Thursday, June 30, 2011

Turning Tricks At Just 6 Months-Where Did The Time Go??

I just figured out the puppies are 6 months old now! 

In some ways I can hardly believe it, but yeah, I guess they ARE growing up. The Pup has ceased with destroying the bathroom every time I take a shower. 

She fights bravely for the toy in tug of war with The Dog now.

She is the loudest thing ever in her crate (she's figured out what she's missing out on when she's in there!).

Then of course there is the genius factor. 

Inside her sizable baseball head, there is a baseball brain too, filled with many tricks.

Yep, just 6 months old and already turning tricks. And letting people take pictures! Scandalous. I warned her that they'd probably end up on the internet...

Voila, the "Monster" series...
Original Monster
COOKIE Monster.
Zombie Monster wants more braaaiiinns
Godzilla Monster
And the "Where's Yer Butt Go" Series:

Does it go on a wall??
No? Hmm....

Does it go on the Leader??
No? Not there either?

Does it go on the truck???
No, definitely not on the truck. Maybe...

It goes in the air!! 
You got it! Genius, I tell ya!
Also, I've shameless stolen the following images without consent, because I have to show off The Pup's equally adorable siblings.  I'm so lucky to be in touch with their Leaders and to get so many updates. (Hearing that it's not just MY puppy that is naughty is so comforting!) I saw these fresh 6 month shots the other day and couldn't resist, sharing-

Mr. Crime aka Beefcake

Ms. Triton, looking quite svelte after all the coffee and cigarettes!  
So I suppose I should update on The Pup's training status too, seems appropriate. 

Besides tricks, we're still making our way through agility basics.  She is being an ace at weave channels (moved 'em in ONE NOTCH! woo!) and I know she "gets" it because she's turned up MPH through them. Happy to report that the 'weave channels, no guides' approach still hasn't bit me on the butt. 

No changes or unexpected complications for the DW board work. She gets on, runs off straight every time. A bit boring really, heheh.This weekend I hope to get my DW assembled so I can start back chaining across the full but low obstacle. 

Tunnel is pretty fun now, she will send to it independently but still comes out as quick as she can to find me again. 

We introduced the tire, no problems there. It hasn't (yet) occurred to her to go anywhere but through the middle. Give it time...

Teeter is looking super- I'm extremely happy with her performance. We've made our way to a foot tall at the apex, she's running (FAST!) through the tip and applying breaks nicely to hold the four on end position. Probably will end up sliding based on how it's going now, she seems comfortable with that feeling. She loves the dang thing!

Table is lovely. I'm a terrible owner, we practice on the 16" table- 12" wasn't cutting it for getting her to jump up in a down position and was starting to go against what we'd worked on.  But she loves table. LOVES it. She has an adorable way of jumping on while at the same time turning in air to make sure she lands, in the down position, so she is facing me.  Good multitasking? We just started working on me walking away and no elbows popping up. One of the downsides of short-haired dogs! 

"Jumps" (don't worry, still essentially no height there!) are looking better every time. She was a bit Velcro-y (which I suppose is natural the way I teach them) but now is seeking them out. We can race a line without her running around- for the most part she does what is in the line I've set- which was totally the goal.  It's only been the last few sessions where she's seemed to think these exercises were really fun. I think before she was thinking about what she was doing and what I was doing.  Now she's got a handle on it though and is having a blast. I like that she is largely very respectful of my handling and has picked up on the various signals. Fronts, blinds and post turns are really nice. We just started rears which were harder due to Velcro-iness but she's catching on. 

And in my quest for being for amazing to her, I've started just doing super short sessions, alternating her with The Dog. And she always goes second. Rather than try 'leave 'em wanting more' I'm sort of trying to cut it off when attention wanes. No attention? You're done.  She REALLY wants to be the one 'out' so going away for not focusing should get through to her quickly.  She definitely came out stronger each time last night trying this tactic. 

And (proud Leader moment of boasting!!) she even managed to work in the same ring as another dog last night! Without chasing the other dog!! The other dog was a super exciting barking Sheltie too, her favorite kind of dog to chase. I was really happy with that- it's her absolute weakness- and the fact that she maintained attention and upheld excellent obstacle performance showed me that she knew it was 'her' time so she better not waste it!  

So yeah, that's where we are at. Sitting pretty good on my goals for her for the summer. Here's to another productive 6 months of fun! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Whistle While You Work. Or Not! Whatever.

If you’re on the Clean Run list, you already know where this is going.

If not, I’m sure you’ve been feeling the heat anyways, as volatile as the discussion has been recently. The topic? No, not jump height cut-offs, teeter calls or any other controversial rules or regulations. Believe it or not, the subject getting everyone so worked up is the seemingly innocuous theme of volunteering

That’s right- volunteering.  Surprising, I know. After all, how many of you lay awake at night thinking about volunteering at shows? Probably none of you living in the ‘normal’ ranges of sanity.  Yet the firestorm that followed one editorial weeks ago continues to burn on all sides.  Apparently the fact that some people volunteer while others don’t is a touchy one.   This has been true since the dawn of agility, nothing has changed in the past few weeks, but it looks like now is the time to hash it all out in one big vent of opinion.  The dispute has left many of us wondering- why? Why volunteer? Why not? Why does it matter?

Why it matters is the easy one to answer- no volunteers typically means no show. Most host clubs can’t afford to hire workers- most clubs barely turn a profit.  Sure, they can up the entries, but some clubs are unwilling to hoist the cost increase on to their exhibitors (i.e. themselves).   So they instead rely on the fact that hey, we all want to play on the weekends, so we can all pitch in to make it work. 

Which would be great, except that socialism is a failed construct. Not everyone does an equal share.  You have to account for the fact that some people operate under their own agenda. Some people are physically incapable.  Some people have 10 dogs entered or are running back and forth in multiple rings all day.  Do I begrudge any of them for this? No.  Really. I don’t.  Until the recent controversy, I never even registered the fact that some people chose not to work on a conscious level.  And now that I have, I still feel that it’s their weekend.  I choose to pitch in, that’s my choice.  They choose not. 

Truly, the only time I come into conflict with a ‘sideliner’ is when they start becoming opinionated.  You don’t like the way I bagged that tunnel or where I put the leash? Too bad- unless you want to come help.  Then I’ll listen.  Until that day, my friend, you are not allowed to complain.  Yes, you spent your money, but you didn’t buy me, or any other pro bono helper for that matter!   It’s like people who don’t vote and then spend the next four year complaining about who got elected.  Really? You had a chance to impact the course of events, but you didn’t take it.  Not a word from you please; let’s hope you learned for next time.

But aside from that minor exception, what other people do or don’t do in regards to volunteering doesn’t bother or thrill me in the least.  I only have the ability to account for myself. 

In that vein: Yes- I volunteer.  I love this sport, I take ownership and responsibility and I feel like I must give back.  I know I paid to enter already but my money goes to the “organization.”  My support via volunteering goes to the clubs, and to the general betterment and continuation of the sport.  That alone is typically enough to get me out of my chair and into the ring.  However, there are other factors to consider as well that heavily influence the type and amount of volunteering I’ll choose to do on any given weekend:
Vouchers. Yup, I’ll say it; money makes the world go round. Even if it’s two dollars per class, even if it’s one dollar, if I can get vouchers I will work to the point of abuse.  But before you cry selfish behavior, keep in mind that the (maybe) $50 I may save on my next entry absolutely guarantees that I will be entering, further supporting the club, and spending anywhere from $100 to $200 out of pocket on that next entry… plus I’ll be back volunteering. 
Clubs and Committees.  If you are a club hosting a show, please put your best face(s) forward.  Friendly and well-organized goes further for me than anything else (yes, even further than vouchers!).  Your show committee should not have the person who would lose their butt if not attached as the volunteer coordinator, nor should that person be the witch who most recently fell from their broom.  You’ll get me to volunteer for these trials under those conditions exactly once.   There are two clubs that come to mind that have made this mistake that have lost me for the time being as a volunteer.  One club, while filled with kind people, has lost all sense of organization.  I doubt anyone would be sad if they missed hosting a trial or two and instead took a step back to get things together again, but unless that happens, there is little I or anyone else could do to ease their burden.  The other club is run by equally disorganized but also slightly evil people.  I’ll show because I love to- if there are no other options- but believe me, it’s in and out, and all the while keeping my head down, lest I lose it. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Facility. Maybe it’s just me, but the site plays a huge part in the size of the part I’ll play for volunteering.  Of course it’s easier to volunteer in climate controlled environments, but also ring accessibility matters too.  If the ring is completely fenced, it’s great for the flight risk dogs, but not so good for the ‘pop in and help’ volunteering style. Also, though trending downward, one-ring shows compel people to volunteer.  It’s not always possible, but something to consider.
FREEEEDOOOOMMMMM. You know you can count on me, but please don’t take advantage. I prefer to sign up for things like course building; I can help a lot throughout the day, but still have lots of downtime.  I like to be able to sign up ‘day of’ for other things- the chart on the wall is my favorite.  Don’t try to tie me down for all classes every day- I need time to rest, relax, tend to my dogs, etc, just like anyone else.  There comes a point of feeling forced occasionally and if I don’t feel the Freedom, I may go a little Braveheart and rebel.

But even if all those things don’t exactly align, you can usually see me helping anyways.  To an extent, what they say is true: volunteering is its own reward.  More often than not even, it’s a blast.  I like getting a good seat to watch people run, getting extra exercise and I’ve learned a lot.  What I’ve gotten from course building is especially valuable.  But the real value has been meeting new people, making some friends, and enjoying a great weekend out with them. And if someone hasn’t yet experienced that part because they’ve never volunteered, well, more’s the pity.
I won’t end with a big, ‘RA RA RA, Get out there and volunteer!’ or any other enticing argument for my view.   I’ll continue happily on my path, and leave you to yours… but maybe they’ll cross over a nice volunteer lunch someday.

I mean, MN Agility Club serves Panera- how awesome is that???

Monday, June 27, 2011

Delusional Illusions...

...of power.

That's what I have here. 

I say I'm the Leader, but it's a funny joke. Hahah, see how we have a laugh at that?  

Some bloggers are smarter that others and realized this fact long ago: The dogs, seriously, are in charge. 

I'm but a pawn whose main functions are Toy/Food Supplier and Medical Bill Payer.  

Well, maybe not a pawn. I doubt they have any serious plans around my use, so I can't quite rate myself a pawn.  More like a lackey, maybe. 

Anyways, I came to some conclusions after thinking a LOT on the drive home Saturday from the TIM USDAA show; some about being a slave to the dogs and some about the dogs in general.  It was a two hour drive...each way... so believe me this is all well thought out. Me and Myself had a pretty good dialogue and really hashed out some points that have been up for discussion for some time. 

One: The Dog is not the simpering sack of stress she so often claims to be.  

Two: By presenting herself in that manner, she has enslaved me with RULES, leaving her completely the boss. Wiley minx. 

Three:  Outside agility is simply not our best friend anymore. 

Four:  I need to be a better "cookie" for The Pup.

To expand...

First, The Pup.  I love that she has a lot of joy for everything. She is a very happy dog, free from any mental hang ups at this point. Nothing gets to her, nothing brings her down and when she wants something she is going to go for it. But we have a slight issue with some hedonistic tendencies. I know she's a baby and has typical baby ADD and part of it is that I give her a lot of choice in doing what she wants and the other part is that she likes everything therefore wants to choose everything.  Up until now it hasn't been a huge problem- but then she bolted to go chase a doggie while we were working recalls. That shouldn't happen. She needs to pick me when we are working.  So I'm going to be more amazing I guess.  I'm also going to have to limit the social stuff a bit more, or at least put control to it.  She's young, maybe there is still time before she thinks she is TOTALLY the boss?? 

Here, I am making my job as Food Supplier work for me!
Which brings me back to The Dog.  I've decided that yes, she has some anxiety, but I also think she is A Girl Who Knows What She Wants. I believe her anxiety is pretty much centered around her Type A desire for perfection. But I am really starting to get the sense that some of the odd behaviors she throws are signs of a stubborn dog not getting her way.  Before the scales were more tipped in the direction of Must Be Perfect, but now I think it's tilting the other way and to an extent I'm being buffaloed.  

Example: Before in Snookers, I had to have a perfectly clear plan- pretty much a normal course- for her to do well.  If she couldn't tell where we were going she'd plod along looking worried and if I repeated something too much it stressed her out ("What, did I do it wrong before? Why else do I need to do it again???").  Now, I do still have to give her lots of information, but can  get a nice run from her even with a kooky plan.  BUT one of her "new rules" is not allowing me to turn her away from the course.  With growing frequency, if I try anything that makes away from the equipment she turns it into Custer's Last Stand.   And since I obviously want to have nice runs, look at the clever way I would be forced to comply once again with her rules!

But now that I'm on to her, I think I have a few ways to get a grip back on Leadership duties. Of course, it's all good for her since it will result in tons of rewarding for being biddable and not stubborn, but nothing wrong with a little win-win.  Plan one is to steal the 1000 toy tosses idea. Not sure who came up with it, but it's just a way of making myself accountable for rewarding more while at the same time getting her commitment levels up. In general, I think I can let go of the idea that she is a soft little thing and start having some more expectations. Sensitive yes, soft no. I'm fine with some of her rules- no start line is fun!- but I think she needs to start meeting me part way. 

As for the last thing, about the great outdoors, she just can't maintain in the heat. I've always known she was a little intolerant, but it's so apparent now that I've been doing some compare/contrast (bringing out my mad grade school skillz).  So we're going to limit outdoor shows, either less classes, one day only, or not going to bother. And I'll try getting her on some energy boosters too.  This is another "rule" I'm ok with. I don't particularly enjoy running in the heat and while she loves rainy cold days I can't say I am either a fan or able to predict those. 

So yeah. Believe me our one day entered provided a lot of evidence to these conclusions.  The Dog had a lovely Gamblers run first thing (in cold weather) where I only asked her for her favorite things (straight lines, contacts and tunnels), followed by a clean but weirdo Standard run (HOT; had to start with icky weaves-against her rule- and so then didn't want to play until we made up on the table, where she tried to give me kisses...AGAIN! Then was a bullet. Weirdo). Grand Prix was clean and extremely efficient, loved the course, but down a notch in the heat from where it could have been. Then abysmal Snookers run where she got mad and stopped playing when I (ah-HA!) asked her to turn away from the course right off the bat.  1-7- TWEET.  I declared that I was unhappy by not letting her get the ball AND making her watch while I ran Black Dog.  One would think that a super squishy soft dog would not bounce back from that 'extreme punishment,' however it wound her WAY up so our last run was an amazing one in Jumpers (again, cool weather and her favorite type of Jumpers course). She made straight lines out of all the serps- yee-haw. 

Really, it was pretty easy to come to the conclusions I did. Maybe the two hour drive home was a good thing.  Though the dogs disagreed and started screaming half-way through it- only to be appeased by chicken nuggets.

Nugget me, Slave! 
See, they are so the boss of me. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Wizarding AGILITY World of Harry Potter

With the final installment of Harry Potter looming, I can't help but be a little swept up in all the excitement. 

It's going to be so epic! 

I've been addicted to the books, then the movies for at LEAST a decade.

Yes I realize it makes me a 27 year old Harry Potter nerd.  But I'm totally ok with that.

I'm invested, I can't deny it.

Like, really invested.

It's kind of on my brain. A lot. 

I try and focus on stuff. Work, dog sports, all that.

But it just keeps creeping in. 

So finally, I just let myself imagine...

What would it be like if they did agility in Harry Potter??

There'd be a heck of a lot less down time between classes and fewer back injuries because the courses could be charmed to set themselves! 
No more worrying about fowl weather conditions with all the spells to counter storms....
We'd have perfect records, every time, with the new Timer/Scribe system.  Enchanted objects never get distracted watching the dog instead of the judge!
And sure, the robes would be cumbersome, but if you find yourself too slow or out of place, then you just make yourself magically disappear and reappear in the place you needed to be. Brings new meaning to the words 'blind cross...'
 And finally, no more stressing out over missed running contacts- just learn the right incantation and your dog has the perfect stride every time! 
 Ah, magic. 

 If only. 

All I can say is that I really need to see that movie and SOON or agility is going to get VERY disappointing! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gettin’ Dirrty Redux

Another weekend spent playing in the dirt.

I have to admit, when we first pulled up to the facility after an annoying hour drive in the drizzly fog my heart sank a little and I started wondering what horrors we had signed up for.  Attractive on the outside it was not.  Mucky muck, flies and a horse tramping around. And smelly.  

But actually, the arena itself was quite perfect for agility. No dust. Did anyone else notice that? I didn’t, not until I went to blow my nose and…nothing!  Amazing.  Nice surface for running too.  I didn’t think so at first, but I certainly didn’t feel like I spent the weekend running on concrete or quicksand this morning. Plus the whole bonus of a roof, considering it decided to rain and be disgusting, as is the norm lately.  So… good choice, ACTS!

(But can we do something about the ungodly amount of spiders please? It was like Arachnophobia meets Eight Legged Freaks meets Air Bud or similar movie with smart dogs.  *Shudder* Too bad I can’t use my worker vouchers for therapy…)
To be fair though- I think my first impression may have had something to do with my overall lack of desire to be showing at all on Saturday.  I don’t know what was up with that.  Maybe just a case of the blahs. Not enough serotonin recently?  Anyways, my attitude was a bit off, therefore we were a bit off as a team.  The Dog was a good girl, I think she had fun anyways, but by the end of the day was looking at me like she seriously thought I needed to get it together.  Ok FINE.

Sunday I was much better.  I figured out by the time we got there that I was running dumb and making my teammate crazy.  So one kick in the pants later and we were off.  Sunday was a good day; we both had fun, all the better when we have fun together.
So, recap. Positively positive things of a non-quantifiable manner:

*The Dog felt extremely loose this weekend. I don’t recall the last time she stretched out as well as she did going into the first run.  Full extension on all parts.  She retained that throughout, which gives me warm fuzzies. Further fuzzies because I could tell she felt good. Does this mean I’ve seen the last of the shoulder thing? Who knows, but we may be on the right track.

*On the subject of feeling good, she had just lovely happy contacts. I think her Aframe performance is a huge indicator of her physical status and her Aframes were great. Maybe missed one- none called though.  Her teeters were nice and not sticky or fly-offy, and her dogwalks…ahhhhhhhhhhhh… Sigh of joy.  Remember, I had no expectation, so I just about hugged her when her first one of the weekend she ran up…across… and off.  Not full tilt of course (baby steps!) but constant movement without hesitation.  And imagine my surprise when she did it again… and again… and for every dogwalk, all weekend long. Holy. Crapola. And you can bet your best dog that I marked the HECK out of those dogwalks. Click/Treat me.  The beauty part is (yes, there’s more!) that I actually get ‘why this weekend?’ and not last time.  Watch out, Dog, I’m starting to understand that enigma that is YOU! Mu-wahahaha.


Positively saddening things:
*WEAVES! ARGHHHH! Do we work them? YES. In all manner of scenario? YES. Do I reward them? YESSSS.  But issues persist.  I’m still weeping over her amazing, perfect gamblers run yesterday, amazing right up to the point where she bailed out of the poles at 10 at the end of the gamble and then ran away in shame.  Clearly, she knew it was wrong- I hadn’t even registered it yet so she couldn’t have been keying off my reaction. So why not just stay in? And why not even try to get in the poles in the first place? Grand Prix was a big ol’ NQ after a weave refusal- she just made a big circle, walking though them at pole 6 or so. Um, hello Dog, I think you missed something.  Wa.  

All things quantifiable:

0/2 in Gamblers- Wha?? I don’t think that’s ever happened.  I’ll just take this to mean that we are getting better about being a team and it isn’t so easy for her to be Independent China Traveler anymore?

2/2 in the Steeple rounds- also not sure she’s ever been clean in both rounds before.  4th in round 1, 2nd in round 2- just behind White Dog, who wanted to prove to her mother that she isn’t old yet.  The Steeple Q was number 25 too, so that finished her Silver Tournament thinger. 

4/4 in Snookers- no, it wasn’t a special Snookers-palooza Trial.  I just ran all three girls yesterday.  My plan on day one was unrehearsed, nonsensical, and spontaneous, and naturally didn’t go over very well, so I worked hard to find a fun but pointy plan for the Dog on Sunday. Success!  So much so that mom handed me the girls and Success! Success! I think that may have been the most fun I’ve had in that class to date; The Dog was driving and mind-reading and for once we both ran all out the entire time, which was really fun. She did take a bar for our first color in the opening, but would absolutely have won if not for that- her time was blazin’! Really, a first for us on a few levels.  Black Dog did the same plan and was very good; I think she ended up winning despite the hairy start (Stay? Em, no. STAY. Em, NO. STA-ok, we're going! YES!). White Dog did a crazy improv plan, but she did it really well- even got her Aframe.

1/1 Pairs and Jumpers-3rd in Jumpers, very nice run for The Dog- she absolutely loved the course and put out great effort for the last class of the weekend.

1/2 Standard- first bar down on the first day, but a nice run from her. It was a bit trappy; I gave her a lot of trust and she handled it well.  Day two was a lovely run, very snappy and clean. She even won, which is worth mentioning as it’s another ‘first ever’ moment.
The Pup had a great time too- she learned how to bark at dogs when they run and how to tug her leash psychotically when she gets that excited. She also was exposed to a barn for the first time and actually was really well behaved- I thought for sure she’d turn Total Terrier but she did well on heeling and trick work despite the atmosphere.  Despite all the fun she’s maintaining show etiquette…mostly… and is still not screaming her head off when in her crate.  Still waiting to see how long that lasts…
Showing for just one day next weekend. Let’s see if I manage to get the mud off anything before then. I am too scared to go through anything now though- I keep thinking a spider hitched a ride back with us and laid eggs in my rain coat or something.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Fun in Fotos (Love Poetic License!)

Yeah, I was a little late to work today.

But it wasn't my fault! The dogs were playing. Together. 

On Purpose and with Intention.

I mean, The Pup had to put in a solid 30 minutes of effort (bonking The Dog in the face with the toy, barking, etc) before she got The Dog interested in playing Crack Puppy (Object of Game: chase and run and bark, very fast, while running into things and causing havoc). I couldn't let all that hard work go to waste. 

Today's passenger/accomplice on the Crack Puppy rampage was... BLUE BALL! 

Ear to head ratio... Magnificent! 
Crack Puppy. Just about ready to detonate. 
The subsequent zoomies that erupted after that pose where amazing. 

Like furry brown, black and white pyrotechnics. 

We had some excellent tongue footage as a result. 

The Pup wins the excessive tongue contest.
Major case of Staffy Face!! 
Then she pulled the guilt-inducing "aw, do we HAFTA stop playin?" face.

Not Fair. 

Sad fact of life though, Pup, you want more balls, we need more money, therefore to work I go.

Stupid fact of life...
Tired doggies are pose-able doggies. 

...For two seconds. Then you get ADD Puppy having an "OOO SHINY!!" moment. 

Or maybe it's a Ceiling Ghost sighting...


Maybe I'm happy to be at work after all...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No… Wait!

It’s just my dogs.  They’re as high as kites. Sorry about that.

But that’s what happens when you take a mini break from showing and hard core training; nutty animals start bouncing all over, screaming in the yard, running amuck, knocking things over and tearing things up.

R&R. Good for people, difficult for doggies, impossible for living spaces.
So in the interest of ear drums and peace worldwide, I finally took the dogs out for some fun yesterday.  We went early as I could see the impending line of DOOM on the weather map rolling its way over to the area.  Apparently the frequent rains this year have turned me into a weather vane or Farmer’s Almanac because while it did hit us, I had already packed up and gotten us settled back in the car singing Ke$ha songs before the first drop hit.   

But before I predicted the weather, we got some excellent training in. Very basic stuff for all last night. I started with The Dog on her plank work.   Set-up took some major trial and error- I couldn’t figure out why she kept blasting everywhere but the board- mega DUH- the plank was nestled in between weaves and teeter and I was telling her “GO” so off she went to go do something, not focusing at all on the board.  So I knocked the other stuff over and stuck a jump out as a target in front of Marvin. That worked pretty well; worked even better when I told her to ‘walk it’ and worked best when I rewarded after all was said and done with The Ball.   

Here’s a VIDEO! (I bought a cute little external hard drive so my laptop could barf up all my data onto THAT instead of the living room. Now I have space again and that means VIDEOS!!!) Thoughts and suggestions entirely welcome.

I love that you can see her picking up speed as this goes along; that’s recordable progress if you ask me.  I rewarded a LOT last night- still care far more about her running the board than much else- and I am glad I did. I rewarded a few that originally look bad to me, but on video looked pretty good.  And she obviously improved as we went on so something is getting through here.  Very happy. 

And it doesn’t seem to have killed her normal dogwalk- I took her over a few and they were ok. ButI can’t have expectation for this weekend. I think the key with her is to minimize the amount she does (repetition isn’t our friend without intense reward) and try to replicate what we do on the plank with how we do a dogwalk.  We are only super screwed if there is a dogwalk into nothingness. No clue about the Judge this weekend, but hopefully he is as scared of Black Holes off dogwalks as we are…
The Pup then showed off her exemplary board running skills; I decided since we were using Marvin now I’d better back it up to make sure she understood the game.  Yup.  We also worked a bit on weave channels and teeter.  Video!

I’m digging the ‘weave channels, no guides’ thing.   She has no issue staying in the channel, and I don’t have a chance to do anything dumb like get tangled in a guide and scar her for life. Win!  

Love Tangent alert- have I said how much I love working this little monster? She couldn’t be cleverer (and if she was we would all be in serious trouble- think ‘Planet of The Dogs’). Today’s Love Tangent Topic:  The way she figures out at the base level what to do with “things.”  I mean, she sees the Aframe and knows you go up and come down the other side- no jumping off! She sees the weave poles and just knows that you weave them! (Or in the case of the channel set, go through the middle.)  Seriously, I had a set of six in the yard for The Dog, and Smarty Pants Pup went over and wove through. How does that happen?  There is just something inherent there- something to do, I suspect, with her fascination with manipulating things and then from that understanding what to make of obstacles she is presented with. MAYBE it’s a good thing she gets into so much stuff??? Eh… nah, probably can’t justify that as much as I’d like too.  

But anyways, I’m not just a doting Leader- she really is a genius. If you haven’t seen this- it’s too cute, but also evidence.  I was trying to work on core stuff with The Dog and since The Pup is a screamer I tried to practice her down stay at the same time instead of sticking her in a crate.  I gave her Marvin to keep her company and had the remote on the floor by me.  Apparently I waited too long to reward because she came over and stole the remote, pressing the dispenser and getting her treat.  The subsequent “light bulb” moment was adorable, she totally realized that the remote was key, so spent the next half hour joyously self-rewarding.

Probably not the ideal use of a MM, but who doesn’t love a dog clicker training herself to clicker train?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Insert Appropriate Title Here...

If you can spot Packing're more on the ball than me!

Well, move over Marvin, the ever-fleeting Pup has a new love of her life:

         Used Packing Tape. 

Apparently, Packing Tape is somehow MORE magical and wonderful than even Marvin. 

Did you know that Packing Tape is both sticky AND smooth? 

Did you know that he makes crinkling noises when you chew on him? 

And best of all you can rip him into tiny pieces and maybe even eat some before The Leader catches you and takes him away. 

Sigh. Forbidden love- so bittersweet. Nothing better on earth up until the moment someone finds you out and then suddenly it all ends up in the garbage. 

At least she still has Marvin, though her burning obsession has cooled slightly. Not enough that she will stop yo-yo-ing at the counter to catch a glimpse of him, but enough that we can work with him.  It helps if she is not ravenous when I put him out too. Lesson learned. 

We did a bit of channel weave work using Marvin and back-chained through the channel easily by the end of it. After I get her solid with running though all the poles (though she’s pretty good at honoring the channel already), I will need to recruit Boyfriend to help with restrained recalls through and toy fun and all that to up the proverbial ante. 

Aside from that, she hasn't done TOO much (she got herself SO worked up over Marvin she actually got a bit sick... so had to take it easy most of last week. Love hurts.) but I brought her on a field trip to play at the CPE national in town over the weekend. Stunning before and after:

Naughty loose Pup, but no attempted vehicular manslaughter this time. 
Love the lovely snoozy Pup, finally being GOOD in the car!
And I experimented with some baby set point stuff and bendy grids. Meh.  I don't know if I really get this method. Not entirely sure what to look for- with The Pup it all looks great. But doesn't every dog without any height on the jumps? 

Oh, wait no, they don’t. The Dog is once again an exception to the rule. I really need to set up the lessons with my resident expert who agreed to help with understanding the whole jumping 'right' thing, but I'm feeling lazy. discourages me greatly to think about going through this retrain with The Dog so I'm being passive and avoiding it for now.  I know she needs some better understanding; I know enough to tell when she is failing at recognizing simple distances and can't adjust correctly to a jump chute. It's just all so depressing and not fun and she does struggle and that depresses me more and so we go inside and watch cooking shows instead and she gets the ball and happiness. Meh.

But anyways, back to the fun side: The Pup is learning a new trick for her last ST lesson: roll a ball while balancing on it! I will make her a Circus Pup yet!! She's very cute and seems to get it. I think she would greatly enjoy being a Circus Pup- lots of free popcorn we are sure.

And we DID make some interesting strides on The Dog’s DW retrain (or is it re-re-retrain?).  I took her out for a real shot at plank work- distance and speed on the load and all that.  Distance threw her off a little. She is SO my dog- she would run the plank then look at Marvin WAY over there (he was about 25 feet away) and go MEH, too far. YOU go get the treat and bring it over here.  But we managed to get her back chained over two planks placed end to end with good strides before she got really lazy.  At that point I realized that although I wish for her to have obstacle independence, I will probably NEVER stand there and try and send her for an entire dogwalk with me hanging out and the start, so I started moving some with her.  Bingo. Then I thought, hey, she loves the toy, why shouldn’t I use it wisely? And then, hey why not load with a tunnel?  So she did tunnel, planks, Marvin, TOY and it worked!!  She did what she has never done before on the boards- she ran. Happy. No sticky. No slow down. Consistent, fast, running.  Next step is to make this the norm, then raise it up a tad.

(Normally I would insert an awesome video here of the good stuff from a week of training, but I apparently filled my laptop to the brim and it refuses to have anymore videos or it will start barfing gigs up all over my living room. Time for a new laptop!)

Oh, and the dogwalk is nearly done! THAT’S actually the next step. Had fun adventures this weekend getting boards and painting. Just awaiting hinges now. Stupid slow standard mail. Stupid me for not realizing I should have just picked them up at the CPE Nationals. MEH.

Poor Dad, made him look through ALL the boards...
Aw, gee, well they ALMOST fit...
Yay for tie downs, but I'm NOT driving behind you...

Beautiful 'Dogwalk Blue'
Really makes The Dog POP, doesn't it??
Finished!! Euro-style color scheme. 

Darn straight The Pup didn't get to 'help' me with The Dog. Here's why: She escaped later that day and went into the garage...where she promptly placed her paws on the boards saying "can we play NOW??" 

Oh, and while the paint was drying (like we were going to sit there and WATCH it) we went to the zoo! Now in addition to a bear and a loris I also want a big kitty and a leafy sea dragon. 
Looks like she'd be great at agility...
Can't say the same for him, but he's pretty! 
Non-agility trial weekends are fun. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mind Your Manners

Go Dog Goes Techie!

That’s right, why be all old fashioned and pass out dog treats with your hand when you can have a treat gizmo do all the work for you!

Meet… The Manner’s Minder!!

Please, Manner's Minder is my father, call me Marvin!

Besides the convenience and laziness-enabling features, you also eliminate ‘Piranha Syndrome’ with chompy dogs, food crumbs in pockets which make dogs eat your pants later, and can avoid long-lasting unsavory treat smell on your hands.

Basically it is the coolest thing ever.

The Pup agrees. Five paws up (or four paws and one tail). 

Actually, she agrees a little too much.

It’s turning rather… ah… unhealthy at this point. 
Pup, do you have to make-out in front of everyone???

When we first borrowed Marvin the MM from our friend for a test run before buying our own (those of us what do things the old fashioned way yet are wary of all this new fangled technology and hesitate to buy into it until we can poke it with a stick a few times to prove it won’t explode in our face) The Pup was quite perplexed.  I guess her reaction was normal (“AUUGGGHHH NOISY!” followed by “MMMMM FOOD!” transitioning quickly back to “AUUUUGGGHHH NOISY!!”) but it took her several exposures to stop cowering in fear before the almighty Marvin.

Now she is living on the other side of the coin. Now, she won’t leave the dang guy alone. Stalker, much?

If I leave him on the floor, she lays in front of him trying to impress him (Down? Sit? Butt in the air? How do you like it, Marvin?) and barking at him when he doesn’t produced food (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE YOU HAPPY??). Then I put him on the counter and she starts boinging up and down and scratching stuff trying to reach him (THEY WILL NEVER KEEP US APART MARVIN!!) If I shut him or her away in another room, she chills out, but you just know she is thinking of ways to go all Fatal Attraction on me.  If I had a bunny, it would so be boiled. 

Enforced time out- spent contemplating boiling... something!

Seriously, last night I used him to try and reward her for not going in the dishwasher.  She didn’t go in the dishwasher, but she was so frantic by the end her eyes were bright red and she was out of breath.  I tried the ‘continuous stay’ dispenser mode, but every time he said BEEP she jumped about six inches in the air and whipped her head to look at the tray (MARVIN??? My Marvin, what do you NEED??? What do you WANT???). Unhealthy.

So I have my doubts that he will get me what I need for her running contact training.  I will do a test run with the weave poles, but if she can’t use her brain AND stay hopelessly devoted to Marvin its back to boring old target training for her.  (This is the part where she reads this over my shoulder and the next thing I know she’s packing her bags to run away with Marvin and there is a scuffle and I end up dead ‘accidently’ from knife wounds.)
However- in a rather pleasant surprise, Marvin has brought out the best in The Dog.  She and Marvin seem to be the perfect fit. She didn’t let him intimidate her and needed no real intro period like The Pup (HO HUM. So food goes in and comes out, big deal my dinner bowl does the same thing). I did spend some time value building the beep, and doing some send work, but that was about all she needed.  Surprisingly, the send work was nice. REALLY nice…

So, feeling a slight twinge of optimism, I crossed my fingers and tried beginning plank work with her again. I went to the very beginning with her where the goal is Find Board, Go Across Board. And… it actually worked.  With a toy, she never noticed the board much on the flat, and certainly never really made the effort to get on it and scurry across. If she did, for whatever reason she would leap more often than not (it’s a springboard, right? It must be a springboard…). But Marvin was the perfect reward. Exciting and novel, but not TOO exciting or novel.  She LOVES food, but understands that food equals brain time and you have to offer behaviors to get it. The beep brings her to the shaping mindset.  If you are wondering, gee, duh, why didn’t you try food before? The answer is of course I did- but since she had already been introduced to targeting alongside her 2o2o contact exposure the connection was there and trying it simply brought out that underlying behavior; no matter what I did she crept along with uncertainty, never truly believing I wasn’t trying to proof. So that’s where the novel comes in- Marvin looks and acts nothing like the target. He is super cool, but she’s not infatuated (not like someone we know…).

The plan then is to slowly restart from ground up. As I have her entered (really, not much though) and don’t intend to pull from competition, at this point she can do what she wants there.  We will work on the new behavior on the side. I’m trying to make it as different as possible- I am switching to “run up” for the command in hopes that will prevent reversion.  We are working on her driving her own contact and complete, obstacle-focused independence. We will use Marvin, possibly add toys in as super jackpots, but for now just Marvin.  I feel tentatively good about this plan. (Soon, the running dowgalks will all be mine!! Mwuahahaha! Really, it will! The hinges are ordered, the supports are done and I found the perfect planks for $30!!! And now we even have a hope of a training plan… SO CLOSE!!) 

Ta-daaa! Two supports! Just need planks!!

Here’s a video of the very first attempt (sorry, too lazy to edit out the time to reset her, but you’ll live):

Yes, I rewarded every attempt she made to get on the baby plank.  She went around once, but reset happily after noting the lack of treats and tried harder the next rep.  With toys, if the reward is withheld, it results in creepy carefulness the next time- not the case here.  There was one rep, not on video, where she tried to stop and stared at me expectantly. I held out and did nothing until she chose to move along the board on her own- then giant jackpot. That was the one and only time so far she made any attempt to offer the old stuff, and she seemed to get that it wasn’t what we were going for.  I like her pace better too, she has a nice trotty stride going on rather than the inconsistent leapiness that the toy got us. I can really see why some people more strongly advocate the food thing.

Anyways. Big difference. I’d put up a comparison video of her last summer trying this with a toy to prove it, but again, I am too lazy so you need to take my word for it.  (What??? So Marvin is turning me into a lazy blob? I don't see a problem!)
So even though Marvin is causing some cat (dog?) fights for the love he bestows (two dogs plus one treat gizmo...uh oh), he is a welcome addition to our home for the time being.  I wonder if the girls will notice if I replace him with a permanent version of our own? I may need to buy him off our friend- these attachments The Pup is making are looking more than plastic cover deep…

Monday, June 6, 2011

MAC Gets a 4 Star Updo: Highlights and Lowlights

So. Much. Agility.

I just counted, 20 runs scheduled, 19 actually ran.  No wonder The Dog and I are dead. Really dead. Certifiably dead. Like, the coroner is filling out the paperwork right now.

I’m really not sure what I was thinking when I filled out the entries (Probably something like “lalala, we are amazing and 20 runs is only like 10 minutes of work and we work for an hour sometimes! Lalala”)… but rest assured this was a onetime incident of psychosis.   I’ve found our limits of how much agility is TOO much  and I doubt I will be forgetting any time soon!  

In fact, there was SO MUCH agility it’s pretty much impossible to give any kind of play-by-play.  The internet would overflow and all the technology would spill out onto the streets and the world would drown under the deluge of words I’d need to use to give that much detail.  So instead a spiffy recap is in order à la those “Previously Seen On” segments they show for complicated Smart People TV shows.

First up, Lowlights. 
1) Hot.
2) Did I mention too many runs?
3) Sunday was basically our Worst Single Day Ever. See above for the reason. Many pretty parts, no individual Qs.   Oh well. At least I have the pretty parts. 
4) Sad/scary moment where The Dog zinged her wrist on the chute entry AGAIN and came out gimping up a storm AGAIN and had to be carried off early.  It was the CLONK heard round the world, but luckily was just a stinger.  I think she was more traumatized by the judge looking at her after it happened.  Rest of the weekend spent shoving her into the chute at perfectly straight angles only.
5) Two otherwise lovely runs lost to missed DWs.
6) Sun burn for all. Ouch.
Hehe, mega sunburned me, mega cute her. 
And now, the beautiful, shiny highlights!
1) At least there were no sirens or severe storms, which have ruined many a weekend around here recently.
2) I got my wish- super challenging courses- proud to say not one off course or similar naughty pants incident (I’m forgetting that Sunday Gamblers happened, it’s better this way). 
3) While a few DWs were missed, she had NO super sticky DWs like last weekend, gorgeous Aframes and even nice teeters.  Weird.
Sticky hot, but no sticky DWs (Thnx JLove for the pics!)
4) She actually was able to find difficult weave entries ON HER OWN! More than once! An OMG is in order.
5) Before the sun doldrums ate her, she was flying!  Excellent times for the first part of the weekend, then a noticeable dip, then good again for the last few runs. Don’t get that, except that maybe she felt more rested after I pulled her from one Snookers class.
6) Excellent results in the team competition- Third place overall for her team with Black Dog and BFAM, and she was ranked third for overall 22” dogs!  
7) We ran both IHC classes for fun and she stayed on course for both! WOW! AND she ended up 2nd in Standard and 3rd in Jumpers. In both classes I caused refusals at dumb places but she survived all the hard challenges. Pretty good and very fun to run plus I enjoyed getting the special ribbons that have the confusing European color (or should I say colour?) scheme. 

(Here are the maps- such bad quality I can't POSSIBLY get sued for unlawful reproduction, right?)
IHC Jumpers
IHC Standard
8) And the very best part? She got the last 8 qualifiers she needed for her Bronze Lifetime Achievement Award! Not too shabby for only being in Masters a little over a year. 

So yeah.  It was a 4 star weekend, and I’ve got a 5 star dog. She’s such a good little teammate.  She tried very hard all weekend (except the one Gamblers run that didn’t really happen) and I only wish the interwebs were big enough for me to detail ALL the awesome without running the risk of sending us all back to the Stone Age.   
TIRED. Running and running and running is hard work.
And, exciting, it’s about to get even awesomer (really, that's not a word??) around The Project.  Dogwalk supports have been built!! 

Ta-daa!! It's even adjustable! Thnx Boyfriend!
Next weekend’s project is procuring, painting and pining on planks!  So we will soon have the most amazing DWs on the planet.  Plus, we’ve got REAL weave poles so no doubt those will be the most amazing too.  (I’m excited to start on weaves with The Pup now too- my plan is channels without guides as a slight variation of what I’d normally do.  Since its channels and they will be VERY wide with no chance of actual weaving for a long time we don’t have to wait for silly old growth plates to close. Diabolical, no?)

REAL weaves! Adjustable! Oh, the awesome!
The Pup had her highs and lows this weekend too.  Lows included biting me in the face (hasn’t happened in a LONG time!), screaming awful bloody murder whenever I ran The Dog and running away. Highs include her coming back, letting me scale her teeth, popping out the last of her evil baby shark teeth and being a cute cuddle monster last night, sleeping on my lap for 2 whole hours.   We also got to meet another Clone sibling and her 'mother' which she LOVED, and attempted a cute but short lived photo shoot. Is there anything wigglier than a BS? Why yes, there is! TWO BSs!
TIRED. Screaming and running away are hard work.
On the docket now is one week of rest for The Dog and a trip to the chiropractor if I can swing it. No doubt she needs it after all the twisty turny courses.  Then a show in two weeks, and after that, very low key up to the Regional in August.  We have some training points to hit before then- I want to make sure we go into that competition with our best feet and paws forward.  

Besides, I am not going to be able to focus much on agility anyways going forward.
Harry Potter…so soon…
And the aftermath will probably be me in a HP coma of delight for another few weeks. 

I might not even remember agility at all.