31 January 2009

Am I really the only one who would buy a turbocharged, sport suspension, 6-speed manual (paddle-shift maybe?), all wheel drive - minivan?

Are you sure there's no market for that?

30 January 2009

does Seri have a big tongue? Yes. Yes she does.

Ok so I thought of something.

There is a weird disease going around Facebook and the blogosphere right now, called "25 Random Things". Generally someone "tags" you and you list 25 random things and you are supposed to tag 25 people to do the same, so it keeps on rolling. Well nobody tagged (I'm barely on facebook anyway), but I'm going to list 25 random things just for the hell of it.

1. I've been involved in dog agility since I was 10. I am now 26. That means agility is 61.5% of my life:-)
2. My first dog was a flat-coated retriever who I got when I was 9 years old. I don't think I'll ever have another, as I am addicted to border collies now.
3. I work at FedEx Ground, dealing with damaged packages and bad addresses and such.
4. I was a girl scout, but I quit to get into dogs and horses.
5. I used to ride horses competitively; I rode in Children's/Adult Amateur Jumpers over 3'6" fences, and rode in Novice level eventing, some equitation, and had my horse trained up to 1st level dressage. As my horse got older I got more immersed in dogs until I pretty much stopped riding around '99 or so.
6. I live in a tiny 1-bedroom apartment in my parents' basement. I have a separate entrance.
7. I haven't trained with a regular agility instructor since my mom taught me with my first dog, back in the mid-90's. I've also only attended about 4 or 5 camps or seminars since 1999.
8. All of my current dogs have running contacts of some form or another on the aframe or dogwalk. All of my current dogs were also trained with a modified 2-by-2 method in the weaves.
9. Drifter was probably the first dog trained with the 2-by-2 method to complete the 60 weave pole challenge, but it was before Clean Run was in charge of it, and I never had that confirmed. He ran it in 14.10 seconds at the age of 22 months old; about 5 months after learning the obstacle (I wasn't able to push at all, I'm sure he's faster now).
10. I haven't used a clicker since 2006. I don't like them for running contacts.
11. I hate props for agility training. I use tiny striders once in a while, but I have never personally seen a method based on props work for long-term in the ring.
12. I am 5'3". My mother is 5'4", and she has a sister who is only 5'1" and a brother who is 6'4".
13. I was the first junior/minor to be approved as a USDAA judge. I judged approximately 3 assignments and have since let my approval lapse.
14. I love cars. I had 1 Barbie as a kid, and a huge bucket of matchbox cars. If I drive somewhere with you, I can name 98% or more of the cars we will pass on the road, and give you a range of years that it was made in. I love sports cars, and if i only had one dog I would definitely be driving something with a turbo and a stickshift.
15. I am a stickler for certain rules. I get very upset if someone upsets my sense of fairness. However I ignore other rules (like the speed limit) if I feel they are unjust or silly.
16. I have never smoked anything in my entire life. Ever. I have ingested no illegal drugs. And I drink no more than 1-3 drinks in a month, sometimes none.
17. I am serious about agility, but also willing to accept mistakes. I am a great DAM team-mate because of this:-)
18. Drifter has 70-some Tournament legs but only 7 Pairs legs. Kiba has about over 35 Tournament legs and doesn't have her ADCH. Can you see my priorities?
19. I did exactly zero AKC trials in 2007.
20. If I drive somewhere once, I can generally map the way in my head and not even look up directions next time. Also, I will probably never buy a GPS because if I Google something and write down the directions, I remember 90% of them without looking. When I was a teenager I used to deliberately TRY to get lost and find my way back to a road I knew. I thought that was fun. One time I left my college and ended up driving for over an hour (in the edge of Philly) and almost missed my next class.
21. I had a very high SAT score and got my admission fee waived and a good scholarship to a good school, went for a year, then quit.
22. I taught myself to drive stickshift on a 1988 Chevrolet Beretta GT. I know 4 other women who like to drive stick, and several man who can't do it.
23. I have sprained both ankles, have flat feet, and tendonitis in my shoulder. Looking forward to advancements in bionics as I get older:-)
24. My handwriting changes daily, and I write in about four different "types" of sloppiness, including a personal short-hand that isn't really very complicated.
25. I once totally made up an answer on a Biology essay in college, and got a B+. I consider myself a very intelligent person and am slightly obsessed with the intelligence (or lack thereof) of others. I secretly wish everyone had to take an IQ test and divulge their scores before working somewhere.

Not much to say

I don't really have anything interesting to say today. I have to figure out how to budget the several thousand dollars necessary to travel to AZ again, which means cutting back on trialing in the fall. The ground outside is still covered in a horrible snow+ice-on-top sheet, and the dogs all go skating and crunching and falling in their little potty yard. This afternoon I get to train in an indoor, thankfully, so they'll get some good exercise. It may be above freezing today and tomorrow; I'm hoping that will at least be enough to thaw some of the top ice layer so I can hike again. We'll see.

I'm actually a little excited about AKC Nationals. Only 2 months away. Gives me something to look forward to and train for in the middle of the slow winter. Usually I end up going a little batty waiting for my next trial (and I am starting to go that way, to be honest) but the weather and the hiking have combined to keep me quiet and relatively sane. Also the serious drive to do well at Tryouts and try for IFCS. But there's not much I can do right now without even being able to train in the yard. They're calling for some weather next Tues/Wed again, I'm hoping it will fizzle and just be flurries so I can practice and have class (if we don't have class, we put the equipment away so we don't have to pay to rent the indoor, which means I don't get to train either!)

29 January 2009

Scuttlebutt

Reliable gossip: Nationals in Scottsdale : Nov 13-14-15

I've heard from the rumor mill that it was going to end up in AZ again for a while now, which makes it SIX YEARS IN A ROW of crazy expenses for those of us who don't live in the western third of the country. Thanks USDAA. Not unexpected, I'll admit, but I was certainly hoping.

This is unconfirmed, at this point, but someone's judging assignment got cancelled because it was going to be that weekend, so it sounds fairly reliable. And of course it's more than 3 days, but that's the basic weekend. Which means it'll be RIGHT on the border line of when I can take days off, since technically mid-November is the beginning of our black-out period for vacation days.

-----

Unless I find someone to ride with me who is only bringing one dog and is up for MARATHON driving, I will be looking to give someone's dog a ride out in my van with me in exchange for some monetary compensation. If I know you, and you live in my general area of the country and have a QUIET dog you'd like me to drive while you fly, please leave a comment for me and I'll get back to you. I promise the amount of money would be a good deal less than than flying them, I'm just looking for help with gas/hotel costs, that's all. And I'm already bringing 3 dogs, so why not make it an even 4, right?

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The snow changed to freezing rain and continued as such for half or more of the day yesterday. So now the yard is 3" of snow with 2" of ice on top. Poor dogs. They go step-step-step-CRUNCH and fall through. Slippery, crunchy, painful to walk on. No way I can take them to the park or even let them run in the yard on that. So they will be stuck inside again today. Luckily tomorrow we are getting to train in a private indoor for a bit, so they can get worn out, and maybe the ice crust will melt a bit and be less crunchy and painful and we can go to the park over the weekend. We'll see.

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Yes this post is a weird mishmash of unrelated items all cobbled together. So what? Anyway. World Team Skillz. Haven't mentioned them in a week or two. I worked on mostly handling at the building last Sunday, we did a couple courses. I did get a consistent bar-knock issue on ONE jump with Drifter, so I have that filed away in the "work on it" section of my brain. He did weaves and contacts beautifully, even the dogwalk, which I was slightly stressed over since he's been a little inconsistent at our horsey building Tues/Wed. I'm hoping that's because of the deep dirt and constant angled approach (it's in the short side of the building, so very little speed getting on). Still, I feel that he could try harder on the dogwalk to accelerate from a slow start and stride down farther, so something else I'll be working on. His aframes are always fantastic. Kiba of course, did nothing wrong in practice Sunday. I used my recycled "touch" command on her aframe, and it worked like a charm. She came right down below that first yellow slat with a downward focus. I can't say I think she really "touched", but it certainly added a bit of consistency to the way she comes down the downside. I can only hope it holds up at trials. I did induce a POP off the DW once, which I was glad to have the opportunity to correct. She gets a little too excited if I keep running while asking her to touch on the ramp, but if I slow down, she does too, so we have to strike that balance carefully, run full-out and growl TOUCH and point seems to work. STAY will work but slows her down.

28 January 2009

Something you probably didn't know about me, and something I didn't know about my area


I like abandoned buildings. Sure, they are creepy. No, you can't live in them. They look like crap. But if I could pick an odd job that didn't involve agility, I would probably tour the country and photograph abandoned buildings and roadways. I would put together a book of what the country would look like if all its humans had died off. And it's not really a morbid fixation or anything. I don't WANT all the humans to die, and I certainly hope to never see that. But I have this fixation on what it would LOOK like if that did happen. Anyway, when you use Google Maps, sometimes it offers little pictures of things in the area taken by users. I searched an address in Royersford PA and it offered me a pic of something called the Pennhurst State School, which I clicked on and immediately had a "that's near ME?!" moment. Wow! Just like many horror flicks, it is a 100 year old abandoned mental institution which had abuse and neglect and overcrowding cases, big time. It closed back in 1987, much later than it should have. But just check out the photos of it now. Why has there not been a horror movie filmed here?

All pictures are from THIS WEBSITE and I do NOT own them. Please don't steal them for public use:-)

Here's the school back in 1934, on a postcard
And the school as it looks now, in all its creepy glory.


Here's an old bed frame in the basement. There's a LOT of creepy pics on the website I linked above if you're interested. The photographer has a great flair for the dramatic, and good composition (in my very amateur opinion!)

Blech. (pronounced like Blek but with some phlegm behind the 'k', sort of Germanish)

We cancelled class yesterday, but the snow didn't really kick in till after I went to bed (which was early). When we woke up at 3am there was a solid (well, fluffy actually) 4" of thick white snow on the ground. Was a little late to work, as the plows went around the main roads once, but it was like 2 hours before I was on them, so there was a couple inches and some scattered tire marks. Still, the snow was fluffy and packed well and wasn't horribly slick, so we got in without incident, just kept the speed down. By the time we got in to work, a little after 4am, the snow was changing to sleet. Yick. By about 5:30 the major highway artery that runs about 1/4 miles from the back of our building was backed up bumper to bumper, parking lot of lights in the dark. One of our secretaries said the drivers who are arriving are saying it's getting pretty slick out there. I'm hoping by the time I leave (around noon) the roads will have been warmed up by tires and salt and the grip should be fine. I probably won't get to do anything with the dogs today, unless by some miracle it keeps snowing at home rather than changes to rain, but I doubt that. Yesterday I went for what was going to be a short walk, and ended up being a long one when my mom called me from another part of the trail, and I randomly decided to go meet up with her. I was out almost 2 hours with Drifter and Kiba off-leash probablky 90% of that, both of them maintaining a wonderful little trot/canter pace. I hid when Drifter took the wrong trail a couple times. After a minute he came pounding back like "where the f--- are you?!?"; made me laugh at him and reminded him not to go forging too far ahead. He's very proud of his ability to find the trail, and sometimes he forgets that when there are multiple trails branching off, he needs to check with me to see which one to take. . .

I left Seri home to let her back finish healing up. When I got home I lasered her upper back too, to help it along. She certainly seems to feel fine, as I had a hard time trying to keep her and Drake from wrestling and bouncing around the living room. I will keep her on forced inactivity for today, then tomorrow if I go to the park I'll take her with me but maybe keep her on lead so she can't do her crazy greyhound track running.

27 January 2009

Using imagination to train dogs

I am going to try to help you understand what an aframe is to a dog, and how the dog climbs it. As a dog runs in agility, he uses a galloping stride. This involves first the back feet hitting the ground, one after another (usually the back legs are on the same "lead" as the front legs, so a dog on the right lead will hit left then right in both back and front feet). The dog then uses the back feet to push forward and propel his body along the ground, stretching out his back in the process. Once he is extended he puts his front legs down, one after another, and uses his strong front end to pull his body forward while he tucks up his back legs and brings them up for another push. A dog in a gallop stride usually acheives double suspension, unlike horses who, with a much less flexible spine and less favorable height to weight ratio, usually acheive only a single suspended moment in their stride.

Here is a series of photos of a whippet in full gallop.

When a galloping dog approaches an obstacle in his path, he must judge the distance, gather himself, and change his momentum to push upward rather than forward. This occurs rather quickly. Usually the last stride or two before the obstacle (jump or aframe, doesn't matter), the dog can be seen to lower his head and shoulders as he judges the distance, his approach speed, and the effort that will be required. This lowering in front is usually most visible the last stride before takeoff, as the dog extends his front legs. After they hit the ground, as the front legs pull his body forward on the ground one last time, the dog will shift his weight backward, pull his head, neck, and shoulders up and back over his body, reach as far forward with his rear legs as is comfortable, and push upwards. The jump itself is simply a more vertical version of the gallop stride, as the mechanics are essentially the same. If you don't understand how all this works, check out the "Jumping A to Z" book, it's been around a while, but it has great diagrams of how dogs jump in it.

Now comes the imagination part. Imagine you are a dog. A fast dog. You are running toward an aframe as fast as you can. It's like a WALL coming at you! You don't want to hit it, and it's big, and it's taller than you. You have to be careful not to get too close before you take off! Try to imagine the movement of your 4 legs as you run towards it. Feel how hard it is to shift your weight as you switch from running at 7 yards per second to moving up a steep wooden slope. Understand how you need to pull your rear end up under you, and use your head and shoulders and neck to help balance your weight over it so you can push up into the air. Now try to understand using that motion to run over the entire frame. You use the push off the ground to land on the frame with upward momentum, so that the next stride you take is the first full one on the wooden wall. If you use yourself properly, you will still be pushing upward, using your powerful rear leg muscles to propel yourself upward. Now of course it is a bit more slippery, and quite steep, and it ends in mid-air, so you can't go running up it fully extended. Once you reach the top, there is a very steep downside you have to deal with, and you hit the top quicky, and sail over. You can feel your stomach drop as you realize how quickly you are about to go sailing down the other side. At this point gravity and momentum take over. If you are a brave dog, you allow them to, and simply use your legs to keep yourself in position. If you are a VERY brave dog, who's running the frame rather than stopping, you will now continue your running motion. But now you have your weight shift back as far as you can while still maintaining a running stride. Your head will be up. You will keep your rear legs tucked under you a little longer than normal, and not extend them as far after they land. You've only got one stride on the downside. If you extend too much you will faceplant in the ground at the bottom, and if you manage to avoid that you will instead hit the ground with several G's pushing your body down, through your wrists and shoulders. You need to time that last stride well, be brave and allow gravity to carry you over the apex and down the ramp a bit before you wimp out and put your feet down. And then you must use a somewhat collected stride to control your descent and avoid going "splat"...

I hope you understand now why I don't like running aframe methods that ask the dog to extend on the last stride on the downside. It is a completely unnatural feeling to a dog, to extend while running down a steep wooden slope into the ground. I hope you also understand why some dogs take off early and smack on the upside of the frame (well actually that's 2 reasons - 1 is that they are afraid to get too close which is because of 2, they don't know how to shift their weight and climb properly). I've found the absolute best way to get a consistent upside without smashing is to slow it down, and teach them to use their bodies to climb. The best way to get a downside starts out the same way, confidence. Then I work on getting them to run without thinking about it. If they think too much about what they are doing they will usually try to second guess either the speed of their descent, or what you want them to do. If you just encourage to focus properly forward on whatever it next, or on you as you come in front of or next to them to turn them, they will usually shift their weight properly on the downside without worrying too much, hit the contact, and move on with their lives.

Ever take your car to the garage and as soon as the mechanic gets in the car stops making the funny noise? This was like that...

Well I rushed home from work yesterday, gobbled a quick lunch, then tossed Seri in the cheapy folding soft crate in the back of the Civic and drove out to NJ to see one of our PT's. Well of course she's not limping anymore. He watched her walk and trot around their driveway for a few but there wasn't really anything visible so we brought her and he got most of the same non-response that I did, all up and down her leg. Toes are fine, along with wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Not a leg lameness. Then he started on her back, and she started whining. At first I thought it was a Bored Seri Whine, cuz she does that sometimes and she WAS pretty annoyed that she wasn't being allowed to jump all over his face and bounce up and down, however the whine was consistently when he worked a certain spot. So it turns out her back was sore from up between her withers to midway down her spine. He remobilized everything and lasered it up and she was relaxed and happy by the time we left. So our best guess is that she was so tight and/or sore up there that it was pulling on her shoulder/elbow area a bit and it must have hurt when she put her weight on her leg. My personal guess is that she slipped a week or so ago (on ice/snow) and slipping and sliding on her face a few times in training (that sprintturf is getting slicker as it ages) must have aggravated it so that when I got home she was hurting. Makes sense. I have an appointment for all the dogs next week, so I will take her back and have her checked to make sure this was a one time occurrance. She's never had a sore back before, and she's young and flexible, so I'm hoping that was just a fluke.

Anyway, it was most confusing to have a sound dog with a sound leg being examined, when she was pretty badly limping the day before. But I *think* we got her figured out.

We had to cancel class, as it is already snowing and is supposed to add up quite a bit (anywhere from 3 to 9 inches predicted) over the next 2 days. If the roads are still good when I get home, I'll take Drifter and Kiba to the park. Seri is going to be on restricted duty for a few days to make sure her muscles heal up properly and I don't see any more weird limping.

26 January 2009

Sunday practice and Seri

Saturday after I got brave and plugged in my laptop, I found an email inviting me to a small group practice (among friends, no instructor) at the nearby indoor. So I took Drifter, Kiba, and Seri up for a few hours of fun. We ran a couple courses and worked on obstacles. There were 5 of us with 11 border collies (maybe 12, if I missed a dog). My dogs ran well, although I was surprised by Drifter having a "duh" moment twice where he didn't read my turn and went off course. Unusual! Seri ran VERY well and impressed (and deafened) everybody. Her breeder was there, and she hasn't seen her in a few months.

I'll preface the next bit by saying that I had noticed a weird misstep in Seri's front on and off for the last few days, but it's been VERY sporadic and IMPOSSIBLE to find anything sore. And whenever I tried to find it, she immediately seemed to stop limping. Now, Seri walks with a short, vertical stride anyway, like she's anxious to go somewhere but isn't doing it quickly. Weird since her running stride covers about half a mile. Just a quirk of the way she is. Anyway, that makes it tough to figure her out. And I let her run Saturday and she was fine after that so I figured she had just stepped on something. Well after I got back from working yesterday she was *obviously* lame in front. But I stretched and flexed and prodded, and all I got was some minor reaction in the toes, and some minor reaction if I folded her front leg into her body. None of the extension stretches seemed to bother her. I can't figure it out. So I lasered her toes just in case, gave her a bit of aspirin to prevent swelling, and made an appointment to see the PT this afternoon. Hopefully it's not something serious, like X-ray serious. If it is, I will deal with it. But if not, I need to know what to do for rehab to get her better.

On a better note, Drifter's jumping at 26" on the sprintturf looked fantastic (with the exception of one jump where he kept getting under it and knocking it, but it was a weird approach and he was great on all the others). And Kiba's aframe looked good with me just telling her "touch" authoritatively.

24 January 2009

Drake's first time on sheep

My mother took Trig and Drake to see sheep for the first time this morning. I stayed home. Trig was afraid of the sheep and wouldn't do much, but Drake got over his initial barking fit (what are THEY?!?) and then did pretty well. The instructor is working him, mostly just trying to build confidence and get him circling and wearing a tiny bit. He does pretty well for a first time out (this is actually his 2nd session, after he had a short break to cool off). He prefers the same direction that Drifter did (away rather than come-bye), but does circle a bit both directions. Fun to see.

ETA: decided to embed the video, had some trouble with the link. It's on my mother's youtube page, not mine. The video is almost 7 minutes long, so if you get bored with watching a young dog circle for 2 minutes, you won't miss much if you close it; I promise I won't be offended:-)


I did take the other 3 to the park this afternoon and let them run for about 45 minutes. I had to get after Seri a bit as when I took her off lead she wanted to just RUN straight until she hit a reason to turn, so I had to remind her sharply that she should stay within about 100 feet of me. We do encounter hikers and mountain bikers on occasion so I really need them within sight and close enough to control in a hurry. They had a blast but picked up some mud that I had to wipe off with a wet towel after it dried, which was nasty. I probably won't bother tomorrow; it will be cold in the morning so I can let them play in the yard a bit. It will be their "day off". Then Monday I'd like to take Drifter and Kiba for a nice long park walk again.

I got brave with my laptop power cable. I decided it wasn't THAT ruined and tried plugging it back in to see if it sparked. It didn't. So I wrapped some electrical tape around it and am using it again. Hooray:-) Because I was not thrilled about paying $130 for another cable.

23 January 2009

Why are trials so expensive?

Well, I know why. Recording fees, judges fees, site fees, equipment fees, worker perks, truck rentals, gas, etc. But did you realize that if I enter 3 dogs in a very sparse collection of classes at a USDAA trial, it costs me over $300? For instance, at Paws in Motion in NJ, a lovely indoor (which I'm sure isn't cheap), the non-Tournament classes are $14, and Tournaments are 23. So I want to enter a whopping 12 non-Tourn classes, a combination of Masters for the older 2, and the 2 Starters classes that Seri needs. So each dog is only entering 3 classes per day, with Steeplechase on Saturday and GP on Sunday. And it costs $306. Eesh. My entry for PBH is similar, although their classes are a bit cheaper so I think I got one extra class out of it. Here's a kicker, if I entered all 3 dogs in every class at the NJ trial, it would cost $558. Now, they happen to have all 5 classes plus a tournament both days. And I don't need to run 18 runs. Or 21 on Sunday if they all made Steeplechase 2nd round ;-D

But anyway, I am not going to be able to tour around and try to win lots of GP's, so I have to train hard and make the ones I run count, and make sure I can get qualified for the 2nd round at Regionals. Big task, but training is "free", and trialing is not.

Park Journal again, sorry

Went to look at laptop power cables today, and eek they are Expensive. And of course, Drake chewed the part that means I have to replace the whole thing (black box charger part!!) which may be like a HUNDRED DOLLARS. Damn dog! Sigh. Anyway, that's why I haven't been online in the afternoon. My desktop is still hooked up at home, but it's just been collecting junk, and the mouse is disconnected, so I haven't bothered to use it.

Yesterday it was in the upper 30's in the afternoon. I rightly assumed that was warm enough to be pleasant walking weather, but not warm enough to thaw the deeper ice/mud, just the surface. It was really lovely, overall. Only a few wet spots, and my new shoes kept me dry. I was able to stay out for about an hour and a half, taking one hour of mixed walk/trot for the dogs, with Kiba on leash and Drifter alternating on and off, working on his "pace" command which basically means he should confine himself to a trot except for turns and hops over stuff. He has a big trot, so it's not like I'm making him heel next to me, I do allow him to get out a little ahead and sniff and roam a little, I just don't let him go around corners without me (we've had a discussion about that behavior). Then on the way back I went around one of the bigger fields away from the road and let both of them run and play off lead for about 15 minutes, then the 15 minutes walk on lead to cross the road and head back to the car. It was a good walk, I was satisfied with their amount of exercise and mine (lots of snowy bits that made me work back in the woods, and I jogged a bit in the field). If I estimate that I walk at 3mph, then I did about 4.5 miles, not shabby at all. And with Kiba trotting 95% of the time, and Drifter alternating fast walk/fast trot (plus hills, snow, logs, etc), they are definitely building muscle and endurance. I probably won't go today, as it is going to be thawing, in the mid-40's, and will be too wet. I will go tomorrow morning, before the sun's been up too long. I should also avoid the worst of the crowds that way too.

22 January 2009

oops

I left my skill cards at work :-( oh well, good thing I wrote the list down on my blog! Hooray for cyberspace!

I ran a few more courses at the building yesterday with Drifter. I was worrying about 26 for nothing. He honestly must have had a bad day at the field when I got worked up about it. He looks fabulous. Sure, 26 is harder than 22, but that's true for EVERY dog. He is not struggling. Once again, over the course of 3 full courses worth of jumps, I think he *rattled* one bar. Doing great! I am not super happy with his dogwalk. I left it in the short side of the arena, so it's a low-speed approach, which has never been his forte to begin with, and when I leave the little strider on (like Seri's in her video from 1/3) he does OK, but if I do too many turns or don't push him hard enough he's coming off earlier than I prefer to see. So I think I need to work the "lie down" behavior a little more and use it when I know he hasn't got the speed to hit properly, or when I'm just not sure if he hit the ramp right. Might mean more 1.5 and 1.6 second performances rather than 1.3, but that's OK. For now I need to be clean, and since he usually wins by more than .2 or .3 in standard, we should be fine. And he's turning tighter than he used to! His aframes continue to be wonderful, as always, and I've also been working his see-saw (specifically, staying ON the see-saw!).

I ran Kiba over the frame at 5'6" and wasn't pleased. I think I may go back and do a bit of foot target work on it, just enough to draw her down that extra 2-4". I don't need her to hit the bottom slat, I just don't want to see her coming off AT the line of yellow/blue like she wants to. She does know the foot target (that's her dogwalk criteria still) so she should remember it well, I just have to work it a bit. And I have to remember to reinforce it at trials (or enforce it at trials!).

Seri is looking good. She seems better at accelerating over the dogwalk in full stride and still hitting the yellow (meaning starting from a standstill or a low speed). I definitely still practice the stop behavior with her too, she's so wild that sometimes I'll need to stop her to redirect her focus, especially in her first year of serious showing (this year, I mean).

Overall they're looking good. I did run a couple courses with Kiba and her handling was great. She's an easier dog to handle than Drifter simply because she doesn't intinctively carry out wide like he does sometimes. But I am thrilled with what Drifter's giving me, and feeling confident about 26 this year now.

21 January 2009

Int'l Skillz Cards!

So I had some downtime at work this morning, and I went through some of the courses from the 2 judges who are judging FCI this year and picked out some skills I thought I needed to work on with Drifter. It's stuff we don't see too often here, so even though I'm sure I can do it, it won't be completely smooth all the time since it's things we don't often practice. I just sketched quick obstacles onto paper, stapled several of them together, and am fondly calling them my "Int'l Skills Cards", pages numbered "ISC1, ISC2" etc. Makes me smile. Anyway, just because, here is the list, sans sketches.

1. Line of jumps to pinwheel where handler stays on inside the entire time, no side change
2. 180's and 270's, with and without lead-outs, specifically with lead-out push to front cross on landing side, and also starting on outside and rear crossing takeoff side and landing side of first jump of 270.
3. Pushes and pulls off contacts to a jump that is oblique to the obstacle (harder with running contacts!)
4. Contact and Tunnel or 2 contact upsides very close together but angling away from each other (work on pulling, pushing, front crossing)
5. Wraps and serpentines with jumps nearby to pull the dog's eye ("traps")
6. 180 to a pull through where the handler goes through the middle with the dog and continues back in the original direction
7. Passing the obvious direction for a jump and taking it from the perceived "backside" - pushing around a wing and jumping back in (do with push past, and with pull to flip)
8. Running backside of tunnel ("wrong" side - outside of the curve) but only when it makes sense
9. Bounce or "combination" jumps - 3 jumps in a straight line at 13feet apart, in the middle of the course.
10. Plain old discrimations - tunnel under DW or aframe. Work at SPEED so I can push out to one and not have to stop and harrass the dog and fall behind.

Training again, class

We decided to definitely have class, despite the cold. And all 3 people showed up. As long as you kept moving it wasn't too bad. I started to get cold when I stood around too much talking or watching, but they all seemed fine. Tonight is going to be a bit colder, but there are 6 or 7 people in this class so even if 1 or 2 don't show we will still be fine.

I went down a little over 2 hours early, since I wasn't sure how long I'd want to work with each dog and how long it would take me to set up and come up with sequences. Since I decided to leave the dogwalk where it was, I had to come up with new sequences. And because I didn't have a paper layout, I went ahead and numbered them with cones. Students always love that! I can just send them off to walk the blue one on their own. Anyway, I brought all four dogs along with me. I made up 2 sequences, then worked Drifter through both of them at 26. He was fabulous. Ran both with ease, and the 2nd one started with a push-through to a serpentine to a weird weave entry, so not super easy. Both had turns off the dogwalk. He rattled one bar but none fell. Even in the deep sand he seems to be adapting to 26 without a problem. I then worked Seri while the jumps were up, and she did well. Not as good as Drifter, but that's to be expected. she didn't understand the push-through very well, so I had to work on that. Then I lowered the aframe to about 5' and worked on Kiba's speed and push over it. She hit the contact probably 9 times out of 10, which was promising, but she is very inconsistent in how she comes over. I mostly did 1 rep then reward, with speed before and after the frame (jump frame tunnel or the reverse) to get her to focus on what was next instead of what she was currently doing. Coming from the tunnel she often went flying over the apex and landed in the yellow. Interesting. Anyway, I also did some slower speed climbing with her, and some medium speed reps back and forth to break her hesitation behavior on the bottom when I'm not running full-out. We'll see if I can work through this thing and get it looking better in a few weeks time. I started Drake on it as well, having him climb it slowly on leash several times till he was comfortable with it, then let him run over it a few times, which he thought was a blast. No consistent striding yet, which is to be expected his first time on. After that I cycled back through the dogs again, coming up with an even more difficult sequence for Drifter (which he aced again!) a slightly easier one for Seri (which she had trouble with) and more aframes for Kiba. I did a few jumps with Drake, working on jumping and turning in a circle. I also built an international-style double (ascending and wide) and threw Drifter over it a few times, which he thought was no problem.

Today I'll probably work on more of the same, except I won't bring Drake with me. I had the camera today, but it was so cold and dusty I wasn't too eager to expose my lovely new camera to those conditions. So you'll have to go without video for now.

20 January 2009

DJ is off from work today and tomorrow, which means the dogs can eat breakfast in a relaxed manner and not be crated as much. Today is also the send-off party for our immediate boss, who's been here as long as I have, and longer. She's transferring to a job at a terminal closer to her house, and someone who used to work here at a different job is coming back from that terminal to this one to take over the role. Should be interesting. At least it's somebody we know. DJ is stopping by the send-off lunch, then following me over to the building to help me move equipment (dogwalk!). I am going to go ahead and have class today and tomorrow, despite the cold. Today is predicted to be mid to high 20's, tomorrow is only going to top out around 23, but still. People signed up for an unheated indoor, in January, and that's what they get. I can't cancel every week at the last minute and postpone the entire session till March! Plus I really need to get to work on training my own dogs. 2 months till AKC Nationals, less than a month till my first trial back, and I really want to work on Kiba's aframe and Drifter's dogwalk (needs polish, not retraining). And I am planning to start Drake's aframe and weaves as well. And work on Drifter's 26" jumping. See, lots to do! And with the additional few inches of snow that fell yesterday (apparently "showers" means 3 inches!) there's zero chance of working in my yard or at our friend's field. It's indoors or no agility at all.

Because of the thick snowfall yesterday afternoon I assumed the Hell Hill park entrance was still closed, so I went back to the same "off-lead" on-top-of-the-hill-in-the-woods-with-horse-jumps spot and took Seri, Drifter and Kiba. I was out for about 45 minutes, left them off lead the entire time except up/down the hill to get to the trails (have to cross the road too). I did have to put Seri back on lead for about 10 minutes to cool down and encourage the other dogs to do something other than gallop away and back again. Seri only has 2 speeds, and neither of them is "a quiet lope" or "easy trot". It's "leashed walk/trot" or "RUN!". But they had a blast, I can really see how Kiba and Drifter are getting in better shape, after 45 minutes + off lead, trot/canter/run up and down hills in 3 inches+ of snow, they didn't really look tired. But with the heavy snow fall, I didn't want them or me to get soaked, and as I've mentioned plenty already, I don't like to let their feet get too horribly cold for too long. I won't be out 2 hours in snow. I do like that it adds a layer of impact absorption to the frozen ground though, otherwise I wouldn't let them run so much. Today they'll get to go back to the beach building and get another workout.

19 January 2009

Waxing Idiomatic

Success alone does not make one Knowledgeable.
Experience alone does not make one Successful.

Experience leads to Knowledge, but only through Understanding will one truly become Successful.




Don't believe everything someone says just because they've had some success. Rather, listen instead to the opinions of those who understand.

Teeth and Electricity, not such a great match

I would have posted yesterday, except that right around 9;30am I looked down and Drake was gnawing on the power cord to the laptop, and by then we'd been using for long enough without charging that I thought it was best to just turn it off. I'll have to get a new cord today. He chewed just far enough in that if you pressed the bits together it made a nasty spark. Why? Why would he do that? There are 4 antlers, 3 bones, and about 6 rubber/rope toys/balls all around my tiny apartment room. Plus 3 other dogs to annoy. Grrrrrr. Anyway, Saturday night we got about an inch of snow (nice fluffy stuff, yay!) and Sunday was warmer (already 25 when I got up, 33 or so at mid-day!), so I went to the park. Unfortunately the entrance I had wanted was closed off (guess they didn't want to salt?) so i went somewhere else and let Drifter and Kiba wander with me off-lead for a little under an hour. I discouraged pure galloping/running, but I let them trot/canter/sniff at will for the exercise. With the ubercold weather I've restrained them to about 10 minutes at a time running in the yard, being careful with their feet and lungs. So they enjoyed the exercise. I didn't take Seri because my original plan was to tackle Hell's Hill again today, but with the entrance closed, I figured I'd wear the dogs out instead, and go back today to tackle the Hill. I also left her home because she had a slightly upset stomach Saturday night (back end, not front), which is unusual for her.

This week we got ahead, our co-renter of the building has sent us the layout she's going to set up already. So I won't be setting up the Int'l courses I made last week, but I will still be moving the dogwalk to get up to full speed. Tuesday/tomorrow I will bring all 4 dogs with me and start Drake on his aframe. He'll be a YEAR old tomorrow. I know someone with a dog only one week older who just mentioned that he's sailing over 24" like it's nothing. Apparently I'm the only one left who thinks it's wrong to jump youngsters over high jumps. Drake jumps 16, when he jumps at all, which isn't often right now. Anyway, I will bring the camera with me tomorrow to get some film of his aframe intro and Kiba's aframe rework. And I'll compare to Drifter and Seri just for fun. If I have the time I may also start him on his 2-by-2's (my way, not the same as the video but not far off).

The Eagles lost yesterday. They just don't always bring their A Game when it matters. Sad but true :-(
Good thing I'm more of a baseball fan! The Phils just signed Cole Hamels (young ace pitcher) to a 3-year deal :-)

17 January 2009

If you're interested in breeding dogs. . .

Here's a great link to some easy to understand articles about basic genetics, diseases, ineritance, and diversity/inbreeding.

Aframes and more cold

It is 2 degrees out right now. 2. This is the coldest cold snap in 5 years (possibly more). Luckily it won't last much longer, tomorrow is supposed to be in the 30's with snow showers. Much better! I was originally planning to go to the park today, but with the revised high temperature predicted to be about 21, I'm going to skip it. I'll go tomorrow. Today we'll do our core exercises and maybe learn to back up the stairs (if it doesn't make my mother's dogs upstairs bark too much). And if i get brave maybe another brief run in the yard. The ground is really hard though.

I've been putting some thought into Kiba's aframe. When I trained her contacts, I did it in a hurry. I originally wanted to use the same foot target method I had used with Drifter, but I raced through it quickly, hoping she'd figure out the striding and footwork on the frame more quickly than he did. She didn't. But she hit enough contacts that I didn't really worry about it. Her dogwalk is more solid - she hits the foot target in the yellow there, and because I originally taught her to stop or hesitate strongly on the target, if I go back and remind her and back-chain it for a few days, the behavior gets stronger. So if I use the 2 USDAA trials in February to remind her to hit the target on the DW, that should help her consistency there. I openly admit to letting her run off it a lot this fall.
The aframe, however, really doesn't have a behavior in her mind. If I tell her to "touch" - her foot target command - she will sort of look down at the bottom part and hesitate ever-so-briefly, but I really didn't spend enough time training it for her to understand. Most of her short career I've let her run up and over and then just said "lie down" or "stay" or "touch" just to get her to check up and hesitate ever so slightly in the yellow. It was still a very fast behavior - she drives up and over very strongly, and it's usually just 3 strides even with the added babysitting and command at the bottom. At several trials where we've had courses that I didnt' necessarily need her to run clean (Team, Gamblers, etc) I let her run for several consecutive runs, and sometimes that did wonders for her and she'd begin to hit it more regularly. (worked great in Perry, producing a rather amazing 2-stride leaping frame at the end of Team Relay!). Sometimes it didn't work (she missed 3 in a row in gamblers in July). If we NQ'ed in AKC before the frame, I let her run, and I don't think she missed any of those. When she does miss, it is usually a matter of a few inches.

She does also have a vague idea of a 4-on-the-floor, as that was a last-minute thing I added on to give my "lie down" command some bite and get her to focus down. I'm sure most of you know I'm not a huge fan of that method, and no, I don't consider her to be trained that way. And it slows her down (a lot) when I ask her to actually stop because she wasn't properly trained to run to anything. So here I am with another month before a trial, and I have access to an aframe twice a week. Free access on Tuesdays, and time-limited access on Wednesday. Training time! But what to do? I've spent some time in the past working on trying to get a consistent run from her, and she's come close, but despite my success with other dogs, she is frustratingly consistent - she drives up and over quite nicely, then puts a tiny little 3rd stride in and hops off. It's not the apex or the drive/climbing the upside that is her issues. Which is unusual, as most dogs I've analyzed for a running frame behavior that IS the issue - proper use of the dog's body to go up the upside and relax and run down the downside.

I don't think I want to give up quite yet though and just add a stop. She really doesn't miss many. And she's fast. I don't want to lose that. I know from experience that I am not very tolerant of waiting for a dog to complete a slow contact behavior - I KNOW I will release her and go on as soon as she's in the yellow. so instead I think I will take the month to go back and do what I've done with others' dogs who needed to accelerate, focus, and learn to run properly. Lower the frame and do plenty of reps of throwing a toy and releasing. See if i can get her to stop checking up on the last stride and RUN like her 2 housemates.

15 January 2009

Example

Here's a few examples of the sort of course I'm going to be setting up and practicing every week or so at the building. I won't be doing the exact same ones in class, but I will be building them off of the same layouts. And yes, I forgot to put weaves in it. I needed the space for jumps.


And for those of you who think weird things only happen in your neck of the woods (or in the woods!). A man in NJ was posing as a female veterinarian, including giving shots and such. Doesn't sound like he did any lasting damage, but there aren't many details on that page. Weird.

14 January 2009

Austria

FCI Worlds next year is being held in Austria. Below is a website with courses from one of the judges. I've been browsing through a bunch of them, having fun finding themes that reoccur, and picking them out as things to work on. I'll post one here occasionally. Unfortunately I won't be able to set the entire courses up in the building on my own, and I don't think the students in class are really interested in focusing on international style courses as much as american style, since none of them are going overseas anytime soon (or planning to). Anyhow, these are a lot of fun to look through. And I will try to at least set up those recurring elements to work on (such as the dogwalk-jump/wrap-jump thing that shows up often).

Click this link, then click "Richterparcours" from the menu on the left. Alff Manuel is the one, there are a bunch of courses from 2008, and also some from 2007. Click the little dog to see the course. A3 or Jumping 3 is the highest, Masters type level over there, but also GPF and Open courses are worth browsing.

Class, Cold, Boots, Pettiness

Class went pretty well yesterday. It's a small group on Tuesdays; they were joking that they could probably get a 3-person semi-private for cheaper than class (I don't know about that). Anyway, I didn't know one of them very well, but she knew the other 2 students who I do know, so we all got along fabulously and had fun working through a couple of tough sequences. We had to put equipment away when we were done because today's class is already cancelled. The high for today is only 22 or 23 degrees, so by late afternoon when it starts getting dark it will plummet quickly, and that's not only annoying, but dangerous to be running in.

Because I had a private that ended at 3ish, then nothing till class at 6, I had several hours to myself to train. I decided that since this was the only access to equipment that I'd have till next week (with more snow on the way), that I would go ahead and work Drifter and Kiba too. I ran several difficult sequences in the deep sand. The dogs all seem to be fine with it, but it has the lovely effect of slowing you down and making you pump your legs harder than normal. Hard to get some of those fronts in if my timing isn't quite right! Good practice. I don't mind the sand, I'd prefer it wasn't as deep but it's still better than footing that would freeze or stay rock hard. This is low-impact on joints, even if it is tough on muscles. I ran Drifter at 26 and he did quite well, I was pleased with how he looked. No weird early-takeoff stuff, he was adapting to powering over out of the sand nicely. I figure this is good practice for slippery carpet as well! Seri handled nicely, Kiba did too, and all 3 had great dogwalks. Kiba's aframe, on the other hand, obviously needs a little work. Still not sure what to do with it. In the past when she's begun to come off early I've just done a few sessions of lying her down on the ground at the bottom, and it's worked itself out. But that slows her down rather significantly, and she never does it at trials anyway (I don't make her!). So something else to figure out. Her dogwalk target-reminding back-chaining work has helped in that area.

----

The ground around my house and at the park where I've been hiking is still covered in a thin layer of snow/ice. When I took them out Monday their feet were quite cold when I got back (another reason I kept it short) so I'd like to get some Muttluks for them. Petsmart carries the "All weather" kind, but they don't have fleece. Do I need fleece? It's mostly to keep them protected from the cold snow; I'm sure fleece would help, but not sure if it's necessary. Anybody hike in the snow with Muttluks AND read my blog?

----

I've mentioned previously all the annoying, childish, petty things my coworker on the opposite shift does. And how these things bug the CRAP out of me on a regular basis. Well a week or so ago our boss had a little sit down with an HR rep and talked to us about it. To my digusted amazement, my opposite shift coworker "J" then complained to the HR guy how she was tired of the pettiness and how she just wants to get her work done and help the customer. I'm sure my eyes almost gugged out of my sockets at that. I'm not the one who's spending hours sitting around coloring on calendars or other papers. OHmygod. I didn't say a word when she said that. I couldn't. Anyway. I then spoke to my boss about my end of the argument, expressing my disbelief at how she blamed it all on me, and my aggravation at this ongoing "thing". I thought that meant "J" was over it. Well. Apparently not. So, we lost the calendar she colored on, and it's a new year anyway, but we didn't get new FedEx calendars for whatever reason (budget cuts?), so I brought in a Phillies calendar that they sent me (for free). I figured that way we could still have the date hanging up. I left a short note on the calendar when I hung it, saying only exactly "Please use pen to mark the calendar - Thx". And I told my boss I had done so - he agreed that was perfectly fine. A week later, today, I come in to find a larger calendar hanging on the entry door to our work area, and a note saying: "I hung my calendar on the door. Do not TOUCH or MOVE. I won't touch yours either, so please respect that!!!!".
I'm sorry. WHAT? Did I lose my mind and end up in 1st grade? OHmygodagain. This girl is nutso. And I KNOW she didn't discuss leaving that note with our boss, cuz he's OFF on vacation this week. So I wrote him a typed letter explaining how ridiculous that seemed to me, that she needed her OWN calendar separate from mine, and how I found the note she left to be rather offensive. Then I took my calendar down. I refuse to work in a 12x30ft area with TWO wall calendars. So I'll take mine home. Maybe she's a Mets fan. Who knows. So I started my day severely aggravated, hopefully it can only be uphill from here.

Why is the world filled with SO many idiots??

13 January 2009

Balancing act

I am constantly rechecking my calendar against local AKC and USDAA trials right now. I find that I do have some interest in qualifying for AKC Nationals again next year, although I will not be spending nearly as much money trying to do it this year, if we do a good amount of trials and don't make it, then I'll just give up and be glad we kept chipping away their MACH's. Drifter's about halfway, makes me feel like maybe he's finally growing up:-)

Anyway, because of the trial season and qualifying cutoffs, USDAA Tournament qualifiers for 2009 started back in October. Drifter didn't run in a few of them because of his groin pull, so he's had fewer chances and the only Q he has so far is a 22" Dam Team Q. By the way, there is some confusion on the topic of whether you need to run DAM at Nationals at the same height you qualified at - it's quite clear on the other classes but people seem to have an impression you could change heights in Team - anyone know for sure? I'd always assumed you had to Q at the proper height, and that is what I've always done. Anyway, now that I'm putting him back up to 26", he still has basically nothing. So now here it is January, 3 months of qualifying gone by already (not that we have a lot of trials in Nov-Jan around here), and even though it's Drifter I'm thinking about, I am starting to worry about getting my Q's. I'm reconsidering going down to Teamworks to get that Steeplechase in. I wouldn't be able to stay for the GP because they scheduled it last on Sunday and I have a 7-hour drive home, but it might be nice to get some good practice in and at least one more Tournament. Then I have a GP at Keystone (8 miles from home, yay!) the following weekend, both classes the weekend after that, then only one Tourn trial in March. So for Feb/March that would be 3 shots at each class. Maybe enough, maybe not. Seri being a screaming youngster makes me nervous about her Q's as well. I think Steeplechase will come, barring strange behaviors on the aframe, but she may not get another clean GP for a bit. We are, after all, stuck in Starters Standard (one fault disease; like all my dogs, something different every time).

Then again, I should really take that money for Teamworks and invest it in the 2nd AKC trial in March to really prepare for Nationals. . . We'd still have 2 STP's and 3 GP's. . . and like I said, the Steeplechases aren't usually an issue. It's a rare day when Drifter fails to at least qualify in that class. Usually he wins round 1.

The odd thing about my year is that I plan the spring to qualify for USDAA Regionals and Nationals, meaning I end up doing USDAA all the way up to AKC Nationals at the end of March (I've planned one or two AKC trials, that's it). Then after Regionals in June I will probably do mostly AKC all the way up to USDAA Nationals, except for a few USDAA trials in October. Weird how it works out, that's all. I may need to suck it up and enter both AKC trials in March on either side of the USDAA trial, just to get the feel of the slightly off courses they often have. At least 24 will now be a step down for Drifter, rather than a step up, so I won't worry about the height transition anymore.

What I'm hopeful for is that all 3 dogs will finish up all their Tournament Q's by late March, then I can enter a few AKC trials in May and get a head start on getting Seri up to Excellent, and getting Drifter and Kiba qualified for AKC Nationals '10, where it might be. Of course if I hear it's going to be across the nation (PNW or CA) then screw it, I'm not going. Too far. I can't fly 2 dogs that far. But within 1-2 days driving I would try it. Unless I hate it this year. But I'm too competitive to hate it, really. If I can win, I will like it.

12 January 2009

aerobic

So I went on a different branch of trail today and found The Aerobic Hill. Eeeech. That thing had me panting and wishing I hadn't layered up. Yes, I AM out of shape, I never claimed otherwise. This his was just steep enough that you had to climb, and long enough that you climb for EVER. Drifter kept stopping (he was off leash) and looking at me like "come ON!"

I had to keep it short today anyway, thankfully, to about an hour. I didn't get on the trail till after 3:30 and we lose our daylight around 5ish, and not being on a familiar trail I was happy to turn back a bit after the Hell Hill. Of course going down it didn't seem so bad! I hit another good one coming back. I will be making an effort to get up and down those hills at least once a week now. Much to my own dismay ;-D

The reason i got out late is that after work (we left around 12:15pm or so) we stopped at EMS and I got some really nice waterproof, lightweight, comfy hiking books. Love 'em. Probably paid too much, but they were on "sale" at $99 so I don't feel too horribly bad. I used cash from my class teaching paycheck so I didn't feel like I was being too frivolous. then we stopped at Barnes and Noble, but they didn't have what I had wanted. They often don't, annoyingly enough. I will get them from Amazon instead. Now that I'm home a lot, I've been reading a lot, at my usual voracious pace. My mother gave me a 2-book set for xmas that I tore through already. Some weekends I can read 300+ pages in a day, easy. I read a whole book yesterday! 400 pages. I tend to like dark fantasy, or very intelligently written, character-driven fantasy. I read the occasional mystery/crime novel (DJ has a bunch) and I have to say I enjoy the Dexter books. Currently I'm re-reading the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. If you like dark fantasy (involving some torture, some passion, some magic, but very well written), these are really great books. This is my 3rd time through them (I wait a few years between to keep them fresh) and I still go through them too quickly each time.

Tomorrow I have a private lesson in the afternoon then our postponed evening class at 6pm. I'll be reading my book some of the time between them, and wont' be online hardly at all.

11 January 2009

Crunch

We got some icey sleety junk on top of the snow from yesterday. It's not too crusty, not enough to be really bad for doggy feet, but enough that I wasn't sure I wanted to try walking in the park. I did the doggy exercise routine this morning, which is looking like this:

Get bag of cookies (old mother hubbard biscuits, nothing special but Drifter likes them) and sit on the floor. I start with a couple stretches:
-With my hand on their withers/shoulder, I stretch their necks upward for 10-15 seconds, then down between their legs tight to their chest for 10-15 seconds. Repeat.
Hold their body from the rear and do stretches to each side, holding and repeating as above.
-Work on sit-up/beg position, holding as long as they are able. Kiba is better than Drifter, but only barely. They are working up to about 15 seconds or so now. Repeat 3-4 times. Then do a few reps of sitting-up being taken into standing on both legs without putting the front feet down. Eventually we'll get them back into a sit-up position.
-Core strengthening - hold opposite/diagonal legs up and out so the dog has to stand on the other 2 and use their core muscles to adjust their balance. First rep is 15 seconds per diagonal.
Then I give the dog a break while I switch dogs and do the above with the other. When I get the first dog back I then:
-2nd rep of diagonal leg holding. Chris Zinc calls these "Snoopy"s for some reason. This time 20 seconds per diagonal.
-crunches. Dog on side, lure head towards the back legs as far as they can without using their elbows to prop themselves up. works their abs pretty good. Holding for 5-10 seconds, 3 reps each side.
-3rd rep of diagonal leg holding, this one 25-30 seconds per diagonal.

I do a bit less with Seri, and only the stretching with Drake. It doesn't take long all told, and they all enjoy the cookie session. I also have been trying to gently massage or stretch various muscles when I have them on my lap. Drifter can be tense about that sort of thing at home sometimes so I'd like to get him more relaxed so I can do some 30-second stretches a few times a week.

Anyway, after that I had them out for 15 minutes of play in the yard, two times today. On their own so they wouldn't run too hard. They are enjoying it. Tomorrow I will go to the park and take on of the flatter trails, i don't want to risk sliding down into a rocky gorge on the ice of the Blue Trail.

10 January 2009

Why do I have to come with a title for every post? It gets harder every day. . .

Yesterday I took the dogs for another hike down the Blue Trail at Green Lane. There was a car there when I got there, but I didn't see who it belonged to. Then on the way back I saw a guy running on a trail that branched off from mine with two black and white dogs that appeared to be springers. He wasn't close enough for our dogs to bother each other, so no big deal. His dogs were running a good 100ft in front of him off leash. They appeared to know the trail on their own.

I had a good walk, tried new sneakers (more cast-offs from my mother) and my left foot was bugging me a bit on and off, but not too bad. This time I could feel a bit of tiredness in my left knee towards the end, but nothing serious and no lasting soreness. It took me a few minutes longer than last time to walk the trail, as there were several parts that were pretty mucky with running water (most of the trail was frozen though) and several times I had to stop and puzzle out how to get around without getting wet (no waterproof shoes). But it was a good walk. Kiba is actually looking perkier towards the end of the walk, so I'm taking that as a sign that trotting for 90 minutes straight is not wearing her out. Drifter is forced to walk so again I let him off lead in the non-wet sections that weren't too close to the reservoir. He's definitely getting better at keeping my pace, he trots 90% of the time, and he stops and waits if he gets too far ahead. I'm starting to be able to watch my footing more than him.

Today it snowed some in the morning, not deep, only about 1 inch, maybe a touch more. Very powdery. So I took the dogs out to play in the yard. Now that I feel that I'm beginning to get a good base of muscle/fitness with them, I'd like to add in some balanced running, meaning I want to try to work equal parts left lead and right lead. One of the ways I will do this is by having them run laps in the yard. I put jump standards on either end of hte dogwalk to keep them off it, and worked on teaching Drifter and Kiba to run around the outside of that and the seesaw, for a few laps in each direction at a time, then tossed a toy. They started to get the hang of it. My yard is big enough for them to run, but small enough to keep them on the proper inside lead because they never *quite* run straight enough to swap off. This is good, because I can do equal laps in both directions to control their muscle building. I used to do a similar thing with Freeze and it really helped her. I won't do this every day because as I've mentioned, I don't like flat-out running as a main source of exercise, but they do need to run some to have the proper muscles for agility.

They're predicting possibly more snow this afternoon/evening, and maybe some frozen rain at the end of the system tonight. Blech. can't we just have a normal winter of cold weather and white fluffy stuff? I'd rather have snow than freezing wet crap anyday.

08 January 2009

World Team Skillz Session 1.

I am home from work. Drake had some nasty diarrhea in his crate. You know when that happens, and you walk into the room and the odor just hits you mid-sentence. ick. Drifter was hiding in the corner by the couch, looking at me like "I swear it wasn't me! I told him not to do it!".

Anyway after cleaning that up I decided not to go hiking today. The ground will be quite wet, the sky is sort of dark, and it's cold and windy. In addition, the dogs worked in deep sand yesterday so I think they can wait till tomorrow for a walk. I will do some core strengthening stuff after I make lunch/dinner.

What I did do was pull/push/walk the dogwalk over a few feet so it wasn't as deep in the mud (the mud is sort of surface-slippery but under that frozen, so not too bad to run on for short periods if you're careful). Then I worked Drifter on running the dogwalk full speed without sighting on an obstacle. He actually did quite well. I only did one direction so I wouldn't have to move stuff and so he could avoid the worst of the mud. I put Seri's little strider up (which is really just a 1x2x10" piece of wood the contractors left behind), in the same place I used it in Seri's video. Drifter's had a lot more repetitions of dogwalks where I asked him to do things *other* than running full speed, and almost all the times I did ask for full speed there was a "go tunnel/jump" involved. I get the run by asking him to focus. So I wasn't sure what I'd get using only me as a focus driver, but it went well. I did several reps with the strider, then a few more without, and he seemed to be getting the idea. I'm hopeful we can have a reliable run into a long soft curve by the time AKC Nationals are here.

The dogwalk is probably the only obstacle I will work with regularity until Drifter is officially back from his 'break'. I wasn't going to work that either but I can't stand to see it go to shit while I'm off on a hike. I've kept the jumps low and done very few of those, and no hard turns or anything like that, so he should still heal up and rest well.

First Class, and World Team Skillz

Yesterday I had my first class of the new session. It went well, I think. It's mostly people I know, so no need for a big long intro or anything. I spent a few minutes talking about lead-outs. I know I'll have to go over it again though, since I talked about it and showed them on a few jumps, but we didn't work on it in class. The sand in the indoor is really too deep for agility, but it's still way better than nothing. And hey, we'll all have nice tight butts by the end of the winter from walking in it:-)

I joined the Yahoo group for AKC World Team candidates. Makes me feel very official. Someone posted a link to a bunch of courses by one of the judges who is judging this year in Austria. I spent some time looking through them and came up with a list of things to work on. It's not too bad, and I'm quite certain I could handle my way around all of them, but here's what I think I need to work on:
-Dogwalk: Reps at full speed, Soft turns off end (lots of them) - running full speed into nothing
-Jumps: Power at 26. Large threadles and pull-throughs, Landing side front crosses.
-Discriminations: 3 Obstacles close together - push and pull to far obstacles, go with dog to middle one
-Pinwheels: Lots of pulls with no side change, into discrimination
-Call off tunnel
-Front crosses in full extension - big distances

I think, actually, that Drifter's pretty good at calling off wrong ends of tunnels. We get that at EVERY AKC trial around here, and he only went wrong once on me, way back in March, and I think we were both shocked by that one. It was unusual. As far as the dogwalk, I need to keep him fit, suck it up, and work on it. I ran him over it at the building yesterday just because he was out, and he didn't look so great. So I did some reps at full speed and reminded him to pay attention. I need to bring Seri's little strider to the building so I can put it up there and remind him where to adjust. I want to have him full running most of the time, and his old foot target background keeps coming back to bite us here and there. Most of the European courses I looked at had full-speed approaches, and most also had very fast exits, so I shouldn't have any issues with it. However. Sometimes there are "soft" turns afterwards - big open spaces where the next obstacle isn't close, and isn't a hard turn, but it's definitely a curve to one direction or the other once he hits the ground. Because Drifter's running dogwalk was trained by teaching him to focus on the next obstacle, these can be very difficult for us, so we will need to work on it.

The jumping I will take another week off from before starting to work on it. I can already see him getting stronger when I do their exercises at home. He can sit up and beg now for 10 seconds or so, and I've been holding diagonal legs and having them stand for 3 reps of 15, 20, and 20-25 seconds (once each diagonal). I also work on standing up on two legs, walking backwards with me holding them, crunches on the ground, and of course hikes up/down hills and on rough terrain to work proproception and general muscles. The walking/trotting has been great for them. I can see it. It may be too wet today to go. The path I took last time had lots of spots that were kinda wet but still basically frozen. If those are thawed plus drowned in an additional couple inches of rain, then I'm out of a park for the day. Anyhow. One more week and I'll start them back jumping and serious training again. I will probably give in and do more dogwalk reps next Tues/Wed. I need that obstacle fixed. He only missed maybe 5 all year long (and 3 of those were when I was transitioning him away from his foot target) so missing them is just silly. I can't worry about that one obstacle the whole time.

Kiba of course is coming along for the ride, but working at 22.

06 January 2009

If December was Peak, is this a Valley?

I have run out of work as of right now. I won't have much to do for about half an hour or so when more drivers have gotten packages off their trucks. So I figured I'd blog for a bit.

Yesterday I took Drifter and Kiba back to Green Lane. This time I parked at a different area, by a Ranger station, and took a different trail. I could tell right away that I'd be alone most of the walk. When I park off the other road there is always a car or two at every parking area, from a fisherman, a hiker, a biker, whatever. This time there were two beat-up pick-up trucks but I'm betting at least one was a ranger's truck. That was it for the whole paved parking area. I parked near a sign for the trail and headed out. It was considerably warmer today, mid-40's, but I started out slightly chilly, wondering if I had underdressed (jeans, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, coat, and hat - no gloves and no layer under the jeans). Once I got going though, I warmed up. This trail was rather pretty, running along the reservoir all the way out, then through the woods on the way back. The way out included lots of hills, rocks, and streams to traverse, but luckily most of the mud was still frozen underneath so we avoided getting too wet. Several hills were long and quite steep and since this is billed as an equestrian trail I found myself wondering how scary that would have been, riding up or down them on a horse. They were steep and had some loose rocks, and no room to make your own switchback pattern. I kept Drifter's halter on for those so he wouldn't knock me down. We passed through several pretty little stream-carved low points. Some had some very nice rocky areas, and even though my camera's a pain I will have to bring it next time to take some photos. All in all we were out exactly 1 hour and 30 minutes, but the nature of the terrain had actually made my knee and ankle a bit tired, so it was a good walk. There was still a few branches of the trail I could have explored to make it longer, but the first time out I wanted to get a guage of how long and difficult it was.

Today we are scheduled to start our classes at the arena in Coatesville. But of course the weather may not cooperate. Unfortunately that is the problem with winter around here. 40's one day and 20 and snow the next. They are predicting light snow changing over to freezing rain this afternoon into evening, ending sometime overnight. It might not be too bad early in the afternoon, if it stays light snow, but if it's wet and freezing by evening then we should probably skip class (starts at 6pm).

Tomorrow's weather looks OK so I should have that class starting up (4pm) without a hitch. That class filled with 8 people. Should be fun, I haven't taught class in a while. I like to actually review skills in class, then work on sequences that relate to them. I thought I might start with lead-out positioning, because I feel that a lot of people have trouble with this and it can really ruin a run. It's also closely tied to front cross position, so learning where to be can help that too. I will introduce how I use the concept of applying pressure to the dog's line at just the right point to create the most efficient, fastest path through the obstacles.

05 January 2009

Puke

Yesterday Drake got sick. Then he ate some. . um. . .waste while he was outside. Then he got sick again. BLECH that's nasty. Anyways after that the poor boy was puking mucus on and off for half an hour before I got him settled into a crate. He took a nice long nap and seemed OK so I fed him a tiny handful of food for dinner (I'm sure it would be worse for him to sit there with acidic hungry stomach watching the other dogs eat). He ate it and seemed OK. Something must've gotten into him, bug or possibly he just ate something he shouldn't have. We don't have any weird plants around here and its too cold for anything like mushroom or whatnot (their potty yard is quite bare anyhow, short grass and dirt/mud).

All the dogs got yesterday was a 10 minute romp in the yard. We've finally had a week+ of rain-free weather so it's finally solid again. The grass is 40% dead but oh well, nothing we can do until spring. The 4 of them are getting better at going out together and just romping around on their own, so I can stay warm and dry and cozy inside and just watch them out the door.

Today it is in the 40's and supposed to stay cloudy but no rain. So I'll try to get back to Green Lane and fine the mysterious "Blue Trail" and see where that goes. I'd take my camera, but being a "fancy" SLR type or whatever, it's a bit too much for bringing on the trail with me. Next time I head out to the other parking area I'll bring it along and stop by the causeway/bridge to take some pictures. Really nice view through there.

I'm really excited to start working Drifter towards World Team aspirations again. I don't make yearly "goals" like some people do, because I feel that if I try hard, improve, and am happy with both, then I met my goals. I'm a little disappointed with how we did at Cynosports because we didn't get to defend our Steeplechase title, and we faulted in Grand Prix. But I have to admit that overall Drifter really was great.
He was: 1st in European Standard, 1st in Steeplechase Quarters, 4th in Team Standard, and then 7th in Grand Prix Finals with a dogwalk fault. He had one refusal in Jumpers, a perfect snooker run that didn't place because I didn't do enough points, and a perfect Gamblers run that again didn't place because of me - getting greedy this time.
Anyhow my point is, with a bit of polish and work I think he's ready. I feel ready. I think one key to looking great at 26 will be his fitness. So I've watched some videos and in addition to the long slow walks for endurance and muscle building I'm also adding in some core strength exercises 3-4 times a week. (Kiba does all this too - she needs to be as fit as possible to do 22).

ETA: I have to say I just love this picture. The look on his face. . . it's like he's running so fast he's getting the head-out-the-car-window effect! He's not really that hard to handle (not for me, anyway) but damn that dog is something else.

04 January 2009

How Seri's ears grew up, out, and all around

Feeling whimsical, I decided to share with you the wonderful progression of Seri's ears. Seri is blessed/cursed with big, indecisive ears on both sides of her family. She has prick, airplane, floppy-beagle, bascially the whole gamut in her close relatives.

At 9 weeks both bases were up, but the ear leathers both came forward like a baseball cap:

Not sure the exact age, think this was around 4-5 months. Weird airplane contraptions!

Circa 6-7 months. The airplanes took off. Actually they sort of alternated, one would go up, the other down, then both up, then they'd switch around a bit.

And this is what they settled on. One went up and out, similar to her mother's. The other. . . well I guess it returned to the 9-week old stage, didn't it? base is definitely up, but the leather is forward. For some reason people find this somewhat hilarious. I always just say it fits her personaltiy. Cuz it does.

(oh and don't worry, I took all these photos myself:-)

IFCS and Photos

So someone I know told me they'd heard that for IFCS team qualification you would have the option of 2 Regionals and a "bonus" trial (I'm assuming a nearby, but still large tournament trial?) instead of 3 Regionals this year. But USDAA and the Sounding Board both have said nothing on the subject. Anybody heard anything concrete? The person who told me this has several sources who sometimes spout misinformation as fact. . .


I have a problem with digital photographers at trials. They take a gazilion photos. They don't crop them much, they certainly don't have to print them. No film. But they won't let you buy a digital version from them online for cheap. No. It's pay $25 for an 8 x 10 or you get nothing. And now they have their websites set so you can't right-click and save the image. Guess what - that doesn't work if you save the entire page. That photo is part of the webpage and as such, gets saved among all the other images. Is this piracy? I guess so. But I'm not going to print it out, I'm not going to sell it, and in fact the only time I'll make these public is here on the blog, which is intended for private viewing only (meaning you're just reading it on your computer, not selling tickets!). I didn't take these, I make no claim to them, but I think it's s supreme waste for them to get deleted off someone's hard drive somewhere just because I don't have the several hundred bucks to shell out to buy every one of them. Most of them arent' hang-on-the-wall quality anyway. But would I pay $20 for the photographer to send me ALL of them digitally? Yeah, sure. Is that an option? No, of course not. So without further ado, here are some photos from Nationals that I did not pay for. I cropped some myself, and lightened a few a bit. I won't be printing them. I won't be buying or selling them. And please don't steal them for yourself cuzthat would be wrong.


I do like when a photographer gets both my dogs at the same moment so I can compare. They are both quite fast but somehow Drifter's insane intensity gets me every time!
Susan Garrett says teaching weaves with 2by2's teaches them to weave with their head down. Worked for Drifter:
not so much for Kiba. She's always weaved like this. Don't know why!

And Kiba coming out of a tunnel with a joyous look. isn't agility grand!?Oh holy crap here comes Drifter! Are you ready?! you better be!
Miscellaneous pics of Kiba: Tire at the end of GP Semi's.

And the "HOLY CRAP I TRIED TO TURN TOO TIGHT!!!" moment caught on camera. Priceless. She kept the bar up too.Drifter gallops across the dogwalk. He looks different from this angle.

Ah, so he DOES turn out of the chute now! Awesome!


And from GP Finals: "No sir, no idea why the judge was shaking his head at our see-saw!"

And here's a couple interesting shots of his aframe. He had already faulted at this point and I wasn't watching him real closely. For some reason he was looking off to the right even though I'm on his left. But still. Looks kinda cool. Sylvia Trkman followers like to talk about "split feet" being a good thing, indicating the dog is properly running on the contact. I do believe my doggy here is running alright! Not leaping or braking or shifting weight or whatever. Just running:-)

03 January 2009

Dog Walks and Dogwalks

This morning I almost made my short term goal of a 2-hour walk. Finally found a trail map in the box at the parking area. Walked for about 1 hour and 50 minutes total. Very enjoyable - the sun was strong and the temperature was getting above freezing. I walked with Drifter off leash more this time, and simply talked to him if he broke out of a nice trot. Eventually he started to get it and kept up a nice trot up ahead of me, checking in or stopping to sniff occasionally. I kept Kiba on leash - as I mentioned before she trots the whole walk anyway so is already getting more exercise than Drifter.

This afternoon I worked on Seri's dogwalk. I'd like to get the running version ring-ready by our next trial in February. The last 2 trials she was kind of in a transition period where she wasn't really sure which behavior I wanted and as a result missed a contact or two.

here's our session from today. i started with a strider (small piece of wood left by the contractors) near the top of the ramp to remind her where to adjust her stride. She has one Oops rep, the 2nd one, which I growled at her a bit for and lied her down briefly. The next rep after that is a careful one where she clearly adjusts to come down farther, so she's definitely understanding what I want. Very cool to see, I'm hoping that she ends up more worry-free than Drifter on course - even though he doesn't miss often I am constantly wondering/worrying/planning around that one obstacle. Seri will also need to learn the necessary accompanying verbals like "back" and "out" that I will need when i'm behind and can't show her where to go. For now I will stop her in those situations.

02 January 2009

Handling Class Handout

I'm going to hand this out at the start of my classes next week. So if you happen to be in them, here's a head start. And if you're not in them, here's some insight.
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Advanced Handling Class Introduction

The purpose of this class is to improve your handling skills. To that purpose, we will be spending some class time on shorter skill building exercises, and other time on longer course type exercises that incorporate these skills. There will not be a hand-out every week (and no homework!) – this is just to get you started.

Handling an agility course should be based 90% or more on the handler’s body cues. Verbal cues should be used as a back-up, either in a last-ditch attempt to save a situation, or as support to a body cue that the dog may miss (because the handler is behind, or is blocked from view, etc.).

There are four main components to handling in agility. Speed, Direction, Placement, and Timing. All four are equally important.

Speed refers to the handler’s speed. The dog should generally mimic the handler’s speed – if the handler is running as fast as they can, so should the dog. Keep in mind, of course, the dog’s fastest speed is going to be faster than the handler’s, which is normal. The point to keep in mind is that if you, the handler, are running full out down a line of jumps, the dog should do the same, including passing you and going ahead. If the handler slows down, so should the dog, and if the handler stops, the dog should stop and return to you. Handler speed can be seen as the dog’s gas pedal, the harder you push, the faster they go.

Direction is the direction the handler’s body is facing, as well as the direction they are moving. Normally the handler should be facing the direction they want the dog to go, using their shoulders and upper body to indicate the proper path. Another use of handler direction is to face the dog and ask them to recall in towards the handler. Once in a while it can be appropriate for the handler to be facing one way with shoulders and upper body, but to be moving in another direction – such as certain serpentines, or when performing a front cross which requires the handler to move backwards for a few steps.

Another element that is closely tied to Direction is Placement. This is the spot where each maneuver should occur to keep the dog on the most efficient, fastest path possible. Placement is very important for crosses and lead outs.

The last important element to consider is timing. If the handler’s timing is wrong, the first two elements can fall apart and become meaningless (or simply mean the wrong thing instead). Good timing is one of the most difficult skills to develop, but the most useful once you have it. Timing is knowing the exact milisecond when the dog is committed to an obstacle, beginning a front or rear cross at exactly the right time, or even knowing exactly when to send the dog to the next obstacle in snooker without incurring an off course.
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Two Weekends?

For some reason yesterday, New Years, felt like two things at once. It felt like a Friday; like we should have had 2 more days off, and yet this morning it feels like we had a whole weekend go by already. Like Wednesday was Friday. Weird. Anyway, working this morning which should be a pretty easy day, then we have a whole 'nother weekend to look forward to. I'm officially home now until Keystone's February trial, which is also a home trial, being only 8 miles from my house. My next away trial will be PBH, at the end of February in North Carolina. It feels strange to have all this time home and think about things like cleaning and saving money and getting dogs fit and coming up with training plans that I can actually implement before trialing again.

Fitness log: Wednesday the wind was quite extreme so I decided not to walk in the park that day. Instead I went yesterday. When it was not windy, but it was 19 degrees out. Yup, crazy. So I decided no off-leash for the dogs, didn't want them hurting their pads or breathing in too much super-cold air. And I made them wear their coats. They didn't pant at all, so obviously it was a good choice. I was pretty well bundled, but without the wind, and with the sun strong, we all survived no problem. I walked for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. I found a really nice path that followed the edge of the hill that goes down around the reservoir. Stopped and admired some really pretty views. Kiba and Drifter stopped to admire some really noisy ducks and geese:-) The path sometimes came quite close to the water, sometimes went back up the hill a bit. Where the trees at the bottom dangled branches into the water, they had formed little icey bits on their branches. Really cool and pretty. Wished I had my camera. But it's too bulky to take on hour+ hikes. I'm hoping to get a 2-hour hike in tomorrow, if I can find an appropriate path. I could have gone further on the one I had yesterday but it was just so cold I decided to head back across the fields when I came upon them.

I also had Seri out for some dogwalk work, trying to make sure she defines the difference between running and stopping (she's doing well) and putting out one tiny strider at the top of the down ramp to help her understand where to adjust her stride when she runs. She did very well. Then I got Kiba out, and even though she's off from "agility", I decided it couldn't hurt her to do some low speed dogwalk target reminders with cookies. So we did some of that. No jumps, only a few reps where she was actually running. I want to spend a week or two doing lots of rewards for going all the way to her spot by the last slat; she really wants to slow down at the top of the yellow. Then I did some remedial see-saw work with Drifter. He's been really pushing those the last 2 trials. I had him stay on the end while I held it in the air and praised him, then put it down and walked around him. Threw the toy. I found that he really wants to lock onto either the next obstacle or the toy visually, and has a hard time looking back at me. So I worked on waiting him out and when he looked at me I praised him and if he looked at me long enough (all while he's on the bottom of the see-saw), I released him. Perhaps if I can get him to check with me while he's going down he will stop blasting off - when he runs off and pushes it he's always running TO something, he doesn't usually fly off and stop right away. We'll see.

Today I will probably just let them romp in the yard a few times. We are supposed to get snow showers on and off all day, so that might be fun.