29 December 2010

Support ME!!!

Team USA for the WAO is working on several fundraising projects, including (as mentioned in the comments on the previous entry) a book of courses and exercises and articles for purchase, possibly through Clean Run. This has been done for Team Canada in the past, and our manager was involved in that, and it worked out really well. So please look forward to that!

Also this morning I spent a little bit of time creating some merchandise for a Cafepress shop. 10% of the money goes to me, and will all go towards my trip to the WAO in May 2011. Please help me and Drifter out! I'm not one of the "big name" instructors yet, and I don't make tons of money every year. We're just a talented team who's asking for help going overseas to KICK BUTT! (in a polite fashion, of course;)

So, buy some stuff! Most of the designs are just stock designs that I edited to make them Drifter themed, but some of them are pretty cool, and the standard graphics are very typical of what you see at Old Navy type stores these days, so you could wear them anywhere. I particularly like "Drifter is my homeboy." I'd love to go to a trial and actually see people wear that! LOL!

28 December 2010


Team USA for the World Agility Open is all chosen now, and overall I think it's a pretty damn good team. We're definitely going over there to kick some butt. I'm happy to see that there are more countries signing on, so it should be more competitive than I originally worried about.

The Team is looking for sponsors and donations. Sponsors can be anybody with something to contribute, if they can give us goods that help us, that's great, if they can donate some money in exchange for advertising, that's great too! If you know of anything, feel free to comment and I can pass the lead on to our manager.
So far Clean Run has signed on to help, both as a sponsor and by selling the US-themed Comfortflex harnesses (buy some!). Our manager is looking into other leads as well. I am optimistic that we will drum up more funds than USDAA did for the IFCS Team this past year, at least. (we basically paid for all our own travel expenses, and shipping a dog to the UK is *not* cheap).

If you are interested in donating to the Team, please let me know and I can send you our manager's info, or please contact her yourself! The WAO is a unique competition - it's the first international, open competition that is created and sponsored by competitors, there are no kennel clubs or higher purposes involved, and I think it's going to be a really fun event! No ulterior motives, just great competition! And since Teams are smaller and more limited than the EO, it's a bit more exclusive and top-tier, more cream-of-the-crop and less really big classes (I'm sure the EO winners are very talented, but there are a LOT of dogs at that trial, and I know people make finals with faults sometimes).
The WAO only allows one Team per country, with one dog of each jump height, so it will be interesting and high-pressure to watch the Team dog runs. Agilityvision will be there livestreaming as well.

27 December 2010

So, you may wonder....

What sort of things am I doing with my puppy?

Well I'll tell you. It is so different being home with a puppy all the time. This is the FIRST time EVER that I haven't had either school or work during the day, so this puppy doesn't spend as much crate time as my previous ones have. Even though he isn't crated as much, he is by far the best behaved puppy I've had at this age (Drifter was older when I got him and so was Freeze). He will wrestle like a maniac with the other dogs for a while, will play fetch or tug with me, but after he's had his hour or so of fun, he will simply lay down on the floor or my lap, and go to sleep. It's quite nice. I can even get up and walk around and he will continue staying there. I don't know if it's because he's that much calmer than my past pups, or just due to having more time out of the crate. It's possible that the 4 hour crated periods (my mother let them out partway through while I was at work) made the previous pups a little less likely to just snooze when they were out. On the other hand, this puppy seemed to come with a "no button" as his breeder put it. If he is getting into something naughty (eating paper, fuzz, biting an older dog, whatever) all I have to do is give a mild verbal correction, and he immediately stops and comes running to me as if to say "okay, what should I do instead?". I KNOW some of my previous pups did not do this. Seri, in fact, used to sort of stick her tongue out at me when I gave a verbal correciton, and then go right back to what she was doing. It took months of patient escalation to get her to understand what I meant (meaning start with "no" or "aaah", then growl a bit louder, then just go get her and remind her she's being naughty, if she goes back to it even after I've removed her then she'd go in the crate for a bit).

Anyways, he is a well-behaved, sweet puppy. When I train him, he is a very smart puppy. So far I have been taking it easy with his training. I do want to get a very good foundation on him, as I am determined to have a dog who is really ready to go at 2 yrs old this time. The last few dogs I've trained have gotten the short end of the stick in training at a young age. So far he knows Sit, Down, Stay (I can walk about 5 feet away, or hold it about 10 seconds), he is learning to heel on both sides and he sits automatically when I stop. I've taught him to go round a jump wing over a bar on the ground, but we only do one at a time, and we come back to heel position and sit afterward. He knows how to put his front feet on a box and rotate his rear feet around it, and he also knows how to jump up on a bigger box and lay down automatically (like a table). He comes when called, and he potties outside except when I forget to let him out after playing for a long time (he's so good I forget once in a while how long it's been).

So yeah. He'll be 16 weeks old tomorrow, and I do think he's got a pretty good list of behaviors for his age. I'm not an obsessive clicker trainer, I don't do thousands of tricks with my pups, I just want them to learn how to learn, and instill the right foundation for what I do. Most of all he's learning to be a good house dog!

Today we romped in the snow, will probably do some core work (even Strafe does this!) then romp in the snow some more.


26 December 2010

Pretty Puppy, More Ramblings

Friday I take Strafe to the vet for his final round of DHLPP. I will hold off on the Rabies for a couple weeks so as not to stress his immune system too much. I will also schedule Drifter's neuter. That's something I've been considering for a while. Drifter is 8. He had one litter, and I don't plan to breed him again. He has never been an issue and has a pretty solid temperament, so I always just left him intact because I like the easy muscling of the intact male, and I don't feel a dog should be neutered for no reason. But now with his valve disease, I am worried that if he develops a prostate issue after his heart has enlarged, then neutering will become difficult and dangerous due to the risk posed by anaesthetizing a dog with a cardiac issue. Right now he should be fine. he also has a small benign bump on his eyelid I'd like to have removed. So poor Drifter will get the ole "snip snip" in a few weeks. He should be recovered in time for a few AKC trials mid-late February.
Did a little bit of training with Drifter at 16" this week, no weave poles and only a couple aframes. He looked good, although he seemed a bit sore that night after a bit of agility plus an hour+ hike with friends. Overall I think his soreness is dissipating nicely, and he is beginning to get fit again. I am looking forward to the last full year of competition with him, and without having to work full time during the best hours of the day, I am hoping to get in the habit of regular exercise and keeping him as fit as possible. I hope to add a 2 behind both the NAC and the MACH titles before he retires in early 2012. And perhaps a gold medal or few at the WAO this spring.
Seri did some training. I am encountering some confusion in the switch BACK to a running dogwalk. This is only to be expected, after all she started with a stop, I switched to a running, then went back to a stop, and now back to a running. The good news is, at trials she totally forgets she ever knew how to stop at all, so it's only in training when more of her brain is active that we have the confusion problem. Her jumping is improving in leaps and bounds, and she is starting to adapt to the tight distances she has traditionally had issues with. The new handling style around tight corners has cleared up most of those knocked bars (in training at least). I even got *too much* collection the other day, which is almost unheard of for Seri, so I was happy.
What's with all the Xtra Normal videos suddenly? I find most of them mildly amusing, but not wildly funny like some seem to think they are. Oh well. Whatever.
Oh, and here's an example of the types of videos I spend my time watching. Pay attention to how she manages every single jump the dog takes - where the dog takes off is of special import to great european handlers, as if you manage the takeoff, the landing will go in your favor, so you can actually move on earlier rather than standing in the landing area for a while to get the turn. (this is Lisa Frick who won the FCI individiual WC the last 2 years in a row).

21 December 2010

Mores stuff

So since I'm on a roll, figured I'd continue showing you what I'm working on with my dogs. Because they are currently on a tough conditioning program and the ground is very frozen still, we are only jumping 8" in the yard, so we can really focus on breaking it down to handling cues and responses, and I don't have to worry about them hurting themselves landing funny or slipping. Actually the top layer isn't really frozen during the day, but it is just very hard dirt.

With Seri I did some slightly more advanced applications of our new blind cross maneuver. We worked on one on an angle, which we haven't introduced before, followed by a line where she must stay in with me and follow my line and not look away at the other jump.

The 2nd exercise I decided we needed to start working on, because a couple times she did take the off course jump. So we broke it down to its basic bits and are working on this exercise now. she's very reliable on a regular pull-through, but this sort of pull-past jump is more difficult, as she wants to move away from me when I accelerate (a normal reaction for a border collie), so we are going to be working on this one for a while, till I can move away quickly after cueing the jump.

With Drifter, I am always remind him to stay close to me and not turn or look away until specifically told to do so. I've been looking at some of the courses from the judges we have for the WAO, and was reminded that sticking close on a regular shoulder/post turn has never been a strong suit for him, and so we worked on some of that with some basic exercises to isolate the skill. For both of these, I led out a little bit, then just ran ahead of him and turned my shoulder. I did not do any false turn/drop shoulder/looking at him stuff, all just shoulder turn, find the line, and go.

And here's an example of something we might see at the WAO. Looks like fun, right? I love challenging courses... and I'm very excited to run them at 55cm (actually a little less than 22") so I can really just run and not be worrying about bars like I do at 26".

17 December 2010

Handling 2

Please read the last post first, this is a follow on assuming the same sequence. This is a blind cross I've decided to teach Seri. The approach to the 2nd jump starts out the same as the last way, where I deliberate begin to push the dog's takeoff to the left side of the jump so that she will jump from left to right on an angle.
As I get close enough to the jump, I turn to face her and bring up my right arm. The initial step of this is to keep the arm down near me to call her in to me. Once she gets close, and I am in position - blocking half the jump, basically - I lift my right arm give her the cue to jump. It's a bit of an arm motion, up and back, with the shoulder somewhat involved. It is an obvious, irrefutable cue to jump. My positioning blocking half the jump tells the dog to wrap around me, and thus the jump wing.

The dog lands and I pick her up on the left side and move on. Because this cue ALWAYS means to wrap the jump wing (me), it is ALWAYS a pull-through maneuver, and she should never take the other jump when I do this. So far in training, she is doing this very well. Once she understands the cue, and I get my positioning right every time, I should be able to cue it and begin running immediately again.

Previously wraps and pull-through's have been difficult with Seri, not because she won't do them, but because she has a lot of trouble keeping the bars up and turning tightly. These 2 handling styles (new to me, but I certainly did not create them) seem to help both these issues tremendously, and I have some hope for our future!


I know I don't often talk about actual handling and training particulars on this blog, that it's more of a journal. But today I'm going to show you one of the changes I'm making in the way I handle Seri. Seri is 4 years old, is very fast, a big jumper, and a bit prone to knocking bars if she picks up speed. Which she does, a lot. I've noticed she has a lot of trouble with decelerating around a jump. She just doesn't seem to understand how to do all of her slowing down before she jumps. So I've decided that, rather than continue fighting with it, I'm changing it up a bit. So far I'm getting great results. I've decided to make changes that bring my handling more in line with the handling of the better europeans, who run pretty technical courses all the time, but still often have great distances to cover between some sections of the course.

Here is a sequence to imagine. Pretend it's in the middle of the course.

Here's how I'd normally handle it with Drifter or Kiba.

Here's how I'm starting to handle some of these with Seri.

These 2 ways to do the turn allow the dog to keep a relatively high speed, and while the path the dog takes may be a bit longer, it is very much worth it with a dog like Seri who has such a high ground speed and is at risk for knocking the bar if handled the first way. I'm also working on teaching her my very first deliberate blind cross. I will make that and post it separately in a few minutes. I generally don't like blind crosses, but I have been spending a lot of time watching video of dogs in europe, and I think this particular cross is worth teaching to a dog like Seri, as long as I maintain consistent handling cues for both this, and when I don't want her to jump behind me.

15 December 2010

Sorry just today I realized it's been 2 weeks since I posted. I haven't been trialing lately. The puppy is growing very, very fast. I am not worried at all about him turning out smaller than I want, and I'm even a little concerned he may be a BIG BC when he's done. I'd love for him to be right around 21"... but there's no way to predict this stuff! This past weekend I taught a seminar in NY. I had a good time, the people were very nice, and I'm going to be back in February. My mother closed on the new property last week, so we are getting into a higher gear in regards to packing. So sometime soon I will be a Maryland resident. What do you call that? I am currently a Pennsylvanian, I suppose. A Marylander? Anyway, the property is 15 acres, almost 10 of which is a fairly flat field, which will eventually have an indoor on it, but we won't be able to move forward with that until our current house is sold, and we've lived here (with dogs) for 26 years so that will take a bit of cleaning and updating.

Last week I took Drifter to see Ria. Even though he was a qualifying fool at the last few trials, i could tell he still wasn't right, and hasn't been since Louisville's awful dirt tweaked him. He was pretty sore, and it took some work to get him back together, but we've got a plan to get him fit again, and I'm going to take it easy on him with agility for a while. We've got a USDAA trial coming up in early Jan but he's not going to run Team. I need to make sure he's extremely fit and feeling great by the time AKC Nationals and the WAO roll around in the spring.

I've been taking some time here and there lately to watch some video of european handlers who do very well, and I've been working to adapt some of that style to the way I run Seri. She really likes it. I began to change my handling for her a bit at USDAA Nationals and I think it started out well. Unfortunately our courses here in the US in both venues tend to be too straightforward to let this style really shine, but the way they work every single jump, and some of the cues they use for wraps especially, work very well for Seri. The way I cue Drifter and Kiba relies on the dog taking the cue for a wrap, and understanding that they have to decelerate and turn tight. The way I cue Seri allows her to maintain more ground speed, and relies more on her being able to pivot tightly around my body and jump the jump in more extension. It basically means I have to work harder than her sometimes, but that's OK! I will demo some of it in CRCD sometime soon to show what I mean.

04 December 2010

Let me tell you a story...

Back in February 2005, Drifter was 2 years old, Freeze was about to turn 6. I was still working on many things with Drifter, but Freeze required little to no maintenance training - she was soft and had jumping issues, so was already backing down and Drifter was filling the shoes of being my "main dog". I have a habit of browsing border collie breeders' websites online, I have done this for a long time; it keeps me updated on who's doing what in border collie land. Well I found a breeder who had a leftover puppy that was related to some dogs I know. These dogs are pretty good at agility, but not over the top. Since I had Drifter who was a very driven, pushy young dog, I thought it might be nice to have a pup that was not over the top, even though the video showing the 12-week old pup described her as "a fireball". Well after a bit of thought, even though I wasn't even looking for a puppy, I decided to get this little fireball of a pup. So after calling the breeder and arranging for shipping, little Kiba came home to me. She was small, even at 12 weeks when I got her, but I figured she was just slow to mature. I hadn't had a BC puppy younger than 4 months, so didn't really realize just how small she was.

Kiba definitely had some drive. She loved to play, and was a natural born fetching dog. Drifter hated fetching, and much prefers to watch others do it. However, when I began to train Kiba to do agility, I ran into some problems. She wasn't running full speed, and she was very afraid to do things wrong. I train my dogs in a manner that asks them to problem solve and come up with answers on their own, and Kiba just couldn't handle being asked to do this if it involved being wrong at ALL. I remember training weave entries, and if I even looked at her funny, she ran back to my back door and flipped upside down and refused to come back. I did not ever YELL at Kiba, but I did not want to repeat the mistakes I'd made with Freeze, who was also soft, so I was determined that Kiba would at least learn to work through her mistakes. This meant I still had to communicate that she had made a mistake, just that I would do so gently, and afterward I would ask her to do a behavior she could perform easily. Kiba was the first and only dog I've ever shown at 15 months old, because I felt that the exciting environment of trials would help her kick up her speed a notch. I also felt that with her small size and lack of growth (she was the same height at 6 months that she is now - just under 18") I could be sure her growth plates were closed around a year. I rushed her contact training to get her into the ring, and I jumped her at her 16" height. I ran her in about 3 or 4 trials in the spring of 2006 at 15-17 months old, did a few USDAA trials over the summer, and she did indeed get excited and begin to speed up. At that point I was focusing on Drifter's career and felt that Kiba needed some retraining for her increasing drive levels. So I gave her some time off from trialing. She began to really pick up speed and that following winter she won her first local Grand Prix, surprising even me. I had thought for sure she'd never be THAT fast. I took her to USDAA Nationals in 2007, and she managed to get through all the DAM Team classes without a single E, a great accomplishment for a not-quite-3-year old dog. Here's a pic from that first trip to Scottsdale, Kiba demonstrating her signature Flying Squirrel technique over the aframe.

In 2008 I learned the AKC Nationals would be on the East Coast in 2009, so I re-entered the world of AKC and Kiba went from being in Open in March, to qualifying for Nationals by early November, with a fairly limited number of shows. She was so consistent that she had 6 QQ's, but still didn't have her MX or MXJ yet - when she Q'ed, she QQ'ed. At Nationals in '09 I ran her at 20" and she was in the top 10 going into the Finals, where her brain promptly exploded and she flew off the see-saw, missed her aframe contact, and knocked at least one bar, BUT she stayed on course through the tough tunnel/dogwalk discrimination that many good dogs were lost to, and she had the 2nd fastest time in 20". Not bad for a midget, especially a midget's first time at Nationals jumping in a category that included dogs up to 22" tall. After realizing I could not hope to catch the time of dogs 4" taller than her, I decided to let her jump 16", and she really began to shine. As the year of 2009 wore on, she split her trials between 16" in AKC and 22" in USDAA, culminating in making Steeplechase Finals and ending up 8th with a clear round. That Final round was an odd experience for me. When Drifter makes a Final, and I run clear with a great run, I expect to either win or be close to doing so, but with Kiba I felt that at 22" the jumps were just too big, and even though she had a GREAT run, I would be lucky to get placement ribbon, and so I was pleased with her 8th place finish. Also as this year went on, Kiba began to have recurring back soreness that would migrate up and down her back. She is a little thing, and she doesn't move well. In the winter between 2009 and 2010 I decided to move her to Performance 16" in USDAA. I was beginning to see some stutter step striding at 22", and just didn't like her not being at her best. The thing that told me I was doing the right thing for sure was AKC Nationals in 2010, this past spring. She was jumping 16", and after 3 days on the hard dirt of Tulsa, her back was doing very well. She made Challenger round, but due to a missed aframe contact in the Standard run on Saturday she did not make Finals. Due to her funny movement I was never able to get her to run the aframe properly, but because her behavior is FAST and she hits the yellow much more often than she misses, I have decided not to add a firm behavior to it.

Kiba's first trip to USDAA Nationals as a P16" dog went well, and she placed and won many classes, making all 3 Finals, PSJ, PVP, and PGP. Due to a wide corner she placed 3rd in PGP, but I'm happy to have a dog who stays sound AND can be in the top placements when she has a great run. Her speed is much higher at 16" and because she is so small she is still jumping - this is the height she belongs at - 22" is just not a fair height for her.

Kiba yesterday-

Kiba is a weird dog - she has many not-so-endearing habits like squealing at the ceiling when someone walks around upstairs, and not the sturdiest of dogs either, but I'm glad I have her. I have a feeling she'll retire somewhat early due to her on-again off-again back soreness and poor movement. She's a bit straight front and rear, and runs all on her forehand, so a traumatic front end injury could easily end her career. But at 16" she seems to be holding up well, and she may compete a few years past Drifter's planned retirement in 2012. I hope to some day be able to win a Final with her, or maybe add a NAC to her name! Right now her accomplishments read as follows:
2008 1st Place Team Relay
2008 2nd Overall DAM Team at USDAA Nationals (out of 200)
2008 went from Open to 6QQ's in about 14 trials.
2009 3rd Overall DAM Team
2009 8th Place Steeplechase Finals
2009 AKC National Finalist
2010 AKC Challenger Round participant
2010 AKC Nationals, placed in ISC JWW and Hybrid Rds
2010 USDAA Nationals 3rd place PGP Finals 16"
2010 USDAA Nationals won or placed in several individual classes at P16"
So all this rambling and bragging is to say,
Can't believe you're six already, now please stop staring at the ceiling and whining about the monsters in the kitchen.