Saturday, December 29, 2007

2008 Hopes

I have a jam-packed winter coming up, loads of classes and seminars.

Carmen will be taking Katrin's ABC class in January. I can't wait to see how that goes - she is much faster than Ike but with none of the precision. It will be interesting to see if and how she'll work with me.

My goal for Carmen in 2008 is to develop a nice working relationship and help build her confidence. My pie in the sky goal for her is to get her to a point where I would be comfortable entering her in a CPE trial. Level 1 CPE is so easy going, if our relationship develops, it might be do-able. To that end I will need to start bringing her to more places with me and getting her used to being crated.

I haven't decided if the two dogs in one crate is a good idea. Where they can both be nervous nellies I am afraid they will feed each others anxiety. I think a large crate in the car could work but would be a big no-no at a trial.

My goals for Ike in '08? More trials in general (NADAC & CPE). Better conditioning (more hikes!). I really want to work on distance with him. This is a huge challenge for us because of both of our personalities and our relationship's history - I was such a babysitter for so long. What I have learned with Ike is if I am patient and practice he's willing to do anything I ask. So, I need to develop a more concrete plan for working on distance with Ike. I also want to explore tracking with Ike - so find a class or seminar!

Personal 2008 goals, find the right Giant Schnauzer puppy for me!

Continue to work towards sitting for the CCPDT exam, to that end make a decision about the right program - get off the pot, Julie! (I am strongly leaning towards Susan Smith, Raising Canine course.)

Take as many seminars and classes as funds and time will allow.

Work on patience with people! Quicker reflexes!

My more immediate goals are to finish my table so I can keep practicing that behavior with both dogs. Get a second set of weaves so I can work 12 poles with Ike and in general firm up his weave performance and get a weave performance out of Carmen! Finish my Christmas books, Smart Trainers, Brilliant Dogs by Janet R. Lewis and Help for Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde.

I am sure these goals will continue to evolve (I sure hope so!), but they are a good starting point and I don't think they are unrealistic.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Oh Carmelita.....

Well, with the rain, I figured I would bring up my poles and set them up in my in-law's porch. Why not. So off to work with the pooches.

Carmen is such a scaredy dog!! She thinks the cages are going to eat her (note: I opted to go with cage method first then use channel method later for speed if needed). I set up a fiesta trail of treats (LOTS and LOTS) through the cages and she wouldn't venture in. After about 30 minutes her belly got the better of her and she ventured a paw forth. I was proud of myself for being patient. Hysterical, one paw forward while prepared to back up quickly. We played this for quite some time, until she was able to go through without issue. Still not confident, but I didn't want to push it. I'll bring the poles out again tomorrow and work on it some more.

I ran Ike through the poles a few times from various positions. He is getting much better about directionals (not verbals) - If I am being smart about which hand I use, he makes the correct decision about 80% of the time. Since I haven't consciously worked on this, I am pleased. And it reminds me that since it is obviously incorporated in our training I should work on it some more. He has the gist, of course, it is more the handler I am concerned about!

No class for Carmen - Again!

She's jinxed, I swear to the good dog gods!! Denise has food poisoning and there is another snow storm coming in. I am going to set my poles up in the mud room and start teaching her the channel method. That will use her little brain. I'll practice with Sir Ike too - he is going through work withdrawal.

I will update later with how the pups do. The All Dogs trial in January will be Ike's first Level 2 CPE trial - so weaves! I think he should be fine as he really has got six down pat. I need to buy a second set desperately though!

Monday, December 24, 2007


I have had two more GS conversations this week with very knowledgeable people. The conversations were practically revelations, just so much information.

I am a 100% + convinced that GS is the right dog for me. I am really hopeful that there will be a puppy in 2008 that is the right dog for me.

One of the woman I spoke with used to live in Massachusetts and she gave me a tracking resource to check out! Very cool. I can't wait to get Ike's sniffer working, and maybe Carmen's. I think they will both enjoy it and it would help me get a grasp on the sport for the future-GS puppy.

And, the two people I spoke with this week do not crop ears and either won't be docking the tail this upcoming breeding or don't plan to in future breedings. This is a big deal when I think back to the FCI Agility World Championship; none of the U.S. MS could compete because of their docked tails and cropped ears. The AKC breed standard for MS requires a docked tail, but the GS standard doesn't!

I am finding this research and networking to be a completely different experience than when I started looking last year and was still thinking about going with another MS. There were some MS people who were open to speaking with me, but most suggested I visit the AMSC web page. Uh, hello....

Anyway, today begins the holiday festivities. Ike, John, and I will spend the eve with the in-laws and niece & nephew and then drive up to Reading to wake up at my mum's with my bro and Nellie-dog.

Happy Holidays to everyone!! And a happy holidays from all my critters, woof, tweet, and wheek!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No class for Carmen

Due to the funky weather Carmen did not have class for a second week. Eeek! So, I practiced attention and sitting on the left with her, and a bit of informal heeling, or LLW. She is a very quick study. So completely different than Ike. I am still trying to figure out how she is so different.

Ike is now at a point where he eagerly tries to figure out what I want, but Carmen after being neglected (training-wise) for 5 years is there in a couple of weeks of playing (training). She picked up sitting when I stop in about 2 seconds, literally.

The funniest part about these little practice sessions is that I am doing them in my in-law's finished porch (due to the weather, of course) which spans the back of their house. There are french glass doors from the main part of the house onto the porch. I lock myself out on the porch and practice while the other dogs are inside. Initially Ike screamed bloody murder, now he watches through the french doors with his little tail wagging. I practiced a bit with Ike after Carmen and she did the same thing, with a bit of woo-wooing added in.

Just realized the obvious reason Carmen is picking things up so much faster than Ike did. *I* have had more practice training. I have obviously honed my technique is some manner that makes things clearer - that and she is a different dog, of course.

Fun stuff. I am enjoying having to think with her. I am seriously thinking about doing a private with Katrin on heeling. I find the whole act somewhat mystifying, having never properly trained it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Carmie sees the Chiropractor

Carmen saw Dr. Anne (our doggie chiropractor) yesterday. She was a nervous wreck on the car ride down. I put Ike in his crate, because that is where he goes in the car, and she was loose. I don't know if she didn't realize Ike was there because he was in the crate, or what. She whined/sang to me the entire ride and hyper ventilated a little bit. Wow. I guess I don't realize what a good traveller Ike is!

We got to the Road To Health and had to wait about 15 minutes - everyone was running late because of traffic, etc. Ike just laid down in the waiting room and chilled - Carmen stood up on her hind legs and put her paws on my knee and worry-whined. Finally Robin, the receptionist suggested we go back to the big room so Carmen could worry in there instead!

Dr. Anne came in and we put Carmen up on the table. Her neck is a little out of whack and her there was/is a quarter-inch difference in her pelvis. The left side was a quarter-inch lower. Dr. Anne adjusted her, we already had a second appointment set up, and we were on our way. Short and sweet.

For the ride home I decided to leave Ike loose with Carmen and see if him being in the crate was part of the problem. They both laid down and napped, so I guess it helped to have Ike loose and not crated.

Which brings me to an interesting question - if I plan on trialing with Carmen (eventually, why not?!) would I be better off buying a large crate that the two of them can be in or a large crate for the car at least? Or just work on her adjusting? Not sure yet....

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fun with Jumps!

Hooray, as I say every week after agility. Tonight we had class with Katrin and the focus was on jumps (and easy one jump practice exercises). Katrin wants us to understand that teaching our dog correct jumping form, and that there is actually a variety of forms their body can be in while jumping, is important.

First exercise, which she illustrated with happy-boy Niche, is to have you dog take the jump from a sit quite close to the jump. The dog literally has to hop over the jump and lift their front legs higher than they would typically. Okay.

Step two of the exercise is to put your dog in a stay a bit a way and then release them to jump (with you right beside the jump). Be prepared to treat them immediately following the jump, so that they get used to landing close to a jump. I found it really interesting to watch Ike do this - he would land on his front to paws, only a few inches after the jump, and then bring his hind quarters into that same small space. Of course, he is a small dog. But really Niche wasn't doing it that differently.

Second exercise was to have your dog do figure eights, or weave, over one jump. This is to help practice splicing jumps. A couple of things. First, I couldn't figure out where the heck to put my body, so I was moving around a lot *helping* Ike know where to be and getting out of his way. Katrin pointed out I don't really need to do that for him anymore (and hullo, it is part of the problem in the first place - BABYSITTER!) and that he should be comfortable taking a jump and nearly landing on me.

So, take two of this exercise, I stood less than a foot away from the jump in the middle of the jump stanchions (? what is the right word ?) and had Ike jump figure eights around me.

I nearly forgot to mention something important! Katrin suggested moving the jumps up to 16" for the boy; we currently jump 12". As I have mentioned in other posts, when Ike and I first started working with Katrin he REALLY did not like jumping, in fact I don't think he liked agility much at all. He just liked me a lot so he tried. Now he hops over anything in his path with abandon and easily clears 16".

So, Katrin suggested there might come a time when I want him to jump 16" and it is worth practicing (ASCA, anyone?). She pointed out the one thing we need to be aware of is if he starts tacking another 4" inches onto his jumping form in order to jump the 16" jumps (thereby jumping 20"). With 12" jumps, that is essentially what he does and who knows if it is because he can or that is how he thinks he is supposed to take jumps. Katrin said if we run into that issue we can do lots of tires, which would limit his jump height and use the top of her tire over a jump (she has a displaceable tire) which would do the same thing but over a jump.

Back to the exercise....jumping 16" I was much more clearly able to see Ike collecting himself - it is definitely more of a physical challenge for him. I also noticed that he seemed hesitant to splice the jump heading towards me on his left. Hmmm...don't know if that means anything?

Then we moved onto a little distance work. Ike can confidently take obstacles that are up to 5 feet away from me, but obstacles between 5' and 12' he doesn't seem to see them and thinks he needs to return to me. This brought up an interesting distinction, the difference between a "go on" and a "get out." Katrin asked us the difference. Lets see if I get this right, I said a "go on" is when you want your dog to continue on to the next immediate obstacle until you call him off. A "get out" is when your dog is veering towards you/returning to you and you want to send them back out to the obstacle, but I don't think that is exactly right because you also use it when you want to send your dog further away from you.

The portion of the course we were working on went, jump, jump, curved tunnel, jump, wing jump. The tape started when the dog came out of the tunnel, so by the first jump you were 5 feet away, by the wing jump you are 12 feet away from your dog. I did remember to bring Ike's ball, but Katrin said NOT to use it as a lure (i.e. throwing it over the jump for him to chase, which by the way didn't work!). I moved too far ahead between the jump and wing jump and Ike was going around the wing jump to the ball I had thrown as an ineffective lure, but he *was* thinking. Katrin suggested instead of moving forward I should be moving vertically. If Ike was going to continue to reorient to me, by moving vertically it was more likely he would realize I wanted him to take the jump that was now more directly in front of me.

When we reversed the tape so that the distance challenge was on the opposite two jumps, I had gotten control of my body and was able to stop halfway between the two jumps and move vertically towards the jump in order to help Ike see where I wanted him to go (versus continuing to move forward which was causing him to go past the jump and look for what on earth I wanted him to get out to). We did this three times and by the second time I was able to get Ike to take the second jump by *helping* him out with the vertical movement. Good boy!

So, this is something we need to practice, The tough thing is the weather. The minimal distance we have (I think) is in part because after I got my jumps I practiced it a lot (that and Ike's increased confidence). This says, practice pays off, but my house isn't big enough to practice 12' distances! Suggestions? : )

Monday, December 17, 2007

Darnnit Katrin: Before There Was Atticus; The Story Of Maxwell Garrison Gillis

Oye, I am sitting at work CRYING after reading this incredibly moving post about Tom's first rescue Schnauzer, Maxwell Garrison Gillis.

Tom & Atticus Hike The Winter Whites For MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center: Before There Was Atticus; The Story Of Maxwell Garrison Gillis

I must be going to have an emotional day. I am wondering about my dog priorites and whether I don't really want another MS, whether I don't want to keep working with the breed, and .... ARGH! I am crazy.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The puppy decision

As many of you know, I have been planning for the past year+ to add another dog to my household. When I started looking (late-Fall 2006) I gave myself two years as I want it to happen before Ike gets too much more grumpy! Alas, it appears I am right on schedule. The estimated addition to the family will take place at the end of 2008. Drat! I was hoping for much earlier.

Originally I planned on getting another Miniature Schnauzer. For all of Ike's quirks I adore him and I thought it would be nice to continue working with the breed and represent "good" Miniature Schnauzers; they get kind of a bad rap.

As I did my research, it became apparent that there are only two breeders that breed for performance dogs.That doesn't seem like a lot. I became concerned that that is really too limited a gene pool and decided maybe I would think about another breed.

John has always had Miniature Schnauzers and I have predominantly had German Shepherds or Lab/Shepherd mutts (except for the 1st dog, a 13" Beagle named Angus and the last dog a BC/lab/Wolfhound mix named Cinder) I knew that with my future dog I would like to continue hiking with them, play agility, try herding, and possibly tracking. I need a dog that has as much "go" as I do. I asked Katrin what she would recommend for me if I wasn't going to get a MS. I really like Monty and would absolutely love a Welsh Cardigan Corgi, but DH wasn't too keen on that idea. A BIG concern is the fact that I have two cockatiels and they live between 15 and 20 years. I have at least another 15 years with them, so my next dog needs to have a controllable prey drive.

Katrin recommended a Border Collie and a wonderful rescue (Glen Highland Farm), because if I was getting a BC it would have to be older so as not to expose a BC puppy to Ike! After much discussion, John shot that down. He was somewhat interested in an Aussie, but really would like another MS. I really do NOT want another MS. Dilemma.

Thus began the research into other herding dogs. Katrin threw out Giant Schnauzer and I thought, hmmm.... I started to research and decided that if I got a Giant Schnauzer I would like to get a puppy, the breed standard says they are protective and I want my next dog to be socialized up the wazoo. I don't particularly want a Lab or Golden response to people (Oh my gods, people....I love people! Let me turn myself inside out for you!), but I don't ever want to go through what I went through and continue to go through with Ike's fear of people, again. In that sense, a GS could be perfect. They like people, but their people are the most important (from what I have read and heard from first hand experiences).

I posted on the Performance Schnauzer list that I was researching GSs and got a ton of responses from owners and breeders. Through Giant Schnauzer Club of America web site I discovered a breeder that sounded worth contacting, Skyline Giant Schnauzers.

After a little prep e-mail, I sent the following "What I am Looking for in a Puppy" list to my Performance Schnauzer list, Skyline Giant Schnauzers, Wildwood Giant Schnauzers, and Riesenrad Schnauzers. Uniformally, everyone thought a Giant Schnauzer could be a good fit for me.

I currently have a 5 year old Miniature Schnauzer named Ike. He has been an incredible learning experience as he had MANY fear issues. He is currently CGC and TDI certified, so needless to say we have worked hard at conquering our fear related issues!

Ike competes in agility but is much more of a couch potato than I am - he does agility for me but isn't very passionate about it. In my next dog I am looking for a dog that matches me better in terms of energy and desire to work.

I love agility and we currently compete in NADAC and CPE, the two more low-key venues which are a good match for Ike's personality. With my next dog I would like to continue to do agility, explore obedience, and herding. I am also willing to show conformation and interested in tracking. Ideally I will have a dog that likes to work and we can build a relationship together that helps us figure out where we should focus our talents/interests.

What am I looking for in a puppy:

Boldness/Inquisitive nature: Ike errs on the side of safety always - many of his decisions are based on his fears. I don't want a dog that always leaps before they think but I would like a dog that is more willing to take chances/try new things.

People-friendly: I do not want a dog that leaves me to great every single person. However, having had a dog with people related fear issues I would like a dog that thinks people are okay.

Wants to play/work, i.e. biddability!: Ike likes to play/work but some things I really have to "jolly" him along about. I know that with any dog there will be issues at some point when we have differing ideas about what to do, but in general I would like a dog that likes to work/play.

Energy: I would like a dog that has more energy than Ike. He is very low-key and laid back, never in a rush. GREAT for a companion dog, not so great for agility! My intent with my future dog is to continue playing agility and any other sports they are interested in or are appropriate for their breed. I would still like them to be capable of down time.

Prey Drive: I have small animals so I am concerned about prey drive. It would have to be a dog I can train to "leave it," i.e. their senses don't desert them when they see a small animal. Probably rules out all "real" terriers and spaniels.

Grooming: I groom Ike myself, so am aware of the commitment a GS presents.

Feeding: I currently feed Ike a raw diet and would like to continue to do so with my future dogs. I have read both Billinghurst and Lonsdale and continue to try and educate myself about emerging trends in food, vaccination, and supplementing.

I currently teach pet obedience at a local shelter (MSPCA) and with a private trainer (Katrin Andberg, Maplewood Animal Care & Training I am a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and am actively working towards sitting for the Council of Certified Pet Dog Trainers exam.

Thank you for taking the time to answer this. I am genuinely interested in your breed and hope to discover whether or not they would work with my lifestyle.


Julie Garland-Powers

Ike - Silvermist Icebreaker CGC TDI NAC, CL1-H, CL1-R

One of the people I am speaking with has a litter of GS puppies on the ground. She feels they will have a wonderful working temperament. Unfortunately right now is not the right time for us. HOWEVER, she will have another litter at the end of 2008, which might be perfect for us. This breeder feeds prey model and does minimum vaccinations! Most of her dogs are from Europe. I need to continue to research, but tentatively I am very excited. I am planning to go visit her and her current litter in January!! I have also stumbled across a really nice blog called K9-Crazy (Cat, you in particular might want to check this out!).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chiro, Carmen, Webb Anderson seminar

I took Ike to the chiropractor last night. He is looking good. I swear he has lost that half pound that I was obsessing over. Dr. Anne tested him and opted to leave him on the thyroid supplement and scheduled a follow-up (3 weeks). But physically he looked good.

It is interesting, Katrin thinks she has notices a difference in his way of being. I can't say for sure. On Tuesday he DID do a play bow pounce when I asked him if he was ready to run the closing. That playbow/pounce is what he does to me at home when we are playing agility. His comfort level is increasing for sure.

I practiced eye contact with Carmen last night (and class was canceled tonight due to the snow). She is doing well. Her tail wags constantly - she is so happy to be working for someone. I have an appointment with Dr. Anne for Carmen next week. We went ahead and scheduled her for a second appointment the same night Ike is having his follow-up. We decided to do this after I mentioned she hurt herself jumping on the couch last year so severely we had to make an ER vet visit (she wouldn't move - period - the vet said nothing was wrong) and she wouldn't jump for MONTHS. I am sure something is out of whack there, so I can't wait to hear what!

Finally, a member of the performance schnauzer list I belong to is the President of a local agility club that is hosting a seminar by Webb Anderson in February. Eeek! When I was determined to get another MS (last spring) I contacted him regarding breeders he would recommend (there are only two!). He is friends with Anna and a frequent World Team and National Team member. He has something silly like 5 MSs. His current dog Nigel (MACH4 Gala First Class Event, PD3 ) set the new World Record for the fastest Miniature Schnauzer in the Ultimate Weave Poll Challenge. Nigel completed 60 weave poles in 14.64 seconds. I CAN NOT even imagine.

ANYWAY, there were only 10 Novice working spaces available and I figured they would go to club members, but the gal on my list said - "No, e-mail the woman organizing it. I think you would get a lot out of a seminar with Webb." I did and I got a spot. Then I decided that even though I REALLY wanted the opportunity to train with someone who works with lots of schnauzers I really can not afford it. Ta-da the fairy dog mother visited! My MIL is giving me the seminar as a Christmas gift from her and the dogs! Hooray! I am a little afraid, but hooray!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The boy and his goat

Ike (the boy) tries to figure out how to eat a chunk of goat meat.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Last night Katrin's class focused on the game Gamblers (or Jackpot as it is known in CPE). Fun, fun, fun!

Because I am lazy, you can either visit Katrin's post for a description of the game Gamblers or scroll back and read this post about the trial at All Dogs Gym which explains Jackpot! Essentially, obstacles are worth a certain amount of points. Each level has to accrue a certain amount of points in the "opening." Novice must accrue 15 points in ASCA (NADAC no longer has Gamblers). Then the handler/dog team must complete the "closing" (a series of obstacles) with a distance challenge.

We started class by practicing the Closing sequence.

Yay for Ike and his MUCH more confident teeter performance. Woo-hoo. Our practicing this summer really paid off. He does not hesitate to take the teeter at a 4+ foot distance and in general he is doing the teeter a lot quicker. No more creeping up to the tip point. Yay!

The closing last night was jump, tunnel, teeter, jump. The distance challenge increased with each obstacle so that the final jump was at least 5 feet away (if not more?). Ike has a very funny thing he does - he thinks the tape is what he is jumping! He did this last year when we started practicing Chances. So strange! So I kept moving too far forward and then trying to get him to take the jump. To which Sir Ike would then repeatedly cross the tape. "Mum, I'm doing it. Isn't this what you want?"

Thinking about it last night at home what I should have done was gone and got his ball. If I was able to stop myself from moving and stayed near the base/end of the teeter I could have sent him to the jump after the ball, reinforcing what I want. Argh! Next time.

Then I ran the closing with Mr. Niche. Hah! I have a lot to get used to with a long strided dog. He took the dogwalk on me three times because that was the direction MY BODY was facing and I let him blow his contacts at least twice. Now I know why Katrin enforces a strict WAIT - otherwise you might just miss the entire contact area. Finally Katrin commented on my body position, I corrected it, and Niche gladly did jump, tunnel, teeter, jump. Fun stuff.

Then we did the Opening sequence. I completely forget what I had Ike do. Needless to say, I didn't REALLY have a plan. With NADAC because of the wide distances in the course, it is tough on a slow dog. I have learned in new situations to avoid the dog walk depending on Ike's mental state because he can be SLOW AS MOLASSES on it and eat up our precious seconds. I wanted to have him do the dog walk regardless for the practice regardless of the effect on our time.

Last night Ike accrued 26 points and I was super well positioned if we were actually going to complete the closing. I was right at the first jump. One thing that didn't come up last night is if you end the opening with the first obstacle of the closing in CPE you need to do that obstacle again. I assume it is the same with Gamblers?

Nancy (Remy's mum) had arrived and I asked her to hold Ike so I could run Niche. Very fun. He is so responsive. I was out of breath when I finished though. I am going to have to take up running for my next dog!

When I came back to get Ike he was sitting under the bench SHAKING. I am not clear why. I don't know if he was nervous about Nancy or about me running Niche. He was fine when I did the Closing sequence with Niche, I think. Katrin? I pretty much forced Ike to do the opening again just so he could shake the scaredy dog out of his system.

It is interesting, when Ike is scared he will still work for me, but is much slower. It makes sense. Of course, some dogs that were scared would start zooming or sniff and not work at all. So once more, yay Ike!

Carmie - 1st practice session

Today I worked on attention, sits, and shaping the down with Ms. Carmen. She picked up on the eye contact pretty quickly, which made me happy. Initially she was standing on her hind legs trying to figure out how to get those treats! Then she started consistently offering eye contact. Good girlie!!

She has a solid sit, but asking for it on my left side was throwing her for an absolute loop. She would pivot around me and sit in front of me. I was able to convince her she could sit on my left after a couple of tries. It will take a bit of work to make this automatic with her; she has spent 5.5 years sitting three feet in front of people and been rewarding like mad for it.

She is familiar with the lure for "down" so I have to be really careful not to just lure her and allow it to be shaped.

Carmen is so excited that someone wants to work with her; talk about bright eyes.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ike was doing a bizarre high-pitched bark of jealousy. Interesting. Perhaps Katrin is right about competition being good for him.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pics of my new trainee

Here are some pics of Ike & Carmen. I am trying desperately to download some funny pictures of Ike trying to figure out how to eat a chunk of goat. My camera is not cooperating. And hey, I might be the only one who thinks it is funny that he's a lazy (or confused) eater!!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A nice winter hike

Today I stole Carmen and asked John to come for a hike with us. I'll admit, I had an ulterior motive - Carmen and Ike together on a hike alone at this point can be pretty difficult. So I was hoping John would want to go. : ) That way we could bring both dogs and I could start conditioning Ms. Carmen.

Carmen is ideal prep for my puppy-to-be. She has minimal manners and has no idea that there is any reason she should be paying attention to a human on a walk. Hee, so real training in store! There is certainly a good dog waiting to get out in there.

We spent about 2 hours at Borderland and Carmen got progressively more attentive to me during the hike. Compared to Ike she is in AWFUL shape, so I will have to work on them both. At one point we were in a very large field and no one was near, John went about 25 yards away and called them to him, then sent them back to me. The last time they went back to John Ike took off to the right with Carmen tearing after him. She couldn't catch him. That has NEVER happened before - she is so much faster than him, but he's in better shape! Hooray!

Currently they are both sound asleep on the couch. Nothing like an exhausted dog. And I think Carmen might be even a better candidate than Ike for tracking - her nose rarely left the ground! Exciting! So even though DH has laid down the law and said no puppy until the end of 2008, I have a dog to work with and prepare me for my puppy. And as an added bonus Carmen reminds me of how far Ike has come and what a good boy he is.

On Course for Kids

Yesterday I ran my agility friends Mike & Michelle's dog Zeus in On Course for Kids. On Course for Kids is a team agility event for the purpose of creating a fun night for patients and their families while raising money for the Floating Hospital's Children’s Cancer Center Childlife program (Cycle for Life Fund) in Boston, MA.

Zeus is a 6.5 year old black lab. He has been a bit broken so hasn't been playing agility lately and jumped 8" last night. I admit to being unsure I should support running a broken dog!

It was a hoot to run him, he's fast and he jumps like a gazelle. Mike and Michelle have another lab named Stryder who is 2.5 years old. I love him! He is a big mush. The funny thing is that Michelle always refers to Stryder as the "bad" dog, but last night Zeus was being incorrigible all night long. Every time he saw a door he made a beeline for it, practically pulling me off my feet! For whatever reason, he did not want to be there last night. I am sure it is tough to run for someone you don't know!

Running Zeus makes me think about my future dog and how different they are sure to be from Ike. Occasionally when I think about the possibilities I get a knot in my stomach. It is so exciting to think about having a puppy I can work with from the ground up to be an agility dog. With Ike I didn't even know there were real people as into dog training as I currently am! So Ike had a *tough* puppyhood. Lots of love, no real expectations, and not allowed to think much for himself. Boo hiss, none of that in my next dog's future!

Thanks to Michele and Marlene for their donations to OCFK! Our team (Tahitian Mystery Black Dogs) came in second for points in the relay! Not sure how - apparently the purple toys were worth more points and we must have grabbed mostly purple!

OCFK raised a whopping 27,000. Hopefully we'll be able to do this again next year. Of course, someone will have to donate a child friendly dog to me!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Intro to Basic Manners

Last night I attended the "dry-run" intro class to the NEW Basic Manners at the shelter. Before the opportunity to assist Katrin with the ABC Foundation class on Thursday nights arose, I intended to try and stick it out at the shelter with Denise. Denise has been a terrific mentor to me.

The Foundation class opportunity was much too good to pass up, and I gave the shelter my notice. However, I told Denise I would be happy to be a test subject (with Carmen) until the ABC Foundation class begins, as she attempts to work out the kinks of teaching the new program. It is an 8 week class, I think Carmen and I will be available for 4 additional weeks.

For those of you who don't know Carmen, she is my in-law's 5 1/2 yo Miniature Schnauzer. She is Salt and Pepper with striking dark markings on her face. The breeder had kept her with the intention of showing her, but she grew a half-inch too tall and lacked the appropriate personality. Carmen is a little nastier than Ike and also somewhat fearful. She is the opposite of Ike in that she is more dog reactive than people reactive, in general. She's also SO much faster than Ike. She likes to run, just to run.

I thought using Carmen as a test subject at the shelter would be a great opportunity to brush up on her minimal obedience skills in prep for the ABC Foundation class (previously, she did basic manners at the Dedham-ARL and Agility-for-Fun at the Metro South MSPCA).

So, last night Denise did a rough run through what will be her introduction. The skills Carmen and I will work on this week for homework are: Attention, Sit, Shaping the down, and Come.

Denise demo'd how we are to train these behaviors and gave plenty of time to ask questions. We were sent home with two double-sided sheets. Gulp. I think if I were not an experienced dog person I would be incredibly overwhelmed.

Attention: Similar to how Katrin trains it, or as I call it, the "Be a Tree" method. Two treats in either hand making a "T" with your body. The second the dog stops paying attention to the treats and makes eye contact - click and treat. The shelter wants you to shape it, initially for any head movement towards you. We will see how tough Carmen thinks this is and take it from there.

Sit: Lure the sit - typical method. Do not use the cue until the dog is in the act of sitting. The shelter wants the dog to associate the "act of sitting" with the actual cue. Okay. The only difference is 3 out of every 4 sits you do with your dog should be on the left side in the "Finish" or "Place" position. This will be new for Carmen. It only took me a few days to teach Ike to sit on my left after years of sitting in front of me, I expect it will be the same for Ms. Carmen.

Down: Baby steps. Take the treat (when the dog is in the sit) and lower it beneath the dog's chin. Click and treat for dog looking down. Take the treat below their chin again and raise the criteria slightly and click and treat for down movement, etc. Okay. Carmen doesn't have a solid down so this will be more fun for us. I can really see how she takes to the concept of shaping. Her brain is definitely wired differently than Ike. I think she will offer more behaviors than he did when I first started asking him to think for himself.

Come: The shelter's new program is big on the "lifeline" as they call it - a 30-foot lead. Take your dog out in your backyard and let them have the length of the lead. Once they are involved in sniffing, etc., call their name and start running backward. As soon as the dog commits to running to you yell "come." Treat when they reach you. The new program's criteria for a "come" is a straight line to you, the handler, as fast as possible.

I think this will be a great experience for me and Carmen. However, considering that most of the shelter's students are only there because they are required to take a positive manners class by their adoption, I highly doubt it will be a positive experience for them! If I were not so dog savvy and into dogs, I think I would find this class overwhelming. I think it puts too much of pressure on the inexperienced owners and I don't think they are going to pick up the responsibility and run with it. Hopefully I will be wrong though!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My 1st Face-plant....swoon

Last night Ike and I had class with Katrin. Yippeee! It was freezing, and as I mentioned last post, Ike LOVES the cold. Silly dog. I love the heat!

Anyway, last week we worked on our perspective (the handlers) in dealing with courses, this week we worked on some foundation sequences for dogs. These common and important sequences are:
  1. A "jump chute," i.e. 5 jumps (in this instance) in a straight line at 20 foot spacing - a 120 foot run. The reason it is important to practice this is because it isn't exactly natural for a dog to run in a straight line; I have noticed this when dogs play. Katrin pointed out that in a lot of novice courses the course will end with a straight shot and a tunnel off to the side, for example, and people don't understand why their dog takes an off course. Well, it's because they haven't been taught to run in a straight line! Katrin set up ring barriers to create an actual chute.

    Ike was not freaked out by the jump chute at all. He ran his little tush off, until the third time we ran it, when I did a complete face plant into the sawdust. To illustrate how incredibly far Ike has come, he was not freaked out by me falling flat on my face AT ALL, he stuck his nose through the ring gate to make sure I was okay. Gods, that makes me laugh. Katrin was amazed that I made it this far without ever falling like that before. I was talking to John about it last night and, duh, the reason I never took a fall like that before is because Ike used to be SLOW AS MOLASSES! I have a very nice sawdust/clothing burn on my hip. Wah! But nothing broken, or ripped, and no freaked out dog. Thumbs up!

  2. The closed tunnel, commonly known as the chute. Ha-ha, one of Ike's FAVORITE obstacles! Apparently, for dogs that actually do the chute quickly, it is not uncommon for them to come out of the chute at an angle towards the handler (they can hear the voice but can't see anything). The dog coming out of the chute at an angle and the handler continuing to move in a straight line can cause a major collision. Katrin set up a tunnel immediately following the chute to try and teach the dog to continue to move in a straight line after the chute.

    The first attempt through the chute Ike said, uh - this isn't a tunnel. After that he was fine. Poor Ike, Katrin pointed out that I stomp my feet while he is in the chute and I don't do this at any other time. Hmm...I ran it again consciously trying to run nimbly with no stomping and Katrin said he was quicker. I think I must stomp my feet because I want Ike to know where I am....maybe? Stomping my feet, or attempting to sound like a herd of elephants was an unconscious action and I will try very hard NOT to do it in the future - especially if it makes/allows Ike move faster.

  3. Splicing jumps! Let's see if I get this correct. The jumps are angled, but the dog takes the most direct, straight route by jumping a straight line over the angled jumps. There must be a better way to describe this!

    Ike did this beautifully! I am so proud of him that he remembers this from the one time he has done it in the past - very cool! Also, I have been asking him for some "start-line stays" and he has no issue complying. Yay, Ike!

  4. Jump at a 90 degree angle to the teeter. Dog has forward momentum going but must make a sharp left or right turn in order to take the teeter.

    Again, hooray Ike - all our teeter work is paying off. Last night this was set up with the dog taking the tunnel, jump 90 degrees to the right, and teeter 90 degrees to the right. Ike handled this sequence really well. The final time we did this Katrin had me move out from the teeter a bit and not go past the mid-point. Ike was actually faster than usual. hmm!

A fun class. To check out the course drawing, visit Katrin's blog.

I REALLY feel like staying in Continuing On was the best thing I have ever done for Ike and ME. I agreed with Katrin that staying in Continuing On was the best decision for Ike, but I think it is better for me, too. I feel like I am learning so much - that everything is sticking much better than last year. Maybe it is because I understand the act of running a course with my dog better, so by focusing on these foundation pieces we have a really concrete understanding of them?

Last year I was going from Agility-for-Fun to training for competition and I guess I was more overwhelmed than I realized. Of course, thinking back I do recall being somewhat depressed after classes when it felt like maybe agility wasn't for us. Ah, my refrain for 2007 is, I can't believe how far we've come. And, I am such a dork, the exciting thing is we can keep growing.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Saturday Lesson with Erin.....BRRR!

Ike and I had a lesson with Erin S. yesterday morning. Brr!! Boy was it cold, and boy did Ike move. Guess it's "Calgary, here we come." Forget about my SAD if Ike moves faster! ; P

It was a VERY interesting lesson. Last lesson we had with Erin was the 2nd or third week of September, so about two months ago. Erin couldn't believe how much Ike has progressed in that time period. Yay for us! We started the lesson by walking the course she had set up and then running it.

Oh my gods, what a headache. AKC courses are SO non-intuitive to me. Last Saturday when Marlene and I were out in Springfield and I saw Harry run, I couldn't believe the way the course ended. Harry doing a wrap around a jump and going over another jump at maybe a 270 degree angle. UGH. Well, weren't there similar gross jumps combos set up in Erin's yard. So, it was a great lesson for me because it made me think outside of my current comfort zone.

One of the cool things about Erin is that she very firmly believes there is no right way to do things. For instance, there were three jump combinations in the course she had set up. A 180, a pinwheel, and an instance when you had to wrap a jump in order to take the next jump. For me, when I think about a pinwheel I think, have the dog move around you. Erin had me do a front cross after the second jump in the pinwheel. Because Ike has "motivation" issues, i.e. thinks slow is fun, Erin tries to make me think proactively about how I can make Ike move faster. Obviously this would be useful for anyone, but I think she stresses it with us because it is our main issue.

Erin had roofers working on her house, so I was double-y impressed with how well Ike performed/behaved. The course involved 12 weave poles, and Ike popped out at pole number 8 every time, in one direction. In the opposite direction he had no issue at all. Bizarre. I was joking around that he obviously needs glasses. I really need to get a second set of channel poles!

In general, this was a good lesson. Ike was really moving for me and it was obvious to Erin that he is enjoying agility more.