rule #1: All sticks belong to Bear, although he shares if it is big enough for two.

Having one of these shepherds around this week reminds me why these are such perfect dogs for the DFA program. Bear is not just smart, he is intuitive in ways I can only imagine. It's something you can't teach -- it's just there.

I had one very interesting experience with him. I was on the couch trying to nap, Bear was sleeping near me, and Tucker was on place. As I was drifting off, Tucker started chewing on a bone -- and you all know how loud and grating that can be! I think I told him "leave it" a couple times -- I was kind of in and out of sleep -- but anyways, the sound was irritating me. Then I heard Bear get up and watched as he walked over to Tucker, took the bone from him, went back to his spot, dropped the bone on the floor, threw himself back onto his spot, and went back to sleep! So either the bone crunching was bothering Bear (unlikely), or he knew it was bothering me and was just taking care of the problem! Either way, these shepherds are amazing dogs!!!

Tucker is really going to miss Bear when he leaves, and so am I!