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28th

Over the last couple of days I've been spending some time every afternoon doing agility with Lego, Jedi, Josie and Sparkle. The older guys have mostly been working on entering weave poles at speed and occasionally some gamble skills. Lego has a tendency to skid to a halt in front of the weave poles in a show and wait for me to get to him. Jedi just doesn't weave and Josie's been stressing lately in the weaves. Either entering and popping out or not entering correctly at all.  I see great improvement in Lego and Jedi, but not as good in Josie. I'm not sure what's up with that. She started her career as a weave machine. How can I get her speed and rhythm back? Maybe I need to get some of the stand up wires to put at each pole to remind her of the footwork. That seems like it helped once before. I don't have any at home though.

Monday I pulled out the chute and tunnel for Sparkle. It was difficult getting her through them because she doesn't have a good enough stay for me to get to the end of them and look through at her. I ended up getting Josie out there with her and sending Josie through them and letting Sparkle chase her through. Josie learned tunnels and chutes that way. It seems to have worked for Sparkle too. She's certainly not scared of them anyway. I just don't know if she will do them on a command yet. I've been really focusing harder on getting Sparkle to do a single obstacle on command off leash. The other big obstacle we've been working on is the teeter. I have read about a teaching approach to this obstacle that I like and I am trying it out on Sparkle. It's more about teaching the dog to think that an action done on their part makes the tipping motion happen instead of teaching them there's a tipping point on the board. The motion I'm teaching is a crouch (head down between folded down front legs with butt in the air). I like this one because if they assume this position to push the board down then it will lower their center of gravity and make it easier to keep their balance if the board tips faster than expected. I send her up the board and hold the top end up. As her front feet enter the contact zone I lure her into the crouch with food and a slight push back on the shoulder blades. When she assumes the position I let the board drop at a controlled speed. As we progress I'll let it drop fast and faster until all I do is delay the drop until she's in the position. I also pulled out the big gun treats for this game. TUNA! I have to be alert now if the teeter is out because she's started to volunteer the behavior hoping for a tuna snack.

26th

WARNING! NOT MY AVERAGE BLOG. THE RAMBLINGS OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS THAT I AM CURRENTLY PONDERING:

Have you ever thought of someone as a friend that gave you reason later, directly or by rumors, to rethink your assumption of friendship? How many of the people you consider friends actually consider you a friend? Do they only tolerate or humor you or do they actually feel the same sense of companionship you feel? Are you one of those people everyone talks about when you're not around? These things all are swirling in my mind after my first AKC show in awhile. I seem to feel less accepted at AKC agility shows than at USDAA. Is this because I do more USDAA and know some of them better or are some of those people just more tolerant? I have actually been at AKC shows where I was not invited to dinner plans with anyone from my own club even though I was at the same hotel a few doors down. Not only not invited, but not even informed in case I wanted to invite myself. Was it a simple oversight or something more telling? Is it because of my non-traditional agility breeds? Am I not competitive enough to be seen with them? I know I don't let NQ rates affect me like some. I mean I'm here to have fun with my dog. I am happy with a real effort even if it's not pretty or great. I hear comments from some Excellent running folks in my club occasionally saying that they'll stick around long enough to see "insert dog/handler names here" then they're taking off. Somehow my name is never inserted there. No one ever seems to wait the extra 30 minutes to support me in my efforts. Do I talk too much after a bad run about the good points I want to focus on and no one wants to hear it? Is it because I don't 'train with' or take private lessons from a person? Do they just consider me a bad handler/trainer? Should I even let it bother me like I do sometimes or do I just let myself get paranoid about nothing? Maybe this is why I like dogs so much. They are forever true and honest!

 

25th

I found the hotel in Monroe easy enough Friday night and also discovered it's the motel of choice for most of the show people. I know why now. It's easy to get to, close to food and Wal-Mart and the rooms were spacious and fresh and clean. So I give the Red Roof in West Monroe, LA 2 thumbs up for dog people if you're ever traveling there. The show site was equally easy to find and I was thrilled with the setup there. It's basically an indoor arena. Only one end was not fully walled. It had cattle fencing and the club had covered it with tarps or such so it looked solid. That's great for my run around dog. But, after watching most of Excellent I was not feeling to good about it. Excellent dogs that are not known to be sniffers were sniffing through their runs. Bad news for me and my sniffer dog. Surprisingly Lego ran acceptable well in Open Jumpers and only got caught by his nose a couple of times and they were short times. I was able to get him back and running. He had moments of sheer brilliance. Open Standard went almost as well. I was feeling pretty good about my boy. No Q's, but a definite agility dog. I was holding out some hope for a bit of improvement on Sunday. Well, I was quite disappointed there. Sunday went much worse. He would actually leave the course's path to run to the back of the arena to sniff. I wanted to kick his hiney! Still, when he was running agility he ran. Nose up, tail high, hauling it. He has 3 chances in Mobile, AL for that last OAJ leg in a couple of weeks. Lego also did much better with people skills at this show than I've ever seen him do. One of my acquaintance couples from AR was there and he absentmindedly reached out and started petting Lego while we were sitting in the stands talking. Lego never even flinched. My jaw about hit the ground. I've never seen him not duck petting from a strange man when they reached out. He got several yummy treats for staying still and calm. He also stretched out underneath the feet of a person he's never met and snoozed there without any stress. I am thrilled with this behavior! I hope it's a new leaf.

As for my friends there, well there were a bunch of friends in attendance. Mardi and Brittany got a double Q and so did Georgie and Lacie. My Monroe husky/beagle friend got her first leg on her Siberian her first show weekend, and her beagle ran very nice all weekend in the smelly dirt. Cheryl and Emily had some great Open runs, but always right after Lego so I missed most of them. I don't think any of them quite made the Q line though. 6 of us jammed in Jen's truck for dinner Sat. night at Olive Garden and I thoroughly enjoyed the food and company and the waitress was ultra cool too.

 

22nd

Sparkle did tons better in obedience class tonight. She was sitting next to me for longer periods without losing focus. We managed about 5 or six steps of almost real heeling. Her head was up and she was looking at me anyway. The 'choose to heel' exercises in the backyard are helping! She even did a novice stand for exam with me right by her side. She has a about a 30 second stay. I'd say she's coming along well. I hope to have her heeling well enough for Rally Novice at our show Memorial Day weekend. That gives me three months to work on it. I think that might be reasonable. After class I got home and ran around like a chicken with my head cutoff trying to get everything packed and ready to go for the Monroe AKC agility show this weekend and get in bed in time for me to get a decent amount of sleep. I'll be heading out after work tomorrow to drive there. Lego only needs one OAJ leg. Please, please, please let us keep it together and look like a competitive team. Sparkle will ride along just for the fun of it.

20th

Wheee! I came home from work to find Sparkle's AKC ILP approval in the mail today. She now has an official number to enter AKC events.

I also got an email from Mandie Cox (see entry below) with some pictures I took of her at the show. She wanted an upside down face picture for some online face album. Here's my favorite:

19th

I spent the morning shopping with Mom. So I got back from TN around 5 pm. Nikita seems to be doing even better. I can see definite improvement in that leg after being away 3 days. Sparkle was glad to be home were she can run and play in her huge yard. She got a bit weary of the crate this weekend. The temps were so low that even at my parents house the dogs spent most of their time inside in crates.

So, here's the show scoop. I got up Saturday around 5 to leave out at 6 to drive to the show. Mom went with me so she was up making breakfast. It was around 35 degrees and didn't warm up any all day and there was a biting wind. Thank goodness for the indoor heated arena! The heat didn't make it super warm, but I was able to remove the coats and run in a sweatshirt. The first class was gamblers and Misty ran well, but wouldn't flip away from me into the tunnel under the A frame. I decided to try working some weaves with Josie. We ended up a couple of points shy in the opening because we had to try the weaves a couple of times to get them right. She wouldn't flip into that tunnel either, but we had a whale of a time. Standard was next and Josie and I had the same disastrous result that we've been having recently in Standard. It was just awful. No dogwalk contact, no down on the table and no happy running dog. What am I doing to her? Her Grand Prix run felt like a clone of that awful run too. Bandit had a nice Standard run, but 6 seconds over time. Josie perked up some for Pairs, but her partner E'd. Misty was quite disappointing in Pairs. I had purposely entered her with Jenni and Sadie , who need 3 pairs legs for an ADCH, since Misty is so predictable stable. Well, darn if she didn't run by one jump, run around the tire and quit weaving half way through. SORRY Sadie! Finally there was jumpers. We watched Elaine and Bounce run the course in 24 seconds. Josie started off a bit tentative like she's been doing, but then after jump #2 we were off like the old days. Josie and I managed the course in 27 seconds. It was fast and fun and we were smooth. It could've been a second or so faster if I had not have slipped and tried to fall at jump 10. Jumpers Q # 8! A nice way to end the day.

Sunday started out in the mid 20's , but he wind had died some. It did eventually warm up into the mid 40's. We started our day with Snooker. It was an interesting set up with the 2-7 set up in an almost S type pattern diagonally from the left front corner to the back right corner. Bandit ran well and might have Q'd if I'd trusted him more. He came out of the tunnel under the A-frame (#5 in the closing) and was supposed to flip back up and over the A-frame for #6. He did it so smoothly it surprised me and I quit moving and he came back off the A-frame because he thought he was wrong. Misty did OK in the opening but refused the teeter (#4) in the closing. Josie and I had a scream of a run. I was the last mini dog and I thought I had to beat one dog for the Super Q, so I went for 3 7's. That meant a long, all out sprint in the opening. Josie loves starting like that and she did well the whole run. I was sure we needed to finish the A-frame (#6) to win, and the buzzer caught us as she was descending it so I was disappointed, but it was a nice run and a Q. We are happy with any nice run! Much to my surprise, Jenni said we had the Super Q!!! Seems the dog I thought I was running to beat didn't finish the closing like I'd thought so we were the only mini Q. Our first Super Q! Unfortunately it went downhill from there. Standard was next and we had our same result... A slow, nervous dog who refused every contact and couldn't weave. She did, however, hit her dogwalk contact and she laid down on the table fairly quickly. I want so badly to fix myself so my dog won't hate Standard so much. We know it has to be me. I can feel my stomach knot up every time I get her out of the crate for a Standard run. I was still thinking of the Standard run when we walked up to the line for Jumpers, so I got the dog I get for Standard runs. Slow, nervous and not having fun with no handler focus at all. Misty had the most spectacular Master Jumpers run. When we finished and I was holding out a bit of hope for squeaking a Q. No such luck! We ended up .09 over time. HEARTBREAKER!

Sparkle got to meet and play with Brassy the beagle, Elaine's 10 month old. They had themselves a great time playing ruff and tumble. My friends from Jackson, the Coxes were there and I got to see Jessie, the youngest Cox, run her sheltie, Lily, in USDAA for the first time. On Saturday Lily wouldn't do any contact obstacles in Standard, but they finished the jumpers course just a couple of seconds over time. On Sunday Lily actually got all the way over the teeter and A-frame in Standard, so they made a huge leap there. Gandalf, the Aussie,  has come a long way on his contact skills, but gets frustrated at Bob for slowing him down so much. Erin and Galadriel had some really nice runs too, but I can't remember if any of them were Q's (sorry). I had a good time picking on Mandie, the middle Cox, on Sunday. She's really grown up since I met them and is definitely her own person. I won't get to see them at our show in a couple of weeks because Erin chose going on a 'date' (some military banquet ?) that weekend over dogs. I also got to talk with Candace about knee surgery recovery. Her dog was recovering in June, the last show there, from the same surgery that Nikita had, and was running this weekend (in performance). Her advice... swim, swim, swim. She said she saw a world of improvement in the recovery process when they started swimming. 

I got a note from Bernie's mom saying they finished their NAP at the AKC show her in LA this weekend. Way to go!

15th

Bandit got his yearly check-up this week. All is well with him and he's down a pound and a half from last year. The vet can hardy believe he'll be 8 next month. He still remembers well the shattered leg repair back in 2000. If he'll just get those three Master Standard legs he'll be retired this year. Or maybe he shows me there's no way he'll ever make time and I'll retire him.

Nikita has been improving noticeably this week since we started the daily rehab walks last weekend. We can almost walk at a normal strolling pace now with her still using the leg in its proper sequence. It's been three weeks since surgery. 

I'm taking off tomorrow around lunch to drive to Memphis and visit my folks/go to a show in north MS. Maybe my Jackson buddies, the Coxes, will be there. Josie, Misty and Bandit are competing and Sparkle's riding along to be cute. (she does that well) I've been watching the weather for there and it's going to warm up some thankfully. The highs will be in the 40's with lows in the 30's. Glad the show site is indoors. But my guys aren't used to those kind of temps. I guess I'll be taking a crate for the show and a crate for the house. Also on that note Misty and Sparkle had to get baths Tuesday because doggies that are going to be in crates in granny's house need to smell and be clean. Sparkle did much better this time with the bath idea and I actually stayed rather dry. Here's hoping for a better Q rate than last time! Check back Monday for results. Oh.. and good luck to all my friends staying here in town and attending the AKC show. Can't wait to hear about your results.

11th

I ended up buying a new cell phone Friday since there was no luck finding my phone at work either. Not a big deal. I was considering the need for an upgraded phone anyways. I just get irritated with all the extra stuff that comes on a cell phone. I just want a phone, not a life organizer. I don't want a camera, it just wastes battery life and I don't need email and instant messaging or a music player. Unfortunately if you want a cell phone that's durable and gonna be decent for many years you get stuck with all the extraneous stuff too.

On the doggy front: On Saturday Sparkle and I played choose to heel in the backyard. She is getting the idea, but gets into heel position and starts bouncing up looking for her treat. I can't seem to keep her front feet on the ground. I'm sure that will come though. I also started the beginnings of Nikita's rehab today. We did a slow, painfully slow, 1\4 to 1\2 mile walk down the newly paved road. I had to walk her so slowly to get her to use the leg in a normal pattern with the other ones. The idea, of course, is to get her exercising and strengthening the leg, but when she sped up her walk even a little she'd start a skip pattern. She seemed very happy just to be out moseying round in the nice weather. And, she helped me find the lost cell phone. It must have fallen out of my purse on my Friday trek to the house after parking the car. Some neighbor found it and prominently displayed it at the front of the road. Oh well, at least I have it as a back up now. Shelby went to the assisted living facility this morning. She was a big hit with with the residents mostly because she was about the right head height to pet easily and she loves everyone. I had to tell them she was gonna be 9 next month. WOW! I think that's the first time it's hit home with me how old she and Nikita are getting.

I had a full day Sunday. After church I met up with Cheryl and Bernie for a bit of tracking practice at a park close to home. She wanted to work on Bernie's article indication skills. I needed to make it fun and easy for Lego after his last disappointing experience. I was running pretty early so I brought Shelby along to introduce her to the idea of tracking. Now that she's getting older and her hips begin to feel as bad as they are maybe she'll enjoy tracking. When I got there I laid out a three turn track for Bernie with about 20 foot legs and 2 articles per leg. We had everything from the dead cell phone to a plastic wallet picture holder. While we waited on them to arrive I got Shelby out and played watch me place the weenies on the ground as I walk and then go and find them. She thought that was a fun game, and Lego's harness will fit her with only a minor adjustment in the girth. Once Shelby played a couple of times I got Sparkle out and played the same type of weenie game with her. She's been mostly tracking on concrete recently and even blew past come of the weenies to make it to the end of the track. She's a bit farther along than I gave her credit for. When Cheryl arrived she laid a two turn track for Lego. Then she got Bernie out to run her track. Bernie's getting the hang of the game, but blew past a metal belt buckle, a set of car keys, and the previously mentioned 'lost' cell phone. I laid Bernie a straight line, short track with all the articles again and then went to run Lego's track. Lego did very well this time and seemed to be enjoying himself. Cheryl laid him a multi surface track and then when we got back to Bernie's straight line track we discovered a missing start article. Then after he started we realized it was missing all but 2 of the articles. The nice park clean up man had just been out on his golf cart whizzing around, so we suspected him. It turns out we were right. And I did manage to recover all but a couple of the articles from him after some long wait and him digging through a dumpster. We'll have to lay those article tracks farther from civilization next time. While we waited on the maintenance man to return my stuff I got Cheryl to lay one last straight line in the grass for Sparkle with an actual glove at the end. She tracked like a champ and Cheryl got a couple of shots on my camera.

Sparkle tracks!

Sparkle learns article indication

After I got home I had about an hour before time to leave for my soccer game. I played OK and it was very nice soccer weather. I got home in time to see the AKC Agility Invitational air on Animal Planet too.

8th

I got home from work today to discover the guys paving our street. Nice, but there was no driving around them, and it's a dead end road, so no other entrance. I parked and walked the 1/2 mile down to the house. At least I'll be able to start driving my car around again now that they're done with that. I forgot to call the vet and tell them I couldn't make it for my appointment too. OOPS. I'll call in the morning to reschedule. 

Sparkle did much better in obedience class tonight. I did not try to heel her at all unless she had her head up looking at me. Consequently we didn't do much heeling, but we did get a lot of work on attention span issues. She did much better at sticking with me mentally since we've been consistently rewarding looking up at me. She also is starting to understand short stay sessions with me a couple of steps straight in front. Tonight I also pushed her stay a bit and took a large side step to either side. She caught on quickly to still staying put. I need to play the choose to heel game with her in the yard some before I actually try heeling on command. I think that game will help her in the long run understand what's expected of her. At the end of class she and Piper (an 8 month Akita) tried a little play session. Neither of them was quite sure how to get the other one to play because of the size difference. It was very cute once Sparkle figured out Piper was a big mush and started swatting back at her with her front paws. Nikita went along for the ride and snookered some soft souls out of some goodies with her limp. She even did a short heel session (slowly). I didn't really mean for her to, but the class after Sparkle's started heeling while I was chatting so I walked along and Nikita heeled, even sitting on the halt.

After class I realized I had misplaced my cell phone sometime between 2 pm, when Rich last called, and class. Well, misplaced seems to have turned into LOST. I can't find it anywhere and Rich calling it isn't helping me hear it, so I'm not holding out hope for a re-discovery. Maybe it's at work?

7th

Since it was still nice and dry I worked Shelby some on go-outs and directed jumping. She needed a healthy reminder on go-outs, but once she remembered that she didn't have near the trouble determining which jump to take when I said "jump" as she has in the past. Maybe a break from training was good for her.

Sparkle went to agility class again finally. It's been rained out for about 3 weeks now. She did fine, but her drive to go over and to the bottom of the contacts (the mini ones) isn't there. She sniffs all the was across looking for the food. Somehow we need to get across to here that there's no food anywhere until the bottom. Between turns she did better about focusing on me occasionally instead of sniffing around all the time. I guess that extra few weeks has helped her attention span some.

6th

Yeah! Several days without rain and I was able to find a dry enough spot in the yard to set up some agility equipment. I put the dogwalk planks on and pulled out 6 weaves and a couple of jumps. Josie doesn't miss a dogwalk contact for anything in practice, so I'm still not 100% positive what I'm doing to freak her, but I am paying much more attention to exactly what I do in training so I can try and replicate that. She also doesn't miss weave pole entries in practice either. I will need to analyze my actions in trials more to see what's going on there. I think maybe I am crowding her and internally feeling the 'OH NO not weaves' thingy. She had a blast playing agility, so I kept it short and fun. Jedi also did weaves very well in the yard and showed no avoidance that I'm seeing at trials. I must be overstressing on them with him too. Of course I'm overstressing on everything with him  at trial because he's Jedi (enough said). I kept his session short and fun too. Lego came blasting out the door and did great contacts. He also didn't have any problem with his weave entry. hrrmmm... recurring theme.... Handler's problem? Sparkle got to work on dogwalk contacts and a bit of 'jumping' (bar on ground slanted to 12 inches). She much prefers contact practice to going through the jump uprights. I still lose her focus so fast even with food. Tomorrow hopefully it stays dry so we can go to beginner class. Cedar did some dogwalks with the ball as a reward, and she has no avoidance at all. Weaves are still not really something she's into. I still occasionally toy with the idea of entering her in a jumpers class again someday when we can play ball as a reward after the run. (probably a one ring show)

5th

I took Nikita in today for a checkup. The vet x-rayed her other knee to check for any degenerative changes. Thankfully, as far as you can tell on a picture, her other knee is good. She is progressing at a rate he would expect and he'll see her again at the beginning of  March.

4th

Got back from Carthage around 5. This has got to be the most miserable agility weekend ever for me. I knew it might not be great because last time I was there the dogs got mightily distracted or stressed by the super smelly arena. It started off with great disappointment and went downhill from there. Jedi actually ran his first run of the weekend very nicely with only a bit of distraction. It was Advanced Gamblers. The only Q he needs for his AAD. When the horn blew he actually stayed with me and did the gamble. I was excited, but guarded. I've been pre-maturely celebrating before for my other guys. Turns out he was one point shy of the points required in the opening because of a bit of sniffing. I was ready to cry. Jedi ran well all day Friday, even a clean run in Jumpers, but over time for a sniff session. Then Saturday some birds flew out of the rafters our while Jedi was waiting his turn. Unfortunately he saw them and that was about all she wrote for his nice runs for the rest of the weekend. He actually did OK in Pairs with Ty and Megan, but his one refusal at the A-Frame put us over time because of the sniffs again. On Sunday I ended up just picking him up and carrying him off on his last run. He took off straight to the bird zone and ignored me completely.

Misty seemed slow all weekend. She had opening points in Gamblers both times, but those gambles were to much for her. She ran pairs with Burst and Lucy. She had a run-by on the tire that caused us to be over time, so no Q's for her. Then Bandit came out and ran well on Friday, but wore down over the weekend. He didn't manage any Qs either, but he only ran Standard (his hardest class) and Snooker.

Josie had some great runs and some stop to smell the funny stuff runs, but overall did much better at this arena than last time. She had opening points in gamblers all weekend, but didn't get any gambles. We had some fun snooker runs, but never made it to the Q. The advanced Standard runs were a disaster both times. She has now developed a table issue and won't lay on tables. This vexes me, but it has to be me somehow. Her only Q was in Pairs. It was one of her better runs of the weekend, and I think the only time she actually hit a dog walk contact. She did manage to not E in Steeplechase so we got to run finals on Sunday and she had the most stellar run of the weekend. Too bad I lost eye contact with her and she took an off course. I think I might have found a part of the answer to our dogwalk problem. I am going to try my solution out over the next couple of shows. I think I am saying 'SPOT' too harshly and she freaks. The one time we hit it I was out of breath and said it much more calmly and quietly and she hit the contact fine. I asked Megan to maybe help me figure out what I'm doing at shows to make Josie run badly sometimes. She said she'd need to see us in practice too. Hopefully I can find a time to go to her training field.

I also got to meet an Overcome member that I've never seen, Kathy Butler. She moved to Virginia just before I became involved with agility and she's just moved back to town. She was very nice and her Golden, Nutmeg, is pretty cool.

Sparkle got to visit many dogs and people again. She's so durn cute that everyone is attracted to her. Lucy taught her to weave in and out of legs and Megan taught her to Spin and Twist. When there's good treats involved she's got great attention. She's very smart. We did some attention exercises in the smelly arena dirt too. This begin to frustrate me some because there is no attention in the nice dirt. Lucy reminded me to do short sessions and let her quit sniffing and look at me all on her own and then reward her action. No leash tugging! We also played with the measuring device. She was just over 12 inches while squirming around some. We'll have to work on measuring a lot!

I ended up leaving Nikita at home with Rich. She seemed to enjoy his extra attention. She is still improving and using her leg more everyday. We will go in tomorrow to have her other knee x-rayed for possible arthritis changes since it seems this ACL thing might have been a genetic weakness.

And, oh yes, the federal express package arrived while I was gone.