Mar 1, 2019 "In Like a Lion"...highs in the teens/middle thirties for the next twelve days Gigi is now on the same "house schedule" as Pounce. She slept in her bedroom crate right next to Pounce's (larger crate). Did not "fuss" as I got dressed, went down to the kitchen to prepare her morning feeding. I went back up to the bedroom where she was put on a leash. Then we went down two flights of stairs to the "rec room/pool" area (on lead) where she was fed. Next up was right out the door into the airing yard. After quickly using the snow covered airing yard it was back into the house and up to her living room crate...right next to Pounce. (three months old today...good puppy)
note: afternoon....Gigi did her Hillmann session for the first time with a rubber "Chuck-It" ball.
A bouncing object is more exciting and once retrieved, she did not seem to shake it
nearly as much as the "longer", bumper shaped objects. She was doing close, remote
sits, facing me, on a "placeboard" (with no lead). The rationale was to create more eye
contact from the sit before each toss. The "chase" is more exciting because a bouncing
ball appears to be "escaping". (warm, indoors on carpet)
Mar 2 another inch of snow....at 9 am Gigi did another Hillmann session which was modified as per yesterday's observations. The rationale was to reduce head shaking and induce a "bringing it back" behavior. Went to the no choice situation (carpeted hallway) and again used the small Chuck-It ball. The transformation was immediate - no head shaking with willing returns (consistent "reps").
note: One of Hillmann's concepts is regular "distraction proofing" (be more proactive...aware)
note: open space is a distraction (like in the pool area)...used only half of the narrow hallway
(the session was less than ten minutes)
at 5:30 PM Gigi was aired and brought in for a brief session similar to this morning's. The pace was sped up some and two different objects were alternated. She quickly began bringing one right back wanting the other. In doing so, her excitement level increased and "head shaking" came back (none this morning). This translated to using a session's pace to impact control/engagement. Regulate the excitement by adjusting distractions. Distractions vary as to the surroundings, distance, speed of the presentation, object(s) and animation of the handler. This all relates to one of Hillmann's important philosophies - practice with precise repetitions. Altering this afternoon's presentation did not exactly practice this morning's. However, in hindsight, it did lead to a useful analysis. I should have simply repeated this morning's session.
note: Repetitive, precise practice is the "glue" of advancement.
Mar 3 Sunday...forecast high 15°F.....2" of ice with a hard 1" of snow cover....tomorrow's high 10°F
note: Gigi did "The Game" with a few "leash tug" reinforced "sits" before retrieving. Her sit
responses are very good while "putting on and taking off" Hillmann's rope/leash.
(Gigi was exactly three months old.....yesterday.....whelped 12/2/18)
Mar 4 Monday 8 am sunny & windy....-3°F with a wind chill of -23°F.....The "Lion" is in full force.
note: The airing yard is a large oval with a "fenced in" island in the middle. It is ideal for
exercise. A dog can run around it (somewhat like an endless "race track"). Gigi
did several laps this morning. Fed at noon and let her air some in the yard. After
zipping around wildly in the airing yard, the plan was to do a brief Hillmann excite,
chase and fetch session. She was not focused and in an animated "ditz" mode. It
was careless to ignore the general rule for a puppy - "Confine and THEN train".
note: One of the issues with every pup is they are going to be different.....unique. After
training my last five, the differences were significant enough to require several
adjustments in training approaches. Clearly, Gigi is going to be a fun challenge.
note: The amount of food for Gig was increased to 41⁄2 cups per day. Her longer, lanky
look needed a bit more "rounding". This will be maintained for about a week and
then there will probably be another increase.
Mar 5 Two more days of highs below 32°F and then begins a gradual warming trend...finally.
note: The slightly sloped airing yard remains ice covered and challenging to walk/clean
without wearing the YakTrax" ice traction cleats.
note: My right shoulder was x-rayed yesterday and I will be seeing a specialist in a week.
Pain is nature's way of saying something is wrong.
note: Gigi trained indoors again (no choice). Sitting/chasing are going well. Clearly, the
just being "close/near me" has no contrast with being farther away. The concept of
returning is not developing (too close all the time). When the ice melts in a few
days, there will be regular long walks in nearby training areas (morning/afternoon).
There will be no talking. The singular expectation will be developing the invisible
"rubber band" of distance.
Mar 6,7,8 more of the same weather...indoors fun, eating, using the "crates shuffle" and airing yard are consistent (no inside "issues" for several weeks). The recent increase in food went well. She is getting taller while "filling out" some...looking good (definitely not "roly-poly"). The "yappy puppy" intervals are decreasing as her daily routine becomes more obvious. Night time is excellent!
note: Her "adjusting" is enhanced by being crated right next to Pounce (often).
note: The "puppy pen" is a feeding/transition "place" between the house and airing yard.
Mar 9 Finally, the weather is moderating and ice is melting. It is time for exploring and discovery.
note: Still "icy", but we went "exploring" anyway. The decoy/equipment "area" is just off
the main floor of the pool room. After carefully checking that out, the far door into
the garage was opened. It was dark, cold and new territory. She was very cautious at
first. However, a three inch "camo" canvass bumper made it seem more inviting
and soon it was being "mauled"/shaken before bringing it back. After a focused
session of "The Game", the door to the lower level of the house was opened. It took
a bit of coaxing before she suddenly realized, "I know this hallway!" Gigi "scooted"
up the stairs and made a "beeline" to her crate. "Time for my morning nap." With a
cautious, precocious pup, exploring is "magical". Out of her crate in the living room,
down a flight of stairs and across the "rec" room, out a sliding door on to a landing,
down a flight of stairs to the pool deck, around the deck to some stairs that go up into
the "vaulted ceiling" decoy/hunting gear area, through a door into the garage, out of
the garage into a hallway and up the stairs into the living room.....to her crate.
Mar 10 high of 40°F with rain beginning around noon....that should remove the ice and snow cover.
The string of weather issues resulted in a bit of Internet "Surfing" and this particular link proved to be especially interesting.....at about 11 minutes into the following YouTube.
Mar 14 sunny, breezy and very warm at 60°F...The plan was to take Gigi to the drainage ditch. Yesterday, the snow and ice melted quite a bit. However there was no flowing water today. Gigi was totally thrilled with this first real "outing" of her young life (three and a half months old). She has done a lot of Hillmnn's puppy program plus quite a bit other "fun stuff" indoors this past winter. The snow and ice has made going outside very difficult (for me). Therefore, I had no idea what would happen this morning. My guess was the wide open space would make me more of a focal point and have an impact on her responsiveness. The effect was almost magical. She was totally engaged with two things.....exploring and keeping track of where I was. The original plan was to not take any bumpers (no retrieving). It was very fortunate that idea was dismissed. Wow! "Playing the Game" (Hillmann indoors.....a lot) seemed to transition smoothly to moving into the wide open spaces. She brought every short toss back to hand. The weather is not going to remain this nice, but knowing "what's next" is exciting. In this single day, the transition to real training areas went well...and "A tired Gigi is a very good puppy."
At 11 am Gigi was aired and brought into the heated training area for a skills session. The focus of today's lesson was to incorporate the individual "actions" that Gigi has learned into a sequence (linking them all
together). The individually practiced commands are "sit", "whoa" (standing still}, "down", "place" (casting to and sitting on a "placeboard") and the beginnings of "here". "Sit" is surprisingly very solid in the following context. When sitting beside me in one corner of the pool area (on the deck), she will take a cast with the "place" command to the other corner (25 yards away), climb up on an elevated "placeboard" and sit solidly. Next is the verbal "here", visual "arms out" command. The reward for doing so is "more than just good" after sitting. Each verbal command has a handler's physical cue plus verbal "rewards". The power of exciting, focused action with rewards is amazing. We are not doing "here" in conjunction with bumper retrieves......yet. These sessions are more of a "fun", indoor agility game. Warm weather and the great outdoors will will make for more challenging presentations.
note: This session went really well for several reason. Gigi embraces the action, is very bright, loves
the attention and has a "big" motor.
note: Hillmann uses a half-crate instead of a "placeboard".
note: Now that the commands/"actions" have been taught indoors, the next step will be to begin
collar conditioning, reinforcing and practice. In addition "The Game" will need adjusting (re-
teaching). Moving outdoors will initially be a major distraction. The plan is to first focus on
exploring walks in several different training areas. The weather forecast suggests two more
days to get rid of the ice. Then it is "mud time" (not good with the van...park & walk).
Mar 13 two new firsts today.......#1 Gigi was loaded into her side of the van's Ainley two dog crate and #2 we went shopping for a carpet cutter while "working" several aisles in Lowe's Home Improvement Center. In addition to the trip, two modifications on the use of the airing yard were made. Mud season has arrived and Gigi loves digging in the mud. First is no more supervising from behind a warm door and second is any place that is picked as a prime digging area is immediately covered with cedar shaving....which I stand on. The only issue may be.....musical spots. Just for a moment, the e-collar flashed into the situation and it was quickly dismissed. During the next 2-3 week period, we will be exploring the outdoors.
Mar 14 The forecast is a high of 60°F and a very tired puppy. After a quick scouting trip yesterday, Gigi will be exploring a wide, grassy drainage ditch in the middle of a muddy 60 acre bean field. There is a steady flow of very shallow water.
note: The drainage ditch is the one Pounce and my Granddaughter explored in the summer of 2014.
Mar 15 It is cooler today, but a "Hoody" was OK when supervising the airing yard. After weighing Gigi, I used a "graph predictor" by plugging in her present weight (30 pounds) and the appropriate dates to see what her Labrador Retriever adult weight might be (about 68 lbs). Given the adult weights of "Grady"
and "Ava" that seems quite reasonable. Gigi will be four months old at the end of March. Her "Hillmann
Game" will be polished a bit more over the next two weeks and then it will be about the right time (for Gigi) to begin collar conditioning and the sit "reinforcing" process. Up until now, sit has been reinforced by 1) slight tugs on the Hillmann's lead/collar (when actually on a sit), 2) an extended, "pointing" index finger with a verbal (Traffic Cop") and 3) treats (whistle sits soon). Sit has also been indirectly reinforced in the process of going to a "placeboard" and many, many times at her crate gate (entering and exiting).
note: The skill of being "cast" to a "placeboard" will be used in movements from a front sit to the
left and right side heel by simply having "placeboards" in the three positions. The working
movement with a command will begin with one step back (left side) "place/sit"......then
"place/heel/sit" and eventually a physical "heel" cue with no "boards". For example, if I take
one step back (either side or any direction) she will automatically move with me.
note: The first session went as per planned. Gigi is a "quick study" and the initial taught and
conditioned responses "jelled" as planned.
At about 4 pm a real serious issue did not happen (being proactive is cool). Gigi was being "aired" and suddenly discovered a small gap in the wire fencing. She was under it in a flash and looking around to size up her options. The wooded area to the north looked promising. I went out of the gate (other end of yard) and soon realized she would be out of sight rather quickly. Only three plus months old and no real "here" command in place, I decided to use the single day imprinting from yesterday. When out in the open in the drainage ditch, I had extended my arms and shouted, "Hey! Hey! Hey!" and "whooped it up a bit" to welcome a fast return. It worked three or four times. Today, I repeated the "dance and verbals". She came flying back right into my arms. What a relief! A sledge hammer drove the metal fence posts down about four inches. Then a quick trip to Menards resulted in some tent stakes to fasten the lowest wire (mesh fencing) tight to the ground. The frost was not yet out of the ground. Four inches down it was still frozen. Never having a single dog in ten plus years get out, I should not have ignored the obvious. However, the habit of always supervising airing time was reinforced.
Mar 16 colder/windy...Gigi repeated yesterday's indoor session in the morning (about five minutes). In the afternoon she did a briefer run in the drainage ditch (same place as yesterday). Then we drove to Lowes Lumber for a quick heeling session. There were six large lumber carts lined up in the middle of a back aisle which were ideal for doing a "zig-zag", changing directions, heeling session. This went really well (especially at her age) as she continually stayed right by my side and changed directions keeping pace.
Three sets of valuable observations came out of today's "work". First of all, in the field doing Hillmann's "Game", Gigi's "wild to retrieve" score on a scale of 1-10 is a ten. This may be an issue that needs adjusting. Secondly, she is now 30+ pounds and very fast. I spent quite a bit of time protecting my knees. And third, the heeling session was surprisingly accurate which means she is responsive.....at times. Since she is only three and a half months old.....the "wild thing" can be adjusted. The heeling session revealed Gigi is very capable of paying attention and focusing in the moment. The "game" can be modified to tame some of her almost out of control, "too wild" tendencies. My knees are a priority.
Mar 17 Pounce's long vacation is over...two dogs to train...starting tomorrow. Gigi could get her elbows
up and over the top of her puppy pen (in the pool area). The pen has been replace by a large crate.
note: Gigi worked on a front sit to alternating right/left side heel/sit positions using three
"placeboards" (already taught, off lead). This is about precise repetitions (practice)
using the corresponding hand cue and one step back motion.....very cool!!!
Mar 18 The first "up and out" for this morning was Pounce. After a five minute drive to the Thorson Pond DTA (grassy area), she ran an easy, three pile lining and handling drill (six Dokkens). Pounce was taken home and Gigi was traded. Back we went to do Gigi's first outdoor Hillmann Game. This was the first day of training Gigi while wearing an e-collar (not turned on). It is "The Educator" which has a small receiver
and is the same one Pounce initially used. The lower levels are easier to set (0-100 dial).
note: Hillmann's collar conditioning will not begin for awhile (maybe in April).
Feb 19, 2017
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YouTube video link
Gigi was then ushered back into the van and I put out the four orange cones plus two buckets heeling drill setup. Grass is more of a distraction than the driveway where this was done the first time. After about three loops, her motion and anticipation of changing directions and making U-turns became smoother. During the last two "rounds", there were several stops to a "sit" position. She is a quick study.
note: One area that requires some thought, Gigi is "noisy" in the van. This will not become a habit.
Mar 22 did not train Pounce...Gigi went for her final set of puppy shots at 2 pm. For the last month, the beginning of imprinting "sit, here, sit" began in several different ways. The first and best place to start is exiting the crate (or entering). This precise action takes place several times in each day. Not using it, is lost engagement time. Gigi when not being directly supervised is kept in large wire crates in three different places in the house depending on a timeline. The routine is "sit", open crate door and wait for her to exit to a welcoming "good/sit" while a lead is placed on her. There is the reverse routine, too. Routines outside of training setups become conditioned responses that "mirror" useful behaviors in training. Routines are the "glue" of engagement. After the vet visit, since the W-Property DTA is just a few mile north, Pounce did a brief Hillmann Game session and went for a short walk off lead. Back home in the driveway, we walked the "zig-zag" path around the four cones and two buckets. Later, a listing of Gigi's progress with "The Game" was critically analyzed in a brief study. This will definitely improve "our" game.
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For several weeks, Gigi has been in a regular routine of moving from one crate to another (living room and bedroom), going outside and re-entering and doing Hillmannn puppy training. Very early on in this stage, a short, 6 mm cord was used as a lead. The routine is sit, put on and wear lead when exiting any crate and sit to be released after removing at the door (into the airing yard which is enclosed). When coming back in the lead is replaced (on a sit) followed by a trip back to a crate (where sit, kennel is done). Gigi's sit/on/off routine is now consistent because of many repetitions routinely done during the day. It was not long before she began to sit at the right times before being asked. The lead is either a four or eight foot lead (6 mm para cord) with a small, alligator snap. It should be noted...I am retired.
Mar 11 The "icy" ground cover is melting very slowly. Gigi's defaulting to a sit at the appropriate times
is now an "easy do". This afternoon, she was put on a knee high platform right on top of an elevated "placeboard" and went randomly through the three "positions" (sit, down and whoa). With Gigi's "sit" as the solid default position, two more actions were introduced....."down" and "whoa" (standing). Using the verbal description for each, the actions were coaxed using a hand motion/position with and kibble reward. At first, I was wondering if this was might be too ambitious. She was very quick at catching on to the "sit" routines and introducing the "next two" was much easier than expected. Having watched a YouTube video of the process was very instructive. Visual learning is cool. Actually, Gigi was the one that made it easy. The fact that she is a quick learner suggests lessons better be presented correctly the first time. The next step will be many repetitions of precise practice followed by distraction proofing.
Mar 12 The airing yard surface is worse today than yesterday......ice. At times I question getting a winter
pup mostly because of not ever doing one before. With one of the worst winters "ever", it has not been a smooth process......for me. For example, puppy diarrhea on ice or snow is not "cool". Twigs, leaves, pine boughs and cones are not edible. I know that....she doesn't. However, there are some positives. Indoors she has been very good. House breaking habits ("I want to go out!".....hints) were quickly developed. "The Game" (Hillmann) was worked on regularly because of a large, indoor training area. I am really looking forward to warmer weather and green grass. However, Gigi is unaware of what's next.
note: There is one early observation about Gigi that will be dealt with in the next few weeks. When
anything new is encountered she is overly cautions. Usually, it is a short lived reaction, but
something to be aware of for the future. So in the next few weeks, she will encounter some
obstacles similar to what an agility dog might encounter....different, easy and fun. Also, we will
take regular walks (on a leash) through the halls of a local lumber yard...strange place, slippery
floors, different odors, wide long hallways and people. These trips will include getting use to
riding in the van in her "side" of a permanently mounted, two dog Ainely crate.
The ice issue was finally solved by a healthy thaw. Gigi is three and half months old and did a bit of free time running and exploring the other day. The only good part about the cold winter was having an indoor area to train in.
Therefore, the "Hillmann Game" of excite, chase and "kind of bring back" was practiced often in a confined space. Late this morning, the first outdoor "intro" was done. To somewhat control the sudden open space factor, this session was begun beside a barn (half the space).
Using a longer line, the sequence was repeated a few times. I should state that the amount of excitement necessary to begin the "game" varies from pup to pup. With Gigi there are no levels of "ramping". It is "Katy bar the door" instantly. This means "off the wall" may be too much.....at times .
I managed to protect my knees on the first few "fly byes" which were dealt with by dodging quickly. When old with bad knees, it is somewhat amazing how much motivation can be generated by anticipation.
Then it happened...this "fly by" turned into several "fly arounds". The first was wide and I did not react. The second was closer and faster. The last three were a blur (and snug) which had me struggling to stand up...I was "hogtied"...tight. Before falling over, I managed to unsnap the lead and get my face licked clean all at the same time. It wasn't funny......in the moment.
Mar 19 The next nine days will be in the 50's. This morning, Gigi practiced "The Game" in the same place
as on the 17th. The drive home was brief (five minutes) and four orange cones were placed in a line with two buckets on each end. The purpose of this "setup" was to kind of "walk with me" (zigging and zagging) to simulate the beginning of heeling. She did well in the lumber yard on the 17th using the large lumber carts. This was more difficult and it took her awhile to get into the routine (good start). Pounce will have the day off (every other day for awhile).
note: Today was the first time Gigi wore an e-collar during a training session (not turned on).
After being fed, she went right out into the airing yard. Today she discovered "Keep Away". The first "attempt" was to toss a bumper and "hope". That proved useless. Soooo, I tossed a bumper in the open, sliding door. She dropped the one she had......"zippped" inside to retrieve and I quickly closed the door. "Here" is not totally conditioned.....yet. Gig was fed and I went about quickly making a 16 ft "P-rope" (which for obvious reasons will be hung just outside the door).
Mar 20 Doctor's appointment early - shoulder issues (both.....another set of X-rays on right shoulder, a
cortisone injection, not a big deal, delayed after effects not pleasant. Did do a quick session of Traffic Cop with Gigi at the Thorson Pond DTA that went really well (added "placeboard"). The "Hillmann Traffic Cop" stance had Gigi steady on the "placeboard" being reinforced with the whistle and collar "tugs" (very good reps"). Pounce did three stand alone/send back singles thrown left handed. Both sessions did not take a lot of time. Then went home to ice the shoulder and work through the expected "pain". I did not sleep well last night and my right arm was kind of useless (pain).
Mar 21 The two days of expected pain were only one (much better this morning). I am "doing" computer mouse activity with no issues. The right shoulder is "wonderful"....no pain. Lylah (granddaughter) came home from school yesterday with a fever (slept all day). Grandpa is not looking forward to catching the same "bug". Had my flu shot......and time will tell. At four PM, I decided to train Gigi at the Thorson Pond DTA. The plan was to "practice" the Hillmann "Game" again using a "placeboard" as the focal point. Sit was reinforced verbally, with a whistle, the "Traffic Cop" hand signal and slight tugs on the lead. Gigi sat still while I walked around a bit. The routine was repeated several times. During one set I heard the sound of two noisy geese coming into the pond from the northeast. After locating them, I looked down at Gigi and she was locked on to them. They disappeared into the pond and suddenly, it was back to "OK...where were we?" This session was not lengthy. In a few minutes several "fun reps" were completed.
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(Pounce - northern Illinois)
March 23 decent weather...other things to do...no training...maybe late tonight - indoors. Gigi's vet weight was 29.2 pounds. Her adult weight program "predictor" is 59.3 pounds.
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Lylah & Pounce