Monday, November 29, 2010

Max is gone, No more Max

Max left on Friday. Secret is sad.

Okay, I lie. She doesn't seem to give a rip or even notice that he's not around. She did investigate his kennel in the bedroom Friday night and seemed a little puzzled for a moment, but it was brief. Oddly, she is no longer completely fascinated by the kennel in the bedroom and doesn't race to beat anyone to it at bedtime. I think that's proof that she was just being a bitch to Max about the whole thing. Who wants to go sleep in a kennel when there is no competition for it? Not Secret!
We had a little incident with Max on Wednesday that was basically a flashing neon sign that said it was time for him to move on to another home. He was getting so worked up over walk time and was so unable to control his impulses at that time that he peed from one end of the office to the other. It was not cool. Things had just been continuing to get worse instead of better and he just didn't seem happy with us anymore. No doubt that Kaiser's daily attacks were the main cause, but ultimately the poor guy just never really fit in and was always on the outside of the group. His nervous energy turned everyone away from him. Even Secret was starting to play with Kaiser more and basically ignored Max unless I turned the two of them outside alone together.

I e-mailed the folks at "Little House Rescue" (who had been courtesy listing Max on PetFinder for me) and asked if they might have a foster home available for him. Thank heavens they were able to help me out. I also owe a HUGE thank you to a fine group of friends that worked together to transport Max to his new home. I had to work at the Humane Society Thursday through Sunday and wasn't able to take him, so Bethany, Denise, Greg & Cynthia all joined forces to make it happen on Friday. It sounds like Max is doing well in his new foster home. Hopefully he finds his forever home soon.

The change in the house when I got home on Friday was amazing. Just simply amazing. Everything was so CALM and RELAXED. Secret was still her crazy, goony self, but the general feeling and energy in the house was just completely zen. It was pretty obvious that I made the right choice. Things have been very happy & settled in the house since then, despite me being gone for four days. Poor dogs. They were real troopers about my hectic work schedule over the holiday!

We actually had a couple of days of decent weather that would have been super for training, but alas, it was dark & gloomy when I arrived home each day. :o( I am crossing my fingers that we can fit in a training session after work tonight -- Because after that, I think the equipment has to come in this week. It looks like s*** in the forecast. Darn, I really thought that having a snow blower in my garage now meant that it wouldn't snow this year.

And just to prove that Secret actually can sleep somewhat lady-like with her legs crossed and all....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Box Drills

It was super crappy yesterday and it rained pretty much all day. (Hey, at least it wasn't snow, I guess!) It was almost dark out by the time I got home from work, but darn it, the rain had more or less stopped and I wanted to do something with Secret (plus she was just flipping nuts and annoying from not doing anything all weekend).

Because it was too dark to pick poo from the yard, I settled on something that would have a relatively small footprint in the yard that I could localize to the "safe" poo-free area. Box drills!

I don't believe this is something I've worked on with Secret in the past, mostly because my boys don't like them and thus, I don't tend to work on such skills. I've focused on creating a more versatile dog with Secret (ie: not just "NADAC-focused" like the boys) and boy did that show in our work last night. Secret totally nailed everything I threw at her in the box.

Box work involves wraps, threadles, 270's and other such wonky stuff that you will never, ever see in a NADAC course. It totally blows my boys' minds when I ask them to do this (which I did, after Secret was done). Secret stayed upbeat, fast and drivey the whole time, and I threw a LOT of exercises at her. She let me know when my timing sucked, but overall it went really well.

Because of the cruddy weather and the slick ground, I started Secret out with 20" jumps. She wasn't having any footing problems whatsoever, though, so I bumped them up and finished with 24" jumps. I have to say, although I have always loved distance work, it is awfully fun to have such a handy dog as Secret. She seems to enjoy the tight, twisty stuff and I know it's making me a better handler to work on all of these things.

But the boys still think it sucks. :o)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Training season coming to an end :o(

The short, dark days and the increasingly cold weather are making it very obvious that our home training days are very limited right now. As tends to be custom, this ends up being fairly motivating for me and results in a mad dash to fit in as much training as humanly possible before the snow flies and I have to move my equipment into the garage. I'm happy for each day that passes that my equipment gets to stay outside! I have a feeling that it won't last much longer.

The night before last, the motivation was there, but it was weak. As a result, all I did was set up a jump grid and a simple weave pole exercise with 6 poles. Simple it may have been, but simple flies out the window when someone forgets how to weave!

I was flabbergasted and can still not come up for an explanation as to why Secret suddenly INSISTED that weaves must be entered into from the left side. ??? What? My only real theory is that she hasn't seen the set of six poles for a while and was thrown off by the base that extends past the first pole. Who knows! Thankfully her memory came back and we continued on without a problem, but it was very odd. It was a good reminder of what a baby she still is.

The jump grid was set at 24" & 26" this time and she sailed right through it! I spread the distances out just a bit from last time to accommodate for the height. It still required a fair amount of collection from Secret, though, and she did well.

Last night Bethany & Rascal came over and we worked our way through a set of exercises in Clean Run.

This set was chosen mostly based on simplicity of setting up and being able to move through it quickly, as we didn't get started until 4:30 and it is now very, very dark by 5:00.

Secret did great! These exercises involved a lot of pull-throughs, 270's and other such things that I must admit we do not practice enough. The purpose of the exercises was to work on handler timing and I must say they were very good for that! Secret is very particular about timing, as I find it is very easy to pull her up short if I don't support her enough. She is very much a motion-based dog.

We ended up working well into the dark, taking turns between Secret & Rascal. This was a real test of Secret's toy drive, as I repeatedly hooked & unhooked her from the deck, but she was always ready to play again when it was her turn (we used the bumper last night). I was super happy about this, as I hope to be able to continue with the toys when we travel for training and keeping up her drive during breaks will be important.

We ended with a super fun exercise -- Just look at all of those squiggles! :o) Thank goodness we had a bright moon last night, as it was well past 5:00 by this time. We played with various front & rear cross options on this exercise and Secret did well with them all. If I have a goal for her, it is to be versatile!

If I were to discuss anything negative as of late, it would be that I wish Secret would stop all the darn digging in the yard. :o( Ugh, I'm getting so tired of filling in holes. It's a good thing I have a giant pile of dirt left from all the landscaping we did when I bought the house. The only good thing about the impending snow is that it will hopefully bring an end to this new hobby of Secret's.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Such a lady....

Oh Secret, you are such a lady!

Not too terribly much to report today, other than that Secret was a very good girl at our trial this weekend! She is doing very well spending the day in the soft crate, although I did catch her scratching at it a few times when I took the boys out without her. She got to come out several times to visit with everyone -- I'm so pleased with how well she is doing with people these days.

Secret also got to play with Pearl outside for a bit. Pearl is my friend, Karen's, 10 month old Lab-mix puppy who has MEGA energy to burn, so it was fun to watch them race around together. It was interesting to note that Secret spent most of the time herding Pearl, though. She must be learning that from Max... Thankfully Pearl was a good sport and didn't seem to mind at all, she just had fun running!

Sunday ended with Novice Regular set at 8". I didn't figure it was appropriate to change anything prior to taking Secret into the ring, so we just ran it as is. This was difficult, as there were two other people in the ring doing the same thing, but we managed to work on a few things. It was nice to put Secret into another set of weave poles (even though they are identical to ours, being made by the same person!) and we also got in a couple of repetitions on the contacts before the place cleared out and the lights were turned off as our cue to leave.

Secret's first trial has been decided! Quad City Dog Center in Davenport, IA is having a NADAC trial on February 19 & 20, just a week and a half after Secret turns 18 months old. We don't have a NADAC trial in La Crosse that month, so I think that's a great excuse to make the trek to Iowa. It's also looking like we'll be going to Iowa for the New Years Eve trial, so it will a good opportunity for Secret to settle in and get to know the facility. I am so excited for her first trial!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jump Grids!

Okay, honestly I don't really even have that much to talk about today. I just thought this picture I caught of Secret was too cute not to share. Yawn! She was not in the mood to be photographed.

I actually meant to post this yesterday, but never got around to it. Obviously it's not of very high importance. :o)

I had a very short time period to work the dogs on Wednesday evening before leaving the house, but I managed to make the most of it! My main objective was to get Kaiser some time on the dog walk before our trial this weekend, but I wanted to do more than just that with Secret -- So I set up a jump grid.

I very, very briefly tried to introduce her to this right at the beginning of her agility training. This was before she really had any jump commitment installed whatsoever and it was, in general, a giant fail (even with really low jumps). Because of this, I wasn't really sure what to expect this time.

It went very well! I started her out at 16" jumps while I fiddled with the distance. Once I was satisfied with the spacing, I moved the line of four jumps up to 20" and she handled it with ease. I added a fifth jump set at 24" and made it a bigger bounce stride and she read the distance very well. Impressive!

The only thing I really noted is that she seems to land somewhat heavy on her front end. I think it would be advantageous to do more grid work to get her snapping up her front end a bit more -- Or maybe that's just a horse term.... At any rate, I think we've done a lot of work on jumping in extension and not so much work with jumping in collection, and that's where the heaviness in the grid came from. She managed to get through it well enough, though, so I think she will pick it up quickly.

Unfortunately, our training days at home are quickly coming to an end.... I am now seriously considering driving up to Ann Braue's training center in Eau Claire a couple of times per month for lessons. I haven't had any training in heaven knows how long, so it would be good for both of us!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Secret is 15 months old! Video!

In honor of Secret turning 15 months old today (old enough to compete in AKC, although we won't be doing that for a while), last night I set up a USDAA Advance Standard course to work her on -- And of course I had my wonderful cousin, Bethany, video it for Secret's blog!

I am just tickled pink with how well Secret ran this course. She is awesome.

I believe I have mentioned it previously, but a couple of weeks ago I almost doubled Secret's food intake. It was hard to admit, but she was pretty skinny and I think that may have contributed to her quickly dwindling energy when we worked. She has filled out a little bit now, but I have noticed a pretty drastic increase in her energy and desire to continue working. I can't have her getting too heavy because she will have to jump high, but she is looking a bit more "presentable" and not so orphan thin these days.

At the end of the night we played with everyone on weaves. Here is the video I put together for that!

As you can see, Secret has chosen "hopping" as her preferred weaving style. I've decided not to mess with it. She still has decent speed and, most importantly, she is happy. Maybe some day she'll switch to swimming on her own, but for now I'll leave good enough alone!

I don't think we'll get in any more training this week. This afternoon I'm taking the boys to the chiropractor, then I have Humane Society stuff the next two days. We have another NADAC trial here in La Crosse this weekend, so Secret will get another weekend of socializing -- and maybe, just maybe she can play on the equipment at the end of it all again!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Slow week...

It's been a slow week here, but you know I'm loathe to let an entire week pass without a blog posting for Secret.

We did manage to do some training on Monday of this week. I set up a super fun Advanced Standard USDAA course for everyone to play on and Secret did GREAT! Other than a momentary brain fart on the weave poles (I think it took five attempts before it clicked and she went, "oh, that's what they are!"), she was just super. The table still needs some work, as she did have some issues sticking it when it was part of the course. Her "auto down" also isn't quite as fast as one would hope, but that's what you get when you spend three sessions working on it then don't touch it again.

Secret hasn't seen a chute for ages thanks mostly to the crazy wind we always seem to have, but she sailed right through it without a problem. I also set up a "hobo double jump" (made of two jumps stacked together) and this was the first time she's seen anything other than a single jump. Again, no biggy. Really, the only thing I'm missing now is a broad jump. I suppose one of these days I'll have to put one together so she sees one before her first AKC or USDAA competition. Someone on Craig's List is selling a set of competition obedience jumps that includes a broad jump for $125 and I am tempted....

Yes, Max is still with us... We met a really nice couple at our last agility trial and I had high hopes that things would work out and he would find a home with them. I haven't heard from them since then, however. :o( Max has started to do well with his agility work, though! His wait is improving daily (for lead-outs) and he's starting to connect jumps really well (not quite so focused on my hand) and he also does the dog walk! I have yet to introduce him to the a-frame or weave poles. We've kind of touched on the teeter, but not to any great extent. I need to make a more updated (and shorter) video of him and get him posted around more places on the internet.

This week has been so bad for training. Tuesday evening I worked at the Humane Society, followed by the entire day on Wednesday (I filled in because we were short-staffed), then last night we had theater tickets. Tonight isn't looking all that great for training, either, since I have a 4:30 vet appointment with Luke. Argh. Hopefully we can do something quick -- Like weave poles, since apparently I have let that slide!

Daylight savings time ends this weekend. I hate that it gets dark by 5:00 p.m. It's only going to get harder to train from here on out. Nothing ever panned out from my Craig's List post asking for an arena to rent for the winter, so I have yet to figure out what we're going to do. I can see breaking down and putting Secret in a class at the dog center in January, otherwise there is no way she'll be able to make her planned debut in February when she turns 18 months. I hate living in an area with so few training options.

I've also considered driving considerable distances to attend run-throughs that I see advertised in Minneapolis, Madison, etc. Anything to get her on equipment, I figure!