Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not Just a Year Older, But a Year Better. (The Dog Turns FOUR Today!)


Didn't she just look like this??
Can that be right?

No, it can't! Can it??
And I thought three was unbelievable last year!

Two was pretty unbelievable too...

So technically we are like the same age now. I think that’s why we get along so well. It helps that we both like watching TV show marathons and drinking cheap wine (when she can steal it out of my glass!).  

Can we watch Farscape now Pleeeze?

She’s still my little girl though.  While she is pretty mature now, she remains the same- a tiny tot of giant, dramatic spirit. At the risk of getting all mushy, I am so very grateful to have her around.  I can celebrate extra on this day since it’s not only her birthday, but also the anniversary of the day she came to be with us forever.  Here’s to many, MANY more years of fun runs, slobbery toys and couch snuggles.  

Dramatic. See?

The birthday spoiling schedule includes a new gigantic filled bone which The Pup is banned from chewing, trip to class to play agility, ice cream after and unlimited access to Orange Ball, the best special toy ever.  Probably The Boyfriend will sneak her many treats that I won’t be aware of, but what’s new there?  

Oh, no, it's too much I couldn't possibly...
Oh, wait I can! NOM.
I do hope The Dog likes agility, because I sure signed her up for a ton of it this week.   When I entered the three-day AKC show, I wasn’t really thinking that it was just (three) days before our much more demanding three-day 4 star USDAA show this coming weekend.  I’m not sure WHAT I was thinking…either that it would be The Best Present for The Dog ever… or that there was a week off in between…somehow. Probably the second guess. Sometimes I don’t do so well temporally.   

IF I had the gift of forethought or basic planning ability I would probably not have entered yesterday. Or skipped the FAST classes the first two days. All I know (now) is that three days of AKC when one has to be there ALL DAY is incredibly draining (apparently).   It really showed in our Q rate this weekend. Quite low for us. I know, I know, I try not to focus on that, just mentioning it as evidence that things were off and I think it was a lot to do with all the sitting around getting sleepy.  Also a problem was that I was REALLY bored by the courses; they did nothing to wake me up.  Out of 6 classes (FAST doesn’t count), we had the same start three times, and a fourth that was so similar it might as well have been the same.  YAWN.  Honestly- exact same first 8 obstacles.   So also probably not too successful since, in order to entertain myself and get invested in the course, I decided to experiment.  Mixed results.   I guess I will call it a learning weekend.  I learned:

*I must have scary challenges or I will make up my own- eek!
*I must NOT have four hours of downtime TWICE a day (only once is surmountable). Five Hour Energy only last Five Hours. (Go figure.)
*My dog jumps BEAUTIFULLY at 20”. WITH Extension.
*She WILL send to a tunnel and bypass jumps now.  Yay for Snookers, bad elsewhere.
*Rear crosses no longer function for any kind of tight turn. 
*In general her collection cue died. Need to work harder on that and getting the cik/cap turns polished for real use. 

Extension in progress...SEE?
So yeah.  Her weaves were pretty variable.  We aren’t sure if the collection (lack of) and weaves were due to bad surface or what. It was pretty slick. But she was running very fast.  Times all over the place because while fast she was wider (not China wide, just standard wide) and her dogwalk really shut down on Sunday/Monday.  We went off course on Sunday because I was so shocked at her dogwalk I did a stupid and got myself in the wrong place.  So yesterday I tried to just let her go and push from behind but for whatever reason she was very sticky- and it started across the top plank which was new.  Have to think about it. Maybe I am putting too much pressure on her?  I’m sure I was pretty turned into her. I’ll have to experiment a bit tonight.  After this show we have very little on the docket for a few months. Maybe that will be good for her. The training to show ratio is off again, so that could have something to do with our issues in general. 

The Boyfriend came to watch yesterday for the first time- luckily he saw the icky dogwalk and now gets that I REALLY need one at home.  He promised to get started on it next weekend. YAY!!! Also I think he had fun watching people run-literally. He is a track guy so critiquing running kept him pretty entertained.  We could do a business venture- he trains the people and I train the puppies! Or not. We’d probably kill each other.  

Anyways. Not sure what to expect next weekend. Hoping for crazy courses.  Hoping to see my Happy Dog again then too. Hoping that there will be NO FOUL WEATHER.  I know better than to expect THAT though. 

Beautiful Birthday Girl!! 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Do I Even Want to Know?

Its one of those things like... if your significant other was cheating on you, would you want to know?

If you had one year to live, would you want to know?

Well, maybe not THAT serious, but you get what I mean.  Those hard questions that make you chose between blissful ignorance and a reality that requires your attention. 

For me, I always say I'd like to know.  Lay it on me; tell me everything. That way- even if it's not good- I have a chance. I can do or not do, but there is a chance.

Even still, today I'm wondering if I'd rather not know.

Yesterday I had The Dog in for an appointment with a very knowledgeable vet in regards to agility  ability.  I had some general concerns regarding her shoulders (that dang ding again!) and wanted an overall evaluation of her performance ability.  She is becoming a far more solid dog in terms of mood and speed predictability but some things still make me wonder- is everything ok? Knowing the type of learner The Dog is, by now we should have steady weaves. There is very little reason her Aframe should vary in performance. Yet both of these obstacles change weekend to weekend. Hmmm.  Put that together with the ding and our recent discovery that she should basically live at a chiropractor and you get: Questions. So to the doctor we went.

Answers are hard. We found that the shoulder ding was healed, but due to overcompensation she was experience some strain and pain in the other shoulder. OK. Acute. Easy enough to rehab away.  The rear end though had some surprising discoveries. I've always known she was a bit tight in her muscle structure, but without a real point of comparison I didn't realize how tight. And how potentially damaging that is.  It all makes sense, and it explains a lot of quirky things she does, but still was surprising to hear. I've always regarded her as a 'good' jumper- but it seems her form is less than ideal for the long haul. While I won't get into a debate on what does or doesn't make for good, safe jumping, I will admit that there is a need to at least build her ability to extend if for no other reason than to lessen the chance for possible injury (which at this point, sounds pretty high).

I won't say I wasn't upset over the results- there was a lot of initial "MY DOG IS BROKEN!!!" but I'm doing better now after speaking to some people who've been there and then some.  I didn't get the impression I have to stop working her (in fact, my homework insists on a lot of retraining) but still felt so guilty running her at the beginning of the day today.  Then it seemed a bit silly. She is careful with her body in agility. I always do my best to control for extraneous variable. She would rather run than not and I'd rather keep going than stop too.  I have, as I said, homework, so there is a plan of action. I've made a choice to do in this case that I feel good about. 

And it seems really, REALLY silly after our second run in particular. She's running well. She had fun. Her jumping isn't as bad as I thought- she can extend some and she certainly isn't slowing down. So I'll take it as yet another skill to train in the name of The Project.

Evidence that she's probably not broken...

But also, evidence that there IS something that needs some fixing.

As far as how today actually went with all this on my mind, she did qualifying in Standard and was in fourth, and qualified in Novice Fast too. I would HOPE that my Silver Gamblers Dog would make it through a tunnel and a jump but YOU NEVER KNOW! Jumpers, the first class, went poorly. The fact that I was worried she- the"ticking time bomb"- would explode led to some passive handling. Combine that with me thinking it was a nice easy course that I could assume her path equaled DOOM. Oh, yeah, also I had recently been training some distance tunnel sends. That equaled extra DOOM. She took off like a shot on the easy start, and completely missed my passive rear crosses, instead ending up focused on the tunnel pulling her far off course TWICE. It was all bad bad bad so I walked us off.  Not mad at her in the slightest- some times it just can't be salvaged. My mindset was wrong from the get go and she was just playing the wrong game (if that was Snookers I'm sure she woulda ROCKED it).  After that I got some input, hit reset and we were good to go.

The Pup (who detests second billing) is anything but broken.  (If you don't count her teeth falling out like MAD.) Here's her most recent ST e-course video. 

Her heeling is spectacular. I will never teach heeling another way (bold statement, but I don't know how anything could have better results?). She is progressing on her side 2o2o and pole grabs too. Also a clip of her skateboarding- she prefers to leap onto it and ride it, so I'm making her go slow and actually push along.  The best part is her cik/cap turns. She does know the directionals and is coming along pretty ideally, I've been told. Fun fun fun!

I had an 'official' measurement on her today- 14.75".  The judge of measure thought she was quite likely to stay under 16" at this point. Fingers crossed. So very, very crossed.  For both my girls!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Friendship Bread: Best for Enemies.

So have you heard about this Amish Friendship Bread thing? I hadn't.  But when my so-called friend from work described it, I was intrigued.  

Apparently, it's a chain letter in the form of bread. I know, weird, riiiigggghhht? 

You get a 'starter' compound from a so-called friend from work and then spend 10 days stirring and adding to the starter (which is left on the counter, but there is milk in it??) and then you scoop out some portions which are new starters that you are supposed to give to your friends. You take the rest, add a bunch of things and ta-da! bread. Then your friends start the cycle anew. 

Like I said, I was intrigued. 

I said I would take a starter and give it a go. 

Little did I know, my so-called friend was trying to kill me.  

10 days I spent stirring and adding and not questioning the health implications of 10 day old counter milk. (Really, perhaps the milk bit was the first sign she was trying to kill me...)

On the 10th day, I was to bake my bread. Note the following: Recipe followed exactly. Loaf pans under-filled to allow for baking expansion.  Essentially, ideal set up for the perfect bread. Twenty minutes into cooking, it smelled of heaven. It WAS the perfect bread.

Oh, yeah, until it exploded. 

So there I was with bread goo all over the oven.  The oven which then caught fire a little bit. I tried to scrape the burned bits off the bottom and keep the rest cooking, but the pans just kept overflowing and adding more bits to the bottom to be burned. Then my oven filled with black smoke. I figured the bread probably would taste like charcoal, so I chucked everything. Then my kitchen filled with black smoke. Then my first floor...

You may be thinking, gee, all that fire and smoke and no smoke alarms sounding?  And you would be wrong. The smoke alarm AND home security thingey were both screaming at me intermittently for about one hour. One hour spent scraping...fanning...entering silence codes...running upstairs...entering another code...repeating this cycle over and over again.  

And now, my characteristic loose tie to dogs thus rendering this worthy of posting on the dog blog: 

Even the monthly test 'bleep' from the security system is enough to turn The Dog into a puddle. And The Pup has yet to experience a full blown alarm. Imagine a solid hour of screeching with two squirrely pets. Suffice it to say, they were not happy. Extra concentrated doses of squirrely. The Pup eventually begged to be let into her kennel. The Dog begged to be allowed in the closet.  Neither appeared again for some time. 

My so-called friend insists that no one ELSE had a problem with the starter she handed out. However this just serves as further evidence that she was somehow trying to kill ME in particular. 

As for my starters, I hid them in the back of the freezer. I couldn't think of anyone I dislike enough to impart them on. 
Anyways, despite all that fire, smoke, and DOOM life goes on.

Too, too quickly. 
I cannot believe how fast The Pup is growing up.  

To give you a place of reference...
The Pup, 9 weeks.
Now, just LOOK at her!!! She is a big girl. All adulty looking and everything, she even sits still for pictures on a regular basis now. 
I luv how well she matches the kitchen decor...
Pensively posing. Not The Dog tho, she just wants the toy.
Sigh. Gives me happy/sad feelings. I like that she is not so breakable anymore. I like that I can start DOING stuff with her more. I like that she is slowly but surely becoming normal and not being her alter ego Crack Puppy on a full time basis.  It's nice not living with a completely feral beast. 

But still... does she have to grow up so quickly?? Squishy baby stage doesn't last quite long enough if you ask me. 

Though I am REALLY proud of her for not climbing in the dishwasher ONCE last night. 

I guess there really are perks. 

To close, a few of our favorite things, to prove that we are keeping busy here. 

Expert container cleaning squad at work.
Always ready with a toy offering to the Fun Gods

Friday, May 20, 2011

Training Rapture: Probably the Only Kind of Rapture Happening this Weekend.

Of course, it WOULD take the impending end of the world for The Pup to finally start to grasp the concept of dropping an object in another object.

If you've been here recently, you may know I've been tearing my hair out trying to figure out how to shape the "put it in" trick.  (Though seriously, WHY would I want TWO dogs that try to drop toys in the toilet??? I must learn to think these things through). It was in our homework for the ST course and we were failing MISERABLY. Seriously.  I whined and whined on the class forum about my failures. I whined and whined on a previous post.  I stupidly reinforced this trick further with The Dog in order to feel like I wasn't less of a trainer/human being. 

I tried about 50 different approaches. But still The Pup just looked at me. Or did 'monster.' Or took the object and chewed on it. Or ran away with it. She certainly didn't bring it back or try to drop it by the bowl.  We couldn't even shape the most basic part- taking it and holding it. Every time I clicked, she let go for the treat. Clicking without treats (playing with a toy) meant not a lot to her.

But Duh.

Wrong approach.

ST told me it wasn't actually about the hold, but the drop.  I should let her take it, and click for dropping it, as she was going to do anyways, near the bowl (which would be conveniently close). Then in the bowl.

Big. Fat. DUH.

10 minutes later- she has it. 

OK, so I still don't feel like much of a trainer for not thinking of that myself, but whatever.  I don't need all the answers. I have to learn too. Click/Treat me!

So, if the world ends, at least we got #4 on the homework.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sorry, Rabbit- AND Kids- Trix are for PUPS!

 This’ll show those nasty little kids who never shared their Trix with the Rabbit.

Trix are for DOGS now- ha!

OK, I guess they are for rabbits too- per the RABBIT SHOW JUMPING LINK that our friend at BC Insanity found.  I’m so getting rabbits now.

So there you go: Rabbits and Dogs, 1. Kids, 0. Reason one thousand seven hundred and twelve that I have dogs instead of kids still. For anyone keeping track.

OK so I really digressed a bit there. What can I say? I’m delirious from a severe lack of Mexican food. I need 50 cc’s of queso fundido, stat.

ANYWAYS. I really love trix. By which I mean tricks.  When I brought The Pup home, I decided to experiment a little. I decided to try 100% tricks-based foundations with her.  Why? Two reasons- I love tricks and find them to be very entertaining, which makes training more fun and not a chore (how many millions of times have I heard people say “UGH I can’t wait for the puppy stage to be OVER, I HATE foundations, I just want a trained DOG??” I so didn’t want that to be me.)  Second, it was in the name of The Project.  Remember, one of my goals here is to try new things and evolve with the sport.  I definitely don’t want to be one of those people who trains every dog the same way… forever.  Blah. Even if it works. Blah.  I can’t even imagine how much it would suck to have an agility ‘brand’ that you are known by- try to change anything, and it’s like suddenly you’re no longer behind your own product!  How limiting.  So the key is to ALWAYS be trying new things.  Further, (secret hidden third reason?) I’ve had the unique perspective of teaching hundreds of other people’s new dogs for several years now- I have a pretty darn good idea of what works…and what really doesn’t.  So it isn’t a totally uncontrolled experiment- I am working under the reasonable assumption that this will pay off.

And it SO is, for those wondering.  I am NOT working on obedience, manners (except the not biting thing), drive or the other countless things that some people obsess over.  Just tricks.  And ta-da.  Those other things are all popping into existence on their own.  PLUS I have a brilliant, confident puppy who works to engage me.  She IS a bit (ha!) naughty, but it’s all coming along.  And I would rather have a dog who feels good enough about herself and her life to attempt a crusade onto the counter to steal a taco (and who can solve the problem of getting up there!) than a dog who never tries anything because she’s too scared or lacks ingenuity.  At least I get good stories out of it.

In case it isn’t totally obvious, we’ve had some good training sessions around here recently.  I’m dang happy with how all the trick work has morphed along into obstacle performance.  I did get some video of things last night:

Teeter- her favorite thing on the planet.  I couldn’t even take the two seconds to lower it before she was trying to run over it, so I caved and let her do it as it was.  It’s about 12” high here.   This is her third time on am entire teeter.   Contributing tricks: Wobble board, perch work, perch work on wobble board, Four feet in a box, plank work, ‘ready-steady-go,’ drawer slams and the bang game.  Find it fascinating that we spent most hours away from the actual obstacle only to have close to a proficient final product within a session or two of actually seeing it. Similar to making a really good mole sauce. 

Plank work- I decided she understood the concept of committing to staying on the length of the plank well enough to start raising it up. It’s maybe 6” off the ground- I grafted it onto the actual DW which works awesome(ly?), FYI.  She did very well, did not come off the sides, and seems to have a non-leaping stride.  I did a few (not shown) running with her so the concept wouldn’t be foreign to her in the future and those were good too.  I am still targeting only to food, not toys.  I’ve dubbed the ‘method’ Tex/Mex: a Daisy/Silvia bastard brain child- I took what I liked and what is appropriate for The Pup from their training and squished it together.  I very much agree with the Daisy/Linda idea that thinking matters most right now and will equal more correct behaviors, which equals more positive experiences/reinforcement, which equals confidence which equals speed.   I’ve seen this in action on the jump training- why not apply it to contacts too? So this is another experiment.

As for jumping, we’ve done many sessions of the various one jump c/t exercises and I decided to move to the next stage of walking through sequences.  Obviously, the jumps are low, basically non jumps.  We will revisit the one jump work when it comes time to raise the bar, but before then I have lots of time to get her used to seeking out jumps, loving them, and learning my handling cues too.  Also am simultaneously teaching the cik/cap style turns.  

Not completely throwing Silvia’s idea on speed from the get-go though, doing lots and lots of flatwork with this concept in mind.  (The Pup is the best chaser ever.)   I really liked the idea of training everything separately- handling away from equipment and equipment from other equipment so I am doing this to some extent. Hopefully it all mushes together like some kind of beautiful agility nacho plate. 

Not to be outdone, The Dog is lovely. Cik/cap turns up to 20” and holding strong. I can’t get over that I have to do it, but we are building lots of tunnel drive still and last night I had fun directing her into various tunnels from across the ring at breakneck speed.  Oh, she had fun too, don’t worry.

Now, onto the next big problem- getting’ me some Mexican-y goodness.  Ole! 

Oh god, so good looking I may lick my screen...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pony Up, Hollywood

I’ve got a great idea for a movie plot. Here’s the pitch-

The Pup sees dead people. 

See, Gary Spivey, the psychic who is always on KDWB, says that pets are often able to see spirits. Whenever someone calls in to the radio station complaining about their pet doing weird things, like staring off into space and then running away suddenly, he says that they are seeing ghosts and demons. Creepy.  

Creepier still, The Pup is always doing this.  I’m convinced that she sees Ceiling Ghosts. One second, happy go lucky puppy, the next, fixated Ceiling Ghost Hunter.  Great.  After all my effort trying not to buy a haunted murder house, I probably got one anyways.   It would appear that On The Run training school is haunted as well. They should look into that.

So far, the ghosts don’t seem too evil though.  On the other hand, they might be possessing The Pup, which could explain the random acts of naughtiness like why she is always stealing my Flip and trying to eat it.

These days Hollywood seems to be all about sequels, so I’m sure they could use this as a follow up to any one of their recent blockbusters regarding the paranormal.  

So there you go. I’ll be expecting my advance any day now, thanks.
Speaking of movies- here is my most recent video of the girls working their tricks for the ST course:

The Pup is a pivoting genius now- got some helpful feedback and we seem to have corrected the problems we were having there.  She’s also doing great with 2o2o with side feet and handstand.  This weekend we actually got a few that were independent of an object.  She is NOT however doing great on the concept of taking a toy and then giving it back.  One of the assignments was to start shaping getting a toy and putting it in a bowl or similar.  Ugh. Have hit a wall. The size of the Great Wall. You know, the one in China?  Serious breakdown here- she will get a toy…and run away with it. Or, she sees no point in holding the toy to begin with when there is food present.   

So in order to not cry from frustration I let The Dog play at this trick and then I feel warm and fuzzy and like I am not a bad trainer after all.  She loves this trick. Best trick ever. Won’t stop doing it. Toys dropped everywhere- including the toilet and in my salad bowl if we don’t pay good enough attention.  Oh well. At least I was able to teach it to her to begin with.

Both dogs are also working on hugging a pole. The Dog learned this already with just one paw, so she is learning to use both paws.  The Pup just perfected ‘monster’ so I’m going very slowly to maintain that while she learns to touch the pole at the same time.  The Dog also has learned a cute leg lift trick. Silly, but it took a long time- her rear-end awareness training was extremely limited so she typically forgets those back feet exist. Now she knows she has at least three feet. Yay!
Oh, and BTW, The Pup’s official Breed of the Week is Cattle Dog. Even a lady with a real Cattle Dog thought she was one.  Love AKC people, they always have the best guesses- so very rarely do they ever go for the most obvious: a mix. Hoof beats equals zebra and all that. 

Go Dog and...Cattle Dog??

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Sense of EnTITLEment

I have some thoughts:

It annoys me when Blogger doesn't work but I forgive them because they used the word 'widget' in their apologetic explanation,

Rain makes places where dogs go potty at a show smell really yucky,

Pineapple Upside Down Cake is my favorite cake AND my favorite drink. 

I actually like AKC now.  Dun dun DUNNNN! Shocking, right?

Here is what I like. AKC has removed the competitive aspects.  It's true- I doubt I'm saying anything controversial here. Yes, they have a National, and sponsor a highly sought after world team, but even at those events, they still prize consistency first.  I get here that it's really not about whether you win or lose, but seriously, how you play the game. When you go to run, it's 100% you and your dog against the course.  Because of this mentality, you get a far more accessible organization. I really do like this part too. If it's accessible, you get breed loyalty.  People can stick with their breed of choice and- in theory-have a great time running their dog and earning some titles. I think that when the competitive component is introduced, you get pressure to get a dog that can not just run, but win.

Don't misunderstand- I'm not saying any one breed is better for performance than any other, nothing is ever guaranteed. Just pointing out a common misconception. We have all seen slow BCs and amazingly fast representations of other less likely so-called 'agility dog breeds.' It really all comes down to the dog you get and how you TRAIN it. But still, there is perceived pressure and with pressure comes doubt and then things go downhill from there.

I might be wrong, but I ask how else one would explain the BC breakout in USDAA? There is an organization that holds the competitive spirit above all else. Right down to the structure of their Nationals, they hold dear the wildcard dog that can come in and take it all in one run.  I love this too. It's exciting! It's why I do USDAA and gives me reason to run to the limit every time. But I think it's at the cost of variety and breed loyalty and that makes me a little sad. Sad too, that it feels sometimes like people don't have faith in their breed and their own ability to train it to greatness.  But that's my opinion, like I said I always think it's down to the dog and handler. Confidence and all that.

But besides variety and breed loyalty and all that, there are other things that give me reason to do AKC more now. The environment is so...friendly.  I told a friend the other day that there was a supportive aspect- camaraderie. You forget what it is like to sit and watch fellow competitors and to hear cheering for run after run.  The level of niceness is very refreshing (so are the high levels of cake). I think this is something else USDAA has lost (plus there is almost never cake).

But what I don't like about an individual, title-driven mentality is that it is ALL about the Q. Or, the QQ actually.

Whenever I have downtime to observe at an AKC show it amazes me how much seems to ride on qualifying.  A beautiful first run often is dismissed as worthless after a mistake in the second run. Literally, I hear people saying to their dogs "well, we might as well have not even come today." What about the first run?? I saw it, it was lovely! Did you forget? Did you forget that your dog is only here for because you brought him? So, you're telling me you had no fun?? There really doesn't seem to be a lot of fun, on an individual level. Lots of disappointment and dogs without treats, but not much fun despite it all.

So here is some unsolicited advice.

I've learned a lot in the last year. It actually took starting AKC again to realize that I too was guilty of putting too much value on a Q- I was a Title Chaser.  When I started AKC again last summer, I looked around and saw myself- but to the next degree. I was shocked at what the pressure of title chasing did- let me just say, it's not good. Wrong mentality.  No fun. No treats for doggies.

One of the big reasons I started my little project was to hold myself accountable.  That means obsessing over running well, not over running clean. Running well means running as a team- having a good relationship with my dog. Having a good time. Getting smarter. I force myself every weekend to shed the conservative and abandon what is safe- not to buckle to the pressure of running clean but to run my girl in a daring way.

And you know what? It's working. She is running better than ever. And all those former main goals of running clean and getting titles? Just falling into place. A pleasant side effect of GOing for it.  No- every run is NOT clean.  I can honestly say some of her best runs have not been clean, but I was just as proud and praised her as though they were. And I can honestly say we are both having fun. Can you? I hope so. If not, consider this option-

It's NOT all about the Q. Or the QQ. Every run is a new opportunity for being great and seeing your dog do something amazing. Remember the best part, it IS you and your dog- together- against the course.  Let go and Let Dog, as they say. 

They say that, right?

As for my gorgeous girl- she blew me away in Standard (and finished a title!! hahaha). But before you call me hypocrite, I would have called her a genius even with a missed contact or a bar down. More to my point- the best part of my day was her recovery after a smashed bar in JWW. Bars still make her sad, but she bounced back and flew through the second half, nailing a tough exit line. Good girl. Doggie treats flowed like cake.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dog…or Decepticon?

So in case you aren’t a young boy, fan of Michael Bay movies, or giant nerd, Decepticons are the bad versions of Autobots from Transformers (you know… “Robots in Disguise?”)

Outwardly, a Decepticon could be anything- in fact, their disguises inspire safety, trust or at the very least, innocuousness. For example:

Oh, how nice- a lovely police officer, patrolling for the great good.

But once a Decepticon transforms, you can see what they are REALLY like:

Relevancy? I’ve been wondering lately…

Ruh-roh, Is she on to me?
Or Decepticon??
Sometimes it is really hard to tell what I have here. Cute, cuddly exterior…but something is lurking below the surface. Something so naughty I just have to wonder if my puppy is REALLY just a puppy.

Preliminary research leads me to the following conclusions:

If every game turns into a life or death battle…
"I will rule the universe, even if I am the only one left in the universe." 
If she would rather destroy the bathroom walls than eat a dog treat…

If she knows no boundaries and eschews what is Right…
Toilet Paper.  Stored up high for a reason.
And here it is.
If she plays with her prey and shows no mercy…

If she rejects all forms of captivity or control…
And if she can couple with another Autobot to form a mighty mutant monster…
Transform...And roll out!!
Definitely a Decepticon.

There you have it. The verdict is Decepticon!

My only hope is that others may learn from what we have discovered here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

They said that about skydiving too...

At only ONE agility event am I semi-ok with being a spectator- the AKC World Team tryouts.
We are quite spoiled in MN- we get to host this event; no VOD for us! No, we get to watch, front and center, live while teams duke it out on the field to win the coveted two spots.  This is the most intense, exciting trial I am able to witness.

This year- no exception to that. The courses were INSANE. But in the same way that skydiving is insane- people are still doing it voluntarily, just for the rush. The FUN kind of insanity, from which dangerous, addictive habits are formed.  As an agility junkie, I have to admit I felt positively ITCHY to try them out.

But first I had to watch.

Sooooo...cooooool…  SOOOO HAAAARRRDDD!

Of course, some teams made them look easy.

Not many though. Very few clean runs each round. Lots of brilliant moments though. I sincerely hope everyone went home happy. (Seriously, even YOU, Exasperated Sigh Lady.) All the dogs did something well; they each survived some disgusting trap, or nailed a ridiculous weave entry or managed to not bite their handler- big accomplishments! This was not a regular agility show! Everyone should be proud just for running at all after walking that first course. Ouch! It takes a brave, confident person to attempt that beast. And if it didn’t go exactly right, remember the brilliant moments and that you tried. Plus, there is always next year, right?
THE Beast- no clue why it's sideways. Oops.
So congrats to all, and thanks for the viewing pleasure.  Super congrats to the MN reps and to those who won their spots (some crossover there!).  The Dog sends Super Squishy Prideful Sister Congrats to her Brother Dog. (I’m not sure why they are squishy, must be a Sister Dog Thing.) 

In our humble little portion of the dog-o-sphere, we did set up a lot of the elements from the courses (like I said, agility junkie!). I was really pleased with how The Dog handled them.  I can see running these types of courses how much better she has gotten on jumping into me and just plain following my lines. A year ago, I would never have gotten her through the sequence of Aframe-backside jump-post turn and now she can do it easily. Cool.

As for The Pup (like I could skip a pupdate?!?!?) she was the lucky dog who got to come with me to watch the tryouts. I am amazed at how well she does, no matter where she goes. She was just fine with hanging out there in that high charged environment- she fell asleep in my purse!  And I think that was the record for the longest she has gone without being naughty- the full 9 hour day and she was a model citizen every minute. (OK, except when she decided to steal the treats from my bag. And drag the water dish around. And eat floor fuzzies. But other than that.) 

Sadly (???) I think this means she is growing up. I noticed yesterday how very much like a DOG she looks now- if she doesn’t wriggle you wouldn’t even guess she was a puppy still.  In general, she is starting to chill a LOT and now she will come lay down in my lap in the evenings instead of finding trouble.  She’s making better decisions and is getting less destructive. The biting especially is starting to ebb. Sniff…sniff… soon she might not even want to steal my socks and hide them from me!

Probably won’t happen THAT soon though. 

Oh, and her ears are definitely going up. Unless they decide to go back down.  While on Saturday they were a bit warped, they spent most of Sunday up. They were still up this morning; we’ll see what happened during the day later when I get home.  Hilarious- the sleepier she is, the droopier they get. After the WTTs, they flopped like a retriever's!! 
I’ll get some video up this week- have to share her awesome progress on pivots (got some advice from ST and now she is following my leg like it was made of socks or something) and on her tricks. Handstand is nearly there, as is the monster trick.  (Her ‘sit up-‘ Seriously the cutest thing ever.) I hope I can teach her to speak so she can do ‘monster’ and go “RAARRR!”   The Dog is learning to ‘drum’ which is amusing.  Anyone know where I can buy a dog sized drum she can’t destroy? Fisher Price obviously didn’t have Border Collies in mind when designing play sets. 

Time with puppy toys and NO puppy equals fuzzy warm magic happy time...
Dis what life COULD be without Da Pup!

...Snap out of it! 
Wha? Huh? Aw nuts, it was just a dream...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Famous Last Words I Guess and Also the Welcome of Spring *Maybe*

OK, so I was reading some older posts, looking for a picture and I found this statement regarding The Pup from when I first met her. Ahem:

(Direct Quote)

"she is certainly amicable and will no doubt be easy to live with"

...Bwahahahahahahaha!!!!! Ah, irony, I am your beotch. I will go set the table so that I may eat my words. 

I’m remaining cautiously optimistic that spring is on the way for real now.  
So is The Pup. She had finally thawed out from the weekend in the elements which means we can play!
We’ve been working on our homework from the ST class this week: duration and independence on sit-up (which we call “monster,” since that’s what she looks like when she does it), turning perch circling into leg taps on both sides, slamming drawers shut and advancing 2o2o into a handstand (“where’s yer butt?”)!

The perch work is our toughest bit right now. When she figured out the circling thing, it was a huge Ah-HA! moment for her so she is not inclined to let it go now.  (It was right before! It MUST be right now!! Stupid Leader!) She was particularly strong on the right turns and continues to barge past my left leg half the time in order to make the full circle. The will of a Border/Staffy rears its head once again. She is picking up on stopping at the right leg though, which makes sense since she didn’t care for full circles that direction anyways.   We are supposed to be advancing to the point where she will follow me around in a circle to tap my leg (and then TA-DAA it becomes heeling!), but that might take awhile. She so badly wants to be in the front zone that whenever I move she takes that as the cue to spin away.   For now, we are working on reward the side zones and waiting for the next Ah-HA!

I do love her progress on the handstand trick though.  Learning this trick was my main goal with the class! I tried with The Dog, but she has a lot of junk in the trunk so she could never really balance right to not topple over once her butt got above her head. But The Pup has a giant baseball head which allows her to balance perfectly for this trick! She is quite the natural. I’ve gotten a few actual balanced handstands from her, but am trying not to push it until her core develops more. (Back muscles are very well developed, but not the tummy yet. Still have a puppy pot belly.)

And I REALLY didn’t want to reward for the drawer slams, but it’s on the homework so we did a few for the record.  The Pup already thinks that manipulating the environment is the best thing EVER.  If a drawer is open, she will shut it. Regardless of whether or not your hand is in it. So yeah, not really keen on building her confidence in this area any higher. Given her teeter obsession, she is good for now.

Here’s the video of everything so far:

At any rate, spring had BETTER be here- we finally start outdoor classes tonight.  As The Dog decided to show what an opportunistic pig she is (let’s just say she made quick work of a batch of cookies she found), she gets the week off to recover from her extremely upset stomach.  As further punishment for her naughtiness, she won’t even get to come along for the ride and will have to stay home while I go work The Pup and teach class. Whaddaya think of THAT, Dog?
I’m not THAT mean though, she still gets to play a little at home with The Pup. (Maybe I am that mean, this might actually be considered severe punishment from The Dog’s point of view. Hmm…) 

Before the brawl begins, it's all false promises and sweet talk. 

We haz toy now pleeeezzze? 
Once in possession...
Formation of Furry Ying Yang.
The battle begins...
Similar fighting tactics.
Note head to body placement. Is it any wonder The Dog has neck issues???
Employing the BC 'Bug Eyes of Intimidation.'
So of course I make The Dog release before she breaks her neck. The Pup believes she has won.
False sense of security leads to carelessness.
The Dog seizes the opportunity for interception.
Not losing without a fight though!
Getting desperate now...
Employs last tactic of 'Crocodile Death Roll.'
Let's face it, Pup, The Dog hasn't eaten anything since the cookies. She was just hungrier for the win. 


Monday, May 2, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere…

And then there came the mud.

So begins our tale of the USDAA show in St. Cloud this past weekend.

To start with, the site is a bit of a challenge on a good day. Previously a land fill, the soil is very soft, loose and absorbent.  Except for the areas where large boulders peek through.  There are many pokey plants and marshy shrubs, but not a lot of actual grass.  Then there are the random holes- some quite spectacular and one large enough to fit an Australian Sheperd.
Also to be dealt with is The Neighbor. He owns a business butted up to the site and is notorious for calling the cops if you spend more than two minutes anywhere on his property.

So, add the weather, the site, The Neighbor and about 100 mini vans lacking 4-wheel drive and what do you get? 

Yes, every one of those vehicles are now stuck and will need towing.

Garbage Can Islands in Lake CACM
Yeah, it was a bit of a challenge.
Friday began with a lot of promise. The sun was out and shining, everyone was in good spirits.  Then came the courses. And the wind. And the rain. It all went categorically downhill from there.

We started with a Team competition, White Dog had her regular squad and Black Dog and The Dog teamed with BFAM to form Northern Ninjas (which was fitting as we needed all our best Ninja powers to get through the day and come out with a Team Q).  The courses were all very non-flowing and technical (this trend would continue all weekend), which would be ok, if you didn’t have the strange terrain and wind working against you too.
The Dog ran oddly in the first class-Gamblers- (refusing weaves, had her funny annoyed look) so I got her a quick massage (and learned how to do it myself!)- sure enough, the old shoulder was tweaked again.  Better in the second class –Jumpers- and pretty much normal for the rest of the day, though she never did get a hang of the weaves this weekend (maybe just being cautious of the slick ground?).  My Proud Leader moment of the day was in Snookers where the course forced you to do lots of pull throughs between jumps and she nailed them all. I think I have a handle on how to get her through these situations without losing her over a jump. Huzzah!  Anyways, all our girls qualified and we all went home to sleep for about 5 hours. 

Upon arrival Saturday, I came to find that it rained all night, flooding the Masters ring (and parking area).  The club decided to improvise an impromptu ring in the unused field.  Good call. Though the field was even more uneven and bare in some areas, the ground was higher and firmer.  I decided not to run Jumpers in it though (Nap time in the car!), not wanting to risk injury, in hopes that the rain would stop before the next class.
Once Upon a Time, this was the Masters Ring. 
Impromptu Ring!
Quite annoyed at hanging out in the car instead of playing.
While it didn’t stop, it tapered, and I was pretty satisfied with how dogs were handling the surface, so we went ahead with Steeplechase and Grand Prix. One bar in Steeple, but good enough to qualify and The Dog looked fine and dandy with the rain. (I had forgotten that although she doesn’t like heat, and she doesn’t like wind, she is a rainy day dog for sure. Filthy Mudder.) Grand Prix was a TOUGH course, with more eliminations than I’ve seen in a long time. The Dog however LOVED the course and ran amazingly- second best time- and so very close to first place that I almost wonder if she could actually get a bye at some point before the Regional.

Lake Dogwalk, creeping ever closer to the Impromptu Ring.
We ran two more classes (Standard and Gamblers: whoops and a Q) before I figured enough was enough. In addition to the weather and the drama inside the ring, there had been drama developing outside as well all day. The Neighbor I mentioned before? Well, after watching those 100 mini vans get stuck all around his property eventually start tearing up the land ON his property getting towed out he decided to call the cops. High Drama!  There were inquisitions, investigations, it was all quite CSI. 

Pretty sure this is when the tow truck was stuck.
Thanks to a dream (of going home and washing off the mud) and the gumption of several people (willing to get even muddier), we managed to push my little car out without needing a tow (one of the few who did at that point!) and away we sped to get clean, never to return again.
Mud. Everywhere. The car got the first bath.
I WAS fully expected to stay home from the trial the last day. Really. You couldn’t have paid me enough to consider going back on Saturday afternoon.  It was predicting snow and frigid temps. Yet I set my alarm, and after it went off at 5am I found myself getting up and getting ready to go.  Apparently I am crazier than I ever thought (no, wait, DIEHARD!). 8 layers up top of my finest winter gear and field sprints with The Dog went a long way towards keeping warm all day (though the car to sit in really played the bigger part).  The cold and wind were nearly unbearable (and yes, it did snow)… but then suddenly, it wasn’t so bad. We actually had a bit of fun. It really was pretty vintage- like back in the early days of trialing. Super small entry, no electronics (manual everything!), everyone pitching in to do everything and cheering each other on. The day went fast, the dogs did well and no one got stuck trying to leave.
The Dog finished her Silver Gamblers title and is just 10 legs from her LAA Bronze (and about 20 from her Silver ADCH). Black dog finished her LAA Bronze on Saturday, so big cheers to her. Cheers also to the two new ADCHs, Siren and Revi- both got their last Super Qs this weekend to finish their titles.  So there- a few rays of sunshine via titles this weekend, even if real sunshine was not in the cards.
Oh, and if you are noticing an absence of Pup related material, it’s because she hid in her crate from the cold most of the weekend, cursing us behind her chattering teeth for our insanity. She vows revenge. 

A few minutes in the rain, under her umbrella.