Monday, April 30, 2012

Courses from the USDAA Trial

For those who enjoy this type of thing, I thought I'd share our courses from the USDAA trial this weekend.  Our judge was Tim Verrelli.  He was SUPER nice and brought some really fun courses with him.


Starters/P1 Gamblers
Starters/P1 Standard
Steeplechase/Performance Speed Jumping
Starters/P1 Snooker

Starters/P1 Jumpers
Steeplechase/PSJ Finals
Starters/P1 Standard
Starters/P1 Pairs

USDAA Re-cap -- Day Two!

 Day two of our USDAA trial was fantastic!  Yay!  We love USDAA!  :o)  I'm glad I decided to "splurge" and do both days of the trial this time.  I believe that having the opportunity for them to get used to the equipment and the new setting was invaluable and likely will go a long way towards their generalizing skills with new equipment.

Because the second day was starting with Masters Snooker followed by Masters Jumpers (then Advanced, THEN us), we took it easy in the hotel Sunday morning.  I didn't even set my alarm to go off until 7:00 (trial started at 8:00) and then we took our time packing up and heading out.  I get a little twitchy sitting around with nothing to do, though, so we still got to the trial around 9:00, which was right as Snooker was wrapping up.  It was nice to be able to watch the Jumpers rounds -- There are so many amazing teams that trial in USDAA in this area and it was lots of fun to watch them.

 The order was reversed and we were running tall to small on this day, which meant that Secret finally got more attention/warm up (with only a few dogs between them, she more or less got yanked out of her crate and ran on Saturday).  I was super happy to see that she wasn't reacting to all of the noise in the arena -- I don't think I mentioned it on Saturday's post, but the noise in that arena is pretty loud.  Every time a dog would go through a tunnel or over the a-frame it sounded like thunder.  And of course the teeter was one of the loudest bangs that Secret has heard to date.  I was worried that she would have a meltdown over it, but she managed to hold it together and by Sunday it wasn't bothering her at all.

We loved Jumpers!  It was a fun little course and I even threw in two blind crosses and they were just lovely.  There wasn't a lot of space for me to "run" between 3-4-5 and Secret slowed down a bit there, but then she really kicked it into gear for the rest of the course.  Result -- Q and 1st place!  Yay!!

Kaiser, oh Kaiser.  I took his leash off and he sprinted away to grab a tunnel near the start of the course.  Because his jumping had been so iffy the day before, I opted to pick him up and do the walk of shame to save his jumping efforts for the Performance Speed Jumping finals that was next.  In hindsight this turned out to be an excellent decision because not only was he jumping much better for PSJ, but he also held his stay the rest of the day!  Go figure!

 Kaiser had a mini meltdown when I was way off on my timing for a front cross before a tunnel in PSJ, so he went off course there.  The rest of his run was nice, though -- And by Sunday he seemed to accept that the USDAA a-frame was not so bad and he started attacking it with gusto (he was avoiding it on Saturday as he did at the February trial).  Unfortunately if you are eliminated in Round 2 that means no money for you!

Secret was up first in P1 Standard.  The teeter was the fourth obstacle in on a nice line after the weaves and she actually did step on it immediately, but then stalled out a bit.  I was able to encourage her forward without her jumping off of it, though -- so YAY!  The table was not an issue this time, so all was clear there.  And again no problems with the chute, phew!  She had a super nice run and earned Q/1st again!

Kaiser was not happy with my over-management of his contacts and let me know this by running past both the teeter & the dog walk (as I stood in "hover" position).  He got back on track both times, though, and we managed to stay clean and on course for a Q/1st for him as well!

Pairs was up last.  Kaiser's teammate came up to me earlier in the day to ask how Kaiser's weaves were because apparently they are an issue for her dog.  This was great news for us, because the first half of the course (with the weaves) was far better suited to Kaiser's skills.  The second half had both the dog walk and the teeter in it, so I happily consented to taking the first half and Kaiser banged it out like a super star.  Our teammate did a super great job with all of the hard stuff on her half and just had a little "oops" when the dog back-jumped the jump after the teeter.  We were easily fast enough to come in well under the time + faults cap, though, so we got a Q/1st in that run, too!

There was a fairly small amount of drama surrounding who would be Secret's teammate.  Well not really "drama," per say, but I didn't have many choices.  There were a grand total of 5 P1 dogs entered in Pairs, and two of them were mine.  Two of the dogs entered don't weave yet, so they were both entered on the 2nd half in their rounds.  The accommodating dog must run the opposite half of what they ran in their first run, which meant if either of them ran with Secret they would have to weave -- pretty much an automatic NQ there.  That meant our *only* option was a young Malinois who I don't believe has trialed before and her owner was concerned about putting her in the ring with an unknown dog (she and a friend specifically paired their baby dogs to get them ring experience).

We figured we could work it out, though, because Secret would run the first half and she could keep her dog on leash until they started.  I obviously couldn't make any promises about Secret since we've never done pairs before, but I was reasonably sure that she wouldn't try to interact with the other dog after her run.

It was a perfect run!  First of all, it works out pretty well that several of Secret's favorite toys are fairly similar in size/shape to the baton used in Pairs.  lol  She saw something in my hand and immediately thought, "TOY!!!"  Holy crap, her weaves were as fast as they are at home and she sailed right through the course just as speedy as could be.  I told her to lay down at the end and she bowed -- close enough.  She never even looked at our partner dog.  Our baby dog partner absolutely rocked her half of the course.  I can understand her owner's concern if this was her first time running, but she should be super proud of just how awesome her dog was.  They ran their half clean and fast, easily earning Secret a Q/1st.  I felt bad that the Q didn't count for our partner, especially since I saw that they NQ'd on their official run.  Oh well, baby dogs.

Sadly, we didn't get any video at all from Sunday.  I just didn't want to deal with the stress of asking people that I barely know and seeming like a bother.  Who knows, maybe not worrying about that helped me to run better that day.  I'm bummed that I don't have all those awesome moments on video, but it is what it is.  So instead you can watch Saturday instead!  :o)

I'm very proud of both of the dogs.  They had a lot of new stuff thrown at them this weekend and they both really rose to the occasion.

I worried about Secret for a bit -- She would NOT stop barking in her crate while I watched Masters Standard on Sunday.  I thought maybe she was mad that Kaiser had gotten to get out for the PSJ finals and she didn't, so I took the dogs for a walk --- Where Secret promptly blew out her insides (and did so a couple more times that day).  She had poo'd just fine at the hotel in the a.m., so I'm thinking that perhaps the hard boiled egg that I let the dogs share might be to blame.  Whoops.  On a related note, if you ever want to see something really funny, you should see Secret try to eat a hard boiled egg.  Ha!!!

I really cut back on her treats for the rest of the day and she seemed to be fine -- or at least her stomach issues didn't bother her in the ring at all.  I made sure to go on LOTS of walks that day.  I think that getting out and about more, in addition to some extra stretching, is what helped Kaiser's jumping a lot more, too.  Little man just needs more warm-up time, I think.

So there you have it, USDAA trial number two in the bag.  Now for my dilemma.  I took off work from the shelter on Saturday, May 26.  I can either go over to a USDAA trial in New Berlin, WI that day or I can take all three dogs to a NADAC trial in Zumbro Falls.  I haven't missed the Zumbro Falls trial in years.  We are still trying to finish NATCH for Secret & Kaiser.  But oh, I have so much more fun with the USDAA courses.....  So hard to decide.

I'd also need to decide if I would even bother to take Kaiser.  I'm just not sure about the whole jumping 12" thing for him.  Maybe I'll just wait and see if USDAA lowers their jump height cut-offs like our judge mentioned this weekend.  I just think he'd have more fun if the jumps were lower.  We'll see.  I'm going to talk to our vet on Thursday about the situation, but I know he'll just say, "If the Adequan didn't work, there's always surgery!"  Umm....

Saturday, April 28, 2012

USDAA Trial Report - Day 1!

This was a really long day. Fun!  But long.  It never helps that I sleep just awful the first night in any hotel.  I can't even blame rude neighbors this time.  It was a good reminder as to why I started getting up at 3:30 a.m. to drive to trials.  I can go to bed at 8 p.m. at home and at least get good sleep up to that point. Oh well, I think the dogs slept okay and I suppose they matter more than me!  :o)

Even staying at the hotel, though, our day started bright and early with a 5:20 a.m. alarm!  Since Kaiser had to be measured I had to be sure to get to the trial fairly early.  On the Run is about twenty minutes from the hotel we're at (La Quinta -- no dog fees!), so not terrible but I wanted to give us plenty of time to settle in.

The Starters/P1 dogs started out the day with Gamblers.  Kaiser was up first and racked up a totally smoking opening of 31 points (one point shy of the highest in Performance 1), but then he crashed the first jump of the gamble.  :o(  Poor Kaiser.  He was jumping well up to that point, but any time he crashes he loses all confidence.

I had a totally different plan for Secret because A) her weaves aren't as fast -- they were the 7 pt obstacle -- and B) I really wanted to get her on the teeter.  I planned her opening to go tire, jump, teeter and she nailed the teeter with gusto, but then got a bit spooked after.  I kind of lost her for a few obstacles, but I did manage to get her back on track to get in the a-frame and a few more jumps before the buzzer went off.  The gamble was pretty simple, just a jump-tunnel-jump sequence about ten or fifteen feet beyond the line. Secret got it easily and earned a Q and fourth place!

Standard was up next.  Kaiser was a little spastic but was pretty good (for him).  He was clean up to a few obstacles from the end when he went into the wrong end of a tunnel.  Oh well, I'm pleased as punch that he got his contacts and did all of the obstacles!

Secret was a good, good girl!  It took a few tries to prompt her onto the teeter, but she got it!  She didn't even hesitate at the chute after the weaves, but then she kind of had a melt down about the table.  Yes, this table looks worlds different from ours at home, but I didn't expect it to be that big of a deal!  I did finally get her on the table just to have her jump off again for five faults.  She got back on and finished the course super nicely.  Can't say I expected us to NQ on the table!

We had a nice course for Performance Speed Jumping.  Kaiser was just off from the very beginning with his jumping.  There was lots and lots of stuttering and herky-jerky movements.  Despite that, we somehow managed to stay on course and remained fault free until the end -- and heaven help me, we made it to the finals tomorrow!  Barely, by about a second.  The other two dogs in our height are shelties and I dare say he doesn't have a shot if he keeps up the wonky jumping.  One bright spot is that our judge told us this morning that USDAA is strongly considering changing the jump height cut-offs and Kaiser, at 14", would be eligible to run 8" Performance if they go through with it.  Fingers crossed, because I don't know that I can keep doing this with him at 12".  I'm sad that the Adequan hasn't helped at all, but it just tells me the issue is more with the luxation of the patella vs. the arthritis behind it.

I totally failed Secret in PSJ!  I get a bit spoiled with the way she tends to follow me so well, I guess, because I apparently couldn't be bothered to tell her where to go.  She shot off course after the fifth obstacle (for an E) and then grabbed two bonus jumps after the broad jump (yes, she did it easily!) because in both situations I more or less just watched her go and didn't give her any cue whatsoever.  I'm not used to Secret careening off to grab obstacles on her own. Hello, handler, wake up!

Our last run of the day was Snooker and it was completely doable, but one of the required reds was way up at the top of the course.  For Kaiser I opted to avoid going through the sea of obstacles because I know he's likely to take whatever is in front of him, but then he back-jumped the last red.  For Secret I thought it would be safe enough to cut through the middle to that last red, but she saw the weave poles in front of her and decided they needed to be passed through, so we heard the whistle there. So in other words,  neither dog even made it to the closing!  We obviously lack Snooker skills.  lol

We should be able to take it easy in the morning.  The trial starts with Masters Snooker followed by Masters Jumpers, then Advanced and then us in Starters/P1.  I figure we're probably safe to arrive at 10:00, but I won't push my luck.  Plus who knows, maybe my name will actually be on the worker's schedule tomorrow.  I wasn't scheduled for anything today, which made for a VERY long day.

Thanks to my friend Chris, I actually did get video of everything except Snooker (everyone was gone by then).  She isn't there tomorrow, so hopefully we can find another friendly soul to help get our runs on tape.  Class I'm most interested for tomorrow:  Pairs.  lol  Kaiser's partner came up and introduced herself to me today and she is a lovely woman.  Secret is a "draw," so who knows who we'll end up with.  Some kind volunteer, I suppose, but there aren't many to choose from!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Behold!  My magnificent Paint skills are at work again!  lol  Actually, it looks better than the one I drew by hand and snapped a picture of, so it's what I'm using for the post today.  It would be awesome if I would actually invest in Course Designer one day, but until then this will have to do.

I think my course design skills are improving.  Not that this was a terribly technical course or anything, but it was fun and the last half after the chute lent itself to several variations.

As I posted yesterday, my only real goal of the evening was to have a brief refresher on the equipment we don't usually see at trials.  It was a breezy evening, so I brought the chute out first to test the angle of the wind.  I bet you can guess which direction it was blowing.  With that figured out, I more or less built off the chute -- and my table, which I was too lazy to move.  Obstacle one is the tire (not a hoop).  Secret's jumps were at 22" and the boys both ran at 12" with the table set at appropriate heights for each.

Everyone ran very well and we didn't encounter any issues -- save for the one time when Secret jumped through the center of the broad jump to slice the turn to jump four.

I did a little experiment with Secret and tossed her toy over by the finish line to proof running with that distraction and no reward on my person.  Yeah...  Not so much!  When I chucked her Udder Tug across the yard she was a good girl and held her stay, but she fixated on the location of the toy and wouldn't look back at me.  When I got her attention and released her at the first obstacle, she instantly started to take off for her toy.  I was able to stop her with a quick, "Ah!!" to get her attention and we started the course -- but when she came blasting out of the chute she ran straight to her toy and that was the end of that.  Might be something we should continue to work through!

I'm happy with Kaiser's performance at 12", but he's always a better jumper at home it would seem.  This weekend will be a big test for him to see if he'll be able to continue forward with USDAA.  Tonight he will receive his seventh in a series of eight shots of Adequan as part of the loading dose process.  Typically they are as "good" as they'll ever get during the loading dose period, so if he is still noticeably uncomfortable or hesitant at the trial this weekend I think I'll have my answer.  I already know that he has no problems at 8" and he would be fine to continue running NADAC at that height -- So I guess if that's his only option I'll just deal with it.

By the way, for anyone who might be interested in this information and isn't able to keep up with all of the changes in NADAC (yes, that's right, there's been *another* change) --- There is no longer any designation/separation between Skilled and Proficient at any level.  The MEDAL/NATCH-S is no more.  A NATCH is a NATCH is a NATCH.

I don't really care.  I've been listing titles for Secret & Kaiser (who both run in Skilled) as Proficient titles all along (ie: EAC vs EAS).  I planned to say they earned their NATCH, so this just works swell for me.  :o)  I can certainly understand why some people might view it as "unfair" or whatnot since Skilled has those stupid 5 pt Q's (which I hate, for the record), but it is what it is.  And come on -- to those talking about how it devalues the award, didn't we already go over that when the video Q's were combined with those earned at a trial?  You really can't get worse than that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Practice? Who needs practice?

Practice is overrated, yes?  That's the stance I'm taking going into our second USDAA trial this weekend.  Life has been a little on the crazy side the last week or so and as a result we have done, well, pretty much no training to speak of.  Because the table & teeter are in the yard I have incorporated them into our fetching games, but that's it.  It's something, I suppose.

I had high hopes that we'd be able to get some more teeter practice in on Monday, as Family Dog Center had an open agility session on the schedule.  I had spoken to our friend Travis about the possibility of setting up something NON-NADAC for this session to give people a chance to work on equipment that we don't see enough.  He was all for it.  Then he didn't get scheduled to work.  :o(

I had picked up a shift at the shelter on Monday and called FDC on my drive back to Sparta.  I was hoping to talk to Travis to confirm that it was worth the bother of driving all the way back to La Crosse with the dogs, only to find out that A) He wasn't working and B) the teacup equipment was still out from the trial over the weekend.  Well great.  Lovely.  So much for that idea.

If the rain holds off this afternoon I plan to set up something using the table, teeter, chute & broad jump just so Secret sees all of it again before the trial -- and then that's it!  We leave for the Cities Friday afternoon for a fun-filled full weekend of USDAA!  Kaiser and Secret are both entered in all of the P1 classes plus Performance Speed Jumping.  That amounts to five classes on Saturday and three classes on Sunday (unless someone manages to make it into the second round of PSJ!).

I don't know if I'm going to get video.  :o(  My friend, Rich -- The person who essentially talked me into jumping over to USDAA in the first place -- isn't coming to this trial and are only a small handful of people I know.  That kind of sucks.  It's not that I don't appreciate the opportunity to meet new people, but I'm not really the type of person to go up to a total stranger and ask them to video my runs.  Meh, we'll see.  Maybe my desperate desire to have our runs recorded will trump my social fears.  lol

We haven't had a hotel stay since Champs.  This will be the first time Secret & Kaiser travel to an away trial without Luke, so that will be a new experience for them (and me!).  I kind of look forward to only having the two dogs to worry about and hope it gives me a little more time to spend with them before and after runs -- although there are only 5-7 dogs in each of our P1 classes, and two of them are mine!  So while the rest of the day will be pretty low key, it will be a mad dash of craziness during our classes.  Oh well.

I was unable to find a spare minute (or $$) to take Secret to the chiropractor before this trial, so we'll just be depending on the magical powers of her Back on Track mesh sheet.

I got some not so wonderful news about the future of my employment last week.  As a result, I have no idea what opportunities I'll have to trial in the coming months -- knowing this, I'm going to try to enjoy myself this weekend and really try not to think about the fact that I may not get to keep doing this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Table Time

Considering that Secret will be running her first Standard runs in less than two weeks, I figured it was time to revisit another obstacle we rarely train -- the table! I've been so focused on the teeter lately that I tend to forget the other basic parts of the course we will see in USDAA.

We played shaping games with the table in the basement this winter and all of the dogs had fun with that, but I figured it was time to put some speed back in to the approaches. So that's what we did last night after I schlepped the table up from the basement. Now if only I'd pull up the jumps and 2x2 weave poles that are still down there....

Our set-up for the night was pretty straight forward. I set a line of three jumps spaced at about 15' leading into the table. The table was also set adjacent to the teeter, with another jump placed perpendicular to that so that it, too, could lead back to the table.

As pictured in the photos, the table was set at Kaiser's height of 12". I do need to swap out legs and have Secret work the higher table at least once before the trial, but for our purposes last night I figured the lower table would work fine.

The first time I sent her down the line Secret was totally oblivious to the table. She spun and barked at me -- table? What table? Once she figured out what I wanted, though, the rest of the night was just peachy. The only concerning part was that she started with an auto down and progressed to standing there barking at me. We finished the night with rapid fire on/down/off for her beloved Jolly Ball and that seemed to help a lot.

What I am pleased as punch about is her jumping! All jumps were set at 22" and as I mentioned, spaced at about 15' feet or so. She was really extending nicely and actually BOUNCED the sequence several times! There were a few times when her striding was off and she brought down bars (which is a rarity for her), but that's fine by me as she's figuring this out.

I brought Secret out for a second session and this time I skewed the jumps at odd angles to give her something to think about. I saw a bit less extension from her in that session, but still very nice drive. In both sessions we mixed up extension & collection work with wraps and sends -- Secret was a very good baby dog.

Kaiser did great in his session, too! The table has always plagued us, going back to his Teacup days when we couldn't Q a Standard run to save our life because he used the table as a trampoline. Bounce! He's come a long way and in our sessions last night there were times that he hit the table with such speed that he went skittering across it but still managed to hold on. He's even coming along with his auto down. Good job, Kaiser!

Then there is Luke who always views the table as a broad jump the first time out. lol Oh Luke... That said, he has the most impressive auto down of the three once he starts to actually get on the table. ;o) Too bad USDAA is just not his thing and he won't get to show it off at a trial.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Terribly sorry, Secret...

Curious, did anyone notice Ms. Chicken Legs in the trial video I posted? Nobody said anything to me about it at the trial, so maybe nobody noticed. Or maybe they are just too polite to comment on the horrible thing I did to my dog on Friday.

For as short as her overall coat is, Secret has always gotten crazy long skirt hairs on her bum. It's like she has Poodle genes back there and the hair just keeps growing and growing and growing. Periodically I've been known to trim these hairs back for sanitary purposes, as they tend to occasionally catch poo or pee.

I may have went a *little* overboard with my trim job Friday afternoon. I blame my crappy scissors, as they were doing a really bad job of "taking a little off the ends" and the only thing that really worked was for me to hold the hair tight and cut behind where I was holding.

The result was very uneven, so I kept taking off more to try to even it up a bit. You know how that goes. It was horrible!!!! So I took off more. lol I eventually forced myself to give it up, but then when I was shaving feet a bit later I used the clippers to try to even it up a little, thereby removing even more hair.

Oh well, the good news is that Secret grows hair at a very fast rate, at least where her fringe is concerned. I expect it won't even be noticeable by the time we go to our next trial in a couple of weeks -- By the way, entries were sent and I have already received confirmation for our USDAA trial at On The Run! I entered Secret & Kaiser in all of the P1 classes plus Performance Speed Jumping. One of these days I suppose we'll have to try our hand at Grand Prix, but I figure there is no use in blowing that cash until I know they can handle the courses!

In my rushed post about the trial results, I totally forgot to share -- Secret PLAYED at the trial on Friday night! I brought her Udder Tug along to see if I could get her to engage in a trial environment. I was semi-successful in getting her to play with me near our crate, but there was just way too much activity nearby that was stressing her out. She would halfheartedly pounce at the toy and mouth it, but never really latched on to tug.

I took her to the back of the room away from the main action and she actively tugged with me! She wasn't stressing, she wasn't worried about the other dogs -- she just played! It's a huge step for her and it's something I need to continue to work on in trial settings. Our play session was between Weavers & Tunnelers and she went into Tunnelers with a great attitude & speed. So maybe playing at trials more will continue to bring that out in her.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Games & Chances

Did we have a trial this weekend? Hardly feels like it. The picture above was taken shortly before we had to leave on Friday. I took the day off work because I've been just exhausted lately and I always like the dogs to rest up before a trial, too. They were fairly antsy and restless all day on Friday and I didn't feel like they really slept all day! Of course they crashed on the couch around 3:30 or so when we had to leave by 4:30. Oh well, they ended up being fine!

Kaiser & Secret both had really nice Weavers runs! Kaiser smoked Secret by four seconds, running 5 yps through the course (pretty good for a little dog!), but Secret held her own and put in a really good time. While she runs Skilled and gets Medium Dog time, I always check her times against the 20+ times she would be scored against if she ran Proficient. I was surprised to see she was almost five seconds under big dog time! She just doesn't feel like she's running THAT fast to me. Luke and I always struggled to make time in Weavers and he was running as hard as he could. I feel like Secret just kind of lollygags through the course, but somehow her times just aren't as bad as I would expect. Must be that deceptively long stride of hers!

I lost Kaiser to a blind cross in Tunnelers, which is to be expected. Honestly, I know better than to try that with him!! As I put in the video, never take your eye off the Klee Kai. lol Blinds work just swell with Secret, so I used the same maneuver in her run and it was great. Luke & Kaiser were making a ruckus at the crate in the middle of our run and I think that somewhat contributed to her pulling off a tunnel, but we recovered quickly and finished with a decent time. Luke got to run Tunnelers with our friend, Erika --- They ran clean on a tricky course, but ended up with time faults because Luke was entered in Elite. That's better than the E they got last time, so it's an improvement!! :o)

Kaiser broke his start in a naughty way in Touch-n-Go, then took the off course tunnel right next to us. I set him up to start again, thereby earning us an E, and then got a really nice lead out! His run was lovely, save for the off course of taking the tunnel next to the a-frame at the end which I didn't bother to correct. Secret started off like her feet were stuck in the mud, but gained speed as we went. The beginning of the course was set very tight and I just wasn't able to run at all -- we know how motivating that is for her!

Because we were only running Chances today, I didn't set my alarm and we slept in until 8:00. Then I farted around the house taking my time, figuring we'd leave around 11:00 or so. The run order was supposed to be Regular (all six rounds), followed by Touch-n-Go THEN Chances.

I got a phone call from our friend, Denise, around 10:00 saying that they had just changed the run order and that Chances would follow Regular. They were already starting Open Regular! Ahhh!! Thankfully I was ready to go at that point, so I threw our stuff together and ran out the door as two more friends texted me with the news. Agility friends are awesome.

We got to FDC as Novice Round 1 was finishing up, so the dogs got to settle in nicely before their run. The course was totally doable and didn't have a dog walk! Yay for Kaiser!!!

I screwed up Luke's run. :o( I called WAY too hard with my RFP at the a-frame because he's been known to be a naughty tunnel sucker lately AND I needed him to slow down to stop on his contact. He pulled right to me and crossed the line before I could stop him. Drat.

I had my doubts as to whether or not Secret would be able to stay out between the tunnels and I know my hesitations drew her into me. For a brief moment I thought I'd be able to send her back out, but then she offered me a nearby hoop instead and we NQ'd. Oh well, that's okay -- Lord knows I don't want her to get her NATCH before Kaiser, anyhow. lol

Kaiser was a superstar! His a-frame contact could have been deeper for my liking, but the little man rocked it. This puts him just two more Q's from his NATCH! Go, go, little man! He will be the first Klee Kai ever to earn it and I would really like to wrap it up this year yet -- hard when you aren't doing much NADAC anymore, but oh well.

Sorry for the rushed post --- Dinner plans with the family tonight! I did manage to slop all of the runs into one video. No fancy music or anything. You get to hear naughty Luke & Kaiser going bonkers during Secret's tunnelers run. Sounds like they were being nasty little crate guarders to me....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Brushing up on distance skills

So. We kind of sort of have a NADAC trial this weekend. I say "kind of sort of" because we aren't doing much --- We are doing a few games classes on Friday night, but on Saturday the only class I entered everyone in was Chances. The USDAA trial at the end of the month is blowing my trial budget and technically I shouldn't have entered the NADAC trial at all. It's hard to finish big titles like the NATCH if you don't run, though, so I just entered everyone in Chances since that's all we need. It should be fun to run that as everyone's "first class of the day" and have them be nice and crazy. Of course, luck of the draw always comes into play with regard to course design. Let's just hope, for Kaiser's sake, that we luck out and don't have a dog walk!!

If you've been following this blog, you are likely well aware that we haven't worked on any NADAC-related skills for, well, a very long time. Honestly, I don't know if I've specifically focused on NADAC stuff since training for Champs last fall!! Ever since the weather turned nice and we've been able to play outside again, I've pretty much focused entirely on skills that are completely anti-NADAC and not at all conducive to distance skills.

Whoops. That is not really going to help me when it comes to running Chances as my only run of the day!

So with that in mind, last night I created a course that would help us to work on some of these skills. For fun, though, I threw a chute and a broad jump into my course design. :o)

Because I still haven't brought my contacts out of the garage, my course was limited to jumps, hoops, tunnels & weaves. I set up several traps and I'm actually quite happy with the end result. With two performances of the weave poles, it's not something you'd see in an actual Chances course, but otherwise I figure the challenges are pretty on par.

My course drawing skills apparently have improved marginally since all of the drawings I made during Champs training. I did this one on the first try. :o) Note, when I originally set the course, obstacles 5 & 6 (in the circled numbers) were hoops. We REALLY struggled with the switch out of the weaves up to number five, so I ended up making #5 a jump and #3/8 a hoop to see if it would help Secret to find the obstacle a little better. Not so much, but we'll get there in a bit. The obstacle straight out of the weaves was also a hoop, they just look really stupid when I draw them so I made everything look like jumps. Ha!!

The circled numbers are the main course I used. The square numbered course was used to switch things up a bit on them so they didn't get totally pattern trained.

This course made one thing glaringly obvious. Turning out of the weaves is HARD. Very, very hard for Secret. I have not seen this level of frustration from her in a long time. I'm happy to report that she didn't shut down on me as she did when I started working discrimination at a distance with her -- Instead she just stood there and barked at me. I, in turn, had a truly "bad trainer" moment and stood there and "barked back" at her and repeatedly said, "out." Yeah.... That so doesn't work!!! Okay, it works with Luke sometimes, which is probably why I'm dumb enough to keep trying it.

Aside from the mega-frustrations involved with getting that turn out of the weaves, I'm otherwise very pleased with how well Secret did. She really drove forward nicely out of the start. Often times she disconnects on tunnel starts and turns back to me, but she drove very nicely out to the second jump with no assistance from me. She nailed her weave entries at speed and, until she got super frustrated with me, had great speed through the weaves as well.

You can't see it on video, but she also totally attacked the broad jump and chute at the end. The baby dog needs to be careful, though..... She was leaping with gusto into the chute and catching her head and/or back on the entrance. That's all well and good with my nylon collapsible model, but that is going to hurt if she does that on a solid chute!

With the hoop set as number five, I never actually did get a turn out of the weaves without crossing behind Secret to the top of the poles. Since that would be a required part of the challenge if this were actually an Elite course, there's no way she would have been able to Q, no matter how hard we tried to get it!! When I switched it out to a jump I was finally able to successfully get her up to that obstacle without passing the line of the poles, but I was well over the line I created for myself.

Now, I don't know that this is a skill Secret has ever really had, so I can't really say that it's something that has degraded with our lack of distance training of late. Both of the boys struggled with the turn on their first try, but after that nailed it time and time again. So if they can do it, I suppose maybe I ought to spend some time working Secret on it. I think it would help greatly if I placed the jump closer to begin with. I used true wide open NADAC spacing on this course and that obstacle was just waaaaaaay out there. Baby steps get you further in these cases, I'm sure.

I really debated making a video at all because everything is so far away -- but you can still see good moments and bad moments. :o)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ohhhhhhhh (aka: Where I went wrong)

This has been a "light bulb moment" week for me. For whatever reason, the stars are aligning and some rather big name trainers all appear to be blogging on the same subject. It's a very profound subject for me, because it's something that I struggled with for so long with Secret. And what they have to say has made me really reflect and see exactly where I went wrong and how I actually CREATED the lack of toy drive that bothered me so greatly.

One of my Facebook friends posted a link to a recent blog post by Denise Fenzi. I suppose I should just subscribe to her blog, because every time someone links to one of her posts I seem to have an epiphany. The link to this particular post is here: Balance -- food & toys

Wow. Really? It's that simple? I'm the one who created the dog with no interest in toys? This is something I was considering just last week as I was watching one of my very first videos I made with Secret. She actually DID show interest in tugging when I first got her and I was wondering where I went wrong with that. Well, Denise's blog post pretty much spelled it out for me. I took the easy road. I chose food.

One of my weaknesses as a trainer has always been that I like results and I want them NOW. While Secret did show some initial interest in toys, the level of drive wasn't enough to consider using them as rewards. I introduced her to the clicker straight away and the obvious choice was to pair this with food since toys didn't yet have the value. We did a LOT of clicker training in the beginning. As I struggled with building interest in toys later on, I often reflected back and wondered if all of the shaping/treating I did early on was to our detriment. Turns out, it likely was. Oh.

Check out this quote:

"If the handler finds the rapid success with food to be highly gratifying, the tendency is to go back to the food while wistfully thinking about how much they’d like THIS dog to show better toy drive."

That was me!! That was totally me!!

I love that Denise points out that "dog training is not a race." Because to me, it was. I wanted my puppy to learn an amazing amount of tricks in a very short time. And she did! Secret was a brilliant puppy. Despite my frustrations at her lack of toy drive, I kept plugging away with food based training because I did see results there. And by doing so, I more or less kept decreasing her interest in toys. Fantastic, right?

Susan Garrett has also been talking on a similar subject lately. Her most recent newsletter really went into this in detail. One paragraph in particular caught my attention straight away:

"What happens is that many dog owners try to "interpret" their dog's actions and make dog training decisions based on these interpretations rather than the dog's actual responses. For example, a 16 week old puppy has been tugging since he came into his new home, but has also been growing a bigger and bigger love for his training treats. One day during training the puppy chooses to not tug when asked, possibly because he smells the treats and is trying to source them out (however the reason actually isn't important to me). The owner's interpretation of this choice is that her 16 week old puppy is feeling pain due to the fact he is teething and his mouth is likely too sore to tug. So she decides to just hand out treats in her training until all of the puppy's adult teeth come in. Five weeks later we have a puppy that no longer has any drive to tug. That is just one example of how tug drive may have been lost, but sadly, there are many more I could give you!"

Susan then went on to list ten common mistakes that people make when trying to get dogs to play -- and sadly, I did almost all of them.

It was following many of Susan's suggestions that eventually did help me to succeed in building Secret's interest in toys, so it is no wonder that many of the things she goes on to suggest are things that we did and ended up working for us. Limiting access to toys, only asking her to play when she was energized & excited, keeping sessions short, using lots of different toys (heck, we STILL do that, lol), etc.

The newsletter was super long and jam packed with really good information. Susan did follow up on the subject in a blog post, which is also worth reading. You can find it here.

It was a very long & frustrating road, but I'm very happy that Secret & I seem to have overcome our early difficulties with toy drive, or lack thereof. I do all of her training at home with toys now and the results are exactly what I hoped for -- more speed, drive & love of the game. We are still working to be able to bring out this same love of playing in stressful situations like trials, but our results at the run-through this past Friday really give me hope for this!

More or less this is all information that I'll be storing in my back pocket and keeping in mind for the next dog. If my goal is to have a toy/play driven dog, I am not doing myself any favors to dispense treats like candy. So much of my early training is food based, so it will be a hard habit to break, I'm sure. In the long run, though, I have no doubt it will be worth it and help me to achieve my goals. What I have to remember is that it's not like I have to do away with treats, but a healthy balance should be the goal.

I love the internet. There is just so much great information out there!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Road Trips & Run Throughs

As I mentioned last week, Southpaws K9 was hosting a run-through on Friday in advance of their CPE agility trial being held in Lakeville, MN this past weekend. We don't do CPE, but CPE uses the teeter and we DO need to see more of those!! So it made perfect sense to pack up the troop and drive 2 1/2 hours for a few minutes in the ring, right? Right!

To be honest, I almost bagged out on the idea. I took the day off work on Friday because my car was long overdue for an oil change -- like 1000 miles overdue, so I really wanted to have that done before embarking on any road trips. My appointment was at 11:00 and all morning I sat there thinking how stupid it was to go so far for a fun run. This was due largely to the fact that I was just plain exhausted.

Actually getting up and leaving the house for our appointment helped to wake me up some. I got home shortly before noon and ate some lunch. My Garmin said that the trip was about 2:24 and the run-through was scheduled to begin at 3:00. I figured I really didn't need to be the first person there, so I bumped my departure time back to about 1:00. As I left, I still thought it was a stupid idea to drive over 300 miles just to be able to practice on a teeter. But it is what it is, so I went.

And I'm so glad I did! We had a fabulous time and it was really so good for both Kaiser & Secret to have this opportunity.

We pulled in to the arena around 3:40 or so. They were speculating walk-throughs on the hour or so, which I figured put me on a good schedule for the second round. Turns out they were running late, however, and were just finishing building the course as I arrived. I squeaked in to get Secret & Kaiser in the running order right before they closed it off to any more dogs. Great timing! I familiarized myself with the course quickly for the purposes of Kaiser's run, but I more or less planned to spend Secret's entire two minutes on the teeter. Then I hauled butt to get everything set up and the dogs pottied and brought inside. I'd been hoping to just crate out of the car, but it was a much further jaunt than I'd expected, so I set all three dogs up in the x-pen.

The first round ran tall to small, so Secret's turn was up first. I signed her up to run in the 20" group. The run-through was allowing toys in the ring, but no food. Considering the struggles I've always had with getting Secret to play in a trial environment, I knew it was up in the air as to whether or not she'd show any interest in toys in the ring. I didn't bring her out of the pen until the dog before us was in the ring in an effort to avoid her getting stressed prior to our turn. I brought out the "big guns" straight away with the Udder Tug.

As usual, she saw all of the people & dogs milling about and she did start to stress. I got down on the floor with her and started darting the tuggy around on the floor in front of her. This got her attention and she started to pounce on it and even gave me some tugging before we went into the ring for our turn.

When we were up I walked her into the ring on leash and she seemed to shut down a bit on me again -- she didn't seem interested in the tug when I offered it to her. I sent her over a couple of jumps on the way to the teeter and she lit up again and the game was on! Toys in the ring, yay!

I showed her the teeter and asked her for a touch, which she gave me -- tug! Touch harder -- tug again! Slam! Slam? No slam. Hmm, okay. So I just asked her to do the whole teeter at that point and she was totally okay with it. There wasn't a whole lot of confidence with holding our end position (this was a pretty bouncy teeter), but she was doing the full teeter with no hesitation, so I just quick released while she was still four-on the board. Happy tugging!! Lots & lots of play! As planned, I used my entire two minutes just on the teeter. When I heard them call out 15 or 30 seconds we did one more teeter and then ran the line of jumps out of the ring. More tugging!! I think she actually tugged a little even after I put her leash back on, but then it was the usual freight train back to the crating area for treats.

Kaiser's first run went well, too. He had a BIG AIR moment over the a-frame the first time, but he was a very good boy on his contacts and even stopped on the dog walk when I asked him to. No fly-offs on the teeter, either -- such a good boy! He was slip-sliding a bit on the turf, but it didn't seem to throw him too much. I ran him at 8" due to the discovery of continued degeneration of his right knee that was discovered at our vet appointment on Thursday. He's been started on Adequan now and we'll see what happens (ie: if he can do USDAA anymore since he has to jump 12"), but at the moment he seems perfectly happy at 8" despite the findings in his knee.

Small dogs were up first for the next round, so Kaiser was up again. I schooled his dog walk when he didn't stop and after that he put in two really nice runs. He was in such a good mood and seemed to really have a lot of fun with the course. I was debating only taking Secret to the USDAA trial at the end of the month, but considering that Kaiser will almost be done with his loading dose of Adequan by then, I'm tempted to take him along and see how he does at 12". I have to decide soon, as the entries close on the 16th.

For Secret's second turn I decided to go ahead and try the whole course with her. I am *so proud* of her! The course started with a tire that she's never seen -- one of the thin foam breakaway models -- but she popped right through it with no problem. The teeter was obstacle 14 or something on course and she just attacked it. When I released her, though, instead of going to the next jump she whipped back at me and asked, "Where's my dang toy?" I laughed and let her have her tuggy, then dragged her (tugging) back to the start line to just start again. We'd used up about half our time by this point. She was zippier on the second go -- she'd come into the ring pretty stressed, but play time after the teeter really brought her back to me. She was a sassy girl on course, barking at me as I called her name for a turn while she was in the tunnel. This time we did our teeter and continued on to finish the course (with a little twist I added to up the difficulty a bit) and finished ahead of our time limit. Tug! Tug! Tug! She was a happy girl. :o)

So yes, as completely RIDICULOUS as it was to drive a total of 5 hours for less than 8 minutes in the ring, it was so worth it. The dogs really enjoyed themselves (well, minus poor Luke who didn't get to do anything) and it was a very positive training opportunity. I certainly wish we had the chance to do stuff like this closer to home, but it is what it is. I'm glad we were able to go -- and now I feel much more confident about the USDAA trial at the end of the month. I was horrified at the thought of entering pairs due to the possibility of Secret not doing the teeter. I understand that this possibility certainly does still exist, but I feel a lot better about it now!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


No, I didn't win that 640 million dollar Mega Millions jackpot drawing this past Friday (I didn't even win $1 in that!). But Secret thinks that this might be EVEN BETTER.

We now have in our possession what more or less amounts to a lifetime supply of used inflation units -- Otherwise known to the rest of the dog population as Udder Tug toys -- For FREE!

When the Udder Tug toy (long with handle model -- retails for $15) proved to be such a hit with Secret, I started to go through my list of "folks I know" who might be able to help us out with finding more of these remarkable objects. I knew that one of my co-workers at the shelter also works on a dairy farm, so a week or so I sidled up to Lanette and asked her a very strange question (to her at least).

Of course I couldn't remember what they were REALLY called, and asking her if she had any Udder Tugs wasn't going to help, either. So I more or less sounded like a complete fool as I asked her if they might ever have any of those rubber tubular things that go in the milker things for the cows. Actually, that's probably a bit more eloquent than I actually was as I stumbled over my words.

Somehow she managed to figure out that I was inquiring about these things called "inflations" and she more or less thought I was completely crazy to have paid $15 for one. She wasn't surprised about the use of them, because apparently all the dogs on the farm go nuts for them. She asked how many I wanted. I don't know, a bag? How big of a bag, she asked? I don't know, surprise me!

And there you go -- One GIANT bag of inflation units all for us! Ripe off the farm, which impressed Secret to no end (I think it's like catnip for dogs). It was a pretty fragrant ride home from the shelter last night, even encased in their plastic bag. Our giant bag of inflations will live in the garage...

So now I need to decide what I'm going to do with them. Knotting a string of nylon rope through them seems easy enough and having a knot at the end seems like it would afford a better grip. Looking at my Udder Tug with the handle, I see the handle is nothing more than the top part of the inflation --- So really, I imagine making my own handled version likely wouldn't even be that hard. I do also want to see about sticking one over our leash to see if Secret will tug with it, too. With this many inflation do-hickey things in our possession, the possibilities are really endless. :o)

I reapplied Frontline Plus to all of the dogs on Monday prior to our midday walk. The good news is that I have not pulled any attached ticks off anyone since then, so maybe the last dose that I applied on March 1 was just wearing off (we did go swimming several times, after all). It could be that we might just have to apply it every three weeks or so this year vs. monthly as suggested.

I hate applying it to Secret, though. Neither of the boys really have any reaction to topicals whatsoever, but Secret has always reacted negatively. I don't know if it's the chemicals that are affecting her or if it's just the feeling of it spreading over her skin that wigs her out. Secret has very thin/fine hair and the top spot treatments definitely dissipate differently on her than the boys.

More or less, she just kind of wigs out for 24 hours or so. I always apply Frontline immediately before going on a walk so that she is distracted and doesn't have a spastic fit. This works, because as long as she's doing something she does seem okay. But when we get back to the office she's just odd. She becomes very twitchy and jumpy and is more or less incredibly unsettled for the rest of the day. She also drools. A lot. Even when we went to bed that evening she was not herself. By the next morning she seems fine.

It is for that reason that I am terribly uncomfortable with the idea of trying anything stronger (like Certifect, which has now been suggested to me by several people after I moaned about ticks on Facebook the other day). Truthfully, if Frontline continues to have such a poor efficacy this year I may just stop putting it on her at all and pursue other options. We'll see, I just figure anything that changes her behavior for 24 hours can't really be a good thing...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Good Clean (Run) Fun

Yesterday the link to the Clean Run training exercise of the month was posted on the Clean Run Yahoo group. [click here if you want to see the whole thing] Seeing as it was Monday (thus I'm actually home in the evening for a change) and it was a beautiful 60 degree day, I printed it out with the thought that it might make a fun evening activity for us. There's an international jumpers course from the February issue that I also want to set up soon, but this was much faster to set and thus won out!

Note that I was too lazy to go down to the basement to bring up the rest of my jumps, so I substituted three hoops for the jumps at the bottom of the course. Once I ran it, I did find myself wishing I would have used jumps because I do feel they add a different element of challenge vs. a hoop. That said, these exercises were certainly filled with plenty of challenge as it was!

Unlike the Backyard Dogs exercises where I find myself able to retain three drills at once, with these exercises (I opted to do Exercise 5 then Exercise 4) I worked on committing one to memory, ran the dogs, then learned the second one and ran them again. My brain is still struggling to work through these styles of courses and it generally takes quite a bit of effort for me to get it right (more on that later, lol). I think that's just what happens when you focus on nothing but NADAC for so long!

Generally these exercises tend to be listed in progressive order of difficulty, but I chose to run Exercise 5 first because it had fewer obstacles and I perceived it to be "easier" than the one preceding it.

Kathy Keats (The Agility Coach), author of these drills, stated that the handling challenge of these drills requires the dog to be very responsive to your cues. I tell you, if that's not Secret's strong point, nothing is! She really nailed this drill. I believe her only error was taking the number 9 jump between obstacles 7 & 8 a couple of times, which was easily corrected by fixing my positioning and timing cues.

These types of drills are really up Secret's alley. She excels at tight, twisty & turny and these things really fire her up. In addition, she seems to really be turning on to the cues to take the back side of the jump. Secret seems to really enjoy having me push her around and then take off running to the next obstacle.

Even Kaiser rocked out this exercise. The most challenging aspect for him was making it from three to four without taking the tunnel between them. He is such a tunnel sucker! I ended up having to almost run backwards through that sequence to keep his focus on me and not the tunnel. From there the rest went very well. I'm very happy with how much improvement I've seen in his wraps lately -- He didn't back jump anything all night! With his super sensitive space bubble, it doesn't surprise me that he's taken well to finding the back side of jumps, either. :o)

I did bring Luke out... It was pretty miserable for us both and I ended up letting him run around taking whatever he wanted and throwing his ball for him. Much happier that way!! This course was super, super tight and I see no reason to push him to do these exercises at this point in his career.

Needless to say, I felt like a pretty brilliant trainer after having such success with Secret & Kaiser on the first exercise. Believe me, the second one put me in my place a bit! lol

First things first -- When I was looking over the exercise later in the evening going over what we'd done, I realized that I ran two obstacles in the wrong direction! See, I told you my brain just doesn't grasp this stuff yet... I ran jump 5 on the opposite side, making it a back side push instead of a serpentine. Then I ran (hoop) 13 from the opposite side -- running it as labeled probably would have been easier! I carried the course map with me while walking this drill; my brain just gets so confused when presented with numbers on both sides of jumps. lol

While walking this drill, I spent a LOT of time trying to work out how best to handle jump 2. I know my dogs don't drive well around me in a post turn, so taking the back side from the right didn't seem like a good plan. In my head, I decided the optimal plan was to push to the back from the left and then blind cross the landing to pick them up on the right again.

Yeah.... That was a total fail! Honestly, I didn't even attempt it with Kaiser after failing epically with Secret. The handling move that worked for us was a rear cross. With Secret I rear crossed the landing side and was still easily able to get into position for the wrap/front cross into the tunnel for 3 & 4. For Kaiser I opted to rear cross on the take-off side of jump 2 because he is so sensitive about me crossing directly behind him.

Because I was doing it wrong, I then pushed to the back side of five as they came out of the tunnel. Apparently I was just on a "find the back side" kick last night or something and my brain failed to catch it. Doing the exercise as written would have offered a much different challenge. Most likely I could see Secret knocking that bar as my 3' wide jumps don't offer much leeway in those tight scenarios. Kaiser would have been likely to take an off course jump or tunnel if I wasn't careful with my cues. Oh well -- We did the back side and it worked nicely. :o)

I had thought going from 7 to 8 would have been a bit more of a trap than it turned out to be. Neither dog even looked at the jump in front of them (which would have been the third jump in a pinwheel configuration). We didn't have any trouble going from 8 to the tunnel at 9. I'm not sure why the number 2 jump didn't present itself as an off course obstacle as much as the number 12 jump on the opposite side.

Best as I could figure, there were two optimal ways to handle the 9-10-11 sequence. One could threadle it (not our strong point) or one could push and scoop. Secret definitely fared much better with the push & scoop method, again proving how much more comfortable she is being pushed away from me vs. pulled in to me. Kaiser surprised me in that he seemed to do much better with the threadle, namely because that took out the option of the off course jump at 12 due to me blocking it. With the push/scoop he was very prone to taking the off course jump before wrapping back into the tunnel. He's terribly sensitive to pressure that way.

I handled the final sequence from my right, choosing to do a post turn at the back side of 13 (since, you know, I ran it wrong!). Because my dogs find post turns so incredibly demotivating, I did try a front cross wrap followed by a rear cross at 14 with Kaiser and that worked as well. Secret actually started to power through that post turn, likely because I cheated and threw her toy for her. ;o)

This was a super fun set of drills. If you are looking for something fun and challenging, I definitely recommend you check them out! My only disappointment is that I didn't have the video camera at home. This would have been a nice one to video to be able to watch my cues and how the dogs respond to them. Truthfully, I should record all of our training sessions since I'm always training by myself!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The things I do...

First things first -- did you notice that I finally made a banner for the blog? Yay! It only took like 2 1/2 years. ;o) Obviously I know that if you are reading this you can see the banner photo at the top of the page, but I went and included it on this post so that the photo would get printed in the blog book when the next year rolls around. I wish I was more talented at using Photoshop, but this will have to do. Considering how it's slopped together, it almost turned out artistic looking. Ha!! Like I did it on purpose, even!

Regarding the title of the post today -- I just found out about a fun run being held in Lakeville, MN this Friday prior to a CPE trial this weekend. I sent off an e-mail to confirm that they'll have a full Standard course set, but it sounds to me like this might be the perfect chance to test Secret's teeter performance away from home. Yes, it's super sad that I have to drive 2 1/2 hours just to have the chance to put my dog on equipment, but that's what happens when the local training center is difficult to work with and never uses a variety of equipment in their run-throughs.

The fun run is offering two minute sessions for $5 each. I figure I can get a lot done with Secret & Kaiser with two sessions each. Secret will probably spend the entire first session just playing the "Slam It" game --- assuming I can get her turned on to toys in the new environment, at least. I'll bring the full arsenal of "special" toys with me and hopefully we'll be successful!

I'm about ready to stop going on our daily walks. On Friday I pulled two ticks off the top of Secret's head and one off her belly. Then Saturday morning I pulled one off her neck and one off her ear. I am so stinking sick of ticks already, and it's only April 2. Saturday night and Sunday were blissfully free of ticks since we didn't go walking at all.

It will be a miracle if the dogs don't become symptomatic of Lyme or some other tick-borne disease this year. Secret is getting her Lyme booster (and Lepto) on Thursday. I know it doesn't actually prevent Lyme Disease, but at least it might help keep her from getting hit hard with it.

Stupid ticks........