Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wish you all the merriest of Christmases!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Devon's Teeter: The rest of the story!

I cannot let the post on Sunday's run with Devon failing the teeter be the end of the story -- because there is more.

As I mentioned, I train and teach at this facility. So on Monday, I was able to get Devon on the floor again. I planned a nice flowing sequence of chute, triple, teeter for Devon. I warmed Devon up and got out the turkey brownies. She knew I had them because I let her sniff the bag. I asked her if she knew what she had to do to earn the turkey brownies, and she did.

The criteria for the teeter is no longer just doing the teeter in isolation. Devon must do the teeter in sequence on the first try. She's proven she can do it confidently, and she's been rewarded for it. So I asked Devon for chute, triple, teeter ... no teeter. She played around on the downside but wouldn't go over it. I called Devon to me and gave her one more try: chute, triple, teeter ... again no teeter.

This really didn't surprise me because she hadn't done it on Sunday. So, we very neutrally walked off the course without any turkey brownies. I put Devon back in her crate where she had a view of the floor ... and I got Page out!

Jealousy is the highest motivator for Devon. Me working with Page is what got Devon over the full height teeter again back in May. So no teeter, and mommy plays with Page instead! Page and I did several sequences and she could hear the teeter banging and me cheering and giving Page treats (she wasn't getting turkey brownies, but Devon didn't know that).

After four sequences all including the teeter, I put Page up and got Devon back out. Devon was foaming at the mouth and blowing spit bubbles coming out of her crate wanting those turkey brownies! She about tripped over herself getting onto the floor. This time when I asked for chute, triple, teeter, Devon sailed over the teeter without a second's hesitation. And she got her turkey brownies! When Devon doesn't catch the turkey brownie pieces in midair, she catches them on the first rebound off the floor!

Devon didn't miss a single teeter in any of the following sequences. I'm really hoping this communicated to her exactly why she gets walked off the course and exactly how she can stay on the course and earn her turkey brownies. I'm planning on doing the same thing tonight in class at the kennel club. And for the next few months, these will be the only two places we will trial so I can hopefully get a solid teeter performance by spring!

Devon really is some dog! She's got a lot of heart, and she's very smart and very funny. I'm incredibly lucky she wants to work with me so badly (and the turkey brownies obviously don't hurt!).

Indiana Collie Club Trial day 2

The second day of the Indiana Collie Club trial continued my highs and lows. Trust me, I slept very well on Sunday night, because I was exhausted!

Devon's runs
The Excellent JWW course ate up a lot of dogs. It was deceptive in its difficulty. You can see the opening had another situation where two jumps were butted up against a pole restricting the handler. I saw two of my friends (one being Agile Gold) walk between the pole and the jump to get a lead out on that side. I wanted to cheer!

I would have preferred to lead out almost to jump 2 on that side and push, because I don't want to bleed off too much speed from Devon with a full 2 jump lead out. But I decided to do another forward moving front cross on the landing side of #2 instead.

Devon ran the opening beautifully up to the weave poles. I'm fully aware of my weave issue; Devon is doing them perfectly on the second try. This has become a habit, and I'm going to have to address it at some point. However, one issue at a time...

Devon also ran the closing beautifully. A lot of dogs didn't handle the turn to the jump with the tunnel entrance visible well (lots of tunnel sucking dogs). And a lot of dogs took the last jump as an off course instead of turning toward the jump and tunnel. My front cross was very, very late after that yellow jump before the tunnel, and I think the late cross (Devon commits so early) and knowing her jackpots were out there contributed to visiting the measuring tape near the ring gate.

Now for the Standard run. I have to say on Saturday, I was nervous for that Standard run. On Sunday I was not. I even made Devon turkey brownies on Saturday night! So before her run, I showed her the turkey brownies and her jackpot container with her triple and blueberries and we talked about how she again needed to do the teeter for her jackpot.

Going to the line, I sensed Devon was more stressed than the day before. You can see she scratches on the startline. The weaves as obstacle 2 didn't help. But I thought Devon's turn into the tunnel from the dogwalk was outstanding.

And then there was the teeter. I gave her a lovely entrance, but she refused the teeter. On the second try she went all four feet on, then bailed. I had already decided my strategy and boy was it tough to maintain. I left the course.

In leaving the course, I staying neutral; I didn't want Devon to perceive a "punishment." Devon expected her jackpots, and I know she was confused when she didn't get them. And no one spoke to her on her way back to the crate. I'm sure she wondered where her supporters were. I kept my voice up in my light chatter to Devon, and I made sure my body was relaxed on the way back to the crate. Devon looked for treats on top of the crate, but I just put her into her crate and walked away for about 10 minutes.

I really hated doing all this, but Devon made a choice out there and I could not allow her to make that choice. Devon proved she was no longer fearful of that teeter. She did it in competition the day before. Nothing had changed, except Devon's choice. And she doesn't get to play or get jackpots if she chooses not to take the teeter. The line was drawn in the sand.

I didn't like that walking off the course was the end of Devon's day. Later I brought her out and let her walk with me around the building. We "talked" and she had some petting before going back in her crate.

Page's runs
Page's runs were much better! In Open JWW, she popped out of the weaves near pole 10 or 11, but I kept going. I'm not sure if my arm swinging caused her to pop or not. It's very odd she would pop out, so I'm just letting that go as green dog.

I'll also have to work the dogwalk to tunnel turn more. I over did this turn with Devon as a young dog, and it took us a long time to get her to come straight off a dogwalk with a tunnel under it. I think I've done the opposite with Page.

And of course I was very late with my front cross before the teeter. But generally I was super proud of this run. We looked really good!

The JWW run showed I really need to get this tugging on the leash thing under control. Although we don't have video of Page's start, she was much worse on Sunday. It distracted her from getting a good sit at the start line in JWW. The poor sit (and she's a baby dog) caused her to go around the first jump, but again I let that go. I didn't want to put stress on her on Sunday. It's just something for me to work on.

I did fix the weave entrance, and Page didn't show too much stress over it. Her weaves were fast and focused. The jumping section after the weaves to the 180 I knew would cause us some trouble. I was very worried about showing her forward cues when she moved in front of me like I knew she would. I also thought I'd need to decelerate quite a bit to cue the turn after the first jump of the 180. I was afraid with all that speed she'd end up in the laps of the ring crew!

Instead, Page read my deceleration really well -- so much I pulled her off the jump! That really told me something about her! And she read my body position very well bypassing the first entrance of the tunnel even though she gave it a head flick and knew it was there. What a good girl!

I really worked the lateral send out of the tunnel, because Page sends forward better than laterally. I was very happy with the way she read that, too. Regardless of a Q, this was a really nice run. Page reacted to my handling very nicely, and her reactions told me how to handle her better in the future.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Indiana Collie Club Trial Day 1

This trial will go down as one that hit every emotion you can experience during trials -- from the extreme highs of success to lows from poor choices.

Devon's runs
Let's start with the highs. Saturday was Devon's day ... well maybe not at first! In our JWW run, we were just a little off from the start. I keep forgetting Devon commits really early, and she did commit to the wrong end of the #4 tunnel early and I didn't realize it. If I could have run the course over again, I would have done a front cross after jump #3.

As a general commentary on this trial, I loved the courses and the judge. However she did do one thing that drives me a little nuts. Both days in JWW she had two jumps butted up against a post. This severely restricted my handling choices, and I hate not having a full range of options for my dog. In the opening of this JWW course, you see that the #3 jump is up against a post and so is another jump so the handler was restricted from going on one side of the #3 jump. If I had my way, I would have preferred to handle the opening with a forward moving front cross on the landing side of #2 and running right at the #4 tunnel past jump #3 on the opposite side.

After we got about halfway through the course, Devon and I managed to get it together to end on a high note.

The best part of my day was Devon's Standard run. On Tuesday in class, we celebrated several big weekend successes, including Page's CT. Someone made "turkey brownies" for the dogs. Devon thought these were the most wonderful manna from heaven ever! She started getting really silly in class and taking off going over the teeter just to get more turkey brownies. It was too funny, so of course she got rewarded big time.

Today's Standard course was a beautiful straight run to the teeter, so I thought I'd try it. We train at this facility regularly, and she's confident in practice. I took her jackpot (tripe and blueberries) and some extra ostrich jerky and showed her it was sitting on a table right outside the ring. I explained if she did the teeter, she would get the jackpots. Devon understood completely (I could tell)! In fact, instead of doing the weave poles, she started looking for the teeter. The last time she did this she went off course to take the teeter!

Devon never even slowed down heading for the teeter, and once she hit the commitment point you can see her tail wagging. I had a couple of people stationed in the back to cheer if she successfully completed the teeter, and you know an agility trial is. If 2-3 people start cheering everyone else does too and they don't even need to know why!

This video is priceless! Devon KNOWS she was the star and everyone was cheering for her! After the run and she got her jackpots, Devon individually thanked every person standing ringside for cheering for her. One of my friends called it "Devon's Adoration Procession!"

Page's runs
So off the high of Devon's success, Page had to run. Page had a nice Standard run. I forgot that the on side angled weave entrance presented in this course is the one Page struggles with. She blew past the weaves and I had to redo them. That was totally my fault for assuming her weaves didn't need to be supported.

Page handled the rest of the middle section of the course very well. This was the same as the Excellent course, so it gives me a clue of what she will do in the future. I was very pleased with her going to the chute after the table. That was a very difficult section of the course in Excellent.

Unfortunately I pushed Page off a jump moving into position for a front cross. I forgot we already had a refusal, because I would have just gone on had I remembered. Turning her around put me out of position and I had to rear cross the teeter. At least Page told me she could do that! This was a really nice run for a baby dog! Too bad I didn't handle it better.

Now for JWW. You know when you want to just redo a part of your day to make it better. Well, Open JWW was that for me. It was a really nice course and I wanted to enjoy it. But I was worried about supporting the first jump. I was so concerned about where I was on course and what I was doing, that I wasn't connected with Page. Because of that, she came around a jump.

Page going around a jump should be no big deal, but I was mad at myself, and I said "Darn it." It was my biggest mistake. A month ago I said Darn it when she dropped a bar on course. I didn't notice any reaction from Page in that run; but the next day when she dropped a bar, she showed some mild stress behavior in the rest of the run.

Now keep in mind I didn't even say, "Darn it" very loud. No one in the gallery heard me, and you cannot hear it on the tape in either run. But it was enough for my baby dog. Page handles the two tunnels well, but she goes around the next two jumps. I supported the next jump and she went in the wrong direction so I had to call her. When she missed the weave entrance that was it -- she started sniffing the ground and then ran to a ring steward.

I was devastated. I stood frozen for what seemed like minutes watching my wonderful baby girl sniff the ground and not come to me -- and it was all my fault. Page is a strong confident girl, but I had forgotten she is only 19 months old. She's a baby. She may have skills above her age level and a work ethic that few dogs have, but she's a baby.

Page did come back to me (and the video shows it wasn't minutes and probably not nearly as bad as I thought it was) and we finished the course. But I made some pretty strong resolutions after the run (and Page got lots of screw up cookies from me!). I need to connect more with Page and work on our teamwork on course; that should be my only goal for each run. I also need to praise her more on course so she clearly knows what she's doing well. I also vowed that I would never react to mistakes again -- her mistakes or mine! I also realized that the tugging on the leash going into the ring that started a few weeks ago is likely stress. It's getting worse over time, not better.

At the end of an exhausting day, I was proud of my girls. I always am. I'm privileged to walk to the line with each of them and I'm the luckiest person who gets to take them home. And to support them, I took home some valuable lessons for me, too!

Devon's first VST test

I think Devon deserves her own post about her first VST test. It was also on Oct. 3 at DeKalb, IL. Devon drew track 7. Devon's track was 686 yards long, with 389 yards of non-veg, or 57%. It was aged 4 hours and 22 minutes. It was warmer when she ran. Her track was in the heart of campus, and there was much more activity from people on her track. Devon was foiled by an evil squirrel at the start of the track. He not only sat directly on the track and teased her from the ground. But then he also jump on a nearby tree about 4 ft. off the ground and chattered at her. He was tormenting and taunting her to come get him. Since this was a university campus, the squirrels were quite bold. Had the squirrel just run up the tree, I'm sure Devon would have gotten back to work. However, the taunting really fried her brain. After much rescenting and the squirrel finally going up the tree, Devon moved on. Unfortunately, she got a double whammy on the distractions. While she was dealing with the evil squirrel, about 10-12 people walked across her first turn. The building on the right is the library and we started the track at 1:37 p.m. on a Sunday; lots of traffic to the library! Devon did search left and I could tell by the lay of the land the track went that way, but Devon was all for the trees where she could do more squirrel hunting. She went forward into the grass and got wrapped around a tree so I had to step into the area after her. Once I was in the grass, it was impossible to work her back and she committed to squirrel hunting under the trees to the right. The purple line is Devon's path and the blue line is the track.

Once back on track, Devon got her brain back after turn 2 when she got into the grass. There she finally committed to a strong track. The orange line indicates a sunken courtyard with gravel and picnic tables and the track when through this area (about 4 steps down). Devon handled this beautifully. After the courtyard, the track went into the grass along this well traveled sidewalk and Devon did a great job picking out her article among the trash littering the area.

The pink line indicates a concrete bridge over the creek, and the track when up across that. Devon once again handled this like a charm. She investigated the base of the stairs and below the bridge before popping right back up and across the bridge. I'm sure both the courtyard and bridge would have scared most folks, but Devon has done these things in practice tracks. I'm sure once she realized the scent was drifting down off the bridge, she went, "hey I know this one!"

I was really thrilled with Devon's MOT and the article right before it was great. Devon shot past it but only by 15 ft. or less. The map doesn't show it, but they've added in a concrete sidewalk through this parking lot and reconfigured the parking, and that's what Devon was on when she made her turn and went into the parking lot toward the building. Devon was dead on the track at this point, because my tracklayer told me her landmark when we turned. This was nice because it proved to me Devon could handle a test MOT.

Once on the grass, she easily found her last article. I felt really good about how Devon ran this test and where she is. She nailed this track once she got committed. Normally Devon has fantastic starts, but the squirrel was just too much for her. There is doubt in my mind that if Devon gets a good start, we'll pass a test soon.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Page is a Champion Tracker!

I am so proud of Page! She's only 19-months old, and she's passed her first (and my first) Variable Surface Tracking test. By passing all three AKC tracking tests (TD, TDX and VST), Page becomes a Champion Tracker.

Our test yesterday was in DeKalb, IL, at Northern Illinois University. The test was hosted by the Glenbard All-Breed Obedience Club; our judges were Darlene and John Barnard. Page's drew track #3, which was 708 yards long. It had 252 yards of non-veg and 456 of veg. It was aged 3 hours and 25 minutes when we started, and she finished it in 40 minutes. The wind was minimal and the sky was bright blue with no clouds; the temperature was probably in the upper 30s to lower 40s. Our track was on the far west side of the campus near the stadium and other support buildings; there was no football game that weekend.

The one thing I noticed as we started track #1 was the geese. There were thousands of them using this part of campus as a migration stopover. The noise was intense and when a large group took flight it was impressive. As I watched the first two dogs track, both Belgian Tervurens, I just hoped there would be no geese on either Devon or Page's tracks. I thought that would be way too much for either of them, especially with tasty tempting goose poop to eat.

As we pulled up to park on the south side of a large parking lot, I knew Page's start had to be on the grass around us, and it was filled with geese. They asking me to stand behind my car and wait while the two judges tried to remove the geese from my start. I am not joking when I say there must have been close to 200 geese in the field at the start. I could hear the judges yelling and blowing their whistles shooing away the geese.

The judges called me to the start and I walked up the hill with a very excited Page lunging forward in anticipating of finding a start flag. As I looked down at the start flag surrounded by feathers and goose poop littering the ground, I could either laugh or cry. I chose to laugh. How fitting: Gaylan's Wild Goose Chase goes to the flag amid the fallout from geese!

The blue line on the map is the actual track. I have always let Page choose her start, and she’s always been fine. However, I knew she’d need extra concentration on this one. I held her line when she wanted to blast off the flag after her initial sniff of the start article. She looked up at me questioningly. I smiled and then reached my hand down to the article (half of a leather moccasin), holding it for a few seconds causing her to give it another good long sniff. As she pulled her nose up the second time, I told her to track and she was off like shot. The green area on the map indicates the area where the geese were on her start.

Page tracked nose down straight as an arrow for about 30 ft., then she circled left all the way behind me. She dropped back down on the track and tracked a few more feet before snatching a mouthful of goose poop (she got a leave it command for that). She tracked straight for a few more feet and did one last small circle before dropping her nose down and tracking the first leg straight as an arrow, nose down and pulling as if it were a 10 minute old track.

Her first turn was a piece of cake, and she soon found her first article, a white plastic soccer toy that looked like a hockey puck. She was off and tracking again. Her second turn was against a hedge row/fence line, and she showed beautiful loss of scent indicating the turn. The turn was either right or left, and I figured it wasn’t left because that would take us back in the direction of track 2. Right would take us to the front of building with a parking lot beyond it. Since we had yet to do any non-veg I suspected it was a right turn. After investigating the tall cover for critters, Page quickly confirmed the right turn, and we moved to the building.

Before reaching the building, Page found a ground hog hole to investigate, sticking her entire head down to the shoulders into the hole and wagging her tail at the stories the scent told. I told her that she should be tracking, and Page quickly left the hole but clearly told me she thought it would be great fun to investigate! She also found a cross track at the side of building to investigate before moving across her first transition area onto the sidewalk.

Page told me that the track went straight down the middle of a sidewalk. However, she fringed into the ground cover in front of the building and spent quite a bit of time crittering in there. I patiently waited for her to get that out of her system.

Page finally worked to the end of the sidewalk and showed loss of scent. She indicated that the track went into the parking lot, but she worked the turn a lot before committing. The pink line is the line Page took, and I later found out that she turned early and was to the left of the actual track (the blue line) the entire time through the parking lot.

This is where fatigue started to show with Page. She worked the parking lot hard, expending a lot of energy. Halfway through the parking lot, she made a 90 degree turn to the right and investigated the grass (orange area) but couldn’t find a track there. I suspected by Page’s body posture she wasn’t finding anything, and looking around I didn’t see how the track could go that direction, so when Page worked back to me I backed up to where she had the track on the parking lot. At this point she looked up at me with tongue hanging out as if to say, "This is REALLY hard!"

Page got back to work in the parking lot but did a lot of searching. She started working left of her line, too (the other orange area). We finally made it to the grass in front of the parking lot and she did a lot of perpendicular searching, so I suspected a turn in this area. I do remember Page working both right and left through here, and seeing the actual track I now understand her working to the right but not being committed; she was actually backtracking since she came in to the leg left of the turn.

As Page worked this area, a man came out of the building across the street and walked up past us (yellow line). Page greeted him enthusiastically (the only way she knows how). I told Page to get back to work, and he asked politely if she was working. I said yes she was tracking. He said he wondered what all the activity was today. I then mentioned nicely that we were in a test. He said ok and wished us luck. Then he said he was going to go start his big truck and he hoped it wouldn’t bother us. I told him I was sure she would be fine, but thanked him for his concern. He got into the pick up truck parked behind us then went to the next lot to get his big truck. All this time Page was working the grass trying to commit to a track.

Likely because of his man and because I was facing toward the road with my back to the parking lot, Page decided to cross the street. She worked the grass to the left, so I stepped in behind her and we tracked long the far side of the street up to almost the corner (pink line).

When Page was almost at the corner, she stopped and flung herself at the end of the line toward a cup that was laying in the edge of the street and rolling in the wind. I waited to see what she would do next. Normally, if they insist on investigating something, I'll let them go to it to realize it's not their item. However, Page lost interest and started working the grass to the right. I could tell she wasn’t convinced of a scent, and I knew it was late in the track and we needed another article soon. I could also see something on the drive behind the cup that made me wonder. If Page turned that way again, I would have probably gone to investigate.

Page didn't continue forward, but turned right and worked the grass toward a parking lot beyond the grass. I could tell she wasn't certain and I didn't push her toward the parking lot but let her continue to work. I scented her a couple f times, and after the second time of rescenting with the start article, her head went up and she did a 180 and went back across the street and started working the grass on that side of the street.

As soon as we crossed over there and I saw the judges and gallery on that side of the street I about hit myself in the forehead. I KNEW what had happened. She had been paralleling the track on the opposite side of the street, and I suspected what it was I saw on the drive. Sure enough, Page dropped onto a solid track to her right, tracking like it was a fresh track. We came to a corner, turned right and tracked right up to that thing I saw on the drive – Page’s metal article, a metal switch plate.

I am fully aware that had I pushed her to farther to the right when she was working the grass across the street on the corner, I would have heard a whistle because she would have tracked past her article. I did think that the track could go into the parking lot beyond the grass, but I consciously waited until Page took me there. She never did, and she wasn’t committed to anything in that area but was doing a search for scent.

This is where I continue to be very grateful to my many hours of tracking with Steve and his mentoring me on handling. I learned very early not to push my dog, but wait until she tells me where the track goes. I think this is the hardest part of tracking; the patience. But to me it’s the most important lesson.

Page had caught her second wind as soon as she dropped onto the track on the correct side of the street. As soon as I picked up the metal article, she was off again. One more corner, and we were headed toward something white in the grass: her cloth article, a utility glove!

The judges had warned us not to cheer a pass until the judges had said it was a pass. So with tears in my eyes and hearing nothing behind me, I turned to look at the judges. They were both smiling and nodding, but I wanted to make sure. I said, “Did we pass: did we do it??” Darlene said yes and John gave us a thumbs up. I walked back down the track to the judges and gallery, crying all the way!

I got many hugs and congratulations, and immediately the talk started as to whether or not Page was the youngest Champion Tracker. Several knew of another person who passed with an 18-month-old male pointer, so she is not the youngest. But hey, that was never my goal. I have just tracked Page and entered her when I thought she was ready.

Interestingly, my tracklayer admitted to me that when she saw Page's age, she thought I had taken someone’s spot who truly deserved to be in the test. She couldn't imagine a 19-month-old being ready for a VST. I'm glad Page changed her mind!

So Page is now a Champion Tracker, and her AKC tracking career has ended. It's sad because she does love to track. I'll likely investigate working with the Mantrailing group again. Page really enjoyed that and was quite good at it. Maybe we can put her talent to use in other ways!

I’ll end this post where the dream began. When Devon certified at 7 months, the tracking judge who certified us (Steve Ripley) said she indicated a 48 hour old cross track on her track. He asked me how far I wanted to go with my dog, and I said to a Champion Tracker (not really knowing what that would take). He said he would help me, and that day a dream was born.

Steve has taught me everything I know about VST and how to be a good handler. His experience as a tracking judge has shown him everything that people do wrong, and I have worked hard not to make those mistakes. I owe a lot of our success to Steve sharing his wisdom. Steve admitted to me yesterday that he predicted Page would pass her first VST test. And Page surpassed his CT Zoe as the youngest CT Golden, so it has been nice to know that he has been so supportive of me, Devon and Page, knowing all this time Page would eclipse one of his milestones. But that's how the tracking community is. They give back, and they expect the same of you!

And I have to add that Devon was in her first VST test yesterday, too. Unfortunately her track didn't go as well as Page's. But there will be other chances for Devon, and I have a feeling she'll be getting her Champion Tracker post sometime soon!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hamilton Agility Trial

We just did one day of the Hamilton Agility Trial the end of September. I have wanted to return to this trial since I was there a couple of years ago, but it has never worked out.

Page had a very good day, her first in Open Standard and JWW. I was extremely proud of her in Open JWW. The opening was two jumps straight at a tunnel, but of course you didn't take the tunnel but turned 90 degrees to a jump. Page didn't even look at the jump. She also nailed her weave poles.

However, I learned a valuable lesson on this run. And in reviewing my runs from the Field Spaniel trial it's one I should have learned two weeks ago. I cannot rear cross Page out of the weave poles because I'll likely be too far behind her to support upcoming obstacles.

The rear cross after the weaves put me too far behind and I got a refusal and couldn't support the 180 further down the line. In fairness, all the fast dogs bit the dust at that 180. And the front cross before the weave poles was ugly. So we'll chalk this run up to a pretty good run and a valuable lesson learned!

Next up was Devon's Excellent JWW run. This run needs some background. Kathy and I shared a room the night before (with 5 dogs). Around 2 a.m. we woke up to the sound of someone getting sick. Poor Devon was really, really sick. She threw up about 8-10 times, once on Kathy's bed and twice on mine, not to mention all over the floor. Kathy wins best roomie award for surviving this night!

After an hour of clean up and a trip outside to potty (and seeing a cat that Devon wanted to chase), we finally went back to bed. Devon slept well; I did not. Page decided she had to potty again at 5:30 a.m. Not a popular decision in my book, but she was insistent. Needless to say, I was exhausted the next day.

After she was so sick the night before, I hadn't planned on running Devon at all the next day. However, as the morning went on, she was in a good mood and clearly feeling better. Sammy shared some plain cooked chicken, and Devon about ripped my arm off for it. I decided to run her and give her the cooked chicken before and after. I decided Devon would be more confused by not running at all than having a bad run.

It wasn't the most stellar run. The push out of the weaves that usually works well for us really tanked. But Devon was happy running to the end and she really liked getting more chicken. In the end I'm glad I ran her.

The last run of the day was for Page in Open Standard. This was a challenging course; not as difficult as the Excellent course. However, it was ripping and would get a lot of speed out of Page which I would have to manage.

As many times as I walked it, you would think I would have known where to put my front cross after the A frame. However, I was in the wrong place when I rotated. Imagine my surprise when I was standing in the middle of the jump bar. Bless Page! She acted like it was no problem and I did that all the time (I don't by the way). She jumped the bar keeping it up, and then when I reacted by sending her to the weaves, so sailed into them like she done that a hundred times. I took time to admire her, and then I realized I better get my butt up there for the rest of the run!

I was very proud of Page jumping into me from the triple. That was tough and the timing had to be perfect and the dog fully understand a serpentine. She didn't look like she was only 19 months old! The rest of the run was lovely with a small refusal and off course. I had lots of folks come up to me complimenting this run! It was a great way to end the day and get Page's first Open Standard leg!


The third weekend in September, the girls and I went to Columbus, Ohio, for a WC/WCX test. It was a very small test, so we were done early but had lots of fun. I want to thank Megan McClung for some very nice photos to remember the event!

My thought process was that going to this test would give Page two opportunities (including our club's test in October) to earn her WC; or it would give us a free weekend in October to do something else (like a VST test or an agility trial) if she did earn her WC on the first try.

Devon ran the WCX test just for fun. She has passed two WCX tests already, but it's always nice to practice triples with shot fliers. Nothing is a "gimme" in field tests! Devon had added pressure this time when she got a "no bird" her first time to the line. I will never understand why GRCA thinks it's a great idea to use pigeons for a WC/WCX test. I'm not a hunter, but I cannot imagine trying to shoot one of those little pigeons out of the sky! Devon's first pigeon flew unharmed over the treetops (and the smart bird didn't return).

Our poor gunners felt so badly that they'd missed Devon's bird the first time, that they tried extra hard to get it the second time ... and they blew it into about four pieces! The judge nicely told me whatever part Devon brought back would be fine. Poor Devon was searching and searching for a bird in the "fallout" area but didn't find a thing. She finally came up with most of wing and brought that back for me. What a good girl; and she didn't eat it on the way in!

Thankfully water was uneventful and Devon came back with her third WCX pass. She earned a lovely rosette and duck band for her efforts. Actually, I usually say the ribbons are for me and the pigeons and ducks are her reward. However, Devon also wanted to carry the ribbon this time, too! Only two of the three WCX dogs passed.

Page has never done a "cold" double before. I've always "built" the double doing singles first. In fast, she hadn't done a double in about 10 days when we did this test. I was really proud of her, because she had added distraction on her double. There was a firing range about a 1/2 mile away from the test. By the time Page came to the line, they were firing. Page marked both birds and handled the go bird just fine. However, when she went out for the memory bird, the gun shots started in the distance and they sounded as if they were coming from the direction of her go bird. Page looked back about three times just to make sure they weren't shooting any birds for her, but she never stopped. After she got out about half way, she committed to the memory bird and stepped on it.

Page's water work was very nice, and she even delivered the second bird to hand nicely. I think she thought since the gunners were in white and continued to stand (and not retire like at hunt tests) they could be talked into throwing her a third bird. Page sat as still as a statue making eye contact and looking intent to the gunners begging them for another bird. I literally had to drag her from the line on leash before she gave up! Such a silly girl!

Page was one of four dogs who passed the WC test. Pretty good for her first try!

Catching up: Field Spaniel Agility Trial

Goodness, I'm behind! Here's a quick wrap up of our last two agility trials. The Field Spaniel Trial was at a local venue, and it was lots of fun. Unfortunately the courses were very tight and difficult (as expected).

Page earns her first agility titles!!
Page was a very good girl, doing a great job on very tough courses. She Q'd in Standard on Saturday, finishing her NA. I was very pleased with this run. It was nice and controlled, and much faster than it appears on video! I'm still working to hold all of Page's contacts so she understands her criteria long term.

Page did her very best on this very on her Novice JWW run on Saturday, but the course was just too much. The only dogs that Q'd were moderate speed and/or small dogs. The big fast dogs had it rough. The opening was a 4 jump serpentine, with a 180 into the wall to the weaves. From the last tunnel the dogs had to change leads about 4 times over the last 4 jumps and take the last jump into the concrete wall (again). Page had done a lovely job, so it was too bad when the bar came down (my fault, but the alternative handling caused the next bar to come down with the next fast dog).

I forgot Page started the day with FAST and earned a Q on a pretty little run. I think it's funny how she was all "oh hello there hi!" to the ring crew until she realized there was a course to run and then she couldn't have cared less!

Page's first Open Standard run was one I wish I had back. I didn't handle this run well at all and it was a disaster. I think I was really annoyed when another bar came down. I wasn't annoyed with Page, it was the courses that were getting to me (can you tell I didn't care for the judge?). They were just practically impossible with a fast dog.

This run also shows a slight stress issue Page has with the table. This has come up once or twice in training, so I was interested to see it come out in a trial. I'm sure it's stress related; and it does prove that as confident as Page is, she can feel stress from me.

Thankfully this trial ended on a positive note for Page. The Novice JWW run was again a big challenge. It was very similar to the Excellent JWW course, so I knew the pitfalls. That yellow jump we had to work around in the close had eaten up more than a few dogs in the other levels. Page read my body language perfectly and slowed herself down and was very controlled for the forward sending rear cross. I know I was supposed to do all forward cues and no sending in Novice, but with these courses it was impossible!

Good girl Page!

Devon's looking better!
Devon had two wonderful runs in Excellent JWW. Devon nailed her weaves in competition for the first time since February! I was so excited I got her excited and she bounced out at pole 11. Then I didn't keep eye contact and she sailed over an off course jump, causing me to completely lose my place on course. If you could hear the audio a little better, you'd be really laughing at what I was saying out there. I so didn't care about that run except that Devon got her weaves!

Devon's last run of the weekend was also very nice. I chose to run the very demotivating start with a rear cross to get some speed and motion into her performance and I think it worked really well. I'll have to remember that. She almost hung onto the weave entrance, but not quite. I was so busy watching the rest of her pretty run, I forgot to do my last front cross, so I had to make up the handling on the close on the fly. I think I did pretty good, if I do say so myself!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Derby City Agility Trial -- Page

This was Page's third agility trial, and her first 3-day trial. No surprise: Page held up well over the three days; better than I did!!

FAST classes
I ran Page in FAST just for the experience of getting on the equipment. She had two wonderful runs. Again, I'm a "get in, get the points, and get out" kind of game player, so Page Q'd her FAST run on Saturday but was not in the placement ribbons. Since my goal was really just to get her on equipment and work contacts, I didn't care about the extra ribbon!

Page hit all her contacts, which was nice. We had the same fly by of the teeter that we did in Evansville with a small stress sniff. This was also the first run she ever missed a weave entrance! Shocking!

Sunday's FAST run threw a new and strange teeter performance into the mix. It's taken me a few days, but I've finally figured out what happened. She did the fly by of the teeter, but then she tried to figure out how to get on. Since I taught her a lot of board work as a pup, it was natural for her to hop on the middle. So she did and went down. Well, since she did 4 paws on, I had to do another jump and then try again. Same result. Then we ran out of time. No Q on this one, but I was more thrown by the teeter "performance."

JWW Classes
Saturday's JWW course was really nice, and we should have Q'd on it. However, I didn't anticipate a slight pull from jump 3 to jump4. As soon as I realized she was around jump 4, I knew she'd be in the tunnel too fast for me to react. The Q was blown, but I could still work the FMFC off the jump out of the tunnel. This was such a pretty run, that I'm still proud of it.

Sunday's JWW run was one I'll remember for a long, long time. It was flawless. Page did a send and I front crossed on the landing side of a pinwheel. She did three rear crosses that were lovely. And it was the first time she broke 5 YPS in a qualifying run. I've NEVER had a dog who ran that fast. This was a nice 118-yard course, and Page ran it in 22.20 seconds. That's 5.3 YPS, and I was thrilled. I could watch this one over and over. When we're on, it's so magical!

Our last JWW run of the weekend was on a really tough course. There were about four side changes, and that ate us up. Poor Page went around about 3 jumps that I didn't support well, because I was focused on where to go next. We still managed to get through it, even though we didn't Q.

Standard Classes
Poor Page. On Saturday by the time we got to Standard 11 hours after we arrived that morning, I was mentally done. I was no where near where I should have been for her. I left myself stuck behind on contacts and didn't support the contact entry well enough. We had two off courses, and I rotated my shoulders and pulled her around another jump. We certainly gave the judge lots of exercise on this run! At least the weave poles were nice!

Although our Standard run was much earlier in the day on Sunday, I was very tired. My hips were starting to hurt, and I was completely perplexed by Page's new teeter performance. Poor Judge Kurt! She hopped up and over and I just took it as a refusal and went back. Then when she hopped up and over the second time, I asked (you can't hear it on the tape) if I should go on because of the 4 paw rule. His response was "Ahhh...." He couldn't tell either! Page solved that problem by promptly putting all four paws on and coming off, so he laughed and said, "Yes, now go on!"

Obviously the front cross to the dogwalk was very late, as Page and I collided (and not very prettily)! I'm sure I heard her say, "GET OUT of my way mother!" as her head collided with my rear end! Poor Page. She works her guts out and I didn't make it easy!

The last Standard run of the weekend, and I felt like this was the best handled one. Yeah, we had the same teeter issue that NQ'd her, but that's ok. We worked well together as a team. I didn't anticipate the off course tunnel, but I worked the rest of it well with a pretty rear cross out of the chute. It was a nice run.

Overall, I thought Page did an outstanding job at this trial. She had 10 runs over the weekend, and while our Q rate wasn't perfect, we became a better team. I'm looking forward to the next trial!

Derby City Agility Trial -- Devon

This weekend we attended the Derby City Agility Association's 3-day trial east of Louisville. It was a fun weekend with friends, and oh yeah I had to run dogs, too! While I probably am more focused on my runs when I'm trialing by myself, I did enjoy the fun times with good friends.

Devon had a good weekend. I decided not to run her in Standard at all, due to her teeter issues away from home and known teeters. I also pulled her from Novice FAST on Saturday since there was a teeter in the ring. I didn't want to stress her since I know she looks for that teeter as soon as she goes into the ring.

However, based on advice from Jenn Crank, I ran FAST on Sunday. I planned a "get in, get the points and get out" course that would be fun and motivational. As soon as I sat Devon on the line, I could see her ducking her head under the first bar and looking over it trying to see the teeter. She did see it in the back, but as soon as I directed her away from it on course, she started flying!

Devon did have fun on this course, earning 54 points in 17.72 seconds, for a Q and a second place finish.

Devon had three Excellent B JWW runs over the weekend. All three were very good, except for the weaves. I know I've got a ring/trial issue with the weaves. Devon hits the first pole and then walks out of them. This is what she did a couple of years ago when she wasn't sure how to collect. Now I know she knows how to collect because she's solid in practice/training.

I am asking her to redo the weaves in trials since I do want to have her give me effort. But asking for the retry is giving her stress in the ring. I also agree with a friend who suggested that because Devon is so environmentally aware, she may be having problems going between 22 inch poles and 24 inch poles. Most of our training is done on 22 inch poles, and she sees 24s in trials. I agree that weave spacing plays a part in the problem. This is just something I think we'll have to work through.

Saturday's JWW run was very pretty and it was a tough course. Devon went off course after jump 3. Before we started our run, we heard noise and movement behind the wall of the arena. When Devon went off course, I thought it was due to that noise; however when I look at the tape I realize she committed to that off course jump very early and I didn't give nearly as much indication of the turn as I thought. In fact, I think all my turns on this course were late for Devon. She commits much earlier than I ever realized. I think she's anticipating where the course goes trying to be helpful to me. That means I need to cue her a lot earlier than I am.

Sunday's JWW run was the best of the weekend. Devon was slow off the start, I'm sure in anticipation of the weaves. But she handled this course very well. Her weave entrance was very pretty, so it's really too bad she didn't hang onto them. I think my handling was much better on this course.

After many, many runs, I was really tired on Monday, and poor Devon paid the price. I was mentally not there for her JWW run. I didn't run the course as I had planned, and frankly I was lucky to remember it. Devon hung with me until an off course after the weaves. I'm not sure you can tell in the video, but after the weaves, she really blasted through the rest of the course. I could tell she was burning off stress, just like she did in her last run of the 3-day trial in June.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Photos from the ACI trial

Thanks to Virgil Sweeden and Rebecca Forrest of Paw Prints Life for their awesome photography at the Agility Club of Indianapolis trial in June. Virgil is a very talented photographer, and Rebecca is the best at helping pick out just the right shots. If you see them at an upcoming trial, make sure to ask Virgil to take shots of your dogs. You will have fantastic memories!

Devon's photos:

See, I can do the teeter!

Mom, it's a sit on the table. Can't you hear she's not counting?

Told ya!

Page's photos:

Great second trial for Page

As frustrating as Devon's day was in Evansville, Page had a fantastic day! Page is much more secure in her job than she was in June. While I'm still supporting all her jumps with forward cues and only turning her on the flat, she's not running past jumps like she did at her first trial. It's remarkable what 2 months has done in her maturity level with this sport.

Page's standard run was first. While you can't see it on the video, her front end actually went out from under her when making the turn after the tire to the panel. She fell hard on her right shoulder.

It was a sit on the table for the Novice dogs, and I have not taught Page a sit since this was our only trial before the rule change Sept. 1 to a "positionless" table. I had expected to just let her stay in a down and then go on. However, I caught her before she went down and kept her in a sit for the table count. Whew!

The refusal at the teeter was weird and unexpected. I did pull off of it a little, so I'm going to chalk it up to my body language and a baby dog moment.

The rear cross on the flat and send to the weave poles was amazing! Frankly, that was a difficult series to find a place to cross, and I was thrilled at Page's ability to handle what I asked of her. I heard oohs and ahhs from the audience on that one.

Finally, the refusal at the last jump was just me letting up and not supporting it. I was mentally and physically tired, and I let up one jump too early. That's my big homework for the next trial - run through the last jump!

JWW was at the end of a very long day. This was a 1-ring trial. They ran all the standard classes first, starting with Excellent, then all the JWW classes, again starting back with Excellent. Because I had to set up and get two dogs measured (one of them twice), we got to the site very early. Page went to the line in JWW 10 hours after we arrived at the site that morning. When I went to get her out of her crate, she was sound asleep laying on her back with her feet in the air! It's funny how quickly she can be ready, though!

This JWW run was almost picture perfect! I knew it would either be beautiful or a disaster. It was a fast flowing course, perfect for Novice dogs. I haven't mentioned it yet, but I love Tom Slattery's courses. Just enough challenge to make it fair and very flowing. For the fast dogs, you've got to think and handle precisely or they are over an off course. To me, that's fair.

The only error on this course was mine and once again I did not support the last jump. I stood still too long on my rear cross on the flat and didn't get in to support that last jump. Good girl to Page for taking it at a horrid angle and not dropping the bar.

This little girl ran this course in 22.71 seconds or 4.84 yards per second. Wow, I haven't run a dog this fast since Reece, and I never remember him running with this much confidence or with this much handler focus! Page is going to be a blast to run!!

So Page ended her weekend with her second Standard Q and her first JWW Q, both with first place ribbons. Page only had one baby brain refusal and one that was my fault. And her weaves were once again beautiful. I'm looking forward to the next couple of weekends of trialing. I think the only one who isn't happy about Page's great runs at Evansville was Devon. While Page and I were running JWW, Devon dumped her water bowl and tore the Velcro strap holding it into 10 pieces. The devil!

And I suppose I shouldn't leave Ellie out of the blog posts about Evansville. She was a good girlie, too. Ms. Ellie is my friend Sheree's dog. Her registered name is Starduck's Habeas Corpaws JH, WC. Sheree can take credit for the field titles, and I expect Ellie to have a tracking title soon, too. Sheree trains her and I'm running her just in agility.

Here is Ellie's standard run. Don't know what the issue with the tire was; she's never struggled with the tire at multiple locations. The only thing I can think of is the red frame and the dark colors on the tire threw her. And I never expected the lovely way Ellie handled that rear cross and send into the weaves! What a good girl!

You will hear cheering as the dog before us finished his run. It was a Great Pyr, and they made it all around the course and did a lovely job - well worth the cheering. It was hard to run after that, though!

Here is a fantastic fast JWW run. This was a 29 second run, faster than I expected from Ellie. Drat that bar coming down! I'm sure that was just fatigue from a long day.

Woulda, shoulda, coulda ... UGH!

I'm getting this post out of the way, because it's depressing. After all the positives we've had this summer on the teeter, Devon has had a couple of set backs this week. Of course, just like last year, the set backs are right before a series of upcoming trials.

About a month ago, Devon refused the teeter at the kennel club when it was back in a dark corner. After having success lowering the teeter in that location, I moved the teeter to the middle of the floor. It was so interesting to see Devon work through her issue. She wouldn't leave the teeter until she went over it. Talk about dedication and heart! This is why I love this dog!

I was concerned that this would cause an overall setback in her teeter performance, but it didn't. For the last month, Devon has been confident on all the teeters she has been on. So I had no worries going to an agility trial on Sunday in Evansville. I could only make Sunday's trial, and there were 3 VMOs at this trial, and I needed a permanent height card for Ellie, a Golden I started running for a friend, and a temp measure for Page. I'm so glad to have these girls off the measure list! It makes my mornings go so much better.

I walked the Excellent Standard course for Devon. The course looped around where they landed off a jump facing the teeter, but instead had to turn to the right and do a 360 degree loop of 4 jumps before circling around and actually taking the teeter. I thought about cutting out that 4 jump loop completely and just sending Devon to the teeter when she saw it. However, I went against that idea because she had been so confident on the teeter that I thought I'd just run the course as usual.

The plan I did come up with was if she did head for the teeter I was going to step in and support the teeter and let her take it. I didn't want to call her off the teeter. I'd rather her go off course to take the teeter as she has been doing, sacrificing the short term Q for the longer term goal of a solid teeter performance.

Well, here's where the woulda, shoulda, coulda comes in. I shoulda gone with my first instinct and cut out that 4 jump loop. Devon actually committed to the turn and jump, which I didn't anticipate and I stepped in on her. This caused her to doubt her decision on the jump, but I quickly altered and supported this jump. I told her she was a good girl around the loop, but the small handling bauble in front of the teeter had done it's damage. When I supported the teeter, she wasn't sure of it and came off.

UGH!! Her first refusal of a teeter in competition. Something I NEVER wanted to happen in her career. And to fall into the coulda category, I coulda taken her special teeter treats (jerky treats that she only gets for a successful teeter and she loves; she even blows spit bubbles for these treats) and broken them up and showed them to her before her run and left them outside the ring like I do in training.

And I woulda walked her off the course so she didn't learn that refusing the teeter meant the game ended, but I forgot that too! I don't want to punish her for not taking the teeter, but I don't want her to learn that it's OK to bail off the teeter and then get to play the rest of the game. No teeter, no game. Sorry!

One other note about Devon's run. She spotted the teeter as she came out of the #3 tunnel. She's looking for it which tells me there's stress associated with the obstacle. No surprise, but noteworthy. Here's the run:

We didn't do the teeter in class this week, mainly because it was back in the dark corner where she had refused it a month ago. After a difficult time at the trial, I didn't want to follow it up with another bad training session.

Yesterday, I took a trip to the Louisville area to get Devon on a different teeter. I took the teeter treats, and she was happy to run to the teeter. After jumping off of it once, she went up and over it -- just once. She got lots of treats for that one time over it, but I could tell when she came off of it, she hated it. It was a hollow aluminum teeter and it made a loud hollow thud even on grass.

I was never able to get Devon over it again. I tried treats; I tried putting her up and working Page; I tried moving it to another location; and finally I tied her to the fence and had her watch Page go over it and get treats. Nothing. UGH!

We are entered in a 3-day trial this coming weekend and a 2-day trial the following weekend. This weekend we have FAST class the first two days, and it's the first class. Devon is the only one running in FAST, so I can concentrate on her. And if she is not successful in FAST, I will not be running her in Standard.

Unfortunately, she has never run at this location, which I wonder is part of the issue. Will she take the teeter in locations where she has trialed before? Or should I not run her in Standard in new locations and just stick with working in known locations this fall?

And the other consideration I have is preparing her for VST tests this fall. I learned last year that I cannot stress two sports with Devon at the same time when she's working at a high level in either of the sports. Right now VST tests are a top priority for us, so I'm leaning towards pulling her from Standard this fall until we get through her VST and then worrying about the teeter after that. I do think that working the other sports and not trialing consistently in agility has contributed to this teeter problem. Once we get a solid teeter, I need to stick with it and trial to build her confidence, pushing everything else aside.

The other thing that isn't helping is a weave issue, too. Back in June at the ACI trial, Devon had a a jammed shoulder and it was affecting her weave entries. This turned into a training issue. I worked through it and she has lovely entries in training, but as you can see by her JWW video they came back to bite us in that class, too.

Poor Devon. I'm just at a loss on how to support her, and it seems I'm making all the wrong decisions right now. Time will only tell how this issue is resolved.