July 11, 2011

CGC Class -- Week One

A few days ago, I signed Kane up for a CGC class run through the doggy daycare he used to go to. I was going to wait until he was 2-3 years old and had finished maturing, but after Ellie and with my renewed purpose towards Kane, I decided now was as good a time as ever. Many of my friends are aware that I was just a little (or maybe a lot) nervous about how well he would do. He's never been in a formal class setting; everything he knows, I've taught him myself, and I wasn't sure how well he'd do with other dogs in such prolonged contact with him. He's reactive towards other dogs, in a friendly manner, and I was so sure his brain would liquefy right out of his head and I'd be one of THOSE owners with one of THOSE dogs.

But it went remarkably well overall, and I'm super-proud of my puppers. I'm exhausted so I'll copy-and-paste the rest of this.

There were two other dogs in the class: a lab/golden retriever mix and a samoyed. The lab mix was hyperactive, easily excited, and mouthy as all get out; he'd actually bruised his owner from his mouthing. The samoyed was better than the lab mix, but still easily excited and prone to the zoomies and she loved to BARKBARKBARK, especially when her owner wasn't doing what she wanted, lol.

Compared to those two, Kane was a saint, LOL. I'm a lot more confident in Kane's ability to pass the test now; I'm amazed at how well Kane did overall, considering this was his first class setting.

There was one incident at the beginning that has given me a lot to think about, though. I had agreed with the Samoyed Owner to allow our dogs to greet, also under the instructor's direction and supervision. The Samoyed was friendly, exuberantly so, and after doing a polite mutual sniff of genitalia and butts, she shoved her face right up into Kane's to sniff. Kane, however, did not appreciate that and stiffened and growled a warning.

I immediately redirected Kane, the Samoyed Owner did the same with her dog, and everything was cool. The instructor liked that we were both quick on the draw so to speak, but the incident had riled Kane up a bit and he was losing whatever focus he'd initially had (which wasn't much since this happened within the first 5 minutes of Kane's first class EVER). The instructor saw this and asked to take Kane.

He was having none of it. He wasn't shrieking or lunging back towards me, but he kept trying to pull towards me (I was only ~4-5 feet away during this entire episode). The instructor did a couple of leash corrections (not even hard enough to be termed a "pop") and he flattened his ears and plopped his butt down into a sit and licked his lips at her. Noticing this, she immediately stopped the leash corrections, reassured Kane with a couple soothing strokes to his ears, and then gave him a few "easy" commands to follow. He warmed back up to her a little, enough to happily respond to her clucks and follow her around for a bit, but it was obvious he still wanted to be with me instead. He was panting harder than he should have been, focused entirely on me except for when she clucked or waved food at him, and he always sat with his back to her.

After she got him settled to where he wasn't panting as hard or pulling towards me (although he still had his back to her), she asked me if I'd realized that even though he was a physically strong dog, he was mentally very soft. I said yes, I had, and explained to her why I thought he was that way, going into vague detail about my prior "training methods". And boy was that humiliating to say in front of everyone, even if the trainer reassured me that everyone makes mistakes and I'd obviously learned from them. She said that I was probably right about those methods causing his softness to some degree, but also thought that he was probably soft to begin with and those methods had simply exacerbated it even more. She trains mostly positive, using food as the primary motivator, but she does use leash corrections sometimes. That being said, however, she advised me to use leash corrections as a last resort, since Kane was so easily motivated by food and his ball, and the corrections might hurt his ability to focus. She also reassured me about Kane growling at the samoyed; that likely happened because this was Kane's first time in a class setting and he was a little worked up about everything, though she made a point to keep him from getting close to the other dogs after that.

I'm still worried about the growling. Kane is 19 months in two weeks; he's approaching adulthood as a bull-doggy and growing out of his puppy friendliness with everyone and everything. I'm 100% sure he'll be friendly to people for the rest of his life, but this is the second time he's growled at a rude dog in as many months (the first time was ~3 months ago when a lab also got in his face). Maturity is a prime time for his dog tolerance to change and I think that's what's happening. Any opinions?

After that it was smooth sailing!

I really can't get over at how focused he was. Once he realized he was there to train (despite the new setting and other dogs), he was 100% focused except for when the other dogs did something crazy. Like the Samoyed getting the zoomies, jerking her leash out of her owner's hand, and zooming around the room to do some impromptu agility obstacles while BARKBARKBARKing at how awesome everything and everyone was. Or like when the lab mix also short-circuited and decided that his owner wanted to be mauled and humped and tangled up in the leash.

Did I mention Kane was practically a saint compared to them? LOL.

Things I need to work on with Kane:

1) Heeling. I still haven't taught Kane heeling. The trainer was AMAZED at how well Kane did when I told her he didn't know how to heel, AFTER she told us to loose-leash/heel walk around the ring. And he did do a good job, although there were the occasional moments when he switched sides on me or decided he'd had enough of what I was asking him to do and he sat in front of me. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to teach him that when he's on just the flat collar, he has to heel; when he's in the harness too, he can do whatever he wants. Right now, he's the opposite; I have to work to get him to walk nicely on his flat but he automatically does great in a harness. Too bad you can't use a harness on the test. :( We're miles ahead of the lab mix who still pulls on the Gentle Leader his owner has him in.

2) Not auto-greeting in the friendly stranger and friendly stranger w/ a dog tests. He seems to think that if I talk to the person, it's okay for him to greet them (and their dog). Looking back, I reinforced that without being aware of it, so that'll be something new for the both of us.

But that's IT. Everything else went so smoothly!

July 10, 2011

Mountain Goat Day.

These videos were taken as part of a small, on-going competition amongst friends. This round was showing a cued sit; the harder the sit (whether due to placement or back-end awareness), the more arbitrary points you get, up to the full 6 points.

I initially started by having Kane sit on my car.

Except Kane found it way too easy to sit on my car, so I had to think of something else.

And came up with the idea of having him sit on the 4-foot-tall, foot-wide tree stump in my backyard. Suitably armed with the necessary temptations/rewards (a chunk of turkey sandwich meat, his favorite Bil-Jac liver treats which I didn't end up using, and two chocolate chip cookies [one of which I accidentally dropped in the beginning of the video and made him Leave It]), I set out to see if Kane could actually accomplish what I was asking him to do.

This is definitely filed under: "Hmmmm ... I wonder if my dog will ..." :-)

Yes, I did initially help him get his balance, but I could tell he was going to sail right over the other side because of how top-heavy he is and once he got his feet up under him, he sat on his own. :-)

When you think about the fact that this is a 50lb, clumsy puppy-brain pit bull trying to sit in a foot of space, I think he did an amazing job!

July 6, 2011

The Official Rules of Dog Matching.

These are the Cajun rules of dog matching (which, if you want to get into the technical side of these terms, is not the same as "dog fighting".) In countries where this sport is still legal (or not as heavily enforced if it is illegal), these are the rules they follow to make the match legitimate (with some variation). I will highlight the rules I think are important, as well as explain some terms and rules in brackets, but otherwise let the rules speak for themselves.

Rule 1: The principals shall select a referee who is familiar with the rules and who is satisfactory to both sides. The referee will then appoint his timekeeper. Each handler will select a man to act as his chief second or cornerman, whose duties are to wash the opponent's dog, and to remain near this dog's corner as an observer.

Rule 2: Each handler is to furnish two clean towels and a suitable blanket, to be used by his opponent. Either handler may demand that the opposing handler and his cornerman bare their arms to the elbows; also the handler may taste his opponent's dog's water before or after the contest (up until the referee has rendered his decision on the contest). [This is to prevent any cheating, such as rubbing the dog down with something foul-tasting or poisonous, or adding pain-killer or steroids to the water.]

Rule 3: No water, sponges, towels or any other accessories are allowed in the pit at any time, except the referee who shall have in his possession an adequate breaking stick and a pencil; also a copy of these rules. The pit shall not be less than 16 feet each way, whenever possible, with a canvas-covered floor, upon which has been painted or chalked on, 12.5 feet apart, and with a center-line half way between the scratch-lines. [Scratch-line refers to "a line drawn across the corner of the pit from which the dog must not cross until the referee says to let go".]

Rule 4: The referee shall toss a coin to be called by the handlers. The winner of the toss shall decide which dog shall be washed first and also have the choice of corners.

Rule 5: The dogs shall be washed at pit-side in warm in water and some approved washing powders and then rinsed. The first dog to be washed shall be brought in and held in the tub by his handler and washed by the opposing cornerman. When pronounced clean by the referee, the dog shall be rinsed clean in a separate tub of warm water and toweled dry as possible, then wrapped in the blanket provided and carried to his appointed corner by his handler and accompanied by the man who washed him. These are the only two persons allowed near this dog until the dogs are let go. The other dog shall now be brought in and held in the tub by his handler and washed (in the same water) by the opposing cornerman. When this dog is pronounced clean by the referee and rinsed clean and toweled dry, he shall then be carried to his corner by his handler and accompanied by the man who washed him.

Rule 6: The referee shall now ask "Are both corners ready?" If so, "Cornermen, out of the pit"..."Face your dogs"... "Let Go" The timekeeper shall note the time and write it down for future reference.

Rule 7: Any dog who jumps the pit is automatically the loser of the contest and no scratches are necessary, and no dog is required or allowed to scratch to a dead dog. The live dog is the winner. [Scratch refers to "a dogs willingness to cross the pit and take hold of his opponent according to the rules of the match agreed upon".] 

Rule 8: Should either dog become fanged [Fanged refers to when a fang has punctured the dog's lip and become caught], the referee shall instruct the handlers to take hold of their dogs and try to hold them still so the handler can try to unfang his dog. If this isn't possible, the referee shall separate the dogs with the proper breaking stick and then unfang the dog using a pencil. The referee will then order the handlers to set their dogs down near the center of the Pit and approximately two feet apart. The referee will then order "Let Go". This in no way constitutes a turn or a handle and has no bearing of the future scratches. [Turn refers to "when a pit dog turns his head and shoulders away from his opponent. Official turns are described different in various sets of rules"; a handle refers to "manage a pit dog in a pit contest; the tail, looks similar to a pump handle and has a hand grip after the root, in line with the croup. Once held to start and stop a contest".]

Rule 9: This is to be a fair scratch-in-turn contest until the dogs quit fighting, then Rule 13 shall take over. The first dog to turn must scratch first; thereafter they are to scratch alternately (regardless of which dog turns) until one dog fails to scratch and thereby loses the contest.

Rule 10: To be a fair turn, the dog accused of turning must turn his head and shoulders and his front feet away from the opponent and regardless of whether or not the dogs are otherwise touching.

Rule 11: The referee shall call all turns, although either handler may ask for a turn on either dog. If the referee rules there has been a turn, he will instruct the handlers to "pick up free of holds" [hold refers to when a dog has grabbed their opponent] as soon as possible, and should either dog accidentally get a hold again, the handlers shall set the dogs down immediately and make a continued effort to pick up the dogs, free of holds. When picked up, the dogs must be taken to their respective corners and faced away from their opponent. The timekeeper shall note the time and take up the count (not out loud) and also the referee shall notify the handler whose dog must scratch.

Rule 12: At 25 seconds, the timekeeper shall call out "Get Ready". At these instructions each handler must toe his scratch-line and face his dog toward his opponent with his dog's head and shoulders showing fair from between his handler's legs, and the dog's four feet on the canvas floor. At the 30 seconds, the timekeeper calls out "Let Go" and the handler whose dog must scratch must instantly take his hands away from all contact with his dog and also release all leg pressure from against the dog's body. And the dog must instantly start across and the handler must remain behind his scratch-line until his dog has completed his scratch or the referee has ruled upon it.

There is no time limit on the time required to complete this scratch. But, when released at the words "Let Go" the dog must start across at his opponent. He may waver from direct line, fall down, crawl...drag or push himself across, so long as he makes a continued effort and DOES NOT HESITATE OR STOP until he has reached out and touched his opponent. The opposing handler may release his dog any time he sees fit after the order to "Let Go" however, he must do so as soon as the dogs have touched each other.

Rule 12A: This is an alternate rule for those handlers who wish to have their dogs counted out in the corner. It is the same in all respects as Rule 12, except that after 30 seconds, when the timekeeper calls out "Let Go" the referee shall count our loud, at as near one-second intervals as possible, ONE...TWO...TIME (three seconds), and the dog must be out of his corner and on his way before the referee calls "time" or lose.

Rule 13: If the dogs have apparently quit fighting, whether they are helpless, tired out or curred out [cur refers to a dog which has given up], and regardless of whether both dogs are down or one dog is down and the other dog is standing over him, but neither dog has a hold, the referee shall ask if they are willing to scratch-it-out to a win or not. If so, they shall proceed to do so, but if either handler is unwilling, then the referee shall instruct the timekeeper to note the time and call time in two minutes.

If either dog breaks time, then nothing has changed, but if, at the end of the two minutes, the dogs are in the same relative positions and neither dog has a hold, the referee shall order the handlers to handle (PICK UP FREE OF HOLDS) their dogs. When picked up, the dogs shall be taken to their corners and the corner procedure is the same as in a normally called turn and handle. If there have been no previous turns or handles to establish the order of scratching, the dog who has been the longest without a hold (usually the down dog) to be scratched first, then, as soon as free of holds, the dogs shall be picked up and the other dog scratched.

Should one dog fail or refuse his scratch, then the dog who failed shall lose the contest. If both dogs fail to scratch, the referee shall call it a no contest, but should both dogs make their initial scratches, the handlers by mutual agreement may ask the referee for a draw decision. The referee will then rule it a draw.

Otherwise the contest shall continue, but in this manner: any time the dogs are not in holds and not fighting, the referee shall order the dogs to be handled and scratched alternately until one dog fails to scratch and thereby loses. No attention is paid to turns (after Rule 13 is invoked) except as a possible chance to handle.


Rule 14: Fouls that will be just cause for losing a contest:

A. To leave the pit, with or without the dog before the referee has ruled. 
B. To receive anything from outside the pit, or allow anyone outside the pit to touch or assist the dog. 
C. To push, drum, throw or spank, or in any way assist a dog across his scratch-line, except by encouraging him by voice. 
D. To step across a scratch-line before the dog has completed his scratch or the referee has ruled on it. 
E. To stomp on the pit floor or kick the pit sides, yell at of give orders to the opponent's dog, or (in the referee's opinion) do anything to distract or interfere with either dog while scratching or fighting to affect the outcome of the contest. 
F. To interfere with the opposing handler or touch either dog until the referee gives an order to handle the dogs. 
G. To use a "Rub", "Poison", or "Hypo" on either dog.

Rule 15: If there should be any outside interference before the contest has been concluded, the referee has full authority to call it a "NO CONTEST" and shall name the time and place the contest is to be resumed and fought out to a referee's decision. (The same referee shall preside.) Also, the referee shall insist that the dogs be washed and weighed (in the referee's presence), and the dogs shall weigh at the weights specified in the original articles of agreement, and to do this as many times as necessary to conclude the contest.


Instead of Rule 12A in which a dog has three seconds to leave his corner, he is usually given ten seconds to cross to the other dog.

A 30-second out-of-hold count is generally used, and the down dog must always scratch first (unless both dogs are down with neither in a position of advantage).

The pit may be covered with carpeting rather than canvas (Rule 3), the scratch lines may consist of some of the modern tapes, and the central line between the scratch line is often omitted.

I do not promote, support, or condone any violations of the Animal Welfare Act of 1976, and/or any other local/state/federal laws. I am not affiliated with dog fighting in any way, shape, or form; I am simply a pet owner and enthusiast of the American Pit Bull Terrier and the great history and legacy handed down through the generations. I believe it is important to know where we come from to see where we are going. The articles posted are strictly for historical and educational purposes only; I do not necessarily reflect the views expressed within these articles.

July 2, 2011

Is This Thing On?

I'm sorry for the lack of updates in the past month, but I've had a hell of a time lately.

Kane almost died of heat stroke on the 21st of June. It was muggy, but not terribly hot, so I took him out at ~10am to avoid the noonday heat. I'm usually good about cutting him off as he's never known when to stop since he was a puppy, but that day I somehow missed the signs. The only suspicion I had, at first, that something wasn't right was when he didn't want to jump in the back of the car to go home. He gave me a look as if to say, "Um, no thanks. Too much effort," and laid down in front of it instead.

After persuading him to jump in, I made the fateful decision to turn right out of the drive instead of left. Left was the quicker way home, but Right took me past his vet's on the way home. I figured I'd keep an eye on him and if I noticed anything else odd, I'd stop at Dr M's and see what they thought. About halfway to the clinic, I checked on him in the backseat to see his big old mouth open the widest I'd ever seen it--I could almost see down into his throat, and he was drooling a little.

I might've broken the speed limit getting to Dr M's at that point. When I got there, they started by taking his temperature. After it reached 107.5 F and kept rising (normal dog temp is 101-102 F), Dr M ordered Kane in the back for a cooling bath. It was several minutes before she came back out and explained exactly what they were doing: continually rinsing him off with cool water and wrapping cool, wet towels around his head and neck to cool down the blood going to his head.

It wasn't until about 10 minutes after I'd arrived with Kane, when his temperature had lowered to 104 F that they brought him out, still wet, to see me. He was super-happy to see me and snuggled right up to me with a wagging tail. Later, I found out that Dr M had brought him out to check his reaction towards me because she was worried about brain damage and whether he was still all there. Since he didn't want to drink water, they were forced to give him an IV for a couple of hours and monitor his progress; at a severe heat stroke level, bodily systems and organs start shutting down, and she was worried about his kidney's failing. When I went back to pick him up, I was sent home with a 14-day supply of a probiotic supplement to support his digestive system and keep the bacteria in his gut happy (since that is the first system to go) and instructions for a bland diet the next day of hamburger and rice.

Three days later, on the 24th of July, Ellie died. This is still a loss I'm trying to muddle through. It was sudden and shocking, and has forever changed my life and my relationship with Kane.

In the face of this loss, I've taken to re-doubling my dedication towards Kane. I'd previously gotten his hips x-rayed because of worries of hip dysplasia (being backyard-bred, neither of his parents had hips tested, and his mother had been put down for them earlier in the year). Now that I know his hips and elbows are good, I'll be getting him into dog sports, with the hopes of titling him in Rally, maybe Obedience or Agility depending on how things go. I also want to try Dock Diving in a more "professional" environment since he already does an amateur version of it at the lake.

We've also been doing more doggy-fun activities, such as Bark at the Park (dogs are invited to a baseball game; Kane got to share a foot-long hotdog with me and schmooze with everyone there, both human and doggy) and Biggby @ the Point (free dog treats, professional photography, and coffee for us humans).

We were also going to walk in the local 4th of July parade, with his patriotic-themed "costume", until he came up lame after a playdate yesterday. I did get a good mini photo shoot out of it though. Here are a couple of the best shots (he refused to look at me for most of the shots, but he was a good sport!).

Kane is not impressed.

Show-dog style!
I just loved his grumpy expression in this one.