Monday, July 25, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

What a nice, lazy weekend.

I’m really glad I signed us up for some weekends off this year.  While the trade off is probably going to be not finished her Silver ADCH this season, it wasn’t technically a goal so… not a loser?

We did a smidge of agility training on Saturday at a fun match.  I went to see about getting The Dog on foreign dogwalks, but unfortunately the course was pretty dense. She had a few that she tried to run but then a few that went one way or another because of the compression.  Ran out and did a few at home after and those were perfect.  I think we just need to keep plugging away at Project Make Contact with Contacts.

Besides the dogwalk, she did very well. The flooring was interesting. I love watching her acclimate to various flooring types. It’s a superpower of hers for sure.  I had her run 24” for one of our runs and she was pretty marvelous.  While we try not to make a habit of over-jumping, it really helps me with timing.  I can’t get away with things I get away with at 20” or even 22” so it keeps me an Honest Leader I suppose. 
But aside from those 6 minutes or so of warm-up and practice runs, we were really very lazy training wise.  The Pup did a few tunnels and started some work on ‘front.’ Other than that we all generally felt that our time would be better spent playing with our collection of brightly colored spikey balls and watching cooking shows.  And eating Tres Leches cake. So. Much. Tres Leches cake.

Yesterday though, we did have an adventure.  Seemed that if we weren’t going to use our time for training then the best thing to do would be letting dogs be dogs. What better place to do that then at a dog park?

Turns out, there is an amazing dog park that puts all other dog parks to shame right down the road from me (thanks to our friend for pointing out what should have been obvious since I drive by it every day!).  Not only does it have a huge field to run and play in, but there are tons of trails for hiking.  And it was all fenced, so no worry about certain Pups running away never to be seen again (ok, minimal worry). 

So off we went to the park. I was extremely nervous when it came to letting The Pup run free, but she nearly asphyxiated trying to chase The Dog while on leash as we were walking through.  I let her off in the open field and let the girls chase the ball a bit. And The Pup didn’t run away! Even when she got the ball, she stuck around.  Even when other dogs came into the equation! And people!  Shocking.  More shocking still- she even kind of came when I called her.

When we continued on our tromp through the woods, I crossed my fingers and let her run free. She was so good! She stuck around, checked in, and moved along when we encountered other groups.  I’m pretty sure she was just following the excellent lead of The Dog, but I’ll take it! Whatever it is that means I don’t lose my little Alice Puppy down a rabbit hole is good enough for me.

At one point, we came to a muddy path that I tried to avoid by picking through the woods next to it.  In that time I lost all view of the dogs and was about to freak out a little since I knew there were lots of other dogs close by.  As I jogged out of the woods, I still couldn’t see the dogs, but I saw the lake.  Apparently, so did The Dog.  All of a sudden, there she was. Floating in the middle of it with her ball. I guess she has really missed swimming! She refused to come out until she was relatively sure I would be playing along, but I was more than happy to oblige her a few throws.  What an adorable River Rat she is.

Oh, and you’ve all heard the myths about Border Staffies and water, right? I can say now, having seen it with my own eyes, that the legends are true: Border Staffy plus body of water equals magical transformation into an otter or similar sea creature!  I didn’t have to coax, bribe or otherwise cajole her; The Pup took one look at The Dog in the lake and dove in after her. Zero hesitation.  If I would have blinked, I would have missed it! Next thing I registered was that she was swimming like she’d done it every day of her life.  This, from the dog that screams in pain at the sight of a bath or hose down.  Eyeroll.

Baby's first swim! 
River Rat and Sea Otter!
So that was our adventure. Really glad to have found the little lake so now we FINALLY have a place to swim close by!  Gotta love these results:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Things. Just. Got. Real!

Guess what this is!

Go on, guess! (And don’t just guess “paper.” That’s lame.) 

Give up? Well- it’s a registration form for The Pup’s FIRST SEMINAR!!

I know, I can hardly believe it myself.  I wouldn’t have done it if the seminar weren’t months away. (November.)  I really wanted to attend a seminar by Tracy Sklenar, having heard that she is just wonderful- fun, informative and open-minded (my absolute seminarist ‘must-meet’ criteria!)- from everyone on the planet.  Unfortunately, the “Master Handling” portion was on a Friday and all my vacation is already allocated for the year. That meant that The Pup was going to have to step up and be the working girl, so I signed her up for the Novice Handling day. 

I was pretty much vomiting after I decided to do this- I mean, I haven't worked her in agility more than one or two 10 minute sessions a day.  I have never worked her around other people.  The only thing that kept me from being absolutely sick was the fact that this is several months out- plenty of time to start increasing difficulty. 

But in fact, it turned out to be a REALLY good choice. I was struggling a bit for goals for her at this point. Now, having something to work for, I feel back on track.  So goal driven was I yesterday that I went out on the skimpiest new bud of a branch ever and brought her into a puppy agility class last night.  I continued on my scary limb and put her on the more advanced puppy side, figuring that if she went into total ADHD mode with wanting to chase the other dogs I could defect to the newbie side and work attention only.  

Amazingly, my branch didn’t snap! Project Pup Prep went really well. Like, REALLY well.  She didn’t forget her name, didn’t spaz over every dog/person, and had so much fun she forgot about chasing butterflies and eating clover (ah, mostly).   I had unprecedented attention for the first half, then it waned a bit on the second half (the clover side). But she still stuck with it; only running away to see Marvin once when she wasn’t supposed to. 

Things I learned:
Marvin is a godsend (ok I knew that already)
Clover is catnip for dogs
Long wet grass turns her into Ms. Dainty Paws. She also couldn’t put her butt in the grass and instead sort of crouched.
Watching other dogs run isn’t ALL about wanting to chase. There was definitely a jealousy element. The times I let her watch them run she would run full board on her turn. 
She likes to become one with the equipment. 

I sort of guessed that one before, but it’s pretty obvious what will hold her attention AND enthusiasm- if she can’t go on, over or through it she gets a bit ‘meh.’  She was very much into the contacts, weaves, tunnels and tables (and even the tire!) but when it came to running through jump standards she thought it was lame. Where’s the risk in THAT?? So we need to get more involved with flat work and make it crazy fun, not just a meal ticket.

Overall- really had a good time.  Both of us. And she was…different… after. Not so obnoxious at home- much sweeter and attentive to me.  So we will be going back!
After all, anything that keeps the Decepticon from surfacing is well worth it for that reason alone.  I’m thinking this is the outlet she needs- not enough stimulation and too much being left to her own naughty puppy devices has been…not so good for the house recently.

Exhibit A.

Um... I didn't do it?
Farewell expensive light-blocking blinds. We shall miss you!
Oh, and of COURSE I can’t post without mentioning a certain Dog.  I had a horrible practice with her on Wednesday- bigtime dogwalk struggle.  Really, I blame the heat for the bad practice AND The Pup’s mutilation of the blinds. Watch me reason the crap out of this-

Dis otta be good.
So, it’s HOT and humid and because it’s hot and humid the ground can’t absorb all the water, so it’s all muddy. The mud got all over The Dog and made her all slippery which made her dogwalk performance suck, which made me move the dogwalk out of the mud, which made it too close to the fence, which made her miss it worse.  So when she FINALLY got a rep I chucked the ball hard in joy, which increased her exuberance, which when combined with slick slobber from the heat made the ball SHOOM into the neighbor’s (locked) yard.  The Dog then refused to do any work, so I had to get the ball, which meant shoving the dogs in the house so I could go try to scale the fence without falling on them. This led The Pup, who had not yet been allowed to play because the dogwalk was too high, to throw a tantrum inside, which caused her to pull the blinds off the wall and murder them.

I told ya- I DIDN'T DO IT!!!
See!!?!? Stupid weather.  

Anyways, last night I began Project Make Contact With Contacts- an attempt to get  The Dog on as many different dogwalks as I could and try to get her to run each from the get-go (no encouragement period).  I am pleased to report that phase one was a complete success and she ran EACH dogwalk last night.  One leap and one sticky in there somewhere but ended with her best reps yet. The only downfall is that I cannot yet turn her tight AT ALL without sacrificing stride. All such experiments failed. Eh, homework. 
Tomorrow phase two continues with a fun match!

…I love projects! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Milk Was a Bad Choice.

Yep, no one can sum up this weather better than Ron Burgundy.


I totally know how the candy bar The Boyfriend left on his care seat felt (i.e. melty).

But that's ok, we're completely insane so we practice dogwalks anyways. But we do this before we have our glass of milk.

Video from last night- the eureka of running continues.

She's made a connection between running the half pint and running the full size.  The bounce factor was pretty high today so her end performance was a little weird- it's hard to tell, but she is hitting very nicely.  It's just easier to for her to run with the board doesn't mimic a bouncy castle. I am really, really not complaining. She is a genius. We celebrated with a White Trash Shower (getting hosed down in the front yard).

I'm taking a bit of a break with The Pup on her equipment work. I have to hit the full DW hard with The Dog now and it's too high for a baby.  She's still a fragile little fetus and I don't want to risk any injuries. Not to mention that I am lazy and switching the sizes twice a day would make me barf from excessive activity.

So instead, she's going to work on Smart Puppy more inside. Our online class is all finished so we are on our own. We had to do a final compilation video to 'graduate' (and to get our FREE GIFT! This class was so awesomely worth it!!!) showing all our finished tricks or at least the progress we made. Here's ours- it's adorably nostaligic.  You'll see.

I may even start taking her to obedience class- gulp.  She has to get used to around working other dogs eventually. I am thinking I may split an hour between her and The Dog. The Dog can do the stands, figure 8s and recalls and The Pup can practice heeling and stays...maybe.  The only problem is the class I like which is SUPPOSED to be Novice is actually filled with dogs working towards OTCHs and crap like that who want to just drill the 'easy skills' so they will probably run screaming for the hills once they see The Pup breaking her stay to say HI to the other dogs. Sigh.

For now though, she is having fun being herself. However weird that may be.  Last night, she invented a new game.

Most of her games seem to involve barking obnoxiously to get The Dog to chase her out of annoyance. Then she tries to outrun The Dog before her butt gets bitten. This version of the game added the extra bonus level where max points seemed to be achieved by boinging off the arm of the couch as far as she could.

I call it "Poking the Bear."

Terriers are So. Weird.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Contact High

No, not THAT kind.  Drugs are bad, kids, just look at The Pup for all the proof you need.  She’s tweaked out of her mind pretty much all the time now (more info on THAT later).

We’re talking about a different kind of haze here, but I suppose the effects are sort of the same: disoriented, giddy, super hungry and then a little sleepy. Er, based on what I’ve heard about the other kind. (Drugs are bad.)

Of course I’m talking about (what else?) the dogwalk. 

Yes I know what “obsession” means, why do you ask? 

(I prefer the terms “goal-oriented” and “determined” by the way. )

Anyways. The dogwalk.  The Dog and I went to an impromptu running contacts seminar with Karen Holik a few days ago.   Really interesting.   It was sort of a “here’s what OTHER people have tried and the ups and downs of that and here’s what you could take away based on the success and errors I’ve had” format.    We both seem to agree that there isn’t a formula to teaching the concept so I found it really easy to listen to her and keep an open mind and so picked up more than a few pretty profound takeaway points.   Such as…

*The only concern is that the dog is running.  Do not look at the yellow.  So many people reward leaps that hit the yellow when all that really matters is that the dog is not leaping.  When you teach a concept that has very grey criteria for a dog, the ONLY thing you really can easily distingush for them is run vs. leap-forget about footfalls.  This is something that Silvia told us in the winter when she was here (Karen does mostly Silvia’s method for big dogs) but Karen really expanded on this and sort of hit home on the fact that yellow isn’t criteria.   To help achieve a solid running contact, she suggested marking the behavior (running not leaping) in different places- not just on the contact when they move through the yellow, but sometimes just above that, or off the ramp on the ground. Genius. Other criteria were to make sure the dog is running straight and keeping their head down.

*It should be hard for the dog. She likes to start with max speed and energy.  Yes, she starts on the flat and then progresses slowly up on height, but she wants to make it hard. Her theory is then when they get it- they really get it. I can appreciate this, but maybe not for every dog.  I still like the ‘Daisy thoughts’ on confidence then speed but it makes sense that if you start at the most difficult scenerio, you won’t have a down period where it all falls apart when the difficult scenerios are introduced.  I DO agree with the point that it should be harder.  Her rule was that if your dog isn’t making mistakes at least 20% of the time, you aren’t really training anything and the dog isn’t learning.  I also agree to an extent with her thoughts on working through the times when there are WAY more mistakes than successful attempts without making tings easier.  If you move the target in, or slow things down so they can ‘be right’ then again, the dog isn’t really learning- at least not the thing you want.  She prefers to do it until it’s right. This could mean a lot of reps though and again, may not be right for every dog.

*In regards to the target, or reward, she seemed to prefer toys. For most dogs, this is the highest level of mind-blowing excitement and remember, she wants this. She was, however, perfectly fine with my using various obstacles as targets, since jumps and tunnels do get The Dog into the state of excitement we want.   She said that she prefers to set out the target (far away) as opposed to throwing it.  In her experience, dogs tend to check in, ever so slightly, to see whether the toy is coming.  She felt that this would incorrectly elicit an extra stride in practice which allowed them to run through.  But in a show… no toy, no stride, no run- just leaps!  I have seen this myself, so agreed there.    

*And yes, if the target is out, then the dog does get it every time. Her thought was that they will learn the difference based on your reaction- party or not. But the party has to be a ‘party like it’s 1999’ party, not an office party for the guy in Accounting you don’t really like’s birthday.   I agree with this too.  In order to keep The Dog’s spirits up, I had to give her some reward for every rep. But the time she finally- finally!- offered the one good, solid running effort, we played ball for about 5 minutes before trying it again.  I do think that was made it all click for her.

*Considering the entire obstacle- don’t do dumb things. OK, so she didn’t say it quite like that, but her thought was that you should treat the end zone as you would a jump, and proof the obstacle like it was the weaves.  She told us that anything you would NOT do while a dog was jumping, you should NOT do while they are on the down plank of the dogwalk (or Aframe).  So don’t accelerate, decelerate, stop, converge or give a verbal cue.  Any cue you want to give has to come while the dog is moving across the top, or after they have exited.  She does not teach turns as she doesn’t want to mess with stride (AGREE!!) but manages on the ground, so she does a lot of her cues after the exit.  This was excellent advice for me, since I plan on ground management as well. (Good lord, if we ever get it I am NOT messing with it!!!)

As for the exercises…
So as I said, she does mostly Silvia’s method. She starts on the flat-send to a toy and mark the running. Important point here- mark WHILE running, not a “YAY” when the get the toy, since most dogs pounce on the toy at that point.  The she does the same thing on a rug. After that, the plank, plank off a table, and onwards up, always with the toy out as a target.   We did quickie versions of each stage. The other three dogs were very new to the concept as Karen taught it, so it was VERY interesting to see her trouble shoot leaps (like I said, no making it easy!).  One of the dogs had been trained a running dogwalk off another method, then went back to 2o2o so hearing her ideas on going between the two and having both was informative.

As for how we did…
The Dog failed just running to a ball. She didn’t want to run to a stagnant target. She ran a bit, walked up to it and then looked at Karen like “you throw dis now, please?”  The she technically failed the plank off the table and only offered her trot-trot-trot to the ball. Then she took the ball over to the auditors and gave them The Look.  Oh dear. I’m sure at this point everyone was wondering to themselves what horrors they would see when we went on the full, half-height dogwalk since I had promised ealier that she was running it awesomely. Frankly at this point I was wondering about the horrors too.  Thank all that is holy, she did it perfectly just as she has been at home.  Then she missed one so we could get some feedback.  In that case, I took off running as she started her descent. Karen gave some advice on proofing movement (like the weaves!) which we will start this week.  Then I explained how she has some weirdness on the right- she will flick off the side more often than not.  She did one on the right, pretty well, but then Karen had us run on the flat on the left and the right and lo and behold- she totally sucks on the right.  She naturally drifts away even when walking on that side.  Guess we will continue working on right side heeling! She also took a look at our Aframe and decided that it was awesome and any misses were my fault for converging on her line so I needed to manage it better (like it’s a JUMP!) Ok. Sorry, Dog.
After all that work, I wasn’t sure what to expect over the weekend since we had the MAC AKC show.
(Recent heartwarming practice right before the show...)

Dogwalk Scenerio One was jump-dogwalk-tunnel.  On the right. Her worst imaginable set up. Gulp. I fretted for awhile, then listened to Wise Mother and just ran it ‘right’ (no funky stuff), keeping in mind that it was ‘a jump’ and I shouldn’t change my speed or do anything but move towards the tunnel. Again, thanks to all that is holy, she did it pretty dang nicely. She did decelerate on the down plank but cantered through the whole plank and kept her head down and there was NO leaping. WOO HOO!! In fact, so great was my celebration that she came out of Mr. Tunnel at 2,000 mph thinking YAY let’s do the dogwalk again! and I almost lost her to an off course. I haven’t had that close a call…ever. BUT she came in, stayed on course the rest of the time and ended up winning the 20” class! COOL!  She had a great Day One, with a 4th in JWW for a QQ too.

Dogwalk Scenerio Two was Jump-Dogwalk-Sharp Left Into Tunnel with a jump looming off the dogwalk. Again I wrestled with how to handle it and in the end went for running it like I would have before the retrain-verbal cue, stay out of her face. Em, wrong. My “left, tunnel!” fell on deaf ears. She did what our training told her to do- take the jump! At least the dogwalk was lovely. The speed was better, still a slight decel but she ran through.  So a very, VERY good learning experience- we no longer have the super power of tight turns off the dogwalk into a tunnel…for now.  I hope to work out the timing on that again someday, because it was really a lovely turn before.  And overall, the  nice dogwalks with no sticky-sticky hesitation tells me that she is getting the concept, foundation is THERE, and she just needs to get confidence on accelerating on the down plank on the full height obstacle. JWW was also a learning experience- I was able to rear ridiculously tight without driving her off the jump- Good Dog!- but one was just TOO close and I crowded her so much to tighten her turn that she knocked the bar. Bad Leader. Still, VERY happy with her and the information I have been able to get the past few days.
Ok, this is getting WAY long but I do have to say that The Pup is insane. She has now developed an obsession with the drain in the tub.  She likes to stick her nose in the drain and huff. What substance is down there that she is inhaling is beyond me, but every time she goes in the bathroom now her little butt vanishes behind the curtain within two seconds and then all you hear is a weird snorfle. 

Also she is now obsessed with burying her rawhides- before it was just every now and then, but now it’s daily. She gets one and immediately starts to canvase the area for a suitable hiding spot. None of which are clever.  She has started to realize this point and so is expanding from just the rug by the couch, the stairs and the spot under the coffee table. Now we find them in among the Xmas wrapping and water bottles.  Today, every nook in the couch is filled with a rawhide. Behold-

Terriers are so weird. But a Terrier with a Border Collie is obsessively weird. 

That makes for GREAT entertainment!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Last night I attended a different kind of seminar- no dogs allowed, just me and my feet hopefully working together to learn to run faster.  EEK!

As incredibly nervous as I was about falling on my face, I was just too intrigued by the concept to pass up attending.  (But believe me, I had someone in line, ready to blame for everything if it all went downhill and I did happen to fall/trip/slip/die.)

Luckily, I did not fall on my face (or any other body part for that matter; sometimes my butt takes the impact); in fact, I learned I can actually be quite fast, despite the routine accusations I get of running like a girl. Personally,  I was surprised that I could also become sure-footed and coordinated; my surprise might surprise others as I also am frequently accused of having taken dance lessons at some point.  (Oh, if people only knew: I can be ah, shall we say, clumsy at times. Maybe ‘spatially unaware’ is the better phrase?  The amount of times an obstacle has been squished by my butt after I FELL ON IT because I DIDN’T REALIZE IT WAS THERE even thought it was THERE THE WHOLE TIME is such a frequent occurrence I can’t possible keep track.)   

Anyways, so this session on running was a part of the Karen Holik seminar in town this week.  She provided the remedial choreography lessons to the moves described by Eric Bobkowski, Running Guru Extraordinaire.  We went over footwork for a better front cross, forward sends, a bit on decel and also they took a look at everyone just plain running to see what advice they could give on overall form/speed improvement.   While some of the concepts were foreign (while I am a backy-uppy professional, I am apparently not versed in the art of running sideways- did I mention I failed the Electric Slide lesson in grade school gym?), there were some great ideas on propulsion and taking the right series of steps during on-course maneuvers to make the most of your momentum.   He also highlighted the importance of placing your feet in such a way as to prevent twisting which we all know can result in one heck of a knee injury. 

For me, the big points were regarding momentum (POWER FOOT!), and to remember to get on the balls of your feet to push off in those cases, and when you need to sprint.  It all felt very bouncy at first and of course, all the talk of balls made for some very interesting humor from certain spandy short wearing Pug Fans (you know who you are, missy!). However, now I will never, ever forget the seminar… even if I wanted to. Some things get burned in your mind!

It was so much fun though (somehow the x-rated participants and the awesome presenters equaled my Perfect Learning Environment) that I couldn’t resist joining the seminar added last minute with Karen later this week.  Running Contacts- of course. I can never resist that topic! (But I am always in search of another pair of eyes with regards to The Dog so we will see what she sees.   I just hope The Dog is able to show the good she has been producing lately and not just the weird…)
So this weekend, if you see a bunch of bouncy people jetting around the course you may laugh, but probably not after you see their rockin’ times!  I think we all learned a little secret to running last night so watch out!  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do Not Be Alarmed.

Depending on where you were or what you were doing at about 2pm yesterday, you may have heard a loud noise, like a *Click.* Really, more like a *CLICK!*  I’m sure you were a bit concerned; it was awfully loud.  I assume it gave you such a start that you got up and had to peek out the window- maybe even check on the locks and make sure your prized possessions, like the bacon and ice cream and old school Degrassi DVDs, were safe and sound.  Probably you were a bit jumpy after that.  For a little while at least. 

Sorry about that.

But really, no cause for alarm.  Let me explain.

That click you heard?  That was the sound of the light bulb hanging over The Dog’s head-the one I thought long burnt out- finally clicking on.   It was a pretty big light bulb moment, hence the silence-shattering, ground-shaking, 9.0 magnitude noise that came along with it.

See, The Boyfriend, in his infinite awesomeness, got the dogwalk assembled on Friday.  So naturally we had to play with our new toy over the weekend to show our appreciation.   We were having our normal struggle between what I wanted The Dog to do (“Run, Forest, Run!”) and what she actually did (“…Slow down for sure then maybe leap last second??”).   I was still trying all manner of set-ups to try and elicit Run, Forest, Run but nothing was quite right.   

Then I had this little light bulb moment myself were I realized it was getting a bit too complicated.  So we cleared out the clutter internally and externally and… she did it. I’m still a bit shell-shocked. 

Here’s the video-

The first part is the pre-click montage.  Typical hit or miss- literally. Then we decluttered and came back and well, there you have it. Light bulb. *CLICK*  Whatever.  Happy.

So, sorry about the disturbance.   Hope it didn’t startle you too much.  But these things do happen- thankfully!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Run For The Hills!!

Somebody in some cold country in Europe gets major genius points!!

I was poking around on Silvia Trkman’s site last night and found a little discussion on the Running Contacts Online Course.  A few people weren’t sure the course was ‘for them’ as they had limited space, poor landscape for agility or both. So ST posted a video of a gal who had taken her class who had both issues but managed to train lovely RCs with her BC anyways.  How did she do it?

She used the hilly landscape as elevation for her plank!!!  


Basically, the gal had a dirt driveway, with a hill on one side (shrubs on the other).  So she did the flat plank work in the grass along the shrubs, then when she needed to raise it, she leaned it on the hill and sent the dog across the driveway.   The best part was when the plank was raised to the top of the hill- no space (woods) for a good run at it- so she practiced cik/cap turns around a bush near the top of the plank to get speed up!

What a resourceful lady.  She even put the board up to the entry of her house at one point for a higher height and called the dog out from her kitchen.  Then there was some finagling of a picnic table, but eventually she set up the whole shebang next to the shrubs and ta-daaa! Magic Running Dogwalk.

This was an answer to a few issues I was having.  First, The Dog hated the table/plank set up. I don’t know why, exactly (it did bounce a lot), but she had not a good time at 12” on the table.  Second, the amount of time and effort it took to set up the table/plank really went against my lazy nature. Third, I was worried that The Pup would figure out that there was a table under there and start getting confused on what to do with a table. This point wasn’t entirely unfounded either. She had started hesitating before the drop since I went to that set-up. 

So I tried the Hillside Approach last night.  I have two lovely hills in my yard, perfect for adding elevation to a dogwalk plank (the bonus being that one of the hills is even in the shade).  The Boyfriend used this thing call “Trigonometry” to magically find out the equivalent height and informed me that I had it set at 16”.  He gets genius points too, even if he probably used voodoo or something to figure that out.

In practice? It actually worked pretty well.  The hill prevents a lot of the bounce, so The Dog was a bit more comfortable.  She is improving in her stride consistency overall.  I’m encouraged by her bounce back after a run where she doesn’t get rewarded.  You can see she always brings it down a notch and thinks very hard, and then by the next turn is back to her previous pace, but with improved stride.  I still reward everything that isn’t an obvious leap with at least an offering from Marvin. Awesome runs get the ball after.  Occasionally I do let her target to the ball if it’s going really well, but too much of that and she stops using her brain (i.e. LEAPS!).  I’m trying to very slowly incorporate my movement- VERY slowly.  We will stay here until I see some more consistent striding with all the performance variables. Happy with this first attempt though with the new set-up and height. 

On a side note, this actually DOES seem to be transferring to a full dogwalk.  After her naughty one last weekend on Saturday we ran a few plank in the yard and Sunday was MUCH better.  And last night, we practiced planks at home then went to teach and play sequences after.  I put her over the full DW at the end and WOW!  She actually, truly, ran the thing. Of course, that was only in one direction for some reason and she had a jump to target, but still!! She didn’t hitch her stride or leap, but ran through. Consistently (uh, in one direction)! Cool! Now, if we could get the OTHER direction, we might have something really useful.
The Pup had some balance issues; a downhill run had a bit of a ‘snowballing’ effect.  (BASEBALL HEAD STRIKES AGAIN!!!) I think she had two misses- one was extremely awkward (she fell on her head off tape), the other I think I pushed a bit too much but also looks awkward.  I’ve got to remember that she doesn’t need to be pushed at this point, just needs to think about it and learn and her speed will continue to come up along with it. Anyways, the ones where I let her do her thing were beautiful as usual. 

I tossed some teeter video on there too for variety.  It’s about 14” right now.  NOT shown are her first two attempts which were spectacular fly-offs. Oops. She was a tad excited.  For what it’s worth, there were heroic attempts to stop made on her part, but it’s a VERY slick board so WHOOSH! Off she went.  (She will be so set on teeters for life after learning on this one- it’s slippery, LOUD, and shaky.)  I rewarded her so she wouldn’t get freaked, but I don’t know how much danger there was in that. She mostly looked super annoyed at the teeter and tried to clamber back on right away. 
At this point, I’m a bit at full capacity for what we can possibly train in a day.  Or a week for that matter.  I HAVE to do Smart Puppy work with The Pup every day.  Obedience under the guise of tricks is the most necessary thing for her now so we can stand living with her.  Without Smart Puppy time she gets all feral and socks disappear at an alarming rate.  I HAVE to do some sort of balance/core trick work with The Dog daily. Then they need walks and The Dog needs equipment time and drills most days.  The Pup has a million obstacles to learn (some of which take FOREVER to teach) and proof on at some point in time, not to mention basic handling work on the flat.  But yet I have only a tiny window of the day.

I’ve instructed The Boyfriend to find a job where he can make enough that I don’t have to work and can be a Lady of Leisure.  I’ll take his silence as approval??

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Crack Puppy, Jolly Ball. Jolly Ball, Crack Puppy.

We had a really good weekend. We're in a cocoon of a Happy Place. 

Long weekends do that for us.

We showed at an AKC show Saturday and Sunday only, having recently vowed to never do three days of AKC again. But wouldn't you know, the courses were really fun (i.e. different!), the judges were all kinds of nice (i.e. forgiving!), and the days zoomed by (i.e. time left to do other things!). And gee, surprise! I found the courses to be engaging, as such, we did really well! Also, I still really don't know who the volunteer coordinator was, but they deserve many C/Ts;  no conflicts, no abuses, really a perfect job of scheduling.  Plus, I won a lovely gift card in the raffle which enabled much spending at the vendor...

So, side note, in an attempt to find energy boosters for The Dog to keep her up during the long days, I "bought" several kinds of snacks promising to deliver such results. Experiment time! We will soon see if anything works. She sure likes them (helllooooo, it's food! She'd be happy eating an old battery so long as it had some peanut butter on it.), but not sure if I believe the hype at this point. Next step is getting some Go Dog (um, how can we NOT try that product??) for the August shows. Research is fun. 

And if all else fails, I'll just ask Crack Puppy to hook her up. 

Speaking of, Crack Puppy has been up to all kinds of mischief lately (hence the return of the 'Crack Puppy' moniker).  It all started Friday when I wouldn't let her get the ribeyes we were planning to grill for dinner. With narrowed eyes she vowed revenge.  

In sum, let's just say there is no limit to the revenge a Crack Puppy can muster. 

But in between all the chaos and carnage we had lots of fun!

Crack Puppy even made a new best friend- Jolly Ball!

Um, still MINE. 
Pup in hiding. Dog very upset by lack of sharing.
Pup found. Intervention needed.
Dog satisfied.
Pup, plotting.
You wouldn't let her take it, would you?
Sorry Dog, once a hog, always a hog.
Still friends?
Um, yeah, except for those claws, I'd almost believe ya, Dog. 

Jolly good time, Jolly good nap. 
I do love a sleepy Crack Puppy.

When she is sleeping, she can't bite us... 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Running Dogwalk (Bet you thought you'd seen that end of this! HA!)

What can I say, I don't give up easily and I'm certainly not going to let all you off the hook either.  I suffer, you suffer.

But really, it's going much better this time- promise.

I've managed to learn quite a bit during and after Failed Attempt One with The Dog, both through study and execution.

Much of that I've been able to apply to The Pup.

And while if I suffer, you suffer, there is the flip side: when I benefit, so do you! (Though I am sure you'd prefer ice cream over unsolicited advice...)

So what have I learned?

One- and most important- no one has a 'formula.' There are some very good general concepts, but largely this is trial and error.  If anyone tries to sell you a formula, run away.  Certainly don't buy it!

Two- It will NEVER be perfect. If you are looking for perfect at any stage or in the long term usage, run away.

So there you go, helpful, no? (Wink!) Really, I've learned way more than just that, but I doubt anything else could be applied to EVERY team. Again with the 'no formulas' thing.

So...Things I've figured out regarding my dogs (which may or may not be helpful for anyone else):

Start 'em young. I read that that one person started their dog on a plank the week she brought her home.  It made sense; her dog had amazing dogwalks. There was certainly no harm in building value in the board at that age-most of us do similar exercises for rear-end awareness anyways. At this point, board value is essentially ingrained into The Pup's mind.

Other Foundation Matters. The more you do with body awareness in general, the better off you are. At the high speeds of a running dogwalk, you need to know your dog is 100% in control and understanding of their body.

Learning Style Matters Too. The Dog did not start out life with tricks based foundation or shaping like The Pup. She was not taught to learn, or more importantly, how to make mistakes. This has caused more issues with training this obstacle than anything else. I've spent the last year and a half trying to rectify this by teaching tricks, tricks and more tricks through shaping. While she still has her preference to be perfect, she is willing to redo something and doesn't liquefy into a puppy puddle when she makes mistakes now. And her ability to rebound has improved a lot too. Good for training in general, but great for this obstacle that requires a lot of repetition and shaping

Retrains suck. Ok, maybe this is another one that can be universally applied. Going forward, I would always opt to train running first, then a stop if need be and not the other way around.  I'm not saying you only get one chance, but no matter what you're doing you can only retrain so many times and this is one place where excess confusion makes for excess frustration.

You can't be perfect, but you should be pretty good.  If it isn't pretty accurate at 6", then it won't get much better if you raise it and cross your fingers. Yes, some dogs seem to run into an awkward height at some point, but in general moving on before there is enough consistency to indicate understanding is a bad idea. This was a big mistake I made with The Dog. I didn't know enough to tell if she got it, or rather, that she got what I was trying to uh, get her to get. Get it??

Know your dog. A big duh, and kind of relates to the formula thing.  Rather than grasping ONE training format, I should have checked them all out.  The one I happened to pick at first was not the best one for The Dog. Parts of it, yes, but not everything. Like I've said before, The Pup has a training plan specifically catered to what makes her tick.  It would not work for The Dog-  I'm still working on narrowing in on the best thing for her.  Trial and error, baby.

Luckily though, far less error, since as you can see from the above, I figured out a few things.  Phew. Only took a year.   If anyone else has any valuable lessons on the running contacts, please share! Learning at the expense of others is the best way to go!
So here is The Dog's current status.  You can see how varied I am when we practice, for two reasons: I'm still working on what gets the best results as far as the reward goes, and I don't want her to 'feel' the reps. If I repeat the exact same tactic she either falls apart or falls into patterns (like how she learned to pace me off the DW). Besides, in real life I won't always be ahead or behind or moving or standing still, right?

Anyways, she only had one giant miss, but about half or so were only back foot hits. I'm rewarding these of course because I care more about speed consistency than footfalls, but I am jackpotting the really nice strides.

I'm extremely happy with this compared to the first attempt last year. She's happy, she is offering a nice pace and the leaping is pretty rare. (But again, any thoughts or advice are very welcome.)
Here's The Pup. She had her first ever miss (and it was spectacular!) which I included because it's history. I think she was so excited to say hi to Marvin that she forgot about anything else. When he didn't give her a treat it shocked her, but clearly didn't bring her down. Solid after that.

Also, one last video starring The Pup. We are very sad, it's the video for our last lesson through ST's online course. Luckily there was enough homework we didn't even get to start that we will have ideas to occupy us for ages.

By the way, I would really, really recommend trying out her online courses as a participant. If I haven't already said it a dozen times- totally worth the money (and it wasn't that much to start with).

So anyways, show this weekend (AKC) and a glorious day off on Monday, though I know I will be busy trying to keep the dogs' heads from exploding along with the fireworks.