Friday, January 30, 2009

Bad Blogger (that would be me)

Bug had another stellar class last night. I am in awe of the progress he has made. However, I am not going to blog about it tonight as I am packing the car for SCAT and then going to bed early. I swear I will be a good blogger and catch up soon!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Semi-Private and Carmie's Class

Monday Ike and I had another semi-private with Katrin. We worked on fronts and stays. Wow, all I can say is we have our work cut out for us.

Amazingly, Ike is not distressed about his terrible fronts or poor stay. Huh. And I know now just how much work we have to do! ;-) I say amazingly because in the past Ike would shut-down if he was "wrong" too often. Now he really doesn't worry about it much (although I still do!). This is huge progress.

It comes down to the fact that I really need to make time to practice both of these items. They will not get better alone (sniffle). Katrin had a good suggestion about Ike's stays. Currently the issue is that he is not comfortable with me walking around him while he is in a stay. Katrin recommended I start with a much wider diameter and slow work in over time. I think this will be successful and no one says I can not do that in the ring too! Sneaky handling, I know.

As to Fronts. Katrin recommended having a treat in both hands, with my hands hanging naturally. Treat out of whichever hand Ike is further from. This didn't work very well on Monday. I think because Ike is currently so food crazed. In the Pamela Dennison book she recommends a recall game where you toss a treat between your legs behind you to get your dog used to driving in a straight line to you. I think I will try this too.

Yesterday Carmen had class and she was full of beans! I guess she is enjoying the cold weather. It was a fast course and Carmen was really booking. She continues to nail weaves with two gates and actually allowed me to do a f/c while she was weaving without pulling out. yes! I need to work on fading the two cages at home, but due to the weather and scheduling I haven't really had time.

I wasn't quite as consistent about my speed last night and Carmie pulled off of jumps a couple of times. It is a reminder that I need to SLOW down and let her work away from me. The other thing I really need to practice are rear crosses. Now that Carmen is jumping 8" she is moving even faster - that means I need to get her comfortable with rear crosses. Otherwise we are going to end up with a collision due to a poor front cross! Or maybe I just need to take up running and get faster?

The teeter was in last night's course and Carmen has decided a sit is perfect for her - I am going to continue to reinforce this due to the benefit structurally. I am really pleased that she has chosen this position. All in all it was an excellent class. All the problems lie primarily with me!

Saturday Carmie, Bug, and I are headed down to Paws n Effect for the SCAT CPE trial. Carmie is entered in her first Level 3 class - Fullhouse. I am fairly certain I can avoid the weaves as this is a game class and I refuse to put Carmie in a situation where she is forced to flub the weaves.

I still need to post about the Debbie Gross Saunders seminar. It was super, but it is a lot of info to prcess!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Last Earthdog

Saturday was the last Earthdog class in this session. Carolyn started us off by having our dog drive into the liner. Carmie was a bit distracted at first. We built up to driving into a liner and right angle and then 8 liners with 3 right angles! Amazing.

Carmen was not initially committed to the eight liners. We moved the liners a wee bit apart – less than an inch and dropped food in between them. Once she started working she made it through. We discussed that although in general dogs have excellent night vision due to Carmen’s PRA we need to REALLY work up some confidence and drive for those liners. Carolyn told us about a friend’s Cairn who was afraid of the dark initially and has since BLOWN through the master level due to lots of time spent making the liners a place where good things happen (food and eventually RATS!).

We did a little bit of rat work. After which we worked on the dog driving into the liner with rats at the end. Big party! Food and rats. Rats and food! Hooray. While Carolyn was setting the liners up to have the dogs drive to the rats, Cassie started barking at the rats. Then Carmen started getting interested in whatever Cassie was barking at and started whining. Hopefully this will continue. It is hard to undo six years of "Quiet, Please!"

I am definitely planning on doing the next session. I just do not know if I am going to try and do both dogs or just Carmie.


Saturday’s Rally-O class went well. Especially since there were no stays! Phew! There was a sign which I cannot recall the name of – you do an about turn into your dog and pass them behind you back to heel position. Well, thank you Pamela S. Dennison and Click Your Way To Rally Obedience, I knew the mechanics of how to do this – practiced with Ike before our run and you know what? We nearly nailed it. He did really well! Hooray. Second run-through I withheld all treats except for the aforementioned station. Guess what? He did really well.

The other station we’ll need to practice is the moving down. I used sneaky handling to achieve this. The dog must be in down position when your two feet are together in halt position. I asked Ike for a down in mid-step and held my position until he committed - then brought my feet together. It was a good class. His fronts were much nicer for an Ike. It remains something I need to practice at home.

Right now things are a bit crazy which leads to not enough practice at home! Fortunately we have a half-hour with Katrin tonight and will hopefully have an opportunity to practice those annoying Fronts, Stays, and build on our heeling.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Admiral Pudgy Paws and his Bro

Yes....may I help you? Perhaps you'd like to give me a belly rub?
questions Admiral Pudgy Paws

The paws in question.

Um....sleeping? a groggy Sir Ikey P.

Any food about?

Belly Rub?

You are so easy.

The likelihood that you would see Ike
this close and comfortable with another dog less than a year ago?

Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy (or E.F class #1)

Yesterday was class number one of Equipment Foundations. The agenda – intro to wing jumps, work a pinwheel, tunnel with 90 degree turn, short tunnel-jump sequence (jump, 90-degree turn tunnel, jump), teeter, and tire.

Guess who came to PLAY? The Bug. He was AWESOME. Words cannot describe how excited I am about his confidence and the level of trust he now has in me. It makes my heart hurt!

This dog during the previous session was so uncomfortable and nervous about everything (including JUMP BARS BY THEMSELVES). Yesterday he OFFERED the teeter twice of his own volition – and “waited” correctly.

I told Katrin, I am a poster child for why taking the same class more than once is worth it. Thank you Ike! We do need to work on our stays, but I am so excited about the progress we’ve made. Hooray!

Can you tell I am on Corgi-Cloud 9?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Week in Review

Need I say this has been a crazy-busy week?

Sunday I broke out the Manners Minder (remote training device that looks sort of like a helmet) hoping to get the boys acclimated to it and start working on driving into the liner this week. Well, I went completely by the book, putting treats in the bowl prior to actually turning it on and using the dispenser mechanism, tone, etc.

Everyone was cool with eating treats out of it, but once I attempted to use the dispenser….ruh-roh.

Ike is TERRIFIED of it once you use the dispenser. I have rarely seen him so freaked out.

Bug ADORES it. In fact I think he thinks it might be the best thing ever – he sees me put it down on the floor and immediately offers a down.

I’ll have to see what Carmen thinks of it. Perhaps she can convince Ike it is not so terrible. That and continuing to build up to it – Treats happen here. See how great it is?!

Two things I realized:

1. Ike is MUCH more noise sensitive than I ever realized. I know he is afraid of thunder, gunshots, and fireworks. I didn’t realize noise in general freaks him out so much. Then Katrin commented on how he used to be a bit freaked out by the indoor, which is loud. Oh yeah.

2. Bug is getting BRAVER!! Usually he is wary of novel stimuli – not this time! Awesome!!

Monday Ike and I had a semi-private lesson with Katrin on heeling. Our classmates were Julie (human) and Glory (a lovely FCR).

I am so pleased to say that we appear to be making progress!! We are moving beyond a half step – and Ike is staying in line. We are up to two-and-a-half steps. Yes, we are slow (we’re dorks). First step is small until Ike gets up to speed – then we move into a more natural gait.

Ike has a major tendency to kick his tush out. As a result Katrin suggested I give up on having my hand in the classic “heel” position (at the waist). You are allowed to let your hand hang freely as long as it moves naturally. This works MUCH better for Ike.

I am very excited by the progress we made – I feel like the pieces are starting to come together. Next week I think we will be working on more heeling, stays, and front. I think our biggest issue for the upcoming trial (in March) will be our stays. At the moment they need a lot of work.

Tuesday Carmie and I had agility class, and given I had no sleep the night before (Ike – more later) we held it together fairly well. At one point I could not locate my treat bag (which was on my waist!). D’oh.

The theme of the class course was more or less 5 directions (Get out, Here, Go, Switch, Tight). Carmie ran really well for me and is starting to “get” weaves. Hooray! Although I know you do not want your dog offering to back-weave the fact that she is offering to weave….sigh. Just what I want - a dog that loves weaving!

I tried to be a bit quieter running Carmie last night (my inspiration - Katrin ran Niche and barely said a word). Katrin pointed out that due to her eyes I probably want to be giving her as much info as possible. That NOW is the time to be cementing our directionals, etc. That makes more than a lot of sense. So back to yelling! :-P

I am getting better about allowing her to move away from me and run her own course. I need to remember, even if she is moving well away from me that I need to keep my eye on her! She loves jumping 8” which is great.

This class has a couple of the people who started with agility at the same time as Carmie. It is amazing to see how far everyone has come.

Wednesday all three dogs had chiro appointments. Everyone’s adjustments held although Bug had lost his sacrum due to a slip on the ice. Cheryl said that losing one’s sacrum is the typical result of a slip like that for both people and dogs. Bug’s back continues to be tight, so I am thinking of talking to Mel Henkel about setting up an appointment for him. We are attending the Debbie Gross Saunders seminar this weekend hosted by Act-Up - maybe we will pick up some tips there, too. Cheryl said the tightness could be a result of the sacrum, but she felt it was tight two weeks ago, too. It could also be the way he bunny-hops through the deep snow! Regardless, I am so impressed that Bug’s adjustments are holding so well. This speaks to the fact that his core strength is improving.

The fact that Ike’s pelvis held after being sick again is also great news. That and the fact that his recovery from the really scary bout was incredibly quick and then this bout never escalated past soft stool is somewhat amazing. I know I am going the homeopathic route because I hope it will be effective but it is still pretty mind-blowing when it works.

Tonight Bug has his first Equipment Foundations class. We took this class a few sessions ago, but I want to repeat it to give Bug a firm foundation (and build his confidence!). Last week was supposed to be class # 1, but due to the extreme cold (Boston Mayor Menino issued a cold weather alert!) it was cancelled.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Earthdog x 2

Yesterday was Earthdog class and I brought Carmen and Ike! My in-laws were kind enough to take Carmen to class last week when I was at the show with Bug, and apparently Carmen worked quite nicely for my MIL Sue. They got up to two liners with a right angle (so three liners in total). Last week Liz, who owns a PRT Shelby also joined the class.

I decided to bring Ike because he has been expressing more interest than usual in my guinea pigs. We did have a bit of a terrier-stare fest at the beginning of the class. Carmen was off leash and she and Shelby started staring. As with all of these things, it happened in the blink of an eye that they were making all sorts of noise. Fortunately all it was-was noise. As Carolyn said, "These are terriers, people. Let's keep them on leash." I feel a bit like a jerk - the first week the dogs were off-leash the entire time so I wasn't thinking with more dogs (particularly TERRIERS) it is wise to err on the side of caution.

This week Carmen did liner-right angle, three liners, right angle-liner! And she did an awesome job. This is very close to what she would see in JE.

Ike just did one liner. He offered many other behaviors prior to figuring out I wanted him to go in the liner! And he had some trouble with the 90 degree liner. I think he is still a bit out of alignment. I plan on taking all three dogs to see Cheryl this Wednesday. I think Carmen is currently the only one who is completely sound.

Then we did some rat work. This consisted of one dog at a time spending time with the rats in their cage with Carolyn and the handler. All four dogs are interested in the rats but not barking crazy for them. Ike was standing at attention while every dog had their turn with the rats. Then when he got to be with them he would get up close, sniff them and take a scaredy dog step back. He did stand up on his hind legs trying to get a good whiff of them. Ultimately I can see him getting turned on to them before Carmen - which is unexpected.

The final thing we worked on was sending our dogs into a single liner. This is because at a trial you can not tap the liner, ect. You may give one command and THAT'S IT! We started with the dog close to the liner and then moved progressively further back. Ike had WAY more drive to do this than Carmen, which is interesting. Carmen didn't seem that interested. I could see working with the liner I made this summer and the Manners Minder to build both their drive.

Next week will be the fourth and final week of this course. I plan on bringing Ike as a drop-in again. There will be a week off and then the class will start up again. I think I will talk to Carolyn about whether I can sign Carmen up for it again. At the very least I will sign Ike up for it.

Rally Class

Yesterday Ike and I had Rally class and he was pretty super, IMO. Our heeling has improved tremendously - although Ike doesn't "get it" - that it is one behavior. We are getting there. At the moment the biggest thing we need to work on other than heeling, crooked fronts, and taking it SLOWER are Halt, Stay, Walk Around Your Dog and Halt, Down, Stay, Walk Around Your Dog.

The winter I spent teaching Ike to stay we worked on this a lot. That was about 3 or 4 years ago....and then we haven't worked on it since. Guess what, it shows! So we need to practice, a lot.

I am thinking about utilizing the Manners Minder for this. At first Jenny suggest playing a leave-it game using a target plate. Ike would be ALL over that - touching away! So, I am going to experiment and practice. This is an easy skill to brush up on and I will also work on it with Bug. The more I do Rally-O with Ike, the more I want to do it with Bug too!!

Oh, side note: Including my friend Marlene's dog Kody, there are three Golden Retrievers in this class. I have mentioned in the past that Ike has generalized about Goldens and does not think they are very nice. Well, joy - all these GR are great. Ike has decided he REALLY likes Nicky a young handsome Golden and started swinging his tush at him yesterday. This is the universal Schnauzer "I wanna play" greeting. Hooray!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hooray for class!

Last night the new agility session started at the barn. Considering it was in the low 20's (20°F = -6.6° C) I expected to be freezing, but it wasn't bad at all. In fact at one point I had to take my jacket off!

Due to Carmen's eyes I am officially running her as a veteran. She is going to be 7 in April. This means she will jump 8" in all venues.

Last night was the first time I have run her at 8" in class since January 08. She was GREAT!! At first I thought it was mostly because I was concentrating SO hard on being consistent in my speed and handling, but Katrin said she was jumping better and she was moving much faster. She said it's like she doesn't have to think anymore about jumping. Hooray! I think she missed class! There were multiple moments on course where I saw her really hunker down and dig in.

In addition I think I figured something out (!!!). Katrin had a discrimination issue set up – the tunnel and the dogwalk. Considering Carmie is in alignment I knew this would be hard for us – she loves those contacts.

In the second portion of the course, coming off a jump the dog was headed right to the tunnel, but you wanted them to take the dogwalk (after they had already been through the tunnel via a pinwheel). The first time I really pulled my shoulders but kept moving (and Carmie dug in and went SPEEDING through the tunnel).

Katrin pointed out that I kept moving and said "you need to stop your forward motion." Perhaps because I was focusing so much on maintaining a consistent speed, so I wasn't racing, this made sense to me and was actually possible. AND IT WORKED. Multiple times Carmen started for the tunnel and stopped and CHOOSE the dogwalk. My instructions/cues got through!! Amazing.

Carmen also had SUPER teeter performances. I really need to stop babysitting the teeter so much. I am nervous because it took her so long to get over the fly-off at Erin's. Last night she was racing up and sitting on the ride down!! I have not even intentionally taught that behavior (although it is what Katrin recommends, I have just used a wait in whatever position the dog prefers).

The second run-through I could tell Carmen was a bit tired, but she still worked very well for me. I am so pleased with her performance. I guess a month off was a well needed break. I do need to find time to do more conditioning with her – since she doesn't actually live with me she misses out on some of what the boys do.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

After You Get Your Puppy

Dog Star Daily Declares January Shelter Dog Prevention Month
Most shelter dogs were once perfectly normal puppies exhibiting typical, though often undesirable, puppy behavior.

With a knowledgeable owner, think of how many fewer pups would end up placed in a shelter for nuisance habits?!

For a limited time Dog Star Daily is offering After You Get your Puppy (*pdf) by Ian Dunbar for FREE download!

When I first started teaching Puppy-K classes at the shelter this is a book I often referred to. It contains all the info you need to start your pup off on the right paw. Thank you Agility Nerd for drawing attention to this.

Heeling, Nothing More Than Heeling

sing to the tune of Feelings by Morris Albert

Last night Ike and I had a half-hour private with Katrin. The two goals were to start working on putting heel on cue and if we had time our Fronts. We did not get to “Front.”

As I mentioned in a previous post Ike offers a series of behaviors and doesn’t really know what I am rewarding. This is bad training on my part. Also the fact that I really don’t “get” heeling. Katrin’s Competition Heeling class helped me immensely, but we still need LOADS of work.

Last night we decided to put the Finish/Set-Up on Heel cue as well as the first step forward. Ike was ga-ga for treats. This was pretty much the first time he has had real food in 10 days. He was trying to climb up my leg. And he discovered that Katrin has a visiting cat and tried to visit the kitty-litter-bar. But, pretty quickly he was willing to work.

I am at a point where I can begin to minimize my set-up/finish cue. Katrin feels like Ike has a decent grasp of what I want. We do need to work on him not sitting too far forward.

The actual act of heeling is going to require a lot of work. Although I have no intention of ever competing in Competitive Obedience with Ike, Katrin and I agreed that it makes sense to act/train like I do. In this way *I* will not need to be re-trained when I work with future dogs. This means I need to be stricter about my expectations and what I am willing to accept.

Part of the problem is I have a very large stride for a short person and I have small dogs! I am going to put tape down in my mud room – every 12”. In this manner I can hopefully train myself to take smaller steps (and move in a straighter line) which would make it much easier for Ike to heel with me.

Ike started to get stressed out at about 20-25 minutes. He wasn’t clear what was going on with the heeling forward – he actually started to move backwards. This is my fault as I was stressing and not verbally rewarding him as much as I could be. He was starting to think – “hey, I’m not sure this is fun. Mum is stressed and not laughing.” Initially he was doing quite well. I think it would benefit us both to continue with these privates. Ike likes the one on one time, a lot.

When we returned home Bug was ALL OVER Ike - loving him up. He misses his brother SO much when he’s not there.

Slow Down!

Eeek…I am getting carried away in my head with my goals for the dogs this year. I decided it would be helpful if I wrote them down. So what are my goals for the year?

Get his GI under control (#1 priority)
Enter the Rally ring – the MOST important part of this is *I* need to listen to Ike if he doesn’t enjoy it!
Put behaviors on cue (Heel, Finish, Front, etc)
Play Crate Games
Revisit Earthdog (ONLY if Carolyn offers another Intro to Earthdog class or we can do drop-ins with her)

Learn our weaves!! (and YES I have considered the 2 x 2 method – have from the beginning – but I don’t want to switch right now.)

Assuming weaving occurs:
NADAC Novice Versatility Award
CPE Level 3 Certificate (maybe CL4 too…)
Earthdog Intro to Quarry

And Bug – I have WAY too many goals for Bug. This is where the SLOW DOWN comes into play. He’s just a baby!! We have many years to play (knock on many pieces of wood – repeatedly).

My goals for Bug this year are:

Continue to build his confidence level!

Finish AKC Championship (need 3 pts)
Finish UKC Championship (need 70 pts including 3 competition wins)

Continue herding lessons – maybe be ready to trial next summer (2010)
Continue agility lessons – maybe be ready to do a class at a local trial in the fall
Start practicing Rally-O and Crate Games at home ( I ordered Crate Games today and a rally book by Pamela Dennison, who’s writing I REALLY like.)
Work on Get On The Ball and rear end awareness games – end goal better core strength and easier chiropractic maintenance

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Today I was talking to Katrin about Ike's sensitive feet - and the fact that he hates booties. She mentioned that she recently bought some Musher's Secret and maybe I should try it.

On the way home from class I stopped at Coolen's (my local pet supply shop) to pick up some guinea pig bedding. And guess what?! It just so happens that Coolen's carries the small size! I bought some and applied it to Ike's paws (and Bug's front paws). Ike just got back from a long walk - no paw lifting or other foot related issues. Hooray!


Ike had his first bout of being ill and being treated homeopathically. It was scary as all-get-out.

However, tentatively I have to say I feel optimistic. The vomiting that Ike experienced this bout is a symptom from the first time he was ill. From my reading:

.....A corollary to Hering's Law is that often an old symptom that has gone away, either on its own or through inappropriate (suppressive) treatment, may return when a curative reaction to a remedy occurs. This return of an old symptom is hailed as an excellent sign, as it means the vital force is able to shift the focus of disease back to the prior condition, which is typically less severe than the more recent malady....

- Don Hamilton, Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs, pg. 50

Additionally, Ike had some incredibly foul sulfur smelling gas, the like of which I hope to never smell again. When I asked Dr. F about it he suggested it was Ike's body's response to the remedy (detoxing). Considering it occurred while Ike was ill and receiving multiple doses of his remedy, this makes sense to me.

What has been the two most difficult things are my uncertainty and my *interpretation* of the lack of understanding from acquaintances. And what I mean by that is I am not sure that they are actually questioning my choices or that is how I am *hearing* it because I am a nervous wreck about my decision. So perhaps there is only one difficult thing - my uncertainty! and lack of being able to sufficiently explain the principles of homeopathic care to people.

Crate Games?

Does anyone who reads my blog have this DVD?

I am thinking of getting it after yesterday's show. Bug was super-silly (in a good way) about his crate. Darting into it, hanging out of it, ect. I am blessed to have two dogs now that really dig their crates in a show environment (Ike & Bug).

Considering my intention is to keep playing in different venues and everything I have heard about Crate Games - I think it might be a worthwhile investment for me.

Has anyone worked it personally?

Last year at the Tracy Skelnor seminar I attended her Border-Jack displayed some of his Crate Games skills. She spoke quite positively about it - and obviously based on her dog's behavior at the seminar I tend to view it in a positive light.

Thanks all.

Snow Schnauzers!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sleeping Giant UKC Show

Today I handled Bug at the Sleeping Giant Kennel Club UKC show. GULP!! During the first show (UKC does two shows a day, which is pretty sweet) before our class, I was doing lots of deep breathing and staring into space while he lolled about on his back not worried at all!!

Alas, we were the only dog in our class. (Note: the judge can withhold first place and I actually saw that happen today. I don't know if it happens frequently or not.) So we received first and went on to the Winners class with a Champion and Grand Champion. The Champion, a nice brindle name Dyson, won the class and placed in the Group class too!

Second show, exact same story! The nice thing about UKC is that we accumulated some points today towards Bug's Championship. In UKC you must have 100 points and 3 wins with competition. So we left this weekend with more experience and 30 points more than we started with.

I *think* I handled Bug okay. No real way to judge. There is a part of me that would like to ask someone to video tape it for me next time so I can see what exactly we look like (and know what to work on). In terms of negatives, once he was on the table I rushed a bit and didn't pay as much attention to the placement/adjustment of his rear feet as I wish I had. I need to really work on a Stand command (for herding too). We have started to, but it needs more finessing.

In terms of positives - I was very light on the lead! For some reason in handling class I hold his lead quite tight (uh, anxiety?). Kerry has remarked that when I relax he looks better. One of the things I *really* wanted to do this weekend was be light on the lead. So I am happy I was able to chill about that.

Things to think about - bring a lint brush next time! Remember it is subjective! And don't *worry* about it! That is where all my anxiety comes from - I have no control over the outcome. With agility I feel like I play a bigger role in the outcome.

All in all, once I relaxed I found UKC to be as relaxing as everyone kept telling me it would be! I would definitely like to try and finish Bug's UKC championship and plan on entering a couple of AKC shows prior to the outdoor season. Hopefully my nerves will not be nearly as bad. It will come as no surprise to anyone that Bug was cool as a cucumber! Even with me a bundle of nerves. He is definitely a grounded pup.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I need to remember to breathe. Tomorrow is my first attempt at handling (gulp!) outside of class. Bug is entered in a UKC show in Connecticut.

Wednesday all the dogs saw the chiro. I wanted to be sure Bug was in alignment for his “debut.” With Ike being so ill I knew for sure he was out-of-whack. Surprise – Bug was in alignment! This is GREAT news - his last appointment was more than a month ago. This means he is holding his adjustments really well given his long back. Both Carmen and Ike needed their pelvises and heads adjusted! Not that surprising given Ike’s illness and Carmie took a tumble.

Last night I took Bug to the Dirty Dawg Wash after-hours and he had the spa treatment. Hair clipped from between the pads of his feet, bath, and blow-dry. Roz, the owner, is super accommodating. I have talked with her in the past about scheduling to have the Bug in pre-show. She even gave me a pointer!

As I dry Bug’s back place a towel over his unruly bum hair. As I dry down his back keep sliding the towel further off. Basically the ends of the hair will be held down while drying. Usually I just try to blow that bum hair in the right direction, i.e. not UP (which sadly I have done). You experienced people out there probably know this trick, but it is a useful revelation for me.

Tonight John will help me do his nails and I will make special chicken liver treats from a recipe I got off the K9 Nutrition list.

AND the weather has decided to be nice to me – the snow isn’t expected to start until tomorrow evening. KNOCK ON WOOD!! Hooray!! This means Bug and I will make it home safely (dog gods willing) and the in-laws will be able to bring Carmie to Earthdog class tomorrow.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Response to Your Turn to Write

Susan Garrett recently posed a question to readers of her blog:

What (if anything), do you think separates you as a competitor in the sport of dog agility, from the best competitors in the world?

Knocking the money issue out of the picture (i.e. being able to train with whomever I want/could - whenever I want/could [and not have to work which would equal WAY more time to train!]), I would have to say I think that drive and ambition are what separate competitors in the sport of dog agility. Even with the money issue. I think the answer is drive and ambition …. in the human counterpart.

People often talk about their dog’s drive or lack of drive. However I think the “drive” in the human counterpart plays an equal if not MORE important part in team success. Yes, you rather need a dog that doesn’t mind the trial atmosphere and likes to work. However, the flip-side is you could have a world team worthy dog and have no desire to train them to that level. It’s obviously a lot of work (albeit fun work).

I never (EVER) thought of myself as a competitive individual. I started doing agility for fun and then realized that while it was still a lot of fun I was investing a lot of time and energy into becoming a better, more complete, and competent competitor. I enjoy the challenge of training behaviors and then trying to utilize them in a trial atmosphere, which is different than in class.

I just recently realized that I am a slightly high-drive human when it comes to agility, but not nearly high-drive enough to WANT to do the work to make world team. That may change some day, who can tell.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Ike has been sick again. I won't get into all the gory details. If you want to you can read all about them on Ike Homeopathically. He started Monday morning at 4 a.m.

John ended up staying home with him yesterday because he was still sick.

Bug is such a good brother to Ike. He knows when Ike isn't feeling good. Yesterday all Ike wanted was to be held. So Bug would lay at the feet of whoever was holding Ike; or lay at the other end of the couch, just to be close.

Sometimes when Ike is feeling well Bug will be a pest and try to get in his space. I swear he knows that it bugs Ike. Other times he is very respectful of Ike's space and waits patiently for the boy to be done with his luvin'.

Today Ike is feeling better. You can tell because Bug doesn't feel the need to be right on top of Ike. Bug is laying in the doorway between the two rooms that Ike and I are in. It is very sweet to know they care about each other so much. Bug is the best possible brother for Ike. We are all lucky he is a member of our family.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Bug had a herding lesson this morning and we worked ducks in the barn again. It was a great lesson.

Both Bug and I have a steep learning curve and we both saw improvements this week. Bug continues to worry less about the rake and I am getting better at not moving.

I realize that my consistency in motion issue stretches to herding. Bug and I both get so wound up and move TOO fast. So, I am going to try and be conscious of consistency in all aspects of my life.

I am slowly but surely *getting* the fact that I do not need to be on top of Bug with the rake. He is very sensitive to the rake, but even if he wasn't - I just don't need to try and micro-manage him like that. This could potentially have benefits in the agility arena!

Bug did a great job of getting around and bringing me ducks. At one point he actually got all four ducks out of the corner successfully (he wasn't able to do that last week). I did a great job of not moving, keeping the rake at his shoulder, and watching my stock versus my dog.

I think we are BOTH having fun and I can certainly see how it will just become MORE fun down the road. Herding is really hard, in a different way than agility or Rally. I said to Diane I was having a really difficult time with some of it. She said she thinks that not only is herding the most difficult sport to learn, but also very difficult to teach!

Earthdog # 1

Yesterday Carmie had her first Intro to Earthdog class at Dogs Learning Center in Hudson. It was great! The instructor Carolyn is excellent.

Carmie was a bit out of sorts at first. The facility is in an industrial center, so it is a large room with tall ceilings.

The first thing Carolyn did was talk about Earthdog in general and what we would be working on in the session. I feel like she covered a lot of information and I will do my best to give a coherent recap.

She also works for the MSPCA so one of the first things she talked about is her rats which are lovingly cared for by her 91 year old mum. She said that the rats don't love when the terriers are barking like crazy but in general they are pretty desensitized to them. She doesn't feel like it is fair to take a rat from a pet store who hasn't been exposed to ANYTHING and put them in a den.

We discussed how overwhelming the Intro to Quarry can be to a novice dog and handler and how the Intro to Earthdog classes will not supply the instinct but will help get the dogs acclimated to the liners and exposed to the idea of going in them. Especially with dogs like Carmen and Cassie, who are older, much of the "instinct" aspects of Earthdog (barking, digging) might have been trained out of them.

Carolyn likes to train by including the foundation of behaviors you will need if you make it to the Senior and Master level. For example, in the Master level two dogs are off leash in the woods. The dog that reaches the den first is allowed to work it and the other dog is tied up and must "honor" the other dogs work. This means they can not be SCREAMING the entire time. So it is good to be able to settle your dog.

In the senior level there is a recall portion and Carolyn teaches her recall with a whistle. In training the recall, the whistle ALWAYS equals rats. So in a trial when your dog hears the whistle they know even though they are leaving the rats to come to you - they are going to be rewarded with rats.

She recommends using the same premise to teach your dog to be picked up out of the den. Once the dog has reached the rats and worked them for the required amount of time (working equals barking and digging) the handler needs to be able to pick them up. A dog that excited needs to know they will be rewarded with something equally exciting - so in practice the best reward is to sniff bark at rats. 99 % of the time when your dog comes to the whistle or allows themselves to be picked up out of the den they are rewarded with exactly what they want - rats.

To introduce Carmen and Cassie to the liners Carolyn had us turn a straight liner over and click-treat our dogs for moving through them. This is when I realized how much work Carmen would be doing. The liner reached mid shoulder - she really has to crawl through those liners!

Once the dogs were easily trotting through the upside down liner we turned them right side up and worked on shaping the dogs through the liner. This also went fairly quickly. I am using "Get'Em" as the liner command.

Then we worked on the corner tunnel. There is a normal straight entrance that "appears" to dead-end, but really the dog needs to make a 90 degree turn. To teach the corner tunnel Carolyn had us start at the capped end so that our dog would feel confident there was a "light at the end of the tunnel." See my diagram below - the red line is Carmie's initial path-of-travel.

It was REALLY interesting to watch Carmen attempt to figure out how to physically make the turn - she did and was very successful at navigating both directions. Now we moved on adding the straight tunnel to the mix with a few inches between both tunnels so the dogs wouldn't feel too hemmed in.

Carmie thought it made more sense to squeeze out between them, so I continued working on having her enter the corner tunnel.

We ended with getting Cassie (Silky Terrier) used to being in the final portion of the tunnel where the rats are. Carmie's brain was already toast so we just had her watch and gave her delicious treats near the rats.

Due to the UKC show next weekend I will not be at class, but I got so much out of it I really wanted Carmen to go without me. My in-laws offered to take her. Hooray!! Hopefully they will give me a very in-depth update.

Carolyn said that both Cassie and Carmen did really well. She said she has done this course before and sometimes the entire first class is spent trying to shape the dog into entering the straight tunnel.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Rally-O # 4

Today was the last class in Ike's 4 week Rally-O session. What can I say, he loves it. And I genuinely like it, so it is a win-win situation.

Jenny called me out today on not naming actions/behaviors. I asked Ike to front (with my body language - not words) and when he actually ended up doing it somewhat nicely she commented that I need to name things! It is SO true.

I noticed two things in class today related to Ike's fronts.

Outside the ring near the crating and seating he was actually doing very nice fronts. I commented to Marlene that I felt like the homeopathic remedy was perhaps helping him be more balanced (1st thing).

Then we went in the ring and his front was TERRIBLE. The reason why is that I was RUSHING (2nd) it!! I realized this in the second run-thru. I did a re-do at the station and my re-do was MUCH worse than the original.

It appears my search for consistency in motion continues. I am glad I am realizing it now and not later!

Jenny also suggested when I ask Ike for a "down" to treat him for the down if I want, but once I am standing up straight again and about to release him - treat him for waiting. Since Ike tends to think "down" means offer the down and then pop-up this is good advice for us. Of course, we need to PRACTICE more! :-)

Ike also did a VERY nice offset Figure Eight. His "heeling" is getting a lot better, but I am holding it back. With my aversion to naming things I have not given "heel" a formal name yet. It is not a combination of specific behaviors with a specific name for Ike. It is some combination behaviors that just sort of happen. I am going to work on this with Katrin in the semi-privates I am taking.

It appears to be a little hang-up I have, this naming things. I think it might be a result of ruining "go." So my tongue-in-cheek New Year's resolution is to name behaviors! and figure out how to get Ike in a Rally-O class consistently (so I can keep working on my consistency in motion).

Action Squirrel Shots

Friday, January 2, 2009


I will take quiet. No sick doggies, knock on wood.

Schnauzers were groomed yesterday, Bug was groomed last weekend. Rally-O (last class ~sniffle~) and Intro to Earthdog tomorrow. Yes, you read correctly. I have signed Carmie up for a 4 week intro class that a member of the Greater Boston Area Earthdog Club teaches.

Bug has a herding lesson Sunday and then it is back to work for me.

Next weekend we will miss Earthdog for Bug's UKC debut. Eeeekk!!

I have already arranged to bathe him at the Dirty Dawg on Thursday night. I think this will give his fur time to relax.


I would like to share Bug's new favorite toy (and he has quite a few favorites, let me tell you!) - it is the Hide-A-Squirrel (sz M).

This poor fella is already missing an ear!

Bug loves each of the individual squirrels and the trunk! As many times as I put the squirrels in, he works on getting them out. My favorite is when I look over and he has his entire head in the trunk trying to get the last squirrel out. Now I need to work on getting an action shot!