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!


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!!


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

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.

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.

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!

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!

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!

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.

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.