Friday, September 30, 2011


This morning Secret had her first appointment with our new chiropractor. You may recall that she visited our previous VSM-accreditted veterinarian just once, a bit over a year ago. I'm happy to say that this visit was much better for all involved!

After leaving the previous chiropractor for various reasons (namely, I was very disappointed with our last couple of appointments), none of my dogs have had any VSM (veterinary spinal manipulation) work done for getting close to a year. I knew of two options within driving distance -- One in Viroqua and one over in Winona, MN. A friend of mine actually works at the Winona clinic, so it was nice to have a personal reference -- Although she told me he wasn't so good with nervous dogs, so I worried about that with Secret & Kaiser.

I couldn't find anyone who had ever been to our other option -- Rising Sun Animal Wellness Center. All I knew was second-hand information that "the vet was a hippy." lol Seriously, I need to stop listening to people. Besides, what is wrong with hippies? We like to let our hair down and be free and all that jazz.

So I tested the waters with Luke & Kaiser last Friday. I was very happy with the results, so this week was Secret's turn. She paired up with Luke -- It never hurts to have a calm buddy to show you the ropes.

Secret got to go into the office last week to meet the staff and check out the place. I find it helpful to have her familiar with something before the "scary stuff" starts. She fixated on the cat in the waiting room a bit this morning, but was otherwise pretty calm & cool (ie: no tail tucked up to her belly button).

She was a good girl on the scale -- but holy heck, she was 49.7 lbs. Sheesh, girl. But look, still under 50. :o)

We let Secret chill while we did Luke's adjustment first. Dr. Marta was going to start on Secret, but I figured it would be best to let her settle in like we did with Kaiser last week. Secret was super curious about everything at first, but then she just plopped down and watched everything.

When it was her turn she was suddenly, "Wait, what??" She got very nervous and very tense. Dr. Marta works from behind with the dog standing and her assistant supporting the dog under the midsection. I hold the head. Secret was very worried to start, but she did ease up and start to relax as we went along.

She was one messed up baby dog. I explained to Dr. Marta how her back has always been so tense, but I figured it was more of a muscular issue. Ends up she's just a chiropractic mess. Secret didn't seem to have much going on in the pelvic area, but once the doctor hit mid-back there was a ton of work to be done. Her ribs were displaced and the vertebrae were very out of alignment. Dr. Marta did so much of an adjustment that she actually recommended icing for a couple of days.

I was concerned about what Secret would do when Dr. Marta got up to her head/neck, but this woman just takes charge and doesn't fuss about anything. :o) Just what Secret needs! Secret did squirt back when Dr. Marta was adjusting her neck to the left. She acted fairly traumatized and jumped onto the table next to me. I got her down with treats and we were able to finish without any problems. I was ever so thankful that Secret didn't snap or otherwise make any threats whatsoever, as after our last experience I expected her to be pretty bad. I was ready to put a muzzle on her straightaway, actually. I'm glad we didn't.

Secret forgave Dr. Marta and her assistant quickly when treats were offered, then she proceeded to go comatose on the floor while we discussed everything. Seriously, she had the dopiest look on her face. I'll assume it's because she felt so much better!

All three dogs will get one more adjustment next Friday, and then it will be off to Springfield! I'm very curious to see what sort of effect this has on Secret. I feel bad for not getting her in sooner, but who could have known she'd be such a mess? Maybe this will unlock some new gears in her. :o)

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Holy buckets! In just two weeks time, we will be running at NADAC Championships 2011! The good news is that I'm feeling really, really excited -- Not really, really nervous or really, really worried. In 2009 I was dealing with some off & on lameness issues with Luke, so this is a nice feeling. Cross your fingers that it stays that way. Time to start wrapping the crew in bubble wrap and doing more running than playing (since that seems to be when we get hurt!).

Since the big event is a mere two weeks away, I figured It was time to suck it up and set another practice course to prepare us for the challenges we will encounter. Due to the location of the dog walk after the latest mowing, Round 2 from 2010 won the draw! And look, it's not even a cruddy hand-drawn replica of the course. Nope, this one was scored off someone's blog a while ago. It's a little off by NADAC standards, but it set well by flow, which is what I went by. I opened with a curved line of hoops and ended with a hoop, but otherwise set the course as pictured.

I am super-duper pleased with Secret's session last night. In watching the videos, my biggest concern was always that line leading away from the weave poles. It appears much further/more drastic in video than it does on paper, which is what led me to focus on handling the weaves while layering the two jumps to the side. I figured if Secret could handle that then we were gravy.

And she did! She totally did! And her weaves were speedy, even!

I also worked to handle the a-frame from behind the number 15 jump, as I know we will be forced to handle our contacts from a distance at some point or another at Champs. Secret did really well and I'm very happy with the overall distance she was giving me in this session.

That is not to say we didn't have a few hiccups. Too much lateral distance at the start caused her to want to turn in to jump 14 after the second hoop if I was behind her. I will have to use lead-outs at Champs if we encounter such a set-up. Hopefully the more "private" setting of the huge arena will allow her to stress less about that, because I really don't see getting through many of the courses without a lead-out there.

We also struggled with layering the ending, as she defaulted to wanting to come into me after the tunnel. Getting the hoop after the tunnel wasn't too difficult, but the number 6 jump was just too tempting to her and I never actually did get the 18 jump without being above number 6.

Secret's contacts were lovely last night, but I really need to watch myself with this early release business. She isn't missing any contacts, but she isn't stopping, either. I know I'm not going to ask for a single stop at Champs, so do I keep letting it slide? Or is now the time to put money in the bank for a stop, to ensure that leaping doesn't start when we get to Springfield? I think I know the answer to that.... I can be such a speed junkie.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Because I have nothing worthwhile to write about, I'm going to get on a soap box today.

All photos belong to Alan Pet Portrait Art -- He got some nice shots of Secret from our trial! I love the reach she is showing over many of the jumps.

I continue to be surprised by the number of negative handlers I see at agility trials. Granted, I will say that they are outnumbered by positive & good-natured handlers, but the very nature of their negativity seems to make them stand out above the rest.

Maybe I notice it more because I used to be one of those handlers. I was very hard on Luke at times in the beginning. Looking back it is obvious to see that my frustrations stemmed from my own shortcomings as a trainer. I would get SO MAD at him for missing his contacts. Run after run would NQ because of his dog walk contact. Or he would tunnel suck instead of going up the contact. I maintained that he took off course obstacles because he was just being naughty.

Or.... It could be that I had not trained him properly to successfully negotiate those tasks.

I think it's easier for people with "hard" dogs to fall into this habit. You could hit one of these dogs over the head with a hammer and they will just bark at you and wait for you to give them another cue. Bless these dogs for trying so hard. But I still feel bad for them when I see them trying so hard and getting yelled at, especially when the mistake was obviously due to a miscue from the handler.

I was forced to check my attitude at the door with Kaiser. Both he & Secret are what I would label as "soft" dogs and do not respond well to correction. This has made me more thoughtful with my training style, teaching me to be more creative in my set-up to allow them to succeed & learn at the same time.

Time has also been a good teacher. I have learned my strengths & weaknesses as a trainer and know that 99.9% of the time it is not the dog's fault. When something goes wrong at a trial, I first look to myself and wonder what I could have done differently. THANK GOODNESS for video. :o) I often wonder if some of the more negative handlers would open their eyes a bit if they had the benefit of watching each of their runs.

I think a lot changed for me when I almost lost Luke in 2009, too. While I have experienced the very sad loss of many of my friend's agility dogs, I have been very fortunate to have not yet gone through that myself. When Luke crashed in October of 2009 and was subsequently diagnosed with Addison's Disease, it was one of the worst weeks of my life (not far behind losing my horse the year before). I hate that death or near-death experiences are what it takes to really cherish our loved ones, but it is what it is.

When you compare it to not having them in our lives anymore, that NQ run really is pretty insignificant.

We more or less skipped our Wednesday training session last night. It was windy & crappy outside, so I didn't feel like setting up a course. I did set up the contacts for Kaiser, though, so that ended up being Secret's activity of the evening as well.

Kaiser was consistently faster than he's ever been at the last trial, and I got to wondering if it's because I have been doing nothing but running contact work with him for the last month. Every time he sees equipment, he's running as fast as he can -- and it appears to have translated to more than just the dog walk.

It got me thinking and I'm wondering if I spent the next month more or less focusing on long sweeping lines with Secret (ala the fun old arc of jumps or hoops), if that would lead to overall increase of speed on the course. It's something to ponder.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bring it on!

Secret had another fantastic trial weekend! We love trials at Family Dog Center -- Because not only do we get to play agility for three days in a row, but we get to sleep in our own bed at night. :o)

Secret ran 8/10 over the three days and earned her Elite Jumpers & Tunnelers titles! Her NQ's were completely my fault. I hate that. In Touch-n-Go Friday night I ran the wrong course. Sigh. Kaiser had just had a really wide turn on the last part of the course and apparently that was stuck in my head, so I made sure to cue really early for the turn. Like, REALLY early since it wasn't supposed to come until later in the course. Oh well.

I also asked for way too much lateral distance on the dog walk in Chances on Sunday, causing Secret to miss her very first contact! She popped right off the side to come into me (and the jump that was layered between us). There was no justifiable reason for me to be THAT far away from her, other than that I was trying to be in a better position for the next part of the course. I think I just got too cocky and left her alone. Bad handler.

More HUGE positives to take away from this trial! Secret is showing speed more consistently on a variety of courses. I noticed in the video that there were even several instances where she FINALLY jumped with her hind legs extended vs. tucked in and collected underneath her. For many dogs that's no big deal, but for Secret it's pretty big. She's finally starting to let loose and run on course!

Her stride is so deceptively long. I watched to see how many times she double-strides between obstacles and it was surprisingly more than I thought there would be. She can do it with little effort, it seems, when she opens up. When Luke double-strides it seems like there is more reach, but Secret's stride is so long that she seems to almost lope through it. So gosh darn it, if it's so easy why don't you do it more? ;o)

Secret's Tunnelers run on Friday was 5.8 yps this time, so she didn't quite hit 6, but almost. :o) And really, it was a very "non-Secret-friendly" course because I didn't have one single cross on the entire course. Talk about un-motivating for her. Again with the deceptive speed, though, because I thought she felt so slow on that run.

She also had a 5.5 yps Jumpers run on Sunday morning. I have to admit that I haven't really been keeping good track of her yps, but I think that's got to be about her highest in Jumpers. She had 5.2 on Saturday with it being the last class of the day.

Speaking of last class, she was definitely starting to drag by the end of the day on Sunday. It always shows in her weaves, but she was able to keep up fairly well for the rest of the Regular courses at the end of the day. I definitely think I made the right decision to keep her limited to four runs per day.

I've decided that this will be our last trial before Champs. Originally I was going to head over to Zumbro Falls on October 1 -- I love that trial and like to support a smaller club, but I really want to go into Champs on a high note. I am terrified to go and have a bad day -- Not just with Secret, but with all three dogs. So we are going to stay home, rest, visit the chiro and have fun for the next few weeks. I think we're as ready as we're going to be!

The boys had a great weekend, too! Luke also ran 8/10, got both of his Weavers and both of his Chances! That means that he's now just one Weavers Q from his second V-NATCH, which is what makes it hard to skip the next trial. Oh well, we'll get it when we get back from Champs! He's also just five Chances Q's away from his third NATCH already. Hard to believe, but he's just been on a roll lately.

Kaiser was FAST this weekend. He got three dog walks -- two decent ones, one was a gift (but in Chances, thank you judge!!!). He had some stutter-stepping issues that I believe are related to confidence (he knocked a bar and it freaks him out), but we are going to the chiro this week to get it checked out just in case. I want everyone as good as they can be, physically, when we head down to IL!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Training Night -- With Video!

You know how I said a couple of weeks ago that it was going to be my goal to train no more than twice a week to avoid over training? Well, that goal is alive and well -- Considering that I've only been training about once a week lately. lol It's good for the dogs, though. I think it keeps them fresh & happy.

Wednesday being a "non-shelter night," I scheduled it as my training night of the week and decided to set up the Chances course from our last trial. I stole the Open copy, as someone else had already grabbed Elite. The Elite line ran down below hoop 2/8 and pretty much straight down from the outer edge of 3.

Secret did really well -- when her handler didn't screw up. I have to take the blame for pretty much every error she made, but thankfully I got my act together and we ended on a really nice run! I pretty much annotated everything in the video, so I won't bother driveling on too much about it here. For the record, this is our ENTIRE training session. The only editing I did was some chute fluffing. Secret does so much better with these short sessions and she looked bummed when I put her back in the house last night (which is good!).

You might wonder why Kaiser didn't get featured at all (since Luke gets his cameo at the end) -- Well, I didn't make Kaiser run this course last night. I debated it, but I had worked his running dog walk prior to Secret & Luke's training sessions and it went so well that I decided to not push him anymore. Again, less is more....

I'm super thrilled with his progress last night! Since Breanna asked about it yesterday, I decided to go ahead and make a new video. His first session with the tunnel target went so well (and following a series of 100% hits in other sessions), so I decided to take it away and try a second session without the tunnel. The next obstacle is the hoop that's in the Chances course. His first hit was very high and with no hind leg separation, but I rewarded him to keep him happy. After that he blew me away. Yay, I have hope for him yet! :o)

Here's his video:

Trial this weekend! Secret is running in Tunnelers & Touch-n-Go Friday night, then the "core classes" of Regular, Chances & Jumpers on Saturday & Sunday. Hoping to get video this time!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Woolie Dog!

We had a special surprise in the mail when we arrived home last night! Oh yes indeedy, our special PINK Woolie Dog felted wool tuggy had arrived! Have you ever seen such joy in a dog's face as above? Secret was a happy, happy girl!

We put it to the test right away and Secret thought it was grand! She tugged to her little heart's content and the Woolie Dog tug held up to her abuse. :o) As advertised, it's definitely nice & soft on the hands, and I'm impressed with how durable it appears to be.

The price is right on these babies, too. So because I feel they are a good product, I figured I'd give them a plug on the blog today. :o) If you want your very own Woolie Dog tug toy, I encourage you to visit their Facebook page or their Etsy Store. I'm probably the only person on the planet who had never shopped on Etsy prior to last week, but I found it very easy to use. I ordered my (PINK!) tuggy on Friday and it arrived on Monday. How awesome is that? For anyone who is wondering, Secret's tuggy is size Medium. I tossed around getting her a Large since she's gone through so many tuggies, but I decided to start with medium and see how it lasted.

After having our fun with the new toy, I loaded everyone up and went down to the river last night. It was 88 degrees and likely one of the last truly warm days we will experience this year, so I figured we should take advantage of it. I didn't realize how long it had been since we'd gone swimming until I realized all of our water toys were still in the bag that I took to the dock diving event at the State Fair. Goodness sake, that was the beginning of August. Sorry guys, didn't realize it had been that long! I suppose the fact that the weather in August was fairly delightful lead to me doing more agility training and less swimming.

Secret very much enjoyed her swimming time. We had our little beach all to ourselves up to the very end when we had a visitor that came hiking through and stopped to chat. Secret managed to continue with her playtime without being too distraught and distracted (our new "friend" got one wary growl from Secret and then she got over it). We got in a good 45 minutes of swim time, yet when we got home Secret & Kaiser still felt the need to do zoomies around the yard. Dogs.... Where do they get their energy?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Discriminate this, baby!

Secret is totally rocking her discriminations lately! She's handling them with much more confidence and a lot less stress. I'm doing my best to try to cut the umbilical cord and trust her more, thereby babysitting less. I think she appreciates it.

I totally and completely fail for forgetting to take a picture of our course from last night. :o( Without a course picture, I feel like any descriptors I use about our training will be kind of lost, but oh well. I'll still try. Maybe I can edit a picture in tomorrow? Does it let me do that? Guess I'll find out!

I waffled between setting up the Chances course or the Regular course from our last trial. I ultimately settled on the Regular course because I figured we needed to work on longer courses and because we had plenty of time (due to it not being a shelter night). The course fit very nicely in my yard and was a fairly exact replica from the trial, minus using two hoops to replace the tricky tunnel that sucked Secret off course in Round 1 (granted, that was MY error due to not cuing in time).

I really enjoyed this course, both at the trial and running it at home. It provided a nice variety of challenges, including multiple discriminations. It was also a good length with plenty of running. My version had 23 obstacles, since I required the extra hoop in place of the tunnel. That actually created an interesting challenge -- While it took away the "tunnel suck" factor, it also meant having to handle a bit differently as you couldn't take for granted the tunnel getting them from point A to point B.

Secret completely nailed the first run. I am not totally thrilled with my handling of it as I really struggled with trusting her on the "out tunnel" discrimination. My preference would be to trust my dog, send her and hustle for a blind cross at the tunnel exit, but I hesitated too long and had to do a rear cross on the flat (I'm not a fan) following the next jump. Secret handled it well, though, and stayed happy & fast through the sequence. That was the area where I'd sent her off course at the trial, so I was happy that we improved upon that. It was my same hesitation that caused the error at the trial, though, so I'm not happy about THAT.

The rest of the course ran quite lovely and she had some lovely sends (because try as I might, I just couldn't get there!). She nailed her weaves at the end and we had a giant party and played tuggy probably 5x as long as it took us to run the course. lol And hey, bonus -- The running must be starting to pay off because I didn't feel nearly the need to die as I have in previous weeks. ;o)

Part of me wondered if I should quit there. Hmm. Maybe, but the part of me that thinks actually training my dog is beneficial won out. I decided to run the course in the opposite direction. I tried to send a bit too far a couple of times, resulting in Secret coming back into me (this would likely be a result of me being more winded on this run and thus not getting to where I needed to be), and I got too far behind her as I attempted to get the "out tunnel" under the a-frame, which resulted in her going up instead of out. Other than that (all for which I blame myself), it was great and she was a happy girl.

After this we did spend a short bit of time reminding ourselves of contact criteria. All of my early releasing is starting to take its toll, as Secret was self-releasing (ie: not even stopping) on pretty much every contact. I didn't correct her on this during the course because I was more concerned about keeping everything happy, but she took the reminder in stride and happily nailed her bottoms a few times and we called it quits for the night. I do realize it's a slippery slope to go down when you let them get away with not maintaining criteria, so I should probably be better about that at our next trial. That said, having that early release will surely make sends in Chances far easier.... Bah, I'm such a waffler.

Secret blew out another tuggy last night (evidence above -- Kaiser was not the culprit!). Recently a facebook friend posted about Woolie Dog, a company that makes wool tug toys that can withstand hardcore tugging and are more durable than, say, these fleece toys that I have. Seeing as Secret has been such a tugger lately, I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt to give one of them a try. Which reminds me, I wonder what the heck ever happened to her wool Ringzee....?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

I am doing super awesome at my commitment to not over train leading into Champs. So awesome, in fact, that we have done nothing since I last posted. I was feeling slightly guilty about this, so I put a tunnel out for our Chuck-it play on Sunday and sent Secret through a couple of hoops and the tunnel on the way to her ball. Holy speed-building exercise, Batman! I should try running a course with a Chuck-it one of these days...

Oh, I guess I ran her over the dog walk a few times that day, too -- So maybe that counts as training. She wouldn't know, she was just in Chuck-it mode. Considering that her brain more or less falls out of her head, I'm impressed that she (mostly) maintained her criteria. Seeing her completely run through her contact before stopping tempts me to want to try running contacts, but why mess with a good thing? We like our 2o/2o, even if I do tend to early release more often than not these days. :o)

I celebrated Labor Day by working at the shelter. But the good news is that it was only half a day, which left the rest of the day to play! Or to mow the lawn..... I moved the dog walk to the top of the yard, so now I have to see if I have a copy of the Champs round with it in that location. I was also thinking I should set up that Chances course that got the best of us at the last trial (including the tunnel that couldn't have possibly been any closer to the dog walk).

One of these days we'll get back to work. But honestly, I'm pretty sure Secret doesn't mind it one bit. She thinks playing frisbee every day would probably be the best way to practice for Champs. :oP

Sorry for the completely random and pointless post -- I just think she's cute. Still waiting for a modeling gig to come along so that she can start to pay her way. lol

I still need to enter our trial that's coming up. I figure I'll keep the days short & sweet for Secret, so she's going to run 2 of the games classes Friday night, then just the four core classes each day. No reason to burn her out now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Less IS more

I may be a slow learner sometimes, but I am learning! I've always known that less is more where Secret is concerned, but I often get greedy and push too hard/too much. She can be so very brilliant at times and it's an awesome feeling when we have that connection. At times it can be hard to back off from that high.

But I'm getting there. We hadn't done a lick of agility since the trial on Saturday. We've had some gorgeous weather that would have been great for some agility practice, but instead we've filled our time with walking/running and playing in the yard. I decided taking several days off would be good for all of us.

A fellow blogger posted some Chances courses that were used at the trial in Iowa over the weekend. I thought they looked fun and totally doable, so I printed them out and took them home to set up last night.

I brought home maps for both the Open line:

And the Elite line:

Knowing, of course, that I still only have two tunnels, my course ended with the hoop. I also left all jumps at 8" for all dogs, which no doubt never hurts to increase the "fun factor" for Secret, as it requires less "work" for her. lol I often think I have the laziest border collie on the planet...

I have to admit I was concerned when I first brought her out. She was kind like, "Meh, toy." I warmed her up with a few single obstacles (hoop/weaves/tunnel) and she wasn't behaving in a particularly inspired fashion.

Luckily the light came on in her eyes when I set her up at the start of the course. I tried not to pay too much attention to the "line" the first time through. Secret did go way wide on the turn to the tunnel and I had to step in to assist, but good heavens was she a happy girl and she zipped right through the finish.

After playing with her & the Wubba for a bit, I set her up for a second try, this time making a point to observe the Open level line. I used an early/quick release on the a-frame to keep her moving ahead of me and she nailed it, including a much better turn into the tunnel. Happy dance, good girl!

Quite honestly, I debated ending her session right there. I warned myself of the perils of being greedy. So maybe I haven't come as far as I thought, because I did decide to try it one more time.

I decided to go for the Elite line with her this time, figuring I could easily step in for the save if I needed it. But wouldn't you know, she didn't need me to help her at all! Granted, some of this could have been pattern training by now, but she drove eagerly ahead of me and really showed no hesitation at all. I threw a big party for her and we played with the Wubba for a bit before I took her back in the house to give the boys their turn.

I figured there was no point in messing with her any more after that, so instead of working more agility with her on her "second turn," we just played frisbee. Happy day for Secret!

Heading into Champs, my game plan is to train twice per week. We'll see if I maintain that goal as it gets closer and I start to feel more pressure. lol It's made a little easier by the fact that I'm really working to improve my own fitness right now, so training sessions are being replaced by runs -- Which the dogs love!

Six weeks to go!