28 February 2009

Drifter's frame

Here's a video from practice in the building on Tuesday. I was already feeling slightly cold-ey (throat, coughing) so i wanted to do something without a lot of running for me. So here's what Drifter's aframe performance looks like. I tried to do a few different approaches and exits. He's really pretty amazing, I only hope one day I can get Seri to be so consistent. (I video'ed her too but it's not nearly so pretty!). I tried converting to an mpeg this time. I've been having trouble with my videos hanging up on youtube. Also I download from the camera's hard drive as an mpeg, then convert to wmv using my movie edit program, and that conversion takes a long time. Converting into another mpeg is quicker. however youtube takes much longer to upload the mpeg, even though it's only 720x480, while my wmv's were 1280x720 (for whatever reason, that's the highest resolution mpeg my editing software will allow). Hopefully the combination of lower resolution and different format will get rid of my hang-up problems. It certainly played more smoothly on my computer.

Anyway, for your consumption, Drifter's aframe!

single video from last weekend

Here it is, the only video from last weekend that I'm going to upload. i thought she was coming with me to the broad jump, but she misread my acceleration and direction and she winged out to the aframe instead. i need to work on my dogs looking for/at the broad jump better, as they all kind of skip right over it when they're looking for options. check out the funny aframe:-)


the verging-on-sick is still not full-blown, but it is a little worse. my throat is kinda swollen, as are my lymph nodes in my neck. i keep coughing on and off, although oddly my nose is not so congested I can't breathe, which is usually the first thing that happens to me.

anyhow, yesterday and today are semi-rest days. rest for me, short sessions in the yard for the dogs. I will video later today to get Drifter's amusing dogwalk activity. makes me laugh. don't know if it will really help him or not though. See, the dogwalk was down low for my mom to train Trig on, so I was running him across that and working on the down plank attitude - trying to get him to focus forward and run properly even with no obstacle to send to. He still collects a bit now and then if he thinks about his old target behavior, which leads to him coming off a little too early for me to be comfortable. So that went well, I was definitely seeing improvement quickly as he understood what I wanted (relax and run!). So I raised half of the dogwalk. Remember that? Green dogs would then get to go up for two ramps, then down the 3rd one, as a way to introduce the height. Well Drifter runs it very funny. Up ramp 1, up ramp 2, sail through the air, one stride on ramp 3. The first couple times it was more like land on ramp 3 and go WTF!? but it definitely made me laugh. and his balance on the board is so good that not once while sailing through the air did he even question his footing. I could not try this with Seri yet. She'd probably end up with a concussion. But I'm hoping that what Drifter will get is twofold; one is what I already mentioned - working on running full-bore even with nothing to focus on, and not collecting on the last stride, and two being that this seems like a great (and fun) way to remind him to adjust his stride over that last apex, without actually using a strider (that he can easily knock off the board or ignore if he chooses).

video this afternoon sometimes. I also have some video from the aframe on Tuesday with all 3 dogs, and the single video from last weekend to upload.

26 February 2009


haven't been online as much as usual lately. they've cracked down on internet usage at work so I won't be blogging from there anymore. Anyways.

We had pretty good classes Tuesday and Wednesday. I've been on the verge of getting a cold all week; today my throat has been scratchy on and off, and I've had a bit of shifting phlegm here and there. A little worried i might lose my voice. . .

I have this weekend off, then an AKC trial, a USDAA trial, another weekend off - then AKC Nationals. Starting to feel AKC nationals pressure finally. I've never gone and not really sure how exciting I will find the experience. I love USDAA nationals (World Cynosport Games - whatever!) for the competitive and fun atmosphere, and I'm hoping that the high-pressure qualifying-focused AKC atmosphere isn't too different. I won't be able to attend next year so I better win while I can, right!

This afternoon despite my almost-sickness I took advantage of the nice weather (50F) and went to the park. I kept it a little shorter than some, at just about an hour, but I got 45 minutes of that as off leash mixed trot/canter/sniff/cavort-with-a-stick fun. I really want the dogs as fit as possible this year!

23 February 2009


Regarding 4-star events. Apparently you get the same points for beating 100 dogs at Regionals, as you get for beating 30 dogs at BRAC or Riverside or whatever. how that makes sense, I have no idea. So someone with MONEY can go to the 4 smallest events, beat a small number of dogs at each, and make the team.

Lucky for me (I guess) my dogs can win anywhere. But I really, REALLY, don't think is a fair system. the points need to be at least loosely based on number of dogs defeated. Failing that, perhaps just less points at a 4-star, say 6 points for winning, rather than 10. Something like that. Anyway, here was Ken's note to the Sounding Board this morning:

"I see there is confusion about "4-star" events. We had hoped to
publish complete details relative to the IFCS 2010 event but have
been held up on international communications because of various
schedule conflicts that have made it difficult to nail down complete

Here is what we know so far, so that everyone can make plans. I will
post more completely to the USDAA news page later today.


1. A person must declare their intent by submitting a form for
consideration, just as was done in 2007 for the WAC 2008. This form
will be availalbe in the near future.

2. A point schedule operating the same as in 2007 will be in place;
the only difference is the points have been reallocated to treat
placements more equitably. It is still a fixed point system, with xx
points awarded for each placement earned as per the chart, regardless
of how many competitors were in a class.

3. Points earned in the first four 4-star events in which
participated, plus points earned at the Cynosport World Games will
establish the ranking.

4. A 4-star event is by our definition, an event at which
qualification points may be earned. These include regional
championships, select local events wherein all tournaments are
offered, and the Cynosport World Games. No distinction is made
between these events in terms of points awarded. The only
requirement or distinction is that the formula is first four events
participated in, plus the Cynosport World Games, for a total of five

Hope this clarifies any misunderstandings. Again, I'll post a write-
up later today to the USDAA news page."

PBH Recap

Not much in the way of video for the weekend. I got Seri's Starters run on video from Saturday but I'm not even going to upload it. It was awful. I will upload Kiba's Steeplechase Rd 1 because she performed a "flying squirrel" aframe - 2 strides, the 2nd being up, out, over, and throwing feet in the yellow somehow.

First off, I should mention the drive down just plain sucked. There was apparently a dump truck accident on 495 around DC, and it took me 2+ hours just to go around the city and get away. The entire drive should be 7 hours, but took me 9. Ick. I arrived a little after 9pm at my friend's house, fed the dogs, chatted for a bit, then went to bed. Being a smaller more relaxed trial than we have up here in the midatlantic, and needing frost/dew drying time, the trial didn't start check-in till 8, and running at 9, so no big rush in the a.m. This trial also had every class plus a tournament each day, and I didn't enter all of them or I'd be broke.

Saturday, Drifter:
Pairs - we went 2nd, and he had a moment during the exchange where he jumped off and ran in a little circle, but then we got going and had a great run. 1st and Q.
Gamblers - knocked a bar in the opening and had a so-so dogwalk afterward, but his 2nd dogwalk was lovely and he nailed a tough gamble. 1st and Q.
Steeplechase - knocked the 2nd bar on a pull-in/serpentine type angle, but after that ran wonderfully. 3rd and Q (would have won by half a second without the bar)
Jumpers - it was really dark. The ring had some lights shining but the first time I ran Drifter (2nd dog in 26") he came around a corner and the glare was so sudden he didn't SEE the top bar, at all. He hopped the lower one, which caused him to hit the top bar WITH HIS FACE. Literally. He actually stopped and crouched and looked at me like I'd smacked him. He's never done that. After my run the judge went over and took the bars off that jump completely, re-ran me and the dog who ran before me (who did the SAME thing) and Drifter ran fabulously. 1st and Q.
Jumpers - This was a nice difficult course. I worked hard and did almost all front crosses, and the first 3/4 of the course went beautifully. Then we got to a U-shaped tunnel at the end and I left a bit to get a front cross after the next jump, still watching him, and he came out of hte tunnel and just ran off to the side, around the jump and stopped and looked at me like "what?". D'oh! Anyway, I fixed him and he did the rest of the course nicely. No bars.
Snooker - 6, 6, 7, he was great, 1st and Q. Super-Q, but he doesn't need them.
Grand Prix - Frustrating. Another good tough course. Started out with a dogwalk to a tight turn to a tunnel, and he did his "lie down" really well, turned great, sent out, etc. Then I did a front cross after a straight tunnel, he took my cross cue, and then when I started to push him out to the next jump he just flew past me down the ring towards who-knows-what. He ran about 30-40 feet before I stopped him with a shouted HEY! I spoke to several people who watched and all were as baffled by it as me. If he had simply missed the push-out cue that would have been one thing. But he just RAN.
Steeplechase Rd 2 - I hadn't realized it was coming up and didn't think i was going to run. So I fed him about 1/2 cup of food maybe half an hour before this run. Despite that he ran well. He hit one bar when I left him to judge it on his own, but that was it. 2nd and won $19.
Overall - he hit a total of 3 bars over 8 classes. He won and Q'ed in Pairs, Gamblers, Snooker, Jumpers. Q'ed in Steeplechase. One refusal (unusual) in Jumpers and GP. I was happy overall with the way he ran and jumped. His jumping at 26 is looking surprisingly good, considering this was his first weekend back up at 26" in a while. And aside from the two ridiculous tunnel incidents, his handling was spot on. Nice crosses, nice turns, very partnership-ey.

Kiba's weekend:
Pairs - well, I'll say both Kiba and her partner were a little too excited about pairs. Kiba ignored my cue to come between two jumps (not that close together) then went in the wrong end of a tunnel.
Gamblers - great opening, although she missed her first aframe. Almost did the gamble, but she made a good try and isn't as natural at it as Drifter.
Steeplechase - video to come tomorrow. I collected her before jump #3, turned, and headed for the broad jump. She collected, turned, then swung back out and hit the aframe. Conclusion? My dogs don't LOOK for the broad jump. Need to work on it.
Snooker - planned three 7's. 7 was tunnel and a set of six weaves. Well Kiba couldn't weave to save her life for some reason, so even though we eventually completed our tough opening without further incident, she wasted so much time (4 tries?) on the weaves that we only got to like 4 in the closing.
Jumpers - beautiful run, fastest time of any dogs, 1st and Q.
Snooker - same 6,6,7 as Drifter, not 1st but 2nd or 3rd and Super Q (only her 2nd one!)
Grand Prix - like last week I had to hold her DW contact a little to get her to hit the yellow, and I came out assuming i wouldn't win because of it, and there are several fast dog in NC that could beat her (or so I thought). But she ended up winning by almost a whole second, only dog under 32 seconds (she was 31.60). 1st, voucher, and Q.
overall for Kiba: she was wilder than expected on Saturday and missed a couple weave entries which surprised me. Need to work on weaves and broad jump.

Starters Standard - had 1-2 as jump-DW, with an angled approach. Why they use angled approaches in starters is beyond me, but Seri went jump, one stride on the dogwalk, then off the side and on the ground. Landed on her feet, running. then knocked 2 bars, almost went off course several times, and was generally a wild idiot.
Steeplechase - the wild idiot returned. Took 4 tries to weave. Then went up the aframe, over the apex, and off the side. Landed sort of sideways/upside-down. everybody gasped. I said "thanks but I think we need to leave now", checked her physically, and walked off. Dork! (she's fine)
Starters Jumpers - finally a good run. Knocked the very last bar but I was OK with that, she was actually under control.

Advanced Gamblers - I totally forgot I entered it, ran down, made up a course and learned the gamble right before going in, and was a total idiot in the opening (although didn't fall off anything), then proceeded to get the gamble. I double-checked the accumulator to make sure, and she did Q, so finally finished her AG for real.
Starters Standard - more under control, but knocked a bar on a long straightaway. Also missed her weave entry.
Grand Prix - the only run all weekend i was really happy with. She was great! no bars, nailed her weaves, good contacts. Only thing she did was ran too wide out of the chute and missed the jump after it. Not something I've worked much with her, so I didn't care. Really nice other than that.
Overall: Seri is fine on hard courses, and an idiot on easy ones! Need to work on that. Also on weave entries, and really fast aframes.

Next weekend we are home, then I have an AKC trial in NJ.

20 February 2009


I am generally quite computer literate. I can do all kinds of fun things with them. I've messed with networks and a little bit of html code and such. I'm not like programmer level, but I have never needed that much help to figure out something relatively simple. Grew up with the damn things after all.

But this morning I've been trying to make a simple little line graph, with date on the x-axis, and 2 different sets of data as lines/y-axes. Should be easy right? Using Excel 2003. Not easy. No. I did a sample with some made-up data, and yup, sure enough the Chart Wizard figures that one out every time. But when I try to use my actual data, it somehow keeps reading the first 5 numbers or so as ZERO even though it lists them as 28, 30, etc. (all around 30). The 2nd column seems to work every time. I've been messing with this damned thing on and off all morning, and I am just about to kick its head in (if it had one). Anyone got any helpful hints why it would do this?
I have 3 columns of data. First column is the date, weekdays only for 3 weeks. Second column is a number, ranging from 19-57, and correlating with the date. These represent packages with a certain scan on them every day. Third column is another number. It is actually a subset of the packages in the 2nd column, and is therefore composed of numbers smaller than the 2nd column, usually around half the size. I just want a simple line chart with markers on each value, showing trends over time (we are trying to reduce the number of packages in both columns). Now as I said, I made a small sample chart on an empty worksheet page, and it worked great. But when I highlight my 3 columns, including names at the top, it gets close, but no cigar. For some reason the first 5 or so values in the 2nd column get reduced to nothing. And the range box for "Name" on that one goes from Cell 3-8 in that column, rather than just cell 3. But when I change it, it just F's it up more. But basically the chart it pulls up is right except for those first five or so values being nill. I've tried everything obvious to fix it, and nothing is working.

I don't actually need it today, just figured I'd get the hang of it. Any advice, feel free to comment! I'm at wit's end on this one and am giving up for the day!

Weekend in Raleigh

I won't be online over the weekend (unless I steal Vanessa's computer for a few minutes to check my email!). I'll be getting out of work as early as possible, driving home, grabbing dogs, drinks, and my EZ-Pass (which I loaned to DJ like 3 weeks ago and keep forgetting to put back in the van), and heading down to Raleigh for the PBH USDAA trial this weekend. Weather looks pretty good for Saturday, 57F and sunny, but is growing questionable for Sunday ("am showers" and 48). The Grand Prix is on Sunday, the first round of Steeplechase on Saturday, obviously, so at least we'll get that in OK, I can only hope GP will be alright. I can deal with some chilly rain if I have to, and Seri is already qualified in GP so I can pull her if it rains (she slides on DRY dogwalks right now!). Seri would only be running for training anyway, and Kiba is running to win. Drifter needs a blasted Q dammit! I expect perfection from him on that one! They all need a Steeplechase, but that is easier to get, and while I'll take it seriously, I'm just not as worried about qualifying in it overall. Seri's also got 2 shots at Starters Standard to finish her AD, which would be nice!

I'll be bringing my video camera and pressing people into service, but won't be able to upload till Monday afternoon.

19 February 2009

O Dogwalks, How I Loathe Thee

I want to have the fastest dogs in agility. I want the dogs who jump the best, run the fastest, turn the tightest, have the best weave entries, and most of all, the fastest contacts. Why? Well, not because contacts make up the majority of courses. In fact when I go to AKC Nationals I will only have 2 or 3 dogwalks the whole weekend. But because I like to innovate. And I'm impatient. If I have to stand and wait for a dog to perform a behavior, I KNOW I will not do it. Period. I KNOW if you are Susan Garrett you can get super-fast nose-target contacts. I am not her. I don't go outside and free-shape my dogs once a week. I do innovate my own training methods sometimes, but they don't involve tugging transitions. I do use negative corrections at time that are more than a time-out (usually just a harsh verbal or a looming lean).

Anyways. I want it all. I want tight turns off dogwalks, AND I want full-out fast running straight-away dogwalks. Is this possible? Of course it is. I'm working on it. Anyway. Drifter was taught with a foot target. A couple years ago I stopped requiring the hit, and he gradually stopped doing it, he missed a couple, and I got pissy and started trying to require a hit again. We spent a year arguing about this behavior. He said it was too hard to worry about, I said too f-ing bad, do it anyway. He said make me. I said fine. Then eventually I realized we were so busy arguing about it that I wasn't able to really work on anything else, and he still wasn't doing it. So I phased it out again. With the exception of the first USDAA trial after I stopped asking for a hit (the Regional last July in IN), where he missed about half, he's hit all but two contacts. That's with AKC trials almost every weekend from late July through to October, then several USDAA trials through the rest of the fall. Two total. Not bad. Why am I bitching? Because two is more than I want to miss. And those two were in Important Runs. That I wanted. Does adrenaline make him miss? I don't think so. Usually when I am hyped he gets turned on. I think it was just coincidence. He never missed on a double-Q high-pressure day.

So Tuesday the dogwalk was back in the short side of the arena (it's a 75ish foot wide arena), and not centered. Which means there's no good speedy way to get onto it. And we haven't worked full-speed running into walls much in his life. Previously I did a lot of work emphasizing "touch" or "lie down" when he didn't have momentum, but I am trying to phase that out and get a good running except for turning situations. And. . . I'm still not confident with it. Tuesday we had not such a great session. I did a couple at the quickest speed we could get in a sequence, and one was good and the other was so-so. I did some low-speed accelerating ones and they were so-so. He was leaving earlier than I like to see. Now, generally at a trial he is a) moving faster and b)extending his stride, but I can't assume he will do that. I got mad at him at one point and had to sit down and have a think on the table while he laid down and caught his breath. I decided I have to work harder on his two behaviors, and not try to alter his basic behavior too much. So I decided to work some differentiation between GO and LIE DOWN. I need to tell him Go really early, preferable paired with an obstacle name so he can focus and run. And with Lie Down I need to tell him a little later so he doesn't slow down too early. I also noticed that because Lie Down has always meant "we're turning" he is sort of striding to the ground (like 4otf) and turning his ass around so he's half facing me. Not the greatest thing to encourage. That sort of behavior leads to skipping the yellow pretty quickly. So I got the old fallback exercise out that we haven't worked on in probably 2 years.

Got a low (12 or 16") jump (well one side was a tire) set up on either end of the dogwalk, no more than 6 feet from the end. Then we would run back and forth and I'd either say "Go jump" or "lie down". The latter meaning he should not take the jump, even though it's really close to the end of the walk. He was still rotating a bit, but overall I was happy with where his feet were going on this. The close distance from jump to dogwalk also keeps him from overstriding the contact when I do tell him to jump. Overall though, sort of a frustrating day. I am wondering if maybe I should just stop doing drill type work with it altogether and just throw it into sequences like the aframe. He seems so much better if we just run it in a course. That is probably the best thing to do, and for now if it is in the short end of the arena I will stick my little strider (a black 12" table leg) on a slat near the top of the down-ramp to remind him to push harder through there.

2 weeks ago I had some some acceleration on the ramp work, leaving him with front feet on the upramp and back feet on the ground, I led out almost to the other end, then released him and ran with a toy. He did that tremendously well, coming nice and far down every time. Don't know if it was that I was ahead of him, maybe, indicating clearly that it was extension? The dogwalk wasn't in the corner on that day, it was on the long side and had lots of space afterward.

Seri, on the other hand, is perfectly happy to run full-out all the time. If she misses it's usually because she literally missed - her foot just went off the side. But she didn't have the initial training encouraging her to collect and focus on the downside, which now that I've been through with Drifter. . . well. . . it works, yes, but it makes it harder to transition to a targetless run later on in life. If I had never ever taught him he could do it without hitting his spot, we probably wouldn't have so much trouble. But then I wouldn't have a 1.35 second dogwalk either. He was usually around 1.5-1.65 hitting his target. See, that's .2 I just saved!

Class and Packing

Yesterday I was a little worried about having class because there was a weird snow/sleet/rain mixture happening. Luckily it turned to rain while we were training and the roads home were mostly just wet, with some slush here and there. On the way there it was more snow/ice, and on one of the back roads in Coatesville there was visible slushy crap on the road, so I had slowed down to around 30ish to go around a slight corner on a hill. Going the other direction was this dark blue Dodge Caravan (yes, I really do identify cars instantaneously!), going faster. Like, fast enough that I had this immediate premonition of "this guy's gonna lose it" and sure enough, after he passed me on the corner he lost his rear end and did two huge fishtail skids down the middle of the road before he passed out of my mirror's sight. I assume he was OK since he was still on the road when I last saw him. Idiot. He had to be going 50. Not smart on a curvy road in the ice. Anyways on the way home I didn't see any big crash marks going off the road so I was right about him at least staying on the road, I think.

Class went well. I felt a little bad that we ended 10 minutes early since I had deliberately kept the sequences a bit shorter for class. I was expecting to help some of them quite a bit with different parts of it (a twisty jumpery part) and I did, but with less dogs than usual it went quickly. Still, 10 minutes isn't enough time to do a whole new sequence with 5 dogs. So we packed all the equipment away and headed back. I actually got back by 5:15, which was great because I had time to shower and eat and chill for a little before going to bed.

Today is packing day. I need to do laundry, buy snacks and drinks, clean out the car, pack dog food and clothes, etc. All of it needs to be grab-n-go ready since it's a fairly long drive down to Raleigh and I'd like to be totally ready to go when I get home from work tomorrow. Just grab the dogs, throw 'em in, and drive!

18 February 2009


A while ago Susan Garrett asked on her blog: "what (if anything), do you think separates you as a competitor in the sport of dog agility, from the best competitors in the world?"
then she had a contest and picked winner. I didn't respond. My response is both brief and twofold. First, in part, nothing separates me from the best competitors in the world, because many of the best agility dog and handlers out there compete right here in the States. Do all of them go overseas every year? No, of course not, but a lot more of them are capable of it than we take on our small AKC/FCI team every year (or IFCS). I believe if I can win classes at large national events here in the States, then I could also do so overseas. The second part of my answer has both levity and truth; what separates me from the best european competitors? Why, an ocean of course! If I could drive 10 hours and compete against the best Europe has to offer, then I assure I would, even if I lost every time (which of course I wouldn't). But the cost and trials and tribulations involved in competing against such are nothing to sneer at, and there are trials and Tryouts and consistency and speed and being careful and gutting out runs and laying it on the line all to be considered. I can do all of those things, yes I can. Am I the best at all of them? Probably not, but on any given course I'd happily lay the skills of my dog and I on the line against whosoever may challenge me, be they European or American!
And while Susan goes on to later mention that you shouldn't let lack of training facilities affect you, if one is to be brutally honest, most of the top competitors in the country (and overseas, I'm sure) have pretty much any-time access to training, so if a problem DOES come up, they can fix it at their leisure, not just once-a-week if the weather is right like others.

Another question I heard in the last few months, which I believe was posed on the Awesome Paws forum, was "Why do you want to be on the World Team?" I'm not on that forum, since I don't fully subscribe to that system of handling, but I would assume there's no right or wrong answer to this one either.
Why do I want to be on the World Team? Is it to represent my country abroad?
well yeah. . .
Is it to be a part of a Team effort, competing against other teams abroad?
well yeah but. . .
Is it to gain fame and notoriety?
well yeah but there's more. . .
To use the credentials to begin giving more seminars?
not really. . .
Because I've always wanted to see Europe?
of course but. . .
It's really because I want to compete against the best the WORLD has to offer, in as neutral an environment as possible, and get my chance to win.
Does that mean none of the other reasons are also true for me? Of course not. I think it would be just grand to represent my country on an amazing team, and to see parts of Europe. But that's not what drives me. Competition is what drives me. To put me in perspective; part of the reason I originally moved Drifter down to 22" was that there are MORE good dogs at that height than at 26", and I want to win a class where no one can say "yeah but" regarding my run. This is why I didn't enter 26" at AKC Nationals. People would say "Yeah she won 26 but there were only 23 dogs."

17 February 2009


our phones are down here at work. All of them. Weird.


It is expensive to feed 4 border collies. Especially when you're picky about foods. I ordered two 30lb bags of Orijen, which arrived around Jan 21st, and I started feeding it a couple days later. Well I'm halfway through the 2nd bag already. And Orijen is NOT cheap, no sir. I prefer it over several other grain-free's (one or two of which I won't feed), and I love that they use fresh fish and ingredients local to the plant. I also like the way its put together. It also includes glucosamine, which might not be exactly the proper therapeutic levels, but at least this way i don't have to buy it separately, since I've proven unreliable and cheap about doing that. The dogs love it. The only thing I'd change is that the kibbles are kind of large, which is not my preference (more of a choking hazard) but so far they've all eaten it fine. I also wish the fat content was higher, but I've also been adding a good amount of oil to their nightly feeding, along with a 1/4 can of a decent canned food to up their moisture and protein content, and also to fill some calories without wasting all the expensive food. (I use Nutro Max or Natural Puppy cans, not that expensive at about a buck each but still good ingredients). Anyway, I just had to dig through the internet to find another source of Orijen that wasn't horribly expensive. Some of the places charge exhorbitant shipping fees, so you have to go into the checkout to find out. I ended up using the Amazon affiliated National Pet Pharmacy this time, which had Orijen at $56 per bag and only charged me $6.50 shipping for 2 bags. Not bad. Still less than $2/lb all told. Now if only the dogs would stop burning energy so quickly. . .

16 February 2009

Random Thought

I wonder if the increased entries for Regionals will be evenly offset by the decrease due to the "clean run" requirement for local GP's this year. . .

To AKC or not, revisited

I have 6 more shots at GP Q's before the first Regional, if I follow the schedule I am currently planning. If I attend those trials, then go to 3 Regionals and a 3-day trial in MA over the June-July-August time period. . . I am seriously financially not able to compete in AKC in a competitive fashion this year. Oh well. Got to pick your battles. And being young and having no dearth of good dogs "in the wings" I am tentatively planning to pick not to fight this one this year. I will enter a few local ones on weekends where I may have extra cash (that's funny! like that happens!), but for the most part I'm going to have to stay with USDAA this year if I want to take IFCS seriously. As far as FCI/AKC Tryouts and World Team go, well, I am still going to attend Tryouts, but if I don't make the team then I'll just go on with my IFCS attempt and count myself more experienced. If I DO make the team, I'll have to take it from there...

I have also heard now from two different sources (rumor-mills, I mean) that after this year, AKC Nationals will be back in Oklahoma. One source said that this move will be permament, rather than having it move around the country. Ick. I've not heard good things about that site (lots of theft, general seediness of the area, etc). So I don't feel too bad about not planning to go next year. Perhaps in 2010 I'll qualify and go again in 2011. Drifter will be down at 20" by then, and maybe Seri will be getting ready for Tryouts. I really can't plan that far ahead, as it depends on how this year goes.

15 February 2009

Keystone USDAA Recap

Saturday was Seri only, and I didn't know if someone to video me would be there, so I didn't think to bring my camera. Diann was there and used her Flip to get a couple of my runs but I won't have the files till she sends them to me. Here's the summary:

Starters Standard: Knocked bar #4, then when she didn't stick her see-saw I called her back and gently chastised her. Otherwise a nice run.
Advanced Snooker: Knocked the first red. I said "lie down". She stopped. Then she gave me a bit of a wild look and dove through a tunnel before I could move. ZERO.
Starters Jumpers. I checked and Seri had only run this class 4 times so far, and had one bar 3 of those times. 5th time was a charm. She ran great and was clean with 16 seconds.

Sunday I had all 3 adult dogs in gamblers then Grand Prix. I did bring my camera, and my mother did the videoing for me. First up was Advanced Gamblers. The gamble wasn't too hard, really, we just didn't approach it quite right and she couldn't tell what I wanted. the only reason I called her back at the end was to remind her to pay attention. This video is funny for 3 reasons. Watch it carefully. Particularly, watch her on the dogwalk, the weave poles, and the chute. Crazy! She didn't even miss a weave pole, is the crazy part!

Next up was Masters Gamblers, again not a bad gamble but the tunnel and see-saw were pretty close together so a lot of dogs got confused. Drifter was great except for his awful creepy crazy thing on the start line; he crept around the first jump and I sent him back and he actually did it. I went out of my way to do the see-saw in the opening to practice for grand prix, so we didn't get as many points as we could have, but he did Q and ended up 3rd. I should also mention this is his first trial jumping 26" since last October.

kiba had a fantastic opening, then just didn't quite know what I wanted in the closing. She had the same opening points as the dog that won though (which was my mom with Singe!).

Next was Grand Prix, 26" was first, and Drifter was first dog of that height. He has NO Grand Prix's so I was really hoping we'd get one, and this one was really a pretty good course. Well he left high on the dogwalk but didn't get called (I KNOW not to do two dogwalk-back-tunnels in a row but I thought maybe it would be OK; it wasn't - that behavior, when rehearsed, encouraging a "flyball turn" almost by reaching for the ground in order to pivot on the 180 back to the tunnel). Anyhow he didn't get called so I just ignored it. He was super careful on the see-saw due to my training in gamblers, then he hit a bar. So I growled at him down the aframe (that's why he stops briefly).

Now Seri. She, once again, almost plummets off the top ramp of the DW, if you pause it just right you can see her rear end hanging out in space next to the ramp! Yikes! Anyway she held on, but didn't get the tunnel cue so had a spin. Rest of the course was great. She ended up winning the class despite the spin; other dogs who were faster all had a bar or some other fault. So Seri has her 2 needed GP Q's for '09, and earned her first voucher for a Regional! Yay!

Kiba Grand Prix. what a fun easy little dog. I pushed her and she responded. I did take the extra couple tenths to pull her down far enough into the yellow to be SURE she got it, but she still won the class. So I got a sweep of the open classes, with the girls winning 22 and 26. First time I've done that!

So overall for the weekend, I'm pleased with the girls in GP, and i wish Drifter had gotten it. I really, really hope we don't go on a bad GP streak and end up not making it for Regionals! Not possible, I keep telling myself. . . He's running so well!

Also, my videos seem to be hanging up a lot more than usual lately. Is this universal or is it just the computers I've been using? I'm going to try converting to MPEG's next time instead of WMV's, my only problem is that for some reason my computer at home has been having trouble playing MPEG's properly, but does fine with WMV's.

14 February 2009

weird morning

This morning has a weird vibe to me. The first class up at Keystone is Starters Gamblers, which I am not in, so I asked the secretary and she said it was OK to show up later since I don't need measuring. So I'm at home. Slept in (according to my warped standard). Although I did wake up briefly at 4:30; I had been sleeping on top of my left upper arm, and must have been for some time, and my entire arm was dead and tingling in crazy fashion, which kept me awake for a bit, then Drake whined and I let him out. Then I had some weird dream after falling back asleep, which started out with me and a couple people leaving a house in AZ (like after Nationals?) and ended with me fleeing a man "driving" a giant robot, and me trying to blend in around some old stadium or somethinng while the robot guy's lackey's searched everybody. Really. Weird.

Anyway, I'm not leaving for the trial till around 9am or so, I'm not actually estimated to walk till 11am! Very AKC vibey to me. Seri's stop pads look good. I wrapped them when I worked her Wed, and i wrapped them when we went to the park yesterday (DJ actually came with me, all we did was let them run and cavort for half an hour, but they were Tired).

Hoping for good luck with Seri. She always has more trouble with easy courses than hard ones!

13 February 2009

Sticky Fingers

Here at work, if all of the drivers (about 50) go for a week without having any accidents, then the following Friday we buy them a bunch of donuts from Dunkin Donuts. I snitched one and now my fingers a little sticky. In a good way.
And just in case you're wondering, we usually have between 0 and 3 accidents per month, with more than half of those being minor incidents where a fixed object was involved (last month a driver hit a basketball net pole by someone's house). I think that's all pretty impressive for having 50 drivers covering some pretty large amounts of miles every day.

I was originally planning to go to a friend's place to train this afternoon, but I don't feel like rushing home from work, and she's been inviting more and more people every week, so it's not a nice little group anymore, so I think I'll probably skip today. Instead, I will go to the park, take all 3 adults, and let them run and cavort in the mud. I'm hoping the 4 days or so of sun and wind and above-freezing temperatures have dried up the worst of the wet spots.

Tomorrow is Seri's big day in Starters. I mentioned previously that this is a LARGE one-ring trial (292 dogs!), so Starters is broken into 2 groups. Advanced is one. Tomorrow starts with Starters Gamblers (we're in Adv) so I have several hours before I even get to run. Then we have Starters Standard, and I believe Adv and Starters Snooker (again we're in Adv) and then Jumpers (we're in Starters) Since I'm only running her, I may end up going home between classes if it runs too long, and just calling someone to tell me if they are getting close. Or just giving it an hour and coming back. It's about 10-15 minutes to home from there. Last year I just ended up skipping the last few classes because I was SO bored out of my mind. I really want to get some experience on Seri though, and get her freaking Jumpers leg out of the way if possible, so I'm going to try to actually run everything.

Then Sunday I just have Adv Gamblers with Seri, Masters Gamblers with the other 2, then Grand Prix. I'm glad i have a warm-up class before Grand Prix for all 3 of them, as they all need the leg. I'm also glad I got invited to practice in this very same indoor twice in the last 3 weeks so they should all adapt to it pretty quickly. It's sprintturf but it's been used almost every day for the last 2+ years, and it's becoming slippery.

12 February 2009

Cell Phone Pirates

Several times over the last few days I have gotten calls from "Unavailable" on my cell phone. Now I've gotten telemarketer calls before, but the number's always shown up (and I Googled it and that's how I found out who it was!). Now. . . it just says Unavailable. I'm not answering it. If I won a prize, or owe someone money, then they will leave me a message. Right? I don't pick up unless I know who it is, and if I didn't recognize the number and they leave a message, I DO listen to it, and call them back if I have a reason to. But. . .Unavailable. Is it a married person, do ya think? No. . but who the hell would call a cell over and over and not leave a message? This number calls like 2-3 times a DAY, from 8am to 8pm, whenever.

Anybody had this happen before?

Maybe people haven't evolved after all...

I've added a couple links to my list on the side, one is Terrierman's blog, a very intelligently written blog by a working terrier owner. He is anti-AKC, and often discusses either actual work/hunting with the dogs, or how AKC conformation showing ruins the usefulness of a breed. He also has interesting opinions on many other things, and apparently shares several of my views on politics and religion.

Today is Charles Darwin's 200th birthday. To celebrate, PewResearch tells us that 63% of Americans think Darwin was full of shit. Wonderful. So I guess all those college Biology professors are totally just making that crap up. Uh huh. Maybe by the time he turns 300 humans will start paying attention. Maybe.

Yesterday would have been my flat-coat's 17th birthday, if she had still been around. Most of the people I am friends with in agility now never knew her.

Today is an "off" day for the dogs. I have something to do around 4pm this afternoon so I have to figure out how I can get the dogs some exercise between about 1-3pm when I'm home. Either take them to the park to turn them into mudmonsters, or possibly just leash them up and walk around the local neighborhood roads (slower but cleaner, and most of the salt is gone). Then tomorrow some training, then the trial over the weekend.

11 February 2009

To AKC or not to AKC?

Generally I spend the spring of any given year qualifying for USDAA Regionals, since the ones in this half of the country start in early June. This is true this year as well, although I'm a little more concerned this year since you need perfect-zero runs in Grand Prix now. Usually I have a couple 5-faulters under my belt by the time the new year rolls around, but not this year. Drifter only ran one last fall for '09, and he hit a bar and later that day pulled up kinda lame - iliopsoas. So then we ran a GP at 22" end of December and he had 5 faults. No Q. So this weekend is our second try at 26" for '09, then I've got 5 additional attempts before Regionals. That's pretty good, actually. Should be enough even to get the silly girls qualified (they each have one at their respective heights already). I've got a similar number of Steeplechases in that time (usually not an issue with any of my dogs since you can have a fault or a flub and still Q). Anyways, my point is that in order to go to Regionals I need to spend some time in USDAA. My other point here is that I do NOT make boat-loads of money and can't trial almost every weekend which is what I do if I DID have boatloads of money. I do like a weekend off here and there, but I'd rather get my qualifying for everything out of the way early and then take breaks later on that can also be used to 'fix' any bad habits my dogs developed during their trialing streaks.

So I'm trying to decide whether to do much AKC this year. To be honest, I don't care a whole lot about titles in either venue. Kiba will get her ADCH when she gets it, and while I would love to finish Drifter's LAA Bronze this year, realistically I do not expect to get 8 Pairs legs by September (the cutoff for receiving the award at Nationals in November). I also don't care a lot about the MACH; and while I don't like the double-Q system, I do appreciate that qualifying for AKC Nationals and working on a MACH title require the exact same thing. So my hunt for Nationals Q's also gets me closer to MACHing, which is nice. In USDAA I work on going to Regionals, Nationals, and possibly Internationals one day, but with those as my main goals I have no reason to enter Pairs, Snooker, etc. on a weekend-to-weekend basis. I want to practice for GP, so I enter Standard and Gamblers. Sometimes Jumpers. I have to force myself to enter the others. I do well at Snooker, especially lately now, but it's not my favorite class. It's hard to be totally "in the zone" in snooker, and it's herky-jerky on the best of runs unless you do low-point obstacles for flow only (and then it's too easy).

So planning out my calendar I filled in what AKC trials I think I can physically and financially afford to go to, and it is going to end up between 13-16 for the year. This concermed me initially; thinking it wouldn't be enough to qualify for Nationals (and remember, I don't care about titles, I want to compete at big events), but then I went back and counted, and last year I went to what added up to about 14 trials (or 28 or so individual days) in AKC with Drifter, and we managed to qualify. Would have had 7 double Q's if it weren't for that wonky refusal call back in September (and YES I'm still pissed about that!). And plenty of other days were 1-fault days too, so if we can cut down on those we'll have lots of no-fault days and I'll be super-happy. So for now I am tentatively planning to do AKC again and maybe even go to Nationals. Depends on where they are, how far, how expensive it is to fly to them, etc.

It's always embarassing when your own company flubs

So I forgot to send my entry for PBH until I thought about it Friday, and at that point I just figured I'd overnight it. Since I work for FedEx Ground, I get a discount, and I am able to Express packages for about $5-6 or so if I run down to the Express terminal (about 5 miles from where I work). So I did that on Monday (show was set to close Tuesday). Never had an issue before. On Tuesday (yesterday) PBH sent out a general email saying that if you hadn't gotten a confirmation yet, to email them because they had sent out confirmation emails to everyone whose entries were in. So I sent one back last night asking if they had gotten my entry and explaining that I had overnighted it. This morning when I checked my email again I got a reply saying she hadn't gotten it yet. Ick! I tracked my package and it was "delayed for reasons beyond our control" in Philadelphia before heading down to Memphis, where it was then driven to Durham and delivered yesterday. The delay caused about a 5-hour delay, not a whole day. So according to FedEx Express they delivered the package around 3pm yesterday. The reply from the trial secretary wasn't until 1:30am late that night, so I don't know if she doesn't usually go in her front door, if the FedEx driver stuck it off to the side hidden somewhere, or if the FedEx guy lied and didn't deliver it at all (or to the right door)! Luckily the secretary just told me to send my info and she'd enter me, which I did just now. Hopefully she'll find my envelope!

Yesterday after I trained (only did relatively short sessions - dogs got hot quick in the "heat" of 50-degree weather in February!), during class somebody noticed there was some blood on the contacts. I thought it couldn't have been from my dogs simply because it was on the bottom and generally my dogs dont' go down that far, especially on the aframe. But when I got up this morning I saw Seri licking her legs so I checked and sure enough her stop pads are all burned/ripped off. I'm not really even sure she did it yesterday. We did quite a few stops on the DW and some aframe work, but nothing excessive. I'm wondering if its from Sunday on the sprintturf. Anyway, I need to pick up some vet wrap to protect those for her. I probably won't do any contacts today, but if I wrap them there's no reason she can't run in the sand and do a few jumps at least.

ETA: just found out the trial secretary moved after the premium went up, and they changed the send to address a little while ago. Looks like since I printed mine back in early January (or was it Dec?) that mine probably had the old address on it. She's going to swing by later today and check.

09 February 2009

Book Ends

Seri and her mother Pearl watching agility together at training Sunday (pics courtesy of Sharon Gilligan!) It's funny, when I look at either dog individually, I don't think they look very much alike; their facial structure and expressions are different. But when i see them together. oh BOY are they related! Seri on the left, Pearl on the right.


The weather was crazy yesterday. We went from 20 degrees and snow a week ago, to FIFTY-SIX and sunny yesterday. So yeah, most of the snow melted. But it melted and turned into slush, ice, and mud. Yeah, really pleasant. I love having differentiated seasons here in the Northeast, but I don't like mud. It's supposed to stay in the 40's and 50's all week long, with maybe just a few sprinkles one day, so I'm really hopeful that the mud will DRY up and my dogs won't have to tiptoe through the sloggy yard just to potty. Kiba hates it, she makes all kinds of weird faces when I shoo her off my concrete porch.

We had 3 hours rented at the training facility in Barto again yesterday; there were 5 of us with another pack of BC's again. We ran 2 good courses and trained on them a bit, then I showed a couple of them how I train 2-by-2's. It's really simple. But then, I'm not up-to-date on the latest SG method, my method is "MSG" (Modified Susan Garrett), and it works great so why bother paying more money for the DVD, is what I figure. My dogs always seem to get the braking and weight-shift into the entry spectacularly, early in training. Hard sideways entries I save till later. I focus on footwork and weight shift, then on entries when they can do all 12 at speed. Works great for me, anyhow.

I gave Kiba an 81mg aspirin earlier in the day, and while I was still getting some response from her (the twitchy ouchy skin response) when I put pressure into her back at a certain spot, functionally she seemed perfectly happy to bounce around like her normal self when I let her off leash, so I don't think she's actually in pain when she moves, it's more of a to-the-touch sort of an issue. I ran the 2 courses with her to practice contacts and jumping on the floor (the trial this weekend is in the same building). I will now give her the next 3 days off. I'll hit the park today and just take Drifter, then training Tues/Wed will take Drifter and Seri and maybe even Drake, but leave Kiba home. The deep sand is great for doggy muscles and impact absorption, but not so great if your back hurts. Then I'll take her for a walk on-leash Thursday, and to training Friday.

Today I'm only taking Drifter because Seri still needs to be on-leash, and isn't as used to park walks as Drifter is, and I'd like to go out for a while since we've fallen behind with the weird weather. With Drifter I can just take him off leash and he's fine 90% of the time. Alone, especially, he will just relax and go with me. I'd like to try for 2 hours or so again, if possible. The quieter parking area should be open by now, and is always pretty lonely on weekdays.

This weekend's trail (Keystone) is a one-ring affair. Saturday is Starters and a couple Advanced classes, then Sunday is Adv/Masters Gamblers, Grand Prix, then Masters Standard. I didn't enter Standard because I knew ahead of time that this trial is usually HUGE (there's nothing else in this area this time of year!) and runs late. Well we got the confirmation the other day, and they are expecting to run until 8:10pm on Sunday. There are 292 dogs entered. Whew! Glad I only entered gamblers and GP. Not much of a trial for the Masters dogs (Seri gets Saturday and Sunday runs), but it's a tournament. I'm going to run as conservatively as possible with the 3 of them in GP. The girls only need one more to be Q'ed for Nationals, and Drifter doesn't have any at all. So I'd really like to get that done as early as possible so I don't have to worry about entering extra trials over the spring/summer just to get Tournament Q's. The earlier I get those out of the way, the earlier I can decide if I want to try for AKC Nationals again or not.

07 February 2009

Facebook Album

So I have this weird habit of taking embarrassing photos of my dogs sleeping in weird positions. If you're my facebook friend, check out the album:-)

If you're not my facebook friend, well, that's your loss, isn't it? Here's a sample, so you can see what you're missing!

Walk, Kiba's back, and Record keeping

I did go for a walk today, but I kept it brief. I let Drifter off lead some, but kept the girls on. Seri just needs to learn how to pace me better; she doesn't understand how to move at a speed that isn't Warp 3.5. Kiba I kept on leash because her back is still hurting her a little. I have the laser charging right now, but i massaged it with my fingers and stretched her again this evening. Still getting pain response mid-upper back, a few inches down from the spine. I will bring her with me tomorrow but will massage and stretch and laser her in the morning, and if she's still sore I'll take it easy; just do a few easy exercises at 16" and maybe a few back-chained dogwalks with her. No weaves or aframe. No high jumps. Poor little Kiba!

I finally hooked up the external hard drive and transferred the rest of my files from the desktop. The only thing left to transfer is my iTunes. I can do that through my iPod, but it's a lengthy process; according to the iTunes website it looks pretty time-consuming. Anyway, I now have all my doggy pictures, and my AKC Record from '08. I only did 24" AKC from 6/27 to 11/23, so I guess it isn't bad to end up with 26 legs and 6 double Q's. Drifter's Q rate isn't as good as some dogs, but to be fair, 90% of our mistakes would have only been 5 faults in USDAA (or FCI!), so it isn't as if we are total screw-ups. Anyhow, I spent about an hour going back through the record and beginning to prep it to send in with my Tryouts entry. I've only got one or two more AKC trials to run before we attend. I'm doing mostly USDAA this spring (I usually work it that way, spend spring Q'ing for USDAA, and summer/fall for AKC). I had to go back through and add in judge's names and course yardages and my time (I previously only had YPS on it). I think out of the 26 legs I only didn't win 4 times. Speed, not a problem. Haven't rechecked it, but our average JWW YPS was over 6.1 last time I calculated. Had some twisty courses at the end of the year though, might have brought it down a little. I don't know about other parts of the country, but around here AKC courses are usually NOT a complete cake walk with fast lines. Round here we get weird angles and pinwheels and 180's and strange push-outs. Not easy. Not harder than USDAA, not all the time, but no easier. Different challenges.

This photo's for Diann:-)
Another one from the archives, January 2006. As you can see, Drifter is just a horrible housedog. Spends all that time sleeping on the couch. Really. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to live with border collies. (ETA: I can't believe how much more grey he has on his face now!)
I actually ended up not doing anything with the dogs yesterday. For one, I was tired from driving around all week (class 2 days in a row followed by NJ for the PT). Another; I massaged Kiba's back and still got some painful responses from her. I worked on it again this morning a bit and did the neck exercises Ria gave me for her. Today (and all week) it is going to be quite warm for winter, 40's and 50's. So the park will be wet but pleasant for walking. I will definitely keep them on leash but I do think it will be a nice way to get them moving again.

Tomorrow we have another 3-hour practice session at the building in Barto. I'm going to be showing a couple people the basics of 2-by-2 weaves. Of course the new DVD just came out, but apparently they want to learn what I do on the cheap, so whatever. I've been hearing that most people move rather quickly with the new DVD; Susan has obviously refined the method significantly. People are reporting getting to 4 poles in a line in 3 sessions of training. Interesting. However I've also heard she now advocates leaving them slightly off the centerline, like a narrow channel, to help the dog get their rhythm. I don't know. Not worried about it. My dogs don't usually get to 4 poles straight up in 3 sessions, BUT I've had great success as far as my dogs getting from 4 open poles (I never use just 2) to 12 closed in less than a month; considering I only work 3-5 sessions per week, I guess that's pretty quick. I am not obsessive enough to work multiple times every day for a week just to get weave poles real fast. And I do like to see some footwork understanding before I add too many poles. The other thing my dogs always seem to learn easily is proper collection on entry. Some dogs trained with the (old) 2-by-2 method seemed to dive into the entry (similar to some dogs trained with other methods). Moving quickly and not giving the dog time to learn a diving motion into the entrance is probably the key. I don't work extreme entries until the poles are closed; I want the dog to learn the weaving motion and rhythm properly first. I also don't want to waste time teaching a dog entries on an obstacle that is not the same visually as the finished one will be; open poles don't look the same. The way I teach entries focuses on getting the dog to LOOK at the weaves as one obstacle and find the proper entry on their own.

06 February 2009

A Post Worth Reading

Over on Susan Garrett's Blog.

Poking and prodding

Yesterday afternoon I took the dogs and myself out to see Ria. They all had some minor tight spots in their neck and/or back; Ria said she's seeing a lot of that lately and thinks its due to the poor dogs all sliding around on the crazy ice a week ago. I could understand that. Kiba's neck and back were actually the worst; all out of whack. Seri looked pretty good, very little remnant of the weird upper back pain from 10 days ago, and aside from a minor spot near her elbow, absolutely no soreness in any legs. And Drifter was actually fabulous. He had a minor spot or two in his neck from the ice as well, but his pelvis was in, his psoas region and his back were loose and relaxed, and she could feel that his triceps are getting bigger:-)

Then I had her work on my shoulder. Last time I had it checked was last May, and done by her husband, so she hasn't seen it yet. First I told her what David had told me to do with it, and then she gave me a few strengthening exercises to help the muscles get stronger without aggravating the tendons. She had me resist her pushing on my arm while I held it out in different directions, told me it was weak, but it seemed contained to the rotator cuff, and wasn't in any muscles with the name deltoid or trap attached to them. Good, I guess. Then she went to work digging fingers in and mobilizing and loosening bits. Hurt pretty bad in a couple spots; one of which I had no idea was even a spot that was bothered! To describe how it feels; the top of my right shoulder joint will feel tense and sore, both inside and vaguely to the touch, if I push in it. This tenseness causes the entire shoulder to tense up, which does 2 things; pulls the right side of my neck very tightly, and pulls the bottom of my shoulder blade up and out away from my back. This makes driving a pain in the ass, as the bottom of the blade feels like its poking back into the seat. It doesn't look nearly that dramatic, but it feels awful. Not horribly painful, but all of that put together is annoying as well.

This morning I can feel that my neck and shoulder are a bit sore, the top of my shoulder throbs now and then, briefly. But the blade is already feeling flatter to my back, and my neck feels more mobile. I have another appointment for March 19th to get checked before AKC Nationals, so I may go ahead and have her check me again. I know it isn't good when she puts her hands somewhere and says "Niiiiiice!" but she doesn't mean it in a good way!

Today I am skipping agility practice. I think its best for me and the dogs. I may go for an hour's walk, and make all 3 of them stay on leash. Good way to stretch out and work out the kinks. Then I'm going to settle back and watch some anime while DJ goes out to dinner with some friends down in West Chester (I don't really know them, and I've been so busy all week I'd like a night to relax!).

05 February 2009

yesterday and today

Worked one good tough course yesterday with everybody, then just let them run around and kick up dust in the arena before class. We ended up with about 3-4 inches of snow in our area when all was done Tuesday night, but the sun was out yesterday so the roads were all fine. Oddly, the tiny town where Sharon lives got almost a FOOT of snow, while her friend who lives 15 minutes down the road got about one inch. I guess it just hovered over her for a while!

Today I have an appointment with Ria, the PT. I have 4 slots; I was originally going to take my 3 dogs and one of my mom's, but with my shoulder bothering me again on and off, I may just have her do my 3 dogs and myself instead. I don't want to leave Seri home because I'd like to have a check-up on her weird one-day lameness from the other week, and I don't want to leave the other 2 home because they are my main competition dogs right now, and they haven't been seen since mid-December, before they had their "vacation" from agility and started their tougher conditioning program. Of course with the annoying weather they haven't gotten as much exercise as I'd like over the past week; I may actually skip agility on Friday in order to take a longer walk at the park. It's more relaxing and better overall exercise. They can trot/canter at ease, and the hills, rocks, roots, and such force them to use all their muscles. I still don't let them blast full out; it's just not what I'm looking for in 2 hour exercise sessions, and it's also dangerous on steep hills with roots sticking out, and icey patches, and other hikers. I like the narrow trails in one section of the park; they don't allow bikes there, and I hardly ever see anybody out there. The narrowness of the trails and the winding nature of them both serve to keep the dogs at a natural trot/canter pace too, which is nice; I don't have to constantly growl at Drifter to slow down like I do in the fields.

04 February 2009

Where my dogs stand

Well, they stand in my living room a lot. But title-wise:-)

AKC: Drifter has 9 double Q's. And like 1850 points or something. Obviously he's had his MX/MXJ for a while. One Novice FAST leg.
Kiba has 6 double Q's, about 550 points, and 9 legs each towards MX and MXJ
Seri has 1 leg each in Novice Standard and JWW.

USDAA: Drifter has his ADCH, a bazillion tournament legs TM-Platinum. He has 156 various legs already, but needs 4 standards, 4 jumpers, and 8 pairs legs for LAA Bronze (he neeeds his 15 'base' legs of each). He has 36 Gamblers Q's. Because I always enter that.

Kiba has her TM-Gold already. She needs 2 Pairs, 3 Jumpers, and 2 Super Q's for ADCH. For LAA, she has 63 legs total so far. Obviously needs some time to work on stuff.

Seri has her Starters Snooker, Pairs, and Gamblers titles. She needs one more Standard leg and a Jumpers leg to finish her AD title. She already has an Advanced Pairs leg and 2 Adv Gamblers legs. (she has run in Starters jumpers exactly 4 times, 3 of those she had one bar).

How I handled them

This is the first course I ran with my guys. And whew, lots of front crosses (at "FX").
I lead out to sort of where the first "FX" is, sent to 3, pulled through with an outside arm cue and backing up a little, then turned and did 4-5 with dog on my right. I've mapped out how I handled 5-12 - front cross, one after another. Worked great for all 3 dogs. Tried to get my outside arm up pretty early on 7, before the dog took off, because I could get ahead since they had the chute to go through. Then once they started the turn on 7 on the left lead, I moved ahead to get through the jumps and front cross to get the dog to turn to the outside on 9. Even Seri got through all this no problem. The rest of the course; I stayed with dog on right after the frame and just pulled/sent to the tunnel, weaves on left, then pulled and sent again after the DW.

2nd course. 2 diagrams for you.
This is the opening. I lead out to "LO", and similar to the previous course, as soon as I could see the dog collect and change direction before taking 3, I moved back to get between 4 and 5 to front cross and push through, getting my outside arm up nice and early for a tight wrap. 5 was actually tough because I pretty much shoved them through and left them to lift over 5 while I took off for 6 (5 was also a panel jump, and its in deep sand)

7-8-9-10 I ran with the dog on the right the entire way, simply pushed to the tunnel. Here's an example of the rare blind cross I will use - I pushed to the tunnel entrance at 10, the simply did the quarter turn to the right and dropped my right shoulder to get their attention out of the tunnel. I was in position before all my dogs even got close to exiting the tunnel. I got pretty far ahead, then front crossed to push out over 12, still moving with the dog but talking to keep their focus on me so I could front cross to the see-saw. Then did my outside arm false-turn-to-a-wrap-cue mish-mash that my dogs all seem to understand so very well but makes me feel a bit like a silly ballet tree-hugger. It's the only time you'll see me use that arm in that exact manner. Anyway, I pulled through the middle of both, wanting to practice it. Even Seri did well.

3rd Course I ran; again you get 2 maps for my handling.

I lead out to "LO", worked hard to cue a tight turn; the angle from 1-2 made getting it tight pretty rough, but we managed to make it acceptable. Once they turned tightly I had to push/send to 3, which was a weird angle, and immediately front cross again, sent to 4, and started moving to front cross at FX for the chute.

And the ending was a bit of a doozy:-) I've been working hard to get lots of front crosses even in the deep sand, but this one was a bit much to race the dog into. The spacing was set up like this - it was a long run from the DW to 13. I decelerated as the dog approached 13 to get the tight corner, then approached 14 slowly and cued the rear cross, pulled to 15 and cued another rear cross, went through the gap in the jumps and pulled the dog to the see-saw using my shoulders, speed (still slow) and verbal cues, then rear crossed the see-saw as they went up it to pull to 17 for the wrap and run to the finish.

Overall fun courses. Drifter didn't hit a single bar (that I remember), had GORGEOUS dogwalks, and handled perfectly. I flubbed him on one thing where I didn't support/cue properly, and that was it. Kiba, I believe, was dead-on for all 3. No mistakes (jumping 22). After that I gave them a break, (I have 3 hours of time to train and relax), then went back in and worked on accelerating across the dogwalk with Drifter and Seri, and some more aframes at different speeds with Kiba. The first two did really good on the DW; Drifter was especially excellent today, nailing the contact from any and all speeds and directions. Seri had a few "moments", but overall I was pleased with her too. I've been running her more than not lately, and I'm considering whether to get rid of her stop behavior altogether. It's getting slower as I have her do it less, but I still may want to keep something in place. We'll see. Kiba's frames look fantastic. I guess all it took was a few reminders to do a behavior I never trained very well in the first place - she does have to hit the 'touch' on the DW though, so it is probably a mild transfer that's taking place, although she has to slow down enough on the DW to demonstrate to me that she really hit it (otherwise she'll pop), and on the aframe I just want her to focus downward and place her feet downward on that last stride. It's looking good.

03 February 2009

Lots of little posts for you to read today!

There are 195 16" dogs, 260 20" dogs, and 123 24" dogs entered in AKC Nationals (regular classes, not ISC). 26"? 23. I really don't understand why they still have a 26" class. I know there's a few purists out there who still like to have the same height in USDAA/AKC or for Tryouts or whatever, but come ON, winning Nationals because you beat 22 dogs? That's just silly. I do have to say, though, that going down from 20 to 16 wouldn't have given me much less dogs to compete against with Kiba - almost 200 in th 16" class! Although I'd still rather beat border collies than shelties/pyr sheps or whatever. I'm NOT knocking those breeds, I just think it's silly for a border collie who is 2 inches TALLER than the jumps to compete with shelties who are 2 inches SHORTER than the jumps. I'd rather win 20". Drifter has a smaller class, 123 dogs, but at least it's competitive, with all the non-26" world team hopeful's entered in it. Personally I think the 26's should be scored with the 24's. Let them jump higher, sure, but don't give them an empty title. YES maybe they are really fast and YES maybe they are super consistent, but if the Final round only has TWO dogs in it. . . . do you deserve a great big trophy? In my opinion, no...

Tougher Stuff

So I posted a couple days ago the courses I plan to run with the class students. Now here's the ones I plan to run with my own dogs. You'll notice I call them "Int'l Courses" although of course they really aren't. I'm just trying to use more threadles, serpentines, strange angles, call-by's, etc. They're just tougher, less flowey but still fast running courses. Here's what I'll do today if the weather cooperates.

Snow, but not a lot

So the weatherpeople have decided we get no rain, but also not a lot of snow. Supposedly "about an inch", so I'm going to be brave and say class is on for tonight. I think an inch falling throughout the day when cars and salt are actively going over the road shouldn't be too bad.

I didn't go to the park yesterday. The temperature was gorgeous but the ground was getting super wet. I got the dogs out for a thorough run in the backyard, then had to close it off permamently as they pretty much destroyed what was left of the snowy (non-muddy, I mean) yard area. They enjoyed themselves though. Still no sign of Seri's weird limp from a week ago, so I'm assuming it was a one-time thing. I *thought* I saw her do some funky things a day or two prior to that Sunday, but as I mentioned, she just moves a little funny - very up-and-down, hackney-like when she's just walking around in the house, so it can be hard to tell what the heck she's doing. Anyway. All the dogs will go back to see Ria on Thursday. I had originally thought about leaving Seri home and having my shoulder worked on instead, but with Seri's little thing a week ago I want to have her checked. Looking forward to running some tough courses this afternoon.

02 February 2009

Wishy Washy Weathery

The weatherpeople can't decide what is going to happen. A lot of rain, a little snow? A little rain, a lot of snow? A little rain, a little snow? Nothing at all? Who the hell knows anymore! As of right now we are just planning to go ahead and have class anyway! There may be some snow tomorrow, but if it stays light we should be OK. And it almost certainly will be quite cold on Wednesday. Too bad. It's been a month and we've had like 2 classes; this is ridiculous.

DJ is home today. Was supposed to be a vacation day, but he's sick so its sort of like a planned sick day. Superbowl was OK. I had no feelings for either team, so wasn't exactly excited. I'm glad the Steelers won I guess; at least they have a lot of long-term fans - their fanbase isn't 85% newbies who said "ooooh they made the playoffs I'm in loooove"....

Not much else to say today. Sorry! Worked hard on my own this morning. But I'm pretty much done now, so I have to find things to do for a couple hours, then run to the bank, Best Buy, and home again. If it isn't raining yet when I get back I will run to the park for a bit.

01 February 2009

odds and ends

So yes, I admit that I read a LOT of blogs in my off time. Many of them are people I really don't know very well in person, but I enjoy reading about their lives with their dogs. One of the blogs I read is Susan Garrett's blog. She does a lot of training focused posts, which I am curious about but not all that interested in. She did make a casual remark that I found amusing; that someone had coined the term "MSG" to mean "modified Susan Garrett" method. That made me smile because that is exactly what I do for quite a few obstacles. i don't really handle like her, I've leaned more in Linda's direction but with a few specific and significant variances, but if you want to train an obstacle, Susan's your instructor. Anyhow, recently she mentioned that she wasn't sure if anyone would ever come up with a repeatable, consistent method for running contacts. Of course several people piped up in the comments touting the amazingness of Sylvia Trkman's method. And sure, it can look pretty amazing with a young dog. But the only dogs I know who are middle aged and trained that way; are Sylvia's. And her border collie, by her own admission, is soft and is not the highest drive BC around. Her website says there are 100's of dogs over there trained with the method, but for some reason they are "too young to compete", and I'm guessing its a lack of website update, but it's said that for like 2 years now. How are those dogs doing? I don't know. and here's another thing; that method is NOT very conducive to training turns off the dogwalk. I will beat you every time if you lose 10 strides off the end and it's a tight 180 back to another obstacle. I got 3rd in GP Finals in '06 due to losing Drifter off the end for several strides. I've tried hard to tighten him up since then, but it's rough. This is why I am trying to change to a dual behavior; so I can win on both courses, the ones with the tight turns, and without them. Because I'm quite sure that once we get several more dogs with fast running dogwalks (why doesn't anyone online give me credit? Drifter's 6 and still hits most of them!) judges will start making the turns off the end even more common. European courses, for the most part up until now, have been pretty forgiving on turns after the DW. That is starting to change. Also I've seen a few dogs started with her method start missing contacts after a few trials. I'm sure trainer error is part of this, but its not a very easy method to train.

Anyhow, they're AGAIN predicting bad weather for Tuesday, so I don't know if we'll get to have class or not, but here's my planned setup and courses. The few of you who read this AND come to class can plan ahead:-) And if we don't end up having Tues class, you guys can run it in your mind! And if you don't come to my class, then here's a mental exercise if you'd like to mess around on a Sunday afternoon.