Turn up your volume and listen to my tunes..wooooof!

I am dog. I believe in unconditional love. I do not settle for infatuation or puppy love. I believe in true love to the end. I am a life-long lover who will lie at your feet, on the bed, by your chair, at your side. I am dog. I insist on your love. I will stay on a grave of a lover until my end. I believe in commitment. When we have chosen each other, I will be there for you with plenty. Out of my heart flows life and love. You fill my life with abundance and I am fulfilled. Unconditional love is the highest gift. I am committed to love.

Taken from Dog Psalms by Herbert Brokering

Make your own Countdown Clocks

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Our first rally class!

Kirby's mom here-

Friday night Kirby and I had our first rally class. It actually went pretty well, considering that Kirby is dog reactive. I got there a little bit early in hopes of talking to the instructor, Sharon. She gave me some pointers on how to handle Kirby with the other dogs, the important thing for me was that she was okay with Kirby being dog reactive. She has had them in her class before and probably wants to help the dogs as much as their owners. So what did she tell me?

First, Kirby and I have to work on the "watch" command. (This is where I say "watch" and Kirby is to look at my face, not whatever else has caught his eye.) Not only will this help with other dogs, but will also help with rally and Kirby paying attention to me. I worked with Kirby on this while in class, he did pretty good, but we have quite a ways to go with it. At one point I couldn't even get his attention. He was watching dogs, not snarling at them, just INTENTLY watching and was just ignoring my command to "watch" me.

Second, was my body position with Kirby. I have read about this. She said leaders dont' lean over their dog. She said you can bend over a little bit to give him a treat, but when you are saying "watch" she said you are standing up, not leaning over. Also, to praise him like a crazy lady before giving him the treat (I added the crazy lady part), because I won't have treats on me everytime.

Sharon said I may want to consider using a Halti head collar on Kirby. She had a lady in a class that did this with her cocker spaniel who was dog reactive and had wonderful results. She said it will come in handy when you need to redirect his eyes to look at you. I did some reading on it, and felt comfortable with getting one. So I was at an adoption event yesterday at a pet store and I picked one up. Has anyone used one? If you have any suggestions I would appreciate it.

By the end of the class, Sharon said Kirby was doing really good. I was able to talk to another lady whose dog was also dog reactive. She was only 3-4 feet away with her dog and Kirby just sat by my side while we talked (AWESOME!). Her dog was also just content to sit there too.

Her class is pretty interesting. She has course that is set up every class in one part of the center and the other part has new commands that you can learn. You get to go through the course with her at least 3 times and she walks you through the new commands. Then you are on your own to practice them. When you are on the course, it is only you and your dog and her. She gives excellent pointers on how to get the dogs to do the commands. I think it's going to be a good class for Kirby. We practice at our own pace, and sometimes I just make him sit or down and we practice the "watch" command. We also go through all his "tricks" while we are there. Sharon gave me that idea, she said doing this will help him to realize that he is safe there. All the dogs ignore his snarling, so he's not getting launched at or anything and all the dogs are on leashes, so he doesn't have to worry about getting attacked again. I'm hoping that this will help to build his confidence up (mine too)!

What's interesting is that I am learning what all the signs mean (there are tons of them!) and Kirby is trying to figure out what I want him to do. Yes, we are building our relationship, I can't wait to see how we are as a team by the end of fall!

So here is a picture of the new rally student:

Again, if you have any suggestions with Halti collars (good and bad) I would appreciate hearing them.

Enjoying Kirby,

Kirby's mom

PS: Harbor Humane Society had 104 dog and cat adoptions in February! WOO HOO!!!


  1. Some thoughts:

    Eye contact is a wonderful thing, and I've certainly used it to combat Marge's own (slight) dog reactivity. However, I've also used exercises from the book, Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt, specially the "Look at That" game. What you do with this game is click & treat the dog for looking calmly (without barking) at the thing that sets him off. You should also enforce and reinforce eye contact on you, but the rationale is that a reactive dog is actually scared of the other dogs (usually, anyway), and by requiring ONLY eye contact, you are not permitting him to look at/get any information about the scary thing. Kind of like if you were afraid of snakes and you knew there was a snake behind you, but you weren't allowed to look at it.

    The book is pretty geared towards agility, but has some really good calming exercises for just about any dog.

    I know of one reactive dog (Tula - who has a blog) who has used head halti's with success. Another good blog about dog reactivity is Reactive Champion (a dog who does Rally!). You can find the links to both blogs on my page.

    I'm so happy that you can Kirby are giving Rally a try - I find that it's so fun and rewarding to do. I find it much more relaxing than agility trials, too (too bad my dog is such a sucker for agility - I wouldn't mind doing Rally every weekend instead!)

  2. I've never used a head halter (Maisy hates wearing things, even winter coats), but this video is a nice intro to teaching a dog to love their head halter:

    PS-Kirby is super cute.

  3. I have never heard of Rally. Sounds like it is an excellant class and will help both of you. I am really impressed with the watch command. I've used it before, but not serious enough. Though I use eye contact all the time.

    I tried to use a haltie, but my dogs have Husky blood and are born to pull, not to mention I let them, so it didn't matter what I used, I was going to have a hard time. But I have heard many people have great success with them. I would like to pull mine back out to work with my most dominant dog. But I will say this, when we ran into any problems, like other dogs or people on our walks, I had total control of the situation with a haltie. That part was great. I imagine your little guy would do great with one.

    And yeah for Kirby!! I'm so proud of him for listening to you and not reacting. That is so wonderful. He must be such a joy to work with, especially the progress you've made with him. You must a proud mom!!

    Keep up the good work!!

  4. Hi Kirby, nice to meet you.

    Rally-O is a lot of fun but too bad there's no such sport in our country, Malaysia. We only have the typical, boring Obedience, Agility, Flyball & Schutzhund.

    My hoomie Melissa has used a Halti on me before when I was still in Puppy OB class at 3 1/2 - 5 months old. Melissa DEFINITELY had a lot of control over my head with that Halti thing so I wasn't able to pull anymore. It worked on me however, whenever I wore it, it just made me very depressed. I no longer enjoyed my lessons, I was very obedient tho, obeyed each & every command but it was uncomfortable & I just basically hated it. Totally took the spirit out of me & it took a VERY long time for me to get used to that Halti thing on my face.

    The downfall with using a Halti is, once you take it off when you have to like when you're entering a trial (you're not allowed to wear a Halti - only soft, choke or prong collar is allowed), that's when you'll start making lots of mistakes. It has happened to me. I KNEW Melissa had NO control over my head anymore when she could not use that Halti thing on me (yes, I'm a smart doggie!) so I was forging, lagging, doing crooked sits, finish, etc during my 1st ever trial. From that day onwards, Melissa stopped using the Halti (hooray!) & I was back on a choke collar. I got a lot of corrections from her. It was like she had to start all over again with the training. HEE HEE

    For the "watch" command, Melissa would put a small piece of food in her mouth. When she asks me watch her, I would look right at her mouth because I KNOW when I do that, food will come flying out of her mouth & right into mine. Melissa says there's no need for me to look right into her eyes. Just as long I look at her face, any part of her face, it is good enough.

    Anyway, good luck with the training!

  5. Awesome! My Kirby loves Rally and we plan on competing later this year. One thing we learned was when Kirby went to the class he wore a certain collar and leash so he knew it was work time. Everything is so focused with commands so I always had his full attention. Your Kirby will catch on quick. It's kinda wierd cos all these people and their dogs are in the same room but everyone is working on this or that exercize. None of the dogs even attempted to play until after class. They just seem to know!

    Kirby and I love your blog so we have an award for you! Come fetch it!


  7. Kirby is adorable as always!

  8. WOOF! Dillon here...duuuuude way to go on Rally! You are a smart little guy. I know basic stuff but it seems to be enough for me, I am too old to learn more. WOOF WOOF! I still know more than those cats I live with (so there, dogs ARE smarter than cats!) WOOF!
    Good luck with the halti collar, my momma keeps talking about a non-pull thingy, but I dont know why cause pulling her down the road works wonderful for me...hmmm...what could be wrong with that??
    Lots of slobbers,
    Dillon, your lab friend in the East!