Thursday, October 28, 2010

Remote Trainers Rock

A while back, I entered Luke into a contest on Facebook. The company, PetSafe, was doing what they called a "Best Moments" contest, where users were asked to submit photos and stories to compete for the honor of Best Moment. The prize was a $100 Visa gift card, which I believe was actually awarded to both first & second place.

Luke's story of being diagnosed with Addison's Disease and then coming back to get his NATCH less than a year later made the cut and was one of the top five finalists that moved on to voting. For a while, thanks to the help of all of my wonderful friends, Luke actually led the voting! We were beat out in the final hours, though, and we ended up third.

Laura from PetSafe contacted me to say that she was sorry I didn't win, as she was really touched by Luke's story and photo (I submitted our NATCH photo with the judge). She asked for my address to send me one of their new "Cinch-it" collars as a consolation prize.

In passing, I had mentioned that I was shopping for a remote trainer and wasn't sure which one would be best to buy. Laura never really answered my question directly, but told me to check my package for a surprise when it arrived.

Well, FedEx left me a package yesterday. I thought it was rather large for the expected Cinch-it collar (which is pretty cool, by the way!), so I tore right into it. I almost fell over when I saw the Venture Series remote training collar inside. HOLY COW. That is the best collar they sell! I saw it on the web site and was pining over it, but there was no way I could spend that kind of money on a training collar. One of the nice things about it (other than working from a distance of 1000 yards!) is that it gives you the option of adding a second collar to the remote. Always a nice option down the road!

My main use/need for a training collar is for Luke's barking in the car issue. And his barking in the yard at 6 a.m. issue.... Basically just his barking. I also have thought on numerous occasions that it would be MIGHTY HANDY to have a way to "reach out and touch" Secret in those times when she chooses to blow me off to go eat nasty stuff on our walks.

Today I got to put the collar to the test for the first time with Secret (it has already worked miracles with Luke, by the way). She was instantly put off by it a bit, but mostly just because of the long excess of flap that is necessary to make it fit both Secret & Luke. She got used to it and went on her merry way in no time.

I hate to say I was waiting for her to mess up so that I could use the collar, but well, I was.... Of course, it seemed like it would be a day where she would put no foot wrong! Maybe Luke told her about the collar's "power?"

As luck would have it, some critter left a nasty pile of poo in the middle of the trail. All of the other dogs listened to my "leave it!" command, but Secret did her usual routine of, "I'm going to scarf this as fast as I can and run away so that you can't catch me while I gobble it down!!"

The remote trainer was set at a paltry level two, as this is the level that has gotten a reaction out of Luke. After giving Secret appropriate warning, I pressed the button on the remote and got ZERO reaction. Quickly up to three and still nothing, as she ran off with her prize. I was losing my training opportunity when she didn't react to level four, so I pressed the "boost" button on the remote to quickly send it up two levels. All of the sudden Secret popped all four feet off the ground and let out a little squeak as her tasty poo treat went flying out of her mouth. I quickly followed up with praise and rewards. Good girl!

I had purposefully taken the route that lures Secret through the fence. As I figured, she took off towards the same spot in the fence on our way back. I called for her to stop and, of course, she didn't, because there is tasty cow poo on the other side! Right as her head went through the strands of barbed wire, I popped her with a short burst on level four. There was no dramatic reaction from her whatsoever, BUT, she stopped. She stood there for a moment, thinking, then looked back at me. I called her again and.... She came! Good girl! I won out over poop!

While I realize there are other ways to address this training issue (namely, making us both miserable by keeping her on leash or a long line, which I don't like since 99% of the time she is perfect), I am very appreciative to the folks at PetSafe for helping me get my point across in this quick and painless fashion!

I know I talk about Bethany & Rascal from time to time on this blog, so I just wanted to share what Bethany brought me as a gift! She is so sweet.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


You might recall that someone was darn near terrified of sheep back in August. It took what, three people to get her to interact with them?

But cows? Oh my, cows are AWESOME! Cows are not scary at all!

Today on our walk from hell (winds gusting at 60+ mph and freezing cold rain that joined us halfway through), Secret went venturing on a poop patrol. She made the original joyous discovery a couple of weeks ago, so now whenever we go walking in that direction, we must always go investigate to see if there is any new poop to be found. This involves the very naughty task of going through a barbed wire fence where she can't be followed...

The cows have been out in the fields adjacent to the trail almost daily for some time now. Luke is usually my "cow dog" and takes great joy in barking at them and chasing them away from the fence (if they happen to be there). Secret has almost always stayed up on the trail by me and has shown relatively little interest in the cows.

But not today. She was going about her merry business of ignoring my yelling and eating her prized poop when she suddenly noticed that the cows were coming to investigate her (FYI, these cows are NOT scared of dogs at all). Suddenly her whole demeanor changed and she ran to meet them head on.

Apparently she decided that the cows needed to be rounded up, so she stood down the rogue cows and faced them off until they turned around to go join the rest of the herd. When she accomplished her mission she noticed that she had forgotten one lone cow several yards back, so she went and got that one and took it to the rest. When she felt her mission was completed she took a lap to survey what she had done and then came sprinting back (through the mud....), squirted back through the fence and up the bank to me. She was quite proud of herself.

I struggled to find it in myself to be mad at her...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Trial Weekend!

Secret tagged along to another NADAC trial in La Crosse this weekend. As much as we enjoy traveling, it's always nice to have a hometown trial to be able to return to our own bed at night. We haven't had a trial in La Crosse since July!

I had absolutely no idea how I was going to fit four dogs and all of the necessary supplies into my car. I've gotten it down to an art form for fitting in the stuff for the three dogs, but I was at a loss as to how I would arrange for four. As it ended up, they dogs had to ride on top of one of the big crates. I covered it with blankets & pillows best I could to make it a more comfortable ride for them, but I figured nobody could complain too loudly about a 30 minute drive.

Secret was a very good girl at the trial this weekend. She seems to get less cranky & more friendly with each trial that passes. There were a couple of dogs that came on Sunday (big, fluffy, black dogs -- something we don't like...) that caused her to pretty much sit and rumble in her crate all day, but otherwise she really wasn't too much of a pest for a change. I think having Max next to her made her feel less persnickety when I took the boys outside without her. She may have also appreciated having room to stretch her legs, as this weekend she got Luke's BIG green soft-sided crate (since I figured Max would be better off in the wire crate...).

Secret met Pearl this weekend, our friend Karen's new rescue, and had a fun time playing! They have very similar play styles. Secret did very well with new dogs this weekend, only really having issue with the big black ones (I'll never understand this, she LIVES with a big black dog!). She was also Max's security blanket when he was out & about, helping him to be more comfortable around all of the strange dogs. Max's friendliness with people also seemed to rub off some on Secret!

The trial got done very early on Sunday and nobody made a move to dismantle the Touch-n-Go course that ended our day. Practically everyone was gone by the time I had the majority of my stuff loaded into the car, so I grabbed Secret and decided to run her through the course. She has never been on contacts other than mine at home, so I figured it would be a good experience for her.

Oh my goodness, she totally nailed it! And not only that, but she went over them with confidence and speed! I was using what was left of my cheese for her reward -- No toy -- but she did very well and was having fun. I was excited to see how well she performed in a new environment.

Max may have found a home this weekend. There was a couple who stopped by the trial to watch on Saturday and overheard me talking to some friends about Max. They spent some time with him and then came back on Sunday to see him again. I believe the husband is smitten with Max, but the wife is still on the fence because she's not sure if he'll live up to her agility aspirations or some such thing. The poor guy just needs some work! At any rate, they are my best lead to date, so we'll see where that goes.

Meanwhile, Secret is in LOVE with him. She will miss Max a great deal when he finds a new home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Secret Rocks JWW!

I snapped the above shot of "Double Trouble" after they came in from playing this morning. We've developed a new morning routine that seems to make everyone happy: All dogs go out to potty, all dogs come inside to eat, all dogs go back out again after I eat breakfast, Luke & Kaiser come back inside after a short while and I leave the Border Collies outside to go crazy.

And good heavens, do they ever go crazy!! Max seems to be catching on to the, "You chase me, then I chase you" game, which has made Secret very happy. She is always willing to be the chasee if need be, but she really enjoys having her time as the chaser. Max wasn't comfortable with this at first, but he's getting the hang of it now and they have so much fun ripping around the yard. They also do a fair amount of wrestling, and as a result they tend to come in sopping wet. This morning must have been more running and less wrestling, because they weren't too bad for a change!

We have a trial this weekend, so Bethany & Rascal came over to practice last night. I thought they would benefit from jump work, so I went online yesterday and found the following course at I love that web site and it's my go-to resource since I'm inept at designing my own courses.

Although it's an AKC course, I thought it offered a fair amount of NADAC flavor with the nice flowing sequences. But better than a run-of-the-mill NADAC Jumpers course, because it also includes weaves! Honestly, one of the reasons I feel I would like to give AKC a try with Secret is because I think the JWW class is fantastic. I always like to set them up because they tend to offer so much versatility.

Secret totally kicked the course's butt. She was actually the only one who ran it completely clean (Luke knocked a bar and Kaiser had his moments where he was distracted and had to go visit Rascal). I was so proud of her! She even managed to nail that super weird weave entry when we reversed the course and ran it backwards.

And the best part is that she did it all for the ball!! Yay! Go Secret! We seem to have finally migrated past the, "I must have food for my work" phase, even though she saw Kaiser & Rascal getting treats.

She did get tired at the end, though, so I let her jump at 12" for her last run-through. One thing about having Max around, Secret sure gets worn out each day.

And just for a quick update on the Max saga -- Earlier this week I got a signed & witnessed surrender form, so we will NOT be going through the "I want him back" drama again.... Max goes to the vet this afternoon to get updated on his rabies & distemper, and also for a heartworm test to make sure everything is okay in that department. He'll come to the trial this weekend to meet people and then next week I'll likely see if I can get him listed as a courtesy post on a couple of rescue sites. I'm hoping I can get him placed without actually signing him over to anyone, but we'll see.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's painted! (The table, or Secret?)

See that nice splotch of blue paint on Secret's foreleg? Yeah.... Still not entirely sure how she got that. I can somehow picture how Max got blue paint in his tail, primer on his back and blue paint across his side (he was the worst, obviously!), but that big splotch on Secret's leg? It kind of befuddles me.

I was OFF on Saturday -- No work, no trials, no nuthin, -- So I took advantage of it and got my table project finished. That sucker has a grand total of three coats of primer (one being the sand layer) and two coats of color. It should survive living outside for 2/3 of the year.

There was still a little sun left after the last coat of paint finished drying and I finished posing everyone for pictures, so I decided to grab the clicker and do Secret's first session of learning the automatic down on the table. It should be no surprise, but she picked it up in an instant. We'll obviously need to proof it over several more sessions, but it stuck with her enough that she remembered to do it when I asked her for the table yesterday. Not lightning fast, but she went into the down without being asked when I didn't say anything. So we're off to a great start, but we'll keep working on it. We started with the 8" table and will move up to the 12" table for our next session.

Bethany & Rascal came over for practice on Friday and I set up the Elite Regular course that I ran with the boys in Zumbro Falls. Secret was AWESOME on the course. We did all of it with the Jolly Ball, too -- No food! I broke it up at first and rewarded her in various sections (contacts & weaves, mainly), then put it all together in the end. She rocked it. The only hitch was a tunnel contact discrimination where the tunnel was to the inside. I don't recall that we ever got that one on the first try. Something more to practice, I guess! I'm guilty of not setting up that particular sequence very often because we so very rarely see it in trials.

While waiting for one of the paint layers to dry on Saturday, I set up the Chances course from Zumbro Falls. I just ran it like a regular course with Secret, but it gave us a great opportunity to work on our, "OUT Tunnel!" cue, since she tends to be such a contact-sucker. Something seemed to really click with her and she started to really sight in on the tunnel and go for it without as much body blocking as is normally required. This course layout also offered great opportunity for rear cross work (with jumps & tunnels) as well as some pretty good sending. Secret is doing so great for a baby dog in those areas.

I worked at the Humane Society yesterday, but I did still manage to get in a little bit of training. My main motivation is that the boys have a trial this weekend and Kaiser desperately needs schooling on his running dog walk -- So I figured everyone may as well work so long as the contacts are set!

I used it as an opportunity to school Secret on her contacts using her Jolly Ball. She's always more likely to break when she's jazzed up for her toy. She surprised me and totally nailed her a-frame several times, so I didn't push her on that too much. The dog walk caused more of an issue, not only in that she struggled to stop, but a couple of times she just went flying off the center plank! I slowed her down a little at that point and didn't ask for so much distance between myself and the dog walk. When I moved in a bit it seemed to take some of the pressure off her and she gave me a really nice performance.

It was nice to see some real speed with her contact performances. I've noticed she's been starting to get slower & more careful about hitting her two-on/two-off position lately.

Have I said lately how much I love the Jolly Ball company? :o) It brings so much out of Secret! Even if the handle area is just one big gaping hole now....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

We have a TABLE!

Oh happy day, we finally have a pause table at home! My parents gave me money for my birthday back in AUGUST that I earmarked for my table project, and it took me *this long* to actually get around to it. I had to special order the corner pieces and I've even been sitting on those for weeks.
My dad is awesome and pretty much did all of the work involved. I stood there and watched. :o) Having a woodworking factory certainly does help with the construction process, however, as he slapped the table top together lickety-split and we used the radial saw to slam out the PVC pretty quickly.

The only real wrench in the project was the fact that the 1 1/2" Schedule 40 PVC was *not* going to fit into the 1 1/2" Furniture Grade PVC parts. Sigh. What is up with that? I never experienced such an issue with the other stuff I've built, but these parts were not going to go together. We had to do a lot of sanding to get the pipe small enough to fit relatively easily into the fittings. It was such a giant pain in the butt that we ended up only doing the 24" and 12" legs. My dad had done enough, so I said I would just finish the 8" & 16" legs by hand at home (eventually....).

I stopped at the hardware store on the way home to pick up some sandpaper and primer paint. After our picture posing session I got to work in the garage and was able to primer the entire table, top & bottom, before bed. It will need at least one more coat of primer over the entire thing, then perhaps still one more coat on the top that will be the sand layer, to be covered by paint (my standard yellow & blue!).

I don't anticipate any problems whilst training Secret to do the table. She is quite enamored with it already and will perch on it at any given chance. I figure we'll dust off the clicker to help teach the automatic down -- A given now that AKC has gone to a position-less table and USDAA still requires a down every time.

In other news, our Max story has encountered a hitch. Yesterday afternoon I received a call from Max's previous owner, Bobby, who has decided she wants him back. I explained to her why I felt this was a bad idea, as Max has come to expect a good deal of exercise each day since he's come to live with me. He was starting to pop out of his seams with her, and now I fear it would be even worse. A tiny apartment with an inactive person is NOT the proper home for a young Border Collie. She trusted me to find him an appropriate home, and I don't feel her home fits that description, so I cannot in good conscience return him to her. She is thinking about all that I told her yesterday and I am to call her this afternoon to talk about it. I hope she comes to her senses, as I will find it very hard to outright say, "NO, you may not have him back." I fear that even if I did allow him to go back, within the span of a week she would realize that she made a mistake and I would have him back again. All that shuffling around is so unfair to Max and we really need to keep his best interests in mind.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Secret has "made it!" :o)

Secret found a stick on our walk today. It made her sublimely happy.

Do you recall the photo shoot we went to in July for "Chuckle Pup" leashes & collars? I am a "fan" of CP on Facebook ( ) and have been keeping an eye out to see if anything ever came of the photo shoot, but I was starting to think she had decided to pursue other options or something.

This morning Adrienne posted that her web site was up. It is very bare-bones right now and doesn't really have any content -- BUT, it has a front page. And just LOOK who made the front page!!

How neat is that? Secret's picture got chosen! I admittedly find it a little odd that they used not only a picture that doesn't have any of her product in it, but also a shot that wasn't even taken as part of the shoot. The "beauty shots" were supposed to be a perk to those of us who came, since it wasn't a paying gig and all.

But who cares?! I think it's awesome.

I've more or less given up on the whole animal actor gig, mostly because I have never seen Barbara post Secret (or Kaiser) as an "option" for any of her clients. I have absolutely no idea what to think about that, and I've stopped really caring. There seems to be a core little group that she consistently pulls from, and there isn't much I can do about it (I doubt throwing a hissy fit and being a classic "stage mom" would do me any favors). Secret's picture got picked from the 100's of photos taken that day, and I'm just tickled.

Max is still with us. The home visit we did last Wednesday didn't pan out, as they just aren't ready or able to bring in another dog while their old, ailing, debilitated dog is still around. The dog is pretty much on his last leg and will likely not live all that much longer, but there is no way I would ever suggest to have one dog put down just to bring in another (the wife is leaning that way, but I had to side with the husband on that one).

He's doing well with my crew. Max & Secret still go crazy playing with each other -- That is, when Kaiser doesn't step in to stop the action (at which point I generally have to step in and remove Kaiser...). Max has even went so far as to try to initiate play with Luke, which is HUGE!

I need to get a bio typed up and posted to the local agility lists to see if there is any interest. I have to admit to taking my time getting around to it, as I really don't mind having him around. Secret sure seems to like it.

One thing Secret probably really likes is that she is no longer crated when I leave. Max has taken over the wire crate in the living room, which happens to be the only Border Collie-sized wire crate in the house. I do have multiple soft crates, but I always hesitate to leave a dog unsupervised in one of those. I'm sure Secret would be fine, but I just haven't bothered. Instead, I decided to take the leap and just leave her out all day. It was the next logical step after graduating from her half-days of freedom, which she has handled well.

The only real issue is with the Kongs. We did lose another Walmart knock-off last Thursday, which I replaced with a real Kong -- the super-tough black variety. I'll replace the Walmart versions as needed and hopefully she can't destroy the Kongs. She was fine on Sunday, so fingers crossed! I'm working the late shift at the Humane Society tonight, so the dogs will get Kongs to tide them over until I get home to make dinner. I spoiled them and stuffed them half full with chicken in addition to the canned food & peanut butter. My dogs are spoiled rotten, it's no wonder Max thinks he's in heaven....

But he still sleeps in a crate next to the bed at night, so don't go thinking he's mine or anything! ;o)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


The above video is what we worked on last night. After Rascal's first NADAC trial this weekend (he was awesome, BTW), it became apparent that we needed to do more work on obstacle focus and driving forward. The jump arc is something I've been playing around with Secret for a while now and her obstacle commitment has gone way up. Not to mention her speed! :o)

I like the arc because it's quick & easy to set up & leave standing in the yard. I'll usually integrate it into Secret's play sessions on nights when I'm too lazy to do "real training." She seems to think it's great fun! All of the jumps are at 20" now, but I figure I'll soon start to bump them up again. The arc will be a good spot to increase height, I think.

We had so much fun in Zumbro Falls on Saturday! Secret was a good girl at the trial. I took her out during one of our breaks and we went to the big field beyond the ring to play fetch & tug. I just pulled one of the random toys we'd gotten at a previous trial out of the bag and thankfully she was in the mood to play with it. She was able to burn off a lot of energy, which is good since there is always so much down time for her at trials. Secret got to come out and meet a friend's 11-week old BC puppy, too -- And it was SO CUTE! She kept play-bowing and bouncing around him, letting him jump all over her. Secret loves puppies.

The highlight of her day was surely after the trial when we let all of the dogs run around together. Greg was there with Peppy & Neeko, plus we also had Rascal. Kaiser even got to go off leash since it was a giant field and there wasn't anywhere nearby that he could get himself into trouble. They had so much fun! It was neat to see all the Border Collies (and a Klee Kai!) running around together.

Speaking of dogs running around, I have another video to share!

Max is home with us. I picked him up Sunday evening on my way home from the Humane Society. Bethany came over and helped me take all four dogs for a walk together. Secret was horrid at the start and kept trying to attack Max (much like she started when we did our walk last week). She got better, though, and by the time we returned to the house and let everyone loose, everyone had settled and the introductions actually went quite well.

Since then, Secret has decided she loves Max. They play, and play, and play, and play some more. Max thinks my back yard is Disneyland and generally wants to go straight back outside after we come in from playing. The weather has been nice, so I've been letting them burn off a lot of energy out there. Kaiser likes to control things a lot, so after a while I call him inside so that Secret & Max can have their fun, Border Collie-style.

Tomorrow I'm taking Max to meet his potential new owner. If it works out, she has already expressed that she would like to come over for play dates and to start Max's agility training with me. I'll miss him, but it will be awesome if I get to keep in touch and still visit!

Oh! I finally have a weight update. I stopped into the vet's office and took all of the dogs in for a weight check (individually...). Secret is 42.5 lbs -- So I think she lost weight? Or at least she's holding, and she's looking great.