Monday, February 28, 2011

First Trial! Surprise!!

I said I would hopefully have big news to share on Monday, and Secret does not disappoint. She made the news ever better than I had hoped. :o)

Yes indeedy-do, Secret went to her first trial! And not only that, but Secret QUALIFIED and got 1st place in three out of her four runs! Holy cow, baby girl!

The whole thing was kind of a last-minute decision. The games trial being hosted by RACE Agility wasn't really even on my radar because I always figured I'd probably be working because I couldn't ask off two weekends in a row. But as it happened, I wasn't scheduled to work this weekend. Then the trial secretary posted to the WI/IL agility list last week that they were taking day-of-show entries at the trial. Hmm... I mentioned the trial to Bethany and she was totally gung-ho about the idea. The forecast looked okay for the three-hour morning drive over, so we decided to go for it.

We left at 5:15 a.m. and miraculously managed to pack all four dogs, two humans and all of our gear into my Saturn Vue. I didn't think it was possible, but thankfully Bethany packs pretty light and she just got a new soft crate that doesn't take up much room at all. The dogs traveled so well! My three pretty much slept the entire trip over and left Rascal alone, which was great because usually they pester him and try to play the whole time. With a long, busy day ahead of us, I was happy that Secret rested. Because she slept well, and because she had done so well during our practice the night before (Bethany & I drug tunnels & hoops out into the snow), I elected to go ahead an enter her in both rounds of Tunnelers along with one round each of Touch-n-Go and Weavers.

We arrived to the trial site at about 8:35, with the trial scheduled to begin at 9:00. Parking spots were slim pickings, but we found a spot against a snow bank a fair distance from the barn. I've never been to this location, but it appeared to be someone's personal horse farm. The arena was really nice, but crate space was really, really tight. After submitting our entries, Bethany and I just kind of stood there aimlessly for a bit while we tried to figure out where we could fit four dogs. It would have helped if one woman hadn't brought a huge freaking lounge chair.... But in the end, some kind person moved and made space for us.

I purposefully did not enter Secret in the first round of Touch-n-Go, as I knew she would need time to settle at the new location. There was a lot of noise and commotion when I brought her into the barn and she was totally freaked out and darted into her kennel to hide. I was able to find time to bring her out for a bit after Kaiser's first run and was happy to see that she was acclimating to everything and coming out of her shell nicely. By the time she was up for her first run, she was even starting to bark & sass at me!

Knowing that this was the first time I've ever tried to run Secret without toys or treats in hand, I honestly had no idea what to expect. She obviously felt the same way, because when we went to the start line she looked kind of baffled and wasn't sure what the heck was going on. The course started with two hoops to the a-frame (great 2 on/2 off!), then through another hoop and a turn to a tunnel. She had no idea what the heck was going on, but as she came out of the tunnel and saw the a-frame in front of her again, she lit up and took off! I was a bad, bad handler and rushed her through her bottom (gack, she's a BABY, we should be holding contacts!), but she still nailed it. Then it was nice & smooth until we got to the dog walk/tunnel discrimination.

I know I over-handled it in an attempt to make sure she didn't take the off course tunnel. This made her worry that she might be wrong, which is never good for Secret. Add that to the fact that the last dog walk she saw when we trained in Northfield scared the crap out of her and.... Well, she didn't trust this dog walk, either. After barking at me a few times, Secret offered the tunnel since she wasn't comfortable with the dog walk. Then she did the tunnel two more times, and hid in it once more before coming out, offering her end position on the plank and then finally turning around and going up the dog walk. GOOD GIRL. I really was worried that I wasn't going to be able to get her on it at this trial, so I was so proud of her for facing her fear.

Tunnelers was up next. Secret has never seen so many tunnels in a row before, so I figured she would either think it rocked or it would oog her out. Well, it was kind of a combination. There was a bit of trotting on course because she wasn't sure what the heck was going on, but she was very responsive to my cues and flowed nicely through the course to earn her very first Q!

She was much more comfortable in the second round of Tunnelers and seemed to kick it up a notch! One thing I've noted from watching the video (over and over and over) is that front crosses seem to really turn her on and inspire her to move out. I definitely can't be a lazy handler with Secret. :o) She trotted briefly in a couple of spots, but overall this was a really nice run for her second Q.

I wasn't sure how Weavers would go. It was her fourth run of the day and, of course, her first time weaving in public. The point of the whole day was just to go and have fun, though, so I figured we'd see what happened.

She was awesome! She didn't have the speediest weaves, but she started to really kick it up a bit between the sets of weaves. Secret totally nailed each entry and it was just a really nice, smooth run. Yay for her first Weavers Q!

Getting Q's in three out of four runs at her first trial is beyond awesome. She's off to a great start and it will be fun to watch her speed increase along with her confidence.

We get to play in La Crosse this coming weekend and I e-mailed Laurie to see if I can add the second round of Regular to her classes each day. I figure she can handle it after seeing how well she did on Saturday.

Tonight we get to go play on the underwater treadmill again. I likely won't sign Secret up for the Wednesday session after seeing how tired the last one made her. I need her fresh as a daisy for the trial this weekend. :o)

YouTube didn't disable my audio this time, so I can finally just embed from there instead of uploading to Blogger. No offense, Blogger, but your videos are small.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Underwater Treadmill Fun!

Last night Secret and I attended the first "Fun & Fitness" night hosted by our favorite people, the staff at Sparta Small Animal Veterinary Clinic! I saw it on their web site earlier in the week and then stopped in to pick up syringes for Luke on Tuesday -- But then Bethany called and talked me into it yesterday when she said she was going. I've always wanted to see the underwater treadmill in action, Secret can ALWAYS use more exercise and the price was definitely right!

Secret basically thought the whole night absolutely rocked. Bethany & Rascal were there, and in Secret's mind that equals PARTY! Secret surprised me and did well with everyone who was there last night (well, except for the third dog...). I think it's always good to have a visit to the vet clinic that doesn't involve getting poked & prodded.

We got to watch Rascal have his turn first and Secret was just fascinated by the whole ordeal. Poor Rascal didn't think it was so fun, unfortunately, and ended up climbing out right over the top! It was funny, though, because as soon as he was out, Secret acted like she wanted to get the heck in there and have her turn at the fun. Too bad for her that she had to wait for the water to drain first!

I put together a video of her experience -- She did SO WELL!!

I already signed us up for the next session this coming Monday. Luke gets to play next time, too! There is another session next Wednesday as well and I would like to see what Kaiser thinks of the experience. I haven't decided who else will get to play that night. Maybe all three, who knows!

I think it's never a bad idea for a performance dog to get used to the experience of the underwater treadmill. It just may come in handy one day if one of them gets an injury or strain of some sort. I'm thankful we have this option so close to home.

Secret made herself right at home in the front office before we left. We really do spend way too much time at the clinic. :o) We have an appointment to go back on March 7 as well, as Secret & Kaiser are both a little overdue for their Lepto boosters. Sometimes I'm a slacker....

I popped Secret on the scale before we left to get a quick weight update on her. Oh my. Care to take a stab? She's up to 48 lbs. She is a freaking HUGE girl. I suppose it should be consolation that it's all solid muscle, as she is about as fit & trim as they come, but man, she's a big girl. Oh well, not much we can do about it, so I may as well move on. lol

So...... There may be big news to share on Monday. I am not going to post about it yet, though, because I don't want to jinx anything. As with many things that take place in the winter in Wisconsin, it depends entirely on the weather. We shall see -- But cross your fingers!

Monday, February 21, 2011

I hate you, Mother Nature

But Secret doesn't. All three dogs are blissed out on the 9" of snow we got (plus a couple more inches today, they say). How are they my dogs? Blah. Stupid snow. This spot where Secret is standing had grass two days ago. GRASS!!!!!!!

Guess we won't be able to set up any jumps before our trial. Sigh.

The storm was actually so bad that I got sent home from the shelter yesterday. It was a super fun drive home, but the dogs were happy to see me five hours earlier than expected. We were bums and slept on the couch all day, save for a fun round of frisbee before the high winds really kicked up.

I'm so done with winter.... Not to mention the fact that we get to go through a second mud season now.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Melting!!

Oh happy day! After being on the receiving end of over 40" of snow this winter, we are finally starting to see the grass again!

Isn't it a beautiful thing to see? Can't you just imagine agility equipment set up out there again? It's all I'm thinking of these days, I can tell you that much!

Granted, the left side of the yard is a lake. A very cold, frozen lake. Secret decided to demonstrate its depth for everyone. And FYI, no, Secret doesn't mind the cold. On our walk yesterday she actually decided to jump in the (very high) creek and go for a swim. In February. With all the melting run-off from the cow fields. Oh Secret....

The glacier of solid ice right outside the door is super fun. The dogs don't seem bothered by it, but I've come close to falling on my butt several times now. While I obviously look forward to it melting and going away, I don't look forward to the mud that inevitably appears in the most high traffic volume area of the yard.

Secret shows off her slim figure -- And the brown spots in the yard.

Thank you, pediatric spay, for making her limbs OH SO LONG.

But she's still cute! :o)

Today the entries go in the mail for Secret's FIRST TRIAL! Yay! I sat for the longest time, struggling to decide how many classes to enter her in each day. I've thought for quite a while that three runs per day would be a good start. Jumpers each day is a given for a baby dog, in my opinion. Fast, fun & pretty basic. I also felt that Tunnelers would probably be fun for her, and an entirely new experience since she's never seen more than two tunnels in a row in the past. Weavers is the one I struggled with, as I know she loves to weave -- But so did Kaiser, and he ended up not weaving in trials for nearly 6 months because he was so stressed out. I decided to chance it, though, and see what she does. So because I opted to run a game each day, I ended up only entering her in one round of Regular each day. That was SO hard for me for some reason. I have never entered only one round of Regular. From the start, though, I have said that I will NOT overload her at her first trial. So..... We'll see how it goes! Just two more weeks!

And since it is only two weeks away, I decided it was time to introduce Secret to her agility leash. I bought this thing way back in July for heaven sake -- Think I was a little eager? lol And of course it's pink, duh.

Basically, I want her to view the leash as a fun toy and tug it when offered. So far so good, she took to it immediately. The first couple of times we just made it a toy and tugged. Yesterday I put it on her, took it off and then tugged. Then I tugged with it on her. She had no problem accepting the leash as a fun new toy! We'll keep having a couple of short play sessions per day with the tug leash leading up to the trial to keep building the toy association.

Yes, NADAC has strict rules against tugging in the ring. I understand that, and for that reason I'm making sure she knows to only grab the leash when it is offered to her and she is given the cue ("get it!"). I like having a way to rev/warm them up before going into the ring and it's always nice to have an immediate reward following a run, if she chooses that as a reward. Luke is odd in that respect -- He will tug like a mad man before going into the ring, but when we are done he's all about getting back to the crate for food. It will be interesting to see what Secret does.

They are threatening a "big winter storm" on Sunday. The weather guessers do not yet know if it will be snow, rain or some sort of freezing mixture. It sure would be cruel of Mother Nature to melt all of our snow just to dump on us again. Granted, I'm sure any new snow would melt much faster -- Everything we had was packed so solidly that it seems like it is taking forever to melt. We have had a solid week of well above freezing temps and yesterday was the first time I actually saw the ground. We had a LOT of snow!!

It sure would be nice to be able to set a Jumpers course outside before our trial.....

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First Entry = Sent!

It's a little deceiving because it's not the entry for Secret's first trial -- But it's the first entry that has been sent in for her. lol It's for the March 19 (we're only doing one day) NADAC trial being hosted by Agile Canines.

I'm always a little paranoid about trials in Minneapolis filling. It hasn't happened for two years, but you never know! This is the first NADAC trial in the Cities since New Years and it's also the first NADAC trial at this location -- The Oasis Equestrian Center in Lindstrom, MN. There have been a handful of CPE trials there and so far it has received rave reviews. I worry that the NADAC folks will be curious and want to check it out (like me!), so to be safe, I sent my entries.

Besides, I noticed this morning that the closing date is March 5, so that pretty much shot my plans out of the water to wait and see how Secret did at her first trial before choosing the classes/sending the entries for this one.

This will be Secret's first time seeing/running on dirt!! That will be interesting.

Monday, February 14, 2011

We got to train! Yay!

Just a little clip of our Sunday morning sing-along session to wake everyone up before getting into this post. Everyone wanted desperately to go outside and were wound up beyond belief, so I started prodding Luke to see if I could get him to set something off. Secret started responding to the noises that Luke was making, which Kaiser didn't care for, so he started "talking," eventually hitting the right note to get everyone going. Oh, the ways I find to entertain myself on weekends at home.... :o)

I didn't mention any of our weekend plans last week for fear of jinxing us! Twice now, I have tried to plan trips to Minnesota to train with a friend and both times Mother Nature interfered and stomped my plans into the ground. This time I decided to keep it to myself in case we got hit with a non-forecasted blizzard that would force us to stay home.

Thankfully, this was not the case! We actually had a miraculous & GORGEOUS stretch of warm weather this weekend! Bring on the melting!

Saturday morning was nice & lazy. We didn't have to leave until 11:00, so we slept in, did our daily poo-pick of the yard (because SOMEONE is still eating frozen poo if given the chance), trimmed nails and clipped feet. I still can't believe what a hairy beast Secret is. She is obviously trying to classify herself as a rough-coat simply based on the amount of hair she can grow from the ankle down.

After a quick stop to fill my parent's wood stove (Secret, stop eating the wood!), we were off! Poor, poor Secret. She'd spent her whole morning playing and was now in desperate need of a nap. Unfortunately, the front seat refuses to grow larger and she found it next to impossible to sleep. Finally, a full hour and a half into our journey, she FINALLY went into the back where she could stretch out and snooze. For about 20 minutes. Oh well, it's better than nothing! I was worried that I wouldn't have a dog to speak of once we got to the facility, but she woke right up.

Secret was overjoyed to see her bestest Border Collie buddies, Peppy & Neeko! Oh, how she loves them so. No doubt running around with them for a bit helped her warm up to the facility and feel more comfortable. From the get-go, this was really the most confident that I've seen Secret in a new location! This made me so happy to see.

Mind you, she was no speed demon -- But she was playing, she was giving a good effort, and she was having fun! Secret had her first introduction to rubber contacts, as the a-frame was coated in the pelleted rubber (with slats). This didn't seem to bother her at all. They had a "mini" dog walk with 8' planks (and slats) that just had the standard painted wood. Secret started out just fine with this at first, but then got spooked somehow later on. She was offering anything she could think of to avoid doing the dog walk (namely, leaving me to go do tunnels & jumps). I ended up having to put her leash on and after two times of luring her across with cheese, she was totally fine and went back and forth repeatedly on her own. It's the first time we've had an issue with a dog walk, so that one threw me a bit.

Secret nailed the new weaves each time she saw them, which is awesome -- At both FDC and ABCTC she tends to run past them the first time, but at this place she hit them in full stride. Again, not super speedy, but at her slower "processing" speed. Jumping sequences were good, including several really nice rear crosses (something we haven't really done anything with this winter). We had several tunnel/contact discriminations set up and this is definitely something that has deteriorated a bit over the winter, but overall she still did quite well.

There was a teeter set up in the back at "baby height", so we also took the opportunity to play on that for a bit. The leash was required to keep her with me for this, but she went over the teeter of her own accord, so that is definitely a step in the right direction. We ended with weaves & a few jumps to rev her up again and end on a happy note. Overall, it was a great practice for us and I'm thankful to have gotten an opportunity to train in a new place!

Finally, just a quick note about the sequence of photos in this post -- Secret's new toy is the Hurley by WestPaw Design. I guess it's part of their new "Zogoflex" line? At any rate, this toy is frightening. Secret has had it for over three weeks now and there isn't so much as a tooth mark on the thing. What kind of alien material do they use??? It's "guaranteed tough" and no doubt, it is! Crazy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Coming of Age

What is today?

Today is the day Secret turns 18 months old!

Do you realize how hard it is to get a good shot of a dog dancing?

It's also really hard to get a good shot of them waving....

But we can certainly get a good shot of a dead dog (or a dog really bad at playing dead)

And we can also get a shot of the world's longest dog ever.

Okay, it's pretty obvious that there isn't much else to talk about, so this blog is simply being filled with pictures.

But oooh, look what arrived in the mail the other day! Secret is now "official" and ready to go!

So the big day is here, and here we sit.... Not able to train, not able to trial for another three weeks. Boo. Patience, grasshopper, patience....

I'm still waiting to hear if we are going to be able to do any lessons up in Eau Claire this month. I really hope we can arrange something, or else the entry fees for the March trial are just going to be paid training in the ring. Well really, I suppose that's what any first trial is, but I would really like to have SOME sort of training opportunity prior to that weekend.

I put the weaves away last night and we are going to go back to doing some jump work again. Part of it is because we simply NEED to go back to jump work, but it's also because we hit a bit of a road block with the single-step weave project. With the poles open, Secret swims beautifully. As soon as they close too much, though, she goes back to hopping and we have not been able to get over that hump. Ultimately, I believe there is only so much she is comfortable offering in the tiny space of the basement -- So maybe we'll just stop obsessing on it until we can get back outside and really run/dig in to the ground. We'll see, but I need to move on and continue to work on other skills with her for now.

In the mean time, T-24 days and counting.....

Friday, February 4, 2011

The field trip that wasn't...

Last week my cousins asked me if I'd be willing to go into their Animal Science class and do a presentation on agility for their dog unit. I hemmed and hawed, not being much of a person for public speaking. Ultimately, though, I figured it might be fun. And I'd get to make a video! You know me and videos....

I have been antagonizing for the last couple of days on whether or not I should take Secret. I thought it would be a good experience for her and I knew that going through her bag of tricks would likely be a bit hit for the class. But I also worried about her shutting down or getting snappy if overwhelmed, and going to school would be a big brand new place for her. Then, of course, there was also the fact that she would probably sit and bark at me the whole time I was giving my talk because she would be upset about not having all of my attention.

So.... Secret stayed at the office today. :o( Poor Secret. I do think it would have been a really good experience for her, but hopefully there will be others. Once I was at the school I knew I had made the right decision. Luke and I had to walk down some pretty busy & crowded hallways to find our classroom and I think that might have been a little much for Secret.

I'm still certain that she would have blown everyone away with her tricks, but I'll have to be happy that she played the part of "baby dog grows up" in the video presentation. :o)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Video Update! Weaves!

Holy heck, when was the last time Secret had a video update? It must have been all the way back in early November when I posted her running that USDAA Advanced Standard course.... The equipment was put away not that long after and there just hasn't been much to video, I guess.

Until now!

A fellow blogger recently went through the process of "retraining" the weaves to get her BC to swim -- Unlike Secret, she always swam at 22", but had switched to hopping when moved up to 24". Seeing their success inspired me to attack it with Secret and try again. What else is there to do right now?

I learned quickly that if I closed the poles too soon that Secret would revert back to hopping. Because of this, I left them in the position you see in the video for a few sessions. This video is from Saturday afternoon following the boys' trial. Last night I closed the poles a little more and we made progress! Secret's first inclination was to hop, but after a few repetitions she started to swim them again. So we'll stay at this spot for a while.

We should probably be doing some jump work, table work, teeter work, etc..... But I figure it's just easiest to leave the weaves out for now...

Since it's video day, I figure I'll give the boys some spotlight today, too. They had a truly remarkable weekend at our trial at Family Dog Center this weekend! (And happy day, they put rubber on their contacts!)

Luke got his Versatility NATCH!

All of his (recorded) runs are in this video:

Kaiser's (recorded) runs are in this video -- He went 9/14 this weekend and earned his Open Chances and Elite Weavers titles!

And finally, I ended up running Rascal after Bethany became ill (hence why I didn't get as much video as usual, lol) -- I have worked with him in training at home, but this was my first time getting to run him in a trial. I love Rascal! And it made me SO look forward to getting to run Secret in the Novice classes at the next trial!