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.