Friday, August 27, 2010

Pictures from Herding Day!

This morning I found a happy surprise! Border Collie Rescue of MN posted pictures from the herding fun day on their Facebook page!

I was surprised to see how nice Secret's shots turned out. She actually looks focused and engaged in most of them -- Although you'll see there is a shot or two where she is clearly just on the chase. :o)

No surprise that they captured a shot of Secret doing what she does best -- Trapping & holding sheep in the corner! :o)

We had fun with Rascal last night. I played with Secret on our Novice course for a few minutes before they arrived and she did great! This was the first time I tried incorporating the weave poles into a course and she nailed it each time. I had opened up the weaves to encourage her to single-step, but I don't think I opened them quite enough. I'll play with that more this weekend.

We had an unfortunate incident of "littering the course" with treats from Bethany's treat pouch. I didn't realize quite how bad it was until I took Secret out for a turn while Rascal was getting a break. She COMPLETELY blew me off and went off looking for treats. The speed at which she went from running with me to nose on the ground was amazing -- I'm still trying to figure out how she even could tell there was food on the ground so quickly, but once she found the first one that was the end of it. She blew me off so badly that I ended up putting her in her crate in the house for a bit. I realize treats are terribly tempting, but that behavior is not cool.

The good news is that the dogs cleaned up all the treats during play time, so when we went to play on the course again after Rascal left, Secret was a million times better and ready to play. She's getting better at her "out tunnel" already and also had a couple of great rear crosses on course.

I set up a set of 12 weave poles for Bethany & Rascal to try and this was still set up during Secret's last session. My intentions were not to just throw 12 poles at her like this, but I figured what the hell, why not see what she does? She nailed them on her first time through! Huh, go figure! :o) She did pop early a couple of times with me on the off side, but I let her go slow and figure it out once and after that she had it.

I still plan on setting up two sets of 6 as suggested in the 2 x 2 program, but it was fun to see what she would do on a solid set of 12 so early in the game. She's a smart little girl.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Taking it Easy

After all of that hard work of learning to weave in six days last week, we've been taking it pretty easy since then. Last night was actually the first bit of agility we've done since last Thursday.

Secret and the boys seem to be doing well adjusting to my schedule at the Humane Society. They have been quite spoiled by my parents, though, and that never hurts!

I left home around 7:50 a.m. on Saturday and they were only home alone until around 1:30 when my parents stopped by and took them up to their house for the rest of the day. I drove straight there after work and we did dinner for my birthday, then took Secret & Luke for a run through the woods on the quads (poor Kaiser is too little!). Boy did Secret ever have a good time! She alternated between following my quad or running between my dad & I. The dogs were definitely tuckered out after that little jaunt.

On Sunday my mom went and hung out with the dogs for a little over an hour, so again they got a nice little break during the day. This past Tuesday worked the same as the last, with them getting to hang out at the office for half the day. I have a full day of required staff training tomorrow from 10:00 - 7:30, so they'll get to chill with my mom again. I'm so thankful for this help so that they don't have to stay home alone for 10 hours at a time.

The hot & gross weather has finally broken! The last few days have been just lovely, which is why I couldn't pass up a training opportunity for the dogs last night (especially after mowing on Tuesday!). I set up an Open Regular course for the boys and worked Secret on all parts except for the 12 weaves. I substituted a teeter for a tunnel in one spot because I knew it would make her happy. :o)

In her first session I used the Wubba and only asked her to do hoops, tunnels & jumps. I even managed to throw in the teeter a couple of times while I had the toys out. In her second session, though, she really showed no interest in the Wubba from the start. I believe she had watched Kaiser getting treats in his session and had decided that was what she wanted as well. That was fine, I just started to add in contact work for her that session. My real issue with using the food rewards with Secret is that she slows down SO MUCH when she's working for food. She's easily 3x faster when we start out with the toys.

We haven't done work on contacts for a very long time -- If I had to guess, I would say she hasn't been on them since I did a video on the subject. YouTube says that was 6/29/10. Wow, really? Well, July was super hot and we really didn't do much more than jump work, so I guess that could be correct! At any rate, especially considering it's been that long, I'd say she was fantastic. Not the fastest performances she's had, but she definitely nailed her bottoms. Her teeter work was just splendid. I'd love to get her on a regulation teeter one of these days, though, to see if she handles it equally well. Mine is on the short side (hey, it was built for Kaiser!) and certainly doesn't "bang" on the grass.

When the boys were done with their drills, I pulled the weave poles apart to give Secret a quick refresher on them. She did the staked set of 2x2's perfectly the first time through. I ran her through them several times in each direction and also sent her through the solid-based set of 6 several times -- including running her into them from hoops or jumps. Considering we haven't touched the weaves for a week, I was super impressed with her.

This weekend I hope to start working her towards 12 poles. I still want/need to open up the 2x2's to try to get her single-stepping, though. Her footwork is improving, but she's still more or less hopping through the poles.

Bethany & Rascal are coming over tonight. I plan to set up the Novice equivalent of the course from last night and we'll see how they (Rascal & Secret) do on it. There are TWO discrimination spots, which both of the young ones definitely need more practice with! Secret is very much a "contact sucker" and requires quite a lot of direction to make it into the "out tunnel." Now that the weather is starting to be more bearable, we have a lot of work to get done this fall. I hate that Secret turns 18 months in the middle of winter. Hopefully some sort of indoor training opportunity falls into my lap...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Six Poles in Six Days!

Well, we did it! Secret is independently weaving six poles after just six days of training!! I am just bursting with pride over how well she is doing.

The first session started out as a bit of a struggle for Secret. I didn't make it "easy" for her and we started with four straight poles staked down with an open gate at the end (to make six poles). It took her a few tries before she remembered the game, but then you could really see the light go on and she figured it out rather quickly. Even still, I didn't change anything for the first session. I wanted to make sure she was totally comfortable with the new set-up.

In session two, I moved fairly quickly to closing the last set of poles because she was showing a very good understanding of what I was asking. By the end of the second session, all six poles were straight and she was starting to build confidence and speed through the poles. Her entries are amazing!

She blew me away in the third session. I was wondering what I could throw at her for a challenge, so I decided to try a front cross at the top of the poles. She barely blinked at that one in either direction, so I decided to really push her limits and go for a rear cross. If you've followed Secret's blog for any length of time, you'll know that rear crosses in general did not come quickly to Secret.

The first attempt was a complete flop, but she tried really hard for the second one, so I rewarded her even though she didn't completely navigate the poles correctly. After that she was golden and I did two rear crosses on each side. Rear crosses at poles on day six! For real!? She's so awesome.

I'm going to stop the daily video diaries now. Secret will get a few days off and next week we'll pick up where we left off. I intend to open the poles a bit to help her find her footwork & build speed. My goal is to have her one-striding through the poles before I add the second set of six. We'll also continue to proof distractions and work on even more challenging entries.

I am just thrilled with how well Secret's weave training has gone. It's been a very exciting week!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Weaving -- Day Five!

Day five was a good one! I started out with the two bases touching (vs. at the 9" distance the day before), so because I added something new, I opened up the angles a bit to get her comfortable with the change. She didn't even notice, so we moved fairly quickly to closing the angles. By the end of the first session, Secret was weaving four straight poles with bases touching!!

I couldn't be happier with her progress (okay, I lie, she could be faster) -- In our next session I will add another 2x2 base, starting with it opened to 2/8 and I hope to have her weaving six straight poles by the end of the third session. Six poles in six days!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Weaving -- Day Four!!

On to day four! I started with the weave bases @ 9" apart and angled at 2/8, then closed them from there. By the end of the third session the poles are NEARLY straight, but still 9" apart. For day five, I expect I will move the bases together -- And hopefully by day 6 she'll be weaving six poles!

I was surprised to get this good of a performance from Secret. It sounded like the neighbors on both sides were having pool parties (lots of screaming kids) and someone kept lighting off random fire crackers. This normally results in a total shut-down from Secret, but she kept working.

She was a bit slower on this day -- Likely because I left the dogs all day to work at the Humane Society. They aren't used to staying home alone very much, so I don't think they slept. In between training sessions, Secret slept next to me on the couch! I had to keep waking her up to go back outside.

The dogs seemed to do okay today -- They actually got to spend the morning at work with my parents and my dad brought them home at lunch time and gave them all their kongs that I had in the freezer. He forgot to turn the t.v. on for them (gasp!! lol), but they were all great when I got home at 5:45. I think they will transition well to this change.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weaving -- Day Three!

I actually came into the office to edit video tonight because Secret did such a good job that I didn't want to wait to share it!!

From the video info:

Day three was a big one for Secret! She's really coming along nicely and we made a lot of progress today. I closed the spacing to @ 4' and we're at @ 1/7 rotation now. Woot, woot! Super job, girlie. I am super impressed with some of the entries she is giving me. She struggled with the off-side entries at the beginning, but she's really starting to get them now, even at very steep angles. Half the time you can't even tell just how much I'm asking for since I'm never on camera, but I'm impressed with her, so that's good enough. :o)

I wish we could get in a practice session in the morning, but she slides around on the grass enough when it's dry, I don't want to chance it when the grass is wet. Hoping to get a couple of sessions in tomorrow.

These three sessions were all recorded in about an hour's time period. I wanted to get all of her training in before I fed dinner.

Weave Training Begins!

Secret started her weave training this weekend! So far it's going very well. I have her first two days of training on separate videos below because each day ran too long to put into one. :o)

I hope to do two sessions tonight but won't be able to post video because tomorrow I start my training at the Humane Society. Still haven't figured out what the dogs are doing for the day...

At any rate, I hope to video the process from start to end!

Day 1

Day 2

Friday, August 13, 2010

Is summer done yet?

The above scene is pretty much what our week has consisted of, sad to say. It has been HOT and HUMID all week long. You know it's bad when the dogs don't even pester you to go outside.

Monday evening we went swimming with Rascal & Bethany. I learned not to throw sticks towards the rapids (hoping that it would come downstream and make Secret's life easier). What actually happens is that said stick gets sucked *into* the rapids and then Secret goes out and swims, and swims, and swims, and swims, and swims some more while looking for a stick that she believes must be out there somewhere. I actually had a brief panic attack that she wasn't going to come back and that she'd get exhausted out there. For a moment, I worried that I'd have to go out and get her, but thankfully that didn't happen because she's a better swimmer than I am, anyhow! With much pleading and begging, she did finally give up her quest for the lost stick and came back to the shallow water. Lesson learned -- don't throw stuff towards the rapids.

Today we learned another lesson. We had a huge rainstorm this morning and the creek was super high and fast on our walk today. The boys both cautiously approached the edge for a quick drink & foot soak, but Secret plunged right in as she normally does. The creek usually comes a little higher than her chest at its deepest point, so I imagine she was pretty surprised to find herself not only swimming, but quickly getting pulled downstream. It carried her down a ways and she battled the current for a bit before scrambling over to the side and running back up. I think it scared her a bit, which is no surprise because I was worried, too. It's a good thing Secret was pretty much born with gills -- She's one heck of a swimmer, I'll give her that!

Of my three dogs, I will say that Secret seems to handle the heat about the best. Because of this, I decided to go ahead and attempt to do some jump work last night. She complied, more or less, but her enthusiasm was definitely far down from where it has been in the recent past. Later on in the evening, when it had cooled some and the yard was shaded, I played with all three dogs over the jumps using CHEESE and her excitement level went way up.

Speaking of cheese, time to stock up and start cubing. Secret will start to learn to *weave!!* soon and it seems as though cheese is by far the easiest treat for her to find in the grass. I'm more or less just waiting for better weather and then we'll get started with the beginning of the 2x2 program. I'm very excited to try this method for the first time.

Life as they know it will soon change slightly for the dogs. I got a (much needed) part time job at the Humane Society that will involve working full days on the weekends. My spoiled crew is rarely home alone for more than four hours, and that happens rarely. I'm curious to see how they will handle this. I will also need to start testing Secret a bit more on leaving her loose in the house, as I really hate to have her in a crate for 9 hours a day. Thus far, she has given me no reason to believe that she will have any problems.

I spoke to my cousin and it sounds like with her help, and probably with my parents filling in occasionally, the dogs should get to get out once a day while I'm gone. That would make me feel so much better, especially in the beginning while they are getting used to the idea of me being gone all day. I'm sure a play date with Rascal mid-day would make them all very happy!

This should be a quiet weekend for us. Tomorrow I am doing a quick transport for Secret's rescue -- The Border Collie Rescue of MN -- I'll be helping to bring up three young dogs from Kentucky, which is also where Secret originated from! I'm so happy to be able to contribute in one way or another to this great rescue.

On Sunday we are FINALLY supposed to get a break in the weather. Crossing my fingers here, because I'm kind of starting to miss training the dogs! If the weather gods smile on us, perhaps Sunday will be the day Secret starts her weave training. :o)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Herding Day AND Happy Birthday, Secret!

First things first -- Today is Secret's birthday!! Well, the day I've chosen to celebrate her birthday, at least. I think I'm the only person who changed the birthday of the puppies after going by my vet said was her age, so it looks like we are celebrating alone. :o)

All of the pictures posted today were taken on the trip home from Secret's very first HERDING day yesterday! As you can plainly see, she was exhausted. Secret has decided that riding shotgun is the *only* way to go, despite the fact that it is decidedly uncomfortable and makes it nearly impossible for her to sleep. She gave up a time or two and retreated to the back, but only for a minute or so at a time before she returned.

I figured the whole herding experience would be pretty hit or miss with Secret. I thought she would either be completely out of control chasing after the sheep or completely terrified of them.

As it happens, it was far closer to the latter of the two scenarios, but thankfully she did improve greatly as the day went on. What is interesting to note is that she went absolutely bonkers watching the other dogs work the sheep. She would watch with rapt attention and strain at the end of her leash when the sheep ran past us. And there was barking... Plenty of barking... I have to say, she was by far the most vocal Border Collie there!

It was a bit different when it was her turn, but it didn't help a lick that her sheep were getting a bit bully at that point and she didn't have the nerve to stand up to them. Once they figured they had her number, they took full advantage of it. That session felt like a giant fail to me, but watching it on video showed that it wasn't as bad as I thought at the time.

Blessedly, Kathy (the trainer) suggested that we try Secret again at the end. We switched out the sheep to a "friendlier" trio that would be easier for her to push. This session went SO MUCH BETTER! I'd been letting Secret watch the dogs before her as well as the working dog who moved the sheep into the pen. When we let her go, she was ready!

Hindsight being what it is, I think we should have stopped sooner than we did. It was wickedly hot with a heat index in the 90's and I think Secret was really starting to melt from the heat. She put forth a good effort, though, and I'm very pleased with her. Kathy thinks a lot of her issues are due to her young age and feels that she will likely improve quite a bit as she gets older.

I thought Secret would be completely shot for the rest of the day, but not quite. We ended up going swimming before dinner and then she even had a short frisbee session in the evening. Where does she find the energy!?

Anyhow, I believe our day's adventure can best be described through video! Enjoy! :o)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Secret 1 = Chiro 0

Secret had her very first visit with the chiropractor yesterday afternoon to assess her following that odd issue with her hind end. Secret was 100% a horrible, snarky bitch.

It is no surprise to anyone that Secret has "space issues." That said, she has made absolutely remarkable strides in her socialization and has been doing so much better around people. Her introduction to Dr. Schilling went quite well. Secret was happy to be out of the pen (where she had to wait while Luke had his turn) and she seemed very interested in Dr. Schilling and all of her stuff.

When Dr. Schilling made a move towards Secret's hind end to start working on her, however, Secret whipped around and snapped at her. NAUGHTY. I ended up holding her hind end up with my left arm and holding her head/collar with my right. As Dr. Schilling moved up her body, I kept having to reposition myself to keep Secret from being able to snap, which she did attempt to do at least three more times. Had Dr. Schilling brought her supply of muzzles with, Secret would have been modeling one.

All of this said, Secret did have some issues that surprised Dr. Schilling in such a young dog. Then again, she said she doesn't generally see many dogs of this age, so maybe it's more normal than we think. Secret was definitely "out" in her pelvis, had a few spots along her spine that needed adjusting, a couple of ribs were out of place and her neck was out of whack. Good lord, all of this in a yearling? My dogs are so abusive to each other and to themselves...

After the adjustments were done (in record fashion, I might add), we sat and talked for a while and Secret was quite comfortable and happy to wander around and/or lay by me. She didn't seem to harbor any ill-will towards Dr. Schilling so long as nobody was trying to touch her.

Dr. Schilling said that we might have to try the muzzle next time and/or explore different methods of getting the job done. It would be nice if Secret would just relax and accept it, especially if it turns out she's going to be a problem child and need regular adjustments.

We went down to the river on Wednesday via a trail in one of the parks nearby. The park itself is kind of shady (as in, untrustworthy people), but the trail is great and runs along the river for a bit, finally ending near a spot of rapids.

Due to erosion, one never knows what the area will look like from year to year. I was happily surprised to find that it is the perfect spot this year! There is a small patch of sand that leads into a shallow area that goes out a bit before dropping off behind the rapids, and in the other direction it actually stays shallow enough for the dogs to run in for several yards.

The dogs had a blast! Luke found a giant stick that I broke into two pieces. He promptly lost his, so Secret & Luke had to share the remaining piece. Much to my surprise, Secret beat Luke several times on the retrieve! She swims like a little fish.

I took lots of video clips on my cell phone, but there was an issue with the file conversion and when I tried to save the movie I created, I got error message after error message. Much to my dismay, I got so frustrated I just deleted everything. Darn it, and it was super cute.

It sounds like my cousin, Bethany, and I are taking the dogs swimming after work tonight. I will pack the actual video camera along and see if I can't get some footage. I will also be taking the camera with on Sunday for Secret's first HERDING DAY!!! Yay!

Then comes Monday -- Secret's birthday! :o)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Whoops, where does time go?

Whoops, I didn't intend to go nearly a week between posting -- but life has been fairly quiet lately.

That said, we actually had plenty of opportunity for training time this past weekend. It was fairly hot, but the rain held off and we got in several short sessions.

The "theme" of our training over the weekend was serpentines. I figure it's time to start throwing more handling moves at Secret now that she's developing more confidence & speed on the jumps.

I kept things very simple by using a staggered serpentine vs. a straight line of jumps. We progressed through various exercises and throughout the weekend Secret did incredibly well -- Lead out with a front cross, rear crosses, same-side handling, pushes, pulls, etc. Good girl! Her comfort with distance continues to increase as well, as I am easily able to send her through a pinwheel to meet her with a front cross on the landing side.

We are still having great success in using toys and only toys during jump training, but any time I decide to throw contacts in the mix Secret insists on a food reward. This was quite obvious on Sunday when I went to work Secret through portions of the course I had created for the boys. She started out gung-ho over the jumps for her fuzzy tug, but the very moment she set foot on the teeter she wanted nothing to do with the tuggy. Conditioned response, I know. Oh well, we'll keep at it and try to implement some toy work in with contact training in the future.

Yesterday I learned that Secret is terrified of bubble wrap. We have a giant box of it here at work from a package that recently arrived and who can resist popping a few bubbles as you pass? Secret was following me around at the end of the day yesterday and thus, was there when I popped a few bubbles. Imagine my surprise when she immediately tucked her tail and ran out of the room!

I called her back in and proceeded to try to give the bubble wrap positive association by giving her a treat every time I popped one, but it quickly became obvious that the kibble I carry in my treat pouch during the day was not going to cut it for that particular job. I might have to take some bubble wrap home and work on desensitizing her to this. Ever since the 4th of July, Secret has become very sound sensitive and this is something we need to work through.

It actually freaked her out so badly that her fear carried through to when we got home. The neighbor brats (sorry, kids) were outside playing baseball and any time the bat hit the ball and made a "chink" or "pop" noise, Secret would run and hide under the deck. Now really, she has been outside SEVERAL times while they have been playing and has never had any reaction whatsoever. The bubble wrap incident just seriously put her over the edge.

We hung out in the house the majority of the evening and then went outside around 8:00 p.m. to do some one-jump work with cheese (since I had tried to do a quick toy session earlier and failed miserably). There was nothing going on outside at this time and she was fantastic & focused. Our one-jump work morphed into two, then three jumps of various heights. I had bumped Secret back down to 12" after the incident with her hind end, but last night I started to raise them again and she did a few reps at 26".

We have not had any further issues connected to the incident two weeks ago with Secret's hind end, but in an effort to cover all of my bases, Secret has her first appointment with the chiropractor on Thursday. Dr. Schilling is doing her monthly day of appointments at the dog center in La Crosse, so I decided to make an appointment for Secret & Luke that day. It will be much easier on the dogs than trying to cram into Dr. Schilling's porch, plus Secret is familiar with the environment. I'm curious to see how she reacts to the whole experience.