Saturday, August 30, 2008

He did it!

Round 2 of Ian versus the dogwalk went to Ian! The dogwalk was #18 of 19 obstacles, and he just nailed it. I gave him a great approach with no other options and he went right on it. I cheered him all the way across and over the last jump to the exit gate and to his bag of cookies. He earned it! Not only that, but he Q'd with 11 MACH points.

A really nice lady who is a seasoned competitor came up to me after our run and said, "If I could give you a word of advice, you need to not celebrate too early or you could take down the last bar." I laughed and tried to explain he fell off the dogwalk yesterday. She wasn't listening and continued to counsel me on the wisdom of not doing an early celebration. I finally had to explain he was afraid of the dogwalk, fell off it yesterday and the last time he had issues he was out of standard for a year. That finally got her attention, but I could tell she thought I over did it a little. While I appreciated her intentions, goodness!! Sometimes we need to just leave other competitors alone! They know their dogs!

So Ian was a very good boy and double Q'd for me today. So far he's been 75% with 19 MACH points and his only error has been falling off the dogwalk in his first run this weekend. It's been a much better weekend than I thought it would be based on the first run!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Put me in coach!

I think Devon's ready for agility again. We've been doing some low contact work, but that's it. I've been trying to keep her healthy for her JH tests the next two weekends. Well, Wednesday night she had other ideas. After a low A frame, she headed to the weave poles and volunteered them! It's been about 8 months since I've asked her for weave poles! She skipped a few poles, but she nailed her entrance each time I asked for them. Hey, you didn't think I was going to let that opportunity go, did you???

Then today she did something else that was funny. I have a GMC Safari with the "dutch doors" in the back. I lifted just the back window and reached in for some snacks (for me). Devon wanted to see what I was doing, so she jumped up a couple of times, and I could feel her put her front feet on the bumper to give herself a boost. She still couldn't see, so on the third attempt she jumped up and stayed with her head right next to me. Startled, I leaned back and saw she had jumped onto the bumper and was standing with all four feet perfectly balanced on the 6 inch wide bumper! When I leaned back she promptly walked along the bumper and peered into the back of the van! Snacks for me?

I told her she was brilliant! A Golden that jumped into the air, turned sideways and landed on the bumper! I think she's ready for agility again!

Connor's having fun in preferred

This was Connor's first trial in Preferred. Actually we did preferred a few years ago when I was trying to build his confidence back, but I've had him in regular classes for more than 18 months now. I realized during the summer that some of what I thought was miscommunicated handling between us could have been him not wanting to jump 20 inches. He is 8.5 years old! Plus he'd been over time in our last few trials. By less than 1.5 seconds, but it was enough to NQ him and tell me those last 4 MXJ legs weren't going to happen.

So I looked up his progression, and he had two Novice Standard legs and two Open JWW legs. He had a ball at 16 inches. Seriously, for a 22 inch dog, he's barely breaking stride to get over 16 inches. We had several wide turns in JWW and he was wagging all over the place, but he nailed his weaves. He took an extra tunnel and jump but still managed to clock in 7 full seconds under standard course time.

Novice Standard was barely controlled chaos! Luckily the A frame was the third obstacle and he hadn't had enough time to build up speed. He hit his contact and managed a tight circle to the dogwalk (HE didn't have a single problem with the entrance and it was the same one Ian had). I beat him to the end of the dogwalk, so he nailed that contact. No table faults, but after the teeter he knew it was time to turn for home and blew past the weave entrance. However, in fairness, when was the last time he'd seen only 6 poles? I turned him around and he got them. Then when he flew over the broad jump, we were hanging onto control by a thread! He managed to hold it together for the last jump, chute, jump combo! A clean run in 30 seconds and SCT was 50 seconds!

I think he likes Preferred! I moved him up to Open Standard for tomorrow. He celebrated with a massage by Marcy and he's now curled up next to me with his head against my leg sound asleep. What a guy!

Ian versus the dogwalk

The dogwalk won this round. Ian fell off the dogwalk today in Toledo. First run after 6 weeks off and the contact obstacle he's most afraid of, and he falls off. UGH!! It was the only mistake of the run. His weaves looked ok. At least he stayed in them, but they weren't as fast as practice has been. In three runs, he was slow but did his weaves and never thought of coming out. At this point I have to be happy with at least working through them.

Back to the dogwalk. It was a pinwheel in the corner of the ring with two jumps to the dogwalk. There wasn't any place else for him to go but line himself up and get on that blasted thing! I could tell the whole run he was looking around and eyeing everything. He seemed fine outside the ring, but inside he wasn't 100% focused on his job -- obviously!

At least two people came up to me and said he never got his feet under him. I heard him scrambling but didn't dare look back until right as he fell off. He almost made it to the top, but couldn't hang on. He landed on his feet, looked a little stunned and definitely like he wasn't supposed to be on the ground. Then I called him to me and he came right away, I patted him, told him he was OK and walked him to the end of the dogwalk, which kind of worried him. But I sent him into the tunnel and headed out of the ring for the last 4 jumps. He was fine. He did stand at the exit gate looking a little sheepish like he was pretty sure he wasn't supposed to fall off the dogwalk.

I was really hoping there was a dogwalk in FAST, but they took it out! DARN!! My plan was to head right to the dogwalk, do it and then get out of the ring and forget the whole FAST thing. I called Kim K. just for the reassurance I was thinking right. She gave me great advice I hadn't thought about. In FAST there is no four paw safety rule, so if he gets on the obstacle with less than four paws but bails, put him over another obstacle and then try the dogwalk again. Brilliant advice! I wouldn't have thought of that!

The plan for tomorrow is just give Ian a good line and support for the dogwalk and confidently tell him to "walk it." I don't think he's really all that traumatized. He didn't freak out and try and leave the ring, and he did FAST just fine including a teeter at 20 ft. away from me. The only way I'd pull him from Standard tomorrow is if there's a tunnel dogwalk discrimination. He will likely take the tunnel and really stress at the dogwalk, so I'd pull him if that's the case.

Seriously, he's a MACH dog who was in the Finals of the 2007 AKC Invitational! You would THINK he'd stop looking around and worrying about stuff and do his job!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

But I want to snack!!

Connor and I now have a little game while tracking. It's called, "Let's see how many snacks I can get while still getting through a track." He snacks all the way through his tracks and it drives me crazy! I can't imagine what kind of animal poop and junk he's eating. Today he completed a 340 yard track with three turns and he did it in lovely style EXCEPT FOR THE SNACKING! I wonder if it's acceptable to continually scream, "Connor! Leave it! Leave it!" all the way through a track? Am I giving him mixed messages? As soft as he is, he's a bear about this. He doesn't care how many times I yell at him, he keeps snacking and some how keeps tracking!

Tracking ... Ian?

Yes, it's true. Something got into me this week, and I put out a track for Ian. I couldn't quite remember where we left off. His erratic, spastic flinging at the end of his line is all I really remembered about tracking him back in the fall of 2006.

So I set up a "puppy" track of a 10 yard, 20 yard and 40 yard track with food. I shouldn't have bothered with the food. He tracked me through the tall grass all the way to the first flag. The food on the track just slowed him down. However, I had no frantic behaviour! He was calm and seemed to know his job.

That was a couple of days ago, so this morning I laid an 80 yard straight line for him and aged it about 15 minutes. I pulled him out of the van, and he calmly turned and waited for his harness. He put his head into the harness and stood calmly for me to pull his leg through it and buckle it. Was I sure I had the right dog?

OH, I remembered what a brat he was as he pulled like crazy away from me as I tried to walk him across the parking lot. However, when I stopped and put the tracking line on the harness instead of his buckle collar, he suddenly walked calmly in front of me across the road. Then when we got to the grass on the other side, Ian actually started searching for his track! He looked like a real tracking Belgian!

Our 80 yard line went really well. He's no longer frantic at the end of the line. He doesn't drop his head as I would like, but he's doing quite well for his second time out. I think I'm going to give him another long line tomorrow morning and see what he does. We may actually think about a TD for him next year!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Attention please!

Devon is so funny. She appeared to be thoroughly enjoying her day off. She went for a 20 minute woods walk this morning, but other than that she's been snoozing the day away. I came upstairs to check email and get the food bowls (it was about that time), and in comes Ms. Devon with one of my bears from my bedroom. I forgot to put the baby gate across my bedroom door!

Of course, we can't just carry our prize around. No, we have to roll over on our back and enjoy our prize! I got the bear back, returned it to it's spot, and put the baby gate back. Now to check more email ... in trots Ms. Devon with a sock that was hanging on the drying rack. "Aren't I the cutest thing on my back playing with Mommy's sock???" (She really was cute.) I get that out of her mouth, put it on the table, sit back at the computer .... you guessed it. Here she comes with that sock's mate!

I got the message: "Mom, we're hungry! Stop fiddling around an feed us!" I did and now the contented princess is lounging across the doggie bed sound asleep again. She has the life!

Tracking Connor

Well, my quest continues to get a TD on Connor. He was technically my first tracking dog, starting in March 2006 at Camp Jigsaw in the "green" group. Devon quickly caught up with his skill level and surpassed him when she certified on October 2006.

I've attempted to certify Connor three times with no luck. The last attempt in December 2006 was failed because I missed his turn indication. Steve was quite nice in saying he didn't really indicate and I said, "That was waving a red flag for him." After tracking him to the glove, Steve's observation was, "Normally for a TD you just let the dog track and stay out of his way. You're going to have to handle Connor."

Connor has little drive, which I've known since I got him. He has to really, really love what he's doing to do it well. As soon as it becomes challenging, he's done and that usually means he's done. Tracking for an older dog who is obedience trained is though, and Connor would rather eat any of a wide variety of poop than track. Our biggest challenge is me reading his turn indications (when he actually gives me one). I figured I'd have to become a really good tracker with much more experience to handle Connor. So now that Devon's doing VST, and I've been tracking with others and watched their dogs' indications, I've started with Connor again.

He tracked well earlier in the week with longer grass and cooler weather. Of course, he snacked on all varieties of animal poop along the way, and just wagged his tail when I scolded him and told him to get back to tracking. So I decided today to really challenge him with a full-length TD track.

We ran the track at 1 hour and 10 minutes. It had warmed up a little, and the start of the track was in sparse grass but it was longer. I gave Connor one extra article along the track for a reward and motivation. He did pretty well and was steady and worked hard. His first turn was lovely, and I'm paying particular attention to his movements and any other indications of lost scent. On his first turn, he pretty much just rounded the corner and kept going. His second turn would have failed us, because he never even let up and tracked well past the turn. When he did give me loss of scent indication, he never really came back to the track, preferring to hang outside the track and look very lost. I really guided him back to the track, but once he found it he did well.

He did well on the third turn, and by this part of the track the grass became thicker and his pace and confidence really picked up. He also nailed his fourth, open turn; however, he tracked left of the actual line and was off of it by about 6-8 feet by the time we came to the last turn. I edged to my right when I saw the turn marker, and that likely made him wander that direction. He did pick the last leg up well, and other than a few stops for poop eating, tracked well to his glove. He was quite proud of himself.

Generally, Connor just tracks around corners without indicating loss of scent. However, this is subtle. And a good one in four times Connor will just flat ignore/miss the turn completely and nose down track straight on ahead until he's so far past it there's no finding it again. This will fail us for sure, because there's nothing for me to read!

He also has a habit of quartering a bit. If I see him angling off the line of the track and I stop or give stopped pressure on the line, he turns and heads back to the line. Often, he'll look back at me when this happens, and if I give too much pressure, he will stop tracking. As Steve said, I need to carefully handle him!

Getting a TD on Connor will be worth it for me, and I hope for him, too. I hope it gives him a good time with mom and another accomplishment. For me, it will make Connor a VCD2, and I'd like him to retire with that. And frankly getting a TD on Connor will probably be one of the highlights of my dog career since it has been such a tough road!

My philosophy of training

Ok, I've been thinking about this one for a week. Last weekend I was talking to a friend about retraining Ian's weave poles. She's trained dogs for a while considering she was raised by a mother who trained dogs, but she's now training her first dog on her own as an adult. She suddenly looked at me and said, "You're amazing." I was really startled and asked why she said so. She said, "You have a MACH dog and you're retraining skills. It's amazing you'd put in the effort." I really didn't know what to say, but it gave me a lot to think about this week.

Why am I working on Ian's weaves? Because I know he can do better. I looked at his Q rate before and after his injury in January, and he went from a 70% Q rate to 50% and from earning 177 points and 7 double Qs to 93 points and 3 double Qs. That's pitiful! Not only can he do better, but it was costing me money!

Secondly, I've also taken 6 weeks off this summer with Ian. Does he like it? No he doesn't. He hates it -- and he really hates it when the Goldens and I leave to train field or tracking and he has to stay home. He's barking (well, actually screaming) at me when we go out daily to take 10 minutes at the weave poles. He gives me everything he has, and it's working. But this dog needed a break, not only to break this weave cycle and retrain. Our dogs need time off just like we do!

We all need a vacation. Most of us work full time and train dogs, so we're likely working "two jobs." I found I was actually starting to not enjoy trials. I wasn't dreading them, but I realized this summer I missed spending a weekend at home. I've enjoyed taking this 6 weeks off from trialing probably more than the dogs have. Have I sat at home eating bonbons or taken up a new hobby? Nope, I've trained my dogs! And I've rediscovered I ENJOY TRAINING DOGS!

Since my holiday from trialing in mid-July, I have tracked every Friday and Saturday night and field trained one day on the weekend all with a small group. I took two days off work to spend field training in Ohio. During the week, I've trained at least one dog in something every evening. And I'm really enjoying those sessions. I'm learning a lot about my dogs, and they are getting some valuable training.

I think the conclusion of all of this thought process is also the realization that I'm becoming a mature dog trainer. I train a lot of foundation now, because I've realized that's the way to achieve a higher level of training. Are my dogs beating every dog out there? Not necessarily. But everyone is confident with our jobs, and I'm happier with the performances I'm getting. I'm no longer training to get a title. I'm training because I love to bond and spend time with my dogs. I'm challenged by the sports I choose, and I enjoy a higher level of understanding with my dogs.

And in the end isn't that's why I train the way I do, even when I'm taking a break!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Medical/injury scares

Well, if Devon and Ian wanted to scare me to death and remind me how much I love them, they did it this week!

On two different times last week while working on the contact equipment, Devon did an odd skip step on her rear right leg. She never showed any signs of limping or any other problem. However, this was exactly how her iliopsoas pull showed itself, and it was on the opposite leg as that pull so it couldn’t be a relapse of that injury. I did talk with Dr. Bonnie about it on Saturday, but we both pushed it off as her just adjusting her stride.

Well, on Sunday we were training with Steve and Janet. Devon went out for a long mark in cover and ran into some sharp stick or weed and jumped straight up in the air 3 feet. After this, she skipped a step on that leg about every 4-9 steps. In addition on Monday morning, I heard her drag her toes on that leg. UGH! So I made an appointment for the next day in the morning with my regular vet, my uncle, because they all needed titers/vaccines. I also made an appointment with Dr. Bonnie just for Devon in the afternoon.

Tuesday morning we ran Devon up and down the side of my uncle’s building, and none of us could see any problems. My uncle palpated and rotated and he couldn’t find a thing wrong. So off to Dr. Bonnie’s! The first thing Devon did was put her paws on Dr. Bonnie’s chest so she could say hello. Dr. Bonnie used this to test her balance on her rear legs and it was fine.

She started on Devon’s front end, and her left (opposite) shoulder was locked up. Hummmm, compensation issues. Then Dr. Bonnie started down her back. From about the middle of Devon’s back through her pelvis she was completely locked up with no movement. It went back easily and Devon felt much better!

Dr. Bonnie recommended a variety of exercises to get her strength and dexterity back into her rear legs, including cavalettis, ladder work, backing up, pivoting on her front and rear legs, and woods walking. We’re going to continue her training in field and tracking, while building her rear up without jumping. I may even put agility off until next spring. I will likely do some contact work, but not until after she gets this JH in September! I don’t want her injured and miss yet another opportunity for her JH.

So, Devon scared me, but she’s fine. She was actually the good news of the day.

Ian was just a great guy during his shots. He hung in there but was eager to get back to his crate. My plan was to drop all three boys at my parent’s house before taking Devon to Dr. Bonnie’s in the afternoon. I stopped to get gas, and I heard something odd in the back of the van. I looked back and Ian was rubbing his face on his crate bed. He looked up at me and his face was swollen! He was having an allergic reaction!

I immediately started digging in the dog bag for benedryl and called my uncle’s office. They put him on and since Ian wasn’t showing any signs of breathing distress, he recommended 100 mg of benedryl. This is why I carry all sorts of things in my dog bag and a jar of peanut butter in the van! Right there at the truck stop, Ian got 4 benedryl. His face looked like a Newfoundland!

I dropped Reece back at mom and dad’s but kept Ian, Connor and Devon with me. We got to Dr. Bonnie’s with no problem and the swelling had gone down. However, while we were in the vet’s office, Ian threw up what was in his stomach. At least the benedryl had time to act. When we got home, my cleaning person was still at the house, so the dogs got to spend a couple more hours in the van in the garage. I checked on them frequently to monitor the temperature and to make sure they were ok.

When I got Ian out of the van, the side of his face looked funny. His right eyeball had swollen and the white of the eye was outside the eyelid (gross!!!). More benedryl, which Ian kept down for a grant total of 30 minutes. After consulting with several people and my uncle again, we decided he was past any danger. The benedryl worked overnight (and he threw up three more times), so his face was back to normal by Wednesday morning, but my carpet will never be the same! Much to his delight, he’s eating chicken, rice and cottage cheese to get his stomach calmed down.

In talking with everyone, the conclusion is he reacted to his lepto vaccine. Apparently this is not all that unusual. From what I’ve gathered there are two different reactions, the swelling like Ian had and a muscle locking that other friends’ dogs have had. This second reaction has been described as total body soreness, not wanting to be touched or move and teeth chattering. Needless to say, Ian won’t be getting this vaccine in the future!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"My track went down the drain!" and other experiences from last night's VST training

One of the things I enjoy most about tracking is watching Devon figure out scenting problems. Last night was no exception, and I also get the joy of watching Archie and Sage also work through their various challenges.

Archie and Sage went through a parking garage last night. Steve assures us they don't often throw a parking garage in a test, but they do sometimes. Given the additional human scent and the oils and other materials coming off vehicles this is an interesting challenge. Both dogs worked it out well, and it's a challenge I look forward to working with Devon.

We were supposed to run Devon's track first; however, when we drove by the sprinkler system was running right on Devon's flag and start article! I laughed all the way to Archie's track! I told Steve, Janet and Terrie I did have a rain suit if we needed it! Instead, we ran it about an hour later. The track was three hours old (just in test range), and Steve said it was approximately 600 yards long, so although it was a little too heavy on non-veg, it was close to a test track.

Our start article was a little soggy, but Devon found the track quickly. However, she pulled up and circled (indicating lost scent) at about 10 yards. This was odd because it was on grass and three hours old so it should have been a straight forward start. I let her search and she ended up on the left with her nose down along the curb scenting back toward me where the curb and road meet. She investigated that then came back to the grass and went a few more yards when she repeated this pattern. That's when it hit me what she was doing. The run off from the sprinkler water had run to the curb, then along the edge of the road to the storm drain. Devon was following the scent of her tracker in the water as it ran off the grass. I asked Devon, "Did you tracklayer wash down the drain?" She thought maybe he did! After the third time of investigating this strange scenting challenge, she realized her tracklayer didn't wash away, but the scent was sure washing away! She moved on to the rest of her track.

The other funny challenge we had was near the end of our track. We came across a parking lot onto grass headed around some pine trees. Since Steve was my tracklayer, and I had given him and Archie a devil of track last weekend, he had reminded me from the outset that paybacks were hell. One of the things I'd given him was tossing his finish article in a pine tree, and then in the dark none of us, including Archie who knew it was in there, could find it. I turned and asked Steve if he'd thrown Devon's finish article in the tree since I figured we were coming to the end of this track. He laughed and said no but as he was laying this section a Robin had been sitting under this tree watching him. He had told the Robin it better move before the dog came through.

Just about that time Devon starts searching under the edge of the tree, intent on finding something. I had just opened my mouth to ask her what she had, when she backed out from the tree and what was in her mouth started to chirp and complain -- the Robin! She had retrieved yet another live bird for me! She put it down, and I said, "Hey Devon, we're tracking!" She seemed to remember we weren't doing field work and went right back to tracking. A few yards later she found her glove!

Steve laughed and said, "I really don't think you'll have a bit of problems with live fliers in hunt tests since Devon wants to retrieve live birds!" In fact, while Devon was quite proud of her glove, she continued to look back around the tree for her bird. I know if I would have said, "FETCH!" I would have give her a quick field lesson, too! What a girl she is!

Ian's first test of the new weave style

On Saturday, we went to a USDAA match hosted by Sky Blue Events. I'm excited there will be another local venue for agility, and I definitely wanted to support this effort. This was also a good way to test Ian's new weave protocol and see if his new style would translate. I'm happy to say it did!

I used Gamblers as weave practice, setting him up for Weaves, Jump, Weaves. The first set of weaves was in the new low, single tracking style, but he was slower than he his here. That was OK, because I know he isn't fond of this particular set of weave poles since it has a full crossbar he must step over. He came out on the second time through, but I pulled him out and got him all excited in preparation for his re-try. It worked and my friend Kathy said, "It looked like you were playing a game with him and he knew it and responded!" He did with a great set of poles.

In Standard he reverted back to his tip-toe, two step, macaroni around the poles until he went past the cross bar, then settled into his new low, single step style and sailed through the rest of the poles. I was pleased with this effort.

All in all I think the two week effort has paid off, and I'm planning on continuing the isolation work and proofing of the poles. With another three weeks until our next trial, we have lots of time to continue to improve!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ian and the weave poles

Well, I finally got tired of this weave issue that has been hanging over my head with Ian since February. My solution: train the problem away! Ian and I have been doing the World Class Weave protocol from Joe Canova. For the last 10 days we’ve headed to the back training yard and done weave poles every day for about 10 minutes. I put wires back on the entrance and exit to give him confidence while we were working his skills. The difference in his performance is amazing!

His style has really evolved. Ian only occasionally single tracks in competition, even though that’s probably his most comfortable weave position. He’s now single tracking all the time, but his head and shoulders are dropped low and he looks really comfortable; there’s way more forward motion in his style than side to side motion as in the past when he’s single tracked. I think he now has a rhythm and footwork and a comfort level that he’s never had before.

I also see a focus and drive in his face in the poles that I’ve never seen before. He’s driving to the end of those poles and he’s only looking straight ahead! This could easily shave 3-5 seconds off our course times if he can keep it up. Oh, and he loves the toy being thrown as his reward! I throw a “Bad Cuz” ball and I can have the toy in my hand as I send him and run, and he never looks at anything else until he’s done and I throw the toy. He’s always loved the weaves up until this winter, so maybe all this just got him to love them again. I could live with that!

Our new contact equipment

Well, one of the biggest disappointments with Devon’s injury is that it meant we couldn’t attend the 2008 Golden Retriever Club of America’s National Specialty. It’s on the east coast this fall, near where the majority of Gaylan’s folks live. I have been looking forward to this event for more than a year. But with Devon’s injury, she could only participate in one event, so it would have been a lot of money spent with not much accomplished.

So to ease the disappointment and make a good training investment with the money we “saved” by not going, I bought an aluminum, adjustable dogwalk and A frame from Mark’s Agility Equipment. We got it delivered on Monday night, and Devon tried it out for the first time last night. She did a great job running across the equipment and giving me her two on two off contact performance. I lowered all the equipment to give her confidence and it worked. She did a great job. I’m looking forward to more contact training!

August 2: A great tracking challenge and our first non-veg turn

Saturday we had two great challenges on our VST track that I'm proud to say Devon handled really well. We tracked near a church that looked more like an office building. The track angled from the parking lot across an island, driveway, sidewalk and onto grass along a white iron fence. The trick was the white iron fence was a protection fence for the stairs leading down to a below ground level courtyard. There was an article along the fence, too, so all the scent drifted over and down the retaining wall into the courtyard.

Steve was my tracklayer and said he'd never do something like this in a test, but it was a great scenting lesson for us and Devon. As Devon followed the track across all the hard surfaces, she didn't miss a beat and followed it right down the stairs into the courtyard -- and that was mighty brave because it was 10 p.m. and that courtyard was pitch black!! She checked out the courtyard, came back up the steps and searched on either side of the retaining wall. Then she traveled back to where she lost the track behind me on the sidewalk. She picked up the scent and again followed it right down those steps into the pitch black courtyard. I let her work all this out. After another minute of convincing herself that tracklayer didn’t go into the courtyard, she came back up the steps, and investigated around the retaining wall. Sure enough, she picked the track up and charged down the fence line getting the reward of the article she’d been seeking – a white plastic lid!

It was really amazing to see her diligently working out the scent patterns and eliminating the wrong choices. She was so proud of herself when she found that plastic lid!

Then we were off to our first non-vegetated turn. It was in a gravel parking lot at the back of the church complex. She lost the scent, and searched in large circles. She badly wanted to pull me 50 feet away to the nearest grass to see if our tracklayer flew over there, but I wouldn’t let her. Instead I gave her some water and rescented her. As soon as she made a good commitment in the right direction, I stepped in behind her to give her confidence in her choice. She continued on this line about 80-100 yards to her glove. I was really proud of her – she handled that turn just like she would have a normal turn, just struggled a little more. Hopefully next time she will have learned something and it will be easier for her.

July 26: More VST training

I’ve been meeting up with three friends and their two dogs, Steve and Janet Ripley with Archie (Golden) and Terrie Borman with Sage (Weim), and we're doing VST work twice a week. All three dogs have their TDXs so our sleeves are rolled up and we're working hard surfaces. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Steve has put a CT on his older Golden Zoe, is tracking judge and has a VST booklet out he wrote this winter. I can't say enough about how most of the tracking folks freely give back to those who want to learn. I don't know who learns more on these tracking evenings -- me or Devon!

Devon again worked the oldest track, aged at least 2 hours. She's doing great work along the backs of buildings where walled areas, like loading docks and pools, pull in the scent. She turns, checks them out, dismisses them and moves along. Articles have been no problem.

Last night we had a leg of the track go along the curb of a parking area, with islands jutting out every 6-8 parking spaces and a tree line beyond the grass. It was after 10 p.m. and there were bats in the trees flying out to eat bugs off the lights; beyond the trees and up a big hill was I-465, the Indianapolis' outer belt. Devon tracked along the curb and up and over the islands ignoring everything around her. We got to the end of the row and her track went on the grass for about three paces then made a left turn back into the parking area in front of a walled off area with three doors that held three dumpsters. Steve (who laid the track) wondered out loud to us if Devon would catch the turn or track on past it getting sucked into the channel between the treeline and wall of the dumpsters. Either she fully understands English and heard every word Steve said, or she's tracking because she never lifted her nose, made the left and tracked confidently past all three doors that housed the dumpsters. In fact, she tracked past so quickly we didn't even see the cat she spooked who was in the dumpsters -- it scared the rest of them and we never saw it!

July 25: VST training

After a day and a half of field work and playing with her relatives in Ohio, we drove home, took a 45 minute nap, and then went back out for VST training. Devon ran the last track of three that was nearly 2 hours old and in the dark (it was nearly 10 p.m.). She did lovely work on a curved curb, then serpentined around three islands on the parking lot. However, about 2/3 of the way through her track, the fatigue hit her and she hit a wall. We worked through it, and she picked up her track to work along the back of a hotel. She tracked in front of a loading dock area, only quickly checkout out the interior area and wagging her tired body briefly at a valet taking a smoke break (who probably really wondered about the four people and dog walking along the back of the hotel at 10 p.m.). The she tracked beside the wall of a pool area, stopping briefly to again look through the metal gate into the walled area (the walled area and gate pull the scent in, so she has to work out the scenting patterns and go back to her track), and finally making the last two turns to her glove!

After all that work, Devon (and I) got to bed at 11:15 p.m.! I couldn't be more proud of my girl, and she's having a ball working on her two favorite sports -- tracking and field.

Devon shakes off the rust

July 24-25

Our month of field drills paid off for Devon. I think she realized she was in training mode again when the bumpers went to Evansville and we did pile work after the agility trial! I took two days off work this week to train with my field pro, Mitch White and enjoy a long weekend. When I arrived, it was a mini-reunion of "Gaylan's Midwest" with Pat Swallows and Jan Masica having lessons, too. Great fun to see Abbi, Chime, Kerri and Keeper (and Jan's Uno and Sadie). Devon and Keeper look so much a like! Watching Keeper on water marks was like looking out and seeing Devon's face swimming back into me! Jan got photos, so hopefully we’ll get them posted soon.

We've been focusing Devon’s field work on marks (land and water) and lining drills. On Thursday the teamwork came together on wagon wheels, and we started clicking and nailing them. Friday morning we realized she's very visual on the lining drills (not going unless she sees something), so we'll be working on that in the coming weeks by reducing the length and "spokes" of the wagon wheel, but hiding the bumpers so she must go out straight without seeing them. Even with this work ahead, Mitch thought we were ready to try her first sight blinds in his big field and wants me to start throwing her an easy sight blind as we train marks to get her used to what she'll see in Senior Hunter tests.

Mitch set out two sight blinds marked by white buckets. The first was about 20-25 yards with suction of decoys and a downhill slope and she had to break through some cover. I stepped out of the holding blind, lined her up and she locked in and nailed it! Back into the blind we went so he could explain the second one to me. Number two was again marked with a big white bucket, about 30-35 yards straight down a hill with decoys and more cover to break through. Again we stepped out, I lined her up and she nailed it!

So, Mitch decided we were ready to throw in some marks! Back in the holding blind while Mitch set himself up to the left, farther up the hill from sight blind #1. He threw the mark and she went out slowly for it, and it was like she was fighting an invisible force trying to pull her down the hill toward the sight blind and other factors. However, she nailed her mark, and returned. I asked her "Where?" while the bumper was still in her mouth. She locked in and I took the bumper, asked her "where?" again, and sent her. She nailed it!

So, Mitch decided the raise the bar even higher! He went to the right of the second blind, set up two monster white gunner models, stood beside them and called us out of the blind. He threw the mark over the line of the second sight blind, so it landed between the two blinds, closer to blind #1. Devon nailed the mark, going out with more purpose the second time out. She came in and I lined her up with her sight blind, and she again lined it with no problems! I think Mitch was just sure that mark would have wiped out her sight blind, but it didn't and she just nailed all the concepts he threw at her!

I was SO PROUD of her! Her lack of speed on the first mark/blind combo told me she was really thinking through this concept and working hard to get it. (She's done the same thing when we've thrown difficult agility concepts at her; it's hard for her to give speed when she's thinking and learning). However, she comes out successfully and gives me great confidence (and speed) the next time.

On Thursday, she got her first baby water double, and she worked it out nicely. Her honoring is good, as are her heeling and line manners, so Mitch suggested we try her WCX in October. He said best case senario she gets her WCX and worst case we support our club and have a great training day.

Ian's best agility weekend ever

Ian has the weekend of a career! April through June we did a lot of outdoor trials. Ian loves to trial outside, in spite of the fact the heat pulls his speed down. So I started seeking out some indoor, air conditioned trials.

July 4th weekend we traveled to Evansville, Indiana, to a trial and site we had never been to. Usually this results in another rocky weekend. However, much to my shock, Ian had the weekend of his career! Friday he double Q'd earning a total of 37 points! He had his career best YPS in both Standard and JWW, with 4.99 YPS in JWW coming in with 10 MACH points before his multiplier for second place! Just to prove it wasn't a fluke, he did it again in Standard on Saturday! The spell was broken when he shied at a ring steward in JWW on Saturday and crashed the triple. However, Ian finished the weekend earning 67 MACH points in four Q's with all placements (three 2nds and a 3rd).

Devon can play again!

June 21
Devon is released to begin training! More than 2 months of leash walking and limiting all activity worked, and in only 3.5 months after her injury, she was released to start working again. Reike massage therapist Susan Yates said she really hadn’t missed training all that much, but she did have a newfound respect for her body! That’s good because I don’t ever want to go through an injury like this again. Devon was limited to only front and back motion in training, and no rotating and pushing. That’s the last part of the muscle to heal, and we don’t want to push her too early.

June 29
Devon’s first water series post injury (with no training prior to running the water marks). Wow! Do we have some rust to knock off! Let’s just say it’s back to pile work …


On June 1, Ian earned his MACH!! After the longest spring ever to earn 88 points, Ian earned this final 7 points on a Standard run Sunday, June 1 at the Derby City Agility Association’s trial in Corydon, Ind. It was great to have Indiana friends and Ohio friends and especially Ian’s breeder Julie Hite see his MACH run. It was the end of a very long road, and in the words of Susan Crank, who was his first agility instructor, “you have no idea how far this dog has come! I never imaged this dog would MACH!” From people-shy puppy who was afraid of contact obstacles to MACH dog only took 3.5 years of trialing, including a whole year out of Standard after we moved to Indiana. Ian is one amazing dog!

Catching up

Well, it has been months since I’ve blogged. Shame on me! I’m sure it’s because of how busy I am between work and trialing so much. Here’s a run down of the last few months:

May 24-25
Ian was in his third USDAA trial of his career; his first weekend in Masters. Ian earned 6 of 8 masters Qs including winning Masters Jumpers on Saturday, beating Linda Mecklenburg’s Super. Of course, he won the class because everyone else NQ’s and he was at least clean – not nearly as fast as the rest of the field but at least clean!

May 10-11
Connor humored me by performing very well in Veterans Obedience at the White River Golden Retriever Club’s specialty. Maybe he knew it was Mother’s Day weekend, so he did his best. He was such a great guy, winning second place (out of three) both days.

April: Big problem – Devon is hurt!
After battling a weird rear leg issue for about 3 weeks, we got the diagnosis. Devon pulled her iliopsoas muscle in her rear left leg in mid-March field training. After several consultations and talking with people who had battled this injury, I was told this was a minimum of a 6 month recovery period. My plans for getting her Junior Hunter title in May and trying for her Senior Hunter title in the fall went right out the window, along with all the agility training we had planned. I went to the drastic step of restricting Devon to leash walking only and no horse play with the other dogs. We were going to get this healed! I missed my training partner!

March: 2008 AKC Agility National Championships
We drove to Tulsa, OK, for our first AKC Agility National Championships! We drove out with Indiana team Ruth Goode and her Border Collie Zina. They were great traveling companions, and boy did we have a great time! We spent a lot of time with good friends Sarah and Esteban Fernandezlopez from Texas who were there with three dogs, Denver (Aussie), Gypsy (Gaylan’s Golden) and Sammie (Rottie). One of the highlights of the weekend was watching Esteban and Sammie in the Challenger Round – and they almost won it! We also caught up with Susan Anderson and her Belgian Ring who we met at the AKC Invitational in December. Susan is one of the nicest people in the world, and I got to meet her mischievous and adorable Belgian boy Lee, who was 7 months.

Ian was 3 for 5 that weekend, double Qing on the team tournament day and only getting one Q during the actual Nationals competition. Those stupid weave poles got us again! Oh well. I only wanted one clean run Q ribbon as a souvenir, and Ian won it for me. On the up side, we got some beautiful photos of Ian thanks to Great Dane Photography. I ordered a large 16x20 collage of Ian’s photos, and it was beautiful!

After what I thought was Ian just being goofy and coming out of the weave poles (see Feb. 2 post), I discovered he was hurt and it was causing him pain as he was weaving. Did I ever feel rotten for getting on him in the poles! Unfortunately, even after we got him put back together, I had caused a performance problem in the ring. Suddenly we were having stress issues with the weaves! Less than 100 points from his MACH, and we suddenly had a less than 40% Q rate!

I also decided to pull Devon from agility competition. Over the winter is a rough time to train when you don’t have a large indoor training facility (I have a small indoor facility). So I figured we’d take the summer off to train.