Coyote Plays

No Wonder Daddy is So Tired!

Well, sometimes I just can’t think of anything to work on with a dog and we just pretty much play. I was worn out and didn’t have the energy and bandwidth to really focus on improving anything with Coyote today and here is the result.

Coyote was thrilled, but then he’s thrilled anytime he gets attention (and a Frisbee)! Enjoy this exuberant display of rapid fire behaviors! I chose to play, “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” for Coyote because, well, he always gets the girls.

And he isn’t even the cutest dog I have. That would be Squirrel, but Squirrel is just too bossy and therefor annoying.  She is always like “Hey! Get over here!” Coyote is more like, “Hey-wouldn’t it be a LOT of fun if you took this ball out of my mouth and threw it for me?”  (over and over again) Well, people wind up being so impressed with Coyotes antics not to mention feeling that he deserves a good massage for working so hard that it’s no time at all before he’s getting all the pets and attention. There’s some great dating advice, guys. Work on some self-improvement and you’ll be more appealing.

You really learn a lot from dogs when you really pay attention. There’s some kind of saying that gets the idea that everything in the universe is contained in every mote that you care to look at closely enough. Like, if you’re stuck outside of New York, don’t worry you can still get all the artistic enjoyment of that metropolis of cutting edge and historical art by watching a sunset.  Pflugerville is obviously exempt from this consideration, but I digress.

When you watch this video you will see what it is about dogs, and life, that I love. Exuberence, athleticism, striving for achievement, happiness, focused attention. Heck, the list would just go on and on. I don’t want to try to describe the world’s most beautiful display of perfection when you can just click the link and see it for yourself. And remember, this is just like one minute of a training session and not all that special of one anyway. I was asking him for more behaviors than I normally do for a treat, but then these are the things he knows really well. What we are talking about is working on chains of behavior and that brings us to the crux of dog training.

I came to this session not having the energy to really train, but needed to do something with Coyote. So I started and didn’t have anything in mind, a real mistake most trainers will tell you. But here’s the thing. I started playing with him and didn’t have a goal in mind except to have some fun and get him a little directed attention and exercise. Only while watching this video and writing about it do I realize that we made some really good progress on getting Coyote to do a chain of behaviors in order to get a treat. I was like, “The camera is on and I’ll just try to get several things to show how well Coyote knows these things.”

Anyway-just get out there and play with your dog. Even if you have a plan the dog isn’t going to know what it is and if he has fun with you now, it’ll build up some assets in his emotional bank account that you can draw on when he gets frustrated or distracted. The idea is that because you’re normally so much fun, that even if there’s another dog to bark at, if you ask for his attention he knows that he can benefit by giving it to you.

I want to emphasize that by following my training advise-well, you get the kind of behavior in this video…..maybe I shouldn’t say that if I want to make a living training dogs.

Excerpts From Jingles’ Genesis Story Plus Behind the Scenes Training Comments

Always Listen to Your Mommy!

Here are some tricks from Jingles’ Genesis Story. What happened was Jingles’ Mommy needed to go hunting to get Jingles something to eat. Jingles’ Mommy told Jingles, “Jingles, you stay right here in this box. I’ll be back soon with something delicious for you to eat.” Jingles said, “But Mom, I’m hungry right now!”

“It’s good to be hungry,’ Jingles’ Mommy told her. “Always remember, A Hungry Dog Fights Harder.” Jinges’ didn’t understand. Jingles said, “I thought I’m not supposed to ever fight?” “That’s right,” Jinges’ Mommy said, “Remember. Stay right in this box and you won’t have to fight.” Jingles’ Mommy looked at her and added, “Stay in this box you’ll be safe.”

Well, after Jingles’ Mommy was gone, Jingles got bored. Jingles poked her head out of the box and looked around. She was sooooo bored! A squirrel came over and challenged Jingles to a game of chase. Jingles said, “No way! My Mommy told me to stay in the box!” The Squirrel said, “I understand. You’re just a little baby.”

But Jingles wasn’t a baby! The Squirrel was already bounding away laughing at Jingles! Jingles said, “Hey!!! And she chased that Squirrel right up the tree!”

Jingles went straight back to the box and got right in so she’d be safe. Her Mommy was going to be SO proud of her when Jingles told her how good she’d been!

Jingles was tired after chasing that Squirrel and in all the excitement, she wasn’t even hungry anymore! Jingles snuggled up in the bottom of her box where it was nice and warm and went right to sleep.

Jingles woke up a little bit later and was REALLY hungry.

To Be Continued

It’s been a lot of fun creating this routine. Jingles had to really learn to wait for her cues, one of the hardest things for her to do. She was always the forgotten dog in previous households-being the fifth and smallest papillon in one family! She’s still the smallest Pap around, but she has the biggest heart! You’ll see her fall a couple of times in this video and yet she doesn’t even think about taking a break. There have been falls I’ve seen her take in the past where I’ve been really concerned about her, but she showed no signs of any type of injury or even pain. Several times when this has happened, I’ve taken her out of active training rotation for two weeks and just worked on her stays and low-effort behaviors requiring more thinking than athleticism.

As you’ll know from reading other posts, I believe that working on eye contact and staying in sits and downs through lots of distractions and triggers is really the most important thing to work on. This type of attention is the foundation that all behaviors are based on. It is simply impossible for your dog to know what you are asking him to do if he isn’t paying attention. Heck, it’s hard enough to communicate when he is paying attention to you!

Don’t wait for an injury to work on eye contact, but don’t let lack of space or inclement weather prevent you from training-You can work on eye contact and stays just about anywhere!

Good Luck and I hope to See You Down the Road!

Brainstorming with the Director for The Mutt-Cracker (SWEET!) 2014

Tricks From Moose and Mouse’s Genesis Story

Circus Chickendog is deep in the planning process of our Annual Howl-i-Day Extravaganza of The Mutt-Cracker (SWEET!). For the first time ever we have agreed to work with a director, Asaf Ronen, who has asked for some videos of the dogs’ tricks so

we will have a way of working towards our strengths as far as great tricks go, while at the same time achieving a more satisfying story. My thinking has always been that with super cute dogs doing at least a hundred tricks, world class juggling, amazing unicycling, circus balancing acts, an incredible jazz piano rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite,” some clowning that gets the story across, and with all that (and more) crammed into less than an hour we have a riveting show. This has always proven to be the case as people even bring toddlers to the show and they stay riveted for the entire time and tell stories about the dogs for months after the show. So, while I don’t feel I really need any more of a story (The Nutcracker itself is pretty weak narrative-wise anyway), I am not opposed to making the show better.

Asaf worked with us putting on the Mutt-Cracker (SWEET!) last year as the lighting designer and filled in with some stage managing as well as many very insightful comments and suggestions regarding some of the specific elements that we could emphasize to make the show better. Over the past year I went took several classes from The Institution Theater where he is one of the instructors. I just knew he would be a good influence on The Mutt-Cracker (SWEET!) and I was really excited when he agreed to be our director. We have been talking about the direction of this year’s show and he already saved me from going down a Star Trek direction that might have been really fun, but well, there were some plot elements that were just going to be problematic and wow! it feels good to not have THOSE problems on top of managing six out of control dogs!  We have another direction that will really give youngsters a really good reason to grow up and be responsible so they have the best chance at true happiness where they fulfill the obligations that their true calling is singing to them-the siren song that you want work really hard to tack against buffeting winds, stormy gales, bitter cold, and frankly, not listen to people trying to give you an easy way out. Don’t worry, there will still be lots of amazing dog tricks that we are tying into the story and they are going to be even more adorable than ever as Asaf is really on top of getting them some good looking foo foo costumes, which is one of my weaknesses. I spend all my time just trying to get the dogs to listen to me for a second, I hardly have the bandwidth to think about how they look. I always just think, “They look OUT OF CONTROL!”



Hope to see you down the road so you can judge the results for yourself.

Always Improving

They are getting used to sitting all together and listening to their daddy's fascinating stories!
They are getting used to sitting all together and listening to their daddy’s fascinating stories!

We are working hard on training with four nights a week of formal classes I take the dogs to-sometimes with two classes in a night.  This is in addition to the normal morning training session where we get our videos from.  The dogs are working on all of the things that I never really cared that much about-sitting, lying down, heeling properly….I mean really, when you enjoy jumping rope with your dog and playing frisbee as much as I do…..what use is sitting still?  Boring! But here’s the thing-I need to be able to talk during the show, and sure, there is 100% agreement among audiences that the best part of the show is when the dogs do things they aren’t supposed to do, which is 100% of the time, and then there are six dogs all doing what they aren’t supposed to be doing, and then that distracts me from my script which really compounds the things that aren’t suppose to happen exponentially.  An idea that Bill Hicks had about performing often appeals to me-the planned stuff is just something to fall back on if you find something more interesting/entertaining.

It’s a good thing that I took all those improv classes last year! Just go with the flow, whatever happens I just make a story up about it and then the kids start chiming in with suggestions and boy do we wind up with some interesting adventures.  All those things that aren’t supposed to happen? Much to the kids’ surprise, that is indeed what we are supposed was supposed to happen, have an interesting adventure.

Regarding the classes-In addition to learning the basic obedience that we don’t care about, the dogs all get a chance to get out and hang out with other dogs in a safe setting.  I rarely let them play with other dogs because of their bad parenting.  I used to love taking the dogs to off leash areas, but have learned that’s just where people go to let all of the dogs “work it out themselves.”  Poor Mouse lost sight in an eye from an interaction like this.

Another thought on training is that if a dog really knows how to do just one thing well and on cue it’s an amazing insight into the world for him.  He has something that he can feel comforted by when asked for it-I KNOW what I’m supposed to be doing! is a look that I totally see in many stressful situations and it really helps calm them down.  Who doesn’t want to know what they are supposed to be doing?

If you ever happen to see our show, you’ll see that my dogs totally LOVE knowing what I want of them and are so eager to do it that they almost can’t stand the excitement of knowing what to do and then doing it.  Then, after they do a trick they will just look SO proud of themselves.  What’ll often happen is that they know the show well enough that they’ll anticipate their trick and do it before I’ve set it up.  Training classes help them learn to stay and wait for their cue.  When watching our show, you can see Moose trembling with anticipation as she has gotten much better at waiting for her cues but with .  SO much fun to see that kind of fun.