Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Snowy End to 2012

I've given up hoping for another snow-free winter like we had last year. As awesome as it was to continue training through January and February, there is a certain amount of fun that comes with the dreaded white stuff.

We got about 4 to 5 inches of super fluffy snow (the fun kind!) yesterday, so we took advantage of playing in it this morning since I didn't have to work. Have I mentioned lately how nice it's been to step back from the shelter? I miss being more involved there, but I've learned how important it is to have down time now and again to recharge. The biggest bonus is that I don't resent going there anymore, so everyone benefits. I'm working tomorrow and New Years morning, then only one weekend in January. And you know what, I'm kind of sad about that now...

December has spoiled me, what with having to use up all of my vacation at work. It's going to be hard to go back to working a full week again! But no worries, I'm still off Monday & Tuesday of this coming week. Maybe the house will get cleaned yet.... Who am I kidding?

I'm not sure if having me around more is what has been turning Secret into a possessive bitch lately or what. She's been attempting to guard Kaiser away from me more than usual the last few days, for which my response is to invite him into our space and tell her to knock it off. This morning I was sitting at the computer and they got into a fight. I don't even know what prompted it, but it was NOT okay and clearly started by Secret. It was all noise and gnashing of teeth, but it's still enough to unnerve me.

Kaiser turns five tomorrow! I find it so hard to believe, because to me he stays the perpetual puppy of the family. Luke turns nine only two days later, on Tuesday. Crazy.

This has been a year full of changes, no doubt. All of the uncertainty when the family business was struggling, being unemployed, finding a new job.... The dogs have adjusted better than I could have hoped for, considering how drastically different their own lives are now. I can't imagine having gotten through it without them. It would be pretty depressing to come home to nothing!

We've had plenty of changes in our dog life as well. By far the biggest would be taking the plunge to start showing in a new organization. Secret has conquered a lot of fears this year -- dealing with the teeter and all of the other "new equipment," that weird slatted dog walk issue that cropped up mid-year, traveling alone -- oh wait, we didn't conquer that one.  ;o)  Trials in general seem to be causing her a lot less stress and there are many areas where she really shines (namely, anywhere but the weaves...).

Some of my dog friends were recently talking about goal setting -- as in, do you make them and do you tend to achieve them. Goals have always been an area where I find I struggle. Now my job requires that I come up with them each year, so you can imagine how much anguish that causes me. lol

So much of the future is unknown, especially when you are dealing with other living beings. Injuries can happen, someone could get sick, who knows. I always have an "end goal" in my sights with regard to agility that starts on the first day we trial -- get the Championship titles. Do other people not set that same goal? To me it seems silly to set anything smaller, because those will undeniably be achieved on the way to the bigger goal. And I don't ever set dates to get things by because honestly it's not going to alter my life at all if we get it or not... Would it have been nice to finish Secret's NATCH in 2012? Sure, but we didn't, so we'll do that in 2013. I'd hardly call that a "goal" for 2013, though, considering she's two Q's away and it's highly unlikely that she won't get it eventually.

See, I stink at goals. I'm too practical.  lol

My goals since starting USDAA have always been to get her a PDCH. Why else would we be there? If my goals were to get as many CH titles on her as possible I suppose we could start AKC or CPE, but that's not what drives me. I don't know what drives me.... Maybe that should be my goal for 2013, to figure that out.  ;o)  Ultimately I do agility because I like spending the time with my dogs and I love being around awesome people who share my passion and understand me. That's not going to change no matter what titles are on the line.

I do really want to attend NADAC Champs this year, but that will come down to finances, not qualifying. We'll see how the year goes, I guess.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to one and all! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday!

Today has been a quiet day here. I worked at the shelter this morning -- This is how I have truly ENJOYED my Christmas mornings for the last three years. I only had six dogs, largely due to a hugely successful adoption promotion we recently had -- how awesome is it that so many animals found homes before Christmas?!

My brother & his family had to get back to Chicago today, which means that we had Christmas with my mom's side of the family on Sunday instead of today -- With nothing else planned for the day, I attempted to go see Les Mis with my parents, but who knew the movies were so crazy popular on Christmas day?! The 1:40 showing was sold out and the next one wasn't until after 5:00. The line was well out the door, so we decided against seeing anything else and just came home. I've spent all day hanging with the dogs and reading The Hunger Games, which my nephew brought up with him from Chicago. Yeah, I tend to be a bit behind on literature crazes.

Today was my last of SIX days off in a row. Honestly, I can't even tell you what day of the week it is anymore, so in that respect it will be nice to return to work tomorrow. The dogs and I have enjoyed our downtime together, although they probably would have preferred a bit more excitement. Luke pulled a muscle while playing fetch last week, so even that has been quite limited for them lately. I've eased up the last few days, though, and everything seems to be going okay for him -- so the dogs quite enjoyed their frisbee time today. In between that, Secret has been SUPER cuddly lately...

We had a white elephant gift exchange with my mom's side of the family. My cousin stole the dog-themed gift basket from me.  :o(  Brat.  But WIN, he gave me the big tuggy rope with tennis balls attached to it, claiming that his wee Min Pin would never play with it -- He just wanted the chewies. That would be the extent of the Christmas gifts the dogs received this year... Sorry dogs, I'm a terrible mother. Not only do I make you dress up in antlers, but I also fail to get you any gifts.

Life returns to normal now. The holidays are over. Secret & Luke are entered in a USDAA trial on January 5th, so we have that to look forward to in the new year! Yup, I decided to enter Luke and withhold Kaiser. Luke gets to run Veteran Standard & Gamblers, so that should be interesting fun. Secret is entered in Standard, Gamblers, Snooker (all P2) and Jumpers (P3) -- I kept her out of PSJ since she doesn't need any more Q's at the moment and we won't be sticking around for round 2. I might wing it and see how late the day goes before I decide on staying over before driving home. Have I mentioned lately how nice it would be to have USDAA trials closer to home?......

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Snowpocalypse That Wasn't

Happy End of the World! As you can plainly figure out for yourself, we are still here and the world didn't end today on this, the last day of the Mayan calendar.

This day also coincided with a "giant storm" that turned out to be pretty sad (at least in terms of Wisconsin winter storms). Don't get me wrong -- we had snow and we had wind, but it was far from the epic proportions they were obsessing over on the news.

We ended up with a sad little 5" or so that mostly got blown into drifts here and there. It was also fairly wet & heavy snow, not the fun fluffy stuff that the dogs enjoy so much. No worries, though, they are making the most of what we have. Yesterday morning Secret plunged face-first into the snow that was building up on the deck. Weirdo.

I was scheduled to have the morning off yesterday (Thursday) due to Secret's vet appointment, but with the blizzard in the forecast I elected to shuffle my days off around a bit so that I could avoid driving and just stay home. That means that I don't go back to work until Wednesday now! The dogs seem to think it's pretty awesome to have me home all day.

Secret and I just walked up to her vet appointment yesterday because I hadn't cleared the driveway yet. It was a quick & easy appointment. I did her bordetella vaccination at home before we went - this was an epic failure last year and I figured if worse came to worse I could say screw it and just have them do it when we went. She still put up a stink over the whole thing, but I think I actually got the majority of it up her nose this year.

With that out of the way, Secret wasn't actually due for anything other than her annual physical and heartworm test. Easy-peasy in and out. I discussed her chiropractic schedule with Dr. Randy and he didn't really have anything to add to that -- we agree that she is freakishly long and there isn't much we can do about it.

Today I tortured the dogs with a Christmas photo shoot. You'll have to wait for those pictures, although if you are on Facebook you've already seen them... Since the pictures turned out kind of cute, I decided this afternoon to make a Christmas card -- something I haven't done in years. I made treats to take to the vet's office, though, and I thought it would be nice to have a card to go with them. I thought Dr. Marta and crew in Viroqua would like a card, too, so I'll be sending that off in hopes that it reaches them before Christmas.

Tomorrow I'll blow a bit of time delivering our Christmas goodies to our favorite vet staff and then I suppose the dogs will expect me to entertain them. Tonight they convinced me to take them along while I did some last-minute Christmas shopping. Yeah... That was fun. Actually, I was kind of glad to have the company as I spent 40 minutes attempting to get out of the parking lot at Farm & Fleet. It probably would have been a bit better had I not waited until everyone got out of work to go shopping...

On a somewhat training-related note (since we have done zero agility to speak of since the last trial) --- Since Secret is doing so well with her pre-dinner tugging, I decided to switch it up and change out the toy. I've been able to use either tug leash successfully, but had not tried other toys yet. Yesterday I pulled out an udder tug. Square one. Very interesting! Guess this little game will continue for a while, changing out toys until she happily & immediately tugs anything presented.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It snowed....

Well yay... It snowed. The weather-guessers have been threatening the possibility for the last week, but the forecast kept changing. To be safe, I did put all of my agility equipment away on Friday. I'll never forget the year that all of my jumps got frozen to the ground for an entire winter a few years ago. It's a pain to play around them and probably not that good for the equipment, either. The only thing I took directly to the basement was the table. The rest can wait for another day.

It's hard to hate the snow when the dogs love it so much. As I type this, Secret has been outside for over an hour playing SO happily in it. Kaiser & Luke joined her in a game of chase and now that Luke is back in the house Kaiser is keeping Secret entertained. Seriously, she is going bonkers out there. Who knew she liked snow THAT much?

It's hard to say how much we've got so far. It's very wet & heavy, but there must be close to 3" out there by now.

It made for a fun day at the trial. It was a very, very small trial today anyhow -- made even smaller by those who opted to not take their chances with the weather. We started at 8:00 a.m. and our last run of the day was around 12:10 p.m.

I don't have video from today (seriously, it was SMALL and everyone was so busy running or working that I didn't even get my camera out). The dogs all ran well and were on their best behavior all weekend. I didn't even mention that yesterday, but Secret did SO WELL in her crate all weekend! I crated in the back of the arena again and used the same thick blanket (better at blocking movement/noise) that I did at the USDAA trial where she seemed to stay quiet. I did not hear her bark even once the entire weekend. Not once! That makes me so happy and I think she rests a lot more in that situation as well!

Jumpers went well for all. It was nice and flowing, so I managed to use all blind crosses in Secret's run. Gotta keep it fun one way or another.  ;o)  Luke sailed through the course nicely, so we managed to get the last of the Jumpers Q's that he needs for the next NATCH. Phew, glad that's out of the way -- although it would be kind of fun to have gotten a NATCH on something other than Chances for once! Kaiser was a little twitchy in Jumpers because I over-handled a few tight spots, but he stayed with me for a Q.

Chances was up next and while it didn't look like a bad course, it ended up being pretty brutal. The overall success rate in Chances this entire weekend was dismal, which might be why our judge decided to give us all a mulligan and offered the opportunity to try it again before we switched to Open. Sadly it wasn't for points, but who hasn't wanted the chance to try a Chances course again?

On Secret's first run I handled a turn-away/send out from the wrong side of the hoop (something I only noted when I watched one of the two successful runs). So on her second go I changed my tactics and she did a beautiful job! It was just lovely -- and not many dogs managed to get it on even the second try, so I was very proud of her.

Luke had gotten that turn/send out, but then didn't get the additional switch after that jump. I fixed my blunders with him and he also got it on the second go. Kaiser, being Kaiser, did even worse on the second go round and decided to just make up his own course.

Luke Q'd in both rounds of Regular. Yay! Secret decided I'd used up my runs for the day with that extra Chances run and pretty much said, "Meh, I'm done," on the second round of Regular (the first was lovely!). She made it through, but we had all sorts of blunders that more or less stemmed from me not supporting enough (because I assumed she'd get there on her own -- so yes, I was being lazy, too). Her weaves were very slow and we had two big redirects that sucked up a lot of time, so Secret ended up being 0.6 seconds over time in Round 2 -- Which means she got one of those stupid 5-point Q's to screw up all of my nice round numbers.

Kaiser didn't have a good day in Regular. Fifteen runs in a weekend might be a little much for him. He nailed all of his contacts, I'll give him that! His first run was really nice but we failed to get a turn following the a-frame and he took an off-course hoop. I loved his dog walk in that run, though. It was the second-to-last obstacle and he ran across and nailed the stop at the end (vs. creeping like we usually do). In Round 2 he decided he'd had enough and took the weirdest turn/path ever to take an off course hoop. This hoop was also the finish hoop, so I guess he just thought he was done for the day. I debated just ending the run there, but it was kind of a naughty turn away so we did the last few obstacles, which included a really pretty a-frame contact (especially for the end of the weekend where he usually short-strides them).

So Secret & Luke ended up tied in the Q department with 5.5 each. Kaiser came home with 9 Q's and a new title ribbon -- Family Dog Center has a new style new title ribbon that I should really get a picture of, but my floors need cleaning and I'd be embarrassed to set up for a ribbon picture.  ;o)  Maybe next time.

The next NADAC trial isn't until the end of January, so there won't be any more NATCH opportunities yet in 2012. We actually don't even have any more trials the rest of the year, so I guess it's okay that the snow has come because now we just get to play for the next few weeks.

Oh, and speaking of play -- Secret continued to tug all day today and put in even more effort than she did yesterday -- actively sitting back and jerking the leash a few times. I am happy, happy, happy about the progress we've made in such short time! And I'm sure everyone we trial with is happy as well because Secret no longer sits and barks the entire time we are waiting to go in the ring....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It's Working!!

You know that crazy idea I had recently that involved making Secret tug for her dinner? Well guess what, I do believe it's working.

She's been getting to the point where she is actually offering resistance and increasing the amount of time she will tug before eating. I've been asking for small increases in duration each time and it appears to be getting through to Secret. The first tugs were more or less borne of frustration, but now she's catching on and seems to understand that tug = eat.

Today we had a NADAC trial here in La Crosse. My expectations were no different than with dinner -- If you want these treats in my hand, you must tug. Truthfully, this was probably a step beyond what I'm asking for at dinner, as I haven't asked for her to tug when I actually have food IN my hand. But it clicked for her and she was totally game!

We actually got some GOOD tugging. Not crazy tugging like you see from so many dogs at trials, but good honest-to-goodness interacting and even a little play growling and a slight shake once, even! Hey, I'll take it! We're making HUGE progress!

And I do think it made a difference in her runs today. Secret was a happy girl -- all except for Chances. That was the run where I had to pull her out of her crate and go straight into the ring. We barely had any time to get pumped up and it showed in her run. We had plenty of time before each of her other three runs, though, and they were great! Secret even beat Luke's times in every run! In her first round of Regular, Secret had the 2nd fastest time in the class, with the average being about 5 seconds slower (right around where Luke was).

Secret was 3/4 today -- We didn't get Chances (barely anybody did...), so she will not be getting her NATCH this weekend. Oh well! Hopefully we can get a Chances Q tomorrow to increase our odds for January!

I'll be curious to see how tomorrow goes with regard to the tugging. She's always so pooped by the end of the day on Sunday, so I'm curious to see if this jazzes her up at all.

Luke was his usual crazy, happy self. He was a bit of a wild child and was slipping around the arena today. He knocked a bar in the first round of Regular for one of those stupid 5-point Q's, but somehow managed to keep the rest up (despite a lot of ticking). Luke wasn't even close in Chances, which means that he won't be getting a NATCH this weekend, either -- But he did knock out a nice Jumpers run, so he got one of those out of the way, at least!

Kaiser actually has two videos to share. He got to run last night because I won a free day in the worker raffle at the last trial. Kaiser was the obvious choice because Luke isn't running games anymore and I really don't feel Secret is up to three days at this point in her career. I could have, you know, saved money and applied it to Saturday or Sunday, but we're only running five runs each day this weekend and Friday had six. Yay for more runs!

Kaiser gave me the most bang for my (free) buck and knocked out 6/6 runs last night. He likes games, so it's not much of a stress. I think we got a gimmee in the first round of Touch-n-Go because I'm pretty sure that he went through an off course hoop, but you win some & you lose some...

He finished his V-NATCH points in Weavers and got his Outstanding Elite Tunnelers title, which means that he just needs three more Tunnelers and four more Touch-n-Go Q's for his Versatility NATCH. Oh, and I won the worker raffle again last night for another free day! Sweet!!

Today was rough (on both me & Kaiser) since we didn't get home until after 11:00 p.m. last night. He was a trooper, though, and put in some nice runs. Only two were Q's and they aren't pretty Q's, but I'll take them. I'm thrilled any time we bring home Regular Q's!  :o)

Petco sent me a 20% off coupon last night that had to be used today, so we swung by there on the way home from the trial. They correctly peg me as a sucker, because when I have coupons I buy stuff we don't need. On my way to the food, I walked past a Kong display that said, "Buy one, get one 25% off." So of course, I did. I got a couple of the Squeezz toys. We have these at the shelter and I've always been impressed by how long they keep squeaking. Well that was a stupid choice, I've been listening to obnoxious squeaking since we got home... But the dogs think they rock, so yay.

Right now Kaiser & Secret are going bonkers in the back yard. Time to conserve energy for another big day tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Big Dreams, Tiny Budget

It's been a while, but today is another dog agility blog event day. The subject is "backyard training," and if you'd like to see what everyone else has to say you can visit this site:

I haven't had a chance to visit to read what everyone else has to say yet, but I'm hoping to get some good ideas! Since August of 2008, 99% of my training has all been done in my backyard. Both Kaiser and Secret were solo projects taught at home with no outside help. Part of the reason is because there were/are no local classes that fit my needs, but also because training just gets expensive -- especially with three dogs!

When I first started agility with Luke in 2007 he was my only dog. I quickly became addicted to the sport and we enrolled in session after session of weekly classes with no break. I'd often take a private or semi-private lesson each week in addition to our group classes, and sometimes I'd even go down for ring rental on another day. Paying for all of that training time adds up, there is no doubt.

What ultimately led to me getting serious about finding a way to train on my own were the struggles Luke and I had in the NADAC Chances class.  When we got into Elite we just COULD NOT Q. We literally went over 10 months without a single Q when we moved up (and we were trialing two or three times a month back then!) and it was getting depressing. The local training classes did not touch on or encourage distance work at all, so I felt the only way we were going to see any improvement was if I found a way to work on my own. Thankfully I feel that my experience riding and training horses for so many years really helped my intuition for learning agility and I felt that I could be fairly successful on my own.

The more I got into agility, the more I found myself backing away from horses. I was approaching 30 and had been renting my apartment for over 8 years, so I decided that it was as good a time as any to start house shopping. I would sell my younger horse, Norman, to help with a down payment towards the new house, which was more or less the beginning of the end of my equestrian life. While house shopping, I stressed to my realtor that a big flat empty yard was ALL that mattered. She struggled greatly with this request, but eventually we found the perfect property. My yard is 100'x100' fenced with no obstructions -- unfortunately it's in the town of Sparta, but you can't win them all...

My older horse passed away shortly after I put the offer in on the house, so I was horseless as we moved forward with the deal (unfortunately the only reason I was looking in the Sparta area was because that's where my barn was....). I found myself selling off all of my tack and equipment to put towards my new passion in life --- buying agility equipment! Before I moved in, I had a couple of tunnels, my dog walk & a-frame were ordered and all of my PVC was cut and ready to assemble into jumps.

Being able to train at home has been such a blessing and has completely changed my outlook on dog training in general. I can't imagine going back to a group class anymore because it goes against how I train my dogs. I love having the ability to set an exercise and work each dog for five or ten minutes. This keeps them fresh, happy and excited about agility. All the work that we do is in drive because I don't have to worry about bringing them up & down over the course of an hour long group class.

I can work on what I want/what we need. Training at home was THE KEY to building Luke's distance skills and is largely why Kaiser & Secret both have had good distance from day one. So many people at trials have asked me for help and I struggle with advice since I know how difficult it is to work on those skills in a class environment when the instructor and other students aren't interested in learning those skills.

There are negatives to training exclusively at home, no doubt! I don't have anyone to tell me how many stupid handling errors I am making or give me advice on how to correct this. I video as many of our training sessions as I can for this reason, but it would still be nice to have one on one feedback on occasion.

When you have a weekly class that you pay to attend, you tend to be guaranteed to train at least one day a week. At home, sometimes it just seems like a whole lot of effort to set a course, especially when it typically takes longer to set/take down a course than the time I spend actually running it with the dogs. It was great when I had my cousin, Bethany, coming over to train with me regularly because that helped a lot with my motivation. I miss that, for sure. My motivation was kind of lacking this year -- I never even got my contacts out of the garage this whole season! It was the year of jumping drills & teetering; that's about it.

I also miss getting to run drills that someone else comes up with. Many times when you set up exercises for yourself, you tend to set them to your strengths. I dubbed this year the "Year of the Backyard Dog" and set numerous drills from the Clean Run article of this name in order to attempt to push myself out of my comfort zone more often. I love these drills! They are easy to set with a fairly minimal amount of equipment, they tend to fit into a space that allows for easy stationary video and they test a wide variety of skills. If you look, you can even find ones that focus on specific equipment. This came in super handy when it came time for me to train the broad jump earlier this year after we started USDAA!

Living in Wisconsin, I would gather the worst part about backyard training is that it goes away for a good half of the year. Last year ROCKED in that I was still playing agility outside in January and February, but most years bring an end to running outdoors far earlier than that. Not only does winter make training outside difficult if not impossible, but we tend to have long stretches of time where you can't do ANYTHING outside due to ice or extreme cold.

That's why, two years ago, I decided to put down mats on half of my basement. Secret was due to make her agility debut in February of 2011 and I was panicking about the idea of having no way to train her. My basement was half framed in on one side when I bought it (the other side has a finished room, so that couldn't be touched), so my dad helped me knock it all down and I ended up with a 20' x 23' big open space. It's not much, but it has given us a great winter play area.

I can fit a few jumps in this space and usually bring down my table, the teeter and a set of 6 2x2 weave poles. I also keep our exercise peanut in the basement and we burn off some energy on that when the weather prevents us from playing outside. The stairs are also a great way to get some crazies out on a cold day as well as to get some good cardio exercise in!

We are still snow-free going into December, but my new job doesn't allow me the opportunity to train outside before it gets dark. Right now I'm thankful that all of my dogs are more or less able to survive in "maintenance mode" and that we are still able to be successful at trials with the limited amount of training that we have available to us.

We'll see how true that statement holds this weekend, as we have a NADAC trial here in La Crosse! Secret has a shot at getting her NATCH, as she just needs two more Chances Q's. I'm going to try to not feel too pressured and just let the chips fall where they may. Even if she got it in January it would still be less than two years into her trial career, so I'm in awe of her, regardless. Luke also has a shot (at NATCH 4), but he needs two Chances and two Jumpers -- I tend to be far more likely to screw up his Jumpers runs for whatever reason, so we'll see what happens. It could be a very exciting weekend, though, especially on the heels of Kaiser's NATCH at the last trial!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit. For if I really WAS a genius I would have come up with this idea a loooooooong time ago. Alas, it just struck me yesterday, so there you have it.

As we all know, Secret won't tug/play at trials. Part of this is due to stress, but I think it's mostly because she expects food. Secret has a pretty one-track mind where food is concerned. She likes it, and when it is present she really doesn't want anything else. For many dogs this would be just fine, but Secret turns on her thinking brain around food and runs slow(er).

Granted, we have made great strides in this department -- For example, she will now train with toys after Kaiser has been out working for food. This did not used to be the case. I can even leave his treat bag sitting outside and she has continued to play with toys so long as she doesn't GET anything from that bag.

At trials, though, I believe she is hard-core conditioned to food. This is because she was so stressed when we first started trialing that I didn't even bother with toys. From day one, trials equaled food in her brain.

How do you recreate this at home when home equals play and she happily tugs almost all the time? You ask for play at meal time. Bingo. Seriously, where has my brain been? How have I failed to make this connection?

So, operation "You better damn well tug if you want to eat" started last night at dinner. After much pissing and moaning Secret finally mouthed the tuggy/leash and I let her eat. We repeated this at breakfast and she mouthed it a little sooner.

Tonight at dinner I upped the ante just a bit. I wanted more than just her mouth on the toy, I wanted her to bite down on it. We got that, but still no tugging. We'll get there, though. If you can teach a dog to weave for their dinner, I think you can teach them to tug.

Want to eat, Secret? Well guess what, you're going to tug first.  :o) Maybe in time it will connect in her brain and she'll learn to love both interchangeably.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Magical Leashes!

Just call me the eternal optimist. Or maybe just extremely hard-headed. Perhaps a bit of both! I will not give up until I have a freaking dog that tugs at trials!

As I figured, our new tuggy leashes from Tillies Tuggies were in the mail when we got home on Sunday. They were exactly what I was hoping for, although I guess it wouldn't hurt if they were a bit thicker. The length is perfect. I don't know how long-lasting they would be with a hard-core tugger, but we'll certainly put them to the test. For $15, if they work for Secret I'd be more than willing to restock often.

There is no way I could be happier with the colors that were sent!  :o)  I just put in a note that I wasn't fussy about color, but that any combination of pink and/or purple would be lovely. The darker leash is almost a perfect match for Secret's pink zebra collar that she wears to agility trials! Sweet. The darker leash has the rabbit fur bite bar and the lighter one has the sheepskin.

Speaking of the bite bar, I honestly feel that this is what makes these tug leashes THE BOMB. While playing with Secret, she goes for the bite bar every time. If she lands on the "plain old boring fleece" she tends to drop and re-grip on the fur.

I wonder what NADAC rules are for something like this leash.... I mean, I'm not going to deny that the fur bite bar certainly makes it look like more of a toy. If the dog doesn't play in the ring, though, is it okay? I'm not about to bring it up on the NADAC boards. The judge at our next trial is super cool, so I'll ask her what she thinks next weekend.

Secret is my biggest judge, though. And honest to god, I think I'd happily take a few E's in NADAC if she decided she suddenly wanted to tug in the ring.  ;o)

Thus far the leashes are a hit. The last couple of nights I just played with her in the house. Last night I attached the leashes to a collar AND SHE STILL PLAYED! I even went through the act of taking the collar on & off and offering her the leash to tug and she was totally into it. I accidentally let go of the leash once when she shook it really hard and the metal clip whacked her on her leg. She yelped.  :o(  I thought, "Oh crap, there's the end of that."  But she started tugging again immediately!

Tonight I took the show on the road -- to the back yard. In the dark. I set up two jumps and we just played. I tugged with it attached to her collar and with everything off her. I threw it out past the jumps and played with her for targeting the leash (which she did with gusto!). I took off her collar/leash and chucked it behind us, did the two jumps and wrapped back to send her to her leash - Weeee! It was a good (short) session that continues to make me hopeful that perhaps one day she will decide it's okay to play at trials.

We had good moments at the USDAA trial this past weekend. I was able to get her pretty revved up by "smacking her around" a bit and poking at her to rile her up. She even mouthed at her short leather leash when I offered it to her, but she never quite tugged. She was being awfully sassy, so I'm hoping that kind of stuff will eventually lead to the playing I'm looking for. I did have an udder tug toy with that she showed no interest in.... But that was at the beginning of the weekend and I never did bring it back out.

Secret seemed all around "happier" at the trial this past weekend, I think. She was being super kissy and was seeking out interaction with me. Often times she doesn't want me to even touch her at trials; she'll recoil when I try to pet or massage her. This weekend she was climbing on top of me, in my lap and just being goofy. I'm hopeful this means that the stress of trials is lessening and that maybe, just maybe it will pave the way to play. Who knows, one can hope.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rollin' in $$$

Look! I'm home early enough following an away trial to actually be able to post! How awesome is that? Long story short, staying overnight and running a couple of classes the next day is THE way to do things. Much more relaxing. The drive home did not suck *nearly* as bad as it usually does. In fact, it was done entirely in the daylight, which is saying something now that it seems to be dark at 4:30...

We had a fun weekend with the Think Pawsitive crew over in New Berlin. It shouldn't take a genius to figure this out, but the more I go over there, the better I get to know everyone. Maybe some day I'll actually garner up the guts to ask someone to video. Alas, until then you are stuck with course maps and recaps.

We got up at 3:45 a.m. on Saturday to make the drive over. Yay.... There is no other reason on this planet that I would ever get up at that time. But for agility? Sure!

I was kind of "meh" over starting with Standard. It's nice to start with Gamblers to get them on the equipment, but then again we are reaching the point where certain dogs need to put on their big girl panties and just do the darn equipment.

Both dogs were entered in P2 Standard, our only "conflict" of the weekend, really. I was able to space them out to be the first and last dogs in the class, so I think there were seven between -- not bad at all.

Kaiser was up first and he did great right up until the a-frame, which he ran around. Refusals are called at contacts in Advanced. But that's okay, he added to his faults with a bounce off the table. First one since we started USDAA, though, I'll give him that!

Secret got her NQ out of the way right away with a refusal at the teeter. It was barely a refusal because I caught her quickly -- she was seriously just going to run right on by it without a second thought. She didn't seem scared or hesitant about it at all; apparently she just didn't feel like doing it? After that she ran well up until the weaves. About seven poles in or so she just stopped and started sniffing the pole up and down. I attempted to get her to keep going from that point but she popped, turned around and got a better sniff. For the record, she was not the only dog to do this so I don't know if there was something going on with the poles or what.... After back-weaving a few poles she reset and finished the course well, albeit with faults.

Gamblers was the second course of the day. Only Secret was entered since Kaiser would have had to be in the same class. I kind of deflated when I saw the teeter in the gamble AGAIN. Apparently we can't catch a break. The line was not bad on this one, though, so I held out hope.

Our path was: Jump (the one in the middle right), a-frame, tunnel, weaves (7), jump, chute, a-frame and then right as she went over the next jump the buzzer sounded and we were able to sail right into the gamble. I guess that worked out well! I had originally planned to throw in the tunnel after the chute, but her weaves weren't that fast and I figured we were getting close on time.

At any rate, Secret did the teeter without hesitation (yay!), but then stood there and barked at me. As our NADAC Chances success has shown, sometimes it works to stand there and gesticulate towards the tunnel. After doing a spin/bark maneuver at me, Secret did go out to take the tunnel and finished under time. She had the most points and got 1st place!

Apparently NADAC has forever ruined me with regard to the dog crossing over the line. How much easier would it have been to call Secret back over and send her out?? Sheesh. Maybe next time...

Kaiser's P2 Pairs run was up next. There were only 2 P2 dogs entered, so our partner was a given -- a fast young Golden Retriever, Ricochet. Our partner was not fond of how close the 1-2-3 sequence was set on the top side, so she asked if they could do the first half. I figured it didn't much matter, as Kaiser can blow his dog walk as easily as his teeter, so we took the second half.

Ricochet went into the wrong side of the first tunnel, which thankfully isn't an E in Advanced, but it is 10 faults to make up. She knocked a bar at 7, too, unfortunately. Kaiser ran his half clean (sadly with a lot of stuttering), but we ended up being about 10 seconds over qualifying with the faults added. Oh well. He's just moved up to P2 and has a lot of Q's to go, so I'm not too upset about it.  :o)

Steeplechase/PSJ was up next. Kaiser ran clean, but his jumping was just AWFUL in this run. It was almost painful to get him through it. He ended up well over the qualifying cut-off. I was thankful he wouldn't have to do an extra run....

Secret always does better on the courses with two a-frames and this one was no exception. I did a front cross from 3-4 and then front crossed after the a-frame, but I think my close proximity to the tunnel did not help her speed coming out and into the weaves. Her weaves were slow, but she picked up speed nicely after that. I finished with all front crosses except for the finish -- I ran the right side of the a-frame and pushed to 18.

Wouldn't you know it, but Secret won the class! She was the second-fastest 22" dog, but that dog had a fault. Because of the smoking fast 16" class, Secret was the only 22" dog to qualify. Huh. Go figure! Good job baby dog!

The day ended with Jumpers. I handled 1-5 on the right, which might not have been the most motivating for Secret. She got a little sticky around 9-10-11 and in a blunder of stupidity I found myself stuck on the outside from 11 to 12.... But hey, apparently Secret found this loads of fun because she picked up speed to race me. She ended this run very nicely and got 2nd place, but was just 5 seconds under course time. Yeah, end of the day runs are not so speedy for Secret.

After his PSJ round, I was glad I had not entered Kaiser in Jumpers on Saturday.

Today started with Jumpers, which is always a fun way to start the day for Secret. She rocked this course! She was also in a fun, playful mood as we waited, which equals speedy Secret. I got a short running head start and got in a front cross from 2-3. From there it was single-sided handling through 7. When walking I planned to front cross between 6-7, but Secret was actually hauling ass and there was no way I could make it. I did a shoulder pull to the correct side of the tunnel and prayed that it wouldn't get a refusal (rear crossing tunnels = not so fun in Secret's book) -- but she barreled into the tunnel without hesitation.

I admit I kind of took my eye off her for a moment, so I didn't exactly see the crash at 9. I know she took out both bars on the jump, though. If I had to speculate, I think she extended coming out of the tunnel and misjudged the short space between 8-9. It took me by surprise because she never knocks bars -- and it surprised her, too, but she recovered nicely.

I was proud of her because the judge was standing right in the crook of the 11/16 tunnel, but Secret didn't hesitate there at all. I did, though, which put me behind and necessitated a rear cross at 13. I booked it for a blind cross before the tunnel, though, and Secret didn't have a problem with the tunnel curving in the "wrong direction" as she has in the past. She finished well and had a great time! She would have been tied for 4th in this class, but she was over 11 seconds under course time! I was really happy with this run.

Kaiser did get to run Jumpers today. One thing I've noticed with him is that he seems to run better at USDAA trials when I stay close to him. This is the polar opposite of how he is at NADAC trials.... But at 12", apparently it wigs him out if I get too far ahead of him. So in Jumpers I made it a point to try to stay as even as I could with him and as a result, his jumping was much better! It also helped that there were a couple of tunnels I could send him to, as that seems to pick him up a bit as well.

Kaiser ended up clean but with 3 time faults. This would be because I hesitated and did a rear cross at the 15 tunnel and because Mom was being a loony, he came back out and it took me a couple of seconds to realize this. Then he shot wide and went around 16, which I was able to prevent him from back-jumping, but it kicked us over time. Oh well. I was just happy that he was jumping better!

Up next was the reason I stuck around for Sunday -- Snooker for Secret. She just needs one more Q to move up to P3 in this class where the real fun starts.  :o)

She had a LOVELY run. I think my scanner cut off the bottom, but the rules were that you had to start at one of the start/finish runs and finish at the opposite. We started at the bottom and did 1-6, 1-5, a REALLY CLOSE call-off at jump 4 (phew!), 1-5 and then got to six when she knocked a bar. That's 33 points and apparently that's not enough to qualify. I don't know what you need -- 38 rings a bell? Bummer.

I don't know what's up with the two knocked bars today, but I'm going to guess she was just tired/sore from yesterday. Two days of NADAC is one thing, but two days of USDAA is probably a bit harder. She's also overdue for a chiro appointment, as I wasn't able to get her in before this trial.

All that was left for us was the second round of PSJ. Imagine my surprise when I went to check Secret in and saw Kaiser's name under the 12" dogs. Ummm.... I always thought you had to Q in order to move to round 2, but apparently not? The only explanation I got was that they need to "have a certain number of dogs run in the finals" or something like that. Okay, whatever -- it's a free run! I'd already told Kaiser he was done for the day, but I didn't think he'd mind running again.

I wasn't surprised to see two sets of weaves in the course today since yesterday was two a-frames. Bummer for Secret. She ran this course very nicely, though. I did a front cross from 2-3 and then did a shoulder pull and a rear cross at the 7 tunnel. When walking it I thought that shoving in a front cross after the broad jump would probably be very demotivating. I think I made the right choice as she happily drove ahead of me in to the tunnel. Her first set of weaves were slow. I took my chances with another shoulder pull/flip into the 11 tunnel and it worked, although I was late with the flip and she almost ran around the outside of the tunnel.... Secret's second set of weaves were much better and she ended the course very nicely.

I stuck with my plan of staying as close to Kaiser as I could and it was going well. I took my chances doing the same shoulder pull at 11 and just as I figured, he went into the wrong end of the tunnel. There is NO reason I couldn't have forced a front cross in there, but I was being a pansy. He then entered the weaves at the 2nd pole for some reason, which I didn't bother to correct. Despite my rotating way too early he actually managed to still get 14 and finished well, although I got ahead of him at the last jump and caused a big stutter.

Secret was something like 7 seconds slower than the 1st place 22" dog (stupid weave poles...), but an absent dog and an E made her the 2nd place dog and we won --- $5!  Wheee!  We're rich!  lol  Well, maybe not, but she bought me lunch at Burger King on the way home. It's her first payback; maybe I should have framed it? Poor Kaiser, if he would have run clean he probably would have gotten something, too, thanks to all of the absent dogs.

I stayed to work Masters Gamblers (rounding out my worker's punch card to $40 towards our next trial!) and we were still on the road around 1 p.m. Sweet! It was nice to get home at a decent hour with enough daylight to pick up the yard and get in a game of frisbee with Secret (Luke was still with my parents and didn't get home until later).

I think I'm going to try something different for our next USDAA trial, but I haven't entirely made up my mind yet. I think I'm going to let Kaiser stay with my parents and enter Luke in a couple of the Vet classes. He'll have to go back up to 16", but the a-frame is the NADAC height of 5' and I think he'll manage. I just feel bad running Kaiser like this -- Here's my dog who gets 100+ run indexes in NADAC (ie: that means he's really fast) who is stuttering and stopping on the course in USDAA. I'm hoping they adjust the jump heights soon and he can move down, but until then I just don't know how fair it is to him. I can keep running him outside since he seems to be fine there, but we don't have any outdoor trials until spring now.

I think Luke would have fun, but I'd probably limit him to Standard and Gamblers. I don't think he'd like Snooker at all. I guess we'll have to see if I get greedy and want him to get his Veterans Versatility title.  :o)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Black Friday!

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving, too, I suppose. This is the first year I've ever braved the crowds for the craziest shopping day of the year. Of course my reasons were dog related. But I won! I got what I went for!

Because corporate greed is ever-growing, Black Friday actually started on Thursday. While going through the fliers at my parent's house after our family turkey day get-together, I saw that Walmart had this swanky storage bench on sale for $29 as one of their 8 p.m. Thursday deals. Hmm. Not only is it twice the size of the dog's current/old window seat, but theirs was also in terrible need of replacement as the foam seat has been starting to scatter throughout the house. Nothing the dogs are doing, the top just got ripped to shreds by nails, I guess. Heaven knows I couldn't just throw the thing away without a replacement -- Secret spends the majority of her life sitting/laying on that thing!

I happen to live about two minutes from Walmart, so being the naive Black Friday shopper that I am, I left home at about 7:52 p.m. The entire parking lot was full! In Sparta! It was overflowing into the Do-It Center next door, even. Holy crap, what did I get myself into? The good news is that there weren't any lines waiting outside. The bad news is that there were no carts -- Oh, and did I mention that I had no idea where these darn benches were?

Luck was on my side. I turned my head to the right as I walked past the first aisle and there they were! Surrounded by people.... But one was a friend of mine! Score! She let me squeeze in and when they called 8:00 I was able to snag one. Sweet! And then lug it around the store with me by hand. Not sweet...

The only other thing I wanted was a set of sheets going for $20 and I also stumbled upon them by luck -- Wasn't too hard, really -- The mob of people in that area kind of gave it away. Thank goodness for having a king-sized bed. An employee was helping to hand them out and she was to the last of the queens when I got there. I even got to pick my color! Yay!

Then I had to traipse all the way across the store to go pick up chicken for our trial this weekend. That was fun. I have no idea what the big special was in the produce area, but I had to go under a roped off area just to get to the darn chicken. I got out in a hurry and was home by 8:15. Phew. That was crazy.

Today I put the new bench by the window and had to laugh. Luke took it over immediately. Poor Secret! Lucky for her he didn't stay there all day and she was able to give it a try, too. This will be nice because now she won't have to scrunch into a tiny ball when she lays down on the window seat. I bet that's just awesome for her back. Yay for Black Friday deals!

I actually went out again today, but I waited until 10 a.m. to avoid all of the crazies. Petco was giving out free doggy antlers (the kind they wear on their head) with any purchase, so I went and picked up a couple new Jolly Balls (with rope for Secret, with handle for Luke). It might eventually snow this year, you know, so I figure it's good to be prepared with snow-appropriate toys and all. I was going to go back and buy a bag of food to try to get another pair, but they didn't have any specials on food and I decided I just didn't care that much. Instead I went to the mall and found the $30 bedspread I went for -- I'm hoping this thing will fit in my washer & dryer, unlike the giant poofy comforter I currently have.

I was hovering over the mailbox today hoping that our package from Tillies Tuggies would arrive. I found this shop on Etsy earlier this week after doing a search for "tug leash with snap" or something like that. They were very well-priced, so I got one with a fleece bite bar and one with a rabbit fur bite bar. The shipping notification said they'd be here today, but obviously USPS forgot about the holiday. They left St. Paul today, so I'm sure they will be in my mailbox when we get home on Sunday!

This purchase was prompted after a discussion on the USDAA list about tugging in the ring. I am certainly not anti-tugging at all, but I do get frustrated that some people refuse to admit that tugging dogs have an advantage in the ring over those who don't view their leash as a toy. Those of us who have dogs who expect food have to teach them to wait for their reward until you are well out of the ring -- easier for some dogs than others (OMG, Kaiser was so not good with delayed gratification for the longest time).

Since I no longer use Secret's fleece tug leash that goes over her head, I thought I'd look for a fun tug leash that can snap onto her collar to allow me to continue to avoid bringing things over her head. The Tillies site was the first one that popped up in my Google search and it was by far the best looking and most Secret-pleasing tuggy I came across. We'll see what she thinks of it, I guess. I'm thinking I should just save it for USDAA trials so as not to confuse her with the whole, "You can tug here, but not here" deal. Who knows, first I just want to get her to tug at trials period, especially with something attached to her neck.

As kind of a preface to the whole 'target your leash' deal, yesterday I decided to work on targeting to a toy after a couple of jumps. Yeah....  I don't know if it was that she wasn't really in the mood yesterday or if this is just another one of those giant gaps in training that I've stumbled across. What I can tell you, though, is that Secret thinks she is being horribly punished if you ask her to leave her toy and walk away from it. Then she becomes super unsure about interacting with it at all and you end up with a big old meltdown. Isn't that fun! That will come in super handy in the event that she actually does start to view her leash as a toy....

I did make some headway, though. The first key was to lead her away by the collar so that I wasn't asking her to leave the toy of her own free will. Then she would happily target the toy after the jump. The other (more successful) thing I did was to throw the toy behind me while holding her collar and then release her forward. We'd do a jump or two and then wrap back to the start where she could target the toy. That worked really well, except for the time or two that I didn't throw the toy back far enough and she saw it when I released her.

So.... Homework. The good news is that this is something we can easily work on indoors if we happen to get forced inside by the weather (or darkness, as it tends to be). The bad news is that I am not entirely 100% sure HOW to train this. Baby steps, I guess. The dog has impulse control, but apparently she just needs help making the right choice in this case and not thinking it's the end of the world to leave her toy.

Tomorrow morning we leave well before dawn for our USDAA trial at Think Pawsitive. Secret is entered in Standard, Gamblers, PSJ and Jumpers on Saturday, then just Jumpers & Snooker on Sunday (we'll stay for the PSJ finals, too, if either dog makes it). Kaiser has a more limited schedule thanks to him & Secret being in the same classes again. I wanted to avoid conflicts, so I just stuck him in Standard (the only class where we'll have a conflict), Pairs Relay and PSJ on Saturday -- then just in Jumpers on Sunday. I'm not sure why I didn't put him in Jumpers on Saturday.... I was probably going with the assumption that he jumps like crap at the end of the day at USDAA trials. But he could have gotten his P2 Jumpers title if he Q'd in both. Oh well. Next time. No hurry, since he's just starting in P2 for everything else.

If Secret gets a Q in Snooker on Sunday that will be her P2 title -- I'm looking forward to trying our hand at the P3 Snooker classes! I was very torn about not sticking around for Standard on Sunday, because she just needs two more Q's. Ultimately, though, I want to get home at a decent time and the last trial there just ran so late. There will be other trials.

Time to finish up a few things and get ready for an early bedtime!

Monday, November 12, 2012

NATCH Kaiser!!!

For realz! I'm not even making it up! Kaiser finally decided that Saturday was THE day he would finally stop torturing me. After several failed attempts since July (following a hot streak, I might add), Kaiser finally Q'd on a Chances run -- the last he needed for his first NATCH. And just like I said he he would, he did it on a course with a dog walk. Let's just say I think he has Q'd on ONE Chances course with a dog walk. Ever. So yes, I knew it would be fitting that he would wait for that so he could say, "See mom, I was just messing with ya."

This is probably going to be one long stinking post, but I was so tired this weekend from all of the excitement that I just couldn't make myself sit at the computer another minute. It was a big trial on Saturday and we ran until 6 p.m. (that's late in La Crosse!). But that was awesome, because it meant that more of my friends were there for Kaiser's big day!

Kaiser had an all around phenomenal day on Saturday. He was on a hot streak and Q'd in BOTH rounds of Regular -- like, when does that ever happen?! Not only that, but his run in Regular Round 2 was the fastest of ALL Regular rounds that day! I did the yardage today and it clocked in at 5.2 yps. Granted, he did not stop on his dog walk, but he slowed down enough to get it.  ;o)  I'm thinking it has a good shot at being another 100+ DRI run for him. We shoot for those now, since it's fun and all.

Kaiser's only NQ of the day on Saturday was in Touch-n-Go. I decided to enter him to start chipping away at the Versatility points we need. I've been holding him out of the games because I didn't want him to NATCH and V-NATCH on the same day. I'm shallow, I want two celebrations. He is way behind in TNG points, though, so I decided to see if we could get one this weekend. It was not to be, however. He put in a great run until the last obstacle -- the dog walk -- where he launched from well above the line.

I did make him come back to school it, even though he had already gone through the finish hoop. I knew that Chances (the next class) had a dog walk in it and that was NOT the note I wanted to go in on. That said, he still didn't stop when we schooled it... Oh Kaiser, you little turd.

No worries, though! He was a good, good, good boy in his Chances run and didn't even bobble. When he went into the tunnel at 6 I started screaming inside my head that he would get it (turning away at 5 was the last point where I felt I needed to worry with him, because he's done it before!). I kept it inside until he got the out tunnel under the dog walk and then I found myself screaming "OH MY GOD!" for the last two obstacles. lol

I've debated for a while if I would make Kaiser do a victory lap. He's not really a victory lap kind of dog, but I took a moment to glance around and realized that we could do it with almost all tunnels. Kaiser LOVES tunnels, so I decided to go for it and I think he thought it was DA BOMB. It was so fun! Run little man, run!

I was so excited to finally make Kaiser's first NATCH video!!!

He put in a great Jumpers run that day as well, but it wasn't his fastest ever -- He'd had a long day by that point and it was getting late (compared to normal, at least). And I did torture him with that NATCH photo session, you know.

Here are the rest of Kaiser's runs from Saturday:

Kaiser had a rough day on Sunday. All of his NATCH treats caught up with him. I knew he was having some stomach issues because he jumped off the bed and let himself outside at least twice during the night. He also wasn't terribly enthusiastic about breakfast, but he did eat. As we waited for his first run (Jumpers), he was very quiet. When we started the course, I knew something was off with him. I wondered if he was sore? Something was off? I almost pulled him off the course when he refused one jump multiple times, but then he started running again.

And two obstacles later he crapped in the ring.

POOR KAISER. His tummy was so upset. And if you know anything about Kaiser, you know this dog is not capable of stationary pooping. Since the day he came home to me he has been a traveling pooper, and apparently it's even more so when he has the runs and when he's in a turf agility ring... Kaiser left a trail of poo more than 20' long. He was the 2nd to last dog in the Elite class and we held up that poor last dog 15-20 minutes while we tried to clean it all up. Sigh.

He made it through the rest of the day with numerous trips outside and very few treats (he was not so cool about that, he kept dragging me back to the crate and was like, "Uh, I get more chicken." I felt bad that I couldn't reward him more after his Chances run -- Because, you know, the little stinker went and got another Q on Sunday. And wouldn't you know it, but the course had a dog walk AGAIN. I told you he's been messing with me.

I eliminated us in the first Regular run because Kaiser was just being super weird about the weaves. I worried that it was his stomach issue thinking about returning on course, but I think he was just not happy about my handling choices. I was debating throwing a rear cross at him, but when that didn't work I had an ugly push or rear cross out of the weaves. He ended up taking an off course jump on one of our resets (and come on, when does this dog not weave?), so I decided to just take a fast path out of the ring which happened to include the dog walk -- and he got it, so good boy, Kaiser. He was fine for his last run and got a Q! Three Regular Q's in one weekend, no way!

Okay, this is Secret's blog, so I guess I'll talk about her, too.

Secret had a fantastic weekend! Overall she was 7/8 -- Her only NQ of the weekend was in Chances on Saturday. She did what I worried Kaiser might do and turned the wrong way at the hoop before the tunnel. They keep doing that lately and I wonder what I'm doing that is causing it. Training might help. Nah...

I found out something very interesting this weekend about Secret -- There ARE some dogs that get her very, very, very turned on to watch them run. There was an awesome little red border collie named Nim at this trial. A few times we had the opportunity to run directly after Nim (who ran 20" and Secret was the first 16" dog) and I let Secret watch Nim run. Secret would quiver and lock on to Nim for the entire run. I've never seen her react that way to any dog doing agility. I've had her get worked up when we encounter a dog that she'd like to kill in the line-up, but this felt like good, positive energy and we were able to harness it well for the most part. Her Chances and Jumpers runs from Saturday were both following Nim if you take note of them on the video.

The mission of the weekend was to try to find a way to keep Secret quiet during the trial. Her barking, growling & lunging has gotten completely out of control lately. I know it's because I'm always working any class we're not running and I'm not able to stay by the crates to correct her. I've tried to cover up her crate as much as is physically possible and it hasn't made a difference. At the last NADAC trial in La Crosse I set her up in an area set back a good 15-20' away from the action of other dogs and she still went off the entire trial.

This time I set her up in the back of the arena, behind a vendor table where I hoped there wouldn't be much action. I blockaded my kennel area as well as I could and a friend helped by turning a table over and using that to help make a fortress.

AND IT WORKED. Secret was so much better this weekend! We still had a few moments when stupid, stupid people would obliviously enter her space. One person went through my fortress to get to the warm-up area when there were 800 other ways she could have gotten there. I should note, though, that Secret was next to this warm-up area (which I've never seen USED before, so I didn't even consider it) and this did not set her off in the least -- we think because there was a gate/barrier between her and the dogs. The only other issue we had was when stupid people would walk their dogs in the closed off space behind my crating area. There was NO reason for people to be back there. Seriously.... Sometimes I just wonder about people. Are you trying to make my dog be a bitch? Buy a clue.

We think that it's a barrier issue. Secret is worried about dogs coming towards her and we think that she feels better if there is a physical barrier between them and her. A friend suggested that I look into getting some semi-solid gates to set up in front of my crating area in the future to see if that helps Secret feel more secure in her crate. It's worth a shot, that's for sure. I think she rested in her crate more this weekend, too, which is always a bonus. I think two full days is hard on Secret. She is always just DONE by the last runs. She still tries hard, but she is undeniably slow come the Regular runs on Sunday.

And finally, Luke!

What can I say about the old man? He blew me away this weekend, just with his ENERGY that stayed over the top from the first run to the last. Where did this come from? It makes me so happy to see him having so much fun. The judge asked me how old he was on Sunday and I think he was surprised that the answer was "almost nine." He said that Luke was a lot of fun to watch, and I think it's just because Luke is having so much fun himself!

Luke NQ'd in the first round of Regular on Saturday because he thought a-frame contacts were for sissies, but he reined himself in after that and didn't miss anymore the rest of the weekend. He had a smoking Jumpers run that day, too, which was so much fun! Running him at 12" has been the best thing ever.

I screwed up his Jumpers run on Sunday -- No, don't worry, I didn't try any bonus lines. I just drifted laterally much too early (in addition to calling his name) and guess what, he followed me. He circled back to back jump before I could stop him, and then I caused a knocked bar on a poorly timed rear cross on the way out.

Getting both of his Regular runs put Luke at 900 Regular points! Wow, just 10 runs from 1000! That's awesome. His Chances Q on Sunday also tied him with Secret in the countdown for NATCH (granted, it would be his fourth). How awesome would it be if they both got a NATCH on the same day? We'll see. Luke also needs two Jumpers Q's in addition to the two Chances Q's. The way things have been for us, it is theoretically possible that he will NATCH on a Jumpers run. Go figure, I never expected that would happen. All of those bonus attempts really threw off our Jumpers Q's. Oh well.

But yes! I failed to mention that in Secret's recap. Just two more to go for the baby dog.... She finished up two big titles this weekend. On Saturday she finished her Superior Elite Regular title (she has 43 Elite Regular Q's now!) and on Sunday she finished her Superior Elite Jumpers title (20 Q's). Eventually I suppose I'll start working on her Versatility titles. Or not. Who knows. She would never enjoy running 6 classes a day, I know that.

I had a giant stupid moment with regard to our next USDAA trial. I procrastinated and didn't actually get it in the mail until this past Friday. The trial closed today (11/12) and I thought, "It will make it from Sparta to New Berlin by Monday, no problem." Well guess what, there is no mail today (Veteran's Day). I about crapped my pants when I realized that this morning. I e-mailed Katie at Think Pawsitive and she said it was okay. Phew. I didn't know if USDAA was super strict like AKC. Thankfully it was in my favor -- that would have sucked!

I decided to enter both days, but limited the classes. Secret is running Standard, Gamblers, Jumpers & PSJ on Saturday. Kaiser is in Standard, Pairs and PSJ. Then we stay overnight and run the first two classes on Sunday -- Jumpers and Snooker (Kaiser is only in Jumpers because I didn't want the Snooker conflict with them in the same class). The PSJ finals is right after Snooker, so we'll stay for that if they make it. Either way we'll be on the road home with plenty of daylight in front of us this time.

It was super tempting to stay for Standard, but it was the last class again. If Secret Q'd in both Standard runs (and Gamblers) she could finish out her APD, but I decided I'd rather get home and rest. There will be other trials!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jolly Bone = Jolly Good!

Secret would like everyone to know that she does not have enough toys. Granted, this could be because she destroys everything she gets her paws on. I don't tend to save stuff after she ruins it, so I had to scramble to find the toys in this picture. Her Woolie Dog tug toy is starting to get tattered and frayed at the ends, but it's holding up okay for now (so long as I don't turn my back on her to set jump bars...). That Water Wubba has only been to the river a couple of times, so it's practically brand new in Secret terms. The frisbee is the latest destruction, and then of course there is the Udder Tug that she chewed the end off of. And these are toys that she doesn't even have free access to -- just for training or play time!
I don't recall if I mentioned here that Secret was chosen to be part of a focus group for Jolly Pet. They posted on their Facebook page several weeks ago asking for dogs with a history of using & abusing their toys. I submitted Secret's story and she was chosen out of what I assume to be hundreds of entries to be part of their 50-dog focus group. They didn't hint as to what the toy might be, so we just had to wait for it to arrive and be surprised.

And I was surprised. I know that Jolly Pet has a very large line of dog toys these days (as evidenced by their weekly giveaways on Facebook), but I'll always think of them as the company that makes Jolly Balls.

At first glance I thought it seemed remarkably like the Hurley from Westpaw Designs. I still have no idea where our Hurley wandered off to, but it was impressively durable and never had so much as a tooth mark on it. Perhaps their patent wore out, because this material seems to be very similar, if not the same. The Jolly Bone has a slight curve to it, though, which seems to make it a little more "dog-friendly" for holding while chewing.

It was a hit in this house, I can tell you that. Secret took to it right away. Kaiser steals it whenever he gets the chance. Luke has picked it as his item of choice to bring to me in the mornings when he wants to play (granted, he doesn't have much choice in this house). It has been chewed on a LOT and has held up like iron. Very impressive! It also has a bit of stretch to it, which makes it a super fun tuggy for them (not quite so much for my hands, which don't appreciate being THAT close to their mouth).

Because it claims to be a water toy, I did take it down to the river shortly after it arrived. Granted it was 72 degrees, but it was still late October and the water was cold -- This might have something to do with why Secret had NO interest in fetching the Jolly Bone from the water, but she did go after her Wubba & Chuck-it Bumper with no hesitation. The Jolly Bone does float, but it bobs around a bit before settling on top of the water and perhaps that didn't appeal to Secret. The folks at Jolly Pet mused if maybe a brighter color would spark more interest in the water -- I don't think it would for Secret, but I did tell them I wouldn't mind seeing this product in hot pink!  :o)

I have no idea if this product is currently on the market or not, but if you happen to see one or have the chance to purchase one, I don't think you could go wrong. It gets chewed/played with daily in my house and is holding up great.

Jolly Pet asked for pictures or video -- And well, you know me! I made a video!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Funday

I have officially cut back at the shelter (not quit), and today was one of those rare days (although hopefully less so in the future!) that I actually got to stay home with the dogs and do NOTHING. Much to their dismay, we literally did NOTHING for most of the day. Thankfully they do a good job of entertaining themselves and let me be good and lazy. It was pretty similar to yesterday morning, as I didn't have to go into the shelter until noon.

I knew my goal was to take advantage of being home during actual daylight (something that is going out the window with the time change today) and set an agility drill -- so unfortunately the dogs didn't get to play ball or frisbee earlier in the day because I wanted to save them for agility playtime. It must have been almost 3:00 by the time I got off my butt and went outside to clean up the yard and set a drill. I settled on the Backyard Dogs drills from the August 2012 issue of Clean Run. I'm surprised I never got around to setting this drill before now!

I picked this to work on mostly because it was handy, but I figured it never hurts to have Secret work on tightly-curved tunnels. In general, she tends to find them extremely unmotivating. You'll see in the video that she tends to slow down as we go on, but overall I was pretty happy with how nicely she was driving out of the tunnels today.

I decided to try something new today with our Backyard Dogs drills. Typically I commit three drills to memory and then bring each dog out for one turn running through the three drills. My brain was not functioning today, however, after being in zombie mode all day -- So I tried something different and I think it actually turned out really well!

I decided to work through one course at a time with each dog, learn the next one and do it all again. This meant shorter work sessions (sometimes only two minutes!) and getting Secret to turn it "on" after frequent breaks. I think working this way kept her energy up better than we typically see when doing three drills in a row. In addition, it gave ME just enough of a rest period that I wasn't wilting at the end, which I think is usually the cause of our waning energy issues.

Secret was a fuss-butt about her toys -- We used her Woolie Tug for her first two sessions, but the third time she came out she completely turned her nose up at it. So we used her coon tail tug for that session -- which, by the way, did not get on video because apparently I screwed up with Luke's video and actually turned the camera OFF when it was Secret's next turn. So she had to go run the exercises again. I thought she'd be just blah, but she turned it on and had another two good runs. I didn't even push it to use the same toy for the fourth and final drill and let her play with her Wubba.

Yes, we made it through FOUR drills today instead of the usual three! So I guess this new format works out pretty well. We finished putting everything away around 4:30 and sadly it was already getting dark outside. I really hate the time change; things get so depressing. Now it will be dark when I get home from work and we won't be able to go hiking anymore.  :o(  That was also on my list of things to do today, but, well.... Yeah.

I *did* get my entries in for our NADAC trial next weekend, though, so we're set there! Kaiser STILL needs his one Chances run for NATCH. Secret needs three, so if we're lucky we'll get at least one of those out of the way. How cool would it be for her to get that done by the end of the year? She only started competing in February of last year (2011) -- It would be pretty awesome to NATCH in less than two years, especially considering our limited trial schedule.

Speaking of trial schedule, I have to figure out what we're doing for USDAA this month. Unfortunately the class list at Think Pawsitive over Thanksgiving just isn't the best for just hitting up one day this time. Well, it's fine, except that there is no Snooker on Saturday and now I'm eager to get Secret's title in that class to move her up. I may try to justify doing two days, but I have to think about that first.... And probably skip the tournament classes this time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Howl-ween

It's Halloween. One of my least favorite holidays ever. I can buy candy year round -- nobody gives it to me for free today, so why should I care?  ;o) This day is a giant pain in the butt for anyone who has dogs.
Back when I had horses I would pack Luke up and go to the barn until at least 9 p.m. to avoid all of the little beggers. Occasionally I've gone and hid up at my parent's house, as they live in the middle of nowhere and don't have to worry about such things. The last few years I've hid in the backyard with the dogs and then retreat to a dark bedroom until it's safe to come out. Sounds like fun, right?
Tonight we went hiking. It was a lovely night -- just under 50 and sunny, so I thought that sounded like a better idea than hiding in the backyard. The dogs agreed, and since I got home earlier than usual (I skipped lunch today thanks to eating all day at our potlock) we got to stay out for over an hour and it didn't even get totally dark on us!
Secret was naughty when she spotted something -- a cat? -- in the distance and ran at least an acre across a big field to chase it up a tree. Nice, Secret. Then she stood and barked at it for a while, which honestly I normally wouldn't have really cared about, but she happened to do this in the only yard within a several mile radius of where were. I didn't feel like having some guy come out with a gun and shoot her, so I just stood there and screamed at her and she eventually came running back (quite proud of herself).
We also found a dead deer on our hike tonight. That was kind of sad. We were pretty deep into the woods when I saw something up ahead. I was like, is that a deer? I stood and waited for it to get up and run away, but it didn't. We approached carefully and I realized it wasn't alive anymore. Poor deer. The dogs really freaked out and barked at him. I opted to turn around and head back at that point, figuring that he might become a meal eventually for one of the wild critters in the area and we didn't need to risk being competition for that.
Not much else to report at the moment, as I sit here and type in the dark... Secret tried to kill herself tonight while she & Luke chased each other around the yard. All of the sudden I heard a THAWUMP and literally felt it from inside the house. Someone totally smacked into the deck and it didn't take long to figure out who it was when I went outside to check on them. Secret was sitting there with a dazed look on her face and kind of wobbled over and leaned into me. She was fine in seconds, but good lord, girl... Maybe it will knock some sense into her. Doubt it.

We don't have anything going on this weekend. I am scheduled for a stupid five-hour shift at the shelter on Saturday and then have off on Sunday. There is a dog fair in Madison that I could potentially go to with Kaiser to meet up with some Klee Kai friends, but that is up in the air, especially since I just drove to New Berlin last weekend. We'll see. I do have to get entered for our next NADAC trial at FDC, though -- Next weekend!  Yay, more agility!

Monday, October 29, 2012

USDAA re-cap!

I have no video from our trial yesterday, but you will be graced with a plethora of pictures in this post.  :o)  This was my third trip over to Think Pawsitive and while I am starting to get to know several people on that side of the state (volunteering helps greatly with that!), I still don't feel confident enough to stick my camera in someone's face and ask them to video for us. Again, this is where I lament over having no video history of our USDAA journey, but oh well. I have course maps!
I am happy to report that we made it over to New Berlin with no mishaps this time! I opted to drive over the morning of instead of getting a hotel room as I'd considered. Part of the reason is because my parents ended up going to Chicago and couldn't watch Luke, but money always plays a factor, too. It's hard for me to justify the extra $100 when I know full well that I'm capable of getting up at 4 a.m. and driving over. Is it fun? No. But it's doable.

We left the house at 4:45, stopped for hot chocolate (I am sticking to my "no caffeine" rule) & breakfast before hitting the road -- and with a potty stop (for me, sorry dogs!) around Madison we pulled into Think Pawsitive about 7:37. They were walking Masters/P3 Jumpers, so I grabbed my course maps and joined in, letting the dogs sit and wait in the car. Performance was running last, so I knew I had plenty of time to set up and walk the dogs before Secret ran.

Secret rocked her first time in P3 Jumpers! She was happy, eager and pretty fast, too! My head failed me in the start and I almost ruined the whole thing between 3 & 4. My brain said, "FRONT CROSS!" but no.... I walked a rear cross and was NOT in the right position for a front. I managed to stop myself and not push Secret completely off her path, thankfully, although it did slow her momentum through that sequence for sure.

From there I did a front cross between 7 & 8 and then it was really all just single-sided handling from there, managing the approach and pulling her into those slices. There certainly weren't many jumps on this course that were taken straight across, that's for sure!

Secret WON the class! She was 10 seconds under course time. Yay Secret!


Kaiser did equally as well in his first time running P2 Jumpers. The opening was right up his alley and was very motivating for him. Whee, tunnel! His jumping was going really well, too, right up to #8 when I got a bit stalled out by the course design. He seems to have fewer issues if I'm running full out and pushing him. When I stop pushing, he gets sticky at 12". So in other words, we don't like pinwheels in USDAA.

Once we got out of that circle he opened up again and ran well to the finish. Kaiser was the only 12" dog in P2, but he managed to get the fastest time out of all the P2 dogs! I didn't look at Advanced, but there were some fast border collies in that one, so I'm guessing it wasn't close. lol

Secret had a really lovely Snooker run! It's nice when the judge makes the 7 option so inviting, but surprisingly not a ton of people in the class went for it. For me it was obvious that we would start out with 1-7, 1-7, but I was kind of wandering after that during the walk-through to see what worked best. For a while I was going to do 1-4, 1-3, but it was a lot of cranking around. Then it occurred to me that 1-5, 1-3 was a lot more flowy, so we went with that and it worked very well. I had to push Secret to the back side of #2 and she ran the close beautifully. We got all the way through 7 without the buzzer going off! Secret won this class as well -- the other 22" dog only did 3 reds.

I thought I'd come up with a Kaiser-friendly course in Snooker, but it didn't turn out that way. My plan was 1-3, 1-6, 1-7. The course was set different than you see in the map, though, because we had to go up and over 2 to get to the second red. I was SO PROUD of Kaiser for *running past a jump* with me -- that's huge for him. But then we both got turned around at the red and he ended up back-jumping it before I could save it. Whistle. Oh well.

The ONLY plan for Secret's P2 Gamblers run was DO THE DOG WALK. It started in August down in Chicago at Regionals -- she bailed off the up plank at that trial and I haven't been able to keep her on a slatted dog walk since then. With Grand Prix and Standard coming up after this, my only focus was on getting her to do the dog walk. Bonus that it was the 7-point obstacle, I guess.

So we did jump, dog walk, tunnel, tunnel, dog walk, jump, jump, jump and then were on the a-frame when the buzzer went off. Secret sent nicely out to the teeter but bailed off the left side as it started to tip, so no Gamblers Q for us. In a perfect world I would have been sure to do the teeter in the opening, but in this situation it was FAR more important to use this time to school the dog walk. Secret literally CREPT across it the first time and was slightly hesitant the second time -- but she had no further issues the rest of the day, so WIN.

Kaiser's Gamblers curse is over!!  FINALLY. My plan for him was to avoid as many jumps as possible, just because I knew that would keep him happy. So he did jump, dog walk (got the contact!), tunnel, tunnel, dog walk (got the contact!) and then was in the weaves when the buzzer sounded. Almost everyone in the class was sending their dog over the jump in front of the tunnel -- This was NOT set at a friendly angle and it was very close to the tunnel opening, so I said, "screw that" and just sent Kaiser to the tunnel. He kind of bunny-hopped over #2, but kept the bar up for his very first Gamblers Q! I still think it's hilarious that my little distance dog has not been able to squeak out a P1 Gamblers Q until now.

Grand Prix was next. I admit that this is a little beyond both of them at this point in their USDAA careers, but it's good training time. Expensive training time, but training time nonetheless.

I managed to keep Kaiser from taking the a-frame in the beginning, but he still earned a refusal at the teeter. He also took the tunnel instead of the chute after #10 and then took the jump after the a-frame instead of the tunnel at the end. Such a Kaiser moment, I tell you. But he got all of his contacts, which is what I cared about going into Standard.

Secret also earned a refusal on the teeter, which didn't surprise me all that much considering that she last encountered it as she bailed off the side in Gamblers. She did take it, though, but then got another refusal as she skirted past the edge of #4 as the teeter bounced behind her. She was clean to the end after that -- even her weaves weren't all that bad.

So, last class of the day -- Standard! People were dropping like flies by this point (it was after 5:00 p.m.), but we need these Q's and we were stuck there until the bitter end. I didn't have much of a dog left at this point, but Secret gave it her best shot. She nailed it! Her weaves were pretty darn slow, and in Masters she probably would have had a refusal at the #10 tunnel because she didn't like my rear cross there, but only contacts are faulted in P2 and she got those! Even the teeter -- she didn't hesitate AT ALL! I was very happy with this run. By virtue of having the only clean 22" run, Secret also won this class!

Kaiser's little brain was pretty fried by this point as well, but he gave it his best shot. His a-frame contact was a little close for comfort, but thankfully it was okay. He squarely hit his dog walk contact (after stopping above it) and attacked the table! I was a little concerned thanks to the speed at which he approached the table -- he does have that history of ping-ponging off it, after all -- but all of the fun table games we've been playing have paid off and he slammed on and stayed on. I did need to remind him to lay down, but he did so quickly.

The only blunder we had was that I insisted on a front cross between the chute and the teeter and he didn't feel like waiting for me. In P2 we would have gotten a refusal at the teeter because he ran past it as I was trying to pull him back around me, but thankfully we don't get refusals in P1 and he got a Q! That completes his P1 Standard title AND makes him a Performance Dog! On to P2 in everything!

But now that means that he & Secret are in the same classes again except for Jumpers. I'm going to have to decide what I'm going to do for the next trial. Secret doesn't do so well running all of the classes, so I may switch them off and let one run some classes and the other do the rest. We'll see... I have time to decide. The next trial is back at Think Pawsitive over Thanksgiving weekend.