Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gorgeous weather = Course work!

We are heading into a heat wave for the next few days. I didn't have anything going on last night and the weather was a gorgeous 82 degrees with low humidity. I was feeling really, really lazy and almost just opted to do more work on the double box I set up Tuesday night after working at the shelter (maybe I'll talk more about that later), but then I called up Bethany to see if she wanted to bring Rascal over to play. I figured if they were coming, perhaps I could inspire myself to do a bit more.

After digging through my giant book of courses (which is really super disorganized these days!) I located a fun looking USDAA Advanced Standard course that would work with where I moved my dog walk after the latest mowing. I made a few alterations out of laziness (my teeter & table are STILL in the basement, so obstacle #9 became a wrap jump and #12 became a jump -- I also only used a set of 6 poles because I was too lazy to correct spacing for my set of 24" poles vs. this map, which is probably spaced for 20" poles) -- but other than THAT, the course was as you see here:

We had a lot of fun with it! Highlights involved Secret mastering the turn from the tunnel up the dog walk -- I mean seriously, when did she learn that? I never taught it to her, but she was super awesome. The thing I was most proud of her for, though, was absolutely nailing her weaves and staying in them while I sprinted laterally away from her to get in position for a front cross between 12 and 13. Replacing the teeter with a jump actually made the course a whole lot harder, as with the teeter you at least get a stop to get in position to send into the tunnel. A rear cross into the tunnel at that angle did not work so well, so it was pretty much required that I get the front cross. Thanks to Secret being a GOOD GIRL and holding her weaves while I ran away from her, I was able to easily get into position to show her where to go next.

Of the four dogs, Secret was the only one to run it cleanly several times. She was just like, "Psh, this is too easy, give me something harder!" Baby girl rocked it and I'm very proud of her! I don't even recall the last time we saw a chute (not at all this year, I can tell you that) and that was a non-issue -- Now I just really need to get that stuff out of the basement... It would be nice to get her going on the teeter again.

Normally I wouldn't get all excited about double-box work, but Secret was super-duper awesome Tuesday night. As usual, I had absolutely no plan when I set it up. I just felt we needed to do SOMETHING and it required the least amount of effort to set. ;o)

There has been much discussion on the Clean Run list of the "blended front cross" and of course the Ketschker. My tired brain was happy when I realized the double-box offered several opportunities to work on these skills. I seem to recall trying a Ketschker with Secret back when I first heard about them -- I also remember it being a giant flop, but I am persistent and determined, so I decided to try it again.

Now you must keep in mind that I'm far from an expert on these two maneuvers -- In fact, both are pretty much as new to me as they are to Secret. Somehow the two of us actually managed to put our brains together and figured it out, because she ROCKED IT. Aside from Secret pulling up short before a jump on one blended cross due to my abstract cue, and then turning the wrong way on a Ketschker once, she got every single one of them that I threw at her. It was just so much fun and happily, Secret seemed to agree! I was jumping her at 16" and I have to say, she seems to enjoy herself and have more confidence at the lower heights. I used to think, "She's a 26" dog no problem," but structurally I just don't think she's up for it. I do hope she'll eventually be as happy & confident at 22" (which would be her Performance height in USDAA), but we'll see. Seeing as we don't exactly have any USDAA trials on the horizon, I'm trying to not worry about it and just do what is best for her.

As I mentioned earlier, we have another few days of gross heat & humidity ahead of us, so I don't imagine we'll be doing much of anything. We are heading to Minneapolis for a trial next Saturday. I just entered Secret in the four classes she needs for Champs qualifiers -- Two rounds of Open Regular, Open Chances and Novice Hoopers. Here's hoping for a perfect day. :o)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Boring!

Secret thinks life is pretty darn boring right now. We can't go swimming for a bit yet because Kaiser is still healing from his neuter (soon, though -- soon!). We aren't doing much agility at home right now -- Again because of Kaiser, but also due to a fun summer cold I'm experiencing. I'll suck it up one of these days.

And that stupid Kaiser is getting all the attention AGAIN, she says. Not that he is enjoying it all that much -- Kaiser went to the vet this morning for an abscessed anal gland that popped up. Believe me, Secret, you should not be jealous of such things. I've never had this problem with any of my dogs before, so it was a new experience. Poor Kaiser, though, it's not a fun one.

I must get a plug in, though -- I LOVE MY VET! I really appreciate them getting me in on short notice when we need it. I also appreciate the phone call at 7:00 p.m. after seeing my facebook post to ask if I needed pain meds to get him through the night. :o) He wasn't that bad, but again, just more reason to love my vets.

This whole experience makes me wonder if I should take Secret & Luke in to get their glands expressed. Granted, I should probably learn to do it myself -- But until then, it probably wouldn't hurt to go get them taken care of. If I were to be honest, I always thought that anal gland issues were only a symptom of dogs who ate a crap diet filled with corn and other nasty fillers. Apparently not; lesson learned. Luke & Secret have both, on occasion, had some bum-licking phases -- So more or less, I think it would be a good idea to get it done. I bet Secret will just LOVE it. Yeah......

And for anyone dying with curiosity, here is what an abscessed anal gland looks like:

Not really something you want to have to deal with! Kaiser agrees -- He thought getting his butt shaved this morning was pretty awful, but not as awful as when the vet went to express the infected side. I'm pretty sure Secret will get muzzled for her experience!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fun Frisbee Video!



Poor Kaiser got "tutored" on Monday (see sad evidence below), so I have been avoiding agility this week to spare the little guy. I don't think it's fair that the other dogs would get to play and not him, so we are occupying ourselves with other fun things. Kaiser doesn't care about frisbee or fetch, so he's not missing out on anything.

Kaiser with his thrice daily icing ritual...

We did set up a Chances course to play with on Friday -- I figured maybe it was time that Secret actually started to learn those skills now that she'll be in Open for the next trial. It was a nice little course that included a turn away into weave poles at a distance and a discrimination between a tunnel and a line of jumps (with the jumps being correct). She nailed the first part, but the discrimination proved to be difficult for her -- but we got it! Sadly, no video, so you just have to take my word on it. ;o)

It's been a while since I've made a "fun" video of the dogs, so I decided to put together a frisbee montage from our play session last night. I don't think I've updated anyone on Secret's disc "skills" for quite some time -- She's made a ton of progress from the beginning, especially when you consider she originally had zero interest in discs whatsoever. Now the only thing holding her back is me!

Well, and her complete inability to play with more than one disc. That's probably going to be the major thing that keeps us from ever really trying to get into disc dog events. If I try to hold several discs at once, she'll just stare at me while I throw them until I'm down to one -- and then she chases that one. She figures, "Why waste my energy going to get that one when you have another right there?" We've overcome a lot of obstacles in her training, so I suppose we could just keep working on this one and see what happens. Meanwhile, though, we just have a lot of fun! :o)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lexie came to visit!

My parents were busy doing "Butterfest things" all weekend, so Lexie got to come over to our house to play! She was there when we got home Saturday evening and then came and spent the whole day on Sunday. Secret thought this was super fun! And Kaiser -- Well, I think Kaiser made great strides into improving his relationship with Lexie. ie: She learned to stand up to the little fart.

Lexie got to start her agility training yesterday. She's a spunky little thing who can run quite fast (relative to her size, at least!). I think she shows real promise.

But ultimately, I think her favorite part was playing with Secret.



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Another day, another trial

Not that I mean to come off blase about it or anything. :o) We had lots of fun down in Davenport again this past Saturday! Although I could *really* do without the whole getting up at 3:30 a.m. part. The dogs didn't care -- breakfast came early and they got to sleep the entire way there -- No skin off their noses! Thankfully it was a small trial and we got home around 7:45 p.m. We survived, and we (okay -- I) were happy to have a day of doing nothing yesterday.

As you can see, Secret had another successful trial! I was glad that I kept her in Open Regular, because she really does do better when she has a bit of time to settle in before her first run. Big dogs ran first at this trial, too, so had she been running Elite she would have been first on the line. Nope, I'm glad I kept her at Open. As a result, she put in two really nice runs and earned her Outstanding OAC title! First time I've put one of those on a dog....

Oh wait, I just realized that I'm completely mental. After a quick peak at the NADAC title chart, I just realized that you need 100 points in Regular for the Outstanding title. The 60 point requirement is for all the other classes. Well crap. I guess I take back the title. And now we have an unearned title ribbon (actually, two -- more about that later). Boo. Well, ignore that part in the video, I guess!

After two such stellar Regular rounds, I thought Secret had Touch-n-Go in the bag. A Q in that class would finish her Open Touch-n-Go title (like, for real this time, not the fake title I just discovered we didn't earn).

Cut to reality -- Secret totally FREAKED OUT at the judge. The judge was standing well inside the ring, next to the a-frame (the second obstacle on course). As soon as I took off her leash, Secret absolutely froze and fixated on the judge. I couldn't get her to acknowledge me for the release or anything. When she finally did start her run, she made her way to the a-frame barking and growling at the judge. Her entire mo-hawk was standing on end as she came over the a-frame. This behavior continued for the ENTIRE run, with Secret repeatedly whipping around to keep the judge in her sites. At one point I made a point to put in an unplanned cross just to keep myself between her and the judge. I so do not need an aggressive dog report on my record....

The run was an NQ for going off course and skipping a hoop (I wasn't going to correct ANYTHING on this run!), but I'm shocked that the judge didn't give us a big fat E for her behavior. When the class was completed, the judge did come find me to discuss the incident. She asked if this was normal behavior for Secret and I explained that no, she had never done anything like that before. She explained to me that if Secret behaved like that again she would be excused from the remainder of the trial (which would totally suck if one was doing both days, I suppose). I *completely* supported her on this and told her that I agreed 100%, and apologized profusely for Secret's behavior.


The judge stayed back against the wall for our next class, Novice Chances -- But I will admit that I was a little on edge and overly cautious about Secret's behavior. I did something stupid and took a step back during the send portion of the course, which caused Secret to cut in from a jump. I thought VERY briefly about trying to send her back out, but then I realized, "Hey dummy, you've never taught her that." lol So we just finished the course. I wrote a big fat NQ in her book -- So imagine my surprise as I was walking past the score table later in the day and saw the book open to Novice Chances. Kicking myself about my stupid handling error, I glanced down to confirm our NQ score. Q. What? How?

Normally -- Yes, normally -- I would go to the trial secretary about the error and inquire to have it fixed. I really hate to take things that aren't mine. That evil little greedy part of me won out, though. We *need* these Q's for Champs. We only have three days of trialing left to get them and Open Chances is going to be hard. So I took it. :o( It completes Secret's NCC title as well as her Novice Versatility Award. I hate it. I hate that I can't be proud of a title. It happened once with Kaiser in TDAA and I kept him in that class until he rightfully earned the Q. I'll make up for it with Secret -- Maybe I'll make her get an extra Open Q or something.

The last class of the day was Secret's first time in Elite Jumpers. I have to admit I'm kind of sad about this. I thought that as long as she stayed forward and we didn't have to make any corrections she would squeak in under time. Alas, she was 0.59 seconds over time. Obviously she was not going as fast as I know she is capable, but it was still disappointing.

Watching the video made me uncomfortable. I hate how she is jumping 20" when she is stressed. Her form is horrible and the landings look painful. I don't have any problem with how she jumps at home, but she is so tight & stressed at trials. I am okay with how she was moving in her two Regular rounds -- but she obviously started stressing at Touch-n-Go and never improved. Because of that, I've decided to move her back down to Skilled.

Now..... The hard part is whether or not to run her in any Elite classes (because points split at the Elite level) or if I should just start running her and see what happens. It may well be that I just keep her running at 16" -- although if that's the case, I'm pretty much wiping out my USDAA goals (she would be 22" in Performance). If I keep running her at Skilled, I can run her in Skilled at Champs, which I think she would enjoy more. There comes a point where it's hard to transition up to Proficient because you essentially "lose" your Skilled points. Alternatively, you can always transfer Prof. points down to Skilled.

Ultimately, I have to do what is best for her. And right now, that means jumping 16". I wish I could explain why I have an issue with Skilled. It is totally irrational! But I'm sure you'll understand when you see the Jumpers class.... (or even how she's jumping in Chances)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hot Fun in the Summertime

If Blogger allowed me to use background music, there is no doubt that you'd be hearing a little "Sly & the Family Stone" right about now.

Summer has arrived. And since I'm too lazy to pack up the dogs and drive to water, I do the next best thing -- We play with the hose. Well, when I say, "we" I actually mean, "Secret." Luke has no interest, but will allow me to hose his belly to cool him off. Kaiser will sometimes come in for a sneak attack at the hose and if it's REALLY hot he'll let me mist him. But more or less, they both stand back and watch the madhouse of Secret & the hose.

She's really only interested in the JET feature. It is the only one that is fun to attack. It's a great way to wear her out on a hot day. It's also the reason why I can't get a hose nozzle to last more than one season, as she can't seem to limit her biting to the stream...

When I get tired of manually watering the lawn, I set up the sprinkler. Last year Secret really had no interest in this. Apparently things have changed, as she'll sit and play in the sprinkler for about as long as you let her (and this is following a play session with the hose!). The little goofball got absolutely soaked last night. There is no telling how much water she consumed...

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We've managed to get some training done between heat waves. The a-frame is finally out in the yard, so we've done some work with that (driving to the bottom, etc.). I've also been doing plenty of flowing lines with Secret to work on getting her to extend over the jumps more. I hate watching her trial videos and watching her jump with zero extension. She's much better at home, so I'm sure it's just another manifestation of stress.

I pulled out the weaves the other day to make a deposit into the "fast weaves bank." lol I used a Kong Squeaker ball and was actually testing her ability to work through distraction by squeaking it while she was in the weaves -- But it actually ended up being a motivator for her and she was a fast little squirt. Still hopping.... But fast. I keep waiting for her to reach the point where she discovers how much easier it would be to single step, but maybe she just isn't built for it. She also carries a lot of tightness in her shoulders, but we continue to do stretching exercises and perhaps it will change one day. Probably not, though. She's a happy hopper. :o)

Inspired by some of the totally wicked rear crosses I saw at the weave poles while watching online coverage of one of the USDAA regional events, I decided to set up a pattern that would require the same maneuver at home. I have to admit that I have been pretty bad at practicing this sort of stuff since going through the 2x2 program -- So Secret's first reaction was, "Wha???" She got it on the second try, though, and rocked it for the rest of the session. She also did better at maintaining her speed as I drove ahead of her -- Yay for Kong Squeaker balls.

So the plan is to head down to Iowa this Saturday to try to get a few more Q's under our belt. I'd love to do the full weekend, but I is 'po and need to cut back. Plus hey, I'll get a day off on Sunday to be a bum! I just need to decide if I want to get up at 3:30 a.m. and save the cost of a hotel, or if I want to fork out $70 and potentially be a better partner for my dogs. I think they will zonk out in the back of the car if we leave at 0-dark-thirty and be fine -- it's me I'd worry about. lol

Secret is actually standing pretty well in her chase for last-minute Champs qualifiers. She has 4/10 of the required Regular Q's (from Open or Elite). She has completed the requirements for Tunnelers, Touch-n-Go, Weavers & Jumpers. Woot! She won't be able to finish Hoopers since we'll only see it one more time before August -- If she Q's on that run she'll finish her Novice title and technically she'll need 2 more Q's from Open. But hey, I call it "good faith effort" considering we never see Hoopers around here and she just started trialing at the end of February. We actually do stand a chance at finishing the Chances Q's -- You know, if she has a 100% Q rate. lol We'll see. I think she'll get close enough that Sharon will let her in.

I still question my sanity of wanting to run three dogs at Champs. In three different height classes......