Thursday, February 26, 2009

Connor rules the "my mommy" game

All the dogs play the "my mommy" game, which is what I call it when they race each other to see who can be closest to me. They are all quite good at it. Tonight I was sitting on the couch and Devon reached my side first and put her head in my lap. Connor came up and looked mournfully at me asking where was the room for him. As Devon had planned, there wasn't any. 

I petted Connor as he stood next to me, and he continued to look so pitiful. But don't be fooled. He's a crafty old guy. First, he set his head on my lap, conveniently with his nose over the end of Devon's nose. That turned out to be his only warning to Devon that he was still top dog. In a flash, he came up onto my lap right in front of her face and shoved her off my lap onto the floor. Devon laid on the floor and sighed in defeat. 

Connor enjoyed the cuddle time on my lap. What a good, good boy!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thanks to my videographers!

This weekend, Dr. Bonnie was a saint and ran the videos for most of Ian's runs. Christie and Mona also taped Devon's runs. Finally, Sharon did the honors at the end of the day yesterday.

I really appreciate all those who have taped Devon and Ian's runs. They have really helped me evaluate my handling and my dogs' skills. In fact, the reason I'm pushing Devon on her handling skills is because of the good things I'm seeing in her videos. It's hard to judge these things without the aid of seeing them again from a different angle. 

So thanks to all those who have taped me. I appreciate it!

GCDOC Agility Trial, Devon's runs

This was officially the first weekend where Devon was at a new place on new equipment. I entered her in FAST on Saturday just to get her on the teeter. I had a feeling she would do well, and she did just fine. 

Generally, I was very pleased with her attitude and her desire to work. As I mentioned in an earlier post, she did stop tugging as soon as we moved from the crating area into the arena with the rings. She also started sniffing the dirt at that point too. I did forget that she hasn't trained on dirt in about a year. Thankfully she was less distracted than she could have been. She's really starting to enjoy the work in agility.

Our warm ups were mostly shorter than I anticipated. Devon was the first 20 inch dog in every class. The most 24 inch dogs we had was 3 with the least being none, so once she was the first dog on the line. She handled all of it well. 

I'm also doing a better job with her on the start line. Every time we go to the line, Devon wants to make sure the judge sees her, so she looks at the judge and wags her tail. I'm now putting my hand in front of her face and asking for a sit. This is working well.

Saturday Novice FAST
Our goal for this run was to get on the teeter successfully. Devon was really wired for this run, so I knew I'd have a lot of speed from her. I selected a minimal lead out and a push to the broad jump. I knew this was risky, but I was very happy with how she handled it. After the teeter, I pulled her off a jump, but you can see she wasn't committed. That was a mental note to me to support the jumps better in her upcoming runs. 

Enjoy the new A frame performance on the dirt. Agile Gold asked if we changed our stopped contact criteria to a nose touch. I had to laugh. Although it looks like we did, Devon was simply taking advantage of an opportunity for a good sniff of the dirt. She went on to my next request, so I decided to let it go.

I walked the course staying behind the send line for the gamble and also stepping in. I wasn't sure what Devon would do, and I didn't want to pull her off the first obstacle. As you can see by the video, I shouldn't have worried. She sent very well and I was well behind the gamble line. We were over time by a lot, but I didn't care about the Q and considered it a great run.

Saturday Novice JWW
I was happy with this run too. Devon handled the front cross well after jump 3 and even pushed into the tunnel when I had to hold my ground a little. You see her shooting out of the tunnel past the next jump. What you can't see on the video is that she was stressed. Something spooked her either inside the tunnel or right as she exited. She had her head turned away from me and the course and she was looking over her shoulder beyond the ring gates. 

Everyone who saw her run agreed she was spooked by something, but no one could figure out what it was. I was very proud of her that she shook off this stress and came right back to work. The over run of the front cross was simply how I had to handle it without any pre-cue to her of the turn. 

When I asked for the weaves later in the course, she took that opportunity to go check out what was going on outside the ring. I immediately gave up on that weaves and asked her to come back to work, which she did. She wanted to go around that double, but I wasn't going to allow it and gave her a pretty firm jump command. That was all it took to get her back to work and finish the course in style.

I was pleased with how Devon worked through her issues on this course and maintained her work ethic. A couple of people who watched thought she looked very happy, too.

Saturday Novice Standard
Devon held up extremely well for this final run of the day. She was still excited to work even though it had been a long day with three runs. 

I was very pleased with the opening and my front cross. She never looked at the off course A frame. She sent around the circle very well. Her A frame contact was much like the FAST class, but she did look up and actually acknowledge my presence so I released her. 

I was concerned about pulling her off the tire since I wanted to do a front cross after the next jump. I wanted to test her understanding of a forward send with lateral movement, but I wanted it to be successful. Frankly, I shouldn't have worried so much. I think I handled that just like I did for Ian's run and she handled it just as well as he did! What a girl! I'm really proud of that lateral distance I got. 

Devon did go a little wide on the front cross, but her table performance was perfect. Her teeter was also solid with an odd approach to it. The funniest part of the run comes after the panel. She knew the tunnel was next, but she also saw the dogwalk which is a favorite obstacle. She holds on just so long, and finally has the baby dog moment and takes off for the dogwalk. She doesn't touch it and did come back to me for the tunnel. She even gave judge Jeff Ipser a look as he's calling the refusal that seemed to say, "Hey you! Put that arm down!"

After the dogwalk, the course turned to the weave poles and then one more finish jump. We had been so successful, I decided to take her off the course after the dogwalk and not worry about a set of weaves I knew she wouldn't do. It was the best call, and I think this was one of the best runs she had this weekend.

Sunday Novice JWW
This was the class where we were first dog on the line. Thanks to videographer Christie for getting this great angle! This was a tough course, with the same opening for all three classes. A pinwheel off the opening is really demotivating for Excellent level dogs, so I wasn't really surprised by the sniffing after the second jump. 

Devon thought about taking off, but recovered quickly and after taking the third jump she looked fantastic. I was very pleased with our rear cross on the take off side of jump 8. Her send into the tunnel with my deceleration and lateral movement was also a success from previous runs. 

At the weaves, she made the entrance and I moved on. I was surprised to see her slight head flick like she was planning to dive back in and weave. However, I'm glad I moved on instead. This was a very nice run.

Sunday Novice Standard
The final run of the weekend. Although this run was much earlier than the day before, it had been a long weekend. This run was 2 hours after I had finished with Ian, and I have to say I was really ready to go home. However, I knew Devon probably would enjoy the run. 

I do think this was Devon's worst run of the weekend, although it wasn't horrid. She came off the start line a little slow. She didn't hit her 2 on 2 off contact at all, but made the turn to the double. She also blew her dogwalk contact, and I have a feeling that was not only sniffing, but also because she saw the weaves. I did ask for a reattempt at the weaves, and she gave me the entrance, so I went on.

Devon did crouch more on the teeter than she had in the runs the day before. I'm wondering if this was because she was aware of the judge calling the failure to perform the weaves near the teeter as she was right at the pivot point. 

From the teeter, the rest of the run was beautiful. Her table performance with her automatic down and then to a sit was perfect. She pulled well into a difficult entrance to the tunnel. In fact I almost pulled her off of it. And she turned to the board jump as she was shooting out of the tunnel with me at quite a bit of lateral distance. 

Devon not only got treats, but she also was able to get some pets from some visitors who came to watch. They thought she did a really great job, and she really enjoyed meeting new people. It was a wonderful ending to a long two days of trialing!

GCDOC Agility Trial, Ian's runs

Ian had four lovely runs this weekend. He ended the weekend with three Qs, but I'm not unhappy with anything he did on the course. We have had an incredible 2 months of trialing, and I've really enjoyed running him. He is responsive to everything I'm doing on course, and he's more relaxed than at any time in his career.

Saturday's Excellent B Standard
There were 19 dogs in our class. The course was 173 yards and SCT was 61 seconds. Ian ran the course in 52.6 seconds and was one of only 5 dogs who qualified (a GSD took 1st followed by three Border Collies and then Ian).

It was a lovely flowing course, with a difficult weave entry. Ian came off the line so fast, I wasn't sure I was going to make the push into the the third jump. Luckily he read it beautifully. He just did a lovely job on this course. He was so fast across the dogwalk, I wasn't sure I would make it to the end for the front cross. His weaves were the best of the weekend, and the did the sharp 45 degree turn back to the tunnel very well. 

Saturday Excellent B JWW
There were again 19 dogs in our class. I cannot remember the Q rate, but the course was lovely and flowing. It was 148 yards and SCT was 39 seconds. Ian ran it in 35.32 seconds. His weaves were nice, but not all single tracked. He was still confident. I almost mishandled a very straight forward tunnel entrance. I made sure I didn't do that again. Generally, this was again a very nice run.

Sunday Excellent B Standard
There were 24 dogs in our class. I didn't write down yardage, but I know SCT was 66 seconds. I've debated a lot about what to say on the blog about this run. I will say Ian had a lot of reactive stressors before entering the ring. He was spooked by two dogs and two people for various reasons. We also were a part of an encounter with two children not managing their dog around reactive dogs waiting to run. 

Finally, with all this stress, we had to wait a very long time before our run. There was a tunnel on course that was taken by the dogs twice that they could not keep in place with sandbags. Big dogs hit this tunnel with full speed twice, dislodging sandbags and moving the tunnel on every run. So between each run, more than one person was out rebuilding the tunnel. You'll see on my run I wait on the line for more than 25 seconds as they tweak the tunnel.

So as much as I tried to manage Ian's stress level, it was high when we entered the ring. It didn't take much to push him over the edge. All it took was the judge walking toward him as Ian was moving between the teeter and the table. I wish this judge had recognized the stress signs in my dog before he did. By the time he backed off, we had incurred the refusal at the table, NQ'ing us. I was too firm with Ian calling him to the table because I was mad. I realized I needed to move to help him and once I did he got on the table. In hindsight, I also should have stayed with him at the teeter, as I knew at the time he was stressing and slowing down.

I can't say I'm really proud of my actions as a handler. I let my frustration in the moment get the better of me and I forgot my dog training. However, I share the run because the whole of the run minus the table was really beautiful. I commend my dog for bouncing back and finishing this run to perfection, including a very lovely set of weave poles where I pushed him by getting a lot of lateral distance. There was a time not too long ago where Ian would have left the ring. Instead, he showed a lot of heart and finished the run in style. This is really a Q in my book any day!

Sunday Excellent B JWW
There were 23 dogs in the class. It was 160 yards long and SCT was 43 seconds. Ian ran the course in 41.41 seconds. Although Ian's speed wasn't there, he did a lovely job considering his morning run. He was far less stressed before the run, and he was happy on course. I have a feeling he was aware of the judge at all times due to the morning run, which likely affected his speed. However, his skills were solid and it was a good run. 

I was very glad Ian and I could end the weekend on a positive run. It will be a while before our next agility trial, and I was hoping our last run would be good.

GCDOC Agility Trial general comments

I usually really like this trial site. However, this weekend it was very cold. I'm not sure if it was the cold wind outside or if they had less heaters, but this weekend it was nearly unbearable. I arrived each day by 7:20 a.m. On Saturday I left at 5:20 p.m. and on Sunday I pulled out at 3 p.m. Two long days of being very cold, and I must admit that probably affected my attitude on the "little things" that happen during a trial.

I was also worried about the dogs and warming them up properly. I took extra time to walk them before doing any stretching or jumping. Ian was in a great mood for most of his runs (more on that when I recap his runs). 

Devon was ready to go every time I pulled her out of the crate! It was interesting that she warmed up well and tugged in the crating area, but the minute we stepped into the arena where the rings were located, she wouldn't tug and I had to move to food. She also sniffed the dirt in the arena area more than she did in the crating area.

Generally, I'm not sure I'll return to this trial site again. In the future I may crate in my car to avoid the dirt that invaded everything I owned, from my clothes to my crates and blankets to my vehicle. It was so cold, I opted for inside. However, several folks said their vehicles were warmer than inside due to the sun.

My dogs did run very well, so overall it was a successful weekend for them. I guess I'll just have to make those decisions next year.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dogs in hotels

My dogs have traveled so much, they are used to the hotel routine. I usually leave the fan on the air conditioner running, and at night I leave the bathroom fan on. This drowns out a lot of exterior noise for the dogs.

At this hotel, two interesting things happened yesterday. First, the fire alarms went off shortly after I arrived. This is the second time in our "careers" this has happened. Our room is a handicapped accessible room, so the alarm was very loud and a strobe light was flashing. Both dogs were extremely stressed.

I have a routine in hotels, too. My coat, purse, key to the room and dogs' leashes all go in the same exact spot. I can find them even in the dark and leash up the dogs. This routine is exactly for a fire alarm and us needing to evacuate quickly. I leashed up the dogs, grabbed my pursue and coat and held them tightly as we left the room. I put them quickly into the Escape. I also got in the Escape and was prepared to pull it out of the parking lot to a nearby parking lot when the alarm stopped. I move the vehicle so it doesn't get trapped in by fire trucks and emergency vehicles next to a burning building. Vehicles with full fuel tanks don't do well next to burning buildings.

Luckily, it was a false alarm. However, I wanted to share our routine with blog readers to get you thinking about it for yourselves. I've heard stories of people assuming it was a false alarm and leaving their dogs in the hotel. Then they weren't allowed back into the hotel for hours and at one location there was a small fire in the kitchen. I prefer to assume the worst and get my dogs out safely, then investigate.

The second thing I'm pleased with was the way both dogs, especially Ian, reacted to neighbor dogs who occasionally barked yesterday evening. They were small dogs, and their owner did a good job of keeping them quiet, but they did have several rounds of brief barking. The only reaction Ian gave was a low growl a couple of times. He immediately quieted when I asked. Devon never reacted. When the dogs barked in the middle of the night, neither dog stirred.

I was very pleased with my dogs in the hotel. And too bad I don't have a camera right now. Ian is sprawled on half the king-sized bed. He loves hotels!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Birthday cake for Devon

After our agility class, which we both really enjoyed, we stopped at Three Dog Bakery. She hopped out of the Escape carrying a fuzzy duck. In the store she peered in the display windows and eagerly set her feet on the counter to get a free cookie from the clerk. After I selected a large Pupcake for her and three Peamutt Butter cookies for everyone, they were wrapped and put in a paper sack and handed over. 

Devon looked at me as if to say, "Those are mine!" I folded the sack over so she could get a good hold and asked her to carry it. Sure enough, just as I knew she would, she gathered the top of the sack in her mouth and with a smiling glance over her shoulder at the clerk, we headed for the door. Outside, she looked both ways on the sidewalk, clearly wishing to talk about her birthday treats in her bag. Unfortunately there was no one around, but she happily trotted to the car. She hopped back in and after giving up her bag for later, curled in her crate for the ride home. What a good girlie!

Here Devon is showing great restraint before her "Pupcake" and then the grab for the food upon her release!

Happy Birthday Devon!

Today is Devon’s 3rd birthday. I cannot believe my “baby girl” is heading into the doggie equivalent of middle age! She comes from a truly remarkable litter, and her momma Lily gave Gayle quite a lot of worry before they arrived. Lily had the canine equivalent of
Braxton-Hixs contractions about 24 hours before she whelped. These contractions are quite rare in dogs and essentially meaningless. From the early concern, I’ll let Gayle take up the story of the Dancing Litter’s birth:

Sure enough, at 4 AM, Lily went into real labor and at 4:45 AM, Mulligan was born at a whopping 15 3/8 ozs. He was followed by Castle at 5:07, weighing in at 14 ¾ ozs. The arrival of Spring (13 ½ ozs) at 5:20 AM had us beginning to worry whether we’d see any girls at all in this litter but Tess showed up 30 minutes later to calm our concerns. She was only 11 3/8 ozs but she was a strong girl. After that it became boy-girl-boy, like a nice dinner party. Michael followed Tess at 6:10 and weighed 14 ¾ ozs. Miss Lilac, Devon came at 6:40 and weighed 12 ¾ ozs.

Lily began to get a little tired so things slowed a little. Bebop (14 ¾) arrived at 7:40 and Jerry (12 ¾) showed up at 8:22 AM. Bella (12.0 oz), the blond in the litter, popped out at 8:53 and finally, last but not least, the biggest girl, Brita (13 ½) rounded out the litter at 9:22 AM. Four and a half hours from start to finish and Lily presented us with ten beautiful, healthy pups.

The pups have been a busy bunch since puppyhood and most have pursued all kinds of competitions, from obedience to rally to agility to tracking to field. They are hunting dogs and family companions, too. This young litter made their mom, Lily a GRCA Outstanding Dam before they turned 3, a truly remarkable feat. Today, the Dancer’s are:

Gaylan’s Water Dancer of Emeline CD SH OA OAJ RN WCX CCA (Brita)

Gaylan’s Firefly’s Moondance SH WC Therapy Dog (Michael)

Gaylan’s I’ll Steel This Dance TDX JH NAJ RN WCX (Devon)

Gaylan’s Gracie’s Fancy Free CDX TD AX AXJ OF RAE WC (Jerry)

U-CDX Gaylan’s Dirty Dancing Oreo CDX TD OA OAJ (Castle)

Gaylan’s Belle of the Ball JH (Tess)

Gaylan's Bop Til You Drop CD RAE OA NF (Bebop)

Gaylan’s Mulligan Fling (Mulligan)

Gaylan’s MyTGold Rite of Spring (Spring)

Gaylan’s Midnight Belly Dancer (Bella)

You can see all the Dancers and their adventures on the Dancing Litter’s website.

Devon is enjoying having me home all day today. At Noon we're headed to agility class and this afternoon we'll do some obedience training. Right now the birthday girl is watching the world go by from her perch on the daybed in front of the upstairs window. She's wishing it was warmer outside so we could do some field work or tracking. Earlier she brought her food bowl into me ... was she wanting birthday cake? Maybe I can arrange a trip to Three Dog Bakery after her agility class.

Happy birthday my beautiful baby girl! You a truly a remarkable dog, and I’m so very fortunate you are mine.

What are you trying to say?

Devon just trotted into the bonus room carrying her food bowl! She's been so funny this morning. She's retrieved two cloth coasters off of an end table in the living room, and now the food bowl. To be clear, she just ate breakfast 20 minutes ago. Maybe she's protesting the lateness of her breakfast. I think she's just being silly!

The Game Birds are here!

Gaylan's Game Bird litter arrived on Tuesday. The 11 pups, 6 boys and 5 girls, are healthy and big! Ranging from 14-18 oz., these pups came into the world at a week old! Bizzy is a great mom, and I really thank Lise for taking these photos and sharing them with us! Keep them coming!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Agility Club of Indianapolis, Devon's Sunday Runs

Devon had two absolutely beautiful runs today. If she would have performed her weaves, she would have had a 2nd place in Standard to Emma and a 1st in JWW. However, we had the same weave issue as yesterday. 

Novice Standard
I was interested to see what she'd do with the new contact equipment. Would she decide to be worried or would she think it was no big deal? As I was expecting, it was no big deal. With the exception of the weaves, she handled this course very well. She nailed her contacts, although she got distracted by some dog's spit coming down the A frame -- never know when someone might leave a cookie! She also handled a rear cross into a tunnel, basically a serpentine, very well. 

I was complemented by a fellow exhibitor on how well I supported her teeter performance and made sure to praise her. I asked if this person knew Devon's history with the teeter, and she didn't. It was nice without that knowledge to have my handling and support of my dog recognized.

Novice JWW
This was also a very lovely run. I really drove her off the line, and she responded by picking up speed. After two long, long days, she was sluggish at the start. I was able to get two front crosses in before and after the pinwheel; and contrary to yesterday, she didn't even blink at the ring crew today. While the first front cross wasn't as good as the one on Saturday, she read it and we didn't get a refusal or knocked bar. The second one was really in flow, and she had to really read what I was doing an not push off the jump. I was so proud of her for that one! You can hear my, "YES!" on the tape!

About those darned weaves
Well, clicking entrances has worked at home, but it has not transferred to a class or trial situation. In class this week, she was nailing her performance on 12 poles, but not getting the turn to pole 2 and going from 1 to 3 then weaving out. I believe that when that got her no rewards, the result was the stress in the trial. 

I've decided to give her 2-3 weeks off with no weave work. I'm hoping this break will relieve the pressure. Then I'm going to retrain weaves with the 2x2 weave pole method from Susan Garrett. There are several folks here locally that have used this method and really liked it. I reviewed the DVD last night (thanks to Agile Gold for letting us borrow their copy) up to the point of 4 poles. This method is different enough, that I think it will do the trick for Devon. 

I clearly need to do something different. What I have been doing isn't communicating to Devon either what she's doing wrong or how to fix it. She's frustrated and so am I. Based on past experience, I just need to change my method a little, and I'm sure she'll have the light bulb moment.

The very good news is that Devon still thinks she's "all that." I was pretty sure based on her lower stress level today that she wasn't souring on the game of agility. Susan confirmed that for us during her massage session at the end of the day. The princess reigned from the massage table looking beautiful and endearing with her new purple octopus in her mouth (courtesy of ACI). I don't know how she does it, but everyone who walks by  must stop and come back to the doorway and smile and comment how beautiful she is. She knows how to work a crowd! Silly me for worrying about her frame of mind!

Agility Club of Indianapolis Trial, Ian's Sunday Runs

I can't remember a time when Ian was so fast and so accurate. Incredibly, Ian had another perfect weekend, double Qing today with two 4th places. 

Excellent JWW
This was a beautiful run. Every cross was perfect and his weaves were incredible. 

Excellent Standard
The Standard course was a typical twisty, turny AKC course (not Annette's usual smooth flowing courses). Ian earned less MACH points on this one and weaved more slowly. However, what you cannot see on the video is the chute staring the dogs right in the face as they came through the weaves. The chute was an off course, and it sucked in easily half the dogs in Excellent and I'd guess 90% of the open dogs. Ian was a champ and didn't even look at it.

However, after four clean runs on the weekend with placements, I was a bad mom at the end of the standard run. I was turning towards Ian and unknown to me, he was jumping up towards me for a hug. I accidentally caught him right across the face with the back of my hand in a karate chop! His jaw slammed together so hard, my friends heard it across the building! Poor Ian! You can see it just barely on the end of the video clip as his head goes jerking back! Thankfully, he forgave me pretty quickly!

On a final note, I have to comment on Ian's attitude this weekend. It was really great. He was happy and tail wagging all weekend. He didn't really spook or shy at any one or any dog. He went up to most everyone who spoke to him. For him, he was incredibly relaxed. And there were lots of intact male dogs running in 24 inches with us, and the holding area was quite small. Ian even wagged and put his head in AKC Rep Diane Craig's outstretched hand! 

And I'd like to publicly comment that Diane is a classy dog person. I watched her measure dogs yesterday, and she was so very good with each dog and each individual. She relaxed the dogs, speaking kindly to them and made them comfortable; and she gently instructed the handlers. When she talked with Ian, he knew right away she was a genuine dog person. I think we're fortunate she's in our area as an agility rep.

Agility Club of Indianapolis, Devon's Saturday Runs

Thanks to Agile Gold for uploading our runs from yesterday. Devon and Emma ran back to back, so we didn't make our video volunteer use two cameras! It's hard enough to find a lot of nice people to tape us!

Novice Standard
Devon surprised me a bit on her Standard run on Saturday. She has gone around the start obstacle a couple of times on me lately, and I thought she might do that with the tire at an odd angle. She was slow off the start, and she hit the dogwalk and immediately knew she hadn't been on it before. This is brand new (i.e. just out of the box) equipment. Although Devon has been training at this building for months, she's never been on this equipment and she knew it right away. 

After the dogwalk, she started to greet the ring steward (likely some stress from the dogwalk), and ended up coming around the double. Then the next obstacle was a teeter that again was brand new to her. She did a great job, but again with the stress, she came off her contact and around the chute. 

However, after we got all that out of the way, the rest of the run was wonderful ... except the weaves. I had said if she showed me effort, I would go on. Well, she showed me something new -- one pole and complete avoidance. I asked for a second performance but didn't get it. All I got was stress. This could have been from the new contact equipment, but I still didn't like what I saw in the weaves.

Novice JWW
This was an incredibly nice run. I was driving, and she responded with a fast confident run. I was really happy with the front cross I got in and the rear before the weaves. You can again see the avoidance of the weaves and a second try didn't get any better results. I gave up and went on. 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Agility Club of Indianapolis Trial, Ian's Saturday Runs

Ian had another perfect day at the ACI trial. He double Q'd, earning 3rd in JWW and winning the Standard class. He was well under time in each run, and they were confident runs. Best of all his weaves were beautiful. I especially liked his weaves in Standard as he single tracked all the way through them -- a first in competition! 

Excellent JWW

Excellent Standard
Ian also saved my rear in Standard. The course had to be tweaked to add in a jump (the yellow one after the triple at the end) due to the pole. The pole was mis-marked on the judge's sheet and would have been in the dog's path, so she added the off course jump in flow. This forced one of two handling options: 1) a front cross on the landing side of the triple, risking the third bar of the triple or 2) a rear at the yellow, which put you behind and many fast dogs curled into their handler taking he wrong side of the tunnel. A third option was to front cross before the triple, but this forced a push back to the yellow that just wasn't possible. I walked the front cross on the landing side of the triple, but when I ran it I realized I wouldn't make it. I did the rear, but threw in that horrid off arm thinking he'd turn into me. Bless his soul, he acted like he read the course map and never even looked at the wrong end of the tunnel or turned hard right due to my flinging arm and take the A frame. As I watch the run on the tape, I can tell he read my motion and I was headed directly to the correct end of the tunnel. Well, as Linda Mecklenburg says, "Run in the right direction." Guess I got that one down, so I should stop flinging my arm! 

Friday, February 13, 2009

One of these doesn't look like the other

I grew up with Sesame Street, and I loved that game, "one of these doesn't look like the other." I was kind of good at it, although I can't sing the song anymore like I can the School House Rock songs (I'm dating myself now, aren't I?). Seriously, School House Rock got me through my 5th grade history test when I had to write out the preamble of the Constitution. And who can forget, "I am a bill. Only a bill, and I'm sittin' here on Capital Hill..."

Anyway back to Sesame Street, Lise took this photo of her and Marcy's Gaylan's and non-Gaylan's dogs. It cracked me up and made me think of that long ago game. Can you tell which dog in this group is the Ambertrail's field dog? Hummmm....maybe the red one in the middle! Yep, that's Bizzy, aka Ambertrail's I Am A Wild Party WCX, the Canadian guest on Long Island. 

Lise, I hope you don't mind that I posted your photo -- I gave you photo credit! ;-)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

White River Golden Club Awards Banquet

Last night was our annual awards banquet for the White River Golden Retriever Club. I am on the awards committee with good friend Janet. It is a lot of hard work (like sweat) to get the trophies up those stair and get everything set out and organized, but I agree with Janet -- it's worth it! What a nice evening we had, and the room looked great with the tables decorated with balloons and Janet's special door prizes. 

I am especially grateful that this club believes in performance events and rewards them handsomely. There are "top dog" trophies in each sport, and several "combination" trophies that highlight our versatile Goldens. Our club has a lot of trackers, too. We boast two CT Goldens (there were only 26 when our second club member earned theirs), and this year we had SIX club members earn TDXs. That's amazing! As Steve pointed out, some breeds don't even have six TDX dogs! All of these dogs, plus Devon and other dogs in the club, are training VST. I have no doubt our club will become known as a serious tracking club.

And for our family's brags. Devon and another dog tied for the OVERALL FIELD TROPHY. There were several dogs working hunt tests and WC/WCX test this year, and I was quite surprised that 2-year-old Devon earned this trophy. Devon also shares the BEKENS MISSOURI TRAVELER X-TRA MILE CHALLENGE TROPHY with good friend Zoe and Dusty. This combination trophy is for the dog who earns a TDX or CDX and a WCX, not necessarily in the same year. Not to be forgotten, Connor finished his competitive career by being the 3rd place finisher for the TOP AGILITY TROPHY.

I hope you enjoy this photo taken last night with Devon's trophies and the balloons from the event. Oh, and I managed to make a wonderful ham for the banquet, in spite of the trepidation from the board when I announced I was making it!

Hamilton Dog Training Club Rally Trial

Early this morning, we drove to Fairfield, Ohio, north of Cincinnati for Hamilton's one day Rally Trial. Hamilton has always been one of my favorite clubs -- very nice people and they give wonderful awards. I was much more calm for this trail, since we were so successful 2 weeks ago. My only annoyance was that the judge didn't make individual copies of the course maps for us. It was hard to get a feel for the course by crowding around one posted copy and standing along the ring gate looking at the signs. There were more than 35 people in Excellent, so it was tough to get a good look at the map or course.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Lysiane from Lysiane's Westie Report in the parking lot as we were unloading. We were able to tape each other's runs, and I'm hoping the video gives her more reminders on things to blog! ;-) This was my first time watching Lysiane and Riley in rally, and they are very good! Lysiane was also very nice to help me load up my stuff after we were done.

I was also glad to see Dick Clark Photography already set up when I arrived. Dick does some of the best indoor obedience and rally photography I've seen. I have some nice shots of Devon and Reece doing rally from April 2007. I asked as he was coming in how the black dogs were photographing, since he'd been to the obedience trial yesterday. He responded he got some great shots of a Flat Coated Retriever and Portuguese Water Dog yesterday. Great! Dick did get some really nice photos of Ian doing rally today, so look forward to those in the future!

Rally Excellent B
Ian's score: 96 points out of 100

Ian did a wonderful job on this course. It started with a moving down, walk around your dog. This is a new sign and one we hadn't really perfected (but I have asked Ian to do it before today). With the new rules requiring a minimum number of Excellent signs in Excellent (one I wholeheartedly support), the courses are more challenging. We also had pivots both ways, three steps back, the offset figure 8 and the sit, call you dog to front sign. 

The offset figure 8 had two stuffed "babies" or dog toys as distractions. Ian noticed them very quickly upon entering the ring; in fact before the first sign. He always knows when something is "different." He held it together until the three steps back, and then broke away to investigate. I gave him some hard commands to return, but I should have just let him look. Once he got over his curiosity at this oddity in the ring, he did a lovely job. I had several people laugh that he hardly even glanced at the toys when they were SUPPOSED to be the distraction!

After this Ian finished the course with no more errors. In fact, he did the best job on his sit, call to front sign yet. I could tell Ian was less stressed than the last trial, and so was I. Other than the call off from the toy, I thought we both did very well. And did you notice our score? Ian held his honor! Yeah! This is the first in years! Maybe that correction at the last trial and less nerves on my part did the trick. Ian was just out of the ribbons on this run, and since there were more than 20 dogs, I was pleased.

Rally Advanced B
Ian's score: 96 points out of 100

This was another really wonderful run. The course changed enough to get rid of those hard signs. I was even more relaxed since I didn't have to worry with the honor. Unfortunately, Ian forgot that "come" means to a front position. Of course I acted like it was the most brilliant front ever, but it cost us 3 points. The bump near the end got us for another. With a couple of 99s and a couple of 98s and several 97s, our 96 probably landed us in the upper middle of the pack. Hey, it's RAE leg #17, with two great runs and two great scores; I'm pretty happy! And did you see that tail wagging? He's really acting like the Goldens, now (not really, but I like the tail wagging)!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Random thoughts on a Saturday morning

1. Why are there always dishes to wash, laundry to do, bills to pay, mail to open, things to file, and on and on?

2. I'm thankful that it's 50 degrees and the wind is blowing because I can FINALLY see the grass again, and the dogs can spend more time outside without their feet freezing.

3. I'm glad to be going to the training building today with only one sweatshirt on.

4. A full-sized bed is slightly too small for comfort with one human and two Golden Retrievers ... and a Belgian Sheepdog who bounces on and off the bed the minute I wake up.

5. Devon agrees about the bed; I heard a THUNK! at 3 a.m. and her butt and back feet were off the bed with her front feet and head on the bed.

6. I have really well trained dogs, who know not to go up or down the stairs unless told do to so. In fact, they are so well trained, I'd been downstairs for 5 minutes working around the kitchen, before I realized I had no dogs with me. I stepped into the dining room and said, "OK" and heard three sets of feet coming down the stairs. What good dogs!

Teeter trauma? Nope, we're cool!

Thursday night in class, there was a three jump to the teeter sequence with a long run to the teeter. This run built up speed, especially since I was ahead of Devon. I was curious how she would handle this approach to the teeter. I decelerated as we approached the teeter, and she checked her speed nicely and performed the teeter confidently with her now characteristic tail wag all the way across it. I know she's especially proud of herself for mastering this piece of equipment.

On our last run of the evening, she had now done this section two other times. She knew where she was going, and she was headed to the teeter at top speed. She did check her speed, but she jumped on the board solidly – and the board shifted sideways on the base and the whole base gave a shift sideways. 

Devon was off of that teeter in fear like a shot. It had been a stressful day, and I wanted to explode in frustration! However, I kept my head remembering my partner needed me and this was a pivotal moment for our training. I talked to her in a silly voice saying, “what happened there?” and “Isn't that a silly thing?” And she started wagging her tail. She was ok

I gave the teeter  a quick visual onceover to make sure it wasn't broken, and then asked her to do it again. She wasn't thrilled with the idea, but BLESS HER!! She did it!! She got lots of praise and jackpots at the end. I ran back with her and switched sides, and we did the teeter again -- and this time her tail was wagging all the way across! What a girl! More jackpots and lots of praise. Finally, I did it a third time, lots of praise and one treat, and we went on to finish the sequence! I rewarded with a toy and great praise from me and our instructor Liz.

While I think she's fine, I am glad I have a week of classes and training time here before our next trial. I did realize that at some point Devon might hit a teeter that she didn't like because it moved too much. The more I think about it, I'm glad this happened in a "predictable, safe" environment. Mostly I'm thrilled that Devon got right back up on that teeter and got over it. What a good, good girlie!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My recent train of thought

After last weekend, I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing videos not only of Devon, but also elite handlers and their baby dogs. Repeatedly I’ve been reminded that baby dogs are just that – they are babies. They have moments of brilliance and moments that resemble a train wreck. It’s been nearly 5 years since I’ve had an agility dog at this stage, and quite frankly I’ve forgotten what it’s like.

I want to say publicly how VERY GRATEFUL I am for the emails I’ve received this week saying how great Devon looks in agility. I really needed to hear that because it made me go back and review her runs and pull out all the brilliant moments and stack them up. It didn’t take me too long to agree – she looks fantastic! She has some incredible skills for a girl who wasn’t even doing a full-sized teeter 5 months ago (and was still having fear issues with it).

These thoughts led me to examining what I want to focus on in each training session; what skills are solid and what skills do we need to improve. Further, I’ve been thinking a lot this week about out long-term and short-term goals and prioritizing them. For instance, I told Linda at HY-BAR that my obedience goal with Devon this year was earning her CD. Linda’s response was earning Devon’s CD is very doable; BUT since we want some nice scores (and we believe she’s capable of them), we don’t want to rush her.

Then along comes yesterday’s post on Susan Garrett’s Dog Training Blog. Susan may have written this for one of her students, but the One who looks after me was whispering in her ear that I needed this post right now, too. I need to remember that sometimes you’re Winning When You Lose and Losing When You Win. I could have held Devon’s contacts longer last weekend, and I had a start line issue, too. So, because my goal for Devon is a MACH, we’re going to settle in and focus on all her basic skills now. I can’t wait for tonight’s agility class!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Deep thoughts

Agile Gold has been following Susan Garrett’s Dog Training Blog. Many here in central Indiana follow Susan’s methods. Starting my agility career in central Ohio, I have primarily followed Linda Mecklenburg’s methods, and I’m not as familiar with Susan’s methods. I find I am really enjoying Susan’s blog, especially her unique perspective on life. Recently, she had two posts that were quite good and a little off the subject of training: “Lesson’s in Life’s Processes… get the Kleenex” and “Continuing with Life’s Processes.” As Connor turns 9 years old and Reece is nearing 12 years old with a failing body, these two posts spoke to me. They were a good guide to how older dogs impact our lives and how they intertwine with our younger dogs.

Most of all I want to thank Susan for posting this quote from Rev. Billy Graham: “I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there in Heaven, I believe he’ll be there.” Many of us who train dogs that become very important to us and who are also Christians struggle with the concept that “dogs don’t have souls and therefore can’t be in heaven.” I appreciate Susan finding this nugget of wisdom from a great theologian and sharing it with the dog community. It has confirmed my beliefs that my home in heaven will contain a bed big enough for all my dogs to sleep in every night! Here’s hoping that all the dog hair magically disappears, too!

Happy Birthday Connor!

Connor turned 9 years old on Sunday. I can still remember when he was a tiny 7-week-old puppy; he completely stole my heart the day I brought him home. Reece could not understand what he was doing the first weekend – he slept! I just know Reece thought I bought a defective puppy (after he decided to acknowledge him). Reece would stand over the sleeping Connor and just stare at him, then look back at me asking me what he was doing and why he wasn’t awake and playing.

As Connor got a little older (and more fun), Reece would “accidently” (and completely on purpose) wake him up from a nap by hitting a ball at him. After about a half a dozen times of being rudely awakened by a ball bouncing off his nose, Connor sat up and snarled at Reece (as only a puppy can do) and promptly laid back down and went back to sleep. Reece looked at me as if to say, “Why did he do that? It was an accident!” But Reece also never disturbed Connor again.

Connor has also been the great teacher of puppies. He played with Ian when no one else in the household would (but now firmly agrees with everyone else that Ian could go any time). He softened up to Devon almost instantly since she was a Golden, just like him. He’s trained Devon to lead the pack after Reece turned it over to him in 2005. Now with his retirement from competition and Devon’s take over of the pack, Connor is working hard to maintain his importance.  He still reigns on the daybed and the corner of my bed every night. He makes sure to never miss a meal or something that could hit the floor in the kitchen.

Connor is the perfect English gentleman, and I’m so fortunate to still have him in my life. Happy birthday Connor!

More analysis of this weekend’s trial

I’ve been thinking a lot about Devon’s runs this weekend. I have the same problem as most dog trainers: I focus on the negative instead of the positive. Unfortunately our biggest negative came at the end of Devon’s last course of the weekend, so it stuck with me longer.

Devon had nice runs on Saturday, but she had exceptional runs on Sunday. Devon was confident and fast and focused. She hung onto that table performance on Sunday when most dogs would have fallen off. My work in class on building that confidence really paid off this weekend. In only her third weekend of trialing in both Standard and JWW, she’s really shaking off the “baby dog” stuff and showing me glimpses of a great agility dog.

Every skill is coming together, and I need to continue to work them. I need to hold her contacts longer. I need to do minimal lead outs in competition to maintain confidence. I need to work crosses off contacts, like front crosses and pushes. Her skills at jumping are quite good. The front cross after the slice of the jump between the table and teeter in Sunday’s Standard run was really lovely. And the rear at the end of Saturday’s jumpers run was equally impressive. And her teeter, which was an issue for so long, is strong and confident. You would never know she had an issue.

I’ve decided I’m going to stop “fixing” the weaves in competition, as long as Devon drives to them and works them. Devon’s two perfect weave runs this weekend tell me she can get them (and those were the two hardest entrances). In her second failed weave attempt in Standard on Sunday, she did work the last three poles with speed. I should have accepted that and had a big party.

I’m remembering the lessons Connor taught me about how obsessing on one issue can sour a dog on the whole game and create career-long issues. Instead, I’m going to continue to develop the speed and confidence Devon showed me this weekend, instead of shutting her down and stressing the weaves in competition. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Better than green ribbons

On Saturday, Devon and I didn't earn any green ribbons at our agility trial, but she did something very special off the course. After Devon's first run, we headed out of the ring back to my chair for her jackpots. But before we reached my chair, Devon slid to a stop and sat at the feet of a disabled man who had been watching the trial most of the day. This is remarkable for Devon, because usually when she spies someone she wants to "greet" at an agility trial, she'll put her front feet right in the their lap before I can blink. But Devon is truly Lily's daughter, the therapy dog. As in other cases, she knew instinctively this time she was to sit quietly at his feet. He petted her and talked to her and laid his head against hers, and she responded by looking at him adoringly. He told me she was his new friend and she was a wonderful dog. And she did all this instead of getting her treats after her run!
As we were warming up for her second run, our new friend reached for her and wanted to see her again. I asked if he could hold her "after run cookies" and told him we'd come right to see him when we were done in the ring. He was all smiles after our run and Devon enjoyed the time spent with him and her post-run cookies. This time he hugged her and told her she was a very good dog. And she even earned me a thank you hug! 
So this weekend, my little therapy dog made me a pretty proud mom -- who cares about those green ribbons, anyway!

Devon's agility weekend at Lafayette

Devon and I had moments of utter brilliance, and then we had ... well, moments. Sunday's runs were definitively better than Saturday, quite possibly because of the massage this morning. She was very sore in the rear and mid-back. Susan was able to work all this out, and after a massage and a long nap, she really ready to run!

Saturday, Novice JWW
We didn't "need" this leg, as Devon finished her NAJ at a trial a couple of weeks ago. I'm keeping her in Novice because I feel her weave entries need to be more solid, and I'd rather work on entries with 6 poles than 12 poles. I was anxious to see how our clicking en traces over the last couple of weeks worked ... well, this weave performance didn't show we'd done any work! 

The first three jumps into the weaves were fantastic. The weaves were not good, and she never did weave all 6, but she finally got her entrance. We had a collision after a front cross when she wagged at a steward, but then we got it back together. The ending was incredible, with me taking a big risk for that rear cross over the jump and turn away from me over another jump. I walked it with two front crosses, but decided on the rear because it was a skill we would need, and what better time to practice?

Saturday Novice Standard
Once again, this run had moments of utter brilliance and complete lunacy. The run to the chute was lovely. She started with a tunnel (something new) and nailed her A frame contact. However, out of the chute, she went around the panel. Ok, I can turn her around, and she went around it again! Now my little stressed girl wants to do something right, and there's a dogwalk (one of her favorites) in front of her. So we go up and over the dogwalk. Yeah, we're brilliant, and back around to where we were (and I made her take the panel on principle). 

As a friend of mine commented later, this is where Devon should have been done. I'd completely shut her down (bad, bad mom), so I expected slug girl for the rest of the course, with the hardest element to come: a 90 degree left turn into off side weaves. 

However, Devon is a very, very good girl!! As soon as she came shooting out of that tunnel, I knew I had her back. And sure enough, the rest of this run was to die for! Go ahead and rewind this clip a couple of times to admire those PERFECT weaves, then a front cross onto the teeter. What a girl! And you can hear the crowd in appreciation for those weaves. That got me several nice comments from the gallery.

Sunday Novice JWW
This is probably Devon's career best (so far) run! It was flawless with perfect weaves in sequence. She was running strong and confident. And, as a friend observed, so was I! I'll be running this one through my mind a lot tonight, too! It was first place run in just over 21 seconds. 

Sunday Novice Standard
This run had the makings of the same as her JWW run, and with a couple of issues it was an incredibly strong run. She went around the first jump, mainly because my lead out was too far for the baby dog. But once turned around, she sailed out onto the course, with a wonderfully fast, confident run. She almost slid off the table, but saved herself (you can see the dirty look she gives the end of the table to the ground). She has an auto down on the table, but because she was too close didn't do it. I didn't force the issue; the purist in me says I should have, but she did her darnedest to stay on and did. She clearly knew the more important of her jobs (to say on the table!). However, it gives me warning as I see I've let her contacts creep a little ... The only thing was the darned weave poles again! 

Weekend analysis
I have to admit being very frustrated with having to throw away two otherwise beautiful runs on those stupid weaves. I shouldn't be frustrated, but I am. I just wish I knew the magic answer to getting them to be like her two perfect runs all the time. However, after much reflection, and some very nice friends to listen to me, I'm probably expecting way too much too fast. This is only her third weekend in standard. She has absolutely lovely teeter performances after worrying for so long about that obstacle. And her weaves are coming along very well. 

I'm also leaning toward not correcting her in the weave any longer at a trial. I don't like this shut down I'm seeing. It's not helping either of us, and what I did like about her two perfect performances was how fast she was at them. I don't want to shut down that good speed in the weaves at a trial (Ian's a perfect example of that). So, I'll continue to work entries here and in class, but I think I'll just trust her at trials. 

Another perfect weekend for Ian!

Ian had another incredible weekend. He again earned a qualifying score in every class, placing 4th in both Standard and JWW on Saturday and winning the Standard class today and taking 2nd in JWW. Every run was strong and confident, but I have to say the best run, today's Standard run, wasn't on tape. 

There are times in our dogs' careers when we have magical runs. Sometimes, those are career topping runs, but for me those runs have always come at local trials. They are usually when I walk the course and see one devil of a challenge. At that point it becomes me and my dog against the course. And when your team tackles the challenge without even a monent's hestitation when that invisible bond connects you into a fluid team, it's magical. Today's standard course was that type of course. It required me to trust my dog's skills and me to be in just the right place to execute the plan perfectly -- and we both did our jobs. This course ate the big dogs up, but Ian and I were 10 seconds under time, and won the class. Even though it's not on tape, I'll replay it in my mind for a very long time.

Ian earned double Qs #39 and #40, plus 40 MACH points this weekend. Only 457 more points for his MACH2! 

Saturday's Standard Run 
182 yards, SCT 64 seconds, Ian's time 52.98 (4th place)
One comment on this run. The judge was good friend David Hirsch, who Ian has known since he was a puppy. I didn't think Ian would even notice he knew the judge, since judges are such scary things to him. Make sure you pay special attention to Ian during the sit on the table. As Dave is counting, watch Ian's head! He never even flicked an ear to Dave again, but he sure did greet him after the trial when Dave came to say hello!

Saturday's Jumpers with Weaves course
156 yards, SCT 42 seconds, Ian's time 36.16 seconds (4th place)

Sunday's JWW course
148 yards, SCT 39 seconds, Ian's time 35.88 seconds (2nd place)