Monday, August 29, 2011

Trial Update - ACTS in Lindstrom, MN

Look at that! Someone was RUNNING at our trial this weekend! :o) Many, many thanks to our friend Robyn for taking some awesome pictures at our trial up in Lindstrom. I didn't get any video at this trial, so having some great snapshots takes away the sting of Secret's very first trial with zero video footage. It was a small trial and none of my normal videographers were in attendance, so I decided to deal with it and not bug anyone. I'm a little bummed, especially since Secret's first two runs were so nice.

It was not our most successful day, coming home with only one Q out of four runs. Unfortunately, I have to take the blame for two of the NQ's and I hate it when it is COMPLETELY my fault.

The first round of Elite Regular was eating up a lot of teams. There's no seemingly good explanation, other than that the course went through a similar path three times and several of us managed to get lost. Sadly, I screwed up both Luke & Secret (in different spots...). Secret was moving at a really good clip and my complete lack of cues sent her straight into an off course tunnel. I did a quick, "Crap..." to myself, but I made sure not to dampen Secret's enthusiasm and just kept running to the next obstacle -- So we ended up with 30 faults for that run (off course & missed jump).

Round 2 seemed to flow a little better and I managed to stay on course this time. It was a tricky course with multiple discrimination tests, so I was very happy to see Secret keep her happy attitude and not start to worry or stress over anything. The weaves were the second obstacle on the course and she was quite a bit slower through them than in the first round -- She always seems to weave faster when they are at the end of the course for some reason. I left her more than usual in the weaves at this trial and am happy that this didn't seem to effect her. It was a really nice bobble-free run that earned us a Q and 2nd place.

These Regular courses were really good Champs preparation. They were "only" 22 obstacles, but they spanned quite a bit of yardage (I didn't write it down) and required most handlers to move more than usual. I made it through the courses okay but will be glad to have more time between dogs at Champs!! The run order was in my favor, with Secret going first (which is good, because I feel I need the most energy with her), then Luke (who gives me more distance so I can take more of a break), and finally Kaiser (who really didn't have a very good day, likely due to a muscle spasm in his leg I found later).

Chances was up next. Both of my boys got stuck in Elite at the tunnel/dog walk discrimination. The tunnel was practically sitting on top of the dog walk plank, it was SO CLOSE. It was a very hard discrimination to get, so after sending Secret out through the hoops (distance with a switch) I called too hard to get the "up walk" from her. She listened to my come command and.... came to me. Darn it. I over-handled yet again! I set her up to try it again and she got it, good girl! And she even finished up the run with an "out tunnel" next to the a-frame from behind the line -- YAY!! No hesitation whatsoever, so it looks like the "out" is starting to stick with her!

Jumpers wasn't so awesome. The day was just dragging on and Secret had been in her crate most of the afternoon (as I didn't enter her in Touch-n-Go or Weavers at this trial). It was around 4 p.m. before we ran Jumpers and she was getting tired. Add to that, she ended up being the first dog to run in the class (due to me having to space out my dogs at a small trial), so I essentially had to walk the course, grab my dog and run. Secret doesn't do well with that routine. She's much happier if she gets to sit and bark at me and do tricks before going into the ring. Oh well, sometimes we don't get that chance!

The other issue, I'm sure, is that I left her and jogged off to get a bit of a lead out. Hind sight being what it is, I probably should have just ran with her and did the rear cross. I actually ended up losing her briefly with the push that I used, as she paused at the end of the ring to look at some folks at the results table. I got her back again only to lose her on a front cross (granted, it was poorly placed, but she loves front crosses!) when she stopped at the end of the ring to whine & wiggle at a female border collie she had seen earlier in her crate and wanted to play with. This was totally unexpected, but I suppose wanting to play with a new/strange dog is better than behaving aggressively. It was a dog we are going to Champs with, so maybe we'll have to see if Rain wants to play while we are there. :o)

Long story short, Secret ended up 2 seconds over time. It would have been her EJC-S title, but oh well, we'll get it next time.

We have many positives to take away from this trial, despite the single Q. Secret did not get much settling time at all before her first run, as we arrived around 8:20 a.m. and she was the 2nd dog on the line at 9:00 a.m. She ran fast & happy from the start, so this is great!! We didn't have ANY moments of stopping to search for horse poop in the dirt arena, which is another huge plus (especially considering Champs is running on a dirt ring that has surely had horses in it). Due to part of the arena being ripped off in a storm, crating was in horse stalls this time, which was great practice for Champs. Secret did really well in this environment and seemed to enjoy the more private setting.

The long days at Champs are going to be hard on Secret for sure. It will be difficult since I'm running the Team events, but I'm going to have to try to get the dogs back to the hotel for a rest between rounds 1 & 2 each day. I think it will help Secret to have more of a fresh attitude for the second round if she hasn't been sitting in the stall all day. I also think it will help if I'm able to spend more time with them, though. At this trial I decided to work pretty much whenever I wasn't running (great vouchers!!), so they were left to themselves all day and I know they don't rest quite as well.

Our next trial is back in La Crosse on September 16-18 --- Yup, another 3-dayer. I haven't decided yet how many runs I'll have Secret do per day. I'm going to make a point not to over train this time leading into the trial... Less is more, that's for sure.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Gosh darn it, if there was ONE reason I fought through my fears and hesitations about getting a girl dog (ie: see last post), it was so that I could finally dress her up in PINK without getting a lot of crap about it. Poor Kaiser had to suffer a bit with my pink obsession, as I got him a fuchsia agility leash. In my defense, it looks really good on him. :o)

I like pink. Pretty much everything I've gotten for Secret has been some various shade of pinkness. I guess I will rephrase my comment from the last post to make a concession that perhaps I will always have to have one female dog in the house on whom I can satisfy my obsession with this silly girly color.

Last night I stopped at Walgreens on my way home because after doing some research online I discovered that they sell spray-on hair color year round! I thought it was only a Halloween item, but I guess not. I went to find this particular product to test out on Kaiser. The results are below!

Finally! It's really purple, not some shade of pink! Not that there is anything wrong with his tail being pink, but it won't make sense if I show up to NADAC Champs with pink tails. lol

That said, right next to the can of "Panther Purple" spray was.... LYNX PINK. Come on, like I could really pass it up??? Not a chance!! So before I even did Kaiser's tail, I decided to test the pink out on Secret. Awwww yeah.

Our trial this weekend is "tie dye" themed. I plan to wear my PINK tie dye shirt from the shelter. Now I think I may just pink Secret up and perhaps even do my own tips. Tee hee!! No, I did not just turn 32 years old.....

Speaking of the trial, I think I'm going to bag out on any last minute training sessions tonight. I don't know, maybe I'll cave and set something up. After that Monday night fiasco, however, I'm inclined to just let her sit and get all excited about agility instead of burning her out. Plus I will admit that there is a part of me that is scared that we'd have another crappy session and then I'd be worried about her not wanting to play at the trial. I'd rather go in fresh & happy... She doesn't need to learn anything new or brush up on anything for the weekend anyhow. Unlike Kaiser, I don't expect her contacts to go "POOF" into thin air. lol

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Girl dogs, attitude & moodiness

There has been a good deal of discussion on the Clean Run list the last few days regarding gender in agility. It started out as an observation and question about why there are so few men running agility in the United States. Over the days it has now morphed into a discussion regarding the gender preference of dogs and if one sex is more popular than the others in agility. More or less, it seems to balance out to 50/50 and some regions seem to sway more one way than the other.

If you go all the way back to the beginning of this blog, you'll see that I had many reservations about bringing home a girl dog. In fact, I was downright terrified and almost backed out. My entire life I've always had boy animals. You could not have paid me to have a mare when I had horses -- I just absolutely could not stand being around them. I always worried that I would have the same feeling towards female dogs, but I thought perhaps spaying would remove the hormonal aspect that worried me so much.

Because the following post from the Clean Run list struck such a chord with me, I'm just going to copy/paste it here:

"I think whether you like a male or a female dog depends on your own
training and working preferences, but there are differences. In
general, Males work FOR you, females work WITH you. Of course there
are exceptions, but in my experience most males want to make you happy
and are willing to please but also tend to get upset and hurt feelings
if you are mad, and tend to take things personally. The girls are
tougher mentally, not as interested in whether the heck you like it or
not, and more likely to have their own agenda. They mature faster and
are less likely to take guff from you.

Step on a male's toe and he's likely to apologize for getting his foot
in the way. Step on a female's toe and she's likely to cuss you out
for getting your damn foot in her way. I adore my boy but tend to
prefer the girls because I like dogs with some hardness. Others can't
stand the push back they get from the girls and prefer the boys.

Robin Nuttall with Pinhead and Dobes
Graphic and web design
Columbia, MO"

And that, right there, sums up why I love boys so much. I just find them so easy to work with. Even on a bad training day, they are right there ready to try again because they really do want to please me. Even Kaiser in all of his independent "I don't need no one" ways, really does want to please me and he's always ready to play with me. Luke will literally go until he dies and rallies back from even the biggest blunders with an attitude that says, "Bring it on, what is next!" There is just a part of me that connects with the boys. I like their style.

Robin's last sentence more or less describes what has brought on this rambling post. The push back. And boy did I get that last night. I don't recall the last time I had such a miserable night of training with Secret. She more or less repeatedly gave me the big FU and wanted to do nothing.

I have, of course, contemplated why. Was she pissed off that I threw the apple she was playing with back over the fence at the rotten children that chucked it into my yard? Could be, considering the withering death stare she gave me when I did it. Or maybe she was mad at me because I had her locked in the house when Bethany & Rascal came over and I expected her to come out and run the course without having what she considered "proper time to meet & greet." Whatever the reason, Secret decided that she was not going to have anything to do with me OR agility last night.

Am I projecting stress already?? I set up Round 6 from the 2010 Championships last night. Another lovely hand-drawn course from watching videos. Alterations to my course were basically just substituting a hoop for the tunnel in the upper right corner and having the start & finish on a curve due to space constraints.

I brought Secret out of the house and she got a very brief hello with Rascal, who was tied up to the deck waiting his turn. She did her usual submissive show-your-belly maneuver and I told her to get up and go. She didn't even make it to the dog walk before she laid down and rolled over at me. Uh.... What? I changed toys several times and we never made it past the dog walk. When I did get her to go on the dog walk, she stuck at the end and wouldn't go on to the jumps (believe me, I bagged the idea of the distance line, so that wasn't it). She would just sit (literally) on the dog walk and bark at me.

Okay fine, into the house she went. Of course she knew I wasn't happy with her, so she rolled over on me a couple of times and then ran to the door with her tail between her legs. I let her sit in the house while all of the other dogs worked through the course.

When I brought her back out for another try, I could tell she still didn't have any desire to play with me. I tried to get her interested in her Jolly Ball briefly, and then I just grabbed Kaiser's treats. I figured that way I could at least get SOMETHING out of her. Nope. WHAT? Okay, I'm used to her being slow when food is used, but I'm not used to her NOT working for food. She just had no interest and sincerely, the look she was giving me came across as a giant "Screw you, lady." What?? What did I do??

I put her back in the house until Bethany & Rascal left. I brought her back out by herself and grabbed the frisbee. She did do a few catches, but refused to do any agility equipment for the frisbee. I grabbed the food again and this time we DID manage to get through the course (minus a major stick on the dog walk again) very slowwwwwwwly and I just called it quits and brought the boys out.

Suddenly miss prissy pants was all about playing -- with Kaiser. I put a stop to that ASAP, because if she wasn't going to play with me, she wasn't going to play with anyone. After letting her think about this for a bit, I grabbed a tug rope to see if she really did want to play. She did! And she even decided that going over some jumps before running back to me to tug would be fun! And contacts! And weaves! At one point she tugged so ferociously that she popped the handle right off the tuggy. And therein lies my mistake, because I left it lay on the ground while we played with the longer part.

She didn't care and we happily took off at the start of the course with enthusiasm and speed -- Until she hit the end of the dog walk and she saw that Luke had picked up the stray handle and was running around with it. Then she was done. She was stewing that Luke had her toy, even after I took it back. I finally said screw it and just quit for the night. I'll admit, I was upset by the events of the evening. I made Secret stay away while I hosed the boys off, telling her that she didn't do any work and didn't have any reason to get hosed off. I got the death glare from her again. Meh, deal with it.

Don't get me wrong, I know we have more good times than bad. I love my dog and I know she's amazing -- But I am pretty much 100% that my next dog will be another boy. While I have no doubt it challenges and improves me as a trainer, I don't think I'm cut out for the girls.

In other news, look what came in the mail this morning!!

It's for my Champs Team with Kaiser -- We are the "Kinetically Charged Syndicate" and we're going with purple, purple, purple! :o) Robyn made up some amazingly awesome personalized team shirts for each of us, we are currently testing the waters with dying the dogs (I spent the weekend playing with food coloring & kool aid, which didn't work -- so we'll have to bring out the big guns) and I found these SPARKLY hats online! Since those crazy kids seem to think they want to wear shorts in October ( :oP ), we are also looking into the idea of some silly tall socks. I didn't run in Team when I went to Champs in 2009, so I'm having fun getting into this. I guess Luke and I will also be running on a team with some great folks from the East coast. Due to some miscommunication I didn't realize this until yesterday, but we are looking forward to running on our Veteran Lab (or Lab mix, in Luke's case!) team. We are team "Dirty Old Men." lol

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Prepping for Champs - Coursework

Wow, just look at that excitement! That unbridled enthusiasm that just seeps from Secret's pores!!

Because I'm so ungodly out of shape and it was a warmer day yesterday, I took a short break between running each of the dogs through the course last night. Secret was not happy about waiting her turn. She's not very patient, you know. It was good for her, though, and I was happy that she came out ready to play for both of her turns.

Behold! My super amazing course drawing skills!!

I have come to realize that, sadly, courses from NADAC Championships are next to impossible to find. Occasionally you may luck out and find schmucks like me that drew them up themselves and posted it on a blog (I did find one such course, but my dog walk was on the wrong side of the yard for it). So basically, I broke down and decided to draw up my own courses from studying various YouTube videos. The above course is Round 1 from last year.

Since my yard is not a bazillion' x gazillion' in dimensions, I did have to compress the course more so than what was actually at Champs -- Which sadly means that I would be even more winded and ready to die than I was last night upon completion of said course. lol And this wasn't even a long one!! But all told, this course actually fit fairly nicely into my yard. The only alterations I made was to substitute a hoop for the #10 tunnel (I only have two tunnels and they were kind of required under the contacts!) and to finish with the tire instead of a tunnel (same reason).

Secret did really great! The out discrimination was more or less identical to our exercises of the other night, so she managed to nail it each time -- Granted, my distance was not quite as far as seen at the actual Championships considering the "squishiness" of my course, but it was still a discrimination at a pretty good distance

The only real surprise was when she shot past me over jump 15 and took the off course #19 jump instead of taking the tunnel. Never take tunnel sucking for granted, I guess!

We worked on the weaves for a bit when we were done. I focused on trying to keep her speed up, but we also worked on independence and I shot off laterally as seen in what I believe is Round 2 of Champs (which I will get to at a later date -- the dog walk is on the opposite side). She can handle it at home, but at a trial? Guess I will have to test her one of these days!

After a hard night of training, following a good long walk (for me!). For some reason, I never tire of these pictures. She just cracks me up.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ahh, much better!

It is hard to inspire Secret to be photogenic on a Monday morning. I can't really blame her, though, as I feel the same way. Granted, I understand why I'm beat on Mondays (following a weekend working at the shelter) -- Not sure what Secret's excuse is... :oP I suppose it's exhausting sitting in the window seat all day protecting the house from intruders.

After our decidedly weird and not terribly successful night of discrimination training last week, I switched things up a bit on Saturday -- and it went very well!

As I said previously, I switched to using the a-frame this time. In addition, I put the tunnel in a straight line on the outside of the a-frame instead of curving it under. I figured this would serve two purposes -- Firstly, it would allow us to tackle the discrimination from both sides. Secondly, Secret finds straight tunnels extremely motivating and fun. Wheee!

Once again, I used a nice wide, sweeping arc that more or less pointed straight to the tunnel on both sides. I suppose one of these days I'll have to increase the difficulty of the "out" choice, but for now this works well. I didn't realize just HOW much I'd pointed it to the tunnel until I realized how challenging it was to get the "up" discrimination with all three dogs. It required a pretty obvious pull. Oh well, that's good training, too!

Secret didn't have any shut-downs for this session. She made the wrong choice and took the a-frame on her second try, but I decided it was likely my fault and I threw her toy for her so as to not let her think she did anything wrong. I did not reward her for taking the tunnel when I cued the a-frame, though, and she was able to handle this correction without any issue. So yay for that!

And all of this was for some crummy rope toy that we got as a free gift a trial one time. I just never know what is going to trip her trigger on any given day, but three cheers for cheesy free toys!

We did several repetitions from both directions and I switched frequently between asking for the out or up. As I mentioned earlier, the up proved to be the more difficult puzzle, but Secret was nailing her outs with some pretty good distance -- and excellent speed, since straight tunnels are fun! :o)

We took it easy last night. I went back to working Kaiser's running dog walk (much better this time, thankfully) and then just worked on a full set of weaves with Secret while we played with the Chuck-it. She nailed some pretty impressive entries for me and GASP, even threw in a few single-steps. She weaves her fastest for the Chuck-it, that's for sure. Will we ever see it at a trial? Who knows, but it's nice to see that she has it in her.

Eight weeks until Champs!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Just an odd night of training

I dubbed last night's training session "Discrimination Night." As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the things I am most concerned about with regard to attending Champs with Secret is the number of discriminations from behind a distance line. It is my goal to improve in this area in the next couple of months -- and obviously to do this, we must train discriminations and gradually increase the distance from which I handle them.

The above drawing is an example of what I had set last night. I made it about as friendly as possible, using a wide sweeping arc that more or less pointed straight into the tunnel under the dog walk. The more difficult handling maneuver in this case seemed to be a pull to go up the dog walk. I thought it was a good set-up to start building some distance for Secret's "out" command.

What actually went down was just odd. I brought out her Jolly Ball from the get-go, figuring I wanted her jazzed & spazzy to increase our odds of success. On the first attempt I more or less ran with her as I have been at trials, going with her to the discrimination and making the choice very obvious. Happy dog!

Over the next couple of attempts I began to gradually increase my distance. As a result (and as is to be expected with a baby dog), Secret chose the dog walk a few times. My correction was not harsh -- I just used my standard, "Whoops! Try again!" But right in front of my eyes I saw her quickly begin to shut down on me.

As we went to restart the exercise, it quickly became obvious that she did not want to be anywhere near the "bad" spot of the dog walk or tunnel. She would become anxious and submissive as she got closer. It morphed to her taking the tire and then immediately laying down before the hoop, time and time again.

Assuming her brain was fried, I put her back in the house while I ran the boys through the exercise. When I brought Secret back out, I grabbed her Wubba, since it's been her go-to toy lately. We started the exercise using jumps not in my silly little drawing -- It was leftovers from our course the other night, a jump to the serpentine wrapping into my little arc before the discrimination. She got through the serpentine and did a nice (slow....) rear cross into the tire -- Then she would lay down. What??

She had no interest in her toy. I haven't had to use food with her for a very long time, but I went and grabbed Kaiser's treat bag from the garage. She perked up when she saw it and I started back at the serpentine again. Happy Secret! Until we got past the tire and she shut down on me again.

I literally had to stand over by the dog walk and coax her over with food. Once I got her over there she popped into shaping mode and started to offer her two-on/two-off on the dog walk repeatedly. When I tried to get her into the tunnel, she would go on the dog walk and bark at me. When I finally got her through the tunnel, it was slow and hesitant, but thankfully she began to improve at that point.

Her reaction even at this stage was weird, though. As we progressed, she still didn't seem entirely sure of herself and was doubting her decisions. When I would cue "out tunnel" it was like she decided to just close her eyes and bullet through the tunnel as fast as possible because she just wanted to get it over with. That said, she was bright and happy upon exiting the tunnel and was happy to get her treats.

When I switched it up and asked for "up walk" you could again see hesitation in her eyes, but upon hearing my, "yes! Good!" she relaxed and completed the dog walk nicely.

The bottom line is that we finished on a high note, but I'm just so perplexed by how quickly she shut down on me last night. This is a dog who has been trained to work through things, not just give up like that. I wish I understood why she felt so over-faced. We obviously need to continue our discrimination training, but I think I'm going to have to be careful in our progression and make sure I set her up to succeed.

I had a couple of friends say that maybe I can blame the full moon (apparently it is near?). Because in addition to Secret's wonky night of training, Kaiser had his worst running dog walk session to date. Instead of missing only one or two, he only got one or two and jumped the rest. Sigh. I think I've been running him too hard and he needs a break. It was a pretty discouraging night in general, aside from Luke being completely amazing in his distance discrimination work. :o)

We went on another walk last night (I'm really trying to improve my own conditioning prior to Champs!!!) and Secret was being naughty. I had her martingale collar on and ended up putting her in "the basket" for the majority of our walk to keep her from pulling so badly. If there is one thing I'm glad I picked up from the shelter, it's the basket. Instant no-pull harness at your fingertips. It settled her nicely. Why she decided to suddenly have no manners is beyond me -- Maybe it is the full moon!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cooler weather is inspiring

This week has been perfect. The temperatures have been in the upper 70's with no humidity to weigh us down. I haven't ran the air conditioning since Sunday! I get to sleep with the windows open and it's just so nice and refreshing.

Perhaps because I'm sleeping better at night, last night I was inspired to actually set a course for the dogs! The above course was posted ages ago by judge Lisa Miller-Selthofer on her Facebook page and I had printed it out at the time because I thought it looked like fun.

My alterations included replacing jumps 1, 8 & 16 with hoops (because I ran out of jumps), turning 17 into a tire, removing 18 for space reasons and using the a-frame in place of the weaves (because it was there, in the way). I also don't tend to ever include dummy jumps for reasons pertaining to shortage of equipment, so I'm sure that tends to decrease the difficulty of the original course. But it was still fun!

The serpentine handled best with single-sided handling, which meant I had to have a decent lateral send coming out of the tunnel to be in place for the second jump and to push over to the a-frame (in my set-up it was most advantageous to try to layer the jump in front of the a-frame, but Secret wasn't digging that I and tended to run more with her because of this).

Secret surprised me with how well she sent out to the number 14 jump while I moved laterally to get in place for a front cross on the landing side of 15. She did cut in on me once, but it was only because I completely failed to direct or support her.

I tried a few different handling moves and swapping out the front crosses for rears -- It should come as no surprise that Secret far prefers front crosses and her speed shows it. In all, we ran through the course several times and I'm very pleased with how well she did.

I'm not pleased with how well I did, however, as I was seriously winded after running all three dogs twice -- And as such, was inspired by the nice weather to take everyone for a walk after Kaiser's dog walk work. Running three dogs at Champs is going to kill me if I don't get in better shape before October!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kaiser's RDW Update (video)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's Secret's blog. But I'm proud of the little bugger! We are less than a week into his retraining and I'm very happy with his progress.

Granted our next trial is just over two weeks away and I'm not sure if we'll even be sequencing the dog walk by then, but we'll see what happens!

Birthday Party Fun!

We couldn't let Secret's second birthday pass without a little birthday party fun! I blew it last year by not getting party favors in time and was close to doing so this time -- But thankfully I worked at the shelter last night and the party store is not far away. :o)

Secret seemed to enjoy herself and her time posing for pictures. I won't lie, I wore her out with frisbee before starting her party. lol

Secret definitely thought her lei hat was better than the party hat.

The boys joined in on the party fun as well! I think Kaiser was more into it than Luke. But then again, Kaiser was lucky enough that the party hat was too big for him.

After all the posing fun was done, everyone got to enjoy birthday treats! Nom, nom, nom!

These were included in our goody bags from the dock diving event on Monday. Lucky for us, between the two bags we received three! The dogs thought they were pretty awesome.

Because our party started pretty late, it got dark outside and we had to move the festivities inside.

All of that partying was hard work! Secret was wiped out for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Secret!

Secret turns two years old today! Happy Birthday, Secret! Once again I totally failed on finding her a birthday hat to wear. Whoops.

So yesterday was our big dock jumping adventure at the Wisconsin State Fair. I'll just begin by saying that things did not go as planned (or hoped), but overall I'm very proud of how well Secret handled the day.

We got to the fair park around 10:00, an hour before the first event. We had no trouble getting in the gates to unload everything. As I was setting up our kennels I could hear a weave pole challenge going on in the building. I'd never heard anything about anything like that being offered, so I was bummed that we hadn't arrived a bit earlier so that I could have tried to weasel my way in. Luke would have thought that was awesome. :o)

I had to leave the dogs in their crates while I went to park the car and go through the main entrance. It was a little nerve wracking considering I had no idea where we were going or how long I'd be gone, but parking wasn't too bad at that hour and it didn't take long at all. I made it back in time to get the dogs out to go potty on the postage stamp sized patch of grass that was available to us (and Secret actually went, I couldn't believe it!).

There isn't much point in giving a play-by-play for each time up. The short version is that Secret never got in the water during the competition. Between the first & second heats I took her up on the dock to work with her. I ended up having Bethany go up there with her while I stood at the edge of the pool to coax her in with her leash on. I thought that if she would just go for a swim that she would figure out what the pool was, but no such luck. If anything I think she shut down more at that point.

The GOOD and HAPPY news is that she played with her toys in the midst of all the chaos! She isn't even interested in toys at agility trials, but she happily tugged her Wubba & frisbee all day long. She stayed happy, barky & playful in the waiting area amongst some pretty crazy dogs (everyone else there was very experienced). She really did not like one particular chocolate lab, but aside from that I was pleasantly surprised at how well she did around all the new people & dogs.

She definitely got stage fright looking out at the crowds when we were up on the platform. When they would cheer to encourage her it would just make things worse. It also didn't help when the guys working the show tried to encourage her into the water -- They seemed to figure this out on their own and backed off a bit towards the end.

For the last few jumps we were just trying to get her to go down the exit ramp to get her toy. She got the last one all on her own, so that's a good thing. I'm disappointed that she never found any fun in the event, but the pool was just a very new, very scary thing for her. From what I understand, the combination of the event being indoors AND with a pool is about the hardest thing to throw at a newbie.

Oh well. We will stick to our local lakes and rivers for now. Maybe some day we will have a chance to work with a pool some more -- Or maybe even come across a competition held on natural water. But otherwise, I think we'll just keep swimming for fun.

Here is Secret's video, although you should know by now that there isn't much to see. lol

Luke had a super fun time. He quickly found the exit ramp, though, and from there it was impossible to convince him there was any other way into the pool. I'd be curious to see what he would do if we went to a dock that had a door blocking off the ramp area. Ultimately, though, I didn't expect him to jump, so I'm just glad he enjoyed himself. He got to go swimming nine times! :o)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Musings and a pointless video

I'm almost ashamed to post such an "unproduced/raw" video here. lol I'm sorry, but I seriously put no effort into it -- but at least it's short!

I had the video camera out last night to record the start of Kaiser's running contact training (part two, since I tried a different method last year) and since it was out, I pointed it at Secret for a while. This video is just some work on independent weaves (away from me/lateral) and the a-frame. The dog walk was so boring that I left it off (she was pretty hot/tired).

The weave work came because I'm starting to obsess over running Secret at Champs. Well truly, I'm obsessing over Champs in general, which has lead to me staring at YouTube videos for hours on end to analyze courses and think of things we need to work on before then. For Secret it's.... Well, everything. The majority of the distance tests from last year are beyond her, so if we run into that this year I think I need to just plan in advance to ignore the line and take the 5 point fault. We'll waste more time than that resetting and/or taking a 10 point off course fault.

One of the lines last year moved laterally away from the weave poles at quite a distance. I am guilty of hovering at trials, so I need to stop that.... But I figured it wouldn't hurt to work last night on a more independent performance. Secret has never been terribly good at driving through the poles while I stood there -- Which is partly why I only used 6 poles (the other reason is because I was too lazy to get out the other 6, lol). I thought she did quite well.

It's so easy to be lazy this time of the year. We barely ever do any type of sequencing work these days. The default has more or less just to go around the yard doing the contacts (mostly because that's what I've been working on with Kaiser). Perhaps one of these days I'll be inspired enough to set up an actual course again... I'm thinking of drawing out approximations of the courses from Champs last year and working on sections of those. Mostly, I'm quite certain that the "out" discriminations from behind the line are just beyond Secret's skills at the moment. Funny how our dogs don't learn stuff when we don't bother to teach them. ;o)

This is one of my favorite videos to watch from the 2010 Championships in Gillette, WY. It is the winner of the 16" Veteran division, which happens to be where Luke is this year. Yeah.... lol

And in case anyone is curious about what I'm doing with Kaiser..... We are ten weeks out from Champs and I'm messing with his contacts again. Yes, I'm crazy!! The little stinker is absolutely 100% rock solid about stopping at the bottom of the dog walk at home. I can barely make him break it and he more or less slides to a stop. But trials are a completely different story and it makes me want to rip my hair out. Yes, I'm sure I'm a HUGE contributing factor to the change in the behavior because I tend to act like a moron at trials and behave completely different than I do at home. But since I more or less can guarantee that Kaiser will not be stopping on his dog walk at Champs, I thought maybe it would be nice to try to put the idea of running (vs leaping) into his head before then. I can always go back to a stop later if necessary -- Like I did the last time.

Last year I very briefly touched on running contacts with Kaiser (for the same reason -- he wasn't stopping at trials). I used hoops placed at the bottom of the boards to try to get him to duck & keep his focus low. I was never super pleased with his performance and once the hoops went away he was kind of all over the place. We had one good trial with the running contacts and then it just got really bad, so I went back to stopping (or attempting to do so) because winter was coming and we wouldn't be able to train anymore.

This time I'm using a method I saw posted by Lisa Bonker, someone I really respect & admire in the NADAC world. The premise is basically to put a tunnel right at the bottom of the dog walk so that they are focused on running straight. Once they get the concept of running, you start to move the tunnel back.

I tried some plank work with the little guy the other night (to test the waters for the Silvia Trkman method) and it was a giant fail. He just has no concept of targeting and I didn't feel like taking the time to go there right now. He likes running & he likes tunnels, so I decided to try Lisa's method.

The first session was a great! I have high hopes for Kaiser, but we have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks!

I do not see broaching this subject with Secret. She is very happy with her 2o/2o contacts and I see no reason to mess with them!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Last night I finally took the dogs out to find another dock on which to practice. With Secret & Luke's dock jumping debut less than a week away, I thought it might be good to have more than one experience under our belt.

I decided to drive past Lake Neshonoc on our way to La Crosse, just to check and see how busy their boat ramp was. I hoped that it wouldn't be too bad on a Tuesday evening and luck was on our side. We had to share the space off & on with a few boaters, but it was worth it to get some practice time on such a nice dock. It was synthetic and thus slippery, but still nice nonetheless!

Secret's first jump wasn't terribly graceful, but there was very little hesitation on her part, which is good! And they continued to get better with each jump, which is great!

I decided to try to send her off the end of the dock vs. the side, as I figured this would more closely simulate what she will be doing on Monday. She got stuck at the end for a bit and did a bit of a pace and a whine, but she did eventually leap in -- Good girl, Secret! And each jump after that became more confident! There was a plastic bump on the end of the dock that forced her to jump a bit early, and of course it was slippery, so I am looking forward to seeing what she does on the more secure surface of a carpeted deck. I'm thrilled that she conquered the "scary" end of the dock, though, and hope that means she will have the confidence to jump into the pool.

Luke.... Well, Luke is more or less going along for moral support. If he jumps in at all, I'll be happy. lol Last night he was refusing to jump, finding it far preferable to run back down the dock, enter the water and swim out to get his ball. Oh well, we'll see what happens!

And lest we forget in all the excitement of the upcoming dock event, we leave for Champs in 10 short weeks!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Brother Blizzard's First Trial!

Secret's brother, Blizzard, went to his first agility trial this weekend! His trial debut was in AKC up in Burnsville.

I haven't heard anything about Sunday, but he Q'd in both of his runs on Saturday! Go Blizzard! His mom, Ruth, posted their Novice Standard run from Saturday, which I've included up top.

I just have to say, genetics are a curious thing. Blizzard & Secret are so very much alike. There was one other sibling in their litter, but sadly we have not received any Sonata updates since right after they were all adopted. She didn't go to an agility home, but I would still love to know how she turned out!

Someone left the furnace on again, as we're melting yet again here in Wisconsin. That means we haven't been doing a whole lot -- Which led to Secret destroying another pillow while I was at work on Saturday. Oh well, silly Secret, you just keep ruining your dog pillows, so now you have nothing to lay on! ;o) Perhaps tonight we will go swimming to try to dispel some of her pent up energy.

One week from today we will be.......... Dock Jumping!!!