Sunday, November 30, 2008

Crazy Dog Lady Fashions Presents...

I went a little crazy this weekend with the running dogwalk practice/video thing. On Saturday I decided to try Strummer out on the full dogwalk lowered to 2'. He had a great week in the yard with the 22" table, the reps went something like 20/21, 24/26, 30/30, 28/30 all with the treat gizmo for reward so I figured I wasn't pushing him hard enough and that the 24" table wouldn't be much of a challenge. I was so sure I'd have rave reviews of his first time on a full lowered dogwalk but I'm afraid the results were dismal. 1/9 hits (11%) (one was iffy and I didn't count it) and I rewarded 3 of those misses though one was the iffy one. Luckily my timing with my clicks was way off for the misses and good for the one hit but that's about the only positive thing to say about the training session. Well that and his speed. How awesome will his dogwalk be when I finally get it right? The clicks for the misses were probably late because I wasn't sure and decided to reward in the end. Jonny shot some video for me and I feel obliged to post it even though the results are not at all what I wanted. But it's important to document the bad stuff as well as the good. The best part of the video is the start where my snarky husband says, 'This video brought to you by Crazy Dog Lady Fashions'. Unfortunately this is a common dog outfit for me for winter and in fact it gets worse. I knew it was bad but I didn't realize it was quite that bad. It was snowing while I was taping so every once in a while there's a white streak on the video, couldn't do much about that.

Saturday's training session w/ the full lowered dogwalk:

Yesterday's performance was still bugging me today so I decided to run Strum back to the field to try some backchaining. I'm not sure if he was having problems because he still doesn't understand the concept of adjusting his stride to hit the yellow zone or if he understands but couldn't figure out how to control himself to do it. He's so fast and big strided, there's little room for error. Or maybe he simply didn't generalize the idea of the plank/table set-up at home to the dogwalk at the practice field. I've worked the plank/table set-up at the practice field but not all that often and not recently that I can remember. I put the table next to the up side of the down ramp so he had a way to get up on the dogwalk and I tried some reps. Then I gradually moved the table back so he would have more of a running start. The further back the table went, the worse his results. I made a big mistake of doing way too many reps. I should have stopped at 15, his success rate would have been 14/16 (89%). Instead I did a whopping 34 reps for a final tally of 21/34 (62%). The good news was that my timing with my clicks was much improved and I only rewarded one miss (by mistake of course). Toward the end of the session when he was starting from further back and having more misses I decided to move him closer so he could have some success and he did. I didn't have the patience to edit 7 minutes worth of training video so I included the reps at the beginning of the session and the end. It's mostly to document the process so I don't feel like I need every single rep recorded for posterity.

On a positive note, his weave entry training is coming along really well. I don't like to work him 2 days in a row on weaves but as we were leaving I couldn't resist doing just a few reps and he was perfect, getting entries that were plaguing him at the beginning of the week and flying through a set of 12 poles after a tunnel. Whee.

The other people that train at the field must think I'm crazy because I was leaving at 10 am with Cody & Lola when they arrived then returned again at around 12:30 just as they were leaving. I took Team Old School out there in the morning to do the weave and contact exercises that were set up. They did fairly well, no missed contacts at all (maybe some dogwalk ups, I wasn't paying attention to that) and I think only 1 or 2 missed weave entries per dog. It was cloudy and nice and cold-low 30's I'd guess-and the dogs were running wild. Fast, happy, excited hyperpants dogs, I love winter agility. I was overdressed in that puffy vest and sweating by the end of it. Now if only the serious snow will hold off for another few weeks so I can get that darn dogwalk perfected.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cody Baloney Mascarpone

A bummer of a Thanksgiving as our friend whom we normally celebrate the holiday with was in CA visiting his mom who had to be rushed to the hospital at the start of the week and likely will not live to see the end of the week. His wife flew out on Thanksgiving day to be with them. Not a happy time for them.

This left Jonny and me to fend for ourselves since the house was in no condition for last minute dinner guests. Of course this didn't stop Jonny from asking a friend inside who was walking the next door neighbor's dog at 8 am. I'm still in my jammies like a common Boulder trust funder. Do you know what usually goes down in this house on a workday before 8 am? I'll give you a hint, a lot. But there I am in a pair of pink fleece jammy bottoms with reindeer on them and an ancient sweatshirt, can't recall if I've brushed my hair yet, definitely haven't brushed my teeth yet and when was the last time I showered? The house is in an equal state of dishevelment and confusion and a bit fuzzy around the edges. Of course this friend has a beautiful perfect house in the mountains that looks like something out of a magazine with all fancy appliances and cabinets and floors and furniture not covered in dog hair even though she has a dog. And she always looks perfect too, perfect hair and fashionable clothes, never the crazy dog lady look even though she walks dogs for a living. Thankfully she is very nice and says, well, she would be in her jammies too if she didn't have to work. Jonny gives her coffee, good coffee, and where else is she going to get good coffee at 8 am on Thanksgiving morning so I think she's happy enough for that and never mind the dog fuzz and my frightful appearance.

It goes without saying that Jonny will do the cooking because he's an excellent cook and I can make frozen pizza. Usually. Last time I was cooking something, and by cooking I mean boiling up water for pasta and opening up a jar of pasta sauce, Jonny had to pop out to the store for a few minutes and leave me unattended at the stove, which I'm pretty sure is a violation of our home owner's insurance, and his final words to me were, 'Please don't set anything on fire.' But for some reason I can bake and baking's not Jonny's thing so I decide to make 'Chocolate Truffle Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone Topping'. Also known as 'Chocolate Crack Pie'. The fumes from the melting chocolate, butter and sugar mixture for the filling alone are enough to put you in a diabetic coma, never mind the evil topping. You don't want to know what's in the topping. You just eat it and never mind the sugar fits.

The other fun thing about this dessert is that it sounds fancy pants and snooty and difficult to make but it's so easy a monkey could do it. You can even make it while in your underwear, a pair of green smartwool hiking socks, clogs and a grubby sweatshirt while shaking your bumpy to Dag Nasty's 'All Ages Show' played at full volume. The other fun thing is that I get to use both the Cuisinart and the fancy electric stand mixer that my grandmother bought me. I'm still trying to figure out what the big hook attachment that came with the mixer is for. I use it for playing practical jokes on my husband but I suppose that's not the traditional use for it.

Now I'm not saying there were no victims here. Strummer ended up covered in graham cracker crumbs in the morning and later that night had a fair bit of mascarpone in his fuzz but we have plenty of spare dogs to clean him up. I also very nearly did start a fire but that was in the process of boiling water for tea and Jonny saved the day so all was good.

Not the most appetizing photo but you get the idea.

We had a nice Quorn roast (I can't tolerate soy all that well so no Tofurkey in our house) a green bean/brussels sprouts casserole, some stuffing, nothing too fancy or extreme. Neither of us are into making a big fuss, we'd rather spend the day off relaxing.

Friday we took a little trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike up to Lake Haiyaha. I was surprised to be greeted with 5" of snow on the trail at the very start. I figured we might find a dusting on the upper portions of the trail but didn't think we'd be sliding on snow and ice right from the get go. If only I'd thought to bring my Yax Trax. Still, it was a beautiful day, not too cold and no wind. It started out with gorgeous blue sunny skies and ended with a fairly good amount of snow falling. The trail starts out with a steepy steep climb up to Nymph Lake where you get a short break then it's back to huffing and puffing up to Dream Lake which is as far as most of the tourists go. Today we had to the lake to ourselves, a rarity. Then it's some more steep climbing through the woods the the trail opens up to some exposed areas that offer both a breathtaking view of the valley below and a steep drop-off from the narrow trail, especially harrowing when the narrow trail is snowy and icy. 2 1/4 miles or so later you end up at Lake Haiyaha where the wind is howling and the snow is whirling and you don't want to spend too much time taking photos or your hands will freeze solid.

This was the only place on the entire hike where I was cold.

Here's what Dream Lake looks like in summer. And here's what it looked like on Friday.

Do I look 'sporty' or 'crazy dog lady'? Could go either way if you ask me.

There were flecks of snow whirling around in the air even when the skies above were bright blue. It was like being in a snow globe. Then it started to snow for real, so beautiful. What a great way to work off the crack chocolate pie, which is gone as of Saturday afternoon. Anybody got a spare bottle of insulin?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Running Dogwalk, 11-22-2008

Finally had a chance to shoot some video. Light was terrible in my yard at that hour and I had to shoot from that weird angle or I'd be shooting into the sun but oh well. I started out the session as normal with the treat gizmo and he was 12 hits/13 reps, 92% (missed the 5th rep). Then I put the gizmo away and put his tug under the flower pot. I mixed in some reps where I had the toy on me. He was 8/9, 89% (missed the first rep, definitely overexcited) for the toy under flower pot and 6/6, 100% for the toy on me (32/34, 94% for the whole session). BUT he was looking at me for all but one of each type of toy rep. Of the reps where he was looking at me with the flower pot/tug for reward he was looking at me at the very end of the board for 7/7. Of the reps where he was looking at me and I had the toy on me he was looking at me as he was coming down the board for 4/5, looked at me at the end of the board for 1/5. None of this is terribly surprising but it's interesting to see it all broken down into numbers, at least for me. The moral of the story is that he's going to look at me if I use a toy. I imagine if I use the flower pot/toy more often he'll start looking ahead again but then I have the same problem of fading it away. One answer is to stop rewarding the hits unless he's looking/running forward. But I'm not sure I can bring myself to do it, it's taken me so long to get that hit at the bottom. On the other hand I fear we'll never progress if I don't up the ante a bit. The other option is to add a jump or tunnel after the plank and reward him after that and I like that option a lot better but the problem is that I have no more room in my yard, I can only do it out at the practice field. So I'm back to thinking that maybe I'll stick with the treat gizmo for 2 more weeks and wait until he's solid on the low dogwalk before I worry about proofing and fading the gizmo. At some point I'll have to work on proofing/fading in the yard too just to get enough reps in but I'll start out at the field where my options are more practical.

Here's the video. Feel free to 'tsk tsk' all you want at my late clicks, wow my timing was bad for some of those. I need to tape more often so I can keep tabs on any bad habits I'm getting into.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pure Mania

Had some more practice with the dogwalk plank this morning and I'll get to that but first can we discuss the chaos that these morning training sessions are turning into? This morning I came back from walking the dogs and tried to go in the yard to clean up before training and Strummer was so out of his mind excited about the prospect of training that he charged out the door from behind me knocking my legs out from under me and landing me on my ass. I must have had murder in my eyes because Jonny looked concerned and said 'Dont' hurt him'. Well of course I didn't hurt him but I was furious. Do you know how much we practice sitting at the door and waiting for a release word before you go out? He so knows better. But obviously not. I think Jonny is not sticking with the program and since Jonny was there at the door too he thought it was o.k. to charge out. Yeah, that's it, when in doubt blame the husband.

He had his training session and Lola was barking her head off but that's nothing new. Then I put him in the house and Lola was still barking her head off and rushing at the door so I told her I don't think so missy and gave Cody his turn since he was being a good quiet boy. And that's when the mayhem twins exploded into a hysterical barking fit at the window looking onto the yard. I've been letting Strum watch out the window as long as he's doing it quietly and he's been good for weeks now but Lola was mad and she pushed him over his threshold.

I went in the house to shut off all access to windows that open onto the backyard. I shut one bedroom door and leaned a gate up against the other one rather than shutting it because Strum's crate blocks the bedroom door so I have to move it which means the mountains of stuff on top of it go spilling onto the floor. I go back outside and within seconds I have mayhem again. Strum has said, 'phffbbtt, you have got to be kidding me' to the gate leaning against the bedroom door and Lola is at the back door bark screaming. Let's try it again. I say to heck with the mess, move the crate and shut the bedroom door and put the gate up against the doorway (no door to shut) leading to the mudroom so Lola can't get to the back door. I go outside and once again within seconds I have hysterical barking. This time I see a little black and white head at the other bedroom window and Lola is at the back door again. I go inside to see that Lola has jumped the gate and Strummer has busted through the bedroom door which doesn't shut properly. Sigh. I got up how extra early in the morning for this? I give up on Lola at the back door and move the gate to the other bedroom door that won't shut properly. Go outside. Sigh again. There's that little black & white head barking at the bedroom window. I swear I can see the devil horns sticking out of his head. I go inside and Strum has busted through both the gate and the door. I've run out of both patience and swear words. I don't want to crate him because I'm afraid he'll hurt himself. So I get another gate, one that will squeeze tight between the door frame, put up the second gate and shut the door. Finally this works. I'm pretty sure Susan Garrett doesn't have these problems at her house. I'm going back to being a cat person.

Training, yes, there was actual training before the mayhem ensued. I started off with the treat gizmo as per usual for about 6 reps. Strum got all but one, missing the 5th. This was the only miss for the whole session. Then I put the gizmo away and brought out a tug toy that he hasn't seen for awhile. I played with him for a bit then put the toy under a heavy terracotta flower pot located where the gizmo would normally be. He had solid hits for all the reps and was looking at me for maybe 2/6 reps. For the most part he was focusing ahead on the flower pot. I also mixed in some reps where I kept the toy on me and threw it for him for reward, still keeping the flower pot in it's place. Again I had maybe 2-3/6 reps of him looking at me instead of ahead. At least when he was looking at me it was at the very end of the plank instead of most of the way down which is what I've had in the past. I think the secret to having the toy on me is to throw it before he's too close to the end of the plank so he doesn't have a chance to think about looking at me. Of course I have to be careful with the timing so I make sure he's likely to have a hit before I throw. I'll try to get some video this weekend so I can get a better idea of what's going on in case I'm missing something.

This weekend I move the table up to 22". Getting close to being ready for a lowered regular dog walk.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Running Dogwalk Update

It's been a while since I posted any updates on Strummy's contact training. I've got some new video on the camera but who knows when I'll have time to upload it.

I raised the table up to 20" on Sunday and so far his training for the week looks like this:

Sunday - 19/20 hits, 95%

Monday - 19/20 hits, 95%

Tuesday - 19/20 hits, 95%

Wednesday - 17/20 hits, 85%

The misses occurred at varying reps though usually in the first 10 reps. Today's were #3, 4 and maybe 5 or 6.

My plan is to go to 22" then 24" then introduce him to the lowered dogwalk at the practice field which I think is 24".

My biggest dilemma at the moment is when/how to proof. This week's practice sessions were all the plank on the table with the treat gizmo for reward. I can stand still anywhere around the plank/table or run beside him, run past him, etc., body position/movement don't matter as long as the treat gizmo is there. If I take the treat gizmo away and use a toy for reward, he watches me all the way down the plank-NOT what I want. He's usually successful in that he hits front feet in the yellow but he sometimes comes off the side of the plank and I don't want his eyes on me the whole time. Some days the toy gets him amped way up and success rates go down. Other days he's fine with the toy. The one thing that seems to work is to leave the gizmo out but switch off rewarding with the gizmo and a toy thrown right where the gizmo is. He's completely obsessed with the gizmo now, I think watching the treats come out is more reinforcing than the actual treats (I'm only using his regular meal kibble for treats) and I do feel he's targeting/focusing on it too much. This was my main reservation with using the gizmo, I have to figure out how to fade it and when. Do I wait until I have really solid behavior on the full sized dog walk or do I start now that I have fairly solid behavior on the plank? I'd like to start him on the dogwalk next month and in a way I think he's ready but I don't know, maybe I should do more proofing on the plank first.

One thing's for sure, he loves the training. Crazy dog was foaming at the mouth at the end of his session this morning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Class #3

We survived yet another Monday night class, this time without a single hysterical fit. I won't say Strum was ever calm per se but at least no lunging or screaming. Now I had to manage him the whole class which is super fun let me tell you but at least he managed to control himself for the most part. I had a little angry barking from him when I tied him up to walk the courses but he stopped after a few seconds when he realized it wasn't getting him anything. I tried going over to him and rewarding when he was quiet but then he'd start up with the barking again when I left him and he didn't bark after the initial outburst so I decided I could live with a brief tantrum right when I left him and not worry about trying to teach him to shut up for now. I think he'll soon grow out of it (at least I hope so) and his fit doesn't last very long. The one mistake of the night was taking him outside for a break and playing reverse tug/fetch with him. This only got him more riled up and he seemed twice as jeeped when I brought him back inside. After that I took him outside for calming walk breaks rather than rousing play breaks.

He did great with the exercises except some of the weave pole stuff which was way over his head. This week I begged off of the weave stuff I knew he couldn't handle. He needs a boatload more training and I've got a whole plan worked out and it needs to be done away from class.

The exercises were from a Nancy Gyes seminar that my instructor Rob had just attended. We did them one way, then another. Thankfully Rob let us substitute and off-arm cue for an RFP and we had our choice of lead-outs, didn't have to do a lead-out pivot. The rest of the handling was all front crosses, no rears for some reason, probably not intentional, just the way it worked out. I had trouble with one exercise because there I was, running backwards on a front cross again. Rob pointed out that this was o.k. for a few steps but loses it's effectiveness when you do it for 3/4 the distance between 2 jumps and he was right. I had a terrible time working out the footwork on that one but had a bit of progress after trying it a few (zillion) times. The rest of the exercises and front crosses were mostly fine. Some turns were wide and Rob had me tighten them up but otherwise the Strum man did great. Only two bars down the whole night and at least one was likely a handling mistake. He might have been a bit wound up for that second one though.

One more class in this session but I'm going to sign up for the next session since I think these classes are helping Strum a lot. I also signed him up for a 4 hour seminar on handling/timing up at Stacy Peardot's place next month. Hopefully the little monkey brains will behave himself. Maybe I should start stocking up on Valium now.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Wait for it

Not just yet


Just a bit of Friday entertainment on my lunch hour. Carry on.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

USDAA Nationals Grand Prix Finals Course

The Grand Prix Finals from Nationals is set up out at my practice field so I decided to give it a go with the older dogs. I didn't think it was a super challenging course but I had the advantage of having watched the big guns run it on the live streaming so made a handling choice that I'm not sure I would have figured out on my own.

Unfortunately they've taken down the video from Nationals and I couldn't remember how they handled the opening. I was thinking most people had led out past Jump #2 but I couldn't get that strategy to work for either Cody or Lola. Maybe it'll work with Strummer, I'll try him out tomorrow if time/weather permit. Anybody remember how the opening was handled? I ended up leading out 3/4 of the way or so to Jump #2 then putting in a front cross between #2 and #3. Worked a treat for both my dogs but not sure that's the fastest way or if it would work for a super fast rocket dog in the finals at nationals. I kept the dog on my left through #7 then front crossed between #7 and #8. I think that was fairly straightforward and most people handled it that way in the finals.

I can see why a lot of dogs were missing that dogwalk contact, if you stayed back to work the contact you got behind at the chute and it was a push to the #10 double. Lola ran the course perfectly except for running past the #11 tire and I had to work to pull her in to the #12 jump before the A-frame but this is a Lola issue. Cody ran it no problem as did most of the dogs in the finals I think. The A-frame was where I cheated and stole a handling move from the video. I saw a few people putting in a blind cross after the A-frame, picking up the dog on the left hand and sending to the #14 jump. I don't think this would have occured to me and if it did I probably would have dismissed it and aimed for a front cross after the A-frame. But I gave the blind a shot with Lola and it worked great. I was able to get into position easily for a front cross between #16 and the #17 weaves and got a nice tight turn through the pinwheel and into the weaves. I put in another front cross between #19 and #20. Some people handled that section with the dog on their right coming off of the A-frame and rear crossed at #15. I didn't like this strategy but gave it a try with Cody to see what would happen. I ended up with wide turns through the pinwheel and couldn't get into position for the front before the weaves so I had to keep him on my left at the weaves. He missed the entry too. Then I had to rear cross the #18 jump and ended up with a wide loopy turn and almost an off course at the #2 jump. So I didn't like that strategy but there were people in the finals who pulled it off nicely. Could be that I had a bad feeling about it so wasn't as precise with my handling as I could have been.

A couple of other variations I remember-Stacy Peardot managed to get a front cross in between the #12 jump and the A-frame. I wish they still had the video up to see how she pulled that off because wow I don't think I could have done that especially without a good independent dogwalk contact. I also saw some people putting a front cross in between #18 and #19 and I liked that option but I think you needed to be able to leave the dog in the weaves and run way ahead to pull that off.

Was fun being able to try the course out after watching all the pro's run it. Of course I'm sure it wasn't set up exactly the same but, eh, close enough.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Strummer Rock Star

Strum was an awesome boy at his second ever group class last night, such a huge improvement over his first class. He made it a whole hour and 10 minutes without losing it then after his last turn he was a bit wound up and the next dog was a super fast BC and the noise of that dog flying through the tunnel was too much for him and he had his first fit of the night. This was the tail end of class though and he'd been so good up until then that I couldn't get too upset about it. He required a lot of treats and management but at least I was able to keep him occupied and under control, no screaming or barking or up on his hind legs lunging expcept for that one little fit at the end of the night. He had a few little lunges where he either stopped himself or I called his name and he snapped out of it before he got crazy.

He also rocked most of the exercises but this was because they happened to be stuff that played to his strengths and things I've been working on with Joy, in particular cues for front crosses and collecting for turns. We had a bit of trouble with the serpentines and it was an exercise I'd worked on with Joy before and had worked on on my own for homework over the summer. Strum was not collecting as he should and as we've practiced but this was a newish place with big time distractions and by the time we got to the serpentines it was the end of the night so he was a combination of fried and sky as kite. He got it in the end though I know if Joy had been there she'd have insisted on it being better and broken it down until he was collecting properly. Something for me to continue to work on at the practice field.

Only one bar down the whole night at class and not a single bar down at our practice session yesterday. I've not been doing jump drills either. I think he's finally settling down a bit and thinking more about what he's doing.

His weave poles are coming along nicely. I finally have him easily weaving 12 poles in practice and he's starting to understand how to collect for entries. He missed his weave entry in class though several times and in the end I had to guide him in with more assistance than I would have liked. In retrospect I should have let it go, I'd rather work on this away from class and not use my body language to help him find entries. I want independence in the weaves right from the start rather than having to fade my body cues later.

He was rock solid on his start line stays and never even thought about leaving me to join the dogs running a standard course in the big ring adjacent to our class. Overall lots of nice progress, hopefully he'll keep it up next week.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

DOCNA Champs Video-Day 2 and Finals

Finally got the rest of the DOCNA video uploaded. I know, you've all been watching the video from USDAA Nationals and here I come along with video of my vet dogs and amateurish handling. Oh well, at least my music is way better. Who's in charge of the music at USDAA Nationals anyway? Awful!!! Sorry, but it is appallingly bad. Subjecting an entire stadium full of people and who knows how many people on the web to Alphaville's 'Forever Young' at the end of the Veteran's Showcase was cruel and unusual punishment and wrong on so many levels. And don't even get me going about 'Luka', one of the worst songs ever and a terrible ear worm. Nothing says 'Congratulations on winning USDAA Nationals' like a horrid soppy ballad about child abuse. That gets stuck in your head for your long drive home.

Anyway, where was I now? Oh yes, my own videos. Course maps are here if you want to follow along. First up is the North American Challenge which is DOCNA's version of USDAA's Grand Prix. Lola's run was clean and went well except for the part where I got lost for a moment and nearly sent her up an off course A-frame. Cody's run is pure comedy. Or tragedy. Depends how you look at it. He starts off by popping out of the weaves at 10 then I over rotate my shoulders and send him into an off course tunnel. After that he's running wild, flying leap off the dogwalk, runs behind me to take an off course jump at the serpentine then completely bypasses the A-frame.

Next we have Day 2 Standard and Jumpers. Cody's Standard run is not bad aside from popping the weaves again and a few wide turns esp. on a turn after the A-frame. It's clean anyway and combined with his Day 1 run it's good enough for 2nd place and to get him into the Finals. Lola's run is both blurry (camera malfunction) and a bit problematic at the start. She's not at all happy with my handling of the tricky opening and has some words for me. Once I get her going though the rest of the run is nice and clean. No refusals in DOCNA and the vet course times are very generous.

Cody's Jumpers run is so nice except for a botched front cross at the start that somehow sends him over the wrong side of a jump. If not for that he would have made the Finals. Oh well, a nice run anyway. Lola's Jumpers run is clean but on the slow side. I barely got her off of the start line because she was freaking out over a dog in the practice area which was right next to the start line. Poor thing but she got over it and did the run though not with as much speed or confidence as I would have liked. Still, can't complain about a clean run especially when it looked like she wasn't going to run at all.

Oh and they made us wear those tie dyed shirts. Tie dye is not normally my thing and I thought I'd be horribly embarrassed having to wear it but the shirts were actually pretty nice and I've even worn it since of my own accord. In front of friends no less. They were shocked and teased me mercilessly but oh well, I gotta be me.

Finally here are the runs from Day 3 Finals. Lola's runs were both clean and very nice. Was thrilled to pieces with her. Cody took an off course yellow tunnel in Standard but otherwise was running with a happy enthusiasm that I could hardly be upset about.

Next DOCNA trial is in February with the same judge we had at Nationals which I'm very happy about, she was a great judge. Also should be Strummer's first 'real' trial if I can get his contacts down by then. Better stop typing and get back to training.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

New Day Rising

People in my normally comatose neighborhood are out in the streets cheering and lighting fireworks. Crazy man, crazy. Poor Lola is hiding in the bathroom like it's the 4th of July.

I'm cautiously optimistic that hopefully Obama can pull the country out of the crapper.

Strummer finds his brain

Strummer's Monday night class has been cancelled for the past 2 weeks since instructor Rob is at USDAA Nationals so I decided to take him to the course run-throughs at the same arena instead. He's only been to Boulder County Fairgrounds once for class and a couple of times when I took him to work on his manners during trials but he was whining his head off when we pulled into the parking lot so I figured I'd have my hands full again.

I left him in the car while I walked the course which was jumpers with jumps only, no tunnels to break things up. I chose the novice course which had only one change of side though there were some turns and pinwheels to keep things interesting. The club had set up contact equipment next to the ring in the area where we normally have class so people who weren't running the course could practice and I realized that Strum would come around a turn and be heading straight toward the practice area. Darn, I was hoping we'd be able to run without the distraction of other dogs doing agility (the sound of dogs running on contacts is the thing that sets him off the most) but I figured we'd give it a try anyway. It would be tough for him but I thought it was a challenge he could handle, especially if I kept him focused on me and the course.

With 10 dogs or so to go I took him behind the arena to a grassy, lit area where he could run around and play with me a bit to warm him up and run out some of his crazies. We did a few recalls and he came flying right to me though admittedly there weren't any distractions to speak of other than being in a new place. I have a spikey rubber ring that I toss to him then play tug when he brings it back to me so he can run and catch then focus back on me. I'm not a big fan of tug, hurts my arms/shoulders/back, hurts the dog's neck and teeth so I move toward him with a light pressure on the toy rather than trying to pull the toy away-reverse tug I guess. He has the fun and interaction of playing with me but with only a little bit of force on the toy.

Once I felt he was focused on me I took him into the arena, about 5 dogs and a height change left until his turn. He did great in the arena area, didn't even blink at the other dogs and not a single lunge or bark out of him the whole night at the dogs running in the ring. I never had to ask for his attention either. He got a boatload of treats for both calmly watching the dog in the ring and turning his attention to me. We worked on his tricks and some obedience stuff to keep him calm. I didn't use the toy at all inside before his run because I wanted him calm and focused. We did a few recalls to heel over the practice jump then it was time for his turn.

I couldn't recall if Strummer had ever run a full course before so I wasn't too concerned about making it all the way around in one shot but at the same time I wanted to give it a go since he has that NADAC trial coming up in just a month (yikes) and didn't plan a stop anywhere. The $7 entry fee buys you 90 seconds in the ring and I knew he would run around the course in maybe 20-25 seconds but I didn't want to do the course twice or keep him out there for too long so I decided to spend the time rewarding him for his startline so I led out a jump, came back to reward, led out 2 jumps, came back to reward. He seemed fine on the startline and held his stay for all the reps until I finally led out 2 1/2 jumps and released him. I surely need a solid startline stay on the little rocket launcher and I'm not sure how I would have handled the course if I couldn't lead out. Novice courses are hard with the big long line of jumps all in a row! A rear cross would have worked but leading out so I could get a front in worked much nicer and he had a nice smooth turn/cross. He came around the turn to face the contact practice area where other dogs were running, I called his name to keep his attention and he never gave it a second glance-woo hoo! Then he proceeded to run past a whole line of jumps in a row without taking them but I didn't care. I brought him back to the start of the line of jumps and he took them then completely missed out the pinwheel. I brought him around again and he finally finished the sequence, more or less, and we were outta there. He was so happy after his run, came running right up to me wagging his tail and waiting for his treats. What a good boy! I don't think we had any bars down either. He's been getting much better about that in general.

Overall I was thrilled, a huge improvement over his class 2 weeks ago, not a single lunge or bark or scream the whole night. He seemed perfectly comfortable around all the other dogs too, didn't seem the least bit interested in them or worried by them. That's taken a lot of work as well, I haven't written about it due to lack of time but I've had some great people helping me in part with the help of their well socialized dogs. He'll make it around a course eventually, that part will be easy and will come soon enough. Novice is not so easy, trying to keep up with a rocket dog on those big long runs of jumps and we've been working on mostly more technical, masters type stuff.

Class is back on next Monday, hopefully Strum will keep tabs on his brain until then.