May 5, 2016 marked the graduation of Bravo!Pup’s Talent 3 advanced performance class. Taught by the amazing Sandi Thompson, the class wasn’t primarily about learning new tricks. Not that new material wasn’t taught, it was just that everyone in that class walked in with a pretty good repertoire, so the focus was on polishing performance behaviors until they shined.
During the class, Klondike improved as performer, and had a great deal of fun. In fact, we are thinking about changing his name to The Thump because of the non-stop, super strength, full contact tail wagging he’s started. I think this happiness came from a combination of training treats, attention, the strengthened bond that comes from working closely with your best friend during training/rehearsal, the class’s location inside a Pet Food Express store (a favorite Klondike destination) and the positive energy in the room. But whatever the reason, we’re grateful for the experience.
It was also a blast for the bipedal participants, who greatly enjoyed spending time around their own kind (human and dog) and exercising a shared passion for dog training.
The Inspiration Point loop at Tilden Park is one of my favorite walks. Despite being less than 15 minutes from downtown Berkeley, it feels like the middle of the wilderness. It’s a nice but not super-difficult 90 minute walk. There are usually enough other dogs on the trail to allow for some socialization but never does it feel crowded.
The Inspiration Point Loop at Tilden Park is Great
A moderate 60-90 minutes, easy enough to be accessible for most people and dogs.
Beautiful trail with sweeping panoramic views of the park
Easy to navigate – only three turns and they are clearly marked (see below)
Dogs allowed off leash
There are enough other people and dogs around to feel safe and provide some four footed socializing, but never does it feel crowded
Water is available Lone Oak, a little before the half way point of this short-ish walk, so you shouldn’t need to carry any (unless of course you start at Lone Oak, and then on a really hot day you might want some)
Cell phone reception on some parts of the trail
Parking is not an issue
Of Course, It’s Not Perfect
Beautiful though it is, the Inspiration Point loop doesn’t have some of the amazing city views available elsewhere in the park
Bicycles are allowed on most of the trail. Typically they aren’t moving very fast and I’ve never had an issue, but would still prefer they weren’t there
Klondike Walk Score: 87%
The loop at Inspiration Point doesn’t have the incredible variety of Roberts Recreation Area or the views of Strawberry Canyon but it’s beautiful, immersive, convenient, a good walk for the person and a wonderful place for a dog to enjoy being a dog. If it weren’t for the (rare) bicycle the score would be at least five points higher.
About The Park
Tilden, part of the East Bay Regional Park District, is a large (2079 acres, to be precise) slice of wilderness, running from the Berkeley Hills area to above Albany, El Cerrito and even East Richmond.
Tilden is truly an amazing place with fantastic views of San Francisco and Mount Diablo, the Anaza River, in which swimming is allowed, tons of trails for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling, a golf course, miniature railroad, Merry-Go-Round, two botanical gardens, one belonging to the park, and the other just down the road belonging to UC Berkeley. Not all of these views are available on the trail, but you can get most of them by stopping at scenic view areas on your way to or from the walk.
Dogs are allowed in most areas of the park and on most trails. Exception: Dogs aren’t allowed in the botanical gardens, and in most of the officially designated Nature Area, marked below on the official Tilden map with a rectangular box. Dogs are allowed off-leash more than 200 from trailheads. Here is a full set of dog rules covering Tilden and all other parks in the East Bay Regional Park District.
Inspiration Point is located on Wildcat Canyon Road. Here is a google link.
Depending on where you are coming from, I urge you to take Centenial or Marin Avenue. Some GPS’s may try to route you via other, smaller streets in the Berkeley Hills. These streets can be extremely narrow and often have cars parked on them forcing you into the left hand lane on blind curves. I’ve done it, but it’s not fun.
The Walk: Inspiration Point Loop
What we call the Inspiration Point Loop starts in the Inspiration Point Parking lot, goes down the Meadows Canyon Trail, at the Lone Oak Picnic Area you go onto Wildcat George Trail and then back up to the Inspiration Point parking area on the Curran Trail. Total length is just under three miles. Meadows Canyon is a (mostly) very gentle downhill and Curran Trail is a steady, but not too steep, 1.4 mile climb up. The total walk, with a little time for sniffing, is just about 90 minutes.
I think just about anyone capable of walking three miles can do this walk. My only caution would be after rains parts of it can get pretty muddy and even a bit slippery.
Of course, one of the greatest things about any of these hikes is making new friends. This is Klondike and his new trail buddy Tango.
While Tango and Klondike played, Tango’s person told me about finding a severed deer leg not too much further down the trail. Probably ripped off by a mountain lion, who ate the rest of the deer elsewhere. Ouch.I’ve also heard of coyote sightings on the trail.
Last week marked the first meeting of Performance Three from BravoPup! The class is about learning more tricks, and polishing the current repertoire, getting the behaviors bigger, better, crisper and (most importantly) controllable at a distance so the trainer can reliably work with the dog while staying behind the camera or off stage. The class is taught by Sandi Thomas, who as master dog trainer and former professional actress, truly understands what it takes to perform successfully.
The first day of class was largely about going over basic behaviors (sit, wave, hoop jump and weave, roll-over, play dead, bow and a few others). Mr. Klondike, secure in his super-star status, didn’t see a need to focus on technical perfection and instead chose a looser, more interpretive, perhaps more Pyrenees, approach to these mandatory events. Looked a little bit like this
The other dogs in the class, Harley, Isabella, Brian and Sassy, had the technical skills of an Olympic figure skater, just nailing their behaviors perfectly. I’m pretty sure Mr. Klondike can get there, or at least get close, but we sure have our work cut out for us!
[Credit for cartoon: No idea, found it via a Google Images search. But whoever made it, thanks!]
In exactly one week, seven days from now, Klondike starts BravoPup’s invitation only advanced performance (tricks) workshop, Performance Three. And what to do? As Summer performance season rapidly approaches, should we polish up last year’s show, Klondike’s Fire and Earthquake Safety Symposium ? Do something totally new? Klondike has always wanted to record a collection of his acoustic numbers with the London Philharmonic. He could start practising for that.
But whatever the workshop turns into, we’ll be sitting in grand style, because the Klondike performance stool has been upgraded.
The old stool worked fine but… to keep it stable when Klondike jumped on, jumped off or stood up on it I had to stand on the piece of plywood screwed to the bottom. Functional, yes, elegant no.
And, even worse, the stool wouldn’t fit into the trunk of my new car
After a couple of dead ends, Klondike and I reached out to Jan Saeger, local furniture maker extraordinaire
Jan then brought in Ian, the friendly machinist (and retired Red Cross rescue supervisor) next door, and vola! The new Klondike stool!
The new stool features an extra heavy base for stability (no more using my foot!) and quickly disassembles at both base and platform for easy transportation.
This Chart of Klon’s Favorite Things, ranked 10 (most) to 1 (least) is based on a list of distractions prepared for his Extreme Recall class.
Klondike may be the world’s greatest companion, a certified Canine Good Citizen and the beneficiary of something between 19,000 and 32,000 years of domestication, but list up his favorite things (as we did as part of an assignment for his Extreme Recall class) and it’s clear he’s very much an animal, and a predator at that. As you can see above, his favorite things, with the exception of stinky cheese, all involve either dead animals or animals he’d like to kill. However, he is a predator with refined tastes – he strongly prefers the more expensive stinky cheeses.
And speaking of Klondike’s Extreme Recall class, it continues to go well and we are starting to see results. Klon will turn on a dime when he hears his name and come even when presented with distractions up to about a seven on the above chart. He just might be able to go above a seven but I’m not 100% confident of that yet.
In the above video from Extreme Recall you see Klondike being distracted by lead instructor Sandi who is holding a bowl of kibble. I call him, he puts the recall above the kibel and comes. Full disclosure: though Klondike did a good job, I did not. Rule one is only call once. That’s because dogs learn to count, and if you call multiple times they often start thinking coming on the second or third call is OK, even desired. Klondike is not the only one who needs regular training!
The insight behind the Extreme Recall class is that for a dog to come even when coming would take it away from something it really likes (say, chasing squirrels), the dog has to believe that all good things come from or through the person. Thus in the video you see me taking Klon back to the treat bowl after he’s come to me. By the same token, in the class we are taught that if we are walking and the dog sees something it wants (say, a cat), to call the dog and when it comes as a reward to point it towards whatever it wants and give it permission to go after it.
But here’s the surprise twist: I think the course is making Klondike more affectionate with us. He’s always been a friendly dog, especially to the family. And increased friendliness may be due to just getting more closely bonded to the family – today marks five months since he joined us. But it feels like a little more than that – and I think learning in class that all good things come from us is at least a large part of the reason why. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, but it sure feels like a lot of responsibility.
As many of you know, Klon’s unleashed, unauthorized and rather ill-advised exploration of the world, including some busy streets, the day before Thanksgiving earned him a place in BravoPup’s Total Extreme Recall class.
The class is exactly what’s needed.Total Extreme Recall is all about developing emergency recall. That is, a recall command so strong, so deeply imbedded that no matter what distractions are present – even things that the dog will strongly, instinctively respond to like a squirrel, a fire, another dog, or a piece of raw steak, the dog will give your command to come priority.
The bad news is that making this work means, at least during the five weeks of class, you can never, never allow your dog not to come to you. And that means removing distractions. So no off-leash excursions to the dog park, no swimming, no dogie play dates. It’s not the behavioral equivalent of a no fat, sugar or solids diet, since we can still go on leashed walks, but it’s kinda close.
‘No distractions’ period aside, there is a major benefit for The Klon. Total Extreme Recall is held at an auditorium at the Oakland Zoo. We had our first class and looking at Klon’s reaction it’s obvious that the grounds smell just amazing. And before class, which is held in an auditorium outside the main gates, Klon immediately founded and followed the path right to the zoo entrance and was clearly disappointed he couldn’t go in.