Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wishing you a Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Deb's Dog Blog!
May the blessings of Christmas be with you and your family (furry and human) all year long.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

K9 Athletes CPE Trial weekend

I am exhausted after 2.5 days of CPE! What a great trial; lot of fun and laughs and great runs by Devon. We used this trial to train. I love this venue, and I wish I had time to do more of it. The courses are fun, and the dogs love it. I had two goals for the weekend: 1) continue to build teamwork and 2) work weaves!

We’ve worked hard on the weaves in the last two weeks, and I was interested to see how that transitioned to the trial environment. I’m happy to report that Devon’s weaves were successful (eventually) in all but one run, which was a timed game and we just had to leave the course. The only other time we tried something that didn’t work this weekend was when I asked Devon to run by a tunnel opening quite close to her -- she wasn’t ready for that! However, in addition to great runs, we were rewarded with 8 Qs in 10 runs!

Friday afternoon

Unfortunately in my rush to get home from work, eat lunch and back across town to the trial, I forgot the video camera.

 

Colors, Level 1

Devon’s Colors run was lovely and very fast. I selected an option that would present her with a tunnel/dogwalk discrimination where she had to take the tunnel. This is actually the harder discrimination for her, as she’s highly rewarded on contacts.

She was successful going to the tunnel, but she did look behind me at the dogwalk before making the correct choice – good girl to remember he training! Because I had to take her to the tunnel entrance, I was slightly behind when she came blasting out the other side, and she came toward me out the tunnel when she needed to push out to a jump. I held my ground and continued to indicate the push, but she seemed (to me) to not be reading it. About the time it crossed my mind Devon was a baby dog and didn’t know not to hit me, she read the push and took the jump (instead of me)! A couple of friends did notice the split second of panic that washed over my face! Whew!

 

Standard, Level 2

This was a lovely, flowing standard course that allowed me to front cross on the landing side of a pinwheel; Devon read it beautifully. The weaves were near the end of the course after the dogwalk, with a right hand entrance. I stuck with her and made her weave them. She showed very little stress, only 20% or less of what she showed 2 weeks ago. On the fourth try, she got the weaves! We had a party at the end of the weaves and then sprinted four jumps to the finish!


Saturday

It’s video time! I’m doing something different this time with YouTube. I think it will allow you to view the clips in a larger format, which should be easier on the eyes.

Jackpot, Level 2

We started the day with Jackpot. For those who play USDAA, this game is a form of Gamblers. However, in CPE you can have “non-traditional” Jackpot, where the judge makes up the rules. This run was one of those. I planned my strategy to get me to a point where I could work the weave poles. Unfortunately, it took me longer than I anticipated and Devon got caught by something odd in the tunnel before the weaves. Either some smell caught her or she thought I turned around and was running the other way and started to do the same.

Unfortunately she was too distracted to weave. She gets very distracted by the sandbags under this particular dogwalk; and even though we class here weekly, she’s still distracted. I’ve finally decided it’s not only the shape and color of the sandbags, but it’s also because she doesn’t usually see sandbags under dogwalks without tunnels (think about that and it’s true; she’s very observant!). I took the better option to just leave; primarily because I was required to!



Fullhouse, Level 1

This is my favorite CPE game, mostly because it’s so easy to play and it’s fast and furious (like a jumpers course). It’s a point accumulation game, but within your points you must have three single bar jumps, two circles (tire, tunnel) and one “joker” which is a spread jump or contact. And you only get 30 seconds to get your points and get to the table to stop the clock. They give you a 5 second grace period, and then they start taking away one point per second until you stop the clock. Again, greed kills on this one – see why I like it?

Devon did an awesome job on this course. Her only mistake was coming off the A frame when I front crossed -- and my mistake was not marking it. Oh well! She read the deceleration to cue the turn to the A frame (and away from the tunnel) great, and she did a nice job on the rear cross to the tunnel (not her strong point). This course earned her a second place (right behind a border collie).




Standard, Level 2
This was our best Standard run of the weekend. It was a difficult two jumps at 90 degrees to the dogwalk entrance, but she did a great job reading that and being fast off the start. She made her weaves on the second try -- yippee! Because I was on the wrong side of the weaves, I made an awkward push to the tunnel, then showed forward speed out of this straight tunnel almost shooting her into an off course. Once I saved that, I settled down and we had a lovely finish to the course. I made sure I reinforced that A frame contact since she blew the one before it.



Colors, Level 1
I should have quit after the Standard run today. Devon came out of the crate ready, and showed no signs of being tired. I selected the harder course and asked her to angle toward a jump less than 10 feet from a tunnel entrance. This wasn't the right thing to do, since she went into the tunnel. I did call her, but once I realized she was committed I let her go and made the run fun. She came off of jump #4 and I was behind for a front cross at #6 but insistend on it anyway. Not our best run. I thought she was the tired one, until I looked at the video, and now I'm wondering if it was more because I was tired, too. I wish I had that run over again to run the easier course and have fun with my dog on the last run of the day -- like Agile Gold did!!



Sunday

Jumpers, Level 2
This was a simple, fun Jumpers course. Devon was up and bright and perky and ready to run. You may have noticed in some of the earlier runs she's wagging her tail on the startline. This continued and she was getting very serious about the fun she was about to have! Devon was picture perfect and placed second behind a fast border collie. Unfortunately the camera didn't start when it was supposed to, but you can see enough to enjoy the run! 



Snooker, Level 2
Snooker is about the hardest agility game to play. While CPE is more open and gives you way more time that USDAA, it's still a hard game. I had fun with Nancy (Mickey's mom) planning a flowing course. It did require pushing from a tunnel to a jump and wrapping them back 180 degrees. It also had a long run (30 ft.) from the last "color" (a tunnel) back to the #2 obstacle in the closing. 

This was the best run of the weekend! Devon handled this course like a pro! She read every single handling request, was fast and never looked at the other options in her long run. She was really ready to run, too. When I asked her to sit at the start line, she actually talked a little! How very funny! And the ring crew ratted her out and said she took a quick peek at them as if to say, "I'll be back!" She kept her promise and jumped on all three to make sure they got her time and scribe sheet correct! Devon took third place in this class -- once again BEHIND TWO BORDER COLLIES! 


Wildcard, Level 2
Wildcard is a fun handling game that requires you to make a choice between two obstacles at three different places in the course. Those two obstacles vary in difficulty and are placed right next to each other. In theory, the handler directs the dog to the choice; but if the dog makes the choice for you, you must adjust your handling on course as you run.

I selected the weaves as our one harder obstacle. I was quizzed later by someone as to why I chose the weaves, and it was simple -- we were training and not focused on the Q. Devon got the weaves on the second try, and she read the rear cross into the tunnel the best she did all weekend. We had a lovely run (and we did Q).



Standard, Level 2
Well, we should have stopped on the very successful Wildcard run. Devon was tired, and she just wanted to be petted before her last run. I remembered how tired she was the day before on the last run, but I was too greedy for another shot at the weaves.

Unfortunately it took us five attempts at the weaves before she got them. I know many thought I pushed too much for that perfect performance; it crossed my mind too. However, two people who are skilled dog trainers told me they thought I did the right thing. One person point blank said to me she wouldn't have repeated them that often and wondered what I was doing. However, she said the look on Devon's face when she did them right said, "Oh! I have to do them right to go on!" She thought I knew my dog pretty well and did do the right thing. I hope that's what Devon thought. The rest of the run was very nice, and I hope she remembers that part!


Final thoughts
I think we had a very successful weekend. Devon ran strong and just got more confident and faster with each run. Four runs a day is one run too many right now; and three days in a row might be too many, too. A good friend said we were really confident with the teeter, and it's no longer a stressor for us. That's a REAL success!!

I think that's the other thing that was so great about this trial -- the wonderful support I had from my friends and fellow agility enthusiasts. There were so many compliments for Devon -- her speed, her confidence, how happy she was. And I loved seeing her confidence build over the weekend. From the first run where she wagged at all "her fans" as she came into the ring, to quickly realizing this was a fun game and she could greet them later! Turning her to the first jump and having her wag her tail because she couldn't wait to attack the course was an awesome feeling. 

I wasn't nervous once with this girl at my side. Like our other venues, this has quickly become about me and Devon having fun. I'm so very lucky to have this talented, verstatile girl at myside!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Devon says, "Maybe if I don't look at Mom, she'll forget I'm on the daybed." I've given up keeping the Goldens off the daybeds in the bonus room, which is why fleece cover them to catch the dog hair.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Devon's USDAA Starters Jumpers course

video

Devon and I left the house this morning at 5:30 a.m. to run the first class at a USDAA trial. I entered her only in Starters Jumpers. She's been measuring into the Championship 22 inch class; but she's not secure on 12 weave poles and has not see a tall A frame, so I decided we should just run this one class to work on teamwork. In February we ran a USDAA Starters Jumpers course at the same building, and it didn't go well mostly due to "green" teamwork. I was interested to see what today's run would bring and what difference 10 months of maturity and 3 months of intensive agility training would do.

I was very pleased with this run! It was fast and well executed. As you can see from the video, Devon really has to think and push herself a little harder to clear 22 inches, which isn't a bad thing. She's tucking her rear feet nicely, but she is taking off a little early and jumping more from her front. Her usual 20 inch jump height is so easy for her, I'm not surprised by this style when she has to work a little harder.

On my end, the only handler error (and this is really picky) I see was when she started to turn back on the last rear cross, I redirected her mainly using my right arm which could have changed her lead (thankfully she was smarter than that). She actually read the rear on the take off side of the jump better than the rear on the landing side.

And for the icing -- Devon not only qualified her run, but she also placed 4th! SCT was 31 on a 107 yard course. Devon ran the course in 21.87 which was 4.89 yards per second. Out of 10-12 dogs in this competitive 22 inch height, Devon was right behind three border collies, one who runs in Excellent/Masters level in AKC. I think Devon's Aunt Abbi needs to have a talk with her about the need to beat border collies!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jealous over articles?

Here is a clear sign you are living with great performance dogs. Devon always has her nose in the van when the doors are open looking for tracking articles to steal. I was cleaning out the van this evening, when I heard her purposeful trot down the hallway into the living room. Sure enough, she'd stolen a tracking article out of the van. 

She was having a grand time tossing it in the air and rolling on it and playing with it, so I figured I'd retrieve it on my next trip out to the garage. I happened to walk into the living room a minute later to have Ian quietly trot past me with the tracking article in HIS mouth -- and he was even doing his "kill the glove" shake! I quickly looked at Devon to see how he managed to sneak this away from her just in time to see her check right, check left and frantically look around to see how she lost her prize! She soon realized Ian had grabbed her article and a game of "keep away" started around my dining room table! Silly tracking dogs!

Mr. Connor has retired

Connor earned his OAP Saturday, finishing his career. While it is a sad thing to really retire this wonderful dog, I’m glad we could go out with two beautiful runs that included perfect weave performances.

Connor would have been perfectly happy to be a companion dog; in fact he’s from a “pet” litter. He was exactly what I needed to follow my hard-driving border collie Reece. He’s been my patient partner as we learned agility and tracking. Although he will never reach Ian’s accomplishments in agility or Devon’s accomplishments in tracking, he allowed me to learn the sports so I could do great things with the dogs to come. He has been patient with the younger dogs, playing with the puppy Ian when no one else would and teaching Devon how to run the pack as a benevolent leader. Connor has given me a love for Golden Retrievers, with their versatility and biddability that ensures the breed’s place in my house forever.

Connor has had a very good performance career, and one that many would envy. While I wish we could have gone to greater heights because I enjoy our partnership, I know he prefers to just have fun and not be competitive. When things got too tough, or especially when I got too competitive, Connor said this isn’t for me and left the ring. During the past 4 years he has taught me valuable lessons on being a good teammate and putting things in perspective. And like every good teacher, he’s rewarded me for lessons learned; in our case he’s given us a “second” agility career in the last 2 years, earning his AX, six MXJ legs, 18 MACH points, NAP, OJP and OAP.

But most of all, Connor is part of my heart. My sweet boy who shares the couch and the bed, who is really only concerned about “going” so he does not miss out on getting pets and possibly treats from others. So if you see him at a trial any time soon, please spend some time telling him what a great dog he is. We’ll both appreciate it!

Ian’s weekend

I’ve already posted about Devon’s big weekend, but I need to talk about what a good job Ian did. The courses this weekend were very though and times were tight. Ian qualified in Standard on Saturday, placing third, and just popped a weave pole in JWW. The weave entrance in Standard was horrendous, and I was pleased Ian handled it so well.

Sunday was a much more difficult Standard course, with another very difficult weave entrance off a triple. Coming out of the weaves was even more difficult; and an extremely challenging tunnel/dogwalk discrimination was made nearly impossible because the handler was restricted by a jump and the tunnel and sandbags were both yellow – the same color as the dogwalk contact. The best way to handle this discrimination was to V set the line off the table, over the jump and handle the discrimination with at least 10-12 feet of lateral distance to the dog; in other words a completely handler independent discrimination.

Ian was the third 24 inch dog to run after two 26 inch dogs. As the first 26 inch dog ran the course, I realized I needed to change my handling strategy and front cross after the triple (always risky) to be between Ian and the judge. He’s really struggling lately with judges moving in the ring, and on Saturday his head was pivoting in all directions watch the judge. Ian nailed the weave entry but nearly came out of the weaves three different times, before I managed to get him through them clean. He handled the worst dogwalk entrance I can remember (his least favorite obstacle) with perfection, and we crossed the last obstacle with a CLEAN RUN!

That clean run was one of the best highs I’ve felt in this game! I can only remember one other run (and it was NOT in the Invitational) where I felt better than this one. I’m competitive against the judge and the course, not the other exhibitors. To me, each run is a test of our agility team of two. When we turn in a completely perfect performance against a nearly impossible course, I’m thrilled! What made this one even better was to that Ian battles his “judge demons” on this course, and we won!

And speaking of winning, Ian was the ONLY 26 or 24 inch dog (out of about 20 dogs) to qualify on that course. That was an awesome feeling! Ian may be winding down his career, but he’s still giving me thrilling moments.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Devon's first trial weekend, day 2

In answer to Kathy's question: Here's day 2! Today was better than yesterday from my end. I felt like I handled better. Devon did a great job, and she's so confident out there. She did visit the judge due to stress during the weaves in JWW, But after she noticed the judge during the table count in Standard, she made the correct decision to get to work at the weaves instead of saying hello. She also didn't go see friend Jim who was bar setting in Standard (Jim has Goldens and according to Devon gives AWESOME belly rubs). So while she noticed the ring crew on day 2, she didn't go say hello.

I looked at the JWW course, and thought, "You've got to be kidding me!" on the first three jumps. I walked the opening with a rear after the double, and then finally walked the front cross. Ahhh, the judge was nicer than the course looked. The angle from 2 to 3 was actually a perfect front cross set for a baby dog. So as you can see from the clip below, I did the front cross and followed it with a second one before the tunnel. These crosses went well, and let me tell you she was moving! All I could hear on the course was her running paws, and all I could do was focus on running and being where I needed to be. I was also pleased with my voice. I used a quiet confident voice, and I think she was pleased -- I like it.

The only bobble in the course was the weaves (again). The sun coming in the back window competing with the overhead lights made even seeing the weaves tough for the baby dogs. Devon got her entrance the first time. You'll see the shake that indicates stress. After the second time, she comes back to say hello to the judge -- big sign to me to give up and move on, which I did. She ended fantastic.

video

Novice Standard: I decided that as long as she gave me a good attempt at the weaves, we'd go on. With her other runs, she's been over time due to the weaves. I was curious what a "typical" course time would be for her.  The last six obstacles of the Novice course were the same as the Open and Excellent course with a different end obstacle (we had a tire and Open/Excellent had a double). I thought this was tough for the baby dogs. Devon saw the teeter off the dogwalk and wanted to go to it, but she came back to me and took the correct tunnel. It took me until the second viewing to see that I actually pushed Devon toward the dogwalk as she came out of the tunnel because of my movement (I thought it was because my backside was pointed there). Devon came out of that tunnel faster than her brother Ian did!

Devon was 10 seconds under standard course time, and she was 7 seconds over course time in JWW (due to our three attempts at the weaves). This made me happy because I know a friend who has a border collie with good speed in Open JWW was over course time with only one error on the course. Course times this weekend were very, very tight, so I was pleased with Devon's times.

video

I would like to thank volunteer videographers Forrest, Cathi and Liz! Thanks guys, you did GREAT!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Devon's first AKC weekend (kind of)

This was Devon's first FULL weekend of AKC trialing. She trialed in JWW last year about this time, but I pulled her for more work (which was delayed until this fall due to her injury in the spring). Devon made such awesome progress this fall, I entered her in this local AKC trial, two weeks before her planned CPE trial and a month before what I had hoped would be her first AKC trial.

Devon did an awesome job for a baby dog. We're still having issues with the weaves; other things in the ring that are new are far more interesting than weaving. However, she generally did an awesome job. Here's my take on today's runs:

Novice JWW: Devon dropped the first bar, but I set her back farther than I usually do to get a bigger lead out. This was dumb, but it didn't hurt her any. The Novice courses I've seen lately are all leaning toward rear crosses, and while this one had two places for front crosses, I only did one of the two I had planned because she was moving so fast I was afraid to step into her path on the second one. I did change her lead on the flat even though I crossed behind her on the take off side of the jump before the weaves. However, looking at this video, it appears I would have had time for that second front cross I'd planned.

In looking at the video following the run, I thought I was too close to the weaves, so I backed up for the Standard run. I think that was a good call, but I also think we have a LOT of weave proofing work to do in the next month!
video

Novice Standard: This was the hardest weave entrance I've ever seen in Novice (heck, the weave entrance for Excellent and Open was a bear too!). The angle from the first jump, to the weaves, to the chute were impossible for baby dogs. That being said, I was pleased Devon got her head into the second pole on that second try. I probably should have gone on after that attempt, and I will next time. The problem at the chute was simply the angle from the weaves to the chute. After that she did a fantastic job! Her contacts were great (even as she wagged her tail and gave the judge a smile on the A frame). 

The table caused the most "baby dog" moments. Devon has an automatic down on the table, and it was like she was having so much fun she just lost herself and kept popping up. I'd look at her and say, "box." And she'd drop again like, "Darn it! Sorry mom, I forgot!" The judge throws up her hands, but she was actually giggling behind me because Devon was just so stinking cute with her bright eyes dancing and her big Golden grin. I'm glad Devon didn't hear the judge's giggles, because I'm sure she would have felt the need to say hello! 

Devon handled the teeter just fantastic -- no hesitation at all! And how she made that broad jump after almost crashing into me I'll never know. Wish I could have seen my face on that one!

video

I am just so proud of this girl! She did a great job, especially since she's only been back working agility again since the second week of September!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Devon's favorite thing

Is to steal something of mine, especially a sock or hose. Luckily she doesn't eat them. She just enjoys them. And yes, she also does the same thing with a toy after taking a victory lap in training! video

It's movie time!

Where's the popcorn? I took advantage of "black Friday" to buy a new camcorder just in time for Devon's big agility month. Here's our practice video. Connor has such opinions he needs to share! And Devon's little "motor boat" commentary comes in at the end. However, Connor has his own mind and will NOT speak on command. video

Wordless Wednesday



Caption: Devon's THRILLED to be trying out the new Booster Bath at "Grandma's House."

Monday, December 1, 2008

We’re ready for Santa!



You’d think these three expectant faces are ready for their Christmas presents. However, they’re being good, obedient dogs and waiting at the top of the stairs for their release word. I got tired of Ian munching the other dogs at the base of the stairs. He likes to get his sneak attack in when the dogs are coming down the stairs and not paying attention to where he is. This would usually cause (1) Connor to back up the stairs, and (2) Devon to retaliate and a game of chase and chaos to start. So, to fix the problem, I instituted a “wait at the top of the stairs until you’re released” policy. This way I can proof stays and release words and be at the bottom of the stairs to control Ian’s manners. (Pictured from left Ian, Connor and Devon)

The ups and downs of trialing

Ian’s trialing career has now gone into a period of highs or lows. After giving me a thrilling day on Friday, Saturday was the opposite. Actually, I would have been fine with him completely crashing the course. Instead, he decided once again he couldn’t weave with the judges moving and people watching. UGH! That’s the ONLY thing he did wrong on both courses. I made him get back in the weaves and do them. However, I was worried I’d create a performance issue (again) if I got on him too much.

So, on Sunday morning, I decided we were going to have fun. I gave him lots of warm up time with happy talk, and he was wagging his tail clear to the start. The opening was tough with a wrap from a tunnel to the dogwalk, but he did that well. I was quiet and gave him distance in the weaves, and once again he popped out. I told him that wasn’t acceptable, and turned him around. When I asked for them again, I said, “Ready, ready, WEAVE!!” He raced in and I continued my wacky cheering voice. At that moment I realized the problem. I wasn’t being crazy like I am in the backyard when we do weaves. Ian was worried in the weaves because I was too quiet and not cheering him enough. Goodness!

So I cheered him all through the rest of the course, which was brilliant. I was also running faster and with more purpose. He got a fun happy jackpot party after the run. So, my goal for JWW, the last run of the weekend, was to run with purpose and really have a ball in the weaves. Ian was brilliant! He was confident, fast, and you should have seen him weave! He was 8.03 seconds under SCT for a whopping 4.59 yps – his third fastest JWW run in his career. What a goober! He enjoyed his jackpot party after the run and we ended the weekend on a great note. I guess being 50% and earning 21 MACH points isn’t too bad for a three-day trial.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ian is Qualified for the 2009 AKC Agility Nationals

Whew! Ian did me a HUGE favor and earned more than the 7 points he needed to qualify for the AKC Nationals in his first run this morning. I wasn't keen on going into this last weekend of the qualifying period still needing points, so I was really glad Ian didn't make me sweat it out until Sunday for a Q!

Ian was at the end of the 24 inch dogs, and I got to watch at least 10 dogs before he ran. I was a little worried, because the judge moved around the course a lot, especially in the weave poles. Ian has been refusing to weave when a judge is moving in the weaves. However, Ian was flawless and fast up until three jumps before the end, when he slowed considerably. I was convinced he might not even make course time with only 18 obstacles, but he earned 8 MACH points.

On a side note, I think I've finally hit that big sigh of relief most people feel after they MACH. Ian wasn't running well when he MACHed in June, and we've had to work through some weave and stress issues this summer and fall. I had this one last goal for him to qualify for a second AKC National, and as soon as he did this morning, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders! Our JWW run was a lot of fun -- he Q'd with a nice time and was one of only 7 dogs (out of 31) to Q. It's really fun when you and your dog have reached all the goals (and in Ian's case more goals than I could have ever expected) for the team.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Photo MEME


Ok, I read this on C-Lee's blog, and it sounds like fun. This is the 4th photo in the 4th folder of my photo files. It was taken the first week of June when we had the 100 year flood. This is looking off my back deck toward the north. What's underwater is the circular drive in front of my training building. I didn't get nearly the rain others south of Indianapolis got. On a work note, the floods caused me a month's worth of overtime because the state opened it's emergency center and on-going disaster recovery programs.

Oh, and you can see "Ian's tree" (aka Charlie Brown's Christmas tree) in the lower right hand corner of the photo. This was a lovely little evergreen tree when I moved here. I'll let you figure out how Ian killed it. Connor is responsible for breaking off the dead limbs. He loves sticks.

Anyone who reads this must do the same on their blog! Tag you're it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

She’s not a baby dog Part 2: The compliment

After we finished the game, there was a nice woman with a black Lab asking about being measured before the Novice classes in next weekend’s AKC trial. It will be her first trial, and I told her Devon and I would also be in Novice. While I didn’t need a measure Devon, I would make sure she got to the right place for measuring, and I offered to answer any questions she had during trial.

She looked at me, then at Devon in shock and said, “SHE’S in Novice? She looks so much better than a Novice dog!” I could have cried! What an awesome compliment for a girl who only started back jumping in early September and didn’t have a successful full-height teeter performance until exactly one month ago in October. We still have room to improve on a consistent weave performance, but I am just so pleased at on outside opinion of her performance. Of course I did admit to this nice person that Devon was my 4th agility dog.

She’s not a baby dog Part 1: Gamblers

Last night Devon and I went to Lafayette for another games night. This week it was Gamblers. While one of the Novice level Gambles had a teeter in it, so we didn’t “do” the gamble, the other was a fairly straight forward Jump, tunnel, jump, jump at about 10 ft. of lateral distance. The difficulty for Devon and I on this second Gamble was the tunnel was under an A frame. The tunnel opening was closest to the handler/gamble line, so based on my handling system, Devon should have done the tunnel. However, I’ve rewarded handsomely for contacts and the line off the first jump set them up for the A frame.

You guessed it – Devon did a lovely jump to the A frame. I was so befuddled and there was a dog on my opposite side lunging at us that I forgot to ask for her contact, which befuddled her! She came off and to me since I didn’t even signal the other two jumps. I laugh and told her she was brilliant and we played tug.

So our second time into the Gamble, I stopped my forward movement after the first jump, which should have made her turn toward me and change her line to the tunnel – NOPE! I was ready. I called her to me and she turned and came back to me for a treat and a good girl. I then redirected her to the tunnel and she nailed the last two jumps at 10 ft. of lateral distance.

To note, she was AHEAD of me over the first jump … shades of things to come! The atmosphere was high in the building last night, since all the dogs were in the ring watching each other and we had two sets of dogs running. Devon was calm and good, even volunteering tugging to relieve her stress (wish other owners had taken note). However, this higher energy atmosphere is what we’ll be dealing with at a trial, and she’ll be wired and ready to run. I’m glad we know rear crosses!

Back to the Gamble for a third time, and I only needed deceleration and a verbal to change Devon’s path after the first jump right into the tunnel. When we ran the game for real, she nailed the Gamble! I had set her up badly for the whistle, so we were over time by 3 seconds and didn’t get enough points in the opening to “qualify,” but it was a well executed run by both of us. I didn’t panic when the whistle blew, and Devon completely ignored the number shouting and the whistle blowing.

The 7th teeter

My plan to get Devon on as many different teeters before her first AKC trial has worked out far better than I imagined. I had no idea I’d be able to get her in seven different locations in 6 weeks. I have dedicated time to this mission, and probably an additional $100 in building rental and drop in fees, but it has been one of the best things I’ve done in my training.

I know Devon and I need to have lots of training and foundation behind us before we start to compete. We’re both more confident walking to the line. She gives me her all every time she goes to the line, but she prefers to know exactly what her job will be. I made a huge mistake last year pushing her through some half hearted agility training and expecting her to know her job.

So here is a list of the training facilities we can count to Devon’s credit: Pawsitive Partners (two different teeters), Greater Lafayette Kennel Club, K9 Athletes, Wild Weavers of Ohio, Dogwood Training Center (Ohio), Pawsitive Energy and Queen City Dog Training Club. We’re doing weekly classes at Pawsitive Partners and we’ve been able to do several training sessions at Lafayette. This has been very worth our time since our first several trials in December, January and early February will be in these two training buildings.

Today, I can confidently say after seven teeters and training in various building under lots of conditions, she’s ready. I can’t wait until next weekend! Here’s hoping I can get a video camera on special Friday morning so I can post Devon’s runs (and runs by Ian and Connor, too!).

It’s that time of year

The agility equipment is now neatly tucked away in my small training building. Sigh! We had a pretty, but cold day on Sunday, and it was the perfect day to pack up the equipment since a rain/snow mix was coming in on Monday. In about 1.5 hours, we had everything neatly stored, with the weaves, one tunnel and a teeter still out for practice. Devon got to show off for mom and dad before we started packing everything up. We also discovered a rabbit huddled under the dogwalk before Devon did. It bounded to safety while Devon watched from the dog yard one fence away. She was sure to check out the rest of the rabbit beds in the tall grass after she missed that one.

Breaking the “bailing off” cycle

Last week I noticed Devon had developed a pattern of bailing off the teeter on the first time over it during an evening practice session, but she would turn around and do it successfully the second time (usually to great rewards) and then remain successful the rest of the evening (also earning rewards). She did this three training sessions in a row, so I was seeing a pattern that I didn’t want to continue or to crop up in a trial (since she cannot repeat the obstacle at a trial if she bails off after having all four paws in it).

The first thing I decided to do was change my words. I’d been saying, “teeter, teeter, tip it” as she approached the teeter and as she progressed over it, even when she’d glance over the side which I take as a sign she might bail. I believed continuing the performance word was encouraging her to continue the obstacle performance. However, I started to wonder if repeating the teeter command might be putting too much pressure on her. She was well aware of her job on that board. So thinking about Wendy Pape’s contract training sessions, I decided that once she had four paws on the board, I’d switch my words to “Good girl!” as she went over the obstacle. As Wendy always says when she’s training contacts, praise them on the board and don’t stress the whole obstacle.

My second concern was that she would learn to re-try the obstacle once she bailed, which would get us whistled off the course at a trial. I have already vowed never to call her off a teeter, especially when she’s on it. I never want the teeter to be a bad thing. However, this would add a lot of stress around the teeter from the judge if she tried to get back on it at a trial.

After much discussion with Kim, we decided if she bails off the teeter, I’m will take her immediately away from the obstacle and put her back on course 3-4 obstacles before the teeter. We want Devon to know she has to perform the obstacle correctly the FIRST TIME in order to earn a reward. If she goes back to it instead of coming with me, she’ll get a “good girl,” but no food rewards for the second effort; again only rewarding the completion of the obstacle the first time. We thought this plan might also rehearse moving her away from the obstacle if she bailed at a trial.

My first test of this new “protocol” came last Thursday in her class at Pawsitive. This is a location that she has done the “first time bail” before. We also had a different teeter that she had not seen for 4 weeks, so it was a good test. She was successful the very first time over the obstacle with the new verbal reward after she mounted the board.

The biggest test was Friday evening at Queen City Training club. We went to run thrus and she’s never been to that facility before. She nailed the teeter the first time over it. I gave her jackpot rewards, then turned her around and asked her for three obstacles and the teeter again. She was successful and got more jackpots. We did a second run and she was again successful.  Last night at Lafayette, she was successful every time over the teeter, especially the first time.

So while she may still bail on a teeter performance in the future, I think I discovered the problem this time was my verbal pressure in continuing to give her an obstacle command on the board. Since I have switched to full praise when she’s on the board, she hasn’t bailed off the teeter a single time!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Does it count if I retrieve a cat?

Last week we had a field lesson at Gamekeepers. First, Mitch set up a “big dog” T drill for Devon. The back pile was at least 80 yards and the side piles were at least 60 yards from the center. This was more distance than Devon had seen to date, so we were really pushing her. She did just a fantastic job. She slipped one whistle and had a no go toward the end of the drill, but other than that she did just great.

After the T drill, Mitch wanted to see some long marks in his front field. Devon got the first mark at about 90 yards. Mitch moved to another location to set up a mark about 120 yards long. As he was setting up, I heard a sound and in my subconscious I noted it was an animal sound. However, as it continued, my subconscious registered it was an “out of place” animal sound, and I locked in that it was a cat meowing. I turned, and sure enough there was a brown tiger cat meowing walking up behind us. I turned to see how Devon was handling this since she had no leash on and I wasn’t holding her, and she only had eyes for Mitch. Good girl!

So Mitch threw the bumper and I sent Devon. As she was going out for her mark, this friendly cat came and started winding its way around my feet. As Devon started to come back with the bumper, I yelled to Mitch about the cat. He was shocked and said most cats stayed away because of the dogs, and he asked what I thought Devon would do. I said, “Well, we’ll find out.” Devon has been around cats inside, but she’s never had one run from her. You should have seen the look on Devon’s face when she saw the cat at my feet. She was about 20 yards away when she saw it, bumper in mouth at a dead run. She made a quick decision and headed right at the cat, which smartly ran about 15 yards to my left (I can’t imagine what the cat thought). After removing it from my feet, she returned to heel and never bobbled her bumper – GOOD GIRL!

I yelled to Mitch and asked what I should do about the cat. He said take the bumper and release Devon to see what she’d do. So I did. As soon as I got the bumper and gave her a release word, Devon turned and took off toward the cat. The cat took off, with Devon in hot pursuit. It made a couple of bad cut back moves, and Devon almost had it twice. As soon as Devon had taken it close to the tree line near the road (this is a dirt road that barely gets half a dozen cars a day), I called her back to me. She looked over her shoulder like, “Mom! You have GOT to be kidding me here! I’m having WAY too much fun!” I decided to add a nick to my “here” and after a couple of light collar nicks, she broke off and came right back to me, settling in heel position. Mitch decided we didn’t need to worry about her retrieving a live duck if she ever got one, because she almost retrieved a live cat back to me!

Devon continued her marks, and then Mitch set up three site blinds, including one with suction to where Devon chased the cat. I’m so proud of my girl. She never once even looked toward where she’d run the cat out of the field but continued to work like a pro! She lined all of her sight blinds except the long one (115 yards) which she got on two handles (three whistles because she slipped the first one). Not bad for the first time handling to a blind!

Devon’s agility update

Devon has made huge strides in agility. Last week we had an agility lesson with Jenn Crank, Devon’s first since her iliopsoas muscle pull in March. Devon was successful on a new teeter, and other than a slow, testing first attempt at the dogwalk, she was fine on all the equipment. Jenn reminded me to continue to use all forward cues as I class and do Devon’s first few trials in Novice. She also picked up that when I’m a little unsure about what Devon will do on a sequence, I tend to let my voice get really high and baby talk Devon. Jenn reminded me that I need to be confident and sure of what she’ll do and reflect that in my voice.

This great lesson was followed by a great training session at Dogwood in Ohio. I was able to rent the building for an hour, working Connor (he was delighted) and then Devon. She was so excited to be in another new building to do agility! She cantered over the contact equipment, going faster across the dogwalk than I’d ever seen her. I could tell her speed increased, because I had to move faster. She also was successful at not only sequencing every set of 6 weave poles, but she was also successful at two sets of 12 weave poles.

I also did run thrus in Lafayette last week. Devon did a really good job, even getting 12 weave poles. She did bail off the teeter the first time, mainly because the entrance was awkward and didn’t allow me to support her from behind onto the board (I had to post around and be parallel to the end of the board). Even though she bailed the first time, she was successful the other two times over the teeter with that entrance.

We completed our week-long tour of three new training buildings by working at Pawsitive Energy on Saturday evening. Devon really liked the dirt floor to do weaves and was flying through them. The speed decreased the accuracy, but she did well even though she didn’t hit every pole. She did struggle with this new teeter. This was the first time she’s really been unsure in a new building. Even though she bailed off of it, she went right back on and was successful. She did bail off the first three times we attempted the teeter, being successful on the second attempt. We went off to do other things, and when we returned to the teeter, she was successful on the first try for three more sequences at the end of our session.

The thing I was most pleased with at Pawsitive Energy was her dogwalk performance. If I thought she was speeding up earlier in the week, it was only shades of what was to come Saturday. Devon RAN up the dogwalk so fast she bounced the up ramp. I could barely keep up with her, and I was running as fast as I could to the other end. I’m thinking I’m going to be very glad I stayed with the 2o2o contact! I would have never imagined Devon would be running over the dogwalk!

So we’re still training daily on various handler positions in the weaves and getting her on equipment at local training clubs. We head to Queen City for run thrus this weekend, and yet another new training facility. This will be her 8th new agility facility in five weeks, and she’s done the teeter at seven of them. I’m so proud of her! I think we’re really ready to start trialing in December!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A perfect mini-T drill

Devon and I have been working "overs" in isolation for three sessions. On Tuesday, the second session, the light bulb came on! I continued one more session on just "overs" to make sure she was solid. So today was the first time I put it all back together.

I set the back pile at 40 yards and the side piles not quite 20 yards off the center. I identified the back pile and sent her. On the second send, I stopped her then asked for a right back. Perfect. I sent her again, stopped her, and identified the left over pile. I sent her and it was perfect. I lined her up and sent her to the back pile, stopped her, and then did a left back. Perfect! Next I sent her to the back pile, stopped her, identified the right over pile, and sent her. Perfect again! 

And so it went, sending her to the back and over piles without identification. A perfect mini-T drill, with Devon nailing ever handle and ever sit whistle. I was so very proud of her, and you could tell she knew she was doing it right out there. The only flaw is that when she turns to sit, she's not facing me square, but usually facing to my right. However, she's taking every cast, including the left back even though she must turn 270 degrees to take it. I will have to straighten up that sit, but for today I wasn't going to fuss at her when she did such an awesome job!

Tracking in the wind

It was cold and windy today. The temps didn't get above 40 degrees and there was a raw wind between 12-15 mph, gusting to 17-20 mph. The wind chills made the temp feel like 30 degrees this afternoon. I got up around 7 a.m., and after letting the dogs out thought better of morning tracking and headed back to bed. I finally pulled myself out of bed and headed out with all three dogs shortly before 12:30 p.m. Even though it was cold and not an ideal day to track, the weather is closing in, and I wanted to see what the dogs, especially Ian, would do with this wind. I laid Devon's VST track first, and then I laid Ian and Connor's tracks.

Ian's track
Ian had a 140 yard track with one left turn at 110 yards. The turn was into the wind. It was aged 35 minutes. He handled the start well, but right away allowed the wind to push him to the right of the track. It was funny to watch him actually get frustrated by the wind and the way it was pushing the scent. It didn't help that the land also sloped slightly to the right, so the wind was pushing the scent downhill. He looked back at me a couple of times as if asking for me to explain to him why this track was so very different today. 

I'm glad I made the first leg so long, because at about 50 yards, he decided he had to poop. I really hope this does not become a tracking habit. This was the third time he's pooped on a track, and he shouldn't have had to go based on his normal schedule and the time of day. However, once he got that taken care of, he went back to work and for the rest of the leg did a great job of fighting the wind.

He did a lovely "loss of scent" indication at the turn and circled several times. Finally he stood in the right direction of the track and stopped. In the last few tracks we've done, at this point he's stopped and stared at me. However this time he never looked back at me. Instead, he started a slow walk down the new leg, and I stepped in behind him and followed. As I did, he dropped his nose dead on the track and was nose down until he pounced on the glove to "kill" it! 

This was the best turn Ian's done to date! I'm thinking that after a half dozen sessions of just one turn, he's finally getting what turns are all about. I'm going to do several more tracks like this until he's confidently pulling me onto the new leg. I'm feeling really good about his tracking right now! I'm also proud of myself for not rushing him, but taking the slow and steady approach and letting him learn.

Connor's track
Due to the lay of the land and working around a pond, Connor's track was shorter than Ian's track. Connor only had 50 yards to a left turn and then 30 yards to his glove. Based on Ian's track, I'd say Connor's track was 35-40 minutes. Connor was excited to start and was a happy camper at the startline. He tracked well off the start and for the first 30 yards. However, he started eating grass shortly after the 30 yard marker and then left the track and went 25 ft. out to eat animal poop. He struggled to the turn, and finally locked into the turn but the whole time was eating grass and hunting poop as well. He made the glove, but I had forgotten treats, so he wasn't as cheerful at the end. He did track me out and seemed happier as we walked to the van. He of course got his rewards at the van.

I'm wondering if the wind was too much of a factor for him. I can only think it was the wind that stressed him to eat grass. After the start he really wasn't his normal perky tracking self. It made me wonder again if I should just retire him. I don't really have any plans to try another certification attempt, but he was enjoying tracking so I thought I'd continue to work skills with him. I think I'll just make sure I'm not tracking him more than once a week and continue to see what time and Connor tell me.

Devon's track
Devon's track was 480 yards around a local elementary school. It had 200 yards, or 42% non-veg, including concrete, rubber mulch, regular mulch and blacktop. I gave her a total of four articles, including a cloth glove at the start, metal and plastic on the track and leather glove at the end. We ran the track at exactly three hours, and it was 3:30 p.m. at the start. I could tell the school had seen some traffic during the age time, including teachers coming and going from an area of the building that would have crossed Devon's track in at least one place.

I brought Devon to the start flag at a 90 degree angle and faced the flag so that the track went off to my right. Devon got her scent, then went straight in front of me and circled left finding the start. She found where I walked into the start, and quickly followed it past the flag for a very strong, confident start. The track ran about 40 yards in grass along the road, then crossed a wide driveway, then back up on grass in front of the school. Devon tracked confidently through this and into the mulched landscaping beside the school's front entrance. She tracked through the landscaping up to where I went onto the concrete behind a bench when she got sucked into some cross tracks. I believe these were squirrels, since some of the mulch she checked out had been disturbed. I let her explore, and she finally came back to tracking and went quickly across the front entrance of the school and through the other mulch bed. I was very impressed she tracked me right on my footsteps through this mulch bed, going right around the exact plantings I did. She was again confident onto the grass and at the first turn wanted to explore the trees (again, I think she was looking for squirrels). 

At this point she over shot the turn and struggled a little to find the second leg. She worked it for a couple of minutes, and then confidently found it. This leg was difficult, but one she had done successfully in the past. She went on grass between the corner of the building and a metal iron fence (about a 45 ft. distance between them). From grass she went onto concrete for only a few feet then into and through a rubber tire mulched playground area for about 60 yards. Devon raced through this grass and into the mulch to check out a white rock just into the mulch. She had not yet had an article, and I think she believed that could be her article -- tracking with her eyes. When it turned out not to be an article, I believe she lost confidence that she was on the track. I backed her up and I knew she was right on the track. However, she searched the entire area almost the distance of her line for several long minutes. I finally stopped her for a drink and rescented her. I was reluctant to show her where the track was because this is behavior she's shown me the last two times at about 1/3 of the way through the track and I've helped her. The conditions she was presented with were not hard, and she's tracked this mulch several times in about three different schools (quite popular in our area), and she's never had a problem. 

Finally after checking out everything in the area more than once, including peering down the storm drain a couple of times, she went into the mulch bed, and I took a couple of steps behind her even though she wasn't right on the track. This was all the encouragement she needed. She put her nose right down and headed for the track. Twice more in the mulched area she searched left, which I let her do, but then came back and tracked out through the mulch to find her metal article just outside the rubber mulched playground. A great place for a reward!

I'm wondering if the wind caused some scenting challenges through there with the building, fence and playground equipment. It would have been coming from our left, but it was likely swirling around the playground equipment, through the fence, down the storm drain and back at us off the building. Plus when the rock pulled her through the area, I believe she was just running to the rock and not really realizing she was on the track. She likely "left the track" back where we came between the building and the fence, even though she was actually on the line of the track I'm wondering if she didn't know it. However, I'm glad I made her work through this and I didn't help. Even if it was coincidence that this was the third time she'd stopped at about the same place in the track, I don't want her to get used to my help. I have rarely helped her track, preferring to let her work it out. I think this is the best way to work her, since she's a very smart girl and learns quickly on her own. She's also a not-so-subtle con artist and will take the easy way out of she can get away with it.

Devon tracked on grass to her third turn, then after the turn fairly easily out across the parking lot for about 70 yards. She was back on grass for a turn and 30 yards, then across a small driveway and back up on grass for her plastic article. At this point someone came out of the building (right over the last leg of her track), and Devon was just sure this guy came out to see her and her plastic article. Imagine her disappointment when he got in his waiting van and drove off!

Devon found turn five pretty easily and then after only a little transition work in the grass went back down onto the parking lot and across it 80 yards. I was especially pleased with this leg since I left no chalk marks and only put water down in four places. She went up over the sidewalk into the grass for her last turn. She went across two sidewalks including the entrance where people had clearly gone in and out, even the recent guy we watched, and she didn't even flick her head. She also went by the courtyard holding the climate control units which were running, and again didn't even give them a thought and tracked all the way to her glove.

I was really proud of Devon on this track. She was tired after being the van for 3 hours and putting a mighty effort into field drill about 30 minutes before running the track. I'm also glad she worked through that scenting issue she struggled with on her own. I was pleased with my article placements to give the right amount of reward for her, and I thought the track had a nice balance of veg and non-veg. 

All in all a good day of tracking!