Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter Egg Hunt!

This year, as a combination trick/game, I taught Pongu to hunt Easter eggs.

It's a lot of fun. I can hide the eggs in fairly difficult ways now (under a cloth, raised up on platforms, cardboard boxes, or chair seats, stuffed inside socks, tucked under noise-making obstacles like squeaky snake, etc.) and he enjoys the challenge of sniffing out the eggs and plunking them into the basket. I imagine we'll be playing a lot of this game on rainy days long after Easter's gone, and I'll be looking for even tricksier ways to hide those eggs.

As part of the project (since, as far as I know, this is a trick of my own invention -- I wouldn't be surprised if someone else did it first, but I didn't know about it), I recorded each step of how we learned this game, in case anyone else wanted to do this with their dogs and wasn't sure how to teach it. It really is a lot of fun, and not that hard to train. For Pongu it took about three weeks, but (a) he was starting from zero with regard to retrieving objects; and (b) we were/are training a lot of other new things more intensively at the same time that we were practicing this trick. So if your dog is already familiar with the retrieve concept and/or you don't have anything else on your plate, you're already ahead.

Step 1: Beginning Directed Drop

We didn't start out with Easter eggs. We started with a soft, squishy ball (pretty sure this is one that Dog Mob ripped out of a Kong Wubba and then deflated). Hard plastic Easter eggs are slippery and difficult for a dog to manage without dropping or breaking them open. In the beginning, I wanted Pongu to get comfortable with the novel concept of picking up an object and dropping it into a designated receptacle instead of bringing it to me. To avoid distracting him with other considerations, we used the easiest possible object for him to manage -- this poor, hard-used, deformed squishy ball.

The "basket" is also designed to be as easy as possible. I used the broadest, shallowest, most easily accessible container we had. I covered it with a cloth partly to muffle sound (Pongu is acutely sound sensitive and I was worried the "thunk" of a ball falling into the container would be aversive) and partly so that I could later use the cloth as a visual marker to transfer from this container to an Easter basket. I figured that if he was familiar with targeting the cloth, he might have an easier time carrying the behavior over to a slightly different context.

At this point, Pongu earns a click for carrying the ball in the direction of the basket and dropping it anywhere in its vicinity (defined by the mat), and a jackpot if he actually gets the ball inside the container.

Step 2: Introducing Easter Eggs and Multiple Drops

Once Pongu was reasonably adept with manipulating the ball, and seemed to understand the goal behavior, I switched from the squishy ball to the plastic Easter eggs he'd be using in the final version. This was actually a sub-step in itself, because initially he was not into those eggs.

But he eventually got more comfortable with them (at this point he was still breaking and dropping them a lot, but he'd carry them) and we started practicing with the eggs. I also raised the criteria on the receptacle drop: he had to collect multiple eggs before getting a treat, and I switched the container to a deeper and smaller-mouthed one that was closer to the dimensions of the Easter basket we were going to use.

At this step we weren't really adding any new behaviors, just refining and raising difficulty from the first step.

Step 3: Basket and Basic Find

The next stage was to replace the open-topped container with an Easter basket. Because the basket has a handle across the top, it's much more difficult for the dog to drop an egg inside -- he can't just stick his head directly over the basket and drop it straight in, but has to calculate an angled approach.

I also introduced a very simple "find" component to the game at this stage. Instead of having the eggs lying totally out in the open, they are (just barely) concealed. One is partly under a sock, the other is raised up about ten inches on a platform. They aren't hidden very well, but the concept's introduced: you're gonna have to start looking for these eggs soon, buddy.

Step 4: Introducing Basket Carry

At the end of this trick, I wanted Pongu to bring me the basket full of eggs, so we had to introduce that behavior as well. He got a click and treat first for doing a nose touch to the basket handle, then for mouthing it, and finally for picking it up and moving it even the tiniest fraction of an inch.

I wrapped a white cloth around the basket handle because we were using cheapie $1.99 Chinese-made baskets from the corner drugstore, and god only knows what kinds of toxic dyes they use for those things. I don't want my dog dying of mouth cancer, so I wrapped up the handle -- which had the added benefit of giving him an easier grip on the thing.

Nonetheless, the basket was extremely unwieldy, partly because of its weight distribution and partly because this particular basket has such a long handle that Pongu just couldn't get it high enough off the ground to avoid bumping the bottom. After a couple of sessions I bought a new, smaller basket. It made the egg drop more difficult, but he could carry the thing a little more easily.

Step 5: Putting It All Together

After a couple of weeks, Pongu had all the basic pieces in place: finding the eggs, carrying them to the basket, going back for more eggs, and bringing me the basket at the end of his collection. We spent a few days practicing so that he could build up fluency in each component behavior and become more familiar with the pattern. (Part of the end goal was to have a game that sounded conversational and didn't rely on formal cues -- or, better yet, worked as a single behavior chain on one cue -- so I didn't want to be constantly barking out "Find!" and "Basket!" as he worked.)

At this stage, all the eggs are moderately hidden, we're raising the total number of eggs, and I'm asking him to bring me the basket at the end. It's not 100% to final form, but by this point it was just a matter of practice.

And that's how I taught my dog to hunt Easter eggs.

Friday, March 29, 2013

All Sports Are Good Sports, Right?

"Do More With Your Dog!" is the name of Kyra Sundance's sanctioning organization for the sport of Trick Dog, but it's also a pretty good suggestion for anyone living with a companion dog. The benefits of Trick Dog -- that it "establishes a pattern of learning, teaches skills and focus, is a positive method of training, and promotes a bond between canine and human" -- exist for any good sport taught by positive methods. Plus, most of them have the additional benefit of getting both dog and human up on their feet and exercising for greater strength and flexibility.

It's no secret that I'm a huge proponent of dog sports. Most of our pet dogs don't get enough to do, physically or mentally. It saddens me when I see a dog who's otherwise beautifully cared for -- neatly groomed, well fed, walked regularly on humane equipment, and given a warm, comfortable bed -- but whose owner has neglected the mental aspects of dog ownership because he or she just doesn't have any inkling that it matters. People who would never dream of skipping their dog's heartworm pills or giving him poor-quality food very often don't engage in advanced training because they don't recognize its benefits.

Or, if they do recognize those benefits, they might still write sports off as impossible for their dogs, who are just "regular pet dogs." I can't count the number of times I've been practicing with Pongu in a public area and have had people say "oh, he must be a special dog, my dog would never do that" -- as if Pongu the Insane, a gimpy-legged shelter mutt who was and remains a lifelong behavioral rehab case, was originally "special" in any way that didn't basically mean "godawful crazy."

For the good of our dogs, collectively, I think it's really important that dog sports be emphasized as (a) beneficial; and (b) approachable. The message that "only special dogs can do this, and yours isn't good enough" is toxic.

Luckily, we live in an area where a number of excellent trainers are making efforts to spread the gospel of sports for fun. The crew over at Opportunity Barks, a wonderful school, offers classes in trick training, agility for fun, and occasionally other sports like treibball and Rally. Local trainer Pat Bentz offers regular nosework sessions. And if those students get really hooked, there's a strong network of specialized training clubs ready to take them to the next level -- the competition ring. But even if they don't go that far, both people and dogs benefit by trying the sports.

To that end, the message is always positive, friendly, and welcoming. Newcomers are repeatedly told that the training is "just for fun" -- and it is! Even in the competition ring, these sports should be about fun, always: about building bonds with our dogs and stretching their abilities and marveling at all they're capable of doing so joyously. The emphasis is on trying (and enjoying!) everything until you find the sport that works best for you and your dog.

Which is why I'm so disheartened when I see competitors in one sport badmouthing the others. I feel strongly that as long as the participants enjoy what they're doing and are being trained with kindness and positivity (both dogs and people!), there are no bad sports. None. Agility, freestyle, flyball, treibball, trick dog, Rally -- I think they're all awesome, and while I surely have my favorites, I'm happy to encourage my friends to try every one. That perfect fit's going to be different for each team, after all.

And heaping negativity on Sport A as the "dumbed down" domain of "poorly trained dogs" whose handlers couldn't hack it in Sport B does not make the latter look more attractive by comparison. To the contrary: it sends the message that Sport B is the realm of naysaying sourpusses who can't stand that A has become more popular (in significant part, I should note, because it's genuinely welcoming of mixed breed dogs, disabled dogs, newcomers to the sport, and handlers who want to have fun and talk to their dogs and be able to reward in the ring).

Particularly when we're talking about Rally and traditional obedience, it is genuinely confounding that there should be this persistent bitterness. Rally was originally conceived as a bridge from casual pet training to the competition obedience ring. It hasn't really worked out that way, though, in large part because obedience people seem to be taking every opportunity to push Rally people away. I often hear people tell me that they were drawn to Rally because of its friendly, welcoming, and supportive environment. Guess how many times I've heard that said about AKC obedience? Exactly: zero. (CDSP, a new obedience venue, does have a reputation for being more welcoming, but as I have not yet tried that firsthand I can't vouch for it myself.)

I like competition obedience. I think it's really neat; I admire the precision and the discipline that those dogs display. I am sorely tempted to give it a shot with Pongu when we're ready (which ain't just yet).

But man, it's hard to embrace a sport where people tell you so many times that you and your dog are not welcome, not wanted, not good enough. And if I feel that way, how must someone who's totally new to ring sports feel? Someone who hasn't yet experienced the happiness of a hard-earned high score or seen the joy in a working dog's eyes? It's a big, big turn-off, especially for someone who may still be wondering if their dog is "special" enough to do any sports at all.

And that just hurts everybody.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TDCH Pongu the Insane, RL2 (AOE)

Yesterday Pongu received his Trick Dog title certificate and medal, signifying his first championship in any dog sport.

As I mentioned in my earlier post on the subject, Trick Dog is one of the easier sports to gain titles in. Unlike most dog sports, you don't have to compete in live events, worry about point scores, or gain "legs" under different judges. You can do all the work at home, the criteria are pretty relaxed (it's all pass/fail with effectively unlimited retries), the costs are relatively modest, and just about anybody can serve as a witness. It's a great way to get your feet wet if you like the idea of putting titles on your dog and are interested in dabbling in dog sports, but don't have the time, money, or gung-ho craziness to jump into the more formal venues.

In Pongu's case, we were coming at it from a slightly different angle -- Pongu's already had a fair amount of training in Rally and canine freestyle, along with other odds and ends as various things caught my interest along the way -- so it only took nine days to earn his championship once we decided to do Trick Dog at all. He already had most of the necessary behaviors from doing other sports.

There were still some new challenges for us, though. To qualify for TDCH (Trick Dog Champion), your dog has to demonstrate proficiency in 9 foundational areas of trick work: (1) hind-end coordination, (2) holding/carrying objects, (3) paw touch to directed target, (4) nose touch to directed target, (5) scentwork, (6) distance work, (7) silent signals (working on movement/hand gestures alone, without verbal cues); (8) behavior chains (one cue gets the dog to do multiple separate behaviors); and (9) "expert tricks" (sort of a catch-all provision for your dog to demonstrate tricks that are more difficult to train).

Pongu had no formal retrieve training, as we hadn't gotten to that level in Rally yet and he's not a natural retriever. He also had no scentwork training, since that comes pretty late in the game for competition obedience and we haven't even started that yet. So some of the exercise categories in Trick Dog -- the object hold/carry and scentwork -- were totally foreign, and those required us both to learn new things.

Even so, in nine days, we were good enough to pass muster (again, keeping in mind that the criteria is considerably more relaxed than it might be for some other sports!).

And that concludes Pongu's pursuit of Trick Dog titles, although certainly not his tricks training!

Crookytail, of course, has a lot longer to go. Pongu might have his TDCH, but the Crookydog only has a novice title. He's (barely) halfway to Intermediate now, but it will probably take him years to get all the way to the end, if he ever does.

And he might not, since I'll be dragging Crookytail back into the Rally ring next month, and training Crooky in two disciplines at once is too much for my patience. I don't expect him to do particularly well, but I do want him to do something. His unreliability with strange dogs shows no signs of dissipating, but he did fine in the ringside waiting area at Pongu's last trial, so I guess it's back to the Rally circuit for the poor reluctant Crookydog.

At least until I figure out what else to do with him.

Lolly, Once Foozie, Goes Home

Last week we said farewell to Foozie, who was renamed Lolly (short for "Lollipup" -- adorable, isn't it?) by the kids in her new adoptive family.

Before she left, Lolly had just started to really relax and let her true personality come out. I took her to a couple of different dog parks, where she socialized and played beautifully with everyone from a juvenile Great Dane to a couple of elderly, wheezing (but still energetic!) Pugs.

She also learned to appreciate the joys of dog beds...

...and learned "Sit," kinda-sorta, to a shaky level.

Ordinarily I try to separate the foster dogs for training sessions, especially early on, when Dog Mob is likely to be a greater distraction than they can ignore. For most dogs, it's much more difficult to learn something totally new when you also have to worry about other dogs competing for your treats. Dog Mob is pretty good at staying out of the way (they're accustomed to the routine of one dog being put in a Stay while I practice with the other a few feet away), but it's still more than the average foster dog can handle.

Lolly was a little different, though. She got more worried when there wasn't another dog close by, and she was a lot more comfortable trying out a Sit when the other two did it in front of her first.

So, since that's what worked better for her, that's what we did. I put Dog Mob in Sits, rewarded them for doing it, and then lured Lolly into a Sit and gave her treats as well. Dog training is all about adapting to whatever works best for that particular dog.

Within a couple of sessions, Lolly didn't need the other dogs right beside her anymore, and she could respond to a verbal cue more often than not (although, as demonstrated by this clip, her response rate was far from 100%).

I wouldn't go so far as to say she knew Sit by the time I gave her away. It would be more accurate to say that she knew the best guess was to Sit when I looked at her and made talky noises in an expectant tone of voice. The cue itself wasn't tremendously meaningful to her (if I had said "Banana" or "Radio" in a similar tone of voice, I expect she would have responded at least half the time with a Sit) and we hadn't even begun proofing... so the foundations were in place, but the behavior was far from finished at the end of our first week. Still, it was good enough to get her posed for pictures.

And by then we were out of time. Lolly had garnered quite a few applications (at the time I stopped accepting new applications, there were seven homes that had expressed serious interest in her -- an all-time high for my fosters, especially since I only had Lolly listed on Petfinder for about a day and a half before I stopped taking applications to avoid disappointing even more people) and, after meeting two prospective adopters, she had a commitment and a loving family who was waiting to take her home.

On Friday night we packed her bags...

...and on Saturday morning she went home.

Adios Lolly, who once was Foozie. Have a wonderful life. You're a lucky girl who landed in a loving home, and you won't have to scrounge in garbage cans anymore.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

More Foozie!

Well, Foozie's got a meeting with a prospective adopter in two days, and another prospective adopter interested if that doesn't work out, so it's looking like this little dog will not be with us for much longer.

That's okay. I think I need her to go away soon anyhow so I don't get too attached. I already make her wear the orange Vest of Shame not so much because she needs the extra exposure out on the street (she doesn't; she's been on Petfinder a whole 12 hours and has gotten multiple inquiries) as for a visual reminder to myself that this is Not My Dog.

I don't have any serious desire to keep Foozie, of course. If I ever had another dog it would be a Schutzhund prospect, which is a roundabout way of saying "I won't have another dog for hopefully a really long time," because Pongu would never tolerate having a rival for his Important Job as a competition dog, and I don't have time to get involved in Schutzhund right now anyway.

But the dogs I'm drawn to are the big working/guardian breeds, and if they're not outright hostile to all other living things (Pongu), they are at least possessed of a certain solemn reserve (Crookytail, most of the time, except when he's doing the foster-socializing gig). Foozie is small and semi-fluffy and a lovable cuddly lapdog, i.e., not my kind of dog.

She sure is cute though.

We still haven't done any formal training. Foozie turned out to be sound-sensitive enough that the unmuffled clicker was frightening to her, so next time I'll try priming a verbal marker instead. She remains reluctant to take treats and is only eager to take them when Dog Mob is around to steal things from lollygaggers, which is not super helpful when I'm trying to teach a totally new behavior to a dog who hasn't yet learned how to learn.

I can tell that training will go very quickly once Foozie grasps the concept -- when she's in the mood to take a treat, she'll follow lures with lightning speed -- but we still haven't broken through that initial barrier in communication.

So even though I was able to get a moderately impressive picture of what looks like a nice lined-up group Stay, in actuality it's a bit of an illusion. Dog Mob is holding a nice lined-up Sit-Stay, that's true. Foozie got lured into a very temporary position between them, further lured into a Sit, and then subjected to a rapid-fire barrage of praise and liver treats to keep her smiling while I snapped some pictures.

Here's where we started:

...and here's how it ended:

...but in reality that dog in the middle doesn't know how to Sit or Stay on cue, it just looks like that because she's sandwiched between between two other posed dogs and then I bribed her a bunch.

In another week or two she might actually be able to do that on cue without me having to rely on chicanery and liver treats to get her into position, but I don't think I'm likely to have her in a week or two.

Monday, March 18, 2013


On Saturday morning we collected foster dog #18: a sweet little Corgi mix named Foozie.

Foozie is about 18 months old and weighs approximately 30 pounds, which seems to be a healthy weight for her. In the three days she's lived with us, she has shown herself to be a quiet, affectionate, and playful little pup with a silly Corgi trot and a fondness for tummy rubs and neck scratches. She gets along fine with Dog Mob (which is to say that she plays wonderfully with Crookytail and mostly manages to avoid Pongu's wrath), stopped trying to herd the guinea pigs after the first day, and hasn't met a person she doesn't seem to love.

Best of all, she hasn't peed in my house yet!

While I'd hesitate to promise that Foozie is 100% completely "housebroken" (a word I've come to be slightly wary of during my time in rescue, as it means different things to different people and anyway almost every dog needs a refresher course upon moving to a new home), she does potty within 10-15 minutes of being taken outside for a walk and has made no mistakes indoors, so I will say that if she is not officially "potty trained," she's not far from it either.

Initially she pulled very hard on leash -- harder than any dog I've ever walked, at least proportional to her size (if not hardest in absolute terms, because she is just a little thing) -- but an EasyWalk harness and a couple of days' practice have gotten that down to a mostly acceptable level. She's not going to win any awards for precision heeling anytime soon, but you can walk her down the sidewalk without getting your arm yanked out of socket, she hasn't shown any reactivity to dogs or other common stimuli, and she doesn't try too hard to eat garbage or puddles of St. Paddy's Day puke. For most people, that's good enough.

She's mostly quiet in the crate. Sometimes she cries for a few minutes in a high-pitched tweetybird whine when she wants attention or to come out, but it never lasts more than five minutes, and she soon settles down for the night and when I leave for work. I've seen no signs of serious separation anxiety; the worst she does is that few minutes of not-very-loud whining.

Foozie doesn't seem to be familiar with toys and has shown no interest in balls, squeaky toys, or tugs thus far. She isn't big on treats, either; the first couple of days she wouldn't take any, and only in the last 24 hours has she decided that she wants in on the action when Dog Mob is getting treats in front of her. Because she's still finding her feet and is not relaxed enough to be interested in the usual motivators, we haven't started formal training yet, but it is my hope to begin that as soon as she's comfortable enough to participate.

As far as I can determine, she doesn't know any formal commands. No Sit, Down, Stay, etc. Recall is hard to assess because she naturally gravitates toward people anyway, so my guess is that she does not have a trained recall but it'd be pretty easy to teach one.

Most seriously, Foozie tested light positive for heartworm at the vet where she was boarded before coming to Philly. Because her test results were so mild, the vet recommended using a "low kill" treatment regimen instead of subjecting Foozie to the dangerous and expensive "high kill" treatment. This means that she has to take four pills a day (two in the morning with breakfast, two at night with dinner); after the first week, this will taper down to two a day. Additionally, she has to take Heartgard pills every month for a year -- but that's something I'd recommend for any newly adopted dog anyway, since it's always prudent to treat Southern shelter dogs for exposure to heartworm even if they don't test positive for harboring worms.

So right now, Foozie's on prednisone and doxycycline. The prednisone can be hidden in her food and she eats it without noticing, but the doxy is a little harder to administer. She's very good at sniffing those pills out of her food and spitting them to the side. I've had to resort to dropping the pills directly to the back of her tongue and massaging her throat until she swallows them involuntarily. It's a last-resort method, but Foozie won't let herself be fooled by hidden pills in food (and I have tried just about every variation of "hidden pills in food" there is, other than grinding the pills up and dispersing the powder, which I think would backfire given how unpleasant the dogs all seem to think doxycycline tastes), so here we are.

She's been a very easy houseguest, and I'll be sad to see her go. I don't think it'll take long at all to get Foozie adopted, though. I can't walk this dog down the street without two or three people stopping me to say how adorable she is and asking if they can pet her.

She'll find a home soon, and I'll do my best to ensure it's a good one.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Trick Dogs!

Another good Rally trial for Pongu this past weekend! He NQ'ed his first Level 2 run on a jump run-out -- he ran past the jump uprights by about 6 inches, then realized his mistake, turned back, and took the jump cleanly... but that's a disqualification, even if he literally only passed the uprights by a nose.

He did well on his remaining runs, though, taking home scores of 200 (1B), 200 (2B), and a perfect 210!! in his second 1B run.

That is Pongu's first ever perfect score in Rally Obedience, and also his first placement in the ribbons at Championship level. I am so proud of him for earning it, especially since that was the last run of the day and he was completely exhausted to the point of nodding off under a raffle table in the waiting area. But, even though he was bone-tired, he was still willing to jump up and work hard when called upon.

We have another trial in about two weeks, which will be the last one before Pongu's third birthday. Alas, with the NQ on his first L2 run, my dreams of earning Pongu's ARCH before he turns 3 are dashed. It's just not going to happen. He might get his RL1X -- which would still make him a "champion" before the magic day -- but the ARCH is the one I really wanted. Oh well. He'll get it soon enough.

In the meantime, I'm scouring about for something else to teach Dog Mob this spring and summer. Because of some tight upcoming book deadlines, I don't expect to have time to take any formal classes for a while, and anyway Crookytail needs work and isn't currently suited for a class environment, much less a trial ring.

So it looks like Trick Dog may be our ticket.

Trick Dog, developed by Kyra Sundance (author of 101 Dog Tricks and other books), is a nifty program that allows dogs to earn Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert Trick Dog titles at home, working at their own speed, in front of any witness.

Because the dog isn't required to perform in a competition ring or in front of an unfamiliar judge, and you're allowed as many tries as you need, it's a no-stress way to have fun and accomplish titles with a fearful, reactive, or otherwise challenging dog who might not be able to function in the noisy, unfamiliar, dog-filled arena required for other sports. You can choose which tricks you want to perform off a long list of options, allowing a great deal of flexibility in working with your dog's preferences and limitations (for example, Pongu would never in a million years want to skateboard -- it's noisy! it's unstable! it's just too scary! -- but he can fetch a tissue and toss it in a wastebasket just fine).

And that lack of pressure makes Trick Dog just right for Crookytail, I think. No trials, no competition pressure, no strict criteria about straight Fronts or sharp Sits. Just the fun part of learning for him, and maybe a couple of certificates to add to his section of the trophy wall.

We'll give it a shot and see how it goes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Back From Vacation - New Challenges Ahead

Spent the past week up in snowy Lake Placid, New York, where we did some skiing down Whiteface Mountain (absolutely gorgeous, and all the challenge we could handle, even though everyone in our group pretty much stuck to the green "beginner" slopes!) and let Dog Mob romp around the belly-deep snow.

Dog Mob had a grand old time, but the same can't be said for all the dogs who encountered them.

At some point in the past month, Crookytail developed a bullying streak. He's always been a wrestler, but in the year-and-change I've had him, he's always self-handicapped to the level of the dog he was playing with.

The first time he ignored a playmate's signals to lay off, I had hoped it was a one-time aberration -- he's always been so good at reading and respecting other dogs' social signals, and he had played beautifully with that particular dog just a week or two earlier -- but it's now clear that we need to work on this. A lot. Immediately. Because at 75 pounds (probably closer to 80 now), Crookytail is considerably bigger than most of the other dogs at our dog park, and his rough play has the potential to cause real hurt.

On top of that, his recall is lousy. No, "lousy" isn't strong enough. It's nonexistent.

Pongu recalls on a dime with a huge smile on his face. He is just thrilled to run back to me as fast as his legs will carry him through the snow. He's always had a brilliant recall that needed very little training; it's the one and only benefit of his fear issues.

Crooky, on the other hand... not so much. On hikes he stays close to the group, but when we stop moving, he's gone. He'll turn up later, on his own schedule, whenever he gets tired of exploring. But "recall" is not a word in his vocabulary right now.

Between those two issues, Crookytail spent the last couple of days on a makeshift longline (really just his leash clipped to Pongu's, since Pongu didn't need one). I couldn't trust him to come back when called and I surely couldn't trust him to play safely with strange dogs.

He had fun anyway, but it wasn't as much fun as we all could have had.

I'd like to take him back out there next year, but we need to do a lot of work before then. Above all, Crooky needs a better recall and more impulse control when it comes to playing with other dogs. So we'll be working on those two things intensely: the recall, and a "take a break" cue to interrupt overly enthusiastic playing.

I had hoped to get into a new sport with Crookytail this year, since he didn't like Rally and there's a nosework class starting up soon, but before we do that, life challenges take precedence.

I can't take his good behavior for granted anymore. And maybe that's a good thing; I'd really slacked on his training these past few months, and now I cannot do that. We have to work, the Crookydog and I, so that he can go back to being a good ambassador for rescue dogs and not the terror of the playground.