Thursday, January 31, 2008

Photo Tip for today

Get lower than your subject for a different perspective. I am laying on the ground. The dog is sitting.

Photo for Jan 31

"Shooting in the Dark"

Tech Notes:
Shutter Speed 1/40 sec
F-Stop f/4.0
ISO 3200
Focal Length 140.0 mm

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Photo for Jan 30

"Running on the Dogwalk"

Tech notes: The agility area at the Twin Cities Obedience Training Club in Minneapolis, MN is dark. It is hard to stop the action of running dogs in the available light. I like to practice catching peak action in the dark.

Shutter Speed 1/125 sec
F-Stop f/4.0
ISO 3200
Focal Length 280.0 mm (70 - 200 mm with a 1.4 extender)

A dog training question

"A search and rescue handler and dog team that has been performing fairly well in training, even with some blind (they don't know where the subject/article is) problems is ready to do a formal evaluation. They feel ready, but they have test anxiety anyhow. Unfortunately now, so does their dog. The dog will literally start barfing because of stress (handler is working hard to control their own stress, but having a barfing dog doesn't help). No leashes are used, but we all know the leash doesn't matter that much anyhow as the invisible ones are just as taut as the actual leashes :). The test must be called off because the dog just shuts down. The handler does not use aversive training methods either. It seems to simply be test anxiety. I know the handler works hard to stay calm during an eval and even seems to be ok, but how do we make them calmer so the dog feels it too?"

My answer:

Can the handler do a couple of mock tests running someone else's already certified dog?

In another life, I spent 20 years as a Junior Olympic boxing coach, judge and referee. "Choking" was a common problem with my young athletes so we put in a lot of time working on mental toughness.

Mental toughness, by definition, toughness is "to be strong and resilient; able to withstand great strain without tearing or breaking. It is "between the ears" toughness. Mental toughness is skill.

Try the book "That Winning Feeling" by Jane Savoie which has helped lots of people who compete with their dogs. And even better book is "The New Toughness Training for Sports" by James E. Loehr.

Can you get the handler to learn to meditate? Various forms of meditation have been used for thousands of years for almost any purpose you can fathom, including reduction of stress, enhanced mental clarity, and simple relaxation.

Can you get the handler to learn to visualize?

Can you get the handler to over prepare? There should be nothing new on test day.

Can training days be varied, different, more stressful? Just as progression is an important part of training, applying any challenging stimulus to the handler's life will give the handler a greater ability to handle stress of all kinds. It would go a long way towards teaching the handler problem-solving skills and critical thinking, both of which can help the handler tough out any number of situations.

Can the handler teach the dog some stress relieving tricks to do as they warm up for the search?

Can you put a calming word into the dog and handler's training vocabulary? Get the handler to use it frequently at home when everything is relaxed and safe. The use it out and about, during trainings, until the dog realizes that it is the cue that everything is fine. (I sing happy birthday to my reactive GSD, Blue.) This can be a great tool when the handler is pushed to work a stressful area, as the dog can be reassured. (And I personally find it hard to be stressed while signing something as silly as happy birthday.)

Can the handler learn doggy calming signals and mimic them for the dog?

Can you find a way to turn the stress signals that the handler throws in to a cue for calm for the dog?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Photo Ideas

Photo for Jan 29

It has been cold and sunny here. This photo was taken at 9:30am - yes in the morning. I exposed for the upper clouds.
shutter speed 1/1000
f-stop f/14
ISO 100
Focal Length 30.0 mm

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Photo for Jan 27

Bowling was part of the party.

I did not. Taking photos of the bowlers was enough for me.

Work party

I didn't want to go. I hate parties.

I am glad I went. We played a game with a quiz about dog food. Guess who answered the most question correctly? And the prize was $5 for each correct answer. I came home up $25 and also got 2 t-shirts and a very nice sweat shirt for my efforts.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Photo for Jan 26

I have yet to take an interesting photo of a water tower. That is one of my goals for the year.


This is an edited version of what I posted as a comment on Sarah's blog.

Photography is essentially an art form. Composition makes photographs interesting. To improve your art skills, find photos you like and study them, asking yourself: 'Why exactly do I like this picture?'

When you take a photograph, to identify what the subject, ask yourself: 'What is the purpose of this photograph?' and 'What is the reaction I want a viewer to have?'

Next find a 'context' -- a simple backdrop which adds relevance, contrast, and/or location to the 'subject.' You can add depth by finding a 'context' in a different spatial plane than the 'subject.' For example, if the subject is a building in the background, make the context a flower or person in the foreground.

I think a great photograph is a subject, a context, and nothing else. Remove any clutter that detracts from your message. Get closer -- zoom in -- and crop as tightly as possible. Take photos at various angles and distances to give you more options to choose from. Also experiment with vertical and horizontal camera orientation -- you may discover that this simple shift yields interesting results.

The one big difference I've seen between an amateur photographer and a professional is this: the amateur will take one picture and move on while the pro will take many pictures of the same scene at varying angles, distances and exposures before moving on.

Remember that the center of the frame is the weakest place -- it's static, dull, and gives no value to the context. The more you move the subject away from the center, the more relevance you give to the context; so juggle until you get the right balance.

Use the "Rule of Thirds." Imagine a tic-tac-toe grid over the image you want to take. Use the intersection of those lines to place your subject slightly off center, and bring interest up or down. Horizontal lines are peaceful; diagonals are dynamic or tense; and curves are active and sensuous.

Dawn and dusk provide lovely light, whereas midday light can be harsh. Take advantage of overcast days for photography. That's when the light is even, and casts almost no shadows. Inside, avoid using your flash. Instead, provide as much natural light as possible -- open curtains, or even the door.

Where do you go to find the most interesting images? Do you have a favorite place or do you simply like to look around and see what you find? When you are driving, look for:

Light (shadows and highlights)

Shapes (round and angular)

Color (harmony and discord)

Texture (rough and smooth)

Composition (strong and weak)

Tones (light and dark)

Patterns (even and odd)

A picture is a playground for the eyes to explore, so provide a path of movement, and some space for the eye to rest. Your personality and your vision must come through in every photo you take.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What is a treat and train?

A treat and train is a remote reward training system (currently sold under the name MannersMinder) that was developed by Dr. Sophia Yin. Click her name to go to the MannersMinder website.

I like to use it for crate training and for down stays on the mat. The dogs had the breakfast kibble served from the TnT on their mats this morning. The dogs think the TnT isnthe best thing since sliced bread. I own three of the original model.

I set the TnT to the down stay mode to drop one piece of kibble on a variable rate with 10 seconds as the average. That setting means the kibble will fall at an average of every ten seconds apart but may be as close as every second or as far apart as 20 seconds.

The machine took about 35 minutes to empty of 8 ounces (by weight) of mixed kibble. Today's kibble a mix of Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Reduced Calorie Dog Formula, Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Green Pea and Duck Cat Formula and Solid Gold Barking at the Moon Grain Free Dog. Kibble is a special treat to my raw fed dogs and cat kibble is the cream. I always have a variety on hand as I work in a pet store that always has a lot of different samples to give away.

Neither dog left their mat. Between kibble drops both dogs stared holes in to my face. Both know that the remote is operated by me to drop kibble. They love the TnT's remote almost as much as they love the clicker.

Over the years we've had our TnTs, I have rewarded both dogs a lot to look at me instead of beating up the machine between treats. Red can get one open in about three seconds using his paw. Blue just thinks that a couple of strong paw whacks will speed things up.

I was sitting about 20 feet away reading email. Anytime I looked up and both dogs were looking at me, I used the remote control to drop some kibble.

When I do mat work any more I don't use the TnT. I used it today so I could take photo. I do pull it out to prevent crate screaming one of Red's most endearing habits, and to work on distance and direction and drive. I think I will also start using it for contacts.

Photo Note: These are also my photos for the day. I will take my gear to work with me tonight however, I don't expect to make more photos.

Around the Web

There is a lot of interesting stuff out there in Blogland if you don't mind weeding through the junk.

Here is a super cool cooking blog for Coth.

A Lucid Spoonful


This photoshop tips / horse blog Holly found is awesome. I'll be reading it often.

The Pioneer Woman


This cool design blog will interest Sarah.

Character Design


Try this one if you are not sick of horses yet.

Teachings of a Horse


This game is the ultimate time suck.

The Impossible Quiz

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Photo for Jan 24

This is Heather's Granite, a 10-month-old German Wirehaired Pointer. Heather is training Granite to hunt, run in agility and to do obedience.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo for Jan 23

This is Ms. Java working today.

This is Sam

I took these photos of Lynnda's Sam at a May agility trial in Savage community Park.

Which tunnel photo do you like best and why?

Today's dog training

Today Red, Blue and I spent 11 am to 2:30 pm at Twin Cities Obedience Training Club to playing with Lynnda and her Dalmatians, Java and Sam.

Lynnda worked Red for me on being quiet and happy in a crate when I was where he couldn't see me. She used a clicker to shape him in to going into a strange kennel and staying with the door open while I was unloading the car. He would get a little nervous that I was leaving him when I'd walk out of sight but would respond to his name and the clicker.

Then I worked Red on a dog stay on his mat next to my chair while Lynnda and I ate lunch. After lunch Lynnda worked Red on foundation agility stuff - two by two weaves, banging the teeter, jumping, sending to the tunnel and coming to her hand.

He worked and played well for her (as long as he could see me.) He zoomed a couple of times but that is okay with me as I am trying to get the zoomies on cue. And he came back from zooming when called to hand. He tugged for Lynnda and retrieved his toy over jumps.

I put him in the kennel (with a treat and train on top) while we cleaned up the lunch stuff. Red screamed and barked between the rain of treats but stayed in the kennel. The door wasn't latched. (However I did not realize that fact until I was letting him out of the kennel.)

I put Red in the car were Blue had been waiting. I talked Lynnda thru mat work and look at that with Java. She didn't really need any help on the mat stuff as Java drives to her mat and will even drive thru the weave poles at speed to her mat. It is very cool to watch her work.

I make Java nervous so Lynnda used me for the look at that. I had cheese on the floor around me while I was laying on the floor taking photos. Lynnda would release her to come eat the cheese from around my head. Once Java was comfortable, I did hand targets, fronts, sits and begs with her.

Lynnda put Java in a crate with a treat and train on top and I worked Blue in the next room. We played the two ball game, some fast sits and downs and a bit of mat work. And since my mat was in the car (silly me!) I used my sweat shirt as the mat.

I had to leave before Sam got to work because I had to pick up the kid from school. I had a great time playing with the dogs and hanging out with Lynnda. We plan to do it every Tuesday afternoon that I do not have duties in Tayja's classroom. Lynnda (and Cassia) plan to teach a nine week long Control Unleashed workshop at at TCOTC and let me assist! I can't wait.

Growing with the challenge

A comment I left on Paige's blog:

I have found that taking a photo a day has expanded my mind a bit. I am taking the back roads to get places so I can spend time just looking (while I drive.)

And stories come from thinking about the new things I find to photograph. When I worked at a newspaper, the stories were someone else's mostly and my job was to illustrate them.

Now I can *own* both the words and the pictures.

(When I worked as a photojournalist at a daily news paper I didn't even make a new picture every day. Not even everyday that I worked. Soooo I am growing.)

Photo Tip for today

If you leave the house, take the darn camera with you.

I left mine behind like I do most mornings when I am just driving the kid around the corner to school. Today on the way home I stopped at the drug store.

In the parking lot was a flock of turkeys. Could of / would of / should of been cool photos. Or at the very least not another photo of a dog or a horse.

It gets better (or worst if you are camera-less.)

One tom turkey in particular decided that it was *his* parking lot. He puffed up and menaced everyone entering or leaving the store.

Sigh. Alas, I only have my memories.

So if you leave the house, take your bloody camera.

That is the new photo rule to live by.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The key to animal training is having a plan, sticking to it, analyzing results and modifying as appropriate. One must use data to determine what is successful or not.

- Bob Bailey

Breakfast with Blue

My dogs don't beg exactly. They lie down next to the table and wait for someone to share. No one shares on purpose but when you live with a five year old, good stuff ends up under the table.

Photo Note: I used the on camera flash instead of getting up off my wide behind to get my bounce-able flash out of my bag. That is why you see the ugly direct flash shadows.

Record Keeping for Dog Training by Jane

I suck at record keeping for dog training so I asked my friend Jane how she does it. This is the comment she left for me.

Jane said...

A simple way to track progress:

1. Decide how you want to count the treats. I make piles of 15 treats. Other people use a cup to count, and put one treat in the cup for each treat they give to the dog.
2. Set the timer to 3 minutes.
3. Toss a treat for each click.
4. At the end of your 3-minute session, count how many treats you gave out.
5. Write it down, along with any comments about your session.
6. Divide the number by 3, and that’s your rate of reinforcement. If you want to do shorter sessions, that’s fine too. Just do the math.
7. Chart it out on a spreadsheet or piece of graph paper.

What’s interesting is that you can actually see whether you’re making progress or not. When I was doing this with one of Finn’s exercises, I thought we were making progress, but then I looked at my graph and could see that we weren’t. So then I had to change something. (I changed the session length and that seemed to work. In a duh moment, I realized he couldn’t sustain the behavior for 3 minutes!)

So that's simplified record keeping. For two dogs you'd need to be sure to figure out a counting system so that you can keep track of the treats given to each dog.

Thank you, jane. I will try counting during today's training.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Today's dog training

I did two sessions of mat training with Red and Blue today.

When I put down the training mats Blue ran to hers and slammed her body into a down and immediately started getting paid. I had to toss kibble far from the mat to get her to leave it. I don't use a clicker when I am working both dogs together.

Red slowly walked over to his training mat and targeted with first one foot, then two front feet and then very deliberately placed all four feet on the mat. I paid a couple of times for all four feet and waited. He sat. He backed up. He bowed. He spun. He turned his head. He nodded. It took him a while of watching Blue get fed before he decided to try laying down. I paid him about 20 pieces of kibble in a row placed right between his front paws and then tossed one behind him so he had to get up to get it. When he came back to the mat he started throwing behaviors again.

Once again it took a while of watching Blue get paid for Red to decide to lay down. We worked for about 15 minutes in a morning session and about 10 minutes in the instead of dinner session.

The down Red offered was his his regular down (fold over on left hip then lower chest and chin to the ground)not the fold back down that we just recently started working one. The regular down is the one I prefer for mat work.

I did not take notes. I have to get my friend Jane (who belongs to Finn in yesterday's photos) to teach me this record keeping business.

If I can find my tripod, I'll do a little mat training video.

Photo Tip for today & Jan 21 photo

If it is too cold to go outside, set up a still life in your kitchen.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Photo Tip for today

Get as close as you can. Fill the frame with your subject.

This is 3-month-old Finn playing tug with his father, Ryder.

That was then. This is now.

This is Finn today at 11-months-old.

This is Finn at 3-months-old.

Photo for Jan 20

Sorry! More dogs. It was much too cold to take photos outside today.

Both the dobe and the boy are about 2 years old.

This is Finn.

Both dogs are in my Sunday afternoon adult class.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Almost Night Photos

Today, besides shooting while driving, I revisited the area where I took photos on January 17. The best *night* photos to me are taken just before night falls. For most of these I did get out of the car for a few seconds. It was a bright, sunny, clear today. The high was 2 degrees. The low this morning was -17 degrees. (Yes, that is a negative 17 degrees.)