Wednesday, January 28, 2009


By 6 a.m. this morning we had more than 9 inches of snow and by noon we finished the storm with 12 inches. Now it's a beautiful sunny day. There was no way, even with 4WD I was getting out of the driveway, so we had a snow day!

The dogs had a blast playing in the snow. And yes, that's how Ian and Devon ALWAYS fly off the deck...

Connor had a rough start this morning. At 6 a.m., the thought of sliding down the snow covered steps to the yard was too much for him, so he pottied on the deck. Considering he'll be 9-years-old this weekend, he's allowed. You can tell he got over his worry about the steps in the daylight!

Devon can go down the steps about as fast as she comes up them!

However, Devon does have some problems FINDING things in the snow. For a tracking dog (and a field dog) things falling into the snow baffle her. Last week she lost a bumper at HY BAR Training Center, and Bang the Rottie had to find it for her! But she stuck with it today, looking for a CUZ Chicken. 

Part 1, the throw and search...

Part 2 (I totally give up on her)...

Part 3, she gets a 10 out of 10 for persistence! Even though it took her 10 minutes, she's a good girlie!!

And typical for Devon, once she figures it out the first time, she's got it! She never lost the chicken again (bringing it to me was an other issue....).

If you got it, I hope you all enjoyed the snow as much as we did! I shoveled a path for Connor to make it to the steps and down them safely. My dad drove the tractor 1/2 mile to my house and dug out my driveway. So I'll have to go back to work tomorrow. Oh well, at least we had a fun, quiet day today!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Update on weave entries

Well, working on Devon’s weave entries with just three poles really seems to have helped. Last night I reviewed all the entry positions with dog on left and on right, and she just nailed them and weaved out all 6 poles. She was really proud of herself, too! Of course this was from a sit about 6 feet from the poles. However, we were having problems with that a few weeks ago. I’m curious to see what class and this weekend’s trial will bring. Unfortunately if the weather prediction is accurate, our class tonight may be doubtful. But we should be able to make Thursday’s class. More later!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Paw Power Rally Trial

This morning, Ian, Devon and I headed north to the Paw Power Rally trial. Ian has 5 legs toward his RAE2 title. We earned those legs back in 2007 when I was preparing for the 2007 Belgian Sheepdog National Specialty. Unfortunately Ian decided to start breaking his honor position in Excellent, which at the time disqualified him. I knew rule changes were on the horizon which would make blowing the honor a -10 points and not an NQ, so I stopped trialing him until the rule changes took affect in January 2008. Now that we're getting ready for the 2009 Belgian Sheepdog National Speciality in Wisconsin in April, it seemed like a good time to go back to rally.

I had never been to this venue, and it was a nice club. The trial was small, with less than a dozen dogs each in Excellent B and Advanced B. As I was setting up my crates, we all started smelling natural gas, and we had a brief scare that there was a leak. After they called the gas company and more exhibitors came in saying the smell was on the west side of town too, I felt more comfortable and it was determined there wasn't a problem. 

I will say there were more Rotties at this trial than I have seen in one place in my life! According to the exhibitors, our judge Ms. Ronnie Bizer trains very nice performance Rotties and most were nervous about trialing under her. I found her courses to be flowing, doable with challenges, and good for big dogs. However, I was a little concerned about Ian with all those Rotties, especially having to honor with them coming down the line toward him.

I didn't think about who would be honoring Ian as he was running until we were about to enter the ring. The biggest intact male Rottie in the building was on the honor for Ian's run -- Yeah! This guy was huge, and I was working hard to make sure Ian was with me down that line toward where the honor dog was laying. And then I realized the judge had stepped between Ian and the Rottie as Ian was nearing the honor station. While I wanted to give this judge a big hug for easing my concern, Ian was not impressed with how close she was to him. However, that worked to my advantage as it pushed Ian around the corner away from both the judge and the Rottie. In the video clip below, you can't see the Rottie until the end of the run. However, as Ian makes the turn around the cone, you can see the judge (my hero!) and you now know what she's doing.

Luckily, Ian honored for a Berner. What made me even more pleased was during Ian's honor, the judge was over by the far ring gates. Clearly, she wasn't worried about my dog; and I'm thankful for that small vote of confidence for a Belgian Sheepdog. I don't get those too often!

After Ian runs, you will see I have a devil of a time getting him to lay down on the honor. He finally crowds himself into an uncomfortable down, which he didn't hold. That's because the big Rottie left drool all over the floor during his honor. Ian wanted NOTHING to do with laying near that drool! Apparently he doesn't even like Rottie cooties! The stewards were having a big laugh, since it was quite clear why Ian was avoiding that spot! 

Because Ian broke his down, he lost 10 points and his score was 87 out of 100. That cost him 2nd place in the class. He redeemed himself by WINNING the Advanced B class with a score of 95 (first prize was $10, so he bought me lunch). I have to tell you I thought our Advanced run was terrible until I saw this video. I should have taped our runs years ago. Ian is a wonderful rally dog! Look at that near perfect heel position! And he's right with me the most of the time! The only fumble was when he wanted the jump during the spiral heeling around the cones. I know I'm working hard out there, but I've never given him the credit he deserves. He looked lovely, and at our next trial I'm going to relax more and enjoy the run! I have a great dog!

Fair warning, rally runs are almost as bad as watching obedience runs (i.e. paint drying can be more exciting). And Ian doesn't exactly rush through these signs. 

Rally Advanced B -- Score 95 points, qualified and 1st place

Rally Excellent B -- Score 87 points, qualified

Friday, January 23, 2009

Devon at the WRGRC WCX

This is a photo from the land series of Devon's Working Certificate Excellent test in October 2008. I really like this photo because of the contrast of the white bird and the way the bird's wing and Devon's ear have the same curve. Very artsy for working in camo!

A bit about obedience

Devon really enjoys obedience. We had another private lesson this week with Linda, and Devon did surprisingly well. I still have to work harder on set ups, but the "get close" work we were doing on her left turns was really nice. She also surprised both Linda and me with her fronts. I've not really worked them, and we had her doing side step and step back fronts within a minute. She is going to be a fantastic heeling dog.

Our only struggle in obedience has been the foot touch to the wall. This is a part of how Linda and Mike teach the go out. Unfortunately, Devon hasn't liked the foot touch. She'll do it at their training facility, but when I get home after a couple of successful attempts, she runs away very stressed. This time I've stuck with it, and I've seen some improvement. I started sitting on the floor and asking her for the behavior with lots of good treats. This is really helping. I'm also changing the word to "Smack." I think this will also help solidify the behavior as a happy one for her. Thursday night we were able to get her to touch three different posts at Pawsitive.

Devon is a really flashy obedience dog. I can't wait to see how her skills will continue to develop! 

Field training in January

I managed to take advantage of our only nice weather in weeks. It came in yesterday with mild temps in the upper 40s. Of course I had agility class last night. The cold front came through today, but the temps were still warmer than they have been. In spite of a very cold breeze, Devon and I managed to sneak in a T drill. For only doing these a hand full of times over the last 3 months, Devon is doing remarkably well. On 20 bumpers, she only missed one over, her first to the right. I knew one of her overs was weak, and after today it has to be the right that is weaker. I just called her in and got her running back again (she showed some mild stress with the failure). Then before I sent her to a right over again, I identified the pile for her. That worked, and I got her back there a second time without a throw.

I'm going to have to stretch her out on these T drills when the weather breaks, but for now the small T is working really well. And 20 bumpers was a good amount for being stuck inside for many weeks. 

Connor's a good dog

I have to brag on what a good boy Connor is. Thursday morning he was nosing around a pair of pants I had worn to agility class Tuesday night and just dropped on the floor when I went to bed. Of course I’d had treats in the pockets, and I knew he was searching for leftovers. I scolded him slightly and picked up the pants from the floor. As I did, I heard something hit the floor – it was a whole piece of salmon jerky that was in the pocket of the pants. I didn’t give it to him, because I didn’t want to reward him for scrounging in my clothes! I have friends who don’t have any pockets left in most of their training clothes because the dogs eat them out looking for treats. Instead, I broke the treat up and put it in the dogs’ Kongs that morning. Connor is such a good boy for not tearing up my pants looking for that big reward! He had full access to my bedroom for 36 hours before he decided to show me there was a huge treat left there. What a good boy!

"Where are all the poles, Mom?"

You've got to love thinking dogs. Devon is having a small weave pole entry problem. She's nailing the first pole, but she's not slowing down enough to get turned into the second pole and often skips it for the third pole. All in all, this is a minor problem. And considering it's basically her only problem, I'm thrilled!

Now that it's cold, I have moved the equipment into my small building, so we can’t do much agility at home. But we can practice weave entrances on 6 poles, which we've been doing. It became clear Devon was not 100% sure why or when she does something that doesn't get her a reward. I didn't help a lot because I was standing back letting her work, and not really helping the baby dog out. And she is a real thinking dog. So, she decided to make stuff up to figure out what she's supposed to do right! A couple of weeks ago on right hand entrances, she started slicing into the poles on the wrong side of #1. Great! Now I really did have a problem.

 In our lesson this week, Jenn suggested I go back to just three poles and clicking the entrance. This was a thought I had had, too, and since that’s how I trained entrances, I made it a priority this week.You should have seen the look on Devon's face on the first night! She kept looking past the third pole like, "Where did the rest of them go, mom?" She even weaved invisible poles on the base several times at first. She is too funny!

It may be working, because last night she didn’t miss a single entry and made it to pole 3 every time … she did start skipping poles along the 12 because of speed and sliding, but I didn’t worry about this too much. I want this entry problem fixed, and then we can move on to doing all 12 poles!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I am in control!

The best thing just happened. It's after 8 p.m., and my mom called to tell me she was going to stop on her way home to drop something off. I was reading blogs, so I just kept reading. Devon was on the daybed overlooking the driveway. She saw the headlights turn into the drive and gave an alert bark, which brought the boys awake (as usual Ian was barking and at the same time looking around to see what he was supposed to be barking at). I got up from the computer and walked to stairs, dogs jumping around me ... and Devon stopped at the top of the stairs and checked in with me. Good girl! The boys followed her lead. She didn't rush down the stairs, because they have been taught to sit on the top landing until released. If I want them to go ahead of me, I say "downstairs" as I approach the stairs. Devon knew I gave no command for her to go downstairs, so she stopped and sat. And as the garage door was going up, my three dogs sat at the top of the stairs, allowing me to walk down, and they didn't move until they were released. Of course as soon as I said, "OK," they rushed downstairs barking to greet my mom at the back door! Dogs will be dogs!

Monday, January 12, 2009

CISSC Trial: Devon in Novice

What an awesome trialing weekend we had. I enjoyed crating near good friends (especially Emma from Agile Gold) and watching and taping a lot of great runs. This was Devon's second full weekend of AKC trialing. I was super proud of her this weekend. I'll cut to the chase and say she was a perfect 4 for 4 this weekend. Since Ian also had a 100% Q rate, I had two dogs with a perfect weekend! I have never had this happen to me, and I was really happy about it! As I mentioned in Ian's post below, I'm now a BIG Edie Allyn fan!

The down side of a one ring trial and running an Excellent dog and a Novice dog is the long wait for the Novice dog. The running order was Excellent JWW, Excellent Standard, Open Standard, Novice Standard, Open JWW and Novice JWW. I was proud of Devon for hanging in there for 10 hours each day from the time we arrived until her last run was done.

Saturday, Novice Standard 
On the start line, Devon wanted to make SURE the judge saw her sitting there. I swear she thinks all those folks out there are just to watch HER run! Every class had the same exact opening through the table. I thought this was tough for the Novice dogs to come out of that tunnel looking at two off course options, and come out of the chute toward the A frame with an off course jump. Some of the Excellent dogs didn't make it that far!

Her teeter performance was 100% fantastic, but at the end you will see my mental slip. Devon and I haven't sequenced since before Christmas at the CPE trial. I didn't realize this until I stepped to the line with her. I rehearsed all her performances before hand, but during the run I forgot she has stopped contacts, and Ian does not. You'll see I take her straight off the teeter to the chute -- BAD MOM!! Devon does a double take back up and me as if to say, "Uh, did we forget something back there?" Yep we did, babe, but we're going to keep going!

A friend of mine remarked later that Devon's A frame contact was text book perfect -- thanks Judy! I appreciate that comment! And her automatic down on the table was also very nice.

After the tunnel, you'll see me once again forget I have a baby dog. I made the connection out of the tunnel, turned and looked where I was going (breaking the connection) and never actually told my dog to JUMP! I dropped my arm, and GOOD GIRL, she came around the jump. Note to self -- sequence at least once in the week preceding a trial! Dogwalk was good. I turned her a little too soon for the rear into the tunnel. 

I think Devon just had too much speed coming out of the tunnel to get the weave entrance. This is something we practice all the time at home, but this was a trial. You'll see she smiled at her fans in the gallery before coming back to do them correctly! I was super pleased with her performance the second time. This was her first Novice Standard Q and she took 4th place.

Saturday Novice JWW
The weaves were third right out of a tunnel. It was a right entrance, one we've been practicing. She was distracted on the first try, not thinking on the second one, and I was pleased she nailed it on the third try. I liked the rear on the flat in the pinwheel, but I think I could have given her more info earlier. I think Devon adjusted at the same time I gave her a small call away from an off course jump toward the close.

Finally, the hard call I gave her was because when she landed over the double, she was facing the entrance gate. One of her very best Golden friends Emma from Agile Gold was standing with her mom waiting to come into the ring. Luckily Kathy and I had thought of this before the run, so she wasn't inside the ring as the gate steward wanted. I could tell it still crossed her mind to go say hello! Luckily she came back to work! Good girl! All in all I thought this was a nice run. This was her NAJ, thanks to two Qs a year ago. She also took 4th place.

Sunday, Novice Standard
Devon was super tried Saturday night, and we had to be at the trial even earlier since it was tall to small on Sunday. In spite of her weariness and slower than usual start, the opening was fantastic. I remembered to show her good deceleration before the turn to the chute and get my shoulders clearly rotated. She never even looked at the off course tunnel. She nailed her weave poles on the FIRST attempt! She flew to the A frame, and even gave the judge a wag and a smile to make sure she saw her perfect contact. The automatic down to the sit on the table was lovely.

After the table, Devon had a little bit of a concern on the teeter. You can't see it and no one in the gallery noticed, but I noticed a little hesitation. You can see on the video that there's moving shadows on the floor. This is from the Big Ass Fan (yes, folks, that's what it's called) and today the teeter was right under the fan. I'm thinking this was why Devon was slightly worried. The teeter has never been right under the fan. 

I gave her lots of praise for a successful teeter, but then she didn't even see the tunnel entrance after the teeter. She pulled left and saw the dogwalk and attempted a really bad entrance. You see she's not paying any attention to me and trying to work out her awkward position on her own, so I just stood up and waited. I figured she'd seek out my help at some point, and if not she'd get on the dogwalk and I'd have to run to the other end! In less time that it felt like out there, she turned and came to me and we were back on course.

I'm very pleased with her dogwalk entrance; it was fast and confident. I could tell when she came down the dogwalk she wasn't got to hit her contact. I released her and went on. I knew she was mildly stressed and decided not to push it. She came charging out of that tunnel like her tail was on fire! She gave me a glimpse of how fast she can be over the last two jumps -- and I'm glad that she finally gave me a head nod before the last jump to acknowledge I was there!

This was her second Novice Standard Q and she earned 2nd place!

Sunday, Novice JWW
The last class. I don't know who was more tired, me or Devon! The first two obstacles were the same as Excellent, and I'm proud of Devon for executing this well. She got her weave entrance, but couldn't hold it. I was pleased she nailed it the second time. Now we were off to the races! The rest of the course was an easy run, especially since Devon was so tired and it was now 5 p.m. (we'd arrived at 7 a.m.). She cruised in for an easy Q and 3rd place!

I couldn't have been more proud of Devon. She got the evening off tonight so I could post videos. I think she deserves it!

Ian feels left out

Ok, I got the new video camera and I've only used it for Devon's runs so far. Poor Ian, always getting left out. So I decided to ask Terrie to video tape him. 

Generally you will notice I'm telling Ian what an incredibly brilliant dog he is all the way through both runs. This is my recent discovery after months of inconsistency -- Ian needs to hear how wonderful he is all the time. Sigh! I've finally decided that he's given me so much over the last two years, I can give back to him. If his ego needs to be boosted through the entire run, I'll do it. It's paying off since he was a perfect 4 for 4 this weekend with placements in every class. And you'll also note how good his weave poles are! They only improved all weekend!

The Excellent B JWW course was first on Sunday morning, running tall dogs first. Ian was about the 6th dog on the line and I believe he was one of the first to qualify. I was really glad when I saw two straight tunnels on this course that I didn't have the world's fastest border collie -- or even a mildly speedy dog of any breed! Let me tell you seeing two straight tunnels on the course when you walk in the door is better than coffee to wake you up at 7 a.m.!! Ian ran this in 4.11 YPS, which is a little more sluggish than normal for him. I was proud of my handling and felt I gave him very good direction. My pre-cues for my front crosses were nice, but my rear cross after the weaves was a little late (since he had to turn and look at me to see where he was going because he knew over the ring gate and into the gallery's lap wasn't right). I want it noted that I do know how to layer! 

The Excellent B Standard course was a challenge, but I appreciate how judge Edie Allyn let the dogs open up and run as well as push us handlers to prove our skills. I'm becoming an Edie Allyn groupie now, and I may start stalking her trials after we went a perfect 4 for 4 with Ian AND Devon ... more about that later, this post is supposed to be about Ian!

I walked this course several times thinking about the best path for Ian. The opening was tough, even for Ian -- a front cross after a triple, a long pinwheel ending in a panel with a front cross where I jammed him right into the weave poles. The front cross after the weaves was designed to keep him away from the off course first jump, but I got back on my heels and almost didn't get him into the tunnel. I'm particularly proud of my position after the chute to clearly indicate the correct direction on not either of the off course jumps that sucked a lot of dogs. 

The only miscalculation was when I thought a front cross onto the dogwalk would help him more than a post turn ... I was clearly WRONG about that, as Ian nearly stopped dead and said, "No Momma! I don't like that approach!" Luckily he never stopped completely and must have been too far away from the plane to call a refusal. The judge was right behind me, so she had a nice look at him dancing around out there before he saved my butt and got on the dogwalk. Good boy!

Winter tracking is tough on human hands

Last Monday, I had time to lay a quick track around a school that we’ve used numerous times. This is a nice place because it isn’t being used as a school right now. However, there is some activity at the building. I was hoping they wouldn’t mind some weird woman in a business outfit and a wool topcoat with a fanny pack around her front wandering around the grounds muttering to herself and dropping trash!

This time I remembered to keep the track within the lighted areas of the school. The last time I tracked here, my start flag was in the dark when I returned. I again focused on transitions with giving her areas of non-veg. I also added a non-veg turn on a sidewalk as an extra challenge.

Devon once again started very strong. She was really thrilled to be tracking again. She transitioned onto the parking lot very well. I’m glad I’m still using a hand touch in water occasionally on non-veg surfaces. Devon was using these spots to get her confidence up and double check herself. If I can be sure of where I lay the scent in water, I don’t mark it with chalk so she won’t learn to look for chalk marks the way she drags me to flags!

On the long stretch of parking lot, Devon tracked with her head up higher than she has been. I know Steve’s been working with Archie on dropping his head more on non-veg. While some say they track just fine with their heads up, I agree with Steve that it’s much easier to read them with their heads down. I tried to stop when Devon’s head came up and she was even a little off the line to see if she’d drop her head and look for the scent. This did work pretty well and pulled her more true to the line. She did want to jump to the grass pretty quickly when she saw it and found the track up there. I’m seeing more serpentines in her future and turns on the non-veg before the grass! That will be something for us to work in the spring!

The rest of her track was very nice. She explored and was comfortable tracking through a covered porch next to the maintenance building that held lawn mowing equipment. She has previously struggled here, as did Archie. She also found a metal article in the dark in a rubber mulch (black) playground area. I was impressed! I knew it was there but I could not see it; I would have known where to look if she passed it. However, she was right on the track and had no problem finding it right away. Devon’s non-veg turn was alright. She knew there was a turn and explored the area, but she was also quick to jump to the grass. Again I think we have some more serpentine work to do.

The biggest challenge with both of our tracks on Sunday and Monday was how cold my hands got. It was only 30-32 degrees, and I had heavy layers on. I wasn’t cold except my hands, which were so cold they became extremely painful. I couldn’t spend any more time outside with her because of this intense pain. Unfortunately even though Devon enjoyed the change of pace, it will be a while before we do any more tracking. I need warmer weather!

Grand Central Station and other tracking challenges

Last Sunday I put in a track for Devon at a local elementary school. I had not tracked at this particular school before but found a nice area to do a short VST track. I can’t remember the last time we tracked, so I didn’t want to do anything real challenging.

I mainly worked transitions from veg to non-veg. I want to know that I can read her at a transition. She’s a pro at curb work, but I threw that in for good measure and a confidence builder. I figured the school hadn’t been used over the holidays, so I did put in part of the track on the grass between the driveway/sidewalk and playground equipment. I figured that had been used during the holidays as the school is surrounded by subdivisions. I also put a turn at the base of a handicap ramp in the driveway in some light debris of dirt and leaves. I figured this would give her a “hard-surface” turn with a lot of stuff to hold the scent.

We went back 3 hours later, and as I was getting her out of the SUV, a van came around the back of the school. Great! The person even had a dog hanging in the front window … even better. Sure enough, he parked in the driveway right in front of the playground and woods where I laid the track. He wasn’t on the track, but the track did a U around his van.

I started the track anyway, figuring I could abandon it by the time I got there if he hadn’t left. I kept an eye out for a dog coming from that direction, too. Devon’s start was great, and she acted like it was a 1 hour track as fast as she worked it! She missed tracking.

Devon was working down to the curb when a second car came around the back of the building. Now what! As Devon worked, I watched this car and shortened up on the line. Sure enough, the car came along the driveway where she was working the curb. I called Devon back to me and waited until the car went by; two teenagers who were very disappointed about all the activity at this school! However, they did give me a great opportunity to have a restart.

As we neared the van and I had to make a decision, I called out to the person asking if their dog was on leash. Nothing. I was still weighing my decision to abandon the track, when dog and master came into sight walking right past that “non-veg” turn I created – great! I heard the dog before I saw them and called out asking if he was on leash. Yes, he was. They got into the van, and I once again stopped Devon’s work and waited for them to leave. Another practice restart!

Now Devon could work the hardest part of the track in peace … yeah right! Just when I thought we could concentrate, a patrol car moved into the parking lot. He stopped and checked out my vehicle, which was unusual with a temporary plate. As he came around toward the playground, I stopped Devon once again and waved at him and smiled when his lights hit me. I quickly explained that was my SUV he saw and my dog was learning to track human scent in urban areas and we were practicing. He thought that was great and wished us good luck and good evening. I’m so glad police officers understand these things and support them!

Devon was restarted for the third time, but it was now very hard to get her focused. This was the area where the dog and owner had come through, and I wasn’t certain how much direct scent they had laid on the tracking area. Devon found her non-veg turn and indicated it strongly, but she also insisted on pulling me to the right where the dog had been. When I wouldn’t go repeatedly, she tracked where she was supposed to. However twice more she tried to con me into going back to the right. Luckily, I knew why she wanted to go that way (looking for some friendly dog who had just been here and was bound to want to play with her), and I knew where the track was. I held my ground, and she finally gave up and tracked to the glove 25 yards past her last attempt to pull me off the track.

So, we did work transitions, but also restarts! I decided to try to get a track in Monday evening, too, to have a more positive experience at the end of her track. Except for the end of the track, she handled everything that was thrown at her with ease, so I was pleased.