Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shaping Up: A Trick's Story

The Dog needed a new trick.

She likes tricks. She understands them to be the secret of treat dispensing. Hang around long enough, and she will eventually put her moves on you.

Her recent favorite...

And if that fails to produce the desired reaction,  the big guns come out: Pink Belly. (As in, "see my little, pink belly? Isn't it SO CUTE that you want to give me the treat and/or toy that you have???")

"Does this do it for you???"
In the typical dog form, she will run through the routine, turning her tricks, attempting to engage me in her own brand of puppy prostitution.  To spice things up for me, the "John," I decided it was time to add to the arsenal.  Johns like variety.

Having seen the viral picture of the mastiff hugging the cute little baby under one arm, I thought I would try to teach this behavior to the Dog.  Not having a baby I wished to sacrifice to the learning process, I determined that an adorable stuffed animal would be sufficient and less illegal. 

Wiggle Puppy was the brave volunteer. 

"Hi! I am a little scared! You haven't said what it is we will be doing yet...What's the Dog doing here???"
I wasn't entirely sure how to get her to do this, as the maneuver I envisioned for her isn't exactly one she produces naturally.  I thought I could use a jump bar to teach her to hook her paw around something and would be able to shape the process into the final huggingness I wanted.

We started with getting her to just touch the bar, first with both paws, then just one when she became comfortable. The surface was slick, and that actually helped.  She had to make a sort of claw to hang on to it and this gave me the hook shape I wanted after a few click-treats.

Next, I propped the bar on my shoulder at a slant and clicked first just touching with her paw, then only when she grasped it. 
I imagine velociraptors grasped similarly... 
She caught on to that pretty quickly (Oh, clicker, you are MAGIC! Plus the fact that she was working for her dinner... one kibble bit at a time. Best way to teach a new trick!).  I moved the bar off me and leaned it on the couch, which was much lower and at a natural 'hugging height.' I then marked it when she grabbed the bar as before, eventually shaping it to look something like this:

Why is this picture orange?? 
Enter Wiggle Puppy.  I grafted him onto the pole so that she could practice with the stability of the bar, but get used to targeting her paw on Wiggle.

"Um, what is up with the pole dancing stuffed puppy?"
Let's just say she really liked clawing... I mean, hugging... Wiggle Puppy.  Getting her to grab for him was no problem. As illustrated below, she was soon huggin' it up big time with Wiggle Puppy.  Her hugs are a bit... exuberant... so I had to hold him up while she grabbed on, but she would hold him against her other front leg on her own after that. Yay!! Good Dog!

Epilogue: Wiggle Puppy has now entered protective custody after his stint as a volunteer for the Dog.  I will have to find her a more sturdy playmate while we perfect this trick- Wiggle was very floppy. And his stuffing comes out too easily.

I thought maybe a Weeble? They wobble, but they don't fall down.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wow, Super Long... I like it that way.

Today's blog posting, that is.  It's super long. Bwaahahahaha!

Yep. Bored. Rain, rain, go away. And I don't mean "go away by ceasing to be 'rain' by turning into my least favorite version of precipitation-" I will recognize you, even if you disguise yourself as snow. You do that and you will be sorry! I will get out a hairdryer or something and melt you.

I've done very little lately. Kind of ashamed to admit it.  The Dog and I spent the whole of the weekend watching scary movies. Which I HATES.  So why watch? Um, the only other thing on at this time of year is Evangelist TV. And QVC. Yawn. And I am too lazy to even find a DVD. (Rain is demotivating.  It is my kryptonite.) Besides, the Dog enjoys them.  The discordant tunes usually tweak her interest and make her do the cute head turn thingy.  So we watched Cujo.  I found the movie very stupid- however the Dog's reaction was the scary part. She liked it. A lot.

Example: When Cujo did this-

 She did this. (cute head turn to left)

Then when Cujo did this:

She did this. (cute head turn to right)

She was studying Cujo's evil behavior. I swear.  She wagged her tail when Cujo ate the police office and whined her happy whine every time he tried to ingest the mom and kid.


Let's just say that after watching that I made sure her rabies vaccine was up to date and have kept her very well fed. Just in case...

Oh, I have done something! We started a new round of beginner agility students this past week. Two rounds, actually! Nice small groups for once. There are some fun dogs, it should be an entertaining winter session. There is an adorable junior handler and her equally adorable 9 month old mini aussi. Somehow they both managed to fall down and get stuck on their backs turtle style.  Love them! The Dog enjoyed her tasks as Demo Dog, her favorite part was showing the other dogs the awesomeness of the clicker. Click-treat-click-treat-NOM!

And... happy 1000 site hits, little Project Go Dog Blog! Just noticed that the other day, and I like milestones, however teeny.  Balloons are nice.

Ok, party time is over (Dogs says But we didn't have the ice cream yet?!?!). Now it's research time. The Dog needs a new trick. Gotta hit up YouTube for something fun. Tricks we can do when the rain... and eventually snow... push us indoors... and she is turning into a couch potato (Do I have the only lazy border collie ever??). I'm thinking something along the lines of "hugging" since she's good with her front feet.  Unless anyone out there has any suggestions??

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oh, Banana Hammock, I miss you not!

Well, we are home! And since we slept for the last 24 hours, we are wide awake!  24 hours of sleep for lack of anything better to do, as I was feeling pretty ill anyways after all the dust I absorbed and being in a car with the banana hammock compounded my queasy feelings.  But we are free from the RV and the swingy-sway-ey hammock no longer has any power over me.  The Dog is happy to be home, she ran around performing a head check on all her toys. All accounted for! She was desperate to play with her things- all she had to entertain herself on the drive back was an empty bottle and my chapstick.

"Bottle equals one true love"       
So, Cynosport. What did we get out of it? We of course found some more things to work on. TOO BAD that it is now the 'end' of the MN agility season and I will have limited access to equipment.  But we can try!
1.) "Grab the nose!" In other words, tight turns when pulling her around me without me having to cross- just pivot in place. So many of the courses had places where it was obviously the thing to do and I had to make due with some funky maneuvers instead.

2.) Aframe meltdowns occurred when I had to either stop forward momentum or move away from her on the exit. Going to need to work on her still hitting the zone in these circumstances.

3.) WEAVING! Must speed up, not just improve her footwork. It is so obvious that this is what is sucking up a huge chunk of her time on course. I am plotting a retrain for the winter. I figure I can do 2x2s inside the house?

On the fence- running dogwalk or not? I really liked how she did it this week, with a slight hesitation. But also need to think about the long run, competition-wise. Also on the fence about blind crosses. It is an option for the issue I have with crossing in front of her on the Aframe (that she missed it almost always!).  I saw it work out awesomely for several dogs, particularly in the Steeple finals and Grand Prix round 2.   Always been against my rules though!!!

Also, I have to say, I'd forgotten the caliber of dogs you get to see at these events. So inspiring! The Grand Prix winning runs by Masher (12), Rush (16), Encore (22) and Solar (26) were amazing; in particular the run by Encore was one of the prettiest I have ever seen. MN was well represented in all finals rounds and congrats again to Tango, Remy, Winn (Perf.); Gators large and small, Crackers, Presto, and the teams of Mm, Tasty Gator Pi and Pyro's Maniacs (especially to Pyro- what a wonderful final outing in Championship for this great guy! Enjoy 16" Pyro, you'll always be Shiver's hero!). Thanks for giving me something to cheer for!

So overall, besides learning a lot and seeing some remarkable agility, The Dog was a very good girl this week for her first trip to Cyno.  I  realized yesterday that she was clean in all her Team classes (if you don't count the bar and missed A in the Gamblers opening- which I am not!), plus silly Rekoons, and on all her clean runs for the week she ended up in the top 15% of the class. With 335 22" dogs entered, this is pretty good! Her Team with Brother Dog and Black Dog did just miss the finals, but 32nd is still at the top! (Top 15% again- magic number) Thanks to them both for being great teamies (though I wish we could have seen Brother Dog run more- curse you separate groups!).  And The Dog's times were more than fast enough to have advanced her to the next rounds when applicable, if she hadn't have had her oopses in the first rounds. 

Just maybe there is an alternate universe out there, and in that universe is another me, who has another Shiver- maybe even another Shiver who rocked in the Finals. But that Alternate Universe Me, despite their slightly better week, still could not be more proud of their little Go Dog than I am of mine! She's come so far this year, by this universe's standards or any others. Hope we can keep it Going!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cynosport Evil Steeple Finals

Cynosport Evil Team Jumpers

Cynosport Evil Grand Prix Semis

3 Sock Pairs Remain- It Must be Saturday?

Life is an agility haze right now. I've found the only way I can remember what day we're on is by studying remaining clean clothes. And that's alright with me! Though it's been so long since we were in real life that I am going to need some serious help reintigrating. What's a car? Problems overseas- huh? Job? What mean JOB?? I feel like this is the way life should be. In other words... Don't make me go back, please!

That's right, now that my hopes are effectively dashed I am able to enjoy myself. I really disliked the pressure to move into second round status and the "must do good or will have wasted life/money/Dogs time she could have spent eating" mentality. Now I remember that none of it's the end of the world, or the point of existence. I can remember this for next year, since there is prety much always a next year.

The above should tell you that Grand Prix was not good yesterday. The Dog's hatred of all things poles that come in sets of 12 reared it's ugly head and she chose (despite my sufficient body block, hand signal and commands) to blow around me anyways and take Mr. Tire. THEN she did the weaves. Bummer! The rest was awesome! Solid contacts, good speed and picked up on all the other crazy cues. I even handled the start in a risky fashion (pulled to the right side of number two, between the jumps), since I guessed dogs would go that way, and they did, and we pulled it off. Oh well. We were in good company. Black Dog also took the off course route, into the wrong end of the tunnel. Then we saw many many dogs go off course
after us. I think at this point only three MNers are advancing. Including White Dog, who was fast and awesome. Her contact on the A has been great all week- good White Dog!

We also ran Team Snooker. The Dogs team with Black Dog and Brother Dog had plummeted out of qualifying range after Standard, but we all logged respectable enough runs in Snookers to get back up to 40th- only 12 points behind finals range now! The Dog was actually awesome in Snookers, she listened like the good girl she is and did my whole plan well.

White Dog's team is still doing well- they were first, then 7th after Snookers. Only one class left to survive.

We had lots of fun watching the Performance Grand Prix Finals last night. Tango and Winn were
awesome. It was really nice watching some old favorites compete again too! Tonight we can cheer on the Gators in Steeple Finals. See, I can actually enjoy this now!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Are We Having Fun Yet?

So day three has passed, two more classes done! Being the halfway point, I think it's a good time to ask- are we having fun yet?

Well, let's look at what I've got: a happy dog- plus! She is running confidently for the most part and has had respectable times where I can compare. I think The Dog is having a good time, and what has surprised me the most is how well she is holding up to the "pressure" of stress/excitement. (Normally she would collapse like one of those cool collapsable water bowls from the Clean Run vendor...)And believe me, there is a ton of stress and excitement. Walk early, run late, watch dog after dog "whoops" every thing imaginable on the course, racing around to get to where you need to be just to make sure you're there for the delays before your run with your reactive dog... Sigh. Stress!

Now let's look at how it's going:

In Team Gamble, she ended in roughly the middle of the pack, due to some mega missed Aframe contacts. The team of Dog, Black Dog and Brother Dog (Seeker) was above the cutoff after this class.

She had a nice run with minus one Aframe contact in Steeple today, so that took her out of Round 2 range (nice time, but not enough to get under the cutoff with a fault).

She finally had a clean run in Team Standard- yay! I feel much better getting that under my belt. Hopefully we can carry this over to tomorrow's Grand Prix QFs. Our team hopes may have died after a teensy off course by Black Dog (jump cluster *BLEEP* was a real *BLEEP*)but there were so many "whistles" that I can say with some confidence that it ain't over til it's over.

Add to this roller coaster of high and lows the fact that I have inhaled the 1930's Dust Bowl. Yep, it's all here, right in my nose. So I'm feeling a bit congested.

So- is this fun?

Hmmm... There is a fuzzy warm ball who sleeps on my feet no matter what happens. This is the best thing ever. :)

Cynosport Evil #5, Day 3: Performance Grand Prix Semis

Well I don't have to run it, but here's a sympathy "Auggghh!" for our Perf/Vers pals.

Congrats BTW to Winn, Elvis, Tango and Remy for doing so well in the Perf/Vers world yesterday!

Cynosport Evil #4, Day 3: Steeplechase Quarterfinals

Auggghhh!! What is with these starts today!

Cynosport Evil #3, Day 3: Team Standard

Auggghh!!! It's a jump cluster *BLEEP*

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

If the RVs a rockin'...

It means we are all going to die! Scary storm is here and we are living in a tin can. Shoulda made up a last will and testament. Farewell sweet world!

Performance Grand Prix quarter final course map

Here is the map- this also ran today. Looked evil as well, many dogs took the tunnel instead of the dogwalk and others missed 2, 15 and 18. Will this course be indicative of the regular GP course??

22" Gamble standings after Group D

The scores are really impressive so far, but just heard a 16" dog (I think John with Rush of World Team fame?)got 72. Wow!

And yes, I believe that Gator and Tasty are the MN versions. Yay!

Cynosport Evil #2: Day 2 aka Team Gamblers and, wait no, still just one class!

Let the Team Tournament begin!

This morning I woke up early and along with the Dog, went up to snag course maps so we could start planning. Alas none were there. Aha! The volunteer coordinator was surrounded by competitors clambering for information on map location. She yelled, "tell you what, I'll get them if you all sign up to work!!" then ran away while the competitors grumbled. I, however, decided to stalk her- shark style.

Ba dum.

We stalked all the way to Broadbent.

Ba dum Ba dum Ba dummmmm.....

She led us to another secret room and another lady- this one was the Big fish- she had a box of maps!!!

Dun dum dun dum dun dum....

We took chase after the Big fish through the pavilion.

And... Cornered her in West Hall.

BA DUMMMM!!! CHOMP. Course Map!

Rules might help, but there are many. On course gamble of jump weaves for 10 pts, the closing is triple points from in the gamble box. Start and finish on opposite jumps. No back to back or contact to contact in the opening. Good Luck All!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Quick Update After Standard Cuz it's Dinnertime!

We are done with the warm up run in European Standard- Black Dog went first and went clean. She had excellent response and even kind of a stay at the start. Wow!! One scary LOOK at the tire on the way out after the Aframe but that was it!

White Dog was clean too, she got her Aframe contact! That in itself made it a great run.

THE Dog was a good girl, she did have one teensy refusal from 4 to 5 (the 180 turn)- I KNEW she would assume wrap/Threadle on 4, and sure enough! Other than that she was fast the rest of the run, hit her contacts, and did the weaves with no complaint (and, dare I say, with speed even?).

Obviously we aren't able to watch everyone we would like, but the runs we saw from fellow MNers were good too. Overall from Group B outside of MN folks, the course took quite a few victims. Many off courses into the tunnel after the dogwalk, and the chute to tire-serpentine also was tricky. Can't say that Shocked me but I didn't expect the dogwalk to jump ("NO NOT THE TUNNEL!!!") to get so many dogs!! We decided that it was everyones' 'running dogwalk' and that they hadn't gotten to the turn portion yet.

Team Gamblers tomorrow bright and early! Yay!

Cynosport Evil #1, Day 1- aka the day something happens

European Standard

We got to do something finally!! Yay check in! It has never been so fun to set up or stand in line for red wristbands/banes of existence as you must not lose yet must take off cuz they are dorky.

We checked out the rings- today ours will be a pretty paisley colored ring with Easter appropriate equipment. White Dog and the Dog like this. Glad we are not in the main arena for this tight course as that equipment is HUGE. I would lose track of the Dog behind a wing. Plus it would feel like I'm tiny like the Indian in the Indian in the Cupboard.

Alright so just two hours until more activity. I'm going to feed the Dog candy corn until then so she will like me and listen up later. Or barf up. That's the thing about the Nationals- you never know WHAT will happen!

And I already lost my wristband. Nuts!

UPDATE: 38.74 with one refusal

Community Dump Hole Thingy


RV Land!

Monday, October 11, 2010

We Live in RV land now...

And it's a tough, rugged land. It's dog eat dog out here, fights are breaking out left and right for territory. The land rush proved fruitful for the Lemches and we have only had to shoot one or two trespassers so far.

Just kidding.

It IS pretty busy now though and RV land is quickly filling up. We got in pretty early before the crowd hit and got a nice spot by some old friends. Which is good since we have a common dump hole thingy and water thing. As you can tell, I am learning lots of technical RV speak. Other things I've learned:

You need a dump pipe long enough to reach the dump hole or bad things happen

Airports are not made to accommodate RVs but if you go in the wrong place to get your rental car airport officials will escort you about for free to make sure you don't destroy the airport

You have to remember to close your blinds when you are in RV land.

After settling into RV land we set out with the girls to make our rental practice time. Practice went well; the Dog was HOT and jumped like trash but listened very well and nailed all contact zones and weave entries. Black dog was awesome and had good start line work. White Dog was typical perfect- the big test will come later for her though; we are hoping her shoulder holds up and doesn't stiffen up after a rest. The main goal was to get out the evils, so major success- they are all wiped out.

Excited that in less than 24 hours we will be walking the first class! Trying to test with this and post a picture below of sleepy Dog at the table. If it works I can provide fast updates with courses and results in picture form. Otherwise we will see how much news I can produce- hopefully I will be faster than USDAA's site last year!

Mmm, margaritas and bad western now!

No-Go Dog

Sunday, October 10, 2010

At the KOA...

Kamp On Areas?
Konnect Our Appliances?
Killed On Arrival??

Mom said it stands for Kampground of America. Huh. Never would have guessed that. Glad it's not the killing one. Next, the mystery on why a K has been utilized over the obvious choice of a C.

The death of Barfy lead to a huge decline in available entertainment for several hours. Fortunatly Barfy Sr. lived on (assuming he is senior and it was junior that passed as no fly with any senior life experience would land on the Dog's nose and allow himself to be eaten)so after the Dog noticed him she flipped out in some pretty entertaining fly-related PTSD episodes.

I did try to watch a movie but SOMEone (ok its me) gets motion sick when watching movies, reading or doing anything interesting in a car. Plus dads banana hammock was swinging in a wooze- inducing fashion that made things worse as it really is impossible not to stare at it... And by 'banana hammock' i mean hammock for bananas, not a mans speedo.

Meal number 2 and nap number 2 filled out the rest of the afternoon. Then we arrived, played obedience lesson with the Dog and Black Dog and now we are staring at each other. Yay kamping.
Shiver ate Barfy!! :0 I don't know what to feel...

Here we goooooo!

On the road! Somewhere in Wisconsin!
Going to Cynosport!

...and I'm bored. Already napped. Already ate some food. And already asked if we're there yet enough that no one will talk to me. So then I started to take some pictures of the dogs (see, boyfriend I use my camera you got me!) and now THEY are bored of ME. So now I am watching our stowaway fly. Named him Barfy since I heard they barf or poo every time they land. Ew. The Dog. HATES. Flies. She thinks they are going to bite her butt. So it's kind of entertaining to watch her check her rear everytime Barfy zips by.

The Dog and I had a great practice yesterday. I set up the 2008 European Standard course from the Nationals and she rocked it. It was pretty hot so her jumping failed soon after but her contacts were solid the whole practice. Dogwalk speed held up with the stop. Yes!

We rented time at a gal's place to practice tomorrow. Last ditch effort for success!! Since we have four evil girls cooped up together we thought it was necessary so they don't go crazy in the ring Tuesday.

And speaking of the girls. Thought I would mention our guest Go Dogs: Pirate a.k.a. White Dog and the Dog's teamie, Rio a.k.a. Black Dog. Reports on all three girls, all week long!!

Barfy just landed on the Dog. Damage control!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hmmm test test ttteeesssttt. Let's see if technology is as good as it SAYS it is. Will this or won't this post to my blog via text????

Dog Says...

Dog here. Wish Shenna knew that there was nothing to worry about. Not as long as she brings the candy corn. I looovvvvveeee candy corn. I will even weave for candy corn. ...gotta go, think I hear the bag rustling now! Nom nom nom!

Pre-Cynosport Meltdown

T minus one day until we leave. Not going to lie, but I'd feel more confident if I were heading into an ancient Roman Colosseum...complete with man-eating lions and tigers. And why is that? Well, first up- it might not be my first rodeo, but it is my first in about a decade. And I hear things have, uh, changed. 335 22" dogs! Eek! This format is going to be so stressful, boring, exciting and- here is hoping- fun.

And to add to the stress over the event, there have been developments in the Dog's training- of the not good kind. For starters- running dogwalk contact is on the shelf until after the Nationals. Not axed for good, but definitely not ready to take it out to the main event. So yes the Dog is back to quick release stops for the next 8 days. Just hoping she doesn't bring the Creep back. She has not been doing it in practice and hasn't lost a lot of time over the whole obstacle, so fingers and paws crossed.

Second issue- Dog is showing her disdain for the weaves in a new fun way. By completely avoiding them at all off-course costs. She is fine when she gets in, but the getting in is the hard part. Hoping for weave entry friendly courses.

We will see how this goes! Getting there in one piece will be half the battle. Go go gadget RV! Departing MN at 6am sharp.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Eureka! …Maybe?

OK. Training a running dogwalk doesn’t just mean repetition. It means planning, practice, adjustment, revamping, frustration, exultation, and oh yeah, pulled muscles on my part from all the sprinting. This is SO much more involved than the 2o2o training process. This might be a lot easier with a clean slate but retraining to a running dogwalk is probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do as a trainer. Adding to my issues: not having my own dogwalk at home, having a jello-soft super smart Dog who thinks everyone is trying to trick her, and not having a lot of existing precedence to help with troubleshooting. I think at this point everyone is still a bit in the dark as far as what it takes to get this performance down to the reliable “T” we want it to be. ESPECIALLY with the retraining process. It seems to be so much more about what works for THIS dog, than what is a method you can apply to MANY dogs.

I was very frustrated after the last show as it seemed her performance really regressed, due to the course designs (I think). On Tuesday in class I went back to just letting her go, no matter if she hit it or not and rewarded the running. She did have a nice hit rate on the AKC measured dogwalk, but if it was USDAA… eek. “IFY!” So, on Wednesday, I went and removed all equipment away from the dogwalk (since not having an obstacle to target to seemed to really mess her up at the show) and tried one last time to see if I could get her to target to a toy placed about 20 feet out (usually this would be read as “proofing” and would elicit a 2020). And HOORAY! she did it! Slower at first, but gradually she picked up on the idea and drove out to it. Unfortunately though, the hit rate was pretty low for a USDAA dogwalk.

So in one last desperate measure, I stuck a make-shift regulator just above the last slat above yellow. (I know, I know, it violated my rules!) Taa-daaaa! Magic! It put her all the way down to the base of the dogwalk. So, eureka? Maybe? I really don’t know how I feel about using a regulator. I feel like once they realize it isn’t there, then kablooey! No more contact zone. I realize that one needs to work it a LONG time and fade it out gradually and sneakily. So that might be the task for the winter when I finally have some TIME and get a PLANK to work with. But for now, am going to put all my hope in this as a quick fix to get me through Cynosport. So, is ten days of practice enough to shake out 6 days worth of dogwalks? We will see!