31 July 2008

A Good Day.

Today when I got home I wanted to do about 2 minutes of work, especially with Drifter - to re-establish good relations. he did great. I worked some simple serpentines like he had trouble with, but on a smaller scale (smaller yard). Kiba did them especially well, she is very good at shifting her weight to land in a heel position.

Watching movies now, then I have to do laundry and pack for the weekend!

Don't worry

I've taken some time to think through what happens when Drifter sets me off, and I think what it is, is that he has a brain-fart, for whatever reason, on something that I know he is completely capable of performing flawlessly. And then I get mad that he didn't perform as I had expected. Then he gets upset that I'm mad and the cycle continues. What probably needs to happen is that if he doesn't get it on the 2nd try, I put him away and try again later. Or immediately back-chain the behavior in learning mode rather than punishing mode.

On punishments and corrections: I am not a purely positive trainer. I am not mentally capable of being a person like that. I use about 90% positive methods when training new behaviors, and I very much do encourage the dogs to think things through operantly, however once they know a behavior I certainly do correct them for performing sloppily. Now a correction varies per dog. Drifter is very smart, very operant. . . . but also a hard-headed guy who needs a bit of a heavier hand or he just doesn't care so very much that he used a see-saw as a diving board. Typical correction for him is a harsh "lie down" command, and either carrying or heeling off the course. If not being carried, then i will usually lean over him and loom a bit to get my point across.
Kiba is a soft little marshmallow when training, and if I even *sigh* the wrong way when she gets something wrong she will quit and run back to the door looking like I have seriously just beaten her. She also has a propensity to duck if I swing a toy around, even though I don't hit her with it. So her corrections are more like soft "Kiba" or "hey" that just tells her she did it wrong. Then we try again and have a party. Seri is more like Drifter than Kiba, but is a touch softer than Drifter is, so she gets a "Seri!", maybe time-out "lie down" and a slight glare, then tries again.

Part of Drifter's hard-headedness is my fault. My first border collie, Freeze, was very very soft, very very smart, and just basically very very difficult. If I corrected her, she fell apart. If I didnt' correct her, she continued doing it wrong. What a choice! So I think I was too lenient with Drifter for the first couple years I trained him. Too positive, not enough negative. He is also very good at "lying" about whether he's upset - he will crouch a bit and hang his head, but the instant you start turning your head away he pops right back up and is ready to go. He acts sad because he knows that gets me off his case. Little bastard :-D

Anyways, most days that I go out and train, I work on tough handling, contacts/weaves and such. It is very rare for Drifter to knock bars. It is very rare for me to get upset, although it happens now and then. Most times I can work him through whatever mental block, he figures out what I want, and he nails it from then on. He really is very bright, and I think itself is a reason I get mad when he gets "thick" at class. I expect him to think right away and change, but he is just so charged up, and frustrated (he probably felt the same way I did) that it didn't happen.

Many times I go several weeks without more than a "hey" given to any of my dogs as a correction. And "hey" and trying again is hardly horrible. So don't worry, I'm not really a big nasty trainer who throws things or dogs or uses a 2-by-4 to correct them. They wouldn't run as fast as they do, if I did that. Seriously. Kiba would up and leave me altogether if I did that!

AKC trial, indoors, in Maryland this weekend. Hoping to get another double Q on somebody!

30 July 2008

Issues

So I realized in the last year or two that even though I love Drifter dearly, and I am constantly in awe of his speed and power in agility, he and I often clash on some fundamental level. He is the only dog I truly get angry at once in a while when I'm training. Sure I have moments with my other dogs, and I do correct them for stuff now and then, but Drifter just finds my last nerve, and stomps all over it every few weeks.

Today was one of those days.

He is always retarded at the field where my mom holds classes. He is more retarded and stupid and high there than he is at 95% of the trials I go to. This makes class very interesting and frustrating for me. I should probably stop taking him, but every week I think "it will be good to work through it" but instead I get mad at him because he makes some stupid mistake. And because I'm mad, he keeps making the mistake. Today it was a pretty simple high-speed serpentine. First he ran by it. Then he knocked the bar. Then he knocked the bar again. And again. WTF?! you may ask. Yeah, me too. I tell you, I canNOT get this dog to knock bars in my yard, no matter how hard I try. He is not the most careful dog on earth, but this was getting ridiculous. I got mad. (I do have a bit of an anger issue, I will admit that, I get a little ragey once in a while). I picked him up. I scruffed him a bit. I dropped him from a little higher up than I meant to. I'm sure people think I'm a horrible, horrible trainer. I'm not. I cooled enough to go back out and back-chain that part, and rewarded the jump a couple times, and then he got it. He really is a very bright dog at figuring stuff out, but when I get mad at him he sometimes just gets stuck in a rut and can't get out.

*sigh*

Now since I worked him so hard today I need to give him tomorrow off. He is doing run-throughs on Friday before the trial this weekend so he doesn't need to be working hard all 7 days this week. On an upbeat note, Seri did VERY well in class, isn't hitting many bars anymore and is generally following my handling very nicely. Still throws her ass in the air every once in a while, and screams when I surprise her with something:-)

Oh, and the Odyssey cost $889 to fix the A/C and change the oil. My add-on lower grille cover shipped in the mail today. I should have it Monday. Which is good so my A/C doesn't break again on the trip to NC, assuming my dogs don't get kennel cough at Elkhound Club this weekend! My life is crazy!
Here's what I got for the Ody, to stop rocks and debris coming through that bottom opening, which is where the condenser is.

28 July 2008

Pain

My shoulder is hurting today. It's been starting to act up over the last week or so. It's my fault, of course, because I haven't been doing the stretching/strengthening exercises my PT gave me. Duh! Then at work we had to put return labels on 150+ packages for the Bed Bath and Beyond in King of Prussia - they had a fire and don't know when they'll be able to open up again. They didn't burn down, but they definitely need some work before they can open.
This is what I have in my shoulder. It's almost certainly from working at FedEx Ground for 6 years. I started out doing lots of physical stuff, sorting boxes on conveyor belts, then loading trucks, sometimes upwards of 1000 packages a night, 5 times a week. Plenty of overhead stuff, plenty of reaching and pushing and pulling and twisting. I haven't really been doing that for 3 years, but I still help out, and I definitely still move things and reach plenty. I don't need surgery (yet?), but I am one of those annoying stoic people who just ignore the pain, which in this case is something I shouldn't do. Good thing I have a wonderful PT for my dogs who is also a people PT, and was able to diagnose me and tell me to behave!

Anyhow, if you see me suddenly switching hands to tug with my dogs or grabbing a table and pulling up/back, that's why. I'm not really just that weird. Of course it's my right shoulder, since I'm right handed. At least I walk my (sled) dogs on the left!

Oh, and more Pain - found out that something jumped up into the lower grill of my van and took a chunk out of the condenser. Grr. Did some research and discovered its not an uncommon problem in Odysseys. Cost to fix? $815ish. Under warranty? Of course not. It's not their fault they designed it badly, is it? Anyways, I ordered a grille insert off ebay to cover it (looks pretty decent too). I had some money in PayPall still from selling model horses so its only costing me $27 total. Not bad.

The Handsomest Puppy. Ever.

So Drake still has puppy fuzz on his head. He is over 6 months old, but this makes him look 4 months. Most of his body is now fuzz-less, and he's finally starting to look somewhat grown up. And I have decided he is probably going to be the most handsomest dog ever. His structure is absolutely to-die-for, his coloring is very handsome and striking, and he's a cuddler besides. Anyhow, I was only gone for 2 days but somehow he looks more mature in that time! I need to get a new pic of him, he's starting to look adolescent rather than baby now.
I realized a while ago that I'm not really a puppy person, I like puppies because they have the potential to be dogs. Thus, I get most excited when my own puppy grows up to be a beautiful, smart, wonderful dog. And of course I have more invested in Drake than most, since I own his father and its the first time I've ever been involved in breeding a dog before. He looks nothing like his daddy at first glance, but his facial expressions and eyes are very similar, and sometimes he just gives you this look and it's definitely Drifter. And oddly enough, he has exactly the same feet, except slightly bigger than his pop's.
If he has Drifter's brain for agility, I will be more than pleased :-)

Tamarack Recap

Well I survived the drive out to Meadville and back, barely.
I got out of the house in a reasonably quick manner on Friday, and on the road. Aside from 15 miles to the Northeast Extension on a 2-lane road, the entire drive was fast highways so it went quickly and easily. Here was my problem: I stopped right about halfway there, off Route 80 (which I was on for 256 miles!). Pottied myself and the dogs, jumped back in the car, and got going again. A few minutes later I felt a little warm, so I turned the vent up. Then I realized the A/C wasn't blowing cold. Interesting. Jiggled the switches around a bit, turned it on/off. Realized it's not just not blowing cold, it's NOT WORKING AT ALL! Crap! No A/C! So I finished the drive out and did the ENTIRE drive back with NO air conditioning :-( Luckily it wasn't sweltering hot, but nevertheless, mid-80's is not really cool enough for the vents to do it for me, and the backs of my legs and my back were moist the entire way back. And I just can't have windows open when I'm travelling at my definitely-speeding highway speed. Van's going in today to get fixed. It's Certified so it should be free, thankfully!

Anyhow, on to the dogs. This was my first venture into the realm of FAST class. Which, perfectly enough, was first each day. So Saturday started with Novice FAST, where Drifter went jump jump see-saw-jump (that's seesaw-jump, one obstacle:-) So I got to correct him! I said "excuse me" in a perfectly polite voice, stopped him, swung him back over a jump, then took the see-saw again. This time I got see-saw-stay! Hooray! Then he finished, did the bonus, and qualified. Kiba ran perfectly and Q'd as well. Excellent standard was a good, fair course. Sit on the table. Drifter ran clean and fast, with a good "lie down" dogwalk (remember that means we're turning and he has to slow down and turn/check in, not actually lie down). Kiba was so close. She tried to run across my feet to a see-saw but I called her off and got her over the next jump without running by, but it was still called a refusal because of the way her path went. I will try to get the courses up later in the day if I can. JWW was another fair course, Drifter ran very well, I accidentally layered a jump I didn't mean to but I honestly don't think he noticed. Only problem was he dropped the triple after the weaves. AKC courses are definitely doing this a lot, this triple followed by a turn thing. Something I'll have to practice, having my dogs adjust and turn over triples. . . Kiba ran JWW clean.

Sunday neither dog got the bonus in FAST, because they both managed to knock the panel, which was the first obstacle in the bonus. This is sad because for Kiba the dog before had knocked the top rail and nobody noticed till Kiba got out there and knocked it again, which means she knocked a 16" jump :-( Oddly, that was the only bar she hit all weekend.
Standard was next again, and again Drifter came through with an awesome run. There a couple tricky parts but overall I liked the course. Drifter doesn't do well on courses that let him check out and ignore me for long stretches, so this was a good one to keep him tuned in. There was a tough dogwalk-jump-weave where the weave entry was a hard heel-side one, with a dummy jump nearby so if you pushed the dog went off course. Easy enough with Drifter - I just let him blow down the dogwalk at full speed (perfect!), and met him at the pole entry. Kiba, not so easy, I have to babysit her DW contact, and unfortunately her weave entries are not as good as Drifter's, she's not as operant a learner as he is. Obviously I need to work on that, because she focused on the weaves right away, but she basically just ran at the middle of them and then turned around and looked at me like "Wait, how do I do this??".
JWW was last, and again, Drifter came through for me. A pretty technical course this time, fine by me. He was great, so he picked up a Double Q for me! yay! I didn't waste a sweaty ride out to nowhere! I didn't run Kiba because she had NQ'd in the morning and I wanted to get out of there.

So the count is now Drifter: 2 2Q's, 2JWW's towards Tryouts, 2 STD's towards Tryouts. Lots of points. Kiba: 1 2Q, probably about 70 points total

25 July 2008

Far, far away

So at the end of June I ran my dogs at Lehigh Poodle Club AKC trial. And they were terrible. So I panicked and set about entering AKC trials for the rest of the summer, even though I had originally planned to take it easy through July and August. I decided instead to try to get my Q's out of the way, and if I got them done I would just take part of September off instead. I sort of doubt that's going to happen, but oh well. As I mentioned before, at least I've given myself a fair chance of qualifying at least one of my dogs for AKC Nationals, which is my real goal. And if it happens to be just Kiba. . . well then I'll save some money on gas and just take the Civic down to NC! Kiba should be an AKC Machine once she finishes mentally maturing. She's close already.

anyway the point of that was to say that there are NO local trials this weekend in my area. So I am driving 5 and 1/2 hours out to Meadville, PA for a teensy weensy little AKC trial out there. I know the secretary, so at least there's one person I can converse with. The other person I know out that way is teaching that weekend and won't be there. So I am bringing my book, and a couple of DJ's comics (the good kind, Wanted and Watchmen), and planning to take Saturday afternoon to, well, do nothing! The good thing about a tiny trial is, of course, I can get out of there early on Sunday. I really should not have entered this trial, even though Meadville is not really a big metropolis, the hotel is sort of expensive, so I'm blowing money there even though entry fees are low. Oh well. Maybe I'll get a couple 2Q's and feel better about it. I entered it, so I'm going.

Will update on Monday!

23 July 2008

Trig and Drake, 6 months old






Took some pics of Trig (my mom's pup -the smooth one) and Drake (mine, the fuzzbucket) in the yard today. They are really 6 months old already, hard to believe. A few pics of their other littermates are on my mom's website (www.getrevd.com).

Drifter looking uncrazy



Drifter is a very quiet house-dog. These pics are several years old but I love them nonetheless.
You know, I really didn't think I was going to enjoy this blogging thing but I do. It serves several purposes. It works as a training journal so I can keep track of what issues I may have forgotten to work on (threadles), its an easy public way to recap my dogs' weekends so I don't have to email the same summary to 4 different people, and it gives me something to do when I get bored.

So we finally get a day under 90 degrees. . . . and it's stormy. Oh well. It's more interesting, anyway. When I got up for work this morning (3:15am) and I took Seri out to potty there was almost constant lightning flashing on the horizon. Not real close, but nevertheless I stood and watched each dog pee and immediately called them back in. Not taking any chances. Also, you never know when a non-thunderphobic dog will suddenly decide a certain thunderclap was terrifying. Kiba is starting to be a little worried about storms. I know she has at least one close relative who was thunderphobic (shared 3 grandparents), so I did figure I'd need to keep an eye on that. Can be VERY genetic! I generally ignore storms entirely, and mostly that's what my dogs do. Drifter wants to be near me, but doesn't freak out. The youngsters Seri and Drake could almost be deaf for the attention they pay to thunder (they're not deaf though!).

Did one good course in the yard when I got home (lull in the weather), 3 dogwalks, 2 seesaws, a threadle and a 180. He was great except that damned threadle again! Went through it the other direction and the first time he just plain didn't do it. Grrrrr! He is now officially in remedial threadle-school. Kiba doesn't need tons of handling as she'll get sour so I just played fetch over one jump to keep her thinking about her striding while still having fun. And Seri spent 5 more minutes figuring out the see-saw. She's had trouble keeping herself on it at trials previously so I'm glad I have the opportunity now for her to be on it every day to really figure it out. She's not really a hard headed dog, but she's also not really bothered by sailing through the air off the "diving board" either, so it took a bit of me holding the board and dropping it so she could figure out how to hold on properly, and a bit of correction for not doing so, then just lots of repetition from different speeds and angles so she could get her body on it and stay on it. She's looking 300% better already after 3 sessions.

Do I have the laziest coworker? Yes, I do!

Not DJ:-)
No, our night-time counterpart who I've mentioned previously. Back in May she "hurt" her shoulder and decided that she needed the ENTIRE MONTH of May to let it heal. Yeah. When honestly only about 10-15% of her job involves moving boxes, and at least 50-60% of it involves sitting in front of a computer or at least standing somewhere checking paperwork. In other words - she could have come in and just avoided physical activity. Guess what? I have tendonitis in my right shoulder (impingement), and I'm right-handed. And I keep working here. I even (stupidly) go help out with the physical jobs now and then because I enjoy them and I like to help out!
Luckily our company is not one to be easily fooled, and she was DENIED Worker's Comp! Hooray for a system that worked. Somehow, she was not fired. Even though rumor had it that she actually injured herself over the weekend then tried to claim she did at work so she'd get paid (which didn't work anyway).

So now it's July, a whopping 6 weeks later. She apparently tried to get half of last week off, but because other people were already scheduled to be off, she ended up only getting last Wednesday as a vacation day. Here's where the "amazing coincidence" comes in - last Monday she called off with an "allergy attack". Tuesday she called in and said she had a "communicable illness" and would be off the rest of the week. Which just happened to be the week she wanted off in the first place. No, that's not suspicious AT ALL! DUH! Last Friday a part-timer who works with this person at night stopped by and said she had seen her out and about and looking just healthy as could be on Thursday. So now this week rolled around, and sure enough, she's still "sick". Luckily the Big Boss is back from Vacation next week. I'm absolutely sure this person is going to have a "come to Jesus" meeting, if you know what I mean. Just before he left we had a discussion about what was and was not happening at night (most what was not happening, but should have been), and now he leaves and she doesn't even come in for 2 weeks? I'm thinking that's plenty of grounds for a termination. But our company has a hard time firing people, for some reason. Even though she's missed 6 weeks out of 12 for fake illnesses. COME ON!


Back on the doggy front, I induced a fly-off on Drifter's see-saw yesterday! YEAH! I've been hoping to get one so I could correct it. He started up it, I threw his favorite distraction - the red squeaky jolly ball - and he just ran right up and off and sailed through the air! WOW! So I said "I don't think so" brought him back, put him on the board and threw it again. Mr. Perfect.
Repeated the toss as he approached and he stuck it. He's not a sticky dog as far as creeping goes so no worries there (some BC's would creep if you did something like that). Maybe we actually have a shot at a double-Q this weekend. I'm driving like 300 miles there/back so I better get something!! I hate traveling for AKC, but I also hate not qualifying so I'm doing it. I entered FAST for the first time this weekend too so I have an extra opportunity to get him on it once and give him a glare if he flies off.

22 July 2008

Dark Knight

Saw Dark Knight in IMAX today. Fantastic movie, dark and brooding but exciting and action-packed. Edge of your seat type stuff. Not a kids' Batman movie, not at all. Good follow-up to Batman Begins but still a lot more exciting to me. Love Christian Bale in the role, he's perfect. Ledger was almost unrecognizable, he was great too. The aerial shots and pan-around-the-buildings shots were fantastic in IMAX.
Better than Superman Returns and its silly 3D sequences. Wasn't a fan of that. And didn't give me the impression of watching a screen that was too big, as I did with 300 (and I loved that movie).

Probably going to end out as my fave movie of the year. Oh, saw a Watchmen trailer too, gotta read the graphic novel now (DJ already has it).

How much is not enough?

So I have 15 days of AKC planned between now and October. Both my dogs that I would like to take to AKC Nationals each have one 2Q. Is 33% 2Q rate asking too much?
I'm also planning 2 or 3 trials in November, so I guess the total for the remaining qualifying period would be 19-21 days left.

You know what, if they can't qualify in all that time, they probably shouldn't be going at all, huh?

Holy Handling Maneuvers Batman!

Yesterday I got DJ to help me dig our hold 2nd-hand see-saw out of the garage. Drifter is determined to run every trial see-saw like it's the National Finals now, and that's not really what he's supposed to be doing. It's certainly not what the AKC judges want him to do! So I did a few sequences that had a see-saw or two and a dogwalk or two, to clarify that dogwalk=run and see-saw=STOP. (he has trouble on the table, too, imagine that!). He actually did quite well on the see-saw, only came off once, and that was after it hit the ground and I ran past him, so still nowhere near a flyoff.
The issue I discovered is another handling hole. Eeeee gads there's more than I thought! And here I was excited that he was handling so well this year. Well, really, he's never handled poorly but sometimes he just pushes the limits, you know? I ask him to turn tight and he turns "almost tight", stuff like that. But he's been pretty spot-on most of this year, with only a few goofy runs where his brain checked out on me. But I have stuff to work on. For instance, I'm aware that if I ask for a tight shoulder turn and then move off in the other direction, he will turn tightly enough, but once I start re-accelerating he wants to swing out wide away from me, rather than aiming for the obstacle that is the same as the one I'm aiming for. Now, I can compensate for that at trials if I have to, but I shouldn't have to. So that's Skill #1 we're working on right now, getting rid of unnecessary false turns (RFPs). I do use them, but I don't want to be using them all the time or in that particular situation.

The issue I discovered was in a threadle I asked him to do. There were weaves beyond it (he loooves weaves), which he actually turned away from in a reasonably decent manner. The issue seemed to be more in the angle of the jumps we were threadling. We were approaching the jump on the right, and they slanted away and left, so that when I pulled through, the next jump was a little farther away, and little harder turn then he was expecting. He kind of said "huh?!" a couple times before he figured it out. So angled threadles near weaves it is!

I also found the other day that he is a little too obsessed with his red squeaky jolly ball. If I set it 15ft past a jump and asked for a tight shoulder turn or wrap away from it he had a LOT of trouble jumping the jump while focusing on me and not the ball, which meant his turn was wide, every time. Yikes! You'd think I would have trained that before!

So that's 3 things already to work on. That's OK. Wouldn't want me to think I was TOO perfect, right?

Oh, and DJ bought tickets online so we are going to see Dark Knight in IMAX today:-)
Cool!

21 July 2008

regarding the calendar

By the way, if you've looked at my calendar you may have noticed I have "Phillies vs. X" on certain Sundays. I have partial season tickets to the Phils - Sunday package. Unfortunately with AKC agility eating my life for the summer I won't be attending most of those games. If you happen to want the tickets on a weekend where I clearly have something else going on, feel free to ask about them, I sell them at face value + shipping. They are baseline tickets, past 1st, 19th row up from the field. Good seats! Hot in the summer though! They're $37 each.

Anyhow, if you were wondering why I was only interested in select games, that's why. I can't remember them all if I don't put them on there.

On AKC and "almost there"

I've never been a big fan of AKC trials. Ever. I refused to do it for a while in the 90's on account of them not letting all dogs play. Then I ran Drifter a lot hoping to do FCI. Then I stopped because AKC took my money and pissed me off with arbitrary rule-changing for Invitationals in 2006. Didn't do AKC at all in 2007 (that's why Kiba just got into Exc B).

But to be positive, here's the things I do like, at least about AKC trials in my area, can't speak for the rest of the country. Most of the ones around here are done by Fast Times (www.fasttimesagility.com), and she is super organized, puts up an estimated schedule of walk-throughs and run times for each jump height and everything.
so Things I Actually Like about AKC:
1. Organization
2. Those little yellow scribe sheet copies. Know right away!
3. Lots of time to read a book and relax between runs
4. Done by 10am if both dogs NQ!

And Things I Don't Like about AKC:
1. Focus on clean means less competitive edge, more frantic edge
2. Double Q's. How arbitrary can a rule be?? My dog doesn't know if s/he Q'd in the morning!
3. The handlers are stupid about not moving out of my way. Walking the course or walking around.
4. Done by 10am if both dogs NQ!

I am resolved to qualify at least one dog for AKC Nationals this year. I've never done it before, Freeze couldn't do it, Drifter is just now getting solid enough.

Speaking of Drifter. that dog has potential. But he just hasn't settled in to work with me to the extent that he could. He just isn't my "guaranteed Q" yet. Kiba is already closer to that mark than he is, and she's only 3 years old. Drifter's going on 6 now, and if he can't get his act together this year and next, he is never, ever going to be on a World Team. He is too tall for IFCS 22", so he's got next year, and next year alone to make that team at 26". He'll be too old to be jumping 26 the next time 'round. I have also decided that IF (BIG IF) he qualifies for FCI Tryouts next spring, I will go. Well, if I he's reliable enough. He's always "almost there". I'm tired of that state of being and I'm asking him to step it up and be "there" now. He's not quite coping with it yet but I think he will. He's able. It's a mental thing with him. I am trying to break through the barrier by doing lots of difficult handling work in the yard to keep him "partnering" with me 100%.

I also need to tighten him up on a certain specific type of shoulder turn. He's really tight when I'm in front of him, and he's pretty good on crosses, but on certain shoulder (post) turns he is a little wide, he wants me to false turn all the time which is not what I want to be doing.

19 July 2008

My dogs - an introduction!




Non-sporting dog club

So I only entered one day of the trial this weekend, and BOY am I glad!!! It turned out that 2.5 hours of driving each way is more than enough. Next time I'm at this site I am going to be real brave and bring my mom's RV. She's going to TAG that weekend and is staying at a hotel so she doesn't need it. My first "big girl" outing in the beast by myself! Not really looking forward to the driving, but I'm not actually afraid of it, I just dislike it, you know?

Anyhow. Got out of the house by 5:10 this morning (got up at 4:45, remember, that's still sleeping "in" for me, or it would have been if I hadn't stayed up "late" last night to watch the new Doctor Who episode!). Got to the site around 7:40, so yeah, almost exactly 2.5 hours. Ick. Not bad once, but twice in a day was a bit much. Kiba had JWW first. She was the 7th dog in, which was good because then I didnt' conflict with walking Drifter's standard course in the other ring. Kiba ran clean in JWW, very fast, very tight, nailed a pretty tough weave entry AND didn't pop out at pole 10 (I walked, like I would with a baby dog!). She won the class, time was 23.95 - she was moving for a midget-mite, 5.97YPS! Yahoo! Will get the points total on Tuesday when results are posted online.
Drifter's standard was next. He's jumping 24 now, and after his last trial was at 22 I was a little worried about bars. Well it started with a tire so I thought "oh, good, he'll get reminded of the height in a non-knockable obstacle". Which was great. He went tire-jump-jump just fine, it was the see-saw at number 4 that he couldn't handle properly, he rode it till it was just about horizontal, then leapt right off and boogied into the tunnel at 5. So STUPIDLY I did not leave then, I continued on (WHY?) did tunnel, weave, then knocked the next bar. And the one after that. So I stopped him after 9. I said "Hey, get your brain back!", then we moved on. He jumped 10, knocked it, and shot across my feet to hit the weaves (again!). OH MY! EVIL DOG! He got picked right up and walked off. Not something I have to do often with him! All the way back to the car I described to him just how angry I was.

Next up, Kiba's standard. Working on a doubleQ, her 3rd time running in B! And she did it!!! Hooray for 3 year old dogs that actually STAY when you say STAY!!! Boy, her contacts were a bit slow, I haven't told her "lie down stay stay stay" in a long time, but she listened like a champ. Even rode the see-saw all the way down and stood there looking at me like "OK, whatever!". I don't know if she won that class, especially since I was holding contacts, but that doesn't matter:-)

Last was Drifter's JWW. Ordinarily I wouldn't bother running that since he NQ'd in the morning, but it was up RIGHT after Kiba's run so I didn't have to sit around waiting for nothing. So I ran him to get him on 24" some more and try to get our "groove" back. Well, obviously my wordy descriptions of what I'd do to him if he misbehaved paid off, because he stayed on the start like a rock (no twitchiness), and was super fast and tight and clean the whole way round! Woohoo! got my dog back! His time: 23.87 I am going to assume he won that one. At least I ended up 3 for 4 and left with Drifter on a good note.

Something I did notice though, is that boy is Kiba picking up speed. Even taking the jump height difference into account, 20 vs 24" (but Kiba's 18" tall and Drifter's over 20"), she was damned close to his time! She's turning into a real contender! Watch out world! :-D

18 July 2008

I am oppressed!

I did manage to go out into the sweltering afternoon and do one 20-obstacle course once with each dog. Unfortunately they did not cooperate and we did have to repeat a section or two with each, but I kept it very short.
For those that don't know, I don't have a full set of equipment, just 7 jumps, tire, weaves, dogwalk, and table. And the yard I work in is maybe 40 x 100ish. Long and narrow. So I do a lot of back and forth, but at least its enough to get 20 obstacles in so the dogs don't always go out there expecting 5 at a time.

Weather.com says its currently 94 but the heat index is 100 due to the humidity. There's a heat warning in effect until Sunday, basically. Yeah, and I have a trial tomorrow! Hooray! I'm going to be a nasty mess driving home :-(

Remind me again why I want to move to North Carolina?

Finally the weekend!

I am so hopelessly addicted to agility. I have THREE adult dogs who get plenty of training time, and I still can't stand to sit inside my basement and not go out and practice sometimes. I actually have to force myself to give them a break!

I blame my mother ;-)

Anyhow, it's been 90+ degrees since Monday here in tropical Pennsylvania, so agility work has been 5-minutes sessions at best. The ground is drying out too, which is bad. The dogwalk bakes my dogs' feet, which is bad too. Oh well. I have one day of an AKC trial this weekend, hopefully Drifter remembers 24" BEFORE we go into the ring this time. Poodle Club was really slightly disastrous, but since the day after Indy he's been doing 24"/26" in the yard, and I specifically took him to my mom's class on Wednesday (yes, in the heat) to work on it. He did great. Even gave me a respectable down on the table (our nemesis forevermore, I'm afraid).
Gave Kiba a couple days off, as she's less than happy doing too many reps of anything. Soft little bugger. She's so different from Drifter! (and Seri is different from either of them! Eee gads!)

Astoundingly, people are reading this! I don't know if that's exciting or scary :-o
I just have to watch my big blabbery mouth, I have too much of a tendency to state my opinion and say "to hell with repercussions". . . before I consider what the repercussions might be. . . that's me though, opinionated and righteous to the core!

Went back a couple of times to those photographer's websites, but still, STILL, nobody has a great shot of Drifter on a contact. Fantastical contacts. . . and no pics. Sucks!
Tien was taking dogwalk pics in Perry but I never got around to checking her stand (plus I don't carry much cash or checks with me). Hopefully I can check at Nationals (or I think she may be at an AKC trial in August). Or maybe she'll send them to me as proofs, she often does that since she's known us a long time (or does she do that for anyone whose address she has? I don't know!)

15 July 2008

Last one



This jump was the 2nd or 3rd to last in Steeplechase round 1. Apparently neither of my dogs could figure out where to take off. Drifter decided he'd just accelerate to Mach-4 to finish the course, and Kiba just figured she'd leap and sprout wings. Guess I need to work on her taking off early!?
Somehow, neither one knocked the bar. Both were clean.

Drifter the Weave Machine





If Kiba is a spitfire, Drifter is the Terminator. When he is all business, ain't NOBODY getting away from him!!! First round of Steeplechase, which this series is from, he was definitely all business. Blew the competition away to the tune of almost an entire second (.9) and he really is a machine in the weave poles. Can't remember the last time he missed an entry or popped out. (oh wait, I can, but it was last October on a hard soft side entry into a crowd about 4 feet away).

Aframe Judging



If this isn't Spot On Contact Judging, then nothing is!!!!
Did she miss it? OH YES SHE DID!! By about 1/4 of an inch!
I was out ahead of her - this was the 1st round of GP and she had a bye so I was just letting her rip. Sure enough - 5 faults! Love that first shot though - except it looks like Scott is running my dog :-o

Pictures from Indiana Regional!







OK, there were a couple photographers there, one didn't get any great shots, the other has some good ones as far as the dog goes, but the composition isn't great enough for me to buy hard copies (junk/people in the background, lighting, etc). Anyhow, they caught some interesting weave-pole footing sequences.
Kiba, it turns out, is a fast little monkey through the poles. I don't realize this, because at home she only runs about 2/3 the speed she does at trials, obstacle speed included. So while she does the poles "fast" at home, she's "wow" at trials (considering she's a midget-mite).
I especially love the first sequence above (me in the white shirt). I love the middle frame - her feet and little body flying! Great!

Now you can stalk me!

I added my calendar to the blog. It's at the bottom of the page, or you can click the link on the right if you are too lazy to scroll a lot (I am).

I am trialing a lot more than I thought I would be this year!!!

Chalk that up to just not being able to give up on Drifter. That damn dog is going to go overseas eventually. Although I have to be careful, I did too many dogwalks and jumps on the hard ground yesterday and his wrist/toe was bothering him. He caught his outside left front toe on a tunnel when he was 2 and if I work him too hard on certain exercises it gets a little aggravated, and if it swells it can hurt his wrist a bit too, even though its not actually a wrist injury. I'm going to give him off today. Going to be hot this week :-(

Mike from K9-Athletes sent me links to the photographers from that trial. They got some awesome shots of Kiba in the weaves! I had no idea she had such crazy footwork. They got a cool little sequence down the aframe as well, showing the astounding Scott Chamberlain focusing very intently on her missing the contact by 1/4 inch (he called it correctly!) I will post them later, after I crop them up a bit. Also a few of Drifter in the weaves. He's a weave machine, sort of terrifying to see in slow motion ;-)

14 July 2008

Seri! Agility pics from May 31st



She was actually quite a booger at that trial, you can see from the above photo she sometimes forgets to slow down to stay on the see-saw. That one was wet and the judge kindly gave us benefit of the doubt on the flyoff (she's not stopping there - she's sliding forward!)
Seri will come out again at the Berks AKC trial last weekend of August in Reading, PA.

Work!

I have a job. A full-time job. I work half an hour every day to pay for gas to drive myself here, which is a lovely stat I figured out recently. I work most of a week to pay for my commuter car payment (the dog-van is actually DJ's and he has a much lower payment than I have, boo-hoo!), and the rest of my money goes to pay for dog stuff (or to pay off credit cards that paid for dog stuff)...

So I work at FedEx Ground. Decent place, good pay for what is essentially still an entry-level job (I'm young, cut me a break, and agility has eaten my life!). I get benefits, I get to go to staff meetings, oh, and I work alone with one other person most of the day, who just happens to be my long-time beau (probably permament, when we actually have money and such to do Grown-Up Things with our lives). So it's definitely not a bad gig. DJ and I don't spat much like some couples do so we're fine working with each other, and we have freedom to move around our ginormous warehouse building (we have room to dispatch about 75 delivery trucks from inside).
My job is writing up damaged package reports and entering them into our system for claims info, helping drivers find roads that aren't on their maps (hooray for the internet!), stuff like that. Clerical junk but at least its not in the office itself (we're out in the warehouse in a cage so we can lock up the packages and computers when we leave).

So that said, I generally enjoy my job as much as possible. We bring an iPod in and listen to music, obviously I am bad and answer email and blog while I'm here. The odd hours are even OK, there's a few advantages to working 4am to noon. One - I'm done at noon! I have the whole afternoon to mess about, train dogs, etc. Two - 6am feels like sleeping in! Seriously! I get to sleep in when I go to trials, how cool is that?
Disadvantages, yes they're obvious - I have to get up at an ungodly hour (do atheists have ungodly hours? hmmmmm) And I go to bed before the "primetime" TV shows come on. Thankfully DVR fixes that issue:-)

Anyhow I really wanted to explain all this because. . . my shift being in the morning, there is another shift that works evening when the trucks come back. The person(s) who work in our cage at night. . well. . they are NOT doing the job. When DJ and I leave, it is sparkling clean (well, its dusty but you know what I mean). When we come in. . it's a mess. Looks like a hurricane blew through. Boxes piled everywhere. There's an answering machine that they never listen to. They don't tape up open boxes. Ick. Hate it. And unfortunately our common boss never stays late enough or comes in early enough to see this mess and if she does hear about it she makes excuses. AIEEEEE want to pull my hair out! Or slap somebody!
So everyday the first HOUR of my and DJ's job is. . . . clean up after the other shift. I'm sure we're not the only ones on earth with this dubious job description, but for those others of you out there, it sure SUCKS doesn't it?!!?

Silly dogs, defensive people, and dogwalks

The funniest thing about the pictures in my previous post is that Drifter will do that all by himself with a toy shaped like that. All I do is hand it to him, and he runs around my "house" (read: basement apartment) mumbling to himself and mouthing it until it ends up on his head like that. Silly dog! I will admit that I said "stay" to get that picture, but that's it! I swear! Sadly, that toy was lost about a week after I took that pic. . . no idea where it went. It will probably turn up 4 years from now during a cleaning session.


I am a very opinionated person. I know this is true. I'm not afraid to share those opinions either, although I generally share them only with people I consider to be "friends" of one variety or another (yeah, I guess I have varieties of friends! just discovered that!). Anyhow. . . . my opinion is that if a dog has a relative who has epilepsy/dysplasia/deafness or whatever, then any potential puppy-buyer should be made aware of it. That's it, that's my earth-shattering announcement. Not difficult. Here's the thing - this doesn't happen most of the time! Sadly, it's usually because the breeder either doesn't know about it, or because they don't care or don't WANT to know about it.
The other sad thing is how difficult it is to uncover real facts about such health conditions. If you watch House then you already know this, but "People lie."
And people are BIG TIME DEFENSIVE too! I got personally insulted in some very nasty ways a year or so ago by a big-name breeder. Do I feel sorry? Not in the least. I feel insulted, yes, but I am also a bit amused, because this breeder sounded a LOT like a mad first-grade bully (s/he mentioned me playing with Barbie dolls!? Honestly the most fun I had with Barbie was with her car - '57 Chevy thank you very much - oh and I ripped her head off once).

Back to agility. Drifter's re-hashed dogwalk is coming along. I'm trying to be very clear with him. Going straight? Run full out. Turning? "lie down" means put on the brakes!
It's working out really well at home. He already knows both those behaviors but I've been very focused on his foot target all this year. Which had no effect on his trial behavior, much to my annoyance. So off we embark on a new/old/rehashed journey. Last time I let him run too much on straight-aways he started missing contacts and not wanting to turn, but I'm hoping that really letting him go at home more (dogwalk in my yard, yay!) and giving him a very clear body and verbal signal for Turn vs. Run should even him out more at trials.

12 July 2008

Pictures


So its high time I started being a real blogger and adding pics.

Here is my serious agility dog Drifter.

Did I say serious? Yeah. . . well. . . . not so much at home!

Canine Health

So, apparently I'm the only one who believe in full disclosure of health issues when dealing with border collies.

I've been doing lots of research and compilation the last 8 months. I have lots of pedigrees on my computer. I know who's thrown bad hips, who's thrown epilepsy, who has an aunt that went deaf. Does this mean I walk around announcing these facts to every person I meet who has a BC or wants one? No, but I certainly do believe that if someone is looking into a litter or puppy, or even just asks me about one, they have a right to know the information. But I also believe that what they do with that information is their choice. Risk assessment is a part of everyone's life, and this is just another instance of such.

Personally, I'm very annoyed that the OFA maintains a database. . . but if a dog has bad hips they probably aren't in it. You have to check a little bitty box on the paperwork that says if its a bad result you want it to be public. Most people don't check that box. KUDOS I say to those that did. WTF is the point of a "health" database, if only the good dogs are shown?

By the way, if you happen to search the OFA database for a dog, especially a border collie (that is where my experience lies) and you find a dog who is over 2 years old, has Elbows that are Normal/Good, but for some reason doesn't have hips listed - the odds are very, very good that the hips were dysplastic but the owner did not check the public box. I know several instances where this is true (I KNOW, not just theorize), and I personally can't think of many reasons to have a dog's elbows alone OFA'd when Elbow dysplasia is not really an issue in our breed. Sure it exists, but the incidence is very low, most people don't OFA elbows unless they are doing elbows and hips both (it's only $5 more than hips alone).

Regarding epilepsy. . . this is a hard to dig up secret in many breeders' lines. And many people are very, very defensive when speaking of the subject. Yes, lots and lots of dogs have relatives who have or have thrown epilepsy. Does that make it right to breed a dog whose littermate seizes? Is it right to breed a dog whose grandfather's littermate threw offspring who seized? What about a dog who is linebred on a combination that produced seizures, but has no immediate relatives who do so? These are tough questions. My big issue with the whole situation is this - most people don't know the extent of the problem in their dog's lines, and they blithely go on believing that (insert a name) breeder would certainly have told them if it was a risk. I'm sorry - NOT TRUE - many breeders believe they have magically "cured" the problem in their lines, or that they are expert geneticists who have somehow tamed the beast of a disease into nonexistence. Not possible. If it was there in the grandparents' generation, sure the chances are less now than they were then, but they still exist. I believe the pup buyers should KNOW this. I don't think they should be told what to do, but they should be aware. If they walk away. . . too bad!

I have a minority opinion on these matters, and I often lean towards the conservative side. I strongly believe that if your dog has a littermate/full sibling with a major health issue (hips, epilepsy, whatever) you should not breed your dog. Period. Find a similar dog without the littermate issue. Half-siblings are dicier, and I look more to the frequency of the issue; if a dog has one half-sibling with bad hips, and the rest are all Good/Excellent, I would perhaps consent to breeding. If the dog has several half-siblings with problems from different litters, then I would probably not do it.
Full aunts and uncles are a similar category, to my thinking. But littermates in general are overlooked because they are not actually on a dog's pedigree, and people often disregard them because of that. But they are JUST as important genetically as a dog's parents.

I'm home this weekend:-) Going to do laundry, play GRID on the PS3, read my book (book 7 of a 7 book series! finally!) and generally take it easy!

10 July 2008

RV vs hotels

So I've been going to agility trials for a long time. A looong time. For much of that time I've stayed in hotels, first with my mother (hey, I was 11) then with friends, room-mates, or still my mother. 4 years ago my mom went all-out and got an RV. Started with a 30ft trailer pulled behind a full-size van, then 2 years later switched to a 31ft Class C motorhome. It works great for 2 people - has a bed and a bunk over the cab. Problem is that this last year or two, she's been laid up with various minor surgeries, and now with my father's ongoing health issues (he's home, and not all there sometimes), and even with dogs who just aren't quite ready for "primetime" yet - all this adds up to very little RV use for her. She's used it perhaps thrice this year (I like to use neat words!). I like it, for myself, however it's way too large just for me to take on my own. It's big, its awkward, it sucks gas (8 mpg!!!) and it's wide, etc etc. I would happily drive a smaller motorhome all by my lonesome. . . so I suggested it to her. Trade in the big thing for a smaller one that we could squeeze into if both of us went, but that I would rent from her for a nominal fee when she couldn't go. I just can't imagine myself with 2 to 4 dogs in the 31ft monstrosity. I pack light, like 2 bags total. 2 bags + a few dogs + just me? in 31 ft with a slide and a bunk? Ludicrous!

So the new hope is that we can trade it in for one of those super-nifty 24ft long Sprinter-chassis diesels. They can pull 17mpg, they still have 2 "beds" including a bunk over the cab, but they are 7 feet shorter in length and narrower as well, with better visibility and easier steering. I would drive that, my mom would drive that, and we could both use it in a pinch. Problem is, new ones are more expense than our trade-in is worth, and used ones are hard to fine. So off to searching we go!

Here's an example of what we have (ours is a 2006 though)
2009 Freelander 3150SS

And what we would love to have instead:
2008 Winnebago View 24J

08 July 2008

running dogwalks

So I tend to use my free time to roam the internet, reading various blogs in a very random fashion, and just keeping an eye on the agility world as I can. So I see that there are quite a few young up-and-coming dogs being trained with full-on running dogwalk contacts. I am very, very curious to see how these hold up, since most have zilch for criteria aside from "don't jump". I myself have been training running contacts since 2003, using various methods, and it is not an easy task to keep a consistent performance. My questions regarding the method being used these days (which is usually pretty Trkman-like, if it isn't exactly what she says) is that it doesn't lend itself well to sharp turns or to consistency. Sure, it may work. lots of methods work. But it won't be the fastest way to do dogwalk-90degree-turn-to-a-tire. It just won't be, especially up against a very fast "stopped" contact (or moving/hesitating contact as my one dog has).

I trained Drifter's running dogwalk with a foot target. I used a SMALL target, no great big obvious thing, I don't like great big obvious things, they are very hard to get rid of later on. I also trained Drifter to have a very early release - I tell him "OK Go Weave" or whatever obstacle is next, and he shifts focus to that next thing, lowers his center of gravity, and takes off like a funny car drag racing. This is his fastest dogwalk, undoubtedly. I have clocked it at 1.35, and he can do the entire thing in just 4 strides and still hit the yellow. Does this help me win Grand Prix's? Sometimes. . . sometimes not. I'd say in my experience with this dog, probably about 60-70% of dogwalks are on a relatively straight line, and the other 30-40% have reasonably sharp turns afterward. (Drifter also has a verbal "back tunnel" for very sharp turns back into a tunnel). So. . . do I only want to win 65% of the time? NO! But once you allow a dog free rein to run his heart out it is very difficult to rein him back in sometimes. Does this mean I won't run a dog again? Hell no! I am working on a different dual behavior with Seri. She has a stop and a run. A full run. A fast run. A natural run. It looks just like Drifter's full run, and is probably just as fast. However, if I want a stop/turn/re-focus the young dog brain, I have that too. I just have to growl "Lie down" at her and she stops with her ass on the yellow and her front on the ground.
I'm hoping this complete dichotomy in behaviors will make it easier for her to tell one from another. Drifter has two behaviors, but both were too similar to each other and while he was fighting me about them, I also think he was somewhat confused. "Run full out" and "run but touch the spot" are too close. I have shifted his behaviors. I am trying to be consistent. They are now supposed to be "Run full out in a straight line" or "I say 'lie down' and back off and you slow down and turn off the end". We'll see how this lasts long-term.

Anyhow, the gist of this jumbled turn of thought is that I am curious to see if these running dogwalks will hold - if these handlers are willing to accept the missed contacts and the risk-taking on the way to the moment of glory. And it might only be a 60% chance of a moment of glory. Win or burn, instead of guaranteed 3rd. . . . I am watching to see how this all pans out!

07 July 2008

My steeplechase machine is broken!

So we travelled all the way out to Indiana for our 3rd regional for USDAA. Drifter already has his bye into Finals from Keystone, Kiba has one for the semi-finals from Perry, but neither one of them has managed to get a bye into the semifinals of steeplechase. So I figured I'd go out to Indy and try. Kiba also had one last voucher into the 2nd round of Grand Prix (she won 3 local Grand Prix's this year). So we go out there, my dogs weren't horrible but I certainly didn't get what I wanted. Both of them were clean in the first round of Steeplechase, Drifter in 1st by almost an entire second (.9). Get there on Saturday and the 2nd round is really a pretty simple course, no complicated handling. Two a-frames (good for Drifter, not for Kiba). Someone joshed me about making Drifter take some wide corners so he doesn't skew the time (that happens kind of often, actually!). Then I run, and Kiba runs well but misses her 2nd aframe AND immediately hooks a right to go off course at the 2nd to last obstacle. Eeeeek!! She doesn't usually do that (the off course, her aframes are pretty iffy). So I figure at least Drifter should run well. Wrong! He started out OK, unfortunately it was a straight line 3-jump-tunnel line at the beginning of the course, NOT a great way to start out with a brain. I much prefer something that starts with a nice lead-out pivot/push or even a corner of some sort! So he missed his first a-frame (very unusual!), then took 2 wide corners, then knocked a bar, then did a very half-assed 2nd aframe. . . so no, we did NOT qualify.

So now the 2007 22" Steeplechase Champ has to start in the quarter-finals!!! Ridiculous!! I don't like this 15% rule! If not for that, BOTH of my dogs would have qualified already. The rule is too tight, IMO. We are having like 30-40 Grand Prix byes at these trials, and only like 15 Steeplechase ones. Crazy!

Sharon suggested going to Dallas but I don't have the vacation days for that, it's a 2-day drive (24 hours total). Oh well. At least I have a dog in the GP Finals guaranteed. I really, really want him in Steeplechase though, that's HIS event!

01 July 2008

Horrible! Failure!

So I'm a horrible blogger.
Sure, I update my dog's webpages as soon as they win something.
Sure, I get really mad when other blogs I read aren't updated.

But me? Can't be bothered. What do I do all day long except muse on random stuff, usually agility-related (yes I'm an agility geek), but apparently I absolutely SUCK at putting it down in one place. I should. Because often I have a mini-epiphany in my head, and 3 hours later can not for the life of me remember what it was (shouldn't happen to a 25-year old, I know, but it does).

Anyhow, I'm going to TRY TRY TRY to keep up with this from now on, I may even add pictures and stuff! Woohoo! yeah. Like that'll happen:-)

I am leaving Thursday morning early for my 3rd regional in Indianapolis. Drifter won the Keystone NE Regional, so it's a pretty relaxing trip since I already have what I really wanted. Neither of my competition dogs has a bye for Steeplechase semi-finals though, with the tougher rules this year you have to be CLEAN to get one (and fast!).

On that subject, I don't LIKE the new rules. Dogs can have 5 faults in Grand Prix and get to the semi's, but the Steeplechase calculations for Q'ing (115% of the average of the top 3 times) is too tight. Drifter had THE fastest time in Perry, GA, but knocked one bar. Didn't make it. By over a second! That's nuts. If he'd done that in GP he would've qualified. Last time I checked, the Grand Prix was a bigger deal than Steeplechase, so why is Steeplechase suddenly HARDER to qualify for??? Don't like that at all, no sir. Either tighten up GP standars too, or put Steeplechase back the way it was. Or compromise and make it 120% or something.