Sunday, February 28, 2010

Addicted to Agility Trial

Yesterday Carmie and I attended the Addicted to Agility NADAC trial at Wide World of Indoor Sports in North Smithfield, RI. This is a brand-new facility that has super nice turf. It is the same field turf that they have at Gillette Stadium. There is 12" of rubber pellets beneath the turf; It had great traction and felt nice on the feet.

Addicted had half of the facility which equaled two soccer fields (soccer players had the other half). One field was the course and gate area and one was crating, this was divided by a pavement walk way with some benches. The facility employees acted as bouncers and kept all the families and their soccer players on "their" side. Very nice for dogs who aren't crazy about kids.

Carmie had a super day. I entered her in Regular, Jumpers, and Tunnelers. Carmie Q'd in all three finishing 3 titles: Novice Regular, Open Jumpers, and Open Tunnelers.

I was happiest with her Regular run, even though I placed my front cross in the wrong spot (you'll see tomorrow when I upload the video). Carmie got her weaves AND the discrimination issue (our nemesis) - A-frame over tunnel. Woo-hoo, Carmie!!

Given the fact that she has not been in a class since summer she ran like a superstar! I tried to employee some of the new tricks I learned at the recent Tracy Sklenar seminar (widening my stride and pumping my arms) and just be happy. Carmie appreciated it!

I was very concerned about what the lighting would be like for Carmen, but she had ZERO issues with it. Only in tunnelers did I feel like she was a bit disconnected from me. Given she is going into dark and coming out into light I could see how that would be a bit more difficult for her.

I didn't bring Bug because I can't run him at the moment and I didn't think he would appreciate hanging in a crate all day. I will be curious to see how he does at this facility. You can see people on the other side of the plexi-glass and I think it is likely he will feel compelled to check it out at first.

Carmie was entered today, as well. I scratched her because she had such a great day yesterday and hasn't been in class in months. I thought two days might be too much for her both mentally and physically. I didn't want to go today and then have a frustrating day because I was asking too much of my dog.

I did notice that I found the courses to be so much easier than my current class courses. There was flow! I don't know if I am a NADAC girl at heart (I guess I must be?), but I now appreciate running those twisty courses so much more. Due to the type of courses I have been running in class I walked the courses and felt much more confident - I could feel the flow (not that I ran them perfectly - ha!).

I do have video, but right now my computer will not communicate with the Flip. I will upload it tomorrow. I feel really lucky to have had such a great day with Carmie!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sensitive Piggies and Supplements

Bug had a vet appointment last night. The primary reason is because the PT noticed he had some unusual wear on the pads of his front paws on the outer digits. The PT thought they looked like corns, but had only ever heard of that happening to Greyhounds. Once I googled and found out said corns become quite painful I decided to take Bug to the vet to find out what the wear marks are before they got any worse.

Turns out Bug has very soft feet and the 2 miles of daily sidewalk walking we do has abraded his pads! Phew! No wonder he has been licking them – they are sore.

The vet recommended I try one of the various gun dog foot tougheners that are out there. Alternately I could torture Bug and try to make him wear booties. Somehow I do not think that will fly! Pad toughener it is. I have some I will try and if that fails I am open to recommendations!

We also went over Bug’s supplements. Currently Bug gets:

Vetri-Science Canine Plus (multi-vitamin)
GlycoFlex II
Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet
Ligaplex II*
Culterelle (probiotic)
ABC Lyme Disease Supplement
Bug Off Garlic

*Duralactin and Ligaplex II are two new supplements I started Bug on about a week ago. Duralactin is supposed to help with chronic inflammation and joint health and Ligaplex II is supposed to help with connective tissue health. The PT and acupuncturist both said in their experience 50% of dogs respond to Duralactin with tremendous improvement and 50% show no sign you have added anything new. I am hoping Bug is in the first 50%.

Dr. M said if the Duralactin and Ligaplex do not help she has had good success with New Chapter's Zyflamend (it is supposed to promote a healthy inflammation response). I was just diagnosed with bursitis (inflammation of the bursa sac) in my foot. We did a cortisone shot and I have a follow-up appointment scheduled, but I think I might try the Zyflamend myself to see if it is helpful!

Dr. M thought Bug was on a good assortment of supplements. And I was HUGELY relieved the only issue was Bug has sensitive paws!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Acupuncture #4

It has been a month since Bug had an acupuncture appointment (due to the storm that did not materialize). Today Bug saw Anne and it became apparent the physical therapy we have been doing for the past week and a half has made a huge difference. For the first time since we started acupuncture, Bug relaxed with Anne!

This is HUGE!! He is still guarded about her touching his rear, but he allowed her to and he really relaxed. We were both astounded. I said I thought he had improved 100% and Anne said, "No, 200%." I am feeling more optimistic!

Bug on Balls

Bug loves the Peanut! "Easy-peasy" he says.

Not so much the Physio ball - for that we need two additional favorites (Cheryl = chiro and Mary = PT) and rabbit in a tube (Bug's new addiction - he might need a 12 step program).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Post-Seminar Stupor à la Ike

I was cleaning the Guinea Pig cage when John says I HAVE to come see Ike. Ike has been sacked out since we got home. I asked if he was on the floor now. "Nope," John says, "he's in the bed. You HAVE to come see."

Ike unmakes the bed and brings his favorite toy with him to relax.

Focus and Fancy Footwork

This weekend my club had Tracy Sklenar of Leader of the Pack in Upstate NY down to give four 4-hour seminars.

I signed Bug up for the Getting Focused and Avoiding Distractions seminar (Saturday a.m.) and the Fancy Footwork seminar (Sunday a.m.). Wow – did I get a lot out of both seminars. Since Bug is injured, he is not currently allowed to play agility, so Ike went to the Fancy Footwork seminar. Gulp!

Getting Focused and Avoiding Distractions

Tracy started the Focus seminar by saying she considers this seminar to be Life Skills 101. The goal is the dog will be impervious to distraction. The goal is not about running sequences – it is about developing the working relationship between handler and dog.

Tracy doesn’t believe in using verbal or physical corrections. She feels punishment only works if it is omni-present.

One of the first things we did was go around the room and introduce ourselves and describe our dog’s focus issue. Bug has baby dog focus issues in the ring, but on occasion in the outside world Bug will lock on to a person/dog/critter and I will cease to exist.

If a dog is distracted Tracy will not call their name or say “leave it.” Why no name? A dog’s name has typically been very highly reinforced with cookies, etc. It has a positive association. You keep calling your dog’s name and they finally come – if you reward them for coming then it is win-win for the dog. Sniffing or checking out is reinforcing for the dog and then they get reinforced again for coming back. Tracy will typically just go quietly get the dog. If the dog has the zoomies she asks the handler to hide on the dog.

The first thing we did was an exercise that Tracy called Point A to Point B. We asked our dogs to do something then rewarded them with feeding on the fly or playing with a toy.

With Bug I used his rabbit tug. I asked him to wait in his crate, when I released him we immediately started tug. Then stopped and asked Bug for a behavior (down). Are they ready? Tracy used this exercise to demonstrate that a dog being unfocused is actually because they are too low on the arousal curve. Bug went from a rousing game of tug to a down ready to do whatever I want. I was so happy that Bug was willing to tug out of his crate like that. We were in the narrower section of the building and surrounded by people and dogs in their crates. He could have cared less.

I was reminded of something I recently discovered – Bug really doesn’t have a clear idea about sit. This is because, basically, I haven’t trained it. We focus SO much on down for herding and we really don’t do any obedience. In addition down is definitely more comfortable physically for Bug so we just do downs. However, he should understand what sit means! So, I will work on that. He needs more tricks in general. We have a super down, but our nose touch is wimpy. I suppose I could have asked him for “cute” but that is not solidly on cue yet.

Next we played It’s Yer Choice. You have a handful of treats at the dog’s level. They go for the treats, hand closes. They move back hand opens. They stay back you take a treat from your palm with your other hand and bring it to them – they ONLY get the treat if they do not move. If they move the treat goes back in the hand. This game is all about impulse control.

The next step was to move the food from our hand to the floor. This was a bit harder for Bug. Initially you want a small pile that you can easily cover with your hand if your dog attempts to steal. Eventually you will have treats scattered. Tracy demo’d this with her BC/Staffie Matrix. Matrix is a 15 mo puppy and she has this game pretty well nailed. With Bug I was able to graduate to scattering the treats slightly.

Next we talked about what to do if you have your dog on leash and they become unfocused. Tracy suggests you slide your hand down the leash until you reach the collar, once your hand is on the collar you walk backwards 5 – 10 steps and try again. We did this with an opened bag of treats and a pile of pork loose on the ground. Perhaps not surprisingly Bug had the most trouble with the pork just lying on the ground. He thought surely it was meant for him. To be honest it didn’t take him long to figure it out.

Then Tracy went and got her Dal who is very non-reactive and we played the same game on leash with people and dogs. Bug was SUPER with the Dal and after initially trying to investigate a human sitting on the floor worked really well with this game.

For the final exercise Tracy set up a short curving sequence with 5 jumps. Then we laid out all sorts of distractions. Tugs right next to jumps, bags, people bouncing tennis balls and crumpling Dunkin Donuts bags. We set up a pretend gate and had a pretend leash runner who didn’t wait until you had your dog settled. It was a VERY stimulating situation.

Tracy wanted us to do Point A to point B when we were going from our crate to the course. When Bug came out of his crate he was not interested in his tug. So I did a little zig-zagging and rewarded him from my hand and ran out there.

For Bug we laid the jump bars on the ground so he could just stride over them. First attempt Bug locked onto a sheepy tug that was right next to the second jump’s stanchion. I took his collar and back we walked. Second time he did not have an issue. Good boy, Bug.

In addition to be reminded I need to work on sit with Bug, I learned that a 4-hour seminar is probably about all Bug can currently handle. He definitely seemed tired when we came out to run the course with distractions.

Fancy Footwork

This morning Ike and I attended the Fancy Footwork seminar. I was so ridiculously nervous. Ike has not gone to a seminar or a trial in two years. He has just recently started taking agility classes again and being happy in them. I didn’t know what would happen. When we went around the room to introduce ourselves I did explain that Ike finds trials and seminars pretty stressful and that it had been two years since he attended one.

The first thing Tracy talked about is stride. She said the length of our stride affects our dog’s speed. Well, yes, that makes sense. Short stride cues deceleration. Long stride cues acceleration. She said think about it, you can not take long steps with your arm out, standing up straight. Then imagine yourself leaning forward, arms pumping. The arms pumping and forward bend causes your stride to widen.

For dogs that do not like to drive ahead of you she recommended a game. You hold onto your dog’s collar and toss something your dog wants. You and your dog run to the item. If you can beat your dog to it – they don’t get it. You pick up the toy or treat and go back to do it again. If you are constantly beating your dog then you change the game slightly. You must run to the item on your knees. Hopefully the dog will beat you to it! When Tracy explained this game Kathleen and I immediately looked at each other – it is a perfect game for both my boys!

The first sequence was very straightforward – two jumps, tunnel, two jumps. The only point of the exercise was to get the handlers bending down and pumping their arms. First attempt it took me a little bit to relax and start gunning it. Second attempt I got into it and everyone said they could really see a difference in Ike’s speed. Cool! I have to admit I felt silly, but hopefully with practice I won’t.

The next sequence was the same set-up, but instead of gunning it out of the tunnel and over both jumps you stop at the first jump following the tunnel – with your feet forward. Once the dog has committed to the jump you turn and head back to the tunnel. Hello wrap. The first time I did this Ike back-jumped because my turn was late. Second time he did it beautifully.

We did a couple additional sequences (actually more than a couple) that worked on both front crosses and rear crosses. I didn’t draw the courses or take any additional notes because I was really busy paying attention to the other runs. Kathleen did take some video though which I will definitely post.

Ike did really well. He stayed engaged and happy – even with repetition. I am so tickled by him, that I am using the word tickled to describe how I feel. We did have a couple of moments where I pulled him off a tunnel and another where he chose to skip a jump, but wow he worked hard!

Tracy suggested working on building tunnel value. Ike has never liked tunnels so it is absolutely a valid point. She also said she thought I could get him back trialing if I wanted. It felt great to hear her say that but I have no intention of ever trialing him again – he doesn’t want to. HOWEVER, I think I will work as though I plan on it.

I see today how much he enjoys working with me in an environment where he isn’t stressed out. I learned so much more running him today than I think I would have running Bug. Maybe not, I would probably have learned different things with Bug. I enjoyed running Ike so much today. To have today – where he worked so hard and stayed upbeat and happy - feels like perhaps the biggest accomplishment we have made together. It never seemed like a possibility before, which just goes to show you that you don’t know where you’ll end up if you keep working.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Guilt & Purebreds?

The NYT printed an interesting opinion piece in the wake of the two PETA protesters storming the ring at Westminster just before Sadie the Scottish Terrier was selected BIS. The piece is called “Feeling Guilty about Your Purebred Dog.” Liz posted it on her facebook page and I felt compelled to share it here.

Four individuals involved with dogs in some professional manner chime in:

Mark Derr – Author of “A Dog’s History of America

Ted Kerasote - Author of "Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

Stanley Coren – Professor of psychology and author of “The Intelligence of Dogs,” “How Dogs Think,” and “The Modern Dog”

Francis Battista – Best Friends Animal Society

It’s interesting; when Bug first came home to me I felt a lot of guilt about choosing a purebred over a rescue (again). I *felt* as though some judgment was passed by certain people. I think the judgment I *felt* was mostly of my own construction. I wrote an entire post about it at the time that I never published.

Since then I have resolved my feelings of "guilt."

For me personally, I have specific activities I want to take part in with my dogs (agility & herding). (If I were just interested in competing in agility breed would be less of an issue.)

It is important for me to know what health issues I will face with my dog.

I want the support of a breeder.

I also want to support responsible breeders. Responsible breeders are not the ones populating the shelters. Most responsible breeders will take back a dog no questions asked.

Lest you think I grew up with only purebreds and that is where this stems from….growing up we had about 50/50 in terms of rescues and purebreds: 2 purebreds (GSD & Beagle), 1 purebred rescue (GSD), 1 backyard mutt (Lab x GSD), 1 rescue mutt (BC x who knows what). None of them had unusual health issues. Our first GSD was put down due to cancer and the last mix/rescue was dysplastic and ended up dying of cancer at 13+ (and she was a BIG dog).

I support rescue. I think it is incredibly admirable and selfless that people devote themselves to rescue and choose only to rescue. However, for me I think it is more important to know the origins of my dog on multiple levels and to have the support of a breeder. I would certainly consider breed rescue in the future.

This is my opinion.

What is yours? I think this is a pretty loaded topic and could make for some really interesting discussions.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tuesday Nite Class

Tuesday night Ike had class. Bug did not. Bug is sitting out of class for a couple of weeks – he is still very tight in his lumbar region and we are going to do some physical therapy to alleviate it. Hopefully I will remember to bring my camera to PT tonight and get a picture of him draped on the GIANT (as tall as my waist) physio ball.

I arrived about 20 minutes before Ike’s class. I had promised a classmate the Pumpkin Bites recipe and wanted to make sure I got it to her.

I am so glad I did because at the end of the class Kathleen was discussing rear crosses on the flat. As you know, I suck at rear crosses. The method which Kathleen teaches a rear cross on the flat is slightly different than the way I learned previously and I am eager to try it with Bug. This is something we can do while we sit out classes (hopefully not for long though!).

First step, teach your dog to spin in each direction – if they do not know it. Bug does not know spin, so we will work on that. Once you have a solid spin, have your dog at your side and ask them to spin away from you. Then add movement, you are walking with your dog at your side and ask your dog to spin away from you. Lose the lures quickly.

I think I will practice this method and the existing method I know. Hopefully I will eventually have a solid rear cross with Bug!

Ike’s class went well. When I got home I was a bit discouraged, but I think I was just not in the best head space with Bug being tight, etc.

The first course was designed to help us work on wraps and rear crosses. Of course the only rear cross I tried Ike went the opposite direction. Why? Because I didn’t realize I should have cue’d a rear cross until he was already committed in the opposite direction (due to my body language of course).

The first run of the first course I only ran Ike to 10 – the A-frame.

From 9 to 10 Ike really wanted to take the dummy jump – he didn’t want to stay out. After we tried it the first time Kathleen had two comments. One, she said the way I give my obstacle commands is very staccato and she feels like it is startling to Ike. In particular she noticed him startle after 8 when I said “jump.”

This is VERY true. I feel very German when I give commands (unintentionally) – they come out very loudly and abruptly. Kathleen suggested I try to be quieter and perhaps use “go” more frequently with Ike since that is a cue that makes him very happy, and adds speed. Go doesn’t lend itself to staccato – which is a good thing!

Her second comment was that the reason Ike did not want to stay out beyond the dummy jump between 9 and 10 was because of the pressure of the other students and their dogs. Ah…yes, Julie, remember Ike is sensitive to space issues!?

In order to help Ike become more comfortable and successful we tweaked the placement of the a-frame – getting rid of both dummy jumps we were supposed to layer.

The second time we ran this course Ike didn’t have an issue with the a-frame, but I had a lot of trouble with the sequence 14-15-16. First I asked Ike to “weave” and he looked at me like, “huh?” When I said “poles” off he went. I am sure the stutter had more to do with my body language and attempt to layer the jump than the actual word. I am sure the wrong word didn’t help though!

I was able to get Ike over to 15 pretty successfully and then tried three times to get him to do the 270. Each time he came in and back-jumped 16. Kathleen came over and showed me that I was turning to do my landing side front cross too early and creating a straight line after 15 – to me! Kathleen asked me to hold my position until Ike passed the stanchion. Success!

Course 2 focused on landing side front crosses. We did really well (in terms of not getting lost and rewarding) until coming out of 13 when I flashed back to course 1 and thought I needed to complete the 270 again. Then I thought I needed to do the tunnel and 11-12 again. D’oh. We ended there. Poor Ike. I felt no need to go back and try 13-14-15. What was frustrating about that particular getting lost experience is that I didn’t even know I was lost until too late and so I don’t feel like I was very present for Ike.

I am so frustrated by this getting lost business. It is a new experience for me. I have gotten lost on course before on occasion, but nothing like this. I am getting lost every time I run! Kathleen did suggest it might be harder for me because we are running two different courses with the same set-up (and in general they are twistier than what I am used to). It’s true that on Tuesday during the first course I didn’t get lost – it was only during the second course.

All I can do is try to be present and not stress out or demotivate my dog too much by getting too frustrated with myself. If anyone has any suggestions dealing specifically with this phenomenon I am all ears!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Spotlight on Bug

There is a new web site called The Corgi Site. It is all about corgis, both Pems and Cardigans. The webmaster (mistress?) Jen does a special feature called "Spotlight on..." and today Bug is featured! or this week - not sure how frequently she changes them.....

Check it out!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tricks and what-not

Shaya at Paws and Reflect recently posted about Kyra Sundance’s Trick certification. Kyra Sundance is the author of 101 Dog Tricks. This is just the sort of motivation I need to pursue tricks with my dogs. (I am so not a trick trainer.)

First step I picked up 101 Dog Tricks from my library. Thank dog gods for libraries! While the trick ideas are cool and the pictures are nice, the instructions in the book are lacking and rely pretty heavily on physical manipulation (IMO). If I were a novice dog person I think I would have a lot of trouble being successful with this book.

Regardless, I am going to use it as a guideline and try to get Ike’s Novice Trick Dog title.

Ike only needs to learn a couple of additional tricks in order to qualify for the Novice Trick Dog “title.” Interestingly a lot of moves from obedience, agility (teeter and weaves are considered advance tricks, which I guess they are!) and rally count as tricks.

For the Novice Trick Dog Title you must have 15 tricks under stimulus control and perform them in front of a witness. Advanced tricks can count as two novice tricks (thank you weaves!).

Ike's “tricks:”

1. Come (basic obedience)
2. Jump over a bar (agility)
3. Kennel Up (basic obedience)
4. Place (circle to my left) (Rally move)
5. Shake hands – Left & Right
6. Side (swing to my left side) (Rally)
7. Stay (basic obedience)
8. Sit (basic obedience)
9. Touch a target (agility)
10. Tunnel (agility)
11. Teeter-totter (agility)
12. Directed Jumping (Advanced trick – counts as two) (agility)
13. see above
14. Weave poles (Expert trick- counts as two) (agility)
15. see above

Okay, so technically Ike doesn’t need to learn anything new for his Novice Trick Dog title. I didn’t know that when we were practicing today. Since he had so much fun we will keep practicing and maybe learn some additional basic tricks so we can save the advanced tricks for a more advanced title (there are 4 titles: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert).

Today Ike worked on “crawl.” This is actually something he used to know how to do – back in the day when I used to drag him to the nursing home. With a little practice I think we will be able to get this under stimulus control and stop with the luring.

Lest you think Bug has been neglected, Bug worked on his nose touch and building interest in his new toy. Bug’s nose touch, cue “Hit it,” is very soft. I would like to see a little more oomph. So I started by working with a target. I think this will also be a GREAT way to practice Bug’s wait/stay and “go.” Bug thinks the target is so exciting he can barely contain himself when I move it. When I release him he goes barreling to it. Hmmm…

We ended by doing a little stretching on the Ball and playing with the new tug toy which also squeaks. Bug says, “HEAVEN!”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

There's Dog Hair in Everything I Do

My favorite line is : "it's on the back of the commode, how it got there I'll never know." So true!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ike's Class

I have the course map for Ike's class last night, but I forgot to number the sequences. Given both courses were twisty I cannot do it today; I just do not remember them.

The positives, I did a better job of not getting lost and I rewarded my dog when I did.

The negatives, I have some sort of aversion to NOT running the entire course. This is really frustrating me. Because I am getting lost, because I am trying to MOTIVATE my dog and have him enjoy agility MORE - I need to break it down. I need to run 10 obstacles instead of 18. Somehow once I get on the course and begin walking it, that decision and commitment leaves my head.

When I walked the course my intention was to break it into three mini-courses. However that intention is slightly faulty. I was talking about it with Kathleen and she warned me that by deciding ahead of time where and when I planned on stopping to reward I might miss an opportunity to reward a super-speedy Ike or a very nicely executed sequence and then reward mediocrity. Dang. Of course that makes perfect sense.

Another positive, I am feeling when Ike disconnects from me more clearly. Now I need to choose to stop more quickly and re-engage him.

Kathleen did comment that neither of us do well with a twisty course - it is very true. Hopefully there is hope for me, though.

It's funny, last week Darcy was barking while Ike was running and that stressed Ike out. Ike noticeably slowed down. This week Darcy was very good, but the Vizsla was acting creepy and Ike was a bit slow again. I am not sure if the Vizsla  being creepy did or did not have an effect on Ike - she wasn't being creepy directly too him, none-the-less.... Kathleen commented that if a dog feels as though they are prey they are not going to draw attention to themselves by moving fast. Yuck - we definitely do not want to practice that.

As I mentioned in the previous post I did bring two of Ike's favorite toys that we only use when training - his braying donkey and his sheepy octopus (originally bought for Bug, but guess who likes it better?). I was really happy that Ike was willing to play with his toy in class. I doubt anyone in the room knows that years ago Ike would NEVER-EVER have played with a toy in public, let alone as a reward  for running agility. I was really nervous about trying to reward with the toy, but I am glad I did. I do think I wasted a bit of time though so I will try to use it more economically if I do it again in the future.

My goal next week is to run a shorter sequence with Ike and try to reward him in a timely manner - not to keep going until we reach an imaginary point I have in my head.

Review of Wraps & FXs

This week in Bug's agility class we reviewed wraps and front crosses. We also discussed the placement of rewards. Before I started taking classes with Kathleen I rarely treated anywhere but from my hand - what do I have but a bunch of dogs that stick to me like glue. Hmmm...

I am happy to report that my "bowling" of treats has gotten much better. I rarely release my treat too early and I almost always throw my treats versus treating from my hand. There will be times in the future when I treat from my hand I am sure, but for right now this is working really well for us. Interestingly enough Kathleen also talked about using toys as a reward and I had brought Bug's tug (and a couple of Ike's fave toys, too: the sheepy octopus and the braying donkey) last night with the intention of trying it out in the class setting.

Kathleen gave us a handout called "7 Habits of Handlers with Demotivated Dogs" by Elise Paffrath. The habit that I am currently trying to break is when I get lost or make a mistake on course it is very obvious to Ike/Bug. And it has nothing to do with them. How unfair is that? What Debi said a few weeks ago at her seminar, which other trainers have said to me before ad nauseum in different words, is your dog should walk off the course thinking you are both brilliant - whether you screwed up royally or not. I am getting a bit better about not being flustered by xyz (whatever went "wrong") and rewarding my dog for being brilliant and putting up with me - this comes into play more with Ike than Bug, but it is equally important with both dogs.

In the first sequence, when I walked it, I couldn't decide if I wanted to do a front cross between 4 and 5 or 5 and 6. I asked Kathleen if it mattered and she said that technically wherever you can do a take-off side front cross you can also do a landing side front cross. Huh. I didn't know this! However, in this exercise she wanted us to do our front cross between 4 and 5 and then wrap from 6 to 7.

I think I must have continued my forward motion a bit too long because Bug's wrap was a bit wide. I think he handled the sequence well, though. It was my faulty cues that caused him to go wide. Even with his long back if I cue him correctly he can turn quite tightly.

In the second sequence Kathleen asked us to do a landing side cross after jump 4 so that it would be easier to get our dogs into the correct tunnel entrance.

In order to do that the dogs needed to have a bit of distance going over the pinwheel. Kathleen did not want us to go past the plane of jumps 2 and 4. First we practiced sending our dog over jump 2 and 3 with a tossed food reward after 3. This was difficult for some dogs and handlers to manage. I understand – the mechanics are so hard at first.

After practicing sending the dogs out over jump 3 we ran the entire sequence. The first time I did what Debi refers to as a bit of “admiring” – when you wait a second too long watching with pleasure as your dog does what you have asked him to do. Kathleen had to remind me to slide over and get into position for my front cross.

I used Bug’s tug (which is rabbit and fleece with a handle) coming out of the tunnel – I thought it would be a great opportunity for a little bit of chase and tug. And it was – we tugged across the entire room and back to pick up our leash. Good boy, Bug!!

Bug’s tug is a very high value toy at home. It is secreted away and only taken out when we are working on skills. Bug goes nuts for it. Since I have been relying so heavily on food, I was nervous that the tug wouldn’t be holding its value in a more stimulating environment. After Bug was able to tug at the teeter clinic I thought I should start bringing it to class and be brave enough to try tugging with him, if the sequence was conducive, to reward him.

The second time we ran this sequence I did not admire and got into position quickly. Once again Bug tugged happily.

This week I also brought a sheet to cover Bug while he was crated. I rewarded him heavily for being quiet. Once again a classmate’s mum took over treating Bug for me while I was listening to Kathleen and walking the sequences. It is great that she steps up like that; I really appreciate it. We lucked out a bit because the other corgi was not there and he likes to bark and really gets Bug going. If the sheet does not cut it another thought I had was I could bring my Manners Minder and put it in the crate – Bug adores the MM.

This week I am going to try and work on Bug’s “go” and try to charge up a new toy I bought for him. It is a tennis ball with a tail. Since this toy can be thrown (and will roll wildly) I thought it might be a good addition to my bag of tricks. In addition, I could always split the ball and add treats to the mix.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Teeter Troubleshooting Clinic

Yesterday Bug and I travelled to Oxford, CT to attend a clinic on “Teeter Troubleshooting” taught by Bobbie Bhambree of Divine K-9. Bobbie ran a Staffie, currently runs a Kelpie, and has a Chihuahua-Terrier mix in training. She trains with Susan Garrett and Tracy Sklenar and follows the “Say Yes!” program.

We started by going around the room, introducing ourselves, our dogs, and describing their teeter issue, or if there is no issue, why we were there. Bug had a fly-off about a year ago and since then he has been really creepy on the teeter and would prefer to avoid it. Our fly-off occurred during a private lesson.

Bobbie talked about typical teeter issues – almost all of which were mentioned by attendees: slow performance, worried dog, avoidance, fly-offs to name a few.

She said “at the end of the day it is all comes down to value and understanding.” The issues above occur because of the lack of understanding and lack of value.

The four aspects of the teeter that you should train are:

1. End behavior;
2. Movement;
3. Height;
4. Sound.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to not focus on each individual aspect and to lump them all together.

In Bobbie’s opinion the following foundation behaviors will help you have a super teeter and succeed in agility in general: rear-end awareness, fast recalls, impulse control, focus forward (not staring at the momma), stay, food drive, and tug drive.

She stressed how important it is to take breaks and PLAY to get your dog’s adrenaline going.

For yesterday’s clinic Bobbie had set up 5 stations that we would rotate through with a partner.

#1 Rear-End Awareness

Shape your dog to walk backwards. Bobbie said many people teach a dog to walk backwards by walking into them and this results in the dog working off its front. If you shape a dog to walk backwards they use their rear more – like rear-wheel drive.

The way Bobbie teaches this is to sit on the floor with her legs in a “V.” One of the reasons she sits in this position is because it is different – you aren’t usually training your dog in this position and you might not be offered the usual variety of tricks.

Initially any foot movement is to be rewarded as long as the dog is not sitting or downing. Bowl the reward through the front feet if possible.

Break it up with frequent bouts of play so as not to induce “cookie coma.” As the dog offers more movement you can become more selective about what you will reinforce.

#2 Wobble Board + Tippy Board

Both items are a great way to get a dog excited about sound + motion and build value for them.

Once your dog is comfortable on the board, start playing tug with them while they are on the board. If you can pull your dog off the board – tug stops. Your dog learns they must hold their ground and stay on the board to play.

To play the game with food your dog gets food for causing movement. No movement = no food.

#3 Elevator Game

After playing with your dog to get him amped up, position your dog between you and the teeter near the end of the down contact, initially have the board on a perch, and have them hop up. Immediately feed your dog with your hand from under the board so you are feeding between his front feet. Then say Ready (or whatever phrase gets your pup excited) and ask your dog to target – if you use a target. Once they have mastered this with the perch you will hold the board up with your arm, knee, or a partner depending on the size of the dog. You’ll say something like, “Ready, 1, 2, 3 – target” and drop the board. As your dog gains confidence you can increase the height.

#4 Bang Game

This game is designed to work on your end behavior and desensitize your dog to the bang. You place a jump stanchion under the "down" side of the teeter so that the up side is suspended by a few inches. After playing with your dog to get him amped up, position your dog between you and the teeter near the end of the contact, have him hop on and bang the teeter. Once your dog is already over the noise/movement you can teach them that you expect them to give you their end behavior. You can also change the height by using a chair instead of a jump stanchion.

#5 Squirrel Speed

This station consisted of a plank on the floor and a plank suspended between two tables. First you did some restrained recalls on the flat. Bobbie wanted to see “Squirrel speed” on the flat before ever moving to the plank. Once you had a super speedy dog on the flat move to the plank on the ground. Once you have a super speedy dog on the plank move to the table. Bobbie also wanted the dogs to be able to hop up on the suspended plank and turn on it. It was a 16” jump and that is not something I felt comfortable asking Bug to do.

Once we had seen all the stations and Bobbie had demo’d them, we got to work. It was a small space with two teeters banging nearly non-stop and my partner had a very noise sensitive Miniature Schnauzer. I felt really badly for her.

Bug had the most difficulty with our first station, the wobble board. He thought it was really, really scary. So guess what I will be making?

Surprisingly after starting with the wobble board and being stressed out he relaxed enough that he would tug with me even with the teeter’s banging and the small space. Good boy, Bug.

The next station we worked on was rear-end awareness and I definitely plan on continuing to teach this to both dogs. If nothing else it is a great shaping exercise.

Station #5 was the plank exercise and Bug showed really nice speed on the flat, on the plank, and the suspended plank.

Station # 4 – the Bang game. I was really unsure how Bug would do with this. I have been unclear if it is the noise or the motion that he dislikes. I now believe it is primarily the motion. He had a great time playing the bang game

We skipped station #3 – the Elevator game. In my opinion Bug isn’t ready for it, and his brain was getting a bit fried.

We ended the seminar by doing the Two Table Game. A teeter is set up between two tables. The idea is the tables allow the dogs to learn to manage the tip because there is not a large movement. We put a blanket under the down end. I did do this with Bug, but I picked him up and started him from the half-way point. I think it was a mistake on my part – he was tired.

Bobbie also demo’d the Rebound Game. Because the rebound of a teeter can startle a dog and cause a dog to dislike the teeter you want to desensitize them to the possibility (especially small dogs). Have your dog get in its end behavior, put your foot under the end of the teeter and gently lift it – reinforce your dog for holding its end behavior. As your dog begins to understand the game and becomes more confident you can lift the teeter higher.

It seemed like Bobbie feels pretty strongly that a two-on-two-off should be the preferred end behavior on the teeter. That is not something I am comfortable with. So, I am still unsure what behavior I would like of Bug; perhaps just a stop on the teeter in the yellow?

It was a good seminar and I definitely have some tools to work on improving Bug’s teeter performance. Step one is a wobble board!

Post-seminar Stupor

Mum took thisd pcvture cuzz I wasd fallowingf her around napppingh. I am soo ttyireds from ourd teetteerr worklshop. I amm soo gladf I dont 'work' loike she dooews. Morning aghenda: Konhg andf nap.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Oh my god. I just witnessed a JRT be hit and killed by a car. I was walking my boys up High Street in Canton, a pretty busy street that you can take to get to Sharon or Walpole.

The dog was in an unfenced backyard, off-leash, with a 7 or 9 year old boy playing with him. No adults in sight. The dog spotted my boys on the other side of the street and made a bee-line for them, the boy chasing after him.

I watched it happen in slow motion - there was nothing I could do. An SUV hit him and did not even stop. The dog was instantaneously dead. I suppose that is a blessing; given the dog's size and the speed the car was going he would likely have had to be euthanized anyway.

This is the second unattended dog I have seen hit by a car that was making a bee-line for my boys. The other dog did not appear to sustain any damage. What is wrong with people? Canton isn't rural. Not only is there a leash law, but it is never safe to have your dog unattended and off-leash in an unfenced yard.

Last week our across the street neighbor was getting into his car to go pick up his fiancée at the train station. He was bringing his two dogs, a mix and a PWC with him, they were not on leash. His dogs have played with Bug before. The Pem saw Bug and made a bee-line across the street for him. A car was coming. I screamed a terrible shriek and thankfully the driver stopped. I was so scared.

I feel so terrible about the JRT. I hope the boy is okay. Young boys can be funny about death - in that it doesn't bother them. I hope that is the case. I know I would be crying for days.

You HAVE to be careful.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fast and Flustered

Fast would be Ike, and I would be Flustered! The status quo has changed and I am having a hard time adjusting. Ike is showing more speed and joy playing agility than I have ever seen from him and right now it is leaving me flustered. I don’t know how to run him! What a problem, huh? I need to be more thoughtful about both walking the course and running the course with him.

Last night I got “lost” multiple times. The upside to that is I remembered to treat my dog more quickly than I have in the past and he didn’t seem to read my body language as though he had done something wrong. That is progress.

Other than me getting completely lost, I think I might have been pulling off tunnels a bit early last night. Tunnels have never been Ike’s favorite, but last night he questioned whether I wanted him to take them a couple of times.

Below is the first course we ran.

I had a lot of trouble going from 4 - 5 and 6 – for some reason it did not flow for me which then left me struggling to remember what to do after 6. Toss treats for Ike ‘cause he is brilliant. I believe the first time I forgot which direction I was going and did not put a fx after 6 in at all.

Looking at the course today it doesn’t look that bad at all, but I am pretty sure I fouled up 11 through 16, too. At least once! But the real trouble for me was 4, 5, 6 and then 8, 9, 10 – I just could not feel the flow in these pieces of the course.

Part of the problem really is this status quo change – as I said earlier in the post I really need to be more thoughtful. When Ike was running slowly I had plenty of time to think on course – now I don’t. Just writing that makes me smile. I never imagined having this problem with Ike – it didn’t seem in the realm of possibility!

The second course of the night seemed to have more flow to me, although it did have a very tricky sequence from 9 - 13.

Ike and I did a front cross after the a-frame and between 11 and 12 (I believe). The first run through Ike handled this sequence nicer than I expected. Second time around our SS friend Darcy was a bit excited by Ike moving so fast and was barking. Ike slowed down significantly. The seating is right beside where the a-frame is and Ike found Darcy's noise stressful.
Again, it is huge progress that I noticed by the third jump of the pinwheel that Ike wasn't in the same mental space he had been and stopped to try and re-engage him with some "go's." Next week Darcy's mum said she would put him in the bathroom when Ike runs so as not to stress the boy out.
In both courses Ike skipped poles while weaving. Ike’s poles have always been really solid (once he learned them) and Kathleen commented she thinks he needs to learn how to do them at speed. I think she’s right. I’ll admit that is an exciting problem to have. I also imagine once I get the go ahead from Cheryl (chiro) to do 2 x 2s with Bug I will also do them with Ike. Knowing Ike he will likely think 2 x 2s are the best thing since a peanut butter stuffed Kong!

I am pleased with myself that I never say “oops” anymore to Ike when he misses a pole – I just bring him back and start again. I think “oops” was stressful and confusing to Ike. It makes more sense if he fouls up to just start over with no fuss – at least with Ike.

Other than Ike getting a bit stressed by Darcy (who he adores when he isn't running)  the class went really well, even though my brain was absent. Ike stayed up and happy the entire class. I think this is the first class he has really maintained his drive the entire time. I think I was better about not letting getting "lost" bother me and therefore he wasn't bothered. Hmmm...Sometimes it takes a long time for something you understand intellectually to translate to action.

Bug Wraps

Last night in Bug’s class we worked on Front crosses and wraps.

The first sequence Bug took off before I released him and did the jump and tunnel. I think he is beginning to have enough obstacle drive and agility joy that I need to think about a start-line. I called him back, released him, and then proceeded to accidentally SEND him into the tunnel; understandable because I was moving too fast and facing the tunnel. My body was saying “Tunnel!” Smart dog!

Second try – we had a nice tight wrap even given Bug’s long back. Third time not so tight…. I wasn’t aware of exactly what I had done wrong at first, but Kathleen told me I actually moved beyond the plane of jump #3 and was still accelerating so all of the information Bug was receiving said “take the dummy jump straight ahead” and then I called him off it. This equals a wide turn. I should have been decelerating and never even made it to the plane of jump #3. Lesson learned, and next time looked better although not as good as the first time.

Next sequence (image below) Kathleen wanted us to put a front cross between 2 and 3. She used chalk to draw dashed lines and a straight angled line (blue and red on the diagram), and then she had us walk it. These lines represent two ways to do front crosses, the correct way and the not-so-ideal way. Ideally you want to take the angled line – you are giving your dog more information and allowing them to make a tighter change in lead.

Kathleen commented that she has often seen me use the dashed path (although last night I walked and ran it “correctly”). It’s funny, I had a hard time learning front crosses and that is the method I was taught – visualize where you will turn – drive to that point and then turn.

With the visual aid of the chalk lines it is very obvious that the dashed line does not give your dog the best information. If you are even a little bit slow in your front cross your dog will think they are taking the jump directly ahead of them. Hopefully now that I am really comfortable with front crosses I can begin to refine how I do them and set my dogs up for more success.

The last sequence of the night contained another wrap.

I accidentally had Bug go over a jump that was not only NOT included in the sequence but was set at 12”. Poor Boo. Good boy that he is, he took a deep breath and jumped it! I have never done a lot of wraps and it is a skill I am finding useful for a dog and handler to know.

I need to start thinking about a start-line.

I also need to think about Bug’s crate behavior. I crate him while I walk the course or sequence and this week he was barking a lot. Usually he is really good in his crate. I started walking over to treat him when he was quiet and another classmate actually continued to treat him for being quiet while I was walking other sequences. Next week I might bring a sheet and see if it is that he is visually over-stimulated. Yesterday there was a new dog in class and it was a bit more confusing than normal. In addition to the sheet I will be diligent about treating him for being quiet and not taking his good crate behavior for granted (that is a surefire way to lose it!).

As you might have figured out, I have decided to break the boys’ posts up into two posts. They are working on separate things and one long post can be both a chore to write and a chore to read!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Toofer Challenge

Yes, I know I owe a blog post on the Novice Distance seminar (which was awesome) - I will get to it...eventually!

I saw on Lindsay's blog that she and her big dogs are taking part in Johann's Toofer Challenge (to promote National Pet Dental Health Month). I remember he ran this last year and did not take part - I think Stewie did if I am remembering correctly. This year I decided I would try to brush my dog's teeth every day during February.

I think the boys are going to kill me!

But seriously, if I can commit to brushing daily for 27 days (since I missed Day 1) it will likely be easier to remember to do it at least once a week the rest of the year.

On a side note I have noticed that by using the Vetzlife Oral Care Spray the minimal tartar on Bug's teeth is scraping off with my finger nail. Thank the dog gods I have a patient dog!

Pictures to follow...

Monday, February 1, 2010


I am on the Nancy Kay, DVM (author of Speaking for Spot) e-mail list. Saturday there was an e-mail from her entitled: Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids): a Proven Treatment for Canine Arthritis.

She blogs that in a recent Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association there were the findings of two studies on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids for the treatment of osteoarthritis. The studies showed that dogs on omega-3 fatty acids showed a significant improvement in their ability to rise from a resting position.

I commented and asked what fish oil supplement she recommends. I have been using Omega-3 Pet by Nordic Naturals since 3V HP Snip Tips went off the market. Within two hours she had e-mailed me personally. Apparently she also uses Nordic Naturals, she has heard good things about its bioavailability, so I feel a bit more secure in that choice. FWIW, Vitacost has a good price on the Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet 180 ct bottle.

For Bug especially, I feel an omega-3 supplement is important. Now if only I could get John back on one for his knee!


Saturday afternoon I audited the Discrimination seminar. Debi started by saying she feels that discrimination is a combination of body language, pressure, and verbal cues. You need to teach your dog what an “Out + Tunnel” or a “Here + Dogwalk” physically looks like.

To start Debi had the handlers sit their dog in front of the jump facing the dogwalk/tunnel, the handlers stood on the other side of the jump. Debi asked the handlers to release their dogs and step into their space and turn toward the tunnel. The goal is to “bounce” the dog off the handler’s pressure as they lift and change the dog’s path-of-travel. (Sounds like herding talk, no?)

It was pretty amazing to watch. There were one or two dogs that were not at all affected by the pressure and would land very straight and then turn. The goal is to teach the dog when they see that body motion they shift out as they lift, then the obstacle name reinforces the correct choice.

Eventually Debi had a few of the teams try this from behind the tunnel. She said the further back you go, the longer you need to face forward. This is because your dog is supposed to turn when you turn – if you turn too soon you risk pulling them onto the dog walk.

Debi stressed watching the path you want your dog to take and not watching your dog. She said when you visually lock onto your dog you draw them to you.

When she had the handlers continue the course she used a lunge line to illustrate an interesting point. Essentially she talked about how you establish lateral distance with your dog fairly on in a course. By pulling in you can change your dog’s p-o-t and by pushing out you can push your dog out. She had Nancy (with AS Remy) play dog and hold the other end of the lunge line. Nancy was to hold the line taut. As Debi changed her p-o-t you could see her pull Nancy off the jump before the bi-directional tunnel. Very cool.

Debi had the teams work on getting the “out” tunnel on that end and the “in” tunnel. Then she worked a bit on having them start at the beginning and take the dogwalk over the tunnel. I must have been tired or zoning out because I don’t remember that-that clearly. I do recall that she said for her dogs their cue to take the dogwalk is they see her back. I believe that makes sense because her “line” would be continuing forward – the same path of travel as the dog walk.

This was the first time I had heard so much talk of “lines” and I must admit it made a lot of sense to me!