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2008 training goals

January 2008

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31st

 Nikita is still doing articles almost everyday before dinner. This doesn't please her much though. I did finally have to up the prize a bit. I got out the rolled soft food. I immediately had a more interested dog, but a frustrated one as she was already sure there wasn't one out there with my scent on it. We finally worked through that problem. Then when I sent her out again she was a bit reluctant. She found the right one quickly though and upped her confidence level. I sent her a few more times, just until she was trotting out and actively sniffing them without the standing in the pile looking at the sky behavior. Then I dropped a large hunk of the rolled food and picked everything up. She's been less avoidance-like since then.

Tomorrow I'm off to TX for the first USDAA agility show of the year. Josie and Jedi are entered. I just really want that last Advanced Standard leg with Josie! ANYTHING Jedi can pull off would be great.

28th

I worked Nikita some in utility yesterday and today. It's going OK, but not as I'd hoped. She's still not thrilled with articles and now she's decided the glove retrieve can be any glove she wants. AH, the joys of the every thinking Siberians. Kamikaze and Sparkle both got a little work in Novice and Open the last couple of days too. Kamikaze made through a 2 minute down stay this time. I evened moved the jump for the retrieve over high in the yard where there was an opportunity to go around instead of jump it. Neither did that though, and they both took it on the way back as well. I did hold the treat in front of me and encourage the back jump, but still it went well for their first try making the choice on their own.

26th

Earlier in the week I had planned to meet with Cheryl , John and Rosey for tracking practice. I went ahead with the practice. It was a good decision as it was outdoors in the fresh air with just a couple of friends, not a crowd, and it was away from the house. I started with a track for Shelby. A simple straight line maybe 15-20 feet long. It had food on it every 7 steps. She tried, but gave up about half way down the track. It took some encouraging to keep her going. Then Kamikaze had a fairly short track with two right turns. She started with her normal bouncing and yanking, got a bit lost at the first turn, bounced and screamed in frustration, found the track and drug me down it. The next turn was some better and she flopped on the glove with gusto. Everyone else arrived in time to see the end of her track. I had laid Cheryl's Grace a two turn track when I laid Kamikaze's, so she went next. Boy does Cheryl ever have a tracking dog on her hands! She was great. Red and Rosey did some straight lines with food every couple of steps. There's definite potential there as he keeps his head down and goes all the way to the end. I had John lay another straight line for Shelby this time without the food. She did this track much better. Hrmmm... I guess the food on the track is now a distraction and it confuses her as to what the point of the game is and when the game is over. Thanks to John, Lego got a 3.5 hour old track with very fresh cross tracks laid by Cheryl. This was our first attempt at cross tracks. I ask for no input about the track unless we got so far off we couldn't recover or we missed an article. We approached the flag from the angle John indicated. Lego sniffed a minute and took off at a 90 degree angle from the approach. Leg one was good and he made a nice turn to leg 2. Leg 2 send us through a change of cover and across a very small ditch in a wooded area. We found article #1, a leather square.  All the great smells in the woods pulled him about 30 feet or so past turn 2. John alerted me we were somewhat past it. I informed Lego I knew we were off and he needed to find it. He circled and little until he found it. Leg three took us out of the woods and across a small gravel road. We found article #2, a plastic lid. He did turn 3 well and we approached the cross tracks. He did wander a bit off the track and air scent the cross tracks, but he quit we he hit the end of the line and he returned to tracking the appropriate person. He over shot the next turn by a good bit, but recovered on his own and got back on to do the last leg and find the glove. He really looked good. Everyone thinks, including me, that he may be TDX material after all! Rosey laid another short track for Grace and Cheryl laid one for Kamikaze. Kazee started this track much better with nose down and all. Then she got a bit distracted and I thought we must be at a turn. I held my ground while she lunged and danced. Finally Cheryl told me it went on. I let her go on then, dumb mom, and she overshot the turn. I pulled her in and she found the turn and the next one she cut the corner because she could smell the glove. She flopped on it again. I think maybe she needs food at the turns to keep her attention.

25th PM - Sudden loss

I noticed when we got home from dinner that Maverick seemed a bit slower than usual. I just assumed his arthritis was flaring up in the cold dank weather here. I made sure he got on a nice comfy warm pillow in the bedroom. A couple of hours later I went to see if he wanted to go out. He was extremely bloated and having trouble standing. We rushed him to the emergency vet. He didn't make it. He started crashing soon after arriving. There's no explanation as to why he bloated. There may have been an underlying internal problem. We'll never know. "God's speed buddy, buddy! Your sidekick Bandit is gonna miss you. You were a joy to own."

25th -Broad Jump/Retrieve over High

Sparkle did her weaves this morning. She bounced through the poles happily forwards and then returned back through them with equal enthusiasm. She got left over prime rib bites.

My young guys are doing so well with the dumbbell retrieve that I added the high jump retrieve today. I have a perfect spot for training this exercise. There's a spot on the covered patio where the swing is at the front and the dog houses are at the back leaving just enough space for a jump in between. I started with Kamikaze and put the jump at 12 inches. This way she could see the dumbbell over the jump. I told her to 'take it' and she hopped over the jump and picked it up and hopped back. I upped the jump to 16. I repeated the previous steps. She once again soared the jump to get the dumbbell and to my amazement she never hesitated when she turned around with the dumbbell in her mouth. She took the jump and brought it in. I was thrilled to see that jumping with the dumbbell didn't seem to present an issue. I upped the jump again to 20 inches (her regulation jump height) and I had just as much success there too. I gave good treats, hugs and praise. I'm not naive enough to think she'll automatically take the jump in returning if there were a way around it, but at least the jumping part isn't an issue with her. The training will be understanding it's a required part of the exercise.

Sparkle was next for the retrieve over high training. She did great with the jump at 12 inches. So, jumping with the dumbbell didn't disturb her either. When I upped it to 16 (2 inches over her regulation height, as I have no 14 inch jump cup) she would gladly soar over the jump but then she immediately looked at the ground for the dumbbell. She didn't look out ahead for it. To solve this I let her go after the dumbbell without a stay first. This worked because she saw the dumbbell hit as she was jumping. She picked it up and returned over the jump as well. Great praise and yummy treats were dispensed.

I guess I was feeling good about my young guys training, so I decided to see how they'd handle the obedience broad jump. Both of them have been familiar with the broad jump in agility as they're running, so they know how to jump it. I started with Sparkle this time as I feel her understanding of the broad jump is better. I took a target plate out to the end of the jump and showed her the treat on it. Then we went back to start the exercise. I told her to stay and walked out to the side of the jump. When I sent her she jumped it fine and went straight to the target plate for the cookie. After she munched it, I waved a treat at her and called her to front. The next try she came automatically to front after the target plate. We did this a couple of more times and then I took away the target plate. She did the jump fine, looked at the ground once and then came to front. Much praise, yummy treats and inside she went. Kamikaze was next. I took the same approach with the same great results.

Lego worked a little on articles. He just wants one to have food on it, and if one doesn't he's not sure what to do.

Kamikaze did a couple of short tracks today. Each one had a turn. There was no food on the track though. True to form, her first attempt was wild and bouncy. Her second one was much more controlled and accurate. The turns didn't seem to present a very big obstacle to her. She can certainly 'get' this game if I can get her to calm down and concentrate from the start. I also laid Shelby a short straight line with food every 7 steps. She definitely understands the game is sniffing, but she doesn't understand how long to sniff and what the ultimate point is. So, she quits after 30-40 feet.

Misty's foot was swelling some this morning from the wrap on her ankle so I had to take it off. The incision looks great and other than sleeping more than usual, she seems to be her perky self.

 

24th

Misty went through surgery fine and the vet didn't see anything weirder than expected so we're still optimistic for a good span before any more malignant masses appear. She has a pretty orange wrap around her hock to keep her stitches clean and keep her off of them so I haven't actually seen her stitches yet. She's still a bit dopey looking at 4:30, but she ate heartily as soon as she got home. While she was out we had her teeth cleaned and her ears deep cleansed.

I went on to obedience class tonight. I took Misty along to doze in a crate in the car. I left Sparkle home because of the lower temps. Kamikaze went to Advanced Beginners class. The only obvious thing we need to work on is still lengthening the stays. She really ought to be in Novice class it seems, but then where does Sparkle go? Kazee even got a little dumbbell practice in. So, she actually retrieved it in another different place with enthusiasm and off leash with no fencing. It was beautiful to see. Nikita went along to do her utility in a new place. She did the articles, but it was so painful to watch. There wasn't any enthusiasm for it at all. On the positive side, she never just quit sniffing and came back and never just picked one and came back. The leather one was second and went much better than the metal one. Her heeling was OK until the fast. She just doesn't see the point in getting up to a jog for a few seconds when we're just slowing down again. She did her signals a couple of times and tried to cheat on the down by levitating the elbows. Her stand for exam was great with a stranger and she recalled to heel. The heeling pattern caller tried a new thing with us all in the Utility/Open class. All of us were off leash heeling. She'd just call "FREEZE" while we were heeling. Instead of HALT we'd actually just freeze in stride. It was supposed to help keep their attention and she wanted to see how well they understood sit when my owner stops moving. Amazingly Nikita not only stopped every time and sat with that abrupt stop, she actually fixed herself back into heel without any cue before she sat. What a good 'ole girl.

22nd

Today started well. Just a few feet off our street this morning a deer materialized in front of my car. " AACCK! NOT THE CAR! " Was my first thought. Thankfully I was in a hairpin turn and therefore only going about 20 mph. It was a glancing blow and the deer got her balance and kept on running. I turned around and took the car home to the carport to get a good light on it and see how bad it was. To my joy and amazement there seems to be minimal damage. A dent in the front fender right next to the headlight and a tiny crack in the bottom scoop. I called a collision repair place and I'll take it by to be looked at tomorrow after work. Here's hoping it's something fixable without replacing parts as it looks to me!

Sparkle did a Novice run through. She did very nice on leash heeling. Her off leash was a tad more distracted, but still acceptable. I haven't worked her stand recently and it showed, but we worked through it quickly. Her recall was a nice trot. We skipped stays. I took Kamikaze out next and did an entire Novice run through with her too. Her heeling was superb on and off leash. She needs some practice on figure eight heeling and her about turns get wide occasionally. Her stand was perfect. We've been working that exercise a lot. She bumped me the first two recall attempts, but got it right on the third try. I'm not sure what to do about the bump without killing some enthusiasm, so right now I'm just kneeing her lightly as she bumps me to keep her back. She did her stay practice because that's the one part of Novice she's not quite ready for. She made the minute sit stay this time. The down stay was gone after a minute and 15 seconds. She came right to me and I led her back to her spot and pushed her into a down and left her. No words passed between us. She made it a minute and a half this time an I released her. She just gets too bored in the stay and starts looking for something to do. I really just need to work on stretching it out slowly with positive re-enforcement for staying.

Oh yes, Sparkle's Tracking Dog certificate came in the mail today and it's already framed and on the wall!

21st

I took Misty into the vet today to have a mass on her ankle looked at. Thursday it wasn't there. Friday it was. Very odd. It turns out it's a malignant melanoma. We did a chest x-ray to be sure there weren't any signs of cancer in her vital organs. That was clear. So we removing the mass on her ankle Thursday. Hopefully we've missed a life threatening problem again.

Kamikaze did 2 straight line tracks today. She seems to be getting sloppy and not tracking as carefully as she used to. I guess I should add a turn again to keep her honest. Nikita did articles today we 100% accuracy. She sniffed all around the pile and didn't quit until she found the right one. Sparkle did her weaves once today we great enthusiasm.

I tried out a gadget that Cheryl turned me on to. It's a hose that hooks up to a valve on you shower. It has a hose and sprayer attached so you can use the shower outlet to wash the dogs without killing yourself. I am totally hooked on this now. WHY did I not know of these earlier? It made giving Nikita and Shelby an indoor bath a breeze. I was even impressed with the sprayer strength. It was plenty of power to get a Husky or a Golden wet and rinsed well.

19th

Nikita, Kamikaze and I met Cheryl and Rosey for some obedience practice at a local park. I just didn't think 43 degrees with a breeze made a good environment to take Sparkle, so she stayed home. The huskies didn't seem the least bit concerned. Kamikaze was second dog up and she did just great. Watched me while heeling. Perfect stand. She even did very well on the figure eight. Her recalls were nice, but she's still stepping on my toes or bumping me with her snout when she comes in. She even retrieved the dumbbell there. And she did it with enthusiasm. I guess she really did 'get it' the other day. I made Nikita go last so she'd be all comfortable dozing. She lagged on heeling. It was hard to get a fast out of her at all. She was anticipating the signals. Then the evil articles appeared. She tried once to just not go to them. I fixed that and then she went out and sniffed and sniffed and sniffed. She eventually picked up the right one and brought it in. I don't think she's fond of cold metal in her mouth. The leather article didn't go quite as well the first try. She got fed up and just tried to bring one. I sent her back and she worked the rounds until she found it. Gloves were fine. Stand was fine. I didn't bring jumps, but we did go-outs. She went all the way to the net each time, but she was wagging to the left pretty bad.

18th

I made Nikita do articles before her dinner again. She's not happy about this new training regimen, but it seems to be working. She made a great effort to sniff each article. She got it right 2 of 3 times again, and the one time she was wrong she actually picked up the right one and then set it down. As soon as she was successful with each one I put her in her crate and served dinner.

AKC has recorded Sparkle's Tracking Dog title, so it feels official now. Can't wait for that title certificate. I also got Kamikaze's RA certificate in the mail today. 

17th - Dumbbell Conquered

At lunch I pulled out the dumbbell again with Sparkle. She retrieved it again several times and got her piece of Prime Rib. So, it wasn't just a fluke the other day! While I was working with her Kamikaze was fussing in her x-pen because she wanted a turn. I let her out and went and got her dumbbell. I set it on the ground and Sparkle grabbed it and brought it in. That got her some more treats. Kamikaze decided she wasn't to be outdone by some stinkin' little beagle and the next time I put the dumbbell down she snatched it off the ground and brought it in. I gave her a piece of  Prime Rib too. I put Sparkle up to see if Kazee was really going to do this. Not only did she race out to it in the kitchen, but when it slid up under the counter edge she dug it out to bring it to me.  BY JOVE, I think they've both got it now. I just need to add a wait command and the send command now. Then we'll think about retrieve over a jump. I put the dumbbell up and went out and laid Kazee a straight track. I aged it 15 minutes and we went out to do it. She didn't really track well, but I think I'd walked around that area earlier in the day. Maybe that was messing her up. I took her in and went to the other side of the property to lay a track. I aged it too. Kazee did great on that straight line. I still put a bit of food every 15 steps or so to keep her interest.

Nikita had to do articles before she got dinner. The idea didn't thrill her much, but she did pretty well today. She went out and made a decent effort to sniff around the whole pile. She brought the right one in all 4 times (twice with leather, twice with metal). It seems strange, but I think the metal one is easier for her. After dinner I worked with Kamikaze some on her fronts and finishes. She still likes to come in and put her front paws on my feet. At lest she knows she's supposed to come in close. <grin> She's about got the hand signal for going around me to heel. I've been fading the word out slowly to just a hand motion.

15th

This afternoon I got the utility articles out for Nikita again. She was not thrilled with that idea. We worked in the dog room where there's no space for avoidance behaviors. She is still having trouble with sniffing the whole pile. She got discouraged right at the beginning because she couldn't find it. We worked through it some, but it wasn't a very good session. Sparkle retrieved the dumbbell in the kitchen again. YIPPIE. By gum she's got it. Now I need to add a stay and a send and try it in a new place. Kamikaze and I worked heeling and stands some quickly. She is an awesome heeler. Her main problem on stands in wanting to dance her feet or step up to see you as you walk in to touch her. It's coming quickly though. She still needs stay work.

Tonight was the first agility class of the new year. I am teaching. I got there early to work with Kamikaze. She was a little tired, so not too enthusiastic and a bit distracted. She did the dogwalk several times to get her confidence up on that one. Of all the things to be nervous of! Not a Aframe or a teeter, but a dogwalk. At least I have one at home I can work with her more on. We did the channel weaves pulled apart about 4-5 inches. She did great and is even doing some of the footwork right now. I sent her through a 20 inch tire and that wasn't a problem at all. The class seemed to go OK, but I didn't have quite enough planned out. I need to do better next time. Josie ran in the class. She started out all happy and enthusiastic and the turned into the ninny dog I get at the start line sometimes at shows. I'm not sure what's up with that. I bit of hard tug play seemed to chipper her up a bunch.  Maybe it just got boring? Rosey and Cheryl are both in my class.

14th

This morning Sparkle did her weaves again.. She's getting better about remembering the first time through.. Guess who retrieved a dumbbell this afternoon... SPARKLE. I slid it across the kitchen and she trotted out and picked it up and brought it back to front. Gotta love that smart little girl. She got a bite of leftover Prime Rib for that one! I worked some with Kamikaze and the dumbbell too. She'll now walk with it the several steps to sit in front. She still won't pick it up off the ground. I did get her to lay down and I put the dumbbell between her paws. I gave her the take it command and lifted it slightly up and she took it. She was even able to stand up from a down and walk in still holding it. She's gonna get this trick in the next couple of months I'm sure.

I gave all the hounds a bath this evening. I need to do Shelby, Bandit and Maverick something awful too.

The photographer from this weekend already has his pics up.
Lego soars
Sparkle soars
Lego up and over I bought 4X6 of this
Sparkle knows where the treats are supposed to be I bought 4X6 of this
Sparkle touches I bought 4X6 of this
Sparkle teeter

 

13th

On Saturday and Sunday Cheryl carpooled with us. Bernie started the day off for us in FAST. Cheryl had a perfect setup for the send. He just decided to dodge around her, almost running her over, to leave the send area and take a broad jump, of all things. Lego started the day off with another Excellent jumpers run. He was zooming, but not listening quite as well. The course was a bit twistier and we had some problems getting our turning queues right all the time. But he was really trying. They ran all the jumpers courses first. Cheryl ran Open jumpers with Bernie. He couldn't quite get his weaving rhythm down otherwise he'd have Q'd. I had a couple of sentries posted a strategic point for Sparkle's first run.. I just wasn't confident there wouldn't be a dash for the edge of the ring and exit. The good news was that the arena had one and a half sides walled so I only had to be concerned with the side going to the bleachers and half the end. She started out happy and running. I hear she did sniff some as she ran, but at least running with me and running not walking. We made it to the back of the arena where the weaves were. She tried to weave but started on the wrong side. I very happily called her to try again.. She dashed to the back of the ring to sniff something. Came back.. Tried to weave, but started in the middle. Dashed off again.. Came back though.. I said weave one more time and I saw 'the look'. The I'm frustrated at those and there are some good smells here. I immediately began to run towards the next obstacle hoping to keep her attention.. It worked and she went in the tunnel. When she came out she found a great smelling spot and poked around in it. She did eventually leave it and come on with me to finish the course. So our only fault was not weaving. The bad part today was when they finished jumpers they started with Novice Standard. So, Sparkle was only in her crate to rest for like 40 minutes before her next run.. This isn't her style. She needs a good amount of time to decide agility might be fun to do again.. She started the standard course well. RING JUMP WALK TUNNEL FRAME TABLE. We're good to here, but kinda walking more than running. She even does her auto drop on the table and then sits when I say. Weaves are next. 'Let's WEAVE WEAVE' Somehow turned into let's pass the weaves and take the dogwalk backwards and skip those obstacles over there. At least her path set us up to finish the course as numbered. The teeter bang spooked her a bit again because it's that double sided one that has an echo banging. We finished the course and got our cookies. Not bad. Lego's standard run didn't go so well. He got to sniffing in the equipment bag at the back and got too distracted after that to run well at all. He had no contact behavior. FLY over AFRAME. Soar down dogwalk.. Do 2 weave poles and race for the tunnel entrance staring at you.. At that point I just grabbed a collar and left. I loved the speed, but there was no attempt at focus there. Bernie ran Standard and Q'd ! Then off for home.

Sunday started with standard runs. Lego's started like yesterday's. First three or four obstacles sent us back to the corner with the equipment bag to sniff. At least this time when he came back he was ready to work.. He even did his contact stop on the dogwalk and slowed some on the Aframe. He ran well after the initial disaster. Very nice. Bernie broke his start line stay and ended up heading the wrong way and when Cheryl called him he never saw the triple and just ran right through it sending bars flying. If you're gonna hit it, do it right! Otherwise a Q worthy run.. Sparkle did NOT start her day well. She ran the first 4 obstacles in standard so well. Then coming out of the chute it was like someone shot her out of a cannon.. She did a 180 and took off towards the entrance gate at 90 to nothing. She was having a good time! The great part was she came back to me after a run around and did the next 2 obstacles with gusto. I thought we'd have it under control now. Boy, was I wrong. Coming out of the tunnel was another zoom moment. Laps around the ring. Visit the next dog in line. Come back to momma and sail by playing can't touch me. More laps. One more buzz by mom. Out of the ring to see all the dogs waiting in line. That's where I finally caught her. As I take her back to the crate, I am torn on how to handle this situation.. I remember well the time I would've treated Lego for a run like that. He spent eons sniffing in the ring instead of running and I told everyone, "At least a zooming happily around dog can be an agility dog someday. Sniffing everything will never be agility." I am thrilled to death with her enthusiasm and joy because it was NOT sniffing the ground, but I don't want her to think ignoring me is OK either. On the other hand I don't want her to fuss at her and make her think agility's just a place for mom to fuss at me. I settle on a polite hug and 'I love that running dog.' Followed by a couple of Cheryl's Solid Gold snacks in the crate. Lego's jumpers run started badly again.. Out the end of the ring to sniff. He came back and was ready to work, but got whistled off for leaving the ring. I did a loop of jumps to exit out. Bernie had a great jumpers run, but couldn't get the rhythm in the weaves again.. I decided I need to harness Sparkle's enthusiasm better at the start of jumpers. I had one of those Caesar soft food cups with only a lick or two left in each corner. I took it with me to the ring. Sparkle got all distracted looking around. 'SPARKLE COME!' Resulted in a stare and then complete incompliance. I snapped the leash, 'COME!'. She started walking in to me, then appeared the food. "WOW! I get that for coming." One lick and back behind my back.. She got to sniffing. 'SPARKLE, COME' resulted in immediate and fast recall. A couple of licks and it went away again.. I kept up the attention for food game until our turn.. Then as I moved her ahead of me to the start line I dropped the food cup behind my back on the ground when she wasn't looking. She was pulling to go at the start. Here we go. Let's see if the listen to mom game worked. First jumps out to the tunnel went well. Out of tunnel was the weaves back in that back spot that got her all distracted yesterday. Not a problem! She weaved the first try and kept on going with me. Tunnel jump jump jump. "COME." I can see her patience for her treat starting to wane. Only three jumps in a straight line left. "COME COME, What does a good girl get?" Was just enough reminder to get the last three jumps. WHEEE She got her first agility Q with a clean scribe sheet. 100! 6 seconds under course time. Blue ribbon..

11th

Lego came OH SO CLOSE to his first AXJ leg today. His only faults were his handler. He hit the weaves with gusto the first time and sailed through them. They were obstacle number 4, so I'm thinking we have a decent chance. After the weaves was a few straight jumps and a tight circle to the left. I failed to give Lego the cue to turn in time to stop the off course. OH well, but MAN is this dog hauling a** and listening at the same time. I love this Lego. Hope he comes more often.. I just let him make a bigger left loop and we go on without a  hesitation in our strides. Then near the end on a hard call to the 'wrong side' tunnel entrance, I called 'COME; a bit roughly and he came to me. Right past the jump before the tunnel. 'Good COME boy! Let's go'. Into the tunnel and out the finish we a happy dog. Maybe he has a chance to Q this weekend.

Today I caught Josie and Lego snuggling. I was starting to think they weren't such great friends anymore. Guess that shows you what I know. I suppose their friendship has now matured as they aged and it's not all rough and tumble play. And it seemed today was the day to snuggle as I also caught Lego and Misty curled up together. Very cute to see the big hounds sharing space. Then the young little girls curled up. Josie just loves Sparkle.

10th

Kamikaze had a long (150 feet) straight line track this morning. Treats every 10 steps. It didn't go so well. She started sniffing but she was wagging around off the track so I held my ground. She gave up and came to sit with me. I got her to try again, but she was too wild and unfocused to do much.. About half way down the track she remembered the game and went to the glove and threw herself on the ground.At lunch I got out her dumbbell and played hold it. She hold's it great now. I tried to get three steps into front out of her while she carried the dumbbell. I helped her the first time or two then I let go. She would spit and walk it. I did eventually get her to walk in with it, but then she tries to rub it out of her mouth on my legs. LOL. This appears to be the only training game she is not particularly interested in..

Sparkle did her weaves three times today at 2 hour intervals or so. She was spot-on ! AND she started bouncing the poles some instead of just walking. WHEE. Let's hope I can keep her focused at a strange site this weekend.

I was thinking I'd just drive to the training field with all the current agility dogs. But it's a 25 minutes ride and the weather's been highly unpredictable all day. I could just see myself loading up and driving all the way out there to have it pour rain on me. So, before dinner I set up a set of 6 of my competition weave poles in the backyard and put a jump off centered at each end. All the agility dogs had to do weave exercises before they could eat. I started with Lego. It's been awhile since he's shown and just as long since I worked with him. He was up for it this time though.. He nailed those poles EVERY time. Entries and all. For the first time ever I saw him leaning his weight back and lowering his body mass before he entered the poles to slow him momentum down.. I was so pumped about that. I'm sure if you've seen agility you've seen some of those border collies slide into the entrance trying to slow their momentum down so they can navigate the poles. That's what Lego was doing. So, I guess my 2007 goal for Lego to learn to enter weaves at speed has been accomplished. To this point I hadn't given that one a status because although I worked on it, I just wasn't sure he knew how to check himself for the poles. 

Next it was Sparkle's turn.. She didn't always hit the entrance right, but she always tried to weave. There was never a run by like she didn't know what the point was. This is one of the few times I've tried a jump before and after the poles. She did amazingly well for her age and training level. I let Josie out just for a blast through.. She even knows how to enter them when she has to make a real effort to cross the place of the poles to hit the correct entrance while I'm back crossing her. I LOVE this agility mutt! 

Jedi was barking to get out of his yard. I'm sure his plan wasn't to weave though.. I went and got him and set him at the jump." JUMP- WEAVE." Resulted in jump and hit the second pole to enter and skip pole three altogether. This was one of the reasons for my setup. I just kept running. No negative posture or anything. We took the jump after the poles and wrapped it to come by them for a second try. He nailed them that time and I was able to PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE. Then we tried it again.. He's no where close to the weaver Josie is, but he held his own.. He had the disadvantage of being dog #1 trained for agility. I've come a long way since then.. Kazee has never seen closed poles, but I took her out with some treats and practiced just entrances a few times. Then we followed the treat through the poles a couple of times. 

While I was putting the equipment away I had Bandit, Misty and Maverick outside. Bandit was close to the setup so I sent him over a jump and into the weaves. He nailed it and even weaved fast. He's never weaved fast in his entire agility career. Maybe he misses it more than I think.. Misty wanted her chance and did the weaves once and woofed at me for her treat. You just gotta love the old guys!

After everyone ate I worked on articles with Nikita in the dog room. It was looking bad out and this way she has no obvious alternative than to work the pile. She showed major improvement in making her rounds around the entire pile sniffing. She only brought back the wrong one once out of 6 tries. Not bad. Even when she stopped sniffing and looked at me I just smiled. She would eventually keep sniffing. We're gonna get through this stumbling block soon.. Lego was watching from his crate and voiced his opinion to have his chance. So I put Nikita up and let him out. I whittled the pile down to 2 leather and 2 metal. By golly! He picked the right one up each time. Even when he had to sniff every one. Leather and metal. He's getting the idea now too.

I'll be off around lunch tomorrow to go to the agility show in Gulfport with Lego. He's entered in Jumpers tomorrow. Then Sparkle will go Saturday and Sunday too for her debut. May the NO SNIFF gods be with us.

8th

Nikita did an entire utility run through today after work.. She did signals right the first time, but lagged some on the fast in heeling. She braved the entire article better this time. She went out and sniffed a few. Didn't find it. Looked at me. I smiled and nodded encouragingly. She went back and sniffed and found it. This is the exercise where we have the least amount of confidence. Glove one was right the first time. Glove three took 4 times. The stand and call to heel went well. On her first go out she stopped a bit short of the ring gate. On the second try she did it right. I even got the high jump the first time I pointed at it. It took two tries for the bar jump. She did start a nice little 'spit out of the mouth' with the gloves and articles once in front. I worked on that a second or two. She knows spitting it out is wrong so it was just a matter reminding her I wouldn't accept that.

Sparkle did 6 weaves successful the first times through ! I'll keep up weaving practice in hopes of keeping them fresh in her mind for the weekend.

7th

I laid Shelby and Kamikaze a small two turn track each.. Shelby isn't progressing to great as I fade the treats. She still wants to give up and ask for directions. Kamikaze has a focus issue at the start. She's so wound up about the prospect of tracking I can't get her to settle and concentrate. She does seem to understand the point of this game though.. As she settles down she pulls straight onto the track and moves along without help. She has definitely gotten the article indication part of the game down now. She flings herself on the ground to get the cookies dispensed out of the glove. 

Sparkle practiced weaves a couple of times. I need to keep up this practice all week to help insure a chance at doing them this weekend. I have also agreed to teach an agility class for the next session..

6th - NEW TD

Cheryl thought a day trip to Houston would be enjoyable, so she rode along to Sparkle's tracking test. I had promised Lego a seat in the car next time I went on an overnight journey because he was getting depressed getting left with Daddy so much.. I was a bit unsure how it would go with Cheryl since last time she rode to Houston to watch his test he wasn't sure Cheryl should be allowed in the car or the hotel room. Granted he got used to her by the end of the trip, but that'd been over a year. True to my word I took Lego along though.. When we picked Cheryl up around 11:30 yesterday Lego grumbled once from his crate. She said 'HI' and he stopped. We made good time to Houston arriving around 4:30 at the hotel. We gave the kids a walk and dinner and we went to meet the tracking people at Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen.. This was the same joint we were at last month when we were there and flunked our tracking test. I recognized several people from December. All the TD tracks flunked in December and all but one TDX. Many of them were back for take 2 like me. Lego accepted Cheryl as friend instantly in the hotel room and even hopped on her bed to beg for chest scratches. He slept on the bed with me all night while I had strange dreams of ways to flunk the TD in the morning. One involved getting to turn one and having no idea how to make a turn so Sparkle just chased butterflies. One had to do with setting her at the start line and she never started. When I shared these with Cheryl she was amused, "Sparkle has NEVER not started at the beginning.' she says. "I know, crazy dream huh?" We were up early enough to hit Waffle House for a nice breakfast and still get to the tracking headquarters by 7. Drawing for tracks was at 7:30. I didn't really get to draw though since I was the last dog in the catalog I got whatever track wasn't drawn by everyone else. I got track 3. I was OK with that. We drove out to watch the first tracks. #1 was a Golden that literally drug it's owner , who jogged the whole way, down the straight aways. Then it would circle quickly a few times at the turns and take off again.. I liked their tracking field and wished I'd been #1. I think it did it's entire track in 4-5 minutes. WOW. Pass one for the day. Dog two was a Golden as well. I met them in December when they flunked on the last leg. They were  off and going well. At a couple of turns it got a little scary, but he pulled it out eventually and we had pass #2 for the day. That starts to relax you a bit. Then they tell me where to park for my track.. "OH CRAP! NOT HERE AGAIN" I was back at the same set of fields we flunked in in December for tracking critters. I can see both start flags for the last two tracks. One back in the back field by the woods that I just know is mine and one in the front field by the soccer fields. I feel a sense of dread. I get Sparkle out and follow the judges. They stopped at the field next to the soccer fields. "Can I really be that lucky?" Seems so! I got the field that I swore Sparkle would have passed in back in December. I head to the start flag. I sit her down 5 feet out and put her harness on.. This is usually the easy part. Leg one she nails, it's turn one I'm worried about now. I lead her to the start article. She downs on it. This is new. She usually flies past it to get to tracking. I pick the article up and say "TALLY HO, Let's go". She starts dragging he belly in the nice tall grass. Off to the left side of the track she goes. Decides the grass is neat and starts shoving her nose in the pockets and snorting looking for small critters to startle. (crickets and such) "SPARKLE, let's go TALLY HO!" Still way far left she starts play rolling in the grass. PANIC strikes. "WHAT IS THIS? Surely my dream of never starting is NOT coming true!" "Come one, LEAVE IT, let's go". She meanders forward, not tracking, but moving. Still 30 feet or so off the track.. I move with her. Maybe whatever has fried her brain will dissipate if we can get a few yards from the start. Still off the left side piddling in the grass she starts to arc towards the track. I try to time my words perfectly. As she moseys accidentally across the track I enthusiastically call "YES, TALLY HO!" She hesitates in her meandering to look at me. And arcs back to cross the track again. "YES YES. LET's GO". About 20 yards down the track she seems to say "OH, you wanted a tracking dog?" puts her nose down pulls us straight in line with the 30 yard flag and starts her tracking posture. As I try to remember how to take slow breaths to slow my heart rate, she tracks us straight into a completely blackened patch of earth in the middle of this huge field of grass. Now my brain starts to work against me. "She shouldn't be tracking across a patch of barren earth ! What's up" Sensibility says the judge and tracklayers couldn't see the burnt spot from the start and there are only so many landmarks to aim your legs at. It only distracts Sparkle briefly and she worked across it and was steady taunt leash on.. A ways up she makes a decided turn left. I hang back to check her confidence level. She lunges into the harness. "COME ON MOM!" OK, she hasn't made perfect turns like that one in practice since she was 6 months old. She always searches at the turns. I check her again. She hesitates oh so briefly before lunging into the harness again . "Did you want me to track or not?" I go with her. My brain and heart start to settle as I see her tracking posture is not wavering into critter hunting posture. We are now headed straight towards the road. Our next turn must got right. Left would trap us too close to the start flag to get a full track in . About that time she makes a 90 degree right turn. I check her. She insists. I see a change of cover and terrain ahead of us. The road is on the left of us. We will be turning right again . She makes another exact turn right. I go without the check this time. We are paralleling the change of cover on the left. We will be going right again. She makes a subtle adjustment in her direction . I let her go a tad bit and check her. She responds immediately with a lunge. I go with her but hold back taunt on the line. She continues to try her best to drag me. After a few yards I pick my pace up to go with her. Looking around I realize she's made a 45 degree turn to the right. This is the last leg or next to last leg. Has to be. Maybe one more turn to the left. Would be a short leg though.. A long one would put our glove to close to the next track.. She just keeps on going in the same decided direction for what seems like eternity. (135 yards to be exact). I can see the glove ahead. OH YES! we are headed right for it. We're gonna pass, we're gonna pass. I am so excited now. After that horrible scare at the start she's done the best track of her life! 20 feet more. She hasn't smelled it yet. Wind's blowing the scent off to the right. 15 feet. She makes a hard right. "WHAT?" She assumes the crittering posture and begins snooping off to the right about 20 feet. "NO this is NOT HAPPENING!" "SPARKLE, LEAVE IT! Tally HO! Let's go" No luck . She will not leave it. "PLEASE, We're almost done let's find the glove". NOPE. I'm holding my ground and she really wants to go farther off track.. How much standing my ground can I do without getting whistled for directing? "SPARKLE !" She starts to return to tracking, but rather that coming back to me she is trying to make an arc back to the track.. If I let her do this she's gonna pass the glove. "ARGH!" "SPARKLE COME COME FIND THE GLOVE" How much can I get away with? She finally gets frustrated and starts back towards me. She inadvertently passed her nose right over the glove. I am waiting, timing my words. "YES" just as her nose touches the glove. She hesitates over it. "YEAH! " I run grab the glove as she starts to lay down.. OK, so her alert is a down and not a nose touch hesitation, but at this point anything that can be construed as an alert was all I was looking for. I hear the judges talking and not clapping. "OH PLEASE" Then they walk up and one says "Can I throttle the dog for you? Congratulations!" Oh yes you can throttle her as I am too weak in the knees to do it now. They take our picture with the judges. As the tracklayer walks off with me and the judges head to the next track she says "DON'T EVER say 'come' in any sense in tracking again . The judges were discussing whether to flunk you for directional commands. They didn't because 'come' was always followed with 'find the glove' so they didn't think it was an intentional directional and more an encouragement to search for the glove." I knew I was pushing the limits of acceptability, but I was gonna flunk anyway if she got back on track past the glove. I took my glove and headed to the car for TREATS. The last dog, a golden, flunked for cutting off a leg and a half and heading straight to the glove. When I showed the tracklayer my matching pair of gloves (Lego's signed one and Sparkle's) she blurts out "that's ME". She was also Lego's tracklayer. How cool! When we got back to headquarters the judges both signed my glove as well as the tracklayer. Cheryl says she saw both of them write PASS on my track, but I'm still a bit sick nervous that they'll change their minds. LOL. One judge said she was a wonderful tracker and I should be patient with her and try getting her X in a year or so. It was fun to hear the tracklayer talking about the judges chatter at the beginning of our track when it looked like Sparkle had never tracked in grass in her life. Cheryl and I pottied the dogs and headed home as the TDX judging started.

4th

I laid Lego a track this morning. I aged it between 3 1/2 and 4 hours. It started in grass and went one short leg then went right into the woods for 4 legs. It evened crossed the ditch and went over the big mound of dirt and down to the low spot. He started well and turned into the woods. He did amazingly well, but didn't manage to alert to any of the articles. I'd dropped a Mardi Gras plastic necklace, a cell phone, and a metal top to a fence post. He made the best effort at the cell phone, but blew by the others. At least we passed right over them which meant he stayed on the actual track for the most part. I'm not sure we would've stayed on track if I hadn't known basically where it was because he wasn't pulling hard, but continued with intent in the right directions. It's hard in the fairly dense woods to give him much line for searching around. We end up tied around trees and such if I give him more than 10-15 feet. It took some coaxing to get him to cross the ditch because the spot I chose to cross was to wide for him to jump and he didn't want to get his precious ankles wet.

I got the teeter out for Sparkle. She looked a bit intimidated at the fun match when the teeter banged. I sent her over while I had tuna in my possession.. She wasn't spooky at all. Ran right up to the tip and leaned to make it bang. Tuna does such wonders. I pulled out 6 poles to see if I could get some faster weaves for tuna. That didn't go quite as well, but I did get weaving eventually. She wasn't speedy though and it took several tries to get her to enter correctly. Since I was out there I let Kamikaze do some teeters. She about lost all mental faculties when she smelled the tuna. A really good treat almost short circuits her instead of focusing her. I had to eventually grab her collar and sit her to get any real brain activity. She does teeter great. No hesitation at all. I put the jump up at 20 inches just to see her response. She soared over it with ease. She'll need practice at that height to program her jump style and keep her feet up for more than one jump. I used 6 of my stick in the ground poles and then pushed them out a bit to look like weave-o-matics. I used the tuna to get Kamikaze to run the center line. She even started a bit of the weave stepping.

Tomorrow I'm off around lunch to go to Houston for Sparkle's tracking test. Dang, I know my beagle can track, so please let her do it when it counts!

 

3rd

I laid Sparkle a track in the open lot across the street. It has lots of trees in it. She seems to gravitate to trees if they're near the track so she can check out the smells there. This was a great place to practice NOT going to the trees. Since I knew where the track went I was able to negatively mark her desire to tree hunt or bunny hunt and positively encourage the track. Her turns have just gone to pot. She started as my best turning dog with almost perfect turns and now she piddles at all the turns searching around for other things like Lego. Hopefully I didn't make her not want to track at all since she's in a test in Houston on Sunday. Later I did another just two turn track through the neighbors front yard where there are lots of dog smells and such. She was disgraceful at both the turns again, but she did work it out. Meanwhile I laid Kamikaze 2 two leg tracks. One with a left turn, then one with a right turn. She did so well I spaced her treats to every 10 steps and did a 3 leg track with a left then a right. I think she's going to get this game fairly quickly if I stick to the training now that it's cold and no ants will get her treats. Shelby also got to do a three leg track with a left and right turn. She is much more deliberate a tracker than my other guys. She still has treats every 10 steps, but she still has a tendency to give up and look at me for direction.. Both Kamikaze and Shelby are being introduced to the glove at the end with big treats in it. They are getting the idea of article indication too. 

Maverick had his yearly check-up today. Since his temp was a tad low and he's around 11 they decided it was about time for a geriatric blood work check-up. His numbers were all completely normal except for white blood cell count which was a tad lower than normal range. The vet wasn't concerned since it was so close to normal. He figures he's always had a slightly lower number. Otherwise his arthritis is getting a tad worse in his hips, but he's doing extremely well for his age.

After Maverick's vet visit I worked some with Kamikaze on parts of Novice obedience. We worked her stays at first. Since she's never been worked up to a minute sit stay I did 10 seconds and then returned to treat her. Then 15 seconds, then 20. I'll need to get the stays stretched if she's gonna do Novice in April or May. Next we worked recalls. Coming is not the problem. Slowing down before smashing my legs as she skids into the sit is. I got a couple of controlled, straight sits that I rewarded with gusto. Just for some practice we heeled a bit. She is exceptional at heeling. I just love her attitude and her watching and I've about got her calmed down enough to not forge. I'm even getting straight sits on the halts most of the time now. I still need to work stands and finishes too though.. She has a lot to perfect over the next 3 months.

1st

Today I met with Cheryl and her kids for obedience practice. I still can't reasonable take Kamikaze anywhere very public since she's in season and it was fairly chilly to expect Sparkle to be tied up out on the tennis court so I ended up only taking Nikita along. She was thrilled to go somewhere. She lagged a bit on heeling, but not bad. She missed her down signal the first couple of times. Once I got her attention good she did the signals like a champ. Articles started a bit poorly, but improved immensely. She started by going out and sniffing two and since neither of them were the right one she gave up and came back. I reset her and sent her again. She started to give up and I fussed a her a little. She went back to the pile and gave it a real effort and brought back the right one. The next article she went out and sniffed the circle and didn't find it. She looked at me and I gave no indication so she tried again. She found it eventually and brought it in. She knows when she finds it. It's a matter of convincing her to keep looking if it's not obvious. The gloves weren't as good. The tennis court is concrete so it's hard to see the white gloves. I sent her to glove one. She trotted out and couldn't see a glove, so she looked around and saw glove three and brought it in. I didn't fuss I just took it and put it back and tried again. It took three or so tries for her to go out towards glove one far enough to see it. When she finally did see it she was so excited. It was like she knew all along those other gloves were wrong, but didn't see the right answer either. Her stand for exam was perfect. I was very excited with her first try at a go-out. She went all the way to the tennis net the first try. I rewarded that joyously. Then we added in the sit and jump command the next two go-outs. I'll be buggered! She actually did each jump as instructed and sailed them easily and happily. I upped the height to her regulation jump (20 inches) just to see if she'd balk or if she'd struggle. It was my opinion as well as Cheryl's that she didn't seem to have any issues with 20 inches. She didn't hesitate or look like it was a struggle at all and she had no repercussion lameness from jumping that height twice. It's looking good for some more attempts in the Utility ring this year.