Friday, December 30, 2016


Nothing like some good running dogwalk OCD to distract you from the horrors of the world.  It feels worse this time around because I know what I'm in for and what to watch for and how many ways it can all go so wrong.

For months I've been ambivalent about dog training, my brain and body focused on Xterra Nat's. and then Worlds and Ruby being such a Good Girl and not needing tons of training or Something To Do.  Now suddenly I find myself entrenched in it, madly reviewing all my videos for all the things.  Why does agility have to have so many things?  And why do so many of those things have to be so big and expensive and they don't fit in my yard?

And the Running Dogwalk.  Such a simple thing and yet so complimacated.  Right now we've had exactly two sessions of running on a piece of astro-turf, so simple.  Two sessions I used a treat gizmo, the other a Lotus Ball.  Silvia's method uses a thrown toy but I never liked that idea for Strummer because of terrible worry over torn ACLs in crazy dogs chasing toys and slamming on the brakes and forever trashing knees.  So for most of his training I used a remote control treat dispenser gizmo.  At some points throughout his training I would use thrown toys but at the start it was all about the treat gizmo.  But Silvia advises that you use a thrown toy and one that is still moving when they catch up to it because a stationary toy will encourage pouncing which will encourage leaping.  Ruby is not Strummer and I'm not too worried about her slamming on the brakes but she does have bionic rear knees from knee surgery so I'm keeping a close eye on her with the toys and running and slamming on brakes.

I shot video of all 3 sessions and so far I'm much happier with the treat gizmo.  This is partly because I suck at throwing and the Lotus Ball isn't like a real ball so it stops before she gets to it anyway.  I tried a couple reps of waiting to throw it until she started running but those throws were some of the worst in terms of my aim and I sent her right off the mat.  I've been working on her tunnel skills so hopefully I can set up a tunnel after the mat soon so she has something to drive to before her reward.  But we need some more work before the tunnel is rewarding enough.  For the first time today she went through the tunnel without being cued and she seems to enjoy it so I think we're well on the way.

First Session (3 days ago) (treat gizmo placed too close to the mat so she never got a lot of speed up)

Second Session (yesterday)

Third Session (today)

Perhaps I've been looking at the videos for far too long but it looks to me like she's leaping on the second and third sessions, more so on the third session with the ball and perhaps it's to do with my throwing and timing.  In most reps. the ball is stationary by the time she gets to it.  It seems impossible that such a little dog built as she is could be leaping.  Will have to take another look at the Silvia Running Contact DVD.  Or maybe I'm overthinking all of this.  You think?

I've also been working on the tunnel and running through the channel weaves to the treat gizmo.  She's happily running through the channel now as long as she's facing the entry straight on.  As soon as I try to angle her entry she goes straight for the treat gizmo and ignores the weave poles.  Going to try some 2x2 training for entries or at least to teach her to look for the poles.  Wish my weave poles opened wider than a foot but oh well.

Still working on Cik/Cap and jump training.  She's finally offering to jump and mostly has decent control of her rear/doesn't swing too wide.  Well maybe on a rep or two but mostly she's pretty good.  Time to move onto the next step.

Ruby Jumps

Haven't done anything about the teeter yet.  I'm borrowing a teeter training video by Jen Pinder from my agility club library, should get it next week.  In the meantime I've been shaping Ruby to walk along a plank, play on it, 2 on 2 off, etc. so she's comfortable on a plank in general.  She seems fine with it so far.  I had a handmade wobble board for Lola but turned it into a table and now I doubt it'll wobble due to the table edges.  Guess I could make another one but I'm feeling lazy and I never felt like it helped Lola all that much in terms of the teeter.  We'll see what the video suggests.

I've got Ruby entered in a seminar in February.  One is Contact Foundations and I'm sure she'll be fine for that but the other sounds like there will be sequences even though it's a Foundations class so we'll see how that goes.  We can always sit out the stuff that's over her head and at least I'll have some ideas of stuff to work on in the future.  But sheesh, nothing like the pressure of a seminar to get your training butt in gear.  Think I'll even try to get her out to the training field in the next few days to see how she does outside the backyard.  Yep, nothing like silly hobbies to distract you from the woes of the world, at least for a few moments.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Happy 16th Birthday to Lola

Happy Birthday to my bestest girl.

I picked up a salmon cake at PC's when I got Ruby's booties.  Lo shared a bit of cake with Ruby but she gobbled it down too quickly to get a photo.  Haven't been working very hard on 'stay'.

Mentally she's still pretty feisty.  Physically she's struggling, especially the last 2 days with the snow and bitter cold.  Hopefully she'll do better today with the warm-up, supposed to go up to the mid-40's today and sunny.  She has periods of anxiety as well, especially at dusk, that old dog sundowners thing.  Like all of you with old dogs we wonder daily about what's the best thing for her but for now she lives to have birthday cake and we do the best we can for her and live in hope that she'll make the decision for herself about when she's ready to go.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Ruby's New Shoes and Cik Cap Training

It's that time of year, snow plus single digits equals sore dog feet.  Obviously Ruby doesn't fit in the big dogs' hand me downs so I had to take her shoe shopping.  It's been about 10 years or so since I bought dog booties and while Ruff Wear still exists they no longer make the booties that worked so well for Strummer and Cody.  All the styles I found online had a hard, vibram type sole that I think is a bad idea for dog feet since they can't move and flex their feet normally.  Sort of like minimalist shoes vs big Hoka type mega cushioned/stability shoes for humans.  So I headed over to P.C.'s Pantry, one of Boulder's locally owned high quality dog and cat supply stores.  P.C.'s is great for getting good stuffs for dogs but it can be quite the 'scene' in there with crazy Boulderites and their dogs.  I didn't get there early enough so the place was hopping with crazy dog people and their dogs.  Poor Ruby, she's such a good sport but she did not want to try on shoes and especially did not appreciate the zillions of 'friendly' dogs trying to get in her face while she was getting stupid shoes shoved on her feet.  I did my best to shield her and give her space and I did end up clocking a 7 month old Bernese Mountain Dog in his thick skull with my my elbow to keep him away.  Actually I lifted my elbow to keep him from charging at her and he ran into me and he smacked his thick skull into my elbow.  The owner mumbled an apology and moved on.  The nice ladies behind the counter gave Ruby plenty of snugs and delicious doggie cookies from the bakery while we waited to be rung up so it wasn't a total horror show experience for her.  Pretty sure I came out of the place with a few new grey hairs though.

We've tested her new booties twice so far, once was a dry run on a short old dog walk on a cold morning with no snow and only the front booties on.  Then we went out yesterday in the 6" of new snow and 11 degrees cold with all booties on.  She was not happy about any of it but I needed to get some poop out of her since she seemed unwilling to go in the backyard and I figured if I took her for a short walk she'd oblige.

The booties?  A brand called Ultra Paws and so far they get the thumbs up.  We were only out for about 10-15 minutes and only 1 block was in the deep snow, everywhere else was plowed so I don't have a lot of experience with them.  But they stayed on and kept the snow out for a short, utilitarian type walk.  Actually it was more of a run because Ruby was so cold and she pulled mightily so I ran, clomping behind her in my big old school Sorels.  Funny, I bought my Sorels in the 90's at a heavy clearance discount from the army navy store in Boulder when they were falling out of fashion and now they're all the rage again and cost 3x what I paid.

Rockin' it Old School

Ruby's New Shoes

They have a unique feature that I've never seen in dog boots and it's 2 pieces of foam at the top.  The foam serves the dual purpose of keeping the booties on and keeping the snow out as you can see from the photos.  This design also allows the top part of the bootie to be split so that you don't have to force the paw into the bootie through a lot of material so they're much easier to get on and off than other booties I've had.  I particularly dislike booties with elastic cuffs at the top even though the cuff helps keep the snow out because they're so hard to get on.

Ruby's feet were dry though this design does hold the snow/iceball next to her leg.  Her feet were cold to the touch but not as cold as other days when I've had her out with no booties in milder weather.

As long as I'm yammering on about dog shoes I'll also give a shout out to Pawz rubber booties.  I've been using these for Lola because she has that old dog neurological disease where she flips her feet over and can't feel them to flip them back.  Her feet were getting cut and bloody and dirty on walks as she'd scuff her feet against the pavement.  For a few months I wrapped her feet in vet wrap but this got spendy and was a pain to do each time we went out.  Also it didn't always work and often the tape would come off.  These booties work great and would also be great for those days when the ground is covered with salt and de-icer.  Not sure if they would keep paws warm enough on bitter cold days but for basic protection they're pretty handy and easy to get on and off.  They're also pretty durable for disposable booties, Lola's still on her first pair and we've been using them twice a day for about a month now.

On a completely unrelated note I was inspired to shoot some video yesterday of Ruby's Cik Cap training.  For those unfamiliar with Silvia Trkman's techniques, cik means a tight wrap around the jump to the left, cap means a tight wrap to the right.  I've been practicing both shaping and luring this with Ruby around a small cone (we started off luring because this was a rehab exercise for her and no way she was going to offer the behavior and I needed her to do it right away).  This is her first session with my brand new fancy pants jump wing.

I'm pleased with her enthusiasm and the fact that she never stalled out and sat down.  But my reward placement is crappy.  It was hard to maneuver around that big jump wing.  Something to work on.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Ruby Random Bits

Finally caught up with posts about travel.  No more trips planned, happy to be done with travel.  Plenty to keep me busy right here.

Started back up with Miss Ruby's training.  No video yet, I've been too lazy to set up the camera.  For weave training I've got my channel weaves set up with the remote controlled treat gizmo at one end and me with a bag of treats and clicker on the other end.  I had to put a plank up next to the poles at first to stop her running out of the channel.  Unfortunately I can only get my poles about 1' apart so the channel is very narrow to start.  I was following Silvia Trkman's method which has you use all 12 poles right from the start so it was a long narrow channel for such a wee dog and she seemed very confused.  So at first I stood in the channel with her just a few poles from the treat gizmo and quickly moved back.  After a few days she seemed to get the hang of it so I moved the plank then a day or two later started introducing angled entries.  And she immediately started running outside the channel again.  Back to straight entries and last session she stopped running through the channel altogether.  I'd restrain her, say 'go' and release her and she'd just stand there.  I think my next move will be to go to 6 poles, that big long channel seems a challenge for her.  Think I may try some 2x2 shaping as well using Mary Ellen Barry's method.  I can also pony up the money for channel weaves that go wider apart.  At some point I'll need new weaves anyway because my current ones have the old 21" spacing.  This is o.k. for a little dog just learning but when I get a bigger dog, and at some point I will get another border collie or mix thereof, I'll need 24" spacing.  But for now I'm waiting to see if I can find a used set or a good deal somewhere, no hurry.

For tunnel training I'm using an old nylon chute barrel.  I bought this chute from Clean Run ages ago for Lola and when it came I realized right away it was way too long.  I intended to cut it and have someone sew the ends rather than return it but never got around to it and forgot all about it.  I dug it out of hiding thinking it was my small play tunnel and discovered this monstrosity.

And of course now we don't even have the chute anymore so I cut off the fabric, gave it to a friend who will re-purpose it and now I have a little mini training tunnel perfect for Ruby.

I started out using a Lotus Ball to reward her running through but again she would sometimes run around the tunnel even though it's so short.  And after each rep I'd have to wait for her to run away with the ball, open it up and eat the treats.  So I switched over to the treat gizmo and now after a couple few weeks she's finally running through consistently.

Jump training is also proving challenging.  I'm using Linda Mecklenberg's method and we're still at stage one, just getting her to want to offer to jump.  She'll sometimes run the long way around behind me to try to get the treat or dive her head under the bar.  Not sure if jumping is physically difficult for her or she doesn't understand.  She's still getting the hang of offering behavior though is much better with it than she was at the start of the summer.  Still kind of sticky though.  Shaping has never been a strength for me.  I figure she's a great challenge though, best to work on my rusty skills with Ruby before I get a young dog or puppy.  I think I need to learn more patience.  I get fed up waiting for her to offer behavior so I'll either give up or make things easier or start luring her just so she'll do something.  So progress has been slow.  I've got the jump set at 12", she measures roughly 13 1/2" so she'd jump 12" in all the venues except USDAA where she'd have to jump 14"  Would almost certainly put her in Performance.  If we even compete.

Tight turns around a cone are moving along.  She's finally doing a full circle, still working on getting multiple wraps and sometimes she'll go back to sitting down and offering nothing.  She's enthusiastic about training in general, gets super excited when I gather up the training stuff to head outside and has started offering behavior more often but is still a newbie and learning about learning.

I bought a couple of winged jumps from Clean Run during their Black Friday sale but of course we got about 5-6" of snow last night and it's freezing today so no practice for a while.

It's 10 degrees and you want me to go out?

No thanks.

We did get a run in yesterday before the storm.  No I didn't plan this and yes it was as embarrassing as it looks.

I also took her to Boulder County Fairgrounds to a DOCNA trial over the weekend.  We went both days for a bit, hung out in the bleachers on Saturday and stood ringside on Sunday, saw some of her friends including her Auntie Joy who was happy to see her and get an update.  She did great, such a novel experience for me to have a dog that sits quietly in my lap in the stands and can hang out ringside without losing her mind.  Being on the trial grounds was clearly not an issue for her.  Not sure what she'd do in the ring but we're a LONG way from thinking about that.  For now it's all about the basics and as long as she stays happy and enthusiastic about training we'll keep up with it.  Now to wait for the snow to melt.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Adventures in Trumpland

The morning after the election I woke up bright and early so I could get the dogs out before hitting the road for Trumpland, ie rural Colorado.  Because Colorado may be blue now (it was purple when I moved here in 1990) but once you get about an hour or so west of Denver on US285 you start seeing the Trump signs.  And if you unwittingly stop in the mountain town of Bailey because the internets told you there was a coffee shop there and you were expecting a breve latte at said 'coffee shop' you'll be sorely disappointed.  In fact if you even try asking for a latte they'll look at you like you just pulled down your pants and took a big dump in the middle of the grubby cafe.  And you get to wait 25 minutes for a simple cheese, egg, potato breakfast burrito while an old guy with a long grey beard and a limp is positively giddy about the election.  'His first 100 days in office he's going to get rid of Obamacare and lower taxes and fix the economy'.  And if you're me you don't know if you should burst out laughing or crying.  Because you're not sure how a racist, misogynistic, ignorant, bellowing orangutan stuffing the White House full of white supremacists and Goldman Sachs vampires is going to be good for anybody except racist misogynist billionaires  but you're already hoping no bodily fluids end up in your breakfast burrito because of the snooty coffee request so I kept my mouth shut.

Anyway, I was on my way to Cortez/Mancos/Dolores to meet a realtor and look at houses mostly because Jonny and I had had our eyes on this little ranch that came on the market, went under contract, came back on the market, went back under contract and we made a deal that if it came back on the market a third time it was fate and we had to go see it. And it came back on the market so off I went.  On my lonesome because we still have Lola and she still can't travel.  So I packed up the GoPro and camera and braved the 7 hour journey to Trumpland.  Because for the last 6 of the 7 hours I didn't see a single Hilary sign.  Though to be fair I didn't see asstons of Trump signs either but they were the only signs I saw.  At one point I saw a small Hillary sticker on a lamp post in Mancos and I though maybe there was a glimmer of hope but it turned out it actually said, 'Jail Hillary'.  Not that I'm a Hillary fan but I'm for sure a not-racist, misogynist, fascist bellowing sex offender orangutan fan.  Between a rock and an impossible to even contemplate place.

But that area, it's so beautiful.  I left super early Wednesday morning so I could get to Phil's World in time to meet a friend who'd just closed on a place in Cortez right before we met.  We only had time for a 1 1/4 hour ride before dusk but it was magic.

Then I went to see his new house and then went for Indian food and by the time I'd driven back to the motel in Mancos and talked to Jonny I was too tired for anything else so I missed all the Not Fun Election stuff on Facebook and everywhere else for that matter.  The next two days were solidly full of looking at houses and hiking and more biking and then another full day of driving to get home and I know you're probably thinking how can I enjoy myself during all the horrorshow  of End of Days and all and you're sort of right.  Except here's the thing.  We can't go around in a state of fear with the expectation that the sky is falling because then that's exactly what will happen.  The fear puts us in a sort of hypnosis and all the bad suggestions of the internets panic of End of Days get in and we accept that racism, fascism, bigotry, sexism, white supremacists in the White House is now the new normal.  And we can't let that happen.  We have to be strong and adopt the attitude that No This Bullshit Will Not Stand.  There have already been post-election racist and anti-LGBT attacks in Denver and we can't let this happen, we can't let this become the new normal, we can't accept that this is normal.  We have to have each others' backs.  Zero tolerance of this bullshit.  Or next thing we know Trump is firing up the ovens and I don't really care how alarmist that sounds because we should be alarmed.  But not wallowing in fear and sadness alarmed.  Strong and thinking What Are We Gonna Do Now alarmed.  And heck yeah I'm gonna ride my bike in the woods because that's when I do my best thinking.  And if it comes to it and the world is going down in flames, well, I may as well enjoy what's left of it.

Phew.  So the ranch we had our eye on was not as perfect in person which happens more often than not in real estate.  The land was too sloping and the house was smaller than advertised and not laid out all that great.  Plus a west facing exposure meant no morning sun when you want it and hot blasting afternoon sun when you don't.  I saw a bunch more houses, maybe a dozen or so in all, and only 2 were reasonable possibilities and only one of those was practical.  The other was a super nice house but 5 minutes on a hilly dirt road to get down to the main road which doesn't sound that bad but was a bit more excitement than what we're looking for.  Plus the house was super fancy, way more fancy than we need.  Paying for fancy is not a good value because after a month or two you don't notice the fancy but you do notice the drive down the hilly dirt road, especially in the winter.  The other house was a great location and perfect size house in good condition but not super fancy or expensive.  Land was sloping though and I'd like some flat land for an agility/dog yard.  Wasn't so sloping though that I couldn't maybe pay to have some of it leveled and the house was cheap enough.  But a long driveway and something I hadn't thought about rural living is the cost of maintaining private dirt roads.  I'd done the math on the snow removal but hadn't thought about the expense and hassle of general maintenance.  It's on the 'maybe' list anyway.  We're in no hurry, trying to move several mountain passes away in the winter is not a good plan.  But maybe by spring the right house comes up and Google opens their Boulder office so we sell our house quickly and hopefully the Goldman Sachs vampires haven't totally pillaged what's left of the economy by then.

After looking at houses on Thursday I had some daylight left and the realtor suggested the Chicken Creek Cross Country Ski Area for a hike.  It didn't disappoint.  Though I didn't have a trail map and there were so many trails branching off of trails that I got a bit turned around but I found my way out before dark.

On Friday the realtor couldn't meet until the afternoon so I took advantage of the time to myself and rode Bean Canyon up in the Boggy Draw trail system outside of Dolores.  I was out there 2 1/2 hours or so and saw 2 women riding with a dog.  That was it.  When I got back to the parking lot there were a couple of guys unloading their bikes but they were going on a different trail.  They'd come all the way down from Telluride to ride at Boggy Draw, maybe 1 1/2 hour drive or so.  It was beautiful, even in shoulder season.

On the way home I stopped at a friend's place outside of Durango.  She had come down with me on my trip last Jan. and when she and her husband went back a couple months later they bought a house.  It was a fixer upper and they were still in the throes of fixing it up.  They'd had to re-do the septic too and had drainage issues with the land sloping towards the house.  It all looked a bit overwhelming.  I'm hoping we don't end up with those types of issues but who knows.  It'll be an adventure anyway.