29 November 2011

On Science and Scare Tactics

For some strange reason that I don't quite understand, the more scientific advances our civilization makes, the more some people start hunting for old, non-scientific methods of doing things. This ties into the "persecution complex" that many majorities mistakenly harbor, for instance the "war on Christmas" or "doctors are out to get you, not help you", things of that nature. For instance, if doctors (and veterinarians) are "out to get you", you will start believing that drugs are not helpful, only harmful. This is pure bunk. Being a skeptic myself, I believe science and scientific studies over "Mary Sue's friend's sister's dog turned into a raving aggressive maniac RIGHT AFTER he got his Rabies Vaccine!"

And so we talk about vaccines. Did you know there is NO GOOD study that says vaccines of any kind cause long term adverse reactions? Sure, there are some reactions to vaccines, such as a bump at the site, and certainly some dogs can have very strong reactions to any disease or ingredient in the vaccine. However, those dogs are having what basically amounts to a very strong allergic reaction.

Do you know what a vaccine is? It is a small amount of (usually dead) disease, injected into a dog's or human's body, so that the body can build up a good immune response to that disease without the risk of the (dead!) disease killing them. I do not understand how anyone can think it is better to risk their dog DYING of parvo or distemper or rabies rather than introduce this small element into their immune system. Do you know why I think this? Because over the last century people and dogs both have begun to enjoy much longer lives with much lower risks of disease. Why? Well a big part of the reason is vaccines. Get a small innoculation against something and enjoy an almost zero-risk of ever catching the actual disease later in life.

All of that said, I certainly do not vaccinate my dogs needlessly every year. They get puppy shots according to Dodds' recommendations at 8/12/16 weeks or so, they get Rabies after 16 weeks, then they get all their booster shots between 12-18 months. Then I just do Rabies every 3 years as required by the law in my area. That's it. Why? Because real science tells me that vaccines last longer than a year, in fact most of Parvo and Distemper studies I found said they lasted at LEAST 7 years, with strong indications they carried immunity for (a dog's) life.

Anyway, this post was inspired by an online magazine I see posted around Facebook a lot, called Dogs Naturally. This magazine has some good articles, but a lot of pseudoscience is also included. Lots of scare tactics. Lots of "rabies vaccinosis!!!! ZOMG!!!!" type stuff. I've lived with vaccinated dogs all my life. None of them seem to have any strange "rabies vaccinosis". They all seem the same before and after their vaccines... one got a bump one time. It went away after a couple weeks. I told the vet before the next one and he injected a different site that has more loose skin and no bump followed. I do not think magazines like Dogs Naturally really have a dog's best interest at heart. By encouraging people to believe in pseudoscience and quote mining real scientific papers for the single scary line or two, then emphasizing and blowing that part way out of proportion, they are simply invoking an emotional response in readers who are trying to do their best. Another tactic is to tell the reader a lot of bad things about vaccines, but have no link to source material proving the listed information.

I have important news for people. Vaccine companies, veterinarians, doctors - none of them are out to get you. Some of them are out to make money, this is true, but most health care professionals got into that profession specifically to help people or animals, and oftentimes that money is recycled straight back into more advances in the field. My vet does not live on a yacht, laughing at the foolish masses who paid the extra $30 for a vaccine they didn't need every year. I'm sure he does own a car. He's a nice guy. He enjoyed showing me the digital x-ray machine and how it worked. He didn't try to steal my wallet.

So the next time someone tells you that a magical plastic bracelet changed their life, look for the real science before automatically believing it. You will find that magical plastic bracelets have a lawsuit pending in Australia for false advertising....

As skeptics have been known to say "many anecdotes do not equal data".

28 November 2011


Here's a few runs with Trig, mother's dog. She did pretty well for me, 5 out of 7 Q's, including 2 QQ's towards Tryouts and an Exc A FAST Q as well.

And here's Kiba. She did not Q quite as much but had two really stellar JWW runs, winning the entire huge 20" class (I think it was about 100-120 dogs) on Saturday.

27 November 2011

KESSC AKC Day 3 wrap-up and a note about travel

Day 3 of KESSC today. My mom's little girl was a rockstar again today and got her 2nd QQ at 26" in a row. Already halfway to the 4 we need for Tryouts! Just have to finish garnering our "8 and 8" after that. Trig runs a little differently from my dogs, but she is not *quite* as fast as they are, so it's not a stressful challenge for me to run her, I just have to remember that she's better with me in front, and that if I have to rear cross I need to get her to check in with me first, since once in a while if I just do a regular rear cross without asking for a head check, she will bend in the new direction I've asked for, but then just take the first thing she sees...

Drifter got QQ #35 today. He Q'd in JWW each day with lovely runs, but had a couple goofy mistakes in Std each day. Friday he did one of those weird one-hit down ramp dogwalks that he started occasionally doing last winter. I am pretty convinced it's due to his crooked feet and not-working toe, so i just ignored it and the next 2 days his dogwalks were fine. I have to make sure i don't overextend him on the top ramp though, which is not something I ever had to watch before. I think with his crooked feet (left foot leans inside, right foot leans outside) landing and running on the downhill narrow slope is getting trickier for him and sometimes he'd rather just leave for the ground. This just reinforces my original thought to finish his MACH2 and then retire him from most competition.

Kiba got 2 really nice JWW Q's this weekend, beating Drifter's time in both of them and winning the entire 100dog 20" class on Saturday. The other runs were all nice except for one bar. Today I corrected both bars by marking them verbally and pausing briefly. I think she just needs more work at 20" - we haven't worked much since USDAA in KY 6 weeks ago, just a few courses here and there. She needs some good grid work and difficult handling exercises at 20 and 22" to get her to remember what she's doing. She's also not as fit as she was 2 months ago...

Which of course is because of all the travelling I've been doing. I've got one more weekend "away" until I hit a stretch where all my teaching is only 1 or 1 and 1/2 days, all within driving distance for a while. Which means I can take a couple dogs with me. Which makes it easier to keep them in shape, and makes it easier for them to be watched by my mother when I'm gone.

I met a rescue papillon this weekend that I really liked... made me rethink my "sheltie in a couple years" puppy plan. If it looks like he can be registered with AKC (with pedigree) and he really is the height I think he is (right around 13 and 3/4", mammoth for a papillon but *perfect* for 14" FCI) I am considering taking the little booger. he's currently 10months, which is really close to Strafe's age, but this little guy knows absolutely nothing, so while Strafe is ready to start novice competition now, this pap wouldn't be ready for probably a year.

Just a thought ;)

Videos from the weekend will be uploaded tomorrow.

26 November 2011

first 2 days of KESSC

Keystone English Springer Spaniel Club that is...

Yesterday and today Kiba and Drifter both Q'ed in JWW, yesterday and today Kiba beat Drifter's time. Both are jumping 20". Drifter is a little fat still, a pound or two overweight. And also both days, Kiba hit one bar in Std and Drifter had at least one moment of "WAHOOO I AM NOT AN EDUCATED NINE YEAR OLD DOG!" and basically ignored some blatant cue that I gave him.... so yeah. Hopefully one of the two will get a double Q tomorrow... neither needs it for Reno but it would be nice! Despite the single knocked bar each day, Kiba actually looks GREAT at 20" and I'm still crossing my fingers we'll get picked for the WAO team, as I have no real worries about her health at 20, she just has to get back in the swing of trialing at that height again. She hasn't run at 20" in a trial since late September.

i also ran Trig for the first time at 26" to start garnering Q's towards Tryouts this spring. Yesterday I didn't run FAST, we had one "disconnect" in JWW and she broke her stay in Std so I walked her off (I didn't even get past the first obstacle before she got up). Today she stayed like a rock, Q'ed in all 3 classes, not a "triple Q" technically because she's still in Exc A Fast, but she got her first QQ (of 4 needed) towards Tryouts, and her first of her "8 and 8" each of Std and JWW as well.

One more day of trial.

24 November 2011

CO, yep I was there, I had fun, I survived

With the rush to explain the ETS video I posted before leaving for CO, I didn't actually mention how teaching in CO went.  I had fun, it was a really nice group of people, no "sour grapes" types and everyone really seemed interesting in hearing what I had to say and at least trying things out. Everyone had a great attitude, the group asked good questions (I like questions; they keep me on track!). And I survived the altitude just fine. I had no immediate effects on landing, no "altitude sickness" type issues. I'm young enough and healthy enough overall that I really shouldn't have those types of problems. I did recognize that the air was quite dry and at night my nose had that "dry congestion" type of thing going on, but nothing too bad. And I definitely did feel myself getting a little out of breath when I got on a roll and talked for a few minutes straight. However, I think I'll be fine to run a 30 second agility run, as long as I don't enter the ring already out of breath. I also talked to the friendly locals about the weather, and while they did agree there was a slight chance of adverse weather (as in precipitation of some kind), they said generally it should be chilly in the morning and quite likely warm (like 80's possible) in the afternoon. The sun there is very strong and they assured me that any frost should be long gone by 9:30am start time....

So yes, i am still tentatively planning to attend the USDAA Nationals event in CO in September. My first qualifer isn't till January, and Strafe isn't old enough till March. However, I ran Strafe in my Masters class yesterday and he did fabulously. Not to say he ran everything perfectly on the first try, but his mistakes were minor, he handled being around other people and dogs just fine. He weaved no problem and his aframes continue to be very consistently in the contact. Only 2 weeks till his debut now!

Today is Thanksgiving. I don't really celebrate holidays. But it's nice that everyone's off from work. I'm about to go on a hike at Fair Hill with Seri and Strafe, who aren't entered in the trial tomorrow.

ETA: we went for a nice, slightly sidetracked, winding hike at Fair Hill in gorgeous weather. Here's Seri showing off her "Don't Shoot Me" hiking gear:

22 November 2011


Early Takeoff Syndrome.

No, I do not believe there is a true medical syndrome that is defined by "bad jumping". But I do believe we need a name for this strange collection of symptoms that affects some dogs. I had a dog such as this. Many people won't remember her at all, because I retired her early and allowed her to go live with a nice retired couple and be spoiled. Freeze was a highly intelligent dog, very athletic. But she was a poor jumper. I have worked on jump grids and lots of 1 and 2 jump exercises with my dogs since the dark ages of agility in the early 90's. Freeze did many a jump grid and lots of exercises. She was fit. She passed her CERF exam. She was smart, she was well-trained. She achieved her ADCH title relatively quickly, qualified for USDAA Nationals every year I ran her, made a few Top Ten lists, and even got an LAA-Bronze award.

Freeze had ETS. It is a painful problem to work with. And no, it isn't JUST a matter of training, it isn't even JUST a matter of agility. There are a lot of situations where a dog needs the ability to judge a horizontal "bar" of some sort in space, and she had trouble with all of the. Open types of stairs scared her a bit. She was quite concerned about entering and exiting small crate doors, and always flew through them at 90mph.

Like many ETS dogs, Freeze had a softer personality type, and if I even THOUGHT about correcting her knocked bar, more bars were sure to fall. Also like many ETS dogs, she was highly sensitive to my motion while she was jumping. If she knew I was about to front cross, the bar fell down. If I tried to lead out too far, the bar came down. If I did anything in front of her, basically, the bar came down. So I used a lot of rear crosses (which unfortunately led to people thinking I was unable to handle using front crosses, when in fact I generally prefer to work in front of my dogs!)

Linda is continuing her work with ETS and has been updating the information, adding a new webpage with some newer video links. Because I am now considered a "big name" agility handler (woohoo I guess I've made it!) and I had an ETS dog, i was asked to put some video together showing the problem. I gladly complied. I think it is a sad state of affairs when other "big name" trainers claim that ETS is just an uneducated dog, or one that's rushing. Clearly these people are blind to the obvious anxiety that can be seen on the dogs' faces as they attempt to figure out where the jump or tire is. Many of these dogs have a big heart, and enjoy working with their handler so much that they continue to try, but clearly the dog is just unable to judge things properly. Training can not overcome physical issues, whether they are due merely to vision problems, or to some strange connection between vision and brain.

Here is the video of Freeze. Some of it is quite cringe-inducing and looking back, I am very glad that I allowed her to retire before she got any worse.

ETA: I want to clarify that while I don't believe "bad jumping" is an inherited issue, I absolutely do believe that the collection of traits which lead to this problem ARE inherited. i think it's undeniable that some related dogs, who were bred by different people and raised in different homes, still develop the same problem. ETS is caused by something which is genetic.

18 November 2011

minor blackout

I'm off to CO this afternoon to teach for 3 days. I haven't been in CO since I was about 9 or 10 years old. Several of my friends love it though. I am just looking forward to a brand new group of seminar participants.

Anyway, I'm not bringing my laptop so won't be updating till I get home, and then I'll be brief due to still having other things to do - a friend is visiting, then after Thanksgiving I have a 3-day AKC trial, local to home but still taking up the majority of the day.

So, more air travel today for me. I'm flying on 2 different airlines, one out, one back, in order to get a decent nonstop flight at the right times of day/night. I'm going to try carrying on my luggage this time rather than checking it, just so I can avoid waiting at the baggage claim. I really don't mind, normally, but last time when I was returning from TX it took forever to get the bags on the carousel and on the way home, especially, I get very impatient. So hopefully the overhead bins won't be jampacked when I board so my rolling carry-on will fit... we'll see!

This will also be my first hotel stay without a dog in a long time. Relaxing but strange. I have a deep-seated compulsion to "go walk the dog" when I return to a hotel or before I go to bed. I even experienced it strongly when I was in the bed and breakfast in Denmark last year. So strange to be dogless. I've NEVER lived in a house without dogs, my entire life! Anyway, I will survive 4 quick nights in a hotel. Really more like 3 and 1/2 nights, since I'm leaving early Tues morning. The shuttle comes to pick me up in the wee hours so I can make my flight out of Denver that takes off at 7am.

17 November 2011

By the way

Sometimes when people come to see me for a private lesson, they will tell me they had a friend who said they shouldn't bother to come because "Rosanne only does X..." and X changes, sometimes it's "Rosanne only does rear crosses" - that's what I used to hear, because I had a dog with ETS who couldn't jump well if I was in front of her. Lately it's "Rosanne only does distance" or "Rosanne only does front crosses"

Seriously? I *only* do distance? WTF are these people smoking? I'm sorry... this aggravated me a little. And I'm glad the people who hear this don't let it deter them. And yes, this is a bit of a snipey post, but still. It's basically impossible to succeed at National and International level agility these days if you "only do distance" or "only do rear crosses" or "only do..... " anything!

So to whomever is telling people I don't do anything but distance, here's some videos! And if you already know I work close to my dogs when necessary, but ALSO utilize sending when necessary, here's some videos you can enjoy too. They're all old ones, reposted.

So, sorry to rant a bit. I just think it's very bad manners to say things like that about other people. I certainly hope it is clear that I do not use "distance" exclusively any more than i use any certain type of cross exclusively. In fact when I teach I usually make a point of helping the attendees to find different options. And yes, my dogs do have great sending skills, that is how I GET AHEAD OF THEM!

not as controversial...

If you wondered where all the obsessive "dogwalk training" videos of Strafe went, well, we just don't need them anymore. It seems the bit of work we did on it a couple months ago did the trick, and he's been sequencing it since then with great consistency. He's missed one here and there, but the very great majority of them have been spot on. He goes with me to seminars I teach (when I drive to them), and I get him on the equipment, and often I find that the very first dogwalk he is a bit hesitant but still hits the contact easily, and after that he gets lower and better. Yesterday he actually gave me a nice deep hit the very first time, possibly because I didn't "show it to him" first - I just made up a course and threw him at it, and he did great. Nice deep, fast, dogwalk hits. I am very pleased. I even did a turn off one to a right angle weave entry and he was great. I haven't worked a ton of turns yet because I wanted consistency first, but i don't get the feeling he's going to be tough to turn later on. He's just not a "lock onto things" sort of dog; he's always easy to turn. Only 3 more weekends before his debut!

Not being home to exercise my dogs every day has led to Drifter's continued chubbiness. It is rainy and windy today but I got them for a nice 20min walk/run this morning before breakfast. I also dug the big peanut out of the spare bedroom (from when we moved) and will work on that this afternoon. i want to make sure the older dogs don't get lazy, and I want to make sure Strafe has built up a good core as I start raising his jump heights up from 20" to 26" later in December.

15 November 2011

On jump heights. USDAA and WAO.

Does this jump look too small for Kiba? She's definitely jumping it. It's only 16". At AKC Nationals we don't have a choice, we have to jump this height.

Jump heights are difficult to get right. In most places in Europe, they only have 3 jump heights, and because I'm american, I'm going to use inches for this post. So for FCI/EO type competitions, the only heights available are 14"/18"/26". Do you see a gap there? Let's see, maybe 22 is missing? Yeah, in FCI every dog over 16 and 7/8" tall has to jump 26". That's not right. But FCI is slow to change. For some reason they seem to like having twice as many "Large" dogs as Small and Medium dogs. I'm not sure why. Makes a lot of sense to split that class and have a 22" height for smaller "Large" dogs.

But alas, I have no say in FCI. I really wanted to talk about the USA anyway. Here in the US, we have 2 major organizations (I am ignoring all the smaller ones that don't strive to create dogs/handlers that can compete at a National/International level). AKC has a lot of jump heights. Possibly too many, but it's probably better to err on the side of "too many options" than on the side of "not enough". In AKC, each jump height includes all dogs within the range of 2" above and below the jump height, with the sole exception of the 8" class which goes up to 11" at the withers. So for the 16" class, dogs from 14" to 18" tall jump the height. For 20", that is dogs 18" to 22" tall. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm pretty sure dogs on the high end of the range have a really easy time with the jumps most of the time, and I think a 22" tall dog competing against a 18.25" tall dog isn't quite right. But at least I understand this system. Luckily for me, in this system, Kiba falls into the high end of the range, and so she can enjoy jumping 16" which is very easy for her, and puts her at an advantage against 14.5" dogs.

In USDAA they have chosen to create a system where every dog jumps higher than it's own height at the withers. This is a problem. Especially because their heights are 12/16/22/26" - and once again there's a large gap, not as large as the FCI gap, but 12 and 16 are 4" apart, and 22 and 26 are 4" apart. So why are 16 and 22" half again as farther apart at 6"? In USDAA, all dogs between 16" and 21" tall are assigned the 22" jump height. I don't think this is at all fair. When you're assigning jump heights, you need to look at the typical body types of dogs within a height range. And dogs at the 16-17" tall range generally do not find 22" to be a very easy jump height. Many of these dogs choose to run in Performance because they feel that jumping their small dogs over 22" jumps is too hard for them.

Another problem in USDAA is that many people feel that the small dog divisions are driving small dog competitors to compete in AKC where the heights are friendlier. Again, in these heights, the body types of the dogs involved do not make higher jumps easy for them. There are a lot corgi's, valhunds, and terriers. Jumping 3" over their shoulder is quite difficult for some of these.

I have a solution! Here is my proposed "ideal jump heights" for USDAA. Not that I pull any weight with them, but perhaps my solution will go viral and create an uproar and perhaps SOME kind of change will happen.
I would use these divisions: 10"/14"/18"/22"/26"
This division has a lot of advantages. You create a smaller Championship height for dogs who have trouble with 12", but without going so low to 8" that the jumps seem like tiny speed bumps. You create 14 and 18", drawing the crowd of competitive FCI and EO hopefuls who would really enjoy having an american organization with those heights available. You keep the 22/26 which I do think are good, competitive jump heights. but you can slice off that section of dogs under 18" or so and stop forcing them to jump 4-6" over their shoulder for the 22" height.

My cutoff's for such divisions would be as followed, and are based primarily on my anecdotal but extensive observations of body type and height of dogs I've seen over the years:
10" jump height - dogs up to 11" tall.
14" jump height - dogs up to 14.5"
18" jump height - dogs up to 18.5"
22" jump height - dogs up to 21.5"
26" jump height - dogs over 21.5"
While some of the heights include a very small slice of dogs who would be slightly taller than the jumps, no division includes dogs that are a LOT taller than the jumps, I think every division forces dogs to actually jump, not just step over speed bumps. It will raise the heights for some dogs, and lower them for others. The dogs who will have a raised height will be brought in line with international standards at FCI, and while I know USDAA likes to pretend they don't exist, just like AKC, the reality is that they DO, and that is the standard that most people look to when they look for the ultimate international competition level.

I would also go the route of AKC and force Performance participants to jump the lower jump height. But that is a personal peeve of mine and I know many disagree with me. I, personally, feel that if your dog is no longer capable of jumping spreads or doing a higher aframe, you probably should just allow the dog to jump the lower jump height too. But I am very conservative in my views on taking care of my dogs' bodies.

As far as WAO, hell, I think those heights I listed would be great for them too but they want to differentiate themselves from FCI by trying to create small and medium heights that are not "border collie heights" as they put it.

I have applied with Kiba for the USA Team for WAO. I think it would be the ultimate irony if I was denied a spot on the team because I didn't compete in 22" for the last year. Considering that WAO created the 20" jump height specifically to try to be fair to smaller border collies and lure the FCI Medium dogs into coming to compete...it would be extremely ironic if I was left off the team for refusing to jump 22" with my small border collie and compete against larger ones. Isn't that sort of exactly the point the WAO was trying to make, after all? Anyway, if we don't make that team, I'll either see  if I can afford the EO, or just skip international competition this year, aside from taking Trig to Tryouts for FCI Team. I expect she'll do fine at Tryouts but I have no urgent feeling that she'll actually make the team. She's not even my dog, after all...

That's how Strafe sleeps in bed. He doesn't really sleep upside any other time, just in bed. I'm pretty sure it's because he likes the belly-cooling effect of the ceiling fan which we leave on most of the time. he DOES take up my foot space though....

Today I'm off to NJ. Yes, never still, my wandering feet (and tires). This evening I'm teaching some privates at a private indoor, and tomorrow I've got a day of privates for a club in NJ. Then Thursday is a day home to prepare for Friday, when I leave for Denver CO to teach all weekend. Then the following week I return home on Tuesday, a friend comes to visit, then Thanksgiving (something I really don't care about, sorry), a 3-day AKC Trial which is my first chance to garner some Q's towards Tryouts with Trig at 26". Then the following weekend I'm off to Portland OR (hopefully I'll get weather as nice as last year!), then the weekend after that is Strafe's first trial! He's actually ready now, somehow. I've never had a dog fully trained at 14 months. And while he's definitely not ready to go win Nationals or anything, he is confident and happy with all the equipment, his jumping is solid, his handling basics are all solid. And it's certainly not because I work him every day. Or even every other day. Or even every week! But he picks everything up very quickly, and he has been to more different places than most of my young dogs, since I take him to seminars with me whenever they're close enough to drive to. So he's been on at least 4 or 5 different sets of contacts and weaves already. He's also experienced a myriad of different types of footing, from slick turf to packed dirt to rubber matting to grass.

14 November 2011

Long Island

While my mother has lived and gone to school in NY, I know little about the city area. So this weekend was my very first trip to Long Island. I discovered that it's a really neat place and it was a great group of people, but you have to cross Staten Island to get there. And any time you go onto Staten Island, you pay a toll. The toll for the bridge is $13. Yes, $13.00 to cross a bridge. And because you cross one island to get to another, you pay a toll each direction. $13.00! Now, the group paid for my mileage so it's not a big deal, I was being paid for it, I just couldn't believe it. I drive in the great Philadelphia/Wilmington and Baltimore/DC areas a lot, and I've never seen a toll over $6.00 for any bridge or tunnel, except for the 26mile long Bridge Tunnel down over the Chesapeake, but that's an enormously long monstrosity that goes on forever, not a 2-mile bridge across a river...

Verrazano bridge from above:

Lots of confusing exit ramp swirly shapes. This bridge has them!

no, that wasn't the best bit of the trip. There were nice people and good times, I do enjoy creating a good course set up that can both push people a bit and also let them be successful, and I'm getting better and better at meshing those things together. And of course it's always nice to be inside in a climate controlled building, although the weather outside was actually pretty nice all weekend.

Friday I leave for CO, should be fun too. Will be a whole new group of people, I have no idea if I know anyone who's coming or not... This group has me doing lots of short workshops, so I will have to spend Thursday reviewing and perhaps creating some new material if necessary, because tomorrow and Wed I'm back in NJ teaching private lessons. Yes, I am one busy little bee lately!

Verrazano bridge at night, pretty cool looking actually...

09 November 2011

Strafe again!

It hasn't quite been a year since I flew to Denmark to retrieve this little stinker, but we are officially entered in our first trial! It was a draw so I didn't know till last night, but the trial didn't fill so we got in. Hurray! I did enter him at 20" because I didn't want to be rushed getting him up to 26" - he is still so young. We've done 24/26" a few times on individual jumps or in very short sequences, but I think he will do better with another month or two of running courses beginning at 20" and slowly working our way up to 26". He continues to jump anything I put him to without any issue at all, so I'm really not concerned. i also want his first trial to feel "easy" for him so he will be confident. Our 2nd trial will be New Years weekend, and I entered that one at 24" as a step up for him. Then when we go to FL at the end of January we will probably go ahead and run 26". Makes for a nice step by step timeline.

08 November 2011


Yesterday we went for a hike at Fair Hill. It was the first time I've gone since after the really big 3-day event in October. Lots of cool horse jumps around, including this one, apparently the world's largest hammock.

As of yesterday, Strafe is officially 14 months old! Such a strange feeling with him. It is going really quickly now and I can't believe he's grown up. But also he learns everything so quickly and acts so grown up in training, that it's hard to believe he's ONLY 14 months old... strange dichotomy.
Thursday he goes in to get his hips done with Pennhip.

07 November 2011

Drifter. And jumping.

Drifter winning the Mid-Atlantic Showcase Triathlon final round this past spring. Yes, he's got a line of spittle hanging from his mouth even at 8.5 years old...

I made the decision about WAO. I am only sending in an application for Kiba, and not for Drifter. I just don't like the idea of ME being stressed about his health the whole time I'm there. Kiba is younger, she's fast, reliable, can turn on a dime, and has no health issues to worry about. She also has the advantage of being clearly under the 2013 cut-off for the new 525mm height, so we could go 2 more years if we get chosen. With WAO out of the equation, that leaves Drifter's single goal for the next year as "finish MACH2 and qualify for 2013 AKC Nationals in Tulsa". Which means just doing some local AKC. He needs 6 more QQ's for MACH2, and then he'll need 6 total starting in December. But that will not take long. He's not going to Reno, he's not going to Denver, he's not going to Belgium. That leaves.... well.... no big events for Drifter in 2012. At all. That is a REALLY strange feeling after having him as my "main dog" pretty much from 2004 onwards. We've had our ups and downs, but he's proven himself well in his career. I am holding out hope that USDAA will move down from high altitude and not all the way out west for 2013, in that case I would run him in Performance (something I was looking forward to for 2012 but will not happen 6,000ft up with his heart murmur). So I guess it is really truly time to focus on Kiba as my "main dog"! She's been an "also ran" for a long time, and though she's done REALLY well in her time, she's also easier to run than Drifter so I never have to work really hard to run her. It's a nice feeling, I am always relaxed stepping to the line with her. She's predictable - she stays on the start, she turns tight, she runs her heart out, and if she hits a bar it was an accident, not laziness or carelessness.
And of course Strafe will be the "secondary" dog as he tries to come from Novice all the way to qualifying for AKC Nationals and Tryouts for 2013.... wow what a strange year, focusing on my 2 "easy dogs" all the time!
Seri will come out and do a little bit, but if I decide not to go to Denver (still a real possibility), she won't be doing any big events either. My main goal for Seri is just to be able to trial her once a month without her body falling apart...

And jumping. Here's a short jumping exercise from yesterday. I worked on the SAME exercises at the SAME heights with all 4 dogs. Here is a video showing some of the similarities and differences between the dogs. Sorry, no fancy music, just me talking to the dogs and quiet slow-mo sections.

06 November 2011

MACH daughter

Forgot to mention this on here, but Drifter's daughter in NY earned her MACH already! They aren't even 4 years old yet, so that's really fabulous. Here's a couple pictures of her and my mom's littermate Trig, they were practically twins as puppies and still have a lot of similarities. These pictures were taken by Kaitlyn Dreese and I hope she doesn't mind me "stealing" them from Facebook to post them here....

Here's Keeley looking unimpressed with her absolutely enormous ribbon

And here's Keeley on the left, posing with Trig on the right. Trig is the one I may take to Nationals and Tryouts this year.

05 November 2011

Dogs are not robots.

Of course this seems ridiculously obvious. I feed my dogs, they eliminate, they have personalities, they age. Of course they aren't robots. Each dog is a living, breathing, different individual. I have trained quite a few dogs already in my life. My methods have changed a bit over the years, but one thing is clear - each dog is DIFFERENT! I have success (or not) with any given dog because I learned how to adapt my methods of training and handling to suit each individual.

Why, then, is it somehow taboo to suggest that any given dog seen out running agility might be easier to train in some way than any other given dog? Let's say I observe "Sally" running "Bobo", and I notice that Bobo is a very nice natural jumper who seems fairly forgiving; he doesn't knock bars even if Sally is crossing right in front of the jump or saying something surprising while he's in the air. I think to myself - "I would like a dog like Bobo!". But for some reason if I say in public that Bobo seems easier than, say, my dog Seri - this is construed as insulting to Sally, as if I am saying Sally is a bad handler and Bobo makes up for it. As if I just don't understand that Sally is an amazing trainer. That Sally does jump grids with her youngsters, etc etc. You get the point.

But the truth is, some dogs really ARE easier than others. OF COURSE! They are individuals, just like every other animal on the planet. Some dogs will intuitively understand the concept of straightening up for a jump in order to turn tighter, some will never get it. This doesn't make them bad dogs or the handlers bad either, but it does make them harder to turn and more prone to knocking bars. Some dogs naturally have more impulse control than others. This is evident with things like start line stays and stops on the contacts. I admire dogs who stop on the contacts in the ring! Those who stay on their see-saw so easily. And of course the handlers have worked hard to train this, but the truth is, some dogs just have an easier time controlling themselves than others.

Some dogs, no matter who is training them, will never be fast enough to win Nationals. Some will be fast enough no matter who trains them! And then there's a lot of dogs in the middle, who have the potential to win if trained properly...

Some dogs will require motivating at a young age, I call these dogs ones in whom you must "install the gas pedal". Some will have plenty of motivation and will require lots of impulse control and deceleration work - I call this "installing the brakes". But then sometimes you get a lovely dog who comes with both gas pedal AND brakes, pre-installed! Strafe seems to be like this. Perfect! But if you had to install one or the other on your dog, no big deal! Train what you have, of course. But a dog who came with both is just lovely. These dogs more easily understand both ends of the spectrum - impulse control AND driving forward. Deceleration AND crazy tugging games.

If dogs WERE robots, we'd just order up the type we like, perhaps add some apps for higher speed or better turns, and be done with it. In the real world this would be things like training drills and even conditioning - but underneath all the personal add-ons each dog will always be an individual that you are building on. There is NO SHAME in admitting your dog was easy to train. Even easy to train dogs require a good handler to do well. In agility, timing is everything, and a handler with bad timing will not be winning too many large events, even with an easy dog! If you've got a difficult dog to train in some way or another, just appreciate what you are learning in the process of teaching this dog, and don't worry, plenty of difficult dogs have won large events with good handlers too.

I just hope that eventually the stigma attached to suggesting that "so-and-so has an easy dog" will fade - I don't say that as a way to disrespect the handler, it's really quite honestly a bit of jealousy. I think I finally have one of these mythical easy dogs, and I'm really enjoying it, and am looking forward to going places with him!

Click on the picture for a large version:)

So appreciate that dogs aren't robots. There's no pre-ordering. Every one is different. And while I'm not a big "Positive Thoughts!!!!!" type of person, I do think we learn something from each dog. They aren't teaching us, rather, it's what we learn from teaching them. 

04 November 2011

Segmented Post, catching up

I've been busy this past week. Last Wed I flew down to Austin TX and taught seminars and privates for 4 and 1/2 days. Got totally lucky with the weather and while it was chilly in the morning and sunny in the afternoon, and one day it was windy, it was generally really great outdoor agility weather. It was fun but tiring to teach that many days in a row - I've never done it before but I found that I handled it pretty well. I wasn't flat out exhausted at the end of the last day, although it was nice to fly home on a direct flight... the dogs were happy to see me when I got back Monday night.

He is officially running like a grown-up. He's going to be 14 months old in just a few days, and he can now run full courses at 20", including all the obstacles. His dogwalk looks pretty good. He mis-strides it every now and then but it's not common. I haven't worked turns yet since I wanted to get some consistency first. His frame looks great. His see-saw is also solid - again some inconsistency in that sometimes he drives right up to the end of the board, and then sometimes he stops a little early, but I'm Ok with that. He will even out as he gets more sequences with it. His weaves are not perfectly reliable, he will pop out if I get too exciting or too far away, but he's only been doing them about 2 weeks without a lot of practice so I'm sure he'll get better in time.

Ria Acciani was at our house working on dogs Tues/Wed (busy, like I said), and I am extremely optimistic about Seri's future as an agility dog. A few weeks ago I began running courses in training, including all 3 contacts, at speed. And she still looks good. Her shoulder is looking fabulous and holding up well, and her wrist is doing OK - it will always be something I have to watch, there is no 100% healing that will magically happen there, and she will probably have arthritis in it when she's old, but that's OK. She is functionally sound and it only bothers her on extreme flexion. My tentative plan is to keep working at home in training, and then try running a few classes in USDAA in January and see how she does.

As he's gotten older he's gotten hungrier. Now with the addition of being neutered almost 2 months ago, he is now getting fat for the first time in his entire life. He looks great though, he held up really well over the long USDAA week in KY.

Some great pictures of her from USDAA, she has a very photogenic expression, but it is quite clear that she realy does take off early for jumps. This is part of the reason I've put her in P16" rather than making her jump 4+" over her shoulder at 22" in USDAA. She has a lot of ground speed, but doesn't carry a lot of speed over jumps at a high height. At the lower height she is more capable of it. I ran her at 20" in practice again, and she did just fine, so I am not ruling out WAO, she would just need a good deal of jumping practice at that height.

speaking of it.... WAO
Drifter ran so bloody well at USDAA that I had a mini-crisis about not putting his name in for consideration for the WAO Team for this coming year. He is clearly still competitive, and his body is holding up really well for a 9-year old dog. However, he did have one day where his feet were clearly painful, and he was limping quite badly on Friday evening. His toes and feet have slowly become more of an issue, as I remember his toes all being sore after practice day at WAO this past spring as well - I soaked him in a few inches of cold water in the tub at the hotel to help, and after that day he seemed fine. But, clearly, his feet hurt sometimes. This will not get better - he is getting old and having old dog problems now. Ria says he would probably be absolutely fine to compete, however we might need to bring painkillers in case his feet begin to hurt. My general thoughts on WAO are - I would love to go! I have 2 dogs to put up for consideration. Kiba has the advantage of being easier to handle, she stays on the start line, she doesn't have full running contacts so she's a little easier there - I don't have to run like a maniac just to get a turn off the dogwalk. She stays on the see-saw. She eats when travelling! (though Drifter might now, who knows!?) But the big thing is - Kiba, when fit, holds up quite well over a longer competition. She has no major physical issues, no past injuries to watch, she doesn't get sore feet. Usually her back gets a little tight, but with Ria there to help out, she will be good to go. I would have no qualms about running her in 2 or 3 classes a day, for 3 days in a row. Kiba doesn't "argue" with me. I would love, for example, to run her in Individual Pentathlon, Biathlon, AND a Team class or two.  But Drifter would not be in that many classes - I would have concerns about his feet getting sore. I also worry that his sore feet will affect his running contacts. That he will fly off the see-saw. That he will get hot and have trouble cooling off (a side effect of his heart murmur, and the reason he won't go to Denver CO). In other words, Drifter COULD go to WAO, but I will be more stressed running him. My only concern about running Kiba is that she doesn' hit bars. . .

I'm busy busy busy again for November. This weekend I am home, thankfully, but after this I'm teaching 2 weekends in a row, trialing, then teaching again 2 weekends in December. And hopefully a trial that will be Strafe's debut! I am excited about that!

AKC Nationals - Drifter and Kiba are both qualified, but I am still adamant that Drifter is not going. Too much travel. If he is still running great next year maybe I'll bring him to Tulsa. We'll see. It does look like I will be running Kiba AND my mom's Trig, possibly at 26", and possibly also take her to Tryouts in May! I am happy to do that, it will be fun to go, even with a dog that isn't really mine. Trig is a nice solid little dog, and jumps 26" pretty easily (she's 20.25" or so tall). Plus it'll be fun to go with Drifter's daughter. Back to Nationals though - the other Nationals, USDAA, has changed their date. They moved it earlier, to the end of September. That should help with fears of snow and hopefully even frost. It does nothing to alleviate the issue of BSL though. And then apparently that Sept 26th is part of Yom Kippur, an apparently very important Jewish holiday. I don't really celebrate any holiday, I think they are kind of silly and I'm not religious, but I can see how it's kind of insensitive to do that. I'm pretty sure they wouldnt' have picked Easter for this event...

There was something else I was going to post, but I forgot. I should add that I keep up this blog in a journal type format because it helps me track my own thoughts, as well as share them with the creepy public world. So stalk away, just don't be too creepy if you see me at a trial ;) I don't want this to become a commercial, instructional, pay-to-play type thing. I am a person, I have thoughts, and if they aren't too offensive, I'll continue sharing them here...