Thursday, May 29, 2008

Strummer's first agility lesson

I was finally able to arrange a time & place with Joy for an agility lesson, my first in a whopping 7 months. We were at a different place from my normal training field and unlike my normal training field this place allowed her to reserve the whole field for lessons so I decided to try Strummer out at his first proper lesson. I've been working my way through Linda Mecklenburg's jumping foundation book and since Joy had been training with her over the winter and was familiar with the exercises I thought it would be good if I could go through them and she could tell me if I was doing them right. And of course I wasn't. I wasn't too far off, but apparently it matters which way you point your feet and you're supposed to take a step as part of your cue. I looked back in the book very briefly this morning and couldn't find any text explanations about feet and what to do with them. There are some photos showing her with her feet in the proper position but no text explaining it, at least not right there with the individual exercise explanations. This is why I hate learning from books & articles, I always seem to manage to miss some detail out. Anyway, in general you have one foot behind facing the dog and the other in front facing the direction you want to go. You cue the jump then step the foot that's behind forward to meet the forward foot. I know, I would probably be confused too if I just read that. I think I need to stick to lessons from actual real live people. Once I got the footwork down it all started to make more sense. All my previous work wasn't for naught though, Strummy did a pretty good job of things once I got my end down. He had some jumps where he didn't collect enough and overshot me but all I had to do was not reward him and he'd get it on the next try or two. He knocked only 2 bars in over a half hour of working and both of those were on extension exercises which I hadn't been doing all that much of since I felt the collection stuff was harder for him in the beginning.

One exercise that caused him some problems was this:


I------I I------I


In this exercise we're facing each other and with my left arm I'm cueing him to take the jump in front of him but he kept running straight to me to take the jump in front of me. I had to move a ways to the left until I was nearly right in front of him then inch my way back to the right over a series of reps. but he eventually got it. It'll be interesting to see if he gets it right away when I try it again in practice or if I have to start over in front of him again.

I also showed Joy what I was doing to train running contacts and she suggested a piece of PVC or tape in the yellow zone to mark the area where he needs to put his feet. In general I'm not big on props but this sounded like a good idea to start with both to help me mark correct performances and also as a little guide to Strum to help him get the idea more quickly. I'll probably fade it very quickly, I don't want either of us to get too dependent on it but I like the idea for the beginning stages.

Overall I thought Strum did great especially considering he was in a totally new place and he worked for over half an hour, way way way longer than I ever train him in a session. He never got distracted, stressed or overstimulated. He did break his stays in front of the jumps and that's a new one. I need to work on proofing that in new locations. Joy remarked that he seems calmer and that when he makes a mistake he tries something different the next time. I'm not sure if that's because that's the way he is or it's a result of all the clicker training I've done with him or maybe a combo. In any case it sure is nice to have a dog that doesn't shut down at every little mistake. I haven't been making a big deal out of errors. Sometimes I won't say anything, just won't give him a reward and other times I'll say 'oops' then 'let's try again' in a happy voice depending on how frustrated he is. I signed up for the 'Advances in dog training' seminar with Susan Garrett instead of the handling seminar and the more I've been thinking about it over the past few days the more I think it will help me more than I first thought because there are lots of little training things like that that I don't think much about, esp. with the obstacle and foundation training.

Lola had a lesson too, more on that later.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Here's something they don't teach you in dog training class

This morning I got a laugh out of this post from Little Miss Runner Pants. This would make a great trick for clicker training though it might be hard to find someone to play the unsuspecting runner. You'd have to put it on a cue pretty darn quick too or things could get out of hand.

As long as I'm linking to other people's blogs here's one of been meaning to add for a while: Wide Lawns & Narrow Minds It's not about anything in particular but the author is a great writer and she has some hilarious stories. Sometimes she has me roaring with laughter, other times her stories are melancholy but always well written and worth the time to read them. Today she talks about her trip to see Barak Obama speak. If you want a good laugh go to the April archives from this year and read about her Passover experiences. My family is also Jewish so maybe this hit a little closer to home than it will for most people but she had me in tears and I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt. Plus anyone who shares my disgust of gefilte fish can't be half bad.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mrs. Crankypants Runs the Bolder Boulder

Welcome to summer reruns. No, I didn't run the Bolder Boulder yesterday. This race report is from 2003. But eventually I want to get all of my pre-blog race reports cut and pasted into the blog so I can have them all in one place. This report originally appeared on an old defunct running forum.

For those unfamiliar, the Bolder Boulder is one of the biggest 10K (6.2 miles) road races in the U.S. I think there were 44,000 or so people in this race in 2003, not sure how many raced yesterday. For some people it's a highly competitive road race, for others who walk it it's a big street party. Competitiors dress up, there are bands and belly dancers lining the streets for most of the course. Anyway, here's my old race report to tide you over until I have time to write about more recent events.


I entered this race completely untrained and had no goals in mind other than running as best I could. Someone gave me a free entry form a few weeks ago so I thought what the hey. I've been running only 2-3 times per week-one long trail run on the weekend and 1 or 2 short lunch time runs, and the past 2 weekends were spent at dog agility competitions so even those trail runs weren't happening. This is my 6th Bolder Boulder, I run it every other year or so, and I'm sure it'll be my worst, at least time wise.

My pre-race tactics involve trying to arrive at the start line as close to my wave start as possible so that I can lessen my chances of hearing a Bruce Springsteen song and getting it stuck in my head for the entire race, as almost happened to me at the Chicago Marathon. I leave my house at 6:55 am, park the car at 7:00 and have a nice 10 minute warm up jog to the start line, arriving just in time to hear the last 30 secs. of 'Born to Run'. Aaaaaargh!!! I try to drown it out with just about every Ramones song I can think of and finally succeed. My wave leaves around 7:30, within seconds of its advertised start time, and the Boss is mercifully purged from my brain.

Soon just about everything else is purged from my brain as I try to keep up with my wave. My first mile is 9:50, yes I know it's slow for most of you but for me, well, I honestly can’t remember the last time I've run a mile this fast, it was at least before starting to train for the Chicago marathon last June. I feel like crap and I can't remember why I thought this would be fun. The second mile's a bit slower at 10:05. I pass an Elvis impersonator and I still have enough oxygen making it to my brain to slightly enjoy his crooning. By the third mile I'm feeling much better despite the course heading uphill. This is usually the hardest part for me but all that trail running must be paying off as I'm actually passing people and my mile split is a 'blazing' 9:25 despite the hills. My split at the halfway mark is 30:36 and this is the last split I can remember despite looking at my watch at all the mile markers. The rest of the race is just a blur. Through the haze I think I see my massage therapist in a line of belly dancers and maybe my dog sitter playing African drums. Unfortunately I have enough of my wits about me to recognize the theme from Rocky being blared from two different locations on the course. At least it's the original theme and not 'Eye of the Tiger'. Somewhere between miles 4 and 5 there are jokers passing out donuts and hot bacon. Somebody actually takes the bacon and I turn my head away so I can't see the horror of him eating it.

By the time I reach the final short but steep hill up to the stadium/finish line I'm trying to figure out if I can possibly break an hour but I'm just too out of it to do the math. I look up stupidly from my watch to find an elderly woman in front of me who's crapped her shorts and is wheezing and staggering alarmingly up the hill. Being the kind and thoughtful person that I am all I can think is that I really need to get as far away from Miss Crappypants as I can or I'm going to lose my breakfast. Thankfully someone with a firmer grasp of priorities (and probably less oxygen deprivation) tries talking the woman into stopping. I'm angry with myself for being so selfish but keep on going up the hill, hoping very hard that the lady takes his advice and seeks medical attention.

My finish time is 1:00:31, pretty slow but over a minute faster than my worst time 2 years ago so I don't even manage the PW I was aiming for. I thought it would be a lot uglier so I really can't complain and now that it's over I've decided it really was kind of fun.

After the race I met up with the Colorado contingent of the V-teamers, very cool to meet them all though with the noise of the stadium I was having a hard time hearing (too many loud concerts in my youth). I didn't hang around to watch the pro race, it would have been fun to see in person but I've seen it other years and I really just wanted to get home. I actually preferred it when the pros ran the same course thru the neighborhoods as the regular folk and they didn't have the teams but I watched it on tv and enjoyed it anyway. The worst part of the whole race was having to wait 50 minutes for the freakin' bus. I could have walked home quicker. Instead I waited & waited while some crazy old guy from Ireland who was touring America told me bad jokes. All in all a pretty fun day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pueblo Trial

I wish I would keep better notes during trials. Or at least notes period. By the end of the thing it's all a blur and I'm lucky if I can remember what we Q'ed in.

We've been having such a nice, unseasonably cool spring but of course as soon as it's an agility weekend the temps. climb freakishly high. Saturday was windy again, not as bad as the weekend before but it was hotter, into the 80's then 90's for Sunday. Poor dogs, they always seem to melt down during at least one standard run at this trial and true to form both of them did on Sunday. Both standard runs ended when they refused to lie down on the table, not even for a second or two so I could leave the ring with something to reward. They'd been doing so well with their tables up until last weekend. The heat and being outside makes such a difference. Cody had a nice standard run going on Saturday until the table, then got a refusal when he ran around it. I finally got him on and into a down, again fooling him into thinking I had treats then ran out of the ring to reward when he finally did it. Lola did manage a decent table on Saturday and picked up her very first masters standard Q. How we're going to get 4 more good tables with nothing else wrong is anyone's guess.

We managed to get a bunch of Q's we didn't need and none of the ones we did. Cody popped his weaves during Snooker so no Super Q for him. Lola did get a Snooker Q but already has her title. She was just got shut out of the Super Q's too and since I'd had the same plan for Cody he wouldn't have gotten it even if he'd done his weaves. Unfortunately the 7 was the weaves and there was no way I was going to ask him to do 4 sets of weaves in that heat on the very last run of the trial. I picked a fun flowing course and hoped for the best but it didn't pan out this time. Why are weaves so often the 7? We'll just have to hope for a better course next time, this one just wasn't strategic enough (only 3 reds).

Cody picked up 2 more gamblers legs that he doesn't need (both first places, go Cody man) and Lo who has only 1 got shut out. Both gambles were easy, the test was whether your dog could hit the A-frame contact at a distance. Lola missed both times plus she melted down so badly that she didn't even get enough opening points.

Cody again got a 5 fault Grand Prix Q and 4th place, Lola who still doesn't have her Q for Regionals got nothing. She was running nicely but had a refusal at the weaves due to a handling error on my part then missed her dogwalk down contact. After that I lost my concentration and I think we had an off course somewhere. She was running much better in general this weekend, heat aside, once I realized that I needed to keep moving and give her an excited 'let's go' every once in a while to keep her moving. We've been down this road before with me running her while not being able to move properly and it never goes well. At least she didn't get totally shut out this weekend, that standard run was really nice. She had a beautiful pairs run too, her partner went off course so no Q but so what, it felt good for her to have a nice run if only for half a course. I think once we get practicing and maybe some lessons with Joy things will be fine again.

Cody's dogwalks were terrible this weekend but I think he hit all his A-frames. Lola missed some dogwalks too, unusual for her I think. I think she got most of her A-frames except the ones in the gamble. I've got a month to sort out what to do about Cody and I've not got a plan. He's so old I don't want to do anything that requires a lot of reps. Maybe I'll sign up for one day of the ASCA trial since they allow training. Do the dogwalk over & over until he gets it right then run out of the ring to reward, that's all I can think of for now. Taking him out of the ring of a USDAA trial or otherwise marking it when he blows it is not an option with him.

My foot still hurts but I think I was moving better this weekend, at least by the end of the trial. The start of the trial is always worse for some reason. I don't have another trial for a month and I'm hoping by that time I'll be moving a bit better.

Stacy Peardot announced one of her rare workshops on Monday and I just happened to be checking the Colorado list at just the right time so I snagged a spot. It's just a half day masters handling workshop next month so hopefully that will be a nice tune-up before Regionals.

It was a fun trial despite the weather, a nice venue and well run. Was fun to meet fellow blogger 'Wishy' who had come up all the way from AZ for the trial. She gave me some good info. about Susan Garrett and I've decided to sign up for the dog training seminar as opposed to the agility handling. We'll see if I can pay attention for 2 whole days.

Now I get to spend the week playing catch up. Two weekends of no house or yard work, seriously, you don't even want to know what I found tonight but it involved bugs. Inside the house. There are some advantages to having a small house & yard though. I managed to mow the lawn and vacuum the house tonight in just under an hour or so. Let's hear it for compact living. Or maybe it's because my motto when it comes to cleaning is 'close enough'.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday Night Masters

I was out of town at an agility trial this past weekend and I'll get to writing about that but I wanted to get this masters workout down while it was still fresh in my mind. Yes, I dragged my butt to masters the day after a tiring trial and let me tell you I needed a sprint workout like Prince needs Viagra but I gutted it out. I was dragging a bit and fighting the wall of the pool in the end lane again and still struggling with breathing to my off side and had no one to swim with in my lane and wah wah wah so my times weren't great but I suppose could have been worse.

North Boulder Rec. Center
Coach: Jane

Warm Up:
4x125 free on 2:30-2:40
1x100 non-free on 2:30
4x125 free on 2:30-2:40
1x1:00 non-free on 2:30

(my intervals were supposed to be 2:30 for the first set, 2:20 for the second set but I couldn’t hold them. I was swimming the 125’s on 2:25 or so)

Main Set:
1x50 free on 1:00
1x25 free on :30
do twice

1x50 free on :55
1x25 free on :40
do twice

1x50 free on :55
1x25 choice on :50
do twice

1x50 free on :55
1x25 choice on :60
do twice

12x25 on :40

The 50’s and 12 25’s were meant to be fast sprints and the single 25’s were recovery. I did the first 50 on :44 then most of the rest were on :50 with a :48 once or twice. The 12 25’s were on :22 or so.

Final Set:
3x100 free (pull w/ buoy & hand paddles) on 1:45

I was tired for these, did them on 1:35-1:40.

Cool down:
50 yards back stroke

Total yards: 2400 yards

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Anyone out there ever been to a Susan Garrett seminar?

Susan Garrett is coming here the week before Regionals and she's doing a boatload of seminars. They're way expensive though, $100 a day just to audit the handling seminars. She's got a 2 day seminar over the weekend called 'Advances in Dog Training' that is billed as '...for anyone interested in learning how to improve your relationship with your dog and how dogs learn'. It's $270 for both days plus a nearly 2 hour drive each way for me plus maybe hotel room if I don't drive back Sat. night plus there goes my weekend plus it could be mega-crowded, over 90 people maybe. Then she's got 2 days of master handling seminars during the week, those are the ones that are $100 to audit plus gas again plus a day or two off work. One is called 'Greg Derrett's Double Box Foundation to understand the benefit of Greg's handling' (whew, what a mouthful). The other is 'Rear cross execution and driving lines'. Not sure I need help with rear crosses and I have no idea what 'driving lines' means. I have Greg Derrett's 'Shame about the handler' DVD where he goes through a bunch of double box drills as well as his latest DVD. Anybody familiar with any of this? Is the seminar much different than the DVD? Is the 'Advances in dog training' worth it? Do you have to be fully indoctrinated to her/Greg's handling system to get any benefit from the handling seminars? The working spots are long gone and I didn't even try for one in the lottery so I'd be auditing. You can email me at 'colliebrains at Juno dot com' if you want to respond privately.

On the one hand it's so expensive and a hassle and the week before Regionals (can you say Agility Burn Out?) but on the other hand it's not like she comes here every day and maybe it's a good opportunity to learn some stuff.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesday Night Masters

Tuesday, May 13, 2008
S. Boulder Rec. Center
Coach: Jane

Warm Up:
150 yards choice
6 x 75 free on 1:40/1:30 (longer interval is alternate breathing)
(my swim times were 1:20)
4 x 100 (75 non-free/25 kick) on 2:30? (can't remember interval)
50 yards kick

Main Set:
3 x 350 free on 7:10 (first 350 is with hand paddles, no buoy, others are no
(my swim times were 6:15, 6:20, 6:25)
4 x 100 free on 2:00 (swim times were 1:40, 1:45, 1:45, I only did 50 for the last
one because I thought we were only doing 3)

Final Set:
4 x 50 non-free on 1:20

2500 total yards

Photos from the weekend

Here's a link to some photos from the weekend. I love the look of total crazed madness on Cody's face on the dogwalk. That must have been the first run of the trial where he was running wild. And Lola looks like she's doing some freaky one legged yoga balance pose on the dogwalk. Most interesting is the photo of Lola coming out of the chute. I've been having a bad problem with her leaping up right before she exits the chute and sometimes getting tangled but in the photo she's coming out nice and straight. I did a little bit of chute work with her before I had surgery but not a whole lot. Hard to say why she's doing it properly there. I've been trying not to call her name for a turn while she's in the chute, maybe that's the difference but hard to say. More likely could be that the wind was blowing the chute open a bit so she could see the exit and didn't feel the need to leap to get out. I love agility photos, I wish I was made of money and could order them all in 8 1/2 x 11 and had a big wall to hang them all on.

Monday Night Masters

Warning to dog people, no dog stuff here, just swimming stuff.

I went back to masters swim practice some time ago, maybe a month? I was trying to go 3x a week but due to work and vet and doctor's appointments I've been back down to 2x for the past few weeks. I still can't push off the wall properly but I can push off a bit with the heel of my bad foot. This tweaks my back though so I can't do it with much power. I think I'm losing maybe a second or two every 25 yards, not too bad and I can keep up in the slowest lane. It's way more fun than swimming on my own.

I've been trying to stay dedicated to breathing to alternating sides which is probably effecting my times since I'm way more inefficient when I breathe to the left. I'm working on improving my stroke and the coach has given me some good pointers but it takes a while to break that old bad muscle memory and build up new muscle memory. I'm finally getting enough strength back in my arms that I can suppport decent form in my stroke. I still need more strength to get better but at least I can feel the faint hint of muscles in my arms & back. The other problem with alternate breathing is that you get less air and it's hard to keep up your pace. I was playing around with breathing twice to the right then once to the left then I saw this post about breathing two strokes left then 2 strokes right here. The big difference between me and this guy is that he is equally efficient breathing to his right and left as evidenced by his times so for me I would probably see increased times or at least not the great decrease in times that he got so it didn't initially occur to me to try this. However thinking about it my stroke will be much more balanced this way which is my ultimate goal plus I'll get twice the practice on the bad side. It's been a struggle for me and occasionally I'll cheat and breathe all to the right if I'm getting tired and trying to keep up in my lane at masters but I've been keeping up with it for about 80% or so of my workout and it's finally starting to feel better. I'm not confident enough to try yet in the open water but maybe by midsummer. Open water swimming started at the Rez this morning but it was freezing and sleeting outside and water temp. over the weekend was 58 degrees and uh no way, not even with my toasty wetsuit. I want to wait until the water temp. is at least in the lower 60's.

Anyway, I want to start posting my masters workouts more regularly, mostly so I can track my progress. I thought about keeping them private because this will bore the dog people to tears but maybe someone will find their way here looking for swim workouts and as long as I'm typing them up I may as well share them and the dog people can just ignore them.

Monday, May 12, 2008
North Boulder Rec. Center
Jane coach
All distances are in yards
All times are mins:secs
free means freestyle (front crawl)
non-free means backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly (I did all backstroke)

Warm Up:
(4)-150 free on 3:00 (I was late and missed the first 2)

Set #1:
4 x 25 non-free on 0:40
6 x 50 free on 1:00 (I was on 50-52 secs swim time/8-10 secs rest)
4 x 25 non-free on 0:45
6 x 50 free on alternating 0:55/1:00 (my swim time was around 51-52)
4 x 25 non-free on 0:45
6 x 50 free on 0:55 (swim time around 52-53, this time I left 5 secs after the
leader so I could draft a bit, all others I left 10 secs
behind and was not drafting)

Set #2
3 x 250 free on 5:00 (pull with buoy/paddles for first two, no equipment for the

I swam the first two on 4:15 or so then around 4:38 for the last.

Final Set:
100 kick

Cool down:
100 non-free

Total yardage: 2350 for me, 2650 if you don't miss out the two 150's at the start

I was swimming in the last lane up against the wall which seems to slow down my times due to the drag from the wall. I was swimming 50's on similar intervals on Thursday at S. Boulder (no wall) consistently on 0:50. I'd like to get this down to 0:45 in the next month or so.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Does This Jump Make My Butt Look Big?

Two jumps into my first run after a 2 month layoff I managed to bring down a jump standard plus wing with my big ol’ butt. At least I think that’s what happened. Cody took the first 2 jumps and went sailing of into the hinterlands rather than doing the nice tight wrap I was hoping for. In an attempt to bring him back to my general location I crashed into the jump while running the opposite direction from which I was looking which I think was backwards. This is not recommended standard agility practice. I’m pretty sure none of the fancy new fangled handling systems have this move. The run didn’t get any better from there. I’m pretty sure that this time we did have every single possible mistake you can have, including a knocked bar. Cody was running around crazy again and there’s not much I can do about him when he gets in that state. The good news is that was our worst run of the trial.

Next run up was master gamblers where he ran very nicely in the opening, hitting all contacts and listening to me perfectly, then showed off his crazy mad distance skilz and pulled off the gamble. Good enough for a Q, 1st place and his master gamblers title. Only 3 dogs in all of Performance Q’ed and Cody had the most points of all, plus I had done the dogwalk 3 times because I had sort of forgotten my course so time wise we could have had even more points but somethin’ happened that got me off my course or maybe Cody decided he wanted another shot on the dogwalk ‘cause he’s like that sometimes. Then he got another Q in Grand Prix. 5 faults for running past the weaves, an ongoing problem. It was an easy weave entry too, I think it was a stress issue because he was headed right for the poles until I said ‘weave’ then he took off for the hinterlands again. Did the same thing at Nationals plus took an off course jump on the way back. We’ve been practicing weaves nearly every morning, all kinds of crazy entries, distance, what have you. Oh well, another Q but fourth place won’t earn us a bye to the finals at Regionals. Yeah, o.k., you can laugh but Lola won 2 a couple of years ago so you never know. Those were all my classes for Saturday and I was glad. My foot hurt after my very first run and by the time I got home I was very happy to be able to put my foot up with an icepack and down some Vitamin I. I had my bike with me which proved to be a huge help but still it was a bit much on my foot. Today it feels fine but that could be the Ibuprofin talking.

Sunday looked promising for a Super Q for Cody. The course was perfect for him, all jumps & tunnels plus they ran Perf. first so it was nice & cool. I wussed out and opted for two 7’s and a 6 instead of three 7’s since the former option was a much nicer flowing course. In the end my strategizing didn’t matter because Cody decided the 4 provided an even more flowing course to the closing (he was right) then he came out of the #2 tunnel too wide and took an off course jump. The Super Q's went to teams that went for all 7's so we would have been out of it anyway. I need to go for it on courses with only 3 reds and just jumps/tunnels.

He redeemed himself in standard though with an almost excellent run good enough for a Q by the skin of our teeth and 2nd place. He refused to lie down on the table at first and I knew it would be a problem because he came onto the table facing the crowd. I guessed it might freak him out and I’m supposing it did. I finally got him to lie down by putting my hand in my pocket and pretending he was going to get a treat. He eventually laid down but he’d wasted a ton of time. We made course time by less than a second. Didn’t feel like it should have been a Q but then there are all those that feel like Q’s that you don’t get so oh well, we’ll take it. Those standard Q’s are tough to come by.

He now needs 1 Standard Q, 2 Pairs Q’s and those 3 dang Super Q’s for his Perf. ADCH. Anybody know of a trial with triple Snooker?

Poor Lola was completely shut out this weekend and it was all my fault. I couldn’t seem to get in sync with her and mishandled all her runs. Most disappointing was Grand Prix since it was a fast fun course, perfect for Lola and I cued a turn too soon pulling her off a jump and sending her off course I think. I wish I could give her Cody’s Grand Prix Q because so far she doesn’t have one to qualify for Regionals. One more chance to qualify locally next weekend then maybe one more in June if we decide to go to Utah. It’s funny, in 2006 she had something like 5 Grand Prix Q’s and 2 were first places. She hasn’t had one since 2006 though. She was out with injuries and I’ve been out but still. I’m going to practice with her this week to try to get my handling down with her, nearly all the errors were handling problems. Our only non-handling problem was the table. She refused to lie down on the table at first on Sat., I finally got her down and she popped up after 3 seconds then refused to lay back down. I tried but she looked so stressed I thought it was unkind to keep trying so we went on. Then Sunday she refused to lie down at all. Again, she was facing the big crowd of people & dogs and she was so freaked out. I tried laying her down next to the table which she did no problem then got her on the table in hopes she’d lay down so I could take her out and reward her but no luck. Finally I pulled her from the ring. I’d wasted so much time working on the table I didn’t feel right continuing on with the course plus I didn’t want her to think she could refuse to down then I’d let her go on.

There were some interesting weather challenges on Saturday with cloudy cold weather (way too cold for lucky paw print socks) and high winds that went on all day. At one point we had a little hail storm. Then there was the very loud mariachi band that started up during the Grand Prix. I prefer the cool cloudy weather to hot weather and I bundled up well enough that I can’t say I was ever that cold, and I’m always cold but plenty of people were complaining. The wind didn’t bother me that much but I think it grated on many people’s (and dog's) nerves, esp. after many hours of it. I think my problems were due to being to out of practice but I suppose I can’t discount the conditions. The courses were really nice, fast & flowing with challenging bits thrown in then more running. They’re normally the sort of courses that are perfect for my dogs but since my running was iffy they were a bit more challenging for me. I think part of the reason I had such a hard time with Lola was that for all but one run she ran second of my 2 dogs so I was tired and my foot hurt by the time her turn came around. I couldn’t quite keep up and be where I wanted to be, very frustrating for me. I can’t wait until my foot is properly healed. Still, overall it was fun and way better than moping on the couch. And boy am I glad I didn't sign up for that DOCNA trial in 2 weeks, there's no way I could handle all the running those courses have.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Got my lucky pawprint socks

But it will probably be too cold to wear them. It's supposed to be a high in the 50's tomorrow with 20-30 mph winds. I'll have to tape Lola's ears down so she doesn't get blown to Kansas. This cool weather is much better for my dogs than hot & sunny which is usually what we get at this trial so I'm not complaining.

I've also got a stylin' new shiny sparkly silver leash that I found in the clearance bin of the foo foo doggy boutique for half price. How could I pass it up? Strummer is forever chewing his way through leashes so I'm always cruising the bargain bins for them. I thought he had finally outgrown this habit but every once in a while he gets excited and can't help himself.

Will Cody get a much needed Super Q? Will Lola get that Grand Prix Q so she can play at Regionals? Will they lie down on the table without a fuss? Will I remember how to do agility? We'll see if the lucky pawprint socks do their job.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Are you gonna go my way?

I took Cody & Lola up to Powerpups in Windsor for a Fun Match on Sunday. Mostly I wanted to see how my foot would do running full courses and walking back & forth to the car to switch out dogs. The good news is my foot did great. Just look at me go in the video, I can run! I can run! I also wanted to see how the dogs' tables were doing and both did great, quick fast tables. Well, Cody got off the table early on his second run but it was likely because he'd thought I'd released him, not out of stress. Unfortunately that was about all that went well. Think of every possible mistake you can have in agility and we had it, all of them except one. Can you guess which one we escaped? No knocked bars. But we almost never have knocked bars. That will be Strummer's specialty. Missed contacts (up and down), teeter flyoffs (if I'd realized Cody had flown off so badly there's no way I would have continued on the course), off courses, run bys, refusals, startline stress, missed weave entries, popping out of the poles early (Cody Cody Cody), and general shenanigans (on her second run Lola decided that since the table earned such great treats, why follow me around the course, why not run straight to the table and the fabulous treats?). Cody was running around batshit crazy, I don't even know why, but he looked so happy and when your nearly 10 year old dog looks that happy running around like a crazy man it's hard to get upset about it. But still, where were the good dogs that ran so nicely for Sandy 2 weeks ago? I suppose the answer is that maybe my atrocious handling had something or 'nuther to do with it. It was a relatively easy course and I think Lola's first run was nice and possibly clean (of course I don't have that one on video) but somehow for the other runs I felt off and a bit out of control out there. Poor dogs, I'm so out of practice. But how pathetic is that? 2 months off and it's like I've completely forgotten what I'm doing.

I was pretty grumpy on the 50 minute drive home, took the scenic route to try to cheer me up. This practice was supposed to be a confidence booster for the trials coming up the next 2 weekends. Oh well, hopefully my brain will re-engage before the weekend. Not much I can do about it now. But the good news is I can run and that's the main thing. Crappy agility on a good foot is better than no agility and a crappy foot. Or something. My foot is still not healed. It's going to take another 4 months or so until it's completely healed but supposedly it's 80% of the way there according to the doc. I'm skeptical about that but for now I'm happy enough with where it's at. I'll have to be careful not to overdo it walking around. I'm going to take my bike so I can cut down on my walking and the P.T. said that sounded like a great idea so we'll see how that works. Obviously I'll still have to walk to warm-up/cool down the dogs and get them to & from the ring but hopefully I'll be able to manage that. I'm not getting my hopes too high for this weekend and honestly I'm thrilled just to be able to go and compete in whatever capacity I'm capable of at the moment. Sure beats sitting at home and moping on the couch.

I know where my stimulus check is going

I took all 3 dogs to the vet yesterday for heart worm tests, annual exams, vaccinations, 2 senior blood panels (Cody & Lola) and yikes that was a scary bill. I didn't even do all the vaccinations since Cody had a bad reaction last time so I skipped distemper/parvo/etc. and did just rabies and bordatella for Cody & Lola. I need to board them sometime this summer and it's required. Thankfully my vet is willing to overlook the distemper requirement if we board with her and she agreed the older dogs don't need that shot anyway. I got one for Strummer but since he's 3 that will probably be his last. Nobody better get sick or injured for the rest of the year.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Is there something in the air today?

It was funny reading posts this morning about clueless dog owners over at Agility Nerd and Dogliness as I had my own run in with idiocy this morning. Actually I have lots of run ins with idiocy because I swear Boulder is idiot dog owner capitol of the world. Rule number one of owning a dog in Boulder-whatever you or your dog does, you are never wrong, it's always the other guy's fault. Could be due to the high density of rich people with huge senses of overentitlement. Could also be due to the 'western' mentality of I can do whatever the hell I want and if you try to tell me otherwise you're a fascist. I'm always amazed when I go home to the Chicago burbs and people with dogs will go so far as to stop and step off the sidewalk to let me pass. Shocking!!!

I could go on for days about what I've encountered. My absolute favorite is the runner lady with the Golden Retriever. I had 2 of my dogs and she was running toward me with her huge, lunging Golden Retriever on a flexi. The trail was easily wide enough for 4 people to walk side by side but she refused to reel in her dog and it was lunging straight for us across the whole trail. I pulled off the trail and then some, put my dogs in a sit, dispensed treats for them sitting calmly and hoped for the best. Clueless lady did nothing to control her dog and it charged us, pulling so hard it pulled her over and she landed flat on her face. She dropped the flexi when she fell and it retracted toward the dog scaring the crap out of it and sending it fleeing down the trail with the flexi skittering behind. I fought back the urge to laugh and asked her if she was o.k. 'NO!', she replied in an angry and accusatory tone because like I said if you own a dog in Boulder it's never your fault. She so badly wanted to blame it on me and I'm sure in her head I was totally to blame. Well, sorry stupid angry lady but I've now lost all desire to help you. I waited to make sure she was able to get up and walk and then I went on my way, snickering under my breath.

I'm sorry if that sounds bad but usually I'm the one bearing the brunt of these types of encounters. I've had a dog need emergency surgery from a bite wound from a Chow that ran off my neighbor's property as we walked past on the sidewalk. I so wish we'd reported him to Animal Control because he still let the dog go unleashed. Strummer, who was on leash, got bit by an off leash dog on an Open Space trail. Did the owner stop, leash his dog and leave because clearly his huge white German Shepherd does not play nicely with others? Nope, he said 'Sorry' and kept right on going. That's the second rule of being a Boulder dog owner. All you have to do is say 'sorry' and you're relieved of all personal responsibility for whatever happened or may happen due to your negligence.

Like I said, I could go on for pages and pages but in the interest of not turning this into the bitchiest post ever here are some ways I've learned to deal. For off leash dogs that charge us I try to remain calm because if I get overemotional it only worries my dogs more. Usually I don't even bother yelling at the owner because I know they can't and/or won't do anything even if I tell them my dogs are unfriendly and the yelling only upsets my dogs. I'll deal directly with the oncoming dog, yelling 'No' or 'Ah' in a firm, loud voice. At the same time I'll try to get my dogs behind me and step toward the oncoming dog putting physical pressure on it to stay back. If there's a stick nearby I'll grab it and wave it in a threatening manner. If there are rocks I'll throw them, sometimes the dog go chasing after the rocks. If that doesn't work I'll aim for the dog. Sometimes I'll toss kibble in hopes the dog will chase the kibble. Sometimes the flying kibble startles them enough make them stop their charge. Usually if I step in to control the situation my own dogs will step down and let me deal with it. For a while things were so bad I was carrying Direct Stop but I never used it so I can't say whether it works or not. I kept dropping the canister and the nozzle finally broke so it's time to buy a new one but I keep forgetting and it's a nuisance to carry. One other thing I do is wear a waist pack and loop the belt of the pack through the handles of the dog's leads. That way I don't have to worry about them pulling the leash out of my hand (Lola did this once in pursuit of a squirrel or something) plus I have hands free for throwing things and wielding sticks or even just waving my arms if no sticks are available. Note, these are things that I do, some of them might not be a safe/wise choice in some situations with some dogs so proceed at your own risk (can you tell I work in a liability laden industry rife with lawyers hoping to sue my ass?).

Most of the time I don't deal with the owner until after the other dog is not in danger of harming or inciting my dogs. I'm a non-confrontational type person and if I'm out for a walk or run the last thing I'm looking for is a fight but I've taken to reading people the riot act because I don't want to lose trail access due to their idiocy/lack of respect and frankly after years and years of it my patience is short. I doubt my hassling makes them change their behavior but my hope is that they'll take it somewhere else so they don't run into that crazy bitch again.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Running Contacts and Stupid Gizmos

I'm not a big fan of training with lots of aids, targets & gizmos and I especially don't like spending money on expensive gadgets. However, I finally decided to break down and buy a remote treat dispensing machine called a 'Manners Minder'. These things are not cheap and it took a long while convincing myself it was worth the money. But I can see how it can be incredibly useful for working on the dogs' running contacts. I can stand at one end of the plank and do recalls and put the machine at the other end and do sends and get way more reps in a shorter amount of time. It will also be handy for training obstacle independence and distance work so I decided to take the plunge and fork over the cash.

It's a long & tedious story but it took me over a week to get the proper batteries. Finally I got the thing up & running and the stupid thing doesn't work. It mostly worked the first night but now a day or two later I push the button for the remote and treats come out maybe 20% of the time. Sometimes I push the button and it beeps/dispenses with a delay. It did a good job of training superstitious behavior in me as I tried to figure out how to get the remote to work but I'm afraid it's not very helpful for training the dogs. I've emailed the company and we'll see how good they are about replacing it. You're supposed to notify them of defective merchandise within 36 hours of receiving it but it took me over a week to be able to use the thing so we'll see if they make an exception.

For now I'm setting the dog up at one end of the plank and standing with some treats while facing the dog at the other end and calling. If they run the plank without leaping I click & treat. I'm following Sylvia Trkman's method for training a running dogwalk and she says at the beginning the dog's should be pretty much 100% successful because all they have to do is run on the plank. Of course, she’s never met Strummer who takes one stride on the plank then does a superdog leap over the rest of it. I don't think we'll be having any trouble with the broad jump. Lola isn't leaping but her stride is so darn huge that she gets one stride in then she’s naturally off the board. She thinks running on the plank is crazy fun though so I think she’ll enjoy the training. Today I tried standing close to the board and the pressure of me standing there forced her to shorten her stride enough that she was able to hit her forefeet fairly close to the end of the board. It’s just what I want but she had to slow herself a bit. I suppose it’ll take a bit of time and troubleshooting to get it just right. I’m going to start taping some sessions so I can see exactly what’s happening and make sure I’m rewarding what I think I am.

I’m not going to mess with Cody’s contacts for now. While his contacts aren’t perfect he’s got a fairly high success rate in USDAA (DOCNA, forget about it). I’m starting to do quick releases with him in practice where he’ll normally stop just so he doesn’t jam his shoulders. He won’t stop at trials most of the time anyway so it’s not like the quick releases in practice are going to ruin anything. My hope is that they’ll carry over into the ring but I’m not holding my breath.