Saturday, August 30, 2014

Family Photo Day!

Kizzy has been here for over a year and I have never bothered/managed to get a good vertical-horizon photo with all four dogs to replace the one of just the three dogs that has populated my phone's home/lock screen for ages and ages. This is a bother because whenever someone asks about the dogs I have to go into the phone's gallery and scroll to find a group picture or several individual pictures to show them. When I was in a hurry I'd show the picture of the three and say, "I have one more of those" while pointing at Kaiser. Poor Kizzy, always getting the shaft.

No more! Today I got home from taking Secret & Kaiser to the chiropractor, grabbed a bag of treats and took everyone out to the table. Not only does this resemble the old picture that I loved so much, but the table makes and easy target on which to get everyone to stay put next to each other.

The top picture is my lock screen and the one above is the one I've got on my background now. I like this one because Luke has his happy ears on.  :o)  Kizzy is turning into such a good little poser!

Yesterday I stopped and filled out a volunteer application at the local nursing home. I was out there Thursday night to help out with Lions' Bingo and I took Luke along. When I'd gone for my shift last year I'd asked about bringing him and they made it sound like it was no problem, so I brought him along this time. The residents loved it and he did really well. He only got to stay inside for the first half because one of the staff members has an extreme phobia of dogs and just couldn't take it any longer, but everyone enjoyed having him there.

Seeing how happy it made the residents made me really want to do more of this. I emailed the volunteer coordinator on Friday and the process is pretty easy. I have to do the application and a background check, then the activities director would like to meet the dog(s) and then you pretty much go. No therapy dog certifications needed, which is nice. I figure I'll give it a go with Luke and Kizzy, since they are my people-lovers. Secret is just too unpredictable and bi-polar, and Kaiser would think it is just awful, so they can stay at home.

I'm home for three whole days this weekend!! No work, no trials, no nothing -- well, except school. I do have to get school stuff done and work through more of my dog training book for Petco. Once I finish up the next section I figure I'll go into Petco and do more computer training at some point this weekend. I'm looking forward to getting to hang with the dogs for three days. Today I was pretty boring. After the chiro appointment (I was so happy we could go on a Saturday -- next week would have been hard to do) I pretty much spent the afternoon catching up on sleep. I have some chicken to get rid of, so tonight everyone got some basic fun-building work on the teeter, dog walk and table. I'll have to try to come up with something more exciting the next couple of days.

Monday, August 25, 2014

More AKC, More Fun, More QQs!

I debated titling this blog post, "In which Kizzy becomes an actual agility dog," but we'll get to that later.  :o)

I've been very absent in my blogging of late. The last week was just so busy. Life consisted of work, school, work, work, and more work. By the time Friday rolled around I was BEYOND ready to pack up the dogs and take off for Oshkosh. We had two days of AKC on the calendar. It feels like it's been a long time since we've gone over to Oshkosh, but I'm sure it's only been a few months. Oh, it was April -- because it was my first trip with the van!

The dogs did just super this weekend. I didn't know anything about the judge in advance, but hoped that since she was from IL (the land where fun courses seem to abound) that this would mean she'd bring fun courses to the trial. There is nothing inherently wrong with the courses, but nor did I consider them to be overly challenging in any aspect. They were nice courses that flowed well, I just always wish for more "fun stuff." I really hope that AKC rolls out some sort of new program for those of us asking for these challenges.

Friday was awesome because we didn't even have to leave home until 9 a.m. If only that was the case for all trials, especially those where we have to travel. Despite having a super, duper boring week and being full of pent up energy, the dogs actually traveled quite well over to Oshkosh. When I say "the dogs," of course I really mean Kizzy, as the other two always travel well regardless.

We arrived a little before noon for a trial that started at 1:00. There was still plenty of crating space available. Unfortunately summer has finally hit us and it was way, way too hot to consider crating anyone from the car, so I knew I was going to have to make it work with Kizzy inside this weekend. I had her share a crate with Kaiser and pretty much just used the game plan of taking her out any time I took anyone else out. Not leaving her behind and taking her out to hang out by the ring a few times seemed to keep her happy and she was actually super quiet all weekend! A few people who are familiar with her even said something to me about it and how they had noticed how much better she's gotten. This made me so happy!

We started with Standard on Friday. This is where I finally got to experience all of that pent up energy. Secret ended up with a total of 30 points -- 21 in Std and 9 in JWW. I believe she got third and second place, respectively. Kaiser brought home 42 points between the two classes and won both (with actual competition for a change). It was a great start to the weekend. This was QQ#11 for Secret and QQ#3 for Kaiser. We're getting there.  :o)

It was probably around 5:00 when we got to our hotel for the evening. We hunkered down for the evening and the dogs got new chew toys and stuffies to keep them occupied while I worked on homework for the next four hours. We'd done quite a bit of walking at the trial and this, combined with the heat, thankfully seemed to appease them and we had a pretty quiet night.

Saturday started with JWW and both dogs had a really great start to the day. Secret won her class with 10 points and Kaiser won his with another 16-pointer (and his MJP!). They were both running so well!

I did not have any concerns for the Std course, and of course this bit me in the butt. Secret (third dog on the line) was moving out nicely across the dog walk and I might have released her a little early (if she was planning to stop at all). I said "tunnel" and she LOCKED into it. Unfortunately she locked into the wrong end. lol  During the course walk I had totally not even seen it as an option. I did one of my screeches, but unfortunately she was too far gone and couldn't stop. I put her back in the correct end of the tunnel and then she zipped behind me to start going up the dog walk. From there she had a nice finish, if you don't count me playing chicken with her on the last blind cross and getting in her way.

With Kaiser's super sensitive space issues I did not figure that the tunnel after the dog walk would be an issue. If I move at all into his space he'll move away, so I wasn't worried. Of course, he NQ'd well before that point anyhow, so it didn't even matter. He nailed his table -- YAY! -- and then ran right past the teeter that came next. It didn't really surprise me, considering he just hasn't been a huge fan of the teeter lately (we're working on it at home now that I actually have stuff out).

We were all wrapped up with the Master dogs by noon and I tell you, it was so tempting to want to just drive home. We still had Kizzy's runs to go, though, and I wanted to stick it out to give it a shot. Unfortunately for us, JWW was last, so we had to do Std first and who knew how that would go. As a reminder, this awesome trainer, yours truly, didn't bother to get any contact equipment out of the garage until two weeks ago. I don't think Kizzy has seen an a-frame since March, it's hard to say. Basically, this is a really bad training plan. Don't follow it.

But look what happened! It's a freaking miracle! I'm still not quite sure how it happened. :o) I'm sure all the walking over the two days helped bring her energy level down to a more manageable level. There was a level of focus, though, that I don't believe I've yet experienced from Kizzy in the ring to this point. I'm still just giddy over how well she did. Kizzy was the last 12" dog in the class, so we had the buffer of a height change and didn't need to worry about the next dog in the ring. The owner of the dog before us requested that we wait until the dog was caught and I had no problem obliging to this. Kizzy has already shown me that she focuses a bit too much on the prior dog if given the chance to watch. We ended up entering the ring after the dog was on leash but before he left the ring, but Kizzy still kept her focus on me.

I started Kizzy very poorly in Standard. Honestly, I've never started her at the chute before. I didn't trust her -- mistake -- and did a running start with her like I'd done with the other two dogs in Std, only I started her way too close. This resulted in Kizzy going around the chute for her first R, but she did it on the second try. Then she did the tire! Hooray! Seriously, this is a big deal because in the two minutes I was able to spend doing agility in the last week she was going through the spaces in mine and not through the tire itself. Thanks to a stop on the dog walk (for real!) I was able to front cross before the tunnel that followed, but she still got another R there. I had to remind myself that we were still okay, we could still do it (ever the optimist considering how much of the course was left).

Kizzy hit the weave entry correctly but skipped a pole in the middle. I praised her and brought her back, and she got them on the second try. Then she stopped on the table! Then she did the a-frame with a perfect hit, I think in two strides! Then she did the teeter and stopped on the end! I was kind of freaking out inside and am lucky I made it to the end of the course at that point. What a good, good, good, good girl!

She got a lot of treats. She had gotten a lot of treats before the run because I'd gotten her out too early. Then she got more treats. I think this might be part of the reason why she was a little more subdued and manageable for JWW. Ha! She was so tired and so full... I asked for a sit-stay in the second class and actually had to prompt her a second time to actually leave the start line. Um, what?

The rear cross up at the top of the course was unavoidable. I did just briefly lose Kizzy there, since you know, we still don't know rear crosses. She stopped and looked out towards the peanut gallery for a moment before rejoining me on the course. Again she hit the weave entry and skipped a pole, but got them on the second try. I fit in two front crosses after that. Go me! Trust the baby dog! And the best part? At the end of the run she STOOD THERE. No silly games whatsoever (the first class she bounced a bit and then rolled over onto her back again). It was an honest-to-goodness 100-point Q! It's her first unofficial QQ. Awwww.

She was so pooped that she didn't even touch her cow ear on the drive home. Nobody did. I think this hot spell has been a hard adjustment on everyone. We've been so spoiled this year and just aren't acclimated to the heat and humidity. I think it's supposed to get better this week, though.

Tonight was just gross outside, but I had to do something with the dogs to keep them quiet during my two hours of class. I got home in time that I set up a very simple circle drill that included the dog walk, jumps, the teeter and the table. Basically just reinforcing everything from the weekend to make sure none of it was a fluke for Kizzy. After all, we only have two weeks until the next trial now. It kind of blows my mind that I might actually be faced with making a decision to move Kizzy into Open JWW, but let's not get ahead of ourselves....

I need to get Secret in to see the chiropractor, but I have no idea when I'll fit it into the schedule. She ran so well this weekend that I'm tempted to let it slide, but the last thing I want is for her to experience any discomfort that brings down the giant happy trip she's been on lately. She's been having so much FUN at trials lately and it's wonderful to see. Kaiser seemed to have a lot of fun this weekend as well and was doing super well with his jumping. No doubt he appreciated the more flowing course styles.

Things are still going well at Petco. Last week I scored another new dog bed. This one was originally $60 and I got it for less than $10 after my employee discount was applied. The dogs seem to love the memory foam beds. Now I'm waiting for the memory foam crate pads to go on clearance so I can scoop those up.  :o)

I had my first official "dog trainer duty" yesterday. The store advertises puppy play time every Sunday, but neither of the trainers were there this weekend. The executive decision was made that I would step in and do it when we ended up with four puppies (some days there are zero, you never know). I love puppies, so this was obviously a terrible inconvenience for me to do. Ha! It was fun, but also good insight on the stuff I will experience once I'm teaching my own classes there. People....

It's a holiday weekend and I actually have nothing on my schedule for three whole days! It's unbelievable!

Oh, and I forgot my pink chair at the trial on Saturday.  :o(  I remember this about a half hour out and could not justify going back for it. The bag is busted and the chair itself is getting up there in age. But now I must find a new pink chair. Because, well, pink.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Happy 5th Birthday, Secret!

Today we celebrate Secret's fifth birthday! Happy Birthday, Secret!

I have to work this afternoon/evening, so we had to fit in our festivities this morning. I'm pretty sure nobody minds having yummy ice cream treats before noon.

Secret got her own super special doggy ice cream cookie in the shape of a "5" to celebrate her special day. I whipped this baby up last night -- It's just yogurt, pumpkin, meat-based baby food, flaked salmon and peanut butter. Yummm, right? Well, the dogs thought so and that's all that matters.

Secret is always such a good sport for these things.  :o)  I put her through all sorts of poses before she got to eat her birthday treat. I'm sure she's so thankful that I found this little girl's birthday package at Walmart last night, complete with a pin, a necklace, the awesome glasses and a little party hat on a headband. I think Secret liked the party hat headband; the glasses, not so much. Ha!

After Secret was done posing, I grabbed cookies for everyone and we had a little group party with everyone. (No, they did not get to eat all of these at once, we saved most for later)

Maybe one day we should invite guests for one of our parties, but let's face it, the guest list is already pretty decent-sized just with those who live here. :o)

I wish we could do something fun like go swimming on Secret's special day, but I have to leave shortly. Hopefully we can at least get in a quick game of frisbee!

In other news, I finally dragged the dog walk and teeter out of the garage last night. I figured since Kizzy is entered in Standard in just two weeks, maybe a refresher is in order. Now, when will we be able to actually spend time training? That's anyone's guess, but at least it's out there!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

WI State Fair!

As planned, yesterday we drove over to the Wisconsin State Fair to participate in their first year of hosting a weave pole challenge. It was an 18-pole down & back event, requiring participants to go over a jump to start the time, perform 18 weave poles, enter the tunnel and then come back down the 18 poles before finishing with the jump to stop the time.

What a fun event it was! While this was the first year for the weave pole challenge, the people putting it on have been hosting the dock diving events at the fair for many years and they had everything done very well. The spacing was tight, as I figured it would be due to space limitations, but the dogs didn't have any issues with it. The arena was very securely fenced and I was briefly tempted to give Kizzy a go more for crowd entertainment than anything, but I think the environment would have just been way too super-charged for her.

We left home right around 3:00 as planned. My awesome dad came along and was nice enough to drive both ways for me! The Garmin was forecasting our arrival for before 6 p.m., so we stopped and let the dogs out for a bit at a rest area about halfway over. They'd better not get any ideas in their heads, as I don't usually get them out when we stop.  ;o)

We hit some pretty bad rush hour traffic about seven miles out from our exit. Road construction and a car accident slowed us to a crawl for the last mile or so, but thankfully we had plenty of time and didn't need to get too stressed out about it. Except for Kaiser, who always seems to know when we are getting close to our destination and starts crying...

The whole area around the fair grounds was a zoo! The instructions I'd received in the mail were so confusing and it didn't help that none of the people working at the gates had any idea what was going on, so we were being told, "YOU CAN'T BE HERE" when I had a pass in my hand that clearly said I was supposed to be there... It all worked out, though. We unloaded the crates and a few other things pretty near to the new Dog Sports Arena and then set out to try to find our parking lot, which was an event in and of itself -- we couldn't find it (because the sign was behind a tree, come to find out) and ended up turning down a road that wouldn't allow for any left-hand turns, so we had to maze our way through the back streets to find our way back to the main road. Once we did find our parking lot, though, it was a very short walk with the dogs to get them to where they needed to go.

It was LOUD. I didn't know what kind of an effect that would have on them, especially Secret, but everyone did really well with it. They got to settle in their crates a bit and I took Kaiser & Secret out into the arena area to let them get a feel for it. We also got a bit of warm-up time before the competition started. I opted not to do the full down and back with either dog in the warm up. With Secret I just wanted to be sure she would play with me, which she did. After a couple of frisbee catches I went to send her in the tunnel and she recoiled because of all of the people hovering around that corner of the ring. I sent her a second time and she was fine, and then I had her continue and do the line of poles heading home. She got her frisbee after the poles and before the finish jump.

With Kaiser I was only going to do the tunnel and one set of poles, but he decided to get into the poles on his own while we were on the way down to the tunnel, so I let him bounce through those at a nice little lazy pace. Then I revved him up for the tunnel and we raced back down. As planned, I did have the food-stuffable tuggy -- Nobody questioned it. They didn't really question anything (like the fact that none of my dogs are vaccinated against Bordatella).

The competition started right on time. We had a small group considering they would take up to 15 entries -- we only had seven. Secret was third in the line-up and there were two dogs between her and Kaiser. This is where I ended up being very thankful to have my dad along, as he was able to hold the one not running (and video, of course!). Kizzy stayed in her crate during the competition. And screamed quite a bit, but thankfully the place was so loud nobody could really be bothered by her. lol

Secret had been really hyped during our warm-up, but she started to go downhill on me right before her turn in the ring. She seemed preoccupied with one of the border collies and was stressing. She wasn't showing any interest in tugging her frisbee anymore outside of the ring, but she did turn back on once we got into the ring and away from the other dogs.

I am seriously thrilled with Secret's performance at this event. Spoiler alert -- she didn't win anything -- but these were good, fast weaves for Secret! She handled the atmosphere like a rock star, got over the people standing over the tunnel, dealt with the loud noises and booming base music, the chaotic crowds, etc. She was awesome. I am so proud of her.

Kaiser was ready to go! I knew he'd be a hit with the crowd and I was right. You can kind of hear the audible gasp from the crowd on video when he came into the ring. We had so many people come up to ask questions about him between runs and after the event. I was so glad that my new Klee Kai shirt arrived in the mail on Tuesday so that every time someone asked, "What is he?" I could just point at the shirt. The back has the answers to all of the commonly answered questions, so I referred several people to that, too.  ;o)

We went straight into round two after everyone had ran. Secret still wasn't showing much interest in her other toys, but she was definitely interested in Kaiser's tuggy with the food inside. I switched her to that for round two and she got to do her "bark for treats" routine before we went into the ring like she always does at trials. I always worry that she runs slower for food, but I made the right choice and she was very happy to have this toy in the ring with her. She did awesome and shaved about two-tenths of a second off her first run. Go Secret!

Kaiser's second run was just as good as his first -- he actually was 0.03 seconds faster on the second run, but how is that for consistency? Some people have said, "Could he have gone any faster?" and I think the answer is yes. I don't think he drives through the tunnel with as much gusto as he perhaps could, but he still did pretty awesome.

There were two border collies there that I know from USDAA trials on that side of the state. They are FAST. However, fast doesn't always mean perfect. One of them had a blunder on their second run, which I knew opened the door for Kaiser. Still, though, it was all so fast and crazy that I hadn't been paying attention and I didn't honestly know what the results were until they started to announce it. I had hoped maybe Secret would get into fourth place, but she just missed it.

When they didn't call Kaiser for third I got pretty excited. He got second place! Hooray! The little squirt won $75, which totally paid for our trip, the entries and possibly a little extra.  :o)  It's kind of exciting to win actual money in agility.

We hung around for a bit afterwards to talk to people. I brought Kizzy out so that everyone could meet a friendly Klee Kai who would actually enjoy being pet. She was a great ambassador for the breed. They also let me take Secret up onto the dock to see if I could get her into the water this year. We just played on the ramp and did get her stepping into the water to pick up her toy. I think a good ten minutes of work would have gotten her in, but I didn't want to push anything and they were already being very nice by letting me try. I might have to rent some time at Think Pawsitive's pool the next time we go over there.

We hit the road around 8:30 and made it home around 11:20 or so. I was so thankful to have my dad for that drive home; I just don't think I could have done it on my own. It also made the time pass so much faster, which is always nice. I stayed up to edit video last night while the dogs decompressed and settled in, then we all got to sleep in this morning before I went into work.

We're off for a couple of weeks now. I got confirmations that we made it into the Oshkosh AKC trial the 22 & 23 of this month, so I'm looking forward to that. Then it will just be a couple of weeks until the next trial in La Crosse. Lots of home trial opportunities this fall, which is always nice.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Catch-up -- AKC trial update!

I am so far behind... Between work and school and work and the dogs and work.... So I'm sneaking in this post really quickly so that I don't get behind by TWO big events, because later today we are driving over to Milwaukee to do the weave pole challenge at the Wisconsin State Fair!

The dogs had a super great weekend of AKC here in La Crosse this weekend! It was a very, very small trial, which made for some nice short days. I was down to having only about 17 dogs between Kaiser and Secret (that's not many for AKC!), but it still provided me plenty of time to spend with each of them before and after their runs. I believe that Secret really appreciates this aspect of AKC, as she was never really a fan of being pulled from the crate to run and then being tossed back in right away. How rewarding is that?

With both dogs I made a point to hang out with them before their runs. We'd warm up with a potty walk outside and then just sit on the mats where I would massage them until it was their turn. Initially I worried that getting Secret too "relaxed" would have a negative impact on our runs, but she bounced straight up from her zombie-like trance and was ready to go. I am thrilled with her performance this weekend, from her very first run to the last. Every run was full of energy and enthusiasm, which is all I ask for from her.

Kaiser started out the weekend a little stressed and his jumping performance suffered for it. I think the zen massage time on the mats helped him, though, as by Saturday he was doing much better and having much more fun on the courses.

On Friday Kaiser picked up an elusive Standard Q, but missed JWW when I failed to get a push out to the second-to-last jump and he ran right past it to the finish jump. Secret had a great day, getting QQ#9 with 17 points in Std and 7 points in JWW.

Saturday was the banner day of the weekend, with both Secret and Kaiser earning QQs! It was Kaiser's second and Secret's 10th! That means we're halfway there -- unless you count points, because we're not quite halfway there on those yet... Secret is ever so consistent, picking up another 17/7 points on Saturday. I have no idea what Kaiser got, just that it was more than that.  :o)

Kizzy got to debut her new sparkly bling-bling collar at the trial when she ran Novice JWW mid-morning. Unfortunately the sparklies were not magical on this day and she was a little out of her mind with excitement. HOWEVER, she STAYED at the start line, both when I removed her leash and when I walked out past the first jump by several feet. That in itself is a miracle and the first time it has happened in a trial. Of course, she then ran right past the first jump as she rocketed off the start line, but whatever. I fixed nothing on this run and just focused on trying to keep her moving forward and with me, which she did. The weave entry was atrocious on this course (harder than the Masters entry by far) so I did reset her on those, but she just bounced through a couple of poles and we went on. She finished with me, though, and I was able to catch her quickly after the run, so this was a WIN for me.

Because I'm such a slacker, I didn't get all of the course maps loaded for this post, but I figured I'd load the JWW one from Sunday. This was probably one of the best courses we had over the weekend. None of them were overly challenging, but nor were any of them too "vanilla" for my tastes. There has been a lot of discussion on Facebook regarding AKC courses lately and the need to develop a "beyond Masters" class for those who want more challenges. I anxiously await any decisions by AKC on this, as I would welcome a more challenging class.

This course ended up being the only one that Secret NQ'd on the entire weekend and of course it was entirely my fault. I overhandled the jump after the tunnel (13) and that bar came down. She knocks like one bar a year, so I guess that was it.  ;o)  Oh well, quite honestly we needed the 19 points that she picked up in Standard in the morning more than another QQ, so I was okay with it. If Secret is going to NQ, I'd far prefer it be in JWW because we get fewer points in that class.

Kaiser didn't Q at all on Sunday. He was a little bonkers in Standard and I hoped that he got all of his faults out of the way in that class. His fault in JWW was actually the same part of the course, but he had gone wide on jump 13 and missed the next jump entirely -- which might be a large part of why I over-handled it with Secret.

The news of the day was Miss Kizzy! She did it! She held it together for an entire Novice JWW course and actually got a Q! With a score of 95, even!

Here's the course for Kizzy's first AKC Q. I did still ask for a stay when I removed the leash, but this time I did not lead out past the first jump because, well, I wanted to be sure she took it. She then had a yee-haw moment where she ran right past and around the tunnel (R), but she didn't take any other obstacles on her little tour so we were still good. I crammed in a front cross after the double up on top since you know, Kizzy still will not rear cross into a tunnel. We had to reset the weaves and she got them on the second try. After that it was smooth sailing and again we had no problems being caught at the end. Hooray!

Of course, this may or may not have given me a (false?) boost of confidence, as I then went ahead an entered Kizzy in both Std and JWW at the trial in Oshkosh later this month. Hmm. I should probably get my contacts out before then, don't you think?

As I stated earlier, later today we leave for the weave pole challenge at the fair. I actually emailed to see if they still needed more dogs and offered to bring Kizzy. What was I thinking? False confidence for sure... Of course, I'd only try if I felt the place was secure, but we'll see.