Friday, February 27, 2009

Will he Stay or Will he Go

Ah….moments of clarity – aren’t they grand?

Bug has been waiting at doors since he came to me in May with a door-bolting problem. He has gotten quite good about waiting in general.

Recently, we have been experiencing a bit of a start-line “huh? Stay? Wait? What do you want?,” which on the surface seemed nonsensical to me given the waiting game we play constantly.

I have been thinking about this A LOT. And practicing Stays in locations other than doorways.

I have decided that I have not given Mister Bug enough of “the responsibility.” My realization came during “waits” going INSIDE the house. I have to manage them versus leaving the house – which requires no management.

Then I realized….Bug hates his collar. We have a special cue that is ALWAYS reinforced with praise and a cookie for putting the collar on (Collar Up) and taking the collar off (Collar Down).

The first thing I do when we enter my mudroom (after our previously managed wait) is say “collar down” and treat for not being a spaz when I remove the collar. No wonder his “wait” going into the house isn’t the best – he’s eager to get in there, “collar down” and be treated for being such a good boy.

So, I changed the rules. Granted some of these rules should have been in effect since the beginning, but better late than never.

The biggest change I have made is I prolong our entrance, “wait,” and reward the Bug for a good “wait” with a small treat before releasing him. I do need to be careful. Sometime Bug doesn’t believe me when I say “Okay” (with eye contact of course) and I unintentionally use the bowling ball arm swing. I do not want that to become part of his release cue – or do I? I suppose it is harder to mistake a bowling ball arm swing than a verbal. Things to think about.

I am already seeing a big improvement. My boys love it when I make things a little less murky. We’ll see if it pays off in agility class.

Here is a short list of foundation behaviors I would REALLY like to pay more attention to and spiff up with the Bug in the next month, month-and-a-half:

Loose Leash Walking

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jack's Gift

As a thank you for letting me work with Carmen, I bought my FIL Jack a special frame and photo of Carmen at a trial last year and planned to give it to him for either his birthday or Father's Day.

The frame arrived last week - it is a laser etched frame from Rugpal North (they have lots of really nice dog sport designs). Once I saw the frame I knew there was no way I would be able to wait to give it to him.

The photo arrived yesterday and I gave it to him today! (He loved it.) Buying gifts early backfires sometimes!

Tues Nite Agility

Carmen and I had class last night. There were a few odd tires - not sure if the light was hitting it funny? Starting off the line she went around it 3 or 4 times and as we returned to the start line she took it each time!

Other than was a challenging course that required a lot of running - particularly if you prefer front crosses to rear crosses. We did complete one very solid rear cross which was a change in plan, but I will take it. There was no spinning and I was not the one doing all the work!

The course allowed for a fair amount of distance.While I wasn't working my dog from any more than 10' away at a given time (10' would be the extreme distance I *might* [hah!] have worked her from), I wasn't riding the jumps. So that is an improvement or rather it is progress, and again I will take it!

All-in-all it was a good class. Carmie is definitely finding weaves highly exciting/rewarding. Twice I pushed her with my shoulders off course into the weaves. I know this is something I will need to be careful about, but I am excited she is liking her weaves and choosing to do them! Now I just need to fade the final cages. The good news is that I do not think we are due any more snow for a bit. We can practice weaves outside in the cold, it is the snow that's tough.

We are headed up to Derry, NH Saturday to attend the Bo-Gee Agility Club CPE trial. It is at an indoor soccer place, and the footing is supposed to be very nice. To top it off it is only a bit over an hour drive. Hooray!!

The Boys Playing

Sunday, February 22, 2009

No Seminar, Hike, Dirty Dawg Wash

Yesterday I was planning on attending a seminar hosted by the agility club I belong to. Unfortunately my FIL has been in the hospital with a heart related condition since Wednesday night. The doctors feel they will be able to take care of everything, but it is scary.

After a lot of thought I decided that I was too distracted by what is going on to be really present at the seminar. I didn't feel it would be a good learning experience for Carmen or myself, and it wouldn't be fair to the trainer that travelled so far to work with us. It was a disappointing decision to make, but I think my time is better spent with my family at the moment.

The doctors originally tried to do a cardiac catheterization and angioplasty with my FIL. This was not successful as he has a slightly uncommon aneurysm in his heart. The drs need to do some paperwork to receive approval to use a special type of stent. He is only at risk when he exerts himself, so they sent him home yesterday and plan on doing the surgery as soon as the paperwork is approved this week.

With a cardiac catheterization and angioplasty the dye enters through the femoral artery in the groin area. Family pets can be a hazard. If a pet jumps up or onto the person they can loosen the incision and the patient could bleed out in a matter of moments. As a precaution Bug and Ike were not allowed over last night.

Since I felt badly the boys would be stuck alone all night I took them for a quick hike at the Bradley Estate. We were SO lucky - yesterday was beautiful and there wasn't a SOUL there!! Ridiculous! But good for us as it meant I felt comfortable having the boys completely off leash for the walk.

I decided to use this opportunity to practice Bug's recalls which are among the many skills I have neglected. Prior to taking his leash off - when he had already lost his mind to the various scents - I stopped and asked him to come. I highly rewarded with lots of small yummy treats. We did this three times before we reached the turn where I feel comfortable removing leashes. And off they went!

Bug is the best thing we ever did for Ike. Bug loosens Ike up and allows him to just be. It was awesome to watch them roaring ahead of me by more than 200 feet at times. In the past Ike would stay close to me, which is a good thing but is also an aspect of the uncertainty he generally felt. Bug gives him a lot of confidence.

Ike has a stellar recall, in fact he checks in so frequently it is hard to actually have an opportunity to recall him! However this is good for training Bug. I would call "Ike, Bug, COME...." and Ike would come roaring back. Bug definitely thought about ignoring me, but he came every single time and he had a big jackpot with lots of praise and cooing. Ike hopes Bug pretends to NEVER figure out the recall game. Then I would release them to tear off again.

We had a couple of hairy moments (in my mind) with two small ponds that were still iced over that Bug wanted to explore. Fortunately he was super responsive to a quick "uh-uh" and request to move on. I highly rewarded both times.

After the Bradley Estate I took the boys to the Dirty Dawg Wash. Bug hasn't had a bath since early January and with all the grit on the road and his brother peeing on him a bath was definitely needed! (They try to mark the same thing at the same time and invariably someone gets peed on; Ike is taller so it is usually Bug.)

Bug was excellent and I now have a sparkling corga-muffin and two very tired dogs. After all that I did not feel guilty about leaving them home alone while I spent time with my family.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Equipment Foundations #5

Last night we worked on Front and Rear Crosses, the A-frame, and the teeter.

I mentioned a few posts ago that Bug had a teeter fly-off. This happened during a lesson with Erin last Wednesday. The teeter at the training center tips later (I *think*) and he had so much momentum….when I ask him to “wait” he just kept going. It SUCKED!! I actually called Cheryl right then to see if she could see him that night, but no dice.

He got right back on it immediately, but ever since I’ve seen Eeyore ears (Katrin coined this phrase and it is so apt!) on the teeter. I am sad because I was sick and on cold medicine and I probably should have just cancelled the damn lesson. And he was liking the teeter a lot. Instead I now need to make the teeter fun and exciting again. Fortunately I HAVE a teeter at home, so it looks like it will be out all summer. Poor Bug.

I didn’t even bother blogging about the lesson because it really wasn’t good. Carmen seems to find this training center very high stress and while both she and Bug work well for me I am not sure I want her learning in that environment. I might wait until the weather changes for any more lessons with Erin.

Last night Bug was also funny about the A-frame. He was stressing. Katrin and I thought maybe it was because he was on leash. Bug hates leashes. However, it was raining last night and windy and the barn was noisy. Hmmm….

This morning on our walk we went around Old Shepherd’s Pond which has a bridge that is not a dam, but has water going through it? Not sure what those are called. Anyway, it was VERY noisy and Bug immediately started doing Eeyore ears and slowed WAY down. I tried to treat him and jolly him along, but he wouldn’t take treats and he crept along. It appears we will be visiting this bridge frequently with high value treats. Oh Buggie-boo.

I am not going to be too sad about it (or I will try not to be!). In general while Bug has displayed sensitivity to a variety of things he has gotten over these sensitivities with a little dedication and yummy treats. Now I just need to add a mental note that he is a bit sound sensitive and be sure to take that into consideration when training, etc.

Bug was super with the jump exercises. I think I have also figured out why he is breaking his stays. With Carmen, because when we started working agility she had NO training I kind of treat her like a baby. I make sure I treat her after I’ve asked her for a sit-stay, etc. With Bug, even though he has had no training and actually IS a baby, I have not been doing that. I think because he is so smart and picks up on things so quickly I assume he’s got it and don’t reinforce him enough. SUCH A BAD MUM. (assume = make an ass out of U and me.)

So, I realized this during class last night and started treating his sit-stays and down-stays and saw a definite improvement almost immediately. I need to be a good mum and highly reinforce my pooch!!

I also need to make working rear crosses and switch a priority this summer. I think ESPECIALLY with Bug I am going to want this skill. And as I have mentioned frequently, I am terrible at it! I definitely prefer front crosses, but with a fast herding dog I think rear crosses are going to come into play a lot more frequently. Even Ms. Carmen is fast enough that a rear cross would be preferable at times if we had a mutual understanding of the handling required.

So, while I am a bit sad about some of the things I discovered during last night’s lesson, I learned a lot and it was productive. A mixed bag, I guess. Lots of work to do!! I CANNOT wait for the weather to change so I can drag about my equipment and practice, practice, practice.

Eeyore Ears

These are Eeyore Ears. Bug does them when he is scared. I think he does them because he thinks he can make himself as small and flat as possible?

Regardless, we saw them last night. I saw them this morning on our a.m. walk. Bug was stressed at class last night and I now have a theory why. It was raining. This morning we walked over a small bridge that had quickly rushing water. Eeyore ears appeared. More later.....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tues. Nite Class + Chiro

More lazy blogging…it’s called being tired for no real good reason.

Tuesday night was Carmie’s class. I was complacent due to the mild weather and did not wear my long underwear. It got VERY cold once the sun was down. I thought I was going to turn into a icicle! Yikes. And poor Carmelita – I did not bring her mini-horse coat. We were both cold!

Worked a double-box exercise focusing on rear crosses. SUPER good for Ms. Carmen and I as we are terrible at rear crosses. I tried to sneak a FC in but Katrin caught me. She also caught ME crossing versus Carmen crossing! D’oh. I am not helping myself here.

In all I found the first half of the class to be excellent. I definitely have a clearer idea of what I want/need Carmen to be doing and when. However, making that happen is, as always, a challenge. The second half of the class was not so stellar … at all! Carmen said “I CANNOT turn to the right and allow you do do a RC – don’t you know?” Katrin took pity on us and did not make us repeat the exercise. PRACTICE is needed. Fortunately these are easy exercises to work on at home once the weather cooperates and the snow is gone.

Yesterday I took Ike and Bug to the chiropractor. Ike had a very minor tune-up. He is holding his alignments splendidly! Hooray. Bug had lost his pelvis and head. This is due to a teeter fly-off that happened last week when I was sick and should have been at home in bed. Ugh.

John and I thought his gait was off Saturday at the beach, but he was doing other things that he typically won’t do if he is out of alignment (like jump up on me). So, he was sending mixed signals. I do think his core strength is improving, and that is why. Since I thought he wasn’t in alignment we have NOT been doing ANY GOTB. Bug will see Cheryl again on Saturday at the Tracy Skelnor seminar.

I also need to increase the Bug’s food ration. I need to fatten him up for the April shows. I HATE-HATE-HATE to do it, but I know I must. Drat.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More Training

I worked with both boys this evening.

Bug worked on Sit-Stay and Down-Stay, as well as heel (Finish). I am pleased to say that now that he has the idea he isn't nearly as crooked as he was the first time I played around with Heel.

I am finding his Down to be fairly slow. I do not know if this is teenage rebellion, i.e. I'll do it at my pace thankyouverymuch or something else. Any suggestions on teaching a faster down?

In general Bug is clicking right along. He is a smart corgi.

Ike worked on his Down-Stays and Sit-Waits. We are making huge progress there. I also worked on Heel and "Right-Finish," which I am calling "around." That is coming along nicely.

I am also fooling around with shaping Ike's Front since it sucks so badly. Right now I have a dish towel folded in front of my feet. I have reinforced down and anything BUT sit with Ike so much that we are making VERY slow progress. When I first tried to get Ike to offer behaviors, any behavior, he would just sit. That is why sit hasn't been very highly reinforced and I am getting lots of downs and touching every sort of object. BUT, I did get a few fairly straight sits - MUCH straighter than I have been seeing. So maybe it isn't a terrible idea.

I am looking for input or games people might play with their dogs for snappy downs and Front behaviors. Now I am off to google!

More Nicknames

It has been called to my attention by both my husband and Holly that Honor should have been listed as one of Bug's names. It is true, I am sorry!

More Nicknames - John and I discovered something funny when we were doing this. Most of my older dogs had at least one or two nicknames - most of his older dogs had none. Very odd.

Angus, Beagle
1st birthday gift. He was meant to double as a hunting companion for my dad. However he was gun-shy!

Gus, Angus McTavish McDougal McDuff, Angey

Toby, German Shepherd
Was about 4 when I was born.


Max, German Shepherd
Rescued from the streets when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade - he was running loose and I saw him get hit by a truck. He broke his fore leg and his hip. He still had the stitches from his neutering. Vet suspected someone stole him to backyard breed and then dumped him when they realized he was neutered. He was white and gorgeous.

Maxwell House, Max-a-Million, Maxi-pad (neighborhood boys)

Sam, Lab/Shepherd mix
Picked her out as a puppy. Accidental backyard breeding. No clue if we even paid $$ for her.

Samantha, Sam Bass (he was a bank robber that met his fate in Round Rock, Tx where I grew up. His grave was in the graveyard behind my Nana's house), Sambo (my Nana not being very PC)

Cinder Block, Border Collie mix
Giant blue merle border collie mix. Wish they had those dna tests when she was still alive. My bro picked her out at a shelter in Salem, MA.

Cinder Block (her official name - after the lead singer of the band Tilt), Cinderella, Cinny, Cinny-binny, Cinder-binder-boo, Shit-eater

Nellie, Cocker Spaniel/Poodle mix
Rescued via Craigs List

Nells-Bells, Smellie Nellie, Nellie-Bellie, Nellzebub

And John's family dogs.....

Gretel, Miniature Schnauzer

Smokey, Miniature Schnauzer

Bonnie, Border Collie
rehome - John's family adopted her at 8 yo.


Molly, Miniature Schnauzer
Molly was PTS when we first started dating and I remember how heart broken John was. His family has lots of great Molly stories.

Keifa, Keifa Don Looney

Our Birds....

Larry, Cockatiel
Larry Joe, Larrita

DJ, Cockatiel
the Deej, Deejey

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Family Fun Day #1

Today John and I took the boys to the Ridgevale Beach in Chatham, Mass. John christened the day Family Fun Day in an interesting southern drawl - hopefully the first of many.

Bug had never been to the beach before. I guess it only makes sense that Admiral Pudgy Paws would adore the ocean! credit John P.

Bug had an amazing time. When he first saw the ocean he literally just stood and stared. It was so cool! Then he started chasing birds - he thought that might be the best fun ever! Ike was very happy to run between his bro, his dad, and me. The beach is high on the list of favorites for all of us.

On the ride down we tried to think up all the pet names we have for our furry friends per DoLittler's Valentine post on connecting with your pet. It was a lot of fun. I will not include dogs of the past here, although we had great time trying to remember their nicknames, too.

Ikey, Ikey P., the Ikenator, Señor Ikelsworth, Mister Ikelsworth, Señor Ike, Icky-Ike, the Ikester, the Ickster, the Schnauz, the boy, Monster #1, Ike the bastard, Ike-Ike-Ride-a-Bike, nosypants, Sniffy McGee, Scruffilufigus

Buggie, Bug-a-boo, Buggie-boo, Admiral Pudgy Paws, Buggie Smalls, the Notorious B.U.G., the Corgi, the Corga-muffin, Monster #2, Buglet, Buggie-wuggy

Carm, Carmie-Carmie-in-the-Army, Carmelized Onion, the Onion, Carmie, Carmine, the Big Ragu, Carmie-doodle, Carmen Caveman, the Nose Collector, wet beard, Carmalita, Bajukey, Pumpkin

Joe, José Luis, Josephina, Evil Joey, Joe-Joe, Joseph, Joey-Joey-Lookin'-Hoey, Joey the Bastard

Light Bulb Moments

This week I have the dreaded upper respiratory thing that is floating around. As a result Bug and I missed his class on Thursday.

Last night I decided to practice Ike's stays since his Rally debut is creeping up and I want to maybe enter him in some other upcoming Rally trials. His stays are progressing nicely (his fronts are still HORRENDOUS!). I think it is time to take them on the road and ask for a "stay" while I walk around him in more exciting locations.

I wanted to work with Bug on "stay" too. The past few weeks have proved to me that he needs more foundation obedience work, and I think he would LOVE Rally. He has such a little worker heart. Hooray!

At first every time I asked him to "wait" while he was in a "sit" he immediately went into a "down." I KNOW the reason this was happening is because I didn't really train "sit!" Hit me now, why don't you. We worked on "down" really hard for herding, but "sit?" Afterthought. So, we practiced lots of "sits" and got lots of salmon/venison jerky for being so smart. Yum!

Then I asked Bug for a "sit-stay." I saw him think about going into a "down" - his front dipped ever so slightly. Then he said, "Oh, sit-stay." I saw his brain piece it together and he held his "sit-stay." I LOVE moments like this. I do not care if they are really difficult situations a dog has figured out or really simple. It is just a beautiful thing to see them make a connection!

We also practiced some flip-finishes and by using Dawn's suggestion of a large step and having him come way behind me I was able to get him fairly straight. We did a little bit of heeling and I think Bug is going to ROCK. I need to get him into an obedience class or do some privates with him. I do not want to end up in the same situation I am with Ike. Bug naturally has that gorgeous look you full in the face - I will walk off a cliff for you heeling - and I do NOT want to ruin it. And I am sure I could!

It was just a brief training session, but Ike's progress and Bug's little light bulb moment (perhaps nightlight bulb moment?) were so gratifying!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Big Show for Schnauzers

A Miniature Schnauzer, Ch Earthsong Remedy For The Blues, placed 4th in the Terrier Group at Westminster (this is the first time that has happened in ages). Ch Galilee's Pure Of Spirit, a Giant Schnauzer won the Working Group. Woo-hoo! Go Schnauzers!

Tues. Night Class

Last night Carmen had class and - oh joy - there were discrimination issues and front crosses! Hooray! Discrimination issues continue to be a pesky problem for me and Carmen - although last night she nailed it. Front crosses it is all me - I am perpetually late. I think *I* need to start doing plyometrics so I can turn on the speed when needed!

Course started 10' tunnel, jump, teeter. I led out to the jump and Carmie broke her stay. Huh? What is going on? Carmie rarely breaks her stay. I didn't even say anything - just made a horrified face and brought her back. I think she broke because her sight was limited due to the tunnel? But not sure. She broke a second time later in the evening. It is odd, because her startline is typically very nice. Very nice teeter performance, curved red tunnel and a discrimination issue!

You needed to FC while your dog was in the red tunnel to be in the correct position to direct them to the green tunnel, not the A-Frame which was RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM. The first run Carmen stopped with her paws just in front of the A-Frame - said, "Oh you're over there?" and came to me. What a good girl. After that I tried to get my FC in sooner and give her more direction. Whether that helped or she was just pattern trained she handled it really well for the rest of her runs.

The A-frame was located at the back of the barn and sort of toward the corner. It was kind of a difficult angled ascent (off a jump). For Carmen I was concerned because I don't feel like the corners in the barn tend to have the best lighting, and the contact area (I don't believe Katrin's are painted anyway) was covered with sand so it appeared to be the same color as the floor. She handled it without an issue - no bone-jarring ascent, no blow-by (her typical stress response).

Then red tunnel, series of 5 jumps where you had the opportunity to add some distance, A-frame, red tunnel, jump, jump, jump, chute.

The distance issue is me. I need to trust my dog more. When I remember to give her distance and move consistently she handles it well. When I crowd her she handles that fine too. However, I would rather have her used to me giving her distance. Katrin had to ask me at one point why I was on top of the jumps and I had no good answer!

I would REALLY like to purchase a chute. Every single time we do the chute it is like it is the first time and Carmen commando crawls through it. Slowly. Given Carmie's sight and the unknown amount of time we have left doing agility, I feel like sticking with NADAC and CPE as our venues of choice is in our best interest. In terms of $$, the economy, the amount of runs you get on a daily basis, and the people. We have (IMO) a ridiculous amount of NADAC trials locally (20 minutes away). NADAC does not use the chute. You do occasionally see the chute in CPE (in two years I have seen it once, KOW). And while Bug has no issues with the chute, there is the possibility we will be doing AKC at some point and guess what you see a lot of?! The chute. So, I'd like to buy a chute, but I don't think it is the most pressing thing I need to purchase. See how I talked myself out of that purchase with logic?

I felt really good about class last night. It was also an absolute pleasure to watch our classmates run. Everyone and their dogs have come so far!!! It is really exciting to watch progress being made. That is definitely one of the benefits of being in class versus training alone or in privates. It also reminds you that if everyone else has made such tremendous progress you have probably made some too and just haven't noticed!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

While Cleaning the Piggie Habitat....

Note that the CWC is more excited about the g-pigs than the terrier!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

MSPCA to Close Three Centers

This includes the Metro South Shelter where I trained for many years and met some very good, life long friends. You can read about this tragedy in yesterday's Boston Globe.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Corgis Should Be Seen....and Herd

Penni inspired me to check out eBay for CWC stuff, and I could NOT pass up this magnet. Bug said Monty needed one too. So it was Buy It Now x 2.

Equipment Foundations #3

Last night Bug asked – “What does ‘Wait’ mean?” Repeatedly!

Although Bug is required to wait at all doors going in or out because he is a bolter, he pretends he does not understand the concept of “wait” in regards to agility.

Very interesting!

Last week he wasn’t great about his “waits.” This week he flat-out SUCKED! And he is asked to “wait” multiple times a day – which leads me to believe that although it could be a context thing (yeah right) it is Bug seeing what he can get away with. Oh that wily corgi!

So, both boys will be practicing stays for the foreseeable future.

Last night we went over a few sequences and introduced two new obstacles, the dogwalk and the poles.

We practiced jump, jump, table. Bug kept breaking his “wait” and when I would ask him to “wait” again he would “down.” He did this repeatedly through the night, so I am leaning toward a “down” for his start-line stay. He slides into a “down” much more naturally than a “sit.”

Then he would pop up on the table or lift his rump. Have to break out the table and practice that too.

Then we practiced the teeter. Buggie is doing great with the teeter. I ask him for a “sit,” but he doesn’t really commit although he does appear to put more of his weight on his rear. Will have to see how that evolves – if a “sit” is the most natural thing for him or something else.

We did Jump, teeter a few times. He is such a goof. I ask him to “wait” on the teeter and move out a step or two. Then I wait for him to make eye contact again before releasing him. First of all, as I said, his “wait” was terrible – he was pretending he didn’t know what it means. So I needed to keep reinforcing that, yes, I REALLY wanted him to wait. Then he would be in a “wait” and get distracted by the smells on the teeter or Sandy and Teddy (AS). It was pretty hysterical. I was doubled over laughing at him as I released him. Goober!

Next we worked weaves poles with cages. At first he blew by them, but it only took going through once before he said, “Oh yeah.” He was pretty confident which makes me happy. Eventually we did, jump, weaves poles, tunnel a few times and he did really well.

Dogwalk was the final obstacle we worked on and since Bug kept offering “downs” at the start-line I asked him for a “down” on the DW. It was VERY funny as he tried to figure out how to make his body do that on the incline. I asked Katrin if she thought I should really be asking for a “sit.” She basically said LET IT EVOLVE. Patience, Julie!!

So, we have a lot to work on in terms of “stay.” I would also like to formally work on “come,” which we have yet to do. I would like to teach both boys a whistle recall for hiking.

I am hoping to work on weaves poles with Carmie this weekend. If I do, I will also work with the Bug.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lesson & Chiro

Last night Carmie, Bug, and I split a lesson with Erin. Unfortunately even though I left work early traffic conspired to make us late! Drat!

The town where I live has had some downtown revitalization project going on for a while. They have added two stop lights in places there were stop signs before. As a pedestrian I so appreciate this. I cannot tell you the amount of times the boys and I have stood waiting patiently for some jerk in a car to recognize there is a pedestrian at the crosswalk.

As a driver attempting to get to a lesson with her dogs…not so much. There was also a gargantuan wake last night, so traffic was a disaster and we were about 15 minutes late for our lesson.

In the past we have only been able to snag a 3pm lesson slot. I thought the 5pm slot was an upgrade in terms of my work schedule. Well, let me tell you how loud and exciting the facility is at that hour! Carmen was PANTING with stress and Buggie thought it was a PARTY just for him. The good news?

Carmen was stressed but VERY willing and able to work with me. Yay, Carmie. My dh jokes that she has laser focus, and it is so true. The course last night involved 12 weaves, the dog walk, two tunnels and LOTS of jumping requiring many crosses and some wraps. In general Carmen and I both worked well together. There was one instance going into the tunnel where I needed to do a front cross that I had a terrible time with, but in general I feel like we did well together.

I have to admit that the din and being late made me a bit less consistent than I would like. I need to remember to center myself regardless of what is going on.

I let Erin know that Carmie was diagnosed with PRA just so she would be aware. Erin’s first dog ( An American Eskimo, I think) had PRA, so she understood completely. It is a shame because Carmie is really coming along so well, but we will just make the most of it.

In terms of weaves, I meant to bring my cages and forgot because I was running late. Erin and I mickey-moused two x-pens to act as cages for the first six poles (Carmie’s down to two). At first Carmie blew by the weaves (stress), but I was patient. I also realized that I was saying “weaves” and I mostly say “poles.” As soon as I changed to “poles,” in she went. She successfully weaved 10 poles and I took that – she hasn’t been practicing with 12 lately and we didn’t have enough cages. The fact that she weaved 10 was actually impressive to me. She was trying very hard.

I need to try VERY hard to be consistent with my cues. As Carmie’s sight degrades I need to give her the most complete info possible. That means I need to stick with ONE cue. Poles, it is.

Then Mister Bug had an opportunity to strut his stuff before Erin. I told Erin that we were taking Katrin’s Equipment Foundation class again and how excited I was with Bug. This was the first time she met Bug and she couldn’t believe he was the dog I described to her over the summer. Me either! I explained that we have only been doing three obstacle - maybe four obstacle sequences and that he hasn’t seen the dogwalk since the fall.

We started with tire, tunnel, jump, jump and Bug was pretty good when he wasn’t running off to investigate! He was VERY happy and excited about all the commotion, so we had a bit of a hard time keeping him focused on me. We worked on it and he was a very good boy.

Then we put him on the dog walk. The first time he creeped over it. The next time he ran his little heart out. At which point Erin suggested I better start working on him working away from me! Yay, I have a fast little doggie!

After class we met with Cheryl for adjustments. Both dogs held all their adjustments so they hopefully won’t see Cheryl again for about 6 weeks. Cheryl was super impressed that Bug’s back is in such good shape. So am I. This is AWESOME news. It quells my endless paranoia about his back and hip.

I was talking to Katrin last Thursday about the dramatic change in Buggie’s confidence. I do think that in addition to the chiropractic adjustments, some of it is that he has more muscle than he did when he came to me in May. At a minimum he walks just about one and a half hours daily. So, I feel like the fact that he has more muscles and endurance PLUS the confidence has helped his agility performance.

We are seeing Erin again next week and I hope both dogs will benefit from the distracting environment.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pink Eye and Training

Sunday I came home from classes and the Bug had a discharge coming from his left eye. Not weeping. Curdlike, etc. I won't bore you with the nasties. You can kind of see the redness and discharge in the sheepie pics.

Fortunately it hadn't progressed very far. Monday I read up on conjunctivitis in my Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. Then I read up on it in Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs. I selected the remedy based upon Bug's symptoms. Dr. Hamilton's book also has a suggestion for an eye wash, homeopathic drops, and supplements. I went to Whole Foods at lunch and picked up supplies.

Last night I gave Bug his remedy, flushed his eye with the eye wash, and gave him the eye drops. He was SO good about it.

This morning his eye looks tremendously better. It is amazing!!

Last night I also practiced GOTB with both boys. Ike worked on his sit and down stays. He has made some significant progress. Hooray. Now I just need to keep practicing and changing locations.

Buggie worked on the first steps of heel position and lots of GOTB. It is so cute how he hops right up on the ball.

Cardigan people. When first teaching heel position, do you bring your dog from your right side behind you? This is not how I taught it with Ike, but with Buggie's long back it seems like it would be easier. Thoughts?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Can a Bug Have Sheep?


A Bug CAN have sheep!

Corgis are just so stinkin' photogenic.
Even when they are making off with the sheepies!

Equipment Foundations # 2

Just a quick post on Buggie's last class - Equipment Foundations # 2.

This class we introduced the dogs to the chute and the pause table. We worked on the tire and teeter again and some small sequences.

Bug is having an absolute blast. He LOVES jumping. He LOVES the teeter. He LOVES the chute. He is just having a grand old time. Hooray!

I have decided that down will be his default for the table in case we ever venture into USDAA. I highly doubt we will, but at least it puts us a wee bit ahead of the game. We will be doing AKC at some point, so we have a 50/50 chance with the down on the table there.

No huge news, just a great class with a great dog. Yeah, I love the Bug!

DGS Seminar - Structure, Get on The Ball, Stretching, and Strengthening

Last Sunday I attended an all day seminar with Debbie Gross Saunders hosted by Act-Up Agility Club. First, all I can say is, if you have the opportunity - attend one of Debbie's seminars. She is an excellent presenter and if you are reading this blog you most likely have a performance dog. It is imperative we get to know what our dogs *should* feel like so we will know when something is off!

My primary reason for wanting to attend this seminar is my nearly 3 yo CWC Bug. Bug has one hip that is mildly dysplastic. He does not *display* and two separate vets have said they do not think it will inhibit him from doing performance sports as long as he is not a weekend warrior (i.e. properly conditioned) and kept lean. However, in my paranoia - I want to do everything I possibly can to make sure he is in the best position to lead a pain free life and play hard (or as hard as he wants to).

The first couple of hours of the seminar focused on structure and DGS made a very thought-provoking (and obvious) statement.

Our choice of sport for our dog is often arbitrary. We frequently do not take their structure into account in the sports we choose for them. To make her point she went around the training center and told various people what their job was going to be. I was going to play for the Bruins. Ha!

In terms of choosing a puppy. She said 8 weeks is when the structure will most closely resemble what you will eventually end up with. The pup that cannot sit still is NOT the performance pick – they are a dog that is not comfortable in their own body.

She talked about how structure can effect a dog’s performance and physical well being over time – i.e. if you ask a dog with poor shoulder layback to jump repetitively you are eventually going to see back problems. She suggested the best thing you can do is understand your dog’s physical weaknesses and plan for them.

This portion of the seminar gave me a MUCH clearer idea of the role structure plays in asking our dog to do performance sports. It also helped me see what is considered more ideal in terms of structure and problems that can arise due to poor structure.

There was a dog attending the seminar who has slipped hocks. Slipped hocks are a condition in which the tendons holding the hocks are extremely lax (basically the hocks are the equivalent of double-jointed). There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. DGS had her handler put her up on the table and showed us what slipped hocks look like. It was amazing - DGS put pressure on her hocks and they popped forward like a rubber band.

The second portion of the seminar focused on Get On The Ball. When I saw DGS in November she suggested this would be helpful for Bug. I bought an Pezzi EGG ball from her and borrowed a friend's DVD of Get on The Ball. I watched the DVD and found it to be VERY straight forward. However, I knew DGS was going to be doing a seminar for Act-Up and wanted to actually work through my introduction to GOTB with her.

What can I say, it was amazing. Not a single dog, even my wary-of-novel-stimuli CWC had any problems with the ball. Bug was not willing to jump up on the ball at the seminar (although he offered it at home that very same night), but he was comfortable enough to place his front feet on the ball and allow me to pick him up onto it. DGS suggests 5 - 10 minutes every day for two weeks before you will see a strength change or you begin adding any tricks (give paw, sit pretty) or extending the time spent on the Ball.

Initially you ask your dog to look left, look right, look up, look down all while they are standing on the ball (this is all done with plenty of treats) and you are GENTLY bouncing the ball. They can also be sitting, but due to the fact that standing is actually physically harder for them, reinforce standing highly if they offer it. She suggested NOT doing GOTB the day prior to class or a trial.

Even with my hairy dog I could feel his muscles working. For a dog that is dysplastic or has weak hips, DGS recommends that once they are comfortable on the ball you have the dog get into frog position on the ball - place your hand on the pelvis and bounce gently. She said this causes the inside hip muscle to flex which is very useful for dogs that have hip issues. This exercise should be done every other day, not on a daily basis. In terms of obedience, she said that asking a dog to sit on the ball will help with sloppy sits as it also causes the inside hip muscle to flex.

As an example she mentioned her 13 yo Lab who has HD. She has force-pressure plates in a portion of the floor of her facility so that she can see how much pressure a dog exerts on each limb. She said after a GOTB session her dysplastic Lab exerts 12% more pressure with his rear legs. This is pretty cool.

One thing that DGS stressed is that you really do want to spend the extra money on the Pezzi Egg ball. The reason is that the pilates balls you can purchase at Marshalls, Target or Wal-Mart are too small for most dogs to stand naturally on them. This causes their body to contort and work in an unnatural manner. She said they are probably fine for a Papillion or Chihuahua, but for anything larger a Pezzi Egg is recommended. She has also never heard of a Pezzi Egg breaking due to use.

After lunch we had a session on stretching. Debbie gave us a minimal stretching routine in the hopes that we might actually do it! Her suggestion is to plan for 15 - 20 minutes prior to a run.

  • 5 minute walk - to allow dog to loosen up and empty the bladder, etc.
  • 5 minutes of a fast walk interspersed with a slow jog
  • Stretching

The simple stretches she recommended become the cornerstone of our stretching routine are:

  • Front - Extend the shoulder slowly straight forward (think high-5). Hold this for 15 seconds. Switch sides. Do this three times on each side.
  • Rear - Extend hip straight back (using two hands - one near the knee and the other higher up near what would be the inner thigh). Hold this for 15 seconds. Switch sides. Do this three times on each side.

For dogs with hip issues add the "fire hydrant." In this stretch you lift the hip/leg up like a male dog marking. Hold this for 15 seconds. Switch sides. Do this three times on each side.

Her next suggestion was "dancing" - have your dog walk backwards on their hind legs. For long backed dogs she recommended having them back-up. Her personal cue is "beep, beep," which I love!

For cool down:

  • 5 minutes fast walk/jog
  • 5 minute walk
  • Same stretches mentioned above but hold them for 20-25 seconds.

She said obviously this is not always going to be possible but it is in our dog's best interest not to be shoved into a crate after a physical activity like running a course.

The next portion of the seminar was on Strengthening.

Tugging came up and DGS agreed it is excellent for building rear strength it must be done properly. NEVER tug higher than your dog's head as this can cause cervical soreness. Do not allow your dog to tug on their leash and be dragged along - this can also cause cervical soreness.

DGS feels every dog should do cross-training and every dog should have a break. As an example she pointed out that professional athletes have an off-season.

For strengthening DGS recommends plyometrics.

From Wikipedia:

Plyometrics is a type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements, and improve the functions of the nervous system, generally for the purpose of improving performance in a specific sport. Plyometric movements, in which a muscle is loaded and then contracted in rapid sequence, use the strength, elasticity and innervation of muscle and as it was supposed to be surrounding tissues to jump higher, run faster, throw farther, or hit harder, depending on the desired training goal. Plyometrics is used to increase the speed or force of muscular contractions, often with the goal of increasing the height of a jump or the speed of a punch or throw.

DGS suggested setting up 5 jumps at half-height with the dog's length (nose to tail) times two between each jump. Do this 5 times in a row, three times a week.

For power walking or hiking to build endurance DGS suggested a minimum of 30 minutes.

The flying dog is a favorite exercise of hers, too. You pick up a hind leg and the opposite front leg - just a few inches off the ground. Hold for a couple of minutes and alternate.

By the time the Strengthening session started both Bug and I were beat. I learned LOADS of things and got MUCH more out of the Structure session than I ever suspected I would. The boys and I have been doing Get On The Ball every night and they both LOVE it. It also really tuckers them out. I would be amazed by that but DGS did make us get on the ball prior to our dogs. She had us sit and use our core muscles to lift each leg and then try to lift both. And it was really hard - or I am very weak! ;-)


Yesterday Carmen, Bug, and I hit the road at 5 a.m. to attend the SCAT CPE Trial in Hamden, CT. SCAT put down new flooring at their training center in December/January of this year and this was the first agility trial on it. They used the crown rubber matting and I have to say my back did not hurt at the end of the day.

Crating was in a separate heated building. Access to the trial ring was very easy - a 30 ft walk across a parking area. I have to say I liked the set-up. The crating building wasn't "tight" at all. It was very roomy. There was a fair amount of down-time between classes due to the fact that it was one ring and completely full. I spent most of my time with the dogs in the crating building.

I have been burned with Ike. The indoor trials we've attended really over stimulated him. Typically the spectator seating and space between the trial ring if very tight. This is a big Ike no-no. So I brought Carmie in before her classes with enough time to run her about a bit and stretch her (Thanks, DGS) and then feed her some yummy treats. It worked out well. The fact that she is pretty unflappable helps too.

Our first class of the day was Fullhouse which is played just like the card game - except instead of cards you must acquire 3 jumps, 2 circles, and one contact/weaves/triple and enough points for your level. This was Carmen's first Level 3 class. Yay, Carmie! This was also Carmie's first trial running as a Vet and jumping 8". I had a specific plan in mind that would have three contacts and one triple, three circles - possibly 5 depending on time, and 5 jumps. Well Carmie totally ran amuck and we ended up taking equipment willy-nilly. But it worked out totally fine - we Q'd and placed first! Unbelievable.

Carmen did have a true terrier moment. There was a dogwalk/tunnel discrimination issue which has been very pesky for us. We have worked on it in class a lot and I thought in respect to my handling we had it nailed down. Rather than avoiding it I thought I would put to use my class work. I slowed my speed to a stop, turned my shoulders, yelled "Here-Dogwalk" and Carmen said "woo-hoo! Tunnel!!" I watched her hunker down and TEAR through the tunnel. This is an instance where I feel like I handled it correctly and Carmie REALLY wanted that tunnel. So obviously we need to proof this...a lot!! And the beauty of game classes is that we just needed to change our plan - which then involved running around like chickens with no heads taking equipment! Thankfully Carmie is fast.

Due to the fact that Standard was scheduled to be the second class of the day, I entered Carmie in Level 1 just to have something to break up the day. Level 2 Standard has weaves and we are still avoiding weaves. It was a pretty, flowing course and Carmie nailed it Q'ing and placing first.

Next class was Snooker. Jen LaPierre is the Snooker Queen - she creates very difficult Snooker courses. I have been to two trials where she was the judge (my first ever and the Hilltown Hounds Trial) and failed her Snooker courses in both instances. Fortunately Jen was not the judge for this trial.

I did a very nice across the ring lead out and Carmie said "Sure, whatever you want." Such a great girlie. I almost always do lead outs in class but I only do them about 50% to 75% of the time in a trial situation. I have to think about why that is - I think it must be ring nerves. Carmen and I were able to find some flow in the Snooker course and receive our first Level 2 Snooker Q and first place. Yay Carmie! We did take the A-Frame at an awkward angle in one instance and I feel like Carmie hit it kind of hard, so she will definitely be seeing Cheryl this week to make sure everything is copacetic.

Last class of the day for us was Level 2 Jumpers. The first two jumps to a tunnel created a beautiful line for Carmie, so I did a big lead out and released her. It was a very curvy course and for the most part I got my front crosses in very nicely. We did have a small bobble toward the end. The last tunnel in the course Carmie started to enter but I must have been still moving before she committed and she pulled out. I called her a "silly goose" and put her back in without a problem. I suspect this might be related to my continued movement but also, possibly, her eyes. It was a dark green curved tunnel and it was 5 p.m. so there was no more natural light. Regardless it was a small bobble and we continued to Qualify and place 2d.

Carmen was super yesterday. I am so proud of her. And Bug was a great companion dog - as always. SCAT put on a very nice trial with nice workers' raffles and a special last class worker raffle (you could win a 10' tunnel or a refund of your entry fees). I recognized many faces from other CPE and NADAC trials which is nice. I think I would definitely go trial there again.