Friday, July 27, 2007

Rehab, Maplewood Trial, European Open

Wednesday night Ike and I made our weekly visit to the rehab in Canton. Unfortunately one of our favorite/special patients died that morning. Dr. Barce was a vet in Randolph for many years. Every week we would spend time with him and his wife Erma. This is my first loss as a volunteer. The ironic thing is that Dr. Barce seemed to be doing much better when we saw him last week.

We did meet a resident we had not met before who LOVES dogs - she gave Ike a big hug and kiss. He is such a good boy - very stoic.

I sent off the Premium for Katrin's trial. I signed up for both days - the Regular classes, Jumpers, and Tunneler class. I held off on Chances - I am afraid of it at the moment! I did decide to jump at the Specialist level (12") which is 4" shorter than the required height for Ike's size. Michelle also mentioned at the Act-Up meeting that they give you 5 seconds more. Hmmmm. We could certainly use that!

I am also going to take part in a Pairs Relay to raise money for Maplewood Assistance Partners, Inc.. I asked my class mate Sandy if she'd like to do it with us. You can dress up and have team names if you so desire. She has an Aussie, Sadie, who is very fast so we are going to be called The Tortoise and The Hare. Obviously Ike is the tortoise!

Anna and Harry left for the European Open yesterday. Send them lots of good luck; They have a nearly all Schnauzer team (one Sheltie, I believe)! Webb and Leslie Anderson are both competing with their dogs (Nigel and Zoom). Unfortunately Anna and Harry were not able to compete in the FCI World Agility Championships in Norway. Since 1997 Norway has not allowed the showing of docked tailed dogs; As a result no dogs with docked tails may can compete at this year’s Agility World Championships. Hence, Anna and Harry's attendance at the European Open.

This is an interesting issue - a lot of European countries do not allow dogs with docked tails to compete in events. However, the AMSC requires Schnauzer tails to be docked for the breed standard. And I have to admit a personal preference for cropped ears on Schnauzers that is hard to reconcile with the animal rights aspect of my beliefs.

I almost forgot to mention that I finally got Ike's registration papers - he is finally, officially Silvermist Icebreaker!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

No agility, more "fun-plate," raw diet?

Katrin was struck with a stomach virus that is making the rounds this weekend, so Ike and I had Tuesday night off. My husband was excited!

Ike and I practiced with our plate in my in-law's backyard. I was curious to see how Ike would be with the added distractions of street traffic (both car and pedestrian), nature, and heat.

Well, he was very hot and very distracted! This combination translated into a very slow walk over to the plate, very little pounce, and a slow jog back for his treat. But moving our location to a distracting environment did not mean I had to start over, so that is awesome. I half expected I would have to begin at the very beginning.

I did start at about 5 foot distance, but I was quickly able to up it to 15 feet and change the angles up - rather than heading straight to the plate. I am starting to put the word "Go" with it.

Of course, my FIL opted to walk the two other dogs and Ike's mind was then gone. DRAT!

After we got home I put a treat in Ike's food toy and left it. I am trying to do this periodically. I have to make it super easy for Ike (toy not shut tightly/high value beef jerky) because I have a quitter on my hands. Ike doesn't quite get it. He sees me take out the treat and follows me to the toy. He sees me put the treat in the toy. He continues to watch me. Once I leave the room he returns to the food toy and works on it. My vague hope is that if I continue to set Ike up with an easy treat in his food toy eventually he'll be willing to work a little harder for it. We'll see. I am taking it slow and easy with this.

Katrin has a friend who just switched her dog to a raw diet, her site is called Clara Going Raw. She hasn't posted much, but her blog combined with the recent Whole Dog Journal articles are pushing me ever closer to making the raw jump.

I used to feed Ike a partially raw commercial diet (Nature's Variety made by Prairie ), but when I wanted him to lose a few pounds I dropped the raw and added green beans. Regardless I don't think it was varied enough. Anyway, it seems like an overwhelming commitment, but Lisa (Clara's owner) says no, it is surprisingly easy. Hmmm...

The hard, hard part is convincing the husband and in-laws. They are repulsed by the tracheae I give Ike let alone a completely raw diet. I think I might have found the way to win the hubby over though - dogs fed a raw diet are healthier and live longer. Who doesn't want Ike to stay around as long as possible!? I told John I would put together a mini-white paper about the benefits of going raw and we could discuss it. The fact that he is willing to discuss it excites me.

Now I just have to talk to TDI (the organization Ike is registered as a Therapy Dog with) and make sure there is no issue with the organization and feeding raw.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Act-Up BBQ, Comp. Obedience decision, and Ike's "fun-plate"

Ike and I did not go to playgroup this weekend. : ( I was planning on going to playgroup and then going immediately to the Act-Up BBQ. However, when I opened the Act-Up e-mail invitation I saw that it started at 10:00am! Yipes. I was late but still washed tons of tunnels! The BBQ was Act-Up Agility Club's annual meeting and equipment prep for trials and fundays. When I first arrived I didn't expect to know anyone other than Michelle and her husband Mike. To my pleasant surprise a woman who was in Ike's foundation class is a member and was there with her two flat coats and a woman I met at the Susan Perry Seminar I attended this spring was there. And of course, everyone was super friendly. I think I was a little bit quiet for me...

It was an interesting experience for Ike. I brought his soft crate, put him into it, and went to work. At first he was pretty quiet but then he started barking nearly non-stop. I did not return to him until I was done cleaning tunnels, so a couple of hours. He was overjoyed to see me! I think it was a very stressful experience for him. I think it was good for him to be in a situation where there is a lot going on and he stays in his crate and not then have to go "work/play." It was kind of like a dry run for our first trial.

Decisions

I have decided not to enroll Ike is a second Competition Obedience class right now for a few reasons:

1. $$
2. Time - I feel torn between practicing agility or practicing obedience

Right now I don't feel like I am able to give either sport adequate attention and that is not what I want. We have so much to work on in terms of what we learned in just one eight week session with Esther. And to be honest, since right now I HAVE to make a decision I am choosing agility. My thought is, I can practice what I learned in this session and then depending on when my schedule opens up enroll again. I don't know if Esther does privates, but I know I could always talk to Katrin about doing a private lesson in obedience.

I loved doing the Comp. Obedience class because Esther is an excellent instructor and it was all new to me. But I didn't have the time to truly practice my obedience lessons regularly OR my agility lessons. Hmm...that leaves me being the type of student I do not want to be! I am bummed, but happy I was able to make a decision! I think it is a good decision for both myself and Ike; I want to set us both up to succeed!

So last night I found myself with some extra time and a wide awake dog. huh-huh - I whipped out Ike's target plate. We haven't practiced with this in about a month (see above - lack of time). Ike had not forgotten what to do. I started with the plate about 5 ft away and was quickly able to put the plate further away than I have ever put it in the past. Okay, I thought. For my obedience class I had cut down a lid to fit in my hand and I used that last night, too. I started back at 5 ft and then was quickly able to move the plate out to around 10 ft. Since Ike is piss-poor at generalizing (I know, most dogs are) this was huge!

What intrigues me about Ike and the target plate is how overjoyed Ike is to "go-out" to it. He gets so damn excited and does a playbow to the plate. I am really curious to see if he retains this joyfulness at class. If so, this might be the way to get him truly excited about agility - much more so than a toy. He is pretty inhibited with toys at agility. Major bummer. Of course, I could be more religious about working at him getting excited about his toy.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Upcoming Trials and a random thought

I found out I am successfully entered in the CPE trial in Adams, MA on the 12th. Phew! Then we are doing the trial at Canine Mastery on the 19th. I opted not to try and get into the CPE trial at Gemini Dogs on the 26th - I figured I would be setting myself up for a melt-down!

I realized today, that I am creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by talking about what a weirdo Ike is. I don't know if any of you have read Shaping Success by Susan Garrett; she discusses training her Border Collie pup Buzzy. At the time she was working with Buzzy she was writing a column for Clean Run about training him. Needless to say he had a reputation based her trials and tribulations of training using only positive methods chronicled in Clean Run.

By always talking about Ike as a little reserved, strange dog I am creating that image for him in other people's minds. Ugh! Truly he is a great dog - we all have issues, right? So I recognize I need to knock it off. I would holler at anyone I caught doing that to their dog, so I guess I am hollering at myself right now.

Agility - distance work

Tuesday night Katrin had a complete course set up. We only made it through the first three jumps! The jumps were set up in a straight line, the tape for the handler veered off from the jumps at a 45 degree angle (who really knows the exact degree, though).

So much for my supposition that Ike handles jumps pretty well from a distance! hee. Katrin asked me to start putting Ike in a start-line stay. (We weren't doing this before - we were afraid it would demotivate him). So, I had him in a stay and walked to the second jump. I told him "okay, jump" for the first jump and "get out, jump" for the second jump. Well, he got out all right!! Apparently Ike really does know what "Get out" means - he just doesn't always realize that he needs to complete the obstacle after the "get out." Or maybe he does, tricky little scallywag that he is. Anyway, I was on the right of the jump and he got out to the left of jump! We tried quite a few times using a different toy Ike likes that I can put food inside of. He wasn't really into the toy....hmmmm.

Side note - we've had Carmen staying with us and Ike is such an absolute quitter when it comes to toys, attention, anything really. He just doesn't fight for anything. He'll be happy as a clam about letting Carmen steal his kitty. I have to think about this - it's so odd! I really HAVE to work harder at getting him excited about a toy.

We repeated the first few jumps a couple of times and Ike seemed to get it - as long as I stopped just prior to the 2nd jump and then ran on. Third jump, no go. He just absolutely didn't get what I wanted. Katrin was laughing because it appeared that Ike thought the tape for the handler was a jump of some sort. Every time I told him to jump he would go over the tape!!! He thought we were idiots cause he was OBVIOUSLY going over a jump of some sort. Oh gods!!

We ended class with a choice! I forget what the first option was, but the second option was jump, A-Frame, tunnel, poles, tunnel. Since I have a couple of trials coming up (hopefully), I wanted to do the run that had the A-Frame in it. Well...apparently Ike has nearly forgotten what the A-Frame is. I'm not joking!! He really considered it before he took it, but then he did it a couple more times without issues. Our last run of the evening he flew out of the tunnel - I could actually see him leaning into the side as he came out. Yay Ike - momentum!!

Although the distance work is a bit discouraging (not as much as heeling though!), I am glad we are working on it. This is an area Ike and I REALLY need help with. It reminds me again that maybe I am spreading myself a bit thin at the moment because I'd really like to find time to practice distance work and strengthen Ike's understanding of what I want.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Premiums...

I have Priority mailed my premium to AgileDogs for their Aug 11 and 12th trial. When I e-mailed the trail secretary over the weekend she said they still have space. I hope so!!

Competition Obedience, the REAL Class # 7

Apparently I was ahead of myself last week - last night was class # 7.

After having such a terrible class last week, I was very seriously considering shelving obedience for a while (see previous post). So, of course the performance dog gods conspired against decisive decision-making and we had a great class last night! Hmmm...deep thinking will be required this weekend.

I arrived to class at exactly 5:45. Typically I try to get there a little bit early; I like to give Ike an opportunity to sniff before we go into the building. I walked into the training area and everyone was sitting outside the ring. Feeling as though I was late, I sat down in the closest available seat. Yuck - right in the path of travel for the drop-in agility session in the ring next door. A few moments later Esther suggested I move Ike to a seat that was right next to the ring and set a bit back. She then discussed the atmosphere at trials and being aware of your dog's personality when setting up a crate/choosing space.

Last night we went over small pieces of what we have learned, individually. Esther had a cd of trial sounds playing in the background during our class. Before our first exercise Esther said that after every directive a judge gives during a trial, we as the handler should hear, "when you are ready." She said it was more important for our dogs that we do things at our pace than doing them immediately.

During the first exercise we started in the Set-up position, had our dog heel walking straight forward, halt, heel, turn left, exercise finished. Ike and I didn't do too poorly! Hurray! I was a wreck - Esther reminded us all that we were to do these exercises at the level we are working with our dog and if the means heeling while feeding with two hands, that is fine. Deep breath.

Second exercise was a Figure Eight while heeling. Yipes. Ike and I have never done this. Deep breath - Esther says don't worry (oye....). Esther explained that she would like us to start the Figure Eight set slightly back from the center (of two jump poles), bear to the left and when coming around the pole make a straight line diagonally between the poles around the other pole and halt. Well, Ike and I forgot to halt. Of course, I blurt out "I'm sorry!" Esther said not to be sorry and she hadn't told me to halt. Okay, do it again. All in all, I didn't think it was SO terrible. Especially considering Ike and I heeling is like a fish biking....at least during this stage of the game.

Between exercises there was a really interesting conversation going on between the students about leashes. It seems people in class prefer a 3 foot leash. Karen with the Keeshonds let me borrow one of hers (she had 11 with her!); much better than the 6 foot one I am using. It was nice to feel included in a bit of the camaraderie that the students who have known each other and competed with each other for a while have.

For the third exercise all of the students entered the ring and spread out to try "Stand for Examination" at whatever level we're at. I immediately volunteered that Ike and I are only at the "Sit for Examination" point! Esther recommended practicing Fronts, Finish, and Stays while she worked with each student individually. Since Ike would not allow me to walk behind him during a stay last week at class I practiced that - and we were successful in the ├╝ber-exciting classroom environment. Yippee!

When Esther arrived at our spot, she asked me to put Ike in a sit-stay and only walk the length of the leash away from him. Ike stood up the very second Esther touched his head and was obviously uncomfortable. She asked me to put him in a sit-stay again but stand directly in front of him, my feet nearly touching his paws, and feed him while she approached and touched his head, shoulders, and back. Ike would not eat one bite as soon as she reached him. Esther had us try once more, this time she said she would not touch his head, just his shoulders and back - Ike was able to eat. Yay! Obviously I need to find scarier people to help me practice this exercise!

The next exercise was the long sit. Esther placed Ike between the Keeshond and Taz, the Australian Kelpie. I was a little nervous about being next to Taz because he is young, but he pays excellent attention to his mum. Ike was very good and successfully completed his long sit. Unfortunately I praised him a bit too much afterward when we were going directly into a long down. Ugh! I will learn - I swear. Ike was very good about the long down, as well. We have to practice these things at home more. Ike sometimes thinks if I return he can pop up from his long down/sit.

All in all the class went really well and I ended up feeling like I definitely want to just keep chugging along, trying to learn. As I said - I will have to think about this over the weekend.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Playgroup and Practice

Playgroup was busy - it started off fairly quiet and then bam....dogs galore. This is a good and bad thing. I felt like Ike did really well - he still played like an eel in the corner (just sticking his head out to test the waters), but he wasn't overly barky or in full fun police mode. Carmen was once more surprisingly good. I am very proud of her!!

Oh! I almost forgot to add....Ike had a bit of a breakthrough! The last Agility-for-Fun class we had (1st weekend of July), I was able to lure Ike into the pool. Yay! I intended to purchase a pool for the backyard and work on luring him into it....that hasn't happened yet. However, he got into the pool of his own volition on Sunday! Awesome!! He just stood there, but what a huge step forward.

Practice

I spent some time in the afternoon trying to firm up Ike's transitional "Sit For Examination" versus the desired end-behavior, "Stand For Examination." I asked my husband to come outside and play judge for me. Considering how Ike views John, which is as Mr. Goodtimes, Ike was awesome! He held his stay for me while John came over and patted his head, shoulders, and slid his hand down his back. I then returned to Ike, walking behind him to return to his side. We did this about 5 times - Ike was really good. He obviously understands what I want in this instance. Since he was doing so well, I decided to try and up the ante by having him "Stand" and "Stay." Oye! We need to WORK on this - he totally doesn't get it. We just haven't practiced it enough.

Which brings me to another dilemma....I feel as though I am spreading myself too thin and need to prioritize. I love agility and I am just beginning obedience. I am debating whether I might opt to take this upcoming session off from obedience and then re-start it when Katrin is on her summer break. When Katrin returns in October I will have to give serious consideration to what I want to do. As slow as Ike is at agility, I absolutely enjoy it more than obedience - but I think that is mostly because I "get" agility where I am still in the very beginning learning phase with obedience. Right now I find agility much more reinforcing! And what about Ike? I am not sure that he has a preference. I think he might be looking forward to the day he just gets to stay on the couch!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A very nice e-list

When I submitted my membership info to CPE they sent me an e-mail asking if I wanted to join their Yahoo e-list. Boy, am I glad I did! People are so nice - if this is how they are at trials I am going to LOVE CPE trials.

Katie Brittan, the daughter of Karen Brittan (Britmor Schnauzers), e-mailed me off list about Schnauzers and welcomed me to the list. She also gave me a link to subscribe to a performance schnauzer list! Super!!

A woman I met in Katrin's Foundation class also e-mailed me off list and invited me to the Act-Up Agility Club BBQ and asked if I was interested in the ASCA/Act-up Trial in Seekonk. Why not?

AND, I have been chatting with a woman in Maine who has two black miniature Schnauzers. I can't wait to meet her in person. It seems like we will be hitting a lot of the same trials if things go according to plan.

This is just a little side note, the decision to actively start trialing with Ike is looking more and more like the best decision I have made. More doggie friends. Yippee!!

Premium frustrations...

I found out this week that All Dogs Gym does a random drawing of all the premiums received on their opening date. Yesterday I found out that I am wait listed - # 7 out of 10 premiums with the opening date postmark. Argh! It was tough - the trial secretary was at Nationals in Nova Scotia, so I didn't find this out until last night.

There is another trial in Adams, MA the same weekend. I have e-mailed their trial secretary to find out if there are still runs on the 12th. Gemini Dogs in Littleton, MA is having a trial on the 25 & 26th, so I have also e-mailed their trial secretary to see if there is space left.

Bummer! I am/was so excited. Everyone cross your fingers for me! Please...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cool Sign

My mother sent me this....


Obedience and Agility in one post

Competition Obedience, Class # 7

Well, I suppose it had to happen - my class was kind of a bummer last night. We practiced heeling with left and right turns. Argh! We had a VERY difficult time. We also practiced Stand for Examination. Ike and I have only been practicing this at a sit since he is such a nervous nellie.

In general, I am having a hard time with Ike and heeling. I think I need to send Esther an e-mail. I also need to practice lots more.

Reminder to self: there is a learning curve, accept it. And as my kind husband reminded me last night, if this were easy everyone's dog would be competing and have their CD.

It's funny, the thing I found most useful last night was something that had nothing to do with class. I wanted to ask Esther a coupe of questions about class and we were standing near the entrance to the training area. Darwin the 4 mos. old Husky was coming in and Ike barked a bit. I told him to "quiet" and turned back to Esther. She told me to back away from what set Ike off, have him do something, and then rewarded him. She suggested backing away because, "Ike might be right - that dog might be about to attack. By backing up you can keep your eye on the other dog."

Wow! First of all the way Esther so quickly pointed this out from Ike's perspective, in a simple manner, drove home a point I have heard one-hundred times. Secondly I appreciate her using all opportunities as a training opportunity and understanding Ike's personality so well.

It was also a good reminder that I have become a little bit less attentive to Ike in situations where before I would have been watching him like a hawk for any cues he was about to have an outburst. I have to remember good behavior doesn't stick around on its own - I need to reinforce what I want/have so it doesn't disappear!

Agility - More Chances

We worked on Chances again this week and Katrin had the dog walk out. So, the course...ugh...too confusing for me to put in written word - I could draw it! There was a pinwheel, two switches, and two tunnels nested together so you had to tell your dog to "Get out - tunnel" in order to have them take the correct tunnel.

It appears that Ike and I need to begin practicing with our board at home again. He absolutely can not do the dog walk or seesaw without my right by his side. I don't know why I think this is so bizarre - he is both a little bit of a velcro dog and a scaredy dog! He handles jumps and tunnels fairly well from a distance and this tells me I just have to practice more on the SeeSaw and dog walk. I will be setting up some tape at home and trying to get him to do his board from a distance!

We have not practiced our "Get Out" nearly enough and yet he successfully navigated the nested tunnels. I must have given him the proper body language!

Ike was not really into his kitty yesterday, so we are going to try his toy that you can put food in. I think I might also order some rabbit pelt and see if I can get him going about that. Maybe if I let the G-Pigs (I have three Guinea Pigs - Izzy, Alley, and Zeek) loll about on it he'll be interested; he adores the G-Pigs.

While agility was difficult, working on something that hasn't yet become natural for Ike, it was a good kind of hard. It definitely helped to alleviate some of the discouragement I was feeling after Monday's class. I have to calm down and remember I have just started training for comp. obedience!

On a side note, I am dying to get Carmen into Katrin's Foundation class - we'll have to see how my schedule pans out this fall winter. The more I think about her personality and the more time I spend with her I really think agility is a perfect fit for her. Last night I discovered she likes to play tug!!!

Monday, July 9, 2007

A Full Weekend

During the month of July I do not teach agility at the shelter on the weekends. I very quickly forget what it is like to not have agility on Saturdays; I had a lovely weekend!

Saturday my mother came down with her mix-breed dog Nellie (aka Nervous Nellie) and we went for a 2 hr hike at Borderland. We had a great time and didn't run into any off leash dogs. Yippee! Ike was a pro - I was a little concerned about Nellie towards the end of our hike. Nellie could lose a couple of pounds and with the heat we could tell she was having a bit of a hard time. Fortunately she is a water dog and gladly hopped in the pond when we thought the water wasn't too murky.

Ike is such a slow poke. My mother was joking around that he paces himself. At the beginning of the hike Nellie was leading the way, tail wagging. By the end of the hike the dogs were walking side by side and I don't think Ike was any more tired than when he started! He's a goofball!

I am dog sitting Carmen for two weeks. It's fun to have the two Schnauzers - I can practice for my puppy! I brought Carmen with us to playgroup yesterday at the Shelter and she was so good. She was excellent with the people and the dogs - I am very proud of her. Her behavior at playgroup leads me to think that her reactivity to dogs is more-or-less leash aggression. Ike, on the other hand, regressed a bit. I am unclear whether it was the fact that Carmen was at playgroup or the fact that there was an English Mastiff puppy (6 mos.) who was a little bit rude that had Ike in a mood. I guess we will see next week if that puppy doesn't return how Ike behaves.

After playgroup I bought Carmen a martingale collar at the shelter (can't beat $5.99!). Carmen is a terrible puller, and I have tried without much success to get my in-laws to use either the gentle leader or the easy walk. I figured I would give the martingale collar a try - this way they will not need to do anything when they walk her.

So far we have only gone on two walks, and she doesn't seem to be pulling as badly. This could just be because I wore her out! We went to my friend Marlene's house after the Shelter playgroup. She has two lovely rescue Golden Retrievers and another friend came over with her Shepherd X. The dogs had a blast. I am not sure I have ever seen Carmen and Ike so tired.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Borderland and a kvetch

Yesterday I took Ike and my in-law's dog Carmen (also a Miniature Schnauzer) for a hike at Borderland State Park (maybe 10 minutes from my house). It was a great morning - sunny and warm without being too hot. Last summer we had an incident at Borderland where Ike was clearly beginning to suffer from heat exhaustion, so now I am totally paranoid about Ike getting overheated. I wet the dogs down multiple times - in fact I poured more water on them than they actually drank!

We hiked for about 1.5 hours and the dogs were pooped.

The only iffy situation occurred towards the end of our hike - I spotted three people walking with a yellow Lab-type dog towards us on the trail. From the distance I couldn't tell if the dog was off leash or on one of those damn flexi-leashes (personally I do not think there is ever an appropriate place for those things - I HATE them). As the dog got closer it became obvious that he was off leash - ugh! He came barreling up to us and of course his owner is hollering, "Oh, he's fine. He usually just barks." Meanwhile, Carmen is going ballistic and Ike is joining in with barking. I said to the guy, "It's not your dog I am worried about it's mine." I don't understand why people just don't get it. Yeah, your dog might be the most friendly dog in the world, but if you run into a dog that isn't and they're on leash and you're dog is off leash - well, mayhem can ensue.

So, my kvetch is people who take their dogs someplace where they are clearly supposed to be on leash and then let their dogs go off leash. This is an issue for me when I have Carmen with me since she can be dog-reactive. Carmen borderline behaves aggressively with dogs (fear-based I think). I do question whether it is appropriate for me to even take her someplace like Borderland, but at the same time I am in control of her physically (if not her howling) and she will never get better/desensitized to it if she is not exposed to other dogs. Ugh. It is a sticky point.

It was frustrating. However, everything worked out fine and we really enjoyed our hike. So much so that when I got back to the car and opened the door to roll the windows down I had put that incident to the back of my mind. Carmen slept the entire ride back to the house!

I will have to talk to some doggie friends and ask for their opinion about hiking with Carmen. I would like to continue bringing her but if it isn't appropriate, I would rather stop now. I am also considering enrolling her in the Shelter's Good Manners class - I am going to ask Denise about it tonight.

Tuesday Night Agility - Chances

At our Tuesday night agility class Ike and I got a taste of what it is like working with distance requirements, and it was hard! Katrin set up a course similar to what we would encounter in a Chances class. Since I am TERRIBLE at explaining things - I have cribbed from the NADAC site:

Chances
Replaces Gamblers. A short (10-15 obstacle) course featuring as many as three Distance, Direction, and Discrimination (DD&D) challenges that must be accomplished in order to qualify. All three types of DD&D challenges are required in Elite; Open dogs are presented with two of the challenges, and Novice dogs will face only one. The judge selects which challenges to present to the Open and Novice teams.


Chances is currently judged pass/fail with a max course time of 40 sec, and there are no placements. Starting in 2007, Chances will be judged and timed just like any other NADAC course, and placements will be offered.

Chances was briefly named “Wild Card” before the class achieved its final form in early 2006. The name was changed to distinguish it from a dissimilar class of the same name offered by another agility venue. The name “Chances” was chosen by NADAC exhibitors in posthumous honor of Amacris Outside Chance, a much beloved member of the NADAC family.

Our Tuesday night course was set-up with three jumps leading into a curved tunnel followed by the SeeSaw, a pinwheel (with an additional jump set-up as a minor discrimination), back to the tunnel (but entering the opposite end requiring a switch in dog lead and handler directionals), 12 weave poles, and a final jump. Katrin had set up tape from the tunnel to the weaves that ranged between 4 - 5 feet in distance away from the obstacle. We did not have an official discrimination test since that would have required having the dog walk out, but Katrin mentioned she might do that next week.

Ike had some trouble doing the SeeSaw without me right by his side, but he was confident enough to get about half-way up/through (after repeated attempts) before hopping off. Eventually I moved past the tape as Ike reached the fulcrum and heavily reward him. Then Katrin had me put him in a "wait" or "moving stay" and move back outside the tape.

We moved onto the pinwheel and I felt like Ike was actually fairly confident about that obstacle series. I had brought Ike's pink kitty and used it at the Pinwheel. Initially Ike was a bit fouled up because of handler mistakes (big surprise!); I just wasn't sure how he would react to having his kitty there - if it would have any effect, etc. so my timing was off. He did not outright play with the kitty, but he did pounce on it and he was definitely excited that the kitty was there (yay!!).

With both the SeeSaw and Pinwheel I was moving too far ahead of Ike. I have to find a balance between staying moving and waiting for Ike. Whenever I moved too far ahead of Ike he blew off the obstacle; Katrin pointed this out. She asked me to stop just prior to the obstacle I want him to do - when I did that he took the obstacle fairly easily. I remember this happening with the tunnel initially. We have a lot to practice. The good news is it gives me hope! And Ike didn't blow by the weave poles entry. Yippee!

This was a tough class for me because distance is one of the major issues Ike and I have, but also because I am a perfectionist and can be (very) impatient at times. I need to take a step back and look at how remarkable it is the Ike was willing to go as far as he did on the SeeSaw without me babying him and how well he did with the Pinwheel and weaves.

So, yay Ike! He continues to move forward and make me very proud.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Playgroup and Practice

Playgroup

Ike and I try to go to the Metro South Shelter play group every Sunday. Our attendance has been sporadic lately, but we are trying to make it more regular. The Shelter hosts small and shy dog playgroup at 11am (this includes puppies), and big dog playgroup at noon. The cost is $10.

The last few times I have gone with Ike I have noticed a definite difference in his behavior. He does much less of his "fun police" routine. Ike's "fun police" routine involves barking at any dogs who make him nervous by having too much fun, or fighting. Ike runs over and starts barking at the dogs as if to say, "knock it off, already!" Initially I thought this was because Tony stepped on his foot when Ike was rushing to break up a fight during agility (6/23). But now, after seeing the same mellow behavior repeated this weekend I think it might just be a change in his behavior.

Yesterday at playgroup all the puppies were there in force including newcomer Sarge, a 3-month old German Shepherd puppy. Oh, how the puppies want to play with Ike. It must be the hard-to-get thing....they playbow repeatedly as Ike stands there just tolerating their closeness. It is hysterical. In addition to all the puppies yesterday two young boys were also visiting. Ike actually bonded with one of the boys and went to him of his own volition. Yippee!! Ike loves my 11 year old niece, but he has had a chance to get to know her. This boy, Kyle, was fairly quiet and Ike thought he was very nice apparently!

Yay! Breakthrough day for Ike.

Practice

I spent some time practicing recalls and heeling in my in-law's backyard last night. Interesting thing to note, Ike barrels to me in the backyard when I release him. In class he trots - although last week he was a little bit more confident and one might says he cantered! I assume this has to do with his comfort level; i.e. no dogs in the backyard v. classroom full of dogs Ike isn't 100% about.

I have to ask Esther when she thinks I can tighten up my criteria for fronts and the set-up behavior. I don't think we are there yet, but it bugs me to see Ike sitting so crooked during his fronts. I must be giving him some cue via body language because invariably he sits angled to my left. I will have to fool around with hand position, body position, etc.

Something I love about Ike is he thinks practicing is just another great fun thing to do with mum. He is a smart boy and he loves to "play" aka work. We have agility tonight and I took away his pink kitty last night and put it out of reach. I made quite the deal about it - having the kitty up by my head and talking in a silly voice. Ike was absolutely beside himself - jumping up on me and then pacing around the table I had put the kitty on. He couldn't figure out what was going on. We'll see how it translates tonight. My fingers are crossed!