Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Video Update!

As you can see, I am quite clearly starving Secret. This is her mealtime routine -- she feels that she must try to lick a hole through the bottom of the dish so as not to miss any scrap of food she's given. I must say, though, that her dish really never needs to be cleaned. :o)

Time for a video training update!! The first section shows how nicely her rear cross is coming along (although we did struggle to get the jump after when going from left to right). This part of the video was all using her Wubba as reward -- she loves her Wubba!

Unfortunately, the corrections I was making while trying to get the far jump ended up shutting her down. Bad trainer -- I should have moved the jump closer and made it easier!

The rest of the video was done with food (cheese), but that is to be expected with her contact work at this point.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Aaaaaaaaand.... SHE'S OFF!

I have seen big changes in Secret this week! She is starting to really like our little jump drills that we do in the evening with toys. As in, REALLY like!

First great change -- We are ONLY using toys right now! Granted, it's all jump & tunnel work and these aren't connected to treats the way the contacts are, but it's a huge step in the right direction. She adores her purple Kong Wubba. So much so that I fear she will kill the squeaky soon, in which case I will simply have to replace it. She finds it great fun to chase, chew AND tug!!

The other big change is the SPEED! She's taking off like a shot and going confidently ahead of me and *nailing* her rear crosses. Which is a good thing, because if she keeps up with that I'll have no other choice but rear crosses. lol

I know it's technically *naughty*, but I saw a side of her that thrilled me to no end last night. Secret completely blew off my turn cue and kept flying down a line of jumps before checking in with me. Yeah, yeah, not great, but I am so excited to see that kind of enthusiasm from her! We can work on turning later! :o)

Disc work is still going well, but she still has much more enthusiasm for the rollers than the fliers. I just switch back and forth between rollers, short tosses & long tosses to keep her enthusiasm up.

I had all three dogs outside while I played fetch with Luke last night. I had three tennis balls out, just in case Kaiser or Secret felt like playing, but I don't push them to do it if they don't want.

Well imagine my surprise when, after watching Luke for a bit, Secret brought a ball over and dropped it at my feet. I threw it with the Chuck-It and I'll be damned if we didn't repeat the routine several more times! This is my girl who has never really ever cared to bring back tennis balls. She did lay down to chew on it a couple of times, but always decided to bring it over to me for another throw after a bit. She'd already done her work for the night, but this was a nice way to make sure she was extra done for the evening (which didn't necessarily work, she was still a little nutty).

Some nights it takes longer for her to settle than others, but I've found that she really enjoys the activity below. :o)

Monday, June 21, 2010

So I've got a Chair Dog

Secret did really well at the trial this weekend. There is one woman that she just never seems to warm up to, but other than that she did really well with everyone she saw. She even made a new friend with Marcia's dog, Krissy, while on a potty break outside. We won't tell Kaiser, as Krissy has always been HIS girlfriend. ;o) I find it interesting to note that Secret seems to be more comfortable with female dogs.

Secret got to work the gate with me a few times, but overall she spent quite a bit of time in her crate this weekend. Ever the trooper, she didn't seem to mind it a bit. There was just the one time when I got up from spending time with her and asked her to go back into her crate and she decided that she'd rather take my spot in the chair. She settled right in and all I could do was laugh. She knows where the good spots are.

We got some super nice short jump drills in after the trial each day. Secret's speed & confidence improves each day and her rear crosses are really becoming solid. I'm starting to move further away from the obstacles and sometimes her lack of obstacle focus creeps in (she's usually looking for the toy in my hand at those points), but for now I just keep running and we pick up the next obstacle. She's doing better with her long lines and didn't go around any of the jumps, so that's a bonus (especially considering how narrow some of my jumps are!).

Yesterday I included I tunnel in the set-up and was happy to see how fast she's starting to rip-roar through that! I was hoping to maybe have a chance to play with her on the Tunnelers course after the trial yesterday, but I decided to pass. I don't feel like I have any clout there anymore.... It would be nice to work her in new settings, though, so I'll have to come up with ideas as the summer goes on.

Because Secret had to spend most of her day in the kennel at the trial, I decided to bring her along to my parent's house for the family get-together for Father's Day. It was a good setting for her, with fewer people than usual and fewer children running around. She was incredibly tired, which made her a bit more shy than usual, but overall she did well. She wouldn't warm up to my aunt JoLynn for some reason, but she was curiously interested in pretty much everyone else. I think Secret has trust issues with anyone who approaches her with squeaky baby-talk and tries to hover over her.

It was a long weekend for everyone -- today they are all totally crashed! We are home now until July 10 & 11 when we head to Burnsville, MN for another NADAC trial.

OH! And I did hear from the photographer, Barbara, this weekend. She sent me a note to let me know that, indeed, it was one of the Springer Spaniels that was chosen for the photo shoot. No surprise there!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Audition Photos!

Barbara posted the audition photos on her website today for her clients to look over. Here are Secret's shots!

Kaiser obviously didn't get posted, and Luke didn't make the cut -- no surprise there, I'm surprised he didn't rip the shirt! lol

I think Secret is cute as a button, obviously, but if they are looking for the dog best suited to model the shirt, I think that would go to one of the (several) Springer Spaniels that were also listed on the "large" sample page. We'll see what happens.

I was surprised to see how SKINNY Secret looks from the side!! A guy who stopped into the office yesterday actually asked, "Is that dog a Greyhound?" Now I know why. Ha! Skinny girl. I think she may also still be a growing girl, going by the butt-high stance in the second photo.

I didn't intend to do any agility training last night, but Secret was still nuts after a rather long frisbee session, so I went out for another play session with the ball. I figured I may as well use it to direct her over a few jumps, so we played around with that for a bit. She was wild! Several times she took off like a shot and wildly looked around for the ball -- that I hadn't thrown yet because I was TRYING to cue her to do something else. That's a new attitude from her that I'm happy to see, but now we have to harness that energy and enthusiasm! :o)

We had a big storm blow through last night and I didn't get much sleep, but Secret slept like a rock. I'm glad to know that she is not bothered by storms. Luke is doing much better, but he still does not like them at all.

We are at a NADAC trial in La Crosse all weekend -- YAY!!!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

370 miles and a photo shoot in six hours!

Today I packed up the dogs and made a whirlwind trip to Minneapolis for an audition. Unlike the last photo shoot, which was an open casting call, this was an audition for an actual job. I didn't get the particulars, but it sounds like it is for Target and it involves wearing clothes.

They were very particular about the breeds they were interested in, and Border Collies were on their list. They were also looking for Labradors, so I figured I may as well let Luke have a try. Unfortunately, his solid black color just doesn't photograph very well. Of course, Alaskan Klee Kai were not on the list because nobody has heard of them, but Kaiser came to educate them about his wonderful breed.

We left home around 7:30 a.m. and thankfully the dogs were still in sleep mode. They all traveled quietly until about 15-20 minutes prior to reaching our destination. It seems that when we leave the freeway, they all figure out that something is up!

We arrived to the photo studio around 10:30 and I went inside to check in. The atmosphere was SO much different than at the open casting call. There were only two other dogs there at the time and it was dead silent. I filled out the paperwork, set up the pop-up pen and went out to potty the dogs. Before I had even come inside with them, the photographer was looking for us, as it was our turn!

So much for beautifying anyone. I ran a brush through Secret's hair to fix the windblown look she'd acquired on the trip up, wiped the gook out of her eyes, grabbed the toy bag and went to the photo set.

They wanted all of the auditioning dogs to wear the stock shirts they had brought with them. It didn't matter what the dog's ACTUAL size was, they had to fit into the stock size for their breed. Secret most definitely would have looked better in a size larger, but she did fit into the size they provided for Border Collies. Good thing she's such a skinny girl.

She didn't get to show off her fun tricks this time. She had to stand right & left in the the shirt to get profile shots (we did each side because of her split face) and then she got a few more pictures naked, both standing and sitting. I thought she did remarkably well -- far, far better than the last photo shoot when the atmosphere was so insane. She stood like a ROCK, which impressed me to no end since it's not exactly a behavior we've practiced much, especially with me at a distance.

Secret made a very good impression, I think. They were concerned about her tail and the fact that she wasn't "wagging" it during the shoot. They are looking for a "happy" dog and apparently that means a wagging tail. Barbara (the photographer) explained that she was simply holding her tail naturally, but that if necessary they could photoshop the tail into a higher position. I probably could have gotten her to be more "active" with her tail if I could have put her through her paces, but the whole thing was very sterile and businesslike, so I didn't even bring it up.

We should know by tomorrow if they are interested in using Secret for their campaign. The actual photo shoot takes place on Monday. It would be super cool if she was chosen, but I'm not getting my hopes up too high. Secret certainly doesn't have the "classic" Border Collie look and she pretty much filled up the stock size shirt she had to wear. lol There were two Border Collies there prior to us, but I know for sure they had no interest in the one before us because comments were made about how scared that dog was (in contrast to how comfortable Secret seemed).

Kaiser didn't get to wear a shirt, but he did get his picture taken. Now that these folks have heard of the Alaskan Klee Kai, maybe they'll consider using him for a future project. They were very curious about him and Kaiser was absolutely an angel on set. I really couldn't have asked for more from him and he was a great ambassador for his breed.

Luke BARELY squeezed into the shirt they had available for Labradors, but we made it work. He did a super job at "looking happy" and made a good impression on everyone. Unfortunately he's got that whole "black thing" going against him, but Barbara said she could do a lot to lighten the photos and bring out his face.

All told, we were there only about 30-40 minutes before we packed back into the car to make the trip home. I can't believe that the experience was that tiring, but all three dogs zonked out again until we stopped in Rochester for gas. Then they all mauled me while I ate lunch, then crashed again until we arrived at work. What good travelers I have.

Secret's agility training this week, as limited as it's been, has been FANTASTIC. The rear cross has really started to click with her and she's been getting in more training time with toys than ever (before moving on to food). Yesterday was one of her longest work sessions ever, simply because she stayed so motivated. She's really changing as she gets older, and all for the positive. :o)

The photos in the blog today are courtesy of Barbara O'Brien -- They are from the open casting call we went to in April and were recently posted on the web!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rear Crosses & Catching Discs -- Oh My!

I dare say, it is starting to feel like we live in Seattle, WA instead of Sparta, WI. RAIN!!! And MORE RAIN!! As you see from the picture above, we had to walk in the rain again today. At least I remembered my rain coat this time, but my feet are soaked. The dogs don't care.

We worked between rain showers and in the midst of them this weekend. Saturday actually didn't have "real" rain until the evening hours, but the air was so heavily saturated that I got gross and nasty every time we went out to play.

Secret had TWO big breakthroughs this weekend -- She caught discs out of the air on long tosses AND she is catching on to the rear cross. Woot! Woot! There is hope for the girl after all. ;o)

I never sat down and formed any goals when it comes to frisbee. It was one of those things that I figured if she got it, great -- if not, it really wouldn't be the end of the world. I only kept working on it because she does seem to really enjoy going after the rollers.

I've thrown a couple of long & low tosses for her and generally, Secret would just lollygag after them and pick them up when they landed. Imagine my surprise on Saturday, then, when she went after the flying disc with about the same level of enthusiasm as the rollers and -- GASP -- snatched it out of the air! I about fell over.

Always one to tempt fate, I tried again -- and she did it again! Three times she did this. I was befuddled and blown away. Good girl! Despite my craptastic method of throwing, Secret has actually learned to follow the trajectory and -- bonus -- cares enough to put in the effort to catch a disc. :o)

Granted, she nor I are pros at this game, so we continue to muddle through with faults. Yesterday I think she only caught one disc and was not so much into the game. As usual, her likes & dislikes change like the weather.

Because she has been driving towards jumps better lately, I decided to go back to working on the rear cross. She has been spinning on the landing side, and with each spin she seems to get more demotivated, so our sessions have been short. This weekend the light bulb seems to have gone on and she successfully completed several rear crosses! She is, by no means, 100% successful at them, but she is getting much better and is also not getting quite so turned off when she chooses wrong and spins. In fact, she's in such a hurry to get it right that she's taken to barking at me to do it again.

I got in a fairly long (by her standards) training session using a TOY yesterday. I grabbed the Kong Wubba off the shelf in the garage and decided to see what she thought of that. I had a jumping exercise set up that was in the June issue of Clean Run. The drills were a bit over her head, but the set-up allowed for several various exercises that worked for Secret. When she started to peeter out on the toy, I switched briefly to food to end the session on a positive note.

So in general, Secret had a really good weekend with two really bright spots. :o) They say the rain will take a break on Wednesday, but otherwise it is in our forecast all week long again. Sigh. Good thing the dogs don't mind working in the rain.

Friday, June 11, 2010

10 Months Old!

Secret turned 10 months old earlier this week! It's been a slow week due to rain (hence the extraordinarily bored expression in the photo above!), so there hasn't been much to post. We couldn't let the 10 month mark go by without acknowledgement, though. :o)

Although our training time has been limited, Secret is not, by any means, happy to sit in the house all night. Therefore, we have been having ample opportunity to do several short play sessions each day. The rain is really good for keeping me to a time limit. Secret doesn't seem to care about running around in the rain.

Secret's frisbee work is going very well. She's gotten so good about bringing them back on her own that I've gone to just using one disc -- But honestly, it's mostly because the lazy turd has decided that she won't chase after one disc if I still have the other one in my hand. Going to just one disc solved that problem.

She's chasing the rollers with more enthusiasm than ever, but the biggest change is in the way she's madly tugging with me upon the return. The little stinker has actually been tugging so hard that she's ripping them straight out of my hands -- granted, probably not quite so difficult when they are sopping wet.

The short toss catches have been going so well that I decided to throw a few long & low floaters for her. She came remarkably close to catching a couple of throws out of the air, but right now she has a bit of a dumbfounded look on her face about the whole thing. We'll continue to mix it all up and I'm sure the light bulb will come on shortly.

Secret's energy level seems to be on the rise these days, so we often find ourselves going out for play session #2 within a half hour of coming in from frisbee. I've been taking out the squeaky ball for her and she's really driving towards it well. For some reason, however, she has decided that she doesn't need to bring that toy back anymore.

I've been using the ball to build her drive over single jumps the last few days and it's going very well. I also play around a bit when we get home from work, while I'm still wearing her treat pouch (she goes surprisingly nuts for kibble still). I'm happy to report that she's now driving so well over the jump that last night I started to do some rear cross work with her again. She's still spinning every time, so I went to Susan Garrett's exercise of having her sit in place while I walk behind her, rewarding her when she turns her head as I cross behind. I have a feeling we need to start doing a lot of that to help her pick up the rear cross cues.

It's looking like rain all weekend, so I have a feeling I'll be outside getting wet a lot.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Great weekend

Secret was a really good girl at the conformation show & weight pull this weekend. She had to spend a LOT of time in her crate, but she didn't seem to mind it and behaved herself exceptionally well.

I think going to this show was a very good experience for her, as ALL of my dogs have become great big giant brats at the last few agility trials. I have not been able to spend much time near the crates at the last few trials, so all three of them had gotten into the awful habit of barking madly at anything that passed them. The environment at the conformation show was very cramped and the dogs had no choice but to get used to people & dogs passing very closely to their kennels. Also, the nature of the show tended to keep me in closer proximity to them, which always helps.

Secret did well mingling amongst everyone, although there tends to be very little dog/dog interaction at conformation shows. She got to meet the Border Collie doing weight pull, but really had no interest in her. As usual, Secret became much more confident when I had her go through her round of parlor tricks. The tail always comes out then!

The highlight of the weekend was that, "Mission: Get Secret to play with toys in a new environment," was a smashing success! On Saturday she chased her squeaky Kong ball for some time in the morning and then happily played tuggy on her Ringzee. On Sunday she was not so into playing fetch thanks to the massive amounts of "dog scent" that had accumulated in that area, but she went bonkers over the large tug stick with a tennis ball on the end. I think it's a huge step forward for her to be playing in such a distracting environment!

Secret did great at accepting that this was "Kaiser's weekend." The little squirt took Best of Breed in all four shows this weekend, earned a Group 1 and Group 2 on Saturday, got two Total Dog awards, earned his United Weight Pull (UWP) title on Saturday and then pulled 489 lbs on Sunday! Whew! What a weekend!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Growth Spurt

This is a very short entry -- We're in the hotel at Le Center, MN right now. It is a fantastic new hotel with beautiful rooms, but as you see, we'll be a tad bit cramped on the bed this evening. The room, itself, is very large -- but the bed is wee.... Oh well, for $60, you don't complain. The grounds are very dog friendly, too!

We stopped into the vet yesterday to pick up Luke's prednisone refill and I took Secret in for her 10-month weight (next week!). I was quite surprised to see the scale read 40.8 lbs. So much so that I made her get off and do it again with the same result.

Huh. She must have had a growth spurt! Now I'll have to try to get an updated height measurement on her to see if that changed at all.

If this keeps up, I won't owe Greg a fruit basket come August after all. :oP

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Success" With One Jump?

First things first -- Secret is still made of rubber. I don't think she received the memo that 21" dogs are not supposed to fit under an 8" bed.

The other evening, I watched Susan Garrett's training video, "Success With One Jump." It quickly became clear to me that I would be able to do none of what I saw on the video with Secret until her drive & motivation are built up, so last night I set out to work on that.

Hmm. Yeah...

The unfortunate part about pretty much everything that Susan Garrett does is that it is very, very toy-based training. Sigh. We know how that goes.

So in an effort to bring together Secret's food & toy drive, I brought out the "Tug-It" training toy, filled with Natural Balance food roll pieces. I used the Tug-It a few times when I first got it and Secret did, indeed, go nuts tugging on it -- To the point of ripping it, so I admit to pretty much abandoning it after that. I also find it a giant pain in the butt to clean.

My original plan was simply to use it as a treat dispenser, hoping that Secret would chase it when thrown, knowing that food comes out of it. Let me tell you, that game didn't last long at all. She ran after it a couple of times, then just sat and looked at me when I threw it. Sigh.

I offered it to her to tug and once she realized what it was she went practically rabid. Success, right? Well, no, not for the task at hand. When I threw it over the jump she would trot towards it and hesitantly sniff it -- A far cry from the exuberant attack I would hope for. When I would pick up the Tug-It and wave it in front of her face she would latch on and go nuts (ripping the hole a bit bigger, I might add), but this delayed reaction is going to do nothing to build happy association with the jump obstacle, itself.

The premise of the SWOJ video is getting the dog to drive over the jump towards the reward. I cannot, for the life of me, find anything that will make Secret do that. She seems to think that if I'm not going to move, neither shall she. I can't even follow Susan's instructions for Stage 1 because of this. :o(

Secret ended up shutting down on me during these exercises (no surprise) and completely turned me off. I took her back in the house and put her in her crate while I brought the boys out to play. It's worth noting that Secret had a VERY bad "bratty teenager" day, overall, and this may not have been the absolute best day to work on such things.

When I came back in with the boys, I took Secret back outside with her squeaky Kong ball. There was no setting up in front of jumps, but I tried to direct her over them on her way to chase the ball. This worked for approximately two or three jumps before she figured out this was still "training" and not just "playing." Then she shut down again and ignored me. Back inside and into her crate.

I let her sit there for about 20 minutes or so with all of us in the living room. Then I took her back out again with the squeaky chicken toy. I threw it for her once, tugged with it, sent her over a jump after it, tugged some more and then we were done. I just had to end on something positive with her still wanting to play.

We absolutely, positively need to build up more toy drive and jump drive before we can continue with any part of Susan Garrett's training. For now, that means running with her.

Meanwhile, I really have to get serious about continuing to build Secret's toy drive. Admittedly, when I "gave up" and switched to food, I more or less stopped trying with the toys. I absolutely, 100% want to use Susan Garrett's 2 x 2 weave training method with Secret, so I have a couple of months to work on it. Since we are working on grass, I really have no other option. Secret's ability to find food treats in the grass is next to nil.

Coming up this weekend --- We are traveling to a conformation show & weight pull in Le Center, MN. This is an "all-Kaiser" weekend and Secret & Luke are just along for the ride. There is typically quite a bit of down time at these shows, so I will pack the toy bag and see if I can get Secret to play away from home.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Video update!

I thought it was time for a new Secret video!! :o)

Secret was a very good girl at the Zumbro Falls NADAC trial on Sunday! She got to play with Peppy & Neeko, schmooze with Greg (she was a tramp!) and go swimming in the river! She was absolutely exhausted and didn't move on the trip home.

I'm happy with how this video turned out. It's a pretty fair representation of how she's working these days. We aren't doing a lot of drilling, just a couple days a week, more or less. I broke up the sessions in this video by going in the house for a while between each one.