31 July 2010

Dogs too!

On my way back home, impatiently missing my furry, purry gang, now that the chicken excitements have come to an end (temporary, I promise). Besides the feathered company in these last two weeks I have also enjoyed other good company:

Little Peanut, Robyn's dog - fun-loving fellow chicken (and dog) trainer from Idaho. Never met a dog that was so much like his name. And he made me revise my opinion of small dogs too. And super-smart, pretty girl Wilee, companion to Ursula, super-smart dog trainer and people coach from Olympia.

We enjoyed beach and trail walks, wild strawberries, convivial dinners and inspiring conversations. They even let me play cool after dinner clicker games: 'shaping' Wilee to jump from chair to chair, and Peanut to get into a basket. It took less than 20 minutes for both of them to 'get it' - just with a clicker and treats. Thrilling.

29 July 2010

More on chickens

You can laugh if you want, but... I am leaning so much from these chickens! Bob Bailey said: "Training is a mechanical skill." Consequently, any kind of animal training is rather more about training the owners/handlers and less about training the animal! I have now spent a week observing myself training chickens and other people taking their dog to training class, and Mr Bailey is just so right! If your cues are clear, your observation skills tuned in and your timing correct your animal will do what you ask for. If your messages are muddled up, if you are not sure what you are saying/asking for, if you forget to mark the correct answer and forget to reward, then surely all you get is a confused animal that simply doesn't know what you want. Surprised?

28 July 2010

Pretty House

We found the prettiest house in Sequim to stay for the second week. Wood and beautiful details everywhere, great light, and a big, airy kitchen. Amazing Jude (aka Grandma Juju) shares the house with me - and I'm cooking for everyone! Life is good.

24 July 2010

Clicker chickens

This time I'm travelling inspired by the cats: I'm in Sequim, WA and I'm clicker training chickens. Yes, really!
Chickens are smart, and fast, and you better get your clicker timing right. It's 12 of us here at Legacy training centre, learning about chicken, dogs, operant conditioning and running a training business under the expert guidance of Terry Ryan. Here is my chicken no.19:
And this is a chicken-feed-cup-clicker, specially invented by Terry for the chicken camps:

21 July 2010

Betty & Lucky

...live with Peggy & Brian (and Punch and Sam) in a beautiful old house in the Seattle hills. I was their guest for a day on my way to the Chicken Camp, and Lucky kindly kept me company all night, so I wouldn't miss my furbabies so much. He knew I can't resist a purring cat sleeping on my neck.

17 July 2010

Clicker games

Clicker games are a less obvious, but just as definite favourite with my gang. You think you can't train cats? Why not? True, you can't force cats to do things, like so many do with dogs or horses, but that's the beauty of it - cats are the ideal positive training animals!
I trained the yard cats back home in Athens when I was a 10year old kid, just for fun, intuitively, without knowing anything about it. Soon after the furry family arrived here, I started reading up on animal training, and before long I stumbled on positive training, operant conditioning, and the use of the clicker. I was fascinated - it all just made sense.
I got myself a clicker... and a couple of days later we were all hooked. They all come running when they hear the clicker, and workd for their clicks purring madly. Such fun!
Check it out youself: here are my clicker videos!

15 July 2010

Hiding games

I posted before about the best toys being the good old and simple: strings and stuff. But the very best thing you can do with a toy is to make it... hide! No amount of wriggling and dangling causes such an immediate reaction of pricked ears and shotgun pounce as dragging the string under a cushion, a rug, or my foot. Wow. If mice only knew that trying to hide is the worst thing to do...

08 July 2010

Miki feeling better, but...

Five days of not eating, 48 hours on a drip, and £380 later, Miki is finally feeling better... thank God!
But I just can't get rid of this lingering feeling that there could have been a much better way of managing this attack of pancreatitis. Yes, he does feel better. But I feel terrible for allowing him to be shut in cage, drip in his leg, alone for two days, when, as I know now, there could have been a possible alternative... Its' a steep learning curve, and very stressful not to be able to just trust the vet.
Visiting Miki in the 'hospital' kennels was a really depressing experience - apathetic cats all around, hiding in the furthest cage corners, under newspaper sheets, their faces pressed flat against the wall. I found Miki hiding under some newspaper too... it took him a couple of minutes to realise it was me, and then he was just SOOO happy.
I took him back home yesterday, and he seems happy and perky, and he's eating a bit too. What a relief!! But he will jump and run away every time he thinks I could be moving towards the carry box. What else did I expect?

04 July 2010

Miki feeling rough...

It is heartbreaking when one of my babies feels so poorly, especially when even the vet is not clear about what's wrong and what I can do to help.