30 September 2011

CO and DW

Well it's out - the info about 2012 Cynosport. It's farther west, which I pretty much figured would be the case. I have no problem with it starting to rotate round the country, and I do hope they actually can work it out to move every year, and not get "stuck" in one place like they did in Arizona. What I don't like about CO is that, apparently, allegedly, some people wanted it to be back outside again to be more "festive", whatever that means. So it's outdoors. 4 rings on grass, 2 rings on artificial turf. I'm not sure I like that. And it may be cold - the High for October in Denver is 65F and the lows are down around 35F! I don't really want to be running my first course in a bulky sweatshirt and jacket! And what about Steeplechase Finals at night, after dark? Running in 40F temperatures is not really that good for my dog. . .

So basically what it boils down to is, I understand moving it, I don't really have a problem with CO, but why outside?? Surely they could have found another venue for 5 indoor rings? AKC manages to find these places all over the country and make it work! I don't understand why some USDAA competitors (and board members!) think that "outside" is the ultimate agility experience and has better "atmosphere". Maybe I'm turning into a cranky 29-year-old but I no longer enjoy running in cold rain like I did when I was 14. And with all that I've learned about the physical aspect of my dogs' well-being, I'm not very keen to run them in potentially wet grass or cold conditions. So I'm not sure what to think about a big "international" event, outdoors on grass in potentially cold and possibly wet conditions. I will have to give it some thought - because my main focus in agility is big events, if I am not going to attend Nationals, then I won't bother competing during the year - it's a waste of money for me. I am not a title-chaser, I am a win-chaser! Anyway, i will give it some thought.

Because my training session with Strafe was sort of iffy, I took him back out to test our new "running with the toy" dogwalk. We did about 10 dogwalks, all in the middle of very short sequences, with me holding the toy, and he only missed one contact. The rest were all absolutely wonderful, great striding, driving ahead but still listening, and right through the contact. I also did a few weaves once he was back in the swing of working with me, and he was much better - got over his "WTF are weaves?" attitude from this afternoon. Silly boy!

Weave WTF

Went through the usual drill this morning - up at 6:20am so i can get to Fair Hill just as the sun comes up for a nice 50-60min walk with Drifter and Kiba. It was cooler than it has been this morning, which was nice. Drifter and Kiba were barely panting at all and I felt we could have gone longer, but my sneakers got wet and I was in a spot where if I kept going it would take a long time to loop back around, so I just made a U-turn and went back the way I came. I enjoy exploring trails, and I'm still working out which loops are doable within 50-90min of walking. I did come across this cool old broken down bridge, just past a "Trail Closed" sign. (I only went past the sign because I could see the bridge).

This afternoon after lunch and a trip to Barnes and Noble with DJ, I got Strafe out to do some more weaves and dogwalks. I actually dislike this age of puppy training, because he's finally old enough to start working on all the obstacles, and i want to get them finished as soon as possible, but that means I have to neglect all the fun handling exercises we used to work on when all he could do was low jumps... anyway Strafe's been doing great on his 2-by-2 weaves, they are only open about 6" or so, and I've been working on mild entries because he was having trouble with a couple angles. Well today I decided to close the poles a little more, and Strafe promptly reminded me that he is still a young adolescent, by completely forgetting what weave poles are. . . I had to make them easier and even then he had trouble. He's a bit of a softy and when he's wrong, he does bounce back but if he's been wrong a few times in a row he needs some encouragement - he'll work but he slows down and looks concerned. So I gave that up for a bad job and went over to the dogwalk, and as usual his back-chaining work is just absolutely brilliant. His work from a standing start in front of the plank is also absolutely brilliant. But if do jump-jump-dogwalk he loses it. So then i tried something different - instead of placing the toy out, I held it, and ran back and forth next to him. Well that looked brilliant! Without the toy ahead of him he isn't going balls to the wall crazy, he just runs nicely. Not sure what to think of that, but I think for now I'll start sticking the dogwalk into real sequences and see how he handles it. If he is perfectly consistent with me just running and no "lure" placed out, then we'll roll with it. My only fear with this behavior is that when he gets to a trial he may get "silly" and run more like he does with a placed toy, then he does at home. But we'll see. He's not an over the top dog....

"weaves are dumb!"

29 September 2011


Drifter is happy to have his stitches out, and while there is some scar tissue I will be working on breaking up with laser and massage, overall everything healed up nicely. The last 2 days I had our wonderful physical therapist, Ria Acciani, down at our house to work on our own dogs and local dogs as well. Drifter was pretty tight and sore throughout his neck and back, which she said is quite common from surgery, so she loosened him up and I'll be lasering him and putting his therapeutic coat on at night to help him stay loose. Kiba was a little tight throughout her back as well but that's pretty normal for her, and I've worked her fairly hard all through September, with 2 trials at 20" and then a weekend of WAO Tryout courses as well. We won't be jumping 20" anymore until late October. The best news I got is that Seri's shoulder continues to heal well, and her range of motion and muscling is all going back to normal. Also a mark of good things is that her uninjured shoulder is showing no more signs of compensation, so she appears to be using both sides evenly now. I have already been doing some short agility sequences and obstacles in training, so my plan for now is to continue with this and see how she does over the winter. I am still avoiding full height aframes except from a standstill, and I'm limiting the number of weaves she does as well. But I am tentatively hoping to have her out by the winter or spring in USDAA and perhaps we can qualify for Grand Prix and Steeplechase for next year. I don't think she will do AKC Nationals because getting 6 QQ's will require too much showing, and she will probably never be able to do a high frequency of agility trials in a row.

Anyway, I'm happy that she's feeling good!

Here's Drifter from his 9th birthday on Sunday, looking somewhat grey and grizzled but healthy and happy.

for his birthday I got him a brand new collar with a customized metal tag

OK so maybe I also got Seri a new collar for Drifter's birthday.... but I had to get her a new one! Her old one is red/white, and I have repurposed the red/white harness to be Strafe's, so Seri's doesn't match anymore. I also got a nice light pink/brown leash from Rush to Tug, so I got a collar that would match the leash (which also match's Kiba's collar).

I fear that I am becoming a matchey-matchey leash person. . .

I tried really hard to get updated stacked pictures of Strafe, to show off how gorgeous he is, but the trick of putting him on the grooming table and tossing a toy or cookie totally didn't work this time, and while I got some "ok" pics of him standing, so that an educated person can deduce that he has good structure, the best shot I got was this one, of his happy smiling face and his current favorite toy...

26 September 2011


Apparently Drifter's birthday post was my 666th post. Devil dog??

Drifter got his armpit stitches out today, yay! He can now stay away from the vet for a while. Happily! Kiba also got to go along, just especially to have her anal glands emptied. Lucky girl! She's been doing the butt scoot for a while now, occasionally, so that should resolve that.

Today's Dogwalk work with Strafer-Doo. Or Mr Fluff, if you prefer.

25 September 2011

By the way...

Drifter is officially eligible for the USDAA Veterans class today! Happy 9th Birthday Drifter, and to his littermates Reddi and Jess! I know I've been blogging a lot lately because been home a lot, not away teaching or trialing - enjoy it while you can, because October will be very busy for me and I'm sure I won't remember to post here very often. (well, enjoy it if you do, if you don't enjoy my blog, then I guess you'll be happier?)

Now I'm going to ramble a bit about my dog!

Back in late 2002 I was looking for a puppy. This was actually to be my 2nd border collie. My first was only 3 but she was soft and had some ETS type jumping issues, so I wanted another dog to work. I was on the list for a high-powered litter (the sire of which actually went on to sire a lot of nice agility dogs) but the bitch didn't take (she turned out to be barren!) so i went looking again. i was tipped onto someone who had 2 leftover pups out of her agility bitch, sired by an imported working dog. I had seen the bitch run a few times but didn't know her real well. I went to see the pups, and they were both  very pushy athletic pups at 4 months old. I chose the black one because he was the pushier one, screaming if I did things with the other pup. He also seemed to have a bit better structure.

I don't have a lot of pics of him available because I haven't transferred all my files off the portable hard drive, and I lost some on my old dead laptop. And photobucket is being very uncooperative in retrieving my old pics today...

Anyway, Drifter certainly has been a pushy dog. He's athletic but he has his flaws. 26" was never easy for him, even though we made IFCS Team at that height. He's very fast in agility but in the field he is probably the slowest of my dogs running flat-out. Mostly because he doesn't really run flat-out very often, but he's not a racer dog either. He can turn on a dime, he can enter the weaves from anywhere, but we had our arguments. I'm pleased with our career and I've learned a lot from him over the years. He's done a LOT in this time, even though for a while people discounted us for being a "bar-knocker" and people still think he's "crazy" sometimes. At the age of 3 he won a Regional Grand Prix and then ran clean in Grand Prix Finals for a 3rd place (he was 4 by then, but barely). He's been in Grand Prix Finals 4 times, Steeplechase Finals once, DAM Finals a bunch of times (sorry I didn't count), and AKC Finals 2 times. He's run clean in 5 out of 6 times in the individual Finals he's been in, and when he did he always landed on the podium. He is a dog who likes the pressure of a big competition, and he's taught me to never take things for granted, to push myself for adrenaline and not be too relaxed, and I love that with him, it's completely OK for me to go the line pumped up and excited, because he LOVES that and will respond positively to it. He is not a good podium picture taker though. . . he's had some tongue lolling pics up there, and then at IFCS he kept trying to flirt with the Russian dogs. . .

This year at Cynosport is possibly his last big National or International event. I have decided not to take him to Reno for AKC, and he's not going to Belgium for WAO either. I will qualify him for USDAA for next year but I may or may not take him, depending on where it is and how he's doing. I am happy and proud that he's still *very* competitive in the Championship 22", and I have hopes that perhaps we can win or do well again this year. I would love to win GP - he's been in Finals a lot of times but we've never won. But he IS 9 years old now and there's a lot more young whippersnappers out there with running contacts and blazing ground speed....

Anyway, Happy Birthday Drifter! Still going strong! This year, at 8yrs old, he was 2nd in GP Finals, winning a spot on the WAO Team, he won AKC Nationals for the 2nd time, won the USDAA Spring Showcase, won the WAO Biathlon, and is collecting QQ's towards his next MACH.

Tired of Dogwalks yet? Of course not...

Here's a video of the 2 girl dogs doing some dogwalks. I've been allowing Seri to do some agility lately, just no aframes at speed or weird angled approaches to ramps, and not many weaves yet. But she's in the video showing off her dogwalks.

And here's Strafe's lastest session, working on back chaining.

You will probably continue seeing a lot of video of Strafe, since it's easiest for me to see EXACTLY what he's doing by recording it and playing it in slow motion. I can see pretty easily whether he hits the contact, and whether he strides properly or "skips", but the video helps me see exactly where he's landing up top, and whether he's adjusting properly on the top ramp. I was pretty happy with this session. I could see progress, he was starting to get it right more often than not for sure. It was also the first session where I always placed his toy behind a jump, so he had to do the dogwalk, go over a small jump, and THEN get his toy.

24 September 2011


In my obsession over the dogwalk, I forgot to post the video of Strafe's weave training from today! He's coming along really nicely and I'm starting to see footwork, yay!

more dogwalks

Just in case you thought my dogs were perfect, I have indeed hit a small snag in Strafe's dogwalk training. He has done every exercise up to now quite perfectly, so I haven't exactly drilled them. I also don't like drilling youngsters for anything, anyway, so I did a few dogwalks here and there, and without a ton of speed, he's fine. With the plank on the table, he was always fine as well... Well the snag is that when he runs the full dogwalk in extension, he's hitting the wrong spot. He's over-extending across the top ramp, landing him right ON the "2nd apex", the joint between the top, flat ramp, and the down ramp. Why does it matter? Well for one thing stepping right on the joint is a silly thing to do, it is harder to keep your balance that way. for another thing - well, if you step there, you don't hit the contact! He should be adjusting his striding on the top ramp, sailing OVER the joint/apex, and then running the last stride.

Here is an example of Drifter running the dogwalk with very typical striding - this is common for pretty much ALL medium size dogs who consistently run the dogwalk. At 12.5% of full speed:

And here's Strafe from today:

As the video says, I think I may go back and do some table-plank work for a week or so, then go back to back-chaining. Sometimes when this weird striding happens, it's just a result of a dog maturing, adding speed, and then losing track of what to do with his feet. Running the way I want him to actually IS the fastest way through, I just have to show him that somehow!

ETA (I realize at the end of a couple of bad reps you can hear me say "aaaaah!" to him - that is because that sounds calls him off the toy on the ground. I'm really not that mean when I train, it's just a good noise to get out quickly that says "no you didn't earn that!")

23 September 2011

Last night I had trouble going to sleep early like I've been doing, so I finished my latest book I was reading (it was short - translated "light novel" from Japan, geeky I know), and probably didn't fall asleep till 11pm. (OK, that's late for ME anyway). I turned off my alarm, since I figured it would be raining anyway when I got up so no use getting up at the usual 6:30 to go hiking. Well I woke up at 6:33 anyway, so I went ahead and got up, and lucky me, it wasn't raining YET so I took Kiba and Strafe for a quick 30min walk at Fair Hill. Deliberately took a path that went down a hill and back up on the return so that we'd get at least a little workout even though I was making it a short walk. Good timing, since the rain hit just as I got in the car. Stupid rain. Been raining all day.

Finally heard back from the herding instructor I'd like to try, and weather permitting, we'll try Seri sometime late next week. Should be fun. I think her shoulder is holding up well (we'll see Ria again on Wed to check). i've even been doing a little more agility in training. A few dogwalks and even a set or two of weaves, but the aframe we've done mostly work on her stopping before she climbs it, as that slamming into it is one of the things that really aggravates her front end, as you can well imagine. She doesn't slam into it like a normal dog would - most dogs who "slam" take off EARLY and hit it hard as they are finishing their jump arc getting on. Not Seri! She fearlessly runs right up to the base of it, and fearless smashes right into it. Painful to watch. Not sure what I can do to retrain that - it's a factor of her recklessness, not really something I trained her to do. Right now I'm wondering if i can maybe do something like not allow her to climb up until she's released to do so - that might at least make her slow down a little and look at me before going up, but also think that behavior is A) very hard to teach and B) won't hold up at a trial anyway. So for now we'll keep strengthening, and avoid trialing, and see how she does.

22 September 2011

Strafe and the dogwalk

Now that Strafe is over a year old, I've been starting to work on his contacts more. You saw his see-saw last week, and we're also working on adding speed to the dogwalk approach. As I've mentioned previously, I haven't done a lot of dogwalks (we've only been doing them maybe every couple weeks), and when we did, i didn't do them at full speed, fast approaches because I wanted him to be mature before we risked falling off - or hopefully avoid falling off because he's more coordinated!

So last week I started adding more distance and speed to his dogwalk approach. Sometimes that totally messes up his striding, and sometimes it doesn't. I made a video today, which I hesitated to upload, but hey, nobody's perfect right? So here is the video, with good and bad reps included. We are working on Strafe learning to adjust his stride at the end of the top ramp, which is something I emphasize when I'm working with other people a lot - most dogs need to put a full stride on the down ramp (2 hits, in other words) if they're going to reliably hit the contact and exit in a balanced manner. Now, if you have a particularly large or crazy dog you can maybe get a one-hit down ramp, but that makes it much harder to turn and the dog is less balanced, and in my opinion, less safe as well.

Right now Strafe is often putting his feet down right ON the 2nd apex, the join between the top and down ramps of the obstacle. This is NOT what I want, and you can see when he does that, that he doesn't land properly and run through the yellow. I will probably be playing around with a couple things to work on it. i feel that he understands the "run" behavior, but just needs to learn where and how to adjust to run properly down the last ramp. This is not uncommon, and I have a lot of experience getting other people's dogs to do it, so I think we'll be fine. Some back-chaining, some work with a regulator, and maybe some more work with a plank on the table, but with a little more speed. We'll get it!

ETA later this afternoon - I went back out and put a stride regulator (small piece of white PVC) across the join between top/down ramps, and did maybe 8 reps at different speeds, and he was 100% perfect - some of them involved funny striding but it definitely helped him along the way to the behavior I want! I will do another video in a week or so to show our progress.

A rambling post with pictures.

Apparently we now live in a rain forest. I had no idea...  it's mildly rainy again today, after a brief misty period yesterday. I went for a walk this morning anyway - I've been getting up around 6:30am so I can go for a walk at Fair Hill every morning before it gets warm and before it gets popular. Fair Hill is fun to walk around. There is a carriage trail that is gravel/packed dirt, so it's never muddy even when it's been raining. And the park is huge, and the gravel/dirt trail circles the entire thing and has several other branches, so I can go walking in a different place and still not get my feet wet (since I have bad luck with waterproof shoes either not fitting well or not staying waterproof for very long).

Monday I took Strafe out with Kiba for his first ever long walk at Fair Hill. Why wait so long? Well, because i don't believe it's good for youngsters to go for long walks before they've grown. I try to keep working and walking sessions fairly short till they're pretty mature. He's been going on 15 minute walks off-leash around our property for a long time now, so he's certainly up for a 45-60min leash walk at the park. Also, my personal preference is not to walk more than 2 dogs at a time, and usually when I go I take whatever dogs are currently preparing for trials - so it's usually a mix of Drifter, Kiba and/or Seri, in any variety of combinations. Right now Drifter is still laid up for his stitches so he was out, and i figured it was time to get Strafe out!

Here's a pic from his very first Fair Hill outing:

He was a good boy, didn't pull in his harness, and only barked at one thing - a big unusual looking tree stump, which he walked right up and sniffed and quickly decided was no big deal. He also did his grumbley growley sound when we saw deer, but they ran off so he didn't get to sniff them;)
We walked about 45 minutes or so.

Monday afternoon I went to the New Balance store and bought some Minimus shoes to wear for non-running activities to try to strengthen my ankles and feet. So far I'm happy with them, although they get wet very quickly if the grass is even slightly damp.

For now I will continue to wear my Mizuno's for serious running, as they really support my flat feet and weak ankles very well, and I just feel faster and more agile in them. I did have the Minimus on when I did some dogwalk with Strafe the other day and a bit of running in them didn't seem to hurt...

Tuesday I took another Fair Hill walk, this time with Seri and Kiba, and went to a different parking area. This was the central area for the Fair Hill International Event every fall. It's always fun to see the horse jumps and sometimes pose the dogs on them. The grass was pretty wet though so we only posed on this cute bench which overlooks the Jumper ring, used for Day 3 of the Eventing.

Kiba is a willing subject for these but you can see from her face in both photos that she's starting to get a little annoyed . . . Seri on the other hand, is pretty much always happy!

Here is a really cool water jump for the cross country phase of the Event, just pretend they're in the water instead of in mud...

Another neat thing about Fair Hill is that it used to be privately owned, and used for fox hunting, so they have all these neat ways to get over and under the roads that run through the property. Lots of neat bridges and tunnels, all large enough for horses to fit through!

A tunnel under the road:

Aren't you jealous we get to walk here all the time? I didn't go often in the summer because it just got warm too quickly, but now that Nationals is approaching I'm trying to ramp up the fitness level for both me and my dogs until about a week or so before the event, at which point we'll level off a bit and just do maintenance so my dogs will be fit but not sore going in!

Drifter's neuter incision is pretty much healed, and his armpit stitches are looking MUCH better, swelling mostly gone, not pink or red anymore. Yay!

20 September 2011

OK, here's my WAO Tryout courses. I was very happy with how Kiba ran them. We ran them multiple times, as I assume everyone else will as well.


Here's a short clip from one of our WAO Tryout runs this past weekend. I had a good time working through the courses and found some great opportunities for blind crosses. When I'm showing people how/when to do them, I often say something like "it will help you stay ahead - what if there was a threadle up ahead?" - well in this case there WAS a threadle up ahead, and sure enough the blind crosses worked great! Cue the jump, change arms, cue the jump, change arms, don't stare at your dog, be peripherally aware only, and KEEP MOVING!

19 September 2011

WAO and the mystery lump

I love this picture because it makes it look like he actually stays on the start-line...

Yesterday's Drifter's armpit stitches developed a small, soft lump at the end, so today I took him by the vet so they could check and let me know whether it was healing properly or not. Thankfully they said it is fine, it is just a bit of fluid and maybe some scar tissue healing up at the end of the row of stitches, sometimes it does that as it heals I guess. I don't care if it looks "pretty", I just wanted to make sure it was healthy. He's still getting antibiotics and rimadyl every day, and the stitches don't come out till next Monday since they're in such a funny place. While I was in, I asked about the biopsy results from the lump, but they hadn't come in yet. Well this evening I got a call from the vet and the results came in, and the mystery lump was indeed a lipoma, so it was just some fatty tissue in a strange spot! Hurray, NOT CANCER! So we didn't really need to remove the lump after all, but since Drifter was already knocked out and the vet got some suspicious results on examination, I don't blame him for deciding to remove it. Much better safe than sorry! Anyway, he seems to be healing well, although he's getting to be very fussy ("pet me pet me!" and always wanting to be on the couch) since he hasn't had any proper exercise since last Monday.

This weekend I was not trialing AND we had absolutely gorgeous weather, both cool and sunny, so I set up the WAO Tryout courses to be videotaped and sent in to the manager. Kiba ran them very well, and pending managerial approval, I will post the videos here as well. I want to make sure it's OK before posting the courses though. Kiba is doing really well at 20" (and even 22" in training) and I'm really hopeful we will be selected for the team. 

16 September 2011

Drifter continues to do well. He's even figured out how to sleep upside down with the cone on his head (see facebook photo).

Here is Strafe's training session from today:

15 September 2011

Knocked him out, removed some things

Last winter I made a decision to have Drifter neutered this year. He is a fantastic dog and I think many people don't appreciate him for his non-agility-related qualities - he has great structure aside from his short, low neck, he has a rock solid temperament, he is not bothered by much. However, he and I do butt heads sometimes, and he did have trouble with 26", more than I'd prefer. He is a fast, powerful, intelligent, and generally healthy dog. But unlike many people, I don't feel a pressing need for all my dogs to be related to my "famous" dog. I'm perfectly OK with finding something I like that doesn't share blood with him. That said, his daughter is still intact and may be bred in the future. She is a nice dog, not as pushy as Drifter in some ways, but has different faults that are probably from her mother (locks onto lines of obstacles once in a while). She is more careful with bars though, and that is fabulous.

Anyway, if he's not performing stud duties, and he's on the decline as far as number of competitions and how much he's travelling, and I've got a young male coming along behind him that will be staying intact. . . time to neuter! i also want to avoid having to do an emergency type neuter later on, in case of prostate issues or something. His heart is still strong so he got the OK for it. His neuter was on Tuesday. But last weekend i noticed a small fatty-type lump in his armpit. It felt a lot like a small lipoma ("fatty tumor") but I had them check it out while he was in. It displayed most earmarks of a regular lipoma, except it seemed to swell a bit after manipulation, and the vet thought he spotted some mast cells in the smear of material when he aspirated, so they went ahead and removed the entire lump to send to Univ of Penn for a biopsy. The vet said he was pretty sure it was just a lipoma, but better to be sure. So I am waiting on a call with biopsy results sometime in the next few days.

Anyway, he went through the surgeries fine, and is now missing a total of 3 "lumps"... he's walking quite well, is already trotting on leash and lifting his leg to pee, and when the cone wasn't on his head he was even sleeping upside down, so he isn't in much pain. The stitches in his armpit area don't look too comfortable but he doesn't seem to be avoiding use of that leg in any way, so they probably look worse than they feel. He should be fine to come back for our next AKC trial the first weekend of October, and then USDAA in Ky 2 weeks later.

Today was only the 2nd chance I've had to work on Strafe's 2-by-2's, so he hasn't made much progress yet, but he's getting some more mild angled entries, so his understanding is getting better. I also worked his see-saw again today - he's been doing the low one for a while, and he's been doing the full height one with me holding the end, but today I faded out me holding it and got him running up it all by himself, rocking back and holding his position. I was very pleased - it looks how i want it to look! Yay! Hopefully more video this weekend since I'm home.

12 September 2011

Conditioning again

Recently had another conversation with someone about conditioning. Yet another person who is getting more serious about agility and realized that conditioning is pretty complicated! I applaud people like that who begin to take an active interest in getting their dogs fit! Preventing injury and giving your dog the competitive edge involves a lot more than just agility obstacles and handling skills or even jumping skills. Conditioning away from agility is very important, and I try to make sure the vast majority of what my dogs do has nothing at all to do with agility. Every single day we go for at least one 10-20minutes walk around our fields. And as I've mentioned before, my dogs aren't allowed to run "like greyhounds" unless I've told them to. They are limited to walk/trot/canter/sniff as their speeds when we are walking. Which is plenty! It keeps them from getting all bound up and sore, and limits the impact of the exercises, and also prevents stupid injuries from pivoting at high speed or running into each other. A few days a week I may release them to rip and run for a quick minute or two by making a "shhhhhhh" sound and running a bit myself - sprint work is good in small doses - but the majority of our walks are walks, and the dogs spend most of that time trotting, which is perfect. Generally we do about 15 minutes before breakfast and 15minutes in the evening as well. In addition to this, a few times a week when the weather is nice I take 2 of them on a leashwalk at Fair Hill for 30-60minutes. This has more hills and also makes me work harder, which is good because I'm lazy. Of course we do agility 1 to 3 times a week, but the last few weeks we haven't even done much of that due to the awful weather.

And the piece most people are missing which is SO EASY to do and the dogs love it - core work! Your dog's core is a very important collection of muscles, involving both the abdomen and the back, and it helps the dog accelerate, decelerate, turn, take off for jumps and land, control their speed on contacts, and power through weave poles. If you're only working one dog, it seriously  only takes 3-5 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week! How easy is that??

Here's a much-edited video of a workout with all of my guys in the living room. I cut a lot of stuff out so you don't have to watch one dog do the same exercise in both directions over and over. I see a lot of people doing core work involving speed and jumping at the same time - I don't do that at all. i don't feel it's necessary to involve jumping in everything I do, and I would much rather save "jumping days" for handling work or jump grids. I don't jump my dogs more than 3 times a week, usually less, and always with a day of no jumping afterwards (except at a trial, obviously). I always do core work inside, with treats, and without a lot of speed. It's like lifting weights for dogs - no running needed. It's all about building muscle.

11 September 2011

Pretty good weekend - TBAC AKC

Only ran Kiba, again in 20". This is her last trial at 20" for her "trial period". Overall I am pretty happy with how it went. She did hit some bars, but it got better after I did the 22" jump line work last weekend. I just set up some difficult 24" warm-up exercises at the trial and she only hit 1 bar this whole weekend, and it wasn't height-related, it was handling-miscommunication related. she took off thinking turn, then realized it wasn't turn, it was straight, and tried to correct in mid-air. Probably would've happened the same way over 16". She Q'ed all other runs this weekend, and here they are - the camera battery died before the 4th one or I would've gladly posted it, knocked bar and all, because I ran out the rest of the course with enthusiasm and yet another lovely blind cross and I thought she handled it really well even when I started running harder.

My mother helped me get Strafe to hold still for a proper measurement as well. And basically he's good at looking shorter than he is. When he's leaning slightly or crouching slightly, he's about 20.25" (51,5cm) but when we turned him the other way and he saw the agility ring, he stood all the way up on his own - as tall as he possibly can. And when he does that, not only is his gorgeous structure suddenly very obvious, but he also is 20.75" (52,7cm) tall! So I have a feeling when he's all filled out and completely done growing, he will be closer to 20.75 than to 20.5 but for now we'll split the difference and call it that.

Speaking of Strafe, I had him hanging out in the bleachers with me this weekend, since it's not directly ringside but can still see the rings it is a good opportunity to learn to relax, and he did. He would watch for a bit, then he would lay down and just hang out, or wiggle and make "roooo" noises at people walking by. But overall, he's my most relaxed dog near the rings already, which is hugely exciting for me with all my visually-excitable dogs!

Here is Strafe posing with another half-brother, this time a 9-month old brother out of Mawlch kennel in Croatia, from the Bela x Fetch breeding. This brother is already taller than Strafe by a little bit, but he is all legs and no body!

08 September 2011

366 Days Old Today

I didn't post yesterday, but it was Strafe's birthday. In celebration, it's been raining all week long. Just what we didn't need after Irene. We basically live in a marsh right now. so unfortunately, no great pics of Strafe outdoors on his birthday. Here's a quick progression series of him growing. always fun to see the changes.

Strafe at 8 weeks, still known by his puppy name of Tizzle.

Strafe at 10 weeks, the day after he came to the USA.

 Still 10 weeks. Just stinkin' cute.

12 weeks

3 and 1/2 months - legs have appeared!

4 months old, changing fast!

Somehow there's a gap in my pictures, I guess they're all mobile uploads on Facebook.
Skipping to 7 months old here. Halfway between pup and adult, looks-wise.

9 months old, looking more adult every day. Started growing lots of hair...

10 months. Ruff around his neck begins to get manly. Still cute though.

Just shy of 11 months. Looking gorgeous!

And one year old! A hairy adult who is still gorgeous!

06 September 2011

tick tock

I cannot believe how quickly time has passed. Strafe will turn a whole year old tomorrow. Well, technically maybe late tonight - Denmark is 5 or 6 hours ahead of us! It is raining again here, and because we are already so saturated, the ground is very wet. It is nice and cool and breezy, so we went out and started our "serious" weave pole training. I'm not in a huge rush - my goal is to have him doing 12 poles by early October, before I leave for Kentucky for USDAA Nationals. That's right around 13 months old and he should be physically fine.

Strafe has done a little bit of basics, just going through the poles, to get the concept down. But from here out i will be trying hard to do them a few times a week and slowly make it harder.

No, I don't throw the toy. Don't tell me I'm doing it wrong - all my dogs learned this way and it works just fine.

05 September 2011


I was teaching in VA today, and got to meet another of Strafe's half-brothers. (He has a lot of those, but most are in Europe)

You should be able to immediately tell which one is Strafe. The other pup looks a lot more like Fetch. He's not quite 6 months old, and is clearly in a bit of an awkward stage. And despite the way the photos look, the other pup, Biz, is not quite as big as Strafe yet. I am guessing he will finish up larger than Strafe though. Strafe has been holding around the 20.25 to 20.5" mark for a while now (about 52cm). And he may put in a late growth spurt, but he seems like he's mostly done. He was always the smallest boy in his litter, and as long as he can confidently jump the 26"/65cm height, I'm Ok with his current size. He's very athletic and coordinated and always has been.

Biz is from the Sky x Fetch breeding, and lives in Virginia.

04 September 2011


When Drifter was younger, I used to take him to work sheep about once a week, or once every 2 weeks. We made pretty good progress. He has some talent; I'm sure he wasn't anywhere near the next national champion, probably not even a USBCHA Open dog, but he progressed to the point where he could've muddled through a Novice course or a basic AKC course. His only problem was that he hated to lie down. he would pause, he wouldn't break them up, but he refused to just lie down. Which is amusing since when he's around other dogs he lies down quite a lot and even does the border collie creepy walk...

Anyway, I quit when I got super serious about his agility career; couldn't find the time to make the 40minute trek to the instructor's farm every week, while working full time and also training and conditioning for agility. That was probably in 2007 or 2008 that I quit? it was the year before we got serious enough to go to AKC Nationals, Tryouts, and tried out for IFCS team (and made it). Since then it's been all I could do to continue working AND doing agility AND conditioning (which is a lot), but now that i'm not doing the 40hour work week anymore, AND I have what appears to be a dog who can't do a lot of agility on my hands, I'm going to see sheep again.

I am afraid Drifter won't get another chance - with his crooked toes and heart murmur (and planned neuter coming up), I don't want to risk injury or overheating. But Miss Seri will get a chance. When I stopped going, Seri was still in the round pen and JUST getting the idea that she could make the sheep move without literally stepping on their heels. She was never one to grip (bite), so she isn't dangerous, but she had a bit too much enthusiasm. Now she's 5, not 18 months, so we'll see how she does. Since she held up so well with just cutting out contacts/weaves and leaving all the other exercise in, I think she will do OK with herding, as long as we don't go crazy with the amount of it. For now I'm sure she'll be in a round pen again so running will be limited. We shall see. I will probably also give Strafe a shot, just to see what he thinks.

Not sure when - I am teaching in VA tonight and tomorrow, and then I'll have to see when the nearby instructor has some time available to deal with an inexperienced person like me (though I at least have decent stock sense about jumping out of the way, and how to move them here or there).

03 September 2011

QQ #4 for Nationals - finally!

Kiba was a very good little midget today. After our discussion about bar knocking yesterday, I did make sure to do some difficult warm-up jumps (serpentines and convergence over 24" bar) to remind her to watch her feet. And it worked wonders. She was a tiny bit slower today, but I was also being careful not to push her, and slowing down and insisting on her contacts as well, since she almost missed them all yesterday (none were called but it was close). She also did well in Jumpers, but we did have a bit of a call-off moment where she got her eye on the wrong jump on a lateral send situation, so I pulled out the trusty old "LIE DOWN COME!!!" which worked because Kiba's awesome like that... so she Q'ed with a GOOD time but not an amazing one.

Here's our standard run from this morning. You'll notice I'm not being very aggressive. I just wanted her to pay attention to the bars and keep her feet up and hit all her contacts. I was pleased with her!

02 September 2011

Tightrope Walking

Day one of an AKC trial today. Despite the large entries in this area (we fill 2 and 3-ring trials all the time) the well-oiled machine of organized AKC secretary and club runs well, and despite a 1h45m drive, I got home around 2:45pm. I ran Trig for my mother who is having some allergy issues and figured it was better to just  stay home. Trig ran very well for me, got 2nd in Standard and a nice run in JWW (left before I found out the placements) for a QQ. Kiba also ran pretty well, but was a little crazier than usual. She pushed every single contact in Standard but didn't get called on any of them, but also hit a couple bars in each run. I think that she just is so enjoying her increased speed and my more aggressive handling (blind crosses and lots of running) that she keeps forgetting that 20" is a lot harder than 16". Again, her actual jumping does not look bad, she is just a little more careless than she should be to jump 20" cleanly. She had the fastest time in Standard, moving at 5.23YPS, and was almost 2 seconds faster than Trig in JWW.

I have to keep a fine balance with Kiba, since she is, at heart, a soft dog. She also, when not feeling confident, does sometimes stutter step before jumping. I haven't seen a lot of that at 20" lately, and I believe that's due to the time spent at 16" building up her confidence. She's put on speed, drive, and some extra sheer joy in trialing since we did 20". She isn't worried anymore. However. . . that means she's running a bit carelessly. So now I have to introduce a little "hey, remember your job" into her joy. It saddens me a bit, because she is REALLY flying and having fun, but jumping over the bar instead of through it IS her job. So today after I got home, I gave her a few minutes rest, then took her out to our field and set up a line of jumps, including a parallel and extended double, all set at 22". Spacing was typical AKC spacing, 15-18 feet or so. And I ran ahead of her. And she hit bars, finally, since I so obviously induced it. In the course of normal handling work she does NOT hit bars. In a footrace on a straight line with 22" jumps, she did. And, meanie that I am, I corrected her for it. I marked the knocked bar verbally and stopped immediately (I'm quick), reset the bar, and started over. Because she is soft inside, this did make her stop and think. And it did produce a bit of a stutter step as well, but I ignored it and praised the heck out of her when all the bars stayed up. We did this a few times in each direction, me running like a wild thing, her being expected to keep bars up. She got it, and by the end she was starting to reaccelerate a bit and lose the stutter. But it IS a bit of a tightrope with dogs like her. Not correcting knocked bars leads to increased speed and confidence and joy, and also more knocked bars. Correcting knocked bars leads to less speed, a bit of a stutter step, less joy, but also less knocked bars. I have to balance it. She has outgrown the times when she would not knock bars at all because she was scared of them, and now she doesn't seem to think about it enough. . . so I put a little more "think" back on her mind. And hopefully she will remember tomorrow at the trial that she needs to pay attention to the jumps, not just race willy-nilly around the course, posting great times that do no good since bars fell down....

Don't worry, she'll still get rewarded at the trial, even if I do mark a bar verbally on course...

01 September 2011

I can't believe it, but Strafe is actually old enough to start weave pole training! I will wait till next week since I'm busy this weekend and Monday, but that's the last obstacle to really start. He doesn't really know the see-saw fully yet, but he's had an intro to it and can do a little low one by himself. So once we learn weaves (I aim to take about a month to get to 6 or 12, I'm in no rush), and finish our see-saw, and add speed and angled approaches to our dogwalk, and raise our aframe, and raise our jumps (slowly!), well, then he'll be ready to go! OK, maybe that still sounds like a lot....

But I think that is all easily accomplished by late January, his tentative trialing start date. He'll be 16 going on 17 months by then.