31 August 2011

No videos today

Ria Acciani of Advanced Canine Rehab came down to our house to work on dogs last night and today. Seri's shoulder looked better than it has in a long time. Good range of motion and minimal stiffness. Definitely not "out". I am pleased with that. Her wrist is still kind of messy, but with some mobilization work on the upper metatarsals she did gain some range of motion back without seeming to have any pain, so that's good. I have been keeping her completely off contacts and weaves since before I left for NC, so probably almost 4 weeks now. I have done a few jumping exercises with her, so it's good that doesn't seem to bother her. I will continue as is for now; she walks with the rest of the gang and basically isn't being restricted except for *no running like a greyhound* and *no contacts/weaves*. She goes for a 20min walk in the morning, we do core strengthening exercises a few times a week, swim when the weather is nice, do some jump work, and a 10-15min walk in the evenings. i'm glad she's doing well, but I"m not going to jump right into full agility work for several months, until I'm absolutely sure she can hold up to it.

Drifter and Kiba got pretty good reports. Kiba's back held up pretty well from her first 2 weekends at 20". Definitely no worse than usual at 16", so I'm very happy to hear that. We have 20" in AKC again this weekend and the following one, then 2 weekends off, then we are back at 16" for one local AKC followed by USDAA Nationals. I had Strafe checked only because twice now he's misjudged the stairs on the porch, trying to go too fast, and slipped and ran into the edge of the railing. He was a little tight in the spot where he ran into the railing, but otherwise he looks great and flexible like any youngster should.

My birthday is tomorrow. I turn 29. For the first time, as I jokingly tell people. Hard to believe, but September also marks my 19th year involved in agility. It's difficult to remember the parts of my life that didn't involve owning and training dogs for agility...

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures on this hard drive from the way-back-when days. I will try to find some tomorrow. Here's a different picture, just to make your eyes happy. Love his eyes here.



29 August 2011

Irene, Drifter, Kiba, Strafe.

Well we all survived Irene. We put down or stored all the agility equipment, put away everything that could blow in the wind, stocked up on a lot of water and batteries. And we are fine. It started raining around noon on Saturday, and then pouring by 5pm and the winds picked up. It was very windy for a long time after that. Around bedtime there were tornadoes nearby, so I stayed awake and kept an eye on the weather till the tornado-causing parts were gone by (after midnight - very very late for me in my post-FedEx days). It was still raining lightly when we woke up in the morning, though the bulk of that was passed by - but the winds continued until around 11am. Some time mid-morning a large tree went down in our side yard. Luckily, it didn't hit anything, not even the other trees. Our power was out from about 4am Sunday morning till 2:30pm that afternoon. An inconvenience, but nothing compared to what many others are dealing with. Overall, for my first hurricane, we did OK. It was a bit scary with the high winds and intense rain (our rain guage maxed out at 6" overnight, so I don't even know how much we got, but it was a lot), and the tornadoes freak me out. I was prepared - my dogs slept in their harnesses, with leashes laid out ready to grab. There are crates and lawn chairs in the basement to sit it out. Luckily I didn't need to do that.

Today I took Drifter to the vet for his semi-annual chest x-ray and pre-op bloodwork. His heart looks very much the same as it did in March, which is to say perhaps the tiniest bit larger than average, but not what anyone would call "enlarged". And there's clearly no fluid in his lungs, they look great, and so does his trachea/windpipe area. He is up to 39lbs, which is also good. He is a dog that puts all calories into muscle and NEVER gets fat - although after his operation, that may change. That's right, he's getting the old "snip-snip". He's getting just a little more annoying in the house, being, uh, "rude" to poor Strafe who is so laid back he just tries to run away and never tells him off. I am not breeding him. And the biggest reason is that I want to it done while he is still strong and healthy - I don't want to wait a few years, and then end up in a situation where he is in congestive heart failure and develops a prostate problem and neutering is dangerous! He doesn't need them; they're going! Bye-bye!

Kiba's training session from this afternoon. i think she's looking great!



And Strafe's training session. he is also looking great, and I am just stunned at how "adult" he looks in this video. Not just the hair, but the attitude. He carries himself and MOVES like an adult suddenly... He will be a year old next week, so I am slowly working him up to 16" for his jumping exercises. We will also start weave poles more seriously soon (he's been introduced to the idea of going through 2-by-2's but that's it). And the see-saw...sheesh!

Here's today:



25 August 2011

Forecast

Not cool, Irene. Coming to ruin our seminar! I have already cancelled Sunday's workshops with Carrie, and looking likely to cancel Saturday as well.

I am having an amusing time telling people I am considering getting a sheltie in 2 or 3 years. Timing depends on what breedings I find that I like, and how well my other dogs are doing. Drifter is already sloping down towards retirement. His only plans are USDAA Nationals this fall, finish his MACH2 before the spring, and get qualified for USDAA Performance Tournaments for next year. Once he has that stuff, he'll be in semi-retirement limbo until we find out where/when USDAA will be next year. If it's too far, he won't go. And that's fine. He's almost 9 now, he's had a great career, he's still running well, but I'd rather retire him while he looks great than wait till he's falling apart. Kiba should run for about 5 more years easily, since aside from WAO this next year, plans are to keep her at 16" where she doesn't work overly hard. But her back is not real strong, and I don't know when she'll get too sore to compete. Could be at 9 yrs, could be at 12. No way to tell. Seri is on indefinite non-compete status. I did a little low-speed jumping work yesterday to see how it affects her, but I'm afraid to do weaves or contacts because she's so reckless and her shoulder still seems stiff and she has bony changes in her wrist. I'm thinking about taking her back to a sheepdog instructor to see if maybe she wants to do that instead... Anyway, point being she will almost certainly never be a serious tour-the-country sort of agility competitor. I don't trust her body, and I can't trust her to be careful with her body, so it's a no-win situation.

So basically for the next 2 years I've got Strafe coming out and Kiba continuing to trial. With Drifter and Seri perhaps doing some light trialing. By 2013 Drifter will certainly be fully retired, Kiba will be on decline at 9 years old, on a light schedule. So if Seri can't compete regularly, that leaves only Strafe. Sounds like puppy time to me. I really enjoy having 2 dogs to tour around with. But I don't really want 5 big dogs either - solution? Smaller dog! Sheltie seems like the likely candidate. Herding group dog, so tendencies shouldn't be too horribly strange for me to work with. I will choose a pup from parents who don't bark recreationally, and attempt to prevent that behavior from occurring. But yes, a sheltie. In 2 or 3 years. Weird? Maybe. I'm looking forward to having a smaller dog I can race around the course with!

23 August 2011

In case you missed them on Facebook

Some videos. First off is Strafe's contact session from after I got home from NC. I can't believe he's only a few short weeks shy of a year old, but he is! Here are his contacts so far:




And also a video compiling Kiba's best runs from the past two weekends trialing. The ones I didn't include were ones with goofy mistakes, like missed weave entry or jumping off the table. A few other bars as well.


21 August 2011

2 x 20

Well we're not finished with Kiba's 2nd trial at 20". Overall, she definitely hit more bars than usual, but she seemed to be fairly comfortable jumping 20", and all the photos of her don't show a cranky, uncomfortable, or unsafe look. She seems to be judging her takeoff well in most cases, not jumping early or late. I believe what we need to do now is a lot of jumpwork - grids and single jump work at 20-22" to really build her up and get her better with the increased height. At 16" it is easy for her to run around the entire course at insane speed without really needing to rock back and shift her weight to her rear in order to jump. She prefers to run that way. At 20" she must work harder, and I'm sure that is the difference in the bar knocking. Overall she ran 10 runs over the last 2 weekends. She qualified 4 times, placing 1st, 2nd, 2nd, and once not at all because she had a very large mistake that cost us a lot of time but no actual faults. She hit a total of 8 bars, I think?

Next weekend I'm hosting a seminar, and so she will mostly rest until the workshop I'm working her in, and after that she has 2 more trials at 20", so we will see how she does. If she cannot adjust and keep her feet up and not knock bars, she will go back down to 16" and instead of attending the WAO, I will plan to try to go to the EO with Strafe, which will also be fun, but more of a gamble since Strafe will only be 22 months old at the time of the competition.

I'm still in North Carolina. Today I have a couple private lessons, then my friend and I will have a fun day, perhaps see a movie. Tomorrow morning I head home. It's been a long but fun trip. It's been good for Strafe too, to stay in a hotel, stay in another house with different dogs, and to be crated at noisy trials as well. He's handled everything very well.

14 August 2011

Well I'm in North Carolina for the week. Completed Kiba's first trial back up at 20", and she did pretty well. Hit a couple bars on the first run, both of them in difficult handling situations, coming in towards me. The 2nd and 3rd runs she was smoking fast, 1st and 2nd place, and among the fastest times of the day. Probably *the* fastest time on Saturday morning but I didn't check to see if the bigger dogs beat her. Then the last run on Saturday she had a brain fart, hit a couple of bars and missed a simple weave entry. Odd. Anyway, I'm optimistic, I think her jumping actually looks better than it did 2 years ago when i dropped her down to 16" in AKC, and certainly better than the last few runs at 22" in USDAA. i don't think she'll ever do 22" again, as that's just a bit too big for her, but she is doing ok at 20'. And there are plenty of people out there who jump their dogs 20" or 22" most of the year, then do 26" in order to travel to EO, so it's not that unusual to have a dog jumping "up" a height for a big event. Now I just have to keep working her at it, to see how she holds up and if her jumping continues to look good, then convince the coach/managers to pick me even though technically she's been a 16" dog for the last couple years so we have no "selection points" available to us at the right height. Although it is impossible for us to get them in AKC at Nationals, because she has to jump 16" (or 26") at that event because of her size. no choice.

Chilling at a friend's house, kind of an away-from-home staycation. Tuesday we'll go out to Dudley's and have a fun training session, and then Thurs-Sat another AKC trial before I head home on Monday.

I do have video, and I have my laptop, but I did not bring the connecting cable so no video online till I get home next week. Sorry!

Here's baby Strafe. This was his very first day home and he was exhausted and confused. And probably jet-lagged as well!


10 August 2011

Of course, I'm feeling sickish now, right before my North Carolinathon. I am not teaching today, going to rest up and finish packing at a leisurely pace and hope I feel better tomorrow. Loading up on the vitamin C, Zyrtec, and decongestants.

Tomorrow morning it's off to NC, I certainly hope I feel okay because it's hard to run fast when you're out of breath.


Random picture today is the awe-inspiring and beautiful Wellington Arch in London. Not only is it gorgeous, the sheer size of it is mind-boggling. Here's hoping London can calm their riots and fires soon!

08 August 2011

Yep, 2 posts today. This one's brief. My little Danish puppy was 11 months old yesterday. His next birthday will be his real one! He'll be a whole year old! It's been so nice to have time during the day to actually work with a youngster. He knows SO MUCH more than my last few dogs have known by this age. He can run a dogwalk, although I limit his repetitions and don't allow fast or angled approaches, he can go up a see-saw with me holding it so it doesn't slam (I lower it for him), he goes over a lowered aframe (again, limited repetitions). he can do lots of simple jumping and handling exercises. He pushes to the backside of a jump. He can blind cross. He decelerates appropriately, and commits fairly early on wraps (so I can leave after cueing). He can do basic rear crosses. He knows how to stay, and how to recall. I have been lax in working serious recall-to-heel type work, but to be honest, I am not a big flatwork person anyway - I tend to focus on educating the dog around the actual obstacles, and learning how to focus on me and the obstacles appropriately. So Strafe can both send 20 feet to a jump, or run with me past one without looking at it.

He does not run full courses, of course. I have sent him to a full size jump or two, here and there, just to keep him thinking and see how he handled the challenge. I never did this with speed, and he always responded by just jumping right over it like it was nothing. I am confident that jumping is natural and easy for him. He is already better at bending and decelerating than Seri has ever been.

I have to admit that he's no longer truly perfect. He has started chewing up things made of paper if I leave him alone in a room for too long. Interesting that he waited until almost 11 months to start this habit, but there it is. He put teeth marks in a brand new book I was reading while I was out of my bedroom for a few minutes over the weekend.

I think I'll keep him though ;)





Teaching

Teaching seminars is very hard work, if you do it properly. Meaning, prepare ahead of time, do a lot of explaining, encourage people to ask questions, and also important - encouraging people to have fun, both with their dog and with each other. No matter how good of a handler or trainer someone is, if people don't enjoy the seminar, they won't come back. I think people had fun at my seminar, and i do believe I'm getting invited back!

Teaching all day is very tiring, both physically and mentally. I don't sit while teaching, so I'm basically walking back and forth for 7+ hours, 3 days in a row. Not hard on joints like ankles, knees, but it makes my feet feel achey and tired. So I'm relaxing a good bit today. Also tiring mentally, since i am indeed an introvert. I manage to be quite pleasant with people I don't know, and I certainly do just fine teaching others or performing in front of crowds - but just being around lots of people over several days is mentally tiring. I enjoy it, but it's tiring. That's the nature of an introvert! Today will be spent mostly alone (with my dogs, of course, they aren't tiring!), and with DJ for the afternoon once he's home from work.

Later this week my Busy August continues: I leave Thursday for southern North Carolina, approximately 8 hours of driving, to stay at Dudley's house and attend 2 days of Concord AKC show. It will be Kiba's re-debut at 20". It's a nice large 20" class so I will get a good measure of how her speed holds up with 4" higher jumps. When she's jumping 16" she's usually either the fastest, or less than half a second off the fastest time in the entire class. If she can be in the top 3 dogs at the 20" height consistently, I would say she is doing just fine. It will be fun to see. She also needs some QQ's yet to qualify for Nationals, since she hasn't shown in AKC since, well, since Nationals! Now that I'm determined to take her to Reno, we will be rectifying that lack.

It was fun to have Strafe and Kiba only with me at the seminar. I was able to set them up in a corner of the air conditioned building in crates, and just blocked their view, but hearing other dogs running and me teaching didn't seem to excite or upset them, and they were perfectly quiet all weekend. That's something I can't do with Drifter or Seri - they don't necessarily bark, but they will whine on and off, and generally not be relaxed and quiet. Strafe got to be a demo dog for a few of the Distance seminar points, and he got to practice on a few of the sequences I had set up during lunch break (with low jumps, obviously, and he doesn't do weaves or contacts), and amusingly I think he did better with the Masters pieces than with the Novice ones. that's OK with me!


This is Strafe's mother, Jiggy. She is completely adorable, and I just LOVE this fancy collar with her Danish flag on it. Look for her at the FCI Individual competition this year!

04 August 2011

I had a long post in my head, about how getting the right kind of dog really matters. How even if you're the best handler in the world, without the right dog, you still won't win everything. . .But I didn't like how it was coming out. So I deleted it. I don't usually do that, but I don't want people to misunderstand me. . . I'll think on it. 

I am NOT at the USDAA Regional in Chicago this weekend. I am teaching at A Click Above in Leesburg VA instead. Inside, A/C, on nice turf. Should be fun! I was there a year ago, and again briefly over the winter. it's always fun.

On thinking about Seri, I had decided that while I wouldn't trial her, or allow her to do weave poles, or aframes with speed, I would do some basic work to keep her brain engaged and remind her how to do things properly. So today I went out and did some basic single jump work, similar to what Linda does in the very early stages - just jumping back and forth, from a standstill, to get her toy on the ground. i encouraged her to bend her body back and forth, and propel upwards. She has a lot of trouble bending over the jumps like this, so I feel that without speed involved, she's not likely to hurt herself while we work on it. After that, I went over to our dogwalk, and sent her to it. I was perhaps 20 feet away from it, at a very mild angle. The grass was damp, but our dogwalk has really grippy rubber skin. Well, Seri accelerated to the ramp. Too much. She got halfway up the up ramp and just went SPLAT and went right off the side. Left some hair on the dogwalk. did this to her front left leg. Also her wrist is a bit enflamed again.


Don't worry, it's a burn, not a cut. Lovely though, huh? And that's just from "go dogwalk". Oh Seri. Sigh. Not sure she'll EVER be able to trial again, at this rate. If she can't practice, she can't trial. So we'll keep on plugging away at being able to practice safely. May take a while...

This weekend I'm only taking Strafe and Kiba with me. They can both do some demo work, and a little practice in a new place. Meanwhile Drifter will stay home lounging around and swimming and going for walks.

This picture is about 6 years old, but I've always liked it. Pulled from my long unused Photobucket account:



He's a LOT more grey now. . . .

03 August 2011

Had a fun training session with my friend Dudley Fontaine on Sunday. she came up to see Ria and get a GP Q at a trial nearby, and stopped on the way back to train and see our new place. It was a lot of fun to work through a super challenging course - of course I deliberately made a very difficult weave entry that I knew I would have trouble doing with Kiba, but the rest of the course was no cake walk either. We were both sweaty and out of breath after working multiple dogs through it! Kiba actually looked great at 20". I don't think I'll be putting her back up to 22" in USDAA, ever, because that extra 2" makes a difference, and is just a bit too much for her. I think that 20" or so is about the limit of what she can comfortably do. I do believe that the 525mm 20.6" jump height should be fine though. She is running at 20" in a few AKC trials coming up in August against a fairly large selection of dogs, so it will be fun to see how she stacks up as far as placements on good runs. She is a wee little thing, after all. But she's got some ground speed!

Strafe continues to do VERY well. He just "gets" things right away. I can't believe he's not even 11 months yet. He will jump anything in front of him - I've tossed him over a few jumps at 20", 22" or even 24" just to see what he did with it, and he just popped over them like it was no big deal. Mostly we jump 12" and work on handling exercises, or practice our dogwalk and basic see-saw behaviors. (run up and lie down, not doing it full speed unassisted yet!). We've done the first step of my variation on 2by2's as well, but I am not going to progress much until he's over a year old. Traditionally my dogs have learned 2by2 weaves very quickly, so I don't want to train them too much or it will be tempting to go too fast. He is still a puppy, so he has 4 pretty open poles, just to teach him the concept of "go through the poles".

Seri is doing OK. I decided I would do a little bit of agility training with her at home to keep her behaviors sharp. She is less reckless at home, although still pretty bad. I am not doing weaves for a while, and only doing aframes in the context of trying to train her not to slam into them at full speed. So we are working on recalling to me standing in front of hte frame to get her to shift her weight back into a sit, then go up it. And we are also working on the aframe with a stride regulator on the 2nd slat from the ground on the upside to get her to back off a little and shift her weight before going up. Unlike most all aframe slamming dogs, Seri's problem is NOT taking off early. Seri's problem is not taking off at all. She doesn't shift her weight back and just runs full speed into the frame, allowing her front end (and sometimes her face) to take the impact before climbing upwards. I am worried that no matter what I do at home, she may never learn to be cautious at trials without me babysitting the upside. We'll see, I guess.