Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Schnauze

Who knew it had so many colors?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beyond Basics #7

Tuesday night Bug graduated from Beyond Basics.

We practiced our stays, loose leash walking, and recalls. All-in-all I think Bug and I got a ton out of this class. Canine Mastery has a class that takes place outdoors at shopping centers and various locations. I forget what the name of it is, but I think I will put my name on the list for when they it next (they do not schedule it until they have at least six participants). I think that would be a fun class to do with Bug.

Seven Groups

About a week and a half ago Amanda at ManyMuddyPaws did a post on the CKC/AKC seven groups.


Group 1- Sporting
Group 2- Hound
Group 3- Working
Group 4- Terriers
Group 5- Toys
Group 6- Non Sporting
Group 7- Herding

Recently both Katrin and Cat answered the question on their blogs and it reminded me I intended to post on it, too. I forgot all about it.

So here goes:

Group 1 - Sporting: I am actually not crazy about any of the breeds in the Sporting Group. If I had to choose I would say Novia Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Primarily because I like the slightly more petite build, compared to some of the other dogs in the Sporting Group, and I know a breeder in MA who I would definitely consider getting a dog from.

Group 2 – Hound: Long-haired Dachshund. I have met quite a few that do Earthdog and like their tenacity. I would worry a lot about IVDD, but that is a possibility with Cardis too. Given they are hounds there would also be the challenge of their noses – hopefully tracking would give them a good outlet for that.

Group 3 – Working: Portuguese Water Dog. I have always liked them and after going down to CT with Katrin to check out a local breeder, I really like them! Only downside would be that it is another dog with a coat that requires serious grooming, but I could try water sports!

Group 4 – Terrier: Welsh Terrier! I have met too many recently with super work ethic to say no to this compact terrier. JRT is a close second.

Group 5 – Toy: Not much calls to me from this group. If I had to choose I would say Havanese. The Havanese I have met seem to have a pretty even temperament, are cute, and seem fairly biddable.

Group 6 – Non-Sporting: Having spent some time with Kerry’s French BulldogsOMG, what a lovey little dog. If I were looking for purely a pet I would certainly pick French Bulldog.

Group 7 – Herding: I would like to have an Australian Cattle Dog at some point. I love their structure and tail and they just seem fierce. I think they would be a very challenging dog to own and work with. However, I think an Aussie would be a better fit with my husband!

Anyone want to play?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Busy Winter for the Bug

It is shaping up to be a busy winter for the Bug.

I just signed Bug up for two seminars - one on Nosework in January and another on Teeter Troubleshooting (based on Susan Garrett's Say Yes! framework) in February. Act-Up is also having Tracy Skelnor and Debi Hutchinson out in January and February. Woo-hoo. We will be busy absorbing as much info as possible!

More on Nosework.....

Apparently the East Coast has its first certified Nosework instructor in residence and he is giving two seminars at Masterpeace - one in December and one in January. Here's the blurb from Masterpeace:

What is Nosework? In this sport, dogs indicate the location of a "target" scent by using their natural sense of smell. This seminar will focus on teaching you how to encourage and develop your dog's natural scenting abilities by using their desire to hunt, and their love of toys, food and exercise. Your dog will have fun, build confidence and burn lots of mental and physical energy.

I know Whole Dog Journal did an article on it in August, but I didn't know there were any trainers out our way. I am really excited. I would love to do this with Ike, but given he stresses in a seminar situation I think I will do it with Bug.

It is always nice to have things to look forward to!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Odd Ike Rally-O

Ike and I had Rally-O tonight. He was a bit off. He worked the stations well, but was easily distracted by crumbs, signs, cones, and the broad jump. I also found him to be more reactive prior to our run-through.

The second run-through Ike stopped mid-course because Amy's human father came to pick her up and Ike heard his voice. Eeek!

What is interesting is I left him in the car until after we had walked. I used to bring him in without issue, but lately he has begun barking in his crate during the walk through. This is a new behavior for Ike and I am not sure what is prompting it. Currently I am going on the assumption that it is stress related. I suppose it could also be demand barking? Either way, until I have time to deal with it properly I do not want him reinforcing himself by barking rudely. So, I left him in the car. I am not sure if leaving him in the car contributed to his increased reactivity or not.

I am still not 100% and forgot to write down the course. In part this was because I wanted to give Ike my undivided attention - he seemed like he needed it.

The positives - our down, walk around dog was GREAT as was our About Left Turn!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rally Practice

Bug has gone to watch the Pats with John at a friend's house. So I practiced Rally with Ike in the front yard. I got some of the behaviors I witnessed at our one-and-only Rally Trial - he was slower to respond and watching to make sure no terrorists creeped up on us. However, in general I was heartened. He had no problem with down-stay-walk around your dog or halt-stay-walk around your dog. I did notice his halts were a bit off, but his fronts were very nice. And he was VERY happy to be playing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Beyond Basics #6

Tuesday night Bug and I had our 6th Beyond Basics class. I thought it was our last - however, I forgot this is a seven week session. Woo-hoo! One more class to go.

We worked a lot on stays and recalls with distractions and off-leash walking solo and with another dog.

The first stay/recall exercise we worked on, we all lined up along the long side of the wall. Handlers put their dogs in a stay and then one at a time the handler walked to the opposite side of the room and called their dog. Bug self-released the first time and made a bee-line for me. I am happy he made a bee-line for me and none of the dogs - especially considering we were in close proximity!

I put him back in his preferred position (down) and walked across the room. He waited - patiently - to be released. GOOD BOY.

Next exercise we worked on loose-leash walking. Once our dog was totally connected with us Joyce had us drop the leash. I obviously underestimate both myself and Bug. This is our weak point, BUT I work hard to keep him engaged and he stays engaged! Last night was more challenging because Buster, the intact dog Bug is not fond of, was there.

I started the class out on the right foot though. Buster entered, and I c/t for Bug looking at Buster. Bug thought that was great."Cool. I get cookies for looking at him and not reacting? Sweet!"

Next exercise was loose-leash walking with another dog also loose-leash walking. Then, if we had a nice connection with our dogs, dropping the leashes. Joyce paired us with Tagget (who Bug and I love and is a b-o-u-n-c-y, happy shepherd boy). I was beyond impressed that both dogs stayed with their respective handlers. Tagget's mum does a very good job with him. Actually all the owners do a great job with their dogs.

The final exercise of the night was loose-leash walking around and over a distraction. I used a sample package of Zuke's that had been opened. I let Bug sniff it and then put it down and proceeded to walk around it. Bug thought something was afoot and NEVER once looked at the distraction. To be honest, I think this stressed him out a little bit!

One class left. Boo!! I just found out there is a class after this called Above and Beyond. I am tempted to put Bug in it - I am having such a good time.

No Rally-O this week. We had class, but I skipped it to stay home and sleep. I was WAY too pooped after the trial this weekend.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Act-Up Trial

I am back from the trial. Today due to the inclement weather we had more scratches than I think I have ever seen at a trial! I was on the road for home, after staying to help break-down, by 3:30. That must be some sort of record.

Yesterday the weather ended up being really nice. Cold, but no rain. Carmie ran in her first Open Jumpers class and Q'd. She had a nice run. I think she was about a second under course time. Open is a lot tighter for her and the sun was actually out and bright when she ran.

Bug did not Q in Novice Jumpers. He had a tougher time of it. The judge was trying to beat the weather and during Jumpers asked that each dog be on the line as soon as the previous dog left the line. Katrin's Monty ran before us and all Bug could think about was playing with Monty. I think this would have been the case irregardless of the dog ahead of us. For his boy brain it was just too much.

I waited until I had eye contact, took his slip lead off, and he turned around to see if he could exit and play with Monty! Oops. I got him back and off we went. He handled up until the serpentine really nicely, then thought perhaps he needed to visit the judge. I was able to get him back pretty quickly. He then went around a jump, but once again I was able to get him back (without back-jumping) and complete the course.

Amazingly, Bug ran clean and was only over course time by .94 of a second. Wow.

I then left at noon to attend my workshop on Animal Communication. When I arrived I was told the class was cancelled due to low-enrollment. I was really frustrated - not only was I looking forward to the class, but I had paid to run Carmen in Regular and ended up missing the runs to attend the workshop. The woman had my e-mail and could have alerted me to the fact that she wouldn't be holding the class. They refunded my money and I have already enrolled in another seminar and will just attend that one.

We headed back to Wrentham and I ran both dogs in Tunnelers. It was a very nice, flowing course and both dogs Q'd and took first in their height/class (Open and Novice). The really funny thing is that the dogs had the EXACT same course time. This leads me to believe that the course time is actually MY time and the dogs base their speed off of me. What are the chances that they would have the EXACT same course time? This Q also finished Bug's Novice Tunneler title. Yay, Buggie. This is his first title!! And it was Carmie's second Open Q.

Today , as I said earlier, was not such a nice day. It rained non-stop all day and just got colder as we got along.

Carmie's Jumpers run was WILD. She was really booking and had three off courses into the tunnel. However, the joy was just too priceless. I could NEVER be upset with a dog when they are having that much fun. Well, I couldn't be upset anyway - that's the wrong word. Anyway, she had a blast.

I opted to run Bug because it was not raining that hard yet and the traction was good. He had a LOVELY run. There was another serpentine and he handled it really well - quite tight - I was very impressed. Q/1. Yay, Bug!

I ran Carmen in Regular 1 and Regular 2. In Regular 1 she had a SUPER run, sweet weaves, etc, until the second to last obstacle - which was a discrimination issue. Dogwalk versus tunnel. I stopped my forward motion, yelled Carmen really loudly. She actually stopped. I tried to get her over to me and to take the dog walk. She was stopped, she looked at me and then she said, "Nah...I want to do the tunnel." Stinker! It was still a very nice run.

Regular 2 she bobbled her weaves, I called her back to try again but didn't move back far enough and screwed up her entry again. Since it was pouring, cold, and my fault I said screw it and didn't try to fix it.

I scratched both dogs from Tunnelers since the rain had been unrelenting and at that point I thought it would be risky to run either one.

All in all it was a great weekend.

I am happy with how Bug is coming along. I wish we could have days like yesterday more often - it would allow Carmie to run a bit longer. We now have one more NADAC trial this year on 11/14. That will be in a horse barn. We'll see how it goes.

I almost forgot to mention that Darwin, who is owned by Kris (who has Bug's niece Bette and is half-brother Ransom) finished their NATCH today!! Apparently Darwin loves mucky weather. They had a GORGEOUS Regular run and a nice Chances run. In Chances he had to yell at his mum a bit but finally decided to do what she wanted! Congratulations, Kris and Darwin.
Corgi Power!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Last Outdoor Trial of the Year...

...and we had snow flurries this morning! Eeek. Massachusetts should not have snow in mid-October. brrr!!

The weather forecast does not look great the Act-Up Agility trial this weekend. Cold and Wet....

Saturday I have Bug entered in Jumpers and Carmie in Open Jumpers and Nov. Regular (2). I am leaving mid-day to attend the first of a two part workshop on Animal Communication. I have wanted to explore Animal Communication for a while and this workshop is taking place in the town next door at The Healing Moon for a very reasonable price.

Sunday, I have Bug entered in Jumpers and Tunnelers, and Carmie entered in Open Jumpers, Nov. Regular (2), and Open Tunnelers.

The whole weekend could end up being a bust. If it is raining I do not plan on running Bug. I don't feel like risking an injury with him. Depending upon how gray it is, Carmie may not be able to see.

We will be playing it by ear and trying to stay warm. One sure fire way to stay warm is to work lots!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day '09 Climate Change

I have really struggled with what to write for this year’s Blog Action Day topic, Climate Change. I discovered to my personal embarrassment that climate change is something I know is occurring, and know the skeleton of, but don’t really know THAT much about the nuts and bolts of it! Well, how do you like them apples?

So, rather than quoting a bunch of articles and trying create some semi-coherent blog post about said articles I thought I would share some of the resources I found while trying to figure out what the heck to write about.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a kids page on Climate Change. Cool! Climate Change Kids Site – if kids can understand it than certainly I can, right? here is the "adult" page, too.

Grist Magazine – a favorite online magazine of mine - has a page devoted to climate change as well as a page to track what is happening with the Senate Climate Bill - Climate Citizens.

7:21 p.m. - Grist just posted on Blog Action Day!

Given the awesome Ken Burns’ National Park pieces that have been playing on PBS non-stop and my LOVE of Acadia, I thought this piece by David Frey, National Parks are a Climate Change Canary, was very interesting.

And finally, here is a list of books on climate change. Before I decided how much time I wanted to/was able to realistically invest in this post I consider reading up and found this useful list: Books about climate and climate change. I read reviews of all the books I thought I might read and narrowed it down to The Change in the Weather: People, Weather, and the Science of Climate by William K. Stevens. You can read a compelling review here. My library has this book and I plan on picking it up today (along with the Omnivore’s Dilemma!).

I hope this post, given it wasn’t about dogs, agility, or herding, made you think for a least a moment about the impact we are having on the climate and the impact climate change is having on our world

The issue of climate change is one that we ignore at our own peril. There may still be disputes about exactly how much we're contributing to the warming of the earth's atmosphere and how much is naturally occurring, but what we can be scientifically certain of is that our continued use of fossil fuels is pushing us to a point of no return. And unless we free ourselves from a dependence on these fossil fuels and chart a new course on energy in this country, we are condemning future generations to global catastrophe.

-Barack Obama

Beyond Basics #5

Tuesday night Bug was a little rowdy; a few booming barks for no real reason. Everyone is always surprised by how BIG his bark is. My landlord is STILL having their addition worked on and the men were particularly loud Tuesday. I noticed that the DAP diffuser is empty. Hmmm…I wonder if there is a connection.

First exercise was Stay with distraction/Come with distraction. Three dogs and their handlers stood at the far end of the room in a line (side-by-side). The dogs/handlers on the outside put their dogs in a stay. The center dog was restrained and the handler walked away and then asked the dog to come. This was VERY hard for the dogs in the Stays due to the proximity. Bug did fairly well. The first time he stood up – although he didn’t lunge or attempt to “Come” with. He just found it a bit too stimulating. Next dog in our trio I made sure Bug had MORE treats and he held his stay. When it was our turn to do the recall, Bug came without a second of hesitation. Good boy, Bug.

Next exercise was Recall with distractions. Joyce asked us all to actively play with our dogs. If our dogs would not play in public she suggested having them heel around our chair. Anything that involved movement was good to go. This is a big class, so a come with all these dogs playing truly was a feat. Fortunately for us Buster, Bug’s Lab nemesis, was not in class.

There is another young male dog that is part Shepherd and just lovely. His name is Tagget and he is 18 months old. Bug is always very interested in him – friendly interested, not Buster-I-am-more-macho-than-you interested. Tagget was VERY actively playing during Bug’s recall. Watching Bug come was like watching a cartoon. He came quickly, in a straight line to me, but his head was turned watching Tagget the entire time. I laughed myself silly! And boy am I proud Bug could resist Tagget tugging!

We ended the class by individually loose leash walking around the room in a zig-zagging pattern – NOT a plain ol’ circle with a limit on treats – only two allowed. I think of loose leash walking as one of our weak points, but Bug did GREAT! I had him do some 270s and he stayed right with me making super eye contact

One more class left. I have really gotten so much out of this class. It certainly helps that the other students are equally committed to training with their dogs.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Subject Near and Dear to My Heart

If you do not do performance sports with your dogs, you would be AMAZED at the amount of dogs that compete in agility who are significantly overweight. It is mind boggling. These owners are asking for the dogs to be injured, IMO. I am sure that you have seen the overweight pet dogs who's owners somehow think food equals love and are very offended if you comment that Muffy needs to lose a pound or too.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention is conducting their third national pet obesity study. If you would like to take part in a 10 question survey, click here.

"Overweight pets increase their risk of heart disease, osteoarthritis, several types of cancer and a host of other illnesses." Hmmm...sounds very similar to their human counterparts, no?

Monday, October 12, 2009

The BIG Field

Yesterday Bug and I had a herding lesson with Diane. We worked on small outruns, fetching, and some flanking. We also worked on Bug holding his stay.

Diane had me put Bug in a stay and walk up to the sheep - touch them - and return to Bug. Then she has me walk up to the sheep and around them and return to Bug. Unfortunately Bug found me touching and walking around the sheep VERY exciting and broke his stay FREQUENTLY. I got in trouble for relying on my line to stop him instead of blocking him with my rake. I think Diane had to yell at me a couple of times about that before it sunk it. Bug is funny because he knows stay and we now practice stays while dropping toys, etc - but toys do not equal sheep! He finally did a couple of nice stays and we moved on to fetching.

Our second time in the ring Diane had us move the flighty sheep into one pen and move the heavier sheep down from another pen into the control pen. We did this by me opening the gate and placing Bug in a stay right inside the gate. Then moving half-way between him and the sheep and sending him around on a small outrun. Then I stopped him before entering the next pen. It worked quite smoothly.

Next Diane had me place Bug in the far side of the control pen in a down and go over to open the gate and let the sheep into the big field. Bug was able to hold his stay until I jangled the gate trying to open it, then he would break his stay. So, we worked on this for quite some time before I was FINALLY able to get the gate open and let the sheep into the big field.

Then we did a small outrun in the BIG field and fetched the whole bit of it. Wow!! We also changed directions with me walking through the sheep and reversing Bug's direction. I don't think we have ever done that before. Bug was pretty excited before getting into the big field and I wasn't sure if he was going to be a nut with all that space but he worked so well. I am really proud of him.

Something off that was happening yesterday, was that I would put Bug in a down after fetching for a bit and return to him, give him a long stroke and then say "that'll do." Last week he was moving away with the "that'll do" very easily. This week he was trying to charge the sheep each time - as though either I had given him permission or he was just attempting to get in some more sheep time. It was odd. However, Diane said she has a good exercise that will break that habit in a snap.

All in all it was a great lesson. I have a trial next weekend so I plan on trying to get a lesson in this week.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Addicted to Agility Trial

Today Bug, Carmen, and I attended the Addicted to Agility NADAC Trial in Wrentham, MA. I have already filled you'all in on Carmie - here's the Bug update.

I entered Bug in Jumpers and Tunnelers. I was very nervous because we have not been in an agility class in a couple of months. We have been working on our relationship, foundations skills, and herding. Well, I think all of that has helped us a lot in agility.

We had a very nice Jumpers run. I feel like we started the run the right way. In NADAC you may not remove your slip lead until the judge says, "Good Luck." The judge said "Good Luck" and Bug was watching something other than me - perhaps the judge. There was a time when I would have removed his lead anyway and then wondered why we weren't that connected. Well, today patience and training won out. I waited until I had solid eye contact before releasing him. You wouldn't think this would be such a hard lesson to learn, but you'd be surprised at how dense I can be sometimes!

About 6 jumps into the course I almost lost him when he saw his very cute niece Bette being walked outside the ring BUT he came right back to me and worked. When I say I almost lost him, he didn't literally leave me, but it was as though a magnet was pulling him off-course and to Bette. The fact that he so quickly righted himself and tuned back into me was very impressive.

I ended up missing where I intended to do a front cross (between jumps 11 and 12) because the wee little corgi was moving faster than I expected. I should have done a rear cross, but I just didn't feel competent/confident, so....I ran it UGLY (i.e. the long way). I REALLY need to work on my confidence level when it comes to rear crosses - I will need them with Bug. Bug earned his first jumpers Q and a placement (3rd).

After the class, I stretched the boy and gave him lots of cookies for being so brilliant.

Later in the day Bug ran in Tunnelers. I think it is safe to say he had a blast. We stayed connected and had a very nice run. Q/2nd place. After this class we did some serious stretching and massage.

It is interesting, Bug has now been with me for one year and 5 months. It truly feels like he has always been with us. However, it is only in the past three months that I feel like we are developing a really nice working relationship. I am not sure what changed. I don't know if it is just the length of time, if it is the herding and herding seminars we did/are doing, the Beyond Basics class......what am I saying? I know the answer - it is a combination of ALL these things! Dogs are not like instant pudding, regardless of how badly we wish it were so sometimes. :-)


A year ago this month Carmen was diagnosed with PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy). Over the summer we had a very difficult time trialing outdoors due to bright sunlight washing things out for Carmen.

My girlie who was so confident began having moments of confusion on course. I changed the way I trial; entering her only in classes that might be in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun wasn't as bright and made the decision to trial her primarily indoors (which meant no more NADAC for us - we have only one indoor NADAC trial up this way). I also left the course frequently when she had trouble seeing and scratched from plenty of classes.

Recently I have begun to notice her having some depth perception problems inside - this made me aware that our trialing days were even more shortly numbered than I thought. Last night she stayed at my house because we were trialing today. She was very stressed out and I realized it is because her vision is failing and she doesn't know my house as well as her own.

I went to the trial this morning with the knowledge that after this trial Carmie will trial two more times in NADAC and I will retire her. It is possible I will do some indoor CPE trials if the lighting is really good, but I am not sure.

Today the weather cooperated with us - there were plenty of clouds (but it was not overcast/gray) and the sun was not too bright. Carmie was entered in Jumpers, Regular, and Tunnelers. She Q'd in all three - well under course time and finished her Superior Novice Jumpers title and her Superior Novice Tunnelers title.

I really feel like today was a gift. I knew when Carmen was diagnosed with PRA that the amount of time we had left to play was uncertain. It took me a really long time to get my head around it. Today was a perfect day in that Carmen could see and was the confident dog that has been a joy to work with. This summer, even in the moments when she was having trouble seeing, she tried SO hard to work with me. She is a dog with so much heart and I really appreciate not only having the time to play together that we did, but especially this day. Everything clicked for us and it was like having Carmie back, pre-PRA.

She is such a good girl and I love her so dearly. Each dog has an important lesson to teach us. I think Carmie having PRA was an important lesson for me - there are some things that must be accepted. I tend to always do-do-do and try to problem solve; I don't really take no for an answer. Well, PRA doesn't care. Its course cannot be changed, perhaps slowed, but that's about it. In addition, Carmen doesn't care that she has PRA. Due to the gradual progression of the disease she has and will continue to acclimate to her vision loss quite well. However, I need to understand and accept Carmen's limits.

I wish I could have had the lesson taught in a different manner, but that wasn't to be the case.

I will treasure this day with Carmie forever. The next two trials might be great or they might be busts, but it doesn't matter because we had today and it was wonderful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Today I went to an acquaintance's home in Norfolk after work. She has sheep and pens. I watched her work her dog and worked Bug. It was interesting. At first he was a bit stressed out about the new environment - sniffing a lot. Once I got him hooked on the sheep he worked really nicely for me.

I was very curious to see what he would be like someplace other than Diane's. Diane didn't think he would have an issue and she was right.

The bad news is the sheep knocked me over and out of alignment. Gah!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Beyond Basics #4

Tonight's class started with ALL of us walking loose leash around the room. Eeek! It is a big class.

The exercise went surprisingly well, although I began to get dizzy! To up the ante Joyce had one student at a time walk the opposite direction in the center of the circle. The only time we had an issue was when the intact Lab was walking in the center. He and Bug really want to go head to head. Yuck. I made sure I had a hand full of delectable treats ready to stuff in Bug's face when we passed Buster.

The next exercise we worked on were Stays with distractions. Joyce asked us to pick a toy and toss it or drop it near our dog. Luckily for me, not so luckily for Bug, Joyce had two toys that are favorites of Bug's at home. Cue evil laughter. Given how toy crazy Bug is, and the fact that we haven't moved beyond me picking up and moving objects at home I did not have the highest hopes. Ha! Bug had no problem with this exercise. Sweet surprise. Now I need to practice at home with his favorite rabbit tug!

Next we worked on out of sight recalls. There is a small kitchen room beside the training room we use. Joyce opened the door and had us go into that room and call our dog. It was set up depending upon your dog's skill level. The 5 month old Lab was set-up in front of the door so even though her mum was out of sight she had less to be distracted by. Bug was set-up toward the end of the room, away from the door. As I walked into the room. I made a fair amount of noise, and apparently Bug came flying as one classmate commented on how funny it is to watch his little legs go!

We ended class working on polite greeting - exercise 8 (Reaction to Another Dog) from the CGC test. Our only issue with this was the woman we were paired with walks her dog on her right - so rather than the two of us being side-by-side, she and Bug were. Other than being awkward there was no issue with it.

One thing I am really noticing while doing this class is how much Bug hates sitting. He will ALWAYS choose to lie down if given the option. He never sits. I find it really funny. I don't know if part of it is that a sit doesn't feel as good to him or if it is just that sit hasn't been re-enforced highly enough. Either way we will keep working on it.

Birthday Rally-O

Yesterday Ike turned 7 years old. Gosh, it’s hard to believe seven years have gone by since he came to live with us. He is both such a good boy and a complete snot rocket, as dh would say. Anyone that knows Ike and attempts to interact with him gets the impression of a RATHER stand-off-ish terrier. The reality, at home with his loved ones, is that he is a complete mush.

He is pretty sure he is just barely below me in the household’s hierarchy and constantly tries to glamour us into doing his bidding.

What could be better for the birthday boy than Rally class on his special day? Here’s last night's course:

1. Halt, Fast Forward from Sit
2. Normal Pace
3. 270 Right
4. Spiral Right Dog Outside
5. Call to Front, 1 Step Back, 2 Steps Back, 3 Steps Back
6. Halt, Walk Around Dog
7. Turn Right
8. Left About Turn
9. Left Turn
10. Call Front, Finish Right Forward
11. About "U" Turn
12. Left Turn

Our first run through was pretty nice - although Ike was feeling VERY over-exuberant. We had a super Halt, Fast Forward from Sit. You could actually tell Ike was moving fast! On Call to Front, 1 Step Back, 2 Steps Back, 3 Steps Back he was THROWING himself into a sit. He was so over the top I had to laugh and "do-over" multiple times. When I asked for a Front, those sits were off by a mile! Since he tends to throw himself more to his right, Jennie recommended leaving my left foot forward a bit until Ike is settled. She said this should help push him to my right and thereby center him more. It seemed to work, so we will practice this at home.

Although I no longer have any intention of trialing Ike, Jennie wants me to cut down on treats in class. I have cut down significantly. I think I use maybe three little bits per run. Last night Jennie suggested I not cheerleader him as much. WOW. What a different dog - and not in a good way.

We started the second run with me being quieter - still verbally rewarding him and smiling, etc. but not as much cheerleading. Usually I talk non-stop (just about). After the 5th sign (Call to Front, 1 Step Back, 2 Steps Back, 3 Steps Back) Ike was starting to disconnect a bit from me. The next sign was situated at the entrance to the ring - also where people congregate and where Ike often gets creeped out. I lost him - he could not take his eyes off our classmates. He wasn't barking or being reactive but he couldn't focus on me at all.

As we continued the course he was very distracted until we got to sign 10 (Call Front, Finish Right Forward) where things went even further downhill. When I asked Ike to go around to Finish Right (which involves him going to my right and behind me to get into "Finish" position on my left) he offered to "touch" one of the Rally signs with his paw. "Touch" was one of the first operant behaviors Ike learned and when he gets stressed that is what he offers.

I felt terrible and Jennie quickly told me to go all cheerleader-y again. It was like a light switch was flipped - Ike was completely re-engaged. It makes me wonder if part of the reason the Rally trial at Masterpeace was such a disaster for Ike was because of ME; that I was much quieter than I am in class and that stressed him out.

Food for thought. I am going to play with being quieter during class - incrementally - and see if I can convince Ike we are still having fun, that nothing is wrong.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pioneer Valley KC

Herding Lesson

Yesterday Bug and I had a herding lesson. It was SUPER! What was really nice is that Blue and Iris also had a herding lesson so we were able to watch each other work. It is amazing how much you learn and see when you are watching someone else working.

As for our lesson, I am starting to feel like things are coming together. I feel like I am really starting to *get* it – and I know my dog does. It is a very exciting feeling.

We started our lesson by working on get around – walking around the ring. Diane has been reminding me to walk with a loose line since we started but it wasn’t until Amy said the exact same thing in a different way that it clicked. Yesterday I held my line at the end and used my rake if Bug pulled/charged ahead. He barely pulled and my line stayed loose.

We started by working an exercise that I think might be considered flanking (I still get confused about what is what). Walk up and keep sheep in the corner. Have Bug get around – keep him on line and stop him in the corner. This moves the sheep to the opposite corner – diagonally across the pen. The first time I was late with my stop and the sheep ended up moving to the corner next to us. Drat. But after that I actually stopped my dog correctly and, lo and behold, the sheep moved to the opposite corner. This is the first time my timing was ever right with this exercise. It was so cool!

The next exercise we worked on was a balance exercise. I put Bug in a down and walked half-way to the sheep. I ask him to get around toward the widest direction, circle the sheep – I move back to the barn and the sheep end up behind me. In this exercise, in the past when Bug would go from side to side trying to hold the sheep or get at them, I would move a lot when I used my rake to block him from the off-limits area (behind the plane of my shoulders). At the Jan Wesen seminar, Jan said, “Your happy feet are giving him happy feet.” It clicked. Mind you Diane has been telling me not to move for months during this exercise! Diane did not need to tell me not to move once yesterday! I think I made the connection that my movement is feeding Bug’s movement and you always want to be calm around the dog and the stock. This is a big breakthrough for me and I felt like it translated to other areas as well. I was also less frantic in my rake use. I think both Bug and I are finally understanding what our jobs are. It’s so neat!

Our first “That’ll do” after this exercise I had Bug on a very short leash. Diane said I need to give him line – he needs to know and understand that “That’ll do” means he moves freely away from the sheep with me. This made sense and I gave him the length of his line each subsequent time and he came happily with.

One thing I am still having a lot of trouble with is knowing when Bug has given to my pressure. When releasing him from a down Diane wants him to give to me. The first time she said he did it perfectly, the second she said he didn’t. At this point I really can’t see the difference. Perhaps watching other handlers will begin to make it clearer (I am heading up to Harvest Moon – a big ASCA event – to watch the herding trials at the end of the month). I asked Diane if it is just me and she said that it takes a long time to be able to see it – so that makes me feel better.

Something else I incorporated from the seminars, is the long quiet stroke which Amy recommended. When rewarding during a “That’ll do” she suggested going up to your dog and stroking them in one quiet, smooth stroke from head to tail. Given the excitement Bug feels about the sheep this calm reward is perfect.

The final exercise we worked on was fetching. You are walking backward and your sheep are in front of you (you are facing them), and the dog behind the sheep. Every so often the sheep would get by me – either due to Bug’s pressure or my negligence. Bug would scoop around behind me to push them back and I initially didn’t realize that he was doing his job perfectly and would use my rake to try and stop him, and keep moving. Diane told me to stop and that Bug was right. This is what I find most difficult about herding – sometimes you don’t know exactly what you are doing right or wrong. However the fact that-that finally made sense to me is huge!

It was really fun to watch Blue & Iris work. What I love is how different every dog is and the different challenges they present. Iris likes to work on her terms, so Blue has to teach her that she works on Blue’s terms and the reward is sheep! Diane had some great ideas that would manage the situation so that Iris doesn’t have a choice to not work – which included working on a much longer line so Blue could prevent her from quitting.

Thursday I am going to go practice with the sheep of a couple of people I met at the Amy Hill seminar. They live in Norfolk and practice multiple times a week. They said I was welcome to join them. I am VERY nervous I am going to ruin my dog somehow, but Diane gave me some specific exercises and rules that have made me feel a little bit more at ease. Keep Bug on line, work Jan Wesen’s Clock exercise, work on driving, and possibly a directional exercise. I hesitate to do the directional exercise because I had trouble with it the one time we practiced it at Diane’s. You and your dog walk up to the sheep. You send your dog behind you (away to you), ask for a stop then send the Go By ask for a stop. When we practiced before I had a LOT of trouble managing my rake and dog. However, perhaps it will be easier this time since my skills have definitely improved.

All in all it was a great lesson and we will be back there next weekend (and there will be another Cardi coming for a lesson, too – I guess they attended the herding instinct test at the Amy Hill seminar). I am trying to cram as many lessons as possible in before we get snow. I would like to be able to enter Bug in herding at the Specialty in April. Diane thinks that he will be ready to try for his PT. So exciting!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Human Weaves

I had a difficult time describing the first exercise from my Beyond Basics class Tuesday (loose leash walking with distractions). Imagine my surprise when I received the October Whole Dog Journal yesterday and the very same exercise is described (much better I might add) in the article "Passing Fancy: How to teach your dog to calmly walk on-leash past other people, other dogs, bicyclists, name it!" by Pat Miller.

Excerpt from the article:

We set up the teams six to eight feet apart in an open meadow with the dogs on a sit-stay or down-stay. One at a time, the handlers ask their dogs to heel, weaving in and out of the living weave poles. As each canine and human pair takes their place at the end of the row, another pair walks by them.

As Sara mentioned in a comment there is also an article called Rally Obedient Dogs that I am looking forward to reading!


This week the NY Times published an article on probiotics in their Well Section titled Probiotics: Looking Underneath the Yogurt Label with a companion piece titled Probiotics: Health or Hype.

The main piece addresses the current fad of adding probiotics to food, what it means if a food has a label that says it contains probiotics, the health benefits, and the strain of probiotics that contain the most "good bacteria" (Lactobacillus GG [often called LGG]). Perhaps most interesting to those of us that show our dogs in what is sometimes a high stress environment for them: Studies show that all of these strains are associated with reducing diarrhea.

I found the Probiotics: Health or Hype piece to be just as interesting as the main article. Included in the comments are personal stories from people using probiotics to help with chemo, IBD, and many other GI effects.

Interestingly enough, I just listened to a podcast from Genome Barks last week titled Canine Nutrition with Deborah Greco that also touted the benefits of probiotics - specifically for coat health and diarrhea.

The homeopath recommended Culterelle to me - I was pleased to see this recommendation confirmed as one of the better choices in the NY Times article.